Beth Fertig

Senior Reporter, WNYC News

Beth Fertig appears in the following:

2000 City Teachers on Payroll Without Jobs

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The first day of school is just around the corner and 2,000 public school teachers remain on the city's payroll, even though they don't have jobs lined up for September. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: The city always has an excess pool of teachers. Some ...


How Hot is it on NYC's Subway Platforms? So Hot...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On a day when the temperature outside was 92 degrees, it was 106 degrees on the uptown platform of the 1,2,3 line at Times Square.

On a day when the temperature outside was 92 degrees, it was 106 degrees on the uptown platform of the 1,2,3 line at Times Square.

Every summer, New Yorkers have one more thing to kvetch about: the heat on the subway platforms. You know, that eighth circle of Hell where your clothes turn wet with sweat and you find yourself smelling way too many things you wish you didn't know about.

Thankfully, and without getting all religious about the experience, there is salvation once a train pulls up. All subway cars are air conditioned. And the difference between the heat of the platform and the chill of the train is so striking, you might wonder why storm clouds aren't forming in between.

We wanted to see how big a difference there really is by taking a digital thermometer down to the trains. WNYC web producer Amy Pearl accompanied me. We started at the Houston Street stop of the 1 train, where it was 95 degrees on the platform - about 3 degrees warmer than it was outside. Once we got on the train, the numbers on the hand-held thermometer rapidly fell to 76 degrees. It wasn't as cold as some passengers would have liked. But it was far more comfortable than our next stop.

The uptown platform of the 1,2,3 line at Times Square felt like the blast of a furnace. Amy held out the thermometer and watched in horror as the numbers ticked upward. 'So far it's 94! 95! 96!' she exclaimed. 'It feels really hot, actually. Your hair is looking really frizzy.' It was getting big.

The thermometer appeared to settle at about 101 or 102. But when a train passed by, with a rush of more hot air, it climbed to 106. 'It’s really hot and humid there’s no air in this station, you can’t take it,' one woman told us, looking miserable.

We got on the 2 train with Katherine Guerrera, a 21 year old rider from Westchester. She was wearing a long-sleeved blouse and a skirt. She said she was grateful for the cold air of the subway train. It was 74 degrees at that point. But she said the trains can sometimes get too cold. 'Usually when you have on a skirt or something or even a T shirt after a while it can get a little chilly in here.' The temperature fell to 70 degrees as the express train continued heading to 72nd Street.

Inside a car on the uptown 2 train it was a cool 72 degrees.

Inside a car on the uptown 2 train it was a cool 72 degrees.

When we got off the train at 72nd Street, the platform was also about 100 degrees. We turned around and headed back downtown on the 2 train. Again, the train was about 72-73 degrees.

It turns out that's exactly how New York City Transit wants it. Leon Stanevich, director of Maintenance Support, says air conditioning units on subway cars are programmed by their manufacturer to aim for 72.5 degrees. There are 3 points on the ceiling of each car that transit workers scan with readers, on a regular basis, to make sure they're achieving that ideal setting. Stanevich also says the cars have sensors which can adjust to how many people are on the trains. When the trains get crowded, the air conditioners pump even harder. That's why they can feel especially cold if a whole crowd of people leave at once. The units can also malfunction. Some have gotten too cold, sending temps into the 60s. And, of course, they can break down. We all know the sign: an empty train in the summer.

With New Yorkers being told to conserve energy - and save money - by keeping their homes at 78 degrees, we wondered if the cars were too cold. But Stanevich said that wouldn't make sense because the doors are constantly opening, meaning trains would get much hotter without the setting at 72.5. He also reminded us that the settings cannot be manually changed. If they were, he said, there would be chaos. Cars on the subway trains in Chicago and Boston are also set at around 72 degrees, according to their transit authorities. But in Washington, D.C. the metro adjusts to something 10-15 degrees lower than whatever it is outside in summer.

Washington also has air chillers on its platforms - something that only exists in New York at Grand Central.

Sarah Wigfall, waiting to take the 4 train up to the Bronx, said it felt

Sarah Wigfall, waiting to take the 4 train up to the Bronx, said it felt 'wonderful' under the chiller at Grand Central station even though the temperature was 87 degrees. It's the only station with chilled air in the subway system.

