Si se puede

Set aside the question of how much of the earth can or should be urbanized. There is one lesson that helps us make the right choices with just three questions.  Regarding the business of making the urban structure sustainable, the first lesson might begin this way:

  1. If I am not for a limited urban presence on the earth, who will be?
  2. If I inform myself on this question in solitude, will it make it so?
  3. If I do not act now, when?

The long history of the phrase si se puede is spoken by people that require action in the fierce urgency of now. It can be recognized in the “Yes, you can!” and ” Yes we can” (si podemos) of President Obama’s first presidential campaign.  In my life, it was “What do we want? Peace!”  When do we want it? Now!”   The most useful actions create stories that assure the tale is taken home.  Whether the actions seek social justice and economic progress or ice cream and cake, it is the narrative that matters.

Exciting narratives track individuals who embrace effectiveness and error, efficiency, and miscalculation.  The three initial questions above are useful for building a stance that respects the individual globally, but they lack the mechanisms to change the phrase “If I” into “If we.”

Recurring trial and error experiences yields an organizing structure.  The main elements are, 1) willingly accepted delegations and 2) responsibility for the impacts of implementation.  Currently, the depth of this strategy is strong on delegation and weak on post-enactment accountability.  When both are fully active, combinations of skill in distributing tasks increase the potential for exchange and trade.  In turn, this broadens authorization and allocation cycles that fund increasingly successful plans.  In all of this, life-long learning becomes strong.  The lessons are frequent enough to continue the implementation with confidence.  As kids, we learn to swim, but first, we learn how not to sink.

Two other structures keep an organizing process functional – 1) the way information is transmitted and the most problematical – 2) access to it and the resources it describes.  Decisive questions such as; can mass replace cash? or 
can an a concerned activist, public produce a resource for establishing truth as effectively as cash to protect self-interest?

Authority is diverse, flexible, open, and temporary when “groups” create and control social structures.  The size remains in question, but in the democratic sense of consensual participation, a group will also be read as “a cell,” which carries very different connotations.  Margaret Mead settled this question by telling us not to doubt that small groups change the world because it is the only way it has ever happened.  Yes, decisions in the interest of a group or cell can be good or bad.  Finding ways to assure a greater number of the former over the latter is the central challenge.

Planners Network

My interest in the Planners Network ADPSR. ACD, SFI/Design Corps, and OAC in a brief who am I introduction with a plan of action seeking coordination with others on strategy.


Most of my city planning experience was about creating new land uses and changing the rules if needed. I helped to design and build many vest-pocket parks when Lindsay was mayor. (Yes, that old.) The city was littered with demolished building sites. Mostly, I remember the lawsuits paved with that good intention.

I also sustained old land uses. My favorite was writing the first historic structures report that contributed to the Weeksville Society’s preservation of three historic structures and constructing a multi-million dollar cultural center. Over the years, and with CDBG funding, I learned a great deal and wound up teaching a Historic Preservation Planning studio with former Landmarks Commissioner, Gene Norman.

The Brooklyn Sports Study resulted in the Cyclone minor league baseball stadium and significant new investment in Coney Island, a good place to play. It also left one of the sites I identified wide open for the rusty toaster, aka the Barclay Arena.

From major league sports to neighborhood commercial centers, the small business world contributes a source of community leadership that is naturally conservative and a source for gaining important perceptions. I enjoyed my predictive analysis of Myrtle Avenue’s future hugely as most of it came true. My last market analysis project on Malcolm X Avenue in Bed-Stuy is still dead because CPC’s zoning work ignored the miracle occurring on Throop. Access to more of my general BS is here

Resistance to change from communities is one of NYC’s most creative forces, perhaps the world. It helps create a basis for negotiations. A good example is when homes were taken in Brooklyn’s Northside for the “promise of” jobs, the fight was about replacing the homes lost. Replacing non-conforming but continuous use structures was a difficult argument. The mixed-use zoning law solution that came of it made Coney Island Mixed-Use District easy. Resistance in one community can contribute to many others’ success, but the jobs-housing ratio issue is the major lesson. The homes leveraged in Northside are still there, the jobs promised have come and gone, but new jobs are there, and the nondisplaced remain with equity to take them with a history of the power of resistance.

Network Regionally

I want to enjoy some added national and regional reflection on housing with Planners’ Network, ADPSR, ACD, and SFI because they are national membership organizations with a long history. The transformation of AFH into an Open Architecture Collaborative to sustain its global “open license” environment is another important institutional membership lesson. Social change movements see success when system change principles sharpen them. The measure for success was written best in the Port Heron Manifesto a half-century ago. It is a statement about the values and principles of participatory democracy (my take is here).

All these groups can do a much better job of communicating on common ground issues. I think a strong focus on the jobs/housing contract by region is the way to get that ball rolling. It is either that or a sad response to the only higher priority — food and water.

