Saturday, September 1, 2018

Are We Putting the NYC Police Department Above The Law?

Most investigative reporters in New York City know about coverups at the highest levels of City government in great detail, but don't write anything about these potential scandals until it is politically opportune to reveal the details or an editor says to go ahead.

Making powerful people, including major office holders, look "good" is what large public relations companies and government insiders are often paid to do. But there are always whistleblowers, or "sources" who often remain anonymous, and try to speak up. But many people don't want to listen.

Bernie Kerik
I was given information about corruption and fraud by Bernard Kerik before there was any comments in the media about his misconduct. I felt it was important to get the information out to the public months before anything was revealed in print or on television. I called the news desks of the NY Times, Daily News, and NY Post....everyone told me "thanks but no thanks" and hung up. Then, months later, people were shocked and surprised when this information was published, finally. What I am saying is that Kerik could have been apprehended way before he actually was.

The same thing happened with ex-reality TV private eye Vincent Parco and his Attorney Peter Gleason.
Vincent Parco

I forget when I first met Attorney and former firefighter Peter Gleason, or "Pete", but when Pete ran for City Council on 2009 I was a groupie who thought he would be great in this position, as he was an Attorney and a retired fireman.

I did not know that Pete's firefighting days were not exactly fighting fires, but on medical leave. Pete was very nasty to the late journalist Wayne Barrett for exposing the facts behind the face.

Peter Gleason and Anna Gristina

Pete's City Council campaign blew up, after the releasing of his medical records. Pete sued. Pete went back to his law practice.

In 2013, I was asked to help a teacher who was charged with 3020-a, and she wanted to hire an attorney, so I asked Pete if he wanted to work with me on the case. He agreed, and brought in Daniel Geller, who told me he was the son of Uri Geller. I regretted asking Pete to work with me, as he was very insulting to my teacher client, and me as well. I found it difficult to work with him.

Then, Pete told me that he wanted me to meet a friend of his, and he picked me up in his car and drove me to the office of a private investigator with the name of Vincent Parco. I had never heard of "Vinny", nor had I ever seen his TV Show.

What Pete and Vinnie wanted me to  do was help them with a shakedown of a witness in a housing court case who was opposing Pete's client. I was to act like a reporter, and set up an interview which would scare the woman into backing down.

I told Pete and Vinnie NO. That kind of scheme is not something I would ever want to get involved with.

I was taken aback in September 2017 when Vincent Parco was arrested for a similar shakedown, and Peter Gleason is his attorney.

I decided somebody out there would be interested in hearing about how Pete Gleason was helping Vinnie do these sort of actions in 2013-2014, but no one at the DA's Office nor in any newsroom was interested. I am NOT saying that all police personnel are bad. I am saying that misconduct by anyone, whether they are police personnel, government officials, judges, or working citizens/noncitizens, should be reviewed and prosecuted. No one should be above the law.

The media is aware that bed news sells, and sensationalize wrong-doing...when the editors want to:
Teen details how NYPD cops tried to silence her after rape
In fact, there is a Wikipedia page on NYC Police Department Misconduct:

New York City Police Department Corruption and Misconduct

and then there is this:

EXCLUSIVE: NYPD supervisor embroiled in cop rape investigation gets promoted amid claims officers under him intimidated the victim (NY Daily news, Sept. 4, 2018)

NYPD Deputy Inspector Michael Kletzel was promoted to Inspector during a promotion ceremony at
1 Police Plaza Friday (Kevin C. Downs/New York Daily News)
See below for an example of law enforcement cover-ups which have been in the news recently, but way too late.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials


Scout Katovich, Legal Fellow, NYCLU 
Sandra Park, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project

