News from WNYC New York Public Radio Listen to short and long New York City stories from WNYC, New York Public Radio.

News from WNYC New York Public Radio

From WNYC Radio

Listen to short and long New York City stories from WNYC, New York Public Radio.More from News from WNYC New York Public Radio »

Most Recent Episodes

New Jersey's Voting Machines Are Vulnerable to Hacking

Next month, New Jersey residents will head to the polls to cast their votes for the state's next governor. But election watchdogs are warning that New Jersey voting machines on are at high risk of cyberattack—and it would be simple for a hacker to manipulate results without a trace. As Aaron Sankin reported for Reveal, New Jersey is one of only a handful of states to use voting machines that don't use paper ballots as a backup in case its digital systems fail. Without a verifiable paper trail, election officials might never know if the machines have been compromised. "If someone writes their vote down on a piece of paper, that's a thing that's hard to hack," Sankin told WNYC's Jami Floyd. "When it comes to the overall security of the election, there is a general consensus that paper ballots are superior."

5 Top Questions Voters Have for New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidates

When Republican candidate Kim Guadagno says property taxes are the number one issue in the 2017 gubernatorial campaign, she may be right. WNYC asked for voters' questions (submit your question here), and the most frequent requests were surprising. 1. Property Taxes Voters want to know how the candidates will lower them, and in a sign that many New Jersey residents are frustrated with the promises of previous governors, many people want to know if the next governor would decline to run for re-election if they don't fulfill their pledge. 2. The Environment Admittedly, this is a broad category. But we've received almost as many questions about the environment as taxes. Voters want to know about climate change, restrictions on building pipelines, conserving open space (most notably the Pinelands and the Highlands), protecting drinking water and reducing pollution. 3. Affordable Housing Some New Jersey voters want more affordable housing, but a large number of questions include complaints about the state's landmark law that requires every town to build it. Many complain about over-development, or high-density apartment complexes, and they want to know what the candidates will do to conserve the suburban feel of their town. 4. Public Employee Pensions It's no surprise that many people want to know what the candidates will do about the pension system, which is underfunded and has caused the state to have its credit rating downgraded. The pension system serves some 760,000 people, both current and former workers, and it is likely to cause taxes to rise in the state. 5. Politics This category is catch-all for a variety of questions that include what the candidates will do to stop President Trump from harming the state. Voters also are concerned about corruption, transparency, and elected officeholders who hold two or three government positions. Alexander Gonzalez contributed to this report.

What To Do About Guns? NJ Governor Candidates Disagree

With an election just weeks away, New Jersey's two leading candidates for governor are describing their vastly different plans for regulating firearms. The issue is receiving fresh attention, following a mass shooting in Las Vegas in which a man killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds more, using a vast cache of guns. On Sunday, Republican candidate Kim Guadagno, New Jersey's Lieutenant Governor, gave the keynote address to the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, an NRA-affiliated group. Guadagno said, "We have to enhance penalties for people who illegally use guns in this state — perhaps. We have to enhance our enforcement of people who illegally use guns in this state — perhaps. We should consider stricter mental health backgrounds in the event that something like Nevada could ever happen here. And quite frankly, if you want to be honest about it, we should institute the death penalty for someone who does something like that." The Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, took his own life. He reportedly purchased his firearms legally. In a statement on the website Ammoland, Scott Bach, the executive director of the ANJRPC said "the Lieutenant Governor's historic appearance marks the first time a member of New Jersey's executive branch has addressed an annual meeting of law-abiding gun owners." New Jersey has some of the nation's strictest gun laws. But Democrat Phil Murphy said they should be further tightened. His website includes a long list of policy proposals, including taxing firearms sales, and requiring weapons safety training for all buyers. Guadagno on Sunday accused Murphy of "a knee jerk political reaction" to the Las Vegas massacre. Krista Jenkins of the PublicMind poll at Fairleigh Dickinson University said after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, New Jerseyans were broadly supportive of more gun control. "What we found is that by a sizeable majority New Jerseyans were very comfortable with doing things like reinstating an assault weapons ban or limiting the number of bullets that can be housed in a single magazine," Jenkins said. In May, Gov. Chris Christie made it easier to get a gun carry permit in New Jersey.

