Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/937 Tue, 24 Oct 2017 04:01:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Misguided 'Reform' Threatens to Undo Progress http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6357:misguided-reform-threatens-to-undo-progress http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6357:misguided-reform-threatens-to-undo-progress bp oddo group si

BP Oddo, the author, with a group on Staten Island (photo via @StatenIslUSA)


The divide is even greater than I feared.

The chasm between how folks across this city see our world is even wider than what it seemed. As a Republican fully aware he’s in a blue city - a guy who once led a merry band of between two and five GOPers in a legislative body of 51 - I know better than most how disparate the various points on the political spectrum are in this town, and how the perceptions, reality, and everyday feel differs across New York City.

I lived that divide and operated within it when I was in the City Council. And to deliver for the smallest, least politically influential borough, one that was either ignored, neglected, or treated as fifth of five except during the Giuliani years, I figured out how to respect the divide, maneuver within it, and effectively represent my community.

So when I say the breach is even more expansive than I once feared, it truly is.

The City Council’s Criminal Justice Reform Act is intended to help New Yorkers represented by a majority of the City Council. It’s intended to address problems that are real to them and their constituents. With that said, to folks who live on Staten Island like me, and those in other areas such as Southwest Brooklyn, parts of Queens, and parts of the Bronx, this package represents a chainsaw where a scalpel is needed. We should not be encouraging people to think we don’t care about negative behavior like urinating in public or throwing trash on the ground.

Ultimately, the bills are Miracle Grow for the perception that lawlessness lurks around the next corner, a perception that we know can feel awfully similar to reality. A furthering of this ideological agenda corrosively eats away at the thin line between civilized communities and disorder.

For the love of Pete (not Pete Vallone Jr. or Sr., but man, where have you guys gone...), can’t we even agree in this town that litter is wrong and should be punished as often and in as financially impactful a manner as possible? One unified voice coming from the Council and other sectors of city government should be all of us saying to the city agencies that the guy who throws the bag of White Castle burger remnants out the window of his car and the mocha latte drinker who flings her empty plastic cup indiscriminately into a street should pay dearly.

But we can’t even agree on that. As someone who has spent too much time, energy, and taxpayer money these last 28 months as Borough President trying to change the behavior of the selfish, ignorant Staten Islanders who continue to litter, that hurts my head.

I am keenly aware that in many ways - from home and car ownership percentages to housing typology and various other barometers - Staten Island more closely resembles the rest of America than the other four boroughs. I understand this is a left-of-center town during this “progressive” era of local government, but some truths are grounded in history and history should not need to repeat itself for us to understand the consequences of actions like passing the Criminal Justice Reform Act. So-called quality-of-life offenses rob residents of the city they deserve and expect. As a city we should be doing more to discourage litterers and those engaged in public urination and other anti-social acts on behalf of the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who don’t engage in these behaviors.

Whether folks liked or disliked Rudy Giuliani, his unquestioned, greatest and lasting legacy is that every New Yorker now has a heightened expectation of how safe and orderly New York City should be. Individually and collectively we will never tolerate a return to the “bad old days.” I am not one who embraces the screaming tabloid headlines announcing the 1970s have returned. That’s silly. I simply don’t like seeing perhaps well-intentioned, but nonetheless misguided steps, even small ones, in that direction.

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James Oddo is the Staten Island Borough President and a former Minority Leader of the City Council. On Twitter @HeyNowJO.

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Misguided 'Reform' Threatens to Undo Progress Tue, 24 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Criminal Justice Reform Act is No Alternative to Broken Windows Policing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6112:criminal-justice-reform-act-is-no-alternative-to-broken-windows-policing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6112:criminal-justice-reform-act-is-no-alternative-to-broken-windows-policing  bratton times sq group

NYPD ceremony in Times Square (photo: @CommissBratton)


Monday morning the City Council will begin consideration of a series of bills, called the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which would limit the use of criminal penalties to manage a variety of low level “quality of life” offenses such as public drinking, park code violations, noise, and public urination. City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, said she hopes these changes will reduce the problem of excessive criminalization in communities of color, a sentiment echoed by Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the courts committee, on WNYC radio last Friday. Lancman noted that too many areas of the city have experienced overpolicing and overcriminalization.

The Act, being spearheaded by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito,  already has broad support in the Council and the endorsement of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, and thus, Mayor de Blasio. It's encouraging that political leaders in New York City are exploring ways of reducing the impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color, but this package of reforms is at best a baby step, and at worst, may open the door to more racially discriminatory police actions.

