Quantcast

Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union

Public Safety

Urban Issues: Anti-Terrorism


 

URBAN ISSUES - ANTI-TERRORISM
• Aid for Local Police
Bioterrorism
• Patriot Act

George W. Bush

President Bush created the federal Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The department provides some funding for state and local governments to help cover the costs of increased security. In the past two years, the federal government provided $13 billion in grants to help state and local responders and emergency managers prepare for terrorist attacks. New York City has received about $180 million to fund antiterrorism programs. President Bush promised to increase national funding by $3.6 billion next year, but it is unclear exactly how much will come to New York. New York currently receives fewer Homeland Security dollars per person than 48 other states and American Samoa. (Learn more)

To address threats of bioterrorism, Bush proposed the creation of Project BioShield, an initiative designed to acquire more vaccines. The Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division also established a program in major cities to detect the spread of terrorist agents like anthrax in time to distribute life-saving medicines to citizens affected. (Learn more)

Bush signed the PATRIOT Act, which gives government and law enforcement officials broader use of surveillance in an effort to fight terrorism. He says the act is needed to fight the war on terrorism, but critics say it violates civil liberties and unfairly discriminates against immigrants. (Learn more)

John Kerry

Kerry said he would reimburse cities for Homeland Security expenses and create a fund to hire 100,000 firefighters. He also wants to enlist the National Guard and Americorps volunteers in Homeland Security efforts. He also promises to:
• create a community defense service
• ensure that first defenders are equipped and ready
• bring information technology to the war on terror
• reform domestic intelligence
• implement public health initiatives
• improve security at our bridges, tunnels and private infrastructure. (Learn more)

To address threats of bioterrorism, Kerry would appoint one individual who is responsible for communicating with state and local officials on biosecurity issues. Kerry also plans to increase vaccine and drug development in response to bioterrorism. (Learn more)

Although Kerry voted for the PATRIOT Act, which gave the federal government broad new law enforcement powers, he now wants to amend it. He has compared the curtailing of civil liberties under the act to the repression of the Taliban government. (Learn more)

• • • • • • •
Back to Urban Issues Main Page
• • • • • • •

GOTHAM GAZETTE’S RELATED ARTICLES


• Urban Agenda: Anti-Terrorism Funding
• Security and New York City
• Debating the Patriot Act
• Patriot Act and Banking
• Special Registration< Í>

Urban Issues: Crime


URBAN ISSUES - CRIME
• Gun Laws
• Policing/Sentencing
• Death Penalty

• • • • • • •

George W. Bush

Bush supports background checks at gun shows. He supports renewing the ban on assault-type weapons. He also supports granting immunity to gun makers from civil lawsuits.

Bush cut funding for the Community Oriented Policing Program. He created Project Safe Neighborhoods, which aims to increase communication between federal and local authorities. Bush also proposes a four-year $300 million program to reduce prisoner recidivism rates and help ex-convicts contribute to their communities. (Learn more)

Bush supports the death penalty.

John Kerry

Kerry supports all current federal gun laws and proposes to strongly enforce those laws. He supports background checks for those who buy guns at gun shows, improving the background check system, and requiring that all handguns have child safety locks. He opposes granting gun makers immunity from civil lawsuits. (Learn more)

Kerry supports the Community Oriented Policing program that would put over 100,000 police officers on the streets. He supports increased funding for drug rehabilitation programs.

Kerry opposes the death penalty, except for terrorists.

• • • • • • •
Back to Urban Issues Main Page
• • • • • • •

GOTHAM GAZETTE’S RELATED ARTICLES


• Federal Government and Crime
• Suing for Gun Control
• Death Penalty and Parole Reform
• Repeat Offenders

 

Does Physical Disability Deserve Great Insurance Coverage Than Mental Illness?


At the age of 43, Charlene Polan was forced by chronic depression to leave her job at MetPath, (now known as Quest Diagnostics Inc.). For two years after she stopped working, she received disability benefits as a participant in her employer's group policy with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (Metlife). But benefits were terminated after 24 months and her long-term disability claims were denied.

Dr. Polan, a physician, charged that she was the victim of discrimination by her employer and by the insurance company since individuals with physical disabilities were not limited to two years of coverage. In fact, their coverage can continue until the disability ceases, or until the age of 65. After administrative proceedings, a federal lawsuit and litigation and appeals on New York's three state judicial levels, the case known as Matter of Charlene Polan v. The State of New York Insurance Department, is over. Dr. Polan is out of court and out of luck. And so, it appears, are others suffering from a mental disability.

While two intermediate appellate judges did dissent they were outvoted by the majority of their court. In their separate opinion, which has no binding effect, the dissenters found that distinguishing between types of disabilities could only be allowed if supported by statistics. That is, the limitation would have to be based on "sound actuarial principles." Still, despite efforts by Dr. Polan's lawyer, no court ever ordered an evidentiary hearing with expert witnesses on the question of whether there is a statistical or actuarial basis to treat medical and physical disabilities differently.

