E-Mobility Devices Offer Consumers “Lower Virus Risk” and More Convenience Than Public Transit

(p. A9) A boom in electric-powered mobile devices is bringing what is likely to be a lasting change and a new safety challenge to New York’s vast and crowded street grid.

The devices have sprouted up all over. Office workers on electric scooters glide past Manhattan towers. Parents take electric bikes to drop off their children at school. Young people have turned to electric skateboards, technically illegal on city streets, to whiz through the far corners of New York.

Though many of these riders initially gave up their subway and bus trips because of the lower virus risk of traveling outdoors, some say they are sticking with their e-mobility devices even as the city begins to move beyond the pandemic.

“I use the scooter for everything, it’s really convenient,” said Shareese King, 41, a Bronx resident who deleted the Uber app from her phone after she started running her errands on an electric scooter.

Electric bikes, scooters and other devices are in many cases made for urban life because they are affordable, better for the environment, take up little, if any, street space for parking and are just fun to use, said Sarah M. Kaufman, the associate director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University.

For the full story, see:

Winnie Hu and Chelsia Rose Marcius. “As Personal E-Mobility Spreads, Safety Challenges Grow.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 28, 2021): A9.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. [sic] 8, 2021, and has the title “As E-Scooters and E-Bikes Proliferate, Safety Challenges Grow.”)

Bans on Natural Gas for Cooking and Heating Could Most Hurt Low-Income Citizens

(p. A13) This week, New York City moved to ban gas hookups in new buildings, joining cities in blue states like California, Massachusetts and Washington that want to shift homes away from burning natural gas because it releases carbon dioxide, which causes global warming.

Instead, developers in New York City will have to install electric heat pumps and electric kitchen ranges in newly constructed buildings.

. . .

But the gas industry is fighting back and has lobbied in statehouses across the country to slow the shift away from gas. It argues that gas appliances are widely popular and still cost less than electric versions for many consumers. Opponents have also warned that a rush to electrify homes could strain power grids, particularly in the winter when heating needs soar, at a time when states like California and Texas are already struggling to meet demand.

Karen Harbert, president and chief executive of the American Gas Association, an industry group, said efforts to disconnect homes and businesses from the extensive network of gas pipelines would make it difficult to supply those buildings with low-carbon alternatives that might be available in the future, such as hydrogen or biogas.

“Eliminating natural gas and our delivery infrastructure forecloses on current and future innovation opportunities,” she said.

The question of whether to use natural gas in homes has become part of the culture wars, pitting climate activists against industry and other interest groups. Some chefs and restaurant owners have argued that they won’t be able to cook certain dishes as well without gas.

. . .

In a statement, Bill Malcolm, a senior legislative representative at the AARP, said the group had “supported legislative and regulatory initiatives allowing customers to continue to use the fuel of their choice to heat their homes and cook their food.” He added: “Outright bans on certain fuel options would run contrary to that choice.”

. . .

For now, natural gas remains the dominant fuel in much of the country, heating nearly half of American homes. Electric heat pumps, by contrast, satisfy just 5 percent of heating demand nationwide.

. . .

Experts have warned that as more homeowners go electric, gas utilities will still have to pay to maintain their existing network of pipelines, which could mean higher costs for the smaller base of remaining customers, many of whom may be low-income.

For the full story, see:

Brad Plumer and Hiroko Tabuchi. “Gas vs. Electric Stoves Join Partisan Battlefield.” The New York Times (Friday, December 17, 2021): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 10, 2021, and has the title “How Politics Are Determining What Stove You Use.” The online version says that the New York print edition had the title “Gas vs. Electric Stoves on a Partisan Battlefield.” My National print edition had the title “Gas vs. Electric Stoves Join Partisan Battlefield.” Where there is a slight difference in wording between the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Return of New York City Oysters Are a Hopeful “Symbol of Resilience”

(p. A10) The restoration of New York Harbor has reached a new milestone as 2021 draws to a close: 11.2 million juvenile oysters have been added in the past six months to a section of the Hudson River off the coast of Lower Manhattan, where they are helping to filter the water and creating habitats for other marine life.

