It’s on to the NYS Court of Appeals for Lawsuit to Stop NYU’s Destructive Expansion Plan

A ruling that would have saved three Greenwich Village parks from being destroyed by New York University’s overblown and unnecessary expansion plan was overturned on October 14th by the Appellate Division’s First Department.

Petitioners in the case, including NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation expressed their dismay, but vowed to take the case to the State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals:

“We believe the First Department panel made the wrong decision today in overturning Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills’ decision preserving and protecting New York City parkland, and allowing the City to give this land away to NYU for its deeply unpopular and bloated expansion plan,” said GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman.

“We will be working with our co-plaintiffs and our lawyers to appeal this wrong-headed decision as soon as possible. Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills was correct in identifying this much-needed public green space as parkland which cannot be alienated by the City or NYU. We continue to believe that the sanctity of this principle should be upheld, and we are confident that it will be upon appeal. Since the City Council, City Planning Commission, and Borough President first gave away public park space to NYU, and overturned long-standing deed restrictions, zoning protections, and open space preservation requirements to allow NYU to move ahead with its massive plan, we knew we were up against a lot. But I believe that in the end the best interests of the City, the Village, and even the university, as articulated by its faculty, workers, and students who oppose this plan, will prevail, and the courts will halt NYU 2031,” added Berman.

Local elected officials and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer all expressed disappointment about the ruling, but pledged to continue their support for Village parks and their opposition to NYU’s expansion plan.

Read more here.

Fear of Ebola or Fear of Telling the Truth?

The biggest word in the news right now is Ebola.  Of course, the right wing has taken despicable advantage of this epidemic to try to strike fear into the hearts of Americans by saying, over and over, that the US is in jeopardy.  However, as someone recently said on twitter, “More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died of Ebola.”  While Ebola is a definite concern, since we should always be concerned when any other nation’s people suffer and the world’s health is in jeopardy, it’s clearly not an epidemic that will have an enormous impact here in the US.

Conservative forces have been successful, once again, in playing a game of three card monte with us; they are showing us the hand that isn’t doing the trick, distracting us from what’s really going on.  And, what’s really going on?  Aside from the obvious attempt to paint the current administration as incompetent and uncaring, they are masking their own major failure to protect our health; they have held up, for more than a year, the appointment of a Surgeon General. (And yes, the Surgeon General’s office does more than print those warnings on the side of cigarette packs.) There’s an acting Surgeon General who is not actually confirmed, so he has no power.

Oh, you say you didn’t know that?  You are not alone.  This fact has been well buried.  As reported in Politico, the nominee – Dr. Vivek Murthy – has had his confirmation held up by Republicans and conservative red-state Democrats because of his outspoken views on gun violence and public health.  It was apparently this tweet that sent right wing forces over the edge:

 

 

So it turns out that the real “fear” here is that the new US Surgeon General will openly make the case that rampant gun violence constitutes a major public health threat and that, in turn, will unleash the NRA’s public relations machine which, in turn, will try to defeat any Republican or Democrat who votes to approve Murthy’s nomination.

Unfortunately, fear does tend to work.  So, while spineless elected officials try to hold up the appointment of the Nation’s leading doctor for fear of not be re-elected, Americans are being told to fear a disease that is not killing them.

A confirmed Surgeon General would not only help focus American attention and resources on the real threats to American health – including gun violence – but would obviate the need for a so-called Ebola czar and create real US leadership on the issue.

Demand that Congress confirm Dr. Murthy now. NOW.  As a matter of fact, if you go here, you can sign a Credo petition that asks for the Senate to do just that.

A Park is a Park, is a Park, or is it? In NYC, the Answer Might Be, “NO”

For the past three years or so, a large swath of New York University’s professors (who have formed a group called NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, a group we proudly represent) and the Greenwich Village community have been in a protracted and fierce struggle over NYU’s plan to expand enormously in the Village.

No one, it seems – other than NYU’s administration, especially its president, John Sexton – wants the monstrous 2 million square foot, multi-billion dollar development plan. The local community board voted unanimously against it, and 39 departments within NYU itself have voted against it. There have also been votes of no confidence passed against Sexton by a number of NYU’s schools. NYU’s own Stern School of Business – where at least two of its professors have earned Nobel Prizes in economics – voted against the unneeded, bloated and expensive plan.

It is unfortunate that in America today, many universities have become nothing more than big business, where the bottom line is most important, and education takes a back seat.

NYUFASP and other community groups have struck back hard, filing a lawsuit that would prevent NYU from implementing its plan. The groups won a big victory in court when it was ruled that NYU could not build on three strips of parkland – LaGuardia Park, LaGuardia Corner Gardens and Mercer Playground – because they are actually, well, parkland. (If you click on the link for Mercer Playground, you’ll see that it’s listed as actually part of the Parks Department!)

In NYC, not every green space is an official part of the parks department. Other agencies, like the Department of Transportation, often have authority of some of these spaces. But, fortunately, what really matters, legally, is how those spaces are used. And, in this case, some of these spaces have been used as parks for decades. In essence, NYC “gave” those parks to NYU illegally. Public parkland can’t simple be given away. In cases where the City does want to have parkland developed by a private developer or institution, there’s a legal process that has to be gone through, called “alienation,” and the City didn’t do that.

This throws a real wrench into NYU’s expansion plan, since those parks – which would be crushed – are needed for its scheme.

