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 The 354 steps to the crown have been replaced by 393 steps that are much less steep than the previous group.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.