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

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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 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.

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.

TIME Religion

Meet Riverside Church’s First Female Pastor

Dave Cross

Rev. Amy Butler talks about feminism, her salary, being a single mom, and what it means to lead one of the country's most storied congregations.

Update added on June 12, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, who has been the pastor at Washington, D.C.’s Calvary Baptist Church for the past eleven years, was chosen Monday to be the first female senior minister at The Riverside Church in New York City. The Riverside Church has been a pillar of faith and activism in New York since its first service in 1930, with its famously diverse congregation participating in political issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to immigration. TIME sat down with Rev. Butler to talk about her upcoming transition.

Your emphasis at Calvary has been on unity and coming together, but Riverside’s congregation is more than twice the size of Calvary’s, and it’s interdenominational. Are there challenges that you think will come with that and do you have a plan for how you’re going to approach the new congregation?

There are many challenges ahead, and this is a diverse community. If you think about doing and being a diverse community together, this is the perfect place to try to do it because all of the pieces are there. And this is a community that has valued diversity for all of its history and, as we all do, struggled with what that means in day-to-day life. I’m really looking forward to trying to figure out how we can make that diversity into an asset and something that is really a compelling and attractive expression of our community. Diversity doesn’t always have to be hard and terrible. It’s a challenge, always it’s a challenge, but it’s a great opportunity for modeling what the church can be in the world.

Not only is the Riverside Church diverse, but also it is politically active. What do you see as the intersection of religion and politics, and what do you hope to do with that at Riverside?

The role of the church in society is changing very radically. Fifty years ago the church had a loud and compelling voice at many of these conversations. Increasingly, the church is becoming marginalized. And I think that at this point in history it’s a great opportunity for us as people who claim the message of Jesus, the gospel of loving God and loving each other, as this radical and prophetic place where we can be the church together. So I think the opportunities are boundless and endless, and I think increasingly we’re going to be feeling opportunities to be prophetic and speak truth to power in ways that we may not have had when we were part of the group sitting around the table.

You wrote in an Associated Baptist Press column in April that, “The church is not as vibrant in our society as it once was. In fact, the question of whether church as we know it is viable for the long term is a question begging to be asked.” So I’m going to ask it – do you think the current institutional model is viable? What are you going to do at Riverside to make it relevant and sustainable?

I think the church of the past is not the church of the future, and I think we don’t know what the church of the future is yet. I think the church is not going away because people are looking for community and people are looking for a place to ask the big questions. And if the church can provide a place in which both of those things are present, it’s going to be a place where people are going to want to come and be part of it. So I don’t know what the future of the church looks like, but it’s going to look different. I think at the Riverside Church we could be a place where some of those future expressions of church start to emerge, and that’s one of the things I find so exciting about this opportunity.

You’ve been open about your own struggles with faith. How do you navigate the relationship between your own personal questioning and your role as a leader of the church?

I think traditionally people have expected clergy to be the ones that have all of the answers. Here’s the truth: nobody has all of the answers. We’re all on this journey of figuring out what it means to be human in this world and to understand God’s role in our lives and in the world at large, and I think questioning together is a much more powerful experience. That’s the kind of leadership approach that I take.

I have to ask after the controversy over your predecessor Rev. Brad Braxton’s resignation [related to his more than $450,000 compensation]. What is your salary going to be?

I’ve always heard that it’s not polite to talk about what you make, but I’ll be earning a salary of $250,000. It’s quite a generous salary and it presents an opportunity for me to think about how to be a good steward of the tremendous resources that I am becoming a recipient of. And it’s also a good model for the church as a whole. The Riverside Church has many, many resources, so how do we, as a faith community, think about how to best be stewards of that tremendous gift?

What do you see as the biggest fiscal challenges ahead for Riverside?

I think the future of the church probably does not include building big cathedrals like this in major cities. But places like the Riverside Church are a gift, and can be a gathering place for people who are seeking God in the middle of a very busy and powerful city. So I think our place is important, and I think one of our challenges is going to be moving into the future thinking about how we preserve that and how we make it accessible to as many people as would like to be part of it.

You’re a single mother, you were the first female senior minister of Calvary, and now you are going to be the first female senior minister at Riverside. Where do you see yourself fitting in the modern feminist landscape?

I really recognize the significance of my call. I really want to commend the Riverside Church for taking the step of hiring a woman. That said, there are many, many gifted women around this country who are leading churches and who are doing all kinds of amazing professional roles and being mothers at the same time. And so hopefully this can be a recognition of that fact. It’s not something new; it’s happening everywhere and has for some time. Because this is such a public decision, I hope that it can be affirming of the many different roles that women play.

Do you have anything else that you want to add about the upcoming transition?

Having been the pastor here at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., for 11 years has been such a great time of preparation and growth for me, and I’m leaving behind this amazing, amazing community here. And that is giving me a lot of the courage to move into this new, big role.

[Update: After the story was published, Butler asked to add additional context to her description of her salary. The following question was asked and answered by email.

Your salary sounds different from your predecessor's. How did that figure into your decision?

The Riverside Church made it clear that they wanted to ensure equity in what they offered me. As their first female pastor, I felt that was an important message to send. And I felt that exact numbers—especially for such a humbling offer--were less important than the witness of equity. So the overall compensation won’t be the same, but we agreed to keep the same salary of $250,000 and for the church to provide for my housing, health insurance, and contribute to my retirement. I’ve found it is easy to think in terms of what we are owed or what we own, but it’s important to ask instead how we can use the resources we have, and how we might be used by God through them. Riverside has blessed me and given me quite a responsibility with their offer.]

TIME Crime

NYC Strippers Drugged and Robbed Wealthy Victims, Cops Say

Strippers Drugs
Samantha Barbash, center, is escorted by law enforcement officers following her arrest. Barbash is allegedly part of a crew of New York City strippers who scammed wealthy men by drugging them and running up extravagant bills at topless clubs while they were in a daze, according to authorities, New York City, June 9, 2014. DEA/AP

Police say the four women would drug their victims with molly before driving them to a strip club and running up their bill

Federal and local officers arrested a group of strippers in New York City Wednesday and accused them of drugging wealthy men, driving them to strip clubs and charging their credit cards tens of thousands of dollars while they were incapacitated, the Associated Press reports.

Authorities say they discovered through an undercover investigation that the strippers would arrange to meet wealthy men at upscale bars in New York and Long Island and then spike their drinks with illegal drugs such as methylone—otherwise known as molly. The women would then allegedly drive the men to either Scores in Manhattan or the RoadHouse in Queens, charge them for private rooms, and expensive meals and drinks. The four victims lost at least $200,000.

Investigators at the Drug Enforcement Administration and New York Police Department arrested four women earlier this week on charges of grand larceny, assault and forgery. Three of the women are expected to appear in court Tuesday and one on Wednesday.

The clubs are not facing charges, though authorities say they did pay the strippers for the visits. Victims of the scam, including a banker, a real estate attorney and a cardiologist, told police that they woke up in a hotel room or their car with little or no memory of the night before. The men said the strippers threatened to blackmail them if they tried to dispute the charges.

[AP]

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