03/28/12 4:00am
03/28/2012 4:00 AM |

The developers behind the “New Domino” project in South Williamsburg are trying to sell it off, either in whole or in parts, after defaulting on a $125 million loan. The 11-acre site on Kent Avenue, once home to the Domino Sugar refinery that shuttered in 2004, would feature multiple high-rise towers and other buildings, creating 2,200 units of housing. The current developer, the Community Preservation Corporation, won a long rezoning battle after it made some modest concessions and gained the support of its political opponents: 40-story buildings would be shorter (34 stories), but fatter; a shuttle bus would take residents to the nearby J/M/Z stop, thus ameliorating the extra burden on the overcrowded L train; and one-third of the housing would be affordable, not just the minimum legal requirement of 20 percent.

But that high percentage of affordable housing, like so much else, was just a promise—not a legally binding requirement. “The potential sale of the Domino Sugar Factory is profoundly concerning,” Lincoln Restler, Democratic leader for Assembly District 50, tells us. “While CPC made a series of promises to the North Brooklyn community… a new owner would in no way be obligated to follow through on those community benefits.”

Such promised benefits got the project green-lighted. The city council, which approved the rezoning, traditionally defers development decisions to the local councilmember. Williamsburg’s City Councilmember Steve Levin initially opposed the project, but then reversed his position after negotiating some perks. “We did our very best to get as many changes as possible,” he told me in 2010, like the height reduction. It was never his intention to kill the project, just to maximize the community’s advantage, including the extension of the then-set-to-expire Tenant Anti-Harassment Fund, a commitment to neighborhood arts funding, a promise to look at the feasibility of a traffic study, and continued support for the conversion of a firehouse into a town hall.

Many of these modest benefits have been followed through on, but the developer’s promises—the more significant ones—could potentially be forgotten and ignored by a new buyer. It’s not just the amount of affordable housing. The creation of five blocks of new parkland, which would open the waterfront there to the public for the first time in a century, could be scrapped. (Consider Bushwick Inlet Park, the greenspace the Williamsburg community was promised in exchange for the 2005 rezoning, which the mayor’s office now has no near-term intention of finishing.) The historic Domino sign, promised to be preserved, or noted architect Rafael Vinoly’s design could be junked; why not exchange the latter for something cheaper and uglier, a la the Atlantic Yards after Gehry?

“All I can I say is that I am not surprised, and I don’t think that anyone in the community is surprised either,” Megan Sperry, one of the filmmakers behind the documentary The Domino Effect, tells us. “This was a major concern for the community from the beginning. That is why they fought so hard to make sure that the affordable units and the amenities would be locked-in indefinitely for the project. There were suspicions from the beginning that CPC was going to get the property rezoned and then flip it at a much higher sale rate, turning a great profit for themselves. They refused to show their finances throughout the [rezoning process]; many believe that this is because they never had enough money to develop the property. Like the Atlantic Yards project, The New Domino is proving that real estate development in New York City is a series of broken promises. When it comes to actually meeting the concerns of the community and its residents, the ‘effort’ on behalf of the developer is a grand illusion.”

A recent New York Times piece documented CPC’s downfall, its transformation from a respected non-profit that assisted the poor and working class with affordable housing into one with a for-profit development arm, overreaching and in over its head during a tough economy—and not just with Domino, but also with several other properties in the tri-state area. Salaries have been cut, offices closed, and staff let go. (CPC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Local resident and Domino opponent Dennis Farr sees the potential sale—which he says has always been an inevitability—as a chance to do it over, and do it better. It “re-focuses an opportunity to demonstrate Williamsburg’s profound imagination and responsibility to the human and social good,” he tells us. “The prognostication that luxury condominium developments would not be built on the Domino Sugar site was indeed a curse upon CPC that extends to any large-scale luxury condominium real estate agent considering development of ‘New Domino.’” He suggests instead the creation of a university, and cites Bloomberg’s recent effort to build a school on Roosevelt Island as a model. “Williamsburg can do greater,” he tells us.

“Much greater.”


