The World of Ideas

A conservative friend of mine argues that everyone’s property is no one’s property, and wealth left is valued by none. Why? I said with a few examples brewing, but then she says, “Who would be fool enough to wait to use it when the next moment, it could be used by another?” I interrupted with “could be used.” Unphased, she said, “Would a tree for timber be left in the ground for another, would fish found in the morning sea be left if they would be netted in the afternoon?” Then she pulled out her economics degree and said, “Every factor of production without assurance leaves all things for all people as things without value.”

Natural resources and common property are free goods for individuals but recognized as scarce goods by the rule of “use or lose.” Value is obtained when the rules of property for value becomes subject to a unified directing power. To the conservative, this power is held as private. It is associated with the “free-rider problem,” freedom and the capacity to be free. It is tied to individual and corporate rights as the fuel of competitive innovation, new technology, and wealth, without which new problems cannot be solved.

“…there is no such thing as society; only individuals and families.”
“The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help .”

Margaret Thatcher 1987 & Ronald Reagan 1988

The progressive’s argument (that would be me) is if the property becomes public (government), it does so for specific purposes. Regulating development that reduces abuse or corruption can produce value not only by preventing damage or by litigating cause but through the encouragement of a global culture that recognizes solutions to problems before they exist. Assign a value to that and we leap into a future that capital alone refuses to provide. My brief crisis management analysis (here) sees self-interest as a useful compulsion but if unregulated or tested, the practice drains shared resources.

When modified through price mechanism alone, addiction can be repackaged as vapor and the resource drained is the lungs of children. The charge of negative impact continues in the population (endemic) in unregulated markets, followed by claiming the need to add wealth to fix or mitigate the cause of problems. The progressive’s complaint continues because doubling down on methods (risks) that are counter to a long-term interest such as a child’s health (changing/eliminating flavors) are digressions that further discourages the mobilization of resistance.

The arguments of a conservative vs. progressive approach also have a long, tedious set of false premise conditions that also deter effective challenges to the status quo. Whether corporate or within the public realm, several types of economic behaviors clearly threaten the stability of individual nations and global health in general. The theft of a treasury, election fixing, killing in all places, and many geographies reveal known horrors.

Geopolitical oil, rare earth minerals, even access to space force technology are considered sustainable practices due to irrational thinking and false arguments. Corporate identity-interests also build on a variety of absurd claims. We know the tag lines: We are the best, the safest, most loved, recommended, and philanthropic business in the world.  All of this is protected by free-speech and self-regulation norms until a stated fact is proven false. All of this is useless until a “False Premise Agency” becomes an agency with power, there are a few reasonable straight forward steps to logical thinking in a society. Examples are:

  • Change the mode of problem-solving with a new process.
  • Redefine problems in a categorically different fashion.
  • Eliminate the damage at the source or the cause, include failed prevention.
  • Substitute damages with relocation, replacements, and technical upgrades.
  • Legislation and litigation practices that pay for failure as an ongoing process.

The last three activities are classic fire brigade solutions, and while reasonable, essential, and undoubtedly continuous, it is the first two actions that require renewed focus if ending the cycle can be expected. Improving the modes of problem-solving processes is inherently demanded by the catastrophic resolution perspective in the position taken by operatives of the last three.

Thomas Hale of University-Oxford describes a similar but more hopeful choice he calls “catalytic cooperation” (here). Hale accepts the “resilience is all that is left” from the Club of Rome folks and rolls up his sleeves as a member of a very large group of academic economists. He sees three features of climate mitigation that depart from the accepted model: joint goods, preference heterogeneity, and increasing returns. The presence of these characteristics reveals the chief barrier to global cooperation is not the threat of free riding but the lack of incentive to act in the first place.

Humans have been redefining problems in new ways, from deciding that a cave with a guarded entrance is a good idea to the billions of “falsifiability” exercises ongoing today.  They are theoretical, mathematical in the laboratory and the field.  All of it is refreshing, but much of it is like a solid slap in the face with someone screaming, wake up, wake up.  In many ways, we are still in that Neolithic cave, redefining problems in categorically new ways.

More recently, the injection of scientists into the partisan “what can vs. should be done?” debate has begun to dance around the global commons’ problem. A list of over fifty non-United Nations multilateral, mega-regional agencies (a list here) represents a doubling of “brigades” in 25 years and a trend toward continuing expansion on an even longer list of issues. Pushing a top priority for greater capacity in the global “what should we do” debate became the jingoistic nightmare that turned government into the problem.

“If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.”

Barack Obama (2006)

As the world’s economic growth slows due to realignments caused by climate change, combinations of regional populism, and global security interests, we are gripped by widening inequality as if it was only an issue of the unequal. The global human health condition is part of the climate change question that proves humanity is far more alike than unalike, with greater similarities with beautiful variations of great benefit to all.

A dip in growth caused by ongoing investment reductions in carbon-intensive industries also opens new processes that will break into a vast network of capital chains searching for alternatives. Short of an energy solution as dramatic as fusion, new forms of growth will from new stock symbol combinations associated with government-backed initiatives that reduce risk. The central question will be whether decision-makers will become sufficiently undistracted to plan effectively to implement a proposed change.

Public investment works with noted success in the traditional practices of the scientific method. Concerning theory, predictability, and peer reviews of specific concerns such as a common cancer problem, AIDS or SARS are successful. If Science is needed to solve macro human system problems, on the one hand, the public investment appears helpless on the other. The failure to end the rise of life degrading processes is all the more frightening because of how easily they are identified. Commercial food production, bacterial and viral contagion, energy use, poor transportation systems, and biome systems worldwide, to name a few.

If it is for the lack of “trust” that all may be lost, then public investment in the sciences of planning and engineering, art and architecture are all practices that can produce the immediate feedback essential to discovering how to live in a categorically new way, especially if the way now is killing us slowly or with deadly precision. It may only be a few at a time, in sadly separated multiple room huts, scattered across the American landscape of false independence or in the towers of despair we so eagerly and carelessly build, the task of getting on track is right now.

Getting on Track

Three global factors have brought about the demand for global, multilateral change in national societies that have experienced varying degrees of tragic impact. First, climate change is an umbrella disaster held over nasty little wars, floods, and firestorms followed by infectious diseases.  Second, most of these effects are recognized as inevitable for a century or more, and third, the world’s leadership is beginning to understand that for the lack of a global agreement, much of all of this was and remains preventable in each new cycle.

Ironically, a fourth global factor is a conservative viewpoint expressed as the tragedy of the commons. The negative impact on a common pasture and the relationship among households raising grazing animals is a real thing. The rules should change if the entire earth becomes that metaphorical pasture. Losing entire portions of massive coastal cities all over the world to surging ocean tides and entire biomes (forest to coral reef) will become the lived experience of millions of people. It will be as if billions of tons of waste that floats and sinks in the shared resource of the global oceans and the “dead zone” of the Gulf of Mexico could be seen by all. Societies pay for these disruptions with the starvation of children, the screams of helpless parents, and the stunned dismay of families who falsely believe they are saved with compensatory access to wealth.

The global climate has been stable for only the last 2,000 to 3,000 years. There should be no expectation that it would remain constant, the global climate is in many ways barely stable as a system and a single push of added gases, heat, human and natural would make change inevitable, yet still feel inconsequential as a threat. The demand for alternative ways of living is unimaginable as the swell of cheap energy continues to make everything, including faith in a quick tech-fix easy to expect. In this psychological climate, finding replacements is difficult, and forcing amelioration by changing the price with substitutes violates the status quo. When assessed in the “commons” framework, two new categorical patterns of thinking emerge as environmental and emotional intelligence.

Ostrom’s Answer is Occam’s Razor

A problem that exists in the future has two elements, one to design a defense, the other is to alter the future to make that unnecessary. The leaders involved may have had the skills of the legislative lawyer and personality for political leadership, but to produce solutions essential to create trust, the science part of our minds and the science professions will form a new community. To do that, the change in the mode of problem-solving begins with a process that Elinor Ostrom has already figured out in a Nobel prize winning way.

Our ancient brains in various shelters for the night knew of beasts, enemies, and trouble. That sense of big trouble is real, but the community may never experience the pain of it because of that sense alone. What we have done, from the cave to the laboratory, is to define problems we believe might be unlikely to occur, but we solve them anyway. The quality of thinking in this instance is an old tactic still in use by scientists today called Occam’s Razor. – a theory of a threat with the fewest variables, as Albert Einstein notes, requires problem-solving work where, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

The first of Elinor Ostrom’s core design principles began in Governing the Commons (1990) and as continuously optimistic as an economist can be in her research for the World Bank in 2009 (here). The paper, A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change, considers the possibility of a non-tragic global commons. It is here that she gives her life-long partner Vincent Ostrom an attribution to a central observation. She quotes his definition of polycentric as, “one where many elements are capable of making mutual adjustments for ordering their relationships with one another within a general system of rules where each element acts with the independence of other elements.” It was written with Charles Tiebout, and Robert Warren, (Economic Base and Local Expenditure Theory).

