2023 Queens DA Race: George Grasso

By Matthew Fischetti

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George Grasso got his start as a beat cop in Jamaica.

While patrolling the streets of Southeast Queens, Grasso worked his way up through law school taking night classes – eventually reaching high level positions like First Deputy Police Commissioner under the Bloomberg Administration and most recently serving as the Administrative Judge for Queens County Supreme Court for Criminal Matters.

But today Grasso, 65, is challenging Melinda Katz for Queens District Attorney.

Grasso said that one of his main focuses as Queens District Attorney would be to enforce quality-of-life crimes such as fare evasion.

“Seriously, make that a top priority,” Grasso said in a recent sitdown interview. “Anybody jumping over a turnstile is going to be subject to arrest, then subject to a search for illegal weapons and a warrant check.”

Different academic studies have questioned the effectiveness of New York City policing policies in the 1990s.

“There is much debate over the impact of New York policing tactics on reductions on crime and disorder in the 1990s. Broken windows policing alone did not bring down the crime rates (Eck & Maguire, 2000), but it is also likely that the police played some role,” a post from the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy reads.

The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy then cites a series of academic studies running from 1998 to 2006, each attributing different significance levels of broken windows policing on crime rates, ranging from large to non-existent.

Grasso also said he would highly support measures that would return judicial discretion over dangerousness standards. New York State is one of the few states that doesn’t allow judges to formally use dangerousness for bail requirements.

While he wants Justices to be able to have the dangerousness standard as a tool, Grasso also said that he would have a next day review that defendants could file for if they believe the discretion has been inappropriately applied.

While he believes that laws such as the 2019 bail reform law went too far, he stressed in his interview that he was never the “lock them up” judge and touted his record of supporting program and diversion courts.

Specifically, Grasso highlighted his support of overdose avoidance and recovery courts which he oversaw during his time as Bronx Criminal Court Supervising Judge.

In conjunction with the Bronx District Attorney, the Overdose Avoidance Courts utilized a pre-plea model in which participants could get help without first entering a guilty plea to their criminal charges, per the Daily News.

Grasso commended Mayor Adams, who he knows back from his cop days, and said that the problem with crime is that there needs to be more District Attorneys like Mike McMahon on Staten Island since he “clearly and unambiguously embraces his role as chief law enforcement officer.”

“Mayor Adams even though he’s saying the right things, even though the police commissioner is saying the right thing –  and I believe they they want to do the right things, there is still kind of out there twisting in the wind,” Grasso said when asked how we would evaluate Hizzoner’s first year dealing with crime, without aforementioned changes in bail reform and having stronger district attorneys.

Grasso said that one of his main focuses would be to tackle crime in the 109 Precinct in Flushing, which he characterized as “off the charts.”

Grasso came to this newspaper’s office with printed sheets of COMPTSTAT numbers, the city’s tracking system for crime, which showed data from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5. In the 109 Precinct, the seven major crime indices (which include murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto) rose 74.5 percent in the last week (89 vs 41), 19.5 percent in the 28 day snapshot (276 vs 231) and in the year-to-date category rose 16.2 percent (345 vs 297).

Grasso said that if elected one of the first things he would do is tackle the issue of crime in the Flushing area.

“I’m having a meeting with the precinct commander in the 109, the borough commander of Queens north, any leaders of any merchant associations and people who are involved with these issues,” he said. “And we’re gonna put a very aggressive plan together to get to the core of these issues, to figure out these people who are engaging in repetitive theft, that people who are engaging in aggressive panhandling and following people to banks, and standing behind them while they’re on line and asking them for money.”

The primary for the Queens District Attorney Race will take place on June 23.

*A previous version of this article reported that, if elected, Grasso would subject individuals to “search warrants” if they evade transportation fare. Instead, the individual would be subject to a search for illegal weapons and a warrant check.

Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (2/16)


Education & Black History Month

By Mike Porcelli

Although celebrated for the past five decades, few people realize Black History Month had its origins in education a hundred years ago.

