It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who in Chicago awarded lucrative school contracts to Rupert Murdoch?

From the Madfloridian at DemocraticUnderground: Who in Chicago awarded lucrative school contracts to Rupert Murdoch?
Posted by madfloridian in General Discussion

Mon Nov 19th 2012, 01:51 AM
Rupert Murdoch sees $500 billion profit waiting in US public education. Getting his share in Chicago and some in NYC.

There's a battle being waged in this country against our public school systems. It's not irate parents, it's a corporate battle.

These education "reformers" have the money to buy up politicians in both parties to get laws passed for their benefits. Public schools have little resources to fight back.

Hey, lobbyist, leave them kids alone! [October 28, 2012 Oneonta, NY Daily Star column]

There is no doubt that the performance of U.S. students against their international counterparts continues to disappoint. But since the reasons for this are so difficult to pin down, a parade of self-proclaimed experts and “reformers” has emerged in recent years, touting the urgency of their proposed solutions – never mind if they require redirecting streams of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of their friends.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is among the more-recognizable faces of this movement, having purchased education technology firm Wireless Generation for $360 million in November 2010.

“When it comes to K-12 education,” Murdoch said at the time, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

Despite the scandals associated with his name and his News Corp company, Murdoch is getting a foothold in the "reforms" going on now. He and his Wireless Generation company are getting a huge profit from a contract with the Chicago school system.

Just like I always say, accountability is only for public school teachers....never for the very rich.

Looks like Rupert Murdoch will profit from "reform" of Chicago school system. [August 20, 2012, Daily Kos]

In case Chicago missed it, Rupert Murdoch is now profiting from the testing craziness hitting Chicago's public schools. He owns an outfit called "Wireless Generation" that is now a contractor with CPS. Anyone who doesn't already know that the administration of Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third largest school system, is in the hands of amateurs (or worse, outsiders who want to destroy public education and turn it over to the private sector at all costs), should be contacting any of the 241 principals of the so-called "Track E" schools which begin receiving their students on August 13, 2012.

Things have gotten so crazy in the 2012 world of edits, memos, Power Points, orders, reforms, re-reforms, and re-re-re-reforms from the administration of former Rochester school supt. Jean-Claude Brizard and former "Relationship Banker" Rahm Emanuel that it would take a team of a dozen investigative reporters on the ground school-by-school (with a backup team of another dozen researchers) to separate out the greed, mendacity, incompetence, and silliness that is being foisted on Chicago behind the smokescreen of the latest iteration of "School Reform." Meanwhile, the city's communities, teachers, principals, and children will be facing centrally planned chaos as the first full year of Rahm's version of "School Reform" kicks in non Monday August 13, 2012. The 241 Chicago "Track E" schools would make this sub-system one of the 20 largest school districts in the USA were it a separate system. But it would be one of only three (the other two are Detroit and New Orleans) currently ruled by a group of outside mercenaries dedicated to destroying public education.

Murdoch was going to get 27 million from the Race to the Top money in New York City, but State Controller Thomas DiNapoli rejected the contract.

"New York City ditched a $27 million education contract with News Corp subsidiary Wireless Generation, citing the ongoing investigations into the phone hacking allegations related to News Corp's now-defunct News Of The World tabloid.

State Controller Thomas DiNapoli rejected the Education Department's contract with the company, the New York Daily News reports, which would have paid $27 million to create software to track test scores. The funding would have come out of the state's $700 million "Race to the Top" education funds, but DiNapoli's office said that there were concerns about News Corp's "incomplete record" and about the ongoing scandal.

"In light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corp., we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved," wrote DiNapoli's office of the decision.
Daily Kos has this added news, citing the New York Daily News from August 13, 2012, that New York State has snuck in Wireless Generation as a subcontractor for a New York City schools contract.
Nearly a year after the state Education Department’s failed attempt to award a no-bid, $27 million technology contract to Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation company, the state announced a do-over Monday.

The contract with the News Corp. subsidiary overseen by former city schools chancellor Joel Klein was initially rejected last August by State Controller Thomas DiNapoli, who raised concerns over allegations of illegal phone-hacking by News corp newspapers in England.

This time, Wireless Generation lost out to four other companies on a competitive bid for $50 million in technology contracts — though one of the companies will employ Wireless Generation as a subcontractor.

“They’ll get a small piece of a smaller pie than they would have received under last year’s proposed contract,” state Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said.

The new contracts will help teachers, administrators and parents track student test scores and other data and will replace a costly system in use in city schools called Achievement Reporting and Innovation Systems, or ARIS, as soon as the end of 2013.
The writer at the Daily Kos closed, "They should not be getting any of the pie. Teachers are held accountable almost to the extreme, but those on the side of the "reformers" are not held to similar standards."

Monday, November 26, 2012

NM, OR, NC Veteran Teacher Quits, Letter Goes Viral

This cross-posted from a very thoughtful student teacher's blog, "Teacher Under Construction: Rutgers Student and Future World Changers Fighting for Educational Equity"

The linked author has also started a blog, Middle Grades Mastery: The Journey to Find the Best Ways to Teach Middle School Students
Teacher’s Letter Stating Why He Quit Goes Viral This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged Education, Letter, North Carolina, Opinion, Schools, Standardized test, Teacher. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments
The letter below provides multiple reasons why I fight for my future profession.

See letter covered by The Washington Post [Valerie Straus, The Answer Sheet, with 112 comments] and Diane Ravitch [Diane Ravitch's Blog], and a post covering how he responded to his critics.

Kris L. Nielsen Monroe, NC 28110

Union County Public Schools Human Resources Department 400 North Church Street Monroe, NC 28112

October 25, 2012

To All it May Concern:

I’m doing something I thought I would never do—something that will make me a statistic and a caricature of the times. Some will support me, some will shake their heads and smirk condescendingly—and others will try to convince me that I’m part of the problem. Perhaps they’re right, but I don’t think so. All I know is that I’ve hit a wall, and in order to preserve my sanity, my family, and the forward movement of our lives, I have no other choice.

Before I go too much into my choice, I must say that I have the advantages and disadvantages of differentiated experience under my belt. I have seen the other side, where the grass was greener, and I unknowingly jumped the fence to where the foliage is either so tangled and dense that I can’t make sense of it, or the grass is wilted and dying (with no true custodian of its health). Are you lost? I’m talking about public K-12 education in North Carolina. I’m talking about my history as a successful teacher and leader in two states before moving here out of desperation.

In New Mexico, I led a team of underpaid teachers who were passionate about their jobs and who did amazing things. We were happy because our students were well-behaved, our community was supportive, and our jobs afforded us the luxuries of time, respect, and visionary leadership. Our district was huge, but we got things done because we were a team. I moved to Oregon because I was offered a fantastic job with a higher salary, a great math program, and superior benefits for my family. Again, I was given the autonomy I dreamed of, and I used it to find new and risky ways to introduce technology into the math curriculum. My peers looked forward to learning from me, the community gave me a lot of money to get my projects off the ground, and my students were amazing.

Then, the bottom fell out. I don’t know who to blame for the budget crisis in Oregon, but I know it decimated the educational coffers. I lost my job only due to my lack of seniority. I was devastated. My students and their parents were angry and sad. I told myself I would hang in there, find a temporary job, and wait for the recall. Neither the temporary job nor the recall happened. I tried very hard to keep my family in Oregon—applying for jobs in every district, college, private school, and even Toys R Us. Nothing happened after over 300 applications and 2 interviews.

