Color The City Black and Blue

Delia Ephron wrote a wonderful piece Color Me Blue about Citi Bikes, Citibank and Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to mark and monetize every aspect of New York City. She pointed out that the jarring blue blight of the bike racks advertising Citibank is also an occasion to remember how banks pay scant interest to consumers and how they charge outrageous monthly fees . I also recall how Citibank drove me off as a customer when it raised its monthly balance requirements.  Maybe the increased minimum balance it requires from beleaguered middle class New Yorkers is how it sponsors the bike blight. Ephron also points out that Citibank’s $41 million sponsorship is billionaire chump change — it is about twice the $23 million recently paid for a co-op at 640 Park Avenue. While thinking about Citibank’s sponsorship of cycling, we might also remember the mortgage crisis and hasty foreclosures.

But let us always be mindful of public safety so that someone is. Last night I experienced stark evidence of how lopsided and contemptuous of the public Bloomberg’s cycling agenda has been. As I travelled from Manhattan’s East 70s to the Red Rooster on West 125th Street, crossing wide streets in the early dark of an October evening and changing buses and subways several times, I encountered many cyclists. All were dressed in black riding on black bikes in the black evening. It was hard to discern them, much less avoid them. No headlights, not even a red hazard reflector — certainly not visible clothing or sneakers — to provide a clue that moving objects were honing in. The Bloomberg bike explosion, of which he and his associates are so proud, has not been accompanied by a single rule regulating bikes — no requirement for licenses (make them large, readable white ones, please), headlights or even red reflectors. Cyclists might not care to see where they are bearing down on a human being, but pedestrians in the dark need to see that cyclists are coming. A short-lived program of posted reminders on bus shelters a few months ago observed that cyclists should follow traffic rules, but there has been no noticeable enforcement of any laws, certainly not the one that says no one over the age of 14 should ride on a sidewalk. Why can’t the police make streets safe and enforce laws on the books instead of stopping and frisking people of color standing in their neighborhoods? If all those men and women of color walking on sidewalks in their neighborhoods would just start cycling on them, they could move around with impunity.

Don’t Shush the Libraries!

I don’t know whether the New York Library — its wonderful buildings or the system itself –can be saved from its Board of Trustees and the administrators that serve it, but I do believe that everyone who has promoted or rubber-stamped the destruction of the library and the privatization of public property into private hands — all on the cheap — will be exposed. In the meantime, please read and follow Noticing New York and Citizens Defending Libraries. These blogs should be read, evaluated and acted upon. Our libraries are being turned into event spaces for galas and privatized on the cheap. Those of us who need them and who support them with our tax dollars are being robbed. Remember the Donnell!

Here’s A Clue About Future Jobs in NYC For Politicians Who Wish To See Them

The city’s mayoral candidates are talking about job creation and rethinking workforce development programs, as well they should. The Stack, a new apartment building on Broadway and 204th Street in Manhattan, was largely pre-fabricated — meaning that it was built in a factory. That is a promising in a city where on-site construction in tight spaces, often under difficult weather conditions, is expensive and has adverse effects on surrounding blocks. After reading about The Stack last month on the  NY1 website I queried the broadcaster about where the factory was located. An executive was kind enough to reply that the factory was in Pennsylvania, but said via e-mail that he did not see why that mattered. Here’s why the location matters: We need jobs in New York!

Learning that the building wasn’t made in China or Canada but in the U.S.A. was a relief, but here’s the point: if this is the future of construction, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the city’s next mayor and its construction trades and unions need to be planning pre-fab construction in New York State and in the city — how about the Brooklyn Navy Yards and/or manufacturing areas that Bloomberg is turning residential? How about upstate? Here is a potential source of real jobs, hopefully ones that can support families and offer health care and advancement. Politicians we elect should not allow our jobs to be sent out of the city, much less out of the state and New Yorkers need to find ways to make sure that they don’t.

Why Things Have Gotten Quiet In NYC

Wealthy New Yorkers have managed to shut down debate about what is good for New York City, including the vanishing middle class and those who believe in zoning laws. A N.Y. Times story today about opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s outsize development plan for area around Grand Central Station points out that disgust with the plan for midtown east has helped to revive the formerly moribund City Club of New York. It reports that club secretary Stuart Pertz, an architect who was on the City Planning Commission in the 1980s, says that organizations are stymied by their need for donations and they fear offending executives, or working against their interests, when they need them to provide funding.

