De Blasio Delivers State of the City Address
Mayor Takes Humanist, Social Science Approach to Solving NYC Problems
NYC Crime Down, Stop N’ Frisk Down 97%, NYC Public School Graduation Rate Up, H.S. Drop Out Rate Down, College Bound Graduates Up, 70,000 Children Enrolled in Universal Pre-K, Financing Initiated on 62,000 Units of Affordable Housing, NYC Budget Surplus
See Related Analysis of Reporting by Multi-Billionaire Owned NY Post
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s third State of the City Address at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Monday. The beautiful old theater, built in 1904, didn’t admit African Americans until thirty years later. And it was in 1934 that the historic theater began earning the fame it has today, by becoming the showcase for African American musical and theatrical legends.
In the photo at right is the Apollo Theater as seen from one of the balcony booths prior to the beginning of Mayor de Blasio's 2017 State of the City Address.
Fighting Tyranny & Thomas Paine: These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls
There were a number of performances and speeches leading up to the Mayor’s address, including a performance by the Dorothy Maynor Choir of Harlem and an operatic delivery of the Star Spangled National Anthem by FDNY’s Regina Wilson. Recently deceased Detective Steven McDonald’s son, Conor, gave a speech, as did NYC First Lady Chirlane McRay, the Reverend David Ramos, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Imam Souleimane Konate.
The Pledge of Allegiance was delivered by Jian ‘John’ Yuan Lin, Chyna Huertas and Eva Lin. And the Reverend Michael Walrond, of the First Corinthian Baptist Church, gave a fiery, inspirational speech talking comparing the national state of affairs today to the American colonists fighting to shake off the shackles of tyranny. He cited the words of American Revolutionary Thomas Paine, who in 1776 said,
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Just before the Mayor came on stage was a video highlighting the de Blasio Administration accomplishments.
Mayor de Blasio Standing Big & Tall for All New Yorkers
The Mayor came onto the stage, beginning by thanking the various people and departments that helped make his Administration’s accomplishments possible. His thanks always include his wife, Chirlane McCray, who has been evolving in her role as NYC’s First Lady.
Here’s a sampling of the de Blasio’s efforts to make New York a better place for all New Yorkers. Some of the information came from the video presentation referenced above, which I have augmented with some additional research and information obtained in prior reporting efforts.
In the photo at right stands a weary, but determined, Mayor Bill de Blasio at his 2017 State of the City Address at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
I. De Blasio Administration NYC Public School Achievements
A. Social Science & Humanist Approach to Education
• Universal Pre-K Enrollment 70,000
The slide at right shows some of the gains made by the de Blasio Administration with the NYC public school system over the past three plus years.
1. Stop the Bleeding – Stop the 'CORPORATE' run Charter Schools from Maximizing Profit at the Expense of Maximizing Human Potential
Editor's Note: There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between the NON-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOLS and FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL CORPORATIONS. Non profit charters are generally older organizations, designed as an alternative in response to failing public schools decades ago, and whose focus is on improving education - not improving profits.
By contrast the FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL CORPORATIONS generally arose in the 21st century, and this group appears to be pillaging the public school system by recruiting and siphoning off the good [low cost / high performing] students so they can maximize profits – not enhance public education.
The despicable consequence of this for-profit charter school strategy is that they are simultaneously robbing the most vulnerable, disadvantaged children of anything resembling an opportunity in life as promised in the founding documents of this nation.
Family background continues to be the highest determinant [have the highest correlation] of a student’s academic achievement.
So the de Blasio Administration has significantly slowed the corporate charter school assault on the public education system.
Corporate Charter School Business Strategy Comparable to Old Health Insurance 'Gaming the System'
Recruit the Academic Achievers, 'the Healthy Ones', Because They're Most Profitable & Shun the Rest
It appears the charter school corporations have employed a strategy designed to recruit and retain the best students to their schools, while leaving the rest behind. They appear to recruit the kids who are already performing well, because the performing children cost the least to educate, thus providing the highest return to the hedge fund profiteers because the funding is allocated on a per capital / per student basis. High performing student enrollments also enable corporate charter schools to claim they are ‘performing well’ because they've recruited the highest scoring students.
The recruitment and retention strategy referenced above resembles the old health insurance strategy of recruiting the healthy people to buy health insurance as they are the most profitable, while denying those who aren’t blessed with good health because they cost the most to keep healthy. This was a systemic inequity Obamacare attempted to eradicate.
