Archive for the 'nyc' Category Page 4 of 4

Welfare in NYC: not as pretty a picture as Bloomberg would like to paint

Last week while listening to NPR, I heard news of the drop of welfare rolls in NYC to a 40-year low, a statistic that Mayor Bloomberg is touting as a major success. From a City Limits article published today:

“We promised to move New Yorkers to self-sufficiency and we are delivering on that promise in a historic way,” Bloomberg states. Of those who leave welfare for work, 88 percent keep their jobs for at least three months, and 75 percent still have them after six.

Now, when I heard those figures, I was immediately skeptical. Those numbers sounded good, but it’s easy to make numbers sound good by leaving the bad stuff out. And, as the City Limits article reports, it seems that’s precisely what’s going on here:

But the press release [put out by the mayor on April 5] never explains that those numbers apply only to the 23 percent of former clients known to have jobs at all. The other 77 percent aren’t tracked by HRA, according to spokesperson Robert McHugh.

Most of those 77% simply stop showing up for their appointments. Welfare advocates say that much of that drop off is due to the severe difficulties, obstacles, even hostility that people face when attempting to access welfare benefits. As Jillynn Stevens of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies says in the article, “There is every attempt to not sign people up, to exclude them from eligibility, to make it as unfriendly and difficult as possible to be a welfare recipient.”

Bloomberg can dress up the numbers all he wants, but the truth remains that welfare reform has done far more to harm poor folks than to help them. To his credit, Bloomberg is currently seeking to make it easier for some adults to get food stamps, but there’s a lot more to be done to redress the harm done by the anti-poor policies of current mayor and his predecessor Giuliani.


Today’s post title comes to you from this funny and smart animation by Mark Fiore, which I discovered by reading a great post of the same name by Junichi over at Poplicks. Check that blog out for good reasons why we should be thankful that the immigration reform “compromise” bill wasn’t passed (and hopeful that something that actual resembles justice does get passed in the end.)

Yesterday’s rally was actually one of the best, most fun, and most inspiring I’ve ever been to. When my girlfriend and I arrived at Canal and Broadway, the end of the protest was right there on that block – very impressive, though possibly also a partial result of the weird spacing that the police caused with their stupid penning tactics, now familiar to any New Yorker who has seen or attended protests in recent years. The going was slow but eventually we made it down to City Hall, lots more people still flowing in behind us even though we’d gotten to the protest pretty late.

Part of the effectiveness of the protest was that it was felt very focused – it really did feel like we were all raising a unified cry for justice and immigrants rights. The mood was optimistic and almost festive – yes, there was the gravity of the matters at hand and the anger and frustration at how immigrants are abused in this country, but there was also the high energy and high spirits of many peoples gathering together to fight for something that they really think they might get – that hope is really important and I think is often less evident at many protests.

Also, Latinos know how to make just about everything more fun than anyone else (hehe, sorry other folks, gotta have the Latino pride here.) Other than the Still We Rise march back during the RNC (which probably ties this one for Jack’s Best Protest thusfar), this was probably the most people-of-color-dominated protests I’ve ever been to. Even though me and my girlfriend (who is white) were lost in a crowd of strangers for most of the protest, I felt really happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, surrounded by so many proud Latinos, yelling “¡Sí se puede!” and “El pubelo unido jamás será vencido!” at the top of our lungs.

Speaking of that, though, the overwhelming number of Latinos at the protest made me pissed off at NPR’s local NYC coverage this morning, in which three people with white-sounding last names and american accents were interviewed. Like, come on, they must have worked really hard to find those few white folks swimming in a veritable sea of brown. (Yes, I know, it might’ve been a fluke, and I can’t really say for sure that those people were white or non-Latino, but still.)

One thing that was weird for me was the amount of american flag-waving going on at the rally. Maybe it was in response to the kind of bullshit criticism of the presence of other countries’ flags that I wrote about yesterday, or maybe it was all really genuine sentiment, but either way, there were tons of ’em, everywhere. I’m not much of a fan of the american flag, since to me it can’t be anything but a symbol of the centuries of genocide, land theft, slavery, imperialism, and other assorted oppression that has been wreaked in the name of the good ol’ u.s. of a. And most of the protests that I attend are critical of the u.s. in ways that don’t seem to prompt a lot of flag flying. I know that immigration protests are a different story – the whole point is about people wanting and deserving to live in this country, so it makes sense that they should carry the flag as a symbol that they, too, are americans. But american patriotism, in any form and for any reason, still kind of icks me out.

On that topic, here’s a good look from the folks at Media Matters at the inanity, the bigotry, and the hypocricy being spewed by some conservatives over protestors carrying the flags of Mexico and other countries. One particularly obnoxious comment from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:

Well, aren’t there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations? What makes the Mexican displays more ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America’s laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it.