This is because of one thing Conor Dougherty said. His book Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, where the housing shortage is dire makes a great point that stuck with me — “Every problem is a housing problem.” I understand why this mild exaggeration makes a great point. Even though his stories are about the Bay Area Renter’s Foundation (BARF) he describes a national problem. We need local, state, and federal initiatives to create lots and lots of housing, with a strategy for affordability and in that order. You can’t make the fight for an affordable apartment/condo until it exists and it will not exist until there are lots at a market rate documented (here) in the German study. This ain’t the USA, but new housing supply developers there, lower rents throughout the rent distribution, shortly after the new units are completed. After that, and everyone should know this, it only about the cost of money.

I connected this to the “insights” outlined in the Geography of Jobs by the CPC metro office (here), to his jobs per housing unit observations in San Francisco at four to one. View and download the Geography of Jobs data (here). Sample charts below.

Every problem is a housing problem

The tri-state metropolitan region is covered in layers of governance. The region’s 3E growth problems have divided the management of shared natural resources and infrastructure into political chunks. Not good. The regional planning environment needs new and aggressive leadership to search for a more equitable metropolitan, multi-state future by untangling these layers and borders.

  1. Planners Network is Regional
    1. City Planning Metro Office
    2. Furman Center on Regional Displacement
    3. Community Land Trusts (here)
  2. Zoning GHG/NYC Energy Conservation Code
    1. Green Zone PDF (here)
    1. Ten years since the council approved
    2. Find reports measure progress
  3. Biden’s $640 billion housing plan was dropped in February – why?
    1. It is well-established community development legislation.
    2. Provides for financial assistance to buy or rent w/down payment assistance
    3. It had refundable and advanceable tax credits & full funding of federal rental assistance

The above is how I would write the PN four-year action plan (Biden and NYC) tuned regionally to the job/unit relationship. I am not in the position to do that, and I will have to wait to see if one. I will also do the same for the other membership organizations with a social justice agenda. The assumption is I will find common ground and that I will be able to compare things like mission statements and multiple year goal/action plans that reflect their memberships. I could be wrong, but wtf – won’t know until I look.

ADPSR continues to succeed on moral issues with the national AIA and it is growing in membership. ACD has its roots in a 1968 national conference of the AIA and has now become an empowerment vehicle for women-owned architecture firms with an interest in public service. Structures for Inclusion, Design Corps, SEED exhibit the power of networks in Public Interest Architecture training and accountability to social, environmental and economic change. One could say Sambo Mockbee’s Auburn University Rural Studio program in Hale County, Alabama is why it all came to be. Great design comes from a large heart, not a big bank account.

The final group of some interest (Architecture for Humanity) is a study in the pain involved in the attempt to produce a nonprofit architecture program. Health professionals have them, lawyers do, but engineers and architects remain closed to the idea of a national progressive movement in place making. Desipie basic mistakes in fund management Humanity became the Open Architecture Collaborative and continue to develop educational programming for designers and architects.

The placemaking idea by planners, designers and architects remains strong in the desire to inspire ownership and civic engagement by providing design leadership to traditionally marginalized communities as well as the 98% of the population that are held at arms length in the shaping of the places where they will live and work. It seems to a growing number of professionals that there is something wrong in sustaining a system that encourages place-ignorance.

Vote Splitting

There are so many political scientists around lately that I asked a friend if they ever manage to amass a small fortune. He said, “Well, you have to start with a large one and know when to stop. That said, if you ever must get rid of one at your door, just pay for the pizza.” Still, I have decided to command everyone near and far to do one thing despite all this silliness. STOP SPLITTING YOUR VOTE! If you need persuasion, I suggest reading:

  1. Why Americans Split Their Tickets, Barry C. Burden and David C. Kimbal and
  2. No Middle Ground How, Seth E. Masket

Why?

Political scientists determined to address election problems afflicting Americans give three points of view. First, the preference of Americans for a divided government is no longer a mandate for compromise. Second, the modern-media age falsely sharpens or intentionally blurs party differences to sustain the incumbency advantage. Third, this leaves one and only one thing of concern — the Benjamins for the next election. You can already sense the good and bad of these conditions concerning lections. However, it is time for one party to rise or fall on the vote, and that option alone. The “split tickets” book referenced above is about California. One about New York would be interesting – their methods are transparent. “No Middle” is scary.

Of course, other factors are in a vote for democracy. The main one is how partisanship is thrust on political leaders by actors outside the government to manipulate elections, especially primaries. The number of informal party-based organizations also contribute to polarized legislatures. I believe political leaders would prefer pragmatism to partisanship if voters had a way to give them that opportunity – ranked-choice voting is one. Maybe it solves the “split” problem in every election. Similar sophistication is needed to re-establish the vote as a device that reduces conflict. The interest now seems to create conflict. I am all ears on adding ideas there. See voting reform story (here) from City & State New York

Of course, the ideological positions of candidates still matter in American elections. Political parties have gained strength in state and national governments. Still, due to the false premise of compromise, the harmful effects remain among the three equal branches in local, state, and federal governments. It is time to say, “I solemnly affirm to pick one party, and only one party, so help me, God.” This leaves one central question.