The bills, if passed, would create new civil penalty options for these offences by allowing police to choose between a criminal summons and a civil one when encountering an offender, a choice made based on departmental guidelines. The criminal codes remain on the books per Bratton’s insistence, which he says is necessary so that officers can demand identification, conduct searches, and perform background checks.

With a criminal summons, people must appear in summons court and if they fail to do so a warrant is issued for their arrest. Over a million such arrest warrants are currently on the books, leading to numerous unfortunate encounters with the police, such as being arrested on the way to work or to pick children up from school.

The new civil process, to be administered by the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, will be more like traffic court in which people must pay a fine or perform community service, but no warrant will result from failure to comply. Instead, a civil judgement will be issued, which could result in the garnishment of wages or bank accounts, or seizure of property. This might also affect one’s credit rating. None of this will result in incarceration, which is positive, but the penalties can still be substantial, with fines ranging from $25 to $250 for a first offense.

In addition, these financial penalties are likely to fall heaviest on areas where quality-of-life, or broken windows, enforcement is the most widespread, removing resources from already poor communities. While some will escape these penalties through community service programs, many working poor will not.

Vincent Riggins, chair of the public safety committee of Community Board 5 in East New York has actually called for the return of half of all those fines to the local community board to be spent on community development projects. It is a great idea that would reduce the financial incentive that has driven excessive and discriminatory summonsing in places like Ferguson, MO.

Riggins has raised another important point. By leaving these offenses on the books, rather than truly decriminalizing them, the door is left open for the kinds of invasive policing experienced under stop, question, and frisk in recent years. By keeping open alcohol an offense, police will have “reasonable suspicion” to stop anyone drinking a beverage in a bag or unmarked container, potentially leading to exactly the kinds of unwarranted police intrusions that we have worked so hard to reduce. While Bratton rightly touts reductions in police enforcement encounters, racial disparities persist.

Another area of concern is the discretionary nature of the new rules. The NYPD insisted that it would only support the bill if it retained the ability to treat these offences as criminal when officers felt it appropriate. This gives them the ability to demand ID and run people for warrants. But what will determine who gets a civil summons, who gets a criminal one, and who gets run for warrants? There is a real risk that the more punitive practices will become heavily concentrated in exactly those poor, non-white communities that bore the brunt of stop, question, and frisk, and who bear the burden of most criminal summonses and low level arrests now.

Council Member Gibson says that there will be a process of determining policies for guiding officer discretion, and that the City Council is calling for the default to be a civil summons. This outcome, however, is far from assured, since the ultimate decision rests with the NYPD and the officer on the street. Therefore, there is a real risk that the police will perceive the need to take harsher and more invasive action in exactly the same places they do now, with milder penalties reserved for more prosperous parts of the city. If these changes are enacted, this must be monitored closely, something Council Members Jumaane Williams and Mark Levine are proposing through a bill mandating reporting by the NYPD.

Any reduction in the use of criminal penalties is welcome, but this measure retains an adherence to using punitive mechanisms to manage so called quality-of-life problems in keeping with the deeply conservative Broken Windows theory. There is nothing in the bill to develop non-punitive mechanisms for addressing community problems.

As one caller to WNYC pointed out, the current criminal penalties seem to be largely ineffective in reducing the amount of public urination, why should the civil penalties be any more effective? They won’t. The reality is that public bathrooms are largely non-existent in New York City. Other major cities around the world have much more developed amenities in place and have largely avoided this problem. If you don’t want people to pee in public, give them functional and accessible public bathrooms, not a choice between criminal and civil sanctions.

In addition, a lot of quality-of-life problems are driven by pervasive underemployment for youth of color, a lack of positive social activities for young people, and widespread homelessness. While the Mayor and City Council have started to acknowledge the extent of some of these problems, their focus has been primarily on hiring more police and tinkering with what kind of punitive sanctions to use, rather than a major redistribution of resources away from police, courts, and prisons, and towards housing, healthcare, and youth services.

In his book The Silent Black Majority, Michael Fortner shows that the push for criminal justice solutions to community problems was supported by many in poor black communities and my own research on the rise of quality-of-life policing in the ‘90s shows the same thing. But what I also found was that these communities also called for youth centers, improved housing, and better schools, but what they got was only the policing and prisons. It’s time our political leaders quit asking the NYPD for permission to really shift resources away from the criminal justice system and towards improving communities in positive ways.

In Los Angeles, the Youth Justice Coalition has called for redirecting 1% of all criminal justice spending ($100 million) in the county towards youth jobs, community centers, and violence reduction outreach workers. That would be real reform. The Police Reform Organizing Project here in New York is currently exploring a similar initiative on an even broader scale. Crime and disorder matter and need to be addressed, but we must strive to develop affirming rather than punitive solutions whenever possible. If the City Council is serious about reducing the negative impacts of the criminal justice system, it should start by revisiting its decision to expand the NYPD. More police with more discretion is not the answer.