The Internet told me that the West Coast was not hiring teachers anymore, but the East Coast was the go-to place. Charlotte, North Carolina couldn’t keep up with the demand! I applied with three schools, got three phone interviews, and was even hired over the phone. My very supportive and adventurous family and I packed quickly and moved across the country, just so I could keep teaching.

I had come from two very successful and fun teaching jobs to a new state where everything was different. During my orientation, I noticed immediately that these people weren’t happy to see us; they were much more interested in making sure we knew their rules. It was a one-hour lecture about what happens when teachers mess up. I had a bad feeling about teaching here from the start; but, we were here and we had to make the best of it.

Union County seemed to be the answer to all of my problems. The rumors and the press made it sound like UCPS was the place to be progressive, risky, and happy. So I transferred from CMS to UCPS. They made me feel more welcome, but it was still a mistake to come here.

Let me cut to the chase: I quit. I am resigning my position as a teacher in the state of North Carolina—permanently. I am quitting without notice (taking advantage of the “at will” employment policies of this state). I am quitting without remorse and without second thoughts. I quit. I quit. I quit!



I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible.

I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests.

I refuse to be an unpaid administrator of field tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit.

I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because administration comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC meetings or whatever. I’ve seen successful PLC development. It doesn’t look like this.

I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next. I’m far enough behind in my own work.

I will not spend another day wondering how I can have classes that are full inclusion, and where 50% of my students have IEPs, yet I’m given no support.

I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. Misery loves company, but I will not be that company.

I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the EXPLORE test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices.

I totally object and refuse to have my performance as an educator rely on “Standard 6.” It is unfair, biased, and does not reflect anything about the teaching practices of proven educators.

I refuse to hear again that it’s more important that I serve as a test administrator than a leader of my peers.

I refuse to watch my students being treated like prisoners. There are other ways. It’s a shame that we don’t have the vision to seek out those alternatives.

I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.

I refuse to watch my family struggle financially as I work in a job to which I have invested 6 long years of my life in preparation. I have a graduate degree and a track record of strong success, yet I’m paid less than many two-year degree holders. And forget benefits—they are effectively nonexistent for teachers in North Carolina.

I refuse to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder.

I refuse to listen to our highly regarded superintendent telling us that the charter school movement is at our doorstep (with a soon-to-be-elected governor in full support) and tell us not to worry about it, because we are applying for a grant from Race to the Top. There is no consistency here; there is no leadership here.

I refuse to watch my students slouch under the weight of a system that expects them to perform well on EOG tests, which do not measure their abilities other than memorization and application and therefore do not measure their readiness for the next grade level—much less life, career, or college.

I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.

I am tired of hearing about the miracles my peers are expected to perform, and watching the districts do next to nothing to support or develop them. I haven’t seen real professional development in either district since I got here. The development sessions I have seen are sloppy, shallow, and have no real means of evaluation or accountability.

I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness.

Finally, I’m tired of watching parents being tricked into believing that their children are being prepared for the complex world ahead, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.

I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads in preparation for the EOG tests and the new MSLs—neither of which are consequential to their future needs. As a parent of a high school student in Union County, I’m dismayed at the education that my child receives, as her teachers frantically prepare her for more tests. My toddler will not attend a North Carolina public school. I will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening.

I quit because I’m tired being part of the problem. It’s killing me and it’s not doing anyone else any good. Farewell.

CC: Dr. Mary Ellis

Dr. June Atkinson

Sunday, November 25, 2012

LI's Newsday: Teacher evaluation systems proving costly

Teacher evaluation systems proving costly
Originally published: November 22, 2012 8:39 PM
Updated: November 22, 2012 9:27 PM

The newly mandated teacher and principal evaluation system is costing Long Island school districts tens of thousands of dollars per year in training, testing and materials, even as they struggle with effects of the property-tax cap and putting in place other required education reforms.

The expense varies by district depending on its size and how it plans to satisfy the state's demands.
Go to the Newsday site for the remainder of the article.

U.S. DOE tells PA officials: use same standards to grade charter schools

From Kathy Mattheson at the Associated Press, reposted at the Lehigh Valley Express-Times, Pennsylvania:
Pa. told to re-evaluate charter school test scores
Nov. 22, 2012, 2:03 p.m. EST

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal education officials have denied Pennsylvania's request to evaluate charter school achievement using more lenient criteria, saying they must be assessed by the same standard as traditional schools.

The rejection means Pennsylvania cannot substitute a less stringent method for measuring "adequate yearly progress," the federal benchmark known as AYP. Critics said the formula artificially inflated charter schools' performance for political reasons.

"I cannot approve this ... because it's not aligned with the statute and regulations," U.S. Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle wrote in a letter released by the state Wednesday.

The issue surfaced in September when Pennsylvania's latest standardized test scores were reported. For the first time — and without approval from federal officials — state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis treated charter schools as districts, not individual schools.

Schools must hit certain targets at every tested grade level to make AYP. But for a district to meet the benchmark, it needs only to hit targets in one of three grade spans: grades 3-5, 4-6 or 9-12.

Under Pennsylvania law, every charter school is considered its own district. So by using the grade span methodology, about 59 percent of charters made AYP — a figure that supporters touted, comparing it with the 50 percent of traditional schools that hit the target.

Yet only 37 percent of charters would have made AYP under the individual school method. Delisle ordered Pennsylvania to re-evaluate charter schools' AYP status using that standard by the end of the fall semester.

She noted that Pennsylvania can assess charters under the district method but only in addition to the school method.

The state will now assess charters under both standards, according to a Wednesday statement from Pennsylvania Education Department spokesman Tim Eller.

Previously, Eller had argued that the grade span calculation leveled the playing field for charters, which are publicly funded but operate independently of school districts.

And while acknowledging that standard can mask academic problems, Eller has said school districts have taken advantage of the methodology for years. The grade span calculation enabled 61 percent of districts to make AYP in 2011-12, while only 22 percent would have made AYP without it, Eller said.

Opponents say parents are much more interested in the performance of individual schools than districts as a whole.

AYP is a key component of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools that fail to make AYP receive additional oversight and, eventually, could end up with new staffs or be shut down.

Follow Kathy Matheson at
Other reports have these added comments (Sara Satullo at the Lehigh Valley "Express-Times"):
The U.S. Department of Education refuses to sign off on Pennsylvania's unauthorized change to the way it calculates whether charter schools made state testing benchmarks.
Critics of the switch Pennsylvania attempted say that it makes it easier for charter schools to make adequate yearly progress but proponents say as charter schools have grown it makes more sense to treat them like school districts.

For an individual school to make adequate yearly progress , the overall student body must score proficient or above on math and reading tests. And in schools with certain demographics of 40 or more students if one group misses one target the entire school doesn’t make adequate yearly progress. And until this year charter schools were measured the same way.

The federal Department of Education cannot approve Pennsylvania's request to treat brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools only as "local education agencies" for adequate yearly progress purposes because "Adequate yearly progress determinations would be made for each charter school as an LEA but not as a school," according to a letter provided by the state.

