An indictment in the Bronx is an indictment of our city
A few weeks ago I saw a man get arrested at the 23rd St. N/R Station. As two NYPD officers tried to cuff him he broke free of them, and shoved them, shouting ridiculous blather about being treated unfairly and fearing the police. One of the officers pulled his Taser and I thought the man, who looked significantly larger than both of the cops, was going to get Tasered. Instead one of the officers talked him down and he soon put his hands behind his back and allowed the cops to cuff him. A witness told me he was being arrested because he was mentally disturbed and had been on the train tracks.
The cops had every right to Taser the guy, and if I was in their shoes I can honestly say that would have been my inclination. I was impressed with the cops’ ability to avoid violence in the situation. Police don’t always have that option.
Lost among the media coverage of two terror attacks in England and the U.S. President’s declaration about withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, a New York Police Department Sergeant was charged with murder in the Bronx.
Sgt. Hugh Barry responded to a call last October to find a mentally ill woman threatening officers with a pair of scissors. He managed to talk her down and she dropped the scissors, but she then retrieved a baseball bat and swung at the sergeant, who shot her twice. That’s a very clear case of an officer being threatened with deadly force and responding appropriately.
But soon after the incident New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and police Commissioner James O’Neill condemned the officer, claiming he violated department procedure by not calling for the Emergency Service Unit or using his Taser. Last week, the Bronx District Attorney filed murder charges against the sergeant.
It’s a travesty that should be inciting outrage nationwide. And not because we adhere to some warped notion that all cops are heroes and we should get behind anyone with a badge. This indictment should elicit outrage because Hugh Barry is a human being who has a right to stop someone trying to murder him. This indictment is an affront to decency because #FactsMatter.
New York police are rightfully angry.
The indictment of Sergeant Barry is not the action of a truthful or serious people. It’s the action of an ignorant and myopic ruling class that by sacrificing the right innocent people, they can somehow forge a tenuous peace in a volatile society. We’ve seen this before. Many of the most well-known cases in recent years that spurred large-scale protests and questionable prosecutions were manufactured controversies that didn’t stand up to a desultory examination of the facts. In places like Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York, grand juries correctly rejected politically-motivated criminal charges against police.
But a large segment of the body politic insists that any death at the hands of police fit a certain narrative, a narrative that’s been undercut by the facts at almost every turn. Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill bought into this narrative despite very clear evidence to the contrary. They would rather appease an extremist activist movement than work to protect our citizens.
If our city still has any respect for the truth, Sgt. Barry will be back on the job by this time next year and Bill de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill will be looking for work.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his idea to put in a light rail that would connect Brooklyn and Queens. With the exception of Red Hook and Sunset Park, his light rail system would not be bringing public transit to places that need it but rather add additional tourist glut and uber-gentrifying cachet to areas already overpriced and tourist heavy.
The idea sounds great at first. The public transit system in New York is abysmal and the outer borough are woefully underserved. To get from Southern Brooklyn to Northern Queens would require a lengthy detour through Manhattan or an epic journey of Byzantine bus transfers that would see you grow old or give up on life before you were halfway there.
The proposed rail runs only along the East River waterfront of Brooklyn and Queens. Some of these areas, such as Astoria, Queens and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are already served by rail system and there are not too many people commuting between Sunset Park and Astoria.
With our subway dollar stretched thin and the MTA constantly cutting service while increasing fares, de Blasio says he’ll rake in the $2.5 billion he needs to build this light rail system from the increase in property tax that will result from the light rail being built. So he’ll wring money out of rich people who will somehow welcome this sorry trolley outside their homes and this will help the working class people of Red Hook and Sunset Park commute to Astoria where there are no good jobs waiting for them.
Whatever de Blasio’s motives or likelihood of the light rail system coming into being, the issue highlights two central problems of New York City transit: Our transit system is very Manhattan-centric to its own detriment and New York City does not have enough control over its own transit system.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, though it generally serves New York City, is controlled by New York State. Whatever we need to do here in the five boroughs has to pass through several gatekeepers in Albany. The bureaucracy is twice-removed from the systems it operates, and it shows in every step of the system’s operation. The New York City transit system is among the most extensive in the country and it runs 24 hours, but that’s more of a remark about how sad the state of public transit is in the U.S.A. rather than a statement about how good New York City’s transportation is.
