The far-reaching effects of police misconduct

New York Police Department Times Square NYC photo credit Meriç Dağlı

When I first heard about BuzzFeed News’s exposé of NYPD misconduct from the new owner of Bushwick Daily, I had two thoughts almost simultaneously:

  • Sounds like a scoop! Way to go, investigative reporters.
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    and
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  • But everyone knows there’s police misconduct. What are they going to reveal that’s new?

For better and worse, the answer is plenty.

Ace reporters Kendall Taggart and Mike Hayes published “Secret NYPD Files: Officers Can Lie And Brutally Beat People — And Still Keep Their Jobs” two days ago. (And I was pleased to hear them with Brian Lehrer on WNYC yesterday. My hat’s off to all of you!)

They found:

  • Some NYPD employees who have been allowed to stay on the force after repeatedly lying in court have sent innocent people to prison—and kept guilty people from doing time.
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  • New York taxpayers foot the bill to settle accusations against errant officers who continue to serve, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per officer—on top of paying some of them six-figure salaries.
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  • The secrecy and subjectivity of NYPD misconduct trials mean life-altering case decisions can easily be made based on the simple personal prejudice of one police commissioner—and cannot be challenged.

Today, I was pleased to share a summary of Taggart and Hayes’s findings and some information about alleged misconduct in Brooklyn’s 83rd Precinct with the Bushwick Daily community. You can read the post here.

Making peace with the sponsored post

Given my historic predilection for writing about (allegedly) unsexy topics such as congestion pricing, volunteering in retirement, and participatory urban development, it’s no wonder that when Katarina “Don’t Wait for Permission to be Awesome” Hybenova, founder of Bushwick Daily, needs someone to write a sponsored post about a local credit union or end-of-life planning, she rings my bell.

Think unsexy thoughts Simpsons Barney

“Think unsexy thoughts… Think unsexy thoughts…”

I will admit that the idea of writing sponsored articles sat a little uneasily with me at first, because I’m generally angered and saddened by advertising’s incessant and ever-deepening march into every aspect our lives. That said!, if boss little publications like Bushwick Daily are to keep the lights on (and I sure hope they do), someone’s got to foot the bill. If that boils down to a choice between giving readers free access to the site in exchange for throwing some sidebar ads and commissioned stories into the mix, or making readers pay individually to fund BD‘s work, I’ll go with the former.

You know what, though? In this case, it’s not even as doom-and-gloom as that. The kinds of organizations that support BD are pretty much the best kinds of organizations: they’re grassroots neighborhood staples, self-made small businesses, international nonprofits—even startups on a mission to make clean power cheaper! So really, how could I complain?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need advertising—but heck, we wouldn’t need money, either! So until Reverend Billy & the Church of Stop Shopping become our president and congress, respectively, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about these boss organizations on one of the best little blogs in Brooklyn, and that you’ll support your own local micro-journalism outlets in whatever way best floats your boat.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

This weekend in Brooklyn: Sound summer camp for badass young ladies!

Teen girls with headphones and microphones

When I took the Bushwick Daily assignment to write about SoundGirls.org’s Live Sound Camps for Girls, I thought it would be cool. Music, Brooklyn, empowering teenage girls—what’s not to like?

Well, I was right! There was nothing not to like about writing this story.

The end!

SoundGirls.org logo

No, no—of course there is more. But it’s the good kind of more!

It turned out that in addition to getting acquainted with an awesome nonprofit that connects female sound engineers the world over, hearing wonderful stories about girls learning to rock intimidating audio gear, and bookmarking the knowledge of this traveling summer camp program for the next time I meet a cool teenage girl, I also got to spend half an hour talking with the woman who’s been Pearl Jam’s sound engineer for the last 25 years: SoundGirls.org’s executive director and co-founder, Karrie Keyes!

I will pause to mention that, while I do enjoy me some classic Pearl Jam, I was even more stoked and awed to learn that Karrie has also worked with Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young, and did a 10-year stint as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ monitor engineer.

Waynes World not worthy

ANYWAY, what Karrie’s doing with SoundGirls.org is just as cool as all that, of course. Check it out, and if you know an NYC-area teenage girl who’d appreciate the chance to get her audio on this weekend, do spread the word!

New Groundswell mural vivifies East Williamsburg; really makes ya think

Early last week, I took a short walk down Manhattan Ave to its terminus at Broadway. It was a nice walk—in part because, on a morning this hot, I found myself actually enjoying being in the shadow of those 2,700-unit Lindsay Park cooperative housing buildings. But mostly it was because I knew what awaited me at the end: not one, but two!, beautiful and moving public murals by NYC’s own Groundswell, a nonprofit that’s been bedecking the city with gorgeous, socially-conscious public art, painted by teams of professionals and city kids, for 20 years.