So, not surprisingly, NYU is appealing the decision.

What is somewhat surprising is that the City of New York is standing with NYU and appealing the ruling too. Mayor Bill de Blasio has fashioned himself as a progressive champion of the people, and that’s the basis upon which he was elected. He has shown himself to be progressive in other policies, so people are both confused and angered by the City’s response.

The appeals court appearance happened on September 24th, and, before the hearing, the NYU community, Village residents and those concerned about green spaces and overdevelopment held a rally in LaGuardia Park. Over 200 people attended, and many elected officials, including the City’s Public Advocate, Tish James, came to show their support. There was also an incredible performance by the internationally known, East Village-based group STOMP.

One of NYC’s former Commissioner of Parks, Henry Stern, supplied an affidavit for the case, saying that he tried – for 14 years – to get those pieces of parkland officially turned over to the Parks Department, but NYU blocked all attempts. He came to the rally to show his support and he also wrote a blistering editorial that appeared in the Saturday, October 4th edition of the Daily News, asking City Hall to drop its appeal.

The bottom line…everyone is still hoping that the City will come to its senses and drop the appeal. It’s not too late, and would, in fact, be the right thing for a progressive Mayor to do.

NYU Expansion Update: September 30, 2014

Park Advocates, Villagers, Elected Officials Join @ Rally/Press Conference to Keep the Village Green/Save the Village Featuring a Performance by the World Famous STOMP; NYU, City Try to Overturn Decision That Would Save Parks from Destruction by NYU Expansion

The #SavetheVillage #KeeptheVillagegreen rally

On Wednesday, September 24th, parks, gardens and open space supporters from across the City held a rally at Greenwich Village’s LaGuardia Park, decrying NYU’s and the City’s appeal of the court decision that saved that park and two other Village parks from being destroyed.  The appeal was heard after the rally, at the Appellate Division’s First Department.

Members of the internationally acclaimed East Village-based group STOMP joined the crowd and did a short performance.

The three parks in question – Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park and LaGuardia Corner Gardens- were at risk of destruction for the sake of NYU’s outsized and unwanted 2031 expansion plan.  On January 7th, Judge Donna Mills vindicated the position of parks advocates and community members by officially declaring those parks as City parkland, effectively halting redevelopment efforts by NYU that would have stripped the community of that precious open space. NYU’s rejection of that decision and its subsequent appeal (through the City) have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Village residents, NYU faculty, parks and open space advocates and elected officials.

Speakers included Congressman Jerry Nadler; Assembly Member Deborah Glick; State Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron; Public Advocate Tish James; David Gruber, Chair of Community Board #2; Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern; Actress Kathleen Chalfant; NYUFASP’s President Mark Crispin Miller; and GVSHP’s Executive Director Andrew Berman.

Public Advocate Tish James

Mark Crispin Miller, president of NYUFASP

Award winning actress Kathleen Chalfant

Former NYC Parks Commissioner, Henry Stern

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of GVSHP


You can read coverage of the event here:

Bedford + Bowery

Capital New York (here and here)

DNAinfo

The New York Post

The Real Deal

The Villager

Washington Square News (here, here, and here).

NYU in the News

It’s been a while but, NYUFASP is still around and making waves. On September 24th, there will be a hearing of oral arguments for the City’s appeal (in conjunction with NYU) to Justice Donna Mills’ January ruling that the city acted illegally when it gave three out of four parcels of parkland to NYU for its 2031 expansion plan in July of 2012.

The hearing will take place at 2pm on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at

The New York State Supreme Court: Appellate Division – First Department
27 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Tel. (212) 340-0400

We hope you join us to support the Village community and NYUFASP’s efforts to #SavetheVillage.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest news about the administration at one of NYC’s largest universities:

The New York Times Dealbook: Wall Street Hand Stays the Stormy Course at N.Y.U.

NYU Local: Future Head Of NYU Board Of Trustees Made Millions Off Student Loans

If It’s Capitalism, Why Not Teach Financial Literacy?

Photo from Google Image Search, courtesy of World Financial Group

Even though I am the president of this pr firm, I will admit that, before opening LCG Communications, I had little practical knowledge about the actual business side of running a business.

And, although I know how to balance a checkbook and have enough money in accounts to keep things “in the black,” no elementary, middle or high school class ever taught me “financial literacy.”

Oh sure, there were courses on things like making a budget or shopping for the best food bargains, but no one actually explained the nuts and bolts of capitalism and how it works.

And I know I am hardly alone.

As a result, the ins and outs of capitalism are left to the “experts,” whose job, in part, is to “tell” us what to do. No one ever explained, for example, that this “credit rating” thing could actually ruin a business or someone’s chances of getting a loan, or a mortgage, or an apartment. People marry and have families, and no one explains that the way you deal with your finances can seriously affect your ability to have the home and the life you want.

We have to deal with capitalism every day, but, for most people, it’s a high concept that’s really fuzzy and seems unrelated to what we do.

Of course, there are some courses in college that can be taken, and sometimes, local government provides courses too.

I’m bringing this up now because, just recently, we worked with the BrooklynSpeaks community groups on the new deal that will bring the promised Atlantic Yards affordable housing online ten years earlier. People will be able to apply for the housing through a lottery system. (The project has now been re-dubbed “Pacific Park.”)

