Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/mental-health 2017-10-19T15:00:55+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com As Deaths Mount, Scrutiny of NYPD Response to ‘Emotionally Disturbed Persons’ 2017-09-26T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7216:as-deaths-mount-scrutiny-of-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/36864941556_6bc2affeda_z.jpg" alt="NYPD de Blasio " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; law enforcement officials (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At a recent hearing, New York City Council members discussed the effectiveness of NYPD responses to “emotionally disturbed person” (EDP) calls, the slow pace of implementation for new NYPD crisis intervention training, and the tragic outcomes of several recent interactions between NYPD officers and emotionally disturbed individuals.</p> <p>At the hearing, held Sept. 6 jointly by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services, members called for clarity on recent interactions ending in lethal force and stressed their support for the proposed mayoral working group to assess the city’s overall response to individuals in crisis.</p> <p>The hearing, which received little attention at the time given the city’s primary elections were occurring just six days later, on September 12, occurred in the wake of the deaths of six mentally ill individuals killed by NYPD officers responding to EDP calls over the past 11 months, and just before another such incident would unfold.</p> <p>The introduction of crisis intervention training at the NYPD in the summer of 2015, a program designed to help officers respond to individuals in the midst of such crises, was intended to better equip officers to handle such circumstances without use of force, but has been rolled out slowly due to class size requirements and competing training demands. Of the department’s approximately 34,000 officers, fewer than 6,400 had been trained at the time of the hearing, according to NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing Susan Herman.</p> <p>While there is increased scrutiny of how the NYPD handles EDP calls and its deadly encounters with individuals in crisis, some also believe that reforms must be put into place whereby NYPD officers are not the first ones at such scenes; that unarmed counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals are better suited to diffuse EDP situations.</p> <p>In the July shooting of Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed Brooklyn man, Jeune charged cops with a bread knife and was shot after a Taser shock appeared to have little effect. Three of the four patrol officers on the scene had participated in CIT while the fourth, the only one lacking a CIT background, was the one to fire, according to the department. &nbsp;In instances of EDP calls, supervisors must make the decision to call the Emergency Service Unit (ESU), whose members complete Emergency Psychological Technician’s training and are equipped to identify and interact with those suffering from mental illnesses. Jeune’s situation was characterized as nonviolent and ESU was not brought in.</p> <p>Council members and a family member of Jeune questioned whether CIT officers should be given control when responding to EDP calls.</p> <p>Herman pointed to a department preference for an officer who develops rapport with an individual to take control of the response. “It’s great to have a CIT trained officer and we want to train everyone, but we’re not at the point where we’re saying whoever is CIT trained commands the situation,” she said.</p> <p>Council members also stressed a desire to see officers trained at a faster clip. The NYPD is presently training 90 officers a week; dividing training into classes of lieutenants, supervisors, and patrol officers. Based loosely on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department and in conjunction with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the program requires a class maximum of 30, which plays a primary role in the department’s delayed implementation. The department expects to train all supervisors and lieutenants by 2018, at which point it will return to training recruits.</p> <p>Herman also noted the Memphis model’s stipulation that training 25 to 30 percent of the force will allow other patrol officers to learn through experience and observation. Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, interjected, reiterating the city’s desire to move beyond the Memphis baseline. “In a city of such great diversity and challenge, that’s a bare minimum for us,” Gibson said.</p> <p>The officer who shot and killed Jeune was involved in a similar shooting in October of last year, when a bipolar man lunged at officers with a knife, according to the NYPD. Council members grilled Herman on the department’s policy for re-evaluating the training needs of officers with a history of force used during EDP calls. “It seems to me if there is an officer who was involved in an EDP that ended in deadly force, that might be a prompt to get them CIT training so that won’t happen again,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.</p> <p>Herman pointed to the overall low number of use of force instances, citing a 1 percent rate for use of any level of force during the 150,000 EDP calls the NYPD receives each year. This total of 15,000 instances includes use of force cases ranging from wrestling the individual to the ground to the use of a Taser, as well as shootings. The deputy commissioner cited the NYPD’s general policy for reviewing use of force, but did not specifically reference department policy in cases specific to EDP calls. “After any use of lethal force or shooting, there’s a very comprehensive review,” said Herman. “When an officer needs instruction on tactics, they get that.”</p> <p>The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing more than 20,000 patrol officers, declined to comment on the hearing when Gotham Gazette inquired. The Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association and Sergeant’s Benevolent Association did not respond to requests for comment. None of the unions sent representatives to testify at the hearing.</p> <p>For some advocates, the discussion of how to improve NYPD responses to mental health crises has ignored the larger issue at hand. “I don’t want to try to fine tune a police response, I want to end it,” said Alex Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and senior adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), in an interview. “The city has to be willing to pay for mental health services instead of police services.”</p> <p>To this end, City Council members sought answers on how to assist individuals displaying escalating levels of violence before reaching a situation in which an EDP call is necessary.</p> <p>One such answer are the co-response teams established under the mayor’s “NYC Safe” program, intended to reach mentally ill individuals and those with substance abuse issues before they enter a mental health crisis. The program provides ongoing treatment and support to individuals identified as displaying increasing levels of violence by a number of sources including government agencies, community-based health care providers, and precinct commanding officers.</p> <p>“This is somebody who’s on someone’s radar because their actions were calling out to us. It’s not just somebody who’s off their meds, it’s somebody who’s maybe in a shelter, who one week has loudly cursed at someone and another week has thrown a chair,” said Deputy Commissioner Herman.</p> <p>Critics have pointed out that there are still far too many individuals on the streets of the city in mental health or substance abuse crises who are not getting the help they need or being moved into care facilities, which often necessitates <a href="http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2098044,00.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the use of Kendra’s Law</a>, legislation that provides court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for those whose mental illnesses.</p> <p>A critical component of the city’s ongoing partnership between law enforcement officers and health care providers are two diversion centers, offering stabilizing services for those with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues that otherwise would have been arrested on low-level charges. Two such centers will likely be operating by the end of 2018 and will house 2,500 individuals per year, according to Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of mental hygiene at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), who testified at the Council hearing.</p> <p>For advocates, however, this timeline falls short of addressing the city’s needs. “When we hear that the drop-in centers are not going to be available until the end of 2018, that’s not an acceptable response for the City of New York,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney for The Legal Aid Society, which often represents individuals unable to afford attorneys, at the hearing.</p> <p>Hours after the City Council Hearing concluded on September 6, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/nyregion/police-body-camera-footage-new-york.html?mcubz=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">officers fatally shot a mentally ill Bronx man</a> when responding to a call for a “wellness check” from the landlord. The man, Miguel Richards, ignored orders to drop a knife and gun, later found to be a toy gun. The ESU unit had arrived by the time of the shooting, but had not yet entered the apartment.</p> <p>In the eyes of Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator for Community Access, the officers’ repeated shouts of “Put that knife down” and “What’s in your other hand?” pointed to a failure to engage on the part of officers not trained in CIT. “The incident is just calling out for more CIT officers,” said Rabinowitz. “You can’t shout commands at a person in emotional distress, you need other solutions.”</p> <p>

***
by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/36864941556_6bc2affeda_z.jpg" alt="NYPD de Blasio " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; law enforcement officials (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At a recent hearing, New York City Council members discussed the effectiveness of NYPD responses to “emotionally disturbed person” (EDP) calls, the slow pace of implementation for new NYPD crisis intervention training, and the tragic outcomes of several recent interactions between NYPD officers and emotionally disturbed individuals.</p> <p>At the hearing, held Sept. 6 jointly by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services, members called for clarity on recent interactions ending in lethal force and stressed their support for the proposed mayoral working group to assess the city’s overall response to individuals in crisis.</p> <p>The hearing, which received little attention at the time given the city’s primary elections were occurring just six days later, on September 12, occurred in the wake of the deaths of six mentally ill individuals killed by NYPD officers responding to EDP calls over the past 11 months, and just before another such incident would unfold.</p> <p>The introduction of crisis intervention training at the NYPD in the summer of 2015, a program designed to help officers respond to individuals in the midst of such crises, was intended to better equip officers to handle such circumstances without use of force, but has been rolled out slowly due to class size requirements and competing training demands. Of the department’s approximately 34,000 officers, fewer than 6,400 had been trained at the time of the hearing, according to NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing Susan Herman.</p> <p>While there is increased scrutiny of how the NYPD handles EDP calls and its deadly encounters with individuals in crisis, some also believe that reforms must be put into place whereby NYPD officers are not the first ones at such scenes; that unarmed counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals are better suited to diffuse EDP situations.</p> <p>In the July shooting of Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed Brooklyn man, Jeune charged cops with a bread knife and was shot after a Taser shock appeared to have little effect. Three of the four patrol officers on the scene had participated in CIT while the fourth, the only one lacking a CIT background, was the one to fire, according to the department. &nbsp;In instances of EDP calls, supervisors must make the decision to call the Emergency Service Unit (ESU), whose members complete Emergency Psychological Technician’s training and are equipped to identify and interact with those suffering from mental illnesses. Jeune’s situation was characterized as nonviolent and ESU was not brought in.</p> <p>Council members and a family member of Jeune questioned whether CIT officers should be given control when responding to EDP calls.</p> <p>Herman pointed to a department preference for an officer who develops rapport with an individual to take control of the response. “It’s great to have a CIT trained officer and we want to train everyone, but we’re not at the point where we’re saying whoever is CIT trained commands the situation,” she said.</p> <p>Council members also stressed a desire to see officers trained at a faster clip. The NYPD is presently training 90 officers a week; dividing training into classes of lieutenants, supervisors, and patrol officers. Based loosely on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department and in conjunction with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the program requires a class maximum of 30, which plays a primary role in the department’s delayed implementation. The department expects to train all supervisors and lieutenants by 2018, at which point it will return to training recruits.</p> <p>Herman also noted the Memphis model’s stipulation that training 25 to 30 percent of the force will allow other patrol officers to learn through experience and observation. Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, interjected, reiterating the city’s desire to move beyond the Memphis baseline. “In a city of such great diversity and challenge, that’s a bare minimum for us,” Gibson said.</p> <p>The officer who shot and killed Jeune was involved in a similar shooting in October of last year, when a bipolar man lunged at officers with a knife, according to the NYPD. Council members grilled Herman on the department’s policy for re-evaluating the training needs of officers with a history of force used during EDP calls. “It seems to me if there is an officer who was involved in an EDP that ended in deadly force, that might be a prompt to get them CIT training so that won’t happen again,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.</p> <p>Herman pointed to the overall low number of use of force instances, citing a 1 percent rate for use of any level of force during the 150,000 EDP calls the NYPD receives each year. This total of 15,000 instances includes use of force cases ranging from wrestling the individual to the ground to the use of a Taser, as well as shootings. The deputy commissioner cited the NYPD’s general policy for reviewing use of force, but did not specifically reference department policy in cases specific to EDP calls. “After any use of lethal force or shooting, there’s a very comprehensive review,” said Herman. “When an officer needs instruction on tactics, they get that.”</p> <p>The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing more than 20,000 patrol officers, declined to comment on the hearing when Gotham Gazette inquired. The Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association and Sergeant’s Benevolent Association did not respond to requests for comment. None of the unions sent representatives to testify at the hearing.</p> <p>For some advocates, the discussion of how to improve NYPD responses to mental health crises has ignored the larger issue at hand. “I don’t want to try to fine tune a police response, I want to end it,” said Alex Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and senior adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), in an interview. “The city has to be willing to pay for mental health services instead of police services.”</p> <p>To this end, City Council members sought answers on how to assist individuals displaying escalating levels of violence before reaching a situation in which an EDP call is necessary.</p> <p>One such answer are the co-response teams established under the mayor’s “NYC Safe” program, intended to reach mentally ill individuals and those with substance abuse issues before they enter a mental health crisis. The program provides ongoing treatment and support to individuals identified as displaying increasing levels of violence by a number of sources including government agencies, community-based health care providers, and precinct commanding officers.</p> <p>“This is somebody who’s on someone’s radar because their actions were calling out to us. It’s not just somebody who’s off their meds, it’s somebody who’s maybe in a shelter, who one week has loudly cursed at someone and another week has thrown a chair,” said Deputy Commissioner Herman.</p> <p>Critics have pointed out that there are still far too many individuals on the streets of the city in mental health or substance abuse crises who are not getting the help they need or being moved into care facilities, which often necessitates <a href="http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2098044,00.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the use of Kendra’s Law</a>, legislation that provides court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for those whose mental illnesses.</p> <p>A critical component of the city’s ongoing partnership between law enforcement officers and health care providers are two diversion centers, offering stabilizing services for those with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues that otherwise would have been arrested on low-level charges. Two such centers will likely be operating by the end of 2018 and will house 2,500 individuals per year, according to Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of mental hygiene at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), who testified at the Council hearing.</p> <p>For advocates, however, this timeline falls short of addressing the city’s needs. “When we hear that the drop-in centers are not going to be available until the end of 2018, that’s not an acceptable response for the City of New York,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney for The Legal Aid Society, which often represents individuals unable to afford attorneys, at the hearing.</p> <p>Hours after the City Council Hearing concluded on September 6, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/nyregion/police-body-camera-footage-new-york.html?mcubz=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">officers fatally shot a mentally ill Bronx man</a> when responding to a call for a “wellness check” from the landlord. The man, Miguel Richards, ignored orders to drop a knife and gun, later found to be a toy gun. The ESU unit had arrived by the time of the shooting, but had not yet entered the apartment.</p> <p>In the eyes of Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator for Community Access, the officers’ repeated shouts of “Put that knife down” and “What’s in your other hand?” pointed to a failure to engage on the part of officers not trained in CIT. “The incident is just calling out for more CIT officers,” said Rabinowitz. “You can’t shout commands at a person in emotional distress, you need other solutions.”</p> <p>