Ostrom examined the power of working with problems using a thing already reasonably possessed and understood in the world – clearly defined boundaries. In strictly economic terms, such boundaries would be needed everywhere for everything and difficult to implement. On the other hand, this first rule is essential to working with big global problems such as thermonuclear war or climate change and the threat of a pandemic. Defining a boundary in a categorically new way offers promise as the concept is simple and easily understood.

Because purely economic solutions are easy to argue and difficult to implement, start with a simple physical entity such as a city as that category. Cities are places with a fixed boundary and a legal process for expansion or contraction. The city is an excellent place to begin the implementation of the remaining seven of Ostrom’s solution. It is a “back to the future” type of problem.

A city is an outstanding place to begin the implementation. The city with a boundary offers proportional equivalence and a clear, constantly improving data stream to monitor processes beginning with the measurement of benefits and costs in every imaginable or possible center capable of giving itself a boundary. It is ongoing but without mutual benefit consent. Proportionality within multiple geographies of a dense polycentric city of neighborhoods, cultural groups, ideologies, genders, and so on, can become a transparent way to fully understand variables. In this way, it is possible to put the equality sign (or not) between two or more in the social and economic expressions.

The city also offers multiple platforms for “collective choice agreements.” The center of Ostrom’s argument recognizes the practical use of carefully implemented sanctions. The boundary of the city offers a set of measures from price restrictions to penalties, incentives, and subsidies designed to meet goals such as a good balance of affordable housing or lower per capita energy use. In New York City, neighborhood-level participation in governance is voluntary and advisory, but it expands central government capacity to understand issues as they are experienced locally. As these practices contribute to local autonomy, they are also capable of interpreting them globally. Coming to the resolution of problems begins with the kind of efficiency and quality of data feedback.  that empowers local autonomy through participatory governance.

The last piece of Ostrom’s change-the-world puzzle looks to resolve existential threats with the ability to grow a polycentric rulemaking authority in a manner that global rules are instantly recognized because they are already well-organized and in use locally. The only element missing is the lack of political recognition of this as an urban fact. Ostrom’s groundbreaking approach is not built on how people think, but how they will eventually need to organize their thinking. Hopefully, this work will escape its decade of discussion where it floats in the partial oblivion and trappings of its academic Nobel Prize (2009). It needs to find a city to live in as a permanent place of proof. I recommend New York City, and you know why.  If you can make it here, you can make it everywhere. Again, the city with a strong existing boundary has these systems in place.  The only element is the lack of political recognition of this fact.

Getting On Track

Dancing with the Bear

The following introduces trends in professionalism. It is an excerpt from a more substantial project entitled: The Four Problems. The focus of that effort is on planning, architecture, and engineering. The challenge to all professionals today suggests that the dance with the bear has begun, and we can’t stop until the bear stops.

Three Steps of a Four Step Damce

There are three steps in the development of “professionals” in meeting human needs, interests, and concerns. Historically, professional services began in response to a widely accepted set of cultural functions such as healing, leading, and building. A millennium or so later, these functions become more specialized . the healer becomes a surgeon; leaders become law officers and builders become architects and engineers. As the culture matures, licensing and certification assures compliance with well-established standards of practice by governing bodies with enforcement power and policies that support internal and external niche functions.

These stages suggest a fourth – the rapid development of interprofessional education to support radically new and deeply needed practices. The implication is an increase in technology transfers between professions with advanced applications and the exchange of data sets for quantifying everything by gram per second, per second in the erg economy. Examples are (political) (economic)

The ability to manage change from minute-to-minute and, in some cases – milliseconds or decades is a new professional capacity. With this power it is possible to imagine a flawless transportation network, zero waste systems in building practices, and net-zero in energy use. Substitutions and commutation of data between these activities lead to rapid improvements in every aspect of urbanization. We only need to solve the four problems mentioned above (here).

In just the last half of the 20th century, the service economy grew to nearly eighty percent of employment in the United States. In just a few generations, highly trained professionals have discovered an array of new specializations. Access to the technology of interprofessional education allows physicians to build a digital model of a patient’s beating heart and petition for the power to prescribe safe housing. Law officers can replace the prison and chain response to choose hundreds of new intervention tools for building a culture free of fear.

As 2020 began, communities throughout the world became confronted with the task of redefining problems in a categorically different fashion. The contagion expressed as SARS-CoV-2 (the one that causes COVID-19), MERS, EBOLA, and others are reality and symbol in the broad context of climate. The climate of threat is known, but without direct experience, unease becomes the primary evidence of the senses.

The ill-feeling of separation or polarization by forces not fully understood can be relieved. An effort to understand the usefulness of that feeling grows because everyone has it. The central lesson of the first 21st c. pandemic will be to figure out what this sense means to help make it a good thing and not a bad one. Given limited knowledge of the epidemiology of a viral contagion, it is logical to consider dense areas as to cause but, more importantly, as a source of cures.

Over half of the population of the world is urbanized very poorly. Here, a well thought out protocol for ending or expanding the threat of global contagion is effective on multiple fronts. First, the rapid deployment of a testing regime within a limited area with extended containment is possible, yet considered unlikely. Second, the source of a good defense is in the bodies of those held for care or distributed leathaly. The deployment of serological tests can be as quick as a McDonald’s drive-thru to identify an infected person.  Serosurveys figure out how widespread a virus is among people who remain asymptomatic. Define the human antibody response and the possibility of an immune reaction, or not becomes Combined, this “urban health data” can lead to stopping the potential of a pandemic. (see details in Contagion (here). It comes down to a question of readiness.

Dense urban areas such as New Jersey (the densest suburban State) and New York City may be hard hit. Still, they also offer the best capacity for intervention fueled by data and backed with the ability to initiate clinical trials as proof rapidly. The issue was summed up succinctly when State Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed out that we knew COVID-19 was identified in China as early as November 2019. Still, they did not confirm until early January, and so he made a demand.

“…the federal government should decentralize testing and give it to the states. I have 200 labs in this State. Let me use my 200 labs. Why am I waiting on the FDA and CDC?”

(News Conference 16 March 2020)

The State of New York acquired the authority to proceed. Most of those labs are in New York City. The element to remember is the concept of readiness and the effective use of unique human power – the ability to analyze, understand, and act. Because events with a global impact can occur without significant warning, the lesson already learned regards the first-level response to energize analysis, define the problem, and determine urgency. All of us know this as a well-known national defense protocol – DefCon One to whatever. The professionals in microbiology labs got nothing; action did not occur at the national level until a State Governor demanded it.

In the urban world, well before a large construction project begins, technology provides the architect and engineer with services to model highly complex systems in virtual environments envisioning entirely new frameworks for social and economic interaction. These systems suggest the ability to document and envision the impact on a hospital system during a health care crisis; it can mark the flow of every ounce of water, watt of power, and a liter of air in every tube, wire, and opening serving urban life.

Systems with such data-authority for day to day use or during a crisis are not a fantasy as their integration is already more fully imagined than a dream. These practices have tangible demonstrations allowing any attentive person to conduct their Bayesian inference regarding the formation of the harmless city. Recognizing the three stages of professionalism as essential to the creation of new professions establishes the fourth level of enormous importance, but it must be aggressively defined.  Ending the isolation of specific professional skills will lead to the active implementation of anti-silo tasks capable of fully developing the city as a single, fully integrated, undamaging earth entity.

Currently, too many technical proficiencies are organized vertically like silos; they symbolize the segregation of data because they give their occupants special impact abilities. Examples are to seek competitive opportunities, target specific clients or competitors, isolate geographies, and insulate technologies for business purposes. As such, the lack of encouragement or opportunity to negotiate new elements that function laterally within governments, businesses (or groups of them) can be damaging, possibly deadly. An often-used phrase by planners to describe the problem of problem-solving is a policy (mostly public) that must end. It is called “catastrophic resolution.”

In attacking the downside of these practices, the four problems I have begun to define, call for the recognition of the city as a single construction and rehabilitation problem. It is one that will engage the entire social and economic context of the urbanized earth. With this view of the city as the essence of human existence, I address the need for radically altering the traditional contract arrangement responsible for building cities and its connective tissues. The urbanizing earth is singularly crucial to the quality of every aspect of all life. In this context, I attempt to define the professional realignment problem more thoroughly.

If you want to know when the first phase of this effort ends – let me know (here).

Bodacious, Blueberry Wine and Bushwacker

I found this on what the 2030 report was supposed to create. I noticed a comment I made regarding the process that they picked up.  If they were serious they would disclose the process used to accomplish one of their basic goals. Goal: Get a park/recreation facility within walking distance of everyone, say 880 yards.

