Category Archives: News

Deviating from their usual breed of speaker, Purchase College invited Fox News pundit John Stossel, who offered students and faculty a different take on politics and the economy. Contributed photo

John Stossel offers other side at Purchase College

 

 

Deviating from their usual breed of speaker, Purchase College invited Fox News pundit John Stossel, who offered students and faculty a different take on politics and the economy. Contributed photo

Deviating from their usual breed of speaker, Purchase College invited Fox News pundit John Stossel, who offered students and faculty a different take on politics and the economy. Contributed photo

By James Pero
At this point in his career, John Stossel is accustomed to speaking to diverse audiences.

Having transitioned from a lengthy stint as a correspondent on ABC’s “20/20” with Barbara Walters to a career in political punditry at Fox News Business, Stossel, 68, has catered to a wide swath of people on the political spectrum.

And on Friday, Oct. 30, when Stossel took the stage at Purchase College’s freshly-opened Humanities Theatre to espouse his libertarian take on modern-day America, his lecture again found an audience disparate from the norm.

During Stossel’s hour-long lecture, which was attended primarily by political science students and faculty at the college, he wove through various topics relating to regulation and big government as they pertain to his libertarian ideology, and more importantly how they affect today’s political and economic environment.

“Unemployment has stayed high after this last recession because we have so many rules,” Stossel said to the audience. “Because we can’t do anything unless you first ask permission—it’s the ‘mother, may I’ economy.”

To bolster his libertarian arguments, Stossel used a series of PowerPoint graphs depicting various trends, particularly ones which he believed showed the inefficiency of the American government.

On the topic of Occupational Safety and Environmental Association regulations, which have been touted by many as a major step toward important workplace safety standards, Stossel showed an unattributed graph depicting decreasing workplace fatalities following the creation of OSEA.

Then in the next unattributed graph, which depicted a trend of decreasing workplace fatalities decades preceding OSEA’s creation, Stossel argued that OSEA has had little impact.

“Government is like somebody who jumps in front of a parade and says ‘I lead the parade,” Stossel said. “But they didn’t.”

Not all of his graphs were well received, however; particularly one that depicted the growth of government over time. In the middle of his point, a student interjected, adding that the bulk of government spending can likely be attributed to military growth.

“Do you believe in the army?… Because a lot of that is military spending,” the student said.

Though much of the night centered on political ideology, Stossel—who is originally from Chicago—would touch briefly on a few of the more personal aspects of his career, namely his transition from “20/20” with Barbara Walters where he won an impressive 19 Emmy Awards, to his recent tenure at Fox News.

“I started to criticize the corrosive government and suddenly my life in television changed,” Stossel said. “I’m no longer so popular; I’m no longer winning Emmy Awards. Someone came up to me on the street in New York and said ‘Are you John Stossel?’ Yes. ‘I hope you
die soon.’”

Stossel chalks the reaction up to a perception of him that has been formulated after taking his current role at Fox News.

“It’s because he’s considering me a conservative,” he said. “In Manhattan where I live it’s like being a child molester.”

While Stossel’s lecture was contentious at times, particularly during an engaging question and answer which allowed the traditionally liberal student body to broach topics of corporate greed, the sentiments from the audience members were primarily positive.

“I thought this was positive,” said Mitchell Kutin, a senior philosophy major at Purchase College. “I think it’s an important thing to hear the other side. We know what we think; we don’t need more people to affirm our thoughts. We need to hear the other side.”

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Prop. 1 victory means earlier budget for Astorino

By Sarah Varney
Proposal No. 1, a referendum question to move the yearly deadline for the Westchester County executive to submit a budget from Nov. 15 to Oct. 15 for capital projects and back

to Nov. 10 for the operating budget, was passed overwhelmingly by an 82 percent margin. With 100 percent of Westchester County’s 949 districts reporting as of press time, there were 71,335 votes in favor of the change and 15,146 votes against it.

