Posts Tagged New York City
How One GOP Plutocrat Helped Make 20,000 Kids Homeless
Homelessness in New York has skyrocketed, thanks in part to years of conservative policy predicated on right-wing ideology.
November 29, 2012
A series of ads placed in New York’s subways by Coalition for the Homeless highlights skyrocketing rates of child and family homelessness in the city.
There are 20,000 kids sleeping in homeless shelters in New York City, according to the city’s latest estimate, a number that does not include homeless kids who are not sleeping in shelters because their families have been turned away. Up to 65 percent of families who apply for shelter don’t get in, and their options can be grim.
“Some end up sleeping in subway trains,” Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, tells AlterNet. “Some go to hospital emergency rooms or laundromats. Women are going back to their batterers or staying in unsafe apartments.”
Families that make it into shelters are taking longer to leave and move into stable, permanent housing. Asked by reporters why families were staying 30% longer than even last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “… it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”
“Is it great?” He elaborated a day later in response to outcry over his comments. “No. It’s not the Plaza Hotel … but that’s not what shelter is supposed to be and that’s not what the public can afford or the public wants.”
That deep-seated empathy for the poor also runs through the mayor’s policies, which have helped create a crisis that the New York Times has called “an emergency.” Since the mayor took office, promising to slash the rate of total homelessness by two thirds in five years, the homeless rate in New York City has ballooned to 46,000 people sleeping in shelters, an increase of almost 40 percent. The administration blames the financial crisis, but as it turns out, there are ways to make the lives of the very poor tougher in the middle of a recession: you just need to subscribe to a governing philosophy that assumes the poor are both too lazy to get on their feet and working hard day and night to cheat the system.
Here is a guide to how the Bloomberg administration managed to increase family homelessness while using up a lot of public money.
1. Cut access to federal aid.
For decades, Republican and Democratic mayors kept family homelessness down by giving homeless parents and their kids priority access to federal housing subsidies and rental vouchers. But in 2004, as part of the mayor’s five-year plan to combat homelessness, the administration knocked homeless families from the top of the massive waiting list for federal rent subsidies. Administration officials, offering no empirical proof, claimed that poor people were scamming the system by moving into shelters in order to get Section 8 vouchers. (Like many conservative fantasies involving scheming minorities, it’s no doubt true that someone, somewhere, cheated – but studies show this was not a widespread problem straining the system.)
The rate of homeless families who used federal subsidies fell to the low single digits. According to Giselle Routhier, policy analyst for Coalition for the Homeless, ”In fiscal year 2010, at a time of then record homelessness, homeless families received only 2 percent of the 5,500 available public housing apartments and only 3 percent of 7,500 Section 8 vouchers.”
In place of programs that gave them access to permanent housing, homeless families got the gift of personal responsibility! First the administration introduced Housing Stability Plus, a subsidy that fell by 20 percent each year. HSP was mired in controversy following revelations that families were being exposed to hazardous conditions in their new digs: “[M]any formerly homeless families and their children have suffered from lead poisoning, lack of heat and hot water, vermin infestation,” according to a Coalition for the Homeless report.
The Advantage program, introduced in 2007, helped with a percent of families’ rents (requiring they work or take job training) but cut aid after either one or two years. When their subsidies ran out, families were supposed to find their own way into permanent housing. Instead, many found their way back to the shelter, because, as homelessness advocates point out, rents did not magically go down in New York. One out of three families whose Advantage assistance expired applied for shelter in 2011, according to city numbers crunched by Coalition for the Homeless.
2. Cut and run.
Still, the administration touted the program as a success, defending it against homelessness advocates and city officials who pushed the mayor to give families priority in federal housing assistance. So it was strange that when the governor of New York cut half of Advantage’s funding in March 2011, the Bloomberg administration refused to make up the difference and just killed the program. Around that time the mayor suggested that poor families were pretending to be homeless to scam Advantage subsidies.“You never know what motivates people,” he said on his radio show. “One theory is that some people have been coming into the homeless system, the shelter system, in order to qualify for a program that helps you move out of the homeless system.”
When the city officially cut the program, 15,000 families who relied on Advantage to make rent were informed by letter that they had exactly two weeks to find other arrangements. An emergency court order forced the city to continue helping families in the program, but when the order was lifted in February 2012, the city abruptly cut off aid to tenants, saddling 7,000 households with full market rent for apartments they’d struggled to pay 30% to 40% on.
The inevitable return to the shelter of many former Advantage families helped push the number of homeless people sleeping in shelters up to 43,000 in 2012. “In the last 18 months, there has been no housing plan,” Markee tells AlterNet.
3. Spend money on temporary solutions.
Instead, the administration is just frantically opening up more and more emergency shelters. The AP reports that 10 new shelters for single adults and families have opened in recent months to deal with the crisis. The administration plans five more before the year is over.
The problem with that is everything. Putting up a family in a shelter costs $3,000 a month — way more than a rental subsidy. Beyond that, studies have shown that not having a permanent place to live is destabilizing and harmful to kids, even if they end up in one of those NYC shelters that so impressed the mayor with their luxury. Homeless kids get sick more often and with stranger and more serious ailments than poor kids who have homes, suffering respiratory infections and digestive infections at significantly higher rates. The lack of safe, permanent housing delays normal development and homeless kids have higher levels of anxiety and depression, which often manifest in behavioral problems.
