Category Archives: Urban Studies

Black families’ middle-class crisis

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

Congressional Democrats are looking to renew and refine their support for the middle class through increased wage schemes and tax policies. But a spate of current research paints a disconcerting picture of America’s shrinking middle-income households and reveals particular struggles for black Americans, for whom the accumulation and intergenerational transfer of wealth are increasingly nonexistent. Democrats and progressive leaders looking to 2016 should shy away from all-or-nothing ideological debates and address the concerns of important constituencies, mindful of their intricacies and nuances.

A recent New York Times article asserts that the increasing number of households moving into upper-income brackets veiled substantial middle-class contraction over the last 50 years. Continue reading Black families’ middle-class crisis

Featured Students: Certificate of Public Administration

 

jeyakumary

Jeyakumary Jeganathan, CWA Local 1180 Member, is a successful graduate of the Certificate in Public Administration and Policy 2014. Originally from Sri Lanka, she joined the Department of Environmental Protection in 2001. As a full time employee and Mother, she knew it may be difficult to balance course work alongside her responsibilities. However, she credits the education benefit provided by the local and the incredible support of her family, as driving forces behind her success.

Q. As you reflect on 2014, what did you achieve academically that has impacted your personal-professional life?

A. The Public Administration Program has overall given me more self-confidence when facing challenging problems and also enhanced my ability to work on them with a positive attitude. I was able to break out of my comfort zone and open up more opportunities to advance within my career.

Q. What has been the most revealing thing you have learned in your classes?

A.​ As an adult, returning to school was not an easy decision for me to make. I initially started by taking only one class, just to see if I was able to handle it. After taking that, I received a lot of encouragement from my teacher and the diverse students, which I never expected. Commuting from Staten Island to Queens, alongside balancing work and the program, I found I was able to manage my time to the fullest extent. Suddenly, one class had turned into four. Even though this may have been one of the most challenging steps in my life, I have no regrets as the class always welcomed me with open arms. Overall, through my classes I have discovered a new perspective of life.

Q. Which projects, or classes have directly influenced your perception about a specific public policy topic/ issue?

A.​ For my Research Seminar class, as a group we were assigned to write a paper regarding the Public Housing Policy of New York City. This project had given me a greater insight of the living conditions surrounding the City. We read about government controlled housing, rent- controlled apartments, and policies on homeless shelters. Our assignment was to address one problem and recommend a policy change that would alleviate the problem, rather than further damage it. This exercise allowed us to examine the true power of the government by considering the public’s voice within the policy-making process.

Q. What key experiences have contributed to your commitment to education?

A. Since I could not complete my education at a younger age, I saw this program as the best way to accomplish a long-lost dream. Being that education is needed in order to advance within my career, I always wondered, “If I could make it this far, how much further could I make it with a proper education”? By receiving good grades, managing classes, work and family, I realized that with my newfound knowledge, nothing can stop me.

Q. How have your classes enhanced your critical thinking skills and writing skills?

A. In each class, I was given comprehensive writing and presentation assignments. Each one aided me by enhancing my reading and writing skills. The writing assignments allowed me to think about writing papers from an entirely different perspective. I learned how to make connections within all of my research to come to one valid conclusion. Creating PowerPoint presentations helped me to solidify my research skills and improve my public speaking skills the most. By participating regularly and displaying my research in front of my peers, I became more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, and gained confidence that was much needed.

 

alphonse

Alphonse Ramsey, CWA Local 1180Member, is a new Urban Studies MA candidate. Following successful completion of the Murphy Institute’s Certificate in Public Administration and Policy in 2014, Alphonse responded to an 1180 email that highlighted the significance of educational advancement and the generous education benefit provided by the local. In addition to working full-time, Alphonse continues to be an urban leader and active participant by volunteering and organizing student-led Forum discussions. Read more to get a glimpse of how his Murphy experience has inspired him in and out of the classroom.

Q. As you reflect on 2014, what did you achieve academically that has impacted your personal-professional life?

A. 2014 was a great year for me academically because I completed the Graduate Certificate in Public Administration and Policy. I started the program in 2013 on a whim and I really enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been very interesting going back to school as an adult because a lot of the distractions of being an undergrad are gone. There are, of course, different challenges like balancing work, school, and family, but I feel like I have a better understanding of myself as a student. The issues we discussed in classes are all relevant and important. It’s hard not to come away from the experience, not only as a better student, but also as a better citizen.

Q. What has been the most revealing thing you have learned in your classes?

A.​ I think the most revealing thing that I learned in my classes is that the world we live in is the product of both failed and successful implementations of public policy and to a larger extent it’s based on an understanding of collective opinions and prejudices over time.

Q. Which projects, or classes have directly influenced your perception about a specific public policy topic/ issue?

A.​ The classes that come to mind are Social and Economic Policy with Professor Eisenberg and the Research Methods Seminar with Professor Battle. In Social and Economic Policy, I was taken aback by the layers of policy that have been constructed over time to deal with the poor. It’s astonishing to see how the issue has evolved over the years and how it has routinely failed to end poverty. However, it also forced me to question whether or not ending poverty is actually an attainable goal. Research Methods gave me a better understanding of the issues facing LGBT people of color, by learning how to use and analyze statistical data from the Social Justice Survey.