***
by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Ending the Revolving Door of Homelessness 2015-12-27T05:00:00+00:00 2015-12-27T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6054:ending-the-revolving-door-of-homelessness Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/npccny-600px.jpg" alt="swann homelessness revolving door" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Patricia Swann, the author</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">While Mayor Bill de Blasio works on the details of a 15-year, $2.6 billion supportive housing program to address homelessness, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is creating a statewide plan to reduce homelessness. New York should draw on approaches that have helped in the past as well as those that seem promising, especially supportive housing, which offers job training, debt counseling, mental health care, and other crucial services to residents in an effort to stop the revolving door of homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">We all have to start by acknowledging reality: homelessness is a chronic New York problem, as we can tell from walking the streets or reviewing <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/the-catastrophe-of-homelessness/faqs-and-myths/#2" target="_blank">simple statistics</a>. On any given night the number of people sleeping in shelters is close to 60,000 -- 25,000 are children.</p> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers fatigued by the crisis tend to identify it with street dwellers – often middle-aged men with substance-abuse or mental health issues. The truth is that homelessness is rising among families, younger men and women, and the working poor.</p> <p dir="ltr">The one-two punch keeps getting worse: housing costs are exorbitant while wages are stagnant. Last year, <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SOTH2015.pdf" target="_blank">30.1 percent of the city’s renters</a> paid more than half their incomes in rent. The result: New York City <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SOTH2015.pdf" target="_blank">saw 26,857 evictions</a> in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">So much for de-stigmatizing homelessness — the reality is that these are our neighbors and coworkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">The urgent question is, what works?</p> <p dir="ltr">In the past 20 years, the New York Community Trust has given about $30 million to nonprofits addressing different aspects of the problem. One proven approach is not simply to increase shelters but to create permanent supportive housing for lower-income New Yorkers. That includes on-site services for medical and physical disabilities, HIV-related illnesses, and mental and substance-abuse disorders. This housing should coordinate with nearby groups that provide other basics, including childhood education centers, employment and financial training, health and substance-abuse clinics, open spaces, access to quality food, libraries and cultural venues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Studies show such supportive housing cuts taxpayer costs while helping vulnerable people become productive citizens. In the past, the state and city split the cost of supportive housing as well as stronger protections for existing low-cost housing; we hope they will resume that agreement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, it takes years for new units to come online, and meanwhile nearly 60,000 people subsist in shelters that the city’s Department of Investigation calls dilapidated. We need to test alternate strategies. That’s why the Trust is funding an initiative called Gateway Housing, a coalition of nonprofits that run city shelters. Under Gateway, the nonprofits are committed to working with the city and state to rebuild shelters.</p> <p dir="ltr">More important, they’ll use proven practices and undergo regular evaluations of their social-services programs. Because a strong community is critical to addressing homelessness, Gateway seeks to make shelters integral to neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">We have learned that well-directed money can deliver lasting results. For example, we’ve funded several groups that had success in assisting families deal with rising housing costs — by freezing rents for the elderly and disabled, or by providing emergency aid and financial counseling to low-wage New Yorkers. Many times, a head of family who loses a job or is dealing with a health crisis needs just a few weeks’ aid to avoid eviction.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Trust also funds a promising initiative called Joint-Ownership Entity. Under that model, nonprofit developers — the same organizations that saved the South Bronx, eastern and central Brooklyn, and northern Manhattan from disappearing into rubble in the late seventies — are combining developments into single-ownership entities. This should help them achieve economies of scale in running and maintaining their properties, keep rents down, and generate revenue for services. These nonprofit developers are important neighborhood anchors; if not for the housing they manage at affordable rents, many of the residents would become homeless.</p> <p dir="ltr">We’re not naïve: No one can end homelessness in an expensive city with persistent pockets of poverty. But by finding ways to keep rents affordable in some neighborhoods, supporting those facing temporary financial setbacks, and offering job training, substance-abuse counseling, and other wraparound services, we can buttress thousands of New Yorkers who are trying to provide a stable home to their families.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">Patricia A. Swann is a Senior Program Officer for Community Development at the New York Community Trust. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCommTrust" target="_blank">@NYCommTrust</a>.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;"></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;"><br class="kix-line-break" /></span><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: <a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></span>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/npccny-600px.jpg" alt="swann homelessness revolving door" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Patricia Swann, the author</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">While Mayor Bill de Blasio works on the details of a 15-year, $2.6 billion supportive housing program to address homelessness, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is creating a statewide plan to reduce homelessness. New York should draw on approaches that have helped in the past as well as those that seem promising, especially supportive housing, which offers job training, debt counseling, mental health care, and other crucial services to residents in an effort to stop the revolving door of homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">We all have to start by acknowledging reality: homelessness is a chronic New York problem, as we can tell from walking the streets or reviewing <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/the-catastrophe-of-homelessness/faqs-and-myths/#2" target="_blank">simple statistics</a>. On any given night the number of people sleeping in shelters is close to 60,000 -- 25,000 are children.</p> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers fatigued by the crisis tend to identify it with street dwellers – often middle-aged men with substance-abuse or mental health issues. The truth is that homelessness is rising among families, younger men and women, and the working poor.</p> <p dir="ltr">The one-two punch keeps getting worse: housing costs are exorbitant while wages are stagnant. Last year, <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SOTH2015.pdf" target="_blank">30.1 percent of the city’s renters</a> paid more than half their incomes in rent. The result: New York City <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SOTH2015.pdf" target="_blank">saw 26,857 evictions</a> in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">So much for de-stigmatizing homelessness — the reality is that these are our neighbors and coworkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">The urgent question is, what works?</p> <p dir="ltr">In the past 20 years, the New York Community Trust has given about $30 million to nonprofits addressing different aspects of the problem. One proven approach is not simply to increase shelters but to create permanent supportive housing for lower-income New Yorkers. That includes on-site services for medical and physical disabilities, HIV-related illnesses, and mental and substance-abuse disorders. This housing should coordinate with nearby groups that provide other basics, including childhood education centers, employment and financial training, health and substance-abuse clinics, open spaces, access to quality food, libraries and cultural venues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Studies show such supportive housing cuts taxpayer costs while helping vulnerable people become productive citizens. In the past, the state and city split the cost of supportive housing as well as stronger protections for existing low-cost housing; we hope they will resume that agreement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, it takes years for new units to come online, and meanwhile nearly 60,000 people subsist in shelters that the city’s Department of Investigation calls dilapidated. We need to test alternate strategies. That’s why the Trust is funding an initiative called Gateway Housing, a coalition of nonprofits that run city shelters. Under Gateway, the nonprofits are committed to working with the city and state to rebuild shelters.</p> <p dir="ltr">More important, they’ll use proven practices and undergo regular evaluations of their social-services programs. Because a strong community is critical to addressing homelessness, Gateway seeks to make shelters integral to neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">We have learned that well-directed money can deliver lasting results. For example, we’ve funded several groups that had success in assisting families deal with rising housing costs — by freezing rents for the elderly and disabled, or by providing emergency aid and financial counseling to low-wage New Yorkers. Many times, a head of family who loses a job or is dealing with a health crisis needs just a few weeks’ aid to avoid eviction.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Trust also funds a promising initiative called Joint-Ownership Entity. Under that model, nonprofit developers — the same organizations that saved the South Bronx, eastern and central Brooklyn, and northern Manhattan from disappearing into rubble in the late seventies — are combining developments into single-ownership entities. This should help them achieve economies of scale in running and maintaining their properties, keep rents down, and generate revenue for services. These nonprofit developers are important neighborhood anchors; if not for the housing they manage at affordable rents, many of the residents would become homeless.</p> <p dir="ltr">We’re not naïve: No one can end homelessness in an expensive city with persistent pockets of poverty. But by finding ways to keep rents affordable in some neighborhoods, supporting those facing temporary financial setbacks, and offering job training, substance-abuse counseling, and other wraparound services, we can buttress thousands of New Yorkers who are trying to provide a stable home to their families.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">Patricia A. Swann is a Senior Program Officer for Community Development at the New York Community Trust. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCommTrust" target="_blank">@NYCommTrust</a>.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;"></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;"><br class="kix-line-break" /></span><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: <a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></span>&nbsp;</p> McCray Set to Unveil ‘Mental Health Roadmap,' Signature De Blasio Plan 2015-09-08T19:06:12+00:00 2015-09-08T19:06:12+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5877:mccray-set-to-unveil-mental-health-roadmap-signature-de-blasio-plan Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18594339593_316dac6faf_z.jpg" alt="McCray roundtable" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Chirlane McCray hosts a mental health roundtable (all photos: the Mayor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)&nbsp;</span></p> <hr /> <p>Over the past several months, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray has had conversations with many of the city’s service providers, non-profit organizations, and long-time advocates for mental health care provision. In preparation to unveil a “roadmap” addressing the “mental health crisis in New York City,” McCray has spoken with a diverse array of constituents who will be directly impacted by new policies.</p> <p dir="ltr">In collaboration with key departments of her husband’s administration, McCray, who is Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, is leading a multi-agency effort to evaluate mental health care provision city-wide, particularly for low-income and at-risk communities, and chart a path forward.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It is long overdue to acknowledge that our inattention to mental illness is a public health crisis that requires a public health solution,” McCray wrote in <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/opinions/mccray-killings-mental-health/" target="_blank">a recent column</a> at CNN.com, in which she discusses mental health care in a national context.</p> <p dir="ltr">Key to the push behind the initiative is the notion that better mental health care can not only help people live healthier, happier, and more productive lives, but that an improved approach to mental health care can help the city’s education, housing, criminal justice, and other systems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Schools, homeless shelters, senior centers, and jails have been highlighted in the city’s new fiscal year 2016 <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/290-15/fact-sheet-developing-more-effective-inclusive-mental-health-system-new-york-city" target="_blank">budget</a> as targets of funding for improved mental health care services. In unveiling her roadmap, McCray is likely to follow up with additional initiatives supporting and tying together these and other sectors, “bringing more resources and better resources to those who need it most,” as she <a href="http://flo.nyc/post/126037063249/nyc-safe-a-new-initiative-a-bold-culture-shift" target="_blank">writes</a>. McCray’s plan is due to be released this fall and is certain to discuss mental health as important to all aspects of life, and city services.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gotham Gazette spoke with service providers and experts in anticipation of the release of McCray’s roadmap and many applauded the work of the First Lady and Mayor de Blasio. There is widespread appreciation for their efforts to prioritize reforming mental health care in New York City - and relief that it is being spoken about so openly and with such urgency.</p> <p dir="ltr">Regarding the roadmap, general suggestions were consistent, with experts and stakeholders saying that it should call for:<br />-Improved and sustained communication among service providers, city government and organizations for mental health care advocacy;<br />-Prioritizing mental health care in all aspects of city government policy;<br />-Reducing stigma of mental illness and promoting larger public education about mental wellness.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last week, de Blasio’s office announced that Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, will spearhead the implementation of the plan “to create a more effective mental health system.” Over the past two years Buery has overseen and coordinated the rollout of de Blasio’s ambitious and initially successful universal pre-Kindergarten program. Dr. Mary Bassett, commissioner of the city Health Department, is also sure to play a key role in implementing any new mental health programming.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Mental illness touches the lives of most New Yorkers,” McCray said in a statement, adding that there has long been two separate health care systems, “one for physical health and one for mental health."</p> <p dir="ltr">“We can – and will – &nbsp;improve access to mental health care in New York City and bring mental health care services where New Yorkers live, work and study," McCray promised.</p> <p dir="ltr">In drawing a “mental health roadmap” to accomplish those lofty goals, it appears that McCray will focus on reducing stigma around mental illness and treatment; conducting a detailed assessment of the current state of service provision city-wide; and, creating a comprehensive and sustainable plan for mental health care for all New Yorkers. Informing the entire plan will be the notion that both governmental and non-governmental service providers of all kinds can contribute to a better, more intertwined mental health care system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Programming efforts will surely be tied with outreach and publicity campaigns pushing New Yorkers to seek treatment and ensuring that people are more aware of both warning signs of mental illness and available services. There will all but certainly be a focus on equity throughout the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods, with a special focus on the poorest New Yorkers and those who do not speak English - aligning with the motivating theme of the de Blasio administration.</p> <p dir="ltr">A few recent announcements regarding mental health care show key elements of the roadmap and give indication of what the larger plan will look like. McCray's map and contracts with service providers should provide indication of how the city will measure the effectiveness of its efforts.</p> <p dir="ltr">On August 6 Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/540-15/mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public-health-program" target="_blank">announced</a> the NYC Safe program, “an evidence-driven public safety and public health program.” NYC Safe, a $22 million program, centralizes oversight of efforts by public health and public safety officials to intervene or prevent violence from people with mental health challenges.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a subset of a much bigger mental health reform plan that you’ll hear about from the First Lady in the fall. This is just the first of many pieces,”<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/542-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public" target="_blank"> said the mayor.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Connections to Care (CTC), a $30 million program launched in a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and private funders, seeks to expand access to mental health care for low-income and at-risk communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Mayor’s Fund announced the program on July 30, having successfully secured a $10 million federal grant, to be administered over the course of five years, from the Social Innovation Fund of the CNCS; an additional $20 million has been matched by the Mayor’s Fund and selected service partners. CTC will expand mental health care access by collaborating with community organizations to integrate mental health services into existing programs, providing training and support for staff.</p> <p dir="ltr">The program will also fund a study to assess the efficacy of service providers and the experiences of those receiving care. In the fall, proposals from service providers will be accepted for review.</p> <p dir="ltr">In May, de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/290-15/fact-sheet-developing-more-effective-inclusive-mental-health-system-new-york-city" target="_blank">announced</a> his fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget, allocating a projected total of $132.7 million for mental health care during fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The City increased funding for mental health care services in the sectors outlined below. The investment is intended to “build a more effective and inclusive mental health system in New York City” and <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/290-15/fact-sheet-developing-more-effective-inclusive-mental-health-system-new-york-city" target="_blank">create a national model.</a> It is sure to form much of the backbone to McCray’s roadmap.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/20464694565_f0fbf3bc52_z.jpg" alt="McCray de Blasio" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Schools</strong><br />According to the Office of School Health, it is estimated that 9% of 6-12 years olds in New York City suffer from anxiety, depression and<a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3E93C086-8D99-483D-971F-2EE43CD6EA6B/0/All_Programs_Brochure_V6.pdf" target="_blank"> other mental health challenges.</a> A survey conducted in 2011 reveals 8.4% of high school students have attempted suicide one or more times. McCray <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/guest-column-shatter-mental-illness-stigma-article-1.2129792" target="_blank">described</a> the need to eliminate stigma around mental illness, citing statistics that 61% of adults and 35% of children in the city are not receiving the services they need.</p> <p dir="ltr">More counselors and outside clinicians at city schools, especially in the "community schools" being opened by the de Blasio administration, are key to the effort of providing better mental health care to students.</p> <p dir="ltr">Maria Astudillo, Director of Mental Health Services at the Children’s Aid Society, asks “what are some of the universal interventions we can do [in schools]?” Given that every year students are required to have physical examinations, Astudillo believes there should be social and emotional screenings for students as well. “We have to be creative, we have to think outside the box,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Jails</strong><br />“What we effectively have seen in this country is that the largest mental health facilities in the country now are jails. And people who are mentally ill end up going through the criminal justice system in ways that are utterly inappropriate and hugely damaging and not at all helpful for community safety,” JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rikers Island jails, recently headlining news due to the deaths of<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/nyregion/gross-incompetence-cited-in-rikers-island-death.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> Bradley Ballard</a>,<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015" target="_blank"> Kalief Browder</a> and others, are under review by the de Blasio administration and outside entities for both immediate and long-term reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Being at Rikers is trauma -- when you’re talking about mental illness, both creation of it and exacerbation of it,” Page added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most recently, the de Blasio administration<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/383-15/health-hospitals-corporation-run-city-correctional-health-service" target="_blank"> announced</a>&nbsp;in June it would not renew the contracts with two contracted for-profit Rikers health care providers, Corizon, Inc. and Damian Family Care Centers, Inc. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) will take over as the primary provider.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have an essential responsibility to provide every individual in our City’s care with high-quality health services – and our inmates are no different,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a June <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/383-15/health-hospitals-corporation-run-city-correctional-health-service" target="_blank">press release</a>. “This transfer to HHC will give our administration direct control and oversight of our inmates’ health services – furthering our goal of improving the quality and continuity of healthcare for every inmate in City custody.”