Category Archives: Education

Brooklyn we go hard

I took a trip out to Brownsville today to shoot some video for my Covering Education class. I shot this on the drive back.

I’m so close to graduating. I can taste it.


MTA coverage

One of my courses this is semester is Covering Education. The focus of the class is providing coverage on the New York City public school system.

I’ve been following the plight of the MTA’s budget crisis, which will directly impact almost half of New York City’s 1.1 million public school children who rely on the free or discounted MetroCards that the MTA provides for them in order to take subways and buses to school.

You can see my coverage here.

I’ve been on Spring Break this week, essentially catching up on a semester’s worth of sleep and enjoying the sunshine, but the week before I attended a rally and hearing held at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was the last of five public hearings the MTA held in each borough to discuss the proposed cuts in services and jobs to make up for the transportation authority’s $750 million budget gap.

Before the hearing, the transportation workers union held a large rally to show their displeasure with the upcoming cuts, which would cut jobs, shut down or reduce bus and subway lines, and end the free MetroCard program.

I spoke with Richard Jasmin, 52, a bus driver in Brooklyn (pictured above) at the rally. I asked him about the cuts to the student fares and what that meant for him. He said, for one, he’d be scared for his life because kids would “do anything to get to school.”

I don’t remember ever wanting to go to school so badly that I’d assault a bus driver. Let’s hope he was joking.

The giant inflatable rat, a union rally mainstay in NYC, was in attendance as well.

A small, but vocal group of high schoolers, mainly from Harlem, showed up to voice their displeasure over the loss of their MetroCards.

It was high security at the hearing. They even confiscated my reserve of almonds in my messenger bag.

The auditorium only held 600 people. It was filled to capacity and a steady line snaked out and down the hallway. Outside, the rally continued for the news cameras.

Inside, everyone got their two minutes to speak before the board, which included MTA chairman Jay Walder himself.

The final vote on the fate of the MTA cuts will occur on Wednesday, March 24.

Emergency surgery

I got a call just before midnight last night. It was CJ, with whom I have been spending lots of time for my master’s project on pit bulls in New York City. His oldest (and dearest) of his two dogs, Snow, had been peeing a lot and he had just passed it off as a UTI. However, he had just received news from a vet that in fact it was something much worse. Snow had Pyometra, a bad infection in her uterus, and the vets gave her two days to live unless she had surgery. The Manhattan vet he was visiting estimated $2000 for the surgery. CJ knew he could do better so he found a vet in Queens where he could get the same surgery for nearly half the price.

I met him and Snow up in Harlem around 11:30 a.m. Thursday and we hopped in the car and zipped over to Queens.

At the vet, Snow and CJ waited patiently. She didn’t give off the impression of a dog who was two days away from death, but she did do a lot of whining and squirming while we waited for her turn in the examination room.

Much of the argument I am trying to present in my piece on pit bulls is that they are treated almost as a minority. People fear them and hate them without ever really trying to understand them as a breed. It was quite refreshing to see CJ conversing openly with the two other couples about their dogs in the waiting room. They all had much smaller dogs, but it was clear that everyone in the room was speaking the same language: the language of passionate, concerned pet owners.

Questions like “What is she in for?” and “What about your dog, what is he here for?” were thrown around.

They joked about spaying and neutering and their apprehensions, projecting their human fears of their own castration onto their beloved pets. The surgery Snow was facing was essentially a glorified spaying. Her uterus would have to be removed in order to take care of the infection.

After much waiting, Snow got up on the table. She wasn’t too keen on having her swollen and painful private parts probed and put up a bit of a fight by growling and thrashing. Her metal chain and long nails on the metal exam table sounded like hail on a tin roof as she struggled to get down and away from the vet’s probing hands.

The vet very quickly and methodically produced a leather muzzle from the drawer for her to wear as a precaution. CJ and another veterinary technician held her tight. Snow leaned into CJ’s embrace, as if hoping to bury herself in his thick black leather jacket to escape from the uncomfortable probing.

A quick x-ray showed her uterus was in bad shape, and her spine was a bit arthritic from giving birth to puppies.

The uterus is the dark mass near the right half of the x-ray.

CJ haggled a bit with the vet to get the bare minimum of services rendered to get Snow healthy again. Then, he told Snow he’d be back first thing in the morning on Saturday to pick her up.

CJ dropped me off at home. I ran out to the 110th Street station to snap a quick stock shot of the subway for my latest Covering Education blog post.

I’m covering transportation and safety issues for the course and the post was about a new report released by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy that projected MTA fare hikes to be at least 15 percent to make up for their $400 million budget gap. Last month, they voted to phase out free and discounted MetroCards for the city’s public school students. The report calculated that this hike would cost a working family of four with two school aged children an extra $2300 a year in transportation costs.

For a simple blog post, I spent entirely too much time on an accompanying infographic on the history of MTA fare hikes. I’m pretty proud of it though.

I only took the subway up to 116th St. Then, I walked back down to my apartment. Since I had my camera, I figured I’d finally take the picture I’d seen countless tourists take before on my daily walk to and from school. This is Tom’s Restaurant. Probably best known as “the Seinfeld Restaurant.” Although, the diner scenes were shot on a set, they used this shot of the actual Tom’s Restaurant in the show.

Look familiar?

The restaurant is also the inspiration for the song “Tom’s Diner,” which was released in 1981 by Suzanne Vega.

My personal favorite, and probably a bit more familiar is the 1990 remix by British group DNA.

I caught a cool glimpse of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as I turned to cross the street to head back home.

I finished the day off glued to my computer, working on various projects. The computer work was only broken by a nice run in Central Park. I listened to the first episode of the new Freakonomics podcast. I’m a fan and it will fit nicely into my running repertoire.

I like busy days. I never seem to get through everything i’m supposed to, but I always go to bed feeling complete.

School visit

I’m starting a new course this semester called “Covering Education.” It’s focused on reporting on the New York City public school system. My professor, LynNell Hancock, has partnered all of her students with an embed school that has someone on the inside who is willing to serve as a sort of liaison inside the school. I paid a visit to my embed school, Aspirations Diploma Plus High School, in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn today. I thought I’d share a little of my experience:

I walk through the door of Aspirations High School and into the open lobby. The fluorescent lighting bounces off the clean white linoleum floors and freshly painted white walls with blue trim.

It feels like a hospital.

“Um, excuse me, sir?” A voice barks at me from my periphery. It’s ripe with sass.

I haven’t set foot in the school for thirty seconds, and I’ve already blown the security checkpoint.


The nice uniformed security guard takes my ID, lazily fills out a log book and makes me sign my name. I ask her for directions and she vaguely points me to the end of the hall. She snaps her gum loudly at me as if to signify I am someone else’s responsbility now. I turn right down the hall. To the left, in the other half of the building, is another high school, the EBC School. This is a new concept to me. I have always gone to schools that had their own building. Thus, a school is a physical entity defined by its building. Now, I am in one building that houses two schools.

Two minutes in and my mind is already blown.
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