Lloyd Cambridge and the Queens NYC Business Solutions provide counseling and advice to small businesses. Similar services are available throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Janice Fredricks opened her beauty supply store with their help. She credits them with helping her succeed.
Many black parents identify with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments on the need to teach his biracial son Dante how to interact with police. (Video: Office of the Mayor)
By PRISCILLA FERRERAS
Carol Gray wakes up to live another day without her son, who was killed two years ago by police in East Flatbush. The two officers were not charged with any crime in the shooting of her son, but she says she hasn’t given up on demanding justice for him.
According to police, two officers patrolling East Flatbush in an unmarked car came across Kimani Gray, 16, walking with a group of men around 11:30 p.m. on March 9, 2013. The teenager separated himself from the group and adjusted his waistband in what police described as a suspicious manner. As officers got out to question him, police said, Gray turned around and pointed a .38-caliber revolver at them. In return, they fired seven shots, hitting the teenager. He was pronounced dead shortly after at Kings County Hospital Center.
“They slaughtered my son,” Carol Gray said. “To this day I still want to know why seven times.”
Hoping to avert such confrontations, community organizations and parents of African-American youth are taking it upon themselves to teach young people how to conduct themselves during interactions with police officers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio drew a strong reaction last December for saying that he and his wife “had to literally train” their biracial son Dante how to handle encounters with police—the president of the largest police union said he
threw cops “under the bus.” But the experience de Blasio described is shared by parents of African-American children in New York City and around the country.
Parents and activists around New York City are joining together to teach children and young adults of color on how to respond to the police when stopped. Experts hold workshops for youths on safe behavior during police interactions, trying to help them see the “what-ifs” that can be the outcome of hostile encounters. Many parents of African-American and Latino believe it is essential training, especially where there are high crime rates and heavy handed policing.
“Young adults of color need to know what to do when stopped by a police officer,” said Officer Dave Wilson, an African-American cop who works at the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville. “We cannot allow our children to be ignorant.”
Manny Bennett, 45, a single father who lives in East New York, says his 16-year-old son and group of friends get questioned by officers while walking home from school at least once a week. He tries his best as a parent to teach his son the right things to say.
“I tell him to stay calm and still,” Bennett said. “I know that they’re cutting down on the stop-and-frisk program, but I know that as long as his skin is darkened, there will always be a target on his back.”
Noel Leader, a cofounder of the police fraternal group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, believes his organization can have a big impact on the way youths view New York City’s Finest. “They have to initially understand that not all cops are out to get them,” said Leader. “Many officers are just trying to make it as safe for them, as they are for their mothers, sisters and brothers.”
De Blasio’s views on the matter led to a heated war of words with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, following a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict an officer in the death of Eric Garner. Lynch said the mayor needs to do more to support New York City cops.
“What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference is that they were thrown under the bus,” Lynch told reporters. “That they were out there doing a difficult job in the middle of the night, protecting the rights of those to protest, protecting our sons and daughters and the mayor was behind microphones throwing them under the bus.”
Facing heat from the police union, de Blasio has stood by his comments that his biracial son needs to take special precautions around cops.
“What parents have done for decades who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have a connection with a police officer,” de Blasio said.
“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country,” de Blasio continued. “And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”
Brooklyn College Professor Alex Vitale discusses conflict between PBA and mayor.(Priscilla Ferreras)
Alex Vitale, a professor at Brooklyn College who researches social movements, said he believes the mayor’s comments were intended to send a message to African-Americans about heavy-handed policing. “The reality is that the risk for young black men’s interactions with the police is much greater than they are for other members of the community,” Vitale said. “So I don’t think the intention was to throw the NYPD under the bus, but to reach out to the African-American community and let them know the political leadership of New York City takes the problems of excessive policing very seriously.”
According to New York Civil Liberties Union, stop-and-frisk has continued on a smaller scale following a 2013 ruling in which U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin found the Bloomberg administration’s broadbrush approach to be unconstitutional. In 2014, under the de Blasio administration, police stopped and frisked 24,777 African Americans, mostly youth.
And so parents and community organizations are continuing the effort to teach young people about how to interact with police.
