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New York City Office of Public Safety to Hold Briefing on Public Safety in New York City

Justin S. Meyers, Chief of Operations, Public Safety : Good afternoon. My name’s Justin Meyers and I’m the chief of operations for Public Safety for the City of New York. Welcome to our weekly public safety briefing. I’m joined today by a number of my colleagues in government and leaders of various different departments and units throughout the New York City government. We started these public safety briefings each week so that residents would have an opportunity to learn directly from Mayor Eric Adams administration about important initiatives that the city government is rolling out. And also pull back the curtain of government a little bit and give folks a direct opportunity to hear from our leaders in government, our various departments in government, and to hear directly from the folks who are doing the work making the city of New York safe. We also do this to teach folks about public safety and how they can make themselves safer. Now, that doesn’t mean that you are facing some type of imminent threat when you leave your house in New York.

New York still remains the safest big city in America, but learned behavior is an important part of public safety. The police fire departments, they respond to emergencies, but the way that we protect cities as a whole is we each learn how to be safe. None of us are born knowing that when we get to an intersection to look left and right, but when we learn that, learned behavior, we become safer, our community becomes safer, and our city as a whole becomes safer. We talk a lot about various different initiatives being rolled out in a variety of different agencies throughout the city that help aim to educate New Yorkers on how to better protect themselves and how to be safer. We’re going to talk about a lot of those different topics today. We’ve got some really great guests on our show today. We have FDNY, Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn, and he’s here to talk about a new initiative to further prevent fires at bike shops and bike repair shops caused by lithium-ion batteries.

We also have the Department of Transportation Commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, who will highlight the DOT’s efforts to increase safety for cyclists as we enter the summer season. And we also have NYPD Chief of Detectives, James Essig, who’s here to talk about investigations handled by the Detective Bureau’s Crimes Against Persons Unit. And we have the Business Integrity Commission Commissioner Liz Crotty, who’ll be providing an overview of the commission’s work and its efforts to protect public safety. Today we’re going to kick off and start by talking to the FDNY about an emerging issue that we’re seeing here in the city of New York. Lithium-ion batteries, battery powered bikes have become a ubiquitous form of transportation here in the city of New York, an important piece of our transportation infrastructure. But unfortunately, we’re also seeing a rash of illegal batteries that have hit the marketplace.

Lithium-ion batteries can be very dangerous under certain circumstances, and so far in 2023, New York City has lost 13 lives to fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, used in e-bikes and other micromobility vehicles. That makes it tied for first place as the leading cause of fire related deaths in New York City for this year. For nearly a hundred years, electrical fires were the leading cause of death in New York City, and now lithium-ion batteries tie electricity as that leading cause of fire related death. The most recent of these tragedies occurred just this last Tuesday here in Lower Manhattan, when four people tragically were killed in a fire that started an e-bike repair shop on the first floor of a building. Mayor Adams, the FDNY and a number of other city agencies have taken numerous actions over the past year to stem the devastating effects of these fires.

And on Wednesday, Mayor Adams took another step joined by the FDNY and New York City small business services to announce two more actions the city is taking to prevent these fires. The first encourages folks to report any potentially hazardous conditions involving lithium-ion batteries to FDNY to 311. And we’ll talk about how you identify those dangerous hazards, how you report them, and then the actions that the FDNY will take in order to enforce the rules on lithium-ion batteries. And the second is a joint outreach and education campaign by FDNY and small business services on the dangers presented by lithium-ion batteries and best practices to avoid fires. I’d like to turn it over now to FDNY, Chief Marshall Daniel Flynn, who will give us some more information.

And Chief Flynn is really one of those incredible leaders throughout the city government that doesn’t always get the limelight, doesn’t always get the credit that he deserves, but the chief has been serving the FDNY for nearly 20 years. He has a numerous accolades, both as a firefighter and as an investigator. He’s now the chief fire marshal, has over 150 investigators who report to him, and fire marshals are actually law enforcement agents. They go out and they investigate the causes of fire to determine whether any criminal activity has taken place and Chief Flynn leads that operation. Chief, thanks so much for being here today and talk to us a little bit about what the FDNY is doing and how we’re responding to this rash of lithium-ion batteries and issues related to them here in the city.

Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn: Sure. Thank you Justin, and thanks for having me. Good afternoon. As you mentioned, early Tuesday morning, we had a fire at 80 Madison Street in Manhattan in an e-bike shop that was determined by our marshals to be caused by a lithium-ion battery. That fire claimed the lives of four people and critically injured two. Fortunately, those people are still alive and expected to survive. We’ve been talking about this problem for a long time now, lithium-ion batteries. So far this year we’ve had 110 fires with 71 injuries and 13 fatalities where the cause was determined to be a lithium-ion battery. Last year at this time, we had two fatalities. To put that into perspective, in the entire year, 2020, we had zero fatalities. This is a new problem and it’s a big problem. As you mentioned, it is tied right now with our leading cause of fire fatalities.

This week we announced a partnership with the city’s Small Business Services to continue educational outreach and to target bike and repair shops about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries. We focused the campaign on not only enforcement but education. We wanted to get the word out to everybody to understand in these commercial establishment, what are required of the owners to maintain that safety. 

