CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/city 2019-11-12T05:29:04+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Vast Difference in NYPD Provision of Body Camera Footage to District Attorneys Versus Police Watchdog 2019-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-comm-holds.jpg" alt="first comm holds" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the most visible changes to American policing in the wake of the controversial 2014 killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, by law enforcement, is the proliferation of body-worn cameras. But as the cameras become a larger part of the police oversight constellation in New York City, the NYPD has been slow to release footage to the very agency meant to investigate alleged officer misconduct, including excessive, even deadly, force.</p> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of phase one of the body-worn camera (BWC) program in 2017, it was billed as a transparency measure aimed at reducing “mistrust between police and community.” But the purported effort to improve police accountability has been more focused on producing evidence in criminal cases — where discovery laws now require it — and less on supporting misconduct investigations by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the main agency tasked with carrying them out.</p> <p>When an arrest is made, the arresting officer sends complete BWC footage of the event to prosecutors almost immediately and in raw, unedited form, according to spokespeople from several New York City district attorneys’ offices. But the NYPD has been delayed or completely delinquent in providing footage to the CCRB in roughly a third of the Board’s open cases — cases raised by civilians against police officers, including ones that may not have involved an arrest.</p> <p>The CCRB is a civilian body separate from the police department and district attorneys, with jurisdiction over claims of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. Its Board members are appointed by the mayor in conjunction with the City Council and police commissioner, and it is led by an executive director supervising roughly 180 employees. Under a 2012 agreement with the NYPD, the Board can prosecute allegations it substantiates in an administrative trial setting. Such a trial led outgoing Police Commissioner James O’Neill to fire Daniel Pantaleo this summer for misconduct during Garner’s fatal arrest.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration announced the completed roll-out of roughly 20,000 BWCs to all uniformed police officers in March, after two years piloting the program. Another 4,000 cameras have since been deployed to members of specialized NYPD units.</p> <p>Month-to-month data published by the CCRB in October shows that since the full implementation of body cameras was announced, between 29 and 37 percent of its open investigations have footage requests pending with the NYPD. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have received hundreds of thousands of BWC videos since the technology was adopted, and in most cases the footage is transmitted automatically following an arrest.</p> <p>Police officers are required to turn body cameras on during arrests, incidents where force is used, as well as certain stops and searches, patrols, and interactions with the public. The NYPD Patrol Guide also requires cameras be turned on during “potential crime-in-progress assignments,” including investigations into a “suspicious person” and any incident involving a weapon.</p> <p>As body cameras have proliferated across New York, they have become increasingly essential to the work of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, according to officials who say the evidence is “crucial” in investigating alleged misconduct -- the CCRB can only open a case when a civilian complaint is lodged.</p> <p>They are also used by prosecutors in nearly every criminal case and the footage now falls under the state’s discovery laws, which lawmakers overhauled this year.</p> <p>According to the communications director for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Oren Yaniv, Gonzalez’s office has accessed over 140,000 body worn camera videos since 2018. Other district attorney offices also reported receiving thousands of BWC videos.</p> <p>Spokespeople for New York City district attorneys described a proprietary management system used by the NYPD that automatically transmits footage once an officer plugs their camera into a docking station and registers an arrest. “The NYPD system does not allow deleting, editing or altering the videos,” Yaniv wrote in an email.</p> <p><strong>Cooperating with the CCRB</strong><br />The CCRB’s requests are handled differently. The results can mean censored and incomplete footage and significant delays in responding to investigators, who are operating under a statute of limitations.</p> <p>Video footage, whether from a body-worn device, cell phone, or security camera, has become instrumental to CCRB investigations. In September, the CCRB substantiated 38 percent of misconduct allegations where video of the incident was available, compared with just 11 percent of cases where no video was available, according to an analysis released by the agency.</p> <p>“The reality of policing in New York City is that Eric Garner’s death in 2014 is not the only instance of police misconduct captured on video,” said CCRB Chair Fred Davie, at the agency’s September Board meeting.</p> <p>Body-worn cameras help the CCRB make conclusive determinations, “but we can do so only if we receive that body-worn camera footage and receive it from the NYPD in a timely fashion,” Davie said.</p> <p>Under the City Charter, the police department has a legal obligation to provide BWC video and other evidence to the CCRB, according to a CCRB representative. But, unlike prosecutors collecting evidence related to an arrest, the CCRB’s requests are subject to redaction and censorship, as well as delay.</p> <p>Before sending footage to the CCRB, the NYPD is legally required to “pixelate-out” people’s faces under certain circumstances captured on film, according to Al Baker, director of media relations at the police department. “For example, potential medical treatment (protected under federal law) or other prisoners in a cell whose arrest may be sealed,” he wrote in an email.</p> <p>“Also, we withhold the sex-crimes videos in their entirety, pursuant to CRL 50-b [part of the state’s civil rights statute], unless a waiver is provided by the victim of the sex crime. This is a meticulous process that is necessary before release,” he added.</p> <p>Baker said the department has a dedicated body-worn camera unit for processing requests, which he says has received additional personnel to address the “backlog.”</p> <p>CCRB officials are indeed concerned that “unless there is a significant change, the backlog of CCRB requests for video evidence will continue to increase and impair the CCRB’s ability to complete investigations within the 18-month statute of limitations,” according to <a href="https://twitter.com/CCRB_NYC/status/1172282548468310018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a September tweet</a> from the Board’s account.</p> <p>“With all of its resources and technical expertise, the NYPD can and must produce body-camera footage much more quickly,” wrote Christopher Dunn, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>From January 2018 to November 7, 2019, the CCRB requested body camera footage in 5,149 investigations, according to data shared with Gotham Gazette. Throughout 2019, the number of requests has been between 300 and 400 per month, with two exceptions. The first month that the number of active body camera-involved cases reached 300 was in October 2018, five months before City Hall announced the full rollout of the cameras.</p> <p>But it wasn’t until the complete implementation in March of this year that the NYPD’s response rate precipitously fell. Between January 2018 and February 2019, the portion of CCRB cases awaiting NYPD body camera footage hovered between just 1 and 17 percent. Since March, that range has lept to between 29 and 37 percent.</p> <p>Footage in about 43 percent of requests is turned over by the NYPD to the CCRB within 30 days, and another 35 percent take between 30 and 60 days. In about 13 percent of footage requests by the CCRB — 79 cases as of the end of September — the calls have gone unanswered by the NYPD for more than 90 days.</p> <p>“Even now, there is one case in particular — an allegation of excessive force and a civilian experiencing several broken bones and brain hemorrhaging — for which our investigators per the NYPD cannot access the body-worn camera footage related to that case,” Davie said at the September Board meeting. The police department, he said, had denied the request in order to protect the privacy of a minor who was present in the relevant footage.</p> <p>Asked about the CCRB's trouble getting police body camera footage, the mayor's office said it is under review. “We are reviewing these reports, and we will work with PD and CCRB on next steps,” wrote Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, in an October email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The City Council Committee on Public Safety plans to hold an oversight hearing on Monday, November 18 to examine the police department’s implementation of the cameras. The committee will discuss a bill introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would require the NYPD to report information on the BWC program, including each incident where an officer uses their camera.</p> <p>Baker noted that the NYPD this year has the largest deployment of body cameras in the nation, “therefore, we need to locate all BWC footage from any responding officer to a particular scene and make sure it goes through that rigorous process before being released.”</p> <p>Even the process of releasing footage to the CCRB and the public has been opaque since the city’s rollout of BWCs, and remains so for the CCRB.</p> <p>The police department <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy" target="_blank">recently published</a> a two-page policy, an “operations order” within the department, for release of body camera footage of what it calls “critical incidents” —&nbsp; cases of death or serious injury because of police force — to the public, seven months since full implementation of the cameras was announced.</p> <p>But while it discusses release of body camera footage to prosecutors and the public, the policy makes no explicit mention of footage capturing other potential misconduct that would fall under the CCRB’s jurisdiction. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed by phone that dealing with CCRB requests falls outside the newly-published policy.</p> <p>When asked if any written procedure exists, Baker wrote in an email, “That practice is constantly being fine-tuned to offer even faster turnarounds considering that a single request from the CCRB, about a single policing encounter, can mean that lengthy videos from dozens of officers must be carefully reviewed and possibly redacted.”</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-comm-holds.jpg" alt="first comm holds" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the most visible changes to American policing in the wake of the controversial 2014 killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, by law enforcement, is the proliferation of body-worn cameras. But as the cameras become a larger part of the police oversight constellation in New York City, the NYPD has been slow to release footage to the very agency meant to investigate alleged officer misconduct, including excessive, even deadly, force.</p> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of phase one of the body-worn camera (BWC) program in 2017, it was billed as a transparency measure aimed at reducing “mistrust between police and community.” But the purported effort to improve police accountability has been more focused on producing evidence in criminal cases — where discovery laws now require it — and less on supporting misconduct investigations by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the main agency tasked with carrying them out.</p> <p>When an arrest is made, the arresting officer sends complete BWC footage of the event to prosecutors almost immediately and in raw, unedited form, according to spokespeople from several New York City district attorneys’ offices. But the NYPD has been delayed or completely delinquent in providing footage to the CCRB in roughly a third of the Board’s open cases — cases raised by civilians against police officers, including ones that may not have involved an arrest.</p> <p>The CCRB is a civilian body separate from the police department and district attorneys, with jurisdiction over claims of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. Its Board members are appointed by the mayor in conjunction with the City Council and police commissioner, and it is led by an executive director supervising roughly 180 employees. Under a 2012 agreement with the NYPD, the Board can prosecute allegations it substantiates in an administrative trial setting. Such a trial led outgoing Police Commissioner James O’Neill to fire Daniel Pantaleo this summer for misconduct during Garner’s fatal arrest.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration announced the completed roll-out of roughly 20,000 BWCs to all uniformed police officers in March, after two years piloting the program. Another 4,000 cameras have since been deployed to members of specialized NYPD units.</p> <p>Month-to-month data published by the CCRB in October shows that since the full implementation of body cameras was announced, between 29 and 37 percent of its open investigations have footage requests pending with the NYPD. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have received hundreds of thousands of BWC videos since the technology was adopted, and in most cases the footage is transmitted automatically following an arrest.</p> <p>Police officers are required to turn body cameras on during arrests, incidents where force is used, as well as certain stops and searches, patrols, and interactions with the public. The NYPD Patrol Guide also requires cameras be turned on during “potential crime-in-progress assignments,” including investigations into a “suspicious person” and any incident involving a weapon.</p> <p>As body cameras have proliferated across New York, they have become increasingly essential to the work of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, according to officials who say the evidence is “crucial” in investigating alleged misconduct -- the CCRB can only open a case when a civilian complaint is lodged.</p> <p>They are also used by prosecutors in nearly every criminal case and the footage now falls under the state’s discovery laws, which lawmakers overhauled this year.</p> <p>According to the communications director for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Oren Yaniv, Gonzalez’s office has accessed over 140,000 body worn camera videos since 2018. Other district attorney offices also reported receiving thousands of BWC videos.</p> <p>Spokespeople for New York City district attorneys described a proprietary management system used by the NYPD that automatically transmits footage once an officer plugs their camera into a docking station and registers an arrest. “The NYPD system does not allow deleting, editing or altering the videos,” Yaniv wrote in an email.</p> <p><strong>Cooperating with the CCRB</strong><br />The CCRB’s requests are handled differently. The results can mean censored and incomplete footage and significant delays in responding to investigators, who are operating under a statute of limitations.</p> <p>Video footage, whether from a body-worn device, cell phone, or security camera, has become instrumental to CCRB investigations. In September, the CCRB substantiated 38 percent of misconduct allegations where video of the incident was available, compared with just 11 percent of cases where no video was available, according to an analysis released by the agency.</p> <p>“The reality of policing in New York City is that Eric Garner’s death in 2014 is not the only instance of police misconduct captured on video,” said CCRB Chair Fred Davie, at the agency’s September Board meeting.</p> <p>Body-worn cameras help the CCRB make conclusive determinations, “but we can do so only if we receive that body-worn camera footage and receive it from the NYPD in a timely fashion,” Davie said.</p> <p>Under the City Charter, the police department has a legal obligation to provide BWC video and other evidence to the CCRB, according to a CCRB representative. But, unlike prosecutors collecting evidence related to an arrest, the CCRB’s requests are subject to redaction and censorship, as well as delay.</p> <p>Before sending footage to the CCRB, the NYPD is legally required to “pixelate-out” people’s faces under certain circumstances captured on film, according to Al Baker, director of media relations at the police department. “For example, potential medical treatment (protected under federal law) or other prisoners in a cell whose arrest may be sealed,” he wrote in an email.</p> <p>“Also, we withhold the sex-crimes videos in their entirety, pursuant to CRL 50-b [part of the state’s civil rights statute], unless a waiver is provided by the victim of the sex crime. This is a meticulous process that is necessary before release,” he added.</p> <p>Baker said the department has a dedicated body-worn camera unit for processing requests, which he says has received additional personnel to address the “backlog.”</p> <p>CCRB officials are indeed concerned that “unless there is a significant change, the backlog of CCRB requests for video evidence will continue to increase and impair the CCRB’s ability to complete investigations within the 18-month statute of limitations,” according to <a href="https://twitter.com/CCRB_NYC/status/1172282548468310018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a September tweet</a> from the Board’s account.</p> <p>“With all of its resources and technical expertise, the NYPD can and must produce body-camera footage much more quickly,” wrote Christopher Dunn, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>From January 2018 to November 7, 2019, the CCRB requested body camera footage in 5,149 investigations, according to data shared with Gotham Gazette. Throughout 2019, the number of requests has been between 300 and 400 per month, with two exceptions. The first month that the number of active body camera-involved cases reached 300 was in October 2018, five months before City Hall announced the full rollout of the cameras.</p> <p>But it wasn’t until the complete implementation in March of this year that the NYPD’s response rate precipitously fell. Between January 2018 and February 2019, the portion of CCRB cases awaiting NYPD body camera footage hovered between just 1 and 17 percent. Since March, that range has lept to between 29 and 37 percent.</p> <p>Footage in about 43 percent of requests is turned over by the NYPD to the CCRB within 30 days, and another 35 percent take between 30 and 60 days. In about 13 percent of footage requests by the CCRB — 79 cases as of the end of September — the calls have gone unanswered by the NYPD for more than 90 days.</p> <p>“Even now, there is one case in particular — an allegation of excessive force and a civilian experiencing several broken bones and brain hemorrhaging — for which our investigators per the NYPD cannot access the body-worn camera footage related to that case,” Davie said at the September Board meeting. The police department, he said, had denied the request in order to protect the privacy of a minor who was present in the relevant footage.</p> <p>Asked about the CCRB's trouble getting police body camera footage, the mayor's office said it is under review. “We are reviewing these reports, and we will work with PD and CCRB on next steps,” wrote Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, in an October email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The City Council Committee on Public Safety plans to hold an oversight hearing on Monday, November 18 to examine the police department’s implementation of the cameras. The committee will discuss a bill introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would require the NYPD to report information on the BWC program, including each incident where an officer uses their camera.</p> <p>Baker noted that the NYPD this year has the largest deployment of body cameras in the nation, “therefore, we need to locate all BWC footage from any responding officer to a particular scene and make sure it goes through that rigorous process before being released.”</p> <p>Even the process of releasing footage to the CCRB and the public has been opaque since the city’s rollout of BWCs, and remains so for the CCRB.</p> <p>The police department <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy" target="_blank">recently published</a> a two-page policy, an “operations order” within the department, for release of body camera footage of what it calls “critical incidents” —&nbsp; cases of death or serious injury because of police force — to the public, seven months since full implementation of the cameras was announced.</p> <p>But while it discusses release of body camera footage to prosecutors and the public, the policy makes no explicit mention of footage capturing other potential misconduct that would fall under the CCRB’s jurisdiction. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed by phone that dealing with CCRB requests falls outside the newly-published policy.</p> <p>When asked if any written procedure exists, Baker wrote in an email, “That practice is constantly being fine-tuned to offer even faster turnarounds considering that a single request from the CCRB, about a single policing encounter, can mean that lengthy videos from dozens of officers must be carefully reviewed and possibly redacted.”</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
