Entries in NYC (22)


Judge Bans 8-mile NYC Skateboard Race

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It may conjure images of bad musical numbers, but the "Broadway Bomb" is anything but an innocent day at the theater. So says New York Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Wright, who granted the City of New York's request for an injunction against the 8-mile skateboarding event slated to take place Saturday.

Comprised mostly of longboard-type skateboarders, the race began with 14 skaters 10 years ago and grew to 1,000 participants from across the U.S. by 2011. The race stretches down Broadway, from 116th Street all the way to Wall Street, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.

This year's attendance was expected to double. The size of the race and the participants' behavior in years past, the city said in a statement, "such as failing to stop for red lights, cutting off and weaving through moving vehicles...and instructing vehicles which have the right of way to stop so they can pass through intersections" are what led the New York City Law Department to seek the injunction. The office said organizers have never "sought or were granted a city parade permit" in the decade since the race has been held.

Though too late to secure permits for this year, Ian Nichols, co-founder of the Broadway Bomb, says the show must go on. Next year, anyway.

"I plan to take steps to get permits for next year," Nichols told ABC News. Nichols, 43, attributes the ballooning nationwide popularity of longboarding to his event's success. "Otherwise, if it gets any bigger, they might call in the national guard next time."

Nichols said he will not participate in or attend the race and that the race has been officially canceled. However, a note on the event's Facebook page insists the tenth anniversary Broadway Bomb will still take place.

"We are going to flash mob 116th Street and Broadway at 11:50AM and Start the Race at 12:00PM exactly," the note reads, "please don't show up until 11:50AM because there may be a police presence. Please share this post with everyone in order to keep us all safe. See you there."

The city's Law Department told ABC News they are aware of the note and said "participants will be reminded that there is a restraining order, and the event cannot proceed. Those who do not listen will be subject to police intervention, including possible arrest."

Nichols denied any association with the Facebook page and said the only related work he'll being doing from now on will be toward ensuring the event, with all the proper paperwork, goes on unimpeded next year.

"It has to happen," Nichols said. "This event means a lot to people who don't live in the most exciting city in the world."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


WATCH: Window Washers Rescued from NYC High-Rise

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two window washers spent a terrifying hour suspended 42 stories above the streets of Manhattan Wednesday before firefighters could pull them to safety.

The two workers, who were not identified by fire officials, were cleaning windows on the 42nd floor of a building at Sixth Avenue and 46th Street in Midtown when their scaffolding stopped working, according to New York ABC affiliate WABC.

When emergency crews responded, they found the two men hanging on for dear life as their scaffolding dangled at a 45-degree angle, according to Fire Department officials.

Firefighters reached the men through an office window and kept talking to them to calm their nerves as they worked to create an opening to reach them.

Nearly one hour later, after using special diamond grinders to cut through two panes of glass, firefighters pulled the men one at a time through the window to safety.

One of the men, described as in his 60s, was placed on a stretcher immediately following the rescue.  Both were transported to the nearby Bellevue Hospital as a precaution but released with no major injuries.

For one of the men this was the third time he found himself stuck high above the city streets while doing his job.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Handyman in Etan Patz Probe Says He's Innocent

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A lawyer for the handyman Othneil Miller whose basement workshop is the focal point of a new investigation into the Etan Patz case Friday denied he had anything to do with the little boy's disappearance more than three decades ago.

"Mr. Miller did not do this," Michael Farkas, the attorney for Miller, told reporters outside the Brooklyn building where Miller lives.

"Mr. Miller denies involvement with what happened to this beautiful young boy and he's going to remain cooperative to the extent that's reasonably possible given this investigation," Farkas said.

Patz, who was 6, disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself.

Authorities Friday began the first full day of digging in the Manhattan basement at 127 Prince St. for new evidence, following the startling discovery that the missing child may never have made it off his own New York City block.

Patz's 1979 disappearance sparked a massive city-wide search 33 years ago, but now the FBI and New York City police believe they may find evidence in what was then a handyman's basement workshop just steps away from where the boy was last seen.

The small basement room at the center of the investigation belonged to Miller, now 75, and was also frequented by the case's longtime prime suspect Jose Ramos.

