Schneiderman leads coalition fight against Trump travel ban

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 17 attorneys general around the nation, filed a new amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday opposing President Donald Trump’s third travel ban. The brief supports Hawaii’s case against the Trump administration.

In this third challenge, the district court entered a nationwide preliminary injunction that prohibits enforcement of Trump’s indefinite ban on entry into the United States from six overwhelmingly Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Chad. North Korea and Venezuela are also on the list.

Queens Theatre

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction, which protects foreign nationals with a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

“Since day one, our coalition of attorneys general has been on the front lines of the fight against this unconstitutional, unlawful, and un-American,” Schneiderman said. “President Trump’s discriminatory ban both hurts the families caught up in the chaos of his draconian policies and undermines our state’s residents, institutions, businesses, and economies. We’ll continue to act to protect our residents and our states.”

In addition to New York, the brief was signed by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

“All of amici states benefit from immigration, tourism, and international travel by students, academics, skilled professionals, and business people. The disputed provisions of the (Trump) Proclamation– like the previous bans — significantly disrupt the ability of our public universities to recruit and retain students and faculty, impairing academic staffing and research, and causing the loss of tuition and tax revenues, among other costs,” the amicus brief contends. “In addition, the ban has made it more difficult for us to effectuate our own constitutional and statutory policies of religious tolerance and nondiscrimination.”

The brief, like previous ones filed by the same coalition, details the numerous grave and irreparable harms the states have continued to face as a result of the Trump administration’s travel bans, and which could very well now be permanent due to the indefinite nature of this third ban. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the Trump administrations travel ban beginning April 25.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Source: Times Ledger

IDC, Cuomo announce breakaway group to disband, leading to reunification

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members the Independent Democratic Conference announced the reunification of the breakaway group and mainline Democrats Wednesday, citing attacks from the Trump administration on progressive values in New York as the reason for dissolving the IDC.

Cuomo led a Manhattan press conference with state Sens. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) in which he referred to the federal tax plan as an “economic missile” launched at the state, while the anti-immigrant stance of the Trump administration was “repugnant” to the progressive values of New Yorkers.

“New York is under attack by an ultraconservative government in Washington that is threatening the progressive soul and economic base of our state,” Cuomo said. “Everything we stand for, they are against. Today, we are uniting the Democratic Party to fight a common enemy for the greater good. I want to thank all the individual members for putting aside their personal interests to unify as Democrats and continue to make New York the strong progressive leader that it is. But our work is not done. By joining together as Democrats, we will continue to fight to achieve the entirety of our bold agenda to make New York a fairer, safer, more equal state for all.”

The IDC, which now includes state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) was formed in 2011 in the hope of passing progressive legislation in the face of the conservative Republican majority in Albany.

Avella has said in months prior IDC members would consider reunification once Democrats have the majority in the senate.

“Gov. Cuomo, Senator Stewart-Cousins and I are united in our commitment to bring together the New York State Democratic Party and all Senate Democrats, with the common goal of protecting the people of New York State and solving the state’s most challenging problems,” Klein said. “Unity cannot wait until a special election. I commend the governor for his unyielding commitment to a successful unification and 2018 electoral victory that will send the message that we stand ready to confront any challenge that comes from Washington. Together, under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, we are on the right path to demonstrate to New Yorkers and to this nation what we are made of, and the values that we stand for.”

Peace talks between the warring Democrats have been underway for months, however.

In December 2017, mainline Democrats launched an ultimatum against IDC members, warning that if they did not consider reunification and help reclaim two available seats in special elections, they would face intense primary challenges from within the party.

While IDC members weighed their options, political groups geared against the IDC were not backing down.

Terrace On The Park

Up to 37 political action groups statewide signed on to a press release from progressive group No IDC NY, with statements accusing the IDC of caucusing with the GOP, blocking progressive legislation and only agreeing to a Democratic Party reunification deal to avoid primary challenges.

Avella remained circumspect at the time, however, claiming the IDC would remain in autonomous existence, but would operate in coalition with the Democratic Party. The members would continue to caucus amongst themselves; however, he said, making clear that despite rumors to the contrary, the IDC does not caucus with Republicans.

“I’ve always indicated that the conference, myself especially, have always been willing to have this conversation and form a coalition with the Democratic Conference once we have a majority and I stand by that. I’m ready to do that any day, once we have a majority,” Avella said in December.