. . .

. . ., in addition to the ones being introduced, wild ones are being found on the bottoms of piers off the West Side of Manhattan and in the Bronx.

. . .

. . . the oysters are a symbol of resilience, and a rare hopeful sign amid ominous news about New York waterways in the age of rapid climate change.

If they grow big enough, the oyster reefs can even play a role in dissipating wave energy, helping to protect the city’s shorelines from storm surges and flooding in extreme weather.

. . .

The researchers at the River Project will track the oysters and their effect on the water. They run a small, free aquarium at Pier 40 that is designed expressly to educate the public about the abundant marine life in the area.

One very special oyster, named Big, lives under the pier. At 8.6 inches and 1.9 pounds, it was believed to be the biggest oyster found in New York Harbor in a century when it was discovered in 2018.

For the full story, see:

Karen Zraick. “11 Million New Oysters. Want to Eat One? Maybe in 100 Years.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 11, 2021): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 10, 2021, and has the title “11 Million New Oysters in New York Harbor (but None for You to Eat).”)

Bloomberg Will Donate $750 Million to Support Charter Schools

(p. A19) American public education is broken. Since the pandemic began, students have experienced severe learning loss because schools remained closed in 2020—and even in 2021 when vaccinations were available to teachers and it was clear schools could reopen safely. Many schools also failed to administer remote learning adequately.

Before the pandemic, about two-thirds of U.S. students weren’t reading at grade level, and the trend has been getting worse. Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the nation’s report card, show that in 2019, eighth-grade math scores had already fallen significantly.

Teachers understand the severity of the problem, and many are doing heroic work, yet some of their union representatives are denying reality. “There is no such thing as learning loss,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, head of the Los Angeles teachers union, in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine this past summer. “Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience.”

What nonsense. How about reading, writing and arithmetic, the critical skills we are funding schools to teach?

Instead of giving students the skills they need to succeed in college or in a trade, the public education system is handing them diplomas that say more about their attendance record than their academic achievement. This harms students, especially those from low-income families. When and if they graduate, they will try to find work in an economy that values knowledge and skills above all else, and their old schools will say to them: “Good luck!”

. . .

We know what works, because we can see it in real time. Success Academy’s network of 47 public charter schools is serving New York children whose families predominantly live below the poverty line. Their students are outperforming public-school students in Scarsdale, N.Y.—the wealthiest town on the East Coast and the second-wealthiest town in America—by significant margins. Yet a statewide cap on charter schools is blocking Success Academy from expanding.

. . .

Today there are long waiting lists for charter schools across the country, but mayors and governors aren’t getting the support they need from Congress and the White House to open new charter schools. To begin meeting the demand for charters, Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching a five-year, $750 million effort to create seats for 150,000 more children in 20 metro areas across the country.

For the full commentary, see:

Bloomberg, Michael R. “Why I’m Backing Charter Schools.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 1, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

Users of “Free” Public Housing Wi-Fi Do Not Know How to Keep It Online

(p. 30) After months of back and forth, NYC Mesh got the greenlight to put a hub on the 24-story public housing tower in Bed-Stuy, along with two other developments in the Bronx and Queens. Four other small providers, including Silicon Harlem, were selected to wire up 10 other NYCHA developments. As part of Phase One of the Internet Master Plan, to which the city will direct $157 million, NYC Mesh installed free public hot spots around the exterior grounds of the projects; the other companies must provide residents access to Wi-Fi in their apartments for no more than $20 a month.

. . .

But the people who use the free hot spots in public housing or the family shelter in Brownsville don’t know how to fix the equipment or where to request a repair or report an outage on Slack. Indeed, all but one of the hallway routers in the shelter have been out for the last couple of months, and a number of new ones at the Bed-Stuy tower keep going offline.

