Drumming up support

Drummer, Sonia, and her husband perform at West 4th St subway station to earn some extra money.

Family performs together.


Taxi Cab Confessions

Diane McGrath-McKechnie would not be happy about the current state of her Taxi & Limousine Commission.  McGrath-McKechnie was the Giuliani era Chairman of the TLC, and despite some controversial tactics that have lead to still going lawsuits, she made sure the most controversial laws were not passed under her watch.

Matthew Daus took over when Bloomberg began his stay at the Gracie Mansion (or more accurately declined the invitation and stayed at his 45 million dollar town house on 79th St. off 5th Avenue, but as we know is in his 3rd term as Mayor of New York city).  The controversy spoken of above is all about technology.  The two points that lead to the day long taxi cab strike a few years ago were the usage of credit cards to pay for taxis as well as the GPS systems being installed.

Nobody was rejecting the utility of both of these new technological improvements.  No doubt, the ability to pay on credit has increased attendance in said taxi cabs, and the GPS (although hard to prove) makes trips more efficient.  Overall, there is more money to be made with these than without them, something that nobody involved should be upset about.

Problem is where the money is going though.  The first problem was the installation.  Somebody had to pay for the thousands of cars that needed to be remodeled to house the 17” televisions in the backseat that would contain the GPS, credit card payment system, as well as annoying weather updates and promos from hype machines such as LX.TV.  The conversation of how we’ve yet to meet the potential of the taxi cab network can come another day, but let it at least be said.

The main thing that got drivers angry was that they, the drivers, were the ones footing the bill, but they were not having their salaries increased. Basically the only incentive for them was the potential for slightly more income.  Slightly is the opportune word though, because even with the increased gross from credit cards, the companies take a 5% percentage of every receipt.  Tips get taxed and taken out of their salaries more than before, when they would obviously just pocket 100% of the cash they were given on top of the fare.  Overall, their salaries will still not really jump up at all until the foretold fare hikes coming in a few months, at which point that would have happened anyway, and it is years later.

Their problem with the GPS contains a slightly less legitimate argument, but either way, they have no reason to want it.  Apart from the costs of installing it, now their every move is tracked.  Now, unless they own their cab, they cannot use the car for any kind of personal use.  If the choose take a fare outside of their assigned coverage area—they will get in trouble.  Before, there would be little chance of getting caught, and nobody really cared.  Now, they need to remain on their route, even if they are assigned to do airport runs all night without taking any fares back in the city, something that could cut their gross in half on a shift such as that.

Apart from the 5% take, they also do not get any money for two weeks when somebody pays with a credit card.  At this time of the year, drivers complain to their passengers because they’re understandable overextended already and won’t actually see any of that money until the new year, when it will be much less useful.  The usage of credit cards in their cabs forces them to likely max out their own personal credit cards, just to avoid giving coal to their kids for the holidays.

Overall, the problem is lack of leverage.  Drivers of taxi cabs are not in short supply.  When all they can do is strike, scabs are brought in very quickly.  It takes too much organizing of too many unions to be effective.  They just have no leg to stand on to fight these new regulations, thus need to simply suck it up.  None of them are fair, nor does anyone really argue that they are.  The only thing someone like Daus would argue is that he doesn’t have the funding to do it another way, and the changes undoubtedly bring in more net money to the city, while also making taxis cabs a more enjoyable and efficient experience and form of travel.  It’s an unfortunate situation, but again unfortunately, no changes are seen on the horizon.


Faulty Towers

There’s a state program known as 80/20 that’s supposed to encourage developers to set aside units in new developments for low and moderate income tenants. The developer agrees to set aside 20% of the development for people with income no greater than half of the neighborhood median–in exchange, the state allows him or her to raise capital by selling tax exempt bonds, and helps with the securing of federal tax credits. The other 80% of the units can be rented or sold at market-rate.

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Marriage Equality in New Jersey

Following the defeat of the marriage equality bill in the New York state legislature, gay marriage advocates have shifted their attention to New Jersey where state legislators are working hard to put a bill on Governor Jon Corzine’s desk before he is replaced with Chris Cristie who has said that he would veto any form of the bill if given the opportunity.

New Jersey’s marriage equality bill was expected to be put to a vote last Thursday after it had left the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, but its chief sponsors Senators Ray Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg asked for a postponement until they were able to secure enough votes to pass the bill. The legislation is now sitting in the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Lesniak courtesy of njleg.state.nj.us

Advocates are pushing for the bill to be voted upon in the state assembly, the chamber which they believe is more likely to pass the measure. “If it had gone up for a vote last week, it wouldn’t have passed and it would’ve died,” said Deborah Francica, Chief of Staff to Sen. Weinberg. “The only way to save the bill is to refer it to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.”

Sen. Weinberg courtesy of njleg.state.nj.us

The bills’ sponsors hope that once it passes the assembly, the state senate will be more likely to pass it. “I guess that’s the train of thought,” Francica said. “That’s what the sponsors are saying.”

Even those close to the process don’t know how long it will take. Francica was unsure when the bill would leave Judiciary and make it’s way to the floor for a vote. “I have no idea,” she said. “They’re still working that out now.”

