Wednesday, October 19

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Brad Lander and the 39th District

Since his election in November 2009, fresh-faced city (how is he fresh faced? Is he young?) councilman Brad Lander has proven himself as progressive force to his constituents in downtown Brooklyn.

Most recently (When?), Lander introduced a “participatory budgeting” initiative, which lets constituents weigh in on the spending of $1 Million in capital funding that is to be reinvested in the community. District 39's Neighborhood Budget Assembly's will serve as a forum for residents to voice where they would like to see the money spent –whether is be on fixing potholes or funding schools – and choose budget delegates. (This is interesting, you could get into this more. When will it begin? Where will the community want the money?)

Lander represents the 39th district in Brooklyn, which consists of Borough Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Kensington, Park Slope, Prospect Park, and Windsor Terrace. (This could be the second graph, give a little more demographics)

Lander has been endorsed by prominent members in the Jewish community in Brooklyn, even while he holds sometimes controversial opinions about the Israel-Palestine conflict. While he maintains his support for the state of Israel, he disagrees with the American Council for Judaism, citing their Zionist leanings.

In 2003 (What was he doing then?), he came under fire from some members in the Jewish community following a set of controversial remarks he and his wife made during his son's brit.

"Your name contains our deep hope that you will explore and celebrate your Jewish identity without confusing it with nationalism," they said. "We pray fervently that by the time you read this, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza will be history."The remarks were published in Wrestling with Zion, a "compilation of progressive Jewish-American responses to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict." Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and activist, edited the work. (Why is this important to his political career? This is a long graph that doesn’t add too much to the story)

In an October 16 interview with the Jewish Press Lander expressed regret for some of his comments . "Look, I regret a couple of things," he said. "I regret some of the language I used, and I regret it being published in a way which can be taken out of context and exposes Israel to her terrorist enemies"

On June 1, 2010, Lander, along with city council-members Daniel Dromm and Julissa Ferrera and 50 other demonstrators, was arrested in lower Manhattan while protesting Arizona’s controversial immigration law. (This comes out of nowhere! But this might be the most interesting part of the story? How did it affect his career)

For picture give a caption, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in this picture

Give more personal and political history

What are some of his achievements?

I was interested what is now the second graph, that kind of stuff is good.

Roosevelt Island's Tech Transformation

“Roosevelt Island wants to become Silicon Island.”

Councilwoman Jessica Lappin’s July press conference was clear: If Mayor Bloomberg’s inspired vision of New York as a Silicon Valley rival was going to happen, Roosevelt Island should be its hub.

The mayor, along with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, had released a “Request for Proposals” to the nation’s top universities. The city would provide prime real estate with almost no cost and pledge $100 million in infrastructure improvements to have a world-class “NYC Applied Sciences and Engineering School.” Three parcels of city-owned land were offered for the universities to choose from: a portion of Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Roosevelt Island

Months later, with the October 28th deadline for submissions approaching, Cornell University announced on Tuesday its partnership with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. A highly reputable university credited as a catalyst for Israel’s recent technology boom, Technion’s partnership with Cornell makes its bid, previously hindered by lack of funds, stronger.

It also turns up the heat on Stanford, who is also part of a current alliance with City College of New York. Among the twenty-seven total competitors, many of the remaining schools’ top administrators have admitted in private the sizable lead that Stanford and Cornell have secured against them through aggressiveness, alumni connection and investment, reputation in engineering fields, and endowment.

Before issuing this RFP, the city had received eighteen less formal “expressions of interest” from twenty-seven schools around the globe. The NYC Economic Development Corporation estimates the project will generate $6 billion in economic activity, four hundred new companies, 8,000 construction jobs, and 22,000 permanent jobs for New Yorkers over the next few decades.
Roosevelt Island to become another Sand Hill Road?
What the two front-runners have in common seems to be location. Both Cornell and Stanford have plans for the Southern tip of Roosevelt Island. The specific site would be that of Goldwater Hospital, which is motion to be vacated completely by 2014. The two powerhouse engineering universities have formidable teams headlined by their school presidents. They have recently enlisted lobbyists, public relation firms and enthusiastic alumni to tout their Roosevelt Island plans.
Stanford’s five-hundred page proposal to turn Roosevelt Island into Sand Hill Road (an infamous street in Palo Alto that is both the birthplace of many startups as well as home to its famous creators) is almost complete. It will cost up to $2 billion in its entirety and take three decades to complete, but will accept graduate students as early as 2013. The campus will consist of 1.8 million square feet of residences, academic life, and student life buildings. The focus of the school will be on information technology, entrepreneurship, and executive education. Stanford proposes an 100 member faculty, with an estimate of about 2200 graduate students.

