Monday, August 29, 2011

Earthquake and Hurricane in NYC in the Same Week

Last week, our city experienced both an earthquake and a hurricane. We prepared well for the hurricane and never had any warning on the earthquake.

Earthquakes and Hurricanes in NYC

As recently as 2001, Upper Manhattan experienced an earthquake, but there has not ever been a major earthquake in NYC for as long as earthquakes have been recorded in our area. The largest earthquake ever in the NYC area was only a magnitude 5.2 on the Richter Scale, and it occurred in 1884. The Richter Scale is designed so that each successive whole number represents a full 10x increase in the energy released by the earthquake. A magnitude 6.2 earthquake would be 10x as forceful as the strongest earthquake ever known to have hit NYC. The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan earlier this year was a magnitude 9.0, representing approximately 100,000x the force of a 5.2.

We have had hurricanes in NYC as well. The most severe and most deadly was the Long Island Express, a 1938 hurricane that pre-dated the hurricane naming convention that began in 1950. But, hurricanes in NYC are quite rare.

The likelihood of experiencing a hurricane and an earthquake in NYC in the same week must be very small. The earthquake felt in NYC last week originated in Virginia, and was a magnitude 5.8. Therefore, while the earthquake did not originate in NYC, it was certainly experienced here. The hurricane that struck NYC last week turned out to be far less devastating than feared, but it was a hurricane when it arrived in NYC.

Hurricane Irene

Mayor Bloomberg and city leaders were effective in preparing for the hurricane. Governor Cuomo and his New York State team were equally effective. Evacuations were ordered from low-lying areas. Mass transit was shut down; tolls were suspended on bridges for residents exiting evacuation zones early in the weekend and for residents returning at the end of the weekend as evacuation orders expired.

Because of the preparation and because of the weakening of Hurricane Irene, NYC survived the storm with far less damage than had been predicted. The inconvenience was significant, but the worst is over.

Last week, we survived an earthquake and a hurricane. Within weeks, all of the flooding will be nothing but a memory, and we will be back to normal. But, we'll know that we had a week that was anything but normal.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bearden Centennial Coming to the Manhattan's Met

Last week, the Met announced that it would celebrate the 100th birthday of Romare Bearden with a special, Harlem-oriented exhibit that will begin next week.
Romare Bearden
Excerpts from the biography included on the web site of the Romare Bearden Foundation
Romare Howard Bearden was born on September 2, 1911, and died in New York City on March 12, 1988, at the age of 76. 

Romare BeardenRomare Bearden began college at Lincoln University, transferred to Boston University and completed his studies at New York University (NYU), graduating with a degree in education. 
From the mid-1930s through 1960s, Bearden was a social worker with the New York City Department of Social Services, working on his art at night and on weekends. His success as an artist was recognized with his first solo exhibition in Harlem in 1940 and his first solo show in Washington, DC, in 1944. Bearden was a prolific artist whose works were exhibited during his lifetime throughout the United States and Europe. His collages, watercolors, oils, photomontages and prints are imbued with visual metaphors from his past in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Harlem and from a variety of historical, literary and musical sources.
In 1954, Bearden married Nanette Rohan, with whom he spent the rest of his life. Bearden had close associations with such distinguished artists, intellectuals and musicians as James Baldwin, Stuart Davis, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Joan MirĂ³, George Grosz, Alvin Ailey and Jacob Lawrence. Bearden was also involved in founding of The Studio Museum in Harlem. 
Romare BeardenRecognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the twentieth century, Romare Bearden had a prolific and distinguished career. He experimented with many different mediums and artistic styles, but is best known for his richly textured collages, two of which appeared on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines, in 1968. An innovative artist with diverse interests, Bearden also designed costumes and sets for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Bearden was the recipient of many awards and honors throughout his lifetime. Honorary doctorates were given by Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Davidson College and Atlanta University, to name but a few. He received the Mayor's Award of Honor for Art and Culture in New York City in 1984 and the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Ronald Reagan, in 1987.

