Ex-Inmate Sneaked Into Jail by Impersonating Official, Authorities Say

Matthew Matagrano should be well known to the authorities. In addition to being a registered sex offender, he was once jailed for disguising himself as an Education Department official and sneaking into a Queens school.

But last week, officials say, Mr. Matagrano was somehow able to disguise himself as a government worker again, this time as a Correction Department investigator, and enter at least one detention center. While there he stole a walkie-talkie and spent over seven hours conversing and smoking with inmates.

Mr. Matagrano, 36, was arraigned on Saturday and charged with burglary, grand larceny and forgery, according to court documents.

Officials offered few details about the case. In a criminal complaint, investigators said that Mr. Matagrano admitted to unlawfully entering the Manhattan Detention Center on Thursday. Other media outlets reported that he might have similarly entered other facilities over the course of a week.

According to the criminal complaint, Mr. Matagrano was allowed to park his car in front of the Manhattan Detention Center after displaying a Correction Department parking permit that was later found to be a forgery. He then gained entry by showing a gold shield and purporting to be an investigator with the Intelligence Unit. It was not clear whether the shield was fake.

While inside, he stole a walkie-talkie valued at about $2,500, the complaint said. He also handed out cigarettes to inmates and spent time smoking with them. He was in the facility from about 3:30 to 11 p.m., the complaint said.

Investigators gave no indication of Mr. Matagrano’s motives, and his lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. The circumstances of his arrest were also unclear.

His bail was set at $50,000, and he is scheduled to appear in court again on Wednesday.

According to New York State’s sex offender registry, Mr. Matagrano was convicted in 1996 of raping a 17-year-old boy. He served over a year in prison.

Then in 2004, he was able to gain entry to a charter school in Jackson Heights, Queens, after presenting to school staff members what they thought was an Education Department badge. Investigators said that he spent about an hour in the school and was able to look through the files of at least two students.

In that case, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two to four years in prison.

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The Week in Pictures for March 1

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include a gun rally in Albany; a demolished home in Roxbury, Queens; and a flash mob in Times Square.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in Sunday’s Times, Sam Roberts will speak with The Times’s Wendell Jamieson and Eleanor Randolph. Also, Joseph Lhota, a mayoral candidate, and Phillip Lopate, an essayist. Tune in at 10 p.m. Saturday or 10 a.m. Sunday on NY1 News to watch.

A sampling from the City Room blog is featured daily in the main print news section of The Times. You may also browse highlights from the blog and reader comments, read current New York headlines, like New York Metro | The New York Times on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Using Walls to Talk Back to Unwelcome ‘Compliments’

Shorty. Sweetie. Sweetheart. Baby. Boo. If you’re a woman, you’ve probably heard it.

If you were to respond, what would you say?

Last fall, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh began replying — through her art — to the dozens of men who approached her in public each week. As night fell, she slipped out of her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment armed with a bottle of wheat paste, a couple of posters and a paintbrush, and began to pepper Brooklyn with messages:

“My name is not Baby.” “Women are not seeking your validation.” “Stop telling women to smile.”

Since September, Ms. Fazlalizadeh has plastered walls in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Clinton Hill and Williamsburg. As winter came and night temperatures dropped, though, she retired her paintbrush. “The wheat paste starts to freeze before it actually dries,” she said. “So the paper wasn’t holding.”

But as slightly warmer weather has returned, so have the messages. She recently tossed up two posters on the corner of Tompkins Avenue and Halsey Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant. And Ms. Fazlalizadeh, 27, an Oklahoma-born oil painter, illustrator and after-school art teacher, was headed back out Friday night. “I’d like them to be out in Manhattan somewhere,” she said.

The project grew out of a desire to explain that for many women, “hey sweetums” or “let’s see that smile” isn’t a compliment. “These things make you feel like your body isn’t yours,” she said.

Of course, her target audience may still need convincing. On Friday afternoon, Andrés Carlos, 50, stood by the freshly pasted posters on Tompkins Avenue. “A woman likes nothing more than being told she is beautiful,” he said. “For me, this is ridiculous.”

A friend of his, Richard Johnson, 29, passed by. Mr. Johnson is married, and no longer calls at women on the street. But he did his share of aggressive flirtation. Did women respond negatively? “Sometimes,” he said. Did he stop? “No,” he said. “I’m persistent.”

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Let Your Body Sing

As video concepts go, it was pretty simple: hit the streets and parks of New York with a boombox playing a dance remix of your band’s song and ask passers-by of all ages, races, shapes and sizes to move to it. Film the results.

Here, then, is the newly released video for “It’s Illicit” by the rock-ish band Motive, as remixed by an Italian group called Late Guest at the Party. It was shot late last summer at nine varyingly iconic New York City locations, including St. Marks Place, Flushing Meadows Park, Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, and Coney Island in front of a wall that was later damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Ari Goldstein, the band’s manager and the conceptualizer of the video (it was directed by Mark Carrenceja), promised that apart from the band members, everyone who appears in it was an actual random person passing by.

