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Crime in New York State in 2015

April 5, 2017

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Government Law Center
Albany Law School

This post updates our 2016 article on what the statistics tell us about crime in New York State.[1]  The post answers questions on the trends and status of crime in New York State. The most recent statistics are for New York State in 2015.[2]

  1. Is crime increasing in New York State? Despite talk of an uptick in crime, total crime in New York State was down by 4.8%.[3] There was an increase in violent crime of 3.5% but a decrease of 6.6% in non-violent property crime.
  1. What have been the changes in the New York State crime rate over the years? Overall crime in New York State has decreased by 18.3% since 2006. Violent crime has decreased by 10.6%. In New York City, overall crime has decreased since 2006 by 12.4% with violent crime decreasing by 3.8% over that time period. Outside of New York City, overall crime since 2006 has decreased by 22.8% with violent crime down by 21.8%.

The number of crimes decreased in New York State by 65.7% in the 25 years from 1990-2015. The crime rate – which reflects changes in the population – fell by 68.2%. The violent crime rate and the property crime rate declined over that period of time by similar amounts. The violent crime rate declined by 67.8%, and the property crime rate decreased by 69.1%.

Looking at 50 years’ worth of data, the current crime rate in New York State is currently at its lowest level. The crime rate is 35.3% lower than it was in 1965. Violent crime is, however, 16.7% higher than it was in 1965. The major decrease has been in property crime. Nonetheless, the last time in the 20th century that the violent crime rate in New York State was lower than it was in 2014 and 2015 was in 1966.

Violent crime in New York State hit its peak in 1990. It has decreased steadily most every year since 1990. Overall crime peaked in New York State in 1980. 1980, 1981, and 1982 represent the highest overall years for overall crime rates.

Perhaps the most noticeable number involves the homicide rate in New York State. It has decreased by 78.6% since 1990. The number of homicides in New York City decreased from 2,245 in 1990 to 352 in 2015.

From 1965 to 1973, the crime rate in New York State increased by 45.4%. Violent crime increased by 128%.

  1. How does New York State’s crime rate compare to that of other states? New York State is now 45th in overall crime, 23rd in violent crime and 49th in property crime. From 1965-1992, New York State was either in first or second place for violent crime. In every year since 2000, New York State’s overall crime rate has placed it among the 20% of states with the lowest crime rate in the nation.

The overall crime rate in New York State is now 31% lower than the national crime rate. New York City’s crime rate is now 26.4% lower than the national crime rate. The nation’s violent crime rate increased at slightly less (3.1%) than the 3.5% level of New York. While homicide rates increased nationally by 10% from 2014-2015, the homicide rate decreased slightly in New York State by .5%.

  1. How does crime in New York City compare to crime in the rest of New York State? The overall crime rate in New York City is 12% higher than that of the rest of the State, but the violent crime rate is 165% higher in New York City.

There are 15 counties with crime rates that are higher than New York City’s. This is the same number of counties that had crime rates higher than New York City in 2014.

Most of the counties which had crime rates higher than New York City in 2014 similarly had crime rates higher than New York City in 2015. The counties with the highest crime rates in order were (1) Broome, (2) Erie, (3) Niagara, (4) Monroe, (5) Albany, (6) Schenectady, (7) Rensselaer, (8) Montgomery, (9) Chautauqua, (10) Onondaga, (11) Fulton, (12) Oneida, (13) Chemung, (14) Tompkins, and (15) Jefferson. Broome ranked second in the State in its crime rate in 2014, but easily had the State’s highest crime rate in 2015. Schenectady County, which had the highest county crime rate in the years between 2008-2014, moved to 6th place in 2015.

New York County had the highest crime rate in New York City, and the second highest in the State, but Broome County’s crime rate was 14.5% higher.

The counties with the lowest crime rates were, in order, Putnam, Schuyler, Hamilton, Tioga, and Washington.

The Bronx had the highest violent crime rate followed by Kings (Brooklyn), New York, Queens, Erie, and

  1. What is the crime rate in cities in New York State? What is the violent crime rate for these cities? How do they compare to the crime rate in New York City?

Surveying the cities in New York State with populations over 25,000,[4] most cities in upstate New York have crime rates that are far higher than New York City. The larger cities with low crime rates are the ones in suburban areas, basically downstate. That list also includes North Tonawanda in Erie County. These were (besides North Tonawanda) Glen Cove, Long Beach, Yonkers, New Rochelle, and White Plains.

The cities with the highest crime rates were in order: (1) Niagara Falls, (2) Buffalo, (3) Watertown, (4) Binghamton, (5) Troy, (6) Rochester, (7) Syracuse, (8) Newburgh, (9) Utica, (10) Jamestown, and (11) Albany.[5] Niagara Falls’ crime rate was nearly three times that of New York City’s. The cities with the eighth highest crime rates all had crime rates double that of New York City. The nine largest cities in upstate New York (including assumedly Schenectady based on prior year’s stats) all had crime rates higher than that of New York City. Other upstate cities with a higher crime rate than New York City also included Auburn, Elmira, Poughkeepsie, Middletown, and Saratoga Springs. (Saratoga Springs’ crime rate was less than 4% higher than New York City’s). The only non-suburban city with a lower crime rate than New York City was the city of Rome.

The cities with the highest violent crime rates were in order (1) Newburgh,[6] (2) Niagara Falls, (3) Buffalo, (4) Rochester, (5) Troy, (6) Albany, (7) Syracuse, (8) Poughkeepsie, (9) Jamestown, and (10) Binghamton. Newburgh’s violent crime rate was 150% higher than that of New York City. The crime rates in Niagara Falls and Buffalo were basically 90% higher than that of New York City. Newburgh, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo all had higher violent crime rates than the Bronx, which was the county with the highest violent crime rate. The upstate cities with lower violent crime rates than that of New York City were Elmira, Middletown, North Tonawanda, Rome, Saratoga Springs, Utica, and Watertown.

There is little reason to change the conclusions from the 2016 report. The center of crime in New York State is no longer in New York City. As said previously, the “primary locus of crime in New York State is now in the urban areas of upstate New York.”

[1] “New York State: Where the Crimes Are,” June 10, 2016.

[2] Basic sources are from the FBI and the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. See generally and Also see

[3] Part of this increase is attributable to a broader definition of the crime of rape. The more expansive definition led to an increase in rape of 140.6% from 2014-2015.

[4] There was no data in the reports from the city of Schenectady.

[5] The city of Albany had the highest overall crime rate in 2014.

[6] Newburgh also had the highest overall violent crime rate in 2014.

A Quotable History of New York Corruption

January 12, 2017

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Government Law Center
Albany Law School

There are some people who could conceivably believe that corruption in New York government is a recent twenty-first­century or late twentieth­century phenomenon. Little could be further from the truth. Corruption has always been a factor in New York government. Whether it has been corruption in the awarding of bank charters, governmental franchises, railroad rights, bridge rights, or insurance preferences, New York State has it all. This is a look back at corruption in quotes from the founding of New York State up to a century ago.

The quotes are divided into three eras. Era I is from the late eighteenth century until 1850. This is an era dominated by corruption in bank legislation. Era II is from 1850-1875, where there was massive corruption in railroad rights legislation and in the schemes of the Tweed Ring in New York City. Era III, from 1875-1916, was the era of the “Black Horse Cavalry,” where corrupt legislators often worked to compel corporate interests to pay them bribes in order to protect themselves from damaging legislation.

Era I (1788-1850)

  1. Charges of corruption swirled around nearly every bank charter introduced between 1813 and 1821.

Allegations of bribery surfaced as early as 1804 with the chartering of the Merchants’ Bank of New York City, when it was disclosed that one state senator had promised shares to two other state senators, along with a guarantee that they could sell the shares at a substantial profit after the charter was passed.

Between about 1820 and 1838, Martin Van Buren’s political regime manipulated the charter-granting process to serve its allies and advance its political agenda.”

Howard Bodenhorn, “Bank Chartering and Political Corruption in Antebellum New York.”

  1. “Man and boy I have known New York politics for sixty years, and to me they have always been the devil’s own incomprehensible.”

President John Adams quoted in “The Erie Railroad Row,” The American Law Review, 1868.

  1. “The odium attached to all those implicated in the corrupt means used to promote the incorporation of the Bank of America, was so great and so lasting that no attempts of the kind were made for a long while afterwards; and the iniquitous proceedings of former legislatures in relation to granting charters to moneyed institutions, had been so disgraceful to the state, and were so fresh in the recollection of the members of the convention of 1821, as, beyond all question, induced them, with a view to the prevention of these practices, to insert the clause in the present constitution which renders necessary the assent of two-thirds of both houses of the legislature in order to incorporate a moneyed institution. The intention of the convention was good, but the clause failed to accomplish the object intended. Witness the proceedings in passing the law to incorporate the Chemical Bank, and other institutions, in 1825. The only effect of the restrictive clause in the constitution has been to increase the evil, by rendering necessary a more extended system of corruption, in some form, than was before indispensable.”

Jabez D. Hammond, The History of Political Parties in the State of New-York, From the Ratification of the Federal Constitution to December, 1840.

  1. “During the early years of the last century, efforts to incorporate banks in New York were characterized by such an utter disregard of moral methods, that the period was long remembered as a black spot in the history of the State.”

De Alva Stanwood Alexander, A Political History of the State of New York.

  1. “The Republicans of Albany, realising the importance of a bank and the necessity of avoiding the opposition of their own party, obtained a charter for the State Bank, by selling stock to Republican members of the Legislature, with an assurance that it could be resold at a premium as soon as the institution had an existence. There was a ring of money in this proposition. Such an investment meant a gift of ten or twenty dollars on each share, and immediately members clamoured, intrigued, and battled for stock. The very boldness of the proposition seemed to save it from criticism. Nothing was covered up.”

 Id. on State Bank of Albany Charter of 1803.

  1. It seems incredible in our day that such corruption could go on in broad daylight without a challenge. At the present time a legislator could not carry a district in New York if it were known that his vote had been secured by such ill-gotten gains. Yet the methods of the Republican promoters of the State Bank seem not to have brought a blush to the cheek of the youngest legislator. No one of prominence took exception to it save Abraham Van Vechten, and he was less concerned about the immorality of the thing than the competition to be arrayed against the Federalist bank in Albany.”


  1. “‘To sanction a bill thus marked in its progress through one branch of the Legislature with bribery and corruption,’ concluded the Judge, ‘would be subversive of all pure legislation, and become a reproach to a government hitherto renowned for the wisdom of its councils and the integrity of its legislatures.’”

Judge Ambrose Spencer in 1805 on chartering of State Bank of Albany.

