An Alluring Question and the Termination of the Rivington House Whistle Blower

Ricardo Morales (left) and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (right)
Ricardo Morales (left) and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) (Andrew Savulich/Mayor’s Office/New York Daily News)

De Blasio dodges questions on firing of Rivington House whistleblower

By MICHAEL GARTLAND

Mayor de Blasio ducked questions Friday about the firing of Ricardo Morales, the whistleblower who’s suing the city for his termination in the wake of the Rivington House scandal.

Morales was canned from his post at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services in 2017, a year after the scandal first came to light.

The controversy centered around the city’s lifting of deed restrictions on a Lower East Side nursing home, which eventually paved the way for its sale to a private developer for $116 million.

At the time, de Blasio denied any involvement in the firing of Morales, who has maintained that City Hall was directly involved in the removal of the deed restrictions. Morales filed his lawsuit in February 2018, claiming that he was terminated because he wouldn’t go along with covering up City Hall’s involvement.

More recently, documents filed in Manhattan federal court suggest there’s more to this story.

In a March 25, 2016 email submitted as evidence in the case, de Blasio wrote to top advisor Emma Wolfe about Morales.

“I spoke to Dom,” de Blasio wrote at the time, referring to advisor Dominic Williams. “This is about the riccardo morales issue. Pls follow up with Dom.”

Around that time, DCAS Commissioner Lisette Camilo was emailing with Williams about Morales’ fate at the agency, court records show.

To continue reading at The Daily News, click here.

NYC – “Test and Trace” – Covid-19 and NYC Partnerships

Weddings and … Funerals… Covid-19

New York Governor Vows To Take Action On Brooklyn Weddings If NYC Mayor Doesn’t

NEW YORK (JTA) – If New York City’s mayor won’t stop weddings in Brooklyn’s Hasidic neighborhoods from happening, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said Wednesday that he will.

“If the mayor is not doing any enforcement actions, then the state will,” Cuomo said at a news conference, according to the New York Post.

“We’ve had superspreader events in New Rochelle with the Jewish community, we’ve had them in the Catholic community. The virus does not discriminate by religious or racial lines, right? This is an equal-opportunity situation. So we police it in every circumstance.”

The governor’s comments come after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 16 new cases last week in Borough Park, home to the city’s largest Hasidic population, with several connected to a large wedding. The New York Post also reported Wednesday that several wedding halls in Borough Park continue to host large Orthodox weddings, despite the bans on gatherings of more than 50 people, with people entering through side doors and with windows covered with paper.

Large weddings have resumed in several Orthodox communities, with some contributing to rising case numbers in a number of Orthodox hubs. The rising case numbers led several branches of Hatzalah, the Jewish ambulance corps, to issue warnings after it saw an increase in calls from people reporting COVID-like symptoms. The new cases threaten to keep schools from reopening for the fall, as well as the in-person High Holiday services being planned in several Orthodox communities.

 

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Being Human Bio-Weapons, Flouting Covid-19 and Putting Others at Risk, Borough Park

De Blasio says COVID-19 uptick in Borough Park linked to wedding

Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood is experiencing an “uptick” in COVID-19 cases that’s mostly been linked to a large-scale wedding, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

“We’ve seen an uptick just in the last few days,” de Blasio told reporters during his daily City Hall press briefing, explaining that there were 16 new coronavirus cases in the area.

Hizzoner called the new cases an “early warning sign,” as he noted that “some” are “linked to a recent wedding — a large wedding, in fact, in the community.”

Currently in New York, only social gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted and de Blasio said the wedding in question “was substantially more than that — and that’s just not allowed.”

It was not immediately clear where exactly the wedding was held or whether anyone has been punished.

De Blasio said the city’s Test and Trace Corps is following up with attendees to get them tested and that the city is “working immediately to galvanize community leaders.”

“We need to avoid those large gatherings that can cause a bigger problem,” said de Blasio, adding that the city’s Health Department will start doubling down on catering halls across the Big Apple “to let them know those standards must be kept.”

