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Call That an Earthquake? By L.A. Standards, It Was a Nothing.

Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll find out more about the earthquake that shook New York just a little bit. We’ll also unpack statistics showing that overall crime fell slightly in New York City last year.

New York City lived through an earthquake — a 1.7 magnitude earthquake. This was before dawn on Tuesday.

In journalism, you hear a lot about providing context, so for that, I did the obvious thing: I reached out to a couple of people in Los Angeles. One was Adam Nagourney, a Times reporter who moved there years ago after he was named Los Angeles bureau chief.

He said that when he feels even the slightest shake, he looks at the X platform. He can judge how extensive and serious it was from the posts asking “did you feel that” that inevitably pop up.

“All that said, and no offense to my friends in Queens,” he told me, “a 1.7 earthquake would not even merit a tweet here. It’s background noise, if it is even noise. I think it has to get above 3 or 3.5 before people notice.”

The same may be true in New York. And it is probably worth noting that a 1.2 magnitude earthquake was reported on Wednesday morning near Loma Linda, Calif., about 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, according to a post on X from Quakebot, a computer application that sends word when the United States Geological Survey detects an earthquake. This followed a 4.1 magnitude earthquake that could be felt on Monday during the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Thomas Pratt, a research geophysicist for the Geological Survey, told my colleague Erin Nolan that New York experiences numerous tiny earthquakes every year. Most go unnoticed because they originate underground, sometimes as far down as 12½ miles. The one on Tuesday in Queens began only about three miles beneath the surface.

There was a time when there were big earthquakes in the New York area. That was before it was New York, before it was New Amsterdam and even before that, when the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano had given it a French name because his expeditions were backed by a French king.

Hundreds of millions of years earlier, the land that is now New York had thrashed about as continents crashed into each other. John Mutter, a professor of earth and environmental studies at Columbia University, said that in time, the fault lines that run through the Mid-Atlantic region calmed down.

“A lot of what you feel here, these little earthquakes, are a settling down of the stresses from way back then,” Mutter told Erin. The contractions from what was a very active plate boundary very long ago don’t just shut off, he added: “It takes a while for things to settle.”

It’s unlikely that a major earthquake will hit the city and cause significant structural damage. More often than not, even noticeable earthquakes cause no real damage, Mutter said.

“The problem with New York City buildings — and you see it all the time with scaffolding structures — is the facades are often sort of fragile,” Mutter said. “If you got a halfway decent earthquake, what you’d see in New York is air-conditioners falling out of windows, or flower boxes, or ornate facades.”


Weather

Prepare for a chance of showers on a day that will begin cloudy, then turn mostly sunny, with a high in the mid-40s. Wind gusts persist through a mostly clear evening, with temperatures dropping to the mid-20s.

ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKING

In effect until Saturday (Three Kings Day).


Overall crime fell slightly in New York City last year compared with 2022, but felony assaults and car thefts soared, the police said on Wednesday.

The total number of crimes fell by 0.32 percent. Police officials said that there were significant drops in the number of shootings and murders, as well as in categories the police consider major crimes: robberies, burglaries, sexual assaults and grand larcenies.

  • More people were victims of felony assaults — 27,849, up 6.3 percent.

  • More car thefts were reported — 15,802, up 15 percent.

Mayor Eric Adams said the decrease in overall crime was a sign that the city was making progress in its efforts to improve public safety and strengthen the perception that the city is a safe place for residents and tourists.

Adams appeared to take a swipe at a bill called the How Many Stops Act, which the City Council passed just before Christmas. It would require police officers to log information whenever they stop someone on the street, not just when they are investigating a crime. Adams said on Wednesday that his administration would push back on “any form of making our officers not do police work and do paperwork.”

Adams said critics of the police were out of touch with “working New Yorkers” and mentioned Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, who had pushed for the bill. Adams described Williams as an insulated official who “lives in a fort,” doesn’t take the subway and is driven by a police detail. (Adams also has his own police detail.)

Williams later called the mayor’s statements those of a “5-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, grabbing at straws.”



Gov. Kathy Hochul is not scheduled to deliver her State of the State address until next week, but this week she has been previewing her message.

On Tuesday, she called for new consumer protection laws “to put stronger regulatory guardrails around the buy now, pay later loan industry.”

On Wednesday, she went to an elementary school outside Albany to propose “long overdue” changes in the way reading is taught in many schools in New York.

She was introduced by a fourth grader, Nathan Rogers, who said he loves reading so much that he has a stash of books under his bed. Hochul said she had been a reader when she was about his age: As a third grader, she said, she was fascinated by a biography of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

“I checked it out so much that one day the library said, ‘Why don’t you just keep it,’” she said.

Now, New York, once a national leader in education reform, ranks 32nd in reading proficiency. Hochul wants to spend $10 million to retrain teachers in what is known as the “science of reading,” which involves teaching children to sound out words, decode them and understand their meaning.

She is also calling for updated state standards and for new programs at the State University of New York and City University of New York to teach these methods to teachers.

She said the changes would bring New York “in line with the nation’s best practices.” New York City announced last year that it would begin an overhaul of reading instruction across its elementary schools.

Besides previewing the State of the State, Hochul told reporters about the state of her left arm. It was in a sling.

“I tore the pec muscle in the gym,” she said. She said she had been lifting 70 pounds when, in the spirit of New Year’s fitness resolutions, she tried for 10 more — “and my body said no to 80.”


METROPOLITAN diary

Dear Diary:

I was up early to catch up on papers for my classes when I heard a garbage truck grinding down my Harlem street. It was just before 6 a.m. and still dark outside. I realized I hadn’t taken out the trash.

I got the plastic and paper for recycling bagged up, but the truck was past my house by the time I got to the street.

I caught up with one of the sanitation workers on the sidewalk.

“Plastic?” I asked.

“Paper,” he said.

I chased the truck to the corner and tossed my paper straight in. Just then, my eyes caught sight of an unmistakable bright spot in the starless sky.

Seeing me stop, the worker stopped as well.

I pointed up.

“Venus,” I said.

His eyes followed my finger.

“This is Venus?” he said, his face breaking into a smile.

His colleague, seeing the two of us look up, looked up too.

“Venus,” we all said together, standing there for a few moments without another word.

— Frederic Colier

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