At a Mayoral Forum, Salgado Delivers a Fiery Performance

Pity the table. On Wednesday night in the Bronx, at one of the most energetic mayoral debates in an often-lackluster series of forums, some of the candidates at times took a beating from rivals or hecklers during a discussion of issues deemed important to Latino voters.

But it was the candidates’ table itself that took the hardest thumping, from the Rev. Erick J. Salgado, a Brooklyn minister who is less known than some of his Democratic rivals. Mr. Salgado often finds himself on the margins of such discussions, but before a friendly audience he delivered a performance so impassioned that at one point a moderator, in jest, called upon another minister to pray for him.

“I’m O.K.,” Mr. Salgado retorted. “You know who needs a prayer, the 800,000 undocumented immigrants. They need the prayer.” He was referring to immigrants in the city who are not here legally.

The debate was at the City University of New York’s Hostos Community College, organized by the Hispanic Federation, the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa and the television network Telemundo.

The theme of the forum was “The Road to City Hall Runs Through the Latino Community,” and the seriousness with which the candidates take such a claim about a population that could make up a fifth of the electorate this fall was reflected in the attendance. All the major candidates except for one, Joseph J. Lhota, a Republican, were there. The two Hispanic candidates present were Adolfo Carrión Jr., a former Bronx borough president who is running on the Independence Party line, and Mr. Salgado.

The first flare-up came during a row over whether and how a post-Bloomberg administration should provide documentation for illegal immigrants. There was rapid-fire verbal jousting between Mr. Salgado, who called for city-issued identification cards to “help these people come out of the shadows and have dignity” and John C. Liu, the city comptroller, who argued that illegal immigrants should get regular driver’s licenses and state-issued identity papers, not “a special I.D. that points out the fact that they are immigrants.”

Mr. Salgado has been sometimes sheepish and slow to start at some of the debates. But at this particular debate, among Latino and other minority voters, he was electric, punching the air, jumping to his feet, and, at times, being jocularly calmed down by the two candidates flanking him, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and William C. Thomson Jr., a former city comptroller.

During the discussion about illegal immigrants, Mr. Salgado all but shouted down Mr. Liu, proclaiming, to whoops from the audience, “They are Latino, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the African Americans and as a pastor I am going to fight for the Latinos to at least have the dignity to be identified in the City of New York.”

As he slammed his fist onto the table, and into the air, even the other candidates laughed and applauded, seemingly content for the minister to have his moment. “I’m sorry,” he said at one point after thumping the table once again, “I’m a preacher.”

When Mr. Salgado had finished speaking on immigration, the moderator turned to Anthony D. Weiner, a former United States representative, to ask if he had anything to contribute on the issue. Wisely recognizing that this was not an act to follow, Mr. Weiner declined with a simple “no”, shaking his head and folding his arms.

The passion seemed to seep into the rest of the evening, notably when the debate turned to a plan for a waste transfer station on the Upper East Side where garbage from surrounding neighborhoods would be loaded onto barges to be shipped out of the city.

The plan has drawn protests from some Manhattan residents, but it has support from environmental advocates in other boroughs, who accuse Manhattan of dumping its waste in poorer communities. Before the debate began, banner-waving demonstrators marched outside the community college chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Manhattan’s waste has got to go,” and “Our right to breathe is not for sale.”

When Ms. Quinn defended the waste station plan at a Manhattan forum near the site earlier this year, she was booed by residents there. Here the reverse dynamic was in play, and when Mr. Thompson opposed the proposal the audience responded with boos and hisses.

“That site is a bad site; there’s nothing that changes that,” Mr. Thompson said. “I believe also that other neighborhoods have been impacted, other black and Latino communities, and I want to see those communities treated fairly. It doesn’t mean that we should move forward with that site.”

But he immediately came under fire from Mr. Carrión, who captured the mood of the audience by telling Mr. Thompson: “You can’t have it both ways. We fought hard to make sure that every borough in the City of New York carries its fair share. The Bronx and parts of Brooklyn are tired of being dumped on.”

