Juan Pagán opposing the Bloomber's Department of Education discriminatory policies against Latino and Afro-American in the New York City public schools.
video by Rafael Martínez Alequín
This is a map showing the proposed new boundaries (in white) of the 34th State Senate District in the Bronx and Westchester under redistricting.
State legislative redistricting is shaking up the political landscape of the Bronx, with Sen. Jeff Klein poised to snap up Riverdale.
Under a draft plan for new Senate and Assembly districts proposed last week by an Albany task force, the 34th Senate District - now represented by Klein - would lose the Town of Eastchester in Westchester County.
But the Democrat from Morris Park, who already represents Throgs Neck and Pelham Bay, would annex additional swaths of the borough, including Riverdale. The affluent, hilly neighborhood is currently divided between three Senate districts.
"I'm very happy that the lion's share of my district will remain intact," Klein said. "I'm also excited about representing Riverdale."
But Sen. Gustavo Rivera, slated to lose key chunks of the 33rd Senate District, blasted the Republican-dominated Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment as "laughably partisan" and unfair to downstate minority groups.
Under the plan, Klein would add Riverdale, Van Cortlandt Village, Kingsbridge, parts of Castle Hill and Soundview, Tracey Towers on Mosholu Parkway and industrial Hunts Point.
Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz said the transfer of Eastchester to the 37th Senate District could give the Republican Party a better shot at winning the Westchester County seat in November.
But Klein noted his current district was gerrymandered by ex-Sen. Guy Velella, a Bronx Republican, and applauded the proposed changes as more sensible.
Meanwhile, new lines proposed by the task force tweak the only African-American Senate district in the Bronx.
Represented by state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, the 36th Senate District currently snakes from Mount Vernon in Westchester to Morrisania and Concourse Village in the South Bronx.
Under the draft plan, the 36th Senate District would leave the South Bronx completely to cover more Mount Vernon territory.
Patrick Jenkins, political consultant for local Democrats, attributed the proposed shift to a population boom in Wakefield.
The task force plan leaves Bronx Assembly districts mostly unchanged, although Dinowitz (D-Riverdale) would pick up Van Cortlandt Village and Kingsbridge Heights, where he grew up, and Morris Park would splinter into two districts.
Brooklyn and Queens are set for more dramatic changes, with the plan carving out new Asian-American districts and merging Democratic districts.
January 30, 2012
The detective was approached from behind by two young men, one of whom hit him with a cane while the other simulated a gun and demanded money, the police said.
January 30, 2012 9:41 AM ET
The Day: A magazine survey says out-of-towners don't have the nicest things to say about New Yorkers, and New Yorkers don't, either. But that's not the full story.
January 30, 2012 2:26 AM ET
A winding march through Lower Manhattan to show solidarity for Occupy Oakland protesters led to scuffles with the police on Sunday night.
January 29, 2012 2:30 PM ET
An organ that has long been the musical jewel of a New Jersey church is finding a new home at St. Malachy's in the theater district.
Following similar steps across the country, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, plans to introduce a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage, and for it to be adjusted each year for inflation.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s superintendent of the new office has taken on high-profile issues, and some see it as infringing on Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s territory.
An actor who posed for some stock photos was surprised to see his image, years later, doctored to make it look as if he had only one leg.
Darren Weingrow has not made good on his commitment to help the family of Deloris Gillespie, who was burned to death in an elevator in Brooklyn.
The fence was built after a cyclist was hit by a thrown brick in a changing neighborhood of projects and wealthier newcomers.
A proposal from the New York State Bar Association would remove some convictions from an offender’s public record, but whether Albany would take it up was uncertain.
The South Street Seaport bar where television host Greg Kelly wooed the woman who accused him of rape is hardly the place for a romantic rendezvous.
Jeremy’s Ale House, a fixture on the East Side waterfront, is a place where cops, construction workers and Wall Street wizards wander in off the cobblestone streets to knock back some brews.
The Front St. tavern — where sources told the Daily News Kelly and his accuser hung out before heading to her lower Manhattan law office on Oct. 8 — offers 21 beers on tap and blares classic rock. It’s a hard-drinking crowd: Beers are served in 32-ounce styrofoam cups, and the empties are stacked on the tables.
