The City of Yonkers Hosts ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Re-Launch Event

Originally published in Westchester Magazine.

July 24, 2015

By Julianne Cuba

Yonkers native Pat Quinn, diagnosed with ALS in 2013, is reigniting last year’s viral social media movement to raise money for research. 

Remember last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge craze to raise money for ALS research? Well, it raised over $115 million!

Why stop there?

This year, on August 2, the City of Yonkers and Yonkers native Pat Quinn are co-hosting a re-launch of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for the progressive neurodegenerative disease.

Pat Quinn, who was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2013, spearheaded the event after last year’s huge success.

Proceeds will go towards “Quinn for the Win,” which benefits Quinn’s care and not-for-profit ALS research organizations.

“Pat Quinn’s fight and determination to combat this horrible disease has been nothing short of inspirational,” said the City of Yonkers Mayor Spano in a statement. “With Pat as our fearless leader, the City of Yonkers hopes to recharge the energy we all felt last summer as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge. We encourage any and all to join us on August 2 so we can continue to make strides in finding a cure to ALS.”

Participants will be given a bucket, provided by Home Depot, to be filled with ice and water. Then, all will partake in a simultaneous dropping of the ice water-filled bucket over their heads to reignite the viral social media movement.

Quinn, who also happened to be one of last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge originators, said, “I’m beyond grateful for the continued support from Mayor Mike Spano, City Council President Liam McLaughlin, and the entire City of Yonkers.”

“Last summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge brought new hope and a unified sense of fight to ALS patients all over the world,” Quinn stated. “We are now living by the mantra, ‘Every August Until A Cure.’ Although last summer did wonders for our battle, we still have no treatment. We still have no cure. Please join me August 2nd at Empire City Casino to kick off the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Yonkers. Not only will it be fun, you will be a part of something special.”

E.L. Doctorow, Long-Time New Rochelle Resident And Author, Dies At 84

Originally published in Westchester Magazine.

By Julianne Cuba

July 23, 2015

The award-winning author wrote Ragtime, the book that made him famous, from his home in Southern Westchester. 

E.L. Doctorow, the famous American novelist whose award-winning 1975 novel Ragtime was both centered around and written in New Rochelle, died on Tuesday at the age of 84. His son, Richard, told The New York Times that the cause was complications from lung cancer.

Doctorow, a long-time New Rochelle resident, was known for his contemporary spins on culture and history. Ragtime, set in pre-World War I in the New York City area, revolved around a wealthy family living on Broadview Avenue in New Rochelle. The book was later turned into a movie and Broadway musical.

Like Ragtime, many of Doctorow’s other 12 novels used real historical characters and context to create alternative, often eccentric narratives. His other titles include Billy BathgateThe March, and World’s Fair.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle said, “He is universally acknowledged as one of the great American novelists, with works that are unchallenged classics and will almost surely be read for decades, if not centuries, to come.”

Mayor Bramson acknowledged New Rochelle’s intimate connection with the author, explaining that until just a few years ago, Doctorow and his wife, Helen, had lived on the very street made famous by Ragtime.

“To his neighbors, he was Ed, not E.L. And he was notable not just for his talent, but for his kindness — unassuming in his bearing, unfailingly polite, with no sign of the frosty arrogance that sometimes afflicts the famous,” the mayor wrote.

Young and living in the ‘burbs

Originally published in The Journal News as part of my monthly “How We Live” Column.

July 16, 2015

A friend of mine recently shared with me a Facebook post — inspired by Thought Catalog — that reported on what four individuals were doing at the age of 23.

According to the post, “At age 23, JK Rowling was broke. Tina Fey was working at the YMCA. Oprah had just gotten fired from her first job as a TV reporter and Walt Disney had declared bankruptcy.”

The list could go on and on. And in fact, it does. An article from Bustle also shares what nine powerful women were doing at the age of 23. They weren’t so powerful at the time.