“This is like China,” one academic from Stanford exclaimed, in awe of the size and magnitude of the project.

 “This can be transformative for the university, transformative for New York City and maybe even transformative in the way that research operates in the future.But it is something that will be difficult,” Stanford electrical engineering professor Bernd Girod stated to NYConvergence, “There is no model and no blueprint. It is uncharted territory. We have to be very smart about this.”

Cornell’s proposal, although not made public yet, has a different academic approach but is of the same magnitude. Cornell proposes 200 faculty members, “several hundred graduate students,” and ““four focused research hubs” tailored to New York’s specific strengths. These hubs would include technology for cleaner and more efficient buildings, information science and engineering for health care, social mobile networking, and “intelligent trustworthy systems” like cloud computing and information security.

Both schools have stated that their decision to opt for the Roosevelt Island land has to do with its accessibility by subway and the ease and speed in which the groundwork could begin. Across the East River is Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell’s new $1 billion, state-of-the-art medical research complex on East 69th Street.

Credit: Stanford University President's Office
"We think it's important for the location to be easily reachable by train," said Dan Huttenlocher, Cornell's dean of computing and information science. "This is not the taxi or limo crowd. These are grad students. Mass transit is key to making it part of the fabric of the city."

Credit: Stanford University President's Office
Robert Reidy, Stanford’s Vice President of Land, Buildings, and Real Estate, in a recent presentation to students, showed a preliminary rendering of the campus, complete with buildings centered around an open green space, cafes, retail shops, an auditorium, and a gym along the East River.

Reidy added that some existing buildings would inevitably have to be demolished in order to create a 10-acre site for the new campus. As for the tram, Reidy simply stated that he finds it “just odd.”

Save a Few Concerns, a Positive Community Reponse

While transit seems to be the main concern at hand from the competing universities, the Roosevelt Island community has other concerns.  The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) created a committee to meet with the potential academic institutions and the E.D.C.

A community benefit agreement is the top priority of Island leaders. On September 27, an informal meeting was held between the RIRA, local organization leaders, and Cornell representatives. Organized by New York State Assembly Member Micah Kellner, residents voiced their concern about the Island becoming polarized, with an “us” versus “them” separation.

Roosevelt Island’s transition into a college town is a main point of concern. There was discussion of how the school’s bus system with work, what role public safety would play, and how necessary a mixing of the communities would be.

The Cornell representatives responded positively, expressing a strong desire to work hand-in-hand with the community. They had spoken to the heads of the local schools to discuss the possibility of various mentoring programs, a shared library, and other educational partnerships. According to local residents at the meeting, the Cornell representatives showed a strong interest in learning more about the culture of Roosevelt Island in efforts to create a cohesive community.

Still, the optimism and excitement in response to the Roosevelt Island proposals has left some room for bitterness. A recent meeting in Flushing hosted by Queens Civic Congress President Patricia Dolan resulted in Dolan’s curt interruption of E.D.C president Seth Pinsky. 
 “Roosevelt Island is not Queens,” Ms. Dolan stated.
“And I didn’t say it was,” Mr. Pinsky replied.
Community lobbyists such as Ms. Dolan, who is advocating a recently zoned Willets Point (which some at the meeting pointed out even Robert Moses could not fix), have come to the realization that their zones are no longer being considered. But a high-tech campus on Roosevelt Island, Mr. Pinsky claimed, will do wonders for Western Queens. Communities such as Astoria and Sunnyside will benefit from proximity when startups and students look for relocation options off the island.
Credit: "Roosevelt Islanders" blog
But to those involved with Roosevelt Island, response all across the board from political figures to organization leaders, has been in strong support for the project.
Councilwoman Lappin stated at her press conference in July, “We will welcome you, we will work with you and we want you. We did not want a hotel when that was proposed, we didn't want a big box store or luxury condos, but a world class engineering school- we want you.”
An Optimistic Reception

