Mayor De Blasio Unveils Plan To Partially Reopen Schools For Fall

New York City's public schools, the largest public school system in the country, say schools will only partially reopen in the fall. Parents have been waiting for the city's plan and the mayor says kids will only be in the classroom part of the time come September. Gothamist education reporter Sophia Chang spoke with WNYC's Sean Carlson about the mayor's plan. Listen to her conversation above.

A Most Unusual NJ Primary

WNYC's Nancy Solomon recounts New Jersey's first statewide vote-by-mail election.

At Defund Police Encampment, The Homeless Find Food and Shelter

It's been two weeks since protesters demanding police reform took up residence in a public plaza outside City Hall. During that time, many homeless people have been living there, too. WNYC's Gwynne Hogan reports that's led to moments of joy as well as conflict. Read the full story at Gothamist.com.

Elected Officials Urge Governor Cuomo To Intervene On Behalf Of Ballots With Missing Postmarks

As the Board of Elections begins counting absentee ballots citywide Wednesday, advocates and lawmakers are asking Governor Cuomo to protect voters.

Elected Officials Urge Governor Cuomo To Intervene On Behalf Of Ballots With Missing Postmarks

Black Women Photographers Collective

A global collective aims to get Black women photographers hired more consistently by newsrooms and media organizations. Polly Irungu, digital editor for The Takeaway and a photographer herself, spoke with WNYC's Jami Floyd about the effort.

MTA Allows Some Bus Windows to Open, Still Evaluating Subway Car Windows

In an effort to increase ventilation on city buses, the MTA is allowing drivers to open windows and roof hatches. But it can't be done on all buses or trains. Only local buses have windows that can open. The express buses do have roof hatches, but if they're open, there's not enough clearance in tunnels. The MTA says it's still evaluating whether subway windows should remain open. Darwin Keung is a health policy analyst at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. He's concerned about keeping the windows open underground. "Air quality's not amazing, and air circulation, we can all feel it, isn't as vigorous as an outdoor environment, you can feel how hot the system gets underground," he said. The head of transit says some riders will feel more comfortable on buses, some on subways, it's up to them.

MTA Allows Some Bus Windows to Open, Still Evaluating Subway Car Windows

NJ Governor Wins in Lawsuit Brought by Party Boss

A New Jersey appellate court has rejected a lawsuit filed by George Norcross that attempted to shut down an investigation of his company's tax breaks. The lawsuit tried to stop a task force appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy from looking into tax breaks awarded to businesses that moved to Camden, N.J. by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. A state program administered by the EDA awarded more than a $1 billion dollars in tax breaks to companies that are affiliated with Norcross in varying degrees. The appellate court affirmed a lower court ruling from June 2019, finding the governor had a legitimate reason to create a task force to investigate the tax breaks, and that Norcross and his business associates were not unfairly singled out for investigation by the task force appointed by the governor. "The fact that they do not portray plaintiffs in a positive light does not cast doubt on the lawfulness of its investigation," the appellate court wrote in the decision. Norcross is the unelected Democratic Party boss of South Jersey and considered one of the most powerful people in New Jersey.

America, Are We Ready? Primary Day in NJ

Tuesday, July 7, 2020, 8:00-9:00pm. It's primary day in New Jersey, in the midst of re-opening from the tri-state area's Covid-19 outbreak, and a massive public outcry for police reform. WNYC's Brian Lehrer hosts a local call-in for voters around the Garden State to have their say. He's joined by Nancy Solomon, managing editor of New Jersey Public Radio, and Joe Hernandez, who covers New Jersey politics for WHYY. Tune in and call in to "America, Are We Ready?" at 8 pm, on Tuesday, July 7.

NYC School Reopening Plan Remains Unclear

New York City families got a little more information last week about what school may look like this September, but many of the details remain very sketchy. Chalkbeat reporter Reema Amin spoke with WNYC's David Furst about what is — and isn't — known so far.

Will Missing A Postmark Invalidate Your Absentee Ballot? We're About To Find Out

The New York City Board of Elections starts counting absentee ballots Monday, six days later than scheduled. WNYC's Brigid Bergin reports ones missing postmarks may get tossed.

Will Missing A Postmark Invalidate Your Absentee Ballot? We're About To Find Out

South Jersey Democratic Primary: A Race to Take On the Party Machine

One of the most competitive Democratic primaries in tomorrow's election in New Jersey is the race to challenge Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the 2nd Congressional District legislator who defected to the Republican Party last December over the impeachment of President Donald Trump. "You have my undying support," Van Drew told Trump in an Oval Office meeting in December 2019, capping a crazy week in politics in his southern New Jersey district. Two days before he publicly announced his defection or cast his vote against impeaching Trump, Brigid Callahan Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair University, announced she would challenge him in the Democratic primary. Before the week was out, Callahan Harrison received the endorsement of seven crucial foot soldiers in the South Jersey Democratic party machine: New Jersey Senate President Steven Sweeney and the all-important chairmen of six county party committees within the congressional district. The party chairmen have the power to endorse candidates and that endorsement gives the candidate what's known as "the line" — the column that is topped by the best known Democrats in the election. "And for a lot of us, that made us suspicious because we saw that pattern with Jeff Van Drew," said Angela Bardoe, a sign language interpreter in Cumberland County who got involved in progressive activism after Trump's election. In 2018 , the party boss, George Norcross, endorsed Van Drew before he had even announced he was running for congress. "And we kind of felt like they did that to us again; that they went ahead without including our opinions and our perspectives and preemptively endorsed another candidate before we actually had time to have a good look at everyone who was running," Bardoe said. Bardoe and a network of progressive organizations are supporting Amy Kennedy, who is one of five candidates in the Democratic primary. In a strange political twist, Kennedy is the insurgent running without machine support despite her pedigree: She is married to former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy. When Patrick left Congress in 2011, right before marrying Amy, it was the first time since 1947 that there wasn't a Kennedy on Capitol Hill. "Amy Kennedy has far and away the best shot of beating Jeff Van Drew," said Sue Altman, director of New Jersey Working Families. "And that's really important because this is going to be one of the most exciting races in the entire country this year." Altman believes Kennedy has a chance to beat the machine. She's got the storied political name. But she's also lived most of her life in Atlantic County, which makes up about 40% of the vote in the district. "My parents both taught school here for nearly 40 years and that's generations and thousands of families that they've touched over our lifetime here," Kennedy said. "At the end of the day, you know, all those connections and having supported Democrats in this community for so long and being a part of the community really makes a difference because those relationships are what people trust." The 2nd Congressional District is a swing district that stretches across the southern end of New Jersey, with the bulk of the population clustered along the Jersey Shore from Atlantic City to Cape May. Trump won the district in 2016, but former President Barack Obama won twice and former Republican President George Bush won before that. Neither Kennedy nor Callahan Harrison want the campaign to be about the Norcross machine. Callahan Harrison declined a request to be interviewed after Gothamist/WNYC explained the story would partly focus on her party backing. Kennedy spoke to Gothamist on the betrayal of Van Drew and her opposition to Trump. "Right now we need to be focused on what's happening and how people are suffering in this district," Kennedy said. "And it's a time when I think a lot of people are struggling not just with their physical health and the economy, but the anxiety and stress of this moment." The party machines are so successful at getting their endorsed candidates elected since an endorsement comes with preferential placement on the ballot. But this year is not politics as usual. The primary is likely to attract more than just the party faithful, because ballots were mailed to every registered voter, making it much easier to cast a vote and tougher to predict the outcome. "No one is quite sure because the more random registered Democrats may now vote, which upends whatever model you might have had," said Ben Dworkin, a professor with the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship. "So no one is really sure what's going to happen here." The outcome may be uncertain, but there's no mystery about the battlelines that have been drawn. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has endorsed Callahan Harrison. It's notable that he took a lot of heat last year for holding a fundraiser for his presidential campaign hosted by George Norcross. Norcross and Murphy have been locked in a power struggle since the governor took office in 2017. But he is riding a wave of popularity for his handling of the pandemic, and has spent some of that capital endorsing Kennedy. A source close to his political operation says the governor sees a win for Kennedy as a blow to the machine. It's a sentiment shared with Sue Altman of New Jersey Working Families. "This election needs to be a repudiation of the South Jersey machines since they gave us the Jeff Van Drew turncoat that we're stuck with right now," Altman said.

Why Frederick Douglass's "Fourth Of July" Speech Still Resonates

On the Fourth of July, we talk about the country's founders who were — at first — revolutionaries. But over the course of these 244 years, activists have had to continue the fight for the ideals expressed in the founding documents — life, liberty and equality. Among them, Frederick Douglass, who daringly escaped enslavement to become among the most well-educated, well-read and well-spoken men of the nineteenth century. On July 5th, 1852, Douglass delivered a stirring speech in Rochester, New York, his home at the time. Kai Wright is the host of WNYC Studios' "United States of Anxiety." He says despite Douglass's fiery criticism of slavery, the abolitionist was deeply patriotic, challenging Americans to live up to the ideals outlined in the Constitution. Wright says black Americans like Douglass have struggled to make the country a place of equal opportunities for centuries. "Liberty is of course deeply rooted in our community in our traditions and it is in some ways our gift to the country," he said. Click on the player above to listen to his conversation with "All Things Considered" host Jami Floyd.

June Gun Violence Spikes. Community Leaders Want to Create Safety from the Ground Up.

There's been a spike in gun violence in New York City. It typically goes up in summer months, but the first four weeks of June saw a nearly 130 percent increase in shootings compared to June 2019. The violence has hit communities of color especially hard — and in the middle of a citywide debate about policing, racial justice and community empowerment. WNYC's Yasmeen Khan has been talking to leaders about how to address gun violence, by creating public safety from the ground up.

June Gun Violence Spikes. Community Leaders Want to Create Safety from the Ground Up.

Newark's Lead Levels Are Dropping But Water Crisis Is Not Over Yet

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages through Newark, construction crews have continued working to replace thin tubes made of lead that pump water into peoples' homes. Kareem Adeem is the director of the city's water and sewer department. He says the massive undertaking to replace all 18,000 lead service lines could have taken years but will be done by 2021. "The city residents came together even during the COVID-19 period they cooperated with us," he said during a press conference on Thursday. "The contractors suited up with the masks, the Tyvek suits, the booties, everything to go in the house and replace the lead service lines." Chunks of lead from these pipes were falling into the tap water because the water running through them was corrosive. The high lead levels prompted a federal lawsuit from the Natural Resources Defense Council and led to a mass distribution of water filters. That culminated last summer when the city was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to distribute bottled water when the filters' effectiveness was questioned (the filters were then found to be 99 percent effective). Now Mayor Ras Baraka says for the first time in three years most of the city's tap water samples are below the federal threshold of 15 parts per billion — which requires cities to take action. He says it's a milestone after years in crisis. "This is not our way of saying this is over," Baraka said Thursday as the city celebrated the lower lead levels. The state Department of Environmental Protection still has to review the city's water samples for Jan-June 2020. But Newark officials say the drop in lead shows its new water treatment that keeps the pipes from corroding is working. State data show some homes still have elevated lead levels. And not all residents trust what the city says. Debra Salters says that's because officials insisted the water was safe to drink — when it wasn't. "This would really give us trust, if [the administration] simply said we were wrong," Salters, who is part of the ongoing NRDC suit said. Newark still has another contaminant in its water: An acid that if consumed over time can cause cancer. Officials says that will be fixed soon, too. The larger problem is the aging infrastructure at one of the city's water treatment plants. Improvements at the Pequannock plant that were recommended years ago are currently underway.

What the New Rollbacks to Bail Reform Mean in New York

Just six months ago, New York state eliminated cash bail for almost all offenses except violent felonies. But there was an immediate backlash after the NYPD claimed the crime rate was going up. There were also constant media reports about cases in which people were re-arrested after being released without bail, notably one involving a woman who punched Orthodox Jewish women in Brooklyn. District attorneys and police unions lobbied hard to roll back the bail reforms. In April, legislators took action so judges can hold more people on bail. Those changes didn't get much attention at the time when most people were focused on the deadly coronavirus pandemic. But they're taking effect today—just as the conversation has shifted to racism in law enforcement, after weeks of protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Read more at Gothamist.com

