Summer in the City: Time for Tunneling!

New York City summers can be hellish.  But then so can those in other countries that people like to travel to for summer vacations.  To enjoy our summers wherever we are, we need to find a way to have fun that involves hydration and water to cool off.  One perfect way to do this is via a tunnel.

A lot of countries have cool tunnels.  Mozes Victor Konig is familiar with some of them as he likes to take his children out of his Tel Aviv hometown and do something fun that involves exploration and water – the tunnel is the perfect solution. Faced with the seemingly never ending-school holidays, Konig this year took his kids on an air-conditioned bus to Jerusalem where it’s slightly cooler and found indoor activities for them at the cool Western Wall Tunnels

“I wasn’t sure initially as my kids didn’t seem that excited.  But literally within minutes of entering the tunnel they were blown away!  They didn’t ask for the iPad once; it was amazing!  The thing is, when you think about it, what kid doesn’t want to get wet and explore a deep, dark, unpredictable tunnel?  Any kid from 5 can do this tour and it really makes for a fun few hours to explore hidden parts of the Temple Mount.”

Kids – and adults – can check out stone arches, interactive Temple models, water pits (the best!) and even an ancient aqueduct.  While you are in it you will be parallel to nearly 500 meters of the Western Wall, and through that you get to really feel what it must have been like for King Herod when he tried to expand the Temple Mount – not easy! 

When you’re done with that you can move along to Hezekiah’s Tunnel which is very nearby and is a fabulous place to forget the sweltering heat.  This man-made water tunnel is 1,750 feet and offers two different tourist options:  one dry and one knee-high.  Again, accessible for kids age five and up.

But let’s get back to dealing with the New York summers.  One option Konig checked out a few years ago was the McCarren Pool Tunnels.  He describes it as a “pool with a difference” which is definitely one way of looking at it!  Located at Greenpoint, it is a nice pool (it was recently renovated) with a story that Konig investigated before snapping photos.  During the Great Depression, the FDR’s Works Progress Administration commissioned the construction of 11 huge pools around the city. 

So today – as well as enjoying a swim around – you can now check out access tunnels underneath the park.  There you will see amazing drainage pipes and enjoy other adventures.  And the actual pool still has the remains of the some of the original tunnel for those who are skeptical about taking the underground route.

No matter what you do this summer, make it a wet one.  It is not worth going anywhere without proper hydration and keeping cool with water.  So from Jerusalem to New York, keep cool underwater in the summer of 2019!

E-Scooters Arrive in New York

Finally the state of New York is granting to permission for electric scooter-sharing companies to operate in certain areas.  Initially accepted by Albany (which has come to an agreement to remove the ban), the next step is for Governor Andrew Cuomo to legalize it for the rest of the state.

This new policy will have its limits. First, cities in New York will have the option to say yes or no to this so that localities will allow to make the decision themselves on how the vehicles are operated etc.  Although the e-vehicles will be legal throughout the state, municipalities will have to give the last word on allowing a sharing service before it is launched. 

All of this however does not apply to one borough – Manhattan – at least for now.  those in that borough will have to continue to use: their own bikes, buses, cars, the Roosevelt Island Tram, the infamous subway system and taxis.

Business Investments and Success: What’s New

Some companies – especially those in the medical tech industry – are seeing the fruits of their labor right now.  Having developed ideas and worked carefully – for years (sometimes decades) – these companies are now getting investments they have long deserved.  Here we take a brief look at what has been going on in this area in the New York region.

Centene – a firm working as a principal intermediary for both government-sponsored and privately insured health care programs – has been heavily involved in raising funds for Quartet Health.  The latter company was established in 2014 and collaborates with “health plans and systems to facilitate access to personalized care and enable virtual collaboration between providers to ensure the best health outcomes” with a focus on “medical and behavioral health conditions.”  Thanks to the support of Centene, $600m in Series D funding has now been raised.  This brings the total of the funds raised to $153m.

Other Series D funding that has been raised is now in the hands of SecurityScorecard. The information security firm – founded in 2013 – appraises corporate firms’ cybersecurity strength.  It does this via an analytical rating of cyber threat intelligence signals to get a better understanding of IT risk management.  In its Series D funding, $50M has been raised from a variety of investors including: Accomplice, AXA Ventures, Evolution Equity and Intel Capital.  This brings its total reported equity funding to $100M.

But that is just a couple of small items.  The bigger picture is that over the last five years, 7,500 New York-based tech companies have been supported by $38.4 billion of investment alongside a huge network of academic institutions, accelerators and incubators.  As well, a bunch of startups have been purchased in New York.  Examples include: General Assembly (for $413 million) and Plated ($200 million).

Founded in 2011, GA is a leader in education which has “transformed tens of thousands of careers through pioneering, experiential education in today’s most in-demand skills. When you learn web development, data, design, business, and more.”  Today it has a “global, professional community of 40,000-plus full- and part-time alumni.”

Plated was established in 2012 and a year later – due to its participation in Techstars – developed a name for itself.  The US ingredient-and-recipe meal kit service facilitates the meal-making process for people in their own homes. The way it works is simple:  the client signs up, picks their recipes, then receives a box of all the ingredients they need for it and then follows very simple steps to “create impressive dinners worth sharing.”

New York has definitely proven itself in the business-cum-startup-investment world recently.

New York: New Wellness

Wellness has long been a trend in New York but recently it seems to be making its way to the Flatiron District. Now that there are many startups there, it is a prime location for hard working executives to take advantage of wellness opportunities near to their workspaces.   Some examples of these include: Exhale Spa (where attendees can take barre, cardio and yoga classes;  enjoy a facial, massage, acu-healing, scrubs, manicure and waxing); Inscape (offering guided meditation, relaxation, self-care products sold in the store); Stretch*d (for assisted stretching sessions enhancing flexibility) and many more. 

