Archive | Politics

Subway MTA Workers Protest Planned Layoffs and Silent Union

By Amber Benham, Jacqueline Linge and Heather Chin

Update (May 11, 2009): Following approval from the New York State Legislature for a $2.26 billion bailout of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the agency’s board voted today to raise subway fares and road tolls by 10 percent instead of the proposed 23 to 30 percent. The commuter and subways/bus hikes will take effect on June 17 and June 28, respectively. The compromise also reduces service and staff cuts to only those coming from retirement and workers quitting.

Hundreds of transit workers – train conductors, bus drivers, track inspectors and station agents – joined average New Yorkers outside the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Midtown headquarters last Thursday to protest everything from transit layoffs and budget cuts to fare and tuition hikes. Their massive presence and loud cries punctuated a campaign that began over six months ago when the MTA announced a budget shortfall of 1.2 billion dollars. Since then, the deficit has ballooned as tax revenues fall.

Proposals for closing the budget gap include a 23 to 30 percent fare hike effective June 1, the reduction of commuter bus, subway and train service, and the elimination of up to 3,000 jobs, 1,100 through immediate layoffs and the rest after workers retire or quit, according to the MTA. Transit Workers Union Local 100 estimates the removal of at least 819 bus operators, over 700 station attendants and 317 managerial administrators.

The proposed hike would mean one-way subway fares of $2.50 from the current $2. A 30-day unlimited Metrocard would cost $103, up from $81.

Protesters said that these cuts would negatively affect service on all levels, the fewer number of station attendants and conductors reducing response times for commuter problems and potentially increasing safety risks.  They said that in addition to saving their own jobs, they want to also ensure there are enough workers and financial support to safeguard public safety, as Lance Hill, a station cleaner, stated. “We want the safety for the public,” Hill said. “We don’t want them to cut back, taking clerks out of booths and things like that.”

At an emergency MTA board meeting in March, MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger called the situation “dire” and maintained that negotiations with union leaders were ongoing.  Besides trying to alleviate a huge budget deficit, the MTA is also selling the MTA Dedicated Tax Fund and various bonds for over $1.25 billion in order to finance existing transit and capital projects.

Workers present were part of MTA Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is led by Acting President Curtis Tate, who is working with union arbiter Roger Touissant on negotiations and the penning of a new collective bargaining agreement with the MTA.

“It seems like every year the contract is up, transit is losing money. And the other three years before that they’re making billion dollar profits. So we just find it strange that every time it comes to us there’s nothing for the workers,” said bus driver Hiram Vidal, who works on the M4 bus line. “Ridership for the buses are up 500 percent, but yet … they say they’re losing money. I don’t know what sector of the transit is losing money, but it’s not the working class.”

While New Yorkers are fed up with the union leadership, calling for more member input and influence in contract negotiations, Touissant, as arbiter, and Local 100 are holding out hope for the city, state and federal governments to provide financial support.  In a statement on the union’s website, Touissant says he hopes President Obama will “address pressing national and international issues in a manner that offers longer term solutions rather than short term or knee-jerk reactions to just cut cut cut,” and that Albany do the same and secure long-term funding. However, how they are to do that is not addressed.

Posted in City Proposals, Manhattan, Multimedia, Politics

Yankees Steal Home Field Advantage From Bronx School

Yankee Stadium - - shiny and new.  (Photo by Rachel Senatore.)

The new Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Rachel Senatore)

A sell-out crowd of almost 48,000 fans filed into the brand new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium for Opening Day on April 16. So much for home-field advantage—the Yankees fell to the Cleveland Indians with a humiliating 10-2 loss.

But at least they have a home field.

The stadium now sits upon the former Macombs Dam Park, the former home field for All Hallows High School, a small Catholic school located just blocks away from their major league neighbors. New York City plowed over the twenty-two acres of Bronx parkland to make way for the Yankees’ new digs in August 2006.

For three years, the All Hallows’ baseball, soccer and track teams searched the city for a place to play. The circumstances forced them to become a band of reluctant road warriors, playing their home games on opponents’ fields.

“It’s just very frustrating,” principal and team coach Sean Sullivan said. “They’ve affected our school. But we have to adapt, adjust and improvise.”

The Parks Department promised to build All Hallows and the surrounding community replacement fields on the footprint of the old stadium. Originally, they scheduled a start date in 2008. They since pushed back completion of the project until 2010.

All Hallows asked the Yankees for $50,000 for a new bus.  The Yankees gave them a 600-pound behemouth of a pitching maching from the old stadium.  (Photo by Rachel Senatore.)

