The high point of Maya Wiley's mayoral campaign may have come on the afternoon of June 5, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed her, saying, "If we don't come together as a movement, we will get a New York City built by and for billionaires, and we need a city for and by working people."
The low point, though she wouldn't have known it at the time, came the following evening, when a large man just outside Washington Square Park unleashed a barrage of ethnic slurs against an Asian police officer, and when a man on a bicycle responded by calling him a racist, snarled back, "Black people can't be racist."
Ms. Wiley was no doubt unaware of this contribution to the dialogue between denizens of the park and police when she tweeted the following morning, in response to the arrests of 23 people Saturday night by cops for pelting cops trying to enforce a curfew with bottles and other objects, "a 10-year-old was shot and killed last night in the Rockaways. The NYPD couldn't protect him, but they could march through a park in riot gear, terrorizing people to enforce an arbitrary curfew."
It wasn't as if she were the only mayoral candidate to get sucked into criticizing the NYPD's enforcement actions in the park. Andrew Yang, his standing in the polls sliding but his cluelessness about the issues holding firm, called the Greenwich Village park "a place to gather and enjoy Sunday nights. Sending officers in riot gear and militarizing a public park should never be the answer."
Adams Joins the Pile-On
What was surprising was that Eric Adams, who has been as careful in trying to strike a balance on the issues of policing and over-policing as Ms. Wiley has been reckless in making the NYPD the villain of every confrontation, also criticized the Saturday-night response, tweeting that "scheduling a battle in a park every night at 10p isn't smart."
But setting the curfew two hours earlier than had been the norm was the culmination of growing complaints by residents and business owners in the vicinity, who had sent a letter to City Hall stating that the blasting of amplified music in the park well after midnight, as well as threatening behavior, vandalism, drug-dealing and leaving behind refuse ranging from depleted alcohol bottles to human waste had become intolerable.
For more than a year, the NYPD had worked with the Parks Department's Parks Enforcement Patrol to clear the park by the midnight curfew on weekends because of these concerns. "I think they realized they weren't capable of doing it on their own," said Joe Puleo, who as president of Local 983 of District Council 37 represents the PEP officers.
He noted his members are "unarmed; they can easily be surrounded and assaulted." For the past year, he said, as the mood in the city changed drastically with the George Floyd protests, his seven members assigned to Washington Square Park have been "harassed just patrolling the area. They give them the finger, they curse them out. A lot of the people there don't feel there should be any enforcement at all."
Mr. Puleo added, "It's always been a problem park. It wasn't until stop-and-frisk that they started to get a handle on it. Now it's back to being totally out of control."
The letter of complaint sparked a meeting at City Hall involving multiple agencies and a decision to push the curfew up to 10 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays if the problems didn't subside.
On Saturday night, May 22, with the midnight curfew still in effect, police officers about 11:30 began asking those still in the park to get ready to clear out. One of those who didn't want to call it a night responded by throwing a bottle that struck and injured a cop, and a 25-year-old man, Dariel Ali, was also arrested for threatening to hurt a cop.
Around that time, Fire Department employees responded to a multiple-alarm fire in a nearby building at 165 Bleecker St. but found their path blocked by revelers who had spilled out of the park and into the roadway, some of whom also threw bottles at the firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians who were there to extinguish the blaze and treat anyone who suffered injury or illness as a result of it.
FDNY Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Frank Dwyer said in a June 9 statement, "There were reports of objects/debris thrown at members at the fire scene. Thankfully, no one was struck or injured, and members continued to operate at the fire."
In light of that behavior, which also included someone jumping up and down on a patrol car parked outside 243 Thompson St., the decision was made to advance the curfew by two hours on weekends.
Friday Quiet, Saturday Not
Friday night, June 4, the park was cleared without incident shortly after 10, according to a police spokesman. Saturday was a different story, he said: at about 10:20 "a large, disorderly group" of about 120 people refused to exit and some of them began throwing glass bottles and other objects at the cops, who, anticipating trouble, were wearing riot gear. Twenty-three people were arrested in the fracas, with most charged with obstructing governmental administration, menacing, harassment and/or disorderly conduct.
These were the people Ms. Wiley claimed had been terrorized, in what she clearly believed was a reprise of police abuse of "peaceful protesters" a year earlier at rallies in the wake of George Floyd's murder. Some of those "victims" of alleged police abuses had tossed rocks and bottles at cops and set fire to NYPD vehicles, including one bungled attempt to throw a Molotov Cocktail into an occupied SUV.
The degree to which public sympathy has swung because of growing concerns about violent crime could be seen also June 8 in Jamaica, Queens, where Mr. Adams grew up and has said he decided to become a cop to bring about change after suffering a 103rd Precinct station-house beating as a 15-year-old in the late 1970s.