In the photo at right stand an Imam [Islam], a Rabbi [Jewish] and a Reverend [Christian] all sharing the same podium with a message of love, peace, respect and understanding.
2. Help the Youngsters & Maximize Human Potential – Not Profits
The De Blasio Administration pushed through universal Pre-K, which has enrolled 70,000 students since its inception in the Fall of 2014.
When this first came out I, and a number of people I know, didn’t really grasp the importance of this effort. As family support is the highest determinant in a child’s success, many youngsters were entering the public school system at a significant disadvantage vis a vis their better parented peers.
By accessing these kids while they are younger, and providing access to the guidance and resources of the public school system earlier, the NYC Public School system now has a greater chance of motivating these kids, which will inevitabley empowering them, raising their self esteem, and give them a chance at a far more engaged and productive life.
I now get it. And this seems like it can only be a good thing for all of society, as it will reduce societal costs of failing these people early on.
MAXIMIZE HUMAN POTENTIAL - Good Public Policy Costs Less in Long Haul & Enormously Benefits Society
This approach to education enables us as a society to maximize our human potential, which will benefit all the community - and in some small way - all mankind. Not only is this a more humanistic approach to engaging these children, but it's more cost effective in the long haul, as those left behind will inevitably cost society more through lost opportunities, lost productivity, and increased spending on health, human services and criminal justice programs.
In the photo at right is the Mayor on stage at the Apollo Theater with all of the people working for the city that he honored that night including policemen, firefighters, sanitation workers and educators. The Mayor appears to be one who is very much in touch with the middle & working class rank and file of New York City.
Click here for our report about Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address 2017 including an update on crime, the affordable housing crisis, the city's finances, sanitation and social activism.
United Nations: Cultural Influences on Gender Roles
Women's Groups Discuss Cultural Influences on Gender Equality
On March 17th I attended a series of lectures entitled, The Role of Culture in Women's Empowerment: Possibilities and Challenges. The lectures were given to a standing room only audience in Conference Room 7 on the lower level.
The five member speaker panel was comprised of women from Liberia, Nigeria and Thailand. And each speaker came from a different walk of life including law, government, education and social work.
The program was organized by the United Nations Mission from Gambia in collaboration with a number of other groups. The intent of the program was to disseminate information to help those in attendance understand the role in culture in defining gender roles, and how to go about dealing with embedded cultural biases.
We'll have more at a later date. The photo at right was taken in the United Nations lobby.
Theater: Unpacking American Identity
Want to Know What it Feel like to be a Minority Living in the USA?
I attended A Black Lives Matter Play performed at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. The play is part of a theatrical theme developed by LaGuardia College Performing Arts Center to explore the intricate mosaic of humanity that comprises American society. A wide number of the cultural composite represented in American society may be found in the culturally diverse student body at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
Last year the program focused on exploring Muslim identity in New York City. The intent was to provide a more holistic view of Islamic peoples than portrayed by the American media, whose primary depiction of Islam, a culture representing over a fifth of the world’s population, is centered around those working in the field of terrorism. And by American media, it’s important to include the Hollywood entertainment industry, which accounts for a huge portion of time people spend absorbing programs factually or fictionally portraying the world around us.
The obsession with the more gruesome events and villainous people of a culture is not uncommon for the American media. One doesn’t have to look far to find lopsided depictions of the culture of Italian Americans, through the obsession of those working as mafiosos, of Latin Americans as drug lords, and of African Americans, by depicting them as hoodlums.
Enter LaGuardia Community College Performing Arts Center and ‘Unpacking American Identity’, which strives to use theater to educate, elucidate and eradicate the inherent biases and popular misconceptions disseminated via the unrelenting sounds, images and lopsided portrayals of the cultures of the members of their student body.
De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Progress Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s second State of the City Address delivered at the Performing Arts Center at Lehman College in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. In spite of its northern, non-central location, the speech was well attended. About three dozen protesters also made their way north of Manhattan into the Central west Bronx, wielding placards asking the Mayor to stop gentrification and something about fair labor practices.
I took my place among the press corps where we were seated right in the middle of the auditorium. After settling in, I started photographing the slides whizzing by on the main stage, showing the accomplishments of the de Blasio Administation during its first two years. I have included a slide show a bit later in this report, which contains some of the slides that I photographed.
Unlike last year, when the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were having difficulties adjusting to each other, this year the mood seemed buoyant. In front of me was a group of students from the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology - MS 223 - at 360 East 145th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is connected with Bronx Prep and hence handles grades 6 through 12.