The island, populated by 12,000 people, will give up ten acres to the winning university. Most residents have welcomed Bloomberg’s initiative as a positive alternative to the luxury condo development that has occurred there recently. In their eyes, a new engineering school has the ability to grow Roosevelt Island’s popularity and economic development without losing its small community feel.  It goes hand-in-hand with the island’s growing reputation as a place for new technologies such as electric car charging stations and wireless parking sensors.

          “This is going to be extremely beneficial as well as promotional,” says Alex K., owner of Trellis, a diner that is a short walking distance from the proposed site, “That is, if we can get our lease renewed before the thing gets built.”
Erin Jones, a Roosevelt Island resident since 1997, and a waitress at nearby Riverwalk Bar and Grill, says that she has noticed how things have come a long way.
“Years ago when I first moved here, everyone waking up and down Main Street knew each other. Now if it isn’t the Riverwalk condos then it’s the Octagon condos,” she says, “I don’t mind so much as much as the older crowd might.”

Local businesses are excited to welcome the influx of laborers needed for such a vast massive project. It may be the economic boost the island has been looking for. Additionally, the location of the proposed site at the Southernmost tip of Roosevelt Island means that those on their way to the campus will commute through Main Street and bring life to its empty shops.
Main Street, which has recently seen almost a third of its small businesses shuttered, has been looking for new renters. An overwhelming majority of Roosevelt Island residents, in a recent poll taken, would like to see more well-known businesses opened. Some suggestions given were Duane Reade, a movie theatre, McDonald’s, and maybe, if they’re lucky enough, an additional Starbucks—surely all college student necessities.

Credit: Huffington Post

Councilwoman Helen D. Foster

Helen D. Foster (Photo Credit:

Helen D. Foster, a democrat, represents the 16th District in the City Council. One of the poorest council districts in the city, District 16 is comprised of West Bronx, Morrisania, South Bronx, Highbridge, and Melrose. The population estimate in 2006 for District 16 was 167, 588, with the median household income being $21, 468. The demographic composition of the district is mainly Hispanic (56.7%) and Black (39.8%), according to information provided by Andrew A. Beveridge of CUNY Queens College.

Upon graduating from the City University of New York School of Law, Foster worked as the Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. She then moved into the private sector, serving as the Assistant Vice President for Legal Affairs at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. In 2001, she became the first African-American woman elected to a city office from the Bronx County, and has since them been reelected twice, in 2005 (receiving 98% of the vote) and in 2009. According to the Gotham Gazette, Council members earn about $112,500 a year.
Councilwoman Foster is currently the chairperson for the New York City Council Committee on State and Federal Legislation as well as the co-chair of the Women’s Caucus of the New York City Council. She also serves on seven committees: aging, community development, education, finance, general welfare, health, and public safety.

Foster fought and won her third term, but she has one of the worst attendance records of all the 51 members in City Council. According the chart below from the Gotham Gazette, from January 2006 to January 2009, Councilwoman Foster attended only 73.1 percent of the City Council meetings. Earlier this year, amNewYork cited that in 2010, she had a 61.7 attendance rate. However, it is worth noting that District 16 is more than 13 miles from City Hall. In an interview with Courtney Gross for the Gotham Gazette, Foster said that she prioritizes staying the Bronx and solving constituent issues over attending committee meetings in Manhattan.

In 2006, Foster was one of two council members who voted against the new Yankee Stadium (the vote was 45-2-2, with two abstentions), according to the New York Observer. Councilwoman Foster also showed avid support for Barrack Obama in his presidential campaign in 2008.

Foster is married, and her husband, Eric McKay, is a writer and filmmaker. She also has a 12-year old stepdaughter, Aminah McKay. Her current term expires in 2013. 