The earlier deadline will give both community members and members of the county Board of Legislators more time to review County Executive Rob Astorino’s budget and to ask questions.

Moving up the budget dates required a change to the County Charter, which had not been altered since 2000 when the last Westchester countywide referendum was on a ballot.

The proposal is one of 16 ideas that has come out of the Charter Review Commission, a Board of Legislators committee set up in 2011. The commission’s charter was to review the county rules and to make advisements on changes that might benefit the legislative process.

County Legislator Sheila Marcotte, an Eastchester Republican, reviewed the referendum proposal as chairwoman of the legislators’ Budget and Appropriations Committee, as did county Legislator Virginia Perez, a Yonkers Democrat, as chairwoman of the Legislative Committee. Both expressed support for the proposal prior to Election Day and the Westchester League of Women Voters also gave the referendum the green light.

Not surprisingly, Marcotte was pleased with the approval of the referendum. “This was a no-brainer. It’s just a matter of good government. I’m delighted,”
she said.

The 2015 budget for Westchester County is $1.8 billion. The 2016 proposed budget is due Nov. 15, as the change to the charter will not take effect until the 2017 budget cycle and according to published reports there is currently a $25 million shortfall.

A representative from Astorino’s office said the county executive had supported the change.

CONTACT: sarah@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Marcotte hangs on to county board seat

 

Sheila Marcotte fended off another challenge from a New Rochelle Democrat and secured a third term on the Westchester County Board of Legislators.  File photo

Sheila Marcotte fended off another challenge from a New Rochelle Democrat and secured a third term on the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
File photo

By Sibylla Chipaziwa
In one of the closest races in Westchester County, Legislator Sheila Marcotte, an Eastchester Republican, has once again maintained her seat on the county Board of Legislators after defeating Haina Just-Michael, a New Rochelle Democrat.

According to the unofficial tally from the Westchester County Board of Elections, Marcotte won by 424 votes as of press time, a margin that turned out to be larger than what political pundits had anticipated. The win marks a third term on the county Board of Legislators for Marcotte in what proved to be yet another close race for the incumbent.

Marcotte’s legislative district, District 10, consists of the Town of Eastchester, the Village of Tuckahoe and parts of the City of New Rochelle.

In each election, Marcotte faces the daunting challenge of overcoming a Democratic disadvantage in the New Rochelle portion of the district.

The county legislator, 50, previously told the Review that she wasn’t worried about her voter disadvantage in New Rochelle, where most registered voters within that portion of the district are Democrat. “All I can do is campaign on my record, as I have done in the past, and let the residents decide in November,” she said. Eastchester and Tuckahoe mostly consist of Republican voters.

Just-Michael conceded on Wednesday morning after it became clear that Marcotte would be able to hold onto her seat. Marcotte won 52 percent of the total votes cast to Just-Michael’s 48 percent.

Marcotte was able to win despite her being outpaced by her well-financed opponent.

“I am humbled and delighted,” she said. “I don’t ever get scared by the dollar signs, because I think if you don’t have the right message, it doesn’t matter how much money you have behind you.”

As for what’s next on the legislator’s to-do list: the 2016 county budget. Marcotte called it the most important work a legislator does all year. “We just dive right in. There’s a lot of work to do. The product we put forth—I promise you—will be the best that we can deliver,” she said.

A resident of Tuckahoe for 17 years, Marcotte has also served on that village’s Planning Board and Board of Trustees and later on the Eastchester town board. She first ran for the District 10 seat in 2010, beating Greg Varian, a New Rochelle Democrat, in a special election to replace Republican Legislator Vito Pinto, who had been appointed by County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican,
to head the county’s Veterans Service Agency. She was re-elected in 2013 after defeating another New Rochelle Democrat, Mary Jo Jacobs.

Members of the Board of Legislators are elected to serve two-year terms.

