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It's A Free Country ®

Bright Future for Fracking in New York State?

Friday, July 01, 2011

They'll need more inspectors, more cops on the ground to make sure drilling companies are complying with permit conditions and whatever regulations are put on the books. In our view, the industry has to pay for that; through permit fees and taxes, it needs to support the level of oversight that will protect New York's water resources.

David Gahl, policy director of Environmental Advocates of New York, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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The Takeaway

Wedding Planners Anticipate Boom with Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Monday, June 27, 2011

Now that New York has become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, thousands of gay and lesbian couples will have the chance to say their "I Dos" in the Empire State. And with that announcement, wedding planners around the city are predicting a big boom in business.

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Debt Ceiling, Economy, Gay Marriage

Monday, June 20, 2011

All the jawing and insult throwing has ceased for the time being as negotiations heat up on Capitol Hill over the debt ceiling. Vice President Joe Biden said there are four meetings scheduled, and "now we're getting down to the really hard stuff." Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent, says Congress would love to get an agreement by the 4th of July—way ahead of the deadline in August. 

As Washington tries to get the debt ceiling squared away, the Federal Reserve will meet on Wednesday to discuss interest rates. Housing numbers have been consistently awful for some time now, with no sense of relief in sight. Charlie Herman, economics editor for The Takeaway and WNYC, looks at what we can expect from Wednesday's meeting, and whether or not it's likely that the Fed will decide to leave interest rates close to zero.

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Transportation Nation

UPDATED Quiz: What are the Top Seven Transit Systems in the U.S.? -- Some Surprises

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  UPDATED WITH ONE MORE LIST: When Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff yesterday mentioned a $50 billion funding gap just to maintain the top seven transit systems (representing 80 percent of all U.S. riders)  at their current levels of service, I got to wondering, what are the top seven transit systems in the U.S.?

(By the way, this was the same presser where Rogoff mentioned that the age of some transit infrastructure was "spooky")

By Ridership:

1. New York

2. Los Angeles

3. Chicago

4. Washington, DC

5. San Francisco

6. Boston

7. Philadelphia

Okay, and 8. Seattle

By Organization Size

1. NYC MTA

2. CTA (Chicago)

3. Metro (Los Angeles)

4. WMATA (Washington, DC)

5. MBTA (Boston)

6. SEPTA (Philadelphia)

7 NJ Transit (Yes! New Jersey!)

and... 8. MUNI (San Francisco) (Lower on the list because BART and MUNI are separate systems.)

AND:

By Operating Expense

1. New York

2. NJ Transit

3. WMATA

4. CTA

5. LA Metro

6. MBTA

7. SEPTA

8. Muni

Source:  U.S. Federal Transit Administration

 

 

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WQXR Features

Audio Slideshow: From the Archives of Carnegie Hall

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gino Francesconi, the archivist at Carnegie Hall, has worked tirelessly for the past twenty years to collect the lost treasures of the most famous concert hall in New York City. Listen to his tales of old New York and the hall while watching this slideshow.

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Features

Game On: Hundreds Spend the Night at the Library to Play Futurist Game

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Five hundred gamers are getting ready to spend the night in the stacks of the main branch of the New York Public Library on Friday. The contestants, who are between the ages of 18 and 35, were selected from a group of over 5,000 applicants to play the library's "Find the Future" game/scavenger hunt.

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It's A Free Country ®

Councilman Recchia on NYC's Budget

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We can't mortgage our future. We have to be responsible and we have to save as many jobs as possible because when we lay off teachers it winds up costing the city additional money so we have to keep all of this in our minds throughout the whole process.

City Councilman Domenic Recchia, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

Comments [11]

Transportation Nation

US DOT Announces $2 Billion for High Speed Rail

Monday, May 09, 2011

Here are the details from the U.S. DOT on the Florida money, and where it's going.  More soon.

"U. S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $2 Billion for High-Speed Intercity Rail Projects to Grow Jobs, Boost U.S. Manufacturing and Transform Travel in America Unprecedented Investment in the Northeast Corridor, Expanded Service in the Midwest and New, State-of-the-Art Rail Equipment Top List of Rail Dollar Recipients

"WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $2 billion in high-speed rail awards providing an unprecedented investment to speed up trains in the Northeast Corridor, expand service in the Midwest and provide new, state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars as part of the Administration’s plan to transform travel in America.

"Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted nearly 100 applications, competing to be part of an historic investment that will create tens of thousands of jobs, improve mobility and stimulate American manufacturing.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

"Earlier this year, President Obama and I made a commitment to improve and expand America's transportation system, including the development of a modern, national high-speed rail network," said Vice President Biden. "And today, we’re announcing investments that will continue our progress toward making this vision a reality.  These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and railcars."

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Transportation Nation

Rising Fuel Prices Prompt Farmers to Get Creative

Friday, May 06, 2011

(New York -- Lisa Chow, WNYC)

Rising energy prices are inspiring local farmers to get more creative. But they do have one big advantage: they're close to the biggest market in the country, which is New York City.

Even those little bottles filled with jam or honey sold at farmer markets are getting more expensive, said Andrew Coté, a beekeeper in New York.

"The cost of shipping is affected," Coté said. "The bottles are made in China. They're shipped all the way to New York. The bottles are made of a petroleum based product, which is more expensive now."

Despite this week's fall in the price of crude oil, prices have risen significantly since late 2008. And nationwide, the average price for regular grade gasoline is $3.96 a gallon, which is nearly double the price from two years ago, according to the U.S. Energy Department. It's even higher in New York.

"I drive tens of thousands of miles per year to get around to my beehives. I have them within a 50-mile radius," Coté said. "With gas at $4.50 a gallon, it's very difficult to maintain prices as they are."

To deal with these rising costs, Coté came up with an idea to make more money. Instead of branding his honey "New York City honey," which is what he used to do, he is cashing in on the hype around local.

"We've got honey from West 68th, 14th and 2nd, the Financial District from on top of the Bridge Cafe, from Long Island City in Queens, from the Lower East Side. So we have hyper-local honey."

Not everyone can bring their produce from just a few blocks away.

"Gas price increases are affecting all of us in so many different ways," said Cheryl Rogowski, who manages a farm in Orange County, New York, about an hour and a half drive from the city. She sells potatoes, bok choy, radishes and many other sorts of produce at the Union Square market.

Read more at WNYC.

Listen to the radio version here:

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It's A Free Country ®

Poll: Corwin Leads Hochul in NY-26 Special Election

Friday, April 29, 2011

A new Siena poll released this morning shows Republican Jane Corwin leading Democrat Kathy Hochul and the Tea Party's Jack Davis in a special election for New York's 26th congressional district.

Comments [1]

It's A Free Country ®

New Yorkers Aren't Getting A's in Civics

Monday, April 25, 2011

We found that [New Yorkers] thought that they ought to know a lot, they all believed that it was important for the maintenance of democracy to know a lot, but in the end they didn't know very much at all and this is a serious problem.

Eric Lane, senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and distinguished law professor at Hofstra University School of Law, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

Comments [12]

Transportation Nation

DOT Gives NY State $3.3 Million for High-Speed Rail

Thursday, April 07, 2011

This just in from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The DOT is giving New York $3.3 million to add capacity and track along a two mile stretch in what NY and the DOT hope will eventually become part of a statewide high-speed rail network.  This is a barely more than one percent of the amount that was allocated to Florida's planned high-speed rail project before it was killed by Governor Rick Scott.

Read on for details from the DOT on this latest grant to NY. --TN

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

PRESS RELEASE:

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $3.3 Million for New York High-Speed Intercity Rail Project

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $3.3 million for the State of New York to add track and rail capacity in the congested Upstate New York area, advancing the state’s high-speed intercity passenger rail program.

The project will relieve congestion, leading to greater reliability and faster travel times, and is necessary to achieve the faster speeds for future high-speed rail development.  The project is being funded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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Gallerina

Notes From Underground

Monday, March 28, 2011

WNYC

Artist Alexander Chen has turned New York city's subway map into a digital work of musical art—that you can play.

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It's A Free Country ®

NYC Indy Party in Trouble over Bloomberg Money

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WNYC

New York's Independent Party has found itself embroiled in controversy after being accused of a cover-up.

Prosecutors accused the state's third largest political party of obscuring a $1.1 million theft by political consultant, John Haggerty. The party has not been criminally charged but the judge in the case has frozen their bank account.

The large sum was a contribution from Mayor Bloomberg for poll-watching back in 2009 in the weeks running up to his city re-election bid.

