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Why Child Care Is a Priority in Albany Right Now

Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll look at plans to increase spending on child care in New York State and make more families eligible for subsidies. We’ll also look back at a call to the police about an unbelievably messy urban legend 75 years ago today.

Credit…Libby March for The New York Times

Child care is New York State’s next big-ticket budget priority.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposal called for increasing state spending on child care to $1.4 billion. She said subsidies should be expanded and additional support should be made available for providers. She also suggested setting up day care centers at the state’s public universities.

My colleague Grace Ashford writes that the reaction from the Democratic-led Legislature was: That’s not enough.

So, with both the governor and the Legislature essentially on the same side, New Yorkers are likely to see a major expansion of state aid for child care in the final state budget that is due April 1. And with federal child care funding stalled in President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, the efforts in Albany have assumed national significance.

The State Senate plan calls for committing $2.2 billion to make child care free for low-income families. “We’re clearly on a path to reach a full, universal system in which all people are eligible for subsidized child care,” said Senator Jabari Brisport of Brooklyn, who helped draft the plan.

That proposal calls for allowing families earning up to five times more than $27,750 — the current federal poverty line for a family of four — to qualify for subsidized care by 2024. The current threshold is 200 percent of that amount. The increased eligibility would raise the state’s commitment to more than $4 billion.

[Child Care: New York’s Next Big-Ticket Budget Priority]

The Assembly proposal is only slightly less ambitious, calling for the state to spend $3 billion to subsidize care for families earning up to four times the federal limit — or $111,000 for a family of four — within three years. Hochul’s plan would reach families earning up to three times the federal limit in that time.

The next steps will all depend on negotiations among the state’s top leaders, once called the “three men in a room,” who control the budget. This is the first year in which two of them — the Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Hochul — are women. The third is the Assembly speaker, Carl Heastie.

Whatever plan emerges, Hochul has some personal history with the issue: In 1988, when she was a young mother, she was forced to quit her job as an aide in the office of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The reason? She could not find child care.


Weather

It’s a sunny day in the high 50s, New York, with temps dropping to the mid-40s at night.

alternate-side parking

In effect until April 14 (Holy Thursday).


Three lives, one scourge

Two men who were shot to death and the man the police believe killed them had fought the same menace: mental illness.

Morgan Holmes, 54, who was shot in Washington, D.C., had been full of promise as a young man. The man the police say was the gunman, Gerald Brevard III, 30, was tormented by illusions that people were plotting against him. Abdoulaye Coulibaly, who was shot in New York City, had fallen prey to mental illness and homelessness after emigrating from Gambia.

Coulibaly, who was around 50, had once made a living in New York selling knockoff pocketbooks and directing customers to street vendors on a sidewalk in Chinatown, a job known as commissioning. He was sleeping in a doorway when, the police say, Brevard found him.

Friends on the street said that he had changed several years ago. Moumouni Karamdirr, a shelter resident who knew him from the homeless community in the area, said he “became dysfunctional.”

Coulibaly stopped working but never left his corner of Chinatown. “Where he died — that’s his home,” said Samba Ba, who works in a coffee shop in the area. “He don’t know nowhere in this country, only there.”


The latest New York news

  • In recent weeks, Mayor Eric Adams has begun emphasizing another core campaign message: New York needs to return to normal, and the mayor believes that time is now.

  • Using local guidelines, many companies are loosening Covid-19 safety rules, leaving workers to navigate masking and social distancing on their own.


LOOKBACK

Why the Collyers still fascinate us

A police inspector points to a passageway on a staircase piled with junk in the Collyer brothers’ brownstone.Credit…The New York Times

The call came in on March 21, 1947 — 75 years ago today.

The police had gotten calls like it in the past: Something was wrong in the Collyer brownstone at Fifth Avenue and 128th Street.

Something was wrong there — the brownstone was crammed with stuff, by some accounts as much as 140 tons’ worth, more than the weight of a Boeing 757. There were stacks and stacks of newspapers, mountains of boxes, plus 14 pianos, a pipe organ, rusty toys and an ancient Ford Model T, to name only a few. The reality show “Hoarders” could have done any number of episodes about the Collyers if only they had lived a couple of generations later — and the camera crew had somehow managed to squeeze through it all.

The Collyers were famous, or infamous, eccentrics. They booby-trapped the brownstone to stop a would-be burglar in his tracks, as if the debris and the odor would not have done that. They had boarded up most of the windows. They had lived without electricity or gas since the 1930s. They apparently wore several layers of shirts, pants and coats in cold weather.

The police knew the brownstone was junky. But the caller said someone was dead — Homer Collyer, one of the reclusive brothers who had lived there for nearly 40 years. Homer had been a lawyer. The other brother, Langley Collyer, said he had been a pianist but had given up concertizing when he appeared before the virtuoso Ignacy Jan Paderewski at Carnegie Hall — and Paderewski got better reviews.

Who tipped off the police on that morning 75 years ago? Franz Lidz, in “Ghosty Men,” a book about the Collyers, said the caller had identified himself as “Charles Smith.” At the time, The New York Times reported that William Rodriquo, who lived a block away, had told the police he had made the call. “Asked how he knew Homer was dead,” The Times reported, “he said two unidentified men had told him.”

It took the police until midmorning to send an officer to check. “On previous occasions Langley would appear when the patrolman knocked,” The Times said. “This time there was no answer.”

The police could not go in through the front door. It had been barricaded with junk. They called in the Fire Department, which raised a ladder to a second-story window. According to Lidz, a patrolman climbed through, shined the beam of his flashlight over the mess and called down, “One D.O.A.” The body was Homer’s, in a chair.

It took more than two weeks to find Langley, “wedged in a booby trap” under debris, The Times said. “We were scraping around in the rubbish when we saw a foot sticking out,” a detective said at the time. Apparently, Langley had been crushed by junk when one of his own traps was somehow set off. Homer, who was blind and paralyzed, had starved. After the brownstone was cleaned out, it was razed. At slightly more than a third of an acre, the site is now a vest-pocket park — Collyer Brothers Park.

What is New York’s enduring fascination with them? “The Collyer brothers are like an urban myth made real,” said Simeon Bankoff, a former executive director of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s as if someone had found actual evidence of alligators in the sewers. These were unfortunate obsessives who ended up buried under their stuff, the way we all fear late at night when we think: ‘I’ve got too many things. Is that bookshelf leaning toward the bed?’”


What we’re reading

  • Grub Street wrote about what people in New York City might consider as the signal to spring’s arrival: a Mister Softee truck.

  • The luxury brand Alexander McQueen held its first New York runway show in 20 years against a backdrop of dirt and wood chips.

  • Gothamist interviewed the journalist and the photographer behind the book “On Pause: Three Months That Changed New York” and reflected on their experience at the start of the pandemic.


METROPOLITAN diary

New routines

To mark the two years of the pandemic, this week’s Metropolitan Diary entries features reader tales of life in New York City during the pandemic.

Dear Diary:

I was chatting on the phone with a friend while walking through SoHo one weekend last fall. We were about to meet for breakfast, and I was warning her that I had just rolled out of bed.

During the pandemic, I had gotten in the habit of waking up first thing in the morning to walk my dog without showering or changing my clothes.

“I haven’t even brushed my teeth,” I told my friend.

Just as I said it, a woman walked past me.

“Don’t worry,” she yelled, “Neither have I!”

We high-fived and went our separate ways.

— Allison Abrams

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Jennifer Mosbrucker and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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