How the City's New Jails Plan Accounts for Those with Serious Mental Illness 2019-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8910-how-city-close-rikers-jails-plan-serious-mental-illness Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42189138174_e431a4ec70_c.jpg" alt="Rikers Island inmate detainee" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In an historic vote last month, the New York City Council approved the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four borough-based jails by 2026. When the Council voted through the plan, estimated at $8.7 billion in new construction costs, it also announced, with Mayor Bill de Blasio, a $391-million package of citywide and community investments in criminal justice reforms and initiatives to responsibly accelerate the reduction of the city’s jail population.</p> <p>For city officials, one of the most complex issues they face is ensuring that the new system is less punitive and more rehabilitative, particularly for the 43% of incarcerated individuals who suffer from some form of mental illness. Experts and advocates say the plan is taking an appropriate approach to that issue but also insist that it provides a novel opportunity to rethink how the criminal justice system deals with the mentally ill, especially those suffering from more acute problems.</p> <p>Given that one of de Blasio’s signature programs as mayor is the ThriveNYC mental health “roadmap” spearheaded by his wife, Chirlane McCray, the mayor’s approach to services for those with severe mental illness, particularly those who wind up involved in the criminal justice system, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8705-new-york-criminal-justice-system-mental-illness-thrive-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been the source of intense scrutiny</a>, again heightened as the new jails plan was crafted.</p> <p>With most major crimes at or near record lows in the city and recent shifts in law enforcement and prosecutorial policies, particularly around non-violent offenses, the number of people incarcerated in city jails has been consistently declining. That drop has been so sharp that the de Blasio administration projects the average daily jail population to fall to 3,300 by 2026, when Rikers is set to close, down from about 7,000 this year and aided by state bail reform that will go into effect in January.</p> <p>The Rikers closure plan will involve building four new facilities in every borough except Staten Island, with roughly 885 beds each. The facilities are meant to be fairer and safer than the dilapidated jails on Rikers. Another 250 new beds will be created in existing public hospital facilities for those individuals who require continuing access to specialized medical services.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio himself has acknowledged that the city has its work cut out for it when it comes to individuals with mental illness who are locked up in jails. The day after the Council’s vote, the mayor made his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show and a caller named Winston who was formerly incarcerated on Rikers prodded him on improving access to mental health services. De Blasio emphasized the decarceral aspects of the plan, which include greater investments in alternatives to incarceration, supervised release programs, and mental health initiatives.</p> <p>“This thing is not in isolation. Six years of changing the approach to criminal justice and it’s all been consistent with reducing crime at the same time and I’m very convinced that this is the right approach,” said the second-term Democrat. “But you’re right, it will take some important adjustments and investments and getting people more access to mental health services, which is the whole concept behind the Thrive[NYC] initiative, is absolutely necessary going forward, and providing better and more consistent mental health for those who do happen to be incarcerated, which is also in this plan.”</p> <p>One of the key elements of how things unfold will be the dichotomy of mental health services for those with serious mental illness who need treatment while serving jail time versus those who can be removed from or kept out of jail given appropriate treatment options and enrollment in such programming.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, said, “The time of locking people up because they're mentally ill has to come to an end. This is why we are creating new Intensive Mobile Treatment (IMT) teams to provide intensive treatment to adults with recent and frequent contact with the mental health, substance use, criminal justice, and homeless services systems. It is time to eliminate an unjust system that has criminalized mental illness and destroyed so many of our communities.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In a background briefing, an official from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, which took point on the jails plan, laid out the various pillars of the city’s approach. The official reemphasized what de Blasio said on the radio: that the administration’s focus is to minimize the number of people in jail with behavioral health, mental health, and substance misuse problems, and to prevent reincarceration by providing services that address their needs.</p> <p>Correctional Health Services, an arm of NYC Health+Hospitals, is charged with providing medical services to the city’s jail system, from pre-arraignment through reentry. According to a H+H spokesperson, roughly one-third of the 43% of detainees who receive a mental illness diagnosis have severe mental illness – schizophrenia, bipolar or depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder – making up about 16% of the total jail population. For a population of about 7,000 detainees, that means just over 1,100 people with serious mental illnesses at any given time.</p> <p>Currently, each jail has what H+H says is the equivalent of an outpatient clinic. For detainees with serious mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or who might be more vulnerable in the general jail population, there are 18 so-called mental observation (MO) units across the 10 jails and Horizon Juvenile Center. There are also inpatient psychiatric beds at Bellevue Hospital for men and at Elmhurst Hospital for women, all of whom are considered part of the city’s jail population while being treated.</p> <p>The community investments package that the City Council and mayor agreed to includes an expansion by Correctional Health Services of two programs that provide discharge and reentry services to the formerly incarcerated, the Community Reentry Assistance Network (CRAN) and Point of Reentry and Transition (PORT) programs.</p> <p>Though the city is hoping for the best, it is planning for the worst. About 40% of the beds in the new borough jails will be therapeutic housing units to account for the percentage of the jail population that suffers at least some kind of mental illness.</p> <p>The city plans to reduce the population through various efforts, including implementing recommendations from the city’s Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force announced <a href="https://thecity.nyc/2019/10/nypds-emergency-911-plan-for-mentally-ill-new-yorkers.html">last month</a>, which will change how police respond to people experiencing mental health crises. The city is putting $23 million in total towards those recommendations by 2023, which includes adding four Health Engagement and Assessment (HEAT) teams of clinicians and peers who have experienced mental illness to handle non-emergency responses, and six more mobile crisis teams (mental health professionals who respond to calls to the NYC-WELL hotline) to conduct home visits and respond to urgent situations.</p> <p>These programs aim to ensure that people suffering from mental illness do not wind up in jail, or back in jail as the case may be.</p> <p>Additionally, the city is investing $11.2 million to add 380 beds of “justice-involved supporting housing,” for a total of 500 across the city, and is increasing the number of post-release transitional beds for those with mental health needs and a history of homelessness to 500 with a $25 million investment.</p> <p>About $27 million in new funding will go to mental health services (for a total of $37 million) through various programs. And the Council also passed the Get Well And Get Out Act, which will allow those with serious mental illness to push for their release from custody if they improve with treatment.</p> <p>But the official from MOCJ conceded that there will inevitably be individuals with serious mental illnesses in jails, despite the city’s best efforts to reduce that population, which has stubbornly hovered in the 10-15% range even as the overall numbers of detainees have fallen. Almost all of the people held in city jails are either awaiting trial, locked up due to a parole violation, or serving sentences of under one year.</p> <p>The new borough facilities and the Rikers plan account for the fact that some detainees will suffer from serious mental illnesses by expanding two key programs that address this population: Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation (CAPS) and Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness (PACE).</p> <p>The Council’s agreement with the mayor includes $12.8 million to double the number of existing PACE units by the end of the current fiscal year. The city has yet to decide the breakdown of those units in the borough facilities, the MOCJ official said.</p> <p>The 250 new Outposted Therapeutic Units outside the jail system, however, will be dedicated to those individuals who have some form of substance abuse disorder, mental health or behavioral health issue as well as a complex need for medical care. The MOCJ official said they had identified a gap in the current continuum of care for these detainees, who don’t necessarily require inpatient hospitalization but benefit from proximity to specialized care. They can spend hours going to and from hospitals for even the shortest of check ups with specialists.&nbsp;</p> <p>The city is currently in the process of identifying vacant sites for those units and has contracted Lothrop Associates to conduct a feasibility study that is expected to be concluded by the end of the year, the MOCJ official said. The study will help determine the costs and needs of the new facilities and the city will then put out solicitations for redesigning the new spaces to accommodate incarcerated individuals. The project is separate from the borough-based jails plan and the official said it would likely move much faster since it would not require approval through the city’s land use process.</p> <p>Insha Rahman, director of Strategy and New Initiatives at the Vera Institute, said a larger goal of the Rikers closure plan should be to minimize the harm that jails do to inmates, not just those with mental illness.</p> <p>“If we're going to say, ‘We are still going to have incarceration in this city,’ which we are, for the foreseeable future, 5, 10, maybe even 20, 30 years from now, we should be constructing these new facilities as buildings first, and then outfitting them to be places of incarceration so that they're not built with just incarceration and jail design front and center,” she said in a phone interview.&nbsp;</p> <p>She cited the example of jails in countries like Germany and Norway. “To the extent that we're thinking about how do we address people's underlying needs and how do we provide therapeutic care and counseling for those who are in custody, anything that looks fundamentally like a jail is going to inflict some amount of harm and trauma,” she added, insisting that the city should look not to prison architects but to behavioral and mental health experts for ideas for the new jails.</p> <p>Rahman also urged the administration and Council to invest further at the community level in permanent affordable housing, community-based treatment and counselling that can preempt interactions with the criminal justice system.</p> <p>A stark reality that the city faces is dealing with those individuals with serious mental illness who pose a threat to themselves and others, a concern that was brought to the fore last month when a mentally ill homeless man killed four men sleeping on the street in Chinatown. It <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-city-mental-health-chinatown-homeless-murders-kendras-law-20191011-cwoxv4ccx5hihhuucdlppqnrzi-story.html">prompted</a> the city to review how it implements Kendra’s Law, which allows courts to mandate involuntary “assisted outpatient treatment” for such individuals. That review is meant to be completed by next week. The number of individuals ordered into treatment under the law was 2,476 in fiscal year 2018, down from 2,517 in fiscal year 2017 but up from 2,368 in fiscal year 2016 and 2,176 in fiscal year 2015, according to data provided by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>Rahman warned against harsher enforcement of the law. “I think enforcing Kendra's Law more strongly is not necessarily going to get us fewer people in our jails that have serious mental health needs,” she said. “I think the most important initial response is more community-based treatments and figuring out how can we actually resource families and neighbors.”</p> <p>There is some disagreement on that front, however. D.J. Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org, criticized the city’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative and called for an expansion of Kendra’s Law in an <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-how-to-truly-help-the-homeless-20191009-f3a6cifzf5anli4okmu4dhdwrq-story.html">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> following the Chinatown murders.</p> <p>Jaffe argues the City Council should require “the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to start evaluating all seriously mentally ill people being discharged from Rikers; all seriously mentally ill leaving shelters; and all mentally ill patients being discharged from city hospitals after an involuntary commitment. Those are the three highest risk groups; evaluate them all to see if they are eligible for Kendra’s Law and get them into it if they are.”</p> <p>Minister, Dr. Victoria A. Phillips of the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project echoed Rahman’s view, but also stressed that the new jails should prioritize interactions between detainees and health care workers, rather than with corrections officers.</p> <p>“Behind correctional walls, it’s never the health staff that takes the lead, and I think the Department of Corrections has shown itself to be unable to change its culture of violence,” she said, pointing to the most <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/pdf/8th_Monitor_Report.pdf">recent report</a> by a federal monitor with oversight of the city’s Department of Correction, which showed that use of force by corrections officers has risen dramatically while the jail population has dropped.</p> <p>Former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who led the independent commission that proposed the leading Rikers closure plan, praised the approach the city is taking, while acknowledging that the overarching objective is to keep people with mental illness out of jails. “If you have people who the system decides to incarcerate, then you have to deal with that,” he said in a phone interview. “In an ideal world...people who have serious problems with mental health should get help and not be incarcerated. But, you know, we don't live in the ideal world.”</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/More%20Testing%20is%20Not%20the%20Answer%20for%20New%20York%20City%20Students,%20But%20Smaller%20Classes%20Could%20Be%20https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/130-opinion/8908-more-testing-is-not-the-answer-for-new-york-city-students-but-smaller-classes-could-be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">'No One Should Enter the Criminal Justice System for Something Related to Mental Illness'</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42189138174_e431a4ec70_c.jpg" alt="Rikers Island inmate detainee" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In an historic vote last month, the New York City Council approved the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four borough-based jails by 2026. When the Council voted through the plan, estimated at $8.7 billion in new construction costs, it also announced, with Mayor Bill de Blasio, a $391-million package of citywide and community investments in criminal justice reforms and initiatives to responsibly accelerate the reduction of the city’s jail population.</p> <p>For city officials, one of the most complex issues they face is ensuring that the new system is less punitive and more rehabilitative, particularly for the 43% of incarcerated individuals who suffer from some form of mental illness. Experts and advocates say the plan is taking an appropriate approach to that issue but also insist that it provides a novel opportunity to rethink how the criminal justice system deals with the mentally ill, especially those suffering from more acute problems.</p> <p>Given that one of de Blasio’s signature programs as mayor is the ThriveNYC mental health “roadmap” spearheaded by his wife, Chirlane McCray, the mayor’s approach to services for those with severe mental illness, particularly those who wind up involved in the criminal justice system, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8705-new-york-criminal-justice-system-mental-illness-thrive-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been the source of intense scrutiny</a>, again heightened as the new jails plan was crafted.</p> <p>With most major crimes at or near record lows in the city and recent shifts in law enforcement and prosecutorial policies, particularly around non-violent offenses, the number of people incarcerated in city jails has been consistently declining. That drop has been so sharp that the de Blasio administration projects the average daily jail population to fall to 3,300 by 2026, when Rikers is set to close, down from about 7,000 this year and aided by state bail reform that will go into effect in January.</p> <p>The Rikers closure plan will involve building four new facilities in every borough except Staten Island, with roughly 885 beds each. The facilities are meant to be fairer and safer than the dilapidated jails on Rikers. Another 250 new beds will be created in existing public hospital facilities for those individuals who require continuing access to specialized medical services.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio himself has acknowledged that the city has its work cut out for it when it comes to individuals with mental illness who are locked up in jails. The day after the Council’s vote, the mayor made his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show and a caller named Winston who was formerly incarcerated on Rikers prodded him on improving access to mental health services. De Blasio emphasized the decarceral aspects of the plan, which include greater investments in alternatives to incarceration, supervised release programs, and mental health initiatives.</p> <p>“This thing is not in isolation. Six years of changing the approach to criminal justice and it’s all been consistent with reducing crime at the same time and I’m very convinced that this is the right approach,” said the second-term Democrat. “But you’re right, it will take some important adjustments and investments and getting people more access to mental health services, which is the whole concept behind the Thrive[NYC] initiative, is absolutely necessary going forward, and providing better and more consistent mental health for those who do happen to be incarcerated, which is also in this plan.”</p> <p>One of the key elements of how things unfold will be the dichotomy of mental health services for those with serious mental illness who need treatment while serving jail time versus those who can be removed from or kept out of jail given appropriate treatment options and enrollment in such programming.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, said, “The time of locking people up because they're mentally ill has to come to an end. This is why we are creating new Intensive Mobile Treatment (IMT) teams to provide intensive treatment to adults with recent and frequent contact with the mental health, substance use, criminal justice, and homeless services systems. It is time to eliminate an unjust system that has criminalized mental illness and destroyed so many of our communities.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In a background briefing, an official from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, which took point on the jails plan, laid out the various pillars of the city’s approach. The official reemphasized what de Blasio said on the radio: that the administration’s focus is to minimize the number of people in jail with behavioral health, mental health, and substance misuse problems, and to prevent reincarceration by providing services that address their needs.</p> <p>Correctional Health Services, an arm of NYC Health+Hospitals, is charged with providing medical services to the city’s jail system, from pre-arraignment through reentry. According to a H+H spokesperson, roughly one-third of the 43% of detainees who receive a mental illness diagnosis have severe mental illness – schizophrenia, bipolar or depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder – making up about 16% of the total jail population. For a population of about 7,000 detainees, that means just over 1,100 people with serious mental illnesses at any given time.</p> <p>Currently, each jail has what H+H says is the equivalent of an outpatient clinic. For detainees with serious mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or who might be more vulnerable in the general jail population, there are 18 so-called mental observation (MO) units across the 10 jails and Horizon Juvenile Center. There are also inpatient psychiatric beds at Bellevue Hospital for men and at Elmhurst Hospital for women, all of whom are considered part of the city’s jail population while being treated.</p> <p>The community investments package that the City Council and mayor agreed to includes an expansion by Correctional Health Services of two programs that provide discharge and reentry services to the formerly incarcerated, the Community Reentry Assistance Network (CRAN) and Point of Reentry and Transition (PORT) programs.</p> <p>Though the city is hoping for the best, it is planning for the worst. About 40% of the beds in the new borough jails will be therapeutic housing units to account for the percentage of the jail population that suffers at least some kind of mental illness.</p> <p>The city plans to reduce the population through various efforts, including implementing recommendations from the city’s Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force announced <a href="https://thecity.nyc/2019/10/nypds-emergency-911-plan-for-mentally-ill-new-yorkers.html">last month</a>, which will change how police respond to people experiencing mental health crises. The city is putting $23 million in total towards those recommendations by 2023, which includes adding four Health Engagement and Assessment (HEAT) teams of clinicians and peers who have experienced mental illness to handle non-emergency responses, and six more mobile crisis teams (mental health professionals who respond to calls to the NYC-WELL hotline) to conduct home visits and respond to urgent situations.</p> <p>These programs aim to ensure that people suffering from mental illness do not wind up in jail, or back in jail as the case may be.</p> <p>Additionally, the city is investing $11.2 million to add 380 beds of “justice-involved supporting housing,” for a total of 500 across the city, and is increasing the number of post-release transitional beds for those with mental health needs and a history of homelessness to 500 with a $25 million investment.</p> <p>About $27 million in new funding will go to mental health services (for a total of $37 million) through various programs. And the Council also passed the Get Well And Get Out Act, which will allow those with serious mental illness to push for their release from custody if they improve with treatment.</p> <p>But the official from MOCJ conceded that there will inevitably be individuals with serious mental illnesses in jails, despite the city’s best efforts to reduce that population, which has stubbornly hovered in the 10-15% range even as the overall numbers of detainees have fallen. Almost all of the people held in city jails are either awaiting trial, locked up due to a parole violation, or serving sentences of under one year.</p> <p>The new borough facilities and the Rikers plan account for the fact that some detainees will suffer from serious mental illnesses by expanding two key programs that address this population: Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation (CAPS) and Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness (PACE).</p> <p>The Council’s agreement with the mayor includes $12.8 million to double the number of existing PACE units by the end of the current fiscal year. The city has yet to decide the breakdown of those units in the borough facilities, the MOCJ official said.</p> <p>The 250 new Outposted Therapeutic Units outside the jail system, however, will be dedicated to those individuals who have some form of substance abuse disorder, mental health or behavioral health issue as well as a complex need for medical care. The MOCJ official said they had identified a gap in the current continuum of care for these detainees, who don’t necessarily require inpatient hospitalization but benefit from proximity to specialized care. They can spend hours going to and from hospitals for even the shortest of check ups with specialists.&nbsp;</p> <p>The city is currently in the process of identifying vacant sites for those units and has contracted Lothrop Associates to conduct a feasibility study that is expected to be concluded by the end of the year, the MOCJ official said. The study will help determine the costs and needs of the new facilities and the city will then put out solicitations for redesigning the new spaces to accommodate incarcerated individuals. The project is separate from the borough-based jails plan and the official said it would likely move much faster since it would not require approval through the city’s land use process.