Nat Herz brings us the news at 4:00.
Posted on 04 May 2012.
Nat Herz brings us the news at 4:00.
Posted on 27 April 2012.
Nearly 1 million people live outside of New York and commute to the city each day.
Now, Manhattan Borough President and potential mayoral candidate Scott Stringer is calling for the reinstatement of a commuter tax, which was repealed in 1999.
This tax has a long, contentious history here: it existed for more than 30 years.
Bringing it back could be just as fraught.
SOUND: Ding-dong of train doors opening and closing, and conductor announcing.
And Mark Schweitzer is on his way to work.
IC: “I’m a lawyer—I take the train into the city every day…”
OC: “…I work all the way downtown, so I have to get onto the subway.” (0:05)
SOUND: Fade up thunk-thunk of train going by, and tick-tick of tickets being clipped.
The train is filling up with dozens of commuters just like Schweitzer. And that’s exactly Scott Stringer’s point.
SOUND: Fade out train and ticket-taking.
IC: “Every day, commuters pour into New York City…”
OC: “…and small surcharge of 0.45 percent.” (0:15)
That was Stringer last week, proposing that commuters kick in half a percent of their yearly earnings.
Stringer thinks the tax money would add up to $725 million dollars for the city. And he’d funnel that directly into the the budget for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Noah Budnick helps run a non-profit called Transportation Alternatives. He thinks Stringer’s way of funding the MTA is better than raising fares.
IC: “When elected officials don’t come up with new ways…”
OC: “…of any transit system in the country.” (0:10)
The commuter tax could ease that burden.
But Queens Assemblyman David Weprin says the tax is a hard sell in Albany.
IC: “We have a governor that’s taken a public position against…”
OC: “…where they have a large commuter representation.” (0:12)
Weprin has sponsored his own version of the commuter tax. He says it’s Albany lawmakers who have to approve it.
But the mayor can weigh in. It’s just that Michael BLOOMberg — has chosen not to.
IC: “There’s no question if the mayor got up there…”
OC: “…could have gotten back, certainly, the old commuter tax.” (0:14)
Back in 1966, it was another Mayor, John Lindsay, who had proposed the first commuter tax.
And just like today, there was a group of reluctant Republican legislators from the suburbs.
State budget negotiators spent three days in Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s mansion. Staffers slept on the rug, and the politicians ran out of clean clothes.
IC: “They were sending their aides out…”
OC: “…at the haberdashery store on State Street.” (0:05)
New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg covered those negotiations. They concluded at 4:00 in the morning on the last day.
He got his information from the governor’s butler at the time.
Schanberg said that it was Rockefeller, with his presidential aspirations, who brokered the final deal.
IC: “He didn’t want to see a bunch of guys…”
OC: “…without a solution.” (0:06)
Transportation and rising fares could be a key issue in the 2013 mayoral campaign, according to Transportation Alternatives’ Noah Budnick.
IC: “There are seven and a half, eight…”
OC: “…you can have a huge slice of New York City voters.” (0:13)
The commuter tax wouldn’t cost those voters a single cent. But that doesn’t help its chances in Albany.
Nat Herz, Columbia Radio News.
–The tape from Scott Stringer’s speech is courtesy of WNYC.
To read Schanberg’s compelling account of the 1966 negotiations, click here.
Posted on 20 April 2012.
I went up to the corner of 161st Street and the Grand Concourse this morning, next to the Bronx County Courthouse, and tried to catch a ride back to the Uptown Radio Studios in Manhattan.
IC: “This is a really busy intersection…”
OC: “…I’m going to see how long it takes me to hail a yellow cab here.” (:06)
I’ll spare you the 15 minutes I waited without seeing any yellow cabs.
So I tried a new approach: looking for a livery car.
Livery cars aren’t as easy to pick out. They’re not yellow. They don’t have lights on top. But they’re all over the Bronx.
SOUND: Door opening
IC: “Hi. Can you take me to Columbia University?…”
OC: “…Where? Columbia University. Okay.” (:06)
It took less than a minute, and I was on my way to my destination.
But the problem is, what just happened was illegal. Under the old regulations, livery cars can’t stop for street hails—only yellow cabs can.
But yellow cabs tend not to leave Manhattan. David Yassky, chairman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, says that’s created a vacuum.
“This vacuum has been filled by a huge underground market.” (:04)
NAR: That’s what Yassky said yesterday during the commission’s hearing.
The new rules would allow the city to sell up to 6,000 new licenses, starting in June. The licenses would let livery car drivers take street hails everywhere in the city, except for most of Manhattan.
The commission voted 7 to 2 to approve the new rules.
The livery car industry is delighted. The yellow taxi industry is angry. Some drivers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their medallions—their own licenses that let them pick up street hails in all five boroughs.
