This Man Spent Two Decades In Prison Because of Prosecutorial Misconduct In Queens (Part 2)

Last month, a Queens judge vacated three men's convictions, citing numerous acts of prosecutorial misconduct. Part two of this story explores how one of those men, George Bell, returned home to his family.

This Man Spent Two Decades In Prison Because of Prosecutorial Misconduct In Queens (Part 2)

They Might Be Giants Open Up a New Chapter with BOOK

Brooklyn's own, They Might Be Giants are back with a new album - a multimedia experience called BOOK. And after four decades of albums and tours, Grammy awards, and seemingly countless TV themes and movie songs, the new project reveals the duo losing none of their ambition. Collaborating with photographer Brian Karlsson and graphic designer Paul Sahre, BOOK pairs a fresh set of music with a cloth-bound, hardcover book of lyrics and photography. John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants joins us to talk about BOOK and the band's upcoming 40th anniversary. But, he cautions, don't rush to celebrate just yet. Speaking with WNYC's David Furst he says, "I should point out that it's 40 in February! So, like a lot of people who are 39, we want to be very specific about that." The band heads out on tour in 2022 to play a complete rendition of their major-label debut, the 1990 album Flood. But they also promise to play selections from BOOK. An image from the They Might Be Giants album, Book. (Courtesy of They Might Be Giants)

Don't Miss It: Carrie Mae Weems, Black Theater Artists, & West Side Story

The arts and culture scene is thriving in the city. WNYC Culture Editor Jennifer Vanasco spoke with host David Furst for her regular series, "Don't Miss It," highlighting the best the city has to offer.

Don't Miss It: Carrie Mae Weems, Black Theater Artists, & West Side Story

Rutgers Confronts Its History of Slavery, With Mixed Results

Rutgers University officials were deep into preparations for a year-long celebration of the institution's 250th anniversary in 2016, when students recognized a major part of the story behind its founding was missing. "It did not include an acknowledgement of the history of slavery," said Marisa Fuentes, an associate professor in the Department of History at the New Brunswick campus. "At that time the university administration did not know the history, other than it was the anniversary of its founding, and a few of the trustees' names." At the students' insistence, university officials conceded—with then chancellor Richard L. Edwards acknowledging complaints that the university had ignored its past, "such as that our campus is built on land taken from the Lenni-Lenape, and that a number of our founders and early benefactors were slave holders." He launched the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History in 2015, and out of that came the Scarlet and Black Project, an exploration of the experiences of Blacks and Native Americans at New Jersey's largest university. The project yielded a rich trove of research and stories, including "Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History," a volume edited and written by Rutgers scholars. The first of three historical volumes, it takes an unsparing look at how the university's colonial-era founders and the institution itself benefited from the slave economy, and the central role that enslaved men and women played in the construction of what was then known as Queens College. Rutgers was founded in 1766. But, just five years after the debut of the Scarlet and Black Project—a reference to the university's colors as well as the African Americans directly impacted by the history—many Rutgers students are unaware of the work, or their school's history.

Poetry Becomes Music

Back in April, WNYC's Morning Edition invited listeners to submit poems on the theme "emergence." The response was tremendous. Even further back, last March, Morning Edition featured interviews and music with some of the winners of WQXR's Artist Propulsion Lab. These were New York City musicians, chosen by our sister station, to receive support for new works. Now, a new piece of music ties those two things together. Opera singer Kara Dugan, an Artist Propulsion Lab winner, has commissioned five, one-minute works for voice and piano by five women composers. They each feature lyrics from poems that listeners submitted to us here on Morning Edition. It's called, 'In a New York Minute" and she's premiering it live on Sunday as part of WQXR's 85th birthday concert. She joined WNYC's Michael Hill for a preview.

NY Officials Identify 5 More Omicron Cases, Assume Community Spread Ongoing

New York health officials have identified five cases of the new omicron variant in Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in a joint press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday evening. A 67-year-old vaccinated Suffolk County resident tested positive for the variant on Tuesday after traveling back to New York from South Africa and was experiencing mild symptoms, Hochul said. Health officials detected four more cases in New York City, all of which have unknown vaccination statuses. Two live in Queens, one in Brooklyn. Hochul said they had just received word of the fifth case, based somewhere in the city. "We knew this was coming...We suspect there will be more cases emerging," she added, emphasizing that people should get vaccinated and take booster shots if they hadn't been yet. "We're not defenseless against this variant." Mayor Bill de Blasio added there was a high likelihood the virus is spreading locally without connections to international travel. "We know that we now have cases in New York City. We have to assume that means there's community spread," he said. "We have to assume we're going to see a lot more cases." Click listen in the player, and for more details, head to Gothamist.