I would leave a final judgment to historians. Yet, when this control occurs across the three-branch system, I see a thriving belief in Democracy because things can get done and evaluated. I offer the following modern examples:

  • 1927-1933, Republicans controlled all three branches of the government when Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the White House.
  • 1937-1945, Democrats controlled all three government branches during the administrations of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
  • 1953-1955, Republicans held all three branches during the presidency of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, nine senators died, and one resigned. These changes shifted the balance of power in the Senate with each new replacement, according to the U.S. Senate website.
  • 1961-1969, Democrats controlled all three branches during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Then it gets politically complicated, and not in a good way. During the last half-century, wealth has flowed exponentially to the top, leading to a growing sense of irresponsibility, if not outright confusion in their use of that power. The last time one party held all the chambers.

  • 2001-2007, Republicans held all three with interruptions. From 2001-2003 the Senate flipped to Democrats as one senator switched party affiliation, and one senator died. The 2002 midterm elections shifted control of the upper chamber to Republicans.

My taxi drove by the U.S. Congress in D.C. and I said, “I wonder how many people work there?” The driver said, “I’d say, less than half.” It was fun to laugh because it reflected a truth about recent political behavior that erodes American belief in its basic institutions. That will be the next post, researching the positions, opinions, and actions.

This post was stimulated by a recent ask of people on the “Indivisible” Map in BK and SI to exchange a few words.

  • Liat Olenick & Lisa Raymond-Tolan – Indivisible Nation BK (Indivisible)
  • Mustafa – Staten Island Women Who March (Facebook)
  • Nidhi Kanna – Staten Island 4 Change (Young Democrats)
  • Adelle McElveen – Indivisible Brooklyn (medium.com)
  • Janet Cardone – Indivisible North Brooklyn (Facebook)
  • Sally McMahon – Fight Back Bay Bridge (Facebook)
  • Reid Curry – New York Congressional Delegation (Facebook)
  • Saul Austerlitz – Brooklyn Resisters (Get Well Saul)
  • Celeste Wright – Indivisible Brooklyn Do or Die (Facebook)

CD Choice

Examine Choices

It has never been more important.

On June 26, 2018, the residents of the Ninth Congressional District had an opportunity to test leadership in Congress on criteria established by voters. Clarke won by a slim margin. Challenged again in 2020 she won again big time. Adem Bunkedekko was the closest rival, capturing 17% of the vote among four other bird-dogging candidates – all democrats.

Political leadership has gone to hell. New York leaders are useful when they respond to an urgent condition on a single issue. There is no outright fear for democracy, because better than most, they know it is practically gone. None of that is occurring. The only live-die-repeat is incumbency and the dead ones are the challengers.

Step One

Have a good long look at the candidates and their “watchers.” (See examples: Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) Ballotpedia’s fine details are here. Money equals victory. A national watch group, Open Secrets has the data to prove it, including the outliers that illustrate exceptions. The deep end of the data pool is with reports at the New York State Board of Elections.

Leaders with skills in critical thinking, creativity, responsiveness, and obedience will do well. Proof of unselfish giving is through service that includes a record of judgments publicly specified with grace and dignity. After reviewing the public expressions of our federal leaders, are challenges within the party positive and optimistic? Does the officeholder or the challenger have a bias toward getting results? Finally, good leaders know how the practice of listening to be heard gets their constituents to help themselves do the hard stuff.

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Adem and Yvette

Adem Bunkeddeko Lost in the first race by a slim margin, and he machine tanked him in the second


He got more votes the second time, yet adding votes from the three additional not really serious, probably “bird-dog” candidates, he would have still lost. The third time is the charm, I said. Off years are best. I hope he will write a review of the loss. Meantime, he now works as an Executive Director for CORO. He has been cultivating young leaders who seek to make a difference in our city and tackles the complex issues affecting New Yorkers. Please drop him a line at info@ademforcongress.com and if you want to know more before you do that, visit Adem’s Website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also has Instagram and Snapchat if you must.  If snail mail is your thing, you can write them to this mailing address: Friends of Adem, P.O. Box 130-427, Brooklyn, NY 11213.

Yvette Clarke
Drop the candidate a line on the federal website. She has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. To write via snail mail the local address, 222 Lenox Road, Suites 1 & 2 Brooklyn, NY 11226, and a D.C. address, 2351 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. I would be amazed if you get an answer beyond stat and pat. She is a guaranteed tow-the-line Democrat, so there is that, I suppose.

