De Blasio Delivers State of the City Address
*Mayor Takes Humanist, Social Science Approach to Solving NYC Problems
*NYC Crime Down, Stop N’ Frisk Down 97%
*NYC Public School Graduation Rate Up, H.S. Drop Out Rate Down, College Bound Graduates Up,
*70,000 Children Enrolled in Universal Pre-K
*Financing Initiated on 62,000 Units of Affordable Housing
*NYC Budget Surplus
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s third State of the City Address at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Monday. The beautiful old theater, built in 1904, didn’t admit African Americans until thirty years later. And it was in 1934 that the historic theater began earning the fame it has today, by becoming the showcase for African American musical and theatrical legends.
In the photo at right is the Apollo Theater as seen from one of the balcony booths prior to the beginning of Mayor de Blasio's 2017 State of the City Address. GB LINKS.
These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls: Thomas Paine & Fighting Tyranny
There were a number of performances and speeches leading up to the Mayor’s address, including a performance by the Dorothy Maynor Choir of Harlem and an operatic delivery of the Star Spangled National Anthem by FDNY’s Regina Wilson. Recently deceased Detective Steven McDonald’s son, Conor, gave a speech, as did NYC First Lady Chirlane McRay, the Reverend David Ramos, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Imam Souleimane Konate.
The Pledge of Allegiance was delivered by Jian ‘John’ Yuan Lin, Chyna Huertas and Eva Lin. And the Reverend Michael Walrond, of the First Corinthian Baptist Church, gave a fiery, inspirational speech talking comparing the national state of affairs today to the American colonists fighting to shake off the shackles of tyranny. He cited the words of American Revolutionary Thomas Paine, who in 1776 said,
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Just before the Mayor came on stage was a video highlighting the de Blasio Administration accomplishments.
Mayor de Blasio Standing Big & Tall for All New Yorkers
The Mayor came onto the stage, beginning by thanking the various people and departments that helped make his Administration’s accomplishments possible. His thanks always include his wife, Chirlane McCray, who has been evolving in her role as NYC’s First Lady.
Here’s a sampling of the de Blasio’s efforts to make New York a better place for all New Yorkers. Some of the information came from the video presentation referenced above, which I have augmented with some additional research and information obtained in prior reporting efforts.
In the photo at right stands a weary, but determined, Mayor Bill de Blasio at his 2017 State of the City Address at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
I. De Blasio Administration NYC Public School Achievements
A. Social Science & Humanist Approach to Education
• Universal Pre-K Enrollment 70,000
• Advanced Placement For All
• Drop Out Rates Down
• Graduation Rates Up
• College Bound Graduates Up
The slide at right shows some of the gains made by the de Blasio Administration with the NYC public school system over the past three plus years.
1. Stop the Bleeding – Stop the 'CORPORATE' run Charter Schools from Maximizing Profit at the Expense of Maximizing Human Potential
Editor's Note: There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between the NON-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOLS and FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL CORPORATIONS. Non profit charters are generally older organizations, designed as an alternative in response to failing public schools decades ago, and whose focus is on improving education - not improving profits.
By contrast the FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL CORPORATIONS generally arose in the 21st century, and this group appears to be pillaging the public school system by recruiting and siphoning off the good [low cost / high performing] students so they can maximize profits – not enhance public education.
The despicable consequence of this for-profit charter school strategy is that they are simultaneously robbing the most vulnerable, disadvantaged children of anything resembling an opportunity in life as promised in the founding documents of this nation.
Family background continues to be the highest determinant [have the highest correlation] of a student’s academic achievement.
So the de Blasio Administration has significantly slowed the corporate charter school assault on the public education system.