Hmm… now, come on, Richie, is that what really scares you about those Mexican flags? Let’s see… Irish and Italians… ethnic groups who used to be persecuted in this country but have now been well assimilated into the white ruling class. Mexicans… SCARY BROWN PEOPLE AUUUUUUGH! And look – they’re not just serving your food or cleaning your house – they’re all together! And proud! Empowered, even! Yes, for much of white america, I bet that’s a very frightening spectacle, indeed.

All right, back to the protest. About an hour or so of slow as molasses marching (thanks, NYPD!) we reached the point where speakers and screens were set up so that we could take in the speeches going on down by City Hall. We’d missed many of the speakers by that point, but two of the ones I heard – Roger Toussaint of the Transit Worker’s Union (who, in yet another travesty of “justice,” was sentenced to ten days in prison and $1000 for defending his workers’ rights) and a Filipina woman whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke before him (if someone knows who she was, please tell me!) – reminded us of something that I think many americans, especially those who are anti-immigration, tend to forget: america’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their home countries in search of a better life in this one. Democracy Now! provides this quote from Toussaint:

Everyone here should think long and hard about what is happening in America today. We have a government that creates immigrants by the millions and then mistreats them. I say the U.S. creates immigrants the old-fashioned way. If you have tyranny and oppression and famine and poverty around the world, you are going to have immigrants coming to the U.S. No wall is going to stop them. No fence with barbed wire on the Mexican border or no frozen moat on the Canadian border is going to stop them. It will just make it easier to arrest and brutalize them. We don’t need a wall. We need a new foreign policy, so people can make a decent living and live in peace in their home countries.

That’s crucial to remember: the u.s., along with other western powers (though I think that no one does it quite like the u.s. does), is directly culpable for the decimation of Third World economies and social structures. In turn, the u.s. is directly responsible for the tide of immigration, legal or not, to this country. Should we, as a nation, wring these countries dry for the profit of u.s. interests, then give a big ol’ fuck you to their people when, out of sheer desperation, they come to the u.s. for the only shot they think they’ve got? Apparently, there are lots of people out there who think that’s precisely what we should do. But anyone with a whit of decency and sense should, when presented with the facts, realize that such actions are irresponsible and morally inexcusable.

babies. and work. (sometimes i hate coming up with post titles.)

Since getting cable TV at home, the cable internet (which we’d had for quite some time already) has been on the fritz. So I have an appointment for a cable fixer person to come fix it today, which means I’m working from home. Except that, since I don’t have internet at home, it means I’m spending the morning working at a coffee shop with free wireless near my house.

When I walked in, I saw babies everywhere. Seems there’s a sing-along/story time/puppet show for kids today. I took one of the few available seats in the place, which is not really within the story circle so I thought it would be relatively baby free. But I am now surrounded by babies. Little babies, too! Who are all flailing and gurgling and interacting with each other in their tiny baby way and being generally adorable. This is not so conducive to working. Luckily I have my iPod so I am not distracted by the sounds as well as the sights.

Another thing I’m observing is that almost all of the babies are white, while almost all of the adults they’re with are women of color. Which is very typical of NYC, and always makes me feel a little bit weird. More than a little, in fact.

In other news, days like this make me miss being self-employed. Going to coffee shops to work, having the option to just put off work for a while and go for a walk or go play piano at the Brooklyn Conservatory or something, setting my own schedule completely… so tempting, even though freelancing is a hard way to pay the bills. I still freelance, but only after hours as a supplement to my full time job; I’m not much of a fan of that sort of freelancing, though, as I hate having to come home and do more work. But right now, I’m technically at my full time job, which means I need to get to working. Speaking of which…

Leaving on a jet plane

Well, my girlfriend and I are about to escape NYC for sunny Florida, to spend Christmas and the first couple days of Chanukah with my family. While I am in complete and utter support of the strike and the TWU, I’m also relieved to leave the madness for a little while.

I hadn’t heard until today that Bloomberg had called the transit workers “thuggish.” How disgusting can you get? This kind of inflammatory, racist and classist rhetoric, along with this obsession with the word “illegal” when talking about the strike, is just infuriating. And the mainstream media is, of course, playing along very well. From so many of the reports I’ve heard or read, you’d really think that most of the city hates the union and is against the strike, when really, it seems like the papers and the news shows are working really hard to find the most outrageous, virulent opinions and put them in the spotlight.

