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The latest articles from WNYC News

Last Build Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2017 05:14:28 -0400


Happy 90th Birthday to the Cyclone at Coney Island!

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 05:14:28 -0400

June marks the 90th anniversary of a New York City landmark: the famous wooden Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island.

But at WNYC, it also marks the 20th anniversary of the time Richard Hake reported a story on the 70th anniversary of the Cyclone. (Whoa. Stay with us.)

Shumita Basu unearths Richard's tape from the archives, and with a little sleuthing and a lot of luck, tracks down the main character from his original story: Gerry Menditto, who worked as the Cyclone's operations manager for 35 years. Menditto has since retired from the park; at 73 years old, he now parks cars at Gargiulo's restaurant.


Menditto shares how a two-week gig to fix up the Cyclone turned into his 35-year stint as the chief operator. And he reveals that he has never - not even once - ridden the Cyclone.

"I climbed every inch of that ride," said Menditto, explaining that he once worked as a steel worker in Manhattan. "I'm not afraid of heights. I just don't like that drop."

Operating the ride also took a toll on his hearing. Every day, Menditto was exposed to the clicking and squealing of the ride, and its screaming passengers. But listening was vital to his work; if anything sounded "off," he'd stop the ride and inspect it.

Menditto has been in Coney Island all his life. And since he lived - and still lives - so close to the park, those sounds have always followed him.

"Every July fourth, I lay in bed, and that’s all I heard: people yelling and click-click-click," said Menditto, referring to the clicking of the coaster's ratchet as the cars climb the first hill. "You don't get a good night's sleep until the sixth or seventh of July!"

Happy 90th Birthday to the Cyclone at Coney Island!

Media Files:

Loophole Jeopardizes Protections of Rent-Stabilized Units

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

On Tuesday, June 27, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board will vote on how much landlords can increase rents for rent-stabilized apartments across the city. Last year, the board froze rents for one-year leases and allowed for a 2-percent increase for two-year leases. 

Meanwhile, an investigation by ProPublica found that landlords for some of these protected units have found a way to raise rents by far more than is allowed, thanks to a loophole in the law. ProPublica mapped by zip code where these buildings are located. One of the highest by percentage is in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx where about 43 percent of tenants pay a preferential rent.

Cezary Podkul has been reporting about how landlords circumvent tenant protections as part of the series "The Rent Racket." In an interview with WNYC's Richard Hake, he explained how landlords are taking advantage of the loophole, and what that means for renters throughout the city.

Loophole Jeopardizes Protections of Rent-Stabilized Units

Media Files:

Who's Really Affected by the Supreme Court's Travel Ban Ruling

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

The Supreme Court ruling on Monday upholds the president's 90-day travel ban on people from six mostly Muslim countries — but with limits. It allows foreign nationals to come here, as long as they have a "bona fide relationship" with a person or entity in the United States.

That means students, employees and family members shouldn't be turned away. Nor will refugees connected with U.S. aid organizations. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's immigrants' rights project, said there's not much left of Trump's original executive order.

"It really is not, I think at all, the broad ban that the President has been seeking to impose," he stated.

The ACLU represented plaintiffs in the Maryland case, in which a federal court struck down the President's travel ban.

Jadwat said the ban now only applies to tourists, and there aren't a lot of those coming from Yemen, Somalia or Syria.

But that depends on how it's carried out. Specifically, how you define a person's bona fide relationship with their contact in the U.S.

"The Supreme Court in hearing this has essentially created a brand-new legal category," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "And we have days, if not hours, to try to figure out exactly what that means."

President Trump said the new partial travel ban would take effect 72 hours after the Supreme Court's ruling. Choi is worried that consulates and Customs and Border Protection agents at airports, like JFK, may not know how to interpret the ruling. That's why Choi and other groups are disappointed that the Supreme Court didn't strike down the ban.

"This is breathing new life into the Muslim refugee ban that we thought was dead," he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed. "Let’s call this what it is — this is a Muslim ban, and it inherently violates the values of this country," he said, in a statement.

Meanwhile, supporters of the President's attempt to limit travel from the six countries were enthusiastic about the high court's ruling. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called it a "major blow to anti-Trump activist judges on the lower courts" and a big victory for "our nation’s security, President Trump, and the rule of the law."

Choi said he's watching to see what kind of guidance homeland security gives federal agents. Meanwhile, the Immigration Coalition has created a hotline travelers can call with concerns starting Thursday, at 844-326-4940. Travelers can also email

Several legal groups said they'll help people at JFK airport if they need to, just as they did before several federal courts struck down the President's initial travel ban.

Who's Really Affected by the Supreme Court's Travel Ban Ruling

Media Files:

Biking + Pollution = ?

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

WNYC is partnering with Columbia University to recruit bike commuters for a study on air quality and cardiovascular health. Sign-up by clicking here. In the early 1900s, the air in a city like New York was so bad you could measure the pollution by just catching the soot from the sky. But we didn’t really know what the soot did to us. “There isn't a whole lot of hard evidence other than the fact that when people died who lived in cities, their lungs were often terribly blackened,” says David Stradling, the author of Smokestacks and Progressives, a book on the history of air quality.  As the technology to measure air quality got better, researchers noticed relationships between the pollution in a particular city and the rates of heart and lung disease — and even deaths — of its residents. Studies on those correlations eventually led to the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, as well as other regulations. A cloud of smog covered New York City for a few days around Thanksgiving in 1966 and resulted in about 20 deaths. (John Duricka/AP Photo) But the science was based on average pollution levels for entire cities, not what specific people were exposed to. “[Scientists] would use data from large central site monitors that might be the size of a van,” says Darby Jack from the Department of Environmental Health Science at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, “and might cost you a couple hundred thousand dollars.” Take a deep breath Air quality monitors are now smaller and much cheaper. But to track the direct health effects from pollution, you need to know more than just concentration rates. “You’re missing out on another factor,” observes Steve Chillrud, an environmental chemist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, “which is how much air you’re breathing into your lungs.” Partnering with WNYC — and our former health reporter Fred Mogul — Chillrud and Jack came up with the Biking and Breathing project, to measure people’s actual intake, or dosage, of pollution, particularly when they bike every day close to a pollution source, like traffic. One person who heard WNYC’s call for participants was Jason Alosio, who was working at the Bronx Zoo and commuting by bike from his home in Bushwick. When he took part in the study, Jason Alosio commuted over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to get to his job at the Bronx Zoo. (Elaine Chen) For a few days, Jason wore a spandex biometric shirt, a blood pressure cuff, and two air quality monitors that tracked PM 2.5 — particulate matter or dirt, soot or anything in the air that’s 2.5 micrometers or less. The shirt tracked how much Jason’s chest expanded as he breathed in to estimate the volume of air he was inhaling. Along with data from the air monitors, the researchers could calculate Jason’s dose of pollution at different points along his route. Jack and Chillrud’s team found that one of the worst spots on Jason’s commute was the middle of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. First, there is all the exhaust from the idling traffic on the bridge — then, add to that, Jason’s deeper breathing as he bikes up the hill to the middle of the bridge, which exacerbates the effects of that pollution. Oddly enough, because it he get to look over the East River, Manhattan and Queens, the bridge was actually Jason’s favorite spot on his route. “You know if New York City was ever getting me down,” says Jason “stopping on the top and seeing that beautiful view on the top of Queensboro Bridge, especially sunrise, was always kind of a moment.” How bad is bad? The EPA doesn’t have standards for how much particulate matter is okay to you should breathe in; they only set limits on pollution for the air around you. But if we assumed an average person breathed in the maximum amount allowed by the EPA, the cyclists from the Columbia study breathed in much more pollution during their commutes: about 2.5 times above this modified EP[...]Biking + Pollution = ?