Corporate Charter School Business Strategy Comparable to Old Health Insurance 'Gaming the System'
Recruit the Academic Achievers, 'the Healthy Ones', Because They're Most Profitable & Shun the Rest
It appears the charter school corporations have employed a strategy designed to recruit and retain the best students to their schools, while leaving the rest behind. They appear to recruit the kids who are already performing well, because the performing children cost the least to educate, thus providing the highest return to the hedge fund profiteers because the funding is allocated on a per capital / per student basis. High performing student enrollments also enable corporate charter schools to claim they are ‘performing well’ because they've recruited the highest scoring students.
The recruitment and retention strategy referenced above resembles the old health insurance strategy of recruiting the healthy people to buy health insurance as they are the most profitable, while denying those who aren’t blessed with good health because they cost the most to keep healthy. This was a systemic inequity Obamacare attempted to eradicate.
In the photo at right stand an Imam [Islam], a Rabbi [Jewish] and a Reverend [Christian] all sharing the same podium with a message of love, peace, respect and understanding.
2. Help the Youngsters & Maximize Human Potential – Not Profits
The De Blasio Administration pushed through universal Pre-K, which has enrolled 70,000 students since its inception in the Fall of 2014.
When this first came out I, and a number of people I know, didn’t really grasp the importance of this effort. As family support is the highest determinant in a child’s success, many youngsters were entering the public school system at a significant disadvantage vis a vis their better parented peers.
By accessing these kids while they are younger, and providing access to the guidance and resources of the public school system earlier, the NYC Public School system now has a greater chance of motivating these kids, which will inevitabley empowering them, raising their self esteem, and give them a chance at a far more engaged and productive life.
I now get it. And this seems like it can only be a good thing for all of society, as it will reduce societal costs of failing these people early on.
Maximizing Human Potential is Good Public Policy that Costs Less in the Long Haul & Enormously Benefits Society
This approach to education enables us as a society to maximize our human potential, which will benefit all the community - and in some small way - all mankind. Not only is this a more humanistic approach to engaging these children, but it's more cost effective in the long haul, as those left behind will inevitably cost society more through lost opportunities, lost productivity, and increased spending on health, human services and criminal justice programs.
In the photo at right is the Mayor on stage at the Apollo Theater with all of the people working for the city that he honored that night including policemen, firefighters, sanitation workers and educators. The Mayor appears to be one who is very much in touch with the middle & working class rank and file of New York City.
Click here for our report about Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address 2017 including an update on crime, the affordable housing crisis, the city's finances, sanitation and social activism.
General Election Today - Please Vote
The New York State general election is today, Tuesday November 8th.
The polling booths will be open from 6 am to 9 pm Tuesday.
The primaries were held on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016.
NYC Rolls on After Small Bomb Explodes
Who are the Real Terrorists?
Saturday evening, September 17th, at around 8.30 pm a bomb went off in a dumpster near 131 West 23rd Street [just off 6th Avenue] in Chelsea. While a number of people were injured by the debris [29 in total], thankfully nobody was killed, and all 29 of the people impacted have been released. The photo at right shows the scene were a small bomb exploded on Saturday evening in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.
NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was quick to inform the public that the bombing was a terrorist act, but that it did not appear to be linked to international terrorism. Today, just three days later, it appears the bomber may have been influenced by a trip taken abroad.
At the time of Cuomo's announcement, he appeared to be continuing what seems like an ongoing effort to upstage the Mayor, by being the first to speak to the press and by sensationalizing the incident using words like terrorist [headline grabbing].
The Mayor was far more circumspect when he spoke, telling us only that based on the evidence gathered at the time, the act appeared to be intentional. The Mayor ended his remarks with that terse statement - telling us he would have more to say pending the receipt of additional information. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill exercised the same caution in describing the event as the Mayor.
Is Murdoch's Media Org Hyping the Bombing for Ratings & Newspaper Sales Like They Appeared to do with the Iraq War?
Not surprisingly, Keith Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, NY Post and Fox News noted / lauded or applauded the Governor for helping them in what appeared to be their ongoing efforts to sensationalize the terrible act.
