• Thanks to the limp dollar, New York is now only the fifteenth most expensive city in the world. Moscow (where a luxury bedroom is $4,000 a month), London, and Seoul are the top three. [amNY]
• The Post is up in arms over Bloomberg's pay-to-the-poor incentive program, with experts warning it may cost the city "hundreds of millions." Those poor get all the breaks. [NYP]
• In the wake of the Sean Bell case, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly wants to institute sobriety testing for every cop who shoots someone. (One of Bell's killers had two beers before the shooting.) [NYDN]
• The city has paid a $29,000 settlement to Jill Coccaro, a woman erroneously arrested for going topless. In New York, of course, women have a full, if woefully rarely exercised, right to take off their shirts in public. And yet we can't dance in bars. [CNN]
• And, you think Bush v. Gore was bad? Residents of Potter, an upstate town, accidentally voted to ban alcohol in a ballot mix-up and might soon be forced to go dry. [NYT]
It's day two of Queens city councilman Eric Gioia's "I will live a week on $28 in groceries" stunt, and, frankly, we're beginning to lose the plot a little. Is the purpose of the exercise to highlight the plight of the underclass $28 is the average nationwide food-stamp allotment a Morgan Spurlock–esque endurance contest, or for the out-of-touch politician to Learn a Valuable Lesson? The Daily News followed Gioia on his grocery run to Food Dynasty in Queens; their priceless lead photo depicts the councilman regarding a pack of franks with a mix of puzzlement and mild disgust. "I usually shop at Whole Food or online at FreshDirect," Gioia blurted out to the paper. "I don't even look at the cost, I look for the brand I like, and I buy it."
Several days ago, we raised our eyebrows at an experimental social program championed by Mayor Bloomberg, that would literally pay the poor for good behavior. Under the program's rules, things like taking one's child to regular medical checkups and attending PTA meetings could net the parents up to $5,000 a year. We found the initiative noble in concept but more than a little patronizing in execution. Today, however, it finds an energetic defense in the pages of the Post, which presents an ironclad argument: It worked in Mexico.
The Alice Watersization of New York cuisine is continuing apace, and now it's spreading to decidedly un-haute cuisine. Now that the budget is done, Albany leaders are finalizing a deal to give New York its first statewide Food Policy Council, charged with spreading the local-and-organic movement to corner bodegas and other places where lower-income New Yorkers shop. A Friday announcement by state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker explained that the new body will coordinate the mind-numbing minutiae involved in favorite sustainable-food efforts like getting New York State apples to the neighborhood deli and ensuring that community-supported agriculture-buying clubs are affordable to the poor. That last bit helped sell the plan to legislators less interested in dining at Chez Panisse than in combating low-income obesity — which is actually lending a little class tension to the plan. "The question is, is it just going to be a food-quality and local-food focus, or is it going to have a key anti-poverty focus?" asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "I hope this really doesn't end up a yuppie thing." Sigh. Doesn't everything around here these days? —Tracie McMillan
Mayor Bloomberg has just unveiled a unique new social program: The city will be paying poor families for, well, good behavior. For instance, if your household income is $20,000 or less, providing regular medical checkups for your child while holding down a job may raise it to $25,000. Plus there's more, and here's where it gets weird. Instead of simply evaluating the big picture — is the child healthy? — the program goes into jaw-dropping detail, breaking the lump sum down to micro-rewards for micro-achievements. In essence, it's going to itemize instances of good behavior, price them out accordingly, and tabulate the winnings every two months. A kid's exemplary attendance in elementary school may net the parent $25. Should she ace a test, there's $300 in it for mom and dad. Presumably, the city dispatches a trained social worker to pat you on the head if you say "please" and "thank you."