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City Reaps $260M from Same-Sex Marriage Law
July 24th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the legalization of same-sex marriage last year helped generate almost $260 million in revenue for the city.

Gay marriage is a win for everybody,” he said at a news conference earlier today across the street from the marriage license building in Manhattan, where he was joined by other elected officials.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who also spoke, said the economic activity generated by marriage equality “has put a lot of people to work, helped restaurants, helped catering halls and helped others.”

NYC & Co., the city’s tourism arm, and the City Clerks office conducted a survey of more than 1,700 same-sex couples, finding that since the Marriage Equality Act went into effect in July 2011, 67 percent of gay couples held wedding receptions at restaurants, homes or catering halls in the five boroughs. The average cost was $9,000 per wedding.

The City Clerk says 75,000 marriage licenses were issued from late July 2011 to mid July 2012, with over 7,000 couples issued marriage licenses identifying themselves as same-sex.

Quinn said that advocates for same-sex marriage now need to turn their attention to the national stage.

Our job now is to make sure every American has that opportunity on a national level,” she said.

By on July 24, 2012, 5:12 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Economy,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Council to hold hearing on Board of Elections bungling
July 12th, 2012

While at least one member of the Board of Election wants an apology for the criticism they and their staff faced for their handling of the results of the recent Democratic Congressional primary between U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the board is still facing major scrutiny from elected officials.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced today that Councilwoman Gale Brewer, chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, will be holding a hearing on the BOE on August 8 to examine how to prevent future delays and mishaps.

The Board of Elections inability to accurately tally and report the results of last months Congressional primary in a timely manner threatens the credibility of the democratic process,” Quinn said in a statement. “The problems that came to light on election night raise serious concerns about the integrity of our citys elections that must be addressed. New Yorkers must be able to trust that when they cast a valid ballot, their vote will be counted accurately.”

Brewer, who has been pushing a bill by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh that would allow the board to tally votes on election night with electronic data taken from voting machines rather than by hand, is anxious to see issues at the BOE addressed.

As anyone who has read a newspaper editorial over the past few weeks is well aware, the June 26 primary was rife with allegations of mistakes and improprieties,” she said in a statement. “I take very seriously any and all claims of malfeasance and voter disenfranchisement.”

The Board of Elections inability to accurately tally and report the results of last months Congressional primary in a timely manner threatens the credibility of the democratic process.
The problems that came to light on election night raise serious concerns about the integrity of our Citys elections that must be addressed. New Yorkers must be able to trust that when they cast a valid ballot, their vote will be counted accurately.
By on July 12, 2012, 1:55 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Governing | 4 Comments »

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Cuomo chides Senate Republicans on marijuana bill
June 20th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the airwaves this morning to criticize Senate Republicans for not backing his plan to reduce charges for carrying small amounts of marijuana.

Cuomo has previously shied away from criticizing legislators he has to negotiate with, especially Senate Republicans, who brought his landmark same-sex marriage bill to a vote. Cuomo’s deal on redistricting also saved Senate Republicans major headaches if not their majority.

But Cuomo was clearly irked his marijuana bill met with resistance. Speaking to Fred Dicker on Talk 1300, Cuomo said he believed that the Conservative Party had influenced Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos into backing away from the bill.

“I think there’s no doubt that the state Senate heard the conservative wing of the party and they’re reacting to it,” Cuomo said. The governor also went further, saying that Conservative values don’t appeal to most New Yorkers. “To the extent the Republican Party is successful, it’s because they are moderate… There is just no place in this state for extreme conservative theory.”

Senate Republicans have been fairly clear that they plan to use their relationship with Cuomo as a campaign tool, while Senate Democrats want to try to put a wedge between Senate Republicans and mainstream Democratic values.

By on June 20, 2012, 1:35 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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City lawmakers propose NYPD inspector general
June 13th, 2012

Lawmakers have introduced legislation into the City Council that would create an inspector general with subpoena powers over the nation’s largest police department.

With criticism mounting daily on the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk and surveillance policies, sponsors of the bill said the aim was to create independent oversight of the law enforcement agency.

The measure, introduced earlier today by Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, would create an inspector general to conduct investigations and review NYPD policies and operations. He or she would also make recommendations and deliver regular reports to the mayor, police commissioner, City Council and the public.

Lander said they looked at the work of inspectors general on the federal and local levels to draft the legislation. They also reviewed police oversight models in other big cities and the operations of other inspector generals in New York City.