Councilman Daniel Garondnick: the Masonic District

City councilman Daniel R Garodnick, was born in raised on the East Side, and elected to the New York City Council on November 8, 2005.  Located in the East Village and the Lower East Side, Garondnick’s district is known as the 4th Manhattan Masonic District.
With a background in education advocacy and civil rights, Garodnick was a representative for the Partnership of New York City in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.  Before he joined the city council, Garodnick was the director of New York Civil Rights Coalition's "Unlearning Stereotypes: Civil Rights and Race Relations Programs" in 42 different public schools in Manhattan.  Here he taught students non-violent ways to fight back against racial discriminations and how to use government to affect social change.  Additionally, Garodnick represented 13 same-sex couples in search of marriage equality in the state of New York and sought and received funding to rebuild African-American churches in Georgia and Virginia burned by racially-motivated arson.
            Within Garodnick’s first year in council, the New York Times praised him for being a “champion of smarter redevelopment along the East River and a fighter for increased funding for the city’s public school students.”  In just one year of being on the Council, Garodnick had established himself as the head-front in the fight for more affordable housing in Manhattan.  With a $4.5 billion tenant-backed bid, Garondnick’s first sign of success what his purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
            Latley, Garondnick has been working on the increase of food venders at the city’s street fairs.  Responding to a Daily News report about the three “street fair kinds” who run two-thirds of the city’s fairs, Garondnick said:
“There’s a value to lettering pedestrians take over the streets, but there should be more for residents than row after row of vendors selling the same thing”
            Proposing a package of bills in and effort to force the fairs to change their acts, Garodnick’s bills requires all street fairs to draw at least 20% of their venders from the local community.  Any fair operators who exceeded the 20% minimum would receive a discount on city fees.
            In addition, the bills aim to improve the way the city announces street closers, and outlines a program to test fairs with booths running down the cent of the street.
            “We’ve got to ask ourselves what we’re getting out of big corporate street fairs,” Garodnick told the Daily News, “and unfortunately, the answer is not enough.”

IBM's Invitation to THINK

The IBM THINK Exhibit celebrating the company’s centennial, open until October 23 at Lincoln Center, aims to teach visitors “how to make the world better.” The exhibit discusses using technology as solutions to problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution and airport efficiency just to name a few.
Bruno Bagala, an “IBMer” at THINK wearing an “Ask Me” badge around his neck, explained that the exhibit was “not to tout IBM for our centennial, but to talk about technology” and how that technology can solve problems people didn’t recognize as problems or always thought were too expensive to tackle.
THINK is open to the public and inviting due to its prominent position on Broadway between 64th and 65th Street. Visible from the road is the first part of the exhibit, a 123-foot digital data wall that dynamically draws information from New York City and visualizes it in aesthetic patterns and moving infographics. One THINK employee explained how the solar energy visualization worked: there were sensors on the roof of the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center that calculated how much potential energy could have been generated in the last 24 hours if there were solar panels installed. Opposite the digital wall is a series of panels that explain certain portions of the display in detail and discusses real ways technology has been put to use to improve the world. Bagala explained that there is no mention of IBM on these panels and that some of the technology is from their competitors.
While the outdoors portion is constantly on view, there are also timed sessions that include a ten-minute film and a twenty-five minute interactive session within the space under the Lincoln Center Plaza. The ten-minute film is easily the most attractive and awe-inspiring portion of THINK. Another “IBMer” within the space said she met a visitor who had come from Atlanta to see the exhibit. What really moved her was when a man who works with at-risk kids in the city came and told her the film had given him hope. For ten minutes, surround sound and 40 screens show a film that outlines the history of human innovation and looks at the areas of food, medicine and transportation to discuss current and future technological solutions. With close-up portraits, detailed shots of nature, a sequence on outerspace, and a 360 view of Chicago—this film is a creative, beautiful work of art.
After the film ends, each of the 40 screens turn into interactive touch screens focused on one of the five approaches THINK defines as the pattern of progress: Seeing, Mapping, Understanding, Believing and Acting. Each screen displays the information differently; Seeing is a long illustrated timeline of human inventions and Acting is a movable globe pinpointing ways things are being done “better” around the world. Perhaps the only section with obvious injection of how IBM is a part of this global movement for betterment is in the Believing display, where visitors can choose to hear specific “leaders in world changing initiatives.” The exhibit employee explained that some of the projects are IBM affiliated and at least two of the leaders are “IBMers.” 
She, like Bagala, repeatedly said that THINK “downplayed the IBM thing.” The purpose of THINK, according to her, was to “see what people think about technology,” and she pointed out how each interactive screen included a poll visitors could take. The portion of the exhibit that discussed IBM at length, as she promoted it, was the last section, which showed 100 IBM icons in a timeline of how the company has been a part of social and technological change in the last century. Visitors, after exiting the film space, filed past this portion quickly. Key moments in IBM’s history that Bagala mentioned were the company being one of the first to hire women engineers and to have an equal opportunity policy prior to the passage of the Us Civil Rights Act. Bagala, saying again that THINK was “not to tout IBM,” explained the company’s rationale for the exhibit as being a “celebration” and though at times they had strayed, this was a part of their history as “a company about change and breakthrough.”