What many people don’t know is that simply showing that you need the housing and can prove it – through providing tax returns, etc. – is not enough. You have to be able to show that your household is financially capable of paying the rent in a timely manner every month. And that requires that your household’s finances are in tip top shape. Of course, ironically, a large percentage of the people who really need this kind of housing won’t qualify because they are unaware of this requirement and, since they are often scrambling just to make ends meet, they simply haven’t focused on their own financial fitness as calculated by the “outside” world.

Some non-profits, like Brown Community Development Corporation, are trying to address this problem by holding free sessions about the lottery, and these sessions include advice on getting finances in shape.

But it shouldn’t have to come to this. Why don’t we include financial literacy education from elementary school through high school? Perhaps it’s because if people really understood capitalism, those in power would have to face an educated voter base who’d be less likely to stand for some of the financial shenanigans we’ve seen.

It still comes down to this: If we have to live in this world of capitalism, we need to understand it. That goes for everyone.

Affordable Housing at Atlantic Yards in the News!

The issue of affordable housing has been popping up everywhere in the news lately. We couldn’t be more delighted to announce that our clients, members of BrooklynSpeaks, were just featured in two great TV interviews about the recent deal struck at Atlantic Yards that guarantees completion of all affordable units by 2025.

Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), joined Marjona Jones, who has worked on behalf of Brown Community Development Corporation (BCDC), on ABC7’s “Here and Now” show to talk about the new agreement, how it affects the community, and what it will mean for future developments.

Michelle de la Uz, Marjona Jones and host Sandra Bookman on ABC7’s “Here and Now.”

 

Nick Powell, City Hall Bureau Chief for City & State, sat down with Michelle de la Uz for an in depth discussion about the ramifications of delaying promised delivery of affordable housing, the implications of the project’s name change from Atlantic Yards to Pacific Park, and the details involved in qualifying for an affordable housing lottery.

Latest Client News July 24, 2014: Great News on Affordable Housing

Here’s our latest news of victory: culminating an 11 year struggle, and following weeks of intense negotiations, our clients — BrooklynSpeaks sponsor organizations and local residents recently announced they have reached a landmark settlement about affordable housing with Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC), the developer of the contentious Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn, and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), with the support of the City of New York. The agreement at Atlantic Yards has been a long time coming, and we’re very pleased to have helped work towards this resolution. Now that a consensus has finally been reached, it provides a great starting point for discussion of affordable housing within New York City.

Mayor de Blasio has been very clear about his emphasis on affordable housing during his term, and this new accord, which promises timely delivery of affordable housing and real developer accountability, potentially presents a good template for such projects moving forward.

The new agreement at Atlantic Yards fueled a storm of press coverage, including a piece in the New York Times!

Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

A brief summary of the settlement: Under the terms of the agreement, construction on the first of the affordable units will begin by the end of the year, and a full total of 2,250 affordable apartments must be completed by May 2025 – ten years earlier than previously agreed.

It also establishes an Atlantic Yards Tenant Protection Fund and penalties for failure to meet affordable housing milestones. The newly-created Fund, which is expected to be administered by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, will provide grants to local nonprofit organizations offering eviction prevention and anti-displacement services to low and moderate income residents of Brooklyn community districts 2, 3, 6 and 8. (Read more about the Tenant Protection Fund here.) Many lower and working class families – especially African Americans – are getting priced out of their neighborhoods due to escalating rents and costs of living exacerbated, ironically, by the construction of Atlantic Yards’ Barclay Center. Gentrification around Atlantic Yards is rapidly changing the face of nearby communities; African Americans comprised 52% of the population of the combined area of the districts surrounding Atlantic Yards (Community Boards 2, 3, 6 and 8) in 2000, but represented only 40% in 2010. A study of current demographic trends has found that African Americans will represent only 15% of the population by 2035, the outside date by which the housing was originally required to be finished.

Importantly, the settlement will also result in the creation of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the ESDC charged with overseeing compliance with all project commitments; it will enforce real penalties for failure to meet construction deadlines.

To view the full agreement with ESDC, click here. For a complete explanation of the settlement and copies of all its components, click here.

To read more of the press coverage about this deal, please click on the following links:

Capital New York – here, here, and here
Crain’s – here and here
Curbed
DNAinfo
Gothamist
Law 360
Newsday

*NY1
*NY Daily News

Observer
The Real Deal
WCBS
*WNYC
WSJ

*Denotes an article or segment that we especially liked.

 

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Texting for fun or for information? It’s different!

I have to say that I am a fan of texting.

Texting allows me to stay in touch with my family, clients and colleagues easily.  While texting can never replace an actual phone call or personal interaction, it’s a way to let people know that you are thinking of them and that you want to stay connected.

There’s different kinds of texting, though.

If you’re texting for fun or to just stay in touch, almost anything goes.

However, if you are texting to get or to give information, you need to be more careful.

For some of you, I know that this seems really obvious.  But for many, it’s not.

This was underlined for me recently when a friend was texting with another friend in an attempt to get together later in the evening to go hear some live music.  They ultimately did not get together, but not because they didn’t want to; it was because the texts – on both sides – were unclear.

The exchange went something like this:

Friend1: Was hoping to get together later to go see some music – r u available?

Friend2:  Uptown now, will be down in Union Square later.

Friend1:  Cool.  I’m all ears.

And then, there were no more texts for a couple of hours until Friend2 actually called.  By then, it was too late and they agreed to go out another time.

