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Last Build Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400


This Week in Politics: Wake-Up Time in Jersey

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

Summer is over. This is when voters traditionally start getting serious about elections. But in the case of the New Jersey governor's race? That "getting serious thing" hasn't happened yet.

According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, about 40 percent of likely voters still say they haven't heard enough about the candidates to form an opinion.

Nancy Solomon, the Managing Editor of New Jersey Public Radio, joins us for a wake-up call on This Week in Politics. Speaking with host David Furst, she says many voters just don't know the two major party candidates, Republican, Kim Guadagno and Democrat, Phil Murphy. And that means the debates in October will be critical.

"IF..." Solomon adds, "people watch them."

And with Murphy leading in the polls by 25 percentage points, Solomon offers some practical advice for Kim Guadagno; build a time machine and turn down the offer to be Chris Christie's Lt. Governor.


This Week in Politics: Wake-Up Time in Jersey

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The City Council Makes Moves to Strengthen Construction Worker Safety Training

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:29:47 -0400

Construction site safety has long been a problem in New York City and following the deaths of two construction workers Thursday, lawmakers are poised to pass new legislation requiring stricter safety training.

After several attempts to pass stronger safety rules, the City Council appears likely to pass a bill requiring workers to take at least 40 hours of training by 2020. But critics have long said that the requirements are too stringent, and it is unfeasible to train tens of thousands of workers in that timeframe. On top of that, according to Crain's New York Business reporter Joe Anuto, this is the first bill of it's kind in the country.

"They're creating this program from whole cloth," Anuto said. "No city in the country has a program quite like this. There's really no standards to go off of."

For more, listen to the full interview with WNYC's Jami Floyd.


The City Council Makes Moves to Strengthen Construction Worker Safety Training

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Donate Needed Supplies to Hurricane Maria Victims at These Sites

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:07:05 -0400

More than a dozen FDNY firehouses and EMS stations across New York City will collect critically-needed supplies to send to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says the donated goods will be distributed directly to families affected by the storm, which hit the eastern part of the island on Wednesday. However, these sites will only accept a specific set of goods: diapers, baby food, batteries, tampons and pads, and first aid supplies. All items must be unused and in their original, unopened packaging. Donations will be accepted daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.



  • Engine 91: 242 E. 111th St., New York, NY 11220 (East Harlem)
  • Engine 95/ Ladder 36: 29 Vermilyea Ave., New York, NY 10033 (Inwood)
  • Engine 28/ Ladder 11: 222 E. 2nd St., New York, NY 10009 (Lower East Side) 


  • EMS Station 26: 1264 Boston Rd., Bronx NY 10456 (Morrisania)
  • EMS Station 55: 3134 Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10451 (Melrose)
  • Engine 64/ Ladder 47: 1214 Castle Hill Ave., Bronx, NY 10462 (Castle Hill)
  • Engine 83/ Ladder 29: 618 E. 138th Street, Bronx, NY 10454 (Mott Haven/South Bronx)


  • Engine 316: 27-12 Kearney St., Queens, NY 11369 (East Elmhurst)
  • Engine 289/ Ladder 138: 97-28 43rd Ave., Queens, NY 11368 (Corona)
  • Engine 307/ Ladder 154: 81-17 Northern Boulevard, Queens, NY 11372 (Jackson Heights)


  • Engine 271/ Ladder 124: 392 Himrod St., Brooklyn, NY 11237 (Bushwick)
  • Engine 277/ Ladder 112: 582 Knickerbocker Ave., Brooklyn, NY  11221 (Bushwick)
  • Engine 201/ Ladder 114: 5113 4th Ave.,  Brooklyn, NY  11220 ( Sunset Park)
  • Engine 228: 436 39th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232 (Sunset Park)
  • Engine 218: 650 Hart St., Brooklyn, NY 11221 (Bushwick)

Staten Island 

  • Engine 153/ Ladder 77: 74 Broad St., Staten Island, NY 10304 (Stapleton)
  • Engine 157/ Ladder 80: 1573 Castleton Ave., Staten Island, NY 10302 (Port Richmond)
  • Ladder 79: 1189 Castleton Ave., Staten Island, NY 10310 (Port Richmond)


As Blocks Multiply, a Patchwork Quilt of Politics Emerges

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:04:04 -0400

In Maplewood, N.J., the town's only bed and breakfast features a Trump piñata. Its owner is a Trump supporter.  

In Ortley Beach, considered ground zero for Hurricane Sandy, homeowners are concerned about sea-level rise and Gov. Chris Christie's lack of action on climate change. 

And in Long Valley, Independent and Republican voters aren't too impressed with the GOP gubernatorial candidate and her pledge to lower property taxes. 

That's a snapshot of New Jersey, as neighbors get together to talk politics in advance of the election to replace Christie in November. WNYC's Nancy Solomon joins All Things Considered host Jami Floyd to discuss Voting Block, a collaborative journalism project where New Jersey news organizations each spend time with one neighborhood during the gubernatorial campaign. 

"I think the big lesson on my block it that it's not realistic to expect that anyone's mind is going to be changed," Solomon said about the block she's watching in West Orange. "But they feel they can understand each other better. And in these days of politcal divisiveness, that's encouraging."

Click on listen to hear the whole interview and visit our series page to see all the stories.

As Blocks Multiply, a Patchwork Quilt of Politics Emerges

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Latest Newscast From the WNYC Newsroom

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:47:21 -0400

Latest Newscast From the WNYC Newsroom

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Give Your Eclipse Glasses a Second Life, Somewhere Else in the World

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 06:04:31 -0400

Remember the end of August, when the Great American Solar Eclipse was all anyone could talk about?

What about your solar eclipse glasses — are they collecting dust somewhere? 

Astronomers Without Borders, a non-profit that connects people all over the world through their love of astronomy, is organizing an effort to make sure your eclipse glasses get a second life.

Mike Simmons, the president and co-founder, says they've received nearly half a million glasses so far. Their plan is to check each pair for damage and authenticity before coordinating massive shipments to Argentina, Chile and other South American countries for their total eclipse in 2019.

Simmons says they mostly reach out to schools, children's hospitals and other places that are often in need of donations.

"It’s really a way of getting everybody to look up and use a lab that they might not otherwise have," said Simmons. "A lot of places you might not have chem labs and other things. But an eclipse is a laboratory that comes to you."

Find out how to donate your solar eclipse glasses at

Shumita Basu spoke to WNYC's Kerry Nolan on Morning Edition.

Give Your Eclipse Glasses a Second Life, Somewhere Else in the World

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Why the Latest Health Care Bill Could Kill Your Tax Benefits

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

Senate Republicans' last-ditch effort to replace Obamacare could have an unexpected impact on New York state, essentially undoing tax benefits enjoyed by employees and employers in New York.

Graham-Cassidy, named for authors Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, prohibits the use of federal money to pay for abortion unless the mother's life is at stake. And, buried inside the bill, there's a new provision that limits the use of federal tax credits to pay for abortions.

That means individuals would be unable to use either a tax-free health savings account, or an insurance plan, to pay for an abortion, according to an analysis by the National Health Law Program and others. New York businesses  would also be unable to deduct the costs of abortion coverage in their employee insurance plans for tax purposes.

The catch is, New York requires insurers to provide those services.

"The restriction either forces these states to change their policies on abortion coverage, or run the risk of dramatically reducing the number of state residents who are eligible for federal tax credits," the National Health Law Program concluded.

New York's Planned Parenthood affiliate said the Graham-Cassidy bill ignores fundamentals of women's health.

"Graham-Cassidy is a healthcare removal plan which fails Americans across the board and leaves millions of New Yorkers without access to care and coverage," the president of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Robin Chappelle Golston, said in a statement.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would set up a new block grant program that would shift healthcare funding from states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, like New York and New Jersey, to states that didn't, like Texas and Alabama. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates New York would lose $92 billion dollars between 2020 and 2026 if Graham-Cassidy replaces Obamacare.

