Legal Aid Makes Case for Gravity Knife Law Reform on NY1’s Inside City Hall
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2016

As a bill sits on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk that would reform the state’s gravity knife law, The Legal Aid Society’s Hara Robrish appeared on NY1’s Inside City Hall to explain the injustice of the outdated current law, its disparate impact on black and Latino New Yorkers and the need for change.

Though gravity knives specifically targeted by the current statute have not been made for decades, the New York City Police Department arrests hard-working New Yorkers, mostly black and Latino, for possessing folding knives that are widely sold in hardware and sporting goods stores across the city. With a trained flick to open up the blade, officers claim the items are illegal weapons. The pending bill would treat these folding knives, used in various manual labor jobs, as a tool and not a weapon prosecutable under the statute.

When program host Errol Louis on Tuesday asked why the knives were legal to sell, but illegal to possess, Robrish said, “That’s what we want to know too. We believe as public defenders that this is the most outrageous, discriminatory practice we have ever seen.” She later added that New Yorkers “have no idea that they are buying anything that’s unlawful. But when they’re in the hands of our clients, mostly black and brown people, they’re being arrested for having them.”

Robrish appeared on the program with state Assemblymember Dan Quart, one of the sponsors of S6483A/A9042A. The pair appeared on Inside City Hall the same day when state legislators delivered the reform measure to Governor Cuomo.

POLITICO New York reported on the bill’s delivery and quoted a Legal Aid statement urging Governor Cuomo’s signature. “Too many hardworking New Yorkers have had their lives changed forever because of the NYPD’s discriminatory practice that treats simple folding knifes sold at well-known stores across this city as weapons once in the hands of black and brown people,” Legal Aid said.

 




POLITICO New York
Legislature delivers 11 more bills to Cuomo, including gravity knife measure
By Bill Mahoney
December 20, 2016

After the state Senate sent 13 bills to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday morning, the Assembly delivered 10 later in the day and the Senate sent one more.

The governor has until Dec. 31 to sign or veto these measures.

The afternoon batch included a bill that redefines what constitutes an illegal gravity knife by amending a state statute dating back to the 1950s that was intended to ban the types of switchblades that aren’t manufactured anymore. A 2014 Village Voice investigation found there have been thousands of prosecutions under this law against people in possession of utility knives that are commonly sold at stores throughout the state.

“Too many hardworking New Yorkers have had their lives changed forever because of the NYPD’s discriminatory practice that treats simple folding knifes sold at well-known stores across this city as weapons once in the hands of black and brown people,” the Legal Aid Society said in a release Tuesday afternoon urging Cuomo to sign the legislation.

The only bill that passed both houses this year that has yet to be sent to the governor is one to reprivatize the New York Racing Association.

Here’s a list of what was sent Tuesday afternoon:

  • A209A: Abinanti — Authorizes the town of Greenburgh, specified villages therein, and the village of Sleepy Hollow in the town of Mount Pleasant to adopt a local law to impose a 3% hotel/motel occupancy tax.
  • A9042A: Quart — Relates to the definitions of a switchblade knife and a gravity knife.
  • A9690: Paulin — Relates to the imposition of an occupancy tax in the village of Tuckahoe.
  • A9691: Buchwald — Imposes an occupancy tax in the town of North Castle.
  • A9692: Buchwald — Imposes an occupancy tax in the village of Harrison.
  • A9693: Otis — Imposes an occupancy tax in the village of Mamaroneck.
  • A9694: Otis — Authorizes the imposition of an occupancy tax in the village of Port Chester.
  • A9776: Skoufis — Relates to the imposition of a hotel and motel tax in the town of Woodbury; repealer.
  • A10033: Buchwald — Relates to hotel and motel taxes imposed by the village of Mount Kisco.
  • A10283A: Titone — Relates to the definition of employee.
  • S8102: Klein — Relates to employment agencies, including application for license; procedures; granting of licenses and enforcement of provisions relating thereto.