Separately, we’re encouraging all New Yorkers with concerns about batteries to call 311. Those calls will be turned over to our local fire companies for immediate response. When fire companies do get a call related to lithium-ion batteries, we’ve instructed our members to respond forthwith. If a unit is out on a fire, they’ll respond as soon as possible. Those complaints we pledge to everyone will be handled, addressed in some way in 12 hours. We pledge to get out to that scene to address your concerns within 12 hours.

Separately, our fire prevention unit has conducted 10 inspections based off tips from the press, city council members and other sources since Wednesday. Eight of those locations had already been inspected at some point. Two were re-inspections of open violations. Those inspections resulted in 11 old summonses issued, three violation orders and two criminal court summonses. We want to hear from you. Even if you think the issue is not a big deal, we want to hear from you. Reach out to us. Let us determine whether it’s a big deal or not. New Yorkers should call if they see things like batteries being charged less than three feet apart, more than five batteries being charged at once, using multiple extension cords to charge them, batteries that look like they’ve been tampered with, and locations that look like they are not properly licensed businesses. Our fire safety education teams have also been out all over the city reminding New Yorkers of the dangers of these batteries.

And because we know these devices are already in people’s homes on how to use them safely. Do not block your exits. Don’t charge overnight. Don’t charge unattended. If you see a problem with the battery, replace it. Don’t try to fix it. Replace these batteries. As I said, don’t charge them overnight. Make sure that you have a plan, a way out. Have a working smoke detector. If you do have a fire in your house or apartment, like we’ve always said in the past, make sure that you close the door. Close doors, smoke detectives, save lives. Do not block your exits, as I said. Our fire prevention teams have already conducted 222 inspections across the city related to lithium-ion battery concerns at residential and commercial locations. We’ve issued a total of 495 oath summons. These summons can carry between 1000 and $5,000 in fines. We have issued a 139 violations, which are issued for the more egregious hazardous violations.

We want to be clear that we support the use of these devices. We are not trying to vilify in any way people that use them or sell them. We just want them to be used safely.

Meyers: Excellent.

Chief Flynn: Thank you.

Meyers: Thank you, chief. On this issue of batteries and charging, let’s just real specifically for the folks for New Yorkers at home watching, what am I looking for as an everyday New Yorker walking down the street, I see a bike shop, what am I looking for and what am I calling through and wanting to report if I see it?

Chief Flynn: As we mentioned, if you see many batteries charging in a location, if you see a lot of batteries in the same area.

Meyers: What’s a lot, more than five?

Chief Flynn: Well, whatever you feel is allowed. I don’t want to give a number. If you feel within yourself that there’s a dangerous condition, give us a call. Don’t call us just about batteries also. We encourage New Yorkers to call us with all their fire safety concerns and all of those will be addressed. We promise that we will get out there and address them expeditiously.

Meyers: And we call by 311?

Chief Flynn: 311, unless you feel that the danger is imminent and an imminent fire safety issue, then call 911.

Meyers: And also when you talk about in the event of a fire happening, I think one of the most stark things that the average person doesn’t realize is how fast a fire really spreads, and particularly these lithium-ion battery fires, how explosive, literally explosive this fire can happen. I’ve seen videos and no doubt you’ve been at many, many scenes where a fire starts off very, very small and literally within seconds the entire house can be engulfed in flames. It’s so critical for people to realize that. People think, “Oh, there’s a little bit of a fire. Maybe I can put it out. Maybe I’ll try to grab something from the house before I leave.” The key really is to get out of the house, close the door, get out as quickly as possible, and call 911.

Chief Flynn: Yes. Traditionally, our fires we’ve encountered, they start small and then they become large. With these particular fires, they become large within seconds, so we’re not getting that initial stage of fire where in the past you discard a cigarette and it smolders, and then it becomes a larger fire. With these fires, it goes from zero to a hundred in a second. You can look at our website and look at FDNY Smart where we could show you some videos of just how violent and quickly these fires spread and react, and we encourage you to call. If you do have a fire immediately, call 911. Do not attempt to extinguish these fires on your own. You will not be able to, get us out there and let us take care of it.

Meyers: Excellent. Thanks very much, chief. This is a really important issue. Thank you so much for coming on and chatting with us about it. Next we have our DOT commissioner, Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. I think a lot of people don’t think of the Department of Transportation as necessarily a public safety operation, but the reality is that the Department of Transportation has a lot of different work that they do. And commissioner, maybe you can give us a little bit of an overview on it, but there’s a huge component of public safety involved in transportation. The DOT decides what our roadways looks like. It’s our city advocate in Albany to decide what our speed limits are, what our road rules are, what type of automated enforcement we deploy in the city of New York, where bike lanes are deployed, where cars are allowed to drive.

There’s really a lot of important impact on what it is that the DOT does in terms of public safety and how folks move around the city. And Commissioner Rodriguez, who was appointed by Mayor Eric Adams at the beginning of Mayor Adams’ administration in January, has been a tireless advocate for transportation issues for this city for nearly 12, 15 years now, I believe. You were a councilman before you were the Commissioner of Department of Transportation. You led the charge on a number of different types of legislation and advocacy for roadway safety involving pedestrians and cyclists. You’ve been the chief person responsible for a number of automated enforcement rollout and cyclist safety programs, bike lane programs here in the city. You’ve done so much for the city of New York in terms of pedestrian and cyclist safety, and now you’re the commissioner of the Department of Transportation where you’re doing a lot of really important work.

Last week on the show here, we had Deputy Mayor Banks who was joined by the NYPD Chief of Transportation, Kim Royster, who informed us that while traffic fatalities are slightly up year to date this year, 3 percent, that increase is being driven primarily by cyclist fatalities, and many of which involve e-bikes. It’s important to note that cyclist deaths here in the city are down dramatically over the last decade. The city’s Vision Zero campaign, which is a very simple concept of a campaign essentially, and many cities across the country and world have adopted this campaign, which is utilizing Department of Transportation and City Planning and other public safety resources on a goal of getting to zero deaths on our roadways.

Traffic related fatalities is a massive issue in this country and one that I think oftentimes gets overlooked, but it is the second highest leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States of America. Over 45,000 Americans lose their lives on roadways every year. And sure, slowing down, wearing helmets, taking safety precautions while you’re driving or while you’re riding a bike, those are important pieces of it, but so much more of it is actually in how cities deploy resources and how cities do planning, how we do capital projects to lay out roadways, pedestrian walkways, bike lanes. And so our goal here in the City of New York is to stop that small uptick that we’ve seen in cycling related deaths this year and return to decreasing those deaths. And one of the lead agencies involved is of course the DOT. So very excited to have our friend of public safety, Department of Transportation, Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, on to talk about a new initiative the DOT is working on to make cycling more safe here in City of New York.

Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Department of Transportation: Right. Well, first of all, thank you. Thanks to Mayor Eric Adams and Deputy Mayor Banks and all of you guys for working with this initiative, connecting average New Yorkers to what the city doing to improve safety across all agencies. And second, thank you to Mayor Eric Adams for as a [inaudible]. It says something, “I see you,” to see also that someone like me, immigrants like Irish and Italians and Jewish that came here decades ago and the kid who came here in 1983 to wash dishes and working at 55 Water Street, working in a cafeteria doing sandwiches, that I could be a commissioner now responsible to lead the most complex transportation system that we have in the whole world.

So I think that there’s a lot of work that we are doing. Today we’re standing with Mayor Eric Adams and Deputy Mayor Joshi for the ribbon cutting on our 25th, 26th and Broadway where we are reimagining how we were able to turn some of those block space for pedestrian, for cyclists, for seating area. So the city’s moving forward. The city’s in a good place. But I can take credit for a lot of work that I have done it, but most important, one of the things that we had to celebrate in New York City is the value of continuity.

Under Janette Sadik-Khan or Mayor Bloomberg, they built seven miles of bike lane. Last year, I built 27, but I would not be on 27 without starting with those seven. And this is like how we are looking. Summit Street, Summit Street was a big thing, closing Park Avenue from Brooklyn Bridge to 79th Street. Last year, we took it up to 109th Street. This year, we going to Harlem to 125th. And Staten Island will not be a forgotten city borough because we go into Staten Island with the Summit Street to Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx, crossing Grand Concourse from Mosholu Parkway to [inaudible]. In those spaces, there’s going to be dedicated for biking too.

So I feel that there’s a lot of work that we are responsible, but one of thing that I want, in one, minute to highlight for people to have some idea, what is into DOT responsibility? One, the city, we had almost 6,000 men and women working at DOT overseeing the most complex urban transportation network in the whole world. New York City DOT, they manage a budget, again, as you know, 1.4 billion spends, 13 billion capital, but we are responsible for 5,300 mile of street and highway, over 12,000 miles of sidewalk and a average of almost 800 bridges and tunnels, including the East River. And DOT is also responsible for 1 million street sign, 13,250 signalized intersection and over 315,000 street light. So yes, cycling is part of the new way, but cycling is not new.

I was born and raised in 1965. And the mode of transportation my father had was donkey, horses and a bike back in the Caribbean. What we’ve been told in generation is that biking was equal poverty and a car became a symbol of progress. So we working to reverse a culture. What we have seen right now is that the cycling community in the city is more upper class, middle class, those New Yorkers and visitors that they have their BA, their Master’s degree. Now we are in conversation with the working class community and say, “I was riding bike with the Minister of Transportation of Ireland.” And that’s one information that everyone should know. If you ride half an hour a bike every day, you extend a average of six years to your life. So immediately it’s a whole benefit. It’s good for the environment. 2022, we have 200 million New Yorkers and visitors using bike. Now we have an average of 550,000 New Yorkers and visitors riding a bike every day.

So what is our responsibility? To understand that we have to share the streets, that the cyclists need to be safe as drivers and pedestrians. And that’s why we are working on, one, being sure that all of us protect the cycling. We work with the TLC Commissioner, with the [inaudible], letting drivers know when we open the door, look to the back, look to the front so that we protect the cyclists. We also hardening 10 miles of bike lane last year. We hardening another 10 mile. In 9th Avenue, for the first time New York City, we are widening in the bike lane. So bike lane is the new mode of transportation.

