Council Member Helen Rosenthal

New York News Network “Conversations” Interview Helen Rosenthal

Council member Helen Rosenthal talks with Maurice Pinzon on New York News Network’s “Conversations” Podcast. Recorded 7.30.21 Transcript below.

Helen Rosenthal: Oh, it’s so nice to be here with you Maurice. Thanks for having me on.

Helen Rosenthal: Well, thank you. Thank you for asking. I mean, the first thing I would say is, I really am grateful to the voters for the last eight years. I hope I’ve made a contribution, I think I have. We’ve made a lot of changes over the last eight years. In many ways. I think I’d like to talk about three different areas. One is sort of what we’ve been able to do to help the people in the district who are being harassed out of their homes. And to try to keep them in their homes. The second area had to do with the school rezoning. And the third area probably is maternal mortality.

Helen Rosenthal: So in the area of affordable housing. When you ask someone in New York, what are the issues? I think today, they would say, safety, but I also think the real answer is affordable housing, affordable housing, and affordable housing. There’s such a shortage. And for that reason, landlords are regularly trying to harass people out of their homes, so that they can bring in new tenants and charge them more money. And what we serve probably 4,000 people a year, and that’s just on the Upper West Side.

Helen Rosenthal: Around the city, there are, 10’s of 1,000’s, if not hundreds of 1,000’s of cases of harassment going on every year. So one of the things my office figured out, as we considered the work we had to do to keep people in their homes, was that, in fact, the Department of Buildings was a critical link to making improvements. But the Department of Buildings saw its mission, differently. Its mission was – is – making sure buildings are built safely. They never think of themselves as an entity that could help tenants.

Helen Rosenthal: And we pass legislation to change that mission, that outlook and and now they in fact do very much have. They very much helped tenants, including they now have an office of the tenant advocate, which was my legislation, and over time, we got it fully staffed and running smoothly. They help probably 10’s of 1000’s of people every year, to force their landlords to make fixes in their apartments. So the apartments are habitable, whether that’s making sure there’s gas, hot water, fixing windows, fixing things, fixing floors, and ceilings. That’s been a huge accomplishment. And it was such an elegant way of taking what we were experiencing in the office to City Hall and passing legislation to address this issue. We use the Office of the tenant advocate now in our office to address these concerns, it goes a lot more smoothly.

Helen Rosenthal: I think the second big accomplishment that I’m super proud of had to do with a school rezoning that took place in on the Upper West Side in 2015. And I had been very active with the school parents before I was elected and had a clear sense of where the inequities were in our district, and there were three schools in particular that were especially segregated and there had to be a way of unwrapping changing that and the way. And the way to do it was by drawing new zone lines. The local Community Education Council came up with a plan they were very excited about. Every other elected official on the Upper West Side rejected that plan, and opposed it very actively in the press, holding rallies, and so on. But I stood with a public school parents. And we did finally convince the Department of Education to draw these new zone lines that resulted in desegregating three schools. Very exciting. It’s been it’s been terrific. It’s it’s done the work we intended it to do.

Helen Rosenthal: But because of that, and because of some opposition, in targeted communities, it did earn me a primary for my second term. Very vicious primary, and a lot of vitriol. But I ended up beating my opponent and and pushing back at the people who want to keep the school segregated. And as I say, they are truly desegregated. So I’m very, very proud of that.

Helen Rosenthal: And then the third area, I think, which is a city wide issue is in my second term, I was lucky enough to become the chair of the committee on women and gender equity. And with that hat on, held myriad hearings about unique inequities that women endure in New York City. Top of the list, well, of course, there’s pay inequity, and and we’re working on that as well. But top of the list really is black maternal mortality and morbidity. And it’s been the case in New York City that black women have died at a much higher rate than white women throughout the city, sort of just before, during and after childbirth. And the city started looking at this issue maybe 20 years ago, at that point, it was maybe 12 times as likely for a black woman to die or get very injured during childbirth. The Department of Health has put some attention on the matter. And by the time I picked it up as chair of the committee, the rate is still at now, eight times more likely. That is unacceptable. And at our hearing, we drilled down into the causes. And of course, they’re complex, they’re they very much have to do with racism and the burden that black women bear from birth. Just having being the way that black women are treated in our in our society, and the stress of all that builds up. And so at this moment when one is giving birth, when one’s body has to be all on for birthing the baby. That is the moment when those higher stress levels that black women endure, make it more challenging for the woman’s body. And for that reason, what we can do is help to de-stress the situation for the birthing person and find other ways to make these these deliveries more easy. And educate doctors that this is a reality and they need to be more alert and listen better when black women are giving birth.

Helen Rosenthal: And we passed some legislation requiring the city to increase access to doulas which is a non medical support person for the woman that has been proven to decrease mortality and morbidity for black women giving birth. So we’ve required the city now to have more doulas. I’m actually in the process of passing legislation to require the Department of Corrections to have doulas on site at the women’s facility twice a week. It’s that much of a improvement in people’s lives. And to now create a..they’ve had to now over the last two years create maintain what’s called a maternal morbidity and mortality review committee where they look at every case, diagnose what happened, and for the most part, hold the doctors feet to the fire for having missed all sorts of cues that had he paid attention to the woman would have lived. So that’s really been exciting and important work that I’ve been incredibly proud of. So those are the big three areas, I could go into a lot more detail. But that’s the basic idea.

Helen Rosenthal: I mean, I think as in every community, the Upper West Side experience with COVID was traumatic. We did not lose as many residents as other districts that were really hard hit. And that gave me a real perspective that I tried to impart on my district. I have a colleague who represents Brownsville, and we would get on the phone once a week and just catch up. And every time she would tell me the additional number of people who she was either related to, or was a church member, or was a close friend, who died because of COVID. And that just was not the experience on the Upper West Side. That was powerful for me, personally, to sort of keep things in perspective.

Helen Rosenthal: On the Upper West Side, what became a flashpoint was when the city realized during COVID that having homeless people in congregate shelters, where there are, I don’t know 12 to 40 people on a floor with with no walls between them. That that was in fact very dangerous for both the clients and the staff who lived and worked in those settings. And what they worked out was moving people. And I think they ended up moving out a couple of 1000 people from the congregate shelter to hotels throughout the city. And there became this very unfortunate situation where some in the community who had never experienced living near a congregate shelter, all the sudden we’re faced with the reality of so many who are less fortunate and who lived in a shelter not because necessarily for any other reason except there’s no affordable housing, right? Many of them have jobs, but just don’t make enough money to afford something in New York City. Our Upper West Side and within a five block radius and moved into three hotels, where about 600 homeless, unsheltered individuals. And that became a tipping point for some in the community.