Q. What key experiences have contributed to your commitment to education?

A. I remember going to college as a two year old with my mom. So my commitment to education started at a very young age. There were days when she couldn’t find a baby-sitter and she would have no choice, but to take me to class with her. One of my rewards for behaving was to play computer games, or create a banner using the schools printing facility. Needless to say, from that point on I always associated learning and education with a positive environment. I also understood that education was one of the faster ways to achieve better opportunities and increase possibilities for success. It’s been one of the things that I feel has given me the confidence to go after what I truly want in life.

Q. How have your classes enhanced your critical thinking skills and writing skills?

A. Each class has required a good amount of writing, but I would say that Professor Smikle’s Policy Analysis class has enhanced my critical thinking and writing skills by forcing me to write clear, concise, and direct assignments that get to the point. He spoke a lot about memo writing and the importance of saying more with less and I think that goes a long way.

 

A Survey of Community and Labor Perspectives in the Wake of the Eric Garner Case

By Donald LaHuffman 

Produced for “Labor and Media Studies” with Prof. Ari Paul, Fall 2014

The United States recently exploded in protest around the country as citizens mobilized to show displeasure at the Staten Island Jury findings. The jurors decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. Pantaleo had allegedly held Garner in an illegal choke hold until his death, despite Garner’s pleas of not being able to breathe during the encounter. Ensuing local and national demonstrations connected Garner’s death to the earlier police shooting of Michael Brown who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Community organizers have included mothers in New York City who have lost their sons to alleged police brutality in previous years in these actions. In my graduate Labor Studies class “Labor and Media” taught by Ari Paul during the fall 2014 semester, my classmates and I met five mothers who told their stories. These mothers told the stories to make sure that they were not forgotten. Continue reading A Survey of Community and Labor Perspectives in the Wake of the Eric Garner Case

What does it mean for public education, CUNY, and the city when top immigrant and minority students can’t get into our best schools?  

Editor’s Note (4.13.15): The original article from the Atlantic has been significantly revised due to framing and factual errors regarding acceptance and enrollment trends. You can read the latest response from Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at CUNY, here.

In “When Being a Valedictorian Isn’t Enough,” LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner explore the ramifications of the raising of admission standards at the top-five CUNY colleges – Baruch, Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens, and City.  CUNY’s top schools increasingly admit a disproportionate number of white and Asian freshmen, while admitting fewer students from New York City’s high schools.  This drive to increase the prestige of the top-five schools has left New York’s black and Latino high school students crowding into two-year community colleges with much lower chances of ever successful completing a Bachelor’s degree.  Hancock and Kolodner examine the impact on the changes on New York City’s students, high schools, and on the community at large.  Who is getting left behind by a system that less-and-less reflects the demographic make-up of New York’s public schools…and is there a way out?

You can find a response to this article from CUNY here.

New York Power

By Joseph J. Cunningham

The following is an excerpt from Murphy adjunct Prof. Joseph J. Cunningham’s new book New York Power, which tells the story of the development of today’s New York City electric utility system.

New York City has long represented one of the most concentrated urban developments in the world. That density has placed unique constraints on every aspect of life. Electric light and power appeared during the 1880s, but much development was required to supply urban service at a cost that would make possible large-scale consumption. Innovation was needed most in midtown Manhattan, where the sheer density of electrical load overwhelmed the early systems and which continues to be the greatest concentration of electrical load in the world. The first public service was initiated in 1880 with the illumination of Broadway, Madison Park and some businesses by arc lights of the Brush Electric Company. Two years later, Thomas Edison introduced incandescent light service to the offices and businesses of the financial district from his station on Pearl Street. While that installation entered the record books, his long term objective was the midtown area. Edison considered the establishment of electric service in the area of the West Twenties and Thirties vital to the future of his company. Continue reading New York Power

Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders

This article was originally featured in Monthly Review Zine.

By Kafui Attoh

“Once labor has been embodied in instruments of production and enters the further process of labor to play its role there, it may be called, following Marx, dead labor [. . .]. The ideal toward which capitalism strives is the domination of dead labor over living labor.” — Harry Braverman
“[T]here are no jobs on a dead planet.” — Bill McKibben

In a recent essay in New Labor Forum, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell, and Joe Uehlein urge the labor movement to take a more active role in the fight against climate change. Many unions, they lament, have been reluctant to engage the issue, and indeed others have actively taken positions at odds with the climate movement’s most basic tenets. Where unions have been asked to choose between job security and the environment, many have understandably chosen the former. In this fraught context, the authors argue that unions must not only work to reveal the “jobs versus environment” choice as a false one, but that they must do so by developing a climate protection strategy of their own. Continue reading Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders