Monday, December 31, 2012

Highlights of 2012 Blogs

Today is the last day of 2012, and we use this week's blog to look back at the highlights of the 2012 Manhattan Viewpoint blogs.

NYPD Abuses Increase While Stop and Frisk Evolves

We began 2012 frustrated by the additional abuses of the NYPD that were added to the racist stop-and-frisk policies that we have been facing from years from the NYPD. The NYPD beat NYC residents and killed an unarmed young man. The outrage we felt was increased by learning that the NYPD had been tracking muslims in Newark, NJ. The last straw was the revelation that the NYPD was spying on left-of-center groups despite the lack of evidence that any threat was presented by the groups.

Stop-and-frisk abuses by the NYPD began to decline in April of 2012 because of community pressure for change.

We end 2012 praying that Mayor Bloomberg's and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's unrepentant support for stop-and-frisk abuses of people of color in our city will end early in 2013 rather than wait for a new Mayor to take over.

Other Highlights

Congressman Charlie Rangel was re-elected after a long and difficult campaign.

President Obama won all of the most educated states in the US as he earned a second term as President.

Colonel Young Park remains in disrepair but now has community support for an upgrade.

The Barclays Center opened in Brooklyn.

Hurricane Sandy devastated our community.

Looking Forward to 2013

The NY Times described the upcoming year's political focus well.

"Mayoral politics will dominate the local headlines. Mr. Bloomberg’s many would-be successors will not have the personal fortune he spent to win office ($174 per vote in 2009). Which of them will end up on the November ballot: Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker? Joseph J. Lhota, who is leaving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to look into running as a Republican? Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner?"

Monday, December 24, 2012

Republican Lhota Joins NYC Mayoral Race

Last week, Joe Lhota resigned as chair of the MTA to prepare for a run for Mayor of NYC as a Republican.

Joe Lhota

Joe Lhota was a Deputy Mayor during the Giuliani Administration and played a leading role in the Administration's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. He is a trustee at the City University of New York and a former Chief Administrative officer of MSG, the owner of the Knicks, Rangers, the MSG cable channel, and Madison Square Garden itself.

Lhota was chair of the MTA, the state authority that operates NYC's buses and subways and provides regional rail service in and around NYC while controlling the bridges and tunnels in NYC. He began in that role in the beginning of 2012 and remained there until last week when he resigned to start his campaign for Mayor of NYC.

MTA Fair Hikes

During the approximately one year that Joe Lhota was the leader of the MTA, he angered NYC residents by raising subway fares and bridge tolls.

Republican Mayoral Primary 2013

His Republican opponents in the 2013 Mayoral primary have established significant support.

"The Queens and Manhattan county organizations are in the corner of billionaire John Catsimatidis, while the Bronx and Brooklyn chairs have said they support former Bronx Borough President Adolfo CarriĆ³n."

Whichever of these three Republican candidates for Mayor wins the primary will face a daunting Democratic advantage in the general election. In fact, one poll suggested Lhota would lose a general election by a 60% to 9% margin. Therefore, many will view the Republican race as barely relevant. That view is dangerous. Republicans have now won five straight general elections for Mayor in NYC, and both Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Giuliani are likely to be pushing hard for the Republican nominee in November 2013.

Democrats must both find the right Mayoral nominee and come together in unity behind that nominee in order to return the Democrats to power in NYC for the first time since David Dinkins left office after the 1993 general election. It has been 20 years.

Monday, December 17, 2012

NYS Senators' Marriage Equality Support Punished

With last week's concession of defeat by State Senator Saland, three of the four Republican State Senators who supported marriage equality will no longer be in the State Senate.

Marriage Equality Victory in NY

In June of this year, the New York State Senate approved the marriage equality law that now governs our state. The Assembly had already passed it, and the Governor signed it immediately.

The State Senate passage was made possible by the support of four Republicans State Senators who joined with all but one of the Democrats in the State Senate "after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes."

Three of Four Republicans Not Returning to the State Senate

Since the thrill of the June victory, we have had a primary election and a general election. Those elections have not been kind to the Republicans who courageously pushed marriage equality over the finish line in New York State. In the end, the loss of these Republicans strengthened the Democrats and strengthened the support in the New York State Senate for marriage equality.

The New York Times described what has happened to the four Republican State Senators who supported marriage equality:

" . . . when the Legislature returns to Albany next month, only one of those four senators will be among those sworn into office. One, facing the prospect of a tough challenge, decided not to run again; a second was defeated by a more conservative Republican in a primary, and on Thursday, a third conceded defeat after a monthlong paper-ballot counting process in a three-way race in which a more conservative candidate drew so many votes from him that the race was won by a Democrat.       
"Activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue nationwide had kept a close eye on the fate of the four New York Republicans, whose re-election battles were depicted as a de facto referendum on whether it was electorally safe for Republicans to support same-sex marriage. Gay-rights advocates talked hopefully of being able to persuade Republican legislators in other statehouses that voting for same-sex marriage did not amount to political suicide.        
"But, same-sex marriage opponents paid for billboards to denounce the incumbents and predicted that voters would punish the senators for switching their positions. The outcry against the Republicans had an awkward side effect — although conservatives contributed significantly to their fates, two of the three are being replaced by Democrats who support same-sex marriage.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg Promotes Common Sense on Immigration

Last week, New York City Mayor Bloomberg provided an alarming yet accurate view of the need for US immigration policies to promote the arrival of new talent in the US from abroad.

Immigration Challenges

While the United States political culture includes elements of string opposition to immigration, the US is actually a large importer of talent, and our country needs to increase that importation.

During the Republican Primary season in 2011 and 2012, Republican Presidential  candidates competed to see who could be most opposed to immigrants to the United States. While many Republicans now regret their anti-immigrant focus, the competition amongst candidates to prove their hatred for immigrants reflected the strength of ant-immigrant sentiment in the Republican primary electorate. Mitt Romney won the Republican Primary in part by inventing the notion that immigrants should "self-deport" based on policies he would implement as President.

The Republican regret of their anti-immigrant stance is appropriate. Immigration is key to economic growth, and many parts of the US economy will be underserved without significant immigration activity. Allowing prejudice against immigrants to interfere with our opportunities to build and strengthen our economy will leave us with lower quality lives for decades to come.

Mayor Bloomberg Defends Immigration

Mayor Bloomberg is correct when he states that “we are on the wrong side of global competition. Our economy depends on immigrants, and currently our immigration policy is what I call national suicide,”

"National suicide" would appear to be hyperbole, but the notion that the United States is currently volunteering to harm itself by pushing talented people to make their contributions elsewhere is absolutely accurate.

Bloomberg stated that many of the talented immigrants now helping the US to strengthen are here on student visas, and their talents will leave the US to help strengthen other countries (perhaps even our enemies) if we do not allow those immigrants to remain in the US.

“They are our future, and we are driving them out,” Bloomberg said. Changing immigration policy to promote the importation of talent to the US is mission-critical. “I don’t think there is anything more important Washington could do for us.”