The Yankees gave Sullivan a 600-pound pitching machine from the old Yankee Stadium. However, it is to heavy to move out of the closet. (Photo by Rachel Senatore)

New Yorkers React To New Stadium

When asked on Opening Day about the Yankees’ treatment of the surrounding Bronx neighborhood, visiting fans voiced their overwhelming disappointment.

“It’s horrible,” said Kevin Corrigan, 55, from Queens. “They did nothing for the community except make money for themselves.”

On April 18, in the midst of the Yankees’ Opening Weekend, local residents parked themselves in front of the old stadium in protest of team’s broken promises.

Fans of the Bronx Bombers have mixed opinions on what to do with the old stadium. While there’s no love loss for the original House That Ruth Built, many believe the community deserves the restoration of their lost grasslands.

Click on the arrow to hear the varying opinions of the New York Yankees faithful:
[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/04/yankees_1-22.mp3]

By Maya Pope-Chappell, Nicholas Martinez, Rachel Senatore, Alex Green IV and Lois DeSocio

Posted in Bronx, City Proposals, Multimedia, Politics, Sports, Video

Angry Americans Protest Wall Street – Good Therapy, Poor Politics, say Experts

by Igor Kossov, Lindsay Lazarski, Mike Reicher and Kate Zhao

As April rain fell on Wall Street, employees at Bank of America stood between potted plants in their second floor offices and looked down at the angry crowd below. The people in the crowd waved plastic-draped signs, chanting “shame” and “bankers come out.” The bankers smiled, took pictures on their cell phones, but did not come out. The crowd moved on to yell at others.

Why Individuals Decide to Protest
SLIDESHOW: Why Wall Street Protesters RageSLIDE SHOW: Stories from Wall Street, April 3, 2009
Listen to New York University finance professor Kenneth Froewiss explain why Americans are angry so at Wall Street bankers:

[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/04/professor-froewiss_1-2.mp3|titles=Professor Kenneth Froewiss, NYU]
Major U.S. Protests During Current Financial Crisis

TIMELINE: View Major U.S. Protests During Current Financial Crisis

Americans are clearly mad – at greedy bankers, Wall Street bank bailouts and others – but their protests haven’t reached a critical mass and unity of message that would effect meaningful political change, experts say. Instead, they’re really just venting.

“I see it as a bunch of angry people,” said Darrell West, the vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute, a liberal Washington think tank. “It’s more catharsis as opposed to people following a coherent political strategy.”

Most U.S. protests of bank bailouts, for example, have been limited to several hundred people per event – as in the case of a September 25, 2008 Wall Street demonstration and March 19, 2009 rally in the Financial District of San Francisco.

Maybe the rain was a drawback on April 3, when fewer people than expected (hundreds, not thousands) protested the Federal bailouts of Wall Street banks and the $165 million of American Insurance Group bonuses. Experts including historian Howard Zinn called the rally, along with similar ones throughout the country, a mild response.

The rally also lacked a clear focus of the anger. Protesters chanted about bailouts but also complained about mistreatment of Guantanamo prisoners anr Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The mixed messages may have diluted the rage.

This unfocused approach has little meaningful effect on policy and doesn’t really spark the anger some Congressmen have displayed in recent weeks, according to Robert Reich, former U.S. labor secretary and professor of public policy at University of California Berkeley. Reich wrote on his blog (http://robertreich.blogspot.com) that Congressmen responded to a wave of mail and phone calls rather than people taking to the streets.

“In the short run, the government ignores political protests – hoping it will go away,” said West from Brookings. “They need to reach a critical mass in terms of numbers and visibility.”

In Europe, the numbers of people protesting the recession have been substantially higher. In February, over 100,000 people brought central Dublin to a standstill. Around 35,000 showed up to the G20 protest in London (though many were anti-capitalists before the recession). And in France, millions took to the streets in January and March.

U.S. citizens are much more likely than Europeans to go directly to their elected officials rather than express their rage in the form of a protest, wrote Reich on his blog.

Click Below to watch RAW FOOTAGE from the April 3, 2009 Wall Street protest:

Posted in City Proposals, Featured, Health Care, Multimedia, Politics, Video

Tamil-Americans Protest Sri Lankan Mission in NYC

Nearly 100 Tamil Americans gathered outside of the Sri Lanka Mission to the United Nations in Midtown Manhattan on March 16, chanting for a cease-fire in the war torn northern region of Sri Lanka.

In recent weeks, the Sri Lankan military has made significant advances on the Liberation Tiger of Thamil Eelam (LTTE), an ethnic separatist group that has been at war with Sri Lanka since 1983. The international Tamil community responded to the military advances and what they call genocide against Tamilis by holding rallies in New York City, Washington D.C., and Toronto. Tamil Americans Against Genocide organized the New York rally.