As people use buses, as people use the train, as people have car and walk, we need to be sure that all New York understand that we are not going backward, that using a bike is good for the health, people save money and it’s good for the environment. And therefore they have to be safe and that’s why working with the fire department, NYPD, us at DOT, with the leadership of Mayor Eric Adams and Deputy Mayor Banks and Joshi, we work every day to be sure that the streets is safe for pedestrian, for cyclists and drivers, they should know that they don’t own the street, that the street belong to everyone and we have to share it.

Meyers: Absolutely. And what about this campaign that the DOT is rolling out on helmets? So folks don’t realize how dangerous it is to ride a bicycle without a helmet. It seems very easy. You grab a bicycle. Maybe it’s a ride share. Maybe it’s your own. You jump on. You’re just going a few blocks. But people don’t realize that the difference between… And again, this is one of those small learned behaviors. If you just change your behavior slightly, you can make yourself and your community much, much safer. If you are in a accident on a bicycle without a helmet, you have a very, very high chance of being severely injured or even being killed. But with a bicycle helmet, the chances of those injuries drop dramatically. And so can you talk to us a little bit about what the DOT is looking to do in terms of educating riders and getting more folks out there wearing helmets here in the City of New York?

Commissioner Rodriguez: Yeah. And before that, I want to ask something as the first conversation that you’re having with our partner [inaudible] fire department on how also we are New York City DOT, we are working as part of the money that was allocated by Mayor Eric Adams to develop a charge, safe, safe ride that we are working with the private sector to develop a test infrastructure that will make delivery workers’ job easier, but also DOT and EDC. Though we also working in collaboration with the business incubator, Newlab, to identify, test and evaluate the most promising public-facing battery charging solution through the 2023 DOT’s two year challenges. So we are working with the private sector, the academic institution and the tech community to develop a safer battery for those who use the electric bike. When it come to the helmet—

Meyers: Question on that. So on the Department of Transportation, you have an annual challenge in which you go out to the private sector and talk to them about issues facing the city and have a bit of a contest to see if folks can deliver a new product in the private sector to address one of the public safety challenges that the city is facing.

Commissioner Rodriguez: It would be amazing, and I think that this is something that probably one day we should go and walk and visit that great incubator that we are working together with the private sector and the tech community in the Navy Yard, where you get to see how the working in collaboration and financed by money from Mayor Adams and also DOT, we are testing the new safer battery that we want to make accessible, affordable to all cyclists who use electric bike, especially the deliveristas, those who use the bike to go and work. So yeah, we are working hard, but also we work with Bike New York to be sure that also we go into the educational components on the bike.

One thing that we are doing in 2023 is also being sure that we educate everyone. We had a campaign with the commissioner of the Department of Health that is in the social media, that we are encouraging New Yorkers to continue using more bikes. But also there’s another piece of a few second, 15 or 30 second video that I have in the social media that also, one, calls for drivers to protect the cyclists but also calls for cyclists to watch out for pedestrians and especially senior citizens and not to ride the bike in the sidewalk. So we also are doing the educational component.

When it come to the helmet, it is not mandatory to wear the helmet if you are not… If you are under 18. You have to use it if you are under 18. If you are above 18, you don’t have to use it. But I also want to highlight, most of the… We drivers are the one that has to protect the cyclists. When you see all those data in the crashes that is happening in New York City going on that unfortunately a lot of cyclists or pedestrians lose their life or end in critical condition, that happen in most cases because that minority group of drivers, who are not the majority, are reckless. They driving drunk. They are speeding. They drive with suspended licenses. And this is a national trend that even though at the national level the number is going higher, New York City is going through the… Is a role model on how we’ve been reducing those numbers.
But also we recognize that with the increase of population of more New Yorkers and visitors as 200 millions in 2022 and 550,000 every day, it’s a great number. We want to see that number to keep growing, but that also come with challenge. So we need to be sure that everyone, drivers protect the cyclists, but also cyclists protect yourself and protect the old pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable senior citizen, and don’t ride your bike in the sidewalk.

Meyers: Absolutely. And it may not be the law, but I’ll encourage every New Yorker to wear a helmet because it does protect folks when you’re in an accident if you’re struck. And it may not be by your own fault. It may be a car door opening. It may be someone running into you, may be someone stepping into a bike lane. Wearing a helmet can protect your life. I tell everyone that I can remember, that I can. I encourage folks to tell their friends at school, tell your family members at home, hold a public safety briefing and tell your colleague Molly S. from Brooklyn to wear a helmet when you ride your bike to work. Do it whenever you can. Tell folks to wear a helmet when riding a bike. Because if you do that, you really will help us make New York City safer and you can protect your own life.

So next, we’re really fortunate to be joined here by chief of detectives of the NYPD, James Essig. Chief Essig has been a stalwart leader in the NYPD for over 40 years. He’s had more leadership positions in the NYPD than I can count. And he is now the three-star chief in charge of the detectives in the NYPD. So he’s the chief of detectives. And the way the NYPD works is you’re a police officer, you’re a detective, or you’re a police officer and you can be promoted to detective or sheriff… Excuse me. Or detective or…

NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig: Sergeant.

Meyers: Sergeant. Thank you. You can also from there be promoted up to lieutenant, then captain, then deputy inspector, then deputy chief, assistant chief, and then there are a couple of different star levels of chief, so one-star, two-star, three-star. There’s a four`-star chief of department, and then the commissioner is a five-star. So Chief Essig is a three-star chief. He’s in charge of all investigations that take place in the NYPD, the chief of detectives. The way the unit kind of works is you’ve got individual precincts and you’ve got detective squads in the precincts that are investigating crimes within particular communities. But then there’s a lot of other units that folks may not have heard of in the past. And so we wanted to have you on and highlight a couple of those units to talk about the work that they do.

So if you could, tell us a little bit about just the structure of the Chief of Detective’s Office and how that works throughout the NYPD and then tell us about the Crimes Against Persons Investigation Units. No one wants to be a victim of crime and we certainly work every day to prevent crime here in the City of New York. But if in the event a crime does occur, it’s the NYPD’s job to make sure the incident is investigated thoroughly and that perpetrators are brought to justice. And in the NYPD, certain types of these investigations, such as robberies and larcenies, are handled by the Crimes Against Persons Unit in the Detectives Bureau. So if you could, Chief, please give us a little bit of an overview and share with us about the Crimes Against Persons Investigations Unit.

Chief Essig: Yeah. Sure. Thank you for having me. Good afternoon, everybody. Just first I’d like to give you a brief overview of the Detective Bureau. So the Detective Bureau consists of about 5,500 uniform members of the service from the Bureau Chief, myself, all the way down to a detective or an investigator. 3,800 investigators within the … That’s police officers trying to attain the rank of a detective and detectives. We are divided into three distinct divisions. We have a citywide investigation division, which is your local detectives at the local precinct who handle local crime. 

They’re supported by the narcotics personnel at the borough and our warrants personnel. We also have a specialty investigation division, which will include such units as our Gun Violence Suppression division, our Special Victims division, our Auto Crimes, and our Crimes Against Persons. And then our final component, or our third division, is our federal task forces, which is our Joint Firearms Task Force, which is in charge of gun trafficking, a drug enforcement task force, which handles major case narcotics enforcement. And then we have commercial robberies, and we also do financial crimes investigations.

But today I’d like to briefly just go over our Crimes Against Persons Unit, which prior to 2023, that unit was divided into two distinct units, which was our robbery squads and our grand larceny units. Under two separate investigators, central robbery investigations, they did patterns that consisted of one or more in different boroughs or different distinct precincts. Our grand larceny units did the same thing, only doing grand larcenies. We seen there was a close coalition between grand larcenies and our robberies. A grand larceny using force is a robbery. So earlier this year, we determined it would be beneficial not only for staffing, but for any investigations, to combine these two units to the Crimes Against Persons under one leadership model. So how we investigate robberies within the city of New York, I just want to note that every robbery that occurs in City of New York, our Central Robbery Division, they will look at each individual robbery, whichever unit is investigating.

So a single incident of robbery, if there’s a local precinct, that local detective will do the investigation. If there’s multiple robberies in a precinct with the same group or individual doing those robberies, it will be handled by that local precinct detective. If we have multiple robberies occurring in different precincts or different boroughs, our Central Robbery division now will handle that. What we see though, earlier last year, was a distinct change in this where we have crews of robbery people or crews of people doing robberies going … They’re very mobile and they’re using scooters and/or cars and hitting multiple boroughs. So for example, you’ll have a crew of between three and eight, any which time, two or three or more will in essence shape up. They’ll hit places and they hit them very quickly. They go to Queens North, they go to Queens South, they hit the Bronx, so they do three robberies.

We’ve changed the way we do investigations after we’ve seen trends like that where we’ll have each individual robbery detective investigate in their own borough. The benefits of this is they are familiar with the area. They can deal with each individual district attorney, and it’s a force multiplier on these patterns, multiple borough patterns, which sometimes grow very large. It’s a force multiplier. We have multiple detectives working every angle.

Some of the challenges we face in these robberies, and everybody have seen them, the masks makes identification very difficult. Every one of our robberies somebody has a mask on or a face cover that makes identification very difficult. Also, the use of electric scooters, mopeds, cars where they’re change plates, steal cars, do multiple robberies throughout the city, and they hit very quickly, sometimes three, four, five times every night. And DA’s discovery, we’re dealing with multiple DAs on every pattern robbery. So those are some of the challenges we face. But we’ve implemented the new ways, how we do an investigation to this, and we’ve had quite a few successes in taking down some of these crews.

Meyers: Chief, can you just share with folks, what’s the difference between a robbery, a burglary, a larceny?

Chief Essig: Yeah, sure. A robbery is forcibly taking or threatening the use of force to take property. So you use a gun, use a knife, use physical force, or you threaten it. A grand larceny would be taking somebody’s property without force. Very close. You’re walking down the street, somebody pickpockets you, no force used, grand larceny. Somebody punches you, takes your wallet, robbery. Burglary is committed against a property, a home, a commercial residence. Somebody goes into a house, steals some property in your house, goes into a commercial establishment, steals some property in your house.

Meyers: And so in the unlikely event that you are walking down the street and you are a victim of a crime, a burglary, excuse me, a robbery or a larceny, what should you do immediately? During the event, what should you be doing? And then immediately after the event, what should you be doing?

