"Misapplying the theory I mislearned in college."
Don’t tell Mayor Bill de Blasio that only swing states should have political conventions.
Mr. de Blasio, like Senator Charles Schumer, rejected the notion that Brooklyn shouldn’t play host to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 because New York State, very likely to vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic presidential contender, is less pivotal for the national party than places like Pennsylvania, which is also vying for the convention, or Ohio, where the 2016 Republican convention will be held.
“The message in the hall is what matters. Everything else is being created to facilitate what happens in the hall,” Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, told reporters this morning outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Mr. de Blasio said he didn’t believe a convention in a toss-up region could actually swing votes–Charlotte, North Carolina hosted the 2012 Democratic convention and Republican Mitt Romney narrowly won the state–and compared the line of logic to the conventional wisdom that a vice presidential contender should hail from a certain region of the country to balance the ticket.
“Our politics and our discourse has changed over the years. Not long ago in America, there was this ironclad assumption that the vice presidential candidate had to come from a certain region or that the state they came from they would carry out of local pride and that was really a deep, deep assumption for many decades in American politics. That assumption was dispelled in recent decades,” Mr. de Blasio said.
“I think there’s been an assumption at times that a convention in a swing state has a particular lift–I don’t think that’s been proven in fact,” he added.
Mr. de Blasio is pitching Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as DNC delegates visit the city this week to decide whether it should house the convention. A decision–delegates will pick among Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbus, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama–is expected to come at the end of this year or early next year.
Mr. de Blasio argued that the convention is a business for the party and the city–and a Brooklyn convention will be good for both.
“It has to be cost efficient, it cannot leave the party in debt–it has to be a good business, if you will, equation for the Democratic Party because the real business happens after,” the mayor said. “The convention is a foundation for the months immediately following.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio may be pushing to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, but he doesn’t necessarily have fond memories of the last time a national convention came to New York City.
Mr. de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, told reporters outside the Barclays Center today that his administration would not make the same “mistakes” of the 2004 Republican National Convention, when scores of protesters clashed with police and filed lawsuits against the city.
“I think we’re very good at accommodating people’s right to speak. We learned a lot from the mistakes of 2004. I think we’re going to do things in a way that reflects our values and I think it’ll work because we have the greatest police force in the nation,” Mr. de Blasio said.
“The time to really start those plans will be if the DNC decides to grant us the convention,” he added, providing no further details about how the city would avoid the same kinds of lawsuits again.
The city agreed early this year to pay nearly $18 million to settle civil rights claims of thousands of people arrested during the 2004 convention at Madison Square Garden, which nominated Republican George W. Bush for a second term in office. Police arrested more than 1,800 anti-Iraq War protesters, bystanders and journalists. Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, lobbied for the convention to come to the city over the protests of Democrats and liberals.
Now Mr. de Blasio is hoping for a smoother, legacy-building 2016 convention at the Barclays Center, a basketball arena in downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn is competing against Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbia, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama: members of the Democratic National Committee’s Technical Advisory Group are visiting Brooklyn this week to assess its viability as a DNC site. Democrats are pitching Brooklyn as the sort of up-and-coming, transit-rich borough that can play host to a successful convention, bringing in cash for both the city and the Democratic Party.
The two days of DNC talk are also, at the minimum, a welcome distraction for the mayor. For the second day in a row, Mr. de Blasio took only on-topic questions from reporters (yesterday about an inequality summit with other mayors and today about the DNC), dodging the cauldron of race and policing that has dominated news cycles for the past month since a black Staten Island man, Eric Garner, died in police custody on July 17.
Public Advocate Letitia James is calling on lawyers to help represent unaccompanied children pro bono in federal immigration cases — and said she’d join them.
“As the public advocate and an attorney, previously worked of the Legal Aid Society, I will also serve as an attorney in this capacity, pro bono,” Ms. James said at a press conference on the City Hall steps Tuesday.
A coalition of groups joined Ms. James to announce monthly clinics to train attorneys who would like to volunteer to represent children in federal immigration court, and set up a “help desk” in federal court to provide the children with resources and representation. The need has grown more urgent, Ms. James and activists said, as the federal government has decided to prioritize the cases of the unaccompanied children and adults with children in what is being called a “surge docket.”
“Imagine my horror, our horror when we found out the federal government had ordered the court just down the street to expedite the cases of the most vulnerable children — those fleeing horrific conditions in Central America on their own, crossing the border on their own,” Eve Stotland, director of legal services at The Door, a youth services organization providing legal help.
Ms. Stotland called the sped-up process a “deportation conveyer belt for children.”
More and more young children have been illegally entering the country alone as they flee violence in their home countries, sparking controversy here about how to handle their arrival. The federal government has run out of space to house the children; many who arrive in New York — second only to Texas in the number of children arriving, Ms. James said — are placed in the care of relatives pending court appearances, but others end up in the custody of Homeless Services. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others have called on the city to identify other locations the children can be housed.
“In my mind, this situation is a humanitarian and refugee issue — not an immigration issue,” Ms. James said.
Councilman Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Immigration Committee, compared the flood of unaccompanied children into the country to Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re gonna come with every force we can — this is a true humanitarian crisis, the city has experienced before,” Mr. Menchaca said. “And we want to make sure we have that same caliber response we did with Sandy. This is the kind of crisis we’re in today.”
Ms. James said she did not know when might represent a child in court — she will attend one of the planned trainings first, to brush up on the necessary aspects of immigration and family law.
