TIME celebrities

Taylor Swift Donates $50,000 to New York City’s Public Schools

Taylor Swift visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in New York City on Feb. 17, 2015.
Theo Wargo/NBC—Getty Images Taylor Swift visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in New York City on Feb. 17, 2015.

Part of her "Welcome to New York" campaign

Taylor Swift has come through on a pledge, made last fall, to donate proceeds from her popular song “Welcome to New York” to the city’s public schools.

Swift, 25, has made a $50,000 donation to the New York City Department of Education, an official there confirmed to Capital New York. The singer herself has yet to confirm that publicly.

The recent N.Y.C. transplant made the promise last October in an appearance on The View. “It’s selling really, really well, which is good because I’m donating all my proceeds to New York City public schools,” she said at the time.

It was not immediately clear if the $50,000 represents Swift’s full take from the song’s profits, or if this is a first installment of a larger donation.

Swift – who has topped DoSomething.org’s “Celebs Gone Good” list, recognizing the most philanthropic stars, for three years running – also held an event last fall with N.Y.C. schoolkids to talk about the power of reading and writing.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME weather

See a Bird’s Eye View of the Frozen Tundra That Is New York City

It's very cold in New York this weekend. How cold? Check out these aerial images of a frosty Hudson River and more.

MONEY Autos

How New York’s Proposed Toll Hikes Stack Up Against Other Cities’

bridges over Hudson river
Brett Beyer—Getty Images

The tolls faced by New York City drivers today are expensive, and could get even pricier if a new proposal on the table is approved. Still, in the grand scheme, the city's tolls are cheap compared to some other places in the world.

This week, a transit advocacy group introduced the Move NY Fair Plan, a proposal to add and tweak driving fees around Manhattan in order to address what it describes as an “unfair, regressive tolling system,” while also easing traffic congestion and raising $1.5 billion annually to fund transportation infrastructure. The gist of the proposal, as summed up by the New York Times, the Times Herald-Record, and others, is that some bridge tolls would get cheaper while a few new tolls would be added according to “a logical formula: higher tolls where transit options are most available and lower tolls where transit is either not available or a less viable option.”

The plan calls for tolls to be added to four bridges that cross the East River but traditionally have been toll-free: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queensboro, and Williamsburg. Vehicles would also start being hit with a fee when they cross 60th Street northbound or southbound in Manhattan. In both cases, the new tolls would run $5.54 each way for E-ZPass users, and $8 for others. Meanwhile, tolls on a few other New York City bridges, including the Verrazano Narrows, Throgs Neck, and Bronx-Whitestone, would be reduced by $2.50 for E-ZPass holders.

The overarching argument in favor of the changes is that the existing system of tolls and transit fares isn’t sufficient to fund infrastructure needs, and that today’s tolls are just plain unfair. Hence the proposed “Fair Plan.”

But how “fair” would the new tolls be compared to what drivers face elsewhere? The proposal—which for now is just that, a proposal that may not win much support in the city or Albany—would have no effect whatsoever on the bridges and tunnels run by the Port Authority, including the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, among others. If the plan is approved, the East River Bridge tolls—again, $5.54 each way with E-ZPass, so $11.08 round trip—would be cheaper than a Port Authority bridge or tunnel crossing into New York during peak commuting hours ($11.75), but pricier than an off-peak trip ($9.75).

Among other pricey bridges and tunnels around the U.S. and abroad:

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel: The $15 toll during peak season (Friday to Monday, May 15 to September 15) is quite pricey, but hey, this engineering wonder connecting Virginia’s Eastern Shore to Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach is 20 miles long.

Golden Gate Bridge: At a cost of $6 to $7 only for cars heading into San Francisco, the Golden Gate doesn’t charge as if it’s one of America’s most famous landmarks.

Whittier Tunnel: This 2.5-mile passage in between Anchorage, Alaska, and Whittier and Prince William Sound is the longest highway tunnel in the U.S., and it only has one lane that must be shared by cars and trains. The cost of driving through in a standard vehicle is $12 one way.

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge: Also known as Pearl Bridge, Japan’s Akashi-Kaikyo has the world’s longest central span of any suspension bridge, at 1.2 miles. Driving across costs 2,300 Yen, which is around $20 per vehicle today. The toll used to be closer to $30 back in the days when the American dollar wasn’t quite as strong.

Mont Blanc Tunnel: This passage crossing the France-Italy border in the Alps is impressive for two key data points. The tunnel stretches a total of 7.2 miles, and driving through costs about $49 one way.

