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

Images of Day One at the DNC: A Rocky Start Filled with Protests

Here's are some of the sights and sounds from Day One of the Democratic National Convention. Bernie Sanders addresses his delegates, and gives a lukewarm endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Protesters fill the streets. Delegates are beginning to pour into the convention arena, sporting all kinds of Dem-y swag. @WNYC #DemsInPhilly — Shumita Basu (@shubasu) July 25, 2016 Almost got knocked down by a 15-foot inflatable joint. #DNCinPHL @WNYC — Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) July 25, 2016 Pro-Bernie Protesters heft Sanders' image as they protest in Philadelphia. (Lee Hill) Protesters outside of the Democratic National Convention hold "Never Hillary" signs. (Lee Hill) Blacks for Bernie (Lee Hill)

From Soviet Russia to the Tappan Zee Bridge, A Short History of the E-ZPass

The E-ZPass is one of those inventions that makes you wonder how we survived without automatic tolls. It's been around for only 24 years, but the technology that lets you zip through toll booths was born at the start of World War I. Here is a short history of the E-ZPass. The Theremin First, there was the theremin. The world's first, mass-produced electronic instrument, it is played by waving your hands between two metal antennas, no touching required. It was invented in 1920 by Leon Theremin, a Russian scientist from St. Petersburg, and is still in use today - it's that eerie sound on the soundtracks to "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Spellbound." It was imitated in the Beach Boys' song "Good Vibrations." The invention was a global phenomenon. Headlines at the time read: "Magician of Music Creates Music out of Thin Air." "Even scientists, until they really understood the principle, were kind of baffled by what he was doing," said Albert Glinsky, author of Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage. The Soviets sent Theremin to France, Germany and England to demonstrate his instrument. In 1927, he was sent to New York City where he performed at Carnegie Hall and held private salons. He ended up staying at the Plaza Hotel for four years before moving into an apartment on 54th Street, across from where the MoMA is today. He turned his home into a laboratory where he kept developing other types of touchless technologies. He created a crystal ball for Macy's that went from opaque to clear when a person approached it. He also worked on a gun detector for Alcatraz prison. Theremin's instrument was produced by the electronics company RCA, which allowed him to visit the factory, and get an inside view of American manufacturing. This was useful for him, because he was leading a double life. He wasn't just an inventor, he was also spying for the Russians. Though he enjoyed living in America, he was still a Russian scientist. And he was loyal to the Soviet government, which meant he had to continue spying for them. "I think this was a Faustian bargain for him," Glinksy said. But after 11 years, Theremin was broke and in debt. In 1938, he hitched a ride on a freighter back to Russia. But instead of receiving a hero's welcome, he was sentenced to a Siberian prison camp. The political winds had changed, and Theremin was out of favor. He was charged with aiding the Americans, although there was no evidence that he'd ever been disloyal to the USSR. Several months later, he was transferred to a sharashka, a prison for scientists. It was then when he took spying to a new level. The Bug Theremin was tasked by the government to find a way to listen to conversations in the American Ambassador's office. Building off his previous work using magnetic fields, he came up with a bug, the size of a quarter that could be activated several buildings away by microwave beams. When activated, it sent signals back to a receiver that decoded the information. The device was embedded in a seal of the United States and presented to the American Ambassador in Moscow, W. Averell Harriman, on July 4, 1965, by a group of Soviet Boy Scouts. It remained undetected for seven years, until an American ham radio operator accidentally discovered the signal. A replica of Theremin's bugging device at the National Cryptologic Museum. (Austin Mills/Flickr) The Chance Meeting Thanks to a chance meeting on a plane, Theramin's technology has a connection with the EZ Pass. Mario Cardullo, a Brooklyn-born inventor, began his career working at Bell Laboratories, specifically on jet propulsion for Apollo 11. He's a member of George Washington University's Engineering Hall of Fame, holds four degrees, and was given a bronze medal for outstanding service from the U.S. Department of Energy. Cardullo wasn't the first person to experiment with Radio Frequency Identification, which uses electromagnetic fields to transfer data. But he was one of the first to file a patent on the technology that makes E-ZPass work. In July 1969, on a flight from St. Paul, Minn. to Washington, D.C, Cardullo happened to sit next to an