NYC Council Member Calls on State Comptroller to Audit MTA and NYC Subway System

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Tuesday, June 27, 2017 — A New York City council member says he wants an audit into how taxpayers’ money is being spent on upgrading the city’s struggling subway system.

Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, who also serves as the chairman of the council’s Committee on Transportation, spoke Tuesday near the scene in Harlem where a subway train derailed in the morning, causing non-life-threatening injuries to more than 30 people.

Rodriguez called on State Comptroller Thomas  DiNapoli to investigate the train system “line-by-line.”

Rodriguez said that “enough is enough” and that “this is a breaking point.”

Below are Mr. Rodriguez’s comments, verbatim:

Rodriguez: “morning everyone. This morning, I took a train at 8:40 in the morning, [at] Dyckman Street (northern tip of Manhattan), and if any of you follow my Twitter, you can see how the A train on Dyckman Street looked like, at 8:30 in the morning: almost packed. Yes, because the MTA [the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, agency that runs the city’s subways] has not been able to upgrade the signal system in this particular line, of the A train. This is a breaking point. Enough is enough. The MTA is a 1-trillion-dollar corporation, with a value of 30 billion dollars, with seven municipalities, from Westchester to Long Island, Connecticut and New York City, making important contribution. Our contribution is not only 3 billion dollars. Our contribution as a city, is the 50 cents that anyone contributes when they take a yellow taxi. Our contribution is when any particular New Yorker sells a residential house, and the value is more than 500,000 dollars, there are taxes that go to the MTA. We deserve to run the MTA at the same level of London, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Today, as the chairman of the Transportation Committee of the New York City Council, I’m calling to put politics aside, and to recognize that we have a big responsibility, to run a transportation system (inaudible) that New Yorkers and tourists deserve. That’s why I’m calling the (New York) State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, to come onboard, and do a line-by-line audit, on how we invest our single dollars to do the maintenance and repair and to upgrade the signals of these trains.”

Rodriguez: “what I believe that we are facing today, is a better plan, is a comprehensive plan, and New Yorkers deserve to know, all the information, when the project starts, when the project will be finished. For many years, even before it came to chairing this committee, we’ve been told that the money (inaudible) to upgrade signal of the A train, and it is still, we cannot go to residents of Inwood, residents of the West Side, residents of Brooklyn, and Far Rockaway, to know when will we finish upgrading the signal of the A train. So I think this is the time for State Comptroller to come onboard, and do a line-by-line audit on how we spend taxpayer dollars for the seven municipalities that make many contributions to the largest transportation system in the world, the MTA.”


MTA Board Meeting – June 21, 2017

MTA Board Meeting – Wednesday, June 21, 2017


John Raskin
Executive Director of the Riders Alliance

John Raskin (starts speaking around 47:00 in the webcast): “I’m here to talk to you about a problem that you’re likely familiar with, given the level of rage and frustration from millions of daily transit riders, which is the rapid deterioration of our public transit system, as a very old system that has been underinvested in, and continues to fall apart. Governor Cuomo did not invent the policy of investing too little in mass transit. The state has been culpable for decades for putting too little money in, and in recent years, year over year, taking money out of MTA’s budget. But Governor Cuomo has been in office for six years, and it’s his responsibility now to address the problem. One month ago, Governor Cuomo gathered the public to announce that he would take responsibility for fixing our ailing transit system. But the governor has yet to produce a plan for how he will do that, or the timeline for a plan, or a notion of how he will find the funding, to make that possible. In fact, the only significant proposals, that have been put forth in the month since Governor Cuomo said he would take responsibility for fixing the system, are the MTA’s amendment to the capital program, which provided for various of Governor Cuomo’s priorities, but did nothing to fix the day-to-day problems on the subway system, and the governor’s last-minute proposal of yesterday afternoon, to restructure the MTA board, which every serious observer knows is not actually the barrier to improving the public transit. Any path to fixing our subway system begins with Governor Cuomo putting forth a credible plan for how to upgrade the MTA equipment, improve MTA operations, and institute a fair sustainable funding source to make it work. Taking responsibility is a necessary first step, and that’s the step that governor took in public, a month ago, but the next step is a plan, and that is something that riders are still waiting for. Thank you.”

Weekend of Balkan and Eastern European music and dance descends on NYC (Multimedia Content)

by Zlatko Filipović • @zfilipov

Saturday, January 16, 2016

NEW YORK CITY —An explosion of traditional Balkan and Eastern European melodies and dance is taking over New York City this weekend.