The problem:  Neither friend asked for enough specific information to make the get together happen.  Friend2 assumed that Friend1 understood that she wanted to meet in the Union Square area.  Friend1 thought that by saying, “I’m all ears,” Friend2 would provide a time and place to actually meet.

Moral of the story:  When you need “real” information – a time and place to meet, e.g. – don’t assume that your cute or unique way of texting will get that for you.  The other person might not understand your implications.  Be direct.  Of course, to avoid all misunderstandings when it comes to meetings, etc., just pick up the phone.

 

 

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Latest Client News – Week of June 16, 2014

Last Friday, June 13th, in a follow up to the ongoing NYU expansion struggle in Greenwich Village, a coalition of over 20 community members and groups filed a legal brief in the state appellate court in Manhattan.

A trial court in January held that the City violated state law by allowing NYU to take over three public parks for construction-related purposes during the twenty-year expansion project. The City and NYU have appealed this part of the lower court’s ruling.

The community coalition asks the appeals court to uphold the trial court, and to require the City and NYU to halt the project, reexamine the building plans and City approvals that were based on the illegal alienation of public parkland, and conduct a proper environmental review that takes the protected status of these parks into account. The parks defenders have also asked the appellate court to hold that the Mercer-Houston Dog Run, like the other three parcels, is public parkland.

The lawsuit, originally filed in September 2012, challenges decisions by the City and the State to approve the massive Sexton Plan, a $6 billion, almost two million square foot construction plan in the heart of historic Greenwich Village, for the convenience of NYU.

Meanwhile, Prof. Micha Tomkiewicz, author of the Climate Change Fork blog is currently attending the Sixth International Conference on Climate Change in Reykjavik, Iceland. Stay tuned for his update when he returns.

Barbara Winslow had a book party on May 19th at the Mott House in Washington D.C., where both Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and House Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi gave remarks.

Upcoming Events – April – May 2014

On April 23, Barbara Winslow will be doing a book reading/ signing of her new biography, Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change.

The reading will be from 6-8pm and will take place at

Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center.
1942 Amsterdam Ave. New York, NY 10032
Tel: 212 862 3680

Sister’s Flyer Final

On May 19th, Barbara will be doing another book event at Bluestockings at 7pm.

Bluestockings
172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-6028

Latest Client News – Week of April 14, 2014

New! Barbara Winslow’s new biography of Shirley Chisholm was just mentioned and quoted in Newsweek’s obituary of the Harlem politician Basil Paterson.

The New York Times just published an article about NYU’s Chairman of the Board, Marty Lipton, calling him The Power Broker of N.Y.U.. In addition to discussing NYU’s corporate structure, and the scandalous bonus packages for an elite few administrators, the article quotes NYUFASP’s Mark Crispin Miller, who confirms that for all its talk of faculty input, NYU officials did not consult either them or the community while planning the 2031 Expansion Plan.

Barbara Winslow just got back from Atlanta, GA, where she gave a talk at Spelman College about Archiving. She also attended the Organization of American Historians’ annual meeting, where she took part in a panel about social and political biography. Her talk focused on “Writing About a First: Shirley Chisholm, Feminism, the Black Freedom Struggle and the Democratic Party.”

In CUNY Radio’s Podcast, “Book Beat” interview with Barbara, she gives some highlights of her research about Shirley Chisholm. Barbara will be doing readings/signings of her book, Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change, at Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center on April 23rd, and at Bluestockings on May 19th. See our Upcoming Events page for more details. You can also download the book digitally on Amazon.com.

Prof. Micha Tomkiewicz was featured in an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal. The article, a response to his National Climate Seminar talk, was written by students from Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy (CEP).

When Will They Learn? How Big Development Projects Get Green Lighted Even Over Community Opposition

I was meeting with a client the other day, and we were bemoaning – yet again – another mega development project that did not deliver on promises made to the community.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s same stuff, different day and my client heartily agrees.  The both of us just sighed.

It is confounding to me that the same “drill” occurs, over and over again, and, yet, people don’t seem to get what’s happening.  Or, even worse, they do, but they just don’t care or are part of the problem.  This applies specifically to elected officials who continue to vote for these giant projects without changing the format – and for those of you unfamiliar with the format, here it is:

Developer wants to build a big project of some sort which will inevitably disrupt a neighborhood, take away green space, use public assets and/or financing, force lower income residents out, drive up rents, etc. – you can pick one or all of these.  Developer also claims great benefits for the community – it will stimulate the economy! Create hundreds or thousands of jobs! Bring needed services/space to the community! Etc!

They quite purposely make the project larger than they know will be approved and are very careful to include a list of so called “community benefits.”

Project goes to the local elected officials which, here in NYC, is the City Council.  The project goes to a specific committee where there is debate and “public comment,” before a vote. Some council members ask good questions.  Developers come with charts, power point presentations, people in suits.  There are the promises to the community, including jobs and a shot in the arm to the local economy, two promises that developers know elected officials cannot seem to oppose. There is sometimes even heated debate, especially during the public comment part.  Some Councilmember or other makes a big deal of telling the developer to scale back the project.  Project is scaled back (slightly), Council committee votes its approval and it’s on to a vote with the whole Council where the project is declared a win-win for everybody!

The same general “process” is used when the project involves state government too.

Perhaps I have oversimplified the situation, but that’s more or less it, unfortunately.

This is not to say, however, that there should never be any development projects or that they are all bad.  Since New York City real estate continues to become more and more valuable, many of these projects are really nothing more than a land grab in disguise and/or a way to get valuable public funding dollars for private projects.

