Tag Archives: Mark Weprin

Op-ed: Solutions to increasing diversity without changing the SHSAT


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By COUNCILMAN MARK WEPRIN 

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about changing the admissions process for New York City’s specialized high schools in order to address the underrepresentation of black and Latino students. While I embrace the goal of increasing diversity within those schools, I am not convinced that changing the exam or the admission standards is the best way to diversify the student population.

Seventy percent of the city’s public school students are black or Latino. Nonetheless, last year, only six percent of students at specialized high schools were black and only seven percent were Latino. It is clearly problematic that the diversity of students at these specialized high schools is not representative of the city.

The underlying reasons for this discrepancy are that black and Latino students are not taking the exam as frequently as are Asian and white students, and many of those black and Latino students taking the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT) are not preparing as well as Asian and white students.

Only 45 percent of students taking the SHSAT for admission to the 2012-2013 freshman class were black or Latino. Black students comprised 23 percent of test-takers, and only six percent of those students were offered seats. Similarly, Latinos comprised 22 percent of test-takers, but just eight percent of admitted students. This data points to two problems: a lack of access to the test and insufficient educational resources in communities where black and Latino students live.

The best way to make strides toward closing this racial gap is to make the exam more accessible for all New York City students. The SHSAT should be offered, if not mandated, at all the city’s middle schools during regular school hours. It should be administered as PSAT is — with all students sitting for the test unless they opt out. I am confident that by encouraging all middle school students to take the test and by making it easier for them to do so, we will begin to tackle the disparity in a way that is equitable for the entire city.

Many students prepare for the SHSAT far in advance, due in large part because the educational resources are available to them. To increase diversity in the specialized high schools, we should also be searching for ways to bring free test preparation programs, such as the Discovery Program and Specialized High Schools Institute Dream Program, into middle schools that rarely send graduates to the specialized high schools. Additionally, data has shown that the elementary and middle schools that students attend greatly impact their odds of being well prepared to take the SHSAT. In many neighborhoods with large concentrations of black and Latino residents, there are fewer gifted and talented programs available. We need to bring these programs into struggling schools.

There are better ways to increase diversity in New York City’s specialized high schools. Let’s try alternate solutions before we scrap an admissions process that has been in place for more than 70 years.

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E. Gluck Corp. to lower giant Little Neck wall following protest


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Watch-maker E. Gluck Corporation will lower a newly-built, giant 36-foot wall, which surprised and disturbed residents near the company’s new location, Little Neck politicians announced.

Under the new design, which has been approved by the Buildings Department, the wall will be scaled down 14 feet to 22 feet, the company said Monday. In addition, E. Gluck will include 20 flowering pear trees and 75 white pine trees around the property at 60-15 Little Neck Pkwy.

“We are pleased to reach a solution that addresses the public’s concerns,” said Murray Stimler, senior vice president at E. Gluck. “Our goal is to be a good neighbor in Little Neck and a beneficial part of the community for many years to come.”

Last month, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, Councilman Mark Weprin and state Sen. Tony Avella protested the wall with more than 100 residents. The current height blocks sunlight after certain hours and residents were afraid that it would hurt property values.

E. Gluck is moving this year into the lot, which is being developed by Steel Tribune LLC, and is the former site of electrical wiring company Leviton.

Initially, E. Gluck promised to put a one-story warehouse on the site, according to politicians. But residents woke up one day to find the towering dark gray wall, which sits on a hill that is about 10 feet high off the curb and extends nearly halfway through the block. The solution to lower the wall was welcome news for the elected officials.

“I appreciate that E. Gluck is making changes to its building plans to address some of the concerns raised by their neighbors and elected officials,” Braunstein said. “I am hopeful that moving forward the company will continue to make efforts to ensure that its operations do not negatively impact the surrounding community.”

 

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Schools, security improvements win Weprin participatory budgeting


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Schools and security improvement community projects in District 23 are winners of more than $1.1 million in city funding after participatory budgeting voting.

Councilman Mark Weprin announced results Wednesday of the initiative, which allows residents to vote for which community projects their elected officials should allocate money toward.