Was their goal in hyping the bomb to sell more newspapers and increase their TV ratings? At first blush that's hard to believe - until you do the math.
In 2002 - 2003, Murdoch in tandem with his global media organization, strongly advocated on three continents [U.S., Britain and Australia] to start the War in Iraq. Ultimately, I believe the war increased Fox cable TV and Fox News ratings, which are worth billions of dollars annually. We'll have more on this a bit later in the story.
Do Bombers Seek Fame & Does Murdoch's Media Machine Provide Them with it?
Is Instant Fame a Bomber's Motivation? It seems plausible that part of the motivation of a bomber might be to make the headlines / be shown on TV / become famous, even if only for what artist Andy Warhol described as one's 15 minutes of fame. See NY Post graphic to your right, where the now famous bomber made the NY Post front page while lying in bed. Thank you Mr. Murdoch and your NY Post?
Achieving Goals By Fear Mongering? Rupert Murdoch's propaganda-oriented 'news' outlets may in fact be part of the problem - not part of the solution. Murdoch's organization appears hell bent on hyping the bombing event into an international terrorist attack, which one may surmise that they can then use to rekindle fears based on 15 year old memories, to shape the national security narrative leading up to the general election.
At a time when the whole world was in turmoil FDR told America,
"We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."
How times have changed.
It seems Keith Rupert Murdoch's organization is saying something just the opposite, like,
"Be afraid. Be very afraid."
Never mind that nobody died in this incident or even reportedly sustained any serious injuries. And based on what is known, and what I saw, there appears to be very little SUBSTANTIAL property damage. But professional propagandists never let the facts get in the way of the story they want to tell, the perspective they want to sell, so this was an event I used to watch and learn from a media organization controlled by a man believed by many, to be the world's reigning propagandist.
People need to pay more attention to who they're going to listen to, to provide them with information and context about the world in which we live. The information sources they choose inevitably influence their view of the world, who they choose to represent them, what public policies they want pursued and how they go about conducting their lives.
The graphic at right is a quote from author of the book entitled 1984 - George Orwell - in his book Homage to Catalonia published in 1938. In it he said,
"One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."
Pay Attention to the Changing Murdoch Media Narrative
Can the Real Terrorists be Found in Murdoch's Fear Mongering Media Empire?
Given that folks were out and about on Sunday, less than a day after the explosion, I began pondering whether it's media outlets like those owned by Keith Rupert Murdoch that are responsible for terrorizing the citizens of New York - and the nation - by continually repeating fear-inspired storylines / narratives?
It seemed the bomber had already failed to terrorize us in New York City, where the bomb exploded, given the fact that so many of us were out and about only hours later. In the photo at right are marchers in the Mexican Day Parade.
But Murdoch's manipulative media machine looks like it went into overdrive by broadcasting, webcasting and printing fear-inspired stories. Thus,perhaps the bomber may yet succeed in terrorizing us, with the help of Murdoch's media fear mongering machine.
Media Mogul Calculus: Terror or War = High Ratings Worth $$$ Billions &
Since Taxpayer Funds Most Production Costs of War / Show = Even Higher Profits
The Iraq War in 2003 was like fresh new free money, because Murdoch's organization could sell pricey TV ads for increased news ratings, while the bulk of the costs of staging the 'news programming' aka the Iraq War, was provided free to Murdoch's organization, compliments of the American, British and Australian taxpayers.
Based on the recent financial performance of Murdoch's organizations, his flailing media outlets appear to be in need of this sort of low cost [to Murdoch's media empire], high ratings programming.
Trillion(s) Spent on Iraq War Because of Phony, Media-Hyped, 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' Threat
In 2002 - 2003 Murdoch's organization appeared to use this same sort of hyping and sensationalizing of Sadam's 'weapons of mass destruction' to monger fear in America, Britain and Australia so the nations would go to war against Iraq.