New York City Transit says the Lexington Avenue line platforms are unusual because they get air cooled from Grand Central Terminal above. At the downtown platform of the 4,5,6, the temperature was 87 degrees. So 'chill' is still a relative term.

New York City Transit also has fans scattered throughout the system. Stations built after 1989 have them. So do some deep underground platforms in Washington Heights, at Union Square and in Times Square near the shuttle. There's no fan at the Grand Central side of the shuttle, where musician Moses Josiah was playing 'This Little Light of Mine' on a saw. Josiah is from Guyana so he said he's used to the heat. It was 89 degrees where he was sitting. He also said he's 80 years old, though you'd never know it. He said he just drinks lots of water to cope with the heat.

Musician Moses Josiah plays the saw at the shuttle stop in Grand Central Terminal, and says he gets used to days when it

Musician Moses Josiah plays the saw at the shuttle stop in Grand Central Terminal, and says he gets used to days when it's 89 degrees on the platform.

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Subway Passengers Bake on Platforms and Freeze in Cars

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On a hot summer day, the one place you don't want to be hanging around in New York City is a subway platform. That blast of heat as you enter, and the wait for a train, is a source of constant complaints. Thankfully the trains ...


A Walk through Nowhere

Friday, August 21, 2009

When New Yorkers want a green space in the city, they usually go to a park. But photographer Matthew Jensen is more interested in small patches of green that are way off the beaten path. He’s called his new exhibit “Nowhere in Manhattan”. WNYC’s Beth ...


Is New York Eligible for Education Stimulus Funds?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

President Obama discusses Race to the Top

President Obama discusses Race to the Top

The Obama Administration wants to encourage education reform. As an incentive, it's offering states $4.3 billion in stimulus grants that can be used for a number of things, including better data systems and turning around low-performing schools.

But when the proposed guidelines were released recently, they triggered a big debate over whether New York is even eligible.

The stimulus grants are part of a program called Race to the Top. They’re highly competitive, with only about a dozen states expected to receive funding next year. That’s where the controversy comes in. The U.S. Department of Education has proposed that in order to be eligible, a state can’t have any barriers to using student achievement data, “for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation.”

Here’s the problem: last year, Albany enacted a law preventing districts from using test scores in teacher tenure decisions. And that automatically disqualifies the state's application for Race to the Top, according to Dan Weisberg, Vice President and general counsel for the New Teacher Project, a non-profit dedicated to teacher quality.


Is NY Eligible for Part of $4.3 Billion Education Stimulus?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The federal government wants to encourage education reform. It’s backing it up with $4.3 billion in stimulus grants to be awarded to the states. But when the proposed guidelines were released recently, they triggered a big debate over whether New York is even eligible. WNYC’s ...


Why Is West Bleecker Street Different?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Commercial rents soar in the West Village, even as they plummet elsewhere. WNYC’s Beth Fertig reports.


Financial 411: Retail Rents

Monday, August 17, 2009

For retailers suffering from the crash of 2008, one bright spot may be a little wriggle room with the landlord. Average asking rents in Manhattan declined 11 percent between last fall and the spring of 2009, according to the Real Estate Board of New York. ...


Europe Prefers Chip and Pin, Not Swipe Credit Cards

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For many of us, buying a metro card is as easy as swiping a credit or debit card. But if you're planning on taking a train during your European vacation this summer, be warned: Ticket machines no longer accept the old fashioned, American-style "swipe" technology. ...


Needy NY Families to Receive $200 for School Supplies

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Low-income families will get an extra $200 per child for school supplies, thanks to a gift to the state from philanthropist George Soros. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: Soros donated $35 million to the state so New York could qualify for extra stimulus funds. The ...


Promising Study on Oysters in Jamaica Bay

Monday, August 10, 2009

A new study is looking at whether Jamaica Bay's oyster population can be brought back to life. Long a staple of the New York waterways, oysters were demolished by pollution and over-harvesting during the last hundred years. A few groups have been trying to bring ...


Ice Factory Festival

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer used to mean downtime for New York theater. But in the past decade or so, it’s become much busier -- thanks to a few Off Off Broadway festivals. In SoHo, the Ice Factory festival is midway through its six-week run. As WNYC’s Beth Fertig ...


