Category Archives: News Brew

NYC Mayor Aims for 90% Reduction in Trash by 2030

de blasion anounced his OneNYC plan to increase NYC's resiliency and reduce inequality.

Earlier today Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the Zero Waste Plan, which aims to cut New York City's trash by 90% within 15 years.

The ambitious goal was announced on Earth Day, as part of de Blasio's OneNYC.

"Environmental and economic sustainability must go hand in hand – and OneNYC is the blueprint to ensure they do,” said Mayor de Blasio in an official statement.

While the plan looks to contiue some of the Bloomberg's administration's environmental goals (encapsulated by PlaNYC), it comes with a stronger focus on tackling inequality, including a goal of lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by 2025.

Part of the goal also includes zero trash to landfills by 2030 and an 80% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


Featured Photo via Jason Lawrence/CC?Flickr.

Racist Posts on NY Cop Blog Raise Ire at Time of Tension

Photo via See-ming Lee/cc/Flickr

Week after week, racist posts appear on Thee Rant, a blog for current or former New York City police officers: African Americans are called “apes;” a retired officer says one of the blessings of retirement is not having to work the Puerto Rican Day parade, with its “old obese tatted up women stuffed into outfits that they purchased or shoplifted at the local Kmart store; a Middle Eastern cab driver berated by an officer is termed a “third worlder” who should have his “head split open.”

And week after week, the department’s top officials are, at once, embarrassed and powerless.

“It’s very disturbing stuff. Outrageous stuff,” said Stephen Davis, the chief spokesman for the NYPD. “We see it. It’s a problem.”

At the heart of the problem are the limits the department faces in what it can do.

“Monitoring these things is challenging,” Davis said. “There are privacy issues involved. We can’t go and peel back email names and tags and try to find out who these people are.”

The issue of the blog, started by former NYPD officer Ed Polstein in 1999, has gained notoriety most recently after a white South Carolina police officer shot a black man to death. Shortly after a video of the officer appearing to shoot the fleeing man in the back went viral on the Internet, Thee Rant blew up with comments.

“Cop looked good in his stance,” read one post.

Polstein, who did not respond to requests for an interview, has said previously that anyone wishing to post on the blog has to provide proof that they are a current or former member of the NYPD. But whether they are, and how many have signed up, are among the many mysteries surrounding Thee Rant. The blog says it garners 120,000 page views daily.

Leonard Levitt, a respected former Newsday reporter who runs the website NYPD Confidential, said he has stopped assigning much significance to Thee Rant.

“To be honest, I don’t read it,” Levitt said. “I’d say these guys represent the worst elements of the department. I don’t think they speak for the average cop. I have a feeling it’s four or five guys doing most of the yowling.”

Incidents of officers being investigated or punished for their behavior online, in social media or on personal cell phones, have cropped up in Illinois, Missouri and Florida in recent weeks and months.

In a St. Louis suburb, for instance, an officer was fired after posting racist remarks about the protests in Ferguson. In San Francisco, eight officers were fired for exchanging racist and homophobic text messages.

Relations between the police and minorities have been fraught in New York for decades. The assault on Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo during Rudy Giuliani’s administration sparked a rise in tension. The aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics during Michael Bloomberg’s mayoralty deepened the mistrust and anger. And the choking death of Eric Garner on Staten Island last year provoked protests and slogans.

William Bratton, Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s police commissioner, has acknowledged the poor relations and vowed to improve them.

The existence of Thee Rant, and the occasional, perhaps outsize attention it gets, has not made Bratton’s efforts easier.

Garner’s death prompted some of the more extensive back and forth on the blog. Garner was killed when an officer sought to subdue him during a stop for illegally selling loose cigarettes. Bratton initially said it appeared the officer had used an improper chokehold. But a grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict the officer.

On Thee Rant, support for the officer was substantial. And occasionally ugly.

“A more accurate headline would be "Non Compliant Fat Bastard Gets Just Due In Resisting Law Enforcement Officers,” read a post in reaction to headlines in the city’s papers.

“Yes, they’ll pay off the 'family,'” started another. “It’s a lot cheaper than a riot…And therein lies the problem...The cities of America are held hostage by the strong-arm tactics of the savages.”

Davis, the NYPD spokesman, said department policy is that officers should not be on social media, as well as blogs, except for official business. The department has shown it is willing to act against problem officers when it can. In 2012, New York City police officers were disciplined over racist and violent comments made on Facebook, many of which targeted the annual Labor Day West Indian Parade, describing the event as a “scheduled riot” and comparing it to working at a zoo.

