The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Tag Archives: stop and frisk

Stop and Frisk: “Reform” Debate Continues

As a result of powerful organizing and strong city-wide coalitions, Stop and Frisk has become one of the major issues that Mayoral Candidates have been forced to address.  Democratic mayoral candidates who did not seem critical enough of NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policies suffered in the election. Earlier this summer, the courts ruled that the way the NYPD has implemented Stop and Frisk is unconstitutional.  In attempt to improve police practices, Judge Scheindlin appointed an independent monitor and mandated that certain groups of police in high-crime areas must wear cameras. While we view this court ruling as a moral victory, we remain skeptical about how Stop and Frisk can remain in place in a just way.

Bloomberg and the NYPD are doing everything in their power to maintain Stop and Frisk as it is, and challenge the court’s ruling. This week, the union representing NYPD sergeants filed paperwork to appeal the court ruling, as well as to demand a seat at the table to help decide how the reforms will be implemented.

On the one hand, this seems fair- it’s their jobs and they’ll have to be the people carrying out the reforms. Just like we support teachers being involved in education reforms, perhaps police need to be involved in this process.  But when you dig deeper their role in conversations around reform becomes murkier- the NYPD sergeants are the very people who have been carrying out the unconstitutional practices. What’s more, they clearly do not believe that the program needs reform- which is why they are working to appeal the ruling.  If they don’t believe in the need to change their practices when those practices are clearly damaging, why should they have a seat at the table?

Stop and Frisk greatly impacts our work at UHAB. The tenants we work with are almost exclusively people of color, and Stop and Frisk policies (as proven over and over again) disproportionately impact communities of color. As a result, neighborhoods are deeply affected- from the way that people view the police and safety, to the way that they feel monitored and policed in their own homes.

Even “Operation Clean Halls,” the Stop and Frisk for privately owned apartment buildings, was deemed unconstitutional. But so little has changed. The NYTimes reports that:

Judge Scheindlin excoriated the Police Department for persisting in making illegal stops and arrests outside private apartment buildings — even after prosecutors had pointed out that they were wrongful.

There is a similar class-action lawsuit in the works claiming that stops in NYCHA buildings are discriminatory:

One resident, the president of a public housing leadership group, testified that life for families harassed by stop-and-frisk policies in their own apartment buildings was like life in a “penal colony.

Last week, Picture the Homeless  screened its new film “Journey Towards Change: Victory Over NYPD Profiling.”  According to Picture the Homeless’s website, “this short film includes interviews with our members, glimpses of activists in action, and reflections on what we’ve achieved and how much work we still have to do.”  To check out the film or get involved with Picture the Homeless’s work around Stop and Frisk, contact Shaun Lin at shaun@picturethehomeless.org.


Remember Amadou Diallo: Stand Up Against Police Brutality and Racial Profiling!

diallohead2-thumb

14 years ago today, 22 year old Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by the police in the doorway of his apartment building in the Soundview section of the Bronx.  Amadou was unarmed and a recent immigrant. His murder sparked widespread protest against the NYPD, and has become symbolic of the mistrust between the police and communities of color. In October, the officer who initiated the shooting was reunited with his gun. This fact adds to an increasing sentiment that the NYPD’s practices are in opposition to the best interests of most New Yorkers. In the past year, the relationship between New York and the boys in blue has deteriorated drastically, particularly in communities of color.

NYPD policies:

While we recognize that many NYPD officers support and work towards the best interest of the community, most are required to participate in the policies listed above.  These tactics instill a dangerous fear of law enforcement and dissuade us from standing up for ourselves and our communities.

Often when organizing in buildings, particularly in the Bronx, we hear that tenants are afraid to speak out against the horrible conditions that they suffer.  Some tenants are afraid of the landlord, some of their immigration status. As organizers, we work to empower communities, facilitate them coming together and facing something seemingly frightening together. Through organizing, demonstrating, and demanding changes, we can change the police system into the empowering body that it should be, into something that will uplift our communities.

Join Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice TODAY to honor Amadou Diallo’s life and to END police brutality and racial profiling:

Who: YOUTH MINISTRIES FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
What: Amadou Diallo Rally & Prayer Vigil
Where/When: 6:00 PM – Meet at Youth Ministrites for Peace and Justice, 1384 Stratford Avenue, Bronx NY
6:15 PM – March Starts
6:30PM – Prayer Vigil Starts @ Amadou Diallo’s Home, 1157 Wheeler Avenue, Bronx, NY 10472

For more information, click here

Housing Piece of Stop and Frisk Deemed Unconstitutional!

Photo: NY Daily News

Photo: NY Daily News

On January 9th NYC witnessed a historic blow to its Stop and Frisk Program.  A federal judge ruled that “Operation Clean Halls” – the aspect of the Stop and Frisk program which operates in private apartment buildings – is unconstitutional.  We’ve written about the racist nature of Operation Clean Halls on our blog several times.  There has been testimony after testimony after testimony of folks – almost exclusively people of color – being harassed or worse by police in or just outside of their own apartment buildings. Wednesday’s ruling is specific to buildings in the Operation Clean Halls program in the Bronx, but community activists and lawyers hope it to be extended city-wide.

NPR’s Michel Martin spoke to John Jay professor Gloria J. Browne-Marshall about the ruling.  Browne- Marshall explains the legal backing behind this ruling:

Under Terry versus Ohio in 1968, police are given the authority to conduct stops-and-frisks if there is imminent danger to the officer or to the public. Here, now we’ve drifted down to a level of – we’re no longer looking for guns. We’re no longer looking at imminent danger. We’re just saying, is this person loitering in a private facility? And, to the point where – are they loitering outside? Loitering and being arrested for stop-and-frisk is not what Terry versus Ohio allowed and so that issue right there raises it to the level of an unconstitutional stop, detaining of the person and the actual touching of the person by a police department.

Not only are people being stopped in buildings without any signs of immediate danger, but the people who are stopped are disproportionately people of color; 84% of all stops are men and women of color.  If this doesn’t enlighten us about the racist nature of this program, I don’t know what could.

NYC’s Stop and Frisk program is being attacked on several legal levels.  On December 20th an appellate state court ruled that the city is not legally allowed to keep their online database of over 360,000 people who were stopped and frisked by the NYPD.  The fact that the records are being stored electronically violates NYPD’s need to seal their records.  “‘This is a victory for privacy and the rule of law,’ said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. ‘It pulls the plug on the NYPD sprawling electronic database of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers.’”

One other legal blow that Stop and Frisk and the  NYPD face is a national lawsuit filed (again) by NYCLU which challenges the arrest of a Brooklyn woman who recorded a Stop and Frisk incident outside her house.  NYCLU’s press release reports:

[Hadiyah Charles ] used her smartphone to record two NYPD officers as they questioned and frisked three black youth whom had been innocently fixing a bicycle down the street from her Bedford-Stuyvesant home. The police officers tried to prevent Ms. Charles from filming the encounter by shoving her, handcuffing her, arresting her, and holding her in a jail cell for 90 minutes.

This is clearly problematic.  The more we can hold NYPD accountable for their harassment of New Yorkers, especially black and brown youth, the better. NYCLU is actually promoting recording incidents of Stop and Frisk.  They have created a smartphone app meant for recording incidents, and as a know-your-rights tool.  We need to continue fighting in the courts and in the streets until the entire Stop and Frisk program is dismantled!

Friday News Round Up

A quick list!

  1. On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo delivered his third State of the State address. According to the New York Times, the speech is “turn left” for the Governor, who has been seen as a pragmatic if not particularly progressive. He vehemently spoke about enacting harsher gun control laws, making further Sandy repairs, increasing the minimum wage, and extending school days. Of utmost importance to UHAB’s work is the $1B proposal to create more affordable housing.  
  2. A new sub-prime lending tactic is threatening to instigate another mortgage crisis. According to AOL News, the new lending practice allows sellers to lend money to buyers in order to purchase property. However, the buyers do not have good credit and wouldn’t have access to these mortgages otherwise. To us, this tactic seems predatory and, if not regulated, could cause homeowners to undergo foreclosure.  Let’s hope that lenders have learned something from the housing crisis…
  3. In an effort to improve conditions in apartments impacted by Sandy, NYCHA may turn apartments into boiler rooms. Many of the units in NYCHA buildings are vacant, and the boilers are placed in basements that are susceptible to water damage. While this tactic is understandable, we wonder why these vacant units aren’t being filled with displaced persons. Can’t they put the boilers above sea level and also NOT in an apartment? People need apartments around here! Every unit matters!
  4. A Manhattan Federal Court judge ruled this week that parts of NYPD’s controversial Stop and Frisk policy are unconstitutional. Police have been ordered to stop making trespass stops outside private residential buildings immediately. The highly controversial tactic has been called into question for racial profiling and infringing on civil liberties. Another bad policy bites the dust
  5. Hunts Point Produce Market provides more than half of New York’s fruits and veggies, but is considering relocating when its lease is up with the city. The State of New Jersey is wooing the major Bronx employee to the Garden State, with offers of tax breaks. Yesterday, despite rumors that a deal had been reached to stay in N.Y., Hunts Point Market has unexpectedly rejected a lease offer from the City. A move could leave the city with 4,000 fewer jobs, higher food prices, and less fresh options.

And, of course, there’s the trillion dollar coin. Have a good weekend!

Small Win for Communities against “Stop and Frisk,” but It’s Not Enough!

Rally against Stop and Frisk in San Francisco 7/2012

A small but important victory took place last week for communities against “Stop and Frisk”, the controversial NYPD program.  The program, which allows police to stop people and frisk them for drugs and weapons, has been under fire from all directions for targeting people (particularly young men) of color. As we’ve written before, an offshoot of “Stop and Frisk” is the “Operation Clean Halls” program in which landlords allow police to enter buildings to implement stop and frisk policies in order to stop potential trespassers.  Unfortunately, like most factions of this racist program, it is the tenants and the guests who suffer.  The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the NYCLU have filed lawsuits against the program, and have collected case after case of tenants who have been targeted and policed in their own homes.

Last week, the Bronx District Attorney announced that it will refuse to prosecute anyone charged with trespassing unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was actually warranted   In a letter from Jeanette Rucker, the DA’s bureau chief for arraignments stated “in many (but not all) of the cases the defendants arrested were either legitimate tenants or invited guests.” (As reported by the NYTimes.)

The hope is that through interviewing the arresting officers, less innocent victims will be charged with trespassing.  As I’m sure readers are aware, there are all sorts of consequences when a person enters the complicated and flawed criminal justice system, which greatly impacts their future.  When someone comes in contact with this system unjustly time and time again- particularly to young men of color- there is an enormous impact on the community at large.  All I’m saying is someone in power should read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

While the change in the Bronx’s DA is positive, it is clearly not enough.  Not only should all DA offices in the city follow this new policy, but we need to continue to push for the end of “Stop and Frisk” and heavy policing of communities of color altogether.  We need to rethink our criminal justice system in a way that moves apart from SB1070, Secure Communities, and Stop and Frisk.  We need a more creative and just system that protects us rather than one that results in collective punishment.

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