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.

Most Recent Episodes

A New Jersey Rapper Shares his Immigration Status

Alexis Torres Machado was only five when his family left Uruguay and moved to Newark. His parents told him he was undocumented when he was 11. Machado, 23, is now a senior at Rutgers University-Newark on a full scholarship. He says he was inspired to go public about his immigration status this way because of negative rhetoric about immigrants coming from President Trump. But his parents initially didn't support the decision. "They were concerned for themselves and they were concerned for me too because at that time when I was releasing things, there was talk about DREAMers being deported or DREAMers being detained," said Machado. "It was just a scary time." He wears his identity proudly now, and wants immigrants to know they're not alone.

NYC Is Paying for Thousands of Homeless Families to Move Out of the City

As part of its effort to reduce all-time record homelessness in the five boroughs, the de Blasio administration has paid 2,300 New Yorkers to move out of the city over the past year and a half. The Special One-Time Assistance program gives qualified homeless families a year of rent paid upfront in order to help get them out of the shelter system and back on their feet. Figures from the Department of Homeless Services show that 3,539 families have enrolled in the program since it was introduced in late 2017. They can use the money, paid directly to the landlord of the building where they move, to move inside or outside the city, but 65 percent of them have moved out of the city — many to New Jersey, where apartments are more affordable. "SOTA is something being used right now, aggressively," Christine Quinn, who runs Win, the largest family shelter provider. Seventy households who used the program have returned to city shelters, according to the latest available city data. But Quinn and other shelter providers said they're worried that number will grow once families have to pay rent on their own. In December, WNYC/Gothamist reported that some families in the program ended up in substandard housing in Newark and East Orange, despite rules meant to ensure the apartments met basic standards. Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to rectify those situations. Steven Banks, the homeless services commissioner, has defended the program, saying, "Families experiencing homelessness here in our city have the right to seek housing where they can afford it and employment where they can find it."

NYC Is Paying for Thousands of Homeless Families to Move Out of the City

New Jersey's Push to Legalize Marijuana Hits a Roadblock

Supporters of legal recreational marijuana in New Jersey will have to keep waiting. A vote to legalize adult-use cannabis was postponed due to a lack of support in the State Senate. Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, both Democrats, said that they will continue to work on getting the votes they need. "You have some Democrats who just feel that it would be a bad thing for urban communities, you have some that really oppose legalization on moral grounds," said WNYC's New Jersey reporter Karen Rouse, who was at the Statehouse in Trenton. WNYC's All Things Considered host Jami Floyd spoke to Rouse about what the development means for the future of legalization in the state.

New Jersey Advances Bill Allowing Terminally Ill Patients Right to Die

Legislators in the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly passed a bill Monday allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending medication — though not without opposition. Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber spent almost 20 minutes trying to convince his colleagues in Trenton to vote against the Medical Aid in Dying Act. "I am pleading with you. I'll even beg you," Webber said, adding that the bill would create a new class of citizen: "The class of citizen who can be killed by another citizen." But proponents of the bill said it has safeguards. The patient must be an adult proven to be of sound mind. Also, two physicians must attest that the person has six months to live. After making two oral and one written request, patients would be prescribed medicine to take home and self-administer. "It would be up to the person whether they want to fill the prescription. Then it would be up to the person if they want to ingest the prescription. Only that person can make that decision," said Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, the bill's primary sponsor. Lawmakers have pushed for the measure since 2012. Only six states and the District of Columbia have similar laws. In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy said he will sign the legislation. "Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do," Murphy said.