</p> <p dir="ltr">John Boston of the Legal Aid’s Prisoner’s Rights Project <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/383-15/health-hospitals-corporation-run-city-correctional-health-service" target="_blank">noted,</a> “It is especially appropriate to make this change with respect to mental health care, since the City is attempting to improve mental health treatment in the jails,” adding that Corizon had a “track record” of failing to administer appropriate treatment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Often anyone receiving treatment while in jail, juvenile detention centers, or homeless shelters has had “experiences with mental health services that were more about control than treatment,” says Page of The Fortune Society.</p> <p dir="ltr">Furthermore, Page says that policing policies such as adherence to the “broken windows” model leaves “people getting arrested for things like being mentally ill and homeless. So the criminal justice system is stigmatizing people even more.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In December 2014, the de Blasio Administration <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/537-14/de-blasio-administration-launches-130-million-plan-reduce-crime-reduce-number-people-with" target="_blank">launched a $130 million, 4-year plan</a> detailed in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/criminaljustice/downloads/pdf/annual-report-complete.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> by the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System in order to “drive down crime while also reducing the number of people with behavioral health issues needlessly cycling through the criminal justice system.”</p> <p dir="ltr">First Lady McCray <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/537-14/de-blasio-administration-launches-130-million-plan-reduce-crime-reduce-number-people-with" target="_blank">described</a> the criminal justice system as “a maze [New Yorkers with mental health and substance use disorders] can never escape. The City has made a real commitment to addressing the root causes of this urgent problem.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Initiatives outlined in the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/criminaljustice/index.page" target="_blank">Task Force’s Action Plan</a> -- fewer arrests for low-level crimes and, largely, more alternatives for police can use; better community-based treatment for mental illness; and better alternatives for incarceration or detention -- Page believes are a good start to &nbsp;implementing any sustainable change.</p> <p dir="ltr">“People should be in jail as a last resort – not on low bail,” Page says. “Not because nobody knows what to do with them, they should [only] be in jail because they’ve done something serious and there’s no better alternative. We lock up way too many people.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/19214726085_38d3f2aedb_z.jpg" alt="McCray Oddo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="234" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Homelessness</strong><br />The Coalition for the Homeless<a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/" target="_blank"> reports</a> that every night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep in the streets and other public spaces. The large majority of street homeless people live with mental illness or other health problems, according to the Coalition.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many cities have a troubling number of cases in which a person with mental illness is subjected to unnecessary arrest or unnecessary violence,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/540-15/mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public-health-program" target="_blank">NYC Safe,</a> the violence prevention program introduced in August by de Blasio, will partially assist in serving the homeless with “mobile treatment teams” and other resources for immediate care.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though improved access to services and treatment is necessary, Vitale stresses that “ultimately, it is not just mental health outreach workers or a few targeted programs for violent offenders that is needed." To deal with chronic homelessness, to help mentally ill homeless people, “a supportive housing program” is essential, Vitale says. He wrote about such a need in a recent Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5813-the-solution-to-homelessness-is-housing-not-policing" target="_blank">column.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Susan Wiviott, CEO of The Bridge, shares this sentiment. Wiviott believes McCray’s roadmap will revolve around preventative care and access to mental health services in communities, which is needed, but the costlier programs of supportive housing and in-treatment services must be on the agenda as well. “If you really want to help people and change their lives so they’re not living on the street, then there must be some access to a stable place to live.”</p> <p dir="ltr">McCray’s outline could very well advocate for an increase of city funds toward supportive housing and renew de Blasio administration calls for the state government to significantly up its contribution to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5749-proven-homelessness-fighting-program-loses-state-funding-faces-uncertain-future" target="_blank">a new NY/NY supportive housing program</a>, the source of recent controversy.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Seniors</strong><br />Senior adults – 60 years and older – represent the<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/downloads/pdf/demographic/elderly_population_070912.pdf" target="_blank"> fastest growing population</a> in New York City. By 2030, one in five New Yorkers will be a senior adult. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/downloads/pdf/dfta/dfta_aps_sept1314.pdf" target="_blank">estimates</a> that approximately 20% of New Yorkers 55 and older experience mental illness.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has allocated $800,000 in fiscal year 2016, which began July 1, to place clinical social workers in the city’s 20 largest senior centers.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is not quite enough, though, for some service providers. “You have to recognize that a good portion of the people who are older, who will need mental health services, are homebound. There has to be support for those services,” Nancy Harvey, CEO of<a href="http://www.spop.org" target="_blank"> Service Program for Older People</a> (SPOP), told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You can’t just be at senior centers because a lot of the older populations can’t get to senior centers,” Harvey adds. “Forty percent of clients at my agency are homebound, they cannot get out so you have to be able to deliver the services to their homes, there has to be support and recognition for that model, which is more expensive, but certainly less expensive than them ending up in hospitals or nursing homes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Harvey credits the First Lady for “bringing visibility to mental health” in New York City and is hopeful about the attention highlighting the need for greater services and treatment, especially for older adults. Senior centers cannot remain the sole focus, however, because “we need to have a broader view of how we’re going to reach [homebound] people,” she says.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18708146259_1abfa2eb2d_z.jpg" alt="McCray Bassett" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Building a Better Mental Health Care System</strong><br />DOHMH created the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2014/pr013-14.shtml" target="_blank">Center for Health Equity</a> in 2014 under the direction of Commissioner Mary Bassett, hoping to employ a community-based approach toward healthy New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Marlon Williams works at the center as Director of Cross Agency Partnerships at DOHMH. He uses a “health-in-all-policies” (HiAP) approach, focusing on promoting community health in the work of different city agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an interview with <a href="http://urbanomnibus.net/2015/04/putting-health-in-all-policies/" target="_blank">Urban Omnibus</a>, Williams spoke of external factors affecting the health of New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Very few health outcomes actually have to do with your access to healthcare services,” Williams said. “Much of what determines your ability to live to your fullest health potential is about the physical and social context in which you live. Issues of race, discrimination, class, and poverty all have a tremendous impact on health and create specific health inequities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As has been cited in the recent Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the South Bronx, poverty and health care issues often overlap. The new Connections to Care program will soon be looking to contract with community-based organizations where vulnerable populations can be reached and people with symptoms or at risk of mental illness can be identified and helped. These can include people struggling with stable housing, employment, or sobriety; new or expecting parents; and out of work young adults.</p> <p dir="ltr">McCray and her husband’s administration have announced programming so far that reflect the complexities of health, particularly mental health, disparities. McCray’s roadmap is all but certain to follow a HiAP model, including schools, jails, and other places where New Yorkers may access services and evaluating needs based on income, cultural background, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Creating an effective and comprehensive mental health care system will require, Williams believes, that the city government figures out “place-based intervention to address, mitigate, or even prevent [health inequities] — so anyone anywhere in New York City has an opportunity for optimal health.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Essential to the city's efforts will be tracking its programs and the work being done by community organizatins, service providers, and city agencies. With more investment comes more scrutiny and the need to prove the efficacy of devoting resources to new work.</p> <p dir="ltr">In her <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/opinions/mccray-killings-mental-health/" target="_blank">recent op-ed for CNN</a>, McCray extended a call for action to other local and national leaders, urging them to commit the time and resources to implement needed mental health care services.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Stigma, a lack of resources and the marginalization of mental health for decades have left us a fragmented and broken system that must be fixed. Too many people's lives are at stake, in New York City and beyond.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Kaela Sanborn-Hum, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18594339593_316dac6faf_z.jpg" alt="McCray roundtable" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Chirlane McCray hosts a mental health roundtable (all photos: the Mayor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)&nbsp;</span></p> <hr /> <p>Over the past several months, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray has had conversations with many of the city’s service providers, non-profit organizations, and long-time advocates for mental health care provision. In preparation to unveil a “roadmap” addressing the “mental health crisis in New York City,” McCray has spoken with a diverse array of constituents who will be directly impacted by new policies.</p> <p dir="ltr">In collaboration with key departments of her husband’s administration, McCray, who is Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, is leading a multi-agency effort to evaluate mental health care provision city-wide, particularly for low-income and at-risk communities, and chart a path forward.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It is long overdue to acknowledge that our inattention to mental illness is a public health crisis that requires a public health solution,” McCray wrote in <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/opinions/mccray-killings-mental-health/" target="_blank">a recent column</a> at CNN.com, in which she discusses mental health care in a national context.</p> <p dir="ltr">Key to the push behind the initiative is the notion that better mental health care can not only help people live healthier, happier, and more productive lives, but that an improved approach to mental health care can help the city’s education, housing, criminal justice, and other systems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Schools, homeless shelters, senior centers, and jails have been highlighted in the city’s new fiscal year 2016 <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/290-15/fact-sheet-developing-more-effective-inclusive-mental-health-system-new-york-city" target="_blank">budget</a> as targets of funding for improved mental health care services. In unveiling her roadmap, McCray is likely to follow up with additional initiatives supporting and tying together these and other sectors, “bringing more resources and better resources to those who need it most,” as she <a href="http://flo.nyc/post/126037063249/nyc-safe-a-new-initiative-a-bold-culture-shift" target="_blank">writes</a>. McCray’s plan is due to be released this fall and is certain to discuss mental health as important to all aspects of life, and city services.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gotham Gazette spoke with service providers and experts in anticipation of the release of McCray’s roadmap and many applauded the work of the First Lady and Mayor de Blasio. There is widespread appreciation for their efforts to prioritize reforming mental health care in New York City - and relief that it is being spoken about so openly and with such urgency.</p> <p dir="ltr">Regarding the roadmap, general suggestions were consistent, with experts and stakeholders saying that it should call for:<br />-Improved and sustained communication among service providers, city government and organizations for mental health care advocacy;<br />-Prioritizing mental health care in all aspects of city government policy;<br />-Reducing stigma of mental illness and promoting larger public education about mental wellness.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last week, de Blasio’s office announced that Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, will spearhead the implementation of the plan “to create a more effective mental health system.” Over the past two years Buery has overseen and coordinated the rollout of de Blasio’s ambitious and initially successful universal pre-Kindergarten program. Dr. Mary Bassett, commissioner of the city Health Department, is also sure to play a key role in implementing any new mental health programming.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Mental illness touches the lives of most New Yorkers,” McCray said in a statement, adding that there has long been two separate health care systems, “one for physical health and one for mental health."</p> <p dir="ltr">“We can – and will – &nbsp;improve access to mental health care in New York City and bring mental health care services where New Yorkers live, work and study," McCray promised.</p> <p dir="ltr">In drawing a “mental health roadmap” to accomplish those lofty goals, it appears that McCray will focus on reducing stigma around mental illness and treatment; conducting a detailed assessment of the current state of service provision city-wide; and, creating a comprehensive and sustainable plan for mental health care for all New Yorkers. Informing the entire plan will be the notion that both governmental and non-governmental service providers of all kinds can contribute to a better, more intertwined mental health care system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Programming efforts will surely be tied with outreach and publicity campaigns pushing New Yorkers to seek treatment and ensuring that people are more aware of both warning signs of mental illness and available services. There will all but certainly be a focus on equity throughout the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods, with a special focus on the poorest New Yorkers and those who do not speak English - aligning with the motivating theme of the de Blasio administration.</p> <p dir="ltr">A few recent announcements regarding mental health care show key elements of the roadmap and give indication of what the larger plan will look like. McCray's map and contracts with service providers should provide indication of how the city will measure the effectiveness of its efforts.</p> <p dir="ltr">On August 6 Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/540-15/mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public-health-program" target="_blank">announced</a> the NYC Safe program, “an evidence-driven public safety and public health program.” NYC Safe, a $22 million program, centralizes oversight of efforts by public health and public safety officials to intervene or prevent violence from people with mental health challenges.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a subset of a much bigger mental health reform plan that you’ll hear about from the First Lady in the fall. This is just the first of many pieces,”<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/542-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public" target="_blank"> said the mayor.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Connections to Care (CTC), a $30 million program launched in a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and private funders, seeks to expand access to mental health care for low-income and at-risk communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Mayor’s Fund announced the program on July 30, having successfully secured a $10 million federal grant, to be administered over the course of five years, from the Social Innovation Fund of the CNCS; an additional $20 million has been matched by the Mayor’s Fund and selected service partners. CTC will expand mental health care access by collaborating with community organizations to integrate mental health services into existing programs, providing training and support for staff.</p> <p dir="ltr">The program will also fund a study to assess the efficacy of service providers and the experiences of those receiving care. In the fall, proposals from service providers will be accepted for review.</p> <p dir="ltr">In May, de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/290-15/fact-sheet-developing-more-effective-inclusive-mental-health-system-new-york-city" target="_blank">announced</a> his fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget, allocating a projected total of $132.7 million for mental health care during fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The City increased funding for mental health care services in the sectors outlined below. The investment is intended to “build a more effective and inclusive mental health system in New York City” and <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/290-15/fact-sheet-developing-more-effective-inclusive-mental-health-system-new-york-city" target="_blank">create a national model.</a> It is sure to form much of the backbone to McCray’s roadmap.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/20464694565_f0fbf3bc52_z.jpg" alt="McCray de Blasio" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Schools</strong><br />According to the Office of School Health, it is estimated that 9% of 6-12 years olds in New York City suffer from anxiety, depression and<a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3E93C086-8D99-483D-971F-2EE43CD6EA6B/0/All_Programs_Brochure_V6.pdf" target="_blank"> other mental health challenges.</a> A survey conducted in 2011 reveals 8.4% of high school students have attempted suicide one or more times. McCray <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/guest-column-shatter-mental-illness-stigma-article-1.2129792" target="_blank">described</a> the need to eliminate stigma around mental illness, citing statistics that 61% of adults and 35% of children in the city are not receiving the services they need.</p> <p dir="ltr">More counselors and outside clinicians at city schools, especially in the "community schools" being opened by the de Blasio administration, are key to the effort of providing better mental health care to students.</p> <p dir="ltr">Maria Astudillo, Director of Mental Health Services at the Children’s Aid Society, asks “what are some of the universal interventions we can do [in schools]?” Given that every year students are required to have physical examinations, Astudillo believes there should be social and emotional screenings for students as well. “We have to be creative, we have to think outside the box,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Jails</strong><br />“What we effectively have seen in this country is that the largest mental health facilities in the country now are jails. And people who are mentally ill end up going through the criminal justice system in ways that are utterly inappropriate and hugely damaging and not at all helpful for community safety,” JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rikers Island jails, recently headlining news due to the deaths of<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/nyregion/gross-incompetence-cited-in-rikers-island-death.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> Bradley Ballard</a>,<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015" target="_blank"> Kalief Browder</a> and others, are under review by the de Blasio administration and outside entities for both immediate and long-term reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Being at Rikers is trauma -- when you’re talking about mental illness, both creation of it and exacerbation of it,” Page added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most recently, the de Blasio administration<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/383-15/health-hospitals-corporation-run-city-correctional-health-service" target="_blank"> announced</a>&nbsp;in June it would not renew the contracts with two contracted for-profit Rikers health care providers, Corizon, Inc. and Damian Family Care Centers, Inc. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) will take over as the primary provider.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have an essential responsibility to provide every individual in our City’s care with high-quality health services – and our inmates are no different,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a June <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/383-15/health-hospitals-corporation-run-city-correctional-health-service" target="_blank">press release</a>. “This transfer to HHC will give our administration direct control and oversight of our inmates’ health services – furthering our goal of improving the quality and continuity of healthcare for every inmate in City custody.”</p> <p dir="ltr">John Boston of the Legal Aid’s Prisoner’s Rights Project <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/383-15/health-hospitals-corporation-run-city-correctional-health-service" target="_blank">noted,</a> “It is especially appropriate to make this change with respect to mental health care, since the City is attempting to improve mental health treatment in the jails,” adding that Corizon had a “track record” of failing to administer appropriate treatment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Often anyone receiving treatment while in jail, juvenile detention centers, or homeless shelters has had “experiences with mental health services that were more about control than treatment,” says Page of The Fortune Society.</p> <p dir="ltr">Furthermore, Page says that policing policies such as adherence to the “broken windows” model leaves “people getting arrested for things like being mentally ill and homeless. So the criminal justice system is stigmatizing people even more.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In December 2014, the de Blasio Administration <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/537-14/de-blasio-administration-launches-130-million-plan-reduce-crime-reduce-number-people-with" target="_blank">launched a $130 million, 4-year plan</a> detailed in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/criminaljustice/downloads/pdf/annual-report-complete.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> by the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System in order to “drive down crime while also reducing the number of people with behavioral health issues needlessly cycling through the criminal justice system.”</p> <p dir="ltr">First Lady McCray <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/537-14/de-blasio-administration-launches-130-million-plan-reduce-crime-reduce-number-people-with" target="_blank">described</a> the criminal justice system as “a maze [New Yorkers with mental health and substance use disorders] can never escape. The City has made a real commitment to addressing the root causes of this urgent problem.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Initiatives outlined in the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/criminaljustice/index.page" target="_blank">Task Force’s Action Plan</a> -- fewer arrests for low-level crimes and, largely, more alternatives for police can use; better community-based treatment for mental illness; and better alternatives for incarceration or detention -- Page believes are a good start to &nbsp;implementing any sustainable change.</p> <p dir="ltr">“People should be in jail as a last resort – not on low bail,” Page says. “Not because nobody knows what to do with them, they should [only] be in jail because they’ve done something serious and there’s no better alternative. We lock up way too many people.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/19214726085_38d3f2aedb_z.jpg" alt="McCray Oddo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="234" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Homelessness</strong><br />The Coalition for the Homeless<a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/" target="_blank"> reports</a> that every night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep in the streets and other public spaces. The large majority of street homeless people live with mental illness or other health problems, according to the Coalition.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many cities have a troubling number of cases in which a person with mental illness is subjected to unnecessary arrest or unnecessary violence,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/540-15/mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public-health-program" target="_blank">NYC Safe,</a> the violence prevention program introduced in August by de Blasio, will partially assist in serving the homeless with “mobile treatment teams” and other resources for immediate care.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though improved access to services and treatment is necessary, Vitale stresses that “ultimately, it is not just mental health outreach workers or a few targeted programs for violent offenders that is needed." To deal with chronic homelessness, to help mentally ill homeless people, “a supportive housing program” is essential, Vitale says. He wrote about such a need in a recent Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5813-the-solution-to-homelessness-is-housing-not-policing" target="_blank">column.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Susan Wiviott, CEO of The Bridge, shares this sentiment. Wiviott believes McCray’s roadmap will revolve around preventative care and access to mental health services in communities, which is needed, but the costlier programs of supportive housing and in-treatment services must be on the agenda as well. “If you really want to help people and change their lives so they’re not living on the street, then there must be some access to a stable place to live.”</p> <p dir="ltr">McCray’s outline could very well advocate for an increase of city funds toward supportive housing and renew de Blasio administration calls for the state government to significantly up its contribution to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5749-proven-homelessness-fighting-program-loses-state-funding-faces-uncertain-future" target="_blank">a new NY/NY supportive housing program</a>, the source of recent controversy.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Seniors</strong><br />Senior adults – 60 years and older – represent the<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/downloads/pdf/demographic/elderly_population_070912.pdf" target="_blank"> fastest growing population</a> in New York City. By 2030, one in five New Yorkers will be a senior adult. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/downloads/pdf/dfta/dfta_aps_sept1314.pdf" target="_blank">estimates</a> that approximately 20% of New Yorkers 55 and older experience mental illness.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has allocated $800,000 in fiscal year 2016, which began July 1, to place clinical social workers in the city’s 20 largest senior centers.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is not quite enough, though, for some service providers. “You have to recognize that a good portion of the people who are older, who will need mental health services, are homebound. There has to be support for those services,” Nancy Harvey, CEO of<a href="http://www.spop.org" target="_blank"> Service Program for Older People</a> (SPOP), told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You can’t just be at senior centers because a lot of the older populations can’t get to senior centers,” Harvey adds. “Forty percent of clients at my agency are homebound, they cannot get out so you have to be able to deliver the services to their homes, there has to be support and recognition for that model, which is more expensive, but certainly less expensive than them ending up in hospitals or nursing homes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Harvey credits the First Lady for “bringing visibility to mental health” in New York City and is hopeful about the attention highlighting the need for greater services and treatment, especially for older adults. Senior centers cannot remain the sole focus, however, because “we need to have a broader view of how we’re going to reach [homebound] people,” she says.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18708146259_1abfa2eb2d_z.jpg" alt="McCray Bassett" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Building a Better Mental Health Care System</strong><br />DOHMH created the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2014/pr013-14.shtml" target="_blank">Center for Health Equity</a> in 2014 under the direction of Commissioner Mary Bassett, hoping to employ a community-based approach toward healthy New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Marlon Williams works at the center as Director of Cross Agency Partnerships at DOHMH. He uses a “health-in-all-policies” (HiAP) approach, focusing on promoting community health in the work of different city agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an interview with <a href="http://urbanomnibus.net/2015/04/putting-health-in-all-policies/" target="_blank">Urban Omnibus</a>, Williams spoke of external factors affecting the health of New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Very few health outcomes actually have to do with your access to healthcare services,” Williams said. “Much of what determines your ability to live to your fullest health potential is about the physical and social context in which you live. Issues of race, discrimination, class, and poverty all have a tremendous impact on health and create specific health inequities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As has been cited in the recent Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the South Bronx, poverty and health care issues often overlap. The new Connections to Care program will soon be looking to contract with community-based organizations where vulnerable populations can be reached and people with symptoms or at risk of mental illness can be identified and helped. These can include people struggling with stable housing, employment, or sobriety; new or expecting parents; and out of work young adults.</p> <p dir="ltr">McCray and her husband’s administration have announced programming so far that reflect the complexities of health, particularly mental health, disparities. McCray’s roadmap is all but certain to follow a HiAP model, including schools, jails, and other places where New Yorkers may access services and evaluating needs based on income, cultural background, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Creating an effective and comprehensive mental health care system will require, Williams believes, that the city government figures out “place-based intervention to address, mitigate, or even prevent [health inequities] — so anyone anywhere in New York City has an opportunity for optimal health.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Essential to the city's efforts will be tracking its programs and the work being done by community organizatins, service providers, and city agencies. With more investment comes more scrutiny and the need to prove the efficacy of devoting resources to new work.</p> <p dir="ltr">In her <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/opinions/mccray-killings-mental-health/" target="_blank">recent op-ed for CNN</a>, McCray extended a call for action to other local and national leaders, urging them to commit the time and resources to implement needed mental health care services.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Stigma, a lack of resources and the marginalization of mental health for decades have left us a fragmented and broken system that must be fixed. Too many people's lives are at stake, in New York City and beyond.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Kaela Sanborn-Hum, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> The Week That Was in New York Politics, August 3-7 2015-08-07T18:27:06+00:00 2015-08-07T18:27:06+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5842:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-august-3-7 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday August 7</p> <p><strong>PHOTOS OF THE WEEK:</strong>&nbsp;Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and others carry a symbolic casket as part of an anti-violence campaign, <a href="https://twitter.com/RossBarkan/status/628224262273417216" target="_blank">via Ross Barkan</a>; Mayor Bill de Blasio and comedian Louis C.K., who was shadowing the mayor for two days, outside City Hall, also <a href="https://twitter.com/RossBarkan/status/628689967112433665/photo/1" target="_blank">via Ross Barkan</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/adams_casket_barkan.jpg" alt="adams casket barkan" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="197" width="350" /></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BdB_Louis_CK_Barkan.jpg" alt="BdB Louis CK Barkan" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="197" width="350" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Schneiderman Special Prosecutor Case:</strong> Earlier this week Attorney General Eric Schneiderman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/attorney-general-schneiderman-to-investigate-death-of-woman-found-in-new-york-holding-cell.html?_r=0" target="_blank">announced</a> that his first case as special prosecutor in police involved deaths of unarmed civilians would investigate the circumstances surrounding Raynette Turner’s death. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5837-executive-order-shifts-cuomo-schneiderman-dynamic" target="_blank">our in-depth look at how the new executive order shifts the relationship between oft-rivals Gov. Cuomo &amp; AG Schneiderman</a>]</p> <p><strong>2. Academic Integrity Task Force:</strong> After new allegations of issues with academic integrity at certain schools, NYC DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/exclusive-task-force-probe-cheating-nyc-schools-article-1.2313553" target="_blank">is establishing</a> a permanent task force that provides oversight and training to ensure all schools comply with “rigorous policies and standards.”</p> <p><strong>3. Legionnaires’ Outbreak:</strong> On Friday, the numbers stood at just over 100 people infected, with ten dead in the most recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, this one in the Bronx. New York City buildings with water-cooling towers have to “assess and disinfect the units within the next two weeks,” under Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/nyregion/new-york-ordering-tests-of-water-cooling-towers-amid-legionnaires-outbreak.html" target="_blank">new directive</a>. On Thursday Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/543-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-gives-legionnaires-at-press-conference-announce-nyc-safe-" target="_blank">said</a> that there would be “substantial action next week, legislatively.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. De Blasio Mental Health/Public Safety Initiative:</strong> On Thursday Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/542-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public" target="_blank">announced</a> “NYC Safe,” a $22 million initiative, designed to find and help people with severe mental health issues and violent tendencies. The initiative will combine clinical treatment and law enforcement to intervene before or after violence occurs. The plan is part of a larger “mental health roadmap” that First Lady Chirlane McCray will unveil in September.</p> <p><strong>5. UFA Contract Agreement:</strong> On Thursday the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which covers 8,000 firefighters and FDNY personnel, and the City <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/541-15/mayor-de-blasio-tentative-contract-agreement-uniformed-firefighters-association-" target="_blank">announced </a>they had reached a tentative contract agreement. The deal includes new disability legislation, a key point of contention in negotiations. According to the administration, 83 percent of the city workforce is now under contract, after the number was zero when de Blasio took office.</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>75-ish</strong> New York City bodegas have closed in the past year with rent as their biggest expense, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/bodegas-declining-in-manhattan-as-rents-rise-and-chains-grow.html" target="_blank">according to</a> the New York Times. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy" target="_blank">our in-depth look at commercial rent policy in New York City</a>]</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>$7 million</strong> of campaign funds has been spent on legal fees by New York’s elected officials since 2005, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/nyregion/new-york-state-lawmakers-spend-millions-in-campaign-funds-on-legal-fees.html?_r=0" target="_blank">according to</a> the New York Times.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>$14 million</strong> has been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/queens-borough-president-to-provide-14-million-for-queens-library.html?ref=nyregion" target="_blank">allocated</a> to the Queens Library by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who had withheld the funds after an investigation into the Queens Library’s former President. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5828-queens-library-scandal-spurs-nonprofit-oversight-bill" target="_blank">our in-depth look at a new City Council bill aimed at reducing corruption in non-profits that receive city funding</a>]</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week for</strong>&nbsp;firefighters, who <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/541-15/mayor-de-blasio-tentative-contract-agreement-uniformed-firefighters-association-" target="_blank">agreed to</a> a new contract with the city that will see pay rise by 11 percent over seven years, including retroactivity. There is also good news for the 8,000 or so members of the UFA in terms of engine company staffing and disability pension.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> Mayor de Blasio - according to <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2266" target="_blank">a new Quinnipiac poll</a>, his approval rating among NYC voters is at 44%, “the worst net approval rating of his tenure.”<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-approval-ratings-hit-a-low-point.html"></a></p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE FLASH: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>About 125 years ago</strong>, on August 6, 1890, in New York, William Kemmler <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-execution-by-electric-chair" target="_blank">became</a> the first person to be executed by electrocution. The alternative method would have been a hanging. Kemmler was shocked twice, the second time at 1,030 volts for two minutes, before he died.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>About this time last year</strong>, August 7, 2014, Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/393-14/mayor-bill-de-blasio-signs-two-transparency-bills-law-public-private-partnership-to#/0" target="_blank">announced</a> a public-private partnership that would allow the City to “unlock and analyze municipal decision-making information” from <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/about/cityrecord_editions.shtml" target="_blank">the City Record</a>&nbsp;and publish the record online while signing new legislation into law. The City Record has daily info from the city on government procurement, public hearings, and hiring, among other topics.</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5835-18-months-of-nycha-scrutiny-reform-and-conflict-de-blasio" target="_blank">18 Months of NYCHA Scrutiny, Reform and Conflict</a>, by Zehra Rehman</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5836-republicans-face-moment-of-truth-after-conviction-of-senate-deputy-leader" target="_blank">Republicans Face Moment of Truth After Conviction of Senate Deputy Leader</a>, by David Howard King</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5838-another-way-of-looking-at-infill-housing-development" target="_blank">Another Way of Looking at Infill Housing Development</a>, by Brit Byrd</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5837-executive-order-shifts-cuomo-schneiderman-dynamic" target="_blank">Executive Order Shifts Cuomo-Schneiderman Dynamic</a>, by David Howard King</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5841-no-fly-zone-council-members-push-helicopter-drone-regulations" target="_blank">No Fly Zone: Council Members Push Helicopter, Drone Regulations</a>, by Catie Edmondson</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:<br /></strong>All from a big Thursday evening:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">New York Senator Chuck Schumer <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/us/politics/opposing-iran-nuclear-deal-chuck-schumer-rattles-democratic-firewall.html" target="_blank">announced</a> he is voting against President Obama’s Iran deal.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">The first Republican presidential primary debate <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/us/politics/rivals-jab-at-donald-trump-as-gop-debate-becomes-testy.html?ref=politics" target="_blank">was held</a> Thursday evening.