The new livery car licenses will cost just $1,500. Some medallion owners told the commission that they were worried their investments would lose value.
IC: “I borrowed from everyone I knew to purchase my medallion…”
OC: “…I didn’t grow up easy.” (:20)
That’s 74-year-old Vincent Sapone, who said he started driving a yellow cab back in 1964.
Sapone used to work in the Bronx and in Harlem, but he said livery cars pushed him out. And he blames the city for letting it happen.
IC: “The day came when the taxi stand was full with liveries…”
OC: “…You get into fights, and they push you out to Manhattan.” (:20)
NAR: A coalition of medallion owners has sued to stop the city’s rules from going into effect.
And livery car owners face other hurdles before they can start picking up street hails. Twenty percent of the new licenses must go to handicapped-accessible vehicles.
While New Yorkers wait for resolution, livery cars will keep taking street hails in the Bronx, illegally. Outside the courthouse this morning, Ralph William Boone said he thinks the new rules make sense.
IC: “It seems to me if you’re allowing the livery cabs…”
OC: “…Because the yellow cabs aren’t here in the first place.” (:08)
If the new rules pass muster with the courts, street-hail livery cabs will get their own roof lights and fare meters, just like taxis. And they’ll be painted a uniform color, though the TLC hasn’t decided which.
The only thing that’s for sure is that it won’t be yellow.
Posted on 13 April 2012.
Posted on 05 April 2012.
HOST INTRO: This week, State Senator Adriano Espaillat announced he’s running for a U.S. Congressional seat in northern Manhattan and the Bronx.
If elected, Espaillat—a Democrat–would become the first Dominican-American in the House of Representatives.
His biggest obstacle is incumbent Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, who’s had the seat for more than four decades.
Now Rangels’ district been redrawn to include heavily Latino neighborhoods—setting up a new contest between two of the city’s largest constituencies: Latinos and African Americans.
Nat Herz has this report.
SOUND: Fade in track meet ambi.
NAR: This past Sunday afternoon, State Senator Adriano Espaillat was getting a warm welcome at a track meet he helped organize in Washington Heights.
The stocky, energetic 57-year-old dished out handshakes, gave a quick speech, and posed for a photo-op with a giant tiger mascot. And for one last day, he dodged questions about his political future.
IC: “No, no no…
OC: “…Tomorrow, I’ll answer you that.”
NAR: Espaillat’s run for Congress was one of the worst-kept secrets in New York City. He announced it the very next morning.
Voters have sent Espaillat to Albany for the last 15 years—first as an assemblyman, and then as a state senator. He’s championed a bill on rent regulation, chaired a committee on small business, and pulled in money to his district for legal assistance.
All that has earned him the loyalty of voters like Louis Ramos, a Dominican-American from Washington Heights who was at the track watching his daughter. Ramos says he knows Espaillat personally.
IC: “He helped me out pretty good…”
OC: “…so he got my vote.”
NAR: Espaillat appears to be the strongest of four new challengers for the Congressional seat in New York’s 13th district. Other contenders include Clyde Williams, the former Democratic National Committee political director, and longtime activist and politician Joyce Johnson.
But there’s one gigantic obstacle for all of them. That’s Rangel, who’s been in office since 1971—three years before Espaillat graduated from Bishop Dubois High School…in Harlem.
Rangel is known as ‘the Lion of Harlem.’ And despite a series of ethics problems over the last few years, he’s still popular.
IC: “He was even chairman…”
OC: “…of the Ways and Means Committee!”
NAR: That’s Mamadou Diallo, a taxi driver who says he has voted for Rangel before, and will again. He thinks Rangel deserves credit for consistently delivering to the area in the 23 years Diallo has lived there—and he has specific examples.
IC: “There were no banks in Harlem…”
OC: “…Particularly during the Clinton years, a lot happened around here.”
SOUND: Fade out track meet ambi.
NAR: For Espaillat to get elected, he’ll have to win over longtime Rangel constituents like Diallo.
In an e-mailed statement, a Rangel spokesman said that the Congressman “firmly believes, as he did 21 times before, that he is the best candidate to make a difference in the community.”
The re-drawn district is now more than half Latino—up some 10 percent from the last election.
Technically, that should make things easier for Espaillat. But he’s still on Rangel’s turf.
During his 40 years in office, the incumbent has developed strong ties with a number of Latino leaders. And it doesn’t hurt Rangel that his father is Puerto Rican.
IC: “Who knows?! You call him Charlie Rangel…”
OC: “…he may call himself Carlos Rang-GELL.”
Angelo Falcon is president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, which is based in New York.
He says that Latinos won’t just vote as one big group.
