The Docket: The Chokehold, Five Years Later

This week marks the five-year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner. One of the officers who forced Garner to the ground—Daniel Pantaleo—is accused of using a banned chokehold on Garner before he died, and the judge in his NYPD administrative trial could issue a ruling soon. Ever since, the case has sparked conversations about the nature of policing communities of color, and the persistent use of the chokehold. The maneuver's legality and utility has been debated over and over during the last five years. But constitutional scholar Paul Butler sees the chokehold as something else: a metaphor for how the U.S. criminal justice system treats African-Americans. "A lot of people have anxiety and fear about black men. And the law responds to that anxiety by giving police the power to control and regulate us as they wish," Butler told WNYC's Jami Floyd. Before becoming an advocate for criminal justice reform and an author, Butler served as a federal prosecutor, and a prosecutor in Washington, D.C. But as he details in his book, Chokehold: Policing Black Men, Butler had a shock to his system when he was arrested and charged for a crime he didn't commit. That experience changed how he saw the system that he was a part of and spurred his shift into activism. "It's easy to think that the problem is bad-apple cops," Butler said. "I don't think that's it. I think the system is actually working the way it's supposed to." For the full conversation, click "Listen." The Docket is our series in which WNYC's All Things Considered host Jami Floyd takes a deep dive into the American legal system.

Data Company Directly Powers Immigration Raids in Workplace

Palantir, a secretive data-mining firm co-founded by Trump adviser Peter Thiel, is facing mounting criticism for its work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In response, the company has tried to distance itself from ICE's controversial treatment of undocumented immigrants. But now, emails obtained by WNYC show that Palantir software has directly powered ICE's accelerating workplace raids. In the final weeks of 2017, special agents in ICE's Homeland Security Investigations' division were planning a worksite blitz across New York City. As part of their preparation, an ICE supervisor notified staff that they needed to use a Palantir program, called FALCON mobile, for the operation. "[REDACTION] we want all the team leaders to utilize the FALCON mobile app on your GOV iphones," wrote the agent, after mentioning several "assignment" locations across all five New York City boroughs. ICE supervisor ordering use of Palantir software in work site enforcement operation. (George Joseph/WNYC News) The email, obtained by WNYC under the federal Freedom of Information Act, continues: "We will be using the FALCON mobile app to share info with the command center about the subjects encountered in the stores as well as team locations." FALCON mobile allows agents in the field to search through a fusion of law enforcement databases that include information on people's immigration histories, family relationships, and past border crossings. The email was sent in preparation for a worksite enforcement briefing on January 8, 2018. Two days later, ICE raided nearly a hundred 7-Elevens across the country, including at least sixteen in New York City. At the time, the raids constituted the largest operation against a single employer in the Trump era. Other records in the release show just how looped in Palantir employees are with ICE operations, at worksites and otherwise. In one email from April of last year, a Palantir staffer notifies an ICE agent that they should test out their FALCON mobile application because of his or her "possible involvement in an upcoming operation." Another message, in April 2017, shows a Palantir support representative instructing an agent on how to classify a datapoint, so that Palantir's Investigative Case Management [ICM] platform could properly ingest records of a cell phone seizure. Advocates say the use of Palantir software in these raids contradict the company's public attempts to draw a clean line between its work and the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. "What these records show is that Palantir's programs are being used in the field everyday when ICE is conducting their raids," said Jacinta Gonzalez, field director with Mijente, an immigrants' rights group. "Everywhere you go you see people, average families, going to work and being detained in the raids, and it's all because of Palantir's FALCON and ICM product." From October 2017 to 2018, ICE workplace raids nationwide led to 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests for civil immigration violations, compared to just 172 the year prior. One of the largest of these raids came last April, when ICE agents stormed into a Tennessee meatpacking plant and put 54 workers in immigrant detention. Palantir declined WNYC's requests for comment. Citing law enforcement "sensitivities," ICE also declined to comment on how it uses Palantir during worksite enforcement operations. But former ICE HSI agents familiar with Palantir's capabilities say the data-mining software offers significant support for workplace investigations. Claude Arnold, a former ICE HSI special agent in Los Angeles, praised Palantir's ability to connect the dots for law enforcement. "It was just amazing how stuff would get linked by this phone number, by this address. And not only linking, but it would show you who or what is at the center of all that," said Arnold, who retired in 2015. James T. Hayes, Jr., former Special Agent in Charge at New York's HSI office, said the ability to look up unknown subjects with Palantir's mobile app in the field could also crack open investigations. "When you encounter individuals through an enforcement operation, whether they're targets of the operation or not, you're going to make an effort to question those people," he said. "If you are looking for a particular individual on site at that time, they might know where they are. They might know other places they work." In addition to arrests for civil immigration violations, ICE worksite enforcement operations also led to over seven hundred criminal arrests in the fiscal year 2018. But the majority of these charged were undocumented workers, not their employers. News of Palantir's role in workplace raids come at a critical time for the firm. In May, Bloomberg reported that the company may be planning to go public next year. At the same time, it is facing considerable backlash, internally and externally, for its work with ICE. In May, a coalition of tech workers protested Palantir after Mijente, the immigrants' advocacy group, pointed to documents showing how Palantir software may have been used to investigate the parents of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border. For years, Palantir's contracts with federal agencies like ICE went under the radar, and helped keep the company growing. But today its shadowy reputation has sometimes made sales harder, especially in the Trump era. "There are lots of customers globally and some domestically who feel they do not want to be affiliated with a company that powers the clandestine agencies of the world," Palantir CEO Alex Karp told the Wall Street Journal last year. Activists are doing their best to publicize Palantir's record in an effort to get the firm to cut ties with ICE. "Big industries and big companies and big banks are saying, 'I will not invest in private prisons. I will not invest in private detention centers. I will not help strengthen this infrastructure,'" said Gonzalez. "Palantir should take notice because investors are going to notice as well." Palantir's latest software development efforts could further improve ICE's attempts to identify undocumented immigrants. Last July, the company filed a patent application for a mobile image recognition program.The outline describes how users could take a picture of a subject's face in the field and then run that face against a database, identifying possible facial matches. George Joseph can be emailed securely with a protonmail email account at You can also text him, via the encrypted phone app Signal or otherwise, at 929-486-4865.