"Moving forward, the department will calculate adequate yearly progress for each school building in every school district and charter school, as well as for each local education agency – traditional public school district and charter school," Eller said.

The federal government is requiring Pennsylvania go back and calculate school-level adequate yearly progress results for charter schools for 2011-12 PSSA data by the end of the first semester of the 2012-13 school year. Any schools identified with problems must implement improvement plans by the start of the second semester of the 2012-13 school year.

Follow @sarasatullo

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ravitch: Expose of Charter School Corruption in Arizona

From Diane Ravitch's blog, November 20, 2012, "Expose of Charter Corruption in The New Republic":
Timothy Noah, a senior editor of The New Republic, has written a stunning expose of charter school corruption. He begins with Arizona, where the laws are so lax that self-dealing by charter executives is the rule, not the exception. Noah points out that 90 percent of charter operators are exempt from state laws requiring competitive bidding. The state has never withdrawn an exemption.

Noah bases his observations about Arizona’s Wild West of charters on investigative reporting by Anne Ryman of the Arizona Republic.

He quotes from Ryman’s article:

“The schools’ purchases from their own officials,” Ryman writes, “range from curriculum and business consulting to land leases and transportation services. A handful of non-profit schools outsource most of their operations to a board member’s for-profit company.” A nonprofit called Great Hearts Academies runs 15 Arizona charter schools. Since 2009, according to Ryman, the schools have purchased $987,995 in books from Educational Sales Co., whose chairman, Daniel Sauer, is a Great Hearts officer. And that doesn’t count additional book purchases made directly by parents. Six of the Great Hearts schools have links on their Web sites for parents who wish to make such purchases. The links are, of course, to Educational Sales Co. Since 2007 Sauer has donated $50,400 to Great Hearts. You can call that philanthropy, or you can call that an investment on which Sauer’s company received a return of more than 1800 percent. I’m not sure even Russian oligarchs typically get that much on the back end.

Oh, yes, Great Hearts Academy. This is the same Arizona-based outfit that has been turned down four times by the Metro Nashville school board because it did not have a diversity plan. Because of its rejection of Great Hearts, the Nashville schools were fined $3.4 million by Tennessee’s TFA state commissioner of education Kevin Huffman. Huffman and the governor really, really want Great Hearts in Nashville and apparently they “won’t back down” until Great Hearts has at least three or four campuses in Nashville, regardless of what the school board says. The governor and legislature are set to pass an ALEC-model law to create a commission to overrule local school boards that have the nerve to turn down a charter school.

By the way, Great Hearts Academy just got permission to open charters in San Antonio.

Noah notes corruption in Ohio and California charters, including the Adelanto Charter School, which was shut down. It will now be replaced the the nation’s very first parent trigger charter, also in Adelanto, California, which was selected by only 50 parents in a school that enrolls more than 600 children.

Keep writing, Timothy Noah.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Haimson reports: 1st mayoral ed debate / Stringer leaves 2013 mayoral race / Quinn leads / Spitzer wonders if Liu is finished

Leonie Haimson on the the forum of prospective 2013 mayoral candidates to succeed New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg: "The First Mayoral Debate on Education!," NYC Public School Parents, November 19, 2012.

Azi Paybarah, "Eliot Spitzer wonders if Liu really counts as a contender anymore," Capital New York, November 21, 2012.

Dana Rubinstein's November 18 article after the forum of prospective mayoral candidates: "On education, the mayoral candidates vie to be the un-Bloomberg, Capital New York, November 19, 2012.

Azi Paybarah, "Quinn runs up-front, with qualifications," Capital New York, November 21, 2012. Paybarah offered the main qualification the fact that the poll was taken prior to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's leaving the field. Paybarah ventured that the poll actually represented name recognition.

Azi Paybarah in Capital New York reports that Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has left the tentative field for 2013 New York City mayoral competition. Stringer will contend for the comptroller position, now held by John Liu.

Paybarah Saturday surmised reasons why Stringer left the race:

Why Scott Stringer's 2013 Mayoral Campaign Ended Before 2013
There's an unobstructed view of City Hall from the Manhattan borough president's office at 1 Centre Street. But for Scott Stringer, the mayor's office was out of reach.

On Sunday, Stringer is expected to announce formally that he is abandoning his all-but-announced campaign for mayor and running instead for New York City comptroller.

Stringer is bright and well-qualified, with impeccable liberal credentials, a solid donor base and even, improbably, a stable of celebrity supporters.

But this year, as became clear to him, that wasn't enough.

The political demise of former congressman Anthony Weiner, a progressive outer-borough Jew, and the fund-raising scandal surrounding New York City Comptroller John Liu, seemingly knocked out two well-funded formidable rivals.

But Stringer, overshadowed as the Manhattan candidate by Bloomberg ally and relative establishment favorite Christine Quinn, wasn't able to capitalize.

In part, it's a function of his office, which provides a public platform but few actual powers to its occupants. (Just ask Marty Markowitz.)

But it's also just the way the field was set up.

Stringer was the only Jewish candidate, once Weiner disappeared. But that didn't guarantee him much.

Two other mayoral candidates have clearly defined prospective bases: Former city comptroller Bill Thompson drew a large amount of support from African-American and Hispanic voters four years ago and is expected to do so again. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn is the outer-borough white candidate who has strong union ties but he's also hoping to attract some black support, on the strength of his African-American wife and family and his ties to the Clintons.

And then, right in Stringer's backyard, there's Quinn.

Since 2006, Quinn has been the speaker of the New York City Council, the second highest ranking Democrat in the city. She's well-known and tacitly backed, if only as the best of the plausible mayoral options, by the mayor and the Bloomberg-adoring business establishment. Quinn will likely get more slack from many progressives for her Bloomberg ties than she otherwise would, on the basis of her background as a gay-rights activist, and her status as the potential first female or openly gay mayor of New York.

Stringer had criticized her from time to time for not providing a strong enough check against the mayor,. and from the perspective of the Democratic primary electorate, he may have had a good point. But it wasn't an argument that was going to get him where he needed to go.

Mike Klonsky: One debate over Pearson

Mike Klonsky of Chicago opens today's blog with:

In Pearson we trust. Really? But our blood is never blue.
Remember back in April, when a single insipid test question sparked the pineapple rebellion and shone a light, not only on current standardized testing practices, but on the whole testing industry and its leading profiteer, Pearson Publishing? With lives, careers and the very existence of schools hanging in the balance, we have become totally reliant on Pearson and the testing companies to measure and arbitrate truth and correctness. Even more so, with the era of the Common Core curriculum at hand. But what happens when Pearson is wrong -- either in the content of their texts or in the proscribed answers on their tests?

Check out this exchange between Chicago Science/Math Teacher Oscar Newman and Pearson.
Click to the rest of the blogpost.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

NYT: Mayor Bloomberg Was a Middling Student

From the New York Times, March 18, 2012:
(Clues to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's education policy in his relations to his hometown of Medford, Massachusetts?)
As a child, Mr. Bloomberg was a nerdy but middling student, president of the Medford High School slide rule club and briefly in charge of collecting dues from fellow students. In his memoir, he wrote that he was deeply bored, a restless suburban boy dreaming of a grander life in New York.
The article also lists his various modest contributions to institutions in his hometown.
(Junior High School photo of Bloomberg)

By Michael Grynbaum, Mayor’s Ties to Hometown Fade, but for a Few, They Are Still Felt."

