Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Yesterday's Christmas celebration is followed by today's observance of Christmas as a work holiday for most employers. Enjoy this Holiday Season and be safe.

In honor of the spirit of Christmas, we reprint an article from last week that focused on the generosity of the members of the Harlem YMCA.

Generosity - Harlem YMCA

The past couple of Christmases haven't been good for Taisheba Smith and her young family.
She has had to deal with the struggle of not being able to find a decent job and then a bout of depression. And with the birth of 17-month-old Zoe and two-month-old Miko, she hasn't been able to give her oldest son Xavier, 8, as much attention as she used to.
So when Xavier gave her his Christmas list — including requests for a Nintendo 3DS and Sketcher sneakers with lights — and she didn't have the money to fulfill it, Smith wasn't sure what to do.
But then the Harlem YMCA, where Xavier attends afterschool programs, told her about its Angel Giving Tree initiative. With the help of corporate supporters and individual donors, the Harlem YMCA delivered hundreds of gifts Tuesday to 32 families who might have otherwise gone without.
The total was more than double the 15 families who received gifts last year.
"It means so much. Xavier is going to be like 'Where did all these gifts come from?'" Smith said, after Harlem YMCA Executive Director Tiffeny Forrest delivered a bag full of presents to her apartment at Taft Houses.
In addition to the 32 Harlem families that will be receiving gifts, more than 400 kids in the YMCA's afterschool programs will receive a present.
"The need was already so great, but now we are seeing an even greater need," said Forrest. "We are seeing people now who were never in need of services in the past."
To raise the [money] to make the gift-giving a reality, major corporations such as Coca-Cola, the Colgate-Palmolive Company, the local Fred E. Samuel Democratic Club and members of the Harlem YMCA and its staff chipped in.
"We are the face, but there are a lot of people behind making this happen," said Forrest, who launched the initiative when she arrived in Harlem from Michigan four years ago. "We knew if we got the word out people would step up, and they did."
The gifts are delivered already-wrapped and with an Angel Giving Tree tag that parents have the option of removing so that they can present the gift to their child.
"We have a lot of parents who are busting their butts and making the right choices for their families but may not be able to provide gifts because of their economic circumstances," Forrest said.
Karen Sprauer, site director of the YMCA's afterschool program at P.S. 57 said delivering gifts to Xavier was especially satisfying. The boy has a sweet disposition and is always writing notes to his camp counselors.
He even wanted to use the little bit of money he had saved this year to buy his mother a present.
"Xavier is so appreciative of everything we do. You can tell he was raised with strong values," said Sprauer.
"He already understands the essence of Christmas at such a young age, so we want him to feel special like any other kid and come back to school chatting about what he received this year," said Forrest.
As she arranged the gifts under her tree, Smith said she couldn't wait to see the look on Xavier's face when he arrived home from school.
"Last Christmas was not a good Christmas but I'm so happy this year," said Smith, beaming. "This Christmas is going to be all about Xavier."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Obesity Declines in NYC Schools

For a change, there is good news regarding health and nutrition trends amongst our city's youth. Obesity has declined in our schools.

Childhood Obesity

In our country, obesity is rising far too fast. The last 20 years have resulted in a massive increase in obesity levels in the United States. In 1990, no state in the US had more than 15% of its population counted amongst the obese. Today, no state in the US has less than 20% of its population weighing enough to be considered obese.

Obesity plays a major role in harming health in our country and results in lost wages as well as reduced quality of life. Obesity shortens lives and destroys opportunities.

All of these problems are much worse for obese children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
  • In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Immediate health effects:
  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Long-term health effects:
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
With these horrible stats and trends as well as the horrifying impact of childhood obesity, we are excited to see NYC public schools reverse the trend toward more obesity.

Bloomberg's Calorie Count and Other Efforts

In NYC, Mayor Bloomberg has led the way on empowering consumers to make smart choices about their food by requiring chains of restaurants to list the calorie counts for their foods on their menus. Many of the most popular foods contain many more calories than most people assume. The listing of calorie counts allowed New Yorkers to take control of their nutritional lives, even when they were eating in a restaurant. There was a positive impact from the Mayor's calorie initiative.

Also, under Bloomberg, our city's schools improve nutrition, increased physical activity time, and swapped whole milk with 1 percent and skim milk in 2005. School nurses also were trained to identify kids with weight problems and to educate the community. These changes may have already started reversing the obesity trend.

Reversed Trend

For the first time, New York City public schools have seen a statistical decline in the rate of obesity amongst students.

A study of New York City public school students in kindergarten through eighth grade found obesity rates fell from 21.9 to 20.7 percent between the 2006-2007 and 2010-2011 school years.
The decline in NYC was the largest decline in childhood obesity in a large US city. NYC officials estimated that the decline experienced in our state translates into 6,500 fewer obese children in our schools.