Challenge:  Identify those locations that do not meet this criterion, implement a strategy to accomplish the goal of walkable access, and then talk about how it was accomplished in a broad 2030 forum with examples and what still needs to be done. Sure, tell people what they don’t have and then fail to produce.

Running from the Bulls or Riding One – same thing.

The PlaNYC link initially went to civic engagement sight.
It now points to the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resilience
Anticipating Same thing.

Real and imagined unknowns are part of our embedded information society. Despite the call for transparency and a more open society, government officials, business leaders, and human rights advocates share the mantra of the bull rider that says, “don’t get killed the moment the gate opens.” The preference for advanced knowledge for planning includes knowing that the bull will throw you off regardless. How and why New York City keeps its planning secrets is the stuff of its greatness. Or is it?

There are many ways to look at the advancement of an idea; you can bring in advisors, experts, and consultants to test the bull for weaknesses.  It is the most predictable moves that might suggest counterbalances.  A good example involves the advisory council members the Mayor’s office used for the 2030 project.  A large group, but they were asked to hear it first, keep it quiet, and prepare their respective constituencies with ideas about radically changing the city to solve problems, meet needs, or produce higher confidence levels. These advisors entered New York’s version of a time honored practice known as the run from the bulls. What we all know, it occurs knowing or unknowingly. 

All of the advocates for community planning, housing or environmental activism, business or labor, have their own bull to ride. They also have some foreknowledge about successful placement within the arena. They can be part of the crowd or on a balcony above the fray. This is an OK part of participation. It is the burden of either leading or getting out of the way. The observation to make is that it is not always clear, which is which. The decision to ride resembles the three most famous bulls in the world. They threw every single rider who attempted to last eight seconds presented metaphorically as follows:

  1. Bodacious – Climate Change
  2. Blueberry Wine – Sustainability
  3. Bushwacker –  Resilience 

Whether the 2030 Plan got called the Olympic plan in a green dress, or the World’s Greatest Bull ride, or the NYC version of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, every resident should be encouraged if one single truth is made clear from the onset — take the increments proposed for change and raise them by accomplishing one thing.  The truth seems far too elusive these days for short term use.  It seems riskier than ever for decision-makers who use the truth and make a change. On the other hand, raw data gathered for use by anyone can expose a truth in which all can share. I offer an example as follows:

One person, who is without a doubt brilliant in the Bushwacker Class gave us a map. As buildings are the single greatest producers of GHGs, and the goal in the world (for now) is to get to net-zero I want you to study the Emissions Map by the aforementioned brilliant person Jill Hubley. I can find myself on this map, and someday I might be able to add my emissions data, and in trade to this data, I will be advised on what I can do that I can afford to do for me and the next owner of my home, my city, and world.

View Data

Face it, all ideas begin the secret of a few before they are shared. This is the essence of all ideas. When they emerge in a public forum such as the 2030 Plan they arrive in a city that will argue its merits on a central principle expressed by this question.  “Will this help make a better life for all our residents regardless of household income?”  Is this the truth? In the work it takes to make it so, a great city like New York becomes one of beauty as well as greatness. 

New ideas must meet this first test of actionable power. It is important to know whether actions to remove dangerous foods and air from our lives or to bring all New Yorkers and the region into a synchronous transportation model are doable.  Try this last thought out for a second.   All of us have experienced the shocking realization that the cost of running the MTA is a financial responsibility that travels well beyond that paid by its riders.  But, how on the good green earth can does removing the burden that sits substantially on riders alone become a probable outcome?  It seems consensus cannot occur or even be considered without crisis.

We cannot pretend that the burden of financing NYC’s glory in the American sense or its survival in a global sense is the exclusive responsibility of the Mayor, his team, or our political representatives. It is every Jack One of us. The simple uncomplicated truth may therefore have nothing to do with the facts.  It is our absolute responsibility to protect vulnerable families in a vulnerable city because that protection is needed for everyone regardless of wealth.

How long will the simple measures of our accountability continue to be dismissed as a truism? The real proof of our work and our time in the making and re-making of this city is to have a measure to value the change.  If this measure is not “people” what could it possibly be? The hard questions about this responsibility are like secrets. The real test is upon us all to start talking about Bodacious, Blueberry Wine, and Bushwacker.

Connect the Council

City Council

The New York City Council has 51 members with two-term limits of four years. The relationship between the city, the state and national government is complicated. A close examination of issues that confront the City Council Members should include those the state and federal government share. The focus here is on the eight members of the City Council’s Brooklyn Membership with interest in those with a relationship to the Ninth Congressional District.

Have a look at the financial data links and council links below.

District Member and Term Ends

39     Brad Lander  2021.
35     Laurie A. Cumbo 2021
40     Mathieu Eugene  2021
41     Alicka-Ampry-Samuel  2117
44     David G. Greenfield 2025
45     Farah N. Lewis  2025
46     Alan N. Maisel 2021
48     Chaim M. Deutsch 2021

Do they share issues and problem-solving?  It is challenging to tell.  Please help.

The City Council’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget provides a “show me the money” view.  It shows how and where discretionary funds are spent in City Council Districts which averages about $1 million per councilperson and the site below lists another $280 million in disbursements under the discretionary line that Councilmembers can take credit for on a Borough basis

 Have a look here:

You get the picture.

On June 14, 2016, the Council authorized NYC’s FY2017 Budget, including record investments in youth, support for immigrant communities, and the strengthening of our City’s reserves.  At the bottom of the page above two other links can give citizen’s a way to explore the entire $80 Billion used to operate this great city.  Have a look.  Contribute you analysis or leads to the work of others as it affects your City Councilmember.

An excellent source of information and analysis is the Independent Budget Office.


Connect Senate

Connect Senate Members & CD9

NYS-63 Senators

The relationship of constituents to the State Government’s 63 members of the NY Senate can last a long time. They have two-year terms but there are no limits. This section seeks information that contributes to a better understanding of issues that confront our state representatives that share a portion of the Ninth Congressional District.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 016eb-e_senate.png
Senate Districts in CD9
  • In 2016 Senate District 17 voted for Trump.  Details are here.

Do they share issues and solve problems?  It is difficult to tell.

For example, an analysis by participants in an effort to reform the Brooklyn political machine came up with this analysis by the New Kings Democrats. Is your Senator working for you or not?

SDSenatorPartyOpen States
17Simcha FelderDemocraticBills Positions
18Martin Malave DilanDemocraticBills Positions
19Roxanne J. PersaudDemocraticBills Positions
20Jesse HamiltonDemocraticBills Positions
21Kevin S ParkerDemocraticBills Positions
22Martin J GoldenRepublicanBills Positions
25Velmanette MontgomeryDemocraticBills Positions

Connect Assembly

Assembly Members

NYS-151 Assembly Members
You know where you live.  Use the map and report your Assemblymember in the comment section below.  Before selecting your Assemblymember within the Ninth Congressional District take a moment to review: Session Four “How to Sustain the Resistance Long Term” presented by New York Assemblyman and DNC Vice Chair, Michael Blake. Look for his talk at the Resistance School April 27, 2017 (HERE). Tweet @resist_school #resistanceschool #resist

41Helene WeinsteinDemocraticBills Positions
42Rodneyse BichotteDemocraticBills Positions
43Diana RichardsonWorking FamiliesBills Positions
44Robert CarrollDemocraticBills Positions
45Steven CymbrowitzDemocraticBills Positions
46Pamela HarrisDemocraticBills Positions
47William ColtonDemocraticBills Positions
48Dov HikindDemocraticBills Positions
49Peter Abbate Jr.DemocraticBills Positions
50Joseph LentolDemocraticBills Positions
51Felix OrtizDemocraticBills Positions
52Jo Anne SimonDemocraticBills Positions
53Maritza DavilaDemocraticBills Positions
54Erik DilanDemocraticBills Positions
55Latrice WalkerDemocraticBills Positions
56Tremaine WrightDemocraticBills Positions
57Walter MosleyDemocraticBills Positions
58N. Nick PerryDemocraticBills Positions
59Jaime WilliamsDemocraticBills Positions

Connect Community Districts

Seven Community Districts share the geography, interests, needs, and concerns of the Ninth Congressional District.  The map and links below seek participants.

Engaging residents the relationship local to federal money in community development dates to the 1950s with the formation of Community Planning Councils. The most recent change in this practice occurred in 1989 when the Charter Revision Commission changed the structure of City government and increased the role of Community Boards in the environmental and land-use review process that affects their communities. There are 59 Community Boards in NYC, and eighteen are in Brooklyn and a third of them are in Congressional District Nine.

Connect School Districts

There are three school districts that share a portion of the Ninth Congressional District. How will changes in Federal and therefore state and city policy affect schools in these districts? The objective would be to identify parents, the primary self-interest group.  There are not links (yet) to these constituents. The start of developing this idea is here: Office of Family and Community Engagement remembering one key element. The parent constituency is brief and overlaps rapidly in roughtly two groups of parents – those with kids in PreK-8 or High Schools. Just finding those taking the time to lead is difficult.