President Obama Is Expected to Seek Improved Immigration Laws

In the early part of 2013, after the fight over the fiscal cliff has been decided, we expect President Obama to make immigration reform a top priority.

We hope to make New York City a tech-focused hub for the US, and doing so will require significant talent from outside of the US. As New Yorkers, we need President Obama to make immigration reform a priority and open up opportunities for our city and the rest of the country to enjoy stronger economic growth.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cumo Heads to DC for Sandy Pitch

Today, Governor Cuomo will be in Washington, DC to seek support from Congressional leaders for $42 billion in federal government assistance related to the Sandy superstorm.

Cuomo's Pitch to Congress

Governor Cuomo's trip to Washington, DC today is aimed at persuading Congress to support his plan for a $42 billion cash infusion from the federal government to help New York State recover from Sandy and to create new infrastructure that will prevent future damage in major storms.

After stating in mid-November that the federal government should pay 100% of the costs endured by the state and local government in New York State resulting from Sandy rather than the traditional 25%, and after refusing to join Mayor Bloomberg on the Mayor's trip to Washington, DC, one cannot be surprised to see Governor Cuomo making a solo trip to our nation's capital with a request for such a large cash contribution from Congress.

Cuomo's approach seems to have started off on the right foot. He asked a Republican representative from Long Island to set up a meeting with the Republican Speaker of the House.

Bloomberg Undermine's Cuomo's Pitch

In a classic example of Mayor Bloomberg's extraordinary incompetence, the Mayor spoke out against Governor Cuomo's $42 billion pitch to Congress before the Governor had a chance to deliver the pitch in Washington.

Bloomberg stated that we should focus on adding to NYC's subway system rather than preventing future floods.

As the NY Daily News wrote:

Bloomberg cited climate change when he endorsed President Barack Obama, but has recently said he doesn't expect a storm similar to Sandy to ravage our subways anytime soon.

"It hasn't happened in 100 years, and if you take that precaution that's good -- but at what expense," he said.
"We need more subways to take people to parts of the city where they live now and they didn't live when the subways were built 100 years ago," Bloomberg said.

Sadly, Bloomberg is too ignorant of Washington politics to understand that Cuomo's first assigment is to ask for the moon and then fight for as much as he can. He also clearly fails to realize that contradicting the Governor's proposal from the Mayor's office is a recipe for less money coming to NYC from Congress, and outcome for which Bloomberg should be held accountable if and when it comes to pass.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NYC Elite Middle Schools Lack Diversity

Last week, we learned that our city's elite public schools lack Black and Latino students.

Revisiting The Racially Exclusive Elite Public School Problem

We focused in October of this year on the tragedy of NYC elite public high schools. Because admission to our city's most elite public high schools is based entirely on one long test, the process is easily attacked. It does not account for intellect, grades, character, or any other assets that students might bring to a school.

As we stated in October:
the single-test approach leads to a virtual exclusion of Black and Latino students from these schools. At the best-known school, Stuyvesant, only 19 of the nearly 1,000 students admitted recently were Black, and only 32 were Latino. These 2% and 3% population levels are unacceptable in a school system in which a majority of the students are Black or Latino.

In fact, nearly 31% of white students who take the test are accepted while only 7% of Latinos and 5% of Blacks are accepted.

Unfortunately, this battle in crossing several generations. As the Huffington Post has taught us:
The controversy over admission to New York City's elite high schools is not new. In May 1971, New York Times education columnist Fred Hechinger reported that efforts were being made to eliminate a "discovery" program that allowed for greater black and Hispanic enrollment and school Chancellor Scribner had ordered a study to investigate charges that the entire admission process was discriminatory. To prevent changes, the state legislature passed a law in 1972 to effectively prevent efforts to racially diversify the city's select high schools with the single high-stakes test as the only way to gain admission.

Elite Middle Schools Lacking Black and Latino Students

The top high schools have low single-digit percentages of Black and Latino students, and the elite middle schools have higher numbers, approximately 25% Black and Latino. But, Black and Latino students represent approximately 70% of all students in NYC public schools. The higher percentages appear to come from admissions criteria that go beyond a single test, but the higher percentages are still far too low.

As stated in the NY Daily News, the Anderson School in Manhattan, a top middle school in our city, only 17% of the 569 students are black or Latino, and at Mark Twain in Brooklyn, which has its own admissions exam, again 17% of 1,281 students are black or Latino.

The middle schools show us that we need to move away from the single high-stakes test approach and they show us that simply avoiding the single test is not enough. We need a focused and determined effort to provide Black and Latino students access to the best middle schools and high schools in our city.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Obama Leads on Sandy Where Bloomberg Failed

Last week, President Obama surveyed the damage caused by Sandy in New York. He made a big impression, and the experience made a big impression on him.

Leading Where Bloomberg Failed

President Obama came to New York City last week and filled a leadership game created by Mayor Bloomberg's failures.As the Daily News stated:

The people of the storm needed a leader.

These rudderless victims say their borough president has completely failed them. Mayor Marathon Mike insulted them when he suggested running a race as requiem Mass bells pealed for their Sandy dead.
And so as the holidays approached like grim milestones, these good and weary people needed someone to cheer as a way of celebrating themselves.
The survivors drifted from their damp, moldy, powerless and damaged and destroyed homes on muddy, narrow side streets with names like Neptune, Seafoam, Wavecrest to wait for President Obama, the most powerful man in all the world, to descend in Marine One into the battered New Dorp section of the forgotten borough.
Bloomberg Sandy Blunder
Mayor Bloomberg failed the leadership test presented by Sandy when he pushed for the NYC Marathon to be run in the midst of the beginning of the cleanup and mourning of the loss of life that Sandy brought to our city. The borough most affected by the storm was Staten Island, the traditional starting place for the NYC Marathon. In fact, Staten Island suffered  more than half of the deaths endured by our city as a result of Sandy.
Admittedly, cancelling the marathon threatened losses for the city in terms of reduced tourism dollars, reduced spending from the 1 million would-be spectators, and withdrawn sponsorship funds. But, the Mayor's statements in support of having the marathon move forward as if there was nothing unusual about the circumstances were both insensitive and unrealistic. Our city was somewhat in shock and is still rationing gas and assessing damage weeks later. Fatalities were still being discovered, and resources were desperately needed in the hardest hit areas in order to start the cleanup and begin the healing.
Bloomberg, who as late as Friday morning insisted that the world's largest marathon should go on as scheduled Sunday, changed course hours later after intensifying opposition from the city comptroller, the Manhattan borough president and sanitation workers unhappy that they had volunteered to help storm victims but were assigned to the race instead. The mayor said he would not want "a cloud to hang over the race or its participants."
The  Mayor asked the President to visit New Jersey instead of NYC in the immediate aftermath of the storm as he declared that the marathon would be unaffected. The President was finally welcomed to our city by our Mayor, and the President helped remind us what real leadership is.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NYS - An "Educated' State Supports Obama

New York State led the way as an "educated" state supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama last week.