engineer from IBM. Cardullo says the engineer was trying to figure out a way to track train cars. So right there, Cardullo whipped out a notebook and sketched a solution. Cardullo took 1920s-era, friend-or-foe radar technology, and some of the microwave technology Theremin used for his bug, and added a modern twist: memory. By 1970, he'd filed a patent. Cardullo imagined that his invention could revolutionize toll collection, how medical records are transmitted, even change the way doorways operate. A year later, he landed a meeting with the Port Authority to demonstrate how electronic toll collection could work on the George Washington Bridge. His prototype was the size of two packs of cigarettes. "The first thing they say to me was, well, nobody will every put that on the window of their car. It's too big," Cardullo told WNYC recently, from his home office in Alexandria, Virginia. He reassured them he could make it smaller. They also worried about scofflaw drivers who'd cruise through the lane without paying. "I said, you take a picture of their license plate and you send them a ticket," Cardullo said. "And the guy said to us, 'no way, that would be a violation of their constitutional rights.'" The Port Authority said no. A sketch of Mario Cardullo's RFID transponder included in his patent filing in 1970. (Courtesy of Mario Cardullo) But after the meeting, according to Cardullo, the Port Authority took his idea and shopped it around to other companies to see if they could make a similar device. No one from the Port Authority could confirm or deny this. Most of their archives were destroyed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. According to reports, the agency tested other devices made by Westinghouse, Philips and General Electric. Cardullo's patent expired in 1990. The Bureaucrat Larry Yermack was the CFO at the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in the early 1990s when, he said, it was just another "sleepy agency." Yermack says engineers at the authority were urging him to install an electronic toll collection system. Basically, they wanted what Cardullo had suggested three decades earlier. He said the numbers just made sense. "You could process 250, 300 vehicles an hour through a cash lane, and they were able to process 600, 700 through a coin lane," he said. "We knew you could get north of 1,000 vehicles an hour through an electronic toll collection lane." But rather than just install it in New York City, Yermack realized it would be more effective if all the local agencies were using the same system. "What if we had tags that cooperated with the other toll authorities, in fact, what if we had the same tags?" he'd said at the time. In August 1993, residents of Rockland county got a taste of the cashless toll booth. It was installed on the New York State Thruway at Spring Valley. Norway had installed the first electronic toll collection booth in 1987; Dallas got the electronic TollTag system in 1989. But what those places didn't have was a pass that could cross state lines and function across several toll authorities. That finally came to fruition one snowy night in March 1994, after a nearly 20-hour meeting on Randall's Island. Seven toll authorities from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania agreed to use the same device. The heads of the various agencies went home from this meeting worried they'd made a career wrecking decision. "Everybody in all the authorities was worried whether it was going to work or not. I mean this could've been a colossal failure," Yermack said. In 1995, EZ-Pass was unveiled in the city, quietly, with no ribbon cutting and no fan fare. Just a new, dedicated lane with a purple sign and a new slogan. The Future EZ-Pass isn't going away, but you may have noticed that the toll plazas are disappearing. Across the country there are 35 cashless toll booths in operation, according to E-Z Pass. One of them is on the Tappan Zee Bridge. The toll booth has been removed and instead drivers pass under a metal structure installed with an EZ-Pass reader and a camera. If you have an EZ Pass, you sail through, with the toll deducted electronically. If you don't, it takes a picture of your plates and mails the bill. No stopping, no toll booth. A recent Pew study called toll collectors a "disappearing breed," and noted states like Massachusetts plan to have all toll booths gone by the end of 2016. The New York State Thruway helped its toll collectors on the Tappan Zee Bridge find other positions in the department or at other toll plazas. E-ZPass has its limits. It's only accepted in 16 states. Once you pass Illinois going west, or North Carolina going south, you're out of network. And after nearly half a century, no one has figured out to solve the problem of traffic delays at the toll plazas on the George Washington Bridge. Toll booth cashier Henry Gregorio at the New Rochelle Toll Plaza on I95 has worked in a toll booth since 1980. He knows his days are numbered, but he also loves the job. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

