Thursday, February 11, 2016

L train tunnel repair may not start until 2018

The MTA’s shutdown of the L train’s Canarsie tunnel — a three-year repair project expected to cause massive disruptions for Brooklyn commuters — may not begin until 2018, the transit agency’s officials are telling lawmakers.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) said the MTA assured him and other elected officials in a recent meeting that L train repair work is likely two or three years away.

“The earliest will probably be 2018 — maybe a littler sooner,’’ Lentol said. In the meantime, community meetings with MTA officials and riders will be organized starting in March to keep residents abreast to when repairs will begin and what alternative transit plans will be provided.

MTA officials declined to comment on Lentol’s remarks.

The MTA is considering fully closing one half of the L train’s Canarsie Tube at a time to make Sandy repairs. A full tunnel shutdown would take 18 months, while one tube at a time would take three years, according to a spokesman.

The tunnel was hit with 7 million gallons of salt water during Sandy. About 225,000 weekday riders go between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the L train. The line’s total daily ridership is 300,000, according to the MTA.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton to debate tonight in Wisconsin

After getting routed in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton will try to regain her footing in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination when she squares off with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in a Wisconsin debate Thursday night.

It’s shaping up to be a longer fight for the nomination that many pundits first predicted.

“Plans to wrap this up in hurry would only occur only if there was a major change in the campaign,” Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff said after Sanders beat Clinton by 22 points. “It was such a drubbing, Sanders now requires a full looking over by Democrats. If it had been 8 points, everyone would’ve said, ‘Oh, it’s just the neighborhood effect.’”

The debate, from Milwaukee, will air at 9 p.m. on PBS stations and CNN.

Sanders, who has called for a political revolution, tapped into anger on the left to score his huge win. But now the contest moves south and west to states with more diverse populations and stronger base support for Clinton.

“Now we will take the fight to the entire country,” Clinton promised her New Hampshire supporters after conceding the state Tuesday night.

Trying to immediately dispatch New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign handed out press releases before her remarks touting her strong support in South Carolina — site of the next Democratic primary, Feb. 20. She is seen as have broader support than Sanders among African-Americans, who might make up nearly 60 percent of the Democratic turnout in South Carolina, Miringoff said.

Other contests come up quickly. The Democratic caucus in Nevada is set for Feb. 23. Then “Super Tuesday” comes March 1 when more than 10 states hold primaries or caucuses.

After the Tuesday loss, Clinton vowed: “No one will out work me.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up,” she told supporters.

Sanders contended he is the only candidate who can’t truly excite Democratic votes and generate a huge party turnout in the November election.

“What happened here in New Hampshire, in terms of an aroused and enthusiastic electorate . . . that is what will happen all over this country,” Sanders said.

Staten Island stabbing: Cops hunt for Michael Sykes in killing of Rebecca Cutler, 2 kids

A mother and two of her three young children were fatally stabbed early Wednesday in a motel housing homeless families on Staten Island, and police were searching for a man who they suspect killed the three, including his 4-month-old daughter, officials said.

“This is an atrocious crime,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference in police headquarters with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. “I think every parent would share my view that their hearts would break to see children attacked.”

Police suspect the slayings occurred about 8:50 a.m. after a man identified as Michael Sykes, 23, of Brooklyn, was seen on a surveillance camera entering the room at the Ramada Inn in the Willowbrook section of Staten Island where the victims were stabbed.

Killed were Rebecca Cutler, 26, and her daughters Ziana Cutler, 1, and Maiyah Sykes, 4 months. Maiyah was Sykes’ daughter.

A third daughter, age 2, also was stabbed but survived and was listed in critical but stable condition at Richmond University Medical Center, police said.

Cutler and her children had been living at the Ramada Inn since Dec. 6 rather than being housed in a regular shelter.

According to police, Sykes and Cutler had a dispute on Tuesday in which Sykes took Cutler’s cellphone. Investigators were looking into whether Cutler was trying to rekindle a relationship with the father of one of the children. Investigators noted that neither Sykes nor Cutler had any significant criminal history, record of domestic violence or problems with the law.

Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said surveillance cameras showed Sykes and Cutler going to a nearby deli about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, then returning. Sykes remained in the hallway, and then entered the room for about four minutes. Police think this is when Cutler and the girls were attacked, Boyce said.

Sykes called a family member about 10:30 a.m. and admitted committing the crimes, threatening to take his own life, Boyce said, adding police found the knife used in the attack.

“We will see if that happens. Right now I would recommend everybody call 911 if they see him,” Boyce said.

The Ramada Inn had overnight security on duty from about 10 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday, de Blasio said.

Sykes is believed to have taken a bicycle to the Staten Island Ferry and crossed to Manhattan, police said. Sykes, also known by “Skyes,” lives in Howard Houses in Brooklyn, police said.

Wednesday afternoon, police began relocating dozens of shelter residents.

Denia Cuello, 27, has been living at the Ramada with her 9-month-old son since Jan. 18.

She said she has been concerned about safety at the hotel since she moved in. “There was never a security guard there since I came. ... Anybody can come in and out of this hotel,” Cuello said.

Cuello, who has been living under the public shelter program for three years at multiple locations, said that hotel had the worst security she’d experienced.

AmNY Express (2/11/16): Occupy this

Occupy Wall Street has gone mainstream. Not the tent cities and drum circles, but the ideas and systems that defined the movement.
Weeks before Iowa caucused and New Hampshire voted, hundreds of supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders gathered in New York City's Union Square. At that point, Sanders had won no actual votes.
At the march for Sanders in late January, people chanted, "We are the 99 percent." The Sanders supporters were united "against the 1 percent."
The march ended in Zuccotti Park, birthplace of Occupy Wall Street. In a sense, it started there, long before Sanders announced his candidacy.

Where did Occupy go?

Inspired by the energy of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street began in the late summer of 2011 to combat the villain of Wall Street. The movement had no clear leaders and focused on bringing attention to various issues, rather than doubling down on a particular demand.
At one time or another, Occupiers called for the repeal of Citizens United, the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, and new taxes on financial transactions.
When the tents came down, the conventional wisdom concluded that Occupy hadn't achieved anything because it had been too diffuse, splintering in too many directions.
One of the movement's early organizers, Micah White, wrote, "Occupy set out to achieve [a] very specific goal: to end the power of money over our democracies. And we failed."
It's not surprising that Occupy didn't result in the total and immediate overthrow of the economic system.
But Occupy's rhetoric and issue profile percolated through Americans across the political spectrum over time, achieving a slow victory.

We are all Occupy now

Both Sanders and Donald Trump have found success inveighing against fat cats at the top of the economy.
In lecture- or sermon-like campaign speeches, Sanders repeatedly rails against a rigged economy and the culture of greed on Wall Street.
His big-picture solutions — like single-payer health care or free college tuition — are as bold as the proposals that came out of Occupy encampments. They are infused with a sense of possibility, regardless of potential outcomes.
"Together, we are going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the one percent," Sanders said in his victory speech on Tuesday night. That speech had one clear message: voters were sending a warning to the political, financial and media establishment.
Sanders uses the influence of money in politics to tie everything together. This is the spirit of Occupy to a T — the sense that everything is connected to and influenced by money.
Finding an alternative is the Occupy goal. Sanders sees issues similarly. Republicans say they don't believe in climate change because of the Koch brothers. Big pharma is the obstacle standing in the way of better health care. The bailout of the big banks by the little people continues to hold the little people back.
After New Hampshire, Sanders went to New York City, but not to fundraise, as many of his opponents do when venturing to the home of Wall Street. While he was breakfasting uptown with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Zuccotti Park was quiet and empty.
A merchandiser on the edge of the park said the Occupy crew mainly returns on anniversaries, if at all.
The physical movement has disbanded, but in America's slow incremental fashion, it has found a new standard-bearer after the fact.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

AmNY Express (2/10/16): How do you count the homeless?

On one night, New York City tries to number its street homeless population.
It was a formidable collection of volunteers, including a 70-year-old woman from East Harlem who had once been homeless and an instructor and cadet from West Point, who had bused here for the night along with dozens of their comrades.
They were among more than 3,000 volunteers who participated in the yearly HOPE count on Monday night, a point-in-time survey of individuals who are street homeless, which is required for certain types of federal funding.
Volunteer groups question every person they meet about their housing situation. Some groups profile passersby and leave out folks who don't "look" homeless; not this group.
An elderly woman walking her dog said irritably, "It's an apartment," when questioned about her housing status. A young man took iPod earbuds out of his ears, smiling, to say he had a home. Another said that he himself was fine but he'd noticed some homeless people sleeping downtown in a Citibank. Two bearded men said they had places to go, but they had their own earnest question: "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?"
The group's members was not perturbed as they wandered around the quiet streets of Murray Hill, mostly empty but for trucks and taxis, doormen and shop-owners.
"Sometimes you could assume wrong," says Maj. Laura Weimer, 35, a sociology instructor at West Point.
"Confirmation bias," chimes in her student, Cadet Mitch Boylan, 21.
They were right.