“If homelessness is hard on adults, for the young, it can be disastrous, starting a slide into a lifetime of problems,” a NYT editorial put it. (It’s not entirely clear what the long-term impact of Hurricane Sandy will be on the city’s homelessness rates. Right now, families who lost their homes in the storm are staying in hotels paid by the city and reimbursed by FEMA.)
4. Refuse to change course.
The New York City Council has outlined a plan to revive programs proven to reduce homelessness. As Christine Quinn, Annabel Palma and Coalition for the Homeless director Mary Brosnahan wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed, “That means returning to the proven strategy of setting aside a reasonable share of open slots in public housing and marshaling valuable federal housing vouchers for those trapped in the shelter system. In addition, a new rental assistance program, modeled on the successful federal voucher program, must be created.”
An assessment of the plan by the City of New York’s Independent Budget Office found, “if a total of 5,000 families a year were moved out of shelter through priority referrals for NYCHA and Section 8, family shelter costs would be $29.4 million lower, of which $11.0 million would be savings of city funds.”
So far, the administration has rebuffed the plan. At a hearing in September, Department of Homeless Services commissioner Seth Diamond pointed, improbably, to job training programs as the way to address the city’s skyrocketing homelessness. One council member called it a “head-in-the-sand” approach.
Diamond reiterated the administration’s position that shelter residents should not be prioritized for housing aid.
- How One GOP Plutocrat Helped Make 20,000 Kids Homeless (alternet.org)
- How One Plutocrat Made 20,000 Children Homeless (readersupportednews.org)
- Homelessness in New York skyrocketed, thanks in part to conservative policy predicated on right-wing ideology. (mahilena.typepad.com)
- Remembering Those Who’ve Died on the Streets (krextv.com)
- Stopping Psychopath CEOs | 7 Yr-Old on Medical Pot | Let Red States Secede? (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- Survey says state has less homeless, local shelters disagree (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Aurora Facility Focused On Female Homeless Vets (denver.cbslocal.com)
- VIDEO: Joseph’s House Winter Walk reminds public about the homeless (troyrecord.com)
- More than 2,000 homeless veterans in Arizona ()
- Liberal Berkeley May Fine Homeless $75 for Sitting Down | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
After a Black Friday action at Wal-Mart, NYC fast-food workers walk out, challenging a nearly union-free industry
At 6:30 this morning, New York City fast food workers walked off the job, launching a rare strike against a nearly union-free industry. Organizers expect workers at dozens of stores to join the one-day strike, a bold challenge to an industry whose low wages, limited hours and precarious employment typify a growing portion of the U.S. economy.
New York City workers are organizing at McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Papa John’s. Organizers expect today’s strike to include workers from almost all of those chains, with the largest group coming from McDonald’s; the company did not respond to a request for comment.
But employees were clear about their reasons for walking out. “They’re not paying us enough to survive,” McDonald’s worker Raymond Lopez told Salon in a pre-strike interview. Lopez said he decided to join today’s strike because “This company has enough money to pay us a reasonable amount for all that we do … they’re just not going to give it to us as long as they can get away with it. I think we need to be heard.”
Lopez, a 21-year-old who’s been at McDonald’s for two years, said he makes $8.75 an hour as a shift manager (organizers say this isn’t a supervisory position). He works at McDonald’s and at two other jobs – catering and doing leaf work – while paying off student loans, pursuing an acting career, and helping to support his family.
“Everything we do needs to be fast, needs to be perfect,” said Lopez, and “when you’re actually there for eight hours smiling like you’re on the Miss Universe contest, it’s not easy.” He said McDonald’s supervisors “make us work off the clock all of the time” and “there is a lot of verbal abuse.” Lopez recalled a supervisor telling him, “Hey, if you don’t want me to treat you this way, then give me what I want.’”
New York Communities for Change organizing director Jonathan Westintold Salon the current effort is “the biggest organizing campaign that’s happened in the fast food industry.” A team of 40 NYCC organizers have been meeting with workers for months, spearheading efforts to form a new union, the Fast Food Workers Committee. NYCC organizers and fast food workers have been signing up employees on petitions demanding both the chance to organize a union without retaliation and a hefty raise, from near-minimum wages to $15 an hour.
When an NYCC organizer started meeting with McDonald’s workers across from his store, said Lopez, “It was a little difficult for me to believe that it was going to be possible” to change McDonald’s. “I didn’t pay too much attention to it … it took me two or three meetings to start trusting them.” But as the number of workers meeting with NYCC increased, “my faith in this whole deal grew as well.”
Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren described companies like McDonald’s as poster children for the ways that “the nature and organization of work have changed” in the United States: “part-time work, contingent work, the inability to have control over one’s schedule … essentially no protections, and even where there’s existing protections, they’re not enforced … They don’t even approach living wage jobs,” and for most workers, “there are absolutely no benefits.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs “Combined Food Service and Preparation Workers, Including Fast Food” as the lowest-paid job category in NYC. State labor department data show the city’s fast food jobs have grown by 55 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project, McDonald’s profits have increased 130 percent over four years.
University of Pennsylvania sociologist RobinLeidner said Tuesday that an industry norm in which “virtually everyone is part-time” puts workers in a bind: “No one gets enough hours to trigger the legal protections, and to make them eligible for any health benefits … You can’t earn enough with one job, but given the unpredictability, it’s extremely hard to hold down more than one.” Leidner worked at McDonald’s (with the company’s agreement) as part of the research for her 1993 book “Fast Food, Fast Talk.” She recalled a store manager who “was pretty frank about saying if he had some problem with someone, typically what he’d do is reduce their hours until they got the message. In other words, until they quit.”