  1. “Even Erastus Root, then just entering his first term in Congress, saw nothing in the transaction to shock society’s sense of propriety or to break the loftiest code of morality. ‘There was nothing of mystery in the passage of the bank,’ he wrote. ‟The projectors sought to push it forward by spreading the stock among the influential Republicans of the State, including members of the Legislature, and carry it through as a party measure. It was argued by the managers of the scheme that the stock would be above par in order to induce the members of the Legislature to go into the measure, but nothing in the transaction had the least semblance of a corrupt influence. No one would hesitate from motives of delicacy, to offer a member, nor for him to take, shares in a bank sooner than in a turnpike or in an old canal.’”

De Alva Stanwood Alexander, supra, on chartering of the State Bank of Albany.

  1. “Turnpike companies and other types of corporations regularly made their stock available for legislators.”

Robert E. Wright, Banking and Politics in New York, 1784-1829.

  1. ‟Federalists would grant no charters to Republicans and Re-publicans none to Federalists. After a few banks had been established they united, regardless of politics, to create a monopoly by preventing other persons from getting charters. When charters were applied for and refused, the applicants began business on the common law plan. Then, at the instigation of the favored ones, the politicians passed a law to suppress all unchartered banks. The latter went to Albany and bribed the Legislature. In short, politics, monopoly, and bribery constitute the key to banking in the early history of the State.

Horace White, Money and Banking.

  1. “In an attempt to prevent banks from buying up members of the State Legislature in order to secure charters, the Constitution of New York State was amended in 1821 to the effect that thereafter a two-thirds vote of both branches of the Legislature was necessary to pass a bank charter, but the only effect of this was to increase the evil by rendering necessary a more extended system of corruption.”
  2. L. Garis, Principles of Money, Credit and Banking.
  3. “The granting of charters was soon regarded as part of the spoils belonging to the victorious party, and were dealt out as rewards for partisan services. This practice became so shameless and corrupt that it could be endured no longer, and in 1838, the Legislature sought a remedy in the general banking law.”

Comptroller Millard Fillmore 1848, Annual Report.

  1. “The whole business of legislation was retarded, and a regular system of bribery, almost without parallel in the history of civilized governments, was established and carried on, until the final passage of the bill in the Assembly, by a vote of fifty-eight to thirty-nine. The attempts of the agents of the company to obtain votes for the charter, by means of the most shameless bribery and corruption, were made known before the bill went to the Senate, and a motion was made in that body, when in committee of the whole, to reject it, which was lost; thirteen Senators voting in the affirmative, and fifteen in the negative.”

John S. Jenkins, The History of Political Parties in the State of New-York, re Bank of America charter vote in 1812.

  1. “Scarcely a member of the Legislature escaped downright Self corruption – and human nature never was exhibited in its naked deformity in more disgusting features.”

Elkanah Watson, describing the chartering of the State Bank of Albany in 1803.

Era II (1850-1875)

  1. “Again, legislative bribery and corruption were, within recent memory, looked upon as antiquated misdemeanors, almost peculiar to the unenlightened period of Walpole and Fox, and their revival in the face of modern public opinion was thought to be impossible. In this regard at least a sad delusion was certainly entertained. Governments and ministries no longer buy the raw material of legislation; —at least not openly or with cash in hand. The same cannot be said of individuals and corporations; for they have of late not infrequently found the supply of legislators in the market even in excess of the demand.

Charles F. Adams, Jr., Chapters of Erie, and Other Essays.

  1. “Legislation bought and sold — bills passed or defeated to suit the highest bidder – bribery the order of the day — such is the hideous picture presented to the people of our noble State.

George Washington Hunt, 1860, quoted in Brummer, Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War.

  1. “The year 1868 proved a particularly busy one for Vanderbilt. He was engaged in a desperately devious struggle with Gould. In vain did his agents and lobbyists pour out stacks of money to buy legislative votes enough to defeat the bill legalizing Gould’s fraudulent issue of stock. Members of the Legislature impassively took money from both parties. Gould personally appeared at Albany with a satchel containing $500,000 in greenbacks which were rapidly distributed. One Senator, as was disclosed by an investigating committee, accepted $75,000 from Vanderbilt and then $100,000 from Gould, kept both sums, — and voted with the dominant Gould forces. It was only by means of the numerous civil and criminal writs issued by Vanderbilt judges that the old man contrived to force Gould and his accomplices into paying for the stock fraudulently unloaded upon him. The best terms that he could get was an unsatisfactory settlement which still left him to bear a loss of about two million. The veteran trickster had never before been overreached; all his life, except on one occasion, he had been the successful sharper; but he was no match for the more agile and equally sly, corrupt and resourceful Gould.”

Gustavus Myers, History of the Great American Fortunes.

  1. “The legislature, as a whole, was as crooked as a ram’s horn…After all was said and done, perhaps the two chief factors in our favor were first, the hatred that existed in the public mind of Vanderbilt monopoly and of Vanderbilt’s bulldozing methods, and, second, the five hundred thousand dollars that Gould had in his pocket.

Robert H. Fuller, Jubilee Jim: The Life of Colonel James Fisk, Jr.

  1. “The most important bills are rushed through at the last moment without any consideration or even knowledge of them upon the part of members; that the most outrageous jobs are constantly presented in the form of bills, and that they are passed or defeated only by the most enormous expenditure of money. These are undeniable facts.”

“Legislative Corruption,” Harpers Weekly, May 4, 1867.

  1. The canal administration and the evident waste and corruption in the letting of contracts for repairs, called for investigation. The convention faced a popular conviction that bribery was rampant in the Legislature, and under existing law could not be punished.”

Ray B. Smith, History of the State of New York Political and Governmental.

  1. “The need for action to repress the practice of bribery originated with the Committee on Official Corruption appointed by the convention of 1867. Its report was prefaced by the remark that official corruption was ‘a crime of deep turpitude, growing prevalence, and dangerous tendency.’ The corroboration of this statement can be found in the testimony taken before it which revealed over a half million dollars distributed by railroads as bribes. One newspaper, referring to current conditions, said, ‘We speak what hundreds of men know from personal experience, that no bill whose passage will confer pecuniary advantage upon any man or any corporation can be passed in Albany except by bribery-except by paying members to pass upon it. No man can get his rights, or prevent serious damage to his private interests, or to avert ruin from himself and his family, except by bribery.”

New York State Constitutional Convention Committee (1938) (Reports) referring to New York Times, April 8, 1867.

  1. “During all the many years that I have been accustomed to observe the character of legislators and the proceedings of the body, I have never seen anything to compare with the present assemblage of representatives in point of shamelessness, rapacity and recklessness of consequences. Their predecessors have often been noted for venality and greediness, but these people sell their votes openly haggle about the price without pretense of concealment and then boast of what they have been paid. And all with the knowledge that they are within reach of the criminal statute, and that a felon’s cell would be their fate if the law should be enforced against them.”

Letter to the New York Tribune, quoted in the New York Times, April 8, 1867.

  1. “We venture to say that as a general rule for the last ten years one-fifth of the members of each House have been in the habit of taking bribes for their votes:- the fact is open and notorious to everyone who has had any personal connection with Albany legislation.”

“Legislative Corruption–Albany Matters Which Deserve Attention,” New York Times, April 8, 1867.

  1. “Either this state of affairs must be remedied or the State Capitol ought to be removed to Auburn or Sing Sing. Our legislators and convicts should change places.”


  1. “Gould traveled to Albany, reportedly with a trunk full of thousand dollar bills and set up shop in the Delavan House and began buying up votes. The Commodore swiftly dispatched counterbribery agents, among them William Tweed, who installed themselves on another floor of the same hostelry. Legislators shuttled back and forth in search of the highest bidder. With the Erie’s treasury close at hand, Gould’s was the more bottomless wallet, and Vanderbilt’s troops deserted him, even Tweed who was rewarded for his treachery with lavish supplies of Erie stock netting him $650,000 in all.”

Burrows and Wallace, Gotham.

  1. “’There never was a time when you couldn’t buy the Board of Alderman.’ Tweed once remarked – but it was the arrival of the street railroads, with their attendant scramble for franchises, that brought civil chicanery to new heights or depth.”


  1. “Working amid the cloud of lobbyists that swarmed each day about City Hall, the Common Council set about earning its nickname of the ‘Forty Thieves.’”


  1. “Not only the ‛Tweed Ring’ entered the market as a buyer and seller of Legislators, but powerful corporations (notably two great railroad companies), also engaged warmly in this degrading traffic. The Legislature no less than the city government seems to have been a den of thieves; and even the ermine of the judges was polluted by this wild craze for ill-gotten wealth.”

Report of the Special Committee of the Board of Aldermen Appointed to Investigate the ‟Ring” Fraud: 1878.

15.  “With the bestowal of the first trolley franchise in 1851 the Board of Aldermen embarked on a career of spoliation. The body in which ‛Boss’ Tweed served his apprenticeship was known as the ‛Forty Thieves.’ It was said that an enterprising alderman could make his fortune in a single term; few were backward in this pursuit of pelf.   Frederick Shaw, History of the N.Y.C. Legislature, 1954.

  1. “1. Large sums of money were expended for corrupt purposes by parties interested in legislation concerning railways during the session of 1848. 2. Lobbyists were thus enriched, and in some cases received money on the false pretense that the votes of senators were to be thereby influenced. 3. There is no proof of actual bribery of any Senator. 4. The newspaper charges made in the instances that were brought to the attention of your committee were founded upon rumor alone and have been in no case sustained by the evidence of the writers or other proof.”

Matthew Hale, Report of State Senate Committee of 1869.

Era III (1875-1916)

  1. “But the corrupt work was usually done through the members directly. Of course I never had anything in the nature of legal proof of corruption, and the figures I am about to give are merely approximate. But three years’ experience convinced me, in the first place, that there were a great many thoroughly corrupt men in the Legislature, perhaps a third of the whole number.”

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography.

  1. “The corrupt legislators, the ‘black horse cavalry,’ as they were termed, would demand

payment to vote as the corporations wished, no matter whether the bill was proper or improper.”


  1. “The duty of holding these corporations accountable was a burden upon the Legislature which it ought not to have been called upon to perform. But, worse than that, this multitude of bills, founded upon just complaint, brought after them a multitude of strike bills introduced for the purpose of holding up the corporations, holding them up and calling them down. Many of us can now remember the dreadful days of the Black Horse Cavalry which came as an incident mainly, to the performance of this duty by the Legislature, and, further still, the fact that the great transportation companies were being attacked, the great public service corporations were being attacked in the Legislature, justified them in their own minds in going into politics and electing, or furnishing the money to elect, members of the Senate and Assembly.”

Elihu Root at the 1915 New York State Constitutional Convention.

  1. STRIKE BILLS. “With the opening of every legislative session, among the first contents of the ‘bill-box’ there is always a number of what are called ‘strike bills.’ Some of these have ‛been introduced year after year, until the reading of their titles by the clerk excites familiar smiles from the old members. Nothing stops the introduction of these bills except their passage. A ‘strike’ bill is a bill which is introduced in the hope that somebody will pay the introducer not to press its passage. Its introduction is variously known as ‘ringing the bell’ or ‘striking the gong.’ Its intent is an invitation to bribery. It is called a ‘strike’ because it is always aimed at some corporate interest which could spare the money to pay for its suppression.”