On weekends, there’s more of a singles vibe in the bar that once catered to Fulton Fish Market workers with an 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Happy Hour.
During the week, the bar attracts a fair amount of retired firefighters and cops — including some who stop by from 1 Police Plaza, where Kelly’s father sits as commissioner of the NYPD.
One wall is covered with police and fire memorabilia, including a tribute to the heroes of 9/11, while an assortment of signed bras dangle from the ceiling.
On Saturday afternoon, a manager said all the recent NYPD visitors weren’t looking for a cold beer. Detectives stopped by each of the previous three days to inquire about the October meeting between Kelly, 43, and his 30-year-old date.
The investigators asked for any video footage and for a list of workers on duty the night of the alleged attack, he said.
“They wanted to know if anyone had seen them together,” said the manager of the bar, in its fifth location since opening in 1973. “They wanted to know if they were drunk.”
The woman, after appearing last Tuesday inside the 13th Precinct stationhouse, told cops that the typically chipper “Good Day New York” co-host raped her while she was in a boozy stupor after a few drinks at Jeremy’s.
“Why’d you do that?” she asked Kelly in a phone call, sources said.
The woman — a Long Island native whose identity is being withheld by the Daily News — was impregnated and had an abortion after the late-night sexual encounter, sources told the News.
The paralegal was a philosophy major, according to her Facebook page. In addition to her day job, she waitressed at renowned Red Sox hangout the Hairy Monk on Third Ave. — where her boyfriend was a bartender.
“She would just fill in shifts over the summer when the other girls needed time off,” said a former co-worker, describing her as “just a normal person.”
Her online entries for October, when the incident with Kelly occurred, showed nothing out of the ordinary.
There was a picture of her boyfriend, a distance runner, walking to his first day of student-teaching tucked among the otherwise mundane information.
Her brother is a former NYPD Internal Affairs investigator who now works for the crime scene unit.
Kelly, a former Marine fighter jet pilot, has denied the allegation and is cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney’s probe of the case, according to his lawyer.
His father refused to comment at all on the ongoing investigation. Raymond Kelly learned about the charges when the woman’s boyfriend snapped at him during a public event, “Your son ruined my girlfriend’s life.”
12:10 pm Jan. 27, 2012
ALBANY—Even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo leveled a threat to veto new legislative district lines that legislators have drawn for themselves, he left himself open to a negotiated solution that would preserve their control over maps that will be in place for the next ten years.
It’s either the best or worst of both worlds for Cuomo, a Democrat who during his 2010 campaign denounced the current process, run by a legislative task force called LATFOR, and vowed to put in place an independent commission to give New Yorkers districts that would suit the needs of voters, not incumbent members of the majority parties in the Assembly and State Senate.
“I’m going to let the process play out,” Cuomo said in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters during a cabinet meeting Thursday. “A lot of people have a lot of ideas. Some of the good-government groups have ideas. Let’s see how it plays out. My point all along has been, I want a better product and a better process. I don’t know where it ends.”
Not once, in 12 minutes of questions, did Cuomo say the word “veto.” This is notable, because Cuomo had previously drawn such a clear line on this issue. In campaign materials he pledged to veto any lines that were unfair, and last summer he told me he would veto “lines that are not drawn by an independent commission that are partisan.”
LATFOR's lines clearly fail that test.
But Cuomo has always been reluctant to say explicitly that he would veto anything churned up by LATFOR, which is jointly controlled by Democrats who dominate the Assembly and Republicans who are working feverishly to maintain their bare 32-seat majority in the 62-seat Senate.
It is the Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island and fronted on redistricting matters by upstate lawyer and Finger Lakes-area senator Mike Nozzolio, who treat this process like mother’s milk. New York’s government was structured in the days of Tammany Hall for upstate Republicans to control the Senate, and over the last century, as New York has turned an ever deeper shade of blue, the G.O.P. has fought to hold onto the chamber, which gives it one of the three legs (the other are the Assembly and governor’s office) on which budgets and policy are built.