“Inspectors general have worked in New York City a lot of times, have worked at the federal level, have worked in a lot of places. There’s a good framework for doing it,” Lander said. “It just made a lot of sense.”

The mayor and police commissioner have previously said the department does not need increased oversight.

By on June 13, 2012, 4:34 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights | No Comments »

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NYCLU Unveils "Stop and Frisk Watch" App
June 6th, 2012

The New York Civil Liberties Union wants citizens to document police street stops using a new smartphone app.

The NYCLU unveiled its “Stop and Frisk Watch” app earlier today in front of police headquarters.

The app, available as on the Android platform, allows witnesses of police street stops to record them and send the clip to the NYCLU. It also tracks the locations of street stops.

“Its for bystanders,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Leiberman. “And hopefully this will help us shine some much needed light on police practices. Everybody in New York knows the numbers. But I think this will help us continue to put the human face on stop-and-frisk.

The police did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment about the app.

Critics of stop-and-frisk say the NYPD policy predominantly targets young black and Latino men. But police defend the tactic, saying it promotes public safety in the city’s communities. About 685,000 stops were made by the police last year.

Dawit Getachew, 26, an advocate for Copwatch and a Harlem resident who said he has been subjected to stop-and-frisk, was among the activists who showed up to lend their support for the app.

There are many instances that go unreported because people dont know what to do, so this is a huge opportunity for people to feel empowered to fight back,” he said of the app.

Steve Kohut, of Communities United for Police Reform, noted that the tool will help see the abuse, experience the abuse and now document the abuse so that the police can no longer deny it.

Lieberman said the NYCLU hopes the new app will connect directly with affected communities.

The app, designed by Jason Van Anden, also includes a survey for users who would like to report questionable NYPD action they see or experience and a Know Your Rights Card instructing those who are confronted by police officers about their rights.

By on June 6, 2012, 6:38 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Reaction to Cuomo's marijuana bill
June 4th, 2012

When news broke today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted the Legislature to lower the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation, the perception was that he was taking a shot at Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s stop-and-frisk program.

But Bloomberg announced his support for the measure along with a host of city-based legislators and groups.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly even attended Cuomo’s news conference to announce the plan.

“This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people they wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation,” Cuomo said. “The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job. Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to [a] justice system that doesnt discriminate based on age or color.”

The move seemed targeted at New York City — 94 percent of the more than 500,000 arrests for 25 grams or less of marijuana in the state took place in the five boroughs.

The New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has been the target of massive criticism because it is said to disproportionately target and result in the convictions of black and Latino youth. Cuomo said that 82 percent of those arrested for carrying marijuana were black and Latino.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 4, 2012, 9:00 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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NYPD stop-and-frisk procedures modified
May 17th, 2012

 

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he has instituted a new procedure to regulate how street stop-and-frisk encounters by patrol officers are monitored and supervised.
In a letter sent earlier today to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Kelly said top-ranking officials in each police precinct will now be required to audit reports of street stops by officers. This is in addition to a review undertaken at weekly Compstat meetings by the chief of the department, he wrote.�
“I believe these measures will help us more closely monitor the daily street encounter activity of precinct personnel,” he wrote.�
He also said that the department has republished an order prohibiting racial profiling and has created a new training course that “provides personnel with an additional level of clarity in determining when and how to conduct a lawful stop.”
Quinn, who released Kelly’s letter, said in a statement that the changes announced were “an important step forward” but said more needs to be done to reduce the number of stops and “bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve.”�
A federal judge yesterday granted class-action status to a lawsuit against the city’s stop-and-frisk practices. The lawsuit alleges that the NYPD has systematically targeted blacks and Latinos and trampled on Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.Â�
Over 200,000 stops were made on city streets in the first three months of this year, an increase of over 2011.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he has instituted a new procedure to regulate how street stop-and-frisk encounters by patrol officers are monitored and supervised.

In a letter sent earlier today to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Kelly said top-ranking officials in each police precinct will now be required to audit reports of street stops by officers. This is in addition to a review undertaken at weekly Compstat meetings by the chief of the department, he wrote.

“I believe these measures will help us more closely monitor the daily street encounter activity of precinct personnel,” he wrote.

He also said that the department has republished an order prohibiting racial profiling and has created a new training course that “provides personnel with an additional level of clarity in determining when and how to conduct a lawful stop.”

Quinn, who released Kelly’s letter, said in a statement that the changes announced were “an important step forward” but said more needs to be done to reduce the number of stops and “bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve.”

