Central Park Five Settlement: From a Tough on Crime Era to an Era of Reconciliation

wrongful-conviction-rally-samaha.jpg
On Thursday, the men wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape and assault of a jogger in Central Park agreed to a $40 million settlement with the city. The amount corresponds to the roughly 40 total years the men, known Collectively as the "Central Park Five," spent in prison after their conviction. Based on this calculation, Karey Wise, who spent 13 years in prison, the most among the five, will receive the most money the city has ever paid for a wrongful conviction.

The crime was high profile, and so were the trial, the eventual exonerations, and the long battle for a monetary settlement.

When the men were arrested, the city's (and the country's) primary criminal justice concern was public safety. It was the tough-on-crime era. As they reached their settlement, the criminal justice headlines are focused on wrongful convictions. It is an era of reconciliation and of learned lessons.

And now the city is trying to figure out how to apply those lessons.

More »

Have a Criminal Record? It Soon Might Not Hold You Back From Getting a Job in NYC

briefcase-walk.JPG
Ines Njers via Compfight cc
A job can keep a man out of prison. The catch is that the people statistically most likely to go to prison--those who have spent time in prison before--are also the people statistically least likely to get a job. The studies vary a bit: the unemployment rate is somewhere between 50 and 75 percent for former prisoners a year after release.

The job market is competitive enough these days. An application with a check mark in that box beside "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" is sometimes just one less application a prospective employer has to read.

New York City may even that playing field this week.

More »

Charles Barron's Path to Albany Gets Tougher if There's No Special Election

Categories: Politics

barrons-560.JPG
Christopher Farber
Inez and Charles Barron
In his farewell speech at city hall in December, departing 42nd District councilman Charles Barron gave a shout out to his successor: "I will leave you with a better half. You think I was something -- when she finishes with you, you're gonna ask me to come back!"

He and his wife, 60th District state assemblywoman Inez Barron, had completed the first half of their planned seat swap. She had won the election for his seat, and he seemed on the verge of taking over her vacated seat.

"I'm sure that Governor Cuomo and [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver can't wait till I get to Albany," he continued. "I'll try not to disappoint them and get there as soon as I can."

He wore a sarcastic grin as he said this, of course. And in the months since, Cuomo has shown that, in fact, he can wait for Charles Barron to get to Albany. Rather than call for a special election to fill the 60th district seat in the spring or in June, Cuomo appears satisfied to keep the seat open until the normal fall election cycle. Which means Barron won't get the ceremonial baton pass he hoped for.

More »

Photos: "Hands Off Ukraine" Protesters March in Manhattan on Sunday

As the prospect for armed conflict with Russia appears more and more likely in Ukraine, pro-Western activists marched in New York against armed intervention on Sunday.

More »

Councilman Steve Levin Proposes Bill Requiring Doctors at Youth Football Games

Categories: Football, Politics

mo-better-cover.jpg
Christopher Farber
At a Pop Warner football game in Brooklyn a few months ago, a nine-year-old shuffled toward the sideline, wincing but not crying, cradling his left arm. It took maybe half a minute before any of his team's three coaches noticed, as they directed players into position on the field. The coach met the player at the sideline and escorted him to a bench a few yard back. He talked to the boy for a few seconds, then turned around and strolled several steps onto the field.

He shouted at his counterpart, the coach of the home team, on the opposite sideline.

"Yo! Hey! You got a medic?" He didn't sound particularly frantic or flustered, just serious.

"What's wrong?" the home team's coach yelled back.

"I don't know. He's holding his elbow."

As at many youth football games around the city and country, there was no medic present here. A bill proposed by Brooklyn councilman Steve Levin seeks too change that.

More »

Charles Barron Sees the Radical Movement Picking Up Steam

Categories: Politics

barron-cover.jpg
Christopher Farber
Inez and Charles Barron.
Sometimes it seems like former city councilman Charles Barron lives on a political island--the sole dissenter or the sole proponent on many issues. Speaker Christine Quinn, his longtime rival, praised him for "the courage of your convictions, certainly not afraid to stand alone."

"Black radical revolutionary anti-capitalist anti-imperialist elected official," Barron calls himself.

As we wrote in this week's feature story profiling Barron, he is "a downright outlier who has planted his flag far from nearly every other politician in the nation."

Nearly, but not every. Barron, in fact, is not some sole survivor of a movement long gone. To frame him as such diminishes the resonance of his message. It's a message that has won over voters not just in East New York.

That much was clear to any one in attendance for Inez Barron's inauguration earlier this month.