The Republicans' efforts to game this current round of the once-a-decade redistricting process have not been subtle. The maps the task force released yesterday group Republican voters into districts that, rather than pulling together similar towns or neighborhoods, contort themselves into shapes that, with only a little imagination, look like “well-endowed camels,” among other things.
They’ve divided pockets of Democratic voters (sometimes this amounts to breaking up pockets of racial minorities, as on Long Island) among different districts, diluting their power.
Their defense of the process has been equally blunt: "The new district lines are the result of the most open and transparent reapportionment process in decades," said Nozzolio, the LATFOR chair.
The Republicans briefly lost their Senate majority in the 2008 elections when Barack Obama brought out a surge of young and urban voters, but they rebounded in the Obama-backlash election of 2010, just in time for redistricting, and a chance to build a floodwall against New York's rising Democratic tide.
So Cuomo’s saber-rattling on redistricting was an existential threat to them.
For the governor, the consequences are considerably smaller, notwithstanding whatever opprobrium he'll get from the Times editorial board if he fails to live up to his promise here. The fact that he proposed the independent redistricting process allowed him to put himself on the side of the reformers, which is a valuable thing—a poll by Quinnipiac University found about half of New Yorkers say line-drawing should be completely independent, and another quarter say legislators should have some say, but less than now.
But even as polls show “independent” to be a fantastically useful adjective with voters, they also show most people don’t understand redistricting and, as with most "process" issues, really don’t much care. While it’s critical in determining the balance of power in Albany and, arguably, to improving the quality of New York's elected officials by making incumbents easier to challenge and therefore more accountable to voters, just 20 percent of voters surveyed last June by Siena said changing the process was a top priority.
This makes things difficult for the governor, he explained Monday.
“If you think I should try to go convince the legislators that it is not in their best interest to draw their own lines, uh, maybe you could convince them of that," said Cuomo, who normally prides himself on his ability to compel lawmakers to do things. "I don’t possess those skills. So you’re right: I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to explain to them why this isn’t in their interest,” he said Thursday.
At the same time, Cuomo said, the impenetrable nature of the topic makes it impossible to mobilize people on the stump. This isn’t a meat-and-potatoes personal-finance issue like the property-tax cap. This isn’t a civil-rights fight like same-sex marriage. This is … legislative redistricting.
It poses a similar political challenge to a law forcing legislators to disclose outside income and re-jiggering Albany’s ethics watchdogs. Cuomo was able to ram that piece of legislation through by wielding a giant stick: If lawmakers didn’t agree to permanent change, he threatened to convene a special prosecutorial panel that could rake them over the coals of roasted subpoenas to say all kinds of unsavory things under oath. Eventually, an "understanding" was reached.
The redistricting-veto threat was supposed to function similarly. Except legislators realized they could basically run out the governor’s clock. (Cuomo denies this.) To comply with a new federal law, a judge is considering moving New York’s congressional primary to June, which means would-be candidates would have to start circulating petitions at the end of February.
That leaves no time to set up an independent panel, as outlined in legislation put forward by Cuomo that went nowhere in the State Senate. Good-government groups began to realize this in September, and negotiations over some other solution began in earnest.
Possibly as a signal to legislators that his threat wasn’t so unequivocal, Cuomo in October began to openly worry that a veto would create “chaos” in the courts.
This idea about chaos was not a mere cop-out, though it may turn out to be that, too: Since the State Constitution leaves redistricting to legislators, a judge might ultimately defer to their ideas, however self-interested and anti-democratic those ideas happen to be. This month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected district lines drawn by a Texas court because they gave no weight to a (roundly criticized, obviously gerrymandered) plan passed by legislators.
Cuomo stopped publicly talking about redistricting reform and kept negotiating. He did not mention redistricting during his State of the State address (“The silence was deafening,” one Republican senator told me, with a smile) and declined to take a position for or against the current process.
The Senate Republicans continued to prostrate themselves before the extremely popular (he’s still over 70 percent in the polls) governor on other issues, agreeing to renew most of an income-tax surcharge they had vowed to let expire, a backflip that allowed Cuomo to get a pack of progressive groups to stop nipping at his left flank. Senate Republicans even argue they should be returned to power because they’re working so well with the Democratic governor.
