Archive | Money and Politics

The Great New York City Mayoral Transition

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HOST INTRO: Just over three weeks remain before Bill de Blasio takes the oath of office to become New York City’s 109th mayor. Though De Blasio announced a few key appointments last week, political watchers are still waiting for others. But not everyone who’s currently in city government will leave when Mayor Michael Bloomberg does. Dan Mescon reports.

Bill de Blasio was elected mayor on November 5th. A few days later, a “Talking Transition” tent opened to the public just north of TriBeCa.

AMBI: Sound up of music from the town hall for a few seconds, then turn down and keep under until near the end of next piece of narration. (0:13)

It wasn’t affiliated with the de Blasio campaign, but it was meant to give New Yorkers a place to voice their opinions on what’s important to them in the coming years.

JONES AUSTIN: “Your words, your voices, will carry.” (0:03)

AMBI: Sound up of town hall room. Fade out at end of narration. (0:07)

At the tent’s final event – a town hall meeting in late November – Jennifer Jones Austin spoke to a crowd of about 500 people.

JONES AUSTIN: “You’ve heard a lot about what needs to get done by January 1st. And so we are on a short timeframe, a short clock. But, the transition will continue way after January 1st.” (0:12)

AMBI: Sound up of town hall room. Fade out at beginning of Jones Austin’s next sound bite. (0:12)

Jones Austin is a co-chair of de Blasio’s transition committee. Last week, the mayor-elect appointed former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton to once again lead the police force. He also named Anthony Shorris as first deputy mayor and Emma Wolfe as director of intergovernmental affairs. Other high profile positions, like schools chancellor, have yet to be announced. But, Jones Austin says there are some government employees who will stay where they are.

JONES AUSTIN: “One of the great things is that there are people who were working in city government who will remain in place, and so they will be there to provide a bridge.” (0:08)

AMBI: Sound up of town hall room. Fade out when Skurnik is first mentioned. (0:13)

So not everyone leaves when a new mayor gets elected. There are hundreds of thousands of career employees in New York City – police officers, firefighters, teachers and sanitation workers. They’re not going anywhere. Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant who worked in the Ed Koch administration, says de Blasio will replace most city commissioners and agency heads. But it’s the deputy and assistant commissioners who may or may not stay on. Skurnik says some city government employees have quite a long run.

SKURNIK: “When we were in…this was the Koch administration, they had people who had been there from the Lindsey administration, which had started…12 years before Koch came in. And I’m sure there are people still working now in the Bloomberg administration who worked in the Dinkins and Giuliani administration. Probably some in the Koch administration. You know, maybe in different jobs.” (0:25)

Barbara Fife helped coordinate the transition effort after David Dinkins won the mayor’s race in 1989. Then she became a deputy mayor for planning and development. And she says potential new employees are everywhere once the ballots are counted.

FIFE: “What happens is as soon as the election returns are in, the resumes just come pouring in. I mean I was afraid to look under my door at night.” (0:12)

Skurnik says thousands of people wanted jobs after Koch won his election – from low-level positions on up. During the transition, he acted as a kind of political vetter for job-seekers.

SKURNIK: “My job was actually to look at those resumes to see if there was any, based either on what was in there, or just my own knowledge, whether or not any of those people actually had any political…either good or bad baggage.” (0:16)

Skurnik says it could take up to a year for the commissioners and agency heads that won’t continue on to be replaced. For right now, he says it’s important for de Blasio to get his key people installed, because a crisis always comes up.

And Fife says coming into office, there are about a million things to do. Even though the election’s exciting…

FIFE: “By the time you’re halfway through the transition, you’re just very, very aware of what a big and demanding job this is.” (0:08)

It’s something de Blasio and his team have very likely already realized.

Dan Mescon, Columbia Radio News.

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Changes to Homeless Shelter System

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HOST INTRO There are at least 50,000 homeless in New York City. This strain on resources during the Bloomberg administration prompted what are known as scatter shelters. Those are largely vacant residential buildings that were quickly turned into supposedly temporary shelters for the homeless. Now, incoming mayor Bill De Blasio says he’s going to get rid of them. Charlotte Phillips reports.

There are 123 scatter shelters in New York City. One is known as Freedom House. It’s on West 95th Street. 400 people live in a space for 200. Aaron Biller lives close by. He says there’s been a rise there since the shelter opened, in street crime, noise issues and more.

BILLER: Quality of life in terms of confrontation with people because you have unruly people who are off their medications. TIME: (0.8)

Some residents agree. Samantha, who only wants to be identified by first name, has been living at Freedom House with her husband since June. She stops to talk as she leaves the shelter to go out for the day.

AMBI
TIME: (0.1)

SAMANTHA: There have certain people that drink, giving we good people a bad name.
TIME: 0.11

The mentally ill make up about 30% of the homeless population. Dealing with them makes it difficult to close the scatter shelters. Craig Mayes is the Executive Director of New York City Rescue Mission.

