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Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:01 am, Thu Apr 24, 2014.

Heavily criticized NYPD antiterror unit is disbanded

In another break from the former administration’s approach to law and order and questions of constitutional rights, the NYPD has dissolved the police detachment that had been infiltrating the Muslim community in order to thwart any planned acts of terrorism.

Known as the Demographics Unit or Zone Assessment Unit, the detachment had been heavily criticized by religious, ethnic and civil liberties organizations for spying on people not even suspected of criminal activity. Its plainclothes officers had been going into Muslim neighborhoods to see if they could learn of any terroristic activity early on to prevent it.

Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had defended the program as legal under post-Sept. 11 modifications to the Handschu Agreement, a legal protocol outlining what police can and cannot do regarding lawful political activity. But critics insisted the unit violated Handschu and had sued to stop its activities.

Mayor de Blasio and advocacy groups hailed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s decision to disband the unit.

“Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”

City grants all interns workplace protection

A law signed by Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday gives both paid and unpaid interns the same rights to be free of discrimination and harassment on the job as regular employees have.

Passed 50-0 by the City Council on March 26, the bill was drafted in response to a federal court determination that a New York City woman was not protected from sexual harassment in the workplace because she was an intern. The measure clarifies the city’s Human Rights Law to say that interns are entitled to the same protections as regular workers.

“Our administration is fully committed to aggressively defending human rights in our city, and this legislation will provide critical legal protection for interns in the workplace,” de Blasio said in announcing the bill signing.

The measure had been co-sponsored by five Council members from Queens: Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the majority leader.

Community board reform bill offered

Members of community boards across the city could be term-limited and the process by which they are appointed could be more transparent and standardized under a bill introduced last week in the City Council.

Co-sponsored by 11 lawmakers, including three councilmen representing Queens, Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens), the measure would not mandate change but “call upon the borough presidents to adopt a series of best practices for recruitment and appointment to community boards.”

The recommendations stem from a report by the bill’s main sponsor, Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan). They include limiting service to five consecutive two-year terms, establishing uniform term lengths and limits for board and committee chairpersons, standardizing the appointment process, requiring members to disclose conflicts of interest and keeping political party executive committee members and elected officials’ staffers off the boards.

Mayor touts 100 days

Mayor de Blasio cited the accomplishments of his administration’s first 100 days in office and reiterated his vision for the city’s future in a speech last Thursday at Cooper Union. A transcript of the address is posted at nyc.gov under Office of the Mayor/News, and it contains a link to a You Tube video of him delivering it.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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