- Check our front page for Manhattan Social, Economic & Political Issues reports published since the last update on this page, and / or go to Gotham Buzz Social, Economic & Political Issues for our reporting during the pandemic.
The Women Keep On Marching
An Estimated 200,000 Participate in NYC Women's March
It was a beautiful Saturday morning as I made my way toward the NYC Women's March stepping off point at 72nd Street and Central Park West. As I drew closer to my destination, I saw a large crowd spread along the sidewalks and streets, managed skillfully by the New York City Police Department.
The crowd was a friendly one - consisting of all ages from toddlers to grandparents, including a rainbow of gender of singles, husbands, wives and friends - representing America's and New York City's great diversity. During this march they all convened together to make a statement by their very presence. The marchers' statements varied in specificity, but generally seemed to be one of protest against one President, Donald Trump, whose disrespectful personal behavior toward women and people of color, have not gone unnoticed. And to the people marching, the President's bad example as the nation's role model, should not go unanswered.
Women's March NYC 2018 from CPW to Bryant Park
The march began moving on schedule, reaching us a bit past 12.30 pm. We had lined up around West 86th Street, and the official parade starting point was West 72nd Street. We made our way south along Central Park West, past the Museum of Natural History and the New York Historical Society. Generally the mood of the crowd was a joyous one, but it turned a bit nasty and dark as we passed by the Trump International Hotel & Tower at One Central Park West at 60th Street, where some of the marchers expressed their opinions of the President in a politically incorrect manner - in a disrespectful style reminiscent of the President himself.
The official estimate of the crowd was around an estimated 200,000, which was a bit below the estimated crowd size of last year , which was estimated to be around 250,000. Women marched in cities around the nation on this day, and some of the marches - like the one in Chicago - drew an estimated crowd of 300,000 significantly beating the crowd size of the prior year.
The march ended in Midtown near Bryant Park, where we dispersed and headed out for a bite to eat. All that walking can make a reporter hungry. Photos by Dantanyan UWS and story done collaboratively.
NYS Ballot Propositions - Vote Tuesday
There are three Referendums on the Ballot.
Calling A State Constitutional Convention
This is where it appears that all the lobbyists would re-write the NYS Constitution to favor them and their interests, and screw the general public aka you. Their argument is to streamline government, but democracy works slowly for a reason - as it takes time for the general public to become aware of issues and then to organize in time for a proper vetting. That's why our Founding Fathers included so many checks and balances in the system - to give us - We The People - time to react.
I recommend voting NO.
Forfeiture of Public Officer's Pension if Convicted of Felony
This is where a public official who's found guilty of a felony that violates the public trust, loses their pension. This is targeted only at a certain class of government officials - not all of them. Voting Yes, mitigates the effort to expand the scope of government officials covered. It seems an unfair application of the law and I don't know who drafted this or why they limited it.
I have no recommendation.
Authorizing Use of Forest Preserve Land for Specified Purposes
This is what looks like the creation of a first opening for development in the Adirondack and Catskills parks. It's not specific to any identifiable project and open ended, which looks like giving government officials / developers a blank check. Each project should be evaluated on its own merits.
I recommend voting NO.
Election 2017 Tuesday 11/7 - Please Vote
The polling booths will be open from 6 am to 9 pm Tuesday.
To find your poll location click on the graphic at right.
Once on the website, input your address, and then click the small icon to the right of it to get the results of the search. I hope the NYS Board of Elections does better cyber security on their voting systems than they do web design for this site, as the tiny arrow mentioned above is easily overlooked.
Table of Silence Transcends 911
Lincoln Center Dance Commemoration Transcends Hate through Love
This morning at 8.15 am over one hundred dancers began a spiritual commemoration of the events of 911 with a modern dance performance in the main plaza at Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. This was the seventh year of the performance, and its meaning seems to grow - rather than diminish - with time. It's about the classic and timeless struggle, between giving into hate, or striving to love.
The dancers were all dressed in white, and they created a resplendent symmetry mimicking nature's own. The performance was accompanied by a bit of minimalist music - originating from a beating drum, the air passing through a conch shell, and the human vocal cords.
The dancers transformed the plaza at Lincoln Center into a table, with the bountiful water fountain in the middle. Plates appeared, signifying the sharing of a feast ... a spiritual feast ... a prayer for all humanity.
We feel a heavenly sharing of being together, in a single place, at a single time. It's a solemn place, a sagely peace, a peace with each other, a peace within, and a peace with all the world ... even as the world continues to swirl around us, as does the NYC traffic ... but we remain centered ... as one.
At exactly 8.46 am the performance stops. All is still in Lincoln Center Plaza as we observe a minute of silence together. It's a silence within, as we are surrounded by the ambient noise of the city during rush hour. Sixteen years ago at 8.46 am the second of two planes struck the World Trade Center wreaking havoc. Taking lives. Creating chaos.
Cleansed of hate and vengeance - we depart to go on with our days. We have defeated the terrorists, by not giving into their desire for an endless cycle of violence and hate.
You Decide: President to Address Nation
Proposing $54 Billion Defense Budget Increase - Why?
Tonight President Trump will address the nation regarding his plans for the U.S. One of the notable previews given by sources within the Administration is that Trump plans to increase Defense spending by $54 billion. I decided to take a quick look at some of the economic statistics to see if that appears warranted, especially vis a vis other priorities.
U.S. Government Deficits
The first chart [Congressional Budget Office] shows that the U.S. government has been spending more than it has been taking in. The gap widened in the wake of the September 2008 near financial meltdown, as tax receipts fell and fiscal stimulus [government spending] was needed to keep the economy going.
