Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: De Blasio to chase jihadist landlords?

June 26, 2015 By Marc S. Berman For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Marc S. Berman, a former criminal prosecutor, writes about politics, law and current events.  Photo courtesy of Marc S. Berman
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New York City is settling a federal lawsuit that claims that NYPD monitoring of city mosques to detect radical activity is unconstitutional.

A similar case was filed in New Jersey previously. That lawsuit accused New York cops of illegally surveilling Garden State mosques.  The Bloomberg administration did not settle the New Jersey case. Rather, it persuaded a judge to dismiss it. In his decision, the judge noted that the activities monitored by the police, such as meetings in mosques, were open to the public.  He therefore ruled that no one was harmed by the surveillance. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken a different tack than Bloomberg. While the terms of the recent settlement are unknown, given that the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] was involved, it’s fair to assume that police monitoring of potential terrorist activity will be curtailed.  

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Even before settling the New York case, the de Blasio administration dismantled the “Demographics Unit,” which conducted the disputed surveillance. At the time the unit was scrapped, the mayor quipped that he had “promised the people of New York a police force that … is … respectful.”  De Blasio claimed that scuttling the squad was “a critical step forward …so that our cops … can … go after the real bad guys.” 

De Blasio’s approach is unnerving. It appears that many New Yorkers fear it will compromise law enforcement’s ability to thwart terrorist attacks. This fear has a foundation. 

For example, one of the individuals who sued the city was the imam of a mosque co-founded by a man convicted of plotting to join radical Islamist forces. Other parties to the lawsuit also had alleged ties to jihadists.

I guess that the mayor doesn’t consider radical jihadists to be “real bad guys.” So who exactly are the malefactors that the NYPD will pursue with priority from here on?  

Evil landlords, that’s who. When New York’s rent stabilization laws temporarily expired, de Blasio promised to “throw the book at any landlords who try to ‘undermine’ their tenants.” To allow landlords to violate the expired regulations, the mayor warned, would mark “the end of New York City as we know it.” 

Let’s get this straight. Before the new rent laws passed, if a landlord requested $200 more in monthly rent from a millionaire tenant,  that would have merited a SWAT action. This even though the landlord’s conduct was legal at the time. 

On the other hand, de Blasio forbids cops to park outside mosques to see if any known radicals are frequenting them.  Such surveillance would disrespect Muslims by infringing their right to…what exactly? The mayor apparently thinks that the Constitution is a cloaking device for pedestrians on Flatbush Avenue.

Jihadists now planning incipient operations have little to fear from sensitive Bill. At least as long as they aren’t wicked enough to buy regulated real estate and raise their tenants’ rents. If you ever see a suspicious person doing that, call 911 immediately.


Marc S. Berman writes on politics, law and current events. His most recent columns have appeared in the Times of Trenton, the Record of Littleton, New Hampshire,   Gannett’s  Cherry Hill Courier Post, the Caledonian-Record of Vermont, and the Vineland Daily Journal. He is a former criminal prosecutor.


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