MTA Installs PPE Vending Machines, But Riders Can Still Get it for Free

The MTA has been rolling out new vending machines at 10 stations, stocked with personal protective equipment. But riders can still get most of these items for free. There may not be signs in every station, but the MTA says all 472 stations have free surgical masks and hand sanitizer. When New York moved to phase two of reopening there were tables where these items were distributed. Now station agents have them, and you need to find them and ask. Sarah Myer Chief Customer Officer at the MTA, say there's enough for everyone. "2,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, 700,000 little bottles, as well as the masks," she said. "We will be there as long as New York needs us to be there." The new vending machines carry more expensive KN-95 and cloth masks. As well as hand sanitizer from a company call Poo-Pourri. Riders are required by law to wear masks in the subway.

MTA Installs PPE Vending Machines, But Riders Can Still Get it for Free

Rep. Sires, Scion of Democratic Machine, Faces Feisty Challenger in N.J. Primary

A sleepy congressional primary in North Jersey has suddenly been awakened by the uncertainty of a July vote-by-mail election and the online presence of a feisty challenger. Rep. Albio Sires has the get-out-the-vote machine of his powerful Democratic organization, plenty of money, and massive name recognition, while challenger Hector Oseguera, a lawyer and activist, has the internet and some lefty grassroots appeal. Sires hasn't faced a serious challenger since his first election to Congress 14 years ago, but in recent weeks he's started to take Oseguera seriously — even dusting off a campaign Twitter account that had been dormant for nearly eight years.

Rep. Sires, Scion of Democratic Machine, Faces Feisty Challenger in N.J. Primary

Newark Hits Milestone In Lead Water Crisis

Tap water samples for the first six months of 2020 show there's significantly less lead in Newark's tap water. There is no safe level of lead, but the federal regulations requires cities to take action if more than 10 percent of samples exceed certain lead levels. The lead reductions are largely due to a new treatment that began last year that coats old lead pipes and keeps them from dissolving into the drinking water. Newark is also replacing those old lead service lines and has replaced nearly two-thirds of all 18,000 of them. The state has yet to certify the city's samples and residents should still filter their water if their service-lines haven't been replaced.

Calls Grow for Brooklyn Housing Court to Delay Reopening or Relocate

The elected officials say people have to wait in narrow hallways for their cases to be called and some meet in tiny rooms without windows. They call that an unacceptable risk to public health. But Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society says moving to another building doesn't go far enough. "We think it's inappropriate for any cases to be brought in housing court at this time in the middle of a public health crisis." An attorney for the rent stabilization association says landlords agree Brooklyn has the worst housing court, but they need some way to move cases forward. There's no date for when courtrooms will open in person. The court system says it's still discussing how to expand operations. Read more at Gothamist.com

What Have The Rats Been Up To During Lockdown?

As New York City slowly reopens, more New Yorkers are out in the streets and dining outdoors. And by "New Yorkers," we're including rats. WNYC's Amy Pearl has an update on what these urban rodents have been up to during lockdown.

Williams Doubles Down On Threat To Block New $88 Billion City Budget

Mayor Bill de Blasio is dismissing the Public Advocate's threat to block the newly-approved city budget. WNYC's Brigid Bergin explains.

Some Activist Leave Occupied City Hall Plaza, While Others Vow to Stay On

Some of the organizers planned to leave after the budget vote, but others planned to continue camping in the plaza indefinitely.

Some Activist Leave Occupied City Hall Plaza, While Others Vow to Stay On

NJ Primary Highlights

Listen to WNYC reporters Nancy Solomon and Karen Yi speak with host Kerry Nolan about some key races — and logistics—to watch in the state's largely mail-in primary that closes July 7th.

First NYC Budget of the COVID Era Leaves Many Unsatisfied

It's a new fiscal year, and that means a new New York City budget. The City Council voted shortly after midnight Tuesday to adopt Mayor de Blasio's $88 billion dollar budget. City agencies across the board will shoulder painful cuts due to COVID-related revenue losses and costs—but the most intense negotiations leading up to the last minute were about cuts to the NYPD. WNYC's Kerry Nolan spoke with reporters Yasmeen Khan and Gwynne Hogan about the process.