Children and others in court for immigration charges do not have a right to an attorney — so if they cannot afford one or do not have family to help them find one, they go unrepresented in their hearings. Appearing in court with a lawyer gives a child a significantly higher chance of being able to stay in the country, Ms. James and advocates said, typically by proving they face a threat to their safety in their home country.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the title of Eve Stotland.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton argued on the air this morning that New York’s communities of color are crying out for more policing–even in the wake of a death of a black Staten Island man in police custody and the resulting outcry.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top cop told listeners of the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC that strict enforcement of minor offenses–known as the “broken windows” policy–is a result of complaints the police department hears from residents and elected leaders from black and Latino neighborhoods. Eric Garner, who died last month in what has been ruled a homicide after an officer placed him in an apparent chokehold, was allegedly selling tax-free cigarettes at the time of his fatal encounter with police.
“Those communities definitely want more police in their neighborhoods,” said Mr. Bratton. “The reality of policing is that selective enforcement is often what neighborhoods and the leaders of neighborhoods ask for.”
The commissioner recalled a meeting with minority leaders shortly after Mr. Garner’s death–though he did not name them–in which the elected officials all requested a crackdown on noisy parties and barbecues. Mr. Bratton argued that that the NYPD would come under fire if it pursued reactive, rather than preventative, policing.
“If we started responding only to 911 emergency calls or 311 quality of life calls, there would be a phenomenal hue and cry that we were neglecting minorities,” Mr. Bratton said. “We are being drawn into the neighborhood by the requests of the leaders of the neighborhood.”
The police leader pointed out that the law requires cooperation during an arrest. The video of Mr. Garner’s death records him vowing not to be taken in.
“What we’ve seen in the past few months is a number of individuals failing to understand that you must submit to arrest, you cannot resist,” said Mr. Bratton. “The place to argue your case is in the court, not in the street.”
The commissioner finally noted that many more people of color die from street violence than from police abuse.
“You have tens of thousands of young men and women in this country being killed by acts of violence. I think we need more attention on that,” Mr. Bratton said. “We have generations of young men and women, many in minority communities, unfortunately that are killing each other at a fast and furious pace. The loss of life at the hands of the police is unfortunate, but it pales in comparison to the loss of life due to incidents of violence in this country.”
Mr. Garner’s death triggered a bitter backlash against Mr. Bratton and his “broken windows” philosophy from black leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton and former city councilman Charles Barron, both of whom alleged that police policies unfairly target and harm minority men. In turn, police union leaders have also accused Mr. de Blasio if being too close to Mr. Sharpton and not supporting cops.
Left-leaning groups slammed former CNN host Campbell Brown this morning for registering to vote as a Republican, further attempting to discredit the charter school activist as she brings a lawsuit against teacher tenure in New York.
The Alliance for Quality Education and New York Communities for Change–two left-leaning organizations with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio and labor groups like the United Federation of Teachers–said Ms. Brown, who has touted her political independence, had been “caught in a lie” for telling critics on Twitter that she is not a Republican.
“The Real Campbell Brown has trouble telling the truth, and now she’s been caught in another lie. She’s a Republican with close ties to conservative Wall Street leaders, and has zero credibility on education. In my more than 10 years of advocating for equitable education funding, she’s been silent. I’ve never heard her fight to improve public schools or help vulnerable kids,” Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director of the Alliance for Quality Education, told the Observer.
The two groups are behind the “Real Campbell Brown” campaign, an aggressive operation aimed at highlighting Ms. Campbell’s ties to conservative causes in an otherwise liberal, overwhelmingly Democratic city.
Ms. Brown, who the city Board of Elections database shows is registered as a Republican, said through a spokesperson that she is a “lifelong independent” who has registered as a Democrat and a Republican in the past to vote in city primaries, and has given political donations only to Democrats. The spokesperson also said Ms. Brown is now not registered in a party, a fact that could not be immediately and independently confirmed.
Ms. Brown’s reps also hit Ms. Ansari for defending teacher tenure, which activists like Ms. Brown argue protects failing teachers at the expense of students. Ms. Brown hopes to weaken teacher tenure laws here in the wake of a successful lawsuit that could dismantle teacher tenure in California if the court decision survives an appeal.
(Defenders of teacher tenure contend that the hard-won protections are needed to attract good teachers and guard against against unfair, politically-motivated firings.)
“More inaccurate personal smears from a group bought and paid for by the United Federation of Teachers,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Ms. Brown. “Will Ms. Ansari ever address the public school parents who are suing the state to end New York’s broken tenure policy? Of course not, because she doesn’t have an answer.”
The city’s Board of Elections did not return requests for comment.
Albert Baldeo, a former Democratic district leader and candidate for city and state office, was found guilty of obstructing justice today, though he was acquitted of mail and wire fraud charges.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicted Mr. Baldeo two years ago for orchestrating a straw donor scheme to funnel illegal contributions to his 2010 campaign for City Council. Mr. Baldeo, Mr. Bharara alleged at the time, also asked his straw donors to lie to federal investigators once he learned the feds were probing the alleged scheme.
Mr. Baldeo, a Richmond Hill attorney who also nearly unseated a Republican state senator in 2006, faced 10 charges and was acquitted on all three related to mail and wire fraud, according to court documents. He was found guilty on the seven other charges related to conspiracy and obstructing justice, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bharara confirmed.
The fact that Albert Baldeo lost his election does not excuse his corrupt conduct. With today’s verdict of guilty, an impartial federal jury has found that Mr. Baldeo lied and instructed others to lie to law enforcement agents investigating the source of his campaign contributions, and threatened and intimidated others in order to conceal the truth,” Mr. Bharara said in a statement. “These practices have no place in our politics or our justice system, and there should be no doubt that this Office will prosecute such conduct while it continues to vigorously investigate and prosecute political corruption in New York City and New York State.”
