Archives for category: New York City

A report in the New York Times:


The looters tore off the plywood that boarded up Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, swarming by the dozens inside to steal whatever they could find before being chased down by the police. Others smashed the windows at a Nike store, grabbing shirts, jeans and zip-up jackets. They crashed into a Coach store, vandalized a Barnes & Noble, ransacked a Bergdorf Goodman branch and destroyed scores of smaller storefronts along the way.

The eruption of looting in the central business district of Manhattan — long an emblem of the New York’s stature and prowess — struck yet another blow to a city reeling from the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The mayhem late on Monday night and into the early morning marred otherwise peaceful protests conducted by thousands of people across the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd, and it touched off a new crisis for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Beginning Monday afternoon and growing wilder as night fell, small bands of young people dressed mostly in black pillaged chain stores, upscale boutiques and kitschy trinket stores in Midtown Manhattan, as the police at first struggled in vain to impose order.

Within hours, the normally vibrant center of wealth and upscale retail had descended into an almost clichéd vision of disorder: Streets were speckled with broken glass and trash can fires. Bands of looters pillaged stores without regard for nearby police officers. The screech of sirens echoed between skyscrapers.

By the early morning hours, a sense of lawlessness had set in.

After a weekend filled with shocking scenes of looting, scuffles between the police and protesters and destruction of police cars, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio announced Monday afternoon that they would deploy twice as many police officers and impose an 11 p.m. curfew.

The curfew succeeded in ending most of the peaceful protests before midnight. As for the looters, it seemed only to embolden them to start earlier in the day. Even before the curfew took effect, the mayor announced Monday night that the curfew on Tuesday would begin at 8 p.m. Protest organizers adjusted their schedules accordingly, timing Tuesday’s demonstrations to begin earlier in the afternoon; at least two were to begin in Manhattan before noon.

On Monday, protesters sometimes deputized themselves to stop the destruction and stealing. When one group shattered the windows of an Aldo shoe store in the afternoon, protesters rushed forward to push them away from the store, pulling one young man out of the broken window as he tried to climb inside.

“Stop doing this!” one distraught woman yelled, her friends holding her back as she lunged toward the looters. “George Floyd’s brother said not to do this! That is not what this is about!”

Several reporters and photographers for The New York Times witnessed numerous scenes of people setting upon storefronts all across Midtown. The police at first appeared outnumbered before eventually massing reinforcements and making arrests.

The mayor and police commissioner have attributed some of the violence during the protests to unidentified groups from outside the city and state, but there did not seem to be evidence of that overnight.

The Police Department said it had made 700 arrests, by far the most of any night since the protests began last week, and that several officers had been injured, including one being treated at a hospital in serious condition.

The mayhem was perhaps most serious at Macy’s flagship on 34th Street, one of the largest department stores in the world. Video showed scenes of chaos as fires burned on the street and looters began gathering in front of one of the blocked entryways.

One man repeatedly kicked the plywood as cheers erupted from other looters. When the door was broken, people raced inside, followed later by police officers dashing through the aisles, trying to catch them.

The Police Department confirmed on Tuesday morning that many looters had made it inside Macy’s and that “enforcement action” had been taken.

At a Nike store, dozens of people, mostly teenagers, broke in the front glass and entered the store, grabbing jeans, jackets and other apparel as the security alarm blared. Looters scurried in and out of the store, blanketing the sidewalk in empty hangers, while crowds of protesters berated them from the street.

“That’s not what this is about!” one group chanted.

Several minutes later, police sirens could be heard in the distance. But when officers arrived, they were too late: both the looters and the protest march they had splintered away from were long gone.

As Midtown drained of demonstrators, more swarms of marauders poured into the streets, smashing shop windows and rushing through already broken-into buildings.

As they hopped from store to store, they grabbed clothing and tried to grab jewelry from lockboxes. But many high-ticket items were left untouched. On Fifth Avenue, a crowd smashed the window of a Camper shoe store, but did not take the pair of $800 sneakers advertised prominently by the entrance.