02/29/12 4:00am
02/29/2012 4:00 AM |

It’s 12:20am on a Wednesday night in the backyard of Metropolitan, one of Williamsburg’s longest established gay bars. Four women—who’ve been coming to Metro, on average, for five years—are chatting on a bench that abuts a crosshatched wooden fence separating the lively outdoor bar scene from a private backyard. Peering over the white Christmas lights draped through the trees, one can just make out a row of residences, most with the upstairs lights shut off. The conversation on the bench is about the consequences of nights in spaces like these, specifically Community Board 1’s unanimous vote for the State Liquor Authority not to renew Metropolitan’s liquor license, mainly on the grounds of excessive, late-night noise.

“As much as it might suck for the patrons, if I lived above here, I’d be like, yeah, cut it down early.”

“It’s very understandable.”

“I think that’s crazy. I think that if you live in New York you have to accept that there is noise near you. If you don’t want to be near a noise, you don’t move there.”

“I mean this is New York, not Nebraska.”

“Oh my god.”

The conversation is interrupted by a flying object hurled over the fence. It fizzles at the foot of a man sitting at a table nearby. The group stands up and gathers around, examining. It’s a full plastic water bottle. A Pellegrino.

“Wait, did that come from an apartment?”

“Yeah it did. I saw the bushes shake.”

“And it’s a Pellegrino, can we note that?”

“They definitely have a Vespa.”

“And a French Bulldog.”


In January, when Metropolitan’s liquor license came up to the local Community Board for renewal, neighbors of the bar submitted complaints, saying that Metropolitan wasn’t following the state guidelines on closing outdoor spaces at the appropriate hour (11pm on weekdays and 1 am on weekends). The Brooklyn Paper reported that one Williamsburg resident came to the public safety committee, telling them he had to hose off the urine-soaked sidewalk in front of the bar to get rid of the smell. The patrons in the backyard aren’t saying these complaints are wrong (“I’ve definitely done that,” one man says, referring to the peeing on the sidewalk), but they’re also asking this: Who was there first, the bar or the neighbors?

“The population grew at a swifter rate in Williamsburg than in any other area in Brooklyn over the last decade, and this conflict has been a long time brewing,” Lincoln Restler, Democratic Leader for Assembly District 50, told The L over the phone. “We live in Brooklyn. Most neighborhood residents are similarly interested in having a good time and tolerant of reasonable city noise. But there are specific bars and restaurants and clubs that are particularly noisy and make life difficult for their residential neighbors.”

Back at the Metropolitan, one of the witnesses to the water bottle incident, Becky, is convinced this is a specific type of complainer. “Those aren’t some old-school New Yorkers bitching about shit,” she said. “These are, ‘We’re paying a lot of money to live here, and I have a hifalutin job at some corporate agency, and I need my rest, I need to get up at 6.’”

But whether it’s gentrifiers or lifers doing the complaining, it’s not just Metropolitan (or gay bars) the board is targeting. The board is setting new rules regarding Northside bars’ outdoor spaces in general. In December, CB1 decided that new bars with outdoor spaces applying for a liquor licence must provide a full menu and sit-down service. For existing bars looking to expand, the same rules apply.

“We’re trying to tame the Wild West of bars,” CB1’s public safety chairman on liquor licensing told Crain’s last month. “People keep coming to our meetings and raising hell about the bars.”

The bars themselves, however, seem to be looking at this increasingly tense situation as an opportunity. In September, Teddy’s Bar and Grill owner Felice Kirby began working with other Northside bars to form a trade group as the Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants (BABAR!). The alliance, now 50-60 establishments strong, hasn’t developed an official reaction to the new rules, but Kirby and other bar owners are eager to work out their differences with the Community Board.

“I saw the vote/discussion of Metropolitan during the CB1 deliberations. Sure seemed like a lot of neighbors had gripes that sounded serious and awful,” Kirby told us over email. “We are not in favor of worsening the quality of life—we are about the opposite!”
Dave Rosen, owner of The Woods and member of the Allied Bars, thinks the controversy will serve as a catalyst for better practices. “We’ll hopefully form a better channel of communication with the Community Board so we can understand their concerns and proactively address them. It’s an opportunity,” he said.

