Monday, June 27, 2016

Accommodations by Airbnb

Globe made the reservation for you, and it's a home away from home when on vacation....

"Airbnb vows to fight racism, but its users can’t sue to prompt fairness" by Katie Benner New York Times   June 19, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, made a vow this month to root out bigotry from his business.

It's a “huge issue.”

But even as Chesky promised to stamp out racism from Airbnb, the company’s class-action litigation policy makes it tough — if not impossible — for customers to push the startup to make any substantive changes on the issue. Airbnb requires that people agree to waive their right to sue, or to join in any class-action lawsuit or class-action arbitration, to use the service.

That clause, known as a class-action waiver, crops up whenever someone logs into Airbnb’s site. In March, the company updated its terms of service for new users, partly to highlight that clause. Last month, Airbnb users were unable to log in and use their accounts until they agreed to the updated terms, including the class-action waiver language.

The waiver clause can be broadly applied to many issues and not just accusations of discrimination. But class-action lawsuits have been particularly effective legal tools to press companies on their discrimination policies over the years, civil rights lawyers said, which would give Airbnb more cause to wield it as it grapples with the issue. In the past, such suits against Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Coca-Cola pushed those companies to change their hiring and workplace practices.

“Class-action cases have been the only effective way to prove and remedy systemic discrimination because you can’t prove a pattern of behavior with individually filed cases,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of New York Law School’s Center for Justice and Democracy, who specializes in civil justice issues.

The waiver clause and Airbnb’s more prominent placement of it allows it to shield itself now from outside pressure around the discrimination issue and to handle the matter at its own pace and on its own terms.

“Airbnb can say it doesn’t condone racism and even has an antidiscrimination policy, but right now that policy doesn’t have teeth if the company is legally insulated from having to comply with the same antidiscrimination laws that real estate brokers must comply with,” said Jamila Jefferson-Jones, a civil rights lawyer and an associate professor at Barry University School of Law in Orlando. 

Can there be a but?

A spokesman for Airbnb said the company was open about its dispute resolution policies, including the waiver clause, and that “these provisions are common and we believe ours is balanced and protects consumers.”

In an interview, Chris Lehane, head of global policy for Airbnb, said the company was being proactive in dealing with discrimination claims. Airbnb recently removed two of its hosts, including one for writing racist epithets to a black user and another for refusing a transgender woman as a guest. Lehane said the company suspended, or in some cases permanently banned, those who violated its antidiscrimination policy.

Not that it matters, but he's a former Obama administration official.

Airbnb this month also hired Laura Murphy, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, as an outside adviser to look at the issue. Murphy said Airbnb was examining its internal structures and technology, and its processes for identifying and handling discrimination incidents, and building relationships with organizations like fair housing, human rights, and travel groups.

Airbnb aims to have announcements in the next 10 days about preliminary actions it is taking on discrimination, and it plans to have a full report in September with proposed remedies, she said. Eventually, the company wants to have a division to handle and resolve discrimination complaints, she added.

Airbnb soon could test the waiver clause directly in a class-action discrimination suit, which was filed in May in US District Court in Washington. The chief plaintiff, Gregory Selden, who is African-American, claimed Airbnb violated civil rights laws that forbid housing discrimination when a host on the service denied him accommodation last year because of his race. Airbnb’s response to the lawsuit is due by July 13.

Ikechukwu Emejuru, the lawyer representing Selden, said, “The sharing economy has grown exponentially, and Mr. Selden’s experiences of not being accommodated by Airbnb because of his race put in motion this country’s most iconic civil rights laws.” He declined further comment and said Selden was unavailable to comment.

Like in the Congo?

For Airbnb, an effective response to discrimination claims is needed to blunt any fallout on its business. The company, valued at about $25 billion, has hosts in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries and is positioning itself as an alternative to hotels. Airbnb recently raised $1 billion in debt to help finance its growth, according to a person familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the transaction is not public. The credit facility was reported earlier by Bloomberg.

The cost of the room is how much?


RelatedArlington police open probe into racist text messages

I hung the "No Vacancy" sign out for good measure. We won't be taking in any borders of any gender or skin color.

RelatedMeasure to curb illegal Airbnb listings heads to NY governor

I'll take you on a tour of the city tomorrow, readers. I'm up past my bedtime and have to get some sleep. Going to go to my room now.


