Housing Project Abuse

Friday, February 05, 2010

The NAACP and Legal Aid are bringing a suit against the city over abusive policing practices in public housing. Christina Swarns, director of the Criminal Justice Project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, discusses the case with John Johnson, who sits on the NYCHA task force looking into the allegations and is the regional head of the Bronx tenant associations.


John Johnson and Christina Swarns

Comments [25]

Lazerena from Bronx - Pelham Parkway Houses

Absolutely I am deliriously happy and ecstatic and feel safer with strong police presence. If the alleged abuse is accurate than no this behavior is unacceptable and will need to change.

I honestly believe we should be able to find a balance in all this. From the moment terrorism first affected us and airport security measures changed was a clear indication that life also changed and that we needed to ensure our families have proper identification at all times.

As a NYCHA resident /employee I know it is my responsibility to inform all my guests and family of any change in policies in our residencies so that they come prepared on what to expect.

It is true that back in the day before the police were integrated we did have NYCHA police and yes they definitely knew the residents and the community making it easier to police.

However, ultimately it is what it is… have your ID readily available at all times just as you need too in your everyday life activities show it and keep it moving. Don’t make more of what it is unless your hiding something.

Feb. 08 2010 05:29 PM
Kelly from Manhattan

I am a long time resident of Wagner Houses in East Harlem. I have an 18 year old son who is presently away in Alfred State University. During the holidays, he came home for a visit. While home, he decided to visit a long time friend who happens to live in the building next to our building. While pressing for the elevator in the next building, he was stopped by police and asked why he was in the building. After explaining to them that he was there to visit a friend, they asked what apartment his friend lived in. The response he gave was Apt 7G (the actual apartment that his friend lived in was 7H). The police went up and knocked on 7G and the resident stated that she didn't know him. An honest mistake in apartment # caused my son to go through the system. Even after showing the officers ID that he lived in the next building and ID showing that he was an active college student home on vacation. Now when my son comes home on vacation, he refuses to go into any other buildings without me being present for fear of possibly being arrested again. This is a sad situation.

Feb. 08 2010 10:27 AM
john from office

Truth, this is the truth.

Lets be realistic. Most people, black and white, who listen to NPR are intelligent and are most likely NOT going to be into the whole thug lifestyle.

But it is a problem in the black community.

This is a fact. Gang life and thuggery is glamorized in american black culture.

It is rampant, it is a problem.

All sorts of ethnic groups, Indian, Asian, Latino, they are all leap frogging black people in terms of integrating into society.

White people are not the problem.

Feb. 05 2010 02:09 PM
DAT from Nathan Straus Projects

Back in 1981, when I first began to work,
as a civilian for the NYPD, the NYPD was
dominated by white cops, sergeant, lieutenants,
Captains, Inspectors, mostly all Irish.

But now, a good portion of the cops and
their supervisors are minorities.

And more than a few of those cops, grew up
in the projects, and while they moved away,
their parents, mostly their mom, still live
in the projects.

They are not Long Island cops, raised in
the suburbs and find the project world to
be an alien world.

These cops know the projects, they have
lived in the projects, grew up there.

They know what to expect.

Feb. 05 2010 01:23 PM
DAT from Nathan Straus Projects

As a resident of Nathan Straus Projects,
and a civilian worker in the NYPD, since
1981, assigned to Manhattan Court Section,
Arrest Processing Center, I say two thumbs up
for the NYPD.

Housing Projects do not have private security,
nor do we have doorman to filter out those
that belong here and those that do not.

Those that do not, tend to pry on the residents,
tenants that reside in NYCHA.

Now with the advent of Section 8 only for
NYCHA, the problem of people looking for
robbery targets has multiplied.
The Gangs have moved in alongside the
Section 8 tenants.

Working people are being pushed out,
in favor of Section 8 tenants.

Old People in my building are afraid to
go out, even in the daytime.

I welcome all efforts by the Police Department,
to challenge those that are hanging out in
the lobby, on the roof of the building,
hanging out in the stairwell, just waiting
for someone , to attack, mug,rob or assault.

I read the affidavits and see the
telephone book raps of some of the people
arrested for loitering, trespassing in

The people being arrested for trespassing,
some of them have telephone book raps,
for many crimes, have outstanding warrants,
are Parole Violators, who would not have
been picked up, had that cop not made that

The NYPD is the only line of defense,
for Housing Project residents.

The judges, the lawyers that represent
these people, do not live in the same
building that they are hanging out in.

They wouldn't be happy if they came across

One lawyer, that present a particularly
vigorous defense, in favor of someone
arrested for this crime, later told me
she moved out of the City, because
she wasn't comfortable raising her kids
So she insisted to her husband that they
move to Rockland County.

Anybody that doesn't like it,
are welcomed to be my neighbor, for a week
and see how they feel about rough looking
people, hanging around their development.

Feb. 05 2010 11:40 AM
john from office

Name one well run black city or country, you cannot.

Feb. 05 2010 11:36 AM
john from office

Your the problem, look in the mirror. Truth hurts.

Feb. 05 2010 11:34 AM
The Truth!! from BKNY

AND you answered your own question, it is your feeling of intimidation that you want to go away, I should have known, you did say you are an ex-policeman.

Feb. 05 2010 11:24 AM
jonn k. from NYC

Lets be realistic. Most people, black and white, who listen to NPR are intelligent and are most likely NOT going to be into the whole thug lifestyle.
But it is a problem in the black community.
This is a fact. Gang life and thuggery is glamorized in american black culture.
It is rampant, it is a problem.
All sorts of ethnic groups, Indian, Asian, Latino, they are all leap frogging black people in terms of integrating into society.
White people are not the problem.