Click here to read our report of Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016. The report includes video excerpts of the Mayor's speech, as well as two other short video pieces including the harmony singing of the National Anthem by a talented Bronx choral group, and a few exchanges with the teachers and students of MS 223 in the Bronx.
LaGuardia Airport - Airplane Noise
Jackson Heights, Corona & Queens Voice Concerns Regarding LGA Airplane Noise
FAA Considering Extension of LaGuardia Airport Hours & Other Changes
I attended a town hall meeting about the airplane noise coming from LaGuardia Airport at PS 69 in Jackson Heights. The town hall had been organized by NYS Senator Peralta’s office and the panel of speakers included local government officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] and the New York New Jersey Port Authority [NYNJPA].
Standing Room Only at PS 69
The auditorium was packed and there were people lined up along the walls as well as standing in the back of the auditorium. Airplane noise has emerged as a big issue for Jackson Heights due to a couple of construction projects going on at the airport – both of which will be completed at the end of November.
Cynical Audience Member's Point of View
The timing of the town hall meeting, only six weeks before the construction was to end, led one of the local pundits to cynically suggest that this was merely political theater, rather than an effort to accomplish anything substantive.
There was an earlier town hall meeting organized about two years ago by NYC City Councilmember Dromm, to tackle the problem in its early stages, and while it was happening - not after it was all over - which is what we're close to today.
But that said, these town hall meetings are not just political theater, although inevitably that is some of it, which you will see in the video. And while the immediate problem will subside, we discovered that there a number of efforts either underway or in the planning stages, in which the community has a vested stake in the outcomes.
Not Said In Meeting: Federal Register States That Consideration Is Being Given To Extending LGA's Operational Hours & Slots
In doing follow up research I found a piece on the Federal Register government website that informed me that the FAA is considering changing the operational hours and slots for LaGuardia Airport. This was not discussed at the town hall [click into story for additional detail]. We also found other things that were either scarcely touched upon or not addressed, which we included in this report.
Click here to read the rest of this report about LaGuardia Airport & Airplane Noise in NYC. The report includes video presentations, including some audience interaction, and a photo slide show and other information about FAA air traffic changes, airplane noise and what you can do about it.
Newspapers, Magazines, Television Producers, Filmmakers, Artists, Photographers, Journalists, Actors, Musicians, Writers & Software Developers
Copyright Law Change Alert: Pending Legislation May Curtail Your Ownership Rights
July 5, 2015 / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC.
Click the Queens Notices link to view proposed overhaul of copyright laws which would significantly curtail the ownership rights one has to their own work. It includes a bit about how you can help by sending a notice to the government regarding this effort to overhaul copyright law.
According to the report, the law would weaken content creators' ownership rights and thus their ability to monetize their creations. They also allege that the big internet companies are pushing this. We surmise that this is because the big internet companies are using everyone's content, collecting revenue for organizing and distributing it, and not compensating the content creators for the use of it. This may leave a huge outstanding, unestimated legal liability on their balance sheets.
The weakening of copyright laws has disturbing societal implications as well, as it completely destroys the economic incentive for artists, filmmakers, writers, journalists, photographers, actors, recording artists and software developers to invest their time and resourcess in the creation art, film, journalism, photography, music, software and other media content and entertainment. And in doing so, paves the way for considerable consolidation and control over freedom of speech and what media and entertainment content we as a society consume.
The net effect of the law is to curtail content creator ownership rights, and thus in some good measure transfer the ability to monetize content from the content creators to the content distributors. But it's not too late for you to do something about this.
The deadline for comment is July 23rd, 2015. Click Queens Notices and scroll down to first notice. There are links there to the authors of the report, as well as instructions and links to making a comment to government officials. Is retaining ownership rights to your work worth 10 to 15 minutes of your time?
"Many hands make light work." Chip in and make your concerns heard.
Albany Legislative Session To End Friday
Pending Bills: Public School Funding & Rent Stabilization Law
There are two important bills expected to be finalized by the New York State Legislature this week: 1) one having to do with taxation and funding for the public schools and 2) the second having to do with NYC rent stabilization law.
I've been paying some modest measure of attention to both of these bills, and the following is a brief snapshot of a critical talking point in each bill.
Use Public Money To Fund Private Education?
From what I can gather, perhaps the most contentious item in the public education funding bill is the provision for sizeable tax deductions for those who choose to send their children to private, not public schools.
As I understand it, these tax deductions would be included as part of the funding for the public schools budget and therefore will reduce what's left for the NYS / NYC public school systems.
