One Year of OWS – What Has and What Hasn’t Changed in Bloomberg’s NY

NYPD – on S17 (says it all?)

A really good recap of Occupy Wall Street, the unprovoked and needless arrests by Mayor Bloomberg’s NYPD, his “army,” as he (sadly) likes to say), and what OWS means on its one year anniversary which (many) people tend to forget, by Allison Kilkenny of The Nation:

It was one of the largest turnouts since the early days of Occupy, but Monday was also exceptional because of the high arrest figures. More than 180 individuals, including journalists, were arrested, and in at least some of these cases, the police were arresting individuals arbitrarily and without cause.

Protesters reported, and I witnessed first-hand, police dragging individuals off of sidewalks (previously considered the “safe space” of activists who don’t wish to participate in direct action and go to jail) into the street where they were then arrested. When press attempted to rush forth to photograph these arrests, the police formed a wall and aggressively shoved back journalists, making it difficult to document the actions.

At one point, a NYPD white shirt supervising officer told a group of journalists, “You can’t stand and take more pictures. That’s over with.”

“I just got out of jail. Was arrested despite screaming over and over that I’m a journalist,” Chris Faraone, aBoston Phoenix staff writer, tweeted.

Julia Reinhart, a photojournalist, was also arrested even through she was wearing identification that listed her as a member of the National Press Photographers Association.

Another journalist from WPIX was arrested Monday, as was journalist and illustrator Molly Crabapple and independent journalist John Knefel. Knefel’s sister, Molly, described the arrest as “violent and unprovoked.”

Later in the evening, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams was assaulted in Zuccotti Park by the NYPD. Protester Jeff Rae photographed a NYPD officer jamming his baton into the councilman’s chest.

Reports emerged almost immediately that the anniversary was a flop, or in the words of the New York TImes‘ Aaron Ross Sorkin, the event “fizzled,” a diagnosis preordained by a media that has never been particularly friendly to a movement it failed to understand in the first place. Sorkin is a Times‘ financial columnist who only first checked out OWS “after getting a call from the chief executive of a major bank,” who wanted to know how worried he and his CEO buddies should be about the movement. Sorkin dutifully hurried down to Zuccotti.

To say “Occupy is dead” is to misunderstand everything about the movement. Occupy can’t die as long as the dire conditions that inspired the creation of the movement continue to exist. In speaking with protesters, one can easily see all of their grievances are still real and present. One protester summarized the current state of Occupy nicely as he carried a sign around Zuccotti that read: “Nothing has changed.”

Students are still buried under loan debt. People are still losing their homes. People still can’t afford health care, and they still can’t survive on minimum wage jobs.

… and …

No revolutionary force is without ebb and flows — that is without question — but it’s been interesting to watch the establishment media rush to slap a bow on the “Occupy story” and force a “The End” onto the movement. There is a borderline obsession in the media with numbers, as though there’s a direct correlation between protester turnout and the “seriousness” of a protest — as though small groups of highly dedicated individuals haven’t inspired real, lasting change in the past.

Several media outlets alluded to the “good ol’ days” of Occupy, and how this new Occupy is only a shadow of its former self. As if these aren’t the same media outlets who also dismissed the old Occupy, as well. Hundreds aren’t as important as thousands, who aren’t as important as millions, and the point is Occupy was never, ever going to impress the mainstream media, and so they never aimed to.

What else hasn’t changed? The media and its reporting, its deference to Mike Bloomberg, its ignoring of how the NYPD horrifically treats peaceful protest (and gets away with it), how the other city agencies (City Council? any kind of regulating agency? Public Advocate?) look the other way, the way Mayor Bloomberg acts as if there aren’t real problems in the city while catering to his soft drink obsession. I could go on. I was one of those people who hoped initially OWS would go further but, really, how could it in this climate outlined so well by Allison Kilkenny above?

Occupy Wall Street infused an energy into the idea that the world could and will change, a belief that had been somewhat extinguished or at least was so under the radar amongst any of us who hoped for – and worked for – real change. Many people buy into the media’s characterization(s) of the whole thing and they, and their corporate bosses, who are threatened by it, know this.

This movement speaks to pretty much all of us. Carry on.