Continue reading

Oh… Congressman, Can Any Politician Have Clean Hands? Espaillat and Rechnitz – the Jona Opera Continues

Harlem Congressman Adriano Espaillat, right, allegedly received real-time election results in 2014 thanks to the NYPD connections of Jona Rechnitz, left.
Harlem Congressman Adriano Espaillat, right, allegedly received real-time election results in 2014 thanks to the NYPD connections of Jona Rechnitz, left. (Obtained by Daily News)

Congressman Adriano Espaillat solicited donations from Jona Rechnitz after favor: source

Harlem Congressman Adriano Espaillat received real-time election results in 2014 thanks to a notorious Mayor de Blasio donor’s connections at NYPD headquarters, evidence obtained by the Daily News shows.

The previously undisclosed episode involving Jona Rechnitz and Espaillat, who was then a state Senator, is yet another example of how the City Hall insider quickly developed unique access to New York politicos by throwing around money.

Emails obtained by The News show Rechnitz got Espaillat to do him a big favor in the midst of the competitive race — and then swapped numerous emails with his chief of staff on primary night.

A source with direct knowledge said Rechnitz’s ties to Espaillat were investigated by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. That office brought charges against high-ranking cops, members of the NYPD’s gun license division and former jails union boss Norman Seabrook, thanks to the aspiring real estate power player’s cooperation.

The News reported last month on an episode involving de Blasio, the then-landlord of Grand Central Terminal and Rechnitz as part of the federal probe of Hizzoner’s fundraising practices.

To read in its entirety, click here.

The Puppeteers, a Flyover, a Series of Crowded Funerals, Mayor de Blasio and Covid-19 – [Part IV]

Hundreds of mourners gather in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, to observe a funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, a Hasidic Orthodox leader whose death was reportedly tied to the coronavirus. The stress of the coronavirus' toll on New York City's Orthodox Jews was brought to the fore on Wednesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio chastised "the Jewish community" following the breakup of the large funeral that flouted public health orders.
Hundreds of mourners gather in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, to observe a funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, a Hasidic Orthodox leader whose death was reportedly tied to the coronavirus. The stress of the coronavirus’ toll on New York City’s Orthodox Jews was brought to the fore on Wednesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio chastised “the Jewish community” following the breakup of the large funeral that flouted public health orders.(Peter Gerber/AP)

Several Funerals Later, Letters of Support and an Analysis of New York’s Power Holders

OPINION – LostMessiah 5.1.20 [updated 5:31pm][update 8:38pm previous version referred to Shesh Besh as Chess when Chess is actually “Shach” in Hebrew].

Over the last few days we have written three separate opinions about the “Massive” funeral that took place on the streets of Williamsburg, on April 28, 2020, the irresponsibility of the event, the flagrant defiance of social distancing and, well… the potential that the whole event was pre-approved by the Mayor’s office. Like the counting of the Omer, we suspect that in about 12 days there will be a significant increase of Covid-19 illnesses in New York. They likely will go unreported lest the truth be told that the attending members of the community have, indeed, helped transfer the virus from person to person.

Since that time there has been a smaller funeral in Monsey (not yet in the news but we have video of that funeral), albeit better about the social distancing, and another much larger funeral in Borough Park, social distancing be damned. An article in The Yeshivah World from April 30, 2020, tells that story, videos and all: AGAIN: Levaya In Boro Park Turns Chaotic With NYPD Response [VIDEOS]

There is no excuse for this absolute defiance of religiously observant people. The larger New York and worldwide demographic have the right to be angry. There is blame to be shouldered; and a community that allows, if not encourages, large ritualistic events should receive its fair share of the condemnation, whatever the religion.

We find ourselves wondering at what point the community that continues to defy the entire notion of social distancing will decide that far too many are dying and even more are being put at risk for each widely attended funeral, wedding, bris, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and the list goes on. The irony of putting people in danger at a funeral for someone who died of the very disease we are trying to stop is not lost on us and should not be so easily dismissed by religious fervency. We view this as a bastardization of a beautiful religion, ignoring the spirit in favor of the letter, something that should be disavowed by all. Continue reading

A Cluster F@#K, A Flyover, a Massive Crowded Funeral in Williamsburg, Mayor de Blasio and Covid-19 (Part II)

The funeral at Bedford Avenue and Rutledge Street on Tuesday night
The funeral at Bedford Avenue and Rutledge Street on Tuesday night PROVIDED TO GOTHAMIST

Did Mayor de Blasio First Coordinate and then Castigate a Funeral Procession (his Police Department Helped Organize)? If so, What Does that Say About the State of Affairs in New York

This is a follow-up to our last piece entitled:

A Flyover, a Massive Crowded Funeral in Williamsburg, Mayor de Blasio and Covid-19

The following is a commentary based upon new information that we have obtained through the day.