Media Files:

Why Shouldn't the Babadook Be a Queer Icon?

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

It started, as many dumb internet things do, as a Tumblr post. Or, at least, that's how the legend goes.

One user posted an innocuous and somewhat absurd observation that the Babadook, the main character in the 2014 Australian psychological horror flick, is gay. And the post touched a nerve.

To send out a Silver Alert, the police first contact the city's Office of Emergency Management to provide them with a physical description of the missing senior along with a photo, a list of medical concerns and the location where they were last seen. OEM turns the information into a Silver Alert that is then tweeted, posted to Facebook and emailed or texted to subscribers of its Notify NYC public safety program. (Sign up here.) Over the last three years, the Office of Emergency Management has sent out an average of 155 Silver Alerts per year — significantly higher than the 21 alerts of 2010, the program's first year of operation.

Captain Wren claimed that the vast majority of Silver Alerts result in the person being found. The statement couldn't be independently verified because the NYPD seldom lets the public know about the outcome of cases, and declined to provide that information on request. Jed Levine of CaringKind said his organization doesn't hear about every case from NYPD but, of those he knows about from this year, all had ended well.

WNYC crunched the numbers on 45 Silver Alerts in 2017 and noticed some patterns. Twenty-five of those seniors were last seen in Brooklyn, and 20 of the alerts were for African Americans, the group most likely to go missing. Hispanics were second with 14 alerts. There is an underlying basis for such results: African American seniors are twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer's Disease as whites. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely.

At the same time, the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics among the city's elderly population is on the rise. Add those factors to the graying of New York in general and you wind up with the likelihood that the problem of missing seniors is likely to grow worse.

NYPD now offers tips for friends and family of a senior who might be at risk of going missing in the city, among them:

  • Keep a recent photo of the senior. (A youthful wedding picture won't be very helpful.)
  • Make a note of the clothes they are wearing each day, to give an accurate description to the police.
  • Write down the senior's Metrocard number. The police can track them if they take mass transit.
  • Have them wear a Medic Alert bracelet with vital information: name, address, medical issues, emergency contact.
'It Was the Scariest Night of My Life': When Seniors Go Missing in New York

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As Powerful Women Gain Recognition, So Do the Men Who Interrupt Them

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 06:33:55 -0400

At the World Science Festival a few weeks ago, Dr. Veronika Hubeny, a theoretical physicist at UC Davis, was speaking on a panel called "Pondering the Imponderables" (if I ever get my own NPR show, that’s clearly what it’ll be called).

Dr. Hubeny was the only woman on the panel, which isn't uncommon. And the male moderator kept speaking over her and explaining her work to her, which also isn't uncommon.

Then, an audience member stood up and told the moderator to cut it out. Headlines like, "A Mansplaining World Science Festival Host Wouldn't Stop Talking Over His One Female Panelist," ensued. Which is what happened. But Hubeny sees it a little differently.

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"I think it’s very dangerous, if somebody says, 'oh my gosh this was so horrible, so sexist, it exemplifies all the wrongs happening to women,'" says Hubeny. "It’s like crying wolf, because I didn’t feel like a victim."

Hubeny says the moderator was acting similarly with the other panelists, so she didn't feel targeted for her gender. He later apologized to her via email. "The same situation can be perceived in vastly different ways by different people," explains Hubeny.

Another woman who's dealt with this: New York Public Radio's CEO, Laura Walker. She says recently, on a panel, she finally spoke up herself after a male co-panelist kept stealing her questions and speaking over her.

"As I’ve grown older and gotten more confident I both let some things go, and I pick my battles," says Walker. "My hypothesis is that now is the time to talk about it. People are more aware of those dynamics, and are going to speak out."

As Powerful Women Gain Recognition, So Do the Men Who Interrupt Them

Media Files:

When the School Building Itself Is a Barrier to Equal Education

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

Emma Albert, 14, has never entered her school through the front door.  

The eighth grader has a vascular malformation on her left leg, which means that since the first grade she used a wheelchair though she could switch to crutches for short distances. And it means that she could access only the areas of her school that were wheelchair accessible. So, each morning she entered The Manhattan School for Children through a side entrance. 

When it came time to apply to high school, she lamented that her search was driven more by accessibility than school offerings. 

"They don’t really care about, 'What are your interests outside of school?' It’s like, as long as it’s accessible, it’s a good school for you," she said.

Emma and other students spoke at a recent panel on school accessibility, organized by the ARISE Coalition and Parents for Inclusive Education. 

"Some schools are completely accessible; most are not," said Abey Weitzman, 13, who uses a wheelchair full-time. "It is a shame that in a city that houses one of the largest financial systems in the world, I can't get in the school across the street from my house."

Fully accessible school buildings are scarce in New York City. About 17 percent of schools (less than 6 percent of school buildings) are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as noted in a scathing report by the U.S. Justice Department in December 2015. These are schools that are accessible to someone in a wheelchair, with ramps, elevators and adequately-sized bathroom stalls. Doors do not require too much force to open; there is adequate signage; and office counters are not too high.