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">Jon Stewart <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/television/jon-stewart-signs-off-from-daily-show-with-wit-and-sincerity.html" target="_blank">signed off</a> as host of The Daily Show after 16 years. Watch his final episode <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/full-episodes/pjkw01/august-6--2015---jon-stewart-s-final-episode" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> </li> </ul> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Erika Wang and Ben Max</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday August 7</p> <p><strong>PHOTOS OF THE WEEK:</strong>&nbsp;Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and others carry a symbolic casket as part of an anti-violence campaign, <a href="https://twitter.com/RossBarkan/status/628224262273417216" target="_blank">via Ross Barkan</a>; Mayor Bill de Blasio and comedian Louis C.K., who was shadowing the mayor for two days, outside City Hall, also <a href="https://twitter.com/RossBarkan/status/628689967112433665/photo/1" target="_blank">via Ross Barkan</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/adams_casket_barkan.jpg" alt="adams casket barkan" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="197" width="350" /></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BdB_Louis_CK_Barkan.jpg" alt="BdB Louis CK Barkan" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="197" width="350" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Schneiderman Special Prosecutor Case:</strong> Earlier this week Attorney General Eric Schneiderman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/attorney-general-schneiderman-to-investigate-death-of-woman-found-in-new-york-holding-cell.html?_r=0" target="_blank">announced</a> that his first case as special prosecutor in police involved deaths of unarmed civilians would investigate the circumstances surrounding Raynette Turner’s death. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5837-executive-order-shifts-cuomo-schneiderman-dynamic" target="_blank">our in-depth look at how the new executive order shifts the relationship between oft-rivals Gov. Cuomo &amp; AG Schneiderman</a>]</p> <p><strong>2. Academic Integrity Task Force:</strong> After new allegations of issues with academic integrity at certain schools, NYC DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/exclusive-task-force-probe-cheating-nyc-schools-article-1.2313553" target="_blank">is establishing</a> a permanent task force that provides oversight and training to ensure all schools comply with “rigorous policies and standards.”</p> <p><strong>3. Legionnaires’ Outbreak:</strong> On Friday, the numbers stood at just over 100 people infected, with ten dead in the most recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, this one in the Bronx. New York City buildings with water-cooling towers have to “assess and disinfect the units within the next two weeks,” under Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/nyregion/new-york-ordering-tests-of-water-cooling-towers-amid-legionnaires-outbreak.html" target="_blank">new directive</a>. On Thursday Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/543-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-gives-legionnaires-at-press-conference-announce-nyc-safe-" target="_blank">said</a> that there would be “substantial action next week, legislatively.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. De Blasio Mental Health/Public Safety Initiative:</strong> On Thursday Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/542-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nyc-safe-evidence-driven-public-safety-public" target="_blank">announced</a> “NYC Safe,” a $22 million initiative, designed to find and help people with severe mental health issues and violent tendencies. The initiative will combine clinical treatment and law enforcement to intervene before or after violence occurs. The plan is part of a larger “mental health roadmap” that First Lady Chirlane McCray will unveil in September.</p> <p><strong>5. UFA Contract Agreement:</strong> On Thursday the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which covers 8,000 firefighters and FDNY personnel, and the City <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/541-15/mayor-de-blasio-tentative-contract-agreement-uniformed-firefighters-association-" target="_blank">announced </a>they had reached a tentative contract agreement. The deal includes new disability legislation, a key point of contention in negotiations. According to the administration, 83 percent of the city workforce is now under contract, after the number was zero when de Blasio took office.</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>75-ish</strong> New York City bodegas have closed in the past year with rent as their biggest expense, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/bodegas-declining-in-manhattan-as-rents-rise-and-chains-grow.html" target="_blank">according to</a> the New York Times. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy" target="_blank">our in-depth look at commercial rent policy in New York City</a>]</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>$7 million</strong> of campaign funds has been spent on legal fees by New York’s elected officials since 2005, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/nyregion/new-york-state-lawmakers-spend-millions-in-campaign-funds-on-legal-fees.html?_r=0" target="_blank">according to</a> the New York Times.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>$14 million</strong> has been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/queens-borough-president-to-provide-14-million-for-queens-library.html?ref=nyregion" target="_blank">allocated</a> to the Queens Library by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who had withheld the funds after an investigation into the Queens Library’s former President. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5828-queens-library-scandal-spurs-nonprofit-oversight-bill" target="_blank">our in-depth look at a new City Council bill aimed at reducing corruption in non-profits that receive city funding</a>]</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week for</strong>&nbsp;firefighters, who <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/541-15/mayor-de-blasio-tentative-contract-agreement-uniformed-firefighters-association-" target="_blank">agreed to</a> a new contract with the city that will see pay rise by 11 percent over seven years, including retroactivity. There is also good news for the 8,000 or so members of the UFA in terms of engine company staffing and disability pension.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> Mayor de Blasio - according to <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2266" target="_blank">a new Quinnipiac poll</a>, his approval rating among NYC voters is at 44%, “the worst net approval rating of his tenure.”<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-approval-ratings-hit-a-low-point.html"></a></p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE FLASH: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>About 125 years ago</strong>, on August 6, 1890, in New York, William Kemmler <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-execution-by-electric-chair" target="_blank">became</a> the first person to be executed by electrocution. The alternative method would have been a hanging. Kemmler was shocked twice, the second time at 1,030 volts for two minutes, before he died.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>About this time last year</strong>, August 7, 2014, Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/393-14/mayor-bill-de-blasio-signs-two-transparency-bills-law-public-private-partnership-to#/0" target="_blank">announced</a> a public-private partnership that would allow the City to “unlock and analyze municipal decision-making information” from <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/about/cityrecord_editions.shtml" target="_blank">the City Record</a>&nbsp;and publish the record online while signing new legislation into law. The City Record has daily info from the city on government procurement, public hearings, and hiring, among other topics.</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5835-18-months-of-nycha-scrutiny-reform-and-conflict-de-blasio" target="_blank">18 Months of NYCHA Scrutiny, Reform and Conflict</a>, by Zehra Rehman</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5836-republicans-face-moment-of-truth-after-conviction-of-senate-deputy-leader" target="_blank">Republicans Face Moment of Truth After Conviction of Senate Deputy Leader</a>, by David Howard King</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5838-another-way-of-looking-at-infill-housing-development" target="_blank">Another Way of Looking at Infill Housing Development</a>, by Brit Byrd</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5837-executive-order-shifts-cuomo-schneiderman-dynamic" target="_blank">Executive Order Shifts Cuomo-Schneiderman Dynamic</a>, by David Howard King</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5841-no-fly-zone-council-members-push-helicopter-drone-regulations" target="_blank">No Fly Zone: Council Members Push Helicopter, Drone Regulations</a>, by Catie Edmondson</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:<br /></strong>All from a big Thursday evening:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">New York Senator Chuck Schumer <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/us/politics/opposing-iran-nuclear-deal-chuck-schumer-rattles-democratic-firewall.html" target="_blank">announced</a> he is voting against President Obama’s Iran deal.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">The first Republican presidential primary debate <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/us/politics/rivals-jab-at-donald-trump-as-gop-debate-becomes-testy.html?ref=politics" target="_blank">was held</a> Thursday evening.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">Jon Stewart <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/television/jon-stewart-signs-off-from-daily-show-with-wit-and-sincerity.html" target="_blank">signed off</a> as host of The Daily Show after 16 years. Watch his final episode <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/full-episodes/pjkw01/august-6--2015---jon-stewart-s-final-episode" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> </li> </ul> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Erika Wang and Ben Max</p> The Week That Was in New York Politics, July 27-31 2015-07-31T16:13:07+00:00 2015-07-31T16:13:07+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5832:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-july-27-31 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday July 31</p> <p><strong>PHOTO OF THE WEEK:</strong>&nbsp;rendering of the next LaGaurdia Airport,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>via the Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/sets/72157654099192464/with/19874039418/" target="_blank">on flickr</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19874039418_d7e20a9bbb_z.jpg" alt="La Guardia rendering" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="253" width="450" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p><strong>1. New LaGuardia:</strong> Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/nyregion/la-guardia-airport-to-be-rebuilt-by-2021-cuomo-and-biden-say.html" target="_blank">announced</a> that LaGuardia Airport will be overhauled by 2021, with an estimated first-phase cost of about $4 billion. Experts say the project <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=cnyb-dailyalert&amp;utm_campaign=cnyb-dailyalert-20150728" target="_blank">could take</a> more than 10 years to build and cost about $8 billion. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. MTA Budget Battle:</strong> MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast sent <a href="http://nypost.com/2015/07/28/mta-chief-demands-3-2b-in-letter-to-de-blasio" target="_blank">an open letter</a> to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, pushing for the city to add $3.2 billion over five years to the capital budget for MTA funding. Governor Cuomo has said he’s agreed to add more than $8 billion to the state budget plan towarding closing the MTA budget gap, and the governor has repeatedly pointed out that the city benefits the most from MTA services; while a spokesperson for the mayor <a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/cuomo-and-de-blasio-spar-on-mta-funding/article_b9adf087-8f9a-5406-af87-c7bf64c070b3.html" target="_blank">said that </a>“New York City, through taxes, tolls and fares already contributes over 70 percent of the MTA’s operating budget.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. JCOPE Controversy:</strong>&nbsp;Four of the 14 commissioners from the Joint Committee on Public Ethics wrote <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/Letter-Ethics-panel-hire-a-questionable-move-6408151.php" target="_blank">an open letter</a> on the questionable hiring of “special counsel,” a position excluded from the original JCOPE staffing plan, but created previously and now being again filled, this time with Kevin Gagan, who will be chief of staff and counsel, by the outgoing executive director, Letizia Tagliafierro,&nbsp;at the behest of the governor, whom she is leaving to work for. Gagan <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/238993/four-jcope-commissioners-hiring-of-state-police-official-plainly-invalid/" target="_blank">has worked with the governor</a> in multiple positions previously, part of a lengthy public sector resume, and the commissioners are calling this an example of “incessant interference.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. City Mental Health Plans:</strong> First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/527-15/mayor-s-fund-advance-new-york-city-corporation-national-community-service-announce" target="_blank">announced</a> a $30 million public-private partnership to support the new Connections to Care program, which will “integrate mental health services into programs already serving low-income communities.” It will be part of a larger mental health roadmap McCray is preparing, which will be unveiled in September.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Flanagan Names DeFrancisco Senate #2:</strong> New Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Republican from Long Island, named Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco (who had a friendly battle with Flanagan for the top post when indicted Sen. Dean Skelos stepped down) as Deputy Majority Leader - a seat also vacated due to corruption, this one when former Sen. Tom Libous was convicted on charges of lying to the FBI.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>400,000</strong> New Yorkers <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/518-15/six-months-after-launch-mayor-de-blasio-speaker-mark-viverito-over-400-000-new" target="_blank">now have</a> an IDNYC six months after the program began, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>31</strong> cases of Legionnaires disease have been <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/legionnaires-disease-outbreak-hits-south-bronx-1438186536" target="_blank">diagnosed</a> in the South Bronx since July 10 through July 29. New York City health officials are tracking the unusual increase, but say that there is no cause to panic.</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week for</strong> Governor Cuomo, who not only unveiled plans for a new La Guardia Airport, but was lauded by Vice President Joe Biden in multiple appearances Monday - Biden called Cuomo, “about the best governor in the United States.”</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> New York Canna, Inc, <a href="https://twitter.com/J__Velasquez/status/627174665392422912" target="_blank">the sixth-placing</a> company in the competition for medical marijuana licences in New York. Five winners were <a href="http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2015/07/31/heres-the-scoring-of-the-medical-marijuana-applicants/" target="_blank">announced Friday</a> by the State Department of Health and will be allowed to dispense medicinal marijuana. Canna just barely missed out - the scoring revealed it was just .15 points behind the fifth-place company.</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE FLASH: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Last year</strong>, on July 28, 2014, Governor Cuomo <a href="http://observer.com/2014/07/cuomo-defends-phenomenal-success-and-independence-of-moreland-commission/" target="_blank">called the</a> Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (created by Governor Cuomo in July 2013 and shuttered less than a year later) a “phenomenal success,” following a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/nyregion/governor-andrew-cuomo-and-the-short-life-of-the-moreland-commission.html" target="_blank">report</a> into the relationship between the governor’s office and Moreland amid reports that Cuomo was being investigated by United States Attorney Preet Bharara for interfering with the commission’s work.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>29 years ago</strong>, on July 30, 1986, Mayor Ed Koch, city, state and federal law enforcement held a press conference at City Hall and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1986/07/31/nyregion/officials-join-koch-to-press-new-attack-on-drug-abuse.html" target="_blank">called for</a> “more state judges, more Federal judges, more prosecutors, more courtroom space and the deportation of all illegal aliens convicted of narcotics offenses.”</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5829-despite-unprecedented-scandal-calls-for-special-ethics-session-fall-on-deaf-ears" target="_blank">Despite Unprecedented Scandal, Calls for Special Ethics Session Fall on Deaf Ears</a>, by David Howard King</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5828-queens-library-scandal-spurs-nonprofit-oversight-bill" target="_blank">Queens Library Scandal Spurs Nonprofit Oversight Bill</a>, by Catie Edmondson</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5831-many-voting-opportunities-for-new-yorkers-in-2015-and-2016" target="_blank">Many Voting Opportunities for New Yorkers in 2015 and 2016</a>, by Zehra Rehman</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5830-citys-veterans-community-meets-to-assess-policy-build-cohesion" target="_blank">City's Veterans Community Meets to Assess Policy, Build Cohesion</a>, by Catie Edmondson</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">WNYC’s The Takeaway <a href="http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/reconsidering-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">tackles</a> the economic effects of raising the minimum wage after a New York State Wage Board unanimously finalized their recommendation to gradually raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr">City Comptroller Scott Stringer released his office's <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-scott-m-stringer-releases-analysis-of-new-york-citys-fiscal-year-2016-adopted-budget/" target="_blank">analysis</a> of the city's new fiscal year 2016 adopted budget.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/07/8572882/meetings-fari%C3%B1a-pushes-and-bolsters-superintendents-reforms" target="_blank">goes inside</a> a meeting of New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and a Bronx superintendent.</li> </ul> <p>***<br /><em>NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Erika Wang and Ben Max</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with more detail about the JCOPE storyline, noting that the counsel position had been filled previously and adding other information.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday July 31</p> <p><strong>PHOTO OF THE WEEK:</strong>&nbsp;rendering of the next LaGaurdia Airport,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>via the Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/sets/72157654099192464/with/19874039418/" target="_blank">on flickr</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19874039418_d7e20a9bbb_z.jpg" alt="La Guardia rendering" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="253" width="450" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p><strong>1. New LaGuardia:</strong> Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/nyregion/la-guardia-airport-to-be-rebuilt-by-2021-cuomo-and-biden-say.html" target="_blank">announced</a> that LaGuardia Airport will be overhauled by 2021, with an estimated first-phase cost of about $4 billion. Experts say the project <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=cnyb-dailyalert&amp;utm_campaign=cnyb-dailyalert-20150728" target="_blank">could take</a> more than 10 years to build and cost about $8 billion. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. MTA Budget Battle:</strong> MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast sent <a href="http://nypost.com/2015/07/28/mta-chief-demands-3-2b-in-letter-to-de-blasio" target="_blank">an open letter</a> to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, pushing for the city to add $3.2 billion over five years to the capital budget for MTA funding. Governor Cuomo has said he’s agreed to add more than $8 billion to the state budget plan towarding closing the MTA budget gap, and the governor has repeatedly pointed out that the city benefits the most from MTA services; while a spokesperson for the mayor <a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/cuomo-and-de-blasio-spar-on-mta-funding/article_b9adf087-8f9a-5406-af87-c7bf64c070b3.html" target="_blank">said that </a>“New York City, through taxes, tolls and fares already contributes over 70 percent of the MTA’s operating budget.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. JCOPE Controversy:</strong>&nbsp;Four of the 14 commissioners from the Joint Committee on Public Ethics wrote <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/Letter-Ethics-panel-hire-a-questionable-move-6408151.php" target="_blank">an open letter</a> on the questionable hiring of “special counsel,” a position excluded from the original JCOPE staffing plan, but created previously and now being again filled, this time with Kevin Gagan, who will be chief of staff and counsel, by the outgoing executive director, Letizia Tagliafierro,&nbsp;at the behest of the governor, whom she is leaving to work for. Gagan <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/238993/four-jcope-commissioners-hiring-of-state-police-official-plainly-invalid/" target="_blank">has worked with the governor</a> in multiple positions previously, part of a lengthy public sector resume, and the commissioners are calling this an example of “incessant interference.