New York City erects quarantine checkpoints to curb coronavirus

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City will put up COVID-19 quarantine checkpoints at key entry points to ensure that travelers from 35 states on New York state’s travel advisory comply with the state’s 14-day quarantine mandate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.

“Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine and will be reminded that it is required, not optional,” de Blasio told a news briefing. He added that, under certain circumstances, fines for not observing the quarantine order could be as high as $10,000.

The Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, will begin deploying checkpoints at major bridge and tunnel crossings into New York City on Wednesday.

“This is serious stuff and it’s time for everyone to realize that if we’re going to hold at this level of health and safety in this city, and get better, we have to deal with the fact that the quarantine must be applied consistently to anyone who’s traveled,” de Blasio said.

Once the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, New York has taken strong steps to prevent a resurgence of cases that has emerged elsewhere.

In Illinois, where COVID-19 cases have risen for six weeks in a row, Chicago Public Schools will start the new academic year conducting all classes remotely, school officials said on Wednesday.

Teachers in the district, the country’s third largest with 350,000 students, had resisted a plan by city leaders to launch a hybrid model in which parents could choose to have their children attend in-person instruction in pods of 15 pupils twice a week.

The Chicago Teachers Union threatened to strike over safety concerns if city leaders did not go to all-remote learning.

“Nothing about this crisis has been easy,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “Every day has been another step into uncharted territory.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Howard Goller)

New York City schools to reopen with in-class, remote learning, mayor says

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday unveiled a plan for reopening the country’s largest school system in September with a “blended learning” schedule that would have students alternating between classrooms and their homes.

Under the plan, which requires state approval, the city’s 1.1 million public school students would alternate locations from week to week, spending two days at school or home and three at the other location, and then reversing the following week.

“Blended learning simply means at some points in the week you’re learning in the classroom, at other points in the week you’re learning remotely,” de Blasio said at a briefing.

“We all know remote learning is not perfect, but we’ve also seen a lot of kids benefit greatly from it during these last months,” he said.

The plan also calls for school buildings to be regularly sanitized and for students to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing while in the buildings, de Blasio said.

Officials said children of parents who preferred not to have them attend classes in the fall would be allowed to continue remote learning, the city program that was developed in the spring when the coronavirus pandemic made school attendance unsafe.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Alistair Bell)

New York City mayor says will cut $1 billion from police budget

By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed with the City Council to cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s funding in the municipal budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which is due to be passed later on Tuesday, even as some lawmakers described the cuts as insufficient.

The budget negotiations were shaped by two crises that have shaken the city.

The coronavirus pandemic created a $9 billion shortfall in revenue, leading to deep cuts across city agencies, including the possibility that some 22,000 municipal workers could be laid off by the mayor later this year if labor unions cannot help find savings elsewhere.

And a month of nationwide protests against police violence gave new political heft to calls to defund police departments, forcing de Blasio to shift from his original April proposal of cutting NYPD funding by less than 1% while slashing youth services. Thousands of protesters began camping outside City Hall last week in what they called an occupation, demanding deep cuts to police funding.

“It’s time to do the work of reform, to think deeply about where our police have to be in the future,” de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday.

The NYPD’s $6 billion operating budget will be cut through overtime reductions, the cancellation of the July class of more than 1,000 new recruits, and the transfer of some responsibilities out of the NYPD, de Blasio said.

He would also restore some summer youth programs he had originally canceled.

A minority of left-wing lawmakers have criticized the cuts as insufficient and said they would oppose the budget’s passage later on Tuesday at a vote convened by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

They complain the proposal does not reduce the current number of police officers in the city, and that a large portion of what the mayor has called a $1 billion cut consists of transferring responsibility of school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education.

Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of 200 community groups which originally called for a $1 billion cut to the NYPD’s budget, said their demands were still not being met.

“Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson are using funny math and budget tricks to try to mislead New Yorkers,” Anthonine Pierre, a spokesperson for the coalition, said in a statement. “Moving police from the NYPD to other agencies does nothing to reduce police violence.”

New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also criticized the proposed budget, saying he would invoke an obscure provision in the City’s Charter and refuse to sign tax warrants in order to stop it being deployed in the absence of what he called “a commitment to true school safety reform.”

The total city budget comes to $88.1 billion, de Blasio said, down from $95.3 billion he had proposed earlier in the year.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

NYC mayor orders mandatory measles vaccinations after Brooklyn outbreak

FILE PHOTO: A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn on Tuesday in response to a measles outbreak, requiring unvaccinated people living in the affected areas to get the vaccine or face fines.

