By Bob Friedrich
New York City is on the wrong track and voters should be concerned.
The City Council and mayor are motivated by a rigid “progressive” ideology that clouds their ability to see the real-life consequences of their actions. As a civic leader, and president of New York’s largest garden apartment residential housing co-op, I have witnessed a steady erosion in quality-of-life protections that we used to take for granted.
The city’s political elite’s obsession with diversity and racially driven data, important as that may be in the proper context, does little to actually promote improved quality of life in our neighborhoods. Their zeal to decriminalize public urination, public drinking, public intoxication, and many other seemingly “minor” violations, puts them at odds with most community civic associations.
These “minor” violations are not so minor for homeowners and apartment dwellers living near bars or areas where rampant loitering and noisemaking is commonplace. Pursuing the perpetrators who commit these “minor” violations has often led to the capture of serious criminals. But to the “progressive” lawmakers, it’s never about the rights of people affected by the tawdry behavior of others.
At a recent Queens Civic Congress debate at the Queens County Farm Museum, Council members Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) advocated for the closure of Rikers Island and the relocation of its 10,000 inmates. The council members insisted that moving this huge inmate population into residential communities would have little impact. Incredibly, Ms. Koslowitz opined that it might even have a positive impact on businesses and the surrounding neighborhood.
The panelists opposing the proposal to shut down Rikers included a representative of the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the president of the Corrections Guard union. These two individuals have firsthand knowledge of the issue, and unlike Lancman, Koslowitz and so many others, they deal with prison populations daily.
The Queens District Attorney’s office presented a report that found 75 percent of the 9,267 Rikers detainees have open criminal cases, and a large portion of them are recidivists. Lancman stated that those inmates were being held unfairly due to their inability to make bail. He advocates that they be summarily released back into the community until trial.
But Lancman neglected to mention that 87 percent of the inmates eligible for bail are incarcerated on felony charges, and 2,007 of them were not even eligible for bail due to the seriousness of their charges.
Elected officials who favor moving the Rikers population to small neighborhood facilities always fail to mention the dangers of large numbers of recidivists being reinserted into the communities where they committed their offenses in the first place.
Attendees at the QCC debate were never told why elected officials would not simply spend the $10-billion-plus that this relocation program is expected to cost on rebuilding and upgrading the current Rikers facilities.
Rikers’ island location is ideal, as it impacts no residential communities. Unfortunately these council members fail to champion the interests of their own constituents and instead put them at risk.
Now, Councilman Lancman is looking to downgrade the crime of turnstile jumping, making it a simple violation that lacks any real enforcement teeth.
“The data from 2017 is strikingly similar to recent years,” Lancman has said. “Eighty-nine percent of the thousands of people arrested for jumping a turnstile are black or Latino. NYC is unnecessarily running people through the criminal justice system and putting immigrants at risk of deportation.”
By seeing every enforcement action through a racially colored lens, Mr. Lancman never sees the larger picture. His outrage is misguided. Rather than being outraged by the thousands of people, black or white, that broke the law and evaded the fare, he implies that it’s the enforcement that is the problem.
While civic groups beg for funds to improve their neighborhoods, the “progressive” City Council passed a budget that includes a new multimillion-dollar program, funded by taxpayers, to cover the legal costs of undocumented immigrants threatened with deportation as a result of committing serious crimes. Taxpayer money is also being used to provide bail to those who cannot afford it.
The program goes like this: The taxpayer-funded police arrest lawbreaking perpetrators and take them off the street. Then, taxpayer‑funded bail is paid to release those lawbreaking perpetrators back onto the street.
Voters in our city are beginning to realize that this “progressive” ideology has been hijacked by politicians who honor unrepentant FALN terrorists, use taxpayer dollars to help undocumented aliens charged with serious crimes avoid deportation, and plan to move 10,000 inmates into our residential communities.
Common sense has been superseded by a ubiquitous “diversity” narrative, with politicians so complacent in their power and all-too-eager to ignore constituents that will still vote for them even as they use taxpayer funds to finance their grand social engineering schemes.
Bob Friedrich is President of Glen Oaks Village, a civic leader and former candidate for the NYC Council