An imperfect tool

"There's a certain amount of cynicism in this world," Mayor Bill de Blasio said, as he sent the volunteers assembled at P.S. 116 out into the Manhattan night, saying he wished people could see the assembled crowd there to help the homeless at 11:30 at night.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was on hand as well, mentioning the Obama administration's commitment to combat homelessness — $11 billion in his final budget, already being laughed away by Congress.
The mayor said the 2016 HOPE count would be the last before the introduction of quarterly counts, part of his much-hyped HOME-STAT initiative. That plan won't get underway until March.
The HOPE count itself isn't a perfect census, to say the least.
It's "most likely a vast undercount," says Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, given the untrained volunteers doing the counting and the single-night survey.
"We know they're there," she says of the homeless, "and we need to focus on what's going to move folks out of homelessness and into permanent housing," adding that permanent housing is the solution.
Getting to full housing is a lofty and distant goal, much like ending homelessness among veterans, which the administration said had been achieved in New York City in December — at least, "chronic veteran homelessness," a carefully qualified phrase that doesn't mean there are no veterans on the streets at all.
Veteran homelessness "obviously touches close to home," says Weimer, who served two tours in Iraq as a military police officer.
She remembers coming home and "losing that sense of purpose" that comes with a clear mission like protecting convoy routes or providing security for elections.
It's easy to fall into a "slump," she says, that might end in homelessness.

The man on the street

The first homeless person that Group 4 found that night was a young man, clean-cut, with a Nike draw-string bag and a friendly demeanor.
When asked whether he had a place to go that night, he looked slightly bewildered by the attention.
"That's crazy," he said, "I'm going to shelter intake right now."
The entire group scrambled to be helpful. As dictated by the pre-written questions, he was asked whether he was a veteran.
He was. He had been an "intel specialist," he said, for six-and-a-half years. Weimer asked whether she could do anything for him. He said he just needed "somewhere warm to sleep." She gave him a handshake and a half-hug.
When the young man was gone, Weimer turned to Boylan, her student.
"You know how high in the class you have to be to get intel?" she asked.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

AmNY Express (2/9/16): The big loser in New Hampshire is...

Poised to escape into his bus outside an American Legion last week in Rochester, New Hampshire, Gov. John Kasich wearily addressed a gaggle of reporters.
Was he viable as a candidate nationally? He wasn't even close to the top. Where would he win? Seemingly annoyed, he fended off questions. Finally, he allowed that he'd have to do well in New Hampshire, whose voters go to the polls today.
"If I don't, you know all these cameras and everything, they'll all be gone. But it's been nice knowing you," he smirked, "most of the time."

Nobody likes a gatekeeper

Such is one of the more polite condemnations of the media from the campaign in New Hampshire, marked more vocally by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said after Iowa that his performance there had sent a "profound message" to the "media establishment."
There were the comments by Sen. Ted Cruz, ridiculing the attention paid by journalists to his rival Sen. Marco Rubio.
And let's not forget Donald Trump, king of the media bash, who feuds with journalists, insults them, leads crowds in decrying them and keeps them confined to pens at his events.
The distrust is not limited to politicians.
Austin Pilotte, 36, a carpenter from Whitefield, New Hampshire, watched Fox News regularly before the 2008 election but has since lost faith.
Pilotte remembers believing that candidate Barack Obama was a Muslim set on taking away guns. When Obama became president, he was surprised by reality: "He stands for everything I stand for," Pilotte said. "That was an eye opener."
This election, he says, he's voting for Bernie.

Rules of the game

Media bashing has been a constant in this election cycle.
Most of this, of course, is pandering to partisan ears, candidates taking advantage of an anti-establishment fervor and pillorying a convenient target.
But it's not hard to see why voters in early primary states might bristle at reporters: At town halls and campaign events across the early primary states, journalists can nearly outnumber citizens in attendance at small venues. Reporters are the ones checking Twitter and listening for divergences from stump speeches while supporters wait outside. TV personalities report live while the candidates are still speaking, sometimes loud enough to be heard by the crowd.
The campaign trail can be tiresome and grueling for candidates, who wake early for events, phone calls and preparation, and pound the pavement (or highway) in search of one more event, one more vote. It's a different crowd every morning, but the same reporters. The journalists are the candidates' shadows, always there and always watching.
It's a necessary shadow, of course, and the nature of journalism is to push back.
And, of course, the campaigns need the media to bring the candidates' message to states that don't happen to hold early primaries.
Today, as New Hampshire votes, the much-maligned establishment media's questions will be answered: Will Sanders win, bolstering his appeal among voters across the ideological spectrum, unhappy with their economic situation?
Have Hillary Clinton's efforts to win over women backfired, blowing her chances of a surprise comeback?
Will Donald Trump be a winner in his second submission to the electorate? Will there be redemption for the senators (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz) or the scrambling governors (John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie)?
One result will be entirely predictable: the media will lose.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