A federal judge yesterday granted class-action status to a lawsuit against the city’s stop-and-frisk practices. The lawsuit alleges that the NYPD has systematically targeted blacks and Latinos and trampled on Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

Over 200,000 stops were made on city streets in the first three months of this year.

By on May 17, 2012, 12:58 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 3 Comments »

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Judge grants class-action status to stop-and-frisk lawsuit
May 16th, 2012

A federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging the New York Police Department has improperly targeted blacks and Hispanics with its stop-and-frisk crime reduction program.
U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who issued the written decision today, wrote that it was “indisputable” that the NYPD has a vast stop-and-frisk program “designed, implemented and monitored by NYPD’s administration.” She said over 2.8 million stops were made between 2004 and 2009.
She wrote that the city had demonstrated “a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
Police released data Friday showing an increase in the number of stops on city streets between January and March of this year. The data showed there were 203,500 street stops, compared to 183,326 in 2011.
The city’s Law Department said it disagreed with the decision and was reviewing its legal options.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has strongly defended the practicing and, during a City Council hearing last month, pugnaciously argued that the policy had successfully reduced violence among young men of color.

A federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging the New York Police Department improperly targeted blacks and Hispanics with its stop-and-frisk crime reduction program.

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who wrote the decision filed today in court, wrote that it was “indisputable” that the NYPD has a vast stop-and-frisk program “designed, implemented and monitored” by the department’s administration. She said over 2.8 million stops were made between 2004 and 2009.

She wrote that the city had demonstrated “a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”

Police released data Friday showing an increase in the number of stops on city streets between January and March of this year. The data showed there were 203,500 street stops, compared to 183,326 in 2011.

The city’s Law Department said it disagreed with the judge’s decision and was reviewing its legal options.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has strongly defended the practicing and, during a City Council hearing last month, pugnaciously argued that the policy had successfully reduced violence among young men of color.

By on May 16, 2012, 4:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights | 3 Comments »

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Bloomberg: Obama support of same-sex marriage is civil rights 'turning point'
May 9th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called President Barack Obama’s newly announced support for same-sex marriage “a major turning point in the history of American civil rights.”

“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people — and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” Bloomberg said in a statement today.

President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage during an interview earlier today with ABC’s Robin Roberts. The president’s official announcement of his evolution on the matter came a day after he visited Albany, N.Y., accompanied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor, who championed the landmark passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York last year, told reporters in Albany earlier today that he did not discuss the subject with Obama.

Bloomberg has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Though the billionaire mayor has not announced whether he will endorse a candidate in the presidential race, his support would be valuable for attracting independent voters.

By on May 9, 2012, 3:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Liu Weighs in on GENDA
May 8th, 2012

City Comptroller John Liu is all for the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act that has been passed in the state assembly and introduced in the senate by Sen. Daniel Squadron.

All people deserve equal protection from discrimination. New Yorks Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act is a necessary and overdue extension of civil rights that will ensure that people cannot be fired or otherwise subjected to bigotry based on gender identity or expression,” said Liu is a statement. “We are grateful to Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and State Senator Daniel Squadron for pushing forward this legislation.

According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, “GENDA would extend basic civil rights protections to all New Yorkers based on their gender identity and expression.”

By on May 8, 2012, 2:44 pm
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Deal on "Close to Home"
March 26th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton have issued a joint statement praising an apparent deal that would allow New York City the ability to control placement and treatment of its juvenile delinquents. For more on what exactly the legislation would do check out my recent story.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.
We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.
In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.

We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.

In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

By on March 26, 2012, 1:57 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Health | No Comments »

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Williams Criticizes Bloomberg's Defense of Browne
January 27th, 2012