The new district has a significant Puerto Rican population, and a number of local leaders have already thrown Rangel their endorsements.
In theory, Espaillat should get strong support from Dominicans. But Falcon says that group lacks clout when it heads to the polls.
IC: “There are age, citizenship issues…
OC: “…So it’s not a slam dunk, by any means.”
NAR: Espaillat and the other challengers will square off in the Democratic primary on June 26.
Nat Herz, Columbia Radio News.
Posted on 23 March 2012.
BY NATHANIEL HERZ
HOST INTRO: New York’s next elections for mayor and city council are still a year and a half away. But last week, the city Campaign Finance Board passed a new set of rules that could have a big impact on how those races are run. Nat Herz has the story.
NAT: You know that Supreme Court decision, Citizens United? The one that has turned the presidential election upside down by loosening federal campaign finance laws? Well, up until last week, some of New York City’s laws were even looser.
Here’s city Campaign Finance Board Spokesman Eric Friedman.
IC: “There was no requirement at all at the city level…”
OC: “…for outside parties to disclose what they’re spending in city elections.”
NAT: At the federal level, groups supporting a candidate generally have to say where they’re getting their cash, and how much they’re spending on ads and mailings. That’s never been the case in New York. To put it another way, says Laurence Laufer, former counsel for the city’s Campaign Finance Board, New York had a loophole that doesn’t exist at the federal level.
IC: “New York City has had a campaign finance law for 25 years…”
OC: “…those were simply outside of the disclosure regime.”
NAT: The disclosure gap applied to any so-called independent efforts, which could be backed by labor unions, corporations, even wealthy individuals. Groups didn’t have to say who they got their money from, or where it was going. For example, several 2009 city council races were influenced by a $500,000 independent campaign backed by real estate companies. Only after the race did citizens get the details—too late to inform decisions at the polls. Voters passed new disclosure rules in a citywide ballot measure in 2010. After revisions and public comments, they were approved by the Campaign Finance Board last week. Friedman says the rules are an improvement.
IC: “We have the disclosure so that voters…”
OC: “…going to help them determine who they vote for.”
NAT: In recent mayoral races, independent money has played only a small role. Laufer, the campaign lawyer, says that’s because of the unique situation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has bankrolled his own campaigns.
IC: “The story of the last decade has been spending…”
OC: “…who’s going to do something similar.”
NAT: Bloomberg’s absence will likely increase the clout of the independent groups in November, 2013. In both city and federal races, there are rules forbidding coordination with a candidate’s campaign. In national elections, though, groups like Super PACs have a lot of leeway. It’s a point driven home by satirist Steven Colbert, who has been running for presidential.
IC: “Nation, so much to get to tonight…”
OC: “…if in any way those ads can be traced back to me.”
NAT: The Federal Election Commission hasn’t gone after Colbert for those shenanigans. But it’s unlikely he could get away with it in New York—the city’s definition of coordination is more expansive. That means that independent groups will have to tread carefully if they opt to spend in the 2013 elections. Something for Colbert to keep in mind if his presidential bid flops and he decides to run for mayor.
Nat Herz, Columbia Radio News.
Posted on 09 March 2012.
BY NATHANIEL HERZ
Every 10 years, each state must redraw the boundaries between its legislative and congressional districts. That’s to account for population changes reflected in the U.S. Census. New York is currently mired in the process, which is known as redistricting.
Sasha Chavkin is a reporting fellow for the New York World, a new website that reports on city and state government from Columbia Journalism School. He says that there’s a lot riding on the drawing of the maps.
Posted on 09 March 2012.
BY NATHANIEL HERZ
For runners and cyclists, exercising in New York City can sometimes devolve into war, with dog-walkers and taxi drivers for enemies. Nat Herz recounts his battles in Central Park.
Posted on 02 March 2012.
BY NATHANIEL HERZ
HOST: City comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu has had a rough week. On Tuesday, federal agents arrested his campaign treasurer and charged her with violating campaign finance law. Since then, he’s faced questions about the future of his mayoral bid, and about whether he can even hold on to his position as comptroller.
This morning, Nat Herz took a trip to Liu’s home neighborhood of Flushing, in Queens, to see how residents are taking the news.
NARRATION: Politicians and pundits have been talking about John Liu all week. But some people in Flushing, 10 miles from city hall, don’t even know who he is.
HERZ: Do you know John Liu? The Comptroller?
MAN: John Liu? No, sorry!
