METROFOCUS: DECEMBER 13, 2019

After Newsday’s revealing investigation into housing discrimination on Long Island, one of the region’s leading civil rights advocates, Elaine Gross, founder and president of Erase Racism, has accused the federal government of gutting necessary protections for fair housing. We’ll have the details. Amid concerns that underfunding could lead to another undercount of minority New Yorkers, non-profit organizations across New York City are taking action to make sure that everyone is counted. We’ll talk to the woman leading the charge. Maddie Orton will report on doctors at NYU Langone Health who are testing cutting-edge research to treat eye disease.

Aired on December 13, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS.'

HOUSINGE ING DISCRIMINATION ON ISLAND.

A CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATE ACCUSES OF GOVERNMENT OF GUTTING PROTECTION FOR FAIR HOUSING.

SHE WILL JOIN US.

PREPARING FOR THE 2020 CENSUS.

AMID CONCERNS THAT UNDERFUNDING COULD LEAD TO UNDER COUNTING, NON-PROFITS WITH TAKING ACTION TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS COUNTED.

WE WILL TALK TO THE WOMAN LEADING THE CHARGE.

PLUS, ADVANCED IN EYE CARE.

DOCTORS AT NYU ARE TESTING RESEARCH TO TREAT EYE DISEASE.

WE WILL EXPLORE.

THOSE STORIES AND MORE AT 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS.'

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- JAMES AND MERRILL TISH, BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ AND BY --

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

STATE LAWMAKERS ARE TAKING A HARD LOOK AT HOUSING DISCRIMINATION ON LONG ISLAND.

THE SCRUTINY COMES AFTER A NEWS DAY SPECIAL INVESTIGATION THAT FOUND EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD UNEQUAL TREATMENT OF POTENTIAL HOME BUYERS ON THE PART OF REAL ESTATE AGENTS.

AN INVESTIGATION WE FEATURED HERE YESTERDAY.

THE THREE YEAR EXPOSE USED UNDERCOVER TESTERS TO RECORD INTERACTIONS BETWEEN HOME BUYERS AND AGENTS FOUND AGENTS STEERED MINORITY HOME BUYERS TOWARDS INTEGRATED NEIGHBORHOODS WHILE STEERING WHITE HOME BUYERS TOWARDS WHITE NEIGHBORHOODS.

AS A RESULT OF THE EXPOSE, THE STATE SENATE, THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND THE GOVERNOR HAVE ORDERED PROBES INTO REPORTS OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION.

THE EXECUTIVES HAVE ANNOUNCED THEIR PLANS TO COMBAT THE PROBLEM.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATION AND WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NEXT IS ELAINE GROSS.

SHE'S THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF A ERASE RACISM, A CIVIL RIGHTSED ADVOCACY GROUP.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU.

FIRST OF ALL, WAS THERE ANYTHING IN THE INVESTIGATION THAT SURPRISED YOU?

NO, THERE WASN'T.

IN PART BECAUSE WE HAVE DONE INVESTIGATIONS LIKE THAT WITH TESTING.

IN OUR CASE, IT WAS RENTAL.

BUT WE HAD SIMILAR RESPONSES WHERE THE REAL ESTATE AGENTS WOULD TREAT THE -- IN OUR CASE AFRICAN-AMERICAN TESTERS DIFFERENTLY FROM THE WHITE TESTERS.

TELL THE AFRICAN-AMERICANS THAT THERE WAS NO AVAILABILITY FOR RENTALS AND THEN THE WHITE TESTERS, THEY WOULD GLADLY SHOW THEM THE VACANCIES.

THAT'S WHAT YOU FOUND ALSO.

AN INVESTIGATION YOU CONDUCTED IN 2012, WHICH LED TO --

TO TWO SUCCESSFUL LAWSUITS.

ONE WAS IN NASSAU COUNTY.

THAT WAS 2014.

THE OTHER WAS COMACK, THAT WAS 2016.

YOU RECENTLY TESTIFIED BEFORE A SENATE HEARING.

IT WAS CONVENED AFTER THE INVESTIGATION TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE.

