Appealing to Subway Riders – Weed Your Next Messiah, Weed for Rails

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Could Weed Save New York’s Awful Subways?

A new proposal called Weed for Rails thinks so.

On April 27, 2019 the L train in New York City will shut down for 15 months between Manhattan and Brooklyn to repair damage caused during Hurricane Sandy. Leading up to the closure, VICE will be providing relevant updates and proposals, as well as profiles of community members and businesses along the affected route in a series we’re calling Tunnel Vision. Read more about the project here.

After years of backpedaling and underinvestment, New York’s lawmakers are poised to enter 2019 sincerely convinced (finally) of two things: that the New York City subway system is deeply fucked, and that it will take a lot of money to fix it.

Alas, what has launched in recent weeks is a scramble of proposals—some old, some new—to pay for the billions of dollars that the MTA will need to merely get the subway system up to par with the rest of the world’s major transit networks. It’s probably the best chance America’s largest city has had in decades to get the infrastructure that it has long deserved.

In July 2017, journalist Aaron Short highlighted on this website one of those proposals: legalizing weed to help fix America’s infrastructure crisis. The places that have legalized, he wrote, have amassed millions of dollars in tax revenues, which has since been reverted to help pay for infrastructure in states like Washington and Colorado. New York—which has nearly quadruple the population of Colorado and an economy bigger than countries like Argentina and the Netherlands—could stand to benefit immensely from taxing pot, Short argued. So why not put it to the subways?

And that’s exactly what a growing chorus of elected officials in New York are now thinking.

Earlier this month, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson came out in support of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, and using that tax revenue to help pay for the subway fixes. He promised to urge Albany—including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has softened his tone on the issue as other northeastern states have legalized—to act.

Joining Johnson, his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has formally made the proposal—what she has titled ‘Weed for Rails’—a centerpiece of her candidacy for the city’s public advocate office, which will see a special election called in late February to fill the citywide seat. The former Council Speaker also sits on the MTA Sustainability Advisory Working Group, which is considering nearly a dozen potential revenue sources. And this is one of them.

VICE reached out to Mark-Viverito to find out more about the idea, and other potential ways to fund the city’s subways. (That includes Amazon.) Here’s what she had to say.

VICE: First off, what’s wrong with the New York City subway system?

Melissa Mark-Viverito: It’s in major crisis. It affects the quality of life for everyday New Yorkers, and it’s also affecting, obviously, the vitality of the city. When you talk about our mass transit system—which is the largest, and so important in getting New Yorkers around—between the buses and the subways, you hear people’s complaints of the commutes every single day. The delays; the lack of investment over years, and the infrastructure. Now, everything has just come together, and it’s this crisis. You know, ‘We haven’t updated the signals, so that’s the delays. The infrastructure is a mess.’ I was doing a meet and greet this morning underneath the 7 train, and that line is the number one complaint of those communities. If you see the videos, how horribly overcrowded they are. But it’s happening all over.

So it’s just a crisis, which I don’t think is getting the attention that it merits. We all know it’s broken. We all know it needs fixing. But I don’t hear people providing solutions. So utilizing the position of public advocate and this candidacy, I really want to champion that issue, bring the conversation to the forefront, and recommend some sort of policy solutions. And that’s where the Weed for Rails came about.

How would Weed for Rails work?

It’s about us saying, ‘This is a substantive source of revenue that a portion of it we can allocate to this critical infrastructure need, which impacts particularly low-income and working-class communities, who have limited options.’ If you got resources, you can call an Uber or Lyft every day to get you around. But if you’re somebody who relies on the transportation system, even though it’s still expensive for many, then you’re limited in your options. So this is impacting your ability to get to work on time. It’s impacting spending quality time with your family. If you get delayed to work, you could have an employer who doesn’t accommodate or be flexible, so it could impact your employment. It could impact the quality of life of your children, who have to wake up earlier to get to school because of it.

It’s a serious issue, and for me, saying, ‘Alright, I believe in legalization of marijuana—let’s legalize marijuana; second, that source of revenue, we’re going to apply some of it to the critical infrastructure needs of our transit system; and the remainder, we’ll invest and create opportunities in communities that have been overcriminalized and have been disproportionately impacted.’ [Another candidate for the office, Rafael Espinal, criticized the plan for not giving back enough to these communities.] That’s a concrete recommendation, and people are reacting to it. It’s obviously stirring up debate, and that’s what we need right now. We need to focus, and we need to take this to be the crisis that it is.

