Report: NYPD Uses Obscure Law to Kick People Out of Their Homes

Jameelah El-Shabazz at her Bronx home. Police seized 45 cups of efun powder that she used for a shrine during a raid in May 2011 and claimed it was cocaine in nuisance abatement action filings. She was evicted even though the criminal charges were dropped. 
Edwin J. Torres for ProPublica 

"The morning of May 4, 2011, Jameelah El-Shabazz watched out the window of her Bronx apartment as a team of police officers fanned across the rooftop of Banana Kelly High School," Sarah Ryley wrote in a piece published jointly Thursday by ProPublica and the Daily News in New York, which participated in the reporting.

"The 43-year-old mother of five said she didn't think much of the scene — drug raids were common in her neighborhood.


"As she did most mornings, El-Shabazz said she went to her bedroom to feed her newborn son and to worship before a shrine of candles and carvings arranged atop her wardrobe. Her most treasured object was a wooden tray her father had brought her from Nigeria. A deity of the Ifa religion, which she practices as a high priestess, was carved on its surface and covered in a residue of finely crushed eggshells. El-Shabazz used the substance, known in her faith as efun powder, to cleanse the shrine. She took fresh clumps of the powder from a cup and began to break it up in her hands.

"That's when the narcotics officers kicked in the door.

"Her baby shrieked as the gun-wielding officers tore apart rooms looking for PCP, which an anonymous informant had claimed was being sold from the apartment. They ordered everyone to lie on the ground, then turned to her eldest son, Akin Shakoor, who along with another son was having frequent run-ins with police. El-Shabazz said the officers told Shakoor if he didn't give up the drugs, 'they would take all of my children away from me and make sure that I was put out of my apartment.'


"As evidence, police seized 45 paper cups of the eggshell powder, the sacred wooden tray, and a small amount of marijuana. They arrested El-Shabazz, her teenaged sister Najah El-Shabazz, and Shakoor, then 21, and took them outside past the handcuffed residents of four other apartments that were raided that morning.

"Najah was released, court filings say, but Jameelah El-Shabazz and Shakoor sat in cells on Rikers Island for the next week awaiting the results of police lab tests. Finally, the results confirmed what she had told the officers all along: the wooden tray and the 45 paper cups of powder were drug-free. Jameelah El-Shabazz and Shakoor were released from Rikers and fully exonerated.


"But El-Shabazz's battle with New York's legal system was only beginning. That September, another of her sons called to say the police were back, this time with a lawyer and a court order to seal the Bronx apartment. Her entire family had to leave — immediately.

"El-Shabazz was facing a nuisance abatement action, a little-known type of lawsuit that gives the city the power to shut down places it claims are being used for illegal purposes. The case against her was based on the same drug allegations that had been dismissed in May. Incredibly, the filing, signed by a New York Police Department attorney, stated: 'recovered during the execution of the search warrant were forty-five (45) paper cups of cocaine.'


"The nuisance abatement law was created in the 1970's to combat the sex industry in Times Square. Since then, its use has been vastly expanded, commonly targeting apartments and mom-and-pop bodegas even as the city’s crime rate has reached historic lows. The NYPD files upward of 1,000 such cases a year, nearly half of them against residences.

"The process has remarkably few protections for people facing the loss of their homes. . . .


"In partnership with ProPublica, the Daily News reviewed 516 residential nuisance abatement actions filed in the Supreme Courts from Jan. 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. Our analysis also reviewed the outcomes of the underlying criminal cases against hundreds of people who were banned from homes as a result of these actions.

"173 of the people who gave up their leases or were banned from homes were not convicted of a crime, including 44 people who appear to have faced no criminal prosecution whatsoever.


"Overall, tenants and homeowners lost or had already left homes in three-quarters of the 337 cases for which the Daily News and ProPublica were able to determine the outcome. The other cases were either withdrawn without explanation, were missing settlements, or are still active.

"In at least 74 cases, residents agreed to warrantless searches of their homes, sometimes in perpetuity, as one of the conditions of being allowed back in. Others agreed to automatically forfeit their leases if they were merely accused of wrongdoing in the future.


"The toll of nuisance abatement actions falls almost exclusively on minorities, our analysis showed. Over 18 months, nine of 10 homes subjected to such actions were in minority communities. We identified the race of 215 of the 297 people who were barred from homes in nuisance abatement battles. Only five are white.