The top voted project—at 1,166 votes—was smart boards for five schools throughout the district at a cost of $450,000. P.S. 33 will get 40 smart boards, I.S. 109 will get 20, P.S./I.S. 266 will get 15, Benjamin Cardozo High School will receive five and Queens High School of Teaching will get 20.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Jae Cho, principal of Queens High School of Teaching. “Our kids are going to benefit tremendously from it.”

Technology upgrades at two schools, P.S. 135 and P.S. 18, for a cost of $85,785 got fourth place with 699 votes.

Besides schools projects, security initiatives were also popular.

NYPD security cameras within the district, for a cost of $105,000, received 718 votes for third place. The locations for the cameras have yet to be determined. Security upgrades for the Fresh Meadows, Hollis, and Windsor Park Queens Library branches, at $265,000, were the final winners with 671 votes.

A fitness walk and exercise loop at Cunningham Park for $200,000 came in second with 875 votes.

Originally, the initiative allowed for just $1 million, but the voted projects sum went over the limit, so Weprin added an additional $105,785.

This year, 1,888 people from the district voted, an increase of about 60 percent from last year.

“I think it’s great,” Weprin said. “When people get involved in their government they have more respect for their government.”

 

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Residents in three Queens council districts to vote on community projects


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Residents of three Queens City Council districts will soon have a chance to decide what projects they want funded in their communities.

Launched in 2011 in four Council districts, participatory budgeting allows locals to determine how to spend at least $1 million of their councilmembers’ capital discretionary funds.

This year’s round of projects is up for a vote from March 29 to April 6 in eight districts, including Councilmember Mark Weprin’s District 23, Councilmember Donovan Richards District 31 and Eric Ulrich’s District 32.

The process begins in the fall at public meetings where residents can suggest ideas and choose budget delegates. Those selected volunteers then come up with proposals based on those suggestions, which are presented to the public ahead of the vote.

Last spring, approximately 13,000 people voted, an increase of about 7,000 from the previous year. Each voter can chose up to five projects.

“I am excited to make full use of the Democratic process and offer our district the opportunity to decide where $1 million of my budget should be spent,” said Councilmember Richards, who is participating in the process for the first time. “It’s important that we all understand how our local government can and should improve our communities.”

Among his district’s projects are education, youth, public safety and recreation related improvements. They include upgrades to the Far Rockaway Campus High School, Farm Rockaway and the installation of Argus surveillance cameras in various areas of Far Rockaway.

Residents in Weprin’s district will be able to vote on $1 million in projects ranging from library security upgrades, park improvements, school technology needs and $100,000 in portable security cameras in the community.

Projects in the Rockaway portion of Ulrich’s district include $320,00 in upgrades and improvements to local schools, resurfacing of Broad Channel Park and community information boards in the Rockaways and Broad Channel. The project list for the rest of the councilmember’s district is still being finalized.

For more information on the projects and how to vote, click here.

 

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Local leaders applaud city’s call to save Gifted & Talented seats


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Local leaders are hailing the city’s decision to allow all District 26 elementary school students enrolled in Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs to be grandfathered into middle school programs.

“There is no more important issue in our community than the education of our students,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “The new policy reflects the children and parents in District 26 and will allow families to focus on getting their children off to a strong start in middle school.”

Parents were outraged when they learned students would no longer be automatically accepted into their local middle school G&T programs.

Fifth grade students would have to submit applications and seek admission to middle school G&T programs based on their fourth grade New York State ELA and math scores, the Department of Education (DOE) previously said.

More than 750 people signed an online petition, protesting the abrupt change.

“The Gifted and Talented programs in our schools are vitally important to the education of our students,” said Congressmember Grace Meng. “After listening closely to the needs of parents, the community, and elected officials, I applaud the Department of Education for its decision to add more G&T seats in District 26 as well as allow current students through fifth grade to remain in the program.”

According to Councilmember Mark Weprin, the DOE will also create more middle school G&T programs for high-performing general education students.