“New York is often looked at like this edgy, high-paced place,” Mr. Goldstein said on Friday, “but I wanted to show that the reason New York is amazing is stuff like this – these people are willing to stop and be free.”

Have a good weekend.

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Insurgent St. Patrick’s Day Parade Comes Into Its Own

Brendan Fay said he helped establish an inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade in 2000, a year after he was arrested at three St. Patrick’s Day parades when he tried to march under a banner for a gay alliance.Yana Paskova for The New York Times Brendan Fay said he helped establish an inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2000, a year after he was arrested at three St. Patrick’s Day parades when he tried to march under a banner for a gay alliance.

Brendan Fay pointed to an e-mail on his computer screen from the New York Fire Department’s Emerald Society Pipes and Drums corps confirming that it would be marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, on Sunday.

“Now that’s how you know the tide has turned for us,” said Mr. Fay, 54, adding that this would be quite a change from the lone bagpiper that the fledgling parade had to settle for most years.

Mr. Fay helped found the parade in 2000, and since then he had had trouble finding pipe bands willing to play in this parade whose name, St. Pat’s for All, and theme of inclusion are a swipe at the much larger and older St. Patrick’s Day parade held on Fifth Avenue. In the Fifth Avenue parade, people seeking to march under gay banners have been turned away. (The organization that runs the parade says its policy is meant to discourage political displays, including banners and slogans on T-shirts.)

“I’d try to get pipe bands to participate, and they’d say something like, ‘Oh, you’re that parade – no, we’re not available,’” said Mr. Fay, who helped start the Queens event after being arrested at three St. Patrick’s Day parades in 1999 after he tried to march under a banner for a gay alliance.

“I know what it’s like to be told you’re not welcome,” Mr. Fay said as he rushed around his Astoria, Queens, home making last-minute preparations for this Sunday’s parade, which starts at 2 p.m. in Woodside and runs for two hours. It begins at Skillman Avenue and 47th Street and proceeds east on Skillman, ending at Woodside Avenue and 58th Street.

With the phone ringing constantly, Mr. Fay finalized details for portable toilets, pipers and puppets to be held aloft by children. The parade has grown in size every year, and this year he expects more than 2,000 participants.

Bars that once wanted nothing to do with the parade are now opening early for breakfast on parade day, he said.

As for the parade, he said, “We err on the side of hospitality and inclusiveness.” And with the doors wide open, he has certainly amassed a wide array of regular attendees, including from many ethnic groups in this extremely diverse area of Queens.

At the moment, Mr. Fay was making arrangements with Pakistani and Bengali contingents. There will be Bolivian, Ecuadorean, Korean and Chinese groups, as well as a troupe of young black and Latino step-dancers from the Bronx. Mr. Fay called a Turkish contingent seeking to march for the first time, to honor the food shipments that Turkey sent Ireland during the potato famine. Then there was the Mexican group marching in tribute to that country’s San Patricio battalion in the Mexican-American War.

“We try to reflect the spirit of New York – we’re all neighbors, we marry each other,” Mr. Fay said in his living room, which is presided over by a green statue of St. Patrick, rescued from a trash heap, with its arms broken off.

It was easier a decade ago when barely any politicians marched. That has changed, especially after Hillary Rodham Clinton showed up several times. Now elected officials are practically trampling over children to engage with spectators, joked Tom Moulter, Mr. Fay’s husband, who for the past week has been baking cakes and cookies for preparade events.

Now Mr. Fay’s in-box is full of e-mails from the offices of elected officials and politicians jostling for favored positions, including Joseph J. Lhota, a Republican candidate in the hotly contested race to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who will also be marching. Mr. Fay said he would probably not put the mayor next to the Occupy Wall Street contingent.

On a refrigerator was a sheaf of personal checks sent as donations, including one for $100 from Arriba Arriba, a Mexican restaurant on Queens Boulevard that heard about the parade from a nearby Irish bar.

As usual, the parade will honor the Rev. Father Michael Judge, the gay Fire Department chaplain who marched in the parade in 2000 and died on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center. And as usual there will be a moment of silence for Robert Rygor, an early critic of the Fifth Avenue parade who died of complications from H.I.V. in 2004.

Mr. Fay went out to the garage and climbed up a stepladder to pull down the parade’s main banner, with help from Kathleen Walsh-D’Arcy, another leader of the event, which seems to have outgrown its early rebel days.

“We’re now part of the St. Patrick’s Day tradition in New York,” Mr. Fay said.