The higher levels of debt continued through the first term of the Obama Administration and then fell sharply back to Bush II era levels during the second term of the Obama Administration.
The net result is that near financial meltdown resulted in higher government deficits, which added to the overall U.S. government debt.
U.S. Government Debt
The second chart [Wikipedia] shows U.S. government debt relative to U.S. GDP. GDP is the acronym for Gross Domestic Product, which is a measure of the nation's economic output in goods and services.
The chart shows that the overall U.S. government debt relative to GDP rose significantly in the wake of the 2008 near financial meltdown. Currently the U.S. debt level is equal to about an entire year of U.S. economic output.
Many economists think that the U.S. has an unhealthy level of debt as it doesn't provide much slack for unforseen circumstances, like the 2008 near financial meltdown or prolonged involvement addressing international crises.
U.S. Defense Spending One Third of Global Total
About Equal to the Next 8 Nations Combined
Currently the U.S. appears to overspend on military operations vis a vis the rest of the world. The U.S. military accounts for one third of defense spending in the world and its budget is roughly equal to the military budgets of the next EIGHT leading defense spenders in the world.
You can see this in the chart at right which was created by the Institute for Strategic Studies and published in the Washington Post.
U.S. Economy Less than a Quarter of Global Total
About Equal to Only the Next 3 Nations Combined
By contrast the U.S. economy represents less than a quarter of the global economy [versus a third of defense spending] and the U.S. economy is equal to the next THREE leading economies in the world [versus eight nations in military spending].
In the chart at right you can see the U.S. economy depicted in size versus the next eleven economies in the world. The chart was prepared by the International Comparison Program [ICP] which involves the World Bank in making its comparisons.
Does Trump Proposal to Increase Defense Spending $54 Billion Make Sense?
So my question is why is the president proposing to INCREASE defense spending, when we're spending so much more - relative to the size of our economy - than the entire rest of the world?
Click here to read the rest of our report on how out of balance U.S. Defense Spending in America is compromising the nation's economic future.
Hundreds of Thousands March in NYC
Women's March Appears to Approach 21st Century NYC Protest Record
I headed into Manhattan around noon on Saturday. The #7 subway line was packed, even more than during rush hour on a weekday morning. There were protesters wearing pussy hats, bearing protest signs and placards, and generally in pretty good cheer as they headed into Manhattan for the Women's March in NYC.
I got off the subway at Grand Central Station along with the crowds of protesters, and made my way up to the 42nd Street exit. Out on the street there was a moving mass of marchers making their way down to Fifth Avenue where they would turn north to march up to Trump Tower along Fifth Avenue at 57th Street.
I have to admit I was surprised by the massive turnout. One person told me that over 50,000 people had signed up for the event on Eventbrite. But it would become obvious to me as the day wore on that the crowd had easily exceeded that number.
The event was planned to begin at 11 am in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at Second Avenue and 47th Street. There would be a few speeches, followed by a march down Second Avenue to 42nd Street, then west to Fifth Avenue and then north up Fifth Avenue ending at Trump Tower at 57th Street. It was scheduled to end at 4 pm and waves of protesters had been choreographed to leave Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in 15 minute intervals.
I had listened to Donald Trump's Inauguration speech the day before [Friday] and there didn't seem to be anything in there that struck me as very objectionable if one didn't read anything into it. So I kind of thought the march might be a bit premature given he'd just assumed office and hadn't really done anything yet.
I asked one woman if I had missed anything in Trump's speech, that she / others found objectionable. She told me no, he hadn't said anything objectionable, but she went on to say that she didn't believe anything he said. I asked another woman why she'd come out to protest today. She told me that she wanted to stand with other women in making a statement to Trump that they weren't going to passively stand by and allow him or the Republican Party to roll back their hard fought equal rights.
There was a festive mood throughout the day. I occasionally asked policemen keeping the peace how things were going. Many smiled and said it was going well and that they hoped it would continue that way.
I'll have more on this, including some details of how the protest morphed throughout the day, as well as a photo slide show and some video, sometime in the next week.
Trump Election Victory Protests Continue
The Democratic Way to let off Steam, While Coming to Grips with an Unexpected Outcome
Like most folks, I had seen and heard the protests that sprung up around the city and country in defiance of the Trump election victory. On Saturday I received an email about the one of the upcoming protests from a number of small, civic-minded non-profit groups that wanted to make a statement in favor of respecting women and minorities, and immigrant rights. The protest was being held on Sunday at 2 pm at the Trump International Hotel on Columbus Circle near the Upper West Side, so I decided to attend it to get a closer look as to what was going on.
I came up from the subway in Midtown Manhattan and began making my way toward the Trump Hotel at 57th and 5th Avenue. At the Tiffany’s corner there were marchers and protesters chanting and singing, while waving signs with slogans, and encouraging passing pedestrians to join in the effort.
The NYPD seemed to have everything under control. They had their hands full with gnarly traffic and gated walkways, which herded holiday visitors and New Yorkers alike through snake-like pedestrian paths in Midtown. I asked one officer how things were going and he said they were going well enough. I asked him how long things had been this tied up and he said since Tuesday, the night of the election. I asked him how long he thought this would continue and he said until the protesters had let off enough steam.
On election night I had visited both the Trump campaign at the Hilton Hotel Ballroom in Midtown, and the Clinton campaign at the Javits Center. Trump appeared fully prepared for defeat, given the space he booked only accommodates about 1,000 or more guests; while Clinton appeared to be counting her chickens before they had hatched given she’d booked the Javits Convention Center where thousands had gathered in anticipation of seeing her announce to the world that females had finally broken through the ultimate glass ceiling. Clinton’s expectations were dashed and Trump’s never came to pass, as he is now destined to become the 45th President of the United States of America.