Leidner said the jobs are also “very heavily surveilled”: Customers keep workers on their toes, cash registers store instantaneous sales data, managers regulate employees’ expressions, and corporate officials pore over individual stores’ metrics in search of ways to boost profits.
NYC isn’t the only place fast food workers are in revolt. Today’s strike follows a founding convention held earlier this month by an linked organization, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. WWOC claims 200-some members in fast food and retail. Its most dramatic actions took place on Black Friday, when workers leafleted and demonstrated at major companies and dropped a banner inside of Macy’s (they also joined pickets in support of local Wal-Mart workers). “We’re getting all the workers together and we’re standing up against CEOs,” said WOCC member Brittany Smith. “Because there’s more workers than there are CEOs.” Smith, a college student who recently quit her job at the retail chain Express and took a similar job at Urban Outfitters, said she now makes $8.75 an hour. “Some of the time I luck out and I can eat two meals a day,” she said. “But most of the time, I’m eating one.”
Like FFWCin New York, WOCC is a new independent union made up of workers tied together by a shared city and similarly low wages, not a single employer. Both FFWC and WOCC are backed by unions and labor community groups, and so far aren’t recognized by any employers. And they’re making the same demands: allow a fair process for unionization and start paying $15 an hour. Organizers say that could be achieved through union contracts with individual companies, or through joint bargaining with several employers at once. Either way, it’s a heavy lift.
As workers try to change their industry, will fast food companies retaliate? Organizers say they already have.
JoseCerillo, a 79-year-old who cleans tables and floors at a New York McDonald’s, told Salon he was suspended by the company on Monday after signing up co-workers on the campaign petition. According to Cerillo, management said the punishment was for violating a “no solicitation” policy. “They feel threatened because I’m organizing,” said Cerillo (he was interviewed in Spanish). He said he circulated the petition during break times and outside of work.
Cerillo said he got involved after receiving a phone call from an organizer at home a few months ago. “I was so happy,” he said. Cerillo, who has been working at a series of McDonald’s locations since 1996, said he makes $7.40 an hour, 15 cents above minimum wage. “It’s just not enough to live.”
Cerillo said many of his co-workers share his frustrations but are hesitant to get involved: Of around 40 other employees at his store, “about three” signed his petition. “They don’t want to lose their job,” said Cerillo. But he said he remains eager to keep up the fight: “I feel happy, and I want to fight more … I want to do something worthwhile.”
In recent decades, Warren said Tuesday, even the most effective U.S. unions have “had such a hard time organizing in their core industries,” where they already have members, “that fast food just got left out … no one was really willing to take the risk and invest in fast food organizing.” Warren said research suggests that the industry’s demographics – predominantly women and workers of color – could improve prospects for organizing.
On the other hand, Leidner noted that the extremely high turnover and the relatively small number of workers in each store would make organizing that much more difficult.
The structure of the industry will also play a role: most individual stores are franchisees, technically owned by an individual who holds a contract with the national company and pays them fees and a portion of revenue. Any individual franchisee that buckled to pressure to transform conditions or eschew union-busting could have that contract revoked (one exception: establishments in public buildings like convention centers, among the only places you can find a unionized Starbucks). At best, the franchisee relationship could provide organizers with an additional point of leverage, creating unrest in stores that could drive franchisees to press corporate for a resolution, and vice versa. But at worst, the franchisee structure could offer another lever for corporate to crack down on any uprisings while evading any responsibility.
The New York and Chicago campaigns evoke two strategies that have been long debated but infrequently attempted in U.S. labor. First, “minority unionism”: mobilizing workers to take dramatic actions and make demands on management prior to showing support from the majority of employees. Second, “geographic organizing”: collaboration between multiple unions to organize workers at several employers and win public support for raising a region’s standards through unionization. This campaign is also the latest example in which community-based organizing groups, which unions have long leaned on to drum up support workers, are playing a major role in directly organizing workers to win union recognition.
NYCC’s Westin told Salon in a pre-strike interview that the goal of this work stoppage is to give expression to workers’ “energy and movement” and “anger around how they’ve been treated,” and “hopefully mobilizing the community, and mobilizing clergy, and mobilizing their fellow workers around them.”
Today’s strike also comes one week after non-union Wal-Mart workers their unprecedented strike wave against the retail giant. Lopez said that, while he had already decided to strike, he drew additional inspiration from the Black Friday example. “I thought it was really ballsy for someone to do that,” said Lopez. “Which I admired.” Lopez said his decision to strike “got scary probably a couple days ago, when I realized the seriousness of this.” Despite that fear, he said, “I still believe in what I’m doing, so I’m going to go ahead and do it.”
“I don’t know what to expect” from the strike, said Lopez. “It’s such a unique thing. A lot of stuff could happen. It’s not going to be overnight.”
- thepeoplesrecord: In rare strike, NYC fast-food workers walk… (veganmyway.tumblr.com)
- Hundreds of New York City fast food workers strike (dailykos.com)
- Here’s Why Hundreds of NYC Fast Food Workers Are Striking Today (colorlines.com)
- In rare strike, NYC fast-food workers walk out (salon.com)
- NYC Fast-Food Workers Strike (crooksandliars.com)
- NYC Fast-Food Workers Walk Out, Demand Right To Unionize, Higher Wages (addictinginfo.org)
- New York Fast Food Employees Strike, Want Higher Pay (newsy.com)
- New York fast food workers strike over low wages (guardian.co.uk)
- Fast-food workers walk out in New York (newsobserver.com)
- MCDONALD’S STRIKER: ‘They’re Not Paying Us Enough To Survive’ (MCD, YUM, WEN) (businessinsider.com)
Wal-Mart’s strategy of deniability for workers’ safety
By Harold Meyerson, Published: November 27
Bangladesh is half a world away from Bentonville, the Arkansas city where Wal-Mart is headquartered. This week, Wal-Mart surely wishes it were farther away than that.