"Runa Rajagopal of the Bronx Defenders, who leads a division that represents people in the civil courts, called the practice a 'collective punishment' on the entire family of those accused of a crime, 'used by the NYPD to exert power and control largely over communities of color.' . . ."


"Barred From Home," an accompanying piece in the Daily News, reads, "The News and ProPublica identified 297 people who were either barred from homes or gave up their tenancy to settle actions filed during 2013 and the first half of 2014. More than half were never convicted of a crime as a result of the underlying police investigation that triggered the case. Here are their stories. . . ."

. . . One Woman's List of 13 Black Investigative Reporters

Last month, in connection with the release of the movie "Spotlight," about the investigative team at the Boston Globe that exposed pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church, this column discussed the scant numbers of investigative reporters of color.


"In line with [Richard] Prince's observations, many aspiring journalists of color are discouraged to approach the investigative journalism track for two common reasons: 1. Lack of support, and 2. Misrepresentation of the work required," Shannon Nia Alomar, who identifies herself as "Woman of Faith| Multimedia Journalist| Aspiring Social Justice and Investigative reporter," wrote Jan. 20 for

"There also seems to be limited resources detailing notable black investigative journalists in one place, but allow me to change that for you right now.


"Here is a list of 13 black investigative journalist you should know . . ."

Her list includes Melvin Claxton, Dean Baquet, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ginger Thompson, Ron Nixon, Mark Rochester, Corey G. Johnson, Topher Sanders, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Cheryl W. Thompson, Dave Jordan and Anas Aremeyaw Anas.


Dallas Morning News Rehires 10 of 19 People It Let Go

The Dallas Morning News, which three weeks ago shut down its neighborsgo section covering community news, and its FD magazine covering the Dallas area's luxury market, cutting 13 neighborsgo jobs and six FD positions, has rehired 10 of the 19 people it let go, Editor Mike Wilson told Journal-isms on Friday.


"We also have plans to continue covering all of the communities we have always covered," Wilson said in an email. The neighborsgo section covered communities of color in South Dallas.

Rehired were Gary Piña, who is Hispanic and a past board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Tommy Cummings, Muscogee Creek, believed to be the only Native American on the staff. Cummings was a digital editor who did some reporting, mostly entertainment and sports.  "We are pleased that Gary and Tommy are coming back to us," Wilson said. Piña was a content editor/designer with neighborsgo.


Cummings is to become a home page editor/social media producer and Piña a Metro page designer.

Meanwhile, Wilson introduced editorial board member Mike Hashimoto, 57, a 32-year veteran of the Dallas Morning News, on Tuesday as a metro columnist.


In a Q-and-A Tuesday with Wilson, Hashimoto said he was born in San Francisco, grew up in Hawaii and moved to Dallas in 1971.

There was also this exchange:

Q. "You are married to columnist Jacquielynn Floyd, whose political views are, ahem, different from yours. Based on the rhetoric we routinely hear from our two major political parties, one of you obviously hates America. So, is it you or her?


A. "Ask her. No, seriously, I think hate is a few degrees strong; we each find different aspects of America distasteful and worthy of change …"

NABJ, CNN Meeting Again; Association Deficit Swells

"The relationship between NABJ and CNN has been renewed," Sarah Glover, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, declared in a message to members on Friday. She also wrote, "We learned just before the Jan. 31 board meeting after the books closed on 2015, that the organization finished 2015 with an unaudited $424,324 deficit."


CNN withdrew corporate sponsorship of the NABJ convention in Minneapolis last year after then-President Bob Butler issued a statement saying the organization was "concerned about the atmosphere for African Americans at CNN."

The dustup came after "NABJ expressed concern over the large number of African-American staff members leaving and being fired from the cable news network," according to NABJ, which said, "Several [African-American] anchors have left the anchor desk or CNN altogether in the past few years."


Mira Lowe, senior features editor of CNN Digital, represented her network a few days later at the Asian American Journalists Association conference in San Francisco. Lowe was a candidate for NABJ president but lost to Glover.

In her message to members, Glover disclosed, "In November, I had a productive meeting with CNN's senior leadership in New York City. Look out for news about future collaborations between NABJ and CNN in 2016."


Asked to identify the "senior leadership," Glover replied by email, "The meetings with CNN are ongoing and we look forward to sharing more in the future."

CNN spokeswoman Christal Jones likewise dodged the question. Asked whether CNN President Jeff Zucker was present, she replied Saturday by email, "CNN is looking forward to working with NABJ."