American Lawyer, Vol. 14, Issue 2 (February 1906), 82.

  1. His domination of the Legislature for personal or factional interests arrayed many of the more serious men of the party against Platt’s methods, especially his practice of secretly obtaining large contributions from big business, under the promise of immunity from ‘strike’ bills, and of using such funds secretly for the nomination and election of legislators and other officials who would do his bidding. Wheeler H. Peckham, a lawyer of State-wide reputation, in an address before the Good Government Club in 1894, declared that this custom had practically ended the day of the lobby. ‘When the Democrats are in power,’ he said, ‘the leader of Tammany takes its place. He handles yearly a large amount of money and is accountable to no one. He says whether a bill shall pass, and corporations pay large amounts for ‛peace,’ as they call it. The Metropolitan Telephone Company pays $50,000 a year. I know of one corporation which pays a similar amount. As counsel I went twice to Albany to defeat the passage of a bill and could not get a hearing. But the measure failed, and several months after a subscription list was quietly passed around. As Mr. Tilden so fitly said: ‛It was a case of sending up the stuff to Albany.’”

De Alva Stanwood Alexander, supra.

  1. “I have seen something of the world, and affirm that in no civilized country, and hardly in any uncivilized, is there a government which, in foulness of corruption, in insatiable capacity, in criminal practices, in cruel oppression of the lowly, equals Tammany rule.”

Carl Schurz, 1894.

  1. “There’s bribery everywhere.”

Wheeler Peckham, New York Sun, 3/30/94.

  1. “I tell you that every day of their lives these Tammany men are bribed and bribe others.”

Wheeler Peckham, New York Post, 3/30/1894.

  1. On bribery: “It was also the one crime most prevalent and the one crime most rarely prosecuted or punished.”

De Lancey Nicoll, “An Unpublished Constitutional Crime,” The North American Review, 1888.

  1. “The utilities became Tammany’s greatest source of income. Whitney and Ryan of the Manhattan Elevated Railroad provided top politicos with hefty lawyer’s fees, stock market tips, contracts for their construction companies, and pieces of the action in Metropolitan’s financial deals. They were amply repaid with valuable franchises, maintenance of high fares and the blockage of utilities reform.”

Gotham, supra.

  1. “It was a well-considered fact that to be a senator at Albany was worth anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a year and that it came largely from the insurance companies. This is no secret. Every New York man knows it. I know it. I know it well.”

Congressman Joseph Goulden, quoted in the LA Times, 5/22/1906.

  1. ‟Insurance companies in New York City have always been regarded as good things.”

Id. Goulden, quoted in the Washington Post, 5/22/1906.

  1. The payment of bribe money to prevent the passage of hostile measures which as a class are known as ‘strikes’ is an ancient practice.”

 New York Times, 10/6/1905.

  1. “It is probably true as Mr. McCall said to the Armstrong committee that three-fourths of the bills relating to insurance are instruments of blackmail.”

New York Tribune, 10/6/1905. McCall was the New York Life Insurance Company president.

  1. “The existence of a huge pool to prevent hostile legislation in every state in the union was revealed today… This revelation explains much of the mystery in the payment of $235,000 to ‘Judge’ Andrew Hamilton in 1903 by the New York Life as testified to by President McCall.”

“Life Companies in Bribery Pool?,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 9/30/1905.

  1. “Black Horse Cavalry. A derogatory appellation given to a coterie of Republican members in the New York legislature charged with selling legislative privileges and extorting money from corporations by the introduction of blackmailing legislation. Much light was thrown on its methods by the investigation connected with the conviction of Senator Allds.”

1910 Cyclopedia of American government, v.1 (Abattoirs/Finality), McLaughlin and Hart.

  1. “Strike Legislation and Other Methods. — ‘Strike’ bills, or ‘regulators’ which are introduced by legislators attack some interest for the purpose of being bought off. Behind them is frequently to be found a ‘combine’ of members, usually bipartisan, organized for purposes of plunder. A combine of this nature in New York earned for itself the expressive title of the ‘Black Horse Cavalry.’…This body was particularly active in state legislation at the time when Boss Tweed was a state senator and practically in control of the legislature. A number of the members of legislatures are ‘owned,’ that is, controlled by some outside interest. Usually this is a political leader or boss, to whom the member is indebted for his seat. In other cases, a member is serving some particular interest to which he is bound by the fact that his campaign expenses have been paid or other substantial favors given him.”


  1. “Thus, the Board of Aldermen in New York City, which, in name is the legislature of the city, has gradually been deprived of its initiative in financial matters and all other powers of real magnitude, except the power to enact the building code. In 1905 because of alleged ‘hold up’ tactics, its power over franchises was taken from it and lodged in the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. It is not necessary to go back to the ‘Forty Thieves Council’ of the early fifties in New York or to the notable instances of legislative corruption in the city council in the period of the Tweed Ring (see) for instances of direct bribery.”


  1. “The insurance investigation in New York disclosed the payment of large sums to the legislative agents of the insurance companies and the recent investigation in the Senate of the United States of the method by which certain Senators secured their election have brought out facts showing a lavish use of money. In 1910 and 1911, the examination of legislative conditions in Illinois indicated the existence of a corruption fund, named, with ill-timed levity, the ‘jack-pot.’ Convictions in the courts of members of state legislatures for bribery are not infrequent. In New York, In 1910, a senator, after a prolonged trial before the Senate which attracted wide-spread attention, was held to have received a bribe in connection with legislation affecting certain bridge interests and resigned.”


The Visionary Leadership Quotes of Dr. Alain Kaloyeros: The Strategic Guide to Supporting your Governors and Political Leaders for Two Decades

September 28, 2016

By Bennett Liebman
Interim Director
Government Law Center of Albany Law School

  • “Governor Pataki’s economic policies are making New York a place where high-tech business can grow and succeed, and should be applauded and supported by all state constituencies. His strategies already have reversed a long trend of declining manufacturing base in this state, and generated many success stories of businesses deciding to remain in or locate to New York.”

Albany Times Union [hereinafter TU] 2/5/97

  • “New York state is well positioned in the competition because of the proactive and supportive actions taken by Governor Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Bruno and Assembly Speaker Silver to build the technological infrastructure necessary to attract the industry.”

TU 1/1/98

  • ”A hell of a bold and visionary move.” On Governor Pataki’s proposed Centers of Excellence.

TU 1/4/01

  • “I’m a true believer the governor has the vision and strategy to make New York the high-tech hub of the 21st century.”

TU 1/5/01

  • “The governor’s creation of the Center of Excellence will guarantee a tenfold expansion in the research, development, prototyping and work force training programs between IBM and UAlbany.”

TU 4/24/01

  • “We are delighted by Pataki’s visionary leadership and proactive and effective oversight in the development and implementation of the Albany/RPI STAR Center. We pledge to the governor as well as to (Senate Majority Leader Joseph) Bruno and (Assembly Speaker Sheldon) Silver to make North Star the shiniest economic development and job creation hub, as was intended all along.”

TU 5/4/01

  • “We thank Governor Pataki for his bold vision and proactive leadership in creating a state-of-the-art research and development infrastructure in New York State, as documented by his US $1B Center of Excellence Initiative.”

AP Company News 11/14/01

  • “We are fortunate our governor has the vision to create the comprehensive plan to make New York the high technology capital of the world.”

Buffalo News 3/24/02 with Erland Kailbourne

  • “All the potential big announcements and advancements that could happen are being catalyzed by this and wouldn’t have been possible without the governor’s support.”

3/28/02 TU

  • “They all truly believe in high-tech; they’re investing in high-tech and they’re personally involved,” of Pataki, Bruno and Silver.

TU 8/4/02

  • “Kaloyeros is a Pataki fan, having once said he’d never want to work for any other governor because Pataki was such a supporter of research.”

AP 9/20/02

  • “Kaloyeros, who recently told a public gathering that he’d never want to work for any governor besides Pataki, claimed he was unaware Donohue would deliver a tough political speech.”

NY Post 9/21/2002

  • “Perhaps Mr. Kaloyeros, a respected scientist and academic entrepreneur, should have been more wary. Politics is not his academic specialty, though he is an enthusiastic supporter of Governor Pataki. If Mr. Kaloyeros didn’t know it before, surely he knows it now.”

TU Editorial 9/23/02

  • “Our partnership is a testimony to the success of the visionary investments of Governor Pataki, Speaker Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Bruno in New York’s high tech university infrastructure.”

PR Newswire 10/10/02

  • “This announcement is a glowing testimony to the vision and leadership of Governor Pataki and his successful strategy in turning New York and its public university system into an international high technology magnet.”

Internet Wire 1/28/2003

  • “Kaloyerosextended lavish praise to Pataki and other state leaders for devoting their resources to UAlbany and the SUNY system.”

TU 1/29/03

  • “The governor put in place the level of investment that really makes New York

NY Times 11/16/03

  • “Alain Kaloyeros, dean of UAlbany’s School of Nanosciences and Nanoengineering, applauded Pataki for his “visionary announcement.”

TU 1/8/04

  • “Kaloyeros, who will be vice president and chief administrative officer of the college, was joined by SUNY Chancellor Robert King and board chairman Thomas F. Egan in praising the governor for his “vision” in establishing the school.”

TU 4/21/04

  • “I would like to thank Governor Pataki and IBM for making this historic investment in the future of New York’s high technology economy. The innovations that will arise from this partnership will reap substantial benefits for the citizens of New York for years to come.”

Business Wire 1/5/05

  • “Working with leading industry partners to demonstrate and deploy innovative breakthroughs that have significant technological and commercial potential is at the heart of our mission, as envisioned by state leaders Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.”

PR Newswire 3/23/05

  • “Thanks to the vision and leadership of Governor Pataki, the SUNY University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering has emerged as a global leader in the science and engineering of nanoscale technologies, and a critical enabler in New York’s preeminence in the global economy of the 21st century.”

US State News 1/3/06

  • “It is also another strong demonstration that the strategy of Governor Pataki is paying significant dividends for New York State.”

US State News 1/27/06

  • “The recognition of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering as the nation’s top university for nanotechnology after just two years in existence is a credit to the vision, leadership and support of Governor Pataki, Speaker Silver, Senate Majority Leader Bruno, Chancellor Ryan and President Hall.”

U.S. State News 5/12/06

  • “This announcement provides yet more evidence of the vision and leadership of Governor Pataki, particularly in terms of his creation of the nanoelectronics R&D and manufacturing critical mass necessary to make New York a global high tech leader.”

US State News 6/23/06

  • “The pioneering strategy of New York’s elected officials, as led by Governor Pataki and Assembly Speaker Silver, has been the driving force behind New York State’s rapid ascension and recognition as a global leader in nanotechnology, as well as the unprecedented growth and success of the UAlbany NanoCollege.”

