Monday, February 27, 2012

NYPD Gone Wild II

In a stunning development, the NYPD has admitted to spying on all Muslims in Newark, NJ.


Even for the NYPD, this was a strange development.

The NYPD conducted secret surveillance activities in Newark, New Jersey. Their targets were all people of Muslim faith.

These NYPD activities were not coordinated with Newark law enforcement, even though the NYPD has tried to argue that Newark's police chief was aware of the activities.

As stated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker after the NYPD issued statements claiming that the NYPD had informed Newark's leadership of the spying activities, "If anyone in my police department had known this was a blanket investigation of individuals based on nothing but their religion, that strikes at the core of our beliefs and my beliefs very personally, and it would have merited a far sterner response."

Shocking but Consistent

While this latest embarrassing revelation from the NYPD is shocking, it is not inconsistent with what we've come to expect from the NYPD. The NYPD has famously criminalized "walking while Black" and "walking while Latino". The addition of "breathing with Muslim" to the list of NYPD-created offenses is a shame but not a complete surprise. The NYPD's efforts to export its special disease of prejudice and discrimination takes its dysfunction to a new level . . . a new low.

Stop and Frisk Update

We learned last week that the NYPD set a new record in 2011 by stopping and frisking more innocent people of color in our city than ever before.
Last week, the NYPD revealed to the New York City Council that stop and frisks by the department reached an all-time high in 2011. According to numbers from the NYPD, 684,330 encounters took place last year, with Blacks and Latinos remaining prime targets.
 That number is a staggering 14 percent higher than in 2010 and represents a 600 percent increase since 2002, when the NYPD started keeping records of stop-and-frisk incidents. Close to 90 percent of those stopped and frisked in 2011 were Black or Latino, with only 12 percent of the stops actually ending in arrest.
A New York City Council Member is proposing that NYPD personnel be required to leave behind a business card after stopping and frisking our fellow residents. Other cities have used that practice for years, and we support such a measure as a step to bringing some order to the out-of-control stop and frisk practice that has become the signature of the Bloomberg years.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Church Evictions Unnecessary

Mayor Bloomberg's eagerness to evict churches from NYC public school buildings seems to be impossible to defend.

Churches in Schools

In our city, schools have been used as venues for churches on weekends when otherwise vacant. Community groups of all types, including Christian churches, use school buildings when the buildings are available. In fact, more than 10,000 groups use NYC school buildings for non-school activities.

Religions that celebrate their day(s) of worship during school days are unable to use schools for their worship services, but religious groups of all sorts are able to use school buildings for their activities.

Legal Challenges

The United States Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal to a case that held that governments could deny use of public school facilities to religious groups.

The Bloomberg Administration has embraced that ruling and announced a plan to evict church organizations from their once-a-week spaces in NYC public schools.

Flaws in the Theory

But, the Bloomberg approach is quite flawed. Church leaders presented their case well in the Daily News last week:
We pay the same rents and operate under the same terms as every other group.
Excluding congregations alone contradicts a city that from its birth has celebrated freedom and pluralism.
As we contemplate eviction, Mayor Bloomberg’s declaration 17 months ago haunts us. In defending the right of a mosque to build near Ground Zero, he said: “We in New York . . . are Americans, each with an equal right to worship and pray where we choose. There is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off-limits to any religion. By affirming that basic idea, we will honor America’s values, and we will keep New York the most open, diverse, tolerant and free city in the world.”
The mayor’s boasts from another occasion ring equally hollow: “Our doors are open to everyone . . . Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that, even here in a city that is rooted in Dutch tolerance, was hard-won over many years.”
The mayor argues that when the city allows churches to use school buildings for worship services on weekends, it confuses communities and children into believing that there’s an official religion established at a particular school.
The logic is craven. Are we to believe that the same New Yorkers Bloomberg admonished to “do what is right, not what is easy” during the mosque controversy now cannot tell the difference between a mosque, synagogue or church that rents an empty school facility on weekends and the academic instruction that occurs in the same building Monday through Friday?
New Yorkers are smarter than that. Our children are smarter than that, too.
Mayor Bloomberg owes our city's religious institutions the same respect that he provides non-religious groups.

New York State Legislature in the Spotlight

The State Senate has passed a bill that would ensure that congregations are treated no worse than other community groups. The State Assembly has not yet voted on the measure. The State Assembly will improve our city and send a wonderful message to Mayor Bloomberg by ensuring equality in the use of public space. They should send the bill to Governor Cuomo immediately for his signature.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Linsanity originated in Manhattan and has gone global. Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, through his amazing success against the world's best basketball players, has created a contagious condition of Linsanity that has spread throughout the world.

Linsanity Reigns

Jeremy Lin's performances last week solidified the enthusiasm he generated starting the previous week.