Shelter Provider, Defying City Policy, Warns Immigrant Families to Leave Temporarily

As New York City prepared for immigration raids this past weekend, one homeless shelter provider took an unusual step. Federal immigration agents are not allowed to enter shelters without a judicial warrant. Last week, the Social Services Department sent providers a reminder about the policy. But the city's largest family shelter network, Win, advised immigrant families to leave shelters for a few days in case federal authorities showed up with a warrant, according to a source close to the organization. "One of our jobs at Win is to keep our families safe," said Win President and CEO Christine Quinn. "We take that job incredibly seriously and will not back down to anyone who threatens our clients, including the president of the United States." A city spokesman said immigration agents haven't showed up at city shelters so far, but that any deviation from its policy stands to cause anxiety and fear among shelter residents.

Shelter Provider, Defying City Policy, Warns Immigrant Families to Leave Temporarily

'Like a Pit Boss at a Casino' — Manual Recount For Queens DA Gets Underway

Republicans will be playing a pivotal role in determining the Democratic nominee for Queens District Attorney. Only registered Democrats were able to vote — and they outnumber Republicans so dramatically in Queens, that the nominee is expected to have an easy time winning in November — but at each table where ballots are being counted sit two workers from the New York City Board of Elections, a designated Democrat and a designated Republican. "It doesn't matter whether it's a primary or general election, you have to have one of each, so there's a check on the system," said Valerie Vazquez, spokesperson for the Board. "There's so many more registered Democrats than Republicans, it's not always easy to find [Republicans], but we find 'em." The manual recount was triggered by Melinda Katz's 16-vote margin over public defender Tiffany Caban. Anything less than 0.5 percent leads to a multi-week effort like this one, where dozens of workers go through each and every ballot, whether it was cast at a polling site or by mail via absentee ballot. Most of last week was spent collating the ballots by election district. Workers removed them from sealed blue plastic boxes that had been in the scanners, combined them with mail-ins, and placed them into labeled accordion folders. On Monday, as the count gets underway in earnest, workers will look for ballots that the scanners didn't pick up, for instance, because people didn't fully fill out the circles next to candidates' names but put in a check or 'x.' They're also looking to disqualify ballots, where misguided voters signed their name or initials, a disqualifying violation of secret ballot rules. Scanners typically don't pick up such marks. Most of the initial challenging comes from volunteers from the rival campaigns who sit at each table and monitor the counting. They raise their hands and ask for professional opinions from the campaigns' paid attorneys. "You're literally bouncing around, from table to table, like a pit boss at a casino," said Thomas Garry, a Long Island election lawyer who has worked at many recounts. Very often, there are false alarms. "You may have an overzealous volunteer who says, 'I think that's an identifiable mark,'" Garry said. "And you call everyone over, and we look, and it's one straight pen line, and it's like, 'I'm ok with that. I'll let that one go.'" Garry said lawyers choose their battles, only bringing contested ballots to the overseeing judge when they're confident they can prevail — and when the number of ballots is enough to potentially tip the scales. The recount itself is expected to take about two weeks. The 16-vote margin is likely to change — perhaps a little, perhaps a lot. Either way, Caban's lawyers are preparing a legal challenge based on a large trove of affidavit ballots the Board of Elections rejected, based on the information voters provided. "I'd be extremely surprised if the margin changed so much during the recount that these wouldn't come into play," said Jerry Goldfeder, who leads Caban's legal team.