The Senate could vote on the bill next week as Republicans face a Sept. 30 deadline.

Why the Latest Health Care Bill Could Kill Your Tax Benefits

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Amazon ♥s New York. The Feeling Is Mutual.

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:09:42 -0400

Amazon is expanding its footprint in New York City, yet again.

On Thursday, the giant web retailer announced it has leased a 360,000 square feet of office space from Brookfield in Midtown. Amazon says there will be space for 2,000 workers, including engineers, data analysts, and economists.

The company currently employs 1,800 people in New York City, with a midtown administrative office, a bookstore in Columbus Circle and a photo studio in Brooklyn. Earlier this month, Amazon shared plans to open its first logistics center in New York State, near the Goethals Bridge in Staten Island.

Now, city and state officials have their eyes on a bigger prize: a second North American Headquarters, dubbed by Amazon “HQ2.” The company already has a home campus in Seattle. In its request for proposals, Amazon says HQ2 could bring $5 billion in investments and 50,000 new jobs.

“Amazon did this very smartly,” said Alicia Glen, New York's deputy mayor for economic development. “They want cities to be the respondents to the RFP. And so we need to develop a mechanism through which we could vet all of the unbelievably interesting ideas that are out there.”

Glen said New York’s strategic advantage is a large workforce with skills in finance and media, plus a strong transportation network. One disadvantage for New York: there's not a lot of buildable land. Amazon says HQ2 could ultimately grow to eight million square feet. The city is requesting proposals for HQ2 locations.

Amazon’s RFP also says subsidies “to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process.” The de Blasio administration is opposed to large subsidies.

“Our view of this has been really for the past 20 years that New York City itself is the draw and we don’t need to put together discretionary incentive packages to lure a company like Amazon,” Glen said.

Still, the state government has no such qualms. This month alone, Amazon got pledges of close to $40 million dollars in tax breaks from Empire State Development, to support the midtown office and the Staten Island warehouse.


Amazon ♥s New York. The Feeling Is Mutual.

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For Puerto Ricans in New York, Hurricane Maria Is Gone....But the Waiting Has Just Started

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:03:10 -0400

Tabatha Lozano Raimundi was working on bakery orders at her shop Sprinkle Splash in La Marqueta in East Harlem. But all day Thursday, she found her thoughts straying.

"It's very difficult to focus on any one thing, when half of your heart and soul and thought process is with people in Puerto Rico," she said.

Raimundi is just one of thousands of New Yorkers who have family and friends in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria hit the island, leaving it with no electricity and so no way to connect to the outside world, many here were left wondering how their loved ones are faring. 

Raimundi says she still hasn't heard from family in Naguabo, on the eastern coast of the island and one of the first places to get hit. But there was a bright spot: her mother had gotten a call from a cousin in Rio Piedras, who jerry-rigged a cell phone charger so that it could use a D battery. Her town was devastated, but she wanted to let her family know she was OK. 

Rosaleen Ortiz de Jesus, from Washington Heights, couldn't reach her parents on Thursday. She was frustrated, because she had tried to bring them to New York before the storm hit. 

"They didn't want to leave, because they didn't want to leave the house alone, just in case there were some damages, they didn't want people to come in and steal things," she said. She's formed a Facebook group with her cousins, so they can communicate about what, if anything, they're hearing. 

The worst part, some say, is that even if they're able to reach their family now, it doesn't mean that they are completely safe. 

"Puerto Rico has weathered storms in the past, even really bad ones," said John Rivera, from Manhattan. He was eating at a restaurant in Spanish Harlem. "I'm more concerned about no power, no running water. I'm worried about what's going to happen now, over the next couple of months."

For her part, Raimundi is taking action. She's been reaching out to local organizations to find out how she can help.

"Today is Puerto Rico, yesterday was Texas," she said. "Tomorrow it could be us, and we're going to want that support and we're going to need the support."

For Puerto Ricans in New York, Hurricane Maria Is Gone....But the Waiting Has Just Started

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Bloomberg Advances a Global Vision for America

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:00:00 -0400

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosted on Wednesday the first-ever "Bloomberg Global Business Forum" to address how government and business leaders can work together to improve the lives of people around the world. The event's theme of global trade and cooperation also presents a different perspective in contrast to the policies and outlook of President Trump.

Click on LISTEN to hear more about the conference and excerpts of an interview with Michael Bloomberg.

The one-day conference at the Plaza Hotel was held at the same time as the United Nations General Assembly to take advantage of the hundreds of world leaders and CEOs who had come to New York City. Those attending Bloomberg's forum included Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; French President Emmanuel Macron; and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. Business leaders included Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and former CEO of Microsoft; Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo; and Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank.

In a way, this conference (paid for by Bloomberg Philanthropies) picks up the baton where the Clinton Global Initiative left off: during Hillary Clinton's run for presidential campaign, the Clinton Foundation announced it would shut down.

Organizers have already decided to hold a second conference next year.

Bloomberg Advances a Global Vision for America

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Long Valley Neighbors Find Accord and Affinity Across Party Lines

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:38:02 -0400

This story was originally published by NJ Spotlight and is part of the Voting Block series, produced in collaboration with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Cooperative Media and New America Media. To read all the stories in this series and see the full list of reporting partners, visit You can submit your questions for New Jersey gubernatorial candidates here.   Among the group of 10 Voting Block members in Long Valley, there is skepticism about gubernatorial candidates' campaign promises, disagreement on many issues that fall along party lines, but surprising affinity across party lines when it comes to other concerns. It can be especially hard for these Morris County residents participating in the statewide Voting Block project when they don't agree. Several among the split group can be described as hyperpartisan and there is only one member who truly considers herself unaffiliated. But despite that, there were some deep political discussions at last week's meeting. And they found themselves in agreement frequently, if not about a candidate's entire proposal than one aspect of it. For instance, no one in the group, Republican or Democrat, finds Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno's proposed property-tax circuit breaker realistic. The Republican nominee plans to cap the school portion of the local property-tax bill at 5 percent of household income, up to a maximum of $3,000. She plans to pay for it largely through a state audit and future revenue growth. Checking the cushions for change "I don't care what kind of audit you do, you're not going to come up with that kind of money in the cushions," said Heather Santos, who recently registered as a Democrat after starting out as a Republican and spending most of her life as an Independent. "The only way to decrease what we are spending on schools is to consolidate school districts." That's an idea that has come up before in group discussions, and it's one on which everyone, regardless of party, agrees. The group was also leery of Democratic nominee Phil Murphy's proposal to create a New Jersey public bank. His plan is to have this nonprofit institution, operating independently and following commercial principles, be the depository of New Jersey's public funds and then leverage that money to invest in communities, infrastructure, and small businesses, as well as providing loans to students. Democrat George Collins said one positive aspect of the bank is that governmental entities would not have to "be paying money" to other big investment firms and bond houses. "The question is, who runs this bank?" asked Santos. "What happens if it goes bankrupt?" asked Gregg Forsbrey, a GOP township committeeman. "If the bank goes down, they will come to us to bail it out. "There would have to be controls over it," said Neil Szigethy, a Democrat. Laura Knipmeyer, the lone Independent of the group, said she is uncertain. She would like officials to be able to cut ties with commercial banks, saying, "I think all politicians in the United States are beholden to the banking interests" because it is expensive to run for office and banks "have the money." But she doesn't know enough about banking regulations to form an opinion. "I did not think Phil Murphy made his point well about the bank in the debates," Knipmeyer said. The group was split on the proposed legalization of marijuana, currently pending in the Legislature and supported by Murphy. Guadagno has said she supports decriminalization, but not legalization - and not along party lines. Mixed feelings Veronica Fernandez, a Democrat who is seeking a seat on the Washington Township committee this November, has mixed feelings. On the one hand, she sees it as a potential source of revenue for the state. On the other, sh[...]

