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Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 11:06:49 -0400


Latest Newscast From the WNYC Newsroom

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 11:06:49 -0400

Latest Newscast From the WNYC Newsroom

Media Files:

Some Theater Classics Are Brought Down by Gender Stereotypes. Not 'Pygmalion.'

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

You're likely more familiar with "My Fair Lady" than with the 1913 play it's based on, "Pygmalion."  The 1964 film of "My Fair Lady," starring Audrey Hepburn, is a classic; the original 1956 stage production launched Julie Andrews' career. And it's a staple of high school musical theater programs. But "Pygmalion"? Theatergoers may know it's a play by George Bernard Shaw, but as it's only revived about once a decade, many have never seen it. In both, the story is roughly the same: phonetician Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can pass off poor flower girl Eliza Doolittle as a lady, simply by transforming her Cockney accent into an aristocratic one. In our #MeToo moment, the story seems especially problematic — how could a show about a man transforming someone into his perfect woman possibly have something to say to today's audiences? But for the past few weeks, both shows have been running on New York stages at the same time. "My Fair Lady" is currently at the Lincoln Center Theater; Bedlam's production of "Pygmalion" is downtown at the Sheen Center through Sunday. To find out why both plays are still relevant a century later, WNYC's Jennifer Vanasco spoke with Bedlam members Vaishnavi Sharma, who plays Eliza, and Eric Tucker, who plays Henry Higgins, and is also the director of the play and the artistic director of the company. Here are edited excerpts. WNYC: Talk to me about the differences between the two shows. TUCKER: Obviously "Pygmalion" is the source material for "My Fair Lady" — it's basically "Pygmalion" with songs. We happened to be working from the 1913 script, which is public domain. It's the first script, and breaks the action down into five long scenes. "My Fair Lady" comes from a newer script and has about three or four added scenes. For example, when she throws the slippers in Henry's face and leaves the house, she goes out onto the street and sees [her suitor] Freddy and that's where we get that wonderful song, "On the Street Where You Live." Well, that scene is not in our script, because it's not trying to be a love story. And without the music, you're able to sink into a darker, grittier, seedier picture of their relationship.  WNYC: In the Greek myth of Pygmalion, you have an artist who creates a sculpture that comes to life. The sculptor creates his perfect woman, basically. Some people feel like in this work, Eliza has no agency. How do you see her? SHARMA: It's seldom that you get to play a role that has such a dramatic change from the first time she speaks until the end. You know, it's always described as, "He picks her up off the street." But really, she went to him. She has taken control at every stage of her life.  WNYC: This is not the traditional Eliza we're used to seeing. You play her as a young immigrant from India, with a Hindi accent. There's even a line added in Hindi in the beginning. Whose idea was that? SHARMA: When Eric first offered it to me, I said I would love to play her as the Indian girl that this British man picks up off the street. But I feel sometimes almost naked doing it, because I've never done an Indian accent onstage before. I've never spoken Hindi on stage before, and it's a side of me that I haven't shared since I've moved here. And I do I feel a responsibility to represent a billion people. I'm not letting that influence how I'm doing the role, but to be able to embrace all of me — it helps me be that girl on the street with all of the grime and shit that she's going through. And to ask, "What does she hold on to? What does she let go of?" WNYC: Do you see her transformation as her leaving her culture and identity behind? SHARMA: That's a good question. I think there is a piece of that. But she's found the strength to be who she is while winning in the world. And we all change things about ourselves to win, to be good, to be the best version of ourselves, to succeed. She has goals, she has ambitions, she has dreams and she is going to achieve them. And I think she's taken from Higgins whatever she coul[...]

Media Files:

Review: 'My Fair Lady' Is Loverly

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

"My Fair Lady," first staged in 1956 and now on Broadway after a 25-year hiatus, is the sort of classic, beloved musical that might not work today. You likely know the story, based on George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion": a professor of phonetics makes a bet that he will pass a flower girl off as a lady by teaching her to speak like an aristocrat. 

That professor, Henry Higgins, despises women. He calls the flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, everything from "a guttersnipe" to "a wretch" to a "presumptuous insect." Women, sings Higgins, have heads "full of cotton, hay and rags! They're nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!"

And yet, "My Fair Lady" is a romance of sorts, with Higgins and Eliza insinuating that they're falling for each other in swooping, romantic songs like "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." A romantic story about a woman who loves a man who mistreats her? This could go very badly.

But under director Bartlett Sher's steady hand, it does not. In fact, this production makes the case that Eliza is actually strong, independent and, by the end, Higgins' equal. Much of that is thanks to the casting of the magnificent Lauren Ambrose, who has an incomparable emotional transparency, giving us a window into Eliza's confusion and vulnerability, her joy and rage.

But there are also smart directorial choices. For example, instead of making "I Could Have Danced All Night" a song about falling in love, Eliza keeps picking up the books she's studying — turning it into a heady celebration of learning. And Sher doesn't let the story get muddled by Freddy (the warmly wonderful Jordan Donica), Eliza's younger suitor. In this production, it's clear that she views him as nothing more than a friend to vent to. Harry Hadden-Paton as Henry Higgins likewise does his part. He walks a fine line between charm and bigotry, coming off as clueless and lonely instead of offensive, which makes the story more palatable.

All of this contemporary staging is not to say the look or feel of the piece is modern. Instead, it has the luxuriant feel of stages past, with a 29-piece orchestra, elegantly detailed costumes (those hats!) and a townhouse that rotates to show Higgins' library, stuffed with gramophones, books and Victorian furniture. This "My Fair Lady" is exuberant, delightful — and simply loverly. 

"My Fair Lady" By Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, directed by Bartlett Sher, at Lincoln Center Theater. 

Review: 'My Fair Lady' Is Loverly

Media Files:

This Week in Politics: Phil Murphy, Trump Warrior, Strikes Back

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

When it comes to environmental protection and fighting climate change in New Jersey, one could say it's the best of times and the worst of times.

In the past week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill to block President Trump's plan to drill for oil off the Jersey shore. It also supported efforts to stop the PennEast pipeline. And one of Phil Murphy's first moves in office was to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

But Murphy is not entirely in the good graces of environmentalists in the state.

His young administration raised a lot of eyebrows when it worked to block a challenge by advocacy groups to the $225 million settlement with Exxon over polluting wetlands. The settlement was brokered by Governor Christie and widely criticized for allowing Exxon to pay just 3 cents on the dollar.

On This Week in Politics, we're joined by Scott Fallon who covers the environment for The Record newspaper. Speaking with host David Furst, he says some of Murphy's early moves have been perceived as "sell outs" by environmental groups.


This Week in Politics: Phil Murphy, Trump Warrior, Strikes Back

Media Files:

Anger and Sadness at Tense Crown Heights Police-Community Meeting

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 18:02:50 -0400

Emotions ran high at a community meeting between Crown Heights residents and local police officers Thursday evening, in the fallout of the police shooting of a mentally ill man earlier this month.

Frustrated residents wanted to know why officers had opened fire so quickly and why none of the 71st Precinct officers recognized Saheed Vassell, 34, a fixture of the neighborhood, before shooting him nine times on April 4.

Police said they mistakenly thought Vassell had a gun, which he had pointed at several passersby before he was shot by officers, according to video footage released by the NYPD. It turned out to be a metal pipe.

"We are looking for an answer which will let us know that tomorrow something is going to be different here," resident Karen Flemming demanded. 

Deputy Inspector Frank Giordano tried to quell the frustrated crowd.

"Our job is to protect human life. We regret the loss of human life under any circumstance," he said. "However our job requires split second decisions at times and this situation required us to make a split second decision based upon the 911 calls and the fact that we believed him to be armed."

WNYC's Jami Floyd and Cindy Rodriguez discussed the meeting on All Things Considered.

Anger and Sadness at Tense Crown Heights Police-Community Meeting

Media Files:

Former Mayor Giuliani Joins Trump's Personal Legal Team

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:04:14 -0400

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign, is joining the team of lawyers representing the president in the special counsel's Russia investigation. With the addition of Giuliani, Trump gains a former U.S. attorney, a past presidential candidate and a TV-savvy defender at a time when the White House is looking for ways to bring the president's involvement with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to a close. The president has been weighing whether to sit for questioning by Mueller's team, and his legal team has repeatedly met with investigators to define the scope of the questions he would face. Giuliani will enter those negotiations, filling the void left by attorney John Dowd, who resigned last month. It's a precarious time for Trump. His legal team has been told by Mueller that the president is not a target of the investigation, suggesting he's not in imminent criminal jeopardy. But he is currently a subject of the probe - a designation that could change at any time. Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow told The Associated Press that Giuliani will be focusing on the Mueller investigation - not the legal matters raised by the ongoing investigation into Trump attorney Michael Cohen. That probe is being led by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an office that Giuliani headed in the mid- to late 1980s. Cohen's office, home and hotel room were raided last week by the FBI, who are investigating the lawyer's business dealings, including suspected bank fraud. They also sought records related to payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claim to have had sexual encounters with Trump several years ago. The White House has denied the claims. The raids enraged Trump, prompting him to publicly weigh whether to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He also intensified his public attacks on the Mueller investigation, calling it "an attack on our country." In a statement announcing Giuliani's hire, Trump expressed his wish that the investigation wrap up soon and praised Giuliani, a fellow New Yorker, confidant and Mar-a-Lago regular. "Rudy is great," Trump said. "He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country." Giuliani will be joining Sekulow on Trump's personal legal team but will be working closely with White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who has also been handling the administration's cooperation with the Mueller investigation. "It is an honor to be a part of such an important legal team, and I look forward to not only working with the President but with Jay, Ty and their colleagues," Giuliani said in a statement. In addition to Giuliani, two other former federal prosecutors - Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin - will be joining Trump's legal team. The two, who are married and run a law firm together, are based in Florida but handle cases across the United States. Both have extensive experience prosecuting organized crime and representing defendants in complex white-collar and fraud investigations. Giuliani, who was New York mayor during the Sept. 11 attacks, has known Trump for decades and his aggressive, hard-charging rhetorical style can at times mirror that of the president. He had widely been expected to join Trump's administration. But Giuliani rejected the idea of becoming attorney general, lobbying Trump to name him secretary of state. Trump picked Rex Tillerson and Giuliani was left without a Cabinet post. The two men share similar policy ideals, publicly supporting law enforcement in ways that have alienated minorities, and taking bullish stances on immigration enforcement. In 2016, for instance, Giuliani fiercely criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it encouraged violence against police. More recently, he has said he was consulted by Trump on how to impleme[...]

Media Files:

David Bowie: The Subway Station

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:28:24 -0400

New York's in love—with David Bowie. The late iconic artist spent over 20 years living in SoHo, and on Tuesday the MTA announced that Bowie was back in the neighborhood. Rail Control to Major Tom: David Bowie branded MetroCards, created by @Spotify, are now available at the Broadway-Lafayette and Bleecker St stations. We’ve printed 250,000 cards, featuring 5 iconic images from the David Bowie exhibit @BrooklynMuseum. Drop by anytime to get yours. — NYCT Subway (@NYCTSubway) April 17, 2018 Almost immediately, scores of New Yorkers swarmed those stations for the limited-edition cards, and many continued to line up Friday afternoon. The station was filled with images of Bowie at different stages of his career: prints of the artist on stage in royal blue, or pale and serious with his finger clasped together. The installation was a collaboration between Spotify and the Brooklyn Museum, in honor of the museum’s “David Bowie Is” exhibit. The crowds who line up for the limited-edition MetroCards were a combination of Bowie devotees and hustlers decked out in Supreme gear looking to make a buck off the cards, which were being resold online for nearly $200 each. David Bowie at the Broadway-Lafayette Subway Station (Kate Hinds ) Waiting in line, Brookie Judge, with electric-blue hair, said she traveled across the country to see the exhibit and buy the collectible cards. “I don’t know that I would do this for anybody else,” she said. Though she thought of herself as a big U2 fan, she never bought that band's commemorative iPod. Judge said she didn't know what made Bowie different, except that he’s always been a part of her life. “He was a weird queer kid when no one else was a weird queer kid,” she said. “That’s respectable.” She planned to add the MetroCards to her David Bowie shrine, which she insisted is only a little bit crazy and modest in size: just a few photos, buttons, some pieces of art and a battery-operated tea light. “So I didn’t go full Catholic on it,” she laughed. Further back in the line stood a fashion designer from Miami. She was wearing a red satin jumpsuit, and a black felt beret. She said she’d been in the city nine months, and worshiped all of David Bowie’s costumes, but his Harlequin mime outfit from “Ashes to Ashes” most of all. A fashion designer poses in a red pants. She said the outfit is inspired by David Bowie. (Kally Patz) “Everything he wore was unique,” she said. “Even if it was a pair of trousers, it would be oversized at the waist.” In high school she performed a scene from “The Runaways” in which Cherie Curie sings as David Bowie in red spandex and a golden jacket. On Friday she had the red pants, and was trying to grow her hair out into a Bowie-style mullet. “It’s been in the process for years, but I’m just so impulsive I keep shaving my head,” she said. “It’s a baby mullet right now.” David Bowie at the Broadway-Lafayette Subway Station (Kate Hinds )   [...]

New Jersey Bans Offshore Drilling

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:13:40 -0400

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday banning oil and gas drilling in state waters. The ban, supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the state, is a direct response to the Trump Administration's plan to open and lease most of the nation's offshore waters drilling and exploration (Florida is exempt from the policy).

Murphy said New Jersey is not willing to risk an oil spill or rig explosion and urged other coastal states to take similar action.

"We know that an oil spill off the Jersey shore would have impacts hundreds of miles away. Just as a spill off [the] coast of Maryland, Virginia or Florida would foul our beaches," he said at a bill signing ceremony in Point Pleasant Beach.

States only have jurisdiction over waters up to three miles of the coast. But the bill bans pipelines, or any equipment, used to transport oil drilled in federal waters though New Jersey. It also gives more power to the state’s environmental agency to review federal drilling proposals.

The governor of Maine is the only leader of an Atlantic coastal state who's come out in favor of the Trump Administration's plan.

New Jersey Bans Offshore Drilling

Media Files:

Saheed Vassell Remembered as Kind, Generous Neighbor at Funeral

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:06:09 -0400

A few dozen mourners gathered at St. Anthony Baptist Church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for the funeral of Saheed Vassell, the mentally ill man shot and killed by police in early April.

The service was modest: bouquets of flowers and childhood photos of Vassell surrounded his gleaming white casket. During the service, friends remembered him as a kind, generous person who looked out for his neighbors. Speakers, including City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel and a representative of Al Sharpton's National Action Network, urged the congregation to support Vassell's family while calling for legal justice. Towards the end of the funeral, his sister, Telah Vassell, broke down in tears while reading aloud from his obituary.


Afterwards, mourners gathered outside the church as the funeral procession started off for Cypress Hills Cemetery. Ionie Forrest, 48, a friend of Vassell's father, said Saheed was always a nice boy.  She said the incident has made her fear for her 20-year-old son's safety if he ever has to interact with the police.

"You're black, when the police come and come to you, you just have to calm yourself down because if not, you never know what's gonna take place," Forrest said.

Police officers shot Vassell nine times after they responded to a series of 911 calls describing a man pointing a gun at people on the street. Officers fired within seconds before discovering he was holding a piece of metal piping. Vassell's parents are calling for the names and records of the responding officers to be made public.

Saheed Vassell Remembered as Kind, Generous Neighbor at Funeral

Media Files:

Central Park Is Going Car-Free

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 12:15:15 -0400

Central Park will go almost entirely car-free starting in June, following on the heels of the vehicle ban in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. The traverses at 79th, 86th and 97th Streets will remain open.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the announcement is meant to coincide with Earth Day this weekend.

"This is a sea change," Mayor de Blasio said on The Brian Lehrer Show. "This has never happened before, since the advent of the automobile. For the first time in historysince we've had automobilesCentral Park will be closed to automobiles permanently."

The mayor added exceptions will be made for emergency vehicles and cars on official business. Certain sections of Central Park—East and West Drive north of 72nd Street—were permanently closed to traffic back in 2015.

Former Gov. Christie's Portrait Will Cost More Than Those of His 3 Predecessors Combined

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 09:31:48 -0400

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's official portrait will cost $85,000, which is more than taxpayers shelled out for paintings of his three predecessors combined.

The Record reports that Australian artist Paul Newton will paint the portrait of the Republican who left office after eight years in January.

The cost detail was obtained through an open records request.

Democrats Jon Corzine, Richard Codey and Jim McGreevey spent a combined $74,500 for theirs. None served for two terms.

The Christie painting will likely be more formal than one of his best known images of him after he was photographed sitting on a beach closed to the public due to a budget stalemate last year.

Christie appreciated luxury, watching the Dallas Cowboys from owner Jerry Jones' box and going to Jordan on the King Abdullah II's dime.

Kushner Cos. Subpoenaed After Filing False Documents About NYC Apartments

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 08:48:19 -0400

The Kushner Cos. has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for information related to an Associated Press report that the company filed dozens of false documents about its buildings in New York City.

The real estate company issued a statement saying it has "nothing to hide and is cooperating fully with all legitimate requests for information, including this subpoena."

The statement Thursday acknowledged that the federal subpoena arrived last month, a day after the AP reported the Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city stating it had zero rent-regulated tenants in buildings across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds. The AP report covered a three-year period when the real estate company was run by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law who is now a senior adviser.

Tenant advocates say such false filings allow landlords to avoid heightened city oversight designed to keep lower-paying, rent-regulated tenants from being harassed during construction and pressured to leave, freeing up apartments for higher-paying residents.

Kushner Cos. told the AP at the time of its report that the company outsources preparation of construction permit applications and fixes any mistakes immediately. Records show the company did file some amended documents, often more than a year later.

The AP report, based on work by nonprofit watchdog Housing Rights Initiative, has sparked an inquiry by the New York state attorney general's office and a city council investigation.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn had subpoenaed housing paperwork from the company. The office declined to comment to the AP.

The Brooklyn attorney's office also has reportedly subpoenaed the Kushner Cos. over a visa-for-investment program to raise money from Chinese investors for its real estate projects.

Mourners Gather in Remembrance of Saheed Vassell, Killed By Police in Crown Heights

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 19:31:50 -0400

Hundreds of family members and friends of Saheed Vassell, the mentally ill man killed by police in Crown Heights earlier this month, gathered in a neighborhood church to pay their respects on Thursday.

Some wore custom t-shirts with a photo of Vassell, 34, emblazoned with the words, "Rest in Power."

Vassell was shot nine times by NYPD officers on April 4, after he brandished what turned out to be a metal piece of pipe at passersby as if it were a gun. Police say Vassel pointed the object at them right before the responding officers opened fire.

Mourners were angry about Vassell's death. Many of them recalled fond memories of him and his family. They described him as being kind and caring. Some were frustrated that officers who knew Vassell from the 71st Precinct didn't recognize him before opening fire. Others felt people on the street should have intervened.

"I truly think it's a community problem," said a mourner who identified himself only as Muzart. "That's the reason why he's this way, because nobody came and pulled him to the side and say 'Yo what are you doing, that's wrong. Yo what's going on? Stop that.' No one."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the fatal shooting. Vassell's funeral and burial will take place Friday.

Mourners Gather in Remembrance of Saheed Vassell, Killed By Police in Crown Heights

Media Files:

Chair of Landmarks Commission to Step Down in June

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:51:00 -0400

The head of the influential Landmarks Preservation Commission is leaving her post after four years, she told WNYC News on Thursday.

Meenakshi Srinivasan said she will step down from the LPC on June 1. In a conversation with WNYC's Richard Hake, she spoke about her time at the commission, which included clearing a severe backlog of landmark applications that included Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City, as well as approving several high-profile landmark designations in the area of East Midtown undergoing a rezoning.

Srinivasan also spoke about a recent controversy over proposed changes to LPC's rules and an uproar about the possibility that the Coney Island Boardwalk's iconic wooden slats could be replaced by concrete or plastic.

A city planner and self-described "zoning wonk," Srinivasan said she plans to move into the private sector, developing curricula for the Center for New York City Law at the New York Law School.

Srinivasan was appointed to the landmarks commission by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014.

Chair of Landmarks Commission to Step Down in June

Media Files:

How Thousands of Security Cameras Forced Change at New York's Notorious Attica State Prison

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:10:37 -0400

In 1971, New York's Attica prison was the site of one of the most brutal and deadly prison uprisings in US history. After that, the facility gained a reputation for the iron grip its Correction Officers exercised over inmates, and the brutal beatings they imposed.

But following a 2015 trial of three officers for nearly beating an inmate to death, things began to change at Attica.

The change came about largely because of 2,000 cameras installed throughout the prison, according to a new report from The Marshall Project and Vice. John J. Lennon is a prisoner-turned-journalist who documented this change through the use of data, and from his own experiences gleaned in the nine years he spent at Attica.

Soon after his arrival at the prison in 2007, he could tell that Attica was different from other maximum security facilities. Guards walked around with their batons out, and the beatings of inmates happened nearly every day, he said.

"You would hear screams, you would hear yells," Lennon said. "After a while you became numb to it."

"What it does have that other prisons don' this horrible history," he said. According to Lennon, correctional officers had relatives and friends who'd been around at the time of the deadly uprising and were taught, "'you cant take your foot off the neck of these guys because if you do there will be problems.'"

But come 2016 the state was installing some 2,000 cameras across the facility and right away, Lennon noticed a change. Guards started to show restraint, while prisoners were emboldened.

Lennon's observation was backed up by data he obtained from the State Department of Corrections. In the year when cameras went up, the number of assaults on staff plummeted from 64 to 13 a year, the lowest number of assaults on record.

"There's never been 13 assaults on staff, in fact there's never been below 30 assault on staff," he said. "What the cameras do it's this sort of equalizer now."

Around 2,000 cameras have gone up across Attica, according to a spokesman for the state's Department of Corrections. They plan to install cameras in all maximum security, and some medium security, prisons across New York, the spokesman said.

How Thousands of Security Cameras Forced Change at New York's Notorious Attica State Prison

Media Files:

More Bad Blood Between Cuomo and Progressives

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:58:20 -0400

More evidence is emerging that actor Cynthia Nixon's gubernatorial challenge is rattling incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Last week, as it was looking like the Working Families Party would endorse Nixon instead of the incumbent in the Democratic primary, reports emerged that Cuomo had told union leaders that if they funded any group supporting his rival, they could "lose his number."

The party, which was formed 20 years ago by labor unions and grassroots organizations to pull Democrats to the left, ended up endorsing Nixon, but not before two of its largest and financially important members, the Communication Workers of America and SEIU 32BJ, dropped out — perhaps so they could hang onto Cuomo's number.

On Thursday, the governor denied he ever threatened the unions. "The Working Families people are delusional if they think anyone is going to tell the unions who to support and not support," he said at an unrelated press conference. "It's totally up to the unions."

That was cold comfort for progressive activists rallying in downtown Manhattan later in the day. Community organizations that remained in the Working Families Party blasted Cuomo's alleged comments. And the party's state director, Bill Lipton, said he was in the room when Cuomo urged labor leaders to back out.

"If he's saying that he has nothing to do with it, he's lying," Lipton said.

At the press conference, Cuomo was also asked if he would promise not to punish liberal community groups backing Nixon by withdrawing state funding.

He responded: "Punishment is for God."

More Bad Blood Between Cuomo and Progressives

Media Files:

The 'Fearless Girl' Is Moving Up the Block

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:14:42 -0400

The "Fearless Girl" statue near Wall Street that has become a global symbol of female can-do business spirit will be moved from her spot facing the "Charging Bull" to a location by the New York Stock Exchange.

The ponytailed girl in a windblown dress became a tourist magnet last spring when the artwork popped up confronting the famous bull that was a symbol of the American financial resilience in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash.

State Street Global Advisors, the firm that installed the "Fearless Girl" statue in March 2017, said Thursday that it will be moved by the end of the year.

"Fearless Girl" was designed to call attention to a State Street initiative to increase the number of women on corporate boards.

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City Convenes Task Force on Police Response to Mentally Ill in Crises

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 19:24:45 -0400

On Thursday, the de Blasio Administration is expected to announce the creation of a city task force aimed at improving how police respond to 911 calls involving the mentally ill. The announcement comes two weeks after Saheed Vassell was shot and killed by NYPD officers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Vassell had a history of mental illness. Police thought he was threatening people with a gun, but the object in his hand turned out to be a steel pipe. 

"I've charged this Task Force with developing a comprehensive strategy to prevent these situations from escalating and enhance the city's crisis response system. These recommendations will keep our neighborhoods and our most vulnerable New Yorkers safe," said the Mayor in a press release.  

Advocates said Vassell was the tenth mentally ill person to be killed by the NYPD since June of 2015. They've been pressuring the city to study why the deaths are happening and to come up with solutions. In a letter last Wednesday, the city council's progressive caucus also called on City Hall to prioritize strategies that would divert 911 calls to mental health professionals instead of police. 

A spokesperson said the task force would look at how 911 calls involving mentally ill individuals are dispatched. They'll also look at whether it's possible to increase the use of co-response teams that consist of two police officers and a mental health professional. Since March of 2016 the teams have intervened in cases involving 2500 individuals. Last year the NYPD responded to more than 160,000 calls involving someone considered to be in emotional distress.

Advocates say another alternative to the 911 system are mobile crisis teams that are made up of nurses, psychiatrists, and social workers. The city said it would look at how to enhance these teams so that they can respond more rapidly. 

In addition to improving police interactions, the city is examining how to increase support for people with mental illness, including helping them get housing and public benefits. A city hall spokesperson said the city would also look at ways to connect people to long term treatment once they get discharged from hospitals and emergency rooms.

The task force is expected to come up with recommendations in six months and will be led by the NYPD and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

City Convenes Task Force on Police Response to Mentally Ill in Crises

Media Files:

Schools Chancellor Implores City Students Not to Walk Out on Friday

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 18:48:07 -0400

In March, when students walked out of class to honor victims of the Parkland school shooting, city officials and school administrators stood alongside them. But Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the walkout planned for Friday, to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, is different.

At a townhall with students at Brooklyn Tech on Monday, Carranza asked high schoolers not to leave class to take part in the planned afternoon demonstration in Washington Square Park.

"Columbine happened 19 years ago,” Carranza told student leaders from across the borough. “I get it. But you don't have to be out of school all day to make your voices known. You've already made your voices known. So I'm going to ask you: stay in school."

Asha Lawrence is a freshman at Brooklyn Tech who said she and many of her classmates would not heed the Chancellor's appeal.

Lawrence grew up in the the United Kingdom, and said after educating herself about the deadly school shooting at Columbine, she thinks students need to take a stand and have their voices heard.

"This is not a new issue,” she said, “and so it's really important for us to just stick with it."

Some school administrators have asked parents to provide written consent to allow their children to leave school and take part in the rally. Others, like Mather High School dean Brian Pew, said they don’t think many students will be participating.

Pew said he’s talked to students at his Midtown Manhattan school who participated in the March walkout and the “March for our Lives.” But, he said, he hasn't gotten any official word of a Friday walkout from students.

Schools Chancellor Implores City Students Not to Walk Out on Friday

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Jury Finds Nanny Guilty of Murder in Death of Two Young Children She Cared For

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 18:06:44 -0400

A nanny who argued she was too mentally ill to be held responsible for stabbing two children to death at their New York home has been convicted.

Yoselyn Ortega, 55, could face life in prison upon sentencing. She was found guilty of first degree and second degree murder for the deaths of 6-year-old Lucia Krim and 2-year-old Leo Krim, whom she stabbed more than 30 times and five times respectively.

The father of the slain children, as well as several of the jurors, choked back tears following the verdict.

One juror David Curtis, told reporters they carefully weighed the defense's claim that Ortega was severely mentally ill and thus, not aware of her actions. Ultimately the guilty verdict wasn't one they came to "lightly or easily," he said.

"There were some raised voices and a lot of tears," he said. "When we balanced the testimony of the experts on both sides...we could not find a strongly credible proof that the defendant was not aware and able to recognize what was going on."

Prosecutors asserted Ortega was angry with her workload and had meticulously plotted her attack. She intended to commit suicide after she killed the Krim children, according to the New York Times. She'd packed a bag full of momentos for her teenage son to find, as well as a collection of valuable documents for her sister.

Ortega's defense attorney tried to make the argument she was severely mentally ill and psychotic. Her lawyer said Ortega was hearing voices urging her to kill the children, and thus not aware or in control of her actions.

On Oct. 25, 2012, Marina Krim returned home to find her two of her children massacred in the bathroom. Ortega also slashed herself in the throat in a botched suicide, according to prosecutors.

Following the conviction Wednesday, District Attorney Cy Vance extended his sympathies to the children's family.

"Today, a jury rightly held Yoselyn Ortega accountable for the horrific slayings of Leo and Lulu Krim, and I thank the members of that jury for their diligence throughout this incredibly difficult and heartbreaking trial," Vance said.

Ortega's attorney didn't return a request for comment.

Governor Cuomo Announces Executive Order to Restore Parolee Voting Rights

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:21:03 -0400

Up to now, those convicted of a felony in New York State had to serve out their sentence and finish parole before they could get their voting rights back. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is changing that.

Despite opposition from state Republicans, Cuomo said Wednesday that he'll grant conditional pardons to roughly 35,000 felons now on parole.

“I'm going to make it law by executive order and I announce that here today,” Cuomo told the audience at Reverend Al Sharpton's annual National Action Network conference in midtown Manhattan.

The executive order takes effect immediately. Going forward, it would require the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to send a monthly report to the governor’s office of people released from prison on parole. Each individual on the list will be reviewed to determine whether he or she will be granted a pardon to restore voting rights.

In his announcement, the governor stressed that the disenfranchisement of parolees disproportionately impacts people of color, and hinders their ability to reintegrate into society.

Advocates are applauding this step while urging Cuomo to do more to ensure that the executive order becomes permanent law. Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, and a leader of the Let NY Vote Coalition, said she will be watching to see how the order is implemented and what standards the governor’s office uses to determine which parolees are eligible for pardons.

She also warned that this is only a temporary solution. “An executive order could be repealed by the next governor or revised in some way. It’s not a permanent solution. Only a law is a permanent solution,” said Lerner.

Cuomo is up for reelection this year, and is gunning for a third term this fall. But the Democrat is facing a primary challenge from his left by actor Cynthia Nixon, and state Republicans are blasting the move as a craven appeal to shore up his progressive bona fides.