So the lines came out, and they were rotten. In their draft electoral landscape, Republicans create a 63rd Senate seat, using some creative legal-mathemagical analysis, and drew it so a specific, wealthy Republican assemblyman could make a run for it. They re-drew the district of their most vulnerable incumbent, Buffalo’s Mark Grisanti, so his fluke election in 2010 might be repeated in 2012 as a non-fluke. They once again broke up clusters of minority voters, and they pitted three pairs of incumbent Democrats against each other, including Michael Gianaris of Queens, who happens to be the head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Good-government groups pounced. Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG called LATFOR's product “clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history.”
Police Commisioner Raymond Kelly, whose son has been accused of rape.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is expected to face a barrage of questions about the rape allegation involving his son when he meets with reporters Friday.
Kelly will appear at a promotion ceremony at Police Headquarters at 11 a.m. and typically fields inquiries from the media on the hot stories of the day afterward.
The top cop did not have any public appearances Thursday, when headlines blared that his son, television personality Greg Kelly, has been accused by a paralegal of raping her during an encounter in her downtown office.
The commissioner has said through a spokesman that a man believed to be the accuser’s boyfriend recently confronted the top cop at a public event and accused his son of “ruining my girlfriend's life."
Kelly asked the man to explain what he meant, said the spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
But the man refused, saying he didn't want to discuss the matter with so many people around. Kelly then suggested the man send him a letter, but Browne said it appears no such letter was ever sent.
The woman went to the 13th Precinct stationhouse Tuesday night and told cops that Greg Kelly had raped her in October.
The NYPD, citing a potential conflict of interest, quickly recused itself from the investigation and turned the matter over to the Manhattan district attorney's office.
The DA's office has its own investigators with arrest powers, but they are considered by some to be less seasoned than their NYPD counterparts.
It was unclear if NYPD investigators assigned to the DA's office have been told not to get involved in the case.
The woman told cops she had drinks with Kelly, 43, at the South Street Seaport Oct. 8 before he sexually assaulted her in the law office where she worked, sources said.
The accuser, who is around 30, did not report the alleged assault until Tuesday night, when she walked into the 13th Precinct stationhouse and gave her account, sources said.
Cops interviewed the woman, but because of the conflict created by probing the commissioner’s son, they quickly turned the case over to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
Greg Kelly’s co-host, Rosanna Scotto, expressed her support for him as she walked into the FOX studios about 5:30 a.m.
"I love Greg. That's all I can say," Scotto said.
“Good Day New York” ran reports on the rape allegation and noted Greg Kelly’s denial but did not disclose his status with the program or explain why he wasn’t on the air.
Steve Lacey, the anchor of the early newscast, filled in for Kelly during the broadcast.
Scotto appeared more somber than usual, at one point remarking, "We need a distraction."
In an awkward moment, reporter Tai Hernandez said during a report from the field, "Thank you, Greg," and then, realizing her mistake, said "Steve."
A source said Greg Kelly was “not going anywhere today.”
He has not been criminally charged.
The police commissioner became aware of the accusation against his son when a man, claiming to be her boyfriend — apparently enraged over the alleged attack — recently approached the commissioner at a public event.
“He said, ‘Your son ruined my girlfriend’s life,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. “The commissioner said ‘Well, what do you mean?’ He said he didn’t want to talk about it here so the commissioner told him to send a letter.”
Browne said he was unsure if the man ever sent a letter.
The woman told cops she met Greg Kelly on the street and decided to go for drinks, sources said.
It was unclear why she waited more than three months to make a report.
Greg Kelly, 43, denied the accusation in a statement by his lawyer, Andrew M. Lankler, Wednesday evening.
“Mr. Kelly is aware that the New York County district attorney’s office is conducting an investigation,” the statement said. “Mr. Kelly strenuously denies any wrongdoing of any kind, and is cooperating fully with the district attorney’s investigation. We know the district attorney’s investigation will prove Mr. Kelly’s innocence.”
Michael Grynbaum looks at Mayor Bloomberg’s reading habits: “…Most of the mayor’s reading material is news and nonfiction, according to aides, colleagues and friends who spoke about his habits. One former colleague, informed that the mayor had admitted to reading a novel, responded in shock: ‘That’s not the Mike Bloomberg I know.’