The New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, agreed with all the other courts that heard this case, that although the insurance policy that imposed a limitation on disabilities caused by "mental and nervous disorders or diseases," (unless the individual was hospitalized), provided greater coverage for physical disabilities than for mental disabilities, it was not discriminatory. New York insurance law, the judges found unanimously, requires that the employer offer everyone the same policy without making a distinction between the benefits available to disabled and non-disabled employees, but does permit a distinction between the physically disabled and mentally disabled. In other words, everyone is offered the same plan and the same limitations even though the effect on different categories of employees or patients will be different according to the ailments presented. For purposes of disability insurance (this case does not deal with other insurance issues such as medical coverage), it is now clear that it is lawful for patients with mental illness to be provided with lesser benefits than those with disabling physical ailments, as long as everybody was offered the same terms.

Ruling that state law had not been violated, the Court of Appeals judges who have the final word, adopted the analysis of federal courts that the American With Disabilities Act was not violated either. The opinion borrowed language from a federal case involving a similar limitation on mental disability benefits, "[this] may or may not be an enlightened way to do things, but it is not discriminatory in the usual sense of the term," and "the ADA does not mandate equality between individuals with different disabilities."

A decision in Dr. Polan's favor "would upset long standing industry practices," wrote Judge Susan Read, for the entire Court of Appeals bench, citing a similar case involving the Staten Island Savings Bank. "The historic and nearly universal practice inherent in the insurance industry is to provide different benefits for different disabilities."

Judge Read added, "Because an interpretation that... affords the parity of benefits sought by petitioner would require far-reaching changes in the way the insurance industry does business... we are reluctant to infer such a mandate for radical change in the absence of a clearer legislative command."

Charlene Polan's legal saga, which began in 1994, ended ten years later in 2004; she continues to be disabled. She was represented throughout the litigation by Stein & Schonfeld partner, Robert L. Schonfeld, a member of the Mental Disability Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. The Department of Insurance was represented by the Office of the Attorney General.

Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stolen Lives Project


Jaime Adame visits a ceremony of the Stolen Lives Project -- New Yorkers killed by the police -- and listens to the sorrow and the anger of family members.

Freeing A Youthful Offender From His Past


He was 20 years old and a teller in a branch of the East New York Savings Bank, when he was arrested and pled guilty to the crimes of embezzling $730 from the bank and misapplying funds. He qualified for adjudication as a youthful offender, a concept in both federal and state laws intended to give eligible youth a "second chance." He received a suspended sentence and 18 months probation. The court terminated his probation three months early and the judgment of conviction was set aside

But three decades later, the crime still haunted the man known in court records only as John Doe, who is now 53 years old, and has had no further contact with the criminal justice system. The criminal record, he says, has been interfering with his current investment and insurance advisor, and so he filed suit to get rid of it.

In an unusual federal decision, Judge Constance Baker Motley of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, has granted the motion to expunge all records in the case of United States of America v. John Doe.

Licensed by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and working as an independent broker with a subsidiary of Wells Fargo, Doe sought to have all records relating to his arrest and subsequent proceedings, removed from the government's central criminal files, and made unreachable for any purpose other than a bona fide criminal investigation involving him.

According to his motion papers, "a stigma attaches to me as a result of the ability of current and/or potential clients to learn of the fact that I was arrested and charged with embezzlement in 1971, nearly a third of a century ago, will impinge upon my ability to earn a living in my chosen field of endeavor." According to Doe's papers, he is often required to submit applications to insurance companies to function as a broker or salesman, as well as to make periodic filings with the National Association of Securities Dealers, the Securities and Exchange Commission and various other agencies, sometimes more than once a month. Full disclosure in these documents must include the record of arrest, embezzlement of bank funds, prosecution by the federal government and the entire history of his case. In some situations, Doe's attorney alleged, he chose not to file applications rather than provide this history.

The concern of Doe and his attorney was that certain, if not all, of the documentation, is available to the public, some on NASD's website, where members of the public, clients, competitors, co-workers could easily learn of Doe's past. "In an extremely competitive environment," he claimed in an affidavit submitted to the court, "I know that clients utilize this resource to check the qualifications and background of those who propose to represent or advise them in financial matters. I also know that competitors have access to this information, too, and they can and will use any negative information about me to gain an edge as we vie for institutional clients . . . and will continue to be a source of great personal embarrassment; moreover, the nature of the charge obviously raises questions in a current or potential client's mind . . . ."

While the United States Department of Justice must "acquire, collect, classify, and preserve identification, criminal identification, crime and other records," Judge Motley wrote, "No statutory authority exists for the expunction of federal criminal records . . . but lies within the equitable discretion of the court." Such relief, she noted, is "usually granted only in extreme circumstances." The Court adopted the theory of the Youth Corrections Act, that the purpose of Youthful Offender status, is the "rehabilitation of the young persons in this country who have made their first mistake, so to speak." Taken together with the fact that early discharge from probation with an unconditional discharge led to the dismissal of Doe's case, a conclusion, she says that was "compatible with the welfare of society," the Judge wrote that, "The clear purpose for setting aside a youth offender's conviction was to relieve him not only of the unusual disabilities of a criminal conviction, but also to give him a second chance free of a record tainted by such a conviction." Yet, Judge Motley concluded that, "without expunging the record, the decision to set aside the defendant's conviction, would be rendered essentially meaningless."