Electronic News 8/28/06

  • “It is evidence of a proven collaborative model between the public and private sectors, the nano college, the Arsenal Partnership and the Army that utilizes research and development to generate investment and business and create jobs. It is a true illustration of the “innovation economy” discussed by Governor Spitzer.”

TU 1/14/07 with Tony Gaetano

  • “This announcement is a glowing testimony to the vision and leadership of Governor Spitzer, Speaker Silver, and Senator Bruno, particularly in terms of the creation of the nanoelectronics critical mass of R&D, education, and commercialization necessary to make New York a global high tech powerhouse. We thank International SEMATECH for its vote of confidence and investments, and look forward to working together to further advance our collective science and technology roadmap, while contributing to New York’s economic competitiveness.”

US State News 5/9/07

  • “We are grateful to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and the New York State Senate for their leadership and support in advancing the International SEMATECH initiative. The extraordinary vision and pioneering stewardship of Governor Eliot Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Bruno will result in a historic and unprecedented expansion of the world’s leading consortium of nanoelectronics manufacturers in New York State.”

US State News 6/22/07 with Dr. Michael R. Polcari, President and CEO of SEMATECH

  • That this initiative is centered in New York, at a State University of New York institution, is testament to the vision, support, and investments made by Governor Spitzer and our legislative leaders, who have created a globally recognized resource in nanotechnology education, research, development and commercialization that is providing unmatched intellectual know-how and technical capabilities for the benefit of our corporate partners.”

US State News 2/18/08

  • The attraction of yet another leading global nanoelectronics company once again demonstrates that the pioneering vision of Governor Spitzer, Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Bruno-including their unwavering support in bringing International SEMATECH to CNSE’s Albany NanoTech-is paying dividends in luring new high-tech jobs and investment that underscore the State’s growing recognition as a worldwide leader in nanotechnology education, research and commercialization.”

AP 2/20/08

  • With the vision and support ofGovernor Paterson, Speaker Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Bruno, the UAlbany NanoCollege and New York’s growing nanotechnology sector have gained global recognition as a world leader in nanoscale education, research, and commercialization, creating new opportunities to attract additional high-tech jobs, companies, and investment to the Empire State.”

PR Newswire 4/2/08

  • “The 2008 report is a glowing testimony to the high-tech investment strategy advanced byGovernor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Bruno.”

Fed News 6/24/08

  • “No, the governor and I are not twins separated at birth.” On David Paterson

TU 6/14/09

  • “The partnership once again demonstrates the success of the vision, strategy and investments of GovernorPaterson and Assembly Speaker Silver in supporting New York’s globally-recognized nanotechnology industry, which is attracting high-tech jobs, companies and investments while providing new and exciting career opportunities for New Yorkers in our 21st century innovation economy.”

AP 7/13/09

  • “Our congratulations and gratitude to Speaker Silver, Governor Paterson, Assemblywoman Destito, and the New York State Assembly for their bold vision, pioneering strategy, and smart investment in launching the first inter-regional, cross-university nanotechnology research, education, and economic outreach public-private partnership in Upstate New York.”

Targeted News Service 7/15/09

  • “The Chamber truly epitomizes the unique partnership between leaders in government, technology, business and academia that has enabled the world’s premier location for nanotechnology education, innovation and economic investment and growth, and showcases the pioneering vision of New York’s elected officials, as embodied by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor David Paterson and the steadfast support of its business community.”

Targeted News Service 12/7/09

  • “The relocation of ISMI to New York State is testament to, and a direct result of, the groundbreaking vision, unparalleled leadership, and proactive investment of Assembly Speaker Silver and Governor Paterson who have ensured that in the global competition to lead the 21st century nanotechnology revolution, all roads truly point to New York State.”

“Today’s exciting announcement is a critical piece of Governor Paterson’s New Economy initiative and I applaud his administration for their unwavering commitment to what we know is the foundation for our future economic prosperity.”

Right Vision News 10/16/10

  • “Led by the extraordinary leadership and pioneering vision of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and with the steadfast support and continuing guidance of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, today’s announcement is proof positive that New York is firmly established as the global headquarters for the 21st century nanotechnology-driven economy.”

US Fed News 9/27/11

 Kaloyerossaid he’s happy for all the support the center has received — from everybody. “Asking if Governors Mario and Andrew Cuomo or Speaker Silver deserve the credit for CNSE’s success is like asking who deserves the credit for the child’s birth and good health, the grandparents, the father, or the mother?” he said. “It is not an attempt to bask in the reflective glory of CNSE. Instead, in my view, it is Governor Cuomo’s and Speaker Silver’s pride of ownership in the child, CNSE, whom they have nurtured, coached, invested in, mentored, and guided.”

  TU 10/3/11

  • “Created through the vision ofGovernor Mario Cuomo, and enabled through the leadership and support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the SUNY NanoCollege continues to gain global recognition as the epicenter for innovative research, development and commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled applications across the industries of the 21st century high-tech economy.”

Targeted News Service 10/23/12

  • “Polytechnic Institute, and its Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, leaves an enduring legacy. He was the mastermind of the SUNY Graduate Research Initiative which, in 1988, recruited me to New York. He also devised and implemented the Centers for Advanced Technology (CATs) programs that, to my knowledge, were the first of their kind in the U.S. to fuse academic innovation with industrial relevance and commercial applicability to enable New York universities to contribute to the vibrancy and competitiveness of the New York economy. Our designation in 1993 as a CAT is undoubtedly the catalyst to the establishment of CNSE and then SUNY Poly. His vision for and impact on the nanotechnology revolution in New York did not stop there. He also funded the first state-of-the-art building (currently known as the Center for Emerging Sciences and Technology Management) on the Albany NanoTech campus that certainly provided the impetus for the Andrew Cuomo first-of-its-kind CNSE model of co-location of CNSE faculty and students with corporate researchers, that is now driving the nanotechnology expansion across New York. It is also driving the Federal Government borrowing the CNSE model under its own National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).”

“For me personally, being interviewed by a governor, and Mario M. Cuomo nonetheless, for my first real job as assistant professor of physics truly blew my mind away and cemented my decision to take the job here instead of multiple offers from prestigious top ten institutions and national laboratories. But what really struck me were the depth of his intellect, the intensity of his passion, his down-to-earth engagement style, and his sense of humor. During our interactions, he came across as both a colleague and as a mentor in chatting about the ever evolving economic landscape in the U.S., the role of universities in economic development, his vision for the role of higher education in New York’s competitiveness, and my thoughts, plans, and aspirations. I have never witnessed any other leader command such presence both privately and publicly and was especially struck by how he commanded the New York press whenever he entered a press conference and suddenly everything went quiet and you could hear a needle drop. My silver lining in this loss is the fact that his vision and blueprint for economic vibrancy in New York are now being carried out by a leader of the same caliber, his own son, Andrew. What a poetic justice.

SUNY Remembers New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo 1/6/15

Defunding the New York State Law Revision Commission

July 11, 2016

By Bennett Liebman
Government Law Center

Efforts at public ethics reform in New York State often terminate with a whimper and not a bang. But at least most of the time, there are whimpers. Muttered complaints are generally voiced about the lack of reform. Yet, this year, one of the progressive reform efforts of New York State was placed out of commission in complete silence.

Defunded this year was the State’s Law Revision Commission which had operated since 1934. The Law Revision Commission was designed to serve as a non-partisan body of legal experts which would “examine the common law and statutes of the state and current judicial decisions for the purpose of discovering defects and anachronisms in the law and recommending needed reforms.” It has been considered “the oldest continuous agency in the common-law world devoted to law reform through legislation.”[1] The Law Revision Commission continues to exist in statute, but without funding, it has been rendered inoperative.

That’s not the way it is supposed to work. New York’s Law Revision Commission was one of the signature progressive reforms of the 20th century in New York. Its ancestry is impeccable. Its parentage runs through Benjamin Cardozo, Alfred Smith, Herbert Lehman and Thomas Dewey.

It was truly Benjamin Cardozo’s concept. Cardozo, while an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals, authored a law review article suggesting the creation of a ministry of justice.[2] That ministry would be an agency that would mediate between the work of the courts and the legislature. The ministry would place the duty on a group “to watch the law in action, observe the manner of its functioning and report the changes needed when function is deranged.”[3] It should be a formal office composed of at least five members who would have a “single-hearted consecration”[4] to research and scholarship. The need for such a body was obvious to Justice Cardozo. “Men are insisting, as perhaps never before, that law shall be made true to its ideal of justice. Let us gather the driftwood, and leave the waters pure.”[5]

Cardozo’s concept of a ministry to regularly report on improving the law was soon advocated by New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith. Smith, in his State of the State message to the legislature in 1923, proposed a “commission to investigate defects in the law and its administration.”[6] Smith noted, “It is necessary that … we keep pace with our own growth and with modern conception of right and justice. The law of the State, civil and criminal, should be brought into harmony with existing social, economic and business conditions.”[7] The legislature responded by establishing a commission to investigate defects in the law.[8] That commission recommended a law revision commission,[9] and in 1925, Governor Smith again recommended the establishment of a permanent law revision commission.  Smith in his State of the State message noted that he was “thoroughly in accord with the report of the commission” and he recommended that the legislature should enact suitable legislation to create such permanent agency.”[10]

While Smith was unable to secure passage of the legal reform commission, Governor Herbert Lehman was successful. Lehman in 1934 in a special message to the legislature formally proposed a law revision commission. Such a commission would provide “a through and disinterested recommendation”[11] of State laws. “Its function will be the consideration of changes in substantive law and the recommendation of those changes yearly to the Legislature.” [12]

Lehman’s proposal was soon passed by the legislature. In signing the Law Revision Commission bill,[13] Lehman further wrote, “The creation of this permanent agency is an outstanding progressive development in the administration of justice within this State. The importance of the work of this commission cannot be exaggerated. It will be able to bring the law of this State into conformity with modern conditions and modern needs. Its recommendations will be of inestimable value to the Legislature.”[14] It was the first of its kind in the United States and[15] termed a “pioneer juristic venture.”[16]

The Albany Times Union was enthusiastic about the legislation. It wrote, “With the appointment of the Law Revision Commission … New York now becomes the first state to undertake this reform. Moreover, by making the Commission a permanent adjunct of its government, New York assures that the work of law revision will be both continuing and enduring.”[17] The Law Revision Commission was considered as bringing the “brain trust system” into American government[18] as well as the “messenger of which Judge Cardozo wrote.”[19]

In 1948, Governor Dewey and the legislature expanded the focus of the Law Revision Commission. They directed the Commission to review the overall issue of the confidentiality of news reporter sources. This was a significant departure from its prior work as the Commission had previously only reported on problems with existing laws. For the first time, the Commission worked on writing new legislation.[20]

The legislation creating the Commission has remained largely unchanged since its creation. Besides certain ex officio members of the legislature, it has always consisted of five members appointed by the governor for five-year terms. Four members of the Commission must be attorneys, and two must be members of law faculties of New York schools.[21] The duties of the Commission have remained unaltered since 1934.[22]

Similarly, the record of accomplishment of the Law Revision Commission is difficult to match. In its first two years of existence, the Commission submitted 15 proposals to the legislature, all of which were voted on.[23] By 1948, the Law Revision Commission could report that 70% of its proposals since its inception had been enacted by the legislature.[24]

It has handled and reported on hundreds of difficult issues, involving most every aspect of the public law of New York. It has issued reports on topics as diverse as mechanics liens, guardianship, commercial codes, gubernatorial succession, trusts and estates, extradition, the statute of frauds, and the rule against perpetuities. It has handled hot button issues that the elected branches wanted to farm out, such as the insanity defense, eminent domain, whistleblowing, and landlord-tenant issues. Even in recent years, with a most limited budget, the Commission has worked on reforming the alcoholic beverage control laws and the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. In 2016, the legislature has passed bills recommended by the Commission on the limited disclosure of HIV medical information and on reforms concerning charitable corporations and trust governance.

