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Why Is the Mayor’s Friend Beating People Up in a Jacket that Says ‘NYPD’ On the Back

And why is Tim Pearson barging into migrant shelters unannounced in the first place? And other links to start your weekend in a thoughtful mood.

10:38 AM EDT on October 20, 2023

The Manhattan shelter at which the scuffle took place. (Hell Gate)

On Tuesday, Timothy Pearson, one of Mayor Eric Adams's closest advisers, showed up at a Manhattan migrant respite center to perform an unannounced inspection and got into a fight with two security guards, who were later arrested. According to reporting by the CITY, multiple eyewitnesses say that after Pearson was asked by security guards at the shelter to provide identification, he responded by threatening to fire people and telling them to "get the fuck out of the way." 

According to one eyewitness statement given to the Office of Emergency Management, which is investigating the incident, Pearson then grabbed an unnamed female security guard by her neck and threw her to the ground, and shoved another guard, Terrence Rosenthal. Both Rosenthal and the unnamed female guard were then arrested; Rosenthal was charged with obstructing government administration and harassment. The Daily News reported that the other guard was "given a summons after mouthing off at Pearson and his entourage."

Other people on the scene had slightly different accounts of what happened—some noted that Pearson pushed the female guard into a table, others said that he punched her—but what seems clear from more than a dozen eyewitness statements is that Pearson refused to identify himself, and kicked off the melee. 

"The first thing I saw was a man in a ¾ zip windbreaker with writing on the front chest pushing forward and yelling at the Arrow Security Tour Commander," the CITY reports one eyewitness statement said. "He yelled, ‘Who are you?' and she replied, 'I work here.' He said, 'Not after today you won’t.'"

But the NYPD and City Hall have put forward a decidedly different account. A police source told the New York Daily News that this is "what happens when someone like this guard decides to exceed their authority and want to act like thugs instead of people who want to work for the city." City Hall spokesperson Charles Lutvak told the CITY, "As part of a standard inspection yesterday, a member of our team was denied access to a city contractor-operated site and then accosted by a contractor operating on site."  The criminal complaint filed by the NYPD against Rosenthal states that Pearson "identified himself to [Rosenthal] as a governmental official” upon arriving at the shelter," and that “[Rosenthal] pushed [Pearson] away from the shelter and out the door." The complaint adds, “As a result of the above-described conduct, [Pearson] has experienced pain to his back.”

The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Rosenthal, also disputes the official account of what happened. "Terrence Rosenthal, who has no prior contact with the criminal legal system, was merely doing his job as a security officer and following protocol when Tim Pearson attempted to forcefully enter the Touro respite center for new arrivals," Legal Aid's Redmond Haskins told the Daily News

Pearson is one Mayor Adams' closest confidantes, who until last year was allowed to collect a salary from a casino in Queens while getting paid one of the largest salaries in City Hall as a "senior adviser" to the mayor (whatever that means), in addition to his pension as a retired NYPD officer. So when your job is that cushy, and you've even got an embroidered jacket that says "Senior Adviser to the Mayor" on the front, wouldn't you feel like you could do whatever you want? 

As for the guards, sure their job was specifically to identify people entering a building full of vulnerable people that's at the center of political controversy. But what if their job is also to not do that very thing when Timothy Pearson appears, wearing an embroidered garment? Above and beyond keeping the people they were hired to guard safe, their prime directive is to respect mayoral swag. Crucially, the quarter zip jacket also said "NYPD" on the back, which, even though Pearson is not an active duty officer, should have clued Rosenthal in that Pearson's bullying wouldn't end at the scene, but that there'd be further use of the legal system to make his life miserable.

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