Metropolitan Museum Exhibit and Celebration
From the Met's Press Release last week:
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Romare Bearden, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will display Bearden's The Block, a six-panel tableau that portrays one city block of the Harlem neighborhood that nurtured his career. On view at the Metropolitan Museum from August 30, 2011, through January 2, 2012, Romare Bearden (1911-1988): A Centennial Celebration is presented in conjunction with a multi-city centennial tribute to the life and work of this great American artist.
Romare Bearden's embrace of an unusual medium—paper collage—set him apart as an artist. Jazzy, syncopated compositions, made with found materials such as magazine clippings, old photographs, and colored papers elevated the medium to a major art form for storytelling. In The Block (1971), Bearden used the collage medium to present a montage of images in shifting scales and perspectives that alternate between fantasy and reality. It is a world that is at once eminently recognizable and wholly unique.
The Block depicts Lenox Avenue between 132nd and 133rd streets, in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. Bearden created a colorful scene filled with human activity, much of it taking place on the street. Churches, stores, and apartment buildings provide the backdrop for various scenarios, including a funeral, children playing, a homeless man sleeping, and groups of teens and seniors socializing on the sidewalk. What goes on behind closed doors is revealed through windows and cut-aways in the walls that Bearden called "look-ins."
Bearden's images are both simple and complex, and layered with meanings that can be inferred from his references to other art and cultures—Renaissance painting, modern art, African tribal sculpture, and Christian iconography. In 1977 his friend the novelist Ralph Ellison wrote that Bearden's collages created "a place composed of visual puns and artistic allusions…where the sacred and the profane, reality and dream, are ambiguously mingled."
Visit the Met at 5th Avenue and 82nd Street and check out The Block.

Monday, August 15, 2011

US Open Men's Finals on 9/11/11

Last week, the United States Tennis Association announced that it would pay special tribute to those lost on 9/11/01 during the Men's and Women's finals on September 10th and 11th.

September 11th and Sports

The last major sporting event in New York City prior to the tragedy of September 11th was the 2001 US Open Men's Final between Lleyton Hewitt and Pete Sampras on September 9, 2001. Neither the Yankees nor the Mets played in New York on September 10th. The Yankees game for September 10th versus the Red Sox was rained out.

In a very emotional return of sports to New York City, the Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves on September 21, 2001. We had 10 days without major sports as a result of the terrorist attacks, but the Mets brought sports back with class, reverence, and superb performance.

A bit more than a month later, starting on October, 27, 2001, the New York Yankees took on the Arizona Diamondbacks in a memorable World Series that included incredible late-inning comebacks by the Yankees and a perfect strike first pitch by U.S. President George Bush before game 3. The Diamondbacks ultimately prevailed, but the 2001 World Series provided healing for New York City and for the country.

The US Open paid tribute to the heroes and loved ones lost on September 11, 2001 at the 2002 US Open, but the US Open ended prior to September 11th every year.

This year, 2011, exactly 10 years after the tragedy, the US Open Men's finals will fall on September 11th, and the United States Tennis Association, the organizers of the US Open, will pay tribute to our heroes and lost loved ones once again.

Tributes at the 2011 US Open

The tributes will include performances by Cyndi Lauper and Queen Latifah, and both the Men's and Women's finals will take place with "9/11/01" written on the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Yesterday, an American woman, Serena Williams, won the Canadian Open in Toronto, and an American man, Mardy Fish, competed in the Finals of the Canadian Open in Montreal.

Perhaps we can have an American man and an American woman in the finals of the US Open on September 10th and September 11th this year to help us pay tribute to the victims and heroes of the tragedy of 10 years ago.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bloomberg Counters His Own Attacks on People of Color

NYC Mayor Bloomberg has pledged $30 million of his own money toward improving opportunities for Black and Latino men, but he continues to promote the most policies geared toward damaging people of color.

The Mayor's Own Money

Mayor Bloomberg has pledged $30 million of his own money toward a $127 million city initiative to provide help to Black and Latino men. George Soros is matching Bloomberg's contribution, and the city is paying the remaining costs. The initiative will focus on parole reform, job training, and education. More than a dozen city agencies are connected to this initiative, and Bloomberg added to the spending by issuing an executive order barring city agencies from placing undue barriers before job applicants with criminal convictions.

One would find it difficult to oppose the $127 million of funding, the $30 million contribution from the Mayor, or the focus on the plight of men of color in our city, but this initiative is small in comparison to the problems faced by these men. By my estimation, it results in less than $50 per man of color in our city.

Our primary reaction to this initiative is to marvel at the inconsistency of the Mayor's approach to men of color. As we'll discuss later in this post, the Mayor is one of the key components of the pain inflicted on men of color, and he could end that pain at no cost at any time. Instead, he continues to punish people of color in our city for not being born white.