THERE'S A MOMENT IN YOUR TESTIMONY WHERE YOU MADE IT CLEAR THAT THIS IS NVERY PERSONAL.

HOW IS IT PERSONAL FOR YOU?

WELL, IT'S PERSONAL BECAUSE I WASN'T LIVING IN NEW YORK AT THE TIME.

I WAS IN MASSACHUSETTS.

BUT I WAS DISCRIMINATED.

I WAS AT THAT TIME LOOKING FOR AN APARTMENT.

THE AGENT WAS VERY NICE TO ME AND TOLD ME, THE APARTMENT THAT I WAS INTERESTED IN HAD BEEN TAKEN.

HE OFFERED TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR ME TO SEE ANOTHER APARTMENT.

WHEN I WENT THE NEXT DAY TO SEE THE OTHER APARTMENT, IT WAS MORE EXPENSIVE AND I SAW THAT IT HAD V V VERMIN.

I FOUND OUT BECAUSE A WHITE PERSON INQUIRED AFTERWARDS AND WAS TOLD THAT IT WAS AVAILABLE.

HE THEN GAVE ME -- I CHALLENGED HIM.

HE GAVE ME SOME COCK AND BULL STORY.

THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SINISTER ASPECTS OF THIS IS THAT THE VICTIM SELDOM REALIZES HE OR SHE IS BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.

THAT'S RIGHT.

MOST PEOPLE WOULD NEVER KNOW.

YOU TAKE THE WORD OF THE AGENT.

THE AGENT SAYS THAT I DON'T HAVE THAT, BUT I HAVE THIS, YOU THINK, OKAY, THEY ARE TRYING TO ACCOMMODATE ME.

BUT IT'S DEVASTATING.

AND IT WAS NOT ONLY PERSONALLY DEVASTATING BUT THE FACT THAT THEY WERE GOING TO CHARGE ME MORE IN ANOTHER BUILDING AND I SAW THE LITTLE CREATURES RUNNING AROUND --

YOUR ORGANIZATION, ERASE RACISM, AND THE FAIR HOUSING JUSTICE CENTER ISSUED A FIVE POINT PLAN TO ADDRESS HOUSING DISCRIMINATION ON LONG ISLAND IN CONJUNCTION WITH THIS EXPOSE.

FOR THE SAKE OF TIME, CAN YOU BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE THE FIVE POINTS OR GIVE US THE KEY POINTS THAT YOU ARE PROPOSING?

CERTAINLY, WE TALKED ABOUT THE LICENSING PROCESS FOR AGENTS.

AND THESE ARE THE GATEKEEPERS TO THE COMMUNITIES.

AND RIGHT NOW, OUR SYSTEM IS BROKEN.

IF YOU TRY TO FIND AN AGENT WHO HAS LOST THEIR LICENSE, YOU KNOW, YOU WON'T FIND MUCH BECAUSE THE DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING SERVICES REALLY HASN'T BEEN DOING ANYTHING.

AND THERE'S NO EXPLANATION FOR THIS.

SO THAT SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE FIXED.

ALSO, THERE IS THE SYSTEM OF FAIR HOUSING ENFORCEMENT, WHICH IS A DIFFERENT AGENCY.

THAT'S A DIVISION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

AND THEY DO NOT HAVE A ROBUST SYSTEM OF ENFORCEMENT.

A LOT OF CASES ARE DISMISSED, NO PROBABLE CAUSE.

FOR THE SAKE OF TIME, LET ME INTERRUPT AND ADDRESS THAT.

BECAUSE CLEARLY THE INVESTIGATION -- I HAD A DISCUSSION WITH AN INDIVIDUAL WHO DIRECTED IT.

IT WAS CLEARLY VERY, VERY EXPENSIVE TO CONDUCT FOR A NEWSPAPER TO DO IT.

BUT IF LAW ENFORCEMENT HAD THE CAPACITY, HAD THE RESOURCES TO CONDUCT CONSISTENT AND SYSTEMATIC PAIRING, TESTING ALL THE TIME AND REAL ESTATE AGENTS KNEW IT WAS COMING, WOULDN'T THAT GO A LONG WAY IN SOLVING THE PROBLEM?