Helen Rosenthal: And we could talk about why and what what sort of lay behind it for a long time. But I think that the key takeaways for me were people who lived in the area, their nerves were on edge. This was maybe five or six months into the pandemic, when the city had was just closed down. No one knew about really how it spread. Was an airborne? Was it touch? And people were scared, people were really scared. And the Department of Homeless Services did a pretty terrible job of communicating what was happening. So for the nonprofits, who ran the shelters themselves, it was a one or two day turnaround, when they were all of a sudden found themselves working out of hotels, not their usual congregate shelter, providing the care.

Helen Rosenthal: Interestingly, the outcomes, when we sort of reflect back on it, a year and a half later, the outcomes for the clients themselves were so much better than when they lived in congregate settings. By being either in their own room or two to a room, they were many of them were away from those who might be bringing drugs into the shelter, who might be having ongoing addiction, or mental health problems. Because there are others who might fall prey to that, but were honestly working hard to get clean. And by being in their own room, they were far more successful. And at the end of the day, at one shelter in particular that had 283 people, which was too many, but 120 of them were able to be moved into independent living situations. Which is a rate so much higher than the usual. What usually happens with people in shelter. So that was very exciting.

Helen Rosenthal: But there were some in the community who were very opposed, very afraid, very…felt very threatened by the presence of these homeless individuals. And were like receptive to rumors, and innuendos. And so they believed these sort of outrageous things that were being said about the homeless men, which made people even more afraid. And within, I think, a couple of weeks, some in the community had formed a group called maybe Safer Upper West Side, something like that, had raised over $100,000, and hired a lawyer to begin the process to get the men moved out of the hotels, and back into congregate living, which of course, would not have been safe for these individuals.

Helen Rosenthal: And that was a very unfortunate moment for the Upper West Side. I think the press took it to mean that the traditional liberal Upper West Side was not liberal anymore. And so they were eager to call Upper West Siders, hypocrites. That didn’t help. And what really was needed was time, for the nonprofit institutions themselves to settle into the hotels, to really provide their good services to these individuals. And once that happened, and granted, it took a solid six weeks to two months. But once that happened, things settled down. And there were momentary flares. But the streets were, settled in and also interestingly, another group emerged, called Open Hearts Upper West Side, something like that, who intentionally went out of their way to help the people in the hotels. One one person in the group was an addiction counselor, and she started weekly Alcoholics Anonymous classes. Another set of people would have weekly, free clothes, free food giveaways. And then, unfortunately, for the community, and I mean, unfortunately, this became a real saga, the community, it felt like there were two sides, sort of one pro, one against, and that was unfortunate. To have the community pitted against each other.

Helen Rosenthal: And the press, as I say, just delighted in reporting on the acrimony. Which was, over…The reporting, I think, really was over the top. After a couple of weeks, I asked one of the reporters to come walk with me in the district. And we started at West 75th and Broadway, just south of where one of the shelters was. We walked past the one shelter, we crossed the median, which so many people had said was horrible. We walked past the second shelter at 79th and Amsterdam. And we went to sit down at a little coffee shop. And the first thing he said to me was, first of all, the streets are quiet. Second of all, I thought people would be coming up to you screaming and spitting at you. No one did that. And I’m like, yeah. I’ve been trying to tell you this. You’re all blowing this way out of proportion. So that was that was an interesting sort of moment.

Helen Rosenthal:
I think we landed in the right place. I mean, the men stayed, we ended up having to hire a lawyer to keep them in there. I mean, it was ridiculous. But really, the men stayed and that was the right outcome, and and they were better off for it.

Helen Rosenthal: Yeah, I talked with the, with the head of the nonprofit, during the whole, I mean, we talked tonightly, basically. And he said he was setting up a little research project to be able to show these outcomes. Pretty amazing.

Helen Rosenthal: I mean, just to sort of add to that Maurice. I was on the budget negotiating team was because I worked at the city’s Office of Management and Budget for seven years, under Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani, and really got to see and feel what the details of a budget are and what the implications are, with those budgets. The year before this year when we had no money, and Trump was president, and no ray of sunshine in sight, I really was distraught. I take all this a little too personally, but really nervous about the deep cuts that we made to social services, to sanitation. And transportation, fixing streets, whatever it is. And that concerned me very much. That was hard. That was really quite painful. I felt our social service cuts went about a billion dollars too deep, and fought against those very hard unsuccessfully. But with Biden coming in, and the infusion of cash, which is the right answer for localities, this fiscal year coming up, the next one, and the one after, should be just fine with the federal infusion of cash.

Helen Rosenthal: I think the other thing that I saw was in May and in June, was that city property taxes were coming in much higher than had been expected. Over a billion dollars. And, yes, the city may have, given a very conservative estimate prior to that, but even still, that was an important signal that the City can and will come back. And I feel confident that the way the federal money has been spread out over three years, so it’s not just like, spend, spend, spend, in one year. It’s spread out over three years. And with this upward trend of revenue, which ultimately needs to go up high enough to cover for three years from now, when we lose that federal money, I think we’re going to be okay. Of course, it’ll be bumpy. Right now we’re looking at the spread of the Delta variant. People don’t know what that will bring certainly mask wearing. But we’ll have to follow the science for what else that will bring.

Helen Rosenthal: But I feel confident about our revenues sort of overall. And frankly, I think the way the city decided to invest the federal money will improve outcomes for those most in need. The focus is on school kids, and the trauma they’ve endured. The focus is on quality of life, to make our streets cleaner now, reinvest in our sanitation. And reinvest in the social service programs that are so important. For our seniors to be able to, come back from the trauma of isolation. Even adding money to homeless service programs to address the trauma that everyone has endured. So I feel good about that. On that side.

Helen Rosenthal: I think my overall though, eight year reflection, is there is still crap in the budget that needs to be weeded out that is buried from the light of day, and we have to find other tools to bring sunshine to those situations so we can peel back some of the inefficiencies. And really what I would argue is corrupt contract or procurement policies where people are in a position to just take taxpayer dollars.