Schools Leave Teaching Wall Street to Parents

Photo Credit: Associated Press

“I know people are sleeping over at a park.” Said 7-year-old Cloe Davis who is a second grader at Little Red School House in the West Village. “But I don’t know why,” she added. All evidence shows that lower schools have left the education of the Occupation on Wall Street to the parents.

Schools have been vague about teaching the Wall Street protest to children. It is a debate as to whether the protest should be discussed at all in schools. But there are many alternative sources to aid parents in their attempt to explain what it means.

On October 10th all of the lower schools in Manhattan were off to celebrate the day Columbus is said to have discovered the Americas. However, a group of PTA parents from the Four Central Park East II Elementary School brought their children made to Zuccotti Park, in an event they named ‘Un-Columbus Day’ according to According to the Occupation’s website, October 14th marked another family day in order to educate children.

It is not clear whether schools are teaching the protest, though one teacher in Zuccotti park held up a sign last night that read ‘Inform, not Reform.’ There are safety and political reasons why teachers are not allowed to bring their children down to Wall Street. Though there were many teachers with their own children on 'Un-Columbus Day.'

Others believe that, especially for Lower School, the protest should not be dealt with in the classroom. “It’s hard for them to understand.” Said Marie, a Secretary at Spruce Street School an elementary school on Spruce Street located near City Hall. A representative of Brooklyn Friends School of Downtown Brooklyn said she wasn't sure, but added, "I'm sure that some classes might be doing something on the protest."

Sarah Casselle the President of the PTA committee of P.S. 89 insisted that children are not learning or talking about it if they are not directly faced with it every day. P.S. 89 is located Warren Street on the Lower West side of Manhattan, several blocks away from the park. According to Casselle, it is for this reason that her son is not asking about it. Casselle said, “P.S. 89 is quite a few blocks away and several physical barriers away from the protest.” She added, “my son doesn’t come home discussing the protest with his friends.”

According to Casselle, the protest is not in school policy and should be left for home discussion with parents. She added that her son looks through newspapers and is informed by that as well.

Though many schools do not advertise discussions of the Occupation, parents are being encouraged to educate their children through bringing their own children to protest locations, or with with alternative sources on the web such as videos on The young adult writer Lemony Snicket, best known for her Series of Unfortunate Events book recently published a book that attempts to describe the protest to children entitled The Lump of Coal, according to the Washington Post.

New York City Council Member Margaret Chin

Margaret Chin has been the District 1 council member since January 2010. Chin, a Democrat, was the first Asian American woman elected to city council. She has been actively participating in the fight to protect schools, senior citizens, and community organizations from budget cuts, having “called on Albany to support an additional surcharge on the top 2% of New York households,” according to her city council website.

Chin moved to the United States with her family from Hong Kong, China, when she was nine years old. Chin grew up in Chinatown, attending P.S. 130 and JHS 65 for school. After attending the Bronx High School of Science, she attended the City College of New York, receiving a degree in education.
Photo courtesy of
Following college, Chin became very active in enriching the rights of Asian immigrants. She helped found Asian Americans for Equality, a group that was designed to help Asian Americans and other immigrants who were in need. Chin served as the president of the group from 1982 until 1986. Chin also worked at a continuing education community college, helping immigrants get a college education. Chin’s father came to America before the rest of his family did, and his struggles during that time period have always motivated Chin to helping improve the quality of life for immigrants.

