Detainment of Food Deliveryman on Central Park West Sparks Confusion and Fear

A screenshot from a video of the worker being detained.

This story was originally published on June 4, 2020 by THE CITY.


With the city operating on an 8 p.m. curfew, some food delivery workers are skipping shifts to stay home — out of confusion or fear for their safety.

They want to avoid the fate of the food-delivery cyclist who turned apparently unaware onto Central Park West from 108th Street on Thursday, where police had dispersed peaceful protesters at around 8:15 p.m. and begun arresting stragglers.

Then the officers came for the delivery man, according to a witness who captured the incident on video.

The footage shows the delivery worker pleading with the police to inspect his phone to look for the app that proves he’s on duty as an essential worker.

“Are you serious?” the deliverer cried incredulously as he was led away in handcuffs. “I’m working! I’m working!”

Cops arrest a food delivery bicycle under the guise of "curfew", even though the mayor said food service workers are essential and not bound by curfew. West 108th and Central Park West 6-4-2020#NYPD #nyccurfew #GeorgeFloydprotest

Posted by Mo Gelber on Thursday, June 4, 2020

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This delivery guy thought he’s an essential worker, police seemed to disagree. Put the sound on, and listen his voice. I do not have his name, just know he had @caviar @doordash bag on him. . . . The thing is, even if rules issued before the curfew are very unclear, according to the state, restaurants, bar & food industry workers are classified as essential. Still, he was arrested. . . . #nyc #nyccurfew #nycpolice

A post shared by Kirsti Karttunen (@kirstiyle) on

[Update by West Side Rag: A police spokesperson says the man was released: “Police detained the male, verified his credentials and he was released.” ABC reports that he was released “before dawn” and no charges were filed. The mayor also weighed in with the tweet below.]

Restaurant workers are among the exceptions to orders barring anyone on sidewalks or streets from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the wake of looting that followed days of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

That makes cyclists and drivers delivering food during the pandemic essential workers, exempt from the curfew. But many food deliverers say the risk of being caught in the crosshairs between police and protesters isn’t worth it.

“The images and the videos that you can look on the web — they show you the brutal police force that the police use right now,” said Juan Diego, who delivers for the food delivery app GrubHub.

“It’s better to stay home and stay safe. No one wants to get beaten that way,” he told THE CITY.

Typically, the Venezuela native would work well into the evening delivering food in Williamsburg on his motorized bicycle. But he’s now stopped picking up orders around 7 p.m. to avoid being outside.

His four roommates in Bushwick also deliver food. All but one has opted not to work during the curfew this week, he said.

A delivery worker cycles through Kips Bay in Manhattan, June 4, 2020. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

As he stood outside a Harlem Chipotle Wednesday afternoon, 28-year-old Javier Ángeles said he changed his delivery schedule so he’d arrive home to The Bronx before the curfew went into effect.

The previous day he’d been asked to deliver an order near a protest after 8 p.m., Ángeles told THE CITY. That spooked the Mexico native.

“We are afraid that they could grab us, arrest us and deport us,” he said.

A $3 Delivery

For Ángeles, changing his delivery schedule comes at a cost.

Ángeles began delivering for DoorDash when the pandemic hit and welding work dried up. His income from delivery fell short of what he says his family needs to survive, even before the curfew.

“There are very few deliveries, and very cheap. Today I have to take a $3 delivery. I’ve been working since 10 in the morning, and it’s the only delivery I’ve had,” he said, pointing at the order on his iPhone screen.

“It’s not enough for rent. It isn’t even enough to eat. Our life has become very complicated,” he said.

Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) told THE CITY that the hastily announced curfew showcases how “the city and the state have no plans to protect vulnerable essential workers.”

“I’m trying to get that into City Hall’s thinking — how do we make their lives easier? It’s not put more barriers and burdens on people that face enough barriers and burdens in their lives right now,” he said.

When the curfew was announced earlier this week, business owners in southern Brooklyn reached out to Treyger’s office over concerns about their employees who work overnight or are out delivering food.

An FAQ the mayor’s office released Tuesday, hours before the curfew moved from 11 p.m. to 8 p.m., said: “If you are stopped, you only need to identify yourself as an essential worker,” and described documentation as optional.

Treyger told THE CITY that he’s received the opposite advice from city officials. They told him employers should print out letters for their workers detailing they are essential workers allowed to be out during the curfew.

“You’re telling people that they have to carry documentation and to work with a cop, after you know damn well that’s led to dangerous and bad outcomes,” he said.

“It just speaks to the level of disconnect from the real world and all the rhetoric we’ve been hearing about how this is a city and state for all people,” Treyger added. “Time and time again their actions have not been aligned with their words and their pledges.”

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘I’m Black and I’m Driving’

Among one of the letter-carrying essential workers is DivineGod Gurley, 42, who has been delivering meals through Postmates full-time since he was laid off from his job at the 42nd Street Icon Parking back in March.

