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The latest articles from WNYC News

Last Build Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2017 17:08:22 -0500


Latest Newscast From the WNYC Newsroom

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 17:08:22 -0500

Latest Newscast From the WNYC Newsroom

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Under Fire Over Lead Inspections, Two NYCHA Executives Resign

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 18:04:54 -0500

Two senior executives have resigned from New York City's Public Housing Authority after an investigation revealed that NYCHA—frequently referred to as the city's largest landlord—has claimed since 2013 to be in compliance with federal lead-paint regulations, when high-ranking staff knew that was false. A third NYCHA executive was demoted and suspended as a result of the investigation. 

In addition to the staff shakeup, the authority says it will create a special unit to oversee compliance with federal regulators when it comes to eliminating lead.

"The one in 14 NYC residents who live in public housing deserve to live in safe, clean and connected homes," wrote NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye in a press release. 

At least one elected official, Public Advocate Leticia James, has called for Olatoye to resign. 

The city's Inspector General conducted the investigation into the false lead-paint reports. He recommended NYCHA hire an independent monitor to oversee its compliance with lead-paint regulations and other safety issues such as inspections of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and possibly elevators.

Bronx City councilman Ritchie Torres, chair of the public housing committee, said NYCHA's credibility has been seriously comprised, making an independent monitor crucial. 

"The Housing Authority has shown that it cannot be relied upon to properly inform the public without third party supervision," he said. 

The Housing Authority manages 326 developments with more than 400,000 tenants.

NYCHA said next year it plans to inspect more than 50,000 apartments that may or may not have lead paint. Another 4,000 units with children under 6 will also be re-inspected next year, NYCHA said. 

Under Fire Over Lead Inspections, Two NYCHA Executives Resign

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Frelinghuysen Seat Now Considered a Toss Up

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 17:06:01 -0500

For 22 years, New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen has occupied a safe Republican seat. Until Donald Trump was elected president. Since then, the Morris County representative has been facing a growing movement to unseat him in 2018.

Now,  the Cook Political Report has downgraded his re-election chances to a toss up. On Thursday, he voted against the Republican tax overhaul, which is very unpopular in New Jersey because it eliminates the tax deduction for state and local taxes. Frelinghuysen highlighted his no vote in an email to constituents, capitalizing the word "no" and using an exclamation point. 

But Elizabeth Juviler of N.J. 11th for Change, a group of constituents who oppose the congressman, says his vote against the tax overhaul won't help him.  She cites anonymous reports that Frelinghuysen was given permission to vote no from Republican house leaders, and she is frustrated  that he did nothing to speak out against the bill.

"We begged and pleaded for an understanding of where he was," Juviler said. "And then he said nothing, his staff said nothing, he made no statements and there was no indication that he fought against it in any way. So it's just not enough to vote no on something when you've been given permission because it will pass anyway."

Four Democrats have declared they will run against Frelinghuysen in 2018. 

NJ 11th for Change has some 75-hundred members in the district who want to oppose the Trump Administration.


Your Stories of Calling Out Misogyny

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:22:13 -0500

Earlier this week, we asked listeners to tell us about a time they called out misogynistic comments or behavior. It's part of our ongoing commitment to keep this conversation about harassment going. So far, here's some of what we're hearing:

Jordan in Ridgewood said he commented on an offensive cartoon, which was posted by a local dive bar on its Instagram. "It was a stick figure comic of a male character throwing a book at the back of a head of a female character with a caption, 'how to get a girlfriend.'" Jordan replied that the cartoon was misogynistic, which prompted an ugly back-and-forth with another male commenter. 

And John, in Madison, New Jersey, called himself out for misogynistic comments he made in the past. He sent a note to a woman from his old workplace, about a year ago, that read:

"Perhaps Trump’s repugnant behavior is what finally spurred me to action here. Specifically I frequently made sexually harassing comments and for that I apologize. I can't recall anything specific and I hope you can’t either, but I know it was crude and insensitive and inexcusable. You're an admirable person and you deserved better."

John said she responded with her own note, saying she appreciated his apology. And she shared a long list of worse incidents that she'd experienced throughout her life.

Next week, just in time for your Thanksgiving get-togethers, we're going to talk about how to up your conversation game when talking to little girls, because we can do better than telling them they look so cute in their thanksgiving outfit. Stay tuned.

Your Stories of Calling Out Misogyny

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Review: A Shore Thing

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

The Stephen Shore retrospective opening Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art could not have come at a better time.  In an age when iPhones have turned most everyone into a wandering photographer of medium-to-low talent, Shore offers a model of straight photography at its most lucid and ravishing. Well-known in photography circles, he earned his first fame with scenes of small-town America, bright, crystalline landscapes with blue skies, big, ‘70s-era cars and poetically empty space.

A native New Yorker who is now 70, Shore was visibly influenced by the American tradition of street photography. It flourished in the 1950s, and was based on the idea that travel and adventure and chance encounters with piquant strangers were likely to improve your photographs. The style went out of favor in the 1970s, when Cindy Sherman and the so-called “Pictures Generation” spawned a vogue for studio-based photography — pictures that might be posed or staged or altered on a computer, and which made explorations of the city or hinterlands seem voyeuristic and passé.

Shore, by contrast, continues to travel widely for his work, and he follows a host of self-imposed rules that disallow for any kind of manipulation or post-production alteration. He claims he never crops his pictures. And he does not stage them. He makes them without using props or models or flash bulbs. Rather, his usual practice is to work with available light, preferably of the brightest kind. He heads to random-seeming locations — from Granite, OK, to Columbia, SC, to Bucha, Ukraine — to  practice his own form of extreme looking. When he decides to snap a picture, he gives himself only one chance to get it right, and then moves on.

His failure to work in a single style, and the difficulty of summarizing his various experiments over the years, has probably hindered his reputation. He is not a household name, and one hopes that the MoMA show will broaden his following. His best photographs, I think, have less in common with street photography than with Edward Hopper’s paintings, featuring rooms and landscapes that are devoid of people but seem breathtakingly alive in their stillness.

Consider, for instance, “Breakfast, Trail’s End Restaurant, Kanab, Utah, August 10, 1973,” which is set in a diner, and endows a plate of pancakes with the sumptuousness of a Dutch still-life painting. It’s all so appealing — the table has a pre-touched pristineness, with its white napkin still folded in place, and a glass of milk filled to the brim. Diner tabletops and their homey offerings are one of the few subjects that recur in Shore’s work over the decades, a reminder that we are all seeking to be fed, and photography of this quality can be pretty filling. 



Review: A Shore Thing

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Lawsuit Claims East Ramapo Disenfranchises Blacks and Latinos

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:50:39 -0500

Public school parents in East Ramapo on Thursday sued the school district for allegedly disenfranchising minority voters who live in the Rockland County enclave.

Eight of the school board's nine members are Orthodox Jewish parents whose children attend local Yeshivas, while the public schools are more than 30 percent black and more than 50 percent Latino.

Like other school districts across the state, East Ramapo uses an "at-large" voting system, in which voters can choose a slate of school board members without regard to where they live or which part of the district they represent. But that system means a racial or ethnic group representing a majority of active voters can dominate school the school board.

"The at-large voting scheme has allowed the white population of East Ramapo to hijack the school board and to divert public school funds to private schools," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York City Liberties Union, which filed the federal voting rights lawsuit along with the firm Latham & Watkins. "They are serving the interests of the white community and they are dissing the students."

The plaintiffs, which also include candidates who ran and lost for the school board in the past, are urging the court to impose a ward-based voting system, in which each board member would be elected by voters in a particular geographic area.

“When I ran for a seat on the school board, I wanted to make a difference. But because of the current voting system, my voice was stifled,” resident Eric Goodwin said in statement. 

There have long been tensions between East Ramapo's public school parents and the mostly Orthodox Jewish board. Parents claim the board rarely votes in the interest of public school kids. 

Back 2015, the state called for school oversight after crippling cuts to services like full-day kindergarten and high school electives. 

Parents claim the cuts are hurting the student's education. Just 19 percent of students grades 3 to 8 tested proficient in Math this year, and only 22 percent in English, according to the New York State Department of Education. 

A spokeswoman for school district told WNYC only the state legislature can make changes to how the board is elected.


Lawsuit Claims East Ramapo Disenfranchises Blacks and Latinos

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House Passes Tax Bill Over Objections of New York and New Jersey Republicans

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:07:36 -0500

The majority of New York and New Jersey Republicans voted against the GOP bill to rewrite the nation's tax laws Thursday, citing concerns that some of their constituents could end up paying higher taxes.

