Monday, January 30, 2012

NYPD's Ray Kelly Must Resign

We have called on NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg to resign because of their race-based approach to policing and because of their support or racism as the guiding principle of their leadership. Last week, we learned that Ray Kelly's lies violate the NYPD's Code of Conduct and should result in his termination.

Bloomberg Defends Kelly for Lying

Mayor Bloomberg has defended NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly for participating in the making of an anti-Muslim video that was shown to NYPD recruits on a continuous loop as they completed paperwork. He has also defended Ray Kelly for lying in 2011 and stating that the NYPD was not involved in the making of the video.

Bloomberg's defense was not a surprise, given that he previously defended the NYPD after we learned that the NYPD was spying on Muslim groups.
News of the NYPD's screening of the anti-Muslim film comes five months after an Associated Press investigation revealed police were spying on Muslim communities as part of the department's anti-terrorism efforts. Bloomberg defended the tactics, saying police were doing their job preventing terrorism.
But, the lies written in official NYPD correspondence by Ray Kelly are a violation of the NYPD Code of Conduct and should result in Kelly's termination, even if Bloomberg endorses lying as a strategy for obtaining the flexibility to violate the rights of our city's residents.

This latest incident highlights how important it is for the health of our city that Mayor Bloomberg resign.
Lying Violates the NYPD Code of Conduct

When Ray Kelly chose to lie about his involvement in the making of the anti-Muslim video, he created a pathway for his termination.

The Gothamist tells the story so well, that we will let their explanation speak for itself.
Last year, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly sent multiple letters to the city's Muslim leaders insisting the department "did not participate in" the production of an Islamophobic propaganda film that was screened on a continuous loop for over 1,200 NYPD officers. Then along came The Brennan Center for Justice and their meddlesome Freedom of Information Law requests, Kelly was forced to admit that he did knowingly participate in the film, titled The Third Jihad. And now, as some call for Kelly's resignation, The New York World takes a look at the NYPD guidelines and finds that Popeye probably broke some big rules. Surely he will hold himself accountable!
The NYPD has an internal policy prohibiting false statements, according to a copy of the policy provided by the NYCLU to The New York World. "It would seem that both Kelly and Browne violated this false statement policy - Kelly by 'lying in an official Department document' when he signed letters last year claiming no involvement in Third Jihad’s production, and Browne when he possibly 'created false description of events' by first claiming Kelly’s interview had not taken place, and then stating that it was he who had recommended Kelly do the interview," writes Pei Shan Hoe.
But this opens up a whole can of worms, because if the Kelly and Browne can't bend the truth a little to keep NYC safe, how are they supposed to fill quotas meet productivity goals? “It would certainly not be a stretch to say that, if Browne lied, that would call for dismissal under the policy," says NYCLU spokesman Chris Dunn. "Given that he was personally involved in arranging for the interview, one would certainly think that he knew what he told the Times was not accurate, but that is as far as one can go at this point."
And Noel Leader, the co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, tells Capital New York that Kelly's participation in the film violates the NYPD's Patrol Guide rules barring officers from associating with hateful materials or hateful organizations. "Since I've known officers to be terminated in the past for violating this procedure, he violated it, he should be terminated," says Leader.
So far no officials have called for Kelly to resign, but Councilmember Jumaane Williams has said that Browne should be fired, and other Councilmembers have joined him in calling for an investigation. Mayor Bloomberg stood by Kelly today, telling reporters he has "100 percent confidence" in Kelly and declaring, "Commissioner Kelly should not step down." And despite their frequent criticism of Kelly, the angry wags on the NYPD Rant message board are also standing behind the Commissioner. True to form, they're blaming the Times for reporting the story, with one writing: "OMG will the Times ever stop. If the Ragheads ever take over that Red Rag will last about ten minutes. Kill them all and let allah sort it out!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

NYPD Promotion Practices Under Fire

Last week, we learned that NYPD Detectives are suing the NYPD over its promotion practice in the Intelligence Unit. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn continued to oppose Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to exclude single adults from our city's homeless shelter. Also, Manhattan's only confirmed Underground Railroad was celebrated last week.