Senate Majority leader John Flanagan called it bad public policy that circumvented the state legislature. State GOP chair Ed Cox said the order was, "designed to appeal to radical primary voters and satisfy his presidential ambitions.” He added, “His liberal lunacy is destroying our state."

Governor Cuomo Announces Executive Order to Restore Parolee Voting Rights

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'It Smells Like Death': Alabama Town Endures NYC 'Poop Train'

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 08:53:22 -0400

A stinking trainload of human waste from New York City is stranded in a tiny Alabama town, spreading a stench like a giant backed-up toilet - and the "poop train" is just the latest example of the South being used as a dumping ground for other states' waste. In Parrish, Alabama, population 982, the sludge-hauling train cars have sat idle near the little league ball fields for more than two months, Mayor Heather Hall said. The smell is unbearable, especially around dusk after the atmosphere has become heated, she said. "Oh my goodness, it's just a nightmare here," she said. "It smells like rotting corpses, or carcasses. It smells like death." All kinds of waste have been dumped in Georgia, Alabama and other Southern states in recent years, including toxic coal ash from power plants around the nation. In South Carolina, a plan to store radioactive nuclear waste in a rural area prompted complaints that the state was being turned into a nuclear dump. In Parrish, townspeople are considering rescheduling children's softball games, or playing at fields in other communities to escape the stink. Sherleen Pike, who lives about a half-mile from the railroad track, said she sometimes dabs peppermint oil under her nose because the smell is so bad. "Would New York City like for us to send all our poop up there forever?" she said. "They don't want to dump it in their rivers, but I think each state should take care of their own waste." Alabama's inexpensive land and permissive zoning laws and a federal ban on dumping New Yorkers' excrement in the ocean got the poop train chugging, experts say. Nelson Brooke of the environmental group Black Warrior Riverkeeper, describes Alabama as "kind of an open-door, rubber-stamp permitting place" for landfill operators. "It's easy for them to zip into a rural or poor community and set up shop and start making a ton of cash," he said. The poop train's cargo is bound for the Big Sky landfill, about 20 miles east of Parrish. The landfill has been accepting the New York sewage sludge since early 2017. Previously, it was transferred from trains to trucks in nearby West Jefferson, but officials there obtained an injunction to keep the sludge out of their town. The sludge "smells of dead rotting animals as well as human waste," West Jefferson's attorney said in a lawsuit against Big Sky Environmental LLC. It also caused the community to become "infested with flies," the complaint states. After West Jefferson went to court, the train stopped in late January in Parrish, which lacks the zoning regulations to block the train cars. It's sat there ever since. "We're probably going to look at creating some simple zoning laws for the town of Parrish so we can be sure something like this does not happen again," the Parrish mayor said. Hall said she's optimistic the sludge will all be trucked to the landfill soon. New York City has discontinued shipping it to Alabama for the time being, said Eric Timbers, a city spokesman. Its waste, recovered from the sewage treatment process and often called "biosolids," has been sent out of state partly because the federal government in the late 1980s banned disposal in the Atlantic Ocean. In an earlier trash saga, a barge laden with 3,186 tons of non-toxic paper and commercial garbage from Long Island and New York City wandered the ocean for months in 1987, seeking a place to dump it after plans by a private developer to turn it into methane gas in North Carolina fell through. It was turned away by North Carolina, A[...]

Poetry Challenge: Showing Your Bodega Some Poetry-Month Love

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 08:48:08 -0400

It's Week Two of WNYC's poetry challenges, in honor of National Poetry Month. The prompt: Send us your best original poem about a bodega.

Read some listener submissions below, and get ready to submit your poems for your final challenge of the month: Write an original poem about spring.

Use the hashtag #NYcityverse to submit your entry.

Your Stir-Crazy, Waiting-for-Spring Coping Mechanisms

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Hundreds Rally in Herald Square to Protest Trump's Syrian Bombings

Sun, 15 Apr 2018 18:04:46 -0400

A coalition of antiwar groups rallied on Sunday to protest the Trump administration's most recent bombing of Syria, and to object to what it termed the increasing belligerence of American foreign policy.

The Defense Department said American-led airstrikes early Saturday crippled President Bashar al-Assad's ability to manufacture chemical weapons, which he has reportedly used on civilians. Aaron Jaffe, a professor of liberal arts at the Juilliard School, said he came to protest two things: "any domestic terrorism that Assad is visiting on his people," and the idea the military action was the way to lessen the suffering in Syria. 

"I know of no instance in which U.S. bombing actually was a humanitarian help," he said. "I think that if there was a serious interest in the plight of the Syrian people, we'd open up our borders and allow in Syrian refugees." Other protestors echoed Jaffe's dismay that the Trump administration has allowed only eleven Syrian refugees into the United States this year.


Speakers also decried heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, and the recent appointments of "war hawks" Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as National Security advisor.

Others had different reasons for objecting to the recent bombing. Teacher Nairouz Alkhativ, born near Damascus and now living in Allentown, Pennsylvania, described herself as a firm supporter of the Syrian government and its military. She contended that President Assad was "very, very humble. He likes his people. He likes to help." And she denounced Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime as terrorists.

Her political opposite could be found a few feet away in the form of Jim MacDonald of Flushing, who came to support the American-led bombing and the president who ordered it. Standing by himself and holding a sign that said, "Thank God for Trump," McDonald said he believed reports that Assad had used chemical weapons on his fellow Syrians, and that something needed to be done about it. "The United States could not stand there twiddling its thumbs with pictures of dead, gassed children on the screen," he said.

The rally concluded with a march to Trump Tower. Organizers said similar protests were held in cities around the country.

Hundreds Rally in Herald Square to Protest Trump's Syrian Bombings

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ICE Moves to Deport Egyptian Dissident Who Says He Faces Hanging Back Home

Sun, 15 Apr 2018 17:11:23 -0400

A New Jersey physics teacher who says he faces death by hanging in Egypt because he's a pro-democracy dissident is being held at an immigration detention center in New Jersey and may soon be deported.  "If they send me back to Egypt they will kill me and I will not see my wife and children again," said Ahmed Abdelbasit Mohammad, who goes by Ahmed Abdelbasit, in a scratchy phone interview on Sunday from Elizabeth Contract Detention Center. The 32-year-old father of three said that he was sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt, so if he's deported he will be taken from the airport, tortured and then hanged. "The Egyptian government will not wait one minute to kill me," he said. Abdelbasit was a physics professor and doctoral candidate at the University of Cairo, but he was fired in 2014 after working as an organizer and spokesperson for protesters who opposed the military coup that led to the election of the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.  Abdelbasit fled to Qatar, where he got another university job, but in 2016 he was tried in absentia on terrorism charges and sentenced to death in a military trial in Egypt that was analyzed and criticized by Human Rights Watch. The organization said the civilian defendants were denied due process and confessions were obtained under torture, including one man's allegation that Abdelbasit provided money to the leader of a terrorist cell.  So Abdelbasit sought refuge in the United States, arriving on a visitor visa in June 2016. He applied for asylum and the government gave him a work permit while his application was reviewed. That's when he began teaching physics at an Islamic school in Union City. But his application for asylum was denied. He said he had yet to be notified of that fact, however, when he was detained. Abdelbasit said in the interview that he was leaving his home in Jersey City on April 5th, headed to school, when eight or nine agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement approached him. He said only one agent was wearing clothing identifying himself as law enforcement. Abdelbasit was instructed to get his passport and then go with ICE to the privately run detention center in Elizabeth, NJ, where immigrants arrested in New York and New Jersey are often held. HuffPost first reported Abdelbasit's story.  "We don't know why he is being detained," said his lawyer, Anwen Hughes of Human Rights First. "He came to the United States legally, he applied for asylum while still in valid visitor's status, he had an asylum interview a year ago, and since then he had been going in person to the asylum office to follow up on the status of his case." Hughes said ICE agents gave Abdelbasit a document indicating he was being put into deportation proceedings because "his period of stay as a visitor had expired while his application for asylum was pending" -- a common occurrence given the backlog in asylum claims under review. Days after his arrest, though, a different explanation came in a notice that arrived at his house: He was detained on national security grounds. "But we don't know the factual basis for this," Hughes said. "He has been in this country for nearly two years, teaching high school, paying taxes, and trusting in the United States to protect him.  He would be killed if he were sent back to Egypt." A spokesman for ICE, Emilio Dabul, said that Abdelbasit was being held on "immigration violati[...]