What do you think are the issues that led to this?

It’s always with infrastructure. It’s not just with our transit system, to be honest. It’s with our bridges, and in general, the lack of continued investment in the infrastructure of our city—NYCHA public housing is another example of that. So when you see that, over the years, it accumulates to a point where it’s not addressed and it becomes a crisis. And that’s the point where we find ourselves. So a historic disinvestment in that, and that’s basically what it is.

What do you think about other spending proposals on the table?

Obviously congestion pricing is something I support, and I’ve been a supporter of it strongly since 2008. And the fact that we haven’t passed that is ridiculous. But that revenue alone is a drop in the bucket in terms of the needs of the MTA. So the capital construction is where I’m talking about investing the money, but then there’s the operational side, which is a whole other set of conversations. That’s about pensions, management in general, and how the MTA functions. That’s a separate conversation. But my recommendation is specifically about investing in the infrastructure needs. When we talk about President Andy Byford’s Fast Forward Plan, he’s talking about uploading a lot of the capital infrastructure work. You know, bringing it closer—within 10 years, as opposed to 20 or 15 years. In doing that, you’re basically going to have front load, and put more money into that. To realize that plan, we need to invest heavily. So the gap is huge, and it’s billions of dollars that we’re talking about. Trying to at least address that plan, which is to bring the capital infrastructure up to speed, is where I’m focusing the plan on.


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Recreational Marijuana in New York…. A Kosher-not-so-Kosher Harvest?

Cuomo preparing recreational marijuana plan for New York in 2019

Thomas Franck 


  • The Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday reaffirms its goal of creating a program for regulated marijuana use.
  • As part of a well-telegraphed initiative, the governor’s office hosted the listening sessions throughout September and October to gauge community appetite for legal cannabis.
  • A May study by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer projected marijuana use could foster a $3.1 billion market in the state.
  • In Colorado, marijuana retailers made $1.5 billion last year and accrued $247 million in taxes and fees, according to state records

The Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to creating a model program for controlled recreational marijuana use in New York State.

“As we have said since August, the goal of this administration is to create a model program for regulated adult-use cannabis — and the best way to do that is to ensure our final proposal captures the views of everyday New Yorkers,” said Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens.

“That’s why Governor Cuomo launched 17 listening sessions in cities across the state to give every community in every corner of New York the opportunity to be heard,” Stevens added. “Now that the listening sessions have concluded, the working group has begun accessing and reviewing the feedback we received and we expect to introduce a formal comprehensive proposal early in the 2019 legislative session.”


As part of a well-telegraphed initiative, the governor’s office hosted the listening sessions throughout September and October to gauge community appetite on the implementations of a regulated marijuana program in New York State. Cuomo’s office said in August that community input would “assist the Regulated Marijuana Workgroup in drafting legislation for an adult-use marijuana program for the legislature to consider in the upcoming season.”

Earlier this year, a multi-agency study commissioned by Governor Cuomo and led by the Department of Health concluded that “the positive effects of regulating an adult marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

“I have reviewed the multi-agency report commissioned last January and have discussed its findings with Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker,” Cuomo said on Aug. 2. “The next steps must be taken thoughtfully and deliberately. As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice and State revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it.”

Shares of major Canadian cannabis producers that trade on U.S. exchanges closed mixed on Tuesday. Tilray and Cronos Group both fell, while Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis rose 6.9 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively. Some of the shares ticked higher after the NY Post reported the comments from Cuomo’s office.

While cannabis in the U.S. remains federally illegal, the industry analysts believe the U.S. market for cannabis could be sizable, with the current illicit market valued at around $40 billion to $50 billion. According to the latest Gallup poll, 66 percent of survey respondents now support legalizing marijuana. That’s a record high and was the third consecutive year that support for legalization has increased to record levels.


A study released in May by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer projected OKing marijuana use could foster a $3.1 billion market in the Empire State.