Over the weekend, a horrific fire swept through a Bangladesh clothing factory, killing more than 100 workers, many of whose bodies were burnt so badly that they could not be identified. In its gruesome particulars — locked doors, no emergency exits, workers leaping to their deaths — the blaze seems a ghastly centennial reenactment of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, when 146 workers similarly jumped to their deaths or were incinerated after they found the exit doors were locked.
The signal difference between the two fires is location. The Triangle building was located directly off New York’s Washington Square. Thousands watched the appalling spectacle of young workers leaping to the sidewalks 10 stories down; reporters and photographers were quickly on the scene. It’s not likely, however, that the Bangladesh disaster was witnessed by anyone from either the United States or Europe — the two markets for which the clothes made inside that factory were destined. For that, at least, Wal-Mart should consider itself fortunate.
The Bangladesh factory supplied clothing to a range of retailers, and officials who have toured the site said they found clothing with a Faded Glory label — a Wal-Mart brand.Wal-Mart says that the factory, which had received at least one bad report for its fire-safety provisions, was no longer authorized to make its clothing but one of the suppliers in the company’s very long supply chain had subcontracted the work there “in direct violation of our policies.”
If this were an isolated incident of Wal-Mart denying responsibility for the conditions under which the people who make and move its products labor, then the Bangladeshi disaster wouldn’t reflect quite so badly on the company. But the very essence of the Wal-Mart system is to employ thousands upon thousands of workers through contractors and subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, who are compelled by Wal-Mart’s market powerand its demand for low prices to cut corners and skimp on safety. And because Wal-Mart isn’t the employer of record for these workers, the company can disavow responsibility for their conditions of work.
This system isn’t reserved just for workers in faraway lands: Tens of thousands of American workers labor under similar arrangements. Many are employed at little more than the minimum wage in the massive warehouses in the inland exurbs of Los Angeles, where Wal-Mart’s imports from Asia are trucked from the city’s harbor to be sorted and packaged and put on the trucks and trains that take them to Wal-Mart stores for a thousand miles around.
The warehouses are run by logistics companies with which Wal-Mart contracts, and most of the workers are employed by some of the 200-plus temporary employment companies that have sprung up in the area — even though many of the workers have worked in the same warehouses for close to a decade. Last year, the California Department of Industrial Relations, suspecting that many of these workers were being cheated, charged one logistics company that runs a warehouse for Wal-Mart with failing to provide its employees with pay stubs and other information on their pay rates. Wal-Mart itself was not cited. That’s the beauty of its chain of deniability.
A small band of these warehouse workers has been demonstrating for the past couple of months to bring attention to the bizarrely contingent nature of their employment and the abuses that flow from it. Their numbers were augmented Friday byactual Wal-Mart employees in stores around the nation, calling attention to the everyday low wages and absence of benefits that the vast majority of the company’s 1.4 million U.S. employees receive.
Other discount retailers — notably Costco and Trader Joe’s — pay their workers far more, train them more extensively, have much lower rates of turnover and much higher rates of sales per employee, according to a Harvard Business Review article by Zeynep Ton of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Costco is a very profitable business, but Wal-Mart maintains an even higher profit margin, which it achieves by underpaying its employees. The conservative economic blogger Megan McArdle estimates that if Wal-Mart held its profit margin down to Costco’s level, its average worker would make about $2,850 more each year — a considerable increase in a sector where workers’ earnings average less than $25,000 a year.
But Wal-Mart neither pays its own nor takes responsibility for those who make and move its wares. For America’s largest private-sector employer, the emergency exits are always open.
- Wal-Mart’s strategy of deniability for workers’ safety (talkingunion.wordpress.com)
- Wal-Mart, Disney clothes found in Bangladesh fire (sfgate.com)
- Disney, Sears, Wal-Mart connected to Bangladeshi factory where fire killed 112 (vancouversun.com)
- “The Emergency Exits Are Always Open”: Wal-Mart’s Strategy Of Deniability For Workers’ Safety (mykeystrokes.com)
- Wal-Mart Has No Idea Where All of Its Cheap Stuff Comes From (slog.thestranger.com)
- PostScript: Is Wal-Mart at fault? – Washington Post (blog) (washingtonpost.com)
- Wal-Mart, Disney clothes found in Bangladesh fire (sacbee.com)
- Disney, Wal-Mart, Sears used deadly Bangladesh factory (cbc.ca)
- Wal-Mart, Disney clothes found in Bangladesh fire (miamiherald.com)
- Jon Takes On Wal-Mart, Hostess (huffingtonpost.com)
The Harold the Policeman balloon floats down the parade route at the Macy’s 86th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on November 22, 2012. UPI/John Angelillo
Published: Nov. 25, 2012 at 6:58 PM
NEW YORK, Nov. 25 (UPI) – Parade-goers in New York City say they found shredded police documents mixed in with confetti at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The documents contained confidential information, including detectives’ Social Security numbers, bank information and unveiled undercover officers’ identities, WPIX-TV, New York, reported.
Ethan Finkelstein said he was watching the parade at 65th Street and Central Park West, when he and a friend noticed a strip of confetti stuck onto her coat.