Trump Defeats Clinton - a Brief Explanation of What Happened
While plenty of pundits have weighed in on what happened, I’ll give you a short snapshot from a man on the street. While more people voted AGAINST Trump than Clinton, it was by only a very narrow margin. And enough of those voters were from the more sparsely populated white rural and manufacturing states, which is what enabled Trump to claim the electoral college win and the presidency.
On my way out of the Javits Center election night, I spoke with a young man who was dumbfounded that Clinton had lost. He could not imagine what those who voted for Trump were thinking. I suggested he take a look at Michael Moore’s video piece, created early this year, predicting a Trump win. In the piece Moore comments on the huge jobs losses and the general disenfranchisement felt by large swaths of the middle class. These were sentiments that both the Clintons and the national broadcast & print media, had largely ignored.
Corruption? Is Rupert Murdoch Hacking our Democracy?
Has Rupert Murdoch’s Organization been Trading Propaganda Services To Politicians in Exchange for Government Favors?
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, Murdoch’s NY Post and even Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal - appear to be used as a portfolio of propaganda publicity outlets to support Murdoch-favored politicians and Murdoch-favored public policies.
In this report we'll explore the possibility that Keith Rupert Murdoch’s manipulative media machine is corrupting the public dialogue by disinforming and creating chaos in voters' minds, so that he can punish candidates by publicizing them out of office or publicity promote candidates into office. The photo at right shows a 1983 meeting between President Ronald Reagan and media mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch.
Decades of historical and recent coincidences, on three continents, and numerous administrations provide an entire body of circumstantial evidence that suggests Murdoch's organization has been methodically conducting behind-the-scenes deals with government officials to change media laws and regulations - affecting Murdoch's organization and the media industry - in Murdoch's favor.
In an October 16, 2006 story in the New Yorker, journalist and former Murdoch employee John Cassidy tells us,
“When I suggested to Murdoch that many people believe that his business interests dictate his politics, he reacted angrily. “Go ask Ed Koch if I ever asked him for anything,” he said. “Go ask Margaret Thatcher. Go ask Tony Blair. Ask anyone if I ever asked for anything.”
“Koch told me that Murdoch did once ask for something: during a newspaper strike in 1978, he requested, through an intermediary, that the Post’s delivery trucks be allowed to use the city’s parkways. Koch said yes. (He offered the city’s other newspapers similar access.) The Thatcher government provided Murdoch with crucial police support when he fired hundreds of print-union workers, in 1986, and Blair relaxed the Labour Party’s policy on media ownership.”
Cassidy's listing of Murdoch favors from government officials appears to have only been the tip of the iceberg.
Is Murdoch Pulling Strings to Rewrite American Media Laws?
There have been a whole host of changes to American media laws since Rupert Murdoch arrived on our shores in the late 1970's.
The laws and regulations governing media that have been altered include: 1) media ownership by foreigners, 2) limits on local television stations ownership, 3) ownership of multiple media outlets in the same market [aka duopolies], and 4) media mergers and acquisitions. While I was generally unable to establish a legally verifiable quid pro quo, I did find an incredible number of what could only be described as 'interesting coincidences'. So interesting as to lead me to believe they might not be coincidences at all, including a recent series of events that appear to illustrate the theory that Keith Rupert Murdoch has played a highly influential role in making those changes.
Was Michigan Congressman Fred Upton's Request to Remove the 'Fairness Doctrine', done in Exchange for Favorable Murdoch Media & Cash?
“Lately, a particular fundraising focus for Murdoch's American arm has been the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan. The company has directed $35,500 to Upton's leadership committee, including a $2,500 check from Murdoch himself.”
Less than a year earlier, on May 31, 2011 the EnergyCommerce.House.gov website reported that,
“House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today sent a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to remove the Fairness Doctrine rules from the Code of Federal Regulations.”
“"Further research has revealed that the political-editorial and personal-attack rules also remain intact despite the FCC's decision to repeal them. The media marketplace is more diverse and competitive today than it was ten years ago … “ [Editor’s Note: This statement is not true – see facts a bit further below].
Murdoch's Fox News was tracking these events, and reported in a June 8, 2011 story headlined FCC Agrees to take “Fairness Doctrine off the Books”,
“"I [FCC's Genachowski] fully support deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations,” … Genachowski wrote to Rep. Fred. Upton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.”
“At the time [when the rules were instated in 1949], only 2,881 radio stations existed, compared with roughly 14,000 today.”
FCC Chairman Genachowski failed to mention that while the number of stations has proliferated, the ownership of them has not. According to a Business Insider report [info source was FrugalDad.com – a higher education funding website] and also published in Wikipedia.org - the media outlets mentioned above are now owned by six corporations, down from 50 in 1983.
In the graphic at right is a Murdoch's tabloid NY Post roasting the Clintons about Quid Pro Quo. I superimposed Murdoch's face over the Clintons as it appears the pot may be calling the kettle black.
You Decide – Is Billionaire Media Mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch Guilty of Quid Pro Quo Corruption or are these an Amazing Series of Lucky Coincidences?
Read on to decide for yourself whether you think that billionaire media mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch and his organization, are guilty of many of the same sorts of quid pro quo malfeasance of which they so easily and frequently accuse politicians.
Click here to read the rest of our report - Is Rupert Murdoch Hacking Democracy & Quid Pro Quo Corruption?
United Nations: Cultural Influences on Gender Roles
Women's Groups Discuss Cultural Influences on Gender Equality
On March 17th I attended a series of lectures entitled, The Role of Culture in Women's Empowerment: Possibilities and Challenges. The lectures were given to a standing room only audience in Conference Room 7 on the lower level.
