"Don't call this a plan," Brooklyn Councilmember Alexa Aviles told a crowd of homeless advocates, doctors, disability rights activists, and those currently managing mental health issues, on the steps of City Hall on Thursday. "This is disappearing people."
The rally on Thursday, organized by the group Communities United for Police Reform, coincided with the first legal challenge to the new policy in federal court, which alleges the directive violates a previous lawsuit settlement the City agreed to, and also is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"In our emergency departments, if people don't comply to testing, they'll be restrained, either chemically or mechanically with straps. I see these individuals sit and wait in our emergency departments for days, waiting until psychiatric beds open up in other facilities while our hospital is full," said Dr. Shane Solger, an emergency room doctor in Brooklyn. "Ultimately, these patients will receive care in a healthcare system that is already stretched thin, rather than offering any sustainable health benefit. We have no way to address their underlying issues."
Speakers pointed to the lack of available supportive housing and a dearth of funding for more social workers and street outreach teams as indicative of the priorities of the Adams administration: more funding for law enforcement, and less for everything else.
"We're flesh and blood people, with flesh and blood friends, who care about other New Yorkers, but what they care about is removing the reality of days and weeks and years of oppression—they just don't want to see us," said Ibrahim X, a member of VOCAL-NY who has been involuntarily committed already this year. "I don’t want you to call the police on me just because I’m muttering to myself. I want you to care about me."
While announcing the plan, which was done without consultation with the NYPD, City Council, or many service providers, the Adams administration said that fifty new psychiatric beds would help lessen the strain on the city's hospital system, and that police officers would receive further training on how to deal with people experiencing a crisis. But the policy itself is now already in effect, and no police officers have yet received training.
Adams has defended the directive by saying that it's compassionate. But for some of those dealing with mental health issues, compounded by incarceration, lack of housing, and years of trauma, the policy rings hollow and ineffectual.
"Before you can help us, you gotta care about us," said Ibrahim X.
But City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams had some pointed questions and criticism after Adams made his announcement. Hmmm, loosening regulations while gutting the administrative state? What's happening here?
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" expert and Hell Gate contributor Mychal Denzal Smith has a profile of Chris Alexander, the 32-year-old head of the Office of Cannabis Management: "OCM is doing something that hasn't been attempted in earnest by a government body since perhaps Reconstruction—a redress of harm through a policy that includes direct material support."
A much-delayed and severely over-budget biogas project will finally be lifting off in NYC in January. The bad news: "While energy companies like National Grid often describe using biogas for heating fuel as 'renewable,' it may not reduce carbon emissions, especially in the near term. When burned, biogas releases a similar amount of carbon dioxide emissions as conventional natural gas."