Monday, May 31, 2010

Bloomberg Plans Cuts to Libraries by Ilya Marritz - WNYC - News

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As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council negotiate next year's budget, advocates are raising the alarm about deep cuts to libraries. Mayor Bloomberg's spending plan would reduce aid to libraries by $74 million.

The Queens Borough Public Library says it could close up to 14 branches, and let go of more than 300 employees--about 40 percent of its staff.

The libraries have long been a bargaining chip in budget discussions between mayors and the City Council. But the Council usually manages to soften the fiscal blow, and there haven't been widespread layoffs in libraries since the early 1990s. This year could be different, warns Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who himself used to work in the Queens library system.

This Tuesday, library workers will rally to protest the proposed cuts, and Van Bramer will hold hearings on library budgets on Friday

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: They've Done the Job Abroad But Can't Find a Job at Home - The Huffington Post

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Today, as we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must recommit ourselves to providing economic opportunity for our brave veterans once they return home.

Each day in Washington, I work to make sure that our troops and veterans receive all the benefits they have earned - from first-rate health care at the VA, to an affordable college education, low interest loans to buy a home and good opportunities for a new job when they've returned home to their families. It's the least we can do to repay the debt we owe them.

But these days, when our troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, so often they are coming home to a country far different than the one they left. Many of the businesses they once knew and worked at are gone. Jobs have disappeared by the millions and are only very slowly starting to return.

As a result, more than 1 in 5 veterans today are unemployed. It is simply unacceptable that these hardworking, devoted men and women, who have done their job for America abroad, cannot find a new job back home.

It is time to get serious about creating jobs for these brave men and women who are ready to work.

So last week, I was proud to announce the Veterans Employment Act of 2010 -- landmark legislation that takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the skyrocketing unemployment rate among veterans. I believe our veterans are uniquely qualified to succeed in the 21st century economy and this bill will help veterans translate their military skills to the workplace, assist veteran-owned small businesses and provide the training and education -- as well as increased opportunities -- our vets need to succeed at the jobs of tomorrow.

Specifically, this legislation:

· Establishes a Veteran Business Center Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide critical entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans.

· Expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill to allow returning veterans to use the benefit for apprenticeship and worker training programs that will help them acquire the skills they need to find stable, family-wage jobs in their communities.

· Creates pilot programs to test ways transitioning service members can build on the technical skills learned in the military and better market those skills in the civilian workforce.

· Establishes a Veterans Conservation Corps Grant Program and a Veterans Energy/Green Jobs Grant Program to connect veterans with the green jobs market of the future.

Additionally, The Veterans Employment Act also takes steps to make current job assistance programs work better for veterans.

· Examines the expansion of the National Guard Employment Enhancement Project (NGEEP), which would provide transition assistance to National Guard members.

· Requires the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service to examine the Transition Assistance Program for active duty servicemembers and recommend how to update and upgrade the program to meet the needs of today's veterans.

New York has a long, proud tradition of answering the call of service. Our state is home to more than 1 million veterans, and over 60,000 servicemen and women serving today. All have answered a call above and beyond any other, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

As I said in my acceptance speech at the NYS Democratic convention last week, we have a moral obligation to provide for our veterans when they return home. This is about fairness and opportunity and that's why I'm committed, not just today, but every day, to make sure our veterans can provide for themselves and their families when they return home from serving their country.

Schumer's Bid to Save American Jobs by Taxing Companies That Use Foreign Call Centers by Daniel Edward Rosen and Kavita Mokha - NY Daily News

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NY Senator Charles Schumer wants to tax companies 25 cents for every customer service call that's outsourced overseas.Noonan for News, Jeanne, Freelan

Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to tax companies 25 cents for every customer service call that's outsourced overseas.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed a bill yesterday that would slap the tax on companies that transfer calls from American area codes to foreign call centers.

"How many times do we hear of a company shutting down a facility in New York or elsewhere in the country and sending the jobs abroad? Almost daily," Schumer said.

The measure also would require telling U.S. customers that their call is being transferred - and to which country.

"1.6 billion calls are being transferred to call centers, often without the customer's knowledge," Schumer said.

Companies would be required to report their total customer service calls and the number relayed overseas.

India, Indonesia, Ireland, Canada, the Philippines and South Africa are countries popular with American companies looking to outsource call centers to cut costs.

Spectators Suffer Minor Injuries in S.I. Helicopter Mishap by Tim Minton and Michael Clancy - NBC New York

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Ten people were injured, including seven transported to the hospital, when an Osprey military aircraft performing a Memorial Day demonstration in a Staten Island park knocked down tree limbs onto spectators.

The Osprey MV-22 aircraft was landing at Staten Island's Clove Lakes Park around 9 a.m. Monday as part of Fleet Week when it blew down a number of tree limbs. Video captured by an overhead chopper filming the demonstration shows spectators scrambling for cover as the powerful helicopter - which combines airplane-like wings with rotors that let it take off and land vertically, like a helicopter -- kicked up a terrible wind.

"It was like two tornadoes with the propellers," eyewitness Keith Carlsen told NBCNewYork. "They got low and everything started flying. I was walking 300 yards away and it was still amazing."

Onlookers first scrambled for cover and then rushed to clear fallen branches to see if people were trapped beneath them. Parents snatched up small children and carried them out of harm's way. One tree lost all its branches on one side, photographs from the scene show.

ed, including seven transported to the hospital, when an Osprey military aircraft performing a Memorial Day demonstration in a Staten Island

park knocked down tree limbs onto spectators.

The Osprey MV-22 aircraft was landing at Staten Island's Clove Lakes Park around 9 a.m. Monday as part of Fleet Week when it blew down a number of tree limbs. Video captured by an overhead chopper filming the demonstration shows spectators scrambling for cover as the powerful helicopter - which combines airplane-like wings with rotors that let it take off and land vertically, like a helicopter -- kicked up a terrible wind.

"It was like two tornadoes with the propellers," eyewitness Keith Carlsen told NBCNewYork. "They got low and everything started flying. I was walking 300 yards away and it was still amazing."

Onlookers first scrambled for cover and then rushed to clear fallen branches to see if people were trapped beneath them. Parents snatched up small children and carried them out of harm's way. One tree lost all its branches on one side, photographs from the scene show.

"The wind was unbearable," recalled eyewitness Anita Muriale. "People were falling. Trash was going all over the place. Trees was flipping -- I ran!"

Ten people suffered minor injuries in the mishap. Seven people taken to Richmond University Hospital and three people on the scene refused treatment, according to the fire department.

The MV-22 is a Marine Corps version of the V-22, which combines airplane-like wings with rotors that let it take off and land vertically. It "stirs up a lot of wind, and that's apparently what did it," Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Josh Diddams said.