Finding "sufficient indication of the harm he is exposed to as long as the records in question remain generally accessible," Judge Motley cited a federal appeals case saying that "courts need not wait for substantial damage to occur before taking remedial equitable action," and incorporated the language that, "aside from the ever present possibility that his record will be indiscriminately disseminated, there is the fact that the mere existence of a criminal record looms ominously through one's life."

Judge Motley ordered that John Doe's records "are not to be opened other than in the course of a bona fide criminal investigation by law enforcement authorities and only when necessary for such an investigation. These records may not be used by the government or any of its agents for any other purpose, nor may their contents be disseminated to anyone, public or private, for any other purpose." To further make her point, and without opposition from the U.S. Attorney, Judge Motley ordered the records preserved in a separate storage facility, and not where criminal records are maintained.

Still, Harvey Fishbein, president of the New York Criminal Bar Association says, "This is not expunging; there is no actual expunging. "The records will not be destroyed; they still exist." While Fishbein believes that convicted persons and even lawyers need to be educated about available remedies such as sealing, and certificates of relief from disability, he says, "You can hide it, camouflage it, segregate it, but it is never really expunged." Fishbein, who has been practicing criminal law for 30 years, says, "It's fundamentally unfair. There's a point where it should no longer be part of a person's history because he or she is no longer the same person." It is unreasonable, he says, "to saddle someone with an isolated incident." Calling expunging "a misnomer," Fishbein says, "statutes have to be enacted that find the balance between the occasional need to know, and a person being able to say, 'Finally, I am free of that past.'"

Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Protest March



Poster by: Mike Flugennock

Related Articles:

Summer of Protest

Louie Jones: Why Poor People Will Take to the Streets

Protesters Have A Right To Use The Park
by Leslie Cagen

Th req Rally Threatens The Beautifully Restored Lawn
by Henry Stern


Poster by: William Etundi Jr.

What is it like to be young and envision a different world? In some sense, youth are society's guinea pigs – products, fashions and anything one can make money off are tested on them. If we go by what the mainstream media says, young people are not really "political" -- they are interested only in the latest number one hit, what is cool to wear and how to become a CEO at 16.

NYC Summer/100 Days of Democracy in Action is an attempt to challenge that. A six-week program of workshops, discussions and internships, NYC Summer is meant to be a space where young people who question everything around them can work toward developing a vision of why the world is the way it is and how to change it. NYC Summer hopes to strengthen the leadership of young people within their communities -- particularly in organizations based in those communities.

The reactive protest model where people pour into the streets with banners and slogans to protest and then get beaten by cops and be portrayed as "outside agitators" in the mainstream media has had its day. Much of the protests surrounding the Republican National Convention at the end of the summer will be that/DTDe of demonstration.

We recognize that U.S. adventures abroad are linked to the neoconservative policies of the Bush administration at home. We are therefore interested in making the links between the larger issues of war, empire, militarism and global capital abroad with control of schools, budgets, police brs ality and repression in our communities. And so, we at NYC Summer will no doubt protest the convention but we want to go beyond that.

NYC Summer takes young people's concerns seriously. We believe that youth dissent is not simply petty anger against parents or teachers, or "juvenile deliquency." And we want to create places that help foster an alternative discourse -- spaces that allow youth to feel that they are not mentally disturbed for caring about the world and that they are not alone. And NYC Summer works to strengthen the leadership of young peoples within their communities, particularly within organizations that are based in those communities.

To accomplish that, NYC Summer will create six weeks of liberation schools for youth activists from New York and around the country. We believe that the idea of popular education first developed by radical Brazilian educator Paolo Friere provides the ways and means to help instigate social change. This encourages learning through dialogue rather than set curciculums, working to strengthen community, and basing learning on people's life and experiences.

The young activists will attend one day of workshops each week. Another two or three days a week will be spent interning with community-based social action organizations. These include groups working against police brutality, the NYC Aid Housing Network, WBAI, indymedia, and various groups focusing on immigrant rights and lesbian-gay-transgender issues particularly among working class people. Weekly seminars open to the public will also be offered.

Young people want to make their voices and ideas heard, but frequently they are not taken seriously because they're either not old enough, not "educated" enough or not "qualified" enough. We want to change that.

As a youth, I first heard about NYC Summer as a potential participant, which, in the conventional sense, meant a student who would "learn" knowledge from supposedly all-knowing older teachers. I now realize instead that my role is to help break the boundary between student and teacher, organizer and participant. It is not to construct an alternative school, but rather a space for collective learning, sharing and liberation. The NYC Summer collective members are of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, gender identities, sexual orientations and even visions. None of us are identical, yet we share a common bond of struggle, resistance and mutual respect for each other and ourselves. We hope to inspire youth to articulate their own visions, not necessarily to digest ours, and get out there in the spirit of the Zapatista slogan: "Everything for everyone, and nothing for ourselves."

Suneel(a) Mubayi is a transgender student, writer, activist poet and member of the NYC Summer Coordinating Committee.

 

Police Whistleblowers


Eleven years ago, Detective Investigator Jeff Baird thought the people in power would protect him.

His testimony exposing misconduct within the Internal Affairs Division was a key part of the Mollen Commission. Baird told city officials how officers within his division would create secret files designed to hide evidence that pointed to corruption and misconduct within the department.

