De Blasio tells Biden: New York needs help now

“Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging the Biden administration to send help as the Covid-19 Omicron variant rises dramatically in the city’s five boroughs.

The variant’s lightning-fast spread in the city forced the cancellation of Radio City Music Hall’s annual “Christmas Spectacular” over the weekend and led Saturday Night Live to broadcast without a live studio audience and with a smaller cast.

De Blasio said the White House should invoke the Defense Production Act to help provide a larger number of at-home tests as well as monoclonal antibody treatments. He also said the Biden administration should fast-track approval of an antiviral pill from Pfizer.

“We need help now … and we need a surge of support in terms of monoclonal antibody treatments,” de Blasio said at a briefing on Sunday. “We need more made available for New York City.””

New York City’s Bryant Park Was a Hot Mess. Then It Was Privatized.

“There is ice skating, pingpong, juggling lessons, yoga lessons…all for free.

Two attendants clean the bathrooms 30 times a day, and the bathrooms are furnished with flowers and paintings. Speakers play classical music.

This is a huge difference from 37 years ago, when Bryant Park was filled with vagrants and trash. It was then that urban redeveloper Dan Biederman managed to persuade city politicians to let him try to run the park.

He got money from local businesses and tried innovative things, like playing music in the bathrooms.

“It’s just another element, along with flowers, recessed lighting, and artwork, that makes people think they’re going to be safe,” says Biederman in my new video.

Safety is important because crime is up.

But there’s little crime in Bryant Park because crime thrives in dark corners, and this park is filled with people.

Plus little businesses like Joe Coffee Co. and Le Pain Quotidien. They pay for the park. Some people object to that.

“A park isn’t supposed to be about business!” they say.

Biederman responds, “In the current state of things you can’t have ‘passive spaces.’ Too many people are circulating who are violent or emotionally disturbed.”

To discourage such people, he fills his park businesses and activities—like the juggling lessons. When lots of people are in a park, he says, vagrancy is less of a problem.

Still, he sometimes must deal with troubled people. The worst, he says, are people who take the drug K2 and suddenly get so hot that they take their clothes off.

Our guards “guide them out of the park,” says Biederman.

It all works. Twelve million people visit Bryant Park every year, and none of it costs taxpayers a penny. Actually, the city makes money, says Biederman, because “the increased real estate taxes paid by the surrounding buildings—it’s $33 million a year.””

The Cuomo Pandemic Scandal No One Is Talking About

“The last two COVID relief bills passed by Congress in December 2020 and March 2021 collectively appropriated $46 billion to cover the massive amount of unpaid rent that tenants have accumulated during the pandemic.

By the end of January 2021, the federal government had released close to $25 billion of that money—including about $1.2 billion to New York state’s ERAP. Subsequent federal grants and state money would fund the program to the tune of $2.7 billion, according to City Limits.

And yet by the end of June, New York had, per U.S. Treasury Department data, managed to spend $0 of its rent relief funds. A month later only $1.2 million had gone out the door.

A major reason for the slow dispersal of funds is that the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA)—which is responsible for administering the program—took until June 2021 to start accepting applications. When it did get an online application portal up and running, tenants and landlords were met with crashing websites, and requests for documents they didn’t have.

Applications would take hours to complete, yet the online web portal lacked a feature allowing people to save their progress and try again later. People who called into a hotline to report problems said that staff often had no answers for them.”

“most state governments have done a pretty poor job of getting their rent relief programs off the ground. (The speed at which places like Virginia and Texas have managed to disperse funds shows that success wasn’t impossible.)

Nevertheless, New York has earned the distinction of being the slowest. As of Monday, the state has spent $100 million on rent relief, or about 4 percent of total ERAP funds.”

Manhattan Will Drop Charges for Prostitution and Unlicensed Massage but Continue Prosecuting Prostitution Patrons

“For decriminalization to happen in New York, the legislature will have to get involved. That means prostitution—whichever end of the exchange one is on—is still illegal in Manhattan, and a future district attorney could decide to start prosecuting sex workers again. Particular prosecutors pledging leniency is great, but it doesn’t negate the need for legislative change.

That’s especially true since Vance’s office will only offer leniency for sex workers, not their customers. That means Manhattan cops will still be policing private and consensual sexual activity between adults—still doing prostitution stings, still making prostitution arrests, and still prosecuting people on charges of patronizing a person for prostitution.

What Vance’s office is advocating is a form of asymmetrical criminalization, often called the Nordic Model. It’s a system that still creates many of the same harms as total criminalization, since it still forces sex work and sex workers underground.”

New York just legalized marijuana

“With New York’s law, 15 states and Washington, DC, have now legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, although DC doesn’t allow recreational sales. (South Dakota voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in November, but that measure’s future is uncertain as it’s caught up in legal battles.)”

Cuomo’s Vaccine ‘Fix’ Is Still a Tangled Mess of Rules, Restrictions, and Fines

“Cuomo presented area hospitals with a double bind: Fail to use all of your vaccines and be fined up to $100,000, or vaccinate people out of order and be fined $1,000,000. Inoculating health care workers first may sound sensible on the surface, but that evaporates when you consider that logistical externalities often prevent providers from corralling such employees in perfect time. (The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can last for several months while frozen, but after thawing they have a very short shelf-life.) If those hospitals strayed and found an alternative candidate outside the mandated plan, they would have met financial ruin.

That threat is not an empty one: At least one hospital is under investigation for daring to vaccinate school officials before their time came.

Cuomo has claimed that such rules are necessary to prevent shady providers from constructing vaccine bribery schemes and pushing their friends to the front of the line. That concern may not be utterly groundless, but there is no evidence of widespread inoculation fraud. Compromising the health of New Yorkers seems an inept response to a negligible risk. The benefit of keeping the state’s senior citizens alive surely trumps such a worry.

New York’s graduation to tier 1b is a step in the right direction—now 3.2 million more people can receive the vaccine without health care providers worrying about their careers ending. But the state is still excluding large swaths of senior citizens in favor of “critical infrastructure workers,” such as grocery attendants. Those workers are providing a vital service, but many are also young and healthy, with much less risk of dying should they contract COVID-19.”

“people have been known to ghost their vaccine appointments even as doses are nearing expiration, something that no health practitioner can foresee. As I wrote last week, the D.C. Department of Health permits providers to pull aside any willing recipient if they have surplus vaccines that would otherwise go to waste. New York’s regulations on who may benefit from those extra doses will likely still cause some to end up in the trash.”