The comments section carried this comment from a Medford resident:
The greatest mystery is that not one personnel friend, from all of those years in Medford can be identified. That is an odd individual from most normal backgrounds. Of course most billionaires are not normal. The paper of record here missed telling the most significant story with regard to Mayor Bloomberg/Medford in which he relates that his father had to buy the family home through a third party to conceal that they were Jewish. He may or may not be right about that. But the real point is that he tells this story to the media while his Mother is alive. She disagreed with him. What a stupid and lousy thing to do while your Mother is living in the town and in her late nineties. After all she preferred to live in Medford and loved it. He has always seemed to have had a disconnect with his hometown.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Donate money to Hurricane Sandy relief | United Federation of Teachers

Donate money to Hurricane Sandy relief | United Federation of Teachers
Dear colleagues,
Hundreds of UFT members have suffered devastating losses and had their lives shattered by Hurricane Sandy. We’ve received over 800 requests so far from members seeking urgent assistance. The stories they tell us are heart-wrenching. Many have lost their homes and most of their possessions.
We’ve set up a Hurricane Sandy drive to help UFT members in desperate need. Please consider assisting them with a monetary donation to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund today. Only through the generosity of our members who have been more fortunate in this storm will we be able to begin to address the magnitude of the need.
Donations can be made with a credit card or via PayPal at or by check payable to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund at UFT Disaster Relief Fund, c/o Vice President Karen Alford, UFT, 52 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY, 10004.
Please donate now »
We know many members have also been asking for volunteer opportunities to help the storm-stricken neighborhoods, which suffered another blow yesterday with the nor’easter.
We are organizing Saturday Days of Action starting this Saturday and through the coming weeks. If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out our Hurricane Sandy volunteer form and we will alert you about opportunities as they arise.
Our members have been tremendous in this time of crisis. We appreciate each and every action you’ve taken since the storm struck to help those in need. I thank you for all that you’ve done for our students and our communities under these difficult circumstances.
Michael Mulgrew

United Federation of Teachers • A Union of Professionals
52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004 • 212.777.7500 •

Thursday, November 8, 2012

MTA: All But Handful of Lines Returned to Service

As of November 19, 2012, the only remaining gaps in NYC MTA subway line service are the R tunnel from the Manhattan Battery to Brooklyn Heights and the two elevated A train branches serving the Rockaway Peninsula.

New MTA subway service map, as of November 7, 2012.

The only service gaps remaining are the A train lines to the Rockaways, service south of Rockaway Boulevard station; the L train west of Broadway Junction, crossing under the East River, the N train in Brooklyn and the R train passage between lower Manhattan and downtown Manhattan.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bloomberg Ends Plan to Combine School & Shelter Functions; Other NYC Sandy News

November 5:

Sunday Bloomberg:

As yet not uploaded WNYC story, Rockaway projects residents without electicity or heat. Keeping warm by boiling water constantly.

Sunday evening, Daily News in Rockaways:

Rockaway ire at mayor over water access and other issues:
Wreckage and a messy Bloomberg media hit in Rockaway Beach

LIPA has a power outage map. Only problem, you must have a LIPA account to access the map.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bloomberg Cancels Marathon; Food, Fuel Jeopardy; UFT Goes Facebook


WNYC radio* just announced:
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg caved in to popular pressure to cancel the ING New York City Marathon scheduled for this Sunday. Critics said that assigning police officers and power generators (temperature lows are due to drop below 40 degrees this weekend) at the marathon would be an irresponsible diversion from duties related to Hurricane Sandy. Some pointed out that many people are now homeless, and they would be competing with visiting runners to rent out hotel rooms.

To be commended are Staten Island city councilor James Oddo (Republican, at that), council speaker Christine Quinn, public advocate Bill BeBlasio (switching from his earlier the marathon must go on position), Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer and Staten Island assemblyman Lou Tobacco for calling for the cancellation of the marathon. (Ken Belson in the New York Times, "Growing Outcry Over Proceeding With Marathon")

Otherwise, we would have noted that this would make us paraphrase president Dwight D. Eisenhower and his statement on the shifted priorities with pandering to the military industrial complex. While there are people without food, without their homes, without power, unsure of where their school assignment will be Monday, without car fuel, every resource put into the trickle down folly of the Marathon, is a diversion away from the truly needy thousands who need the resources.

This storm was turning out to be another tin-ear episode of someone that cannot see beyond the exclusive districts in Manhattan's Upper East Side.

The New York State Nurses Association performed a stand-out role in assessing the situation of how a marathon fits within the larger picture of New York City's health status at this point. Their public letter in part read:
On Staten Island, hospitals have suffered severe structural damage, and are struggling to care for their patients.

In every NYC hospital, nurses are pushed to the limit - covering severe cases, taking care of formerly at-home patients who lost power, working incredibly long hours, and sleeping in shifts.

Every year the Marathon leads to injuries and Emergency Room visits. Our ERs do not need that influx of patients right now.

With thousands of beds closed and nurses and other caregivers working nonstop for days, our healthcare delivery system is severely strained.

At a time like this, we need to re-direct our city’s resources to the recovery - to restore power and get Bellevue and the other closed hospitals up and running again, to fix the damage on Staten Island, and to help all those injured by this storm.

There will be plenty of time later in the year to hold the Marathon. Now is not the time.
The complete NYSNA letter can be read here

Another matter, as long as car fuel access has not been restored to the region, the city should encourage carpooling to the LIRR or directly to schools and other government offices.

The above cited other issues are getting inadequate media and politician attention: food and power. An aide to city councilor James Sanders (Far Rockaway) says that Far Rockaway is the "9th Ward" of New York City (Capital New York story by Azi Paybarah).

Sarah Seltzer's latest at "'Please Don't Leave Us!' NYers Desperate for Help -- Latest Sandy Updates, What You Can Do: Staten Island, Breezy Point, Red Hook and Long Beach are in danger of a real a disaster."

Saturday afternoon Leonie Haimson posted at NYC Public School Parents links to lists of schools to be closed next week, due to Hurricane Sandy.
Immeasurable damage has occurred to people’s homes and even more tragically, lives have been lost, but I wanted to update you on new developments as regards the NYC public schools:

* On Monday, most NYC public schools will resume classes. However, there are 57 schools that have suffered “severe damage” according to the DOE, and have to be re-located to other buildings. The list of schools that will be closed until further notice and their re-location sites are posted as an spreadsheet on the DOE website here. For those who cannot access spreadsheets, I have also posted this list on my website as a word doc and as a pdf.
*However, students in the closed schools will NOT be attending classes until Wednesday, to make sure that their new buildings are ready for them. DOE says they will provide updates early in the week about transportation; teachers are expected at these new sites on Monday and Tuesday.

All public schools are closed for classes on Tuesday for Election Day, as previously planned.

