ABOUT NEW YORK FOCUS

New York Focus is an independent newsroom covering state and local politics in the Empire State.

Launched in October of 2020, New York Focus aims to help make state politics more democratic by publishing adversarial, in-depth reporting that cuts through the noise to explain how the Empire State really works.

New York State’s legislative process is notoriously conducted by ‘three men in a room,’ opaque to outsiders and murky even to its own rank-and-file legislators. New York consistently scores at or near the top of state corruption rankings. The current governor has earned a reputation for avoiding serious scrutiny, even as he takes strides to raise his national profile. On many issues, New Yorkers lack the information and resources to hold their representatives accountable.

We publish stories that shed light on New York’s political process, broadly understood: from political fixers and lobbyists, to the inherited wisdom of legislative aides in Albany, to the institutional knowledge of advocates and the organizing strategies of popular movements.

We are guided by the belief that politics is not a sport. Decisions made in New York’s executive mansions, legislative chambers, state administrative offices, courts, nonprofits, union halls, and campaign headquarters don’t stay there. They determine how many New Yorkers sleep on the street each night; how large public college classes are; how many hospital beds are available during a pandemic.

We are particularly interested in pitches related to housing and homelessness, energy and climate, criminal justice and health, tax and budget, and the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

To pitch New York Focus, send a story tip, or get in touch, please see editors’ contact information on our masthead. Editorial leadership can also be reached at editor@nysfocus.com.

We invite New Yorkers with original views on state politics—especially with insights underrepresented in legacy media—to contribute to our Perspectives section. Please send submissions to editor@nysfocus.com.

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Ethics & Funders

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Will New York’s Rent Relief Program Address The Problems that Hobbled The Last One?
Will New York’s Rent Relief Program Address The Problems that Hobbled The Last One?
Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to impose stringent requirements, according to lawmakers and tenant advocates, that could delay and decrease aid....

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Where are the Safe Injection Facilities Cuomo Promised for New York?
Where are the Safe Injection Facilities Cuomo Promised for New York?
He committed three years ago to supporting safe injection sites for drug users — then reversed course, activists say. Now, they see a new chance to pressure the embattled governor....

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Legislature Seeks to End “Arbitrary Limit” on Medicaid Spending
Legislature Seeks to End “Arbitrary Limit” on Medicaid Spending
A 2011 rule prevents New York from adequately funding Medicaid, advocates say. This year’s budget could see it repealed. ...

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Will Rental Vouchers to Prevent Homelessness Make the State Budget?
Will Rental Vouchers to Prevent Homelessness Make the State Budget?
The legislature is pushing for a statewide rental assistance program that advocates say would be one the largest efforts to combat homelessness in recent memory....

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New York’s biggest climate problem—and opportunity
New York’s biggest climate problem—and opportunity
Buildings may be New York’s top source of emissions. The state should follow the city’s lead in cleaning them up....

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In an Upstate Jail, Incarcerated People Struggle to Access Promised Addiction Treatment
In an Upstate Jail, Incarcerated People Struggle to Access Promised Addiction Treatment
In 2019, Broome County promised an addiction treatment program in its jail. Two years later, the program is a “farce,” one advocate said. ...

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Records Reveal New York’s Growing Mountain of Water Debt
Records Reveal New York’s Growing Mountain of Water Debt
Advocates are pushing the legislature to extend and strengthen a moratorium on water shutoffs set to expire at the end of the month....

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Assembly Leaders’ Budget Plans Trail Senate’s On Progressive Priorities, Advocates Say
Assembly Leaders’ Budget Plans Trail Senate’s On Progressive Priorities, Advocates Say
Progressive advocates also critiqued the revenue figures under consideration as too low....

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Queens Public Defenders Win Unionization Vote
Queens Public Defenders Win Unionization Vote
After months of conflict involving alleged intimidation and potentially illegal firings, workers at Queens Defenders voted overwhelmingly to unionize....

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“It Damages Democracy:” Watchdogs, Reporters, Slam “Non-Functional” Board of Elections Campaign Finance Website
“It Damages Democracy:” Watchdogs, Reporters, Slam “Non-Functional” Board of Elections Campaign Finance Website
Flaws in an updated website make it extremely difficult to track who is funding campaigns, journalists and watchdogs say, but the BOE insists that “the site is fully functioning.” ...