</p> <p>Insha Rahman, director of Strategy and New Initiatives at the Vera Institute, said a larger goal of the Rikers closure plan should be to minimize the harm that jails do to inmates, not just those with mental illness.</p> <p>“If we're going to say, ‘We are still going to have incarceration in this city,’ which we are, for the foreseeable future, 5, 10, maybe even 20, 30 years from now, we should be constructing these new facilities as buildings first, and then outfitting them to be places of incarceration so that they're not built with just incarceration and jail design front and center,” she said in a phone interview.&nbsp;</p> <p>She cited the example of jails in countries like Germany and Norway. “To the extent that we're thinking about how do we address people's underlying needs and how do we provide therapeutic care and counseling for those who are in custody, anything that looks fundamentally like a jail is going to inflict some amount of harm and trauma,” she added, insisting that the city should look not to prison architects but to behavioral and mental health experts for ideas for the new jails.</p> <p>Rahman also urged the administration and Council to invest further at the community level in permanent affordable housing, community-based treatment and counselling that can preempt interactions with the criminal justice system.</p> <p>A stark reality that the city faces is dealing with those individuals with serious mental illness who pose a threat to themselves and others, a concern that was brought to the fore last month when a mentally ill homeless man killed four men sleeping on the street in Chinatown. It <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-city-mental-health-chinatown-homeless-murders-kendras-law-20191011-cwoxv4ccx5hihhuucdlppqnrzi-story.html">prompted</a> the city to review how it implements Kendra’s Law, which allows courts to mandate involuntary “assisted outpatient treatment” for such individuals. That review is meant to be completed by next week. The number of individuals ordered into treatment under the law was 2,476 in fiscal year 2018, down from 2,517 in fiscal year 2017 but up from 2,368 in fiscal year 2016 and 2,176 in fiscal year 2015, according to data provided by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>Rahman warned against harsher enforcement of the law. “I think enforcing Kendra's Law more strongly is not necessarily going to get us fewer people in our jails that have serious mental health needs,” she said. “I think the most important initial response is more community-based treatments and figuring out how can we actually resource families and neighbors.”</p> <p>There is some disagreement on that front, however. D.J. Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org, criticized the city’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative and called for an expansion of Kendra’s Law in an <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-how-to-truly-help-the-homeless-20191009-f3a6cifzf5anli4okmu4dhdwrq-story.html">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> following the Chinatown murders.</p> <p>Jaffe argues the City Council should require “the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to start evaluating all seriously mentally ill people being discharged from Rikers; all seriously mentally ill leaving shelters; and all mentally ill patients being discharged from city hospitals after an involuntary commitment. Those are the three highest risk groups; evaluate them all to see if they are eligible for Kendra’s Law and get them into it if they are.”</p> <p>Minister, Dr. Victoria A. Phillips of the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project echoed Rahman’s view, but also stressed that the new jails should prioritize interactions between detainees and health care workers, rather than with corrections officers.</p> <p>“Behind correctional walls, it’s never the health staff that takes the lead, and I think the Department of Corrections has shown itself to be unable to change its culture of violence,” she said, pointing to the most <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/pdf/8th_Monitor_Report.pdf">recent report</a> by a federal monitor with oversight of the city’s Department of Correction, which showed that use of force by corrections officers has risen dramatically while the jail population has dropped.</p> <p>Former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who led the independent commission that proposed the leading Rikers closure plan, praised the approach the city is taking, while acknowledging that the overarching objective is to keep people with mental illness out of jails. “If you have people who the system decides to incarcerate, then you have to deal with that,” he said in a phone interview. “In an ideal world...people who have serious problems with mental health should get help and not be incarcerated. But, you know, we don't live in the ideal world.”</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/More%20Testing%20is%20Not%20the%20Answer%20for%20New%20York%20City%20Students,%20But%20Smaller%20Classes%20Could%20Be%20https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/130-opinion/8908-more-testing-is-not-the-answer-for-new-york-city-students-but-smaller-classes-could-be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">'No One Should Enter the Criminal Justice System for Something Related to Mental Illness'</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
First Deputy Mayor on Next Steps for Voter-Approved 'Rainy Day Fund' 2019-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8905-first-deputy-mayor-on-next-steps-for-voter-approved-rainy-day-fund Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/control-board-bdb.jpg" alt="control board bdb" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>With voter approval of a city charter amendment to pursue the creation of a budgetary “rainy day fund” in New York City, de Blasio administration officials are now looking to change state laws so that the city can actually start one.</p> <p>“We’re going to have to work together to make this happen,” said First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan at a breakfast event hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission Wednesday morning, just a few hours after polls closed on Tuesday night.</p> <p>Voters had overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the city charter that would allow the city to set aside revenue in a savings account meant to cushion the impact of a future economic downturn and city revenue dip — the inevitable rainy day. Until the charter amendment passed this week, provisions in both city and state law required the city to balance its budget every year, meaning savings cannot be carried over from one fiscal year to another. Now, only state law requires a balanced city budget.</p> <p>While the city continues to enjoy a period of economic prosperity since the 2008-2009 fiscal crisis, economists say it must brace for potential dips, whether slowing growth or recession. In the last two national recessions, the city economy contracted significantly and took years to rebound, according to a Citizens Budget Commission report, “<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/weather-storm">To Weather A Storm: Create a Rainy Day Fund</a>.” According to the CBC analysis, the gross city product (GCP) fell 7.6 percent from 2000 to 2002 and took another three years to reach its pre-recession size; from 2007 to 2009 GCP fell 9 percent and did not reach its previous peak until 2013.</p> <p>In situations like these, the city can quickly exhaust any reserves that may be available, and, in the absence of a rainy day fund, must cut services, raise taxes, and/or fall on short-term borrowing, all of which have consequences that are exacerbated in a recession.</p> <p>Currently, the city is able to put public funds into “reserves,” which are created through budgetary maneuvers that, among other things, allow the city to prepay for certain resources, debt service, and retiree health benefits costs. But fiscal watchdogs say the reserves would not be sufficient to combat a serious dip in the economy or an emergency crisis, and are a fraction of what a rainy day fund could cover.</p> <p>The city budget has grown tremendously since the last recession in 2008-2009. Since the beginning of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure in 2014, it has risen nearly $20 billion to $92.8 billion in the current fiscal year. About $6 billion of the total is currently in year-of reserves.</p> <p>“It’s a historic level of reserves,” which the city has not previously achieved, said Fuleihan, a former director of the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget and a veteran fiscal policy advisor in the State Assembly. “But it is not a rainy day fund. It’s not a traditional way of doing that, and now we have the opportunity to do that.”</p> <p>The rainy day fund amendment was one of 19 proposed changes to the city charter, which voters in New York City had an opportunity to approve or reject this fall based on the work of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, to which the mayor had several appointees along with other citywide and boroughwide officials. The proposals came in the form of five questions covering elections, police oversight, ethics and governance, city budget, and land use. All five questions passed by wide margins.</p> <p>The laws requiring New York City to balance its budget each year came out of the city’s 1975 fiscal crisis, in which the city’s debt obligations brought it close to bankruptcy. In response, the state enacted the Financial Emergency Act, which required a balanced budget and the use of generally accepted accounting principles as a way to ensure the city’s fiduciary obligations do not exceed its revenue. In 2005, those requirements were incorporated in the city charter.</p> <p>With the charter amendments that remove those requirements, state laws are the only remaining statutes preventing New York City from adopting a rainy day fund. State Senator Brian Benjamin, a Manhattan Democrat who is <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8790-state-senator-brian-benjamin-explores-run-for-city-comptroller">considering a run for city comptroller</a>, has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8877-senate-bill-would-complement-city-voter-approval-of-budget-rainy-day-fund">introduced a bill</a> that would authorize the city to create a rainy day fund (the fund is described in the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6804">bill</a> as a “municipal contingency and tax stabilization reserve fund”).&nbsp;</p> <p>For the de Blasio administration, the issue at hand now is not simply a matter of changing the state law. Fuleihan says he hopes to work with the state to devise a partnership that gives the city ultimate control over its budget and rainy day funds. Budget watchdogs are also hoping state lawmakers include statutory restrictions on when the rainy day funds may be spent to ensure that they are used as intended during periods of economic hardship.</p> <p>“The first step occurred [Tuesday] and now we need to talk about what that looks like,” Fuleihan told the CBC audience Wednesday, “and to make sure that the city is the determining factor in what this rainy day fund looks like.”</p> <p>“I think we do have to be careful about that,” he added.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/control-board-bdb.jpg" alt="control board bdb" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>With voter approval of a city charter amendment to pursue the creation of a budgetary “rainy day fund” in New York City, de Blasio administration officials are now looking to change state laws so that the city can actually start one.</p> <p>“We’re going to have to work together to make this happen,” said First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan at a breakfast event hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission Wednesday morning, just a few hours after polls closed on Tuesday night.</p> <p>Voters had overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the city charter that would allow the city to set aside revenue in a savings account meant to cushion the impact of a future economic downturn and city revenue dip — the inevitable rainy day. Until the charter amendment passed this week, provisions in both city and state law required the city to balance its budget every year, meaning savings cannot be carried over from one fiscal year to another. Now, only state law requires a balanced city budget.</p> <p>While the city continues to enjoy a period of economic prosperity since the 2008-2009 fiscal crisis, economists say it must brace for potential dips, whether slowing growth or recession. In the last two national recessions, the city economy contracted significantly and took years to rebound, according to a Citizens Budget Commission report, “<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/weather-storm">To Weather A Storm: Create a Rainy Day Fund</a>.” According to the CBC analysis, the gross city product (GCP) fell 7.6 percent from 2000 to 2002 and took another three years to reach its pre-recession size; from 2007 to 2009 GCP fell 9 percent and did not reach its previous peak until 2013.</p> <p>In situations like these, the city can quickly exhaust any reserves that may be available, and, in the absence of a rainy day fund, must cut services, raise taxes, and/or fall on short-term borrowing, all of which have consequences that are exacerbated in a recession.</p> <p>Currently, the city is able to put public funds into “reserves,” which are created through budgetary maneuvers that, among other things, allow the city to prepay for certain resources, debt service, and retiree health benefits costs. But fiscal watchdogs say the reserves would not be sufficient to combat a serious dip in the economy or an emergency crisis, and are a fraction of what a rainy day fund could cover.</p> <p>The city budget has grown tremendously since the last recession in 2008-2009. Since the beginning of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure in 2014, it has risen nearly $20 billion to $92.8 billion in the current fiscal year. About $6 billion of the total is currently in year-of reserves.</p> <p>“It’s a historic level of reserves,” which the city has not previously achieved, said Fuleihan, a former director of the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget and a veteran fiscal policy advisor in the State Assembly. “But it is not a rainy day fund. It’s not a traditional way of doing that, and now we have the opportunity to do that.”</p> <p>The rainy day fund amendment was one of 19 proposed changes to the city charter, which voters in New York City had an opportunity to approve or reject this fall based on the work of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, to which the mayor had several appointees along with other citywide and boroughwide officials. The proposals came in the form of five questions covering elections, police oversight, ethics and governance, city budget, and land use. All five questions passed by wide margins.</p> <p>The laws requiring New York City to balance its budget each year came out of the city’s 1975 fiscal crisis, in which the city’s debt obligations brought it close to bankruptcy. In response, the state enacted the Financial Emergency Act, which required a balanced budget and the use of generally accepted accounting principles as a way to ensure the city’s fiduciary obligations do not exceed its revenue. In 2005, those requirements were incorporated in the city charter.</p> <p>With the charter amendments that remove those requirements, state laws are the only remaining statutes preventing New York City from adopting a rainy day fund. State Senator Brian Benjamin, a Manhattan Democrat who is <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8790-state-senator-brian-benjamin-explores-run-for-city-comptroller">considering a run for city comptroller</a>, has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8877-senate-bill-would-complement-city-voter-approval-of-budget-rainy-day-fund">introduced a bill</a> that would authorize the city to create a rainy day fund (the fund is described in the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6804">bill</a> as a “municipal contingency and tax stabilization reserve fund”).&nbsp;</p> <p>For the de Blasio administration, the issue at hand now is not simply a matter of changing the state law. Fuleihan says he hopes to work with the state to devise a partnership that gives the city ultimate control over its budget and rainy day funds. Budget watchdogs are also hoping state lawmakers include statutory restrictions on when the rainy day funds may be spent to ensure that they are used as intended during periods of economic hardship.</p> <p>“The first step occurred [Tuesday] and now we need to talk about what that looks like,” Fuleihan told the CBC audience Wednesday, “and to make sure that the city is the determining factor in what this rainy day fund looks like.”</p> <p>“I think we do have to be careful about that,” he added.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Williams Remains Public Advocate; Katz Next Queens DA; Ranked-Choice Voting on Its Way; & More: Election Results 2019 2019-11-05T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-05T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8901-williams-remains-public-advocate-katz-next-queens-da-ranked-choice-voting-on-its-way-more-election-results-2019 Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/37538369094_848cd1720a_c.jpg" alt="37538369094 848cd1720a c" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>After about 60,000 New York City voters took advantage of the first early voting period in city history, albeit during an especially quiet electoral year, more than 650,000 others went to the polls on Election Day 2019, providing mostly expected results and approving multiple controversial ballot proposals to change city elections and governance. This year provided a helpful initial test run for early voting and all that goes with it, such as electronic poll books and a lot of poll-worker training, before what is expected to be an incredibly tense and busy 2020 election year, with especially high turnout for the presidential election, as well as those for Congress and the State Legislature.</p> <p>After winning a special election earlier this year, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat, was reelected Tuesday to serve the rest of the term through the end of 2021. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, also a Democrat, was elected Tuesday to become the next Queens District Attorney, a four-year term beginning at the start of 2020. Council Member Farah Louis, who replaced Williams in the City Council after winning her own prior special election, also retained her seat and can serve through at least 2021.</p> <p>And the relatively small number of New York City voters who turned out this fall (about 15% of the city's 4.8 million active registered voters) -- from the inaugural early voting period and on Election Day -- also approved 19 specific changes to city elections and governance with overall “yes” votes on five ballot proposals. Those changes include instituting ranked-choice voting for party primary and special elections; bolstering the agency that investigates and prosecutes certain allegations of police officer misconduct; and making several tweaks to ethics, budgeting, and land use laws.</p> <p>Along with those candidate races, there were a variety of judicial elections around the city, and some candidates with regularly-scheduled elections -- namely Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon -- ran unopposed. It was a slightly more exciting election year than expected given the special elections for Public Advocate and City Council, and the Queens District Attorney Democratic primary that ended with Katz winning in a recount.</p> <p>Adding to the intrigue was the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, which put the 19 proposals in five questions on the ballot. With all the questions approved by voters, the following changes are among those that will be instituted (some of the language is directly from the charter commission’s materials):</p> <p>-Ranked-choice voting for party primary and special elections for the offices of Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council Member. This will begin on or after January 1, 2021.</p> <p>-The time to hold a special election after a city office is left vacant is extended to 80 days.</p> <p>-Alters the structure of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) by adding two members, one from the Public Advocate and a joint appointment by the Mayor and the City Council, who would also serve as chair.</p> <p>-Provides that the Council directly appoints its members to the CCRB.</p> <p>-Requires the Police Commissioner provides a detailed explanation to the CCRB when deciding to impose discipline on an officer that differs from the level of discipline recommended by either the CCRB or the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials.</p> <p>-Allows the CCRB Board to delegate its subpoena power to its Executive Director.</p> <p>-Allows the CCRB to investigate potentially false official statements made by an officer it is investigating and to recommend discipline, if appropriate.</p> <p>-Provides a minimum budget to the CCRB sufficient to fund CCRB staff equal to 0.65% of the number of uniformed police officers, unless the Mayor determines that fiscal necessity requires a lower budget.</p> <p>-Extends the post-employment appearance ban for elected officials and certain senior appointed officials from one year to two years for employees/officials who leave city service on or after January 1, 2022.</p> <p>-Amends the structure of the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) by replacing two members now appointed by the Mayor with one member appointed by the Comptroller and one appointed by the Public Advocate.</p> <p>-Limits the political activity of COIB Board members by prohibiting participation in campaigns for local elected offices, and reducing the maximum amount of money that they can contribute to the amounts that candidates can receive from those doing business with the city ($400 or less, depending on the office).</p> <p>-Requires that the Citywide M/WBE Director report directly to the Mayor and be supported by a mayoral office of M/WBEs.</p> <p>-Requires advice and consent by the City Council for the Mayor’s appointment of the Corporation Counsel.</p> <p>-Allows the city to use a “rainy day fund” to save money for use in future years, such as for addressing unexpected financial hardships. (Changes to state law will also be needed for this rainy day fund to be usable.)</p> <p>-Sets guaranteed minimum budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents at or above their respective Fiscal Year 2020 budgets, adjusted in future fiscal years by the lower of inflation or the percentage change in the city’s total expense budget (excluding certain components), unless the Mayor determines that fiscal necessity requires a lower budget.</p> <p>-Requires the Mayor to submit the revenue estimate to the City Council by April 26 (instead of June 5).</p> <p>-Requires the Mayor to submit budget modifications to the Council within 30 days after the submission of any periodic update the city’s financial plan during the year.</p> <p>-Provides a ULURP Pre-Certification Notice Period by requiring the Department of City Planning to transmit a detailed project summary of ULURP applications to the affected Community Board, Borough President, and Borough Board at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review, and to post that summary on its website.