The five member speaker panel was comprised of women from Liberia, Nigeria and Thailand. And each speaker came from a different walk of life including law, government, education and social work.
The program was organized by the United Nations Mission from Gambia in collaboration with a number of other groups. The intent of the program was to disseminate information to help those in attendance understand the role in culture in defining gender roles, and how to go about dealing with embedded cultural biases.
We'll have more at a later date. The photo at right was taken in the United Nations lobby.
Which Manhattan 'Democratic' Pols Support $8 Tolls To Cross 60th Street & East River Bridges?
Borough President Brewer, NYS Assemblyman Rodriguez, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Weprin & Many Manhattan CCM's Support $8 Tolls to Raise Capital for the MTA
NYS Governor Cuomo Supported Congestion Traffic Pricing in the Past & Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin Is Supporting It
The new Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan has been making its way into the legislative process over the past year. Just last week NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Manhattan introduced the bill on March 23, 2016. The Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan is being sold into the legislature as a means to raise revenue to fund MTA Capital projects.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin, CCM's Ydanis Rodriguez, Margaret Chin, Mark Levine & Corey Johnson support installing $8 tolls on 60th Street & East River bridges to raise capital for the MTA.
Governor Cuomo's Words Are ...
Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the Congestion Pricing Plan put forth years ago, which wasn't popular with many of the voters in Brooklyn & Queens. The two boroughs have a combined population which rounds to 5 million or 25% of the 20 million people who live in New York State.
Cuomo was quoted as making the following statement by the Observer in an article published a year ago on March 15, 2015,
“It’s not, ‘Can I support it?’ Will the people support it? Can you get it done? Can you get a
congestion plan passed and we’ve gone through this a couple of times and it was an
overwhelming ‘no’ and I haven’t seen anything happen that would change my opinion,”
The Governor has essentially been repeating this position publicly ever since.
Inconsistent with Governor Cuomo's Staff Actions
But while the Governor is publicly distancing himself from the measure which is unpopular in Queens and Brooklyn, former NY City Councilmember Mark Weprin, who is now Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs, has supported the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan.
Weprin vehemently oppposed Congestion Traffic Pricing in 2008 when he was a NY City Councilmember, but in 2015 Weprin began publicly supporting the revised Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as he transitioned from NY City Councilmember to becoming Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs. NYS Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark's brother, continues to publicly oppose the plan.
It's worth mentioning that the Weprins and the Cuomos have had close family political ties spanning two generations.
Move NY's 'New & Improved' Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan
We studied the Move NY Traffic Congestion Pricing proposal by first taking a closer look at what groups are pushing the plan [follow the money]. Gridlock Sam Schwartz Consulting LLC is one of the primary promoters of the plan, and the consulting company is owned in part by a large, multi-national, transit infrastructure contractor. We also evaluated the assumptions they used to create the estimates provided in the plan, which we found to be inconsistent with fairly recent independent studies by respectable institutions, and we also looked at what happened in one of the other cities around the world that implemented the plan.
In essence the plan retrofits [re-prices] the fossil fuel infrastructure, by making a significant investment to install and operate tolling around the center of Manhattan. The remaining proceeds would then go to fund other MTA capital projects [in London this was about half the proceeds]. The pricing would require those who can't afford the $8 tolls [each way] to either use mass transit [recent NYC metro studies have shown this switching doesn't happen] or to cross the bridge at other times at which time the tolls would cost less. The proponents say this would enable those who can afford the tolls to cross the East River bridges and 60th Street more quickly and move around mid Manhattan more easily [less traffic congestion with the rest of the community priced out of their way]. How 'democratic' is this?
Previously MTA Invests Billion$ in New Subways Appearing to Accommodate Billionaire Manhattan Developer(s) & Now Pols Want Metro Residents & Employees to Fund a System to Toll Tax Them to Fund MTA Capital Budget
The MTA during the Bloomberg (Republican) Administration made approximately $8 billion in MTA capital investments for about 30 to 40 blocks of Manhattan subway lines. One line travels from Times Square to the Javits Center [$2.4 billion mostly paid by city] and the other, which was strongly supported by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, is expected to travel along Second Avenue from about East 60th Street to about East 86th Street when it is completed [ran way past budget and time estimates - currently about $5.2 billion].
The latter subway line has been called the 'subway to nowhere', while the other isn't much different - as it terminates at the Javits Center and billionaire real estate developer Steven Ross' & Related Companies' new Hudson Yards development - without any other subway connections. Pundits have opined that one [new #7 Hudson Yards station] and possibly both of these multi-billion dollar investments were made to accommodate Manhattan real estate developers [such as Ross], more than to facilitate transit for commuters and residents of New York City.
When I confronted an MTA spokesperson with this perspective, they told me that the Q line extension would alleviate a considerable amount of the congestion on the north / south east side Manhattan subway line, but made no comment regarding the Hudson Yards station.
The photos above show no passengers on the Javits subway [at an admittedly random time and not long after it was installed], while the second photo shows the #6 subway along the Upper East Side, also at a random time. The map to your right shows the new #7 subway line extension ending as an unconnected spur.
Perhaps if the MTA and the government officals who oversee MTA capital project spending were more judicious in their selection of multi-billion dollar projects and allocation of funds, they wouldn't need to make a huge investment of the public's money in the creation and operation of an expensive new tolling system which they plan to use to charge taxpayers $8 tolls to cross 60th Street and the East River Bridges.
