Mother of Man Killed by Police: ‘I Want No Cover Up; I Want Answers’

The mother of an unarmed man who was fatally shot by a police detective after being pulled over on a highway in Queens made a tearful plea on Saturday for a full and thorough inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the shooting of her son, Noel Polanco.

“I’m not going to give up until I get justice,” the mother, Cecilia Reyes, told a crowd of a few hundred at the offices of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem. “I want justice. I want no cover up; I want answers,” she said as Mr. Sharpton stood alongside her.

Mr. Polanco, 22, was driving on the Grand Central Parkway just after 5 a.m. on Thursday when he was pulled over by uniformed members of the Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit, who were riding in unmarked vans. They said that he had twice cut them off.

The officers, who had been on their way to execute a search warrant in Brooklyn, rushed toward the car “like an army,” said one of Mr. Polanco’s passengers, Diane Deferrari. A second passenger, an off-duty police officer named Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat.

As the officers surrounded Mr. Polanco’s car, they shouted for those inside to show their hands, Ms. Deferrari said, adding that Mr. Polanco’s hands were on the steering wheel of his black Honda. A moment later a detective, Hassan Hamdy, 39, fired a single shot that struck Mr. Polanco in the abdomen and killed him, the authorities said.

On Friday evening, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly visited Ms. Reyes at her home.

Mr. Sharpton said on Saturday morning that he and others supported her call for a full investigation and an explanation of what happened.

“This is about what is right and what is fair,” he said. “For unarmed innocent people to be killed is wrong, and it has got to stop.”

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing a likeness of Mr. Polanco, Ms. Reyes paused several times to wipe her eyes, while telling the crowd that her son, an Army reservist, had wanted to become a police officer.

“We want to believe in the law,” she said. “We don’t want to have to be afraid of the law.”

Chistopher Maag contributed reporting.

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Judge Faults Police for Delays in Providing Records of Fatal Accident

A judge criticized the police on Friday for dragging their feet in releasing records and reports to the family of a cyclist who was fatally struck by a truck in Brooklyn last year, saying the department had “needlessly delayed” handing over documents.

The family of the cyclist, Mathieu Lefevre, sued the police in January, three months after his death, alleging that the police had illegally denied their request for records about the collision, for which the driver who struck Mr. Lefevre received only routine traffic summonses. Mr. Lefevre’s case became a rallying cry for traffic-safety advocates who have urged stronger penalties against drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians.

Eventually, though, in April, the police complied with the family’s requests for information, so their suit became moot, and the judge, Peter H. Moulton of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, dismissed it in his ruling on Friday — but not before chiding the police.

While some delays were inevitable consequences of the investigation, Justice Moulton wrote, there was “no adequate explanation” for others, like the department’s difficulty in finding officers’ log books containing relevant information.

“While these delays in production were longer than necessary, and were no doubt more than agonizing to petitioners, the N.Y.P.D.’s records have now been produced,” he wrote.

Mr. Lefevre, 30, an artist who had moved to Brooklyn from Canada, was riding his bicycle at the intersection of Meserole and Morgan streets in East Williamsburg in the early hours of Oct. 19, 2011, when he was hit by a turning truck that had not signaled and did not stop after striking him, the police found. He died instantly.

The driver, Leonardo Degianni, was issued two traffic summonses, one for failure to signal and another for failure to exercise due care. But Mr. Lefevre’s family sought to have Mr. Degianni charged with fleeing the scene or with criminal negligence.

Steve Vaccaro, the Lefevre family’s lawyer, said he hoped the judge’s criticism would affect future investigations. “We are hopeful that N.Y.P.D. will take Judge Moulton’s criticism to heart and end its policy of needlessly stonewalling crash victims’ families who seek to learn the truth about the death of their loved one,” he said.

Lefevre Decision (PDF)

Lefevre Decision (Text)

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Looking Down to See Nature’s Early-Autumn Change in Hues

This time of year, the leaves on local trees only hint at autumnal color. To admire early fall foliage, instead of gazing up, I have been looking down.

On Sept. 26, I was in the southern end of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. A quick walk from the last stop on the No. 6 train is a meadow dominated by soft-stemmed plants like wildflowers and grasses. This flora is preparing for winter the same way deciduous trees do, with a foliar display.

