New York City Hall
WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS?
"The de Blasio family will return to New York City this afternoon, and will spend their first night at Gracie Mansion," emailed a top aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday afternoon. So, Mayor de Blasio's back from Italy and sleeping at Gracie Mansion, we know that. And, we know that City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a council delegation are en route to Taiwan, landing there in the wee hours of Monday morning, local time.
But, we don't really know where Governor Andrew Cuomo is.
That's not exactly true, of course, but the governor's whereabouts have been a source of speculation as he has not made a public appearance since The New York Times published revelations of his office's interference in the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption this past Wednesday. According to reports, the governor will be in Buffalo on Monday talking job creation.
This week we're looking to see not just where the governor is, but what, if anything, he has to say about Moreland. It seems the governor's strategy thus far has been to stay out of public, let the 13-page response that the governor's office sent to The Times speak for itself, and send out a whole bunch of press releases about non-Moreland topics (a whopping 22 releases from Wednesday to Friday of last week). Also keep an eye out for Moreland-related news not from the governor, but from other investigators and commentators - of the journalist, legislator, candidate, and prosecutor varieties. The governor's opponents remain active - see below for more detail.
We're also watching for word from Mayor de Blasio about what his next, post-trip moves are - including his latest thoughts on the death of Eric Garner, which occurred in police custody just before de Blasio left for Italy, leading the mayor to delay his departure a day. One New York City Council Member has made clear his intentions to propose relevant legislation. And, word from the office of Public Advocate Tish James is that this week she will extend her push for videorecording of all police encounters.
And, campaign season is in full gear as more and more endorsements are made (the Amsterdam News and the Stonewall Democratic Club recently endorsed in several races, to name two major organizations), so we're watching campaign news this week - Tuesday is six weeks from primary day! On the campaign front, aside from campaigning, candidates are spending time, energy, and money this week fighting challenges to their petition signatures or residency statuses to ensure that they are actually on the ballot come September 9th - notable among these challenges are those against the residency qualifications of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and against 79th Assembly District candidate Michael Blake.
Another thing to keep in mind: New Yorkers have until the end of the month (Thursday) to give feedback to the City's Vision Zero initiative on dangerous intersections and other hotspots of traffic danger via an interactive map.
With the City Council's speaker and delegation in Taiwan, there are no official council committee or full-body meetings this week. Many council members will, of course, be active in their districts. No council committee meetings are scheduled until August 18th as of now - and the August full-body Stated Meeting is set for Thursday, August 21st.
The run of the week in more detail:
Speaker Mark-Viverito and the council delegation land in Taiwan early Monday morning and have two public events scheduled Monday afternoon, according to the speaker's public schedule: they will meet with Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation and then tour Beitou Taipei Public Library. The council delegation includes members Mark-Viverito, Peter Koo, Robert Cornegy, Julissa Ferreras, Vinny Gentile, and Vanessa Gibson, along with staff member Erica Gonzalez and a security detail. The council members will be abroad until Saturday and are there to meet with leaders in high tech industries, learn from Taiwain's renowned sanitation systems, discuss civic engagement through technology, and consider ways to strengthen ties between New York City and Taiwan.
Mayor de Blasio has no public events scheduled for Monday.
But, union allies of the mayor will be taking notice on Monday, as families organized by Campbell Brown's education-related advocacy group will file a lawsuit in Albany court aimed at taking down teacher tenure in New York. Per The Daily News, "seven families will charge that their children are underserved in schools due to incompetent teachers — who only kept their jobs because of tenure rules that violate the kids' constitutional right to a sound education. The suit is backed by the politically connected journalist-turned-education advocate Campbell Brown."
According to Stephen Miller of StreetsBlogNYC, Council Member Stephen Levin and Transportation Alternatives will be holding an event on Monday morning to discuss the G train shutdown, which just began and is slated to last five weeks.
Per City & State NY, elected officials including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Grace Meng and Rep. Elliot Engel will hold a press conference on Monday at 12:30 p.m. with Jewish leaders "to show support for Israel's right to defend itself, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Manhattan." New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer will be speaking.
On Monday, the Samuel Field Y will host a Women's Economic Summit. The event, which will feature Congressional Reps. Steve Israel and Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Assembly Member Nily Rozic, will include input and questions from Brooklyn Queens NOW, Center for the Women of New York, Sanctuary for Families, and the Korean American Family Service Center. The Summit will include discussions concerning a range of financial topics.
