Legal Cannabis Could Provide Windfall For New York City

New York could soon follow in the footsteps of many cities and states in the country and make marijuana the next big cash crop. The venture could bring revenue in the hundreds of millions to New York City alone says comptroller Scott Stringer.

 

Stringer went on to cite even more impressive numbers saying that the legalization of the drug could result in gains of $3.1 billion for the state. A number that is twice as much as the state revenue realized by Colorado. Stringer also says that approximately a billion dollars could flow through NYC alone.

 

 

The potential tax revenue that would be generated if tax rates consistent with the rest of the country are used is $436 million and $336 million annually for the state and city respectively.

 

The Democratic Stringer, who speaks in support of marijuana legalization, says that there is no reason that New York should continue to live in the past regarding this matter. He further explains that the present analysis details in depth the benefit to New York City, as well as the state as a whole, if a decision to be forward thinking is made.

 

The study by Comptroller Stringer comes at the same time the state is waiting for the results of a similar study order by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The results of the Cuomo study are expected to be released in the coming days.

 

The study by Stringer used surveys to determine that approximately 10% of New York residents are regular users of marijuana. This would mean that the city of New York would have over half a million pot users that are estimated to spend $2000 a year on average for legalized marijuana.

 

Stringer also says that part of the revenue generated by legal marijuana sales could be used to invest in African-American and Latino neighborhoods that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

 

The legalization of the drug would also trim $36 million from the public safety budget with the elimination of minor marijuana possession charges. The NYPD announced recently that it is looking to significantly change the way it polices the use of marijuana within the next month.

Annual May Day Protests In New York City

On May 1, 2018 hundreds of took to the streets of New York City’s Manhattan Borough. The day marked International Workers’ Day, an annual reminder for many of the silent grievances among the country’s working class. The annual day got its start all the way back in 1886, as industrial workers all across the country staged a “walkout” to protest long hours and unsafe working conditions. The result was a victory for American workers as an 8-hour work day soon became standard for many jurisdictions in the United States.

This year it was not just working class workers but immigrants that took to the street in protest. Immigrant rights and socialist groups staged a protest march that started in Union Square and ended in Washington Square Park. For many, the march was just another reason to protest the current United States Presidential Administration, which they say is trying to mute their voices.

All types of groups joined into the protests which were organized by the Workers World Party, which seeks to return political power to the working class. Immigrant rights groups marched side by side with the worker’s rights groups and a celebrity-turned-politician marched with them. Actress Cynthia Nixon of Sex And The City fame marched with protesters from Battery Park to Wall Street to voice concern over the power of financial institutions. Nixon announced earlier this year that she would be running for Governor of New York in the next election. This protest accused Donald Trump’s administration of causing mass incarceration in the immigrant community in an attempt to break down families. Investments in private correctional facilities by the big banks are said to be a conflict of interest.

This annual march does not seem to have caused any arrests which is a surprise considering 32 people were arrested in protest just one year ago. That was not the case in other parts of the world as over 200 people were arrested in Paris during that city’s May Day protests.

Habitat For Humanity To Build Harlem Heights Property Units

Commissioners in Lee County ignored the sentiments of many residents on Wednesday and voted to construct a housing development that will provide 108 units in Harlem Heights.

Donna Marie Collins, the Chief Hearing Examiner of the county suggested against the idea due to the fact that 42 bonus-density units contained in the proposed project would violate the rules of the county by increasing the foot traffic in the neighborhood.

The project to provide affordable housing is being offered by Habitat For Humanity and will be located adjacent to a Harlem Heights working-class neighborhood. A group of neighborhood residents also voiced concerns to the commission regarding the additional traffic they feel will come to their neighborhood because of the development.

Robert Arnall, who is a board member with Habitat for Humanity as well as vice-president for FineMark Bank, says that the project is allowed by the county under the county land use plan. Arnall explains that language in the county plan speaks directly to an allowance for bonus density construction to allow for the construction of low and moderate income housing.

The new homes to be built in the Harlem Heights Community will be single-family dwellings but some will be attached to other housing structures.

Harlem Heights resident John Veldez, who interpreted the words of non-English speaking neighbors to the commissioner expressed dismay at the vote of the commissioners and says that the interests of the existing community are being disregarded. Veldez admonished Habitat for Humanity and the commissioners saying that because they don’t live in the community they have no concern for the well-being of the Harlem Heights residents who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and raised the medium income of the area through hard work and perseverance.