It's worth noting that private school tuition in NYC can cost in the range of about $5,000 to $30,000 per year per student. And that there are about 900 private schools in NYC alone, so depending on how these proposed deductions are ultimately structured, the funds reallocated from the public schools to private individuals would be in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly more.
You might want to contact Governor Cuomo's office at 1.518.474.8390 to let him know you support or oppose the measure, since we understand that he's been the major force pushing for this public school funding change. You can also send him an email via the Governor's contact form.
Albany & Expiring Rent Stabilization Laws
The Rent Stabilization Laws are due to expire tonight, June 15, 2015.
There was talk earlier this year that there would be a push to expand or strengthen the Rent Stabilization Laws given the rapid growth in homelessness in New York City. The NYC homeless population is currently estimated at over 60,000 or nearly 1% of the entire NYC population. About 70% of New York City residents are renters, of which about two million of less than eight and a half million residents, live in rent stabilized apartments.
Over the past decade or so, the Rent Stabilization Laws have been curtailed in the favor of the free market and landlords. The curtailment of rent price control legislation is believed to have spurred additional real estate development investment, as the profits of most new buildings are no longer affected by rent stabilization laws.
Much of the rapid growth in homelessness over the past decade is believed to be the result of tenants losing their rent stabilized apartments, as new owners of buildings have found ways to circumvent the laws. A recent NYU Furman Center Study has shown the loss of over 330,000 unsubsidized affordable apartments since 2002, due in part to the rent stabilization legislative changes referenced above.
NYS legislative insiders told me that tenants rights supporters were hoping to make legislative gains this year, but that the NYS Assemblypeople and NYS Senators opposing the changes, were going to allow the rent stabilization laws to expire as a negotiating tactic.
Vicki Been, Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed us that the current rent stabilization laws remain in effect through the term of existing leases and leases up for renewal that are already in the hands of the tenants. She also said that tenants should call 311 with any questions or problems.
Cuomo & NYS Officials - Quinnipiac Poll
On June 3, 2015 Quinnipiac released a poll showing voters are feeling negatively about the NYS Legislature as a whole, while continuing to favor their local representatives. In the poll Governor Cuomo has only a 2% margin of those favoring him.
Governor Cuomo had a 44% approval rating versus 42% disapproval rating, as voters are not satisfied with his handling of the corruption scandals that have plagued Albany this year. In February 2015 Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [Democrat Manhattan] was indicted on federal corruption charges. And in May 2015 NYS Senate Leader Dean Skelos [Republican Long Island] was indicted by a federal Grand Jury.
Less than a year ago, NYS gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University surprised polls by garnering nearly 2 votes for every 3 won by the governor in the NYS Democratic primary. Ms. Teachout did not have much in the way of significant private backing or union support, but won nearly 40% of the vote waging an online campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters by a margin of 52% - 32% said that with respect to Albany's corruption problem:
"... the Governor is part of the problem, not part of the solution."
As for the NYS Assemblymembers and NYS Senators the Quinnipiac Poll reported the following:
"Voters disapprove 60 - 26 percent of the job the State Legislature is doing, but approve 44 - 37 percent of their own Assembly member and approve 54 - 31 percent of their own state senator."
"At the same time, 45 percent of voters say their state senator should be thrown out in a general house-cleaning, while 40 percent say their senator deserves reelection."
"Voters are divided 41 - 41 percent on whether their Assembly member should be reelected or thrown out."
As you can see, the sentiments collected in the Quinnipiac poll seem a bit contradictory, as the answers received depend on how the questions are stated. Nonetheless, this looks to be an interesting legislative week as things wind down in Albany, and as the 2016 election cycle begins to ramp up.
NYS Medical Marijuana Law & DPA
Drug Policy Alliance Reports First Deadline For Submissions Passes
I attended a forum on medical marijuana last week. It was sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, a non profit group, whose mission is to promote
"drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights".
During the course of this forum I found that there's a lot going on in this area - not just with regard to implementing the legalized use of marijuana for medical use - but in going signficantly beyond that milestone, to making it available to the general public by regulating it in a manner, of which the options range in similarity to: pharmaceuticals, alcohol or tobacco.
To be sure, as public perceptions and policy change, there are important concerns and issues associated with these changes that must be properly managed, or the results of these changes won't be beneficial to the community as the marijuana legalization advocates suggest - but rather could be just the opposite.
We'll have more on the Drug Policy Alliance forum held last week at ABC Carpets on Broadway.
