De Blasio rebuked in letter from staffers — Privacy concerns may complicate contact tracing — Upstate regions cleared for outdoor dining

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Protests that have taken to the streets of New York for seven days and counting were inspired by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but the demonstrators have plenty of local grievances. On Wednesday night, peaceful protesters headed for Gracie Mansion, where they sat in the street in silence before speaking out near Mayor Bill de Blasio’s residence.

Hundreds of de Blasio’s former and current staffers have decried his handling of the protests and law enforcement policies, as the Daily News reports. In an open letter to their one-time boss, they write that they’re demanding “radical change from the Mayor, who is on the brink of losing all legitimacy in the eyes of New Yorkers.” The asks include the firing of NYPD officers who have used excessive force, a reduction of the NYPD budget, and the release of police disciplinary records.

The brother of George Floyd has a demand as well: He urged NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea in a phone conversation to support legislation to criminalize chokeholds, which the City Council plans to vote on but the NYPD has staunchly opposed. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced Wednesday night that the bill, which would also make it illegal for an officer to place a knee on someone’s neck, now has enough sponsors to override a potential mayoral veto.

Wednesday night, protesters again defied an 8 p.m. curfew and continued to march, and police moved to enforce it with arrests in Brooklyn and Manhattan. NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan told Gothamist there would be “no more tolerance” of people breaking curfew. “This area has been hurt enough, businesses are suffering, residents here are suffering. We're just not gonna take it,” he said. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who was on the scene in Brooklyn, complained that “the force used on nonviolent protestors was disgusting.” De Blasio’s former close adviser Jonathan Rosen chimed in: “The fear of the famous police riot in the Dinkins years haunts @NYCMayor. Appears tonight he’s having his own except it’s against the citizens he governs.”

IT’S THURSDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know ... By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold

WHERE’S ANDREW? No available public schedule by press time.

WHERE’S BILL? Holding media availability at 10 a.m.


WEDNESDAY BROUGHT a cooling of tensions between protesters and police as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York City Police Department. Cuomo reportedly apologized to NYPD brass privately after drawing the scorn of Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Tuesday, when the governor accused cops of failing to contain widespread looting. He insisted Wednesday that his criticism was only ever directed at how police were deployed, not the officers themselves. "The actual police officers are the best," Cuomo said during his daily press briefing. "My issue was with the management and deployment. Never about the police officers.”

But the day before, Cuomo said, “the police in New York City were not effective at doing their job last night. Period" — a remark Shea said was "disgraceful." Chief of Department Terence Monahan urged the governor to publicly repeat the apology he offered to police brass.

“I hope he would come out publicly and say it again," Monahan said during an interview on NBC's "Today" show, but Cuomo demurred when asked by reporters. POLITICO’s Joe Anuta and Anna Gronewold

— New York City police officers surrounded, shoved and yelled expletives at two Associated Press journalists covering protests Tuesday in the latest aggression against members of the media during a week of unrest around the country. Portions of the incident were captured on video by videojournalist Robert Bumsted, who was working with photographer Maye-E Wong to document the protests in lower Manhattan over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. An officer, using an expletive, orders them to go home. Bumsted is heard on video explaining the press are considered ‘essential workers’ and are allowed to be on the streets. An officer responds ‘I don’t give a s—.’ Another tells Bumsted ‘get the f— out of here you piece of s—.’”

— OVERNIGHT: An officer surveilling stores for looting was stabbed in the neck late Wednesday by a man whose motive has not been specified.

— An enraged driver with at least two blades strapped to his arm threatened to kill demonstrators during a protest against police violence and racial injustice before then attempting to hit them with his SUV in Queens.

— The Civilian Complaint Review Board has received more than 500 complaints against police since Friday, more than it got in the entire month of April.

— The Manhattan district attorney asked Cuomo to make emergency changes to bail reform, saying the law is forcing him to release alleged looters without bail.