At age 23, Hillary Clinton, now campaigning to receive the democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election, was saying no to marriage proposals from her now-husband, former President Bill Clinton. In an article published about the political duo’s love-story, Clinton said, “I was desperately in love with him but utterly confused about my life and future.”

Jane Fonda, at 23, was years away from becoming the iconic fitness guru she is today, as well as a pioneering women’s rights activist, writer and award-winning actress.

And Taylor Swift… Oh wait, she’s an exception.

But I digress.

The post that my friend sent me a few weeks ago now has over 42,000 shares. And that number is still climbing. That means that over 42,000 people from all over the world — whether they’re 22, 24 or 44 — feel, like Hillary Clinton did, utterly confused about life. What resonated with each of them was the idea that though things may be rocky and uncertain now, they can and will get better.

The post went viral not because everyone cares what Walt Disney was doing over 90 years ago, but rather because it’s relevant, it’s relatable and it gives us hope.

And as 23-year-olds, it gave my friend and me hope.

Today, there’s a certain lifestyle that’s often associated with the post-graduation years: an apartment in the city, a full-time job, happy hours. It’s hard not to get caught up in that idealized vision of what our 20s are supposed to look like — and for many, what they do — and realize that that’s not what mine looks like right now.

I’m happily learning at my unpaid internship this summer, but sometimes when I tell people that, yes, I’m living at home, because no, I’m not making any money, I feel like I have to explain myself.

Others may not catch it, but I see it — I see that look of pity when I share that my current everyday job is learning. Unpaid.

Many of my friends are fully employed and sometimes it feels like I’m in a race to catch up to them, counting each missed happy hour and pay check.

I’m not sure when life sped up, when fast track MBA programs became not only routine, but encouraged; when young adults like us spent less time figuring themselves out and more time earning money in the workforce. I don’t know when that happened — probably around five years ago according to a 2009 article from The Wall Street Journal — but I don’t like it. I don’t like that today, being unsure or confused, or wanting to spend more time learning is considered unsuccessful.

I don’t like that we need viral Facebook posts to make us feel OK about our unpaid internships, our living situations, or our confusion about the ways in which we want to contribute to the world.

Success isn’t just a steady salary or a newly signed lease in the city. It’s also learning, transitioning and realizing the things that make us feel confident, accomplished and happy.

After a little bit of weight lifted off my shoulders knowing I’m not the only 23-year-old who feels this way, I shared the post with a few of my other friends. “We’re going to be OK,” one of them said. And the rest of us echoed, “Yeah, we’re going to be OK.”

IBM’s New Nano Node Test Chip Is Thinner Than DNA

Originally published in Westchester Magazine 

July 13, 2015

Bigger isn’t always better. Case in point: technology. Everything from our smartphones to computers and now our node test chips are getting smaller and smaller. Wait, you don’t know what node chips are? These fingernail-sized chips, which are referred to by the size of the transistors they can hold, contain billions of transistors that provide the electricity and power to operate our smartphones and spacecraft. The smaller the transistors, the more of them you can fit on a chip, the more powerful the chip becomes.

And they’re getting pretty small.

IBM Research announced last week its newest breakthrough yet: a seven-nanometer-thick node test chip with functioning transistors. It has the potential to hold more than 20 billion transistors; it’s the semiconductor industry’s first node test chip that small. For reference, a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. This is seven. Seven! And a strand of DNA is two-and-a-half nanometers in diameter. Again, this is seven!

The current chips in commercial use are typically 22 or 14 nanometers, and there’s a 10-nanometer chip gaining momentum in the industry. It’s too soon to tell when the seven-nanometer chip will hit mass production— according to Ars Technica, no sooner than two years.

Created in partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the seven-nanometer chip is a huge deal for the industry because when things get that tiny, traditional methods and materials for production are no longer feasible—the industry’s current chips use pure silicon as a base, but to get even smaller, IBM transitioned the new chips to operate on the alloy silicon-germanium.