This Week in Politics: The Fight to Run Westchester County

While the candidates running for the top positions in New Jersey and New York City have been getting all the attention, there's another race that could be much closer than either of them: Westchester County executive. There, two-term incumbent Rob Astorino, a Republican, is being challenged by state Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat. Even though Westchester has twice as many registered Democrats than Republicans, the top county position generally goes to the GOP because more Republicans turn out in off-year elections, according to Mark Lungariello, investigative reporter for The Journal News. This time might be different because of anti-Trump sentiment. "I do think we are going to see a slight uptick [for Democrats.] If it's enough to affect the race, that remains to be seen," Lungariello told WNYC host David Furst. "It's one of the toughest elections to call."

Uber Speeds Up, Tops Taxi Rides For The First Time

New Yorkers called ride-shares instead of hailing cabs about 12,000 more times a day in July, according to information from the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). That's out of about 289,000 total rides. App-based car services like Uber and Lyft made the most significant gains in boroughs where the city's iconic yellow cabs rarely venture, said Meera Joshi, who heads the TLC. "A lot of people are using them as a primary mode of transportation or to connect to public transportation," she said. "Historically, yellow cabs have stayed in Manhattan and that hasn't changed much." A full 90 percent of all yellow cab rides began in Manhattan, compared with just one percent in Brooklyn and zero for the Bronx and Staten Island. Seven percent of yellow cab rides began in Queens, home of the city's two airports. App-based ride-shared have about a 50-50 split between Manhattan and the other boroughs. Joshi lauded an expansion of transportation options for outer borough residents, but said she has her reservations given what she called "a price-cut war." "As consumers are paying less and less [for ride-shares]," she said, "We need to be mindful of whether that's affecting the drivers' bottom line and if they are also making less and less."

Responding to the Rohingya Crisis

More than 500,000 Muslims have fled Myanmar since late August, under persecution from the country's Buddhist majority. The U.N. has called the violence in Myanmar "textbook ethnic cleansing." Myanmar officials deny that. Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director of the Islamic Center at NYU, recently traveled with Islamic Relief USA to Bangladesh, where the Rohingya refugee population has settled. "Every single person said that they had loved ones that had been burned alive," he said. Latif urged New Yorkers to donate to relief agencies and to press U.S. legislators for action on Myanmar. "They said every day another thousand people are crossing the border [into Bangladesh]," he said. "What's ultimately killing a lot of these men and women is just indifference."

One Idea for Boosting Turnout: Let 17-Year-Olds Vote

Today is the deadline to register to vote in time for New York City's November general election. (If you're registering in New York for the first time, your form must be postmarked by today. If you're already registered but want to change your party affiliation in time for next June's primary, your change of enrollment must be received by the Board of Elections by today. You can handle the latter in person at a county BOE office). And, thanks to the 26th Amendment, you can do so if you're 18. If you're 17, you cannot. For now. New York State Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, whose district includes Park Slope, Brooklyn, has sponsored a bill called the Young Voter Act that would lower the voting age to 17. He drafted the bill with the aid of some local teens. Eli Frankel, a student at Bard High School on the Lower East Side, told WNYC that "at 18, you're moving out of the house, you're trying to figure out where you're going to college, where you're going to be living, whether you'll get a job, and voting kind of seems not so big in comparison." "Once you go off to college," added Frankel's classmate, Chris Stauffer, "it's confusing as hell to fill out an absentee ballot." The hope is that by allowing registration before students turn 18, they'll have the bandwidth to not only vote, but develop a habit of doing so. "If you don't become an active voter by the time you're 25, you're never likely to become an active voter," Assembly Member Carroll told WNYC, citing a study that was referenced in The Economist. "You might vote here or there, but you're not going to vote regularly. And as so many of us know, some of the most important elections happen in midterm years." Part of the bill also includes a requirement that New York high school students receive at least eight hours of civics instruction, and that on their 17th birthdays, that students be handed a voter registration form. "I think that when you are taught from a young age the importance of voting and how to do it," Bard High student Max Shatan told WNYC, "and when you're instilled with a sense that it's your civic duty to vote in these elections, no matter how unimportant they may seem, people will vote more often." The voting age hasn't always been 18. When the Vietnam War started, citizens still needed to be 21 to register. Then Congress decided, if 18-year-olds could be sent into combat, they should be allowed to vote, as well. The 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971. Assembly Member Carroll's office hopes the Election Law Committee will take up the Young Voter Act, which was introduced in April.