Chief Essig: Yeah, very hard, because it’s a traumatizing experience. Somebody comes up, especially a robbery where they’re using physical force. As soon as you can get a good description, and minute details mean a lot in investigation. There are cameras all over the city. That’s how we solve crimes. We follow that, the video of that perpetrator, of that crime. Sometimes we go multiple boroughs. We’ll track somebody from Bronx, to Queens, into Brooklyn, and then we catch them without the mask, without the face mask. And we do pre and post video too. But if you could get a good description, if there’s a vehicle or scooter involved, try and get the make, model, plate number of that description. And by all means, call 911 as quick as possible and get as much information. I know it’s difficult, it’s traumatizing, but if we could get that, it gives our investigators a lead, a head start.

Meyers: And when we talk about descriptions, I think oftentimes people think of just physical descriptions, but we also need to know if you notice they’re wearing a particular type of shoe, if they have a designer belt on, the color of their clothing. Those are the types of things that you want to try to remember, right? When an event like this happens, it’s hard to tell how tall somebody is.

Chief Essig: Yep.

Meyers: Right? 5’8″ to 6’2″ is not a great description when you’re looking in a city of 10 million people. But if they have a specific belt, on a specific set of shoes on that you happen to be able to catch. Like you said, make, model, and description of the vehicle that they’re leaving in. Those are the things that really give your investigators the tools they need.

Chief Essig: And even specific phrases, words, being used. These are pattern robberies or pattern grand larcenies that we talk about, so it’s the same people doing them. So they’re using the same language, they’re using some of the same cars, they’re using the same motive on how they’re doing it. So any particular … Just pay attention to detail. It’ll just help with our investigation.

Meyers: And I want to congratulate you, chief, on your 41st anniversary coming up with the NYPD. Cannot thank you enough for your service to this city, the service to the department, and to the residents of the city. No doubt safer for the work you’ve done over the last four decades.

Chief Essig: No, thank you. It’s been a pleasure serving.

Meyers: Thank you. And last but not least, really excited to have Commissioner Liz Crotty here. So the city government is massive, right? People don’t realize that New York City is actually larger than almost every government in this country. The only governments in the United States larger than New York City is New York State, California, Texas, and the federal government. So there’s a lot going on within city government and a lot of different units that aren’t necessarily public-facing all the time. The Business Integrity Commission is a really important arm of the public safety ecosystem and an important part of the business industry here in the city. It’s got a really kind of exciting and interesting start and past to it, right? There’s a couple of different industries that back in the eighties and nineties and before, were plagued with some issues of corruption and organized crime. And state and local and federal leaders were able to work very diligently in the late eighties and early nineties to start to eradicate organized crime from these industries.

And then the city took the necessary step of creating the Business Integrity Commission to be able to step in and be an oversight arm of some of those industries that had historically had issues. And so Liz Crotty is our Business Integrity Commission Commissioner. Liz has been a tireless advocate here in New York City on a number of different criminal justice and public safety initiatives for many, many years. She has over 20 years of criminal trial experience, and the city is so lucky to have a public servant like Liz in this position doing really important work. And so, our office oftentimes uses the term public safety ecosystem, as I said.

And because safety is not dependent on any one, two, or three agencies, every city agency has some part to play in keeping people safe. And Liz and her team is doing a tremendous amount of work in the business aspect of the city and the operation. So we wanted to invite Liz onto the show so the commissioner could give us an overview of what the Business Integrity Commission is, introduce it to residents of the City of New York, and share with us how you work, and how folks can interact with you, and how individual New Yorkers might be able to assist your operations.

Commissioner Elizabeth Crotty, Business Integrity Commission: Well, thank you so much for having me today. Thanks to the Public Safety Office, and Justin, I’m excited to be here. Again, I am the commissioner and Chair of the Business Integrity Commission, better known within the industry as The BIC. I am the Chair of the Board. On our board sits the NYPD, Department of Investigations, Department of Sanitation, Department of Consumer Fair Worker Protection and Small Business Services. So we inherently work with all of those agencies. We were created by Local Law 42 in 1996. We were originally the Trade Waste Commission. We, again, as Justin referenced, we came out of a district attorney of New York indictment in the late nineties in organized crime. And so this is what was put in place. It was expanded in 2001 to include, from SBS, the public wholesale markets, which are primarily meat, fish, and produce up in Hunts Point. And we regulate those markets as well.

And a small known fact, we also regulate shipboard gambling. as No one has applied for a license we don’t do anything with that. But if anyone is interested in shipboard gambling, we would be overseeing that as well. The core mission of the Business Integrity Commission is to eliminate corruption and criminality in a regulated industry. We want to provide a free and fair marketplace for consumers, and businesses, and the public in general. We operate our standards that we review companies, are good character, honesty and integrity, and we operate with the idea that integrity uses … to not pose a threat to public safety. As with all things, our mission has adapted over time, and in 2016, we joined the Vision Zero Task Force. This was codified in 2019 with Local Law 198, where we were mandated with trade waste safety regulations.