ABSOLUTELY.

RIGHT NOW, IF YOU ARE A REAL ESTATE AGENTS, YOU KNOW THAT YOU WON'T -- VERY LIKELY, YOU WON'T GET CAUGHT.

EVEN IF YOU DO, I BELIEVE THE HIGHEST FINE IS LIKE $1,000.

WHICH IS NOT MUCH MORE THAN A SLAP ON THE WRIST.

SO IT DOES MATTER THAT WE DON'T HAVE THE ROBUST EITHER ENFORCEMENT AROUND REALTORS AND THEIR BEHAVIOR OR THE FAIR HOUSING ENFORCEMENT WHICH WOULD HELP INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.

AT THE ROOT OF ALL OF THIS IS THE NEED FOR SYSTEMATIC PAIR TESTING.

BECAUSE THAT'S THE WAY TO REALLY ROOT OUT WHO IS DOING THE DISCRIMINATING BECAUSE ALL OF THE VICTIMS DON'T KNOW.

YOU HAVE BEEN CRITICAL OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ABOUT WHAT THEY HAVE DONE OR WHAT THEY HAVEN'T DONE.

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT IS THAT YOU ARE -- WHAT'S THE GRIEVANCES?

HUD IS MANDATED BY CONGRESS TO ACTUALLY ENFORCE THE FAIR HOUSING STATUTE.

WHEN THE FAIR HOUSING LAW TOOK PLACE IN 1968, THEY NOT ONLY TOLD HUD TO DEAL WITH HELPING PEOPLE GET REDRESS WHEN THEY HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, BUT THEY SAID, YOU NEED TO FIND WAYS TO AFFIRMATIVELY FURTHER FAIR HOUSING, TO IDENTIFY THE IMPEDIMENTS TO HOUSING INTEGRATION AND TO ADDRESS THOSE ISSUES.

THEY'RE NOT DOING THAT?

THEY'RE NOT DOING THAT.

THE HOOK WAS THAT MUNICIPALITIES WOULD NOT GET FUNDING, WHICH THEY ALL WANT, WHICH THEY ALL GET.

THEY WOULD NOT GET THAT FUNDING UNLESS THEY HAD EVIDENCE THAT THEY WERE AFFIRMATIVELY FURTHERING FAIR HOUSING.

AND SO THE COMBINATION OF THE MUNICIPALITIES NOT DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING, THE STATE GOVERNMENT ENFORCEMENT OF FAIR HOUSING AND THE STATE GOVERNMENT LICENSING NOT WORKING WELL, WE HAVE A SITUATION WHERE THERE IS NO JUSTICE.

AT THIS VERY MOMENT, BECAUSE OF THE EXPOSE LARGELY, THERE'S A FOCUS ON THIS ISSUE.

WHAT'S YOUR GUT FEELING?

IS THIS A TIPPING POINT?

IS THIS ISSUE GOING TO BE SERIOUSLY ADDRESSED, AT LEAST IN LONG ISLAND?

I DO FEEL THAT SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.

WHEN YOU HAVE SO MUCH ATTENTION AND PEOPLE TRYING -- TRYING TO COME UP WITH STRATEGIES TO DEAL WITH THEIR END OF THINGS, I FEEL OPTIMISTIC THAT WE MIGHT BE AT A POINT WHERE THINGS WILL REALLY TAKE A TURN FOR THE BEST.

ALL RIGHT.

ELAINE, WE ARE COUNTING ON YOU TO LET US KNOW IF THAT IS HAPPENING.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

YOU ARE VERY WELCOME.

THE 2020 CENSUS IS ALMOST HERE.

IN FACT, STARTING NEXT MARCH, THE UNITED STATES WILL ONCE AGAIN ATTEMPT TO COUNT EVERY PERSON LIVING IN THIS COUNTRY IN ORDER TO DETERMINE THE DISTRIBUTION OF FEDERAL DOLLARS AND THE NUMBER OF SEATS EACH STATE IS ALLOCATED IN CONGRESS.