</p> <p>-Provides Community Boards with additional time to review ULURP applications certified for public review by the Department of City Planning between June 1 and July 15, from the current 60-day review period to 90 days for applications certified in June, and to 75 days for applications certified between July 1 and July 15.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/37538369094_848cd1720a_c.jpg" alt="37538369094 848cd1720a c" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>After about 60,000 New York City voters took advantage of the first early voting period in city history, albeit during an especially quiet electoral year, more than 650,000 others went to the polls on Election Day 2019, providing mostly expected results and approving multiple controversial ballot proposals to change city elections and governance. This year provided a helpful initial test run for early voting and all that goes with it, such as electronic poll books and a lot of poll-worker training, before what is expected to be an incredibly tense and busy 2020 election year, with especially high turnout for the presidential election, as well as those for Congress and the State Legislature.</p> <p>After winning a special election earlier this year, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat, was reelected Tuesday to serve the rest of the term through the end of 2021. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, also a Democrat, was elected Tuesday to become the next Queens District Attorney, a four-year term beginning at the start of 2020. Council Member Farah Louis, who replaced Williams in the City Council after winning her own prior special election, also retained her seat and can serve through at least 2021.</p> <p>And the relatively small number of New York City voters who turned out this fall (about 15% of the city's 4.8 million active registered voters) -- from the inaugural early voting period and on Election Day -- also approved 19 specific changes to city elections and governance with overall “yes” votes on five ballot proposals. Those changes include instituting ranked-choice voting for party primary and special elections; bolstering the agency that investigates and prosecutes certain allegations of police officer misconduct; and making several tweaks to ethics, budgeting, and land use laws.</p> <p>Along with those candidate races, there were a variety of judicial elections around the city, and some candidates with regularly-scheduled elections -- namely Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon -- ran unopposed. It was a slightly more exciting election year than expected given the special elections for Public Advocate and City Council, and the Queens District Attorney Democratic primary that ended with Katz winning in a recount.</p> <p>Adding to the intrigue was the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, which put the 19 proposals in five questions on the ballot. With all the questions approved by voters, the following changes are among those that will be instituted (some of the language is directly from the charter commission’s materials):</p> <p>-Ranked-choice voting for party primary and special elections for the offices of Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council Member. This will begin on or after January 1, 2021.</p> <p>-The time to hold a special election after a city office is left vacant is extended to 80 days.</p> <p>-Alters the structure of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) by adding two members, one from the Public Advocate and a joint appointment by the Mayor and the City Council, who would also serve as chair.</p> <p>-Provides that the Council directly appoints its members to the CCRB.</p> <p>-Requires the Police Commissioner provides a detailed explanation to the CCRB when deciding to impose discipline on an officer that differs from the level of discipline recommended by either the CCRB or the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials.</p> <p>-Allows the CCRB Board to delegate its subpoena power to its Executive Director.</p> <p>-Allows the CCRB to investigate potentially false official statements made by an officer it is investigating and to recommend discipline, if appropriate.</p> <p>-Provides a minimum budget to the CCRB sufficient to fund CCRB staff equal to 0.65% of the number of uniformed police officers, unless the Mayor determines that fiscal necessity requires a lower budget.</p> <p>-Extends the post-employment appearance ban for elected officials and certain senior appointed officials from one year to two years for employees/officials who leave city service on or after January 1, 2022.</p> <p>-Amends the structure of the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) by replacing two members now appointed by the Mayor with one member appointed by the Comptroller and one appointed by the Public Advocate.</p> <p>-Limits the political activity of COIB Board members by prohibiting participation in campaigns for local elected offices, and reducing the maximum amount of money that they can contribute to the amounts that candidates can receive from those doing business with the city ($400 or less, depending on the office).</p> <p>-Requires that the Citywide M/WBE Director report directly to the Mayor and be supported by a mayoral office of M/WBEs.</p> <p>-Requires advice and consent by the City Council for the Mayor’s appointment of the Corporation Counsel.</p> <p>-Allows the city to use a “rainy day fund” to save money for use in future years, such as for addressing unexpected financial hardships. (Changes to state law will also be needed for this rainy day fund to be usable.)</p> <p>-Sets guaranteed minimum budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents at or above their respective Fiscal Year 2020 budgets, adjusted in future fiscal years by the lower of inflation or the percentage change in the city’s total expense budget (excluding certain components), unless the Mayor determines that fiscal necessity requires a lower budget.</p> <p>-Requires the Mayor to submit the revenue estimate to the City Council by April 26 (instead of June 5).</p> <p>-Requires the Mayor to submit budget modifications to the Council within 30 days after the submission of any periodic update the city’s financial plan during the year.</p> <p>-Provides a ULURP Pre-Certification Notice Period by requiring the Department of City Planning to transmit a detailed project summary of ULURP applications to the affected Community Board, Borough President, and Borough Board at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review, and to post that summary on its website.</p> <p>-Provides Community Boards with additional time to review ULURP applications certified for public review by the Department of City Planning between June 1 and July 15, from the current 60-day review period to 90 days for applications certified in June, and to 75 days for applications certified between July 1 and July 15.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Securing Two More Years as Public Advocate, Williams to Keep Pushing De Blasio on Housing, Policing 2019-11-06T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-06T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8902-reelected-public-advocate-williams-push-de-blasio-housing-policing Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/ee7tqcgxsaevmo6.jpg" alt="ee7tqcgxsaevmo6" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Jumaane Williams (photo: @nycpa)</p> <hr /> <p>Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat, easily won his reelection bid on Tuesday, beating Republican Joseph Borelli, a City Council member from Staten Island, and Libertarian Party nominee Devin Balkind. With about 723,000 votes counted and 90% of election precincts reporting at midnight, Williams had received 78% of the vote (563,000 votes) to Borelli's 20% (144,400) and Balkind's 2% (14,500).</p> <p>Williams previously represented Brooklyn in the New York City Council and was first elected to the public advocate’s office in a crowded February special election, replacing now-Attorney General Letitia James. Election law required him to defend his seat in the November election, and after emerging victorious, he will now serve out the remainder of the term which runs through 2021.</p> <p>Though the public advocate’s office, with its annual budget of just under $4 million, has limited power, it is one of three citywide elected positions and gives its holder a bully pulpit to raise issues and to hold the mayoral administration to account. It is meant to act as an ombudsperson for the public, hearing and investigating complaints and advocating on New Yorkers’ behalf.</p> <p>The public advocate can also introduce legislation in the City Council but cannot cast a vote on any bills. The office is also considered a launching pad to higher office. Before James was elected in 2013, the seat was held by de Blasio for one term. Williams, however, has repeatedly pledged that he will not run for mayor in 2021. If he chooses to, and barring any electoral setbacks, he could serve as public advocate for two full four-year terms through 2029.</p> <p>As a community organizer before he joined the City Council, Williams touts his activist credentials and has been a frequent critic, as well as an ally at times, of Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration. Williams has been particularly critical of de Blasio on the issues of housing affordability and police accountability.</p> <p>"I know sometimes it feels like pushing the boulder up the hill. That the challenge is too great, the goals too difficult. At times like that, we need to think about the victories, and that's what we're recognizing here today," Williams said in his victory speech Tuesday night. "I've had the honor of serving as your Public Advocate for the last eight months, and as the people's advocate in City Government for the last ten years.&nbsp;In that time we've fought to end the abuses of stop question and frisk. We've passed affordable housing laws and tenant protections. We've put in place protections against discrimination based on military service and reproductive rights. We've given formerly incarcerated people a fair chance and many people a first chance.&nbsp;We've done all that because of the combined power of people inside and outside of government, demanding transformational change."</p> <p>Considering Williams’ broad name recognition – he came close to winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor last year – and the overwhelming enrollment advantage that Democrats enjoy in the city, he had small odds of being deposed by Borelli or Balkind, both of whom readily acknowledged that fact.</p> <p>Borelli’s rationale for the public advocate’s office was simple: either bolster its authority significantly or eliminate it entirely. He also cited the importance of having a public advocate from the opposite political party from the mayor, and said the city needed someone to pull de Blasio back toward the center. Balkind, a civic technologist who runs a nonprofit, ran on a five-point platform of technocratic solutions to improve city governance, provide better social services, and increase civic engagement.</p> <p>Williams’ predecessor, James, was an experienced litigator and used the public advocate’s office to regularly take legal action – to varying degrees of success – against the de Blasio administration. But Williams has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8387-watch-new-public-advocate-jumaane-williams-on-his-vision-for-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">taken a different tact</a> and is seeking to pull the mayor to the left on various issues where he believes the city has failed. Shortly after being elected in February, he restructured the office and appointed five new deputy public advocates with specific portfolios that cover housing, criminal justice, health, public safety, education, civic engagement, and more.</p> <p>Over the last few months, he has increased his criticism of the city’s protocols for handling people with severe mental illnesses, several of whom have been killed in interactions with police officers. Williams has <a href="https://www.pubadvocate.nyc.gov/reports/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">instead called</a> for a comprehensive approach that eschews police involvement and emphasizes treatment and services.</p> <p>Williams was one of the few City Council Members who opposed the de Blasio administration’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, approved by the Council in 2016. MIH is meant to mandate that private developers build affordable housing in new developments that receive rezonings to allow more density. But it has proved controversial and critics say it does not go far enough to build housing for the lowest income New Yorkers who need it most.</p> <p>Williams has called for a moratorium on all proposed neighborhood rezonings, and has also <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8558-criticizing-de-blasio-rezonings-williams-introduces-racial-impact-study-requirement" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sponsored legislation that would mandate a racial impact study of rezonings</a> prior to approval.</p> <p>[WATCH: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8387-watch-new-public-advocate-jumaane-williams-on-his-vision-for-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on his vision for the office and city.</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/ee7tqcgxsaevmo6.jpg" alt="ee7tqcgxsaevmo6" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Jumaane Williams (photo: @nycpa)</p> <hr /> <p>Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat, easily won his reelection bid on Tuesday, beating Republican Joseph Borelli, a City Council member from Staten Island, and Libertarian Party nominee Devin Balkind. With about 723,000 votes counted and 90% of election precincts reporting at midnight, Williams had received 78% of the vote (563,000 votes) to Borelli's 20% (144,400) and Balkind's 2% (14,500).</p> <p>Williams previously represented Brooklyn in the New York City Council and was first elected to the public advocate’s office in a crowded February special election, replacing now-Attorney General Letitia James. Election law required him to defend his seat in the November election, and after emerging victorious, he will now serve out the remainder of the term which runs through 2021.</p> <p>Though the public advocate’s office, with its annual budget of just under $4 million, has limited power, it is one of three citywide elected positions and gives its holder a bully pulpit to raise issues and to hold the mayoral administration to account. It is meant to act as an ombudsperson for the public, hearing and investigating complaints and advocating on New Yorkers’ behalf.</p> <p>The public advocate can also introduce legislation in the City Council but cannot cast a vote on any bills. The office is also considered a launching pad to higher office. Before James was elected in 2013, the seat was held by de Blasio for one term. Williams, however, has repeatedly pledged that he will not run for mayor in 2021. If he chooses to, and barring any electoral setbacks, he could serve as public advocate for two full four-year terms through 2029.</p> <p>As a community organizer before he joined the City Council, Williams touts his activist credentials and has been a frequent critic, as well as an ally at times, of Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration. Williams has been particularly critical of de Blasio on the issues of housing affordability and police accountability.</p> <p>"I know sometimes it feels like pushing the boulder up the hill. That the challenge is too great, the goals too difficult. At times like that, we need to think about the victories, and that's what we're recognizing here today," Williams said in his victory speech Tuesday night. "I've had the honor of serving as your Public Advocate for the last eight months, and as the people's advocate in City Government for the last ten years.&nbsp;In that time we've fought to end the abuses of stop question and frisk. We've passed affordable housing laws and tenant protections. We've put in place protections against discrimination based on military service and reproductive rights. We've given formerly incarcerated people a fair chance and many people a first chance.&nbsp;We've done all that because of the combined power of people inside and outside of government, demanding transformational change."</p> <p>Considering Williams’ broad name recognition – he came close to winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor last year – and the overwhelming enrollment advantage that Democrats enjoy in the city, he had small odds of being deposed by Borelli or Balkind, both of whom readily acknowledged that fact.</p> <p>Borelli’s rationale for the public advocate’s office was simple: either bolster its authority significantly or eliminate it entirely. He also cited the importance of having a public advocate from the opposite political party from the mayor, and said the city needed someone to pull de Blasio back toward the center. Balkind, a civic technologist who runs a nonprofit, ran on a five-point platform of technocratic solutions to improve city governance, provide better social services, and increase civic engagement.</p> <p>Williams’ predecessor, James, was an experienced litigator and used the public advocate’s office to regularly take legal action – to varying degrees of success – against the de Blasio administration. But Williams has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8387-watch-new-public-advocate-jumaane-williams-on-his-vision-for-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">taken a different tact</a> and is seeking to pull the mayor to the left on various issues where he believes the city has failed. Shortly after being elected in February, he restructured the office and appointed five new deputy public advocates with specific portfolios that cover housing, criminal justice, health, public safety, education, civic engagement, and more.</p> <p>Over the last few months, he has increased his criticism of the city’s protocols for handling people with severe mental illnesses, several of whom have been killed in interactions with police officers. Williams has <a href="https://www.pubadvocate.nyc.gov/reports/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">instead called</a> for a comprehensive approach that eschews police involvement and emphasizes treatment and services.</p> <p>Williams was one of the few City Council Members who opposed the de Blasio administration’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, approved by the Council in 2016. MIH is meant to mandate that private developers build affordable housing in new developments that receive rezonings to allow more density. But it has proved controversial and critics say it does not go far enough to build housing for the lowest income New Yorkers who need it most.</p> <p>Williams has called for a moratorium on all proposed neighborhood rezonings, and has also <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8558-criticizing-de-blasio-rezonings-williams-introduces-racial-impact-study-requirement" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sponsored legislation that would mandate a racial impact study of rezonings</a> prior to approval.</p> <p>[WATCH: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8387-watch-new-public-advocate-jumaane-williams-on-his-vision-for-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on his vision for the office and city.</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
NYPD Publishes Long-Sought Body Camera Footage Policy 2019-11-01T04:00:00+00:00 2019-11-01T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/com-james-body.jpg" alt="com james body" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with an NYPD body camera (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York Police Department quietly issued its long-sought policy on the public release of body-worn camera footage earlier this month, detailing how the department must respond to requests for footage from the public and the various exemptions that determine its release.</p> <p>The policy was published to the NYPD website on October 18, one day after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8847-nypd-pledges-release-of-body-camera-footage-policy-this-month" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gotham Gazette reported</a> on the long delay in formulating the policy and seven months after the department finished its yearslong rollout of body-worn cameras to all uniformed patrol officers on the force. No public notice appears to have gone out from the NYPD, but a link to the policy was provided to Gotham Gazette upon follow-up inquiry on Thursday -- an NYPD spokesperson had previously said the policy would be out by the end of the month.</p> <p>The policy and release of video are meant to create transparency into police interactions with members of the public, including but not limited to high-profile and controversial events – including fatal shootings – which the department refers to as “critical incidents.” It outlines how the department will provide access to members of the public, news media, and investigating authorities.</p> <p>While there have been calls for a public policy for years, the issuance of one by the department will not fully quell concerns from reformers, including those who believe the NYPD should not be in charge of the footage in the first place. Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly called the institution of body cameras a major step forward in NYPD transparency and accountability and argued it is leading to better policing and police-community relationships.</p> <p>“The Department’s policy regarding the public release of Body-Worn Camera (BWC) footage of a critical incident enhances Departmental transparency, while balancing privacy concerns and the need to comply with federal, state and local public disclosure laws,” <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/oo-46-19-bodyworn-camera-footage.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the two-page "operations order" policy</a> reads.</p> <p>The policy details the NYPD’s obligations for turning over footage to federal and state prosecutors investigating incidents of use of force. Within 24 hours of being informed that an investigation is underway, the department must turn over footage, it has decided. For release to the public, the policy states that the department “will decide” within 30 days, “provided that the force investigation review is completed.”</p> <p>It does allow prosecutors to request, in writing, an additional 30-day delay in releasing footage to the public, which would be decided by the police commissioner. The department will also release samples of the incident and relevant footage of events that lead up to an incident, it states, likely leading to further questions about selected samples and how they may or may not provide an accurate or full picture of an incident.</p> <p>Before releasing any footage, the department will take into account several factors, the policy says. For instance, whether the footage captured the inside of a home where individuals can expect privacy, any intimate images, images of injuries or dead bodies, location of a domestic violence program, or images that show an individual or officer receiving medical attention.</p> <p>Bearing in mind privacy concerns, the policy states that individuals’ faces will be blurred and release may be delayed or portions of the footage may be edited or withheld to comply with state, federal, or city laws, to protect witnesses and informants, to protect a person’s right to a fair trial, to protect the identity of sex crime victims, domestic violence survivors and juveniles, to protect the privacy, life or safety of a person or to avoid undue trauma from explicit or graphic content.</p> <p>The policy does note that unredacted footage may be shared for full transparency to the news media after taking those factors into consideration.