Helen Rosenthal: My second year, community watchdog for the Department of Education brought to my attention, suspicious contract that the Department of Education was about to sign with a company that was on the list. City’s list, and I think even the federal list, of companies to keep an eye out for because they had ripped off the city 10 years prior. And the city was on the verge of signing a contract with them, $1.3 billion contract. And again, this was back into 2015. So pre COVID. But this was a contract to address the networking between schools and central office and the computer systems. Just to get everything routinized. And this watchdog rightly, brought it to my attention at the time. I was chairing the Committee on Contracts. I immediately called City Hall. I said, we were we had to have a hearing on this and understand the specifics of this particular contract. And I think Tish James, who was Public Advocate at the time, raised a red flag. And Juan Gonzales at The Daily News. It caught his attention. He started writing about it. And as we investigated how how this proposal had been written, it became clear that it was written in a way that only this one company would be able to bid and win. And therefore, there was no, they could bid whatever they wanted, right and say, this is what it cost. And, and despite the fact that the Chancellor signed the contract. The next day, she, I had spoken to the mayor, and the next day, she was called into the mayor’s office, and on the spot and negated the contract. They rewrote the RFP and bid it out again. And the final cost was around $600 million. That is an extraordinary spread $800 million. There had been – that 800 million – had already been budgeted for. And so the department of education that year did not need new money, they were able to use that money in the classroom for our kids, for our teachers, for better pedagogy.

Helen Rosenthal: And that that was a real exciting victory. And I don’t think that’s a – I mean, they may be few and far between – but we need better systems in place to catch that kind of crap.

Helen: Mind boggling. That is exactly the right word, very disappointing. Of course, this is a situation where the head of the agency was sexually harassing, and assaulting women, both staff and clients, and had been getting away with it. A couple of things were brought to light with that situation. One is that the city’s response, because they had known about it for a couple of years, was to tell the board of directors for that nonprofit, that they had to fix it. Which of course, they never did. It also reflects a sort of different situation, not only were there these horrible, personal interactions that made many women’s lives very difficult for a long period and the trauma continues. But there were also lots of financial irregularities. And over time, what this particular guy, Victor Rivera did, was was undercut other providers so that he would get more and more contracts. But the services they were providing were not very good. They used fewer staff, lower paid staff. And so the conditions in his homelss shelters were terrible compared to others.

Helen Rosenthal: But the city again didn’t take the time to recognize cheaper is not better in this situation. They would be better served paying in all their contracts, paying people better, and having more robust services, so that the outcomes for the clients would be better. And I think what I’ve seen over the last eight years is the government, city government, and state government, trying to be more and more mingy in how much money they give to these contracts, and putting the providers on the hook for making up the difference or not, but running their social service programs. And it’s gotten to the point where there’s a real divide now, between the excellent providers that are choosing not to take some of these contracts, because, the pay, the reimbursement is just too low. And the nonprofit’s willing to take on these RFP’s and providing just terrible, terrible services. Yeah, that’s, that’s all another issue.

Helen Rosenthal: Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, the controller’s job is to cut checks. So they sign all the checks that go out the door. They review, I think, 12 or more at this point it’s probably $15 billion worth of contracts. Their job is to review it, and make sure everything is accurate and appropriate and fiscally responsible. That’s one job.

Helen Rosenthal: Another job is they have to be a consultant to unions whose pensions they oversee. So trying to make sure the investments get a good return for the city’s retirees. And then the controller has an audit function, where they’re required to audit a certain number of agencies. It’s interesting how in the controller’s office, unfortunately there can be this intersection of politics and the functionality of the office. And some controllers use the platform for political undermining of other elected offices. Which is too bad because I think it really can be an exciting place.

Helen Rosenthal: On the Council side, I don’t think there’s this – I mean I would say a couple of things – on the Council side one is that while they do have oversight responsibility, I don’t think the council has the capacity, the staff capacity to do a real forensic audit that does sit in the Comptroller’s office.

Helen Rosenthal: But to your point about street namings. I have become so much more humble about what council members do and why. In many communities, those street renamings are critically important. And while that’s not true on the Upper West Side, there are communities that use the street renamings, as an opportunity to bring people together to unify community, to lift up individuals in the community. And they play a significant, important role. I’ve learned that there are 51 City Council districts and honestly, they are all different. They all have different needs.

Helen Rosenthal: The Speaker of the Council, who is elected by the body, by the council members themselves, they elect a speaker, who runs the place. I mean, hats off to these people who have 51 individuals who have very unique needs, whose districts have very unique needs. And the Speaker has to find a way to hold them all together. I could never be a Speaker. It’s a really challenging situation. And I do respect that every district has its own needs and desires.

Helen Rosenthal: Although actually Maurice, if I could also just jump in. This particular Speaker, Cory Johnson did add a new committee to the Council, called Oversight and Investigations. And while they don’t meet regularly, like the other committees. My committees always met once or twice a month, the Committee on Oversight and Investigations maybe needs two or three times a year. But that staff, there’s a whole new staff of data analytic people who do a deep dive into more substantive issues. Recently, we had. I’ll have to go back and look for sure. But that committee looks at more far reaching concerns, including, for example, use of force so there was a police use of force. So there was joint hearing with the Police committee, Public Safety Committee, and the Oversight and Investigations committee, where the Oversight and Investigations committee had done a deep dive into the data that came out from the state Bill 58, which allowed for transparency of all these police member investigation, individual police member investigations. So that’s an exciting addition to the council and the capacity of what the council can do.

Helen Rosenthal: And that in particular [NYC Local Law 76] is looking at the COVID funding, saying, okay, we’re getting in $15 billion. Let’s make sure we know how it’s been.

Helen Rosenthal: I mean, we shall see definitely a vacation is in store. But I think, I’m not sure there’s ever been anyone who has come from OMB, sort of having that critical training, and then coming to the council, certainly, I am certainly unique here. I do think my colleagues who come from politics or come from having worked in city council offices, they also have been able to do great things for their districts. So everyone has their own path and their own passions. And can achieve unique and wonderful, wonderful things.

Helen Rosenthal: The thing I realized over this a year is that I think at heart, I’m a true public servant. I really do enjoy New York City Government and making it work for the people who live here. So while I’m not sure Eric Adams would have been my first choice for mayor, he is our mayor. And there are a lot of important things ahead for the city that have to get done. I think as I’ve gotten to know, Eric better, I think he has a lot of terrific ideas. I think he’s serious about making New York City better, and bringing changes to the city. And I think he also, there’s a sense that as part of his team, in running the city, that somebody with my skill set could be of use to him. And I’m would be very excited for the opportunity to to do that to work with him and and make things, make the city run better. Not sure exactly where that is. That’ll be up for negotiation. I’m not sure he’ll have me, right. So a lot of things are up in the air. But I know the city inside out. From a technical perspective. I have a much better understanding of the politics now. And I really think I could add value to wherever it is. In the budget office, with procurement, women’s issues.