Roger Toussaint wrote an open letter to Bloomberg in response to the “thuggish” comment and other issues. It’s an excellent response. I especially loved this part which speaks to the whole issue of the “illegal” strike:

But what about our conducting an “illegal” strike? What about the law? You are all over the media with high-minded talk about “illegal” behavior, castigating criminals and screaming that no one is above the law. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds. You must hope everyone has forgotten your biography: “Bloomberg on Bloomberg.” You boast on Page 59 on how you started your rise to great wealth, great enough to enable you to buy the Mayor’s office twice. You set up your office “…all without permission, violating every fire law, building code and union regulation on the books.”

I guess illegality is in the eye of the beholder. A confessed lawbreaker has the gall to lecture 34,000 hard working people whose only crime is standing up for their families and for dignity and respect on one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs in New York.

Right on, Toussaint.

La Mala over at Mamita Mala makes similar points about how the media (FOX News, specifically) has bought into the whole “illegal strike” hysteria:

… don’t ya think it’s a little incendiary for the logo regarding the strike to read ILLEGAL TRANSIT STRIKE.

I mean when is the last time they put up a logo saying ILLEGAL POLICE BRUTALITY or um ILLEGAL SPYING BY U.S. GOVERNMENT? Hmmm?

Slightly disturbing; also, the required post-election snippet

Today, while reading this ABC news article about al Qaeda’s attempted justification of the bombings in Jordan, I glanced down at the bottom of the screen and noticed the “Most Sent Headlines” section:

  • Can Your Cat Make You Crazy?
  • Cat Show Plans Memorial Service for Dog
  • Warm, Fuzzy Winter Bra Unveiled in Japan

Apparently, ABC News readers have some strange priorities when it comes to the news that matters most.

So, Ferrer and Mattera lost. Sigh. Not that it either result was terribly surprising – I had very little hope for Mattera’s campaign, and things weren’t looking so good for Ferrer for quite a while. Well, at least this year’s results aren’t heartbreaking like last year’s were. Republicans lost many key elections, and we even had a state (Maine) vote in favor of the rights of queer folks for a change. (Texas, of course, came through strong for the homophobic, rabid right.)

Voting mishaps to avoid

First off – I hope y’all either voted already, or are planning to later! As the social justice calendar on my wall says, “Vote, but realize it is a small part of being a citizen and creating a truly democratic system.” Hell yeah.

Also, for New Yorkers who have not yet voted: note that the ballot proposals are located on the far right of the voting booth panel thingie. Don’t forget to look there.

This morning, I went to the polling place with my girlfriend. On the way there, we discussed the ballot proposals, how confusing they were, and how we planned to vote. She went into the booth before me and took a while in there (she was writing in Norman Siegal for Public Advocate, and write-in votes are tricky!) When she finally came out, I poked fun at her for taking so long, then stepped through the curtain.

And then I panicked.

Pull the red lever which way? Did I do it right? Did I already mess up? OK, Jack, calm down. It’s not all that hard. OK. Where are my candidates? Did I vote for Bloomberg by accident? What the hell is this mess over here where all the third party candidates are? Did I vote for the Green Party candidate or for the Libertarian? Did I remember to vote for folks under Working Party instead of Democratic? Ack. Ack. Ack.

Finally, I pulled the lever back, felt exhilarated at my participation in the democratic process, and went on my merry way to work.

I got to work, started speaking with my coworker about the elections, and suddenly had a Homer-Simpson-slap-my-forehead-moment:

I didn’t vote on the ballot proposals.

I never even saw them! And in my voting-booth-induced panic and confusion, I didn’t even remember to look for them! AUUUUGH!

I know, I know. My votes on the ballot proposals (probably no but maybe yes, yes, no, no) most likely would not have made much of a difference in the end. But still!

I think this speaks to the need for some changes in those damned voting booths. I’ve been inside of them maybe four or five times now, and they still make me all nervous and scared of making a mistakes. Imagine new voters! Imagine folks who aren’t extremely comfortable with the English language! Imagine people with impaired vision!

But I most definitely don’t want the fix to come in the form of electronic voting machines, at least not in their current form. From Democracy Now! a few days ago in a report on how the 2004 vote was may have been stolen :

Last week the Government Accountability Office – the investigative unit of Congress – issued a major report on the safety of electronic voting machines. Although the report has received little attention in the corporate media, its findings have startled critics of electronic voting. There are three main problems the GAO found with the machines: First, some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected. Second, it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate. Third, vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.

Scary stuff, folks. Scary stuff.

Ballot measures, Working Families, and NJ insanity

Any other New Yorkers a bit lost when it comes to the ballot measures in this upcoming vote? Here’s a little help from two sources: the Gotham Gazette and the Daily Gotham.

Also, mole333 from the Daily Gotham reminded me to help spread this from the Working Families party:

The Working Families Party: 5 reasons to vote for Freddy Ferrer

The WFP believes elections are about issues, not personalities. Elections are a moment for society to pause and, by the simple act of pulling a lever, say, this is what we stand for.