“With the opening of additional classes for incoming students who qualify for the program, the agreement is good news for parents across the district,” he said.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Overcast with rain showers. High of 61. Winds from the WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Friday night: Overcast with a chance of rain. Low of 37. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Fall Festival: Free Film Screening and Community Health Fair

Come to a free community health fair and film screening of “A Place at the Table” with special guest Joel Berg Harvest Room in the Jamaica Market from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods for a Thanksgiving Food Drive. Snacks from the Jamaica Farmers’ Market will also be provided! Sponsored by the Neighborhood Hunger Network. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Mayor Bloomberg: Mayor-Elect de Blasio to get balanced budget

For the first time in decades, an incoming New York City mayor will not face a budget deficit. Read more: CBS New York/AP

NYPD asks bars to not serve ‘SantaCon’ participants

There may be a little less “jolly” in Santa’s sleigh this year, at least if the NYPD has its way. Read more: ABC New York

Weprin goes to bat for Mariano Rivera street

At least one candidate for council speaker is going to bat for Yankee great Mariano Rivera. Read more: New York Post

NFL embraces possibility of snowy Super Bowl

Instead of shrinking from the possibility that football’s ultimate game could be played in a blizzard, organizers of the first outdoor, cold-climate Super Bowl have decided to embrace the snow as the game’s unofficial theme. Read more: NBC New York

JFK assassination remembered 50 years later

Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, thousands will mark the day with a solemn ceremony in Dealey Plaza, through which the president’s motorcade passed when shots rang out. Read more: AP

Weprin vies to become next Council speaker


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

It’s off to the races for six legislators looking to become the next City Council speaker.

Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito, Inez Dickens, Dan Garodnick, James Vacca, Anabel Palma and Mark Weprin are vying to replace incumbent-Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is term-limited.

Quinn was voted to lead the Council, the city’s de facto second most powerful office, in 2005.

Weprin, the top Queens candidate in the race, was elected to the Council in 2009 after 15 years in the Assembly. He is campaigning on a promise that he will not run for higher office and is not term-limited in 2017.

“I am not running for the mayor of the City of New York,” Weprin told The Courier. “I can spend all my time being the best speaker I can be. I think one thing that has been lacking in previous speakers is they have all been running for higher office.”

Mark-Viverito, an ally to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, is considered a top contender for the seat.
Candidates have been taking part in forums throughout the city, though councilmembers will internally vote on a new speaker January 4.

 

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Council vote OKs Bayside school on Keil Bros. site


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A controversial proposal to build a school in Bayside sailed through the City Council last week, despite the community’s overwhelming opposition.

The city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) needed the Council’s final ruling in order to go through with plans to build a new elementary school at the site of the Keil Bros. Garden Center and Nursery.

Owners of the popular garden center sold their 210-11 48th Avenue property to the city for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

The City Council approved the application last Thursday, with only Queens legislators Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. voting no.

“I had opposed the school because I didn’t think it was the best site for a school to begin with,” Weprin said. “I wasn’t even convinced about the need for the school.”

Nearby homeowners said the 456-seat institution would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

The contentious plan even led to two rowdy residents threatening SCA officials in May, when the proposal was first presented to the public at a heated Community Board 11 meeting.

The board had just shot down the application in an advisory vote when a male resident threatened to break an SCA representative’s legs and a woman allegedly followed another official in a car, The Courier reported.

“The community is very much against it,” Weprin said. “The Department of Education decided we needed a school there. I haven’t met anybody in the community who is dying to have a school there.”

But many local educators who support the plan said the new school would relieve heavy congestion in the district’s 21 elementary schools. At least three schools have had to put classrooms in space originally meant for libraries or music rooms, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of CB 11.

The SCA said its site selection process began in 2008. The authority honed in on the Bayside location this April. The DOE did not comment on when construction would begin.

Meanwhile, a battle still brews between the district’s state senator and its new councilmember.

State Senator Tony Avella claims Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone snubbed the community by supporting the proposal behind closed doors.

Vallone, who does not cast a Council vote until January, has “never voiced support for the school site,” his spokesperson said.

“Tony must not have gotten the memo — he’s not the councilman anymore,” said spokesperson Austin Finan. “Moving forward, Paul Vallone will not be responding to the lies perpetuated by Senator Avella who has clearly demonstrated he is more focused on personal vendettas than he is the future of northeast Queens.”

 

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City Council incumbents Weprin, Crowley miss DC 37 union endorsement


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photos

Two City Council incumbents from Queens were not endorsed by the city’s largest public employee union because they did not apply for the nod, the union said.

