The Uptown Current Endorses Adriano Espaillat for Congress

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Primary day has finally arrived, and on Tuesday June 24th we hope you vote, and we hope you select Adriano Espaillat as your next Congressman.

Many parts of New York's 13th Congressional District, particularly Washington Heights and Inwood, have been routinely ignored by Charles Rangel. State Senator Adriano Espaillat offers a fresh progressive vision for our district, and will deliver on long overdue issues that affect the nation.

Since his 2010 censure Mr. Rangel has been left impotent in Washington, and has proven incapable of passing necessary legislation. He has a frayed relationship with President Obama, a dearth of influential allies in the house and has fallen out of favor entirely among his colleagues. Furthermore, as evidenced by his catering to Wall Street and corporate elites, Rangel has proven to be behind the times with the recent progressive shifts across this city. New York City, long a haven for fierce progressive fighters, needs a representative that will stand strong in fending off the corporate interests, stand up to the natural gas industry and deliver on quality, decent paying jobs.

Mr. Espaillat's vision for economic reform is especially needed in Washington, where many, including our current representative, have created loopholes for Wall Street and the wealthy. Mr. Espaillat wants to end this by creating opportunities for minority and women owned businesses, bringing the new wave of participatory budgeting to the old Harlem boys club of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, and reversing the trend of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

His opposition to hydraulic fracturing is also something missing in D.C. Our current representative, like many at the federal level, believes that hydrofracking is acceptable, however New Yorkers have repeatedly rejected the idea that putting our watershed and environment at risk for the sake of lining the pockets of oil companies is okay. Mr. Espaillat saw first hand the ills wrought by hydrofracking on trips he organized with environmental advocates to the ground zero of this industry. He knows that the country should move renewable and sustainable energy alternatives, and having Mr. Espaillat in Washington down the line will be crucial when energy policy reform inevitably comes to the table.

Mr. Espaillat has been a vocal supporter of safer streets, and better transportation alternatives even before Vision Zero became a priority in New York City. Along with Council Member Mark Levine he led the effort to bring Select Bus Service to 125th Street. Just yesterday, he cast a key vote to lower citywide speed limits across the city, putting pedestrian safety first. He enjoys a strong working relationship with City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez as both have called for the expansion of the NYC Bike Share program to finally arrive uptown.

His record on immigration reform, and his efforts to improve the quality of life for immigrants have been consistent and fierce. With an unstopping pressure mounting for more progressive policies on immigration at the national level, Mr. Espaillat's efforts in our district will be an asset that few others in congress will ever have. His work in passing in state tuition for immigrant children in New York State--with a Republican led senate no less--is exactly what we need nationally. This leadership, and his groundbreaking identity as a former undocumented immigrant himself, will serve to highlight the inhumanity of our mass deportation policy, directly to the president's ears.

Mr. Espaillat has pledged to bring more money for Medicaid and healthcare programs into the district from Washington. He has pledged to fight for increases to the amount of Federally Qualified Health Centers in the 13th Congressional District, to ensure providers are multilingual and sensitive to the diversity of the district. His attention to the extremely high child asthma rates in Northern Manhattan is also commendable, and he will seek federal grant money for research and prevention of asthma rates uptown.

This is an extremely important election for our district, and has the potential to drastically change and improve our representation in the decade to come. We need a congressman who will serve all communities in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx, and one with the will to do so. This community is brimming with potential and it is time for a new voice to help us realize just what we are capable of.

Polls open at 6am, and close at 9pm. Pick a time of day to vote now, and then vote for Adriano Espaillat this Tuesday, June 24th.

New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez delivered his third State of Northern Manhattan and Marble Hill address yesterday, at Columbia University Medical Center on 168th Street. It was standing room only, and speech-watchers that didn't arrive early were still able to watch the event in rooms that were live-streaming the event.

The audience of local residents, community leaders, and elected officials gave a standing ovation to Rodriguez after he outlined his vision for 2014, as well as his vision for the coming two decades. 

Watch the full program below:

Rodriguez/NYRP Op-Ed: Let's Keep Making NYC Greener

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An opinion piece written by City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and New York Restoration Project Director Amy Freitag was posted by The Manhattan Times today highlighting the need for the city, including its future Mayor, to build on the Million Trees NYC project by working to make NYC greener in coming years: 

If you want to know what real change looks like, just walk the streets of Northern Manhattan, where hundreds of new trees line the sidewalks as living symbols of the renewed vibrancy that's taking hold in our proud, historic neighborhoods.