“It starts with first educating them on what their rights are as a person in society,” said Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, an organization that mentors African-American youths and also maintains the ability to respond rapidly – through direct action and media commentary – to issues and police actions that affect members of the Central Brooklyn community. “We mentor youths on how not to provoke the police and remind them to refuse to give the police an excuse to harm them.”
Activist Mark Winston Griffith speaks of teaching youth how to interact with police.(Priscilla Ferreras)
As a parent also, he shares some common ground with the mayor. He said he finds it hard to counsel his children about dealing with police. “After all they are there to protect us,” said Griffith, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. His kids are only 12 and 13 years old, but whenever a cop has pulled over their dad in a car, he says they have a sense that they are being targeted.
“It starts with telling youths to understand that they are in a potentially violent situation. Know what you’re allowed to do, and do what’s necessary to keep yourself safe. Also, to be aware that any verbal or physical actions on their part could possibly end in an altercation with the cops.”
One of the witnesses to the shooting of Kimani told Carol Gray that her son was only fixing his belt. Gray said she never knew her son to own a gun. His sister, Mahnefah Stone, 19, who was close to her son, said she never knew him to own such a weapon.
“Even if he did have one that night, he wouldn’t of point it at the cops,” Stone said. “I know my brother; he had common sense.”
The medical examiner said Kimani was shot seven times, and that he had two wounds in his torso and three in the back of his body, which Carol Gray said indicates he had turned and tried to run away.
“My point as a mother is regardless if you even suspect that he has a gun, one shot was enough. Not so many,” Gray said. “The neighbor said Kimani was crying for his life. He was like ‘Okay, you got me. You got me. I don’t want to die. Don’t kill me.’ ”
Hoping to prevent violent confrontations,100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a group of African Americans from a variety of professions within the field of law enforcement, has launched community workshops.
Vernon C. Wells, a co-founder of the group and former police officer, holds a monthly workshop called “What to Do when Stopped by the Police.” About 50 minority youths attended the March workshop, which discussed car stops, various types of warrants, what rights they have and more. Wells used another member of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement to demonstrate how the youths can respond to police and respectfully express themselves. One by one, boys and girls went up to the front to participate in a scenario of being stopped by an officer. Pamphlets were handed out as a guideline of their rights and what to do if they ultimately get arrested.
A youth slowly raised his hand and asked a question that isn’t the easiest to answer. “What do we do if a cop has a nasty attitude with us?” asked Keyon Green, 17, a high school junior.
“Continue to be calm and easy-going. Every action will bring out a reaction,” Wells said
“Don’t let them put fear in your heart.” Stoned-faced as he looked around the classroom. He added: “Your life matters.”
Steps towards improvement of police-youth interactions are being taken by a few within te Police Department.
Simone Weichselbaum, a staff writer at the Marshall Project who has spent more than a decade covering urban criminal justice issues, said in an interview that she has done several stories on raising awareness of policing and community interactions.
“I got the opportunity to speak to black commanders in the NYPD a few months ago about police interactions with minorities,” said Weichselbaum. “One commander told me how he planned to send officers to high schools in New York to speak to teens about how to interact with cops.”
The program is called Strategies for Youth, in which police officers go to high schools all over the city and give teens tools for navigating calm, unprovoked interactions with the police. Overall, the organization is dedicated to improving police/youth interactions through community engagement, outreach programs for youth, and proactive use of multi-disciplinary approaches to problem-solve and build relationships between police and youth.
According to a Malcom X Grassroots Movement analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings, police officers in the United States killed at least 313 African Americans in 2012. Since there are 8,760 hours in a year, this means a black person was killed by an officer every 28 hours.
Abby Ramos, a mother whose 18-year-old African American son was fatally shot in April 2013, in Kissimme, Florida on the I-95 highway during a car search conducted by the police due to a verbal dispute that escalated, says she works with The Stolen Lives Project so that her son’s death will not be in vain.
“I use my child’s experience to raise experience for other parents who’ve endured my struggle,” Ramos said as she attended an East Flatbush vigil honoring Kimani in March. “Parents need to have a raised awareness of every cop interaction because any can happen during these scenarios.”
Carol Gray also works for the Stolen Lives Project as part of the effort to keep children of color safe in their interactions with police.
“I believe it’s a two-way street,” Gray said as she looked out her window nostalgically in her two-family home in East Flatbush. “Both actions between the cops and African-American youths must be calm and non-threatening in order for interactions to be safely executed.”
The community vigil Gray held in March marked two years since the slaying of her son.
“The past couple of months, the bell hasn’t rung,” she said. “I’m still waiting for him to come home.”
New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and Health & Hospitals Corporation head Ram Raju announced on Tuesday the formation of a new mental health program at Bellevue Hospital Center to provide psychiatric treatment to as many as 550 children a year.
“Bellevue’s Children’s Partial Hospitalization program allows children who suffer from depression and or domestic violence to gain the help they need to function properly,” said McCray. “The treatment would provide more treatment to young people than outpatient programs can provide.”
The program was expected to provide day treatment for patients between the ages of 6 and 17. It would eliminate the space between hospitalization and outpatient care. The program is an intensive , non- residential, therapeutic hospital-based program designed to provide clinical diagnostic treatment.
McCray has made juvenile mental health a signature issue of her tenure as First Lady.
“People suffering from mental issues might not show symptoms but neither the less they are still suffering,” said Dr. Raju.” Mental issues are not accidents and we need to provide a nurturing environment for these kids.”
The $1.4 million-a-year program allows patients to participate in individual and group psychotherapy. Clinicians also work closely with the families and social services providers who are involved with each child. Children also attend PS 35, a K-12 city school affiliated with Bellevue.
Jacqueline Lore , whose daughter and son was part of CPHP said that the program saved her children’s lives.
“My daughter started suffering from anxiety and wanted to kill herself. I brought her here and they gave her proper diagnosis and reduced her medication to the right levels,” she said. “She was a different child. She was bale to focus and she is graduating from high school in August.”
Emma, who was 16 years old when she first came to Bellevue, said she starting to struggle from an early age and found the staff at the hospital to be dynamic and helpful.
“My family spent loads of time running around looking for the correct for me.,” she said. I was constantly bounced around. Doctors here went above and beyond to find a plan that works for me.”
Bellevue Hospital has the only such center in the state, officials said.
Troubled actress Lindsay Lohan was a no-show Tuesday at a Brooklyn daycare center for preschoolers where she was scheduled to complete her remaining 115 hours of court-ordered community service.
Lohan, 28, was supposed to begin community service at the Duffield Children’s Center in Fort Greene. However, a representative of the daycare center told the group of reporters and paparazzi gathered outside that Lohan was “definitely not coming in today,” reading off an email printout that seemed to be sent to the daycare from Lohan’s publicists.
Lohan instead was slated to begin community service on Wednesday.
According to the children’s center, Lohan would be doing arts and crafts with the children in addition to administrative work. The Mean Girls actress was supposed to have arrived in New York on Monday, tweeting “Happy to be home in nyc with my family and friends. Missed this place. ready to help.”
However, according to TMZ, Lohan had landed in New York from London on Tuesday morning instead of Monday, missing her first day of community service.
Lohan’s community service is connected to a 2012 criminal case in which she was convicted for reckless driving and lying to the police after crashing her Porsche into a truck on Santa Monica Boulevard. She had three years to complete 125 hours and had only completed 9 hours and 45 minutes so far.
Lohan would have to work 10-hour shifts daily at the center to complete her hours by May 28. If she fails to do so, Judge Mark A. Young said that “there will be consequences” and a possible nine-month jail sentence.
A committee of the New York City Council voted on Tuesday to propose a bill that would require more supervision of the application process in the Fire Department, paying special attention to race and gender.
The Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services voted unanimously in favor of the amendment to the FDNY administrative code, which would require the FDNY to report the ethnic and gender makeup of its applicants at all points of the process, from application to graduation from the academy.
“The information will help both the fire department and the council monitor the race and gender composition of the city’s firefighters and help ensure that it is a body of qualified, diverse individuals reflective of the city’s population,” said chairwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
Crowley spoke at length about the gender disparity among firefighters. The FDNY officially allowed women to become firefighters in 1977, but there were no female firefighters until a federal court mandated their inclusion in 1982. Then, women made up less than half a percent of the uniformed personnel, and 33 years later their situation has not changed.
On May 6, three women graduated to probationary firefighters, bringing the number of female personnel up to 48 out of a total of 10,322. There was some controversy when one of the graduates, Rebecca Wax, was reported to have been promoted despite failing the physical portion of the test. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro denied the reports.
Crowley also said the representation of ethnic groups was only a slight improvement from that of women.
“Racial and ethnic minorities have fared better than women,” he said, “but have only achieved some degree of proportional representation after multiple successful lawsuits.”
The bill was scheduled to go before the full council at a later date. The bill was likely to pass, since 41 members were signed on as co-sponsors.
A group of wounded Israeli soldiers toured New York City, basking in a warm welcome from the Israeli-Jewish community who honored them for their military service in the Gaza War.
The soldiers on Tuesday concluded their 10-day tour at Tiberias Restaurant in Manhattan where theyhad a private breakfast with former mayor Rudy Giuliani, a strong supporter of Israel.
Giuliani told Brooklyn News Service that he’s proud of the soldiers’ efforts to protect their homeland and the United States against terrorism.
“They’re fighting for us and not just for the state of Israel, “ he said. “We’re fighting a common enemy, the Hamas and extremist terrorists that want to destroy Israel and want to destroy America.”
New Yorkers and Giuliani experienced terrorism first hand in the 9/11 attacks and said he said he recognized the sacrifices soldiers made to protect their country.
“You gentlemen are heroes,” Giuliani added. “We very much appreciate what you’re doing.”
The soldiers sustained serious injuries from explosives on the war front and in underground tunnels built by Hamas to invade Israeli territory.
The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers last July triggered the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Naftali Fraenkel, 16, one of the teens, was an American citizen who often traveled from Israel to Brooklyn to visit family. He was walking home from school with his friends Gilad Shaar, also 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, when Hamas abducted them, an act Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned.
But Netanyahu received a better message on Tuesday, a group picture of Giuliani posing with the soldiers.
Rabbi Uriel Vigler, director of Chabad Israel Center, helped compose the text and captioned the photo with #BelevEchadWoundedIDFSoldiers,“special soldiers, not handicapped,” while the technically-challenged Giuliani only had to press send.
“The idea is to take them out of their element, to take them out of their surgery and pain for ten days and you bring them here, it’s pure therapy,” Uriel-Vigler said.
A Hamas explosive heavily injured Nir Hayon, 21, a wounded soldier who served in the military last summer as a sniper cover-up. The attack almost broke his right hand and shoulder, while fragments penetrated his neck and lower back.
Eight surgeries later, Hayon is in the final stages of rehabilitation. He will have to go through a bone transplant soon.
But amid medical treatments and rehabilitations, Hayon called the tour of New York “an amazing experience,” especially the helicopter ride he shared with his fellow soldiers over Manhattan.
“It’s good to smell some fresh air and not the hospital smells from Israel,” Hayon said.
Amir Roey, 21, served two years in the military and was let go because of an injury. He stepped on a bomb placed by Hamas, suffering fractures in his left leg and right ankle.
“I’m impressed with the warm welcome we had from the Israel-Jewish community,” Roey said. The dinners, recognition and support from people all over New York City, showed him how much the care for the soldiers.
Roey starts college in October and plans to study engineering.
“The trip is one time, but the support is forever,” said Belev Echad member Yaara Bank-Plotkin. “They can go back and continue their treatments with more strength.”
A group of Long Island progressive leaders on Tuesday demanded that indicted State Senator Dean Skelos quit the legislature and expressed doubt that merely stepping down from his post a majority leader would do much to expunge corruption in Albany.
“We want to send a message, replacing him is not enough,” said Long Island Progressive Coalition Director,Lisa Tyson. Tyson said she suspected that Skelos’ successor Republican John J. Flannigan, would follow in his footsteps and block bills and fight reforms the group considers vital.
Skelos resigned as majority leader on Monday afternoon on charges of extortion to provide funds for his son Adam Skelos, who was also arrested.
Some of the progressive organizations at the rally outside of Skelos’ Office on in Rockville Centre demanded the legislator to step down as senator indefinitely, while others just pressed for reform.
Moveon.org members presented a petition to end corruption in Albany signed by nearly 10,000 persons, urging the passage of the fair elections law. However, other groups called for a purge of lawmaker in trouble with the law.
“Be smart and resign,” said activist Frank Guzman. “You need to pay for your crimes; our communities are frustrated and indignant overyour anti-immigrant stance and refusal to pass the Dream Act.”