JULY 31, 2018 | 2:30 PM

Evidence continues to mount that the New York Police Department may have a sexual assault and harassment problem on its hands. But rather than face up to the fact that some officers abuse their authority and deal with those officers accordingly, the officers’ union is legally trying to make sure that any allegations of sexual assault or harassment are dealt with internally rather than publicly. 
For decades, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) — the independent New York City agency that investigates civilian complaints of misconduct by NYPD officers — automatically referred police sexual misconduct complaints to the NYPD for internal examination, while it investigated a wide range of other police misconduct, like excessive use of force.  
In one of the complaints that the CCRB forwarded to the NYPD, a woman recounted repeated sexual harassment by the same officer. In 2014, when the woman was questioned by an NYPD officer at a crime-scene investigation, the officer gave her his number under the pretense that she may need to reach him if she remembered something that could be relevant to the investigation. But when she encountered him next, he asked her why she never called and made comments about the size of his penis. The third time she encountered him, in 2016, when he entered her holding cell after she had been arrested, he told her “suck my dick.”
In a welcome move, the CCRB clarified in February of this year that it will now investigate such civilian complaints of police sexual misconduct. The CCRB has jurisdiction under New York City law to investigate police “abuse of authority,” and it should go without saying that sexual harassment and violence committed by police are abuses of authority.
Police officers have an enormous amount of power when interacting with or detaining civilians. Their decisions could put someone behind bars for days, months, or years. Charging someone with a crime, even if they are not convicted, can impact a person’s job prospects, housing status, and other critical aspects of their lives.
Anyone who has ever interacted with a police officer understands this lopsided power dynamic. When police officers engage in sexual misconduct, they are taking advantage of this imbalance, whether they know it or not.
Yet, the city’s largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has brought a legal challenge to the CCRB’s February sexual misconduct resolution. It seeks to keep such allegations of sexual abuse by NYPD officers in the control of the NYPD and out of the public eye, in part by arguing that police sexual misconduct is not an “abuse of authority.”
In June, The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project filed a proposed amicus brief in the case, arguing that the CCRB can lawfully investigate complaints of NYPD sexual misconduct. These investigations, we argue, are essential to safeguarding the rights of women, LGBT people, and others vulnerable to sexual abuse and to promoting police transparency and accountability.
Police sexual misconduct is alarmingly common. A recent survey of over 700 cases of sexual misconduct by law enforcement personnel nationally showed that, on average, a police officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct at least every five days. Another found that in just one year 618 officers were implicated in sexual misconduct, making it the second most commonly reported form of police misconduct after excessive use of force.

These numbers are also under-inclusive. We know that only one in three women report sexual assault generally, and those numbers are surely lower when victims are told to report the abuse to the very people who perpetrated it.
Because the NYPD does not publicly disclose information about complaints of sexual misconduct that it receives, the scope of this crisis in New York is not fully known. But one study surveyingalmost 1,000 youth in New York City found that two out of five young women had been sexually harassed by police officers. High-profile incidents of horrific abuse also reveal a troubling problem that must be addressed.
Most recently, an appalling account of two NYPD officers raping an 18-year old in the back of an unmarked van sparked outrage and resulted in the officers facing criminal charges. Disturbingly, they have defended themselves by claiming the encounter was consensual, even though the teen was in police custody. The power dynamics inherent in police-civilian interactions make it impossible for a person to consent in these circumstances.  
The International Association of Chiefs of Police recognizes sexual misconduct as a “behavior ... that takes advantage of the officer’s position in law enforcement to misuse authority and power.” The fact that police sexual misconduct is inflicted disproportionately on vulnerable members of society, including women of color, sex workers, drug users, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBT people, and victims of domestic violence — underscore the abuse of authority inherent in this type of abuse.
The CCRB’s investigation of these complaints is an essential step towards increasing police accountability for sexual abuse and harassment of civilians. By providing an independent reporting mechanism, the CCRB can help combat rampant underreporting of police sexual misconduct. The CCRB will also be able to track and analyze these complaints and make informed recommendations to shape NYPD internal policies, which as of now do not explicitly address sexual harassment of civilians. 
What little information is made public about internal NYPD sexual misconduct investigations reveals an agency that tolerates sexual harassment and abuse by NYPD officers, even against their own colleagues, and an internal investigation and discipline system that consistently fails victims of sexual abuse.
The NYPD provides no guidelines regarding the process through which civilian complaints of sexual misconduct are handled. The Brooklyn teenager who was allegedly raped in the police van reported that at least nine NYPD officers came to her hospital room to discourage her from completing a rape kit.
Most recently, the city’s Department of Investigation issued a damning report on the NYPD’s systemic failures to adequately staff and provide resources for the investigation of sex crimes, which “re-traumatizes victims” and “negatively impacts the reporting of sex crimes, thereby adversely affecting public safety.” The fact that the department does a poor job responding to sexual assault complaints committed by civilians underlines how little they can be trusted when it comes to sexual assault complaints regarding NYPD officers.
It’s past time for NYPD sexual misconduct to have its #MeToo moment. Independent investigation by the CCRB will help ensure that these complaints will be dealt with fairly and will help shape a more transparent, accountable, and trustworthy police force.

Monday, August 13, 2018

NYC Mayor Removes NY POST reporter For Asking A Question

In New York City we have a Mayor who wants to control the media. And the judicial system. And everyone.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio clearly dispises reporters, edtors, and taxpayers who decide to question his actions, his ethics or his Truth.

This is just plain ugh.