Two NYC projects come to mind – one already mostly built, and the other on the drawing board.  The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is almost complete except for – you guessed it – the affordable housing part that was promised to the community as part of the deal.  Some local officials did try to get the housing built along with the main project, but the move was turned down.

In Greenwich Village, NYU concocted an enormous, multi-billion dollar expansion plan that it said it needed for academic purposes.  Turns out even NYU’s faculty doesn’t buy this reason and has called NYU administration out on it.  There was a lawsuit filed by many groups and individuals in the Village, and the Court has ruled that three strips of important parkland that NYU wanted to destroy for its plan cannot be used because they are “real” parks. (NYU tried to argue that, since they weren’t “officially” part of the Parks Dept, that they aren’t really parks, even though some of those green spaces have been literally used for decades as parks.)  We’re hoping for a better outcome on this development plan, and the judge’s decision has been very encouraging.

No matter what you think of the two instances I cited, I think everyone should be able to agree that the process that leads to approval of these projects is woefully inadequate and needs to change.

Now to find some brave elected officials who are up to the task.

Latest Client News – Week of February 24, 2014

Prof. Micha Tomkiewicz will be giving a seminar about adaptation to climate change this Wednesday, March 5th! In other news, we’re coming to the end of Black History Month, and transitioning into Women’s History Month. While we don’t agree with relegating the celebration of these two important populations to mere months, they do give us more chances to talk about Barbara Winslow’s wonderful new biography of Shirley Chisholm. She’s been in the news quite a lot recently, and we’re quite proud.

Prof. Tomkiewicz’s talk is part of the National Climate Seminar, which is hosted biweekly by Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy (CEP). The talk will be in a dial-in format, and will run from noon until 1pm. To listen, Call in to: 1-712-432-3100. Code: 253385. His talk, “Desalination as Adaptation,” will also be available on the CEP archives website after Thursday. You can read Prof. Tomkiewicz’s weekly blog at Climate Change Fork.

Meanwhile, Barbara was featured on Errol Louis’ Inside City Hall show on NY1 along with Shola Lynch, director of the documentary Shirley Chisholm: Unbought and Unbossed. The three of them discussed Ms. Chisholm’s legacy, her importance in today’s world, and how her current acclaim differs from how she was received by her contemporaries.

Barbara also appeared on ABC-TV’s Here and Now show to talk with host Sandra Bookman about the book, why parts of it prompt such anger and frustration among many readers, and what it means to bring Ms. Chisholm’s story out of the dry world of trivia facts, into the light of present-day notice.

Latest Client News – Week of February 10, 2014

Black History Month continues, and we are happy to note that Barbara Winslow’s new biography of Shirley Chisholm is quickly gaining recognition.

The book, Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change, is the first in over 40 years, and the only one to cover the later part of Ms. Chisholm’s life. Ms. Chisholm, who was the nation’s first African American woman elected to Congress and the first to run for President, fought for equal pay, access to education, universal child care and many other issues that still resonate today. In fact, the US Post Office just came out with a stamp in her honor!

And it appears that news about the new book is spreading fast, and journalists, scholars and the general public are taking notice.

Tonight, Friday, February 14th, Barbara will join Shola Lynch, director of the documentary Shirley Chisholm: Unbought and Unbossed on Errol LouisInside City Hall show on NY1. They will discuss Ms. Chisholm’s legacy, her importance in today’s world, and how her current acclaim differs from how she was received by her contemporaries. Tune in tonight, Friday at 7pm or 10pm, or watch for the online link after the show airs.

Barbara will also appear this Sunday, February 16th @ noon on ABC-TV’s Here and Now show to talk with host Sandra Bookman about the book, why parts of it prompt such anger and frustration among many readers, and what it means to bring Ms. Chisholm’s story out of the dry world of trivia facts, into the light of present-day notice.

The book has been getting noticed in print and online too.  The New York Times’  Sam Roberts highlighted the biography in his latest book selection column on February 6th. The Park Slope Patch interviewed Barbara about the Chisholm Project at Brooklyn College, and her inspiration to write the book.  The Brooklyn Paper also interviewed Barbara about her quest to keep Ms. Chisholm’s name and significance fresh in current history, and the role she sees the detailed and enlightening book playing in remedying the gap in our collective memory.  The site Truthout also offered their own, very positive review of the book.

We hope you’ll check out these stories, and tune in for Barbara’s television appearances! The book is available on all the main online stores, like Amazon, as well as in kindle ebook format.

Latest Client News – Week of February 3, 2014

It’s Black History Month, and we are happy to note that Barbara Winslow’s new biography of Shirley Chisholm is gaining recognition.

The book, Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change, is the first in over 40 years, and the only one to cover the later part of Ms. Chisholm’s life. Ms. Chisholm, who was the nation’s first African American woman elected to Congress and the first to run for President, fought for equal pay, access to education, universal child care and many other issues that still resonate today.

We are thrilled to announce that Sam Roberts just wrote about the book in his column in the New York Times. Meanwhile, the Park Slope Patch published a short interview with Barbara Winslow, and the Brooklyn Paper recently wrote an article about the biography, emphasizing the importance of keeping Ms. Chisholm’s memory fresh in today’s world. Meanwhile, in recognition of her immense contributions, the U.S. Postal Service has just come out with a stamp commemorating Ms. Chisholm.