The mood seemed infectious. In a riff on the garbage debate, Sal F. Albanese, a former city councilman, took a swipe at his Democratic rival Bill de Blasio about whether the site of a separate waste transfer station in Brooklyn was really within walking distance of Mr. de Blasio’s Park Slope home, as Mr. de Blasio claimed. It wasn’t even the same site that was generating all the anger at the other end of the table, yet within minutes Mr. de Blasio had thrown down a walking challenge to Mr. Albanese, who picked it up a few minutes later, via Twitter.

Finally, the energy dissipated. One of the two Republican candidates present, John Catsimatidis, excused himself saying that he had to leave early for another function on Staten Island. Mr. de Blasio also departed before the end, and the evening wrapped up cordially.

As they left, more than one candidate remarked on the liveliness of the debate compared with some others. How much it matters or advances Mr. Salgado’s chances is unclear. The hall was just over half full, and the mayoral campaign quickly moves on to other stops that may be less receptive to him. But on Wednesday night Mr. Salgado found his voice, and his audience.

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Quoting Dickens, Again, on the Campaign Trail

If campaign slogans could be copyrighted, would the next round of candidates have anything left to say?

“Let’s be honest where we are today,” Bill de Blasio, the New York City public advocate who is seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination, has said on more than one occasion. And where are we? “A city,” Mr. de Blasio said several times, “that in too many ways has become a tale of two cities, a place where City Hall too often has catered to the interests of the elite rather than the needs of everyday New Yorkers.”

Just who constitutes an everyday New Yorker is subjective, but, let’s be honest, the tale of two cities reference may sound a little familiar. Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, invoked it in his unsuccessful 2001 and 2005 mayoral campaigns and was criticized for sounding divisive.

Mr. de Blasio, who is running an avowedly populist campaign, argues that the message is valid in a city confronting an “inequality crisis” — if not necessarily one of the same magnitude that inspired Dickens’s novel of the violent French Revolution. (And of course he is not the only candidate who recycles political slogans).

Mr. Ferrer, meanwhile, unabashedly acknowledges the message’s provenance.

“I stole it from Mario Cuomo, who stole it from R.F.K., who stole it from Michael Harrington, who stole it from Jacob Riis, who stole it from Dickens, etc.,” he said. “By now it should be public domain.”

As to whether it resonated in his campaign, a Socratic Mr. Ferrer replied, “Since when is the truth not effective?”

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Understanding the Cost/Service Disconnect of healthcare law

Jessica Kuperavage, CRI’s newest intern, has some thoughts on what is making healthcare so  expensive. The big problems is that people who pay little or nothing at all for health services are more likely to use them since there is no penalty for doing so. This is one reason why emergency rooms bill heavily for using their services: the idea is to cut down on people using the emergency room so the ER is saved for emergencies. Government involvement in healthcare also negatively affects the cost.

Why is Healthcare so Expensive? Understanding the Cost/Service Disconnect

One of the contributing reasons for the cost of medicine and medical services is the result of the fact that the people receiving the services – patients – are not directly paying for them, but are instead contributing a co-pay for a service that is largely paid by their insurance companies.

The disconnect between services and costs has consequences for the price and practice of medicine. Among them are the following: medical fees escalate, patient consumption of medical goods and services escalate, and medical innovation escalates.

Medical fees escalate: Insured patients and Medicaid/Medicare recipients often do not compare costs between medications and medical care providers. The information is difficult to obtain, and comparing costs is not a priority when immediate care is required. Furthermore, patients do not have the incentive to compare costs when a third party will cover a significant portion of the bill.

The lack of a medical free market, combined with direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising and limited study data available to physicians, can also result in patients being prescribed medications that are expensive, but no more effective than treatments that are decades old and far cheaper. When the bulk of the cost is paid by a third party, such as an insurer, patients are less likely to consider whether a therapy is worth its cost.