"We came in over the trees and the next thing I see is a Tennessee Titans blanket blowing up in the air and so that made me think something was below us," Capt. Mike Henson told NBCNewYork. "And I turned down and looked and there's some people walking away from the downed tree."

A joint venture of Boeing Co. and Textron Inc.'s Bell Helicopter, the V-22 is designed to carry 24 combat troops and fly twice as fast as the Vietnam War-era assault helicopters it was designed to replace.

The Osprey program was nearly scrapped after a history of mechanical failures and two test crashes that killed 23 Marines in 2000. But development continued, and the aircraft have been deployed to Iraq.

While the General Accounting Office questioned the V-22's performance in a report last year, the Marine Corps has called it effective.

In hindsight things would be done differently but every precaution had been taken, the Marine regiment commander in charge of the operation said.

"All i can tell you is we hit all of the safety parameters as far as distances," Col. Eric Smith said. "So the people were as far back as they should have safely been. But that tree limb obviously was not something we anticipated snapping."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Urban Forager: ‘Oh My God, That’s 30,000 Bees’ by Ava Chin - City Room Blog -

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Recently, as I was walking across the southern end of my college campus, I encountered a giant, buzzing swarm of bees making drunken patterns in the air. Another professor, several yards ahead of me, stopped and asked, “What are they?”

I immediately called a friend, a tree surgeon who has relocated wild hives. His name is James Brochu, he goes by the handle Puma Ghostwalker, and I had just been texting him that morning about the island’s decimated bee population.

“I’m in the middle of a swarm of bees,” I said when Mr. Brochu picked up, as one flew by my face. “You want to come and get them?”

The College of Staten Island is perhaps the greenest campus in CUNY, and I mean literally green: its 204 acres border the Greenbelt — the borough’s large, linked system of parks — and one could almost argue that it’s an honorary member of the Greenbelt. It’s not unusual to find shaggy mane mushrooms, lambsquarters and dandelions growing on the grounds. But a swarm of bees circling the footpaths? Several students and faculty members stared as they walked by.

Like succulent meat turning on a spit.Ava Chin for The New York Times Although loud and frenetic, swarms are relatively docile.

The bees settled on a small tree, first in three vertical clumps, and then, within an hour, into two. The clumps were so alive, they appeared to be dripping, like succulent meat turning on a spit. By the time Mr. Brochu arrived with bee suits and a carrier in the back of his Dodge Durango, the swarm was a three-foot-long teardrop formation hanging off a single branch.

Mr. Brochu, who favors Australian-outback oilskin hats, said, “Oh my God, that’s 30,000 bees.” We zipped up our bee suits and got to work.

The insects were loud and frenetic. They were everywhere — landing on my facial netting and the shoulders and front of my suit. I’m allergic to everything from mosquito bites to pine nuts, and so I was afraid of getting stung, but I knew that the general campus procedure was to spray bee swarms to prevent attacks on students. If we didn’t remove it, the swarm might be jeopardized.

Moreover, swarms are relatively docile, and Mr. Brochu was quick about maneuvering the carrier bucket underneath them. I partially covered the top with a lid with a mesh cutout, until, in one swift movement, Mr. Brochu sawed through the branch and lowered it — bees and all — into the bucket.

It took about 30 seconds to contain the entire swarm, give or take the few hundred bees still circling around us.

Swarming, which often occurs in spring, is a hive’s natural means of reproducing. Once a queen and her colony have successfully produced a new virgin queen, the swarm — a majority of the workers, with the original queen in the center — alights on trees like temporary tenants before moving on to more permanent digs.

Mr. Brochu speculated that the original hive was probably living in the woodland that abutted campus. But Andrew Coté, president of the New York City Beekeepers’ Association, thought it came from a beekeeper’s overcrowded hive, saying, “The possibilities of it being a feral hive are almost impossible.” (Honeybees are not native to the United States.)

Honeybees across the country have increasingly been at risk since 2007. According to a study by the Apiary Inspectors of America, American hives decreased by 33.8 percent from October 2009 to April 2010. The report cited poor weather conditions, starvation and weak colonies as the main factors. But bees are increasingly at risk globally as well, and scientists continue to ponder why.

Down the hatch.Ava Chin for The New York Times The swarm is contained in a bucket.

Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University, also lists many problems, including colony collapse disorder (where entire hives go missing), parasitic mites, loss of natural habitat, a one-trick diet (trucked-in bees pollinating single crops, like corn or blueberries), and an increase in pesticides.

These larger issues made it feel important to save this free-roaming swarm, so with the bees in the back seat, we drove to a private, woody area on the South Shore where Mr. Brochu could easily tend the hive.

As we sat in a field of mugwort, cleaning out an old hive box whose inhabitants sadly perished this year, Mr. Brochu said, “I’ve seen wild hive after wild hive destroyed this winter — gone.”

So when I called him about the swarm on campus, he was thrilled.
“I’ve been waiting for something like this,” he said, whacking the debris off a honeycomb frame before placing it back in the box.

After Mr. Brochu weeded the rangy mugwort away from the hive’s entrance, we zipped up our suits again and got to work.

Inside the carrier, the bees were clinging to the lid and one another. As Mr. Brochu carefully tipped them into the waiting hive box, I wondered about the queen. I couldn’t see her through the throngs of workers and drones, but I knew she was there in the middle, like some centripetal force drawing everything to her.

It was getting dark, and Mr. Brochu placed the lid back on the hive box. We watched the several hundred bees remaining outside the entrance of the hive wobble around in confusion. “They’ll settle and hopefully take to their new surroundings,” Mr. Brochu said.

In the fading light, we sat and talked, and minutes later saw the powers of the queen at work: the remaining honeybees filed into the bottom opening of their new home, just like operagoers receiving the call that intermission was over.

Hillary Clinton is Now the Most Popular Politician in America Who Has Held Elected Office by Chris Bowers - Open Left

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Here is a weekend factoid for you: among all living politicians in the United States who have ever held elected office, Hillary Clinton the most popular.

That's right. Ever since she became Secretary of State, her favorables have soared into the mid-60's, putting her well clear of any other statewide officeholder in the country. The only national figures who are viewed as favorably as Clinton are Michelle Obama, Colin Powell, and David Patraeus. However, they have never run for office, which invariably lowers your favorables.

Hillary Clinton will turn 69 in in the final week of the 2016 campaign, which makes her slightly younger than Ronald Reagan when he first was elected in 1980. Also, as Secretary of State, a major presidential candidate, a U.S. Senator, and First Lady, she is also probably more credentialed than any other potential Presidential candidate, too. There is even talk she may become the next Secretary of Defense, further adding to her credentials.