In the meantime, Metropolitan’s liquor license is resting on tenuously safe ground. The community board can only make recommendations to the State Liquor Authority—they don’t have the actual power to take away a bar’s booze. And, lucky for Metropolitan, the bar doesn’t have any prior violations or complaints on SLA’s files. But if anything, the community board’s decision does serve as a resounding wake-up call: If bar patrons don’t shut the hell up, neighbors are ready and willing to throw the book (among other things) at Northside nightlife.

Photo IO Tillett Wright

02/01/12 4:00am
02/01/2012 4:00 AM |

Surprises are nice, especially in the internet age, with its spoilers and fevered reportage and races to be first. So in anticipation of something memorable, and hopefully personal, it’s a relief to turn off your phone and rely on the Instagram that is your brain. Such has been the thinking of Jeff Mangum and his coterie: no video, no photography. When the extremely private singer-songwriter made his first billed concert appearance in years in May 2010, at a benefit concert for stroke-stricken New Zealand punk rocker Chris Knox, cameras were forbidden—though a few grainy videos showed up online. Since then Mangum has played a handful of shows: from a Bushwick loft to Zuccotti Park and large theaters like BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House, where on Friday, January 20, he played the middle show of a three-night run with the Music Tapes, a twee-folk combo led by Julian Koster, formerly of Mangum’s Neutral Milk Hotel. In March, Mangum is curating the UK edition of the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival. For the next few months he’ll be touring the country, and he’s just released a limited edition vinyl box set that collects a lot of material that’s long been out of print.

An air of nervous anticipation set in at BAM not long before the lights went down. Now, Mangum is far from the Maharishi, but plenty of fans had traveled from afar to “touch the hem of his garment,” to echo Shelley Duvall’s rock journalist in Annie Hall. Even Stephen Colbert was reportedly in attendance, having left his well-publicized “campaign” in South Carolina on the day of the Republican presidential primary.

Mangum appeared gracious and grateful as he walked onstage, dressed in a green work shirt and workman’s cap covering chin-length hair. He later spoke of some queasiness, but “that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here,” he said, shyly. I wondered how it felt for him to leave behind the coffeehouses and mid-sized rock venues of his band’s heyday, and a decade later perform in a space like the Beaux Arts Gilman, which so acutely accentuates every last warble. Mangum opened with “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2,” a quiet and romantic song about grasping for personal connection and keeping the past present. It closes In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, capped by Mangum unplugging his guitar and walking away. Here, it’s a jarring hello, but a kind one, which seems to say, “Ahem, where were we?”

It’s strange, he remarked, “Putting little messages in a bottle and ten years later…” you get an audience like this one. Among his most angst-ridden, “Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone,” from 1996’s On Avery Island, has an emotional release that’s nailed to the wall by his surrealist imagery: “Our love bleeds through.” Catharsis—whether through bleeding, or fumbling bodies, or falling or seeking escape—is a prominent theme in his songwriting. Colored by Koster’s singing saw, “Engine,” with its talking tigers on cafeteria trays imagery, is comforting like only a children’s song can be, whatever your age.

He was playful throughout, responding to a chorus of well-wishes and requests. At one point someone yelled, “Play whatever you want,” to applause. (As a wise man once said, a band is not a jukebox.) As he was drawing on a relatively small repertoire (two albums and a handful of singles), it’s doubtful anyone went home disappointed. Instead, there were treats like the howling tip of “Oh Comely,” the long, simply strummed centerpiece of Aeroplane, which closes with Salvation Army brass. The song’s high notes might’ve found their way into BAM’s cinema, next door. And there are those lines like “I will take you and leave you alone,” from “Two Headed Boy Pt. 2,” which remind the listener what a privilege it is to remain in the moment. For an encore, the audience spilled into the aisles during the rollicking “Song Against Sex.” Surprisingly shy about singing along, even when prodded by Mangum, the crowd happily obliged for “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” a curio that’s transcended these past dozen years and become a signature. There were handshakes and waves and, again, a goodbye. As Mangum sings in “Oh Comely,” “I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine.” In the end, all we have are our memories.