Globe till take you on the tour:

NYC pulls reins on plan for Central Park horse carriages

Teamsters did a plop-plop on it and I can't get a helicopterboat, or bus, so we will have to hoof it.

One dead after crane collapses in New York City

The collapse killed David Wichs, a mathematical whiz who worked at a computerized trading firm, his family said. Born in Prague, he had immigrated to the United States as a teenager and graduated from Harvard University, said his sister-in-law, Lisa Guttman. Mayor Bill de Blasio initially said the person killed in the collapse was in a car, but police later said he was on the sidewalk.... David Wichs, 38, was described by relatives as a mathematical whiz who graduated from Harvard University and worked at a computerized-trading firm. His good deeds also made him ‘‘an angel,’’ said Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus of the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, where the funeral was held. Wichs, a Manhattan resident, emigrated from Czechoslovakia as a teenager and attended Yeshiva of Flatbush before enrolling at Harvard."

First sight to see:

"Judge: Congregants can take control of oldest US synagogue" by Michelle R. Smith Associated Press  May 17, 2016

PROVIDENCE — The congregation that worships at the nation’s oldest synagogue prevailed Monday in a bitter legal fight that threatened its existence, as a federal judge ruled it may now control its own destiny and decide what to do with a set of ceremonial bells worth millions.

The lawsuit pitted congregants at the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., against the nation’s oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel in New York City.

US District Judge Jack McConnell awarded Congregation Jeshuat Israel, of Newport, control of Touro, rejecting arguments from Congregation Shearith Israel that it is the synagogue’s rightful owner.

McConnell also ruled the Newport congregation is the owner of a pair of ceremonial bells, called rimonim, and may do what it chooses with them. The bells are valued at $7.4 million.

Deming Sherman, a lawyer for the New York congregation, said it was too early to say whether they would appeal.

‘‘We’re obviously disappointed at some of the findings by the court. But I don’t have any more to say until after I’ve reviewed the decision,’’ he said.

McConnell’s 106-page decision reads at times like a history book and relies on documents that go back to Colonial times. It recounts the early history of Jews in America and traces the origins of the Jews who populated Newport beginning in 1658.

Yeah, about that....

The judge, who held a nine-day trial last year, said the guiding light behind his decision was the intention of the community that established the synagogue in 1763. ‘‘The central issue here is the legacy of some of the earliest Jewish settlers in North America, who desired to make Newport a permanent haven for public Jewish worship,’’ he wrote.

The synagogue is a national historic site, and tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world pass through its doors every year.

In 1790, George Washington visited Touro and then sent congregants a letter saying the government of the United States ‘‘gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’’ It is considered an important pledge of the new nation’s commitment to religious liberty. During and after the Revolutionary War, most of the city’s Jewish residents left, and many moved to New York. By the 1820s, no Jews were left in Newport, and Congregation Shearith Israel became Touro’s trustee.

Knowing the history and how it has been usurped by those who were against it is insulting and takes a lot of chutzpah. Talk about revisionism!

Decades later, Jews returned and Shearith Israel sent items back, including two pairs of rimonim, which adorn a Torah scroll and were made by Colonial silversmith Myer Myers.

Over the years, the two congregations occasionally struggled for control of the synagogue, but by the 2000s, the New York congregation was mostly not involved in Touro’s affairs, although it was still the synagogue’s trustee.

In 2012, the congregation at Touro was struggling to pay its bills and was unable to raise the money for an endowment. Its leaders, worried about Touro’s future, formulated a plan to sell one set of the bells to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for $7.4 million and use the money to fund an endowment. The New York congregation objected, saying the sale violated its religious beliefs. It said the congregation at Touro was required to adhere to those beliefs. It also asserted that it owned the bells, and said it wanted to evict the Newport congregation.

McConnell rejected its arguments on all counts. He also removed the New York congregation as trustee, saying its attempt to evict the Newport congregation had made it unfit to serve in the role.

Instead, he appointed the Newport congregation as trustee of the building. The judge said it had maintained the structure and grounds and had ensured it was open for public worship, which he found was the purpose of the trust that owns it.

It is unclear what will happen next with the bells. The Museum of Fine Arts withdrew the offer to buy them after the dispute began, although they remain on display there, on loan from Touro.


RelatedSynagogues celebrate a joyous moment

Sorry to be so sour about. 