*There is another, even longer list of schools that as of last night (Friday) lacked power; many of them have had their power restored already but many have not.
The list of schools that were undamaged but lacked power as of Friday (as a spreadsheet) is posted here. As a pdf on my website, it is here. Check back on the DOE website over the weekend for updates as to which of these schools may NOT be reopening on Monday.
Emily Frost and Julie Shapiro at DNA info reported Friday evening ("65 Schools Damaged by Hurricane Sandy Won't Reopen Monday") NYC schools chancellor Dennis Walcott's statement that 65 schools damaged by the storm will remain closed after the storm, affecting 40,000 students. He has yet to indicate which schools these will be. Another 184 schools were not damaged but lacked power. (Thursday the UFT said that the DOE would release the list of which schools would remain closed. Yet, the union noted the city's delay in reporting the list of schools.)
From Frost and Shapiro's article:
"We need time," Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said. "Oil tanks are under water.... We have flooded basements and first floors, badly damaged roofs.... We've had oil spills."
This writer supports intensive services for the needy, including the mentally ill.
But what are people with psychiatric issues doing being housed in the same buildings as school children? ("When city schools reopen Monday, kids may be sharing buildings with hundreds of evacuees" by Greg B. Smith and Rachel Monahan in the Daily News) Couldn't they be shifted to the city's CUNY colleges? (DNA Info: Schools safety agents and Department of Homeless Services will provide added security to these schools.)
The schools that will continue to host evacuees are: Brooklyn Tech High School, FDR High School and John Jay High School in Brooklyn; Graphic Arts High School and George Washington High School in Manhattan; Hillcrest High School in Queens; and Susan Wagner High School and Tottenville High School in Staten Island.

United Federation of Teachers members can now go to Facebook. The teachers union's fallen website redirects to their Facebook page.

We've created two hotlines for UFT members with urgent concerns to call:
718-852-4900 in Brooklyn
718-275-4400 in Queens

If you live in the other three boroughs, call either number for assistance. The hotlines are staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

Comments at the UFT's Facebook page included:
I was expecting to come to be provided with a lot more information that would have helped us plan for Monday, but as of yet we still don't even know where to go or where the kids will be. If the DOE is not prepared for the teachers, how do you expect teachers to be prepared for kids?
About half the staff at my school are living with no electricity, heat, or hit water. We were glad to be at the school which had all of the above. But for me, pd overwhelmed me as i have housing issues at the moment.
What kind of PD did DOE supply?
Another teacher posted:
The DOE has us working on some nonsensical professional development packet straight from Tweed treating us like children.
*Why is WNYC playing the Radio Bloomberg role? All of the coverage says over and over mayor Bloomberg. No quotes of Stringer, Oddo, Quinn, DeBlasio or Tobacco. No, the only elected public servant cited is Bloomberg. Reporters spoke at length about how the marathon cancellation would inconvenience the runners. Shouldn't they be letting the runners and the suffering outer borough residents speak for themselves?

Residents of New York Face a Huge Range of Crises

NEWS & POLITICS AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley 26 COMMENTS : Contradictions abound in NYC -- huge swathes of the city are fine, while entire neighborhoods are facing serious shortages.
November 1, 2012 |
Many of us New Yorkers who didn’t feel the full wrath of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath are experiencing a strange cognitive dissonance this week. In many neighborhoods things seem weirdly normal, with only minor, if any, inconveniences. Coffee shops are bustling, kids were out trick or treating, the power, heat, and internet are on, and there’s no real concern about having enough water or food. But then you read the news and hear stories from friends and acquaintances, and you’re reminded that residents in lower Manhattan and parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and New Jersey – geographically, just a few miles away – are experiencing something entirely different.

Below is a round-up of dispatches from the greater New York area that make it clear this disaster is far from over for many residents.

--A huge portion of Manhattan is still without power or water, especially affecting the elderly.

The situation is still quite dire for many residents who live below 34th Street in Manhattan, where the power hasn’t been on for days and many people are without clean water to drink or food to eat. While many people have evacuated the area, there are lots of residents who have not been able to leave, among them a large number of elderly New Yorkers who are living in dark high rises without elevators or the basic health and hygiene necessities. This video released by Mother Jones offers a look into a Lower East Side high rise where many older New Yorkers are still living days after the storm. [See Climate Desk's "Trapped in the Dark" video at right.]

This dispatch from Brooklyn resident Jonathan Maimon, published on Wednesday by Gothamist, also illuminates the difficulties lower Manhattan residents are facing:

Virtually every retailer, restaurant and grocery store south of 38th street is CLOSED....There is no food, other than what you have in your refrigerator....

There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people....

I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 - this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.

The good news is that today the city will start distributing meals, while power company ConEd will distribute dry ice. A number of food trucks are also making their way through the area to get food to those who need it. But as one Lower East Side resident interviewed in the above Mother Jones video noted, “It’s not over until the electricity’s on.”

--Water contamination becomes a concern.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stressed repeatedly that the water in the five boroughs is safe to drink, but some residents are skeptical of that claim, especially since many stores are now sold out of bottled water.

Meanwhile, many areas surrounding New York are facing outright clean water crises. CBS News reports that sewage plants have been damaged in some areas of Connecticut and Maryland, where drinking water could now be compromised. Residents of the New Jersey shore are being encouraged to boil their water before drinking it and not to consume oysters or clams.

--Public transportation remains crippled.

It’s incredible that portions of the New York City subway and bus system and commuter rails were back up a few days after the storm, and the workers who helped get things going are rightly being hailed as heroes. It’s also commendable that all buses and subway rides will be free for the next few days to encourage ridership. However, those accomplishments might obscure the fact that the transportation situation within New York is still in terrible shape. Things are not back to normal, not at all. Take a look at this temporary subway map, showing which lines are up and running as of Thursday morning:

For those of you not familiar with the subway system, that blank portion of the map to the east and west of where it says “East River” is not usually blank. What this map shows is that Brooklyn is almost entirely cut off from Manhattan. As of today the MTA (the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the subway and bus systems) is running buses from a few locations in Brooklyn to midtown; buses don’t usually run over the bridges between boroughs, so that’s great. But predictably, the lines to catch a bus are very long, and traffic is at a standstill, as far more New Yorkers than usual are driving into Manhattan. Here's a photo of one of the bus lines this morning, via virginialaird on Instagram.

It’s easy to say that people should just stay home, but of course many New Yorkers cannot. Workers, especially those who are paid hourly, need to get to their jobs for their own economic reasons, and to keep the city functioning. Bike riding is an option for some, though the congested roads are making it difficult and dangerous to get around since most of New York’s bike lanes (those that it has) are not separated from the street. Many, many people are walking miles to get where they need to go.

--There’s a potentially crippling gas shortage.

With all those extra people on the roads, and deliveries to the area stunted, many portions of the New York region are reporting gas shortages. Reuters reports that as of yesterday, “More than half of all gasoline service stations in the New York City area and New Jersey were shut because of depleted fuel supplies and power outages.”

Gothamist has posted a slideshow of some of the gas lines throughout the region, which includes this photo tweeted by @CEOGuddaHouse:

While there is little gas to go around for cars, there’s tons of it in the waterways, as hundreds of thousands of gallons were reportedly spilled in the water between New Jersey and Staten Island.

Update: The Port of New York and New Jersey was being re-opened mid-day Thursday, which will hopefully bring quick relief to drivers who need gas.

--Despite these calamities, the city will divert resources to hold the New York City Marathon this weekend.

This string of tweets from Queens resident and journalist Anna Holmes illustrates the absurdity of the city’s decision to go ahead with this weekend’s New York City Marathon:
Just told that NYC Marathon managers (ING, etc.) called mayor's office to apply pressure to get power restored in area near start of race.