NYPD Excluding African Americans from "Secret" Promotion List

A group of Black NYPD detectives are suing the NYPD for its alleged anti-Black bias in promoting Black members of the NYPD within the NYPD's Intelligence Unit.

The complaint filed by the Black detectives alleges that "the NYPD has chosen to cloak promotions in secrecy and give the all-white high level supervisors who run the Intelligence Division unfettered discretion to handpick white detectives for promotions over more qualified African American detectives." The complaint states that only 35 of the 600 employees in the Intelligence Unit are Black and that only 8 of the 161 sergeants are Black.  Also, only out of 224 detectives in the unit, 21 are Black—just 6 percent. These horrible results are incompatible with our diverse city.

Unfortunately, as CNN reported, no Black member of the Intelligence Unit holds a rank above sergeant, while most serve as third grade detectives, just one rank above regular police officers.

The distinction means a salary difference of $30,000 per year between a third grade detective and a higher first grade detective. It is also a difference of $15,000 per year from a lifetime pension, and the lower ranking excludes third grade detectives from professional networking events and opportunities.
The complainants said they have been passed up numerous times for promotions despite excellent work records and recommendations from superiors.
Mayor Bloomberg has been relentless in his efforts to prevent Black New Yorkers from joining the Fire Department of New York. Last week, rather than accept defeat and move toward racial integration at the FDNY, the Mayor focused his fire on the federal judge who has been demanding that Bloomberg end his commitment to his "whites-only" FDNY policy. Bloomberg has adopted a view that those who do not support his "whites-only" mandate cannot be tolerated in positions of power. We should not expect him to be open to ending the barriers to promotion of Black detectives in the NYPD. 

Quinn and City Council Go To Court Against Bloomberg on Homeless Shelter Rules

In the latest chapter of the ongoing dispute between the NY City Council and Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council has filed suit against the Mayor to prevent the Mayor from implementing his proposed policy of demanding that single adults prove that they have no alternative housing options before they can be admitted to a homeless shelter.

The homeless dispute is a rare moment of discord between Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn. The Speaker will have to find a great deal more to distance herself from the Mayor as she seeks to become his successor.

Underground Railroad in Manhattan

From the NY Daily News last week:

A Chelsea brownstone was heralded Sunday as the only documented Manhattan stop on the underground railroad.
Elected officials, city preservationists and history buffs unveiled a marker on 339 W. 29th St.
“This is a happy day as we celebrate the spirit of survival of the freedom-seeking slaves of the 1840s and ’50s who found shelter in this building,” Julie Finch of the Friends of the Hopper Gibbons House Underground Railroad Site said.
The rowhouse is one of roughly a half-dozen Greek Revival buildings dotting the block between Eighth and Ninth Aves.
It was once home to the Quaker abolitionists James Sloan Gibbons and Abby Hopper Gibbons, who helped African-Americans as they escaped the clutches of slavery.
“They heroically provided shelter to African-Americans who were running for their lives . . . at a time when it was illegal to do so,” said Fern Luskin, a professor at LaGuardia Community College who discovered the building’s history.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blomberg Refuses to Leave Quietly

As we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we note that last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced bold new education plans focused on terminating teachers deemed unsuccessful and rewarding teachers deemed successful with cash bonuses.

Bloomberg's Education Debacle

Mayor Bloomberg is the only Mayor to ever have full control of the NYC school system, and he has had that control for 10 uninterrupted years.

After 10 years, no one would argue that Mayor Bloomberg has created a successful educational system in New York City. In our city, only 28% of Black males graduate high school, and New York City has one of the lowest graduation rate for Black males of any city in the United States. Ten years of Mayor Bloomberg has given our city one of the worst performance in the country.