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of New Yorkers will be asked to disclose personal information this month as part of the city’s herculean Covid-19 tracing effort — but suspicions over how the government will use that information are threatening the city’s best chance to crawl out of its coronavirus lockdown. Contact tracing requires handing over intimate personal data — including home addresses, names of friends and relations — to complete strangers, many of whom were only recently trained and hired to collect the information. The city expects to have 3,700 contact tracers mobilized this month, and as many as 10,000 when the effort reaches its capacity. But in this majority-minority city, government distrust was already exacerbated due to the Trump administration’s hard-line stance against immigrants. After a week of chaotic protests against the police following the killing of George Floyd, suspicion between residents and government authorities has only grown, community leaders say. And elected officials, advocates and privacy experts argue the de Blasio administration’s unwillingness to specify how privacy will be protected will limit the tracing effort's reach and prolong the need for strict lockdown measures the city has had in place since March. POLITICO’s Amanda Eisenberg

NEW YORK CITY is making Covid-19 diagnostic testing available to all New Yorkers, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week — an effort that if successful would represent one of the most comprehensive testing strategies in the U.S. Since the coronavirus pandemic swept through the largest city in America, supply shortages and limited testing capacity ensured that only the very sick and at-risk New Yorkers would qualify for a diagnostic test. “Widespread testing holds the key to re-opening our city safely” de Blasio said in a statement. “After months of fighting, we are finally able to say that every New Yorker who needs a test will get one.” The policy change reflects an increase in capacity and supplies — New York City is on track to conduct 50,000 tests per day by Aug. 1 — and also comes as thousands of New Yorkers have taken to the streets to protest against police brutality, potentially spreading the disease. POLITICO’s Amanda Eisenberg

— “Pepper spray may work well for dispersing crowds, but so-called aerosolized chemical agents may also hasten a second wave of coronavirus, city health experts warn. “It is certainly possible that crowds who are exposed to pepper spray or similar compounds will remove their masks and cough, aerosolizing potentially infectious droplets,” Dr. Ian Wittman, chief of emergency medicine at NYU Langone Hospital - Brooklyn, told THE CITY.” THE CITY’s Virginia Breen

— POLL: Most Long Island and New York City residents would send their children back to school in the fall if there are social distancing measures in place, but less than half would get a vaccine against the coronavirus if one is developed.

“THE DIVIDE BETWEEN Staten Island’s north and south shores runs so deep that some residents refer to the borough’s expressway as its ‘Mason-Dixon line.’ The split now extends to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with Staten island’s predominantly black northern neighborhoods making up a disproportionate share of cases and deaths — and the communities also divided on how the city and country should move forward. The disparity came into focus after the city released coronavirus death numbers broken down by ZIP codes on May 18. The six ZIP codes that encompass the northern section of the borough are home to 40% of its population, but as of June 1 accounted for 54% of all confirmed COVID-19 deaths, according to data from the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the U.S. Census Bureau. The same neighborhoods are home to more than four in five of Staten Island’s black residents.” THE CITY’s Clifford Michel

“AS THE CITY prepares for the first phase of reopening on Monday, June 8th, exactly how people will safely get to work remains an open and unresolved question. Subway service will return to normal starting Monday, though the overnight shutdowns every night from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. will continue. Mayor Bill de Blasio has admitted that car ridership may increase above pre-pandemic levels. “You may see people use their cars more in the short term if they have a car, or use for-hire vehicles, for example. But that's a short-term reality,” de Blasio said last week. The ‘reality’ is: more New Yorkers are buying cars now, and they won’t magically disappear in a few months when the pandemic subsides.” WNYC’s Stephen Nessen

— De Blasio suggested blocking off every other seat on subways and buses to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. But...

THE MTA STRIKES BACK: “Like many of the mayor’s ideas, this is nice in theory, but utterly unworkable,” said Abbey Collins, an MTA spokesperson. “The mayor’s plan would allow us to serve only a tiny percentage of our riders — likely around 8%.” THE CITY’s Jose Martinez


