New Cornell NYCTech – Commerce Amid Education!

Dear Commons Community,

The new Cornell NYCTech being built on Roosevelt Island will have a curriculum that devotes months to helping a company solve a current technological challenge. Students will have their progress supervised not just by an academic adviser, but also by an industry adviser. Their new campus will intersperse classrooms with office buildings, where high-tech companies can rent a suite and set up shop.   The New York Times also reported:

“And when they showed up Monday for the very first day of classes at Cornell NYC Tech, the most ambitious institution of higher education to open in New York City in decades, students arrived not at some temporary structure on the edge of a construction site but to 20,000 square feet of donated space in the middle of Google’s $2 billion New York headquarters.

Cornell NYC Tech, a new graduate school focusing on applied science, is a bold experiment on many fronts: a major expansion for an august upstate school, a high-impact real estate venture for Roosevelt Island, an innovative collaboration with a foreign university, a new realm of influence for City Hall. But the most striking departure of all may be the relationship it sets forth between university and industry, one in which commerce and education are not just compatible, they are also all but indistinguishable. In this new framework, Cornell NYC Tech is not just a school, it is an “educational start-up,” students are “deliverables” and companies seeking access to those students or their professors can choose from a “suite of products” by which to get it.

Colleges and universities across the country — a great many of which are scrambling to find new ways to finance scientific research, as well as new ways to profit from the fruits of that research — are watching closely. In the last year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced the creation of technology schools by both Columbia and New York University. And Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, said he had been visited by representatives from other cities hopeful that the Cornell NYC Tech model might work there, too.”

Congratulations to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for bringing this school to New York!




President Obama’s Inaugural Address: Care for Our Children and Keep Them Safe!

Inauguration 2013 Parade

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday was a special day in this country as Barack Obama took the oath of office for the second term of his presidency.  His Inaugural Address was filled with promise and was well received by throngs of his supporters.  If you missed it, the full text can be accessed here.   I thought the most riveting moment was the following where he referenced Seneca Falls, Selma, Alabama, the Stonewall Inn, Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, and the children in Newtown, Connecticut.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”




Marian Wright Edelman: We Can Remember Martin Luther King, Jr. by Remembering Our Poor especially the Children!

Dear Commons Community,

While today many of us are watching President Obama’s Inauguration, we also remember Martin Luther King, Jr.   Below is a reprint of a blog posting from Marian Wright Edelman on how we can remember Martin Luther King, Jr.



In his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral, Dr. King retold the parable of the rich man Dives who ignored the poor and sick man Lazarus who came every day seeking crumbs from Dives’ table. Dives went to hell, Dr. King said, not because he was rich but because he did not realize his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf separating him from his brother and allowed Lazarus to become invisible. He warned this could happen to rich America, “if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.”

At his death in 1968, when he was calling with urgency for an end to poverty in our nation, there were 25.4 million poor Americans including 11 million poor children and our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $4.13 trillion. Today there are 46.2 million poor people including 16.1 million poor children and our GDP is three times larger. Twenty million of our neighbors are living in extreme poverty including 7.3 million children. Disgracefully children are the poorest age group in America and the younger they are the poorer they are and one in four preschool children is poor. More than one in three Black children and the same proportion of Latino children are poor. Children have suffered most since the recession began.

  • The number of poor children – 16.1 million – exceeds the entire combined populations of Haiti and Liberia, two of the poorest countries on earth.
  • The number of extremely poor children – 7.3 million – in our nation is greater than the population of Sierra Leone.
  • The number of poor children under five – 5.0 million – exceeds the entire population of the state of South Carolina or Louisiana or Alabama.

I have no doubt that Dr. King would be mounting a nonviolent poor people campaign to end rampant hunger, homelessness, and poverty today.

Let’s honor Dr. King by our committed action to end child poverty and close the morally obscene gulf between rich and poor in our nation where the 400 highest income earners made as much as the combined tax revenues of 22 state governments with 42 million citizens in 2008, and the wealthiest top 1 percent hold more net wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. The rich don’t need another tax break and they need to give back some of their unfair share of our nation’s tax subsidies, loopholes and bailouts to feed and house and educate our children and employ their parents.

Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by naming and changing the continuing racial disparities, undergirded by poverty, that place one in three Black and one in six Hispanic boys born in 2001 at risk of prison in their lifetimes. Incarceration is the new American apartheid. Let’s reroute our children into a pipeline to college and productive work to compete with children from China and India.

Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by speaking truth to power and demanding justice for poor and vulnerable children with urgency and persistence and effective nonviolent direct actions to bring our nation back from the brink of self destruction fueled by the unbridled greed of the few and a military budget that dwarfs our early childhood development budget where the real security of our nation lies.

Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by stopping the resurgence of racial and income segregation in our schools, unfair treatment of children of color with zero tolerance school discipline and special education practices that push them out of school and towards prison, and efforts to undermine the hard earned right to vote. Let’s not return to Jim Crow shenanigans that strangled our democracy far too long.

Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by building a beloved community in America where all have enough to eat, a place to sleep, enough work at decent wages to support a family, buy a home, raise children, and send them to public schools that empower children with hope, confidence and skills for the future.

Let’s truly honor Dr. King by transforming our education system that sentences millions of children to social and economic death by failing to prepare them and our country for the future. That a majority of all children in all income and racial groups and seventy-six percent of Black and Hispanic children cannot read or compute at grade level in fourth and eighth grades is a threat to America’s future economic and military strength.

Let’s honor Dr. King by ensuring every child’s safety and right to live by ending the epidemic gun violence in our nation that has snuffed out more than 1.3 million American lives since he and Robert Kennedy were killed by guns in 1968 – including the lives of approximately 148,000 children and teens. That is 7,400 classrooms of 20 children. Let’s honor Dr. King by standing up and doing whatever is required for as long as needed to break the political grip of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their allies who seek to add more guns to the approximately 300 million in circulation and continuing production and sales of assault weapons and high volume ammunition magazines that should not be in the hands of civilians.

The day after Dr. King was shot, I went into riot torn Washington, D.C. neighborhoods and schools urging children not to loot, get arrested and ruin their futures. A young Black boy about 12 looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Lady, what future? I ain’t got no future. I ain’t got nothing to lose.” Let us follow Dr. King by proving that boy’s truth wrong in our militarily powerful, materially rich, but too spiritually poor nation.

Dr. King is not coming back. It’s up to us to redeem the soul of America. He told us what to do. Let’s do it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and President Barack Obama’s Inauguration: Intersection of History!





Dear Commons Community,

Dignitaries and celebrities participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, comedian Dick Gregory and actors Jamie Foxx and Chris Tucker were among those who attended Sunday’s event.

Foxx told a crowd that packed the memorial that this is a “spectacular time” for African-Americans.

Sharpton called the weekend an “intersection of history,” with the nation’s first black president taking the oath of office for a second term the same weekend as the federal holiday commemorating King’s life. Sharpton says there was a time when no one believed the country would have either a black president or a federal holiday for a black civil rights leader.


Getting Ready to Celebrate Grand Central Terminal’s 100th Birthday!

Dear Commons Community,

One hundred years ago, on Feb. 2, 1913, the doors to Grand Central Terminal officially opened to the public, after 10 years of construction and at a cost of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars. The terminal was a product of local politics, bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle and visionary engineering. No other building embodies New York’s ascent as vividly as Grand Central.  In today’s New York Times is the tale of its birth, excerpted from Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America, by Sam Roberts,  to be published later this month by Grand Central Publishing.



Bill Clinton on Gun Control: ‘Do Not Patronize The Passionate Supporters of Your Opponents’!

Dear Commons Community,

This past week we have seen the president, a number of state governors and hundreds of mayors come out in support of gun control.  Most of us are proud that our elected officials are taking these steps.  Former President Bill Clinton while supporting these measures also had a word of caution for President Obama.

“Appearing before Obama’s National Finance Committee and various business leaders, Clinton stressed that guns present different cultural complexities than other political issues.

“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” he said, according to Politico.

Clinton’s comments echoed similar thoughts from April 2012, when he advised Obama to not bother with gun-control legislation for cultural reasons.”



Galileo’s Envelope!!

Dear Commons Community,

The Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan has a beautifully preserved relic of that scientific triumph: the scrap of an envelope on which Galileo, in 1611, tracked the shifting positions of the Jovian moons. He had published his findings about the moons the year before in “The Starry Messenger,” and he was working, night after night, to better define the periods of the moons’ orbits. In his (literally!) back-of-the-envelope jottings and little pictures, one can sense a great mind puzzling out a perplexing story.

The New York Times comments on Galileo and his discovery:

“At first, Galileo thought he was seeing stars. But watching them move in relation to Jupiter, he figured out what they really were — an epiphany that began to upend the given view of the universe. Here was a celestial body with other celestial bodies circling it. For a biblical cosmology that placed Earth at the center of all that moved, the implications would prove devastating…Galileo’s achievement was the end of geocentrism, but it was hardly the end of ignorance and magical thinking. When obstinacy places reason under siege, as it does to this day — when fundamentalism defames biological science in the classroom, or the politics of denial prevent action to deal with a changing climate, it helps to recall our debt to a man who set a different example more than 400 years ago. It took just a wooden tube and some polished lenses, a critical and inquisitive mind, and four points of light that didn’t behave the way they were supposed to.”

If you have not visited the Morgan Library and Museum, it is a wonderfully intimate place on Madison Avenue and 36th Street just down the block from the CUNY Graduate Center.



Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers Fail to Reach Agreement on a Teacher Evaluation System!