People of Color Facing Challenges in Our City and Beyond

In our city, men of color have far higher unemployment rates than other men and earn far less when employed than other men earn.

We have recently seen that across the United States, the median household wealth for persons of color is approximately one-twentieth of the wealth of the median white household. Therefore, a typical white family has 20 times the wealth of the typical Black or Latino family in our country.

We also know that simply having a name that appears to be a Black name makes a job applicant half as likely to be interviewed when compared with an identical applicant whose name does not seem Black.

Across nearly all metrics and analyses, people of color are provided fewer opportunities, pay higher prices, and suffer more abuse than other people.

Mayor is Chief Tormentor of Men of Color

Mayor Bloomberg has provided over the highest ever levels of stops and frisks of innocent people of color. He sets a new record every year. In Black neighborhoods, the chances of being stopped in a year are an astonishing 30% or more, while white New York City residents escape the stop and frisk terrorism despite the fact that white New York City residents are more likely to have illegal weapons or illegal drugs than people of color in our city. In June,

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, the stop and frisk numbers “are going in the absolutely wrong direction.”

"Stop and frisk has a place in law enforcement but the abuse of this tactic to target absolutely innocent people is bad for all New Yorkers,” she said. “This practice seriously undermines the quality of life for people of color in New York City, particularly in the poorest, most vulnerable neighborhoods."

Ninety percent of those incarcerated in our city are people of color, and only 28% of Black men in our city graduate from high school.

Mayor Bloomberg's administration is the most lacking in people of color since Mayor Koch.

Mayor Bloomberg has been dedicated to preventing people of color from becoming members of the Fire Department of New York City. He fought against the Bush Administration as the federal government sought to reduce the racial discrimination in hiring at the FDNY. He chose not to hire any firefighters in order to avoid adhering to a federal judge's order to end his "white-only" FDNY hiring approach.

Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg's $30 million investment is a part of a new thinking by him that will change our city. For now, the most powerful action Mayor Bloomberg can take to improve the lives of men of color in our city is an action that he can take without the help of George Soros or any of his fellow billionaires. He should resign.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our Transit Authority Faces Challenges

While most eyes are on the compromise deal in Washington, DC to raise the debt ceiling and cut federal spending, here at home in New York, the MTA is losing its leader, seeking debt it is not sure it can repay, seeking fare increases during a troubled economy, and facing the recent revelation of being over budget and behind schedule on some of its major projects.

New Leader Needed

In July, the MTA Chairman, Jay Walder, announced that he was resigning, effective October 21, 2011. Walder was appointed by then-Governor David Paterson, and while he was viewed as controversial by labor advocates, he developed a reputation as an effective and competent leader.

Walder is resigning to take a role leading a company that operates rail systems in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, London, Stockholm, and Melbourne. Though he was a very highly paid public official with a long-term contract, the private sector offered him superior compensation and, presumably, a superior opportunity to build a record of success. There is not necessarily a villain in the Walder departure. New York State attempted to solidify its relationship with Walder through the structure of his contract, and Walder can hardly be faulted for taking a dream job as the head of a global leader in his field. Though there may be no villain, the private sector's gain is the public sector's loss.

Financial Challenges

The MTA has experienced budget challenges in recent years and chose last week to seek to borrow nearly 7 billion dollars for key projects, despite the warnings from the MTA's own finance committee chair that the additional debt may represent a "ticking time bomb." To achieve only the "fragile stability" that Jay Walder says is represented by the borrowing and by additional fare increases sought by the MTA, the MTA will be forced to also seek wage freezes from MTA workers. The MTA will be challenges at every turn.

Behind Schedule and Over Budget

In addition to wasting $26 million through poor management of its recent track work, the MTA is billions of dollars over budget and many years behind schedule on its most high profile projects.

As NY1 stated in December 2010:
A new report finds the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority is going way over budget on its major construction projects. The MTA inspector general says the Long Island Rail Road extension to Grand Central, the Second Avenue subway, and the Fulton Transit Hub are a combined $1.93 billion over budget. The report finds the projects are also up to five years behind schedule. In fact, the report finds the railroad link may not be finished until 2018. The first leg of the Second Avenue subway is expected to be completed in 2017. The inspector general blames a lack of oversight and squabbles between managers and consultants hired by the agency for the delays.
Perhaps the arrival of a new chair of the MTA is an opportunity to fix the fiscal problems and the management problems that have plagued the MTA. The status quo is not an acceptable standard.