Inquiry Call For RNC Pier 57 Political Detentions
October 12, 2004
For Immediate Release
CITY COUNCIL MEMBER LOPEZ, NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD DEMAND INVESTIGATION OF NY POLICE USE OF PIER 57 AS MASS DETENTION CENTER BEFORE, DURING REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
Who: City Council Member Margarita Lopez, National Lawyers Guild
What: Press conference to ask that necessary information and documentation regarding the conditions of Pier 57 be released to find out if the NYPD and the Hudson River Park Trust acted properly making the pier as their initial holding site for RNC arrestees
When: Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 10:00 am
Where: City Hall steps
Just six weeks after the Republican National Convention protests, mounting evidence indicates that the City of New York and the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) knew or should have known about the presence of friable asbestos, potentially dangerous levels of chipped lead paint, hazardous irritants, and/or toxic chemicals at Pier 57. The pier was the primary holding site for RNC arrestees. Proof has also emerged that the former NYCTA-MABSTOA bus depot has substandard or wholly inoperative wiring, fire suppression, and other vital systems.
Hundreds of individuals arrested during the RNC protests were held in custody at Pier 57 without proper resources, including lack of medical treatment and denial of access to attorneys. Many of those detained also reported unsafe conditions that the city and the New York Police Department should have known about, including possible exposure to harmful chemicals.
Says Yetta G. Kurland, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and an attorney working on planned civil lawsuits arising from the RNC arrests: "Despite numerous requests, the city and the NYPD have failed to produce a Certificate of Occupancy for the site and documentation from the New York City Department of Health approving use of the space for the detention of hundreds of arrestees."_
Almost all of the nearly 2,000 protesters and bystanders arrested during the week of the RNC were held in the NYPD's 'Post Arrest Staging Site', the mass detention center that the city and/or its Police Department erected and ran within Pier 57. The HRPT, a public benefit corporation headed by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki whose Board of Directors includes other high-ranking city and state officials, has jurisdiction over the pier.
New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane (D WFP Manhattan) said, "There are serious questions that need to be answered regarding the treatment and conditions for those denied at Pier 57 during the RNC Convention. However, one thing is clear: New York State law must be amended so that such shameful tactics can never be used again and I will fight in the State Senate to insure this happens."_
According to the Hudson River Park Act, the law establishing the HRPT, the HRPT cannot allow the pier be used for "other than permitted uses". The Act specifies that "incompatible governmental uses" not permitted within the park include "bus parking, and police impound lots and storage facilities". The Act does not allow for detention centers or police holding pens as a "permitted use". According to a HRPT spokesperson, the NYPD asked the Trust for use of the pier, and the Trust had "nothing to do with it"._
In April and May 2004, the HRPT released environmental and other testing reports on the conditions at Pier 57 in connection with its ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the pier for commercial use. Those reports indicate that the city, the NYPD, and/or the HRPT knew that the floor and other areas of the pier were contaminated with potentially hazardous lead and asbestos.
Numerous detainees emerging from the Tombs at 100 Centre Street before and during the RNC after being held at Pier 57 complained of difficulty breathing, swelling, rashes, and open sores secreting a pus-like substance, outright refusals to treat serious medical conditions, and poor and/or inappropriate feeding.
Upon hearing about the injuries detainees had sustained while in the custody of the city and its Police Department at Pier 57, Mayor Bloomberg stated, "It's not supposed to be Club Med." NYC Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne agreed, saying separately that, "Contrary to the assertions of protesters who were inconvenienced by these arrests, the post-arrest screening site at Pier 57 was clean, well equipped, and certainly humane." However, hazardous materials signs outside the largest pen in the pier warned detainees and police officers alike of laws requiring that workers in those areas wear special protective hazardous material gear._
Gideon Orion Oliver Law Clerk Law Offices of Lewis B. Oliver, Jr. 156 Madison Avenue Albany, New York 12202 (518) 463-7962
Contact: Eric Laursen Yetta G. Kurland Cell: 917-806-6452 Cell: 917-701-9590