Downtown Non-Profit Sues to Halt Arrest for Minor Offenses
Above: Protestors take over West Street last July 4. The Legal Aid Society alleges that many of these demonstrators were illegally arrested by police, in contravention of a State law that mandates the issuance of summonses for minor offenses.
Below: Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis take a knee outside the Municipal Building on the evening of June 2. Dozens of these protestors were arrested by police for minor offenses, and then held for more than the legally permitted 24 hours.
A non-profit based in Lower Manhattan is suing the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the City to halt the practice of arresting people accused of low-level offenses, such as administrative violations and infractions, misdemeanors, and some class-E felonies.
The Legal Aid Society, headquartered at 199 Water Street, filed suit on April 14 in New York State Supreme Court, on behalf of multiple plaintiffs who were arrested and detained on minor offenses during the demonstrations that convulsed Lower Manhattan last summer, following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May.
The Legal Aid Society argues that, in every one of these instances, the arrests were illegal, under a State law enacted in January 2020. That law limits police to issuing desk appearance tickets (the equivalent of a summons) in such cases, rather than making arrests. This measure was designed to minimize the amount of time that New Yorkers accused of crimes may be detained, and reduce overcrowding in the detention system—a priority that took on a new urgency several months later, as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped New York.
All of the plaintiffs represented by Legal Aid in this action were arrested during the George Floyd demonstrations. In the cases of all these plaintiffs, formal charges were either never filed with a court, or were immediately dismissed.
“For merely observing a protest, the NYPD illegally arrested and detained me for eight hours. I was confined to a packed cell with fifty other people, unable to socially distance, and many people were without masks,” says lead plaintiff Charles Douglas. “No one should experience what I went through—the law is designed to prevent these sorts of needless arrests, and the NYPD must be held to account for their egregious flouting of the law.”
Marlen Bodden, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Special Litigation Unit, argues that, “the law is clear, but the NYPD still overwhelmingly refuses to issue appearance tickets for low-level offenses, instead, processing New Yorkers—the majority from Black and Brown neighborhoods—through the legal system. The NYPD is not above the law, and we are asking the court to order the NYPD to follow it or face the consequences.”
This suit is related to (but separate from) another legal action, filed by the Legal Aid Society last June, on behalf of 108 detainees who were arrested in Manhattan during the first five days of George Floyd protests, and held for more than one day. That proceeding was based on New York’s procedural requirement that criminal defendants be brought in front of a judge and arraigned within 24 hours of arrest. This guarantee was, in turn, established by the Legal Aid Society (which seeks to provide equal access to justice to people living below the poverty line) in a 1991 case, Roundtree v. Brown, which challenged (and made illegal) the protracted delays that arrestees in that era often endured before seeing a judge.
In that case, the Court of Appeals (New York State’s highest panel) found that, “arrestees held in custody for more than 24 hours without arraignment are entitled to release unless an acceptable explanation for the delay is given.” In the June, 2020 suit, the Legal Aid Society established that 100-plus arrested persons were held for more than 24 hours, without the legally required explanation, and thus succeeded in obtaining the immediate release of all the detainees.
A Court Unpacking Scheme
Nadler Proposes Expanding Nation’s Highest Appellate Panel to Match Number of Lower Courts
Downtown’s voice in the House of Representatives is attempting to make history. Congressman Jerry Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee in the lower house of the federal legislature, has introduced the Judiciary Act of 2021, which seeks to expand the United States Supreme Court with four additional justices. If enacted, this would bring the total number of judges sitting on the nation’s highest appellate panel to 13
“There is nothing new about changing the size of the Supreme Court,” he said in announcing the bill. To read more…
‘A Gifted Teacher with a Dream’
Church Street School Co-Founder Prepares to Step Down
One of the founders of a Lower Manhattan institution is stepping aside. Dr. Lisa Ecklund-Flores announced earlier this month that, after 30 years at the helm of the Church Street School for Music and Art, she plans to retire in August. “Church Street School was founded by myself and Lauri Bailey in 1990,” she recalls.
