DA Opens Case on Violation of First Amendment
Management Accused of Dumping Newspapers because They don’t Like Being Criticized
By Michael Horowitz
BRONX, NEW YORK, April 11- District Attorney Robert Johnson, after being called by Co-op City News, has opened up an investigation into allegations that management officials have, over the last two weeks, directed Co-op City's porters to throw away copies of the community's independent weekly newspaper because they do not like the publication's stories and commentaries.
Christopher Hagedorn, publisher of City News, (the print edition of Co-op City News) said he called Johnson's office to report a seeming violation of state law, punishable by fines of up to $1,000, after a second informed source told the independent newspaper, this week, that management officials had conspired to throw away copies of the newspaper.
Hagedorn, stressed, this week, “The survival of our newspaper is at stake. We are convinced that the people at Riverbay have broken a state law that aims to safeguard our right to publish --- a right that is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. We won't be cowed into submission by a management that has no regard for Co-op City or its shareholders.”
The case against the Riverbay Corporation and Luis Salazar, Co-op City's director of janitorial services has been assigned to Bronx Assistant District Attorney Robert Carney.
Two informed sources, who wished to remain unidentified, have told the News, over the last two weeks, that Salazar gave the order for Co-op City's porter to throw away copies of the independent weekly because he did not like the newspaper's contents.
Salazar, contacted over the phone last week, denied the charge that he had ordered porters to discard copies of City News even though two Co-op City employees, one of whom works as a porter in Section 5, pointed to the director of janitorial services as the man who directed that the newspapers be thrown away.
The Section 5 porter said, last week, that he and a number of other porters refused to discard copies of City News because they considered Salazar's order to do so to be “illegal.”
A second Co-op City employee, who refused to disclose the department in which he worked, said, this week, that he knew that the order had been given for porters to throw away copies of this week's City News.
Contacted late last week, Riverbay board member Al Shapiro, saying that he strongly opposed many of the positions that City News has taken in recent issues, stressed that he, nevertheless, opposed efforts to censor the independent weekly newspaper.
“I will make some calls to try to get to the bottom of this,” Shapiro stressed, in a telephone interview last Friday.
Interestingly, newspapers that were thrown away in a number of buildings last Friday reappeared in the vicinity of elevators in a number of buildings the next day, last Saturday, a number of shareholders told City News this week.
“This whole situation is clearly suspicious,” said Hagedorn, in comments this week. “The long and the short of it is, from our perspective, is that management officials don't like what we've been saying about their incompetence and their clear waste of Co-op City's corporate assets. We plan to do what we have to do to assure our unfettered right to publish our newspaper in Co-op City and disseminate copies of it throughout the community.”
Hagedorn emphasized, “The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is a key cornerstone of our nation's democracy. We are committed to the notion that Co-op City needs the no-holds-barred presentation of the news that shareholders, in phone calls to us this week, have told us that they like most about our newspaper. The long and the short of it is that everyone, especially the power that be at the Riverbay Corporation, needs to be scrutinized in an open marketplace of ideas.”