DACA Recipients Scramble to Reapply, But Not All are Eligible

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:00:00 -0400

At a meeting in Jackson Heights, under the rumble of the 7 train, about 40 DACA recipients learned that their fate in this country depends on one date: March 5, 2018. Anyone whose authorization expires after that date is not allowed to reapply to work in the U.S. legally and avoid deportation, because President Trump plans to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals unless Congress acts before March 5th. Those whose authorizations expire before March 5th can reapply for two more years of DACA. The cost is $495. But they have to do so quickly, because Trump only gave them until October 5th for the government to receive their forms. A 24-year-old man with wavy brown hair looked devastated. Juan said his authorization expires March 9th, just four days after Trump's limit. "It’s very disappointing," he said, explaining that his parents brought him to the U.S. from Colombia when he was eight. Juan said DACA enabled him to get a job at a warehouse and help support his mother. "We’re going to have to go back to using fake IDs and fake socials and people are going to lose their job," he said. "It’s not fair, you know?" This fear prevented those at the Jackson Heights meeting from giving their full names. The meeting was hosted by Make the Road New York, whose organizers also warned them about the potential for harassment and trolling on social media by opponents of DACA. A 26-year-old petite woman named Petagaye, however, was delighted to learn that her February expiration date made her eligible to reapply. She said she drives an 18-wheeler for a living, something she couldn't have done without DACA because she overstayed her visa when she came here from Jamaica as a teenager. "A lot of guys look at me and say you’re a crazy little female," she said, about driving a truck. "But I’m 120 pounds and I love what I do." Some of those who fall outside the window of eligibility asked about marrying a U.S. citizen and getting a green card. One young man named Arturo said he was willing to marry his best friend, another man, even though he's not gay. "I’m not scared about my sexuality or my manhood," he said. "I know what I like. But you gotta do what you gotta do, really." Immigration lawyers warn that green card marriages are risky if they’re not really for love. But there are other options worth exploring, said Natalia Renta, an attorney with Make the Road New York who was advising those at the meeting in Jackson Heights. For example, victims of crime may be eligible for U Visas. "It's always important to get evaluated," Renta explained, which was why advocates from her group were screening DACA recipients at the meeting to see if they had other options to stay in the U.S., or if anything in their life had changed to hurt their renewal application, like an arrest. Alejandro, a 28-year-old from Bolivia, was excited to reapply because he had just gotten a new job. He's been in the U.S. since he was eight, he said, and "fell in love" with New York. He looks forward to having more time under DACA. "Hopefully if everything goes well in those two years I’ll be able to do something with myself to become part of the American society, or hopefully the government does something," he mused, referring to Congressional legislation. When Renta looked over his forms, however, she saw that he had gotten a ticket for MTA fare evasion and urged him to wait until he paid it later this month, before sending in his DACA renewal application. She didn't think it would affect anything but wanted him to be on the safe side, since DACA is a discretionary program. Make the Road New York isn't the only group screening DACA recipients and helping them with their applications. The Legal Aid Society is also bringing in extra help, and the May[...]

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Learn a Thing or Two About a NY Constitutional Convention

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:34:13 -0400

New York voters will decide in November whether to hold a constitutional convention, opening up the entire state constitution for review. It's an opportunity that comes up only once every 20 years and there's plenty of debate underway over whether a convention would be a positive step toward reform or simply a terrible, dreadful, no-good idea.

The non-profit group Generation Citizen is releasing new lesson plans on the constitutional convention. The lessons are geared toward eighth-through-12th grade students, most of whom will not be voting on the ballot measure this November. But voting is just one aspect of the democratic process, said DeNora Getachew, Generation Citizen's New York executive director.

"This lesson is: One, about educating young people and getting them informed about the process," she said. "Two, making clear that they can advocate for themselves and say, 'Is this a good thing or a bad thing for New York's democracy?'"

To test your own knowledge on the convention, take a gander at this educational video and try to answer these questions (answers at the bottom):

Q: When was the NY Constitution first written? 

Q: How many constitutional conventions have there been? 

Q: Does the governor play a role in amending the constitution?  

The lessons explain to students what it takes to amend the state constitution, and guides discussions around a convention's pros and cons. They then teach and encourage students to advocate for their positions, instructing how to get press attention, write an Op-Ed or lobby an elected leader to hold a public forum on the issue.