“There is no logical basis for Mayor Bloomberg’s defense of Deputy Commissioner Browne’s job performance. Based on the facts, he cannot have been both honest and competent in his handling of “The Third Jihad” and its aftermath. He lied to the public on multiple occasions and his actions deepened the divide between the NYPD and the New York City community, which harms our ability to best police and protect our city.
If this was the first error in judgment Deputy Commissioner Browne had made, it would be excusable. Sadly, it is not, and the public record shows this without dispute. In just the last six months, he has been caught in lies ranging from phantom punches and elbows to fake excuses about pepper spraying at Occupy Wall Street. There is even evidence that suggests that Deputy Commissioner Browne may have lied under oath about his involvement in a 2004 Critical Mass ride. You can have your doubts about whether any one of these incidents has been truly justified, but you cannot look at the entirety of his record and claim that the man in charge of public information hasn’t been engaged in a campaign of overt misinformation or complete incompetency. This behavior would not be accepted by any other city agency, and it certainly should not be accepted by the NYPD or the city’s taxpayers that afford him his six-figure salary.
Police accountability seems to be treated as a dirty term, if not a non-starter, for Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, but the calls from New Yorkers get more intense every day. If they will not recognize the problems festering within the NYPD, then we need an independent oversight committee and/or the intervention of the Justice Department to do it for them. The City Council must also use whatever resources it has at its disposal to get real answers. As chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, I am eager to be a part of that effort which is greatly needed and long overdue.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams is blasting Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his defense of New York Police Department Commissioner Paul Browne’s job performance following revelations about the Third Jihad anti-Muslim propaganda video screened by the NYPD. Bloomberg described Browne as, ”honest and as competent as anybody in the business of representing the city and giving out information”.

Williams strongly disagrees with that assessment. He has called for Browne’s resignation and issued this statement:

“There is no logical basis for Mayor Bloomberg’s defense of Deputy Commissioner Browne’s job performance. Based on the facts, he cannot have been both honest and competent in his handling of “The Third Jihad” and its aftermath. He lied to the public on multiple occasions and his actions deepened the divide between the NYPD and the New York City community, which harms our ability to best police and protect our city.

If this was the first error in judgment Deputy Commissioner Browne had made, it would be excusable. Sadly, it is not, and the public record shows this without dispute. In just the last six months, he has been caught in lies ranging from phantom punches and elbows to fake excuses about pepper spraying at Occupy Wall Street. There is even evidence that suggests that Deputy Commissioner Browne may have lied under oath about his involvement in a 2004 Critical Mass ride. You can have your doubts about whether any one of these incidents has been truly justified, but you cannot look at the entirety of his record and claim that the man in charge of public information hasn’t been engaged in a campaign of overt misinformation or complete incompetency. This behavior would not be accepted by any other city agency, and it certainly should not be accepted by the NYPD or the city’s taxpayers that afford him his six-figure salary. Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 27, 2012, 12:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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Dicker: Occupy Albany Not "Peace and Love Hippies"
October 31st, 2011

It is a safe bet that most of our audience does not get a chance to catch New York Post editor Fred Dicker fulfill his role as “Political Analyst” for Albany’s WRGB CHannel 6 News. And that is a true shame because Dicker has unleashed a number of entertaining tirades against Occupy Albany protesters. Dicker has mentioned the word anarchy and told viewers that Occupy Wall Street people “aren’t peace and love hippies.” *Gasp* He seems distraught as he mentions that the protesters are actually calling on people to “be thrown in jail.”

Dicker initially dismissed Occupy Albany as a bunch of hippies but later decided they were being run by skinny people who may have trust funds. *Double gasp!* His opinion still seems to be evolving.

Having worked for an alt-weekly in Albany for five years and covered plenty of peace protests I feel I am an authority on the many varieties of Albany area hippies and have to say that most of the hippies down at the park during the start of the Occupy Albany protest were peace and love hippies and a bunch of politically active college kids. Many were middle-aged or older, and still regularly attend anti-war rallies. Now after Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded their arrest and Dicker spent so much time ranting about them I have to admit I have lost track of who they all are because there are a lot more of them — thanks to Dicker and Cuomo.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 31, 2011, 6:37 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Closing Public Spaces
October 31st, 2011

(Gotham Gazette parks reporter Anne Schwartz filed this post.)

Last week, Crain’s reported that landlords, taking action in response to Occupy Wall Streets weeks-long occupancy of Zuccotti Park, want the city to revamp its laws covering the citys privately owned public parks to set hours of operation and prohibit large gatherings. Crain’s has a survey asking readers whether they think “private parks” should be allowed to set their own hours. As of today, the 201 people who bothered to respond said yes by a margin of almost two to one.

The business paper, however, did not note that these spaces are actually public places that developers were required to create — and keep open — in return for the right to build taller buildings under city zoning laws. Having already received the financial benefits of the added floor space, the landlords now are seeking to restrict some of the public benefit.

A study conducted in 2001 by Jerold Hayden, a Harvard professor of urban planning and design, with the Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society, found that 40 percent of these parks “were and are practically useless, with austere designs, no amenities and little or no direct sunlight. Roughly half of the buildings surveyed had spaces that were illegally closed or otherwise privatized.” (For Gotham Gazette’s report on that study, go here.)