Each of the seven charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Mr. Baldeo did not immediately return a request for comment, though a group known as “People for Baldeo” defended Mr. Baldeo for being acquitted on the mail and wire fraud charges.
“It is clear that our precious tax dollars are being spent in targeting Mr. Baldeo selectively and vindictively and this lynching must be stopped. We challenge all right thinking people to condemn these grave civil, human rights, constitutional and voting rights violations,” the group said. “We demand an immediate end to this political witch hunt of Albert Baldeo, and call upon these agencies which are funded by our tax dollars to stop this harassment and vendetta against him now!”
Updated with statements from Mr. Bharara and People for Baldeo.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told the Observer today that she supported the federal investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s alleged interference with the anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
Ms. Gillibrand declined to comment on what she personally thought of reports that Mr. Cuomo’s aides had ordered the panel–charged with rooting out unethical activity on the part of state politicians–to drop subpoenas of organizations linked to the governor. She did, however, tell the Observer that she believed that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was right in his decision to look into Mr. Cuomo’s handling of the panel–which he formed last year but disbanded after just 18 months, sooner than expected.
“I think reviewing it is smart, and I think it is important to have this kind of transparency in government,” Ms. Gillibrand said at an unrelated press conference in Queens today.
Mr. Cuomo has long maintained that since he appointed the commission’s members, he was free to dismiss the panel and intervene in its activities. But that contrasts with comments the governor made upon assembling the commission–when he claimed it would enjoy absolute independence and the freedom to investigate anyone, including himself.
Ms. Gillibrand refused to remark on what she thought of the governor’s argument.
“Obviously there is an investigation going on, and I’m sure they will sort things out. It’s important that we have transparency in government,” the junior senator from New York said.
Ms. Gillibrand follows fellow Senator Charles Schumer in declining to defend Mr. Cuomo and his aides.
“It’s an ongoing investigation so I’m not going to comment,” Mr. Schumer told the Observer last week.
Mr. Bharara is a former aide to Mr. Schumer and widely seen as his protege–and a potential future candidate for governor.
Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout won a major victory in her challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today, when a Brooklyn court dismissed claims from the incumbent’s campaign that the Fordham University professor has not lived in New York long enough to run for its executive office.
The Cuomo team had contended that Ms. Teachout, a major underdog in the race, had not lived in New York State for a full five years, subpoenaing a raft of her tax and personal records.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Edgar Walker, however, determined this afternoon that the allegations that Ms. Teachout had resided in her native Vermont in the past half-decade were spurious–just as the Board of Elections ruled on the Cuomo campaign’s challenges to Ms. Teachout’s nominating petitions. In his decision, Mr. Walker noted that Ms. Teachout’s voter registration and tax documents placed her in a series of apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn between 2009 and 2014, from which she commuted to her job at Fordham.
“It is evident that since June 2009, Ms. Teachout has clearly ‘lived’ in New York, as that term is commonly understood, in order to pursue her career as a Fordham professor,” Mr. Walker wrote in his ruling. “The court finds that the petitioners have not met their burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Teachout fails to meet the constitutional residency requirement.”
Ms. Teachout was triumphant after the decision, and demanded Mr. Cuomo debate her before the September primary.
“Today we beat the Governor and his old boys club in court. His two attempts to knock me off the ballot have failed–first by challenging my petition signatures, and second by challenging my residency,” said Ms. Teachout in a statement. “We won rounds one and two. Now it’s time for round three: a debate. New York Democrats deserve a debate between Andrew Cuomo and myself about the issues that real New Yorkers care about: schools, fracking, corruption and building a fair and strong economy.”
The Cuomo team’s attorney attacked Ms. Teachout, claiming she misrepresented her residency on her taxes, and vowed to appeal Mr. Walker’s decision.
“Ms. Teachout admitted under oath that she misrepresented her address on official and tax documents. Will Ms. Teachout be paying the taxes owed to the State of New York? We will be appealing today’s decision,” said lawyer Martin Connor, a former Brooklyn state senator.
Updated to include Mr. Connor’s comments.
While Senator Charles Schumer took some shots at the cities vying against New York to hold the 2016 Democratic National Convention, the mayor of Philadelphia–a chief rival–played nice while he was in town Monday.
After a meeting of a U.S. Conference of Mayors task force at Gracie Mansion, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he wouldn’t make his case for his city “while standing literally in the mayor’s backyard.”
“Every city has their highlights, has their strengths, and I am sure that Mayor de Blasio and his team will put on a very, very good presentation over the next two days. I plan to do the same on Wednesday and Thursday,” Mr. Nutter told reporters. “Ultimately, a committee will decide and we’ll go from there. So you know, I think of the moment I’m gonna wish my friend the best of luck — up to a certain point, and then we’ll do our best on Wednesday and Thursday.”
The Democratic National Committee’s Technical Advisory Group is in Brooklyn early this week to check out the borough and heard Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pitch that the convention should be held at the Barclays Center.
Philadelphia could have a bit of an edge because Pennsylvania is considered a swing state, though it has gone Democratic in presidential races since 1988. And New York has its own advantages — it’s said to be supported by former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton, who represented the state in the Senate and is thought to be a 2016 contender.
While other elected officials were cheerleading for the DNC in Brooklyn, Mr. de Blasio repeatedly refused to answer questions about the city’s bid for the convention during the Gracie Mansion press conference with a slew of other mayors, including Mr. Nutter. He dismissed the questions as “off-topic” — even when reporters sought to tie the issue to how mayors can work together while competing, or how hosting the event fits into their vision for addressing income inequality — and said he’d address the DNC bid tomorrow.