CONTACT: sibylla@hometwn.com

 
Deer3f

Village board creates ad hoc deer committee

In a 3-1 vote, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees decided to create an official ad hoc committee aimed at controlling the deer population. File photo

In a 3-1 vote, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees decided to create an official ad hoc committee aimed at controlling the deer population. File photo

By James Pero
In an effort to devise a plan that would cull a growing deer population in the Village of Mamaroneck, the village Board of Trustees approved the creation of an ad hoc committee on deer management.

The decision, which passed with a majority vote of 3-1 at the Oct. 13 board meeting, paved the way for an ad hoc committee of residents who will be tasked with mulling over multiple methods of controlling a growing deer population. The committee will consist of some of the same members who currently make up Mayor Norman Rosenblum’s committee to address deer management.

Trustee Louis Santoro, a Republican, who accounted for the only vote against forming the committee, said his decision was mostly a symbolic gesture.

“It wasn’t that I was against having the committee,” he said. “[The committee] was a political ploy…[The Democrats] are trying to reduce the power of
the mayor.”

Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Democrat, however, sees the committee as a more expedient way of addressing the problem.

“The board took the reins and said nothing is getting done and we’re tired of this,” she said.

Over the past three years, Mamaroneck has been attempting to combat a deer population that many residents and village board members feel has grown to a size that endangers the wellbeing of village residents.

Among current problems, Village Manager Richard Slingerland cited that increased damage to landscaping and deer-related auto accidents are of particular concern. If the population continues to grow, residents can expect the current problems to worsen, he said.

Prior to the creation of an official ad hoc committee, a mayor’s ad hoc committee had been attempting to forge a consensus on how to best tackle the problem.

But, having met only twice in the past year, according to Santoro, the committee has made little headway in terms of finding a viable solution.

According to Rosenblum, a Republican, shedding the mayor’s committee and moving into an official ad hoc committee is a positive step forward in addressing the problems at hand.

“It’s much better and more effective if you have an official ad hoc committee,” he said. “It will expedite the review of the different measures you have out there.”

Though the creation of the ad hoc committee is a key step forward, according to Rosenblum, any approach intent on making a real difference in the deer population will likely stretch beyond the village and involve cooperation with other municipalities as well as Westchester County.

Currently representatives in both Mamaroneck and Rye, especially Mayor Rosenblum and Rye City Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, have been working toward creating a plan that addresses the deer population across municipal boundaries.

“The Village of Mamaroneck is definitely going to have to work together with its neighbors on this [issue],” Slingerland said.

Though both the City of Rye and the Village of Mamaroneck hoped to receive help from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Westchester County Deputy Executive Kevin Plunkett said in a Sept. 30 letter that the two municipalities must submit a viable plan to the county before they receive assistance.

In the meantime, Mamaroneck’s deer management committee will attempt to deliberate the best course of action to quell a growing population.

According to Slingerland, among the potential options for addressing the deer population, which have been most seriously considered by the village, are planned hunts as well as shooting the deer with darts containing contraceptives.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com

 
foreclosuref

County foreclosure judgments near record high

According to the Westchester County Clerk’s office, foreclosure judgments are surging toward a record high in 2015. Photo/BasicGov via flickr.com

According to the Westchester County Clerk’s office, foreclosure judgments are surging toward a record high in 2015. Photo/BasicGov via flickr.com

By James Pero
As foreclosures in Westchester County surge for the second year in a row, the Westchester County Clerk’s office warns that a lingering foreclosure crisis isn’t quite over with yet. 

“These numbers are indicative of an alarming trend in New York state, especially in suburban areas, that the foreclosure crisis is far from over,” said County Clerk Timothy Idoni.

According to data from the county clerk’s office, between Jan. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2015 there were a recorded 1,697 foreclosure filings in the county compared to the filings in 2014, which totaled 1,738.

The concern, however, stems from the fact that while foreclosure filings haven’t fluctuated much, judgments for foreclosure cases have accelerated significantly since 2014.

Data from the county clerk’s office shows that in the first three quarters of 2015, foreclosure judgments have dramatically outpaced the numbers from 2014, reaching 871 at the end of September compared to last year’s 772 judgments for the year.

