Showing posts with label New York City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York City. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2013

NYC Mayor Endorsement: Bill de Blasio

After 12 years under the billionaire mayor Bloomberg (4 more than was legal), the city has undergone massive, catastrophic change. In his drive to create a "luxury city" built exclusively for the wealthy, Bloomberg rezoned nearly 40% of the city's land mass, and much of that was up-zoning--knocking down old buildings, evicting residents and businesses, using eminent domain to steal people's property, so the real-estate developers could erect towers of glass loaded with amenities for the super rich.
Under Bloomberg, we watched our small mom-and-pop businesses struggle and die, while national and global chain stores proliferated exponentially like bedbugs. Many of those small businesses had been in the city for decades, run by third- and fourth-generation families. If you tally up all that history, well over 6,000 years of independent business were lost during the Bloomberg era.

Rents and home prices skyrocketed as neighborhoods were gentrified, and then hyper-gentrified. In Harlem alone, prices went up 222 percent between 2000 and 2012. The cultural heart of the city has atrophied, as artists can no longer afford to live here. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer, as the city's inequality gap is now on par with parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Vital parts of the city had their souls ripped out. Coney Island was leveled and is becoming a suburban shopping mall. Times Square was turned into a suburban shopping mall. Bleecker Street was turned into an upscale suburban shopping mall. I could go on...

We desperately need the anti-Bloomberg. That is why I am endorsing Bill de Blasio for Mayor of New York City. With a focus on repairing inequality, he's the only candidate who's saying "We need a real break from the Bloomberg years." The rich are afraid of him. He wants to tax the wealthy and "Take money away from big company subsidies," turning it into loans and tax incentives for small businesses. He wants to save our hospitals and create affordable housing. He was the only candidate in last night's debate to say that the real-estate industry is a problem for the city. As he said, "this city has been available to everyone, it's been open to everyone, anyone could make it here. That is now slipping away."

We need a mayor who will stop the bleeding. Bill de Blasio is not perfect, but I believe he's our best choice for the next mayor of New York City, and he's getting my vote. (Also, I'd like to stop writing this blog and if Quinn wins, the vanishings are sure to continue.)

[The above blogpost originally appeared on the Blogsite, "Jeremiah's Vanishing New York" found at .  We repost it verbatim because it succinctly makes the case FOR deBlasio....and against Quinn]


Saturday, October 27, 2012

National Weather Service Blows it on NYC area Warnings re: Sandy

 In  direct contrast with the urgings of The Weather Channel, the announcements of the United States Coast Guard, and its own predictions, the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service  has stubbornly refused to issue Hurricane watches or warnings, or even tropical storm watches and warnings, for the US Northeast ahead of Hurricane Sandy. The decisions is being criticized by most other weather professionals and first responders.

A flabbergasted Jim Cantore, reporting from Battery Park in Manhattan for The Weather Channel, questioned the wisdom of the decision and urged NOAA to change its mind, while TWC Tropical Weather expert Dr. Greg Postel referred to the NWS decision as "not good judgement" on his national broadcast.

Meanwhile, the United States Coast Guard issued “Port Condition X-Ray” warnings for New York Harbor, the last stage before boats are required to tie up securely or leave. Port Condition X-Ray, by Coast Guard standards, is issued 48 hours prior to expected landfall of a hurricane.

As renowned weather blogger Mike Smith wrote,

“…Meteorologists, as a group, get hung up on technicalities. Even though the storm, until dissipation, will always be the swirl of clouds known as Sandy at its center, over time the storm may transition from having a warm core (classic hurricane) to a cold core (hybrid) two miles above the ground. Other than meteorologists, who cares?

Everyone knows a hurricane is really bad -- and we believe this storm will be really bad. So, a hurricane warning would have told everyone what they needed to know.

Non-mariners don't know the definition of "gale force winds" (FYI: 39 to 54 mph). Disregarding that using hurricane warnings would be clearer, the NWS is going to get hung up on "gale, storm, high wind, inland high wind" and their alphabet soup of warning types with Sandy. Plus, with each individual NWS office having warning responsibility, rather than the National Hurricane Center, inconsistencies may develop. This occasionally occurs with Nor'easters and similar storms.

