Monday, September 27, 2010

NYC Subway Frustration

Last weekend provided us with an opportunity to experience the frustrations of the investments being made in our city's subway system.

2nd Avenue Subway Delays Continue

Though the 2nd Avenue Subway project is already years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget, new disappoints have emerged.

Early this month, we learned that new cost overruns and delays were being blamed on the need to move the plumbing and utilities under the private buildings along 2nd Avenue. One wonders how this moving of utilities could have been unanticipated.

The project is now expected to be completed in 2018, a full two years later than the original plan from just three years ago.

A year ago, at the urging of Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, the MTA's Inspector General launched a probe into the problems we've seen in the 2nd Avenue Subway project. The Inspector General has written to the Manhattan Borough President and outlined the challenges that have resulted in the delays and additional costs. The MTA's mismanagement of the project has played a large role in the project's problems.

We hope that the MTA will both improve its performance and hold its leadership accountable for their poor performance with regard to the 2nd Avenue Subway project. Every day of delay causes the real economic pain of the construction project to be extended, and the residents living along 2nd Avenue and the businesses located there deserve better performance.

Straphanger Delays

Our subway system is benefiting from investment, but we must suffer through the investment by enduring delays.

Last weekend, nearly every line of our city's subway system was facing delays as a result of "planned work" on the subway system.

Let us hope that the frustrations we endure because of "planned work" are worthwhile. Given the MTA's performance on the 2nd Avenue Subway, we should feel welcome to be suspicious of their simultaneous "planned work" on nearly every subway line.

With a gubernatorial election coming in New York State in November of this year, let us hope that the next Governor in our state will take a close look at the MTA and work to obtain improved performance and better leadership.

Yesterday, the New York Daily News gave us a look at the reviews of the MTA Chairman by respected New Yorkers. His grades are adequate, but the next Governor must demand better than adequate.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bloomberg Promotes Racial Discrimination

Last week, in a move that is infuriating, frightening, and sad, Mayor Bloomberg has chosen to hire no new firefighters this year in order to ensure that Black and Hispanic firefighters remain nearly non-existent within the Fire Department of New York.

Bloomberg Remains Obsessed with Racial Discrimination

In May of this year, we addressed the Mayor's obsession with racial discrimination.

We discussed the Mayor's refusal to end race-based policing. Though more than 90% of those stopped and frisked by New York City police are people of color, though 90% of those stopped are never accused of any crime, and though the small number of white individuals who are stopped are twice as likely as the people of color to be in possession of illegal guns or drugs, the Mayor continues unremorsefully with his record-setting stop-and-frisk pace.

He used obnoxious racial imagery in his re-election bid in 2009; he endorsed the concept of making Rudy Giuliani the Governor of the state of New York, and he pushed our city's gifted educational programs out of communities of color into white communities.

The Mayor also was shown to have the most white-dominated administration in a generation. Eighty percent of the senior staffers in the Bloomberg Administration are white, while other major cities have persons of color represented in percentages that are twice (or more than twice) as large as what we experience in New York City.

FDNY Racial Discrimination Continues

Despite extensive and persistent efforts, the FDNY remains a racially discriminatory institution. Our city's fire department is more than 90% white, but Mayor Bloomberg has fought the addition of people of color to our fire department. After a decade of very credible complaints about the racially discriminatory hiring practices at the FDNY, Mayor Bloomberg remained committed to the racially discriminatory approach he led from City Hall. Finally, the Bush Administration's US Justice Department sued New York City in order to combat the racial discrimination that Mayor Bloomberg stubbornly promoted. The Bush Administration won the law suit, but the Bloomberg Administration refused to end its discrimination.

The courts have attempted to guide the Bloomberg administration away from racial discrimination, but they have failed. A federal judge gave Mayor Bloomberg five options for hiring a class of FDNY rookies this year and ending the pattern of racial discrimination. Mayor Bloomberg rejected all five options and decided to hire no FDNY rookies this year.

We are not surprised, but we are saddened to see Mayor Bloomberg put our lives in jeopardy in order to keep the FDNY more than 90% white. We need the additional firefighters, and we need an end to the racial discrimination at the FDNY.

When residents of New York City are facing the terror of a fire, they never demand that only white fire fighters participate in the life saving work that is needed from the FDNY. In fact, our city's residents have not demonstrated Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to racial discrimination. Perhaps the people of our city will raise their voices and demand that our city bring on board the additional fire fighters that our city had planned to hire - and demand that the new hires not be selected in a manner designed to prevent persons of color from joining the FDNY.

Monday, September 13, 2010

NYPD Quota Outrage

Our primaries are tomorrow, and it is imperative that everyone eligible to vote in Manhattan casts a vote. As we prepare to vote, we are outraged by fresh evidence of NYPD enforcement of quotas for its officers.