District 17, 18 and 22
Parent Leadership Schools: Parent Associations/Parent Teacher Association and School Leadership Team
Presidents’ Council, District Leadership Team or Community Education Council.
Citywide: Leadership in Citywide Education Councils, The Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council and the Panel for Education Policy
Parent Leader Times
The Chancellor’s quarterly newsletter for Parent Leaders

Washington Heights

Washington Heights and Inwood Planning and Land Use Study

At the close of 2004, members of Community Board 12-Manhattan (CB12) began to seek resources for conducting a neighborhood planning and land-use study covering all of Washington Heights and Inwood, the neighborhoods that makeup Northern Manhattan and comprise Community District 12 (CD12). After consultation with City agency represen­tatives and their elected officials, CB12 officers and committee chairs determined that a broad-based, district-wide planning study would help identify priorities and in establish­ing a consensus around a set of criteria for evaluating proposed and future development.

The City College Architecture Center. Directed by Ethan Cohen, with Rex L. Curry to produce a response to the RFP, won it, and work began. The following are links to the product of this work. The following requires the Adobe PDF reader.

Section 1 – Introduction, Methodology, Community Actors, and Past Findings |
Section 2 – Demographics, Practices, Housing, Community Needs, Facilities, and Potential Sites
Section 3 – Neighborhood History, Transportation, Topography, Parks/Open Space, Aerials and Photos, and Historic Preservation
Section 4 – Zoning Land Use and Development
Section 5 – Recommendations, Resources, and Resolutions
Section 0 – Short Version
MBPO Land Use 101 Presentation
Rezoning Presentation 04/07/2010
Rezoning Report

Examine CD12’s Race, Ethnicity, and Class

The study of the linkage between minority households and factors such as housing constraint and segregation, labor market opportunities, and regional employment decentralization establishes limited opportunity and mobility. People of Washington Heights and Inwood, where do you go from here?

Early twentieth-century housing policies encouraged de facto economic segregation. This contributed strongly to racial isolation but also contributed to relatively successful economic clusters. Imbalances in wealth is a subject separate from establishing the capacity to create and protect it from the onset. However, since the 1990s, changes leading to more successfully integrated (class/income/race) communities have been ongoing. There are two notable exceptions in Asian and Latino populations that require greater understanding and new policy. New York City is perhaps the most diverse city imaginable. Thus, the question of how language-based neighborhoods become more broadly functional in the larger society is a good question.

In effect, the process of “breaking out” from a localized economic model begins with families, small business formation, and remittances to home countries. The “economic multiplier” begins with the family. It involves extended social relationships that lead to savings clubs that can become credit unions and banks. Expanded reliance on the extended family helps to form structures of acknowledgment that become business partnerships. Cash sent home from wages or a business draws its capital from this capacity to internalize community development in “the family” and a neighborhood, but the policy point that needs to “sink in” is that both take a generation or two to develop, and it requires being “left alone” and that it is self-imposed on many levels.

The publication of the “Newest New Yorker” series by the Department of City Planning is evidence of the failure to move the dialogue beyond the obvious of who or where the “newest” live. The most recent immigration wave (Hispanic, Latino, and Asian) is born of civil lawsuits in the late 1960s that proved a pattern of discrimination in U.S. immigration policy. But this is the real point. The model of two to three generations of business and cultural development that re-builds places like the Lower East Side are now sliding into the world of myth. You can tell “bootstrap” stories. They would be true, but no one will believe them today — it must be a myth.

The need to invent new forms of action research in Washington Heights and Inwood is critical in New York City. Here, over 80% of the population is Latino, of which 70% is Dominican. This is important because we might bear witness to an enormous struggle to prevent a cultural disappearing act. The term Nos Quedamos defines this pressure as Project Remain, and We Stay. The question must be what will remain of the Latino experience during a period of continuing household impoverishment, slow economic growth, and declining real wages in Manhattan above 155th Street.


The negative effects of localized social, economic, and political diversity are overcome with a healthy sense of nationalism according to Robert Putnam’s highly disciplined research. This may be the case in general, but there are places that are “positioned” by more powerful social, economic, and political forces as containing “personas temporales” in Spanish or ??? in Chinese. In large cities such as New York, social solidarity allows strangers as the norm, in less diverse communities’, behaviors such as “sundown” towns become more likely. This positive/negative and jingoist/turncoat dichotomy is a two-way street.

Concisely, Putnam’s recent half-decade worth of research points to the global inevitability of diversity by pointing out its positives in a review of its negatives. His research has found that the more ethnically diverse the “neighborhood,” the less likely you are to trust your local storekeeper or dentist for that matter, regardless of his or her ethnicity. On the other hand, the more ethnically diverse the “city,” the more likely you are to develop relationships that transcend the neighborhood’s social or ethnic sense of security as a product of internal social solidarity. Given the positive of an economic multiplier that secures wealth in the family and the neighborhood, then the negatives of diversity (not trusting those outside the family or neighborhood) are more likely overcome by establishing a base upon which negotiations and creative exchanges are possible.

Debate on these measures by research specialists from the Community Service Society and others would yield a set of variables such as cost burden, business ownership, and property control ratios, median and per capita wages; job access and reverse commute figures, linguistic isolation, and so on. These measures would be selected and built up to define neighborhoods that can and should be given time. Time to organize, identify strategies, and implement programs coordinated well enough to establish a powerful base for targeted improvements in an internalized capacity to control investment rates, protect tenants, and build businesses. The objective is to defend against resident and labor force-displacement, whether or not it is compelled legally, illegally, and otherwise. When the constituency sought is, in effect, “new” every two to three years, it is nearly impossible to accomplish these purposes. On the other side of this coin lies the possibility of well-known urban pathologies such as gang-style resistance designed to “defend the block” from outsiders. These two are measures of grass-roots reaction to external threats that press down on the quality of life in the form of rapidly deteriorating building conditions, seasonal employment, and irrational, as well as, rational fear of immigration policies defined by “in or out” resident alien status that push people into a form of political invisibility.

Putnam’s research team’s intellectual rigor establishes strong controls for a wide range of factors such as poverty, residential mobility, and education to define measures of inequality. In a community such as Washington Heights and Inwood, Putnam’s term of “hunkering down” has value in its social solidarity production. In the short term, it provides a basis for increased diversity as a friendly force for building a modernizing society. Modernization is a proven asset for creative social exchange and economic growth. The central measure is, therefore, relatively blunt. In a place such as New York City, it would be unlikely to hear vitriol in a “them and us” debate, complemented with demands to conform to “our” way of life. It is more subtle here and wrapped up in economic models used to define the higher and better use of real estate, especially housing. In this sense, neighborhoods such as Washington Heights and Inwood, can if supported in doing so, in the time needed. The jargon used by Putnam defines a unique capacity to defend successfully against forces that would kill the formation of “bridging capital” that builds group-to-group interdependence, neighborhood-to-city relationships, and the “bonding capital” essential to healthy personal relationships.

Neighborhood Plan and Land Use Study (N:PLUS)

The New York City Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) began as a modest consortium of banks organized to make mortgage loans to rehabilitate apartment buildings in a risk pool. From 1975 to 1985, the CPC provided $61.8 million in rehabilitation financing for 155 buildings in Washington Heights. Today about 80 banks and insurance companies are involved as sponsors. Since its founding in 1974, CPC has financed more than 120,000 affordable housing units, investing over $5 billion. The point made here: CPC needs to do this again for a new ten-year commitment and comparable financing of roughly $320 million.

The housing stabilization achieved in Washington Heights through the loans and improvements to occupied buildings included rent restructuring and stabilization to make the financings possible. It brought the area to the point where projects without substantial subsidies, incentives, and benefits were included in the mix. Just 30 years later, the moderate rehabilitation question becomes an important part of this community’s history once again. Is the same partnership available today? Can new or equally effective programs bring the level of financial restructuring expertise to a community that continues to need it?

To establish a sense of the geographic distribution buildings with a significant number of violations are mapped with violations over 200 and over 500. The total comes to 246 buildings with serious violations based on HPD Anti-Abandonment Unit figures. Furthermore, the 2000 Census finds Upper Manhattan’s housing to be in worse condition when compared to neighborhoods throughout New York City. [i]

Effective housing policy starts with a sense of on-the-ground opportunity for development and preservation. The land use/building condition survey, combined with a review of data on building type, age, housing violations, incomes, and “rent-burden,” yielded the following overall observations on the prospects for preserving housing affordability in CD12.

CD12 maintains a high-grade housing stock that is physically capable of withstanding the stress of rehabilitation. The extensive bulk (square feet) makes replacement unlikely, given the current zoning. In effect, the 1961 zoning to R7-2 for most of the district was a down zone.