As Mr. de Blasio shot down a reporter’s question as a “nice try,” Mr. Nutter walked over to the podium beside him.
“This is my good friend. This is my good friend, right here,” Mr. Nutter said, taking Mr. de Blasio’s hand in his and raising them up.
“Thank you, brother,” Mr. de Blasio replied.
After the press conference, Mr. Nutter said there was a “passing acknowledgment” about the competition during the closed-press meeting of mayors from around the country.
“We have a great personal friendship and a great professional relationship as well,” he said. “Today was not about that at all — it was about income inequality.”
Senator Charles Schumer is not a fan of Los Angeles’ traffic, Chicago’s buses or Charlotte’s roadways.
That much was made clear this morning as New York’s senior senator pitched the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as the best site for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. As Mr. Schumer, along with many of the city’s elected officials, boosted the borough of Kings, the senator took time to compare Brooklyn to cities that hosted past Democratic conventions, casting the old sites in highly unfavorable light.
“There is no, no, no better place than Brooklyn, New York for the convention,” Mr. Schumer, a Brooklyn native, declared. “To say we don’t have hotel space is a canard. We have better hotel space than any other city and it’s closer to the convention center than it has been in most of the other cities, believe me, I was there, I sat in the traffic in L.A., sat on the buses in Chicago, tried to find my way around Charlotte and all those highways.”
Mr. Schumer also aggressively rejected suggestions that New York City, situated in a state that is almost guaranteed to vote overwhelmingly for a Democrat in 2016, shouldn’t have a convention center because it’s not one of the key battlegrounds that will determine the next president of the United States. “We are appealing–you win elections these days by appealing to voters. The best way to appeal to voters in America, they want a bright future, they want the American dream, symbolized by the lady in our harbor, to burn brightly,” he said.
“There is no place that says the American dream burns brightly better than Brooklyn. Like America, they counted us out but we came back and America’s gonna come back and the convention is gonna symbolize that–that knocks anything that Pennsylvania, Ohio or Arizona [has],” Mr. Schumer added.
Members of the Democratic National Committee’s Technical Advisory Group will be in the city the next few days to hear Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Brooklyn pitch. The mayor, a stalwart Democrat who is quickly becoming a national figure in liberal circles, is pushing hard for the 2016 convention to come to the Barclays Center, a basketball arena erected in 2012. Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, also reportedly favor a Brooklyn convention (Ms. Clinton, a former New York senator, is a rumored 2016 candidate).
Brooklyn is competing against Phoenix, Philadelphia, Columbus, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama for the Democratic convention. The city has played host to conventions many times before: Manhattan most recently held the 2004 Republican National Convention and Mr. Clinton accepted his party’s nomination at Madison Square Garden in 1992.
Mr. de Blasio was not on hand to meet the media outside Barclays Center this morning, but high-ranking members of his administration were present. Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, extolled the economic value of a convention in Brooklyn, while Peter Ragone, Mr. de Blasio’s senior adviser and a former spokesman for the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, took questions from reporters.
A procession of pols, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, boosted Brooklyn as the diverse, cutting edge sort of borough that is ready to host a convention. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke briefly about the borough’s plummeting crime and its bevy of public transportation options, while Atlantic Yards and Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner praised the glittering arena he overcame community protest to build.
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, who represents the district that encompasses the Barclays Center, thought Brooklyn’s je ne sais quoi alone could win the day.
“We have swag on lock down,” Ms. Cumbo said. “A convention anywhere else in the United States of America is just going to be ‘eh.'”
It may not be a grassroots operation, but it’s got plenty of green.
Kathy Hochul, the former congresswoman and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, raised more than a half million dollars in the span of less than one month, much of it coming from big cash donors. Twenty donors poured more than $10,000 each into Ms. Hochul’s war chest, providing more than half of Ms. Hochul’s total haul.
The 20 donors–out of the dozens of donors and groups listed in Ms. Hochul’s filing–pumped a total of $341,000 into Ms. Hochul’s account. The former Buffalo lawmaker raised $523,130 and spent only $8,861, giving her an enormous cash advantage over her Democratic rival for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu.
Mr. Wu has $53,000 cash on hand and his running mate, Zephyr Teachout–who may be knocked off the ballot by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign–has a little more than $128,000. Mr. Cuomo, in comparison, entered the month with a $35 million war chest.
“For special interests and corporations, a donation to Kathy Hochul and Governor Cuomo is a good investment,” said Mike Boland, the campaign manager for Ms. Teachout and Mr. Wu’s bids. “But if you’re a regular person, you aren’t getting any special tax give-aways or squashed subpoenas, so you’d need to be someone who just kind of likes them for who they are. I think there were 37 such people on the Governor’s latest filing.”
A spokesman for the Cuomo and Hochul camps did not return requests for comment.
New York’s lax campaign contribution limits allow individual donors to funnel up to $19,700 to candidates in statewide primaries. Political action committees and limited liability corporations can give even more, benefiting well-connected contenders and incumbents like Mr. Cuomo.
In addition to Mr. Cuomo and his current lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, who with the governor kicked in just under $30,000 to Ms. Hochul’s campaign, several unions and affiliated groups–including the Mason Tenders District Council and New York State Court Officers Association–donated at least $10,000 each. Ms. Hochul also received a $25,000 contribution from the New York State Pipe Trades Political Action Committee.