As for the idea that drivers in the New York City area be charged not for crossing a body of water but simply for entering or exiting Manhattan’s CBD (central business district), Singapore, Milan, London, and Stockholm have had similar toll systems in place for years. London’s “congestion pricing” scheme has been in place since 2003. Back then, the daily charge for driving in central London was £5, or about $7.75 today. The driving surcharge has since increased, hitting £11.50 ($18) last summer.

Compared to that, the $5.54 charge to drive into lower Manhattan just might seem cheap.

TIME Crime

New York City’s Record Murder-Free Streak Ends After 12 Days

A NYPD patrol vehicle is seen near the Marcy Houses public housing development in the Brooklyn borough of New York
Stephanie Keith—Reuters A New York Police Department patrol vehicle is seen near the Marcy Houses public housing development in the Brooklyn borough of New York January 9, 2015.

Eric Roman was shot in Queens on Friday and died the next day

An unusually long run of days without a murder in New York City ended Saturday just shy of two weeks.

The New York Police Department believes this 12-day stretch was the longest without a homicide since the early ’90s, though last February saw a comparably long streak of 10 days.

Eric Roman was shot outside of his home in Queens on Friday and died of his wounds in a hospital on Saturday, the New York Times reports. The same day, another Queens man was found dead in his basement with head trauma, though that case has not yet been ruled a homicide.

Officials believe cold weather is the primary cause for these extended periods of quiet, and the shooting rate isn’t down year over year—136 people have been shot in New York as of Saturday this year, compared to 110 in the same period last year.

But while shootings are up, the murder rate is on the decline: homicides are down 2.5% year-to-date as of Feb. 8, and 82.4% since 1993.

[NYT]

TIME Crime

New York City Goes Record-Setting 10 Days Without a Murder

Part of an overall trend of decreasing crime

Crime in New York City has been declining for decades, but the U.S.’s most populous city has never gone this long without a homicide.

According to the Guardian, New York City—home to 8 million people—went 10 days without a murder as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, breaking a record set in 2013 when it experienced nine full days without a homicide.

MORE: These Are the Safest States in America

New York City’s murder rate has steadily fallen for years. In 2014, the city recorded 328 murders, the lowest since the police department started systematically collecting those stats in 1963.

The drops could in part be seasonal as violent crimes often trend downward in winter months. But the latest numbers show how dramatically crime has fallen in a city that was plagued with homicides throughout the 1970s and 1980s. According to Reuters, homicides in New York City have dipped by 85% since 1990.

[Guardian]

 

TIME Basketball

Former NBA All-Star Anthony Mason Is ‘Fighting for His Life’

He suffered a massive heart attack

Correction appended, Feb. 17, 2015

Anthony Mason, a physical NBA power forward from the 1990s, is in critical condition after suffering a massive heart attack.

Retired NBA columnist Peter Vecsey broke the news on Twitter that Mason had undergone multiple surgeries, with one procedure lasting nine hours.

Mason played for six teams over his 13-year career but is probably most famous for his time as a valued role player for the New York Knicks in the mid-1990s. Mason teamed up with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley to form one of the most bruising frontcourts in NBA history. The Knicks offered their condolences to the Mason family via Twitter.

Mason was awarded the Sixth Man of the Year honor in 1995, was an NBA All-Star in 2001 and made both the All-NBA Third Team and All-Defensive Second Team in 1997.

Mason’s sons, Anthony Jr. and Antoine, are both pursuing careers in basketball. Anthony Jr. plays professionally in Europe while Antoine plays for the Auburn Tigers, according to Sports Illustrated.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the timing of Mason’s heart attack. The attack was reported on Wednesday, Feb. 11, but had occurred earlier.

TIME society

When I Tried to Help a Blind Man, He (Rightfully) Put Me in My Place

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

My intentions were pure, but the execution was desperately pathetic

xojane

On a cold day in late December, I was in an unusually good mood; I had woken up on the right side of the bed, my coffee was strong, and Spotify’s “Have a Great Day” playlist blasted through my headphones sending my brain messages to be positive and stay cool! HECK YES! THIS WEDNESDAY IS GOING TO R-O-C-K!

As I strutted through the streets of New York, I couldn’t help but compliment the surrounding strangers. Internally compliment them, of course; I’m not crazy, I was just cheerful.

Fierce hat, Lady With the Hat!

Hey, Kid! Those braces really bring out your eyes!

Hey, Mr. Man I really — oh! You’re blind and you’re crossing the street. HERE, LET ME HELP YOU!