After weeks of monotonous green, the leaves of common milkweed and Indian hemp have taken on a soft, lemony complexion. This foliage is subdued compared with the exuberantly yellow blossoms of gray goldenrod, now thick with bees, beetles, wasps and flies. Its floral kin, rough and early goldenrods, are here, too. They are older, with wine-stained leaves, and already releasing plumed seeds into the wind.

This annual transformation is largely driven by the calendar. Plants are ever mindful of seasonal shifts. While we humans were in the throes of summer fun, they anticipated autumn’s arrival by measuring the length of darkness.

After the summer solstice, days grew progressively shorter and the nights longer. The attenuation of light cued plants to prepare for senescence. In response, evergreen plants like conifer trees harden off to retain their needlelike leaves through winter. Most trees and other plants in the New York City area lose their leaves for the seasonal slumber. These deciduous species are now ceasing production of chlorophyll.

Most plants make their own food using nothing more than sunshine and air. Chlorophyll is essential in this conversion. This green pigment absorbs and transforms light from the sun, allowing plants to metabolize sugars for sustenance.

Once chlorophyll is gone, the previously hidden yellows and oranges of carotenoid pigments are unmasked. Anthocyanic reds and purples are made only during the fall season.

Back in the field, these colors pack a visual punch. The burgundy-hued leaves of cinquefoil weave among the matted vegetation underfoot. In thinner soils along the trail are three-foot-high grasses. These culms of little bluestem, all copper and crimson, flex in the breeze. Chalk-white clouds of tall thoroughwort flowers temper the scene.

Encroaching woody plants also contribute. Sweet gum saplings don mahogany and scarlet. Salmon-colored pools of poison ivy creep along the ground.

This phenomenon of foliar color in grasses and wildflowers is largely overlooked, perhaps because it is so intimate. While an 80-foot tree can be admired from a distance, these smaller plants require that you come closer to appreciate them.


Marielle Anzelone — botanist, urban ecologist and founder of NYC Wildflower Week — wrote the weekly Autumn Unfolds series last year for City Room.

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Concert Is a Roaring, if Not Quite Timely, Success

At the official starting time for the Jay-Z concert Thursday night, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was more than half empty.

The cognoscenti seemed to know that Jay-Z does not begin his raucous act until 9:30 p.m., not 8. But a reporter sent to see whether there were any empty seats at Jay-Z’s sold-out run (and whose last pilgrimage to a true rock concert was in the late 1970s to hear Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead) was not among the cognoscenti. Many fans did not even bother getting on the subway until 8:30 or 9.

While they waited, the Jay-Z fans wandered the arena’s halls and concession stands, sampling the iconic Brooklyn specialties like Nathan’s hot dogs and Junior’s cheesecake, and almost inevitably downing the food with a plastic glass of beer. Many of the beers gradually made their way into the arena, where a D.J. was repeatedly flinging adjectives about acts banned by Leviticus and Deuteronomy. But it all cheered the crowd.

The D.J., from the hip-hop radio station Hot 97, also tried other ploys to rouse the young crowd, which did not need that much rousing, calling out the names of boroughs and neighborhoods that spectators might hail from or their astrological signs and asking people to cheer or stand up.

“White people stand up,” he screamed at one point. “Black people stand up.”

The crowd, a checkerboard of white, black, Latino and Asian, was glad to oblige, and cheer. It was a kind of casual racial bonhomie that might not have been as evident at rock concerts of tenser periods long ago.

“I feel good being a Brooklynite,” said Brenda Baldwin, a 54-year-old nurse. She was sitting next to me, the only near-contemporary to this 67-year-old reporter in sight, but she has been a Jay-Z fan for more than a decade. She told me she was delighted there was now a major arena in Brooklyn, the first since the demolition of Ebbets Field after the departure of the Dodgers following the 1957 season.

“It’s right here in Brooklyn,” she said. “We now have a place for entertainment. I don’t have to go into Manhattan. I can wait for everything to come right now in Brooklyn.”

By 9 o’clock, the seats were still one-third empty, and cynics might have been forgiven for dismissing the 19,000-seat arena’s claim that Jay-Z had sold out all eight shows. They would have been wrong. In the next half-hour, hundreds of fans, responding to text messages, e-mails and Twitter messages from friends, started pouring into the empty seats. When Jay-Z finally emerged on stage, spotlights grazing the crowd, the noise at shattering levels, there was scarcely a seat to be had.

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