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The Working Families Party Endorses Cynthia Nixon

Sun, 15 Apr 2018 12:00:00 -0400

It has been a dramatic few days for those following the gubernatorial race in New York State. Actor Cynthia Nixon gained an endorsement from a major third-party — but that same third party also lost two of its major backers. 

The Working Families Party was founded 20 years ago by labor unions and community organizations to co-endorse Democratic candidates and pull them further to the left. On Friday, two labor unions abruptly left the party: the Communications Workers of America and SEIU 32BJ.

Jimmy Vielkind, Albany Bureau Chief for Politico, join us to discuss the endorsement and the labor union response. Speaking with WNYC's David Furst, he said "A lot of this has to do with Governor Cuomo. He is closely aligned with these labor unions — including 32BJ and the Communications Workers of America. He made the case that he doesn't believe that they should be involved with a party that is working against him."


The Working Families Party Endorses Cynthia Nixon

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Review: 'Carousel' Is Luminescent, But Should It Still Be Revived?

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

It's hard to imagine a more radiant production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Carousel" than the one currently at Broadway's Imperial Theatre, mainly thanks to Santo Loquasto's sets: There's a luscious, golden moon; petals drift from summer trees; boats glide across a twinkling bay. 

And then there are the big voices: the opera star Renée Fleming sings "You'll Never Walk Alone"; Joshua Henry's ("The Scottsboro Boys") rich voice adds depth as the volatile carousel barker Billy Bigelow; and the usually wonderful Jessie Mueller ("Waitress") sings with a lovely, light fluidity as his love interest (and then spouse) Julie Jordan. The most arresting performance is from Lindsay Mendez, who plays Julie's spitfire of a friend, Carrie. Her pipes wring every comic nuance from every second she's on stage.

But the lush music and those romantic sets are at sharp odds with the story playing out on stage about a man who hits his wife. In this production, Billy is so angry and has so little charm that it's hard to imagine anyone falling for him, while Mueller's Jordan is mousy and retiring. It's a surprise to see her play a role like this, after her smart vulnerability brought down the house in "Waitress."

Clearly director Jack O'Brien is trying to make the piece more acceptable in our #MeToo moment: The women surrounding Julie all seem very skeptical of her relationship and Billy is barely portrayed sympathetically.

Most importantly, one of the most egregious lines in the musical is cut.

After being hit by a ghost Billy, Julie's teenage daughter asks if a slap can sometimes feel like a kiss. Julie originally responded, "Yes, darling, I believe that it is possible for somebody to hit you, good and hard, and for it not to hurt."

Here, instead, Julie gives her a look of understanding.

But it doesn't work. And maybe it doesn't work because "Carousel," despite the lovely music, just doesn't speak to the world we live in today. We no longer celebrate women who stand by their man while they're being abused, or romanticize those types of relationships.

That isn't to say that domestic abuse can't or shouldn't be portrayed on stage; of course it should. But it should be looked at with clear eyes, not through a lens smudged with glamour-shot Vaseline and dressed up with a dreamy full moon.

"Carousel" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, directed by Jack O'Brien, choreography by Justin Peck. Open run at the Imperial Theatre.


Review: 'Carousel' Is Luminescent, But Should It Still Be Revived?

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This Week in Politics: It's Getting Ugly Between NJ's Two Most Powerful Democrats

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

When New Jerseyans elected Phil Murphy governor last year, conventional wisdom held that it would usher in a new era of progressive government in the Garden State.

The prior eight years had seen repeated standoffs between Republican Governor Chris Christie and the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. But Murphy had campaigned as an unabashed progressive, promoting a millionaire's tax, recreational marijuana legalization and increased funding for schools and mass transit. 

Three months in, many of Murphy's priorities have failed to gain traction in the Statehouse. And as the governor's relationship with State Senate President Steve Sweeney continues to deteriorate, it's a question whether many ever will.

Matt Arco, politics reporter for The Star-Ledger and, joins us for a look at a relationship that has been rocky from day one and seems to have only only gotten more contentious.

This week, Sweeney announced he was holding up the nominations of Murphy's picks for education commissioner and higher education secretary, who are both black, over school funding. Asked for his reaction to the delay, Murphy spoke about the diversity of his cabinet nominees and said both individuals were black PhDs who deserved to be confirmed.

Sweeney says the problem is over school funding, not race. Then, he accused Murphy of using Trump-like tactics to brand him as a racist.

While both men blame media coverage for inflating the significance of any tension between them, Matt Arco says Sweeney's words speak volumes. Matt says, "Steve Sweeney comparing Phil Murphy's action to Donald Trump - that's a heck of a verbal jab there against the new governor."



This Week in Politics: It's Getting Ugly Between NJ's Two Most Powerful Democrats

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U.S., Allies Hit 3 Syrian Sites Linked To Chemical Weapons Program

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 21:02:00 -0400

Updated at 2:03 a.m. ET Saturday The U.S., Britain and France carried out airstrikes early Saturday against three sites in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack last week by President Bashar Assad's regime. "We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents," President Trump said in televised remarks from the White House. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford said the three countries called on warships and piloted aircraft to hit the sites linked to Syria's chemical weapons program. One site was a science research facility in Damascus, the Syrian capital, where residents said loud explosions rang out. The other two were storage facilities around Homs, a city to the north of Damascus. Residents in Damascus were caught off guard by the strikes, independent reporter Danny Makki told NPR, speaking from Damascus. "Everything over the previous 48 hours has indicated toward some sort of de-escalation, that the attacks might happen in the future. But for the attacks to happen in this way at this particular time — it's taken Damascus by surprise." Syrian state media said the country's "air defenses shot down 13 missiles south of Damascus," NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports from Beirut. Gen. Dunford said the attacks would substantially reduce Syria's ability to research, develop and use chemical weapons. There were no immediate reports on casualties or the extent of the damage. The Pentagon said it would provide a more detailed assessment on Saturday morning. The sites were chosen to minimize civilian loss of life and possible release of chemical agents, the Pentagon officials said. Mattis said the number of weapons used was about double those employed in a strike in April 2017. In that instance, 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired at a Syrian airbase in the western part of the country following a chemical attack blamed on Assad's forces. Mattis said he was not aware of any U.S. losses, and added, "Right now we have no additional attacks planned." The defense secretary said on Thursday that he favored a measure response aimed at chemical weapons facilities, and did not want the U.S. to become more deeply involved in a complicated, many-sided conflict. Dunford said the U.S. used its regular communication channels with the Russians to inform them about the U.S. aircraft, but did not warn the Russians about the targets. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Syria had used chemical weapons at least 50 times since the war broke out in 2011. The U.S. has about 2,000 troops in northeastern Syria, where they have partnered with Kurdish fighters to dismantle the Islamic State. With the extremist group largely defeated, the president says he supports the withdrawal of U.S. forces. "America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria," he said. "The United States will be a partner and a friend. But the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people." U.S. military officials have said they believe the American forces should remain a while longer to help stabilize the places where ISIS was pushed out. Trump, meanwhile, also addressed the governments of Iran and Russia, both of which support Assad. "I ask what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the [...]

Navigating Hookup Culture in the Digital Age

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 17:07:43 -0400

The #MeToo movement has made women's empowerment a national conversation, raising a rallying cry against sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace and on college campuses.