No one is sure whether the changes implemented in 2005 have allowed our schools to reverse the trend toward higher obesity rates, but the achievement is worth studying in order to find answers. With obesity rates skyrocketing in schools and amongst adults, any decline should become a cause not just for celebration but also for scrutiny and replication.

African American Children Left Behind

White children in New York City experienced a 12.5 percent drop in obesity during the 2006 to 2011 period, Asian/Pacific Islander children (a 7.6 percent drop) and Hispanic (3.4 percent) children experienced less improvement. African American children in our city's schools did experience less obesity, but their improvement was least of all of the ethnic groups and was less than one-sixth as much improvement as was achieved by white children. African American children enjoyed only a 1.9 percent drop.

In addition, lower income areas experienced the least decline in obesity rates.

Therefore, while the areas that most needed to improve obesity rates experienced the least declines, all ethnic groups and all income levels benefited from a reduction in obesity. One of the most stubborn and terrifying public health trends of the last 20 years seems to be reversing in front of our eyes in NYC. We are all responsible for helping to continue the new trend toward better health and better lives from children in our city.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cuomo Achieves Bipartisan Tax Deal

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo successfully pushed through a measure to prevent the expiration of the so-called "millionaire's tax" as he seeks to reduce future budget deficits.

Millionaire's Tax?

In 2009, prior to Governor Cuomo's election to his current post, the New York State Legislature adopted higher taxes on “high earners” ($200,000+) in the form of a temporary surcharge that applied only to high earnings.The net effect of the surcharge was an increase of more than 30% in the highest effective rate for personal income taxes. The tax was due to expire at the end of 2011.

The surcharge was called a "millionaire's tax" despite the fact that more than three-quarters of those paying the tax were earning less than $1 million per year.

Many have argued that the "millionaire's tax" reduces economic growth, penalizes small businesses, and does not create enough tax revenue to make up for the economic burden it imposes.

Others have argued that in an era of huge budget deficits, we need to require the highest earners to pay higher taxes in order to avoid raising taxes on those with modest incomes.

With a $3.5 billion deficit looming for next fiscal year, Cuomo sought (and obtained) an extension of the tax surcharge.

Tax Increase or Tax Reduction

The extension was accompanied by other tax changes, and those changes raise questions about whether we should view the recently adopted tax changes as a tax increase or a tax reduction for high earners as well as for every level of earner in NYC.

Opponents of the tax surcharge see it as a tax increase. The tax surcharge would have expired at the end of 2011, and therefore, its extension is an increase in tax rates for high earners versus what those high earners would have paid without an extension.

Supporters of the surcharge see it as a tax reduction. Because of the changes in the tax rules that accompany the extension of the surcharge, every level of earner who pays New York State personal income tax will experience a reduction in tax liability in 2012 versus what was in place in 2011. 

Cuomo 2016
The tax deal that Cuomo engineered in New York State by achieving virtually unanimous support from the Republicans and Democrats in the State Legislature, Cuomo establishes himself as one of our country's few bi-partisan leaders and links his name to one of very few bi-partisan success stories.

Cuomo contrasted his Albany achievement with the gridlock and failure in Washington DC in his video explaining the tax deal. He now starts to look like a potential top-tier candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2016. If he can win a second landslide in 2014 and maintain his streak of bipartisan successes, Andrew Cuomo will emerge as an obvious contender for the top of the national ticket in 2016.

Cuomo has not proven that he can win the enthusiasm of African Americans, but he has proven that he can lead a large state, earn the support of Republicans and Democrats, and speak directly to the voting public with great effect.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Quinn Seeks Distance from Bloomberg on Homeless Rules

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn seems to be having a change of heart related to her undying loyalty to Mayor Bloomberg.

Homeless Shelters

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has supported Mayor Bloomberg through thick and thin. She led the fight to give him(and herself) an additional term in office - in direct opposition to the will of the people of New York City as expressed in two referenda. She has remained quiet as Mayor Bloomberg has defied federal courts and worked tirelessly to avoid racially integrating the Fire Department of New York. She has provided her tacit approval of his race-based policing approach (more on that is discussed below). 

But, after Mayor Bloomberg decided to require single adults to prove that they have no alternative place to live before they can enter a homeless shelter, he was opposed by Speaker Christine Quinn. She led the New York City Council to oppose his change in homeless policy. The City Council sued the Mayor for the first time in Speaker Quinn's tenure.

It is a good sign. Although she should not have waited until the Mayor implemented as absurd a policy as requiring homeless people to prove that they are homeless, Christine Quinn should be commended for opposing the Mayor in this case. One wonders how a homeless person proves he or she is homeless. Is it a letter from every friend and family member? Is it an eviction notice. Perhaps the best evidence of a lack of other options is the presence at a homeless shelter. Perhaps the Mayor will ask patients in emergency rooms to prove that they don't have friends who could save their lives outside of the hospital.