Feb. 05 2010 11:08 AM
Dozens McCoy from Strivers Bay, NY

All the same old sob stories or reactionary law and order rhetoric aside, it sounds absurd to blindly discuss STATISTICS as a proxy for the actions of people who are being stopped with probable cause, and found to be breaking the law and the actions of people who are stopping and arresting them.

The discussion is absurd without real statistics about the evidence the police are harvesting from trespassers on public lands. And how much brutality or excessive force is being found.

Is there a 3rd party who everyone would trust to report on this issue?

The city has a responsibility to keep public land safe for those WHO LIVE THERE, not those who are there for any other reason, and especially those carrying something that can get them arrested!

The PJs need law enforcement-- and if some eggs break to make that omelette, it's surly worth it to get the word out about it.

But will it alienate the people who live there? Without the residents support, it's a losing battle. Do the police really do a bad job? If so, why? Are they indifferent?

I hear a lot more paranoia about the police and their motives than indifference or evil schemes by them. Would I test them? Hell no, I never did, never would and any problem I ever had with the police was my own damned fault.

People need to play Simon Says when the police ask them questions for the greater good. You cooperate for your family, community and the whole city, not for the officer who is doing his version of the job, whether or not you like his smile, haircut, tattoos (sadly, these days).

I don't have all the answers; maybe cops should be given free quarters-- barracks in every PJ for FREE, which amounts to a satellite station house with a focus on keeping the peace!

Liberals and Conservatives alike should be careful to whom they give the sympathies without a better look at the actual crime and law enforcement in the courtyards.

Feb. 05 2010 11:08 AM

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS??? Oh right, it's society's fault.

Feb. 05 2010 11:06 AM
john from office

By the way, I am brown and grew up poor, with values.

Feb. 05 2010 10:57 AM
john from office

Look at your movies, music and your youth. Then tell me that is not the case. It is cool to intimidate. That is why people fear you, that leads to prejudice and unemployment.

Look at the culture, Lil wayne, is a role model

Feb. 05 2010 10:54 AM
The Truth!! from BKNY

The fact of the matter is the parents black and white of the 90's dropped the ball on parenting their children properly! They had children to young could, they were mostly undeducated and could not afford a decent even a decent housing situation and ended up in this low class lifestyle, uneducated children unsupervised and not going to school, left kids on their own to learn from the streets.

NYPD is just plain not trusted by most black and brown folks....period.

Feb. 05 2010 10:52 AM
The Truth!! from BKNY

John - not sure how you think you are going to get away with stereotyping a WHOLE community but FYI the "BLACK COMMUNITY" does not dictate the notion that it is "cool" to be a thug!

Feb. 05 2010 10:48 AM
john from office

Amy, you were a little better then Brian, dealing with African American Issues, I give you half a cojone.

Feb. 05 2010 10:47 AM
john from office

How about some comments about where police stop crime, due to their actions.

Feb. 05 2010 10:46 AM
john from office

How about the black community changing the culture where it is Cool to be a thug, to look like a thug, dress like a thug. Change that and the perception of black youth will change.

Feb. 05 2010 10:45 AM
john from office

Why dont you address the issue of self policing. Parents monitoring their kids, not spoiling your own building??.

Feb. 05 2010 10:43 AM
keithp from NYC

The NYPD goes to great lengths to provide for the safety, security and well being of the majority of NYCHA residents. They risk their lives to make daily life easier and safer for law abiding citizens, especially for the young and elderly and those who cannot protect themselves. We live in a society of the very highest civil standards guiding what the police can actually do to civilians. Only people who are actively breaking the law have something to be concerned by the police presence.

Feb. 05 2010 10:42 AM
anonymous from brooklyn

this is simply bad front-line policing and bad management of beat cops. it is well documented that crime in poor neighborhoods is committed by a small number of repeat offenders. intelligence should be gathered on those few and appropriate steps taken against them. if police made an effort to improve community relationships, the community would be considerably more open to share information and efforts could be focused on the few and not the innocent masses.

Feb. 05 2010 10:41 AM
Amanda from Brooklyn

I used to live with someone who was in the police academy, and I learned from him that one of the first assignments rookie cops get in the city is to be flooded into the NYCHA houses to essentially "practice" stopping and arresting people. He had to work basically as a self-proclaimed security guard and stop people who were often just trying to enter their homes and ask them for ID, often in a rough manner, and then if they didn't have an ID, arrest them. Doesn't seem fair.

What needs to change is an NYPD policy that throws young people who have no idea what they're doing yet en masse into the projects where they are scared and quick to make mistakes for "practice". It seems like this would set up a negative relationship between police and policed for the rest of their career.

Feb. 05 2010 10:38 AM
Ashton from Chelsea, Manhattan

My first thought: What percentage of the arrests results in subsequent convictions?

Feb. 05 2010 10:34 AM
yawn from

so is there any relationship between increased trespassing stops and decreased criminal activities? or is that a coincidence? i'd love to hear a resident without a rap sheet comment on this.

Feb. 05 2010 10:31 AM
john from office

Brian, as a former police officer in the Bronx, I spent alot of time in the projects. They are dangerous places, where a violent lawless few ruin conditions for the many. I hope you will present a balanced episode.

I belive the only solution is the distruction of these projects, like they did in Chicago. You cannot have a verticle concentration of poverty. Cabrini Green was the poster boy for what happens in these projects.

I fear you will not ask any difficult questions, like why don't the parents, monitor and control their children, because that will bring in a racial tone. I saw young children out at all hours, doing violence and mischief, with no parental control. Poverty is not an excuse for bad behavior, from urinating in the hall or the elevator, to graffiti. Please do a fair interview.

Feb. 05 2010 09:43 AM

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