Betsy Combier

De Blasio lets security haul away Post reporter for asking a question
A bodyguard removes Post reporter Kevin Sheehan (right) from asking Bill de Blasio
(left) questions.  Brigitte Stelzer         
Mayor Bill de Blasio is a such a big believer in the free press that he let two bodyguards physically remove a credentialed Post reporter who had the temerity to ask him a question in public on Sunday.
The unusual muzzling unfolded at the start of the annual Dominican Day Parade in Manhattan, where the reporter sought de Blasio’s reaction to The Post’s front page story about his administration’s many meetings with lobbyists.
It also came after Hizzoner appeared on national TV Sunday to proclaim, “I believe in a free, strong media with diverse views — I’ll defend it with all I’ve got.”
Just two hours later, after de Blasio cut a ribbon to kick off the parade and was posing for photos near West 37th Street and Sixth Avenue, the reporter asked him to comment on the Page One “CITY FOR SALE” story.
Instead of answering or even declining to answer the question, the mayor watched as two members of his NYPD security detail approached the reporter — who was wearing a police-issued press pass around his neck — with one grabbing his shoulder and leading him away from the mayor.
“Kevin, you have to leave. You can’t be here,” the plainclothes cop said.
Both bodyguards then escorted the reporter about a half-block away, where a member of the NYPD’s public information office, Officer Brian Magoolaghan, told him, “Come on, Kevin. No stunts today.”
City Hall had previously declined to discuss records that showed officials held 136 meetings with lobbyists during just three months earlier this year.
The incident was reminiscent of one last month when the White House barred a CNN reporter from a Rose Garden event for shouting “inappropriate” questions at President Trump in the Oval Office earlier in the day.
Those questions involved audio recordings of Trump made secretly by his then-personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Trump’s invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House.
Earlier Sunday, de Blasio appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” to discuss an interview last week with the Guardian, a liberal British newspaper, in which he criticized The Post’s parent company, News Corp, and its founder and executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch.
At one point, host Brian Stelter pressed de Blasio about his criticism of The Post, which the mayor has called a “right-wing rag.”
“Why do you feel it’s your role to be calling out a newspaper because you don’t like the content?” Stelter asked.
“Because I think it’s not happening enough. … It’s not happening the way I think it should,” de Blasio answered.
De Blasio’s press secretary referred questions about the incident at the parade to the NYPD, which said in an email: “The Department takes appropriate and necessary measures to protect dignitaries, including the Mayor of the City of New York.”
Additional reporting by Ben Feuerherd

Ritchie Torres (left) and Bill de Blasio                                                                            [Richard Harbus/Ron Sachs]
NY POST, May 28, 2018
A city councilman on Sunday said he favored legislation requiring greater disclosure about City Hall’s meetings with lobbyists, in the wake of a Post expose that revealed 136 such sit-downs during just three months this year.
Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) said vague entries in the official “Lobbyist Meeting Disclosure” database set up by Mayor de Blasio failed to shed sufficient light on what went on behind closed doors.
“It’s opacity masquerading as transparency,” said Torres, who heads the council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations.
“If you’re telling the public you’re having a meeting, that tells you nothing about the substance of the meeting.”
Torres also derided multiple listings showing am official “meet & greet” with representatives of the real-estate industry, who met members of the de Blasio administration 46 times between March 1 and May 31.
“A meet-and-greet five years into the administration with established players in the real estate industry is implausible,” Torres said.
“There should be more detailed reporting.”
Development and housing issues were the most frequently listed subject of the lobbyist meetings, with 16 meetings about cultural institutions a distant second.
Records don’t reveal whether any of the real-estate discussions involved de Blasio’s potential plan to allow construction of a high-rise tower with market-rate apartments on a New York City Housing Authority-owned parking lot in Hell’s Kitchen.
Torres said he suspected the Harborview Terrace development plan was part of a desperate bid by de Blasio to pay for $31.8 billion worth of NYCHA renovations, some of which are mandated by the pending settlement of a safe-housing suit filed by the feds.
“Repairs do not pay for themselves,” said Torres, who grew up in public housing.
“There is no NYCHA fairy coming the rescue.”

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Gives Assembly "Pork" Money To Fellow Democrat In The Senate

I am a taxpayer in New York City. I am disgusted with politicians who give public money labeled "pork" to other politicians.

Can't we stop this practice, and have strategies and rules to require all taxpayer money be given to worthy organizations which have proven records of good works?

The State corruption trials going on with Dean Skelos and his son Adam, Sheldon Silver, the morass of the closing by Cuomo of the Moreland Commission, etc., etc., should be enough for us to stand up and say NO.