More recent history:

"A Jewish school bus — and old tensions — allegedly set aflame by black men in N.Y. neighborhood" by Yanan Wang Washington Post  May 11, 2016

Arson took place in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood Sunday evening. Since the bus was empty, no one was injured. Surveillance footage caught grainy flashes of the culprits, who have all been identified by the police as black males.

It's already looking like a false flag to push endless Jewish victimization and I'm tired of hearing violins considering the violence Israel metes out.

An 11-year-old boy has already been arrested, charged with arson and criminal mischief as a juvenile. The fire is also being investigated as a hate crime.

The school bus, which suffered significant damage, belonged to Bnos Chomesh Academy, according to the Associated Press. It is a private, all-girls Orthodox Jewish high school that teaches ‘‘a Torah way of life.’’

It's okay when Jews are exclusionary and segregated. Anybody else.... no.

‘‘It was purposefully done with prior planning,’’ NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told the AP. ‘‘Clearly this was a religious school bus. Anyone in the community knows that.’’

The fire came within a week of two other alleged attacks on members of Crown Heights’s Jewish community. A Jewish man wearing religious garb was hit with rubber bands and subsequently punched by a 13-year-old African-American last Thursday, authorities told the AP.

The day before, a bus driver from another Jewish school in the neighborhood said someone had pelted his side mirror with a brick, shattering it.

These incidents are ‘‘troubling,’’ Boyce told the AP. What he left unsaid was that they hearkened back to a decades-old history of racial strife between the area’s blacks and Jews.

Often, these tensions have erupted in fire.

On a February night in 1987, the roles were reversed. The New York Times reported that someone ignited a cardboard orange-juice box and can of petroleum in the basement of a black woman’s house. The woman and her family fled as she heard an ominous chant: ‘‘Burn, burn, burn.’’

A witness told the Times that they had seen two men, including one in a long black coat and fedora, run from behind the woman’s house to a dormitory for Hasidic Jews. An administrator for the yeshiva to which the dorm belonged said the allegations were ‘‘based on untrue facts.’’

The Times put the next line thusly: ‘‘Mr. Kazen, expressing a view that was not widely shared, said racial tension did not exist in Crown Heights.’’

African-Americans and Hasidic Jews in the neighborhood competed for housing, control of community organizations and access to community funds. There had been violence between the groups in the ’70s, and tensions continued to fester, coming to a head in 1991, after the motorcade of a Jewish leader unintentionally struck two Guyanese immigrant children, killing one and severely injuring the other.

Three days of riots followed the incident. Hundreds of blacks and Jews threw rocks and bottles at one another; stores were looted and set on fire; the Rev. Al Sharpton led a march in which an Israeli flag was burned.

Was that before or after he started working for the FBI?

Three hours into the riots, an Australian Jew was fatally stabbed by a 16-year-old African-American.

Today, Crown Heights has changed with the rest of the city, expanding to include — in the words of one New York Daily News retrospective — ‘‘hipsters, Latinos, and Asians.’’

‘‘In the years that have passed [since the riots], the central Brooklyn neighborhood has settled into an uneasy peace,’’ wrote the Daily News’s Simone Weichselbaum and Katie Nelson in 2011. Yet a black woman and a Jewish woman interviewed both said the two groups seldom mingled, still wary of one another decades later.

As the NYPD searches for the five alleged school bus arsonists, that history rears its head again amid a cloud of smoke....


RelatedAnti-Semitic incidents are soaring, group says

I didn't see anything regarding the Jewish supremacism that precipitated the whole thing.

Swastikas drawn at Winthrop High by student, officials say
Winthrop teen charged in swastika incident at school

Let's keep walking:

"NYPD has used cell tracking technology 1,000 times since ’08" by Colleen Long Associated Press  February 11, 2016

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department has used secretive cellphone tracking technology more than 1,000 times since 2008, according to data released Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

A cell-site simulator, also known as a Stingray, is a suitcase-sized device that can sweep up basic cellphone data from a neighborhood by tricking phones into believing it’s a cell tower, allowing it to identify unique subscriber numbers. The data are then transmitted to the police, helping them determine the location of a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.

We were told government was no longer doing this stuff, but there it is!

Police records show the technology has helped catch suspects in kidnappings, rapes, robberies, assaults and murders. Missing people have been discovered. In some cases, no arrest was made or the phone was located but had been ditched. Officers with warrant squads, robbery squads and homicide units all used the technology, according to the records. 