Mayoral Control - The Deal is Done

Friday, July 24, 2009

It was a feud in which the mayor was accused or being a "dictator" and acting like he ran a "plantation." And Bloomberg called legislators' proposal for a parent training institute a "slush fund." But in the end, both sides got what they wanted.

Senate Democrats and the Bloomberg Administration finally struck a deal Friday afternoon on renewing mayoral control of the schools (or what some senators prefer to call "school governance").

The Senate will return to Albany in August and vote on the same bill the assembly passed in June. They'll also take up an amendment, which the Assembly will have to also approve at some later point. The amendment calls for:

1) A parent training center, with an annual budget of $1.6 million and run by the City University of New York.
2) An Arts Advisory Committee to make recommendations and an annual report on educational policies involving the arts.
3) Clarification of the role of local superintendents in reviewing principals.
4) Annual public meetings of each school's safety committee. The Senators had originally wanted a citywide committee that would study police in the schools. This agreement puts the focus on each individual school to do more to involve parents. Harlem Senator Bill Perkins said he still had concerns about this point, and hoped there would be more discussions.

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Boro Presidents Urge Board of Ed to Start Working

Friday, July 24, 2009

With the state Senate gone for the summer, and no sign of a deal on mayoral control of the schools, three of the city's borough presidents want the new Board of Education to get to work.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Marty ...


Bloomberg, Senate Reach Deal on Mayoral Control of School

Friday, July 24, 2009

The State Senate has finally agreed to vote on a bill renewing mayoral control of the city schools. Senate Democrats were holding up the vote because some of their members wanted changes to the bill passed in the Assembly. They succeeded in persuading the Bloomberg ...


Comptroller Questions City’s Graduation Rates

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg and his leading Democratic opponent are trading jabs over Bloomberg's education record. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: A new audit by City Comptroller William Thompson's office questions whether graduates are really completing all their requirements. Thompson accused the Bloomberg administration of cooking the ...


Comptroller Questions City's Graduation Rates

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg has made improving the city's public schools a central theme of his mayoralty and his bid for a third term. But one of his Democratic rivals, Comptroller Bill Thompson, is now questioning Bloomberg's track record.

The Comptroller's office released a withering audit of the city's graduation rates. The report sampled graduates from the class of 2007, in a way that was supposed to be statistically representative of the city. Thompson called the NYC Department of Education "the Enron of education, showing the gains and hiding the losses."

Out of 197 graduates, 36 took the same major subject classes two or more times and received credit for each passing grade. One student failed English 3, for example, but passed English 4 twice and received a credit for each course. Another received two credits for passing Global History 1 two times but this same student didn't take Global History 4.

The audit also found 19 graduates whose transcripts were incomplete. The Department of Education was eventually able to confirm that 17 of those students really did meet graduation requirements based on evidence from their schools. As for receiving credit despite taking the same class twice, the Department's response to the auditors said "what the Comptroller largely identified were repeated course codes, not repeats of the same class."

But Thompson said those answers didn't clear up one big concern:

"There are a number of questions as to what the real graduation rate is. And I don't think that, given the level of documentation with the Department of Education, given the level of documentation on the school level, I'm not sure exactly what the graduation rate is."

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Mayoral Control - How the Deal Fell Apart

Monday, July 20, 2009

Albany's leadership crisis is apparently far from over, judging from what took place this week as lawmakers failed to pass a bill to extend Mayor Bloomberg's control of the city schools.

According to sources involved in the negotiations, once the Democrats reclaimed control of the Senate on July 9th they agreed to vote this week on the same bill the Assembly passed last month. That bill would continue mayoral control with a few checks and balances, such as making the Independent Budget Office responsible for tracking school data.

But some Senate Democrats wanted more changes. The three amendments they proposed called for changes such as a council to monitor police in schools, another council to promote the arts , and a new parent training institute to help parents (and students) navigate the school system.

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State Senate Session Ends

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lawmakers passed hundreds of bills in a session that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

But they failed to pass a bill renewing mayor Bloomberg's control of the city schools.

Joining me now to talk about that AND what the Senate DID accomplish is WNYC ...


Senate Rejects Alt. School Bill; Mayoral Control Uncertain

Friday, July 17, 2009

While Senators passed dozens of bills they could not reach an agreement on legislation to reinstate mayoral control of the New York City schools.

In a vote early this morning, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected an alternative that would have established an expanded city education board that ...