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The Empire

More on Moreland Act Commissions

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shortly after two state lawmakers turned themselves in on federal corruption charges, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement calling on the legislature to, "pass comprehensive ethics reform - now."  Cuomo has made ethics reform a key part of his agenda, although meetings with state lawmakers seem to have yielded little but talk so far.

Today's statement went on to say:

I reaffirm my commitment to clean up Albany and state clearly that either ethics legislation will be passed or I will form a Moreland Commission by the end of this legislative session.

With apologies to all you policy wonks who talk causally about things like Moreland Commissions, some of us had to look up exactly what that was. Since we (e-hem, I) went through the effort to find out, here's the scoop.

As it turns out, a Moreland Commission gives the Governor the power examine and investigate the management of state bodies (he's looking at you, state legislature!). The law, introduced by Sherman Moreland, the Republican leader in the assembly, at the urging of Governor Charles Evans Hughes, was passed and signed way back in 1907, according to the New York State Archives.

Here's a full description:

The Moreland Act, now Section 6 of the Executive Law (formerly Section 7, 1907-1909, and Section 8, 1909-1951), authorizes the governor, "either in person or by one or more persons appointed by him for the purpose, to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state." Investigators were empowered to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, hold hearings, and subpoena "any books or papers deemed relevant or material." Moreland Act commissions derive their power from that act and from Executive Law Section 63.8.

Basically, if the lawmakers don't come to a mutual agreement on ethics reform by the end of the session, Cuomo is threatening to form a commission that would dig deep into the inner workings of the Assembly and Senate.

Now how is this different from that standing state agency called the New York State Commission on Public Integrity? "We have no jurisdiction over the legislature," said Walter Ayers, a spokesperson the state agency. The New York State Commission of Public Integrity has jurisdiction over lobbyists, state officers and employees in the executive branch of government. Cuomo's potential Moreland Commission could shine its spotlight on the legislative branch.

So are two of the men in the room making strong statements on the future of the ethics reform legislation to buffer against the threat of a Moreland Commission?

From Speaker Silver:

Hopefully, today’s events will fuel a three-way agreement on ethics reform legislation.

And from the senate spokesman Mark Hansen, on behalf of Majority Leader Skelos:

Discussions on ethics reform are ongoing with the Governor and the Assembly.  Senator Skelos is in favor of increased disclosure and transparency and we expect that an agreement will be reached.

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The Empire

Same-Sex Marriage on Cuomo's Agenda

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Supporters of same sex marriage met with Governor Cuomo for a closed door strategy session in Albany for more than an hour today. Held in the governor's Executive Chamber, or Red Room, it was described as, "one in a series of many meetings to discuss a marriage equality bill," according to a statement issued by the Governor's office.

The meeting reaffirmed Cuomo's campaign pledge to push for legislation that would legalize same sex marriage in New York State, according to those in attendance.

Cuomo's statement went on to say:

Same-sex couples deserve the right to join in civil marriage, and it is simply unfair to deny them the freedom to make this decision for themselves and their families. To me this is more than just a piece of legislation. This is about the lives of people who I have known for many years, who currently are without the rights to which they are entitled. I look forward to working with lawmakers and stakeholders to make sure that New York joins the growing number of states that allow the freedom to marry for all couples.

The strategy session was called somewhat hastily, with some being told just yesterday that they were invited to meet the Governor today. Today's session comes a day after the Governor met with leaders from New York's Catholic Conference yesterday, who planned to lobby against, "the redefinition of marriage," according to their agenda.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, and State Senator Tom Duane were at today's meeting along with representatives from several groups that advocate for same-sex marriage including the Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, Equality Matters, and the Human Rights Campaign, many of whom described the meeting as a positive step.

"The Governor reiterated his firm personal commitment to getting this done," said Brian Ellner, senior strategist for the New York Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, "we could not have a more supportive advocate on this issue."

"We were pleased to hear Governor Cuomo and other leaders affirm their strong commitment to ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, and putting New York law on the side of families, where New York should be," said Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry, "New Yorkers should not have to go to Niagara Falls, Canada to have the protections they should have in Niagara Falls, New York, and throughout the state."