A different group shattered the windows of a boutique tea shop, leaving a traffic cone hanging, nose out, through a hole in one of its windows. But they disturbed almost none of its merchandise, creating a surreal scene of smashed glass and delicate, carefully preserved tea sets — their bright red cups and saucers balanced in an avant-garde display.

It seemed for some that the desire to steal was less alluring than the thrill of destroying and, with few police officers cracking down, relishing in a powerful feeling of impunity.

Along Broadway, roving bands of young people dashed between destroyed stores and biked freely along the empty roads. Even as rows of police vans flanked the surrounding streets, the looters seemed to know that they were winning the game of cat and mouse with the police.

“They’re looting, causing damage, they didn’t come here to protest,” said one security guard on Broadway between 37th and 38th Streets, who declined to give his name. “One kid flashed his knife at me. It’s just a bunch of kids, no adults.”

Around 9 p.m., the guard watched as looters shattered the storefront at an Urban Outfitters two blocks away. The group then tore through the store, leaving hangers, clothes and display stands strewn across the floor in their wake.

An hour later — while the police stood within sight — people peered in to assess what merchandise was left. One man in a red sweatshirt jumped through a shattered glass panel and emerged seconds later with two large boxes in his hands.

On Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Gucci, Versace, Armani, Zara, and Salvatore Ferragamo had all armored their stores with plywood to protect against the swelling theft.

Others were frantically trying to do so, even as the looting wore on: At 10:45 p.m. outside a Santander Bank on 35th Street, construction workers sawed pieces of wood and boarded up the bank as small groups of young people passed them on the street and rummaged through already shattered stores.

On Seventh Avenue, Heidi Murga, 34, watched as a group of people broke into a FedEx store. After the looters dispersed, Ms. Murga, who works as a broker and lives in Midtown, decided to stand guard outside the store to ward off other bands of looters.

“I’m just going to stand here and pretend it’s my store, it’s what I can do,” she said. “This is not protest, this is violence, completely.”

She added: “I don’t like this at all, this is not the city I moved to.”

By the time the citywide curfew went into effect at 11 p.m., the mood had darkened: an air of anarchy seemed to metastasize across Midtown.

Just after 11, a group of looters approached Madison Jewelers on Broadway, where the glass storefront lay shattered, and forced open the store’s metal gate. With the store alarm blaring, young men foraged inside and dozens of others rushed to the scene. When an unmarked police car with its lights on passed the scene, it paused briefly — and then continued down 37th Street.

“This way! This way!” one looter yelled.

Minutes later, two police officers on bicycles sped toward the crowd, sending people fleeing down Broadway. The cops threw one man to the ground, but as they hand-tied him, another man in a gray sweatshirt pelted two large rocks at the officers before he was chased away.

An hour later, around 200 people flooded into Seventh Avenue chanting expletives about the curfew. As they approached two police vans, the cars pulled away — prompting a wave of applause from the crowd.

“If you want to peacefully protest, stay inside!” one young man bellowed through a megaphone. “If you want to do whatever you want, stay out here.”

When the group happened upon a New York-themed gift shop whose storefront had already been smashed open, they ransacked the store once again. As they tore through the merchandise, one person lobbed a Statue of Liberty figurine outside.

It landed, fractured, in the street.

This is a special virtual performance by the New York Philharmonic, playing Ravel’s “Bolero,” to honor the city’s brave healthcare workers.

Enjoy!

Ricard Carranza, NYC Schools Chancellor, says he can’t cut the schools’ $34 billion budget. He says has has cut the budget “to the bone.”

Advocates don’t agree.

There is no fat to cut, there is no meat to cut — we are at the bone,” Carranza testified Tuesday at a City Council budget hearing.

Education advocates and DOE staffers say his claim belies the bureaucratic bloat and bonanza of pay raises and promotions that have exploded during the tenures of Mayor de Blasio and Carranza.