Photo: reclaimuc

Also worth reading: Salon.com by David Sirota, Media: Stop Sucking up to Bloomberg August 22, 2012

NY Post Op-Ed: Get a spine, (Christine) Quinn

Christine Quinn 2009 Ribbon Cutting Ceremony WSP Phase I

An Op-Ed worth reading in today’s New York Post by Michael Goodwin on Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker, her run for Mayor 2013 (fingers crossed that Mike Bloomberg will be ready to vacate the office by then!), and the lack of oversight by the City Council under her watch:

The council speaker is trying desperately to be all things to all people. She believes she can become the next mayor by splitting all the babies in half.

Stop-and-frisk, wage mandates, economic development, education, union power, taxing and spending — she tries always to thread the needle between competing interests. Only on gay rights is she consistently principled, although her overreach in trying to close down the Chick-fil-A store at NYU revealed a militant streak.

As unappealing as her behavior in that incident was, her approach to other policies isn’t much better. Quinn is no Bill Clinton when it comes to triangulating. Her “third way” is mostly a ham-handed effort to simultaneously pander to opposites.

Thus, she wants the business community to believe she shares its concerns about wage and sick-leave laws, while telling the unions her heart is with them on the same issues. She collected money from both sides, and both now demand their piece of flesh.

Whatever she decides, her formula for governing is doomed to fail because there is no clear guiding principle. If she were to use that calculating, transactional approach as mayor, City Hall would resemble an auction house, with all bidders assuming they would get something for their money. Prosecutors and newspapers would have a field day.

Quinn has been able to get by up to now because she is hiding under the wings of Mayor Bloomberg. His power and money shelter her, and she has repaid him by acting more as a deputy mayor than the head of the legislative branch. He owes her for that, and for organizing the votes that allowed them both a third term.

It is worth noting that, of the big scandals involving Bloomberg’s contracts on technology and other private vendors, none was uncovered by the City Council. Agency oversight has rarely been strong in the council, but under Quinn, it is an oxymoron.

At heart, Quinn is not a reformer. She is a creature of the clubhouse and advocacy worlds, with taxpayer cash and special-interest logrolling the coins of her realm.

If you missed the recent New York Times piece on Ms. Quinn’s home life on weekends in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, it’s worth reading more for its puff piece quality than anything else. (I’ll add link in later.)

Union Square Park Site of “New Occupation;” Bloomberg/NYPD Violence as Park Shut Down Last Night; Vandana Shiva to Appear There Thursday Noon

Union Square Park has become the site of the new Occupy Wall Street “occupation.” If you have not been following, here is the OWS primer on it.

After an NYPD crack down at Zuccotti Park this past weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out with some characteristically bullying, over the top statements – to show he’s in a charge – illustrating both his lack of understanding of what protest means, why people are protesting, and further confirming the fact that this is threatening to him and his corporate cronies if it is actually allowed to happen.

People began moving in to Union Square over the weekend. Last night, the NYPD became violent when more people attempted to sleep overnight. This timeline from OWS is an alarming recounting of the police disruption, violence and ultimate departure as the sun began rising over Union Square. The park was even shut down for a time by Mayor Bloomberg’s “army.”

Gothamist posted this tweet from Twitter:

“I have lived in for 15 years & I have never seen shut down, not even after 9/11. Who is the terrorist now ?

Bloomberg just shows his true colors more and more. Meanwhile, Forbes is salivating over the possibility that Mike might go on to take over Goldman Sachs post the end of his third term as NYC Mayor (will it ever end?) after showing up there recently to give the workers a pep talk.

Vandana Shiva

On to true heroesPeople LOVE Vandana Shiva and she will be speaking at Union Square this Thursday, March 22nd!  It is the OWS Sustainability and the Environmental Solidarity Working Group which is presenting this talk with the “Renowned Physicist and Environmental Activist” on the “Necessity of Taking Back our Food System and the Possibilities for Occupying Global Agriculture.” She will speak at 12 noon at Union Square’s Southern End (14th Street); it’s free.

You might recall there was an attempt to Occupy Washington Square which didn’t quite work out but really Union Square is much better suited.

Vandana Shiva web site

p.s. This video is quite moving and shows what happened on March 17th beginning with the sweet vibe going on at Zuccotti Park and the total contrast once the NYPD moved in:

Occupy Washington Square — Welcome!

Live Feed Projected Onto the Arch

Updated 2:15 p.m. — All this blogger can say is “It’s about time!” Washington Square Park has been feeling a bit dead in terms of activism and protest and just overall spirit since Phase I of the Bloomberg Administration’s dramatic redesign, the Fountain Plaza, opened in May of 2009. It is, uh, refreshing to find people using it for this purpose, for the ‘greater good,’ and a way for all of us, who see the opportunity for a much different world and ways of being — certainly markedly distinct from the one offered here in NYC under Mayor Michael Bloomberg — to join in.

