People v. Merolla

CourtNew York Magistrate Court
Citation181 N.Y.S.2d 476,18 Misc.2d 383
Decision Date26 December 1958
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of New York v. Angelo J. MEROLLA, Defendant. City Magistrates' Court of City of New York, Borough of Brooklyn, Bay Ridge Part

Page 476

181 N.Y.S.2d 476
18 Misc.2d 383
PEOPLE of the State of New York
v.
Angelo J. MEROLLA, Defendant.
City Magistrates' Court of City of New York, Borough of
Brooklyn, Bay Ridge Part.
Dec. 26, 1958.

Page 477

[18 Misc.2d 384] Edward S. Silver, Dist. Atty., Kings County, Brooklyn (Aaron E. Koota, Brooklyn, and Benjamin Schmier, Asst. Dist. Attys.), for the People.

Donato Di Palo, Brooklyn, for defendant.

William P. Sirignano, New York City (Salvatore J. Camp, New York City, of counsel), for the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, as amicus curiae.

MICHAEL POTTER, City Magistrate.

The defendant is charged with loitering on the morning of September 30, 1958, for about one-half hour starting at approximately seven o'clock, within 150 feet of pier 2, at Furman Street, Kings County, in that portion of the Port of New York district located within the State of New York; and at the said time and place, with having engaged other persons in conversation; and upon being questioned as to his presence thereat, with having offered no satisfactory explanation therefor. The charge is based upon Section 7 of the Waterfront Commission Act (Laws 1953, Chap. 882, Sect. 7, Chap. 883; amended, Laws 1957, Chap. 188; Sect. 6700-vv McKinney's Unconsol.Laws).

The Act is divided into three parts. Part I is comprised of the sixteen articles constituting the original Interstate Compact between New York and New Jersey, to which the Congress of the United States gave

Page 478

its consent as required by Article 1, Section 10, Paragraph 3 of the Federal Constitution (67 U.S.Stat. 541). Part II implements the provisions of the compact; and Part III, which includes Section 7 now in question, represents additional policing legislation enacted by New York. Manifestly, then, Section 7 is part of an enactment designed to tighten law enforcement along the New York State portion of the waterfront.

The evil conditions there, holding both employer and employee in a reign of terror, were notorious; and they are summarized [18 Misc.2d 385] in Part I, Section 1, Article I of the compact. (See also the Joint Memorandum of the State Crime Commissions of New York and New Jersey, the Port of New York Authority, and the Governor's offices of New York and New Jersey, McKinney's 1953 Session Laws, New York, p. 2213).

In fine, the object of the Act was to eliminate criminal and corrupt practices in the handling of waterborne freight within the Port of New York district and to regularize the employment of waterfront labor which, in essence, had sunk to a form of peonage through the dominance of pseudo-union leaders. Hence, the conditions being special and urgent, so were the remedial steps, namely, to break the grip of the criminal elements ruling the area. Perforce, only strong measures could halt the evil and mischief, and prevent their recurrence. With these malign conditions in mind, the Legislature passed the corrective laws of which Section 7 is a part. It provides as follows:

§ 7. Prohibition against loitering.

'No person shall, without a satisfactory explanation, loiter upon any vessel, dock, wharf, pier, bulkhead, terminal, warehouse, or other waterfront facility or within five hundred feet thereof in that portion of the port of New York district within the state of New York.'

The defendant's position in the instant case is that a violation of Section 7 constitutes a mere offense and should be tried in the New York City Magistrates' Courts.

The People and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, appearing herein as amicus curiae, contend that a breach of the said section must be treated as a misdemeanor, and that hence, the proper forum is the Court of Special Sessions of the City of New York.

The inherent question of legislative intent before us is one of first impression.

The defendant rests his major argument upon the legislative proposal found in the Joint Memorandum, mentioned supra, which states as follows:

'The statute [Waterfront Commission Act] also prohibits loitering on the waterfront without satisfactory explanation. The language for this section is taken from comparable provisions

Page 479

of law which presently apply to subways, railroads, air and bus terminals, (Penal Law of New York, Sec. 1990-a).' (McKinney's 1953 Session Laws of New York pp. 2213, 2217).

The pertinent provisions of Section 1990-a of the Penal Law are these:

'2. Any person who loiters about any toilet, station or station platform of a subway or elevated railway or of a railroad, or [18 Misc.2d 386] who is found sleeping therein or thereon and who is unable to give satisfactory explanation of his presence is guilty of an offense.'

'3. Any person who is guilty of an offense under this section shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding ten dollars or by imprisonment not exceeding thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.'

