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Cars to be banned from New York’s Central Park



central park

Bill de Blasio announced banning the vehicles from NYC Central Park starting June 27th to make it more pedestrian friendly. This included all roads that go through Central Park below 72nd Street. Bikers, joggers and walkers are happy. But not the taxi drivers who use the park as their traffic detour. Drivers would have to find another route to get to their destinations. The question arises whether these changes will impact the traffic in other city areas. The city officials claim that the impact will be minimal.

The park is built for people and they come there to escape the city and relax. Letting the cars in doesn’t let them do that. De Blasio also said that people should start focusing on urban life that will not depend on cars. Besides, this ban will help to partially solve the problem of air pollution. The number of visitors of the Central Park is expected to grow from 42 million last year to a much bigger figure now that the park will be cleaner and more pedestrian-friendly.

There is an exception to this ban, however. Police, emergency services and department vehicle will still be able to move through the Park.



Cuomo’s MTA will “review” Cynthia Nixon’s NYC subway T-shirst for trademark misuse




nyc subway

Cynthia Nixon touts many pressing issues in her Democratic gubernatorial campaign, and the condition of the New York City subway is certainly one of them. The city’s train system–hampered with delays and infrastructural disrepair for years–has been a cornerstone of her campaign ever since she announced her candidacy two months ago.

Today, she held a rally from–where else?–the subway. At Williamsburg’s Lorimer station (which I can attest is frequently overcrowded), Nixon told the crowd that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s rehabilitation needed to be better and fast. She also unveiled a series of tweets, Instagram posts, and even apparel aimed at calling out her opponent, Andrew Cuomo, and his inability to fix the subway system.
One issue that may arise, however, is Nixon’s use of the MTA’s trademarks. A shirt that Nixon is now selling on her campaign website, for instance, asks “What the F?” The “F” uses the known New York City subway image.
This could very well enrage the transportation authority. The MTA has been known to crack down on unauthorized use of its trademarks–including its subway lettering images. A New York Times article from 2013 describes small designers and big companies alike being legally threatened by the MTA for infringing its trademarks. These included sports teams using subway imagery, designers with MTA map images, and even bakeries that sell MTA-object-lookalike pastries.

With this history of enforcement, the shirt currently being sold could very well be considered an IP infringement. Indeed, an MTA spokesperson tells Fast Company, “As we would with any case involving the potential misuse of our trademark, we will review the matter and proceed accordingly.”

Reached for comment, a Nixon campaign spokesperson offered the following statement: “Governor Cuomo’s MTA should be focused on infrastructure issues, not copyright issues. What we did was a parody of the MTA, but for millions of New Yorkers, the daily disaster on the subway is no laughing matter.”

For now, you can still buy the shirt. The campaign says on its website that the purchase is “a donation to the Cynthia for New York campaign.” Maybe it’s best to get it now before the cease-and-desist letters come.


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Let the people, not politicians, choose the next New York attorney general: Schneiderman’s replacement should be elected





The sudden and shocking resignation of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has brought to light the archaic legal guidelines for replacing the Empire State’s chief law enforcement officer or its controller if the elected official resigns or dies while in office.

Under the current law, the governor appoints an acting attorney general until such time as the state legislature meets and votes on a candidate to fill out the term.

In a state with a seemingly endless number of ethically challenged elected officials, this is a recipe for civic disaster. Do we really want an attorney general who is beholden to the leadership of the state Senate and Assembly, especially when you consider that in recent years the leaders of both legislative bodies have been indicted on corruption charges?

Within hours after Schneiderman’s resignation, the backroom dealmaking had begun to see who could line up the necessary number of votes in the legislature to become the new attorney general. It now appears that New York City Public Advocate Letitia James is the frontrunner.

Both the attorney general and controller are supposed to be independent and, among their responsibilities, serve as checks and balances on other parts of the government. But how can they be truly independent if their heads are selected by members of the state legislature, with particular influence from the Assembly speaker?

That’s why I’m introducing legislation that would take the selection process out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the voters, as it should be in a democracy.

Under my legislation, the governor would have 60 days from the date the vacancy occurred to call a Special Election, which would take place in a 45-60 day window. If the vacancy occurred in the same calendar year as that office’s regular election — as it does this year — the solicitor general would be named attorney general (or the in case of the comptroller, the first deputy comptroller) until the November general election picks a replacement.