District 1 in Manhattan in made up of the lowest parts of Manhattan. Canal Street serves as its northern border, going all the way down to the bottom of Manhattan. District 1 includes the Financial District, Battery Park City, Tribeca, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island.

Chin has been dealing, as has everybody in the area, with Occupy Wall Street.. She has come under fire recently for not marching with on Zuccotti Park with other members of the City Council, despite being one of the most liberal members of the Council. Multiple articles have sighted that while in college, Chin was a member of the Communist Workers Party. Her response for why she was not at the march was due to a “scheduling conflict”, adding, “I have been to so many marches.”

Chin also serves as the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee Chair, having recently conducted a research project about furthering preliminary cancer research. Chin is married to Alan Tung, a public school teacher, and has a son, Kevin, who graduated from Syracuse University.


Mexicue co-founders David Schillace and Thomas Kelly in front of their Midtown restaurant.

Image courtesy of NY Eater.

Last summer, a bright orange food truck began making daily pit stops during lunch and dinner hours throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Mexicue's aim: to simply introduce “red-hot Mexican cuisine and down-home, barbeque goodness,” all in one. Within 13 months, Mexicue's infused menu has helped them achieve what many food trucks hope to accomplish—going from a restaurant on wheels to a permanent establishment.

Before Mexicue began, friends David Schillace and Thomas Kelly worked in corporate sales and marketing jobs, spending most of the hours hooked on a telephone and behind a computer screen. Unamused by the repetitive workload, Schillace and Kelly left their jobs. After taking a trip to Los Angeles and discovering the Kogi BBQ food truck (known for their Korean and Mexican infused burritos, tacos, and quesadillas), Schillace returned to New York City and approached Kelly about bringing a similar concept to the city. Originally, Schillace's concept was around tamales, but Kelly had a different plan. "I tend to create stupid things that often work out well, so when I began mixing green chili sauce with smoked short ribs, and poblanos with tomatillo sauce on barbequed chicken, everything came together," Kelly said to NY Eater. After four months of experimenting, Schillace and Kelly took Mexicue to streets.

On Mexicue's opening day, the food truck parked in Park Slope and received numerous compliments from customers. As a result, it convinced Schillace and Kelly to take a chance on Midtown. The next day, the bright orange food truck parked on 52nd Street and Park Avenue. Within minutes, the line was three city blocks long, but it was not as easy as they thought it would be. "Although we went through people quickly, it was tough. We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but we learned from them and we adjusted," Schillace said.

But they didn't adjust quickly enough. Within days of their opening, Schillace, Kelly, and their employees (including a line cook named Pancho), struggled with the high demands. Many customers complained that the wait, which was anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes, was not worth the BBQ brisket sliders or the smoked short ribs tacos. The issue had a lot to do with a disorganized kitchen and small, inexperienced staff. Numerous negative comments on food blogs like Midtown Lunch and Food Truck Talk pushed Schillace and Kelly to make some changes. "We knew we had some operation issues to fix. It wasn't, 'Where should we put the truck?' but 'How can we keep enough food on the truck?' and from that point on we started producing more food, and working with our team on how to get people in and out quicker," Schillace said. Within six months, Mexicue made major improvements, not only in service but in taste.

A year later, Mexicue opened their first restaurant in Chelsea, and two months following, the second restaurant in the Lower East Side opened its doors. The simple, order-at-the-counter space has bright orange walls to match Mexicue's bright orange truck, serving the same menu as their food trucks, but also rice bowls and salads. Although their are some minor things that can be tweaked (like the menu only being posted at the counter and the somewhat small portion of their food), Schillace and Kelly are satisfied with the results.

