Reporters and Projects

Ross Barkan

Brooklyn native Ross Barkan’s stories on state and local politics have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, New York Magazine, New York Daily News and elsewhere. A former staff reporter at the New York Observer, he writes a weekly column for City & State and is a regular contributor to the Village Voice.

Project

Despite years of efforts at reform, a small group of politically connected attorneys continue to collect enormous fees as appointees of judges who owe their election to the bench to those same political ties. In Queens, the prime example is Gerard Sweeney, who has served as counsel in Surrogate’s Court for the past twenty-five years, a post that has allowed him to earn millions by shepherding the estates of deceased borough residents through the court. To understand how deeply engrained – and profitable – this system of patronage is, we analyzed ten years of data and found some astonishing figures.

Stories

Three lawyers control Queens Democratic Party while one rakes millions from Surrogate’s Court wills

Wayne Barrett

Wayne Barrett, one of New York’s leading investigative journalists, was a staff writer at the Village Voice for more than 30 years. He is “the unrivaled master of … articles about the unsavory side of New York political culture,” as the New York Times wrote in 2011 after he left the Voice. Barrett was the first reporter to detail Donald Trump’s political deal-making, and is the author of “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth,” and “Rudy: An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani.” He is the co-author of “City For Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York,” and “Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.”

Project

An obscure ruling by New York State Board of Elections in 1996 opened the floodgates to what quickly became a torrent of big money in state campaigns. The decision to treat Limited Liability Companies – LLC’s – as individuals, rather than corporations, made it possible for wealthy donors seeking political favors to funnel millions of dollars to favored politicians. Just how corrosive that practice has become was made strikingly clear at the 2016 trials of two of the state’s top politicians, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, where massive LLC donations were revealed as a key catalyst for corruption. How and why was this loophole created? Who benefits? And why don’t calls for reform from the governor on down gain traction? Wayne Barrett took an in-depth look in the Daily News.

Stories

The multi-million-dollar payoff (PDF)
The multi-million-dollar payoff (Web)
Keeping the Cash Coming

Ben Hattem

Ben Hattem is a freelance journalist and the recipient of the 2016 Nellie Bly Cub Reporter award from the New York Press Club. His reporting focuses on mental health and criminal justice, and his work has been featured in Al Jazeera America, BuzzFeed News, City Limits, and elsewhere.

Project

In February 2014, a psychiatric patient named Elimeen Carter was beaten bloody by a staff member on the prison ward at Bellevue Hospital, an incident captured clearly on video. In March 2016, his assailant was charged. What happened during the twenty-five month interim is the story of investigative and prosecutorial bungling, failures endemic to the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. The Justice Center’s mission is to protect New York’s vulnerable residents from abuse and to prosecute those who harm them, but data and cases like Carter’s show that the agency is all but toothless.

Stories

A Beating at Bellevue, Then Months of Silence
BuzzFeed News Investigates Abuse At Mental Hospital (Video)

Leslie Kaufman

Leslie Kaufman has been a reporter for more than 25 years. From 1999 to 2015, she was a staff writer at The New York Times where she covered homelessness, child welfare, and climate change, in addition to other subjects. Her freelance work has been published by Politico, Smithsonian Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Project

What happens when a veteran advocate takes over the nation’s largest municipal social service agency? Before being named commissioner of New York City’s Human Resource Administration in 2014, Steven Banks regularly sued the department on behalf of poor and homeless New Yorkers. He came into office pledging to revamp the way that the city’s biggest bureaucracy delivered assistance to more than a million residents. For her project, Kaufman profiled the new commissioner and his activist agenda in the New York Times, and later analyzed the dramatic changes to welfare policies taking place under Banks in Crain’s New York Business.

Stories

He Fought City Hall Over the Homeless. Now He’s Battling From the Inside.
Making Welfare to Work, Work

 

Paul Moses

Paul Moses is a former reporter and city editor at Newsday’s New York City edition where he was a key player in a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Reporting for a deadly 1991 subway crash. He also reported for The Associated Press and has written for Commonweal, America, The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, Hechinger Report and elsewhere. A professor of journalism at CUNY-Brooklyn College, he is the author of “The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace” (Doubleday, 2009), which won the 2010 Catholic Press Association award for best history book. His most recent book is  “An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians” (NYU Press, 2015).

Project

New York may be America’s media capital, but its local coverage has shrunk dramatically in recent years. Amid shrinking revenues, news organizations ranging from wire services like the Associated Press to The New York Daily News have cut back drastically on coverage of courthouses, neighborhoods. Even the great Gray Lady, The New York Times, has beat a strategic retreat from such coverage as it places greater emphasis on national and other types of news. How do those changes affect us? The CUNY Urban Reporting Grant Program asked former AP and Newsday reporter Paul Moses to survey the status of local coverage in New York City. He did so in a two-part series published in The Daily Beast.

Stories

‘CLIMATE CHANGE’
In New York City, Local Coverage Declines—and Takes Accountability With It

The New York Times Turns Its Sights Away From New York City

 

Lisa Riordan Seville

Lisa Riordan Seville is an independent investigative reporter whose reporting has appeared on NBC News, WNYC Public Radio, The Nation, Salon.com and the New York Daily News, among other outlets. She is also co-founder and producer of @EverydayIncarceration, an Instagram feed that tells visual stories of the legacy of 40 years of mass incarceration in the U.S. In addition to her grant from the Urban Reporting Program, The Open Society Foundations, the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and the Magnum Foundation have supported her work.

Project

Once a crucial tool for helping low income families find affordable homes in stable neighborhoods, the federal Section 8 housing voucher program has quietly become an anachronism in New York’s housing markets. These days, landlords not only reject applicants with Section 8 certificates, which provide federal funds to supplement rent payments, they are as likely to seek eviction of those who have them. The reason? A red-hot real estate market offers higher rents. This three-part series, in partnership with WNYC Radio and the New York Daily News, was the first to take a close-up look at the winners and losers in the one housing program that Congress still funds.

Stories

Losing their Homes is in the Program as Nabes Gentrify
It’s a “Fair” Question
Profits and Pain
Revamping Section 8
Section 8 Housing: ‘We All Deserve the Right Thing’
Section 8 Housing: Poor But Not Impoverished in Hasidic Williamsburg
Section 8 Housing: A New Window After 36 Years

 

Michael Waldholz

Michael Waldholz has reported on health and science issues for more than 35 years. He was a managing editor at Bloomberg News/Businessweek, and was a writer, editor and bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal where his stories on AIDS medicine won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. He is the author of “Curing Cancer” and co-author of “Genome.” From 2013 to 2015 he worked for the Gates Foundation producing a reports on health initiatives.

Project

With little forewarning, New York’s largest cooperative health insurance network collapsed in late 2015. Launched under Obamacare as a plan offering low-cost coverage and access to a wide array of providers, Health Republic Insurance was hailed as a new kind of health insurance. But after thousands more enrollees signed up than originally anticipated, and costs soared, the company began to flounder. Three years after it opened its doors, state regulators ordered them closed. What caused this fabulous failure? Waldholz spent three months interviewing providers, health regulators and former Health Republic officials, resulting in a front-page feature for Crain’s New York Business weekly magazine that, as Columbia Journalism Review said, “sums up the sorry tale of a good idea gone terribly wrong.”

Stories

Death of an Ideal