Under this system, the usual primary process would take place to select the party nominees for the general election in November. Additionally, this would prevent the unfair advantage of an acting attorney general or controller running for election while already holding the job title.

New Yorkers have every reason to be cynical about how state government operates; the “old-boy network,” backroom budget deals and the cloud of corruption that hangs over Albany have made them that way.

Think about it; over the past dozen years, a governor and an attorney general have resigned over sex scandals, a controller was convicted on corruption charges surrounding a “pay-to-play” scheme regarding the state Pension Fund and two Senate leaders and one speaker of the assembly have been indicted on corruption charges.

That’s not even taking into account the cavalcade of legislators who have either resigned due to a scandal or been indicted or convicted for some form of corruption or malfeasance.

I doubt any state in the nation can rival this dubious record; it alone is a good reason to remove the Legislature from the process.

The path to reform won’t be easy, but a potentially good start will be squandered if the Legislature acts to install an interim attorney general and doesn’t let Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood, the accomplished solicitor general who is now serving in Schneiderman’s role, to complete his term.

Let the people select the next attorney general this November. And if this ever happens again, make sure the power to choose is in their hands, not the hands of Albany insiders.


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Corruption Retrial Begins for Former New York Assembly Speaker




sheldon silver

Twice in the past three years, former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has sat in the same Manhattan federal courtroom and heard opening statements in his public-corruption trial.

“Power. Greed. Corruption,” then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen repeated in her November 2015 opening statements, in a courtroom that included former-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“Quid pro quo. This for that,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated in a similar fashion on Monday, in a courtroom that included current Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Monday marked opening statements in the retrial of Mr. Silver, now 74 years old, who is being tried once again on charges of honest-services fraud, extortion and other crimes. Federal prosecutors have accused Mr. Silver of using his state power for personal gain, netting millions in profit.

Lawyers for Mr. Silver, who has pleaded not guilty, say the longtime legislator’s activities may appear distasteful but aren’t criminal.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In 2015, a jury convicted Mr. Silver of seven counts and, the following year, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced him to 12 years in prison. After the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of some public-corruption crimes, a federal appeals court last year vacated Mr. Silver’s conviction.

Judge Caproni, who also presided over Mr. Silver’s first trial, estimated the current trial would take about a month. Mr. Silver, who wore a headset that appeared to be a hearing-aid type device, sat quietly during the proceeding, appearing not to look at the jury.

In his opening statement, Mr. Williams portrayed Mr. Silver, a powerful Democrat who for decades represented lower Manhattan, as greedy and deceitful. Year after year, he said, Mr. Silver took bribes then lied to cover them up.

“This was not politics as usual,” Mr. Williams said. “This was politics for profit, and no one played that game better than Sheldon Silver.”

Mr. Williams outlined two schemes. In the first, he said, Mr. Silver steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds to a prominent mesothelioma doctor. In exchange, the doctor sent patients to law firm Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., which paid Mr. Silver referral fees. The firm didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

In a second scheme, Mr. Silver supported policies to benefit certain developers, which steered its business to the Goldberg & Iryami law firm that also paid Mr. Silver fees.

In all, Mr. Silver netted about $4 million, which grew to roughly $5 million after he invested it, Mr. Williams said.

Michael Feldberg, a lawyer representing Mr. Silver, argued that Mr. Silver’s acts weren’t criminal, and certainly didn’t involve bribes.

“Imagine you’re Shelly Silver,” Mr. Feldberg said, before continuing to give much of his opening statement in the second person. You devoted your life to public service, and you were so good at serving that you got elected to be speaker of the state Assembly, he said. And while you served, he said, you had another job.

A slide flashed on a projector showed two teal circles, with the words “outside income” and “legal” connected by a large equal sign.

He said everything Mr. Silver had done had not only been legal, but intended to help people, including those with cancer.  Referral fees are legal, accepted and common, Mr. Feldberg added.

A slide flashed on the screen. This time the teal circles contained the phrases “no crime” and “not guilty,” once again connected by an equal sign.

“Being imperfect is not a crime. It is human,” Mr. Feldberg continued. “Is any of us perfect?”


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