Review: Ai Weiwei is Way, Way Ambitious

Ai Weiwei, the celebrated Chinese artist, likes to think big, and his new public-art project sprawls through all five boroughs of New York. It is comprised of 300 (!) one-of-a-kind sculptures that lavish welcome attention on the global refugee crisis. But good intentions are no guarantee of creative success, and it is not rude to ask: Is his project an artistic triumph? Yes and no. "Good Fences Makes Good Neighbors," as it is called, takes its title from a long-ago proverb favored by flinty new England farmers who thought it was wise to keep their cows from straying into neighbors' yards. Robert Frost gently questioned that bit of wisdom in his now-classic poem, "Mending Wall," a meditation on American-style loneliness. Now, Ai Weiwei recycles the line with heavy irony and global intimations. Fences and walls, he has said in interviews, separate people unnecessarily and negate the possibility of human connection. On the plus side, his project is timely and humane. The plight of global refugees is one of the abiding nightmares of the 21st century, and it is admirable that Ai wants to galvanize our social consciences. But his treatment of the theme varies in terms of formal inventiveness. I was disappointed by his "Gilded Cage," a massive, nearly 25-foot-tall structure shaped like a Victorian bird cage and plunked down on 59th Street, at the crowded entrance to Central Park. The sculpture invites you to wander inside and peer out through orange bars. It is generic as far as three-dimensional structures go; you can have a similar experience looking through the bars of a jungle gym on a city playground. Unfortunately, the life-size turnstiles embedded in the piece, with their evocations of controlled human traffic, are inaccessible to visitors. This is a casualty of New York City fire regulations, and the piece does not get around them or transcend them. I far preferred Ai's monumental sculpture at Washington Square Park, another bird-cage structure, this one standing 38 feet tall and enlivened by a cutout of what appears to be a purely abstract biomorphic shape. If you look at it long enough, it hardens into a nifty silhouette of a man and a woman who might be embracing. The shape, it turns out, was appropriated from a door designed in Paris in the 1930s, by Marcel Duchamp, one of Ai's artist-heroes (and, relevantly, an émigré to New York). The bird cage, the arch, the embracing couple towering over the Washington Square Park – they form a lovely and memorable web of shifting images and views. The piece seems to be saying that those of us who cross borders are not just the poor and the unwashed, but figures of romance and even glamor. The ways in which emigres can enrich a culture are evoked abundantly in Ai's clever banners, some 200 of which are now suspended from light posts around New York. Each banner features a photograph of a different refugee, a mix of historical and anonymous figures floating above city streets. It's a nice idea – commandeering the spaces of advertising for the display of bona fide art – but would have been more effective if the banners had been concentrated near the sculptures instead of being dispersed throughout the boroughs. As it is, "Good Fences Makes Good Neighbors" has no center, and lacks the overwhelming sculptural energy of such public-art predecessors as Christo's "Gates," or Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc." Ai Weiwei joins us to discuss his citywide installation "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors." (Jason Wyche)

Why No Baseball Players Kneel During the National Anthem

It's been over a year since former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during "The Star-Spangled Banner," sparking a conversation about the role of political protest in sports. Yet the political storm keeps brewing. Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a Colts-49ers game, saying the players were disrespecting the flag. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench any player who didn't stand for the national anthem. And ESPN suspended Sports Center host Jemele Hill for tweeting a suggestion that people unhappy with Jones's stance should boycott the team's advertisers. This all comes against the backdrop of several World Series playoff games. But the baseball diamond has remained free of political protest. The reason, according to sociology professor Harry Edwards, is simple: There are too few African-American players in Major League Baseball. Edwards, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, has written extensively about sports and civil rights. He told WNYC's Jami Floyd that major league teams never had a pipeline for African-American players, and it's getting worse. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports found that African-Americans made up about 18 percent of major league baseball players in 1991, but that number has dropped to less than 8 percent today. Teams tend to recruit from Latin America instead, where players aren't connected to the U.S.'s history of anti-black racism, Edwards said. "You don't have that sense of urgency that has traditionally been part of the dynamic that drove, and in some instances, precipitated black athlete activism," he said.