The results still hold today, Kayden wrote in a recent New York Times piece.
Kayden said he welcomes the attention the protesters have called to the city’s privately owned public spaces, but calls for a much broader discussion on how they can contribute meaningfully to city life. “They need a champion, an independent steward or curator who actively promotes their use, not only by assuring that spaces are provided as legally promised but also by encouraging improvements, activities and public educational opportunities,” Kayden said.

By on October 31, 2011, 3:06 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City,Land Use,Parks | No Comments »

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Tent Pressure
October 25th, 2011

It is getting cold out there and the protesters at Occupy Wall Street are starting to notice. So, Bill Lipton of the Working Families Party sent out an e-mail to supporters this morning asking them to put pressure on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to allow tents in Zuccotti Park.

“It was only two weeks ago when cleaning crews threatened to remove the protesters from the park. We stood together, made phone calls, picked up brooms and mops, and turned out by the thousands before dawn on a Friday morning,” writes Lipton. “And we won. We can do it again, if we stand together. If you can’t come down to the park to help pitch a tent, pitch in by signing our emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg. Tell Mayor Bloomberg to protect free speech and allow the protesters at Zuccotti park to build tents.”

Here is the full appeal

Dear friend,

As winter approaches, tarps and sleeping bags won’t be enough.

Help make sure cold weather doesn’t end the Occupy Wall Street protest.

It got pretty chilly this weekend. Next week will surely be cooler.

The protest which has focused the eyes of the world on corporate greed and economic inequality is free speech in action. But without shelter, the protesters occupying Wall Street down at Zuccotti Park could be frozen out and forced to an early end.

Occupy protests from Boston to Philadelphia to Seattle have been allowed to put up tents to provide shelter and warmth. But down at Wall Street, tents are against the rules. Even the protest’s medical tent was nearly removed before the activists’ impassioned defense saved it.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg: Let the protesters stay — let them set up tents.

After you sign, please forward this email or share on Facebook to spread the message far and wide. The world is watching.

The protest movement that has sprung up over the past month is giving voice to millions of Americans who feel left out or left behind. It’s focusing the political debate across the nation on the corporate greed and economic inequality we so desperately need to address.

The coming winter isn’t the only threat the protest is facing. New York’s real estate and developer lobbyists are pushing hard for new rules that would allow them to shut down Zuccotti Park every night and impose a curfew.

Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have to love the Occupy Wall Street movement’s message. But he has a duty to protect and uphold the First Amendment rights of the protesters to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard.

The heart and soul of the First Amendment is protecting protest movements like Occupy Wall Street not assuring unlimited corporate spending on elections.

It was only two weeks ago when cleaning crews threatened to remove the protesters from the park. We stood together, made phone calls, picked up brooms and mops, and turned out by the thousands before dawn on a Friday morning.

And we won. We can do it again, if we stand together. If you can’t come down to the park to help pitch a tent, pitch in by signing our emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg to protect free speech and allow the protesters at Zuccotti park to build tents:

http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4853

Thanks for spreading the word,

Bill Lipton
Deputy Director, WFP

PS. For information on how to donate donate winter coats, sleeping bags, or other supplies, reply to this email.

By on October 25, 2011, 11:17 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Parks | 5 Comments »

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Fred Dicker's Evolving View of Occupy Albany
October 24th, 2011

In his column this morning NY Post’s Fred Dicker described Occupy Albany protesters as “200 mainly young, hippie-like demonstrators,” but only hours later his view of the group seems to have changed. Dicker, who has acted as a one-man cheer leading squad for Gov. Andrew Cuomo now seems to view the people who are running the group as wealthy “trust-fund baby type people” who are “slender” and “well-dressed.”

The Albany County District Attorney seems less concerned about the protesters and what they look like–he has informed law enforcement officials that he does not plan to prosecute any peaceful protesters –despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to have them arrested for violating a city curfew.

Meanwhile Occupy Albany seems to be emboldened and driven now that Cuomo has taken notice of them and is annoyed by their presence. A rally involving groups that support the millionaires tax is planned for Thursday.