The primary effort of the bill is to legally define marriage as the union of two consenting adults, revising what is previously thought to be the definition being the union of a consenting man and woman. “‘Marriage’ means the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship,” the bill reads. “Whenever the term ‘marriage’ occurs or the term ‘man,’ ‘woman,’ ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ occurs in the context of marriage or any reference is made thereto in any law, statute, rule, regulation or order, the same shall be deemed to mean or refer to the union of two persons pursuant to this amendatory and supplementary act.”

The Empire State Pride Agenda was unable to be reached to comment on how the bills passage could affect the New York LGBTQ community.

Forget NYC, its NYS… New York Skateboarding

Skateboarding Under the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Google.com

It’s no secret that the urban environment of New York City is a hotbed for skateboarders. Anyone with two eyes (some of the people with one eye, too) who has been run over by one has taken note. The architecture of the city was seemingly built for woodpushers. Some of the most well known ledges and handrails that were built for corporate America to push their fears to the limit while getting a bit of their teenage angst out while grinding the edges off of.

Skateboarders look at the world differently than anyone else. Where you see a spot to drink coffee on Wall St. during your break from crunching numbers, a skateboarder sees a skate spot to film their next video part, or to break their next bone.

When a skateboarder finds that perfect spot it is hard to let everyone know about it for fear of police becoming hot to the spot. Luckily for those people whose eyes aren’t so keen to this outlook, there is a website, skatespotter.com created mapping all of the skate sots in New York City Imaginable.

A Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity Invitation

“This was a great event to hold just in general, but especially because the holidays are right around the corner. It’s time to do something sweet,” said red carpet hostess Erika Wasser, chuckling at her own pun, as the name of the event was “Sweet Charity.”

Comfort Zone Cooking, a service who gives back to the community by organizing charitable food events, put on this latest event, held on Sunday evening in Tribeca and aptly named after the party’s central theme – a pastry tasting. A team of media personalities, performing artists, and renowned chefs together hosted the event and brought the entertainment. Kyle Kupiszewski from reality show “Chef Academy” and DJ Mastermind were among the entertainers.

The bar at the event, which was marketed on the invitation as an open bar, served wine – and wine that was maybe not worth the $25 non-negotiable admission fee. The gourmet pasties on the other hand looked like inedible presents rather than tasty finger foods. Needless to say, they were the most popular hors d’oeuvres.

The food tables were surrounded by the chefs who contributed to the pastry creations, such as Chef Michael M, owner of Comfort Zone Cooking. “Since 2006 we’ve been committed to ‘giving back’ by organizing charitable food events,” said Michael in a press release promoting the event. In the same press release it is said that Michael believes this to be “the most sustainable, tangible, and substantial red carpet event that has immediate impact on our community.”

Chef Kyle "Kup" Kupiszewski

Also, amid the pastry-covered tables were jewelry designers selling their crafts to donate proceeds to the charity. “It almost feels even better knowing that my work is not only going out into the world, but it’s serving a deeper purpose in a way,” said Nicole Kluft, a local jewelry designer selling her pieces.

The money – raised through admission fees, jewelry sales, and supporters’ donations – all goes directly to the Food Bank for New York City. Food Bank is a charity that works to end hunger in New York City. The organization’s main objective is to raise money to feed the 1.3 million New Yorkers who rely on food pantries and soup kitchens to meet their daily nutritional needs. This is achieved through a comprehensive group of programs that combat hunger and its causes. And of course, through various fundraisers and investors.

Red Carpet Hostess Erika Wasser Entertaining the Guests

Sweet Charity was by and large a success, if for nothing more than to get people to participate in a good cause. “The turnout was a bit smaller than we expected,” said hostess Erika Wasser later in an email. Approximately 100 people were in the room at one time. “But as far as we’re concerned, we made some money that night, and if that feeds a small percentage of the targeted group who suffer from hunger, then we did our job.”

Hey DJ, Keep Payin’ That Song

Radio is known as the necessary playground for all aspiring artists.  It may not determine who the best are but it certainly dictates who is popular.

1984 Disc Jockey (via EOS_Boy of Flickr)

As of now, radio has a few different ways of determining who gets played the most.  The first is by demand.  The second way is by the deejay’s discretion.  The third, though the most prevalent, is essentially illegal.  Payola, the unlawful practice of record companies paying deejays for artist play, is something that has been going on for decades.  Since the 1930s and the 1940s with jazz big bands taking over, on down to the 60s and 70s with the emergence of rock ’n’ roll, record labels have hired promoters to do their dirty work of getting their artists heard by any means. 

 The payola scandal of 1959 was one of the biggest bangs to hit the music industry of all time. After Congress announced its plan to begin holding hearings on payola after a television game show scandal, radio stations began a major sweeping of disc jockeys engaged in the act.  

 The entire event blew up after one of the performers’ rights organizations, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), was subjected to investigation by their rival PRO, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) of using payola to secure their artists’ spots for airplay.  

 Phil Lind, a deejay in Chicago, revealed that $20,000 had been given to him to play a record.  This caused uproar from the industry and the public, resulting in him receiving death threats and being granted police protection.  Other deejays accused of this act eventually lost their career and their respectability, such as Alan Freed.  Freed, the legendary deejay that coined the term rock ‘n’ roll, plead guilty to his accusations, became blacklisted from broadcasting and died penniless and miserable ten years later.  

 Why so much drama over paying deejays?  Continue reading