FOLLOWING THE LAST NATIONAL CENSUS IN 2010 WHEN CITY LEADERS BELIEVED THE COUNT MAY HAVE MISSED AS MANY AS 250,000 RESIDENTS HERE IN NEW YORK, PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS HAVE REVVED UP THEIR EFFORTS TO GET ALL NEW YORKERS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE 2020 COUNT.

A NON-PROFIT COMMUNITY EXCHANGE IS ONE OF THE ORGANIZATIONS HELPING OTHER NON-PROFITS EDUCATE THEIR COMMUNITIES ABOUT NEXT YEAR'S CENSUS.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THOSE EFFORTS AMONG OTHER THINGS IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO, KATIE LEONBERGER.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT CRE.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

IT'S A NON-PROFIT CONSULTING FIRM.

OUR MISSION IS TO STRENGTHEN OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WORKING TO REDUCE POVERTY AND ADVANCE JUSTICE.

WE PROVIDE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TRAINING, STRATEGIC PLANNING, SUPPORT AND COACHING SUPPORT FOR NON-PROFITS SO THEY CAN ACHIEVE THEIR MISSIONS.

WE DO THIS WITH 500 ORGANIZATIONS EACH YEAR.

NON-PROFITS AND FOUNDATIONS AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.

MOST EXPERTS AGREE THE 2010 -- IN THE 2010 CENSUS, NEW YORK CITY WAS WOEFULLY L LLY UNDERCOUNTED.

WHY DID THAT HAPPEN?

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

LET ME START WITH THE LAST Y QUESTION.

IT'S IMPORTANT WE HAVE AN ACCURATE COUNT.

THAT IS BECAUSE AS YOU MENTIONED THAT THE CENSUS DETERMINES SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS THAT AFFECT HOW WE LIVE OUR LIVES AS RESIDENTS OF NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK STATE AND THE COUNTRY.

NUMBER ONE, IT DICTATES POLITICAL POWER.

WE, IN NEW YORK STATE RIGHT NOW, STAND TO LOSE TWO CONGRESSIONAL SEATS DEPENDING HOW ACCURATELY WE COUNT EVERYBODY WHO LIVES HERE.

IT DETERMINES HOW FEDERAL FUNDS ARE SPEND.

THAT'S $650 BILLION THAT ARE ON THE LINE NATIONALLY.

FOR NEW YORK CITY, THAT'S $20 BILLION A YEAR.

THESE ARE FUNDS THAT GO TO SUPPORT HEALTH CARE, MEDICARE, HOUSING, EDUCATION, YOU NAME IT.

EVERYTHING THAT TOUCHES OUR LIVES AS RESIDENTS HERE REALLY IMPACT -- IS IMPACTED BY THE CENSUS.

THE THIRD THING FOR WHAT CRE CARES ABOUT IS A LOT OF THE FEDERAL DOLLARS TRICKLE DOWN TO STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND FUND NON-PROFIT SERVICES THAT IMPACT THE WAY WE LIVE.

SO THAT IS, FOR US, ONE OF THE CORE REASONS THE CENSUS WORK REALLY MATTERS.

TELL US WHAT IS CRE DOING TO HELP MAKE SURE THAT 2020 DOESN'T END UP LIKE 2010.

WE ARE REALLY HONORED TO BE ONE OF 17 CITY WIDE PARTNERS WORKING WITH THE MAYOR'S OFFICE AND CITY COUNSEL TO REALLY HELP SUPPORT WHAT'S CALLED A REAL GET OUT THE COUNT EFFORT TO GET EVERY SINGLE NEW YORKER COUNTED AS PART OF THE CENSUS.

CRE'S ROLE AS A TRAINER AND CONSULTING FIRM IS TO OFFER FREE TRAINING ACROSS THE CITY SO IN ALL FIVE BOROUGHS THAT NON-PROFITS CAN ATTEND TO LEARN BASIC FACTS AROUND THE CENSUS, WHY IT'S IMPORTANT AND HOW IT WORKS SO THAT THEY CAN SHARE THAT WITH THEIR CONSTITUENTS IN THE COMMUNITIES THEY SERVE.

