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NY Judge Rejects Police Union’s Bid to Halt NYC Vaccine Mandate for Cops, City Workers

Shannnon Morgan



NY Judge Rejects Police Union's Bid to Halt NYC Vaccine Mandate for Cops, City Workers

A New York judge on Wednesday refused to pause a vaccine mandate set to take effect Friday for the city’s municipal workforce, denying a police union’s request for a temporarily restraining order.

Judge Lizette Colon ruled that the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate can take effect as scheduled while also ordering city officials to appear in court Nov. 12 to defend the requirement against a union lawsuit seeking to have it declared illegal.

Colon, whose court is on Staten Island, ruled hours after hearing arguments from lawyers for the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, and the city, which prevailed in arguing the mandate should be implemented without delay.

Police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors and most other city workers must show proof that they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 5 p.m. Friday. Workers who don’t comply will be put on unpaid leave starting Nov. 1. Previously, city workers were able to show proof of a negative test to stay on the job.

PBA President Pat Lynch said in a statement that the ruling “sets the city up for a real crisis” and will “inevitably result in fewer cops available to protect our city.”

As of Tuesday, 73% of police department personnel had gotten at least one vaccine dose, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told WPIX-TV on Wednesday. The fire department reported a vaccination rate of 68%. A firefighters union said it was holding a rally Thursday outside Mayor Bill de Blasio’s official residence, Gracie Mansion, to protest the mandate.

Several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Staten Island are seeing trash pile up ahead of the city’s vaccine mandate deadline, amid rumors of a Sanitation Department slowdown. NBC New York’s Erica Byfield reports.

Also Wednesday, a federal appeals panel presiding in another mandate-related case seemed to be supportive of arguments that a New York state vaccine mandate for health care workers does not violate their Constitutional rights even though the mandate doesn’t provide religious exemptions.

The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not immediately rule, but largely seemed in agreement with oral arguments by a state lawyer. The arguments came after a Utica federal judge ruled that the mandate violated workers’ Constitutional rights.

In an August order, the state required at least a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27, and more recently expanded the requirement to include workers at assisted living homes, hospice care, treatment centers and home health aides.

Attorney Steven Wu, New York’s deputy solicitor general, said under the mandate, employers can allow religious exemptions when the workers agree not to work on the front lines directly with patients. Religious exemption requests are as much as 20 to 30 times higher than medical exemption requests in the northern part of the state, Wu said.

Wu also defended the mandate’s exemption for medical reasons when the threat to a worker from something like an allergic reaction to a vaccine poses as big a threat as the coronavirus. He said medical exemption requests are generally temporary in duration and affect relatively few workers.

Unvaccinated New York City employees have until Friday to get their first COVID vaccine shot and with the deadline looming, thousands hit the streets in protest. NBC New York’s Gaby Acevedo reports.

Attorney Christopher Ferrara, arguing for medical workers, said the state had allowed nurses and doctors “to continue doing what they did for 18 months when they were heroes on the front line” before imposing the vaccine mandate.

He also said the state lacked data to support its positions and used claims of an emergency to impose a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

The plaintiffs, all Christians, oppose as a matter of religious conviction any medical cooperation in abortion, including the use of vaccines linked to fetal cell lines in testing, development or production, according to court papers.

The court papers said all of the available vaccines employ aborted fetus cell lines in their testing, development or production. But religious leaders have disagreed over the issue and the Vatican issued a statement last year saying the vaccines were “morally acceptable.”

In the police union case in state court, a lawyer for the city said Wednesday that officers will be given back pay if the judge ultimately sides with the police union in finding that the mandate is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.

Demonstrators supporting Nets guard Kyrie Irving and protesting New York’s vaccine mandate gathered outside Barclays Center before Brooklyn’s home opener. NBC New York’s Jessica Cunnington reports.

Lawyers for the PBA, which represents about 23,000 current and retired NYPD officers, said in court papers after Wednesday’s hearing that the vaccine mandate forces officers to choose between their careers and their personal beliefs, infringing officers’ “right to bodily integrity.”

The PBA argued that some officers put on leave won’t be able to afford to wait out a legal fight over the mandate and will be forced either to get vaccinated or find new jobs, which it said will mean the loss of seniority and city medical and pension benefits.

The police department on Wednesday did not provide specific answers when asked how it will manage personnel levels and public safety if one-quarter of its workforce — including thousands of officers — is put on unpaid leave for noncompliance.

In response to detailed questions, NYPD spokesperson Al Baker provided a one-sentence written statement: “We will be prepared for any changes in personnel due to the mandate.”