At one point New York and New Jersey Republicans threatened to throw up a roadblock for the tax bill, a top GOP priority. In the end, they were steamrolled and the bill passed easily, 227-205.

The biggest concern was how the House plan changes how much filers could deduct for state and local taxes on their federal return. The bill would limit homeowners to $10,000 in property tax deductions and eliminates the ability to deduct state and local income taxes.

New York Republicans offered a compromise — phasing out deductions for everyone earning more than $400,000 — but House leaders refused. Staten Island's Dan Donovan said that's unfair to his constituents.

“The hard-working, tax-paying people that I represent would have seen the same tax benefit as the rest of the nation," said Donovan, who voted against the plan. "Now they’re just paying for the tax breaks for the rest of the country.”

New York's Republicans were also unable to win another New Yorker to their side — President Donald Trump. Donovan and other New Yorkers have a relationship with Trump, but Long Island's Peter King said they had not spoken with the president about local taxes, just his staff.

Not every local Republican opposed the bill. John Katko and Claudia Tenney, both from upstate New York, and New Jersey's Tom MacArthur voted in favor though they had opposed a budget resolution last month which lay the ground work for the tax bill.

MacArthur said the provision to allow filers to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, which was inserted after negotiations with party leaders, lessened the impact. He added that after taking into account all the changes — lower tax rates, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, a larger child tax credit — the bill wasn’t as bad a deal for his central Jersey district as he first thought.

“We’ve run a lot of models in my office," he said. "Yes, the taxes are coming down for the vast majority of people.”

And most of the tax cuts benefit businesses — which is something most Republicans support.

Two other upstate New York Republicans, Chris Collins and Tom Reed, also voted in favor of the tax bill.

But the bill could be a problem for Republicans in elections next year, even for Republicans who voted against it.

National Republican party organizations are portraying the tax plan as a winner with voters. But most polls show more people oppose the plan than support it.

Republicans are worried about a Democratic wave next year, and King says this bill makes things even tougher. Northeast Republicans could pay the highest price at the voting booth, he said.

“This is basically an unforced error," King said. "We’re doing it to ourselves.”


House Passes Tax Bill Over Objections of New York and New Jersey Republicans

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It Costs Half a Billion Dollars to Renovate Two Libraries in Midtown

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:00:37 -0500

The New York Public Library unveiled on Wednesday a $317 million plan to renovate the flagship branch on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

The money will be spent to increase the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building's public spaces by 20 percent. The proposed additions include converting former staff or storage space into hubs for research, education and exhibitions; making a new entrance on 40th Street to ease congestion; and developing a new center designed for students. It's expected to be completed in 2021.


 "We're putting a stake in the ground, the largest stake we've ever put in terms of facility investments to say more people are using libraries now than ever," said Tony Marx, president and CEO of the New York Public Library.

Yet the plan makes no mention of the stacks, which have remained largely empty since 2013. They currently house books which don't require special preservation conditions from the nearby Mid-Manhattan branch, which is closed until early 2020 for a $200 million renovation. The rest is held in a separate facility under Bryant Park.

"We've got a lot to get done and we're gonna keep thinking and talking to experts and to the public about the stacks," Marx said. "We can't do it all at once because we have to keep this building open while we do this work."

Overall, half a billion dollars from public and private sources have been invested toward the makeover of the two Midtown buildings.

New Jersey Schools Becoming More Segregated, New Report Finds

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:32:23 -0500

It's been more than 60 years since the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools are unconstitutional in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case. But the problem is still very much alive across the country. And a new report finds it's getting worse in New Jersey.

study from the UCLA Civil Rights Project found New Jersey is the sixth most segregated state in the nation for black students, and seventh for Latinos. It showed that between 1989 and 2015, the percentage of students in so-called "apartheid schools" — which have less than 1 percent of white students — has doubled. 

"The numbers are stark," said Ryan Coughlan, a co-author on the report and an assistant professor at CUNY's Guttman Community College.

One cause of the increasing school segregation is the state's residential segregation, he said. New Jersey has nearly 600 school districts — some of which are tiny — so schools rarely combine students from different towns.

"People are able to put up borders around their town and provide an education just for that isolated population," Coughlan said.

Another factor is the changing demographics of the state. According to the report, less than half of the population of school age children in New Jersey public schools is white. And that number has dropped precipitously over the last 25 years, leading to more schools with concentrated minority populations.