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Will New York allow incarcerated people to access treatment for drug addiction?
Will New York allow incarcerated people to access treatment for drug addiction?
"People in prison deserve healthcare, and this is healthcare.” Legislators push to offer treatment for drug addiction in jails and prisons...

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“Mired in Incrementalism”: Climate Action Council Proceedings Alarm Climate Advocates
“Mired in Incrementalism”: Climate Action Council Proceedings Alarm Climate Advocates
Under New York's climate law, the Climate Action Council is tasked with devising a plan to zero out emissions. Environmentalists on the Council say it's not on track....

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In Manhattan D.A. Race, Momentum Builds to Decriminalize Sex Work
In Manhattan D.A. Race, Momentum Builds to Decriminalize Sex Work
In a striking sign of activists' success, most candidates running in the June election for DA say they would not prosecute cases involving consensual sex work....

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“We Need to Hold Him Accountable”: After Sexual Harassment Allegations, Legislators Search for Ways to Respond
“We Need to Hold Him Accountable”: After Sexual Harassment Allegations, Legislators Search for Ways to Respond
With the state ethics commission widely seen as controlled by the governor, legislators are looking for other ways to investigate the allegations....

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Top state lawmakers oppose Cuomo’s push to override NYC’s landmark climate law
Top state lawmakers oppose Cuomo’s push to override NYC’s landmark climate law
A new analysis finds that the governor’s proposal would “completely undermine” New York City’s climate law, setting the stage for a clash with the newly emboldened legislature....

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As State Support Dwindles, New York’s Overdose Crisis is Only Getting Worse
As State Support Dwindles, New York’s Overdose Crisis is Only Getting Worse
State withholds have left harm reduction providers undersupplied, and informal overdose prevention networks are struggling to fill the gap....

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Queens Defenders Fires Two Pro-Union Employees
Queens Defenders Fires Two Pro-Union Employees
Amid an ongoing union election at the Queens indigent defense law firm, two outspoken union supporters were fired without warning....

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“It’s a life or death situation out here”: a brutal winter for unsheltered New Yorkers
“It’s a life or death situation out here”: a brutal winter for unsheltered New Yorkers
“We sleep together like chickens”: Street homeless New Yorkers describe the struggle to endure the pandemic-era winter....

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Will Manhattan’s Next D.A. Break Ranks With Tough-on-Crime Colleagues?
Will Manhattan’s Next D.A. Break Ranks With Tough-on-Crime Colleagues?
Three candidates in the June election say they would not join the association of state DAs, which has fought measures such as bail reform....

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“What am I to do?” An oral history of mothering children in online school
“What am I to do?” An oral history of mothering children in online school
“I’m the security guard, a mother, a father, a teacher, I’m everything." Parents and children reflect on a year of remote learning and its impact on their finances, mental health, and family....

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Will New York Decriminalize Syringe Possession in 2021?
Will New York Decriminalize Syringe Possession in 2021?
Amid dramatic spikes in drug overdoses and HIV cases, legislators and public health professionals push for New York to decriminalize sterile syringes. ...

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Cuomo’s Tax Hike Friendlier to the Rich Than Advertised, Budget Experts and Legislators Say
Cuomo’s Tax Hike Friendlier to the Rich Than Advertised, Budget Experts and Legislators Say
"The governor’s twisting himself in knots to not offend rich people,” the number two Democrat in the state Senate said....

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Tali Farhadian Weinstein’s Run for Manhattan D.A. Fueled By Wall St Megadonors, Filings Show
Tali Farhadian Weinstein’s Run for Manhattan D.A. Fueled By Wall St Megadonors, Filings Show
A leading candidate for Manhattan DA has raked in two thirds of her campaign funds from five-figure donations—many from financial industries she would be in charge of prosecuting....

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NYC Plans to Import Canadian Hydropower. Who Really Benefits?
NYC Plans to Import Canadian Hydropower. Who Really Benefits?
A planned transmission line from Canada is meant to reduce NYC's fossil fuel dependence. But First Nations say the project ignores them - and New York environmental advocates say it won't even benefit...