Only later did we find out that there weren't, in fact, any weapons of mass destruction and that it was all media and political hype used to get us into the war. Once embroiled in the war, it cost well over a TRILLION DOLLARS, and by some accounts - we're still not completely out. In the graphic at right are just a few of the strident headlines published in Murdoch media.
Those Who do Not Learn from History are Doomed to Repeat it
In researching propaganda, I couldn't help but encounter propagandist works and statements made by propagandists Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. I recall as a youngster wondering how Hitler came to have so, so much power. Only now do I understand, as it appears Hitler accumulated his power insidiously, by conducting mass marketing campaigns of deception, disguised and packaged in with information, facts and news.
Does Fox Disinform - So Murdoch can Decide?
Fox viewers have been found not only to be less informed, but actually disinformed, on subjects ranging from healthcare, to science, to international affairs.
Media Matters informs us that studies to this effect have been conducted by Kaiser Health, Ohio State University researchers, Program on International Policy Attitudes, Stanford University and the National Science Foundation, University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, Farleigh Dickinson University and an NBC / Wall Street Journal poll before Murdoch acquired the Wall Street Journal.
As you can see in the graphic at right, a poll which was included in a documentary entitled OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, shows that Fox viewers tended to be more ill-informed than their PBS media peers.
You can click into the graphic which will take you to the video, but we reference and link to it again later in this story where we highlight a piece in the video that proves the point and is funny in a twisted Murdochian way.
Click here to view a prior piece we did on what appears to be Rupert Murdoch's assault on democracy which takes you deeper into what appears to be a long history of the billionaire media mogul's influence on electoral outcomes.
In June of 2016 Murdoch's media organization seemed to provide its readers / voters the same sort of bad advice with their advocacy in favor of Brexit or exiting the European Union. We'll have a bit more on this later.
Click here to read the rest of our report about what appears to be Rupert Murdoch's manipulative use of his media assets.
What's Behind NY Post's Media Hazing of Mayor?
Will Billionaire Rupert Murdoch Profit from NY Post Attack Stories?
The NY Post's incredible barrage of attack stories on NYC Mayor de Blasio this past month led me to believe that something was amiss.
Is the NY Post Misinforming the Public?
After a month long barrage of attack (ads?) stories regarding the Mayor's campaign funding, someone reading the NY Post might come away believing that Mayor de Blasio had already been convicted on numerous counts of breaking the law. As you will see later in this story, this would not be the first time the Murdoch organization's audience was not just uninformed - but rather misinformed.
In America, we still have a choice of who provides us with our information, so that said, if one read a newspaper that generally conforms to the professional standards of American journalism, like the New York Times, they would know that,
"It is not clear how direct a role, if any, the mayor played in some of these matters." - NYT April 29, 2016
Infomercials Presented as News?
Murdoch's organization publishes and broadcasts 'news' accounts that appear to make significant departures from the professional standards of American journalism. I began thinking that Rupert Murdoch has found a way to skirt campaign finance laws, because many of Murdoch's organization's 'news reporting' seems more like long-winded political infomercials than anything resembling a 'fair and balanced' news report. This is especially disconcerting given that Murdoch's $60 billion plus in revenue media companies include the NY Post, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and dozens more media properties in America and hundreds worldwide.
Just Because They Say it's So, Doesn't Mean it's So
The NYS Board of Elections says,
"Independent Expenditures Do Not Include Expenditures in Connection with... A written news story, commentary, or editorial or a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, cable or satellite, unless such publication or facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee or candidate ..."
Has Murdoch's organization found a way to skirt campaign finance laws by making huge, undisclosed, payment-in-kind, independent media expenditures in support of their preferred candidates while attacking their political opponents in order to push a self-interested Murdoch agenda, by running infomercials and attack ads as news stories?
Does this practice enable The Murdoch to become a string-pulling unelected politician himself, and put him in a position to make Murdoch organization supported candidates, political puppets?
Rupert's NY Post Goes After Mayor like Rabid Dog
There were 80 stories published about the Mayor by Billionaire Media Mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch's NY Post in the first 24 days of April.
