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Cuomo Suspends Participation in Secure Communities
June 1st, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced that he will suspend New York’s participation in the federal Secure Communities program that sends finger print data from local police departments to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The program is designed to catch illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes but data has shown that the program has led mostly to the deportation of immigrants who have no criminal record. We reported last week that Cuomo was close to make a decision about withdrawing from the program. Cuomo was under pressure from Latino legislators who have been increasingly concerned that the immigrant community will be scared to contact police, or use emergency services for fear that they will be deported through the program.

“There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program.” It isn’t exactly clear that Cuomo can withdraw from the program. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn withdrew from the program last month but was quickly informed by the Department of Homeland Security that he could not and that soon participation will be mandatory for the entire country. The program was initially sold to states as being voluntary. Emails between Gov. David Paterson and an ICE representative recently revealed that Paterson only signed on to the program only after being told that the program was optional for every locality.

Cuomo’s move has earned him high praise from Hispanic legislators as well as civil rights groups and law enforcement officials.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Vice Chair of the Latino Caucus of the Senate, said in a statement, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for having the courage to put an end to this program’s existence in New York. The Secure Communities program has frightened victims and witnesses of crime from coming forward. We need to make our neighborhoods safe places for our families and not take part in a problematic and contradictory program that hinders our safety.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, “We applaud Governor Cuomo for taking the bold step of removing New York State from the Secure Communities initiative, which, despite its name, has become a sore subject for those who work day and night to make our neighborhoods safer. We need to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected, and the decision to remove our state from this program is a positive move for all New Yorkers.”

John Poklemba, Counsel to the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said in a statement, “Governor Cuomo has made the right decision to take New York State out of the controversial Secure Communities program. This program unfortunately has had a negative impact on our crime-fighting efforts. Law enforcement must have tools and resources that are both effective and fair.”

For more reaction, check here and here.

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By on June 1, 2011, 4:05 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Immigrants | 5 Comments »

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Bloomberg, Bruno, DiNapoli Push Marriage Equality
May 26th, 2011

A number of prominent politicos have sent out strong messages today in favor of same-sex marriage. Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave gave a major speech on marriage equality at Cooper Union today. He was joined by his niece Rachel Tiven who is a lesbian. Bloomberg again called for Senate Republicans to bring a gay marriage bill to a vote. “It is my hope that members of the State Senate majority will recognize that supporting marriage equality is not only consistent with our civic principles it is consistent with conservative principles. Conservatives believe that government should not intrude into peoples personal lives and its just none of governments business who you love.

Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno told Fred Dicker on his radio show this morning that he favors gay marriage despite having stood against it for years. “It really comes down in my mind to equal rights for everyone because there are certain benefits that accrue to people who are united in marriage. So yes I support it, I think the time has come and I think that people have a right for their own expression,” Bruno said.

Finally, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a video with New Yorkers for Marriage Equality and stated his emphatic support for same-sex marriage.

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By on May 26, 2011, 3:16 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Wants a Vote on Same-Sex Marriage *Update*
May 17th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may not want to bring same-sex marriage legislation to the floor if it has any chance of failing but Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he thinks a vote is the only appropriate way to judge support of the bill. Bloomberg was in Albany today with Council Speaker Christine Quinn to lobby Republican senators on same-sex marriage legislation and he had this to say on the matter:

I think the public has a right to know where their legislator stands and the only place where you can really find that out is when they have to register that vote publicly.”

Cuomo told reporters last week that he has no interest in seeing marriage legislation fail again:

The discussions that Ive had with the collective group that is working on this in a unified way is we want to pass a bill. we dont want to bring a bill up in the Senate that will fail, right? We dont want to have an instant replay of last year. Its not about having a vote for a sake of a vote. Its about if its going to pass. and the conversations were having now will education as to whether well bring the bill to a vote.

*Update* Bloomberg reportedly stormed out of a meeting with senate Republicans this afternoon looking very unhappy.

By on May 17, 2011, 4:15 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo: No Marriage Bill Until Votes Are There
May 11th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference earlier today that he won’t introduce a program bill in the senate to legalize gay marriage until it is clear that there are enough votes to pass the measure. There was no pending same-sex marriage bill pending in either house until Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell introduced a bill yesterday. Cuomo said that the Assembly vote is a foregone conclusion.