The rise in building code violations and complaint over the last five years is alarming. The issues are the quality of maintenance and management of the existing stock–and maintaining it as affordable.

The pre-war housing stock provides large and flexible apartment layouts that facilitate extended family, family friend, and guest living arrangements. Shared costs from food to rent, childcare, and small business development are effective means to survive that promote savings and the eventual building up of investment capital. CD12’s dense but flexible and affordable housing stock is, therefore, a wellspring for newcomers’ social and economic success.

The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) measures the cost of operating a multi-unit apartment building in vital detail. As the decisions are now critical, an independent review of methods is long overdue. Nevertheless, a growing share of households (about 25%) experiences a severe rent burden[ii] in CD12. A key to preservation will be strong efforts to bring income up either directly or through income supplements such as food stamps, expanded rent subsidies, and 100% utilization of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Advocate for methods to reduce the cost to profit margin (or investor risk) by turning to rehabilitation as a key to a sustainable, affordable housing source. This policy is daunting exclusively because that renovation is less predictable than new construction. Often a gap exists between the costs of renovation and the resources available to finance the renovation. Strict building codes may impose additional costs by requiring new construction building standards. Other regulatory barriers that may make a project complicated include historic preservation regulations, environmental clearance, access provisions, citizen opposition, and conflicting codes – such as building code vs. fire code, making approval processes lengthy.

For years, the public market defined housing affordability as a charitable function within a competitive market. The cost of privately rented housing moves upward based on competition in the market and changes in operating costs and regulatory practices, including the expiration of incentives. On the other hand, the rent of other affordable housing embedded in the private stock will continue to move up based on the household’s ability to pay up to a point beyond which it becomes unadvisable. I will explain it.

Let us be clear: a person earning $125,000 would pay $3,000 a month using the 30% of income as the housing affordability figure. But, the household can know to shop for a wide range of vacant, readily available apartments in Manhattan’s upper-income market at $2,500. Opting for “affordable housing privileges” is not in his financial interest. The point is there are many neighborhoods where the market serves us well. But it is also a force that goes against the idea that we can all live together in that neighborhood (such as in CD12) with dignity regardless of our income. Imagine the reverse: 60% to 80% of the housing units are “means-tested”, but it is built attractive enough to attract 20% to 40% eager to pay whatever the market demands.

N: PLUS Alegría de Vida Project

Washington Heights and Inwood Community Board will monitor Columbia University’s Westside ambitions, define its institutional version of New York’s affordable housing crisis, and nervously seek zoning protections through Inclusionary Zoning and Quality Housing Programs. All of this will be found in the formal release of a 300-page description dubbed N: PLUS released in April 2007.

N: PLUS stands for Neighborhood Planning and Land Use Study. Its authors define it as a report to the community. While large in total, N: PLUS is designed as a digital baseline document. It seeks to attract a constituency for planning. It seeks the creation of a more lively board, one more interested in a new urban vision and “vida” than the bogged down drudgery of being the first rung on the public process ladder. This board wants to shred the sinking feeling that a con is in play all of the time. True or not, it is still a feeling. Having their own plan will, if nothing else, produce a basis for comparisons.

Based on research completed to date, the report makes thirty recommendations and describes eighteen “best practices” most useful to a volunteer group of community members. That is what is on the table now, but the digital component is busy seeking challenges to its own report. The facts are friendly; it is what they mean that creates dissemblers in the debate.

The board has a skeleton staff of three and a barebones budget of $200,000, the majority of which goes for meeting space, baseline operations, and its District Manager’s salary and benefits. This budget is the lowest per capita in the city.

From the viewpoint of Washington Heights or Inwood, Columbia University may seem too far away. How could changes all the way down past City College into the 120s produce problems this far uptown? This area is 155th Street through the 200s, so perhaps, the community is right. Columbia’s relationship with the residential community of Morningside and Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Grange, Manhattanville, and even St. Nicholas Terrace is a more like symbol of bad PR than a tangible threat. Columbia did drop its name from the 8 million square foot medical complex now modestly marketed as New York Presbyterian Hospital. Therefore, the supposition has become “better safe than sorry” in serving what some are now calling “upstate” Manhattan.


[i] The 2000 Census measures affordability and quality: (1) lacking complete plumbing facilities, (2) lacking complete kitchen facilities, (3) with 1.01 or more occupants per room, (4) selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of household income in 1999 greater than 30 percent, and (5) gross rent as a percentage of household income in 1999 greater than 30 percent.

[ii] On the rental side of the market, affordability pressures clearly grew. The median monthly contract rent increased from $831 to $900 (after adjusting for inflation), and the median share of income spent on rent by New York City renters (the median rent burden) rose from 28.6 percent in 2002 to 31.2 percent in 2005. These numbers suggest that rents represent a significant strain for many households, especially those at the low end of the income spectrum who are not fortunate enough to live in subsidized housing. Among unsubsidized, low-income renters, the median share of income spent on rent rose to over 50 percent in 2005, up from 43.9 percent in 2002. Surprisingly, perhaps, the share of unsubsidized, low-income renter households that live in severely crowded housing actually fell during this period from 5.3 percent in 2002 to 4.8 percent in 2005. (State of City 2005, Furman Center)

Why Plan for CD12 Washington Heights and Inwood?

Examine Washington Heights and Inwood as part of a Working Group.

The community district board communicates issues and concerns to the city’s major agencies and service providers. In this it is effective.

Less well known, is its ability to produce systemic change.

The City College Architecture Center recently produced a research project for Community Board 12. A set of maps show places, but a set of database backed geographic information system images (GIS) can show how property is developing in CD12 now and into the future.

It is an evaluation tool for urban design, community planning and of course, real estate investment analysis. For the purpose of community-based planning and research this resource is use to define two crucial community values.

  • The first is to discover and encourage development for economic growth and;
  • The second is to provide the community with what it needs today, as it is today.

The first value is easy, let the private sector do what it does to grow, the second one on on the other hand is more difficult as business growth and our personal or community development are not as compatible as we would prefer.

So Why Plan? Why a Working Group?

  1. Planning produces ideas that can turn what you think is probable or possible into what is preferred.
  2. From these visions, an effective and timely response to a central question is made: What is important now?
  3. Producing public energy for planning makes solving today’s problems today possible.

A place for this and all of the information needed has begun to develop. Go to has all of the heavy docs. Monitor, don’t download yet, and get back to us using this web resource and this blog CD12

Many subjects are possible to develop on on the change in zoning for Inwood has begun with very short descriptions of all the “Special Districts” developed in New York City over the years.
In closing, something that Margaret Mead said is useful now. “Never doubt that small groups of people change the world. It is the only way it ever has…”

What Makes CD12 Unique?

Special Purpose District Zoning codifies incentives for development with the preservation of highly valued or unique elements that enhance urban living. For example, the scenic view easement is a zoning designation that protects NYC’s extraordinary view corridors across great distances of the urban landscape. Huge sections of Washington Heights and Inwood look outward across the Hudson or into the Bronx that should be highly valued. If tall buildings are built, a portion of this view “windfall” should go to adjacent property owners with the inclusion of affordable housing. This is not a new idea, it is why Grand Central Terminal remains and the buildings around it are much taller. What is the difference between this “solution”, and one that “exacts” the cash value of a view of the Hudson in trade for stabilized affordable housing?

If and when things like this happen, “Who Cuts the Deal?”

Setting a successful climate for zoning change negotiations comes in one of two forms, 1) the Community Benefits Agreement, also definable in some instances as a Good Neighbor Agreement or development disposition agreement with a single site and developer, and 2) the Memorandum of Understanding. Both require corporate entities as signatories to an economic formula based on sharing or dividing a set of anticipated resources and revenues. The product of the formula is at its best when it is economically self-renewing and includes an immediate “payout” often in the form of a tangible capital improvement. A pre-defined set of services, as well as, a general outline of the baseline responsibilities of signatories produces minimum and maximum “upset” figures.

Washington Heights and Inwood should start talking about the kind of corporate entity required to conduct negotiations coupled with the quality of governance needed.

Public Partnership: Add TIF to Inclusionary Zoning

Programs such as tax increment financing (TIF) pledges the increase in real property taxes to pay the costs of associated public investment. For example, if a housing development project will generate $10 million in additional tax each year, that $10 million is pledged for the same period required to cover a $100 million bond to secure a housing trust fund for a community district. In other words, zoning changes the taxable basis and it can be altered as an incentive to act, with resources prevent, or mitigate damage.

Looking for ideas on how this could happen?

This is an “either/or” condition for all Manhattan real estate. Either it is full market rate, leading to tax increment bond financing for local housing affordability programs, or it is fully stabilized with a permanent stock of affordable housing providing a minumum of 20% of units or with bonus floor area more based on local need and AMI.