That's more than three stories per day - and not a single one was positive [a few were neutral]. The stories were authored by 20 reporters, some of whom shared the bylines. This is the equivalent of having the entire editorial staff of a medium-sized American daily newspaper, working full time on publishing stories about just one government official.
I'm pretty sure that the Washington Post didn't dedicate this kind of resource to covering the Nixon Watergate scandal in the early 1970's. It seems like overkill, which is generally indicative that something is not right.
I say "not right" because it has been my experience that this kind of overzealous attack oftentimes reflects more upon the prosecutor than the prosecuted. As Shakespeare said, "I think the Lady [Murdoch] doth protest too much."
Abusive, Power-Hungry Media Moguls in Film - 1941 & 1997
While working on this story I found some parallels to the 1997 James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies. In the movie, Eliot Carver is an evil media mogul who uses his printing presses and television stations to hype a war between Britain and China so he can drive up the ratings of a new satellite network and other news properties, AND claim exclusive broadcasting rights in China in exchange for helping a General conspire to become Chinese President.
Just five years later, in 2002, the NYT published a piece which they entitled 'Mr. Murdoch's War' which was about how stridently Murdoch urged the U.S. and Britain to go to war in Iraq, which we'll discuss in more detail later in this story.
During my research a character profile of multi-billionaire Murdoch began to emerge that was something right out of the film Citizen Kane. Kane was portrayed by Orson Welles in the 1941 film as a self-involved, self-interested, power-hungry media mogul.
It's worth noting that 1941 was the same year that the FCC capped TV media ownership by a single person / entity at 35%. Some pundits allege that the FCC ownership limit rule was overturned in 2002, because of behind-the-scenes influence exerted by Rupert Murdoch. I'll provide some more detail about the FCC changes a bit later in this story.
The image to your right shows a listing of the barrage of NY Post stories, based on allegations and innuendo, attacking Mayor de Blasio in just three days of April of 2016. The barrage of attack coverage in the NY Post has more the character of a propaganda machine, than a real news outlet that conforms to the American standards of journalism.
Click this link for the rest of Story & Video About how Murdoch's NY Post appears to be used as propaganda machine working to oust the NYC Mayor.
Clinton Defeats Sanders, Trump Defeats Rivals
Clinton 58% vs Sanders 42%; Trump 60% vs Kasich 24% & Cruz 15%
Bernie Sanders has been campaigning in New York the past week, drawing large crowds ranging from thousands to tens of thousands, as if he were a rock star. But on Tuesday, the voters weighed in and handed Hillary Clinton a convincing victory, helping her widen her delegate lead, and likely put her on the path to the Democratic Party nomination.
Democratic Delegate Count
To win the Democratic Party nomination, a candidate needs 2383 delegates of 4763 total. Within that total there are 712 super delegates, who can align themselves / vote for whomever they want but there's pressure to vote in favor of the direction that the state voted. The remaining 4051 delegates are won via the voting process and are called pledged delegates.
According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win Hillary Clinton now has 1428 pledged delegates and 469 super delegates, while Bernie Sanders has 1151 pledged delegates and 31 super delegates. There are 1472 pledged delegates remaining, so to win a majority of pledged delegates, Hillary has to win 598 or 41% of the remaining pledged delegates, while Bernie has to win 874 or 59% of them. Clinton has already received commitments from more than half of the 'super delegates'.
Given Sanders is generally still behind in the polls in some of the larger remaining states [behind 16% in Pennsylvania and behind 8% in California], that seems a tall order. While the polls were dead wrong in Michigan, they were spot on in New York. The Sanders campaign told a news outlet Tuesday evening that they will see how they do in the contests this coming week and then evaluate their chances going forward. The Democratic Convention has been scheduled from July 25 - 28, 2016 in Philadelphia.
