Volume 74, Number 20 | September 15 - 21 , 2004

Trust ‘disappointed’ by Guantanamo

By Josh Rogers

An appointee of Governor Pataki says the Police Department hid details of its plans to use Pier 57 as a temporary holding center for anti-Republican protestors arrested during the Republican convention and that the police violated its agreement with the state-city agency that controls the pier.

Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, wrote in a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that police used the Chelsea pier as the primary arrest and detention center when the agreement with the Trust called for the police to use it as a “ ‘secondary arrest processing and temporary holding center.’ ”

“HRPT wishes to express its extreme disappointment that the N.Y.P.D. did not disclose certain aspects of its operations before signing the agreement with our agency,” Fishman wrote Aug. 30, the first day of the convention. Convention-related protester arrests had already started four days earlier.

During the convention, the pier was dubbed “Guantanamo on the Hudson” after some protesters were held there for over a day without being arraigned of their charges, violating the state constitution. Conditions in the holding pens on the pier, a former bus depot, have been blasted as unhealthy by the protesters, elected officials and lawyers.

Police officers at first did not live up to other terms of the memorandum of understanding that the department signed with the Trust, Fishman wrote. “We must also notify you that some of your officers stationed at Pier 57 have ignored various aspects of the M.O.U. at certain points over the last few days,” she wrote.

A police spokesperson declined to comment.

Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, said the police blocked the park’s bikeway/walkway in the days leading up to the convention and on the first day, but corrected the situation in front of the pier after the Trust complained. He said the Police Department never responded to Fishman’s accusation that the police used the pier as the main detention center rather than as a location to accommodate a prisoner overflow.

Martin said it “appears to be the case” that the police violated the agreement. “We felt that way,” he said.

The Trust’s former vice president, Fishman became the authority’s president in January 2004. The agency is a joint city-state authority. Fishman worked in former Mayor Giuliani’s administration before coming to the Trust. Both George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani had primetime speaking roles at the G.O.P. convention and Fishman’s criticism of any part of the effort to control anti-Republican protestors raised at least one or two eyebrows.

Copies of Fishman’s letter were sent to members of the Trust’s bipartisan board — including loyal Republican Theodore Roosevelt, IV, great grandson of the former president; as well as staunch Democrat Franz Leichter, former state senator — and the officials who appoint the board members — Democrat C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan borough president, and Republicans Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Martin said the Trust did not hear any reaction about the letter from the offices of Pataki or Bloomberg, who also spoke at the convention. Martin said the Trust does not have the expertise to comment on whether the shed on the pier was suitable to detain prisoners.

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