A political action committee for Pepsi Cola donated nearly $20,000 to Ms. Hochul. Another $19,000 came from Access Industries Holdings, an international industrial group founded by Len Blavatnik, an influential and controversial Russian-American oligarch. Several other well-heeled individuals donated at least $10,000 each, including real estate attorneys Jarrett Fein and Steven Weiss.
Ms. Hochul also transferred in about $17,000 from a campaign committee she created when serving as Erie County clerk.
The Moreland Commission may be all over the headlines — and New York voters may rank corruption as a “very serious” problem — but the growing controversy over whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo improperly interfered with the panel doesn’t seem to be resonating with voters.
A new Siena College Poll found that 67 percent of voters said they were not familiar with the Moreland Commission, with just 32 percent reporting they were familiar with what has grown into the state’s biggest political story of the summer.
Asked if they agreed with Mr. Cuomo’s assertion that the commission, which he shut down earlier than expected in April, was an “overwhelming success,” 70 percent said they didn’t have enough information to decide.
And though 86 percent of voters think corruption is a very serious or somewhat serious problem in state government, they don’t seem to be following the fall-out from the governor’s reported interference with the commission: 64 percent said they had heard not very much or nothing at all about U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation into Mr. Cuomo’s actions.
“Albany insiders and political junkies are certainly talking lots about Moreland, Bharara, investigations, and the like, but most New York voters are spending their summer not following any of that news,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement. “Voters see corruption as a serious problem but not one they pay a lot of attention to.”
While GOP candidate Rob Astorino has sought to capitalize on the Moreland story, he has only slightly chipped away at Mr. Cuomo’s massive lead. Voters still prefer Mr. Cuomo by a 32-point margin, down slightly from the incumbent’s 37-point lead last month. Mr. Astorino received the support of 26 percent of the voters polled, his best performance to date.
And asked who they trust to fight corruption more, Mr. Cuomo leads Mr. Astorino, 29 percent to 14 percent — though 49 percent of voters say they don’t trust either on the issue.
Still, though they report being uninformed on the issue, given a choice between the governor’s account of the Moreland Commission and newspaper reports on it, voters believe the papers two-to-one, 49 percent to 25 percent, according to the poll.
The voters who say they haven’t followed the Moreland Commission story are in the company of some high-ranking city politicos — including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who insisted to reporters last month he couldn’t weigh in on the scandal because he was following it.
Bowing to pressure from officials, Rev. Al Sharpton announced this morning that he will send caravans across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to protest police brutality instead of marching on foot.
Mr. Sharpton said at his National Action Network Headquarters in Harlem that the issue was the death of a Staten Island man in police custody–not whether people could walk across a bridge with no pedestrian walkway.
“Everybody made the bridge the issue,” Mr. Sharpton declared. “So the bridge did not choke Eric Garner. The issue is not the bridge. The issue is the homicide that no one has told this family or the community what they’re gonna do about it and who’s gonna be in charge.”
Mr. Sharpton announced earlier this week that he would march across the large suspension bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island to protest the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after police placed him in an apparent chokehold, a prohibited maneuver. Immediately, elected officials in both boroughs questioned the logistics of the march and even Public Advocate Letitia James, a Sharpton ally, called for the march to take place elsewhere.
Today Mr. Sharpton said, after consulting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, he would not lead followers across the bridge on August 23 as planned. Instead, he will bus protesters on caravans from throughout the city and even New Jersey–a bus will also depart from NAN headquarters in Harlem.
Once in Staten Island, protesters will march from the site where Mr. Garner died to the offices of Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, Mr. Sharpton said. Mr. Sharpton wants the federal government or Mr. Donovan, a Republican who is close to police unions, to bring charges against the officers who were with Mr. Garner when he died on July 17.
“We’re gonna bring those caravans to the toll bridge of the Verrazano and we’re gonna line up and we’re going to Staten Island for justice for Eric Garner,” Mr. Sharpton continued. “If you want to stop chokeholds, get on the bus! Get on the caravan!”
Mr. Sharpton and several elected officials have charged that Mr. Garner, a black man targeted by police for selling cigarettes illegally, was targeted because of his race. The New York City Medical Examiner ruled last week Mr. Garner’s death was homicide, a judgment police unions leaders rejected. Unions leaders attacked Mr. Sharpton this week and accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of not supporting police officers while keeping too close to Mr. Sharpton.
Mr. Sharpton, however, dismissed the criticisms of the police and mocked their belief that Mr. Garner was not placed in a chokehold. (Mr. de Blasio, along with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, said that the videotaped incident showed Mr. Garner in a chokehold.)
“We will march from the site that Eric was choked to Donovan’s office and now we’re gonna stay a little while and rally that afternoon,” Mr. Sharpton said. “We want the DA–we don’t wanna hear from no union president, we don’t wanna hear from no spokesman and nobody–we want the DA to say that he’s going to … arrest on probable cause or give the case to the feds.”
Wherever Rev. Al Sharpton holds his much-debated march in the wake of Eric Garner’s death, Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t be there.
“I don’t plan on attending that event. I plan on doing a number of other things that I think are going to help move this forward,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer Friday at a unrelated 9 p.m. press conference in a Brooklyn community center.
Mr. Sharpton had originally planned to hold his August 23 march on the Verrazano Bridge, a span that connects Eric Garner’s native Staten Island to Brooklyn, where black teenager Yusuf Hawkins was shot to death 25 years ago. But in the wake of safety and logistical concerns, it appears Mr. Sharpton is reconsidering.