TWO, WORKING WITH THEM TO THINK THROUGH HOW CAN THEY INTEGRATE CENSUS EDUCATION AND OUTREACH INTO THEIR DAY TO DAY SERVICES.

FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU RUN AN AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM IN QUEENS, BY WORKING WITH CRE AND THESE TRAININGS, YOU WILL HAVE THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO SHARE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY THAT YOU SERVE BUT ALSO YOU CAN THINK THROUGH, HOW YOU CAN INTEGRATE EDUCATION AND ACTIVITIES AROUND THE CENSUS TO ENCOURAGE FOLKS TO BE COUNTED?

THAT WILL START IN MARCH.

MANY NON-PROFITS WITH NOT GOING TO HAVE FUNDS TO HIRE A NEW DEPARTMENT OR A SINGLE PERSON TO DO THAT WORK.

THEY WILL HAVE TO INTEGRATE IT INTO THE WORK THEY DO.

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN THIS TRAINING?

ANYBODY WHO IS GOING TO BE INVOLVED WITH AN ORGANIZATION, DOING WORK -- THEY WANT TO DO WORK RELATED TO THE CENSUS.

IT COULD BE A FORMAL 501C3.

IT CAN BE A COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION, FAITH BASED, THEY WANT TO GET OUT THE COUNT.

AS LONG AS IT'S PEOPLE WHO INTERACT WITH THE COMMUNITY, PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT ARE HARD TO COUNT.

WE WILL WANT TO SUPPORT THEM.

IT LOOKS LIKE THE DEBY ARE TG TO GET THESE ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED.

IS THAT UNUSUAL?

IT' IS.

EVERY LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS DOING SOMETHING TO HELP WITH THE CENSUS.

HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, BETWEEN CITY COUNSEL AND THE MAYOR'S OFFICE, THEY HAVE INVESTED $40 MILLION TO ENSURE A COMPLETE AND ACCURATE COUNT OF ALL NEW YORK CITY RESIDENTS.

IF YOU COMPARE THAT TO WHAT THE STATE IS DOING AT $20 MILLION, WHICH ISN'T SOMETHING TO SNEEZE AT, BUT $40 MILLION IS HUGE.

THEY HAVE BEEN STANDING UP THE OFFICE AROUND THE CENSUS.

WHAT'S BEEN COOL TO SEE IS HOW THE CITY COUNSEL AND THE MAYOR'S OFFICE ARE COLLABORATING TO POOL RESOURCES AND IT'S INTERESTING AND FANTASTIC FOR NON-PROFITS TO PARTNER WITH NON-PROFITS SO WE ARE WORKING TO COORDINATE WHAT WE ARE DOING.

WHY DO NON-PROFITS B C SNON-Y ORGANIZATIONS, WHY DO THEY HAVE THE BETTER ARGUMENT FOR WHY THEY SHOULD DO IT?

WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF THESE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS BEING INVOLVED IN THIS?

THANK YOU FOR ASKING.

IT'S A GREAT QUESTION.

FOR US, BUT LUCKILY BACKED BY DATA, WHAT WE KNOW IS THAT NON-PROFITS, PARTICULARLY LOCAL COMMUNITY BASED COMMUNITIES FOR DECADES, THEY ARE THE MOST TRUSTED RESOURCE IN TERMS OF INFLUENCING HOW FOLKS THINK AND BEHAVE.

WHAT ARE THE BILLIBIGGEST CHALLENGES THAT ANYONE IS GOING TO EXPERIENCE?

THERE'S THREE BIG LARGER CHALLENGES WITH THE CENSUS THIS YEAR.

NUMBER ONE IS THAT THIS IS THE FIRST EVER DIGITAL CENSUS.

THAT MEANS THE FIRST TIME THAT RESIDENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY CAN RESPOND ONLINE.

WHAT IT MEANS IS THAT RATHER THAN IN YEARS PAST YOU WOULD GET SEND A FORM TO FILL OUT ON THE QUESTIONNAIRE.

THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN FOR EVERYONE.