And while the lesson plans are free and available to any teacher, Getachew encourages all New Yorkers to download them. Polling shows that the majority of New York voters do not know anything about the convention, she said.

(Answers: 1777; Nine. The most recent one was in 1967;No)

Lawmaker to City Board of Elections: Follow the Law

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:00:00 -0400

A local lawmaker is demanding action a week after the city's Board of Elections ignored a law requiring it to post notices at old poll sites when it moves them to new locations. WNYC reported the board changed hundreds of poll sites in the months before last week's primary, affecting more than 200,000 eligible voters.

City Councilman Dan Gardonick Monday sent the board a sternly worded letter, taking the agency to task for failing to comply with the law. He also called for the agency to submit a plan to his office by Sept. 29 outlining how the agency will meet its legal requirements in time for the November elections.

When it comes to following the law, Garodnick told WNYC, “it is not their prerogative to pick and choose."

He added, “That’s exactly what they are doing here, and the end result of course is that it is making life more difficult for New Yorkers when they are trying to exercise their fundamental right to vote."

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the Board of Elections, once testified at a hearing that the City Council, as a local legislative body, did not have jurisdiction over its activities, since the board is governed by state election law.

Garodnick urged the board to check out an opinion from the New York Attorney General’s office that concluded the city Board of Elections is in fact a local agency.

“The board," according to the opinion, "is comprised of local residents appointed by local elected officials, is financed by local government, and performs its functions within a local jurisdiction.”

Gardonick said the opinion makes it clear that the city elections board must be responsive to the City Council and the mayor.

A spokeswoman said the board’s position has not changed. 

9-18-17 Letter to BOENY Re Poll Site Notices by Brigid Bergin on Scribd

frameborder="0" height="600" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%" class="scribd_iframe_embed" id="doc_63035" title="9-18-17 Letter to BOENY Re Poll Site Notices" data-auto-height="false" data-aspect-ratio="0.7727272727272727">

Lawmaker to City Board of Elections: Follow the Law

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A Trump Piñata, a Treasured School and Political Divisions on Maplewood’s Elmwood Avenue

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 14:12:52 -0400

This story was originally published by The Village Green and is part of the Voting Block series, produced in collaboration with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Cooperative Media and New America Media. To read all the stories in this series and see the full list of reporting partners, visit You can submit your questions for New Jersey gubernatorial candidates here.   The well-trafficked stretch of Elmwood Avenue between Prospect Street and several blocks past Boyden Avenue in Maplewood, New Jersey can go by fast. The road is traffic-light free and a bit wider than many streets in the town. The decidedly residential avenue has a few standouts, such as the Winchester Gardens retirement community and Les Saisons, the lone bed and breakfast in Maplewood. Elmwood continues for a few more blocks before entering the neighboring town of Irvington. Today, Maplewood’s political blood runs a very deep shade of blue. During the 2016 Presidential election, 9,940 residents voted for Clinton and 1,161 for Trump, with 159 votes for Jill Stein and 120 for Gary Johnson. A smattering of other candidates collected 29 votes. And while Elmwood Avenue may boast its heavy percentage of Democrats, you don’t have to dig too deeply to find those who have differing and outspoken political views. Village Green will be profiling a selection of neighbors on Elmwood Avenue between Prospect Street and Boyden Avenue as part of a statewide series called Voting Block, a collaborative reporting effort to encourage civil political discussion and more informed voters in neighborhoods across New Jersey ahead of this fall’s gubernatorial election. Village Green will be organizing a potluck event for neighbors from a variety of political perspectives to come together as we move closer to Election Day on November 7. We will be partnering with 15 hyperlocal and six ethnic news organizations across New Jersey as well as WNYC, WHYY, NJ Spotlight and The Record. A trilogy of parents The McGowan-Myers-Whithed household – they refer to the family of five as the McGowan family — has been living on Elmwood Avenue for just over a decade. “We were specifically looking for a community that would be open and friendly to gay families and non-traditional families because of our commitment to co-parenting and raising our daughters together,” says Mary Whithed. Whithed was living in New Hampshire when she gave birth to their first daughter. And she wanted to make sure her daughter’s fathers were as close as possible. Those fathers are Scott McGowan and Rick Myers, who were then living in the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn. McGowan and Myers have been partners for 29 years. They married in 2013. And the three wanted to be co-parents under a single roof. Scott McGowan, Rick Myers and Mary Whithed (credit Donny Levit) Whithed, McGowan and Myers considered West Orange, South Orange and Maplewood to put down their family’s roots. “We didn’t have a realtor lined up. We just came out here and we went to the Maple Leaf Diner. People were friendly,” Whithed recalls. “They approached us and wanted to interact with the baby. There was an LGBTQ movie playing at the local movie theater. And the look of downtown reminded me of New England. I felt comfortable immediately.” Myers was working for an investment bank in Jersey City at the time. “And then things changed after 2008,” he said, referring to the banking collapse of that year. “I now work for a tech company that has a contract with an investment bank in midtown.” The ease of commute from Maplewood played an important role for him. “I didn’t want to be to[...]

