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Which Manhattan 'Democratic' Pols Support $8 Tolls To Cross 60th Street & East River Bridges?

Borough President Brewer, NYS Assemblyman Rodriguez, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Weprin & Many Manhattan CCM's Support $8 Tolls to Raise Capital for the MTA

NYS Governor Cuomo Supported Congestion Traffic Pricing in the Past & Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin Is Supporting It

August 2016 / NYC Neighborhoods / NYC Politics / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

nyc congestion pricing move ny congestion pricing plan

The new Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan has been making its way into the legislative process over the past year. Just last week NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Manhattan introduced the bill on March 23, 2016. The Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan is being sold into the legislature as a means to raise revenue to fund MTA Capital projects.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin, CCM's Ydanis Rodriguez, Margaret Chin, Mark Levine & Corey Johnson support installing $8 tolls on 60th Street & East River bridges to raise capital for the MTA.

Governor Cuomo's Words Are ...

Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the Congestion Pricing Plan put forth years ago, which wasn't popular with many of the voters in Brooklyn & Queens. The two boroughs have a combined population which rounds to 5 million or 25% of the 20 million people who live in New York State.

Cuomo was quoted as making the following statement by the Observer in an article published a year ago on March 15, 2015,

"It's not, 'Can I support it?' Will the people support it? Can you get it done? Can you get a congestion plan passed and we've gone through this a couple of times and it was an overwhelming 'no' and I haven't seen anything happen that would change my opinion,"

The Governor has essentially been repeating this position publicly ever since.

nyc congestion pricing move ny congestion pricing plan

Inconsistent with Governor Cuomo's Staff Actions

move ny congestion pricing planBut while the Governor is publicly distancing himself from the measure which is unpopular in Queens and Brooklyn, former NY City Councilmember Mark Weprin, who is now Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs, has supported the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan.

Weprin vehemently oppposed Congestion Traffic Pricing in 2008 when he was a NY City Councilmember, but in 2015 Weprin began publicly supporting the revised Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as he transitioned from NY City Councilmember to becoming Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs. NYS Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark's brother, continues to publicly oppose the plan.

It's worth mentioning that the Weprins and the Cuomos have had close family political ties spanning two generations.

Move NY's 'New & Improved' Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan

nyc congestion pricing plan move nyWe studied the Move NY Traffic Congestion Pricing proposal by first taking a closer look at what groups are pushing the plan [follow the money]. Gridlock Sam Schwartz Consulting LLC is one of the primary promoters of the plan, and the consulting company is owned in part by a large, multi-national, transit infrastructure contractor. We also evaluated the assumptions they used to create the estimates provided in the plan, which we found to be inconsistent with fairly recent independent studies by respectable institutions, and we also looked at what happened in one of the other cities around the world that implemented the plan.

In essence the plan retrofits [re-prices] the fossil fuel infrastructure, by making a significant investment to install and operate tolling around the center of Manhattan. The remaining proceeds would then go to fund other MTA capital projects [in London this was about half the proceeds]. The pricing would require those who can't afford the $8 tolls [each way] to either use mass transit [recent NYC metro studies have shown this switching doesn't happen] or to cross the bridge at other times at which time the tolls would cost less. The proponents say this would enable those who can afford the tolls to cross the East River bridges and 60th Street more quickly and move around mid Manhattan more easily [less traffic congestion with the rest of the community priced out of their way]. How 'democratic' is this?

Previously MTA Invests Billion$ in New Subways Appearing to Accommodate Billionaire Manhattan Developer(s) & Now Pols Want Metro Residents & Employees to Fund a System to Toll Tax Them to Fund MTA Capital Budget

The MTA during the Bloomberg (Republican) Administration made approximately $8 billion in MTA capital investments for about 30 to 40 blocks of Manhattan subway lines. One line travels from Times Square to the Javits Center [$2.4 billion mostly paid by city] and the other, which was strongly supported by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, is expected to travel along Second Avenue from move ny congestion pricing planabout East 60th Street to about East 86th Street when it is completed [ran way past budget and time estimates - currently about $5.2 billion].