Willie Rashbaum writes: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office is investigating an accusation that Greg Kelly, a local television anchor who is a son of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, raped a young woman in Lower Manhattan last October, law enforcement officials and Greg Kelly’s lawyer said Wednesday.”
Al Baker looks at a First Amendment battle going on in the city’s firehouses.
It's a big week at New York's National Arts Club, with internal hearings taking place that will determine whether a longtime president will be ousted from the club's membership.
The august East Side institution, which hosts art exhibitions, film screenings and other events, has boasted members from Cecilia Beaux to Martin Scorsese. Under investigation by the state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney for financial irregularities, the club is at the center of a series of suits and countersuits, as reported this weekend in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The controversy radiates from the eccentric, wealthy and frequently bow-tied O. Aldon James, 64, president of the club from 1986 until 2011, when board members forced him out. The same board members are holding a hearing this week to discuss revoking club membership for James and his identical twin brother, John, along with their friend Steven Leitner.
Founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay, former literary and art critic for the New York Times, and housed in a grand Gothic Revival mansion overlooking New York's Gramercy Park, the club has seen a succession of crises involving misappropriated money over the last decade. After admitting to tax evasion and misuse of club funds in 2003, John James paid $500,000 in fines and restitution and spent three months in a psychiatric facility, according to the Times.
The opposing board members aim to have the three men evicted from as many as 20 apartments and other spaces they have colonized in the residential building that adjoins the club's premises—on some of which they pay as little as $356 a month, the Times says. Aldon James is accused of misusing hundreds of thousands in club funds for personal flea market purchases and then storing them in club-owned apartments—costing the club an estimated $1.5 million in rental income—as well as verbally abusing club members and generally running the institution as a fiefdom, according to the article.
New club president Dianne Bernhard, once Aldon James's protégé, has been involved with the club since the mid-'90s. Wife of an heir to the Value Line financial services dynasty and a self-described "farm girl from Texas," she took over the presidency when James's increasingly strange behavior, including verbal and physical fights with his brother, reportedly led to his taking a three-month leave in spring 2011.
A few more highlights from the Times account:
Aldon James grew the club from 385 members in 1985 to more than 2,000 today, but various members describe him as a despot: "Aldon James and his group created a mini-communist state there, with portraits and busts of him everywhere," according to club member Ted Andrews. "He controlled peoples' lives to some extent because he controlled the apartments in the building." Andrews is the spokesman for Concerned Artists and Members of the National Arts Club, which has opposed the James brothers' leadership since the early 1990s.
Bernhard tells the Times that when she first arrived at the club, "I felt like I had stepped back in time," then continued, "I felt like I was at the nexus of the art world." She comes in for harsh criticism from the pro-James faction. "Dianne Bernhard is a cultural fraud," Laurence Cutler, chairman of Newport, R.I.'s National Museum of American Illustration, is quoted as saying. "If you look at her art, it's the kind of stuff you see on velvet."
Building superintendent Steve Acosta reports finding cups of urine among the James' personal clutter in club stairwells. The James brothers allegedly threatened to fire him when he attempted to clean up.
The club now seeks a manager. It sounds like a tough job, but they're offering $100,000 a year.
Ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada and his son Pedro G. Espada were arraigned in federal court today on charges they stole money from their Soundview health clinic to pay for their lavish lifestyle.
Federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment today, adding two additional charges of creating false documents. Both Espadas pled not guilty to the charges.
Leaving the courthouse in Brooklyn this evening, Espada said he felt good about his case, and was confidant that he and his son would be vindicated.
“We have faith in this system,” said Espada, dressed in a light gray suit and a purple tie. “It is a system that I took an oath of office to serve in the State Senate. This is the same system that allowed a kid from Puerto Rico to come to the United States, be homeless and be successful. We look forward to it. We’re absolutely well represented here, but mostly we trust our faith, our family and the system of justice that we’re absolutely ready for.”
Susan Necheles, Espada’s attorney, said the federal government’s case against her client was difficult to pin down, mainly because prosecutors kept adding and removing charges at random.
