TIME cities

New York City Just Froze Rent on One-Year Leases for the First Time Ever

Move comes after report shows renters struggling while landlord incomes grow

For the first time in its 46-year history, New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted on June 29 to freeze rent on one-year leases and to limit two-year lease increases to a comparatively low 2%. The freeze applies to leases on rent-stabilized apartments beginning in October.

The vote came after the board, which regulates rent for more than 1 million such apartments, released a report in April showing that while landlords’ incomes have grown for nine consecutive years, renters in stabilized housing have experienced both unchanged income and rising housing costs, the New York Times reports.

However, Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, an organization for landlords, said the outcome is ultimately negative and that “landlords will now have to forgo repairing, maintaining and preserving their apartments, which will trigger the deterioration of quality, affordable housing.”

A 2014 housing survey conducted by the city showed that the median rent-to-income ratio was nearly 34% and that a third of rental households paid more than half of their income in rent.

New York’s move comes as San Francisco grapples with imposing a construction moratorium in its Mission neighborhood to give the city a chance to purchase property for affordable housing. New York placed third behind San Francisco and Atlanta in speed of rising rents for 2014, and the city has periodically fielded calls for stricter rent control during this decade’s tech boom.


TIME Crime

Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for Almost 25 Years Will Get $6.25 Million

Jonathan Fleming,
Bebeto Matthews—AP Jonathan Fleming listens during a visit with his lawyer in New York on April 18, 2014

"We cannot give back the time that he served"

(NEW YORK) — New York City has agreed to pay $6.25 million to a man who spent nearly 25 years in prison before being exonerated in a killing that happened while he was more than 1,000 miles away vacationing at Disney World, the city comptroller said Tuesday.

Comptroller Scott Stringer said settling Jonathan Fleming’s claim is “in the best interest of all parties.”

“We cannot give back the time that he served, but the city of New York can offer Jonathan Fleming this compensation for the injustice that was committed against him,” Stringer said.

Fleming was released last year after the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said it had come to agree that his alibi — which he offered from the start — was valid.

His lawyers praised the city for moving expeditiously to settle with Fleming, who filed notice last year that he planned to sue for $162 million.

“The swift settlement will enable Jonathan and his family to build a new life without the painful and costly prospect of further litigation” with the city, attorneys Paul Callan and Martin Edelman said. He still has an unresolved claim against the state.

But Fleming’s relief was streaked with sadness: shortly after signing the settlement documents, Fleming, 53, went to a hospital where his mother was near death, his lawyers said.

Her only son was behind bars for nearly half his life, convicted of shooting a friend in Brooklyn in August 1989, though he had told authorities he was in Orlando, Florida, at the time and had plane tickets, videos and other material to show it. A woman testified that she had seen him commit the crime.

But then that eyewitness recanted, newly found witnesses implicated someone else and prosecutors’ review of authorities’ files turned up documents backing Fleming’s alibi. That evidence included an Orlando hotel receipt he paid about five hours before the shooting and had in his pocket when arrested. Authorities had never given his defense that receipt or a 1989 Orlando police letter telling New York detectives that some employees at the hotel remembered Fleming.

“No amount of money will ever give him back that time” he unjustly served, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Tuesday.

While the city has a legal department that fields lawsuits, the comptroller also can settle claims. Stringer has made a point of doing that in civil rights cases, saying that resolving them quickly saves the city money on legal fees.

He reached a $6.4 million settlement with a man exonerated in the 1990 killing of a rabbi; agreed to a $2.25 million payout to the family of a mentally ill inmate who died in a Rikers Island jail cell that sweltered to 101 degrees because of a malfunctioning heating system; and helped put together a $17million settlement in the case of three half brothers who spent a combined 60 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out.

TIME celebrity

Amy Schumer Photobombs a Couple’s Engagement Shoot in Central Park

Alisha Siegel

"Who else would photobomb an engagement shoot like that?"

Now that’s one for the wedding album.

