October 28, 1996
It’s lights out for a proposed curfew for city teenagers. The plan, introduced with fanfare during the summer, is all but dead after it gained virtually no City Council support, Council leaders say.
The Council’s 21-member Black and Latino Caucus is opposing a curfew, and a Daily News survey of key Council members found the measure is short of the 26 votes needed for approval.
Councilwoman C. Virginia Fields (D-Manhattan), said, “I don’t think the climate in New York City is right for it.”
The plan’s chief sponsor, Councilman Thomas Ognibene (R-Queens), conceded last week that approval prospects appeared dim. He is drafting amendments to water down the bill in a bid to rally support.
They include allowing kids to stay on the street late if they are outside their homes and starting the curfew at midnight.
If that effort fails, Ognibene said he will try to take the issue “over to the people” by gathering the 45,000 signatures needed to authorize a citywide ballot referendum.
“I’m sorry if my Council members can’t get past emotional issues and start dealing with protecting the lives of children,” said Ognibene.
His original bill would ban unsupervised kids under 18 from city streets after 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The bill includes exemptions for those traveling to or from work, school, sports contests or religious and community-sponsored events.
Violators would have to perform 25 hours of community service the first time they were caught out after hours and 50 hours for subsequent offenses.
Parents who knowingly allowed their kids to violate the curfew could be slapped with fines of as much as $75 for a first offense, rising to $250 for additional violations.
Ognibene said teen curfews — which this year drew support from President Clinton — have reduced juvenile crime in many cities. A U.S. Justice Department study showed that 146 of the nation’s 200 largest cities have some form of curfew for kids.
However, a News poll in July found New Yorkers almost evenly divided on a curfew. The idea met with overwhelming opposition among teens.
The Black and Latino Caucus refused to support the measure, despite a recent pitch from Ognibene, the Democrat-controlled Council’s Republican leader.
“It’s not going to be easy to enforce, and there is the attitude of cops to our communities and the distrust that has been building,” said caucus Chairman Jose Rivera (D-Bronx).