New Jersey Advances Bill Allowing Terminally Ill Patients Right to Die

City Council Considering Bill Updating Flawed Legionnaires' Law

The full City Council is expected to vote later this week on a bill to toughen a law combatting the rising numbers of Legionnaires' disease cases in New York City. That law, passed in the wake of the deadliest outbreak of the disease in New York's history in 2015, was producing mixed results. WNYC reported last summer that about 20 percent of all owners of cooling towers — the large, boxy structures on rooftops that help regulate air conditioning — weren't having them inspected regularly, as was required by the new law. Even when they were issued fines and summonses. A new analysis from Councilman Ben Kallos' office suggests the situation has gotten worse since WNYC's report was published. According to the latest data available from the state, Kallos found around 44 percent of landlords with cooling towers haven't had them inspected since 2017 or earlier. "Landlords who should be doing everything they can to protect their tenants and their neighbors may not be," Kallos said. "They're putting everyone's lives on the line." Dirty cooling towers can become fertile breeding ground for the potentially legal legionella bacteria during warmer months. The bacteria can then spread through the air and sicken people who breath it in, sometimes blocks away from the site of a cooling tower. That's what happened in the South Bronx in 2015, where a single cool tower infected with legionella lead to 138 cases of the disease and 16 deaths. Kallos' legislation, which was passed by the council's Committee on Housing and Buildings Monday, would require landlords to report inspections of their cooling towers soon after they happen to the city's Health Department directly. The city would then make that information public. The bill would make it easier for health inspectors to identify problem buildings, Kallos said, as they currently have to rely on the state's data can be outdated. The bill would also send regular reminders to cooling tower owners to have their equipment inspected. "There was a Legionnaires' cluster in my neighborhood. Somebody died. Six people got sick," said Councilman Kallos, referring to a 2017 outbreak of the disease. "My hope is, with these 90-day inspections actually happening no one has to get sick or even die from Legionnaires' ever again." The number of cases of Legionnaires' disease has been on the rise over the last decade, up to 435 cases in 2017, the most recent year that data is available, according to a Health Department report. The airborne disease tends to strike vulnerable populations the hardest; elderly New Yorkers with other health conditions and low income neighborhoods.

City Council Considering Bill Updating Flawed Legionnaires' Law

Opponents Try to Extinguish Marijuana Debate

The three Democrats who largely control Albany say legalizing marijuana is one of their top priorities for 2019. But with all the behind-the-scenes haggling over everything from what to do with sales tax revenue to regulations controlling who can sell weed, the question for the last month has been whether a deal would be part of the state budget for next year, due by April 1, or whether it would come in the remaining three months of the annual legislative session. Publicly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have indicated legalization won't happen in the budget agreement, while Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has indicated it's very much alive. Advocates opposed to making marijuana a new "third vice" – in addition to alcohol and tobacco – are trying to pressure lawmakers into debating the downside of the drug. They're saying that they, too, want to change how it's policed and prosecuted, especially in light of the systemic bias against people of color. But they say political leaders are overlooking marijuana's dangers. "The consensus is that using marijuana regularly does alter areas of the brain that are involved in cognition and thought processes in memory and learning," said Dr. Frank Dowling, a Long Island psychiatrist working with the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. "And the long-term usage, especially as a teen or young adult, can lead to long-term cognitive issues, even if someone stops using later on in life." With New Jersey teetering on the cusp of declaring marijuana legal, joining Canada to the north and Massachusetts to the east, opponents are fighting an uphill battle, politically. But they're hoping if arguments over implementation details can defer the legalization drive until later in the spring, they can at least try to jump-start the larger debate. "In New Jersey, they said they were going to legalize it in 100 days, a year and a half ago, and they still haven't legalized it yet," said Luke Niforatos, Senior Policy Advisor for SAM. A vote in the Garden State is scheduled for today.

Alien - The Play!

Annie this was not. Students at North Bergen High School in New Jersey staged Alien The Play this week and once images and video clips from the production appeared online, the Internet reacted in appropriately viral fashion. Working with recycled materials, students and teachers crafted amazing props and costumes - and were able to recreate some of the film's most shocking scenes on stage. Unfortunately, the final performance was Friday, March 22. And there's no word yet on whether there will be another production. But students are reportedly asking the town school board to approve one more show. Until then - check out those images!

This Week in Politics: Last Push for NJ Weed Bill

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly are scheduled to vote on a bill to legalize adult-use, or recreational, marijuana in the state on Monday. The legislation has provided a rare opportunity for a unified front among the state's top Democrats. Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on legalizing and taxing pot and has pushed for the issue since his election. His sometime sparring partners, State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin are also on board. But, as the governor himself acknowledged this week, the outcome of that vote is far from certain. For the latest on the bill, we're joined by Carly Sitrin. She wrote an explainer on what's in the bill for NJ Spotlight. Speaking with David Furst, she said, "I tend to believe that they wouldn't put it up (for a vote) unless they thought they had the votes there. But as these days are ticking by, it's really going to come down to the 11th hour on this to see where people fall."

