June 12: Wi-Fi City, AdaptNY, Christie’s Huguette Clark Collection, “Empty Mansions” Author
On this next edition of MetroFocus, reporter Rick Karr investigates New York City’s plan to provide free internet access across the city in an effort to bridge the digital divide. As a first step, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is moving forward with a plan started by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to turn thousands of payphones into free Wi-Fi hotspots. Maya Wiley, counsel to the mayor, is managing the call for proposals from private-sector firms due at the end of June. “We need more competition. We need more alternatives to how infrastructure gets built and delivered,” she tells Karr.
Increasing access to the internet “benefits business, it benefits competition and it benefits the public.” Karr meets a resident of a public housing projects using one of the city-run Wi-Fi vans, talks to Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of NY Tech Meetup and talks via Skype from Columbia University’s Wi-Fi covered campus with Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
The announcement that the six winners of the federal government’s Rebuild by Design competition will receive $920 million to upgrade the coastlines of New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy grabbed the headlines. But CUNY Graduate School of Journalism associate professor Adam Glenn has a much smaller solution to help communities prepare for rising sea levels and future storms.
He’s the founder and editor of AdaptNY, a CUNY project in partnership with Gotham Gazette and DocumentCloud that works to foster conversation and connect local residents to decision-makers. Glenn says that journalists have done a good job reporting information about climate change, but have done less well helping communities understand it. “It’s not just about an information dump, it’s about finding the information that communities really need to act.”
And what makes a mystery? How about an heiress with hundreds of millions of dollars living in a New York hospital room for twenty years – by her own choice. When Huguette Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104, she left behind an estate that included three huge apartments on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, and mansions in Connecticut and California filled with works of art and treasures. Paintings by Monet, Renoir and Degas were auctioned recently at Christie’s. This month the auction house will offer furniture, decorative arts and a Stradivarius violin from the Clark estate.
In a video from Christie’s, Andrew McVinish, Head of Private and Iconic Collections at Christie’s New York, previews a few of the treasures hidden away for decades in Clark’s unoccupied houses and apartments. NBC News investigative reporter Bill Dedman first reported Clark’s story and co-authored the best-seller Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. Despite her reclusiveness, Dedman tells MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman that Clark “ was a maintainer of relationships.” “She was not the crazy person that one might assume,” Dedman says. “She invested her money quite well…She didn’t squander her money.”