Staten Island politicians demand Albany fix NY bail-reform law

Staten Island politicians demanded Tuesday that Albany lawmakers fix New York’s bail-reform laws and grant judges the power to keep pre-trial suspects they deem dangerous behind bars, joining a chorus of local officials who have backed Mayor Eric Adams’ call to action.

“The main message here is Staten Island supports our mayor in this quest, and supports efforts to fix and improve our quality-of-life issues,” Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella said outside City Hall.

“Enough is enough,” Fossella, an ex-congressman, added. “We need to fix and improve our bail reform laws in Albany.”

Councilman Joe Borelli (R- Staten Island), the body’s minority leader, said: “We have a unanimity among elected officials. We probably couldn’t get consensus on the Met or the Yankees, the Giants or the Jets, but when it comes to reforming, what has happened with bail reform, you have unanimity among the elected officials of Staten Island that this should be changed.”

Joining them, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon accused left-leaning politicians of prompting “chaos” in the five boroughs with left-wing criminal-justice policies.

“We join in a clarion call against the chaos that has been caused in our criminal justice system and on our streets and in our subways and our neighborhoods across this city,” the prosecutor said.

Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon — along with other elected officials — call for change of bail reform on the steps of City Hall Tuesday morning.
Maggie Hicks

“And it’s really a clarion call against [those] who have brought this chaos upon us through their agenda, so-called criminal-justice reform, which has really sought to destroy the very fabric of the public safety security that we have had in the city.” 

McMahon called for eliminating cash bail while allowing judges the discretion to put suspects they consider dangerous behind bars — a practice used in every other state in America and in federal courts.

“We are joining the mayor here in support of the mayor’s call for bringing that balance,” he said. “We need public safety and fair justice. You can do it at the same time. We need them to understand that they’ve gotta make the changes to improve the system.”

State lawmakers in the 2019 budget barred judges from setting bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies as part of a package of progressive criminal-justice reform measures, then rolled it back slightly a year later. 

Adams last week called on the Albany lawmakers to allow judges to “take dangerousness into account” when setting bail or deciding to jail someone pending trial, as he unveiled his plan to crack down on gun violence.

Joe Borelli sits at desk
Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli noted the unity among elected officials as the call for changes to the bail reform grows.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

The new plea came after Adams said one of his top priorities would be convincing state lawmakers to modify the state’s controversial bail reform to give judges more discretion to remand accused repeat offenders and those caught with firearms.

New York State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, several other Democratic politicians and the Empire State’s head judge have backed Adams — but Gov. Kathy Hochul and top Democratic lawmakers have pushed back on the renewed requests to further roll back the relatively new, left-leaning criminal justice reform measures, because they contend there is insufficient evidence that supports such changes.

Adams’ newly proposed public safety measures — which include the formation of a new 400-member undercover anti-gun NYPD unit — was prompted by a string of harrowing violent crimes during his first weeks in office, including the ambush shooting of NYPD officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora and the deadly subway shove of Deloitte executive Michelle Go by a mentally ill homeless man.  

Mayor Eric Adams announces appointments of his climate leadership team and takes off-topic questions at City Hall on January 31.
Mayor Adams has spoken out against the controversial bail reform, pleading with lawmakers to “take dangerousness into account.”
Alec Tabak for NY Post

Meanwhile, Adams met Monday with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the top prosecutors of the other four boroughs, amid outrage over the deadly ambush of a pair of NYPD officers and Bragg’s progressive prosecutorial policies.

Asked about the meeting, McMahon was tight-lipped and did not address Bragg, but characterized the meeting with Adams as “great.”

“We had a great conversation with the mayor, and the police commissioner and his senior staff, and the other DAs to find ways that we can work together given the current legal framework to keep New York safe and to raise our voices in unity to bring about the changes that the mayor has … called for, and the things that we’re talking about today,” he said.