If You’re Homeless in New York City, You Have to be Ready for Your Closeup

Living the dream? On first impression I was upset, thinking a bunch of tourists were being ironic by filming this homeless guy and then I saw the massive camera and realized this wasn’t a casual endeavor but a major investment and they must be making a film. The so-called homeless dude must have been an actor or maybe even the director, because he was discussing the filming with the crew in a relaxed, collegial way. And, as I walked away, I was still upset.

New York City’s Skyline Never Stops Changing

I had a chance to visit the roof of my office building and was reminded that nearby the construction of skyscrapers in Hudson Yards continues apace. Buildings–especially large ones–always seem so permanent, and yet the massive project, which is taking place over 28 acres in Manhattan, reminds me that buildings come and go. If people are so good at creating cities that reach the sky, why can’t we solve world hunger, end poverty, bring everlasting peace? Is it really a defect in human nature or is it just misdirected resources–i.e., if the $20 billion being invested in the Hudson Yards were spent on public health we might be able to, say, end malaria?

Platform Controllers Do Their Part to Fix the Subways–But More is Needed

I’m seeing more and more folks in the New York City subways wearing vests that say “Platform Controller.” The people who wear them carry flashlights to signal to the conductors when they can close the doors and sometimes they shout instructions to stand aside to let people off and not block the doors when people are trying to get on. They provide a sense of order to what often feels like chaos, especially during rush hour, but lately they seem to be the only strategy the MTA is applying to address the growing delays that are snarling travel.

On one level, it’s reassuring to be reminded that humans can step in when technology fails. But obviously a system that moves 6 million people a day needs more than a few people in smart vests to solve its problems. Cuomo recently declared a state of emergency in the subways, pledging $1 billion for improvements, but with subway delays jumping to more than 70,000 each month, from about 28,000 per month in 2012, the improvements can’t come fast enough.

 

 

Judith S. Kaye (1938-2016)

Judith S. Kaye, the first female chief judge and the longest serving chief judge of the New York State Court System, died today. She played an instrumental role in founding the Center for Court Innovation, where I have been privileged to work as a writer and editor promoting justice reforms, and she was an outspoken leader in making courts more creative, user-friendly and effective. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right, dissenting in the 2006 case in which a four-judge plurality on the New York Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex couples didn’t have the right to marry. “I am confident that future generations will look back on today’s decision as an unfortunate misstep,” she wrote in her dissent. (The New York Legislature legalized same-sex marriage in 2011).

I interviewed her a number of times, including for this article, which appeared in The Judges’ Journal in 2002, and for a video about the Center. Excerpts of the video are available here.