“I think he’s made it very clear that he’s looking at other options. There’s been a close coordination with the NYPD in terms of what, logistically, makes sense,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We respect anyone’s right to express their opinion in this country — it’s something the NYPD is extraordinary in their ability to work with any group, any cause, and they will work of course with Rev. Sharpton and National Action Network. But there are very real logistical challenges vis-a-vis the bridge and I think the reverend has acknowledged that.”
He continued: “So I think we’ll wait and see how the next days play out, but I think we have a good chance of getting a good solution that works for everyone.”
After three days without taking questions from reporters, the late-night event about community centers with extended hours drew many questions about the ongoing controversy surrounding the planned march and Mr. Sharpton’s role in the mayor’s response to Mr. Garner’s death in police custody, now ruled a homicide.
Though he’s welcomed Mr. Sharpton to City Hall — drawing the ire of police unions — and has made reforming the NYPD a priority in his campaign and mayoralty, Mr. de Blasio said he wouldn’t be marching with civil rights activist.
Instead, he rattled off ways he’s been working to change the NYPD — reducing the use of stop-and-frisk and marijuana arrests, for example, as well as Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s plan to retrain the entire police force on the use of force.
“That’s what I’m focused on, those actions that will result in real substantial change,” he said.
But the mayor also plugged a newly announced event that will surely be yet another way he sees to publicly show he is engaged with the community following the death: a gathering of senior religious leaders to be held by Cardinal Timothy Dolan “focused on healing and deepening the relationship between police and community,” according the mayor’s office.
Mr. de Blasio said he thought it would be “an important moment” for the city. He spoke more than once about moving on and finding real reform after Mr. Garner’s death — going beyond the rhetoric of any one individual.
“That was a real tragedy and it grabbed at all of us, it grabbed at our hearts,” Mr. de Blasio said. “But it’s something that has to be part of the past, meaning we have to move past the tragedies and the tensions.”
Mr. Sharpton is set to announced final details of the march, with the family of Mr. Garner by his side, Saturday morning.
Activists who have been touting a plan to march over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge shifted their position among mounting opposition Friday, saying they were less concerned with walking on the bridge than with applying pressure to Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to bring charges in the death of Eric Garner.
“Staten Island is an island. The way to get on the island is to go over the bridge. We are going to go over the bridge one way or another — on foot, on heels, or on wheels. That determination has to be made with those we are working with, but we will be taking thousands of people to Staten Island,” Kirsten John Foy, northeastern regional director of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, told reporters Friday.
His comments come after Mr. Sharpton — who recently defended his plans to march over the bridge to the Observer — told the Daily News he was open to changing the location. Several Staten Island elected officials, all of them Republican, have come out in opposition to the march’s planned location, and Democrat Public Advocate Letitia James joined the chorus of dissenters Friday afternoon.
But Mr. Foy insisted the march’s location was never set in stone and “the issue has never been the bridge” — despite flyers and repeated conversations about the logistics and permitting required to march over the bridge.
“This is no compromise — we have always said from the beginning we intend to go to Staten Island, over the Verrazano Bridge, to bring pressure to the prosecutor,” he said. “How that is executed implemented is still yet to be seen, but we are guaranteeing you today we are going over that bridge on heels or wheels.”
Mr. Foy said even if people were brought by bus across the bridge before marching, a decidedly smaller spectacle, the group would still be able to influence Mr. Donovan, who is tasked with investigating Mr. Garner’s death.
“The prosecutor will know whether, he turns on the television or gets phone calls from his neighbors, that these buses, scores of buses, are driving past their homes to protest in front of his office,” Mr. Foy said. “They will get the picture.”
But in an interview with the Staten Island Advance, Mr. Donovan vowed not to be swayed by outside pressure. “We don’t judge our cases based on how much media attention they generate,” he told the paper.
Mr. Foy said he didn’t consider the march or its intentions as interfering with Mr. Donovan’s investigation, and called the Republican D.A. “negligent” for not yet bringing charges in the wake of a medical examiner’s report deeming the death a homicide due to a chokehold used by police attempting to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.
“We’re applying to a pressure to a prosecutor that has allowed an individual that the medical examiner said committed murder to walk the streets. There are people who are investigated every single day, but they have to spend that time being investigated in jail,” Mr. Foy said. “We are saying: what makes this officer different from anybody else who has been found to have committed homicide? Nothing, other than the fact that he has a blue uniform and a silver shield.”
Mr. Donovan’s office declined to comment.
Mr. Foy spoke to the press after sitting down with new NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure, joined by several black and Hispanic retired NYPD officials. Those former cops called for the man seen on video bringing Mr. Garner to the ground, Daniel Pantaleo, to be charged with murder in the second degree.
“If you’re responsible, you need to take the weight for what you did,” said retired Ret. Det. Graham Witherspoon, of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. “And this was not an accident.”
Democratic Public Advocate Letitia James today joined a chorus of Republican lawmakers insisting Rev. Al Sharpton call off a planned march across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge protesting the death of Eric Garner.
Unlike the GOPers, who complained that Mr. Sharpton’s rally would cause nightmarish traffic congestion, Ms. James cited concerns over the safety of the demonstrators while crossing the span linking Brooklyn with Mr. Garner’s native Staten Island. The pol noted that the bridge and its approaches are designed only for cars.
“In light of structural issues and the lack of an established pedestrian walkway, plans to march across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge should be discontinued,” Ms. James said in a statement. “The tragic death of Eric Garner and other concerning incidents prompt substantive and real reforms for policing throughout New York City, and certainly, the voices of all New Yorkers should be a part of achieving this reform. However, as we move forward, I urge everyone to consider the health and safety of New Yorkers exercising their right to civil protest.”
