The Learning Curve: An Educational Breakdown of New York City

New York is feeling pretty smart.

According to ACS 2015 5-year estimates, New York is the one of the top ten most college-educated state in the country, with about 34.2 percent of the population over 25 years old having a bachelors degree or higher.

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But a closer look into the educational breakdown of New York City reveals that there is a strong disparity between levels of education among the city’s five boroughs. About 60 percent of Manhattan’s population over 25 have a bachelors degree or higher, but only about 19 percent of the same population in the Bronx has a bachelor’s degree or higher. The other three counties have a fairly standard distribution, with Brooklyn’s college-educated population being about 33 percent, Queens’ being about 30 percent, and Staten Island’s being about 31 percent.

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An even closer look into the city’s educational breakdown based on zip code paints an equally unequal picture. In the Bronx, only 9 percent of the population of the zip code that includes Hunts Point and Mott Haven have a bachelor’s degree or higher, whereas nearly 90 percent of Manhattan’s 10069 zip code on the Upper West Side has a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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Interestingly enough, the neighborhood around Brooklyn College, which is the 11210 zip code, has a fairly average percentage of people over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, with that number being about 34 percent.

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Entrance to Brooklyn College (Wikimedia Commons)

Kosher, With a Side of Creativity

The closing of Pardes restaurant last month marked the end of a six-year stretch for New York City’s pioneer of innovation in the kosher food landscape.

With a menu that changed every day, and a kitchen that only utilized the highest quality ingredients, Pardes’ Chef Moshe Wendel was a trailblazer in setting the new standard for kosher food in New York.

“What he was was inventive,” said Chef Isaac Bernstein of Pomegranate, a premier kosher supermarket in Brooklyn with a forward-thinking approach. “He forced people to eat outside of their comfort zone.”

Wendel introduced the kosher New Yorker to dishes like lamb “porchetta” pizza and aerated creme brulee, while using ingredients as progressive and unconventional as sesame dust, pistachio dirt and fennel pollen – no easy feat for a chef tasked with adhering to the kosher community’s strict rules on food preparation.  

Pardes’ closing was a sad event for many kosher foodies, but the shuttering of its doors and a quick Facebook message expressing remorse over the closure lead to the reevaluation of an industry and an encouraging discovery: the kosher food industry in New York City has undergone massive changes over the past few years. Kosher consumers’ expectations have shifted from favoring quantity over quality to an outlook that now favors innovative food experiences.

“We’ve seen in the last now three to four years really an explosion in restaurants that are doing this kind of thing,” said Naftali Hanau, a frequent panelist and presenter at kosher food events across the country.

Over the past two decades, the number of kosher restaurants in New York City increased by at least 50 percent, according to Elan Kornblum, president and publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine, a magazine that offers a comprehensive list of kosher restaurants around the world. In 2016 alone, nearly 25 new kosher restaurants opened before the year’s halfway point, keeping new restaurant openings on par with 2015’s rate. Except this year, the number of closures is a much smaller fraction of the number of openings compared to 2016.  

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Bison and Bourbon, a new kosher restaurant that opened earlier this year (Renee Saff)

New York City is now home to 325 kosher restaurants. This number may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s 24,000 eateries, but it comes close to the number of the city’s French and Indian restaurants, which clock in respectively at 355 and 332, according to the city’s Department of Health.

While the numbers in and of themselves are growing at an unusually fast pace, the new restaurants that are opening aren’t all conventional kosher eateries. Instead, smokehouses, sports bars, and Hibachi restaurants have been opening, as well as restaurants with bolder and more ethnic cuisines, like Georgian, Indian and Korean, according to Kosher Today, a monthly trade newspaper for the kosher food industry.   

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Artisan pastries and bread at Brooklyn Artisan Bakery, a kosher bakery that opened several months ago (Renee Saff)

According to Hanau, CEO and founder of Grow and Behold, a Brooklyn-based seller of kosher pastured meats raised on small farms without any added hormones or antibiotics, Kornblum is one of the key players responsible for spearheading the kosher foodie movement. When Facebook started becoming popular, he came up with the idea to create a group called “Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies,” a community of now nearly 25,000 members who are actively seeking recommendations for delectable dining experiences.

“If you’re posting something to 20,000 ladies around the world, you’re going to get a response,” said Sylvia Fallas, a kosher food blogger, recipe developer and product seeker for Optimal Marketing and Seasons, about social media’s influence on the kosher foodie movement. “You’re going to get an answer. You’re going to get 122 answers, you’re going to get 200 likes, you’re going to get 10,000 views. People like to be heard, people like to be engaged with, and social media has really put it out there.

“People are going to restaurants because of the chatter, because of the buzz, because friends, family, and social media has said, ‘Oh, this place is new. Let’s go try it out.’”

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Screenshot of “Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies” Facebook group page (Renee Saff)

In addition to the rise of social media and Pardes’ innovation, another factor contributing to the demand for more progressive kosher food experiences is the Baal Teshuva movement, which is the return of secular Jews to religious Judaism, and is Hebrew for “master of repentance.”

A 2013 Pew Research Center study revealed that 28 percent of Jewish people ages 18 to 49 keep kosher in their homes, nearly double their parents’ generation, in which only 16 percent of Jews above the age of 50 keep kosher at home. But, regardless of the younger generation’s reasons for embracing Jewish dietary restrictions, their introduction into the kosher food industry has been a transformative factor.

“There are a lot of people keeping kosher now who did not used to,” Hanau said. “When they came into the kosher world and they started having to drink this wine and eat this food they said, ‘What is this? Why is it so bad?’”

Because these people who previously did not keep kosher were able to experience what top of the line, non-kosher cuisine tastes like, their introduction into the kosher restaurant world created a demand for the industry to step up its game. Many chefs with non-kosher experience now bring fresh ideas and expertise to the kosher food market.

Bernstein, who recognized the need to revamp the kosher food world and has experienced success by popularizing the idea of “Modern Haimish,” a progressive approach to the classic, homey Eastern European foods that many Jews are fond of, and he believes that “there is a future for progressive kosher food.”

Due to Pardes’ innovation, the rise of social media, and the Baal Teshuvah movement, innovation in the kosher food world is not just limited to restaurants. The past few years have endured different types of kosher innovations, ranging from a traveling Texas kosher barbecue to a fish store selling gourmet ingredients that keep the strictest standards of kosher to a wave of new cookbooks encouraging readers to step out of their comfort zone and “dare to be different.”

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A variety of gourmet beers at BenZ’s Gourmet, a kosher shop in Crown Heights offering gourmet kosher products that adhere to the strictest kosher standards (Renee Saff)

“It’s not just the restaurant scene that has evolved and become upscale,” said Shlomo Klein, the chief operating officer for Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine. “We’re trying to keep up with the trends.”

And the kosher food industry has certainly made progress.

“I used to say, when we started, that the kosher food business was five to ten years behind. Now kosher is much much closer to following the trends,” Hanau said. “The kosher world is in a place that’s so far ahead of where it was, and it can continue to improve.”

What The New York Times Video Site Offers Millennials

The New York Times may be 165 years old, but it isn’t completely out of touch with today’s generation of millennials.

While The Times prides itself on quality reporting, the publication has always sought to relay content to its readers in an engaging way. Over the past few years, The Times has broadened its scope to target the needs of millennials, a generational cohort born roughly between 1980 and 2000. As of 2012, there are about 80 million millennials living in the United States, and they have become the largest share of the American workforce. Millennials are one of the most educated generations in Western history, they are impatient, and they are known for being remarkably technologically savvy.

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Time Magazine cover discussing millennials (Max Gaines/Creative Commons)

One major way that The Times has been appealing to millennials is through its videos. Since millennials are mostly educated and technologically savvy, it only makes sense that The Times capture their attention by producing quality videos. Emma Cott, a video journalist for The New York Times, has made significant strides in this field, producing videos that range from robotic teddy bears, to caring for Ebola patients overseas, to a documentary about healthcare.