This plan essentially aids the wealthy by making their lives easier, while economically discriminating against those with less wherewithal, by making their lives harder. This doesn't strike me as a solution that's 'democratic' at all. There must be less costly, more fair ways to raise additional revenue for transit that NYC commuters - not Manhattan real estate developers - really need.
CLICK HERE TO SCAN / READ THE FULL REPORT on the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan.
Brewer Gives State of the Borough Address
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer Talks About Manhattan 2016
I attended Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer's State of the Borough Address on Sunday afternoon. The event was held at the New School at 63 5th Avenue just south of 14th Street in the Village neighborhood. Last year Gale Brewer gave her State of the Borough Address up at Columbia University, followed by a forum where she discussed general issues facing the borough. This year, at the New School, the forum topic was about engaging Manhattan borough youth through school and after-school activities.
Gale Brewer's State of the Borough Address
Brewer began her address by thanking all of the other government officials in attendance, as well as members of her family. She encouraged folks to keep out their phones and use Twitter to comment on the forum as it proceeded. The Twitter posts were shown on a big screen behind her, which is something I found more a distraction / nuisance than helpful - but I don't have Attention Deficit Disorder - so my opinion may not reflect the general populace.
Social & Economic Issues Facing Manhattan
Brewer focused on about four topics: 1) affordable housing, 2) small business, 3) urban gardening, 4) police / community relations and 5) public schools.
She told us that she introduced 32 pieces of legislation this year, 8 of which were passed by the NYC City Council. The bills included: 1) shielding applicants arrest records from employers so they can't discriminate against people who had conflicts with the police, 2) the passage of paid sick leave for employees where she claimed that she did all the work to get the bill passed, while the Mayor got the credit, rezoning bills for 3) Midtown that she worked on with NYCCM Garodnick and NY City Planning for Midtown East and 4) rezoning for the South Street Seaport with NYCCM Chin wherein the real estate developer finally withdrew their plans for a large tower along the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge. She mentioned something about the Zoning legislation set forth by the de Blasio Administration to enable development of affordable housing, which didn't pass, but I didn't catch the gist of it.
Manhattan Borough President's Community Efforts in 2015
There were other things that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer talked about that she and her staff had done last year including, a) working with the police and the community to improve relations [not sure what], b) hosting small business round tables and an urban gardening symposium, c) organizing two mixers with teachers and private businesses in the arts and technology, and d) something about presenting a large scale map of Manhattan on the 19th floor gallery.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer noted that the Upper West Side was heralded as the second most livable communities for the 50 plus crowd by some organization or magazine, which also cited New York City as the 5th most livable city for the 50 plus crowd in the larger cities category. Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer noted that the age to serve on Community Boards had been lowered to 16 years and that applications to serve on the Community Boards must be submitted by February 1, 2016 [now closed].
[Editor's Comment: One has to question the wisdom of allowing 16 year olds to represent a community as there's a great deal of life's lessons that one doesn't have at that age which leaves them susceptible to manipulation by powerful people and politicians. Isn't 18 or 21 young enough?]
Manhattan Borough President Hosts Panel Discussion About Youth at the New School
Then the panel began which featured: 1) an African American Khary Lazarre-White of the Brotherhood / Sister Sol, 2) an Asian Sumie Okazaki of the NYU Steinhardt School, 3) a Hispanic Francisco J. Nunez of Young Peoples Chorus of NYC and 4) a Caucasian Marc Murphy who is a chef / restaurateur.
The topic of the discussion was how to engage youth. They talked about: 1) income / opportuity inequality and discrimination, 2) that not everyone is able or interested in being a Rhodes Scholar and hence need to be engaged with in other endeavors or they become lost, 3) that music, farming and food are several of such avenues, 4) that income segregated housing isn't good for society, 5) that immigrant parents' language capabilities limit their ability to help their children evolve, 6) that ethics should be a part of the school curriculum because it's not always taught and reinforced in the home, and 7) that managing the impact of social media on kids complicates educators and parents ability to manage social situations that go awry.
Unfortunately I could not stay for the entire discussion, but I think you can get a flavor of the event from what I've reported above. Have a good year.
Mayor de Blasio & Chancellor Farina on Schools
Mayor & Chancellor Talk about Public School Reforms
There was a town hall Thursday evening where NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Public Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina talked about what they are doing to reform the NYC public school system to improve both teachers’ and students’ performance.
I arrived a bit late, following the coverage of a gig nearby. There was a small crowd of a couple dozen people waiting to get in because the auditorium had been filled to a standing room only crowd. Over the course of the evening all the folks who waited long enough were able to enter, as I confirmed this with the police contingent on my way out.
As I entered the auditorium they had just completed the presentation portion of the program [I think about a half hour, possibly less] and they were moving on to taking questions and answers from the audience.
I video recorded most of the session, and then edited down as much as I could to shorten the viewing time required to get the gist of what they’ve done and are planning for the future.
All in all it was a very interesting and very informative session. I spoke to quite a few folks after the town hall and generally they were pretty positive, including a number of folks who did not vote for de Blasio. Essentially most believed that the Mayor and Chancellor were trying to correct the failings of the system and that they were taking an intelligent approach. Several mentioned that the Mayor seemed pretty honest in his assessments of things.
For me, one of the most important things I learned tonight, was why getting universal Pre-K was so important. Essentially the thinking goes that the earlier you are able to start working with these kids, the more you will be able to prepare them for school, and hopefully reap the benefits of teaching them the joy of learning throughout their stay in the public school system.
Click here to read our full report including a segmented video about Mayor de Blasio on NYC public schools with Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and NYC Councilmember Daniel Dromm.