The violent crimes are more likely to come from that part of the homeless population
TIME: 0.12

However, the mentally ill are not a problem the city or any Mayor can solve, as funding for this comes mostly from federal level. But even without the mentally ill proportion of the homeless, Mayes says the city still has to deal with at least 35,000 homeless people.

MAYES: whatever their policies are, you’re still going to have a significant problem in any major city like New York with poverty and homelessness
TIME 0.07

De Blasio representative’s did not return requests to Uptown Radio. But Mayor elect Bill De Blasio has called to end scatter shelters and wants more sustainable solutions. His platform on homelessness focuses on affordable housing and he plans to change the zoning laws so more is available. billdeblasio.com also says he will redirect 1 billion dollars of public pension funds, to locally invest in the 5 boroughs and help pay for affordable housing construction. He also plans to keep utility bills as low as possible, so more people can afford to live in private accommodation.

He also wants to move the homeless into New York City public housing. The 2011 New York City Housing Authority survey showed a vacancy rate of just over 3 %. Anything less than a 5% vacancy is classified as a housing emergency. There isn’t enough room. Craig Mayes doesn’t believe de Blasio’s proposals are really solutions at all.

MAYES Should there be more affordable housing in NY? Absolutely. Where’s that going to come from? Who’s going to pay for that?
TIME: 0.10

Scatter shelter neighbor Aaron Biller agrees.

BILLER: I don’t think that he’s going to be able to affect the kind of changes that he promised. At the end of the day, the funding streams have to be changed.
TIME: 0.18

De Blasio will start to announce members of his administration after he is inaugurated on the first of January, including his director of homeless services.

Charlotte Phillips, Columbia Radio News

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No New Farm Bill Means Milk Prices Poised to Rise

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HOST INTRO: The Dairy industry is bracing itself for a rough start to 2014. The Farm Bill expired at the end of September, which means that milk prices could skyrocket in January. Caroline Ballard reports.

The Goodale farm’s roadside stand in Riverhead, Long Island operates on the honor system most days.

Sound: Fade up on sounds of farm stand. Opening refrigerator.

Customers pull into the gravel drive, choose their milk or cheese from the refrigerator, and leave money in a basket.

The stand has been here for five years. Hal Goodale says his family has been farming here since the 1700s.

GOODALE: They were traditionally potato and cauliflower and that type of stuff. So this is still the family land. (0:08)

Four years ago Goodale turned some of that family land over to producing dairy.

Sound: Fade up on mooing.

Now he says at least eighty percent of the farm’s revenue comes from dairy products.

There are approximately six thousand dairy farms in New York State. Right now if milk prices dropped, there would be no federal subsidies for these farmers.

Congress usually passes comprehensive agricultural legislation that lasts for five years. This year that didn’t happen. On September thirtieth seve ral agricultural programs expired. Since then there has been no funding for milk price support programs.

Agricultural Lobbyists are worried the entire dairy industry could be disrupted.

AMMERMAN: That could set a lot of scary things in motion for our dairy farmers, potentially tripling the price of milk. (0:09)

That’s Steve Ammerman of the New York Farm Bureau, an advocacy group that lobbies for farmers’ interests.

AMMERMAN: So there’s a real nervousness amongst our farmers that if something doesn’t get done that their livelihood could potentially be put in jeopardy if milk prices all the suddenly skyrocket. (0:13)

But several farmers contacted by Uptown Radio were not so frantic. Hal Goodale says he’s too busy with his farm to participate much in groups like the Farm Bureau.

GOODALE: I’m not super active just cause I don’t have a lot of time but hopefully that’ll change one day. (0:05)

The reason why milk prices could triple is an agricultural law from the 1940s, which goes into effect on January first. It uses a formula from the early twentieth century to determine milk prices. Prices could rise from three to eight dollars per gallon.

Higher milk prices may sound like a good thing for farmers but it may force consumers to cut back. Milk and dairy derivatives are used in other foods too, meaning it’s possible the price of all groceries could go up.

NOVAKOVIC: It’s extremely unlikely, but the scenario is not entirely fictional either. (0:11)

Andrew Novakovic teaches Agricultural Economics at Cornell University. Novakovic says the mere threat of the 1940s law going into effect could prompt Congress to do something.

NOVAKOVIC: Those old programs are so obviously bad that they become the gun to the head that requires Congress to do something. And that becomes the motivation. It’s not letters from home, it’s oh my gosh we can’t let that happen. (0:19)

Novakovic says products like corn and soybeans will eventually be affected by the lack of a Farm Bill in early Spring. Dairy on the other hand is produced year-round. If a bill fails to pass, the price of milk will change immediately.

NOVAKOVIC: Now does that mean on January 1 there’s a mushroom cloud over Washington? It’s not quite that instantaneous. But it would have to be in January that they would do something. (0:10)

Even with that pressure the path to a new farm bill is not clear. Congress only has one week left before the end of the year when b oth houses are in session. Novakovic says that without new legislation, the most likely scenario is an extension of the existing 2008 Farm Bill.