I believe this is an unfortunate decision by the NWS.”
The National Weather Service itself acknowledges on their site that the storm is a hurricane, and may even intensify prior to landfall:

In spite of this, and in spite of expected storm surges of eight feet along Long Island's south shore, the NWS has refused to issue the normal warnings. Stung by criticism from all other weather sources, the NWS issued a statement just a few minutes ago explaining their actions:


("Highly Disruptive?"  For who?  For their web designer who would have to change the page?)

Yet, as of 3:17 pm today, no such warnings had been issued for anywhere in NY or NJ!

In the meantime, officials in New Jersey and New York are attempting to encourage evacuations of vulnerable coastal areas, without the added ‘encouragement’ of the NWS.  Fire Island (NY) ferries have been ordered shut down Sunday mid-day, and the barrier beaches of New Jersey are now under mandatory evacuation orders. This afternoon’s high tide in New York was already one foot higher than predicted, and current predictions are for five-and-a-half-foot surge on top of a five foot astronomical high tide. Computer models at RMS, a company used by the Insurance industry to predict losses from weather events, have suggested that Sandy will be more destructive than Irene, and could cause more property damage (in dollars) than Katrina.

Still, the National Weather Service steadfastly refuses to issue warnings of any type for the NY area.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Small Business Series 4: Nanette Lepore, and the Textile & Apparel Industries

 In 1960, 95% of clothing sold in the United States was made in the United States

Today, that figure is 2%. 

No, that was not a typo.  TWO per cent.

The Textile and apparel industries in America have been decimated by outsourcing and the consumer’s embrace of cheaply made, mass-produced clothing imported from abroad. Between 1994 and 2005, the United States lost more than 900,000 textile and apparel jobs to overseas operations. 

And yet, there are still 846 fashion companies headquartered in New York City, most in a small area of Manhattan known as ‘The Garment District,” (or the " Fashion Center "),  bordered, roughly,  by 5th and 9th Avenues to the east and west, and 40th and 34th streets to the north and south.   They employ 24,000 people in all steps of the apparel industry: designers, pattern makers, cutters, sewers, accessory manufacturers, fabric importers, dyers, synthetic fiber fabricators, weavers, spinners, marketing specialists, wholesalers, and retailers.  Though only a tiny fraction of the number of jobs that have been lost,  (2.6%), they forge ahead in spite of devastating competition from industrializing nations such as Honduras, Pakistan, and China, where textile wages are less than the U.S. equivalent of $250/month.  And in spite of this competition, there are still more apparel workers in NYC than in the other big three fashion capitals (London, Paris, and Milan) combined. New York City has been and remains, the Fashion Capital of the World.

While interested in the industry in a general way for some time, I became even more ‘drawn in’ on my first visit to  Nanette Lepore,  a NY clothing designer headquartered on the 17th floor of 225 W. 35th Street, in the heart of the Garment District.  Joining up with college students from three different schools like a pilgrimage, we were escorted to the proper room by none other than Nanette’s husband, who joined us in the elevator.  As we exited, we were greeted by Erica, a Lepore marketing professional who had arranged to take us on a tour of this proudly American business.  I should point out that this was not a tour of the 'retail face' of the designer, or of her shops in Soho, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bal Harbour (FL), or Boston.  This was the nitty-gritty, daily-decision-making, cutting-and-stitching hands-on nerve center of a fashion operation.

 Nanette Lepore is a crusader in the effort to save the American textile and apparel industries.  She is an underwriting sponsor of the television series “Project Runway,” and is a driving force behind the “Save the Garment District” campaign, which came into existence when zoning changes in New York City threatened to favor trendy, national, upscale restaurant chains over gritty industrial looms, garment racks, and dying vats. If anyone has prevented that “2%” figure from shrinking even further, it is Nanette.

 We were lead through the non-glamorous work stations of pattern makers and sewers, and finally made it to the showroom floor where, in April 2012, samples of the Fall 2012 were being displayed. 

Yes, we took pictures, but we promised not to release them to commercial websites.  

The clothes we previewed are all visible on the embedded YouTube video below.  You can expect to see these colors and styles any day now as fall approaches:

And so, I was excited to receive an email from Nanette Lepore last week, recommending the DGExpo (“Designer’s Guide Expo,”) a trade show and series of workshops designed to help small design businesses connect with providers who gladly work in "small lots,”  i.e., textile and apparel industry businesses that are happy to work with a small producer requiring 500 or 1,000 garments, rather than the tens of thousands demanded by Target or Walmart or even Macy’s. 