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 I'm sorry but: WTF!? Screw the marathon. There are people suffering downtown and other areas, including hard hit areas of SI.

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 Corporate interests should not trump public safety. /rant over

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 How many essential city workers are being diverted to Central Park duty bc of the marathon, I wonder?

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 The park can wait. Other areas cannot.

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 Just stopped at precinct down the street & complained to cop. He said "I agree. Do you realize how many cops will have to work the route?"

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 He also is concerned about amount of fuel that will be used to power the marathon NYPD vehicles.

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 Then he told me he visited Breezy Point and Broad Channel 2 days ago. "There's no help there. No Red Cross or Nat'l Guard."

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 Chatted with another cop guarding CP. He says marathon continuing is "disgrace." "A lot of us feel this way but what are u going to do?"

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012 (cont'd) "We don't run the city." Then he looked at me pointedly and rubbed his thumb and fingers together in universal sign for "money."

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) November 1, 2012
All of these crises disproportionately affect lower income residents, who have fewer resources and will have a much harder time bouncing back in the long term. In a city that is sharply divided by income, the residents at the bottom end of the economic ladder have an especially long road ahead.

For those interested in volunteering or supporting relief efforts from afar, visit the Occupy Sandy Relief site, a great coordinated relief resource.

Lauren Kelley is the activism and gender editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon, Time Out New York, the L Magazine, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter.
Visit Alternet for original Lauren Kelley article with in text graphics and photos.

A Crisis Foretold: Studies Warned New York Infrastructure Critically Threatened by Climate Change

From Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, November 1, 2012: A Crisis Foretold: Studies Warned New York Infrastructure Critically Threatened by Climate Change
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynoworg, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re usually in New York, but our studios are blacked out; they have no electricity. And so we are continuing our 100-city tour in St. Louis, Missouri.

Well, as the floodwaters recede across the region, the death toll from Superstorm Sandy has reached 74 across eight states. About six million people remain without power, including much of New Jersey, Lower Manhattan and Long Island. On Wednesday, New York City’s flagship public hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center, was forced to evacuate hundreds of patients after its backup power generators failed. Earlier this morning, part of the New York subway system began running, but major parts remain closed down, including all crossing between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

On Wednesday, the Democracy Now! team visited the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, one of the city’s hardest-hit areas. The neighborhood is home to the largest public housing project in Brooklyn. And in a moment we’ll be playing that piece.

But first, the massive damage that Superstorm Sandy has caused to New York City and its infrastructure has not come as a surprise to everyone. Just last year, a team of researchers issued a major report on how climate change could lead to stronger storms and what that means for the city. Our next guest, Cynthia Rosenzweig, is the co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change. She was the lead author of a report on the impact climate change will have in New York state’s "critical structure," like bridges and sewage systems, as well as public health and agriculture. The changes are projected to affect nearly every region and facet of the economy in coming decades, from ski resorts and dairy farms to New York City’s subway, streets and businesses. Cynthia Rosenzweig is a senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where she heads the Climate Impacts Group. Her work with the IPCC Task Force on Data was recognized in 2007 with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to Al Gore and to the IPCC Task Force.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, we welcome you to Democracy Now! Talk about what we are experiencing today on the East Coast. You’ve come to us—your own home, which is a little more upstate in Tarrytown, New York, is still without electricity, like so many millions of New Yorkers and those in New Jersey and other places. And you—your report came out a year ago predicting what we’re seeing today.

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: Actually, our first report on climate change in New York City came out over 10 years ago. The—it is called "The Metro East Coast: Climate Change and a Global City." And the vulnerabilities that we are seeing lived out in Hurricane Sandy were what we covered in our first report.

But first, Amy, I need to make something very clear: any one storm cannot be associated directly with climate change; climate is long-term weather events and weather—and weather conditions. So we have to be very careful not to say Hurricane Sandy was caused by climate change.

It’s related to climate change, though, in three ways. One, because we’ve had already in the New York region 10—nine to 10 inches of sea-level rise over the last 100 years, we’ve taken the first step of higher sea-level rise—of higher sea levels, so when Sandy came along, it goes further inland. Hard to quantify, but we are certainly one step up due to climate change in sea level.

The other two areas of relation with climate change are the tremendous vulnerability that we brought out in our first report over 10 years ago, our report in New York state last year, and our report in New York City two years ago—the tremendous vulnerability, first, of our infrastructure. Everything that’s happening, you can go to our report and read about, highlighting the vulnerability that we, as a coastal region, have today.

But it’s not just the infrastructure; it’s the people, as well. Neighborhoods in New York—it’s not just the Stock Exchange. It’s not just the wealthy. It’s also the Rockaways, Brighton Beach, neighborhoods where—as you said, Red Hook—many, many people live across the whole spectrum. Tremendous vulnerability, because—and people who are elderly, like right now, actually—I’ve been spending the storm with my 97-year-old mom. Elderly people have a hard time getting organized, finding the flashlights, finding the batteries, knowing when they need to evacuate and where to go and how.

And then, finally, key, key—key, key part about—about climate change and Hurricane Sandy is that from Sandy, from the preparations before—and there were preparations—and now, with the recovery after, we have to learn to become more resilient, because climate change is already occurring, in terms of sea-level rise, in terms of warmer temperatures, and this is projected to continue and worsen in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Cynthia Rosenzweig, we are seeing wall-to-wall coverage of the superstorm in all of the networks, as actually we should, "severe weather," "extreme weather" flashing, "superstorm." But the other two words that are almost never mentioned are "climate change," "global warming," "global disruption." Why are you certain that is what we are experiencing today?

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: I and other scientists have been working on the connection with rising greenhouse gases and the world’s climate system since—since the—for over two decades—or even 30 years. My first paper on this was published in 1985. There is a worldwide consensus of science that by putting greenhouse gases from burning of fossil fuels and changing land use into the atmosphere, we are forcing the climate system of the earth to change. And this is not just a projection. There are documented warming over the past 100 years, of warming of areas, of drying. Climate change is not just in the future; climate change is already happening. So even though we can’t associate any particular storm, as bad as Sandy is, saying Hurricane Sandy is climate change, but the entire climate system is showing the effects of the forcing that human beings are causing.

AMY GOODMAN: What should policy be in this country? What should people do? You know, it’s interesting. Millions are powerless right now, right? They have no electricity. Democracy Now!'s studios are blacked out, like so many other places through New York and New Jersey. We're on the road, can’t come back into New York to broadcast, so our colleagues in New York are working around the clock finding workarounds to get us these reports that we’ll be bringing you today, on the scene, on the ground in different communities in New York. So, people are powerless, and many feel powerless. But, if we talk about climate change, people have the power to do something about it. What should they do? What should the policy in this country be, Cynthia Rosenzweig?

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: There are two responses to climate change. We have to work on the root causes, which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. This means creating a energy-efficient system of powering our country that focuses on reducing the use of fossil fuels, which are the main culprits in knitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So we have to work on the root causes.