</p> <p>It defines a “critical incident” as one that involves use of force by officers that results in death or serious physical injury to another person or an incident where the police commissioner decides that releasing the footage will “address vast public attention, or concern, or will help enforce the law, preserve peace, and/or maintain public order.”</p> <p>Recent incidents of alleged police misconduct and fatal shootings by officers have reignited concerns about how the NYPD handles and releases body-worn camera footage. Just this past weekend, two separate incidents involving policing the subway system were caught on cellphone cameras by bystanders and raised questions about when the public might see officers’ body camera footage.</p> <p>In one, officers aggressively arrested a young man they believed possessed a gun. Though the man was not resisting and was seated in a subway car with his hands up, multiple officers rushed in and forcefully pulled him to the ground before arresting him. The second incident involved what officers said they stepped in to separate two groups of teenagers fighting on a subway platform. In video of that case, one officer can be seen punching teenagers unprovoked. He has been placed on modified duty pending an investigation of the incident, according to city officials.</p> <p>Elected officials and police reform advocates have been in an uproar and have called for the speedy release of any footage that the officers involved may have captured on their body-worn cameras.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently ordered the addition of 500 new MTA police officers to reduce fare evasion, crack down on homelessness in the subways, and protect transit officers, but those officers are not required to be fitted with body-worn cameras, unlike their counterparts in the NYPD. As some have questioned the need for the officers, State Senator Jessica Ramos announced plans to introduce legislation to require MTA officers to wear body cameras.</p> <p>Kesi Foster, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of advocacy groups, said the new NYPD footage release policy is “a sham, designed to protect abusive officers and the reputation of the NYPD instead of the public.”</p> <p>“The purpose of the policy is to be able to control the narrative related to interactions between residents and officers, not to deter or prevent abusive policing,” he said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “While other municipalities release body camera footage within days of an incident, the NYPD plans to drag out the timeline and continue to cement police secrecy and impunity as NYC's defacto policy. The new policy makes clear that the NYPD will continue to unilaterally decide what selective footage will be released, how it will be edited and when it will be released.”</p> <p>Foster cited the “selectively edited photos and footage” released by the NYPD after officers shot and killed Brooklyn resident Saheed Vassell last year. <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2018/04/06/nypd-releases-new-video-of-moments-leading-up-to-police-shooting-of-an-unarmed-man" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The footage</a>, from security cameras, shows Vassell, who suffered from mental illness, holding a metal pipe and pointing it at people on the street. But it does not clearly show the officers shooting Vassell, which they did within seconds of arriving at the scene. None of those officers were equipped with body cameras, according to the NYPD. Foster said that case “is a perfect preview of how the department will use release of edited footage and photos to justify unjustifiable police action and criminalize those killed and brutalized by police.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/com-james-body.jpg" alt="com james body" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with an NYPD body camera (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York Police Department quietly issued its long-sought policy on the public release of body-worn camera footage earlier this month, detailing how the department must respond to requests for footage from the public and the various exemptions that determine its release.</p> <p>The policy was published to the NYPD website on October 18, one day after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8847-nypd-pledges-release-of-body-camera-footage-policy-this-month" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gotham Gazette reported</a> on the long delay in formulating the policy and seven months after the department finished its yearslong rollout of body-worn cameras to all uniformed patrol officers on the force. No public notice appears to have gone out from the NYPD, but a link to the policy was provided to Gotham Gazette upon follow-up inquiry on Thursday -- an NYPD spokesperson had previously said the policy would be out by the end of the month.</p> <p>The policy and release of video are meant to create transparency into police interactions with members of the public, including but not limited to high-profile and controversial events – including fatal shootings – which the department refers to as “critical incidents.” It outlines how the department will provide access to members of the public, news media, and investigating authorities.</p> <p>While there have been calls for a public policy for years, the issuance of one by the department will not fully quell concerns from reformers, including those who believe the NYPD should not be in charge of the footage in the first place. Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly called the institution of body cameras a major step forward in NYPD transparency and accountability and argued it is leading to better policing and police-community relationships.</p> <p>“The Department’s policy regarding the public release of Body-Worn Camera (BWC) footage of a critical incident enhances Departmental transparency, while balancing privacy concerns and the need to comply with federal, state and local public disclosure laws,” <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/oo-46-19-bodyworn-camera-footage.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the two-page "operations order" policy</a> reads.</p> <p>The policy details the NYPD’s obligations for turning over footage to federal and state prosecutors investigating incidents of use of force. Within 24 hours of being informed that an investigation is underway, the department must turn over footage, it has decided. For release to the public, the policy states that the department “will decide” within 30 days, “provided that the force investigation review is completed.”</p> <p>It does allow prosecutors to request, in writing, an additional 30-day delay in releasing footage to the public, which would be decided by the police commissioner. The department will also release samples of the incident and relevant footage of events that lead up to an incident, it states, likely leading to further questions about selected samples and how they may or may not provide an accurate or full picture of an incident.</p> <p>Before releasing any footage, the department will take into account several factors, the policy says. For instance, whether the footage captured the inside of a home where individuals can expect privacy, any intimate images, images of injuries or dead bodies, location of a domestic violence program, or images that show an individual or officer receiving medical attention.</p> <p>Bearing in mind privacy concerns, the policy states that individuals’ faces will be blurred and release may be delayed or portions of the footage may be edited or withheld to comply with state, federal, or city laws, to protect witnesses and informants, to protect a person’s right to a fair trial, to protect the identity of sex crime victims, domestic violence survivors and juveniles, to protect the privacy, life or safety of a person or to avoid undue trauma from explicit or graphic content.</p> <p>The policy does note that unredacted footage may be shared for full transparency to the news media after taking those factors into consideration.</p> <p>It defines a “critical incident” as one that involves use of force by officers that results in death or serious physical injury to another person or an incident where the police commissioner decides that releasing the footage will “address vast public attention, or concern, or will help enforce the law, preserve peace, and/or maintain public order.”</p> <p>Recent incidents of alleged police misconduct and fatal shootings by officers have reignited concerns about how the NYPD handles and releases body-worn camera footage. Just this past weekend, two separate incidents involving policing the subway system were caught on cellphone cameras by bystanders and raised questions about when the public might see officers’ body camera footage.</p> <p>In one, officers aggressively arrested a young man they believed possessed a gun. Though the man was not resisting and was seated in a subway car with his hands up, multiple officers rushed in and forcefully pulled him to the ground before arresting him. The second incident involved what officers said they stepped in to separate two groups of teenagers fighting on a subway platform. In video of that case, one officer can be seen punching teenagers unprovoked. He has been placed on modified duty pending an investigation of the incident, according to city officials.</p> <p>Elected officials and police reform advocates have been in an uproar and have called for the speedy release of any footage that the officers involved may have captured on their body-worn cameras.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently ordered the addition of 500 new MTA police officers to reduce fare evasion, crack down on homelessness in the subways, and protect transit officers, but those officers are not required to be fitted with body-worn cameras, unlike their counterparts in the NYPD. As some have questioned the need for the officers, State Senator Jessica Ramos announced plans to introduce legislation to require MTA officers to wear body cameras.</p> <p>Kesi Foster, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of advocacy groups, said the new NYPD footage release policy is “a sham, designed to protect abusive officers and the reputation of the NYPD instead of the public.”</p> <p>“The purpose of the policy is to be able to control the narrative related to interactions between residents and officers, not to deter or prevent abusive policing,” he said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “While other municipalities release body camera footage within days of an incident, the NYPD plans to drag out the timeline and continue to cement police secrecy and impunity as NYC's defacto policy. The new policy makes clear that the NYPD will continue to unilaterally decide what selective footage will be released, how it will be edited and when it will be released.”</p> <p>Foster cited the “selectively edited photos and footage” released by the NYPD after officers shot and killed Brooklyn resident Saheed Vassell last year. <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2018/04/06/nypd-releases-new-video-of-moments-leading-up-to-police-shooting-of-an-unarmed-man" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The footage</a>, from security cameras, shows Vassell, who suffered from mental illness, holding a metal pipe and pointing it at people on the street. But it does not clearly show the officers shooting Vassell, which they did within seconds of arriving at the scene. None of those officers were equipped with body cameras, according to the NYPD. Foster said that case “is a perfect preview of how the department will use release of edited footage and photos to justify unjustifiable police action and criminalize those killed and brutalized by police.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
WATCH: 15 Minutes with Public Advocate Candidate Joe Borelli 2019-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8872-watch-15-minutes-with-public-advocate-candidate-joe-borelli-city-council Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mnn-borelli.jpg" alt="mnn borelli" width="600" /></p> <p>Public Advocate candidate Joe Borelli talks with Ben Max on MNN</p> <hr /> <p>The race for New York City Public Advocate is one of the few elections on the ballot this fall, and it's only happening because former Public Advocate Letitia James was elected New York Attorney General, leading to a special election in February to replace her for the duration of this year, followed by an election this fall to see who will hold the citywide position for 2020 and 2021. Then-City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat like James, won the February election by a wide margin in a crowded field. He now seeks to hold the post against Republican challenger Joe Borelli, a City Council Member from Staten Island, and Libertarian Party nominee Devin Balkind, a civic technologist.</p> <p>Borelli and Balkind each sat down with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max on Manhattan Neighborhood Network for a 15-minute conversation about his platform and why he believes he should be the next public advocate. Watch the Borelli interview below; find the Balkind interview <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8873-watch-15-minutes-with-public-advocate-candidate-devin-balkind" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. Early voting is ongoing through November 3; Election Day is November 5. Voters in New York City can vote in the public advocate race, a few other local elections, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8696-charter-revision-commission-final-approval-19-proposals-5-questions-november-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the five charter revision questions on the back of the ballot</a>.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9crFuBROmkE" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mnn-borelli.jpg" alt="mnn borelli" width="600" /></p> <p>Public Advocate candidate Joe Borelli talks with Ben Max on MNN</p> <hr /> <p>The race for New York City Public Advocate is one of the few elections on the ballot this fall, and it's only happening because former Public Advocate Letitia James was elected New York Attorney General, leading to a special election in February to replace her for the duration of this year, followed by an election this fall to see who will hold the citywide position for 2020 and 2021. Then-City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat like James, won the February election by a wide margin in a crowded field. He now seeks to hold the post against Republican challenger Joe Borelli, a City Council Member from Staten Island, and Libertarian Party nominee Devin Balkind, a civic technologist.</p> <p>Borelli and Balkind each sat down with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max on Manhattan Neighborhood Network for a 15-minute conversation about his platform and why he believes he should be the next public advocate. Watch the Borelli interview below; find the Balkind interview <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8873-watch-15-minutes-with-public-advocate-candidate-devin-balkind" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. Early voting is ongoing through November 3; Election Day is November 5. Voters in New York City can vote in the public advocate race, a few other local elections, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8696-charter-revision-commission-final-approval-19-proposals-5-questions-november-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the five charter revision questions on the back of the ballot</a>.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9crFuBROmkE" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
WATCH: 15 Minutes with Public Advocate Candidate Devin Balkind 2019-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8873-watch-15-minutes-with-public-advocate-candidate-devin-balkind Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mnn-balkin.jpg" alt="mnn balkin" width="600" /></p> <p>Public Advocate candidate Devin Balkind talks with Ben Max on MNN (photo: @MNN59)</p> <hr /> <p>The race for New York City Public Advocate is one of the few elections on the ballot this fall, and it's only happening because former Public Advocate Letitia James was elected New York Attorney General, leading to a special election in February to replace her for the duration of this year, followed by an election this fall to see who will hold the citywide position for 2020 and 2021. Then-City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat like James, won the February election by a wide margin in a crowded field. He now seeks to hold the post against Republican challenger Joe Borelli, a City Council Member from Staten Island, and Libertarian Party nominee Devin Balkind, a civic technologist.</p> <p>Borelli and Balkind each sat down with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max on Manhattan Neighborhood Network for a 15-minute conversation about his platform and why he believes he should be the next public advocate. Watch the Balkind interview below; find the Borelli interview <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8872-watch-15-minutes-with-public-advocate-candidate-joe-borelli-city-council" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. Early voting is ongoing through November 3; Election Day is November 5. Voters in New York City can vote in the public advocate race, a few other local elections, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8696-charter-revision-commission-final-approval-19-proposals-5-questions-november-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the five charter revision questions on the back of the ballot</a>.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Jc5sKFxuUMs" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mnn-balkin.jpg" alt="mnn balkin" width="600" /></p> <p>Public Advocate candidate Devin Balkind talks with Ben Max on MNN (photo: @MNN59)</p> <hr /> <p>The race for New York City Public Advocate is one of the few elections on the ballot this fall, and it's only happening because former Public Advocate Letitia James was elected New York Attorney General, leading to a special election in February to replace her for the duration of this year, followed by an election this fall to see who will hold the citywide position for 2020 and 2021. Then-City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat like James, won the February election by a wide margin in a crowded field. He now seeks to hold the post against Republican challenger Joe Borelli, a City Council Member from Staten Island, and Libertarian Party nominee Devin Balkind, a civic technologist.</p> <p>Borelli and Balkind each sat down with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max on Manhattan Neighborhood Network for a 15-minute conversation about his platform and why he believes he should be the next public advocate. Watch the Balkind interview below; find the Borelli interview <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8872-watch-15-minutes-with-public-advocate-candidate-joe-borelli-city-council" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. Early voting is ongoing through November 3; Election Day is November 5. Voters in New York City can vote in the public advocate race, a few other local elections, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8696-charter-revision-commission-final-approval-19-proposals-5-questions-november-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the five charter revision questions on the back of the ballot</a>.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Jc5sKFxuUMs" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Police Union Spends on Ads to Defeat Ballot Question 2 2019-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8890-police-union-pba-spends-on-ads-to-defeat-ballot-question-2-ccrb-nypd Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pba_ie_need_help_q2_2019.png" alt="pba ie need help q2 2019" width="350" height="434" /></p> <p>(photo: Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee)</p> <hr /> <p>The city’s largest police union is spending significantly to defeat a ballot proposal that <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">experts say</a> will bolster the authority and performance of the civilian city agency tasked with investigating alleged misconduct and abuse of power by NYPD officers.</p> <p>Voters are being presented <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> on the back of this fall’s ballot that propose 19 specific changes to the city charter. If approved by voters, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Question 2</a> would enhance the operational capacity of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the oversight agency, and make some cases of lying to its investigators a form of police misconduct under its jurisdiction.</p> <p>The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 rank-and-file NYPD officers, has been vociferously opposing that question and, as of Tuesday afternoon, had reported roughly $127,000 in independent expenditures on communications to defeat it on the ballot.</p> <p>According to independent expenditure disclosures reported to the city’s Campaign Finance Board, the PBA began spending on print ads and mass mailing last Monday. Over five days, the union spent $59,547.84 on print ads and another $68,083.32 on mass mailings.</p> <p>The communications contain messages describing the CCRB as biased against police officers and the ballot question as a power grab by the civilian agency. They contain images of protestors or the apparent aftermath of violent crime.</p> <p>The text on one ad reads: “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking police officers in the streets for years. Now, they’re doing it at the ballot box.” In large letters in the margins are the words, “If you stay home, they win.”</p> <p>It is unclear exactly where the PBA campaign funding is coming from. By city law, donations to independent expenditure committees focused on ballot referenda -- unlike IEs supporting candidates -- do not have to publicly disclose their contributors, according to a New York City Campaign Finance Board spokesperson. But the spokesperson said that state law does require such reporting, but no disclosures have been published on the state Board of Elections website, where they should appear if filed.</p> <p>The proposed amendments on the ballot were developed by a charter revision commission with commissioners appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Council, Comptroller Scott Stringer, then-Public Advocate Letitia James, and the five borough presidents. Its job was to explore the city charter and propose reforms directly to voters that could not be easily accomplished through the city’s usual lawmaking process.</p> <p>In addition to Question 2 related to the CCRB, the questions include amendments in four other areas: elections, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>In addition to the provision on police lying, which has surfaced as the most controversial proposal, CCRB officials and police reform advocates say Question 2 would help the civilian agency achieve its mandate to investigate, substantiate, and prosecute complaints of misconduct and abuse of power by police officers. The proposed amendment would give the CCRB a guaranteed baseline in annual budget negotiations and would allow its Board members to delegate subpoena power to the executive director. It would also expand the size of the Board and slightly alter who makes appointments to it. And it would codify an agreement between the NYPD and CCRB requiring the police commissioner to provide justification when rejecting a CCRB disciplinary recommendation.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported that the PBA launched a campaign</a> imploring its members and allies to vote “no” on Question 2 last week.</p> <p>City Council Members Joe Borelli and Bob Holden will hold a rally with PBA President Pat Lynch and other law enforcement union leaders on Staten Island Thursday to urge the public to vote “no” on Question 2.