The latter subway line has been called the 'subway to nowhere', while the other isn't much different - as it terminates at the Javits Center and billionaire real estate developer Steven Ross' & Related Companies' new Hudson Yards development - without any other subway connections. Pundits have opined that one [new #7 Hudson Yards station] and possibly both of these multi-billion dollar investments were made to accommodate Manhattan real estate developers [such as Ross], more than to facilitate transit for commuters and residents of New York City.

When I confronted an MTA spokesperson with this perspective, they told me that the Q line extension would alleviate a considerable amount of the congestion on the north / south east side Manhattan subway line, but made no comment regarding the Hudson Yards station.

The photos above show no passengers on the Javits subway [at an admittedly random time and not long after it was installed], while the second photo shows the #6 subway along the Upper East Side, also at a random time. The map to your right shows the new #7 subway line extension ending as an unconnected spur.

Perhaps if the MTA and the government officals who oversee MTA capital project spending were more judicious in their selection of multi-billion dollar projects and allocation of funds, they wouldn't need to make a huge investment of the public's money in the creation and operation of an expensive new tolling system which they plan to use to charge taxpayers $8 tolls to cross 60th Street and the East River Bridges.

This plan essentially aids the wealthy by making their lives easier, while economically discriminating against those with less wherewithal, by making their lives harder. This doesn't strike me as a solution that's 'democratic' at all. There must be less costly, more fair ways to raise additional revenue for transit that NYC commuters - not Manhattan real estate developers - really need.

CLICK HERE TO SCAN / READ THE FULL REPORT on the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan.


Clinton Defeats Sanders, Trump Defeats Rivals

Clinton 58% vs Sanders 42%; Trump 60% vs Kasich 24% & Cruz 15%

April 20, 2016 / NYC Neighborhoods / NYC Elections / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

Bernie Sanders has been campaigning in New York the past week, drawing large crowds ranging from thousands to tens of thousands, as if he were a rock star. But on Tuesday, the voters weighed in and handed Hillary Clinton a convincing victory, helping her widen her delegate lead, and likely put her on the path to the Democratic Party nomination.

Democratic Delegate Count

queens election returns 2016To win the Democratic Party nomination, a candidate needs 2383 delegates of 4763 total. Within that total there are 712 super delegates, who can align themselves / vote for whomever they want but there's pressure to vote in favor of the direction that the state voted. The remaining 4051 delegates are won via the voting process and are called pledged delegates.

According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win, Hillary Clinton now has 1428 pledged delegates and 469 super delegates, while Bernie Sanders has 1151 pledged delegates and 31 super delegates. There are 1472 pledged delegates remaining, so to win a majority of pledged delegates, Hillary has to win 598 or 41% of the remaining pledged delegates, while Bernie has to win 874 or 59% of them. Clinton has already received commitments from more than half of the 'super delegates'.

Given Sanders is generally still behind in the polls in some of the larger remaining states [behind 16% in Pennsylvania and behind 8% in California], that seems a tall order. While the polls were dead wrong in Michigan, they were spot on in New York. The Sanders campaign told a news outlet Tuesday evening that they will see how they do in the contests this coming week and then evaluate their chances going forward. The Democratic Convention has been scheduled from July 25 - 28, 2016 in Philadelphia.

Republican Delegate Count

Meanwhile on the Republican side there wasn't much news. Trump won handily defeating Kasich and Cruz. The Republicans have 2473 total delegates and 1237 are needed to win. According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win, Trump has 845 delegates, while Cruz has 559 and Kasich has 147.

Trump needs 392 more delegates [about 40%] to go uncontested to the Republican Convention. There are 992 delegates remaining, but according to CBS only 674 delegates are available in the remaining voting contests prior to the Convention. So Trump may have to win 60% of the remaining unpledged delegates to go to the Convention uncontested. The Republican Convention is scheduled for July 18 - 21, 2016 in Cleveland.

The voting contests next week include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware.

The fat lady hasn't yet sung, but it is beginning to look like a Clinton / Trump race to the White House.