“It’s just inconceivable there’s not waste in that budget,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters. “Clearly there are more savings that can be made by cutting unnecessary contracts, consultants, and the mid-level bureaucracy, which has more than doubled in spending since de Blasio took office in 2014….”

The city has proposed $827 million in DOE cuts, including slashing school budgets by $285 million. This would reduce arts programs, counselors and social workers in needy districts, and college-prep for high schoolers. The DOE would also put off new classes for 3-year-olds, installation of air conditioners, and rat extermination.

“Students are going to feel bigger class sizes … the reduction in services, the reduction in enrichment activities,” Carranza warned.

Instead of slashing programs that impact students, critics say, the DOE should chop away at the vast array of high-salaried supervisors, consultants and contractors who do not work in schools or directly serve kids.

The DOE employs 1,189 educrats making $125,000 to $262,000 a year. All have desk jobs at Tweed Courthouse or in borough offices, records obtained by The Post show. Of those, 50 execs take home $200,000-plus — more than double the 21 at that salary level in fiscal year 2018.

That does not count Carranza, who collects $363,000.

Despite the army of six-figure supervisors, the DOE still pays high-priced consultants.

The DOE just inked a two-month, $1.2 million contract with Accenture LLP to advise the chancellor on school-reopening options, including a mix of classroom and remote learning.

Accenture staffers bill up to $425 an hour. That’s on top of another three-year Accenture contract costing the DOE $1.7 million a year for management advice.

Eric (Chaz) Chasanoff died of COVID-19 at the age of 69. He was a greatly admired high school teacher and blogger. He started his blog “Chaz’s School Daze” in 2006 in response to the oppressive policies of the Bloomberg-Klein regime. He was an inspiration to other teachers and bloggers, including me.

The UFT honored him as a teacher and a fearless activist.

This was his assessment of the legacy of Joel Klein.

Here are his prescient thoughts on the failure of de Blasio’s chancellor to clean house and get rid of the Klein hires.

Here he is on Bloomberg’s failed policies.

He wrote this post a few weeks before he died.

I urge you to browse his blog. His was a strong, fearless, independent voice. He will be missed.

Sadly, with condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues, I add Chaz Chasanoff to this blog’s honor roll. A teacher who loved teaching, a fearless and relentless advocate for students and teachers. A teacher who spoke truth to power. A man of principle.

Andrew Cuomo has a longstanding dislike for teachers and public schools.

He made his disdain clear when he failed to appoint any current New York City educators to his “reimagine education” task force.

Why should he listen to teachers and principals when he can call Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt and other billionaires and CEOs to decide what schools should look like when they reopen?

If there is any consolation to this malign neglect, it is important to remember that Cuomo has no role in setting education policy. That job belongs to the New York State Board of Regents. According to the state constitution, the governor does not appoint either the state commissioner or the Board of Regents.

He is a kibitzer.

An expose in the New York Post revealed leaked emails in which the de Blasio administration promised to stall release of an investigation of substandard Yeshivas in exchange for Orthodox Jewish support of mayoral control of the New York City public schools in the state legislature. The substandard Yeshivas allegedly don’t teach English, science, or other secular subjects. The city was supposed to conduct an investigation but withheld the results until the legislature renewed mayoral control. YAFFED is an organization created by graduates of Yeshivas who believe they were cheated of a secular education.

Naftuli Moster Executive Director
naftuli@yaffed.org http://www.yaffed.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, May 11, 2020
Contact: Press@yaffed.org

Leaked emails reveal backroom deal to go slow on Yeshiva investigations; Mayor and top aides should be held accountable for denying children a basic education

Yaffed Calls on City and State to Enforce Education Laws After Bombshell Report of Stonewalling by New York City

New York, NY – A shocking new report confirms how New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio abused his power by interfering with a Department of Education investigation into allegations that tens of thousands of New York City children were being denied a basic education in Yeshivas. According to the leaked emails contained in the article, Mayor de Blasio was himself involved in offers to Ultra-Orthodox leaders to delay any DOE report on the investigation’s findings and to go “gentle” with the final report, in exchange for the extension of mayoral control in 2017, which was being held hostage by State Senators taking directions from leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community. The deal to delay the report was apparently made so that Senator Simcha Felder had time to ram through the “Felder Amendment,” which was an attempt to soften the legal requirement that these schools provide a “substantially equivalent” education and to derail the State Education Department’s ability to ensure the right of Yeshiva students to receive one.