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. City Mental Health Plans:</strong> First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/527-15/mayor-s-fund-advance-new-york-city-corporation-national-community-service-announce" target="_blank">announced</a> a $30 million public-private partnership to support the new Connections to Care program, which will “integrate mental health services into programs already serving low-income communities.” It will be part of a larger mental health roadmap McCray is preparing, which will be unveiled in September.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Flanagan Names DeFrancisco Senate #2:</strong> New Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Republican from Long Island, named Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco (who had a friendly battle with Flanagan for the top post when indicted Sen. Dean Skelos stepped down) as Deputy Majority Leader - a seat also vacated due to corruption, this one when former Sen. Tom Libous was convicted on charges of lying to the FBI.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>400,000</strong> New Yorkers <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/518-15/six-months-after-launch-mayor-de-blasio-speaker-mark-viverito-over-400-000-new" target="_blank">now have</a> an IDNYC six months after the program began, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>31</strong> cases of Legionnaires disease have been <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/legionnaires-disease-outbreak-hits-south-bronx-1438186536" target="_blank">diagnosed</a> in the South Bronx since July 10 through July 29. New York City health officials are tracking the unusual increase, but say that there is no cause to panic.</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week for</strong> Governor Cuomo, who not only unveiled plans for a new La Guardia Airport, but was lauded by Vice President Joe Biden in multiple appearances Monday - Biden called Cuomo, “about the best governor in the United States.”</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> New York Canna, Inc, <a href="https://twitter.com/J__Velasquez/status/627174665392422912" target="_blank">the sixth-placing</a> company in the competition for medical marijuana licences in New York. Five winners were <a href="http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2015/07/31/heres-the-scoring-of-the-medical-marijuana-applicants/" target="_blank">announced Friday</a> by the State Department of Health and will be allowed to dispense medicinal marijuana. Canna just barely missed out - the scoring revealed it was just .15 points behind the fifth-place company.</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE FLASH: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Last year</strong>, on July 28, 2014, Governor Cuomo <a href="http://observer.com/2014/07/cuomo-defends-phenomenal-success-and-independence-of-moreland-commission/" target="_blank">called the</a> Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (created by Governor Cuomo in July 2013 and shuttered less than a year later) a “phenomenal success,” following a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/nyregion/governor-andrew-cuomo-and-the-short-life-of-the-moreland-commission.html" target="_blank">report</a> into the relationship between the governor’s office and Moreland amid reports that Cuomo was being investigated by United States Attorney Preet Bharara for interfering with the commission’s work.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>29 years ago</strong>, on July 30, 1986, Mayor Ed Koch, city, state and federal law enforcement held a press conference at City Hall and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1986/07/31/nyregion/officials-join-koch-to-press-new-attack-on-drug-abuse.html" target="_blank">called for</a> “more state judges, more Federal judges, more prosecutors, more courtroom space and the deportation of all illegal aliens convicted of narcotics offenses.”</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5829-despite-unprecedented-scandal-calls-for-special-ethics-session-fall-on-deaf-ears" target="_blank">Despite Unprecedented Scandal, Calls for Special Ethics Session Fall on Deaf Ears</a>, by David Howard King</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5828-queens-library-scandal-spurs-nonprofit-oversight-bill" target="_blank">Queens Library Scandal Spurs Nonprofit Oversight Bill</a>, by Catie Edmondson</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5831-many-voting-opportunities-for-new-yorkers-in-2015-and-2016" target="_blank">Many Voting Opportunities for New Yorkers in 2015 and 2016</a>, by Zehra Rehman</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5830-citys-veterans-community-meets-to-assess-policy-build-cohesion" target="_blank">City's Veterans Community Meets to Assess Policy, Build Cohesion</a>, by Catie Edmondson</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">WNYC’s The Takeaway <a href="http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/reconsidering-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">tackles</a> the economic effects of raising the minimum wage after a New York State Wage Board unanimously finalized their recommendation to gradually raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr">City Comptroller Scott Stringer released his office's <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-scott-m-stringer-releases-analysis-of-new-york-citys-fiscal-year-2016-adopted-budget/" target="_blank">analysis</a> of the city's new fiscal year 2016 adopted budget.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/07/8572882/meetings-fari%C3%B1a-pushes-and-bolsters-superintendents-reforms" target="_blank">goes inside</a> a meeting of New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and a Bronx superintendent.</li> </ul> <p>***<br /><em>NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Erika Wang and Ben Max</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with more detail about the JCOPE storyline, noting that the counsel position had been filled previously and adding other information.</p> License to Carry: New York's Gun Permit Laws 2015-06-22T21:22:56+00:00 2015-06-22T21:22:56+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5782:license-to-carry-new-yorks-gun-permit-laws Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/8385929175_050a31d010_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo SAFE Act" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo signs the SAFE Act, Jan. 2013 (photo: Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/8385929175/in/photostream/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Riders on a Brooklyn-bound 4 train fled in terror when a man responded to taunts from two younger men by pulling a gun and loading a clip. As the confrontation escalated and the train stopped, the melee spilled into the Borough Hall station, with threats and shoving until Gilbert Drogheo, one of the younger men, was lying dead of a gunshot wound on the station floor. Like a number of recent shootings, most of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/retired-correction-officer-shoots-man-brooklyn-station-article-1.2144705" target="_blank">the incident</a>&nbsp;was captured on video.</p> <p>What stands out about the shooting death is that the firearm that killed Drogheo wasn't obtained illegally. According to law enforcement officials, Willie Grooms, the 69-year-old retired corrections officer who shot Drogheo, had a pistol permit. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/retired-jailer-blasted-subway-harasser-released-cops-article-1.2145831" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;that Grooms will not be charged with a crime despite pleas from Drogheo's family. Grooms has maintained that Drogheo was harassing and assaulting him and that he attempted a citizen's arrest.</p> <p>The incident and several others, such as the seemingly accidental gun shot&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/waldorf-shooting.html?smid=tw-share" target="_blank">that injured</a>&nbsp;five people at a Waldorf Astoria wedding, raise serious questions for many New Yorkers - as the recent shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church that killed nine has also done for many across the country. These are questions being seized upon by gun control activists in especially vehement efforts during June, which is Gun Violence Awareness Month in New York. Among the questions being asked are 'who is allowed to carry a gun' and 'how do people get gun permits.'</p> <p>Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate agree that New York has some of the toughest gun-permitting laws of any state in the nation. However, regulations differ greatly between New York City and the rest of the state, with the city having a much more stringent system. This is evident as the New York Times recently&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/12/nyregion/guns-at-hand-a-prison-town-traces-a-manhunt-for-escaped-killers.html?_r=0" target="_blank">reported</a>&nbsp;on armed upstate New Yorkers on the lookout for two escaped prisoners.</p> <p>"New York has some of the strongest laws in the country," said Leah Barrett of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "New York is a 'may issue' state, whereas Florida is a 'shall issue.' Meaning [Florida] will basically issue [a gun permit] to anyone with a pulse."</p> <p>New York is known as a 'may-issue state' because its regulations allow for background checks before issuing a license. However, the licensing process upstate is less restrictive than that of some other states, like Maryland, that rarely issue permits. Other states, such as Florida, are known as 'shall-issue' states because they have an application process that is mostly a formality. States like Texas are known as states 'unrestricted' because its residents are free to carry concealed firearms without going through any application process.</p> <p>The screening and permitting&nbsp;<a href="http://troopers.ny.gov/firearms/" target="_blank">process in New York</a>&nbsp;differs based on type of firearm. Applicants for pistol permits undergo criminal and mental health background checks at the state and federal level - even when purchasing at a gun show. Permits are issued by local judges or clerks. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, free of a felony conviction or "serious" offense, of good moral character, and not have had a previous license revoked. Applicants must also state whether they have suffered severe mental illness or been institutionalized or hospitalized for such an illness. Permit issuers may deny a license based on that history.</p> <p>In most of the state outside of New York City, permits are not required for the vast majority of rifles and shotguns used to hunt. Whereas the city does require a permit for guns used for hunting. The SAFE Act banned most assault style shotguns and rifles across the state but grandfathered in those purchased before January 15, 2013. Those grandfathered firearms were required to be registered before January 14, 2014.</p> <p>"In New York City it is nearly impossible to get a pistol permit without some kind of hardcore need," said Tom King of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. "Getting a concealed carry permit is almost impossible in the city unless you are a politician, a celebrity or very, very wealthy." The New York Police Department is tasked with reviewing applications for concealed carry permits in the city. A New York Times&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/nyregion/20guns.html" target="_blank">report</a>&nbsp;from 2011 revealed that a number of celebrities and media members like John Catsimatidis, Sean Hannity, Alexis Stewart, and John Mack all have city pistol permits.</p> <p>Outside of the city, King says, the permitting is less prohibitive but may take some time due to background checks that have recently been enhanced by the SAFE Act - legislation that is much maligned by gun rights advocates. The difficulty of getting a concealed permit varies depending on the county in which someone applies, in most cases the process is overseen by a judge or a clerk.</p> <p>The NYPD offers a number of different permits that allow for pistols to be carried for business purposes, or restrict the carrier to a specific business or residence. Store owners and security guards appear to be the most-often licensed. Applicants must pay about $400 for a license, wait 12 weeks, and undergo a background check. They then must apply to the NYPD for permission to buy whichever firearm they select. One license can cover up to 25 different weapons. There were over 40,000 permit holders in New York City&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/nyregion/20guns.html" target="_blank">as of 2011</a>.</p> <p>Applications for permits in the rest of the state generally cost a lot less - often around $15 - and are completed in about two months. The SAFE Act established that state pistol permits must be renewed every five years. Pistol owners who fail to do so can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Renewal involves submitting an applicant's current address, contact information, social security number, and a list of owned firearms.</p> <p>King said that New York's current permitting rules seem fairly stable and that his group is mostly involved in fighting off the attempts of local municipalities to tweak gun laws. He notes that most smaller cities have to apply to the state for home rule to make their gun laws tougher and most of the time they are denied, or the law is defeated in court. His group is also actively looking to make repealing the SAFE Act a major issue in the 2016 elections for state Senate and Assembly. It was often used against Governor Andrew Cuomo and others during the 2014 cycle, while when he was campaigning in New York City, Cuomo boasted about passing the law, enacted quickly after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT.</p> <p>Barrett, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, is concerned that a federal bill that would force states to recognize out-of-state conceal-carry permits is picking up steam. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a host of Republican legislators from states with no permitting laws. "This operates more or less like a driver's license," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/regulation/legislation/232633-senate-republican-unveils-gun-rights-bill" target="_blank">told The Hill</a>&nbsp;in February. "So, for example, if you have a driver's license in Texas, you can drive in New York, in Utah and other places, subject to the laws of those states."</p> <p>Advocates of the bill say it would prevent 'gotcha' moments where travelers with out-of-state concealed-carry permits are arrested for toting guns illegally in another state. Barrett and gun-control advocates say the bill would wreak havoc in New York. They say the bill could severely damage efforts to fight gun trafficking from out of state, which the NYPD and others often point to as a major issue in terms of guns used to commit crimes in New York City. "New York would be forced to honor permits from these other states that have weaker laws," said Barrett. "We would likely see an influx of guns from out of state and an increase in trafficking. And how will New York be able to confirm these permits?"</p> <p>While, New York may very well have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, some in Albany, including legislators who back stricter gun laws, say that in order to get Senate Republicans to negotiate on other bills they may have to concede to their efforts to roll back parts of the SAFE Act. On June 9 the Senate&nbsp;<a href="http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/2015/06/08/ny-senate-oks-changes-gun-control-law/28714457/" target="_blank">passed a bill</a>&nbsp;that would do away with a SAFE Act provision that requires background checks on those who purchase ammo. A state database to monitor ammo sales has yet to be brought online. The bill would also prevent gun registrations from being made public and allow family members to gift semiautomatic guns to their relatives.</p> <p>King said he thinks the bill has a real chance to make it through the Legislature. Barrett, however, points to&nbsp;<a href="http://nyagv.org/wide-support-for-ny-safe-act-provisions-including-upstate-residents-and-gun-owners/" target="_blank">a recent poll</a>&nbsp;her group conducted on the individual elements of the SAFE Act. The poll shows that New Yorkers support the SAFE Act by a 2-1 margin, and their support increases overwhelmingly when asked about the individual gun-safety measures contained in the act.</p> <p>Background checks for all firearm sales was backed by 89 percent of all voters and 80 percent of gun owners surveyed. Renewal of pistol permits every five years was supported by 79 percent of voters and 53 percent of gun owners. Background checks for ammunition sales was supported by 72 percent of all voters and 37 percent of gun owners.</p> <p>"New Yorkers overwhelmingly support gun safety, in fact they support the measures contained in the SAFE Act when they learn how common sense they are," said Barrett.<br />***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/8385929175_050a31d010_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo SAFE Act" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo signs the SAFE Act, Jan. 2013 (photo: Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/8385929175/in/photostream/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Riders on a Brooklyn-bound 4 train fled in terror when a man responded to taunts from two younger men by pulling a gun and loading a clip. As the confrontation escalated and the train stopped, the melee spilled into the Borough Hall station, with threats and shoving until Gilbert Drogheo, one of the younger men, was lying dead of a gunshot wound on the station floor. Like a number of recent shootings, most of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/retired-correction-officer-shoots-man-brooklyn-station-article-1.2144705" target="_blank">the incident</a>&nbsp;was captured on video.</p> <p>What stands out about the shooting death is that the firearm that killed Drogheo wasn't obtained illegally. According to law enforcement officials, Willie Grooms, the 69-year-old retired corrections officer who shot Drogheo, had a pistol permit. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/retired-jailer-blasted-subway-harasser-released-cops-article-1.2145831" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;that Grooms will not be charged with a crime despite pleas from Drogheo's family. Grooms has maintained that Drogheo was harassing and assaulting him and that he attempted a citizen's arrest.</p> <p>The incident and several others, such as the seemingly accidental gun shot&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/waldorf-shooting.html?smid=tw-share" target="_blank">that injured</a>&nbsp;five people at a Waldorf Astoria wedding, raise serious questions for many New Yorkers - as the recent shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church that killed nine has also done for many across the country. These are questions being seized upon by gun control activists in especially vehement efforts during June, which is Gun Violence Awareness Month in New York. Among the questions being asked are 'who is allowed to carry a gun' and 'how do people get gun permits.'</p> <p>Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate agree that New York has some of the toughest gun-permitting laws of any state in the nation. However, regulations differ greatly between New York City and the rest of the state, with the city having a much more stringent system. This is evident as the New York Times recently&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/12/nyregion/guns-at-hand-a-prison-town-traces-a-manhunt-for-escaped-killers.html?_r=0" target="_blank">reported</a>&nbsp;on armed upstate New Yorkers on the lookout for two escaped prisoners.</p> <p>"New York has some of the strongest laws in the country," said Leah Barrett of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "New York is a 'may issue' state, whereas Florida is a 'shall issue.' Meaning [Florida] will basically issue [a gun permit] to anyone with a pulse."</p> <p>New York is known as a 'may-issue state' because its regulations allow for background checks before issuing a license. However, the licensing process upstate is less restrictive than that of some other states, like Maryland, that rarely issue permits. Other states, such as Florida, are known as 'shall-issue' states because they have an application process that is mostly a formality. States like Texas are known as states 'unrestricted' because its residents are free to carry concealed firearms without going through any application process.</p> <p>The screening and permitting&nbsp;<a href="http://troopers.ny.gov/firearms/" target="_blank">process in New York</a>&nbsp;differs based on type of firearm. Applicants for pistol permits undergo criminal and mental health background checks at the state and federal level - even when purchasing at a gun show. Permits are issued by local judges or clerks. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, free of a felony conviction or "serious" offense, of good moral character, and not have had a previous license revoked. Applicants must also state whether they have suffered severe mental illness or been institutionalized or hospitalized for such an illness. Permit issuers may deny a license based on that history.</p> <p>In most of the state outside of New York City, permits are not required for the vast majority of rifles and shotguns used to hunt. Whereas the city does require a permit for guns used for hunting. The SAFE Act banned most assault style shotguns and rifles across the state but grandfathered in those purchased before January 15, 2013. Those grandfathered firearms were required to be registered before January 14, 2014.