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For Final Budget Act, de Blasio Makes $4B in Red Ink Disappear — But Leaves Adams Billions of Worries

Louis Menand



For Final Budget Act, de Blasio Makes $4B in Red Ink Disappear — But Leaves Adams Billions of Worries

With the stock market headed for another big year and interest rates near zero, Mayor Bill de Blasio slashed the budget gaps he’s leaving his successor by a third in an updated fiscal outlook released Tuesday.
But Mayor-elect Eric Adams may not owe de Blasio much of a thank you.
The latest projection still shows gaps of almost $8 billion for Adams’ first term and provides no money to finance pay raises as contracts with municipal unions expire. It also leaves the next administration facing a “fiscal cliff” of almost $2 billion when federal funding runs out for many of the initiatives de Blasio has launched since the COVID pandemic shook the city.
“Although the budget gaps appear manageable, Eric Adams has some work cut out for him and he should start right away,” said Andrew Rein, president of the fiscal watchdog group the Citizens Budget Commission.

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press briefing from City Hall, Nov. 29, 2021.

Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

De Blasio did not make much of a to-do about his final actions on the city budget, releasing the key documents Tuesday afternoon without a media briefing. In a statement, he insisted he had met the challenge the pandemic presented to the city’s fiscal health.
“As this administration comes to an end, we’ve substantially lowered budget gaps and increased reserves, leaving the next administration with a strong foundation to continue New York City’s recovery,” the statement read.
Positive Indicators
After a summer of stagnation, the city’s economic rebound had picked up momentum in October with the largest increase in jobs in months and international tourists trickling back to town.
No one knows if responses to the Omicron variant will change that economic trajectory, although because of weakness earlier this year the administration slashed its estimate for 2021 job gains by almost half, to 232,000 from an optimistic 445,000.
And the budget gaps were not reduced because of fiscally responsible actions by the city — but rather by national economic trends.
The city began the year with pension plans that were 78% funded, compared with the state plan, which has consistently averaged more than 90% of the funds needed to pay the benefits it is obligated to pay. By the end of June, soaring markets had pushed the city ratio to 98%.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams could have a rough economic road ahead.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

As a result, the city projects it will be able to reduce its contributions to its pension funds by a total of $5 billion over Adam’s first three budgets.
Similarly, the decline in interest rates means the city’s debt service of principal and interest on its outstanding bonds is expected to fall by more than $1 billion over those years.
Fiscal experts tick off numerous problems facing the incoming mayor, who is required to propose his first budget within two weeks of taking office on Jan. 1. The two most important are labor contracts and ways to fund new programs currently being financed by federal COVID aid.
The city’s pact with its largest union, DC 37, expired earlier this year and others will follow in the coming year, including the United Federation of Teachers contract.
Even annual pay increases of only 2%, far less than the recent rate of inflation, would cost $2.2 billion a year for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2024, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.
“This round of bargaining can be a budget buster or city saver if the pay increases are funded by efficiencies,” said Rein.
He added: “There is a lot of knowledge in the city from City Hall to the frontline workers on how we can make the city more efficient.”
Cloudy Future
By contrast, the de Blasio administration’s budget plan offers virtually no specifics on programs to save money.
The second major problem is that the city is using federal aid to fund very popular programs like 3K, expansion of mental health services and educational enhancements, as well as nonprofit administrative support. The city will have to come up with at least $1.3 billion toward the end of the first Adams administration to keep the programs running.
The city also has not budgeted the $400 million needed to keep in place prevailing wages of shelter security guards and an increase in the value of rental vouchers.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also called for an aggressive effort by Adams to implement changes to city operations to save money. He noted the failure of de Blasio to do so in the current budget, which also reduces a target for labor savings negotiations with the unions to $500 million from $1 billion annually.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli wants to see more belt-tightening in the city budget.


DiNapoli also suggested that less robust economic growth might lead to slower growth in tax revenue than currently expected.
“The next administration should make efforts in its preliminary budget next year to reasonably assess the effects of changes to the city’s revenue over the plan and make the hard decisions necessary to balance the budget for [the budget Adams will propose in January] and beyond,” he added.
Adams had no comment on the budget revisions from Ghana, where he is vacationing. But previously he has been sharply critical of de Blasio’s failure to institute aggressive efforts to cut costs by giving agencies a target for reducing spending known as “programs to eliminate the gap,” or PEGs. He has suggested he will impose PEGs on all agencies of 3% to 5%.

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NYPD: Teen Trio Sought for Antisemitic Harassment Incidents Targeting Kids

Shannnon Morgan



NYPD: Teen Trio Sought for Antisemitic Harassment Incidents Targeting Kids

Police are looking for an apparent teenage trio they say is responsible for an antisemitic harassment pattern in Brooklyn in which the group has targeted children.