Engaged couple Joseph Turnage and Brandon Moore were posing for engagement pictures recently in New York’s Central Park with photographer Alisha Siegel when notorious funnywoman (and prankster) Amy Schumer popped up while jogging and joined in on the photo-shoot fun.

Siegel was in the middle of snapping photos of the soon-to-be-married duo near the reservoir on 86th Street on the east side of the park when she heard someone yell, “Oh my god! Are you taking engagement photos? Let me get in one!” Siegel recalls of the run-in.

“I thought it was a little weird, but I said yes anyways,” Siegel tells PEOPLE. “She took off her sunglasses, we snapped a quick pic, and right after, she says, ‘You guys know I’m like reeeeeeal famous.’ I take another look it hit me that it was Amy Schumer!”

The Brooklyn-based photographer admits that the encounter was a complete shock, leaving her just a bit starstruck.

“My face went totally blank and I said, ‘Oh my god! Amy! I love you!’ Needless to say I was pretty excited,” says Siegel, 25.

And the couple, who are set to wed in Manhattan in October, were just as stunned.

“I think we were all in shock that it had actually happened. We were just doing our thing and taking pictures. Never in a million years would we think Amy Schumer would want to jump in a photo,” Siegel says, also noting that the Comedy Central star was “beyond friendly” and “hilarious.”

Adds Siegel, “Who else would photobomb an engagement shoot like that? Only Amy.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Nutrition

New York Officials Want High-Sodium Warnings in Chain Restaurants

High salt intake is linked to a raft of health problems

New York City may become the first in the U.S. to require warning labels about high sodium content on menus in chain restaurants.

The city’s Health Department will propose Wednesday that eateries add a salt shaker symbol to menu items that contain more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, equal to about one teaspoon of salt, the Associated Press reports.

Studies show that people who eat more sodium are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, which in turn contributes to heart disease, kidney problems and the possibility of a stroke. But doctors say some people are more sensitive to salt than others, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a strict limit to sodium consumption.

The average American consumes around 3,300 mg of sodium per day, 1,000 mg over the recommended daily intake. About three-fourths of that sodium intake comes from prepared or processed restaurant foods. Only about one in 10 Americans meet the one teaspoon of salt per day guideline.

Read Next: FDA Wants to Limit Your Salt Intake. Is That a Good Thing?


TIME Crime

Minnie Mouse and Hello Kitty Duke It Out in Times Square

The latest incident in cartoon characters behaving badly

Hey kids: Want to visit New York City this summer to see your favorite cartoon characters get arrested for assault and harassment?

The problems in New York’s Times Square used to center around pickpockets and peep shows. Now, it’s cartoon mascots behaving badly. The latest incident surrounding the growing problem of costumed characters soliciting tips in the heart of New York involves Minnie Mouse (identified as Giovana Melendez, 40) and Hello Kitty (Sandra Mocha, 34). The two reportedly got into a fight Thursday over tips from tourists in exchange for photos. According to New York’s Pix11, both were arrested for assault and harassment.

In the last few years, Times Square has become home to a growing number of people dressed as cartoon characters, many of whom have had run-ins with the law. In September 2014, a panhandling Elmo was arrested for aggressively soliciting tourists. Two separate Spider-Men have been arrested, one for punching a woman, another for punching a cop. A man playing Cookie Monster was arrested in April for groping a girl. And last summer, two Statues of Liberty got into a fight.

“This is another reason why we need regulations to address the growing problems in Times Square,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, referring to the latest incident, according to the New York Post.

TIME Crime

What’s Behind Baltimore’s Record-Setting Rise in Homicides

baltimore police shooting maryland
Colin Campbell—Baltimore Sun/Getty Images Police pick up a pair of tennis shoes after a double shooting in the 2300 block of E. Preston Street in Broadway East on May 24, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.

Emboldened criminals, low officer morale and fears of jail time for police

Baltimore police officers making routine stops or arrests around the city are encountering something very different these days: bystanders, often dozens of them, crowding around and recording their every move.