From Soviet Russia to the Tappan Zee Bridge, A Short History of the E-ZPass

Mike Piazza Enters Baseball's Hall of Fame

Mike Piazza was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday, and he's only the second Met to achieve the honor. Speaking before a Cooperstown crowd estimated by the Hall of Fame at about 50,000, the 12-time All Star catcher got emotional when he thanked his parents. Piazza said his father Vince dreamed of playing in the major leagues himself, but wasn't able to pursue it. As a minor leaguer, Piazza briefly quit the game and said it was only his father's faith in him that kept him going. "We made it dad. The race is over. Now it's time to smell the roses," said Piazza to cheers and applause. Piazza recalled the first game played in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks when his eighth inning home run lifted the Mets to a 3-2 win over Atlanta, electrifying the crowd and the city as it was struggling to recover. Piazza said the real heroes were those who responded to the burning towers just ten days earlier. "The true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders who knew that they were going to die but went forward anyway," Piazza said. A 62nd round draft pick in 1988, Piazza becomes the lowest draft pick to enter the Hall of Fame. He was inducted Sunday along side Ken Griffey, Jr, the first overall pick in 1987. That makes Griffey the highest pick ever inducted.

This Week in Politics: And Now to Philadelphia

The Republican National Convention is in the history books. And that can mean only one thing: it's time to do it all over again next week with the Democrats in Philadelphia. Will the RNC be a tough act to follow? Andrea Bernstein, WNYC's Senior Editor for Politics & Policy, joins us for a preview.

Donald Trump, Through the Lens of His Favorite Movie: Citizen Kane

WNYC is kicking off a series of conversations about how the presidential candidates compare to other figures in American history. This week, we're looking at a man who inspired what Donald Trump called his favorite movie: Citizen Kane. The Oscar-winning movie draws on the life and times of William Randolph Hearst, the early 20th century newspaper mogul with presidential ambitions. Dr. W. Joseph Campbell, a professor at American University, says there are similarities between Trump and Hearst. Both, for example, were political outsiders. "They were both described as unfit for high political office....they inspired vehemence among their critics, and in some respects, they both flouted convention and social norms," he tells WNYC All Thing Considered Host Jami Floyd. In this interview, Dr. Campbell talks about other parallels between the two.

Mike Piazza, a 'True' Met, to Be Inducted into HOF

It's Hall of Fame weekend for Major League Baseball. Among the players being inducted is New York Mets' catcher Mike Piazza. He'll become just the second Met to receive the honor. By all accounts, Piazza had a standout career. He was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time. But perhaps the most remarkable fact is that he was the 1,390th pick in the 1988 draft. "He was taken by the Dodgers mostly as a favor to his father who was friends at the time with their manager Tommy Lasorda," said Emma Span, senior editor at Sports Illustrated. "He is by far the lowest draft pick to make the Hall of Fame so he definitely overcame some tough odds there." Not only did he overcome those odds, he crushed them. Piazza holds the record for home runs hit by a catcher with 396. He had a lifetime average of .308, to go with his 1,335 RBI. He was selected to 12 All-Star games and won 10 Silver Slugger awards. His accolades aside, his induction as a New York Met holds a lot of significance for the city and the team. "He meant a lot to the Mets because he had real star power at a time when the Yankees were in the middle of their historic dynasty," Span said. "And though he had some good years with the Dodogers he's going into the hall first and foremost as a Met and not only do other people think of him as a Met first, he himself really wanted to go in as a Met. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Sunday. Ken Griffey Jr. is also being inducted.

Ain't I a Woman? Republican Delegates and the Hillary Question

If there was one topic that the delegates at the Republican National Convention this week could agree on, it was how much they hate Hillary Clinton. But as speaker after speaker brought up Clinton's career, be it her time as First Lady or her term as Secretary of State, it became clear that the notion of what kind of politician she is can't be separated from what people think about what kind of woman she is. So Amy Davidson and Steven Valentino of the New Yorker Radio Hour took the to convention floor looking for answers.