The Republicans currently hold the majority in the state Senate.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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Source: Times Ledger

Peralta reunifies with mainline Democrats, but Ramos will not drop challenge

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

After spending the last 16 months as a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) praised the deal brokered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday that reunifies Democrats in the upper chamber in Albany.

Peralta and his seven former IDC colleagues rejoined the Democrats, led by Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and if the united party wins two seats in the special elections later this month, it will regain the majority in the state Senate.

“Since the election of Trump, my constituents, and the rest of New Yorkers, have been constantly under attack,” Peralta said. “This is why it is vital for all Democrats to work and fight together to protect all New Yorkers. Under the leadership of Gov. Cuomo, we will be able to promote our values and ensure our progressive common agendas moves forward.”

Seven of the eight former IDC members continue to face primary challengers, including Peralta. When Jackson Heights resident Jessica Ramos left a job in the de Blasio administration to mount a challenge against Peralta, she chose to announce her candidacy on the one year anniversary of Peralta’s announcement that he had joined the IDC.

In a letter to the IDC, Ramos and six other primary challengers made it clear they are pressing forward with their campaigns despite the Democratic reunification.

They wrote, “no Albany deal should or will prevent a competitive, healthy primary in which New Yorkers strongly consider your allegiance with Republicans.”

The group blamed the IDC’s power sharing agreement with the GOP that allowed the Republicans to hold the majority in the Senate since 2012.

Queens Theatre

“Because of your allegiance with the Republicans, the budget passed again this year with no Democratic state Senator at the negotiating table,” they wrote, while blaming the powers sharing agreement for the last seven Republican budgets in which 13 progressive initiatives were ignored or “severely” underfunded in the budget, including the DREAM Act, criminal justice reform, the Child Victim’s Act and funding for the MTA.

“During budget negotiations, you failed to represent the Democratic voters who elected you,” Ramos and her colleagues said. “At the polls this year, voters will not make the same mistake again. We will not allow you to mislead New Yorkers with false claims of Democratic unity.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Source: Times Ledger

Short-handed Construction falls to Bathgate

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By Robert Cole

TimesLedger Newspapers

With several players unavailable while on vacation, Construction coach Daniel Paradis used the opening round of the 49th Annual James Monroe Campus Holiday Invitational Baseball Tournament to reward some of his younger players with game experience and play other starters in different positions.

That resulted in a 13-3 loss, as the Redhawks fell to the Bronx’s Bathgate Bulldogs at George Washington Field last Saturday in Manhattan.

“It’s our first game in the tournament and it was tough day,” Paradis said. “We played a tough game, made a couple of errors here and there and they got ahead after the fourth inning. We are a young team and we played hard, but we did not pull it off.”

Vaughn College

Bathgate jumped ahead to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Construction responded in style during the bottom half of the frame.

Marcus Ortiz started the inning with single. He stole third base after being forced to second when Matthew Serrata walked. Ortiz scored Construction’s first run on a wild pitch, knotting the score at 1-1. The Redhawks loaded the bases when Justin Garcia reached after being hit by a pitch, and Nicholas Font followed with a walk. After back-to-back strikeouts, Xavier Tejada showed patience at the plate, working a walk that brought home another run, giving the Redhawks a 2-1 lead going into the second inning.After giving the lead up in the top of the third, Construction reclaimed it in the bottom half after loading the bases and scoring on another walk, this time by Erick Aybar, as the Redhawks went up 3-2. However, Construction’s defense struggled in the fourth, when a series of errors, combined with some walks and a hit batsman, led to six unearned runs for Bathgate. The Redhawks couldn’t recover and ultimately fell 13-3.

Despite the tough loss, Paradis said he believes his team will bounce back and put together a strong season in 2018.

“We should be alright. We are in a strong division, but we are a good team,” he said. “We were shorthanded today, but we will be alright.”

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UniverSoul thrills with exotic acts at Roy Wilkins Park

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By Merle Exit

TimesLedger Newspapers

An opening night weather delay did not deter a great show for UniverSoul Circus at Roy Wilkins Park

The show got off to a rousing start with two groups of young cheerleaders taking the stage. Rather than having the ringmaster, Lucky Malatsi and his sidekick Zeke introduce the first act, UniverSoul Circus checks out the audience prior to the show and invites attending schools to showcase their talent.

