Plus live, "dancing" shrimp get pulled from a menu after repeated PETA protests, and Chicago's Ina PIckney and South Carolina's Nathalee Dupree, both chefs, run for U.S. Senate seats, all in our morning news roundup.
New York State has a new record-low welfare enrollment. There were 541,503 on the dole at the end of February, the lowest number since 1963, as state welfare officials announced neatly in sync with tax day. While the city has been posting similar trends for the last several years, this marks the state's first big milestone. The state secret? In addition to benefiting from welfare shrinkage in the five boroughs — the city makes up the bulk of the state's welfare cases — state officials are pointing to $665 million paid out via the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to working poor filing federal or state taxes, plus a new state credit for low-income, non-custodial parents up-to-date on child support.
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."
• The MTA has finally committed to the Second Avenue Subway, signing the $337 million contract with MTA Capital Construction (hey! nepotism!) to build the first leg of the line. Only six to eight months until the tunnel-boring machine revs up. [NYP]
• The third cop in the Sean Bell case — Detective Marc Cooper, the one who fired the fewest shots and faces the weakest charges — may get a separate trial. His attorney is mulling a motion to sever. [NYDN]
• One imagines working at a Bronx welfare office is depressing enough without being "groped, fondled, tackled, kissed, and spanked" by a supervisor. Even, or perhaps especially, a female supervisor who calls herself "Hurricane." [WNYC]
• Uma Thurman and bizarre hotelier André Balazs have split up. We predict his impending move into the William Beaver house. [amNY]
• And the Postal Service is introducing new Zip Codes to the Upper East Side, 10065 and 10075, which means that the iconic 10021 will shrink even further (it will extend only from East 69th to East 76th). The sound you hear is corks popping at the local paperies as thousands of millionaires order new stationery. [NYT]