“One day they’ll say we stole something, the next day they’ll take that out of the indictment, no we didn’t steal it, instead you stole something else,” Necheles said. “They keep changing those things. And now they found another document. They this other document is a false document. So it’s hard to say what exactly they are because they keep changing.”
Prosecutors unveiled new charges against Espada earlier this month, accusing the former legislator of making false statements to the federal government and underreporting his salary on government forms.
Espada, who represented a district in the Bronx even while residing in Westchester County, was defeated in a Democratic primary in 2010 by Gustavo Rivera. Espada had a colorful tenure in the Senate, being named majority leader in 2009 after throwing the chamber into chaos during the infamous Senate coup.
Espada’s due back in court on Feb. 17, when his trial will begin. During the arraignment, Judge Frederic Block seemed to suggest that the case could drag on for several months, due to the volume of evidence.
“I hope no one’s planned any vacations,” the judge said.
Here’s the federal government’s indictment against Espada:
Espada Indictment S-2
Patrick McGeehan reports: “A blunt new poster from the Bloomberg administration shows an overweight man on a stool, his right leg missing below the knee. A pair of crutches leans against a wall beside him. The advertisement, being placed throughout the subway system, warns that ever-growing portions of fast food and sodas could cause diabetes, which could lead to amputations. But it turns out that the person shown in the advertisement did not need crutches because his legs were intact. The health department confirmed on Tuesday that its advertising agency had removed the lower half of the man’s leg from the picture to make its point: the headline over the image reads ‘Portions have grown. So has Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to amputations.’ “
Michael Powell writes: “The New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, through a top aide, acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that he personally cooperated with the filmmakers of ‘The Third Jihad’ — a decision the commissioner now describes as a mistake.”
Thomas Kaplan reports: “On Friday, in a meeting room at a capacious Midtown Manhattan hotel, a seat at the table with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is for sale. The cost: $50,000. The beneficiary: Mr. Cuomo’s fellow Democratic governors, whose election campaigns the proceeds will help finance. For writing that big a check, a corporation could buy a spot on a panel discussion with Mr. Cuomo on infrastructure projects, according to an invitation obtained by The New York Times. The panel is part of a conference Mr. Cuomo is hosting for the Democratic Governors Association.”
BY Celeste Katz
Our Ben Chapman reports:
More than eight million viewers are expected to see the union’s 30-second spot, which pulls no punches in its critique of the mayor’s education reforms.
“Ten years as Mayor, and Mike Bloomberg still doesn’t get it,” begins the narrator’s criticism of Bloomberg’s record on schools, starting with his appointment of Cathie Black as schools chancellor.
“Fudged education test scores, closing schools, parents shut out of the process,” the somber voice continues, over a montage of photos of city students.
The ad -- which doesn't specifically mention the evaluation controversy -- finishes with a harsh message to the mayor, who hasn’t been on speaking terms with the teachers union since Dec. 30, when city officials walked away from talks on instructor evaluations.
“If you really want to do right by our kids, you'll work with teachers and parents and stop playing politics with our schools,” the voice says.
City officials hit back at the union’s $1 million ad, calling it a “political stunt” that distracts the public from the real issue of teacher evaluations.
“The Mayor, Governor, and State Education Department are working collaboratively to implement a rigorous teacher evaluation system,” said Bloomberg spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua, adding: “It's a shame that the UFT continues to block accountability measures that will help students.”
The city stands to lose nearly $60 million in federal aid for 33 failing schools because city officials and the union were unable to reach a deal on instructor evaluations.
At the state level, the lack of a comprehensive evaluation system for teachers and principals threatens nearly $1 billion in federal education money.
Despite signs of a thaw at Monday’s legislative hearing on Gov. Cuomo’s education budget, on Tuesday city union and education officials said they still had not met to discuss the issue.
Fernanda Santos notes: “On the issue of public school funding, at least one point of disagreement emerged at a hearing on Monday between the budgets proposed by the state’s Board of Regents and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: the amount of money to be devoted to performance grants.”