Some have said that, in choosing Joe Biden as Vice-President, Barack Obama did not pick a successor to lead the Democratic Party. However, that needs rethinking. Because Barack obama made her Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton remains remarkably well-positioned to run for President in 2016, even more so than she was in 2008.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Laywers for Sick Ground Zero Workers Agree to Reduce $200M in Legal Fees to $115M by Alison Gendar and Samuel Goldsmith - NY Daily News

Bloomberg's Corporation Counsel tells judge to butt out of settlement and that rich lawyers deserve more $, thereby reducing amount 911 Ground Zero workers get...typical Bloomberg rhetoric..!

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Attorneys at Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, representing sickened Ground Zero workers, have agreed to reduce the $200 million in legal fees to $115 million.Simmons/News

Lawyers who negotiated a massive settlement for 10,000 sickened Ground Zero workers have grudgingly agreed to forgo $85 million in legal fees, the Daily News has learned.

Attorneys at Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern sent a letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who is overseeing the case, volunteering to lower legal fees and pass more money on to the ailing workers.

Hellerstein and sick workers lambasted the lawyers when the deal was struck in March because the lawyers were set to take home a third of the roughly $600 million payout - almost $200 million - in legal fees. Now, they'll accept 20% of the award - $115 million.

"Our fees will be reduced under this court's insistence that it would limit those fees to an even greater degree than we have voluntarily agreed to do," the letter states.

"We have ...been influenced by the truly disheartening pressures visited upon us by the media and our own clients, both of whom seem to believe that we should have simply donated our time for these past seven years."

Hellerstein rejected the settlement in March, saying it was "not enough" for the sick workers.

Early reactions to the letter from ailing workers were positive.

"There is only one pie, and everyone is looking for a piece of it," said Ernie Vallebuona, a retired cop who is sick with cancer. "The judge has asked them to find ways to get more to the people who were sick. If that does this, then it is a good move."

City lawyers who worked out the settlement in April accused Hellerstein of overstepping his legal bounds and interfering with a "private settlement."

"The judge's statements and actions, together with his refusal to even consider other viewpoints, have made it necessary to appeal his rulings," said Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo.

The Faces of Library Cuts by Vincent Gentile on Vimeo

I'd bet that Mayor Bloomberg and his kids don't need to borrow books at the library...but our kids do...Sign the petition and tell our out-of-touch Mayor to get his priorities straight...Save the Libraries NOW..!!
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The Faces of Library Cuts from vincentgentile on Vimeo.

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a total of more than $81 million in funding cuts to libraries throughout NYC. These cuts mean an end to citywide six-day library service, over 150,000 free programs, and more than 1,500 jobs. More importantly, they mean cutting off a resource with the unique ability to help everyone, regardless of age, gender, race or income.

In Brooklyn, 16 library branches would shut their doors for good. In Queens, 14 branches will close and 34 others would be open just two or three days each week. And in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, 10 branches would shut their doors for good and others would be open just four days a week.

This is your call to action: join the fight to save our libraries by signing a petition at or calling 311.

City Contests Appointment of Morgenthau in Discrimination Case by A.G. Sulzberger- City Room Blog -

More on Morgy vs. Bloomie...What's the Mayor Got to Hide..? II

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Citing “a public and well-reported dispute” between Robert M. Morgenthau and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the city asked a federal judge on Friday to reconsider the appointment of Mr. Morgenthau to oversee the city’s efforts to increase the number of black and Hispanic firefighters in a response to a long-running discrimination suit.

The request came two days after Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of United States District Court in Brooklyn made the surprise appointment of Mr. Morgenthau as a special master just six months after his 35-year tenure as Manhattan district attorney came to an end.

“Given Mr. Morgenthau’s prior pronouncements concerning the mayor, as well as the conflict between Mr. Morgenthau and the city’s chief legal officer and his efforts to criminally charge the city and current high-ranking members of the Fire Department, a reasonable person, knowing all the facts, would conclude that Mr. Morgenthau’s impartiality could be questioned,” the city wrote in a letter to the court, signed by Georgia Pestana, an assistant corporation counsel.

The city attached copies of newspaper articles about the conflict, highlighting disparaging comments that “suggest Mr. Morgenthau considers the mayor as egomaniacal.” In addition the city said it would file a declaration by its corporation counsel, Michael A. Cardozo, describing other comments Mr. Morgenthau had made about the mayor and the city’s law office “that further reflect the tensions.”

Judge Garaufis declined the city’s request for a hearing on the matter and asked the city to submit a formal motion for disqualification.

“Under the circumstances outlined in our letter, we think it would be inappropriate for Mr. Morgenthau to serve as the special master,” Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a Law Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. (The city noted in its letter that “Mr. Morgenthau has had a long and unquestionably distinguished career as one of the great prosecutors of this country.”)

Mr. Morgenthau, who now works at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the law firm, responded forcefully:
“I was asked by the judge to assist by helping the parties meet his ordered relief. My record and independence in my role as district attorney are no secret and I wouldn’t have accepted the position if I didn’t think I could be impartial. Nonetheless of course I will do what is in the best interest of moving this important matter forward.”

The Justice Department, which brought the lawsuit against the city following a federal complaint by an organization of black firefighters, declined comment.

“I don’t know whether this is a legitimate concern because there have been some differences with Morgenthau or if it’s just another attempt to slow down the process,” said Richard A. Levy, a lawyer for the Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters. “It strikes me that he’s a person of integrity. He may have had a dispute with someone in the administration, but that doesn’t mean he can’t answer questions about how to get a process moving to develop a new firefighter test.”

In January, Judge Garaufis found that the city knew that the entrance exam it used from 1999 to 2002 was disproportionately weeding out black and Hispanic applicants, who represented less than 10 percent of the Fire Department. He ordered the city to give 300 of those applicants priority hiring status and retroactive seniority, and to financially compensate 7,400 more who had taken the test. He called the problem “a persistent stain on the Fire Department’s record.”

Since then he has expressed growing frustration with the city’s handling of the case, threatening sanctions before settling on enlisting a special master to oversee the implementation of reforms. Though Judge Garaufis did not note Mr. Morgenthau’s recent history of conflict with city leaders in his order announcing the appointment, the move was widely seen as an effort to enlist someone with the stature to force the city to implement changes to hiring practices.

“I can’t imagine that the judge didn’t know about all these articles when he vetted Mr. Morgenthau,” said Darius Charney, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs. “Personally I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest, but it’s obviously not up to me, it’s up to the judge.”

The central issue in the dispute between Mr. Morgenthau and Mr. Bloomberg appears to be an escalating conflict that began with a disagreement over how money the district attorney’s office obtained in a major financial settlement would be divided between the city and the state. That grew into a heated dispute over secret bank accounts that burst into public view last winter.

The letter from the city said that United States Code required the disqualification of a special master “in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

“With this history,” the letter states, “even if Mr. Morgenthau is not in fact biased against the city and other defendants, the immediate media reports concerning his appointment make evident that a perception of bias exists in the general population.”

In addition the city questioned whether Mr. Morgenthau was qualified to serve as special master in this particular case, noting that candidates proposed by the parties in the lawsuit all had experience in mediation or employment litigation.