Helen Rosenthal: And frankly, one of the things that really would excite me is I think climate change is one of the biggest concerns – the biggest concern overall. And we have to make sure that while we have good ideas, we have a good roadmap. I think we need someone who can execute that roadmap well and make sure that we hit our markers every single year, so we can achieve our goals where we need to hit in by 2030.

Helen Rosenthal: Thank you, Maurice. It’s been an honor to speak with you. Thank you for the opportunity.

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Andrew Choi’s Tech Future is Here

By Maurice Pinzon

In 2020, after many cities imposed lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies told employees they could work from home. Tech workers were probably the most prepared and comfortable working away from the office. Whether it was video meetings or remote computer work, these workers were already highly mobile, interconnected, and comfortable packing laptops, mobile phones, and other tech devices on the go.

But what could replace the social interactions these workers typically have at conferences, social events, and other encounters where ideas were exchanged? Well, just as mRNA scientific advances were primed for the development of new vaccines during this global pandemic, audio applications were also ready to address social isolation. Many tech workers quickly hopped on social audio apps such as Clubhouse to address that need. New higher quality audio technology led to a rediscovery of what humans had been doing since meeting around a campfire – engaging in conversations. The apps minimized distractions as people were able to depend solely on the voice, instead of relying on video and text. They realized that they can exchange plenty of information with authenticity. It’s the next best thing to personal interaction. Other tech companies soon jumped on the trend. Twitter and Spotify recently launched Spaces and Greenroom, respectively. It’s unclear if these audio apps are a temporary patch to the pandemic or if they will replace some tech conferences and other social interactions in the future.

One exciting place on the Clubhouse app where interesting discussions took place is called Tech+AI+ where techies came together. That’s where I first heard Andrew Choi, one of the main contributors to the group, speak.

Andrew Choi
Andrew Choi |Microsoft Linkedin Snapchat IBM BlackBerry
Software Engineer|University of Waterloo
Twitter | Linkedin | Instagram

Choi is a Silicon Valley software engineer who currently works for Microsoft. He’s an expert in data structures and distributed systems running on cloud platforms. He also designs the technological infrastructure that runs complex networked computer systems. Think of these systems as the piping, buildings, highways, and telephones of a digitalized, interconnected, automated, instant-demand information society. You may have noticed these things impacting your life during the pandemic. It seems just about everything we used to do in person quickly migrated to an online platform. Choi recognizes the importance that vast technological and societal impact these technologies will have on our everyday lives. Specifically, Choi is increasingly focused and passionate about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). He understands the even more significant impact of technology when AI and ML are combined with IoT (Internet of Things). Choi sees the industrial internet of things (IIoT), is well underway. Industrial companies use sensors, instruments, devices interconnected and networked to computer applications to solve various problems. Choi said, “I think this year, the intersection of these two technologies, IoT and AI, has brought a lot of these amazing changes to the automation industry.”

Anton Alexander, a senior Machine Learning engineer at BlueRidge.AI, also met Choi on Clubhouse. During a telephone interview, Alexander, who works precisely in this area of deploying AI/ML technology to solve industrial problems, shared his view of Choi’s knowledge and expertise. He stated, “Andrew is like a cowboy with two guns and never misses.”

Alexander explained, “Andrew is very quick to extrapolate data out of conversation and be able to respond in a meaningful way. And I think that’s one of the most insightful things and beneficial things that people gain from his presence.”

Another moderator in the Tech+AI club, Sahir Ali, who also works in AI/ML, reflected on Andrew as he called him “a powerhouse of knowledge.” Ali said he was “constantly amazed at the breadth and depth of his technical knowledge and experiences he regularly shares.”

Didem Gürdür Broo is a computer scientist and mechatronics engineer based in Europe who occasionally participates in the discussions. When I asked her about Choi, she said, “I have been in [Clubhouse] rooms with Andrew, and I think he is a very engaging person and deeply cares of communicating the right information to the audience.” She added, “He likes to explain technical concepts in detail, and I think it helps many to follow conversations easier.”

But AI/ML use will not be confined to just business and industrial applications. Choi says AI will eventually be in our homes. He said, “In the future, I believe that smart devices, like smart home devices, including smart plugs, Google nest, etc., are gonna forecast and really serve the needs for human beings.” Smart plugs allow people to use their smartphones to control their home devices.

Choi believes these smart devices will eventually get a sort of smart coordinator of services with AI. Human needs will be recognized much more efficiently as we move from just smart devices to smart homes. Choi said the deployment of AI will be able to “forecast and really serve the needs for human beings.” That’s because right now “home devices only work on demand. But if we pair that, if we collaborate that with AI, I believe that these smart devices can automatically forecast and predict a lot of human needs and start a process without human intervention.”

Asked if consumers would be using these devices soon, Choi stated, “I think it’s already happening. IoT is all about sensor components that are paired up into computers and machines and that provides the freedom of large amounts of data via the Internet.” So, in all of these Internet of Things services and platforms, they’ll have to follow these stages called create, communicate, aggregate, analyze and act. So, I believe the stage of Act… depends on a lot of these analyses, ultimate analyses. The precise value of IoT is determined at this analysis step. I think this is where technological knowledge plays a very crucial role. I believe IoT, home devices, smart devices are already being absorbed into society.”

Furthermore, Choi shared that Google has released IoT devices and he foresees large other companies also offering fully managing IoT services. He reflected on the benefits as he said, “The benefit that you get from this is that you can boost up and accelerate business agility, with IoT data from the physical devices. Whether these IoT assets are indoors or in remote areas, or spread across cities, I believe that IoT will visualize the location in real-time where they travel or how often they moved.”

Clearly, Choi has vast technical knowledge. And when he speaks, he doesn’t adorn his words but gives you information straight. His peers also respect him in the technology field. But technology companies are full of experts that may not have broad considerations about privacy and other social impacts of the technology they create. These concerns are important if Choi is right and AI will be used to run not only in industry but in our homes seamlessly and efficiently. Choi acknowledges there are essential security considerations if we have AI coordinating services of devices inside homes. But Choi thinks tech companies will not squander the full potential of IoT by not addressing these issues.

However, big tech’s record on privacy and transparency has not been flawless. There will be privacy and consumer groups and government agencies that may need to pay careful attention. For now, people appear to be on their own as they bring these new technologies into their homes.