Yeah, the total surveillance tyranny is all good!

Federal law enforcement in September said it would be routinely required to get a search warrant before using the technology — a first effort to create a uniform legal standard for federal authorities. But the policy applies only to federal agencies within the Justice Department and not, as some privacy advocates had hoped, to state and local law enforcement whose use of the equipment has stirred particular concern and scrutiny from local judges. The NYPD would be required to get a warrant if the investigation was a joint effort with federal officials.

The NYPD said it has no written policy for use of the technology, according to the records released by the NYCLU, but general practice is to obtain a ‘‘pen register order’’ — a court order with a lower standard than a warrant.

The civil liberties union urged the department to create a strict policy on use of the technology and to obtain a warrant.

‘‘New Yorkers have very real concerns about the NYPD’s adoption of intrusive surveillance technology,’’ NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose said in a statement. ‘‘The NYPD should at minimum obtain warrants before using Stingrays to protect the privacy of innocent people.’’

The police have already been adhering to the higher legal standard used by federal law enforcement when applying for a court order, even though state law requires the police present less, said Byrne, who added his office would put the policy in writing.

‘‘Our practice is consistent with what the FBI and the other federal agencies now do,’’ he said.


"Bill Bratton brings end to war between NYPD and FBI" by Adam Goldman Washington Post  March 08, 2016

NEW YORK — In the long, bitter and testosterone-rich rivalry between the New York Police Department and the FBI, few things aggravated the G-men more than the repeated towing of their cars by the local cops. And the practice was one of the first things that NYPD Commissioner William Bratton banned when he took over in late 2013 and tried to defuse tensions with his most important counterterrorism partner.

Relations between the NYPD and the FBI, never warm, deteriorated sharply after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the country’s largest police force transformed its own intelligence division and expanded its counterterrorism work well beyond the city limits, brushing up against the bureau’s prerogatives. 

They didn't want to be caught off guard by another false again because of FBI failure, and increasing their reach nationally was the thing to do.

Related: Falling Off the 9/11 Beam

But Bratton, who has hired some prominent FBI personnel into the NYPD, has purged much of the bad blood.

Under the previous police commissioner and his chief of the intelligence division, the NYPD saw the FBI as more rival than partner. The NYPD tried to limit the FBI’s visibility into its intelligence operations, raising concerns among federal agents that some investigations weren’t being done properly. 

1993 must have left some bad memories for them.

But with the arrival of Bratton, FBI officials now have a seat at the NYPD’s weekly intelligence collection meeting. The FBI and NYPD have also swapped intelligence analysts as part of a three-month-old pilot program; previous exchanges involved investigators.

The NYPD also hired Peter Donald, a former FBI spokesman in New York, as director of communication, a key role in handling crises and reducing friction.

More importantly, the two sides are working together, officials said. 

That is where the print ended, and ‘‘it’s a no-brainer to work together’’ on setting up pathetic patsies. Both benefit, and the terror narrative is maintained ad infinitum.

Last summer as the number of terrorism suspects linked to the Islamic State spiked, the Joint Terrorism Task Force struggled to keep pace and found itself with more suspects than surveillance teams. Miller then shifted some of his teams doing lower-priority cases to help out.

‘‘We benefit from John,’’ said Carlos Fernandez, one of the FBI’s most experienced counterterrorism agents, who overseas the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the largest in the country.

The FBI also benefits from the NYPD. The Police Department has more than 100 officers on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, working among the 17 counterterrorism squads. About 25 percent of the officers on the task force are from the NYPD. 

One wonders if you can tell the difference anymore. 

Also helping to soothe relations are changes in the way the NYPD Intelligence Division conducts its operations, a flash point in previous years. After Muslims in New York successfully sued the Police Department, saying their constitutional rights were being violated by police surveillance practices, the NYPD, in response, updated its investigative guidelines, bringing them closer in line with the FBI’s.

Still, some of the old tensions can resurface. When a Muslim convert attacked four NYPD officers with a hatchet in 2014, Bratton called the incident a ‘‘terrorism act.’’ Police officials pointed to the suspect’s extensive online history, but the FBI was more skeptical because his last overt contact in the days preceding the attack was with a black extremist not connected to a terrorism group.

