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Daniel Prude’s Death: History Has ‘Repeated Itself’

Weather: Enjoy it while you can: Mostly sunny, with a high in the low 50s. (But the breeze might be stiff.)

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Friday (Purim).

When it was revealed that Daniel Prude, a Black man, had died last year after an encounter with police officers in Rochester, N.Y., there was widespread outrage, and the city’s police chief was dismissed.

But the officers who placed a mesh hood on Mr. Prude, then pressed his head into the pavement until he lost consciousness, will not be charged over his death, officials said Tuesday.

[Rochester officers will not be charged in the death of Daniel Prude.]

“These incidents have challenged public trust and confidence in our criminal justice system, and history has unfortunately repeated itself once again in the death of Daniel Prude,” said Letitia James, New York’s attorney general.

Here’s what you need to know:

Mr. Prude, 41, was visiting his brother in Rochester in March when he had an apparent psychotic episode and ran into the street, where officers found him naked, handcuffed him and threw him to the ground.

Mr. Prude had told at least one passer-by that he had been infected with the coronavirus, and he started spitting after he was restrained. Officers placed a mesh protective hood over his head. The police then held Mr. Prude’s head down on the pavement for two minutes. He had to be resuscitated at the scene, but he died in the hospital a week later. The medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide.

The details about Mr. Prude’s death did not become public until September, after lawyers for his family pushed for the release of the officers’ body-camera footage.

An internal review of the episode appeared to show that city officials tried to cover up what had happened. They presented Mr. Prude’s death as a drug overdose — he had PCP, also known as angel dust, in his system, according to the autopsy. But the medical examiner’s report had determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation. Internal correspondence showed that department officials tried to suppress footage of the encounter.

The revelations about Mr. Prude’s death further inflamed a national reckoning around racism and brutality in policing. The death of another Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department in May had started nationwide protests. A man whose skull was fractured after he was shoved by police officers at a protest in Buffalo in June filed a lawsuit this week against the city and members of its police force.

Ms. James said that her office was pursuing policing reforms aimed at “holding officers accountable who use deadly force without justification.”

“The cornerstone of this effort is to amend the use-of-force law from one of subjective, simple necessity to one of absolute last-resort,” Ms. James said.

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The Brooklyn Banks, an undulating brick wave under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, was a haven for New York City skateboarders long before the city built dozens of skateparks.

The Banks were perfect for performing daring tricks, and since they were relatively isolated, skateboarders could practice there for hours without interruption from the authorities. They became a piece of skateboarding history, documented in magazines, videos and versions of the video game “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.”

“It’s truly comparable to, say, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, except that when Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 there were other stadiums,” said Cole Louison, a skateboarding historian and editor at Bleacher Report. “There was nothing like this.”

So skateboarders were incensed when the city’s Department of Transportation removed the bricks at the Banks last spring, even though the area had been closed to the public for about a decade (which did not always stop people from skating there).

Steve Rodriguez, the founder of 5boro skateboards, and two other skateboarders created an online petition to save the Banks. The petition has received nearly 50,000 signatures and been shared by skateboarding luminaries.

Mr. Louison wrote for GQ about the Banks’ removal and the skateboarding backlash, and Mr. Rodriguez, who has partnered with the city to design skateparks, reached out to officials.

Members of the City Council in the area suggested restoring the land as a public park. A Department of Transportation spokesman said that bridge renovations are projected to continue there through 2023, and that there are no specific plans for the area once the work is completed.

Now that the city has so many skateparks, bringing back the Banks might seem unimportant. But Mr. Rodriguez, who had skated there since the mid-1980s, said that part of skateboarding’s gritty creativity was lost when terrain like the Banks vanished.

“It’s very heartbreaking” to see such fecund ground for skateboarding lie fallow, Mr. Rodriguez said.

It’s Wednesday — ride on.

Dear Diary:

My husband and I were newly married in February 1963 and rushing to what was still called Idlewild Airport for a flight to St. Croix for our honeymoon.

I was struggling with a large map and trying to figure out how to get from Philadelphia to New York via the New Jersey Turnpike.

Noticing what I thought was a shortcut that could save us some time, I gave my husband new directions. Eventually, we found ourselves blocked by large detour signs.

I saw a workman by the side of the road and I rolled down the window.

“Which way to the Verrazano Bridge?” I asked.

“Well, lady,” he said in quite a serious tone, “if you come back about this time next year, you can be the first one across.”

— Kate Hall

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. Sign up here to get it by email. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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