New York's Next Mayor Tries New Tactic To Get Feedback
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
New Yorkers have a new way to deliver messages to their newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio. It's a tent, a huge, translucent one on Canal Street called The Talking Transition Tent. More than 11,000 people have wandered through it so far, and it's become a kind of 21st-century soapbox, as NPR's Margot Adler reports.
MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: In front of the tent is a huge, illuminated arrow that changes colors, and the word talk is spelled out in large, black milk crates with sparkling lights. Inside there are almost 50 iPad terminals where you can rate your neighborhood in regard to education, jobs, policing and more. Cindy Dee(ph) has come by almost every day. Her issue...
CINDY DEE: Education. It's my biggest priority.
ADLER: You're a teacher?
DEE: Yes, so I'm very interested in the new policies for education.
ADLER: She's waiting to listen to a discussion on education, but right now in one of the tent's rooms there's a lively conversation about city parks. In front of about 60 people, a councilman, Daniel Squadron, is having a feisty debate over a bill with a parks' advocate.
COUNCILMAN DANIEL SQUADRON: It is not extraordinarily well-funded.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But it has not made this a major part of its mission at all...
ADLER: There are sticky notes on every wall and table where people write their concerns, and there's a hanging thought bubble, which says what's your idea for New York City, and you can stand under the thought bubble, in front of a microphone and create a video about your idea.
ANDREA SLESSINGER: The room is littered with stickers.
ADLER: Andrea Slessinger(ph) works for Soros' Open Society Foundations, one of the 10 foundations supporting this two-week venture. She gives me a tour.
SLESSINGER: We've had performances. We've had panel discussions. We've had people doing teach-in style things. We've got people sitting around tables and doing participatory budgeting exercises.
ADLER: There's a room where you can buy coffee, food. There's even music.
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ADLER: Anna Mokler(ph) is from Brooklyn and teaches in a community college.
ANNA MOKLER: To talk is the beginning of everything.
ADLER: Her priority for the mayor: reducing inequality.
MOKLER: The gap between the rich and the poor in New York City, oh my heavenly mergatroid...
ADLER: Slessinger says all these sticky notes, videos, computer entries will be collected and looked at by the new mayor and everyone involved. I asked Toby Bergman(ph), a middle-age guy who wandered in, do you think this all adds up to anything?
TOBY BERGMAN: As I walked by, there seemed to be a lot of energized people.
ADLER: And there were, even groups of school kids passing through. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.
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