The New York City Segway: A Hiccup in the Vehicle and Traffic Law

By Benjamin Fox, Albany Government Law Review

The Segway was introduced to the public in December of 2001.[1]  At that time its creators and members of the public believed it would be the new mode of travel for the twenty first century.[2]  Few were purchased, and current estimates suggest only 80,000 units have been sold worldwide.[3]  Considering these statistics, the laws regarding (and in effect limiting) use of the Segway in New York City seem bizarre and unnecessary.  For that reason, the statutory definition of “motor vehicle” should be amended to exclude all Segways from its reach.  In doing so, it is crucial to understand how the Segway fits into the Vehicle and Traffic Law (hereinafter VTL).  Continue reading “The New York City Segway: A Hiccup in the Vehicle and Traffic Law”

Are Two Judicial Systems Better Than One?: A Look at the Debate Between Military Tribunal Commissions v. Federal Civilian Trials in Terrorism Cases

Lindsey Overton, Albany Government Law Review Member

 

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other individuals who are accused of planning and executing the September 11, 2001 attacks have been in U.S. custody since shortly after the attacks occurred and have yet to be prosecuted.[1] Although proceedings for a trial by military commission had commenced, in November 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the four men would be moved to New York and tried in federal court.[2] New York officials quickly objected due to concerns over security and the costs associated with such a trial.[3] The Obama administration subsequently suspended its plans for federal civilian trials; however, more than a year later, no action has been taken to bring the five accused terrorists to justice.[4]

Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, then President George W. Bush established military tribunal commissions to try individuals accused of partaking in acts of terrorism, particularly those acts associated with the September 11th attacks.[5] Since the employment of the military tribunals, there has been a heated debate regarding the appropriateness of such commissions in comparison to federal civilian trials.  New York, the site of the vast majority of the destruction and the prime location for potential trials, has been at the center of this debate.  While there have been many obstacles to the use of military commissions, including U.S. Supreme Court rulings, current President Barack Obama has, despite his initial plan, allowed the commissions to function as a lawful means of administering justice within the American criminal justice system.[6] The Obama administration has yet to issue a final decision on where to try the “high-value detainees,” including the previously mentioned September 11, 2001 masterminds.[7] While some would like to see the detainees tried in New York, others oppose that venue due to the possibility of more terrorist attacks as a result of what would be high-profile proceedings.[8] The opponents are also concerned that the stricter civilian evidence standards could result in more acquittals and more lenient sentences.[9] This article will examine the results of accused terrorists tried in military commissions with those tried in federal civilian courts in an attempt to discern which process is the more effective means for administering justice.

Continue reading “Are Two Judicial Systems Better Than One?: A Look at the Debate Between Military Tribunal Commissions v. Federal Civilian Trials in Terrorism Cases”

A Policy Not Worth the Paper Its Written On: Why Further Legislation is Needed to Stop the NYPD’s Continued Use of Paper Records for its Stop and Frisk Database

Daniel Levin, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

“[K]eeping records on innocent people is not the American way,” said New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, as he urged Governor David Paterson to sign into law a bill prohibiting the use of an electronic database containing the identities of innocent stop and frisk individuals.[1] On July 16, 2010, Governor Paterson signed that bill into law (S.7945-A/A.11177-A), which amends section 140.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law to prohibit the electronic recording of certain identifying information of a person subjected to temporary questioning or search in a public place.[2] Opponents of the legislation argue that the law makes New Yorkers less safe by letting criminals go free.[3] At the same time, proponents of the legislation argue that it safeguards greater individual freedom and liberty from the government while maintaining the police’s ability to use the same crime-fighting techniques they have deemed effective in policing the streets.[4] While the legislation is certainly a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough in safeguarding individual liberty as the New York City Police Department (hereinafter “NYPD”) has already taken steps to replace their computerized stop and frisk database with a more primitive paper form.[5]

I. Database Origin

On September 6, 2001, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Bill Number 55 of 2001, which required the NYPD to submit quarterly reports to the City Council containing information about the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies.  In the quarterly reports, the NYPD was required to submit the number of stop, question, or frisks conducted, the breakdown of these stops by race and gender, the number of arrests and summonses resulting from stops, the race and gender of each person arrested or given a summons resulting from a stop, and a categorical reason for each stop, question, or frisk.[6] The law became effective in 2002.[7]

The purpose of the law was to give the City Council greater oversight over the NYPD so that it could address public concerns about policing, specifically whether the NYPD engaged in racial profiling.[8] The Council aimed to determine the effectiveness of the NYPD’s stop and frisks as well as analyze whether there were racial disparities for individuals stopped and frisked, or if race or gender played a factor in an individual being stopped by the police.[9] In order to comply with this directive, the NYPD created a stop-and-frisk electronic database containing the identity of each person stopped, frisked, or questioned by the police.[10]

Continue reading “A Policy Not Worth the Paper Its Written On: Why Further Legislation is Needed to Stop the NYPD’s Continued Use of Paper Records for its Stop and Frisk Database”

The Ghost, The Building, The Battle

Jason St. James, Albany Government Law Review Member

On September 11, 2001 the collective consciousness of the United States of America was forever shattered.  Gone was the visage of invincibility, replaced by feelings of disbelief, heartache, shock, and awe, the likes of which had not been felt since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  While almost seven decades separate these catastrophic events, one common thread still exists: the spirit of America was underestimated.  In the wake of the unimaginable, President George W. Bush stated, “[o]ur enemies have made the mistake that America’s enemies always make.  They saw liberty and thought they saw weakness.  And now, they see defeat.”[1] Another conflict now looms on the horizon.  This battle is not being waged by the use of arms, but through a clashing of ideals.  The ambitious Park51 Project acts a lithmus test of U.S. resolve to learn and move past the 9/11 tragedy.

Park51, originally designated as the “Cordoba House,” is a proposed fifteen-story Muslim community center located approximately two city blocks from the World Trade Center site[2] in Lower Manhattan. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Soho Properties Chairman and CEO, Sharif El-Gamal, are heading the project.  The Park51 Project has been controversially referred to as the “Ground Zero Mosque” because it will contain a Muslim prayer space capable of holding between 1000–2000 people.[3] However, the community center design also includes a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, child care area, library, culinary school, art studio, food court, and a September 11 memorial.[4] The proposed community center will be replacing an 1850’s Italian-style structure that was being used as both a Syms and Burlington Coat Factory, until the building was damaged during the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.[5] One possible obstacle to the construction was the discussed conferment of landmark status upon the current 1850’s building, but on August 3, 2010, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9–0 against granting landmark status and historic protection to the building, thus clearing the way for the building’s demolition.[6]

Continue reading “The Ghost, The Building, The Battle”