On Monday at 5:30 p.m., the Contracts Committee of the Panel for Educational Policy, which consists of 13 appointed members and the Chancellor, will hold its second meeting of the month at the Tweed Courthouse building, main headquarters of the Department of Education.
And on Monday evening, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams hosts a Martin Luther King, Jr. Concert Series night at Wingate Park, and at which Comptroller Stringer will give remarks.
It's six weeks until primary day! Get up to speed on the 2014 New York State elections through our Gotham Gazette Elections Center.
Council Member Corey Johnson will hold a participatory budgeting (PB) information session for his council district on Tuesday. The session, which is Johnson's second PB informational event, will provide residents of the district with information concerning the new process and its allowing them to decide how to spend roughly $1 million in discretionary funds. Read more about the City Council's expanded PB.
On Tuesday night, City & State NY will host its State of Brooklyn Reception at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The event "will play host to Brooklyn lawmakers, leaders in public policy, business and the media" and include interviews with Brooklyn Borough President Adams, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, and others.
On Wednesday, there will be a public meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, which consists of 13 appointed members and the Chancellor.
Marsha Michael, a candidate running to replace disgraced former assembly member Eric Stevenson in the 79th Assembly District, will host a campaign fundraiser on Wednesday evening.
Also on Wednesday evening, The St. John's Office of Community Relations will be sponsoring the 16th Annual Great Lawn Summer Concert in Queens on Wednesday night. The event will feature Willie Martinez, La Familia Sextet, and members of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, as well as a performance from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
On Wednesday evening, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be in Suffolk County at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge in Lindenhurst from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Community Board 7 will host a "Public Meeting for the West End Corridor" on Thursday night. The meeting will include a presentation from the New York City Department of Transportation to the Transportation Committee of Community Board 7 for the redesign of 35-block portion of West End Avenue. The new design is a response to the traffic pattern problems that surfaced after two pedestrian deaths in the neighborhood in recent months.
Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins will hold a campaign organizing conference call on Thursday. Additionaly, Hawkins tells Gotham Gazette that he is planning a significant campaign schedule in New York City for the week of August 3rd.
On Thursday evening, the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) will host a public forum to discuss policing in New York City. The event, Broken Windows Policing: A True Tale of Two Cities, will be moderated by Jeffrion Aubry, Speaker Pro Tempore of the State Assembly. It will include a panel discussion of the changing NYPD practices under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton, and "will focus on this Administration's 'broken windows' policing." Panelists will include Robert Gangi, president of PROP, Linda Sarsour of Arab American Association of NY, Professor Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College, among others.
Also on Thursday, Astorino will be in Suffolk County at East by Northeast in Montauk from 6 to 8 p.m.
Friday and the weekend
It's the summer - and Friday is August 1st(!) - so of course Friday and the weekend are sparse - but if you have intel on events, please let us know!
Here's one: On Saturday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will open a multi-media exhibit: Bringing the World to the Fair: The Port Authority's Role — Trade, Travel and Tourism in Queens, the Region and the World. The exhibit, which will be at the Queens Botanical Garden is part of a series of 2014 events celebrating the 1964 and 1939 World's Fairs.
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? Email Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: firstname.lastname@example.org (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).
by Kristen Meriwether and Ben Max in New York City and David King in Albany
On Wednesday night more than one hundred members of the Stonewall Democratic Club, the city's first and largest LGBT Democratic organization, gathered to endorse a slate of statewide candidates. The club delivered two clear messages: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has their support and members of the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, do not.
Cuomo's likely primary opponent, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, showed up personally to ask the club for its endorsement and while she enjoyed some support in the room many members wondered why they would switch allegiances when Cuomo has delivered on a number of major LGBT issues.
The morning of the endorsement, the Cuomo administration announced the creation of a statewide taskforce to better collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity in an effort to improve services to LGBT New Yorkers. On June 29, Pride Day, the Cuomo administration announced its "Bending The Curve" three-point program to end AIDS in New York. Arguably Cuomo's biggest achievement thus far as governor was shepherding a same-sex marriage bill through the state Senate in 2011, where it had failed before, and into law.
These achievements and others were fresh on the minds of many a Stonewall member Wednesday night. Teachout looked to take advantage of fresh revelations reported by The New York Times on Cuomo's manipulation of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, but she faced questions about what she had done for the LGBT community. "In the next few days he has an obligation to the people of New York to explain what happened," Teachout said of Cuomo and Moreland. "To share the e-mails, to say what he knew and when he knew it. And he has a chance to come clean, and a chance to come clean at this moment even if he failed to clean up Albany."
