N.Y. Legislature, Gov. Cuomo abandon child sex abuse victims: 'Our elected officials chose predators over victims'

By Kenneth Lovett (NY Daily News)
June 18. 2016

ALBANY - In the end, state lawmakers protected the predators.

The state Legislature ended the 2016 legislative session about 5 a.m. Saturday without acting on legislation to help survivors of child sex abuse.

An all-night session to wrap up up the legislative year did not lead to a last-minute miracle that victims and advocates were hoping for.

"The survivors were thrown a tattered raft in this stormy session," said Kathryn Robb, an advocate and sexual abuse survivor.

Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor who was sexually abused as a child in 1966, said survivors won't forget when every seat in the Legislature is up for election.

He said Gov. Cuomo, the Assembly and Senate "turned their backs on thousands and thousands of child sex abuse victims and their families across New York State."

"It was not a priority," Greenberg added. "Our elected officials chose predators over victims."

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan offered a terse answer when asked why a deal to help sexual abuse victims seek justice couldn't be reached by the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Cuomo.

"There was no agreement," Flanagan said. "That's it."

Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored two different versions of the Child Victims Act, called it "breathtaking" no action was taken.

"How can you look the survivors in the eye?" he asked, noting the Senate in the waning moments of the session managed to give final passage to a bill to legalize online fantasy sports betting. "Where's Albany's priorities?"

Meanwhile, in the Assembly, a push to pass a recently amended Child Victims Act never made it to the floor for a vote.

The bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) would have increased the time a sexual abuse case could be brought by five years, opened a six-month window to revive old cases, and treated public and private entities the same when it comes to sex abuse.

The bill moved through committee, but died there.

Under current law, a victim of child sex abuse has to file a lawsuit or seek a criminal case before their 23rd birthday.

Ultimately, a vote would have been symbollic since the Senate was not likely to give the needed passage to become law.

Unlike the Senate, the Assembly in the past has passed legislation dealing with the issue, though the last time was in 2008.

Asked why a deal couldn't be reached this year, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said "you'd probably have to ask Sen. Flanagan."

But Heastie said victims shouldn't give up hope.

"We think it's an important subject and we'll take it back up next session," Heastie said.

Advocates believe their aggressive work this year as well as a Daily News campaign on the issue gives them momentum heading into the 2017 legislative session.

Hoylman said he'd like to see the measure addressed within the first 30 days of the new session.

A spokesman for the state Catholic Conference, which vehemently opposed the Markey and Hoylman bills, had no comment about the legislative session expiring without action.

Advocates hope a power shift in the Republican-controlled Senate in the November elections will help change the law.