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.