So far, according to the data, the only year rivaling 2015 in the amount of foreclosure judgments over the past nine years is 2008—the year that the mortgage bubble burst—when foreclosure judgments in Westchester County leapt to 1,034.

According to Idoni, if foreclosure judgments continue at the same rate this year, they may very well eclipse that total; in fact, he’s almost certain 2015’s numbers will break that threshold.

“We’re looking at about 1,200 foreclosures,” Idoni estimated.

The cause of Westchester’s rise in foreclosure judgments isn’t necessarily indicative of a rise in new foreclosures, however. Idoni suspects that a combination of lengthy backlogs and the reintroduction of some old foreclosure filings are to blame.

“This is a regeneration of a lot of those cases that were never heard years ago,” said Idoni, adding that about 50 percent of filings introduced in 2008 were thrown out for various reasons.

A report from the New York State Department of Financial Services shows that downstate regions of New York state have been affected by prolonged foreclosures proceedings significantly more than the rest of the state.

The report also states that the foreclosure process in downstate regions of New York could take up to 30 percent longer than foreclosures in upstate regions due to repeated adjournments among other factors. As a result, Idoni says that about 80 percent of Westchester’s foreclosure cases are backlogs, which he said is on par with the national average.

As for the effects of such a rise, Idoni says the biggest concern will be an increased number of vacancies in communities across Westchester County, some of which—such as lower income communities like New Rochelle and Mount Vernon—are already dealing with large numbers of empty homes.

“There are going to be some neighborhoods hit with multiple vacancies,” Idoni, the former mayor of New Rochelle, said. “That’s the biggest fear.”

Despite the concern such a rapid rise has generated, Idoni suspects that since many of the foreclosure judgments have resulted from lingering cases, we can expect to see the numbers return back to normal in about 12 to 18 months.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Rye City Council candidates: Danielle Tagger-Epstein

 

 

epsteinAge: 41

Family: husband Dan; daughters Lulu and Nina; expecting a boy in three months

Employment: Self-employed consultant on recruiting and marketing for six years

Years in Rye: 5

Political affiliations: Registered Democrat

Endorsements: Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines

Community affiliations: Attendee and Board of Trustees member at Community Synagogue of Rye, member of the Rye Arts Center

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: I was a theater major in college, and had small roles in TV and film.

Q: Why did you decide to run for a seat on the Rye City Council this year?

A: When my husband and I put our roots down in [Rye,] I felt it was really important to not only be a part of the community, but to serve in any way that I could.

There are so many issues right now that need addressing in the city that it was a really good time [to run], and I can take a step back from my work and really focus on the needs of the community.

 

Q: Explain what your platform as a candidate is to our readers.

A: Our slogan is “Fresh Voices, New Ideas” which I think gives us a good outline as to where we’d like to go. Sometimes, you have to think outside the box and bring different thoughts and ideas to problems that may be ongoing [or old] and just come at them in a new way. I think our ticket has the mindset and the energy to do that.

 

Q: During last November’s budget cycle, then-City Manager Frank Culross stated that the Rye Fire Department was “staffed for failure.” In his budget proposal, Culross included the addition of several career firefighters to the city’s payroll, which was ultimately rejected by the current Rye City Council. Do you think the fire department is staffed for failure and, if elected, would you support the hiring of new career firefighters?

A: If you ask the current firefighters—volunteer or professional—they also agree that they’re staffed for failure. I think the system we currently have is a good one, but we’re also aware of the fact that with our changing demographics, our volunteer firefighters are aging out.

With all these new homes that we’re building in town, they are so energy-efficient that they’re almost like an oven; they’ll burn faster and harder.

We must increase the number of our professional firefighters. It’s our job as city council to protect the residents of Rye. What we have currently is not enough.

 

Q: The city council recently passed rock chipping legislation into law; something unprecedented in Rye. As a result of the new law, which allows for, at most, 38 calendar days of chipping, do you think the city is now in a better place with this law on the books?