“I never dreamed that the school would grow the way it has —from 150 students in the first year to about 1000 students annually now, including our outreach programs,” Dr. Ecklund-Flores reflects. To read more…
The Battery Park City Authority asks that the public not interact with or feed the urban wildlife in the neighborhood’s parks and green spaces, and at the waterfront.
If you want to have your ideas heard and valued, you also have to have influence. Don’t know if you’ve got it, or how to wield it? At April’s upcoming Lunch & Learn, you’ll pick up the right tips on getting buy-in from your team and stakeholders. This workshop is designed for women who aspire to or recently moved into leadership and are still struggling to get their footing.
Tribeca’s own percussion king, Grammy Award-winning Robby Ameen, is returning to the live music arena with a Thursday night jazz series at Phillip Williams Posters, at 52 Warren Street. Catch him and his signature Afro-Cuban rhythms starting Thursday, April 29, 7pm to 9pm. Joining Robby are Bob Franceschini on sax, Edsel Gomez on piano, and Lincoln Goines on bass. Suggested donation is $20, which includes a glass of wine. Admission is limited due to covid restrictions; call 212-513-0313 for a reservation.
Robby Ameen has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Ruben Blades, Paul Simon, and many other musicians of note. His most recent album is “Diluvio.”
The Depopulation of Downtown
Analysis Documents Migration Out of Lower Manhattan During Pandemic
An intriguing new data analysis from CBRE, the real estate services and investment firm, quantifies how many people left Lower Manhattan permanently during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, “COVID-19 Impact on Migration Patterns,” uses change-of-address requests filed with the U.S. Postal Service to compile a real-time demographic snapshot of inflow and outflow of residents at the neighborhood level. Authors Eric Willet (CBRE’s research director) and Matt Mowell (the senior economist at CBRE Econometric Advisors) establish that each of the eight residential zip codes in Lower Manhattan lost population during 2020.
Rally Focused On Possible Fiscal Cataclysm Facing Battery Park City Condo Owners
On Friday, April 23, a “Rally to Save BPC Homeowners” was held online and in-person to voice concerns among Battery Park City residents who own condominiums that their homes will soon become catastrophically expensive to own, and that the value of their property will decline to zero in the foreseeable future.
These worries are driven by the exotic nature of property ownership in Battery Park City, where homeowners, landlords, and developers do not own outright the acreage they occupy, but instead lease the space (through the year 2069) from a government agency—the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA)—in exchange for yearly remittances of “ground rent,” as well as so-called “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOT). The latter category of payments is determined by municipal tax assessors and passed directly to the City by the BPCA.
Discussions between the Authority and the Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition (which represents condominium owners) have been ongoing for several years. To read more…
An Outbreak of Affordability
Soft Rental Market Puts Downtown Apartments within Reach of Voucher Guidelines, Almost
One perverse boon arising from the pandemic coronavirus (and the economic slowdown that it triggered) is a slight—but significant—uptick in housing affordability in Lower Manhattan. A new study from the online real estate database company, StreetEasy, finds that the inventory of apartments in Downtown’s eight residential zip codes that are eligible for New York Citys’ housing voucher program has expanded, as asking rents across all categories of apartments have dropped. This has, in a handful of cases, brought rental units within range of the maximum payments allowed under the voucher program.
The study was authored by Nancy Wu, an economist at StreetEasy, who uses data science and econometrics to publish original research on the New York City housing market. Its upbeat title, “Pandemic Rent Drops Double NYC’s Voucher-Accessible Housing,” refers to a City-wide trend, but for residents of Lower Manhattan (or people who aspire to live here), this optimism is tempered by statistics and market dynamics at the local level. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
HRPT Moves Ahead with Plans to Recast Former Tow Pound as Waterfront Park
Lower Manhattan residents who use the Hudson River Greenway to traverse the waterfront will soon have another open space to savor. The Hudson River Park Trust has begun demolition and reconstruction work on Pier 76 (located at 12th Avenue in the West 30s, across from the Javits Convention Center), which will be transformed into an interim park by June. To read more…
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
The New Roaring Twenties
New York City Won’t Be The Same,
But It Will Be Great
A chorus of New York naysayers are telling us that the City will never be the same after this pandemic. They are right—but not in the way they think. New York City is on the cusp of another “Roaring 20’s,” and I, for one, can’t wait.