Betsy Combier
Editor, The NYC Public Voice

Assembly of Albany help
Big-bucks aid to a Senate Dem EXCLUSIVE
ALBANY — Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in Assembly pork money to help a fellow Democrat with his reelection effort, the Daily News has learned.
What makes this a rare move is that this time, the Assembly powerbroker is assisting a member of the state Senate.
Heastie worked with Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to direct between $500,000 and upward of $1 million to schools and libraries in the Nassau County district of Sen. John Brooks, who is considered the most vulnerable of the incumbent Democrats.
While speakers in the past usually steered clear of Senate races, Heastie previously told the Daily News he would work this year to help flip Senate control to the Dems.
“Assembly Democrats are proud to support public schools and libraries throughout the state, and the speaker has worked with both (Assembly GOP) leader (Brian) Kolb and Leader Stewart-Cousins to provide much-needed resources,” Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland said Sunday. “Senate Republicans have shortchanged certain districts, so we will work wherever we can to ensure these needs are met.”
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif called the Heastie move a “Hail Mary” to save Brooks and an “unprecedented, and purely partisan, political maneuver.”
“If the New York City Democrats are successful in influencing this suburban
Senate race, they own John Brooks. So much for Long Is-more land,” Reif said.
With the Senate GOP providing no local project money to the Dems, Brooks was unapologetic in seeking help from the Assembly and his own leader.
“I went to the state Senate to get results for my constituents,” he said. The first-term senator said the $500,000 of additional state education funds “will help school districts impacted by the disastrous federal tax plan and will ensure Long Island students receive a high-quality education. I am very proud of my efforts to secure this aid.”
Brooks, 68, faces an aggressive challenge by Republican Jeff Pravato, the mayor of Massapequa Park, in the GOP-heavy South Shore district.
One of the few previous times an Assembly leader overtly got involved in Senate races was in 1999, when then-Speaker Sheldon Silver sought to help the Dems win a highly contested seat in Rockland County by agreeing to move a bill to do away with a commuter tax that largely affected suburban communities in the MTA region.
The effort backfired: The Democrats lost the Senate seat and the MTA was starved of a major revenue source going forward.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

NYC Police Commissioner James O’Neill Appoints Members To an Internal Police Review Panel

We are all awaiting some evidence that the coverup of police misconduct will be exposed. Some posts by advocacy organizations don't give us alot of hope , though :

NYCLU Releases Documents That Reveal Very Few Rules Police The PoliceLet's hope..

Betsy Combier

Police Commissioner James O'Neill convened a three-member independent panel in June to examine the NYPD's disciplinary policies. History has shown those policies to be stubbornly resistant to change. (Susan Watts / New York Daily News)

Blue Ribbon panel begins review of NYPD disciplinary system that has proved resistant to change

Members of the Knapp Commission (from left) John Sprizzo, Chairman Whitman Knapp, Joseph Monserrat and Franklin Thomas resume hearing on police corruption on October 20, 1971 following a bomb scare. (Gordon Rynders/New York Daily News)
Detectives' Union President Mike Palladino
As the blue-ribbon panel created by the city’s top cop to review how the NYPD punishes police for misconduct begins its work, history has shown that the disciplinary system is stubbornly resistant to change.

Way back in 1972, for example, the Knapp Commission — formed to probe a police bribery scandal — urged the NYPD to increase penalties for misconduct. The recommendation was not heeded.

In 1992, the Mollen Commission — created to investigate a scandal involving cops robbing drug dealers — made a similar proposal. That, too, was ignored.

Some years later, the City Commission to Combat Police Corruption proposed the same thing. That also went nowhere.

Civil rights advocates have long complained that the system needs to be more stringent and transparent, while cops also castigate the system, arguing it lacks fairness and is vulnerable to favoritism.

Meanwhile, the city continues to spend many millions each year to settle lawsuits filed against the NYPD. In 2017, the city paid out $308.4 million in claims against police officers — nearly triple the $104.9 million paid out in 2008. The settlement total has increased each year for the past decade.

In 2016, the NYPD, backed by the de Blasio administration, made the system even more opaque by cutting off public access to the outcomes of disciplinary cases, citing a state law that NYPD lawyers maintain makes police personnel records confidential.

That move spurred a series of lawsuits and generated a ton of negative press for the NYPD and City Hall.

In May, for example, the News profiled retired NYPD Capt. Warner Frey, who said as head of a unit that investigated detectives for misconduct, he witnessed top-ranking NYPD officials meddling in internal investigations.

The distinguished panel — comprised of former U.S. Attorneys Mary Jo White and Robert Capers and former federal Judge Barbara Jones — is tasked with navigating this difficult landscape.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who appointed the members in the wake of a Daily News series on flaws in the system, gave them a broad mandate to do a comprehensive examination of the system, his aides say.

And there’s no shortage of opinions on what should be done.

“The panel’s top three priorities have to be transparency, transparency, and transparency,” said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“To have an effective police disciplinary system, the public has to know how it works and when it fails. The mess the NYPD finds itself in now is almost entirely the result of its plunge into secrecy.”