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Progressives Slam State Senate Finance Secretary Pick
Progressives Slam State Senate Finance Secretary Pick
Democratic leadership appointed David Friedfel, the top state policy analyst at the Citizens Budget Commission, to a key staff position in budget negotiations....

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The Next Mayor Must Launch a Green New Deal for NYC
The Next Mayor Must Launch a Green New Deal for NYC
Here are the policies candidates for Mayor and Council must commit to enacting if they're serious about a Green New Deal for New York City....

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Queens Public Defenders Push to Unionize. Management Calls Them a ‘Mob.’
Queens Public Defenders Push to Unionize. Management Calls Them a ‘Mob.’
A wave of legal aid attorneys are joining the labor movement. But bosses say it’s bad for business and the unions just want to collect their dues....

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Tenants Can’t Pay Rent. Landlords Won’t Pay Bills. What Happens Next?
Tenants Can’t Pay Rent. Landlords Won’t Pay Bills. What Happens Next?
New York’s looming foreclosure crisis could lead to massive corporate windfalls - or to large-scale social housing conversions. The choice is ours....

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New York Must Stop All Evictions. It’s a Matter of Life and Death.
New York Must Stop All Evictions. It’s a Matter of Life and Death.
New York must immediately reinstate a complete eviction moratorium, incoming DSA legislators argue, because you can’t stay at home if you’re forced out of it....

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Senate Proposes $4 Billion December Revenue Package, but Assembly Won’t Go That High, Sources Say
Senate Proposes $4 Billion December Revenue Package, but Assembly Won’t Go That High, Sources Say
The Senate has proposed raising $4 billion in revenue before the end of the year, but the Assembly is unwilling go much higher than $2 billion, sources say....

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Assembly Speaker Heastie May be Holding Up Blanket Eviction Moratorium, Despite Senate Consensus
Assembly Speaker Heastie May be Holding Up Blanket Eviction Moratorium, Despite Senate Consensus
Sources both inside and outside the legislature say Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is pushing back against the Senate Democrats' proposal for a blanket moratorium....

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The D.A. Election That Could Reshape New York City’s War On Drugs
The D.A. Election That Could Reshape New York City’s War On Drugs
The office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor is on the chopping block in Manhattan's 2021 DA race....

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Inside Upstate New York’s Lead Poisoning Crisis
Inside Upstate New York’s Lead Poisoning Crisis
Many upstate cities don't test old houses for lead poisoning until after children have already tested positive. A new bill would change that....

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How New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench
How New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench
Most of the state Supreme Court candidates who won in November had donated to the parties and party bosses that nominated them, a New York Focus investigation found....

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Life and death in a New York prison
Life and death in a New York prison
As New York prisons face a second wave of COVID-19 cases, one incarcerated person tells New York Focus they haven’t fixed the problems that led to the first....

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“We’re in a Tsunami”: Legislators Urge State Spending on Food Assistance
“We’re in a Tsunami”: Legislators Urge State Spending on Food Assistance
As food pantries struggle to meet surging demand with declining funds, legislators and providers say the state must offer more assistance....

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A Million Unemployed New Yorkers are About to Fall Off a Fiscal Cliff
A Million Unemployed New Yorkers are About to Fall Off a Fiscal Cliff
Federal unemployment benefits expire at the end of the month. With no relief in sight from Washington or Albany, many New Yorkers are desperate....

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Methadone patients routinely denied take-home treatment throughout pandemic, despite health guidance
Methadone patients routinely denied take-home treatment throughout pandemic, despite health guidance
New York isn’t following through on guidance expanding take-home treatment to reduce Covid-19 spread, advocates say. Many patients must wait in line for treatment as many as six times a week....

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Republicans Routed from Legislature, but Keep One Last Stronghold: Governor Cuomo’s Office
Republicans Routed from Legislature, but Keep One Last Stronghold: Governor Cuomo’s Office
“Are you going to hire every single able-bodied Republican political operative?” Cuomo’s senior staff filled with top Republicans, to Democrats’ frustration...

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Here’s What Governor Cuomo Could Do Today to Really Tackle Climate Change
Here’s What Governor Cuomo Could Do Today to Really Tackle Climate Change
New York needs to transition its electric grid off fossil fuels. That means Cuomo must create a schedule to shut down polluting power plants—and stop approving new ones....

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