Click here for things to do in Midtown NYC.
De Blasio's State Of The City Address
NYC Mayor Maps Out A Framework To Tackle NYC's Affordable Housing Crisis
Mayor Bill de Blasio sent the NYC political, media and real estate worlds abuzz on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 when he laid out his administration's plan to solve one of the severest shortages of affordable housing in the history of New York City. It seems everyone had something to say in response to it - from the folks on the street to the NYS Governor. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is shown standing in the bottom left corner of the photo, after giving his first State of the City Address.
The housing crisis in New York City reached crisis proportions during the Bloomberg Administration. Former Mayor Bloomberg's approach to the issue was to let rent regulated apartments expire or become transformed to encourage investment, provide generous tax incentives and city land deals to real estate developers to build luxury high rise apartments, and build more homeless shelters.
A severe shortage of affordable housing was lurking in the background, as candidate Bill de Blasio began running for the office of mayor with the theme of "the tale of two cities". His campaign keyed into the pinch being felt by the 70% of New Yorkers who rent.
Thus one year later, while giving his first State of the City Address, the 109th Mayor of New York City put the affordable housing problem front and center for his Administration in a manner similar to what he had done on the campaign trail.
And in doing so, the Mayor set afire talk about affordable housing by city and state pols, the media and city real estate developers.
Click here later in the week to read the rest of our report about Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address, including reactions by banking and real estate executives, members of labor unions and other government officials. By Michael Wood.
Organic 469 /
People's Climate March Photos
Over 300,000 People March / Interesting Signage / Creative Costumes / Jazzy Music / Important Message / By The People & For The People / We Are One World / We Are One People / We Must Learn To Live In Harmony With Each Other & With Our Ecosystem
September 22, 2014 / Midtown Neighborhood / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC.
I came up the subway stairs at Times Square Sunday, September 21, 2014 shortly before 1 pm. I had hoped to cover the People's Climate March story beginning at 11.30 am at Columbus Circle which was when the parade was to start; but I was detained and rushed to cover what I had thought might be the END of the parade. Boy, was I wrong. I ran head on into the BEGINNING of the parade, although I had missed the very front of it.
It truly was a People's Parade as there were few government officials were in attendance. According to one report I read after the parade, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined the head of the parade around 12.45 pm, which wasabout the time I had arrived, so I missed them.
There were also a few NY City Council Members who marched, versus an NYT report that indicated a third or more planned to march. I recognized three of about five NY City Councilmembers that were there: NY City Council Speaker Viverito, UWS CCM Rosenthal and Astoria Queens CCM Costa Constantinides.
Green Companies Missed Big Marketing Opportunity To Reach Their Passionate Audience
Click here later today to read our full report of the People's Climate March including hundreds of photos, and a number of parade marchers' views of what's really going on, as well as what can practically be done by regular folks about it.
Click here to read our report and view photos of the UN organized People's Climate March in NYC. Story and photos by Michael Wood.
Cyclists Rights In Manhattan NYC
Knowing Your Rights & Responsibilities As An NYC Cyclist
November 7, 2013 / NYC Cylists Rights In Manhattan / Gotham Buzz NYC. By Philip Papas. The introduction to the Cyclists' Rights Forum was given by Christina Vassallo, Executive Director, Flux Factory. She told us that the event came about after she and a friend were stopped for cycling violations, which they thought were not illegal, or had erroneously been applied as violation points to their motor vehicle driver’s license. As a result she saw the need for a forum to clarify laws, rights and proper procedures for cyclists to follow.
Click here to read our full report about NYC Bike Laws / NYC Biking Rules Forum in Queens at the Flux Factory across from Midtown Manhattan in LIC.
Forum - Condos & Co-ops Governance
Updated Summer 2016 / December 7, 2010 / Queens / NYC Real Estate / Gotham Buzz NYC.
City Council Member Daniel Dromm, NYS Senator Peralta in tandem with ACCO [Alliance of Condo & Co-op Owners] organized a forum in Jackson Heights to inform people about their rights and responsibilities as condo and co-op owners.
In addition to the councilman and senator, the panel included two lawyers and the president of ACCO. About two hundred people showed up for the event, packing the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights. See photos in our report of the large crowd that attended this forum.
The panel informed condo and co-op owners in Jackson Heights & Queens about their rights, and discussed new state legislation which has been introduced to more clearly define the processes through which a tenant / owner can assert their rights. Click here to read the rest of our report about the forum about condo / co-ops governance in NYC.
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