As the Commission stated in its 50th annual report in 1985, The New York Law Revision Commission, “through its ‘recommendations’ has provided this advice during the past fifty years and, with the help of God, will continue to do so for many years to come.”[25]

One would think rationally that in 2016 the Law Revision Commission’s role would be more valuable than ever. The political parties are more divided. Politics seems more divisive than ever. The pace of technology is creating more anachronisms in the law and creating a climate for more reform. The legislative process is overwhelmed by scores of moneyed interests. The need for disinterested, dispassionate intelligent review of legislation is more needed than ever. Shouldn’t the Law Revision Commission be called upon to report on ride sharing services, vacation and room rentals, tax exemptions to support affordable housing, local government powers and cooperation, the expansion of legalized traditional gambling endeavors, and power company and transmission company regulations?

Defunding the Law Revision Commission in 2016 is at best extremely shortsighted. It has always helped to improve New York State laws and New York State government. It is a government agency that has worked, and ought to be put back to work right now.


[1] New York State Law Revision Commission website,

[2] Benjamin Cardozo, “A Ministry of Justice,” 35 Harvard Law Review, 113 (December 1921).

[3] Id. at 114.

[4] Id. at 124.

[5] Id. at 126.

[6] Public Papers of Governor Alfred E. Smith, Annual Message to the Legislature, 63 (1923).

[7] Id. at 64.

[8] Ch. 575, L. 1923.

[9] See John Godfrey Saxe, “A Ministry of Justice or Law Revision Commission,” 3 N.Y. L. Rev. 98 (1925).

[10] See “Text of Gov. Smith’s Annual Message to Legislature,” New York Times, January 8, 1925. The New York Times suggested in an editorial that a law revision commission was “worth trying.” “Law Revision,” New York Times, January 28, 1925.

[11] Public Papers of Governor Herbert Lehman, 83 (1934).

[12] Id.

[13] Ch. 597, L. 1934.

[14] Id. at 350.

[15] John W. MacDonald, “The Bar and the Law Revision Commission,” 9 New York State Bar Association Journal, 56 (1937).

[16] Herbert Laube, “Book Review,” 20 Cornell Law Quarterly, 403 (1935). See also John W. MacDonald and Simon Rosenzweig, “The Law Revision Commission of the State of New York: Its Organization, Procedure, Program and Accomplishment,” Cornell Law Quarterly, 415 (1935).

[17] “New York Leads,” Albany Times Union, July 13, 1934.

[18] “Cardozo Brain Trust Pioneer, Says J.P. Hill,” Associated Press, Binghamton Press, November 5, 1934.

[19] MacDonald, supra note 15.

[20] Emmet N. O’Brien, “News Bill Marks Shift for State Law Board,” Albany Knickerbocker News, March 22, 1948. The referral of the issue to the Law Revision Commission also was endorsed by State Attorney General Goldstein who stated that he had “utmost faith and confidence” in the Commission’s study. John Mooney, “GOP Gives News Confidence ’49 Priority,” Saratogian, March 16, 1948.

[21] Legislative Law, Section 70. See Ch. 597, L. 1934.

[22] Legislative Law, Section 72. See Ch. 597, L. 1934.

[23] MacDonald, supra note 15 at 60.

[24] “US Information As Bad as Reds’ at Times, Editor Says,” Syracuse Post Standard, September 28, 1948.

[25] New York Law Revision Commission, Annual Report, 48 (1985).

New York State: Where the Crimes Are

June 10, 2016

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Albany Law School

One of the more familiar tropes in upstate New York revolves around the origins of crime. The notion has long been that crime is like the New York State Thruway. It starts at New York City and works its way up through the rest of New York State. It is regarded as one of New York City’s least attractive exports, as young urbanites branch out bringing crime to the hinterlands. The issue is whether this trope has any accuracy in 21st century New York State.

Measurements of Crime

The FBI measures seven types of criminal acts. There are four violent crimes: murder and non-negligent homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. There are three measured non-violent crimes: burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. Traditionally, crime rates are measured based on the incidence of crime per 100,000 inhabitants.[1] Adding the violent crime rate and non-violent crime rate provides the overall crime rate for a given area.[2] While there are numerous precautions involved in comparing crime rates,[3] the fact is that these rates are generally used to provide a snapshot of the amount of crime occurring in any given location.

From 1965-1994, the crime rate in New York State was in the top half of the states in the country.[4] From 1965-1993, New York State’s violent crime rate was either the highest or the second-highest in the nation. The property crime rate in New York State during that period was always in the top half of all states.

Yet since 1990, the  number of crimes and the rate of crime in New York State have fallen dramatically.[5] The crime rate went from 6,363.8 crime incidents per 100,000 inhabitants (in 1990?) to 2,100 in 2014. The crime rate fell by more than two-thirds. New York State, whose crime rate was the eighth highest in the nation in 1990, ranked 47th in the nation in 2014.

The crime rate has fallen significantly in the nation as well. The index crime rate in the nation in 1990 was 5,802.7. It is, as of 2014, 2,961.6, a reduction of 49%. Thus, while crime has fallen in the nation, it has fallen far faster in New York State. In 1990, the crime rate was 9.7% higher in New York State than in the rest of the nation. By 2014, the crime rate in New York State was more than 29% lower than the national average.

The New York City Experience

In 1990, the index crime rate for New York City was 9,699.1, with a violent crime rate of 2,383.6. By 2014, that rate had decreased to 2,185.4. The crime rate had decreased in New York City by 75.4%.  (Violent crime decreased by 75.5%.) In 1990, the crime rate in New York City was 52.4% higher than the state average. In 2014, it was 5.4% over the State level. The rate of property crime in New York City was 6.2% lower in New York City than the state average. New York City’s overall crime rate was 26.2% lower than the nation as a whole.

New York City v. Urban Upstate Counties

With the huge decrease in crime in New York City, the 2014 statistics show there are areas of upstate New York that have higher overall crime rates than New York City.[6] These include the following 15 counties: Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Chemung, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Tompkins.

Bronx County has by far the highest violent crime rate in the State, but there are 11 upstate counties with higher crime rates than the Bronx. These are: Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Onondaga, Rensselaer, and Schenectady.

New York County (Manhattan) has the highest crime rate of the five counties within New York City. This is certainly understandable given how many commuters work in New York County and the fact that New York County appears to be the most significant tourist destination in the country.[7] Nonetheless, there are four counties – Albany, Broome, Erie and Schenectady – that have higher crime rates than New York County.

The counties with the five highest crime rates in the state are: (1) Schenectady (3,270.9), (2) Broome (3,203.5), (3) Erie (3,076.1), (4) Albany (2,975) and (5) New York (2,908.4). Currently, the crime rate in Schenectady County is nearly 50% higher than it is in New York City.[8]

One can understand a higher crime rate for Erie County. It is right on the Canadian border. People commute to work there. It is close to the tourist area of Niagara Falls. To a certain extent, Albany serves as a commuter hub for state government workers – although the number of traditional State employees has fallen over the past quarter century.[9] But there is hardly an influx of tourists or commuters into Schenectady and Broome counties which might account for their high crime rates.

New York City v. Upstate Cities[10]

Since there are 15 upstate counties that have higher overall crime rates than New York City, it is hardly surprising that almost all of the significant upstate cities have crime rates that are considerably higher than that of New York City.[11]

Of the state’s 10 largest cities outside the metropolitan New York area,[12] nine of the ten have higher crime rates than New York City. The only significant upstate city with a lower crime rate than that of New York City is the City of Rome, the smallest of the ten largest upstate cities. Perhaps of greater significance, Rome is also the only upstate city of the ten largest cities with a lower violent crime rate than that of New York City.

Some of the upstate cities had violent crime rates that are significantly higher than that of New York City. Buffalo and Niagara Falls had violent crime rates that were more than double that of New York City.[13]

The highest overall crime rates in the upstate cities in order are: (1) Albany, (2) Niagara Falls, (3) Buffalo, (4) Binghamton, (5) Troy, (6) Syracuse, (7) Schenectady, (8) Rochester, (9) Utica, and (10) Rome.  Every city ‒ except for Rome – has a crime rate double that of New York City. Albany’s crime rate was triple that of New York City.

Again, demographic considerations might account for some of the rankings of Niagara Falls and Buffalo.[14] However, it is hard to find an outside reason for the crime rates in Albany, Binghamton and Troy.

Some Added Bright Spots

Besides the overall general improvement in crime rates, there are particular areas of the State where the crime rate is especially law. The suburban counties around New York City have low crime rates, and Putnam County – which has in recent years become more of a suburb of New York City ‒ has the lowest crime rate in the State.

The State’s rural counties also have generally low crime rates. Much of the Adirondack area also has a comparatively low crime rate. The counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saratoga, Warren and Washington, which comprise much of the Adirondack Park area, have crime rates lower than the State average, which might seem surprising in light of their large number of tourists and their comparatively low number of residents.[15] Essex and Lewis have the third and fifth lowest crime rates in the State respectively.

This low crime rate seems most pronounced both in Warren and Saratoga counties. Besides their presence in the Adirondack Park, these counties have significant other tourist venues. Warren County has Lake George and a very large amusement park in The Great Escape. Saratoga has two racetracks, one racino, and a large performing arts center.[16]

Where the Crime Is

The New York State crime statistics demonstrate to us where the problems are. While violent crime is still comparatively higher in New York City than in much of the State, the primary locus of crime in New York State is now in the urban areas of upstate New York. The trope of criminal behavior making its way north and west from New York City no longer has any truth. Instead, Schenectady County is the county with the highest crime rate. Albany is the city with the highest crime rate. The nine largest cities in upstate New York now have higher overall crime rates and higher violent crime rates than New York City. Instead of crime following the State Thruway from New York City, crime is now like the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers flowing east and south from the high crime areas to New York City.