Project engineer Dan Delisi answered Veldez by saying the Habitat for Humanity does not consider the pending project to include low-income units and says that the fears expressed by members that will neighbor the construction are for the most part unfounded.

The Army Corps of Engineers will have to give its approval to the project before construction begins due to the fact that the property would impact the Caloosahatchee Estuary Basin.

New York City Confronts Lead Contamination Problem Head-On

The city of New York has a long public history of fighting against the effects of lead poisoning on its citizens. Lead paint was banned within the city’s limits in 1980 which was 18 years before a ban imposed by the federal government. Free testing for lead is offered by New York City and landlords are held accountable for tenants being exposed to residential lead contamination.

Despite the diligence demonstrated by the citizen, Barbara Ellis explains that lead inspectors had not visited the apartment building she once called home before test showed her twin daughters to have a high presence of lead in their bodies for three consecutive years. The building was inspected after the three examinations however and it was found that the building had lead paint in various stages of peeling on both windows and doors.

The Ellis twins are being provided with occupational and speech therapies to address the problems with development that are experienced by many children exposed to lead. Barbara Ellis, who works as a subway conductor, says that daughters Kaitlyn and Chastity suffered from slurred speech.

The situation endured by the Ellis family is not as uncommon a problem as the city of New York hopes it will one day become.

There are still significant areas of the city where lead contamination is prevalent. Data indicates that 69 census tracts across New York City have seen 10% of their small children test positive for elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream over a period of time from 2005 to 2015.

These numbers representing lead contamination rates in New York City are twice those of the peak contamination rates in Flint, Michigan for the years 2014 and 2015.

Patrick MacRoy, once the director of a program for lead poisoning prevention for the city of Chicago, says that the prevalence of lead contamination in New York even despite the efforts made by the city is a clear indication of how challenging the problem is on a national level.

A spokeswoman for New York City Hall, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, expressed discontentment with comparisons that have been made between her city and the city of Flint saying that aggressive efforts on the part of New York City officials have caused a sharp decline in the rates of lead contamination rates.

NYC Council Is Thinking of Banning Plastic Bottles from Parks

Following the environmental example of the City of San Francisco, the New York City Council is deciding whether they should ban disposable plastic bottles from city parks, beaches, and golf courses.
A person can bring plastic bottles into the parks. They just can’t buy or sell them in the borders of parks, beaches and golf courses.
Plastic bottles have been overflowing from trash cans and landfills. They are choking the oceans. The plastic bottle ban is hoped to stop at least some of the damage that these bottles are causing.
Councilman Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat, who is the one that created the plastic bottle ban bill, thinks that New Yorkers do like convenience as they are going from one place to another. But they should realize there is an environment cost to that convenience.
Espinal is partnering with Councilman Ben Kallos, an Upper East Side Democrat.
The municipalities of San Francisco and Concord, Massachusetts have already banned the sales of plastic bottles. New York City (NYC) would be the third municipality in the US to get rid of plastic bottles.
NYC would be the first in American to plastic bottles that contain soda and juices, according to environmental advocates.
In New York, there are many colleges, businesses and government agencies are trying to encourage people to refill bottles by having plastic bottle-free policies.
Lauren DeRusha Flores, Corporate Accountability director, a non-government advocacy group, believes that it would send a strong message to the people and to the bottled water industry that they should not rely on this unneeded product.
The International Bottled Water Association, an American lobby group, does not like this ban. It feels that a plastic bottle ban would keep people from using s safe, convenient way to drink water and other liquids. This ban is not fair as it does not go after other foods that use plastic containers This group believes that banning plastic bottle water is not in the interest of the American people and reduces the choices that Americans have in getting adequate hydration.
It is wait-and-see if this bill passes.

Proposed Historic District For Central Harlem Gains Support

The Landmarks Preservation Commission listened to public testimony on Tuesday pertaining to a proposed historic district to be designated in Central Harlem. The sentiments expressed to the commission was in unanimous support for the designation that has constantly picked up steam since first being proposed.

The commission noted in their public presentation that the historic district would consist of 164 buildings mostly built in the 19th century. The district would consist of an area from West 130th and West 132nd Streets and will also run between Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Lenox Avenue. Only 12 of the buildings in the proposed district have been built after the year 2000.