Crisis Management

As a planner interested in establishing strategic advantages, one of the first things to get done is an assessment of readiness. A good risk assessment helps reduce the need for crisis management. The risk-list can be very basic set of public responsibilies – fire response is the classic example of a known probability. Responding to the unknown on the other hand, is a difficult policy to establish – stop and fisk comes to mind when a police power clashes with an unknown probability. Setting aside a resource that may never be used or using one without legitimacy weakens the public power to protect its citizens. To put the “unknown” into perspective I organize my thinking with four components in mind.

It matters little if you are one family or the president of a large company or a nation. You can do a risk assessment, outline actions that reduce them, consider what needs to be insured and how each risk is shared in your community, region or world.

Risk AssessmentReducing RiskInsuranceRisk Transfer
Prioritized proability based on global capacity to harmPlan measures that will lower physical vulnerabilityProduce and provide reservesCouple data with reinsurance strategies
Assess human vulnerability with analysis by typeSet control measures by unique locations and local conditionsReserve funds, to assure services drive supply demandsDevelop regional approaches to pool insurance risks
Integrate information on probabilities with a fiscal strategyEstablish responsive comprensive protocal refined by priorityLocalize “rainy day” systems to deploy first response systemLong term debt plan with international financial institutions

Using these four columns, an assessment of impacts from global warming to a rapidly spreading virus on your town, city or world can be very effective. I pulled this table from my files because learned how the national office on pandemic response planning got opened, then closed over the years. The nation’s of the world have let crisis policy slip into the fog of “it can’t happen here or now,” or worse, “if it happens, the loss can be absorbed.” Allowing this “roulette-table” thinking at the top, does not increase the invulnerability of decision makers. As any psychologist will tell you, assuring shared vulnerability is a source of courage, especially when it is needed greatly.

Preventing natural disasters is not possible. For example, GHGs entering the atmosphere occur naturally; as do viruses, however, the confirmation that the increase is dangerous only leaves human actors to respond with “decisions and actions” and, hopefully, the skills to mitigate two results. The physical damage to people and the impact on their output.

The Program

The use of the term “program” requires an explanation in the following discussion of managing crises.  Please imagine the word “program” as a single entity for managing all human affairs. Now see it as having control over any change that endangers a community and that it is good at its job.

Assigning a value to solve an imagined problem has a long list of practical trials that analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty in actuarial programs. Here, the problem is not solved, just the loss of all or a portion of the impact. It is paid in cash, in support of recovery, post-trauma. We are entering a period of earth’s 4.5 billion-year history when that will not be enough. It was only 2.5 million years since humans began flaking stone into tools and only the last 100,000 in which this practice became lethal.

Solving a problem based on a variable that has not been set previously is a matter of setting default values with preemptive power over the unknown. However, once a value for preventive action is defined, the “if this,” “then that” condition occurs. Once again, releasing the post-trauma solution.  Not good enough.

A no value, nondeclared variable occurs due to the complete suspension of judgment. The cause is indeterminacy within the program.  In this case, the program selects all undefined variables as equal and assigns all of them to a recurring cycle. What can be made to recur reveals the control methods equivalent to the complexity of the recurrence. For its practitioners, this is the release of an intuitive learning process plus math.

It is time for an example.  Statistical epidemiologists break up a population into cohorts and apply versions of the SIR model – susceptible, infected, and recovered or removed (described here).  The math expands to define “exposed” but not infected and other variables as they wish.  The center of the COVID-19 experience reveals to its analysts a long list of possible no value, nondeclared variables that could exist ahead of any occurrence.

Next, the ratio of recovery to removal reveals a death rate, and an infector/infectee ratio estimates the serial interval. The ordinary flu transmits in 3.6 days, where a 95% confidence interval would be from 2.9 to 4.3 days with a standard deviation of 1.6 days.  The method of per person/per place transmission is known; mitigation steps can be taken. If you prefer “a devil in the details” approach, I recommend the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME Univer­sity of Washington). They produce The Global Burden of Disease report on every illness and injury in the world every year.

A disease transmitted from person to person reveals the “reproductive number” to evaluate transmission rates followed by subsequent measures of time for transmission and mitigation recommendations. The serial interval or the period when infector/infectee becomes infectee/infectee becomes known. Action can be taken.

It’s time for a metaphor. Serological tests require massive numbers to identify antibody, immune response in a population leading to preemption safeguards, quarantine periods, and social distancing policies. Silos filled with nuclear warheads dot the earth for a known threat culminating in a theory of mutually assured destruction. The same approach to viral infection in the population should be equal to the associated uncertainty of war, as it carries a similar (if not higher) range of no value, nondeclared variables.

New policy frameworks will demand a far greater assessment of risk, methods of reduction, and shared transfers of technology. We are one family and drink from cups full of speculations and opinions and must know that wisdom comes from emptying these cups.

Health and Economy

The “If Not Now, When?” American Health Care Crisis

Since 2010, 100 rural hospitals have closed, and another 430 are at risk, yet 30 million Americans cannot get regular care, of which 63% are racial and ethnic minorities. These are the facts, the American health care crisis ends when everyone will routinely see a doctor regardless of their income.


A crisis is composed of two “hanzi” (??/??) danger and opportunity. Now more than ever in American history, everyone needs primary and mental health care, dental, and low-cost prescription drugs. To help make that happen, the Defense Production Act authorizes resources of the National Guard, the Army Corp of Engineers, and others to assist providers in opening shut down hospitals, support existing facilities and expand community health centers in every community. Activating the Medicare System to pay for all COVID-19 emergency and related medical bills is the way forward. Do it now. Don’t argue with zombies.

The Real Test: Solving the Economic Crisis

  1. No layoffs, a livable wage, equity to the government, and workers on corporate boards
  2. Use Federal Reserve under section 14(2)(b) will buy short-term municipal debt securities.
  3. Stock buybacks and bonuses for executives will be banned
  4. Ensure no corporation profits from the economic pain of COVID-19 people
  5. Ensure every employer in crisis gets emergency credit extensions and loans
  6. Suspend all Farm Service Agency loan payments  
  7. The government will price all prescription drugs developed with every known form of tax code/taxpayer dollar and take patents from pharmaceutical companies for emergencies and for cause due to violations, give license to generic companies.

All crises are opportunities, even COVID-19. Many small and medium-sized businesses will go out of business. The large corporations will seek and take new markets. We need resources to document our prevention failures in health and economics. We will need to know who, how and where these failures occur, region by region, state by state. The unintentional impacts of ‘for the good financial care’ need to be understood because it can suppress thoughtful interest and protest movements. It also provides time for “big-capital” to choose what it needs and take what it wants even as it adds public resources to continue downward pressure on American wages.

Consider how direct-cash-payment for small and medium-sized businesses payrolls extends the economic crisis if it includes $2,000 cash payments per person/employee every month as needed. That 40% of our people who could not afford a $400 emergency is moot as it is unlikely to occur all at once, and yet now seems possible. A moratorium on bills due (i.e., evictions, foreclosures, utilities, mortgages) could be one of those everything all at once $400 problems so again, to “who, how and where,” we must add when.

More capital and expanded capacity for existing safety net programs are desperately needed, but ineffectual for systemic change. Unemployment insurance to cover 100 percent of prior salary with a cap at $75K/year could also command some brain-power participation by advancing a job/GND/health corps challenge. Do not waive the payments on student debt held by 45 million Americans due to the COVID-19 crisis without paying down a sizeable chunk of the principal on the $1.6 trillion we now hold. On that point, set a precedent with that down payment in a way that will assure a future of tuition-free public colleges, universities, and trade schools.

My Hometown

The single greatest asset in my Congressional District (CD9) is a vast combination of health service and education institutions that are in part, a testimony to the chaos of the American Health System on the one hand, and a story of extraordinary health service heroism in the United States on the other.

The American Community Survey ACS estimates a total of 691,000 people have health insurance of which 430,000 have private insurance, and 318,000 have public coverage. About 65,000 people are without coverage. The Susan Smith McKinney Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the Kings County Hospital Center and the Downstate Medical Center are the district’s largest employer and an excellent partner in seeking the means to provide effective service to low- and moderate-income households. Because of this economic fact, they struggle mightily to provide essential ounces of prevention too often highly distressed population, and for the lack of prevention, hemorrhage frightening levels of debt in the pounds of cure we call our hospitals.

The above was sent to It was a great run, Senator Sanders. There is no reason to slow down now, just point yourself in a slightly different direction. You would have been a great President of the United States. You made a new path by walking for all of us. Thank you.


The online project to demystify jargon in planning, urban design, architecture and engineering for a laugh.