'Like a Pit Boss at a Casino' — Manual Recount For Queens DA Gets Underway

As Raids Failed to Materialize, Many Immigrants Still Felt Fearful

The city braced for deportation raids this weekend that didn't come to pass, but legal groups and city officials fanned out across the five boroughs to assuage fears and inform immigrants of their rights. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were planning to arrest families who recently arrived, missed their court dates, and were ordered deported. But fear has spread among many immigrants. At Saint Joan of Arc Church on Stratford Avenue in the Bronx, around 60 people filed into the basement for know-your-rights workshops. Alejandra, who didn't want to provide her last name, said she came to the U.S. 12 years ago from Mexico and doesn't have legal status. She said she feels afraid. "We stay at home," she said in Spanish. "We can't go out." She said she rarely leaves her house now, because she worries what would happen to her two U.S. citizen daughters if she got deported. Hilario Galicia Montes, a volunteer at the church, said he wasn't afraid, after spending 21 years in the country and regularly paying taxes. But he said many of his friends are scared. "They don't want to go out," he said. "They don't want to go to work." On Sunday, Mayor de Blasio said ICE agents attempted to arrest people in Harlem and Sunset Park on Saturday but weren't successful. The agency didn't respond to WNYC's request for comment and hasn't confirmed if these activities were part of the planned operation across the country targeting around 2,000 people. We obtained this picture, that activists say show ICE agents at one of three locations that they tried to raid in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Neighbors in that building told me ICE was knocking in all their doors at 7 am this Saturday. More at 6pm on @Telemundo47 — Pablo Gutierrez (@PablogtzT47) July 14, 2019 Across Sunset Park activists and politicians were handing out fliers with information on what to do if ICE knocked on people's doors. City Councilman Carlos Menchaca said the attempted raid in his neighborhood put many immigrants on edge. "We know that those have been unsuccessful attempts of ICE to remove our families from our neighborhood because people are not opening up their door," he said. "That's exactly what power we have as neighbors and immigrants, to not open the door and engage ICE." Volunteers handing out Know Your Rights fliers in different languages to a pastor in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where Mayor's office said @ICEgov was knocking on doors yesterday but didn't arrest anyone. @WNYC — Beth Fertig (@bethfertig) July 14, 2019 The fear of ICE raids was perhaps most apparent in neighborhood spots where there was an unusual quiet for a summer Sunday. On Twitter, Dan Lavoie noticed an empty soccer field in Sunset Park, where he said "normally there would be "30-40 Chinese women dancing, dozens of Mexican men playing soccer and literally hundreds of kids on the playground." "The fear — like the cruelty — is the point," he tweeted. I've never seen Sunset Park in Brooklyn this empty, especially on a hot summer Sunday.Normally, there would be 30-40 Chinese women dancing, dozens of Mexican men playing soccer and literally hundreds of kids on the playground.The fear — like the cruelty — is the point. — Dan Lavoie (@djlavoie) July 14, 2019 In Jackson Heights, one of the city's most diverse communities, about two hundred people marched and passed out fliers. Roque Rodriguez said he didn't know what to make of President Trump's threat to have thousands arrested. "I take the possibility that this is all a big show, to make people angry and upset," he said. "I hope people don't do that and take the bait. But I love that people showed up to support each other in the community." A couple of hundred demonstrators at #abolishICE march now in Jackson Heights, Queens @WNYC — Beth Fertig (@bethfertig) July 14, 2019 State Senator Luis Sepulveda, who represents the Bronx, was handing out his cellphone number during the workshops at the Saint Joan of Arc Church. Raids will reportedly continue over the next few days, and Sepulveda said he was sending a message that the city will protect and defend immigrants. "We have to remain vigilant at all times, and we have to do everything possible to get the word out there and let people know that they have people looking out for them," he said.

The Islamic Roots of Hip Hop

In the Big Daddy Kane track "Ain't No Half-Steppin'" the rapper famously signs off with the line, "Hold up the peace sign, as-salamu alaykum." — the traditional Arabic greeting for Muslims. It translates to "peace be upon you," and it's not the only references to Islam in hip-hop's foundational tracks. Many of the pioneers of the genre identified as Muslim including Rakim, Afrika Islam and Q-Tip. "In the late 80s, early 90s, if you were to say walk around New York City riding the subway, you would see people wearing Africa medallions or Malcolm X paraphernalia," said Zaheer Ali, the oral historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Ali hosted a panel on "Islam and the Soul of Hip-Hop" on Wednesday. He said many rappers were heavily influenced by the Nation of Islam and the Five Percent Nation, an offshoot movement founded in Harlem in the 1960's. Rapper Lakim Shabazz's 1988 song "Black is Black," name drops The Final Call, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam. As hip-hop continued to evolve in the 1990's, even non-Muslim rappers embraces the vernacular. "Peace" became a common tag to signify the end of a rap song. Wes Jackson, the founder of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, said it wasn't a coincidence. "That was from as-salamu alaykum, alaykum as-salam. There was so much language that we took that you didn't realize it because again it was just in the air," he said. Religion doesn't play the same prominent role in much of today's hip-hop. Ali said artists who identify as Muslim might not be looking to preach about their religion. But he said they are expressing themselves in different way. "I don't think people are upholding themselves as necessarily models in this sense," Ali said. "They're being just very honest about the nature of their struggle as an artist and for the most part I think people can connect with that."

Cuomo Says MTA Needs to Tackle Increasing Homelessness

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has another task for the MTA: solving homelessness in the subways. On Friday, he sent a letter to the MTA Board of Directors, citing an increase in the number of homeless New Yorkers in the subway system and in the number of train delays they caused. "I've never seen it this bad," the governor said during a press conference call. "I've never seen it this egregious, either on the numbers and the statistics, or as a matter of visibility." There were 2,178 homeless New Yorkers in the subway system, according to the latest federally-mandated count conducted in January. That's an increase of 23 percent compared to a year earlier. In 2018, trains were delayed 659 times by homeless people walking on tracks and blocking doors, according to the MTA. But homeless advocates such as Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless, said Cuomo needs to do more to help stem the homelessness crisis in the city. Over the past several years, the city has been covering more and more of the cost of addressing homelessness while the state's share has dropped. "If Gov. Cuomo wants to help fix this problem, he needs to step up with more housing resources at the state level," Routhier said.

New York City's Top Cop Details New Suicide Prevention Plan

The New York Police Department is facing a crisis in its ranks: this June, four police officers killed themselves, making for a total of six this year. Putting that into perspective, the NYPD has said it has averaged about four or five suicides per year over the last five years. While it's unclear what's behind the recent incidents, they reflect a longstanding problem within the force: that officers fear being stigmatized and even losing their job if they come forward about their mental health challenges. In an effort to address these issues in the department, the NYPD has created a new task force to address mental health concerns in its ranks, as well as drafting new policies to help officers who may be struggling on the job. This week, Commissioner James O'Neill announced a series of plans to train all NYPD personnel on how to help their colleagues, and is developing a peer counseling program that will be rolled out to every precinct in the city. O'Neill told WNYC's Jami Floyd that the recent incidents have hit home, particularly because two of the officers were friends. Now, he wants to change the "culture of silence" embedded in the NYPD. "It really sets you back on your heels when something like this happens. This is a tough job to begin with—cops face difficult situations each and every day, they're exposed to a lot of trauma, but when this happens we have to take steps here," said O'Neill. For the full conversation, click "Listen." If you or someone you know might be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

ICE Raids Target 2,100 Families, Including Some In New York

President Donald Trump reiterated Friday that federal immigration authorities would conduct mass arrests starting on Sunday. Officials have said the operation will target around 2,100 undocumented families with pending deportation orders. Telemundo 47 investigative reporter Pablo Guttiérrez says the raids will largely be aimed at people who people who have been issued an order of deportation in absentia. "What that really means," he explained, "is that for some reason they did not show up in court and the judge ordered them to be deported." The New York Civil Liberties Union has sued, claiming that in many cases the immigrants never received notification they were due in court, and that the agency has a long history of sending notifications to wrong addresses or with incorrect dates or other information. Meanwhile, advocates for immigrants are warning that the operation could also sweep up other undocumented people who happen to be in the same place, under what is known as "collateral arrests." The New York Times has reported that unnamed homeland security officials have confirmed that the raids would include collateral arrests. Guttierrez spoke with WNYC's Richard Hake.

The Secret Sound Of The Vessel Orchestra

Any hollow container has a note, a resonant frequency, that you can hear if you put your ear to it and listen closely. For example, when you put a seashell to your ear, you don't actually hear the ocean — you hear the resonant frequency of that shell. Oliver Beer, a British artist and composer who works in sculpture, video art, and music, put his ear to hundreds of objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of ceramic jars, clay pots, bronze busts, Qing dynasty vases, and contemporary art pottery. From them, he chose 32 that each "sing" a specific note in the Western scale. The resulting "Vessel Orchestra" is a sound installation, a one-of-a-kind art exhibition, and a science project of sorts. Beer placed a hypersensitive microphone inside each object, which is amplified and fed into a keyboard. Press the low D key and you hear the sound of a 7000-year old jar from Central Iran whose resonant frequency is a now-audible D. Press a high E-flat and you'll hear that note coming from inside a 1990 electroplated metal example of art pottery by June Schwarcz.(A light comes on next to each object so you know what's being heard at any time.) The "Vessel Orchestra" juxtaposes objects that have almost nothing to do with each other and which would otherwise never be exhibited together. But in this context, they reveal a kind of hidden life, and come together to play a repeating composition by Oliver Beer on the top floor of the Met Breuer, the Met Museum's annex on the site of the old Whitney Museum. The vessels will also be part of a series of larger live music performances by guest musicians each Friday night. Oliver Beer's Vessel Orchestra runs through August 11, 2019 at Met Breuer.

Yemeni Americans Are Suing to Bring Their Families Here

In October 2017, Saleh Almuganahi, an American citizen of Yemeni descent, said his wife was interviewed by U.S. consular officials in Djibouti. She even received a document stating "Your visa is approved." The government just had to print it. That never happened. Two months later the Trump administration's travel ban went into effect and she and her two young children have been stuck in Yemen through the course of a violent war. The family's lawyer, Ahmed Mohamed, Litigation Director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the revocation of her visa violated the law. "The president himself said, 'This proclamation shall not be used to revoke visas that were previously approved.' And that's exactly what's happening here," said Mohamed. On Monday, CAIR announced the family's lawsuit. "Immediately the following day, the family actually received an email from the US embassy, saying that their visa had been approved." In other words, the revocation was revoked. But in an emailed statement, a State Department spokesperson said "No visas have been revoked" since the travel ban was announced. So what's going on? "What the government is saying in response to these cases, that they're not revocations, is a matter of semantics," said Diala Shamas, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She said she personally knew of hundreds of cases like the Almuganahis. In the past, the State Department has argued that anything short of an actual, printed visa is provisional. Shamas said many Yemenis who have successfully procured a visa did so only after a lawsuit or media coverage, and that this undercuts the security rationale of the travel ban. According to Mohamed, his client's lawsuit won't be withdrawn until his wife and kids have safely made it to the U.S., from Yemen.

Fanfare and Politics at Ticker Tape Parade for Women World Champions

A marching band, a drum line, bagpipes and throngs of cheering spectators, many of them women and girls, all lined the streets of Broadway in Lower Manhattan Wednesday to support the United States Women's Soccer team. But the parade was more than a celebration of athleticism; it turned into a boisterous rally to support the team's fight for pay equity, and a call for tolerance. WNYC's Gwynne Hogan reports on the spectacle from the Canyon of Heroes.

The Mysterious Wealth of Jeffrey Epstein, and What He Did With It

Jeffrey Epstein, the well-connected financier recently indicted on federal child sex trafficking charges, was once called an "international moneyman of mystery" — and for good reason. Epstein once taught high school math at the elite Manhattan private school Dalton, and was a partner at Bear Stearns Investment, before founding a wealth management company for billionaires in the 1980s. But little is known about his firm or who his clients are — or how he acquired his seven-story mansion on the Upper East Side. Epstein faced similar charges from federal prosecutors in Miami before, in 2007. And if that case is any indication, his reported wealth could play a part in how the current charges play out. "Attorneys representing these alleged victims and extensive reporting from the Miami Herald suggested Epstein essentially was able to buy his way out of a federal conviction," said WNYC reporter Gwynne Hogan. "They say Epstein hired high priced politically-connected attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr, who managed to convince federal prosecutors to drop a sex trafficking case against him." Listen to Hogan's full conversation with "All Things Considered" host Jami Floyd.

Ticker Tape Parades Have Changed, As Have Our Heroes

The first honoree ever was a woman: Lady Liberty. She got a parade on her unveiling in 1886. She was too dignified to squeeze into a carriage and ride down Broadway, waving her torch, so she waited in the harbor for President Grover Cleveland to come to her. New York had thrown parades before, mostly for military men like George Washington, modeling them on Roman triumphs with flowers strewn in the path of conquering generals. But not on this foggy May day in 1886. Happy capitalists in skyscrapers near Wall Street tossed not rose petals from their windows but the most American thing imaginable: reams of stock quotes. They called it, ticker tape. President Cleveland was impressed at all the patriotic passion for a non-military symbol. He marveled in his speech at the thousands who'd come out to honor "not a warlike god but our own peaceful deity keeping watch before the open gates of America." We then immediately reverted to focusing on military figures: Admirals, field marshals, even the chief of staff of the Italian Army — they all got ticker tape parades. Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt was honored at one in 1910, although it wasn't for driving Spain from Cuba. It was for returning from an African safari. Standards were not always high. Over time, the definition of "hero" expanded to include foreign dignitaries, endurance swimmers and aviators. So many aviators. And in 1931, the city threw a celebration for French leader Henri Phillipe Petain, whose reputation has not aged well, as happens when you collaborate with a Nazi occupation. From 1945 to 1965, the city binged on 130 ticker-tape parades. (One week saw three.) My favorite was for the guys who brought French tapestries by ship and truck to the Metropolitan Museum. Art movers — they threw a parade for art movers. In 1969, after welcoming the Apollo 11 astronauts back from the moon, New York started calming down about pulling out all the stops and locking up the downtown business district. These days, the "Canyon of Heroes" is mostly reserved for local teams that win championships: The Giants and Yankees, the Rangers and Mets. Occasionally the pope, or Nelson Mandela, will squeak in. The first female sports team to be driven through Lower Manhattan in a storm of glory — and now, confetti — was the U.S. women's soccer squad that won the 2015 World Cup. On Wednesday, just as wonderfully, comes the second.

De Blasio Announces 'Pathway to Wage Parity' for Pre-K Teachers

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday the city has reached a deal with unions to close a wage gap that has divided pre-k teachers for decades. The tentative contract will close that gap between state-certified teachers over three years and boost wages for uncertified teachers and support staff. "Now, as a result of this agreement, we will have the quality educators and all the other key staff in place for the long-term to make sure our kids get that start they deserve," de Blasio said at a press conference announcing the agreement. "No longer [will] we ever tolerate a system that treats workers like second class citizens in the city of New York," said District Council 37 President Henry Garrido. State certified teachers at community-based organizations make up to $20,000 less per year than Department of Education employees with the same training. That gap has continued even as more and more of those organizations became part of de Blasio's universal pre-k program. Directors say the disparity has caused an exodus of teachers that threatens the survival of their programs. As de Blasio has touted his universal pre-k program on the presidential campaign trail, teachers and their advocates have stepped up their activism, accusing the mayor of treating a workforce composed mainly of women of color unfairly. De Blasio said the new contract provides a "path to parity" for pre-k teachers and a pattern for future contracts for early educators. The new contract will increase certified teachers' salaries by $20,000 over the next three years if they have a Master's degree, and $17,000 if they have a Bachelor's degree. Just over a third of the union's teachers are certified. Non-certified teachers and support staff — including aides, janitors and cafeteria workers — will get a $1,800 bonus and a 2.75 percent wage increase in 2021. The contract also reduces the co-pay for members' health insurance. City officials said they expect the contract to set a pattern for other contracts for unions representing early educators. They said they also hope the new contract will encourage more teachers to earn state certifications. "It's a big deal," said Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children. "It's a long overdue change and the acknowledgement that teachers at community-based organizations deserve to be adequately compensated and given the same level of respect as their UFT counterparts." "Community based organizations educate the majority of young children," said Susan Stamler, executive director of the United Neighborhood Houses. "This will not only do amazing things for individual teachers and their families, but we hope it will help them stay in these trusted, longtime organizations in the community." Officials said the new contract will cost $15 million. The contract must be ratified by members. A vote is expected in August.