“Mr. Morgenthau is not known as an expert in or knowledgeable of the intricacies of the employment examination design process,” the letter said. “However, what is indisputable is Mr. Morgenthau’s known distaste for the current city administration, including, in particular, the mayor, the Fire Department and the corporation counsel.”

Mayor Bloomberg Wants Ex-Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau Tossed From FDNY Case by John Marzulli - NY Daily News

What's the Mayor got to hide..?

Red original...

Mayor Bloomberg's lawyers declared war on legendary prosecutor Robert Morgenthau Friday and tried to get him tossed from a case over racial bias at the FDNY.

In court papers, they said Morgenthau should be disqualified as a special master in the federal suit because his "distaste" for the mayor means he can't be fair.

"A reasonable person, knowing all the facts, would conclude that Mr. Morgenthau's impartiality could reasonably be questioned," top city lawyer Georgia Pestana wrote.

She also argued that Morgenthau, who was Manhattan district attorney for 35 years before retiring in January, doesn't have enough experience with civil cases.

A federal judge tapped the 90-year-old living legend this week to cut through red tape stalling a new process for hiring firefighters.

Bloomberg clearly isn't ready to submit to this master.

"What is indisputable is Mr. Morgenthau's known distaste for the current city administration - including, in particular, the mayor, the Fire Department and the corporation counsel," Pestanawrote.

The city's motion noted that Morgenthau has locked horns with the administration several times. He tangled with Bloomberg over financial bookkeeping at the District Attorney's office and a grand jury probe into possible negligence by FDNY officials in the deadly Deutsche Bank fire.

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis hasn't ruled on the motion, but Morgenthau took the high road.

"My record and independence in my role as district attorney are no secret and I wouldn't have accepted the position if I didn't think I could be impartial," he said in a statement.

"Nonetheless, of course I will do what is in the best interest of moving this important matter forward."

Garaufis ruled last year that two written exams for the Fire Department discriminated against hundreds of black and Hispanic candidates for decades.

Since then, the judge has vented his frustration that the city is "dragging its feet" in carrying out his remedies.

He selected Morgenthau as special master - over candidates offered by the city and prosecutors - to get the process moving.

The city plans to file a more detailed motion next week with more evidence of Morgenthau's supposed bias, including remarks about Bloomberg to Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, Pestana said.

"O Captain! My Captain!" - A Poem By Walt Whitman - The Star Spangled Banner - The Hiillbilly Report

In Honor of Memorial Day...
And, Walt Whitman's 191st Birthday (Born: May 31, 1819)

O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman

Written on the occasion Abraham Lincoln's assassination, O Captain! My Captain! was first published in the New York Saturday Press (November 1865) and was later included, along with When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, in a group of poems titled Sequel to Drum Taps (1865). While When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd has become one of Whitman's most critically acclaimed poems, O Captain! My Captain!, which incorporates more conventional rhyme and meter, was by far the most popular of Whitman's poems during his lifetime...

"O Captain! My Captain!"

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Where Subways Will Ride...Inside the 2nd Avenue Subway - msnbc - Rachel Maddow

To close out Geek Week, Rachel Maddow took a trip below New York City's Second Avenue to see the site where the new Second Avenue subway tunnels will be drilled...Seeing the boring machine and it's control panel is truly fascinating...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here is a subterranean slideshow from The Rachel Maddow Show's Flickr photostream...

Now here's a video of the Independent Rapid Transit (IRT) Third Avenue El line which was decommissioned and turned into scrap metal in 1955...It used to run up and down Manhattan until the mid-1950's, and was scheduled to be replaced by the Second Avenue subway...

State Approves Loan of $25M for NYRA by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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State legislators approved a $25 million loan to the New York Racing Association Monday night, averting NYRA’s threat to close Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga race tracks on June 9 and lay off 1,400 employees.

“Enactment [of this legislation] will provide a bridge until VLT revenues are in place to fund NYRA’s operating and capital expenses,” a memorandum accompanying the NYRA loan bill states. “Absent enactment of this bill, NYRA will not have enough cash to continue the racing season at Belmont beyond the Belmont Stakes and the Saratoga racing season will be canceled.”

Under the terms of the deal, NYRA must repay the loan by March 31, ensuring it is counted within the state’s 2010 fiscal year.

If NYRA does not pay back the loan by the end of next March the state will take the proceeds from the future casino operator — from money to be paid to the association as part of the revenue sharing deal — until the $25 million is repaid.

“When we’re out of money, we stop,” NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward told reporters at a press conference last week in Saratoga Springs. He said that the association needs $20 million to keep operating the tracks.

Hayward had been warning state officials since last December that NYRA would run out of money this summer.

NYRA officials have also claimed that the bankrupt New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. owes them $17 million. Adding to the association’s cash flow problem is the state’s failure to pick a casino developer for Aqueduct.

NYRA is slated to get a negotiated percentage of the revenue from the video lottery terminals at Aqueduct once they become operational. The state issued yet another request for proposals a few weeks ago and Gov. David Paterson has said a racino developer is expected to be chosen in August.

“The future of Aqueduct’s existence depends on NYRA’s viability,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “For the sake of my constituents, I intend to work with NYRA and continue to push for progress on the Aqueduct bidding process.”

NYRA is already facing scrutiny by elected officials concerned about its financial and operating efficiency.

Last December, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli subpoenaed NYRA’s records to examine the millions of dollars in state payments made to the association over the past couple of years and monies owed to the state by NYRA.

The state Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and the Committee on Investigation and Government Operations are also looking at the group’s records.

And NYRA’s problems don’t end there. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has alleged that the association violated its discharge permit by allowing horse manure, wastewater and other pollutants to run into Jamaica Bay.

NYRA has been cited with a total of 14 violations by the DEC — three at Aqueduct, nine at Belmont Park and two at Saratoga, according to a Dec. 21 notice sent to the association.

NYRA officials have said the group lacks the funds to fix and improve the facilities.

The association could be fined $37,500 daily for the pollution violations.

Walmart Protest Fizzles — Is Opposition to Retail Behemoth Slowing? by Stephen Witt -

Opposition doesn't seem to be slowing to me, as evidenced by this community protest...Wait until the unions get involved...Wal-mart needs to pay living wages if they want to gain a foothold in NYC...

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A smaller-than-expected crowd showed up last week at Starrett City to protest Walmart’s proposed first New York City superstore.

Organizers of the rally last Thursday at the nation’s largest low- and moderate-income housing complex predicted a turnout of 100 people, but about half that attended — many holding placards decrying the big-box retail giant’s alleged history of employee abuses, discrimination and wage theft.

“The last thing we need is a Walmart coming in to take over the neighborhood and give out minimum-wage jobs,” said Starrett City resident Maria Maisonett. “We need real jobs that pay living wages, not ones that wouldn’t even allow us to pay our rent.”