We were hopeful that finally Mayor Bill de Blasio had put his foot down to the violations of social mandates by a small but not insignificant community. The NYPD has repeatedly had to break up funeral gatherings and other social soirees in religious communities in New York. Each such event runs the risk of infecting thousands of New Yorkers (and New Jerseyites) with Covid-19; but, to the extent de Blasio could look the other way, de Blasio has done just that. Time and time again, he has avoided controversy while still juggling political expediency.

But, to help organize a massive funeral in a pandemic? Really?

De Blasio’s various campaigns have been well funded by members of the religious community (and their attorneys and media consultants), and not just the Jewish community. His public records of campaign finances are a veritable whose who of influential people and activists and those that represent him. Members of the funeral-hosting Haredi community have gotten special treatment when it comes to real estate deals. Nursing homes are largely unregulated, whether that has anything to do with de Blasio and his office or not is anyone’s guess in bedlam, oops, Gotham. And the Shomrim are largely funded by NYS taxpayer dollars in one form or another.

How many communities get their own assisted police and ambulance forces, sometimes better equipped than those that are by New York’s public system? We don’t know nor do we judge. We stand by our position, however, that the Shomrim’s days should be numbered in favor of a more unified police force in New York. But these are the ways of politics and de Blasio has the financial remains of a Presidential bid to account for, or not.

So, yesterday’s utter castigation of the attendees to a massive funeral procession felt oddly like de Blasio was finally standing up for all Jews and all residents of the City of New York (and New Jersey). There are too few degrees of separation in a City so packed with people. In a Borough that has nearly the largest number of sick to healthy people on the various Covid-Scales, to have a safe giant funeral is impossible. Mayor de Blasio’s march to the scene of the funeral to help disperse the crowd felt somewhat heroic (albeit admittedly naive).

The mere mortals of this world, Jewish or otherwise, have had to bury our dead largely alone or with the help of online media portals. A Rabbi’s funeral, despite broad accounts of its importance in Jewish observance, still cannot undo the mandates of Pikuach Nefesh as it applies to the lack of safety in numbers with Covid-19 so easily transmitted. But we suppose a belief in Pikuach Nefesh presupposes a belief in the underlying science. 

We accepted if not celebrated de Blasio’s response to the massive funeral procession as a measured response to frustration with a community that has violated the social distancing laws to the detriment of all New Yorkers. We thought that finally the camel’s back had broken. The religious community, small as it may be or not, that has thumbed its nose to social distancing (and the science behind it) has raised the ire of Jews and non Jews everywhere. So finally, de Blasio did it! He yelled! He Tweeted! He stood up and said, “Enough.” And in so doing he was unsurprisingly called an anti-Semite.

Of course, waiving that flag in the Covid-19 environment is a measured response (sarcasm intended).

But then the bubble burst. “Drach!” Gone. Mayor de Blasio’s office, we are told, helped to organize the very funeral procession he then needed to disperse and openly excoriate. What was that? He was not looking out for regular New Yorkers? Apparently not. He was doing damage control; and if that meant pinning blame on a large swath of New York, all Jews, then let the rip cord fly.

And, that is a disappointment. 

If Mayor de Blasio used a broad stroke to include all Jews in his criticism of the Haredi community that violated social distancing, out of frustration for an event  the Haredim held that places all New Yorkers at risk, so-be-it. If they did not like the heat, they should not have piled 2500 deep into the Williamsburg kitchen.

But if Mayor de Blasio first approved that gathering and then used the Jews as a scapegoat to put out what otherwise might have been a media firestorm, he is no better than the worst of the politicians there are out there. And if that last point is true, we in our previous criticism owe our apologies to the organizers of the event.

