Mayor-elect Eric Adams waffled Wednesday on his demand to toughen New York bail laws — making remarks on national TV that repositioned him in alliance with Albany leaders who are adamantly against scaling back landmark reforms.
He also vowed to appoint “the right judges” to Criminal Court and said he expected them to make sure “people who pose threats to my community” stay off the streets.
Fresh off his Nov. 2 win, Adams had surprised state lawmakers when he said a top first-year priority would be working with Albany to back bail reform — giving judges the power to lock up repeat violent offenders pre-trial.
“We noticed a number of cases where people have been extremely dangerous. They’ve been out the next day and it is really creating a public safety issue,” Adams told reporters at the Somos political summit in Puerto Rico.
But when asked by “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg whether he would have the power to beef up the bail law as mayor, Adams suggested his position had evolved after a recent sitdown with Assemblymember Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn).
“What’s happening now, it’s not the bill — the judges,” Adams said on the ABC daytime talk show. “They’re not putting bail on where they could put bail on.”
A campaign spokesperson, Evan Thies, said shortly after Adams’ TV appearance that the soon-to-be-mayor, a former cop who made fighting crime a big part of his campaign, had not changed his stance.
“The mayor-elect thinks there needs to be additional criteria for bail to protect New Yorkers against violent individuals, and also that, in the meantime, judges can do more with the tools they have,” said Thies.
Adams may have an ally in Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who opened the door to altering the law as she runs for her first full term next year against progressive candidates who include state Attorney General Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
“We’ll work very closely with Eric Adams to make the changes, if necessary,” Hochul told reporters in Albany earlier this week.
Candidates who campaigned on the theme of rolling back bail reform gained district attorney and county executive posts in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, intensifying pressure on Democrats to make concessions in the legislative session that begins in January.
The bail reforms signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019 require judges to release defendants after arrest on many nonviolent charges. Even when they do set cash bail, judges are only permitted to decide on whether it ensures someone will show up for their future court dates.
In certain felony cases, judges have the power to order someone held in jail. Updates passed last year allow them to take into account past history in deciding on a bail or release plan — but judges are still not supposed to consider “dangerousness” in these decisions.
In a recent interview with THE CITY, bill sponsor Walker said it’s imperative to hold the line against political pressures to roll back reforms, and what she describes as politically motivated misinformation.
“They never even gave bail reform a chance. There are thousands of individuals released and not rearrested and I consider that a huge success of the bill,” she said. “I look forward to strengthening it and look forward to going on an education tour to really give people the truth.”
A Mix of Data
Numbers compiled by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice indicate that in any given month since bail reform was enacted, more than 95% of those arrested and released prior to trial are not rearrested.
At the same time, MOCJ found, about 25% of those arrested in the first six months of 2021 already had a case pending against them.
A bail bonds business was still operating near Brooklyn Criminal Court, Nov. 19, 2021.
Hiram Alejandro Durán/ THE CITY
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) told THE CITY that his chamber sees no need to change the bill.
“I do not believe that the data justifies revisiting what we’ve done,” said Gianaris, the chamber’s deputy majority leader and a co-sponsor of the bill.
“Eric Adams hasn’t even been sworn in yet and already he’s stepping into something in a very unfortunate way and it’s not connected to reality,” Gianaris added. “So hopefully — I’m wishing him success — but hopefully he figures out that this is not the source of his problems.”
The bail law, passed two years ago by the Democrat-dominated Legislature, quickly became a target for law enforcement leaders who blamed the measure for a surge in crime and gun violence during the pandemic.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea for months pointed to the reforms as a factor in rising crime, only to backtrack to state lawmakers in October, saying, “When you look at who we arrest for crimes, it’s going to be small numbers.”
Assailing bail reform has also been a tenet for GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Brooklyn/Staten Island), who has frequently held campaign and congressional news conferences highlighting crimes committed by individuals who’d been released without bail.
The messaging found an audience among New Yorkers nervous about crime. This year, Republicans picked up two additional seats in the City Council, bringing their total to five out of 51 members.
“It’s a worn Republican playbook: When in doubt, stoke fears in suburban voters,” said Peter Kauffman, a principal at Blue Jacket Strategies and Democratic strategist.
The issue is sure to play a major role in the governor’s race, with Rep. Lee Zeldin, the New York State GOP’s pick for governor, already incorporating a promise to repeal the law into his campaign.
“The largest issue for people across the spectrum, right to left, conservative to liberal, Republican to Democrat, they’re telling me that they support repealing cashless bail,” said Zeldin at a news conference last week. “They share stories about how cashless bail in their county has eroded public safety.”
The Bail Blame Game
Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Greater Justice New York program at the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice, said that bail reform critics blame the law for “every crime and public safety incident that occurs.”
“This narrative, propagated by law enforcement and now the incoming mayor, presents a false choice between public safety and criminal justice reform. But rhetoric is not fact, and the facts are clear: Bail reform has been shown to not only reduce the number of people in jail, but also to reduce crime and increase public safety,” Harris-Calvin said.
Adams has attempted to thread the needle and say he’s not interested in incarcerating the desperate — just the dangerous.
“I’m talking about imminent threat to safety, particularly gun violence. If you are a person that discharges a weapon or a person that on multiple occasions you were found to carry a weapon, that should be taken into account,” Adams said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show earlier this month.
“I’m talking about dangerous crimes. I’m not talking about someone [who] steals food because he or she — they are hungry. I’m talking about those who are carrying out those specific violent crimes,” he added.
For Walker, the difference between discretion and dangerousness is just semantics.
“They’re using discretion as another way of saying ‘dangerousness’ and that’s the issue here,” she said. “Don’t mislead people into thinking something is one way because you want them to jump on board. It’s misleading and deceptive and it’s just not right.”
“I’m more than happy and willing to meet with the governor and with the mayor-elect to discuss bail reform and why it’s better than what we had before,” she added.
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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.
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.”
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
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).
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.”