Starrett City resident Sofie Rosenblum said she was at the protest out of worry it would affect her current job.

“I work for Pathmark and my job is on the line,” said Rosenblum. “I represent the union. Walmart doesn’t treat its workers well.”

Rosenblum admitted that she occasionally shops at the non-union Target located at the nearby Gateway shopping center at Jamaica Bay — adjacent to the undeveloped Gateway II site that Walmart is eyeing.

“I do shop there, but they treat their workers better,” said Rosenblum.

Walmart executives have challenged that conventional wisdom, saying that Walmart salaries are competitive with what Target offers to both its full- and part-time workers.

“At Walmart, our associates have real opportunities to advance and build a career,” said Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke at the company’s June 2009 shareholders’ meeting. “Nearly three-quarters of store management in the U.S. started with us as hourly associates.

“And when the company does well financially, we share our results with associates,” he added. “In fact, for their 2008 performance, we distributed well over a billion dollars worldwide to hourly associates in incentive bonuses.”

Workers at Brooklyn’s three Target stores reported the starting salary for part-time employees is $8.50, including options to sign onto a medical and retirement plan.

Similarly, employees at Walmart’s North Bergen, N.J. store said that starting salaries for part-time workers ranged from $8–$15 per hour, depending on department — also including options to sign up for the medical and retirement plans.

New York Communities for Change, an offshoot of the controversial grassroots organization ACORN, organized the protest, calling it the start of a full-fledged campaign to stop the Bentonville behemoth from coming to the city.

“There will be more events in the future,” said organization spokesman Jonathan Westin. “In the future, we will get a lot of City Council people and more community support against Walmart.”

The Gulf of Oil from Space in 35 Days by Julia Whitty - Mother Jones

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NASA has compiled a 35-day timelapse series of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The images are from its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flies aboard the Aqua and Terra satellites. Both satellites are part of the international Earth Observing System and both orbit the globe from pole to pole, observing most of the planet every day. These images are of oil at the surface only.

Can the City -- and the Oyster -- Save Jamaica Bay? by Anya Khalamayzer - (Gotham Gazette, May 2010)

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The marshes of Jamaica Bay have been shrinking for decades, essentially vanishing into New York's toxic waters. Photo by Unforth

The largest urban wildlife preserve in the United States sits adjacent to Kennedy Airport, near the high-rise apartments of Starrett City and the Rockaway housing projects. Home to the peregrine falcon, the loggerhead sea turtle, the short-eared owl, the area -- Jamaica Bay -- at the intersection of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, serves as a stopover for 20 percent of American bird species on their annual migration along the East Coast.

For years, though, this estuary, a shallow marsh where fresh and saltwater meet, has been vanishing into the toxic waters of the New York City harbor, losing an estimated 33 acres annually to deterioration, nitrogen buildup and rising sea levels. Spanning some 16,000 acres about a century ago, the salt march islands have shrunk to a mere 800 acres. Thought not nearly as dramatic as the environmental catastrophe now confronting the Louisiana coast, the threat to Jamaica Bay could completely destroy the marsh by 2024, decimating the home for an abundance of rare and endangered plants and animals.

"Marshland completely changes the nature of the bay," says Larry Levine, staff attorney for the Natural Resource Defense Council. "If it were to ever disappear and become open water, it would be a tremendous loss of natural habitat."

Now, the federal state and city governments, prodded by citizen's groups, have stepped up their efforts to preserve the area. This year, government and private groups collaborated to update the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan to try to avert disaster in the urban refuge. Whether government will keep its commitment and whether its actions can reverse the decades of deterioration remains to be seen.

[For more on efforts to revitalize New York's waterfront, go here.]

Destruction of an Ecosystem

Spartina cod grass anchors the land of the marsh in place. To survive, the grass must receive fresh water rich with oxygen and nutrient-loaded sediment. Small streams in Queens and Brooklyn once provided this, but many of these vital veins have been paved over the decades.

Four sewage plants ringing Jamaica Bay contribute further to the deterioration of the marsh by spewing 250 million gallons of nitrogen and large amounts of chlorine into the water every day. Ironically the nitrogen has worsened since 1992 when the government, in an effort to prevent pollution, banned the dumping of sewage into the ocean and instead diverted the treated wastewater into the bay. The excess nitrogen in the water is naturally converted into hydrogen sulfide, which kills the roots of the marsh grass.

In this nitrogen-rich environment, weed-like algae blooms thrive, suffocating the estuary by draining it of dissolved oxygen. Algae blooms kill the thousands of fish found floating belly-up in the very waters that are meant to nourish them.

In addition, during heavy rains, untreated oils and toxins wash from nearby streets and parking lots when storm drains overflow and end up in the bay. The bay also shares many of the contaminants that pollute the rest of New York harbor, such as dioxins, PCB particles, and mercury.

"The New York harbor is a wasteland," said Jeff Levinton, professor of marine ecology at SUNY Stonybrook.

Photo by Gail Robinson
Humans have taken their toll on Jamaica Bay.

Next-generation issues also are emerging, explained Levine. Studies show that Jamaica Bay flounder are affected by pharmaceuticals flushed through the sewage system and not removed by treatment plants. The population of male flounder has drastically diminished because of the feminizing effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals -- a pattern Levine says is being observed around the world.

Sounding the Alarm

Dan Mundy, founder of citizen group EcoWatchers, noticed that Jamaica Bay was ailing in the mid 1990s. By 2000, he said, as many as 50 acres of saltwater marsh were being lost every year. And in 2002, the state authorized a study of why the marshland might be vanishing.

It was not until 2005, though, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a measure calling for the city Department of Environmental Protection to devise a plan to save the bay and creating a seven-person advisory task force. The committee included community activists and representatives of nonprofit organizations and government agencies. The resulting report presented a number of options, including installing storm sewers for flood prevention, dredging and re-contouring creeks, restoring eroded land, re-oxygenating the water and hiring pump-out boats to clean waste. Overall, the committee wanted visitors to Jamaica Bay and the government to be more vigilant of the estuary's condition.

Gradually, steps to restore and preserve the marsh began. Between 2006 and 2007, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers allocated $13 million to restore Elders Point East, an island marsh which once spanned 132 vegetated acres, but which had broken apart to a mere 21 acres.

While activists applauded many of these efforts, a number of them faulted the city for failing to do more to reduce nitrogen levels in the bay. For years city officials maintained that little evidence linked the disappearance of the marshes and nitrogen levels in the bay and balked at spending millions and millions of dollars to address the nitrogen levels.

By 2010, New York City faced a possible lawsuit under the federal Clean Water Act. The threat spurred intense negotiations between citizen groups, the Department of Environmental Protection, then Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler and other City Hall officials. The city, according to Mundy, expressed concern about the cost of the technological upgrades needed to address the nitrogen problem, but over time became convinced that the installations were necessary for the bay's survival.

