TIME viral

Ref Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Violations in NYC

If only we could do this to everyone who displays poor subway etiquette

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Taking a cue from World Cup refs, comedian Yoni Lotan decided to dash around the streets of New York City to charge pedestrians with various penalties. Transgressions included taking selfies in inappropriate places and donning the wrong footwear.

He seems to camp out in popular tourist areas like Times Square and the Theater District, so he’s mostly handing out penalty cards to visitors rather than New York residents. This makes sense, because tourists are more likely to play along, whereas New Yorkers would be more likely to tell him to, you know, get outta here. Still, we kind of wish the city would hire real referees to hand out yellow cards to people who do things like lean their entire bodies against the pole in a crowded subway car.

(h/t Digg)

TIME Drugs

Brooklyn Prosecutors Won’t Pursue Low-Level Marijuana Arrests

Rally Held In Support Of Brooklyn DA's Plan To Stop Prosecuting Minor Marijuana Offenses
Elected officials, community leaders and local activists attend a rally outside Brooklyn borough hall in support of the district attorney's plans to end prosecuting minor marijuana offenses on April 25, 2014 in New York City. On Tuesday, the district attorney's office announced it would no longer pursue some low-level drug charges in the borough. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The district attorney thinks resources are better spent on more important crimes

Add Brooklyn to the growing list of places in America where getting caught with a small amount of marijuana may not result in legal consequences.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office announced July 8 that it will no longer prosecute adults charged with low-level marijuana offenses who have limited or no criminal records. The policy change has been in the works for several months but was delayed as the district attorney’s office worked to address concerns from the New York Police Department.

District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement that the move to stop pursuing minor marijuana cases will allow his office to redirect resources to higher priorities and ensure that “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in non-violent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property.”

Last year, the D.A.’s office processed more than 8,500 cases in which the top count was a marijuana possession charge.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton acknowledged Thompson’s ability to set enforcement priorities, but said that the police department’s policies involving marijuana arrests had not changed.

“We understand that it is the prerogative of each of the city’s district attorneys to decline to prosecute any criminal offense occurring within their respective jurisdictions,” Bratton said in a statement. “However, in order to be effective, our police officers must enforce the laws of the state of New York uniformly throughout all five boroughs of the city.”

The move toward decriminalization in New York City’s most populous borough comes the same day legal sales of recreational weed sales began in Washington state, and one day after New York became the 23rd state to allow medical use of marijuana.

TIME weather

WATCH: Lightning Strike in NYC Caught on Video

You may not be able to capture lightning in a bottle, but you can certainly post it on YouTube

TIME cities

NYC Subway Dancers Face Higher Arrest Rates

NYPD continues its crackdown on dance crews who perform inside subway cars

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The dancers who use New York City’s subway cars as a performance venue for flashy moves that include flipping, spinning and hanging upside-down, seem to be fighting a losing battle against the city’s cops.

The New York City Police Department has made 182 arrests for reckless endangerment thus far in 2014, compared with 40 arrests in the first half of 2013. It’s part of NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton’s “broken windows” approach to policing, which takes on a series of smaller quality of life matters in hopes that it will reduce more serious crime.

Though there have been no injuries reported this year, dancers often engage in stunts just inches away from passengers’ faces. Depending on the passenger, the performance is either a fun addition to a grueling commute, or a nuisance from which they cannot escape.

With reporting by Justin Worland

TIME

Court Won’t Reinstate New York City’s Big-Soda Ban

ALBANY, N.Y. — Guzzlers prevailed Thursday as New York’s highest court refused to reinstate New York City’s ban on the sale of big sodas, ruling that the city’s health department overstepped its bounds when approved the 16-ounce cap on sugary beverages.

The court largely ignored the merits of the ban in the 20-page ruling, but determined the city’s Board of Health engaged in policy-making, and not simply health regulations, when it imposed the restrictions on restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums and street cart vendors.

“The Board of Health engaged in law-making beyond its regulatory authority,” the opinion reads. “… It is clear that the Board of Health wrote the Portion Cap Rule without benefit of legislative guidance.”

The city had hoped Thursday’s ruling would overturn a lower court’s decision that blocked the restrictions after restaurants, theater owners, beverage companies and small stores sued.

“We are pleased that the lower courts’ decisions were upheld,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement after the decision was handed down. The restrictions, if reinstated, “would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”

City Health Commission Mary T. Bassett said the administration of current Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to look for ways “to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.”

“Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes,” Bassett said.

The case was decided 4-2, with the majority opinion written by Judge Eugene Piggott Jr. Piggott wrote that city health regulators appeared to carefully weigh the economic, social and health implications of the ban — a policy function that Piggott wrote was not the health board’s to exercise. The two dissenting judges wrote that they believe the Board of Health was within its rights to impose the ban, and that the judiciary shouldn’t “step into the middle of a debate over public health policy.”

