Best Work of 2016

I’m happy to report that I had another productive and fulfilling year journalistically in 2016. Below are some highlights:

Investigative Work at The Lens, and Other News Coverage

Investigative news and education coverage at The Lens

Click the link above to see my latest pieces published in The Lens, an investigative online news site. I cover seven charter schools for the New Orleans-based website, and also contribute stories about criminal justice, transportation and politics.

My stories appear in the publication on a weekly basis. I also produce radio pieces as part of a collaboration between The Lens and WWNO, the local NPR-affiliate radio station. Recently, I produced The Lens’ first video story as part of a series on student transportation.

I was recently named News Director at Mid-City Messenger, a multimedia news site that focuses on the central New Orleans neighborhood, and I freelance for several other major publications in the city. To see highlights of my work in The Lens, Gambit, WWNO, The New Orleans Advocate,, Mid-City Messenger and, peruse through the links on the right of the page. A summary of the story and the name of the publication will pop up when you scroll over the headline.

Radio Feature for WWNO

As Mississippi River Ferry Service Slowly Disappears, Many Are Searching For Answers

The link above will bring you to my first full-length radio feature for WWNO, the local NPR-affiliate here in New Orleans. The story was done in collaboration with The Lens, an investigative nonprofit news site.

The radio story complimented a more in-depth policy piece on the same subject, that you can find here.

DNAinfo Chicago Video Update


Above you can see examples of the daily video updates I designed for Chicago.

This is a news program I envisioned and produced for the company back in October 2012 in Chicago. It’s now run and maintained by journalists and editors in the newsroom there. The video update appears on the site daily, featuring an interview with either a source or a journalist from one of the site’s top stories. The daily program is created in a glass studio situated directly in the Chicago newsroom. The studio was created after several trips to Chicago, where DNAinfo editors, tech support staff and I experimented with different backgrounds and video formats.

The hostess is trained to run the project as a one-woman band: she sets up the camera to be recorded, interviews the subject and then edits the project in Final Cut Pro X using (sometimes) multi-camera editing techniques. B-roll of video feed relating to the story is played during the interview, for context.

The link to this story and to more of anchor Jackie Kostek’s work can be found here.

Tenants Demand Building Repairs

In the room where Luis Correa’s six children sleep, black mold creeps along the walls, and frigid air blows in through broken windows. Throughout the house, the linoleum floors buckle under the weight of footsteps. Exposed electrical wires in the living room spark if the air gets too damp. The stove doesn’t work. Neither does the heat, hot water, or bathtub drain. Last winter, Correa, 33, slept in his coat for two weeks when his apartment got so cold that the ceilings cracked and icicles hung over his bed.

“It’s horrible. I had to come back to this,” Correa said, about being raised in the building and returning to it after being laid off in Florida last year.  “Before my children had freedom, grass, now this…it’s not fair to them.”

Correa’s building at 1640 University Ave., and the adjoining one, 1636 University Ave., were put on the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program in November, which pressures landlords of the city’s 200 worst buildings to address housing code violations. They are among the six Bronx buildings Hunter Property Management real estate investor Sam Suzuki purchased in May for $13 million.

In a desperate attempt to draw attention to the buildings’ 3,000 violations, members of Urban Homestead Association Board, a not-for-profit organizing group, met with angry tenants on Nov. 19 to protest outside Dime Savings Bank on Turnbull Avenue in Soundview, where the buildings’ mortgage is held. The protesters carried signs that showed some of worst violations, including collapsing ceilings, busted windows, and front doors with no locks.

“We are all fighting for security.  There’s no lock in here at all. Anyone can walk in,” said tenant Alfredo Gonzalez, who lives at 1585 E. 172nd Street, another Hunter Property Management building. “We’re humans and we pay rent and we have a right to services.”

Many of the protestors claim that the landlord is attempting to force them out in order to bring in new tenants and charge higher rates. Some tenants have received eviction notices after withholding rent in an attempt to force Suzuki to do repairs.

The six buildings have had a history of ownership problems – the previous landlord, Ocelot Capital Group, a private equity company notorious for mismanagement, abandoned them last year.

Kerri White, senior organizer at the UHAB, said that her organization is working with these tenants to force bank intervention to protect them from a negligent landlord. White says that these buildings are in danger of going into foreclosure.

“When you look at the conditions in the buildings, you can’t help but be moved by it because it’s criminal,” White said. “It’s absolutely criminal.”

Predatory management practices have been increasing in New York since the 1990’s, said Benjamin Dulchin, the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, an affordable housing advocacy group.

“Even though the building may be in bad condition, there are landlords who are willing to speculate,” Dulchin said. “They buy the building, bring the rent up.”

The rents cannot support the buildings’ mortgage because the amount Sam Suzuki paid was too high, according to Urban Homestead.

Suzuki says he bought the properties at market value.  The tenants who received eviction notices haven’t paid rent in years, he said, and the protests will not stop them from being evicted.

Suzuki acknowledged that he has not fixed all of the violations that incurred under previous management.  “You can’t fix 3,000 violations in one day,” he said.

Dina Levy, UHAB’s policy director, said that Sukuki’s response to the tenants organizing and withholding rent is unusually aggressive, and they have encouraged renters to take him to court.

“We advise them to put rent into an escrow account,” Levy said. “Honestly, they shouldn’t have to pay because they’re not getting any services.”

Suzuki disagrees.

“I think UHAB is a bunch of communists,” he said. “They have a huge lawsuit coming their way.”