Stop and Frisk Record Pace

After all of the controversy surrounding Mayor Bloomberg's racist stop-and-frisk approach, this year, his Administration will set a new record for the number of stops. In fact, more than four million stops have occurred under the racist Bloomberg approach since 2004. Nearly all of the stops are stops of people of color, and very close to all of those stopped are completed innocent and are never given a summons or arrested.
Despite a lawsuit against the department claiming the stop-and-frisks discriminate against minorities (in 2008, 80 percent of those stopped were black or latino) and a call from city officials, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, for the federal government to investigate the program, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne defended the practice this week as a success in curbing crime.
Based on Mayor Bloomberg's record at the FDNY and his approach to policing, he should resign immediately. There is no place for his type of policy approach (skin color defines all outcomes and determines rights and opportunities) in 2011. In fact, our country rose up and outlawed his style of governing in 1964 . . . nearly 50 years ago.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Knicks Reappear for Christmas

Manhattan will be the site of the first game of the 2011-2012 NBA season. Madison Square Garden has been improved, and, perhaps before the opening game on Christmas Day, the Knicks might improve themselves as well.

2011 - 2012 NBA Season Starts in Manhattan

After the NBA owners locked out the NBA players, delayed the season, and demanded that the players accept reduced pay, the players and the owners reached a tentative agreement last week that results in reduced pay for players but which is much better for the players than what the NBA owners had been demanding.

The tentative agreement paves the way for teams to start practicing on December 9th and for the first regular season games to occur on December 25th. The season would have 66 games instead of the usual 82.

The Knicks are currently scheduled to play in the first game of the season. They would host the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden.

Perhaps every season should begin at MSG, and perhaps every season should have 66 games. Each game would mean more. Players would be less exhausted and banged up for the playoff, and the greatest city in the world would kick things off. This season could be a great model for a more permanent approach to the NBA scheduling challenges.

Irrespective of what happens in future seasons, the start of the 2011 - 2012 NBA season will help the NYC economy. In September, we discussed the potential economic harm that could be visited upon the NYC metro area by a cancellation of the 2011 - 2012 NBA season. By agreeing to have a 66-game season, the players and the owners will allow our area to avoid the economic losses that a cancelled season would have represented.

A cancellation of the 2011-2012 season carries major risks for our local economy. The travel industry will lose hotel revenue; restaurants will be harmed. Food vendors, sporting goods vendors who sell replica jerseys, and the cable channels that broadcast the games will lose revenues; advertising spending will decline.

It is likely that the Knicks and Nets are teams that are profitable. If they are, a cancelled season also eliminates the profits of two major local businesses.

In these difficult times, a cancelled NBA season is the last thing we need.

Thankfully, our Christmas gifts this year include a Knicks-Celtics showdown in Manhattan.

Madison Square Garden Upgrade

Madison Square Garden is in the midst of a $1 billion upgrade. MSG's owners call it a "transformation".

The upgrade will be complete before the 2012-2013 season (during the summer of 2012, the upgrade will be completed), and the fan experience will be amongst the best in the NBA (the NHL's NY Rangers will also play in Madison Square Garden's upgraded facility; Rangers fans will also have the best-in-class facility to enjoy).

The end of the NBA lockout gives Knicks fans a chance to enjoy the Knicks in the much improved MSG facility starting on December 25, 2011. A double Christmas present: the Knicks and the upgraded MSG. This will be a very special Christmas for Knicks fans, but it might be even more special if the Knicks' team is improved.

Chris Paul and the Future of the Knicks

The Knicks have added Stoudemire and Anthony in recent years, and, in the 2010 - 2011 season, they earned entrance to the post-season for the first time in a decade.

Now, former NBA Rookie of the Year and four time All-Star Chris Paul, who will be a free agent at the end of the upcoming NBA season, is being discussed as a potential addition to the Knicks. If Chris Paul is added, the Knicks will have three bona fide superstars on their roster, and they will be ready to make a run at an NBA Championship.

There is a chance that Paul could join the Knicks before the December 25th opening of the NBA season. That would be a triple Christmas present: The Knicks, the upgraded MSG, and the chance compete for an NBA Championship.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rangel's Support in Washington DC Strengthens

Last week, the Democratic leadership in the US House came out in full and strong support for Upper Manhattan's Congressman Charlie Rangel.

Fundraiser in Washington

At a $5,000 per plate fundraiser for Charlie Rangel last week, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and the rest of the US House Democratic leadership attended the event in a show of solidarity with Congressman Rangel. 

While Congressman Rangel may never again achieve the level of power and influence he attained as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he remains the dean of the New York Congressional delegation, and "he continues to play a significant role in Democratic Caucus politics and on the powerful tax-writing panel."