The lack of transparency was on display Wednesday, when ex-tennis star James Blake, who was tackled by Police Officer James Frascatore, complained the NYPD hadn’t even notified him about the cop’s second trial, Tuesday, on departmental charges.

“This measure is a no-brainer,” said civil rights lawyer Joel Berger, noting that cops, in most cases, lose a few vacation days — even in cases involving serious violations.

“At the very minimum, having such a law on the books would have a deterrent effect on police misconduct,” added Berger, who called the decades-long failure to enact tougher penalties for police misconduct “scandalous.”

Moreover, the Civilian Complaint Review Board rarely substantiates complaints against cops. Consequently, he contends, people sue the city because they feel it’s their only option.

Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform said the NYPD should have clear guidelines on the penalties for violations. “There is no other profession where there is not some set of guidelines,” she said. “There’s so much discretion in a way that ends up condoning abusive behavior with no meaningful consequences.”

She also wondered why there’s apparently no way for the public to interact with the panel. “It would be a real failure if they don’t consult with people who have been failed by the system,” she said.

Police spokesman Phillip Walzak said the panel is indeed accepting public input from members of the general public and will publicly release its findings and recommendations at the conclusion of its review.

“The NYPD does not determine the scope or focus of the panel’s work.” Walzak added. “Rather, the members of the independent panel make those determinations.”

Meanwhile, the police unions have their own strong views on the path to reform.

Detectives union president Michael Palladino says the rules and structure of the disciplinary system should be subject to negotiation between the NYPD and the five police unions.

“When one side has complete control over a process, it is subject to manipulation and abuse — which is why there are inconsistencies,” Palladino said. “That is simply human nature.”

Edward Mullins, the head of the sergeants union, said the fact that the police commissioner makes the final decision on discipline should be re-examined.

“I have mixed feelings about a system where there’s a sole person with final say,” he said. “We have no say in discipline. When something is unjust, we have to go to the media. It’s bizarre.”

Mullins noted that while the rank-and-file accused of misconduct face months, even years, on desk duty before being penalized, chiefs in the same situation often get to retire with their pensions intact without facing charges.

Captains union president Roy Richter said the disciplinary process should move much faster. In one case, he noted, a captain waited five years for his case to be resolved.

“The length of these cases is a penalty in and of itself because a person’s career is placed on hold,” he said.

Richter also pointed to the makeup of the CCRB, noting that the 10 board members appointed by the mayor and City Council are barred from having police experience. The other three are appointed by the police commissioner.

“That gives an inherent feeling of unfairness,” he said. “I would like the panel to look at that.”

The panel members all declined to comment.

Members of NYC Council Urge Victims of NYCHA to Sue

Former NYCHA Chairperson Shola Olatoye
(Marcus Santos, NY Daily News)
Probably the Mayoral scandal that infuriates New Yorkers the most is de Blasio's disdain and silence on the lies and corruption of NYCHA and it's former Chairperson Shola Olatoye. There is no end in sight, nor should there be. Innocent people - including countless children - were poisoned by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's deafness to cries of help over lead in apartments and general fraud.

Shame on Bill.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Council speaker hopefuls rail on NYCHA for lead paint inspection crisis by Erin Durkin, NY Daily News, August 5, 2018

City Council speaker candidates bashed the embattled city housing authority over its failure to inspect residents' apartments for lead.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) encouraged families affected by the botched inspections — and NYCHA's false certification that it completed them — to file a class action lawsuit against the city.

Rodgriguez said the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development should go just as hard on NYCHA as it does on private landlords.

"We have failed," he said at a forum Tuesday night hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network. "We should not go just after Shola (Olatoye, the NYCHA chair). The rest of the people, anyone responsible for what happened, from the top to the bottom should pay for the consequences."

A Department of Investigation probe this month found that NYCHA falsely reported to the feds for years that it was handling all required inspections.

"There were documents submitted to the federal government that were lies," said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn). "I don't want to sugarcoat this. The mayor has said that he knew about it."

The Daily News reported that de Blasio was informed last year that NYCHA was violating the lead paint rules.

"If people lie, and they lie knowingly about a health situation, they should be fired," said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens).

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens) speaks as Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) (left) looks on at a forum at the National Action Network. (Jimmy Van Bramer via Twitter)
A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio dismissed the criticism from the field. "Politicians are going to be politicians," said Olivia Lapeyrolerie.

At the forum, hopefuls also grappled with the role race should play in picking a speaker to replace Melissa Mark-Viverito, the body's first Hispanic leader.

There has never been a black speaker, and Sharpton said he won't necessarily back one this time — but it must be someone who grasps racial inequality.

"That does not mean that ultimately the person will be black. I supported Mayor de Blasio over a black," Sharpton said, referring to his support for de Blasio over Bill Thompson in the 2013 election.