I’ve been admiring the first mural I passed, “I Just Want To Come Home,” since it went up in 2015. A “contemporary blues piece,” according to the organization, the painting’s moody color scheme and kaleidoscopic arrangement of faces  within the letters of its title make it at once an arresting, calming, and haunting visual experience. With the knowledge that its purpose is to illustrate the complex relationships between police, young men of color, gentrification, incarceration, and a sense of safety and belonging, that experience is enriched many-fold.

Then I turned the corner onto Broadway and joined the dedication ceremony for Groundswell’s newest art project in our ‘hood: “The Fall of Oppression” (so new, it looks like Groundswell’s yet to put it on their website!). It’s a pretty fascinating work.

You can read my write-up of the whole dedication experience—complete with tear-jerking quotes from the lead artist, Groundswell’s program director, and our city council district rep—on Bushwick Daily.

My renewed thanks to all of you for keeping Williamsburg an enjoyable and educational place to live, paint, and walk. And for continuing to fight that good fight.

Readers: Tell me about your favorite public art!

Guys Posing as Nuns, Astroturf, and Thousands of Pieces of Fake Fruit: LoftOpera’s Le Comte Ory

That was the working title of a preview I just wrote for Brooklyn-based opera company LoftOpera‘s newest production, Le Comte Ory (translation: The Count Ory) for Bushwick Daily.

LoftOpera performs Tosca photo by Robert Altman

LoftOpera does Puccini’s Tosca—by the looks of it, a more sober production than their upcoming one (photo by Robert Altman)

Here’s a preview of the preview (you can read the whole thing here):

“It’s totally ridiculous; almost unexplainable,” says Daniel Ellis-Ferris [the company’s founder and executive producer]. “It’s new for us to be doing something this playful.

“For example, there’s a threesome at the end of the show. When they did it at the Met [Metropolitan Opera], they just had three people sitting on a big bed, fluffing a duvet around. That’s about all you can do at the Met. But we’re working with gymnasts and circus people in a warehouse deep in Bushwick! So we can make ours a lot sexier. And our audience will have fun with that, rather than be offended by it.”

Sounds like the makings of fun for sure. I’m going to see the show with my friend Charles, a certified opera expert, next month. Extremely psyched!

Tonight: Watch Jemima Kirke (of “Girls”) Interview an Ancient Alien at a Bushwick Film Premiere

I’m lifting that line directly from my latest post on Bushwick Daily, because I’m doubtful it gets much more catchy-slash-confusing than that.

Rather like the explanation given to me by producer Eric Schmalenberger of the psychological thriller, comedy, sports, horror drama (psy-thrill-com-spo-ho-dra?) he’s debuting at a big variety show-type event at House of Yes tonight, entitled The Joanne Holiday Show:

Claywoman is traveling 65 million light years to discuss humanity and metaphysics with Jemima Kirke. Also, we’ll be screening our film, in which psychedelic performance genius Erin Markey, fresh off the triumphant success of her one-of-a-kind musical A Ride on the Irish Cream, stars alongside the film’s writer, Michael Cavadias.”

Claywoman

Claywoman

“Plus, we’ll have Holly Miranda, who will break your heart; Jill Pangallo, who will deconstruct your heart; Will Janowitz, who will dress up as your heart; and Shane Shane, who will prance at your heart. Plus Dave Hill with an important video message!”

While (full transparency) I have never actually seen the show Girls, or caught any of Claywoman’s performances in the past 500 million years, I can tell from a simple Google image search that both Jemima Kirke and our ancient friend are pretty special, and I predict their conversation alone will be worth the cost of admission.

Not to mention the excitement of an ‘important video message’ getting piped in from this guy! Color me your newest fan, Mr. Hill.

I’m sure I’ll see you in Bushwick, my fellow psy-thrill-com-spo-ho-dra devotees! Another snowy night, another grip of good reasons to brave it.

“Incinerate Your Aversion to Performance Art” — new ink in Bushwick Daily

Polaroid genius Nick McManus and I enjoyed a Roman candle-esque tenure at Bushwick Daily in 2014, and I’ve been milking the produce of our collaboration regularly since. (Nick has gone on to dizzying heights the likes of Flavorpill and some others that whizzed by my consciousness when he told me about them on the phone the other day. Whatever they are, dude, you know I’m mighty stoked for ya!)

Nick McManus Polaroid

Nick (middle, faceless) engaging in incidental performance art, per usual

I admit to dropping the ball with the Bushwick gang after that hat trick of party coverage, but our acquaintance was rekindled when I ran into its lovely crew at a pre-Christmas poetry reading. They were nice enough to say they’d entertain any new pitches I cared to share—a statement they’ll likely regret, but I’m psyched!

Here’s me picking up where I left off (except without Nick, malheureusement, as it’s hard to illustrate a preview of an event with a photo): a shorty about people who cover their faces in pizza dough and punch tubs of margarine—for art!

Up next: god only knows. NYC is perfectly unpredictable (see all of the above).