EXCLUSIVE: The State of Northern Manhattan and Marble Hill 2014 Full Video

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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. 

"Washington Heights" Quick Review (Episodes 1 & 2)

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Okay, here it is. The "Washington Heights" (reality show on MTV) review. I was able to watch the first two episodes last night.

The good:

-Has a lot of Spanish-speaking Dominican abuelas who know how to get their cook on. 

-Stunning commercial break bumpers/scene change cutaways. Good stuff. 

-The show, in general, is Latino > other, which is long welcomed.

-Shows off Inwood & Washington Heights' geography.

-A good highlighting of Washington Heights & Inwood businesses. 

-Shows off how much parkland is uptown. Like 1/2 the scenes in episode 2 are in parks. 

The bad:

-The plots are glacial.

-Slow character development, and stories.

-The kids are "nice" people. But nice isn't good TV. I'm at a conflict, because I'm really happy with how all are portrayed as far as the neighborhood is concerned, yet recognize that this show is doomed if these kids don't start stepping up the drama. And drama doesn't have to mean violence/fights. But we need some type of conflicts that engage the audience. 

-Doesn't recognize Inwood directly, other than landmarks, as far as I can tell. But a lot of it seems to take place in Inwood.

-Not really clear to people who aren't from NYC that the downtown scenes at the art store and poetry club aren't uptown. 

-Jimmy takes the Henry Hudson Parkway to the Saw Mill, to 87 across the Tappan Zee.... Really what you should do from Washington Heights is take the upper level of the GWB, then immediately get on the Palisades to 87, or if not head across Route 4 until you hit 17, and then start north to 87. But this kid takes the Saw Mill?

In total: 

-The exterior shots, cutaways, and so on gives our neighborhoods a good look.

-The characters seem to care a lot about each other, and the neighborhood. That is endearing, and resonates well.

-Fun to watch for locals. Spotting familiar sights could make a great drinking game for residents. First to spot it is safe. Everyone else takes a swig.

-Sadly the show, so far, is boring....

It's a slow show as of Ep. 2. Way more drama / plots / etc. needed between the kids. And the potential is there. 

I hope it does well, it's great for the area.... Really not clear to me how this lands with the rest of the country.