The New York rally drew Tamil-Americans from the tri-state area who took off from work and school to urge the United Nations to call an end to the fighting.

The peaceful, at times listless protesters stayed in an orderly pack behind police barricades and recited slogans. Listen to the protest chant.

[audio:http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/timothypersinko/files/2009/03/chant_1-2.mp3]

Protestors waved hand made signs and printed pictures of mutilated bodies that, they say, the Sri Lankan government is responsible for.

Some signs reading “Freedom Fighters,” responded to the common accusation that Tamil Tigers, who have a history of using suicide bombing and civilian attacks, are a terrorist organization.

Bala Tha, 60, a transit worker who lives in the Bronx has lived in the United States for 30 years.  He explained the goals of the protestors and addressed the use of violence by Tamil forces.

Bala Tha on the ongoing conflict, and on the use of force by Tamils:

[audio:http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/timothypersinko/files/2009/03/bala-tha-intv.mp3]

The mostly older crowd sang traditional Tamil songs.  Thiladm Rama, 60, of Hillside, Queens, led the singing.

Rama’s song about the Tamil origins:

[audio:http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/timothypersinko/files/2009/03/singing_1-2.mp3]

Jamune Kiru, 40, of Floral Park, Long Island, has been in the United States for 15 years, but worries for her brothers and sisters that are still in Sri Lanka.

Kiru explained the situation in Sri Lanka:

[audio:http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/timothypersinko/files/2009/03/jamune_1-2.mp3]

Video

Raj Savermett,51, talks about why he is protesting

A protest organizer discusses whether the Tamil Tigers are terrorists.

Reported and produced by:

Emily Feldman, Joel Schectman, and Tim Persinko

 

 

Posted in Multimedia, Politics, Video

AIDS Activists Flunk New York City Health Care Services

D. D-minus. F.

Those are the grades that HIV and AIDS advocates gave to New York City’s health care services.

To mark President Obama’s 50th day in office on Wednesday, March 11, AIDS and HIV prevention advocates from around the country issued a health care report card grading the nation’s progress in finding a cure for the epidemic. The “End AIDS Report Card,” compiled by the activist organization Campaign To End AIDS, failed the city across the board on the services such as housing and medication distribution.


Housing Works Rally Video
Harlem, New York

“We need a national strategy to end AIDS,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. “Twenty five years into the epidemic and we still don’t have a coherent national strategy on prevention or on treatment services and care. There has to be a strategy that involves every single state and every single locality doing its fare share.”

According to a Housing Works representative, the “End AIDS Report Card” was based upon information provided by various AIDS advocacy groups that lobby for AIDS-related funding and services at city, state and federal level.

Activists and supporters, like local entities Housing Works and Harlem United Community AIDS Center, gathered at various locations across the country, such as New York and Washington D.C..

Protesters staged a rousing, speech-filled rally. They displayed large, color billboard report cards detailing their negative assessment of the city’s health care missteps. And they distributed educational pamphlets, orange stickers and free contraceptives – – all in an effort to bring awareness to the issue.

In Harlem, King singled out Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn because of proposed cuts to city services. “The City has received close to 2 billion dollars in new money as a part of the stimulus package,” King said. “There is absolutely no excuse for the City to be cutting vital service to the health care of those with AIDS and HIV.”

Without commenting on the city’s future funding for HIV-related services, a spokesperson for the city’s health department cited their recent AIDS prevention efforts through condom distribution, syringe exchanges and voluntary testing. The City Council is currently holding hearings on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2010, which at this time includes cuts of nearly $2 million in case management staff for HIV/AIDS, among other related reductions.

King said, however, the Mayor must employ new fiscal strategies in order to remedy this situation. “Frankly, I don’t think this notion that all cuts are somehow equal and that everyone has to take their share of the pain even makes sense,” King said. “I have to run an organization and I have to administer a budget. And one of the things I know is that some cuts actually cost you more to make. This is one of those cuts that will cost the city in the long run.”

“We are in a financial crisis, right,” said Housing Works employee Lynan Saperstein. “So what’s happening to the people at the bottom? They’re getting ignored and they were already suffering.”

Click here to see the United States’ AIDS report card.

Click here to see New York State’s AIDS report card.

Click here to see New York City’s AIDS report card.

New Yorkers Living with HIV Speak Out

Frederick Taylor, 51 (originally from Sacramento, CA)
Frederick Taylor, 51, who works at a Housing Works thrift store, fears that cuts to funding may endanger services like public housing and non-pharmaceutical treatment offered to HIV-infected people.