New York Votes Overwhelmingly to Re-elect President Obama

Only Washington, DC and Vermont voted to re-elect President Obama with larger margins than New York State. An impressive 63% of New York State residents voted for the President, more than the margins in Massachusetts, Maryland, California, and other reliably Democratic states.

While the United States Constitution and New York State law conspire to make the margin of victory irrelevant, our state should be proud of the margin and of its leading role in the President's re-election. All but two states (Nebraska and Maine, which both award electoral votes by Congressional District and then give the two additional electoral votes to the winner of the state-wide vote) award all of their electoral votes to the candidate that wins the most votes for President in their respective states. Therefore, New York provided more electoral votes than any state other than California or Florida (New York and Florida provided equal numbers of electoral votes at 29) for the re-election victory. But, while the 29 electoral votes from New York would have gone to President Obama whether he won by one vote or won one hundred percent of the vote, New York's strong support for the President helped his campaign focus on states that provided more of a challenge. The successful campaigns in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado can be traced to the reliability and the promise of a wide margin provided by our great state.

Obama Sweeps Top 10 Most Educated States

President Obama won each of the 10 most educated states, and the President lost all but one of the least educated states.

New York is the largest state in the group of most educated states.

Here are the 10 most educated states, with those Obama won underlined. The percentage of residents over 25 with a college degree is in parentheses:
Most educated statesLeast educated states
Massachusetts (39.1%)West Virginia (18.5%)
Maryland (36.9%)Mississippi (19.8%)
Colorado (36.7%)Arkansas (20.3%)
Connecticut (36.2%)Kentucky (21.1%)
Vermont (35.4%)Louisiana (21.1%)
New Jersey (35.3%)Alabama (22.3%)
Virginia (35.1%)Nevada (22.5%)
New Hampshire (33.4%)Indiana (23.0%)
New York (32.9%)Tennessee (23.6%)
Minnesota (32.4%)Oklahoma (23.8%)

The President also swept the 10 states that pay the most to teachers. New York State is second only to California in size amongst states with the highest teacher salaries.

Here are the best and worst states for teacher salaries, with states Obama carried underlined and average salary in parentheses:
States with highest average teacher salariesStates with lowest average teacher salaries
California ($63,640)South Dakota ($35,378)
Connecticut ($60,822)North Dakota ($38,822)
New Jersey ($59,584)Mississippi ($40,182)
New York ($59,559)West Virginia ($40,531)
Massachusetts ($58,257)Utah ($41,156)
Illinois ($58,246)Montana ($41,225)
Maryland ($56,927)Missouri ($41,751)
Rhode Island ($55,956)Nebraska ($42,044)
Michigan ($55,526)Maine ($42,103)
Pennsylvania ($54,970)Oklahoma ($42,379)
New York was an important part of an important victory for our country. We are a large states with a highly educated workforce and a reliable set of electoral votes for the Democratic candidate for President in a general election.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy's wrath knocked out power and took lives, pushing all other concerns to the background. Though it was a category 1 hurricane, it caused levels of damage and flooding never seen before.

Harlem Gas Shortages

While Upper Manhattan was largely left intact by Hurricane Sandy, Harlem faced gas shortages in the aftermath of the storm. The loss of power in much of Manhattan and in large sections of New Jersey made Harlem a go-to destination for those seeking gas for cars and for generators. Gas stations in areas with power outages could not pump gas without electricity.

Vehicles endured seemingly endless lines as Harlem gas stations ran out of gas. Some unlucky drivers ran out of gas waiting in line at gas stations that did not have any gas remaining.

We need to find a better system for delivering gasoline when roads are open but electricity is unavailable. Gas generators go into action in such circumstances and add to traditional gas demand levels. Users of gas may panic and become violent. Gas unavailability should not destroy communities that mother nature spared.

Esplanade Gardens Cars totaled

In Harlem's Esplanade Gardens housing complex, 125 cars were totaled by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, Esplanade Gardens did not face deaths; property can be replaced. But, the loss of this large number of vehicles helps underscore the power of a category 1 hurricane to inflict costs on a community that was fortunate to escape the worst of the damage experienced elsewhere.

Rockaways Anger

In the Rockaways, residents greeted the visit of Mayor Bloomberg with anger. As temperatures have dropped, and as bodies have been discovered amongst debris and garbage, there has not yet been help provided to the residents of the Rockaways who soldier on without power.

As the New York Post reported:

The Rockaways’ situation is among the most dire of any of the city’s seaside neighborhoods.

Hundreds of residents continued yesterday to dig out of the wreckage of their wiped-out homes — if they still had homes; 80 in the Breezy Point area were destroyed by fire.

Garbage and debris were everywhere, and the smithereens of the boardwalk were washed far inland.

Cops yesterday uncovered the body of 90-year-old George Stathis, who was found dead in his home on Beach 121st Street.

There was mud on streets where lights weren’t working, sand dunes in front of homes and piles of rubble all over.

“I knew it was going to be real bad, but I never expected this devastation,” said resident Ned Morgan, whose basement flooded up to 6 feet, destroying furniture, family pictures and electronics. “They’re looting cars all over the place,” Morgan said. “This is New York City. They have to help us.”

Staten Island has faced tragedies and destruction that rival the unimaginable turmoil of the Rockaways.

Our city will need a plan to prevent these areas from becoming regular victims of rising tides and storms as climate change begins to have the impact we've been warned about so often.

Proposals for Adjusting to Climate Change

The New York Times recently discussed approaches to dealing with New York City's challenges in an era of rising water levels. Building marshes, reefs, and other protections for our city of islands seems less expensive, more actionable in the near term, and more likely to succeed than building massive flood walls or removing all of the infrastructure, businesses, and dwellings from low lying areas.

Agreeing on solutions to the flood-power-outage challenge we face now after Sandy should be a top priority.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lady Liberty Reopens Her Crown and Hurricane Sandy Arrives

Yesterday, the Statue of Liberty unveiled a $30 million upgrade, and later today, Hurricane Sandy is expected to reach the NYC area. Portions of our community have been evacuated; mass transit has been suspended, and we are all praying that Sandy leaves minimal damage.

Statue of Liberty

After a $30 million upgrade and a year of renovations, the Statue of Liberty opened yesterday. The renovations improve the visitor experience and create greater safety through improved exit routes, sprinklers, and other enhancements. The 354 steps to the crown have been replaced by 393 steps that are much less steep than the previous group. The route to the pedestal is now wheelchair accessible; bathrooms have been upgraded for the first time in many decades, and the new air conditioning will allow visitors to escape the summer heat like never before.

Hurricane Sandy

Stay Safe! Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit us later today. Our city's mass transit is suspended, and we are all asked to stay inside. Don't take any chances, and don't take the storm lightly.

Until next week . . .

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gov. Cuomo Leaving NYS to Support Obama

Last week, Governor Cuomo revealed his plans to travel to battleground states to encourage voters to support President Obama in the November Presidential election.

Cuomo 2016

Governor Cuomo is widely viewed as a likely 2016 Presidential candidate because of his high approval ratings as the Governor of a very large state. New York is a highly reliable Democratic state in national elections and has major influence in the Democratic Party. Governor Cuomo's control of the New York State Democratic Party would give him significant influence in a 2016 primary fight.