But Mexicue would not have made it this far without the help of their loyal customers. In a year, Mexicue's Twitter followers have gone from 650 to over 7,500, with the number continuing to grow. This month, Schillace and Kelly opened a contest to have their customers submit new food creations, with the winning dish to be added to their food truck and restaurant menu. And this is all due to Mexicue's strong brand. "If you develop a strong brand, the sky's the limit, then you can take that brand and do whatever you want with it," Kelly said. "People recognize it, people become familiar with it, and you can take it in whatever direction you want." As a result, Mexicue have been able to open not just one, but two restaurants. Although, it only seems like the beginning of more to follow.

City Councilman James Gennaro

                                              (Photo Credit: Weissman for NY Daily News)

A famous, Hollywood-embraced environmental politician with an endorsement from Senator Hilary Clinton. It is not Al Gore, but rather, 24th Council District representative James Gennaro(D). Gennaro holds the distinction of being perhaps one of the most environmentally progressive politicians in the history of New York state: Currently the Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, Gennaro has attained a stature as that extends beyond the borders of New York, appearing at the Sundance Film Festival twice (he was involved in the documentary 'FUEL', a winner of the Best Documentary Audience Award). Like the most famous environmentally friendly politician, Gennaro is undeniably earnest: He speaks in a energetic, sometimes rambling voice, a voice known to be amusing even in disagreement (In a YouTube video, he calls the Environmental Control Board a ‘real kangaroo court’.) Capital New York writes: “He also gives the impression of being genuinely enthusiastic about rock formations.”

James Gennaro (preferring to go by ‘Jim’) took office in 2002 as a geologist turned politician. Gennaro has used his extensive background to promote ‘green’ buildings, protect and restore Jamaica Bay, regulate water and sewer rates, and reduce pesticides, to offer a few. Gennaro has also been apart of numerous other initiatives, including delivering (in 2006) one million dollars in technology for children, and funding over 100 senior and youth based initiatives. The New York City Council website emphasizes Genarro’s broad work, calling him a “one-stop shop” for thousand of constituents. 

While some have praised Gennaro’s wide-ranging activity, others have questioned his means of gaining public support, sometimes at the detriment of other city projects. In 2007, it was revealed that James Genarro accepted donations from the Kamali Developers, an organization that sought to build St. Johns dorms Genaaro was openly opposed to (Gennaro identified himself as a “ardent opponent to the dorm project and advocate for what is best in the community”). In a September 2007 article, The Queens Courier reported that, when asked about the donations from the Kamali Campaign, Gennaro replied: “We all have to raise campaign funds”.

In 2008, Gennaro ran for senate against republican senator Frank Padavan, a District 11 representative. A longtime member of the Queens community, Padavan was a long time fix in the community, generating goodwill despite a favored Democrat community make-up. After 3 months of recounted ballots (at one point Padavan challenged the legitimacy of some St. Johns students who had voted), Padavan was announced the winner. Gennaro’s YouTube page contains numerous campaign videos, and the account was last updated in 2009. A visit to is met with a white screen and small text reading “Coming soon........Under construction”.

In 2009, Gennaro was re-elected for a third term as 24th Council District representative (a term that will last until December 31st, 2013).  For the last three and a half years, Gennaro has focused on generating opposition to the draft guidelines for “fracking”: The extracting of gas from untapped natural gas reserves (also known as the “Haliburton Loophole”, because Halliburton is a main player in fracking and exempt from the Clean Water Act). Gennaro is considered a leader in the “the biggest environmental issue almost no one in New York City is paying attention to.” Gennaro concedes, ”I’m a local legislator. I don’t control what the state does. But I’m trying to do the best I can trying to get people to understand what’s at stake”. “

Gennaro has called for a moratorium on all activity until the science is done, but the goal remains distant. Gennaro seems an ideal candidate for an environmental issue still barely pulsating in the hearts of New Yorkers: An unassuming, dedicated-almost-to-a-fault environmentalist, James Gennaro continues to believe that the spring will not be silenced.