For like provisions relating to air and bus terminals, see, Section 150, subdivisions 2 and 3 of the Penal Law.

As to the meaning of the word 'loitering', see, People v. Bell, 306 N.Y. 110, 115 N.E.2d 821.

The Joint Memorandum, supra, was before the Legislature at the time of the enactment of Section 7 as part of the Waterfront Commission Act. Reports and recommendations of public bodies submitted to the Legislature for its remedial action help to shed light on its legislative intent. People v. Charles Schweinler Press, 214 N.Y. 395, 404, 108 N.E. 639, 641, L.R.A.1918A, 1124; In re Greenberg's Will, 141 Misc. 874, 882, 253 N.Y.S. 667, 676; affirmed 236 App.Div. 733, 257 N.Y.S. 1078; affirmed 261 N.Y. 474, 185 N.E. 704, 87 A.L.R. 833.

Since the provisions of Section 7 have their legislative root in Section 1990-a of the Penal Law, was it the intent of the Legislature to classify Section 7 as a mere offense? The Waterfront Commission Act denominates various violations of its provisions as misdemeanors (Part I, Sect. 1, Art. XIV, subd. 2; Part II, Sect. 2, subd. 9, Sect. 4, Sect. 5-d). However, a breach of Section 7 has neither been expressly named a misdemeanor nor an offense. The statute is wholly silent as to classification.

The defendant lays great stress upon the fact that New Jersey, the other party to the Interstate Compact, has enacted an identical prohibition against loitering, to be operative within that portion of the Port of New York district falling within the borders of New Jersey (New Jersey Waterfront Commission Act, Chap. 23, Sect. 32:23-79). There, the statute calls the unlawful loiterer a disorderly person. As such, he is guilty of an offense (New Jersey Stat. Ann. Chap. 169, Subtitle 12, Sect. 2 A:169-4; Sawran v. Lennon, 19 N.J. 606, bottom page 612, 613, 118 A.2d 10, at pages 12, 13).

Page 480

The People's countervailing contention is that the New Jersey statute pertaining to disorderly persons embraces offenders whose acts, in many instances, would be specified as misdemeanors in New York, and accounted more serious in import than, for example, a simple assault and battery (State v. Maier, 13 N.J. 235, 251, 99 A.2d 21, 29).

Moreover, a comparison of penalties discloses that the punishment upon a breach of the provisions of Section 1990-a of the [18 Misc.2d 387] New York Penal Law, which the defendant herein uses as a yardstick, and the sanctions found in the New Jersey law are not equal in dimension. On the contrary, the difference is marked. Whereas punishment under Section 1990-a is minor, supra, an infraction of the New Jersey law could result in a fine up to $1,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both (N.J.Stat.Ann. Chap. 169, Subtitle 12, Sec. 2 A:169-4). Since both states, as shown by the compact, were equally alarmed by waterfront conditions, it is untenable to suppose that they saw eye to eye as to the size and stress of the evils, and that to help redress them, each state enacted the prohibition against loitering,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 practice notes
  • People v. Colozzo, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • September 18, 1967
    ...language, section 29 has in fact not been applied by the courts to all such statutes, but has been applied to some (People v. Merolla, 18 Misc.2d 383, 181 N.Y.S.2d 476, 11 A.D.2d 799, 205 N.Y.S.2d 978, 9 N.Y.2d 62, 211 N.Y.S.2d 155, 172 N.E.2d 541, cert. den. 365 U.S. 872, 81 S.Ct. 906, 5 L......
  • People v. Merolla
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 16, 1960
    ...May 16, 1960. Motion by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for permission to file a brief amicus curiae granted. See also 18 Misc.2d 383, 181 N.Y.S.2d BELDOCK, Acting P. J., and KLEINFELD, CHRIST, PETTE and BRENNAN, JJ., concur. ...
2 cases
  • People v. Colozzo, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • September 18, 1967
    ...language, section 29 has in fact not been applied by the courts to all such statutes, but has been applied to some (People v. Merolla, 18 Misc.2d 383, 181 N.Y.S.2d 476, 11 A.D.2d 799, 205 N.Y.S.2d 978, 9 N.Y.2d 62, 211 N.Y.S.2d 155, 172 N.E.2d 541, cert. den. 365 U.S. 872, 81 S.Ct. 906, 5 L......
  • People v. Merolla
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 16, 1960
    ...May 16, 1960. Motion by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for permission to file a brief amicus curiae granted. See also 18 Misc.2d 383, 181 N.Y.S.2d BELDOCK, Acting P. J., and KLEINFELD, CHRIST, PETTE and BRENNAN, JJ., concur. ...

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT