Jan. 25, 2022 By Allie Griffin
Queens lawmakers are split on the mayor’s recently released plan to combat gun violence — with some applauding it while others denounce it.
The 15-page plan titled “The Blueprint to End Gun Violence” was unveiled by Mayor Eric Adams Monday following a number of high-profile shootings this month, including the fatal shooting of two young NYPD officers Friday night.
The plan includes both immediate intervention actions to get guns off the street and long-term initiatives to address underlying issues that lead to gun violence.
Many Queens legislators praised the plan for Adams’ support of the city’s community-based violence prevention programs and his pledge to invest in mental health services and youth employment.
At the same time, multiple borough officials criticized his proposal to essentially reinstate the controversial anti-crime unit that was disbanded by the de Blasio administration.
They also took issue with Adams’ desire to revoke some bail reform measures — such as allowing judges to set bail if they deem a defendant to be dangerous — and the proposed utilization of facial recognition technology in investigations.
Another part of the plan that faced pushback was a proposal that would allow prosecutors to charge 16- and 17-year-olds for gun possession in criminal court, rather than in family court. It would make an exception to a 2017 state law that raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18.
Astoria Council Member Tiffany Cabán said the mayor’s plan would move the city backward into a system of punishment and surveillance.
“I strongly oppose reversing common-sense bail reform, removing vital safeguards on the rights of the accused, expanding the use of facial recognition technology, and moving minors accused of gun possession out of family court and into criminal court,” she said in a statement.
Cabán particularly bashed the part of the plan that brings back the NYPD anti-crime unit, made up of plain-clothed officers embedded in specific neighborhoods.
Adams, a former NYPD officer himself, plans to send “neighborhood safety teams” of plain-clothed officers into 30 precincts where 80 percent of the city’s violence occurs in the next three weeks, according to his plan. The teams will specifically focus on recovering illegal guns, but critics say past iterations have only created greater violence.
“Particularly troubling is the Mayor’s proposed revival of the NYPD’s plainclothes unit,” Cabán said. “The fact is, that unit was ineffective at reducing gun violence…”
She argued that the unit actually inflated violence, citing a 2016 NYPD report that found that nearly half of officers involved in “adversarial conflicts” were in the plainclothes unit.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who represents southeast Queens, said the proposal needs more public input given the history of similar police units.
“Concerns have been raised in communities about the plain clothes unit’s ability to reduce violence, given its past history of initiating undue violence,” Adams said in a statement. “This proposal – along with others to change city and state criminal justice policies – requires further public dialogue and transparency.”
However, the proposal was lauded by some Queens electeds. Council Member James Gennaro, for instance, said he supported the decision to bring back the unit.
‘I applaud @NYCMayor for laying out a comprehensive, common-sense plan to curb gun violence,” Gennaro tweeted. “We need to make public safety our TOP priority! And reinstating the #NYPD’s plainclothes unit will be crucial in making our streets safer.”
Astoria Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, meanwhile, criticized a part of the mayor’s plan that would change how minors are prosecuted for gun possession.
“My constituents did not send me to Albany to put 16 and 17 year olds in prison or to give judges even more discretion to criminalize poverty,” he tweeted.
Mamdani’s colleague, Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas, also rejected the plan. She took issue with Adams’ desire to roll back bail reform measures, stating that it would unfairly target communities of color.
“Everyone wants their community to be safe. But that must include safety from a carceral system that disproportionately harms Black, Brown, and poor New Yorkers,” she tweeted alongside a screengrab of the plan’s bail reform proposal. “I’m a no on this, Mayor.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who helped push the bail reform measures through the state legislature in 2019, said revoking the reforms was the wrong decision. He said the city must instead fight the trafficking of guns from other states into New York in order to reduce gun violence.
“We must effectively combat illegal guns coming from other states — not rollback effective reforms to our criminal legal system,” Gianaris wrote on Twitter.
We must effectively combat illegal guns coming from other states — not rollback effective reforms to our criminal legal system.https://t.co/o3LKvGuQBP
— Sen. Mike Gianaris (@SenGianaris) January 25, 2022
However, Adams’ plan did get the backing of some Queens officials.
Rep. Tom Suozzi, who represents a section of northeast Queens and parts of Long Island, said he supports Adams’ proposed adjustments to the state bail reform law.
“I agree 100 percent with the Mayor,” Suozzi, who is also running for governor, tweeted. “This is exactly what I have been saying since I first laid out my crime plan on January 4th.”
Republican Council Member Joann Ariola, who represents a portion of the Rockaways and southeast Queens, said she’s confident in the plan.
“As a member of the NYCC Public Safety Committee, I believe the measures in @NYCMayor “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” will have both short term and long-term effects on creating a safer NYC for all,” Ariola said on Twitter.
Council Member Robert Holden, a moderate Democrat, also announced his support.
“I support @nycmayor‘s blueprint to end gun violence,” he tweeted. “It’s a comprehensive plan to let cops do their jobs and get guns off the street. It’ll also finally tackle our mental health crisis, encourage judges to use discretion, proactively help people before a crisis arises and more.”