“It landed on her shoulder,” Finkelstein said, “and it says ‘SSN’ and it’s written like a Social Security number, and we’re like, ‘That’s really bizarre.’”
Finkelstein, a Tufts University freshman, said he and his friends were concerned and picked up more confetti that had fallen around them.
“There are phone numbers, addresses, more Social Security numbers, license plate numbers and then we find all these incident reports from police.”
The documents were apparently from the Nassau County Police Department.
“I’m just completely in shock,” said Finkelstein, 18. “How could someone have this kind of information, and how could it be distributed at the Thanksgiving Day Parade?”
Nassau County Police Department Inspector Kenneth Lack said in a statement the department “is very concerned about this situation.”
“We will be conducting an investigation into this matter as well as reviewing our procedures for the disposing of sensitive documents,” he said.
Meanwhile, parade sponsor Macy’s said it uses “commercially manufactured, multicolor confetti, not shredded paper,” so it is unclear where the shredded documents came from.
- Shredded confidential police documents discovered in Macy’s parade confetti (boingboing.net)
- Shredded police documents found in Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade confetti (theverge.com)
- Macy’s Thanksgiving parade confetti contained sensitive police documents (thestar.com)
- Macy’s Parade Confetti: Shredded Confidential Docs… (newser.com)
- Confidential police info found in Macy’s parade confetti sparks investigation (foxnews.com)
- Police reports found as confetti at Macy’s parade (usnews.nbcnews.com)
- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Confetti Was Confidential (theatlanticwire.com)
- Macy’s Parade Confetti Included Confidential Police Docs, Social Security Numbers (wpix.com)
- Shredded Police Documents Found Among Confetti At Macy’s 2012 Thanksgiving Day Parade (mediaite.com)
- ‘Police files’ in parade confetti (bbc.co.uk)
Most of us have known for months how we will mark our ballots Tuesday, making the painfully long and obscenely expensive presidential campaign little more than a test of our patience. I’m voting for Barack Obama.
But if you’re a voter who struggled and waited until now to make up your mind, here’s what you learned in just the final days of the 2012 campaign.
You learned that the nation added 171,000 jobs last month, many of them in areas such as construction that are significant to overall improvement in the economy. It’s the 25th straight month of job gains under President Obama, and a sure sign that recovery is slowly but steadily underway.
You were reminded that when a disaster like Hurricane Sandy strikes, millions of Americans depend on a swift response from the federal government. In a debate over a year ago — yes, the campaign has dragged on that long — Mitt Romney said that FEMA’s disaster relief responsibilities should be turned over to the states and, “even better,” the private sector. It didn’t seem too important when Romney said it in 2011, but it became profound when Sandy hit. In the last week you saw again that candidate Romney is willing to change positions to fit the moment, now saying “FEMA plays a key role.”
You heard New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg declare that he is voting for President Obama — an endorsement that the Romney campaign had hoped to secure. Bloomberg said Sandy was the tipping point for him, because elected officials must acknowledge the scientific reality of climate change. But he also cited women’s rights and same-sex marriage rights as keys to his vote for Obama.
You saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch Romney supporter, praise the president for his efforts during the storm. Moreover, Christie and Obama provided a clear example of how elected officials can dismiss partisan politics when conditions demand that they find ways to work together.
You listened as one of the nation’s most respected Republicans, Gen. Colin Powell, carefully outlined why he is voting for President Obama. Powell said he has seen “the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war and did not get us into any new wars.” He added, “I think the actions he’s taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very solid. And so I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on.”
Significantly, Powell said he still considers himself a Republican, but believes that moderate Republicans are becoming a “dying breed, I’m sorry to say.”
If you live in Ohio, perhaps the hottest of the battleground states where Tuesday’s election will be decided, two key editorials caught your attention. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote: “Ohio in particular has benefited from (Obama’s) bold decision to revive the domestic auto industry. Because of his determination to fulfill a decades-old dream of Democrats, 30 million more Americans will soon have health insurance.”
And you read in the Akron Beacon Journal: “What is telling about a presidency is its tilt, its direction, spirit and priorities. Thus, to those who argue the president lacks a plan for a second term: Look at the foundation that has been set. He has used the levers of government to bolster the economy, investing in education, innovation and health care, understanding the essential role of the public sector in competitiveness.”
By next Wednesday it’s likely that some pundits and politicians will begin talking about candidates for 2016, and the 24/7 process of picking a president will start all over again. But if you spend only a week or so every four years studying the matter, the last few days provided all you need to make a responsible decision.
- Man for the Moment (Guest Voice) (themoderatevoice.com)
- Giuliani Says FEMA Is As Bad As During Katrina (sweetness-light.com)
- New Jersey Governor pledges to vote Romney despite plug for Obama (news.yahoo.com)
- Romney to Take Virginia in Razor-Thin Win, McDonnell Says – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Breaking: Gallup to Show Romney, Obama in Dead Heat (businessweek.com)
- Ed Gillespie, Romney Adviser, Admits Obama’s FEMA Doing A Good Job Responding To Sandy (huffingtonpost.com)
- President Obama Leads Romney in Local ‘Pint Poll’ (arkansasmatters.com)
- Gen. Colin Powell Endorses President Obama Again (atlantablackstar.com)
- Obama Works Turnout as Romney Seeks Wave on Final Day – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Giuliani: Where the hell are the generators? (hotair.com)
How Hurricane Sandy forced NYC to reconnect with pay phones
With cell phone service knocked out and no electricity in many parts of New York City in the wake of superstorm Sandy, people are waiting in lines to use a relic from the past – the pay phone.