 (Side note: large Department stores like Macy’s are the death knell for small, upstart designers: their packaging, delivery, and tagging requirements – as thick as a phone book – permit ‘penalties’ against small producers, called ‘chargebacks,’ which can bankrupt a small upstart.)

So down to NYC we went.

All sorts of fabric and accessory companies filled the expo floor. From leather to fur to wood to silk to batik to hemp to metal, they shared one thing in common: they were small businesses, eager to work with small and new designers, to create cost-effective, unique, quality, American-made clothing.

I admit to falling in love with several of these companies.

Buttonology , located at 264 West 40th Street, was delightful.  I was first attracted to their selection of beautiful wooden buttons, but, upon moving some samples, found some fun, whimsical rainbow-colored buttons that would be perfect on summer beach house ware.  

 Their minimum order?  A dozen.  Yes, that’s right – small quantities for small producers.  Founded 7 years ago by two partners, Buttonology has made a niche for themselves in providing a broad and unique array of non-mass-produced buttons and accessories.  It was fun just pawing through their samples.  

Across from Buttonology was a company I visited several times:    Hemp Traders, who had come all the way from 335 E. Albertoni Street in Carson, California.  Twenty years old next year, Hemp Traders is the largest supplier of the Hemp products in the world. 

Small business?  Absolutely.  Hemp Traders fights a daily battle with the purposely and genuinely ignorant about the nature of Hemp fiber.  

Hemp is simply an incredible plant product. Among the characteristics of hemp fiber are its superior strength and durability, and its stunning resistance to rot, attributes that made hemp integral to the shipping industry. Hemp fiber allows for environmentally friendly bleaching without the use of chlorine. It is 100% biodegradable. 

I had an image of Hemp as scratchy and sort of like burlap.  What I found were samples of hemp and hemp-cotton blends that were as soft as baby blankets.  No wonder George Washington grew and promoted hemp.  Too bad our current politicians have banned the production of industrial hemp from our shores….all hemp must now be imported, raising prices to American consumers and producers who would gladly use this fiber. Another example of small business strangled by bureauocracy . . .

The minimum order size for struggling new designers?

None.  Zero. Zilch. Nada.  

 No, really.

This is a company that wants to help the small producer, the new designer, the boutique artisan  - and they back it up with a quality product at a price that makes sense.  I fell in love with these guys.

In all, I got to visit with 65 companies: small companies, struggling and striving to remain afloat in a country that complains about poor job prospects, but then buys clothes from a sweatshop half a world away that poisons the water and abuses their labor.

I admit it: I love the Garment District. And I'm not alone:

Consider the following blog article, which appeared originally as "New York’s Fashion Industry Reveals a New Truth About Economic Clusters,"by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett and Sarah Williams, posted in the Harvard Business Review Blog on February 10, 2014. Minor editorial notes have been added by this blogger to clarify certain points above.

The week before Fashion Week in New York is perhaps the busiest in the city’s apparel industry. Frantic designers rush around looking for gold buttons with blue inlay, for seamstresses to make pleats and for patternmakers with spare fabric.  They make modifications to dresses in real time under enormous deadline pressures.

Yet when eyes eventually fall on the runways, they witness virtually glitch-less shows and talk-of-the-town creativity.  How does New York’s fashion industry continually pull off Fashion Week year after year?

The answer lies in a complex economic system whose informal origins date to the mid-19th century and whose central idea rests on <b><i>geographical proximity</i></b>. We’re talking about the Garment District, eight blocks in Manhattan where designers, wholesalers, manufacturers, fabric sellers, button makers, and seamstresses all work.

The idea that highly specialized concentrations of an industry like the Garment District offer significant economic advantages is hardly revolutionary. The automobile, steel, mining and textile industries similarly occupied proximate physical space, sharing resources, labor and information to their great economic benefit. As the great economist Alfred Marshall observed in 1890, industries that clustered together generated economic growth by virtue of something “in the air.”

Exactly what is “in the air” in places like the Garment District? For a long time, discussions on the benefits of economic clusters, or agglomeration economies as urban planners call them, have been mainly theoretical or qualitative. Interviews, case studies and ethnographies tell us <i>proximity matters</i> to certain industries. Think Silicon Valley, Wall Street or Hollywood. Therefore, so the argument goes, cities ought to push policies that encourage the growth of spatially concentrated economic activity. But why — and how – these clusters work has remained a mystery.