Yes, I know. I hate myself, too.

Mr. Man was on the shorter side; he wore a long, brown coat, dapper-looking shoes, and sunglasses that implied he was a fashionista of sorts.

“Excuse me, sir?” I began, beaming with charitable thoughts and selfless intentions. “Can I help you get to where you need to go?” The man smiled, and raised his hand to politely refuse.

“No, thank you, dear. I’m just trying to get to the bus stop, and I have a feeling it’s just up the next block.”

I wasn’t going to let Mr. Man get off that easily.

“Please, it’s no bother! I can walk you there!” I insisted.

“Well… okay,” Mr. Man reluctantly agreed, and with that I looped my stupid arm through his, and we walked.

We talked as we walked. And by “we talked,” I mean I talked at him. I wouldn’t shut up. I told him about my schooling (“I graduated from the University of Michigan — GO BLUE!”), why I moved to the city (“to be an actor, or well, really, I just want to make a living by making people laugh!”), and where I lived (“the east side of Manhattan, but it’s too expensive, so I have a feeling I’ll be in Brooklyn by the spring”). I told him about how being single and 25 in New York was nothing like Sex and the City made it out to be, and that my survival job was really bringing me down.

“It’s just… life should be about happiness, you know? Not serving douche bags from the tristate area overpriced popcorn shrimp.” Short of giving Mr. Man my social security number, I really opened up.

As I was midway through telling him the story of my parents’ separation, Mr. Man stopped me.

“Sweetheart, have we passed the 68th Street bus stop?” We had because we were now on 75th.

“Uh… we…” I panicked slightly. Darn! This is not how I wanted my philanthropic efforts to go! “Yes, yes we have. But that’s okay because I can take you to the next one!”

Mr. Man exhaled. “Okay, just look for the nearest lamp post that has the MTA bus logo on it, okay?”

I cheerfully agreed as I kept my eyes out for the “lamp post.”

Now, unfortunately the lamp post I was imagining was something à la The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You know, an English-looking device with a glowing white bulb and a Mr. Tumnus character playing the lute trying to coax Lucy into eating more Turkish delight. So it makes sense that I completely passed three (four) more bus stops.

After 10 more minutes of walking, Mr. Man’s patience was entirely thinned.

“Look, I need to get on the bus now. Where are we?”

I was wildly embarrassed. “82nd Street,” I whispered.

“Where is the nearest bus stop from here?” he demanded. “I’m going to find out RIGHT now!”

I pulled out my smartphone to ask Siri where the next nearest station was. To my dismay, my phone was dead. Not cool, Spotify and your battery-drowning ways!

“Um, sir… I actually, don’t know.”

Mr. Man came to a full stop, turned his face to mine and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I know, I’m sorry, sir. I just — I don’t live up here and…” he cut me off.

“And you thought you would just help me because I’m blind and you think I need help?”

Yes.

“No! I was just trying to be… well, helpful.”

“Well, you’re not being very helpful.”

So I did the next most helpful thing I could think of: I started asking other New York City strangers if they knew where the closest bus stop was.

“Oh, my God. Now you’re asking other people?!” Mr. Man was not happy.

Eventually, a nice Older Woman told us we were a half a block away from the nearest uptown stop. “I’m headed there now, do you want me to take the two of you there?” Older Woman looked me and Mr. Man up and down; I think she thought I was trying to abduct him.

“No,” said Mr. Man, “she’s staying here, but you can walk me there.”

I was stung.

“Are you sure?” I asked hopefully.

“One-hundred-percent positive. Let me tell you something, young lady.” Mr. Man lowered his voice and spoke with a seriousness only young children being reprimanded can truly empathize with: “I have been blind my whole life. And at times, I do need help, but when I need it, I ask for it. Don’t assume that just because you can see and I can’t that you know where you’re going. Maybe before you help other people you should help yourself first.”

My intentions were pure, but the execution was desperately pathetic and extremely inconvenient for the innocent man.

As I watched Mr. Man and Older Woman walk away, I just sort of stood there. Ouch, that was… rude. And actually very honest and truthful. You know those moments in your life where the universe tells you to shut up? Well, this was my moment.

Alli Brown wrote this article for xoJane.

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 Transportation

DNA Tests Confirm NYC Subway Is a Germaphobe’s Worst Nightmare

There really are lowlifes on the subway

A study of the New York City subway system had identified thousands of unseen critters and microbes dwelling among the commuters.