“The system is broken,” said Tyson to the small, but lively crowd. “As long as wealthy donors can pay to stop all of our issues from moving forward, it doesn’t matter that there’s a different name behind that majority leader, the system has to change.”
The City Council Committee on Aging on Tuesday unanimously passed two measures designed to make the lives of older residents of city housing more comfortable.
The first measure would require, by July 1 2016, The Department of Aging to develop, publish and distribute a guide for building owners regarding modifications made to buildings with an older population so as to allow these tenants to remain comfortable for as long as possible.
Some of these modifications, under counsel from the Department of Buildings, Department of Housing and Office for Persons with Disabilities, include improved lighting, railings, more grab bars, wider doors and hallways. The Department of Aging guide would also have to include information on sources of funding for these improvements.
In addition to this proposal, the committee passed a resolution to ask the New York State legislature to keep the rent exemption and rent freezing benefits for old tenants.
“Since the income cap was raised to $50,000 last year an additional 13,000 people became eligible for these programs. 13,000 who would lose that right if the state does not renew funding in 2016,” said Councilwoman Rosenthal.
The City Council is expected to pass both the measure and resolution.
Three women joined the ranks of New York’s Bravest at the Fire Academy graduation on Tuesday, adding numbers to the still-small percentage of female firefighters in New York City.
Hildany Santana, Nia Terrelonge and Rebecca Wax were the only female graduates among 305 newly instated probationary firefighters. They bring the number of women in the FDNY up to 46, a record high from 41 women in 1981. However, there are some 10,300 uniformed personnel in the FDNY.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has pushed to make the department more inclusive for women, but critics question if women have the strength to meet the demands put on firefighters. This became the case with probationary firefighter Wax, who had been reported by the New York Post to have failed the physical portion of her training, which requires the trainee to perform in a simulation of a burning building. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro denied that Wax failed any portion of her training.
“Every one of the 305 people that graduated met the requirements to graduate,” he said.
Though their numbers aren’t very strong right now, women are still eager to join the field. Valerie Veluz, currently in EMS, hopes to become a firefighter in two years and enjoys the challenge of her profession.
“It’s tough,” Veluz said. “There’s only two girls in my firehouse, and we do as much as a guy can. It feels empowering.”
Fellow EMS personnel and firefighter hopeful Deanna Yearwood agreed that it’s time for women make up a bigger part of the FDNY.
“It’s a good field,” Yearwood said. “I think we need to step up to the plate, but I understand thoughts of intimidation.”
Jurors in the Etan Patz trial on Tuesday sent a note to the judge for a second time in a week, saying they were deadlocked after fourteen days of deliberations on the fate of the man accused of murdering the six- year- old boy in 1979.
“After serious, significant, and thorough deliberations, we remain unable to reach a unanimous decision,” the note to Manhattan judge Maxwell Wiley said.
The defense requested a mistrial but Wiley ordered the jurors back to the jury room and told them to “apply common sense.” “Do not be concerned with the effect of the verdict on others,” he said. The judge indicated that this would be the last time that the jurors will be asked to try again.
Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein portrayed the judge’s move as “coercive.” “This is a tired jury,” he added, “and they have said they are finished and we asked the court to respect that.”
The obviously weary jury of seven men and five women have asked the judge for read-backs of testimony, clarification on words, Hernandez’s high school records, and a review of his instructions regarding the legal requirements to convict a person, among many other evidence reviews
The defendant, Pedro Hernandez, is accused of kidnapping and murdering Etan Patz on May 25, 1979 when the boy vanished without a trace walking to his school bus stop near his home in Soho. In 2012, Hernandez confessed that he strangled the boy, put his body in a plastic bag, then stuffed it in a box, and put the box in a nearby alley.
The defense argues that Hernandez is mentally ill, hallucinated the attack and that his confessions were bogus. The defense also have suggested that the real killer was convicted pedophile Jose Ramos, an early suspect.
The prosecution tried to convince the jury that Hernandez was not mentally ill and that his confessions were truthful.
The jury has worked on the case for an unusual length of time first appearing in court on January 5 and beginning to hear evidence on February 2. Deliberations began on April 15.
If convicted, Hernandez faces life in prison.
Courtroom observers predicted a mistrial was looming, further prolonging the frustrations of the family of the victim and members of the defendant’s family who have attended court for each day of deliberations.