To find out answers to these questions, we tracked 77 fashion designers working in the Garment District and the larger New York region over two weeks in July 2011 [Ed Note: generally considered to be 34th Street to 40th street, between 7th and 9th Avenues] Using their cellphone data and a social-media tool we tracked their geographical movements and documented exactly where they went and when, compiling a real-time, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, snapshot of what they did. The designers voluntarily let us in on their activities  – picking up a fabric, meeting with a manufacturer, grabbing a cup of coffee — by “checking-in” to Foursquare, a social media application that allows users to identify precisely where they are and what they are doing. To gauge the economic importance of the Garment District to the broader region, we studied the work lives of designers with offices in the district and those with addresses in New Jersey and the other boroughs.<b> A majority of our sample worked outside the Garment District</b> [Ed Note: a particularly important factor to consider when looking at the many trips these individuals made *to* the Garment District in this two week period.]

It turned out that the benefits of the district’s agglomeration economies were not confined to eight blocks in Manhattan, but spread evenly across the region. <b><i>Having an office in the Garment District was not as important as the existence of the area itself.</i></b> Seventy-seven percent of all trips the designers made were to the Garment District, and 80% of the businesses they visited were located there. Not only that, regardless of where the designers’ offices were located, they all similarly interacted with manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers, spending almost the same amount of time with them.  The difference between Garment District-based designers and outsiders was a mere 10 minutes.

But what the designers actually did from 10 am to 6 pm (the hours most kept) revealed no set patterns. When we studied the timing of their trips to manufacturers, wholesalers or suppliers, we found no meaningful pattern, regardless of the size of the firm.  Every day was a new day.

Herein may lie the magic – what Marshall said was “in the air”– of economic clusters and their importance to cities. All designers need the same basic materials and labor to make a dress. But how they individually pursue and use those resources — and how they respond to the changing demands of realizing their conceptions — is a key component of their creative process. The Garment District’s agglomeration economies foster the freedom necessary for creativity to thrive, which is part and parcel of how great dresses are made in the first place. What we think is raw creativity – the electric energy of Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui or the exciting parties reported in the media – is quite a practical matter.

The great urbanist Jane Jacobs once remarked that “diversity is natural to big cities.”  Her point was that the intermingling of different firms and industries that work together to produce things and ideas is a central feature of an urban economy and accounts for its ongoing vibrancy.  And our study shows that this sharing is much wider geographically than previously thought.
Creativity and its economic impact – whether producing a wrap dress or a semiconductor – is rarely an act of genius in isolation. It instead is the interworkings and interventions of a highly efficient and effective cluster of firms and those who work for them.

This phenomenon unfolds in particular places, and those special places must be preserved if we want to keep our cities bright and our industries innovative. Let that be a lesson as we watch the runways and the flashing lights.

[This is the Fourth in a series on Small Business in America]


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Bastille Day! "Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else"

Today, July 14, is La Fête Nationale in France, or, as it is better known in the Anglophone world, Bastille Day.  It is the French equivalent of the US “Fourth of July,” commemorating the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789.  The Bastille was both a military fortress and a political prison, thus becoming a lightning rod for the French Revolution and those who sought to overthrow the feudal system.

Shortly thereafter (August 4) feudalism was abolished, and on August 26, the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) was proclaimed.  The Declaration serves as France’s counterpart to America’s “Bill of Rights” (see below).   National Celebrations will take place this weekend not only throughout France, but in New York City in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, Soho, and on East 60th Street. Other noteworthy celebrations (in no particular order) take place in Seattle, Washington; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;  Liège, Belgium; Montréal, Québec; New Orleans, Louisiana; Budapest, Hungary; London, England; Franschoek, South Africa; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Cayenne, French Guiana.

Bonne Fête à touts nos amis français!

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

 Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  1. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  2. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
  3. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
  4. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
  5. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  6. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
  7. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
  8. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.
  9. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
  10. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  11. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be entrusted.
  12. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
  13. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
  14. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
  15. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
  16. Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of it, unless demanded by public necessity, legally constituted, explicitly demands it, and under the condition of a just and prior indemnity.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Con Ed Holds Labor, NYC Residents Hostage During Heat Wave

Electric Utility Consolidated Edison, which supplies electricity in New York City and Westchester County, has continued to lock out  8,500 workers for the second week in a row, despite a series of  brownouts (carefully directed at low-income neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn), manhole explosions, injuries to managers, a loss of electric capacity, and unprecedented heat wave.

