Edgemont leaders want to secede because parts of Greenburgh's town government "aren't responsible specifically to us." Illustration: Maia Hibbett
Westchester's Edgemont community wants to secede from its town — and has scored a legal carveout to let it.
By Sam Mellins

A new law that makes it harder for parts of towns to form independent villages covers all 54,556 square miles of New York state — except for two and a half square miles in Westchester.

Edgemont, a ritzy neighborhood in the town of Greenburgh, has been considering incorporating itself as a village for decades. Pro-incorporation residents didn’t like the new law, so they successfully pressured a loyal network of politicians, including state Senate head Andrea Stewart-Cousins, to add a long-lasting exemption, just for them.

Governor Kathy Hochul announces allocation of opioid settlement funds on October 30, 2023. Susan Watts / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
The average New Yorker has to travel nearly 10 miles to access methadone, a New York Focus analysis found. Upstate, they have to go even further.
By Spencer Norris

In late June, the state’s commissioner for addiction services, Chinazo Cunningham, stood in front of a packed ballroom of care providers. There was a map of New York on a projector screen, covered in blue splotches. Those blobs, she assured the room, would help get methadone to people in treatment for opioid addiction.

Each blob was supposed to show a two-hour driving radius for the state’s new fleet of mobile medication units — effectively methadone clinics on wheels, operated by healthcare contractors. On paper, it’s a simple proposal: Bring the medication to patients who can’t get it. The state would fund up to 35 units, Cunningham told the room, eliminating a vast treatment desert that spans most of the state.

We’re visiting the North Country, where we’re partnering with North Country Public Radio to host a conversation with residents about local media. Join us!

A small selection of books banned or censored by the New York prison agency's Central Office Media Review Committee. Illustration: Akash Mehta
As book banning sparks outrage in schools and libraries, the censorship of classics like Native Son persists in New York prisons.
By Rebecca McCray

Last fall, a man incarcerated at an Ulster County prison asked a books-to-prisons program to send him Black literature. Books Beyond Bars responded with a copy of Native Son, Richard Wright’s acclaimed 1940 novel exploring the psychological impact of racial discrimination, segregation, and violence against Black people in Jim Crow-era Chicago. The prison intercepted the book.

New York Focus is seeking a full-time education reporter to investigate state-level K-12 policy. The ideal candidate will be able to uncover the decisions that shape schools, track the influences that shape these decisions, and analyze their impact on children’s day-to-day lives.

The Court of Appeals has heard far fewer criminal cases in recent years — but the trend may be reversing. Darren McGee / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Some Court of Appeals judges are far more likely to grant requests to hear appeals than others, a New York Focus analysis found.
By Sam Mellins

If you’re looking to appeal your criminal case to New York’s top court, your chances come down to a roll of the dice.

Each request for the Court of Appeals to reconsider a lower court decision is randomly assigned to one of the court’s seven judges, who then unilaterally decides whether to hear the case. Some are much more likely to say yes than others.

Led by a new chief judge, the court appears to have shifted left on criminal issues, with several closely divided recent cases breaking in favor of defendants. Now, defense lawyers are watching to see whether the court will also hear more of their clients’ appeals, after former Chief Judge Janet DiFiore oversaw a dramatic shrinkage of the court’s criminal caseload. Occasionally, lower court judges send cases to the Court of Appeals, but DiFiore sought to curtail this practice, too.

Governor Hochul's proposal could eventually allow the state to shift entire neighborhoods off fossil fuels. Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
The governor and the Senate have aligned on large swathes of the NY HEAT Act. The Assembly might be ready to move on it, too.
By Colin Kinniburgh

Over the past year, a once-obscure corner of state law has become the center of attention for New York’s climate movement. Public service law, which governs utilities and the regulators who oversee them, requires those utilities to extend a new gas line to any building in the state that asks for it — and, as long as the building is within 100 feet of an existing main, to spread the cost across all of its customers, rather than charging the owner. A bill called the NY HEAT Act, first introduced in 2022, aims to overhaul this system, which effectively subsidizes the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure even as the state’s climate law dictates that it be scaled back.

In recent days, the push for reform won a crucial supporter: Governor Kathy Hochul, who included key tenets of the HEAT Act in her budget proposal last week.

Dennis Deahn asked: Are Labor Contracts included in this budget?

No, labor contracts are not typically a topic of negotiation in the state budget. Collective bargaining for New York’s 14 public sector contracts usually happens outside the budget cycle. For instance, one of the state’s largest public sector unions, the Public Employees Federation (PEF), voted last July to ratify a three-year contract — several months after the legislature passed its unusually overdue budget. That said, unions generally try to sync negotiations up to a time when the legislature is in session to make the process easier, because there is a legislative process that kicks in after contract negotiations. Once the deals are signed, the legislature must pass a so-called “pay bill” to allocate any additional funding in the agreement.

New York Focus contributor Max Parrott


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Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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