On February 4, 2012, Lin scored 25 points to go along with 7 assists and 5 rebounds. He came off the bench, but he controlled the game. The Knicks had been on a losing streak, but Lin lead them to victory. He electrified the crowd on offense and on defense. Before the game ended, the crowd was chanting his name. That started a trend that held throughout last week. His performance against the Nets was proven to be no fluke; his performance actually improved after the Nets game, and the Knicks losing streak became a winning streak. Linsanity was born.

After the Nets game, Lin moved forward to lead the Knicks to important victories. When they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on February 10, 2012, Lin was the high scorer with 38 points. Between his amazing performance against the Nets and his performance against the Lakers, Lin had a double-double.

After just one week, Lin's jersey is now sought after by Knicks fans, and he is the hottest sports story in the US as well as around the world, where his Taiwanese-American ethnic background adds further interest.

Forbes Magazine published "9 Lessons Jeremy Lin Can Teach Us Before We Go To Work", and People Magazine gave us "Jeremy Lin: Five Things to Know About NBA Star". A week ago, Jeremy Lin was not expected to make a major impact in the NBA (though Knicks fans were eager to see the Harvard graduate get playing time and excel off the bench).

But where did this star come from?

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is the first American born NBA player of Taiwanese decent. Even if he achieved nothing more than remaining on NBA rosters for several years, he would go down in history as a trailblazer.

He was a superstar in High School in the San Francisco Bay area in California, but he received no scholarship offers from Division I schools. Perhaps he was ignored because he is Asian American. Perhaps he was ignored because Division I programs have difficulty evaluating talent when that talent is based on leading an offense rather than leading the scoring for an offense. Ironically, UCLA, the program Lin most wanted to attend, later admitted that he should have offered a scholarship to Lin.

As if history is repeating itself, Lin was not drafted by any NBA team, but he is now the most talked-about star in the NBA.

He speaks openly about his Christian faith as part of what inspires him. He consistently demonstrates tremendous humility.

Jeremy Lin is turning the Knicks into winners, and he is inspiring all of us to believe in ourselves, even when others refuse to see our value (and are perhaps blinded by racial prejudice and other biases). Lin is teaching us lessons we can use at work, at church, and on the court.

Jeremy Lin is fortunate to possess such enormous God-given talent, and we are fortunate that he has worked so hard over many years to prepare himself for his big moment on the big stage in Manhattan. God bless Jeremy Lin.

Long Live Linsanity.

Monday, February 6, 2012

NYPD Gone Wild

As we celebrate the NY Giants Super Bowl victory, we are troubled to see that the New York City Police Department appears to have stepped up its efforts to terrorize and intimidate communities of color in our city.

Bronx Beating

Last week, the NYPD was caught on video viciously kicking and beating a young Black man in the Bronx.
Three of the cops are then clearly shown repeatedly pounding Reed — kicking, punching and beating him their batons. Another officer, slightly obscured by the others, appears to hold him down.
The NYPD has offered no explanation for the brutal attack on the young man. In fact, last week, the young man was being held on assault charges.

To add insult and injuries to the initial injuries, the NYPD attacked one of the men who begged them to stop the beating.
When they surrounded me and looked at me with gloves on, I knew what was going to happen. I just had time to pull my glasses off. And by the time I did that, it was 'boom' [with a punch]. I did [put up my hands] like that to shield my face immediately. I tried to protect my face," said James. "I'm shielding my face and this is exposed. He uses his right leg and stomps me here.
The attack on the original victim was compounded by an attack on a witness. It is both frightening and infuriating. These attacks cannot be permitted to continue.

Shooting of Unarmed Man in the Bronx

In an outcome far worse than the savage beating of the young man mentioned and the witness discussed above, the NYPD shot and killed an unarmed young Black man in the bathroom of his home in the Bronx.
They're outside for some time in the front. They go to the back, and for several minutes this young man is apparently inside the house. And for several minutes there, outside the house, I don't know what they're doing there in terms of communicating with their command, or if they are talking about what's going on. What's clear, though, is that there was enough time for them to reflect on what is happening and this tragedy should not have happened.
The dead man's six-year-old brother and grandmother were in the home at the time of his killing, and, once again, a witness became a victim.

The grandmother was held against her will at the local police station for seven hours after her unarmed grandson was killed by the police in his home.

[The victim's grandmother] was taken to the 47th Precinct station house on Laconia Avenue and held for seven hours, said Carlton Berkley, a friend of the family’s who said he had retired from the police force as a detective in the 30th Precinct, in Upper Manhattan. Mr. Berkley added that [the victim's grandmother] was forced to give a statement about what happened.
“She gave it against her will,” Mr. Berkley said. “She didn’t want to speak to the police.”

A pattern emerges. A young Black man is killed or abused by the NYPD, and the witnesses to the killing or abuse are abused by NYPD.

If we don't end this pattern immediately, the NYPD will escalate its attacks on our communities, and the deaths and injuries from their attacks will mount.