Federal agents and New York City police began Thursday to tear up the concrete floor of the basement and the excavation was in full swing Friday.

Prosecutors reopened the cold case two years ago and began focusing on the Prince Street basement room following an interview with Miller.

That interview prompted the FBI and NYPD to put special odor-absorbing pads in the room for four days. When those pads were presented to cadaver dogs, they signaled the odor of human remains. The dogs were then brought to the basement where they again indicated the scent of human remains.

Investigators then interviewed Miller again before obtaining a warrant and beginning the dig.

Kelly said an array of new technology unavailable to law enforcement in 1979 including x-rays and black lights are being used in the investigation.

The new investigation is also reexamining the decades old assumption that Patz was abducted by convicted pedophile Jose Ramos. Ramos, now in prison for an unrelated case, was never charged with Patz's abduction.

According to sources, the area of the basement where the dog picked up the scent appears to be one that had been resurfaced with fresh concrete at or shortly after the time of Patz's disappearance.

The basement was searched in 1979, the year the boy disappeared, but the floor was never dug up.

Since then, drywall has been put up over the room's brick walls. The drywall will be removed and the bricks examined and tested for blood evidence using advanced forensic techniques that were not available three decades ago, officials said.

The floor will also be dug up in a search for human remains, clothing or other evidence.

For the Patz family, it has been more than three decades of agonizing investigations and years of wondering what happened to their blond son with the gorgeous smile.

The case had been dormant until Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. reopened the case. Former DA Robert Morgenthau had declined to proceed with the case, citing insufficient evidence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York Subway Bomb Plotter Breaks Down on Witness Stand

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Najibullah Zazi, the admitted ringleader of a 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subway, broke down in tears Thursday, during his third day of testimony against his alleged co-conspirator.

When asked by the prosecutor if he still considered defendant Adis Medunjanin a good friend, Zazi began to cry, and said, "I love him." Zazi's tears became sobs when he was asked if he believed Medunjanin intended to carry out the suicide bombings. Zazi hung his head, and after a short pause, whispered, "Yes."

Zazi told a jury Wednesday that his purpose in coming to New York was to construct a "martyrdom operation." Zazi, 26, was raised by Afghan parents in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. He moved to Queens, New York as a teen, where he met Medunjanin, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia.

Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder abroad, and of providing material support to a terrorist organization. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

A third conspirator, Zarean Ahmedzay, 27, who pled guilty to a role in the plot two years ago, testified Monday. All three of the Muslim men, who attended high school together in Queens, were "very close friends," said Zazi. Wednesday marked the first time Zazi, the central figure in the failed subway bombings, has described the plot in detail publicly, telling the jury he became radicalized after listening to jihad-promoting audio recordings.

In 2008, Zazi testified, the three men traveled to an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan where they received terror training, learning to fire pistols, AK-47 machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. Zazi said they were also instructed on how to make bombs using household materials. "It was very simple, and they're everywhere," he said of the chemicals, which include nail polish remover and hydrogen peroxide.

It was during this time in Pakistan, Zazi said, that the three men, along with a top al Qaeda fugitive known as "Hamad," devised what authorities have deemed one of the most serious terror plots since the Sept. 11 attacks. Zazi told the jury the men considered other targets, such as the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, and an unspecified Walmart store, but eventually decided to target the subway because "it's the heart of everything in New York City," Zazi said.

Zazi said the men drew inspiration from videos of the July 2005 London metro bombings. "That was a very big achievement, achievement through hitting the United Kingdom economically," Zazi said.

Before the three men returned to the U.S., Zazi took handwritten notes on bombmaking and scanned them into his email, evidence that was introduced in court. Later emails show Zazi corresponding with one of his al Qaeda handlers to get the exact formula for completing the bombs. "[P]lez reply to what i asked u right away. the marrige is ready," Zazi wrote.

After leaving Pakistan, Zazi relocated to Denver, where he lived with relatives and took a job as an airport shuttle driver. Zazi later used the shuttle to carry his lethal chemicals.

During the summer of 2009, Zazi traveled to New York to meet with his conspirators, telling the jury, "We talked about if we were still into the plan. Zarein and Adis said 'yes.'"

The three men decided on suicide bombings at three different Manhattan subway locations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to Zazi. He testified that the men specifically targeted trains leaving Grand Central Terminal at rush hour in order to maximize the death toll. We hoped that "people would have a lot of fear," Zazi said.

Zazi then returned to Denver, where he rented a hotel suite and began mixing the chemicals necessary to carry out his terrorism plot, creating what he said was enough for three bombs. Once completed Zazi rented a car, loaded in the deadly chemicals, and drove to New York.

However, earlier emails he had sent to his al Qaeda handler had been intercepted by the F.B.I., and by the time Zazi reached the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan, counterterrorism investigators were waiting for him.

Police followed his car and Zazi, realizing he was under surveillance, stopped at a Queens mosque and threw away the chemicals, goggles, and other bombmaking materials. Ahmedzay flushed some chemicals down the toilet, Zazi added.

He flew back to Denver, where he was contacted by the F.B.I. and later arrested.

Zazi's guilty plea was part of a government cooperation agreement that guaranteed his testimony in Medunjanin's trial.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bloomberg Blasts NRA over ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for the nationwide reform or repeal of Stand Your Ground laws Wednesday at an event in Washington, D.C. to announce the Second Chance on Shoot First campaign.

The campaign is intended to prevent killings like that of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and Bloomberg blamed the National Rifle Association for the Florida law that many feel empowered George Zimmerman to shoot the unarmed Martin.

“In reality the NRA’s leaders weren’t interested in public safety. They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it. Let’s call that by its real name, vigilantism,” he said. "The NRA should be ashamed of themselves. This has nothing to do with gun owners' rights. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.”

Bloomberg, who was joined by civil rights leaders and Florida State Sen. Chris Smith, said the laws had undermined the justice system and have done harm to public safety.

“They justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results,” he said.

ABC News reached out to the NRA for comment, but it has yet to respond.

Two dozen states have enacted laws similar to the one in Florida, and while the laws vary from state to state, most grant varying degrees of immunity to anyone who uses deadly force in self-defense.

Bloomberg cited statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to show an increase in justifiable homicides after the Stand Your Ground laws went into effect.

In Florida, he said, justifiable homicides increased from 12 per year to 36 per year when the five years before and after the passage of the law were compared.

Bloomberg was also joined by former Army Major Jon Soltz, the chairman of Soltz said that U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan had a higher standard of when to use deadly force than Americans who lived in states with Stand Your Ground laws.

“There is no shoot first law for our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. We cannot just shoot somebody because they have a hijab on in Iraq and kill them and say we’re scared. Everybody in Iraq has a weapon and all U.S. forces are always scared,” Soltz said. "This is a legal protection in these states that is actually afforded to Mr. Zimmerman that is not afforded to our troops in combat. Unless I’m wrong I didn’t think Florida was a war zone.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York Telephone Booths To Get a 'SmartScreen' Digital Makeover YORK) -- You have to feel slightly bad for telephone booths -- not only have cellphones made them relatively useless, but as a result, they tend to get sorely neglected.

But the life of a phone booth is about to get much better in New York City.

A company called City24x7 has partnered with New York City to install "SmartScreen" stations at hundreds of old pay phone booths around the city. The touchscreens will display interactive hyper-local neighborhood information, including details about restaurants, stores and safety alerts. There will also be a 311 icon that allows users to access city information and file complaints.

The stations will also double as wireless hotspots, City24x7 confirmed for ABC News. They won't function as a city-wide wireless offering, and there is no Internet search capacity on the touchscreens themselves, but a person who is standing next to or near a station can connect to the Internet for free on their smartphone, laptop or tablet.

The screens will be installed in locations across all five boroughs next month and will be free to use.

However, the actual landline phones won't be replaced entirely and it will still cost to make a phone call.

The City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications has approved 250 SmartScreens to be installed to begin with, as part of a pilot program, and located only where there are two phone booths. One phone will be replaced with the new screen while the other will remain available to make calls.

"We think this pilot will help us determine what the future of the payphones will be," Nicholas Sbordone, director of external affairs at the city's technology and telecommunications department, told ABC News.

Sbordone explained that the city will use the first SmartScreen stations to get public input and will then use that feedback to craft the next generation of the city's still-standing 12,000 pay phones.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Accused NYC Subway Terrorist to Face Anonymous Jury

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In an unusual legal move, when a New York City man goes on trial this spring for allegedly plotting to detonate explosives in the subway, it will be an anonymous jury that determines his fate.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie sided with prosecutors who argued for an anonymous jury because the charges against Adis Medunjanin, "are of the highest possible seriousness."

"Given the nature of the allegations, the involvement of al Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization with global reach and a history of targeting civilians in New York City, and the virtual certainty of substantial media and public attention, a fair trial requires empanelling an anonymous jury," prosecutors said in court papers.

Medunjanin is accused of being a willing suicide bomber and partnering with convicted terrorist Najibullah Zazi and others to detonate homemade explosives in the subway system in September 2009.

In the case of an anonymous jury, any identifying information for the jurors is withheld from the public and they are only referred to by an assigned number -- a rare but not unheard of judicial move in sensitive, high-profile cases.

Court records say Medunjanin traveled to Pakistan, "with the goal of joining the Taliban and fighting violent jihad against the United States and coalition troops in Afghanistan." Instead, court records say, Medunjanin returned to the U.S. intent on conducting a suicide attack.

Zazi and co-defendant Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and are expected to testify against Medunjanin, their one time high school friend, at trial, which is scheduled to begin in April in Brooklyn.

"One need not conjure up worst-case scenarios to observe that even the mere possibility that the defendant's co-conspirators in al Qaeda, or their sympathizers, might threaten the judicial process in this case is a valid concern," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bitkower.

Defense attorneys called the prosecution argument "inadequate" and said there was no compelling reason to seek an anonymous jury.

"Here, the government does nothing more than invoke the specter of al Qaeda and terrorism as a justification for the extreme steps of empanelling and partially sequestering an anonymous jury," attorney Robert Gottlieb said.

Judge Dearie did not immediately decide whether to also order U.S. marshals to escort jurors between their homes and the courthouse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Najibullah Zazi's Father Sentenced for Role in Attempted NYC Bombing

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The father of an admitted terrorist was sentenced Friday for his role in an alleged plot to blow up the New York City subway.

Mohammed Zazi was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for obstructing authorities investigating his son.  In February 2010, Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to planning to blow up the New York City subway with homemade explosives he learned to make in Pakistan.  Investigators said his father tried to cover up the crime by destroying evidence and lying to detectives.  

The son had practiced making bombs in the Denver area before he drove to New York where he learned he was being watched by the FBI.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NYC Teacher's Aide Busted for Producing Child Porn

Amos Morgan/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A teacher's aide in a New York City elementary school has been charged with making child porn.  

Taleek Brooks worked at Public School 243 in Brooklyn, where the FBI says he produced images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  It's not immediately clear whether students in his care were among the victims.  

Brooks had been arrested last month for having child porn on his computer, and was arrested again after the FBI discovered new evidence.  Brooks shared with an undercover investigator his directory of images.  

In private online chats the teacher's aide allegedly said he was interested in 10-year-old boys.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NYC School Misspelling Causes Red Faces, Pointed Fingers

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A misspelling on a New York City crosswalk has city, utility and school officials pointing fingers. Even worse, the misspelling is right outside a Manhattan high school, and involves the word "school."

The painted pavement on Stanton Street outside Marta Valle High School reads "SHCOOL X-NG.”

The Department of Transportation claims the mistake was made by a utility provider conducting repairs on the street, according to the New York Post, which first reported the glaring error.

City officials say utility providers and contractors are responsible for returning city streets back to normal after repairs. But at least one city worker told the paper the blame lies not with the utility company or the city, but with the school.

"Regardless of who painted it, someone from the school should have been outside supervising, or noticed it by now," the city worker, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Post. "This is sloppy work."

The Post also reports that the neighborhood's residents said construction crews worked on the street over the summer, meaning the error has gone either unnoticed or unrepaired by both the city and the school for months.

"We are contacting them to correct the error promptly," a DOT spokesman told the Post, referring to the utility provider the agency says is to blame.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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