Every weekday morning I give myself an hour and a half to travel 11 miles, and I’m sometimes late. My first day back at work this year after the holidays, it took me more than two hours to get to work, even after I left the subway in disgust in Jackson Heights and took a cab the rest of the way to work.
New York City is comprised of 304.6 square miles and Manhattan comprises only about 33 of them. I have nothing against Manhattan and it makes sense for it to have a large transit infrastructure to deal with commuters going to work every week, but this leaves the most of the city underserved. Even many parts of Manhattan are not well served by the subway system – the Second Avenue subway has been a running joke for decades. They expanded the terrible 7 line so that people can go to the Javitz Center with greater ease – well not with greater ease since it involves having to take the 7 train. That the 7 train is an overcrowded clusterfuck in every way imaginable doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar to fix.
This latest proposal from the mayor looks like it will go the way of so many well-intentioned and poorly planned transit fixes. When it gets built, if it gets built at all, it will be way over budget and of limited usefulness.
I wish I could be more hopeful, but the line as planned will not go into any of the parts of the outer boroughs that are not served by a rail system, so the people still not served by our subways will still be out in the cold, waiting for the bus.
New York City Eats Activist Mayors for Black Brunch
It is frustrating to see gifted people throw away opportunities and waste their talents, and that’s the impression I get when I read about New York City’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio set out to be a more liberal Fiorello LaGuardia but may go down in history as the white David Dinkins.
Our mayor is in trouble because he’s pursuing a very liberal activist agenda and New York mayors never really get a mandate to pursue a liberal activist agenda.
The problem isn’t that New York City voters aren’t liberal, it’s that New York City is comfortable enough with its liberal political leanings that the large cultural issues that consume debate in the other parts of the country have long ago been settled here. Gay civil unions in the city started more than 20 years ago. In New York even the Republicans are all pro-choice. New York City’s gun laws are among the strictest in the nation (unconstitutionally so in my opinion).
So a liberal Democratic mayor who has big ambitions to make waves on social issues is largely going to be preaching to the converted and, more importantly, not focusing on actually running New York City.
Running the city takes the full attention of City Hall. New York City has a larger population than some states. The New York City Police Department is larger than some nations’ standing armies. There is a large public transit system that is at the mercy of the State of New York government, an enormous educational system and a multitude of public services and complexities that need constant management and planning.
When a mayor becomes enamored with causes beyond the very real world applications of running New York, they quickly lose their bearings and earn the city’s scorn. This is what has happened with Mayor de Blasio. While he was swept into office with high hopes and a lot of progressive promises, his attempts to be an activist mayor have left the city in need of a no-nonsense manager again.
Our more recent past mayors fell into this same trap. Rudolph Giuliani squandered his political capital on trying to position himself to run for higher office. Michael Bloomberg went off the rails trying to police our diets.
Mayor de Blasio seems to have done himself in on several fronts, but most importantly is that he appears willing to undo the work that Rudolph Giuliani did in cleaning up crime in New York. He voiced support with those protesting the police and let protesters shut down parts of the city. His treatment of the police has been so shoddy that cops turned their back on him en masse when officers were killed in Brooklyn by a #BlackLivesMatter-inspired madman.
This perception doesn’t entirely match reality. The crime statistics don’t say that New York is sliding into the crime-ridden morass of three or four decades ago. But de Blasio had already painted himself into a corner. He aligned himself early with activists who see racial bias in everything the police do; he doesn’t have the luxury of speaking truth to the activists who helped elect him. Not content to simply stop traffic in protesting the police, the #BlackLivesMatter movement started targeting diners in restaurants that they deemed “white spaces” in BlackBrunchNYC protests.
As a parent of girls whom I expect to enter the New York City public schools, de Blasio’s efforts to degrade the standards on gifted programs and elite high schools terrify me. The best defense for my girls’ future will happen in 2017 when we get a chance to make Bill de Blasio a one-term mayor.