Despite the majority of buildings in the district being over a century old, the majority of the buildings are fully intact and have undergone very few alterations. The commission also points out that the buildings exhibit a high level of cohesiveness despite the variety of architectural designs that exist.

There is a rich history of culture in the area also. Scott Joplin, the composer that was once known as the “King of Ragtime,” made his home at 163 West 133rd Street. There was also an assortment of actors and actresses that have lived in the area and performed at the Lafayette Theater which was torn down five years ago with an apartment building being constructed in its place. The proposed district is also where the March On Washington maintained its national headquarters.

Many of the residents and public officials that attending the public meeting were not only supportive of the proposed historic district but were also adamant about the commission taking the steps to make the district a reality in an expeditious manner.

Gale Brewer, a spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President, says that the proposed district can do much to provide protection for the heritage of Harlem.

Save Harlem Now is an advocacy group concerned with protecting Harlem against the effects of gentrification. The president of the group, Valerie Bradley, says that a fast decision is needed from the commission to safeguard the neighborhood from those who would wish to further their desire to gentrify the area.

Bradley says that the brownstones in the area are filled with the heritage and history of Harlem.

The designation is scheduled for a May 29 vote by the Landmarks Commission.

Non-Profit Organization Seeks To Provide East Harlem Groups With More Access To Neighborhood Recreational Spaces

East Harlem is home to more space for recreation than most neighborhoods in the borough of Manhattan. The problem as some sees it is that most of the permits to use these rec spaces have not been given to local athletic groups. Information regarding the situation is available in a recently published report that studied how the city can even the playing field for young athletes in the area.

It was revealed that approximately 44% of the land area in East Harlem is recreational space or public parks in a 44-page report on the matter that was prepared by the Aspen Institute. The institute is a non-profit organization working in conjunction with Mount Sinai Health Systems as well as other charitable organizations in the area in hopes of expanding youth sports options.

The report that 80% of the available athletic spaces in East Harlem were used by athletic groups based in other neighborhoods for the 2017-2018 winter season.

The report further detailed the situation at Thomas Jefferson Park, which contains a large area used for recreation. It was observed by the Aspen Institute that 57% of the track and field reservations for the park in November went to leagues that are not based in East Harlem.

The Department of Parks and Recreation for New York City did not provide a careful review of the report but countered the findings by saying that a full-year review of reservations at Thomas Jefferson Park would show more usage by local leagues. The reinforce their point, the department explained that the East Harlem Little League is the entity that uses the field more than any other.

Sam Biederman, a spokesman for the Parks Department said that the ballfields are available to any group in the city and that all have equal access to them.

Ranya Bautista, working with the Aspen Institute, explains that sports groups in East Harlem find it more difficult to manage the issues with bureaucracy that is necessary to reserve the athletic spaces.

The institute suggested that to remedy the problem the city could give priority to athletic groups from East Harlem when issuing permits for usage of the neighborhood recreational spaces.

The city has not yet provided a response to the suggestions made by the Aspen Institute.

Democrats Are Taking Back New York

For many it may be surprising to learn that a left leaning state like New York had any sort of Republican control, but until recently, they did. For many years there was a small breakaway group of Democrats known as Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) who helped Republicans control the Senate in New York.

Many people, especially in the state of New York, were unaware of a secret deal between the IDC and Felder’s coalition with the Republicans that dated all the way back to 2012. There are eight members of the IDC who have a power sharing agreement with the Republicans in the Senate. This power sharing deal allows them to hold leadership posts in committees as well as have financial stipends. Even though Democrats held a one-seat numerical majority in the state Senate, with this agreement Republicans were able to control the chamber.

Following the 2016 election, the people of New York were angered over the election of President Donald Trump and this anger spurred a new enthusiasm in the New York Democrats that has placed high scrutiny on the IDC. The members of IDC were quick to blame Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, who they stated had created the arrangement. Progressive party members have placed the blame on the GOP controlled Senate for the prevention of single-payer health care bills and other progressive action that passed the state Assembly but never came up to vote. Critics have also point out that due to the current system, budget negotiations are done between four men, Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and IDC Leader Klien. This prevents the current Democratic Senate leader fro playing a proper role in these negotiations.