“I was only interested in positive change,” said Baird, 49. “I didn’t think the retaliation would come.”

But the retribution that followed would last the rest of his career—and beyond. Baird was shunned by many of his fellow officers and harassed by others. Transfers to different units quickly stalled a once promising career, according to Baird, who also said there was even a warning that his life was in danger.

Baird was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by his psychologist and applied to receive a special accident disability pension. The police medical board disputed this, however. The case went to court, with city lawyers arguing that Baird only deserved ordinary benefits.

In April, a Manhattan judge sharply criticized the city for denying Baird’s claim, calling its arguments “pitiful.”

"In short, NYPD subjected [Baird] to an insidious 'death of a thousand cuts' in retaliation for his work on the Mollen Commission, with the Medical Board's refusal to even address the cause of his condition being the last gash. This the court will not condone.,” Judge Louis York reportedlysaid in his ruling in favor of Baird. The city is appealing.

Baird’s story is not unique, as other officers who have sought to expose misconduct within the police department have similar tales. Through the years there has been much talk about how to make police whistleblowers feel safe when coming forward to talk about misconduct and corruption. In a recent inquiry, however, a whistleblower has yet again come forward with claims of being subject to retribution rather than thanks.

The VIPER Division

Sgt. John Marchisotto, a supervisor in a Staten Island unit of the VIPER division, which is in charge of monitoring all surveillance within public housing, has said he began writing memos and letters to department leaders in January outlining how officers routinely watched movies or slept while on duty. During this time he also charged that a female supervisor sexually harassed him.

In April, it was reported that Internal Affairs was investigating how a recording of a March suicide taken by the VIPER division wound up on a website. Later that month, the City Council held hearings to examine VIPER, and Marchisotto spoke out against the division. He also spoke to television reporters and held a press conference outlining his allegations.

In City Council hearings, a housing supervisor admitted that many officers monitoring surveillance cameras in housing developments have pending criminal or administrative charges. Manhattan borough president C. Virginia Fields called for more stringent controls on the VIPER unit. The police department has since pledged to review its staffing policies.

Meanwhile, Marchisotto faces three departmental charges related to a WABC news report.

In that report, Marchisotto said he had already faced some retribution. Marchisotto said a group of officers angrily came to his home late at night, and that the department, claiming that he was mentally disturbed, has taken away his guns and placed him on restricted duty.

 

"You report misconduct, serious misconduct, or anything in the police department they will try to make you look like you're crazy. They will try to discredit you as a complainant and they're pretty good at that," Marchisotto told Channel 7. Police say Marchisotto abused his authority as a supervisor and shouldn’t have videotaped inside his unit. Several stories have cited anonymous and high-ranking police sources that call Marchisotto a chronic malcontent. But in a May press conference, Marchisotto stood with New York State Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), the chairman of the assembly's sub-committee on public housing. Wright said in a press conference that “on the surface of it” the charges against Marchisotto look “quite bogus.”

Also standing by Marchisotto is Lt. Eric Adams, spokesman for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.

“The police department did not bring or file any internal charges on any of the men John mentioned,” noted Adams. “No charges handed out against them—yet the discipline was taken against the whistleblower.”

Marchisotto could not be reached for this story. Police did not respond to a list of faxed questions.

Blue Wall of Silence

“We need to protect whistleblowers as best we can,”said Norman Siegel, a civil rights attorney and former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Siegel has offered his services to Marchisotto.

The city has a whistleblower law on the books designed to protect those that expose wrongdoing, but, even if strengthened, such a law will not eliminate retaliation towards whistleblowers, said Siegel. He suggests a unit should be set up within the Public Advocate’s office to protect whistleblowers across all city departments (Siegel has run for the Public Advocate).

And 10 years after the Mollen Commission recommended it, Baird would like to see an independent agency with enough power to oversee the police department. The Commission to Combat Police Corruption was created as a result of the Mollen Commission, but that group has been criticized for being irrelevant. It went for more than a year-and-a-half in the Bloomberg administration without any board members.

Efforts to create a powerful agency with oversight authority failed largely due to staunch opposition from then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Occasionally, the police department has sought to take extra steps to protect whistleblowers and make the department more welcome to criticism. In 1998, then-Commissioner Howard Safir talked publicly about creating ways to reward whistleblowers. But Baird no longer trusts the police to police themselves.

“There’s never going to be any real reform within the police department because they crush people like myself who come forward,” said Baird. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Withholding Rent While On Welfare


New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has determined that a tenant whose rent is paid in whole or in part by New York City’s Human Resources Administration – welfare -- cannot withhold payment to her landlord even if there are dangerous violations in the building.

In the case entitled Matter of Notre Dame Leasing, LLC v Alexandria Rosario, the tenant, Alexandria Rosario, lives with her husband and young children in a Queens apartment building owned by Notre Dame Leasing. In January 2000, Notre Dame, the landlord, commenced a Civil Court summary nonpayment proceeding, claiming that $1,454.43 in rent was due for October 1999 through January 2000. The amount demanded was Rosario’s portion of the rent for four months; the balance had been paid by the city. The tenant’s defense to the nonpayment was that she withheld rent because of conditions that were “dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to life or health.”