12/21/11 4:00am
by |
12/21/2011 4:00 AM |

1. The West Brooklyn Molester
Over the summer, 20 sexual assaults—mostly gropings—were reported from Park Slope through Sunset Park; as many as four different men were suspected, though few arrests (save wrongful ones) were made. Many criticized the police for their seemingly indifferent handling of the case (at least one officer advised women to dress differently!). The attacks frightened the community but also inspired many to band together: they marched in the streets and formed groups to escort women home from the subway at night.

2. Bob Turner Wins NY-9
It was the Democrats’ to lose, and lose it they did: Anthony Weiner’s congressional district went Republican for the first time in almost a century, thanks largely to increasingly conservative sections of southern and central Brooklyn, where Turner won two-to-one.

3.Bike Lane Battle Royale
The Department of Transportation published a study in January showing the benefits of Prospect Park West’s controversial bike lane, findings disputed by longtime opponents like Borough President Marty Markowitz, former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall and former Department of Sanitation commissioner Norman Steisel. The latter two formed a group that announced in February it would sue the city for the lane’s removal, claiming that the lane was a pilot program and was never intended to be permanent. The suit was summarily dismissed in August, but they promised “a longer war.” Happily, it’s been all quiet on the Prospect Park West front since then.

4. The Gruesome Death of Leiby Kletzky
Eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky walked home alone from camp one July day, but never made it. Three thousand volunteers searched as far as New Jersey but found nothing: Leiby had stopped to ask directions from Levi Aron, who subsequently abducted the boy and held him for days, then suffocated him and chopped up the body, dumping parts in a dumpster while keeping others in his freezer. The crime shook the city, but most directly Borough Park’s insular Jewish community, where children are supposed to be safe asking for help from strangers.

5. Pizzopera: Grimaldi’s
The ongoing dispute between Grimaldi’s owners Frank and Russell Ciolli and their landlord turned operatic this year. The Ciollis said they would move next-door after Thanksgiving, and their landlord announced that the famed coal-fired oven’s new operator would be none other than Patsy Grimaldi, the restaurant’s founder, who’ll launch a new pizzeria in March. Meanwhile the Department of Buildings stopped the Ciollis’ move over an illegally installed coal-fired oven in their new space and, on November 23, Russell Ciolli, 39, suddenly died. Who knows when they’ll serve again…

6.Hasidim and Women
In May, Brooklyn paper Der Tzitung published the now-iconic photo of the White House situation room during the raid on Osama bin Laden—but it airbrushed out the women in it, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, because Hasidic men shouldn’t see photographs of women. Then in October, a student from Columbia’s J-school broke the news that women on the B110—a privately owned bus that connects Williamsburg to Borough Park—were forced to sit in the back. Yes, the back of the bus.

7. The Fight Against Prime 6
In late February, Park Slope residents fought a proposed nightclub near the Barclay’s Center. Their concerns were about late-night noise and drunkenness, but critics of the critics said racial biases bubbled below the surface—that what residents feared was a black crowd. A petition, possibly fake, circulated thereafter. “It’s just a statistical fact that crime is more likely to occur among urban audiences than among audiences of other demographics,” it read in part. A shitstorm ensued.

8.The Disappearance of Josh Rubin

The owner of Ditmas Park’s Whisk Cafe vanished on Halloween, sparking a boroughwide postering effort. Police believe he may have just walked away from his life, while his loved ones fear that, without his insulin, high blood sugar levels have left the diabetic disoriented and possibly very sick. He has yet to be found.

9. Atlantic Yards Ascendant (Meh.)
After years of lawsuits and controversy, construction began on the Barclays Center, its shell rising up above Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Jay-Z announced the basketball team would be called “The Brooklyn Nets” (whoop-dee-do), while the bar Freddy’s—an icon of the displaced—opened a new location in South Slope. Oh, and those local jobs for construction workers don’t seem to be materializing. Shocking.