The author, Barbara Winslow, is a professor of Women’s Studies at Brooklyn College, and is responsible for starting and running the Shirley Chisholm Project/Brooklyn Women’s Activism at Brooklyn College. The Project has catalogued many of Ms. Chisholm’s original materials, and there are amazing oral histories/accounts from people who actually knew/worked with Ms. Chisholm, or were influenced by her legacy, like Anita Hill, Gloria Steinem, Donna Brazile, Joyce Bolden, Patricia Schroeder, and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins. The book includes insights from all of these contributors, as well as information from Ms. Chisholm’s own FBI file. You can see the Project’s website here.

On a sadder note, we would like to express our deep regret for the loss of one of our era’s most talented actors, Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman. We join with so many around the country to express our sadness and sympathy for his family and friends. We knew him as a Village denizen and a supporter of all things Greenwich Village. He will be missed.

Latest Client News – Week of January 27, 2014

In our latest news, NYUFASP joined local officials, community groups and John Leguizamo to discuss the next steps in the NYU expansion.

On Friday, January 24th – two weeks after Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills put a halt to NYU’s needlessly colossal expansion plan by ruling that the City illegally gave parkland to NYU for its development, elected officials, NYU faculty, Village area community organizations and other supporters – including actor John Leguizamo – held a press conference encouraging NYU to step back from its planned appeal and to “do the right thing” by going back to the drawing board and exploring alternatives.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) and the Historic Districts Council generously hosted the press conference in its offices. A slew of elected officials, including a representative from Congressmember Jerrold Nadler’s office; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; State Senators Brad Hoylman, and Dan Squadron; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Corey Johnson, spoke. Each of them expressed the opinion that the judge’s ruling was beneficial to the Village community and provided a perfect opportunity for NYU to restart the planning phase from scratch. The well-know actor and Village resident John Leguizamo added his voice to the cause, emphasizing that NYU could make an expansion that respected the culture of the community while still gaining the educational space it needs.

The community groups that filed the lawsuit, include our own NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYUFASP), GVSHP and Lower Manhattan Neighbors Organization (LMNOP), as well as, Historic Districts Council, Washington Square Village Tenants’ Association, East Village Community Coalition, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., SoHo Alliance, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, Friends of Petrosino Square, and NoHo Neighborhood Association.

LCG is proud to be working with these groups that are fighting to save the Village.

A New Year – and a New Era in NYC?

Happy New Year to all.  As ever, we hope it will be a good one.

We started out the year here by getting the court’s answer to the question, “if it looks like a park, acts like a park and is used like a park, is it really a park?”  The answer was a resounding yes, and with that, on January 7th, the court struck down as illegal the giveaway of parcels of parkland in Greenwich Village to NYU as part of the university’s plan to implement the ludicrous, overblown, unneeded and unwanted 2031 expansion plan.

The struggle against NYU’s plan has been ongoing, and the lawsuit, filed last year by our client, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan and other individuals and groups, hoped to stop it from squashing what’s left of the Village.

NYU’s attempt to push through their own super-sized expansion plan during the Bloomberg years, was indicative of a larger problem, one that has effected neighborhoods in all boroughs.  During Bloomberg’s time in office, developers had, more or less, free reign in NYC, and there was not one development plan that the administration didn’t wholeheartedly back. And there appeared nothing that the administration wouldn’t do to make sure big developments happened, no matter what the community or anyone else had to say.

This latest attempt to take away parkland from the people of NYC – a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine – isn’t the first.  In 2011, the City, along with the State and Federal government, tried to take away park space in Brooklyn – the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park – and give it to an arts organization for private development.  In that case, the court ruled in a similar way; the Warehouse had actually been included on the park’s map, but the government entities declared that it was a mistake.  Fortunately, that paper thin excuse didn’t get by the court.  In the end, the Tobacco Warehouse was given over to private development, but, as required by the law, the park had to go through what’s called an “alienation” process.  A new, equivalent parcel of land had to be found and given to the park to make up for giving the Tobacco Warehouse to a private arts organization and, at the end of the day, approval to remove the Warehouse has to be approved by the state legislature. Although many people are still unhappy that the Tobacco Warehouse will no longer be part of the public park, at least, because of the lawsuit, the park will now be given an equivalent amount of land nearby.

These are just two cases that we know of (because we had/have clients in both suits), and there may be even more.

It’s a sad day when the dwindling resources of the public at large are no longer protected and can be snatched away at any time.  The corporatization of everything continues, and, in these cases and so many others, is aided and abetted by those in public office.

However, the firm decision of the court in both instances has been extremely hopeful.  While we still don’t know what will happen with the NYU expansion plan, at least three strips of parkland there have been saved from the bulldozers.

We hope the court’s decisions will set a new standard for the protection of public space in our City.

Latest Client News – Week of January 13, 2014

In our latest news, NYUFASP is celebrating a huge victory in its suit against the City, and author Barbara Winslow has finally released her long-awaited book about Shirley Chisholm.

After a long, tense wait, Justice Donna Mills released a verdict on January 7th, ruling that the city acted illegally when it gave three out of four parcels of parkland to NYU for its 2031 expansion plan in July of 2012. A coalition of Village residents, NYU faculty members (NYUFASP) and elected officials launched an Article 78 lawsuit against the city after the plan’s approval, arguing, among other things, that the City had violated the law when it wrongfully granted NYU the use of the land involved. The $6 billion expansion plan is scheduled to last for 20 years, calls for 1.9 million square feet of new buildings in the heart of the Village, is totally unnecessary, and will crush the Village.  The judge ruled that three out of the four parcels of green space were “impliedly” parks, and that the city had acted against the public trust doctrine by seizing these public lands and awarding them to a private entity without going through the proper process of parkland alienation. This is a huge victory, and a turning point in the battle to stop the plan.

On Friday, January 10th, Barbara Winslow had a book launch party for her new book, Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change. The book is a new biography of one of the most important figures in American history – and, in particular, the history of women and women of color in this country – Shirley Chisholm.  She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress and the first to run for President.  Way ahead of her time, Ms. Chisholm’s concerns still resonate today – equal pay, access to education, universal child care – and on and on.

There has been no modern or definitive biography of Ms. Chisholm written to date; the last one was 40 years ago.  The new book is much more in depth, and contains many interesting new insights and interviews – in fact, it is the only book published that covers the later part of Ms. Chisholm’s life.

The author, Barbara Winslow, is a professor of Women’s Studies at Brooklyn College, and is responsible for starting and running the Shirley Chisholm Project/Brooklyn Women’s Activism at Brooklyn College.  The Project has catalogued many of Ms. Chisholm’s original materials, and there are amazing oral histories/accounts from people who actually knew/worked with Ms. Chisholm, or were influenced by her legacy, like Anita Hill, Gloria Steinem, Donna Brazile, Joyce Bolden, Patricia Schroeder, and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins.

Top Artists, Writers, Actors and Community Join Faculty to Save the Village from NYU’s Huge Expansion; Matthew Modine Blasts NYU as “Bullying, Land- Grabbing Scrooge”

This holiday season, how would you like to have dessert and drinks with Cynthia Nixon and her wife Christine Marinoni? Have lunch with Bill Moyers, Fran Lebowitz or Lewis Lapham?  “Hulk Out” with a signed mask and set of figurines from Mark Ruffalo? Go on a two-hour shopping expedition, to curate your pantry and spice collection, with Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi?  Play basketball with John Leguizamo? Get a signed copy of Bianca Jagger’s ‘Arts for Human Rights’ event catalogue? Get a book signed by E.L. Doctorow, a manuscript page from Philip Glass, an uncorrected galley of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Vol.1, an Alex Katz print, a photograph of William S. Burroughs by Gary Indiana, a painting by actor Joel Grey, signed copies of all Eric Bogosian’s published works, or a signed personal photo by Matthew Modine from the set of Full Metal Jacket?  Become the owner of the rare Omas fountain pen that former US Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine used to write The Mercy? Snap up a poster signed by Edward Norton?

Hang a gorgeous Carol Friedman photograph of Iggy Pop on your living room wall, tour the best hamburger restaurants in the East Village, or have a private makeup application lesson with Hollywood makeup artist Nicki Ledermann (Boardwalk Empire, Side Effects)?

Right now, all those boldface names—and others—are taking part in an online auctionto help fund the struggle that NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYUFASP) and Village residents and supporters are waging against NYU’s ruinous 2031 expansion plan—a project that will crush the Village. The auction lasts until December 18th.

“I can think of no worthier cause than saving the Village from overdevelopment. This neighborhood is one of the most iconic parts of the City and precisely what makes New York so special,” said Padma Lakshmi.

Actor Matthew Modine, 30 years a Villager, said, “NYU has moved from being a friendly neighbor to a power hungry, land grabbing, politician buying, bullying Scrooge. I encourage everyone that loves the Village to lend their support and voice to protecting this beloved oasis of Manhattan.”

 

Other auction items include:

Nearly 170 individuals and businesses have donated items to the auction, which range in value from $25. to $8,000. The silent online auction runs from December 9 until December 18.

Bidders will base their choices on a range of pictures and descriptions of each item, and will be notified by email when they are outbid.

 

Is Consumerism Gobbling Up Thanksgiving?

It’s that time of year again, when folks try to figure out where they’ll go for Thanksgiving, who’ll make the turkey, and what football games will be watched.

No matter what you think about Thanksgiving or its origins (and, by the way, there are lots of “myths” about how Thanksgiving began, and Martin Kelly who writes for the American History section of About.com, does a good job of running down the history of the holiday), it’s a holiday to gather with family and friends, at least try to be thankful, eat lots of food and get a day off from work.

This year, however, our consumer culture seems to have gotten way out of hand with the announcement by many retailers that they will open on Thanksgiving Day with the promise of “super holiday sales,” and “just giving consumers what they want” with employees who are “excited” about working on Thanksgiving.  Really? Forget Black Friday;  we now have Black Thursday.

Not only does opening on Thanksgiving potentially change the meaning of the day from one of camaraderie and celebration to pure consumerism, but it also means that many people will have to work on one of the few days of the year when commerce – at least retail – comes to a blessed halt.

Of course, the true reason why some retailers want to open on Thanksgiving can be found in the numbers – the financial numbers, that is.

According to Rick Newman who writes for Yahoo’s financial blog, the Exchange, the numbers don’t lie:

In staying open over the Thanksgiving holiday, retailers are just giving customers what they want.

Yeah, right.