                                                (A breakdown of the 24th District)

Occupy Times Square

On Saturday the 15th, the Occupy Wall Street movement temporarily demonstrated in Times Square.  This slideshow video is meant to illustrate the chronology of the demonstration, beginning with a sitting few to cheering hoards.  Talia Pulcina, from Long Island is pictured in the first photograph, and said, "This is a peaceful demonstration in a place that is symbolic for a number of reasons.  Just check out the Bank of America sign behind me, and over there The Nasdaq." The atmosphere was cheerful.  It was my observation that the occupation was not meant to instigate the police, but that it was rather a celebration of the momentum which the movement has gained since its inception over a month ago.  Roughly two hours after it began, however, police (many mounted) surrounded the crowd in great numbers, eliciting a riotous response from the crowds.  I say crowds because there were several different islands of crowds: one which surrounded the red steps at the north end of Times Square, and others (ie, a crowd that had marched from downtown), separated by temporary barricades and streets.  

Council Woman Melissa Mark Viverito

Melissa Mark Viverito now in her second term on New York City Council represents district 8 (East Harlem, the Upper West Side, Mott Haven a part of the Bronx, Randalls Island, Wards Island and Central Park in its entirety). Born in Puerto Rico, Viverito moved to New York when she was 18 to attend Columbia University. She describes herself as an “activist”  who was always involved in “grass roots efforts and organizing”  and didn’t think of a career in politics till someone in the community approached her with the idea.
Viverito is actively involved in issues regarding housing, park safety, hazardous waste removal, police interaction with minorities and immigrant communities and has actively been involved in passing legislature that effects the rights of tenants directly giving them the right to sue landlords; Most recently Viverito was involved in supporting a law that demands building employees who are receiving any sort of financial assistance from the government receive a living-wage (Int 18).  A few of her recent efforts include locating housing for homeless and low income residents by establishing an annual census for vacant buildings.
In addition Viverito is one of four city council members who uses “participatory budgeting”, a system that gives members of the community the voting power to chose where government money is applied in their neighborhood, differing from the old system where council members reviewed applications for funding from groups and organizations  and then passed them on to the mayor’s office.
While her second term in office (first elected in 2005) suggests Viverito has many supporters there are some who vocally denounce her actions.
Justice in El Barrio is a group out of East Harlem focused on protesting the displacement of immigrants and marginalized communities by housing developments and other factors of gentrification; the group has targeted council woman Viverito directly “denouncing” her and labeling her a “sell out” for her support of plans they feel will uproot the community.

“She says she is for the community but continuously supports bills that displace the community,” a member of Jusice in El Barrio said of the council woman.
One plan Justice in El Barrio is referring to is the rezoning of east 125th street that would allow for denser development, critics of the plan say that new development will result in luxury condos uprooting local businesses and longtime residents of the area and that the plan doesn’t consider affordable housing . Another plan the organization calls attention to is the expansion of Columbia University which they feel will displace residents and offer little to the existing community.
“She feels strongly that people are in the street expressing their views”  said Joe Teranto, Viverito’s deputy chief of staff and a current student at Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy.
After asking me if our words were going to be on record he said he’s enjoyed working for the council woman the 2 1/2 years he’s been working for her “I support the issues she stands for...I feel like she does a lot for her district and all of the greater New York.”

Life at Zuccotti Park

As the Occupy Wall Street movement marks its one-month anniversary, the protesters seek different ways to treat their bodies and minds.

Link to slideshow

The Cave Wall

In September 2011, there were 500,000,000 users on Facebook.

Patrons are able to log on from just about anywhere-- laptops, smart phones, blackberries. Even most Blue Ray players have Facebook applications, in order to ensure users can update their status literally anytime-- even in the middle of watching a favorite program.

Quantcast estimates Facebook had 138.9 million “unique visitors” from the United States in May 2011 alone.

48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook right when they wake up, and 28% log on via smart phones, before getting out of bed.

When ordering from food delivery service Seamless Web, they prompt customers to "Like" them on Facebook. There are currently 21,655 companies updating profiles and creating events on Facebook. 

Times article titled “Limits Urged on TV for Children Under 2" is liked by  567 people. 234 like “Out With Textbooks, in With Laptops for an Indiana School District.” In fact, the has a "Help" department solely devoted to social media FAQ. Some of the questions include: “How do I connect my Facebook account to my account?” or "Whose activity will I see in Facebook modules on" and finally, "How do I stop sharing my activities on Facebook or Twitter?"

In January 2010, Nielsen estimated the average time spent per week on Facebook alone was 8 hours.