LAURELS & DARTS
Opinion from the Editors
LAUREL to the NEW YORK CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, which announced Friday that new HIV diagnoses reached a historic low last year. According to an annual HIV Surveillance Report, 1,917 New Yorkers were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2018, down 11 percent from the 2,157 new diagnoses in 2017 and down 67 percent since 2001, when reporting began. Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island saw the greatest declines in new diagnoses from 2017 to 2018. Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot attributed the decline to the NYC Ending the Epidemic Plan, which launched in 2015 and invests $23 million a year in STI testing, preventative drugs like PEP and PrEP, HIV treatment and public campaigns to educate about and destigmatize the disease. “We take a data-driven, sex-positive approach to HIV prevention that is firmly grounded in equity — and we are proving that it works,” Bardot said in a statement.
DART to the NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, for using a faulty drug test that produced false positives, causing prisoners to endure solitary confinement, extended prison stays and other unfair punishment. According to documents obtained by WNYC/Gothamist, corrections officials believe that approximately 2,000 prisoners were tested with the flawed kits manufactured by Thermo Fisher Scientific. The DOCCS has said it has suspended use of the test and is working to expunge records and reverse unwarranted punitive measures where possible. But much of the harm is irreversible. One falsely accused prisoner who has since been released, Nadezda Steele-Warrick, told Gothamist that inaccurate results from one of the tests caused her to be kept in isolation for 11 days and to be denied family visits. “Once I realized I was not going to see my family it was absolutely devastating news for me,” Steele-Warrick said.
DART to NATIONAL GRID, the utility company with a monopoly in the New York City area that is refusing to hook up new gas customers unless the state approves the Williams pipeline, which would carry fracked gas beneath New York harbor. Environmentalists have raised concerns that digging up the seabed would unleash heavy metals and other toxins and create the potential for spills. The state says National Grid has failed to demonstrate that the pipeline is crucial to meeting the region’s energy demands. Still, the company has persisted in freezing out new customers, many of whom are without heat as the standoff ensues. Gov. Cuomo has said he will revoke the utility’s license to operate in southern New York if the company does not restore service to customers this month.
DART to the MTA, for not repairing the solar panels atop the Stillwell Terminal since they were damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The panels, which the agency declined to provide an exact price tag for, were part of a $310 station rehabilitation project that began in 2001, but they were only operational for seven years. During the storm, water knocked out electrical equipment on the street level, taking the panels offline, though the panels themselves were essentially undamaged. According to estimates by the New York Post, the system was expected to reduce carbon emissions by 17,000 tons over 40 years. Instead it’s a shiny, inert roof-topper, and a reminder that the agency fails again and again to maintain the taxpayer-funded infrastructure it presides over.