The comptroller’s office also said that, by applying tax rates in line with other states, New York could “reap as much $436 million annually in new tax revenue from legal marijuana sales.” New York City alone could garner as much as $335 million, Stringer’s office said, which “could be used to invest in communities most damaged by decades of criminalizing marijuana usage and possession.”

In the 2018 midterm elections, Michiganders chose to authorize the legalization of possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by those who are at least 21 years old. Ten states and the District of Columbia have now approved recreational use of pot.

In Colorado, marijuana retailers made $1.5 billion last year and accrued $247 million in taxes and fees, according to state records.

WATCH: Cramer says Altria needed Cronos deal to show a pulse

$3.1 Billion Recreational Use Marijuana in NY, Toking it up with Cuomo…. Are We Taking Bets on Ultra-Orthodox Licensees?

Cuomo to release plan for legalizing recreational use of marijuana

Gov. Cuomo’s budget address next year could be smokin’.

Aides said Tuesday that the governor will introduce a plan for legalizing recreational marijuana, possibly as part of his executive budget.

“The goal of this administration is to create a model program for regulated adult-use cannabis — and the best way to do that is to ensure our final proposal captures the views of everyday New Yorkers,” said Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens.

That’s why Governor Cuomo launched 17 listening sessions in cities across the state to give every community in every corner of New York the opportunity to be heard. Now that the listening sessions have concluded, the working group has begun accessing and reviewing the feedback we received and we expect to introduce a formal comprehensive proposal early in the 2019 legislative session.”

A study released in May by city Comptroller Scott Stringer estimated that legalizing marijuana could create a $3.1 billion market in New York State.

Imposing excise taxes on weed — similar to levies on cigarettes and booze — could generate $436 million in new state tax revenues and $336 million in additional city tax revenue, the report said.

Some advocates want the new taxes dedicated to the MTA.

Another key issue that’s being discussed is whether to expunge the records of New Yorkers who were arrested for marijuana possession when they were young — a disproportionate number of them are black and Latino.

In August, the governor appointed a 20-member task force to draft legislation to regulate cannabis following a report by his Health Department that gave the green light to legalizing pot. The group has been holding hearings and soliciting opinions.

Numerous other issues also need to be addressed, including: How many outlets would be permitted to sell marijuana, and will be cannabis be sold in smokeable form?

Under the state’s current medical marijuana program, patients are prescribed pot in pill and ointment form.

One lawmaker long involved in marijuana legalization efforts said cannabis should be sold in smokeable form, with limitations.

“The law ought to allow smoking of cannabis, with rules similar to limits on where you can smoke tobacco — but not necessarily the same,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).

“We probably wouldn’t allow smoking cannabis out in public, but might allow it in some establishments. The health questions about smoking cannabis are nothing like problems with tobacco, in part because no one would smoke a comparable quantity.”

But for now, Gottfried said he’s waiting to see what Cuomo proposes before commenting further.

The push for pot legalization is a reversal for Cuomo, who once dismissed weed as a “gateway drug.”

But earlier this year, he called for a study of legalization after neighboring Massachusetts legalized cannabis. Meanwhile, new New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is finalizing a proposed law to legalize weed in the Garden State.

The most recent Jersey bill being debated calls for a 12 percent tax on pot sales — a standard 6.625 percent sales and a 5.375 marijuana tax. Murphy initially sought a 25 percent tax.

Law-and-order types said Cuomo and the Democratic-run Legislature are making a mistake. Legalizing weed was never a priority during GOP control of the state Senate — but the Democrats won the majority in the Novembers election and are more supportive.

“I guess it’s not a gateway drug anymore,” state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long said sarcastically.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

A Miracle for Chanukah? – Childhood Victims of Sexual Abuse, Brad Holyman – Seeking to Extend the Reporting Deadline

The New York Interfaith Community comes together in solidarity following a week of violent hate crimes.

The New York Interfaith Community comes together in solidarity following a week of violent hate crimes. | Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Will NY finally let childhood victims seek justice after age 23?

In the political war over the Child Victims Act, state Sen. Brad Hoylman is calling on his opponents to surrender. “Here’s a challenge I would like to make to those organizations like the Boy Scouts and the New York (Archdiocese): Lay down your swords,” the Manhattan Democrat told City & State. “Don’t lobby against this bill.”