LaGuardia Airport - Airplane Noise
Jackson Heights, Corona & Queens Voice Concerns Regarding LGA Airplane Noise
FAA Considering Extension of LaGuardia Airport Hours & Other Changes
I attended a town hall meeting about the airplane noise coming from LaGuardia Airport at PS 69 in Jackson Heights. The town hall had been organized by NYS Senator Peralta’s office and the panel of speakers included local government officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] and the New York New Jersey Port Authority [NYNJPA].
Standing Room Only at PS 69
The auditorium was packed and there were people lined up along the walls as well as standing in the back of the auditorium. Airplane noise has emerged as a big issue for Jackson Heights due to a couple of construction projects going on at the airport – both of which will be completed at the end of November.
Cynical Audience Member's Point of View
The timing of the town hall meeting, only six weeks before the construction was to end, led one of the local pundits to cynically suggest that this was merely political theater, rather than an effort to accomplish anything substantive.
There was an earlier town hall meeting organized about two years ago by NYC City Councilmember Dromm, to tackle the problem in its early stages, and while it was happening - not after it was all over - which is what we're close to today.
But that said, these town hall meetings are not just political theater, although inevitably that is some of it, which you will see in the video. And while the immediate problem will subside, we discovered that there a number of efforts either underway or in the planning stages, in which the community has a vested stake in the outcomes.
Not Said In Meeting: Federal Register States That Consideration Is Being Given To Extending LGA's Operational Hours & Slots
In doing follow up research I found a piece on the Federal Register government website that informed me that the FAA is considering changing the operational hours and slots for LaGuardia Airport. This was not discussed at the town hall [click into story for additional detail]. We also found other things that were either scarcely touched upon or not addressed, which we included in this report.
Click here to read the rest of this report about LaGuardia Airport & Airplane Noise in NYC. The report includes video presentations, including some audience interaction, and a photo slide show and other information about FAA air traffic changes, airplane noise and what you can do about it.
Newspapers, Magazines, Television Producers, Filmmakers, Artists, Photographers, Journalists, Actors, Musicians, Writers & Software Developers
Copyright Law Change Alert: Pending Legislation May Curtail Your Ownership Rights
July 5, 2015 / Queens Notices / News Analysis & Opinion / Manhattan Buzz NYC.
Click the Queens Notices link to view proposed overhaul of copyright laws which would significantly curtail the ownership rights one has to their own work. It includes a bit about how you can help by sending a notice to the government regarding this effort to overhaul copyright law.
According to the report, the law would weaken content creators' ownership rights and thus their ability to monetize their creations. They also allege that the big internet companies are pushing this. We surmise that this is because the big internet companies are using everyone's content, collecting revenue for organizing and distributing it, and not compensating the content creators for the use of it. This may leave a huge outstanding, unestimated legal liability on their balance sheets.
The weakening of copyright laws has disturbing societal implications as well, as it completely destroys the economic incentive for artists, filmmakers, writers, journalists, photographers, actors, recording artists and software developers to invest their time and resourcess in the creation art, film, journalism, photography, music, software and other media content and entertainment. And in doing so, paves the way for considerable consolidation and control over freedom of speech and what media and entertainment content we as a society consume.
The net effect of the law is to curtail content creator ownership rights, and thus in some good measure transfer the ability to monetize content from the content creators to the content distributors. But it's not too late for you to do something about this.
The deadline for comment is July 23rd, 2015. Click Queens Notices and scroll down to first notice. There are links there to the authors of the report, as well as instructions and links to making a comment to government officials. Is retaining ownership rights to your work worth 10 to 15 minutes of your time?
"Many hands make light work." Chip in and make your concerns heard.
Albany Legislative Session To End Friday
Pending Bills: Public School Funding & Rent Stabilization Law
There are two important bills expected to be finalized by the New York State Legislature this week: 1) one having to do with taxation and funding for the public schools and 2) the second having to do with NYC rent stabilization law.
I've been paying some modest measure of attention to both of these bills, and the following is a brief snapshot of a critical talking point in each bill.
Use Public Money To Fund Private Education?
From what I can gather, perhaps the most contentious item in the public education funding bill is the provision for sizeable tax deductions for those who choose to send their children to private, not public schools.
As I understand it, these tax deductions would be included as part of the funding for the public schools budget and therefore will reduce what's left for the NYS / NYC public school systems.
It's worth noting that private school tuition in NYC can cost in the range of about $5,000 to $30,000 per year per student. And that there are about 900 private schools in NYC alone, so depending on how these proposed deductions are ultimately structured, the funds reallocated from the public schools to private individuals would be in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly more.
You might want to contact Governor Cuomo's office at 1.518.474.8390 to let him know you support or oppose the measure, since we understand that he's been the major force pushing for this public school funding change. You can also send him an email via the Governor's contact form.
Albany & Expiring Rent Stabilization Laws
The Rent Stabilization Laws are due to expire tonight, June 15, 2015.
There was talk earlier this year that there would be a push to expand or strengthen the Rent Stabilization Laws given the rapid growth in homelessness in New York City. The NYC homeless population is currently estimated at over 60,000 or nearly 1% of the entire NYC population. About 70% of New York City residents are renters, of which about two million of less than eight and a half million residents, live in rent stabilized apartments.
Over the past decade or so, the Rent Stabilization Laws have been curtailed in the favor of the free market and landlords. The curtailment of rent price control legislation is believed to have spurred additional real estate development investment, as the profits of most new buildings are no longer affected by rent stabilization laws.
Much of the rapid growth in homelessness over the past decade is believed to be the result of tenants losing their rent stabilized apartments, as new owners of buildings have found ways to circumvent the laws. A recent NYU Furman Center Study has shown the loss of over 330,000 unsubsidized affordable apartments since 2002, due in part to the rent stabilization legislative changes referenced above.
