Writing Exercise


How would you reorganize this story and put it in the active voice?

Facing a labor shortage and stagnant wages, home health aides in Queens and throughout New York are expected to see a boost in pay after a wage increase and bonus payments were worked into the recently passed state budget.

The final budget, which passed on April 9, over a week after it was due, includes a plan to increase wages for home care workers by $3 per hour over a two-year period. Home health aides, in addition to all frontline health workers, will also receive a one-time bonus of up to $3,000, the budget stipulates.

But advocates and lawmakers who fought to include a bill, which would have increased the minimum wage for homecare workers by 150 percent, in the budget, say they’re disappointed with the final result. They claim the changes don’t do enough to bring more workers into the industry or support a living wage, and that the increase may instead drive people out of the profession.

“I was deeply disappointed,” said Queens Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas. “Ultimately, what we got in this budget was a measly wage increase, and unfortunately, it doesn’t address the problem that we’re trying to solve – that New York has the largest workforce shortage in the country.”

Beginning in October 2022, home care workers will see their pay increase by $2, according to the budget. They’ll get an additional $1 increase in October 2023. On average, home care aides currently make around $13.20 an hour.

The new wage increase comes out to about a $7 billion increase in wages for home care aides throughout the state.

The bonuses worked into the budget will vary from worker to worker. The bonuses will be calculated by the state’s health commissioner, and the final payment will depend on the hours worked per week during a time frame yet-to-be-determined by the commissioner.

Frontline health workers who worked an average of between 20 and 30 hours per week over the time period will receive a $500 bonus. Those who worked between 30 and 35 hours per week will receive a $1,000 bonus. Health care workers who worked at least 35 hours per week will receive a $1,500 bonus.

Though health care workers who worked for multiple employers can claim multiple bonuses, their total cannot exceed $3,000.

Advocates say that the payments in the budget pale in comparison to those worked into the State Legislature’s proposed budget, which included the Fair Pay for Home Care Workers bill. The legislation would direct the state’s Department of Health commissioner to set regional rates of reimbursement for home care aids under Medicaid and other managed care plans. It would also mandate a 150 percent pay increase for health aides.

How would you reorganize this storyhttps://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/04/courts-tossed-new-district-maps-now-what/366217/

he long redistricting saga in New York will only continue, as the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that deemed newly drawn state Senate and congressional maps unconstitutional. The decision immediately rocked the state’s political world, but it will have massive impacts on the average voter as well as New Yorkers will find themselves in new districts (again) and will need to keep track of changing primary dates. 

In a 4-3 decision, New York’s highest court concluded that the state Legislature did not have the constitutional authority to draw the maps at all – independent of the gerrymandering question – so it tossed state Senate and congressional lines on procedural grounds. But the Assembly map will stay in place because it was never named in the lawsuit, so the court can’t make any decision about it despite its view that lawmakers had no right to draw it. So now, an independent expert will help redraw two out of the three new sets of legislative lines for elections this year.


Court of Appeals throws out New York redistricting maps

If redrawing the maps for a June 28 primary date sounds impossible, that’s because it is. As part of its decision, the Court of Appeals said that the primary elections for state Senate and Congress will be delayed, likely until sometime in August, but left the details for the state Board of Elections to ultimately determine. But every other primary – for Assembly, U.S. Senate, governor and lieutenant governor and lower level offices such as district leader – is still expected to take place on the originally scheduled June date. That means New York will briefly return to its old model of bifurcated primary elections, a practice the state only recently abolished when it consolidated congressional and state primaries in 2019. Previously, primaries for state office occurred in September, while those for Congress took place in June. “The court’s right that the state had a bifurcated process in the past, but that stunk,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the government watchdog New York Public Interest Research Group. “The good news is we’ll get better lines, the bad news is that it’s going to be painful to keep track of what’s going on.”

And don’t expect a push from the state Legislature and the governor to move primary day and consolidate the elections. There could be legal challenges, and it probably wouldn’t be helpful for the governor, who is facing primary challenges from the left and the right, or Assembly members. “Incumbents want less time. They want a nice short campaign,” said a former state legislator who asked for anonymity to discuss former colleagues . “They start out with the name recognition and the money.” It would be logical to simply combine the primaries, the source conceded, “but logic doesn’t always hold in Albany.”


NYPD Crime Statistics

NYPD Announces Citywide Crime Statistics for February 2022


March 3, 2022

For the month of February 2022, New York City saw a 58.7% increase in overall index crime compared to February 2021 (9,138 v. 5,759). Every major index crime category saw an increase for the month of February 2022. Robbery increased by 56% (1,276 v. 818), grand larceny increased by 79.2% (3,762 v. 2.099), and grand larceny auto increased by 104.7% (1,083 v. 529). Citywide shooting incidents decreased by 1.3% (76 v. 77) in February 2022 compared to the same period last year.

The New York City Police Department remains focused on the drivers of crime and disorder in New York City, and the department will never waver in its core mission to protect all the people it serves. Every day, in every New York City neighborhood, the NYPD is working to identify and investigate the relatively small number of people who are responsible for the majority of the criminal activity – and it is employing every resource to ensure that these offenders are held accountable.

To that end, the new Neighborhood Safety Teams will further enhance the NYPD’s efforts to stop the proliferation of illegal guns, stifle gang activity, and suppress the violence caused by these unlawful actions. The deployment of these specially trained officers and supervisors will augment the ongoing work of patrolling the city’s streets, subways, and public housing developments, 24-hours per day. Nearly nine million New Yorkers depend on the NYPD and its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to keep them safe – and every member of the police department is fully committed to this critical work.

“The men and women of the New York City Police Department are proactively addressing the deep-rooted causes of criminal behavior,” said Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “The NYPD will never relent, and the department has made far too much progress over the decades – and invested far too much in the communities it serves – to fall back by any measure. New Yorkers deserve better.”


Jimmy Breslin’s Grave Digger Story

‘It’s An Honor’

New York Herald Tribune, November 1963

By Jimmy Breslin

WASHINGTON — Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. “Polly, could you please be here by 11 o’clock this morning?” Kawalchik asked. “I guess you know what it’s for.” Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. “Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday,” Metzler said. “Oh, don’t say that,” Pollard said. “Why, it’s an honor for me to be here.” Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion).

Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. “That’s nice soil,” Metzler said. “I’d like to save a little of it,” Pollard said. “The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I’d like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I’d like to have everything, you know, nice.”

James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. “He was a good man,” Pollard said. “Yes, he was,” Metzler said. “Now they’re going to come and put him right here in this grave I’m making up,” Pollard said. “You know, it’s an honor just for me to do this.”

Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the 35th president of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.

Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked.

There was Mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take.

The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. “What time is it?” a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes past three,” he said.

Clifton Pollard wasn’t at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn’t know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. “They’ll be used,” he said. “We just don’t know when. I tried to go over to see the grave,” he said. “But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn’t get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I’ll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it’s an honor.”

Assignment March 31, 2021

Write a pitch for a profile of someone in your community or someone you admire.

You need to have access to interview this person and others who can say something about them.

Please review: How to Write a Pitch before you write yours.

The pitch is due on April 5 at 5 p.m.

The story is due on April 12.

I look forward to seeing your work!

How to Write a Pitch

A pitch describes the story you want to tell. You need to write a few short paragraphs that get attention and explain what you plan to do. Avoid writing in generalities like, I want to do a story about gentrification in Washington Heights. You want to focus on a specific angle. Are you reporting from the perspective of business and developers? Or, are you looking from the ground level up and the perspective of people who feel that their homes are threatened.

Your pitch might read like this:

Many Dominicans settled in Washington Heights during the 1970s and the neighborhood quickly filled with Dominican restaurants, bodegas and the sounds of Bachata. Multi-generational families filled the spacious apartments from Dyckman Street to 155th Street. But a study by the CUNY Dominican Institute found that the number of Dominican households shrunk by 21% in fifteen years. Rising rents forced many families to move to the suburbs or elsewhere.

I’ll talk to Melissa Suero and her family who have lived in the neighborhood since the 1970s. They worry about whether they can continue to live there. The rents are going up in the building and a developer just bought the building next door. I will also talk to the owner of the Mi Esfuerzo bodega. He opened his store in 1971 and has seen many changes. I’ll talk to other people in the neighborhood, and reach out to the developer who bought the building next door to where Melissa’s family lives. I’ll also try to talk to someone who has moved into the neighborhood more recently.

I’ll shoot footage of people, restaurants, bodegas and the vibrant life in Washington Heights as well as some of the old and new buildings that are going up.