We believe at BIC that the key regulation is a key to not only criminal justice, but to public safety. As to what we’re doing today, we have an investigative unit, and we do about 200 truck stops a month working with Department of Sanitation and the NYPD traffic units. Some of our initiatives are, first was January 1. On January 1 of 2023, the local law 56 of 2015, the side guard compliance came into effect. I’m happy to report we’re about 80 percent compliant. We oversee about just under 7,000 trucks, and all those 7,000 trucks have to be outfitted with side guards or with a waiver that we have worked with D-Cast to develop the waiver. And as they like to say, side guards save lives. We work within the industry and closely within the carting industry to have conversations within the industry on how better to have regulations in safety and in general.

We had a recent town hall where we were discussing safety regulations, which were really convex mirrors and our daily inspection safety reports. We’re happy to report that fatalities are significantly reduced this year, and we hope that trend continues, as with the DOT Commissioner. We feel that unlicensed, unregulated businesses are really the biggest threat to public safety that BIC sees. We regulate, there’s four different types. There are licensees, which is the purchasable waste, they’re the largest component. They’re the private waste that takes away commercial waste, restaurants, medical waste, just to name a few. We also regulate registrants, which are construction, demolition trucks, and then landscapers. And lastly, we added micro-haulers, which I think will become more important as composting becomes more and more prevalent.

So in July of 2022, we had a press conference, and we had an arrest of three unlicensed, unregistered companies that were working at JFK. We worked with the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office, the Inspector General of the Port Authority, and NYPD to get unlicensed, unregistered companies off of … One of which had been previously denied by our commission. That’s on our website to really say, no, this is a public service project and yet you have to be licensed and registered. We have issued about 450 unlicensed violations so far in this year. As noted, we do work with all five district attorney’s offices when appropriate. We are members of the Manhattan DA’s Construction Fraud Task Force, and we work also with the various US attorney’s offices when warranted. 

We do have a lot of public safety quality of life concerns. Most notably in 2023, we have 10 times the amount of co-mingling recyclable violations, working closely with Department of Sanitation. We are always working to help maintain unsanitary conditions from private sanitation operations. I’m happy to report on my block when I saw a bad garbage situation. I not only took photos, I tracked it down with the decal because they’re supposed to be decals on various garbages which make it easier for us to track down who the garbage company is to clean up the garbage on my block.

So we look to the public really for the most complaints. The Business Integrity Commission is here for you and that you can submit complaints either through 311 or directly, we have a hotline at 212-437-0600 or on our website we do have a form nyc.gov/bic where you can put your complaints in. We do have an investigation unit that is responsive to all these complaints.

Anecdotally, this morning I was talking to the Fire Marshal and I was telling him when we were looking at some our past complaints, we had an improper disposal of an ion battery mixed with commercial garbage which was causing fires in the backs of garbage trucks. So not only do you have to make sure that they are stored correctly and used correctly, you also have to make sure they are disposed of correctly. So thanks so much and I appreciate being here today.

Meyers: Absolutely. Thank you so much, commissioner. And thank you to everybody who joined us here for the weekly public safety briefing. Now we’ll shift back over to take some questions.

Question: For Chief Flynn, how many 311 calls or any calls related to lithium ion batteries have gotten since making the new announcement on Wednesday?

Chief Flynn: As I mentioned, we get these calls and notifications from a variety of sources, the media, neighbors, people calling us directly. Just since Wednesday we’ve received 10 referrals that prompted inspections.

Question: 10 referrals, 10 inspections, and then I think you said you found two serious violations or it was three serious violations. My question there is since we learned on Tuesday that the FDNY was already familiar with issues at 80 Madison Street, what do you do about these serious violations to avoid a similar situation where you know there’s a trouble spot and all they have now is a violation?

Chief Flynn: We’re going out every day and trying to identify these locations. They pop up every day, they’re throughout our city. So we’re doing our best and we encourage the public help in identifying locations in your neighborhood that you feel are unsafe and help us to help you and locate these places and conduct inspections. We’re going out every day, as I said, conducting inspections and identifying locations, writing summons when necessary, and conducting education when necessary, which is in every location. 

We want people to know how to comply with the fire code and how to act safely and share with them things that we’ve learned up until this point that are endangering the lives of our citizens, not just in commercials, but also in residentials. The majority of our fires related to this issue are in residential buildings. So, we want to address the commercial concerns, but we want our citizens to understand how to use these things safely.

Meyers: And just a point of clarity, we’ve received from 311, six phone calls on this since the initiative started on four locations. So we had three duplicate phone calls for the same location. But additional opportunities for media, for people walking into a fire department to report something that they’re seeing. But specifically from 311, we’ve had six calls and all of them have been investigated.

Question: Can you say where those locations are?

Meyers: Have to check with our folks and let you know if we can do that.

Question: What constitutes a safe battery? If one is looking to replace the one that your device has and then, of course, dispose again properly is also important. But what makes a battery safe?

Chief Flynn: Well, many batteries can start out safe and then become unsafe. So our city has harsh weather conditions, so we’re subjecting these devices to a lot of wear and tear. So we want also to encourage people to monitor their battery, inspect it, take a look at it. Does it have an odd smell? Is it leaking? Is the casing broken? We don’t want people to repair them. We don’t want people to replace them with used cells. The Mayor signed a local law, which takes effect in September, which would require all batteries sold within the city to be tested by a nationally tested laboratory. We think that’s going to go a long way, and we encourage people to buy batteries from nationally tested laboratories.