A: I think some regulation is better than none. I think that what we had before was a free-for-all, but I’d be very careful to say that this is a better situation.

One of the things I’m concerned about is the 38 calendar days, but there’s allotment for the seven extra days with no penalties, which really means that we’re looking at 45 days. If there’s no disincentive to stop after 38, I think that, in all honesty, [contractors] are going to look at it as if they have 45.

I’m open to looking at [the law] again. I’m also aware that it’s a small part of a bigger picture that needs to be looked at. This is something that has been talked about for years—this was on the 1985 Master Plan. It’s just that [recently] we’ve had a tipping point.

 

Q: Since taking office in January 2014, the current city administration of Republican Mayor Joe Sack has made several changes to the city charter. First the charter was changed to allow all members of the city council the same authority as the mayor to access city records in an attempt to bring more checks and balances to city government. Then, the city council approved a change giving it the authority to approve the hiring of a police commissioner. 

Critics of the administration say these measures were an overreach by a mayor and city council interested in taking additional controls of city government. Do you support the charter changes?

A: I agree with allowing the city council to have the same access [to records as the mayor] because I feel that we need more checks and balances than we currently have. As far as the authority to hire a police commissioner, I absolutely disapprove. I think the hiring of Marcus Serrano seems to be a very good thing for the city. He’s proving to be a smart and thoughtful guy, and I would not want to diminish his capacity. I think it’s an overreach for a city council [to be involved in hiring and firing].

 

Q: It was recently reported in this newspaper that the city as a whole has not been following state protocol regarding a purchasing policy for goods and services; an issue that impacted every city department, according to City Manager Marcus Serrano. How alarmed should we be by this news and are you OK with the fact that no one has been held accountable? 

A: I think Marcus has come into a situation where he’s trying to review all the city’s processes and seeing what’s been done right and incorrectly. It just shows that there’s a need to be aware. We need to be careful that these acts are not repeated and that there’s good oversight so that we don’t get so far along on any of these issues.

 

Q: Please name one city issue that you feel has been handled or addressed adequately by the current administration. Why?

A: I commend the city council for [passing] historic districting in the central business district. I’d like to see that extended to residential development, but I think our business district is a great start.

 

Q: The city council recently decided to accept $3 million in flood mitigation funds from the state, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD. Mayor Sack was the only member to vote against accepting the funds, fearing HUD would expect certain things from the city regarding affordable housing. Would you have accepted the money and what plan do you have to combat flooding in Rye? 

A: I completely agree with the councilmembers who voted to accept the money from New York Rising. I think the committee put together by the mayor did an amazing job. The $3 million is a start. One project is not going to decrease the impact of flooding. It has to be a combination of the many projects that are on the NY Rising list. Even then, we’re not eliminating any floods, we’re just reducing the impact of flooding. We have to look at all these projects because one is not going to be enough. It comes back to the city council’s job of protecting residents.

-Reporting by Sibylla Chipaziwa

 

 

vote-2015

Rye City Council candidates: Councilman Richard Mecca

 

 

Mecca,-RichardAge: 61

Family: wife Adrienne; daughters Jacqueline and Elizabeth; sons-in-law Michael and Michael; granddaughters Grace Elizabeth and Amelia Rose

Employment: Senior electrical code enforcement officer for the City of White Plains

Years in Rye: 35

Political affiliations: Registered Republican

Endorsements: Republican and Conservative lines

Community affiliations: Rye Fire Department, Rye Golf Club, Resurrection Church, city council liaison to the Rye Chamber of Commerce and the Rye City Boat Basin

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: I’m a nationally-certified electrical inspector.

Q: Why did you decide to run for re-election to the Rye City Council this year?

A: After spending 18 months on the city council, I’ve realized my value to the council in regards to historical and anecdotal experience. I’ve spent a lot of time in Rye and I can bring a different historical perspective to the changes that have occurred. I’ve been involved in community service events for Rye back in 1980 and after spending time on both the Planning Commission and the Board of Architectural Review, I thought it was time to serve on council.