“NEW YORK will allow upstate New York that is in Phase 2 of its reopening to allow restaurants to have outdoor dining starting Thursday. Five regions of the state entered Phase 2 of the four-phase reopening last week due to coronavirus; Western New York did so on Tuesday and the Capital Region hit Phase 2 on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the seven regions can reopen for outdoor dining with safety precautions: Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart; all staff must wear face coverings; occupancy must be limited to 50% of capacity and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated. Cuomo noted the rate of deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 has hit new lows since the pandemic struck and after all non-essential businesses were shuttered March 22. ‘Thanks to the people of New York and the nurses, doctors and essential workers, today we have the lowest number of hospitalizations ever, and we have the lowest death toll ever,’ Cuomo said in a statement. ‘We are continuously evaluating activities that can be safely reopened, and today we are adding outdoor seating at restaurants to phase two.’” USA Today Network’s Joe Spector

— New York State Thruway toll collectors began accepting cash at staffed exits along the 496-mile stretch starting this morning.

“ALBANY Mayor Kathy Sheehan Wednesday issued a statement calling video footage of an arrest Tuesday in Albany's South End ‘troubling’ and indicated that associated charges were being dropped and an internal investigation begun. Sheehan did not identify the video shared with her office, but her office later confirmed she was referring to a video posted to Facebook Tuesday by an Albany woman of a confrontation that appeared to happen at the corner of Arch and South Pearl streets. ‘The footage does not appear to depict efforts by police to de-escalate a situation, nor ... does it depict the sensitivity I expect from all city employees in this moment and every day,’ Sheehan's statement read. “ Daily Gazette’s Pete DeMola And Steven Cook

— Due to new bail reform statutes, a 26-year-old man accused of smashing a $2,000 door and looting the historic Kenmore Hotel building on North Pearl Street during protests late Monday had been released from police custody multiple times over the past month. Most recently, last Friday, he robbed jail officers’ cars on the way out, Times Union’s Brendan J. Lyons reports.

“IN HOURS of secretly recorded telephone conversations, police officers in Mount Vernon, New York, reveal widespread corruption, brutality and other misconduct in the troubled Westchester County city just north of the Bronx. Caught on tape by a whistleblower cop, the officers said they witnessed or took part in alarming acts of police misconduct, from framing and beating residents to collaborating with drug dealers, all as part of a culture of impunity within the department’s narcotics unit. The Mount Vernon police tapes, obtained exclusively by Gothamist/WNYC, were recorded from 2017 to this year by Murashea Bovell, a 12-year veteran of the department who has been blowing the whistle on misconduct for years. In 2014 and 2015, Bovell reported his colleagues’ alleged corruption and brutality in confidential complaints to the city and a lawsuit against the city, which was dismissed on procedural grounds. But he saw little change, so he began quietly recording his colleagues to substantiate his own claims. ‘I need to have something tangible,’ he told Gothamist/WNYC. ‘Something to prove that what I was saying is true, and wouldn’t fall on deaf ears if the time came.’” Gothamist/WNYC’s George Joseph

SUNY CHANCELLOR TO HEAD OSU: The Ohio State University Board of Trustees appointed Kristina M. Johnson as the 16th president in university history. Johnson, who has served as chancellor of the State University of New York since 2017, brings more than 30 years of experience as an academic, business and policy leader. "We are pleased beyond measure to welcome Dr. Johnson to Ohio State," said board chair Gary R. Heminger. “Her range of knowledge, service and accomplishments across sectors and throughout her career is nothing short of remarkable.” Ohio State News

— Johnson’s departure adds a leadership vacuum as the SUNY system faces a host of challenges.

#UpstateAmerica: Two popular Rochester radio show hosts have been fired after making racist comments during a live broadcast Tuesday. Read the room, guys.


— Protesters say they’re being kept in overcrowded pens with no social distancing.

— Antibody tests are eliciting a mix of emotional reactions for positives and negatives.

— Two NYPD detectives say they were kept in the dark as the coronavirus spread at their mother’s Manhattan nursing home, where her death was blamed on natural causes — a claim they’ve refuted in light of a lack of information.


“A READING FROM the Book of Andrew … Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a Bible aloft and quoted the Good Book to open his Wednesday press briefing, in a shot at President Trump, who struck a similar pose earlier this week in front of a historic church that had been burned by rioters. ‘The president held up the Bible the other day in Washington, DC,’ said Cuomo in an Albany briefing, raising the holy book in his right hand. ‘Here in New York, we actually read the Bible.’ Cuomo then read four passages, which he said carried significance in the time of nationwide turmoil that has exploded since George Floyd, a black Minnesota man, died on May 25 as a white cop kneeled on his neck.” New York Post’s Bernadette Hogan and Aaron Feis

— FLASHBACK: Despite his use of the Good Book Wednesday, Cuomo, a Catholic, has said “I don’t govern as a Catholic. I don’t legislate as a Catholic,” in response to church leaders who called for his excommunication last year.

... 2020 VISION ...

“THE TWO Democratic challengers to Republican state Senator Jim Tedisco are Donovan McRae and Thearse McCalmon. Both want to give voice to the voiceless of the 49th state Senate District. The district is enormous. It covers a sprawling area that spans from rural Fulton and Hamilton counties to the tiny horse breeding farms of Saratoga to inner city Schenectady. Both insurgent candidates say they value unity, and both say they want the seat to become more responsive to the needs of the black community. But that’s where their similarities end: McRae is a relative newcomer and ‘regular guy’ while McCalmon is a long-time activist, former mayoral candidate and mother of four.” Spectrum’s Susan Arbetter

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ has endorsed Jamaal Bowman in his primary challenge against longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel in New York's 16th Congressional District — the latest signal that Engel may be in danger of losing a seat he has held since 1989. "This moment requires renewed and revitalized leadership across the country AND at the ballot box," Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet Wednesday night. "Tonight, I am endorsing @JamaalBowmanNY for Congress." Bowman, a public school principal who has been gaining momentum in the race, has leveled many of the same criticisms against Engel that Ocasio-Cortez did in her own upset win against Joe Crowley in 2018: that he's a Washington insider who's out of touch with his district. POLITICO’s David Giambusso


— The city quietly activated a new system allowing people to text 911.

— A then-13-year-old boy charged in the murder of a Barnard freshman in Morningside Park pleaded guilty to robbery.

— 18 horses have died at Belmont, including 3 in one day, before races have even started for the season.

— The MTA pulled its newest subway cars from service and launched an investigation after two cars became separated upon entering a Manhattan station in the early hours of the morning.

— Environmental advocates are frustrated over levels of toxic chemicals in the lower Hudson River’s fish, which they say are not dropping quickly enough.

— A Bloods gang member in Queens has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting up a marked NYPD SUV while two cops sat inside.

— Amy Cooper is getting her dog back.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mike Murphy … ProPublica’s Justin Elliott … Pangiam’s Andrew MeehanMort Zuckerman is 83 … Emily Gold, producer for “Meet the Press” … David Bolger, president and CEO of Executive Briefing, is 58 (h/t Chris Lapetina) … Lori Ann LaRocco, CNBC’s senior editor of guests … André de Haes

MEDIAWATCH — Nkechi Nneji will join Facebook’s consumer comms team in D.C. later this month. She has most recently spent five years as a senior booking producer for MSNBC’s “Hardball.” ... Robin Bravender is joining Business Insider as a policy reporter. A POLITICO alum, Bravender most recently was D.C. bureau chief of the States Newsroom.


“SOON AFTER the first crash of broken glass in downtown Manhattan as peaceful protests gave way to looting, the calls to Beau Dietl & Associates started coming from stores, offices and apartment buildings for security guards. Bo Dietl, a retired New York Police Department detective, said his firm has begun patrolling an additional 52 New York City buildings since Monday. He has also beefed up patrols for existing customers. Other residential buildings doubled up on doormen and kept the front door locked. Some, like a co-op on Union Square, brought in two shifts of armed guards to patrol in front of the building. Looters and vandals were active across many prime Manhattan retail areas from the Lower East Side to Soho to Midtown Manhattan. They were also targeting more modest areas like the Fordham Road shopping district in the Bronx. The police didn’t have a lot of success stopping it. ‘The demand for armed and unarmed security guards across every market is as high as it has ever been,’ said Sean T. Meehan, director of sales and marketing at United Security Inc., a security firm based in Red Bank, N.J., active in New York and licensed in 19 other states.” Wall Street Journal’s Josh Barbanel