</p> <p>Borelli, who is the Republican nominee for public advocate, recently told Gotham Gazette that while he opposes Question 2 and will be voting against it, he sees favorably the provision to bring suspected false police statements under CCRB jurisdiction.</p> <p>“If that was a stand-alone bill I’d probably support that,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “Because what is the point of having a court if you can’t validate a statement people make while they are swearing...before it. That to me is not a problem.”</p> <p>With its 24,000 members, the PBA campaign could be particularly impactful in what is expected to be a low turnout election. The digital ads appear to have first been posted on the website and on the PBA’s social media accounts last Monday, and posters have been reportedly up in precincts for the last month, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-police-union-fighting-expansion-of-ccrbs-powers-20191027-6jqegeggprdankq2nyx5ouuw7u-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Daily News</a>. It is unclear who the recipients of the mailers have been.</p> <p>In response to the PBA ads, the CCRB <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published a fact sheet on its website</a> aimed at dispelling what it called “myth” being promoted by the police officers union.</p> <p>Each PBA ad includes a disclaimer noting it was paid for by the Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which is not required on material promoting ballot referenda, according to a Campaign Finance Board official. Unlike independent expenditures for candidates, committees promoting a vote on ballot referenda are also not required to disclose contributors. In this case, the PBA has not reported any of its contributors.</p> <p>By comparison, the only other independent expenditures reported to the Campaign Finance Board for this fall’s election were made by Committee for Ranked Choice Voting NYC, backed by a coalition of election reformers and elected officials <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who support a new voting method for some city elections</a>, contained in Question 1. The group has spent roughly $447,000 in support of Question 1, and has disclosed the sources of approximately $83,000 in contributions.</p> <p>No independent expenditures in support of Question 2 have been reported to the Campaign Finance Board. Voters can cast their ballots during the current early voting period through November 3, or on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There are NYPD Oversight Measures on the Ballot - How Significant are They?</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with additional information and clarification around city and state disclosure requirements for spending by IEs related to ballot referenda.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pba_ie_need_help_q2_2019.png" alt="pba ie need help q2 2019" width="350" height="434" /></p> <p>(photo: Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee)</p> <hr /> <p>The city’s largest police union is spending significantly to defeat a ballot proposal that <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">experts say</a> will bolster the authority and performance of the civilian city agency tasked with investigating alleged misconduct and abuse of power by NYPD officers.</p> <p>Voters are being presented <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> on the back of this fall’s ballot that propose 19 specific changes to the city charter. If approved by voters, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Question 2</a> would enhance the operational capacity of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the oversight agency, and make some cases of lying to its investigators a form of police misconduct under its jurisdiction.</p> <p>The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 rank-and-file NYPD officers, has been vociferously opposing that question and, as of Tuesday afternoon, had reported roughly $127,000 in independent expenditures on communications to defeat it on the ballot.</p> <p>According to independent expenditure disclosures reported to the city’s Campaign Finance Board, the PBA began spending on print ads and mass mailing last Monday. Over five days, the union spent $59,547.84 on print ads and another $68,083.32 on mass mailings.</p> <p>The communications contain messages describing the CCRB as biased against police officers and the ballot question as a power grab by the civilian agency. They contain images of protestors or the apparent aftermath of violent crime.</p> <p>The text on one ad reads: “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking police officers in the streets for years. Now, they’re doing it at the ballot box.” In large letters in the margins are the words, “If you stay home, they win.”</p> <p>It is unclear exactly where the PBA campaign funding is coming from. By city law, donations to independent expenditure committees focused on ballot referenda -- unlike IEs supporting candidates -- do not have to publicly disclose their contributors, according to a New York City Campaign Finance Board spokesperson. But the spokesperson said that state law does require such reporting, but no disclosures have been published on the state Board of Elections website, where they should appear if filed.</p> <p>The proposed amendments on the ballot were developed by a charter revision commission with commissioners appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Council, Comptroller Scott Stringer, then-Public Advocate Letitia James, and the five borough presidents. Its job was to explore the city charter and propose reforms directly to voters that could not be easily accomplished through the city’s usual lawmaking process.</p> <p>In addition to Question 2 related to the CCRB, the questions include amendments in four other areas: elections, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>In addition to the provision on police lying, which has surfaced as the most controversial proposal, CCRB officials and police reform advocates say Question 2 would help the civilian agency achieve its mandate to investigate, substantiate, and prosecute complaints of misconduct and abuse of power by police officers. The proposed amendment would give the CCRB a guaranteed baseline in annual budget negotiations and would allow its Board members to delegate subpoena power to the executive director. It would also expand the size of the Board and slightly alter who makes appointments to it. And it would codify an agreement between the NYPD and CCRB requiring the police commissioner to provide justification when rejecting a CCRB disciplinary recommendation.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported that the PBA launched a campaign</a> imploring its members and allies to vote “no” on Question 2 last week.</p> <p>City Council Members Joe Borelli and Bob Holden will hold a rally with PBA President Pat Lynch and other law enforcement union leaders on Staten Island Thursday to urge the public to vote “no” on Question 2.</p> <p>Borelli, who is the Republican nominee for public advocate, recently told Gotham Gazette that while he opposes Question 2 and will be voting against it, he sees favorably the provision to bring suspected false police statements under CCRB jurisdiction.</p> <p>“If that was a stand-alone bill I’d probably support that,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “Because what is the point of having a court if you can’t validate a statement people make while they are swearing...before it. That to me is not a problem.”</p> <p>With its 24,000 members, the PBA campaign could be particularly impactful in what is expected to be a low turnout election. The digital ads appear to have first been posted on the website and on the PBA’s social media accounts last Monday, and posters have been reportedly up in precincts for the last month, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-police-union-fighting-expansion-of-ccrbs-powers-20191027-6jqegeggprdankq2nyx5ouuw7u-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Daily News</a>. It is unclear who the recipients of the mailers have been.</p> <p>In response to the PBA ads, the CCRB <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published a fact sheet on its website</a> aimed at dispelling what it called “myth” being promoted by the police officers union.</p> <p>Each PBA ad includes a disclaimer noting it was paid for by the Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which is not required on material promoting ballot referenda, according to a Campaign Finance Board official. Unlike independent expenditures for candidates, committees promoting a vote on ballot referenda are also not required to disclose contributors. In this case, the PBA has not reported any of its contributors.</p> <p>By comparison, the only other independent expenditures reported to the Campaign Finance Board for this fall’s election were made by Committee for Ranked Choice Voting NYC, backed by a coalition of election reformers and elected officials <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who support a new voting method for some city elections</a>, contained in Question 1. The group has spent roughly $447,000 in support of Question 1, and has disclosed the sources of approximately $83,000 in contributions.</p> <p>No independent expenditures in support of Question 2 have been reported to the Campaign Finance Board. Voters can cast their ballots during the current early voting period through November 3, or on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There are NYPD Oversight Measures on the Ballot - How Significant are They?</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with additional information and clarification around city and state disclosure requirements for spending by IEs related to ballot referenda.</p>
De Blasio Dodges Questions About His Stance on Ballot Proposals 2019-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8886-de-blasio-dodges-questions-stance-ballot-proposals-charter-revision Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-day-voting.jpg" alt="first day voting" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; First Lady McCray vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is dodging questions about his position on a series of ballot referenda that propose changes to city elections and governance. In two interviews Friday and Monday, the mayor avoided giving any specifics when asked repeatedly to discuss the proposed amendments to the city charter, all of which impact city services and administration, and he refused to say how he voted on them.</p> <p>The ballot this year has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> containing 19 distinct changes to the city’s core body of laws, which voters have the opportunity to approve or reject in the final stage of a unique amendment process in New York City. The proposals were placed on the ballot by a commission created by City Council legislation and appointed by a spread of city elected officials, including the mayor. The goal was to identify areas of reform in the charter that could not be easily addressed through the typical legislative process, and put them directly to voters.</p> <p>De Blasio cast his ballot in Brooklyn on Saturday, the first day of the new nine-day period of early voting. (Registered voters have until November 3 to vote early; Election Day is on November 5.) Along with just a few candidate races, the ballot contains significant potential reforms, including to how some elections are run, how police oversight is carried out, how budgeting is done, and more.</p> <p>“On the 19 separate questions, I’m not going to get into parsing what I feel on each one. I can give you a broad answer which is my team, my administration fully participated in this commission,” de Blasio said during his usual Friday morning <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/the-brian-lehrer-show-2019-10-25">interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show</a>, inaccurately describing the ballot proposals, which come in five questions.</p> <p>The 15-member charter revision commission was designed to give no one entity a majority of appointments. Council Speaker Corey Johnson and de Blasio each selected four commissioners, with one appointee made by each of the comptroller, public advocate, and five borough presidents (Johnson selected the chair from his appointees).</p> <p>When pressed by Lehrer to give more details on how he feels about -- and would vote on -- the potentially impactful provisions, de Blasio repeated his stance about the charter revision process while evading questions about how he intended to vote.</p> <p>“I am comfortable with the overall result of this commission and my main point to people is I think they did good work and I think everyone should vote,” he said.</p> <p>He maintained his posture about the charter revision process and questions when asked again by Errol Louis <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2019/10/29/mondays-with-the-mayor-student-homeless-numbers-over-100000-bill-de-blasio-responds">on NY1’s Inside City Hall</a> Monday evening. Having voted over the weekend, he wanted to keep his ballot secret. “I have a blanket rule, I mean obviously everyone’s vote is personal, and I respect that in everyone else,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>The five ballot questions cover general categories, each outlining more granular measures. Voters can weigh-in on charter changes to the city’s elections, Civilian Complaint Review Board, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>De Blasio was asked directly about his positions on Questions 1 and 2, which have received the vast majority of public attention on the ballot proposals.</p> <p>Question 1 on the ballot asks voters if they support for primary and special elections a system of ranked-choice voting, a balloting method that lets voters list candidates by preference rather selecting one in an all-or-nothing fashion. It would eliminate costly party primary run-off elections and help show broader support for the winner of crowded primaries and special elections. That proposed change has the backing of a coalition of election reform advocates and elected officials who have been promoting a “yes” vote on the question <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting">since September</a>. There is no evident organized opposition to the proposal.</p> <p>When asked directly by Louis, de Blasio expressed interest in ranked-choice voting but raised questions about what impact it would have on political participation and representation.</p> <p>“We do know an advantage is it doesn’t require a runoff and therefore saves money and saves time and energy, and it’s true that a lot of those runoffs have been lower turnout,” the mayor said Monday. (De Blasio, himself, won a runoff for the Democratic nomination for public advocate in 2009.)</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s 100 percent clear what it will yield but I’m certainly hopeful about it,” he added, giving an inkling of support.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb">Question 2</a>, related to strengthening the police oversight function of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, has emerged as the most controversial piece of the proposed charter revisions. Among other things, the amendment would allow the CCRB to examine officers suspected of giving false testimony while under investigation for misconduct. If those suspicions are substantiated the agency could then bring charges in an administrative trial setting.</p> <p>The CCRB recently led the high-profile prosecution of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who placed Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold on Staten Island in 2014. The prosecution and conviction in an NYPD administrative trial led Police Commissioner James O’Neill to dismiss Pantaleo from the force in August.</p> <p>CCRB officials say Question 2, if passed by voters, would also streamline the civilian agency’s operations by giving the executive director subpoena power and providing a baseline for its annual budget. Other provisions in Question 2 would codify existing practices, expand the number of appointments to the board and slightly alter who makes them (currently all the Board members go through the mayor).</p> <p>The proposal has raised the ire of the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest law enforcement union, which last week <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure">launched a campaign</a> urging its members and allies to vote “no.” The PBA on its website and in <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186312986497040384">posts to social media</a> has described Question 2 as a “power grab” by an agency with a “rampant anti-police bias.” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot">In response</a>, the CCRB released a “fact sheet” aimed at debunking what it describes as “myth” propagated by the police officers union.</p> <p>Both Lehrer and Louis directly asked the mayor about his position on Question 2. In both instances he refused to discuss any particulars on the proposal and responded generally about the charter revision process.</p> <p>“Because it’s 19 different subset questions I’m going to stay broad but say, yeah, we participated. In the end, again, I think the broad product of that charter commission was good. I think a lot of good work went into it. But again I’m not going to get into parsing on each of the questions,” he told Louis Monday.</p> <p>Despite the mayor taking no public position, Gotham Gazette reported in June that administration representatives sought to <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8632-de-blasio-reps-sought-to-kill-police-accountability-measure">secretly influence</a> the charter revision commissioners in an attempt to kill the controversial proposal to allow the CCRB to pursue officers found to be lying to misconduct investigators.</p> <p>De Blasio was not specifically asked about Questions 3, 4, and 5, which include an extended moratorium on former elected officials lobbying city government; a provision allowing the city to create a “rainy day” savings fund; and changes to the land use review process.</p> <p>On October 17, nine days before the start of early voting, administration spokesperson Will Baskin-Gerwitz told Gotham Gazette, “Mayor de Blasio continues to review the Charter revision questions that will be on the ballot.”</p> <p>Other top elected officials who appointed members of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission have <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8876-top-city-officials-who-appointed-the-2019-charter-revision-commission-stand-proposals-de-blasio-johnson">taken positions</a> on the proposals, mostly in response to Gotham Gazette inquiries: Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both said they support all five ballot questions. Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams support Question 1 (ranked-choice voting) but have not expressed opinions on the others. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also said he supports all five questions, though he did not make an appointment to the commission (that was his predecessor, Letitia James).</p> <p>Meanwhile, James, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo did not respond to Gotham Gazette inquiries about their positions on the proposals. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declined to comment.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-day-voting.jpg" alt="first day voting" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; First Lady McCray vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is dodging questions about his position on a series of ballot referenda that propose changes to city elections and governance. In two interviews Friday and Monday, the mayor avoided giving any specifics when asked repeatedly to discuss the proposed amendments to the city charter, all of which impact city services and administration, and he refused to say how he voted on them.</p> <p>The ballot this year has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> containing 19 distinct changes to the city’s core body of laws, which voters have the opportunity to approve or reject in the final stage of a unique amendment process in New York City. The proposals were placed on the ballot by a commission created by City Council legislation and appointed by a spread of city elected officials, including the mayor. The goal was to identify areas of reform in the charter that could not be easily addressed through the typical legislative process, and put them directly to voters.</p> <p>De Blasio cast his ballot in Brooklyn on Saturday, the first day of the new nine-day period of early voting. (Registered voters have until November 3 to vote early; Election Day is on November 5.) Along with just a few candidate races, the ballot contains significant potential reforms, including to how some elections are run, how police oversight is carried out, how budgeting is done, and more.</p> <p>“On the 19 separate questions, I’m not going to get into parsing what I feel on each one. I can give you a broad answer which is my team, my administration fully participated in this commission,” de Blasio said during his usual Friday morning <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/the-brian-lehrer-show-2019-10-25">interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show</a>, inaccurately describing the ballot proposals, which come in five questions.</p> <p>The 15-member charter revision commission was designed to give no one entity a majority of appointments. Council Speaker Corey Johnson and de Blasio each selected four commissioners, with one appointee made by each of the comptroller, public advocate, and five borough presidents (Johnson selected the chair from his appointees).</p> <p>When pressed by Lehrer to give more details on how he feels about -- and would vote on -- the potentially impactful provisions, de Blasio repeated his stance about the charter revision process while evading questions about how he intended to vote.</p> <p>“I am comfortable with the overall result of this commission and my main point to people is I think they did good work and I think everyone should vote,” he said.</p> <p>He maintained his posture about the charter revision process and questions when asked again by Errol Louis <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2019/10/29/mondays-with-the-mayor-student-homeless-numbers-over-100000-bill-de-blasio-responds">on NY1’s Inside City Hall</a> Monday evening. Having voted over the weekend, he wanted to keep his ballot secret. “I have a blanket rule, I mean obviously everyone’s vote is personal, and I respect that in everyone else,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>The five ballot questions cover general categories, each outlining more granular measures. Voters can weigh-in on charter changes to the city’s elections, Civilian Complaint Review Board, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>De Blasio was asked directly about his positions on Questions 1 and 2, which have received the vast majority of public attention on the ballot proposals.</p> <p>Question 1 on the ballot asks voters if they support for primary and special elections a system of ranked-choice voting, a balloting method that lets voters list candidates by preference rather selecting one in an all-or-nothing fashion. It would eliminate costly party primary run-off elections and help show broader support for the winner of crowded primaries and special elections. That proposed change has the backing of a coalition of election reform advocates and elected officials who have been promoting a “yes” vote on the question <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting">since September</a>. There is no evident organized opposition to the proposal.</p> <p>When asked directly by Louis, de Blasio expressed interest in ranked-choice voting but raised questions about what impact it would have on political participation and representation.