The Arch was again barricaded last night — a police officer told me last week, when I asked “Does the Arch need defending?,” that this was so, in a large crowd, people didn’t get “smushed” — although, a live feed was projected onto it. The fountain was not barricaded and people met within it.

What is projected on the Arch says — “Discussing a proposal to hold GA at wash sq park every day of the week. #OWS” It was voted on to hold a meeting at Washington Square every day of this week. I was told 5:30 p.m. and that this will be in addition to the GA at Zuccotti Park.

Yes, I know the Parks Department has rules about not staying in the Park after midnight – but we as people in this city are so used to honoring and obeying rules at this point; we are so used to having cameras everywhere and presenting ID everywhere we go – it wasn’t so long ago that we weren’t all so used to being so rigid and monitored.

This administration has gotten away with so much – Bloomberg’s coddling and wooing of developers, corporations, media, business improvement districts, and the Mayor’s affluent friends while paying off non-profits and arts organizations essentially buying their silence tipped the scale further in favor of the 1% in NYC. The rest of us have not had the space to fight back. But now we do. Third term blues? Couldn’t happen to a more deserving target.

Keep it coming, Occupy Washington Square!

Post-Meeting in the Fountain with the Arch

Today marks one month of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park and the start of events and protests that have transpired since.

Photos: Cathryn

Triangle Factory Fire Event – Plus Mainstream Media Omits Response to the Mayor from Reports

The Street After the Event

Signs were held with names of the 146 workers who died

Original Site Greene & Washington Place

Breaking Down Event (Washington Sq Park in background)

The Triangle Factory Fire occurred on March 25, 1911 and killed 146 workers, mostly young women. As I wrote last week, this past Friday marked the 100th Anniversary of the fire. I attended the annual commemoration at the site, one block from Washington Square Park. You wouldn’t know from any of the major NYC media reports that when Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke, he was not welcomed, and was, in fact, steadily booed. (Despite really wanting to hear the Mayor’s speech to witness exactly this – what the crowd’s response to him would be – I dashed over to Think Coffee and missed him! Luckily, there is YouTube.)

It appears Agence France-Presse was the only major news agency to report it. Was the Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary event considered so prestigious that the media did not want to tarnish the Mayor’s tenuous image further? (Google “Bloomberg booed at St. Patrick’s Day Parade” and then “Bloomberg booed at Triangle Fire” to see how this works. One will reveal mainstream media reports; the other will not.) Of course, there is YouTube and many bloggers and other sites that are more than willing to write about this. Still, it’s a bit curious.

One downside to how the event was set up – NYPD set up barricades splitting the crowd between the event’s three block radius on Washington Place, leaving Mercer Street, for example, open (but not to access the event). It dissipated the synergy of the crowd and didn’t make the event safer (the “pens” make everything feel less safe).

* Previous WSP Blog post: Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration March 25th

* Many photos of the event, including a procession from Union Square, at Staten Island Bob’s site.

Worth Checking Out — “The Bloomberg Era” by Photo Blogger Nathan Kensinger

Chez Brigitte, West Village, For Rent

As 2009 came to a close, Photo Blogger Nathan Kensinger put together an excellent photo and comprehensive written essay summing up “The Bloomberg Era.” It is worth a look ! This links to Part I (Part II is coming!).

Note: the photos on this site are not his but he is an excellent photographer and has captured the changing face of NYC and destructive nature of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies on the character of our city’s neighborhoods at his blog.

Kensinger writes:

The Bloomberg administration focused on transforming the city’s landscape from its very first days in office. As the NY Times wrote in 2009, “the administration’s economic development policies started with a simple concept: New York must grow to compete with other cities. Development became the means toward that end.” Bloomberg’s pro-development policies created “a historic re-envisioning of New York City, one that loosened the reins on development across the boroughs and pushed more than 100 rezoning measures through a City Council that stamped them all into law... across the city, residential construction doubled under Mr. Bloomberg, to more than 30,000 units a year from 2004 through 2008… Construction spending has also doubled since he took office, reaching a high of $32 billion in 2008.”

Donuts Coffee Shop, Park Slope, No Longer

Not only has the residential landscape changed dramatically under the Bloomberg Administration but the hyper development has led to overarching changes to the type of businesses that can afford to operate – and survive – in the city.