Consumption escalates: Patients whose medical bills are paid primarily through insurance or governmental programs make more frequent trips to the doctor. While checkups are an important part of preventive care, more excessive use of medical services yields no patient benefit. According to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the overuse of medical services accounts for as much as 30% of healthcare expenditures between 1978 and 2009. By definition, overuse is the application of screenings or treatments that have no positive health benefit or are more harmful to the patient than helpful.

Some types of screenings, while very common (and very expensive), have little or no positive effect on patient health. For instance, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men, stating that, due to the slow progression of the cancer and the serious side effects that frequently occur as a result of existing treatments, “many men are harmed as a result of prostate cancer screening and few, if any, benefit.” Prostate cancer rarely affects men’s quality of life or causes death, while treatment for prostate cancer can leave men incontinent and impotent.

While pressure for tests and medications can come from patients, physicians also become more likely to schedule additional health screenings as a means of preventing patient lawsuits. Although it may reduce malpractice claims, this practice is costly and frequently provides no benefit to the patient. Because patients do not pay most of the cost out-of-pocket, they comply with these recommendations for extraneous procedures.

Innovation escalates: Even if there was no inflation in health care costs as a result of reliance on insurance and governmental programs, many common therapies would be beyond the reach of consumers due to high costs. Insurance companies make MRIs and other expensive procedures accessible, and also make new procedures feasible for hospitals to provide to patients.

The influx of funds into health services also helps to drive further research, which can benefit patients. Medical and pharmaceutical research is lengthy, expensive, and only occasionally yields effective new treatments. Pharmaceutical companies offer pro bono expanded access programs, which provide experimental therapies to terminal patients who meet the FDA’s guidelines.

While some benefits occur, disconnecting cost from service causes many problems. Expanding governmental control over healthcare will exacerbate these.



Baicker, Katherine et al. “The Oregon Experiment: The Effects of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 368 (2013)

Boodman, Sandra G. “Concern is Growing that the Elderly Get too many Tests,” Kaiser Health News, 12 September 2011

“FDA Expands Access to Investigational Drugs,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2009

Goldacre, Ben, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients (New York: Faber and Faber, Inc, 2012)

Korenstein, Deborah, et al. “Overuse of Health Care Services in the United States: An Understudied Problem,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 172:2 (2012)

Moon, Marilyn, “Confronting the Rising Costs of Healthcare in Medicare and Medicaid,” Generations, 25:1 (2005)

Reidenberg, Marcus M. “PSA Screening for Prostate Cancer,” Weill Cornell Medical College, 11 February 2012

“Screening for Prostate Cancer,” U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, May 2012

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Sunlight in Store for Downtown Subway Crossing

Most subway artwork sits within a station. Now comes a subway station that sits within an artwork.

Building Blocks

How the city looks and feels — and why it got that way.

Or at least that’s how it may feel next year when the Fulton Center opens in Lower Manhattan and its artistic centerpiece — a curving, 79-foot-high net of reflective aluminum diamonds set in a stainless-steel tracery — sends ambient daylight into mezzanines, passageways and perhaps even passenger platforms.

The structure, James Carpenter’s “Sky Reflector-Net,” is the largest single work ever commissioned by Arts for Transit and Urban Design, a unit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It has just been installed within the conical dome of the Fulton Center at Broadway and Fulton Street, designed by Grimshaw Architects. The center is the monumental headhouse for five stations serving the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z and R lines.

The “Sky Reflector-Net” cost about $2.1 million. The total budget for the Fulton Center is $1.4 billion, almost twice as much as the original estimate in 2003.

Above all, the artwork is intended to help travelers orient themselves within this labyrinth, which was constructed piecemeal over the years.

“When you’re coming up from the subway, the greatest way-finding aid is natural light,” said Craig Covil, a principal in the engineering firm Arup, which is working on the Fulton Center with Grimshaw and James Carpenter Design Associates.