The question is whats going to happen in the Senate,” Cuomo told reporters. “The discussions that Ive had with the collective group that is working on this in a unified way is we want to pass a bill. we dont want to bring a bill up in the Senate that will fail, right? We dont want to have an instant replay of last year. Its not about having a vote for a sake of a vote. Its about if its going to pass. and the conversations were having now will education as to whether well bring the bill to a vote.

Cuomo seemingly sent mixed signals on the issue on Monday when he did not address the a marriage for same-sex marriage in Albany that drew thousands. He sent Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy in his stead.

By on May 11, 2011, 2:10 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Cuomo: No Marriage Bill Until Votes Are There

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Krueger For Marriage Equality
May 9th, 2011

Sen. Liz Krueger released an impassioned statement this afternoon in support of legalizing same-sex marriage and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent push.

“I am extremely pleased that Gov. Cuomo has made the passage of marriage equality legislation one of his top priorities for this legislative session. With polls now showing a clear majority of New Yorkers supporting marriage equality, I am more and more optimistic that if the Senate Majority allows the bill to come to the floor for a vote, it will have a good chance of passing,” said Krueger in a statement.

Earlier today advocates from across the state rallied at the capital to support same-sex marriage. Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy spoke to the crowd to assure them that legalizing same-sex marriage is a priority of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The governor has made marriage equality one of his top three legislative issues this year,” Duffy told a crowd of hundreds. “It’s something he believes in, something that he wants, something that he supports.”

Cuomo for some reason did not address the crowd despite it being in the top three of his legislative priorities. The Cuomo camp countered negative reactions to his absence by pointing out that he is robo calling in support of the measure. Sen. Tom Duane, who was the sponsor of the measure last year and is the only openly gay Senator, told the crowd that the votes aren’t there to pass a gay marriage bill in the Senate and asked the crowd to lobby legislators. Perhaps an absence of support explains why a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has yet to be introduced in either house.

Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat and most outspoken opponent to same-sex marriage plans to hold a rally for “traditional marriage” in the Bronx on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 9, 2011, 4:00 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Krueger For Marriage Equality

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The Trustee vs. the Playwright
May 5th, 2011

The City University has reportedly decided to reverse John Jay College’s decision to give Tony Kushner, the acclaimed author of Angels in America and other lauded plays, an honorary degree. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the former Jewish liaison to Gov. George Pataki and an investment banker who sits on the CUNY board, essentially black-balled Kushner for the playwright’s criticism of Israel.

The contretemps is the latest in a series of disputes — lower profile than this one — where the debate over the Middle East has spilled into the city’s public university. Earlier this year, Brooklyn College rescinded the appointment of adjunct professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton, when Wiesenfeld and State Assemblymember Dov Hikind questioned his views on Palestinians.

After 1,700 people signed a petition in support of Peterson-Overton, the college reversed its decision.

In September, Brooklyn College’s assignment of the book, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America by college associate English professor Moustafa Bayoumi prompted criticism because it supposedly presented only one point of view (hint: not the pro Israel one). The book spurred one alumnus to cancel a previously planned “significant bequest” to the college.

As far as Kushner goes, Wiesenfeld apparently cited a web site account of Kushner’s views on Israel (a secondary source in other words) at the trustees meeting and then said, “I think it’s up to all of us to look at fairness and consider these things. Especially when the State of Israel, which is our sole democratic ally in the area, sits in the neighborhood which is almost universally dominated by administrations which are almost universally misogynist, antigay, anti-Christian.”
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By on May 5, 2011, 12:59 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education | 1 Comment »

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Diaz Plans Rally Against Same-Sex Marriage
May 3rd, 2011

Sen. Ruben Diaz, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, plans to counter pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his coalition of gay marriage supporters by holding a rally on May 15 in the Bronx, the same day as the New York AIDS walk. Here are the details from Diaz’s office. You might note the extremely defensive tone of the press release:

“Senator Reverend Ruben Diazs May 15th Rally to Protect Marriage

New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) released the following statement about his May 15th Bronx Rally to protect New York States traditional marriage laws:

Its wonderful to know that thousands of New Yorkers plan to attend the May 15th Rally in The Bronx to oppose legislation to redefine marriage in New York State.

Everyone should realize that were not hiring Ricky Martin, Elton John or Rosie Perez to attract people to our event. There wont be any paid superstars or celebrities to draw crowds. Whoever joins us will do so because they support traditional marriage.

Its important to know that whoever comes to this rally will be there because they support the growing movement in New York to protect marriage and to oppose proposals to redefine the definition of marriage to include homosexual marriage.

Id also like to clarify some loathsome accusations about our May 15th Rally coinciding with the New York AIDS Walk. Our Rally for Traditional Marriage will include thousands of New Yorkers who support AIDS programs and AIDS victims. No one has the right to accuse people who attend our rally of opposing AIDS victims or programs that help AIDS victims and their families.

It is also essential to correct disgraceful lies that are being made about me and my ongoing support for AIDS programs. Each year that I have served as New York State Senator, I have allocated $100,000 from my member item funds to Bronx AIDS services in the South Bronx. I will continue to support the war against AIDS, and I will vote to increase funds against AIDS.

As the President of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, my fellow ministers and I have been and will remain committed to caring for AIDS victims and for their families. Any statements to the contrary are lies.

Also, I will continue to encourage people to participate in the March Against AIDS. AIDS is a terrible plague and those who commit themselves to join the war against AIDS are certainly part of this noble cause. However, it has to be made clear that everyone who participates in the March Against AIDS is not necessarily in support of gay marriage. There is a huge difference between the March Against AIDS and our Rally. One has nothing to do with the other.

By on May 3, 2011, 10:49 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 15 Comments »

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Advocates Protest SWMP Delays (UPDATE)
April 12th, 2011

Five years after the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to a solid waste management plan for the five boroughs — one that spread out the city’s garbage burden — council members and environmental justice advocates say the adminsitration is backpedaling.

In its preliminary capital budget, the adminsitration has delayed the construction of four waste transfer stations, three of which are in Manhattan. The cut, said Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council, could delay funding for these facilities between five and eight years. Advocates fear the stations will never occur. Five years from now, there will be a new occupant in City Hall — one perhaps with different priorities.

“We are very troubled,” said Goldstein.

The waste transfer stations are a crucial part of the 2006 solid waste management plan, which attempts to get garbage off of diesel-spewing trucks and onto rail cars and barges instead. The plan was also meant to spread stations throughout the five boroughs to ease the burden on communities inundated with city waste — like the South Bronx, Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The delayed stations in Manhattan are the only ones slated for the borough, which currently sends the vast majority of its trash to New Jersey.

We are waiting for a response from the Department of Sanitation.

Advocates also decried the administration’s recent exploration of waste-to-energy — a controversial technology that typically involves burning or heating trash to create electricity (We reported on it here two weeks ago). Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group decried the move.

“The types of technology they want to pilot have not been proven successful commercially anywhere in the country,” said Haight. “We believe this is a waste of energy.”

A conversation on the equal distribution of these types of facilities is occurring right now at a hearing of the Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses Subcommittee. Councilmember Brad Lander, the committee’s chair, blasted the adminsitration for refusing to testify (his letter appears below).

“We’ve concentrated those facilities in low-income communities, in communities of color,” Lander said this afternoon on the City Hall steps.

A spokesperson for the Bloomberg adminsitration said they would not send a representative, because “fair share,” as it’s commonly referred to, is currently the subject of litigation.

UPDATE: We just got this response from City Hall spokesperson Jason Post:

Because of the economy, the City has been forced to reduce all of its expenditures, including its capital program.

The preliminary capital budget for the Sanitation Department includes deferred spending on four Marine Transfer Stations.

The Administration remains fully committed to SWMPs principles of borough equity, using rail and barge to transfer solid waste, relieving the burden of waste receiving from certain communities, strengthening our recycling infrastructure and piloting new technologies to derive clean energy from waste.

We have made great progress on SWMP alreadylong term rail contracts are in place and two marine transfer stations are under construction, as is the Citys new recycling facilityand we are exploring cost-effective alternatives to expedite the construction schedule outlined in the preliminary capital plan. We will make a decision before the Mayors executive budget presentation.

CM Lander Letter to Mayor Bloomberg Re Fair Share Hearing(2)

By on April 12, 2011, 2:22 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,nextNY,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Schneiderman Supports Obama's DOMA Order
February 23rd, 2011

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement today supporting the Obama administration’s new position that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the rights of same-sex couples. DOMA bans the recognition of same-sex marriage.

As the state’s top law enforcement officer, I agree with the administration’s view that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Today’s announcement that the Justice Department will drop its defense of this statute moves us closer to fulfilling the principle that all Americans should be treated equally under the law.

US Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Congress today informing the body that the Justice Department will take the position in court that the Defense of Marriage Act violates couple’s rights to equal protection.