[1] The index crime rate — refers to the sum of these seven crimes.  The four specified violent crimes are a subset of the overall index crime rate.

[2] This paper uses data derived from the FBI’s uniform crime reports. These reports and their accompanying charts are issued by the FBI and the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. See generally and The statistics used to demonstrate current conditions are from the 2014 calendar year. See, for example,

[3] See In addition to the factors noted, the number of non-residents generally visiting or working in an area also would affect an area’s crime rate. Thus, New York County – with numerous commuters and visitors ‒ might be expected to have a higher crime rate. Similarly, counties in New York with numerous tourists (Niagara County, the counties in the Adirondacks, and Saratoga County) might be expected to have a somewhat higher crime rate. Some urban counties in upstate New York State which have experienced a downturn in employment over the past several decades due to the departure of major private employers (Erie, Monroe, Onondaga and Schenectady) might be expected to have a lower crime rate. The same might be true of a county like Sullivan County in the Catskills which has anecdotally experienced a decrease in tourism.

[4] See generally

[5] Id.


[7] See;

[8] 49.67% higher.

[9] See Danny Hakim, “Albany’s Two Payrolls: One Is Anybody’s Guess,” New York Times, July 27, 2010.

[10] Much of the information is from

[11] Id. This particular chart utilizes a slightly higher crime rate for New York City than that of in footnote 5.

[12] This excludes the cities of Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle in Westchester County.

[13] The highest violent crime rate for an upstate city of decent size was the City of Newburgh in Orange County. Newburgh, with a population of 28,378, had a violent crime rate that was 142.7% higher than that of New York City.

[14] Niagara Falls has proximity to Canada, a major tourism attraction in the falls, a major casino, and a large entertainment facility in Artpark.

[15] The crime rates in Oneida County and Fulton County, which are partially located in the Adirondack Park, have crime rates higher than the state average. This can be explained partially by the presence of older urban areas in these counties south of the Adirondack Park (Utica in Oneida County, Gloversville and Johnstown in Fulton County) with high crime rates.

[16] The City of Saratoga Springs, which is where the racetracks, racino and performing arts center are located, has a crime rate slightly above the State average, but considerably less than most cities in upstate New York of its population size of 27,496.

The Governor’s Power of Removal: An Added Mechanism for Ethics Enforcement in New York State

June 2, 2016

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Albany Law School

Introduction to the New York Ethical Environment

In New York State, ethics oversight and enforcement is diffused and scattered across a wide number of agencies and authorities. Most every State agency has its own internal ethics officer[1] as well as a Procurement Integrity Officer.[2] There are three separate ethics commissions. There is a general joint commission on public ethics,[3] a legislative ethics commission[4] and an Ethics Commission for the Unified Court System.[5]

There is an overall State inspector general.[6] For specific agencies, there is a gaming inspector general,[7] a welfare inspector general,[8] a workers’ compensation fraud inspector general,[9] a Metropolitan Transportation Authority inspector general,[10] a Medicaid inspector general,[11] an inspector general for the Port Authority,[12] an inspector general for the Justice Center,[13] a New York City Watershed inspector general,[14] and an inspector general in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.[15] There is an independent business integrity counsel at the New York Racing Association.[16]

There is a code of ethics for State officers and employees.[17] At the local level, there is also a requirement of a code of ethics since “the governing body of each county, city, town, village, school district and fire district” is required to adopt a code of ethics.[18] The State Comptroller is required to “adopt a code of ethics setting forth standards of conduct for members of the Advisory Council for the New York State and Local Retirement Systems.”[19] Thousands of State and local government officers and employees must file financial disclosure statements.[20]

There are police review boards, and a department of investigations in the City of New York. State and local comptrollers oversee government operations as does the State Attorney General. The State Attorney General and the State Comptroller have their own public corruption efforts and have established a joint task force on public integrity.[21]

On top of that, there are district attorneys in each of New York’s 62 counties who prosecute violations of the Penal Law, and the State Attorney General also prosecutes public integrity cases.[22]

We have created a vast bureaucracy of ethics laws, codes and monitors throughout New York State. Yet, the perception has been that the integrity of New York State and local government has not been measurably improved,[23] and the federal prosecutors ‒ most notably the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara ‒ are the people actually enforcing the ethics and anti-corruption laws governing State officials. United States Attorney Bharara has won convictions against 27 public officials, including Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver and State Senate leader Dean Skelos.[24]

 Federal Enforcement of the Ethics Laws

Until the early 1970’s, United States attorneys did not generally prosecute state and local officials.[25] Herbert Stern, the United States Attorney for New Jersey, has been widely credited with beginning the effort to use federal criminal laws to attack local corruption.[26]

Utilizing Stern’s example, federal prosecutors began to use federal criminal laws to pursue local corruption. New York State federal prosecutors successfully prosecuted Nassau County Republican leader Joseph Margiotta,[27] Syracuse mayor Lee Alexander,[28] Bronx borough president Stanley Simon,[29] a host of major political figures in New York City involved with the parking violations scandal of the 1980’s,[30] and other government officials.[31]

In contrast, prosecutions of major state elected officials by local district attorneys has appeared to be on the decrease as the federal law enforcement officials have largely overrun the field.[32] That has seemingly left a general ethics punishment void, as there appear to be few effective enforcement sanctions for official behavior that, while clearly improper, does not rise to the level of a federal crime. In New York State, it seems to be either a federal crime, or bust.

The suggestion here is that in order to remedy significant misconduct, we go back in time and start reusing the power of the governor to remove public officials.

The Governor’s Removal Powers

Under the State Constitution and the applicable statutes, the governor enjoys broad removal power over local and state officers. Under the Constitution, “the governor may remove any elective sheriff, county clerk, district attorney or register within the term for which he or she shall have been elected.”[33] In dealing with crimes involving bribery, “any district attorney who shall fail faithfully to prosecute a person charged with the violation in his or her county of any provision of this article which may come to his or her knowledge, shall be removed from office by the governor, after due notice.”[34]

For State officials, the Constitution provides “Except as otherwise provided in this constitution, the heads of all other departments and the members of all boards and commissions, excepting temporary commissions for special purposes, shall be appointed by the governor by and with the advice and consent of the senate and may be removed by the governor, in a manner to be prescribed by law.”[35]

Finally, the Constitution gives the Legislature the right to provide generally for the power and procedure for removals from office.[36]

Section 33 of the Public Officers Law adds to the listing of officers removable by the governor. They include “officer appointed by the governor for a full term or to fill a vacancy, whose appointment is not required by law to be made by and with the advice and consent of the senate, any county treasurer, any county superintendent of the poor, any register of a county or any coroner, except as otherwise provided by special provisions of law.”[37] Also removable by the governor are “the chief executive officer of every city and the chief or commissioner of police, commissioner or director of public safety or other chief executive officer of the police force.”[38] The governor, for example, can remove the mayor of the City of New York,[39] as well as the City police commissioner,[40] a borough president,[41] the comptroller,[42] and the public advocate.[43]

In addition to the Public Officers Law’s § 33 powers, the series of laws that have been enacted to deal with municipal financial crises in New York give the governor significant additional removal powers. These laws further enhancing the governor’s removal powers over municipal officers and employees include the laws establishing the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority,[44] the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority,[45] the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority,[46] the New York State Financial Emergency Act for the City of New York,[47] and the New York State Financial Emergency Act for the City of Yonkers.[48]

Section 34 of the Public Officers Law provides for the manner in which the governor can exercise his or her removal powers. The governor need not personally investigate or hear the removal case. The governor can appoint a State judge, a county judge or an individual appointed by the governor to hold the hearing on the removal case[49] and to make findings on the case to the governor.[50] The governor can request a local district attorney or the attorney general to help investigate the removal case in order to provide assistance to the person designated by the governor to report on the removal decision.[51] Accordingly, the Public Officers Law provides a governor with numerous options on how to handle a removal proceeding. The governor can handle the removal proceedings personally. Conversely, the governor can delegate much of the fact finding and the investigatory portion of the removal proceedings to individuals designated by the governor.

 Short History of Gubernatorial Removals

Up until the first third of the twentieth century, gubernatorial removals were considered a major part of the governor’s powers. Many of the most illustrious governors of the state – Charles Evans Hughes, Al Smith, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt – all were involved significantly in removal proceedings. In probably the most famous removal proceeding, Governor Franklin Roosevelt heard the removal proceeding against New York City mayor Jimmy Walker in 1932. While Walker resigned before a decision was reached, Roosevelt’s handling of the case convinced many observers that he was not merely a jovial lightweight and that he had the gravitas needed to serve as president.

The last time that the power of the governor was invoked to remove an official was in 1974 when Governor Malcolm Wilson initiated removal proceedings and charges against the sheriff of Schoharie County.[52] The sheriff, however, forfeited his office before the charges were heard, and Governor Wilson did not hold any formal proceedings against the sheriff.[53]

The last major removal case to have been determined by a governor seems to be the decision of Governor Herbert Lehman not to remove Kings County Attorney William F.X. Geoghan in 1936.[54]

While there may have been no formal removal cases in the past 80 years, there actually is a rich and full body of precedents on how the removal power is to be exercised. These have involved decisions on removal standards by a former chief justice of the United States in Governor Hughes as well as statements by former presidents Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.[55] Governor Samuel Tilden, the State’s governor in the wake of the infamous Tweed Ring, provided his views on the nature of removals.[56] In short, there are perceptible standards that are in place that can be used to deal with gubernatorial removals.

Utility of the Removal Powers

It is actually somewhat surprising that the removal powers have not been utilized in recent years. We have had activist governors such as Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo who clearly believe that the best defense is a good offense. The removal power can demonstrate that the governor is on the offensive on ethics issues.

As mentioned previously, another advantage of the removal powers is that governors can largely choose their levels of involvement. A governor in a major case can serve as the factfinder and actually hold the hearing. In minor cases, or in cases where the officer seeking to be removed is a political opponent of the governor, the governor might choose a widely esteemed factfinder and appoint the State attorney general to assist the factfinder’s investigation. This would permit a governor ‒ initiating a removal processing – to be almost totally neutral in judging the actual removal of the officer. The removal power can make a governor both an activist and a neutral.

There are also numerous available candidates for potential removals. There is low hanging fruit among State board members. The Public Officers Law allows for the creation of vacancies whenever a member of a board, authority or commission appointed by the governor has three consecutive unexcused absences.[57]  The governor could work with the division of the budget and the independent authorities budget office[58] to identify such individuals and have them removed for nonfeasance.