Meyers: And those batteries come with a sticker on them. So if your battery has that national tested laboratory sticker on it then it’s an okay battery. And as the Chief said, if a battery is damaged, there are any issues with it you need to dispose of it properly as well. You can’t just throw it away. You have to go to FDNY’s website, they have clear direction on how you dispose of these batteries and get them out of your house safely.

Moderator: All right. Earlier this week, the administration reached out to New Yorkers asking them to submit questions for the officials that have joined us here today, we will now get to as many of those as we can with the time that we have left.

Our first question comes from… We actually received several of this question for the Department of Transportation, which says, what types of scooters or electronic vehicles are regulated or required to be registered?

Commissioner Rodriguez: First of all, any vehicle that have a VIN number must be registered by the Department of Motor Vehicle, and that’s something that we take very seriously. Working with, of course, with the leadership of Mayor Adams, NYPD, Fire Department and also the Chair for New York City, we work every day identifying any store that they sell any vehicle that they are not supposed to do business with. So it means that anyone who is selling any vehicle they should know that if there’s a VIN number they must be registered. And what we are doing to be sure do the educational part, but also doing the enforcement parts.

We know that because of the demand and how easy it to make order online, 80 percent of New Yorkers are ordering online and 20 percent are ordering four times a week. So it’s very easy to order through Amazon, through UPS. So this is our time, therefore, we work to be sure that we do the education and we also been sending the message very clear that we are watching those individuals, that they are using any type of electrical scooter or moped that they are not legal or that they are not registered. And this coming summer we will be on the street one more time.

Moderator: Our next question comes from Peggy in the Bronx for the Office of Public Safety and the NYPD. Hello, how can I find out if there’s a neighborhood watch group where I live in North Riverdale that I might join?

Meyers: That’s a great question, and there’s a number of community boards. Every borough in New York City has a local community board that should have access to information about your specific community. You can find that just with a quick internet search. You can also visit the nyc.gov community affairs website for a list of all community boards to find your own community board in your local neighborhood and contact them or simply call 311.

For your specific question, you are in Community Board Eight in the Bronx, and their phone number is 718-884-3959. And additionally, every local NYPD precinct has a community affairs officer who has a list of all civilian groups within their precinct. And I encourage everybody to engage with your local precinct, go to your local community precinct meetings, meet your community affairs officer, they can be a great resource to you and your neighborhood.

Moderator: Next question comes for the FDNY from Sonya in the Bronx who asks, is it safe to keep e-bikes unplugged outside in a yard all year round or inside the home unplugged all year round? My home is made of wood mostly, and I’m concerned about e-fires.

Chief Flynn: That’s a great question, Sonya. Thank you. We encourage people to charge and store these devices outside when possible, but we understand in our communities that that option is not available to most of our neighbors. That’s why we’ve developed fire safety tips, which you can find on FDNY Smart on our website when it does apply to storing these and charging these indoors. So ideally, if we could keep them away from combustibles and monitor them while charging, we encourage people to do that.
When you have to keep them inside, please follow our safety tips, which include, do not block your primary means of egress, which means do not put them by your exit. Have a safety plan. If this does cause a fire, make sure you have access to your fire escape, have working smoke detectors. And again, if you do have a fire, make sure you close the door behind you when you leave.

Moderator: Thank you. And our final question comes from Dina in the Bronx for the NYPD who asks, with the first official day of summer, what additional measures are being put into place to curb violence?

Chief Essig: Right. So in 2020, ’21 and in 2021 we’ve seen a substantial increase in violence throughout the city. Last year, we made some significant progress. We’re making some significant progress again this year with our violence. But, as terms of this summer, we’ve identified summer zones where we are redeploying 800 uniform offices into the most violent areas throughout the city. In addition to that, just prior to the summer, we have up-staffed the narcotics units throughout the city who will do enforcement and or cases on entrenched narcotics locations in each borough throughout the city.

We also have our Gun Violence Suppression Division, or Violent Crimes Division who do targeted long-term investigations and cases against individuals who are engaged in violence and or gangs or crews who do violence. We’ve seen many take-downs across the city just recently. Last year into this year, we’ve taken record numbers of guns off the city. But it’s not just taking the guns off the city, we have firearms units who report under me who work with the ATF who are trying to stop the trafficking coming in, the gun trafficking from source states. So that that’s part of our plan. And also, we have deployment meetings on a daily basis where if we see violence we can redeploy resources in there to prevent the violence.

Meyers: Now, I would just note that the work that the summer deployment teams that the Chief mentioned is already having a great impact on our city streets. Crime over the last 28 days since those deployments have been sent out into those 64 zones that are identified based on historic crime numbers, overall crime in the city is down. And year to date, as the chief said, shooting violence in the city is down dramatically 23 percent. And so we’re seeing an impact on that summer safety plan already, and I know the NYPD will keep their foot on the pedal and make sure the city remains safe for the coming months.

With that, that concludes our weekly public safety address. Thank you all for joining us, and if you’d like to stay informed about upcoming public safety briefings, please visit hearfromeric.com and sign up to receive emails directly from Mayor Eric Adams on all the different things that the mayor and the city government is doing to protect city residents all year long. Thanks so much. Have a great day.
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