Choi believes it is up to the consumers to ensure that their connectivity and IoT wellness is secure. More importantly, he stated that it is up to the manufacturers, the creators, and companies, which are responsible for producing these devices, to set up clear guidelines for consumers to ensure that their privacy is secure.

He further demonstrated the responsibility that the manufacturers, creators, and companies hold as he shared that it is up to them to ensure that they configure IoT devices correctly. He stated, “And, you know, one hurdle is that many organizations, which use IoT might not be asking the right questions to fight related risks, right. Do they have a plan to assess devices, interconnectivity vulnerabilities across the business ecosystem?” Choi believes that prioritizing risks should be on the top of the companies’ lists during IoT adoption. He stated, “I think that these corporates that are thinking about privacy and security have to come up with a plan holistically from product conceptualizations, rollouts, deployments and updates. C suites and executives have to consider all perspectives from interoperability to data governance policies, to training employees to have very consistent standards.”

The smartphones we carry in our pockets have more computing power than the computer that helped NASA astronauts go to the moon. As a result, we no longer have to search for a working payphone, use a paper map, look for an unoccupied cab, stress about ordering out, and much more. If Choi is correct, that smartphone convenience may soon seamlessly control our homes. However, apps on our iPhone also created many unintended consequences, some good and some disruptive. That’s a lot of power in the hands of tech companies and significant responsibility for the new master architects of our digital lives. 

Andrew Choi email contact:

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Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

New York News Network “Conversations” Interview MBPO Gale Brewer

Maurice Pinzon: What are your major accomplishments as Borough President. What are you going to do for a “second act” in the New York City Council?

Gale Brewer: Number one, I hope that we’ve been a very accessible borough presidency in the following ways. It’s not – you know the board president has four charter-mandated, people don’t know that, responsibilities. Number one is to be part of the uniform land use review procedure, which is the ULRUP, basically land use and zoning. And we’ve done almost 200 ULURPs including some very major rezoning. So that’s a big accomplishment that I think will help us in the city council. The land use, as you know, is the meat and potatoes – not the best analogy – of New York City. The second we had to appoint every single year, about 1,000 people, including community boards, solid waste advisory boards, business board, hospital boards, school boards, all of these individuals were trained in everything from land use, and budgeting to technology, parliamentary procedure and so on. And so that has been a good, I think, process that I could also hopefully, use in the city council because there are a lot of appointments. The third issue is allocating funding, not different from the city council or the mayor. And then the fourth is how do we deal with legislation – do legislation – with a council member.

But in terms of what we have accomplished, we also took the office that had been located in the Harlem State Office building – up high – and moved it to a storefront on 125th Street, between Amsterdam and Morningside. That’s been a big deal. The fact that people can walk in get help learn what’s going on in the community was a big plus for Harlem. We’re the only Harlem storefront. Everybody else is in the state office building. So that to me was an example. We also have worked to improve, picking up on what Scott Stringer had done as borough president to really streamline make sure that the community board members represent their districts demographically, racially, men, women and professions. So that’s been a huge, I think improvement to the community board process. It’s never easy because there are so many issues that they have to deal with.

And then, finally, in terms of accomplishment. We have a very diverse staff. We have taken on, I think the word is convening, right now we’re convening a group on drug treatment, improving the services of Washington Square Park. Every Tuesday, for months, we’ve been meeting virtually, with people talking about vaccine improvements in Manhattan. We know that was a huge issue previously. And now we’re talking about how Manhattan can recover. Coming back out of this god awful pandemic. So the whole convening, we convened discussions on the Garment Center, South Street Seaport, you know, all of the rezonings on East Midtown. I don’t know, we’ve had maybe I would say 50 or 60, substantive discussions, long term construction safety we did for a year and a half.

So all of that, I think, has been a plus in terms of what is the role of the borough president? Because it is not clear. You know what to do as a council member, you know what you do as comptroller, you know what to do as mayor. But it’s what you make of the borough presidency. So I would say to answer your question, we’re very proud of the work we’ve done in terms of the charter mandates, which is, you know, going beyond in terms of appointment doing all of these, I think more ULURPs than perhaps in the entire rest of the city combined. And then obviously introducing about 20 bills in the city council with other members, and certainly allocating funding, which is not different than in the past.

But then, in addition to all of that, this huge convening of hundreds of hundreds of different topics for the borough of Manhattan, being the advocate, hopefully. And then also moving the office where constituents are served out of the tall office building to the streets. And that has been, you know, we’ve also had meetings in there with, for instance, the African immigrant Task Force, the amazing women who do braiding and the challenges that they have, and just, you know, been like the party scene for the 125th Street BID at holiday time. You know because we have a large conference room there.

So those are some of the most obvious, you know, you have you have all of the individual ways that we have, I think, done analysis, like we did all of the curb cuts, we did a survey of them and found that there were a lot of broken ones that got them fixed because of the press. We just did something similar recently with the cooling centers. That the mayor said, “Oh, we have all these cooling centers.” Well, it turns out that the city has not as many cooling centers in Manhattan as they had thought and then signage is bad. We’re doing the study of the ADA accessibility for the election, polling sites, we try to look at what’s current. And then with our as you know, many interns during 2019, we have 139, summer interns, and we can’t quite have as many this year, but we try to work with them on a very substantive basis also. So those are some of the things we’ve accomplished. We hope to, you know, put it all into a document for the next borough president, so they have something to work with.

Maurice Pinzon: Do we need Borough Presidents?

Gale Brewer: It’s a very good question. And I have to say, being Borough President, I think is needed more than ever. And let me be specific. I mean, as council member, I went actually more around the boroughs, you know, you would visit the – I’m making this up – the Brooklyn Navy Yard as part of a bill that might come up about economic development. Or I might go to the Bronx because it was a great youth program. And there was a hearing, blah, blah, blah. So I actually went around the boroughs more than as Manhattan Borough President. As Manhattan Borough President, I can see the huge difference between the boroughs, and I have great relationship with the other borough presidents. Over time, we’ve had lunch quite often and so on.

But you need a voice for your borough. And I can be specific. I talked a little bit more than I would’ve wanted to…and the City Council people don’t do it. Like, for whatever reason, there isn’t a strong Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, the delegations don’t work like that. So the Borough President, not only do we mandately – if that’s English – have the borough board every month, that’s by charter, so you have to have all the borough all the committee and chairs of the community boards, and then supposedly the council members, but they don’t always show up – you know, they’re busy – unless there is a vote. So what is the role the borough president? Bringing the different stakeholders for the borough together is such an important role. I would not have known that it was so important. I mean, there are issues that are just related to Manhattan. Right now we’re trying to deal with the empty office space – big article in The New York Times today. No other borough has that. Manhattan also has Broadway. No other borough has that. So we did…we work a lot with all the arts groups in a different way. I mentioned the garment center. The mayor, when I became Borough President, wanted to send the Garment Center to Brooklyn. You can imagine how I felt about that. And of course, during the pandemic – thank goodness we had it for the gowns and the masks – that had to be purchased and made and they could be done here.