Starting in the fall, Emma will attend The Beacon School where she will be able to enter the front door each day, along with everyone else. 

"I really wanted to go to a fully accessible school so I could experience everything," she said.

Many other schools are considered "partially accessible," meaning students could perhaps get to their main classes but not access the library, gym or auditorium. 

Accessibility issues do not just limit students' access, but also impact school staff and parents who may have physical disabilities, along with members of the general public who rely on schools as polling sites and emergency shelters.

New York City education officials said they were working to improve school accessibility, taking significant steps in the past year alone, said Michael Aciman, an education department spokesman.

"We’ve made substantial investments to upgrade facilities, hire new staff and increase information around accessibility and we continue to engage families and communities on this critical work," said Aciman in a statement.

Since 2016, the city hired six "accessibility coordinators," who manage accessibility projects. It allocated $60 million for bathroom renovations, and another $100 million in the capital plan for building upgrades in order to make schools either fully accessible or nearly so, given some structural limitations with old buildings. Advocates, however, pointed out that the funding covered improvements at only 17 schools over five years. 

The city last week launched a building survey to gather specific information on the accessibility of all middle and high schools, including room by room accessibility. Aciman said the city aimed to make this detailed information available to students applying to middle school and high school next year.

To hear from more students on this issue, click the audio player.


When the School Building Itself Is a Barrier to Equal Education

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This NYC Student Is Earning a Top High School Diploma

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

There are three different categories of high school diplomas offered to graduating students in New York State: a regular diploma called the “Regents,” a “Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation,” and a “Local Diploma,” which is an option for some students with disabilities.

Although Haby Sondo, 18, is earning the top diploma she said it didn't mean that much to her. 

“I don’t feel like a Regents in general holds any value,” Sondo said. “It’s pretty easy to get above a 65 on all of them.”

To graduate with the advanced designation, students have to score 65 or higher on three math exams instead of just one for the regular regents; score at least a 65 on two science exams instead of one, and take more language classes other than English.

In 2014, the New York State School Boards Association said less than a third of graduates earn an advanced diploma.

There’s not much incentive to take the extra classes and tests. It doesn’t guarantee students anything and schools outside New York don’t know what the special diploma means. 

Sondo commuted from the South Bronx to attend the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in Spanish Harlem. It’s an academically selective school, but not one of the most competitive. And Sondo said she wasn’t always challenged. 

“It’s honestly not that difficult. All you have to do is just read chapter textbooks and then answer questions there, write down classroom notes, watch videos,” she said. “It feels like middle school part two.”

Sondo relied on the high school directory to choose her top choices for high schools. She knew she wanted to get away from the South Bronx and from the metal detectors at her old school. In the end, she said the directory failed her.

“A lot of the stuff in the guidebook are really deceiving,” she said. “Like they try to make a school seem like something it’s not.”

She was 12 years old at the time and, like a lot of New York City kids, she managed the process on her own.

“My parents, they don’t know how to read or write so I kind of feel like I’ve had to navigate my educational system by myself,” she said. Her parents came to New York from the West African country Burkina Faso.

So now, this A student is off to Boston University. She admitted she’s a little scared.

“I know for sure that my A's are not the same as A's in people from other schools,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m going to be on the same level as students who went to academically challenging high schools.”

This NYC Student Is Earning a Top High School Diploma

Media Files:

Two Days Left, and Still No Vote on Who Will Control NYC Schools

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 18:58:57 -0400

With only two days to go in the state legislative session, the question of who will control the city's public schools remains unresolved.

Unless Albany lawmakers vote on the issue by the end of the session, Mayor Bill de Blasio's control over city schools.

WNYC reporter Fred Mogul said if they don't, it won't be the first time. When state lawmakers allowed mayoral control to lapse in the summer of 2009, they called a special session before the start of the school year, and renewed it.

"That's how it might play out this year," said Mogul. "Leave town on Wednesday, come back later to fix it."

Two Days Left, and Still No Vote on Who Will Control NYC Schools

Media Files:

CUNY Hotline for Immigrants Adds More Volunteers to Meet Demand

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 17:14:03 -0400

The volunteers started taking their first calls Monday morning at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Midtown. They filled two classrooms, sitting in rows wearing headsets and flipping the pages of spiral notebooks whenever they needed an answer to a difficult question.

"A lot of questions are about naturalization, people who have been here for a while and want to be naturalized," said Shavit Yarden, a volunteer supervisor.

This is the 15th year of the CUNY Citizenship Now call-in center, which is sponsored by the New York Daily News. Organizers anticipated more interest than usual due to President Trump's immigration policies. They have 80 people answering calls Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., almost double the usual number. To fill those seats each day, they've signed up 600 volunteers who speak 59 languages.

Allan Wernick, a Baruch College College professor who is director of CUNY Citizenship Now, said it was easy to get the help.

"Because this whole thing that's happened in the country today, it's really pushed people to want to help immigrants," he explained. "It's clear that immigrants' rights is the civil rights issue of this period."

Volunteers are trained to answer questions and refer people to immigration law providers close to their ZIP codes. They can also help callers get information about waivers for the $725 citizenship application fee.

Kriscia Vigil, who works for a youth ministry, said most of the Spanish-language calls she received were about how to become a citizen. "People for a long time, they never bothered to become citizens. They see now they have to do it," she said, because it's the best way to avoid deportation.

It might seem surprising that so many people have questions about how to become a citizen in an age where information is available on government websites. But experts said there is nothing that straightforward about immigration because every individual's case is unique.

Diego Gomez Pickering, the Mexican consul general for New York, estimates 300,000 Mexican nationals in the New York Metro area could become dual citizens. But he said they don't for various reasons, "including language barriers, including not good knowledge of the very intricate immigration system that no one knows how to navigate," and not being able to afford the application fee.

He said there are also fears stoked by false rumors of immigration agents lurking in neighborhoods or "fake news" on various websites. This is why he said a confidential call center run by CUNY has such demand.

Last year, more than 13,000 people called CUNY Citizenship Now. The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and Ecuador were among the most represented countries. Three quarters of all callers were from New York City.

The Citizenship Now program only schedules the hotline for a week each year. But the program provides other services in communities year-round. Organizers expect to help up to 500 people apply for citizenship in person with legal assistance on July 15th.