The latest deficit figure is higher than the "nearly $250,000" projected at the summer convention by the previous NABJ board and the "nearly $380,000" projected by the current leadership in a message to members in October.

"This increase was caused by several factors, including uncollectable 2015 convention sponsorships of $25,000, which NABJ will write off. Also, NABJ also had a modest investment loss for the year of about $19,000 plus fees," Glover wrote Friday.


"Fortunately, we have been hard at work to execute our 'back-to-basics' strategy, and have taken proactive steps to follow my charge to ensure there is no deficit in 2016."

In one example, Glover said, "as a cost-saving measure, we have reduced rental expense by half in our national office by renegotiating our contract resulting in a yearly savings of approximately $30,000."


Meanwhile, Arthur Mondale of the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System published "the first in a two-part series of articles in honor of African-American History Month on the military veterans who founded the National Association of Black Journalists and advocated equal opportunity in U.S. newsrooms." They are Paul Brock, Paul Delaney and Les Payne.


Remembering the Sound, if Not the Face, of Maurice White

"Hi there, entertainment editor," Seve Chambers wrote Thursday for "You will probably edit a story about legendary Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White who died today at age 74. When you add a photo to your story, please make sure it is of this person: [photo of Maurice White provided]


"You should try to avoid grabbing photos of other people, including Ralph Johnson, Maurice's brother.

"If you do not follow this advice, you may end up like these news media outlets that got it wrong, embarrassing themselves and alienating segments of their audience . . ."


Matthew Allen, Ebony: Remembering Earth, Wind & Fire Founder Maurice White

Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root: In Gratitude for Maurice White, the Spirit Leader of Earth, Wind and Fire


Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.: Remembering Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White

Ericka Blount Danois, Wax Poetics: Cosmic Heights

Ericka Blount Danois, Shadow League: Maurice White's Dream Of A Boogie Wonderland Was More Than A Fantasy


Dominique Hobdy, Essence: Remembering Maurice White: Earth, Wind & Fire's Greatest Hits

Rashod Ollison, Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.: We'll leave this troubled land: Earth, Wind & Fire gives "Spirit"


AP Finds Clinton Errs on Wall Street, Sanders on Wealthy

"Hillary Clinton cast the financial industry as an adversary in her presidential campaign — despite the money that industry has poured into her White House effort," the Associated Press reported on Friday. "Bernie Sanders once again mischaracterized the share of the wealth taken by the very richest Americans.


"A look at some of the claims in their latest Democratic presidential debate:

"CLINTON on Wall Street: 'They are trying to beat me in this primary.'

"THE FACTS: Wall Street is not the anti-Clinton monolith she implied. People in the securities and investment industry gave more than $17 million last year to super political action committees supporting her presidential run and nearly $3 million directly to her campaign, according to, a campaign-finance watchdog. Wall Street is the top industry donating to her effort, ahead of the legal profession, non-profit institutions and others.


"Clinton is taking heat from Sanders over her Wall Street ties, which go back decades. . . . .

"SANDERS: 'Almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.'

"THE FACTS: This has been a common mantra by Sanders but it relies on outdated numbers. In the first five years of the economic recovery, 2009-2014, the richest 1 percent captured 58 percent of income growth, according to Emmanuel Saez, a University of California economist whose research Sanders uses.


"That's a hefty share, but far short of 'almost all.' . . ."

Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research: New Yorker Joins Open Season on Bernie Sanders


Charles M. Blow, New York Times: White America's 'Broken Heart' 

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Donald Trump proves how 'malleable' he is 

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: No, Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama

Editorial, Des Moines Register: Something smells in the Democratic Party

Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News Latino: Role of New Hampshire Primary Goes Beyond Small Latino Electorate


Juan Gonzalez, Daily News, New York: Bernie Sanders transforms 2016 presidential race

Maria Hinojosa, NBC News: Young, Black, and Republican: Meet Brandon Washington (video)


Gromer Jeffers Jr., Dallas Morning News: You need a bruising ground game to win at politics

Shaun King, Daily News, New York: The idea of an African-American firewall for Hillary Clinton is deeply insulting


Joseph Lichterman, NiemanLab: New Pew report: Cable news remains a popular way to follow the election, but social media reaches the young

Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News Latino: Ted Cruz blazes a trail for Latinos in U.S. history, but is met with a shrug


Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Iowa exposes Trump's brand problem

Brian Stelter, MSNBC's Democratic debate is lowest rated of the season


Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, Fox News Latino: Ted Cruz, reluctant Latino trailblazer

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: MSNBC's debate innovation: Simplicity

Little Press for U.N. Group's Call for Reparations in U.S.