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Alex S. Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is senior policy adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project and serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission. You can follow him on Twitter: @avitale

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Criminal Justice Reform Act is No Alternative to Broken Windows Policing Sun, 24 Jan 2016 19:01:27 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 25 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6111:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-january-25 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6111:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-january-25 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is back in Albany this week - this time, he's not taking in Governor Cuomo's budget address, he's testifying about it. This will be on Tuesday as de Blasio and other city officials testify in front a joint legislative budget hearing,

First, the week starts with a major City Council hearing Monday morning at 10 a.m., at which the new, eight-bill Criminal Justice Reform Act will be heard - details below.

The HOPE Count of homeless people living on the street is scheduled for Monday evening. Mayor de Blasio and other officials, including HUD Secretary Julian Castro, will kick off one volunteer group at 10:30 p.m. in Manhattan. This weekend's snowstorm could delay this event, check back here and elsewhere for any changes on Monday.

On Tuesday, de Blasio and other city officials head to Albany to testify - other officials giving testimony and fielding questions from Assembly members and state Senators will include Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Many are watching to see what de Blasio and others prioritize in their testimony and how de Blasio is received by Albany lawmakers. City officials get to respond to Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget in front of the legislature - how de Blasio approaches Cuomo's budget could lead to a significant response from the governor, something else to watch for. We know that the governor has several proposals that the mayor has praised, including on the minimum wage, paid family leave, and supportive housing, along with several he has concerns about, including proposed cuts to funding for CUNY and Medicaid. Other topics likely to come up include mayoral control of city schools, the expired 421-a real estate/affordable housing tax break, and homelessness.

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
The New York State Legislature is in session on Monday and will have a joint legislative budget hearing about “Health/Medicaid” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will hear the new, eight-bill Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2016, which seeks to add civil penalties for a variety of low-level, nonviolent, quality-of-life offenses like open container of alcohol, public urination, and violations of park rules. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is spearheading this reform effort and is a lead sponsor on several of the bills, will give opening remarks.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Education will meet for the introduction of a bill that “would require the Department of Education to provide data, related to student participation in various free school breakfast, free salad bar, and free afterschool meals, to the Council and on their website” with a report that would also provide information “about initiatives and programs aimed at increasing student participation in the free meals.”

Representatives from Gov. Cuomo's administration are again fanning the state Monday to give presentations of the Governor's 2016 State of the State agenda, including events in Hudson, Elizabethtown, and elsewhere.

At the Hope Program in Brooklyn, there will be a press conference about the Fair Chance Act’s enforcement at 10 a.m. Monday attended by City Commission on Human Rights officials, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council Member Jumaane Williams.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in Manhattan to speak at the Harvard Club during an event in which “Mortimer Zuckerman will announce the Zuckerman Scholars Program in STEM Leadership, a transformative program to support next generations of leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

At 10:30 a.m. Monday at Queens Borough Hall., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a public hearing “to obtain the views and recommendations of the Queens Community Boards, residents and stakeholders on the proposals contained in the Mayor’s FY 2017 Preliminary Budget.”

At 3:30 p.m. Monday, Speaker Mark-Viverito will speak at the New American Leaders Project 'States of Inclusion' at the Ford Foundation. And at 5 p.m. Mark-Viverito will host "Melissa Meet Up" on training on the discretionary funding process at the Council District 17 office in the Bronx - there is currently no sitting Council member in that district after the resignation of former Council Member Maria Del Carmen Arroyo.

At 6 p.m. at The Hilton Albany, the Business Council of New York State, Inc. will have its 2016 Legislators’ Reception.

City Council Member Costa Constantinides will give his State of the District address at 7 p.m. at Astoria’s PS 122 Elementary School on Monday.

The annual HOPE Count (the Department of Homeless Services’ count of street homelessness in the city) is scheduled to be taken by DHS and partners Monday night. More than 3,000 people are volunteering for the count, which starts at 10 p.m. and will end at 4 a.m. on Tuesday. Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro “will kick-off a HOPE count volunteer training session at PS 116 in Manhattan” at 10:30 p.m.

Tuesday
The New York State Legislature is in session on Tuesday and will have a joint legislative budget hearing at 10 a.m. regarding “Local Government Officials/General Government.” This is the hearing de Blasio, Stringer, Mark-Viverito, and Ferreras-Copeland will testify during.