By on February 23, 2011, 6:41 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Schneiderman Supports Obama's DOMA Order

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Council Members Give to Crisis Pregnancy Clinic
February 22nd, 2011


Funding for one Flushing-based pregnancy crisis center trickled into the City Council’s discretionary budget last year just before the speaker’s office drew up legislation to target the pro-life facilities.

The council is currently considering a controversial bill to force pregnancy crisis clinics to reveal in advertising and in their offices if they do not provide abortions or referrals and do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. There are about two dozen centers across the five boroughs.

One of them is The Bridge to Life in Queens. Republican Councilmembers Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran allocated a portion of their member items to the group in June — $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. (Check out our new tool Councilpedia for more on the connections between legislation, member items and campaign contributions.)

According to the council’s member item database, the contributions are “to fund pregnancy counseling, testing and referrals” and for “pregnancy crisis counseling, free pregnancy tests, referrals to post abortion counseling. Referrals to Maternity homes and shelters. Material assistance of clothing, supplies, referrals for sonograms.” The funding was channeled through individual member items — not through the much larger “speaker pot.”

In comparison, Planned Parenthood of New York City was allocated $365,000 in council discretionary funds last year.

When The Bridge to Life’s executive director Marcy Sarosick was asked how the organization counsels pregnant women, she said: “[We first] ask how far along you are and explain that the fetus is not just a blob of tissues, and it’s a living human being.” She said the center would refer women to adoption services. Sarosick opposes the pregnancy crisis bill at the council, calling it “anti-First Amendment.”

Supporters of the bill say these crisis centers are deceptive and give the perception they perform all medical procedures. Staff have been known to walk around in scrubs although they are not medically trained.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been very vocal on the issue. According to insiders, the legislation could be up for a vote as soon as next month.

In an e-mailed statement in response to The Bridge to Life allocations, the speaker’s spokesperson, Maria Alvarado, said, “We stand fully behind Council member [Jessica] Lappin’s legislation. Allocations from individual council members are made at their discretion.”

When the bill comes to the floor, Ulrich said he won’t vote for it.

“I’ll be a voice on the floor against it when it does come up for a vote,” Ulrich said today. “If a young girl is walking into a convent, you think she is being duped?” One crisis center is run by nuns, Ulrich said.

This bill is one small example of the recently reinvigorated, fierce national debate on abortion clinics and their funding. Just today, the pro-life nonprofit, Life Always, installed a large anti-abortion billboard (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue and Watts Street in Manhattan. The provocative billboard shows a photo of a young black girl, and the message reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
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By on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 9 Comments »

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Who Dumbed Down?
February 22nd, 2011

For those of you who missed it over the holiday weekend, Sunday’s Post featured an illuminating look at how New York State dumbed down its standardized tests. Among other things she zeroes in on the time frame — 2007 to 2009 — details the extent of the changes that turned New York Sate into an academic Lake Woebegone and traces the changes back to then state education commissioner Richard Mills.

For example, Edelman finds that in 2006 sixth grader had to correctly answer 16 of 39 question to get a level two (out of a possible four) — the lowest level need to get promoted in New York City. By 2009, the students only had to get 7 questions right.

Edelman makes it clear that the test results provided a major boon to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who used the scores to good advantage in his narrow 2009 re-election victory,

When Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch cast doubt on the validity of the huge jump in the 2009 scores — released shortly before the election — city officials got “very angry,” an identified insider told Edelman.

A closer look at city scores reveals a significant correlation between the easier tests and the rising scores. They cast doubt not only on the results of the so-called Bloomberg reforms in New York City but on the conventional wisdom that the reforms of Bloomberg and like-minded officials have created huge successes.
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By on February 22, 2011, 5:38 pm
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Racial Admissions Gap
February 11th, 2011

The number of black and Hispanic eight graders admitted to the city’s most selective public high schools continues to decline, according to figures just released by the Department of Education.

Only 5 percent of the students offered admission to eight of the city’s specialized high school are black and only 6 percent are Hispanic. These eight schools all chose students entirely on the basis of a test given in the fall. The other specialized high school — LaGuardia, an arts school — is not included in the figures because it selects students on the basis of other criteria, such as an audition.

The percentage of blacks and Hispanics admitted to the eight schools fell by one percentage point from 2010, continuing a recent trend.

At the city’s three oldest specialized high schools –Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant– the figures were no better. Blacks accounted for only 4.5 of those offered admission to the schools; Hispanics, 5.5 percent. At Stuyvesant– traditionally the most selective — the numbers are even more jarring: Only 1.2 percent of students offered admission were black and only 1.3 percent Hispanic.