CUNY Hotline for Immigrants Adds More Volunteers to Meet Demand

Media Files:

Schumer, Democrats Play Hardball to Delay Republican Health Care Bill

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 16:59:57 -0400

Democrats want to bring work in the Senate to a halt — a last-ditch effort to oppose a health care bill Republicans are writing behind closed doors.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that Democrats will "withhold consent," a tactic that could force Republicans to wait days in between votes on bills and amendments. Senators normally agree to skip those waiting periods, but just one member of the chamber can object and slow Senate work to a crawl.

Schumer, the senior senator from New York, says the unusual move is necessary because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to vote on the Senate version to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the next two weeks.

The public, and most Senators, don’t know what’s in the bill. And no hearings are planned.

“This radical departure from normal procedure, on a bill of such consequence," Schumer said on the Senate floor, "leaves the Senate minority little choice but to depart from normal procedure as well."

Liberal activists have been urging Schumer and other Senate Democrats to adopt the last-ditch strategy for weeks. Schumer initially refused, but Senate Democrats said they've grown more frustrated as Republicans have continued to keep details of their bill secret.

"The time calls for hardball procedural maneuvers, and withholding consent is a great step in the right direction," said Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, which advises more than 5,800 anti-Trump groups across the country. "We've been calling on Senate Democrats to start showing this is as big a deal as it is." 

McConnell has defended the Republicans' process, but some GOP Senators, such as Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, have complained about the secrecy.

Democrats hope they can delay the vote on the bill until after the week-long July 4th break and give themselves more time to build opposition against the Republican plan.

Schumer, Democrats Play Hardball to Delay Republican Health Care Bill

Media Files:

Trump's FBI Pick Billed Taxpayers $2 Million As Christie's Bridgegate Lawyer

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:05:33 -0400

President Trump's pick to be the next FBI director, Christopher Wray, billed New Jersey taxpayers more than $2.1 million in legal charges and expenses while representing Gov. Chris Christie as his personal attorney before during and after the Bridgegate trial. It is unclear what Wray and an extensive team from his firm, King & Spalding LLP, was doing for Christie — the bills provided to WNYC from the state Attorney General's Office are heavily redacted, and Wray has never spoken publicly about his role. Christie was never charged by federal prosecutors in the lane-closing scandal, and he has long maintained his innocence while refraining from getting into details about how the conspiracy took hold within his administration. The public did not even know that Wray was working for the governor until nearly two years into his work, when Christie's spokesman said a cell phone that the governor used during Bridgegate was in Wray's possession. Two former Christie aides who were indicted and ultimately convicted had unsuccessfully sought to subpoena the phone to use as part of their defense. Instead of Wray, it was Christie's other lawyer, Randy Mastro of the Gibson Dunn firm, who was the public face of the defense as the lead attorney for the governor's office. Mastro's bill for legal and digital forensics work amounted to more than $11 million. Since the public is also responsible for paying for the lawyers of other government employees who were not convicted, plus the legal staff of the Democratic legislature's investigative committee, Bridgegate legal bills now exceed $15 million.  But while Mastro's legal bills faced scrutiny from the media and Democrats in New Jersey, Wray was quietly expensing taxi fare, parking, meals and even plane trips — 10 of them, totaling more than $14,000. He also billed $340 an hour. Legal work ramped up during the Bridgegate trial last fall, reaching about $300,000. Christie was never called to testify, and his team did not submit legal briefs to the court. But Wray continued to bill the state, charging $1,963.40 for a plane flight after the trial ended and for legal expenses until at least April 25, a month after defendants Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni were sentenced to 18 months and two years in prison, respectively. Both are appealing, and a third conspirator, David Wildstein, is awaiting a sentencing next month. Wray's role as Christie's attorney has been shrouded in secrecy. When Christie's spokesman Brian Murray revealed Wray's identity last summer, Murray refused to say whether taxpayers were paying his bills. After Trump announced Wray as his pick to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, The Asbury Park Press reported that taxpayers were paying for Wray. That prompted WNYC to file a public records request to the Attorney General's Office seeking the bills, which by law are supposed to be provided immediately. The documents were instead provided more than a week later, after 11 p.m. last Friday.  Wray, Mastro and their respective colleagues are not Christie's only Bridgegate attorneys. Craig Carpenito was paid $150-an-hour by taxpayers to defend Christie from a related criminal complaint; Carpenito is now reportedly Christie's recommended pick to be Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. Christie also counted on publicly-funded legal counsel in the Bridgegate aftermath from Chris Porrino, who was then the governor's counsel and is now the state's Attorney General.  Christie hasn't said whether he recommended Wray for the FBI job. But Christie remains close with the president and he has publicly endorsed the pick, saying he and Wray worked together when Christie was U.S. Attorney and Wray was an official at the Justice Department. And, Christie said, "wh[...]

Media Files:

Is Cardinal Tobin's Outreach to LGBT Catholics About More Than Optics?

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 07:23:37 -0400

The Catholic Church hasn't changed its doctrine on LGBT issues—it still regards homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered."

But Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the new leader of Newark's Archdiocese, made headlines recently for inviting gay and lesbian Catholics from across New York and New Jersey to attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Does this self-styled "LGBT Pilgrimage" signal a broader shift in the Church's approach to gay congregants, or is this mostly about optics?

"It's been 50 years since the Vatican reoriented the Church's relationship with the world," says Christopher Bellitto, a history professor at Kean University who specializes in church history and contemporary Catholicism. "It wanted to be more welcoming, and it swung to the left in the 70s. Then it swung to the right in the 80s and 90s.

"Now, Pope Francis and Cardinal Tobin represent a synthesizing moment where, yes, we want to keep doctrine. But by the same token, we want to open our doors and not close them."

Bellitto spoke with WNYC's Kerry Nolan about the history of Catholic outreach to the LGBT community and how Cardinal Tobin's recent actions reflect on Pope Francis.

Is Cardinal Tobin's Outreach to LGBT Catholics About More Than Optics?