Over the past several years, our community and others around the city have been transformed by MillionTreesNYC, a joint project by Mayor Bloomberg, the Department of Parks & Recreation, and NYRP to plant one million trees in New York City.

Through these efforts, parks have been reforested, sidewalks have been brightened and buildings have been cooled by shade--but trees do a great deal more than make our communities look and feel nicer.

Since 2007, over 750,000 trees have been planted across the five boroughs, literally changing the landscape of the city and preparing us for a greener future. As greenhouse gases accumulate in our atmosphere and the destruction from devastating storms hits home, initiatives such as MillionTreesNYC are helping to ensure our city is leading the country and the world toward environmental sustainability.

But going forward, there is still much to accomplish. In 2010, NYC emitted 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, and while our per capita emissions are well below the national average, this number can and should be greatly improved upon. We must be sure our next mayor is committed to building on one of Mayor Bloomberg's greatest legacies: a commitment to environmental advocacy and green policy.

This means meeting or surpassing the goal of lowering New York City's carbon emissions by 30% of 2007 levels by the year 2030; completing--and hopefully expanding -MillionTreesNYC; and developing strategies to promote emission reduction in our buildings--currently contributing 75% of NYC's total emissions.

Planting and caring for new trees, as well as replacing those that were lost during Sandy and Irene, will be critical if we mean to achieve these goals.

On a community level, we can encourage residents, local businesses and community organizations to take ownership of their trees so that they are viewed more as a resource than merely décor. With this goal in mind, a key aspect of MillionTreesNYC is educating people about the benefits of trees and showing them how to care for these precious resources themselves, encouraging a sense of ownership and accomplishment that benefits all concerned.

Trees are the lungs of our metropolis and, if protected, they will ensure our future generations breathe cleaner, fresher air. This will help combat asthma and other respiratory complications that are especially prevalent in lower income areas like Northern Manhattan.

We applaud the many partners that have already taken the initiative to plant and care for trees as their efforts have been instrumental in working toward the goal of a million new trees. It is time for us all to step up and seize the future of our city, and our next mayor's leadership on this issue will be a critical test.

Democratic Mayoral Forum Hosted Uptown (Full Video)

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Several weeks ago the democratic candidates for mayor made their way uptown to speak to voters about why they believe they are the best pick. The January 31st event was held in the former Audubon Ballroom, now the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center.

The forum organizers that booked the event's above venue was comprised of a group of local democratic clubs & leaders:

The Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan, the Northern Manhattan Democrats for Change, State Senator Adriano Espaillat (31st), New York City Council Members Robert Jackson (7th) & Ydanis Rodriguez (10th), New York State Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa (72nd), and Democratic District Leader Mark Levine (71st) were behind coordinating the participation of each candidate, and reaching out to the press panel that moderated the event.

District Leader Mark Levine was unable to attend the forum because his father had passed away shortly before it. State Senator Espaillat offered a moment of silence as the event began, in remembrance of Levine's father. (Which sequentially is where the videos below begin.)

And a point worth noting, former Mayor Ed Koch passed away several hours after this candidate forum, in the hospital across the street. Despite Mayor Koch's sudden readmission to the hospital (which alone was breaking news during the forum), there was no indication of the severity of his condition by any (panel/speakers/audience) in attendence.

Below is the full video of elected officials and forum speakers. (Running time is approximately three hours! Get some popcorn, it's well worth watching.):

The Lego Palace Theater

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The United Palace Theater on 175th Street & Broadway opened in 1930 as a combo vaudeville/move theater. 

On March 1st Lego will begin selling a new set for their modular building series called "Palace Cinema." The set, which will retail for $149.99, is incredibly detailed. The roof has overtones of L.A.'s TCL (Mann's) Chinese Theater, and the mini figures, limo, and decor all create a nostalgic view of what a 1930s movie theater might look like from a 21st century perspective. 

According to Astrid Graabæk, a lead designer on the project, "When we designed this building we had the Hollywood of the 1930s in mind." And west coast theater architecture of the 1920s/1930s made its way to the east coast as well, in theaters like the United Palace and Zigfeld.

One of the United Palace's most awe inspiring characteristics is the interior's detailed plaster work, which in addition to making one braingasm upon trying to make sense of every intricate element, greatly enhances its acoustics. The Lego Palace Cinema is molded plastic, not plaster, so the acoustics are not the same. But both buildings are built with bricks, and this Lego Palace is definitely a head turner, reminiscent to the Washington Heights Palace.

If you buy it, have fun building. The set contains over 2,000 pieces.