 

Q: Explain what your platform as a candidate is to our readers.

A: Our campaign is about keeping the council on the even keel that Mayor Sack has steered. We want to remain true to the values of Rye, old and new, and we will maintain a civil approach in our disagreements and handle all issues with openness and deliberation.

 

Q: During last November’s budget cycle, then-City Manager Frank Culross stated that the Rye Fire Department was “staffed for failure.” In his budget proposal, Culross included the addition of several career firefighters to the city’s payroll, which was ultimately rejected by the current Rye City Council. As a volunteer firefighter yourself, do you think the fire department is staffed for failure, and, if re-elected, would you support the hiring of new career firefighters?

A: There are many individual issues with the Rye Fire Department, and the staffing is just one of them. We are quickly approaching the end of an era where the volunteer firefighters supply the majority of personnel responding to fires, motor vehicle incidents and storm callouts. We will need to supplement the career staff within the next few budget cycles.

 

Q: You were part of a city council that recently passed rock chipping legislation into law; something unprecedented in Rye. As a result of the new law, which allows for, at most, 38 calendar days of chipping, do you think the city is now in a better place with this law on the books?

A: Yes. The current regulation was passed with a fair amount of finesse and negotiation between all members of council. It was by far the most stringent law on rock removal in Westchester County. What bothers me as a member of the study group is this notion that our recommendations had been accepted without any public input. I’ve learned as much from the public hearings about rock chipping as I did as a member of the study group.

 

Q: Since taking office in January 2014, the current city administration of Republican Mayor Joe Sack has made several changes to the city charter. As part of that city council, the charter was changed to allow all members of the city council the same authority as the mayor to access city records in an attempt to bring more checks and balances to city government. Then, the council approved a change giving it the authority to approve the hiring of a police commissioner. 

Critics of the administration say these measures were an overreach by a mayor and city council interested in taking additional controls of city government. What was the reason behind the decision to alter the city’s longstanding governing principles?

A: As a councilman, Mayor Sack had to FOIL for information from the city of Rye just for information that was available only to select few council members, so making city records more available was a long overdue change. In regards to the second change, if you ask the average citizen if the city council has authority over the police commissioner, they would probably say yes. The city manager will select the next police commissioner with input from the council.

 

Q: It was recently reported in this newspaper that the city as a whole has not been following state protocol regarding a purchasing policy for goods and services; an issue that impacted every city department, according to City Manager Marcus Serrano. As a sitting councilman, how alarmed were you to hear this news and how can something like this be allowed to happen? 

A: We just hired a new auditor who found minor issues with fiscal accountability. Some of those issues were from the boat basin, and were very quickly corrected. But more importantly, in no case was any department head accused of intentionally violating the law. City Manager Marcus Serrano jumped on the state protocol issue and procedures were quickly implemented.

 

Q: Please name one city issue that you feel could have been handled better by the city council. Why?

A: No, I can’t name any. We handled 15 issues in 20 months and I thought we handled them all properly.

 

Q: The city council recently decided to accept $3 million in flood mitigation funds from the state, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD. Mayor Sack was the only member to vote against accepting the funds fearing HUD would expect certain things from the city regarding affordable housing. Were the mayor’s concerns warranted and, more importantly, what would you do to combat flooding in Rye? 

A: Yes, I believe the mayor’s concerns could have been warranted. I questioned why the funds were coming from HUD and not FEMA, but the explanation given to me from the state alleviated my fears. On a local level, we’ve done all we can to combat flooding. We need to look upstream for future solutions.

-Reporting by Suzy Berkowitz

Children of all ages dress in Halloween costumes, including this young girl dressed as Elmo from Sesame Street.

Rye YMCA hosts Halloween carnival

Ibania and Jose Estrada add some culture to Mamaroneck’s Spooktacular.