“I didn’t even know they were working,” New York City resident Leslie Koch said about the public pay phones in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this week Koch celebrated her blast with the past when she used the antiquated device by taking a picture of it and posting it to her Twitter account with a caption that said, “This is called a pay phone. Used one today to call my mom from #NYC.”
Koch is one of many New Yorkers who had been walking past pay phones on a daily basis and didn’t pay them any attention.
“It’s funny what’s hiding in plain sight,” Jordan Spak, a 32-year-old television marketer told theJournal. “It’s invisible, but when you need it, it’s there.”
In the storm’s aftermath, throngs of residents are using the old-fashioned contraptions as a last resort to connect to family and friends, because millions of people lost power during the storm rendering their cellphones, iPads, computers and other state-of-the-art technology useless.
Alison Caporimo, 24, who lives in Manhattan, told the Journal she didn’t even know how to operate a public pay phone before Tuesday admitting, “I lost a lot of coins” while trying to figure out how to use the outdated machine.
Although many New Yorkers are dependent on modern gadgetry, during times of distress, such as after the 11 September terrorist attacks, the city has become reliant on pay phones that usually stay in service even during flooding. In fact, one of the most daunting challenges with using the devices during an emergency is keeping them free of coin overloads, the Journal reported.
“During disasters, we sometimes have to empty them every day,” Thomas Keane, chief executive officer of Pacific Telemanagement Services, said. “It takes 300 to 400 calls a day for that to happen.”
The dependency on the retro technology this week comes just months after New York announced a pilot programme to convert several pay phones around the city into free Wi-Fi hotspots.
There are about 12,000 public pay phones in New York City, 27,000 fewer than 20 years ago, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, which regulates the city’s pay phones.
- New Yorkers reconnect with Pay Phones (worldbulletin.net)
- New Yorkers reconnect with pay phones in storm’s aftermath (vancouverdesi.com)
- Pay Phones Are Suddenly Important Again Because Of Sandy (wnyc.org)
- The Brief Renaissance of the Pay Phone (theatlanticwire.com)
- After Sandy, Wired New Yorkers Get Reconnected With Pay Phones (allthingsd.com)
- New York’s Poor Weather Friend (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Photo Of The Day (joemygod.blogspot.com)
- In New York, the Pay Phone Makes a Comeback, However Briefly (theatlanticcities.com)
- Did You Think Pay Phones Were Just Public Toilets Before Sandy? (updates.jezebel.com)
- Is It Time To Commit To Ongoing Payphone Availability? (mobile.slashdot.org)
NYC Data Center Needs Focus on Fuel
by Mark Hachman | November 1, 2012
The most critical need for New York City’s data centers post-Hurricane Sandy is a steady supply of diesel fuel to power generators.
Who knew that the most critical element of operating a data center in New York City was ensuring a steady supply of diesel fuel?
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the challenges facing data center operators in the affected zones include pumping water from basements, waiting for utility power to be restored, and managing fuel-truck deliveries. And it’s become increasingly clear which companies had the resources and foresight to plan for a disaster like Sandy, and which are simply reacting.
For now, power is slowly coming back to Manhattan and its wealth of data centers.
In total, 676,000 customers in the New York area served by Con Edison remain without power, including 227,000 in Manhattan. Fortunately, the utility was able to turn on the power for one network in lower Manhattan, bordered by Vesey Street on the north; West Street; Broadway and State Street on the east; and the Battery’s southern tip. The utility noted that, although it has restored power to the networks, some buildings may still be without electricity due to basement flooding or damage to local equipment. Somewhat oddly, a comparison of ConEd’s outage map for the lower Manhattan areas between Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 shows more outages today than yesterday—possibly as a result of better or more granular reporting.
Here’s the latest on providers around the New York area.
Atlantic Metro has secured its LGA1 facility at 325 Hudson St., reporting that it is 100 percent restored. As of roughly 5 AM EST, it had 2,350 gallons of fuel powering it. The company said it is working to restore Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber services affected in the area. Overnight, the company dispatched teams to 111 8th Ave and 76 9th Ave to solve affected customer circuits.
The problem now is LGA4 at 121 Varick St., which suffered a generator failure Oct. 31. That facility is still not online, and Atlantic Metro is bringing in a rollup generator to solve the problem, which should be on site by 2 PM EST. “Once the generator arrives on site there will still be several hours of electrical work that needs to be completed to tie the unit into the bus and inspect the UPS units and properly power up the site,” Atlantic Metro said. “Our current operational timeline has us projecting site restoration to emergency power by midnight.”
No further updates were announced, including the NJ3 facility. “Authorities have given the OK to allow access into our NJ3 facility at 5851 Westside Ave, North Bergen, NJ,” the company said at about 3:30 PM on Oct. 30. No further updates have been given.
The company didn’t provide updates on its data centers or business services. “The vast majority of our cell sites in the Northeast are online and working,” it reported . “We are making progress in areas that were especially hard-hit, including New York City and New Jersey, where flooding, power loss, transportation and debris all pose challenges. We are working around the clock, including conducting ongoing damage assessment, rapid deployment of generators and equipment, and movement of key personnel from around the region and country, such as engineers and technicians, in order to restore service as quickly as possible.”
The company has waived late-payment and non-payment penalties, and signed a roaming agreement with T-Mobile.