Republican Delegate Count
Meanwhile on the Republican side there wasn't much news. Trump won handily defeating Kasich and Cruz. The Republicans have 2473 total delegates and 1237 are needed to win. According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win, Trump has 845 delegates, while Cruz has 559 and Kasich has 147.
Trump needs 392 more delegates [about 40%] to go uncontested to the Republican Convention. There are 992 delegates remaining, but according to CBS only 674 delegates are available in the remaining voting contests prior to the Convention. So Trump may have to win 60% of the remaining unpledged delegates to go to the Convention uncontested. The Republican Convention is scheduled for July 18 - 21, 2016 in Cleveland.
The voting contests next week include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware.
The fat lady hasn't yet sung, but it is beginning to look like a Clinton / Trump race to the White House.
On the Campaign Trail & 'Feeling the Bern'
Sanders Introduces Democratic Socialism to the American People
Making America Great ... again?
The Republicans attracted most of the attention early on, thanks mostly to Donald J. Trump's shock jock presidential candidacy. A candidacy that turned presidential debates about public policy into name calling, discussions of poll numbers & penis size, and relentless barrages of vituperative insults.
The Donald has, in his campaign, essentially told us to forgeddabout the ballooning government deficit, a dated and at times crumbling infrastructure, fixing our public education system, helping the shrinking middle class and addressing global climate change.
The Donald has distracted us from an intelligent discussion about these 'loser' subjects, and told us that he's going to rip 12 million people [the equivalent of about 5% of the nation's population] away from their families by deporting them, punishing women for getting abortions, and erecting a wall along the border with Mexico which he tells us the Mexicans are going to pay for.
Does Trump really think this is how to 'make America great ... again'?
Trump Candidacy Increases Ratings Which Translates to Profits
Trump may not make America great again, but he's been good for corporate-owned, network television ratings. The Hollywood Reporter quotes CBS Chairman, Leslie Moonves telling a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco on February 29th, 2016 that,
"The money’s rolling in and this is fun ... this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
While Sanders Delivers Substance & Expands Public Debate
So while Donald Trump has been filling the pockets of corporate-owned mass media, Bernie Sanders - the man with the real story - has largely been ignored. Ignored by the mass media, but embraced by the social media and a signficant and growing segment of the American populace. In fact Sanders, during the past week of campaigning in New York, attracted crowds of tens of thousands, while the other candidates on both sides of the ticket did not.
Click here to see photos of the Bernie Sanders rally in LIC Queens, as well as a story about the contest between Sanders and Clinton.
De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Progress Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s second State of the City Address delivered at the Performing Arts Center at Lehman College in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. In spite of its northern, non-central location, the speech was well attended. About three dozen protesters also made their way north of Manhattan into the Central west Bronx, wielding placards asking the Mayor to stop gentrification and something about fair labor practices.
I took my place among the press corps where we were seated right in the middle of the auditorium. After settling in, I started photographing the slides whizzing by on the main stage, showing the accomplishments of the de Blasio Administation during its first two years. I have included a slide show a bit later in this report, which contains some of the slides that I photographed.
Unlike last year, when the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were having difficulties adjusting to each other, this year the mood seemed buoyant. In front of me was a group of students from the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology - MS 223 - at 360 East 145th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is connected with Bronx Prep and hence handles grades 6 through 12.
Click here to read our report of Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016. The report includes video excerpts of the Mayor's speech, as well as two other short video pieces including the harmony singing of the National Anthem by a talented Bronx choral group, and a few exchanges with the teachers and students of MS 223 in the Bronx.
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.
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.
CCM Ben Kallos Hosts Superscraper Zoning Forum
I attended a ‘Superscraper Forum’ hosted by NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side neighborhood on a comfortable Thursday evening at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. It was to begin at 6.30 pm and 250 people had reserved seats for an auditorium that held 140 seats and had space for about 40 standing.