The New York Times has increasingly been producing more risqué video content, like a video titled “The Uncanny Lover” about a sex robot. As other news outlets appealing to millennials become more popular, like BuzzFeed and Vice, The Times has been stretching its moral boundaries through other niche types of videos.

But, while it isn’t appealing to millennials’ taste in anything strange and outrageous, The Times is providing millennials, and everyone else, the ability to explore the world from the comfort of their couches. For example, The Times’ Block by Block videos allow viewers to explore New York City’s neighborhoods without leaving the comfort of their homes.

One particularly appealing feature on their video website is the travel section of their videos, which allow viewers to spend “36 Hours” in cities across the globe, like Rio, Istanbul and Portland. This allows anyone at any given time the ability to pick a place and learn what it’s like, with minimal cost.

Another cool feature is their food section of the video department, where they show how to cook recipes like chicken noodle soup and summer vegetable gratin. They also have an interesting subsection where they show what goes into making certain products, like chocolate candy and coconut water.

The Times’ 360 and Virtual Reality videos also appeal to millennials. Having a credible, renowned news organization create videos that place viewers in the scenes that they learn about is a tremendous asset. There is no better way to visualize conflict in other countries than by (virtually) walking a mile in someone else’s shoes there.

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New York Times most recent price increase (Renee Saff)

But, despite all of The Times’ efforts to appeal to millennials, they still have a long way to go in terms of rebranding their publication to a more youthful audience. Sites like Vice, BuzzFeed, Vox and The Intercept became very popular over the past five years, and The Times is struggling to keep up. While The Times is fantastic at producing quality content, they fail to get up close and personal in controversial matters, and they don’t bring to light enough of the gritty news that millennials thrive on. Anyone can produce high quality, original, creative videos about neighborhoods in New York City or the process of making coconut water, but not everyone has the guts to publish video taken on a contraband cellphone with a camera, like Vice did a few weeks ago.

According to Liz Spayd, The Times’ public editor, in an op-ed, “[T]he pace is no longer set by a building in Times Square.”

Here are some questions for Emma Cott:

  1. How do you find the inspiration for your videos. Does the video journalism world work the same way as the print journalism world, where reporters are assigned to beats, or do you have more of a selection when it comes to story topics?
  2. What do you think sets The Times’ video channel apart from other news outlets that are appealing to millennials?
  3. Do you think that Virtual Reality and 360 videos will one day be as popular as the standard videos that we are all so used to watching? Why does The Times focus so much energy on these channels?
  4. What is the most challenging part of being a video journalist at The Times? What is the most rewarding part?
  5. Do you think that it is necessary for all journalists in today’s day and age to be able to record, edit and produce their own videos? What kind of crossover is there between print journalists and video journalists at The Times?

Is There Empathy for Empathetic Media?

In the aftermath of a brutal election cycle that portrayed the media in an unflattering light, Empathetic Media is harnessing the power of the press for a different purpose, to create empathy in the world.

In today’s day and age, most readers are desensitized to the news. Content has become so easy to come across that most readers no longer feel as bothered by stories about bombings, shootings, rape and death.

Empathetic Media is on a mission to change that by using graphic journalism, virtual and augmented reality to tell stories in an immersive new way, with an emphasis on fostering empathy in its audiences. According to their website, the company’s goal is to “marry the media with the story to create a completely new story experience.”

Empathetic Media, a “transmedia agency creating the next generation of immersive stories,” was founded in 2015 by Dan Archer, a thought leader in the world of interactive storytelling. Archer’s goal was to use cutting-edge technology to target the latest generation of story consumers and make them sensitive and sympathetic to the news.

 

With that in mind, Virtual Reality is important to the company because it provides a sensory platform for Empathetic Media to instill empathy in its viewers. Just as The New York Times understands that Virtual Reality can be used to place its viewers virtually at the heart of a story, Empathetic Media recognizes that Virtual Reality technology can give the general public a greater understanding of the issues that plague today’s society.

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Man testing Virtual Reality technology (credit:Maurizio Pesce)

According to data released by Statista, an online statistics portal, the total number of active Virtual Reality users worldwide is forecast to reach 171 million by 2018. The market for Virtual Reality is set to grow at a fast rate, with revenues from software alone expected to reach over a 3,000 percent increase in four years.

One way that Empathetic Media is taking advantage of this promising new field is by producing a Virtual Reality video called “Ferguson Firsthand.” The video, which was completed in partnership with Fusion in 2015, guides its viewers through the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014 by Officer Darren Wilson. It allows viewers to relive the shooting through multiple contradictory eyewitness accounts, taken verbatim from the grand jury trial and unedited broadcast footage.

 

Empathetic Media also produced a Virtual Reality video titled “Peace in Colombia,” which allows users to experience true stories first-hand and decide on the path they wish to take as they shape the narrative of the peace-making process in Colombia. It’s based on the face-to-face stories of victims and offenders from opposite sides of the conflict, which has been going on for decades in a small community outside of Medellin, Colombia.

The team at Empathetic Media is doing a good job of latching on to the next big thing. According to Piper Jaffray, 500 million Virtual Reality headsets could be sold by 2025. As of June 2016, about 1.3 million people are already subscribed to the YouTube 360 channel, and Google’s Cardboard app has been downloaded 10 million times, according to The Motley Fool.

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An example of how Augmented Reality works (credit: Bronze Software Labs) 

In addition to Virtual Reality, empathetic Media is also making strides in Augmented Reality, having released the world’s first sequential Augmented Reality storytelling app. Augmented Reality supplements a real world environment, typically observed through the lens of a smartphone camera, by adding in audio, video, maps, 3D graphics and GPS data to enhance what we see. Empathetic Media’s Augmented Reality projects range from an interactive infographic breakdown of Trump’s real estate empire to a video meant to draw awareness to the issue of modern human trafficking.

At Empathetic Media, they’ve even been making 360 videos placing viewers right at the heart of Times Square.

While the numbers seem to indicate that Virtual Reality is becoming increasingly popular, I am skeptical about the extent that Virtual Reality is catching on. With 31 videos on their YouTube channel and an average of 364 views per video, it is surprising that a company like Empathetic Media doesn’t have more of an online presence. (Furthermore, the number of average views is higher than it should be, since there is one outlying video with 8,128 views whereas the video with the second highest number of views is 361, and most views per vide tend to fall under 100).

Despite these numbers, many major news organizations have taken on Virtual Reality, suggesting that these numbers should not be discouraging. The New York Times has been a frontrunner in this field, creating an app for Virtual Reality Videos and starting a program to publish a new 360 video every day. Since the mainstream media, like Conde Nast, Vice Media, Disney, Comcast and Time Warner, all seem to be investing in this technology, then the onus is on them to take the technology to the next level and make it just as iconic as the idea of enjoying a Saturday morning with a hot cup of coffee and freshly printed newspaper.

 

The Changing World of Video News

Last November, every home print copy of The New York Times landed with an extra loud thump on the doorstep. In a bold move to usher in innovation, The Times planted 1.3 million cardboard boxes in the homes of its readers, but these weren’t ordinary cardboard boxes – they were virtual reality headsets.

The Google Cardboard virtual reality headsets, which are nothing more than cardboard and some Velcro used to hold a cellphone in place, have a pair of plastic lenses that transform the 2-D world of our phone screens to the illusion of an immersive 3-D environment.

Google and The Times’ choice to send out the headsets to over one million people marked a key development in the world of journalism: the start of the changing world of video news.