DC 37 released its endorsements for the November general election last Wednesday, which included multiple sitting councilmembers in the borough and candidates who won primaries in September.

Left off the Queens list were Speaker-hopeful Mark Weprin and Elizabeth Crowley — both who are Democrats, facing fairly easy challenges for re-election in a blue-dominated borough.

The pair joins a handful of city incumbents who were not endorsed because they did not apply to be part of DC 37’s long-established screening process, according to Wanda Williams, the union’s political and legislative director.

The list includes City Council incumbents Dan Garodnick, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Annabel Palma, Brad Lander and David Greenfield.

“The lack of an endorsement should not be construed as a commentary on their performance but as a reflection of their decision not to submit themselves to our rigorous screening process,” Williams said.

“Only the kind of transparent and rigorous screening process we have adopted assures we give all candidates a fair hearing they have initiated,” she added.

Weprin said he was unaware of the union’s screening policy. He was also running unopposed until August.

“We didn’t really reach out since I didn’t have an opponent until the summer,” he said. “This year, I certainly would have loved their endorsement. They are certainly a valuable and important union to me. I don’t take offense at it. I just wasn’t aware of the process. No hard feelings.”

Crowley did not comment.

Contested Queens incumbents who enjoy the union’s backing this year include Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Eric Ulrich, Ruben Wills and Donovan Richards.

DC 37 also endorsed unchallenged incumbents Julissa Ferreras, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and primary winners Paul Vallone, Rory Lancman, Daneek Miller and Melinda Katz.

The municipal workers’ union, which has 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees, said it sends out an army of volunteers to work phone banks and do door-to-door “Get Out The Vote” operations.

 

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Op-Ed: Community Safety Act: Setting the record straight


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER MARK S. WEPRIN

There has recently been a great deal of heated discussion about the two bills that comprise the Community Safety Act (Introductions 1079 and 1080), which the New York City Council passed in late June.  New Yorkers have been receiving some false information on these bills, so I think the time has come to calm down and look at the facts.

Introduction 1080 does not prevent police officers from using stop-and-frisk.  Police profiling based on race and other categories is already unlawful, based on a 2004 bill signed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.  Yet under both current law and Introduction 1080, police officers can include race, gender, age and other relevant information when pursuing criminal suspects.

While Introduction 1080 does not eliminate or alter stop-and-frisk, it does address bias-based profiling.  This has become an epidemic over the past decade, all because of Bloomberg’s insistence that officers conduct an increasing number of quota-driven stops. Every day I hear unsettling stories of local residents, law-abiding taxpayers, being stopped on the street in their own neighborhoods for no apparent reason. Stops increased by a jarring seven hundred percent from 2002 to 2011 without a corresponding drop in gun violence.  Introduction 1080 will not prevent police officers from stopping people, but it does reiterate that officers must have a law enforcement basis for a stop.

It has been suggested that Introduction 1080 opens the door to frivolous lawsuits, but when other states enacted similar laws, the numbers of lawsuits did not significantly increase.  Additionally, plaintiffs in New York City cannot seek monetary damages under the bill, nor can they sue individual officers.  Instead, if policies are discriminatory or ineffective, individuals can sue to have those policies changed.  By prompting the abandonment of wasteful practices, Introduction 1080 will actually save the city millions of dollars.

Finally, Introduction 1079 simply allows the New York City Department of Investigation to have oversight of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).  Almost all city agencies have Inspectors General, as do federal departments like the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  Those agencies are not held back by Inspectors General, and the NYPD will not be either.

I have enormous respect for the work of the NYPD, and I would never vote for a law that would put New Yorkers in harm’s way or allow crime levels to increase.  On the contrary, I supported these bills because I believe they will make our city safer for all residents.

Mark Weprin was elected to the New York City Council in 2010, as the representative for District 23, covering Hollis Hills, Queens Village, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Bellerose, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park, Hollis, Hollis Park Gardens, Holliswood, Fresh Meadows, and Oakland Gardens.

 

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Little Neck fifth grader becomes councilmember for a day


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos by William Alatriste/Courtesy of Karyl Jones

Her love for Queens landed her a seat in City Hall — and she’s only 11.