Ms. James, however, said she believed Mr. Sharpton could and should hold his march somewhere else, where she suggested legal permits would be easier to acquire.
“Protests should proceed at alternate locations where permits are likely to be granted and the overall safety of protestors can be guaranteed,” she said.
Despite breaking with Mr. Sharpton on the details of the demonstration, Ms. James pledged her commitment to the issues that inspired the rally, and vowed to push for changes in police policy.
“My office will continue to focus on substantive reforms, like my proposed pilot program which would equip police officers with body cameras. I believe such a program, which has been embraced by other law enforcement departments nationwide, will go far to protect NYPD officers as well as those they serve,” she said.
Mr. Sharpton did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The controversial activist, however, lashed out at the Republicans–including gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden, Staten Island councilmen Steven Matteo and Vincent Ignizio, and borough-spanning Congressman Michael Grimm–who called for him to cancel his plans earlier this week.
“I think it’s kind of absurd for them assume that leaders of civil rights groups, churches and unions would do anything that would in any way endanger the public — we’re marching for the public. I think they would be better asking, what are the plans, rather than assume the plan. How do they even know what the logistics are?” Mr. Sharpton told the Observer.
Ms. James is the first citywide Democratic official to come out against the use of the Verrazano Bridge for the march.
Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik tore into Mayor Bill de Blasio over his handling of the Eric Garner controversy, claiming that he has sided with Rev. Al Sharpton against the police force and his own police commissioner, Bill Bratton.
Mr. Kerik, who–like Mr. Bratton–served as head of the NYPD under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, claimed that Mr. de Blasio has let Mr. Sharpton walk all over New York’s Finest following Mr. Garner’s fatal encounter with cops last month.
“These men and women go out every day and put their lives on the line for the people of this city,” Mr. Kerik told listeners of the Geraldo Rivera radio program. “They’re getting crucified here and thrown under the bus by the de Blasio Administration for one instance.”
Mr. Kerik, once heralded as “America’s Cop” after his service during the September 11 attacks, had a precipitous fall from grace. He was recently released from prison after serving three years for tax fraud and lying to the federal government when he was being considered for the job of Director of Homeland Security.
The former police and corrections commissioner, who appeared on the show just after his old boss, echoed comments made yesterday by Sergeant’s Benevolent Association president Edward Mullins that the mayor’s actions would leave the force in constant fear of legal reprisals from suspects.
“If they’re going to be crucified by the mayor’s office, if the mayor’s going to kowtow to Sharpton, or anyone else for that matter, you can’t blame them for being afraid to do their job,” he said.
Mr. Kerik singled out a roundtable discussion, part of which was open to the press, that the mayor convened with Mr. Bratton and Mr. Sharpton to discuss Mr. Garner’s death last month. The civil rights leader blasted Mr. Bratton and his “broken windows” police policy while sitting just feet away from him.
“If I was Bratton, I would be furious I had to sit at a table with him and discuss police policy. He’s an instigator and an opportunist when it comes to this,” the ex-commissioner said. “You don’t need Al Sharpton to create policy or procedures or training.”
Mr. Kerik conceded that Mr. Sharpton had made gains for the black community, but he argued that the controversial activist is badly off the mark in criticizing the NYPD, saying minorities have benefited the most from stronger, stricter enforcement resulting in fewer homicides and property crimes.
“He’s completely wrong when he says that the police department is hurting the minority community,” Mr. Kerik said. “He should be praising the police dept. for crime reduction.”
Mr. Kerik also said that the reverend should be denied access to the Verrazano Bridge, which links Brooklyn to Mr. Garner’s native Staten Island, for a protest planned on August 23.
“It’s a disruption to the people of the city,” Mr. Kerik said. “If he wants to protest, there’s plenty of places he can protest without causing a disruption.”
The mayor’s office declined to comment. Mr. Sharpton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani ripped Mayor Bill de Blasio for convening a public roundtable with Rev. Al Sharpton and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton where the civil rights activist verbally battered the head of the NYPD.
Mr. Giuliani, who also appointed Mr. Bratton as his police commissioner during his first term in office, attacked the new mayor for subjecting the top cop to Mr. Sharpton’s “complete diatribe against the police” at the meeting held in the wake of Eric Garner’s death. The move, the former mayor argued, would leave police feeling under siege.
“I thought that was a big mistake the mayor made, setting up a press conference like that and putting a police commissioner in that situation,” Mr. Giuliani said on the Geraldo Rivera radio program. “That’s extremely damaging to the police commissioner, to keep up the morale of the police.”
Mr. Giuliani argued the mayor should remain aloof from the conversation about Mr. Garner’s death, which came after officers subjected him to a restraint many, including Mr. Bratton, have identified as a chokehold prohibited by NYPD rules. The medical examiner’s office ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide, and Republican Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan is investigating the incident, though no charges have yet been filed.
“I don’t think the mayor should get involved in deciding things, before this very complicated criminal justice system gets started,” said Mr. Giuliani. “The best thing to do is retreat into the role of mayor, which is to stand back and let the investigation take its course.”
The former mayor–who had plenty of his own tense moments with Mr. Bratton, whom he eventually forced out after two years in 1996–also claimed that that the officer involved in Mr. Garner’s death may very well have been justified in his use of force, and suggested that the maneuver he used to subdue Mr. Garner may have been a completely legal headlock.
“When I look at that video, I can’t tell if it’s a chokehold or if it was a move meant to take the guy down,” he said. “The police can’t help it if you start acting wild, you start acting nasty, they have to react.”