At the City Council on Tuesday:  

  • At 9:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Health will meet for the introduction of a bill aimed at “Setting nutritional standards for distributing incentive items aimed at children.”
  • At 6 p.m., the Committee on Public Housing will hold an off-site oversight hearing about “The NextGeneration NYCHA Development Plan” at Holmes Community Center on East 93rd Street in Manhattan.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, there will be a panel called “Food Policy for Breakfast: Universal School Meals: A Research Agenda” will be held by the New York City Food Policy Center at the CUNY Graduate Center. Community Food Advocates Executive Director Liz Accles, PhD. candidate Renalta Peralta of Columbia University’s Teachers College and Randi Herman of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators will be featured speakers, and Professor Jon Poppendieck, the center’s policy director, will moderate.

Wednesday
At the New York State Legislature on Wednesday: a joint legislative budget hearing on “Elementary & Secondary Education” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Wednesday:   

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Immigration will meet for an oversight hearing about the question “How can the City support ethnic media to ensure that immigrant communities receive information on local matters?”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committees on Civil Service and Labor, Small Business, and Economic Development will meet for a joint oversight hearing about “Decreasing Job Placements at Workforce 1 Centers.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet for an oversight hearing for an “Update Concerning Local Law 77 of 2013, Which Created a Curbside Organics Collection Pilot Program.”

At 8 a.m., City & State will holds its 2016 NYC Legislative Preview forum at Baruch College. Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, City Council Members Julissa Ferreras, Dan Garodnick, and Jumaane Williams are among those who will speak.

At noon on Wednesday at City Hall, “elected officials, community leaders, and residents will hold a rally calling on the administration to stop the inequitable placement of homeless shelters in Southeast Queens. The rally will come one day ahead of residents’ court date on their action seeking an injunction against the City.” The participants will include state Sen. Leroy Comrie, members of the NAACP, local community board, National Action Network, and other groups.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday at Civic Hall, there will be a green infrastructure grant workshop for the Department of Environmental Protection. Those participating “will get an in-depth understanding of the eligibility requirements and application process.”

At 6:30 p.m., the Brooklyn Historical Society will host a discussion about Bensonhurst’s growing Asian communities and their implications for city politics. City Council Member Mark Treyger, Professor Peter Kwong of the CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, City Limits Executive Editor Jarrett Murphy, and Brooklyn Chinese-American Association President Paul Mak will speak on the panel.

Thursday
At the New York State Legislature on Thursday: a joint legislative budget hearing on “Environmental Conservation” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will meet.    
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services will meet for an oversight hearing on “Thrive NYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet on two bills - one “Requiring a study of potential environmental justice communities in NYC and the publication of the results of such study on the city’s website” and the other “Identifying and addressing environmental justice issues.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Governmental Operations will meet.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan will speak about “the New York State budget and his priorities for the current session and beyond” at an Association for a Better New York breakfast.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a public land use hearing at Queens Borough Hall’s conference room at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

At 1 p.m. Thursday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and other political, nonprofit and economic development leaders will speak at a forum called “Cities Building Community Wealth” organized by the Surdna Foundation, the Democracy Collaborative and the CUNY School of Law, which is hosting the event.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, New York Law School will will host a presentation by the Center for New York City Law, the Center for Real Estate Studies, and the New York City Tax Commission called “New York City Property Tax 2015-2016.”

At 3 p.m. Thursday, City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett will speak about the Health Department’s agenda and participate in a Q&A session with Errol Louis of NY1 and CUNY J-School, Jarrett Murphy of City Limits, and Vania Ambre of The Haitian Times, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Center for Community and Ethnic Media.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Dr. Christina Greer, a Fordham political science professor, will moderate “What Is Going to Happen? A Discussion of the 2016 Primaries: Pitfalls, Predictions, and Popularity” with Alexis Grenell, a City and State columnist and Democratic political strategist and Jessica Proud, a partner at the November Team and a Republican strategist. The event is at Fordham University’s McMahon Hall Lounge.

Friday and the weekend
At the City Council on Friday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet.
  • At 10 a.m., an oversight hearing on “Examining Cultural Non-Profits in the New York City Juvenile Justice System” will be held by the Committees on Juvenile Justice and Cultural Affairs.

On Sunday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will host her State of the Borough event at 2 p.m. at the New School. The event will be “youth- and culture-focused” and host panelists including Dr. Sumie Okazaki, Francisco Nunez, and Kharry Lazarre White.

Assemblymember Michael Blake will deliver his State of the District address at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Dreamyard in the Bronx.

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Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Ryan Brady and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 25 Sun, 24 Jan 2016 05:00:00 +0000