Volume 74, Number 29 | November 24 - 30, 2004


Lawsuit on R.N.C. arrests is warranted

The filing of a class-action civil rights lawsuit over the handling of arrests of protesters — and non-protesters — during the Republican National Convention comes as little surprise. Although the Police Department did a good job of keeping the city safe during the convention, there was widespread criticism on how arrests were made, conditions of the holding area at Pier 57 — “Guantanamo on the Hudson” — and length of time arrestees were held.

Clearly, the method of sweeping up anyone near mass protests was problematic, as witnessed by one of the plaintiffs arrested at 15th St. near Union Sq. Park who said she had been going to Wendy’s to get a frosty, while listening to Elvis Costello on her headphones. She was held 50 hours and her left hand has lost feeling from being in plastic handcuffs so long.

Although Paul Browne, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner of public information, was recently quoted in the pages of The Villager saying the protesters’ pens at Pier 57 were clean and that old bus fluids were located elsewhere on the pier, many protesters have reported otherwise. The city must explain why it chose to hold the protesters in such an inhumane and negligent manner.

Finally, the suspicion has not gone away that the city intended to hold protesters longer than the generally accepted 24-hour limit. The offenses most were charged with — obstruction of governmental administration and parading without a permit — are akin to a traffic ticket in seriousness. They should have been released in two to four hours, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

In short, many questions remain unanswered about policing during the convention. We support the filing of the lawsuit in that it will hopefully lead to a thorough investigation and airing of the issues surrounding what happened, to what extent constitutional rights were violated and, if so, how this can be avoided at future events in New York City where mass dissent is expected.
Dorm developer still doesn’t get it

Gregg Singer has retooled his dorm proposal for the former CHARAS/El Bohio site in an effort to win support for the project that his previous proposal lacked. Sensing rightly that the community wants to save the old P.S. 64 building, and that he has “a landmark issue” on his hands, Singer commissioned well-regarded architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle to do a design that preserves the old school’s Ninth St. facade. However, the idea of a dormitory tower is clearly not what the community wants.

Singer was able to purchase the building cheaply for $3.15 million because there is a community use provision in its deed. He can make a good profit by renovating and redeveloping the existing building. We can’t believe the community facilities zoning allowance was created to help developers make a financial killing. Rather, we — like the community and local elected officials — feel it should be used to provide those services the community truly wants and needs.

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