Mr. Sharpton sharply castigated Mr. Bratton at the July 31 panel, blasting his “broken windows” approach to crime–which he first implemented under the Giuliani Administration–and knocking him for saying that he did not believe race was a factor in the Garner incident. Mr. Sharpton noted the officer who took Mr. Garner to the ground had a negative history.
“I heard the commissioner say race wasn’t involved–we don’t know that!” Mr. Sharpton said. “How can we assume before an investigation that a policeman with two civil rights violations didn’t have race involved. So we’re going to prejudge what we want and tell the community to wait on the results? I think it is important that we do the business of transforming the police department without losing one thing in keeping crime and violence down because we are the worst recipients of that as well.”
The de Blasio Administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Mr. Giuliani’s remarks.
John Liu is ready for a Queens mud bath.
The former city comptroller said today he expects his race with State Senator Tony Avella to remain nasty until primary Election Day in September–and he is apparently willing to launch a few more barbs Mr. Avella’s way. Mr. Liu, who lodged a complaint with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics after Mr. Avella said he would introduce legislation to compel the city law department to collect campaign fines related to Mr. Liu’s 2009 comptroller bid, reiterated that he believed Mr. Avella’s senate office misused taxpayer dollars for a blatantly political end.
“The state legislature is not in session any longer. There is no Assembly bill. So this like many of Avella’s introductions have no chance of seeing the light of day,” Mr. Liu tersely said at a press conference today. “I think these are serious ethical lapses.”
Mr. Liu was in Whitestone, Queens to unveil a lengthy transportation platform. A chair of the transportation committee when he served in the City Council, Mr. Liu is hoping his call to expand bus service, introduce a gas tax holiday and upgrade Access-A-Ride will woo voters in the suburban, eastern Queens district. Mr. Avella, despite badly trailing Mr. Liu in the fund-raising race, remains popular with many of the constituents that Mr. Liu is hoping he can win over.
Mr. Liu ran in part to punish Mr. Avella for joining a breakaway group of Democrats who govern the State Senate with the Republican Party, a fact he alluded to today.
“Listen, it’s a heated campaign. There are lots of passions on the issues: the issues of women’s equality or the lack thereof, partially enabled by my opponent. The issues of the need for an increase in minimum wage, which we don’t have in part due to the actions of my opponent and a whole host of other issues that this district and the people of New York are lacking due to the actions of my opponent,” Mr. Liu charged.
“So, look, at the end of the day we are four-and-a-half weeks away from the election and I’m sure my opponent is going to throw more and more mud but that’s okay, I understand, this is politics,” he added.
Mr. Liu lost much of the labor support he had secured when the Independent Democratic Conference agreed a few months ago to govern the senate with the mainline Democrats after the fall elections. He is still running with the support of most Queens elected officials, while Mr. Avella has the backing of large labor unions like 1199 SEIU and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mr. Avella lashed out at Mr. Liu through a spokesman, recalling the former city comptroller’s legal issues over his campaign finances.
“Senator Avella will continue to propose good government legislation to correct any wrongs with the sole intent of protecting taxpayers,” said spokesman Jason Elan. “The shamelessness and utter audacity of John Liu to even make such a suggestion in the wake of his own campaign treasurer, Jenny Hou, and fundraiser, Oliver Pan, going to jail for gaming the campaign finance system is incredible. Voters do not forget real corruption.”
Updated to include comment from Mr. Avella’s camp.
The New York Post has loudly declared that squeegee men are back — and “terrorizing” New York City’s streets — but Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said this morning the city is beyond the bad old days.
“Today’s New York Post, you think we were being overrun by squeegee pests,” Mr. Bratton said during an interview on CBS This Morning. “They’ve documented three people who they’ve seen acting as squeegee pests. We’re not being overrun. Those will be taken care of very, very quickly.”
The cover of the right-leaning tabloid featured a picture of a man wiping down a car windshield with the headline: “Bad Old Days.” An online headline read “Squeegee men are back and terrorizing city streets.” The story documents one “glassy-eyed man” with “filthy, cracked fingers” using a copy of A.M. NY as a rag in Manhattan, and two others working on the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge, though it notes drivers have seen squeegee men elsewhere.
The squeegee men — who typically clean windows without asking and then demand payment — were a fixture in the New York of old, and were heavily targeted by Mr. Bratton in his first round as police commissioner under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It’s an oft-cited, visible example of the type of quality of life crimes targeted by Mr. Bratton’s “broken windows” theory, which posits that reducing minor crimes and disorder also reduces violent crime.
That theory is now under attack from some activists who insist it unfairly targets minorities, who they say are more often arrested for minor crimes like selling loose cigarettes — which is what police were seeking to charge Eric Garner, 43, with before the Staten Island man died in their custody after they used an apparent chokehold.
Mr. Bratton tied that debate to the squeegee men: “But here’s the dilemma. You have those who want it enforced and those who don’t want to enforce it. We enforce the law. We enforce behavior, and we don’t go after any class of people.”
The commissioner insisted the policing strategy is the reason New York City is the safest big city in the world.
The CBS appearance was Mr. Bratton’s first on national television since Mr. Garner’s death, which was caught on video and has sparked rallies, controversy and plenty of news coverage.
While Mr. Bratton said the part of the video most people have seen is a “snippet,” — Mr. Garner was recorded screaming “I can’t breathe!” over and over — he acknowledged it wasn’t pleasant to watch.
“What we see is certainly disturbing. Policing unfortunately, when force is used, is never good to look at. This particular scene, which has been repeated thousands upon thousands of times, really has struck a chord in the public,” Mr. Bratton said.