You do need. And you know Brooklyn has its needs. Queens has its needs. You do need a voice for the borough, particularly when there is a Borough President I’ll be honest with you – I’m sorry – a mayor from another borough. I mean, Mayor de Blasio loves Brooklyn. He doesn’t always love Manhattan. So he has to be told that this is what is going on in Manhattan. And this is what Manhattan needs. It’s very, very different. And so is the Bronx, and so is Staten Island. So I actually think that there’s more need than ever to bring together the stakeholders from the borough. And there isn’t any other entity that will do it. Because if you’re a council member, you know, you don’t have that authority. Like, Okay, I’m representing the Lower East Side as an example. I can’t tell all the other parts of the borough to listen to me. Well, I would say that it’s very, very clear now. If the Mayor de Blasio could have been smarter, but he never – I think he met with us once. I don’t even remember that. That’s it in eight years. If he was if he was a little bit more enlightened, I think he would have met with us on a regular basis, you know, I don’t know four times a year or something quarterly, to say, what are the issues? He never did.

Each Borough President, at least the ones now and I think probably in the future, really know their boroughs really know their boroughs. I really know Manhattan. Borough President Diaz really knows the Bronx, etc. And there are issues that could have been resolved more readily with that kind of discussion. I think the borough presidents maybe some of their powers could change in some ways. But generally, they are, even though mostly advisory, they are a great spokespersons for the interests of their borough.

Maurice Pinzon: You’ll have a much smaller staff in the Council. Have you thought about whether you want to pursue a leadership position or specific committees?

Well, a couple of things. First of all, I don’t need to tell you, but this city needs a whole lot of not just me, but input generally to try to come back differently. You know, if you’re talking about people getting jobs, people being healthy, all the issues of the schools, which I actually think is our biggest challenge, in many ways, because a lot of these young people have not been in school for a year. And all the questions of how do you, you know, figure out the affordable housing. There’s so many issues, it’s not completely dissimilar, although it is on some other way.

We obviously, I came in on 9/11, right after 9/11, as you know, the election for the time that I ran in 2001, happened to be on September 11th 2001. So we actually canceled that election, obviously. Held it a couple of weeks later. That was a challenge, was very different than the one we’re facing now, because then we lost, oh goodness, over 3000 people. But this time we lost 33,000 people in terms of people dying in the borough. Not just the borough of Manhattan, but the whole city, 33,000 people died as a result of this awful pandemic. And I know friends, and I’m sure you do, too. It’s horrible. So the issue is, how do you come back in a way that is respectful of those who have passed, but come back differently that involving in a positive way more New Yorkers?

Now, thank goodness for Mr. Biden, and Ms. Harris. I mean, it’s made an immense difference to the budget, but it also just gives some light at the end of the tunnel, but you don’t know how long that light is gonna last, depending on what happens with the congressional election. But you have to, you know, my opinion to come back. And why I think, a smaller staff, yes, but don’t forget, in the city council, you have a very large four or five hundred Speaker staff. So whether you’re a council member, or a Speaker, but I’m fine being a council member, you could always rely on that staff in the Speaker’s office, and you have the all the really, you know, the oversight that comes with being in the hearing situation, and also the budget

You have some pretty heavy tools if you use them. And I also think the city council should do a whole lot better with technology. And when I mean, obviously, I was chair of the technology committee before. Now the thing, what we’ve done in the borough president’s office is we have a whole technology nonprofit called beta NYC, which is in our office. And those four staff people work full time with the community boards with open data, which is also something that I focus on, as you know, because I passed that bill, open data is the way in which every city agency has to put their data on a platform, open data platform, and then that data, we analyze for the community boards and show them how to do it. So we have a whole technology, part of the borough president’s office, and I think the city council, whether it is on its own YouTube, Facebook, you know, really, you know, has to improve because the council meetings are super boring. And the way in which they’re delivered needs a lot of improvement. So how the city council uses its own voice, technologically, I think also needs to be improved. So what I’m saying is, even though you have a small staff, you can use the hearing process, the budget process, hopefully, the technology, to be much more visible.

And in my case, the West Side, as you know, has always been a leader in terms of issues. Ruth Messenger with, I don’t know, she and Ronnie Eldridge were very well known in terms of either tax abatements, changes or all the different ways in which they took the lead on policies that change citywide. So I hope to have that role also, you know, given my experience. There is no end to the changes that this city needs if we’re going to come out of this pandemic, including everybody and not just certain people.

Maurice Pinzon: As council member in any position you will be working with a new mayor. What do you think of the top 3 contenders (Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley)? Can you work with all of them?

Gale Brewer: I can work with all of them. Obviously, Eric Adams and I have been colleagues in the borough presidency. Katherine Garcia was a phenomenal. I knew her as Sanitation Commissioner, but I really got to know her as the Food Czar, because one of our issues has always been food insecurity in the borough president’s office. We could see immediately that the seniors were being hurt, could starve, if it wasn’t for her leadership during the pandemic. I mean, we were the leaders in bringing this issue to the forefront in terms of seniors, home bound, and food and she did turn it around. And then as the chair of the technology committee, I worked constantly with Maya Wiley when she was general counsel to the mayor because she too is a techie. And we worked on testifying in Washington, in front of the FCC together, we worked on open data together. We worked on municipal WiFi together and the list goes on. We worked on suing Verizon together with the FCRC. All three of them, I can work with, to answer your question.

Maurice Pinzon: What do you think of the recently passed NYC budget?

When I was on the council, I was on the budget negotiation committee, and to the credit of Mayor Bloomberg, this rainy day fund was established. And now it’s more legal, it was a little bit of, let’s just do it. And it wasn’t had to have like a different name. But now it’s a legal, I call it, rainy day fund. But it is something that could be used for the future. To the credit of the city council, I believe the mayor has put in, and the City Council, obviously, about a billion dollars total. And so that’s a good amount. It could be more, but it’s a billion dollars in the rainy day fund for the future. I think this huge budget, there are two issues. Number one, some of the money has to be spent by September, the rest of the money has to be spent, as you said, by December 31st 2024. And if it’s not, then it goes back to the federal government, you certainly don’t want to send money back to the federal government.