Since the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black Baltimore resident who died in police custody on April 19, the balance of power between police and citizens in the city appears to have tilted on its axis. Protests following Gray’s death, which at first experienced little police pushback, have led to elevated levels of violence around the city by criminals who some experts say appear emboldened. There were 43 homicides in May, the most in any month since December 1971—when the city was almost one-third bigger than it is today. According to numbers compiled by the Baltimore Sun and the FBI, the average number of monthly murders in May from 2009 to 2014 was 21.

At the same time, arrests have plummeted. In the first two weeks of May, arrests by Baltimore police were down 57% from the year before.

Since six officers were indicted in Gray’s death on May 1, police officers’ concerns over potential prosecution for improper use of force now appear to be holding many of them back from arresting suspects altogether. When they do, they’re surrounded by smartphone-wielding citizens. It’s as if the police are no longer patrolling Baltimore the way they once did; instead, the citizens are patrolling them.

“The cops I’ve spoken to say it’s different now,” said Peter Moskos, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and former Baltimore City police officer. “Cops are saying, If we’re going to get in trouble for well-intentioned mistakes, then f— it, I’m not working.”

Recent events in Baltimore aside, crime often goes up in the summer in cities across the country, not necessarily because the heat drives people to violence but because more people are outdoors and teenagers aren’t in school. Last year, the worst months for violence in Baltimore were May and August, while June and July are generally the deadliest for New York City and Chicago, according to police data.

Like Baltimore, New York City and Chicago have experienced increases in homicides this year. According to the New York Times, shootings in New York are up 20% from 2013 while there have been 98 homicides involving guns so far this year, an increase from 69 in the same period in both 2013 and 2014. In Chicago, there have been 161 homicides this year through May 31, up from 140 in 2013 and 137 in 2014. Officials in New York have blamed the rise in homicides on deadly conflicts between “career criminals” and gang activity in Brooklyn and the Bronx, while Chicago officials say criminals are buying guns in neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin, which have fewer restrictions on firearms, and committing crimes with them in Chicago.

But what’s been happening in Baltimore is different. The number of murders has doubled while shootings are up more than 80%, and most experts say that it’s at least partly linked to a reluctance by police to actively do their jobs.

“There’s a sense that the criminal element is recognizing that the police are in a very defensive position,” said Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor who studies policing.

Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore city’s Fraternal Order of Police, says that due to the violent nature of Baltimore’s protests in April, many residents now feel as if they can get away with crimes they couldn’t have previously.

“They were allowed to break the law without being arrested,” Ryan said. “The criminal element is taking advantage of the crisis. They don’t believe there’s any recourse.” Ryan added that many officers he’s talked to are concerned that mistakes on the force could potentially get them indicted. “Officers are afraid of doing their job,” he said. “They’re more afraid of going to jail than getting shot and killed right now.”

Morale within the department appears to be at an all-time low. Greenberger said many officers have had to give up vacation time and off-duty hours to respond to crises, while others have left the department altogether. Many on-duty officers are also being pulled away from their normal beats to back up other officers during a stop or an arrest because of the groups of people who gather to record their actions. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has described situations in which “30 to 50 people” are surrounding officers on duty.

“They’re still doing their jobs, but now these stops takes four officers instead of two because they’re surrounded by people filming them,” Moskos said.

Baltimore also appears to be at least a short-term test case for how much of an effect policing has on crime. Moskos said some experts don’t accept the notion that policing is linked to crime rates and that crime can only be lessened by tackling root causes like poverty or poor education, rather than boosting a police force.

“The link to police and crime has never been fully accepted,” he said. “But it’s not like poverty got worse over night. Those root causes didn’t change over night, but policing did change. There’s absolutely less aggressive policing as crime is going up. Cops are doing less because they don’t want to get in trouble.”