In defense of Bloomberg, he is in good company. New York State has the absolute worst rate of high school graduation for Black males in our country (25%). No state is worse than New York State at providing a path to a high school diploma for a Black male. Bloomberg is part of the problem, but his 28% graduation rate is actually HIGHER than the state average of 25%. NYC 's performance and NYS' performance seem criminal. Three-quarters of our Black males exit their teen years without the basic building blocks of education, making their success in life highly unlikely. Across the country, approximately 50% of Black males graduate high school, nearly double the NYC performance. With ten years to work on this challenge, Bloomberg has failed miserably.

His performance with students of all races (and of both genders) is equally troubling. Only 23% of NYC students graduate high school prepared for college. Three quarters of all NYC students leave high school unprepared for college. Criminal. . . Criminal. Once again, in Mayor Bloomberg's defense, as horrifying as his performance has been, other cities in our state have performed even worse.

Though Bloomberg's ten years have been a disaster in NYC public education, he is in good company.

Latest Bloomberg Maneuver

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled a new plan for improving education in our city.

He pledged to fire half of the teachers in 33 underperforming schools and to provide $20,000 cash payments to teachers who excel. The teachers' union has complained about this Bloomberg approach as well as about the teacher-bashing that Bloomberg engaged in as part of this latest speech.

The teachers' union had prominent supporters in criticizing the Mayor. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer all had harsh words for the Mayor's approach. Stringer was unequivocal:
Listen, everyone wants education reform...but this lone ranger approach to education is simply not going to work. What troubled me today is the fact that he's willing to do the lone ranger approach again, not having real discussions with teachers and parents, not bringing people around a table and really negotiating.

You can't negotiate labor issues in public, and every time he does that, nothing happens for the kids, and that's unacceptable.
We all agree that the Mayor's approach is unacceptable, and we all agree that his performance has been unacceptable. Is there any hope that he will improve his performance as he makes his way through two lame duck years?

Perhaps, on MLK Day, we can find some optimism and simply say, "Keep Hope Alive!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cuomo and the City

Governor Cuomo is looking to play a large role in the future of New York City, and New York City leaders are hoping that he will tame Mayor Bloomberg's attacks on poor people and people of color.

Queens Convention Center

Governor Cuomo is planning to play a major role in New York City's economic development. One of the first steps was unveiled in his State of the State Address last week. That step would be the building of the United States' largest convention center in New York City's Queens Borough and demolishing the existing New York City convention center - the Javitz Center on the West Side of Manhattan.

The project appears to already have funding from outside of the United States. The Malaysian-based operator of the Aqueduct Racino (Racetrack and Casino) has pledged $4 billion for the project. Cuomo and the Port Authority seem ready to grant land to the project and to alter the mass transit infrastructure to facilitate the success of the project.

On the one hand, the idea seems silly. There is a major surplus of convention space in the United States right now, and Queens does not seem to be the preferred destination for conventioneers.

On the other hand, having $4 billion from on outside investor should reduce the burden on tax payers and make the project more likely to succeed. The gambling and the two nearby airports might actually make the Queens destination viable. Assuming that there will be non-stop shuttle bus service to a few key Manhattan destinations, one can imagine conventions that schedule "Manhattan Time" on the agenda. Maybe this is a great idea masquerading as a silly idea.

From a Manhattan perspective, Governor Cuomo's approach creates opportunities to dream big on the West Side of Manhattan. Affordable housing with Hudson River views, entertainment, recreation, fitness, and other ideas will flood in, but the best part of the plan is the large space and the opportunity it represents.

Though the Mayor has demonstrated a resentment for the participation of Governor Cuomo in New York City projects, Mayor Bloomberg (along with Assembly Speaker Silver) was forced to agree that the Governor's plan for development on the West Side deserves support, particularly if it can attract significant private sector capital.

Fingerprinting for the Poor

Mayor Bloomberg's devotion to requiring food stamp recipients to be fingerprinted is resulting in a growing opposition to his approach, and that opposition called on Governor Cuomo to force Mayor Bloomberg to end the practice.