Weed Dealers on Legalization: 'I Don't Want to Be Left in the Dark'

New York lawmakers failed to reach a deal to legalize recreational marijuana during the legislative session that ended last month, punting the issue until they reconvene in January of next year. The latest development in the months-long back and forth was received with mixed emotions from one group of New Yorkers who would be affected by any new laws: weed dealers. "I'm not upset at all and I'm not surprised," said a dealer based in Queens who asked WNYC to refer to him as "Pablo" in order to protect his identity. Pablo favors more regulation for marijuana. "I hate trash, low-quality bud and it should be regulated like everything should." But he said the fact lawmakers didn't quite get there this session actually comes as a bit of a relief. "That gives me more time to be ready for the legalization part of it." If and when New York joins the 11 states that have already legalized recreational use of marijuana, Pablo believes everything will change for those who already sell it. So he has a plan. "Partner up with a company in California," he explained, "and hopefully that company can have ties here to New York where the legal market is opening up and I'll be a part of that." Several other dealers who spoke to WNYC were not sure they'd be able to survive in a legal marketplace, though they said that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. "I am 100 percent for legalization even if that means the side-hustle is going to dissipate," said 19-year-old Castor, another Queens-based marijuana peddler who asked WNYC to use only his first name. He said he's willing to surrender extra cash for better quality weed for everyone. "Wouldn't you rather that we all have access to stuff and we all know what's in it?" Legalization in other states has already transformed New York City's well-established black market, said one Brooklyn-based dealer in his early thirties who has more than a decade of experience. He asked WNYC not to reveal his name for legal reasons. "Selling weed used to be a dream here because everybody here smokes weed. [And] it was significantly more difficult to get," he said. But that's changed, he said, as New York City's market has been flooded with products from states that have legalized marijuana from the west coast and more recently, states like Massachusetts and Maine. The results have been to drive down prices and make it harder for people like him to earn a living selling weed. He expects that if New York legalizes the sale of weed, that would push most smaller dealers out of business. "Your casual weed dealer goes out the window. Eighty to 90 percent of the people who are doing it, slowly stop," he projected. "If I had grown up with legalization, I don't think I'm selling weed in high schools, I don't think I'm selling weed in college. And if I don't do those things, it's probably not coming across my mind to do it after that." Lawmakers have been debating what state and local tax rates should be for the sale of marijuana and how that revenue should be spent. In addition, there are differing ideas about whether or not the funds should be set aside for communities that have been most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana sale and use, if minority and women-owned businesses should be prioritized for new licenses and how to expunge the records for those with prior arrests and convictions connected to marijuana. What happens to current dealers, however, is a bit of a question mark. A task force on cannabis legalization created by Mayor Bill de Blasio released an extensive plan last December that recommended, "mandated job opportunities for those most impacted by past criminalization." Tracking what becomes of black market dealers when marijuana is legalized is complicated, said Harvard economist Jeffry Miron who's studied the financial impact of cannabis legalization. "I'm not aware of any kind of systematic data source on that for obvious reasons," Miron said. "There were some attempts to look at that for the repeal of alcohol prohibition which found that some people went out of business and some of the black market dealers went legit." But, Miron added, there's another factor at play. Depending on how much regulation the state government imposes on the sale of marijuana, a black market might continue. In states like Colorado or Washington where licenses are easier to get and dispensaries are more plentiful, the black market has dissipated. But in states where it has been harder to obtain licenses like Massachusetts or California, Miron said a black market may still persist. "Lots of people live a fairly significant distance from any retail store," he said, "So they're gonna keep buying from their next door neighbor or growing it in their backyard or buying it from the kid behind the high school." Pablo in Queens is optimistic about the future of marijuana in New York. He says the illegality of what he does has taken its toll on him: He's been robbed, arrested, and spent time on Rikers Island. This April, he sold a vape pen to someone he now believes was an undercover cop as a few weeks, later police broke down his apartment door, confiscated his marijuana and arrested him "They used resources, taxpayer dollars, to charge me with a misdemeanor, 4th degree," he said. Court records and arrest papers confirm his account. While some dealers may be anxious about legalization, Pablo said, his clients are ready. "People want to know about marijuana. They want to know what they're getting. I totally dig that and I totally want that," he said. "I just want to be a part of it. I don't want to be left in the dark when I've been telling people about good marijuana in the dark."

From Danish Ballet to Sport-Inspired Modern Dance

This July, the Royal Danish Ballet visits New York with its repertoire from 19th century choreographer August Bournonville. These signature dances feature ensemble pieces filled with fantastical Scandinavian imagery — expect both sylphs and trolls. Meanwhile, Mark Morris Dance Group premieres new work at the Mostly Mozart Festival inspired by (and designed around) Satie's "Sports et Divertissements," with piano pieces encapsulating different activities like picnicking, racing and golf. Plus, the company revives "V," which first debuted in New York after 9/11. For those who prefer their dance on film, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will hold its annual festival of dance features and documentaries, "Dance on Camera." Click on "Listen" to hear WNYC dance critic Marina Harss' full preview. The Royal Danish Ballet dances The Bournonville Legacy July 9-14 at the Joyce Theater. The Mostly Mozart Festival runs July 10 to August 10 at Lincoln Center. Mark Morris Dance Group will perform July 10-13 at the Rose Theater. Dance on Camera runs July 12-15 at Lincoln Center.