No issues. Rob Rockwood, the senior vice president & general manager of Coresite’s Eastern Region, spoke with Bloomberg TV about how the company managed the disaster: its facility at 32 Avenue of the Americas used batteries to transition between utility and generator power. “It was a seamless transition,” Rockwood told Bloomberg.
The company then began estimating how quickly diesel fuel was being consumed, and worked out the logistics to resupply its generators.
Support teams are working with customers to migrate data or servers to other locations, the company said Oct. 31.
Via Twitter, the company confirmed fiber connectivity out of its 33 Whitehall facility; it Tweeted at 8 PM EST on Oct. 31 that “less than 2 feet of water” needed to be pumped out of the basement. “A 2 megawatt mobile diesel generator is confirmed to arrive tomorrow (Nov. 1) before 5 PM,” the company added. “There is a chance that power will be restored before 5PM.”
“It is our generator for at least one week or longer if needed,” Datagram added via its Website . “2MW is at least twice the power we need. Fuel tank will last two days. We have nightly fuel deliveries scheduled. We will keep generator on-site until we have ConEd utility power fully restored. We have offered to power the building elevators and emergency systems as well for everyone’s general safety. We do not know how long it will take to park and connect but we will be providing live updates and pictures as soon as it arrives.”
Customers such as Gawker are still using alternative sites to deliver updates.
Equinix appears to be stable, at about the same status as on Oct. 31.
“Three of our sites in New York and New Jersey (NY1, NY7 and NY10) are back on utility power,” the company said at 4:45 EST Oct. 31, its latest update. “The other five sites in the region remain on generator power. All of these sites have ample fuel onsite, and we have successfully received fuel deliveries today. We are scheduling regular deliveries to each site until utility power is restored. Early this morning, our NY9 site experienced a failed generator that impacted service to several customers. Repairs were made and service was restored within one hour and 15 minutes.”
Sites in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are operating normally, on utility power. Via Twitter, the company apologized for its lack of public updates, but said customers have access to “an extensive communications network”.
Ezzi operates three facilities: at 882 Third Ave. in Brooklyn, and at 75 Broad St. and 25 Broadway. The company has not published any updates on its Web site or Twitter feed. When Slashdot called the support line for an update, we were told that one data center remained open and one remained down. The representative then hung up.
Status unknown. The company has a facility at one of the major connectivity hubs at 67 Broad St., but hasn’t issued any updates. As of noon EST Nov. 1, a company representative said that the company was holding a meeting with its customers, and wouldn’t be able to comment until later in the day. Unfortunately, the company is still promoting its “Market Storm” bundle on its home page.
Internap operates two facilities, one at 75 Broad St., and one at 111 8th Ave. The Broad St. facility was flooded with up to three feet of water and shut down, and the company said late on Oct. 30 that it was “working as quickly as possible to implement a workaround for the fuel system that will allow us to bring the generator farm back into operation.”
On Nov. 1, things seem stable. The NYM008/LGA9 at 111 8th St. “continues to operate on stable generator power,” Internap said. “All UPS modules in phases 1, 2, & 3 are online and providing conditioned generator power to the critical infrastructure.” The site has enough fuel for two days, with continued fuel deliveries expected as needed until it returns to commercial power.
The NYMEXT1/LGA11 site at 75 Broad continues to operate on stable generator power, Internap said. UPS units are supplying conditioned generator power to the critical infrastructure. The building continues to pump water out of the sub-basement floors and access is limited for non-tenants. “There are currently two delivery trucks onsite to replenish the fuel supply and we will continue to bring in deliveries as needed until utility power is restored.”
As of 8 PM EST Oct. 31, Atlantic Metro reported that Internap suffered multiple power failures at the 76 9th Ave facility and that it was investigating some “fried network gear.” Internap reported that it was working through some “individual customer issues.”
Utility power should be restored in three to four days, according to ConEd.
“To this point, we have experienced no major service disruption. There have been a few isolated incidents affecting a small number of customers, and we are resolving these as quickly as possible,” the company said late Oct. 30. The company has issued no further updates.
Peer1’s operations at 75 Broad became one of the Sandy stories that made for good press: a bucket brigade that carried diesel fuel up 18 flights of stairs to the generators that kept operations running. The hosting company enlisted its own customers to help out.
But there’s bad news. Manpower appears to be running short. Worse still, the building is in shutdown mode, customer Squarespace reported at 11:16 AM EST . “We may not be able to deliver more fuel, as the building is shutdown mode. Last estimate is that we have about 3 hours left. Things change constantly, and we will keep you updated.”
Customer Fog Creek Software, meanwhile, transitioned its Trello collaboration service over to Amazon’s AWS as a preventative measure. The company had reported that the bucket brigade was running out of steam: “Our services remain up and running, but our additional helping hands to refuel the generator are being challenged,” it reported. “The good news is that we still have some Peer1, Squarespace, and Fog Creek employees at the data center to refuel as needed. All employees are on travel-standby to assist in refueling efforts.”
Earlier, at 9:03 AM EST, Squarespace also provided some fascinating on-the-ground color: “This building has 2 basements and both are flooded. As of 7AM EST today, the first basement has been completely pumped out. A broken water main was discovered which was ADDING water to the basement as the pumps ran yesterday. By using 3x the number of pumps overnight, they were able to outpace the water main, clear the basement and turn off the running water main.”
All sites are up and running, although some are on generator power. Basically, the status is unchanged from Oct. 31, with NYC1 at 60 Hudson St. and NYC2 at 111 8th Ave. running on generators. NYC1 has fuel for one day’s worth of service, with a refueling truck scheduled for Nov. 1. NYC2 has two days of fuel on hand, restocked at 4:30 PM EST on Oct. 31. The NJR1 site is also on generators, with “adequate” fuel levels, Telx reported. As before, the company advised customers to power down where they could.