Hoylman is the lead sponsor of the bill that would lift the statute of limitations on young sexual assault victims seeking to sue their alleged predators beyond the current age limit of 23. And since a version of the bill was introduced more than a decade ago, the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Archdiocese have been two of its main opponents. Opponents fear the law would financially devastate the institutions, both of which have histories of adult leaders assaulting youths in their care.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sympathetic to those concerns, telling reporters in November that “nobody wants to see a diocese or the Catholic Church bankrupt, so how (the bill) is done is very important.” Nonetheless, Cuomo has been vocally supportive of the bill in recent years, and listed it among his top priorities for the 2019 legislative session – even though his backing hasn’t been enough to make it law. Although the Assembly approved the bill in 2018 with vast bipartisan support, the state Senate’s Republican majority never brought it up for a vote.

Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the lead sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, claims she was genuinely surprised by the Senate Republicans’ hesitation. The Democratic lawmaker said she thought “the #MeToo movement and the outrage of constituents about the way women have been treated,” combined with the 90 percent public approval for the bill according to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, “would force Republicans to strategically position this as a must-do. And they didn’t.”

That’s in part because of powerful opposition from the insurance industry, which would stand to lose money from a rash of payouts, and from Agudath Israel, a Jewish interest group, as well the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts.

Like Hoylman, Rosenthal called on opponents to reconsider, noting that 30 percent of children sexually abused are victims of family members. “You want to cover your people, that’s one thing,” she said of the bill’s opponents. “But their efforts have ramifications for everyone who’s been the victim of abuse. That’s a double whammy. It’s self-interest to the highest degree.”

With Democrats taking the state Senate majority, the terms of the battle have shifted. Incoming state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a co-sponsor of the Child Victims Act, meaning that a bill is almost guaranteed to be sent to Cuomo’s desk. Now advocates and opponents will be debating the bill’s language, like whether to include a one-year “lookback window” so that past victims could bring lawsuits even if they’re older than 23. Cuomo voicing concern about the bill’s financial impact on the church was rebuked by victims of sexual abuse and the Daily News editorial board. Hoylman also questioned the governor. “The facts are that the one-year lookback window does not result in bankruptcies for our treasured and highly valued institutions,” he said. “All you have to do is look at other states that have instituted lookback windows like California and see the results.”

Because of the heavy subject matter and the organized opposition, the bill isn’t likely to pass immediately after session opens. Hoylman said he would like to see it “sooner rather than later,” and state Senate Democratic Conference Chair Michael Gianaris confirmed the bill has widespread support in the chamber. But the usual timeline of laws being crammed into the state budget and then again in the “Big Ugly” at the end of session may be upended with Democrats having full control of state government.

Whenever the bill starts to move, Rosenthal said she wants to make sure sexual abuse survivors are included in conversations. “It has to be palatable to them,” she said. “They’re the ones we’re fighting for. The perpetrators should not be writing this bill.”

Cuomo Dodges Questions about Promises to Satmar Rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum to Keep Hands off with Education

Cuomo dodges questions about endorsement deal with Satmar Rebbe

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday did not refute reports that he assured a prominent rabbi he would keep his hands off yeshivas in exchange for an endorsement — instead pointing to his lack of control over the state Education Department.

The department is currently reviewing a long-delayed city Department of Education probe of whether 30 yeshivas have been meeting minimum requirements for secular education, a 3-year effort in whichofficials were blocked from visiting half the schools.

Asked about reports  that he had essentially told Satmar Rebbe Zalman Tietelbaum not to worry about the matter last week, Cuomo wouldn’t address the question head on.

“The State Education Department will enforce the law, but it’s not the governor’s responsibility. I have no control of the state Education Department,” he told reporters following a press conference at the Tappan Zee Bridge, which has been renamed for the governor’s father, Mario Cuomo.

City officials punted their probe to the state because the state Education Department has ultimate oversight over what’s taught in non-public schools.
Advocates had complained in 2015 that many yeshivas were violating the state requirement that they provide a secular education equivalent to what students get in public schools.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Yaffed Sues State, Cuomo Promises to Leave Education Untouched and Tish James Joins Cuomo Ticket- Education in NY?