2018 is shaping up to be a much different year as the IDC is facing stiff competition in the primary where Biaggi is one of seven different Democrats who is challenging IDC members. Gov. Cuomo faces his own competition in Cynthia Nixon, a progressive education activist, and she stands a good chance as Cuomo has been accused in being complacent by not leveraging his power against the IDC and Felder. A recent meeting at a steakhouse between Cuomo, the Democratic Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins and IDC leader Klein might alter the course of events. Cuomo played peacemaker and requested Klein come back into the Democratic fold. The request was tentatively accepted with a handshake and the Democrats seem to be welcoming.

Weather the challengers or the sitting members hold their seats is yet to be known, but it looks like no matter what the future holds, Democrats are back in full control of New York. For more information on this, click here.

The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission Is Being Called Out On Their Ban Regarding Commercial Speech

The limousines, black cars, livery and taxicabs in New York may be owned by the businesses but in truth they are controlled by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The city highly regulates all passenger transportation but the businesses are still entitled to their constitutional rights. Prior to May of 2005 pre-authorization was required by the TLC for all interior advertising in regulated vehicles. In 2004 the installation of passenger monitors was required by the TLC. The next year the ad ban for taxicabs was lifted by the TLC to enable them to offset the costs.

Vugo is a media distribution company. In 2015 they attempted a partnership with New York City rideshare companies including Lift and Uber. The software from Vugo was downloaded onto tablets the riders could view. Sixty percent of the revenue generated from the ads would be paid to the drivers. The TLC stated interior advertising would not be approved for ridesharing. Vugo had to cancel their plans for expansion. Vugo then challenged TLC under the first amendment in New York’s United States District Court. Ronnie Abrams was the judge for the Southern District of New York. She declared Vugo’s commercial rights to speech had been violated due to the ban of TLC.

Judge Abrams determined TLC was promoting the interests of the state. She additionally determined the comfort of the customers was substantial. Due to the exemption of liveries and taxis the ban was deemed under inclusive. This ban was not connected to the comfort of the customers. The judge noted there were no limits on the size or placements of the ads. The final result was TLC was prevented from discrimination pertaining to rideshare vehicles. These vehicles were given the same commercial opportunities as the taxis. For additional details please visit https://www.forbes.com/sites/wlf/2018/03/06/haling-the-first-amendment-nyc-taxi-authoritys-ad-ban-struck-down-as-unconstitutional/2/#143892195cd5.

The advertising rule was justified by TLC with a study conducted seven years previously. The study showed Taxi TV was annoying to 33 percent of all passengers. This was not enough evidence to support the ban imposed on speech. The rules of TLC disfavored marketing and were considered to be invalid. Numerous courts for federal appeals were urged by the Washington Legal Foundation to assess the content of restrictions regarding commercial speech restrictions. It is possible the ruling of Judge Abrams will be appealed by the TLC.

Protest Erupts in New York City After Local Man Arrested

Some New York City residents are outraged at the behavior of ICE agents, the federal government’s deportation police, because they seem to be arresting people randomly and with no reasonable cause.

On Thursday, February 9th, over 100 Bronx residents lined up outside the courthouse to stand up for a man, Aboubacar Dembele Lanier, who was brought to the United States due to no choice of his own at the age of 3. Lanier was arrested upon walking out of the courthouse by ICE agents waiting just outside its doors.

The people protesting outside The Bronx Courthouse are not just random citizens. Every protester is a public defender, knowledgeable of the subject, some of which probably have a better understanding of the immigration laws than the ICE agents who made the arrest. If the protesters were random citizens, this protest may not resonate as loudly as it is. Some of the public defenders who lined up outside the courthouse have clients who have been arrested by ICE agents, for reasons not greater than the fact that they can.

Zaquera Lanier, wife of Aboubacar, told reporters that the agents were waiting outside, with the knowledge that her husband was already inside conducting business that was not associated with any immigration process. Zaquera is a US citizen, her husband only recently signed up for deportation protection under DACA.

The Legal Aid Society, who organized the protest stated to reporters: “The presence of ICE officers in our courthouse and perception that no immigrant is safe to seek their day in court, is threatening to upend our entire legal process and the principles upon which it stands.” Could immigrants be less likely to attend their mandatory court visits if they believe they will be arrested for unrelated issues upon exiting the building? This could be the case, and it could lead to higher deportation rate(due to the fact that if you miss a court date an arrest warrant is often issued) which could be precisely the goal of ICE agents.