US House Ethics Committee Under Investigation 

We have argued that the Ethics Committee of the US House abused Upper Manhattan's Congressman when it pushed for his censure in 2010. The last member of Congress censured prior to Congressman Rangel had sexually abused young people under the care of Congress, while Congressman Rangel's problems were self-reported bookkeeping errors and similar missteps, all of which were corrected by Congressman Rangel. Many members of Congress had committed acts that were far more troubling and had faced lesser punishments or no punishment at all.

We have also pointed out that the US House Ethics Committee focuses its abuse on African American members of the US House. In fact, we noted that the Ethics Committee's investigation focused exclusively on African American members of Congress as of November 2009. In essence, the key to avoiding investigation was to be non-African American, and the key element of wrongdoing that the Ethics Committee embraced as punishable was "serving in Congress while Black."

Ironically, the US House Ethics Committee that brought ethics charges against Charlie Rangel and pushed for censure is now under investigation for misconduct by the Republicans on the committee related to the Rangel investigation. 

The former staff director of the House Ethics Committee accused two top committee lawyers last year of secretly communicating with Republicans on the panel regarding the investigations of Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, raising concerns over whether the long-running inquiries were compromised by key staffers.
Blake Chisam, the former staff director, wrote in a late 2010 memo to then-chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that attorneys Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign improperly shared information in the Rangel case with Republicans on the committee — a move that “would have so tainted the proceedings that there would have been no option but to move to dismiss.”
The Ethics Committee is now under investigation for unethical behavior. The charges against Congressman Rangel should have been dismissed. Perhaps there will be an apology one day. Or, perhaps one day, "serving in Congress while Black" will not be considered an ethical violation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NYC Education Tragedy

Tragically, New York City is failing to educate its youth and prepare them for college. Amazingly, the New York City Mayor is now criticizing New York State for its suggestion that our city's education efforts be geared toward preparing students for college.

City Schools Failing

Mayor Bloomberg has had control of our city's schools for a decade, and the results have been very disappointing.

Last week, we learned that New York State's Department of Education has listed 640 of our city's 1,700 schools as "in need of improvement". Many of those schools have received a score of A or B from our city. The disconnect is scary. While the Mayor claims success in education, more than one-third of the schools under his control fail to meet the minimum standards of our state and of our country. Indeed, these 640 school risk forced closure by the state if they do not improve.

The New York Daily News focused on the state's view of our city's lack of success in education.
Our state's Board of Regents Chancellor, Merryl Tisch said the state’s new list of troubled schools offers more proof of the city school system’s dismal performance.
“This is just further evidence – as if we needed any – that we must move forward to reform our schools and change what is happening in our classrooms,” said Tisch, adding: “If student performance doesn’t improve, schools must be held accountable.”
Indeed, only 21% of New York City high school students graduate in four years prepared for college.
The Mayor's response was even more troubling than the damning assessment by New York State.

Bloomberg's Lower Standards

Mayor Bloomberg reacted to the negative assessment of the state's education leadership by stating that the state's standards are too high.
“Some kids will never get to the level for college but will have great careers,” the Mayor said. “There are lots of skills that you can have that make you productive.”
He challenged the state's notion that students should be prepared for college by their high schools, and he called Ms. Tisch "misinformed."

It is a true tragedy that approximately 40% of our city's schools are not meeting the minimum standards set by our state for performance. 

It is a disgusting reality that only 21% of our students graduate prepared for college and that only 28% of Black young men graduate from high school at all in our city.

Mayoral control under Bloomberg has been a Mayoral tragedy of enormous proportions, and the Mayor seems to have abandoned any efforts to improve the situation. While his approach continues to destroy the futures of many talented young people in our city, the Mayor is focused on redefining his failed performance as "good enough" for our youth. Our youth deserve better.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NYC Marathon Created the Modern Marathon

As we witnessed a new record at this year's NYC Marathon, we are reminded that the NYC Marathon is the model for all modern marathons.

New York Road Runners

The New York Road Runners, a non-profit founded in 1958, organized the first ever NYC Marathon in 1970. That pioneering effort created the modern marathon. The New York Road Runners organization has more than 60,000 members and continues to produce the NYC Marathon each year along with many other races.

In the first NYC Marathon, only one woman started the race, and she did not finish.Fifty-five men finished that race. By 1978, the race had 9,000 participants. Last year, 47,000 people finished the NYC Marathon. The growth and development has been impressive and influential.

NYC Marathon

This year's marathon was yet another tremendous success. The men's champion set a new course record, and the women's race was the second closest in history. The second place finisher on the women's side was a competitor from the Bronx. A record number of runners, 47,107, participated in this year's New York City Marathon.

The NYC Marathon is the model for all modern marathons. Here is an except from the NYC Marathon web site.
Around the world, the word "marathon" evokes images of New York City. Before the New York race began, marathons were modest events run by a few athletes and followed by a few fans interested in the limits of human endurance. Today many marathons are huge media events that take over entire cities around the globe. None is as prominent as the ING New York City Marathon, but all city marathons are modeled on it. Modern marathoning owes its start -- and its world-class status -- to New York.