"Big media have shown some interest since The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates made a case for reparations for African-Americans after centuries of enslavement and discrimination," Janine Jackson wrote Friday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.


"Just recently, a Los Angeles Times story (1/12/16) offered it as an example of how 'the post-Obama left' is being driven to 'policy proposals [that] are so grand as to verge on the absurd,' and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders' stance against the idea made fodder for CNN (1/21/16) and others tracking the opinions of black people vis a vis the presidential election.

"But when, right on the heels of that, a UN human rights group released a report saying African-Americans face 'systemic racial discrimination' and deserve 'reparatory justice,' that was not so newsworthy. . . ."


Jackson also wrote, "Jesse Holland, the AP's race, ethnicity and demographics reporter (and himself black), wrote it up (1/29/16); the Denver Post (1/31/16) ran a news brief, and the Christian Science Monitor (1/31/16) ran something online. Apart from that, it was mostly only African-American–focused outlets like Essence magazine (2/2/16) and independents like Democracy Now! (2/2/16) that saw any news in the news that an international organization thinks the idea of reparations for African-Americans is anything but silly. Black History Month, not off to a great start."

Jonetta Rose Barras, the Barras Report: Black History Is American History

Zeba Blay, Huffington Post: Why We Don't Need A White History Month

Stephanie Davis, WWJ-TV, Detroit: Black History: A Calling For Journalism, A Champion Of Students


Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: East Bay celebrates Black History Month

Michael A. Lindenberger, Dallas Morning News: Remembering 'Ms. Senator': MLK’s friend in Memphis, and an icon, Georgia Davis Powers 


Julianne Malveaux, Washington Informer: Standing on Sacred Ground — The Slocum Massacre

Doyin Oyeniyi, Texas Monthly: Remembering The Slocum Massacre 

USA Today: Black History Month Special Edition

Roger Witherspoon, Taking No Prisoners: Black History Lost and Found

BuzzFeed Finds Quiet Crackdown on Indian Immigrants

"The number of Indian nationals caught trying to cross the southern border into the U.S. exploded suddenly in 2010, growing sixfold to 1,200 from just over 200 the year prior," David Noriega and John Templon reported Sunday for BuzzFeed.


"Although the number has oscillated since then, it has remained near an all-time high. And that includes only those caught trying to cross undetected, leaving out . . . thousands, mostly young men, who walk up to a border crossing, turn themselves in, and plead asylum. The total number of Indian nationals who tried to enter the U.S. without papers, including through airports and other points of entry, also spiked in the last five years, peaking at close to 13,000 in 2013, more than double the number in 2009.

"Much of this influx, according to dozens of interviews with immigrants, experts, and current and former immigration officials, comes from young Indian men at the border, ferried there by transnational smuggling networks.


"Although border authorities do not track the religious or regional origins of migrants, government officials and other observers say that large numbers of the new arrivals are Sikhs from Punjab, a region in northwestern India beset by economic collapse and environmental degradation, a major drug epidemic, and decades of what human rights groups describe as political violence carried out with impunity.

"The American immigration enforcement apparatus has responded harshly to these new arrivals. Before the spike, only about a quarter of Indian nationals were detained at the beginning of their deportation hearings. But, according to federal data analyzed for the first time by BuzzFeed News, that percentage shot up dramatically around 2010, coinciding with the rise in Indian nationals at the border.


"In 2013 . . . 83% of Indians facing deportation were imprisoned — a far larger percentage than for immigrants from any other country, including Mexico, which had the highest overall rate of detention between 2003 and 2014. (BuzzFeed News obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act request from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR, the branch of the Justice Department that operates the country’s immigration courts.) . . ."

Diversity Coalition Expands Focus From TV to Big Screen

"Organizations representing Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Native Americans, who joined with the NAACP in 2000 to increase minority hiring in the TV industry, are broadening their focus to the big screen," Lynn Elber reported from Los Angeles Thursday for the Associated Press.


"The Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition called Thursday on Sony, Warner Bros., Fox, Universal, Paramount and Disney to enter discussions aimed at bringing full diversity to on- and off-camera jobs, including the executive ranks.

"The uproar over this year's all-white cast of Academy Award acting nominees helped set the stage for the new effort, coalition leaders said. Latino representation in the nominees was only behind the camera, led by the Mexican filmmakers of 'The Revenant': director Alejandro Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.