The area has so become akin to fitness that it’s even taken on a new name in the last few years as well:  the Fitness District. As co-founder of Stretch*d, Amanda Freeman refers to the district as:

“the best neighborhood in the world for health and wellness concepts to debut.  The mix of clientele and the density of offices and residential buildings are unparalleled.”

Now New York is even home to a CBD and plant-based wellness hub – Standard Dose – which is aiming to be the address for all self-care services and products, “dedicated to elevating wellness through natural healing and curating only the best and most effective products.”

NYC: New Laws

There have been some new laws passed in New York City for local residents as of late.  The 185 and 186 went into effect on March 18, 2019 to extend rights of mothers who are nursing in the workplace.  What this means in practice is that employers now have an added responsibility toward working mothers:  the provision of a lactation room.  As well, lactation room accommodation policies must be written out.  These two laws are amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law.

Another new law was put in place in an attempt to help support people on the street who are being searched by the police.  These new laws took place last October via the Right to Know Act. What this means is that before performing a search, a police officer must give the individual a business card and only thereafter ask for permission to perform their search.

The Climate Mobilization Act completed 6 climate mitigation laws.  This predominantly transforms New York’s approach to climate change, and is also known as The Green New York Deal.  The fact is, 70 percent of New York’s carbon footprint is brought about by heating and cooling for buildings.  A third of that comes from 50,000 of the city’s huge skyscrapers.  Thus this bill is requesting that owners of buildings will cut emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

Apple Pay and NYC’s MTA

Finally, after around two years of waiting, it seems that this summer will see the rollout of Apple Pay.  it’s been a long time coming but with this new system, MTA users will have their payment method significantly facilitated.  Apple Pay will enable customers to instantly pay their fares by simply tapping their phone/watch.  Known as OMNY, its launch date for Staten Island buses and the 4 5 6 subway Grand Central-42 Street and Atlantic Avenue Barclays Center lines is May 31.  The full system is set to be in place by next year.  

There is a very good chance that Apple Pay will not be the only show in town since New York City’s contactless payment system can also support other phone systems as well as contactless credit cards.

NYC: Industries Generating Income

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Industries ebb and flow with how they generate income.  The two sectors we will focus on here are: beer and fitness.  They are currently providing New Yorkers with jobs and the economy with wealth.

It seems that beer is good business.  At least in New York.  The industry’s growth has been so impressive that last year a staggering $3.5 billion was generated in “direct economic impact, through beer production, sales and the operation of brewery tasting rooms” according to a report undertaken by John Dunham and Associates (JDA). 

More than the revenue is the job market.  The industry in New York alone is giving 11,000 people jobs, equaling $722 million in salaries.  In fact, it’s estimated that without a trace of the beer industry, 20,000 jobs wouldn’t exist.  Add this to the mix  and the value generated by the beer industry was $5.4 billion for 2018. And that doesn’t even include the $1.1 billion that comes from the purchase of supplies, marketing, sales, etc. It’s a big industry.

Fitness has long been a growing industry.  New Yorkers are not alone in their love of the fitness industry.  In fact sometimes it seems that every other week there is a new class or fitness factory.  Throughout America, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), there is at least a 3 to 4 percent annual increase within the industry and around 20% of US adults have a fitness club membership. According to Statista, US consumers are spending $30 billion per year on gym memberships.

Looking into New York’s East Village we find the growth of Crunch Fitness.  The firm opened its doors over three decades ago and since then has expanded significantly.  With an app that syncs with the Apple Watch, over 100 online workouts for those who want to stay home and 25,000 square feet for those who want to actually go to the gym, this seems to be an example of how seriously New Yorkers take their workouts.

Michellene Davis: A Woman of Many Firsts

The 19thThurgood Marshall College Fund’s Annual New Jersey Award of Excellence ceremony was held at the end of March in Belleville, NJ.  Winning an award is good for any business for many reasons: it recognizes excellent work; elevates a company’s reputation; bolsters morale at a firm and sparks supplementary customer interest.  But with this particular award, winners such as RWJBarnabas Health’s Michellene Davis can also take pride in the parallel being made with the award’s founder.  As Davis said:

“This award means so much to me, because Justice Marshall embodied that which the premise of my life’s work is premised upon, such as advocacy, education, justice and civil rights. I am honored that my very small contributions were deemed worthy of this amazing award.”

Michellene Davis is a woman of many firsts.  She was Barnabas Health’s first female (and black) individual to become Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs.  In addition, she was the first ever African American to hold the position of Chief Policy Counsel to New Jersey Governor, Jon Corzine.  

NYC: Budgets and Infrastructure

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With April 1st marking the beginning of a new fiscal year, New York – along with other states – had to have handed their budgets in.  One aspect of this is the permanence of the yearly 2 percent property tax cap will become permanent and $1billion will be added to the education budget.  Another is the creation of the public campaign finance system which is valued at $100 million . 

Regarding transportation and infrastructure issues, Manhattan is about to be subject to a congestion-pricing system.  In addition, taxes on NYC real estate transactions will see an increase.  And “mansion houses” (those that sell for more than $25 million) will be subject to more taxes.

According to chairman of the Regional Plan Association, Scott Rechler:

“If our transit system is the beating heart of our city, then our arteries are severely clogged, Congestion pricing is the right solution at the right time, and it is only fitting that New York City be the first city in the U.S. to incorporate it.”

Much of the budget was focused on earmarking funds for the MTA for New York’s transit system and commuter railroads.