Ironically, one of the two other likely candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016 is current US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also a New York State politician. Hillary Clinton has a nation-wide network of supporters that were galvanized by her 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination. But, she ran for President as a Senator from New York State. New York State remains a key base for Hillary Clinton.

Vice President Joe Biden is the other key likely candidate for the 2016 Presidential nomination in the Democratic Party. He may be unbeatable if he chooses to run, given his current leadership role in the Democratic Party, his very impressive performance at the 2012 Democratic Convention, and his domination of Paul Ryan in the only Vice Presidential debate in 2012. But, he may be even more unbeatable if he is running against two New York State residents who are splitting a powerful but small base.

Cuomo for Obama

Fueling speculation of a Cuomo run for the Presidency in 2016, the Governor has agreed to travel throughout the United States seeking support for President Obama's re-election.

Ironically, Cuomo himself stated that he wanted to avoid fueling such speculation, despite the obvious connection between Cuomo's willingness to make public appearances outside of New York State and his opportunity to raise his national profile in advance of a potential national campaign.

The New York Times gave us a window into Cuomo's thinking:

Mr. Cuomo said that nothing he did on Mr. Obama’s behalf should be viewed as evidence that he was laying the groundwork for a presidential run of his own.
“I’ll do whatever they ask me to do,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview on an Albany radio station. “But I don’t want to step over a line that could fuel potential speculation of, ‘Well, Cuomo’s looking to run in 2016,’ you know?”
As the New York Daily News pointed out:
Since taking office, the popular second-year governor has deliberately stayed out the national spotlight, in large part to tamp down talk of his own presidential aspirations. Cuomo famously refuses to spend even a night out of state and has granted few national interviews. He has even declined all invitations to appear on the Sunday morning network news shows.
Therefore, the New York State Governor who has refused to leave the state overnight is now going to boldly dive into national public issues in communities far from New York State. Whether he admits it or not, Governor Cuomo might be embarking on his 2016 Presidential campaign by traveling the country on behalf of President Obama.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stop and Frisk Solutions Emerge in the NY City Council

Last week, the New York City Council held hearings regarding proposals to start repairing the broken stop and frisk policing approach.

Stop and Frisk

We have often discussed the tragedy of Mayor Bloomberg's obsession with using skin color as the key determinant of whether a resident should be treated as a criminal or not. The Mayor has been unwilling to consider any non-racist alternatives to his approach, and his police commissioner has even suggested that the racist stop and frisk policies persist because no alternatives have been proposed by the opponents of the practice.

The judge supporting a law suit against NYC for the stop-and-frisk abuses helped lay out the problems with the practice, and the New York Times stated how unhelpful and racist the Mayor's approach is.

"As Judge Scheindlin notes in her opinion, a report by the legal scholar Jeffrey Fagan found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be stopped at police discretion, not just in high-crime, high-minority areas, but in districts where crime is minimal and populations are mixed.
Police officials say that officers stop people when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An analysis last year by The Times of street stops in one mainly black Brooklyn neighborhood found that officers listed vague reasons in half the stops, including “furtive movement,” a category that can be used to mask harassment.
The Fagan report found that arrests are made in less than 6 percent of all street stops — a lower rate than if the police simply set up random checkpoints. Less than 1 percent of stops turned up weapons. This suggests that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly minorities, have been stopped for no legitimate reason — or worse, because of the color of their skin."

Last Week's Hearing

The New York City Council held a hearing on four proposals to fix the stop-and-frisk abuses, but the NYPD, the entity which executed the stop-and-frisk activities, chose not to send a representative to the hearing. In fact, the only defender of the racist stop-and-frisk policies that the Mayor has made the centerpiece of his policing strategy was Counsel to the Mayor Michael Best. Best admitted that he knew virtually nothing about NYPD practices, abuses, or any of the controversies that resulted in the hearing. He repeatedly stated that any new laws related to the Mayor's stop-and-frisk policies would be "legally infirm," suggesting that the Council did not have the power to restrict the Mayor's ability to conduct law enforcement activities in a racist manner. Defenders of the Mayor and opponents of stop-and-frisk agreed that Michael Best provided no sound argument for his assertion that the NYC Council could not take action to reduce the abuses brought about by stop-and-frisk.

"Councilmember Brand Lander called Best's arguments 'absurd,' noting that taking this view, every single new law we passed would be considered 'curtailing.'  Speaker Christine Quinn asked Best who signed a law prohibiting racial profiling. 'Bloomberg! That's my point!' Quinn said. 'How could you say that we don't have the authority?'
Even the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Peter Vallone Jr., who opened the hearing with a strident opposition to the bill that would loosen the current definition of racial profiling, said he was confused by Best's argument that creating Inspector General for the NYPD would infringe on the mayor's power. Best repeated that having guidelines for hiring the IG, as the bill does, would curtail the mayor's authority. 'You didn't give me a lot of reasons there,' Vallone said, shaking his head. 'But okay.' "

The New York Times described the four proposals:
  1. Require police officers, when conducting stops, to identify themselves, provide their name and rank, and explain the reason for the stop.
  2. Seek to add teeth to an existing ban on racial profiling
  3. Require that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse a search and obtain proof of their consent, if granted, in cases in which there is no other legal basis to search an individual.
  4. Create an office of the Inspector General, which would oversee the NYPD.
While City Council Speaker Christine Quinn refused to support these proposals, we hope that they will become law in our city. We should not elect any candidates who are unwilling to make changes to the racist stop-and-frisk policies of Mayor Bloomberg.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nazi-seized Art on Display in NYC

The Nazi regime that murdered six million innocent Jewish victims also stole the art created and owned by its victims and by others. Some of the stolen art is in New York City.

Stolen Art

Authorities estimate that 650,000 pieces of art were stolen by the Nazi regime. While some of the pieces were destroyed, many survive even today.

In 1988, the United States convened a conference regarding Holocaust era stolen assets. More than 40 countries convened, and plans emerged to investigate art and other assets for the taint of Nazi theft.

New York City's Modern Museum of Art

Our city's Modern Museum of Art ("MoMA") has been exposed as having art tainted by the Nazi murders and by the need for potential victims of the Nazi regime to flee.

The New York Post focused yesterday on MoMA's successful defense of a piece of art in its possession. MoMA retained possession of the art by arguing that the statute of limitations had expired, thereby preventing the rightful owners from gaining possession. The family of the creator of the art is angry that MoMA is displaying art that it knows is tainted by Nazi atrocities.

MoMA has identified 800 pieces of art in its possession that were potentially in Europe during the Nazi era, but it has stated that most of that collection of art has been proven to be untainted. But, the MoMA website lists some of its art as stolen by the Nazi regime.

Other Museums in NYC

Many of the other museums in our city have art that is potentially tainted, but there has not been any significant movement of that art from our museums to the other, rightful owners.

