Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tempest in a teapot after a reporter gets miffed

Volume 79, Number 10 | August 12 - 18, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

By Lincoln Anderson

About 15 minutes before the start of last Thursday’s Third Council District debate, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel unsuccessfully lobbied to get a reporter from another publication inside. The miffed reporter — who had arrived at the highly anticipated and well publicized event too late to get a spot far enough up in the line to get in — subsequently wrote an article headlined, “Public, Press Barred From Debate for Quinn Seat” — this regarding a free debate that had been attended by more than 200 people, and several press organizations.

Speaking later, Siegel said one reason why he had lobbied to get that reporter, as well as a NY 1 reporter, into the debate was because Siegel has been involved in lawsuits recently involving press credentials. In one case, three online journalists who had formerly been print journalists — David Wallis of, Rafael Martinez Alequin of YourFreePress, and Ralph Smith of The Guardian Chronicle — successfully sued the New York Police Department to give them press ID, after they had previously been rebuffed. The case was hailed as a groundbreaking victory for bloggers’ rights.

Currently, Siegel is suing to force the Police Department to issue just one standard type of press ID, as opposed to the two current options: a Working Press pass and a plain Press pass.

“That’s why I was focused on getting these two people in,” Siegel said. Plus, he said, he just felt the journalists should be allowed in.

Meanwhile, Passannante-Derr, on her Web site, charged that Quinn’s campaign had been tipped off to arrive at 5 p.m. when they would get tickets to get in. However, tickets were handed out when it was estimated that a capacity crowd had formed.

As of Monday, Passannante-Derr’s Web site still alleged that Bob Ortiz-Arroyo, an activist who uses a wheelchair and had come all the way from the East Village, was barred entry. However, a YouTube video posted the day after the debate clearly showed Ortiz-Arroyo rolling through the building’s entryway.

“The Villager is the culprit here,” Siegel can be heard accusing on the video as Ortiz-Arroyo was shown entering the building.

John W. Sutter, The Villager’s publisher, issued the following statement the day after the debate:

“Community Media was very pleased last evening to have hosted a very successful candidates debate in the Third Council District Democratic primary race. Over 200 members of the public stood on line, got tickets and watched three candidates debate the issues important to New York City and the district. The debate hall and overflow room were filled to capacity. Approximately 45 people were unable to gain entry. The limitations on attendance were based on standard fire department occupancy regulations.

"We were very happy to have worked with New York University, which provided the space, security, and video support for the debate.

“A tempest has sprung up this morning about the issue of ‘ticketing,’ which unfortunately has created a red herring obscuring the basic admissions policy that was always in place. Audience members were admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. The ticketing was a counting mechanism instituted on the recommendation of security officials concerned about a crowd of people too large to be accommodated standing around for a lengthy period of time only to learn there would be no room for them.

“Press were welcome to attend. Some reporters made the appropriate plans to arrive early to gain access, and others waited in line and got a ticket. For any reporters who arrived after tickets were distributed, they can hardly expect to be privileged over audience members who made efforts to arrive in timely fashion to gain admittance.

"Full video coverage of the debate is expected to be available on our newspaper websites,, and early next week."

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