Rosario was relying on a 1962 Social Services law known as the Spiegel Law (named for Sam Spiegel, a lower East Side Assemblyman who sponsored the legislation). Records of New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development showed that there were 33 Class B (hazardous) and C (immediately hazardous) violations in the building. The landlord established that some of these had been dismissed, but there were still leaks, electrical wiring violations, and broken windows, according to the tenant’s attorney, Carl Callender of New York Legal Services in Queens, who argued the appeal. Attorney Denise May, of Pennisi Daniels & Norelli, LLP, a firm that represents landlords throughout the city, says the violations were either corrected but not removed from the city agency’s computer, or they were tenant-generated violations such as gates on windows or refusal to grant access to the apartment.

However, none of that was addressed by the Court of Appeals. The single issue decided by the court’s majority was that Rosario could not avail herself of the protection of the Spiegel Law, because the tenant herself had withheld rent, rather than the Human Resources Administration having withheld it, even though the agency has the power to do so. Judge Albert Rosenblatt, writing for the majority of judges, agreed with the landlord’s attorneys, saying, “The tenant contends that she should be able to invoke this defense [the Spiegel Law] whenever there is a qualifying violation in her building, regardless of whether the ‘appropriate social services agency’ -- here the HRA -- has first withheld rent on that basis. We conclude that the structure, language, history and legislative intent of the Spiegel Law negate the tenant’s interpretation.”

According to Judge Rosenblatt’s opinion, “The legislature did not intend to make this defense available to individual tenants when public welfare officials themselves recognized no imperative to suspend payment.” The judge wrote, “In an action for eviction or unpaid rent, tenants claiming a breach of warranty of habitability... or who seek an abatement of rent ... for a “rent impairing” violation must nevertheless deposit with the court the amount of rent sought to be recovered.”

All of the Court of Appeal judges agreed that the legislature’s intent in enacting the Spiegel law was to end the state’s “subsidizing of landlords who abuse and exploit welfare tenants, but nevertheless receive guaranteed monthly rent checks,” and to “attack the ‘jugular vein’ of the slumlord by temporarily withholding payments of rent until hazardous and dangerous violations are cleared.” The Spiegel law was to “establish that public funds should not be used to further the continuance of any building which is substandard,” and “to correct the anomalous condition wherein one municipal department seeks to prevent slum and dangerous conditions from being maintained at the same time that another governmental unit is financially rewarding such maintenance.”

But dissenting Judges Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick and George Bundy Smith, who were both judges in New York City before being appointed to the Court of Appeals, disagreed with the majority. “There is nothing in the provision requiring that the agency must act first to withhold rent on the tenant’s behalf,” they wrote. “The plain language of the statute permits a tenant to invoke the Spiegel law defense for nonpayment of rent, regardless of whether there has been a prior withholding of rent by the public welfare agency, here the New York City Human Resources Administration.” Going back to the Spiegel law’s history, the dissenters quoted, “[t]he legislature hereby finds and declares that certain evils and abuses exist which have caused many tenants, who are welfare recipients, to suffer untold hardships, deprivation of services and deterioration of housing facilities because certain landlords have been exploiting such tenants by failing to make necessary repairs and by neglecting to afford necessary services in violation of the laws of the state.... Allowing tenants to withhold rent themselves continues to further the purpose of the statute, especially in light of the present situation where public welfare officials apparently are not using their statutory power to withhold rent when violations are present. “

Still, May, counsel to the landlord, says “Social services or welfare will withhold the rent if they find dangerous conditions. But they never meant to give tenants a sword to control the money.” Tenants, she says, “now have more protections and can negotiate the system, which they couldn’t do in 1962 when Housing Court didn’t even exist. It’s Legal Services reawakening a statute that everybody had forgotten about.”

But the result of this opinion, says, Andrew A. Scherer, executive director of Legal Services of New York City, and the author of Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York, is that “people on public assistance in unsafe, unhealthy buildings, are not going to be able to avail themselves of a law designed to protect them.” Most low-income tenants do not have lawyers, and Scherer says “can neither negotiate the system nor assert sufficient pressure to obtain necessary repairs. The Court of Appeals decision ignores the plain language of the law and its statutory intent and guts a powerful tool for addressing deplorable housing conditions. Because Spiegel Law defenses specifically exempt rent from the deposit requirement of the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997, it was revived by the rent deposit law which forces tenants to deposit rents in order to litigate defenses to eviction proceedings. It makes it impossible for tenants to take advantage of something that was created for them.”

Both sides agree that tenants who receive welfare will not be able to withhold rent regardless of their housing conditions, but will have to rely on the city to do it for them.

Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Is There A Plunge In Crime?


There is no doubt that from 1991 through 2002 New York City experienced a remarkable drop in crime. From an analysis(PDF Format) presented at a conference in Italy by two US Department of Justice statisticians in late 2003, one can see that no matter how one looks at it, crime dropped massively in New York City. Yet the popular explanation for the decline, favored by a former police commissioner and a former mayor and many crime specialists, no longer seems as convincing as it once did. How can we be sure that the "reported crime rate" is the real crime rate? More importantly, how do we know if the crime rate is truly dropping and how fast it is dropping?