Fatherhood with a Ticking Clock

When football player Steve Gleason is diagnosed with the paralyzing disease ALS, he and his wife Michel Varisco adapt to a new life. In "Gleason," director Clay Tweel chronicles their struggles to cope with the illness, raise a new son and start a foundation to raise money for ALS victims. The film is especially poignant on the topic of fatherhood, as Gleason creates a video diary to leave for his infant. — Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen For more information, click here to visit the official film page.

WNYC@RNC: Donald Trump's Big (Long) Speech

Donald Trump officially accepted his party's nomination to become the 45th president of the United States with a grim speech that focused on crises and violence around the globe but offered few policies he would enact. Listen to WNYC political reporters Matt Katz and Andrea Bernstein break it down in three minutes. Here a Twitter summary of the night (to compliment sights and sounds from earlier in the day): View from the �#RNCinCLE with @WNYC — Shumita Basu (@shubasu) July 21, 2016 .@TheBlazeHotList: "When I watch this convention, I don't see a GOP convention. I see a Trump convention." #PoliticalParty #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Billionaire tech mogul Peter Thiel speaking at #RNCinCLE, "I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. I am proud to be American." — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Ivanka Trump takes the #RNCinCLE podium & calls her dad "the people's champion." — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Ivanka is big donor to (possible Democratic vice presidential nominee) Cory Booker. — Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) July 22, 2016 "I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for President of the United States." -Trump at #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Scene inside #RNCinCLE arena: outbursts of both wild applause and disruption. Protester was just dragged off convention floor. — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 "As your president I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ from the hateful foreign ideology." GOP Platform: No marriage, no kids — Andrea Bernstein (@AndreaWNYC) July 22, 2016 Trump thanks audiences "as a Republican" for cheering for his comments to protect LGBTQ community #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Glimpse inside #RNCinCLE arena as journalists listen, tweet, record Trump speech for global audiences. — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Re: #immigration, Trump says he'll "stop the thugs from pouring into our communities." #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 WNYC multimedia producer @sugarpond capturing Trump speech, scene in arena. #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Trump: "I am with you. I will fight for you. I will win for you." #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 Watch: Confetti + hundreds of balloons fall on celebrating delegates inside #RNCinCLE arena after Trump speech. — WNYC (@WNYC) July 22, 2016 If you missed our previous nightly RNC recaps, get caught up here: WNYC@RNC: Our Take on Day One of the Republican Convention WNYC@RNC: Our Take on Day Two of the Republican National Convention WNYC@RNC: Ted Cruz Gets GOP Love, Then Booed off Convention Stage

WNYC@RNC: Ted Cruz Gets GOP Love, Then Booed off Convention Stage

Ted Cruz stole the show on Day 3 of the Republican National Convention when he gave a speech that seemed to suggest his party should not vote for Donald Trump. Listen to WNYC's Matt Katz and Lee Hill break down the drama inside the convention hall and break down Trump's WWE move to walk onto the convention floor and disrupt the Cruz speech. And here's a Twitter summary of the night (to compliment our earlier summary of what happened during the day): Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Hillary Clinton: "If she were anymore on the inside, she'd be in prison." #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 21, 2016 Fox News not showing Scott Walker. Hasn't aired a speech from the floor in more than an hour. #RNCinCLE — Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) July 21, 2016 Rock star-like standing ovation for former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz. #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 21, 2016 JUST IN: Ted Cruz will not endorse Donald Trump for president tonight, source confirms to @DomenicoNPR — NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) July 21, 2016 Cruz rode in on a chariot, but exited stage to wild roar of boos after ending speech w/o endorsing Trump. #RNCinCLE — WNYC (@WNYC) July 21, 2016 Mike Pence just now at #RNCinCLE: "We will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line of law enforcement." — Sam Sanders (@samsanders) July 21, 2016 Pence is right about this. Everytime @realDonaldTrump does something you think would hurt any other candidate, he's fine — Brigid Bergin (@brigidbergin) July 21, 2016 Miss Monday and Tuesday's recap? Get caught up here: WNYC@RNC: Our Take on Day Two of the Republican National Convention WNYC@RNC: Our Take on Day One of the Republican National Convention

Back To Top