One hundred years ago we were recovering from a pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and a Great War that spread fear and death. New York is facing a similar trauma. Loved ones lost are never coming back. Some of us have lost jobs, homes, or even just our favorite restaurants. A century ago, when it was all over, people were ready to let loose—and let loose they did. I believe that a similar spirit is about to start a recovery that will reshape the city in exciting ways, creating new opportunities for many.
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
1635 – Virginia Governor John Harvey accused of treason and removed from office
1686 – First volume of Isaac Newton’s “Principia” published
1914 – 181 die in coal mine collapse at Eccles WV
1924 – 119 die in Benwood West Virginia coal mine disaster
1947 – Thor Heyerdahl and “Kon-Tiki” sail from Peru to Polynesia
1949 – Former Philippine First Lady Aurora Quezon, 61, is assassinated while en route to dedicate a hospital in memory of her late husband; her daughter and 10 others are also killed.
1958 – Vice President Richard Nixon begins goodwill tour of Latin America
1965 – US marines invade Dominican Republic, stay until October 1966
1967 – Muhammad Ali refuses induction into army and stripped of boxing title
1969 – Charles de Gaulle resigns as president of France
1973 – Over 6000 Mk. 82 500 pound bombs detonate over the course of 18 hoursin a railyard in northern California. 5500 structures are damaged, and the town of Antelope, California ceases to exist, with every building being reduced to the foundation. This accident leads to the passing of the Transportation Safety Act of 1974 which makes the NTSB an independent agency.
1977 – Andreas Baader and members of Baader-Meinhoff jailed for life after a trial lasting nearly 2 years in Stuttgart, Germany
1980 – Cyrus Vance, Carter’s Secretary of State, resigns
1989 – Iran protests sale of “Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie
2001 – Millionaire Dennis Tito becomes the world’s first space tourist
1442 – Edward IV, King of England (1461-70, 71-83)
1774 – Francis Baily, describer of “Baily’s Beads” during solar eclipse
1809 – Conradus Leemans, Dutch archaeologist
1882 – Alberto Pirelli, Italian industrialist
1916 – Ferruccio Lamborghini, Italian automobile manufacturer (d. 1993)
1926 – Harper Lee, author (To Kill a Mockingbird)
1937 – Saddam Hussein, [At-Takriti], Al-Awja, President of Iraq (1979-2003)
1930 – James Baker 3, Houston, Sec of Treasury (1985-88), Sec State (1989-92)
1950 – Jay Leno, New Rochelle, comedian/talk show host (Tonight Show)
1926 – Zip the Pinhead, American freak show performer (b. 1857)
William Henry Johnson was a poor Black man born in Liberty Corner, New Jersey just before the civil war. His parents were former slaves. An oddly-shaped head and a state of poverty conspired to lead him into a freakshow life in the circus. A local circus in New Jersey offered him as the ‘missing link’ in a act where he was supposedly caught in Africa and appeared in a cage eating fruits and nuts rattling the bars. The act was so successful, P.T. Barnum purchased the right to display him and immediately bumped it up a few notches and put William in a furry suit, styled his hair to come to a point and named him ‘Zip the Pinhead’. Throughout his life, he worked the circus and had a friend Captain White who looked after his finances and interest. When Mr. Johnson died in his early eighties he was still performing in a stage play at the New Amsterdam Theater. He took ill and died in Bellevue Hospital soon thereafter. His funeral was attended by Lady Olga Roderick, the Bearded Lady; Frank Graf, the tattooed man; and the greatest side show acts of the days. During the ceremony Captain White collapsed and died three days later.
1936 – Foead I, king of Egypt (1922-36), dies
1945 – Benito Mussolini, Fascist leader (Italy), shot after trial at 61
1945 – Claretta Petacci, mistress of Mussolini, executed
1992 – Francis Bacon, Irish/British abstract painter, dies at 82