“We don’t know how many active police officers are on it,” Davis said of Thee Rant. “If we did identify active officers speaking on the site in that capacity they would be disciplined for violating policy.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “it’s one of these things that we don’t have ownership of. We don’t have any control over it. Some say that’s good, others maybe say it’s bad.”

Davis said he did not know of any active effort to determine whether current officers are commenting on the site or who they are. He said the department would investigate any specific allegation that a particular officer was behind objectionable comments.

“It’s, in a sense, unfortunate that a lot of it is done under the banner of freedom of expression now,” Davis said.

Polstein, who joined the department in 1988, told the New York Daily News in 2005 that he’d started the blog as his personal diary. “It was how I felt at the moment,” he told the News. “It is my constitutional right to vent.”

Over the years, the local media has occasionally reported on Thee Rant. In one recent instance, the blog decided to go after a reporter who had done a story about the South Carolina shooting comments. One contributor to the blog found a video of the reporter at a conference, posted it, and then encouraged others to mock the reporter’s looks.

The coverage prompted objections from at least one current or former officer, who suggested Polstein should take a more active role in moderating the blog.

“There hasn’t been a moderator on here in days," the officer wrote. “If Ed had any loyalty to active duty cops, he’d remove the law enforcement angle of the board and let er rip. As it is, anytime a lazy reporter wants to smear the NYPD, all he has to do is come here and read the ravings of some diaper wearing geriatric that fell hard off the Aricept train and say that it was an active NYPD cop saying it.”

The NYPD’s Davis said he hoped the police union might step in to rein in the blog.

“A lot of retired people are still active in the union and it doesn’t do anybody any good to have these remarks out there,” he said. “They really don’t help. But that’s the nature of the social media beast right now.”

Al O’Leary, spokesman for the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, declined to comment for this story.


This article is published through a CC license, via ProPublica. Photo via See-ming Lee/cc/Flickr.

For Upstate NY: Wine or Fracking?

Photo via _katattack/cc/flickr

Wine over Brine


 

My home near Seneca Lake in New York is famous for a lot of things — good wine, fine food, and the Finger Lakes region’s beautiful scenery.

Now, though, Crestwood Midstream — a Houston-based company that drills, stores, and distributes fracked natural gas — wants to put my community on the map as a hub for dirty energy.

Although New Yorkers had the good sense to ban the practice of “fracking” last year, the industry still has big plans to expand its infrastructure in my state. Developers have proposed hundreds of miles of new pipeline, along with ports for export.

At Seneca Lake, Crestwood Midstream wants to build one of the nation’s largest storage facilities for compressed gas.

For this purpose, it selected a structurally unsound old salt mine beneath Seneca Lake — right in the heart of our tourism, wine, and food industry.

Our economy is built on tourism. Wine Enthusiast magazine recently selected the Finger Lakes as one of the world’s top 10 “wine travel” destinations, ranking it alongside destinations in Italy, New Zealand, France, and Spain. Nearby Watkins Glen was recently voted the third most popular state park in the country by USA Today readers.

New York State’s $4.8-billion wine industry is more than a source of pride for the Finger Lakes. It employs over 1,000 people and is growing year by year.

Farming and food production are mainstays as well, with the majority of land in our region devoted to farming. New York ranks third in the nation for organic farms, many of which are located right here in the Finger Lakes. Tourists come to visit our farms and enjoy a growing number of farm-to-table restaurants.

Finger Lakes Wine Country

Gas storage, though, threatens all of this.

That’s one reason 324 local businesses have formed a coalition to oppose the gas storage facility. There’s great concern about what increased truck traffic, noise, and pollution could mean for their livelihoods. There’s also the risk of a catastrophic accident.

Salt mines, after all, make for a dangerous storage option. Since 1972, there have been 10 incidents of catastrophic failure at underground gas storage facilities, all of which were salt caverns — even though salt caverns make up only 7 percent of storage sites.

The risk is increased at Seneca Lake, where Crestwood plans to use a structurally unsound cavern that runs beside an earthquake fault.

During the 1960s, the roof of this cavern collapsed without warning. A similar accident with the cavern full of gas would be catastrophic. Nearby residents fear the risk of explosion or the contamination of the lake, which is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

The risks associated with handling the highly combustible gases Crestwood wants to stockpile are high at every step.

There’s a risk of a truck or train explosion, a wellhead failure, or migration of the gas and its brine into our lake. Tourists will have to dodge trucks carrying explosive materials on our rural roads.

Even under the best circumstances, the site will produce high levels of air pollution from compressors and open pits, light pollution from a 60-foot flare, and loud and continuous noise.

No wonder it’s not just local businesses that are concerned.