The fashionable, colorful Fresh the Clowns are always scouting out the crowd perspective dancers for later in the show to add to the audience participation segments. Most of the younger crowd were able to sing along to the pop, classical R&B, hip-hop and Latin music, which set the mood for an energetic circus performance.

UniverSoul brought in performers from all over the world. Caribbean Dynasty, from Trinidad and Tobago, was the first act, a combination of flamboyant dancers and performers in masks on stilts. At one point, a limbo bar goes to six inches and ablaze.

Queens Theatre

There are three acts that involve the use of animals, the cutest being Pampered Pooches, a comedy act from Chile. Their costumes and playful antics delighted everyone, especially dog lovers.

Returning from last year’s show are the Flat Out Free-Style Riders Motorcross Dare Devils from right here in the United States. The door is opened at both ends of the big top as you hear their engines start, zoom and fly 30 feet into the air, jumping 75 feet across. It was quite exciting and brought you to the edge of your seat.

High wire and acrobatic acts are always a great circus jaw-dropper. That’s the case at UniverSoul, with an act from The Wiley Family from Columbia, which was composed of a six-person troupe with performers between the ages of 21 and 54. Skillful balancing certainly made the difference on the high wire. Nomads flew up there on their teeterboards.

Two acts — Morning Bird and Duo Amour, both from Havana — used poles to produce a more flowing type of entertainment.

Other performances added to the sounds of music and short delays led to on the spot ideas. such as throwing huge inflatable balls into the audience.

The circus will remain in Queens at Roy Wilkins Park — located between Merrick and Baisley boulevards in Jamaica — until Sunday, when it will break for a few days to set up at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. You can catch performances at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; at noon, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Source: Times Ledger

UniverSoul thrills with exotic acts at Roy Wilkins Park

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Merle Exit

TimesLedger Newspapers

An opening night weather delay did not deter a great show for UniverSoul Circus at Roy Wilkins Park

The show got off to a rousing start with two groups of young cheerleaders taking the stage. Rather than having the ringmaster, Lucky Malatsi and his sidekick Zeke introduce the first act, UniverSoul Circus checks out the audience prior to the show and invites attending schools to showcase their talent.

The fashionable, colorful Fresh the Clowns are always scouting out the crowd perspective dancers for later in the show to add to the audience participation segments. Most of the younger crowd were able to sing along to the pop, classical R&B, hip-hop and Latin music, which set the mood for an energetic circus performance.

UniverSoul brought in performers from all over the world. Caribbean Dynasty, from Trinidad and Tobago, was the first act, a combination of flamboyant dancers and performers in masks on stilts. At one point, a limbo bar goes to six inches and ablaze.

Queens Theatre

There are three acts that involve the use of animals, the cutest being Pampered Pooches, a comedy act from Chile. Their costumes and playful antics delighted everyone, especially dog lovers.

Returning from last year’s show are the Flat Out Free-Style Riders Motorcross Dare Devils from right here in the United States. The door is opened at both ends of the big top as you hear their engines start, zoom and fly 30 feet into the air, jumping 75 feet across. It was quite exciting and brought you to the edge of your seat.

High wire and acrobatic acts are always a great circus jaw-dropper. That’s the case at UniverSoul, with an act from The Wiley Family from Columbia, which was composed of a six-person troupe with performers between the ages of 21 and 54. Skillful balancing certainly made the difference on the high wire. Nomads flew up there on their teeterboards.

Two acts — Morning Bird and Duo Amour, both from Havana — used poles to produce a more flowing type of entertainment.

Other performances added to the sounds of music and short delays led to on the spot ideas. such as throwing huge inflatable balls into the audience.

The circus will remain in Queens at Roy Wilkins Park — located between Merrick and Baisley boulevards in Jamaica — until Sunday, when it will break for a few days to set up at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. You can catch performances at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; at noon, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Source: Times Ledger

Mayor talks education, transportation and more at Jackson Heights town hall

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Jackson Heights last week for a town hall to announce progress on two major park projects in the neighborhood and extended trash pickups to combat litter. Some of the other announcements that elicited cheers from the hundreds in attendance involved education, hospitals, sanitation, transportation and public safety.

Fewer than 50 members of the throng who filled IS 145 — located at 33-34 80th St. — at the March 28 town hall knew that all middle schools in the city had free after-school programs, so the mayor asked the crowd to spread the word.