For the full story, see:

Bliss Broyard. “Meet the Warriors of Wi-Fi.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, July 18, 2021): 30.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 16, 2021, and has the title “‘Welcome to the Mesh, Brother’: Guerrilla Wi-Fi Comes to New York.”)

New Regulations Pushed by Union Allied with de Blasio Will Limit New NYC Hotels

(p. A8) Mayor Bill de Blasio and other New York City leaders are pushing a controversial plan to drastically restrict hotel development, a move that the mayor’s own experts fear could endanger the city’s post-pandemic recovery and cost billions in lost tax revenue.

. . .

The Council is expected to approve the plan in time for Mr. de Blasio to see it become law before he leaves office this year. Once it is in place, developers fear that few, if any, new hotels would be built.

. . .

“We flag that to continue with this proposal could be seen as contrary to economic recovery principles and sound planning,” Marisa Lago, the director of the planning department, wrote last year in the memo to City Hall.

But Mr. de Blasio’s views hew closer to those of another group: the hotel workers union that endorsed his 2020 presidential campaign, pouring $440,000 into ads to bolster his ill-fated candidacy.

The union, the Hotel Trades Council, has long pushed to limit the construction of new hotels, which are often nonunion. Its calculation has been that limiting the development of such hotels, which typically offer less-expensive lodging than existing full-service hotels, would tend to increase hotel room prices generally and bolster the higher-end hotels where many of its workers are employed.

. . .

In most of the city, developers are free to build hotels in areas that are zoned for such use. Under a special approval process, building hotels would become far more challenging, said Moses Gates, vice president of housing and neighborhood planning at the Regional Plan Association, an influential nonprofit planning group. No other type of routine development currently gets the kind of scrutiny that Mr. de Blasio is proposing for hotels, he said.

“Hotels would be the only common land use which would always need City Council approval to be built, no matter what,” Mr. Gates said.

. . .

The Hotel Trades Council’s support of a special permit process for new hotels may seem counterintuitive, since it is effectively opposing the growth of jobs in the industry that it represents. Union hotel jobs in New York City provide one of the few pathways to the middle class for workers with no college education.

“Labor generally is in favor of employment and of growth, but especially jobs in their own sector,” said Harry C. Katz, a professor of collective bargaining at Cornell University.

But mid-market hotels that serve middle-class tourists are hard to unionize, union and industry experts say. If citywide special permits are adopted, as is expected, the hotel union would most likely use its political leverage to pressure Council members to only accept new hotels that use union labor.

For the full story, see:

Dana Rubinstein and J. David Goodman. “A Plan to Limit New Hotels in New York Meets Resistance.” The New York Times (Wednesday, April 28, 2021): A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 27, 2021, and has the title “A $7 Billion Mistake? New York Seeks to Curb New Hotels.”)

The research co-authored by Stone and mentioned above was described in:

Stone, Brian, Jr., Evan Mallen, Mayuri Rajput, Carina J. Gronlund, Ashley M. Broadbent, E. Scott Krayenhoff, Godfried Augenbroe, Marie S. O’Neill, and Matei Georgescu. “Compound Climate and Infrastructure Events: How Electrical Grid Failure Alters Heat Wave Risk.” Environmental Science & Technology (published online in advance of print on April 30, 2021).

Cuomo-Endorsed Closure of Indian Point Nuclear Reactors Increases New York’s Use of Fossil Fuels

(p. B6) For most of his long political career, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo railed against the dangers of having a nuclear power plant operating just 25 miles away from New York City, saying its proximity to such a densely populated metropolis defied “basic sanity.’’

But now, the plant is preparing to shut down, and New York is grappling with the adverse effect the closing will have on another of Mr. Cuomo’s ambitious goals: sharply reducing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

So far, most of the electricity produced by the nuclear plant, known as Indian Point, has been replaced by power generated by plants that burn natural gas and emit more pollution. And that trade-off will become more pronounced once Indian Point’s last reactor shuts down on April 30 [2021].