At least 22 local governments representing 740,000 residents have passed resolutions opposing the gas storage plan, and more than 200 citizens have been arrested while protesting at the proposed site. This summer, perhaps tourists will join in the civil disobedience at our lake.

We’ve banned fracking here in New York. It’s time for legislators to take the next step and tell the oil and gas industry that the Finger Lakes aren’t an appropriate warehouse for these dangerous materials.

Our future is in wine and renewable energy, not explosive trucks and brine.


 

Melissa Tuckey is an award winning poet and author of the book Tenuous Chapel. She’s a co-founder of the national poetry organization Split This Rock. You can read more of her writings at www.melissatuckey.net.
Distributed by OtherWords.org. Photo via _katattack/cc/flickr

Fight for $15: On Worldwide Day of Action, Workers Demand Livable Wages

Photo via Fight for 15

Fight for $15—the movement calling for livable wages and union rights for low-income workers—launched a worldwide day of action on Wednesday morning with walkouts and rallies across the globe, spanning more than 200 cities in the U.S. and 35 countries.

By early Wednesday morning, protests were already taking place in numerous locations, including New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Boston, among others. Workers blocked intersections in front of McDonald's restaurants and planned speeches, presentations, and marches throughout the day for what organizers say will be one of the biggest Fight for $15 days of action yet.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, though it varies from state to state. Organizers chose April 15 not just because it is similar to their call—"For 15"—but because they wanted to use Tax Day to highlight how workers are paid so little that they are forced to rely on public assistance to survive.

"On Tax Day, fast-food workers from Pittsburgh to Pasadena will walk off the job, while adjunct professors, home care, childcare, airport, industrial laundry and Walmart workers will march and rally in what will be the most widespread mobilization ever by US workers seeking higher pay," organizers said in a statement.

Workers, who demonstrated under the banners of a broad coalition of organizations, including OUR Walmart, Jobs With Justice, D.C. Working Families, and several local unions, among other groups, emphasized the importance of raising wages as the cost of living in the U.S. soars.

In the nation's capital, workers marched with signs that read, "We Care for D.C." and chanted, "What's outrageous? Poverty wages!"

"In D.C., housing is getting more expensive, jobs are paying less and families are struggling to get by," said D.C. Working Families director Delvone Michael. "D.C. is facing its widest wage gap in 35 years and workers need $15 an hour, if they want to be able to support their families in one of the country's most costly cities without relying on public assistance."

Further north, protesters in New York blocked the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge and picketed a McDonald's in Flatbush.

"Everyone just wants to survive and work happily. Fifteen dollars and union is what any fast-food worker needs," one McDonald's worker from Boston, Darius Cephas, told the Guardian. "I am not saying that everything will be better, but it will be livable. It will be manageable."

Underscoring the solidarity among two growing movements across the U.S., many actions were also joined by Black Lives Matter activists calling for justice over recent police killings of unarmed black men and women.

Report: US Taxpayers Bear ‘Hidden Cost’ of Poverty Wages

Photo via George Kelly/cc/flickr.

Stagnant wages and declining employer-provided benefits mean that low-wage workers in the United States are increasingly reliant on federal and state-run public assistance programs.

In fact, U.S. taxpayers pay roughly $153 billion each year to supplement employers who refuse to pay a livable wage, according to report published Monday by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor.

U.S. taxpayers "bear a significant portion of the hidden costs of low-wage work in America," said report authors Ken Jacobs, Ian Perry, and Jenifer MacGillvary.

According to the report, The High Public Cost of Low Wages (pdf), 73 percent of those enrolled in the country's major public support programs are members of working families. The Berkeley study examined state spending for Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program and Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), and federal spending for those programs as well as food stamps (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Despite a rebounding economy, U.S. workers are not being compensated. According to the research, when adjusted for inflation, wage growth from 2003 to 2013 was either flat or negative for the entire bottom 70 percent of the wage distribution. Further, the number of non-elderly Americans who receive insurance benefits from an employer has fallen from 67 percent in 2003 to 58.4 percent in 2013.

"When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs," said report co-author Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center. "This creates significant cost to the states."

According to the Berkeley study, the reliance on public assistance spans a diverse range of occupations, including fast-food workers (52%), childcare workers (46%), home care workers (48%), and even part-time college faculty (25%).

In total, more than half of all state and federal spending on public assistance program now goes to working families, the study finds.

The report comes amid a growing push to increase the federal minimum wage. On Wednesday, workers in hundreds of cities across the country are holding an international day of action to call for a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.

And the Berkeley researchers contend, raising wages "would lift working families out of poverty and allow all levels of government to better target how our tax dollars are used."