But, at the same time, as we see now with the whole East Coast affected by Hurricane Sandy, we have to learn to adapt to changing climate extremes. So while we’re working to change our energy system to be more effective and efficient and not—not spew out greenhouse gases, we also need to prepare for more climate extremes, because we have already in the pipeline climate change. We cannot stop it completely. So we have to learn how to deal with the extremes that are going to happen with greater frequency in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is New York so vulnerable?

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: We have to develop climate—climate resilience.

AMY GOODMAN: Before you go on with the list—and I want to hear that list—why is New York City so vulnerable, Cynthia Rosenzweig?

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: New York City—when we started over 10 years ago, we really started looking at New York City. New York City is actually—our estuary is shaped like a funnel. And hurricane winds and storms go counterclockwise, as we all know now. And when we have that arm, that strong arm of the storms, coming around, slamming right into our—the cone of our—the funnel of our estuary, we said over—over 10 years ago, we showed the maps of how vulnerable Lower Manhattan, Long Beach, parts of Staten Island, the low-lying areas—we’ve been telling people for over 10 years that these are the areas that we need to protect. We need to plan and protect them.

We’re also vulnerable because we have so much infrastructure. And, you see, we can’t think about our infrastructure in silos. "Oh, here’s the transportation system. Here’s the power. Here’s the water." All of those three are interdependent. And we know now so strongly that when one goes out, especially the power, there’s cascading effects throughout all the systems.

AMY GOODMAN: Continue with the list, Dr. Rosenzweig, that you were sharing.

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: So—sure. So, in terms—so, in terms of what we need to prepare, we have been working with Mayor Bloomberg and his Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for over three years to—and with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, that runs the water system, for even longer. And New York City has been preparing. They have been—climate change is on their radar screen. And I know that the loss of life is terrible and growing, and of course absolutely any loss of life is terrible, but I do believe that without the preparations, without closing down the subway, without the evacuations, that loss of life in the New York region would have been even greater.

So, we need to prepare for emergencies, even more than we did for Sandy. We need to think about repairing our sea walls. We need to do studies of potential barriers. We need to—we need to understand how we can keep our infrastructure going under emergency situations, using, we hope, not fossil fuel, but using renewable fuel, so we’re not contributing to climate change as we’re working to deal with the effects.

So, another thing about climate change is that it affects everybody, from us in our homes and my 97-year-old mom, all the way up to our municipalities, our city governments, our state, our nation and the world. So, every level of government needs to take on the challenges of figuring out how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as developing resilience to the climate extremes. This is obviously so important for today. This is not something that we’re now saying has to be for the future. Obviously, look at what Hurricane Sandy has done right here. We have to do a better job. We’ve made a start here in the New York region, and we have to keep going.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, I assume you saw the presidential debates—the first presidential debate, the second presidential debate, the third presidential debate. Mitt Romney, President Obama, the moderators of the three debates never mentioned climate change once. What is your response?

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: Amy, I’ll tell you something. I’ve worked in climate change, as I said, for—for—since my first paper in 1985. I’ve now come to realize that we, the people, have to build the will, the political will, to work on climate change ourselves. Once we do that and work together on developing the things that need to be done, then we will build the strength so that our leaders absolutely have to follow suit.

AMY GOODMAN: One—last few questions on New York. Does New York need levees? In your report, you said by 2080, we may well see—how did you put it? We may well see New York City’s subway system, much of it already below sea level and subject to flooding, at risk of extreme flooding once a decade instead of once a century. Do we need levees? And the whole issue of berms, already plans to build berms to divert water away from highway tunnel entrances.

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: I would say, Amy, we need everything. There’s—with that—we call this, in our field, the "developing the resilience." We also call it "adaptation." With adaptation, it’s just a whole host of local solutions. And New York City and we, the New York Panel on Climate Change, have already been working with the water system, with our cellphone providers, with our MTA. We’ve all gotten together to—we provide the scientific information needed. And the New York City Task Force on Climate Change Adaptation, they go through. We’ve worked on, and we have to continue going through, bridge by bridge, subway tunnel by subway tunnel, air vent by air vent. And by the way, the MTA has already developed and tested raising the air vents that—you know, that have always been right on the sidewalk. Some of them are already raised. But it’s clear from our work and from this, the terrible devastation of Sandy, that we have to do a lot more. We have to work through every system to protect and develop resilience.

Then, on the citywide type of strategies that you were just bringing up about levees and berms and the barriers, which is what—what they have in The Netherlands, we have to look at all of those very carefully and create a comprehensive plan. The barriers would require a lot more study. They’re very expensive, and we’d have to see, you know, what would—if they are really right for our situation. But certainly sea walls, a potential for levees, berms, in—better drainage—all of those things, comprehensively, throughout our entire region. It’s tough, though. We have 1,500 miles of coastline. We have 21-and-a-half million people in the New York metropolitan region. But this—these are the kind of planning that has begun before the storm, but absolutely needs to be continued and amplified, built on more. We have to start doing more as we recover.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, people building in flood zones, homes in these coastal areas, that have been so hard hit, from Atlantic City on?

CYNTHIA ROSENZWEIG: It’s—I know. You know, every discussion that we’ve had all around the New York region and including in New Jersey and Connecticut, you know, the discussion always comes to: should we retreat from the coast? It’s a tremendous challenge. And, you know, people love living on the coast. And, you know, one thing that’s wonderful about our region, that it’s not just the wealthy, but it’s really communities, wonderful communities there. But so, we do need, though, to have a conversation, a discussion, among our whole region, to see how can we work with those communities and whether some kind of protection, some kind of rebuilding that is safer, that may be pulled back, you know, in appropriate ways, may be in order. But we’re going to have to all discuss it together to come to figure out what to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Cynthia Rosenzweig, we want to thank you very much for being with us and hope your home, like so many others, soon has electricity again. Senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where she heads the Climate Impacts Group. Her work with the IPCC Task Force on Data was recognized in 2007 with the Nobel Peace Prize. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll go to the streets of New York. Stay with us.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Power Outage Didn't Divide NYC: Income Inequality Did

From AlterNet, By Sarah Seltzer, October 31, 2012
The Power Outage Didn't Divide NYC: Income Inequality Did The line wasn't between those with electricity and those without, but between those who had recourse and those who didn't.

After an explosion at a power station cut off power to Lower Manhattan, photos showed a stark divide in Manhattan between lit-up uptown and downtown blanketed in darkness. The image was gripping, but when the inevitable posts went up declaring that "New York is now divided," I had to laugh. Because it's not the divisions we can see after a storm, but rather the city's giant unseen fissure which makes events like Sandy so threatening.

Witness this piece from Gothamist ["Outrage In The Powerless Zone: A Dispatch From Downtown Manhattan"], in which a citizen sleuth checked out what was happening in parts of Downtown where the poorest residents live and wrote in with his findings:
There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people. One family I spoke with is packing their bags and moving to Brooklyn until services are restored. But it did not appear that all residents were evacuating, even as their toilets did not flush.

6)[sic] I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 - this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.
Compare it to Max Abelson's gem of a piece about Wall Street's coping mechanisms ["Wall Street Finds Sandy Silver Lining in Wine, Monopoly"]:
JPMorgan, which sent out more than a dozen hurricane updates to its employees featuring detailed weather maps, kept parts of its 270 Park Ave. cafeteria open yesterday. Danishes and scones were available near the salad bar, and the bank’s deli had sandwiches with grilled vegetables. The dumpling bar was closed.
The dumpling bar was closed! Alas. It's positively Dickensian, isn't it?