Power, Money and the Manhattan District Attorney's Sexual Misconduct Cases

Harvey Weinstein wasn't the only rich and powerful man to come under the scrutiny of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance for an alleged sex offense. In 2011, International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of raping an immigrant maid in a Manhattan hotel. Vance's office got a grand jury to indict Strauss-Kahn. But the case fell apart when prosecutors determined the witness lied about something else. "They couldn't take it to trial," recalled Lisa Jackson, a filmmaker who was embedded in the Manhattan DA's office at the time making the documentary "Sex Crimes Unit." Jackson was surprised by the recent New Yorker article about Vance declining to prosecute Weinstein in 2015, after investigating a model's claim that he groped her breasts in his office. But it's hard to say Vance isn't serious about sexual assault cases. "There's dozens of cases that they take to trial that they win," said Jackson. She described a team of prosecutors who were "meticulous" during the year and a half she spent observing their work. She recalled one rape case involving a prostitute named Cynthia. "They went back to the crime scene endless times," she said. "The hand-holding that's involved was incredible, I mean Cynthia would be calling them every day." Vance's office won that low-profile case. They also won some high-profile sexual misconduct cases. In 2015, the same year Weinstein was investigated, Vance indicted Julian Niccolini, a co-owner of the Four Seasons restaurant, for sexually assaulting a woman; Niccolini ultimately plead guilty. Vance also eventually won a rape conviction for an aid to a Saudi prince; and he convicted Oscar-winning composer Joseph Brooks of serial rapes. But Vance declined to prosecute Sanford Rubenstein, the high-profile lawyer accused of raping a woman after a party for Al Sharpton. Vance said his office wasn't able to prove a crime had occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Vance gave a similar explanation on Wednesday for not prosecuting Weinstein. "At the end of the day, we operate in a courtroom of law not a court of public opinion," he said. The National Organization for Women-New York is planning a rally outside Vance's office Friday to denounce his decision. The DA — who is unopposed in next month's election — also suddenly has a new upstart challenger. Marc Fliedner, who lost the Democratic primary in September for Brooklyn DA, said he'll move to Manhattan so he can challenge Vance as a write-in candidate. "Certain classes of rich people have access to justice that poor folks don't," he said, explaining why he was disturbed by the Weinstein case and issues it raised about campaign contributions. Two lawyers who represented Weinstein in the 2015 investigation gave money to Vance, but the majority of the contributions were well before that year. Vance's office has said the lawyers did not meet with him about the case and that their contributions had no bearing on his decision. Jacqueline Devore, a civil rights lawyer who used to prosecute sex crimes for the Bronx DA, said sexual misconduct cases are often difficult to prove. Witnesses sometimes stop cooperating or evidence is tough to obtain. But she said the Weinstein case could have proceeded because his accuser recorded him admitting he groped her. "That's a lot of evidence for a misdemeanor sexual assault case like that," she said, adding, "you usually have less." That recording was obtained after the accuser, model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, went to the NYPD to complain about Weinstein. Police sent her back to meet with him wearing a wire. Vance's office suggested the investigation might have been more successful if the NYPD alerted his sex crimes unit before sending Gutierrez back to meet with Weinstein. Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant in Queens who's now teaching at John Jay College, said that's not always necessary and questioned the explanation. "There's an accountability issue here," he said, "when people start pointing fingers it only raises more questions about, methinks thou doth protest too much." The NYPD is now looking for other potential victims of Weinstein, given the numerous accusations being reported. Vance has made the request as well. Meanwhile, in response to his critics, Vance insists he's willing to take on any accused party, regardless of "background or money." Vance has also said he's considering banning campaign contributions from anyone with business before his office, and for a period of time after their case is over.

Power, Money and the Manhattan District Attorney's Sexual Misconduct Cases

Back To Top