Recently, Newsday uncovered some false counting of certain crime incidents in one precinct, while the police union claimed that the continuing decline was suspicious in light of some staffing reductions. The city dismissed these charges. (Read a discussion of this on Gotham Gazette's crime topic page.) This controversy points up a fact well known to those who deal with crime statistics: the "official crime" rate depends on crimes being reported to the police by the crime victims and accurately recorded.

GAUGING THE DROP IN CRIME

The FBI through their Uniform Crime Reportingsystem keeps track of crime statistics for eight selected offenses: 1) murder and non-negligent manslaughter 2) forcible rape 3) robbery 4) aggravated assault 5) burglary 6) larceny-theft 7) motor vehicle theft, and 8) arson.

Each police jurisdiction throughout the United States, including New York City, submits periodic data that gives reported crimes and arrests in these areas. Data from this system form the raw material for comparing crime rates in the major cities, and for tracking reported crime nationally.

Most crimes remain unpunished, and many remain unreported. This fact makes measuring crime very difficult. Complicating the matter further is the fact that the "official reporters" of crime statistics are those charged with finding and catching offenders, the police forces themselves. Often there is pressure to have a lower crime rate, which can cause crime to be unreported or reclassified. Murder, of course, is a special case. Most murders do end up being reported to the police. Also since murder results in death, each murder also creates a vital statistics record. Reporting of other crimes varies greatly. Petty thefts often go unreported. Some muggings, assaults and rapes also remain unreported. Automobile theft, because owners need the police report to make a claim is much more likely to be reported.

Researchers knew for years that much crime goes unreported to the police, while some police departments may be better at reporting crime than others. For these reasons, the US developed a measure of crime independent of police reporting. Since 1973, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has conducted a "crime victimization study," where residents 12 or older are asked to describe crimes for which they were the victim. New York City is one of the 12 cities where a special local survey is done.

COMPARING OFFICIAL AND SURVEYED CRIME

For New York City it is possible to compare official crime statistics with survey results for several years. The accompanying charts present data for property crime and for violent crime based upon both official and survey statistics. Looking first at property crime, in New York City the number of property crimes reported by the survey is much greater than that reported to the police. Indeed, in some years it is several times greater. Both the reported crime and the surveyed crime show a marked decrease in the 1990s. When one looks at violent crime one sees the same marked decline. However, a much higher proportion of violent crime than of property crime is brought to the attention of the police.

Not only has New York City's crime drop been significant and sustained, it also is corroborated with the decline in the crime survey. For murders, the decline is mirrored by that for homicide reported through the vital statistics system. New York City is now the safest large city in the US, the one with the lowest crime rate.

EXPLAINING THE DROP

Former Commissioner William Bratton and his late deputy Jack Naples along with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani had a ready explanation, their implementation of strategies based upon the so-called "Broken Windows" theory. The theory has been one of the most important in criminology. It was first proposed in an article published 20 years ago in The Atlantic Monthly, written by Dr. James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. The theory provided the intellectual foundation for a crackdown on "quality of life" crimes in New York City. Today, "broken windows" policing is endorsed by police chiefs across the country, its proponents sought out for lectures and consulting around the world. (Several books taking various perspectives are mentioned in Gotham Gazette round-up of crime books.)

Recently, this theory has been seriously challenged by a rigorous studycosting over $50 million carried out in Chicago by Professor Felton Earls of Harvard, and his fellow researchers, Robert Sampson also of Harvard, Steven Raudenbush of the University of Michigan and Jeanne Brooks Gunn of Columbia. Earls and his colleagues argue that the most important influence on a neighborhood's crime rate are neighbors' willingness to act, when needed, for one another's benefit, and particularly for the benefit of one another's children. And they present compelling and rigorous scientific evidence to back up their argument. "It is far and away the most important research insight in the last decade," said Jeremy Travis, former director of the National Institute of Justice. "I think it will shape policy for the next generation." Many find their work controversial. One of their original articles was attacked on the floor of Congress, while winning several prestigious awards by professional associations.

Dr. Wilson recently conceded that the "broken windows" theory lacked substantive scientific evidence that it worked. "I still to this day do not know if improving order will or will not reduce crime," Dr. Wilson, now a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently told the New York Times. "People have not understood that this was a speculation." So crime continues to decline in New York City as it has for more than a decade, but we still do not know the reason why.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May the Force Be With You




Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly

When an operative for al-Qaeda named Lyman Farris came to New York, his plan was to take down the Brooklyn Bridge and derail some railway cars. But he looked at the heightened security in the vicinity of the bridge, and changed his mind; the “weather was too hot” to complete the operation.

This one incident was prevented, then, thanks to the counterterrorism policing work of the New York Police Department. Our successes in this area are usually a lot more difficult to measure.

We are now, of course, in a new era. When I came back as police commissioner in New York, having served ten years ago under Mayor David Dinkins, the biggest change for the police in New York was obvious -- the threat of terrorism. It has had an impact on virtually every decision the department has made.

But counterterrorism is just one of the "three C's" that the police department under the Bloomberg administration continues to focus on. We are also moving forward on crime reduction and community relations.

COUNTERTERRORISM

Since 9/11, the police department has taken serious steps to defend our city against terrorism.