The city hasn’t said whether it plans to try to appeal. But it’s unlikely that an appeal to the Supreme Court would be accepted because the case centers on local government authority and legislation, not federal issues.

Soda has been under fire for years, with health advocates saying the sugary beverages are unique in their harmfulness because people don’t realize how much high-fructose corn syrup they’re guzzling. The bad publicity has helped lead to a steady decline in U.S. soda sales for nearly a decade. But other sugary drinks such as sports drinks and energy drinks have been growing.

To help curb consumption, lawmakers and health advocates around the country have proposed soda taxes in recent years. None have succeeded, however, in part because of heavy campaigning and lobbying from the beverage industry. In California, a measure that would have slapped a warning label on sodas was recently defeated.

In the meantime, Coke and Pepsi have also been rolling out smaller cans and bottles, some as small as 7.5 ounces. The idea is that people would be more willing to drink soda if they could control the portion sizes. The smaller sizes are also more profitable for companies.

TIME poverty

Meet the Chinese Philanthropist Who Just Disappointed a Lot of New Yorkers

Chen Guangbiao
Recycling magnate Chen Guangbiao sings to the media and his guests from the New York City Rescue Mission at The Loeb Boathouse restaurant in New York, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. The Chinese tycoon known for his sometimes eccentric gestures served up a fancy lunch Wednesday to hundreds of homeless New Yorkers at a Central Park restaurant and serenaded them with "We are the World." Chen said he wants to disprove the cliche image of rich Chinese spending money mostly on luxuries. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Seth Wenig—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Philanthropist or attention hog?

Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao’s much-hyped posh luncheon for some of New York City’s homeless was overshadowed by an unmet promise to distribute $300 to each of the diners.

But Chen appeared unfazed, telling the New York Times that he’s taking his philanthropy to Africa next. The self-made recycling tycoon worth an estimated $740 million has already become something of a household name in China, where he’s used his money—and his theatrics—to grab headlines and push his causes.

Chen, who grew up in a poor rural household and says two of his siblings died of hunger, has cultivated a reputation for the eccentric, and he’s far from bashful about his exploits: His business card reads “Most Influential Person of China.” He’s known for handing out cash to unsuspecting passersby, an antic he brought to the streets of New York City ahead of the luncheon.

https://twitter.com/connortryan/status/481771238952828928/photo/1

He’s also used his theatrics to raise awareness about issues like pollution in China’s cities. Last year he distributed cans of fresh air with a variety of flavors—there were the options of “pristine Tibet” and “post-industrial Taiwan,” among others. That followed his public smashing of his old, gas-guzzling Mercedes and his handout of thousands of bikes. In a call for China’s wealth to join him in his philanthropy, Chen constructed a wall of cash for a photo-op.

He’s also played in geopolitics. In 2012, he took out an ad in the New York Times declaring that the disputed Diaoyu Islands are Chinese and not Japanese territory. And then a year later, he announced that he planned to buy the New York Times, even as the owner said it wasn’t for sale. If not the Times, Chen said at the time, then he’d try for CNN or the Wall Street Journal.

“As long as they have some influence, I’m still willing to consider buying lesser media outlets,” he said at the time.

TIME cities

Chinese Tycoon’s NYC Lunch For Homeless Becomes a Chase For Cash

Chinese Tycoon Homeless Feast
Guests from the New York City Rescue Mission take drinks as they enter The Loeb Boathouse restaurant in New York, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Recycling magnate Chen Guangbiao, known for his sometimes eccentric gestures served up a fancy lunch Wednesday to hundreds of homeless New Yorkers and serenaded them with "We are the World." Seth Wenig—AP

Shelter officials urged Chen not to give cash to the group because many are being treated for addictions and the money could be better used for their programs

(NEW YORK) — A Chinese tycoon served up a fancy lunch Wednesday to homeless New Yorkers at a Central Park restaurant, but caught grief from attendees expecting cash.

Recycling magnate Chen Guangbiao selected a menu of sesame-seed-encrusted tuna, beef filet and berries with creme fraiche at The Loeb Boathouse restaurant for more than 200 residents of the New York City Rescue Mission, the nation’s oldest shelter. He even serenaded them with a rendition of “We Are the World” and did some magic tricks.

Dozens of volunteer waiters sported green uniforms similar to those once worn by soldiers in China’s People’s Liberation Army, bearing the words “Serve the People.”

“I’m looking forward to a good time and a good meal,” said Antone Hills, a shelter resident. “I think he’s a good guy and he’s helping our country.”

Wads of cash filled wire baskets at the restaurant, with Chen waving some of the money in front of the guests. But when they discovered that they in fact would not be given any money, an uproar ensued, with some yelling, “We want it now!”