Downtown Mamaroneck offers a Spooktacular Sunday

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin.
Photo/James Pero

Panel discusses ‘crisis in criticism’

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin. Photo/James Pero

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin.
Photo/James Pero

By James Pero
Honored, a little moved, and slightly freaked out: that’s how Manhola Dargis, the New York Times chief film critic and SUNY Purchase graduate, felt taking the stage at Purchase’s Performing Arts Center, where she and a distinguished troupe of panelists discussed the role of the modern critic. 

“I’m trying to remember the last time I was actually on campus; I think I saw some plays here, and I think I saw Glenn Branca here,” she told the audience. “Anyway, I’m not going to take you down memory lane. What I’m going to do tonight is talk to three of the smartest people I know.”

The people to whom Dargis was referring were three fellow critics: Wesley Morris, staff writer at Grantland; Emily Nussbaum, television critic at The New Yorker; and Amy Taubin, contributing editor at the British Sight and Sound.

For the modestly-sized audience, the objective of the Sept. 28 lecture was to illuminate the role of the critic in today’s media landscape. In the fashion of any good writer, they opted mostly to show rather than tell by meandering through topics ranging from the evolution of television to the rise of online comment sections, occasionally descending into spirited discussions about quality content in the world of film and TV—
an occupational hazard for three of the country’s most prominent
media critics.

One of the longest and most in-depth discussions of the night centered on what all four critics acknowledged was a growing “crisis in criticism,” the dynamics of which are affected by the very industries that critics cover.

“About ten years ago, there was a lot of discussion about a ‘crisis in criticism,’” Dargis said. “But you don’t hear that much anymore, because I think in a lot ways we started to realize that the crisis was not so much in criticism, but that the crisis was really in journalism.”

The panelists explained that with the rapid decline in print journalism and therefore widespread layoffs, establishment jobs—like the ones occupied by Nussbaum and the like—are increasingly harder to come by.

Nussbaum, referring to an interview for Rookie magazine in which she outlined the rather grim prospects of rising to a job like hers one day, was only interrupted by a brief interjection from Dargis who took a minute to veer the coversation clear
of gloom.

“How are we [not] bumming you out?” Dargis said to an audience rife with journalism students. “I am so sorry.”

Inversely, while critic jobs—at least ones that pay a proper salary—dwindle, the amount of movies and television shows released continue to barrel through the roof.

“Now, the New York Film Festival had 3,000 features apply for 26 slots, most of them being first-time features,” Taubin said. “At the same time, where there are fewer and fewer places to write cultural criticism where you can get paid, the amount of stuff being made has gone up tenfold.”

Dargis, who during the early 2000s was the chief critic for the L.A. Times, told the audience that during her tenure at the L.A. Times there were approximately 1,200 employees, and now there are just 600.

Newsrooms around the country have gone through a similar shift. According to CNN Money, the New York Times headcount had shrunk by half between 2009 and 2014, and Dargis said, at least in regard to cuts at L.A. Times critics were often the first to go.

This cut in employment and spike in the amount of films and television shows being released—the latter of which can be summed by a 1,000 percent increase in scripted shows for cable since 1999, according to Variety—has led to an unavoidable blind spot in coverage.

“Fifteen years ago there were about 400 movies [that] opened up in New York City,” Dargis said, adding that fellow chief critic at the New York Times, A.O. Scott, started keeping track. “A couple years ago, the number climbed to 600, and then 700, and then it was 800. I mean, every year it was another hundred movies…Last year it was 1,000.”

Dargis went on to explain that because of the influx coupled with the decline in staff, the New York Times, which had
traditionally reviewed every movie opening up in New York, had to begin capping.

For both the publications and the critics themselves, these new dynamics are a problem that remains to be solved.

“You want people to see movies that don’t have $200 million budgets. You want people to see movies that don’t have wall-to-wall commercials. You want people to see something besides a Michael Bay movie,” Dargis said. “How are people supposed to make choices when there are so many choices?”

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com