Governor Cuomo spoke out against Mayor Bloomberg's approach in the State of the State Address:
In his State of the State address on Wednesday, Cuomo took a hard line against the practice, which was stopped in most of the state in 2007 but maintained in the city at Bloomberg's request. "One of the things we do now and makes the stigma actually worse and creates a barrier for families coming forward to get food stamps is we require fingerprinting. I'm saying stop fingerprinting for families,” said Cuomo, a sentiment backed by many hunger and welfare advocates. 
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, one of Mayor Bloomberg's closest allies and the leader of the effort the transformed the City Charter to allow Bloomberg to serve a third consecutive term as Mayor, spoke out against the Mayor.
“In these tough economic times, we need to help New Yorkers get the federal services they qualify for, not put obstacles in their way. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg and I couldn’t disagree more—fingerprinting food stamp applicants is a time consuming and unnecessary process, which stigmatizes applicants and has prevented 24,000 New Yorkers from getting the help they deserve. The State has the authority to eliminate finger imaging in New York City, and the Mayor should not even think of challenging Governor Cuomo’s decision.”
Perhaps this particular attack on poor people by Mayor Bloomberg will be thwarted, at long last, by Governor Cuomo. Perhaps Cuomo deserves the high approval ratings he is currently enjoying.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Living Longer in NYC

Welcome to 2012. We ended 2011 with the good news that NYC residents are living longer.

Life Expectancy Trends

Life expectancy in the United States has been on the rise for many decades, but it remains far behind other wealthy nations. The US life expectancy stands at 78 years, more than 5 years less than Japan and far behind Israel, Singapore, and many other countries. In fact, the United States ranks 36th in the world in terms of life expectancy.

The low level of life expectancy in the US is both a legacy of the US population's love of cigarettes and the current high rates of obesity. 

The National Research Council (NRC) found that the primary reasons for the United States' inferior level of life expectancy were smoking, overeating, and lack of exercise.
When today's senior citizens were younger, Americans used to smoke more than people in other rich countries. This accounts for about 40 per cent of the lag in life expectancy for US men - and almost 80 per cent for US women. Obesity is the next most important factor, accounting for between one-fifth and one-third of the US shortfall in life expectancy. While poor access to healthcare sends some Americans to an early grave, its effects pale beside the damage caused by unhealthy lifestyles.
Nonetheless, as the United States loses ground to other nations, the life expectancy numbers in the United States continue to grow. In 1900, life expectancy in the United States was less than 50 years. By 1991, our life expectancy surpassed 75 years, increasing by more than 50% in less than 100 years. The recessions, wars, and other challenges we've faced since 1991 have not reversed the upwards trend.

NYC Life Expectancy

The good news that closed out 2011 was that NYC's life expectancy figures rose dramatically over the last 10 years. The increase is three years of life expectancy since 2000, and now, the NYC figure stands at 80.6 years versus the United States overall figure of 78.2 years. While our city was leaping beyond the national average, the Mayor of NYC was focusing on reducing smoking, providing consumers with more information regarding their restaurant food choices, and promoting healthier lifestyles. The Mayor's initiatives have had a positive impact, even if other factors have played a larger role.
Life expectancy for 40-year-olds in the city also increased, to 82 years in 2009 from 79.5 years in 2000, a gain of 2.5 years, compared with an increase of 1.2 years for the same age group nationwide. New Yorkers who are 70 saw their life expectancy increase 1.5 years, to 86.9, compared with 0.7 years, to 85.1, for the same age group nationwide.

Mr. Bloomberg has made public health one of his top policy priorities and has run high-profile campaigns against smoking, obesity and the consumption of salt.
The biggest factor in New Yorkers’ increased life expectancy, however, was unrelated to any of those efforts. Instead, officials attributed it to expanded H.I.V. testing and treatment, which resulted in a substantially reduced death rate from H.I.V. and AIDS. The mortality rate from H.I.V. infection in 2010 fell by 11.3 percent since 2009, and by 51.9 percent since 2002.
We have been very critical of the Mayor's obsession with skin color as his primary (perhaps only) organizing principal in his law enforcement efforts, but we start 2012 by giving the Mayor credit for a job well done with regard to his efforts to improve the level of overall health in our city.