We have put into place a counterterrorism bureau, really the first of its kind in the country, which now has 250 officers, and we have reformed our intelligence division.

We have identified people with language skills in the department and certified them. We now have certified 45 Arabic speakers -- more, we believe, than any federal agency that we’re aware of. We have even made them available to federal agencies. In addition, we have Urdu, Pashto, and Hindi speakers.

We have assigned detectives overseas – to Lyon, London, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Montreal, and Singapore. In March, we had someone in Madrid the day of the bombing on that city’s subway. Our world has gotten smaller, and we need information of any sort that’s going to help us better protect this city.

With the advent of the Iraqi war we’ve put in place something called Operation Atlas, which is an overlay security program for sensitive locations throughout the city. We have kept that program in place. Today, we have critical response vehicles that come into Manhattan every day from other locations in the city.

Average New Yorkers are also being more vigilant, and we ask people to continue to look at things through the prism of 9/11. Depending on what is in the news, our counterterrorism hotline averages from 30 to 60 calls a day. There are some very thoughtful calls, many about people taking pictures of infrastructure. We also get many bomb scares and powder droppers.

We log those calls in – we have a database where we log those calls. If that location shows up again, then we’re able to match it with previous calls.

There’s just a lot going on, and it’s an expensive undertaking. We believe it cost us close to $200 million for our counterterrorism programs in the city last year. We’re not getting enough money. In addition, a lot of this money is skewed towards equipment, and not structured for operational costs. We need money for operation expenses on an ongoing, day-to-day basis, not just for equipment.

CRIME PREVENTION

I believe that in certain areas, our counterterrorism tactics are benefiting our crime prevention efforts. On the subway, for instance, crime is the lowest it has been since it has been accurately recorded in the 1960s, which may be in part due to our aggressive counterterrorism efforts.

In other areas, we are looking to combine some of the things we’ve done in counterterrorism with our crime prevention programs, by doing things like incorporating our Hercules program into Operation Impact.

In Operation Impact, we took off across the city and identified locations, primarily based on shootings, that in our view would benefit from an infusion of uniformed police officers alongside officers from narcotics and from the warrant squad. We picked 21 such locations, and put two thirds of our police academy graduating classes from 2003 in these areas. As a result of that infusion of visible police officers crime went down 35 percent in those impact zones in 2003, with shootings down 50 percent. We are seeing the same numbers now in the Impact Zones for 2004.

Now this may not sound revolutionary, but at a time when we have 5,000 fewer officers than we had in October of 2000, this is the type of technique that enables us to continue to reduce crime. Crime rates are now down over three and a half percent this year, after dropping six percent last year, and five percent the year before.

To continue this trend, we’re establishing a crime information center, which will hopefully be functioning by the middle of this summer. We have already established a room at police headquarters; there will be screens that graphically depict crime and we ultimately intend to get that information on PDA’s, hand held devices. The intention is to gather information on a real time basis, digitally analyze it, and push it back out to the field as quickly as possible.

We will use this as an adjunct to Compstat, which is a valuable auditing tool that looks retrospectively at what commands have done to address crime. The police foundation has been very helpful in assisting to put this capacity in place, and obviously the mayor is very interested and involved as well. So that’s the next wave of crime fighting: information.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS

All members of the department are aware of the need to communicate with the public. Throughout their careers, we have them in service training. I think our community relations are better now than they’ve ever been.

But every day is a new day in New York, and when we make a mistake in this business, it costs people’s lives.

In the recent shooting of Timothy Stansbury in a Brooklyn housing project, the police department made a mistake, and we said so. It is the policy of this administration, if you make a mistake, to get the facts out as quickly as possible. That’s what we did in the Stansbury case, just as we did with terrible tragedy of Alberta Spruill, who died of a heart attack after several officers mistakenly raided her apartment. I think it cooled the environment.

If you have the facts and they’re obvious, you should get them out, but that is unusual. The Stansbury shooting in Brooklyn was a very simple case: there were two officers together, and one officer observed what happened. There were witnesses in terms of the tangential events that were going on that indicated right away that this was a mistake, so it wasn’t complex. Other shootings are more complicated; it all depends on the circumstance.

It is the nature of police work that we’re going to have tension with some communities because of what we do. We are sometimes the bearer of bad news. We give out traffic summonses, we arrest people, we use force, sometimes deadly force; it’s the nature of police business. People are not always going to love you in some places.

We’re not firefighters – everybody loves a firefighter.

So we have to work on community relations, and I think precinct commanders as a group do a tremendous job in fostering and understanding communications in the communities. We have 76 precincts, and the commanders of these precincts spend a large percentage of their time focused on fostering communication in their communities.

They know they have to do that.

BUILDING A FORCE

Other than terrorism, the biggest change since I left the department is the size of the organization. There has been a merger of the housing police force, the transit police force, all the school safety agents, and traffic enforcement agents. So the department increased significantly in size.

We now have about 51,000 employees.

Though the department has grown, the loss of officers to attrition is an ongoing issue in the police department. We have 5,000 fewer officers below our level in the fall of 2000, because of the budget situation that we find ourselves in. At this time, we have about 36,000 officers; we’re authorized to employ 37,000 officers. We’ll hire up to reach that number in July of that year.