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More Red Fire Hydrants Are Popping Up on the Sidewalks

Expect to see more of these as the city installs more red fire hydrants as a signal to firefighters that they are fed by a wider water main.Ruth Fremson/The New York Times Expect to see more of these as the city installs more red fire hydrants as a signal to firefighters that they are fed by a wider water main.

Just about everyone knows the old joke about why firemen wear red suspenders (to keep their pants up, of course. But red fire hydrants?

If the sleek, bright red sidewalk standpipes seem to be proliferating in certain parts of Manhattan, including the Upper East Side, there are more to come. They stand out vividly compared to the standard black and silver variety.

Don’t expect a great hue and cry by traditionalists, though.

The city says that while there may be more of them (and they are more noticeable), some New York hydrants have always been painted red. The Fire and Environmental Protection Departments explain that the red hydrants are fed by wider trunk water mains. The color also signals to firefighters that the higher-pressure hydrants should be opened more carefully.

Dozens more are due to be installed by the end of the year when the next segment of the city’s Water Tunnel No. 3 goes online. Construction began in 1970 on the tunnel, which will give the city a third link to its upstate water supply.

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Running on Empty

Dear Diary:

After moving to the Upper West Side this year and fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Manhattan, I decided to participate in this summer’s New York City Triathlon. I thought the training had been going well and was feeling quite good about myself until the other day.

Running up the rolling hills on the north end of Central Park, I was passed by a speedster who asked if I was injured.

“No, that’s just the way I run,” I replied.

As he took off up the hill I heard him say, “I used to run like that when I had a stress fracture.”


Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail [email protected] and follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

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Board Warns Teacher for Having Two Jobs in the Same School

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board issued a warning letter on Thursday to a teacher in Queens for having two different jobs in the same school.

The teacher, Alex Joseph Pauline, worked as both a custodial helper and a teacher at Public School 80 from 1998 to 2012, according to the letter. Custodial helpers are hired by a school’s head custodian.

Part-time secondary employment for employees of the city’s Education Department as custodial helpers is allowed under a waiver that was requested by the agency and approved by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board in 2008. But in the letter, the board said the waiver stipulates that such employment must occur at a different school and during the summer.

Mr. Pauline, according to the letter, worked as a custodial helper during the summers and during the school year.

“Thus, by working as a custodial helper while also working as a D.O.E. teacher at the same school, you held a position with a firm you knew was engaged in business dealings with the city in violation of City Charter,” the letter stated. In this case, the teacher was employed by the head custodian, who provides services to the Education Department and is paid by the agency.

According to the Department of Education, Mr. Pauline’s teacher salary is $67,095 per year, and his rate as a custodial helper was $18.13 per hour.

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How the tax raise increase game works

Please read the following guest post from Larry Koch, special contributor on for the Center of Education Excellence at the Caesar Rodney Institute.

One of the reasons I retired from educational administration from a rural Maine school district was a cynical method to increase taxes that a number of my colleagues engaged in. This is how it worked:

1)        The town, usually fed up by double digit increases, would demand that the district lowered expenses by let’s say 2%. This should not have been a difficult task to do in a multi-million dollar budget.

2)        After a number of hearings (to show that they tried) the Superintendent would come out with a proposal that would cut sports, after school programming, AP classes and special education.

3)        The constituency groups for all of these programs would show up, howling for their children, at every board and town meeting, until-far too often- the proposed cut was dropped, and often a tax increase was agreed to.

The reason this scenario was so cynical was that it had been choreographed in advance, and concerned parents were manipulated into doing something that was destructive to the community, and ended up with farms being closed and people defaulting on their taxes. Education was not advanced, and the bureaucracy was engorged. School officials could have surgically applied cuts so essential and popular programs were saved, but they chose not to do so! Yes, they would have been criticized by somebody, but that is why they got those inflated salaries; to show some leadership!

Instead they turned the most active consumers of public education, the parents, in effect against the most economically vulnerable people in the community, seniors and struggling family farmers, in a conflict that leaves the community weaker and in no way improves learning. 

That is basically the scenario for the sequester debate. Our 16 trillion dollar government with some imagination should be able to absorb a cut of 2%. Instead, the administration plans on across the board cuts, highlighting the effects it will have on schools, the disabled, transportation, etc.,. The government, if it showed some leadership, could identify areas where little damage would result from reducing expenses, but refuses to do so, unless taxes are raised. This is a cynical- after the fact – grab for more money; the sequester legislation never mentioned a tax increase, but Obama would never allow an opportunity for this to pass without notice. Sequester would allow the president and departments to fine tune their cuts, as long as it came up to the required amount, but they have chosen not to do that without a tax increase.

Just like that school district, Washington’s continuing, insatiable demands for endless growth is demanding to be fed, and a cynical method has been employed to achieve that end. This was bad enough when it was done locally by petty school administrators- but now Washington has taken a leaf from their book! How pathetic!

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