More number crunching after the jump.
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By on February 11, 2011, 2:52 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Demographics,Education,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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High on Marijuana Arrests
February 11th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg famously once said that he had inhaled marijuana and enjoyed it. But that doesn’t mean he wants you to.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the city last year arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses, an increase from 2009 and 70 percent more than in 2005. This is reportedly more than the total number of people arrested between 1978 and 1996 during the Koch, Dinkins and part of the Giuliani administrations.

“New York has made more marijuana arrests under Bloomberg than any mayor in New York City history,” Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College and expert on marijuana arrests said in a Drug Policy Alliance release. “Bloomberg’s police have arrested more people for marijuana than Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani combined.”

And the group says this probably is not because we’ve become a city of stoners: Nationally experts believe marijuana use peaked around 1980. Instead, the alliance says, the sharp rise comes about because “over the last 20 years, NYPD has quietly made arrests for marijuana their top enforcement priority, without public acknowledgement or debate.”

Few of those arrested resemble the mayor, at least from a demographic perspective, According to the alliance, 70 percent of them are under 30 and 86 percent are black or Latino.
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By on February 11, 2011, 2:49 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011

If today’s hearing is any indication, Walmart will have a next to impossible chance of getting a New York City store approved by the City Council.

Several dozen council members and a standing room only crowd gathered in Lower Manhattan this afternoon to debate how a Walmart store would affect small businesses and communities in the Big Apple. Last month, Walmart kicked off a vigorous marketing campaign to court New Yorkers and convince them to support a New York City store.

Officials from Walmart refused to attend today’s council hearing, arguing they were being unfairly targeted.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn blasted the corporation for not testifying. Their absence, she said, “sadly only leads me to be further skeptical.”

For more than four hours, council members tore into Walmart’s policies, including its labor practices, which have been the subject of several lawsuits. They heard from experts across the country who had studies in hand that argued Walmart would lead to small businesses boarding up.

Not one council member voiced support for a New York City Walmart.

The Walmart issue encapsulates a familiar debate at the City Council — one that last reared its head when the body rejected the development of the Kingsbridge Armory. As Walmart argues it will bring jobs to New York City, advocates and officials question the quality of those jobs, whether they will provide health insurance and whether they will pay a living wage.

For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.

“Everyone is waving this boogeyman around about how this corporation is going to come in,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist and Walmart supporter. “I will say to you directly, we need jobs for our community.”
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By on February 3, 2011, 6:53 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Land Use,Measuring UP,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Walmart Declines Hearing Invitation... Again
February 1st, 2011

This should come as no surprise, but Walmart once again will pass on testifying at a City Council hearing on Thursday.

In a letter dated today, Walmart‘s Philip H. Serghini attempts to strike down anti-Walmart sentiments wafting through the City Council, arguing the retail giant is committed to healthy foods, diversity and jobs. But Serghini says he could not commit to attending the hearing, because the council is only focused on Walmart and ignores the impact of other big-box stores in the city. You can see his explanation below.

The joint hearing, however, does not appear to consider the impact of the hundreds of NYC stores operated by these companies; rather it focuses solely on Walmart. Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise.

For these reasons and more, we respectfully decline participation in the February 3rd hearing.

Should the committee decide to conduct the hearing in a more comprehensive manner, we would be happy to revisit our decision. In the interim, we do feel a responsibility to better inform the planned discussion and share some facts about the company that the committee can share with participants.

Earlier this year, Walmart kicked off a major marketing campaign to persuade New Yorkers to support a store within the five boroughs. They are sending out mailers, taking out radio ads and have launched a NYC-centric Web site to corral support.

So far, no one at the council is budgeting.

The full explanation from Walmart is below.

Final City Council Letter

By on February 1, 2011, 5:54 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off on Walmart Declines Hearing Invitation... Again

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A Tale of Two Schools
January 20th, 2011

Last night’s decision by the rubber stamp Panel on Educational Policy to place a second Millennium High School in the John Jay High School building in Park Slope represents the latest twist in the story of one of the city’s most troubled settings.

Once described by Inside Schools as “a long-troubled, large neighborhood school that became a school of last resort for students from all over Brooklyn,” it was even dubbed “Thug School.”