Club members had other things on their minds. "We have a lot of straight allies who were advocating for marriage, I didn't hear your voice come up once," said one club member who detailed Cuomo's AIDS efforts and gender task force . "So why should we fire somebody with his LGBT record?"
Teachout responded by invoking Cuomo's alliance with Senate Republicans and his failure on ethics initiatives. "The core, root problem here is we have a governor who is serving presidential ambitions and serving his wealthy donors, and not serving the core traditional Democratic values that I share," Teachout said to some applause.
Both state Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Matthew Titone addressed the crowd on Cuomo's behalf and listed his liberal bona fides.
Eunic Ortiz, president of the Stonewall Democrats, said the following day by phone that there was a sense among members that Teachout wasn't connected on important LGBT issues. "People remember who was there on big issues and they remember if you weren't," said Ortiz.
Cuomo faced a stiffer challenge in securing endorsements from other city-based LGBT clubs earlier this year. The Jim Owles club, which touts itself as a citywide club, endorsed Teachout quickly after she began her campaign. The LAMBDA Independent Democrats of Brooklyn had an intense debate where members were called from their homes because the vote was so close. Stonewall does not disclose vote totals, it is unclear by what margin Cuomo took the endorsement.
For some members of LGBT Democratic clubs, what Cuomo hasn't done on their issues combined with his right-leaning fiscal policy is enough for them to support someone else. For years the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) has passed in the Assembly and been buried in the Senate. LGBT advocates would have liked seeing Cuomo push the Senate Republicans he partnered with to bring the issue to a vote. The fact that he succeeded where others failed on marriage equality indicates to them that he simply wasn't committed to the issue.
Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles club, has said it would be "condescending and demeaning" to base support on the issue of same-sex marriage alone.
"The governor has expressed support for both bills and he remains committed to supporting both bills through passage in the legislature," Cuomo campaign spokesman Peter Kauffman told Gotham Gazette when asked about Cuomo's backing of GENDA and a bill to ban gay conversion therapy for people 18-years-old and under.
The board of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID) voted unanimously earlier this year to back Cuomo. Club president Julian Kline said the club is still energized by Cuomo's success on marriage equality and looks forward to his future accomplishments. "Since our endorsement, our members' views of the governor have definitely been validated, with his announcement during Gay Pride for an unprecedented and ambitious plan to greatly reduce the AIDS epidemic in New York State," said Kline. "Also since our endorsement, Governor Cuomo has committed to seeing the Senate IDC and Democrats work together for a more productive majority - a move that will clearly help advance the legislative process for GENDA and conversion therapy."
When it comes to the IDC, Stonewall showed its disappointment with the breakaway Democrats by endorsing two primary challengers to IDC members. Stonewall delivered an endorsement to insurgent candidate John Liu, former New York City comptroller and mayoral candidate, who is challenging IDC Sen. Tony Avella for his Queens seat. Avella abruptly left the Senate Democratic conference earlier this year to caucus with the Independent Democrats. The two groups have since decided to work together after elections in the fall, but Liu has maintained his challenge to Avella and has outraised Avella by a significant margin, while also collecting many union, club, and other endorsements. Many Democrats say that Liu's campaign is sending a clear message to Avella. One Senate Democrat said, "We are sending a message that you don't just walk away from the conference without even a courtesy call to the leader."
Liu addressed Stonewall after thunderous applause to his introduction. "I'm running for the state Senate in Northeast Queens against somebody who was elected as a Democrat but has voted for the Republican leadership, thus, stymying some very progressive legislation that if the Democrats had control would have passed a long time ago," Liu said before expressing his support for GENDA. Liu said he almost wished that marriage equality had not been passed so that, "I could vote for it once I get there."
Avella was not in attendance.
Stonewall also endorsed former city council member Oliver Koppell in his challenge to IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein. Klein, who was in attendance on Wednesday night, faced hostile questioning from the Stonewall crowd, with one member asking, "Although you're running as a Democrat, you're caucusing with Republicans, you're the reason Dean Skelos and not a Democrat is running the conference in the Senate. Because of you GENDA won't come up for a vote. Why the [expletive] should a Democratic club endorse someone like you who is keeping the Republicans in power in the Senate?"
"You are forgetting your history, sir," Klein shot back, insisting that the IDC had helped bring stability back to the Senate.
The exchange got testy and when Klein faced a question on GENDA from former Stonewall president Melissa Sklarz, Klein blamed the Democrats for not having enough votes.
