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From ‘just us’ to some ‘justice’ in New York City

Elinor Tatum | 3/20/2014, 1:41 p.m.
New York City is starting to right some of the wrongs that have affected our communities for decades.
Elinor Tatum

Contrary to the beliefs of a so-called newspaper owned by an Australian billionaire that shall not be named, New York City is starting to right some of the wrongs that have affected our communities for decades.

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio has come into office, there have been three major settlements that directly affect communities of color, each of which this paper has covered extensively.  

Starting with the most recent settlement, the FDNY has settled the case of Black and Hispanic FDNY candidates who failed the test for entrance into the FDNY Fire Academy.

This case has been going on since 2007. The Black firefighters won the case. But the Michael Bloomberg administration was not willing to accept that loss and appealed. It went up to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals; part of the case was reassigned to another judge and was still pending. 

Nevertheless, the de Blasio administration saw the merits of the suit by the Black firefighters. It understood the disparities that have occurred within the testing, recruitment and hiring of firefighters of color and decided to settle the case.  

On Tuesday, a deal was struck that would pay out $96 million in back pay, medical benefits and interest to the plaintiffs.

The other two cases that have garnered so much attention because of the reversals on position from one administration to the other are the stop-and-frisk trial and the Central Park jogger case.

In the case of the “Central Park Five,” since the brutal crime was committed, the Amsterdam News has stood in support of the five then-teenagers, proclaiming their innocence.  

In 1989, this paper was vilified for its unwavering support. Then publisher Wilbert A. Tatum was attacked by every media outlet in this city for defending these young men. And it was then finally exposed that these five men were actually innocent.

Thirteen years or more had been taken from them. Their youth had been stolen, and they had been incarcerated for a crime they did not commit. Eleven years after the $250 million lawsuit was filed by the five, there will be a settlement.

The last of the cases is the de Blasio administration’s dropping of the federal appeal in the stop-and-frisk case against the NYPD. This was one of the pillars of his campaign, and it is a promise that he has kept.

In all of the cases, wrongs were done to people of color, both directly and indirectly. Those who have been fighting against policies that have hurt our communities and those who have seen our young people incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit finally can find some solace.

Now there will be some closure. Now there will be some change in policy. And now we can say that some of the injustices we have faced have been resolved. We now see in some small corners of the city that it is not just us, but there is some justice.