Prosecutors Bring New Sex Trafficking Case Against Jeffrey Epstein

In a startling reversal of fortune, billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein was charged Monday with sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in a case brought more than a decade after he secretly cut a deal with federal prosecutors to dispose of nearly identical allegations. The 66-year-old hedge fund manager who once socialized with some of the world's most powerful people was charged in a newly unsealed federal indictment with sex trafficking and conspiracy during the early 2000s. He could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted. The case sets the stage for another #MeToo-era trial fraught with questions of wealth and influence. Epstein's powerful friends over the years have included President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew. Prosecutors said the evidence against Epstein included a "vast trove" of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a weekend search of his New York City mansion. Authorities also found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said it appeared, prosecutors said. Epstein, who was arrested Saturday as he arrived in the U.S. from Paris aboard his private jet, was brought into court Monday in a blue jail uniform, his hair disheveled, and pleaded not guilty. He was jailed for a bail hearing next Monday, when prosecutors plan to argue that the rich world traveler might flee if released. His lawyers argued that the sex-crime allegations had been settled in 2008 with a plea agreement in Florida that was overseen by Alexander Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time and is now Trump's labor secretary. "This is ancient stuff," Epstein attorney Reid Weingarten said in court, calling the case essentially a "redo" by the government. But U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of New York said that the non-prosecution agreement that spared Epstein from a heavy prison sentence a decade ago is binding only on federal prosecutors in Florida, not on authorities in New York. The alleged victims "deserve their day in court," Berman said. "We are proud to be standing up for them by bringing this indictment." Epstein was accused in the indictment of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then molesting them at his homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and New York from 2002 through 2005. He "intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18," prosecutors said. He also paid some of his victims to recruit additional girls, creating "a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit," prosecutors said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller said that while there is some overlap between the Florida and New York cases, one of the counts is based entirely on New York victims. Federal authorities said new accusers have come forward since Epstein's arrest, and they urged other possible victims to contact the FBI. Some of Epstein's accusers welcomed the indictment. "The news of my abuser's arrest today is a step in the right direction to finally hold Epstein accountable for his crimes and restore my faith that power and money can't triumph over justice," Sarah Ransome said through her lawyer. Prosecutors in New York are seeking the forfeiture of Epstein's mansion, a seven-story, 21,000-square-foot townhouse less than a block from Central Park. The home, formerly a prep school, is across the street from a home owned by Bill Cosby and has been valued at approximately $77 million. Epstein's arrest came amid increased #MeToo-era scrutiny of the 2008 non-prosecution agreement, which caused a furor in recent years as the details came to light, many of them exposed in a series of stories by The Miami Herald. Under the deal, Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He avoided a possible life sentence and served 13 months in jail, during which he was allowed out to go to his office during the day. The deal also required that he reach financial settlements with dozens of his alleged victims and register as a sex offender. "The last couple of years have helped build this environment where the public isn't willing to see these cases swept under the rug anymore," said Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN, the anti-sexual violence organization. "I also think there was such outrage over the sentence that he got and what seemed like a very special deal that he got the first time," he continued. "So I think similar to the first attempt to prosecute Cosby, I think there was a lot of public outrage at justice not being done. And so that helped lead the drive." Acosta has defended the agreement as appropriate, though the White House said in February that it was looking into his handling of the case. The new charges were brought by the public corruption unit within the U.S. attorney's office in New York, which normally handles cases against politicians. Berman would not say why that was done. Attorney General William Barr declined to comment on Epstein's case, saying he has recused himself from the matter. Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein agreed that the non-prosecution deal applies only to federal prosecutors in the Florida, not those in New York. Authorities in Florida have said at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein's Palm Beach mansion for sexual purposes after being recruited around the world. Some of the alleged victims have accused Prince Andrew and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz of taking part in Epstein's sex ring. Buckingham Palace has vehemently denied any involvement by Andrew, and Dershowitz has accused the victims of lying about him. The non-prosecution agreement is being challenged in court in Florida. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Epstein's victims should have been consulted under the law about the agreement, and he is now weighing whether to throw it out. Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers in the Florida case contending the deal must stand. "The past cannot be undone; the government committed itself to the NPA, and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions," prosecutors wrote. Prosecutors said they would oppose Epstein's release on bail. The defendant owns airplanes as well as homes in Paris and on a Caribbean island. "He has enormous wealth. The charges are very serious and carry with them a maximum sentence of 45 years, which to someone of Epstein's age is basically a life sentence," Berman said, "so we think he has every incentive to try and flee the jurisdiction."

Week Ahead: July 8, 2019

On this week's look ahead: the recount begins in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney — as does a court hearing over invalidated ballots. Hedge fund manager and felon Jeffrey Epstein will appear in a federal court. On Wednesday, the U.S. Women's World Cup champions will get a ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan. And: on Thursday, New York City will expand its speed camera program. "On July 11, we'll double the impact of the cameras & then install new cameras at an unprecedented rate."Starting 7/11, speed cameras in school speed zones will be activated weekdays year-round from 6AM-10PM. #SpeedCamerasSaveLives — NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) June 28, 2019

NJ School District's One-Day Shutdown: Funding Emergency or Publicity Stunt?

School parents in Lakewood, NJ were taken by surprise on Monday morning when they were told that students participating in the district's summer programs, many of whom were enrolled in special education programs, should make "alternate plans." Administrators said that the state's budget for the new fiscal year, which started July 1, left the district with a $30 million funding shortfall that would force Lakewood's schools to shut down. Less than 12 hours later, the schools were back open after Gov. Phil Murphy's administration promised to loan the district $36 million dollars. So why are the schools in New Jersey's fastest-growing municipality so cash-strapped that a district-wide shutdown is even a possibility? Asbury Park Press reporter Stacey Barchenger said part of the answer has to do with Lakewood's unique situation. "There are 6,000 public schools, but more than 32,000 private school kids," she said. Many of those who go to private schools attend the town's many yeshivas. And the state obligates the school district to pay for services for private school students, like busing and security. "That's not taken into account when the district gets money through the state funding formula. That leads to an imbalance and a deficit that we have seen grow and grow each year." Barchenger spoke to WNYC's Kerry Nolan.

NJ School District's One-Day Shutdown: Funding Emergency or Publicity Stunt?