While the marathon has always been a focus of community spirit, with more than two million New Yorkers lining the streets to support the runners, that aspect of the race was most apparent in November 2001. Less than two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New York City Marathon became a race of hope and renewal for participants, spectators, and all New Yorkers, and patriotism ran high as the marathon hosted the men's and women's USA Marathon Championships.

New York has continued to lead in race management. In 2002, New York Road Runners ("NYRR") created a separate start for the professional women as a way to highlight the most competitive women's field in race history. In 2003, ING became the title sponsor of the race and joined with NYRR to fund grassroots running and fitness programs among the city's youth through the ING Run for Something Better program. NYRR hosted the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials -- Men's Marathon in Central Park on the same weekend as the ING New York City Marathon 2007. In 2008, the marathon was successfully staged with three wave starts. The 2009 race was the marathon's 40th running and hosted the USA Men's Marathon Championship. In 2010, the marathon expanded its reach to friends, family, and fans with the I'M IN theme.

Forty years after its start, the ING New York City Marathon continues to grow in size and to be the leader among marathons around the world.

Monday, October 31, 2011

NYPD Misconduct Takes Center Stage

Recently, our city's police force has been in the news for its misconduct. The conduct has been both disappointing and shocking.

False Arrest

On October 17, the FBI arrested Michael Daragjati, an eight-year NYPD veteran, for false arrest of a Black New Yorker. The officer did not realize his conversations were being taped and used a racial slur in describing his own conduct. ". . . fried another nigger," he said, which suggests he makes a habit of false arrests of Black residents of our city.

The victim of the arrest was in jail for 36 hours after a stop-and-frisk. Because the stop-and-frisk did not result in the recover of a weapon or drugs, the officer arrested the Black resident for "resisting arrest." The practice of arresting Black New Yorkers for resisting arrest should stop. An arrest must be justified by some other conduct before the charge of resisting (real or imagined) should be considered.

Officer Daragjati admitted on the taped conversations that he often beat our fellow citizens without justification and that he would be terminated if his conduct were exposed.

Amazingly, this officer had been successfully sued twice previously for falsely arresting Black residents, but he has been sent back out into our city to abuse more of our Black population. Our tax dollars have been used to pay some of his previous victims, yet he has received the support of the NYPD to add to his list of victims.

The mistreatment of the Black people in our city should be viewed by the NYPD and by our Mayor as a problem rather than a goal.

Ticket Fixing Scandal 

Last week, 16 NYPD officers were arraigned in the Bronx for illegally "fixing" tickets for their friends and families, and another 300+ officers will be disciplined for their participation in the scandal.

In a disappointing twist, hundreds of NYPD personnel came to the Bronx courthouse at the time of the arraignment to protest the action being taken against the NYPD officers who illegally "fixed" the tickets. The protesting officers argued that the NYPD should be able to "fix" tickets as a matter of professional courtesy.

The scandal involving more than 300 officers is troubling, but the concept of an even larger number of officers protesting the indictment of those who got caught is far more troubling. The endorsement of criminality by the NYPD's officers is inconsistent with their law enforcement role.

Also troubling is the lack of prosecutions outside of the Bronx for this criminal behavior, even though the NYPD has admitted that the NYPD ticket "fixing" crimes were widespread in all five boroughs. If the District Attorneys in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are willing to ignore criminal behavior by the NYPD in the face of well-publicized prosecutions in the Bronx, those District Attorneys send a message that officers should feel comfortable behaving as if they are part of an organized crime operation. That criminal mentality create the stop-and-frisk abuses discussed above and puts New York City residents at risk.

The Mayor, the Police Commissioner, and all five District Attorneys must make it clear to the NYPD and its officers that they should not endorse criminal behavior.

Held Captive

A Brooklyn woman announced last week that she was suing NYC because of NYPD conduct. She claims to have been held captive for five days by the NYPD in Brooklyn after being shot in the leg by a stray bullet.

Based on her claims, the NYPD held her as a ploy to get her to lie and state that a friend of hers had shot her. Because she refused to lie, she was punished by being held captive.

Only after five days of abuse was she released. Her friend had passed a lie detector test and subjected himself to gun residue tests. In a sense, he was guilty until proven innocent, and his friend's refusal to implicate him in a crime cost her five days of her life.

The behavior of the NYPD should not imitate criminality. False arrests, ticket fixing, and false imprisonment are evidence that the NYPD must change.

The record levels of stop-and-frisks must end, and the NYPD must get out of the crime business and back into the crime prevention business.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Scott Stringer Takes on the NYPD's Racist Stop-and-Frisk Policing

Last we week, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer continued to make Manhattan residents proud as he accelerated his emergence as the clearest and loudest voice amongst elected officials opposing the brutal racism of the policing approach used in New York City.