Another Con Ed transformer exploded on Saturday underneath E. 56th Street in busy midtown Manhattan, setting off an explosion in a parked vehicle and sending flames up the scaffolding around an adjacent 16-story building. This was the most recent in a series of accidents and injuries related to the lockout. Con Ed is attempting to maintain an overtaxed infrastructure with a force of 5,000 managers, who have been brought in to replace 8,500 locked-out workers. Two of these managers have already been hurt in accidents. Most recently, a Con Edison manager filling in for a locked out union worker was injured Wednesday in a manhole explosion on the Upper West Side.  His face was burned  when he was working underground in front of 145 W. 70th St. just after 1 p.m., according to the NY Fire Department said.  The Fire Dept expects that the explosions are directly related the current heat wave…exacerbated by the loss of a knowledgeable workforce in the field.

While brownouts continue in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Con Ed has removed locations of outages from its website and is providing little or no public information on the status of its systems.

"This is what we have been saying all along, that the company would run into these problems when the weather heats up. They needed to reduce voltage because they could not keep the system up," John Melia, a union spokesman, told Reuters.  "This is an extremely dangerous situation for the people of New York," Melia said, noting that replacement workers were getting hurt every day due to a lack of experience.

It should be noted that the workers did not go on strike; rather, they were locked out by Con Ed Management.

Con Ed, which made a billion dollars in profits last year, is demanding substantial concessions in health care and pensions from the union that negotiates for the workers, the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 1-2. The company locked the workers out July 1 when the union did not agree to give advanced notice of possible strike action. Meanwhile, CEO Kevin Burke received at least 11 million dollars in compensation in 2011 in cash and stock options. In fact, all of Con Ed’s Officers make over three-quarters of a million dollars each.

Jose Torres, a locked-out union worker with five years service at Con Ed, said, “The issues in the lockout are wages, pensions and health care. They are trying to break our wages down to nothing. They want to give us a 1.5 percent wage increase over a four-year contract.”

One Con Ed customer service representative said, “I’m not very happy about this. I was here Saturday night when the contract expired. I thought it was going to be OK until 2 AM. There were about 150 of us here at about 10 PM. Union reps let us know what was happening. At midnight they kept talking, and it still sounded good. Then Con Ed locked us out.
The work here is not like Verizon where they can turn people off with a switch. We have to go to every location to turn a customer’s power back on and repair the wires. I don’t think management can handle a big power surge or a blackout. They don’t have enough people to handle this. I would say only 2,500 of their 5,000 could do field work.

 Con Ed has already threatened lives and caused widespread suffering by calling the lockout on Saturday. We always send teams to help out with power outages and disasters around the country. With last week’s storm along the East Coast, power was out in New Jersey and on Long Island and many other places for long periods of time. Con Ed locked us out so we couldn’t send out teams as we regularly do, and the people along the East Coast were forced to suffer with power outages and breakdowns longer than they should have because of Con Ed’s action…

 They should leave the pensions alone. We do a dangerous job. You have to go down in manholes where there are live wires. The firefighters and police don’t go down there. Sometimes there are explosions and fires. People call the fire department when this happens, but they don’t go down in the manholes. If it is 100 degrees up on the street, it is 130 down in the manholes. There is the same kind of danger dealing with transformers and wires up on the poles. We come out to fix them, not the Fire Department or police. They should leave our pension like it is.”

Another worker reporter,

“They have stopped our health benefits. I have heart trouble, and I was supposed to go for a stress test. Oh my god. I am disappointed that none of the politicians have come out to condemn this. I know a family whose daughter needs constant medical care. She needs a number of medications and care. This might stop because Con Ed stopped our health care, and the father is the only one in the family working…. We are aware that all the other unions are watching this. We know this is critical. Everyone is looking at us, and we can’t let them take this back. I look at this personally as a civil rights struggle. Enough is enough, and I’m not going to take it anymore. In an ideal world, all the other unions would come out with us, especially Verizon and transit. We are making a stand, and I am asking all other unions to come out and support us. I don’t think the union leadership will issue a call for others to come out because they are too close to the company. But we shall overcome. We have to. It is do or die.”


[It should be noted that under the federal Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, “sympathy strikes,” where a union strikes in solidarity with another union’s treatment, are illegal.]