"Other museums, including the Met, identified 500 works which were allegedly in Europe during the Nazi era, and thus far, has settled five claims and returned six pieces. The Brooklyn Museum found 200 pieces tied to the Nazi era, but said it has not received any claims and has not returned any works. The Jewish Museum, with 275 paintings dating back to World War II, also said it has not received any claims. The Guggenheim would not comment as to whether it had returned any of its 300 Nazi-era pieces."

People of conscience should find no difficulty is promoting the return of Nazi-seized art to its rightful owners by our NYC museums. Let us commit to advocating in favor of removing the taint from our proud institutions.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bloomberg Supports Racially Exclusive Elite High Schools

Mayor Bloomberg voiced support for the racially unbalanced admissions results at NYC's most prestigious public high school. Black and Latino students are nearly completely absent from those schools.

Admission Testing

Our city's most elite public high schools use a single 2.5 hour admission test that is similar to the SATs to select students. The score on that single test is the only input for admission to these special schools.

But, the single-test approach leads to a virtual exclusion of Black and Latino students from these schools. At the best-known school, Stuyvesant, only 19 of the nearly 1,000 students admitted recently were Black, and only 32 were Latino. These 2% and 3% population levels are unacceptable in a school system in which a majority of the students are Black or Latino.

In fact, nearly 31% of white students who take the test are accepted while only 7% of Latinos and 5% of Blacks are accepted.

Now, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a complaint against NYC because of the admissions testing approach.

Bloomberg Defense

Mayor Bloomberg reacted to the news of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund complaint by stating "Life isn't always fair."

Bloomberg made other offensive comments, including his response to concerns that affluent families are paying for tutoring: "We have tutoring for all our kids. It’s called the public school system. We do it five hours a day, roughly five days a week."

Bloomberg's support for the current regime shows his lack of character. We need to demand that he does better.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Barclays Center Opens in Brooklyn

This week, the Barclays Center Arena will open in Brooklyn. The opening will not bring an end to the controversy surrounding the arena, but it will bring new art experiences for all of us to enjoy.

Barclays Center Arena Opens This Week

New York's own Jay-Z will open the Barclays Center Arena with a concert on September 28. The NBA's Brooklyn Nets will play in Barclays Center and bring Brooklyn its first professional sports team in more than 50 years.

Not everyone is pleased:

"Amid the festivities, though, the arena stands as an island, a reminder of what is missing. The 16 surrounding towers — primarily residential — that were originally planned by the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, for the 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project have yet to be built. The 10,000 or so jobs promised have not materialized. Of the 2,250 affordable housing units pledged out of 6,300, only 181 are planned for a first tower, and ground for the building has yet to be broken.
In the days before the hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, a part owner of the Nets, inaugurates the arena with a series of concerts, the air tingles with the dust of last-second construction and mixed emotions: excitement and wariness, anger and resignation.
Surrounding residents fear that unruly basketball fans will stagger drunkenly onto their sidewalks, that Armageddon-like traffic will blockade their streets, that already-squeezed parking spaces will be swallowed, that crime and rodents will run rampant and that housing and jobs will never come about.
Others hope that the 1,900 part-time jobs offered at the arena will help lift a severely underemployed borough, that retail chains opening along Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues will spur small businesses and that property values will soar."
An independent compliance monitor would be responsible for ensuring that the developer of the Barclays Center lived up to the many commitments made to gain approval for the project (housing, hiring, open space, and other amenities), but the monitor has not yet been named. Also, the devloper has until 2035 to complete all of the dozen residential buildings it promised as part of creating Barclays Center, and the area might be under construction for a generation.
Let us enjoy the new arena and remember that there more than a dozen promises left to keep.
Art in the Barclays Center
The Barclays Center is developing its arts initiative under the guidance of David Berliner, member of the Barclays Center board, with input from Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum, and Eugenie Tsai, the John and Barbara Vogelstein curator of contemporary art of the Brooklyn Museum. Curator, author, and art historian Sarah Elizabeth Lewis consulted on these inaugural commissions.
The art will celebrate the people of Brooklyn and will be on display throughout the arena, and such an approach is a good reason for those of us in Manhattan to celebrate.
As we enjoy the new area, we need to remember to enjoy the art commissioned for the area and designed to highlight the people of Brooklyn and their lives.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harlem's Colonel Young Park Requires Upgrade

Colonel Young Park in Harlem, now in utter disrepair, needs to be upgraded, and the Friends of Colonel Young Park are on the verge of producing such an improvement in a key piece of Harlem park space.

Colonel Young Park

Colonel Charles Young was the first African American to obtain the rank of Colonel in the US Army, and his trailblazing standard of excellence and his nearly 30 years of service to his country are recognized through the naming of a Harlem Park at 143rd and Lenox in his honor.

Colonel Young Park is now dangerous and dilapidated from a lack of maintenance.

The Friends of Colonel Young Park are focused on improving Colonel Young Park and maintaining the park after it is upgraded to be the best youth baseball/softball facility in the United States.

Upgrading Colonel Young Park

The Friends of Colonel Young Park have obtained commitments for nearly $3 million of the estimated $4 million cost of upgrading Colonel Young Park. Those commitments come from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Member Inez Dickens of Harlem with the support of the New York City Council Black and Latino Caucus. The children of Harlem deserve the best facilities possible, and such an improvement is now within reach.

Press Coverage

The fight to improve Colonel Young Park has received the focus of DNA Info and of cable TV channel New York 1.

From DNA Info:

"When his oldest son turned 13 and wanted to start playing competitive baseball, Gregg Walker realized it was going to take a little ingenuity on his part. There weren't many baseball field options in Harlem. The only regulation-sized grass field with the standard 90 feet between the base pads is located at Colonel Young Park on West 143rd Street and Lenox Avenue, and is in horrible condition after years of neglect.

Despite a Parks Department renovation a few years ago that fixed its lights and fences, the grass at the park remained pocked with dangerous holes on the mound and in the field of play. Football teams tear up the grass when using the field for running and training, adult leagues play softball there, and others use the space for frequent barbecues and leave their trash behind.

"There weren't a lot of places where high quality baseball was being played," said Walker, 40, a senior vice president at Sony who helped create the Friends of Colonel Young Park with a goal of creating two or more first-class grass regulation-sized baseball fields at the central Harlem facility. "Our goal was to not just do something decent. We wanted regulation fields that are the envy of all. People in Connecticut should be fighting to play our kids on these fields," added Walker, who founded the Black Yankees in 2006 to give kids in Harlem the chance to play competitive organized baseball.

The Parks Department agreed with the plan, said Walker, but said they did not have money in their budget to complete the necessary renovations. In order to construct and maintain the field, the group would need to raise $4 million, a tall order.

Three years later, the group has $2.75 million committed from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Harlem Councilwoman Inez Dickens and the city council's Black and Latino Caucus."

New York 1 also focused on efforts to improve Colonel Young Park.

Please Help

Please contact the Friends of Colonel Young Park at to assist the efforts to make Colonel Young Park into the best youth baseball/softball destination in our country.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vote Linares Twice on Thursday

This Thursday, we have an election in New York State. If you live in Upper Manhattan or elsewhere in Manhattan and 1) are in the 72nd Assembly District, you must vote for Mayra Linares and/or 2) are in the 31st Senate District, you must vote for Guillermo Linares. You can vote Linares twice this Thursday and make our community stronger.