The renowned Black historian, Carter G. Woodson is regarded as the Father of Black History in America. After decades researching the education of early 20th century descendants of enslaved people, in 1933 he wrote his revolutionary book, “The Miseducation of the Negro,” where he proposed that the inferior position of those then referred to as “Negros,” resulted from inadequate education.

Woodson wrote how educational opportunities determined the life people create for themselves, and believed one’s ability to make a living, care for a family and contribute to community are determined by their education alternatives available, and how well one made use of those options. All themes are repeatedly stressed here each week.

Woodson argued that contemporary Black vocational schools erroneously assumed that their students just needed to, “absorb a certain set of information and develop a predetermined set of technical abilities,” and they didn’t care about, “understanding their students’ needs or developing their abilities.” This is a critical component of CTE programs and education in general today.

He lamented that, “a young Black man starting his work life as a janitor often dies in old age in the same position.” Surely, he would be pleased to see how his work made it possible for many Black janitors today, to go on to retire as CEOs of their companies.

Woodson continually repeats, “Critical and creative thinking can help Black people live more fulfilling lives. With education, the door of opportunity is wide open.” Certainly, he would be a supporter of current CTE programs.

Today, CTE offers the best option for career success for many Americans who have the aptitude and ability for the trades. It must be made available for future generations of skilled Black trade workers to continue their trade legacy. More can be learned about Black tradesmen at sites like this: https://blacktradesmen.us/      

As we close out Black History Month, note the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life – education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking.” That’s the core of CTE, and the reason Dr. King would be a leading supporter today.

In a 1948 critique of education, he said, “I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically.” He continued, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

There is no doubt that today Woodson and King would both be strong advocates of CTE programs for students of every race.

Let us all live up to their dreams!

Golden Age postcards spotlight Valentine’s Day

By Michael Perlman

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Most Valentine’s Day postcards are vivid and graceful lithographs, where some feature hand-colored scenes or illustrated couples, children, cherubs and flowers, along with romantic greetings or poetry.

The majority were published between 1898 and 1918, with those from the 1920s and 1930s in fewer quantities.

Today, all are considered to be collectible works of art and range from a few dollars to over one hundred dollars, depending on their artistry, publisher and rarity.

In 1873, the first American “picture postcard” was produced. Today, a significant number of postcards from the late 19th and early to mid-20th century exist in an excellent state with fine penmanship and one-cent and two-cent stamps.

Deltiology is the collection and study of postcards, which derives from “deltion,” a Greek term for a writing tablet or letter.

A postcard collector is a deltiologist. Several decades ago, postcards could be found at a corner pharmacy, but today, vintage postcards are found on eBay and at estate sales and postcard shows.

Nearly every theme is represented, including hometowns, hobbies and holidays.

As traditional and original Valentine’s Day postcards were, innovation also made a mark. A circa late teens postcard features a girl who is a recipient of her admirer’s feelings, being transmitted through a radio receiver with headphones.

A romantic poem with unique calligraphy, particularly at the beginning of each sentence, reads: “Through the air fly with me; Where the heart is light and free, You are my love, and I am thine ~ ; Don’t say, nay, my Valentine.”

An Ellen Clapsaddle masterpiece

The spirit of early 20th century senders lives on, thanks to postcards.

A handwritten message, addressed to Bessie Pierce of Washington, PA from McDonald, PA, reads, “Don’t you think that is a nice little girl, but I know one that is a whole lot nicer, don’t you.”

The reverse bears a Wolf Advertising Co. trademark featuring a wolf in front of a globe. The design was the result of Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (1865 – 1934), a significant artist whose style has drawn much admiration, making her a most prolific postcard and greeting card artist of her era.

She is responsible for making postcards more marketable and is credited with over 3,000 such designs. Her artwork was also featured on porcelain, trade cards, paper fans and calendars.

She was recognized for painting children of various cultures, although some of her designs feature other subjects.

Among the most graceful postcards features an elegant southern lady, wearing a Victorian-style dress in front of an ornate bridge in a garden, topped by lanterns, and experiencing “Valentine thoughts.”

Elegant John Winsch postcard

Embossed red and gold hearts and ornate gold and floral motifs lend to its Art Nouveau feel.