Shelter officials urged Chen not to give cash to the group because many are being treated for addictions and the money could be better used for their programs.

Others waiting outside, unable to get in because they weren’t registered, booed and cursed Chen, yelling “liar” and “con man.”

Chen said he wants to disprove the image of rich Chinese spending money on luxuries.

“I was not born into a rich family or a family of government officials. When I was 4 years old my brother and sister died of hunger, so I achieved my success through confidence, self-motivation and my hard work,” Chen said in Chinese in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

His worth is estimated at $750 million.

“Our thought was if someone wants to treat them to an amazing event — something they would never experience on their own, maybe even a kernel of hope that life could be different again, we’re in for that reason,” said the shelter’s executive director, Craig Mayes.

But Chen’s American ambitions surpass philanthropy.

Earlier this year, the 46-year-old businessman wanted to buy The New York Times. Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., said the newspaper was not for sale.

To announce the lunch, Chen placed ads in the Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Chen has been deemed eccentric from his theatrical antics.

To protest air pollution in Beijing, he stood on a street corner handing out cans marked “Fresh Air.” Chen also rushed to the scene of a massive earthquake in Sichuan and handed out cash to victims. On Tuesday in New York City, he was on the street offering $100 bills to anyone who looked like they needed money. His English language business card reads: “MOST CHARASMATIC PHILANTHROPIST OF CHINA.”

MONEY freebies

Where to Watch the USA-Germany World Cup Match for Free

140626_EM_WorldCupViewing_1
Max Herman/Corbis

Cities around the U.S. are getting in the World Cup spirit by hosting free public viewing parties of the big USA-Germany match on Thursday. Here a dozen places where you can catch the action.

If you’re a soccer fan, you may want to take an extra long lunch break (or breakfast for those in the West) and watch the match on a big screen—typically a really, really big screen in a city park or popular gathering place—with thousands of fellow fans who are doing the same thing. Here are a dozen U.S. cities where the public is being welcomed to watch the match as a group. Admission is free at all venues, and drinks and food are generally available on site.

Ann Arbor, Mich.: At the office of the Ann Arbor News, 111 N. Ashley St.

Boston, Mass.: City Hall Plaza

Buffalo, N.Y.: Canalside

Chicago, Ill.: Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park

Dallas, Tex.: AT&T Plaza outside American Airlines Arena

Detroit, Mich.: Cadillac Square

Kansas City, Mo.: KC Live! Block

Los Angeles, Calif.: Hermosa Beach Pier

New York City: Bryant Park in Manhattan and under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn

Orlando, Fla.: Wall Street Plaza (21+ only)

Salt Lake City, Utah: Energy Solutions Arena

Seattle, Wash.: Phinney Center

MONEY Housing Market

The Future’s Most Walkable Cities: Prepare to Be Surprised

061417_REA_boston
Urbanization of next-door neighbor Cambridge is one of the chief reasons Boston's walkability is on the rise. Boston Harbor Association—Boston Harbor Association

Walkable urban places are the cities of the future, a new study says. And where will those be? New York, Boston? Try Miami and Phoenix. No, we're not kidding.

If you live in Washington D.C., New York City or Boston and your legs are your main mode of transport, this won’t be news to you: These three cities rank among the country’s most walkable large cities, and they are destined to remain so.

After those top three, watch out: Cities known more for suburban sprawl and traffic jams have new development planned that will shoot them up into the top scores as “walkable urban place,” or, WalkUPs, as researchers at George Washington University and advocacy group Smart Growth America call them.

Miami, Detroit, Denver, and Tampa will vault into the new Top 10 large WalkUPs, according to a new study released today. Atlanta, Los Angeles and Phoenix will also take a big leap forward. Future rankings are based on things like planned investment in public transportation and commercial clusters.

jefferson memorial
D.C. ranks No. 1. Its suburbs are as walkable as the central city. Destination DC—Destination DC

“The WalkUPs are witnessing the end of sprawl,” said Christopher Leinberger, a professor of urban real estate at George Washington University School of Business. “This is a change in how we built the country in the 20th century.” Suburban sprawl, he argues, has constrained the country’s economic growth.

Walkable urban places, sometimes referred to as urban burbs, have high concentrations of college-educated adults and demonstrate a strong correlation between urban development, education and economic growth. Office rents in urbanized areas, for example, command a 74% premium over suburban. (Researchers focused on the 30 largest metropolitan areas because they comprise 46% of the U.S. population and 58% of the country’s GDP.)

And homeowners, take note: Walkability and proximity to shopping, restaurants and work are becoming increasingly important to buyers, especially young buyers. Research has shown that increases in measures of walkability such as WalkScore translate into increased property values.