Media Files:

How Mayor de Blasio Studies Up Before a Town Hall

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold his 27th Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, hosted by City Council member Margaret Chin on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. To understand just what goes into preparing for hours of questions from the public, WNYC joined the mayor and his team at City Hall before his last Town Hall, in Karen Koslowtiz’s City Council district in Queens. Two days before the main event, a group of 35 agency leaders and uniformed personnel sat around a rectangle of tables in the blue room at City Hall, waiting for the mayor. Some of the assembled team traveled from their offices in Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills for the occasion. Bill de Blasio arrived about 45 minutes late —his aides said he was dealing with a budget emergency. The town hall setting requires the mayor be on his toes — pivoting from his views on the Trump administration to his understanding of local traffic patterns. The prep session is all about getting into the weeds — helping the mayor square facts and talking points before he’s on the hot seat. His team prepared a 47-page briefing book packed with data about the district (which everyone must return at the end of the meeting). School overcrowding is an ongoing issue, with a scarce number of high school seats. The local district’s graduation rate is 89.4 percent, nearly 17 points above the city average. That prompted the mayor to ask a question. Mayor de Blasio prepares for Town Hall meeting with team at City Hall two days before the meeting. (Brigid Bergin/WNYC) "You are still comfortable with that bottom-line?" the mayor said to Deputy Schools Chancellor Elizabeth Rose. "You are still open to creating additional high school seats if we can find the right location?" Rose said she was — "if the community would like to suggest locations. Our biggest challenge with high schools is that communities don’t want them." "Some don’t," de Blasio said. "Some do." "We’re not aware of anywhere saying, ‘yes, give us more high school seats’," Rose said. "Yes, it’s good to say to people, ‘help us find the location,’" de Blasio said. De Blasio doesn’t hesitate to challenge his team in this setting, especially if he doesn’t like their answers. The mayor asked Deputy Police Commissioner Robert Ramos of the 112th precinct whether he sends officers to an intersection left without a crossing guard after the woman who worked there died of cancer. "Not consistently," Ramos said. "Ok, I’d like to tighten that up," de Blasio replied. "We're only talking about two weeks, a little more, of school." The team also preps the mayor for the district’s hottest issues. In this section of Queens, there’s an ongoing debate over the future of 3.5 miles of unused railroad track. Those that want to convert to a park call it the "Queensway." Others, who want it to be used as a commuter rail, call it the "Queensrail." The city and the MTA are both studying the options. "So this one we are just being straight up," de Blasio confirmed with the team. "We’re giving it serious consideration but we have to get all of the facts particularly costs and logistics before we can make a final decision." As it turned out, the mayor was asked repeatedly about it at the Town Hall. Peter Beadle from Community Board 6 crafted his Queensway pitch by telling the mayor that a bike path through the park could help him meet the city’s emission reduction goals. He even made a reference to the Paris climate agreement. "Well-crafted question, sir," replied the mayor before giving an answer straight from his briefing book. "I will come back publicly with an assessment of the different options, the costs, and then we will move to a decision," d[...]

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Using Digital Games — And Empathy — As Teaching Tools

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

Dr. Matt Farber, a social studies teacher at Valleyview Middle School in Denville, New Jersey, uses digital games in the classroom as a way to take his kids on impossible field trips, to back-in-time revolutions or to current, far away conflicts. Dr. Matt Farber explains the role of empathy in game design to his middle school students. (Shumita Basu/WNYC) But his 11- and 12-year-old students aren't expected to simply click their way through multiple choice questions. These games are engaging and narrative-driven, rooted in facts and primary sources, and often based on a series of the player's decisions. The main driver behind them is empathy. "Attaching an emotion to an event is very powerful," said Farber, who cites the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and other research on empathy. "It helps make the experience meaningful." After the November election, Farber tossed his usual lesson plans and decided to dive deep on immigration issues with his sixth graders. So he introduced them to The Migrant Trail, a present-day, first-person game about crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. First, you play as a migrant trying to cross without getting caught. Then, you play as a border patrol agent. Screenshot from "The Migrant Trail" by Marco Williams and Gigantic Mechanic. When you launch the game, you're assigned a character with a backstory.  (Shumita Basu/WNYC) Farber also had his students play Syrian Journey, a choose-your-own-adventure type of game from the BBC about the refugee crisis. And he started using virtual-reality headsets to let kids experience what it's like to be a 12 year-old Syrian girl in a Jordanian refugee camp. Farber said he's careful to make sure the games are age appropriate and he hasn't gotten any pushback from parents, students or the school. He recently revised his book, Gamify Your Classroom, a guide for other teachers looking to incorporate educational games into their curricula. For their final projects, students were asked to design their own games about immigration, with empathy for the user in mind. Many of them followed the narrative style of the games they played in class. One student took an entirely different route and delivered a TED-style talk on immigration experiences. Another group of students designed an "Escape the Room" game, where players solve puzzles to eventually unlock the key to getting out of the room — in this scenario, a green card. Posters in Dr. Matt Farber's classroom in Valleyview Middle School, Denville, New Jersey. (Shumita Basu/WNYC) One comment Farber said he heard a lot from his students: this game is really hard. Another common one: this game is really sad. Farber agreed. Some of these games are sad. They're hard. They're a little scary. And, somewhere else in the world, they're representative of what a real 12-year-old is experiencing. [...]Using Digital Games — And Empathy — As Teaching Tools

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Cyclists Call for More Safety Following Two Deaths in a Week

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 16:47:04 -0400

Cyclists and their advocates are looking into how to make the busy streets of Manhattan safer after two men were killed while riding in Chelsea within days of each other.

Last Monday, 36-year-old Dan Hanegby was hit by a charter bus on W. 26th St. after dropping his child off at school. On Saturday afternoon, 80-year-old Michael Mamoukakis also was killed when police said he and a charter bus both made right turns from Seventh Avenue onto W. 29th St.

The police said they had a green light but Mamoukakis collided with the vehicle as he was heading into the bike lane.

Neither bus driver was charged and police said they are still investigating. But Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, said the tragedies show how narrow side streets need real dedicated bike lanes. There is a bike lane on W. 29th St. but not on W. 26th St.

"We have to start making tough choices, she said, acknowledging separate bike lanes on narrow streets would involve eliminating parking on one side of the road.

"As we see the number of daily riders go up every month, every year, we have to start to make decisions about how we're going to use that space," she said.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency will review the areas in Chelsea, as it does with all fatalities, for potential safety enhancements.

The city said Saturday's death was the seventh cyclist fatality of 2017 involving a crash. There were 11 overall by this time last year.