Sound: Fade up bed of pasteurizing milk.

Out on Long Island Hal Goodale pasteurizes milk at one hundred and forty five degrees. Tomorrow it will be available at the stand.

The Goodale farm is a small operation. Customers frequently walk the grounds to visit with Goodale and the animals.

GOODALE: A lot of people they want to see the cow where their milk came from. They want to know what’s being done with their milk and what they’re eating and that’s what we do with everything we have here. (0:10)

Goodale’s dedication to quality influences his price point. The milk is produced entirely on the farm, distributed locally, and sells at eleven dollars for a half-gallon. For him, higher industry prices could help his business.

GOODALE: It would probably affect me in a good way in that my milk wouldn’t seem as expensive as compared to everybody else’s. (0:08)

The House adjourns for the year on Friday, so that’s all the time Congress has to reach an agreement.

Caroline Ballard, Columbia Radio News.

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Expansion of Medicaid Might Effect Community Health Centers

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HOST INTRO: poised to go into effect next month, public health experts are looking at how the expansion of Medicaid could affect funding for community health centers. Niina Heikkinen reports.

Here in New York, community health centers are where many low-income Americans, both with Medicaid and those who are currently ineligible for insurance, receive health care.

As Medicaid expansion brings coverage to a growing pool of Americans, these health centers can now be reimbursed for a growing number of their patients. Now an additional 100,000 adults in New York State will be able to sign up next month.

This increase could mean about a 40 percent jump in Medicaid revenue for community health centers, according to Peter Shin, a public health researcher at George Washington University.

While that number looks like a big deal for health centers, Shin is cautious about making any definite predictions.

[Shin] All of the revenues as well as the estimates for that people that are going to be insured is really based on eligibility, and you know, we don’t know to what extent they’re actually going to be enrolled in the program, or how many of them will seek coverage. So traditionally, it hasn’t been a sort of one to one relationship between eligibility and enrollment. (0:29.8)

Though Medicaid enrollment may not be as high as Shin’s estimates, Maxine Golub of the Institute of Family Health, says she sees low-income New Yorkers regularly who are eager to get insurance.

But,
[Golub] I can’t really say at this moment what that is going to do for our revenue, but we assume it can only be good. (0:10.5)

Though she wouldn’t speculate on possible Medicaid revenue, Golub says more funding from federal, state and private grants would certainly help.

[Golub] what we’ve experienced over the last several years is that those grant opportunities have become both smaller pots of money that you are competing for and more people are competing for them. (0:17.5)

Because the expansion increased the number of people eligible by just 2 percent, Al Jankowsky of the Floating Hospital in Brooklyn, says he doesn’t think that much will change for the hospital.

[Jankowsky] New York State itself had one of the best eligibility programs and Medicaid eligible programs, what the 138 percent did was literally help a very good Medicaid product get a little bit better. (0:15.8)

He says the expansion would have to be much bigger to have a noticeable impact on Medicaid revenue.

Also, many of the people who rely on health centers for coverage are ineligible for Medicaid because they are not U.S. citizens.

Here’s Peter Shin again from George Washington University.

[Shin] Even in states that are opting to expand Medicaid, you’re still going to see a sizeable number of who are still left uninsured, and at least for health centers they’ll still need federal grants and other state support to care for the uninsured population. (0:15.1)

It is still too early to tell what impact Medicaid expansion will have for New York State’s community health centers.

Niina Heikkinen, Columbia Radio News

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After Two Children Die, Pedestrian Activists Demand Justice

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HOST INTRO: Two children in Brooklyn died this fall after being hit by speeding cars. In response to the pedestrian deaths, activists are demanding lower speed limits. They hope slowing traffic will curb the crashes. But some say writing those laws will be a challenge. Katie Toth reports.

Just beside the traffic on Prospect Park West, there’s a quiet part of Third Street where time stands still.

SOUND: up on running sounds —fade down on “Bears” (0:04)

Teddy bears, a ping pong racquet, and a tiger-striped knit hat are tied to a set of three aluminum gates.

This makeshift memorial for Samuel Cohen Eckstein marks the place he died on October 8. Reports say the twelve-year-old was running into the street after a soccer ball when he had the light. But when the light changed, he got hit by a speeding van that didn’t have time to stop.

Lisa Landow lives in the same building as the Eckstein family.

LANDOW: People are going like 60 miles an hour maybe more and also turning corners really quickly.

She says that there have been attempts to slow cars on Prospect Park West, but they haven’t been enough.

LANDOW: It’s pretty treacherous.

Hilda Cohen—no relation to Sammy—is a longtime cycling and pedestrian activist. She says she’s had enough.

COHEN: I think we’re at something of a tipping point. I mean there’s always horrific crashes but it just seems to be getting worse and worse. People have just had it.
TIME: 0:10

Last month, another child in her community was killed in traffic. His name was Lucian Merryweather. The nine year old was standing on the sidewalk with his mom in November. An out-of-control SUV struck him and he died.