The net’s 8,500-square-foot surface will change constantly, supplemented by prismatic glass blades suspended at the top of the dome that will scatter light rays through the interior.

Vincent Chang, a partner in Grimshaw, likened the effect to sun dappling. “It’s a visual movement that’s arresting to the eye,” he said. “Diurnally and seasonally, it will always be different.”

With that, Mr. Chang was interrupted, collegially, by Uday R. Durg, a senior vice president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital construction division. “But what does it do for my passengers?” Mr. Durg asked.

“It’s a moment of respite,” Mr. Chang replied, “like at Grand Central Terminal, where you can stand at the balconies and watch the world go by.”

And that gets to things the “Sky Reflector-Net” may provide that transportation officials cannot measure: delight, astonishment, perhaps even awe — the “Wow” factor.

“We needed something magical downtown after all that had happened,” said Sandra Bloodworth, the director of Arts for Transit and Urban Design, during a tour of the Fulton Center last week.

She used the same adjective nine years ago, explaining that Mr. Carpenter had been picked to join the design team in part because his work was concerned with “how light moves across a space, the way it refracts and the way it reflects to create an atmosphere and environment that can be, at times, magical.”

Magic needs specs to get built.

The “Sky Reflector-Net” starts with a crisscross network of stainless-steel cables held between two enormous rings. The upper ring, under the skylight, is 53 feet in diameter and has been installed at a 23-degree angle. The lower ring, which is used to bring the entire net into tension, is 74 feet in diameter and tilted 12 degrees.

Among the cables, 952 perforated aluminum panels have been fastened. Most panels are diamond-shaped. Those at the top and bottom edges of the net are triangular. The largest diamond panel is a bit over eight feet tall. Each panel is slightly different than the next. They were numerically coded for proper installation.

The panels’ aluminum surface reflects about 95 percent of the light that strikes it, Mr. Carpenter said, but it is not a mirror. Instead, the surface is stippled, which ever so slightly diffuses the light. The amount of perforation varies.

The net was assembled by TriPyramid Structures of Westford, Mass., and hung in the Fulton Center in May. Except for an outlier or two, panel installation was finished last Friday.

Looking over the almost completed net on a rainy morning in late May, Mr. Carpenter described the effect of a clear day. “It’s almost like you’ve taken the whole sky and folded it in,” he said.

That sounded like designer talk; poetic, but hyperbolic. On a return visit last week, however, when the weather was clear, it appeared almost as if the whole sky had been folded into the dome.

In the end, the public’s impression will depend on how sensitively the retailing and dining spaces around the dome are designed. Commercial tenants at the Fulton Center will want to stand out. Conceivably, they could create enough visual distraction that the net’s subtle palette recedes.

But if “Sky Reflector-Net” stands out as clearly next year as it does now, “magical” may not be too strong a word.

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Coffee, and News From Afghanistan

Dear Diary:

My world news on Afghanistan comes from my favorite street coffee man on the corner.

My street coffee for the past several years has come from an Afghan family, who immigrated to the United States and started their street coffee-cart business on Lexington Avenue, close to my office.

To make ends meet and pay off some family debts, Abdul, the eldest of the family, decided to go back to Afghanistan as an interpreter and intelligence adviser for the United States Army.

In his place, his cousin, Shaker Wasiq, now has his street coffee cart.

Abdul is in the field, and in harm’s way with his team of American soldiers in Northern Afghanistan.

It is my good fortune that my firsthand news on Afghanistan comes free with my coffee from his cousin, who talks to Abdul by cellphone from time to time.

Dodging bullets and angry Afghans is a far cry from driving a coffee cart at 5 a.m. and serving coffee and doughnuts to office workers in our neighborhood.

But I so admire our wonderful local coffee man, who has spent the last three years in Afghanistan with the armed forces. He is doing his bit for our country, and risking his life every day together with his team of American soldiers in the field.

And to my benefit, his world news to his cousin is only a cellphone call away.

Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail [email protected] or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

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