Tension between the school’s largely black and Latino students and the surrounding affluent white community have been palpable going back at least to the 1990s. Park Slopers tended to blame crime on John Jay students, often with little or no evidence (and even though there were some miscreants among the Park Slope kids at nearby M.S. 51 and many good kids at John Jay). Police standing outside the school would move the John Jay kids along as though to get them back to their own neighborhoods. Metal detectors reinforced the image, as did the dingy, deteriorating facilities.

Around 2002, the city, prompted by some parents at prestigious P.S. 321 down the street, placed three smaller schools in the building and began phasing out John Jay. Many Park Slope parents envisioned the new schools — Secondary School for Law, Secondary School for Research and Secondary School for Journalism — as places they would send their children.

It did not work out that way. Few parents from the Slope sent their kids to the schools, which remain around 90 percent black and Latino. The stigmatization of John Jay kids continued, even tough crime reportedly is down (see this recent post from Gothamist as evidence.)
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 20, 2011, 3:30 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education | 7 Comments »

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Crowley Statement on Fire Charges
January 14th, 2011

We already know Council Speaker Christine Quinn opposes charging drivers for accidents that need emergency services — a proposal from the Fire Department in response to budget cuts.

But what does Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley have to say?

Here is her statement delivered at the Fire Department’s hearing on the issue today.

“Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule which would impose a schedule of charges for Fire Department motorist services, which is before you for consideration at todays hearing.

In the City Council, I Chair the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, which oversees the New York City Fire Department. Our first responders not only fight fires and save lives, but also respond to the needs of motorists on the citys roadway accidents.

One of governments most important responsibilities is to keep people safethat is why we allocate taxpayer money to our emergency services. To raise revenue by charging New Yorkers deemed to be at fault in auto accidents is unreasonable, misguided and a simple case of double-dipping. New Yorkers already pay for this service by means of taxes on their income and property. The FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano considers these charges as a fee for service but lets call this fee for what it really is: a double tax.

If the FDNY starts charging for emergency response to motorist accidents, what will they charge for next? Will there be fees for putting out house fires? We cannot begin to go down this dangerous road; therefore, I respectfully request that you withdraw this proposal from consideration.”

By on January 14, 2011, 12:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off on Crowley Statement on Fire Charges

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Bloomberg Joins It Gets Better Campaign
January 4th, 2011

The latest in the It Gets Better Project from Hizzoner himself.

By on January 4, 2011, 5:25 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Demographics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Immigrants,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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Diaz's Prediction for 2011
December 23rd, 2010

Sen. Ruben Diaz had only one thing on his mind when we called him last week to get his predictions for 2011–same-sex marriage.

We spoke to Diaz as he was preparing for his Christmas bash and he predicted, “There will be a fight in the senate for gay marriage and it will fail to pass again. So my prediction is there will be no gay marriage in 2011.”

We reminded the senator that he could cover a wide range of topics and perhaps even throw out a lighthearted prediction or two. He declined.

Check out what other notable New Yorkers predicted for 2011–most of them were more nuanced and less laser focused than Diaz’s.

By on December 23, 2010, 12:15 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Back to the Islamic Center
December 14th, 2010

Just when you thought (hoped?) the issue of the erroneously tagged Ground Zero mosque had gone away, Judicial Watch has filed a petition in state Supreme Court seeking the release of all communication between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the leader of the proposed Islamic center and other Muslim groups.

According to Talking Posts Memo, Judicial Watch had requested the records under New York’s Freedom of Information Law in August. The group says the mayor’s office acknowledged the request, said it would respond within 20 days — but never did (something that, whatever the merits of this case is not exactly unprecedented). Contacted by TPM, the mayor’s office would not comment.

Bloomberg has repeatedly spoken out in favor of the center’s right to build near Ground Zero. In a press release, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said, “Mayor Bloomberg’s support for the Ground Zero mosque needs to be fully explored. New Yorkers are going to want to know how closely he’s working with the radicals supporting the Ground Zero mosque. … What is the mayor’s office hiding?”

The release also repeats allegations — unsubstantiated and largely refuted — linking the center’s organizers to radical Islamic extremism and the financing of terrorism. Judicial Watch identifies itself as “a conservative non-partisan educational foundation” that among other things “seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people.”

Lately, according to TPM, the group has focused a lot on alleged link between U.S. officials it does not like and Islam. Its founder reportedly has accused President Barack Obama of being on a “political jihad promoting Islam around the world.”

By on December 14, 2010, 2:09 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Gotham City,Law | Comments Off on Back to the Islamic Center

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