I seek irreverent definitions jargon for the above professions. The irreverence that gets at the truth that hurts so much, it makes you laugh. Limit is 10-20 words. Choose from a working list see: Glossary to add a piece, or below to puruse and comment. Suggest Entry for the Glossary (Here)

Example: Stakeholders (n), 1. label, defines persons who are affected materially by a physical change but also most likely to be without the equity sufficient to alter or manage the process affecting them.  See: Loosers

Suggest additional jargon, blog tags and categories: (Here)

Please define any of the following irreverently yet truthfully (Here)

  • Accessibility: You need it if you can’t get there from here.
  • Anthropological vs. Sociological: Your body vs. you mind in space.
  • Architectural vs. Artistic:
  • Area (geography)
  • Bibliographic:
  • Cause vs. Effect:
  • Centrality (urban): The really big buildings are there.
  • Citizens: people born and from someplace legal
  • City vs. Town:
  • Climate Change:
  • Climate Proof: (Netherlands)
  • Climate Resilience (NYC)
  • Coherent vs Useful:
  • Complex vs Complicated:
  • Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science
    • (is if fair to debunk Bucky?)
  • Consensus Building vs Participation:
  • Design (urban interventions):
  • Design (policy making):
  • Districts:
  • Economics:
  • Empirical Research:
  • Evolution:
  • Form/shape vs Structure (urban):
  • Goal:
  • Growth:
  • Infrastructure:
  • Integration vs Interaction (processes):
  • Interview (qualitative vs quantitative?):
  • Land-use:
  • Loosers:
  • Macro-sociological vs Micro-sociological:
  • Management (within professions):
  • Mathematical vs Rational(e):
  • Metabolism (urban):
  • Method: A mindlessly repeatable process
  • Methodology: A repatable process with puishment capabilities
  • Metropolitan:
  • Metropolitan region:
  • Mobility (urban):
  • Model (projecting):
  • Model (socio-economic analysis):
  • Mono-centric (provide examples):
  • Multi-centric (provide examples):
  • Paradigm:
  • Planner (urban):
  • Plan/Planning (spatial):
  • Policy vs Politics:
  • Policy making:
  • Poly-centric (provide examples):
  • Predict vs other forecasts (like weather forecast)
  • Pro-active vs Re-active:
  • Process (planning)( please provide detailed examples):
  • Programs (within urban planning):
  • Projecting:
  • Qualitative (provide an example):
  • Quantitative (provide an example):
  • Questionnaires (types):
  • Regeneration (urban):
  • Rehabilitation (urban):
  • Resilience:
  • Revitalization (urban):
  • Sample (statistic):
  • Science/scientific/scientist:
  • Scouting:
  • Space vs Time:
  • Spatial:
  • Stakeholders: People affected by physical change and without equity
  • Stockholders: People that hold equity with accetance of risk
  • Strategy: Process used to take advantage while others remain unaware
  • Sustainable vs. Affordable:
  • System:
  • Technique/technical/technician:
  • Territory:
  • Tools:
  • Transit:
  • Type:
  • Typology:
  • Zoning:


SamplerIII :: Places

SamplerII: Local

Below all of the posts that have a category “urban politics,” “CD 9,” and 2020 Elections.


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SamplerI: Internet

I canceled the costly UNIX server, and collapsed everything (well almost) into one giant-f’n blog. It will take a while to get things organized with a new content management system. All of the thinking, writing, mine, yours and the people we read and respect are here some place. Thanks for the recommendations.  The categories on Sampler1 read “my neighborhood” and “internet.”

Need Facts?

When confronted with an obvious untruth you need facts, that is of course if you haven’t been talking with one of Paul Krugman’s zombies, an excellent book by the way.

Every voter has elevated emotional triggers because voting has changed from a handshake into an algorithm of who you are and what you think. The science used to manipulate self-interest emotions used to be “smallish” – found in neighborhood meetings, the coffee klatch, and rallies, cold-calls, canvasing with mail and leaflets, in hand. The activities led by these organizations of data feel reasonable and responsible.

We are entering worlds built of “new systems” that are without this kind of personal dispatch. Concrete personal data drawn from media draws down the metadata of human behavior. This data range is vast from liking and disliking candidates on a scale that brings the likelihood of staying home. All of the old simple “spoils” go to the big guys now, and we knew who they were for a while, not so much anymore.

If parsed, the kicker will show your zip code, county, or state or whether there is a likelihood that you changed your hair color. The former is legal, and the latter, not so much without a warrant that has your name on it. Even though I recently sent $10.48 to Hillary Clinton’s PAC “Stronger Together” just before 23 November 2017, I suspect that the PAC was not the only agency made aware of this action. The transfer from me to AmEx to Hillary entered easily, but I left with a long list of portals with any number of windows attached that you or I am unaware of.

Efforts to achieve data results from the things we do build on formulas no ordinary person fully understands. The first warnings regarding the entrance of these activities into American life are evident. Beware of triggering an American version of Article 50 (Brexit). I have no idea of what that might look like in the USA. Still, I suggest starting research on your Internet Service Provider (ISP) activities regarding all of the metadata associated with you and everyone you know. Here is the next kick. If you “half-agree” with my premise, are you more likely or less likely to use one of the following resources and attempt to get answers?

Fact CheckersDescription of the fact checking service
Snopes.comA proven and reliable debunker of false statements.
FactcheckAnnenberg Public Policy Center’s focus on political statements.
PolitiFactThis site started in the early part of the 2008 presidential cycle
VerbatimExamines claims y elected officials, political appointees, and political candidates.
BallotPediaA professional encyclopedia of American politics and elections.
OpenSecretsTracks money in U.S. politics – nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit.
TruthorFictionA mishmash and hodgepodge of all the bull on the internet.  Lacks focus.
C-SPANHow to use the C-SPAN Video Library and different ways to search for content.


Cutting through the data maze….

Useful Demography

Demography is used to describe the social characteristics and vital statistics of people, families, and households within a geographic boundary. A variety of secondary sources provide free or low cost online access to useful data. Developing an inhouse, ” fast and easy” demographic resource is an important step in selecting the social conditions and the economic variables such as the cost of housing or access to employment that would be of greatest use to your organization or company.

Evaluate the depth of need for goods and services both public and private on a per capita basis. Research includes improved understanding of the changing quality of economic demand on local businesses in terms of market size. Our Demographic Reports review options and help select the information deemed most useful to client’s immediate needs.

Market complexity…
Whether for profit businesses or nonprofit community organizations corporations the tools for managing changes in market conditions are best understood when regional data is compared to local knowledge. A well-known tactic for evaluating these changes is advanced demographic research on the dollars and cents of local markets.

  Preliminary Market Analysis Services


A key asset of every community is its uniqueness, including the ability to act on an issue in a timely fashion. Acquiring an advanced Demographic Market Report on local commercial districts will reveal the capacity of local small businesses to capture local spending and local nonprofits to get down to business.

Also known as a “drill down” method, the process helps community groups to launch a competitive response to large corporate retailers in business-to-business and business-to-community dealings. The policy has been to encourage local nonprofit organizations with a public service mission to consider “running a business” to “fill in the retail gaps.” This has been wrong headed.

In most urban communities today, the spending of as few as 25% of the households represent as much as 75% of local retail spending, but local business or community advocates only see that 75% of lower-income households whose spending power is only 25% of the market. Changing the business model to make the powerful 25% happy would be competitively good for everyone.

If you are a community-based nonprofit organization dealing with the concentrations of poverty, consider “transhipment” controls. This effort changes the means of delivery in the journey to free people trapped in self- and community-distructive cycles.

Organizational Development

What are your organization’s key performance indicators?

Community organizations and private businesses create change in response to the values and beliefs of a community. Testing for these values is a particular strength of nonprofit community service organizations, but small businesses also perform well in this area.  Small companies and charitable nonprofits advance the opportunity for growth by adapting well to change.  Here are three examples:

  • Risk Management – How does your organization define and manage risk?
  • Timely Evaluations – What steps are taken to preserve capital and leverage public confidence?
  • Conduct an Effort to Outcome Analysis – Do you use client management software?

The Organizational Development Report often precedes a Strategic Plan.  OD creates levels of goal assurance. Efforts are evaluated as individual tasks combine knowledge with interpersonal behavior.  New sources of capacity occur with acknowledgments that confront impediments. 

Strategic Planning is a tool to advance an organizations development with an external environmental scan. The scan examines competitive and cooperative relationships that are possible among the full range of civic, business, and public agencies. The SP Report produces a road map for the executive staff that improves operations, and interpersonal communication with flexible, scalable, and reasonable procedures.

Knowledge Capital Assessment 

In the United States, an entire generation has been fundamentally untouched by global war, disease, or famine.  This group is rapidly becoming “fifty-something,” and that is reasonably good news because human resource managers and executive directors face the dual challenge of retaining key people in their organizations. Most jobs are knowledge-based, and older workers, in increasingly large numbers, can fill these challenges into their 60s and beyond.  Along this line of thinking, is your organization prepared to address the following set of questions?