For Cohen, the root of the problem is this: people drive too fast and the police do nothing about it.

COHEN: You used to fear your kids would be abducted but In New York City it’s really a fear of traffic. I think that’s the biggest fear parents have.
TIME: 0:11

Cohen started a group called Make Brooklyn Safer. Her group, are asking the city council to lower the city-wide 30 mile per hour speed limit to 20—on residential streets. Studies show that when drivers slow down, injuries to pedestrians are less serious.

At first, city council seemed to be all for the idea. But New York State law won’t allow speed limits under 25 miles per hour. So councilors tweaked the bill: to 25 miles per hour on one-lane, one-way streets, only.

But there may be a loophole. With so much of New York being close to a school, the city could declare all those areas school zones, allowing it lower the limit to 20.

Loophole or not, at least one group thinks the law is a bad idea: The Automobile Association of America. Robert Sinclair, is the spokesperson in New York:

SINCLAIR: They seem to be going off ad hoc and doing these things without any basis in fact to support their desires to do this. TIME: 0:08

Sinclair says the city already has the right to lower the speed limit past the state’s 25-mile-per-hour law. It just has to follow certain rules. The city has to do it on a street-by-street basis, with the input of traffic engineers. And it has to add what he calls “traffic calming devices,” like speed humps.

Besides, Sinclair says the city is already failing to enforce the current law.

SINCLAIR: We fail to see how they are magically going to improve their ability to enforce speed limits by lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour.
TIME: 0:13

But Cohen says that every path to safer streets needs to be pursued equally.

COHEN: I love the streets of the city. It’s where we see all the people that we know. I mean, personally, I want my kids to not be worried that they’re going to be struck while they’re on the sidewalk.
TIME: 0:10

Two more New York pedestrians were killed by vehicles this weekend. Right now, Cohen’s dream seems like a distant one.

Katie Toth, Columbia Radio News.

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Is New York Mayoral Candidate John Liu’s Campaign Over?

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HOST INTRO: Two of mayoral candidate John Liu’s former associates, Jenny Hou and Oliver Pan, have been found guilty of wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Lance Dixon spoke with Brigid Bergin, WNYC’s City Hall reporter, and she says everybody wants to know if his campaign is over.

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Obama Administration Reacts to Syria Crossing ‘Red Line’

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HOST: Yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made what seemed like a dramatic announcement about the civil war in Syria. He said that the US now has evidence the Syrian government used sarin, a powerful chemical weapon. The US has resisted getting deeply involved in the war in Syria. But President Obama has said that if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, that would cross a “red line” and the US would consider a wider range of options. That could include a military intervention.

Michael Cohen is a fellow at The Century Foundation. He says that despite two years of war and thousands of deaths in Syria, the use of chemical weapons would be a dangerous new development.

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Latino Evangelicals Reshape Immigration Views

Latino Evangelicals Reshape Immigration Views

 

Teachers lead a music class at the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church in the Bronx, Apr. 20, 2013. Some observers say growing Latino churches are the future of Evangelical Christianity. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

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HOST: Some Evangelical Christians have embraced comprehensive immigration reform in recent months. It’s a huge shift for the group, usually conservative in its politics. An influx of Latino congregants has pushed the church into changing its stance. Sonia Paul reports.

It was a week and a half ago, the day the Senate released its eight hundred and forty-four page draft bill for comprehensive immigration reform.

[AMBI: Rev. Salguero singing at the worship service in DC. [Let rise and play for seven seconds, then fade under and float under narration.]

Just blocks away from the Capital, at the Church of Reformation, an audience was singing a closing hymn . A giant screen at the front showed the people who came to preach and perform. They were clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

[Bring up more ambi.]

Latinos, Blacks, and a few Asians. But most of them appeared to be white.

They were Evangelical Christians. And they came here from all over the country to lobby Congress on immigration reform.

[LET AMBI RISE UP A LITTLE BIT FOR A FEW MORE SECONDS, THEN FADE DOWN]

They were calling the day a National Day of Prayer and Action on immigration. A group that calls itself the Evangelical Immigration Table organized the event.

[Fade out AMBI HERE]

Evangelicals aren’t the most likely supporters of immigration reform. Take Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee. In the Republican presidential primaries in 2008, he advocated strict controls.

ACT: MIKE HUCKABEE AUDIO

What we need to do is have a border that is sealed, and the same kind of process that we have if we go through a stadium — we go in one at a time, and we have a ticket.

His views were mainstream Republican at the time. Pew research Center reports show white Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported the Republican party in the last three presidential elections. But now, residents in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Florida — all conservative states — can hear ads like this one coming through their airwaves.

ACT: FLORIDA AD AUDIO

But our dysfunctional immigration system breaks up families and causes suffering. Christ calls all of us to compassion and justice.