The Freddie Gray incident has also brought to light years of frustration and anger toward the police department. Greenberger argues that much of that anger goes back to policing strategies put in place in the 1990s under former Mayor Martin O’Malley, now a Democratic candidate for president, who focused the police department on a “zero tolerance” strategy that relied on achieving arrest quotas, oftentimes of low-level crimes. That strategy, a version of what is often called Broken Windows policing, is sometimes criticized for leading to racial profiling.

“You cannot underestimate the anger of people in some of these communities,” Greenberger said. “That anger, I believe, has led the police department to be much more cautious in its policing mechanisms.”

Alex Tabbarok, who studies the relationship between crime and policing, said he believes that even if policing had stayed the same, crime would’ve probably gone up because of some of the root causes, like poverty.

“But you can’t have such a dramatic fall in arrests without seeing an increase in crime,” he said.


Watch a Stunning 11-Year Time-Lapse of One World Trade Center Being Built

Hundreds of thousands of images capture the laying of the foundations all the way to the finishing touches

To mark the opening of the One World Observatory in New York City over the weekend, EarthCam released an incredible time-lapse video that shows the slow construction of the One World Trade Center over the 11 years it took to build.

According to EarthCam’s YouTube page, the team cut together hundreds of thousands of high-definition images captured between October 2004 and Memorial Day 2015 to produce the stunning two-minute video of the building rising into the sky.

The observation deck, situated on the 100th-102nd floors of the tower, officially opened to the public on May 29. At 1,298 ft., the One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the fourth tallest in the world.

Read more about the One World Observatory here.

TIME Innovation

Fighting Climate Change Will Take Economic Innovation, Too

Getty Images

The local community is key to a successful outcome

If any of us want to make a dent in the adverse effects of climate change in our lifetimes, we’ll need all hands on deck. That, in fact, is one of the core tenants of the contemporary environmental justice movement.

Proponents of environmental justice point toward crises looming on the horizon: President Obama is urging new and quick action in reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases; California is strategizing a way past its crippling drought; and urban megacities are searching for new models of development that use less resources and generate less waste.

But the project of ensuring a secure future for our planet can’t rely on the innovation of science alone. We need economic innovators, too. That was the message from Peggy Shepard, executive director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a New York-based advocacy organization, at a recent event at The Museum of the City of New York, co-presented by the Museum and New America NYC.

Shepard was joined in discussion by Ashley White, a young graduate of the Green City Force Corps; Bomee Jung, Deputy Director of the New York City Office of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower, all of whom confronted head on common assumptions that sustainable development is more expensive and makes little economic sense. On the contrary, a healthy environment requires — and helps reinforce — a healthy economy.

Shepard, who co-founded WE ACT almost 25 years ago, first got turned on to the intersection between environment and economy as the Democratic district leader in her West Harlem neighborhood, where various utility mismanagement struggles came across her radar. Long-neglected and releasing noxious emissions into a residential neighborhood already plagued by poor levels of air quality, the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was a particular problem in Shepard’s district. Another was the absence of an efficient and functional bus depot in northern Manhattan.

The green benefits for the community in advocating for a more environmentally compliant treatment facility and an alternative fuel-operated bus depot were obvious. But WE ACT managed to achieve those benefits while simultaneously creating new jobs and ensuring more long-term government accountability in maintaining both facilities. In both cases, the community was key to a successful outcome, Shepard said. WE ACT’s wins were directly born out of using “models of community organizing and public policy [that allow] residents [to] integrate in and directly influence policy.”

WE ACT’s community-centered approach has caught on in addressing all types of environmental and economic issues — affordable housing development, urban gardening and food distribution, and alternative energy, to name a few.

With her work with Green City Force Corps, White acknowledged the constructive power of the community in the huge gains her organization has made. They have planted urban farms in otherwise unused lots which have yielded 3.6 tons of new of produce by and for residents of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a lower-resourced neighborhood often considered a “food desert.”