NY Officials Identify 5 More Omicron Cases, Assume Community Spread Ongoing

What New Yorkers Need To Know About Omicron's Arrival And The Delta Surge Hitting The Holidays

Omicron is here. Thursday evening, New York officials announced that they had detected five cases of the omicron variant in New York State. One is a 67-year-old woman in Suffolk County with some vaccination history, but it's unclear if she was fully inoculated or boosted. Two were found in people in Queens, one in a person in Brooklyn and the other case is someone in an unreported location in New York City. Their vaccine statuses and current symptoms weren't provided by Governor Hochul and Mayor de Blasio who announced all of these findings at a joint briefing yesterday evening. Much of what they said came as no surprise, as health experts have widely anticipated that omicron would arrive in the United States and spread through local communities. But what does it all mean for New Yorkers, as they enjoy the winter holidays. Many were just getting adjusted to at least a partial return to public life, but cases and hospitalizations are surging due to the delta variant, which has been the globally dominant COVID scourge since this spring. A lot is still unknown about how and if the omicron variant will alter the course of the pandemic. So, Morning Edition host Michael Hill spoke with Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at NYU and Bellevue Hospital. Click listen in the player.

What New Yorkers Need To Know About Omicron's Arrival And The Delta Surge Hitting The Holidays

Why It Could Take 'Two Weeks' To Learn If Omicron Impacts COVID-19 Vaccines

Whenever a fresh coronavirus variant emerges, the public often hungers for answers. What could it mean for my family? My job? My health? Since the omicron variant was first reported, the common response from health experts — cited across CNN to The New York Times to NPR — is that it could take "two weeks" to know whether immunity and vaccine protection will remain effective against this new threat. Why two weeks? A fortnight is a weirdly specific timeframe? The main reason behind the wait is that a legion of virologists need this time to tease apart omicron's attack patterns. This new variant's large amount of mutations has made this work harder than it typically is. Omicron has about 50 mutations — twice as many mutations overall as delta. Also contributing to the delay is the lag time between catching the virus and being hospitalized. It typically takes about seven to 12 days. Most of the early omicron cases were spotted in college students who developed mild disease, according to their doctors. But younger adults are way less likely to experience severe COVID, and wave after wave has taught us that these youths also tend to be on the leading edge of surges. So, these early cases do not offer much clarity on omicron's severity. "I was completely shocked and surprised to see the number of mutations," said Dr. Ned Landau, a microbiology professor at New York University Grossman School of Medicine. "It took me a while to figure out that this was for real." Landau is leading one out of the hundreds of labs that is working with the World Health Organization to determine if omicron can bypass our immunity. After meeting with the WHO on Monday morning, Landau walked WNYC/Gothamist — step-by-step — through what goes into the process and why it will take about 14 days. Click listen in the player, and for more details,

Why It Could Take 'Two Weeks' To Learn If Omicron Impacts COVID-19 Vaccines

Federal Investigators Find NYCHA Misled About "Lead-Free" Apartments

A new investigation looks at lead test results in NYCHA apartments that officials previously declared lead-free. The news site The City analyzed the data and found alarming results.

CDC Closes Loophole That Kept Vaccine Trial Participants, Foreigners From Getting Boosters

Like many New Yorkers, I was eager to get a booster when the city opened up eligibility to everyone on November 15th. But to my shock and frustration, Bellevue Hospital denied me a shot the same day for a peculiar reason. I was vaccinated in December 2020 as part of a clinical trial for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. More than two billion doses have been administered to people spread across 90 countries, but this particular medicine has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Because of that, I fell into a group of thousands who'd either been vaccinated in clinical trials for products that were never authorized in the U.S., or who'd been vaccinated abroad and then moved here. Even elderly people or immunocompromised ones who've been eligible for boosters since August have also been barred if their first shots are only offered overseas. Click listen in the player, and for more, head to Gothamist.

CDC Closes Loophole That Kept Vaccine Trial Participants, Foreigners From Getting Boosters

Allegations Surface About Treatment of ICE Detainees in Orange County

Attorneys are alleging abusive and racist treatment of detainees at an immigration detention center at the Orange County Correctional Facility in the Hudson Valley, where some undocumented immigrants from New York City were moved in recent months after detention facilities closed New Jersey. The Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University's School of Law filed complaints in recent weeks with the Department of Homeland Security and the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, that centered on allegations regarding the treatment of a mentally disabled and cognitively impaired Mexican immigrant. The detainee, identified by his initials L.G.C., attempted suicide four times since being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last February for lacking legal documents. Despite his suicidal ideation and documented mental health issues, the lawyers said he has not been given the required mental health treatment. Instead, the complaints say, L.G.C. was put in solitary confinement, given improper doses of medication, and threatened by correctional officers ("If I saw you at the border I'd fucking blow off your head," and, "You locked yourself up because you came to this country, so you don't get water.") Orange County Undersheriff Kennth T. Jones said all of the allegations would be investigated. "We will look into every element of [their] complaint, but I think this is always the case of advocates of this nature — they go a bridge too far," he said. For the rest of this story, visit Gothamist.com.