"Some are saying because we've never had a black City Council president, that that's what we're looking for. No, we're looking for the best candidate for the black community," he said, but added, "It is horrific we've never had a black (speaker), because it gives the connotation we're not qualified."

Some candidates were less shy in arguing that the Council should be sure to pick a non-white speaker.

"I am not ashamed," said Councilman Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn). "It is a reasonable request that the speaker of the City Council of New York be representative of the demographics not only of the City Council body, but of the city of New York."

With the top city and statewide posts mostly held by white men, Williams said it would be a "travesty" for the Council to join them.

"We shouldn't just put anybody up there because of the color of our skin," he said. "But there are five of us... One of us probably has the qualifications that everybody's looking for."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The NYCHA Scandal and Coverup

How to End the Culture of Cover-up in New York City Public Housing

By Victor Bach, Center For New York City Affairs, July 11, 2018

Transgression followed by cover-up: This all-too-familiar scenario has played out again, this time in the disgraceful and high-profile failures to protect New York City public housing residents from decrepit and dangerous living conditions. Urgent repairs to the buildings, and restorations to the integrity and reputation, of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) are now clearly in order.
The far-reaching civil legal settlement City officials struck last month with Federal authorities laid out why in distressing detail. It confirmed failures and falsifications between 2010 and 2016 in lead paint inspections that endangered the health of children living in NYCHA developments and that occasioned a suit by tenants. It also documented a widespread, appalling pattern of neglect and deceit concerning repairs and abatement of apartment mold, failing furnaces, and other unsafe conditions.  A follow-up seizure of records and other items at a NYCHA office in Queens suggested that a separate criminal investigation may be underway, too.
NYCHA’s more than 400,000 public housing residents have long sounded alarms about worsening conditions in their apartments and buildings. The Community Service Society’s 2014 report Strengthening New York City’s Public Housing: Directions for Change was the first to systematically track the accelerated deterioration residents had experienced since 1999 and identify government disinvestment—at every level of government—as a root cause of these problems.
The consent decree settling the tenants’ lawsuit commits the City and State governments to some $4 billion in additional funding for repairs at NYCHA over the next four years that are to be overseen by a court-appointed outside monitor. Unfortunately, reporting last week on NYCHA’s state of disrepair showed that the housing authority still lacks more than $20 billion to pay for essential fixes and improvements. To raise that kind of money, NYCHA needs to shore up its badly damaged credibility with potential funders, as well as with its long-suffering tenants.
That can start by providing tenants something they’ve long been denied: Clear, publicly accessible information about progress, or lack thereof, in responding to their complaints about conditions and unmade repairs. Here’s our advice to City leaders, including Stanley Brezenoff, the housing authority’s new interim chair, for how to show that NYCHA is at last replacing a culture of cover-up with a commitment to transparency.
For example, today any tenant in a private multiple dwelling can call the 311 Citizen Service Center to register a housing complaint. The complaint—its date, location, and nature—is recorded and referred to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation (HPD) division of code enforcement for appropriate follow-up and, as necessary, an inspection.
That’s not been the case, however, if you live in public housing. A resident of a NYCHA development who dials 311 is instead automatically referred to the authority’s internal Centralized Call Center, which passes the complaint on to the development’s on-site manager. No record of the complaint is made outside NYCHA; much is left to the discretion of the manager.
In short, right now what happens in NYCHA stays in NYCHA, with no external records of complaints and outstanding violations that can be used to assess conditions and management responses. But daylight, as always, remains the best disinfectant—especially in ending the kind of deceptions NYCHA has practiced to hide building disrepair, including literally papering and painting over holes in apartment walls in advance of outside inspections. For that reason, NYCHA residents should be given access to the 311 Citizen Service Center and the City’s code enforcement system.
Similarly, any tenant in a private multiple dwelling can go to the public websites of HPD and the Department of Buildings (DOB), enter his or her address, and obtain a record of past code violations and whether and when they were cured. If a NYCHA resident enters an address, however, he/she will find no record in these data bases. NYCHA has enjoyed an exemption from these open records—but it has clearly forfeited its right to this so-called “gentlemen’s agreement.”
At the Community Service Society, we strongly recommend that NYCHA apartments and buildings be included in the public data bases maintained by HPD and DOB. Doing that will signal a welcome commitment to re-establishing NYCHA’s once-proud but now badly tarnished reputation for administering “public housing that works”—and to providing NYCHA tenants the safe, decent housing they deserve.  

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Center School on The Upper West Side of Manhattan Avoids Diversity. Really.

How can a public school on Manhattan's West Side admit students with a secret process?
Chancellor Carranza has a big challenge in front of him, if he really wants to diversity and integrate NYC schools.