Step Two

The national Campaign Finance Institute confirms the long-term success of this legislation in its testimony to the NYC Campaign Finance Board in 2017. (The Act). After thirty years, the NYC CFB has protected voters. Perhaps the best example is NYC representatives sustain the “F” rating from the NRA in their demand for stringent legislation regarding the use and purchase of weapons for war. That is where the feds (your representatives in Congres) come into the picture to confront and confirm national policy.

In NYC, the Campaign Finance Act has kept the local government on the side of working New Yorkers for the last three decades. A $6-to-$1 match of small donations turns a $100 donation into $700. The law has strict contribution limits and an outright ban on all corporate money, and an excellent enforcement record.

Political Action Committees

The Political Action Committees (PAC) come into the picture today as a permanent part of federal election campaigns. They represent almost 40 percent of an elected candidate’s campaign funding. A challenger is far less likely to be supported by a PAC.  The PAC phenomenon began in the 1950s, but since then, their corrosive influences over Congressional Representatives reflect the concentration of wealth in the U.S. and the rule that corporations have a right to political speech as people and that money is speech.

Unlike people, wealthy corporations can live forever. Corporate outfits such as the NRA and the Koch brothers have a large bag of political tricks designed by well-paid political operatives to protect specific interests, not including the bot/troll issues that confuse voters further. It was a sign of real trouble when New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer asked his constituents to help fight against Koch Brother attack ads against a fellow Senator, Joe Donnelly (D) from Indiana with a help him Keep His Seat! Email blast.

Representative Government, Election Waves, and Money
Three Republican Congressmembers (Faso, Tenney, Katco) in NYS may have “toss-up” elections in 2018. To keep things in perspective Faso’s 2016 spending was: $2,904,089, Tenney’s was $885,895, and Katco’s was $2,384,152. These races could contribute to a wave-election referendum on the chaos in the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives and shift as many as 25 seats to Democrats. (See NY Mag summary here). The 2018 mid-term election might have a single issue.

Peter King, a member of the Republican Party, is completing his 14th term in Congress, having served since 1993, and he quit. Clarke has been there twelve years and barely serves and runs on “good attendance” and perks from PACs.

Federal Committees of NY Senators

By way of Ballotpedia

Chuck Schumer is a Member of:
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Committee on Printing
Committee on Intelligence (Select)
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Kirsten Gillibrand is a Member of:
Committee on Aging (Special)
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry
Committee on Armed Services
Committee on Environment & Public Works

THANKS FOR PICKING ONE AND FOLLOWING THE $$

Participants were able to produce a slim margin in 2020,

In the Wind

On January 4, 2013, The New York City Independent Budget Office of New York City published a study on the cost of Hurricane Sandy in overtime pay. As part of that study, the chart below illustrates who made the most money. There is a way to look at this sarcastically but helpfully. The Police as an institution is making a mess like Hurricane Sandy, but Sanitation was available to help clean it up. When it comes to the police, the people have no sanitation. There is an irony about this as the result of a modest bit of digging by the IBO because of a hurricane.

Irony: The nation’s rage is that hurricane.

The IBO: Reduced Funding for Reform

I know the connection to hurricane overtime pay is a stretch, (details here), but I’m sure the overtime numbers will be equally interesting in overtime pay for police, ironically in the name of the public’s safety and the protection of property. Last November, voters approved an increase in Civilian Complaint Review Board staffing. Does the Mayor’s Budget Plan Provide the Funds? No. Staffing for what would be a modest reform effort at best would be below the level approved by voters. Find out more: here for the deep end. Some of the points are:

  • In January, the Mayor released his Preliminary Budget for the upcoming fiscal year and included funding for 17 additional Civilian Complaint Review Board positions to comply with the new City Charter mandate. In April, the Mayor dropped these positions from his Executive Budget for a savings of $1.1 million in the fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1.
  • The City Charter revision approved by voters in 2019 included language providing the Mayor with authority to declare that “unforeseen financial circumstances” prevent the city from being able to attain the 0.65 percent minimum staffing requirement.
  • The city’s financial plan now includes funds for staffing the additional Civilian Complaint Review Board positions in 2022—one year later than previously planned. IBO estimates the city’s budget shortfall for 2022 is nearly $6 billion, a much deeper budget gap than the city faces in 2021.
  • Moreover, the actual size of the review board’s staff as of the end of February stood at 203, or 16 fewer than currently budgeted.

Prepared by Bernard O’Brien New York City Independent Budget Office

The NYPD still makes a giant money-sucking sound and the city runs on $90 Billion. A substantial sum. That is why the only good news is as of today June 30, 2020, Mayor Da Blabla – cut one billion out of the NYPD’s budget. Dig in: Office of Management and Budget – NYC.gov

I would like to eventually find out if the staffing for the Review Board will be replaced, and what was cut, and if it makes sense to the police reform advocates.

Seven Facts About the NYPD Budget (here)
Source: Citizens Budget Commission

  1. About $11 billion from the City’s budget are allocated to the NYPD.
  2. The NYPD has the third-largest agency operating budget.
  3. Most of the NYPD budget is for salaries and wages, and the largest share funds street patrol.
  4. About one-third of NYPD employees are civilians.
  5. The average pay for police officers was more than $90,000 and as high as $190,000 for captains, including overtime.
  6. The NYPD budget has grown by one-third since the fiscal year 2010.
  7. NYPD headcount grew by more than 3,000 employees since the fiscal year 2010.

Funding Sources of the NYPD Budget

Most of the NYPD’s budget is funded by City tax dollars:

  • 92 percent, or $5.2 billion, is City-funded
  • 6 percent, or $349 million, is federally funded
  • 2 percent, or $82 million, is State-funded
  • Less than 1 percent is from other categorical grants

Represent Us! Damn It!

Unbreaking America: Justice For Sale, an 8-minute short film

Expose the connection between the prison industry and our corrupt political system. The failure of America’s criminal justice system is a failure to trust. Trust this film. Pass the word.

Desmond Meade was in prison for 3-years, and Omar Epps grew up with the system stacked against his Brooklyn community.  We now know that lobbyists and special interests have worked together for decades to keep our criminal justice system broken. They pressure politicians for harsher sentences, they push to keep our jails filled, and they even get tax kickbacks for using inmates as free labor.

Represent Us is getting better and better. For the posts that caught my attention, just search “represent us.” Send them a few bucks. We might get our congressmembers back. The emphasis in this outfit is on one word Us.

Verizon on Notice

 Lawsuit Begins Against Spectrum-Time Warner Cable & Charter Communications

The suit alleges these companies have defrauded New Yorkers on the advertised Internet speeds and Performance vs. actual performance.  This also puts Verizon on notice for non-compliance of its franchise agreements with NYS and NYC.  So this is a good thing.

I do not know how many of you took the speed test for Eric, but I’m really glad to see Verizon stepping up to the plate as a result of Eric’s work on this issue.  Looks like we don’t have to dump that huge bundle of stock just to make a point.  C’est la vie, n’est c’pas? What happened to Eric t. Schneiderman? (wiki)

For your interest in the broadband story use this LINK.

Verizon’s Political Contributions

The Center for Responsive Politics keeps a record of corporate dollars for political representatives. The table and map (below) looks at the House of Representatives for Brooklyn and surroundings.

AKNA’s representative is Yvette Clarke (D-NY District 9, First elected 2006, election 2016 (won) next election November 6, 2018.

She serves on two committees: Energy and Commerce and Small Business. She received $3,500 from Verizon and $4,000 from Cablevision Clarke’s total campaign contributions was $519,110.  But a total of over $80,000 is from the communication and electronics sector. (Source)

The purpose of the money from Verizon and the others is obviously designed keep Clarke’s office away from Verizon.  Is that why there is (no FiOS, bad cable and poor wireless service) in her district?

Yvette D. Clarke received 82% of campaign contributions ($537,295) from outside the district. (Rank: 206 out of 421.) and received 32% of campaign contributions ($211,772) from outside the state. (Rank: 399 out of 421.) That was 2016.

For more government information, sources see Call to Action (service map) and Representatives for additional research on political leaders and other candidates for relevance.

Notes: In the 2014 Cycle, Senator Schumer received $5,000 from Verizon, and Senator Gillibrand received $10,000 from Cable Vision. Congressman Joe Crowley (Queens District 14 Elected in 1998) received $35,700 from Verizon and Cablevision in 2014.  Since the 1998 election, he has received over $3million in total contributions. Crowley serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee that determines all Federal methods for raising revenue.  Some insight comes from the huge increase in contributions to members elsewhere:  

See Tweet re: Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Disclosing: Broadband Internet providers gave, on average, 2.9 times more money ($67,272) to members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee compared to members of the entire House of Representatives ($23,186).

#WAITING4FIOS

Corporate Verizon

In 2008, Verizon promised New York City people that it would wire all corners of the city with high-speed fiber optic cable, bringing competition to internet, video, and phone service in New York City to improve service and bring down prices. Verizon promised to make high-speed, reliable, and affordable internet available to any New Yorker who wants it. Now, 7 years later, too many New Yorkers are waiting.

Common Cause/NY, Consumers Union, and Borough President Eric Adams sponsored a FiOS public forum on Tuesday, November 17th at 7 PM at Brooklyn Borough Hall.  Obtaining Verizon FiOS and the impediments to obtaining that service.

AKNA Will Be Attending

Please join Eric Adams, Common Cause/NY and the Consumers Union
Tuesday, November 17th. All are welcome to attend and be heard. Click here to RSVP

More Information:
Brooklyn Borough Hall |askeric@brooklynbp.nyc.gov | www.brooklyn-usa.org
209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

A good place to look for current news on issues the Federal Communications Commission manages will be found in the New York Times’ Times Topics section. (here)

I like my bird phone!

Albemarle Kenmore Neighbors Association

Before the advocacy effort began, the AKNA community, like many in the United States, streams their data through digital subscriber line (DSL) modems over copper telephone lines. These lines are in rapid, if not catastrophic, deterioration since their post-WWII installation. Other nations, recognizing the public benefit first and profit second, made high speed available to all as quickly as possible. The United States, on the other hand, requires a broad base of public support to advance a particular cause or policy. Democracy should be exhausting in furtherance of a cause, but not in obvious importance of advance communication services.

Wire or fiber provides for telephone communication and internet services such as entertainment media and an ever-widening range of services such as security and other home management devices. Apart from the annoyance of outages and disruptions sourced to the phone lines or extreme weather, this system works at a reasonable cost and meets most needs in the experience of very few residents. Releasing the consumer’s power to affect change has many pathways. One thing became clear. This community will watch its old system deteriorate, decay, buzz, and crackle, or it can work diligently to acquire reliable telephone and internet services.

Located in a diverse, moderate-income community, the Albemarle and Kenmore are sheltered by its high quality of historic district architecture. Value is competitive, and it includes how well information is delivered on waves of light and electricity.  Verizon contributes directly to the failure of reliable cooper lines through disinvestment and only serves the community willing to fight them legally, and the list is very long.

The result of fiber is a low cost, fast connection that can be MOdulated and DEModulated, thus modem.  The copper phone lines serving AKNA provide less than 7 Mbps (megabits per second).  Most people experience less than two. Nevertheless, when converted by your modem to produce what you see on your computer, television, and other devices, these megabit packets are converted until they fail. When they do, there is no recourse.

The condition of AKNA’s copper lines.

Correctly installed cooper can produce up to 50mbps service.  Fiber optic cable (named FiOS by Verizon and Optimum by Cablevision) is thin optically pure glass that carries information with light for low signal loss. Data moves at high speeds over greater distances. “Legacy copper “legacy” is retired, but getting installed without high-end market demand is why the war began.

Copper and Fiber

Copper wire transmits electrical currents and provides good speed for voice and data within a building. Still, from there to your phone company and internet service providers (ISP), such as Verizon or Optimum, things can change.  The copper cable that telecom companies such as Verizon use are decades old, and much of it is not set up well.  The failure of Verizon to bring optical fiber close enough to make a connection is AKNA’s central problem. The ethernet cable  (pictured, top right) is only as good as the wire leading up to it.

Understanding internet speeds and bandwidths are important. Bandwidth is a measurement of consumed data resources expressed in bits per second (Mbps); it’s also referred to as maximum throughput.  Fiber provides greater bandwidth than copper and has standardized performance up to 10 Gbps. (gigabits per second) Here is the tricky part, a cooper cable (e.g., Cat-6 cable similar to the picture top right) can relay 600 megahertz (MHz) over 100 meters.

Comparing megabits and megahertz is like comparing apples and oranges, but a short answer is 100MHz is equal to 200Mbps. The megabit (the apple) measures data bits while megahertz (the orange) measures frequency, two very different things, but cables like these can handle 1000 Mbps speeds (gigabit Ethernet) at 100 MHz.  What AKNA needs is either material.  What it does not need is the current rate of decay of the old lines.

Broadband Infrastructure

Just like clean water, the telecommunications infrastructure of our community is important.  Unlike our water, it is not entrusted to a well-thought-out public trust. It is sold at auction and licensed to corporations such as Verizon by the FCC, the City, and New York. When it is vital to think long term, the pressures from the top-down, federal to regional, state, and local seem to weaken the city’s broadband infrastructure. This is one of those sneaky problems because most city residents who want access to the internet have it. They don’t know how bad it is. In fact, the New York State Broadband Program Office, Annual Report 2012-2013 claimed erroneously that 97% of city residents had access to high-speed broadband. This is wool over somebody’s eyes. The reality is very different. Since then, the office has become more accountable. (See the Verizon NSA Scandal article link below)

The experience with broadband service by the city’s neighborhood businesses and residents is summed up in one word – unreliable.  The likelihood of a blackout condition for telecommunications is a harsh reality. There is no backup, no hospital generator, and redundancy, such as switching from a Verizon account to Time-Warner Cablevision or others for service. This is a public/private arrangement in the licensing marketplace; however, a feeble regulatory structure allows the private sector to follow the money the same way, similar to the financial crisis of 2008. The city’s largest corporations in newer buildings enjoy high speeds (100 Mbps).  Smaller firms, businesses, including new tech startups, located in older buildings do not.  The state of the corporate mind is to avoid a gold standard approach at all costs.  But, it is worse than that….