But creating a culture of satisfying sexual experiences for women is still a long way off, said Joanne Coles, author of the new book "Love Rules," which dives into the dating lives of women in the digital age.  

Coles said many women are increasingly having transactional and unfulfilling sexual relationships because of intense social pressure and a culture filled with alcohol and dating apps.

"It became clear that girls in particular felt under an enormous amount of pressure to have hookups they didn't really want to have," Coles told WNYC's Jami Floyd. "When I talk to women in their 20s and 30s, there was a sense of, 'We are not having the relationships we want.'"

Coles is the chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, and the former editor of chief of Cosmopolitan.

Navigating Hookup Culture in the Digital Age

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Uber, Lyft, Via Sue City Over Wheelchair Requirements

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:54:38 -0400

Ride Hailing app companies Uber, Lyft and Via banded together to sue the Taxi and Limousine Commission over mandatory wheelchair requirements.

In December, the Taxi and Limousine Commission passed a rule requiring every base, or company, to dispatch 25 percent of its trips in wheelchair-accessible vehicles by July 2023.

The lawsuit calls this rule "a well-intentioned but unreasonable rule." The companies argue it could cost $1 billion to comply, and that the 25 percent number is arbitrary and doesn't reflect the demand of riders.

“This lawsuit proves once and for all that Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies just don’t give a damn about providing equal access to New York’s wheelchair users," Dustin Jones, of United for Equal Access New York, wrote in a statement. “Uber and Lyft have sought to manipulate the disability community and elected officials by claiming they want to bring equitable transportation options to all New Yorkers – but they just want to keep discriminating against wheelchair users like me.  

The TLC is facing another lawsuit from black car livery companies claiming that the TLC is in violating the driver's civil rights by forcing them to comply with this rule.

“We applaud the city for its desire to provide wheelchair accessible service and are committed to working with the TLC to increase access to reliable service to New Yorkers in wheelchairs,” a spokesperson for Uber wrote in a statement.

"We haven't yet received the papers, but it will in no way dissuade the city from ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to the widest range of transportation options," said Kimberly Joyce, a spokesperson with the New York City law department.

Uber, Lyft, Via Sue City Over Wheelchair Requirements

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"We're Just Doing Our Jobs," says WNYC Caller Claiming to Be an Immigration Agent

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 12:35:47 -0400

As public defenders protest the state's court system for allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in their buildings, a woman claiming to be a New York City ICE agent took the rare step of speaking out. During a segment on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Friday, the caller described herself as "a staunch Democrat and a staunch liberal." She said she was uncomfortable giving her name, and sounded like she was close to tears when she started speaking. She said she disagreed with President Trump's crackdown on immigrants charged with, but not convicted of, crimes. "The ICE agents you talk about are people like me," she said. "I can't give up a 19-year federal career that I worked hard for because of this idiot in office right now. I can't do that to my family, to my kids, as much as I would like to." "Please understand that ICE agents, us — the lowest guys on the totem pole — are not always happy about having to do this," she continued. "This is awful for us, too." The woman said she didn't know of any formal quotas but acknowledged feeling more pressure to arrest people who were not considered priorities during the later years of the Obama administration. Immigrants without criminal records were often left alone then, but ICE now also arrests those charged with but not yet convicted of crimes. "We didn't even look at immigrants who were just illegal," the self-described agent told WNYC, of the years before Trump took office. "It wasn't even important." When host Brian Lehrer asked the caller what type of enforcement made her proud of her job, she said "interdiction with child exploitation." "We do a huge amount in arresting child predators, child pornographers, anything in that whole area of child exploitation," she explained. "I personally arrested people who I have done cases on who I know are child molesters. Anything that goes in across the border... So all that kind of illegal contraband, all that child porn that's something we get involved in. Human trafficking is a huge thing ICE does. We have victims who we've saved." The radio segment focused largely on recent protests by public defenders against the presence of ICE agents in city courts. Timothy Rountree, the attorney in charge of of Queens Legal Aid, defended the protests as necessary and denied any that clients were abandoned during the demonstrations, because he said there were dozens of other lawyers in his office who could cover the cases. But the Office of Court Administration (OCA) has called the actions disruptive and took the unprecedented step during Tuesday's protest of reassigning cases normally handled by Queens Legal Aid to private lawyers who represent the poor.  According to OCA, ICE agents have entered city courthouses 26 times since last year and made six arrests. They are required to notify judges of their presence, though Rountree said judges don't always tell the lawyers when agents are in the building. Public defenders and some politicians have called on the courts to require ICE to show proof of a warrant signed by a judge in order to enter courthouses. But the state's chief judge has said courts are public buildings. [...]"We're Just Doing Our Jobs," says WNYC Caller Claiming to Be an Immigration Agent

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Curved Escalators, Penthouse Elevators, Giant Wheels, and Other Sweet Ways New Yorkers Get Up and Down

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 09:07:04 -0400

If you thought elevators were sad little boxes where strangers go to avoid eye contact with each other, think again. Ferris Wheels, parachute jump rides, dumbwaiters and giant freight elevators are all included in New York City's survey of vertical transportation options. And, as you'd expect, the city isn't short on ways to move up and down.  There are 62,000 passenger elevators in the city, according to the Department of Buildings' new interactive project, Elevator Report 2017. The runner-up, Los Angeles, only has 25,000. Here are a few of our favorite examples of New York City's elevator supremacy—past, present and future. The Waterman Freight Elevator (Harper's Magazine/Google Books) Built in 1850, this open-air freight elevator moved supplies up and down in Henry Waterman's factory on Duane Street.   Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton's Penthouse Elevator  1107 5th Ave (Google Maps) In 1925, George Fuller built a private elevator for Ms. Hutton's triplex. It was the first of many private elevators to come in New York City.   Parachute Jump, Coney Island  (AP Photo) The Parachute Jump was originally built for the 1939 World's Fair, then moved to Coney Island in 1941. Thrill-seekers could ride up the jump, then simulate falling from 250 feet!   The Curved Escalator at Bloomberg Tower (Bloomberg/Facebook) The first curved escalator in North America, made by Mitsubishi, was installed at Bloomberg Tower in 2005.    The Moving Display Room That red box in there moves up and down. (Christopher Weaver/Flickr) The Sperone Westwater Gallery installed a moving display room in 2010.  [...]

Schools Chancellor Responds to Parent Concerns Around Safety and Segregation

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 08:04:16 -0400

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza spent the week touring schools and meeting with educators, students, and parents in all five boroughs. At a pizzeria in Staten Island, a few parents raised concerns around school safety. Melinda Viera is a parent who said she notes the clothing her first-grade daughter wears when she drops her off to school, so she can identify her in case of a school shooting. Viera told Carranza that the city's department of education hasn’t done enough to secure her daughter's elementary school. "When you have PTAs considering buying devices for locking the doors because our first grade doesn't have anywhere to hide but a corner, that's a problem," she said. Carranza told her that the NYPD is currently surveying schools to find ways to harden them against potential intruders, but he said he would balance safety concerns with racial targeting, so that schools in areas where there are high concentrations of black and Latino people don’t necessarily get higher security than those in other parts of the city. "We all know where the schools that look like prisons are gonna be, right?" he said. "We don't want to do that." A few parents mentioned that a fear of immigration raids keeps undocumented parents away from parent teacher association meetings. Carranza said he would consider issuing guidance to schools to tell parents that immigration enforcement is legally barred from schools without an arrest warrant. He also offered a personal commitment: "Over my dead body will I allow there to be an immigration raid in one of our schools." In an interview with WNYC following the meeting with parents and administrators, Carranza said that the issue of equity has come up more than any other in his first series of visits since he took office as schools chancellor earlier this month. He said parents have pointed not only to an achievement gap between white and Asian students on one hand and black and Latino students on the other, but also to a gap in resources along racial lines. He mentioned that a single test-based policy for admissions to the city’s elite specialized high schools grants entry to very few black and Latino students, but could only be changed through state policy. Carranza said he had begun to meet with legislators, but didn’t say if he raised the issue of specialized school enrollment. Carranza noted, however, that he has previously worked in school systems that developed different policies to close achievement gaps, and said, "I think the broader question is, why do we want to segregate our students?" That question pointed to a departure between Carranza and his predecessor Carmen Fariña, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio, both of whom who have preferred to use words like "diversity" and "inclusion" instead of "segregation" and "integration." Despite his word choice, Carranza said he would work, in large part, to advance the "Equity and Excellence" education agenda established by Fariña and de Blasio. Although he said at a press conference announcing his hiring in March that there would be "no daylight" between him and Mayor de Blasio, the incoming schools chancellor said he has already started to r[...]