Click the arrow to play.
[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/03/f_taylor_bounce.mp3]


Rodney Robinson, 45, a senior peer educator at AIDS Service Center, explained why he thinks it’s especially problematic for New York City to cut HIV/AIDS services.

Click the arrow to play.
[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/03/rodney-robinson2.mp3]

(Contributors to this report are James Flood, Valerie Lapinski, Alex Green IV, Heather Chin and Nicholas C. Martinez.)

Posted in Featured, Health Care, Manhattan, Multimedia, Politics, Video

Broadway Walks: Bloomberg Plans Pedestrian-Friendly Zone

and Geneva Sands-Sadowitz, Lindsay Lazarski, Nick Loomis, Mike Reicher

Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to close stretches of Broadway favors feet over wheels, but some question if it has the legs to stand on.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.kristenjoywatts.com/slideshows/Broadway/Broadway.swf” height=”427″ width=”602″ base=”.” /]
As New York City Councilman Tony Avella says, nobody drives in Manhattan for the pleasure of it. They drive there because they have to. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is adding to the aggravation of some of those drivers through his proposed changes to Broadway as part of the “Green Light for Midtown” pilot program – set to take effect on Memorial Day weekend of 2009. See more details about the plan in the fact sheet and the map of the affected areas below.

Few dispute that the traffic problems on Broadway need the attention of city government, but many skeptics question if this is the best way to resolve them. Avella, who is running against Bloomberg in the upcoming mayoral election, is one of the critics who say this trial solution isn’t worth its $1.5 million price tag.

“These changes will just push traffic to other avenues,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea and it’s certainly not a good idea to carry out without consulting anyone.”

FACT SHEET

  • Close vehicle traffic on Broadway from:
    47th Street to 42nd Street
    35th Street to 33rd Street
  • East-west traffic will not be restricted
  • Closure will add over three acres of open space
  • Planters and “greenery” added at 24 location
  • Estimated cost of $1.5 million
  • Fire lane for emergency vehicle access
  • Green lights lengthened by 21 seconds on 6th Avenue (from 32 seconds today to 53 seconds)
  • Preliminary roadway improvements in April 2009
  • Traffic closed and installation of planters and pedestrian “refuge islands” beginning Memorial Day weekend
  • Public meetings from through May 2009, beginning with:

March 11 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Broadway / Green Light for Midtown Open House, Radisson Martinique Broadway

March 12 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm – Broadway / Green Light for Midtown Open House, Radisson Martinique Broadway

The Affected Areas

Click the lines on the map for a block-by-block description of Broadway.

View Larger Map

Other New Yorkers agree with Avella and say that Bloomberg is acting unilaterally in this important decision. “He just wants to go his way, as he’s trying to get reelected,” said Jack Wayne Sutton, a hawker handing out flyers for the New York Golf Center. “I don’t blame him, but he should just sit down and ask the public what they think.”

One group that would have liked to be consulted is the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Bill Lindauer, the group’s campaign coordinator and a 30-year driver, didn’t like the idea at first but he now thinks Bloomberg’s plan could achieve its goal of reducing traffic, therein making things easier for cab drivers. But he says he’s a wait-and-see kind of guy.

“It could be a brilliant idea or hell-brained idea.”

Members of the alliance recently met with the DOT and offered recommendations, including placing taxi stands in parts of Herald Square and making at least one “taxi only” lane on Broadway from 50th Street to 44th Street.

Whether or not they accept the recommendations, the Bloomberg administration is moving forward with its basic plans, which they announced in late February.

“For Midtown traffic – Broadway is a problem hidden in plain sight,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement. “We’re going to the heart of the matter and piloting a simple solution to a complex problem.” She also said that the plan “will work with the grid instead of against it.”

So why is Broadway working against the grid?

In 1811, urban planners laid out the grid New Yorkers are familiar with today, but left Broadway running diagonally across Manhattan. This configuration creates congestion problems at the points where Broadway intersects with both east-west-running streets and north-south-running avenues – namely, the areas where Bloomberg wants to cut vehicle traffic.

Whether it was the 1811 officials who made a mistake or the 2009 ones, time will tell. Either way, Bloomberg left himself a back door with the temporary plan.

“We are going to closely monitor the results to determine if this pilot works and should be extended beyond its trial period,” he said at a press conference.

Listen below to hear how local workers, commuters, and tourists will be affected by the mayor’s proposal to close traffic on Broadway:



Broadway Bikes

Reporters Lindsay Lazarski and Nick Loomis demonstrate, with the help of a helmet cam, the bicyclist’s experience on Broadway:


Posted in City Proposals, Manhattan, Politics