This tale of two cities within one city's border is explained further in a widely-circulated story by David Rohde of Reuters summing up the city's gaping divide ["The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy"]:
Those with a car could flee. Those with wealth could move into a hotel. Those with steady jobs could decline to come into work. But the city's cooks, doormen, maintenance men, taxi drivers and maids left their loved ones at home.

New census data shows that the city is the most economically divided it has been in a decade, according to the New York Times [Sam Roberts, "Income Data Shows Widening Gap Between New York City’s Richest and Poorest"]. As has occurred across the country, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Twenty-one percent of the city is in poverty, and the median household income decreased by $821 annually. Per the Times: "Median income for the lowest fifth was $8,844, down $463 from 2010. For the highest, it was $223,285, up $1,919."

Manhattan, the city's wealthiest and most gentrified borough, is an extreme example. Inequality here rivals parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Last year the wealthiest 20 percent of Manhattan residents made $391,022 a year on average, according to census data. The poorest 20 percent made $9,681.
I've been on the lucky side of the New York divide my whole life, but as a die-hard city native passionate about injustice, I've seen firsthand evidence of both the steady persistence of this localized income gap and also its steady widening. Rents, private school tuition and luxury high-rises climb ever upwards, while public schools and public facilities languish and poorer neighborhoods remain decimated by the mortgage crisis aided by our neighbors in the Financial District. Anyone who grew up in the city and is paying attention can tell you that the problem of income inequality--which helped give birth to Occupy and has been enabled by Mayor Bloomberg--is indeed worse than ever.

And as Think Progress reminds us and the evidence from Sandy shows, income inequality makes storms more dangerous [Zack Beauchamp, "How Economic Inequality Makes Hurricanes More Deadly"].

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at

CNY's Goldstein: Bloomberg Resists Protecting Coastal Areas

Capital New York reporter Dana Goldstein reported at 1:36 pm, November 2012 in her article on the latest New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's news conference that he dismissed the idea of tidal barriers of the sort that London, U.K. and Rotterdam, Netherlands have.
The mayor also pooh-poohed suggestions that New York City should consider protecting its substantial low-lying neighborhoods with tidal barriers, like the kind they have in London and Rotterdam.
Her article linked to a recent article of hers on how some area experts have suggested barriers and other changes to protect coastal communities.

To this reader it seems more than odd that the city has been encouraging new waterfront development in Williamsburg, in waterfront areas that had never before been residential, and with full wall windows.

From Goldtein's earlier article this Tuesday:
"It can get a lot worse than this," said Richard Barone, the Regional Planning Association's chief transportation policy planner. "That's where the concern lies. I think that this was a significant event, but there could be worse storms. This is in no way fearmongering. I'm not even sure we should print something like that."

Yet, though the city had seen the effects of Hurricane Irene, and climate change and its effects on sea levels are well known to people who believe in science, thus far New York City has done little to prepare for storms like the one it just endured.

"Irene and now Sandy have posed some really hard questions for us," said Rob Pirani, the Regional Plan Association's vice president for environmental programs. "And in the past, we've been able to duck these questions, and now we've got to come to grips with it."

As my colleague Katharine Jose reported in February, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration has made strides in lessening the city's greenhouse gas emissions, but hasn't done much more than any of the administrations before it to prepare for the effects of the climate change that's already underway.

"I would say three or four years ago there was—and this a general statement, not specific to New York—the emphasis was on mitigation; in other words, reducing our contribution to climate change," said David Bragdon, then the head of the city's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. "It's only more recently that policy makers are acknowledging what scientists have known, which is that even if we magically stop emissions tomorrow—if we were successful in all these mitigation efforts, there's still effects that are happening already."

Columbia Earth Institute professor Klaus Jacob told Jose that, "I think it's not understood how serious the situation will be in coastal areas and what the costs will be to society at large."

In fact, in some ways, New York City has made the problem worse by encouraging taller and denser development in flood-prone places like the Williamsburg and Long Island City waterfronts, parts of which had to be evacuated this week.

Ideas exist for how to go about protecting at least part of New York from future storm-related catastrophe, but those ideas come with hefty price tags that cause them to lose out against the city's other budget priorities.

How about, for example, finding a way to better seal the city's older subway stations, the ones that have no centralized ventilation systems and rely instead on vents that open up to city streets?

Or, more ambitiously, how about creating what Barone called a "greater redundancy throughout the network," through something like his organization's proposal for a so-called X line connecting the outer boroughs, obviating the need to travel through flood-vulnerable Lower Manhattan?

Along with softer strategies like restoring wetlands, and building oyster reefs and dunes, the city might also consider building surge-mitigating storm barriers, of the sort being used or underway in Stamford, Rotterdam, London, Venice and St. Petersburg.

A SUNY Stony Brook professor has proposed building such barriers near the Verrazano, Arthur Kill and Throgs Neck, for a projected cost of $10 billion, but even that wouldn't make the city invulnerable to another Sandy.

"The idea that somehow we can protect all the shoreline in New York City or in the region is just not possible," said Pirani.

The less-dreamy alternative is even more difficult, politically: to discourage residential development in the city's low-lying coastal areas.

"The perfect use of the Rockaways is the way it used to be used, for summer and seasonal housing, what Jones Beach is used for," said Barone. "It's a barrier island. That's what it is. it's the first natural line of defense for storms."

Pirani said the city should consider "buying people out" who live in particularly flood-prone areas, as New Jersey does with its Blue Acre program.

"I think all these things need to be laid out and considered in light of the damage that we suffered over the last couple of days," said Barone.

"Storms are inevitable," said Pirani. "They were inevitable before climate change, and now it's just gonna get worse."

Bloomberg earlier today wasn't willing to attribute the storm surges to climate change, likely for fear of creating an unnecessary political issue by engaging climate-change deniers.

But Governor Andrew Cuomo went right ahead and said it, just about.

"Going forward, I think we do have to anticipate these extreme types of weather patterns," said Cuomo. "And we have to start to think about how do we redesign the system so this doesn't happen again. After what happened, what has been happening in the last few years, I don't think anyone can sit back anymore and say 'Well, I'm shocked at that weather pattern.'

"There is no weather pattern that can shock me at this point. And I think that has to be our attitude. And how do we redesign our system and our infrastructure assuming that?"
NYC Sea Barrier Could Have Stopped Surge.

Meet New MTA Maps; Reflections on Moses-Era Mistakes

After Hurricane Sandy, the New York City transportation world has changed.

Here is how the Metropolitan Transit Authority in upper Manhattan and Bronx looks. Keep in mind the overriding principle, no subway trains south of 42nd Street or 34th Street.

Here is the new look of subway transit in Brooklyn. Remember, none of these trains make a connection from the eastern shore of the East River to Manhattan.
Considering all the flooding of subways, it appears that the Robert Moses-era "reforms" to replace elevated trains with subways was not such a smart idea.

Also, this disaster brings to mind the 1965 Northeast US blackout. The subways could not run. By contrast, the Boston transit system continued running because it ran on its own power system. With the blackout of 2003 added in, wouldn't you think that the MTA would start considering getting its own power generator system? And shouldn't the major Con Edison stations be moved away from Zone A and B areas?