WHAT WE ARE GOING TO GET IS POSTCARD STARTING IN MARCH THAT SAYS, DON'T FORGET TO FILL OUT THE CENSUS.

IT'S APRIL 1.

THE IDEA IS MOST FOLKS WILL GO ONLINE TO FILL OUT THE QUESTIONNAIRE OR CALLING IN TO GIVE THEIR ANSWERS VERBALLY.

ONCE FOLKS HAVE NOT RESPONDED THAT THEY WILL RECEIVE A PAPER QUESTIONNAIRE IN MID APRIL.

THE FACT THAT THIS IS DIGITAL COULD BE FANTASTIC.

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY.

THERE'S CONCERN OF PEOPLE NOT HAVING ACCESS TO THE INTERNET.

THE GOVERNMENT IS PARTNERING WITH THE PUBLIC LIBRARIES FOR NEW YORKERS TO GO INTO THE LIBRARY AND RESPOND ONLINE THERE.

FOLKS WILL BE TRAINED TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND HOW TO DO THAT.

THE OTHER CONCERN WITH THE DIGITAL CENSUS IS SECURITY AND CONFIDENTIALITY.

THERE'S BEEN CONVERSATIONS AROUND HOW DO YOU HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT IS THE RIGHT URL SO THEY DON'T ENTER THEIR DATA ON SOMETHING THAT'S NOT THE CENSUS SITE.

OF COURSE, WHAT HAPPENS WITH THAT DATA ONCE IT GOES ON THE INTERNET.

WE KNOW THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TRIED HARD TO INCLUDE THE CITIZEN QUESTION, WHICH IS THAT CENSUS -- THEY WANTED THE CENSUS TO HAVE A QUESTION, ARE YOU A CITIZEN.

THEY LOST THAT BATTLE.

THEY TOOK IT TO THE SUPREME COURT AND LOST THAT BATTLE.

DOES THAT RESOLVE THE PROBLEM?

IS THERE A LINGERING FEAR AMONG IMMIGRANTS THAT THIS WILL CREEP UP SOMEHOW?

THERE'S A HUGE LINGERING FEAR.

THERE'S ONE OF THE -- THE SECOND ISSUE IN TERMS OF CHALLENGES.

THIS HUGE LEVEL OF MISINFORMATION AND DISINFORMATION.

THERE'S IMMIGRATION COMMUNITIES WHERE THEY DON'T BELIEVE THE CITIZEN QUESTION IS NO LONGER ON THE FORM.

THE QUESTION IS NOT ON THERE.

THERE'S STILL A HUGE AMOUNT OF FEAR.

YOU ARE ASKING FOR MY NAME AND MY ADDRESS.

ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT 2020 WILL BE DIFFERENT THAN 2010?

I HOPE SO.

I THINK WE HAVE GOT -- WE'RE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

WE HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO.

THERE'S BEEN SO MANY -- WHAT FEELS LIKE STEPS BACKWARDS BECAUSE OF WHAT'S COMING OUT OF WASHINGTON, WITH THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION, THE LATE START.

WE HAVE OUR WORK CUT OUT FOR US.

KATIE, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

> YOUR RETINA IS TISSUE IN THE BACK OF THE EYE THAT HOLDS THE KEY TO DIAGNOSING MOST BLINDING DISEASES.

ITS APPEARANCE CAN INDICATE CONDITIONS LIKE MACULAR DEGENERATION, DIABETIC REC RETINOPATHY AND GLAUCOMA.

IT WASN'T UNTIL OPTICAL COHERENCE TOPOGRAPHY IN THE 1990s THAT REVIEWING THE RETINA WAS EVEN POSSIBLE.

WHAT WERE PEOPLE USING BEFORE?

THEY WERE LOOKING.

THEY WERE LOOKING AT THE BACK OF THE EYE AND MAKING A SUBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT OF WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.

THAT WAS HOW WE DID IT.

UP UNTIL THE MID '90s.

THIS DOCTOR IS A PROFESSOR AND THE CHAIRMAN OF OPHTHALMOLOGY AT NYU.

HE WAS PART OF THE TEAM THAT INVESTED THIS.