By on October 24, 2011, 1:46 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Economy,Eye on Albany,Governing | No Comments »

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Occupy Albany Set to Expand
October 24th, 2011

If nothing else reports about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desire to crackdown on Occupy Albany seem to have inspired protesters. Word out of the Occupy Albany camp is that the group expects their ranks to grow significantly with support from across the state now that it is clear that they have the governor’s attention. Furthermore, the group is prepared to “mobilize” in the event of any crackdown. Some Democratic legislators are licking their chops over the prospect of having protesters in their front lawn when the legislature reconvenes next year. Not sure what protesters are going to do about the cold–its getting chilly in Albany.

By on October 24, 2011, 12:17 pm
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Soares on Occupy Albany
October 24th, 2011

“For some people who arent familiar with Albany this may seem like some big event,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares referring to “Occupy Albany.”

“For me, driving by the Capitol and seeing the protests–this is just a Monday– you have protests here all the time. We have people exercising their first amendment rights peacefully. It has been our position not to prosecute them if they are arrested and this time we put it out there that this was our position beforehand,” Soares said responding to reports that his reluctance to prosecute Occupy Albany Protesters stopped the Albany Police Department from bending to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to arrest protesters for violating a curfew.

“Sure there are some people that come from out of town who want to break things or attack law enforcement as acts of civil disobedience, to get on television but these are not those people,” said Soares.

“The backdrop to this is that on Friday we had three kids shot and you are going to try and tell Chief Krokoff to take his officers off those cases to arrest people who are playing the guitar and eating cider donuts?”

Two fifteen-year-olds and a twenty year old were shot in Albany’s West Hill neighborhood on Friday. Soares says that Albany County does not have the resources to arrest and prosecute people involved in peaceful protest.

Soares says he has had “open lines of communications” with the protest organizers and the police department since before the protests started. He says he has checked in with them about concerns he had about providing proper provisions for the children and elderly present at the protest and that he and the APD continue to monitor the situation. But he says he has not hasn’t been pressured by any official to make arrests.

By on October 24, 2011, 11:11 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Eye on Albany | 18 Comments »

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Questioning Police Power
September 30th, 2011

Following a meeting with leaders of city civil rights groups and other organizations, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, are still awaiting a public apology for their detention and handcuffing by police following the West Indian Day Parade earlier this month.

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg has apparently not responded to their proposal that he and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly meet with Williams, Foy and young black and Latino New Yorkers that have been affected by what Williams, Foy and may others see as unfair and discriminatory police tactics. Instead Bloomberg, calling the police action a “misunderstanding,” had suggested he and Williams sit down over a beer “and work it out.”

Williams and Foy have repeatedly said their arrest highlights the effects of police policies — most notably stops and frisks — widely used against young black and Latino men in the city. In their statement issued last night, the two said they plan to hold town-hall style meetings in all five boroughs where others stopped by police can tell their stories. And they want the city Department of Education to “mandate ‘Know Your Rights’ training in middle and high schools.”

The statement comes as police are under scrutiny for other alleged abuses of power — police surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers, unwarranted marijuana arrests, and the pepper spraying of Wall Street demonstrators last weekend. Police have reportedly begun probing the latter incident, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions on YouTube.

All of these occurrences come after years that saw a massive expansion of police powers in the city, as Jim Dwyer writes in today’s Times. The department, Dwyer says, “has done so in a bubble of isolation from ordinary democratic processes. It exists in a world apart. ”

In their statement, Williams and Foy expressed hope this might be change. “We are all excited that our communities are focused and working together,” they said. “This is a fight for civil rights, and we are hopeful that civil rights will ultimately prevail.”

By on September 30, 2011, 8:52 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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A Change on Marijuana Arrests
September 26th, 2011

With little fanfare, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has issued an “operation order” that could dramatically reduce the number of marijuana arrests in the city. The order, which appears on WNYC’s web site, says people can be charged with criminal possession of marijuana if they display the drug of their own volition.

Going black at least to 2005, many thousands of New Yorkers have been arrested for criminal possession of marijuana only after the drug was found during a police search. Under the law, people cannot be arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana — less than 25 grams — unless they publicly display it. Possession of such small quantities is punishable buy a fine of no more than $100. By all accounts, many people particularly young black and Latino men - publicly displayed a joint or two only after police asked them to empty their pockets or otherwise searched them. They then found themselves arrested, with a criminal record, and facing punishment or a rehab program they may not need.

This order would seem to end, or at least curtail, that. “A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana,” the order states.

Although the order is written almost as a clarification, the widespread marijuana arrests have almost certainly been a matter of city policy under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 26, 2011, 3:37 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | 4 Comments »

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