The Newsletter That Never Sleeps- Edition #8, 6/10/21
Hot enough for ya? It’s…
THE NEWSLETTER THAT NEVER SLEEPS
- Your weekly five borough briefing -
This is the eighth edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps, from June 10, 2021. Any new subscribers can read all previous editions, which include breakdowns of local races, ranked choice voting, public safety and COVID recovery here. Welcome!
Hey folks, I’m on vacation this week (I’m currently typing this on a surfboard riding the biggest wave you’ve ever seen and hi-fiving sharks wearing sunglasses. They have a real Pikachu here! Wish you were here XOXO!) so apologies if this edition is a bit brief. If you have any complaints, DM me at @realDonaldTrump on Twitter.
THE SAGA OF MAYA WILEY- PROGRESSIVES’ LAST MINUTE PUSH TO UNITE BEHIND THE FINAL UNTAINTED CANDIDATE
“I found out right before I came here,” Maya Wiley told the crowd at City Hall Park, holding hands with progressive superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had just surprised the crowd by announcing she was endorsing Wiley in the race for Mayor, “I was extremely excited when she called me and said ‘You’re my number one. Let’s talk about how we do this.’”
“Let’s talk about how we do this” perfectly encapsulates the fast-paced, last minute push inside the progressive wing of the NYC Democratic party to finally coalesce behind a single candidate- former counsel to Mayor de Blasio, Maya Wiley.
Wiley’s been waiting in the wings since January, holding her own with about 7–10% of decided voters, as progressive New Yorkers flirted with the campaigns of Comptroller Scott Stringer, a longtime figure in NYC politics, and Dianne Morales, a shiny new left-leaning nonprofit executive who talked big talk about defunding the police and pursuing universal housing. Wiley was always there, but was never in the spotlight.
Then Scott Stringer, who was polling in a steady 3rd place behind Eric Adams and Andrew Yang, two candidates the progressive wing of the party really don’t want to see win the mayoralty, hit a huge roadblock; Jean Kim, a lobbyist who had previously worked for Scott Stringer in 2002, accused him of sexual assault. Progressives such as Rep. Jamaal Bowman and State Sen. Julia Salazar jumped ship.
Dianne Morales started soaking in the sun and enjoyed a few weeks as the most openly left candidate in the field, rising slightly in the polls and bringing in young voters who were enticed by her left-wing policies and exciting rhetoric that pushed all the proper buttons to get young progressives onboard.
Then, at the end of May, Morales’ entire team went on strike and her campaign manager left the campaign, citing a hostile work environment fostered, in part, by Morales. Inconsistency with pay, lack of healthcare, long hours without compensation and two higher-ups harassing black and brown campaign staffers led the campaign to implode in the public eye. Endorsers of Morales, including the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, fled from the campaign.
The second debate saw the race playing out in its ugliest form: though all eight major candidates participated, it was Adams’ and Yang’s show, with the two moderate frontrunners duking it out over lack of experience, corruption, who loved the NYPD more, and why Eric Adams wants to carry a gun in City Hall.
The Working Families Party, an embattled progressive party line that had previously endorsed all three progressive candidates, saw its endorsement board whittle down over the month of May: from Stringer, Morales and Wiley to Morales and Wiley, and finally, to Wiley.
Last week, after the collapse of Dianne Morales’ campaign and after Wiley had a strong showing at the second debate, a group of five noteworthy progressive legislators, including Julia Salazar, endorsed Wiley. It seemed like a bellwether that progressives, rather than abandon the Mayor’s race and focus on electing downballot progressives like Brad Lander for Comptroller, would be performing a third about-face and publicly endorse the final progressive in the race whose campaign hadn’t fallen apart.
It was on June 5th that rumblings started to go around that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by far the most influential progressive legislator in the city, would possibly endorse Wiley in a press conference where she planned to announce her and her PAC’s (Courage to Change, more on them below), endorsements for City Council. The general consensus beforehand was that AOC would likely stay out of the race, as she normally keeps her endorsing power pretty close to her chest and has focused a lot of money and energy pushing Brad Lander.
Then, after some suspense, AOC brought out Wiley. The agenda was clear: after months of spreading the wealth around three different candidates, elected progressives were going to coalesce behind a single candidate to, at the very least, stay competitive against the three leading moderate candidates.
There hasn’t been any polling yet to show a Wiley bounce, as the most recent polling we have only goes up until May 31. However, polling from that period does show her taking in some of Morales’ voters, and the main union endorsing her campaign, Local 1199 SEIU, has announced a hefty spending plan in the final weeks before Election Day.
But why did it take progressives so long to come around to Wiley? Though she was the one who ended up with the lion’s share of the progressive support, that it took the implosion of the only other two progressive campaigns for Wiley to coalesce the left wing of the party points to some of the intrinsic weaknesses of her campaign.
Wiley positions herself in a very Elizabeth Warren-esque manner: the hyper-intelligent, progressive who can work within the system and has the plans to make change. Warren, like Wiley, was very popular with college educated White progressives, but struggled to gain any traction within any other major demographic.
Some politicos saw a similar ceiling for Wiley; though Wiley could use her position as an MSNBC anchor to pull in less politically tuned-in voters, there didn’t seem to be much of a path for Wiley to expand her base beyond wealthy, white and college educated liberals. To break out of the pack, she positioned herself as the “women’s” candidate, receiving endorsements EMILYs List and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a strong women’s rights advocate who, allegedly, was responsible for convincing AOC to endorse Wiley.
However, there are four women on the ballot, and Wiley was not the woman wielding the most support. Many White liberals who fled from Stringer’s campaign skipped right over Wiley and into Kathryn Garcia’s camp, while younger left-leaning voters largely went to Morales.
According to her campaign, Wiley’s coalition plan is to command the young progressive vote and to make inroads with Black and Hispanic voters through progressive economic appeals, in particular, her plan to compensate all home caregivers with a $5000 stimulus. Given Adams’ strong share of the Black vote, it’ll be difficult for Wiley to wrench away Black voters, who are, both in New York City and nationally, generally more moderate than White Democrats.
Another potential wrench in Wiley’s plan to bring in non-White voters is her aversion to traditional forms of approaching public safety, which is a top priority of all voter demographics, but especially so for non-White demographics. Wiley wants to cut the next two classes of NYPD cadets to shave $1 billion from the NYPD budget and cut down the NYPD’s officer count. Wiley and Morales have both tried to start a conversation about public safety that isn’t explicitly centered around police, but given Adams’ commanding position in the race with non-White voters right now, that may be a hard pitch to sell.
Regardless of whatever pitfalls Wiley’s campaign may face along the way, she’s in a much better position than she’s been all year; Stringer will probably hold onto his base of Manhattanites and some teachers, and Morales will retain some of her core base, but Wiley has the full backing of nearly every progressive body in the city. While it may not be enough to catapult her into first place, it could put her in a competitive position with Yang and Garcia, who are currently only polling around 5–7 points higher than Wiley.
Ranked choice voting could also help Wiley; there’s nothing keeping Morales and Stringer voters from ranking Wiley second, and polling shows that there is some sizable crossover between Garcia and Wiley supporters. Should Wiley progress past Garcia in the final rounds of counting, it could be enough to push her forward against Yang, who ranks high among candidates voters refuse to put on their ballot.
This probably isn’t how most on the broader Left wanted the race to turn out; while most explicitly Left and anti-capitalist bodies like the DSA stayed out of the Mayor’s race entirely, most progressives hoped to at least expand upon whatever progress Bill de Blasio’s made in the last eight years.
That seemed unlikely to occur until last week, and still seems to be a long shot, but at last, progressives finally have their candidate. She wasn’t their first choice, or even their second- but hey, it’s a ranked choice election.
HOW TO GET READY FOR EARLY VOTING
I’m blasting an airhorn and playing the beginning of “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas on my iPhone speakers, and also raising the roof. Early, in person voting starts Saturday, June 12! Early voting runs from the 12th to the 20th, and every registered Democrat or Republican is permitted to go and fill out their ballot at their designated early voting polling place- this may be different from your normal polling location!
To see where you can vote early, if you so wish, you can check out this directory provided by the Board of Elections.
You should be receiving, at some point in this week, a very helpful voter guide provided by NYC VOTES, founded by mayoral candidate Art Chang! It gives you a full schedule of when early voting, absentee voting and regular voting start and end, as well as an explainer on ranked choice voting and a quip from every candidate for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller and the City Council candidates in your area. It’s very nifty and comes in English and Spanish!
You should have received a Fast Pass Tag (the little plastic tag with your polling info) in the mail a month or so ago, which will let you check in at your polling location for early and Election Day voting without providing your ID, birthday, address, etc. No worries if you don’t have it on hand- you’ll just check in at your polling location as you have in the past.
If anyone hasn’t received the NYC VOTES voter guide and wants some of the info in the booklet (description of municipal jobs, priorities of certain candidates, etc.) feel free to email me and I’ll send you along some screenshots.
Also, you don’t have to vote early if you don’t want to! Given the volatility of the Mayor’s race, it may make some sense to hold off until Election Day to see if there are anymore twists and turns that may affect how you rank the candidates. On the other hand, if you feel your choices are locked in, why not skip the line and go vote next week? Happy ranking!
Courage to Change, a progressive PAC associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, endorsed a slate of over 60 candidates for City Council. This new PAC, whose founders are somewhat of a mystery as New York and federal law states that the names behind PACs don’t have to reveal themselves until after elections, is a progressive response to the “dark money” floating around the NYC race, which mainly come from charter school advocates and real estate developers.
The PAC, along with AOC, endorsed over 60 candidates. “But wait,” I hear you asking, “aren’t there only 51 city council districts in the city?” There are! Courage to Change did not go in and choose just one candidate in each race, but rather sent a “pledge”, which you can read here, as a litmus test to deem whether a candidate is devoted to pursuing progressive-aligned values should they get elected.
The PAC did not do any background checking on the candidates other than making sure their values matched with the pledge; this caused a bit of a kerfuffle in some races where the DSA has consolidated around a single candidate (in CD 22, where Tiffany Caban is expected to easily clinch the nomination, Courage to Change endorsed Caban and Evie Hantzopoulous as a second choice) as well as raising some questions about the PAC’s decision to endorse certain candidates with an iffy track record.
Courage to Change endorsed Arthur Schwartz, who activists were quick to point out was a strong advocate for getting rid of the 14th St. Busway, for CD 3 in Manhattan. The busway runs from 3rd to 9th Avenue and provides accessible transit for a lot of downtown New Yorkers who don’t have easy access to lateral travel on the subway, and is seen by transportation activists as a good model for establishing car-free streets in Manhattan.
AOC’s campaign said that they were unaware of Mr. Schwartz’s past advocacy against the busline, but maintained that he had signed the PAC’s pledge and thus will keep his endorsement.
You can read the full list of AOC and CTC’s endorsed City Council candidates here, if you’re still making up your mind on who to vote (or not vote) for in your CD.
DSA-backed State Sen. Julia Salazar, Assembly members Maritza Davila and Emily Gallagher and District Leader Samy Nevar-Olivares endorsed Maya Wiley for Mayor as a progressive joint package. A few of these endorsers, such as Salazar, were previous Stringer endorsers who pulled from the Comptroller’s campaign after accusations of sexual misconduct from lobbyist Jean Kim.
This set of endorsements came before the AOC endorsement, and was a very readable tea leaf that the elected progressives in NYC were going to make a last minute effort to coalesce behind Wiley rather than abandon the Mayor’s race altogether.
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York PAC endorsed Kathryn Garcia for Mayor. PPGNYC is a PAC that supports women candidates who will support women’s reproductive rights and further access to healthcare for women.
In their endorsement of Garcia, the PAC did not specifically go into Garcia’s track record as as a fighter for women’s rights (to be fair, she was a municipal commissioner who oversaw day-to-day agency functions, so she didn’t really have much time or onus for any sort of advocating), but rather explained that Garcia was the “leading woman candidate in the race.” For the moment, this seems to be true.
Rapper and my ICU contact Snoop Dogg endorsed Tahanie Aboushi for Manhattan District Attorney. Aboushi is the progressive choice for the Manhattan DA race, though she’s lagging behind frontrunner Tali Farahdian-Weinstein pretty badly in most available polling.
This endorsement caused a bit of a stir between two progressive superstars, former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and former Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout. Teachout claimed that the race “is down to Farhadian Weinstein and [Alvin] Bragg”, and that a vote for Aboushi would create an easier path to victory for Farhadian, the moderate prosecutor with ties to venture capital and Wall St., since the primary is not RCV.
Nixon shot back that Teachout’s perspective was “myopic, privileged and just plain wrong. Your song is ugly & out of tune. You should do yourself & everyone else a favor and stop singing it.”
Harsh language aside, there’s no data to suggest that this is a race between Bragg and Farhadian. Bragg is polling in 4th place in the last poll of the race that I saw. Perhaps Nixon and Teachout have seen something that I haven’t, but this looks to be another example of the “circular firing squad” of the Left that stymies the movement and keeps it largely contained to online Twitter fights.
First choice among respondents:
Eric Adams: 22% (+9 since mid-April)
Andrew Yang: 16% (-6)
Kathryn Garcia: 15% (+11)
Scott Stringer: 10% (-1)
Maya Wiley: 9% (+2)
Dianne Morales: 5% (-)
Ray McGuire: 4% (-2)
Shaun Donovan: 3% (-3)
Undecided: 16% (-10)
This is the first polling we’ve seen in about two weeks, and IPSOS is as legit a pollster as any who’s dared to wade into the NYC Mayor’s race, which has scared off a lot of traditional A-grade pollsters because of the new RCV system. What’s unfortunate about this particular survey is that it was on the ground just before some very important developments in the race: particularly, the second debate, the second accusation of sexual misconduct against Scott Stringer (see below) and the progressive coalition coming together around Maya Wiley (see above) all occurred a few days after the window of this poll.
Nonetheless, this is a good snapshot of the late-May Kathryn Garcia surge, of which we’ve only had sparse data until now. An Emerson poll from roughly the same time window showed Garcia in first place, two points ahead of Eric Adams and far ahead of Andrew Yang. A CODA/Fontas poll, which has some monetary ties to the Garcia campaign, showed Garcia in a statistic tie for second place with Yang.
This poll from IPSOS is more in line with the latter picture, which implies that at the height of her surge (if she’s already hit the height of her surge, which we can’t be sure of), Garcia was/is polling neck and neck with Yang, and is potentially competitive in the final rounds of counting against Yang and Adams.
This would explain the tit-for-tat blows Adams and Garcia have recently shared on the campaign trail, Adams blasting Garcia for underserving impoverished neighborhoods as COVID Food Czar and Garcia lambasting Adams for his ties to the NYPD: “We don’t need a cop as Mayor.” While Adams has a decent share of the older, moderate White vote, data from RCV simulations show White voters coalescing against Adams in the final round of counting, especially if his opponent is Garcia, a White woman.
Adams, who’s already ahead by a healthy margin in this first-choice poll (it did not include an RCV simulation), gets some more good news when looking at respondents second choices. He and Stringer are in a statistical tie for first place of voters’ second choices, at 14% and 15% respectively. Wiley and Yang tie for third at 12% and 11% statistically.
That’s pretty bad news for Yang, who’s maxed out on name recognition (99% among likely voters) and has only fallen in the polls as more people become familiar with him. He’s tied in first choice ranking with Kathryn Garcia, who only has 88% name recognition among likely voters, and tied for second choice ranking with Wiley, who has 85% name recognition with likely voters.
Yang and Morales fared the worse from increased name recognition; 90% of respondents recognized Dianne Morales’ name, but 55% of voters were confident they would not be ranking her, a 10% increase from April. Yang’s no-rank percentage increased from 21% to 34%- that’s 34% of virtually all voters, since Yang is universally known among voters in NYC. If more than a third of voters are refusing to vote for you a month out from the election, you’d better pray that the other two thirds are on your side.
The last point- and it’s an important one- is that there’s a very easy way to suss out why Adams has propelled to the frontrunner spot in recent weeks. In the topline numbers, the number one issue registered Democrats believe the next Mayor has to face is- you guessed it- crime and public safety.
As worries over COVID collapse among voters (falling 18 points as a top priority for voters between April and May), voters have become primarily concerned with the recent wave of violent crime (crime jumped up 14 points since April). Voters trust Adams, a former cop who’s been running a tough-on-crime campaign since the beginning, to handle violent crime over Yang by a 3:1 margin. If this election remains a referendum on public safety and crime, expect Adams to maintain a huge advantage over his opponents, even as Yang and Garcia tack to the right on policing.
Eric Adams’ Aqueduct Casino Bid Scandal Reveals Contradictions and Shaky Memory, by Greg B. Smith and Yoav Gonen
Eric, come on. This is the fourth week in a row a major NYC outlet’s published an expose on your financial doings! Get it together, man! While I personally believe the Mayor should be the most corrupt person in the city, this is a little much.
Revel Claims NYC is Blocking Its Push to Put Tesla Taxis On Streets, by Stephen Nessen
Inside the legislative fight to cap ride-sharing vehicles on the streets, spurred by a new startup ride-share app that wants to give full employment benefits to its drivers and use electric-only vehicles. Sometimes competition does breed innovation!
As violence spikes in NYC, de Blasio looks to Albany for help, by Shant Shahrigian
Bill de Blasio doesn’t have much control over the NYPD; that’s no secret. But how much of that is his fault, and how much of that is because of the constraints state law puts on the Mayor’s ability to oversee public safety?
Andrew Yang is Hit With Negative Ads from Animal Rights Leaders, by Dana Rubinstein
The same PAC that destroyed Christine Quinn’s frontrunner campaign for Mayor in 2013, NYCLASS, is back with ads against Andrew Yang, attacking the co(?)-frontrunner over his support of the horse and carriage program in Central Park, a sticking point for animal rights activists for years.
Newly Reported Cases (4/8–4/22): 241 avg. daily cases (-50%)
Newly Reported Hospitalizations: 692 avg. daily hospitalizations (-31%)
For the second week in a row, daily COVID cases in New York City are under the 1,000 count, test positivity is below 1% (currently at 0.52%) and hospitalizations are continuing to fall as they have for the past 8 weeks.
Most of the current COVID news falls under vaccination, which we’ll get to in just a second- the only big story regarding COVID recovery that’s disconnected from vaccinations is a little brouhaha over masks in schools: Governor Cuomo and the CDC had previously stated that masks are no longer a necessity in schools and that students won’t need to be masked in the fall.
The BOE countered that masks, for the time being, will be required in public education centers, except for outside summer programs. The Governor, as well as Mayor de Blasio, plan to see the next few weeks through and allow the BOE to require masks before lessening restrictions and allowing districts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not they’ll require masks in schools.
They maintain that, by the fall, students and teachers will be able to attend school unmasked.
Brooklyn: 39% fully vaccinated (+1%), 50% adults vaccinated (+2%)
The Bronx: 37% fully vaccinated (+2%), 48% adults vaccinated (+2%)
Manhattan: 57% fully vaccinated (+2%), 65% adults vaccinated (+2%)
Staten Island: 43% fully vaccinated (+2%), 54% adults vaccinated (+2%)
Queens: 50% fully vaccinated (+3%), 61% adults vaccinated (+2%)
Governor Cuomo announced on Monday that once 70% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the vast majority of the remaining COVID restrictions would be lifted statewide. This includes restrictions on capacity, health screenings, contact tracing and COVID protocol for disinfecting surfaces and appliances.
There were also broader gestures at loosened COVID guidelines for institutions that still have some restrictions, mainly public transit and senior centers. Cuomo hasn’t explicitly stated that he’ll drop the mask mandate on public transportation and in closed-door institutions that house vulnerable populations, but that seems to be what he’s aiming for.
The current one-shot vaccination rate for New Yorkers over 18 is 68.6%, and the Governor’s office estimates that we could hit the 70% threshold (an arbitrary number set by President Biden as a goal for vaccination by July 4th, and probably one connected to some, albeit, outdated model of herd immunity) within the next week or two.
Vaccination rates are continuing to slow to a crawl nationwide, though a majority of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of last week, and 53% of Americans over 18 are fully vaccinated.
As of June 9th, 2021, courtesy of the New York Times
SCOTT STRINGER FACES ANOTHER ALLEGATION OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
CW: sexual harassment, description of groping and assault
Just when it seemed that the Stringer campaign was rebounding from allegations of sexual misconduct and assault by lobbyist and former campaign volunteer Jean Kim (voters said by a 2:1 margin that the allegations against Stringer didn’t change their opinion of the Comptroller, and his polling had remained fairly steady), another woman from Stringer’s past, Teresa Logan, accused Scott Stringer of sexual harassment when he was her boss at a Democrat hangout bar called Uptown Local in the 1990's.
Logan, after seeing Kim’s allegations against Stringer go live, contacted Kim’s attorney, Patricia Pastor, to share her story. From the NYTimes, which broke the story:
“Within weeks of starting her new job came an unsettling interaction, Ms. Logan said. As she carried trays up a flight of stairs, Mr. Stringer was walking down it.
“He just, like, totally pats me on the butt, and like, squeezes it,” she said. “I had no way of reacting. My hands weren’t free to even protect myself…
“I sort of glossed it over for myself saying, ‘But I’m getting paid in cash, free drinks, my friends and I are getting free drinks every night,’” she said. “This dude’s a creep, so are a lot of guys at bars probably.”
She stayed on and continued to socialize with Mr. Stringer, she said, celebrating her 19th birthday at Uptown Local.
Ms. Logan said that on another occasion, Mr. Stringer suggested that they go out to another bar. She expected that they would go somewhere within walking distance, but instead, he hailed a cab.
“I just have a memory of him in the car, putting his hand on my inner thigh,” she said, adding that he “definitely kissed me, like, made out with me.”
She added: “And I was like, ‘No, no, no,’ and then when I was so strong about the ‘no’ in that situation, it stopped and he kind of laughed it off, like, ‘Oh, I’m drunk, I’m sorry.’”
Yohanna Logan, who was 17 that summer, says her sister described the incident to her on the night that it happened.
“I do remember her coming home and being like, more scared than I’ve ever seen her, and just telling me, like, she was really, really shaken up,” she said. “I remember her saying that she was in a cab with him and that he, like, touched her, tried to, like, kiss her and she was trying to get out of it.”
…One night, she said she and Mr. Stringer were drinking after work, when he suggested going to another bar.
She recalled that their walk took them, eventually, to the outside of an apartment building. Mr. Stringer invited her up, she said.
At first, the overture was playful, she recalled, and she responded in kind, proposing that they share a cigarette and talk but saying that there was “no way” she would join him upstairs.
Then Mr. Stringer began to kiss and grope her, she said.
“It was almost like this out-of-body experience, where I’m like, ‘What do I do, like this is my boss,’” she said. “Meanwhile he’s like, his hand going up my skirt, and my chest.”
Ms. Logan said she knew clearly that she wanted him to stop.
“I was like ‘No, no, no, I’m going home,’” she said. “And I like, turned my back, walked away. Got a cab.”
The allegation against Stringer, which Logan said occurred in 1991, line up with the behavior previously described by Kim: unwanted groping, kissing without consent and other acts of sexual misconduct.
While some outlets, such as the Intercept, had previously poked holes in Kim’s story, leading some progressives (including Rep. Jamaal Bowman) to go on the record to state they had some regret in immediately rescinding their endorsement of Stringer, this second allegation seemed to cement their decision to distance themselves from Stringer. A few days later, Bowman endorsed Wiley.
No endorsers who have stuck with Stringer through the first allegation have rescinded their endorsement this time around. The Stringer campaign, which tried to toe the line between creating space for Kim’s account while firmly denying the truth of the allegations, did not play the same balancing act with Ms. Logan’s accusation:
“With one week to go before voting starts, Ms. Pastor is back with more allegation, this time from 30 years ago,” Stringer said at a press conference. A spokesperson fo the campaign said that the allegations “predated decades of service and management by Scott Stringer in the public eye and should be considered in that context.”
What’s interesting about this situation, though, is that Stringer is not categorically denying Logan’s allegations as he did with Kim’s. While he claims to have no memory of the events, he said in a published statement that “If, in fact, I met Ms. Logan, and ever did anything to make her uncomfortable, I am sorry… Uptown Local was a long-ago chapter in my life from the early 1990s and it was all a bit of a mess.”
Stringer’s campaign is still on the ground campaigning hard in the final week before voting, and says that Stringer will leave it up for the voters to decide the veracity and relevance of the allegations.
ON THE GROUND- Washington Square Park, Manhattan
New York City natives Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock, collectively known as the Beastie Boys, spoke caustic truths that parents and society at large were unwilling to hear:
“You gotta fight/for your right/to party”
The Beastie Boys’ philosophy is materializing in Washington Square Park, where late night partying and debauchery, seen as a collective societal release at the tail end of a 15 month quarantine, has been met with a heavy police force in riot gear to enforce a 10 PM curfew at the behest of… someone.
On Saturday night, the NYPD made 23 arrests as violence broke out between the heavily armed police and a crowd of parkgoers who had apparently been bugging the neighbors in the residential area.
The Gothamist wrote about the ongoing struggle between parkgoers and the NYPD to claim one of the most famous public spaces in the city, and I encourage you to read it, as it includes a great scope of perspectives on who owns the park and how the NYPD has (or hasn’t) made changes to their mobilization efforts since the widely-reported wave of violence against protestors last summer.
One particular quote in the article caught my eye, however, and it’s what I want to focus on here:
“At Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, the NYPD implemented another 10 p.m. curfew this week, with at least two officers stationed at all nine entrances to the park. The decision was made without any notice to the Mayor’s Office, the local Council Member, or the public.”
Well, hold on. The NYPD implemented the 10 PM curfew themselves? Can they do that?
Those to whom I spoke with knowledge of the NYPD’s inner workings told me that the NYPD cannot generate arrestable offenses on their own- meaning that a curfew has to come from a separate body, usually local lawmakers. So then why did officers on the ground tell the Gothamist that they set the 10 PM curfew? Why did the Mayor’s office claim that they knew nothing about this?
What is going on here?
Let’s lay some facts on the table for context- Washington Square Park usually closes at 10 PM (except on weekend, when it closes at midnight) and there are usually a few officers on the ground to make sure that there aren’t any illicit activities occurring in the park after hours. I’ve lived in or around Washington Square Park most of my adult life (I’m 24, so take that with a grain of salt), and going through the park after 10 usually isn’t a problem.
The NYPD claimed that they were responding to those in the community who were disturbed and upset at the abnormal activity of partying going on after closing time. From NY1:
“The park has turned into a nightmare for those of us with kids,” said local resident Maria Rose. “There’s constant drugs, constant nudity. There’s sexual acts here all the time. The trash in the mornings has become really obscene and it’s really not a place for kids anymore, let alone adults.”
That’s just one person’s perspective, and the wealthy denizens who can afford to live in Greenwich village tend to be a little pearl-clutchy. But here’s the thing, and it raises even more questions- in the immediate area surrounding Washington Square Park, there’s virtually no residential housing.
The north and south sides of the park are completely owned by NYU and the NYU Law School. The south side houses the university’s Kimmel Building, the Bobst Library and the Law School. The north end holds some faculty buildings and a graduate school. The east side of the park is also entirely commercial or owned by NYU. The east side has some hotels and one or two apartment buildings, but is mainly occupied by an NYU dorm.
So who put in a call to the NYPD? There were so many cops visible in the videos shared online, including some obviously high-ranking officers, that this could not just be a 6th precinct response- NYPD HQ had to put in a call for a larger mobilization. There must have been some large external pressure if the NYPD did not illegally establish a curfew. There are a few options, some more likely than others:
1. People living around or near WSP called the NYPD to complain about loud noises after dark, though they’d be living at least a block or two away.
2. The Parks department, which has enforcement in WSP, set the curfew themselves and called the NYPD to back them up because they couldn’t enforce the curfew alone.
3. The Mayor’s office put in a call and feigned ignorance.
4. This is my personal favorite- NYU put in a call to the NYPD to mark their territory.
5. The NYPD set up a curfew outside of normal legal parameters.
After further digging, other sources suggest we can throw out number 5 right away- a notice by CBS2 posted before the clash on Saturday night implies the curfew was originally set by the Parks Enforcement Patrol, part of the larger Parks Department.
This doesn’t explain why the NYPD officers on the ground told the Gothamist that they had set the curfew, though there could have been some miscommunication between officer and reporter, or the officers on the ground could have just been flexing their muscles, as the officers questioned stated that this was clearly, in part, a larger signal to the rest of the city that, like last summer, disorder would not be tolerated:
“One officer told Gothamist the action was meant as a preemptive measure to quash protests or riots that might follow last summer’s disorder. Another explained that parties were illegal in the park.”
So here’s what seems to have happened, and it suggests that any of the aforementioned possibilities could be true: local residents or landlords (this could be anyone- people living in the area, NYU administrators or people in hotels on the west side of the park) put in a number of calls to the NYPD and the Parks Department, citing unruly conduct and loud noises after dark. The park was also probably a mess in the morning.
The parks department, and this is corroborated by someone with knowledge of the situation, then put in a call to the NYPD for backup as the Parks Enforcement Patrol could not control the crowd on their own. HQ at the NYPD decided to make an example of the parkgoers to let the rest of the city know that even though the pandemic was over, there would not be any lawlessness permitted outside.
So it seems, by all accounts, that the NYPD acted legally here. Whether or not the amount of force they used was unnecessary or if those putting in the calls to the Parks Department and the NYPD were in the right to try to shut down the scene as WSP is up to you. I’m not going to tell you how to think about it, I wasn’t there, and that’s not really the focus of this story.
If anything, the events in Washington Square Park over the weekend is indicative of two things: firstly, that the chain of command in enforcing public safety lacks transparency, which isn’t good for citizens or the police. Secondly, the NYPD does not seem to have changed their tactics from last summer, which nearly led to legislation slashing their budget by $1 billion.
I guess there’s a third thing, but it hardly bears pointing out because it’s a perennial NYC issue: Bill de Blasio hasn’t learned anything:
“Asked about the curfews on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the department for striking a balance between protecting freedom and ensuring safety, and said he did not have a problem with the NYPD shuttering city parks at their own discretion.”
If I were the Mayor, I’d personally want to know about new curfews and large police/citizen clashes in one of the most populated parts of the city, but that’s just me. We’re going to miss him when he’s gone!
Thanks for reading this edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps. If you have any feedback, leads, stories, or just want to reach out, feel free to email me at email@example.com or @kieranian_ on Twitter.