In Chelsea, several cyclists agreed the city could do more to protect their safety. Manhattan resident Guillermo Cabrera was riding on 29th St. where the latest death occurred.

"They should get rid of all the parking on one side of the street," he said, referring to the painted lines of the bike lane. "Open a little bit more space for the bikers and the cars."

Another cyclist, Lisa Cooper Smith who was with her 13-year-old son Victor, agreed that even bikes lanes aren't always safe. "We just try to be as careful as we can," she said, adding, "when it seems to get too crowded, truthfully, we go on the sidewalk where we're not allowed."

But several taxi drivers said bicyclists often put themselves in harm's way by not wearing helmets, zipping through red lights and riding into traffic to get around trucks. "It's not that dangerous," said one man as he rode west on 28th St. through a red light on Seventh Avenue.

Bike messenger Jamar McIntosh said drivers have a good point.

"A lot of us, we go the wrong way down the streets, so I can't take the fault away from us too," he acknowledged. "So it's a two-way thing. We all got to be better and we all got to respect the road."

Transportation Alternatives said trucks and buses accounted for 30 percent of cyclist fatalities in 2016.

Cyclists Call for More Safety Following Two Deaths in a Week

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This Week in Politics: The Mayor Versus the Media

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

Mayor Bill de Blasio is running for re-election this year and sometimes it seems like he's running against the media. So much so, that some have even compared him to the Media-Critic-In-Chief, Donald Trump.

Last week, Buzzfeed Editor Ben Smith sat down to interview Mayor de Blasio at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn and they spoke at length about the press in the city. Ben Smith joins This Week in Politics host David Furst to talk about the mayor's views and the upcoming election.



This Week in Politics: The Mayor Versus the Media

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Outcry After Immigration Agents Seen at Queens Human Trafficking Court

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:17:20 -0400

Public defenders and the state's top judge were rattled Friday after federal immigration agents were present in a Queens criminal courtroom for human trafficking victims.

A WNYC reporter was in the building when Legal Aid lawyers huddled frantically in the hallway: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been spotted in the building. The lawyers approached one of the agents, and he acknowledged there were warrants for several people in the building.

The lawyers said they learned from the judge that ICE wanted a young Chinese woman in the Human Trafficking Intervention Courtroom. They said she'd been charged with working illegally as a masseuse, and was about to receive an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal after completing a program with a community group — a goal of human trafficking court.

The attorneys were able to protect their client by asking the judge for bail, and bought enough time for her to leave the building without being detained.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement she was "greatly concerned" by the presence of ICE agents in the Human Trafficking Court.

"We are committed to the safety and security of all New Yorkers who use our courthouses throughout the state," she said. "In a continuing dialogue, we have met with federal officials on a local and national level to convey our concerns and request that they treat courthouses as sensitive locations, similar to schools, hospitals and places of worship. We are meeting again next week with Homeland Security officials to further voice our concerns."

A spokeswoman for ICE, Rachael Yong Yow, said that officers arrested three individuals outside of the Queens courthouse. She said no arrests were made within the Human Trafficking Intervention Court.

Tina Luongo, the attorney in charge of the criminal practice for the Legal Aid Society, said immigration agents have been seen much more frequently in city courts since President Donald Trump took office in January, vowing to crack down on illegal immigration.

"The Trump administration's promise to cast a very large net to capture the people that are most vulnerable is happening," she stated, adding that it deters frightened clients from coming to court.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that immigration agents had "sunk to new lows of moral depravity" by seeking a woman in human trafficking court.

"Contrary to their repeated claims that they pursue only those who are a threat to public safety, ICE agents are now targeting survivors of human trafficking, some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers," she said, adding that stationing these agents inside New York's courthouses is "a shameful, predatory tactic that will make our city less safe and devastate the trust we have worked so hard to build in the immigrant community."

The Council Speaker has been urging the chief judge to ban ICE from the courts.

A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration said a total of 20 individuals had been arrested by ICE agents in New York City courthouses since February. 

Outcry After Immigration Agents Seen at Queens Human Trafficking Court

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Schumer, Senate Democrats Ask For Meeting With Republicans About Health Care Bill

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 17:48:00 -0400

Senate Democrats are asking for a meeting with Republicans to find out what's in their healthcare bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking for an all-Senate meeting in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber to discuss the details of the bill.

"Out health care system affects every single American and one-sixth of our economy," Schumer wrote. "We believe we owe it to all of our constituents to pursue any bi-partisan potential legislation because it profoundly impacts so many American lives."

Republicans have been meeting in private to negotiate the bill’s details — which would likely mean millions of people losing their health coverage. And McConnell has given the bill fast-track status so the Senate can vote on it with no hearings.

Republicans plan to vote on the bill before the July 5th recess.

Democrats have spent the past week fuming about the secrecy, venting to reporters and in committee hearings.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart noted that Democrats have refused to work with Republicans on repealing the national Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, and welcomed their ideas.

Stewart did not say whether Republicans would accept Schumer's invitation.

Schumer, Senate Democrats Ask For Meeting With Republicans About Health Care Bill

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One Dead and Six Hospitalized from Legionnaires' Disease on Upper East Side

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:14:36 -0400

One person has died and six others have fallen ill due to Legionnaires' disease on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

All of the cases were confirmed in the past week-and-a-half, and each involved a person in the Lenox Hill neighborhood who was older than 65, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygeine

Officials say the person who died was over 90-years-old and had "significant underlying health conditions." Four people are recovering from the disease in hospitals and two others have been discharged from the hospital.

Legionnaires' outbreak in the South Bronx two summers ago caused at least 12 deaths and sickened more than 100 people.

Symptoms of Legionnaires include fever, cough, chills, headache, diarrhea and confusion. Residents in the Lenox Hill area with symptoms are advised to seek medical attention immediately. A Legionnaires infection that is detected early can be treated with antibiotics. 

Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said the infections on the Upper East Side most likely came from building cooling towers, as was the case two years ago in the Bronx, and not from drinking water. "People should feel free to wash their hands, drink the water," she said.

After the 2015 outbreak, the city required building owners to test their cooling towers every few months for Legionella, which is the bacteria that leads to Legionnaires' disease. Also, the city regularly makes unannounced inspections of cooling towers, Bassett said.

Despite those measures, reports of Legionnaires' infections are likely to become more frequent. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of people with Legionnaires’ disease grew four-fold between 2000 and 2014 across the country.