IT IS A WAY OF MAKING A THREE DIMENSIONAL MAP OF THE BACK OF THE EYE.

IN THIS CASE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT EYES.

IT CAN SEE THE RETINA, WHICH IS THE NERVE TISSUE IN THE BACK OF THE EYE.

IT'S LIKE AN ULTRASOUND BUT USING LIGHT INSTEAD OF SOUND WAVES.

WHAT THAT DOES IS IT ALLOWS US TO DIAGNOSE DISEASE MUCH EARLIER THAN WE EVER COULD BEFORE AND TO FOLLOW TREATMENT OF THE DISEASE.

IS MY TREATMENT WORKING OR NOT?

IS SOMETHING GETTING WORSE OR NOT?

THE FIRST TIME THE PATIENT COMES IN, YOU KNOW OR YOU CAN FIGURE OUT, DOES THIS PATIENT HAVE SOME SORT OF DISEASE?

ALL OF THESE THINGS CAN BE MEASURED VERY ACCURATELY AND PRECISELY WITH OCT.

THE DOCTOR SAYS OPHTHALMOLOGY BEFORE OCT WAS SIMILAR TO NEUROLOGY BEFORE THE ADVENT OF CT SCANS OR MRIs.

WHEN NEUROLOGISTS WOULD MAKE JUDGMENT CALLS ON WHERE IN THE NERVOUS SYSTEM AN ABNORMALITY ORIGINATED.

WHAT OCT DOES AND ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I WAS INTERESTED IN BEING INVOLVED IN INVESTING OCT IS THAT IT ALLOWS US TO TAKE THE SUBJECTIVITY OUT OF THE ASSESSMENT OF EYE DISEASE AND OUT OF THE QUESTION OF WHETHER OR NOT SOMEBODY IS GETTING WORSE.

WE CAN ACTUALLY MEASURE THE TISSUE.

IT'S DONE OBJECTIVELY, QUANTITATIVELY AND IT IS NON-CONTACT AND NON-INVASIVE AND VERY QUICK.

NOW DECADES AFTER OCT FIRST CHANGED THE FIELD, HE IS RESEARCHING WAYS TO USE THE TECHNOLOGY AS A FOUNDATION FOR NEW INNOVATIONS IN EYE TREATMENT.

IN TERMS OF WHERE OCT IS NOW, WE'RE ABLE TO MEASURE STRUCTURES IN THE EYE.

WHERE WE ARE GOING IS BEING ABLE TO MEASURE HOW THE TISSUE IS WORKING.

THE NERVE TISSUE THAT'S IN THE BACK OF THE EYE, THE RETINA, IS PART OF THE BRAIN.

THE BRAIN DOESN'T REGENERATE.

BECAUSE IT DOESN'T REGENERATE, DAMAGE TO THE RETINA IS REALLY SERIOUS.

THE RETINA DOESN'T GET BETTER.

WE ARE DOING EXPERIMENTS HERE TO TRY TO RESTORE FUNCTION TO RETINA THAT'S BEEN DAMAGED.

AND WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT THAT.

HIS TEAM IS LOOKING INTO UTILIZING DIFFERENT WAVELENGTHS OF LIGHT TO DETERMINE HOW MUCH OXYGEN IS GETTING INTO THE ISSUE.

THEY ARE USING A TECHNOLOGY CALLED ADAPTIVE OPTICS TO ACTUALLY SEE DAMAGE.

THE TEAM IS COLLABORATING WITH IBM TO DEVELOP ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CAPABLE OF PRODUCTIPRODUCT I -- PREDICTING.

WE ARE USING DEEP LEARNING TO ANALYZE OCT IMAGES AND ALSO VISUAL FIELDS TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT SOMEBODY IS LIKELY TO GET WORSE OR NOT AND ALSO TO ANALYZE THAT IMAGE ITSELF.

KIND OF AN AUTOMATED WAY WHERE THE MACHINE COULD DO THE READING.

THE TEAM PROVIDES IBM WITH DATA, KEEPING PATIENTS ANO ANONYMOUS.

IBM WORKS ON DEVELOPING MACHINE LEARNING.