The mayor also notified attendees that preschool attendance has increased in the last four years from 58 full-time preschoolers to 1,573 in Jackson Heights, that every 3-year-old will have free preschool by September 2021 in the city and that PS 398 will open in the fall of 2019 at 69-01 34th Ave.

“This is a community where there is a real need for new school space,” de Blasio said of the overcrowded school district.

Repairs are about to start at PS 69 —located at 77-02 37th Ave. — and the mayor expects the work to be done by the end of April.

The two-acre Travers Park at 76-09 34th Ave. will open September 2019 and Diversity Plaza will become a permanent pedestrian space after an $8 million investment. The plaza’s grand opening is in July, the mayor said. Jackson Heights Library will also receive an $11 million face-lift.

After being informed that Elmhurst Hospital has the eighth busiest emergency room in the nation, the city has invested $30 million to expand and renovate both the ER and the hospital’s trauma center.

Many complaints were made about overflowing litter in Jackson Heights and additional year-round service was added to the area starting March 28.

There are now extra trash pickups on Fridays along 37th and Roosevelt avenues, while Broadway has gone from five to seven days of service each week.

The Department of Transportation will add more lighting fixtures for the 7-train from Roosevelt Avenue stretching from 71st to 81st streets. To tackle the congestion at 73rd Street and 37th Avenue, a new traffic agent will be at the spot starting April 2.

Some of the questions during the Q&A portion of the town hall were about the LGBT community at schools, school buses and gentrification in Jackson Heights.

“We have the most school buses in any city, but our air quality is the third worst,” said Tevin Grant, the founder of the Electric School Bus Campaign. “School buses harm the kids more than anyone else.”

Although Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) has drafted a proposal for more electric school buses, the mayor said he was not aware of it.

“I have not read the legislation, but I do like the idea,” de Blasio said. “We are putting electric vehicle charging stations all over the city and it stands to reason that we want to go for the maximum amount of electric school buses.”

Stephen Petrus, a historian who works at LaGuardia and Wagner archives at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, asked the mayor about introducing curriculum to high schools.

“Noting that new Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza was starting his job this week, de Blasio said, “In San Francisco and Houston he focused on building curricula that reflected the whole community. This is something that we want to do a lot with to reflect the totality of our city.”

Ann Heppermann, a new Jackson Heights resident, feared she would no longer be able to afford to stay in the neighborhood due to gentrification.

“They say that Jackson Heights is an untapped asset,” Hepperman said. “They say that [Hayes Court] was supposed to be a rent-stabilized building, and I’m middle class. I’m not going to be able to enjoy the amazing things that are coming to Jackson Heights, because I’ll be gone.”

DSS Commissioner Steve Banks, who was in attendance, along with many of the city’s top officials, told Heppermann that no matter who buys her building that she still has her rent-stabilization rights. The mayor also offered her free legal service.

“As a general matter, if someone buys your building, it does not wipe out the rights that you have,” Banks said.

QUEENS THEATRE

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Charter employees mark anniversary of strike with City Hall condemnation

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Dozens of people were outside City Hall last week to condemn Charter Communications, a cable company that also goes by the name of Spectrum, to mark the one-year anniversary when many of the multibillion-dollar corporation’s employees went on strike.

After Charter acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016, the $41.6 billion company proposed eliminating the benefits of its union employees, according to Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans,), the elected official who represents many of the members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 3) in Queens.

“Roughly 10 percent of the more than 1,800 Spectrum workers represented by Local 3 live in southeast Queens,” said Miller, chairman of the Civil Service and Labor Committee. “These skilled women and men have suffered 12 grueling months out of work because Spectrum values its billions of dollars in profits over the long term security of its workers and their families.”

He took part in the March 28 rally at City Hall attended by other council members, including Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest).

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge received over $98 million in 2016, while in that same year the company planned to eliminate Local 3’s pension plan, slash health benefits by more than half and insisted that its members pay monthly premiums out-of-pocket, according to Miller’s office.

Local 3 filed a complaint against Charter. The company could default on its franchise agreement with the city if an audit by the Department of Information Technology & Communications finds out the organization was hiring out-of-city contractors during the strike.

“We won’t tolerate its union busting efforts and stubborn refusal to come to the table any longer, and vow to take aim at its prized Franchise Agreement with the City,” Miller said.

Miller and Local 3 were not alone in their fight.

“What is clear is that Charter cares more about its own bottom line than the well-being of its workers,” Lancman said.“I will continue to fight to ensure Local 3 receives a fair contract and that Charter is held accountable for any violation of the Franchise Agreement.”

In a statement Spectrum spokesman John Bonomo said that the company is focusing on best serving their customers.

“Our dedicated team of NYC employees is working hard every day to deliver the best TV, internet and voice experience to Spectrum customers,” he said. “We continue to meet customer demands for installation and repair work, and we’re also investing in even better Spectrum services, including increasing our starting internet speed to 200 Mbps and offering gigabit connections to NYC residents.”

Local 3 also received support from Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), and Councilman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst).

The Queens Library Guild and the New York City Central Labor Council also supported Local 3.

“These workers are standing strong and the New York City Labor Movement stands with them, the members of IBEW Local 3, to see they are given the contract they deserve,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of Central Labor Council.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Rockaway man charged in death of 3-year-old girl: NYPD

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

A Rockaway man was charged in the death of a 3-year-old girl Tuesday after the victim was found unresponsive in her family’s apartment Monday evening and rushed to a medical facility, where she died.

Mark Jenkins, 32, from Rockaway Park was awaiting arraignment after he was charged with second-degree depraved murder and first-degree depraved assault against the victim, identified by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown as Bella Edwards.

“This is a terribly disturbing case,” Brown said. “The victim here is an innocent little girl, whose body revealed traumatic abuse injuries. The defendant — who resided with the child’s mother — now faces the possibility of life imprisonment.”

Jenkins was the only adult in the home of Edwards family within the confines of the 100th Precinct with the 3-year-old and her 3-month-old sibling for about eight hours on the day the victim was found unconscious by Jenkins, who called 911, Brown said.

Preliminary results of the autopsy on Bella revealed blunt force trauma to the abdomen with further studies pending, according the DA.

Jenkins faces 25 years to life behind bars if convicted, Brown said.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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Source: Times Ledger

Law targets NYPD sexual misconduct

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

City and state elected officials announced the passage of legislation last Friday that will amend the penal code, making it illegal for police officers to engage in sexual activity with those in their custody.

Terrace On The Park

State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) introduced the bill in November in support of Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn), who drafted the legislation after a September 2017 incident in which two detectives in Brooklyn, who have since resigned, were alleged to have had sex with a teenage girl in their custody who they claimed consented.

Not only has it passed at the city level, but both the Assembly and Senate came through for the bill, which now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

“The power dynamic between someone in custody and the officers themselves is such that the individual in custody is incapable of consenting to sexual activity,” Braunstein said. “State law already prohibits sexual contact between Correction officers and parole officers and those in their custody. This common-sense legislation ensures that individuals in police custody are also protected from coercive sexual behavior committed by officers exploiting their authority.”

While Treyger’s bill sought to change the penal code to make sexual conduct between a peace officer and a person in their custody a misdemeanor, the highest offense designation allowed to be passed at the city level, Braunstein’s bill would make the offense punishable as a Class E felony.

“There can be no sexual consent when someone is in police custody,” Treyger said. “This horrific rape outraged our nation, and from day one, I have made it clear I would do whatever it took to advocate for common-sense consent laws to make sure that this could never happen again. I am proud that our leaders at the state level have recognized the need to finally close this antiquated loophole and ensure that our laws on sexual consent align with basic common sense and human decency.”

The bill was picked up by state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), according to a spokesman for Braunstein, and saw support from leaders at both the city and state levels, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

“This legislation helps ensure that New York’s laws regarding consent protect all individuals, including individuals held in police custody, from sexual abuse,” Heastie said. “It is simply wrong that someone exercising custodial government authority, such as a police officer, would violate the trust that should exist between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Public Advocate Letitia James got behind the bill in November.

“There have been a wave of high-profile, powerful men accused of sexually abusing and harassing vulnerable women and men — and officers who sexually harass and abuse vulnerable individuals in their custody are no different,” James said. “While the vast majority of officers are hardworking and deeply principled, we must have laws in place to hold those few unscrupulous officers accountable. The bills introduced by Assemblyman Braunstein and Council member Treyger to ensure that sexual activity between officers and those in their custody is prohibited are common-sense measures to ensure that no individual is above the law.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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Source: Times Ledger