Kensinger’s essay continues:

With the loss of small businesses, the commercial landscape of New York re-oriented towards chain stores – with cookie-cutter exteriors – that could afford to pay exorbitant rents. By mid-decade, New York’s commercial streetscape had become dominated by redundancy. A multitude of sterile bank branches opened, while chains like Duane Reade and Starbucks placed multiple store locations within a few blocks of each other, to monopolize neighborhoods. For the first time, big-box-stores were allowed to enter the city, like Home Depot in 2004 and Ikea in 2008, further endangering small businesses. Virginie-Alvine Perrette’s award-winning documentary “Twilight Becomes Night” (2008) perfectly encapsulated the loss of small businesses in New York, stating that “large chains, public policy and high rents” were putting NYC’s “locally owned stores… on a consistent path towards extinction.”

See the entire essay here.

Photo #1: Jeremoss

Photo #2: Benzado

Why you should not vote for Mike Bloomberg for Mayor Tomorrow Election Day NYC!

Updated 1:53 p.m.

Tomorrow, Tuesday November 3rd, is Election Day for Mayor, City Council, and other races in New York City. The Mayoral election is very important. Please vote! — for anyone but Mike Bloomberg.

Here are some reasons why

* The Bloomberg Administration has shown no regard – or use for – community input, planning, and participation.  In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not care about maintaining the character and uniqueness of our city. That’s been evident throughout the “process” of the redesign of Washington Square Park and many other places – Yankee Stadium (destroyed parkland and corporation giveaways), Union Square, Willets Point, Atlantic Yards, etc. etc.  His policies are affecting the way NYC actually functions, how we relate to one another and the cultural vibrancy of the city — it goes across the board and into many spectrums.

* Mike Bloomberg has given deals to developers and corporations and in return the city is not affordable and losing its diversity. Mayor Mike’s wealth last year alone increased by $4.5 billion to $16 billion.  He may take a salary of $1 a year but, believe me, he is making it up in many other ways.

* Mayor Mike has bought off any political group, politician or non-profit he can who might dare speak against him and his policies – and unfortunately these groups and people have been easily bought.  Not to mention how the media in New York is largely in his pocketNew York magazine recently reported how the publishers of all three major dailies cater to the Mayor and are often seen at Bloomberg events, sitting together, when he beckons.

* Of course, there’s also his manipulating the overturning of voted-in term limits, but that almost seems mild (and not unexpected) compared to 8 years of the above.

Consider Bill Thompson(Democratic Party), Reverend Billy Talen(Green Party) or the guy from the Rent is Too Damn High Party! (Note: he has his own catchy song at his site! He might deserve a vote for that alone. Jimmy McMillan, Line I. — — oops. 11/6 – they changed the song at the site!) Anyone but Mike Bloomberg.

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For some great reading on why you should not vote for Mayor Michael Bloomberg (the candidate who bought himself many affiliations this election and has, over the years, switched from Democrat-to-Republican-to-Independent, based on whichever ‘served’ him), jump over to Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York Blog where he has a great entry today, “Just Say No”.

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Previous Washington Square Park Blog entry:  The Blanding of New York City: Why It’s Time for Mayor Mike to Go.

Next NYC Mayoral Debate Tuesday, Oct. 27th, 7 p.m.; Two Male Candidates, All Male Reporters will Conduct “Debate”

The next NYC Mayoral Debate will be held Tuesday, October 27th from 7- 8 p.m. between (candidate-with-multiple-paid-for-party-affiliations-but-declared-as) Independent Michael Bloomberg and Democratic Party Candidate William Thompson.  It will air on WABC-TV, 1010 WINS Radio, and at 7online.com.

All New York City election debates are presented by the Campaign Finance Board.  There are ONLY two debates between the candidates for Mayor of New York City. New Yorkers only get to hear from the more moderate candidates from the “major” parties, basically those with major corporate and political ties. There are actually seven other candidates running on other party lines and it would be far more interesting – and informative – if Reverend Billy Talen (Green Party) and the guy from the Rent is Too Damn High Party, among all the others, were included.

Last week’s debate was broadcast on NY1 and WNYC Radio.  The moderator was Dominic Carter from NY1 and the press panel asking questions of the two male candidates were all men.  I thought… it’s one debate. That certainly can’t happen for the other debate. Oh, how wrong I was. While diversity as far as race seems to have been given consideration, gender … not so muchThere’s not one woman included in this all male club.  Seems hard to imagine in New York City but, given the political (and cultural) climate, I shouldn’t be surprised.

Here’s the info for the next Mayoral debate:

MODERATOR: Bill Ritter (WABC-TV)

REPORTER PANEL:  Dave Evans (WABCTV), Antonio Martinez (UNIVISION), Stan Brooks (1010 WINS)

Here is the general information as far as format:

Candidates will answer questions from reporters on the panel, pre-taped questions from voters and viewer emails.  http://www.7online.com also will be open during the debate to take live voter questions.  WABC web producer will screen those emails before adding them to the debate.  Questions will reflect the interests and concerns of a diverse voting population.

Response Time, Follow Up Questions, Rebuttal, Re-rebuttal:  Candidates will be allowed 60 seconds to answer each question, 30 seconds for rebuttal.  (Stage manager will hold up cards indicating 15 sec, 5 sec, and time up)   For production and timing purposes, the moderator may choose to break up longer rounds with questions requiring short answers.

Props, Notes:  Candidates may not use visual aids, charts, prepared notes, or electronic devices on the set.

Pads, Pen:  Candidates will be provided with a blank pad of paper and pen at their podiums for the purpose of making notes during the Debate.

Closing Statement:  Candidates may make a 60 second closing statement.

The debate will take place at:  WABC Studio, 7 Lincoln Square (149 Columbus Avenue), Manhattan.

Oh, and if you have anything you want to comment on to the Campaign Finance Board in advance (like, say, why there is not at least one woman reporter as a panelist), here is contact information:

NYC Campaign Finance Board:  email:  AKonstam-at-nyccfb.info; 40 Rector Street, 7th floor, NYC 10006; phone # 212/306-7100.

WABC here : eyewitness.news-at-abc.com  or WABC-TV, 7 Lincoln Square, NY, NY 10003; phone # 212/456-7000.

On Yankee Stadium: Replacement Parkland now 67% over initial projected cost … and about those tax-free bonds

The Yankee Stadium “replacement” Parkland costs, originally projected at $ 116.1 million, have now risen 67% to close to $195 million, according to a report released yesterday by the Independent Budget Office as reported in Crain’s New York Business.

The only reason we know this is due to the fact that the Independent Budget Office is “a city agency that operates independent of the mayor.” I didn’t know any existed — agencies operating outside of the mayor’s reign — so this is mildly reassuring!

The article attributes “design revisions, project additions, unanticipated cleanup of hazardous materials and construction inflation” as the reason for the skyrocketing costs given by the NYC Parks Department.

Community members dispute this claim:

“Joyce Hogi, a member of Community Board 4’s parks committee and a longtime area resident, said community members told the city it was underestimating the amount of environmental remediation that needed to be done, but that its warnings went nowhere. “We knew the costs of the parks were going to escalate,” she said. “During our protests, we said ‘there are tanks under the soil, there’s remediation that needs to be done.’”

And, “while the Yankees are financing the stadium — with the help of city and state subsidies — the parks are being paid for by the city.”

So, the city gave the Yankees 1 and 1/2 parks(all of Macomb Dams Park and part of John Mullaly Park), 22 acres of parkland, in the green-space challenged South Bronx, to then be re-distributed into “eight smaller parks” (some on top of parking garages!). (Doesn’t exactly sound like a good deal, does it?)

And then there are those tax-free bonds. Sports writer Mike Lupica gave a great overview in the New York Daily News on January 17th which is worth reading:

The Yankees had a perfect right to make the best possible deal for themselves, even though somebody like the IRS is eventually going to ask why the assessed value of the land the Yankees needed to build the new Yankee Stadium went from $26 million to $204 million one day because that’s what the bond underwriters wanted.

Nobody ever doubted that the Yankees, and the Mets, would get the additional tax-free bonds the city’s Industrial Development Agency gave them Friday. The IDA does what it is told by Bloomberg the way our valiant City Council does on term limits.

You are not supposed to say no to this mayor. You are not supposed to say no to the Yankees when they want an additional $370 million in these tax-free bonds (on top of the nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds they’ve received originally). All you are supposed to do is this: When told this is a sweetheart deal for the city instead of for the Yankees, you are supposed to nod your head and act grateful.

These aren’t stadium deals between Bloomberg and the baseball teams. They are mergers. And Bloomberg needs them as much as the Yankees and Mets do. Because without them, New Yorkers would start asking this mayor who promised big, huge growth projects where those projects are.

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Today’s New York Times has additional information in its article, “Report Cites Unexplained Costs of New Parks in the Bronx” (apparently $16 million is unaccounted for), to which the Parks Department responds: basically, that’s “old news.” Story here.