Stringer in September

In September of  this year, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer took a stand against Mayor Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policies. He highlighted that over 600,000 NYC residents were stopped last year and that we're on a pace to exceed that number and set a new record this year. With nearly all of those stopped being young men of color, Stringer felt compelled to try to end the practice.

Stringer could not have been more accurate in saying, "We cannot wait a minute longer to have an honest examination of stop-and-frisk and the collateral damage it inflicts on our city every day."

He was also accurate in September when he called on Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD to create an expert panel to help the NYPD establish new strategies for law enforcement that are not based on race or skin color and that will reduce the number of stop-and-frisk incidents and "achieve the right balance between policing and civil rights.”

While we at Manhattan Viewpoint, the NYCLU, and many other groups have criticized the NYPD's racist stop-and-frisk policing policies, Borough President Stringer is the first top-tier prospective candidate for NYC Mayor in 2013 to aggressively and publicly embrace the need to end the stop-and-frisk nightmare. NYC Public Advocate Bill De Blasio has expressed a quieter level opposition to stop-and-frisk. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's support of the racist practice should disqualify her as a potential future Mayor. Thus far, Stringer stands alone as a genuine advocate for ending the racist practice.

Stringer in October

Last week, only a day before a major Harlem protest of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies that featured Cornel West, Borough President Stringer once again raised his voice to loudly and clearly demand that the Mayor join the rest of us in the 21st Century and end the practice of using skin color as a proxy for criminality.

Stringer wrote a compelling opinion piece in the New York Daily News that provided a superb description of the flaws in the current race-based approach and provided a sincere and tested solution.

Yesterday, I joined with state State Senator Eric Adams in calling for a federal investigation into current stop-and-frisk practices. In 2000, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded that the NYPD street-stop program amounted to racial profiling. Eleven years and millions of stops later, the city is still waiting for a street-stop policy that is designed to identify true threats.

As a federal court in Manhattan found last month, serious questions remain about racial disparities in current stop-and-frisk practices; about the constitutionality of stops that do not result in arrest and about the role quotas may have played in driving the fourfold increase in stops over the past decade. A new investigation that focuses on each of these issues would help to answer these questions and chart a road map for reform.

What we know already about stop-and-frisk should give us all pause. This year, the NYPD is on track to stop 700,000 New Yorkers. And yet in 93% of all stops last year, police could find no reason to make an arrest.

The police say stop-and-frisk is an important strategy for getting guns off the street, a priority that must remain paramount. But in fact, guns are recovered in only 0.2% of the cases, a success rate that would be judged a failure if applied to any other government program.

Lastly, 85% of those stopped last year were black or Latino. Some counter that the high proportion of stops in communities of color merely reflects the ethnic makeup of high-crime neighborhoods, but the numbers tell a different story. NYPD data show that among those stopped, whites, blacks and Latinos are actually arrested in equal proportion, about 7% of the time.

What stop-and-frisk is reaping is not so much guns, but a deep layer of distrust between police and the city's black and Latino neighborhoods, and that makes solving crime harder, not easier.

We should not wait for the results of a federal investigation to implement immediate reforms. Last month, at a forum at Riverside Church, I offered a blueprint for improving stop-and-frisk, not ending it.

We should pilot our own version of "Operation Ceasefire," a community-based policing strategy now employed by some 70 cities. By joining together the police and district attorneys with social services that offer jobs and other paths off the streets, this approach slashed homicide rates in Chicago and Boston by double digits.

We should train officers to make street stops more constitutional and less confrontational. The Fourth Amendment has been interpreted clearly: An officer can make a stop only when he has reasonable suspicion that an individual is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime. Even then, the officer may frisk a subject only when he reasonably suspects that he is in danger of physical injury. That's not what is happening on the streets of New York today.

Lastly, we should hold precinct commanders accountable for the proper execution of stops-and-frisks.

The day we do all that, New York will be a better, safer place for all of us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupation Continues in Manhattan

Occupy Wall Street and its progeny around the world have the potential to improve our country and our planet, but these movements also have an element of class warfare and demagoguery that could do great harm.

Occupy Wall Street

For a month, protesters have been assembled in Lower Manhattan and called themselves "Occupy Wall Street" - OWS. The OWS movement started out looking too weak to last this long. It turns one month old today and shows no signs of slowing down. OWS participants are protesting against economic inequality and corporate greed. They have adopted the phrase "We are the 99%" as one of their key slogans; it alludes to their view that the top 1% wealthiest Americans are controlling the politics and economics of our country, failing to pay their fair share of taxes, and abusing the other 99% of us. The movement has shown staying power and seems to be strengthening.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has close to $300,000, as well as storage space loaded with donated supplies in lower Manhattan. It stared down city officials to hang on to its makeshift headquarters, showed its muscle Saturday with a big Times Square demonstration and found legions of activists demonstrating in solidarity across the country and around the world.
The legions have been demonstrating in 70 major cities around the world, and the number seems to grow every day. It all started in Lower Manhattan.