To be sure the auditorium was full when I arrived and I caught only the tail end of what the first speaker had to say. There were over a half dozen speakers, including NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos who organized the meeting which was attended by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer who arrived near the end of it.
The other speakers included the first speaker who was from the NYC Department of Housing & Planning, who I missed, as well as the following: Emma Marconi Bologna of Civitas NYC, Tara Kelly of the Friends of the Upper East Side, Margaret Newman of the Municipal Art Society, and three other people whose names and associations I did not catch. One may have been an architect, one may have been a representative of the East 50’s Association which is a group dedicated to reining in Superscrapers, and there might have been one from the Sutton Area Community neighborhood association.
Click here to read the rest of our report about Superscraper Zoning for the Upper East Side & Sutton Place.
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.
New York City Makes 'Budget Handshake'
We received this missive from New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Upper West Side. We've made few edits, but the text is essentially a reprint of her email.
Over 100 hours of budget hearings revealed much information that helped to shape the final agreement. [Helen Rosenthal said that] As a member of the City Council's Finance Committee and the Budget Negotiating Team, I can honestly say that all 51 members of the Council had input to ensure that New Yorkers in every borough will get the services they need. In addition to major investments in neighborhood police, there is additional funding for mental health services, veterans, and Vision Zero education.
Photo Credit: William Alatriste for the New York City Council
Education and Youth
• There will be an increase of 80 school crossing guards citywide, and the Upper West Side will gain more crossing guards. Renewed focus on recruitment and retention will happen in discussions over the summer.
• There are unprecedented amounts of funding for our young adults from summer jobs and year-round jobs to support for City University of New York (CUNY) students to keep them in college and help them graduate.
• The additional $39 million for libraries will yield 6-7 day a week service in every borough.
• The free lunch program in middle schools will continue, and there will be an expansion of the "breakfast after the bell" program, so that all elementary schools will offer it by 2018.
• Teachers will receive up to $125 in reimbursement for school supplies that they bring into the classroom. While this is an improvement, it is not enough. We must give teachers all the tools they need to teach well, and I will continue to work to improve this system in the next fiscal year.
• Over $35 million for lawyers, clinics, and advocacy to support tenants who experience harassment by landlords - the largest the City has ever dedicated to this issue.
• Dedicated legal advice for public housing (NYCHA) residents in housing court at 250 Broadway.
• Dedicated team of inspectors to investigate particularly egregious landlords.
Seniors and Safety Net
• Elimination of the wait list for seniors needing home care services.
• Commitment to build 5,000 new units of senior affordable housing over the next five years with dedicated on-site social services.
• Additional funding for the emergency food program and local food banks.
• The largest investment in addressing elder abuse through outreach and social services.
Small Business Support
• Dedicated funds to local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and civic associations. Council members will be able to designate money to support small business in their area.
• Double the investments in worker cooperative support yielding an additional 30-40 new worker-owned businesses throughout the City.
• Community-based organizations providing EarlyLearn NYC services will receive wage parity with DOE employees providing that service.
• Increase of the minimum wage of "Human Service" contract workers to $11.50/hour with targeted career ladder support.
• Funding to continue providing local services from small, community non-profits that lost contracts through the citywide process.
The City Council will formally "adopt" the City's budget at a Stated meeting later this week. At that time, we will have additional information about my dedicated funding for the Upper West Side.
Again, this a reprint of an email from New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Upper West Side.
Elizabeth Warren @ Union Square
Capacity Crowd Considers A Fighting Chance
Are Buffett & Investment Bankers Trying To Pre-emptively Define Her As 'Angry' & 'Too Liberal' Before The Rest Of America Hears Her Speak?
In the past few months I have overheard a number of people chatting about Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts. So when I heard that she would be speaking at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in late March of 2015, to promote the paperback release of her book entitled A Fighting Chance, I decided to see for myself what they were talking about.
Up until this time I knew little about Senator Warren except that she had retaken the Massachusetts Senate seat for Democrats - that Scott Brown had won for Republicans - shortly after the death of Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy.