AmNY Express (2/8/16): The show that blew us all away

"Hamilton," the blockbuster musical, has wowed a president, celebrities and anyone with a patriotic pulse. We went backstage with one of the stage managers.
It was Amber White's second day as a stage manager on "Hamilton," and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator and star, was sick.
Viewers who buy their tickets months in advance are never happy to hear about a substitution. This was Broadway's hottest show, based on a brick of a book by historian Ron Chernow, a fresh depiction of the New Yorker who fathered the American banking system, endured a sex scandal, and died in a duel. This was the first time that Miranda or Javier Muñoz, who plays the role on Sundays, didn't appear as the title character. The role went to Jon Rua, the understudy, making his debut as America's ten-dollar founding father.
White and the production team called an emergency rehearsal — 30 minutes long — for which the cast came to the theater. And then the show went on: "flawlessly," White said, thanks to Rua but also the professionalism of the rest of the cast and crew.
White, 36, is one of the crew members in the room where it happens for eight shows a week, critical to the musical's success but largely unseen.

Right-hand men and women

Stage managers, three of whom work at a time on "Hamilton," are the guardians and protectors of the show and the cast — "a cross between a flight attendant and a mom," White says — who tend to the mental and psychological well-being of the actors.
They are also often with the show long-term, from pre-production meetings on design and concept through to rehearsals, previews and performances, taking care of the practicalities of scheduling and organization. And, always, troubleshooting.
During a recent production of "Hamilton," an ensemble member hurt his neck with about 35 minutes left in the show.
Coming off stage, squeezing past barrels of prop rifles and shelves of neatly stored mugs, he went to the stage managers' office to find White. The actor said he couldn't go back on.
Quickly, White paged one of the swings — an understudy ready to fill in for multiple roles at a moment's notice — upstairs in his dressing room. She and the other stage managers coordinated the switch, getting the swing into costume and microphone and on stage in time for his new character's next appearance. The hurt actor went home.
The show went on. The audience never noticed. Crisis averted.
The other part of the stage manager's job is "preserving the artistic integrity" of the show, White says. The original director and choreographer check in from time to time once the show gets rolling, but on "Hamilton" the stage managers and a small creative team make sure the show stays consistent.
"You're supposed to do the exact same thing every day, but the show is a living, breathing thing," says White, in which even an actor's interpretation of character might evolve. Sometime it evolves too much, and the actors have to tone down their performances.
It's not surprising that the tension builds for the actors. In this show, "you're at war so often," White says.

History has its eyes on you

White has been a stage manager since college, when she switched from finance to a theater major.
After working in regional theater and in California, she came to New York with "two suitcases" and got her break on "Avenue Q." She met her husband at the Broadway Show Bowling League — he's a stagehand on "Kinky Boots." They've never worked on a show together. Both count themselves lucky to be in stable jobs on Broadway for the moment. It's not the kind of business where you "get an office job and sit in it for 20 years," White says.
The "Hamilton" phenomenon is a "once in a lifetime" experience, particularly for the young actors making their first appearances on Broadway, says White.
Hundreds of fans wait on the street outside the theater before the show in a bid for lottery tickets. Miranda, who is both the show's lead and creator, used to do a short live skit to entertain the show's fans while they waited, but had to discontinue it for safety reasons, White says. Since then, Miranda has brought the mini-shows, known as Ham4Ham, online.
Backstage, the actors and crew can escape the mania. There's not much more room than in a typical Lower East Side walkthrough, and the stage managers' office is prime privacy real estate. It also has the only stage-level bathroom, so celebrities are often stored there after performances — yes, President Barack Obama, too.
Before the show, one of the stage managers makes his or her way to the crow's nest, stage-left, reachable by a ladder. This is called the jump, and it's from this hidden perch that one of the stage managers calls and manages the play — checking the building's temperature, overseeing entrances, cueing the enormous bank of lights, unseeable from the audience but working busily from above.
"No matter how big a hit outside, we're still doing the same job." When the curtain's up, "the noise goes away," says White.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion