Authors
Sam Mellins

Sam Mellins is senior reporter at New York Focus, which he has been a part of since launch day. His reporting has also appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Intercept, THE CITY, and The Nation.



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New York State Governor Kathy Hochul stands in front of American flags and behind a podium reading "Our New York, Our Future."
Hochul Sparks Outcry With Proposed Cash Transfer From Legal Aid Fund

Her administration says the fund won’t be harmed. Legal experts question whether she can take it at all.

February 7, 2024
A New York City subway on the left, and highway traffic on the right.
Flush With Biden’s Infrastructure Cash, New York Is Choosing Highways Over Public Transit

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directed billions toward public transit in New York, but the state is choosing to spend billions more on highways.

February 5, 2024
A group of people before the judges of the Court of Appeals
It’s Hard to Get a Criminal Case Heard in New York’s Top Court. The New Chief Judge May Change That.

Some Court of Appeals judges are far more likely to grant requests to hear appeals than others, a New York Focus analysis found.

January 25, 2024
A green welcome sign superimposed over an aerial suburban shot reads "WELCOME TO Greenburgh," with Greenburgh crossed out, and replaced with "Edgemont."
How One Wealthy Neighborhood Got Itself Exempted From State Law

Westchester’s Edgemont community wants to secede from its town — and has scored a legal carveout to let it.

January 22, 2024
New York Governor Kathy Hochul sits at a large wooden table and signs papers in Albany, New York.
How the Governor Upends Bills Before Signing Them

With chapter amendments, governors can make major changes to pending laws. Kathy Hochul uses them more than any executive before her.

January 17, 2024
Park Slope Neighbors Seek to Block New Apartment Buildings on Industrial Site

A laundry company wants to turn its factory into 13-story apartment buildings, sparking the latest in a series of fierce zoning fights.

December 20, 2023
Court of Appeals judges stand and clap for Caitlin Halligan
New Pro-Defendant Decisions Signal Sea Change at New York’s Top Court

The rulings shed light on the leanings of Caitlin Halligan, the court’s newest judge and frequent tie-breaker.

November 30, 2023
Chief Judge Rowan Wilson sits on the Court of Appeals bench.
New York’s Top Court Just Narrowed the Case That Spelled Doom for Bloomberg’s Soda Ban

While the United States Supreme Court seeks to restrict the government’s ability to regulate, the New York Court of Appeals is broadening it.

November 28, 2023
Construction equipment at the Sand Land pit.
Court Orders and Threats of Fines Fail to Curb Rogue Long Island Mine

The Sand Land mine is defying multiple orders to cease operations. Politicians are at a loss for how to respond.

October 24, 2023
Combative Bronx Judge Faces Calls for Removal

Acting Supreme Court Justice Ralph Fabrizio has faced formal complaints for berating and threatening lawyers in more than a dozen incidents.

October 6, 2023
Various figures hang up tarps in the rain at Bushwick City Farm.
Amid Autumn Upheaval, New York City Migrants Wonder Where They’ll Go Next

City policies have proven so volatile, even aid workers urged asylum seekers to get out of New York if they can.

October 3, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams with three correction officers
The Rikers Debate Program Is Slowly Collapsing

A seemingly minor change in access to city jails has made it much harder for a lauded debate course to recruit volunteers.

September 29, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams standing with his back to the camera, facing a poster reading "Rikers Island NYCD".
Rikers Programs Suffer After Cuts, Despite Mayor’s Promises

The Adams administration said the city would replace discontinued Rikers courses. “I can say for certain that that’s not true,” one worker told New York Focus.

September 28, 2023
Could Unions Break New York’s Housing Impasse?

In California, getting labor on board was essential to addressing the housing crisis. In New York, unions say the governor has barely tried.

September 18, 2023
The Secret Memos New York Courts Refuse to Give Up

New York Focus revealed routine secret instructions used to guide judges’ decisions. Civil rights lawyers are suing to make them public.

September 5, 2023
Rochester skyline with 100 dollar bills in the background
Unpaid Loan Loophole Lets Corporations Sail Past Campaign Contribution Caps

A Rochester-area political ad firm spent four times the limit in a recent Democratic primary. It’s not clear it will face any consequences.

August 31, 2023
Governor Hochul speaking in front of Brooklyn Democratic Party digital screen
Is Brooklyn’s Democratic Party Doing Anything to Reverse Its Losing Streak?

New York’s top elected officials showered the Brooklyn party with praise, but is it doing anything to support its candidates?

August 1, 2023
Ambulances in front of the NY State Capitol Building in Albany.
Patients Need Kidneys. A Law to Boost Donations Is Stuck in Limbo.

The health department has blown past deadlines to implement legislation encouraging lifesaving transplants — along with at least five other laws.

July 28, 2023
A colorized building with an American flag and a sepia background
Long Island Town of Huntington Says No to More Apartments

At a heated town meeting, a resident warned “pedophiles or criminals” would move into new housing.

July 27, 2023
Governor Kathy Hochul sits in a chair at a breakfast meeting and looks up.
Hochul Shelved Undisclosed Plans for Housing Tax Break After Union Outcry

Kathy Hochul proposed an executive order to extend the controversial 421-a tax break. Labor unions shot it down.

July 7, 2023
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