On the Campaign Trail & 'Feeling the Bern'

Sanders Introduces Democratic Socialism to the American People

Updated April 19, 2016 from 4/15/16 / Village Neighborhood / NYC Politics / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

bernie sanders queens nyc photosIf nothing else, this has been an interesting presidential election cycle. It's not 'reality TV', its televised reality.

Making America Great ... again?

The Republicans attracted most of the attention early on, thanks mostly to Donald J. Trump's shock jock presidential candidacy. A candidacy that turned presidential debates about public policy into name calling, discussions of poll numbers & penis size, and relentless barrages of vituperative insults.

The Donald has, in his campaign, essentially told us to forgeddabout the ballooning government deficit, a dated and at times crumbling infrastructure, fixing our public education system, helping the shrinking middle class and addressing global climate change.

The Donald has distracted us from an intelligent discussion about these 'loser' subjects, and told us that he's going to rip 12 million people [the equivalent of about 5% of the nation's population] away from their families by deporting them, punishing women for getting abortions, and erecting a wall along the border with Mexico which he tells us the Mexicans are going to pay for.

Does Trump really think this is how to 'make America great ... again'?

Trump Candidacy Increases Ratings Which Translates to Profits

Trump may not make America great again, but he's been good for corporate-owned, network television ratings. The Hollywood Reporter quotes CBS Chairman, Leslie Moonves telling a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco on February 29th, 2016 that,

"The money's rolling in and this is fun ... this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."

While Sanders Delivers Substance & Expands Public Debate

So while Donald Trump has been filling the pockets of corporate-owned mass media, Bernie Sanders - the man with the real story - has largely been ignored. Ignored by the mass media, but embraced by the social media and a signficant and growing segment of the American populace. In fact Sanders, during the past week of campaigning in New York, attracted crowds of tens of thousands, while the other candidates on both sides of the ticket did not.

Click here to see photos of the Bernie Sanders rally in LIC Queens, as well as a story about the contest between Sanders and Clinton.


United Nations: Cultural Influences on Gender Roles

Women's Groups Discuss Cultural Influences on Gender Equality

united nations cultural programs nycApril 4, 2016 / Midtown East Neighborhood / NYC Social Issues / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

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.


Architectural Digest Design Show

Provides Vignettes of Living Lovely at Piers 92 & 94

architectural digest design showMarch 21, 2016 / Midtown West Neighborhood / Upper West Side Neighborhood / Fashion & Film NYC / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

I attended the Architectural Digest Design Show on Piers 92 & 94 on Thursday afternoon. The show ran through last weekend, providing the public with an opportunity to see the latest and greatest in urban living design and technology.

The show spanned both Piers and included sections dedicated to kitchen, bath, living and dining areas of the home and with a little imagination, possibly the office as well.

The show was well attended by designers, manufacturers, the media, salespeople, buyers and browsers. And the mood seemed buoyant.

Click here to read the rest of our report on the Architectural Digest Design Show incuding the DIFFA on Pier 92.


Columbia School of Journalism - Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker | columbia school of journalism manhattan nyc columbia university school of journalism gay Talese thomas Kunkel steve Coll pulitzer prize winning authors
Columbia School of Journalism - Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker

Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker

Columbia School of Journalism Dean Coll Moderates Conversation with Authors Gay Talese & Thomas Kunkel

January 18, 2016 / Upper West Side Neighborhood / Manhattan History / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz.

I received an invitation to attend a conversation at the Columbia School of Journalism about a new book covering the professional life of one of the most prominent writers of The New Yorker magazine. The Columbia University School of Journalism is easily one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the nation; and Columbia also hosts the judging for the Pulitzer Prize, which is considered one of the highest awards a journalist or author can receive.

It was a fairly warm October evening as I made my way north on the subway along the Upper West Side. I got off at 116th Street and walked east through the main campus to the Faculty House. The Faculty House sits atop the Morningside Heights ridge overlooking Harlem, the Upper West Side and the rest of Manhattan.

The entrance into the Faculty House was from an interior courtyard where Columbia University students were hanging around in casual conversations. Once inside, I was directed to an upper floor where the event was being held.