Not only is the 31st annual Zlatne Uste Golden Festival underway in Brooklyn, but New Yorkers are also in for a rare treat as the Nightingale Trio kicks off a series of performances around the city. (Scroll below for multimedia from the group’s performance in Brooklyn on Friday (1/15) night)

The group is made up of three young women: Rachel LaViola, Sarah Larsson and Nila Bala. They are all former members of the Yale Slavic Chorus, where they met. You can also catch the Yale Slavic Chorus during Saturday’s (1/16) Zlatne Uste Golden Festival.

Also performing Saturday (1/16) night will be the New York-based female vocal ensemble Rosa, who perform traditional music from Serbia and other parts of the Balkans. I highlighted Rosa a few months ago here.

For the complete schedule of Saturday’s (1/16) bands and groups at Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, go here.

Today, each member of the Nightingale Trio lives in a different part of the U.S. and they occasionally reunite to share with the world their love and passion for this type of music.

On their website, the group describes itself as “village harmonies, birdsong lullabies, and moonlit round dances; black cherries and plum brandy. Singing songs of love, war, and blooming fields, the Nightingale Trio transports and enchants audiences from Dallas to Dubrovnik.”

The first show took place Friday (1/15) night at Brooklyn’s charming Jalopy Theatre and School of Music. The group not only performed more than a dozen songs, but also told stories behind each one, in a fun, relaxed and humorous way.

Here’s the list of the remaining shows.

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(Note: still photos and videos from the Nightingale Trio performances in New York this week have been shot by Zlatko Filipović with permission of the group)




Bosnia Trip 2015 — Reconnecting With My Heritage

In September 2015, I went back to Bosnia-Herzegovina for the first time since I left in 1999, when I was 14 years old. It was my first visit to Sarajevo since 1996, and first visit to my birthplace of Tuzla since 1999. In this multimedia presentation, I share some things I saw, heard and did during the trip.

One of the most emotional experiences happened during my first-ever visit to Markale Open Market. The Markale Massacres in 1994 and 1995 claimed the lives of more than 110 civilians. My eyes filled with tears even as I began to approach the market from a distance. My tour guide told me ahead of time that that’s where we’re going next, and I immediately started to get emotional as we headed there. I never had the opportunity to grieve the lives lost there. That day, I got to grieve and pay my respects to the innocent people who are gone.

This was also my first time in Bosnia-Herzegovina as an adult. I knew many things as a kid, but things are different when viewed with adult eyes and processed with adult mind.

One of the things I enjoyed most was getting to experience and explore the cultural diversity of BiH for the first time as adult and while walking the Bosnian streets.

I also loved exploring the many influences that both the East and the West have had on BiH and thinking about the meaning of it all. I thought a lot about the fact that four major religions/religious groups are represented within a short walking distance from each other in Sarajevo and what it means for the city, the country and the region.

Sixteen years is a long time to not see your place of birth. It’s not that I didn’t want to go back to BiH sooner. It’s just that life happened, and one thing led to another, and years just rolled on. Next thing I know, it’s been 16 years. The fact that I was 14 when I left also plays into this, because my options and ability to come back to visit were limited due to many factors, including growing up, education, career and getting accustomed to a new culture and way of life.

It feels great to start reconnecting with the country of my birth and my native culture. I think it’s important for every person to do this and to celebrate and respect where they and their ancestors come from.

– Zlatko Filipović

Click here to view multimedia content from the trip


Bosnian War exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

This road sign from Bosnia once stood along the main road linking Sarajevo and the city’s airport. The road—Vojvode Putnika—was known as “Sniper Alley” during the 1992-95 conflict. As the scores of holes from small-arms and tank-cannon fire attest, the area was under constant fire from Bosnian Serb forces and was one of the most dangerous parts of the city. The sign directed drivers to cities in the former Yugoslavia. (Loan, David Rust, CNN) — The pick-up truck, I’m told by the Newseum staff, was used by TIME Magazine during the wars of the 90s in the former Yugoslavia.








Record-breaking attendance in all 12 years

(written by Sanida Luković and Zlatko Filipović)

New York City, May 2015 – We are pleased to announce the Golden Apple winners for the twelfth annual Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival (BHFF), held May 21-23 at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City:

BHFF Jury Award for Best Short Film: The Chicken by Una Gunjak.

BHFF Jury Award for Best Feature Film: The Bridges of Sarajevo, showcasing the talents of 13 European directors, including Leonardo di Constanzo, Jean-Luc Godard, Kamen Kalev, Isild Le Besco, Sergei Loynitsa, Vicenyo Marra, Ursula Meier, Vladimir Perišić, Cristi Puiu, Marc Recha, Angela Schanelec, Aida Begić and Teresa Villaverde.