Betsy Combier
Center School
How an ultra-exclusive public school has avoided a citywide diversity push

The children of Cynthia Nixon, Samantha Bee and Louis C.K. got into this popular public middle school, while hundreds of others are shut out every year.
The Center School has operated like a fiefdom on the Upper West Side, enrolling just 234 students in grades 5 to 8 with a mysterious admissions process that pledges diversity in race and ability but has resulted in a school that is mostly white, affluent and high-performing.
As the Upper West Side’s District 3 struggles to bring “academic diversity” and desegregation to the area, The Center School stands out as an island of privilege.
It would be exempt from the Department of Education proposal to require middle schools in District 3 give 25 percent of admissions priority to students scoring at the lowest two levels on state English and math tests.
The school’s loophole lies in the fact that it begins admitting students in fifth grade, not sixth, as the district’s other schools do. Because it is exempt from the city’s admissions process, the school can cherry-pick kids who’ve scored higher on standardized tests, resulting in less academic diversity.
“It will not be a part of this particular discussion, but the superintendent is working with The Center School to bring it online with the rest of the district at some point in the future,” said Kim Watkins, president of the District 3 Community Education Council.
The West 84th Street school is one of just eight middle schools in the city that has its own admissions policy, but most of the others have clear guidelines for entry, such as a student’s performing-arts talent or a lottery system.
Not The Center School. The process there is a mystery to the students who apply in fourth grade and are interviewed by both a current student and a teacher. Some 350 kids vie for 55 spots, and they can live outside of the district.
“They have their completely own independent rubric which they don’t have to release or justify,” said Alina Adams, an education consultant. “Nobody knows how kids get into that school.”
One mother said that during an admissions interview, her daughter was asked what her parents did for a living.
“They ‘never received’ our application materials. Turns out the exact same excuse was used on another family we know,” it read.Another parent cried foul over the admissions process in a comment posted on
Those who do win a coveted spot love it.
“The kids, I think, have a lot of freedom, and it ends up being an incredible happy place where your kids are learning so much all the time. I don’t know what they do, but their system is incredible,” said Karen Haberberg, parent of a fifth-grader.
The school opened in 1982 to lure kids who were fleeing to private schools.
“We decided that nothing really worked, so we decided to start from scratch,” Elaine Schwartz, the school’s 83-year-old co-founder and its current principal, said in a 2013 interview.
Classes are small, arts are a focus. Students learn Latin and attend classes with those in other grades. Standardized testing is de-emphasized.
Schwartz is well connected at City Hall, according to a former parent.
“She’s been able to kind of run this school the way she’s wanted to,” the parent said.
“I think it’s a fantastic place, but I wished it were much more integrated,” the parent said. “I wish they took many more low-income kids and kids who weren’t performing well on the tests.”
Schwartz refused to comment.
The Center School has become increasingly white and affluent in the last decade. In 2008, parents — including Nixon — argued that moving the school from its location within PS 199 would result in less diversity. At the time, it was 55 percent white, 23 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic with a “poverty rate” of 38 percent.
“It is one of the whitest schools in the district, and it is increasingly white and increasingly affluent and ousting The Center School means a de facto segregated building,” the ex-“Sex and the City” star and current gubernatorial candidate said in a hearing at the time.
The Center School moved anyway to West 84th Street, where it shares space with PS 9.
This year, the school’s population is 58 percent white, 12 percent black, 18 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian and 6 percent other. Twelve percent of students qualified for free lunch.

‘Academic diversity’ plan for NYC schools opens racial wounds
Susan Edelman and Melissa Klein, NYPOST April 28, 2018

NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza                                                                                   Matthew McDermott
School officials call it “academic diversity,” but a well-meaning plan to equalize access to good schools has sparked an ugly racial debate that pits white, affluent parents against poor blacks and Latinos.
The recently announced proposal in District 3 — which covers the West Side of Manhattan from 59th Street to 122nd Street — would give bottom-scoring elementary-school students “priority” for admission to most middle schools. The district’s schools are sharply divided along racial and socioeconomic lines.
High-performing middle schools — usually with a white, middle- or upper-class majority — would have to reserve up to 25 percent of their seats for students who score at the lowest 2 of 4 levels on state math and English tests. That means some students with high test scores would be shut out of their preferred schools and possibly steered to lower-performing schools which enroll more blacks and Hispanics.
It’s the first proposal of its kind in New York City, but the social experiment paves the way to expand to other schools and districts.
And that threatens to raise racial tensions akin to explosive school battles in Boston, Detroit and LA, said David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center education professor.
“Without strong leadership, this strategy may divide the city based on racial politics — those who favor desegregation against those who don’t,” Bloomfield said.
New York City schools are the nation’s most segregated by race and class, a 2014 UCLA study found.
The proposal would affect current 4th graders who will enter the 5th grade in September, and apply to middle school in December. The DOE hopes to approve the plan by June.
The controversy erupted at a recent community meeting, videotaped by NY1, when one mother at high-ranked PS 199 on the Upper West Side angrily asked what she should tell an 11-year-old who “worked [their] butt off” but was shut out of the best school. “Life sucks!”
Mona Davids, president of the NYC Parents Union, blasted “progressive limousine liberals” at the popular school, where 62.2 percent of kids are white and 14.9 percent are Asian.
“It’s racism because they know the students who are doing poorly and condemned to failing schools are black and Latino. They don’t want those students in their lily-white schools,” she said.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who joined the city school system this monthfanned the flames Friday by retweeting a news story on the meeting headlined: “Watch: Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools.”
In a WNYC interview Friday, Mayor de Blasio said he did not believe that Carranza “intends to vilify anyone.”
Some parents at poor-performing schools in the district hailed the diversity plan, which still requires DOE approval.
At the struggling PS 149 Sojourner Truth in Harlem, just 8 percent of students got a 3 or 4 — passing or higher — on the state English test last year, and only 1 percent hit those scores on the math test. The school is 90 percent black and Hispanic.
Jameelah Ricks, whose son is a second-grader at the school, said low test scores don’t mean a child can’t improve.
Parents who oppose the plan stereotype low-income minorities and worry they will “flood” their elite schools, she told The Post.
“We’re all not ghetto, project, welfare recipients. I’m educated. I’m actually in my second year in law school. I’m a senior corporate paralegal,” Ricks said.
But opposing parents at high-performing schools say the plan turns the merit system on its head.
“I think it’s very crooked,” said Aya Goshen, whose son is in grade 4 at PS 199 on West 70th Street. “You tell your kid that he needs to do his best on the test to get into a good school and it turns out he’d better get a 2, and he might get into a better school. The system is motivating kids the wrong way.”
The diversity plan, if approved, will affect Goshen’s son when he applies to middle school,
“I am very worried,” she said. “Diversity is good for our kids but the environment needs to supply the kids that are struggling with tools so they won’t disturb the kids that are not. Unless they do that, the kids who have 3s and 4s are going to suffer.”
DOE officials did not address in detail how schools will handle the mix of students at sharply different academic levels, or how they will improve the poor-performing schools where many kids will still be stuck.
Enrollment in Harlem schools has dropped because of competition from charters and other district schools, said Dennis Morgan, a member of the District 3 Community Education Council.
“I’m concerned that this is going to exacerbate problems with enrollment,” he said of the diversity plan.
Admission to elementary schools is normally determined by residential zones. But after grade 5, students can apply to middle schools in their district. Students rank their preferences, and can list up to 12 choices.
Some schools also rank the students they want. Then, students are matched to schools by computer algorithms that typically give most students their first or second choice, experts said.
In another citywide change under the proposal, schools will not see how students rank them. So schools could no longer favor kids who rank them No. 1.
Currently, some popular schools cherry-pick the highest-scoring kids. In District 3, for instance, MS 54 Booker T. Washington in Morningside Heights enrolls 80 percent of students who score a 3 or 4 on the English test and 85 percent who score a 3 or 4 in math. The school is 62 percent white, 11.5 percent Asian, 12.7 percent Hispanic and 7.7 percent black.
Graduates move on to the city’s top high schools, including Bronx HS of Science and Stuyvesant HS.
Under the District 3 plan, 17 middle schools would offer up to 10 percent of seats to students who score an average 1 on their fourth-grade exams and up to 15 percent to those who score an average 2.
A suggestion to limit the percentages of kids with 3 and 4 scores at each school was nixed, for now, as “too drastic.”
Based on 1,815 applications last year, the DOE estimates that, if the diversity plan was in effect, 118 families would get into a school higher on their wish list, while 56 would get a less-desired placement — or none of their choices.
“Because there’s a fixed number of seats in the best schools, somebody has to lose,” said Aaron Pallas, an education professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “It’s the fear of white, middle-class parents, whose children have done well in school, that they will be losers.”
Clara Hemphill, editor of the local education site, said the city should increase the number of seats at popular, high-performing schools to expand opportunities for all.
Some parents admit that privilege must not determine opportunity.
“There are some really good middle schools in New York City and it shouldn’t just be rich kids who get to go to them,” said Josh Auerbach, whose daughter is a 5th-grader at PS 199.
But he added that some parents are upset because “school integration is scary. Even when it’s the right answer, it’s scary.”
Other diversity efforts across the city are also underway.
In Brooklyn’s District 15, which takes in Park Slope, Sunset Park and Red Hook, a consultant was hired to help shape a plan for its middle schools, which have an uneven racial and economic distribution.

Carranza: Schools aren’t meeting minority students’ needs