“It’s topsy-turvy,” said Isuru Seneviratne, a clean-energy investor who is a member of the steering committee of Nuclear New York, which has lobbied to keep Indian Point running. The pronuclear group calculated that each of Indian Point’s reactors had been producing more power than all of the wind turbines and solar panels in the state combined.

For the full story, see:

Patrick McGeehan. “Nuclear Plant’s Shutdown Means More Fossil Fuel in New York.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 13, 2021): A15.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 13, 2021, and has the title “Indian Point Is Shutting Down. That Means More Fossil Fuel.”)

New York City’s Resilient Dynamism

(p. C10) Do you worry that New York won’t fully return to what it was before the pandemic?

LEBOWITZ I have lived in New York long enough to know that it will not stay the way it is now. There is not a square foot of New York City, a square foot, that’s the same as it was when I came here in 1970. That’s what a city is, even without a plague. But I’d like to point out, there were many things wrong with it before. After the big protests in SoHo, I saw a reporter interviewing a woman who was a manager of one of the fancy stores there. The reporter said to her, “What are you going to do?” And she said, “There’s nothing we can do until the tourists come back.” I yelled at the TV and I said, “Really? You can’t think what to do with SoHo without tourists? I can! Let me give you some ideas.” Because I remember it without tourists. How about, artists could live there? How about, let’s not have rent that’s $190,000 a month? How about that? Let’s try that.

For the full interview, see:

Dave Itzkoff, interviewer. “More of Her Metropolitan Life.” The New York Times (Friday, January 8, 2021): C1 & C10.

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Jan. 7, 2020, and has the title “Fran Lebowitz and Martin Scorsese Seek a Missing New York in ‘Pretend It’s a City’.” In the online and print versions the question by Itzkoff, and Lebowitz’s name before her answer, were in bold.)

New York Times’s “Inexcusable” Reporting Ignored Sophia Farrar, Whose Actions Belied the Kitty Genovese Narrative

(p. A24) The story of Kitty Genovese, coupled with the number 38, became a parable for urban indifference after Ms. Genovese was stalked, raped and stabbed to death in her tranquil Queens neighborhood.

Two weeks after the murder, The New York Times reported in a front-page article that 37 apathetic neighbors who witnessed the murder failed to call the police, and another called only after she was dead.

It would take decades for a more complicated truth to unravel, including the fact that one neighbor actually raced from her apartment to rescue Ms. Genovese, knowing she was in distress but unaware whether her assailant was still on the scene.

That woman, Sophia Farrar, the unsung heroine who cradled the body of Ms. Genovese and whispered “Help is on the way” as she lay bleeding, died on Friday [Aug. 28, 2020] at her home in Manchester, N.J.

. . .

The murder was reported in a modest four-paragraph article in The Times. Two weeks later, its interest piqued by a tip from the city’s police commissioner, The Times produced a front-page account of the killing that transformed the murder into a global allegory for callous egocentrism in the urban jungle and undermined the innocent-bystander alibi.

. . .

That account — epitomized by one neighbor’s stated excuse that “I didn’t want to get involved” — galvanized outrage, became the accepted narrative for decades and even spawned a subject of study in psychology: how bystanders react to tragedy. Except that with the benefit of hindsight, the number of eyewitnesses turned out to have been exaggerated; none actually saw the attack completely; some who heard it thought it was a drunken brawl or a lovers’ quarrel; and several people said they did call the police.

. . .

In several retrospectives decades after the murder, The Times reassessed the original account, concluding that more neighbors might have heard Ms. Genovese’s screams than actually witnessed the attack. But only one Times article, during Mr. Moseley’s trial, even mentioned Mrs. Farrar’s name, reporting that she and Ms. Zielonko found the victim in the vestibule.