BHFF Jury Award for Best Documentary Film: Pretty Village, directed by Dave Evans and produced by Kemal Pervanić.

BHFF Audience Award for Best Picture: Racket, a feature film directed by Admir Buljugić.

All winning films were announced at the festival’s Closing Party on Saturday, May 23, held in The Varick Room at Tribeca Cinemas.

Jury Award winners were selected by the official BHFF 2015 Jury, an expert panel comprising acclaimed filmmaker and media executive Pamela Hogan, award-winning journalist Almin Karamehmedović, and scholar of cultural and cinema studies Dijana Jelača. Hogan and Jelača attended the BHFF and announced the Golden Apple Award winners in each category during the Closing Party.

When asked to comment about their selection for the BHFF Jury Award for Best Feature Film, Jelača and Hogan stated: “While not a traditional feature, we salute this fascinating experiment comprising 13 short films, and 13 distinct artistic visions of Sarajevo from 1914-2014. It brings together an impressive list of international filmmakers, who tackle a variety of important themes from Sarajevo’s, as well as the region’s, past and present.”

Una Gunjak, London-based director of The Chicken, was unable to accept her Jury Award for Best Short Film in person, but was delighted to receive the news from NYC: “It warms my heart and I am sending [big thanks] across the pond to you. It is particularly tense for me to show the film to an audience that is not just familiar with the Balkan region – but also comes from Bosnia – to an audience that has the right to judge and question your choices. It’s a big test of the heart for me – for the film. I want to say a huge thank you to the jury, to everyone who made it to the screening, to the dedicated and supporting team of BHFF and say how sorry I am for not being able to celebrate with you tonight.”

Kemal Pervanić, producer and protagonist of Pretty Village, also sent a statement from London. He emphasized the importance of his documentary film: “Pretty Village had to be done for so many different reasons. It had to be not only a survivor testimony. It also had to be a piece of art which creates a depository of memory upon which we try to build a civilised society. It’s been a privilege to have Pretty Village selected for this year’s Festival. To win an award is a massive honour, it’s a humbling experience for all of us at Pretty Village.” Pervanić added: “I’d like to congratulate all the other filmmakers whose works were included in the festival. Thank you BHFF organisers, thank you members of the jury, thank you members of the audience. By watching the film you have lent us your support.”

Admir Buljugić won the BHFF Audience Award for Best Picture for his directorial efforts on the feature film Racket. Buljugić expressed his gratitude from Sarajevo: “I am thrilled that the film Racket won the Audience Award. We make films for the audience so we are very happy that it was received so well.”

This year’s audience was the biggest in BHFF history. Attendance in 2015 surpassed the all-time record set in 2007.

We were also joined by a great number of special guests and we thank them for supporting the BHFF:

  • Muamer Čelik, director of Toy Car
  • Aleksandar Hemon, co-writer of Love Island
  • Rialda Zukić, director of Bad Blood
  • Irena Škorić, director of Dear Lastan!
  • Darko Herič, director of photography for Dear Lastan!
  • Denis Butkus, actor in A Quintet
  • Tanya L. Domi, Columbia University’s Harriman Institute; Emerging Democracies Institute
  • Kenan Trebinčević, author of “The Bosnia List”
  • Jadranka Negodić, Bosnian-Herzegovinian Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Adnan Hadrović, Minister-Counselor & Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Seeking Truth in the Balkans filmmakers and Q&A panelists: June Ellen Vutrano and Erin Lovall – directors and producers of Seeking Truth in the Balkans
  • Richard Dicker, Director of The International Justice Program for Human Rights Watch
  • Jennifer Trahan, Associate Clinical Professor of Global Affairs at NYU
  • Belinda Cooper, Senior Fellow World Policy Institute

The BHFF team would like to express our deepest gratitude to the local businesses that donated food for Opening and Closing nights of the Festival: Šeher Restaurant, Djerdan Burek Shop and Kafana.

We would also like to thank the incredible media team covering the festival this year:

  • Portuguese journalist Ricardo Alexandre Sousa, who has decades of experience covering Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans. He was formerly Deputy News Director at RTP, Portuguese Public Radio and TV
  • Oleh Dubno, New York City-based photographer and videographer and BHFF volunteer
  • Adnan Šačiragić, Toronto-based photographer and BHFF supporter
  • Mario Marquez, New York City-based photographer
  • Mirza Medunjanin, New York City-based photographer and BHFF volunteer

That is all for now! We are already excited to start planning next year’s event and hope that you can join us for lucky #13!