Boycotting the Irish
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he won’t be attending the St. Patrick’s Day Parade because the parade does not let gay organizations march under their own banners.
The statement made the news, though it was not likely de Blasio’s intention to do so. He mentioned it in response to a question at a news conference he had called to announce the appointment of a deputy mayor. But the press likes controversy over cultural issues a lot more than rudimentary announcements of mayoral appointments, so there you have it.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade does not outlaw gays. There’s no marshal on Fifth Avenue with a Shamrock Gaydar device pulling alleged homosexuals out of the parade. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The AOH is religiously Catholic and since the Catholic Church, like almost every other major religion, considers homosexual acts sinful, it doesn’t want openly gay groups marching under their own banner.
I agree that the Ancient Order of Hibernians should allow gay Irish groups to march in the parade under their own banner, or at least give them the same consideration they would give to any other Irish group. I’m all for gays, lesbians and any and every other designation under the expanding LGBT nomenclature being treated equally under the law and given full respect and dignity.
But the Hibernians have the right to be as ancient as they like in their attitudes and parade policies. The parade even avoids certain city regulations because the parade predates the American Revolution. I would love to divorce Irish culture from Catholicism and put it on a more secular, nationalist bent. But it’s their parade and they can run it as they choose. Likewise, organizers of the gay pride parade can decide they don’t want Irish or Catholic gays marching under their own banner. That’s their right.
De Blasio is being consistent with his refusal to march in the main parade; he didn’t march as a councilman or as Public Advocate for the same reasons. But this consistency is now a problem. He’s not a councilman or the Public Advocate anymore. The job description changes when you are mayor. Mayors represent the entire city and to get drawn into battles over ethnic parades should be beneath them. Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican mayor who was pro-gay rights and first legalized same-sex unions in the city, marched in every St. Patrick’s Day parade as mayor.
I’m also curious as to how consistently political figures who avoid the mainstream St. Patrick’s Day parade are with their insistence on inclusion. There’s a Muslim Day Parade and other overtly religious parades that may also disapprove of gays. If they don’t have an openly gay group among their marchers, are they verboten also?
Taking the activist left position on everything only paints you into a corner. Though to be fair, there was an effort to convince the Mayor to ban city workers from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in their uniforms and de Blasio didn’t take that left turn to crazyville.
By avoiding the St. Patrick’s Day parade, de Blasio doesn’t stand to change anything but lower his own standing. Lots of New Yorkers, Irish or otherwise, will look at him not as a more liberal-minded manager but as the white David Dinkins, involving himself in a well-tread skirmish in an old and tired battle.
A Mayoral Lack of Horse Sense
Several years ago, while visiting the tourist sites in Manhattan around the holidays with some family, we were walking on Central Park South after a stop at The Plaza. As we passed by the line of hansom cabs, my Grandmother remarked that she had never taken a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park. My father set about rectifying that at once, and a few minutes later they were on their way in a horse-drawn hansom cab.
My dad’s spontaneity and love for our grandmother was admirable and made the day more memorable. If he visits New York next Christmastime, he may not be able to take a hansom cab ride.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged, days before his recent inauguration, to do away with the hansom cabs.
Animal rights activists, including the predictable coterie of celebrity actors, have long denounced the horse-drawn carriages as manifestly cruel. They’ve been aiming to have the carriage rides outlawed for a long time.
De Blasio was inaugurated with much fanfare from his liberal supporters who are happy to see a Democrat in office once again.
But doing away with the horse-drawn carriages is foolish pandering to a lobby polluted with fringe players and the loss of a fine tradition and lots of jobs. Cruelty to animals is terrible, but animal rights activists are never too far away from taking a hard left turn to crazy town, and outlawing horse-drawn carriages is a fringe activist power-grab that a mayor is supposed to be wide enough to sidestep.
The New York City Police use horses regularly, and there are a few stables that offer horseback riding within the five boroughs. Space for horses is hard to come by in most of New York, but so is space for anything.