NYS legislative insiders told me that tenants rights supporters were hoping to make legislative gains this year, but that the NYS Assemblypeople and NYS Senators opposing the changes, were going to allow the rent stabilization laws to expire as a negotiating tactic.
Vicki Been, Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed us that the current rent stabilization laws remain in effect through the term of existing leases and leases up for renewal that are already in the hands of the tenants. She also said that tenants should call 311 with any questions or problems.
Cuomo & NYS Officials - Quinnipiac Poll
On June 3, 2015 Quinnipiac released a poll showing voters are feeling negatively about the NYS Legislature as a whole, while continuing to favor their local representatives. In the poll Governor Cuomo has only a 2% margin of those favoring him.
Governor Cuomo had a 44% approval rating versus 42% disapproval rating, as voters are not satisfied with his handling of the corruption scandals that have plagued Albany this year. In February 2015 Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [Democrat Manhattan] was indicted on federal corruption charges. And in May 2015 NYS Senate Leader Dean Skelos [Republican Long Island] was indicted by a federal Grand Jury.
Less than a year ago, NYS gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University surprised polls by garnering nearly 2 votes for every 3 won by the governor in the NYS Democratic primary. Ms. Teachout did not have much in the way of significant private backing or union support, but won nearly 40% of the vote waging an online campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters by a margin of 52% - 32% said that with respect to Albany's corruption problem:
"... the Governor is part of the problem, not part of the solution."
As for the NYS Assemblymembers and NYS Senators the Quinnipiac Poll reported the following:
"Voters disapprove 60 - 26 percent of the job the State Legislature is doing, but approve 44 - 37 percent of their own Assembly member and approve 54 - 31 percent of their own state senator."
"At the same time, 45 percent of voters say their state senator should be thrown out in a general house-cleaning, while 40 percent say their senator deserves reelection."
"Voters are divided 41 - 41 percent on whether their Assembly member should be reelected or thrown out."
As you can see, the sentiments collected in the Quinnipiac poll seem a bit contradictory, as the answers received depend on how the questions are stated. Nonetheless, this looks to be an interesting legislative week as things wind down in Albany, and as the 2016 election cycle begins to ramp up.
NYS Medical Marijuana Law & DPA
Drug Policy Alliance Reports First Deadline For Submissions Passes
I attended a forum on medical marijuana last week. It was sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, a non profit group, whose mission is to promote
"drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights".
During the course of this forum I found that there's a lot going on in this area - not just with regard to implementing the legalized use of marijuana for medical use - but in going signficantly beyond that milestone, to making it available to the general public by regulating it in a manner, of which the options range in similarity to: pharmaceuticals, alcohol or tobacco.
To be sure, as public perceptions and policy change, there are important concerns and issues associated with these changes that must be properly managed, or the results of these changes won't be beneficial to the community as the marijuana legalization advocates suggest - but rather could be just the opposite.
We'll have more on the Drug Policy Alliance forum held last week at ABC Carpets on Broadway.
Click here for things to do in Midtown NYC.
De Blasio's State Of The City Address
NYC Mayor Maps Out A Framework To Tackle NYC's Affordable Housing Crisis
Mayor Bill de Blasio sent the NYC political, media and real estate worlds abuzz on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 when he laid out his administration's plan to solve one of the severest shortages of affordable housing in the history of New York City. It seems everyone had something to say in response to it - from the folks on the street to the NYS Governor. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is shown standing in the bottom left corner of the photo, after giving his first State of the City Address.
The housing crisis in New York City reached crisis proportions during the Bloomberg Administration. Former Mayor Bloomberg's approach to the issue was to let rent regulated apartments expire or become transformed to encourage investment, provide generous tax incentives and city land deals to real estate developers to build luxury high rise apartments, and build more homeless shelters.
A severe shortage of affordable housing was lurking in the background, as candidate Bill de Blasio began running for the office of mayor with the theme of "the tale of two cities". His campaign keyed into the pinch being felt by the 70% of New Yorkers who rent.
Thus one year later, while giving his first State of the City Address, the 109th Mayor of New York City put the affordable housing problem front and center for his Administration in a manner similar to what he had done on the campaign trail.
And in doing so, the Mayor set afire talk about affordable housing by city and state pols, the media and city real estate developers.
Click here later in the week to read the rest of our report about Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address, including reactions by banking and real estate executives, members of labor unions and other government officials. By Michael Wood.
Affordable Care Act Insurance Deadline
Deadline To Complete Enrollment Extended To February 28th
But February 15th Is Final Day To Begin NYS Insurance Enrollment
Updated February 15 / February 12, 2014 / Manhattan Healthcare / Manhattan Buzz NYC.
New Enrollments For ACA Health Insurance Ends February 15, 2015. Those who have begun the enrollment process by February 15th will have until February 28th to complete them. The deadline is February 15th to begin an enrollment. We received reports that many folks were having difficulty in getting through to a telephone operator, so it looks like there was a spike in demand near the deadline, which also happened in 2014.
On Saturday, NY State of Health extended the enrollment deadline by two weeks to enable those who do not complete their enrollments by Sunday, February 15th. Hence, enrollees now have until February 28th to complete enrollments in the New York State health insurance plans associated with the Affordable Care Act. It's worth mentioning that the NY State Of Health does not have operators available on Sunday and that they are only available Saturday from 9 am - 1 pm.
