Good morning. It is Friday. We’ll be looking at a Justice Department civil rights investigation that the Police’s Special Victims Division will investigate. We also get the latest news about the Pennsylvania Station upgrade.
The Police Department’s Special Victims Division, the real-life sex crime unit mirrored by that in the long-running television drama “Law & Order: SVU,” is the subject of a sweeping federal investigation into “flaws” that are “ongoing.” for more than a decade,” the Justice Department said Thursday.
The division has long faced disturbing allegations from people reporting attacks. Now, prosecutors in New York and Washington will investigate allegations of officers “failing to take basic investigative steps and instead disgrace and abuse survivors and re-traumatize them during investigations,” the ministry said. of Justice.
My colleagues Ashley Southall and Troy Closson write that the federal investigation is the latest blow to the police, who already have consent decrees regulating its stop-and-frisk and surveillance practices. And Letitia James, the state’s attorney general, wants to appoint an observer to oversee changes in the department’s handling of protests over abuses during the George Floyd social justice rallies in 2020.
The Justice Department announced its investigation — the first to focus on sex discrimination claims since Merrick Garland became attorney general last year — 10 months after more than a dozen victims signed a letter calling for such an investigation. Many of them had spoken out about experiences with detectives who lacked the sensitivity and time to handle their cases properly, even after the #MeToo movement sparked a nationwide rape bill in 2017.
Several months later, police, already under scrutiny for handling sex crime allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, challenged the findings of a 2018 report from the city’s own Department of Investigation. That report said the Special Victims Division was “understaffed and under-resourced.”
The city cops also found that some detectives disapproved of victims’ stories and that some acquaintance rapes were sent to local police stations, denying responsibility for follow-up work following an arrest involving “police detectives who are not trained in investigations of sex crimes.”
Police officials initially refused to accept many of the recommendations in that report, and although they later changed course, many of the proposed reforms have yet to be passed.
Mary Haviland, former executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, said the Justice Department’s investigation “must be done” and can only be conducted at the federal level.
“The NYPD has never taken responsibility for doing the right thing for survivors of sexual assault,” she said. Police commissioners over the years “promised us change would come, but the division’s performance has declined.”
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement Thursday that she believed the Department of Justice would find that the department has “developed and improved its practices”, adding that she aims to see the sex crimes department serve as ” the national model.”
Max Young, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams, said in a separate statement that City Hall welcomes the review and would continue to take steps to “fix issues that have been decades in the making.” He added: “There is no higher priority for law enforcement than to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive the justice they deserve and the care, support and treatment they need.”
Expect a sunny day with temperatures in the low 90s. In the late evening there is a chance of rain and thunderstorms.
ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING
Valid until Monday (Independence Day).
Last year, after New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Pennsylvania Station should be named after a New Yorker rather than a “neighbor state,” someone on Twitter called it “If Hell Had a Hell.” As my colleague Patrick McGeehan recently wrote, almost everyone agrees that something needs to be done to resolve the chaos (and perhaps the grimness and grimness) at the country’s busiest transit hub. The question is, what? I asked him to keep us informed of possible renovation plans.
Amtrak has just awarded a design contract for a $12 billion expansion that will require the demolition of an entire block of Midtown Manhattan, including a church that is more than 150 years old. What does Amtrak want?
To add several tracks and platforms to Penn Station, to accommodate additional trains that would arrive through a new tunnel under the Hudson River. The tunnel would be built as part of the massive Gateway project being planned by Amtrak and transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.
If ever completed, the tunnel would effectively double the number of trains that could cross the river between the two states.
For now, those trains have nowhere to go in New York City. Amtrak has proposed building about eight tracks under the block south of the station. That block is full of buildings, including the Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist, which would probably have to be demolished.
But a separate New York state plan is meeting resistance from community leaders. What does the state want?
Amtrak’s expansion of Penn Station was to precede a renovation of the station. But Hochul, who has called Penn Station a “hell,” didn’t want to wait. She pushed for renovations first, before Amtrak’s expansion.
Her plan, similar to a proposal from her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, is to allow developers to build several super-tall towers around Penn Station in exchange for payments that would help cover the cost of the renovation. The plan was met with resistance from neighborhood groups, who questioned the necessity of the office buildings and the feasibility of the financing.
Are Amtrak and the state aligned? Can the opponents stop or block Amtrak or the state?
Amtrak’s main concern is getting Gateway finished, so executives have agreed to New York’s insistence on refurbishing the station before expanding. But both plans rely on some federal funding and have yet to be reviewed by federal agencies. That process involves asking for public input, so a critical mass of objections from community groups could still derail any plan.
How Congested Is Penn Station?
Penn Station has long served far more commuters than it was designed to be. The platforms and stairs were built decades before double-decker trains carried so many passengers. Before the pandemic, more than 600,000 people passed through the station every weekday. The clamor of commuters trying to board their train home every night was disheartening.
How soon can the renovations begin and how much will they add to the daily headache of commuting through Penn Station?
The actual work of the renovation will not start for a year. By the time it starts, Penn Station could be nearly as busy as it was before the pandemic, and all construction would have to be done as commuters rush in and out of trains every day. In short, things will probably get worse before they get better.
Two summers ago I was visiting a tourist at the Statue of Liberty when I started to feel overwhelmed.
On the return trip to Manhattan, instead of taking my son to the sights, I snuck down under the ferry stairwell to take a nap, and the hum of the engine put me to sleep.
† Andrew G. Raymond