“End the Verrazano Bridge loophole that chokes lower Manhattan with excess traffic”

NY Daily News:

“A one-way toll to nowhere: End the Verrazano Bridge loophole that chokes lower Manhattan with excess traffic”

“…we can pick some low-hanging fruit right away in order to reduce traffic and enhance pedestrian safety in Lower Manhattan: End the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge’s one-way toll, which right now only charges drivers going from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

As crazy as it sounds, the status quo gives drivers lucrative incentives to go miles out of their way onto some of Manhattan’s busiest local streets. Truckers can avoid $92 in Verrazano tolls, and other drivers as much as $17, by taking a detour through Manhattan.”

Garden Poem


Slowly the quilt grows. 

We bring our sacred intentions

Toward a better here and now

For our children, our neighbors, our friends and ourselves;

Peony roots from a mother’s garden, a child’s sculpture

A great band, a real-live chicken

Sometimes just flowers.

We bring ferns from the mountains, coffee from the corner

The family turtle, a perfect rose, the Daily News.

We bring our children here, sacred, raucous, irreverent, destructive;

But also our most  committed stewards;

We bring our friends and their friends, a cousin from New Zealand, from Israel, from Cincinnati; 3 guys from up the block with broad smiles and broader shoulders;

We bring more hot dogs, more daffodils, more visitors more might-come-in-handy

than anyone could ever eat, plant, talk to or use, and yet we do

And the quilt grows.


– Kate Fitzgerald (M’Finda Kalunga Community Gardener)


NYT: “Dead of AIDS and Forgotten in Potter’s Field”


“Hart Island burials also came in smaller numbers, like the 27 from Rivington House, a nursing home in Manhattan exclusively for AIDS patients…”


Pridgen (2010) Directed by Fury Young Film shot by Christopher Cafaro


From the NYTimes:

“In an untold chapter of the AIDS epidemic scores of unclaimed bodies were buried in a remote spot on Hart’s Island. How many exactly remains unclear.

The bodies reached Hart Island on a ferry like all the others, in spare wooden boxes and bound for ignominious mass interment off the coast of the Bronx where New York City buries its unclaimed dead by the hundreds in long, shallow trenches…”

The island would go on to receive scores, if not hundreds, of people who died during the AIDS epidemic, which during the 1980s and 1990s killed more than 100,000 people in New York, about a quarter of AIDS deaths nationwide during the same period…”

“…Officials at several city agencies involved in the burials refused interview requests to discuss the issue and insisted that no data or any other information was available on AIDS burials.

“…the number of AIDS burials on Hart Island could reach into the thousands, making it perhaps the single largest burial ground in the country for people with AIDS.

It is an untold chapter of the AIDS crisis, but in recent years some of the island’s secrets have started to tumble out largely because of the work of a longtime activist whose legal pressure has wrested information from the city, giving relatives of people with AIDS answers they have long sought.

“Part of the history of the AIDS epidemic is buried on Hart Island, and it’s the unknown part,” said Melinda Hunt, the longtime advocate who has battled the city for information and believes that the island should be open to the public.


For more information: Melinda Hunt‘s “Hart Island Project” here.

For Clair Yaffa‘s photographs of Hart Island Graves here.

Clair Yaffa: “It is difficult to get access to this place where the homeless, unclaimed bodies, and bodies of ?children are buried in common graves. Claire Yaffa spent one year, calling every day until she was finally permitted to go. Because of her photographic essays on child abuse, the homeless and children with AIDS, she had read about this place and wanted to see it for herself.  Says Yaffa, “I spent my time there?in awe and sadness to see what for some was the end of their life’s journey.”


Pridgen (2010) Directed by Fury Young Film shot by Christopher Cafaro

From Gotham Gazette: Is It Legal to Jump Into a Fountain In a NYC Park?


Gotham Gazette:Whimsical Fact: It’s Legal To Jump In NYC Fountains To Cool Down”

Answer (a qualified):

“Hell Yes!”

Gotham Gazette gives information and a warning:

“All of the city’s fountains (50 in total) get their water system cleaned before being turned back on for the summer…”

But that ain’t stopping the rat-pigeon pool parties that definitely happen when we aren’t looking.

“It is not against park rules to go into display fountains, though…they are not intended for swimming…the water is not treated in the way a swimming pool is. [You cannot use… it to bathe—it is against park rules to use fountains for personal hygiene or for washing clothes, belongings, or pets (there are water fountains for that!) [Ed. note: you really want to see this link].”

Oh, and not in Bryant Park.

“Bryant Park is managed by Bryant Park Corporation, and they prohibit humans in the fountain…” GG


Summer FREE Lunch Program: Rivington Playground Sara Roosevelt Park

Sara D. Roosevelt Playground
Lunch Menu
Breakfast Time:
Lunch Time: 10:00 AM-04:40 PM
Dates of Operations: 06/27/2018 thru 08/31/2018
Service Days Lunch Sa,Su,Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr
*Menu(s) are subject to change.

More Information: Here

March to End Family Separation

“I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. 

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you” – Mr. Rogers


Young People:




Signs From the Day:

To the Bridge!


March Fatigue:


And the Last Word:

“Down with Cruelty”


Tomorrow June 30th March with University Settlement for Keeping Families Together

From NY Commons Map of Public Buildings and Land

From NYCommons.org helps New Yorkers impact decisions about public land and buildings in their neighborhoods. 

Why focus on our commons? 

Vibrant public spaces strengthen communities and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. They provide opportunities for learning, health and recreation, as well as connecting with friends and neighbors. But all too often, publicly owned spaces are sold or taken out of public control with very little meaningful public input. This website is part of a strategy for breaking this pattern and giving New York City residents a chance to have a say in the decisions that affect their communities. 