In recent months, the conduct of several county district attorneys has been called into question. The County Executive in Suffolk County has urged the District Attorney in that county to resign[59] and has threatened to go to the Governor’s office to have the District Attorney removed.[60] The conduct of the District Attorney in Rensselaer County has been put into question after the District Attorney proceeded to present a case to a grand jury where jurisdiction over the case appeared to be lodged with the State Attorney General.[61] The county legislature in St. Lawrence County has voted that it has no confidence in the county District Attorney and has called on the State to review her actions.[62]

In New York City, there had been speculation that the Governor would be called upon to consider the removal of former comptroller John Liu in 2012.[63] With both federal and State prosecutors reviewing the conduct of New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio,[64] there may be calls for the Governor to review the conduct of the Mayor.

In short, there may be ample targets should the Governor decide to utilize the removal powers vested in that office. The removal powers give the Governor significant powers over local and State officials. It gives the Governor the opportunity to impose and apply meaningful sanctions without having to be involved in the criminal process. There is also considerable precedent on how the removal process can be utilized.

From a political perspective, it affords a governor the ability to be an activist in pursuing corruption and malfeasance in government. At the same time, the procedures in Section 34 of the Public Officers Law would allow the governor to be almost a neutral noncombatant in the actual process of investigating and adjudicating any removal decision.

The removal process could work both on a public policy and on a political level. It can provide effective penalties for official misconduct. Similarly, it could provide political benefits to a governor who wanted to be proactive in pursing corruption. It is surprising that this power has fallen out of favor over the past 75 years.


[1] State Finance Law § 139-j.9; NYCRR § 8.3; 19 NYCRR § 932.7.

[2] 9 NYCRR § 4.189.

[3] Executive Law § 94.

[4] Legislative Law § 80.

[5] 22 NYCRR § 7400.4.

[6] Executive Law § 52.

[7] Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law § 1368.

[8] Executive Law § 46.

[9] Workersʼ Compensation Law § 136.

[10] Public Authorities Law § 1279.

[11] Public Health Law § 31.

[12] Unconsol. Laws § 6405.

[13] Executive Law § 552.

[14] 9 NYCRR § 5.86.

[15] 7 NYCRR §5.52; 7 NYCRR § 701.8.; 7 NYCRR § 1901.2.

[16] Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law § 206.

[17] Public Officers Law § 74.

[18] General Municipal Law § 806.

[19] 2 NYCRR § 320.5.

[20] Public Officers Law § 73-a; General Municipal Law §§ 811, 812; N.Y. Ct. Rules § 40.2.


[22] Westlaw Journal Government Contract, “New York Fights Fraud Against State Government,” March 7, 2011.

[23] Frank Anechiarico and James B. Jacobs, The Pursuit of Absolute Integrity: How Corruption Control Makes Government Ineffective, University of Chicago Press (1996).

[24] Joseph Spector, “Preet Bharara: The Man Behind NY Corruption Busting,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 27, 2015.

[25] Herbert M. Suskin, “Federal Prosecution of Local Corruption,” 29 University of Miami L. Rev. 390 (1975);   Herbert J. Stern, “Prosecutions of Local Political Corruption under the Hobbs Act: The Unnecessary Distinction Between Bribery and Extortion,” 3 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1 (1971). See also United States v. Addonizio, 451 F.2d 49, 72 (3d Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 936 (1972).

[26] See Paul Hoffman, Tiger in the Court, Playboy Press (1973). The book is subtitled “The US Attorney who Prosecuted 8 Mayors, 2 Secretaries of State, 2 State Treasurers, 2 Powerful Political Bosses and 64 other Public Officials.” See also Herbert J. Stern, Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won, Skyhorse Publishing (2012).

[27] United States v. Margiotta, 688 F.2d 108 (2d Cir. 1982).

[28] United States v. Alexander, 860 F.2d 508 (2d Cir. 1988).

[29] United States v. Biaggi, 672 F. Supp. 112 (S.D.N.Y. 1987); aff’d 909 F.2d 662 (2nd Cir. 1990), cert. denied, sub nom. Simon v. United States, 499 U.S. 904 (1991).

[30] United States v. Friedman, 854 F.2d 535, cert. denied, Lazar v. United States, 490 U.S. 1004 (1989).

[31] The federal conviction of New York State Assembly Speaker Melvin Miller was overturned in U.S. v. Miller, 997 F.2d 1010 (2nd Cir. 1993).

[32] In the 1970’s and the 1980’s, the district attorney’s offices in New York City prosecuted Assembly Speaker Perry Duryea and Assembly majority leader John Kingston, People v. Duryea 76 Misc.2d 948 (Sup. Ct. 1974), aff’d 44 A.D.2d 663 (1st Dept. 1974); Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut (Steingut v. Gold, 54 A.D. 2d 481 (2nd Dept. 1976) aff’d 42 N.Y. 2d 311 (1977), and Senate minority leader Manfred Ohrenstein, along with several other senators. (People v. Ohrenstein, 153 A.D.2d 342 (1st Dept. 1989), aff’d 77 N.Y. 2d 38 (1990). In 2007, based on prior State investigations, the Albany County district attorney did prosecute State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

[33] N.Y. Const. art. XIII, § 13(a).

[34] N.Y. Const. art. XIII, § 13(b).

[35] N.Y. Const. art. V, § 4.

[36] N.Y. Const. art. XIII, § 5.

[37] Public Officers Law § 33.1.

[38] Public Officers Law § 33.2.

[39] NYC Charter § 9.

[40] NYC Charter § 431.

[41] NYC Charter § 81.

[42] NYC Charter § 92.

[43] NYC Charter § 24.

[44] Public Authorities Law § 3669.4.(c).

[45] Public Authorities Law § 3858.3.(c).

[46] Public Authorities Law § 3959.3.(c).

[47] Unconsol. Laws, Ch. 22, § 1.3.

[48] Unconsol. Laws, Ch. 23, § 11.3. See also New York State Financial Emergency Act of Nineteen Hundred Eighty-four for the City of Yonkers, Unconsol. Laws, Ch 23-A, § 12.3.

[49] Public Officers Law §34.1.

[50] Public Officers Law §34.3.

[51] Public Officers Law §34.2.

[52] Public Papers of Governor Malcolm Wilson, 766 (1974).

[53] Id. at 772.

[54] Public Papers of Governor Herbert Lehman, 728 (1936).

[55] See for example “Memorandum by Counsel for District Attorney Geoghan Accompanying Answer to Charges Setting Forth Decisions of Governors and Their Commissioners in Removal Proceedings,” Public Papers of Governor Herbert Lehman 701 (1936). See also “The Counsel to Proponents Submits Memorandum Relating to General Principles Applicable to the Governor’s Decision in Removal Decisions,” Public Papers of Governor Herbert Lehman 710 (1936); “Opinion In the Matter of the Charges against John F. Ahearn, President of the Borough of Manhattan, in the City of New York,” Public Papers of Governor Charles Evans Hughes 275 (1907).

[56] “Letter of Hon. Samuel J. Tilden to the Hon. Wm. H. Wickham, “February 17, 1875, in 1 Proceedings at the Trial of Joel B. Erhardt, DeWitt C. Wheeler and Sidney P. Nichols before Hon. Smith Ely, Jr., Mayor of New York, Dec. 20, 21 and 22, 1877 (1877).

[57] Public Officers Law § 30.3.

[58] Public Authorities Law § 4.

[59] David Winzelberg and Claude Solnik, “Bellone Calls for Spota to Resign,” Long Island Business News, May 12, 2016.

[60] Joye Brown, “Steve Bellone Pushes Fight With Thomas Spota to New Level,” Newsday, May 15, 2016.

[61] “The AG vs. the DA,” New York Post, May 2, 2016.

[62] Susan Mende, “County Wants Rain Probe,” Ogdensburg Journal, April 19, 2016.

[63] “How to Bounce Liu,” New York Post, March 3, 2012; Jon Lentz, “What Happens If John Liu Resigns?,” City and State, February 29, 2012.

[64] See “Corruption Probes in N.Y. State: A Primer,” Buffalo News, May 8, 2016.

Removing the Lead from Upstate New York

April 12, 2016

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Albany Law School

We have witnessed for many months extraordinary media attention paid to the lead contamination problems in Flint, Michigan. In New York State, we have seen water safety issues raised in the village of Hoosick Falls in Washington County[1] and nearby Petersburgh in Rensselaer County.[2]

The dangers of lead exposure are well established. “Tiny doses of lead cause subtle damage to the developing brains of children that can trigger learning disabilities and violent behavior later in life.”[3] “High lead levels can lead to various cognitive problems, including developmental and behavior issues, such as ADHD, learning disabilities, lower IQ and the possibility of permanent brain damage.”[4] The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state, “Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.”[5] The decline in lead exposure since the 1970’s has given rise to “markedly higher IQs, increased economic potential, and, quite likely, considerably lower rates of crime and teenage pregnancy. (Lead poisoning reduces impulse control as well as cognitive functioning.) It feels callous to reduce the protection of young brains to an economic calculation, but the economic benefits have surely been staggering: By one careful estimate, they add up to $260 billion per year.”[6]

Yet, many other areas of upstate New York have lead contamination issues that seem to be far more serious than the problems revealed in Flint. While these New York State problems may be due to apathy and neglect, rather than to specific governmental actions, the data seem to indicate a major need for government actions in certain areas of upstate New York to reduce lead hazards.

What are the exact parameters of the lead exposure for children in New York State? The main source of this data derives from the CDC. The CDC believes that “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified,”[7] but it specifically views lead blood levels above five micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) as the reference level at which “health actions be initiated.”[8] Until 2012, the 10 µg/dL level was the stated level of concern for lead levels. In 2012, the CDC changed the standard to move to a lower 5 µg/dL level.[9] The CDC no longer utilizes the “level of concern” language but believes that the 5 µg/dL level is the appropriate “reference value to identify children who have been exposed to lead and who require case management.”[10] This finding was based on a number of scientific studies showing that lead blood levels below 10 µg/dL can cause lifelong health effects.”[11] The CDC believes that 97.5% of children from ages 1-5 have blood levels below 5 µg/dL.[12]

In order to achieve the goal of reducing lead poisoning and prevention of lead exposure, the CDC works with most ‒ but not all ‒ states[13] and the District of Columbia to test for lead exposure in children under age six.[14] New York is one of those states that conducts lead testing.