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ICE Age in the Courts

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

By Clarissa Sosin and Kate Ryan Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have made 150 arrests in and around New York state courthouses since President Trump took office, their targets ranging from a traffic court in upstate Onondoga County to a family court in Brooklyn, according to records compiled by immigrant advocates. The vast bulk of these arrests have occurred in New York City, where federal agents have repeatedly clashed with public defense lawyers who have argued that seizure of their clients both disrupts due process and threatens public safety. The public defenders have held protests in Brooklyn and Queens this week, drawing criticism from court administrators for causing disruptions of their own. But Scott Hechinger, a lawyer for Brooklyn defenders, says the aggressive activity by ICE demands a response. “It's just been more brazen,” said Hechinger, prior to this week’s protests. “We're on edge as public defenders, as advocates, and I think our clients and their communities are as well.” Of ICE’s arrests in the city, the records show, almost half have taken place in Brooklyn, where a walkout by defense attorneys last fall was followed by a mass protest on the steps of Borough Hall. Despite those confrontations, the federal agency shows no signs of slowing down. Records given to the non-profit Immigrant Defense Project by lawyers and family members of detained individuals show that ICE officers made 20 arrests in January and February this year at courthouses in New York state, nine of them in Brooklyn. That is double the pace of arrests reported to IDP for the same two months last year. In 2016, IDP reported 11 arrests for the entire year. These reported arrests occurred inside the courthouse, just outside, or within a few blocks, said Lee Wang a senior staff attorney for IDP. “I think it's important for people to understand that even when an arrest happens outside of a courthouse, ICE agents are still going inside the courthouse to find and identify the people they're going after,” said Wang who focuses on the criminal justice system’s effect on immigrant families for IDP. The data shows that between January 2017, when Trump took office, and March 2018, ICE made 42 arrests in and just outside Brooklyn’s courts. The courthouse with the second highest number was Queens, where agents arrested 23 people, followed by Manhattan with 20 and the Bronx with 12. Just five arrests have been carried out in Staten Island. Outside the city, the most arrests have been in Suffolk, Westchester, Columbia, and Saratoga counties, where authorities have made six arrests in and around a courthouse in each county over the past 15 months. Records also show that the arrests spiked in June, when 23 people were detained at the state’s courthouses. Arrests of detainees in and around New York City courts, by borough, as reported to the non-profit Immigrant Defense Project. Kate Ryan   Arrests of detainees in and around New York City courts, by month, as reported to the non-profit Immigrant Defense Project. Kate Ryan   Arrests of detainees in and around New York City courts, by county, a[...]

Review: Learning Your Latina

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 04:00:00 -0400

The latest “ism” in the art world is revisionism. So many museums are trying to correct the mistakes of the past. By mistakes I mean historical oversights, the near-oblivion that has settled over countless artists who deserve better. Many of them are female and live outside the art capitals. Many are from Latin America. Among New York museums, the re-appraisal of Latin American women artists began in earnest just a few years ago. The two Brazilian Lygias — Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape — have had well-received museum retrospectives, as has Carmen Herrara, a Cuban-American whose geometric abstractions looked radiant at the Whitney last year. The latest effort in this direction is “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985,” a big, important show at the Brooklyn Museum. Although it is driven by a sense of social urgency, it is wonderfully engaging and free of didacticism. It brings together the work of about 120 artists, most of whom are deservedly well-established in their native countries but virtually unknown here. Naturally, a show of this size and scope — 15 countries are represented — runs the risk of ignoring differences in the interest of thematic coherence. But fortunately, the show avoids such oversimplifications and lets every artist be her own story. They come from entirely different worlds. Some grew up in dictatorships, among tales of torture and the disappeared, while others live in democracies. Sylvia Palacios Whitman, for one, is a Chilean-American who has been a figure on the New York art scene since the 1970s. Her historic performance piece, “Passing Through,” involves a pair of comically humongous green gloves. She will be performing the piece at the museum on Saturday, April 14, at 4 pm, as part of the opening-day festivities. Interestingly, the show’s curators note in the catalogue that most of the women in the show do not consider themselves feminists. They look upon the feminist movement of the ‘70s as a vaguely frivolous American pastime that is roughly equivalent to bridge games and reading groups. Nonetheless, most of the work in the show, which encompasses everything from assemblage to oil-on-canvas to photography and video, is feminist by American standards. Its main subject is the female body in states ranging from victimization to uninhibited sensual pleasure. Those opposites co-exist in Delia Cancela’s “Destroyed Heart,” which brings you Pop art Argentinian-style. The painting features a big red heart flat against a tan ground, its lower left quadrant eaten away and consisting only of a scalloped edge. The missing parts hang below the canvas like so much meat on hooks. At the other extreme, some of the work in the show proves that conceptual art can be wonderfully warm and clever. Liliana Porter, an Argentinian artist based in New York, contributes some of the best work here. One piece consists of a black-and-white photograph of a woman’s left hand. The artist has drawn on top of it, adding a straight pencil line that extends from the photograph and crosses over the frame and winds up on the walls of the gallery. It wittil[...]

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After Police Shooting, Dueling Narratives About Victim

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 19:22:14 -0400

Family members of Saheed Vassell, the mentally ill man killed by police in Crown Heights last week, held a rally with supporters on the steps of City Hall on Thursday. They said they were gathered in part to add nuance and humanity to the portrait of Vassell that has emerged since his violent death — the ninth time police have killed an emotionally disturbed person since 2015. 

Edited store surveillance videos released by the NYPD show the 34-year-old black man pointing a metal pipe that could be confused for a gun at passersby. The NYPD put out a second video, days later, that shows the officers firing as they walk toward him. But the camera is too far away to reveal details about how the confrontation unfolded, and whether the officers shot without warning.

At the rally, activist Anthonine Pierre questioned the NYPD's intent in releasing only part of the videos. "The NYPD has been engaging in a non-stop p.r. campaign to justify the officers' actions," she said. Pierre then called for the release of the raw footage, along with the names of the four officers who fired nine shots into Vassell, and details about whether they have had any prior disciplinary actions.

The NYPD has not released the names of the officers, and did not immediately respond to a request for them by WNYC. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said police personnel records, including information about any prior disciplinary actions, are confidential.

An NYPD spokesman said none of the officers who responded to the scene were wearing body cameras. The department is in the process of giving the cameras to the 71st precinct, where the shooting occurred, so not all patrol officers have them. In any event, most of the officers who responded were not connected to the precinct. The mayor and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill have said they are committed to releasing video of fatal police shootings, but there is no clear policy about when that should happen or how much of the footage should be shown.

The protestors insisted there was more to Saheed Vassell than the shorthand portrayal of him as a bipolar homeless man roaming the street without medication. "When we talk about Saheed, we're talking about someone the community loves so much," said Pierre. "We're talking about someone who's well known as a person, who would run errands for people in the neighborhood, who would help anyone."

After Police Shooting, Dueling Narratives About Victim

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