“For business and society to get the most out of tomorrow’s computers and devices, scaling to 7nm and beyond is essential,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research in a press release from Thursday. “That’s why IBM has remained committed to an aggressive basic research agenda that continually pushes the limits of semiconductor technology. Working with our partners, this milestone builds on decades of research that has set the pace for the microelectronics industry, and positions us to advance our leadership for years to come.”

The new seven-nanometer chips come as part of IBM’s ongoing project announced in July 2014 to expand research and “push the limits of chip technology needed to meet the emerging demands of cloud computing and Big Data systems.”

Former PepsiCo Exec Julie Hamp Released After Drug-Related Arrest In Japan

Originally published in Westchester Magazine

July 9, 2015

Almost three weeks after Julie Hamp’s arrest in Tokyo for allegedly importing oxycodone into Japan, the former chief communications officer for Toyota was released from custody in Japan without charge on Wednesday.

Hamp was arrested in Tokyo on June 18 after Japanese custom officials found 57 oxycodone tablets in a package that was sent to her from the United States. Oxycodone, though legal in both the United States and Japan, requires pre-importation approval from the Japanese government. Officials from the prosecutor’s office in Japan told The Wall Street Journal that Hamp was not abusing the pills and was using them for health reasons.

Prior to her position at Toyota, Hamp served as the senior vice president of communications at PepsiCo, headquartered in Purchase. According to her LinkedIn profile, Hamp worked at PepsiCo from December 2007 until March 2012. Hamp was named Toyota’s first female managing officer in 2012 when she joined Toyota’s North American team; She relocated to Tokyo in June and was arrested on the 18th, just days following Toyota’s annual meeting.

Though she is not facing any charges, the incident cost Hamp her job and Toyota its first non-Japanese executive to be based in Japan.

On July 1, Toyota released a statement accepting Hamp’s resignation. And on Wednesday, Toyota released a second statement regarding Hamp’s release.

“We apologize for any confusion or concern the recent events surrounding former Managing Officer Julie Hamp may have caused,” the statement read. “We intend to learn from this incident by reinforcing our guiding principles of honoring the language and spirit of the law. Furthermore, we will continue to strive to create a more secure working environment for everyone at Toyota around the world. We also remain firmly committed to putting the right people in the right places, regardless of nationality, gender, age and other factors, as we continue to take the steps necessary to become a truly global company.”

Toyota also announced that Shigeru Hayakawa, a senior managing officer and member of its board of directors, had replaced Hamp as chief communications officer.

Allan Houston Puts Multi-Million Dollar Armonk Estate On The Market

Originally published in Westchester Magazine 

July 8, 2015

Former New York Knicks star and current general manager of the Westchester Knicks Allan Houston just put his Armonk home on the market for nearly $20 million.

Listed with Houlihan Lawrence at $19.9 million, the seven-bedroom home in the gated community of Conyers Farm lies on more than 10 acres of land, has 26 rooms, five fireplaces, 10 full bathrooms with marble baths, and two half bathrooms.

The French country-style mansion, co-listed by Brian Milton and Ellen Mosher of Houlihan Lawrence, was custom built for Houston and his wife, Tamara, in 2006. The couple lived there with their seven children, which should give you some idea of the size of this exquisite estate.

Of course, the home of a former professional NBA player for nine seasons wouldn’t be complete without its own basketball court and trophy room, or its own outdoor swimming pool and golf practice green. The Houstons’ home also overlooks—and sits right next to—Converse Lake, so if the heated pool isn’t cutting it, there’s a huge body of fresh water ready to be canoed or swam (swum?) in.

Famous guests? They’ve been there: President Barack Obama swung by the Houston estate in 2007 on a fundraising visit during his first presidential campaign. Houston told The Wall Street Journal that though he and Obama didn’t have time to test out the court, “[Obama’s] a Bulls fan, so we joked about the Knicks and Bulls rivalry.”

Read the full story and see the photos of the home here.