</p> <p>“We do know an advantage is it doesn’t require a runoff and therefore saves money and saves time and energy, and it’s true that a lot of those runoffs have been lower turnout,” the mayor said Monday. (De Blasio, himself, won a runoff for the Democratic nomination for public advocate in 2009.)</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s 100 percent clear what it will yield but I’m certainly hopeful about it,” he added, giving an inkling of support.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb">Question 2</a>, related to strengthening the police oversight function of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, has emerged as the most controversial piece of the proposed charter revisions. Among other things, the amendment would allow the CCRB to examine officers suspected of giving false testimony while under investigation for misconduct. If those suspicions are substantiated the agency could then bring charges in an administrative trial setting.</p> <p>The CCRB recently led the high-profile prosecution of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who placed Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold on Staten Island in 2014. The prosecution and conviction in an NYPD administrative trial led Police Commissioner James O’Neill to dismiss Pantaleo from the force in August.</p> <p>CCRB officials say Question 2, if passed by voters, would also streamline the civilian agency’s operations by giving the executive director subpoena power and providing a baseline for its annual budget. Other provisions in Question 2 would codify existing practices, expand the number of appointments to the board and slightly alter who makes them (currently all the Board members go through the mayor).</p> <p>The proposal has raised the ire of the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest law enforcement union, which last week <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure">launched a campaign</a> urging its members and allies to vote “no.” The PBA on its website and in <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186312986497040384">posts to social media</a> has described Question 2 as a “power grab” by an agency with a “rampant anti-police bias.” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot">In response</a>, the CCRB released a “fact sheet” aimed at debunking what it describes as “myth” propagated by the police officers union.</p> <p>Both Lehrer and Louis directly asked the mayor about his position on Question 2. In both instances he refused to discuss any particulars on the proposal and responded generally about the charter revision process.</p> <p>“Because it’s 19 different subset questions I’m going to stay broad but say, yeah, we participated. In the end, again, I think the broad product of that charter commission was good. I think a lot of good work went into it. But again I’m not going to get into parsing on each of the questions,” he told Louis Monday.</p> <p>Despite the mayor taking no public position, Gotham Gazette reported in June that administration representatives sought to <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8632-de-blasio-reps-sought-to-kill-police-accountability-measure">secretly influence</a> the charter revision commissioners in an attempt to kill the controversial proposal to allow the CCRB to pursue officers found to be lying to misconduct investigators.</p> <p>De Blasio was not specifically asked about Questions 3, 4, and 5, which include an extended moratorium on former elected officials lobbying city government; a provision allowing the city to create a “rainy day” savings fund; and changes to the land use review process.</p> <p>On October 17, nine days before the start of early voting, administration spokesperson Will Baskin-Gerwitz told Gotham Gazette, “Mayor de Blasio continues to review the Charter revision questions that will be on the ballot.”</p> <p>Other top elected officials who appointed members of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission have <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8876-top-city-officials-who-appointed-the-2019-charter-revision-commission-stand-proposals-de-blasio-johnson">taken positions</a> on the proposals, mostly in response to Gotham Gazette inquiries: Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both said they support all five ballot questions. Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams support Question 1 (ranked-choice voting) but have not expressed opinions on the others. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also said he supports all five questions, though he did not make an appointment to the commission (that was his predecessor, Letitia James).</p> <p>Meanwhile, James, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo did not respond to Gotham Gazette inquiries about their positions on the proposals. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declined to comment.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
'It's Critical We Get the Planning Right': Council Examines City's Initial Preparations for 2020 Census Count 2019-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8887-council-examines-city-s-initial-preparations-for-2020-census-count Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-carlina-riv-carlos-m-press.jpg" alt="cm carlina riv carlos m press" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>With the launch of the 2020 Census barely five months away, the New York City Council on Tuesday summoned officials from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration for a progress report on the city’s preparations for the decennial population count. It is a count that has a great deal riding on it, from billions of dollars in federal funding to representation in Congress, and more.</p> <p>Convening a joint hearing of the Committees on Governmental Operations, Immigration, and State and Federal Legislation, City Council members sought answers from the administration on how it is spending $40 million allocated together by the mayor and the Council to ensure a complete count of the city’s residents and how city agencies are dealing with the various challenges presented by this particular census.</p> <p>New York City houses various hard-to-count populations – for whom the rate of self-response to the Census is 73% or below – which include children under the age of 5, seniors, immigrants, non-English speakers, homeless people, public housing residents, and predominantly black communities. That’s why in 2010, the city’s self-response rate was only 62%, about 14 points below the national average.</p> <p>“It is critical that we get the planning right so that come spring 2020, our networks are activated to respond to the [Census] questionnaire,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the Council’s immigration committee and is also co-chair of the Council’s 2020 Census Task Force along with Council Member Carlina Rivera.</p> <p>“It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of countless state and city programs, political representation, and even our democracy rely on a complete and accurate census count,” Rivera said in her opening remarks.</p> <p>The census count indeed has broad reaching ramifications for the people of New York. It is used to determine the state’s congressional representation (New York could lose two seats in an undercount) and is used to draw electoral lines for local and state elections. It also affects the distributions of roughly $650 billion in federal funds to states and localities, and determines everything from where businesses invest their money and the level and funding of services for the most vulnerable residents of the city, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid.</p> <p>This time around, city officials are hoping to boost the city’s self-response rate even as they face several new challenges. The U.S. Census Bureau has been underfunded at the federal level, which means there will be fewer enumerators that can count residents who do not respond to the Census on their own. The Bureau is also focusing primarily on digital methodology, urging people to fill out the census online through their phones and computers, which has raised concerns about data privacy and security as well as the lack of digital literacy among certain sections of the population.<br />But for New York City, a particularly pressing issue is the heightened sense of apprehension and mistrust among immigrant communities about the federal government, which has been exacerbated for years by the Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to place a citizenship question on the census questionnaire.</p> <p>At the hearing, NYC Census Director Julie Menin reassured the Council members that the city’s endeavors are well underway and are split up into four pillars – a $19-million Complete Count Fund to give grants to community-based organizations; a field program involving Neighborhood Organizing Census Committees that will include 2,500 volunteers in 245 neighborhoods; partnerships with city agencies and businesses; and a multilingual mass media campaign with messages tailored to specific communities.</p> <p>“Given that there is significant overlap between those populations that have been historically undercounted and populations that have been forced to live on the political or socioeconomic margins of society, achieving a complete and accurate count in every census is critical to ensure that every person in the United States has full access to the representation that they deserve,” Menin said in her opening statement.</p> <p>She said the administration has already received more than 500 applications for grants from the Complete Count Fund and that those would be awarded by December. More than 500 people have also volunteered for the NOCCs and the city has been conducting trainings so that they can recruit more volunteers at the local level.</p> <p>Menin’s office is also coordinating with more than 50 city agencies, particularly public facing ones such as the library system, to expand outreach. The mass media campaign, she said, will be focused on ethnic and community media and will be announced in the coming weeks, though advertisements will appear by the start of 2020.</p> <p>The question of state funding loomed large over the hearing, as Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to release $20 million allocated for census outreach in the state budget earlier this year. A state commission that was supposed to recommend an implementation plan for those funds <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">issued its report on October 8</a>, recognizing many of the issues that were already apparent to city Census officials. But it punted the funding decision <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">back to the governor’s administration</a>.</p> <p>“The Complete Count Commission released its report just a few weeks ago that was based on several months of research and public hearings,” said Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for the state Division of the Budget, in an email to Gotham Gazette. “We are using it as a basis to develop a plan for how the State can best work with local governments and our partners to properly distribute resources so that every New Yorker is counted in the 2020 Census.”</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Census Commission Releases Report, with Funding Decisions Kicked Back to Cuomo Administration</a>]</p> <p>City officials had no clue at Tuesday’s hearing as to how those funds would be distributed, however. “I don’t know,” said Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, when Council Member Andrew Cohen asked about the proportion of state funds that would be directed to the city. She did say she was aware that state agencies were “activated” and in various stages of planning as they await funds from the governor’s team.</p> <p>Mostofi, Menin, and other officials did outline for the Council members how the administration is tackling the other challenging aspects of the census.</p> <p>To count New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, the Department of Social Services is coordinating with the U.S. Census Bureau, which also does its own “group quarter” operation to find and count unhoused individuals. DSS will also spend three days counting the street homeless population in the spring, Menin said.</p> <p>Kathleen Daniel, field director for NYC Census, said CUNY would recruit and pay 200 students to assist in the census campaign as leaders of NOCCs, campaign organizers, and to work with the office’s data operation. Amit Bagga, NYC Census’ deputy director, said the office is in talks with agencies that can make computers available to New Yorkers and is negotiating software contracts to provide digital training materials to CBOs.</p> <p>The city’s 219 libraries will also be pressed into service, with more than 1,000 employees trained to assist New Yorkers in filling out the census online. There will also be hundreds of pop-up centers across the city, in places such as houses of worship, community centers, and elected officials’ offices, where residents can access computers to fill out the questionnaire.</p> <p>Peter Lobo, director of the population division at the Department of City Planning, said the city has been working since 2016 to update the Census Bureau’s Master Address File (MAF), which includes addresses for every resident of the city. “If a person’s address is not on the MAF, that person cannot be counted in the census,” he said. Last year, he said DCP submitted 123,000 addresses, 59,000 corrections, and 3,200 deletions to the Census Bureau. Only six of the new addresses were rejected and 1,602 of the deletions were accepted. Lobo said the department will also send a list of more than 100,000 newly-constructed housing units to the Bureau on October 30.</p> <p>Bagga and Menin also noted that the city is helping the Census Bureau recruit enumerators and employees, particularly after the Bureau obtained a waiver to hire noncitizens, who are seen as important in helping achieve a complete count among certain communities.</p> <p>A major concern for many of the Council members, however, was how the city could overcome the wariness among immigrant communities and urge them to respond to the federal government. Mostofi emphasized that the divide would be best bridged by enlisting the various community groups that are trusted voices in their neighborhoods. “We recognize that the federal government’s efforts to sow fear and confusion must be countered with easy-to-understand information and outreach, including language access for our immigrant population,” she said earlier.</p> <p>Menin said combating “misinformation and disinformation” is one of the biggest challenges for the city. Menin and Bagga emphasized that the mass media campaign would also account for different communities through culturally competent messages and translations. “We know that slightly different messages are going to resonate slightly differently in different places. So we need to be prepared for that,” Bagga said.</p> <p>Menin pointed out that in 2010, the federal government was largely in charge of the broad media outreach and the message was uniform. “The messaging being, ‘Fill out the census, it's your civic duty.’...It wasn't micro-targeted. We're completely flipping that model. We want to micro-target our messaging to various communities so that people really understand what's at stake.”</p> <p>Several data experts, civil rights groups, immigrant rights organizations, business groups, and government reform advocates also testified at Tuesday’s hearing. They included the New York Immigration Coalition, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Taiwanese American Association of New York, the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Association for a Better New York, the Digital Equity Laboratory at The New School, Citizens Union, the Arab-American Family Support Center, the Asian American Federation, Community Resource Exchange, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-carlina-riv-carlos-m-press.jpg" alt="cm carlina riv carlos m press" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>With the launch of the 2020 Census barely five months away, the New York City Council on Tuesday summoned officials from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration for a progress report on the city’s preparations for the decennial population count. It is a count that has a great deal riding on it, from billions of dollars in federal funding to representation in Congress, and more.</p> <p>Convening a joint hearing of the Committees on Governmental Operations, Immigration, and State and Federal Legislation, City Council members sought answers from the administration on how it is spending $40 million allocated together by the mayor and the Council to ensure a complete count of the city’s residents and how city agencies are dealing with the various challenges presented by this particular census.</p> <p>New York City houses various hard-to-count populations – for whom the rate of self-response to the Census is 73% or below – which include children under the age of 5, seniors, immigrants, non-English speakers, homeless people, public housing residents, and predominantly black communities. That’s why in 2010, the city’s self-response rate was only 62%, about 14 points below the national average.</p> <p>“It is critical that we get the planning right so that come spring 2020, our networks are activated to respond to the [Census] questionnaire,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the Council’s immigration committee and is also co-chair of the Council’s 2020 Census Task Force along with Council Member Carlina Rivera.</p> <p>“It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of countless state and city programs, political representation, and even our democracy rely on a complete and accurate census count,” Rivera said in her opening remarks.</p> <p>The census count indeed has broad reaching ramifications for the people of New York. It is used to determine the state’s congressional representation (New York could lose two seats in an undercount) and is used to draw electoral lines for local and state elections. It also affects the distributions of roughly $650 billion in federal funds to states and localities, and determines everything from where businesses invest their money and the level and funding of services for the most vulnerable residents of the city, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid.</p> <p>This time around, city officials are hoping to boost the city’s self-response rate even as they face several new challenges. The U.S. Census Bureau has been underfunded at the federal level, which means there will be fewer enumerators that can count residents who do not respond to the Census on their own. The Bureau is also focusing primarily on digital methodology, urging people to fill out the census online through their phones and computers, which has raised concerns about data privacy and security as well as the lack of digital literacy among certain sections of the population.<br />But for New York City, a particularly pressing issue is the heightened sense of apprehension and mistrust among immigrant communities about the federal government, which has been exacerbated for years by the Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to place a citizenship question on the census questionnaire.</p> <p>At the hearing, NYC Census Director Julie Menin reassured the Council members that the city’s endeavors are well underway and are split up into four pillars – a $19-million Complete Count Fund to give grants to community-based organizations; a field program involving Neighborhood Organizing Census Committees that will include 2,500 volunteers in 245 neighborhoods; partnerships with city agencies and businesses; and a multilingual mass media campaign with messages tailored to specific communities.</p> <p>“Given that there is significant overlap between those populations that have been historically undercounted and populations that have been forced to live on the political or socioeconomic margins of society, achieving a complete and accurate count in every census is critical to ensure that every person in the United States has full access to the representation that they deserve,” Menin said in her opening statement.</p> <p>She said the administration has already received more than 500 applications for grants from the Complete Count Fund and that those would be awarded by December. More than 500 people have also volunteered for the NOCCs and the city has been conducting trainings so that they can recruit more volunteers at the local level.</p> <p>Menin’s office is also coordinating with more than 50 city agencies, particularly public facing ones such as the library system, to expand outreach. The mass media campaign, she said, will be focused on ethnic and community media and will be announced in the coming weeks, though advertisements will appear by the start of 2020.</p> <p>The question of state funding loomed large over the hearing, as Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to release $20 million allocated for census outreach in the state budget earlier this year. A state commission that was supposed to recommend an implementation plan for those funds <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">issued its report on October 8</a>, recognizing many of the issues that were already apparent to city Census officials. But it punted the funding decision <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">back to the governor’s administration</a>.</p> <p>“The Complete Count Commission released its report just a few weeks ago that was based on several months of research and public hearings,” said Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for the state Division of the Budget, in an email to Gotham Gazette. “We are using it as a basis to develop a plan for how the State can best work with local governments and our partners to properly distribute resources so that every New Yorker is counted in the 2020 Census.”</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Census Commission Releases Report, with Funding Decisions Kicked Back to Cuomo Administration</a>]</p> <p>City officials had no clue at Tuesday’s hearing as to how those funds would be distributed, however. “I don’t know,” said Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, when Council Member Andrew Cohen asked about the proportion of state funds that would be directed to the city. She did say she was aware that state agencies were “activated” and in various stages of planning as they await funds from the governor’s team.</p> <p>Mostofi, Menin, and other officials did outline for the Council members how the administration is tackling the other challenging aspects of the census.</p> <p>To count New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, the Department of Social Services is coordinating with the U.S. Census Bureau, which also does its own “group quarter” operation to find and count unhoused individuals. DSS will also spend three days counting the street homeless population in the spring, Menin said.</p> <p>Kathleen Daniel, field director for NYC Census, said CUNY would recruit and pay 200 students to assist in the census campaign as leaders of NOCCs, campaign organizers, and to work with the office’s data operation. Amit Bagga, NYC Census’ deputy director, said the office is in talks with agencies that can make computers available to New Yorkers and is negotiating software contracts to provide digital training materials to CBOs.</p> <p>The city’s 219 libraries will also be pressed into service, with more than 1,000 employees trained to assist New Yorkers in filling out the census online. There will also be hundreds of pop-up centers across the city, in places such as houses of worship, community centers, and elected officials’ offices, where residents can access computers to fill out the questionnaire.