Katiya Jones of Little Neck became councilmember for a day after beating about 500 youngsters in an annual essay contest hosted by Councilmember Mark Weprin.

“Before I went, I thought it would be boring,” she said, “but I was proved wrong. It was a lot of fun.”

The fifth grader at P.S. 26 blew judges away with her “articulate and upbeat” essay, Weprin’s office said.

She listed her favorite locations in the borough, including the Marie Rose International Doll Museum in St. Albans and the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, peppering the essay with historical facts.

The paper also gave judges a sneak peek into Katiya’s artistic life of dance, performance and altruism. She said she helps feed the homeless at the Afrikan Poetry Theater in Jamaica during the holidays.

“Queens has many activities that I participate in,” Katiya wrote. “In the summer, I play tennis with the New York Junior Tennis League, as well as attend the YMCA day camp where I swim and take martial arts. I ride my bike in Cunningham Park and visited Rufus King Park.”

Katiya took a private tour of City Hall, attended a press conference and mock voted on real legislation in council chambers on May 22.

“It’s very busy,” she said. “You’re going all over the place. You have a lot of meetings and places you have to be.”

Still, she said the legislator’s life is not for her.

“I want to be a pediatrician, an actress, a dancer, a singer and a billionaire,” Katiya said.

She might not be so far from realizing her lofty dreams.

Katiya appeared in a “Saturday Night Live” skit in November 2010 and has landed television and radio commercials since she was six.

“She doesn’t have a shy bone in her body,” said her mother, Karyl Jones.

Once Katiya entered council chambers, she immediately took on the role of lawmaker, Karyl said.

“She was sitting there like she knew what she was doing, looking at the agenda and looking all serious,” she added. “We got a lot of out of it.”

 

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$17M facelift for Glen Oaks library


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

A $17 million facelift will soon bring chic changes to a Glen Oaks library, officials said.

A sweeping interior staircase, a sky-lit reading lounge and a partially transparent exterior are some of the modern designs being built at the 255-01 Union Turnpike site of the Glen Oaks branch of the Queens Library.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village. “It’s a really beautifully designed library, as opposed to the old one that had more of a concrete box-like structure with very few windows.”

Officials said the library, built in 1956, was becoming too small for the growing Glen Oaks population. Renovations will nearly double the size of the library to 18,000-square-feet and include many new customer service features along its three levels, including more computer workstations, separate areas for adults, teens and children, and an outdoor reading space.

“I think this library will attract a lot more people,” Friedrich said. “The community really needs it. We have a lot of seniors in Glen Oaks who love sitting outside to read.”

The new library is slated to open later this spring, officials said. Bookworms can visit the library’s temporary space across the street until construction is completed.

“This state-of-the-art library will be a terrific asset for the community,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, who helped fund the improvement project with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

 

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What City Council members wish for their constituents in 2013


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

2013

The Queens Courier asked the City Council what they wish for their constituents in 2013. Here are some of the responses:

Speaker Christine Quinn: To help New Yorkers still reeling from Sandy recover fully and quickly, & rebuild New York City to protect New Yorkers from the impact of climate change.

Daniel Dromm: To see comprehensive immigration reform including the Uniting American Families Act (for families headed by same sex couples) and the Dream Act passed by Congress in 2013.

Mark Weprin: My New Year’s wish for my constituents is that a bipartisan spirit will appear in Washington, leading to fiscal sanity and sensible gun laws.

James Gennaro: They should have good health, the comfort and peace of a strong faith, abiding happiness, freedom from want and love and compassion for others.

Jimmy Van Bramer: I wish for my constituents a healthy and happy year full of joy and with far fewer tragedies. I want more understanding and appreciation of our uniqueness as people, a safer world at home and abroad.

Peter Vallone Jr.: I hope for the Queensboro Bridge back, and I hope other boroughs keep their hands off of our stuff.

Eric Ulrich: Health, happiness, and prosperity in the new year and a return to normalcy for those affected by Sandy.

Karen Koslowitz: I wish all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I am hoping that the year 2013 brings new opportunities, friendships and successes for all.

Dan Halloran: I wish my constituents a New Year full of peace, prosperity and a renewed sense of pride in our neighborhoods, as we continue to preserve our community’s character.