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Google Cardboard (Wikimedia Commons)

Last November’s introduction of virtual reality technology to the public represented a major leap in the virtual video realm, making the technology affordable and accessible to all. By downloading the NYT VR app on an iPhone or Android and placing a cellphone into the Google Cardboard headset, everyday people have the opportunity to experience some of the world’s most advanced forms of storytelling.

One thing that makes virtual reality videos different from ordinary videos is how virtual reality allows viewers to move their heads up, down, and around to get a full 360-degree experience, as if the viewer was physically present in the story that they were watching.

The Times decided to utilize this technology by promising viewers they would “put you at the center of stories that only we can tell,” according to the NYT VR app. Sticking to their promise, The Times offered viewers the chance to embed with Iraqi forces as they fight against ISIS, climb the spire of the World Trade Center, and set foot on the alien world of Pluto.

Regardless of the time and place that the NYT VR app takes its viewers, the app promises its audience that it will “bring you places you can’t normally go.”

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The New York Times Building (Vadim Lavrusik/Creative Commons)

While pen, paper, and an old-fashioned camera lens can do wonders in terms of transporting readers and viewers to alternate realities, virtual reality videos virtually transport users to alternate realities.

After The Times sent out the headsets, 600,000 subscribers downloaded the app, making it the company’s most successful app launch and branding the app as the leading mobile app for high quality virtual reality content.

This past November, The Times expanded on its video innovation mission by introducing its 360 Video Channel, a channel dedicated to sharing a new immersive video every day. These videos can be played on phones, tablets, and computers. No headset is required for viewing, which makes the virtual reality technology even more accessible to those who didn’t have a cardboard headset sent to them in the mail.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks and reporter Ben Hubbard shot the first Daily 360 video, and it offers a glimpse into war-torn Yemen. Since the program’s launch, other videos have been published, featuring the Urban Shepherds of Nairobi, Election Day at The New York Times, and Goat Yoga.

The Times has made so much progress in terms of video storytelling over the past year that it’s hard to imagine what else they might have up their sleeves, but, knowing The Times, more great things are probably already on their way.

The Clintons’ New Home Away From Home

Hillary Clinton purchased her first house in Chappaqua in 1999 when her husband was on his way out of the White House. Now, the Democratic runner-up has a cozy constellation prize for her failed white House run: a second million-dollar home in Chappaqua conveniently next door to the Clintons’ primary residence.

The Clintons paid $1.16 million in August for the three-bedroom, 3,631-square-foot ranch-style home, which is set on 1.51 acres of land and is located at 33 Old House Lane in Chappaqua in Westchester County.

Ironically, the purchasing of the Clintons’ two Chappaqua homes came at key points in Hillary Clinton’s career. The Democratic presidential candidate originally purchased a home in Chappaqua for $1.7 million to solidify her credibility as a genuine New Yorker when she decided to run for U.S. Senate. The home that she and Bill purchased at the end of August 2016 came at a time where Clinton was eyeing the prospect of becoming the country’s first woman president.

The Clintons’ now own three million-dollar homes, two in Chappaqua and one in Washington D.C., a five-minute limo ride away from the White House.

According to the New York Post, the listing describes the home as a “beautifully renovated 3-bedroom ranch boast[ing] an open floor plan, pecan wood floors throughout, modern chef’s kitchen with Viking, Subzero and Asko appliances, [which] opens to an eating area with fireplace and the family room, all with built-in cabinetry.”

The purchase came at a time during her campaign when Clinton tried asserting that she, and not her wealthy opponent Donald Trump, has better ideas for the economy, like adding jobs and improving the lives of working and middle-class Americans.

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Wikimedia Commons

However, the Clintons caught some flak for skipping a crucial step in the purchasing process: obtaining the proper permits needed for upgrades. According to an article by The New York Times, an inspector looking into a complaint about excavation work at the Clinton’s new home arrived at the property and found that the home was being renovated to have an updated kitchen, the backfilling of a swimming pool with gravel, walls being moved and a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

During the election, residents complained that access to the block was restricted by the Secret Service.

With the election over, Old House Lane may soon become very quiet.