10. West Indian Parade Follies
Sensational stories often emerge from the annual West Indian Day Parade, but this year there were two! First, we had police officers videotaped as they danced suggestively with scantily clad women. Then, Councilmember Jumaane Williams was arrested in a misunderstanding with police, the first of several council members (usually black) who would be arrested throughout the year. Then, police officers were found making racist comments on a Facebook page, “No More West Indian Day Detail.”

11. The Rise and Fall of Pro-Cro
In the spring, tricky real-estate agencies began calling the part of Crown Heights adjacent to Prospect Heights “Pro-Cro” in an effort to attract would-be residents (probably affluent, probably white) turned off by associations with the Crown Heights moniker. (Hey, this August was also the 20th anniversary of the riots!) Long-time Crown Heights residents were indignant; State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries even drafted legislation to make renaming neighborhoods illegal. Thankfully, “Pro-Cro” hasn’t stuck.

12. The Tribulations of Markowitz
Our borough president was fined $20,000 in July by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board for accepting airfare for his wife for international trips. Back in March, it was reported that the bike-lane nemesis keeps three drivers on call 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, in staggered shifts at a cost to taxpayers of at least $175,000 a year. Fuhgeddaboutit!

13. The Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Slow Rebirth
In January, Steiner Studios began construction to double its size and add a Brooklyn College film school. In April, the developer picked to raze Admiral’s Row—except two buildings marked for preservation, which are crumbling in bureaucratic limbo—and build a supermarket was dropped for their implication in the Carl Kruger bribery scandal. On November 11th, the new historical center, Building 92, opened its gates, offering the public a glimpse of the Navy Yard’s rich past and high-tech future.

14. Our Lovely State Legislator Scandals
In March, State Senators Carl Kruger and William Boyland, Jr. were indicted on federal bribery charges. In November, Boyland was acquitted, only to be indicted two weeks later on new federal bribery charges—for crimes said to have occurred while he awaited the outcome of his original bribery case! Talk about hardworking…

15. Brooklyn College Fires “Anti-Israel” Adjunct
In January, adjunct professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton was dismissed from his position after conservative Orthodox Assemblyman Dov Hikind pressured the school to do so—the teacher had insufficiently pro-Israel points of view. After a week of embarrassing national coverage, Petersen-Overton was rehired, but not before the college’s craven and ineffective president Karen Gould had sullied the school’s reputation.

16. Here Comes the Ferry!
In June, the first East River Ferry took off, connecting Wall Street and 34th Street with Atlantic Avenue, DUMBO, Williamsburgs north and south, Greenpoint, and Long Island City. (Finally, we could get from the office to Lucky Dog without a 40-minute train trip!) By October, weekday ridership was double what had been expected; weekend ridership was sextuple. Sextuple, people.

17. Boom Times for Brooklyn Bridge Park
In January, the Justice Department fumed over a since-abandoned plan to remove the historic Tobacco Warehouse from Brooklyn Bridge Park, facilitating its redevelopment. In February, local groups began searching for alternatives to planned condo and hotel buildings inside the park to pay for its hefty annual operations budget. Adjoining cyclist and pedestrian links were improved, Jane’s Carousel moved into its Jean Nouvel-designed pavilion, and in November, seven developers unveiled plans for the inevitable hotel and condos.

18. Bushwick Inlet Park FAIL
In exchange for zoning variances to build waterfront condos, Williamsburg residents were promised 28 acres of new green space. So far they’ve gotten a soccer field; in July, it was revealed that the Bloomberg administration had no money—and no plans—to finish the project. Chalk up more empty developer promises.

19. F(ucked Up) Train
Brooklyn F train riders got the shaft this year when construction closed entire platforms in Windsor Terrace. Hit hardest, though, were Red Hook residents, whose nearest subway station—Smith and Ninth Street—was shuttered for repair until 2012.

20. Jelly Bellyflops
After a falling out with the Open Space Alliance, concert promoter Jelly moved their popular Williamsburg waterfront concert series to a new venue—Floyd Bennett Field, where it drew next to no visitors.

21. Boardwalk Empires
After years of evictions and last-minute invitations to return, some of the Coney boardwalk businesses, like Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter, signed 8-year leases in December with evil landlord Zamperla. Meanwhile, the city is pushing to replace most of Riegelmann’s length with concrete, turning the iconic boardwalk into a sidewalk.

22. Free Pablo Airaldi!
Popular Greenpoint bicyclist Pablo Airaldi was arrested and threatened with deportation in a bizarre bureaucratic imbroglio. But in January, following extensive media coverage and the tireless work of his family and friends, he was released, and deportation proceedings were called off. For once, justice prevailed.

23. Boathouse, Fuck Yeah!!!

In 2010, the city pledged $7 million for projects in Greenpoint as settlement for pollutants spilled into the creek while upgrading the adjacent sewage treatment plant. Almost everyone agreed that building a boathouse at the end of Manhattan Avenue was the best use for the funds, but without state support the project seemed dead in the water (HAHAHA). Until October when, miraculously, the state finally got behind the project and set aside $3 million for a 40-kayak boathouse and nautical education center. Ahoy!

24. A Williamsburg Divided on Itself
Thanks to a population explosion following all that waterfront development, Williamsburg got split into two zip codes in July: 11249 for those between Bedford and the East River; the ol’ 11211 for those east. (Is the 2-4-9 the new hotness? No.)

25. Cafe Closures
Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue Ozzie’s closed in the fall. More seriously, Prospect Lefferts-Gardens’ K-Dog and Dunebuggy, which basically invented modern-day PLG, shuttered in September. And so we wept.

12/07/11 4:00am
by |
12/07/2011 4:00 AM |

After much speculation about the size, look and location of the condos and hotel that will be built in Brooklyn Bridge Park to help pay for its $16 million annual operation costs, preliminary designs by seven competing developers were revealed at a public presentation on November 22nd. The plans they proposed for the coveted strip of land between Pier 1 and Furman Street are all over the aesthetic map, and it ain’t pretty. Despite our best efforts to be mature about this, here’s what they remind us of…

Illustration Mike Force

12/07/11 4:00am

On November 11th, the Brooklyn Navy Yard opened its doors to the public for the first time in decades, inaugurating its new historic center in the former United States Marine Corps Commandant’s residence at 63 Flushing Avenue. Known as Building 92, the house has undergone a gut renovation and, with the addition of a large contemporary wing at its rear, been expanded into a 33,000-square foot museum.

Wednesdays through Sundays, the center’s patterned front gate opens to reveal a landscaped plaza with benches and bike parking. Above, the perforated metal façade of the new wing sports the image of an immense shipyard crane. Inside, visitors are greeted by the 22,500-pound anchor of the USS Austin, one of the Navy Yard’s final commissions before naval activities ceased in the 1960s after a steep post-war decline in shipbuilding. Historical displays fill the three floors of the former residence, tracking the yard’s transformation from swampy Wallabout Bay when it was originally purchased from Native Americans by a Dutch family, into a naval base and bustling shipyard that employed 70,000 daily workers at the height of its activity.

Alongside this historic narrative are rooms shedding light on the incredible variety of manufacturers now based at the Navy Yard. One room showcasing products built in the nearby warehouses includes items as disparate as an elegant wooden desk, a camouflage-patterned bulletproof vest and a replica of the U.S. presidential seal made for a Saturday Night Live skit by a prop shop affiliated with Steiner Studios. Several more rooms are dedicated to short-term contemporary art exhibits and, on the fourth floor of the new wing, Cobble Hill eatery Ted & Honey operates a café.

From up there visitors can look further into the yard, past two shorter buildings, at the dilapidated shell of a battleship-sized steel-and-glass warehouse. That’s the next phase of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s overhaul, a massive renovation project to turn the hulking structure into a green manufacturing center. Like the displays in Building 92, and the center’s architecture, the future manufacturing hub promises to be a dramatic hybrid of the borough’s past and future, finally visible to all Brooklynites.

10/12/11 4:00am

A few weeks ago I spoke at Riverside Church about a police policy that is driving a wedge between communities of color and law enforcement. All New Yorkers want to get guns off our streets, but the dramatic expansion of our police department’s “stop and frisk” policies has failed to achieve this goal.
I am calling on City Hall and One Police Plaza to re-examine this policy and change it.

Last year police conducted more than 600,000 stops of New Yorkers, but no guns were found 99.8 percent of the time. Only 7 percent of these encounters resulted in arrests. Not only is stop and frisk as currently practiced ineffective in getting guns off our streets, it also disproportionately targets black and Hispanic New Yorkers, who make up 85 percent of all those stopped. This year the number of stops is on target to hit 700,000.

Sadly, more than 45 years after Martin Luther King spoke eloquently about “the fierce urgency of now,” we remain separate and unequal on the streets of New York. If you are an 18-year-old black or Latino male, the chances you have been stopped by police are over 80 percent—and probably not just once.
Stop and frisk has become a grim rite of passage for too many young people, and today black and Latino parents have completely different conversations with their children than other families in the city. Some parents teach their children early that if they are in trouble, they should find a police officer. But for too many black and Latino parents the conversation is different. It is about explaining to their child how they may be presumed guilty, even if they are not, and about how to keep a bad situation from getting worse.

The best back-up we can give our police officers is the trust of communities they are sworn to protect, but this program is mainly producing some 50,000 low-level marijuana arrests every year—nearly one in seven arrests in the City—and costing taxpayers more than $75 million a year in police and court costs. These arrests saddle our young people with minor records that become major problems when it comes to obtaining or keeping a job, getting a Pell grant to continue their education, or serving in our armed forces.
Here’s what I am proposing we do:

1. Test the “Call In” strategy now being employed in 70 cities, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. By joining together the police and district attorneys with social services that offer jobs and other paths off the streets, this approach slashed homicide rates in Chicago by 37 percent, and cut youth homicides in Boston by 63 percent in just two years.

2. Train officers to make street stops that are more constitutional and less confrontational. We start by re-drafting the training manual to identify clear behavioral triggers for when a stop is justified, and hold police commanders accountable for ensuring that stops are executed in a constitutionally allowable manner.

3. Finally, we should pass legislation by Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries requiring police to ticket those with small amounts of marijuana, rather than arresting them and sending them through the jail and court systems.
At the end of the day, this is about using police resources more effectively and restoring trust to our criminal justice system. It is about being tougher and smarter on crime. The moment we do that, New York City will be a better, safer place for all of us.

10/12/11 4:00am

More than twenty protestors were arrested and
more pepper sprayed and beaten by police at two
impromptu marches last Wednesday in lower
Manhattan. The two marches, part of Occupy Wall
, followed the movement’s largest demonstration
to date—a planned, permit-sanctioned march
from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park, the movement’s
base, that drew an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people
on a windy but unseasonably warm day. Occupiers
marched into Foley from the south, reinforcing
ralliers, while college students, who had walked out
of class, came in from the north.

At Foley, nurses, transit workers and teachers
mingled with members of DC37, SEIU, and AFSCME.
Amy Goodman was there, along with Vito Lopez,
Brad Lander, Scott Stringer, and many other
local politicians; the movement has expanded beyond
the young people who have been at Zuccotti
since September 17.

After moving through mazes of barriers (and dismantling
some), marchers made their way south
down city sidewalks. The number of helicopters
overhead swelled from one to four. In front of
St. Paul’s, two men extended open bags of cough
drops. As the marchers reached Zuccotti, a raucous
chant of “All Day! All Week! Occupy Wall Street!”
started. Inside the park, swelling with new arrivals,
a carnival broke out. The air was dense
with incense and dance rhythms; people gyrated,
jammed, climbed trees and burst into spontaneous
applause. Drum-circle dance parties occupied the
park’s western corners; farther off, two guys held
up a six-foot screen, onto which were projected
messages of support from around the world. I saw
a family keeping a juvenile squirrel as a pet, tethered
to a twine leash. After more than an hour,
people were still marching in.