Allegations Surface About Treatment of ICE Detainees in Orange County

New York City Voter Turnout Hits Record Low For A Mayoral Election

Only 23 percent of active registered voters cast a ballot for mayor. That's about 1.15 of the 4.95 eligible voters. WNYC's Brigid Bergin reports. For more, go to Gothamist.com.

What Emergency Pandemic Powers Does New York Governor Kathy Hochul Have?

Early on in the pandemic, the New York state legislature granted former Governor Andrew Cuomo extraordinarily broad emergency powers that allowed him to dictate the statewide response to COVID-19. Lawmakers later rescinded those powers amid the scandals that led to Cuomo's resignation last summer, but coronavirus cases are once more surging in parts of the state and a new variant of concern is beginning to spread internationally. Now, the question is, what powers does current Governor Kathy Hochul still have, and what is she willing to use? Politico's New York's Albany reporter Anna Gronewold joined All Things Considered host Sean Carlson to discuss what Hochul can and has been doing to shape the state's pandemic policy. For the full conversation, click "Listen."

What Emergency Pandemic Powers Does New York Governor Kathy Hochul Have?

MTA Continues to Use "Honor System" for Tracking Workers' Hours, Despite History of Abuse

The MTA is spending over $30 million dollars to upgrade its payroll system as part of an effort to crackdown on overtime abuse. But a report finds some employees still use the old paper-based "honor system." The MTA has been trying to get its workers to use a biometric time clock—a device they clock in and out with, using their fingerprints. This comes after a Long Island Railroad foreman made more than any other MTA employee in 2018, by racking up more than 3,000 hours of forged overtime in one year. But a report this week from the MTA's Inspector General says many workers are still using pen and paper—the honor system—to track their hours. She says if the MTA wants to fully modernize, all workers need to use the biometric clocks, and they need to be fully integrated with the payroll system.

MTA Continues to Use "Honor System" for Tracking Workers' Hours, Despite History of Abuse

A New Analysis Of Income Data Shows Income Inequality Shrank Under De Blasio

New York City narrowed the inequality gap between 2014 to 2019, defying a national trend, as the bottom half of earners steadily increased their share of income faster relative to wealthier ones, an analysis of annual state tax data by the Independent Budget Office shows. For more, go to Gothamist.com.

A New Analysis Of Income Data Shows Income Inequality Shrank Under De Blasio

Newark Cop Charged with Vehicular Homicide, DUI, Desecrating Body

A Newark police officer charged with vehicular homicide after he allegedly hit a pedestrian and took the dead victim's body home was also found to be under the influence. A spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor said in her initial press release that she inadvertently omitted the fact that Officer Albert Guzman was also charged with DUI. The revelation sheds more light on the November 1st incident in which an off-duty Guzman hit 29-year-old nurse Damian Dymka, who was walking on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway. Instead of calling 911, Guzman allegedly loaded Dymka's body into his car and drove home, where he conspired with his mother about what to do with the body. Guzman's father, also a Newark cop, ultimately called 9-1-1. Among other offenses Guzman and his mother were charged with conspiracy to desecrate human remains.

Where to Skate in the City

When you think about ice skating in New York, one image probably comes to mind. The Rink at Rockefeller Center. But New Yorkers have lots of great options - and some of them have much lower prices and fewer crowds. Gothamist photographer, Scott Lynch joins WNYC's David Furst for a roundup of the best places for outdoor skating in New York City.

NJ Renters Have 2 Weeks To Apply For Rental Aid As Eviction Moratorium Sunsets

New Jersey residents who missed rent payments due to the pandemic are running out of time to apply for state assistance as the eviction moratorium comes to an end. Tenants have until December 15th to apply to the state's rental aid program and will be entered into a lottery to fairly distribute the remaining federal dollars. But individual counties, along with municipalities like Jersey City and Newark, are also distributing funds, though some of those programs are no longer taking applications. Newark's remains open through January 7th; Jersey City closed its application last month. "Apply for every place that you can possibly apply for it. But don't leave any stone unturned," said Matt Shapiro, president of the New Jersey Tenants Organization. "There are going to be plenty of tenants left out in the cold and our focus is to try to minimize the number of tenants that actually end up being put out of their homes." The federal government issued more than $800 million in rental assistance to state jurisdictions to cover accumulated rent payments. The U.S. Treasury said any funds that aren't distributed will be reallocated to entities that are able to more effectively give out the money. Governor Phil Murphy has also set aside an additional $500 million in federal aid to help prevent evictions. "This problem is not solved simply because a lot of money was put into it. Because while it's a lot, it's not enough," Shapiro said.