That focus on compassion and justice is the selling point of the two-year-old Evangelical Immigration Table. It’s an umbrella organization for several Evangelical and social justice groups in support of immigration reform.

Evangelical pastor Gabriel Salguero chairs the group. He’s the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. In January, under his leadership, the Evangelical Immigration Table developed a bold message on immigration.

ACT: SALGUERO PRAYER CHALLENGE

We worked on a campaign called I was a Stranger. And we engaged just hundreds of Evangelical churches and tens of thousands of Evangelical Christians to read the bible and pray.

The Table put out radio ads in areas with large Evangelical populations — and released YouTube ads, like this one, of prominent Evangelical leaders reciting a well-known verse from the Book of Michael.

ACT: I WAS A STRANGER CAMPAIGN AUDIO

For I was a stranger, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.

I was a stranger.

I was a stranger.

I was a stranger.

(In Spanish)

I was a stranger. And you invited me in.

I needed clothes, and you clothed me.

[AMBI FROM OUTSIDE THE DC CHURCH]

Back in Washington, people outside the Church of Reformation are saying their goodbyes after a long day of lobbying on immigration. Others inside the church are still singing.

David Beckmann is a white Lutheran pastor and economist. He says it’s about time Christians unite for immigration reform — because the connection between the bible and the public policy issue is clear.

ACT: BECKMAN BIBLE MESSAGE

Cause the bible over and over again talks about doing right, being kind to widows, orphans and immigrants. Duh! (laughs). Cause immigrants are always kind of shuddered aside, they don’t ever have full rights.

But it’s not just biblical passages reminding Evangelicals of their call to duty. Reports indicate there are now nearly eight million Hispanic Evangelicals in the United States. That’s about 15 percent of the overall Evangelical population.

[AMBI OF MUSIC CLASS]

At the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church in New York, Latinos are the majority of students at the church’s weekend music class. They make up practically the entire church population.

ACT: MORELBA BRONX CHURCH POPULATION

There are people Dominican, Puerto Rican, from Hondorus, Ecuadorian…

That’s eighteen year old Morelba Fernandez. She’s at her church in the Bronx most days of the week, leading the youth ministry or assisting the music classes.

[AMBI OF MUSIC CLASS]

Or, advocating for immigration reform.

ACT: MORELBA

We also go to marches about immigration, like the Dream Act. A lot of teenagers, we go, because that’s very important for us.

Some observers say growing all-Latino churches like Fernandez’s are the future of Evangelical Christianity. Their support of immigration reform is hardly surprising.

[FADE OUT AMBI OF MUSIC CLASS]

Pew research polls show over 85 percent of Hispanic evangelicals support immigration reform. In comparison, just over half of white Evangelicals support the cause.

But that’s still a big change for the white Evangelical community. A few years ago, only a quarter of them polled supported immigration.

ACT: CRUZ

Hi, I’m Samuel Cruz.

Samuel Cruz is a sociologist of religion at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. He says the Latino Evangelical influence is the biggest reason Evangelicals are now embracing immigration.

ACT: CRUZ

In fact, Focus on the Family, which is one of the big conservative right-wing organizations in this country, is supporting immigration reform. And they know why they’re doing it. They’re catering to their huge constituency of Latinos within the Evangelical community.

The Senate is expected to debate the provisions of the immigration bill in coming weeks. Observers say that if Evangelicals maintain unity, they just might help tip the scale on passing immigration reform.

Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

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Boston Bombing’s Impact on Immigration Law

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HOST: Last week a bipartisan group of 8 senators announced a deal on immigration reform. Days later, police identified two Chechen immigrants as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. On the day the second bomber was caught, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa told the Senate Judiciary Committee the attacks in Boston should inform the immigration debate.  

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Manhunt Locks Down Boston

Manhunt Locks Down Boston

Police officers take cover as they conduct a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown,Mass. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Newscast 2

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NEWSCAST:

Secretary of State John Kerry warns North Korea against war threats.

US senators negotiating a new immigration law have reached a new agreement.

As the Senate gears up to debate expanding background checks for gun buyers.

CAMILO VARGAS REPORTS ON THE DAY’S TOP STORIES.

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Brooklyn District Attorney Election Gets Heated

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HOST INTRO:

Come November, the biggest race in the city will be for mayor. And it’s likely to bring many voters out. Brooklyn’s voters will choose a district attorney. Two candidates in the race say now is a great time to challenge the incumbent of 23 years: Charles Hynes. Matthew Vann reports.

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Anthony Weiner Makes A Comeback To New York Politics

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HOST INTRO:

On this day six years ago Anthony Weiner was a 6th term congressman and early favorite for the 2013 mayor’s race. But his political career collapsed after he accidentally tweeted a racy photo of himself and act that exposed his history of sexting to women he was not married to. He resigned from congress in June of 2011 and he stayed out of public eye since then. But now he is making his comeback. This week he was featured on the cover of New York Times magazine with Huma Abedin and he admitted he is thinking about getting back into the mayoral race. Max Rosenthal speaks to Colin Campbell from The New York Observer about the story.