Since Mrs. Farrar was interviewed on camera in “The Witness,” though, among those who criticized The Times’s failure to report her presence in earlier accounts of the crime was Joseph Lelyveld, who was the executive editor of The Times in the 1990s. He has called the omission “inexcusable.”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Sophia Farrar Dies at 92; Belied Indifference to Kitty Genovese Attack.” The New York Times (Friday, September 4, 2020): A24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Sept. 2, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Manship’s Heroic Prometheus Sculpture Celebrates “the Promise of the Future”

I wanted to use a photo of Manship’s Prometheus sculpture on the cover of my book Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. My editor vetoed my choice on the grounds that Prometheus was a male and the cover design needed to be gender-neutral.

(p. C14) Think a minute, then name an outdoor sculpture in Manhattan. Chances are, you chose the gilded image of Prometheus at the heart of Rockefeller Center, . . .

. . .

In conceiving his urban commercial complex, John D. Rockefeller Jr. wanted to celebrate civilization, human achievement and the promise of the future.

. . .

It’s a very serious, and very handsome, Prometheus that Manship fashioned. He chose to depict the moment after the titan has stolen the fire and is descending to Earth, signified in the sculpture by the summit behind him, and by the sea as portrayed by the pool beneath him. Prometheus, eyes wide open, looks down toward his destination. His youthful, strong-featured face betrays not worry exactly, but acknowledgment that he will face consequences from an angry Zeus, who did not want mankind to rival the gods in any way. But Prometheus is determined to give humanity the flame in his right hand, held above his head, almost triumphantly. With his outstretched left arm, he balances himself—and Manship balances his heroic sculpture.

. . .

Manship also added an element to the whole: He suggested the quote from Aeschylus that is carved in bold capital letters on the wall behind his work, strengthening its seamless link to its setting: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”

Manship thus delivered a powerful piece of statement art.

. . .

. . . —Prometheus stands out. He is a marvel within a larger urban marvel.

For the full story, see:

Judith H. Dobrzynski. “MASTERPIECE; A Monument of Titanic Beauty.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, August 22, 2020): C14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 21, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Neighborhood Center Delivered the Air-Conditioning that NYC Had Promised

(p. A7) It seemed like a noble idea to offer quick help during the pandemic: New York City would give away free air-conditioners this summer to low-income older people who are stuck indoors.

It turned out to be a far more complicated mission for the city.

. . .

The difficulty in getting a free air-conditioner left many seniors frustrated and confused by what they described as a bureaucratic, inefficient process.

Concepcion Reyes, who is 67 and has asthma, said she made numerous phone calls to a handful of city agencies from her stuffy apartment last week, after seeing her neighbor snag a free air-conditioner from the city.

“I’ve been in the shower two times already today,” Ms. Reyes, who lives at Holmes Towers, a public housing building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said last week. “I’m sweating bullets.”

. . .

Frustrated by delays, officials at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center in Manhattan spent nearly $30,000 on 56 air-conditioners for older people.

Rosalina Acevedo, who is 73 and diabetic, had one of the units installed in her bedroom at Holmes Towers in July [2020]. When she turned it on for the first time, she instantly felt relief.

“It was delicious,” she said.

Gregory J. Morris, the center’s executive director, said the city should have worked with community groups that could easily have provided a list of older residents with serious health conditions who urgently needed the units. The city had its own lists, and names were missing.

“They were desperate,” he said of the older people his center works with. “There was no timeline from the city. If you’re in the middle of a heat wave, do I wait longer for the city? Or do I step in and solve the problem?”

For the full story, see:

Emma G. Fitzsimmons. “The Wait for Promised Air-Conditioners Leaves Some Older Residents Sweating.” The New York Times (Saturday, August 22, 2020): A7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 21, 2020, and has the title “Older New Yorkers Sweat It Out, Waiting for Promised Air-Conditioners.”)