A team from Weill Cornell Medical College collected DNA samples from places like handrails and benches across 466 stations over a period of 18 months and sequenced the genetic material to determine exactly who—or what—was living in the underground metropolis, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The researchers identified 15,152 types of life forms, ranging from rodents and insects to the bacteria that cause the bubonic plague — though the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene disputes that last claim, noting that bacteria doesn’t occur naturally in the region.

Among the most commonly identified DNA came from bacteria that cause food poisoning and bacteria that cause urinary-tract infections, though the researchers said the levels detected did not pose a public health risk, the Journal reports. Other genetic material found throughout the system provided something of a map of New Yorker’s culinary tastes, including the bacteria found in the mozzarella cheese on pizza and the bacteria found on kimchi and sauerkraut.

The most fertile station? The Myrtle-Willoughby Avenues G train stop in Bed-Stuy, where at least 78 unique bacteria were identified. (The Journal has put together an interactive graphic to show you the specimens found at your station)

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

TIME weather

Northeast’s Freezing Temperatures Could Cause Dangerous Roads

020215 snow mdd
Mark DiOrio—AP Bob Baker, an employee with the Stanley Center for the Arts, uses a snow blower to clear the sidewalk along Genesee Street in Utica, N.Y., on Feb. 2, 2015

The East Coast and Midwest face frigid temperatures and dangerous road conditions following second major blizzard in a week

(BOSTON) — Forecasters from Philadelphia to Portland, Maine, have warned that “flash freezing” could make roads dangerously slippery a day after snow fell on much of the East Coast.

National Weather Service forecaster Bill Simpson in Massachusetts said Monday night the biggest concern was for areas where rain and slush ponded on roads before temperatures plunged. “They are going to have a pretty difficult time when that slush freezes,” he said.

Arctic temperatures following the storm were expected to bring minus 20 degree wind chills in parts of Pennsylvania, New York and New England, and minus 35 degrees in pockets near the Canadian border.

Here’s the latest on the storm:

SNOWFALL AND WARNINGS

A winter storm warning remained in effect until 5 a.m. for northeastern Maine, where up to 18 inches was expected by Tuesday morning.

Earlier, the snowstorm, which dumped more than 19 inches of snow on Chicago and more than a foot on southeastern Wisconsin, deepened off the southern New England coast. It brought accumulations approaching 18 inches in the Boston area and around a foot of slushy wintry mix to Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire and Vermont — places still reeling from the up to 3 feet they got last week.

New York City’s snow totals ranged from around 3.6 inches in Central Park to 7 inches in the Bronx while Long Island got 3 inches to 10 inches.

The Philadelphia area received about an inch of snow before the precipitation changed to rain. Forecasters said portions of the Lehigh Valley got up 8 inches, and there was up to a foot in northern Pennsylvania. Much of New Jersey got several inches of snow while parts of northern Ohio received at least a foot.

___

A PARTY POSTPONED

As Boston recovers from its second major winter storm in a week, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the victory parade for the New England Patriots would be postponed until Wednesday morning.

“We look forward to celebrating with Patriots fans during better weather on Wednesday,” Walsh said in a statement.

School was canceled in Boston and some suburbs for Tuesday and Gov. Charlie Baker ordered a delayed start for nonessential state agency workers to allow more time for clearing roads.

___

A DEADLY TOLL

Fifty-seven-year-old Cynthia Levine was struck and killed by a snowplow just before 10 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of a condominium complex in Weymouth, south of Boston, the Norfolk district attorney’s office said.

In New York, state police said they were investigating a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 when a third vehicle lost control on the highway and hit the two vehicles from the first crash. The cause was not immediately known, but the crash occurred as snow and freezing rain hindered travel throughout the region.

Doctors in Ohio said Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins was heavily sedated and in critical condition Monday, a day after he went into cardiac arrest and his SUV crashed into a pole on his way home not long after a news conference.

Illinois State Police say ice was responsible for crashes on Interstate 294 in the Chicago suburb of Hickory Hills that involved at least 45 vehicles, one of them a state police squad car. Eight people were taken to area hospitals

___

DISORDER IN THE COURT

The storm delayed two of the nation’s biggest court cases — the murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez and jury selection in the federal death penalty trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Testimony was to resume Tuesday in the Hernandez trial. But federal court officials in Boston, who follow the city’s school closure schedule, said the Tsarnaev proceedings would be delayed a second day.

___

COMMUTING PROBLEMS

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority riders were warned to expect delays Tuesday because of the cold. On Monday, Boston’s MBTA was running despite the heavy snowfall, with delays including one train that lost power south of Boston, temporarily stranding about 50 passengers.

Rush-hour commuters in New York City were stranded on a packed subway train that lost power for 2½ hours Monday before it could be towed to a station. Five other trains were stuck behind it.

In Henniker, New Hampshire, crews on Monday were cleaning up snow using plows loaned by the state and surrounding towns. A fire had destroyed the town’s plow fleet three days earlier.

___

SOME REALLY DIG IT

Tony Troc looks on the bright side of shoveling snow: Hey, it’s a pretty good workout.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” the supermarket warehouse worker said after clearing another 8 inches of snow from his driveway in Whitman, 20 miles south of Boston.

“If I didn’t like it, I’d be in Florida.”

Todd Penney of Tolland, Connecticut, said digging out is fun.

“I actually get some perverse pleasure in snowblowing, just like I get some perverse pleasure in mowing my lawn on the tractor,” he said. “When you have the tools that make the job easier, it’s kind of like this alone time, this me time. It’s kind of Zen.”

___

SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER?

The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said the furry rodent has forecast six more weeks of winter.

Members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle announced the “prediction” Monday morning.

Legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early.

Read next: Hillary Clinton Enters Vaccinations Debate to Rebuke Likely 2016 Rivals

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME New York

Pot Arrests Plunge in NYC After Policy Change

The policy is working

(NEW YORK) — New York City’s pledge to stop making many marijuana arrests is playing out on the streets, where arrests and summonses for small-time pot possession have plummeted since the policy change this fall.

After a mid-November turn toward violations and summonses instead of misdemeanor arrests for carrying modest amounts of pot, such arrests plunged by 75 percent in December compared to last year, from about 1,820 to 460, according to state Division of Criminal Justice Services statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The November numbers fell 42 percent, from 2,200 to 1,280.

Even summonses have fallen by about 10 percent since the policy change, to 1,180, compared to the same period a year ago, New York Police Department figures show.

“Since the inception of our policy in 2014, marijuana enforcement activity is trending down in all categories” for the bottom-rung marijuana charge, Deputy Chief Kim Royster told the AP.

Critics who decried the once-spiking arrests see the decline as promising. But they say it’s too early to draw lasting conclusions, especially since low-level arrests and summonses of all kinds plummeted for a few weeks after the deadly shootings of two officers Dec. 20.

“Clearly, progress is being made,” but it needs to continue and deepen, said Gabriel Sayegh, the Drug Policy Alliance’s New York state director.

The plunge in arrests caps dramatic shifts in recent years in how the nation’s biggest city polices small amounts of pot.

Arrests for the lowest-level marijuana charge — possession of less than 25 grams, about a sandwich bag full — shot up from about 5,700 in 1995 to 50,700 in 2011, spurring criticism of police tactics and priorities. Then the arrests started declining notably amid public pressure and some police instruction and procedural changes, hitting about 29,000 in 2013.

They were keeping pace this year until November, when de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton announced the new direction. With the sharp fall-off in the last two months, there were about 26,400 marijuana arrests in 2014, down about 9 percent from 2013, the state statistics show.

State law makes it a misdemeanor to have up to 25 grams of marijuana in “public view.” But the mayor said the city was choosing to treat that largely as a non-criminal violation — meaning a summons rather than an arrest, and a potential $100-plus fine instead of a possible three months in jail and a criminal record. (Under a 1977 state law, carrying the same amount of pot out of sight was already a violation, not a misdemeanor.)

Arrests were to continue in some cases, such as when people are allegedly seen smoking the drug in public.

“The law is a law, but what we’re trying to do is approach the enforcement of the law in a smarter way,” de Blasio said in November. Noting that the cases often get dismissed, he said the change would spare police time for more serious matters and spare people arrest records, which can affect public housing eligibility and some other aspects of life even without a conviction.

The head of the rank-and-file officers’ union was cool to the idea, suggesting it could tie officers’ hands in dealing with lawbreakers. But the captains’ union president expressed support for it.

Critics of the arrests suggest the summons strategy isn’t a perfect solution. Multiple marijuana-possession convictions can spur deportation even if the charges are violations — something defendants may not grasp if they decide to plead guilty, thinking the only consequence is a fine, legal advocates say. They also have concerns about how cases will be handled in crowded summons courts.

“A more meaningful change would be to de-emphasize enforcement of non-criminal violations across the board,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said in City Council hearing testimony last month.

But de Blasio put the difference simply when announcing the new policy: “Would you rather be arrested or be given a summons?”

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