Much of the current loss has its roots as far back as the 1970s. In 1975 there were layoffs in the department because of the serious fiscal crises. The department didn’t start hiring in a significant way until the 1980s. Those people are reaching their twentieth year anniversary, when they can retire at half pay. When police officers hit their twentieth anniversary, about 80 percent retire. Sergeants retire at about a 65 percent rate. So we know that we have to do a big job in recruiting additional people to the department.

Under Mayor Bloomberg, we’ve hired four large classes to address our attrition losses. We’re doing well with our recruiting, and our diversity is improving. The department is about 15 percent African American, about 20 percent Hispanic, and about 3 percent Asian. 16 percent of the department is female. We’re the city agency, I think, that best reflects the population of the city.

Attrition remains an ongoing issue. From recruiting to vetting to training new officers, it is a challenge. I think we’re doing that well. But those three C’s are what this administration is all about.

Raymond Kelly is the police commissioner of New York. This essay was adapted from comments he made at Baruch College.

 

FDNY vs. NYPD


Later this month, members of the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department will face off for the 32nd time on the football field. The game, which garnered national attention in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks that killed eight active players and staff from the fire department’s team, symbolizes the friendly rivalry between these two vital city agencies. But recent conflicts and events highlight how easily a rivalry can escalate into a feud, and only add to the worries of New Yorkers concerned about how effectively the city’s emergency workers will respond should another large-scale terrorist attack occur.

Bruised Image for FDNY

Both agencies have had more questions then answers this year. Loutish behavior among firefighters grabbed headlines, with a New Year’s Eve firehouse brawl in a Staten Island firehouse leading to the suspension of five firefighters. Several reports of firefighters drinking or even using drugs while on duty led the department to implement a new, random drug testing policy.

Meanwhile, the police department was forced to handle the shooting death of 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury Jr., which occurred on the rooftop of the Louis Armstrong Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and led many to scrutinize the way the police handle the vertical patrols done routinely in public housing developments.

Among those worried that police might be too eager to use their weapons is the fire department, at least according to an internal fire department safety memo sent to all firehouses last month and reported by the New York Post. In an incident similar to the Stansbury shooting, two firefighters opened the door leading to the roof of a public housing development, only to be confronted by two officers pointing guns at them.

Unlike the Stansbury shooting, the officers quickly holstered their weapons. The memo also mentioned that police department’s Operation Impact, which deploys officers to flood high-crime areas, including some public housing developments, frequently used rookie and inexperienced officers. Whether or not the memo was meant as oblique criticism of police procedures, the fact that it became public will certainly do nothing to improve the already-rock relationship between the two agencies.

Responding to Crisis

The most recent and serious disagreement between the two agencies is actually a longstanding one: who should be in control during a major emergency, such as a terrorist attack?

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, this dispute has at least some of its roots in the first World Trace Center attack in 1993. Then, police swooped down in helicopters to the top of one of the towers, despite not having authorization from the fire department, which was in charge of coordinating the rescue effort because of the bombing.

Though the door to the roof was locked, police managed to rescue 28 people. In the long run, however, the rescue angered the fire department, which considered the helicopter mission “a cheap publicity stunt”,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

At that time, confrontations between police and firefighters responding to accident scenes were fairly common, causing bad blood between the departments. In recent months, however, as the city tries to formalize its plans for how to coordinate its emergency response resources, the police department has been aggressive in trying to be the lead agency for nearly all emergencies.

The thinking is that, because the next terrorist attack could occur in an unexpected way, even seemingly routine emergencies such as a water main break should be handled by police. The fire department reportedly wants to be the lead agency not just at fires, but also at explosions and emergencies involving hazardous materials, damaged buildings and certain plane crashes.

"Police want to be in charge of everything. We're supposed to play nice in the sandbox. That seldom works because there's egos involved," Deputy Chief Nick Visconti, who represents chiefs for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, told the Associated Press.

The Citywide Incident Management System, as such an overarching plan outlining responsibility for specific emergencies is called, remains a work-in-progress. Federal guidelines were approved in March, and the city remains at work trying to put together a plan that keeps all agencies happy and residents safe.

“Two Competing Cults”

In a recent court ruling related to a St. Patrick’s Day street fight between members of New York’s Bravest and New York’s Finest, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet described the altercation as being between members of “two competing cults.” The two agencies will have to iron out their differences — at least enough to agree on a disaster plan — to fulfill their duties to make the city as safe as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice


Gotham Gazette: Fixing City's 'Non-Functioning' Board of Elections Relies on State Fixing City's 'Non-Functioning' Board of Elections Relies on State Gotham Gazette: De Blasio Continues Deliberative Approach to Appointments De Blasio Continues Deliberative Approach to Appointments Gotham Gazette: Despite Expectations, Design-Build for New York City Not Approved in Albany Despite Expectations, Design-Build for New York City Not Approved in Albany Gotham Gazette: De Blasio and The Complications of Vetting Campaign Donors De Blasio and The Complications of Vetting Campaign Donors


Comments
Comment(s)

The comments section is provided as a free service to our readers. Gotham Gazette's editors reserve the right to delete any comments. Some reasons why comments might get deleted: inappropriate or offensive content, off-topic remarks or spam.