After Terrorism Advisory, Security Dialed Up In Westchester

Originally published in Westchester Magazine 

July 2, 2015

Following recent terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson released a statement last week urging all law enforcement officials to be vigilant and prepared as the holiday weekend approaches.

“We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season, but always remain vigilant. ‘If you see something, say something’ is more than a slogan,” Johnson said.

Though there are no known specific or credible threats to Westchester County, White Plains Department of Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said that the police force and all public safety assets have been significantly increased for the weekend and for the City of White Plains’ annual Independence Day celebration on Thursday night.

“We have a national threat alert, which has put all law enforcement on the alert to be cognizant of a lone wolf or terrorism event by ISIS,” Chong said. “I want to make it very clear, we do not have any specific threats in White Plains.”

Throughout the holiday weekend, security will be increased all over the city, including the number of uniform and plainclothes officers and mobile camera surveillance, Chong said.

“We are working very closely and cooperating with our partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which includes the FBI, the New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police,” he said.

Chong also echoed Secretary Johnson’s statement saying that the biggest and most important thing for law enforcement is that the public is its eyes and ears, and if anyone sees anything suspicious, they should not hesitate to say something.

“As the public safety commissioner, I tell you to go out and enjoy yourself and do everything that you would normally do on a beautiful July Fourth holiday weekend,” Chong said. “And know that public safety will be out there full force, ensuring that you have a safe holiday weekend.”

In Obergefell V. Hodges, Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional Right

Originally published in Westchester Magazine

June 26, 2015

Legal in New York since 2011, the Supreme Court has ruled that all states must allow and recognize same-sex marriage.

By all objective measures, The Supreme Court is on a roll this week. Just one day after upholding President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Court ruled on Friday that marriage for same-sex couples is a constitutional right.

Following the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Obama personally called and congratulated Jim Obergefell, who wanted his home state of Ohio to recognize the marriage between him and his late husband, John Arthur. Wed in Maryland, when Arthur died shortly after returning home to Ohio, where same-sex marriage was illegal, the state refused to acknowledge their union.

Now, after an emotional victory for Obergefell—and for every same-sex couple in the United States—regardless of the state in which a couple lives, their marriage will be recognized.

Westchester Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-17) said in a press statement, “Today, the United States Supreme Court upheld one of the fundamental principles of our country: equal treatment under the law.”

“This is an exciting day for all of us who believe in equality and justice. For too long, LGBT couples have been restricted from exercising their fundamental rights. Now, all men and women have equal protection and are free to marry whomever they love regardless of what state they call home,” she said.

For another member of Westchester’s congressional delegation, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-18), Friday’s historic victory was also a personal one.

Maloney, who last year married his now-husband Randy after 22 years together, said “While the idea of marriage was once impossible, in the eyes of the federal government, because of the Supreme Court’s action, our relationship was finally treated as equal under federal law. These triumphs are not only for families like mine, but for millions of Americans who still face legal discrimination simply for who they are and who they love. I will continue to work in Congress to make sure that we keep taking steps toward full equality”

“The Supreme Court made the right decision today by recognizing same-sex marriages and treating all same-sex couples across the country equally under the law. Today the court continued the progress of the civil rights movement, and reaffirmed a moral truth about freedom in America that is, as John Kennedy said, ‘as old as scripture and as clear as the American Constitution,’” Maloney said.

What Does King V. Burwell Mean For New York Health Insurance?

Following the Supreme Court decision, I wrote the update for a previously published article in Westchester Magazine by my colleagues.