In many of the same communities, Jung’s work has transformed amassed assets – the resources accrued by developers through market-race contracts along with the government and tax incentives they receive for committing to new ownership and new building within the city — directly into policy solutions by adjusting city planning regulations for building contracts to include provisions for affordable housing developments that adhere to higher environmental standards. At BlocPower, Baird is leading the effort to invest in public-private partnerships and employ solar and energy efficiency technology to slash both energy consumption and cost.

Taken together, these four pioneers are just a few of the cohort of entrepreneurs working to prove that—through the right combined forces of local empowerment, public and government investment, and private sector support—we can be greener, healthier, and more productive while becoming more economically viable.

To be sure, there’s still work to be done. Shepard observed that government still hasn’t become effectively responsive to community needs. If our environmental footprint is going to get any better, Shepard noted, residents and neighborhood stakeholders have to be put at “the center of efforts for change so they become informed and empowered enough to take their own actions.” Just think: if more residents and fewer bureaucrats were invited to testify in front of city planning commissions and participate in green task forces, how much more consensus and momentum could be generated?

If urban green innovators like Shepard, White, Baird, and Jung are any indication, the environmental-economic future looks bright, but that doesn’t mean they they’re resting comfortably on the laurels of their breakthroughs. To the contrary, they’re always thinking about the next big benchmark for progress. In a society where dollars gained and lost are the go-to arbiters of risk and success, there are still too few companies that see their business impacts outside of environmental terms, and vice versa. But if we see environmental justice as connected to — and often the same as — economic justice, they both win.

As Shepard put it, environmental activism isn’t just about “stopping the bad stuff,” but about cultivating a system that creates the new — new technology, new partnerships, and (sooner than we think) new ways of thinking about the world we all want to live in.

Tyler S. Bugg is the New America NYC associate for New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Fine Art

Christie’s Just Sold Over $1 Billion Worth of Artwork in Three Days

Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids at an auction for the art work, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version O)" painted by Pablo Picasso, at Christie's on May 11, 2015 in New York City
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids at an auction for the art work, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version O)" painted by Pablo Picasso, at Christie's on May 11, 2015 in New York City

And they still haven't finished their sales for the week

With paintings like Mark Rothko’s “No.10″ going for $82 million or Andy Warhol’s “Colored Mona Lisa” topping $56 million, it is no wonder Christie’s made history Wednesday by becoming the first auction house to cross the $1 billion mark in total art sales in one week.

According to the auction house, 72 postwar and contemporary artworks sold for just under $660 million in a New York evening auction. This comes on the heels of Christie’s “Looking Forward to the Past” event that made over $705 million on Monday. Among the latter’s sales were Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O” becoming the most valuable single piece of artwork sold at an auction when it fetched over $179 million.

Christie’s is set to add to the record on Thursday with a day and night sale. They will have another day sale on Friday.

And it isn’t just Christie’s raking in the dough. Competitor Sotheby’s notched up $380 million on a Tuesday evening sale and over $90 million on a Wednesday day auction.

TIME Courts

Judge Declares Mistrial in Case of Etan Patz, Missing 36 Years

Missing NYC Boy
Bebeto Matthews—AP Stanley Patz, father of Etan Patz, pauses during a news conference, after a judge declared a mistrial for Pedro Hernandez at Manhattan Supreme Court in New York on May 8, 2015.

A judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict for the third time

Prosecutors’ attempt to finally close a missing child case that has mystified New York City for more than three decades collapsed on Friday, after jurors failed to reach a verdict for a third time.

A judge declared a mistrial in the murder case trial of Pedro Hernandez, 54, a factory worker in New Jersey who confessed to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz 33 years after Patz disappeared in 1979.

Prosecutors must now decide whether to attempt a new trial against Hernandez or let him go free. “We believe there is clear and corroborated evidence of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement, without indicating whether he plans to retry Hernandez.

Patz’s family expressed outrage that the jury failed to reach a verdict. “This man did it. He said it. How many times does a man have to confess before you believe him and it’s not a hallucination?” Stanley Patz, Etan’s father, told reporters on Friday.

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