As Naftuli Moster, executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (Yaffed ) said, “These internal emails confirm how Mayor de Blasio and his top officials abused their power by making a deal with Ultra-Orthodox leaders to interfere and delay the release of the findings of an investigation into the denial of the rights of tens of thousands of New York City children to receive a basic education. With these alarming facts now fully public, we are demanding immediate actions be taken to reverse the corrupt results of these unconscionable acts.
Today, we call on the City of New York and New York State to enforce the law without further delay, and for the Attorney General’s office to launch a probe into the corruption that these emails reveal.”

The organization Yaffed called for the following actions to occur:

1. The Board of Regents should immediately approve the long-delayed “substantial equivalency” regulations, first proposed almost two years ago on July 3, 2019; otherwise, they will be further rewarding and abetting the stonewalling efforts by Ultra-Orthodox leaders and the city.

2. The New York State Attorney General Letitia James should direct the Public Integrity Bureau of her office to launch an investigation into the actions of the Mayor and his top aides, to determine whether the various favors made and promised to the Ultra-Orthodox leaders in return for renewing mayoral control were legal.

3. The New York City Department of Education (DOE) should release publicly all their findings on the education provided by individual Yeshivas and together with the State, develop a plan to enforce “substantial equivalency” as soon as possible, so it can be quickly and efficiently implemented when schools are back in session.

4. The DOE and SED should ensure that during the coronavirus crisis, all Yeshiva students are receiving adequate secular instruction via remote learning.

5. Deputy Chancellor Karin Goldmark, who appears to have been responsible for orchestrating this deal to sacrifice the education of tens of thousands of Yeshiva students, should be asked to immediately resign.

6. The leaders of the State Legislature, Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the respective Chairs of the Education Committees in the State Legislature, Assemblymember Michael Benedetto and Senator Shelley Mayer, should make it a priority to repeal the Felder Amendment, which was passed as a result of this disgraceful deal between the Mayor and Ultra-Orthodox leaders to delay the investigation into the Yeshivas.
###

Susan Edelman, investigative reporter on education issues, reports on emails showing that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a deal with Orthodox Jewish leaders—a powerful voting bloc in the city and state politics—to stall an investigation of shoddy yeshivas in exchange for their support in the state legislature renewing mayoral control of the New York City public schools.

Edelman writes:

Mayor Bill de Blasio was personally involved in a deal with Orthodox Jewish leaders to delay a long-awaited report on shoddy yeshivas in exchange for an extension of mayoral control of city schools, emails obtained by The Post show.

Internal emails among de Blasio and his top aides at City Hall and the Department of Education reveal that the mayor made key phone calls to the powerful religious leaders to clinch the support of two state lawmakers voting on his power to run the nation’s largest school system.

“These internal communications reveal what we suspected all along: Mayor de Blasio abused his power by interfering with the yeshiva investigation,” said Nafuli Moster, founder and executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED). The group filed complaints against 39 Brooklyn yeshivas in July 2015 for allegedly shortchanging children on secular subjects such as math, English, science and history.

The DOE launched an investigation of the yeshivas, but as it dragged on, critics charged City Hall was delaying the probe to curry favor with the Orthodox Jewish voting bloc.

Even an investigation of the mayor’s suspected interference was stalled, whistle-blowers told The Post. In response to that complaint, the Department of Investigation and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools finally issued a report last December confirming “political horsetrading” on the mayoral control issue.