Update (6/26/15)

President Obama celebrated a big political victory on Thursday when the Supreme Court ruled six to three that the Affordable Care Act’s federal tax subsidies would not be struck down. Five years after the law’s inception, the fear that millions of Americans in 34 states would lose health insurance subsidies was finally put to rest with the court’s decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts—a Republican-appointed justice—displeased many conservatives when he ruled with the majority to uphold the law in its entirety. The case, King v. Burwell, was based on an apparently ambiguous passage of five words in the Affordable Care Act, which the plaintiffs in the case argued invalidated health insurance exchanges run by the Federal Government. Roberts did not agree.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” he wrote in the court’s opinion.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who was particularly frustrated with the decision—he dissented from the bench—wrote, “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

But the law’s future still isn’t totally clear, either. The New York Time’s published an article immediately after the decision titled “Obamacare Ruling May Have Just Killed State-Based Exchanges;” now that it’s been decided that subsidies can be given through federal exchanges, it’s technically possible states that have already set up their own healthcare exchange, like New York, might just decide to let the feds handle the whole thing.

“There may be a little bit of buyers’ remorse going on in some state capitals right now,” Sabrina Corlette, director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, told the Times.

Westchester Congressman Eliot L. Engel, who told Westchester Magazine that New Yorkers could count on their state-run exchange regardless of the outcome of King v. Burwell, said Friday that even New York opted to revert to a federally run exchange, if high-quality coverage was available, it would still be a win for New Yorkers.

“The bottom line for me is affordable health care for everybody. I don’t care if it’s done in state exchanges or federal exchanges. I don’t really care about the mechanism, what I care about is that affordable health care is available to everybody,” Engel said. “It is available to everybody in New York based on the New York exchange, and at some point if there’s a federal exchange where the quality of care is the same as it is now—or better—then it doesn’t bother me. We have to keep our eye on the prize, and the prize is that in New York everybody gets health coverage that’s affordable. I’ve always believed that health coverage is a right not a luxury.”

New York Health Exchange Set To Recognize Pregnancy As “Life Qualifying Event” For Enrollment

Originally published in Westchester Magazine

June 22, 2015

Women who become pregnant will be eligible to enroll in insurance places from NY State of Health.

For residents of New York, getting health insurance as a pregnant woman is on track to becoming easier after the state legislature passed last week a first-of-its-kind bill changing how pregnancy would be classified at the state’s health insurance exchange.

The legislation will classify pregnancy as a “qualifying life event;” once the open enrollment periods to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare) end each year, only people who experience these events—getting married, having a baby or adopting a child, losing health coverage, among others—are still eligible to enroll. Becoming pregnant originally did not make the cut.

Now, if Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the legislation, New York will become the first state to make that addition. If signed into law, it will allow NY State of Health, New York’s healthcare exchange, to accept applications from women who are uninsured, underinsured, or who don’t qualify for Medicaid to purchase health insurance once they become pregnant. It will provide New York’s moms-to-be with access to vital prenatal care, which is important for both mother and baby.

“Ending prematurity, premature birth, birth defects, and infant mortality in New York State could realize an annual savings of over $1 billion dollars,” said Caitlin Goss, state director of advocacy and government affairs for the New York State chapter of March of Dimes. “We know that prenatal care is one of the best ways to help mom have the healthiest pregnancy, and thereby the healthiest baby possible. And so, by making this initial investment, we’re confident that we’re going to the see the number of poor birth outcomes, as well as the number of premature births, decrease, which will in turn decrease the utilization of health care services.”

According to March of Dimes, the average medical cost for a healthy baby is less than $5,000, while the average medical cost for a premature baby is more than $55,000.

“New York State is providing a model for the nation in establishing a special enrollment period for pregnancy,” said March of Dimes Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs Cynthia Pellegrini in a press release. “The March of Dimes urges every state to follow New York’s lead in ensuring that all pregnant women have access to affordable, quality health insurance.”

March of Dimes commended Westchester and Hudson Valley Assemblymen Gary Pretlow, Thomas Abinanti, Steven Otis, Kieran Michael Lalor, and James Skoufis, and State Senators George Latimer, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Sue Serino for their support of the legislation.

“A woman should not have to worry about the enrollment period of her health insurance plan when she becomes pregnant,” said Abinanti, who represents Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant. “It makes sense to reopen the enrollment time for her. Good prenatal care is vital to protecting the health of pregnant women and to ensure that they have healthy babies.”