Seated at the head of the room was Gay Talese, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of numerous books including The Kingdom & The Power. He was in the company of the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, Steve Coll, who is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author having penned several tomes about issues in Asia, most notably the Middle East. And of course, there was the guest author of the evening, Thomas Kunkel, who is the President of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and who had penned the book being discussed this evening entitled Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker.

Click here to read the rest of our report regarding a conversation about the recently published book Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker at the Columbia School of Journalism.



Midtown International Theater Festival & Short Play Lab 2016

Two Off Off Broadway Theater Festivals Open in Manhattan

March 7, 2016 / Manhattan NYC / Off Broadway Theater NYC / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

midtown international theater festival short play lab nycThe Midtown International Theater Festival begins this week and the Short Play Lab begin this weekend. These two incubator theater festivals are the brainchild of John Chatterton, former Publisher of Off Off Broadway World magazine.

Off Off Broadway World magazine was started by Chatterton in 1993, and was published for a number of years in the 1990's, but ultimately didn't survive. Founder, John Chatterton did survive, and he went on to pursue his passion for theater by founding the Midtown International Theater Festival and the Short Play Lab series.

The two theatrical incubators provide a venue for participants to create and produce minimalist performance productions and perform them in front of live audiences, which are oftentimes comprised of many of their fellow participants and peers, as well as those interested in original theatrical works. The Midtown International Theater Festival and Short Play Lab series are both an opportunity to try one's hand at producing and performing an original work in front of a live audience, as well as a good networking venue to meet others aspiring to find their places in the theater business.

I attended a Short Play Lab previously and here's what I found ...

Click here for the full story about the Midtown International Theater Festival & Short Play Lab series both of which begins this week and weekend, respectively.


Midoma - Where Hollywood Has Its Hair Done

Fashion, Fine Art, Fotos & Fun at European Style Hair Salon

astoria hair salons astoriaFebruary, 2016 / Midtown Manhattan / NYC Shopping / Fashion Facts N' Fun Fiction / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

It's not often that one gets to view fine art, have their hair done by a talented European hair stylist, pick up a few fashion tips and walk out feeling like they've just returned from Europe. And that is precisely why Midoma is increasingly becoming a not-so-well-kept-secret.

And so it was, one evening late last August, that I journeyed southwest of Times Square into the northern perimter of the Fashion District to view the works of photographer Greg Stowell at the Midoma Hair Salon in Midtown West.

Photographer Stowell's disarming demeanor - "awe, shucks, you're not talking about me are you" - reminded me of Chauncey Gardener's quiet ascent into the nation's rarified political circles, through disarming humility and simplicty, in the movie 'Being There'.

More to come at a later date. That's photographer Greg Stowell, standing next to his empty-headed ex.


Designing for Quality Retail & Community Use

Design Trust Unveils 'Laying the Groundwork' at the Center for Architecture

March 1, 2016 / Village NYC / NYC Building Design Issues / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

design trust at center for architecture nycI had an opportunity to attend the introductory presentation of 'Laying the Groundwork', which was heralded as a seminal document put together under the auspices of the Design Trust in Manhattan. The event was held at the Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia Place, just south of Washington Square Park.

The Design Trust was founded in 1995 by Andrea Woodner, the daughter of Ian Woodner who founded the Jonathan Woodner Company, which Ian named after his son Jonathan - Andrea's brother. The company was renamed Woodner and is a diversified real estate management [2,500 units] and development company in the Washington, D.C. and New York metro markets.

Andrea was first and foremost a sculptor. She later obtained a Masters Degree in Architecture from Columbia University and then went on to found the Design Trust with the intent to fuse the expertise of designers with the use of public space. She defined public space as "anywhere you don't need a key to get into". Andrea stepped down earlier this year as the Board President of Design Trust and was replaced by Eric Rothman, President of HR & A Advisors, a consulting firm.

The thrust of Design Trust has been to marry private design work with the development of public space to create win / win situations. The following is a summary of some of their most significant achievements since the organization was founded.

We'll post more at a later date.



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Manhattan Economy - 2016 Outlook NYC

Currently Full Employment, Low Interest Rates, Low Inflation But Possible International Shocks

nyc economy outlook 2016 queens manhattan bronxJanuary 4, 2016 / NYC Neighborhoods / NYC Business / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

We took a look into the crystal ball over the holiday break to see what may lie ahead for the NYC economy in the coming year. We studied the stats and facts put out by many of the national data producers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and the AIE. What follows is a brief summary of some of the statistics we gathered on the global, national and New York City economy including unemployment statistics by borough for 2015.

U.S. & NYC Economy Near / At Full Employment

Currently Queens and Manhattan are doing the best with respect to employment, with unemployment rates below 5%, which economists consider to be full employment as the 5% unemployed are viewed as normal 'friction' in the economy, accounting for people coming into, leaving and changing jobs within the labor force.

In 2009 - 2010, during the first two years of the Great Recession, the nation's unemployment rate hit 9.4%, while the unemployment rate for New York City hit 10.4%. The employment picture for the nation and the five boroughs of New York City has slowly but steadily improved since then, with unemployment trending lower, reaching full employment this year at 5% for the nation and 4.8% for New York City this fall.

Employment Impact / Relationship to Inflation

nyc economy outlook 2016 queens manhattan bronxEmployment affects inflation, as when everyone is fully employed, recruiting firms bid up the price of labor and workers feel secure enough to spend aggressively, bidding up the price of goods. The Federal Reserve attempts to reign in inflation - because it creates economic instability - by raising interest rates which increases the cost of capital needed to expand operations or make large purchases more expensive. On December 16, 2015, the Federal Reserve raised its key short-term interest rate by 25 basis points (0.25%) to begin to get ahead of potentially inflationary issues that may lie ahead. We'll look into a few of these later in this report.

Economists in one of the banking reports I received believe that there is still slack in the labor market that is not reflected in the numbers as many people have part-time jobs, while they would like full time jobs. Also the labor force participation rate fell during the Great Recession and it became more difficult to find work. Now with a full employment economy it is believed that some of those folks who gave up looking will try to re-enter the workforce. An example of the decline in participation rate might be a spouse who helped supplement household income but couldn't find the right work, and now starts looking again.

Click here to continue reading our report about the New York City NYC Economy Outlook 2016 which delves into full employment impact on inflation, interest rates, consumer debt levels, oil & commodity prices, domestic and international currencies & economic growth, the financial markets and how all of this may impact the different sectors of the Queens & New York City economy.


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Manhattan: Chinese New Year of the Monkey

Chinese New Year Parade & Brief NYC Chinatown History

chinatown manhattan nycFebruary 15, 2016 / Chinatown Manhattan NYC / Things To Do NYC / Gotham Buzz NYC _ D.

Ancient Chinese Calendar Based on Chinese Zodiac & Study of Planets

This past week Manhattan celebrated the Chinese New Year of the Monkey. The Monkey is fun-loving, curious, clever and mischievous. Those born this year, or five Chinese calendar cycles ago in 1944, are born under the influence of the Fire element. There are five elements, and each influences a 12 year / Chinese calendar cycle. We are currently in a Chinese calendrical cycle that is influenced by the Fire sign. It is believed the 12 years corresponds to the 11.86 years it takes Jupiter to revolve around the sun.

Chinese Five Elements Influence 12 Years of the Calendar Cycle

Every calendar cycle is influenced by one of the five elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth. And each of these natural elements signifies something. The five elements are associated with the five planets nearest to earth which are: Mercury [water], Mars [fire], Venus [metal], Saturn [earth] and Jupiter [wood]. The five elements are all natural and have transformative influences on each other. For instance water can extinguish a fire, a fire can be created with wood, and fire can melt metal. If you study these transformations you will see that they are all connected, like nature itself, a part of a whole. Thus an entire cycle encompasses the five elements times each calendrical [or zodiac] sign for a total of 60 years.

Click here for a brief history of NYC Chinatown in Manhattan and the NYC Chinese New Year Parade in Manhattan.


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