THAT COLLABORATION BRINGS THESE DIFFERENT SKILL SETS TOGETHER IN ORDER TO CREATE A GREATER WHOLE, WHICH IS ALGORITHMS, THESE WAYS OF ANALYZING OCT, ANALYZING VISUAL FIELDS, PUTTING EVERYTHING TOGETHER AND BEING ABLE TO SAY, OKAY, THIS PATIENT HAS DISEASE, THIS PATIENT DOESN'T, THIS PATIENT IS GOING TO GET WORSE QUICKLY, YOU BETTER ACT, THIS PATIENT IS GOING TO GET WORSE SLOWLY, MAYBE YOU DON'T NEED TO SEE THEM THAT OFTEN AND TREAT THAT AGGRESSIVELY.

SOME OF THE CURRENT RESEARCH ON EYE TREATMENT IS, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, A LITTLE FAR OUT.

EXPERIMENTS THAT VERY WELL COULD FAIL BUT EVIDENCE SUGGESTS COULD BE SUCCESSFUL.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE ARE DOING LIKE THAT IS A GENTLE ELECTRICAL STIMULATION TO RESTORE VISION.

SPECIFICALLY, WE ARE LOOKING AT THIS IN PEOPLE WITH GLAUCOMA.

HAVE YOU HAD CHANGES?

NO.

THIS SCIENTIST HEADS UP THE STUDY.

COLLABORATING WITH A COLLEAGUE IN GERMANY.

TODAY SHE'S MEETING WITH A PATIENT.

A PROFESSIONAL VIOLINIST DIAGNOSED WITH GLAUCOMA.

WE ARE DOING AN EXPERIMENTAL INTERVENTION THAT'S CALLED REPETITIVE TRANSORBITAL STIMULATION.

WE USE A LOW ELECTRICAL CURRENT.

WE PLACE TWO ELECTRODES AND WE DELIVER STIMULATION OVER TEN DAYS FOR 30 TO 45 MINUTES.

WE ARE TRYING TO MIMIC THAT NATURAL PROCESS OF HOW THE CELLS COMMUNICATE FROM THE EYE TO THE BRAIN BY USING THIS ELECTRICAL STIMULATION.

THE IDEA IS FOR THOSE CELLS IN THE EYES IN THE RETINA THAT AREN'T WORKING TO THEIR FULL CAPACITY, WE WILL SEE IF WE PROVIDE THIS EXTERNAL STIMULATION, WE WILL HELP THEM TO FUNCTION BETTER, MORE EFFECTIVELY, MORE EFFICIENTLY SO COMMUNICATION -- THE INFORMATION THEY SEND BACK TO THE BRAIN MAY BE IMPROVED SO PEOPLE MAY PERCEIVE AN IMPROVED VISION.

OCT IMAGING WILL ALLOW THE DOCTOR TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE STIMULATION IS WORKING OR NOT.

SHE SAYS THE EXPERIMENTAL MEDICAL INTERVENTION WON'T CHANGE THE MECHANISM OF GLAUCOMA BUT IT MAY HELP SLOW THE PROGRESSION OF THE DISEASE.

THAT'S THE OUTCOME THAT THE TEAM ARE HOPING FOR.

I CERTAINLY HOPE THAT AFTER THESE SESSIONS ARE OVER THAT I WILL NOTICE SOME IMPROVEMENT IN MY VISION.

I UNDERSTAND THAT THAT MAY NOT HAPPEN.

BUT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IF IT MAY.

RESEARCH IS OFTEN EXCITING.

IT OFTEN DOESN'T WORK.

BUT I'VE BEEN LUCKY TO BE IN SEVERAL STUDIES THAT HAVE LOOKED AT NEW THINGS THAT ACTUALLY DO WORK.

LIKE OPTICAL COHERENCE TOMOGRAPHY.

WHILE NYU HELPS EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENTS AND ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF RESEARCH, ONE COULD BE THE NEXT BIG BREAKTHROUGH IN EYE CARE.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY, JAMES AND MERRILL TISH, THE SYLVIA A. PROGRAM.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG AND BY --

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019