Group sues state over yeshivas

GROUP SUES STATE FOR GREATER YESHIVA OVERSIGHT — POLITICO’s Madina TouréAn organization seeking to reform curricula in yeshivas is suing the state over legislation that, in the group’s view, protects the schools from proper oversight. The organization — Young Advocates for Fair Education, also known as Yaffed — filed the suit on Monday morning in Brooklyn federal court. It named Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa as defendants. Lawyers from the firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan are representing Yaffed pro bono.

“Ultra-orthodox yeshivas, by our estimates, receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year,” said Naftuli Moster, Yaffed’s founder and executive director, at a press conference in Manhattan announcing the lawsuit.”This is clearly a problem and a problem that elected officials in New York have known about for decades and instead of improving the situation, the state allowed one lawmaker, Simcha Felder, who represents the interests of yeshiva leaders, to hijack the state budget process to ensure inclusion of an amendment that exempts ultra-Orthodox yeshivas statewide from having to provide a proper secular education,” Moster continued.

Felder, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn who has been caucusing with Senate Republicans since he was elected in 2012, was accused of holding up the $168 billion state budget earlier this year until the state acquiesced to his request for yeshivas to be exempt from curriculum requirements. He provides the Senate GOP with a key 32nd vote. The final budget gave the state Education Department the authority to address the issue for bilingual teaching for a greater number of hours, a requirement that yeshivas fulfill.

The group contends that the state’s action flouts the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bans the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion” or “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“The carve-out in the Felder Amendment is actually defined in a way that only those ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are included within that carve-out,” said Eric Huang, lead counsel for Yaffed. “These are defined by the fact that they’re nonprofits, that they have a bilingual program and that their education program is marked by very long days.” Read more here.

Isn’t this Rich? Cuomo will Let his Ultra-Orthodox Donor Contingent Run Circles Around the Law and Nixon Will Not.. We Call that SCRUPLED, not anti-Semitic…


Cynthia Nixon calls on Andrew Cuomo to apologize for campaign mailer calling her soft on anti-Semitism

(JTA) — New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon called on her primary opponent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to apologize for a mailer paid for by the state Democratic Party that questioned her support for issues important to Jewish voters.

Cuomo, who heads the state Democratic Party, has said that he had no knowledge of the mailer and said through a spokeswoman that the language was “inappropriate.”

“I am the mother of Jewish children,” Nixon, who is raising the children of her first marriage as Jews and attends Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, said in a statement late Sunday.

Nixon questioned how Cuomo could not know about the mailer and called on him to apologize, urging him to record a robocall to go out to voters apologizing for “calling me an anti-Semite,” The New York Times reported.

The mailer was sent Saturday, five days before the primary, to some 7,000 Jewish households.

“With anti-Semitism and bigotry on the rise, we can’t take a chance with inexperienced Cynthia Nixon, who won’t stand strong for our Jewish communities,” it said.

The mailer also said that Nixon is “against funding for yeshivas,” supports “BDS, the racist, xenophobic campaign to boycott Israel” and has been “silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.”

In an interview Tuesday with Times reporter Lisa Lerer, Nixon said of the mailer, “I thought it was disgusting and cynical and really surprising that Andrew Cuomo’s New York state party would stoop to this kind of fear-mongering and lies. To use this in this nasty and untruthful way — it’s really Trumpian.”

She added that she thinks Cuomo knew about the mailer despite his denials.

“I think he’s a micromanager and it’s his Democratic Party,” said Nixon, an actress who gained fame on the hit TV show “Sex and the City.” “The idea that he did not know about it is patently ridiculous.”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah and her wife, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a joint statement Friday saying that the charge that Nixon was soft on anti-Semitism is “a baseless lie.”

A poll released before the issue of the mailer went public showed Cuomo leading Nixon by 63 percent to 22 percent.

Meanwhile, the New York Post reported Tuesday that a Cuomo campaign official had pitched a story to a reporter at the newspaper about Nixon’s opposition to Israeli settlements and her support of the BDS movement against Israel a day before the mailer was delivered.

The email pitch included excerpts of news reports from 2010 detailing how Nixon was among about 200 American celebrities — including many Jews — who signed a letter supporting a boycott by Israeli actors, directors and playwrights of a new theater in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.