Nationally, as of the most recent 2014 testing, .53% of children tested show lead blood levels above 10 µg/dL.[15]  Nationally 3.5% of children have lead blood levels above 5 μg/dL.[16]

In New York State, the statistics on lead blood levels are divided and separated between New York City and the remainder of the state. New York City would seem to represent a major triumph of public health policy.[17] In 1997, 3.3% of children had lead blood levels above 10 μg/dL. By 2014, that number had been reduced to .29%, well below the national average. In 2014, in New York City, only 2.2% of children had lead blood levels above 5 μg/dL, again a number well below the national average. New York City’s children have a lead exposure level that is 37% below the national average, despite the fact that New York City has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation, especially in boroughs such as Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The picture is not as pretty in areas of New York State excluding New York City (NYS*). The 2014 levels of children with lead blood levels in excess of 10 µg/dL levels was 1.46%, nearly 2.75 times the national level. No state has a higher percentage of children with lead blood levels over 10 µg/dL than NYS*.[18] The percentage of children with lead blood levels of 5µg/dL in NYS* was 6.67%, again a number that is 90% higher than the national average.[19]

To put these statistics into context, in Flint, Michigan, the percentage of children with lead blood levels in excess of 5 µg/dL went from 3.1% in 2013 to 3.9% in 2014, and was at 3.3% in 2015.[20] In the six-month period between October 1, 2014 and April 1, 2015, the percentage of children in Flint with lead blood levels in excess of 5µg/dL was 1.9%.[21] Again, the NYS* numbers are far higher than any of the numbers coming out of Flint.

When you break out the NYS* blood level numbers by county,[22] it also becomes apparent that the suburbs near New York City – which are wealthier and have a statistically smaller percentage of housing built before 1950 ‒ have fewer problems with lead levels. Thus, the lead blood levels in counties such as Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam are not anywhere near the average levels of upstate New York.

On the other hand, in upstate New York, most every county has a higher rate of lead blood levels in children than Flint had at its worst times. Only the counties of Dutchess[23] and Hamilton[24] had levels below that of Flint in 2014. There are 16 counties (out of a total of 57 in NYS*) where more than 10% of the children tested had lead blood levels in excess of 5 µg/dL. There are eight counties in NYS* where more than 12% of the children had lead blood levels in excess of 5 µg/dL.[25]

A number of the counties in upstate New York where more than 12% of children had lead blood levels in excess of 5 µg/dL lie along the New York State Thruway corridor. Many of these counties in this traditional rust belt area have an aging housing stock, but their housing stock is generally not as old as the housing stock in Manhattan or Brooklyn in New York City.[26] Brooklyn, with 58.5% of its housing stock constructed before 1950 and with the second highest level of poverty for children under age six in the state, had 2.8% of its children with lead blood levels over 5µg/dL. That is compared to the average lead blood level in NYS* of 6.6%.

These Thruway counties moving from the east towards the west – where more than 12% of the tested children had blood lead in excess of 5µ/dL ‒ include Montgomery (the city of Amsterdam), Fulton (the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown), Oneida (the city of Utica), Cayuga (the city of Auburn), Orleans County (the city of Albion), Erie County (the city of Buffalo) and Chautauqua County (the cities of Dunkirk and Fredonia).[27]

These counties along the Thruway with the highest percentage of tested children with lead blood levels in excess of 5µg/dL were, in order: Fulton (24.7%), Oneida (21.7%) Montgomery (19%), Orleans (17%), Cayuga (15.8%), Erie (13.9%) and Chautauqua (12.3%).

Among the non-Thruway area counties, Washington County – the home of Hoosick Falls ‒ and Yates County in central New York also were counties where more than 12% of the tested children had blood lead in excess of 5µ/dL levels. The percentage of tested children with lead blood levels in excess of 5µ/dL was 15.1% in Washington County. In Yates County, the percentage was 14.7%.

What do these counties with elevated lead levels seem to have in common? Almost all eight counties have a high percentage of housing constructed before 1950.[28] Montgomery County even has a higher percentage of pre-1950 housing units than Brooklyn with 61.7% compared to Brooklyn’s 58.5%.

They also are generally poorer counties.[29] Of New York State’s 62 counties, none of the eight counties mentioned above were in the top third of New York’s wealthiest counties.[30] Except for Erie County, which ranked 21st of 62 counties in per capita income, all the other counties mentioned were in the bottom half of per capita income in New York State.

Finally, while there have been allegations about racial issues involved with lead exposure levels in Flint, that would not appear to be the case in NYS*. Based on the census data,[31] the affected counties are overwhelmingly white.

The percentage of whites in these counties include Yates (97.2%), Washington (94.6%), Fulton  (93.8%) Cayuga (91.3%), Chautauqua (89.3%), Orleans (87.8%), Montgomery (85%), Oneida (84.8%) and Erie (80.3%). The overall percentage of the white population of New York State was 70.4%. There might be a racial aspect to lead exposure in Erie County, where most of the tested children apparently resided in the city of Buffalo,[32] but other than in Buffalo, this issue in upstate New York can hardly be regarded as racially based.[33]

There has been some recognition of this upstate lead crisis by public officials, at least in Erie County. In February of 2016, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “announced that he is investing an additional $346,825 in the Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI Buffalo) to significantly increase the initiative’s home lead hazard intervention and remediation efforts.”[34] New York State Senator Charles Schumer proposed “a new $3,000 homeowner tax credit for any property owner who abates the lead paint problem in a property he or she owns. The tax credit would be available to homeowners earning $110,000 a year or less.”[35] Schumer pointed out that lead exposure for children five and younger was 4% in Flint but 14% in Erie County.[36] The Buffalo News has recognized that young children in Western New York suffer a higher rate of lead poisoning than those in Flint, Michigan, where state officials decided to save a little money by using river water as the city’s water supply.”[37]

Yet, while there has been evidence of some activity in Erie County, there appears to be limited interest in reducing lead exposure in the rest of upstate New York. This is a critical health crisis. It is far worse than Flint. It is also a problem that government can actually solve. Government has greatly reduced lead exposure in the past, and the New York City experience has shown that government can nearly eliminate lead exposure even in poverty-stricken areas with an aging – if not ancient ‒ housing stock. This should not be brain surgery. Political will and a financial commitment can and should eliminate this major New York State health problem.



[1] Jesse McKinley, “Water in Upstate Village Cleared of Pollutant, Cuomo Says in Visit,” New York Times, March 14, 2016; Jesse McKinley, “Link to Teflon Tainted Water, A Village Fears,” New York Times, February 29, 2016 (dealing with chemical known as PFOA).

[2] Mary Esh, “Chemical in Water Drawing Fire,” Baltimore Sun, March 18, 2016; Vivian Yee, “Tainted-Water Worries Spread to Vermont Village,” New York Times, March 15, 2016 (also PFOA).

[3] Michael Hawthorne, “Lead Still Stalks City’s Kids,” Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2015.The blogger Kevin Drum has been most vocal about the linkage between lead exposure and crime. See Kevin Drum, “Lead and Crime: Some New Evidence from a Century Ago,” Mother Jones, January 4, 2015., Kevin Drum, “Lead and Crime: It’s a Brain Thing,” Mother Jones, February 3, 2014. [last viewed April 11, 2016].

[4] Michael D. Terranova, County Legislators Must Help Prevent Lead Poisoning,” Buffalo News, April 3, 2016.

[5] “Childhood Lead Poisoning,” [last viewed April 10, 2016].

[6] Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, “The Real Cause of the Flint Crisis,” Atlantic Online, March 7, 2016 [last viewed April 11, 2016].

[7] [last viewed April 10, 2016].

[8] Id.

[9] [last viewed April 10, 2016].

[10] Id.

[11] “Blood Lead Levels in Children,” [last viewed April 10, 2016].

[12] Id.

[13] See Sarah Frostenson, “America Does a Terrible Job Tracking How Many Kids Have Lead Poisoning,” Vox, February 5, 2016. “Twenty-one states do not regularly submit data to the CDC on lead surveillance programs in their states. Eleven of those 21 states do not submit any kind of lead surveillance data to the CDC — no state-level or county-level data.” [last viewed April 11, 2016].

[14] For purposes of this paper, the term “children” will refer to all individuals under age six.

[15] “Number of Children Tested and Confirmed BLL’s ≥10 µg/dL by State, Year, and BLL Group, Children < 72 Months Old, ByYear_1997_2014_01112016.htm [last viewed April 10, 2016]. This is the source utilized for all statewide and national data.

[16] Id.

[17] In general, on this topic see Hacker and Pierson, supra at note 6.

[18] The closest state to NYS* is Pennsylvania with 1.28% of children with lead blood levels in excess of 10 µg/dL. The percentage of children with blood levels in excess of 10 µg/dL is 14% higher in NYS* than in Pennsylvania.

[19] “Number of Children Tested,” supra at note 15. It should be noted that the percentage of children’s lead blood levels in NYS* above 10 µg/dL was 6.31% in 1997 and has been reduced considerably over the past two decades. Pennsylvania’s percentage of children with lead blood levels in excess of 5µg/dL is even higher than that of NYS*, reaching 8.5%.

[20] Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) “Blood Lead Level Test Results for Selected Flint Zip Codes, Genesee County, and the State of Michigan Summary as of April 1, 2016,” [last viewed April 10, 2016].

[21] Id. “Of children younger than 6 years old tested between 10/1/2015 and 4/1/2016, 1.9% from Flint zip codes 48501-48507 and 0.3% from an Additional Impacted Location had blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 mcg/mL.”

[22] It needs to be noted that there is no indication in the county New York State numbers on how officials determined the sampling size and what areas and/or children inside the specific counties were targeted for testing. All the county data is from “CBLS County-level Summary Data for NY, 2014,” which can be accessed through [last viewed April 11, 2016].

[23] 3.13%. Again, this data is from “CBLS County-level Summary Data for NY, 2014,” supra at note 22.

[24] Hamilton, which is New York’s smallest county, had no cases where a child lead blood level exceeded 5 µg/dL. Only 11 children were tested in Hamilton County in 2014.

[25] These counties are Chautauqua, Erie, Fulton, Montgomery, Oneida, Orleans, Yates and Washington.

[26] The statistics show that in Manhattan 54.4% of the housing stock and in Brooklyn 58.5% of the housing stock was built before 1950. This data is from the 2000 United States census. “CBLS County-level Summary Data for NY, 2014,” accessed through

[27] The State Thruway does not run through Fulton and Orleans County, but is runs extremely close to these counties.

[28] For the age of housing as a risk factor, see, Sarah Frostenson and Sarah Kliff,“The Risk of Lead Poisoning Isn’t Just In Flint,” Vox, April 6, 2016, [last viewed April 11, 2016].

[29] See generally New York locations by per capita income, using information from Census data.

[30] Id.

[31] All the data on race in New York is derived from Census Bureau, QuickFacts, New York,36029,36115 [last viewed April 11, 2016].

[32] T.J. Pignataro, Susan Schulman and Sandra Tan, “Legislature Must Still Approve Paying for LeadPoisoning Initiative,” Buffalo News, March 9, 2016.

[33] By contrast, see Nicholas Kristof, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Revisited,” New York Times, April 3, 2016.

[34] [last viewed April 8, 2016].

[35] Jerry Zremski, “Schumer Proposing Tax Credit, Buffalo News, February 25, 2016. [last viewed April 8, 2016].

[36] Id.

[37] “WNY’s Catastrophe; High Rate of Lead Poisoning in Children Cries Out for a Many-Sided Plan of Action,” Buffalo News, March 6, 2016.