" 'Now is the time, while there's a lot of attention focused on this,' said Daniel Mayeda, co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, one of the umbrella group's members.

"While the movie academy hastily adopted new rules aimed at breaking up future white monopolies for the Oscars, the studios and their hiring practices are the root of the problem, he said. . . ."


Michael Ciply and Brooks Barnes, New York Times: Why the Academy's Diversity Push Is Tougher Than It Thinks

Shawn Edwards, Ebony: How Oscar Diversity Finally Hit the Tipping Point

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: #OscarsoWhite vs. Diversity

Veronica Villafañe, Media Moves: Univision, Televisa, NALIP & NHMC launch Latinos in media programs


Short Takes

"We're on a mission this year to grow WMYD in exciting new ways," Dave Manney, news director of Detroit's WXYZ-TV, told staff members on Tuesday. E.W. Scripps Co. owns both stations and operates them as a duopoly. "That includes cranking up the personality, opinion and attitude throughout the day, and in the newscasts. That's why I'm very pleased to announce the addition of ROB PARKER to the team as sports anchor for Action News @ 10 pm. . . . " Parker has worked at ESPN, the Detroit Free Press, Newsday, Detroit's WDFN Radio and other media outlets, and is expected to start the week of Feb. 8.


Former newspaper publisher Rossana Rosado is switching careers to government administration," Veronica Villafañe reported Wednesday for Media Moves. "Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated her to become the next New York State Secretary of State. She will succeed César Perales, who has held the position since 2011 and is retiring. Rosado was the first female Editor and Publisher of New York’s El Diario La Prensa. . . ."

"The McClatchy Company . . . today announced 12 President's Awards for journalists who uncovered wrongdoing, captured the compelling local stories on every platform and celebrated achievements ranging from a World Series victory to the first women to graduate from an Army Ranger school," the company announced on Thursday. Among the winners was El Nuevo Herald's Antonio Maria Delgado "for his singular and relentless coverage of Venezuela."


"Vice is offering a summer fellowship program for students from 'underrepresented communities,' " the company announced on Jan. 27, Joseph Lichterman reported then for NiemanLab. "Through a partnership with the New York–based nonprofit Center for Communication, two students will spend eight weeks working at Vice this summer. The participating students will receive a $5,000 stipend and their travel and housing expenses will be covered. Vice is also covering the Center for Communication’s administrative costs …"

Associated Press reporter Jesse Holland is scheduled to discuss his new book, "The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House," on C- SPAN's "Q&A," airing Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET, and Monday at 6 a.m. ET.


Four black journalists were in the front row at a White House briefing Friday when President Obama made an appearance. That number is "a bit unusual….but happens from time to time…during the daily white house spokesman's briefings…." NBC-TV's Ron Allen told Journal-isms by email. The four were Allen, Kevin Corke of Fox News Channel, Darlene Superville of the Associated Press and Ayesha Rascoe of Reuters. Allen is doing temporary White House duty.

"Vicente Arenas will join the 9News anchor desk starting Feb. 20, the Denver NBC affiliate announced today," John Wenzel reported Monday for the Denver Post. "Arenas, a former CBS News correspondent, will begin on the 5 p.m. newscast opposite Christine Noël. . . ."


"After a 17-year run, Enlace has its last publication this week," Veronica Villafañe reported Tuesday for Media Moves. "Starting February 13, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Spanish-language weekly will have a new name. It will become Hoy San Diego. . . ."

"Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the detention without trial of a Palestinian journalist who has been on hunger strike for more than two months and is reportedly near death, but said he cannot leave an Israeli hospital without permission," Al Jazeera America and wire services reported Thursday. "Mohammed al-Qeq, a news reporter for Saudi channel Al Majd, has refused food and medical treatment since Nov. 24, three days after he was arrested. . . ."


The Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday that it "condemns the decision by the Democratic Republic of Congo's government to close two privately owned news channels, and urges officials to allow the channels to resume broadcasting immediately." A government minister said Nyota TV and Radio TV Mapendo had failed to pay taxes and licensing fees, a statement denied by the stations' director general. "Both stations are owned by Moïse Katumbi, a businessman and politician who left the ruling party in September 2015 and later joined an opposition party," CPJ said.

"Three Yemeni journalists, who are held captive by the Houthis," Shiite rebels, "since last June, are reported to have been tortured on 30 January, according to the Yemen Journalists' Syndicate (YJS)," an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ reported Tuesday.

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