This design was copyrighted in 1913 by prominent artist John Winsch (1865 – 1923) of Stapleton, New York. He was co-manager of Art Lithographic Publishing Co.

Many of his cards were published in sets, and he produced approximately 4,000 designs between 1910 and 1915.

He was highly recognized for his holiday themes, as well as his use of European artists who worked with his German printers.

A circa 1914 Auto Series postcard can be considered a crossover postcard under daily romance and Valentine’s Day themes.

Bright large flowers add character to a shaded forested pathway, where couples in fashionable period attire are ready to embrace in a classic automobile and while taking a leisurely stroll.

This postcard evokes the ambiance of the classic “Lovers’ Lane,” characterized by an off the beaten track narrow dirt road accompanied by hedges and trees, where people make out. This phrase appeared in the Oxford English dictionary as early as 1853.

Carl Benz was the first to apply for a patent for a vehicle powered by a gas engine in 1886, so as of this circa 1914 postcard, the advent of the automobile was still being celebrated.

During the Victorian era and shortly after, a charming porch was a commonality for transitioning from a front garden into a home.

Sitting on a rose-embellished porch is a mother on a rocking chair, reading a book. Several decades ago, it was customary to ask one’s parents if they could court a significant other. “Oh, go ahead. Ask her if I can be your Valentine,” said a girl to a boy. The children dressed up for the occasion, ribbon and all.

Children courting, A Whitney gem

This circa 1910 postcard features elegant typography, where “Post Card” is surrounded by a Colonial feather-like design and below reads, “Whitney Made Worcester, Mass.”

The Geo. C. Whitney Company’s principal was George Clarkson Whitney (1842 – 1915), whose motto was “Industry, punctuality and Christianity.” His firm became a notable publisher of postcard greetings and holiday cards on specialty papers. The center of the American Valentine industry was based in Worcester, thanks to his dedication.

In 1915, “Worcester Magazine” published, “Ninety percent of the valentines that are exchanged on St. Valentine’s Day come from Worcester.” One noteworthy principle that distinguished Whitney is that he did not support “using love’s gifts as a medium for ridicule.” His son Warren and grandson George assumed the operations, but as of 1942, the largest and earliest manufacturer of valentines worldwide, shuttered.

An attractive brunette or blonde woman poses in varying directions within a heart in this 1910 Fortune Valentine Series of postcards, which read “To my Valentine” and “Queen of my Heart.”

Fortune Valentine Series by E Nash

The heart-themed playing cards, distinguished by their layout within the series, consistently reveal kings and queens. Gold or silver gilded Art Nouveau motifs contribute to its regal nature.

This series was produced by the New York City-based E. Nash Company, which was in operation from 1908 to 1910, and was regarded as a well-respected publisher and illustrator of holiday and patriotic postcards.

Some postcards are highly desirable as a result of their ornate designs that dominate the space.

All eyes are on a couple kissing within a heart, which is surrounded by a series of gold embossed frames dotted with distinctive hearts and pastel backdrops. The background resembles a parchment paper with horns upon the uppermost curves. Below the heart is a ribbon adorned basket of hearts and feathers. This 1910 postcard is unmarked by a publisher and unsigned by an artist, which adds to the mystery of determining a postcard’s history.

It was the end of an era in 2010, when the longtime Buster Brown Shoes, with its animated Buster Brown and dog Tige caricature sign at 71-24 Austin Street, shuttered.

Buster Brown originated in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault (1863 – 1928), a pioneer in the modern comic strip. This postcard asks, “Will you be my valentine? Read the answer in the stars,” and the stars indeed respond.

Such Outcault signed Buster Brown and Tige series postcards (Valentine Series No. 112) were among many humorous and romantic themed postcards by Raphael Tuck & Sons.

This prominent publishing firm was founded in London by Raphael Tuck (1821 – 1900) and operated from 1866 to 1959. Other addresses included Paris, Berlin, Montreal, and 298 Broadway and 122 – 124 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

In 1894, his son, Adolph Tuck, created their first picture postcard. The firm was referenced as “Art publishers to their majesties the king and queen,” since Queen Victoria granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment in 1883.

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