</p> <p>"In New York City it is nearly impossible to get a pistol permit without some kind of hardcore need," said Tom King of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. "Getting a concealed carry permit is almost impossible in the city unless you are a politician, a celebrity or very, very wealthy." The New York Police Department is tasked with reviewing applications for concealed carry permits in the city. A New York Times&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/nyregion/20guns.html" target="_blank">report</a>&nbsp;from 2011 revealed that a number of celebrities and media members like John Catsimatidis, Sean Hannity, Alexis Stewart, and John Mack all have city pistol permits.</p> <p>Outside of the city, King says, the permitting is less prohibitive but may take some time due to background checks that have recently been enhanced by the SAFE Act - legislation that is much maligned by gun rights advocates. The difficulty of getting a concealed permit varies depending on the county in which someone applies, in most cases the process is overseen by a judge or a clerk.</p> <p>The NYPD offers a number of different permits that allow for pistols to be carried for business purposes, or restrict the carrier to a specific business or residence. Store owners and security guards appear to be the most-often licensed. Applicants must pay about $400 for a license, wait 12 weeks, and undergo a background check. They then must apply to the NYPD for permission to buy whichever firearm they select. One license can cover up to 25 different weapons. There were over 40,000 permit holders in New York City&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/nyregion/20guns.html" target="_blank">as of 2011</a>.</p> <p>Applications for permits in the rest of the state generally cost a lot less - often around $15 - and are completed in about two months. The SAFE Act established that state pistol permits must be renewed every five years. Pistol owners who fail to do so can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Renewal involves submitting an applicant's current address, contact information, social security number, and a list of owned firearms.</p> <p>King said that New York's current permitting rules seem fairly stable and that his group is mostly involved in fighting off the attempts of local municipalities to tweak gun laws. He notes that most smaller cities have to apply to the state for home rule to make their gun laws tougher and most of the time they are denied, or the law is defeated in court. His group is also actively looking to make repealing the SAFE Act a major issue in the 2016 elections for state Senate and Assembly. It was often used against Governor Andrew Cuomo and others during the 2014 cycle, while when he was campaigning in New York City, Cuomo boasted about passing the law, enacted quickly after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT.</p> <p>Barrett, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, is concerned that a federal bill that would force states to recognize out-of-state conceal-carry permits is picking up steam. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a host of Republican legislators from states with no permitting laws. "This operates more or less like a driver's license," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/regulation/legislation/232633-senate-republican-unveils-gun-rights-bill" target="_blank">told The Hill</a>&nbsp;in February. "So, for example, if you have a driver's license in Texas, you can drive in New York, in Utah and other places, subject to the laws of those states."</p> <p>Advocates of the bill say it would prevent 'gotcha' moments where travelers with out-of-state concealed-carry permits are arrested for toting guns illegally in another state. Barrett and gun-control advocates say the bill would wreak havoc in New York. They say the bill could severely damage efforts to fight gun trafficking from out of state, which the NYPD and others often point to as a major issue in terms of guns used to commit crimes in New York City. "New York would be forced to honor permits from these other states that have weaker laws," said Barrett. "We would likely see an influx of guns from out of state and an increase in trafficking. And how will New York be able to confirm these permits?"</p> <p>While, New York may very well have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, some in Albany, including legislators who back stricter gun laws, say that in order to get Senate Republicans to negotiate on other bills they may have to concede to their efforts to roll back parts of the SAFE Act. On June 9 the Senate&nbsp;<a href="http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/2015/06/08/ny-senate-oks-changes-gun-control-law/28714457/" target="_blank">passed a bill</a>&nbsp;that would do away with a SAFE Act provision that requires background checks on those who purchase ammo. A state database to monitor ammo sales has yet to be brought online. The bill would also prevent gun registrations from being made public and allow family members to gift semiautomatic guns to their relatives.</p> <p>King said he thinks the bill has a real chance to make it through the Legislature. Barrett, however, points to&nbsp;<a href="http://nyagv.org/wide-support-for-ny-safe-act-provisions-including-upstate-residents-and-gun-owners/" target="_blank">a recent poll</a>&nbsp;her group conducted on the individual elements of the SAFE Act. The poll shows that New Yorkers support the SAFE Act by a 2-1 margin, and their support increases overwhelmingly when asked about the individual gun-safety measures contained in the act.</p> <p>Background checks for all firearm sales was backed by 89 percent of all voters and 80 percent of gun owners surveyed. Renewal of pistol permits every five years was supported by 79 percent of voters and 53 percent of gun owners. Background checks for ammunition sales was supported by 72 percent of all voters and 37 percent of gun owners.</p> <p>"New Yorkers overwhelmingly support gun safety, in fact they support the measures contained in the SAFE Act when they learn how common sense they are," said Barrett.<br />***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> With Focus on Mental Health, Push for New City Veterans Agency Continues 2015-05-06T19:24:06+00:00 2015-05-06T19:24:06+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5712:with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/vets_at_hearing.jpg" alt="vets at hearing" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Veterans at Wednesday's City Council hearing (photo: William Alatriste)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Veterans held an oversight hearing Wednesday to gauge the effectiveness of the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs (MOVA).</p> <p dir="ltr">The hearing seemed the latest chapter in <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/04/8567036/ulrich-pressures-de-blasio-veterans-bill" target="_blank">a renewed push</a> for a separate Department of Veterans Affairs by Council Member Eric Ulrich, who chairs the veterans committee, and like-minded council members and advocates. Ulrich introduced <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1739320&amp;GUID=0D5918DB-F678-48A3-8EE5-D6165B32BF62&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=Veterans+Department" target="_blank">a bill</a> last year which would create a new department to deal with veteran affairs, removing the office from directly within the mayor’s in order to increase its profile, funding, and transparency. “Ideally such an agency would be fully funded and would act as a one-stop shop for any need that a veteran might have,” Ulrich said at Wednesday’s hearing. He stressed that MOVA needs dedicated funding and personnel to better serve New York City’s 225,000 veterans.</p> <p dir="ltr">MOVA Commissioner and retired Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton testified before the committee and reiterated her office’s top strategic priorities in serving veterans’ needs, namely ending veteran homelessness, focusing on mental and behavioral health for veterans, and developing employment opportunities for veterans.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5555-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-pledges-to-end-veteran-homelessness-in-nyc" target="_blank">announced</a> at his 2015 State of the City address that he would end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and Sutton indicated today that she was confident of reaching that goal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Mission and strategy drive programs and budget,” Sutton said in her testimony. She repeatedly stressed that MOVA’s work goes beyond it’s own budget and personnel, working with multiple city agencies to help veterans in need.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sutton has yet to take a public position on Ulrich’s bill, and it is clear that the de Blasio administration is in no rush to back it. Responding to Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s query on whether an independent agency could be more effective, Sutton said, “I will keep that as an open question going forward. My pledge to the mayor, to the taxpayers, to the veterans, to the families in New York, is to make the best use of the resources that we currently have. We’re in the midst of doing that right now. Once I have convinced myself that we have maximized the resources that we have, then we’ll be in a position to assess what might make sense going down the road. “</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked, Mayor de Blasio has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5541-support-grows-for-new-veterans-department-mayor-must-be-convinced" target="_blank">not supported</a> the idea of creating a new agency. The proposal received overwhelming support today from veterans advocates and organizations and even the office of Public Advocate Letitia James. “Disappointingly, our Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs is not funded in a way that reflects the actual needs of our veterans,” said Oswaldo Pereira, a veteran and outreach coordinator for the public advocate’s office, who was speaking on behalf of James. “Veterans deserve to have a department that can truly serve their needs,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Joseph Bello, founder of NY MetroVets, criticized Commissioner Sutton for her silence on a new veterans department. “It is time to create a free-standing direct services agency that can not only have preliminary and executive budget hearings on veterans issues, but can funnel contracts awarded to veteran service providers in the boroughs directly, instead of through other city agencies that are unfamiliar with these groups.”</p> <p dir="ltr">There was much focus at the hearing on mental health issues, a concern raised by committee members Cabrera and Paul Vallone. Sutton told Cabrera that mental health issues were “an area in the system that could use some additional development.” Toward that, she pointed out MOVA’s partnership with First Lady Chirlane McCray through the <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/05/8567418/mccray-announces-new-city-funding-mental-health" target="_blank">recently announced</a> Mental Health Roadmap due to be released in the fall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Vallone was quick to point out that the $54 million plan failed to mention veterans. “When I see this go up and I don’t see my veterans in here, I gotta fight for it,” Vallone said. Sutton promised the committee, however, that when the final strategy is released, veterans would figure significantly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Representing the Veterans Mental Health Coalition of New York City, Melissa Earle also called for expanding MOVA to the level of a department. “With a department dedicated to serving veterans, greater resources and funding can be secured to better overcome the complex challenges of veterans of all generations,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ulrich’s bill has a veto-proof 40 co-sponsors (in the 51-member body) and he has indicated that he would be willing to push it forward even without the mayor’s support.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/vets_at_hearing.jpg" alt="vets at hearing" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Veterans at Wednesday's City Council hearing (photo: William Alatriste)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Veterans held an oversight hearing Wednesday to gauge the effectiveness of the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs (MOVA).</p> <p dir="ltr">The hearing seemed the latest chapter in <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/04/8567036/ulrich-pressures-de-blasio-veterans-bill" target="_blank">a renewed push</a> for a separate Department of Veterans Affairs by Council Member Eric Ulrich, who chairs the veterans committee, and like-minded council members and advocates. Ulrich introduced <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1739320&amp;GUID=0D5918DB-F678-48A3-8EE5-D6165B32BF62&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=Veterans+Department" target="_blank">a bill</a> last year which would create a new department to deal with veteran affairs, removing the office from directly within the mayor’s in order to increase its profile, funding, and transparency. “Ideally such an agency would be fully funded and would act as a one-stop shop for any need that a veteran might have,” Ulrich said at Wednesday’s hearing. He stressed that MOVA needs dedicated funding and personnel to better serve New York City’s 225,000 veterans.</p> <p dir="ltr">MOVA Commissioner and retired Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton testified before the committee and reiterated her office’s top strategic priorities in serving veterans’ needs, namely ending veteran homelessness, focusing on mental and behavioral health for veterans, and developing employment opportunities for veterans.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5555-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-pledges-to-end-veteran-homelessness-in-nyc" target="_blank">announced</a> at his 2015 State of the City address that he would end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and Sutton indicated today that she was confident of reaching that goal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Mission and strategy drive programs and budget,” Sutton said in her testimony. She repeatedly stressed that MOVA’s work goes beyond it’s own budget and personnel, working with multiple city agencies to help veterans in need.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sutton has yet to take a public position on Ulrich’s bill, and it is clear that the de Blasio administration is in no rush to back it. Responding to Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s query on whether an independent agency could be more effective, Sutton said, “I will keep that as an open question going forward. My pledge to the mayor, to the taxpayers, to the veterans, to the families in New York, is to make the best use of the resources that we currently have. We’re in the midst of doing that right now. Once I have convinced myself that we have maximized the resources that we have, then we’ll be in a position to assess what might make sense going down the road. “</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked, Mayor de Blasio has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5541-support-grows-for-new-veterans-department-mayor-must-be-convinced" target="_blank">not supported</a> the idea of creating a new agency. The proposal received overwhelming support today from veterans advocates and organizations and even the office of Public Advocate Letitia James. “Disappointingly, our Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs is not funded in a way that reflects the actual needs of our veterans,” said Oswaldo Pereira, a veteran and outreach coordinator for the public advocate’s office, who was speaking on behalf of James. “Veterans deserve to have a department that can truly serve their needs,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Joseph Bello, founder of NY MetroVets, criticized Commissioner Sutton for her silence on a new veterans department. “It is time to create a free-standing direct services agency that can not only have preliminary and executive budget hearings on veterans issues, but can funnel contracts awarded to veteran service providers in the boroughs directly, instead of through other city agencies that are unfamiliar with these groups.”</p> <p dir="ltr">There was much focus at the hearing on mental health issues, a concern raised by committee members Cabrera and Paul Vallone. Sutton told Cabrera that mental health issues were “an area in the system that could use some additional development.” Toward that, she pointed out MOVA’s partnership with First Lady Chirlane McCray through the <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/05/8567418/mccray-announces-new-city-funding-mental-health" target="_blank">recently announced</a> Mental Health Roadmap due to be released in the fall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Vallone was quick to point out that the $54 million plan failed to mention veterans. “When I see this go up and I don’t see my veterans in here, I gotta fight for it,” Vallone said. Sutton promised the committee, however, that when the final strategy is released, veterans would figure significantly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Representing the Veterans Mental Health Coalition of New York City, Melissa Earle also called for expanding MOVA to the level of a department. “With a department dedicated to serving veterans, greater resources and funding can be secured to better overcome the complex challenges of veterans of all generations,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ulrich’s bill has a veto-proof 40 co-sponsors (in the 51-member body) and he has indicated that he would be willing to push it forward even without the mayor’s support.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> Reforming Solitary Confinement At The City's Biggest Psych Ward — Rikers Island 2013-11-18T02:44:00+00:00 2013-11-18T02:44:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=4727:reforming-solitary-confinement-at-the-citys-biggest-psych-ward-nrikers-island Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Ismael-Nazario-Solitary-Confinement.jpg" alt="Ismael-Nazario-Solitary-Confinement" width="600" height="510" class="caption" title="Ismael Nazario, who was held in solitary confinement for months as an adolescent at Rikers Island, stands on the block where he now works as a case manager for at-risk youth at the Center for Community Alternatives in Brooklyn." /></p> <p>NEW YORK —&nbsp;After about three days of being isolated in “the Box” away from his fellow detainees at Rikers Island, Ismael Nazario was beginning to break.</p> <p>"That's when it started to take it's toll,” he said, conjuring memories of his time in punitive segregation —&nbsp;solitary confinement — in one of the nation’s biggest jail complexes. “I was just like, 'Yo, I cannot be here like this.’”</p> <p>In his compact cell, furnished with a toilet and cot, Nazario had little space to move, he recalled in a recent interview. "I just talked to myself, answering myself, pacing back and forth.”</p> <p>Nazario was 16 years old and awaiting trial for robbery the first time he was sent to the Box, he said. According to Nazario, he had been caught with a pouch of tobacco, considered contraband, and was accused of pushing an officer as he tried to dispose of it in the toilet. But the contraband alone would have been enough: both violent and non-violent infractions can land an inmate in punitive segregation. Once there, detainees spend 23 hours per day in their cells.</p> <p>Now a 25-year-old case manager for at-risk youth at the Center for Community Alternatives in Brooklyn, Nazario said his multiple stays in the Box stayed with him long after he left.</p> <p>“You have this deep rooted anger and frustration from being in the Box, so the first thing somebody says wrong to you or does wrong, looks at you wrong, you're gonna pop off,” he said. Several <a href="http://solitarywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/fact-sheet-psychological-effects-final.pdf">studies</a>&nbsp;have found that being confined to a cell for 22 or more hours per day with limited human contact can leave inmates socially and emotionally unstable.</p> <p>After years of criticism from advocates, the city’s practice of isolating detainees through punitive segregation has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and city officials. In recent months, the City Council passed legislation to bring greater transparency to the practice. But perhaps the greatest change will come in the months ahead.</p> <p>Motivated by <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/184998385/Report-to-the-New-York-City-Board-of-Correction">a recent report on solitary confinement at Rikers</a>, the Board of Correction, which oversees the Department of Correction, is seeking to limit the city’s use of the punishment through a slow-moving rulemaking process that could take up to a year. "We're concerned about everybody in solitary confinement, and particularly those with serious mental illness and adolescents," said Dr. Robert Cohen, chair of the Board's committee on punitive segregation.</p> <p>However, the city’s Department of Correction and the mayor's office have rejected the sweeping critique of solitary confinement contained in the report that informed the Board's decision, as well as the report’s recommendation that isolation only be used as punishment in the most extreme cases.</p> <p>In an email, the Department defended punitive segregation as just one part of "a comprehensive continuum of care and control" developed to "ensure everyone’s safety." Department of Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro declined to comment further.</p> <p>The Department has been working towards its own program for reform, however. One major change is already underway: eliminating solitary confinement for people with serious mental illness.</p> <h2>The Push for Reform</h2> <p>In mid-September, members of the Jails Action Coalition rallied outside of a meeting of the Board of Correction at the Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan.</p> <p>As they awaited a decision from the Board on whether it would attempt to change Rikers' punitive segregation policies, the lawyers, case workers and activists who form the Coalition sang and held a banner that read "Solitary is Torture."</p> <p>The banner invoked Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights,<a href="http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/SpecRapTortureAug2011.pdf"></a><a href="http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/SpecRapTortureAug2011.pdf">who called</a>&nbsp;more than 15 days in solitary confinement 'torture'&nbsp;and recommended the punishment not be used at all for adolescents and people diagnosed with mental illness.</p> <p>In June, following a petition by the Jails Action Coalition, the Board commissioned an independent investigation into punitive segregation at Rikers.<sup><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#cmnt6" name="cmnt_ref6"></a></sup></p> <p>The study found that punitive segregation sentences at Rikers routinely exceed 15 days and that people with mental illness are disproportionately placed in isolation for breaking the rules. When the researchers visited the city jail over the summer, they found a quarter of the adolescent inmates of 16 and 17 years old in solitary confinement.</p> <p>A separate, recent count by the DOC&nbsp;also revealed that more than one in seven inmates at Rikers is currently being held in isolation — significantly higher than the<a href="http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/07/board-of-correction-votes-against-limiting-solitary-confinement-in-new-york-city-jails/"></a><a href="http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/07/board-of-correction-votes-against-limiting-solitary-confinement-in-new-york-city-jails/">national average</a>&nbsp;of about one in 25.</p> <h2>Rethinking the City's Largest Psych Ward</h2> <p>Nearly 40 percent&nbsp;of the population at Rikers Island is mentally ill, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf">according</a>&nbsp;to the Department of Correction, making it, de facto, the city's largest psychiatric facility.</p> <p>Martin Horn, the city's previous Commissioner of Correction and Probation, said this has posed more than just a disciplinary challenge.</p> <p>"You're asking the jail to take on a role and a responsibility that it was never intended for, it was never physically constructed for, it was never properly equipped for, the staff was never properly trained for, and the staffing patterns were never properly based upon," said Horn, who is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>This past month, the DOC launched the Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation at Rikers, which was<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf"></a><a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf">announced</a>&nbsp;in May as an answer to "widespread concern about the impact that solitary confinement has on the mentally ill."</p> <p>The program places people who break the rules and have bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or another condition the Department considers a "serious mental illness" in a separate, but more communal setting, where therapy is available.</p> <p>Inmates diagnosed with mental disorders that are not considered "serious" can still be placed in isolated cells for breaking the rules, although they will be offered therapy and incentives for good behavior.</p> <p>The Department <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf">expressed hopes</a>&nbsp;that this approach would help remedy the fact&nbsp;that the average stay of a mentally ill inmate at Rikers is twice as long as that of an inmate who has not been diagnosed with a mental illness.</p> <p>But advocates for prisoner rights say the DOC needs to focus on improving the quality of its psychiatric treatment in order for it to be effective.</p> <p>"The way they're trying to provide therapy with a therapist who isn't really engaged reading from a manual, that's just not the way we do it," said attorney Jennifer Parish of the Urban Justice Center. Parish has represented several mentally ill inmates at Rikers and is a founding member of the Jails Action Coalition.</p> <p>Parish said inmates who receive therapy while in solitary often meet with the mental health clinician inside their cells.</p> <p>"If you read the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/boc/downloads/pdf/mental_health_minimum_standards.pdf">[Minimum] Mental Health Standards</a>, there's no way that you can think that adequate mental health treatment could be provided in a punitive environment," Parish said.</p> <h2>Making Solitary Public</h2> <p>There are no public records of the number of people in solitary confinement at Rikers.</p> <p>In April, City Council members Daniel Dromm and Elizabeth Crowley introduced<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344634&amp;GUID=A3A68BE3-E965-4221-8B56-B4302EC2400E&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=solitary+confinement"></a><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344634&amp;GUID=A3A68BE3-E965-4221-8B56-B4302EC2400E&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=solitary+confinement">legislation</a>&nbsp;to require the Department of Correction to publish monthly statistics on punitive segregation.&nbsp;The mayor’s office has declined to comment on the pending legislation.</p> <p>"We need to know who they're putting in solitary, why they're going into solitary, and how long they're staying in solitary," said Dromm, who added he took up the cause after noticing the "very, very detrimental effect" solitary confinement had on a friend who served time at Rikers for drug charges.</p> <p>The punitive segregation capacity at Rikers peaked at 1,035 cells and is now on the decline, according to the DOC.</p> <p>The Department attributed the hundreds of punitive segregation beds added in the last two years to a "long-standing backlog" of unserved time by inmates who have broken the rules. Dromm has introduced a<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344636&amp;GUID=6AD28CA8-C858-4B51-B0E2-D5F9D0A14FDA&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=punitive+segregation"></a><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344636&amp;GUID=6AD28CA8-C858-4B51-B0E2-D5F9D0A14FDA&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=punitive+segregation">resolution</a>&nbsp;calling on the Department to end the practice of cashing in on "time owed" in solitary confinement by inmates who return to Rikers after being released.</p> <h2>Is there a way out?</h2> <p>The addition of punitive segregation cells at Rikers has corresponded with a significant increase in violent incidents in the last five years, according to Mayor’s Management Reports between<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/mmr/0908_mmr.pdf"></a><a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/mmr/0908_mmr.pdf">2008</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/pmmr2013/doc.pdf"></a><a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/pmmr2013/doc.pdf">2013.</a></p> <p>"Correction officers bear the brunt of it by being assaulted on a daily basis," Norman Seabrook, president of the Correctional Officers Benevolent Association,<a href="http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4559/solitary-confinement-on-the-rise-at-rikers"></a><a href="http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4559/solitary-confinement-on-the-rise-at-rikers">told City Limits</a>&nbsp;in March.</p> <p>Both Seabrook and former Commissioner Horn have cited cuts to the number of correction officers at Rikers as part of the problem.</p> <p>There was a decrease in jail violence during Horn’s tenure from 2003 to 2009, which he attributes to a variety of preventive tactics, including the installation of video cameras. "I think it was the result of putting staff resources where they were most needed," Horn said.</p> <p>Still, Horn said that punitive segregation is necessary to maintain order.</p> <p>"If two inmates get in a fight, they have to be separated, they have to be protected from each other. In society, when you break a rule, you go to jail. Punitive segregation is the jail within the jail."</p> <p>Parish suggested that offering inmates more services could also create more alternative punishments for breaking the rules.</p> <p>"The more incentives that you have that people want to be involved in, the more you can make not having access to that one of the potential punishments," she said.</p> <p>Parish acknowledged the need to separate inmates who pose a threat to others, but said the disciplinary system should be "focused on rehabilitation, not locking someone in for 23 hours a day."</p> <p>"As long as we see even one day of that as trivial, as not such a big deal, we're going to have a hard time getting to another place."</p> <p><em>Caroline Lewis is a freelance radio and web journalist working towards a Masters at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Read and listen to her stories <a href="http://carolinelewismedia.com">here</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Ismael-Nazario-Solitary-Confinement.jpg" alt="Ismael-Nazario-Solitary-Confinement" width="600" height="510" class="caption" title="Ismael Nazario, who was held in solitary confinement for months as an adolescent at Rikers Island, stands on the block where he now works as a case manager for at-risk youth at the Center for Community Alternatives in Brooklyn." /></p> <p>NEW YORK —&nbsp;After about three days of being isolated in “the Box” away from his fellow detainees at Rikers Island, Ismael Nazario was beginning to break.</p> <p>"That's when it started to take it's toll,” he said, conjuring memories of his time in punitive segregation —&nbsp;solitary confinement — in one of the nation’s biggest jail complexes. “I was just like, 'Yo, I cannot be here like this.’”</p> <p>In his compact cell, furnished with a toilet and cot, Nazario had little space to move, he recalled in a recent interview. "I just talked to myself, answering myself, pacing back and forth.”</p> <p>Nazario was 16 years old and awaiting trial for robbery the first time he was sent to the Box, he said. According to Nazario, he had been caught with a pouch of tobacco, considered contraband, and was accused of pushing an officer as he tried to dispose of it in the toilet. But the contraband alone would have been enough: both violent and non-violent infractions can land an inmate in punitive segregation. Once there, detainees spend 23 hours per day in their cells.</p> <p>Now a 25-year-old case manager for at-risk youth at the Center for Community Alternatives in Brooklyn, Nazario said his multiple stays in the Box stayed with him long after he left.</p> <p>“You have this deep rooted anger and frustration from being in the Box, so the first thing somebody says wrong to you or does wrong, looks at you wrong, you're gonna pop off,” he said. Several <a href="http://solitarywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/fact-sheet-psychological-effects-final.pdf">studies</a>&nbsp;have found that being confined to a cell for 22 or more hours per day with limited human contact can leave inmates socially and emotionally unstable.</p> <p>After years of criticism from advocates, the city’s practice of isolating detainees through punitive segregation has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and city officials. In recent months, the City Council passed legislation to bring greater transparency to the practice. But perhaps the greatest change will come in the months ahead.</p> <p>Motivated by <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/184998385/Report-to-the-New-York-City-Board-of-Correction">a recent report on solitary confinement at Rikers</a>, the Board of Correction, which oversees the Department of Correction, is seeking to limit the city’s use of the punishment through a slow-moving rulemaking process that could take up to a year. "We're concerned about everybody in solitary confinement, and particularly those with serious mental illness and adolescents," said Dr. Robert Cohen, chair of the Board's committee on punitive segregation.</p> <p>However, the city’s Department of Correction and the mayor's office have rejected the sweeping critique of solitary confinement contained in the report that informed the Board's decision, as well as the report’s recommendation that isolation only be used as punishment in the most extreme cases.</p> <p>In an email, the Department defended punitive segregation as just one part of "a comprehensive continuum of care and control" developed to "ensure everyone’s safety." Department of Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro declined to comment further.</p> <p>The Department has been working towards its own program for reform, however. One major change is already underway: eliminating solitary confinement for people with serious mental illness.</p> <h2>The Push for Reform</h2> <p>In mid-September, members of the Jails Action Coalition rallied outside of a meeting of the Board of Correction at the Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan.</p> <p>As they awaited a decision from the Board on whether it would attempt to change Rikers' punitive segregation policies, the lawyers, case workers and activists who form the Coalition sang and held a banner that read "Solitary is Torture."</p> <p>The banner invoked Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights,<a href="http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/SpecRapTortureAug2011.pdf"></a><a href="http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/SpecRapTortureAug2011.pdf">who called</a>&nbsp;more than 15 days in solitary confinement 'torture'&nbsp;and recommended the punishment not be used at all for adolescents and people diagnosed with mental illness.</p> <p>In June, following a petition by the Jails Action Coalition, the Board commissioned an independent investigation into punitive segregation at Rikers.<sup><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#cmnt6" name="cmnt_ref6"></a></sup></p> <p>The study found that punitive segregation sentences at Rikers routinely exceed 15 days and that people with mental illness are disproportionately placed in isolation for breaking the rules. When the researchers visited the city jail over the summer, they found a quarter of the adolescent inmates of 16 and 17 years old in solitary confinement.</p> <p>A separate, recent count by the DOC&nbsp;also revealed that more than one in seven inmates at Rikers is currently being held in isolation — significantly higher than the<a href="http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/07/board-of-correction-votes-against-limiting-solitary-confinement-in-new-york-city-jails/"></a><a href="http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/07/board-of-correction-votes-against-limiting-solitary-confinement-in-new-york-city-jails/">national average</a>&nbsp;of about one in 25.</p> <h2>Rethinking the City's Largest Psych Ward</h2> <p>Nearly 40 percent&nbsp;of the population at Rikers Island is mentally ill, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf">according</a>&nbsp;to the Department of Correction, making it, de facto, the city's largest psychiatric facility.</p> <p>Martin Horn, the city's previous Commissioner of Correction and Probation, said this has posed more than just a disciplinary challenge.</p> <p>"You're asking the jail to take on a role and a responsibility that it was never intended for, it was never physically constructed for, it was never properly equipped for, the staff was never properly trained for, and the staffing patterns were never properly based upon," said Horn, who is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>This past month, the DOC launched the Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation at Rikers, which was<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf"></a><a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf">announced</a>&nbsp;in May as an answer to "widespread concern about the impact that solitary confinement has on the mentally ill."</p> <p>The program places people who break the rules and have bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or another condition the Department considers a "serious mental illness" in a separate, but more communal setting, where therapy is available.</p> <p>Inmates diagnosed with mental disorders that are not considered "serious" can still be placed in isolated cells for breaking the rules, although they will be offered therapy and incentives for good behavior.</p> <p>The Department <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/NEWS_from_Mental_Health_051313.pdf">expressed hopes</a>&nbsp;that this approach would help remedy the fact&nbsp;that the average stay of a mentally ill inmate at Rikers is twice as long as that of an inmate who has not been diagnosed with a mental illness.</p> <p>But advocates for prisoner rights say the DOC needs to focus on improving the quality of its psychiatric treatment in order for it to be effective.</p> <p>"The way they're trying to provide therapy with a therapist who isn't really engaged reading from a manual, that's just not the way we do it," said attorney Jennifer Parish of the Urban Justice Center. Parish has represented several mentally ill inmates at Rikers and is a founding member of the Jails Action Coalition.</p> <p>Parish said inmates who receive therapy while in solitary often meet with the mental health clinician inside their cells.</p> <p>"If you read the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/boc/downloads/pdf/mental_health_minimum_standards.pdf">[Minimum] Mental Health Standards</a>, there's no way that you can think that adequate mental health treatment could be provided in a punitive environment," Parish said.</p> <h2>Making Solitary Public</h2> <p>There are no public records of the number of people in solitary confinement at Rikers.</p> <p>In April, City Council members Daniel Dromm and Elizabeth Crowley introduced<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344634&amp;GUID=A3A68BE3-E965-4221-8B56-B4302EC2400E&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=solitary+confinement"></a><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344634&amp;GUID=A3A68BE3-E965-4221-8B56-B4302EC2400E&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=solitary+confinement">legislation</a>&nbsp;to require the Department of Correction to publish monthly statistics on punitive segregation.&nbsp;The mayor’s office has declined to comment on the pending legislation.</p> <p>"We need to know who they're putting in solitary, why they're going into solitary, and how long they're staying in solitary," said Dromm, who added he took up the cause after noticing the "very, very detrimental effect" solitary confinement had on a friend who served time at Rikers for drug charges.</p> <p>The punitive segregation capacity at Rikers peaked at 1,035 cells and is now on the decline, according to the DOC.</p> <p>The Department attributed the hundreds of punitive segregation beds added in the last two years to a "long-standing backlog" of unserved time by inmates who have broken the rules. Dromm has introduced a<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344636&amp;GUID=6AD28CA8-C858-4B51-B0E2-D5F9D0A14FDA&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=punitive+segregation"></a><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1344636&amp;GUID=6AD28CA8-C858-4B51-B0E2-D5F9D0A14FDA&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=punitive+segregation">resolution</a>&nbsp;calling on the Department to end the practice of cashing in on "time owed" in solitary confinement by inmates who return to Rikers after being released.</p> <h2>Is there a way out?</h2> <p>The addition of punitive segregation cells at Rikers has corresponded with a significant increase in violent incidents in the last five years, according to Mayor’s Management Reports between<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/mmr/0908_mmr.pdf"></a><a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/mmr/0908_mmr.pdf">2008</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/pmmr2013/doc.pdf"></a><a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/downloads/pdf/pmmr2013/doc.pdf">2013.</a></p> <p>"Correction officers bear the brunt of it by being assaulted on a daily basis," Norman Seabrook, president of the Correctional Officers Benevolent Association,<a href="http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4559/solitary-confinement-on-the-rise-at-rikers"></a><a href="http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4559/solitary-confinement-on-the-rise-at-rikers">told City Limits</a>&nbsp;in March.</p> <p>Both Seabrook and former Commissioner Horn have cited cuts to the number of correction officers at Rikers as part of the problem.</p> <p>There was a decrease in jail violence during Horn’s tenure from 2003 to 2009, which he attributes to a variety of preventive tactics, including the installation of video cameras. "I think it was the result of putting staff resources where they were most needed," Horn said.</p> <p>Still, Horn said that punitive segregation is necessary to maintain order.</p> <p>"If two inmates get in a fight, they have to be separated, they have to be protected from each other. In society, when you break a rule, you go to jail. Punitive segregation is the jail within the jail."</p> <p>Parish suggested that offering inmates more services could also create more alternative punishments for breaking the rules.</p> <p>"The more incentives that you have that people want to be involved in, the more you can make not having access to that one of the potential punishments," she said.</p> <p>Parish acknowledged the need to separate inmates who pose a threat to others, but said the disciplinary system should be "focused on rehabilitation, not locking someone in for 23 hours a day."</p> <p>"As long as we see even one day of that as trivial, as not such a big deal, we're going to have a hard time getting to another place."</p> <p><em>Caroline Lewis is a freelance radio and web journalist working towards a Masters at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Read and listen to her stories <a href="http://carolinelewismedia.com">here</a>.</em></p>