"It shouldn't be a matter of economics. Not when it comes to the environment. Not when it comes to Jamaica Bay," Mundy said.

Cutting the Nitrogen

In February 2010, Bloomberg announced the city would commit $115 million for a combination of efforts to safeguard the only wildlife refuge accessible via subway. As part of that, he said New York would spend $100 million to install new nitrogen control technology at sewage treatment plants on the bay.

Don Riepe, who headed negotiations on behalf of the American Littoral Society, said the city pledged another $15 million to support marsh restoration. The Army Corps of Engineers will match the restoration funds two-to-one.

The first of the plant upgrades will begin operating in 2014. Technology to control nitrogen will be installed at the 26th Ward and Coney Island wastewater treatment plants in Brooklyn, and at the Rockaway plant in Queens. These efforts are predicted to reduce nitrogen discharges by 50 percent over the next decade and to allow the bay to filter its waters over time.

Reclamation of Elders Point West Island has already begun. Clean fill, or "slurry" -- muck being dredged from waters around the city -- is currently being shipped from the harbor and Long Island and will become 35 new acres of marsh. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers is hand-seeding Spartina grass into the fill. When they finish this at the end of the summer, they will move on to reclaim Yellow Bar island.

Photo by Gail Robinson
Restoring grassland is essential to the survival of marshes so many animals call home.

Wave attenuators, marina-like docks that act as buffers against beach-deteriorating waves, are to be installed between 2014 and 2019.

Despite all this technology, though, Jamaica Bay's brightest new hope may be a bivalve that once lived in the 350 square miles of the estuary: the oyster.

A Natural Solution

Oysters last thrived in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary in the early 20th century. Describing the bivalve as a "keystone" species that affects other components of its ecosystem, NY/NJ Baykeeper has championed experimental oyster farming. Every animal can filter nitrogen and pollutants from 50 gallons of water daily. They eat oxygen-guzzling phytoplankton that suffocates the bay. In, addition the beds where the oysters live serve as homes for small marine organisms and the fish that feed on them.

"Right now you can hardly find a live oyster in Jamaica Bay," says Levinton.

Their decline both signifies and intensifies the bay's ailments. Chester Zarnoch, associate professor of natural sciences at Baruch College, and his colleague Tim Hoellein have received funds from the National Science Foundation to study the growth and survival of oysters in the estuary and to determine their potential in restoring it.

Zarnoch says that there has been tremendous growth and evidence of spawning where the bivalves have been re-introduced.

While that is good news, the oysters may not solve the nitrogen problem in the long term. Research has brought to light that oysters, while they do filter nitrogen, they simply store the substance in their bodies and release it back into the environment upon their death. Scientists now hope to harness the oyster's digestive cycle to remove the nitrogen from the water.

"In Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound, you can remove nitrogen from the water by removing oysters and consuming them," said Zarnoch. "But we can't consume them from Jamaica Bay because of the amount of bacteria present."

Oyster gardening is still in the beginnings stages of a two-year experiment that will determine whether they will benefit the bay's condition. The next several years will be critical to see if the oysters can once again thrive in the estuary as part of a recovering environment and if the marshes can once again shelter and nourish an authentic mix of native New Yorkers.

This article was written under a partnership between Gotham Gazette and the Baruch College's Department of Journalism and Writing Professions.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuts to City Schools Go from 'Bad' to 'Horrid' by Beth Fertig - WNYC - News

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Back in March, when the city was still trying to get a handle on its education budget, City Councilman Robert Jackson noted that there were two different scenarios for the coming fiscal year: "bad" and "horrid."

Today, the education committee chairman said, there's only one: "horrid."

Jackson repeated that word at least nine times during the education committee's hearing on proposed budget cuts. He said the loss of $500 million in state aid would mean laying off 4,400 teachers, letting another 2,000 go through attrition, and eliminating almost 600 other support staffers and cafeteria workers. Which was why he wanted to know how Chancellor Joel Klein could justify hiring two more deputy chancellors who are each paid almost $200,000 a year, and giving raises to several more. He noted that there are now eight deputy chancellors.

Klein testified that one of those deputies is actually a new Chief Operating Officer and said the job is needed now more than ever because he's cut $38 million from central offices. The chancellor said another deputy is dealing with new schools and enrollment, and said the rest were given promotions. As for the raises, he called them "small adjustments" and said their salaries had been "out of line."

The chancellor insisted he had done all he could to protect classrooms from budget cuts. Several council members expressed great skepticism about his department's contracts with outside vendors at a time when it's projecting teacher layoffs. But Klein said the city retained a $5 million contract with The New Teacher Project to hire new teachers because there aren't enough with special education licenses to meet demand. And he said most of the city's other contracts are for special education services and busing that's legally mandated.

"People throw numbers around that are, I think, designed to confuse the discussion," he explained to Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin.

Klein also defended cutting bus service for 7th and 8th graders, which isn't mandatory, and said that would save over $3 million. He said the students would qualify for free Metrocards (assuming the MTA doesn't cut that service), and told concerned council members from Staten Island that students could apply for yellow bus service if public transit wasn't convenient, or if they live near a dangerous intersection.

But with no budget yet from Albany, the city schools are projected to lose $500 million in state aid. And when you add growing enrollment, pension costs, and other services, Klein said that leaves a $750 million hole in the Department of Education's budget for 2010-2011. He predicted average class sizes would rise from the elementary to high school levels by anywhere from two to five students.

Klein again called on Albany to end the "last hired/first fired" law so that new teachers aren't automatically the first to go. He said low-income communities like the Bronx would lose the greatest number of new teachers, because they had hired so many recently, forcing principals to take more experienced teachers even if they aren't always the best. Councilman Jackson seemed exasperated by the Chancellor's pitch to change the law during his budget hearing. "If you want to change it, go to the table," he told the Chancellor, referring to contract talks with the union.

Those talks, by the way, are now at an impasse and a state-appointed mediator is meeting with the two sides.

Suspect Wanted For Alleged Assault With A Hammer -

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The NYPD needs your help in locating a man wanted in connection with an assault in Queens.

On February 12, 2010 around 10:15 p.m., the suspect allegedly beat an 82-year-old man with a hammer during a dispute inside of 100-47 67 Drive in the Rego Park section of the borough, police said.

The victim was transported to Elmhurst Hospital where he received over 100 stitches to his head, according to officials.

Left: Photo of the suspect, provided by the NYPD.

The victim apparently told police he knows the suspect, identified as 49-year-old Jaime Olivera. Their relation to each other is not known.

Anyone with information in regards to the whereabouts of this suspect is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Nunes Aims To Unite Gay And Charter Support Against Huntley by Chris Bragg - City Hall News

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Backers of same-sex marriage may give 25-year-old Lynn Nunes a fighting chance in the uphill battle to knock off State Sen. Shirley Huntley: he is a prime candidate to get financial support from the pro-same-sex marriage PAC Fight Back New York, although no final determinations on strategy for this year’s races have been made, according to a spokesman for the group.

Nunes already demonstrated some political viability last year, running an entirely grassroots, volunteer-based campaign which came within four votes of knocking off 14-year New York City Council Member Tom White, who most observers say has higher name recognition than the two-term incumbent Huntley. Danny Dromm, an openly gay Council member from Queens and a prominent leader in the gay rights movement, said he became convinced Nunes would be viable during a February phone call in which Nunes described his strategy for unseating Huntley.

“Lynn is a statistician in terms of numbers,” Dromm said. “That’s something he gets almost innately.”

Huntley’s supporters, though, are already pegging Nunes as an opportunist backed by a pro-same-sex marriage lobby that is out of step with the majority of the district.

“I think Lynn Nunes is going down the wrong road,” said Council Member Leroy Comrie, a Huntley ally. “He is taking advantage of a singular opportunity presented by something that is not a big deal in that district.”

In the southeast Queens district where Nunes will spend his summer knocking on doors, the streets of Jamaica and Springfield Gardens are lined with socially conservative black churches. The same-sex marriage bill was unpopular among the African-American churches and clergy and Huntley cites this opposition as she as the reason she voted against the bill.

Nunes said he would instead run on issues such as the district’s highest-in-the-country foreclosure rate, which he says Huntley has not done enough to address, and the district’s overcrowded classrooms.

Charter school advocates are also expected to help fund Nunes, who said he is an unabashed supporter of lifting the state’s charter school cap. Huntley, meanwhile, finds herself in a more precarious position when it comes to the education lobbies.

A former local school board president, Huntley has been a longtime ally of the United Federation of Teachers and along with State Sen. Bill Perkins was the catalyst behind an April hearing calling out charter schools for alleged abuses. She also opposed legislation to lift the state’s charter school cap in January. But Huntley switched courses and voted in favor of lifting the charter school cap in the bill that was passed by the Senate in early May.

Leadership of the New York State United Teachers—the UFT’s parent union—has said it will be difficult to support anyone who voted to raise the cap. Still, Huntley believes one vote will not sever their longstanding relationship.

“I have been generous in my support of the UFT’s issues over the years,” Huntley said.

Spokesmen for the UFT and NYSUT declined comment on the union’s plans in the district.

But speaking generally about his union’s involvement in this year’s races, UFT president Michael Mulgrew said a vote to raise the cap would not necessarily stand in the way of an endorsement by the teachers.

“I’ll let the political process take its course,” Mulgrew said. “I like to talk to people first and find out what their reasons are. If they decide they don’t want to work with us anymore, then we’ll go from there.”

A Call to Recycle Cigarette Butts by Emily B. Hager - City Room Blog -

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Street value: $1.57 - Shaun Best/Reuters

When a constituent came into Assemblyman Michael G. DenDekker’s office recently and suggested he propose a cigarette butt recycling program, Mr. DenDekker admits he “had a little chuckle.” Then a staffer, half joking, suggested a cigarette butt deposit, just as is done with bottles. But before completely dismissing the idea, Mr. DenDekker agreed “to see if there is a market on it.”

A little Googling and Mr. DenDekker discovered that in China, scientists had found that soaking cigarette butts in water creates a solution that can protect steel pipes used by the oil industry from corroding. In Brazil, a fashion designer, Alexandra Guerrero, cleans cigarette butts, dyes them and spins them with sheep wool into clothing. And in Ohio, an inventor has a patent pending to turn cigarette butts into adhesives and sealants.

Now two weeks later, Mr. DenDekker, a Democrat from Queens, has proposed a bill that would create a statewide cigarette butt recycling program. “There are two reasons to do it,” he said. “One is to create jobs, the other is to clean our environment a little.”

The bill would task the departments of environmental conservation and health to develop the recycling program, and require a minimum one-cent deposit per cigarette.

“I don’t want this to be an unfunded mandate,” said Mr. DenDekker, 48, who smoked for 30 years and now says he doesn’t care if smokers have to pay more. “I’m sorry, but look at the amount of waste that cigarette butts cause in our cities.”

Cigarette butts have immediate dangers and long side effects: small children sometimes pick up them up and eat them; additionally toxins remaining in the butts can leach into the environment and poison fish.

According to Mr. DenDekker’s office, more than 176 million pounds of cigarette butts are discarded each year in this country.

Thomas E. Novotny, a former assistant surgeon general and the head of California’s Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, said he agreed with the goals of the bill but added, “Before New York commits itself to finding new purposes for these butts, we need to remember that they are toxic hazardous waste, not simple litter, and that needs to be the focus of efforts on keeping them out of the environment.”

While cigarette butts may prove to be an untapped resource for future products, establishing a recycling program is very difficult. Mr. Novotny and several others said they did not know of a cigarette recycling program anywhere in the country. Last year, San Francisco levied a 20-cents-a-pack fee on cigarettes to pay for the cost of picking up after smokers, but Philip Morris USA has sued to block it.

Mr. DenDekker’s bill is its infancy. How it would be financed remains unclear; he has not yet secured the support of the chair members of the economic and health committee, but he said, “I don’t think I’ll have a problem getting a senate sponsor.”

He added: “This is something that is going to be a long process. But imagine if we had started cleaning them up 20 years ago.”

Parties for ‘Mockingbird’ Birthday, But Don’t Expect Author by Julie Bosman -

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In Santa Cruz, Calif., volunteers will re-enact every word and movement in the famous courtroom scene. In Monroeville, Ala., residents dressed in 1930s garb will read aloud from memorable passages. In Rhinebeck, N.Y., Oblong Books will host a party with Mocktails and recorded music by the indie band the Boo Radleys.

All summer “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be relived through at least 50 events around the country, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of a book that became a cultural touchstone and an enduring staple of high-school reading programs.

Its publisher, HarperCollins, is trying to tap into what appears to be a near-endless reserve of affection for the book by helping to organize parties, movie screenings, readings and scholarly discussions. The publisher has recruited Tom Brokaw and other authors to take part by reading from the novel — which tells the story of the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of rape, and his family — in their hometowns.

Of course, there is also the hope that the events, which are scheduled to run through Sept. 22, will drum up more sales of the book. HarperCollins plans to issue four new editions of the novel next month, each with a different cover and all to be placed on special “Mockingbird” -themed floor displays in bookstores.

Perhaps the largest concentration of celebrations for the book are in Monroeville, which calls itself the “literary capital of Alabama” after its most famous resident, the “Mockingbird” author Harper Lee. The city is planning four days of events, including silent auctions, a walking tour of downtown, a marathon reading of the book in the county courthouse and a birthday party on the courthouse lawn.