NARRATION: Liu lives in Flushing. It’s at the center of the city council district where voters first elected him in 2002. Liu was born in Taiwan; he enjoys strong support among Flushing’s residents, two-thirds of whom are of Asian descent. News broke last fall that the FBI was investigating Liu’s fundraising machine. On Tuesday, his campaign treasurer Jenny Hou was arrested and charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice in a scheme that involved donations that exceeded legal limits. The government alleges that the money was later split up and attributed to other donors, a violation of New York’s campaign finance laws. The 24-page complaint suggests that Liu may have been complicit. But in Flushing, residents are still giving him the benefit of the doubt. Chris Lee, a waiter, said that he doubted Liu was responsible.
LEE: He’s not the mastermind. Somebody—his assistant did all that…I don’t think it will happen again, because he’s a very conscious guy.
NARRATION: Down the street, a print shop employee who would only give his name as Robert said that he wasn’t making any judgments yet.
ROBERT: If there’s no proof, what can you say? Unless all the things are on the table, black and white, okay, then he’s doing something wrong. I wouldn’t say anything at the present moment, unless all the proof are there.
NARRATION: There’s still more than a year to go until the Democratic mayoral primary. Veteran Queens political consultant Lois Marbach said that in politics, anything can happen in a year.
MARBACH: Who knows—something happens with his opponents…Or if all this gets cleared up and it’s determined that he had no knowledge of it or whatever.
NARRATION: Marbach also said that the details of the case may be too complicated for voters to follow.
MARBACH: Most people don’t even understand the rules of campaign finance for one thing. The second thing is, when you’re running a citywide race, it’s almost impossible for you to know every contributor and what they’ve done…So, knowing that, the voters can keep an open mind.
NARRATION: Liu maintains that none of the allegations have been proven, and he says that his campaign is moving forward. Nat Herz, Columbia Radio News.
Posted on 24 February 2012.
There are an estimated 345,000 homes in foreclosure or delinquent status in New York State alone. But a new $25 million dollar settlement between federal and state governments and five major banks could provide mortgage relief to many of these home owners, if they can figure out how to get it.
BY NAT HERZ
The week long February school break came to an abrupt end today for a large group of New York City public school teachers. After much anticipation and controversy, the city released the individual ratings of about 18,000 teachers to the public.
The teacher data reports were released at noon today and show what is called a “value added” rating of fourth through eighth grade language arts and math teachers from three separate school years. A formula was used to calculate a score between 0 and 99 based on the predicted standardized test scores of students, the actual scores, and factors such as whether the student is economically disadvantaged or disabled. Teacher Tristan Schwartzman says that it makes sense to compare teachers at a school level, but the ratings should not be used to compare teachers in general. “Where a teacher teaches at a school where students come in already possessing the skills they need to pass an exam like that- their students all pass that exam, versus where my students, 40 percent is solid. I’m happy with forty percent,” he said.
Schwartzman has been teaching for six years at an alternative program for high school students who need to retake earlier grades or classes that they have failed. He isn’t planning on looking at his score if it is published, but he says there may be value to releasing the scores. “It really does reflect on our performance as teachers,” he said, adding, “basically all we’re doing is trying to push them through those exams .So it is of value to know how successful we are.”
Some teachers and activists question the value of the scores. Independent experts say that the relatively small sample size has created an enormous margin of error. For example, a math teacher could have a 35-point discrepancy in their score. That means a rating of 60 could actually be as low as 25, or as high as 95. The scores are from 2007 to 2010 and the state has admitted that some scores were inflated or contained factual errors. The United Federation of Teachers tried unsuccessfully to block the release of the scores in 2010 but was overruled and lost an appeal with a state court last week. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that the data should not be used against teachers. “When you are saying that this is a judgment of people, you have to say what is reliable and what is not and these scores are just wrong and misleading,” Mulgrew said.
Many parents responded to news of the release by posting comments on media website. Reactions were mostly against the release of the data, although some parents expressed interest in the information. Elizabeth Weiss is a clinical social worker with a daughter in 3rd grade at the Lower Lab School in Manhattan. She says she would probably be curious by the information, and thinks that there a lot of parents may want to see it. “I think a lot of New York City parents are obsessed with this sort of thing because it reflects on their children,” Weiss said.
Weiss says that she trusts her daughter’s current teachers and most likely won’t look up their data, but may be tempted when shopping for middle schools. She says that while she’s glad the information is out there, it should be looked at in context of the whole school and it doesn’t reflect all aspects of a teacher. “If for example teachers get poor ratings because of these scores- is that a direct reflection on them or a lack of support they’re getting from their school, or parents, or the city?” Weiss asked. She says the individual ratings won’t weight too much for her.
New York City stopped producing the ratings after 2010 and adopted a new evaluation system last week that includes test scores, but also classroom observations and other factors. In response to the city’s actions today, the UFT kicked of a newspaper advertising campaign featuring the slogan “This Is No Way to Rate a Teacher” above a complex mathematical formula intended to highlight what they say is a problematic way to rate teachers.