Queens DA Democratic Primary Race Heads to Recount

This story was originally published on July 3 by THE CITY. The Tiffany Cabán-Melinda Katz Democratic primary battle for Queens district attorney is headed for a recount — and a potential court fight. After a daylong manual recount of thousands of paper ballots, Democratic Party favorite Katz pulled ahead of insurgent candidate Cabán by 20 votes Wednesday, according to the city Board of Elections. That marked a huge turnaround for the Queens borough president, who came into the paper ballot tally 1,199 votes behind Cabán, the nominal winner of the June 25 primary. Katz declared victory Wednesday night, even as she tacitly acknowledged her battle with Cabán is far from over. "I am proud to have been chosen as the Democratic nominee for Queens district attorney," Katz said in a statement. "We know that these numbers can and will be subject to recount, and there may be legal challenges, but what matters most is the will of Queens voters." Cabán's team, meanwhile, vowed to fight to the end. "Queens voters are inspired by Tiffany Cabán's campaign and her vision for real criminal justice reform," said Monica Klein, a Cabán spokesperson. "If every valid paper ballot vote is counted, we are confident we will prevail." A Stunning Turn of Events The pre-holiday fireworks marked the latest chapter in the contest pitting Katz, a former City Council member and Democratic Party stalwart, against Cabán, an until recently unknown public defender who earned the backing of Queens machine-slayer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "If the count holds, it would be an unbelievable comeback and a truly miraculous victory for Melinda — perhaps one of the biggest come-from-behind victories in state history," said veteran political consultant George Arzt. But Arzt and other seasoned observers weren't calling the contest just yet. The slim margin triggered a full manual recount, which is expected to take about two weeks. Meanwhile, Cabán's team huddled in a war room reviewing some 2,000 invalidated affidavit ballots, with plans to fight for every vote, said campaign attorney Renée Paradis. The day had started with some 6,300 absentee and affidavit ballots to be counted. Attorneys for both teams will meet with city Board of Election staff Friday morning at the Queens BOE office in Forest Hills to determine the next steps for the manual recount. The winner ostensibly will go up against GOP nominee Daniel Kogan, an Ozone-Park based attorney, in the Nov. 5 general election. But Kogan has said he doesn't plan to run a vigorous campaign. Some Queens Republicans are looking to replace him — possibly with Greg Lasak, the former judge and prosecutor who placed third in the crowded Democratic primary. The Democratic primary to replace the late, longtime Queens DA Richard Brown drew 80,000 of 760,000 active Democratic voters in the county. It followed last year's primary loss of Queens party boss Joe Crowley to Ocasio-Cortez — an upset that shook up the political status quo locally and nationally. This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

Queens DA Democratic Primary Race Heads to Recount

Savion Glover is Here to Make You Respond

"Where would we be if we still had those kind of energies around?" Savion Glover told WNYC's cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, referring to the late tap dancer Gregg Burge, who died at 40 years old from a brain tumor, and choreographer Michael Peters, who also died young at 46. Glover used that inquiry as the premise for his new, limited-run show at the Joyce Theater called Lady5 @Savion Glover's BaRoQue'Blak TaP Cafe, which imagines a conversation with Burge through an ensemble performance. "If those cats were here, I think — not to discredit what the kids are calling twerking — we would be in a different place of understanding our body language." Glover has been tap dancing since he was a child, and he credits a community of elder tap dancers and choreographers for his own skill and talent, which he describes as less of a skill and more of a calling. "I am a vessel of energy that has put me here to make people respond," said Glover. "To make people cry, make people laugh." He's also an actor, and Glover has appeared in a handful of films, including Spike Lee's critically acclaimed and controversial 2000 film Bamboozled, which is satirical look at race and racism in network television by way of a modern minstrel show. Glover — who played a black star in blackface of The New Millennium Minstrel show — says he would take the part again today. Despite recent images of white people in blackface being unearthed on social media, notably an image of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in a racist high school yearbook photo, Glover is undeterred because he thinks we have all evolved. "We are smarter." Lady5 @ Savion Glover's BaRoQue'Blak TaP Cafe is at the Joyce Theatre through July 7th. (Meanwhile, enjoy this iconic performance.)

A Very Special Pride March

People flooded in from all five boroughs and around the globe to celebrate the LGBTQ community as part of World Pride this weekend. It was the first time that New York City played host to the international event, and it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots outside the iconic Greenwich Village bar. This year, there was another event on the schedule. In addition to the traditional Pride march Sunday, which started near Madison Square Park and looped through the West Village; and the Queer Liberation March, which positioned itself as a protest against the corporatization of the main event. WNYC editor Jennifer Vanasco said there wasn't much tension between the two marches, but it did highlight a growing concern among some in the LGBTQ community. "One woman said corporations come, they put a drag queen on top of the float and then they feel like they're good, they've done their bit," Vanasco told WNYC host David Furst. At the same time, employees of some of these corporations who took place in the parade said it highlights the progress of the modern gay rights movement. To hear the full conversation, click "Listen."

Week Ahead: July 1, 2019

In this week's look ahead: there's still no winner in the Democratic primary race for Queens District Attorney—but the paper ballot count is happening this week. .@BOENYC says the paper count will not BEGIN until next Wed...July 3rd. — Brigid Bergin (@brigidbergin) June 26, 2019 We're also watching for details of an MTA reorganization. And: in celebration of the Fourth, the New York Public Library is displaying its copy of the Declaration of Independence, handwritten by Thomas Jefferson. Catch it quick: it can only be viewed Monday and Tuesday.