An exodus from the city’s public defense offices

Hello. It’s Thursday. We will look at public defenders who quit their jobs, citing low pay. We’ll also look at one man’s quest for new ways to grow algae.

“We’re just not getting paid what we’re worth,” said Javionte Johnson, above, a 27-year-old public defender with the Harlem Neighborhood Defender Service.

He remained in office, working to ensure that a fundamental promise of the Constitution is upheld – that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. But hundreds of attorneys like Johnson have quit New York’s public defender organizations over the past year, discouraged by low salaries they say undervalue their work. They complain of being at a disadvantage in court, at least psychologically: the prosecutors they face can earn at least $10,000 more per year.

The Legal Aid SocietyNew York’s largest provider of civil and criminal services for indigent clients, has lost 10% of its staff, or about 200 people, in the past 12 months, a jump of 73% from 2021. Of those who left, 55 public defenders tried criminal cases and 37 legal services attorneys who represented clients in housing and immigration courts.

Turnover in other defender organizations was even higher. Over the past year, Brooklyn Defender Services has lost 40 attorneys, or 27% of its staff; and New York County Defense Services lost 30 attorneys, or 24% of its staff. The Bronx Defenders lost 18 attorneys, while the Queens Defenders lost 17 attorneys.

My colleague Jonah E. Bromwich writes that the departures have put additional pressure on the remaining lawyers. The problem is that clients won’t get the representation they deserve at a time when there is political pressure on prosecutors and police to stem gun crime.

The court system has accelerated gun possession cases in recent months. Such cases are often complicated, and public defenders say faster schedules make it harder to ensure customers receive fair treatment. Lawyers fear that speed could lead to mistakes – which could, in turn, send their clients to jail for years.

Lawyers also say accelerated court schedules leave them little time to search for evidence that could exonerate their clients or negotiate possible plea deals with prosecutors.

“With the courts exerting this pressure and essentially valuing process and efficiency over the constitutional rights of our clients, it just creates this ridiculous amount of pressure,” said Diana Nevins, 38, a working public defender. in Queens,” and that is frankly unreasonable.

While first-year graduates of Legal Aid’s Criminal Practice Law School earn about $74,000 a year, as much as city-paid attorneys, their salaries are lower than those of state prosecutors and attorneys. city ​​after five years.

This has made follow-ups a priority for lawyers at legal service providers. Advocacy organizations have planned a rally on Thursday to call on city officials to provide aid, including $10 million for legal aid alone.

“Budgets are values,” said Tina Luongo, the Legal Aid Society’s chief criminal defense practice attorney. “If you’re worried about NYPD staffing and corrections staffing, but you’re not worried about public defender staffing, you have a value problem.”


Expect showers and thunderstorms, then a mostly sunny day near the 80s. The evening is mostly clear with temperatures around the low 60s.


Valid until June 20 (June 19).

Michael Doall is the Johnny Appleseed of sweet kelp.

Yes, in one sentence, we compared apples with, uh, seaweed. It gets tangled in your toes at the beach. It wraps around boat propellers, including your own, if you’re lucky enough to have a boat.

Doall became a marine scientist when he was growing up – a shellfish scientist at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences – and an oyster farmer. And then he discovered sweet kelp.

It is a native species of algae that captures carbon and removes nitrogen from water much more efficiently than the nitrogen-reducing septic systems required in new homes in Suffolk County, where Doall lives. Sweet kelp helps prevent algae blooms, which are harmful.

And people who have eaten it say it’s good. Of meat. Brothy.

Seaweed aquaculture is barely a blip in the US economy compared to Asia, where most of the world’s kelp is grown. But Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation last year that paved the way for kelp to join oysters in the increasingly diverse aquatic culture industry. The measure opened up 110,000 acres in Long Island’s Peconic Estuary for potential seaweed cultivation.

Our writer Charity Robey says if seaweed aquaculture takes off in New York City, it will be largely because Doall showed other farmers how to grow where no one has grown before.

He suspected that kelp would be a good winter crop that wouldn’t interfere with his warm weather oyster farming. But he learned that all kelp aquaculture in the United States takes place in deep water and involves 10-foot-long tendrils that hang from suspended lines underwater, swinging freely in the ocean. These conditions did not exist in the knee-deep waters of a Long Island oyster farm.

“No one had really tried growing up in shallow water,” he said.

But – with a grant from the New York Farm Viability Institute in 2018 – he figured out how. He tested his new method with Paul McCormick big gun oyster farm in East Moriches.

Since then, Doall has developed seaweed farming techniques for everything from the shallow sandy bottom of Moriches Bay to the fast-flowing, murky East River. He has offered advice and planted at more than 15 commercial sites — all considered experimental, as state regulators are still developing health and safety regulations for growing algae.

Early harvests from sites in the Peconic Estuary were unsuccessful. Doall suspects the waters there are too clean. Pollutants like nitrogen tend to be lower here, leaving fewer nutrients to fuel kelp growth. But last month’s harvest at a nearby shallow-water farm produced hundreds of pounds of kelp for Sue Wicks, the Hall of Fame basketball player who is banking on the commercial future of kelp.

“In a few years, we’re all going to be considered an overnight success,” she said. “I want to be part of the future and the kind of food we’re going to eat. And I can do that in the bay where I grew up, where my dad grew up, my grandpa and my grandma.


Dear Diary:

After college, I lived in the East Village, scratching. I found a neighborhood hair salon that advertised $10 haircuts and walked in.

A barber, Toufik, led me to his chair with a friendly smile. With our reflections in the mirror, we swapped stories about our nephews – mine in Baltimore, his in Algiers. He was a musician, and so am I.

I have become a regular. I learned the ins and outs of renting a barber chair by following Toufik from storefront to storefront over the next few years.

One day I showed up for a haircut and the barbershop was empty: doors locked, barber chairs gone. I had no way of knowing if Toufik had settled elsewhere. Eventually, I left the neighborhood.

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