That was the scene of a press conference featuring Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, two top City Council Members including Adrienne Adams, chair of the Public Safety Committee, Assistant Police Chief Ruben Beltran—the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens South—and local business leaders, to announce a program to discourage "unwanted, disrupted activity" inside and in the vicinity of area businesses.
Council Member Daneek Miller said in a statement that the initiative was meant "to improve public safety in and around these bustling corridors...to mitigate something that has been a burden on the community for too long."
This actually represented bad news for Ms. Wiley, who continues railing against police misconduct while pledging that if elected, she would cut $1 billion from the NYPD's budget, suggesting that using the money for social and jobs programs would prove more effective in preventing crime than cops who she recently implied were slow to leave their patrol cars.
AOC Bided Her Time
It may not have been a coincidence that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, whose initial public schedule for June 5 indicated she planned to confine her endorsing strictly to City Council candidates, chose that moment to declare her support for Ms. Wiley.
A day earlier, the New York Times reported that a second woman had accused City Comptroller Scott Stringer of molesting her, at a time in 1992 when she was an 18-year-old waitress at a bar he co-owned, Uptown Local. Unlike his previous accuser, Jean Kim, she had not stayed in contact with Mr. Stringer for years after the alleged unwelcome contact and harassment, and her claim gave new weight to Ms. Kim's late-April accusation, which had stalled a campaign that was just gaining momentum.
In this case, Mr. Stringer did not call a press conference to deny the woman's claim, with his wife standing at his side. He told The Times that he did not remember the latest accuser, Teresa Logan, adding that the time in which he owned the bar was "all a bit of a mess."
"Mess" was the same word that the other candidate who had been battling with Ms. Wiley for progressive support, Dianne Morales, used to characterize her campaign late last month as it was rocked by charges of improper behavior by upper-level advisers and a union-organizing campaign in which she claimed she hadn't known that four other staffers she fired were among the leaders of the drive.
Ms. Wiley suddenly had a chance, just a week before early voting would begin for the June 22 primary, to consolidate support at the left of the political spectrum and begin making up ground after running in place for months, despite the endorsement of the giant private health-care-workers union, Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union.
Union attorney Arthur Schwartz, who's running for a City Council seat in the Village stressing his progressive bona fides, said June 7 that not only did Mr. Stringer's campaign appear dead in the water but he wasn't raising any money. "And because of the Morales meltdown," he said in a phone interview, "it consolidated a lot of the support on the left. I think it's coming down to a three-way race between Maya, [Kathryn] Garcia, and Adams.
Perception Killing Stringer
Political consultant George Arzt, who has been assisting Ray McGuire's campaign, said that Mr. Stringer's money-raising woes went beyond the cloud over him because "the people who give money usually are hoping to be with the next Mayor, and that doesn't look like Stringer."
But while he said Ms. Wiley was one of four legitimate contenders for the Democratic nomination—including Mr. Yang along with Ms. Garcia and Mr. Adams—he did not believe that AOC and others on the left coalescing around her would be "enough for Wiley to win. I just don't think Wiley can be competitive with Adams in the African-American community, and also as a crossover candidate into the white community. And Garcia will be very competitive for the women's vote and for people who know government or have been in government."
He was speaking several hours after a NY1/Ipsos poll showed Mr. Adams with 22 percent of the vote, Mr. Yang losing ground with 16 percent, Ms. Garcia climbing fast at 15 percent, and Ms. Wiley in 5th place at 9 percent, 1 point behind Mr. Stringer.
The poll was completed May 31, though it was released a week later, meaning it did not measure the impact of Mr. Stringer's latest accuser or the AOC endorsement and that of the New York State Nurses Association for Ms. Wiley's campaign. But one worrisome omen for her was that a near majority of those polled—46 percent—said that tackling crime was the most important issue for the next Mayor, far ahead of the 20 percent who said addressing racial injustice should be the top priority. With sentiment leaning that way, she figures to have a hard time making up ground from among the 16 percent of those polled who remained undecided.
And then there was the Sunday night activity on the periphery of Washington Square Park involving a long, vicious anti-Asian diatribe from one of the park stragglers that was released in a tweet the following afternoon by the Police Benevolent Association.
Obscene and Bigoted
While another cop directed him to remain on the sidewalk, Loud Ugly spewed his bile at the Asian officer, repeatedly calling him "you f------ chink. You f---ing chink. Get the f--- outta here."
A passing bicyclist objected that this was no way to talk to anybody, and Loud Ugly responded with a repeated request that the cyclist perform oral sex on him. When the man replied, "You're a racist piece of s---," Loud Ugly retorted, "Black people can't be racist."
He then turned his attention back to the Asian officer, shouting, "I work for the state, you f------ chink. I pay your f------ salary."