While Gurley has been able to make ends meet for most of the pandemic, the recent protests and subsequent curfew have complicated things.

Though his first night driving his car past the 8 p.m. curfew went smoothly, save for a few traffic jams, he said he’s been on high alert.

“My girlfriend, who’s a probation officer, likes to ride with me as I do my deliveries when she gets off from work,” said Gurley, who lives in Crown Heights. “And I was telling her, ‘Yo I want to get off the streets because I’m scared.’”

Postmates provided a letter certifying him as an essential worker. But Gurley said he’s not going to assume the credential will help police to discern him from protesters roaming the streets past curfew.

“Even having that letter, I was still afraid of just having to come in contact with police,” he said. “I mean there’s really no precautions to take. There’s nothing I can do except drive and hope that I don’t get pulled over.

“And that in itself is hard to say won’t happen. I’ve been pulled over plenty of times just because I’m black and I’m driving.”

Gurley said that in the past, he’s told officers that he works in the food industry, to no avail.

“I’ve showed them the app proving that I was doing deliveries, and they’ve still asked to search my car or told me it smelled like I had been smoking. And that was just the norm before people were protesting. There’s nothing I can do to protect myself. There’s nothing I can do.”

In the days to come, as the curfew runs until at least Sunday, Gurley said he’ll be altering his late-night hours depending on the mood of the city.

“If I see things start to get chaotic, then I’ll just get off the road,” he said.

Representatives for GrubHub, Postmates and Doordash offered similar statements on how their platforms are suspending services in certain areas to abide by curfews, although New York City is not among them.

“We’re evaluating the situation in each city individually and making decisions based on what we hear on the ground from local officials, restaurants and drivers,” a GrubHub spokesperson said.

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

NEWS | 37 comments | permalink
    1. Ryan says:

      Unchecked power of the NYPD. And the Mayor and Governor only show up when forced by irrefutable video evidence. The descent into a police state.

      Keep recording!
      REPEAL 50-A!!

      • VOTE HIM OUT!!! says:

        Re: “The descent into a police state.”
        Hmmm…wanna see a REAL descent into a police state?
        Check what’s happening in D.C.:
        1. UGLY chain-link fencing surrounding The White House (Hey, Trump finally gets his WALL);
        2. Threats by the Liar-In-Chief to bring active-duty military to counter the protests;
        3. Some already here! MSNBCvideo-footage o some unidentified ‘soldier-type’ personnel lined up in Lafayette Park; refusing to answer reporters’ questions;
        4. The use of government helicopters hovering just above rooftops, their rotor-wash bowling over protestors; and
        5. Neo-Sturmtruppen (storm-troopers) on horseback ordered by A.G. Barr to clear protestors out of the park so that ‘Herr Diktator’ could walk to that church and hold up an upside-down Bible for a re-election photo-op.

        THAT, Sir, is the beginning of a police-state!

      • roflo says:

        sorry bud
        we need law and order

        • Steve says:

          We are supposed to have rules. The delivery guy was following the rules. The cops cuffed him anyway. Rules are for the cops as well as everyone else. Unchecked power = tyranny!

    2. Will says:

      He was released before dawn? Are you kidding me, he was kept overnight? Shame on the NYPD.

      • Ryan says:

        Will, yes – that is normal sadly. It typically takes 18-24 hours for arraignment.

        However, habeas corpus has been suspended as of Thursday, so the NYPD can now keep ANYONE in holding indefinitely. He’s lucky he was out so quickly. This nonsense needs to stop. Now.

      • Tim says:

        Framing “released before dawn” as some sort of accomplishment is yet another indication of how far we have yet to come in regards to policing.

    3. Woody says:

      OK, the police were doing their job enforcing the curfew.

      But it’s very unfortunate that some harmless guy just trying to earn a living gets detained by the police but thousands of protesters who are breaking the law by violating the curfew are not detained.

      • Kevin says:

        No, they weren’t doing their job. Delivery workers are considered “essential” and are exempt from the curfew. Same status afforded to medical professionals.

      • EricaC says:

        But, you see, they weren’t, because they did not allow him to prove that he was actually an essential worker. They disregarded obvious evidence and took him into custody for hours when they could have avoided a waste of both his time, their time and taxpayer dollars by looking at the information he offered. They were more concerned with taking control than doing their job, which is a problem.

      • roflo says:

        agree with you.
        you are getting the libs all fired up!
        Order Order!

        • EHEisen says:

          So sad that you are afraid of your neighbors. The right people to fear are the police. How many white cops did they need to straighten out that situation? 57 cops resign upstate because sadistic, brutal police officers knock over an elderly man without reaction. Protect and serve? I think not.

    4. ben says:

      This is horrendous abuse of power on top of the already out of control police brutality.