Police officials were irritated that the FBI didn’t immediately back its assessment, a former bureau official said. FBI Director James B. Comey later said, ‘‘There is no doubt it was terrorism.’’

‘‘We had that conversation and moved on,’’ Miller said. ‘‘We made our point.’’

Miller added that disagreements are inevitable, but they don’t spill into the tabloids as they used to, with each side sniping at the other.

‘‘It’s a collective result of all this lowering of testosterone,’’ Miller said.

Perhaps the best evidence that the FBI has buried its grievances was the promotion in June 2014 of Paul Ciorra to become chief of operations of the Intelligence Division. Ciorra was at the center of one of the worst moments in NYPD-FBI history when police officers, without informing the bureau, approached an imam about a terrorism suspect involved in a plot to attack the subway system. The imam tipped off the suspect and enraged FBI agents who feared the investigation had been compromised. While not at fault, Ciorra was blamed and sent to the highway division.

When Miller was considering candidates for the job in the intelligence division, he called the FBI to see if Ciorra was still radioactive and was told that it was all in the past.

Down the old memory hole, huh?


"N.Y. police disrupt alleged drug and gun ring with New England ties" by Milton J. Valencia Globe Staff  March 10, 2016

Police in New York City said Thursday that they disrupted a massive drug- and gun-dealing operation that had made its way into Cape Cod, and north to Manchester, N.H.

Authorities in the Bronx said members of a violent gang had smuggled drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin into Bourne, Wareham, and Manchester. The gang members then returned to the Bronx with guns they obtained in New Hampshire, and used them in much of the violence that has recently ripped through west Bronx. The investigation resulted in the indictment of 84 alleged gang members connected to 22 shootings, New York officials said.

The sweep over the last two days was the largest in Bronx history, officials there said. The 84 people indicted face a total of 386 counts, including conspiracy to commit murder, distribution of narcotics, attempted murder, and various weapons charges. Of those indicted, 58 face major trafficking charges that call for punishments of up to life in prison.

By Thursday afternoon, 31 people had been arrested; 35 were already in state prisons, and 18 were being sought.

Authorities said that New York City police first began investigating street crews in the 44th and 46th precincts in November 2014, following a spike in violence. In a matter of months, investigators learned that gang members had been visiting Bourne and Wareham to sell drugs. Thirteen of the alleged gang members had been charged as major traffickers related to the sales of heroin and cocaine in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Authorities determined that the defendants were selling $10,000 worth of crack a week, for quadruple the street price they would get in the Bronx.

In raids related to the investigation, authorities said, they recovered 9 kilograms of cocaine, 4 kilograms of heroin, 2 kilograms of fentanyl, a half-kilogram of heroin enhanced with fentanyl, and 889 grams of crack cocaine, as well as drug packaging equipment. Authorities also seized 15 firearms and $260,000 in cash believed to be the proceeds of drug sales.

“Inundated with gun-toting drug crews, the west Bronx was the starting point of a drug pipeline to cities as far north as Manchester, New Hampshire,” said James J. Hunt, special agent in charge of the US Drug Enforcement Administration office in New York City.

He said the gang members “fed drug addiction throughout the Northeast via sales of crack cocaine and heroin.”

“These gangs greed was matched only by their ferocity,” and which is exceeded only by Wall Street bankers.


Couple of cops were on the take:

"N.Y. police officials charged in bribery corruption scandal" Associated Press  June 21, 2016

NEW YORK — Two high-ranking New York Police Department officers were arrested Monday on charges of taking $100,000 worth of free flights, prostitutes, expensive meals, and other bribes in exchange for providing a ‘‘private police force’’ for local businessmen.

Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant, and a third defendant, Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg, were charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, the latest development in a series of overlapping public corruption investigations coordinated by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

David Villanueva, a city police sergeant assigned to the gun license bureau, was arrested on charges of conspiring to commit bribery.

In exchange for the bribes, Reichberg and others ‘‘got a private police force for themselves and their friends,’’ Bharara said at a news conference. ‘‘Effectively, they got ‘cops on call.’ ’’

The four arrests follow months of revelations that have embarrassed the nation’s largest police department and put Mayor Bill de Blasio on the spot about his campaign financing. Both Reichberg and another businessman who has already pleaded guilty in the case contributed heavily to de Blasio’s campaign. The mayor, a Democrat, hasn’t been implicated in any wrongdoing.