And, Stonewall endorsed in the race between incumbent Bronx Democratic Sen. Gustavo Rivera and City Council Member Fernando Cabrera. The race is particularly important to LGBT clubs because Cabrera has supported anti-gay groups, has strong conservative ties, and appears to have had major fundraising help from Klein, although Klein has distanced himself from Cabrera.
Rivera has donated $250 from his campaign funds to Stonewall Democrats and $500 to the Jim Owles club.
Roskoff said that his Jim Owles club formed because it has different priorities than Stonewall and declined to comment on their endorsements.
One major difference between Stonewall and Jim Owles is that the Owles Club makes independent expenditures on behalf of candidates - mailing their endorsements to residents across the city. Roskoff told Gotham Gazette that the club will likely mail on behalf of Liu and Rivera this year. The club has not met to decide exactly which races they will mail in or how much they will spend.
Stonewall's endorsement doesn't come without perks, as members routinely get involved in races that are important to them. Ortiz said that the group has not yet decided which races they will target. However, it is expected the group will be active in the race between Rivera and Cabrera as well as the Klein-Koppell race.
"I think it is telling that our members chose to endorse against IDC members who they perceive as responsible for blocking progress on the issues that are important to us, like GENDA," said Ortiz. "They backed a candidate in the governor who they felt had tried to move those issues and who will move forward on them in the future."
State agencies have begun adding gender identity to their data collection, part of an effort Gov. Andrew Cuomo said will help the state better meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers.
A new report Wednesday identified eight agencies, including the Department of Health, collecting or updating their data systems to gather those demographics.
"New York Ssate has a long history of advancing progressive ideals," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "By being more inclusive with how state agencies monitor the demographics of those they serve, we can address health and financial disparities, safety concerns, and a myriad of other issues that impact LGBT New Yorkers."
New York's Office of Mental Health in 2011 began including sexual orientation and gender identity questions on admission forms at state mental health facilities, using it in a training curriculum for clinicians intended to improve treatment for LGBT people.
In 2012, the state Office for the Aging updated its system to ensure including LGBT seniors, whom research indicates are likelier to live alone and lack vital support systems.
Jonathan Lang, director of governmental affairs and community projects for the Empire State Pride Agenda, said the information "will allow us to create more tailored approaches to effectively reduce the well-documented health disparities adversely impacting our community."
The advocacy group said transgender New Yorkers still face disproportionate disadvantages for basic needs and services, most have been mistreated on the job, half have been harassed in public accommodations, and many have been denied a home or apartment.
Rochester this week clarified its local law against transgender discrimination, while 10 others statewide now have similar measures, Empire State Pride Agenda spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said. Others are New York City; Albany, Tompkins, Suffolk and Westchester counties; and the cities of Buffalo, Binghamton, Syracuse and Ithaca.
State Fair tickets sold online for first time
SYRACUSE — Tickets for the New York State Fair can be purchased online for the first time.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the new system will make it easier for people to visit the Syracuse fairgrounds during the event's 12-day run.
The State Fair has launched a new online purchasing page on its website that offers tickets at a 40-percent discount over the price at the gate. It also includes deals for frequent visitors, midway rides and daily parking.
The fair's online site joins a network of grocery and drug stores that sell fair tickets.
A link to the site can be found at www.nysfair.org
This year's fair runs from Aug. 21 to Labor Day, Sept. 1.
— Associated Press
Rabbi in Brooklyn convicted in scam
NEW YORK — A Brooklyn rabbi has been convicted of tax fraud and ordered to pay more than $520,000 for soliciting donations for phony charities.
New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says 53-year-old Yaakov Weingarten and his wife, Rivka, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities that supposedly benefited healthcare and other causes in Israel.
But Schneiderman said the Weingartens used much of the money for personal expenses such as car loans, dentist bills and home improvements.
The judgment signed Wednesday in Brooklyn state Supreme Court bars Weingarten and two associates from any fundraising activities in New York state.
Approximately $360,000 of the funds from the civil judgment will go to Israeli charities that carry out programs similar to those that Weingarten pretended he was raising money for.
— Associated Press
Don't expect them to team up again anytime soon, but for at least one Tuesday morning, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and left-leaning Democratic primary candidate Zephyr Teachout were on the same page.