Bassett says cases have been increasing in New York City also, citing two big reasons. First, the city's population is aging, and older individuals with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to infection than the young and healthy. On top of that, Legionnaires' has become easier to diagnose in recent years, involving a simple urine test. 

While Legionella bacteria can't be eliminated from the environment, Bassett said the city will continue to monitor for outbreaks of the disease, and issue public notices when clusters of infections appear.

One Dead and Six Hospitalized from Legionnaires' Disease on Upper East Side

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HUD Pulls Back From Reports of Appointing Trump Loyalist to Housing Post

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 15:23:00 -0400

After facing a round of criticism from local officials, the Trump administration denied a published report that a family employee without experience in running housing programs was appointed a new regional administrator for New York and New Jersey.

The Daily News reported that Lynne Patton, who worked as a family liaison on Donald Trump's presidential campaign as well as an aide to the Trump family and their event organizer, was appointed this week. The Department of Housing and Urban Development regional administrator oversees distribution of federal funds to the cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority, where 400,000 New Yorkers reside. 

But Jerry Brown, a spokesman for HUD, said Friday there has been no “appointment/nomination/selection or announcement.”

“The position is currently vacant,” he told WNYC.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who held the same position in the Clinton administration, said on the Brian Lehrer Show people holding that position have historically had a lot of experience working in government and on housing issues.

“Never heard of her before and it's surprising to say the least,” he said. “Like many things in the Trump universe, we're dealing with things we've never seen before.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times cited "a person close to" Ben Carson, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who said the appointment was made on Carson's recommendation. Patton has served as a senior advisor and director of public engagement at the department the past several months. 

HUD Pulls Back From Reports of Appointing Trump Loyalist to Housing Post

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Review: Uncle Sam Wants You (To Look at Art)!

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

In traditional histories of American art, World War I tends to be treated passingly. Except for Horace Pippin, no major American artists served in the war, and the fighting occurred far from home. It was a time when the New York avant-garde was absorbing the lessons of the Armory Show of 1913 and experimenting with Picasso’s Cubism. They were, in other words, going modern, with all that implies about stripping their work of narrative in favor of abstract forms. What I love about “World War I Beyond the Trenches,” which remains on view at the New-York Historical Society through September 3, is that it offers an alternative view of the American art scene. Challenging the usual modernism-first view of the period, it shows how America’s entry into the war – in April of 1917, after years of determined neutrality – put politics on every artist’s mind. Suddenly, abstraction receded, and narrative resurfaced. Everyone had a story to tell. Who knew that Georgia O’Keeffe made war paintings? She steals the show with a small and very moving watercolor, “The Flag,” of 1918. It depicts an all-red flag fluttering against a navy-blue sky and looks like an object that is bleeding to death. O’Keeffe’s kid brother, Alexis, served in the war, and she once said that her goal was to paint a flag “trembling in the wind like my lips when I’m about to cry.” Ignoring old-hat divisions between high art and illustration, the show boldly mingles work that has never shared space before. Not all of it is first-rate (George Bellows’ “Return of the Useless” is a singularly clumsy painting of war prisoners), but all of it is touchingly well-intentioned. A Regionalist like John Steuart Curry, an arch-modernist like Marsden Hartley, a magazine illustrator like Norman Rockwell – they are brought together here by their shared concern over the welfare of solders. The centerpiece of the show is by John Singer Sargeant, who is known for his spirited portraits of society matrons. So it is inordinately surprising to find oneself face-to-face with his “Gassed,” of 1918 – a mural-sized painting, 20 feet wide, in which a procession of soldiers injured in a mustard-gas attack stumble towards a dressing station. The sky above them emits a gaseous yellow haze that hints at all things toxic. As a work of art, “Gassed” strikes me as stiff and heavy-handed, but it is nonetheless fascinating as a piece of history. Chemical weapons were first used on a large scale during World War I, and the painting confronts that subject with impressive forthrightness and empathy. It was commissioned by the British government, and this is the first time it has been exhibited in New York. The show, by the way, is one of several exhibitions marking the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on July 31, is opening a show of war-related drawings and prints. And the Museum of the City of New York has “Posters and Patriotism,” a survey of the deft and often amusing posters created by artists to promote enlistment and the purchase of Liberty Bonds. I plan to see all three shows, and the truth is that the problems of 2017 are not all that far from those of 1917. World War I was famously billed as the war that would end all wars, but of course it did nothing such. It reminds us, among other things, of the perils of political rhetoric, a lesson we cannot think about too much in our own politically ominous and rhetoric-distorted times.  A wo[...]Review: Uncle Sam Wants You (To Look at Art)!

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First Openly Gay Judge Nominated to New York's High Court

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 19:12:27 -0400

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated a judge to New York's highest court who, if confirmed, will become the first openly gay member of that panel.

Appellate court judge Paul Feinman, an LGBT rights advocate, would fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals left by the death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam earlier this year.

“[He] is an extraordinary human being,” Cuomo said in an interview on the cable news station New York 1, “and would be a great addition to that court.”

Gay rights advocates have urged Cuomo to appoint an openly gay judge to the court, which often deals with LGBT issues.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who represents part of Manhattan and who is the only openly gay member of that chamber, called Feinman a “historic and inspired candidate”.

Feinman is a member of the Richard C. Failla LGBT Commission, which promotes fair treatment of LGBT issues and LGBT members of the court community. He was also president of the International Association of LGBT Judges between 2008 and 2011, and headed the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York in 2015.

He earned his B.A. from Columbia University in 1981 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1985.

The state Senate needs to confirm the appointment.


First Openly Gay Judge Nominated to New York's High Court

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House Not Pushing Senate on New York Medicaid Change

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:41:00 -0400

The controversial Medicaid change that House Republicans used to entice members from New York to vote for its health care bill is facing an uncertain future in the Senate.

The amendment's primary author says he doesn't know if the Senate will include the change in its version — and hasn't asked.

"I don't know exactly because no one knows exactly," said Rep. Chris Collins, a Buffalo Republican, who also said he hadn't spoken with any Senators about the amendment.

The change would allow New York counties to send their Medicaid bills directly to the state rather than paying them themselves. Collins and other New York Republicans say the amendment would enable counties to reduce their property taxes. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said the change would cost the state $2.3 billion. Cuomo threatened a lawsuit over the amendment.