Advocates are hoping to get a bill passed this year, but many think it's unlikely to come up before the budget season winds down in April (assuming an "on time budget"). A bill that would have legalized same sex marriage was defeated by the State Senate in 2009, when Democrats controlled the chamber. Advocates say they need 6 votes in the Senate for the bill to pass this time around.

While Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos is personally opposed to the legislation, Senate Spokesman Mark Hansen said Skelos plans to discuss the issue with the members of the Republican conference to decide whether to bring it to the floor for a vote. "If it does, it will be a vote of conscience," said Hansen's statement.

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The Empire

Cuomo Sets CD 26 Special Election for May 24th

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A special election has been set for May 24th to fill an upstate Congressional seat left vacant after Republican Chris Lee resigned last month.

Governor Cuomo made the announcement today, after signing a law that gives members of the military serving overseas more time to receive their ballots and cast their votes.  The bill passed both legislative chambers unanimously last week.

Until now, special elections were held between 30 and 40 days from their announcement. The new law  increases that time to between 70 and 80 days.

Lee represented the 26th district near Buffalo until February. He stepped down after a website published a photograph of him posing without a shirt that the married Congressman had purportedly sent to a woman he met on Criagslist.

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Transportation Nation

Do More Cyclists Mean Safer Streets?

Friday, February 18, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The latest data comes from Minneapolis ' League of Bicyclists. (hat tip: Streetsblog) which shows steadily fewer bike accidents as more cyclists hit the streets.  In 1999 there were three hundred some-odd bike crashes -- a decade later, that number was 269.  During the same period, daily bike commuters jumped from 3000 to 8000.

New York's trend has been similar: city data shows a huge spike in cycling in the latter part of the last decade.  But overall bicycle crashes have not been rising, according to the New York City DOT.   Bicycle deaths did increase from 2009 to 2010 -- to 18. That's up from 12 in 2009 but down from 26 in 2008.

New York's pedestrian safety report also found that the installation of bike lanes makes those streets safer for all users, whether on foot, in a car, or on a bike.

But San Francisco is showing the opposite trend -- as Kate and Casey reported earlier this month . According to a pretty lengthy analysis by the Bay Citizen, crashes are rising faster in San Francisco than the number of cyclists.

What's going on here?  Planners &c, please weigh in!

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It's A Free Country ®

Facing Big Budget Gap, CT Governor Calls for Higher Taxes

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy released his budget proposal for fiscal years 2012-2013 Wednesday morning, and while it shares a lot in common with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's, it departs on one significant, contentious aspect: taxes. Malloy said he wants to raise them; Cuomo promises he won't.

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Transportation Nation

Love Can Happen Anywhere - Even on the NY Subway

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be mine. (Photo by Ed Yourdon / Flckr Creative Commons)

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) You’d think Cupid, being a Roman god, wouldn't hang out in the subway. But he does. We put the word out for couples who met on mass transit and heard back from so many that we concluded the God of Desire has an unlimited Metrocard.

It was November 2009 and Daniel Espinosa, in town from Connecticut, had wrapped up a business meeting and was waiting for the downtown 6 train at 33rd street. He sensed a woman standing behind him. He turned and saw Rebecca Stepler. It was 6:30 on a Thursday evening. She was headed home to Brooklyn from work.

"I asked her if she knew of a good place to go for a drink," he recalled. "You know, I was playing a little dumb."

He may have been an out-of-towner but he knew where the bars were. In fact, he had plans to meet friends at a bar in a couple of hours.

Rebecca rattled off a list of establishments. Daniel listened politely, without really listening. When she finished, he got to the point. "Will you join me?" he asked. She thought to herself, "I'm not that kind of person." Then she thought: "What the hell. It's only a drink."

They took the train, got off at 14th Street, and walked a couple of blocks to Nevada Smith's. Over beers, the strangers warmed to each other. "She thought I was genuine, I guess," Daniel said. Rebecca said their conversation was unusual for two people who'd just met because it was "so natural."

Two hours later, Daniel reluctantly left to join his friends. Except that's not where he was going. Rebecca says, "He actually had a couple of hours to kill because he had a date."

A date?

"Yeah," said Rebecca. "I'm the one who usually tells that part of the story."

They laugh about it now because after that chance encounter on the platform, they began spending weekends together. Four months later, he moved into her apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. In March 2010 they married.

We heard the same story arc, with varying details, from others.

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