Guillermo Linares

Guillermo Linares is currently the Assemblyman for Washington Heights, and he is the best choice for the State Senate seat that dominates that part of Manhattan. Mr. Linares cast the deciding vote to create the Pathmark on 125th Street and Lexington in Harlem, a development that launched the second Harlem Renaissance that continues today. He has been a leader on immigration, a superstar member of the NY City Council, and a special leader in our city.

The New York Times endorsed Guilermo Linares yesterday:
STATE SENATE DISTRICT 31 Manhattan’s West Side from Washington Heights to Chelsea. Adriano Espaillat, the incumbent, has focused most of his energy recently on running an unsuccessful race to unseat Representative Charles Rangel in Congress. He missed more than 50 percent of the votes this year in Albany, and returning there might seem like a consolation prize. His opponent, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, is ready to work for the diverse immigrant communities in this district. He served with distinction on the City Council and as the city’s commissioner of immigrant affairs under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Our endorsement goes to Mr. Linares.  

Mayra Linares

Guillermo Linares' daughter, Mayra Linares, is a long-time District Leader in Upper Manhattan and a former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo. She is the best choice to replace her father in the New York State Assembly.

Don't fail to vote, and don't forget to vote for Linares . . . twice.

Monday, September 3, 2012

NYS Labor Unions Shrinking

On this Labor Day, we reflect on the declining percentages of private sector workers who are members of labor unions in New York State.

Declining Percentages

In the last 20 years in our state, the percentage of private sector workers who are members of labor unions has declined from 19% to 14%. The overall percentage of workers, including both the private and public sectors, declined from 29% to 24% during the same 20 year period, a period in which the percentage of union workers in the public sector rose to mask some of the private sector decline.

Increasing Challenges and a Republican Party Declaring War

In New York State, as well as all over the United States, labor unions are facing growing challenges:

"Organized labor's inability to twist arms of Democratic allies such as California Governor Jerry Brown and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in recent pension fights has observers questioning whether it can deliver Michigan, Wisconsin or Ohio -- all battleground states run by Republican governors -- to the Democrats this fall.

The Republicans, who wrapped up their nominating convention on Thursday, produced a platform more hostile to organized labor than any they have put forward in modern history, said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the left-leaning Century Foundation.

The platform calls for a national "right-to-work" law, a business-friendly, anti-labor measure that would prohibit union contracts from requiring workers to pay dues or other fees to the union.

In the 27 states without right-to-work laws, employees in union-represented workplaces are required to pay dues and fees.

The Republican platform also drops language from previous party planks that endorsed workers' right to unionize and characterizes collective bargaining by public employees as a threat to state and local government finances.

'It's a declaration of war on labor,' Kahlenberg said."

Cuomo and NYS Public Sector Unions

Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo signed legislation reducing future pension costs related to New York State public sector unions. The changes were viewed as a defeat for labor unions, but the editorial pages cheered Cuomo's approach as bringing New York State's pension benefits in line with other states.

In response to this perceived defeat for unions, nearly all of New York City's unions are looking to gather their resources to support one Mayoral candidate in 2013. Because New York City Council Speaker (and candidate for Mayor) Christine Quinn supported the reduced pension benefits, the union coalition is likely to support Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer or one of the other candidates.

After so many great accomplishments for the labor union movement, let us hope that our unions will continue to improve lives for workers in our communities.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Taxi Trouble Highlights Stringer Leadership

After NY courts blocked Mayor Bloomberg's plan for establishing taxi service within NYC's outer boroughs, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's mature and even-handed recommendations for how to address the taxi issue are gaining support

Bloomberg Blocked

The plan pushed forward by Mayor Bloomberg to sell taxi medallions for use in the outer boroughs was blocked by Judge Arthur Engoron. The key reason for the court action was Mayor Bloomberg's decision to by-pass the New York City Council as he sought to implement his plan. Judge Engoron determined that Bloomberg had an obligation to get the approval of the city council in order to move his plan forward.

New York Observer Says It All

The New York Observer crystallized both the challenges that result from the court's action and the proper path forward, as led by the vision of Scott Stringer:

"Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has a novel idea to help settle not just a dispute over livery service outside of Manhattan, but a sudden chasm in the city’s budget. Mr. Stringer suggests that the parties involved put their heads together and devise a solution acceptable to everyone.
Right now, that’s the best course of action.

A state Supreme Court justice recently threw out a state law that would have allowed the expansion of street hails to the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan, areas that have been underserved by the yellow cab industry. The judge ruled that the city illegally circumvented the City Council’s authority when it went to Albany for approval. The yellow cab industry has lots of friends on the Council, so the measure stood little chance for approval there.

So now the law is dead. But there’s more to it. Another clause in the legislation authorized the city to sell 2,000 more medallions for handicapped-accessible yellow taxis. The city figured it would make about $1 billion from the medallion sale—and that revenue is included in this year’s budget. The Mayor has warned that without that billion dollars, he’ll have to lay off hundreds of workers and cut services to close the gap. So his corporation counsel’s office has vowed to appeal the judge’s decision.

Mr. Stringer, a contender to succeed Mr. Bloomberg in next year’s mayoral election, noted that appeals process is bound to take many months, with an uncertain result. Rather than continue to contest the issue in court, he said, why not get the administration, the Council and the industry together and hash out a solution that everybody can live with, even if it isn’t perfect?

There are times when politicians—the best of them, anyway—are obliged to stand and fight for what they believe. This isn’t one of those times. The city needs a billion dollars. Residents of the outer boroughs want access to hail-service livery cabs. The industry wants some protections. The Council very likely will settle for whatever deal the industry can cut with the administration.

Matters of graver importance have been worked out by reasonable people in the past. There should be no reason why this one can’t be sorted out outside of a courtroom. While the city has every right to appeal the decision, it also needs a quick solution.

That will come not through courtroom argument, but through skilled political negotiation."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bloomberg Crony Connection at Tavern on the Green

Last week, we learned that Tavern on the Green, which is in our city's Central Park, was awarded to the brother-in-law of Mayor Bloomberg's campaign manager.

Tavern on the Green

In 1934, during the era of Robert Moses, Tavern on the Green began its life as a restaurant, and the restaurant thrived and grew until its operator's license was not renewed in 2009.

New Operator

Last week, New York City chose as the new operator of Tavern on the Green a Philadelphia-based company that currently manages a 70-seat restaurant. But, Tavern on the Green had 800 seats, and the new restaurant is planned for 600 seats.

As stated in the NY Times: Stephen Starr, who operates large restaurants in Philadelphia, New York and Florida, said he was surprised by the city’s choice of the operator of a small bistro. “It’s a daunting task, to go from 70 to 600 seats, but you never know,” he said. “Rocky beat Apollo Creed in the end.”       