So you know, I have looked at it. I have looked at – we certainly did. We have to do by law, a budget sort of impact study what we think and so we submitted that some weeks ago, and we do tend to focus on some of the issues that I mentioned the food insecurity, the seniors, you know, workforce issues, things that we in the Borough of Manhattan think are important. All the schools. So I can’t say look, line by line. But I do think that we have a good, good year. I do think there are some agencies, they could be, you know, collapsed, or lots of people working in the mayor’s office, some of that could in fact, be collapsed. I think the issue with the budget is to see what exactly are the essential services that New Yorkers need, obviously, housing, housing, housing, supportive housing would be perhaps my first listing and public safety. Those are the two however you define both of them. Those would be the two that need immediate support. And obviously, they’re complicated. They’re complicated in terms of mental health, they’re complicated in terms of where do you find the sites. They’re complicated in terms of, you know, long term, affordability for those who are in need of supportive housing, and there’s so many different issues.

But I hope that that’s what we look at for the future. This budget is large, you know, hopefully, it also figures out a way to coordinate like, I do, like the outdoor restaurants, I like the bike lanes. I like the bus lanes. I like the fact that people are using the streets and the parks and open space, and we’re trying to have open streets. Trying to have the arts in the open streets. But it turns out from my reading that there are about 25 city and state agencies that operate in the streets and the sidewalks and they’re not coordinated. So one of the questions I would ask. Do we need a public realms Czar, a public space Czar. And is that something that this budget helps to do? Because the agencies have got to coordinate. I think that’s been a problem in the last 12 years. And how do you make? How do you write a budget that has more coordination. And the other thing about this budget that I think it did not include is units of appropriation, which basically means that you have to as an agency head, break down the budget. You can’t put in I’m making this up $10 million for “Other” at the Department of Homeless Services or something like that. Has to say what the programs are, that it’s paying for. So that as the city council, when you do your oversight, you have some way of measuring, did that money go toward what it is that it’s supposed to? So these are some of the issues that I would look at in the future, you can do that with a small staff because you have a great staff in the Speaker’s office.

Maurice Pinzon: How do we strike a balance between “over-policing” and public safety?

Gale Brewer: That’s a very good question, Maurice. And it’s one that everybody is asking. I’m a big fan of Jumaane Williams. I endorsed him when he ran the first time. And he and I have been talking about this a lot. I don’t have the answer. But I have a couple of ways that it could be done. I think fairly. You know, the police are – at the highest levels – I don’t know when you get down to some of the officers. But at the highest levels, I spent a lot of time with the police. And I do think they understand that the over-policing is a big problem. And it doesn’t bode well.

Let me give you an example of what their challenges are. So we’re working now in Washington Square Park, and I am doing, convened a group, as I indicated, to look at the drug treatment issues, which is different than some of the other issues. But I hope that you know, we now have, we’re going to have seven day coverage of people with people who do drug treatment and their peers, and hopefully that’ll help with those who need our services. So those are the most vulnerable. But the issue of, you know, people who are just, you know who hate cops, or who are protesting in the park or whatever. That’s a harder group to be honest with you. I have, I was on a drug treatment board for 25 years before I was elected to the council. And it’s a community that I know well. So okay, that we can work on. The issue with the other groups though, I, you know, we, I thought the police could, you know, maybe meet with some of the leaders and see if they can work out something so it’s not a constant in the park and not be so upset about the closing times, and so on. So, it seems to me that that would be possible. Well, the problem is that the police won’t go into the park unless they have helmets. And, you know, when they look like they’re an invading force, because they’re afraid of getting bottles and other things thrown at them. So here, you’re, now you’re still gonna have police going into the park that look like, you know, the invading force with the pull down helmets and, you know, massive amounts of numbers. So that’s a, you know, that’s an example of, Okay, so the cops won’t go in unless they have this uniform that is quite invading looking. And then people who are in the park, you know, are not going to be respectful of that, I assume. And it doesn’t seem to me even though people have tried to talk to some of the leaders, it doesn’t seem to be particularly, you know. It doesn’t seem to be some kind of compromise. So that’s an example.

When you go to other places where you have guns. Now the mayor, to his credit, has called in the national, a, you know, the folks who do anti-gun patrol and who are the ATF, the firearms. And they, according to Jumaane Williams, who met with them recently, he’s very hopeful, because these are the people who know how to maybe deal with the I-95. You know, the driving from Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, of bringing the guns into New York. There are something close to like 100,000 illegal guns circulating in our streets right now. That’s a lot of guns. So can they, can the ATF folks do something about it? That would be helpful. It is about guns.

It’s also about, you know, if you figure during the pre-pandemic as an example, nightlife, which is, I don’t know, $14 billion industry in the city of New York is closed, it’s still closed. So that was an example to all of those jobs. So many jobs are not available to people right now. Because even though it looks like people were back on the streets, a lot of the jobs are not still available. So the question is, how do you get the guns off the street? And then how do you get people back to work? It’s a coordination.

So you definitely have the cure the violence groups that are probably doing more than we know. When I meet with them, there are two of them in Manhattan. And when I meet with them, they do an awful lot of stopping violence, you know, 2 people having a beef, they managed to settle it. So that doesn’t get in the paper. What gets in the paper is when somebody shoots and hopefully doesn’t kill or does kill, that’s what gets in the paper. But these cure the violence groups do a whole lot of good. So we need more of them. And we need to get the guns off the street. I think that would help as opposed to, you know, cops going in, or people with as I described, looking like an invading force.

How, and then, you have the mentally ill who are just pushing people on the subway or saying anti-Asian, anti-Semitic, horrible things. And they, they’re just mentally unstable. So then the question is, okay, so they get arrested, this is what happens, they get arrested. Rikers is not the right place for them. But guess what, there isn’t any place for them under this administration. So one of the questions is, where do we get them settled, so that they have support, they should not be going to Rikers Island, and they’re going to come out and it’s going to be worse. So what are we doing with those who are mentally unstable, they’re probably more now because of this pandemic. In the past, pre-pandemic, they might have been in a location where they were getting their medication on a regular basis, whether it was somebody, you know, some caseworker paying attention to them. That is not true now. So the whole mental illness is a real challenge that has to be addressed, but it has to be addressed. Like, what are we going to do with individuals who need that support? It’s not the cops say, I arrested this person, you know, and also the courts have been closed until this week. Well, then, you know, they get let out without any necessarily follow up. There’s a whole piece there of, you know, cure the violence, jobs, mental illness, what do you do with them? The cops can’t do all this. And now the cops are told they can’t deal with the homeless and they can’t deal with the vendors, the homeless are going to dealt, be dealt with with the Department of Homeless Services. And the vendors because you see, that was the fight in Times Square. The vendors are being dealt with by the Department of Consumer Affairs and worker protection. But those two agencies are not coordinating well with police department as we speak. Hope, I would guess what I’m trying to say to answer your question over policing over-policing has to stop, but the other agencies have to step in. And right now, I don’t think they have actually stepped in.