In the New York City Council’s response to the Mayor’s FY 2015 Budget and 2014 Report said, “Last year, Verizon agreed to pay the City $50 million because of delays in projects associated with the Emergency Communications Transformation Project, the large scale effort to transform and consolidate the City’s 911 Emergency Dispatch System.”

This speaks to the potential of an injurious relationship between Verizon and the needs of New York City’s residents.  This and the June 2015 DoITT report require an earnest review of this relationship.  It seems that instead of moving forward, this corporation has decided that New York City needs to be punished for demanding accountability.

Deepend Resources:

The dispute between Verizon and NYC started in 2014 when de Blasio said Verizon was breaking its promise to expand its Fios fiber-optic service citywide. Three years ago, the city sued Verizon for failing to live up to its installation agreement. Deploying fiber in dense metro areas is an expensive proposition.

Nov 24, 2020
Report: Verizon, NYC settle six-year broadband dustup …

Internet 101

The hearing was packed with people.  About fifty workers from the CWA and another fifty people like us and some officials from community boards, the NYC Comptroller (audit report), and the Public Utility Law Project (analysis).  It was fun and informative – nothing like a mix of irate consumers and informed watchdogs. The post states the end of the comment period to the PSC is August 24, 2015.  If you have any personal experiences with Verizon, please use the comment section below and forward it to the PSC.

Testimony to the NYS Public Service Commission 7.15.15 We got action about two years later.

Delivered a short presentation at the PSC so the kids (including mine) could get services.

New York City’s entire infrastructure comes first, but there is a short list. The things on that list come before our physical mobility or concern for public structures from schools to seawalls, because without special care of the things on the short list, none of it matters.

Some may remember a lesson learned long ago in NYC when a young truck driver drove to his death as an elevated section of the West Side Highway collapsed before his eyes.  What was that lesson?  Preventative maintenance has no constituency, lobbyists, or stockholders demanding the regular use of paint on highway steel.

Hearings like this should be about our common sense powers. Only a few things require a “paint the steel” attitude, so here is the shortlist — gas, electricity, water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, including all government IT systems.

All of us know the last item on this list is now the glue holding it all together. We are wholly dependent on our ability to sustain our use of communication technology.  Today, it is a complicated mess, unlike the picture in this testimony of what the telecom system looks like in my neighborhood. Concerning our experience with Verizon and all of the ISP providers in our network, we need to reboot the ‘paint the steel’ lesson.  This is what the PSC should know and do:

  1. Every word written by DoITT and every other watchdog agency in New York City and State on this issue is true. All appear to stand helplessly before giants such as Verizon. Stand with the watchdogs on this one.
  2. Aggressively enforce the existing franchise agreement and eliminate ambiguity as we advance. This is required for one reason. The principle of “good faith” is dead or “passed.” The “handshake” between principles (Verizon and its customers) led to a nasty sucker punch. Stand with the watchdogs for as long as it takes. It would be best if you had the added resource.
  3. The FCC recognizes the need for a national high-speed infrastructure. The FCC set the minimum to 25 Mbps. In our experience, 3- to 6-Mbps means we do not have “broadband” as the report suggests. Stand with the FCC’s rules that are attempting to get us up to speed with the world.
  4. The children in my community love their phones to text and talk. Our kids have us, but businesses in my community, the city, and the state are without backup when service fails. Without the practice of net neutrality embedded in the 24/7/365 experience of growing in New York City and State, “text & talk” is all the young will have, and small businesses will have no backup. Back up is the first rule of IT. NYC does not have it.

The Albemarle-Kenmore Neighborhood Association (AKNA) is a community of professionals in many fields. We confirm the practices of Verizon contribute to landline decay; repairs are timely, but also repeatedly.  On other matters, the delay is in 10-day cycles lasting months or years.  This leads to a higher cost for service subtly.

The impact is damaging to the economy of my community and especially on low- and moderate-income households. Data lines are a vital source of access to the internet for work and education, news, and entertainment. Mobile services are heavily marketed but expensive for all three basic functions.

Verizon’s century-old copper lines’ unreliability leaves families with poor access to the most important economic stimulus of this century. This leads to added subscriptions to mobile and satellite services, further stressing our community’s bank accounts. Whether it is copper or fiber, the preservation and improvement of basic services are vital to our districts and neighborhoods’ families.

Verizon can claim ‘state of the art’ technology. With work like this, “anything is possible”.

The concerted effort of AKNAs members is like a rock and resistance from Verizon (and Cablevision) the hill.  Accordingly, we discarded the rock and launched a neighborhood media campaign in our own interest that we believe is in the entire community’s interest.

We seek the participation of a PSC technology officer. We believe that updates documenting our experience may be of use over the next few months or years.  We look forward to monitoring our combined progress on this issue.

Rex’s comments to the NYS Public Service Commission.  Share with this link:
https://youtu.be/nCnUtaDyEp0?t=2h26m20s or hit play below

PSC on Verizon

To Submit a Comment to the PSC 

Audrey Zibelman, Chief Executive Officer
Contact: James Denn
James.Denn@dps.ny.gov | (518) 474-7080
http://www.dps.ny.gov
http://twitter.com/NYSDPS
re: 15052/14-C-0370

Internet or Mail

In addition to speaking at the formal hearings, members of the public desiring to comment may submit written comments by sending them electronically to the Commission’s secretary at secretary@dps.ny.gov or by snail mail to:

Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission
Three Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1350

RE:  Comments on Verizon: Case 14-C-0370

Toll-free Opinion Line: Submit through the Commission’s Opinion Line at 1-800-335-2120. Comments on pending cases from in-state callers may occur 24 hours a day. Callers should press “1” to leave comments for the cases referenced above.

A summary of comments are reported to the Administrative Law Judge and the Commission. The report may be obtained at http://www.dps.ny.gov/TelStudy/ or by searching Case14-C-0370 in the Department’s Document and Matter Management System (DMM).

Submit comments no later August 24, 2015, but will be accepted throughout the pendency of this proceeding. Written comments will become part of the record considered by the Commission.

Access written comments may be accessed on the Commission’s website by searching Case 14-C-0370 in the input box labeled “Search for Case Number” and clicking on the “Public Comments” tab. Many libraries offer free Internet access.

The Commission’s decision will be on the Commission’s website.  Search for Case 14-C-0370 as described above.

Obtain Commission orders from the Commission’s Files Office, 14th floor, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223 (518-474-2500).

Call to Action

The approximate FiOS footprint in four of NYC’s 5 boroughs as of June 30, 2014 (via the Broadband Map) Brooklyn and the AKNA area is highlighted (right)

A letter to our representatives in the City Council and U.S. Congress is being prepared. It will call their attention to this website resource and cover the following points.

Your comments and suggestions are requested on the following. Besides, AKNA members are asked to share any contact they may have enjoyed with Yvette Clark or Mathiew Eugene’s replacement next year or so.

AKNA is in the Ninth Congressional District (top left).  This District is ranked fiftieth in the nation, and it is the lowest ranking district in New York City for access to quality broadband services.

Yvette Clark’s position on “net neutrality” was right on the mark at the beginning of the year.  The security of our district regarding people to people communication was the key issue her office presented.  The right words are not enough.

AKNA is in the Fortieth City Council District (middle left) and shares in the poor ranking dilemma of Brooklyn’s access to quality and security.  Councilmember Eugene’s primary focus on young people is greatly admired, as no group in New York City needs these services more greatly.

Actions aimed at Verizon by our representatives are needed.  A thoughtful and coordinated approach toward the behemoth Verizon is needed to fully understand the dynamic between the NYC government, its agencies such as DoITT, and NYS and Federal policies on this question.  All confront the ability of the FCC to encourage and require compliance.

The value of tax rebates to the providers (Verizon in our case) on the cost of infrastructure “deliverables” will be measured by the FCC’s new requirements for higher speed delivery to customers. The question AKNA’s media advocates and political representatives must ask is this:

If the ISPs do not get their speeds to FCC state and city standards will they still get all their lucrative tax credits and related incentives?

No doubt Verizon and their subsidiaries such as Earthlink will continue to sell DSL modems and service, but…Verizon will violate consumer laws and regulations if they call it “broadband” and attempt to use DSL’s lower speeds and quality as an excuse for not deploying broadband to all Americans in a timely way and compliance with “net neutrality.”

The New York City Council’s response to the Mayor’s FY 2015 Budget and 2014 Report said, “Last year, Verizon agreed to pay the City $50 million because of delays in projects associated with the Emergency Communications Transformation Project, the large scale effort to transform and consolidate the City’s 911 Emergency Dispatch System.”

The potential of an injurious relationship between Verizon and New York City’s residents’ needs concerns us greatly. The $50M fine and the June 2015 DoITT report suggest a critical review of this relationship is needed. It seems that instead of moving forward, Verizon has decided that New York City needs to be punished for demanding accountability.

The FCC main point in the 2015 Broadband Progress Report follows:

“Reflecting advances in technology, market offerings by broadband providers and consumer demand, the FCC updated its broadband benchmark speeds to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.”

The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 was deemed inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way.  DSL services to 4 million of AT&T’s 16 million broadband subscribers and 2.6 million of Verizon’s 9.2 million subscribers will not meet this new standard. AT&T’s fastest DSL offerings only reach 6 Mbps down, while Verizon’s DSL speeds top out at <10 Mbps, and a Verizon spokesperson speaking to Ars Technica said, “We currently do not have any plans to enhance that.[DSL].”