Bloomberg Crony Connection

In an unfortunate twist, the new operator of Tavern on the Green is not only a small operator with only 70 seats under management, the new operator seems to be closely connected to Mayor Bloomberg. The owner of the new operator is the brother-in-law of Mayor Bloomberg's campaign manager.

"The winning out-of-town bidders who nabbed the right to run Tavern on the Green have never operated in New York — but they have family ties to one of Mayor Bloomberg’s top confidants.

One of the owners is the brother-in-law of former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey.

Officials confirmed yesterday that Jim Caiola, who runs the Philadelphia-based Emerald Green Group with partner David Salama, is the brother of Sheekey’s wife, Robin. The relationship was not disclosed when the Parks Department announced Thursday that Emerald Green had beaten out three other groups competing for the 20-year lease on one of the nation’s most storied eateries, located in Central Park.
“Off the record, I’m speechless,” said a source who works for a rival bidder. City officials insisted everything was conducted on the up-and-up and without favoritism. “They won on the merits, and the entire process was handled by the book,” said mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna.

Sheekey left city government two years ago, but continues to have close ties to the mayor and the administration as an executive at Bloomberg LP, the mayor’s information-services company. As top political adviser, Sheekey led two of Hizzoner’s election campaigns and was the driving force behind Bloomberg’s presidential flirtation in 2007."

This type of "inside job" is unsurprising for the Bloomberg Administration, but we should not accept it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

NYC Olympics Would Be Starting Now

NYC sought to host this year's Olympics. If that effort had succeeded, the 2012 Olympics would be commencing in our city now.

NYC 2012 Olympic Bid

Soon after his first election, Mayor Bloomberg and his advisors began pushing the concept of the 2012 Olympics being held in NYC. Baseball was to be played at Yankee Stadium, and basketball was to be played at Madison Square Garden. The city was to be transformed by $3.2 billion of investment that included the building of a new football stadium in Manhattan and a beautiful Olympic Village across from the UN in Queens.

In the end, while NYC was chosen as the top US proposal for the 2012 Olympics, London was chosen to host the games this year.

Victory Through Defeat?

While New Yorkers were disappointed to lose to London, many believe that losing the bid was a blessing in disguise. There are even some key opportunities growing directly out of that defeat.

As stated in the Guardian:

Seven years later, when our economy has wobbled but our mayor is somehow still standing, it's clear even to those in thrall to the gods of sport and real estate that losing the Games was a great mercy. The sensible parts of the NYC 2012 bid have been implemented anyway, such as the extension of the 7 subway line, ferry service along the East River, and the re-zoning of a neglected industrial site along the Hudson. The elevated park known as the High Line was slated for demolition before the 2012 bid; it's since become Manhattan's most successful urban redevelopment in decades.

At the same time, New York has dodged the white elephants that, as Athenians and Beijingers know, start crumbling days after the closing ceremony. Manhattan was spared a giant $2bn stadium on the west side, though Brooklyn was not so lucky, and the big facility for badminton and judo lives on only in dreams. New Yorkers are free to buy Pepsi instead of Coke anywhere they please – though soon, if the mayor has his way, only in 16-ounce cups.

Now, as the American press looks pitifully on London for its insufficient transportation system or absurd brand-exclusivity police, I can only look and say: don't laugh, it could have been us. It's not easy to watch London, a city I love tremendously, brought low by the Olympic gentry, the carnivorous corporations, and the timid governments that obey their commands. (If even the Chinese Communist party couldn't stand up to them, what chance did Britain have?) But the one good thing that could result from these desperate Games would be to wake everyone up to the economic, social and urban devastation that these spectacles cause.

And yet, people are starting to talk about New York 2024. You'd think we'd learn.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Slowing Stop and Frisk

After repeated increases, the number of stop and frisk incidents declined 25% in the second quarter of 2012 compared with 2011. The reasons for the decline are many.


Ever since Bloomberg became Mayor, the tactic of stopping and frisking innocent New Yorkers has become an obsession for NYC law enforcement. The number of stops has risen from less than 100,000 in the pre-Bloomberg era to nearly 700,000 last year. Nearly 90% of those stopped are Black or Hispanic, but white residents who are stopped are more than twice as likely to be carrying illegal weapons or drugs. More than 90% of those stopped are not issued a summons or arrested. Even in low-crime neighborhoods and white neighborhoods, Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are stopped in far larger number than their population would suggest appropriate. These stops are a terrorist tactic adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and used as the primary law enforcement approach by the NYPD.

Recently, a federal judge certified a class action suit against NYC based on the stop and frisk abuses, and a silent march was held in June on Father's Day to protest the tactic and to seek its end.

Declining Abuse

The protest and the class action suit seem to be having an impact on law enforcement tactics.

In the months, of April, May, and June of 2012, NYPD officers conducted 25% less stops than in the same period in 2011. But, the number of stops was still a sky-high 133,000. We cannot accept these outrageous tactics. The 25% decline is not nearly enough. NYC is still on pace to have more than 600,000 stops in 2012, and such a performance would reinforce the need for the Mayor and the police commissioner to resign.

The NYPD is claiming that the decline in stop and frisk incidents is a result of changes in the NYPD's placement of rookies. The NYPD states that rookies have been placed in high crime areas and told to stop any suspicious people and that rookies are now being placed elsewhere. The approach of making rookies the engine of the stop and frisk abuses is itself outrageous. They learn, early in their careers, to abuse residents of color and to over-emphasize stopping innocent people rather than identifying criminals or reducing crime.

Letitia James, a critic of stop-and-frisk, isn't buying the NYPD's rationale. "I reject their reason for the reduction in stop and frisks. The reduction in stop and frisks is directly related to the criticism of the practice, of the abuse of the practice."

Officers tell WNYC that the 2nd quarter drop was expected, due to a reluctance by cops to conduct stops under growing controversy about the tactic.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said it was encouraged by the data. “This reduction is a good start, but much more needs to be done to rebuild community trust and protect New Yorkers from illegal and racially biased street stops,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
Let's hope that the "much more" Donna Lieberman wishes for will come in short order.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bloomberg Supports Gun Supporters

Mayor Bloomberg has been supporting elected officials who support gun ownership, though Bloomberg claims to oppose the availability of guns in our communities.

Bloomberg Supports Guns Supporters

On August 15, Mayor Bloomberg will host a fundraiser for Republican US Senator Brown of Massachusetts. But, Senator Brown has opposed a ban on assault weapons (a ban that was in place in the US from 1994 to 2004), and Senator Brown earns very high ratings from the NRA, our country's loudest and strongest voice in favor of gun availability.

Here is New York State, Mayor Bloomberg has supported former Staten Island Republican Rep. Vito Fossella, one of the gun lobby's most loyal public officials. He is also the biggest donor to the Republicans in the New York State Senate, though those Republicans have successfully opposed Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to bring bullet microstamping to our state. We have supported the Mayor's microstamping push, but the Mayor is the largest donor to the group that is blocking the Mayor's efforts. He is truly his own worst enemy, and people in NYC are being killed because of the successful opposition to gun control by elected officials who remain in office because of the Mayor's financial support.