PBA President Pat Lynch attached a commentary to the video, saying, "Criminals know that politicians are all talk. They know there are no real consequences for their vicious anti-Asian hate, even when it's directed at a [police officer]. If the pols want to 'Stop-the-Hate,' they need to stop demonizing cops first."
An NYPD spokesman was more pointed in his reaction to the man's rant, stating, "Each day, NYPD officers are expected to maintain a level of professionalism under an array of difficult circumstances. In this instance an Asian police officer was subjected to an ugly onslaught of racial slurs and maintained his composure. However, it is disturbing to see this type of language used against any Asian person in light of the disturbing increase of Asian hate crimes citywide."
Ms. Wiley has not been nearly as vocal on that problem as other candidates, including Mr. Adams and Mr. Yang. But then all three of those styling themselves as progressives have been curiously silent about both the verbal and physical abuse cops endured from protesters over the past year, as if bad behavior was noteworthy only when it involved officers getting rough.
The front page of the New York Post June 8 was devoted almost entirely to Ms. Wiley, looking angry above the headline "Not Maya Problem." It was a reference to the fact that her family is paying for a private security patrol in her neighborhood just south of Prospect Park at the same time that she is pledging to slash the NYPD's budget.
Reheated But Potent
The story was not new. It had first surfaced six months earlier in a Daily News column from Harry Siegel in which Ms. Wiley said that at one point she had stopped contributing toward the security patrol, but later indulged her life partner's desire to support it again because he had been traumatized by a bad beating he suffered during a mugging 20 years ago.
In the first televised debate on NY1 last month, Ms. Wiley trotted out the phrase "trauma-informed care" to describe the role she envisioned for School Safety Agents rather than their traditional duties of keeping students safe by maintaining order and writing up the miscreants.
It is unlikely to become as infamous as the phrase she coined—"agents of the city"—to try to legally fend off reporters' freedom-of-information requests for the email correspondence between Mayor de Blasio and several outside advisers who had clients with business before the city during her 30-month stint as his Counsel. But that's probably because it sounds more like psychobabble than a real role change.
"Do you know what that means?" asked Greg Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, during a June 8 phone interview. "I don't know, and I don't think she does, either."
Originally, he noted, Ms. Wiley's position on the SSAs was that "she wanted to eliminate them. The narrative caught up to her; she's campaigning on the idea that she'll help women of color, and School Safety Agents are mostly women of color," with 90 percent of those in the job either black or Latina and 70 percent of them women.
The Wiley campaign website describes trauma-informed care as "a holistic approach to learning and development that will play a significant role in classrooms, curriculum, individualized student interventions, educator self-care, and how administrators and teachers approach behavior and discipline."
But the only statistics it could furnish of the program working well involved a 9th-grade ethnic studies program in San Francisco between 2010 and 2014 in which attendance rose 21 percent and student grade-point averages rose 1.4 points.
A Carranza Project
The four years in which it was in operation coincided with part of Richard Carranza's seven-year tenure in that school system, as Deputy Superintendent starting in 2009 and as Superintendent from 2012 through 2016. His connection to the program wouldn't inspire much confidence: his idea of discipline during three years as New York's Schools Chancellor was to use restorative justice rather than discipline for bad behavior.
The degree to which Mr. Carranza cared about meaningful discipline was displayed after, early in 2019, two incidents at a Bayside, Queens Middle School—one involving a sexual assault on a female student by a boy who'd been harassing her for months without school officials intervening, and the brutal beating of a 13-year-old girl by a 14-year-old in the school cafeteria—produced the remarkable paradox of police making arrests in both cases yet neither of the victimizers being suspended from school. Both cases received extensive publicity, yet the Principal of the school was allowed to remain in his job for the final five months of the school year.
Regarding her planned shift in duties for his members away from controlling student behavior and checking for weapons, Mr. Floyd asked, "Is that going to stop firearms coming into the schools and kids from killing each other?"
The Post story had noted that Ms. Wiley's home has been valued at $2.7 million. The Local 237 president said that was just one way in which she was insulated from the realities that many New Yorkers confront daily.
"She didn't go to public schools," he said. "Her children didn't go to public schools, so she doesn't know what it's like to have children in the public schools or live in some of those neighborhoods."
He added that on the day she was endorsed by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, standing alongside them in City Hall Park was Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, with whom Mr. Floyd has also clashed regarding how School Safety Agents perform their duties.
"The one thing the three of them have in common," he said, "is they don't have kids in the public schools."
Asked if he was concerned that if enough of the supporters of Mr. Stringer and Ms. Morales defected to Ms. Wiley as those candidates' chances fade further, she could wind up winning the primary. Mr. Floyd said, "Anything is possible in this crazy election season with ranked-choice voting. That's why I'm flushing out her idea of getting rid of the School Safety Agents: so that parents who are thinking they want to vote for her will know what they're getting."
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