Stop and Frisk Record Driven By Quotas

We have examined the grotesque record of Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with regard to stop-and-frisk activity in our city. These recent years have resulted in record numbers of stop-and-frisks despite the ugly racial realities of those stop and frisks. Approximately 90% of those stop-and-frisks involve stopping people of color, and approximately 90% of those stopped are found to be entirely innocent. When White New Yorkers are stopped, they are twice as likley to be carrying illegal weapons or illegal drugs as the people of color that are stopped, yet the NYPD continues to concentrate its stops amongst people of color. Further, the NYPD's excuse for the stops is nearly always that the subject of the stop was acting in a suspicious manner.

When Governor Paterson was poised to outlaw the use of a database of the innocent victims of the Mayor's stop-and-frisk abuse, Commissioner Kelly stated that he needed to have a record of the movements of innocent people of color in NYC in order to solve the crimes that those people of color commit. Any decent Mayor would have fired the police commissioner for such a statement, but Mayor Bloomberg has continued to support Ray Kelly. Governor Paterson chose to use his common sense rather than follow the lead of Ray Kelly. The use of the database is now outlawed.

More recently, we have ample evidence that the NYPD is threatening its own police officers with punishment if they don't abuse enough people of color by stoping them and frisking them for "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity.

Smoking Gun - Secret Recording

Secret recordings from a precinct in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn reveal that the NYPD does indeed use quotas to drive officer behavior. Quotas for police results are illegal under New York State law, the NYPD utilizes them nonetheless.

In a disgusting response that reminds us of the Ray Kelly response to Governor Paterson, the NYPD spokesman has stated that the recordings of the threats against officers who don't abuse people of color in NYC enough to satisfy their superiors are evidence of "good management" at the NYPD.

The racism and abuse of power represented on the tapes should outrage all of us, and the NYPD defense of their illegal quota practices reminds us that we need new leadership at the NYPD.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Artifical Turf on Trial in NYC

The City Limits September 2010 issue focuses on New York City's shift away from grass athletic fields in its parks to artificial turf. NYC spent $300 million over 12 years building artificial turf fields in its parks, and that investment may have been a mistake. We encourage you to purchase the September issue of City Limits and absorb the detailed investigation and analysis it contains.

Dangerous Conditions

City Limits begins with a look at the decaying conditions of the turf fields that NYC has installed in recent years. The $300 million was invested in approximately 200 fields, and approximately half of the fields analyzed by City Limits were found to be unacceptably dangerous because of a lack of maintenance. City Limits found "gaps, tears, and holes forming obvious trip hazards."

In Upper Manhattan, City Limits discovered that the artificial turf fields within Riverside Park were in good condition but that Eugene McCabe Field on the east side had a large sinkhole. On the Lower East Side of Manhattan, City Limits determined that Baruch Playground was in poor condition and was dangerous for those making use of it.

Purchaser of City Limits will benefit from an in-depth look at the impact of the lack of maintenance of NYC's artificial turf fields.

Lack of Resources

After reaching a high of nearly eight-tenths of one percent of the New York City budget in 1988, the spending on our parks has fallen now to its lowest point at approximately four-tenths of one percent. Our city spends less per capita on its parks than nearly all of the other largest cities in the United States, but our city actually has a larger percentage of its land devoted to parks than nearly all of those cities.

Also, while the headcount of the Parks Department is growing, it is still far below the levels it achieved in the 1980's, when the overall New York City budget was far smaller.

For our fields, both artificial and natural grass, we need a strong Parks Department with adequate resources and personnel. To the extent that the massive investment in artificial fields was driven by a desire to reduce annual maintenance costs, the calculations have proven to be flawed. Artificial fields needs greater maintenance and attention than natural grass, and we need to support an increase in the resources of the Parks Department in order to create safe and enjoyable public spaces for athletic activities, irrespective of whether the fields are made of grass or synthetic materials.

Artificial Turf's Health Risks

Even when an artificial field is properly maintained, it brings dangers that natural grass fields do not.

New York City uses a type of artificial turf that utilizes ground tires to simulate dirt and create a softer cushion in and around the artificial grass. But, those tires can contain dangerous chemicals and high levels of lead. Tires are not designed for children to lie on them or play with them for hours each week.

The artificial field in Upper Manhattan at Thomas Jefferson Park had to be removed because it had lead levels that exceeded the acceptable limits set by the EPA. In some parts of the field, the lead levels were four times higher than the EPA limit.

While New York City has declared that all of its artificial fields are safe (now that the Thomas Jefferson Park Field has been replaced), City Limits found that 23 fields had levels that exceed the limits set by California for its fields. There are also critics who claim that New York City's testing approach is flawed in that it averages the results of multiple samples from a given artificial field instead of accepting that "hot spots" of lead contamination that exceed the EPA limit need to be addressed even if the average lead level from multiple samples is within EPA guidelines.

Buy City Limits and Advocate for More Resources for the NYC Parks Department

We encourage you to purchase the September issue of City Limits and use the information to advocate for greater investment in our city's parks as well as a renewed appreciation for the superiority of natural green grass over synthetic field surfaces.