I arrived a bit early to get my bearings, as there has been a growing groundswell of support for Senator Warren to run for President. Like Barack Obama in 2008, she would probably have to beat Hillary Clinton, even though Hillary has not yet formally announced that she's running.
Nonetheless, just like eight years ago, Hillary has already been anointed the Democratic candidate / victor by the mass media political polls and pundits. Queen Hillary's coronation may be premature, as she continues to slip in the polls versus her potential Republican rivals, including Prince Jeb - likely due to the email debacle, and perhaps a growing reminder of the Clinton family public dramas of years gone by.
Many of the seats facing the podium on the fourth floor were filled, while the remainder of them were filling up steadily. I had been told by someone earlier in the day, that most of the folks in the audience would likely be older people. So I was surprised to see that while the audience contained a number of older people [let's say over 50 / 60], a majority of those in attendance were actually younger people [under 40 / 50].
What follows is an account of the Elizabeth Warren speech - or shall I say her Law-School-like lecture - and the crowd's reaction to it. The report also includes a preliminary examination into why those in the investment banking sector, like Warren Buffett, seem uncomfortable with the idea of Elizabeth Warren's rise as a potential or eventual Democratic candidate for president. And at the end of the report we added a brief historical review of the front running Bush and Clinton family performances on the national stage over the past three decades.
Click here to read the rest of our story about Elizabeth Warren in Manhattan 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.
Tuesday - Primary Elections
The Real 'Choice' Is In The Primaries
Tuesday, September 9th, is an important election day as most Manhattan races are decided at that time given the borough of Manhattan is comprised of about 80% Democrats.
On Tuesday the polls open at 6 am and close at 9 pm for the primary elections for New York state and federal offices. The polls are primarily staffed by civic volunteers.
The number of people who vote in the primaries is about 10 - 25% of the electorate, generally ending up on the lower end of that range. Hence, every vote carries far more weight than in the general election.
Knowing who the candidates are, what they really stand for and voting for them is one of the key pillars of our democracy. Many of our ancestors died fighting for this right and almost all of our early American ancestors took great risks to come here to exercise that right.
One of my favorite quotes of Thomas Jefferson is, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free . . . it expects what never was and never will be".
I know you're busy with all kinds of other responsibilities. But I hope you'll do your best to stay informed about who the candidates are and make the effort to vote for those who best represent your point of view. It's a small investment to make to ensure we maintain our rights and freedoms. You needn't look far around the world to see what life is like in places that don't enjoy the right to elect / choose those who govern them.
Click here to find your Manhattan polling place - and again polls are open from 6 am - 9 pm.
De Blasio Wins Primary But May Face Runoff, Stringer Edges Out Spitzer
Scott Stringer, outgoing Manhattan Borough President, edged out Elliot Spitzer in the Democratic primary. Bill De Blasio won the Democratic NYC Mayoral primary with about 40% of the vote. A tabulation of some paper ballots may determine whether there will be a runoff later this month.
And Gale Brewer, City Council Member of the Upper West Side inManhattan District 6 won nearly 40% of the vote in the race for Manhattan Borough President. Jessica Lappin, formerly Community Board One Chair won nearly 24% of the vote and City Council Member Robert Jackson of District 7 of Morningside Heights and West Harlem won 29% of the vote. In District 5 Ben Kallos won nearly 46% of the vote, while Assemblyman Micah Kellner won nearly 40% of the vote. And in District 4 there wasn't any primary as the candidates went uncontested.
We attended the Community Board 6 Meeting in Manhattan on Wednesday following the election and heard the announcement that outgoing Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer had conditionally approved the large scale development in the eastern section of Midtown Manhattan.
We'll have more about the Midtown East real estate development, including residents' and businesses' concerns about it in a future report.
Borough Presidents Race September 10th
The primary election for Manhattan Borough President will come to a close on September 10th. Click here to find your NYC polling place.
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