Anna Phillips reports: “Many New York City teachers and principals are not using the city’s $80 million student information database, according to an audit released on Monday by the comptroller, John C. Liu.”
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, blacked out his website Wednesday to protest a bill in Congress against online piracy.
This nation’s fast-growing populist movement against unbridled corporate power scored an astonishing trifecta this week.
In the span of just a few hours on Wednesday, three vastly different protest movements all achieved startling success the same way: by mobilizing the fury of tens of thousands of ordinary citizens.
An unprecedented one-day Internet blackout drew the most attention. Organized by free speech advocates, and backed by several major Internet companies, the protest sought to derail bills in Congress that the powerful entertainment industry has demanded against online piracy of movies and music.
If that legislation passes, its critics argue, the government will be able to shut down access to any website suspected of carrying copyrighted works, even if the website operator does so unknowingly, and even before any court hearing is held.
“These bills are very badly written,” Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales told me in an interview yesterday. “It’s all well and good . . . to find solutions to criminal behavior online. It’s not OK to set up a censorship regime in response to that.”
Wikipedia and more than 10,000 websites went dark, while firms like Tumblr, Google and Facebook directed millions of their users to flood Congress with phone calls and petitions.
By the end of the day, several stunned senators and congressmen who had originally supported the legislation — including both Democrats and Republicans — had jumped ship, and the bills in their current forms now seem dead.
The Internet blackout was just one citizen victory that day.
Environmental activists were equally elated when President Obama announced his rejection of a permit request by energy giant TransCanada to build a 1,700-mile pipeline to pump oil from Canada’s tar sands through the heartland of the U.S. all the way to Texas.
Republicans in Congress had pushed through legislation requiring Obama to make a decision by February. But he faced strong opposition to the pipeline from environmentalists and midwestern farmers concerned about the potential damage to the land, especially to the country’s largest aquifer in Nebraska.
Last year, more than 1,200 people were arrested in protests against the pipeline outside the White House. So despite the Republican ultimatum, and despite fierce lobbying by the oil and gas industry, Obama finally showed some backbone.
The third grassroots success was in Wisconsin, where an unprecedented coalition of labor unions and citizen groups delivered more than 1 million signatures from voters demanding a recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Remember Walker? He’s the guy who pushed through a controversial law last year ending collective-bargaining rights for most public workers in Wisconsin, a law that sparked weeks of massive sit-ins in the state’s capitol.
Those million signatures were nearly twice the number required for a recall. They amount to an astounding 46% of all the votes cast in last year’s Wisconsin elections.
Walker’s fate will likely be decided in a new vote in the spring or summer. That vote will instantly become a referendum on whether workers in this country still have a right to collectively bargain for their wages and labor conditions.
Three amazing victories in one day, for young Internet activists and civil libertarians, for environmentalists, and for union members.
Yes, the Occupy Wall Street camps are all gone now, but the populist fire they kindled still burns bright in the growing number of Americans standing up to the 1%.
THE president of the National Arts Club, Dianne Bernhard, sat on a loveseat the other day and spoke affectionately about the man she succeeded. Her lawyer sat opposite.
Read more articles in this week's Metropolitan section.
“I miss my friend,” she said, gazing across the club’s plush Victorian parlor toward Gramercy Park. “He hasn’t said anything to me still. He can’t look at me.”
The friend in question is O. Aldon James Jr., who ran the club from 1986 until a group of board members led by Ms. Bernhard ousted him in June. At a club hearing this week, the same group will push to remove Mr. James, along with his identical twin brother, John, and Steven Leitner, a longtime friend, as members of the club and evict them from their apartments in its adjoining residential building. Court papers filed for the board accuse Aldon James of using club checks and debit cards to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of purchases at flea markets and elsewhere for his own use, and of commandeering club apartments and rooms to stow the stuff, causing $1.5 million in lost rental income. They accuse both twins of harassing club members. Deciding the matter will be the club’s board of governors, including the same people bringing the charges.
In the meantime, the club is under financial investigation by the state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney over nonprofit irregularities. Mr. James, in turn, is suing both to block the hearing and to remove Ms. Bernhard and others as club officers.