The New York City Police Department says that the first incident was reported to police on Friday at around 6 p.m. in the area of Skillman Street. It was there that allegedly the three unidentified individuals approached a 12- and a 3-year-old boy, who were walking home, and one of the females in the group apparently slapped the 3-year-old boy in the face before fleeing. Police say the 12-year-old boy was not hit in this incident.

Days later, according to police, on Sunday shortly after 5:30 p.m. on DeKalb Avenue, an 18-year-old woman and a 7-year-old girl were walking to a store when they were encountered by the three female individuals. The 18-year-old was allegedly approached from behind and grabbed by the jacket and pulled to the ground, before the individuals fled. The 7-year-old girl was not struck.

Subsequently, minutes later, at around 5:40 p.m. on Skillman Street, a 9-year-old boy was approached from behind as he was walking, and he was slapped on top of his head multiple times, according to the NYPD. The group fled on foot.

The victims were all wearing traditional Jewish attire when they were attacked and refused medical attention at the scene, according to police.

The NYPD’s Hate Cime Task Force is investigating the incidents.

The individuals are described as teenage girls, each wearing jeans and winter jackets at the time of the alleged attacks.

Anyone with information in regard to these incidents is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

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Supervised Drug Injection Sites to Open in NYC in Hopes of Preventing Overdoses

Shannnon Morgan



Supervised Drug Injection Sites to Open in NYC in Hopes of Preventing Overdoses

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that overdose prevention center (OPC) services, aimed at reducing overdose deaths — a public health issue that the country as a whole has been grappling with and seen a dramatic increase of during the pandemic — will open in New York City.

OPCs, also referred to as supervised injection or supervised drug consumption sites, are safe places where people who use drugs can receive clean needles, medical care and be connected to treatment for addiction and social services, according to the city. The OPCs will be an extension of existing services and will be co-located with previously established syringe service providers.

According to a NY Times report, New York City will authorize two supervised injection sites in Manhattan — in the neighborhoods of East Harlem and Washington Heights — to begin operating as soon as Tuesday.

“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.” 

The announcement means that New York City will become the first city in the United States to open officially authorized injection sites. Other cities, including Philadelphia, have taken steps toward supervised injection but have yet to open sites amid public backlash from both residents and local lawmakers.

These services will be coming online at a critical time, according to the city, which reports that during 2020, over 2,000 individuals died of a drug overdose in New York City, the highest number since reporting began in 2000.

Data from the first quarter 2021 shows 596 deaths occurred in New York City between January and March of this year. This represents the greatest number of overdose deaths in a single quarter since reporting began in 2000. 

“Overdose Prevention Centers can turn the tide in the fight against the opioid crisis, and New York City is ready to lead the way,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Melanie Hartzog. “We have lost too much to rely on the same playbook. It’s time to take bold action to help our most vulnerable neighbors and the communities they call home.” 

An increase in overdose deaths is a reality that New York City does not face alone. Data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show that there have been about 100,300 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 12-month period ending in April 2021. This marks an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.

OPC services are proven to prevent overdose deaths, and are in use around the world, according to the city, which adds that there has never been an overdose death in any of these types of facilities.

Saint Joseph’s University Medical Center in Patterson, New Jersey is taking a progressive approach to drug addiction. NBC New York’s Pat Battle reports.

“The national overdose epidemic is a five-alarm fire in public health, and we have to tackle this crisis concurrently with our COVID fight,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “Giving people a safe, supportive space will save lives and bring people in from the streets, improving life for everyone involved. Overdose prevention centers are a key part of broader harm reduction.” 

A Health Department feasibility study conducted by the city found that OPCs in New York City would save up to 130 lives a year. Aside from aiming to save lives, OPCs benefit surrounding communities, city officials said, pointing to a reduction in public drug use and syringe litter. Additionally, according to the city, other places with OPCs have not seen an increase in crime, even over many years, according to the city.

The locations of the OPCs will focus on communities based on health need and depth of program experience.

“As the opioid crisis continues to ravage New York and the death toll rises, I am relieved and grateful New York City has taken the necessary step to open two Overdose Prevention Centers,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the New York Senate Health Committee said in a statement. “These centers will be an effective tool in preventing overdose deaths, stopping the spread of disease, and providing a path to recovery. They will also help address the valid concerns that certain New Yorkers have regarding the increased presence of substance use on our streets and its impact on our communities. This is just a first step. I look forward to working with the Mayor to open overdose prevention centers in areas with the highest overdose deaths, including the Bronx, and with the Governor to authorize them throughout New York State.”

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