The 2017 N.J. Governor’s Race, From Sandy’s ‘Ground Zero’

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 11:36:38 -0400

This story was originally published by the Lavallette-Seaside Shorebeat and is part of the Voting Block, produced in collaboration with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Cooperative Media and New America Media. To read all the stories in this series and see the full list of reporting partners, visit You can submit your questions for New Jersey gubernatorial candidates here.   For more than a year after Superstorm Sandy pummeled Ocean County’s northern barrier island, a simple sign – words spray painted on a piece of old plywood – adorned a street corner at Route 35: “Welcome to Ortley Beach, Ground Zero for Superstorm Sandy, Forever Changed.” Ortley Beach, legally a portion of Toms River Township, has, ironically, grown its year-round population since the storm struck and either damaged or destroyed the majority of the neighborhood’s homes. Toms River’s regional school district now sends more buses “over the bridge” to the beach community, and officials have said housing prices have started to rebound. But there is also worry over property taxes, mitigating future storms and keeping the neighborhood affordable enough for long-time residents to remain. Our fouled-up property tax system and a bankrupt state that has a continually-declining bond rating is causing most of the problems” said Paul Jeffrey, the former president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, and a resident of Bay Boulevard, which saw some of the worst flooding during the storm. In November, New Jersey residents will elect a new governor, and everyone seems to agree there is a lot at stake – from the property tax issue, to the environment, to how the state will respond to the policies of President Donald Trump. To help shed light on what issues are on the minds of residents statewide, Shorebeat is one of 15 news publications statewide, including WYNC, WHYY, NJ Spotlight and The Record, that will follow residents of a neighborhood in their coverage area to key in on what New Jerseyans are talking about as the election draws near. We could think of no place more interesting and filled with opinions than Ortley Beach – especially the residents along and off Bay Boulevard – that have dealt with the grueling task of rebuilding their homes while dealing with the state bureaucracy.  Shorebeat will follow a number of residents are the race plays out, and host a dinner to discuss views from different sides of the political spectrum. Hurricane Sandy damage in Ortley Beach, N.J. on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen) Ortley Beach is also a place where property tax concerns, often ranked as the number one issue for voters statewide, are a pervasive subject among neighbors. With its residential property values generally higher than the average assessment on the mainland in the rest of Toms River, Ortley Beach residents often pay higher tax bills than their fellow township homeowners. There has even been talk of “secession” to form a new town or join another. Like most of Ocean County, the majority of Ortley Beach residents are Republicans, though an influx of new residents from across the state has added new voices in recent years. Jeffrey, for his part, is keeping an open mind, but he said he’s dealt with Republican candidate Kim Guadagno before and is interested to see what she would do as governor. “I’m really interested in seeing if she can straighten out this mess,” Jeffrey said. “I’m concerned with [Democrat candidate Phil] Murphy because just pumping more money into the system through public assistance seems to be wha[...]