Dear Commons Community,

Here in New York we have been privileged to observe the negotiations between the City of New York and its teachers union the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for the past year or so over the thorny issue of evaluations.  The deadline for state education officials to approve any teacher evaluation plan submitted by the city was last night at midnight; missing it would cost the city approximately $250 million in education aid from Albany that it budgeted for in June and would make it ineligible for roughly $200 million in state and federal grants.  Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Michael Mulgrew, the president of the UFT held separate news conferences to say the talks had disintegrated during a middle-of-the-night negotiating session in Manhattan. No further talks have been scheduled.  The New York Times reported:

“In New York, each side blamed the other for the breakdown and accused the other of hurling falsehoods. But what was clear was that the inability to reach an agreement, even with so much money as an incentive, was another sign of how frayed the relationship between the mayor and the city’s unions had become. The announcement came on the second day of a yellow-bus strike — the first in 34 years — that was called by the main bus drivers’ union, forcing more than 100,000 children, many of them with special needs, to find new ways to get to school.

In a statement, Mr. Mulgrew referred to the strike: “Thousands of parents have gotten a lesson this week, as the mayor’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach has left thousands of schoolchildren stranded at curbs across the city by the school bus strike. That same stubborn attitude on the mayor’s part now means that our schools will suffer a loss of millions of dollars in state aid.”

The Times comment that the Mayor’s relationship with the unions is “frayed” is an understatement particularly with regard to the UFT.   Mayor Bloomberg has done a lot of good things for the City during his tenure but working with and supporting the teachers in the public schools has not been one of them.  His appointment of Joel Klein as school chancellor who relished confrontation and who from the start engaged in teacher bashing and “them against us” attitude poisoned any chance of a  working relationship.

There may still be some time to resolve the teacher evaluation  issue in that the deadline was strictly an administrative one  established by Governor Andrew Cuomo and he probably can extend it with a little prodding.





President Obama to Issue 23 Executive Orders on Gun Control!

Dear Commons Community,

In an historic attempt to stem the increase in gun violence, President Barack Obama unveiled yesterday the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform ever seen in this country.

The Huffington Post reported:

“The proposal, which comes at the end of a month-long review process spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, is broken down into four key subsections: law enforcement, the availability of dangerous firearms and ammunition, school safety and mental health.

In an effort to touch on all four of those elements, the president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies. The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

Because these recommendations require congressional approval, the administration is supplementing its proposal with 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately. Those actions include requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system; providing law enforcement officials, first responders and school officials with better training for active shooting situations; directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence; and many more.”

The reactions to the President’s proposals were swift and personal

The NRA and a number of federal, state and local official have signaled that they will try to block the administration’s effort.

“It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems,” the NRA said after meeting with Biden last week. “We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”

The group continued its offensive this week, launching an advertising campaign attacking Obama as an “elitist hypocrite” for opposing the NRA’s widely-criticized proposal, made after the Newtown, Conn. shooting, to place armed guards in all of the nation’s schools.  One NRA television ad asks:

“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?…Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools?”

This is just the beginning of what is sure to be a major political battle for months and years to come.  It  is long overdue.




U.S. House of Representatives Passes Hurricane Sandy Emergency Aid Bill!

Dear Commons Community,

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed  a long-awaited $50.7 billion emergency bill to provide help to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The aid package passed 241 to 180, with 49 Republicans joining 192 Democrats. The Senate is expected to pass the measure, and President Obama has expressed support for it.   As the New York Times reports:

“The $50.7 billion — along with a nearly $10 billion aid package that Congress approved earlier this month — seeks to provide for the huge needs that have arisen in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states since the hurricane struck in late October.

The emergency aid measure would help homeowners whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, provide assistance to business owners who experienced losses as well as reinforce shorelines, repair subway and commuter rail systems, fix bridges and tunnels, and reimburse local governments for emergency expenditures.

Though the package does not cover the entire $82 billion in damage identified by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, leaders from the storm-ravaged region expressed relief over the action in the Republican-controlled House, where storm aid had become ensnared in the larger debate over spending and deficits.

Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island who helped press his party’s leadership into holding the vote, hailed the package’s passage as a victory for storm victims but expressed disappointment over the House’s failure to act earlier.

“It is unfortunate that we had to fight so hard to be treated the same as every other state has been treated,” Mr. King said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is part of the chamber’s leadership, said he would urge the Senate to approve the House bill even though he believed it fell short of what the Senate approved last year. “It is certainly close enough,” he said, comparing the bills.

The developments in the House settle, at least for now, an issue that had become an embarrassment for the chamber’s Republican leadership and had pitted Northeastern Republicans eager to help their constituents against fiscal conservatives bent on taming the nation’s deficits.

The vote was scheduled over a week ago by Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, after he came under intense criticism for concluding the business of the previous Congress without taking up a $60.4 billion hurricane-aid bill that the Senate had approved.

His critics included influential Republicans in and out of Congress, including Mr. King and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

In a statement, Mr. Christie joined with Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, both Democrats, to express gratitude to the Congress for providing the relief to hurricane victims.”

Victims of Hurricane Sandy can feel secure that critical funding needed to rebuild lives will be coming.  All of us can be grateful for this show of bipartisanship on the part of the Congress.