NJ Renters Have 2 Weeks To Apply For Rental Aid As Eviction Moratorium Sunsets

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on COVID

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and families are getting together — some for the first time since the pandemic began. But COVID is on the rise in parts of the state. We talk to New York Governor Kathy Hochul about COVID, why she isn't requiring vaccines for MTA workers, and other news.

Troubled New Jersey Prison System Lacks Permanent Leader — And Key Watchdog

New Jersey's troubled Department of Corrections is without a Senate-confirmed commissioner. The newly empowered prison ombudsperson's office doesn't have an actual ombudsperson. And the state's only women's prison — the focus of multiple probes due to systemic violence — continues to make headlines for sexual assault involving officers. As Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, begins his second term in January, the leadership of the state prison system and oversight of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for female prisoners remain concerns for lawmakers and prisoner advocates. Eleven correctional officers at Edna Mahan have been arrested for charges related to assaulting women this year alone — and that follows years of investigations detailing a culture of violence at the facility. Murphy's handling of the crisis — and his commitment to the embattled state corrections commissioner, who eventually resigned — was a controversial flashpoint of his first term. Going into his second term, plenty of questions remain: Who will lead the prison system? Who will take on the critical role of ombudsperson? And when will Edna Mahan close, as he has promised? For more on this story, visit Gothamist.com.

Troubled New Jersey Prison System Lacks Permanent Leader — And Key Watchdog

A Straightforward Guide To Reducing Your Holiday COVID Risk

COVID-19 has a knack for rebounding just as life starts to reopen a bit more in New York City. This fall, many businesses began hybrid operations — with a mix of office time and work-from-home schedules. International travelers are flooding back into the boroughs — a potential boon for the hard-hit hospitality industry. And holiday travel has almost rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. But a coronavirus surge has also snuck up on New York City like a panther. The daily case rate is averaging around 1,300 infections and looks on course to end November twice as high as where it began. That would put infections near this summer's high mark — when the delta variant took over. Hospitalizations remain low in the city for now, but these severe cases are rising swiftly upstate. Those places are also less vaccinated than New York City, but one in four people still haven't taken their shots in the five boroughs. That said, most holiday revelers are currently in a safer position now relative to a year ago when vaccines weren't available. Read More: Port Authority To Air Travelers: "Anticipate Longer Waits At TSA Security Checkpoints" But for any concerned parties, COVID-19 safety is all about layering on different types of protection. Vaccines drop risk the most. Testing can help screen out possible carriers. When that fails, mask-wearing indoors and good ventilation can reduce airborne spread. To gauge how many precautions to take, the first step is thinking about how many people at your gathering would struggle the most if they caught the coronavirus. Next, a party host will want to consider how to limit those risks through a mixture of testing, mask use and ventilation. No plan will be foolproof, and all gatherings will come with a certain amount of COVID risk whenever case rates rise. As of Tuesday, every county except one in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is reporting a high level of community transmission. Keeping a few tips in mind can help minimize the danger. The journey back to normal is naturally going to come with more risks than just staying home. From a public health perspective, people will hopefully try to do the right thing to limit coronavirus spread, while also striking a balance with the decisions that feel right for them. For more, click listen in the player and head to Gothamist.

Good Things: Planting A Memorial Tree

Fall is a great time to plant a tree, because the cool weather and plenty of rain give it a chance to establish roots. WNYC's Amy Pearl went to visit one special tree, part of Prospect Park's commemorative tree program.

Governor Hochul Pushes to Get Next Phase of 2nd Ave Subway Project Underway

Governor Kathy Hochul says she hopes construction of the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway could get under way next year. A concrete shell of what will be the new subway tunnel already exists below Second Avenue in East Harlem. It's a remnant of an earlier attempt at the long-in-the-making project from the 1970s. The MTA hopes to use the shell as it extends the Second Avenue line from 96th to 125th Street, adding three new stops along the way. Still, the 1.5 mile stretch is expected to cost $6 billion and could take 8 years to complete. The MTA expects federal grants to cover half the costs, and says it will cover the other half. Construction of the three stops that made up the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway took nine-and-a-half years.

Governor Hochul Pushes to Get Next Phase of 2nd Ave Subway Project Underway

Case Delays Are Helping Drive Up The Population On Rikers Island

More than 1,600 people have been incarcerated in city jails awaiting trial for more than a year.