As the inevitable holiday shopping creep spreads to Thanksgiving Day, stores that plan to open on the holiday, including Kmart (SHLD), Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY), say they’re merely responding to consumers who would be shopping online if they didn’t have the option to hit the stores. That’s part of it, no doubt, but an examination of retailers’ financial numbers reveals another reason: Many of them are underperforming, and desperate for every dollar of sales. And virtually all those stores will be open on Thanksgiving.

Newman shows us this chart that breaks down revenue growth and sales from some of the major retailers.  Pay special attention to the last column:

 

Retailers in green have seen profit and earnings grow; those in yellow have stayed level, and the ones in orange have seen a decrease.

But, as you can imagine, this particular manifestation of consumerism, at least for a large portion of Americans, has broken the proverbial camel’s back and they are, literally, not buying it.

The folks at the ThinkProgress, a political blog that is an outgrowth of the progressive think tank the Center for American Progress, has this to say:

Many companies that are opening on Thanksgiving have explained that employees are “excited” to work holiday shifts and to earn some extra pay. However, that’s rarely the full story. At Kmart, managers are reportedly denying requests for time off for Thanksgiving shifts that being at 6 a.m., even though the company claims this isn’t company policy.

 Meanwhile, part-time retail workers struggle with too few shifts on wages that pay well below a living wage, forcing them to work the holiday because they are already underpaid.

Even if they did have a choice, one in four workers do not receive any paid vacation time because the U.S. is alone in not mandating paid sick days, vacation, or holidays.

Here’s the rest of that story.

And Americans are, in fact, pushing back and pressuring retailers to close. One example, reported on Thursday by Think Progress:

 This year, hundreds of malls will open for holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day, the new norm in American retail. The owner of those malls, Simon Property Group, is facing consumer backlash for encouraging stores to deny workers their holidays and feeding a 26-hour shopping frenzy.

 Employees at Simon malls across the country are fighting the holiday encroachment, too. Eight petitions on Change.org ask Simon stores to change their hours on Thanksgiving Day. Amber Baumgart, a worker at a Wisconsin Simon mall, began the largest one. Now signed by more than 21,000 people, Baumgart’s petition argues the six employees at her small store have no choice but to work 12 hour shifts that day.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be signing Amber Baumgart’s petition.  Enough is enough.

Week of November 18, 2013

Our clients are always up to something, and we want to make sure they get the credit they deserve for their latest ventures. In recent news, Theater Three Collaborative has just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund a full production of its new eco-drama about climate change. Meanwhile, NYUFASP has published a series of emails taking stock of the administration’s overinflated salaries as compared to the financial struggle enforced upon the faculty and students. Theater Three Collaborative (TTC) has started an Indiegogo campaign to help with funding a full production of its new eco-drama, Extreme Whether. The play has received numerous accolades from renowned scientists, writers and environmental activists including world-famous climate scientist James Hansen, and prominent arctic ice scientist Jennifer Francis. TTC has presented several readings of the play so far, one of which featured Zach Grenier of TV’s The Good Wife. TTC plans for the play to run from March 20 – April 13, 2014 at Theater for the New City, with each show followed by a “Festival of Conscience” discussion with a major scientist or environmentalist. The Extreme Whether Indiegogo campaign includes premiums for each level of giving, ranging from tickets to the play to Sniffley the frog umbrellas (Sniffley is a character in the play), to a tour of Parsons-Meares Costumes, one of New York’s major costume shops.  Parson-Meares has designed costumes for all TTC productions since 1995, and builds costumes for Spider Man, Cinderella and other major Broadway shows. There is also an option for a home-cooked meal by the playwright. NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYUFASP), which has been fighting against the NYU administration’s excesses and ill conceived projects has put out a list of the salaries given to the “essential” administrative staff. It is increasingly clear that the gap between their compensation and that of the professors is ever widening, even as the students bear the brunt of this increase. This only adds credence to the fact that the NYU 2031 expansion plan is part of a wider pattern of spending which seems determined to add to the debt owed by its students (who already carry one of the highest debt loads in the nation), to the detriment of its academic offerings. This is a disturbing trend for a so-called “institute of higher learning.” Meanwhile, LCG is happy to announce that we will be working with Professor Barbara Winslow, who runs the Shirley Chisholm Project at Brooklyn College. She has written a definitive biography of Shirley Chisholm – which will be out this month – and we are thrilled to be helping her publicize it.

Week of November 4, 2013

Our top stories this week involve NHS and its efforts to honor the past while paving the future for Superstorm Sandy survivors, and Professor Barbara Winslow’s upcoming book.

The anniversary of Superstorm Sandy was last week, and Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City (NHSNYC) was busy with supporting the communities that are still experiencing the aftereffects. NHS of East Flatbush joined the community at a candlelight vigil in Canarsie, Brooklyn to commemorate the losses and push for more recovery funding. The nonprofit also held a housing fair, in partnership with Councilman Jumaane Williams, which included a workshop on disaster preparedness, foreclosure intervention counseling aimed at educating and aiding homeowners and buyers in the wake of the destruction. The housing fair, which was free and open to the public also had experts on hand to answer questions about homeowner insurance, mortgages, water bill payments and other related issues to buying or maintaining a home.

In other news, LCG is happy to announce that we will be working with Professor Barbara Winslow, who runs the Shirley Chisholm Project at Brooklyn College. She has written a biography of Shirley Chisholm – which will be out this month – and we are thrilled to be helping her publicize it.

Public Relations for Progressive Non-Profits based in Brooklyn, NYC.

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