The Bloomberg Administration is finally drawing to a close, four years later than we expected it to by law, but puppeteer Bloomberg will still have his billions, so look for this situation to continue. The Koch Brothers and those hedge fund managers who do not receive crippling fines from the government, all hold sway on important boards. At this point non-profits that are afraid to pursue their missions, or decided to pursue agendas at half-throttle as many do, should disband for all our sakes, or, as in the case of the once influential City Club of New York, get loud.

Remember How NYC Democrats Used to Sound?

“We’ve gotten comfortable seeing low-wage workers as sharecroppers. When was the last time the mayor blew a blood vessel about the systematic violation of wage protections?” That question comes from Harvey Robins, who held top positions in the Koch and Dinkins Administrations, as quoted in Michael Powell’s column this morning in the N.Y. Times. Robins would like to see insurance companies subject to the business tax and would end the $17 million property tax abasement for Madison Square Garden. Robins, who served as deputy schools chancellor in the Koch Administration and ran Dinkins’ Office of Operations, is so revolutionary that he asks why Chicago and Boston keep their libraries open 50 hours a week while NYC barely muster five days.
I would like to know who Robins is endorsing in the mayor’s race. Better yet, I want to hear lots more from him.


Sallie Mae exports U.S. jobs to Asia, Where It Overcharges Our Military

Today brings the news that Sallie Mae may be bilking our military — the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will accuse the student lending firm of charging more than the 6 percent it is allowed, according to the N.Y. Times story.

But Sallie Mae has long been a bad citizen. For at least a decade, as U.S students and their parents labor under a high debt load (much of it to Sallie Mae) and suffer from a high unemployment rate, Sallie Mae has exported jobs to Asia. A decade ago it employed Indians as customer service representatives, now they is more likely to be Filipinos. Why not employ Americans who labor to pay off Sallie Mae? I think even organized crime understands the logic of this. Return Sallie Mae jobs to the U.S. and give them to young people and their parents. Hapless Americans are plagued by high unemployment, and are burdened by long-term debt to Sallie Mae. Western New York State would be an excellent place to set up call service centers.

I know about the reps because I was foolish enough to take out a Sallie Mae loan a dozen years ago to help finance graduate school. I have been dealing with their reps, many of them impossible to understand, especially when the discussion is about numbers, for years. I have written about this to New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, as well as to Sallie Mae CEO and president John F. Remondi. No response from any of them, although I first contacted the senators months ago. A garbled boiler plate response saying your-concerns-are-my-concerns from Schumer’s people might have been his reply. Impossible to tell. I recently sent a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who may be less beholden to Wall Street lobbyists. It’s time U.S. citizens received value from our debt. Cheap labor from Chad and Chloe in the Philippines is not helping Americans or its economy which has been sacrificed for multi-national corporations who own the ears and conscience of our politicians.

Bad Boys Are Looking Good

If this is how elite newspaper editors and the police behave, no wonder miscreants are looking good. As shocking as the news that the Bronx grand jury failed to indict the policeman who gunned down Ramarley Graham by his grandmother’s toilet is the way the New York Times treated the story.

This morning it ran yet another “blacks love bad boys Spitzer and Weiner” story on the front page of its printed edition, while placing the Bronx-cop-goes-free-for-killing-unarmed-black-youth on way back on page 13.

The Times had an index note at the bottom of its page one “Police Killing Won’t Go To Trial” but that seemed a little obscure. In contrast, the old news was prominent — the Times also ran stories about African American support for law-bending candidates on July 15, July 20 and July 29, so it was hard to find the news there.

I sent this comment to the NY Times this morning, but they did not publish it. I also emailed my concerns to its Public Editor. The vile treatment of the late Ramarley Graham by the NY Times, a paper that I rely on, is the inspiration for this blog. Horrible things are happening in New York City today, and it is not ordinary citizens who perpetrate them nor can street criminals equal the harm done by our failed elites. Bull Connor and Boss Tweed come to my mind every day.