Communities United for Police Reform replaces BerlinRosen as public relations firm as CPR ramps up NYPD criticism of Bratton

BerlinRosen's close ties to de Blasio meant that CPR couldn't make aggressive demands for NYPD reform, because BerlinRosen wouldn't allow Mayor de Blasio to be outflanked or embarrassed by police reform activists.

By LOUIS FLORES

In a move that may spell political trouble for Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), the police reform group, Communities United for Police Reform, or CPR, has hired a new public relations firm, Progressive Cities, to replace BerlinRosen.  Dan Morris at Progressive Cities will replace Daniel Levitan at BerlinRosen as CPR's spokesperson.

When BerlinRosen was supervising CPR's external communications, City Hall was in a better position to keep CPR in check.  For example, CPR effectively sided with Mayor de Blasio's regressive appointment of William Bratton as commissioner of the New York Police Department, or NYPD.  Mr. Bratton is known for his support of policing tactics that unfairly target Blacks and Latinos ; nevertheless, many Latino elected officials issued statements of support to the press in a campaign some government reform activists said echoed the hallmarks of lobbyist-generated synchronicity for the convenient packaging of Latino elected officials' approvals.  New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) and Senator José Peralta (D-Queens) were joined by U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. (D-The Bronx), Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda (D-The Bronx), and Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) in supporting the Bratton appointment, even though grassroots police reform activists were protesting the appointment out of concern for Commissioner Bratton's reliance on a racial policing theory known as "Broken Windows."

Yesterday, the online news publication Progress Queens sent an e-mail request to Mr. Levitan, asking if BerlinRosen worked on pre-swearing in public relations work for Mayor de Blasio, and, if so, asking how BerlinRosen was being paid.  However, Mr. Levitan did not answer the request.  A few hours later, news broke that BerlinRosen was being replaced by Progressive Cities as CPR's public relations firm.

In the time since Mayor de Blasio was sworn into office, BerlinRosen has regularly courted controversy.

BerlinRosen has advised City Hall's non-profit, lobbying arm, the Campaign for One New York, which relies on funding from the mayor's political supporters.  Through the Campaign for One New York, Mayor de Blasio is actively engaged in a non-stop campaign of lobbying other government officials using private monies, subverting government work into the hands of public relations officials, lobbyists, and private donors.  BerlinRosen was also the mastermind behind a controversial "dark money" mailer that sought to quell voter anger in the time leading up to the closure of Long Island College Hospital, or LICH, in Brooklyn.  (The thin-skinned mayor and his political operatives were trying to deflect voter anger at Mayor de Blasio's betrayal on the LICH closure.)  In an exposé published by The New York Post, it was revealed that Mayor de Blasio seeks counsel from lobbyists, including those at BerlinRosen, comprising the integrity of government work at City Hall.  BerlinRosen also positioned itself itself in the middle of a $1.5 billion, zone-busting real estate development deal for the old Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn, that may have duplicitous implications for impropriety, since BerlinRosen led discussions between the real estate developer and the same de Blasio administration its firm regularly counsels.  Eventually, City Hall approved the waterfront development deal.

Mr. Morris, the Progressive Cities chief, formerly worked at the campaign consulting firm Red Horse, before founding Progressive Cities, according to a report in The New York Observer.  Red Horse is closely associated with Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito.  Police reform activists were hoping that the change in the public relations firm advising CPR would lead to aggressive demands for police reforms.  However, the close political ties to City Hall and City Council may make Mr. Morris another administration flack, perhaps less than Mr. Levitan.  Whilst it is known that CPR plans to publicly challenge Commissioner Bratton's "Broken Windows" theory of policing, which the mayor and the First Lady have supported, it is not known if CPR will call for Commissioner Bratton's resignation, as have grassroots police reform activists.