Leroy Comrie: I hope that we have a healthy, happy, prosperous, and protective new year. Also that people stay charitable, that we can continue to look out for each other and be supportive of those in need.

 

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Sikhs, Liu call for NYPD uniform reform


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

City Sikhs say they no longer want to be forced into choosing between their religion and a career as a police officer.

Comptroller John Liu along with the Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs started a petition calling on the city and the NYPD to modify the policy prohibiting headdresses and requiring officers to keep their beards short.

Simmering for years, the issue returned to the forefront after six Sikhs were killed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August. Many Sikhs felt the shooting resulted from a lack of knowledge about the religion — a misunderstanding many say is furthered by the uniform requirements in the NYPD, effectively preventing followers from serving.

“Changing these policies would show that New York City deserves its reputation as a global capital of religious acceptance,” said Liu, who also sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg following the shooting requesting the policy change.

In August, an NYPD spokesperson said Sikhs may wear turbans as long as they are dark blue and fit under their cap. Beards are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, the spokesperson said.

A large majority of the city’s 30,000 to 40,000 Sikhs live in Queens.

“New York City, which is home to such great diversity, should be more considerate and open to those communities that have decided to make this city as their own,” Harpreet Singh Toor, chair of public and external affairs at the Sikh Cultural Society.

A policy change would not only benefit Sikhs, but any member of a religion that requires head coverings or beards.

The petition also points to the fact that other forces throughout the country permit religious garb while serving.

“Sikhs can and have served as police officers successfully all over the world,” said Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition. “The NYPD needs to understand that its ban on Sikh service is both wrong and illegal.”

A bill, sponsored by Councilmember Mark Weprin, was passed by the city council last year that required employers, including the NYPD, to “accommodate religious practice, unless doing so would create undue hardship.”

The bill did not require the department to make any changes, though litigation remains a possibility, Singh said.

Assemblymember David Weprin also introduced a bill in Albany that would address uniform agencies allowing individuals to wear their religious attire.

Sikhs dispute NYPD policy banning beards, turbans


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

With police protecting gurdwaras throughout the city, Sikh worshippers replete with beard and turban will find no officers who look like them.

Police policy prohibits headdresses, preventing many practicing Sikhs from joining the force. Officers in the NYPD must also keep their beards short.

“For this past decade, especially since 9/11, [Sikhs] have been the target of insults, of hate crimes of misunderstandings, of discrimination, even along official channels of government,” said City Comptroller John Liu, who called for the NYPD to amend its policy.

Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition, pointed to other police departments around the country that allow officers freedom to wear religious clothing.

“The idea that [Sikhs] can’t be police officers in the neighborhoods that they grew up in New York City is utterly ridiculous,” he said.

Close followers of Sikhism do not trim their hair; the religion also requires members to don a turban.

“Until we have a Sikh employed in the NYPD with a beard and turban, we will not be really understood,” said Harpreet Singh Toor, media consultant for the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill. “It makes us feel like we are less of an American than anyone else.”

Until recently, Sikhs who were MTA employees were required to wear the logo on their headdresses — a policy that ended in June. Soldiers in the U.S. Army have received individual exemptions to wear a turban while serving.

“It’s very important that government itself, particularly law enforcement, is not excluding our community if we’re even going to make a dent in this larger public perception that turban equals terrorist,” said Singh.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said approximately 19 Sikhs currently work for the police department, but for many who steadfastly practice the religion, that’s not an option, Liu said.

“Sikhs are forced to choose between a career and a religion,” he said.

An NYPD spokesperson said Sikhs may wear turbans as long as they are dark blue and fit under the their cap. Beards are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, the spokesperson said.

A bill, sponsored by Councilmember Mark Weprin, was passed by the city council last year that required employers, including the NYPD, to “accommodate religious practice, unless doing so would create undue hardship.”

The bill did not require the department to make any changes, though litigation remains a possibility, Singh said.

Weprin’s brother, Assemblymember David Weprin, also introduced a bill in Albany that would address uniform agencies allowing individuals to wear their religious attire.

Toor said he holds out hope that one day Sikhs will be able to serve and protect the mayor like he is protecting them.

“That’s the America we’re dreaming of,” he said.