Enrollment On Target With Government Incentives. According to recent national news services, there were already 9.5 million enrollees in the Affordable Care Act plan as of a few weeks ago [mid / late January 2015]. The total enrollment target nationally for this year is 10.5 million. Last year the New York State of Health - which runs the NYS Affordable Care Act enrollments - signed up nearly 371,000 people. There were reports in January 2015 that the number of NY State of Health enrollees has grown this year. We also understand that the folks who enrolled last year and are currently participants in a plan will be automatically renewed in their Affordable Care Act Health insurance, so they are not required to update their enrollment with the state. But that said, they must renew their status with their health insurance provider around the time of the anniversary of their enrollment.
One news site recommended that folks already enrolled in the plan ought to review and update their enrollment to make sure they want to stay with their present insurer, and that they fully understand the tax consequences of their healthcare choices.
Tax Penalties 2015. One report noted that the majority of Affordable Care Act enrollees get some measure of monetary incentive to enroll in the plan. In 2014 the tax penalty for not having health insurance was $95 per adult or 1% of household income. In 2015 the penalty rises to $325 per adult or 2% of income.
Click here to view the New York State of Health website.
Affordable Care Act Review
Obamacare Check Up One Year Out
October 20, 2014 / Manhattan Neighborhoods / Manhattan Healthcare / Manhattan Buzz NYC.
I rarely leave Manhattan for a story, but last week I had an opportunity to attend an NPR forum on the Affordable Care Act at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The program was designed to look back on the promise, disappointment and possibilities of Obamacare one year since the program was rolled out.
Brian Lehrer of NPR was the moderator of the forum which included a panel of experts representing different groups involved in the administration of the Affordable Care Act. There were representatives from a local hospital, an insurance group, a journalist who's been tracking the Affordable Care Act for NPR, a documentary filmmaker and the Director for State Health Policy from Rutgers University.
I arrived by train from Penn Station. The train ride took less than twenty minutes and the walk to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center took less than ten minutes. I had never been to the NJPAC and was impressed by its sparkling beauty on both the inside and out. Its a modern glass and steel structure and the windows provided views of the New York City skyline in the distance. But I digress.
Click here for our full story about the Affordable Care Act Manhattan NYC. This includes delving a bit into doctor participation, patient behavior, costs, breadth and depth of coverage, where the program is meeting / not meeting its objectives and an outlook of the future.
People's Climate March Photos
Over 300,000 People March / Interesting Signage / Creative Costumes / Jazzy Music / Important Message / By The People & For The People / We Are One World / We Are One People / We Must Learn To Live In Harmony With Each Other & With Our Ecosystem
Green Companies Missed Big Marketing Opportunity To Reach Their Passionate Audience
I came up the subway stairs at Times Square Sunday, September 21, 2014 shortly before 1 pm. I had hoped to cover the People's Climate March story beginning at 11.30 am at Columbus Circle which was when the parade was to start; but I was detained and rushed to cover what I had thought might be the END of the parade. Boy, was I wrong. I ran head on into the BEGINNING of the parade, although I had missed the very front of it.
It truly was a People's Parade as there were few government officials were in attendance. According to one report I read after the parade, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined the head of the parade around 12.45 pm, which was about the time I had arrived, so I missed them.
There were also a few NY City Council Members who marched, versus an NYT report that indicated a third or more planned to march. I recognized three of about five NY City Councilmembers that were there: NY City Council Speaker Viverito, UWS CCM Rosenthal and Astoria Queens CCM Costa Constantinides.
Click here later today to read our full report of the People's Climate March including hundreds of photos, and a number of parade marchers' views of what's really going on, as well as what can practically be done by regular folks about it.
Click here Monday evening to read our report and view photos of the People's Climate March in NYC.
Cyclists Rights In Manhattan NYC
Knowing Your Rights & Responsibilities As An NYC Cyclist
November 7, 2013 / NYC Cylists Rights In Manhattan / Manhattan Buzz NYC. By Philip Papas.
The introduction to the Cyclists' Rights Forum was given by Christina Vassallo, Executive Director, Flux Factory. She told us that the event came about after she and a friend were stopped for cycling violations, which they thought were not illegal, or had erroneously been applied as violation points to their motor vehicle driver’s license. As a result she saw the need for a forum to clarify laws, rights and proper procedures for cyclists to follow.
Click here to read our full report about NYC Bike Laws / NYC Biking Rules Forum in Queens at the Flux Factory across from Midtown Manhattan in LIC.
Organic Food & Organic Food Stores In Manhattan NYC
All Natural Foods - Buying Organic Foods In Midtown NYC & Upper East Side NYC
I’ve been doing research on local organic / all natural food for some time. I recently had the opportunity to interview an "organic insider", Metin Mangut who is one of the managing partners of a local supermarket which is an organic / all natural food store in Long Island City. Metin shared with me some of his insights into the changing landscape of organic, all natural and conventional foods.
In this report we'll delve into some of the issues and purchase strategies for buying from organic food stores / organic foods in Manhattan and pretty much anywhere.
Condos & Co-ops Forum - Manhattan & NYC
Updated Spring 2014 / December 7, 2010 / Manhattan Real Estate / Manhattan Buzz NYC.
City Council Member Daniel Dromm, NYS Senator Peralta in tandem with ACCO [Alliance of Condo & Co-op Owners] organized a forum in Jackson Heights to inform people about their rights and responsibilities as condo and co-op owners.
In addition to the councilman and senator, the panel included two lawyers and the president of ACCO. About two hundred people showed up for the event, packing the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights. See photos in our report of the large crowd that attended this forum.
The panel informed condo and co-op owners in Jackson Heights & Queens about their rights, and discussed new state legislation which has been introduced to more clearly define the processes through which a tenant / owner can assert their rights. Click here to read the rest of our report about the forum for Manhattan condo / co-op owners in NYC.
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