The candidates held a joint news conference on the steps of Manhattan's Tweed Courthouse — a symbolically chosen location — to call out Gov. Andrew Cuomo over what they called the "growing corruption crisis in Albany" under his watch. According to a transcript provided by her campaign, Teachout assailed Cuomo's various 2010 campaign vows to clean up Albany as broken promises.
"Instead of transparency, openness and accountability, he uses BlackBerrys to communicate with aides so that their communications can't be found by reporters," she said. "Instead of a responsive government, there are more corruption scandals now than four years ago."
The scandal-scarred Legislature took its lumps again during the past legislative session, with state Sens. Tom Libous and George Maziarz, both top Republicans, becoming the latest elected officials to either be indicted (Libous) or resign amid an investigation (Maziarz, though he said earlier this month that the timing is coincidental). The candidates called for Cuomo to identify which members of his administration have been subpoenaed to testify as part of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation into the shuttering of the Moreland Commission. An administration spokesman did not respond to a request for information.
The New York Times reported last week that Cuomo's counsel Mylan Denerstein has agreed to be interviewed early next month by federal prosecutors about her involvement with the commission.
Politically, the news conference offered a chance for both candidates to appeal to any voters who might be against supporting the incumbent. Teachout represents Cuomo's left flank, and Astorino is trying to appeal to as many conservative and moderate Republicans as possible — and has been making attempts to appeal to all voters on issues like Common Core and corruption — in an effort to raise his statewide profile.
Teachout did not get backing from the state Working Families Party at its May convention and will have to primary Cuomo in September to be on the ballot in November. She isn't a direct threat to Astorino on any ballot line. Both candidates were complimentary of each other, though they admitted they don't agree on much. "She's a bright woman," Astorino said in a TALK 1300 radio interview. "She obviously cares deeply about this state. We don't agree on the methods to change it, but that's OK. We certainly agree that Andrew Cuomo's corruption has reached a new level."
Democratic officials said the conference was about taking the focus off New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's comments that he'd consider campaigning for Astorino.
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The leader of a business group opposed to New York's Scaffold Law offered edits to an academic analysis of its impact on construction costs and worker injuries — an $82,800 study that was funded by the same group.
Tom Stebbins, the leader of the state Lawsuit Reform Alliance, and officials at SUNY's Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government insist that their communications during the preparation of the report had no impact on its data or conclusions. But labor groups who support Scaffold Law say it deepens their belief that the study — including a controversial chapter the institute has backed away from — amounted to advocacy camouflaged as research.
Scaffold Law, which places "absolute liability" on employers for gravity-related workplace injuries, is supported by labor unions but opposed by business groups that claim it needlessly drives up construction costs. Opponents would like to see New York move to a "comparative negligence" standard that would make workers proportionately responsible when their actions contribute to an accident.
The Rockefeller Institute report, made public in February, included a statistical analysis that concluded construction injuries in Illinois dropped after the state repealed its version of the Scaffold Law in 1995 — a finding that was highlighted by the law's opponents as they renewed their legislative combat.
But the director of the Albany-based institute, Thomas Gais, subsequently made public what he described as flaws in the study's Illinois analysis — conducted by a Cornell University researcher — and the fact that the report was released to its funders before a final round of vetting had taken place.
After that dispute came to light in April, advocates on both sides filed Freedom of Information Law requests to find out if pressure had been placed on the institute, either during its research or after the report's release.
Stebbins' suggested edits were among the emails released to a pro-Scaffold Law group, the Center for Popular Democracy, in response to its FOIL request for communications between the institute and the alliance, which sponsored the study through an offshoot called the New York Civil Justice Institute.
The 56 pages of documents begins with pro forma material such as the alliance's initial request for research proposals — including the requirement to participate in "a biweekly teleconference ... with the client(s) to discuss the approach, the resources and the progress of the project" — and the institute's proposed outline for its work.
The correspondence that followed the February 2013 contract for the report is dominated by emails between Stebbins and the research team, including project director Michael Hattery. As the work continued through the spring and summer, Stebbins wrote a handful of emails asking questions and offering supplemental ideas or material.
At one point, Hattery asked him for information about a legislative reform proposal.
"Attached is the bill and sponsor memo," Stebbins wrote back. "But note that your study is not a lobbying document in support of any solution. The goal of your work is to really assess the problem."
On July 12, 2013, Stebbins submitted two pages of "comments on the study for your consideration" in response to the final draft of the research — a document the Rockefeller Foundation has so far refused to provide in response to the FOIL request, pending an appeal.
While many of his comments are mere copy editing, others go to the substance of the study, including its disputed contention that Scaffold Law "blunts employers' incentives to invest in worker safety" and thus "makes construction in occupations to which it applies more dangerous."
In a suggested change to part of the section that includes the Illinois-New York comparison, Stebbins writes, "Suggest we expand this to include workers (sic) own negligence and abuse, or say that a more complete causation hypothesis requires further study. As of now, it seems that the data confirms the presence of the scaffold law increases injuries, but I don't think we have any data to show the reason why."
In an interview Tuesday, Stebbins said that his suggestions were nothing more than minor tweaks or attempts to get clarification.
"Whether or not they incorporated the edits was completely up to (the report's authors)," he said. "They reached the conclusion that the Scaffold Law causes injuries on their own, and I asked them to clarify how they got there."
Without the draft copy of the report, it's impossible to tell how many of Stebbins' recommendations were incorporated into the final version.
Hattery, the report's project director, said it was hard to place Stebbins' involvement on the spectrum of participation by a funding entity that he's experienced. State or federal sources, he noted, tended to be more hands-off.
"Is this normative? I can't tell you that," Hattery said. " ... For this kind of sponsor, I've had this level of interaction."
He declined to estimate the percentage of Stebbins' suggestions that ended up in the final report. "I know there were issues that he raised that we didn't make changes on," Hattery said.
He insisted that the study's authors "tried to do an honest piece of research."
Josie Duffy from the labor-backed Center for Popular Democracy took the opposite view: "The FOIL results confirm what we already knew: This discredited report was paid for and guided by business groups lobbying to weaken common-sense worker safety laws that protect thousands of New Yorkers every day."
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City Council Member Rory Lancman, of Queens (William Alatriste)
"We're introducing both," Council Member Rory Lancman said by phone Friday morning of two bills aimed at stopping the use of chokeholds by members of the NYPD.
After outlining the proposals in an op-ed for New York Law Journal, Lancman said that legislative requests have been put in on the bills that would make the use of chokeholds illegal in New York City and create a "new municipal offense of criminally negligent infliction of physical injury." This means that Council bill drafters will work on the language of the bills, including through dialogue with Lancman's office and assessments of any concerns around constitutionality, conflict with state law, and perspectives of other experts and affected parties. Lancman said that he is not sure the bills will be ready by the Council's next full-body stated meeting in August: "These are complicated legal issues," he said, "we must get it right, if we don't we aren't moving the ball forward."
Lancman, who is a trained attorney and has practiced law for years, also said Friday that he is looking at introducing a third chokehold-related bill and that he expects to "see a whole series of bills that council members put in."
"After Vanessa [Gibson, the council's public safety committee chair] holds hearings, I'd be surprised if there weren't a whole package of bills introduced," he explained.
The third bill Lancman plans to file a drafting request for is modeled after a Los Angeles law "related to reporting requirements." This bill will require greater detail from the NYPD regarding physical interactions with people officers arrest, Lancman said. "LA has a more detailed, more helpful reporting scheme for its police department, which allows policymakers to track use of force incidents better."
Lancman said he always views the introduction of a bill as "the start of a conversation" and noted that he expects that with ongoing discussions with council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, additional council members, and other stakeholders, the bills he's proposing will be worked into effective law. Those other stakeholders, Lancman said, will include the NYPD and law enforcement unions, New Yorkers who have been affected by chokeholds, and advocacy groups.
The Garner Case
Of course, it is the death of Eric Garner that has spurred renewed scrutiny of the use of chokeholds by the NYPD - a practice which has been banned for over twenty years. In the case of the officers involved in Garner's death, which occurred during an arrest where a chokehold was used, Lancman expects legal action.
"I would be surprised if charges were not filed [against the officer] based on my review of the video and Commissioner Bratton's conclusion that a prohibited chokehold was used," Lancman said.
He added, "I'm not a cheerleader for prosecuting people, I'm just analyzing what I've seen and what I understand the law to be."
Lancman hopes that what he is offering through his article, which not only discusses planned legislation, but analysis of legal precedent around chokehold cases, will help the Staten Island district attorney's office in its investigation of the Garner case.
On the subject of other officers and EMTs on the scene where Garner died, Lancman said, "Everybody involved in the arrest has potential exposure to criminal liability. The criminal law doesn't penalize chokeholds per se, but rather the excessive use of force. Where the hammer might fall on individual officers, I can't predict, as you radiate outward from the officer who used the chokehold. But, I would think everyone on the scene there should probably get a lawyer, figuratively speaking."