Website here.

NY Post: Poor oversight on park renovations has cost taxpayers $5M

NY Post

“The city Parks Department’s shoddy oversight over how private contractors handle department construction projects has cost taxpayers nearly $5 million, including nearly $800,000 at President Trump’s fancy golf course in The Bronx, city Comptroller Scott Stringer said.

“The weaknesses we found in [the department’s] controls over” construction managers “were evidenced by missing and incomplete construction records, flawed designs, delays in obtaining required permits, and instances in which coordination with other agencies and utilities was neglected or ineffective,” Stringer’s office said after conducting a two-year audit ending June 30, 2016.

“Given these deficiencies, [Parks] cannot consistently ensure that [construction managers] are fulfilling their contractual responsibilities to properly monitor construction contractors’ activities and communicate results to [the department]….”

“…The audit covered 69 projects, 27 of which were not completed on schedule.

The department said it “disagrees with the report and many of its findings and conclusions…”


For Comptroller Stringer’s Report here.


Perspective on Specialized Tests from the Valedictorian of Stuyvesant High School

From Craine’s NY:

Editor’s note: The text below is adapted from Wong’s valedictorian speech at Stuyvesant High School’s June 21 graduation ceremony.

Stuyvesant’s valedictorian: Find a way to diversify my school

In speech to class of 2018, its top student calls status quo “broken”

By Matteo Wong

Just as we will change the world, the world is changing Stuyvesant. As the dialogue surrounding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed admissions overhaul grows increasingly labyrinthine, I want to reframe our thinking around a simple question: So what?

The problem: New York City’s best public high school is less than 4% black or Hispanic, demographics which compose nearly 70% of the city’s school-age population.

This debate revolves around two truths. One: These statistics are unacceptable. To accept them is to buy into a racist myth of black and Hispanic inferiority that has very real, physical and psychological repercussions. To accept these demographics is to make Stuyvesant a toxic environment for black and Hispanic students. The way forward is unclear, but the status quo is broken.

This is not a question of black and Hispanic youth not studying enough. Concentrated housing poverty, income disparities and other structural factors block many black and Hispanic students’ access to academic resources, and skew what the test is measuring toward more privileged populations.

Asian immigrants, in particular East and South Asians, do not face the same historical and contemporary obstacles. Although the “model minority” is a myth, it holds granules of truth: East and South Asians, for instance, are not nearly as heavily criminalized as their black counterparts, and enjoy higher median incomes.

That is not to pit black, brown and yellow communities against each other. The second truth is that changes to admissions policy are not a question, as schools Chancellor Carranza puts it, of Asians “owning” Stuyvesant. To the chancellor, I would first ask, “What is an Asian?”

To call 2,000 students “Asian” is disrespectful to the different immigrant generations, varying income brackets, 48 countries, and hundreds of cultures, languages and dialects under the Asian umbrella. It is precisely because Asian America is a complex political category, precisely because Asians do work to overcome significant obstacles and represent a diverse population, that our approach to specialized high school admissions matters.

And this is not a question of white folk being the enemy—Stuyvesant’s white community is not the aristocracy. They are largely immigrants, Eastern European, or Jewish.

Here is the “so what”: Regardless of background, our futures—our American success stories—are inextricably linked.

When Asian-Americans identify as hard-working evidence of the American Dream, it allows conservatives to paint government spending as unnecessary. That leads to attacks on black and Hispanic communities in the form of spending cuts, discriminatory housing and segregated schools that circle back to hurt Asian and poor white communities, too. Blaming Asians for becoming the junior partners of white supremacy pits minorities against each other, which makes it easier for racist elites to win elections and more difficult to form grassroots resistance. Entirely alienating white folk breeds resentment and eventually populism.

If education is central to the American vision, it must be unconditional. And creating unconditional access to education, for students of any background, will require uniting our competing truths.

There is an easy, rhetorically pleasing way to address Stuyvesant’s racial disparity: to say de Blasio’s proposal will fail, and that instead we must reform K-8 education. I agree. But we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good; we should not use this as an excuse, as is typical of Stuyvesant students, to procrastinate; should not cast aside pragmatic, short-term solutions—such as altering or eliminating the SHSAT [admissions exam]—in favor of utopian visions.

While I am grateful for my admission to Stuyvesant, having a single exam determine your educational future is absurd. If a student has a bad morning or doesn’t feel well, they could perform poorly despite being deserving. Standardized test scores have been correlated with genes regulating dopamine production, which determine how students handle stress. And the material on the exam is not taught in classrooms. The difference between a student scoring 560 and 559 is not so great as to warrant refusing admission, especially considering the exam has different versions with varying difficulties and is graded on a convoluted rubric.

Short-term improvements, such as the Discovery program (preparing students who scored just below the cutoff) and the DREAM programs (reaching out to disadvantaged communities with test prep), or even requiring all middle schoolers to take the exam, are essential, piecemeal reforms as we strive to eliminate all race- and class-based inequalities.

Our student body blows me away. But I also believe the same caliber students can be found elsewhere, if we would only look through a different lens.

It’s easy to think that, because we are leaving Stuyvesant behind, the question of admissions is irrelevant to our lives. But Stuyvesant does not exist in a vacuum.

Remedying racial disparities at Stuyvesant will require answering fundamental questions, which will implicate the rest of our lives. How do we measure diversity? How do we weigh equality and equity? Is Stuyvesant’s purpose to provide the best education for a narrowly determined academic elite, or to provide an elite education for a more heterogeneous swath of New Yorkers? Where are the best places to allocate resources for marginalized groups? One speech, survey, or policy cannot provide the answers. We must continue prodding.

Matteo Wong was valedictorian of Stuyvesant High School’s class of 2018. He lives in Brooklyn.