- Council Member Ritchie Torres (District 15, Fordham) is receiving widespread criticism for altering Intro 182, his sponsored half of the Right to Know Act, after he negotiated with Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD to reach a watered-down bill that the Mayor would sign. The other half, Intro 541 sponsored by CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Williamsburg), appears to be headed for passage this week fully intact.
- Mayor de Blasio announced a plan to convert notorious “cluster shelter” sites into permanent affordable rental units, resorting to eminent domain if necessary.
- Gotham Gazette released an in-depth account of the long road that led to last week’s City Council approval of the Bedford Union Armory deal.
- The City Council passed a bill to require the NYPD to turn over data on summonses and arrests for turnstile jumping.
- Governor Cuomo accused a female reporter of doing a “disservice to women” after she asked about state government policies regarding sexual harassment.
- Council Member Andy King (District 12, northeast Bronx) is under investigation by the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee for sexual harassment.
- According to an op-ed written by three rent-stabilized tenants, the tentative Senate unification negotiations between Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) members and mainline Democrats ignores tenant protections and highlights the IDC’s track record of failure on housing policy.
- A former executive editor at Huffington Post and NY Daily News is planning to launch a not-for-profit news site next year that covers New York City and State issues.
- Republican State Senator Marty Golden (District 22, southern Brooklyn) appeared to impersonate a police officer in order to harass a cyclist while being driven home from a Detectives Endowment Association party. The incident brought to light a history of Golden’s reckless driving, including a 2005 crash where he severely injured an elderly pedestrian with his car. His two Democratic challengers are using these revelations to build momentum for next year’s race.
- Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (District 131, Western New York) became the first Republican to formally announce a run for Governor in 2018.
- No Council Speaker candidates have been willing to endorse non-partisan appointments to the Board of Elections, for fear of offending the county party organizations who nominate Board members and also exert influence in selecting the Speaker.
- Deputy Brooklyn Borough President and former Council Member Diana Reyna is stepping down from her role at Borough Hall, possibly in preparation to run for Borough President in four years.
- The United Federation of Teachers and 1199 SEIU, two of the most powerful unions in the State, are supporting Governor Cuomo’s plan to delay special elections for several empty State Senate and Assembly seats until after completing the State budget this spring. Cuomo’s plan will ensure that the Senate remains in Republican control throughout budget negotiations.
In-Depth: Right to Know Act
The Right to Know Act was first introduced in 2014, as a part of a larger legislative response to stop-and-frisk policies that had been widespread in the NYPD under the Bloomberg administration. As the NYPD’s abusive tactics became more commonly understood, many organizations and members of the City Council touted the Right to Know Act as a common sense measure to rein in abuses.
The “Right to Know” legislation is a package of two bills: Intro 182, “Requiring NYPD officers to identify themselves during certain interactions with the public,” and Intro 541, “Protecting New Yorkers against unconstitutional searches.”
However, the latest iteration of Intro 182 (Intro 182-D, the fourth version since it was originally introduced) has caused a schism amongst Council Members and a breach of trust between police reform advocates and their apparent allies in the Council. For years, Mayor de Blasio has vowed to veto the bill, and with the help of Speaker Mark-Viverito, the bill never made it to the floor for a vote. However, Council Member Ritchie Torres, the sponsor of Intro 182, appears to have negotiated a backroom deal with Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD to write a compromise bill that significantly reduces the type of officer interactions that would require police to identify themselves under the new law. Torres is generally known as a relatively progressive member of the Council, but this about-face may be linked to his attempt to build broader support behind his candidacy for Speaker.
Prominent advocacy groups who have been working on the Right to Know Act over the years have cried foul as a result of the changes to Intro 182. Two Brooklyn Council Members, Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, have also expressed their opposition to this half of the Act. In a joint statement released on December 14:
“The current bill being considered is markedly different and would be significantly less effective than the legislation we first introduced half a decade ago. Essential elements [in Intro 182] have been watered down and stripped out, including the majority of police-civilian stops, as well as traffic stops. Removing these provisions strikes at the heart of what the original Right to Know Act aimed to accomplish.”
Intro 182-D, as before, proposes that police officers provide a business card for identification and explain their investigatory purpose and reason. However, new loopholes in the bill state that providing identification isn’t required for non-emergency situations and traffic stops — essentially negating the very bill itself. This significantly strips citizen’s rights and clouds transparency, especially in vulnerable communities. The mysterious death of Yang Song serves as an example of the dangers posed by the lack of transparency in policing. The Flushing immigrant fell to her death on November 25 while the NYPD was attempting to arrest her for alleged sex work, but her family alleges that she had multiple abusive encounters with officers in the weeks leading up to her death.\ Both bills in the Right To Know Act will reach the Council floor for a vote on Tuesday, December 19. On Tuesday morning at 11AM, NYC-DSA is joining a broad coalition of community groups outside of City Hall to demonstrate against this backroom deal that undermines the initial vision of the Right to Know Act. Advocates are urging citizens to call and fax their Council Members to vote yes on Intro 541 (which is still intact and in line with its original intention) and no on Intro 182.