But there's still a lot the state could do to integrate schools, Coughlan said. Consolidating school districts is one option that's had some success in the past. In 1971, in response to a state supreme court ruling, two different school districts combined to become Morris School District. And that has become one of the most diverse districts in the state.

"That doesn't mean they've solved the school segregation problem," Coughlan said. Although the school is a diverse space now, it still needs to focus on becoming a "productive diverse space," he said. That means training teachers to recognize the identities of all the students and creating an environment where they're all celebrated equally. 

School segregation is part of a larger cultural issue, Coughlan said. "And until we really see this as a more holistic issue where we deal with segregation in our churches, in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces, we're never really going to be able to solve this problem."

New Jersey Schools Becoming More Segregated, New Report Finds

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Judge in Menendez Bribery Case Declares Mistrial

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:37:25 -0500

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial has ended in a mistrial after the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on the charges against the Democrat and his co-defendant.

Judge William Walls declared the mistrial Thursday.

The jury first told Judge Walls on Monday that it couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on any of the 18 counts in the indictment against Menendez and a wealthy friend. Jurors said Thursday that they'd reviewed the evidence "slowly and thoroughly and in great detail," but remained deadlocked.

Follow WNYC's Reporting on Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico

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Republicans Are Feeling the Pressure To Deliver on Tax Promises

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

Inside Longworth room 1103, across the street from the Capitol, 40 lawmakers are arguing about trillions of dollars in taxes, deductions and credits and what they will mean for American businesses and families.

More than 2,000 clients have hired lobbyists to work on tax issues, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Outside the hearing, you might picture a hallway crowded with them, waiting for a chance to catch a lawmaker’s ear. But mostly, it’s just workers wearing Treasury or IRS badges around their neck, hustling in and out of the marathon sessions.

Republican committee members, like Western Pennsylvania Republican Mike Kelly, say the feeding frenzy that everyone expected from special-interest groups hasn’t happened. But Chris Collins, a Republican from western New York, says his party is feeling heat to get a bill passed after failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

 “Our base really is looking for us to deliver on this," Collins said. "I don’t think you could put more pressure on us.”

Congressman Joe Crowley, a Queens Democrat who sits on the committee, said the pressure on Republicans is being applied behind closed doors or on the telephone.

 “They’ve been put on notice that if they don’t pass this bill, their political support is going to dry up from the business community,” Crowley said.

But if you want to actually see lobbying, check your email inbox.

It’s where groups like the National Association of Homebuilders, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Club for Growth are urging people to call their representatives. Tuesday, as the committee was about to get back to work, the Club for Growth sent out a missive outlining complaints about the bill — including delaying repeal of the estate tax.

Crowley said Democrats have largely been left out of the process. He said he's not expecting many changes to emerge from the hearings, where Democrats and Republicans have spent much of the week making the case about which party better represents the middle class.

“If they didn’t include us but they passed a good bill, you know, it wouldn’t be so bad," he said. "It’s not including us and still leaving a real lemon with my constituents that has me so concerned.”

Republicans Are Feeling the Pressure To Deliver on Tax Promises

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Why the World Watched the Hoboken Election

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

Hoboken is tiny. It has 55,000 residents and takes up a little more than one square mile of the New Jersey waterfront.

But this week's mayoral election registered around the world. 

It was a racist flyer that caught everyone's attention, one that blared the word TERRORISM right next to an image of candidate — and now Mayor — Ravi Bhalla's face.

The timing was important too. It was one year after the 2016 election and the same week that another racist message titled "Make Edison Great Again" targeted Asian-American candidates in a neighboring town.


Political scientist Brigid Callahan Harrison thought the flyer especially alarmed millennials who have recently moved to Hoboken.

"For some people, this kind of drove them to the polls and made them more cognizant of the responsibility to vote," said Harrison, a professor at Montclair State University. 

That's not the sort of attention Bhalla was seeking. He prefers discussing climate change and mass transit. But he recognizes that he's part of an important generational shift: the children of immigrants from India and other places who are now acquiring power.

"We're not in a position where we're asking for something to be done. We're now becoming the decision-makers," he said in his office.

Is that threatening to some people? He said he hopes not. "I hope becoming a decision maker means executing good government," he said. "And I think if I can represent the community well, I think that will be met with gratitude."

Why the World Watched the Hoboken Election

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