</p> <p>Peter Lobo, director of the population division at the Department of City Planning, said the city has been working since 2016 to update the Census Bureau’s Master Address File (MAF), which includes addresses for every resident of the city. “If a person’s address is not on the MAF, that person cannot be counted in the census,” he said. Last year, he said DCP submitted 123,000 addresses, 59,000 corrections, and 3,200 deletions to the Census Bureau. Only six of the new addresses were rejected and 1,602 of the deletions were accepted. Lobo said the department will also send a list of more than 100,000 newly-constructed housing units to the Bureau on October 30.</p> <p>Bagga and Menin also noted that the city is helping the Census Bureau recruit enumerators and employees, particularly after the Bureau obtained a waiver to hire noncitizens, who are seen as important in helping achieve a complete count among certain communities.</p> <p>A major concern for many of the Council members, however, was how the city could overcome the wariness among immigrant communities and urge them to respond to the federal government. Mostofi emphasized that the divide would be best bridged by enlisting the various community groups that are trusted voices in their neighborhoods. “We recognize that the federal government’s efforts to sow fear and confusion must be countered with easy-to-understand information and outreach, including language access for our immigrant population,” she said earlier.</p> <p>Menin said combating “misinformation and disinformation” is one of the biggest challenges for the city. Menin and Bagga emphasized that the mass media campaign would also account for different communities through culturally competent messages and translations. “We know that slightly different messages are going to resonate slightly differently in different places. So we need to be prepared for that,” Bagga said.</p> <p>Menin pointed out that in 2010, the federal government was largely in charge of the broad media outreach and the message was uniform. “The messaging being, ‘Fill out the census, it's your civic duty.’...It wasn't micro-targeted. We're completely flipping that model. We want to micro-target our messaging to various communities so that people really understand what's at stake.”</p> <p>Several data experts, civil rights groups, immigrant rights organizations, business groups, and government reform advocates also testified at Tuesday’s hearing. They included the New York Immigration Coalition, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Taiwanese American Association of New York, the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Association for a Better New York, the Digital Equity Laboratory at The New School, Citizens Union, the Arab-American Family Support Center, the Asian American Federation, Community Resource Exchange, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Staten Island Borough President James Oddo 2019-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8882-max-murphy-podcast-staten-island-borough-president-james-oddo Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/james-oddo-si-600-px.jpg" alt="james oddo si 600 px" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Staten Island BP James Oddo (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 28, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Staten Island Borough President James Oddo<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/james-oddo-pod.jpg" alt="james oddo pod" width="155" height="233" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Outspoken Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, a Republican, joined the podcast to discuss a wide range of topics, from the status of his constituents seven years after Superstorm Sandy to how well his borough is prepared for the next big storm, from housing and development on the island to what he thinks is needed to make New York City government run better, from Mayor de Blasio's record to what the next mayoral race will about, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy."</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/703453495&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/james-oddo-si-600-px.jpg" alt="james oddo si 600 px" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Staten Island BP James Oddo (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 28, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Staten Island Borough President James Oddo<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/james-oddo-pod.jpg" alt="james oddo pod" width="155" height="233" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Outspoken Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, a Republican, joined the podcast to discuss a wide range of topics, from the status of his constituents seven years after Superstorm Sandy to how well his borough is prepared for the next big storm, from housing and development on the island to what he thinks is needed to make New York City government run better, from Mayor de Blasio's record to what the next mayoral race will about, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy."</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/703453495&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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City Council Votes For Suspension, Against Expulsion of Council Member Andy King for Extensive Ethics Violations 2019-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8883-city-council-suspends-council-member-andy-king-ethics-violations Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-king-do.jpg" alt="cm king do" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Andy King (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council voted on Monday to suspend Bronx Council Member Andy King for 30 days without pay and imposed several other disciplinary measures following repeated ethics violations by King that were recently substantiated by the Council’s ethics committee.</p> <p>King, a Democrat, was the subject of a monthslong investigation by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics, the Office of General Counsel, and outside prosecutor Carrie Cohen, who found that the Council member engaged in a pattern of harassment against aides, retaliated against employees who filed ethics complaints against him, fostered a hostile work environment, misused office resources, and allowed his wife, Neva Shillingford-King, to supervise office staff in clear conflicts of interest.</p> <p>By a vote of 44-1, the full Council approved a resolution that contained 10 disciplinary recommendations based on a 48-page report from the ethics committee. Besides the suspension, King will pay a $15,000 fine, be removed from all committee positions, and his office will be placed under an outside monitor for the remainder of his term. King was the only member to vote against the resolution. Council Members Inez Barron and I. Daneek Miller abstained from the vote. Council Members Fernando Cabrera, Ruben Diaz Sr., Alan Maisel and Francisco Moya were absent from the hearing. &nbsp;</p> <p>The monitor will have the authority to review and approve all hiring and firing decisions for King’s staff and will have access to email accounts of King and all his staff members. The Council will also ensure that employees who left King’s office after facing retaliation will have the opportunity to return to Council jobs. If King does not abide by the disciplinary measures, the Council could reopen proceedings against him.</p> <p>“Those violations outlined in the report are appalling, particularly coming from an elected official who is duty-bound to serve the public,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson, prior to the vote.</p> <p>Speaking of the staffers that King had harassed and retaliated against, Johnson said, “I am sickened by what they have endured because of Council Member King’s odious behavior. As for Council Member King, I deplore his cowardice and the disdain with which he treated his employees, the committee, and this entire body.”</p> <p>Though there have been calls for King’s resignation, including from Speaker Johnson, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, several Council members, and others, there was broad hesitation from Council members at expelling King from the body.</p> <p>Council members worried that there may be legal consequences to going beyond the ethics committee’s recommendations. Speaker Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, and Council Member Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican and chair of the ethics committee, repeatedly noted that King is facing the harshest punishment ever doled out by the Council and that the committee had undertaken a deliberative investigation and its recommendations were appropriate.</p> <p>“The committee exhaustively deliberated and debated the terms of this resolution, and concluded that the suspension is significant enough that it will function both as a deterrent against future bad behavior, and also give us the chance to get a monitor in place in Council Member King's office who can develop a relationship with staff before Council Member King returns,” Matteo said on the Council floor.</p> <p>Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, was the only member to call for King to be expelled from the legislative body ahead of the vote. At Monday’s hearing, he introduced an amendment to the resolution to expel King, but it failed with 12 votes in favor and 34 against in the 51-seat chamber. Besides Van Bramer, the Council members who voted for the amendment included Costa&nbsp;Constantinides, Rafael Espinal, Rory Lancman, Carlos Menchaca, Bill Perkins, Keith Powers, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Treyger and Eric Ulrich. Council Member Mathieu Eugene abstained. &nbsp;</p> <p>Van Bramer said he felt compelled to introduce the amendment after King displayed a lack of contrition over his behavior. “While I was prepared to make the amendment, it was only after I heard Council Member King speak that I knew that I had to,” he said. “And the absolute lack of remorse, the absolute lack of even understanding that anything had been done wrong, anything, blaming other Council members, blaming lawyers, blaming staff. That to me is just even more of the pattern of behavior that brought us to this moment in the first place.”</p> <p>The committee’s report noted that King was uncooperative throughout its investigation, seeking to delay and obstruct its work. At Monday’s hearing, King was defiant, alleging that he had been deprived of his due process rights and that the report contained “outright lies” about him.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I'm a man who's very respectful, full of integrity, stands for something, doesn't fall for anything and everything. And because people say things sometimes, don't necessarily make it true,” he said.</p> <p>He even sought a temporary restraining order against the Council’s vote in Manhattan Supreme Court but was unsuccessful. He could possibly seek an injunction against the enforcement of the resolution but Johnson was confident that the Council’s move would hold up to legal scrutiny.</p> <p>Matteo, however, rebutted King’s arguments, pointing out that King and his lawyers had ample time to respond to the committee’s charges and that King did not appear at a two-day trial held by the ethics committee. “Indeed, instead of cooperating Council Member King attempted to make a mockery of this committee, and the Council's rules and policies,” Matteo said.</p> <p>This isn’t King’s first run-in with the ethics committee. He was previously disciplined for paying unwanted attention to a female staff member and ordered to undergo additional sensitivity training. That Council employee, Chloë Rivera, who now works as senior legislative policy analyst for the Committees on Women and Gender Equity and on Higher Education, revealed her identity in an <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-why-i-reported-andy-king-20191028-moz4jh5ntnh65mxqdyqjurodky-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> on Monday, calling on the Council to remove King from office.</p> <p>“Our elected officials must choose to set the right precedent,” she wrote. “They must establish a standard that worker abuse and witness intimidation and retaliation will not be tolerated, that repeat abusers are unfit to serve and will be removed from office.”</p> <p>Several Council members who approved of Van Bramer’s amendment cited Rivera’s experience as the reason for their vote. Rivera previously worked as a legislative aide for former Assembly Member Vito Lopez and was among several aides who filed sexual harassment complaints against him. Lopez eventually resigned when threatened with expulsion from the Assembly. Rivera watched Monday’s hearing from the balcony in the Council chambers and later expressed her disappointment with the proceedings. “I'm very disappointed that the motion to expel did not pass but I am satisfied that he is going to suffer some consequences for his actions,” she told Gotham Gazette in a brief interview.&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the findings of the latest investigation into King was new evidence that the Council member had retaliated against Rivera after her 2017 complaint. At a staff meeting at his home, King disclosed Rivera’s name, questioned her integrity, and called on his staff members to be loyal to him. “Following my first complaint in 2017...he did not receive adequate consequences for his actions,” Rivera said Monday. “And so that resulted in a fallout, which ended up emboldening him and enraging him and taking it out on his staff. It's disappointing and I think it will put a chilling effect on other survivors or other victims from coming forward at the Council who are being victimized by members.” She hoped that the Council would consider strengthening its rules regarding harassment so that there are more clear-cut consequences.</p> <p>The Sexual Harassment Working Group, which is made up of former and current aides to state legislators and has been leading advocacy efforts for stronger sexual harassment protections in the state and city, said the Council should not let King off easy.</p> <p>“If the City Council wants to keep any credibility in the arena of sexual harassment protections, it must lead now, by setting the precedent that it will not tolerate harassment or retaliation against its own workers,” the group wrote in a statement. “City Council staff cannot afford to allow the Council to backtrack on progress made since #MeToo went viral. Anything less than expulsion will send a chilling message to victims that they will not only be denied justice, but they will not be protected from serial predators.”</p> <p>Johnson has also referred the case against King to outside investigators, which could potentially mean criminal charges for the Council member. Johnson would not say which authorities he made the referral to.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-king-do.jpg" alt="cm king do" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Andy King (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council voted on Monday to suspend Bronx Council Member Andy King for 30 days without pay and imposed several other disciplinary measures following repeated ethics violations by King that were recently substantiated by the Council’s ethics committee.</p> <p>King, a Democrat, was the subject of a monthslong investigation by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics, the Office of General Counsel, and outside prosecutor Carrie Cohen, who found that the Council member engaged in a pattern of harassment against aides, retaliated against employees who filed ethics complaints against him, fostered a hostile work environment, misused office resources, and allowed his wife, Neva Shillingford-King, to supervise office staff in clear conflicts of interest.</p> <p>By a vote of 44-1, the full Council approved a resolution that contained 10 disciplinary recommendations based on a 48-page report from the ethics committee. Besides the suspension, King will pay a $15,000 fine, be removed from all committee positions, and his office will be placed under an outside monitor for the remainder of his term. King was the only member to vote against the resolution. Council Members Inez Barron and I. Daneek Miller abstained from the vote. Council Members Fernando Cabrera, Ruben Diaz Sr., Alan Maisel and Francisco Moya were absent from the hearing. &nbsp;</p> <p>The monitor will have the authority to review and approve all hiring and firing decisions for King’s staff and will have access to email accounts of King and all his staff members. The Council will also ensure that employees who left King’s office after facing retaliation will have the opportunity to return to Council jobs. If King does not abide by the disciplinary measures, the Council could reopen proceedings against him.</p> <p>“Those violations outlined in the report are appalling, particularly coming from an elected official who is duty-bound to serve the public,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson, prior to the vote.</p> <p>Speaking of the staffers that King had harassed and retaliated against, Johnson said, “I am sickened by what they have endured because of Council Member King’s odious behavior. As for Council Member King, I deplore his cowardice and the disdain with which he treated his employees, the committee, and this entire body.”</p> <p>Though there have been calls for King’s resignation, including from Speaker Johnson, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, several Council members, and others, there was broad hesitation from Council members at expelling King from the body.</p> <p>Council members worried that there may be legal consequences to going beyond the ethics committee’s recommendations. Speaker Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, and Council Member Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican and chair of the ethics committee, repeatedly noted that King is facing the harshest punishment ever doled out by the Council and that the committee had undertaken a deliberative investigation and its recommendations were appropriate.</p> <p>“The committee exhaustively deliberated and debated the terms of this resolution, and concluded that the suspension is significant enough that it will function both as a deterrent against future bad behavior, and also give us the chance to get a monitor in place in Council Member King's office who can develop a relationship with staff before Council Member King returns,” Matteo said on the Council floor.</p> <p>Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, was the only member to call for King to be expelled from the legislative body ahead of the vote. At Monday’s hearing, he introduced an amendment to the resolution to expel King, but it failed with 12 votes in favor and 34 against in the 51-seat chamber. Besides Van Bramer, the Council members who voted for the amendment included Costa&nbsp;Constantinides, Rafael Espinal, Rory Lancman, Carlos Menchaca, Bill Perkins, Keith Powers, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Treyger and Eric Ulrich. Council Member Mathieu Eugene abstained. &nbsp;</p> <p>Van Bramer said he felt compelled to introduce the amendment after King displayed a lack of contrition over his behavior. “While I was prepared to make the amendment, it was only after I heard Council Member King speak that I knew that I had to,” he said. “And the absolute lack of remorse, the absolute lack of even understanding that anything had been done wrong, anything, blaming other Council members, blaming lawyers, blaming staff. That to me is just even more of the pattern of behavior that brought us to this moment in the first place.”</p> <p>The committee’s report noted that King was uncooperative throughout its investigation, seeking to delay and obstruct its work. At Monday’s hearing, King was defiant, alleging that he had been deprived of his due process rights and that the report contained “outright lies” about him.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I'm a man who's very respectful, full of integrity, stands for something, doesn't fall for anything and everything. And because people say things sometimes, don't necessarily make it true,” he said.</p> <p>He even sought a temporary restraining order against the Council’s vote in Manhattan Supreme Court but was unsuccessful. He could possibly seek an injunction against the enforcement of the resolution but Johnson was confident that the Council’s move would hold up to legal scrutiny.</p> <p>Matteo, however, rebutted King’s arguments, pointing out that King and his lawyers had ample time to respond to the committee’s charges and that King did not appear at a two-day trial held by the ethics committee. “Indeed, instead of cooperating Council Member King attempted to make a mockery of this committee, and the Council's rules and policies,” Matteo said.</p> <p>This isn’t King’s first run-in with the ethics committee. He was previously disciplined for paying unwanted attention to a female staff member and ordered to undergo additional sensitivity training. That Council employee, Chloë Rivera, who now works as senior legislative policy analyst for the Committees on Women and Gender Equity and on Higher Education, revealed her identity in an <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-why-i-reported-andy-king-20191028-moz4jh5ntnh65mxqdyqjurodky-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> on Monday, calling on the Council to remove King from office.</p> <p>“Our elected officials must choose to set the right precedent,” she wrote. “They must establish a standard that worker abuse and witness intimidation and retaliation will not be tolerated, that repeat abusers are unfit to serve and will be removed from office.”</p> <p>Several Council members who approved of Van Bramer’s amendment cited Rivera’s experience as the reason for their vote. Rivera previously worked as a legislative aide for former Assembly Member Vito Lopez and was among several aides who filed sexual harassment complaints against him. Lopez eventually resigned when threatened with expulsion from the Assembly. Rivera watched Monday’s hearing from the balcony in the Council chambers and later expressed her disappointment with the proceedings. “I'm very disappointed that the motion to expel did not pass but I am satisfied that he is going to suffer some consequences for his actions,” she told Gotham Gazette in a brief interview.&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the findings of the latest investigation into King was new evidence that the Council member had retaliated against Rivera after her 2017 complaint. At a staff meeting at his home, King disclosed Rivera’s name, questioned her integrity, and called on his staff members to be loyal to him. “Following my first complaint in 2017...he did not receive adequate consequences for his actions,” Rivera said Monday. “And so that resulted in a fallout, which ended up emboldening him and enraging him and taking it out on his staff. It's disappointing and I think it will put a chilling effect on other survivors or other victims from coming forward at the Council who are being victimized by members.” She hoped that the Council would consider strengthening its rules regarding harassment so that there are more clear-cut consequences.</p> <p>The Sexual Harassment Working Group, which is made up of former and current aides to state legislators and has been leading advocacy efforts for stronger sexual harassment protections in the state and city, said the Council should not let King off easy.</p> <p>“If the City Council wants to keep any credibility in the arena of sexual harassment protections, it must lead now, by setting the precedent that it will not tolerate harassment or retaliation against its own workers,” the group wrote in a statement. “City Council staff cannot afford to allow the Council to backtrack on progress made since #MeToo went viral. Anything less than expulsion will send a chilling message to victims that they will not only be denied justice, but they will not be protected from serial predators.”</p> <p>Johnson has also referred the case against King to outside investigators, which could potentially mean criminal charges for the Council member. Johnson would not say which authorities he made the referral to.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>