The festivities are not expected to attract an appearance by the mysterious Ms. Lee, who is 84 and still living quietly in Alabama after never publishing another book. “Harper Lee has always been a very private person,” said Tina Andreadis, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins. “The legacy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ speaks for itself.”

[Read original NY Times review in pdf]

Few novels have achieved both the mass popularity and the literary cachet of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book was originally published in 1960 by J. B. Lippincott and Company (now part of HarperCollins), won a Pulitzer Prize and has not been out of print since. It has sold nearly one million copies a year and in the past five years has been the second-best-selling backlist title in the country, beaten out only by the novel “The Kite Runner.”

Interest in the book intensified after the 2005 film “Capote,” in which Catherine Keener played Ms. Lee, and grew even stronger the next year, when Sandra Bullock played her in “Infamous.”

Sales of the book are especially robust in the South, including Kentucky, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Florida, and in the Midwest, particularly Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Mr. Brokaw, who will read from the novel in a bookstore in Bozeman, Mont., on July 11, said he vividly recalls reading it as a 20-year-old college sophomore in South Dakota in 1960.

“I just remember being utterly absorbed by it, and inspired by Atticus, and very taken by Scout,” Mr. Brokaw said. “Those are very powerful characters. And I don’t remember another book about the South that treated race in quite that fashion.”

Mary McDonagh Murphy, a writer and documentary director whose book, “Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of 50 Years of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’,” will be published in June, called “Mockingbird” “our national novel.”

“I can’t name another book that is this popular, that tells such a good story, has such indelible characters and makes a social statement without being preachy,” Ms. Murphy said. “It is plain in the very best sense of the word.”

Less plain is Ms. Lee’s response to the unceasing popularity of her one and only book. Executives at HarperCollins said they began planning the summer-long celebration of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on the assumption that Ms. Lee would not take part. “She’s almost never given interviews,” said Kathy Schneider, a senior vice president and associate publisher at HarperCollins. “That’s why we didn’t expect her to participate in a big way.”

Ms. Murphy, who has interviewed Ms. Lee’s sister Alice Lee, said that Harper Lee was unhappy that in interviews decades ago, reporters did not quote her precisely. And she also had a philosophical issue — “that writers should not be familiar and recognizable,” Ms. Murphy said. “That was for entertainers.”

Wally Lamb, a novelist who will be part of a panel discussion about the book in Wilton, Conn., in September, said he believes Ms. Lee’s quiet stance evokes Boo Radley, a character to whom Ms. Lee has compared herself.

“One of the things that I find really cool about her is what I consider her caginess,” Mr. Lamb said. “And I think maybe the mystery surrounding her, and that sort of silence that she decided to maintain with the media, that becomes part of the legend of the book.”

'Living Wage' Kills Projects, Mayor Bloomberg Says by Erin Einhorn and Adam Lisberg - NY Daily News

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Mayor Bloomberg scoffed Monday at a plan requiring a $10 hourly minimum wage for jobs in city-subsidized developments, saying companies can't afford it.

"It's a nice idea but is poorly thought out and will not work," he said. "The economics don't work if you have to pay more."

The so-called "living wage" requirement, to be introduced today in the City Council, is aimed at jobs in shopping centers and other projects that get city money.

Many of those jobs pay the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but a coalition of unions and politicians says that isn't enough to keep a family out of poverty.

They want projects that receive city tax breaks, low-cost land or other development deals to require hourly wages starting at $10 an hour - or $11.50 if they don't include benefits.

"If you're going to do business in the City of New York and you receive a subsidy from the City of New York, what is the minimum expectation that we're asking of you in terms of what you're giving back?" asked Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito at a Drum Major Institute forum on wage levels.

The Related Cos.' plan to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx foundered in the Council last year after it refused to agree to a higher minimum wage for workers there in exchange for $14 million in city subsidies.

Supporters say the bill would replace project-by-project bickering with a single citywide standard for developments that accept more than $100,000 in city aid.

With Frank Lombardi

Jackson Heights Neighbors Band Together to Win Car-Free Street Expansion by Noah Kazis - Streetsblog New York City

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Jackson Heights residents and Council Member Daniel Dromm (bottom left) marched to Queens Community Board 3 to call for expanding the car-free 78th Street Play Street. Photo via Jackson Heights Green Alliance

Nearly 200 Jackson Heights residents marched on their community board last Thursday night to support the expansion of car-free public space in their neighborhood. That feat of organizing helped win the approval of Queens Community Board 3 for a summer-long 78th Street Play Street, reversing the stance of the board's transportation committee.

The play street debuted in the summer of 2008, but up until this year, it's only been in effect on Sundays. Now the street will be free from traffic for the entire months of July and August.

The play street occupies the block of 78th between Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue, functioning as an extension of the heavily-used Travers Playground, which many parents in the neighborhood say is overcrowded during hot summer months. "We've got to find creative ways to increase the green space in the neighborhood," said Dudley Stewart of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. "We're second to last in city districts as far as green space is concerned." Jackson Heights residents have used the play street for activities from chalk painting and ball games to learning to ride a bike.

Extending the play street to last through the summer was one of the planks in Daniel Dromm's campaign for City Council last fall. "Without him, it would have been almost impossible to have this happen," said Stewart. Since taking office, Dromm has leafletted neighbors and commissioned a traffic study on the play street. The summer-long extension also enjoyed support from City Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Assembly Member Michael DenDekker, Senator Jose Peralta, and U.S. Congressman and Queens Democratic Party Chair Joe Crowley.

Even so, the transportation committee of Community Board 3 voted against extending the duration of the play street, claiming that it would bring crime and noise to the neighborhood after dark, eliminate parking spaces, and block emergency vehicle access.

After that setback, local activists decided that they'd have to make a big push to convince the full board to overturn the committee's recommendation. Stewart told supporters to meet at Travers Park last Thursday before walking over to the board meeting. "I was expecting 30 people, 50 at the most," he said. "When 150 or 200 people arrived, it was just a wonderful spectacle." The crowd marched to the board meeting, chanting and singing the whole way.

It was an unprecedented display of neighborhood activism, said Stewart, who is a community board member himself. "It's never happened," he said. "It's unheard of in this district."

The marchers, many of whom were children, spoke to the board, and their testimony, along with some revisions to the plan to allow emergency vehicle access, helped win a 27-9 vote in favor of the extended play street. The plan now requires a formal go-ahead from NYCDOT, which, along with the health department, has spoken strongly in favor of the plan. FDNY and NYPD have also endorsed the extended play street.

What's next for the livable streets activists of Jackson Heights after this impressive victory? According to Stewart, open space remains the area's greatest need. If the summer-long play street is a success, he said, "We're going to try and work very hard to make it a permanent expansion to the park." Stewart also proposed looking for similar locations elsewhere in the neighborhood where summertime play streets could be put in place.