More »

Inez Barron Named Chair of City Council's Committee on Higher Education

Categories: Politics

inez-barron.jpg
Christopher Farber
Inez Barron
Four years after then-Speaker Christine Quinn stripped then-42nd District City Councilman Charles Barron of his chairmanship of the Committee on Higher Education, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appointed his predecessor and wife, Inez Barron, to the post.

The decision makes sense. Barron worked as a public school teacher, principal, and administrator for 36 years before retiring then beginning her political life in the state Assembly. Beyond that, she's certainly familiar with the nuts and bolts of the committee. She and Charles work as a single unit, with joint staff meetings and collaborative decision-making.

The Barrons' reclamation of the committee chair, however, also may signal a new role in city hall for the couple (subjects of this week's feature story), away from the fringe and into the fold.

Inez replaces Charles at a good time: November's elections decreased the gap between the Barrons and the rest of city hall.

More »

Barrons: Discretionary Funding Is A Tale of Two City Councils

Categories: Politics

barron-cover.jpg
Christopher Farber
This week's feature story profiles Charles Barron, the polarizing politician from East New York. He was the 42nd District city councilman for 12 years, before getting termed-out at the end of 2013. His wife, Inez Barron, vacated her state Assembly seat after winning the election for Charles's seat, and Charles is the front-runner for Inez's former post in Albany.

The seat-swap attempt helps illustrate Barron's popularity in his neighborhood, which has gained many new buildings and parks during his administration. His supporters appreciate that he doesn't go-along to get-along, that he speaks his mind and fights for his beliefs. But among East New Yorkers who will not vote for Barron this time around, there is a common complaint: Barron's heated rhetoric has driven resources away from the district.

He and Speaker Christine Quinn had their tiffs. Barron ran against her twice for the speakership. Quinn stripped him of his chairmanship of the Committee on Higher Education. Barron never missed an opportunity to declare that Quinn was using her powerful position to maintain a status quo that benefited the rich and hurt the working class.

The speaker controls city council's piggy bank, though. And Quinn granted Barron nearly the bare minimum of discretionary funding, even though the 42nd District has one of the highest levels of poverty in the city.

It's nearly certain that Councilwoman Barron will have a better relationship with her speaker than the councilman did with his. For one, Inez is of a cooler temperament, more conducive to collaboration. Perhaps more importantly, the Barrons eagerly supported Melissa Mark-Viverito's run for speaker and are optimistic about her vision.

In time, we'll see whether this means more resources to the 42nd District. With money at her fingertips, the speaker is a powerful ally. And like a lot of things in this city, the gulf in city council between well-off and the hard-up is vast.

Here's how Quinn distributed discretionary funding from 2009 to 2012, according to a report by the Citizens Union of the City of New York:

More »

Zachary Carter, Who Led Abner Louima Prosecutions, Is NYC's New Chief Lawyer

zach-carter.jpg
Dorsey & Whitney, LLP
Zachary Carter
Peruse the newly filed civil cases in any of the five boroughs' state supreme courthouses and you'll see, each day, dozens of lawsuits filed against the city's police department. The allegations generally range from wrongful arrest to unjust detention to assault. Most of the cases begin by describing an unconstitutional application of the city's stop and frisk policy.

For the past 12 years, those cases fell on the desk of Michael Cardozo, the corporation counsel appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide the city's legal representation. And as former city attorney Joel Berger told the New York Times, "Under Cardozo, the policy has been to fight every police misconduct case tooth and nail."

So there is, at the very least, symbolic value in Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's choice for Cardozo's replacement: Zachary Carter, who made his name, in large part, by prosecuting one of the most high profile police misconduct cases in New York City history.

More »

Melissa Mark-Viverito Is Set to Become the City Council's First Minority Speaker

melissa-mark-viverito.jpg
NYC City Council
Melissa Mark-Viverito, the likely next City Council Speaker.
When the week started, we, the voting public, could only guess who the next New York City Council Speaker would be. There were seven candidates, some more serious than others.

Monday night, though, news broke that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio had put his thumb on the speaker race scale like no NYC mayor had before, lobbying councilmembers to support his choice, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem.

On Tuesday, the city seemed poised for a showdown as Democratic county leaders professed their support for Daniel Garodnick, who represents a chunk of Manhattan's East Side (incidentally, just south of Mark-Viverito's territory). And you couldn't help but wonder whether de Blasio might lose his first political battle as mayor.

But it appeared all over by Wednesday night, when Mark-Viverito essentially declared victory three weeks before the vote. "I know that my fellow members will work with me in the City Council to create a more inclusive legislative body where every member's voice is heard and validated," she said. Attached to the statement was a list of 30 councilmembers supporting Mark-Viverito for speaker.

As long as 26 of them cast their vote for her on January 8, Mark-Viverito, who is Puerto Rican, will become the first person of color to serve as New York City Council Speaker.

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...