City Plan To Close Rikers Moves Ahead, Faces Pushback

Members of the de Blasio administration continue to move toward the closure of the notoriously dangerous Rikers Island jail complex, calling the project "a moral imperative." But securing community support for the four new jails that will hold roughly 5,000 inmates is proving difficult. Some neighborhood forums have been rife with protests, both from anti-prison activists and community residents concerned about the impact of the new detention centers in Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. "It did surprise me, because it felt so far away from the kind of celebration that we saw when the Mayor initially announced 'We're going to close Rikers,'" said Maurice Chammah, a staff writer at The Marshall Project reporting on the de Blasio administration's efforts. "People kind of were surprised when these plans started coming out, that they felt like they hadn't been brought along." Overall, the mayor's team has said that the new jails will have dedicated space for family visitation, educational programming, and therapeutic services. The detention centers will also be closure to courthouses and public transit. "All of that are these sort of great ideas that have been floated to put into these jails and are being advanced, but all of these take space, and the result is that you have taller and taller buildings," Chammah told WNYC's Jami Floyd. City officials announced Friday that early designs for the four new facilities have been reduced in height in response to community concerns. Individual facilities will also no longer be segregated by gender, after the public engagement process convinced the city to make the Queens facility for women only. But many details about the plans remain unknown, and community members continue to push for more opportunities for public input. The city has said it will continue engaging with stakeholders for the duration of the process, including the upcoming land use review. Officials have estimated that construction for the new facilities will begin in 2021 and conclude in 2027.

Atop Vessel, You'll See Old New York Disappearing

A vase, a basket, a 3-D Escher drawing sprung to life, endlessly looping. There's something about the immensity of Vessel, the 15-story-high public sculpture at Hudson Yards, that makes you want to describe it with an analogy on a more humanly relatable scale. "A giant hockey mask," offered Rasmia Kirmani, a housing development specialist who until recently worked for the city. "An exoskeletal beetle." A beetle that, according to The New York Times, is "sheathed in a gaudy copper-cladded steel." The critical reception for Vessel, and for Hudson Yards as a whole, has been poor. The gripes have ranged from how the development and its high-end mall turns it back on the rest of Manhattan to the shadows thrown by Vessel onto the outdoor public space. And yet, those concerns seem to fade after you present your free timed ticket and begin to climb the sculpture's two thousand five hundred steps. There are people above and below you, silhouetted, on ramps like ants in a colony where there's no real work to do. (Taking selfies doesn't count as work, although visitors who post images of the site on social media are technically engaged in making content for Vessel.) Is it a beehive, is it a pine cone? It's Vessel! (Scott Lynch/Gothamist) But turn your back on the mall and face west and you'll find a somewhat surprising view: a lingering remnant of a waterfront that once used muscle and machines to move people and goods, and that made things. There, where the deck that holds the towers has yet to reach, you'll see row upon row of Long Island Railroad trains, round-backed and gleaming in the silver-white sun. Behind them flows the unruffled Hudson River. "It's like the end game of post-industrialization," said architectural historian Gabrielle Esperdy as she looked on the scene and across the river to New Jersey. "The waterfront here and in Hoboken and Jersey City — it has all transformed into something else and now we're just seeing the end of it." Part of the confusion about and pre-contempt for Vessel, I'd suggest, is that it looks like it's supposed to be doing something — holding parked cars, maybe? In fact, it's an architectural folly, a decorative structure that misleadingly appears to serve a purpose. The simplest purpose of Vessel is to present visitors with a mounting series of views of what once was Manhattan's gritty West Side and is now home to the wealthy and the brands to which they obsessively pledge allegiance: Fendi, Neiman Marcus, Dior, and more. The city as we know it is always disappearing. If you decide to visit Vessel, you might honor that notion by approaching on foot along the High Line, an exquisitely designed urban parkscape that for most of its life was a freight line.

Back To Top