The amendment was also criticized as "unfair" by a fellow Republican, Rep. Dan Donovan of Staten Island, who noted that New York City residents would still have to pay $5 billion in Medicaid taxes and wouldn't see any property tax relief.

The amendment was introduced late in the House debate over rolling back Obamacare. It helped secure votes from Republicans on Long Island and upstate New York. Donovan and Syracuse Rep. John Katko were the only two of New York's nine Republican House members to vote against the bill.

Senate Republicans have been negotiating their version of the health care bill in secret — freezing out Democrats and even many House members from any details. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and several other Republican senators declined to discuss what was on the table in negotiations Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has said he plans to schedule a vote on the bill before the July 4th recess — without any committee hearings.

The lack of an advocate in the Senate makes it less likely that the Medicaid amendment will survive. But Collins said the fact that it's in the House bill gives him hope.

"It's certainly my understanding that in sending it over, that it would be certainly under consideration," Collins said. "I would be certainly disappointed if it didn't come back as part of the Senate plan."

House Not Pushing Senate on New York Medicaid Change

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Mayor Unveils Billion Dollar Job Plan

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:41:24 -0400

The city plans to spend $1.1 billion over the next decade to create 100,000 well-paying jobs. Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned the idea in his State of the City address earlier this year and released the details Thursday.

Even though unemployment is at 4 percent, the lowest in four decades, de Balsio said the city needs to invest more in high-growth industries that can provide middle-class incomes, like cyber-security.

"Those jobs are gonna be developed somewhere," he told reporters. "If we act now, we believe they will be developed here, and it will be a very big sector."

The plan focuses on jobs that pay at least $50,000 in tech, sciences, culture and manufacturing — and targets New Yorkers who have at least a high school diploma.

"A frustration I hear all the time is folks who did graduate high school — or have a two-year degree or have a four-year degree — who aren't sure they can make it here," he said.  "This is the core of what this is trying to get at, establishing a greater number of good paying jobs."

The city intends to provide tax incentives, more space for industries like film, training partnerships with the City University of New York, and investments in early-stage companies. 

The plan calls for 30,000 new jobs in cyber-security; 15,000 in life sciences and health care; 10,000 in cultural sectors; and 20,000 industrial and manufacturing jobs. The city says it would work to increase the amount of commercial office space in order to house another 25,000 jobs, though it did not specify in which sector 25,000 other jobs would be created.

Mayor Unveils Billion Dollar Job Plan

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Another Try to Update New York's Child Sex Abuse Statutes

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:14:05 -0400

Advocates for people who were sexually abused as children are trying again to reform New York state's sex abuse laws.

The state Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have agreed on a bill that would extend the amount of time victims can file lawsuits after they were abused as children

Under the Child Victim's Act , survivors of child sexual abuse would be allowed to petition for criminal prosecutions against alleged perpetrators until they are 28-years-old; currently, they must be 23 or younger. Complainants would also be able to file civil cases until their 50th birthday. The legislation would also open up a one-year period when  complainants could reopen cases for which the statute of limitations has passed.

The bill has to clear the Republican-controlled Senate by the end of the session next week, or advocates will need to start legislative process all over again in 2018.

Similar legislation has stalled during past sessions. Proponents lament that New York is falling behind other states. Other groups, including the Catholic Church, oppose extensions entirely. The church argues that this type of legislation will open the door for frivolous, expensive lawsuits, potentially leading to bankruptcy.

WNYC's Fred Mogul speaks to Host Jami Floyd on the issue.

Another Try to Update New York's Child Sex Abuse Statutes

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Does Politics Have a Role to Play in Pastoral Long Valley?

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 10:13:27 -0400

Some residents of Long Valley, a small uncrowded corner of western Morris County, are so taken with the beauty of the area and slower lifestyle that their wish is a simple one: to shut the door behind them. “We wanted to be the last to move here,” noted Bill Wolgamuth, 84, of the local mindset. Set amid rolling hills dotted with horse farms and other fields, the community is part of the 45-square-mile Washington Township. Long Valley lives up to its name, stretching eight miles along East and West Mill Road, also known as County Route 513, with wooded ridges rising several hundred feet on either side. Along Mill Road, acres of farm fields remain interspersed among old stone houses, historic barns and mills, and open access to the river. The south branch of the Raritan River runs parallel to the road and, in the center of town, under a picturesque quadruple stone arch bridge that brings cars up steep Schooleys Mountain. Deer, turkeys, and other wildlife abound. It is this community that NJ Spotlight will focus on as part of a statewide project called Voting Block, a five-month-long effort to get voters to talk to one another, in advance of this fall’s gubernatorial election. With much of the state — and country — polarized when it comes to politics, we thought it was a good time to collaborate on a project that gets people talking, and hopefully leads to greater understanding.   Down in the valley Long Valley is a very different place from the kind most people conjure when they think of New Jersey. It's GOP territory, but more than a handful of Democrats live in this wealthy and overwhelmingly white (87 percent) community of 1,835 people. The residents are well-educated, with 53 percent of adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree. About four in 10 families have at least one child under age 18, while almost a quarter include at least one senior citizen. Long Valley hearkens back to a slower, simpler time. Bill Wolgamuth Bill Wolgamuth, president of the local Republican club and his wife Myra were teaching in Plainfield in the 1960s when they decided to move to Long Valley. Back then it was mostly woods and farmland. “We truly, truly love the area,” said Wolgamuth, who went on to become principal of the high school in neighboring Mount Olive, a position from which he retired 25 years ago. “We live on probably one of the most beautiful roads in the area … I don’t mind at all that we don’t see a police car down the road except maybe two times a month. I don’t want sidewalks and street lights. It’s really a great place to live, a very safe community, a very warm community.” At the center of Long Valley, the crossroads area forms what is essentially the local “downtown.” For most of the last century, Welsh Farms made ice cream and other dairy products there, but the plant closed and the site is now a housing development. Neighboring Frazier Industrial, a manufacturer of structural steel storage systems, remains. But the majority of businesses are smaller: several restaurants, bank, convenience store, three gas stations, some professional offices, and a combination hardware store, garden center, building supply, and rental center. Houses and farms Businesses are a small part of the town — 92 percent of Washington Township is residential and farm properties. More than 10,000 acres are farmland[...]