Bloomberg Right to Oppose Guns

Bloomberg seems virtually alone in calling for reduced availability of guns in our country. His rhetoric is correct. Let's hope he starts to put his money where his mouth is. Let's look at his recent statements criticizing Obama and Romney.
Less than a week after Aurora, the two candidates are back to politics as usual, attacking each other on gaffes and trivialities. If not now, when is the time for them to outline their solutions to gun violence?
After the massing shooting in Tucson last year, we heard: “Now is not the time.” We heard the same refrain after shooting sprees at Virginia Tech and Columbine. It’s as if as a country, we cannot mourn the dead and protect the living at the same time.
I refuse to accept that — and as a country, we have never accepted that when our safety has been at risk. When our country was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, we did not wait to respond. We took immediate steps to prevent another attack. Here in New York City, we gave our police officers the tools they need to do their jobs — and protect innocent lives.
But when 34 people are murdered with guns every day, Washington just looks the other way — even when massacres occur in a single place. It has been 18 months since the Tucson shooting, and still Washington has not taken the steps necessary to ensure that all people with mental health and drug histories, including the Tucson shooter, are precluded from buying guns.
The reason for the inaction is that — according to conventional wisdom — talking about gun regulations is unpopular with voters. But when you ask the American people — including gun owners — if they favor smarter, tougher measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, they overwhelmingly say they do.
If Bloomberg would back up these statements with a small portion of his billions of dollars of wealth, he might make a difference and save lives.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sylvia Woods Helped Define Upper Manhattan

Sylvia Woods, the founder of Sylvia's on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, passed away last week. She was the Queen of Soul Food and a iconic element of Upper Manhattan.

Remembering a Queen

Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty offered reflections that fit the reality of Sylvia Woods and her legacy.

Sylvia Woods was a graduate of the tobacco fields and truck patches of Hemingway, South Carolina. Much like family and many others, she and her husband joined the wave North in search of a better life, while maintaining strong links to the family “home place.” Sylvia’s, now an institution of 50 years in the New York scene, made way for a whole host of fabulous soul food restaurants, each giving a taste of home to migrants and their descendants but to tourists from around the world as well.

Sylvia’s institution has known its politicians, civil rights activists, artists and entertainers - it was the place Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton could break bread in peace, and the place where hip hop deals and careers were born. Like “the South’s Julia Child,” Edna Lewis, North Carolina’s Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, and Chef Leah Chase and Mrs. Willie Mae Seaton of New Orleans, Ms. Sylvia is part of a pantheon of black women nourished by drive and quiet dignity, but to us she’s more than her history or any of its hype.

Sylvia Woods represented the survival of something more than just “soul food,” she was an Old World craftswoman; essentially an immigrant bringing her cuisine to a new land. This woman was our mother, our grandmother - to the world. She helped make it possible for culinary historians and food writers like myself to claim and love our food and embrace it as our inheritance. She inspired others to pursue their dreams and represent their Southern regional flavors.

Ms. Sylvia was proof of the resilience of the Great Migration experience, and proof that we had done more than just move North or escape the South; we brought the best of who we were and we enriched the planet through the nourishment that gave strength to our ancestors. Sylvia was one of many heritage bearers, carrying flavors passed from Africa to slave ships to plantations to sharecroppers to freedom seekers, business people, chefs, migrants, and now her great-great grandchildren and beyond. The Woods’ legacy was giving African America back a word that is often reserved for other Americans with far off lands: tradition

To be sure, this is not the death of Sylvia’s as an institution. The restaurant will continue to thrive and the family will carry on Sylvia’s legacy and high standards of hospitality and flavor. And yet, today America is missing one of its cultural and culinary icons; someone whose love for her kin, country and country roots will continue to inspire us all to cook with bigger hearts and plenty of soul.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bloomberg and Kelly Have Blood on Their Hands

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have blood on their hands. The skyrocketing shootings in our city are resulting from their adherence to racism and their rejection of common sense.

Stop and Frisk Costs Lives

As we have discussed many times, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have been harassing and humiliating innocent people of color throughout our city (in high crime areas and low crime areas in communities of color and in white communities) in record numbers every year since they rose to power, and they have been allowing criminals to thrive

As Judge Scheindlin notes in her opinion, a report by the legal scholar Jeffrey Fagan found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be stopped at police discretion, not just in high-crime, high-minority areas, but in districts where crime is minimal and populations are mixed.
Police officials say that officers stop people when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An analysis last year by The Times of street stops in one mainly black Brooklyn neighborhood found that officers listed vague reasons in half the stops, including “furtive movement,” a category that can be used to mask harassment.
The Fagan report found that arrests are made in less than 6 percent of all street stops — a lower rate than if the police simply set up random checkpoints. Less than 1 percent of stops turned up weapons. This suggests that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly minorities, have been stopped for no legitimate reason — or worse, because of the color of their skin.
The Police Department says it has a training program that explains proper arrest procedure and warns officers against racial profiling. But Judge Scheindlin was sharply critical of those efforts, noting that numerous officers did not recall ever receiving such training.
The NYPD has been using skin color to stop innocent people while letting real criminals go free. The Village Voice recently highlighted the NYPD's lack of willingness to address criminal activities.
Investigators went beyond [the whistle blower's] specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren't minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

"When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications," investigators concluded. "This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct."
Stop and Frisk Does Not Reduce Crime

We have previously focused on the fact that stop and frisk does not reduce crime.

[A]lthough the stop-and-frisk rate increased six fold, the murder rate continued the same slight rate of decline during the last decade as it has since 1997. See the graph above. In fact, crime was reduce sharply in the early 1990's because of a massive increase in police officers and a Dinkins-led tactic called "community policing".

In 2002, Ray Kelly criticized stop and frisk.

“A large reservoir of good will was under construction” before Mr. Giuliani, he told the City Bar Association. “It was called community policing. But it was quickly abandoned for tough-sounding rhetoric and dubious stop-and-frisk tactics that sowed new seeds of community mistrust.”

He has changed his mind.

Mayor Bloomberg and his police chief Ray Kelly defend stop and frisk tactics by using the "big lie" that stop and frisk reduces crime. They know it does not reduce crime, yet they increase the number of young men of color who are stopped each year. They vocally and forcefully defend the practice as if their minds have been replaced by the mind of Bull Connor.

Time for Bloomberg and Kelly to Leave Office

We have experienced a recent dramatic rise in shootings. Bloomberg and Kelly have been obsessed with the racist stop and frisk approach, and that obsession is now costing lives in large numbers. This trend cannot be tolerated. If Bloomberg were one-tenth as focused on reducing crime as he has been on defending his racist law enforcement approach, preventing people of color from joining the Fire Department, maintaining the whitest administration in generations, and preventing children of color from entering gifted and talented programs, crime would be dropping rather than skyrocketing.

Now, after 11 years of the Mayor's refusal to follow common sense and after 11 years of the Mayor's unapologetic adherence to an Apartheid system, we need a new direction; we can ill afford to wait for the Mayor's current term to end. He must leave now.