While the movement has compared itself to the Arab Spring, the movement lacks the revolutionary momentum of the Arab Spring. While the Arab Spring set its sights on ending generations of dictatorships, OWS has a generic and contradictory message that has not yet jelled into a massage that calls for anything specific to change in our society. Arab Spring sought to topple governments, replace leaders, and usher in democracy. OWS needs to find a voice that speaks to what it wants to achieve and move beyond the simplicity of opposing greed.

Why Occupy?

The OWS movement has been criticized for, among other things, 1) lacking specific demands, and 2) reflecting many obvious contradictions. 

These criticisms are legitimate. While some have dismissed the need for a coherent set of goals for the OWS movement, no movement can improve our country or our world unless it is demanding that improvements be made. Simply opposing inequality and greed is insufficient. The movement must have steps it is demanding be taken to reduce inequality.

Also, the vagueness of the anti-inequality stance of OWS leaves it vulnerable to appearing to be anti-capitalism, anti-wealth creation, and anti-economic-success. OWS seems contradictory when its participants and leaders use Twitter, Facebook, and Apple products to organize their activities and promote their agenda, because these companies thrive today because they previously received the support of "greedy" venture capitalists who provided them the cash necessary to have the dramatic effects they've had on our planet. These companies have changed lives and spurred economic opportunities with the help of the wealthiest in our society who supported these companies in an effort to become even wealthier.

The country believes that wealth inequality is too great in our country, even though the country underestimates the level of inequality. If people understood the level of inequality, the focus on finding solutions to it would likely increase. Perhaps that is the genius of OWS, it will simply educate people that the inequality they already dislike is far more pronounced than they believed. One might argue that contagious diseases get more focus from policy makers because voters fear being infected, while genetic diseases, even if more deadly and more common, do not capture the same level of focus. If OWS can make wealth inequality, which has thus far been treated as a genetic disease, the recipient of the focus we give to contagious diseases, OWS will have made a very big difference in our society. Swine Flu was defeated by our country within one year. Imagine if the Swine Flu was the cause of wealth inequality.

RLJ Rule

Robert L. Johnson, the founder of BET, has proposed a step the American companies can take to reduce wealth inequality in our society between white and Black households.

We have focused in the past on the racial wealth gap - the median white household has twenty times the wealth of the median Black household. 20 to 1. That is a shocking statistic, and it represents a major barrier to improvements in the quality of life of Black Americans.

Robert L. Johnson's approach is called the "RLJ Rule."
(a) encourages companies to voluntarily implement a plan to interview a minimum of two qualified African American candidates for every job opening at the vice president level and above; and
(b) encourages companies to interview at least two qualified African American firms for vendor supplier/services contracts before awarding a new company contract to a vendor.
Johnson makes clear the purpose of this voluntary rule is not to suggest quotas or that companies hire any individual or minority firm that is not qualified. Johnson notes that the RLJ Rule, if implemented properly, will further enhance a company's already established commitment to diversity and inclusion.

OWS needs to find its "RLJ Rule" proposal. What should our country do differently to improve opportunities and reduce inequality.

As the world watches Lower Manhattan, I hope that OWS will be more than an attack on wealth and economic achievement. It must be a force for improving lives and expanding economic opportunity.

Monday, October 10, 2011

FDNY Racism Confirmed By Federal Judge Part II

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg's dedication to racial discrimination was highlighted by a Federal Judge. This is only days after the same Judge focused on the intensity of the racial discrimination within our city's fire department.

Previous Judicial Findings

In last week's blog, we wrote that the Judge in the FDNY racial discrimination case stated:

The under-representation of black firefighters in the FDNY — a direct result and vestige of the city’s pattern and practice of discrimination against black firefighter candidates — is responsible for making blacks significantly less likely to apply to become New York City firefighters. The city’s culture of bureaucratic blame-shifting and accountability avoidance [exposes the fact that] the city does not want to be held accountable for the results of its recruitment efforts. This is unacceptable.
The Judge found that our city government kept the Black population of the FDNY at 3% or below through a practice of discrimination against Black applicants and would-be applicants.

The Mayor's behavior remains difficult to understand or accept. After many years of fighting such decisions, Mayor Bloomberg vowed to fight on in his efforts to retain his right to an all-white fire department in the nation's largest city. If he has evidence that our city's residents believe that only white fire fighters can protect our city, he should both provide that evidence and work to help our city's residents learn to evaluate talent and competence without a bias against non-white professionals. If he has evidence that having Black firefighters in our city will result in less safety, he should provide that evidence. Thus far, he has doggedly and unceasingly fought to avoid bringing racial integration to the FDNY without offering any evidence that an all-white fire department is a superior approach than the adoption of racial integration. If he is motivated simply by a psychological need to avoid racial integration, he needs to understand that there are Federal laws that will ultimately prevent him from implementing his racist approach indefinitely. Eventually, he will be forced to follow the law and allow non-white fire fighters at the FDNY.