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Sandy-Damaged Homes Receive Mortgage Relief

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HOST INTRO:

Nearly half a year has passed since Hurricane Sandy hit the Tristate area. Immediately after the storm, the federal government offered housing relief to home owners whose properties were damaged. They were allowed to stop making mortgage payments for ninety days, so they could focus on repairing their homes. In January, the federal government extended that program, known as forbearance, for another ninety days. With that extension about to expire, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donavan announced a one-year extension. But it may not help all home owners affected by the storm. Anna Goldenberg reports.

REPORTER:

If the original forbearance period for Federal Housing Administration loans would have expired on April 30, 300,000 families would have been faced with the return of their monthly mortgage bill. Donavan, who was the City’s chief housing officer before moving to Washington DC, said that was not acceptable.

DONOVAN

It’s heartbreaking to think that a family could lose their home. To be victims first of a natural disaster, Sandy, and then of a man-made disaster, foreclosure.

He announced that the Federal Housing Administration would extend the forbearance period by twelve months. And he announced another change for FHA mortgage holders.

DONOVAN

When homeowners reach the end of the forbearance period we’re offering them a streamlined modification that doesn’t require a cumbersome financial assessment.

That means that borrowers would not have to pay back the entirety of their mortgage after the forbearance period. Instead, the missing payments would be added to the principal balance of the loan and interest would be adjusted according to the current market rate.

It sounds almost too good to be true. And Franklin Romeo, who is a foreclosure attorney for Queens Legal Services, says it may be.

ROMEO

My primary concern about the announcement is that it doesn’t require the banks to extend the forebearance agreements so we will need to wait and see if banks will actually do that.

Romeo says the other problem with today’s announcement is that it does not affect loans backed by Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. It only affects mortgages issued through the FHA.

ROMEO

There would certainly be a sizeable number, but it is not the majority of loans out there.

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo sent an open letter to the Fannie and Freddie administrators asking them to extend the mortgage amnesty. The Washington-based corporations have not responded yet. This is Anna Goldenberg, Columbia Radio News.

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New York’s High End Residents Hungry For Upscale Grocery Shops

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HOST INTRO:

Neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Downtown Brooklyn have gotten pretty high-end. And new residents are hungry for upscale amenities — especially grocery stores. Emily Jones reports that developers are experimenting with some old …and some new ideas for markets to satisfy these new tastes.

sound: low market buzz/chatter

REPORTER:

As you enter Brooklyn Harvest Market, heaps of fresh fruits and veggies give way to an olive bar and a fridge case of cheeses from around the world. Farther in sit gourmet cakes, fresh fish on ice, and a butcher counter. Jessica Baker stands in front of a glass display case. The food looks delicious: grilled corn on the cob, butternut squash salad, Korean sesame tofu. Baker wants to order some for a party.

Baker: I’m having an event on Saturday… (fade under)

She splits her time between L-A and Williamsburg. When she’s here, she lives with her sister in Edge Condominiums, just upstairs from this grocery store.

Baker: This is the place where I want to be sure to get my fresh, healthy nutritious food from.

The few other markets in the area might be cheaper, but Baker says they don’t feel as nice.

Baker: There’s another place to get groceries, but I don’t think it offers as high a nutritional content, let’s just say, or variety anyway. And it’s a little further down as well.

This blend of convenience and fresh produce, along with plenty of local goods, is exactly what the Edge condo developers wanted in their building — because it’s what the people moving in want. Robert Greenstone is the building’s retail leasing agent.

Greenstone: You’ll see that the people who are buying apartments at a thousand dollars a square foot really can afford better merchandise, better food, better clothing, better services, and they actually demand it.

More than just good food, Greenstone thinks the residents of Edge and other luxury buildings want a great experience — otherwise they could just order online from Fresh Direct. That’s why the store opted for inviting displays and plans to offer outdoor seating come summer.

Greenstone: You actually wanted to eat, as opposed to just pick up merchandise that you needed.

Other developers are looking to a model from the past. Instead of adding grocery stores, some are trying to recreate the street markets of New York’s earliest days, when vendors set up shop daily to offer produce and homemade goods.

Feltman: I think that New York misses that experience.

Julie Feltman is the Market Director for Urban Spaces, which has tried to revive the idea with multi-vendor markets like Madison Square Eats and the holiday markets at Union Square and Columbus Circle.

Feltman: It ties the community together. You can showcase locally-made goods, you can bring unique gifts and unique products into one spot that isn’t really like over-commercialized.

The flagship project of Urban Spaces was DeKalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn. Old shipping containers housed the stores of local food and retail vendors. Now, a luxury apartment building called City Point is going up at the site. But retail developer Paul Travis wants to preserve the feel of DeKalb.

Travis: I thought really the best thing about DeKalb Market was that people in the neighborhood actually started to use it as a place to hang out. They felt it was their space.

The ground floor of City Point will feature a market hall with small food vendors, restaurants, and a grocery. It’s a model that works in major cities like Barcelona and New Delhi. Travis hopes the multivendor setting will recapture that community feel.

Travis: We’re not looking for chains. We’re not looking for stuff that you can find anywhere else. This is really to find local, unique food vendors who really want to do something downtown.

Feltman is a little skeptical that a big development can recreate the excitement of eclectic local markets.

Feltman: I think there’s something really charming in an outdoor market that doesn’t have a lot of barriers to entry that features a lot of different things. I think when you bring it onto that industrial level it might lose a little bit of its charm.

Still, she’s excited to see so many people trying. City Point and several other developments have multivendor markets in the works. Between those corporate efforts and ongoing community markets, Feltman hopes the model can really take hold.

I’m Emily Jones, Columbia Radio News.

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Newscast 1

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NEWSCAST:

A drug ring operating in Manhattan gets busted.

Thomas Pendergast named as new CEO of the MTA by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York City Fleet Week cancelled due to Sequestration budget cuts.

Christie Thorne reports on the days news headlines.

REPORTER:

For Columbia Radio News in New York, I’m Christie Thorne.

A drug ring operating from the Lower East Side was busted today for selling millions of dollars of cocaine. 30 people involved in a street gang were charged with drug trafficking across the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that Thomas Pendergast will be the next CEO of the MTA. In his weekly address on WOR radio, Mayor Bloomberg responded to Christine Quinn’s hopes that the city will take more control over the transit system. He says that the plan is a good idea in theory, but that it seems unlikely.

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: The problem is that the state has this big organization, they would never give up power I don’t think, and the state funds a lot of it. Almost all subway lines in the city will undergo service changes this weekend due to maintenance.

Senator Chuck Schumer and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced plans to help people impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The expanded efforts will allow homeowners to suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months while they repair their homes.

Police have released surveillance video of a man that attacked a 68-year-old woman in her East Harlem apartment building on Monday.The attack happened on Columbus Avenue near 102nd Street when the suspect tried to steal the woman’s purse and punched her in the face. The victim is in stable condition.Police believe the suspect is in his early 20s. He was last seen wearing an orange baseball cap and blue and white hooded jacket.

New York City Fleet Week has been cancelled because of sequestration budget cuts.The event welcomes New Yorkers to meet members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. It has been an annual tradition at New York Harbor every year since 1984.

Mario Batali’s West Village eatery, Babbo, is in jeopardy of losing its zoning license. The Community Board rejected Batali’s renewal request for a 10-year extension. The much-loved restaurant is technically placed in a residential zone. And Batali is facing some backlash from his neighbors on Waverly Place.

It’s 42 degrees with scattered showers here in New York City.

For Columbia Radio News, I’m Christie Thorne

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Muslim Democrats Aim For Bigger Political Voice

HOST INTRO: If you’re a Democrat in New York City (and you probably are), you can choose from one of hundreds of political clubs to suit your interests. But until two weeks ago, there was no club representing New York’s Muslim population. The Muslim Democratic Club of New York launched on March 15th, and Max Rosenthal tells us how it plans to give Muslim New Yorkers a more powerful political voice.

NARR: Club leaders say there are 105,000 Muslim-Americans registered to vote in New York City. 70 percent of them are Democrats. And in a year when New Yorkers will elect a new mayor, the club’s co-founder Ali Najmi says that could be a big number.

NAJMI: If all 73,000 showed up, 100% participation to the primary, they would probably make up 10 percent of the primary vote this year.

NARR: He says actual voter turnout among Muslim New Yorkers has been much lower than that. The club was formed to change that.

The club’s most pressing concern in the short term is the NYPD spying scandal. In 2011, journalists uncovered the police eavesdropping on Muslims in New York.

NAJMI: It’s our belief that if our community was voting at much higher levels, we would be able to prevent some of the abuses that some the institutions in the city have taken against this community, particularly the New York Police Department.

NARR: The group also wants to fight for lower-profile items like including Muslim holidays on the school calendar. And, he says, they’ll push for the same concerns that affect all New Yorkers: jobs, rent, education, and other quality of life issues.

One thing they won’t stress is foreign policy. The club has pledged to stay out of controversial issues like Israel and Palestine that are hot-button topics in New York. But Najmi admits that could change in the future.

NAJMI: Just like any other inst, the membership will drive the agenda. And so we will see over the next few years what the priorities become as the membership grows and becomes more active.

NARR: This year, the club wants to make sure mayoral candidates are paying attention. Todd Brogan, the spokesman for mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, says unity is the key.

BROGAN: The fact is that if they come to the table as a single entity, as a single group, they’re obviously going to have a voice that’s easier for policymakers to listen to, because it’s very easy when a community isn’t united and isn’t organized to kind of ignore its concerns.