Being generous and assuming for the sake of argument that conditions for the horses are bad, the solution is not to outlaw an industry but to improve and regulate the care of the horses. It’s not wrong to use horses to pull carts. It’s OK to ride horseback and it’s OK to ride an elephant and a camel. There are lots of animals that are not suitable for riding, but horses are alright. This is actually common knowledge and the fact that there’s a serious debate over banning the industry shows how a more extremist animal rights community has been successful in framing the debate. Luckily the carriages won’t go without a fight.
What’s more, de Blasio is potentially putting hundreds of working-class New Yorkers, whose Teamsters Union endorsed him, out of work. For a politician who came into office on a platform of fighting for middle and working class New Yorkers with the nebulous pledge of ending “inequality,” putting hansom cab drivers out of work is the political equivalent of crapping in an inaugural ball punch bowl. Mayor de Blasio likely knows this, so hence the announcement during the holidays and before the hullaballoo of his inauguration.
There have definitely been drivers who overworked or abused their horses. One driver was even arrested for animal abuse when found to be working a horse that had an infected hoof. But the carriages are regulated and inspected and have been under significant scrutiny for years.
If we let animal rights activists start calling the shots, we’ll start on a slippery slope to becoming a city of pathetic vegetarian tree-huggers.
New York Things to Watch in 2014
A New Year is almost upon us, and New York City will have lots of things going on, per usual. Here are some things to watch for, look forward to or get ready to hate in 2014.
New Mayor: Bill de Blasio is the first Democrat elected mayor in New York in more than 20 years. He managed to unite New York Democrats and ran a very smart campaign. He’s inheriting a shit show from outgoing Mayor Bloomberg in the form of multiple city worker contracts that have expired. Thousands of city workers have been working without a contract for years and they expect their liberal Democratic mayor to pay up and fast. De Blasio knows he can’t give his many supporters everything they want. He’s got to walk the tightrope of trying to hold together a liberal coalition that wants to increase taxes on the wealthy without scaring away the rich New Yorkers who provide the city’s much-needed tax base.
Super Bowl: The Super Bowl will bring more money to New York City, even though the game is being played in New Jersey at Giants Stadium or MetLife Stadium or whatever corporate behemoth blows a wad of cash to put its name on it by next year. Of course, the powers that be are hard at work making sure that the game will be expensive and less fun than your average Jets or Giants routing that normally takes place there. They have banned tailgating at the game, which is like banning praying in church.
Extended 7 Subway Line: The No. 7 subway line is scheduled to open in June 2014, but the authorities ran a special train just so outgoing mayor Bloomberg could ride it before he left office. It currently runs from Flushing, Queens to Times Square in Manhattan. The extension will run to 11th Avenue and 34th Street, near the Javits Convention Center. As a commuter who takes the 7 train every day to work, I loath this upcoming extension. The 7 train is a crowded clusterfuck of a subway line. Unless the MTA has a magic train fairy ready to plop massive double-decker trains on the line right before the extension opens, they are about to make a bad situation much worse. The silver lining is that it will make it easier for people to get to the Javits Center for conventions. But really, slow-moving tourists who don’t know where they’re going is not what we really need more of on our subways.
Fulton Street Transit Hub: On the good news end of public transportation grand openings in 2014, the Fulton Street Transit Hub in lower Manhattan may open in 2014. The Fulton Street subway station has been a maze of construction closures for close to a decade now, and some of the improvements are already evident. It has been delayed and scaled down from its original, more elaborate plans, but it will be a vast improvement.
Real Community Organizing: We’ll see more real community organizing in New York in 2014, and by community organizing, I mean citizens getting together outside of government institutions to do things for themselves. Most people think of community organizing as people getting together to petition for increased benefits or air grievances of one form or another. But as our fractured city and nation find official institutions continually lacking, more New Yorkers will see the wisdom in doing things for themselves. You’ll see more Community Supported Agriculture (not just for hippies anymore), more home schooling (not just for religious fanatics anymore) and the like. New Yorkers are resilient and inventive. That won’t change.