There is anecdotal evidence that his obsession with racial discrimination is also very observant. When he learned that Black Community leaders were helping Black candidates apply for entry into the FDNY, Mayor Bloomberg changed the application procedure in order to undermine that assistance. He even made paper applications difficult to obtain.

What Next?

Last week, the Federal Judge issued a ruling that specifically focused on the Bloomberg Administration's pro-racism approach to the FDNY. In deciding that a court-appointed monitor of hiring practices at the FDNY was necessary, the Judge stated:
Though the city's use of discriminatory hiring practices has persisted through numerous changes in city leadership, the evidence adduced in this case gives the court little hope that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg or any of his senior leadership has any intention of stepping up to the task of ending discrimination in the FDNY.

The Judge called the FDNY a "stubborn bastion of white male privilege" and addressed Bloomberg's obsession with preventing racial integration at the FDNY.
Instead of facing hard facts and asking hard questions about the city's abysmal track record of hiring black and Hispanic firefighters, the Bloomberg administration dug in and fought back [against efforts to end discrimination]. Today - four years of litigation and two adverse liability rulings later - the city still doesn't get it.
Bloomberg, predictably, vowed to fight indefinitely for the right to avoid adding Black fire fighters to the FDNY. His lead attorney stated that Bloomberg will appeal the rulings "as soon as the law allows."

Bloomberg's commitment to racial discrimination reminds us of our reaction to Bloomberg's announcement of a $30 million donation to a $127 million effort to improve the lives of young men of color in New York City. Bloomberg's $30 million was matched by billionaire George Soros.
For now, the most powerful action Mayor Bloomberg can take to improve the lives of men of color in our city is an action that he can take without the help of George Soros or any of his fellow billionaires. He should resign.

Monday, October 3, 2011

FDNY Racism Confirmed By Federal Judge

A Federal Judge has confirmed that the Fire Department of New York lacks people of color because of a practice of excluding people of color from its ranks.


As we stated a year ago:

Despite extensive and persistent efforts, the FDNY remains a racially discriminatory institution. Our city's fire department is more than 90% white, but Mayor Bloomberg has fought the addition of people of color to our fire department. After a decade of very credible complaints about the racially discriminatory hiring practices at the FDNY, Mayor Bloomberg remained committed to the racially discriminatory approach he led from City Hall. Finally, the Bush Administration's US Justice Department sued New York City in order to combat the racial discrimination that Mayor Bloomberg stubbornly promoted. The Bush Administration won the law suit, but the Bloomberg Administration refused to end its discrimination.

The courts have attempted to guide the Bloomberg administration away from racial discrimination, but they have failed. A federal judge gave Mayor Bloomberg five options for hiring a class of FDNY rookies this year and ending the pattern of racial discrimination. Mayor Bloomberg rejected all five options and decided to hire no FDNY rookies this year.

We are not surprised, but we are saddened to see Mayor Bloomberg put our lives in jeopardy in order to keep the FDNY more than 90% white. We need the additional firefighters, and we need an end to the racial discrimination at the FDNY.

When residents of New York City are facing the terror of a fire, they never demand that only white fire fighters participate in the life saving work that is needed from the FDNY. In fact, our city's residents have not demonstrated Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to racial discrimination. Perhaps the people of our city will raise their voices and demand that our city bring on board the additional fire fighters that our city had planned to hire - and demand that the new hires not be selected in a manner designed to prevent persons of color from joining the FDNY.

Latest Development

Last week, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis issued an 81 page opinion stating that Black firefighters had proven their claims that minorities trying to become firefighters suffer disadvantages. The Judge's decision on remedies remains to be declared, but observers expect the Judge to require substantial oversight from outside of the NYC government. Garaufis said, "The court cannot adequately ensure the city’s compliance with applicable equal employment opportunity laws and the absence of court supervision."

In a stinging indictment of NYC's approach to hiring at the FDNY, the Judge wrote:
The under-representation of black firefighters in the FDNY — a direct result and vestige of the city’s pattern and practice of discrimination against black firefighter candidates — is responsible for making blacks significantly less likely to apply to become New York City firefighters. The city’s culture of bureaucratic blame-shifting and accountability avoidance [exposes the fact that] the city does not want to be held accountable for the results of its recruitment efforts. This is unacceptable.
The efforts to keep the FDNY all white are indeed unacceptable and were a key priority of the current NYC Mayor during all ten years of his continuing reign.