Thousands from this amped-up crowd decided
spontaneously to march on Wall Street itself, two
blocks south, just before 7:30pm. They occupied
the sidewalks on both sides of Broadway, separated
by rows of police off the curbs, keeping the street
clear. I was on the west side of Broadway; shit went
down on the east, but I was unable to see clearly
across. Video posted later on Occupy Wall Street’s
website shows police (including white-shirted
higher-ups) beating protestors with batons and
using pepper spray. The Times reported 23 people
were arrested. At least two journalists were among
those brutalized.

A truck with more barricades drove down Broadway
to great jeers, as did later an NYPD bus used to
transport detainees. Protestors urged the police to
change sides. “Police, join us!” they chanted. “They
want your pensions, too!” Orange netting was deployed
to the west side of the street, to kettle protestors
for mass arrest. At that point, there was a
mass departure. “We won!” a woman on the street
shouted. “We have the police surrounded! If you
look at it that way.”

Back at Zuccotti, just before 10pm, a second
march took off in solidarity with the first. A few
hundred people, energized by a sustained round
of “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!,” headed
north, then east. Commotion broke out in front of
Pita Express on Ann Street, opposite the march. As
marchers moved to cross, officers pulled their batons
and ordered them back on the sidewalk. One
man was arrested amid the commotion and led
down an alleyway blocked off by police as protestors
shouted, “Peace!”

Police ordered marchers to stay on the sidewalk
throughout, at one point shoving several young
men toward it. (Large parts of many sidewalks
were blocked by heaps of trash bags.) A gang of
cops on motorcycles showed up to chaperone the
march on its winding trip through lower Manhattan—
protestors, though, fearing traps, turned
away from police at every intersection. Eventually,
police directed traffic by blocking sidewalks in advance
in all directions but one.

Many cops stood along the route, now with many
sets of plastic-tie handcuffs. After a bad Dunkin
Donuts joke from the crowd, one marcher started
to chant, “We’re against Wall Street! Not against
the police!” which was taken up spiritedly. Earlier,
protestors heartily chanted “From New York
to Greece, Fuck the Police!” Finally, the crowd returned
to the park to loud applause.

10/12/11 4:00am


Children of the occupation! Are we alright?
Is anyone hungry? Occupation
pizza is fresh and hot! A prisoner in
Burma ordered it for us! Or was that a
family waiting for clean water in Bangladesh?
Or a foreclosed grandmother
on a porch in Bed-Stuy? They speak to
us clearly. The word “solidarity” comes
to our lips!

But there are people speaking to us
also who talk in the windows of these
skyscrapers that lean over us here in
Liberty Plaza. They are chattering into
microphones. Their fingers are blurring
over the keys. They demand to know
what… They demand to know what…
What do we want? They demand a list
of demands!

They say we are amorphous! Kind of fuzzy
and vague! We’re just romantic rebels! In a
pantomime of protest! They say

Now children…


I am here to thank you! Can you feel the
gratitude that so many people feel toward
you? From around the country…
And the world? Because we know it’s all
in the phrase:

To occupy this park in the shadow of
these banks is to create a tear, a big rip
in the system.

We all underestimated the power of the
corporate monoculture, the thousands
of ads and little threats from fashion,
credit, and stylish violence, of consumerism
and militarism that hurries us and
exhausts us in this middle class America.

And now here we have this island, this
occupation of the banks, this banning of
logos and cash this love of humans without

What does the CEO up there see looking
down from his lofty corner office?
We’re down here, so close by, but we’re
not in his economy, and we write our
own history. We’re living and breathing
and making music, we’re crazifying
the pure products of America! Living
eating dreaming sleeping and shouting,
occupying with our lives in the face of the
financial instruments that circle us to
abuse us but can’t get at us because we
claim our lives as are our own: to live our
First Amendment of freedoms, without
permits or dividends or wars…
What we’re doing here could not be more
specific, more elucidated, researched and
clear. It takes a nation of millions: hungry
prisoners, hungry-thirsty families,
students who got fooled into debt, lifelong
helpers losing their homes—people
betrayed by a lie about freedom; good
people lied to by men in suits.

Oh yes, we have the common sense to
feel what is demanded here these last
three weeks in Liberty Plaza! They are
thanking us for what we’re doing, and
they are going down to their own public


We are living life here, and life is very
specific. We are