Feelings have been trampled. Birds have died. Leopard-print rugs have been rolled out in “Age of Innocence” interiors. This is a story of power and ego and money and hoarding and real estate. Don’t expect it to be pretty.
“It’s like something out of ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ “ said Shawn Burkley, a club member and resident who said the James brothers had seemed “quirky but fun” until John James threatened his wife, saying he had “nothing but time and money” to come after her. “You want to go back and write the novel. Their biggest crime was being mean. I don’t think anybody would’ve cared about the rest. There’s something vindictive there. They needed to express some power.”
To others, though, this story is about Shakespearean betrayal, in which a protégée turned against her more gifted mentor.
“Dianne Bernhard is a cultural fraud,” said Laurence Cutler, chairman and founder of the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, R.I., who has been a club member for 20 years. “If you look at her art, it’s the kind of stuff you see on velvet. I could never understand how Aldon could have this vacuous woman at his side, and then she turned out to be Brutus.”
THE National Arts Club, founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay, a former art and literary critic for The New York Times, occupies the Gothic Revival mansion of former Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York, plus an adjoining 13-story residential building with 38 apartments. Club members have included three United States presidents, along with prominent artists and patrons. For most of its history it has been a genteel presence on the city’s most exclusive park.
But for the past decade it has been more visible for its controversies and internal disputes, including a series of highly public lawsuits waged against the Gramercy Park Trust. The club’s dining room operator and Mr. James’s brother, John, were investigated over allegations of tax evasion and pleaded guilty. John James agreed to pay more than $500,000 in fines and restitution and spend three months in a psychiatric institution for misusing the club’s tax-exempt status to buy and sell jewelry.
Through it all, Aldon James, 64, a college dropout of independent means, served as the mansion’s ubiquitous figurehead, presiding over the club’s growth to more than 2,000 members now from 385 in 1985, with cash assets of over $1 million.
“Aldon made that club,” said Marguerite Jossel, a board member who joined in 1970. “Before that it was an old ladies’ club. He came in and made it exciting.” Of Ms. Bernhard, she said: “She’s pretty. She couldn’t be sweeter to me. I like Dianne, but I can’t believe she says she loves Aldon like a brother. I never met anyone who could turn like that.”
Supporters and critics alike compare Mr. James to Max Bialystock in “The Producers,” who used all his wiles to coax dollars from wealthy women.
The James brothers and Mr. Leitner declined to be interviewed for this article. Their lawyer said they denied all charges against them.
Andrew Adler, the owner of local publication the Atlanta Jewish Times, has apologized after suggesting that assassinating President Barack Obama is an option that should be considered by the Israeli government.
As reported by Gawker, Adler's article, written earlier this month, describes the urgency in protecting the Israeli people from threats such as Hamas and Hezbollah and argues that there are essentially only three options available: attack Hamas, beat back Hezbollah, or assassinate Obama.
From Adler's column, which is not available online, but which Gawker uploaded to the web:
Yes, you read "three" correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel's existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don't you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel's most inner circles?
Another way of putting "three" in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives ... Jews, Christians and Arabs alike?
You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.
In a subsequent interview with Gawker, Adler seemed hesitant to stand by his words, saying he had written them just to "see what kind of reaction I would get from readers."
Now, however, Adler has issued a full apology.
"I very much regret it, I wish I hadn't made reference to it at all," he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Friday.
Of course this is not the first time Obama has come under fire for his talk of diplomacy in the region, as well as his overall foreign policy platform, which his detractors have viewed as too passive at times. In the midst of the 2012 election cycle, GOP hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have attacked the president on his handling of threats from unfriendly nations. According to The Hill, some GOP candidates feel that the president is being too hard on Israel and not tough enough on its enemies.
"This president appears more generous to our enemies than he is to our friends," Romney said at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum in December.
Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) also claimed that "Obama has confused engagement with appeasement, and it has inspired Israel's enemies."
Despite the criticism from GOP hopefuls and the rhetoric of local spectators, Obama seems to be holding up well in his popularity within the Jewish community, a voting populace that is considered imperative to his re-election. According to Forward, a Jewish news site, top-level Jewish fundraisers from Obama's 2008 campaign are sticking with the president in 2012.