This article was originally published by Common Dreams, and is republished here through a CC license. Photo via George Kelly/cc/flickr.

The Homeless Are Still With Us, and They Still Have A Heartbeat

The Homeless Are Still With Us, and They Still Have A Heartbeat

Among the afflictions and indignities visited upon the homeless, today's surreal news of a Medicaid scheme that preyed on them - perpetrators including 23 New York City doctors and medical workers allegedly made millions by recruiting the poor and homeless from shelters and soup kitchens as "guinea pigs" for bogus medical tests in exchange for a free pair of shoes - is uncommonly vile. Most days, the homeless are just shunned, scorned, ignored and assailed, as a new campaign by the Canadian advocacy group Raising the Roof makes grievously clear.

The campaign, with the hashtag #HumansForHumans, seeks to "change the conversation" about the homeless by presenting them as they are - real people, with real histories and sorrows and pain, living hard lives they did not choose. To foster understanding and hopefully empathy, it includes questions frequently asked of them - "Why can't your family help you?" "How did you become homeless?" "Do you use drugs?" "If you're freezing to death why don't you just get a job DUHHH?" - with their often bleak, pained, patient answers. Another video features homeless people explaining what they want the rest of us to know. But the most searing part is a PSA that - in a nod to the usually light-hearted prank of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves - shows the homeless reading actual, often pitiless tweets aimed at them. "Maybe if homeless people took care of themselves, looked pretty, we would want to help them," Kubby, homeless for 47 years, dutifully reads. "I don't help yellow teeth." "If home is where the heart is, are homeless people heartless?" asks another. Each brutal reading is followed by a mournful shake of the head, or a soft "wow," or, often, tears. Weep with them, and for them, and then lend a hand or heart.

 

What’s Brewing? This Week’s Must Read Link Roundup

what's brewing

"We recognize our service is not where it needs to be..." This admission from NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco came just one day after the MTA raised fares for the fifth time in eight years. From Crains New York Business: "Overall, weekday trains finished their route late 26% of the time, versus 19% in the previous 12 months. Weekend trains finished late 19% of the time, up from 14%."

So, what can the average NYC commuter do to protest against the drop in service and rise in out-of-pocket travel expenses? Foster Kamer has an article over on Matter with a great way to stick it to the MTA while also helping out fellow New Yorkers...#SwipeItForward!

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According to a report by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), New Yorkers with physical disabilities that hinder their mobility are not receiving equal access to the justice system. Everything from serving jury duty, to being booked and processed, to simply having access to restrooms has been found to be in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. From City Limits: "Some defendants in wheelchairs have reported being carried down several flights of stairs to be booked and processed at the Manhattan Criminal Court (MCC)’s central booking area.  Defendants in the DOC’s custody have been held in the MCC holding pens without access to wheelchair-accessible bathrooms." You can read NYLPI's report in PDF format here.

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Syphilis infection rates in the city rose more than 8% last year. In Chelsea, the rate of infection is 6 times higher than the rest of the city. In fact, the infection rate in Chelsea is higher than any other city in the US. DNAinfo has more. (Also, be safe.)

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New York City Housing Authority is facing serious financial woes. According to NYCHA Chairperson Shola Olatoye, the agency expects a $400 million deficit by the year 2025. City Limits has a break down of the many problems NYCHA is facing, along with some of the things being done to alleviate those problems. Councilman Richie Torres pointed out one problem in particular. NYCHA pays the city $30 million annually in property taxes while property developers and sites like Madison Square Garden get tax exemptions.

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Victims of Hurricane Sandy and victims of the predatory lenders who helped cause the 2008 economic catastrophe are fighting for a larger cut of the $5 billion in settlements NY State has received from banks and corporations. Gotham Gazette has a great, detailed piece on why it's so difficult for homeowners to get the financial relief they need.

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On March 28th, thousands of teachers, students, parents, and public school advocates rallied in Manhattan to protest Governor Cuomo's attempts to sell NY's public education system to the highest bidders. Common Dreams has more on the rally and why public education advocates are fighting so hard.

While Governor Cuomo is busy selling our children's futures, he's also busy spending NY State taxpayer money to fight a court case brought against his administration for underfunding eight smaller city school districts around the State. According to Capital New York, NYS is spending $1.7 million in attorneys fees and expert witness testimony.

Are you a parent who is thinking of opting out of the state tests this year? Or, are you someone who is interested in sharing opt-out information with your community? Change The Stakes has a FAQ flyer available to print from their website. On it you'll find most of what you need to know about how opting out affects your child and her/his school.

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A gas explosion caused a building collapse, multiple building fires, and 19 injuries in the East Village on Thursday. Gothamist has extensive coverage. The New York Times also points out an important part of the story:

"A young woman with dirt and blood covering half her face walked north up Second Avenue, a group of people holding her elbows to steady her. An off-duty firefighter who was nearby also rushed to the scene, the Fire Department said, and climbed the stuck ladder to help a woman down.

'Beautiful New York,' Mr. Farber said. 'Everyone jumps to help.'"

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BONUS LINK: Surprise! Most people who live in neighborhoods that are being gentrified don't think it's such a great thing.

Will NY Stop Prosecuting Children as Adults?

(Photo via
Michael Coghlan/CC)

New York Still Charges Teenagers as Adults. Will Cuomo's Bill Change That?

by Leticia Miranda ProPublica, March 26, 2015, 10:32 a.m.

In the United States, 16-year-olds can't vote or buy beer. But there is one place where they are treated as adults: New York state's criminal justice system. New York is one of just two states – the other is North Carolina – where 16-year-olds facing criminal charges are automatically put into the adult criminal system.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a plan to end that policy. He has proposed a bill that would raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 and would prohibit minors from being held in any adult facility. But some critics say the bill is filled with caveats and far less than meets the eye.

Here's a review of what Cuomo is proposing and where critics say it comes up short.

Why does New York automatically prosecute teens aged 16 or older as adults?

Because that's been the law for almost 200 years. In 1824, New York created one of the country's first juvenile detention centers – the House of Refuge – for kids under 16 years old. The issue was briefly revisited in 1961 when New York amended its constitution to reorganize its juvenile courts as family courts that also handle juvenile delinquency cases. But the legislative committee assigned to reorganize the courts couldn't decide whether to raise the age of criminal responsibility. Instead the committee called for a study, which then called for more studies.

Aren't teenagers sometimes charged as adults in other states?

Yes. Nine states automatically charge 17-year-olds as adults. And many other states give prosecutors or judges discretion to decide whether a case should be transferred to adult court for more serious charges like homicide.

What is Cuomo proposing to do?

He wants to gradually raise the age of adult criminal responsibility in New York to 18 through a budget bill. The bill would roll out in two phases. The maximum age of juvenile jurisdiction will be raised to 17 on Jan. 1, 2017 and raised again to 18 by Jan. 1, 2018. The bill would also prohibit the confinement of minors under 21 in adult jails and prisons, prevent minors with first-time misdemeanor offenses or probation violations from being held in detention, and create a separate branch of adult courts for teenagers charged with violent felonies.

The bill is based on a set of recommendations published earlier this year by a governor-appointed commission of experts and advocates.

Many advocates support the bill, including the New York City Bar Association. It is "not perfect but it would be unfortunate if we lost this opportunity to really take a step forward for young people," said Mishi Faruqee, juvenile justice policy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union. "There is a real urgency to this and I hope New York doesn't squander this opportunity."

What are the criticisms of the bill?

The bill has a variety of provisions that actually create stricter sentencing schemes, particularly for kids charged with violent crimes. Currently, most offenders under 19 have their records sealed. Under Cuomo's bill, a youthful offender's previous violent crimes would be taken into account if the person is charged with another one. The bill would also extend the amount of time a juvenile offender would have to serve before being eligible for probation. Judges would also be prohibited from moving teenagers to the juvenile system if the teen was a principal perpetrator or used a weapon.

Alexandra Cox, an assistant professor of sociology at SUNY New Paltz who has worked in juvenile facilities, wrote that the proposed changes "will actually harm the very individuals it purports to help."

The New York State Defenders Association, which provides legal support to public defenders, has called for the bill to be withdrawn. The group wrote that the bill is "too long, too complicated and too nuanced to be rushed through in the compressed political process that is represented by budget negotiations." The commission whose recommendations the bill is based on did not include defense attorneys.

Cuomo's office, in turn, has defended the bill. "If somebody is unhappy or doesn't think [the bill] goes far enough, we'll point to the wide support the legislation has among children's and civil rights advocates and law enforcement," said Frank Sobrino, spokesman for the governor.

What opposition or criticism does the bill face in Albany?

Plenty, and from both sides of the aisle. At a February legislative budget hearing in Albany, state officials in charge of the juvenile system fielded a slew of questions by mostly Republican lawmakers. Ahead of the hearing, Republican state Sen. Martin Golden criticized the proposal, telling the New York Daily News, "Some of the most heinous crimes are committed by kids who are 16 and 17." A Democratic assemblyman, meanwhile, has said he plans to push competing legislation that would keep more kids out of the adult system.

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