First (and last) I saw of it.


I suppose we all have our addictions.

So much for combating corruption in New York:

"New York could end session without addressing corruption" Associated Press  June 12, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York lawmakers are nearing the end of their 2016 session and it’s looking like they will once again fail to address, in any significant way, the wave of corruption that has made Albany one of the nation’s most crooked state capitals.

So many lawmakers have been forced from office for alleged misconduct or crimes — including the former Assembly speaker and Senate leader in just the past year — that government reform advocates have taken to calling this Albany’s ‘‘Watergate moment.’’

‘‘But all Albany apparently is willing to do is write a parking ticket to the Watergate burglars because they were double-parked,’’ said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Lawmakers are divided even on small reforms. A proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if passed, would allow judges to strip the pensions of corrupt lawmakers still hasn’t passed, despite support in both chambers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed tighter campaign finance rules and limits on lawmakers’ outside income, but they have little serious support in the Legislature.

Even Cuomo appears resigned. ‘‘I’ve threatened them, cajoled them, tried to charm them, told them jokes,’’ Cuomo said of the Legislature. ‘‘They do not want to pass ethics reform.’’

While plenty of other states have seen governors and top leaders ousted by scandal, few can rival New York when it comes to the scope of the problem.

More than 30 lawmakers have left office facing allegations of criminal or ethical wrongdoing since 2000 — including ones who sexually harassed female staffers, arranged jobs for relatives, lied about their US citizenship, or solicited bribes from a carnival promoter.

In the past year, former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and ex-Senate leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, were both convicted on unrelated federal corruption charges. 

I'm sure there is a silver lining somewhere. 

New York voters tell pollsters that corruption is a top issue, but voter turnout rates here remain low — one possible explanation for why elected leaders seem to feel little pressure to tackle big reforms.


Cuomo to Halt State Business With Groups That Back Boycott of Israel

Even he has his limits -- as do I. 

"Bird poop was probably the cause of a December shutdown at a nuclear power plant outside New York City, according to the operator. An Indian Point reactor safely shut down for three days starting Dec. 14 following an electrical disturbance on outdoor high voltage transmission lines, Entergy Corp. said. An outside expert is analyzing whether what’s technically called bird “streaming” was the culprit. In a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month, the New Orleans-based company said the automatic reactor shutdown was apparently from bird feces that caused an electric arc between wires on a feeder line at a transmission tower."

Couldn’t recall a similar incident in the past several years. I guess they think we will believe anything, or they just don't care.

I should have realized New York is too big to cover in just one day. You are probably unhappy, but I need to grab some chow from some cafe (the debate comes as Americans’ feelings about their four-legged friends continue to evolve, and as cats are needed to catch rats and mice). No bar-hopping tonight. Gotta find a room....

NYC’s Plaza Hotel on the auction block
China's Five-Star Hotels
Sony Building said to sell for more than $1.4 billion
Sky high: NYC could list for $250 million 

It's called Billionaires’ Row.

I didn't win the lottery so maybe we can find a room in the East Village or stay at a church

If not....

"Cities across US slash homelessness for veterans; NYC underscores national response" by Brian MacQuarrie Globe Staff  March 14, 2016

NEW YORK —61-year-old George Gisoldi is part of a national response to a federal call to move veterans off the streets. In New York, red tape has been cut, staffing added and consolidated, and veterans identified shelter by shelter, street corner by street corner.

As a result, the homeless veterans living on the street in this teeming city of 8 million have all but disappeared.

“We’re down to fewer than 10, and we know who they are,” said Loree Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general who is the city’s commissioner of veterans affairs.

New York is not alone. In Boston, a city with less than one-tenth the population of New York, the latest count showed three veterans living on the street.

Four major cities — Philadelphia, Houston, Las Vegas, and New Orleans — have gone further and effectively ended all veteran homelessness, said Richard Cho, deputy director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. Cho said in an interview that those cities have reached a level of “functional zero.”

Eighteen other US cities and counties, as well as the states of Connecticut and Virginia, also have met that goal.

Boston and New York are close but not quite at that benchmark. At this point, the two cities have ended what the federal government calls “chronic homelessness” among veterans. That definition includes any veteran who has a disability, and has been homeless for a year, or has had four episodes of homelessness over three years.

