A Bronx medical student testified Monday that when a trio of plainclothes cops stopped him outside his godmother’s building the excuse they gave was that “there had been a pattern of robberies in the area.”
But the real reason, 28-year-old David Floyd said, had more to do with the color of his skin.
“I felt like I was being told I should not leave my home,” said Floyd. “First and foremost, I didn’t do anything; I am not a criminal.”
Floyd is one of four black New Yorkers who have filed a class-action lawsuit against the city that targets the police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic.
The NYPD is laying “siege to black and Latino neighborhoods,” Floyd’s lawyer Darius Charney charged as the trial got under way Monday.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was right to ease arrests for small amounts of pot
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has wisely clarified NYPD policy for charging New Yorkers who are found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana.
That should end an unfair practice that has driven the number of pot arrests sky-high.
In an all-too-typical situation, cops stop a young man for questioning and possibly subject him to a frisk. When they ask him to empty his pockets, he produces a small bag of marijuana. Cops bust him for the misdemeanor offense of possessing less than 25 grams of the drug in public view.
The injustice is obvious. The subject in question brought the pot into public view, committing the misdemeanor, only because he had been ordered to do so by the police. Otherwise, he would have been guilty only of a noncriminal possession violation, meriting the equivalent of a traffic ticket.
Kelly’s directive should ease criticisms of the NYPD’s policy of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people.
The department makes some 50,000 arrests for pot possession annually, an unknown number of which happen after police order people to reveal what they are carrying on their persons. Some drug-legalization advocates predict Kelly’s clarification will cut pot busts by tens of thousands.
Foes of the tactic of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking individuals deemed suspicious are cheering Kelly’s move. These include Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and City Councilman Jumaane Williams, both of Brooklyn. They point to studies by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine indicating that black and Latino men have borne the brunt of pot arrests.
This is not to say the NYPD should abandon marijuana enforcement. The law is the law, but it must be applied fairly.
On the day the terrorists flew into the World Trade Center, the Wu-Tang Clan canceled its meeting with a record mixer named Richard Oliver, so Mr. Oliver rushed downtown from his Hell’s Kitchen apartment to help out.
He said he spent three sleepless days at ground zero, tossing body bags. “Then I went home, ate, crashed, woke up,” he said. He had left his Dr. Martens boots on the landing outside his apartment, where he said they “had rotted away.”
“That was kind of frightening,” he continued. “I was breathing that stuff.”
After the Sept. 11 attacks, nothing symbolized the city’s rallying around like many New Yorkers who helped at ground zero for days, weeks, months, without being asked. Now Mr. Oliver, suffering from back pain and a chronic sinus infection, is among scores of volunteers who have begun filing claims for compensation from a $2.8 billion fund that Congress created in 2010.
But proving they were there and eligible for the money is turning out to be its own forbidding task.
The other large classes of people who qualify — firefighters, police officers, contractors, city workers, residents and students — have it relatively simple, since they are more likely to have official work orders, attendance records and leases to back them up. But more than a decade later, many volunteers have only the sketchiest proof that they are eligible for the fund, which is expected to make its first awards early this year. (A separate $1.5 billion treatment fund also was created.)
They are volunteers like Terry Graves, now ill with lung cancer, who kept a few business cards of people she worked with until 2007, then threw them away. Or Jaime Hazan, a former Web designer with gastric reflux, chronically inflamed sinuses and asthma, who managed to dig up a photograph of himself at ground zero — taken from behind.
NY law would identify buildings with smokers
Here come the cigarette Nazis
New York apartment buildings that permit smoking would be identified under a new law proposed Wednesday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Landlords of buildings with three or more units would have to inform prospective tenants and purchasers whether smoking was allowed in apartments and on balconies, as well as in common outdoor areas like rooftops.
Bloomberg said this would give potential renters the chance to choose a smoke-free environment, free from wafts of cigarette smoke from other apartments.
“Smoking kills and people have the right to know if they are going to be exposed to secondhand smoke,” Bloomberg said.
“We pursued this proposal in response to complaints from New Yorkers. It won’t ban smoking in residential buildings, only ensure that New Yorkers can choose a smoke-free place to live.”
The proposed law would be similar to requirements to disclose histories of bedbugs or lead paint, officials said.
Bloomberg is one of America’s most prominent anti-smoking campaigners, extending a smoking ban from offices, bars and restaurants to parks and beaches.
The city has also raised taxes on tobacco in an attempt to price cigarettes — now some of the most expensive in the United States — out of reach.
According to the mayor’s office, fewer than 10 percent of New Yorkers smoke at home.
“Even though the percentage of at-home smokers is small, in some buildings cigarette smoke can move quickly between apartments via cracks in the wall, ceilings and floors, through electrical outlets, and under doors,” the office said.
“Air quality monitoring studies have detected elevated levels of harmful particulates in nonsmokers’ apartments when occupants are smoking in another unit.”
Police violence against the Occupy Wall Street movement last Saturday night, resulting in the arrest of 73 people at Zuccotti Park, has provoked an indignant reaction from some City Council members who blame the NYPD for using excessive force.
“On Saturday, I stood right next to peaceful demonstrators who, in return for exercising their rights, were hit by NYPD police officers” Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Upper Manhattan) said at the park on Monday surrounded by injured movement protesters and a group of elected officials.
Rodríguez and his fellow protesters returned to the birthplace of the OWS movement to denounce the excessive tactics employed by NYPD officers on the protest’s six-month anniversary. They called on New Yorkers to rally Saturday to protest the use of what they called official violence aimed at the peaceful demonstrators.
“The park was full of people,” Nathan Kleinman, 29, an OWS organizer from Jenkintown, Penn., told the Daily News.
Protesters “were sitting and talking and laughing and singing and dancing, celebrating six months of the movement,” he said. “And without any warnings or prompting, a few hundred cops just started sweeping through the park and knocking people over and dragging people off the ground.”
“Food Police” Runs amok!
So much for serving the homeless.
The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.
In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.
For over a decade, Glenn Richter and his wife, Lenore, have led a team of food-delivery volunteers from Ohab Zedek, the Upper West Side Orthodox congregation.
Forbidden: Shelters must turn away synagogue goodies like gefilte fish and pastries, thanks to Bloomberg.
They’ve brought freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood. (Disclosure: I know the food is so tasty because I’ve eaten it — I’m an OZ member.) The practice of donating such surplus food to homeless shelters is common among houses of worship in the city.
DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.
The city also cites food-safety issues with donations, but it’s clear that the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.
Diamond insists that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve food that meets the rules but also tastes good; it just isn’t too salty. So, says the commissioner, the homeless really don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.
Glenn Richter’s experience suggests otherwise. He says the beneficiaries — many of them senior citizens recovering from drug and alcohol abuse — have always been appreciative of the treats he and other OZ members bring.
It’s not just that the donations offer an enjoyable addition to the “official” low-salt fare; knowing that the food comes from volunteers and community members warms their hearts, not just their stomachs.
So you can imagine Richter’s consternation last month when employees at a local shelter turned away food he brought from a bar mitzvah.
He’s a former city Housing Authority employee, and his wife spent 35 years as a South Bronx public-school teacher, so they’re no strangers to bureaucracy and poverty. But an exasperated Richter says, “This level of micromanagement is stunning.”
Says Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohav Zedek, “Jews have been eating chulent and kugel for a long time, and somehow we’ve managed to live long and healthy lives. All we want to do is to continue sharing these bounties with our neighbors.”
This is very different from another recent high-profile food-police case. When a North Carolina prekindergarten aide took away a 4-year-old’s home-packed lunch last month, the school defused the incident by blaming a teacher’s bad judgment.
Here, there’s no teacher to scapegoat. The ban on food donations is the direct result of work by many city agencies, all led by a mayoral task force.
Fine, the city’s making enough nutritious food available to our homeless. (Court mandates require it.) But that’s no excuse for turning away charity that brings a tiny bit of joy into these lives.
The Bloomberg administration is so obsessed with meddling in how we all live that it’s now eating away at the very best that New York citizens have to deliver.
Jeff Stier, a National Center for Public Policy Research senior fellow, lives on the Upper West Side.