NARR: On the City Council, Albanese used to represent Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Arab and Muslim immigrant population. He’s also an immigrant himself, born in southern Italy. Brogan says that’s why Muslims should back his boss.

But Abby Kawas, who lives in Bay Ridge, is looking for more. She spent countless hours registering new voters in the Muslim community during last year’s presidential election. She says she’s looking for a candidate who will to stand up to the police commissioner who supported the NYPD spying program.

KAWAS: I’m paying a lot of attention to who’s supporting Ray Kelly and who’s supporting the Inspector General bill.

NARR: She’s referring to a bill would create a new official, appointed by the mayor, to oversee the police department. These kinds of reforms will be crucial if candidates want to court the Muslim vote.

NAJMI: What we’re looking for from mayoral candidates is a commitment to end the surveillance program and to commit to reforming the NYPD. We’re really measuring candidates by those two things.

NARR: And that’s a problem for Albanese. He doesn’t support the bill. And at a candidates’ forum in January, he called Kelly the best police commissioner in America.

That means that when the campaign heats up, the Muslim Democratic Club will probably be backing one of Albanese’s opponents. They’re planning a big get out the vote effort to boost the number of Muslims at the polls and support candidates who back police reform.

NAJMI: We’re going to knock on doors, we’re going to make phone calls, we’re going to work the ethnic press and we’re going to work our networks to make sure that happens.

NARR: It’s just a first step in giving Muslim New Yorkers bigger influence in city politics. But with the stakes so high, it’s an important one.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.

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Prison System Feels Sequester Budget Cuts

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HOST INTRO: The across-the-board budget cuts to Federal programs forced by the congressional sequester will start hitting in a couple weeks. One of the many programs losing funding is the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It could be hit with more than $330 million dollars in losses. And that raises questions of safety. Christie Thorne reports.

THORNE: We’ve heard it before – in movies and TV shows, maybe at a tour of the infamous prison, Alcatraz. (:05)

AMB: Prison Doors Lock (:07)

THORNE: The sound of a prison door closing represents something pretty final – who’s in and who’s out. But budget cuts may soon blur this line. And those cuts may cause holes in the system that makes things unsafe. A couple of weeks ago, a former Rikers
Island inmate, Matthew Matagrano, impersonated a corrections officer to break back in to two New York City prisons. His goal seemed to be innocent: he broke in to hang out and smoke cigarettes with some of the inmates. But if he could get in,
what’s going to keep people from getting out? (:23)

NORMAN SEABROOK: Well, I absolutely think that budget cuts has something to do with it. (:04)

THORNE: Norman Seabrook is the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association– the union that represents New York’s nine thousand prison officers. Seabrook says stopping someone who wants to sneak into prison, isn’t the biggest problem the department will face with the coming budget cuts. But each problem could create a ripple effect through the system.

NORMAN SEABROOK: They’ll start with furloughs; they’ll start with giving people four days of work as opposed to five days. So I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to drown, if you will, the country, but this will be something that will be sprinkled to those that are used to having umbrellas, so they will feel a little sprinkle. (:21)

THORNE: That sprinkle could turn into a downpour because fewer officers due to budget cuts won’t necessarily mean fewer prisoners. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC before the sequester that these cuts pose a real danger. (:11)

HOLDER: This is something that’s going to have an impact on safety of this country and anybody who says that that’s not true is either lying or saying something that runs contrary to the facts. (:11)

THORNE: But not everyone agrees that those facts are so black and white. Martin Horn’s entire career has been in corrections. He’s the former Commissioner for the New York City Department of Corrections and now teaches at John Jay College of criminal justice. He says safety – both inside and outside of the prisons – is essential. And he thinks it’s going to take a lot more than these budget cuts to weaken the system. (:17)

HORN: I suspect that the Bureau will do whatever it can to spread the sequestered amount over its large number of facilities and each one of its facilities will take a proportionately small share of the hit. (:17)

THORNE: Horn adds there are other ways to cut down on prison costs and he’s confident folks like Matagrano who want to break into a prison won’t become the norm. (:07)

HORN: I doubt, strongly, that they would ever compromise security. All it took was for a single officer to closely check this guy’s credentials and numerous officers failed to do so, so it’s hard to attribute that to staffing. (:18)

THORNE: But as someone who’s focus is on worker safety, union head Norman Seabrook says he’s skeptical that the Department of Corrections Commissioner will be able to have that much control over how the cuts work – and he says there is a chance that
another case like Matthew Matagrano could happen again.

SEABROOK: So yes, we’re going to see more of that because of budget cuts, we are going to so more of that because of the impact of the way that the individuals in the City of New York at Commissioner levels at this time hold no responsibility to the public. So, we are faced with those things
in the future as well. (:18)

THORNE: The New York City Department of Corrections did not return requests for comment on this story. It’s expected that furloughs will begin on April 4th and we’ll start seeing some of these ripple effects – if there are any – in the months to follow.
Christie Thorne, Columbia Radio News. (:06)

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