Five years ago, New York counted 4,677 veterans in shelters, transitional housing, and on the streets. By Feb. 22 this year, the number had fallen to 489, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

In New York, the palpable progress has not erased some skepticism of officials’ claim that fewer than 10 veterans are living on the street.

“I would be wary of saying that is the be-all and end-all number,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director for the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless.

Canvassers might miss veterans in such an immense city, for example, and some homeless people might not identify themselves as veterans.

But whatever the actual figure — and New York officials concede the total is only a best effort — the city has made reducing veteran homelessness a priority. It’s a complicated undertaking anywhere, but within New York’s byzantine and entrenched bureaucracy, the task should be exponentially harder.

Instead, the process has become more efficient, said Sutton, who was appointed veterans commissioner in September. Later this year, veterans services is scheduled to leave the umbrella of the mayor’s office to become a separate department.

“We’ve embraced the problem of veterans homelessness as an opportunity,” Sutton said. “If you boiled down New York City’s success to one word, it’s ‘relationships.’ ”

A growing web of relationships includes a partnership with Catholic Charities, which approached the city with plans to set aside 22 subsidized apartments for homeless veterans at the longtime grammar school where Gisoldi now lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

Catholic Charities had the space, and the city had a list of homeless veterans. Matches were made, and the veterans began moving in late last year.

“We really wanted to do something to make a difference,” said Claire Hilger, senior vice president at Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens. “The city is focused on identifying the veterans, and they’re going after every single apartment they can get.”

The Jericho Project, a New York-based group that seeks to end homelessness, has provided 132 apartments for veterans, according to Tori Lyon, its chief executive officer.

The vast majority of veterans have been housed with federal or local subsidies that cap rent payments at no more than 30 percent of income. The housing includes private-market apartments, city or state subsidized buildings, and residences with support services.

Overall, the city found permanent housing for 527 veterans in December and January, said Steven Banks, commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration, whose portfolio includes homelessness. “Resources matter, as well as a clear command structure,” Banks said.

Simplifying the maze has been critical, said Patricia Dawson, another senior vice president at Catholic Charities, because “there are so many pieces that have to be mobilized.”

But mobilized they have been. A similar effort unfolded in Boston, where the city Department of Neighborhood Development has led a broad collaboration of public and nonprofit partners to find housing for homeless veterans.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck process,” said Laila Bernstein, who heads the department’s drive to end homelessness.

Boston has reduced veteran homelessness by 44 percent since 2013, city officials said. In February, 250 veterans were homeless, compared with 450 just over two years ago.

As in New York, data are kept and updated on every veteran known to be homeless in Boston. Large meetings are convened regularly to plan and brainstorm. And veterans reach out to homeless peers to guide them through the system, which has been reinforced by a surge of federal housing vouchers and support services.

New York has dedicated scores of employees to the effort; city-paid veterans are guiding their homeless peers through a maze of agencies to secure benefits; and prospective landlords are being canvassed to gauge their interest.

In addition, $1,000 bonuses are being paid to brokers and landlords for providing housing, and the city is making up some of the shortfall if a previously homeless veteran falls behind in the rent.

“The city has made leaps and bounds,” said Samuel Innocent, an Afghanistan veteran who is policy director at the New York City Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group. Despite the strides, Innocent said, he is uncertain whether the city can sustain this success. “I feel that if we reach functional zero, the city will be quick to say, ‘We’re done.’ It’s never a done issue,” Innocent said.

In Brooklyn, Lonnie Selleck, a 71-year-old Army veteran of the Vietnam War, looked around his new apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant and compared conditions in the small but clean space with the rats, the dilapidated walls, and the fights that had made living at a shelter such a struggle.

“That’s it,” Selleck said, shaking his head slightly. “No more of that, I hope.”



"The brainchild of a pair of recent Harvard graduates, Sam Greenberg and Sarah Rosenkrantz, the city’s unlikliest social experiment was playing out: a shelter designed for homeless millennials. The shelter, which will close for the season on April 15, was an idea born of necessity, a kind of alternative haven — more college dorm room than army barracks. Their paths to homelessness — and to the shelter — are varied...."

$ee who financed the project? 

I've had long day so I hope you don't mind if we skip the sex.

NDU: time to check out


Airbnb to expand into concierge services

Airbnb taxes in doubt amid Baker opposition

You can't stay here.