YAFFED—an organization of former yeshiva students—has lodged complaints against many yeshivas for failing to prepare students to live in modern society while collecting millions of dollars in city and state funding.

Parents in New York City are pleading with Mayor DeBlasio NOT to cut the budget of the public schools. Please add your name to their petition to Corey Johnson, Speaker of the City Council.

All –

Please help NYC public school students by signing and circulating this petition directed to Corey Johnson, Speaker of City Council, to stop Mayor DeBlasio’s proposed 827 million dollar budget cut to NYC public schools. The idea that when our kids – and kids across NYC – return to school they will have even fewer resources than they had pre-COVID, at a time when so many need more, is simply wrong. After months of compromised learning and, for many students tremendous loss in their families and communities, children will need additional academic and socio-emotional support – but the proposed budget cuts will guarantee they get less.

There are many competing needs in our city right now. As public school parents and educators who have worked in and with high schools for over 25 years, we can confidently say that if school funding is not prioritized in the upcoming budget, it will be an unmitigated disaster – not only for the next school year, but for the long term. Please read this petition, sign it and circulate it far and wide. For this to make a difference, it needs to reach thousands of people.

Thank you!

xox,
Lori and Ben

The New Yorker describes an act of civic generosity:

The New York Four Seasons is not the most welcoming hotel, architecturally speaking. Designed by I. M. Pei and situated on East Fifty-seventh Street, between Madison and Park, it greets visitors with an intimidating slab of limestone façade and a metal awning that seems to want to clobber you. Reviewing the building in the Times when it opened, in 1993, Paul Goldberger was taken by “a reception desk that looks like a Judgment Day platform.” Rooms now start at twelve hundred and ninety-five dollars. Or they did, two months ago.

Like so many businesses, the Four Seasons closed in March. On April 2nd it reopened, transformed into the city’s cheapest and most civic-minded hotel—the first to host health-care workers free of charge. As of last week, there were a hundred and sixty such guests, sleeping, showering, and enjoying grab-and-go meals between long shifts of attempting to save the lives of covid-19 patients. All are screened each time they enter the hotel, which is now using its more human-scaled entrance on East Fifty-eighth Street. Nurses take temperatures and run through checklists of symptoms before people are admitted to the “green zone” (or banished to the “red zone” for possible off-site treatment). Videos provided by the Four Seasons show that the lobby’s usual cadre of super-attentive valets, bellhops, and concierges has been replaced by impassive metal stanchions, green directional arrows, and yellow crime-scene tape to enforce social distancing, although the onyx, marble, and soaring ceilings remain.

The New Yorker’s coronavirus news coverage and analysis are free for all readers.
“It’s basically hospital housing, but Four Seasons-style,” explained Dr. Dara Kass, an E.R. physician at Columbia University Medical Center, speaking on the phone from her eighth-floor room. “You know why you’re here when you walk into the building,” she said, describing the lobby’s vibe as “purposeful.” But, she added, “the bed itself is still a Four Seasons bed.” Like many guests, she was keeping away from home so as not to expose her family to the virus; Kass has a son with a compromised immune system due to a liver transplant. “This room was really a godsend,” she said. “I have so many doctor friends who are living in their basements, or a closet. I have friends who have rented Airbnbs. I have a friend who rented an R.V. She and her husband are both E.R. doctors, and their daughter had a liver transplant like my son did, so they moved to the R.V. in the driveway and their au pair is living with the children inside the house.”…

The New York Four Seasons took this mission on at the prompting of its owner, Ty Warner, the Beanie Baby mogul. Rudy Tauscher, the hotel’s general manager, organized the operational changes—effected in a mere five days—with the help of International SOS, a medical and travel-security consultancy.

The Bald Piano Guy is a very clever public school teacher in Great Neck, New York, who posts musical videos on YouTube expressing his views about education and politics, always with a smile. I erred in thinking he was a NYC teacher.

In this video, he has advice for Betsy DeVos:

Go back to selling Amway/
Teaching really isn’t your thing.”