No outages. Telehouse is now offering colocation space, telecom circuit cabling and IT Support services on a temporary basis (or limited basis) at all 3 of the company’s New York City Data Center facilities: 25 Broadway, Chelsea at 85 10th Ave. and the Teleport in Staten Island. Quarter, half and full cabinets are available on temporary one month or more basis over the next 60 days, in addition to long term commitments.
Verizon’s infrastructure services appear to be operational. “Because critical communications equipment (such as voice switches, data equipment and routers) are located on high floors in our buildings, they were not damaged by floodwater,” the company said the evening of Oct. 31. “But the water did damage some of backup power equipment such as switch gear, generators and fuel pumps, causing some repair delays.”
On Nov. 1, the company said little about its wired infrastructure services, choosing to focus on how it was erecting temporary wireless towers for customers, and rescue and recovery efforts.
- NYC Data Center Needs Focus On Fuel (tech.slashdot.org)
- Hurricane Sandy knocks out NYC data centers: Websites, services down (zdnet.com)
- 5:15 PM – Additional Options Turning up, Diesel Fuel Aplenty (status.fogcreek.com)
- Superstorm Sandy wreaks havoc on internet infrastructure (gigaom.com)
- Post-hurricane, New York’s internet industry runs on diesel (theverge.com)
- How Superstorm Sandy broke some of your favorite websites (qz.com)
- Con Edison Shuts Off Power in Lower Manhattan (datacenterknowledge.com)
- How Hurricane Sandy took out some of the leading English-language news sites (qz.com)
- Websites Scramble As Hurricane Sandy Floods Data Centers (huffingtonpost.com)
- Massive Flooding Damages Several NYC Data Centers (datacenterknowledge.com)
Space shuttle Enterprise damaged by Hurricane Sandy
By Brian Dodson
October 31, 2012
Space shuttle Enterprise after Hurricane Sandy passed – the inflated display pavilion has collapsed, and a piece of the Enterprise’s tail is missing (Photo: Denise Chow)
Although there is as yet no official confirmation, it appears that the Space Shuttle Enterprise, recently moved to a permanent home in New York City, was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise inside its display pavilion at the Intrepid museum (Photo: NASA)
The Enterprise was installed at the USS Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum located at Pier 86 at 46th Street on the West Side of Manhattan. The Enterprise was located on the flight deck of the Intrepid inside an inflatable pavilion for display. The fury of Hurricane Sandy deflated the pavilion, nearly tearing it off the shuttle, and in the process seems to have caused structural damage to the Enterprise’s vertical stabilizer (tail). No official comment has yet been made by the museum.
Space Shuttle Enterprise making its way through Jamaica Bay by barge (Photo: NASA)
This is the second encounter with damage for the Enterprise, in what appears to have been an ill-fated move from the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been displayed for the last eight years. During a barge trip through Jamaica Bay, a strong microburst came from nowhere and pushed the Enterprise’s wingtip against a railway bridge. The damage was minor, and quickly repaired.
The Enterprise’s encounter with Sandy carries the potential for more significant damage. The thermal tiles with which the shuttle is covered are easily crushed, and would easily be damaged by hail and/or blowing objects. The rain itself is probably not a concern, as shuttles sat on the launch pad unprotected in some difficult weather. Hopefully the damage will not be too severe.
- Space Shuttle Enterprise exhibit collapses in Hurricane Sandy (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- Space shuttle Enterprise damaged by Hurricane Sandy (gizmag.com)
- Hurricane Sandy Damages Space Shuttle Enterprise (science.slashdot.org)
- Space Shuttle Enterprise Damaged by Hurricane Sandy (space.com)
- Shuttle Enterprise may have sustained damage from “Superstorm” Sandy (boingboing.net)
- Space Shuttle Enterprise Damaged by Superstorm Sandy [PICS] Mashable Space Shuttle Enterprise Damaged by Superstorm Sandy [PICS] | The top source for social and digital news (mashable.com)
- Thanks, New York, for taking care of the shuttle (chron.com)
- Space shuttle Enterprise damaged by Sandy (cbsnews.com)
- Part Of The Space Shuttle Enterprise May Have Been Torn Away During Superstom Sandy (businessinsider.com)
- Hurricane Sandy collapses shuttle Enterprise’s bubble dome (al.com)
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.
October 31, 2012
Much of the New York City skyline is seen sitting in darkness after superstorm Sandy, on October 30, pictured from Weehawkin, New Jersey. Sandy has forced the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Metropolitan Museum to close and left tens of thousands in the dark.
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, 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) 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:
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:
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. 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 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.
- The Power Outage Didn’t Divide NYC: Income Inequality Did (alternet.org)
- After Sandy: Scenes From the Darkness of Downtown Manhattan (nymag.com)
- The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy (theatlantic.com)
- More Resources On Wealth & Income Inequality (larryferlazzo.edublogs.org)
- Occupy Wall Street Celebrates Hurricane Damage in New York City (heritage.org)
- Manhattan Power Outages to Continue for Days: ConEd (insurancejournal.com)
- More than 760,000 Con Ed customers in NYC still without power (news.yahoo.com)
- Income Inequality in Action, Monkey-Style (freakonomics.com)
- Union membership down, income inequality up (economy.money.cnn.com)
- Inequality Is Real And Romney Would Only Make It Worse (businessinsider.com)