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Freezing in New York

During a cold snap for record books, New York’s homeless sought shelter in subways, while JFK Airport descended into gridlock

Freezing in New York

A homeless person sleeps in a New York subway station on Tuesday. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

A New York moment:

We here in New York have made it through the longest spell of subfreezing temperatures since 1961. That stat is probably true for many other parts of the Eastern Seaboard that braced under the recent Arctic blast. Wind chills were in the negative 10 to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit range here. This past weekend I was walking 10 blocks to a friend’s apartment as the wind snapped through my coat, and wondering why I left home. Cold is brutal in a city where you habitually walk places—but I know my Minnesota relatives aren’t too sympathetic.

When the temperature drops to frostbite levels, New York City institutes “Code Blue,” where city staff and police scour streets and try to move the homeless somewhere warm. The mayor said that in one night this past weekend the city brought in about 20 individuals to shelters or hospitals.

Meanwhile, many of the homeless took to the subways to stay warm. The Bowery Mission notes that, although the Arctic snap is over, there is “no mild winter” for the homeless. Its emergency shelter is averaging 150 guests a night. The city is dealing with record-high homelessness, with 60,000 homeless individuals as of the fall.

Worth your time:  

This is what it looks like to mismanage an airport in a snowstorm. Between a water main break, airline decisions that sent international flights on trips halfway across the Atlantic Ocean and back, and a lack of staffers and food, John F. Kennedy International Airport was a place you did not want to be during the bomb cyclone.

This week I learned:

Not to try to kill a spider with a lighter. Who among us can’t sympathize with these folks?

A court case you might not know about:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Wyoming Municipal Judge Ruth Neely, who said she couldn’t officiate same-sex marriages because of her religious beliefs (she’s part of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod). The Wyoming Supreme Court had censured Neely last year, but said she could continue to serve as a municipal judge as long as she did not perform any marriages at all. In Wyoming, municipal judges don’t have to do marriages. When I talked to Christian Legal Society attorney Kim Colby about the case, she said this situation creates a “religious test for office.”

Culture I am consuming:

This past weekend I screened Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Disaster Artist in preparation for awards season. Each film has received its share of nominations. On Sunday I and a few friends watched the Golden Globes, where James Franco won best actor in a musical or comedy for Disaster Artist, and Three Billboards cleaned up—winning best drama motion picture, best motion picture screenplay, best actress (Frances McDormand, deservedly), and best supporting actor (Sam Rockwell).

I’ll share more of my thoughts about Three Billboards separately, but for now my thought is: Why aren’t awards shows better entertainment? They have plenty of potential for drama (who will win?), but with their four-hour runtime they somehow manage to be about as exciting as a sewer rate meeting. Still, I watched—for the sake of you readers, of course.

Postscript: Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at



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  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 11:39 am

    60,000 homeless and the mayor and his minions are only able to bring in 20 on a bitter night?   Seems like the epitome of breaucratic inefficiency.  Did I read that right?