    5. Yossarian says:

      This is ultimately where the problem with the police is. Even though you can be 100% in the right, you’re still getting arrested, beaten, tear-gassed, etc. and there’s nothing you can do about it that won’t lead to an escalation of the situation. Amazing that it took everyone having cameras on the phone to get any sort of movement towards accountability started.

    6. NotImpressed says:

      Why didn’t they check his credentials before hauling him in?
      Seems like the NYPD doesn’t hire the brightest.

    7. John says:

      What do you folks not get about a Curfew?

      I am not allowed to go to church if i do would end up in jail.

      But if you like looting, destruction of property and attempted murder of cops then a curfew is Bull to you 🙂

      • Sid says:

        The worker arrested is exempt from the curfew.

      • Rob Wolkow says:

        Curfews are implemented on citizens of totalitarian and fascist regimes. They have no place in democracies. If the police are unable to limit looting their strategies and tactics need to be improved. Curfews are an affront to the liberty of all NYers.

      • EricaC says:

        Exactly – this worker was not required to comply with the curfew. Another example of putting low-income workers at risk so the rest of us can sit safely at home.

      • NotImpressed says:

        John, what part of “exemption” don’t you understand?

      • Carol S says:

        @John – Food delivery workers are exempt from the curfew.

    8. JS says:

      A reminder that so many are working so hard late at night, in crap jobs with low pay – so others can be at home and get food delivered…

      Serf system in the U.S.

      • Woody says:

        The last time I checked there was no shortage of people coming to this country specifically to do these “crap jobs with low pay”.

        Not everyone can be a neurosurgeon.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Not everyone can be a neurosurgeon. But EVERYONE deserves a living wage, healthcare, pay for overtime, a certain amount of sick leave and vacation time, and so on. This isn’t the 1870s.

    9. nycityny says:

      The curfew was implemented to stop the looting. The looting basically stopped a few days ago yet the curfew remains.

      Los Angeles and Washington, DC, both hit badly by looting, ended their curfews on Thursday. New York should end it here. Now its only purpose is stopping 1st Amendment protected free speech. And it’s imprisoning regular residents in their homes for no good reason, something even Covid didn’t do.

    10. RL says:

      A couple was also arrested nearby just for cheering from their stoop:

    11. Zoey says:

      Absolutely INSANE. None of this is ok.

    12. ConcernedUWSider says:

      One thing I’ll point out, there are bad, simple, and just plain stupid people in every group, every walk of life. Police squads, offices, restaurants, hotels, etc all have idiots and we have all been wronged by others at some point when it was not our fault. To make a judgement against every police officer is unfair. There are many many good officers that care deeply for their fellow man and woman. Just speak to a few and say hello and you will see the good far outweigh the bad.

      It would be nice if we can condemn the few bad individuals without boldly chastising the whole entire police force.

      When it comes down to it, most of the NYPD are courteous caring individuals who risk their lives every day without knowing what they will encounter. They will run after someone about to hurt you, step in if you are in danger, pull someone who has a knife from jumping out a window to kill themselves, to save them while jeopardizing their own life. This just happened 3 months ago in our very own neighborhood and now they are all bad?

      We all will call them if we feel threatened and I for one am thankful 99% of them are here working hard for us. Chastise the 1% who are bad, not the 99% good. And if you are in danger, remember who you will call.

      • JSN says:

        It’s touching that you still believe that most cops are decent. Have you seen the videos of the 75-yr-old man who was shoved backwards by a group of Buffalo riot police? He fell and Kay unconscious with blood pouring out of his ear while about a dozen decent processed officers stepped over him.

      • nycityny says:

        You’re right, except this isn’t just about “the police.” It’s about the system. Systemic racism that allows the police to get away with killing black people with impunity. It doesn’t matter if most cops are good if the system allows for this racial injustice. In fact, it’s irrelevant.

      • Janis says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. “There are bad, simple, and just plain stupid people in every group, every walk of life.” Even mayors.
        Especially ours.
        I’ve never seen one man hated so much by people on both sides of the aisle, and totally justified.
        If, as nycityny says, the looting has pretty much stopped, then Deblasio is only keeping it in force because he can.
        The same reason he refuses to just, effing, open the city.

    13. Pedestrian says:

      The police are out of control. It’s appalling. This is happening all over the city. We all need to remember when one of us is abused by the police we are all at risk.

    14. Steve says:

      I watched the video. With the exception of the cop who cuffed him, the others were all in white shirts, which means they are supervisors and supposed to have better judgment. They all had their shields covered too – these guys are supposed to protect us, not oppress us!

    15. Judith M Kass says:

      What’s the matter with the NYPD? Did half our cops train under Bob Kroll (Minneapolis police union chief)? Why can’t Dermot Shea (NYC police commissioner) see that they’re trained better? Why can’t de Blasio tell Shea to do his job?

    16. Jan says:

      WHY are our police SO stupid!!