Maurice Pinzon: Commissioner Steven Bank of HRA and Dept. of Homeless Services hasn’t been able to solve or even improve the homeless issue. What hope do we have to ever solve this issue?

Gale Brewer: I think it is a couple of things. And you know, Liz Krueger knows as much about this as anybody. But first is when people come from the Upstate prisons, they should not have to go to the shelter system. They should be working with the groups that do this sort of work. Fortune Society is just one of them. There are many others. Where those groups should be trusted with supporting those individuals. It is crazy for them to go to the shelter. It’s expensive and it doesn’t do them any good. Right now as we speak, Fortune Society, and I’m sure there are others. It’s just the one I know. They are trying to get a couple more buildings to be able to house these individual, almost 100% of those who may take you know on a transitional basis with the support services very differently than going to a shelter. They then get permanent housing for and that person does not go back to prison. So there’s no recidivism. That’s what has to happen.

Number two. There are a lot of veterans in the system. Now those folks come from the different services. They come to New York, maybe they’re from here, maybe they’re not, they go directly to the shelter system. So we need to be able to work with the army, Marines, Air Force, etc. to say, if you’re coming to New York, please let us know that Mr. Jones is coming to New York. And then we can work with him to put them right into the veteran system as opposed to the shelter system. Same thing.

I know that the city under Steve Bank’s leadership has done everything they can to keep people in their apartments. There are programs that do that and say, okay, but that they need to be enhanced. They need, you know, if you’re overcrowded, let’s find a way for you get another apartment, and not end up in the system. The other question I have to say is some of the families are going to their credit from this shelter to NYCHA, but they’re not doing social services in NYCHA. And there are a whole bunch of issues. And I have a feeling some of those folks might end up back in the shelter system.

You have every single step of the way, give people a lot of support, whether it’s people coming out of jails and prisons, or people coming from the armed services, or people, you know, before they end up homelessness, homeless, giving them support before they have to leave either an overcrowded situation or an abusive situation. There’s a disconnect, or those who are mentally ill, right, who we know can be unhinged, because they don’t have the medication. So I think the answer is, I don’t know the answer to your question. It’s partly unemployment. But these systems just don’t seem to talk to each other. And that’s what I find mostly frustrating. And that’s what I hope to help, because I do know, where they need to talk to each other.

Maurice Pinzon: Can we make it easier for the public to get access to City Hall?

Gale Brewer: In terms of access to City Hall, I would absolutely. This is the decision of the mayor. I don’t think the city council can do this. Even a cop, not just a cop is a problem. It is so depressing to watch tourists look at this big fence and not be able to walk across City Hall Plaza. I hate that. I would move the scanners right up to the building. Not in the plaza because I want people to be able to walk across the plaza. It’s the people’s house, but I don’t like it at all.

Maurice Pinzon: How can City Hall improve government operations with technology. What do we do about the dysfunctional New York Board of Elections?

Gale Brewer: Well, in terms of the board of elections, I have great confidence, as you do, in State Senator Liz Krueger. And in the Assembly member Nily Rozic, and those two have a bill along those lines, it is a state issue. I mean, we could sit here and talk about the Board of Elections forever, but the only thing the city council can do is have a hearing and maybe a resolution. So I look forward to what happens on the state level.

The second issue in terms of Estonia and E-government – Ireland also is quite good on the topic. The issue is, it’s a little shocking, but no surprise, perhaps to you. For instance, during this pandemic, we worked with the Business Improvement Districts, obviously, to try to make sure to keep these businesses alive. I can talk more about the challenges of vacant storefronts and what we’re trying to do about them, we are waiting from the Department of Finance to give us the data. A bill I passed four or five years ago said, every owner of every building has to tell us what’s vacant and what the square footage is. So we’re waiting for that data to come in any moment now. The reason I mention this is during the pandemic, we talked to the BIDs and the Chambers of Commerce in the Borough of Manhattan. There is a real difference between who has the ability to do that in their store and who does not. Obviously Midtown, everybody, you can send an email, send a text and you get an answer. You cannot do that in Washington Heights and Harlem. They just don’t have the capacity. They do not do online like they should. So it’s a good idea to do E-government. But first, we have to make sure that we have enough capacity, either strong, inexpensive Internet, and that, you know, sort of not no-competition big company. And we have to figure out how the small businesses have and are trained to use it. There’s a real difference here. In Washington Heights we had to go door to door with leaflets and talking to people. I want to, I think what happened in Estonia and elsewhere is they they just skipped, you know, the, we always had, you know, phones and landlines. And so like all that got skipped. Like it did in Africa. And they didn’t have to deal with the copper lines and the big companies. They were able just to go wireless and figure out how to communicate. That is not the situation here. So we got to figure out the last mile issues. We got to figure out the cable issues. We got to figure out the tech issues. We got to figure out the municipal Wi Fi issues. So I’ve just mentioning it. I agree about E-Gov. But first it has to be some infrastructure, I think. I’ve been shocked at how little there is.

Gale Brewer: I just want to thank you, Maurice, for all your years of service and interest in civic affairs. And I love that you’re doing this podcast. And I think there’s no end to the way in which we have to talk about these issues, because they’re complicated. I always remember that in terms of the city of New York, the only budget that is bigger is the United States, the state of California, the state of New York, and then us. So we’re bigger than Texas and Florida. And we’re bigger than half of the countries in the world. So we’re a big country, in terms of how we operate. It’s so complicated. And so I hope that you know, as the council member, I can help, I can contribute to making people’s, New Yorkers lives better.


Editor’s Note: This conversation with Borough President Gale Brewer was recorded on Friday, July 2, 2021. Due to technical difficulties during the initial podcast recording, the Borough President’s recording was not at the same sound level as Maurice Pinzon’s. Instead, she called into the podcast.

Editor’s Note: Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Maurice Pinzon did some free-lance photography work for the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

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