Today’s Top 15 Walkable Cities

1. Washington, D.C.
2. New York City
3. Boston
4. San Francisco
5. Chicago
6. Seattle
7. Portland, Ore.
8. Atlanta
9. Pittsburgh
10. Cleveland
11. Baltimore
12. Miami
13. Philadelphia
14. Denver
15. Houston
Least Walkable: Tampa, Phoenix, Orlando

The Future’s Most Walkable Cities

1. Boston
2. Washington, D.C.
3. New York City
4. Miami
5. Atlanta
6. Seattle
7. San Francisco
8. Detroit
9. Denver
10. Tampa
11. Los Angeles
12. Phoenix
13. Houston
14. Portland
15. Chicago
Least Walkable: San Diego, Kansas City, San Antonio

TIME

New York’s Single Test for High School Defined My Life

New York City high school students
New York City high school students Chris Hondros—Getty Images

When I was eleven years old, didn't speak English well, and worked in a sweatshop, I was accepted into one of New York City's elite specialized high schools. Now, some want to alter the admissions system that helped change my life.

When I was eleven years old, I took the entrance exam for Hunter College High School, one of New York City’s elite schools and among the best in the country. It changed my life.

I came from a non-English-speaking immigrant family that had moved to New York from Hong Kong only six years earlier. My parents worked in a garment factory in Chinatown, where I helped them every day after school. My family knew absolutely nothing about navigating the New York City public school system, but I was lucky that my Brooklyn elementary school principal identified my academic potential, understood my family’s inexperience, and pointed me to the entry test. I remember stumbling out of the examination room, dazed by questions I had never imagined, many of which I could barely understand. But I was accepted, and the test became the defining event of my life.

Hunter gave me access to an education and a student body I never would have had otherwise, and it opened doors for college and graduate school. In eighth grade, I decided to try my luck at what was then commonly called the Stuyvesant test, the single exam that guarded admission to several of the city’s top public high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Tech. I didn’t prepare, but by then I had two years of rigorous Hunter junior high school experience under my belt, and this time, I passed by a wide margin, though ultimately I opted to stay at Hunter.

Now, decades later, a bill is being pushed in the New York State Legislature by a group of Democratic lawmakers and the New York City teachers union to change this single-exam admissions system for eight of the city’s elite public high schools. They want to introduce a broader range of criteria into the admission process, with the hope of addressing what is a current, and striking, lack of diversity at elite schools where the numbers of lower-income, Latino, and African-American students have sunk to disproportionally low levels. In addition to the current test, admissions officers would possibly consider things such as grade point averages, attendance, interviews, community service and extracurricular activities. The intentions are admirable. Heterogeneity at any school should be critical. But I think back to my own admission to Hunter and wonder what this kind of broader admissions process would have meant for someone like me, with so little information and very few resources.

Certainly, times have changed since I was in high school in the late 1980s. Extensive test preparation services are common for those students who have the resources and we can never know how I would have fared against such peers. Critics understandably worry that reliance upon a single test today may put certain racial and economic groups at a disadvantage—perhaps a biased one. So I applaud the desire to fix an admissions system that is clearly flawed, but I caution against hasty implementation of even well-intentioned changes. Whatever disadvantages I had walking into that single test with so little preparation, I would have been much more flummoxed by an interview and the need to demonstrate extracurricular activities. I wore pilled, ill-fitting clothing that had been sewn by my mother. I was very shy and had in fact been taught at home not to meet people’s eyes, for fear of appearing rebellious. I spoke with a heavy accent, having only learned to speak English a few years before. And most of my available extracurricular time was spent working in a sweatshop—a shameful secret I would never have shared with an admissions officer. If I had been pitted against a confident child from an exclusive private school, how well would I have done in an interview?

Children of highly-educated, well-off parents will always have the advantage in fulfilling any package of requirements. I worry that the proposed changes will simply create a new market for consultants to help affluent parents prepare their children to ace that competition, too. I wonder how well disadvantaged students and their parents would be able to navigate a complex and difficult maze of details, requirements and tasks. I am not arguing in favor of keeping the one-test system unchanged. I am simply asking for more time before rushing unfinished legislation into law. The solution might include investing in research that strengthens the test, or it might require the state and city to commit to long-term strategies with feeder schools that better prepare disadvantaged groups for whatever multiple criteria system is employed.

Looking at the lack of diversity in these elite schools today, it’s clear that current system is broken, but it’s possible that the changes that are currently on the table could actually further hurt the very people we are all trying to help.

Jean Kwok is the author of two novels, Girl in Translation, and Mambo in Chinatown, out June 24. She was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Brooklyn as a young girl. Between earning her bachelor’s degree from Harvard and her MFA in fiction at Columbia, she was a professional ballroom dancer. She lives in Amsterdam with her husband and children.

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