If Mayor de Blasio’s office approved the funeral, helped to keep it organized, and then misread the magnitude, the community that hosted the funeral with approvals cannot be held to account for the fallout.

That responsibility rests squarely on de Blasio’s shoulders.

If that latter point is true and if people get sick in two weeks from yesterday, any blood will, if he approved the event, be on de Blasio’s shoulders, not the shoulders of the organizers of the event.

Crowded Hasidic Funeral In Williamsburg Was Coordinated And Approved By NYPD

Mayor Bill de Blasio personally helped disperse a crowded Hasidic funeral in Williamsburg on Tuesday night, sending thousands of mourners scattering on Bedford Avenue before issuing a stern warning on Twitter to “the Jewish community, and all communities.”

“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite [sic]: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio wrote. “What I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”

Twelve summonses were issued to those violating social distancing restrictions, according to Police Commissioner Dermott Shea. There were no arrests. “We cannot have what we had last night,” Shea told reporters on Wednesday. “We will not tolerate it.”

But according to Hasidic community leaders, the police department actually approved and helped coordinate the procession, which was held for local rabbi Chaim Mertz. Hours before the intervention, the NYPD’s Community Affairs Unit erected barricades in the area and worked with Shomrim, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood patrol group, to ensure the funeral could take place.

“We had an understanding with the police department that the Shomrim patrol would have 50 members and make sure everyone is wearing masks,” Rabbi Abe Friedman, a Williamsburg community leader, told Gothamist. “We can’t cancel a funeral of a very prominent rabbi, it’s not realistic.”

“It was supposed to be a very organized, safe, very short final goodbye,” he added. “Unfortunately, some people overacted and saw tons of people on the street and started dispersing the crowd and that caused a very big issue.”

Since the pandemic began, the NYPD has repeatedly broken up well-attended funeral gatherings in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, which have seen some of the highest rates of COVID-19 deaths. A police spokesperson would not say why the funeral was allowed to take place, or how the department decides to enforce social distancing laws.

To continue reading in the Gothamist, click here.

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

Jewish funeral in Williamsburg on 4/28/20.Photos: Peter Gerber
A crowd of people in Williamsburg at the funeral of a rabbi.

NYPD commissioner: Gatherings like Brooklyn funeral put cops’ ‘lives at risk’

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Wednesday that large gatherings like an Orthodox funeral held in Brooklyn Tuesday night were endangering his police officers — as the mayor claimed he has a “long, deep relationship with the Orthodox Jewish community.”

Shea, who said a paltry 12 summonses were issued, also pushed back against criticism that other groups were holding similar gatherings.

“There was two funerals last weekend for members of the NYPD, we would normally have probably tens of thousands of people at that funeral, we had a handful,” Shea said of scaled-down police officer funerals.

“People have to be accountable for their own actions, regardless of what neighborhood, ethnicity, where they come from, we cannot have what we had last night. We will not tolerate it.”

To continue reading, click here.

NYPD was warned ‘big crowd’ would turn out for rabbi’s funeral

The NYPD was warned that the funeral of a prominent Brooklyn rabbi would draw a “big crowd” and sent dozens of cops with barricades and light towers — despite a ban on mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Post has learned.

But the situation in Williamsburg got out of hand when mourners surged toward the synagogue because a plan to relay the service over loudspeakers was unexpectedly canceled, a longtime liaison between the Hasidic Satmar community and the NYPD said Wednesday.

Moses Weiser said he “personally spoke” with NYPD Capt. Mark Vazquez before Tuesday’s funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, who reportedly died of COVID-19.

“I asked him to use his resources however he wants to put this together, and he basically told us that we should follow his instructions,” Weiser said.

“We knew there was going to be a big crowd, especially now with no schools open, no yeshivas open — everyone wants to pay their respects to such a man.”

Weiser said Mertz’s synagogue, Tolas Yakov Bais Hamedrash, “originally wanted to have just family” outside “and we would set up speakers down the street a couple of blocks so that people could spread out and listen.”

“But an order came from somewhere to cancel the speakers, I’m not sure where the order came from, and so people started gathering close to see what was going on and to hear,” he said.

To continue reading, click here.