Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly, exploited his position as one of the most powerful politicians in the state to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, federal authorities said on Thursday as they announced his arrest on a sweeping series of corruption charges.
For years, Mr. Silver has earned a lucrative income outside government, asserting that he was a simple personal injury lawyer who represented ordinary people. But federal prosecutors said his purported law practice was a fiction, one he created to mask about $4 million in payoffs that he carefully and stealthily engineered for over a decade.
Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was accused of steering real estate developers to a law firm that paid him kickbacks. He was also accused of funneling state grants to a doctor who referred asbestos claims to a second law firm that employed Mr. Silver and paid him fees for referring clients.
“For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question: How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly serve his constituents?” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, asked at a news conference with F.B.I. officials. “Today, we provide the answer: He didn’t.”
Nearly 200 airline cabin cleaners walked off the job at a New York City airport overnight, striking over health and safety issues that include fears over possible exposure to Ebola.
The protest involves Air Serv cabin cleaners in Terminal D at New York’s LaGuardia airport, a contractor that serves Delta, as well as supporting workers from LaGuardia and JFK International airports.
Protesting workers carried signs and chanted during today’s rally, protesting against conditions that they say often find them encountering hypodermic needles, vomit and blood.
Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ was scheduled to conduct infectious disease training today for airport cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants.
“The training will cover current guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA),” the union said in a release. “This includes guidelines for cleaning airplane cabins and lavatories, for cleaning an area with possible Ebola exposure, and for determining which equipment employers are required to supply.”
Many consider the destruction of New York’s original Pennsylvania Station in 1963 to have been the architectural crime of the twentieth century. But few know how close we came to also losing its counterpart, Grand Central Terminal, a hub every bit as irreplaceable. Grand Central’s salvation has generally been told as a tale of aroused civic virtue, which it was. Yet it was, as well, an affirming episode for those of us convinced that our political culture has become an endless clown-car act with the same fools always leaping out.
“In New York then, I learn to appreciate the Italian Renaissance,” said Le Corbusier of Grand Central. “It is so well done that you could believe it to be genuine. It even has a strange, new firmness which is not Italian, but American.” It was not seen as such by its owner, New York Central Railroad, which viewed it mostly as a cash cow. As early as 1954, the Central proposed replacing the terminal with something called The Hyberboloid — an I. M. Pei monstrosity that, at 108 stories and 1,600 feet, would have become the world’s tallest building at the time. There was enough public outcry that a scaled-down Hyberboloid was built instead just north of Grand Central, where it was retitled the Pan Am (later the Met Life) Building. Even at a lesser height, it proved every bit as grotesque as promised.
Still unsatisfied, New York Central proposed in 1961 to build a three-level bowling alley over Grand Central’s Main Concourse, which would have required lowering the ceiling from sixty feet to fifteen and cutting off from view its glorious blue mural of the zodiac. This, too, was stopped. Foiled again, New York Central resorted to plastering the terminal with ads and bombarding travelers with canned Muzak, complete with commercials, over the public address system.
Meanwhile, in the angry atmosphere that followed the demolition of Penn Station, New York City finally got a Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated Grand Central a landmark in 1967. But the terminal still wasn’t safe. Now hemorrhaging money as Americans turned away from trains and the passenger rail system began to collapse, the New York Central merged with its old rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad. The chairman and CEO of the new “Penn Central” was one Stuart Saunders, former CEO of the Pennsy, and the man who had torn down Penn Station to build the latest Madison Square Garden.
Bear with us here, as we trace how the troubled new railroad nearly succeeded in tearing down Grand Central — for it says much about how we conduct business and politics in America today.
Another report has come out in support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), an innovative way to provide public transit at a low cost with dedicated bus lanes, stops, and schedules.
The study (PDF), from pro-transit group Embarq, found that BRT drastically reduced commute times, improved air quality, and cut road fatalities in congested cities like Bogota, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Mexico City. And we already know that BRT is one of the most cost-effective public transit investments a municipality can make.
The catch? In most cities examined in the report, those benefits only extend to low- and middle-class residents. (In Johannesburg, the poorest residents did not use BRT).
“Since the dominant benefit is travel time savings,” the study’s authors wrote, “the majority of benefits tend to accrue to the strata most represented by BRT users — typically lower- and middle-income.”
While it’s great to have a system that improves transportation access for the majority of a city’s population, BRT’s mass appeal could — ironically — be a political concern that prevents its adoption, at least in the U.S. As Alex Pareene wrote in Salon, public transit often suffers because politicians and donors rarely rely on it. The results show in the states, whose existing BRT systems lag behind those in cities around the world.
Even in densely populated and traditionally liberal cities like New York and Minneapolis, politicians neglect transit. And “because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere,” Pareene wrote.
Indeed, the Embarq report echoes the public transit wealth gap, and cites that most BRT systems are often paid for by tax revenue collected from those who may never ride it. Bogota’s famed TransMilenio was financed by increased gasoline taxes, and all the systems required both substantial investment and support from municipalities.
But the Embarq report also showed that BRTs benefited cities with environmental and productivity gains more than they strained financial resources. For example, the average commuter in Istanbul now gets to and from work about an hour faster thanks to the Metrobüs, and Mexico City’s BRT system reduced air pollution enough to save 6,000 sick days a year.
As cities continue to grow and congestion increases, the benefits of BRT may become impossible to ignore — even to the rich and powerful folks who are stuck in traffic.
You see the same thing here in Saskatoon. After last night’s City Council meeting, you could almost say the same things about bike lanes.
By a vote of 47 to 1, the Council voted to extend the Garden’s special operating permit for merely a decade — not in perpetuity, as the owners of the Garden had requested, or 15 years, as the Bloomberg administration had intended.
Ten years should be enough time, officials said, for the Garden to find a new location and for the city to devise plans for an expanded Pennsylvania Station, which currently sits below the Garden, and the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is the first step in finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and building a new Penn Station that is as great as New York and suitable for the 21st century,” said Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker. “This is an opportunity to reimagine and redevelop Penn Station as a world-class transportation destination.”
So let me get this straight, James Dolan spends almost a billion dollars of his own money and then the New York City Council says, “we want this back in 10 years because we seen an opportunity to redevelop Penn Station.” Wouldn’t it have been wise to say that before the permits were issued?
To think that one can invest over $2 billion over a site over 50 years, make it into a global icon and then get told to move by New York City Council is pretty shocking. Of course Dolan has the upper hand, I am not sure if the New York public would like the idea of the Knicks and Rangers moving out of Manhattan but even the New York market. Those are loyal and affluent fan bases that reach far beyond the 20,000 people that watch each game in person. I am not a fan of James Dolan but don’t count him out of this yet.