Organizational Development (OD) reports suggest the following quality of thinking:

  1. As an employer, you cannot guarantee your future, so how can you secure the careers of your employees?
  2. Are employees encouraged to be responsible for their own careers and life planning?
  3. Will new ways to offer career options such as flexible time encourage your most experienced staff to explore fewer hours, with less stress and less pay?
  4. Will older workers help or hinder in developing the careers of younger workers?
  5. What the differences in how older vs. younger workers seek advancement?
  6. Have you developed succession plans for employees eligible to retire over the next five to eight years?
  7. Have you measured the gap between the talent you need in five years in comparison to the ability currently available?
  8. Are you training products on your list of investments to ensure employees of all ages can achieve ‘sustainable’ employability within your organization or elsewhere?
  9. Has the question, ‘Is there a retirement ‘life plan’ been asked of the older staff? Is a plan in place to assure this occurs at least five years before retirement date?


The United States produced 99 million jobs in 1980, with 107 million workers in the labor force looking for jobs. By 2010 a reversal is expected. There will be 168 million jobs but just 158 million workers,  a shortfall of 10 million that includes recession impacts.

By 2010, about 64 million people(40%) in the labor force today (2007)  will reach retirement age. This will be the healthiest, longest-living, and the best-educated group of retirees in American history.

Mark Freedman, in Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life,  examine the national implications of the old/young staff and anticipates many questions about keeping this resource affordable. (See Questions)

These and many other issues face organizations of all sizes and missions.  We will be pleased to explore the OD report option with your organization.

For more information on this particular question, we recommend the Urban Institute’s Retirement Project website for its research briefs.  The economic influence caused by a higher percentage of the older people in the population we love to call the boomers will be with your organization for some time.  Try these brief papers:

  1. Will Retiring Boomers Form a New Army of Volunteers? (8 pages, PDF)
  2. Retaining Older Volunteers Is Key to Meeting Future Volunteer Needs (6 pages, PDF)
  3. Are We Taking Full Advantage of Older Adults’ Potential? (8 pages, PDF)

Get Strategic

Is this a Club of Rome Graphic?
I still do strategic planning. Mostly for fun or get even.

Planning .:.
Select objectives that measure the accomplishment of goals.

  • define policies that govern resource acquisition, use, and disposal
  • find resources to acquire objectives
  • adjust to changes in these objectives

Networking .:.
Key services and components for strategic action:

  • Scan the environment
  • Selection of “key” issues
  • State vision/mission statements
  • Conduct an external and internal analyses
  • Develop goals, objectives and strategies
  • Implementation actions selected
  • Monitor, update, and re-scan

Model Selection .:.
The strategic model is one that:

  • Emerges from a mutually beneficial partnership
  • Allows for meaningful participation throughout the planning and design process
  • Results in tactical implementation for a self-renewing design and planning solutions
  • Provides opportunities for innovation in the use of materials and methods
  • Promotes a “many-disciplines” discourse for collaborations to generate creative ideas
  • Fit appropriately in physical, social, economic and cultural context
  • Responds to concerns about environmental, operational and economic sustainability
  • Allows participants to build/own the project
  • Responds to concerns effectively and quickly


Additional information about publications with access to Adobe PDF documents where noted.

Good, Deeds, Good Design
Princeton Architectural Press, New York (2003)

Over the last twenty years, Rex Curry has taught a variety of urban planning seminars and studios in Pratt’s School of Architecture, the Graduate Program for Planning and the Environment, and in the Pratt Institute Center for Community Development.  As the former president of the national Association for Community Design, Inc. (ACD), he has furthered the development of this national organization by representing a combination of for profit and nonprofit planning and architectural practices in the United States.

One mainstay of community service through architecture is the community design center, some of which have existed for over twenty-five years and contributed a unique body of knowledge and great depth of experience.  CDCs have come to represent great potential for a new form of professional practice.  Read Article (pdf 365K)


In July 2000, a news headline described conditions in Chinatown in the following manner: “Boom times are the worst thing ever to have hit New York’s Chinatown.”  In January 2001, members of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) invested in the development of a “working papers” project and a survey of public opinion.  Over a period of six months, beginning in March 2001, research and interviews identified the facts, defined issues and encouraged mutual action in areas of shared interest.  On September 11, 2001 everything changed. The papers became a resource for recovery.    Read Executive Summary (556 .pdf)

Community Design
as a Standard of Practice

While at Pratt Institute, I sponsored a Fulbright Scholar interested in design, community participation and development.  When I received a call from the editor of Time Savers seeking contributions to their first publication of Urban Design Standards, I asked our resident scholar Dr. Sheri Blake if she would be interested in the project. The article link is below. 

When trapped in the matrix of metrics, Blake points out that change does not occur without persuasion.  In this sense, when the facts do nothing but paralyze a community, other methods are needed to develop the courage to change and grow with uncertainty.  Read Article (pdf 366K)

Gowanus Research Leads to Zoning Changes in 2007-2008

The freight moving capacity of the Gowanus Canal defined Brooklyn’s economic growth for a century.  The material the canal delivered are the homes that surround it.  Today, it there is less a robust but steady investment in environmental protection and lack of decline in some businesses that hint at its new potential.  This combination of economic inputs implies significant changes to the adjacent “upland” residential communities such as Boerum Hill, Columbia Heights, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and many others.

The choices outlined in the 1987 Gowanus Canal Development Study (GCDS) examine the potential for a sequence of land use changes into the future.  Data for local business and local nonprofit corporations provided measures of changing economic conditions.  A series of “sites” in the report offered probable development locations.  Several fragmented urban blocks over total area of 1.7 square miles, almost 467 acres define these locations.  The primary investment remains a public responsibility.  Making right a long series of past environmental wrongs has proven to take two decades vs. the 4 to 5 years originally estimated.  A subsequent analysis undertaken in 2000 identified the causal issues, but once again attempted to define and market development locations.

During the initial 4-5 year period the Canal’s ancient flushing mechanism was re-engineered using the same technology –  a pump to bring clean water into the Gowanus Canal to achieve “fishing and boating status” (level 7).  The next high level of need is the administration of environmental services to continue the process of land restoration and monitoring for intentional dumping and spills in the area.  This is where clean up efforts have stopped “dead in its tracks”.  Dumping is part of the Canal’s legacy, just putting clean water into it does not mean that CSO dumping has been reduced or the that the need for indemnification of past land owners by the public can proceed given the current status of the land and environmental protection reform. 

The 2000 report (a few of the pages are inserted below) included a detailed review of zoning history examining the last fifteen years of public land use decision making.  An argument promotes the “re-invention” of local business opportunities using a special district approach with financial incentives.  The vision is a revitalized canal business and industry center drawing on the substantial resource of design professionals in the area.  The challenge is it argued, is the revitalization of this part of Brooklyn’s waterfront landscape is through unifying the demand for employment with new affordable housing based on industrial product design and research. 

The community base of demand for “doing something” came from a visionay, a resident business man, and the unofficial Mayor of Carrol Gardens. Buddy S. Scotto’s saw a little bit of Venice, young entrepreneurs, and above all an end of its pollution. The central lesson here should be persistence. Any developer taking a modest look would require a fearlessness sense of risk. Since 1987, when I first started to take a serious look, I realize that position will hold through 2050 with a strong new group of advocates.

Survey of Outreach Programs 

This survey examined the relationship between graduate urban design programs and university-based community outreach programs.  The survey reports urban design programs in schools that included community outreach organizations.  In addition to those covered, six others, without graduate programs in urban design do have undergraduate programs:  Arizona State University, Tulane, University of Maryland, University of Tennessee, University of Oregon, and Yale.  To open and download the table (pdf 280k) Click Here

New York City Neighborhoods

A Commentary

The digital and the dense urban world have a unity of purpose. In this example, developed by the person (found here) you will find many of the officially named places drawn many sources. They are also the place names. In this case that would be a neighborhood. They are described in the multicolored map above. Click on one and a named place comes up. Follow the link to Reddit above and watch the magic begin with to happen with lots of new named places as each neighborhood area begins to fill up with place names among the Reddit participants. Here is an example:

The Hole is presented as a “small neighborhood in New York City between Brooklyn and Queens.[1] It is a low-lying area, with a ground level that is 30 feet (9.1 m) lower than the surrounding area.[2][3] The area suffers from frequent flooding.[4] It has been described as a “lost neighborhood”,[5] and like a border town from the Wild West.[6]. If you’ve ever taken the S. Conduit to JFK, ‘The Hole” was on the right just before you entered the highway (BQE).

I have a great affection for the people there and how they decided to live. Many times their participation in community block events throughout Bed-Stuy, East New York and East Flatbush and much of the city introduced a close up experience with a horse and the men who road them for lots of kids. This is because of the men from the New York City Federation of Black Cowboys.

If you got into this little bit of history and what led to the displacement of this outfit by another you’ll recognize a seriously complex story of loss, sadness, race and privilege. Then again, you might come across this wonderful song because you were curious about “the hole.” That is what happened to me when I decided to do this post.