The city’s largest measles outbreak since 1991 has mainly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, with 285 cases confirmed since October, de Blasio said at a news conference.

“This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately,” de Blasio said.

The disease is easily spread and can be fatal, but there have been no confirmed deaths so far, officials said.

The outbreak is part of a broader resurgence in the United States, with 465 cases reported in 19 states so far this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials from New York City’s Department of Health will check vaccination records of anyone who has been in contact with infected patients in certain parts of Brooklyn, officials said.

Those who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or can otherwise give evidence of immunity, such as having previously had the measles, will face a fine of up to $1,000.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Gine Cherelus; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Child playing with stove may have started deadly N.Y. fire, mayor says

Fire Department of New York (FDNY) personnel work on the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S., December 28, 2017.

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mayor Bi A child playing with a stove may have caused the fire in a New York City apartment building that killed 12 people, including four children, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.

People react near the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S., December 29, 2017.

People react near the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S., December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The fire, the deadliest in the city in a quarter of a century, broke out a little before 7 p.m. EST (midnight GMT) on Thursday on the first floor of a brick building and quickly spread upstairs, killing people on multiple floors, the New York City Fire Department said.

A crowd gathers as New York Fire Department personnel fight a fire in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, in this still image taken from a December 28, 2017 social media video.

A crowd gathers as New York Fire Department personnel fight a fire in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, in this still image taken from a December 28, 2017 social media video. Francesca Rosales/via REUTERS

“What we think at this point is that unfortunately it emanated from an accident, a young child playing with a stove on the first floor of the building,” de Blasio said in an interview with WNYC radio.

Children ages 1, 2 and 7 died along with four men and four women, local media reported. An unidentified boy also died.

Authorities said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building and four people were in the hospital in critical condition. More than 160 firefighters responded to the four-alarm blaze.

The building, with 26 apartments, has at least six open building code violations, according to city records. One violation was for a broken smoke detector in an apartment on the first floor, reported in August. It was not clear if the detector had been fixed or replaced or whether it had played any role in the fire.

“I know there were concerns raised about the building itself,” de Blasio told WNYC. “Based on the research we have at this moment, it does not appear there was anything problematic about the building or the fire safety in the building.”

The building is in the Belmont section of the Bronx, a primarily residential, close-knit neighborhood known as the “Little Italy” of the borough, near Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo.

It was the deadliest fire in the city since an arsonist torched a Bronx nightclub in 1990, killing 87 people inside the venue that did not have fire exits, alarms or sprinklers, the New York Times reported.

In 2007 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Stephanie Kelly and Dan Trotta in New York, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Jeffrey Benkoe)

New York City murders seen dropping below 300 in 2017

People walk along Sixth Avenue as a cold weather front hits the region in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 28, 2017.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City is on track to record fewer than 300 murders in 2017, marking a steep decline since the early 1990s when the annual death toll exceeded 2,000 people.

As of Sunday, 284 people were murdered in the nation’s largest city, down from 329 in the same period in 2016, according to New York Police Department (NYPD) data released this week. All seven major crimes tracked by police, including rape, assault and robbery, showed declines.

Barring a spike in the final week of the year, the number of murders in the city will drop under the low of 333 in 2014.

Police officials emphasized that murders continued to decline even as the city’s population swelled to more 8.5 million.

“The homicide rate per capita is lower than anything we have ever seen,” J. Peter Donald, an NYPD spokesman, wrote on Twitter on Thursday. He compared the rate to levels last seen in the 1950s, when there were “1.5 million fewer people living in New York.”

The continued decline is in part vindication for Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who campaigned for the office in 2013 on his opposition to the NYPD’s widespread use of “stop and frisk” policy, which led to random searches for drugs and weapons.

That year, a federal judge ruled that the practise was unconstitutional because it disproportionately targeted black and Latino New Yorkers.

Under de Blasio, the tactic’s use has been sharply curtailed, and warnings by conservative critics that crime rates would creep back up have proved unfounded.

Fewer than 13,700 robberies have been reported so far in 2017, compared with 15,500 in 2016 and 100,280 in 1990. Serious assaults fell below 20,000, about half the number seen in 1990. Burglaries have dipped below 12,000, compared to 122,055 in 1990.

Police had recorded 1,416 rapes in the year through Sunday, one fewer than the same period last year but above the low in 2009 of 1,205.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)