That moment comes once every four years in New York City. And for us, the choice is clear. On the issues that matter most to working families, Fernando Ferrer reflects our values — equality, decency, opportunity, solidarity, freedom.

Here are five examples – five reasons to vote for Fernando Ferrer:

1. Expanding the Law Requiring Companies that do business with the city to pay a Living Wage. Ferrer supports it. Bloomberg opposes it.

2. Requiring Big Box Retailers in NYC to provide Health Care to their employees. Ferrer supports it. Bloomberg opposes it (and vetoed the City Council’s bill).

3. Building a Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel, Congressman Jerry Nadler’s extremely smart idea that will reduce traffic, pollution, and asthma. Ferrer supports it. Bloomberg opposes it (and flip-flopped).

4. Postponing the city tax cut for millionaires scheduled to phase in at the end of 2005. Ferrer supports postponing the phase-out.

5. Returning the power of rent control and rent stabilization to the City so more working families can afford to live in New York. Ferrer supports it. Bloomberg opposes it.

On the issues, the WFP endorses Fernando Ferrer and we urge you to vote for him on Tuesday.

Thank you,

Jim Duncan, Bertha Lewis, and Bob Master, Co-Chairs
Dan Cantor, Executive Director

BTW, for those non-New Yorkers or others bored by my city politics blogging – don’t worry, the elections will be over soon!

Also, turning to my home state of New Jersey – WTF is with the governor’s race these days?!? I truly hope that if I ever decide to run for public office, some ex-girlfriend or ex-partner of mine doesn’t decide to go on TV and say that I failed her and I’ll probably fail my constituency, too. Outrageous!

Shut up already, Mike.

If I hear one more commercial for Mike Bloomberg tonight on 96.3 FM (the classical station), I’m going to throw my stereo out the window. OK, not really – I like my stereo far too much to do such a thing. But I’m so sick of the Bloomberg ads, mostly because they outnumber Ferrer’s ads, oh, maybe 1,000,000,000 to 1. Which is probably because Bloomberg’s dollars outnumbered Ferrer’s dollars by around the same rate.

I know that there are nations where there’s campaign finance laws that reduce this kind of ridiculous and completely unfair edge that personal wealth (and the wealth of one’s political base) gives to some American politicians (Canada, perhaps? Perhaps. I’m too lazy/otherwise busy to do the research right now.) Oh, if we only had such sane, fair campaign finance laws in this country. (Not that much of anything is very fair about US elections these days.)

In related news, I greatly appreciated this post in today’s Wonkster about the way the New York press has basically declared Ferrer’s campaign dead in the water and Bloomberg the premature winner. As Jonathan points out, polls can be wrong, and the one that really matters is the one that will occur on Tuesday. I only hope that the grim outlook given by the media won’t discourage potential Ferrer voters from casting their votes on Tuesday for lack of any hope. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

ACTION ALERT: Help FIERCE fight for queer and trans youth’s right to be in the West Village

The quick of it, if you don’t have time to read the back story: New Yorkers who care about queer and trans youth of color should show up on Monday at 6:30pm at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, 3 Clarkson Street, 3rd Floor (7th Ave) for an important action by FIERCE against a plan to barricade Christopher St after the 1am curfew. (Also, while I’m speaking to New Yorkers – y’all need to VOTE on Tuesday! Vote Ferrer!)

Now, the back story: Christopher Street and the nearby Pier in Manhattan have been a gathering point and something of a safe haven for queer and trans folk for time immemorial. The area has served especially as one of the few safe public places for queer and trans youth, many of whom are youth of color and many of whom are homeless or low-income.

Some of the people who can afford to live in the West Village – mostly rich, white folks – have decided that they’d rather not have these queer and trans youth in “their” neighborhood.
These people have been quite active in trying to drive queer and trans youth out of the West Village, Christopher St. and the Piers. They’ve organized in their community board, lobbied for earlier curfews for the area, blocked efforts to create a queer and trans youth drop-in center in the neighborhood, requested and received increased and biased policing of the area, and have generally done all they can to drive the youth out. They’re supported in this by the NYPD, who frequently harass queer and trans youth (no sir, absolutely no profiling going on there. Uh-huh.)

Since 2000, FIERCE!, an organization for queer and trans youth of color, has been one of the few voices raised against these forces – as stated on their website, against the “displacement and criminalization of queer and trans youth of color and homeless youth at the pier and in the Village.” They work hard to make the voices of queer and trans youth of color heard by the powers that be, and they’ve consistently challenged the racist, homophobic, transphobic and classist policies that the rich residents and business owners of the West Village have tried to push through. I’ve had the privilege of working with them on a few actions, and they’re pretty amazing.

Right now, FIERCE is gearing up to face yet another challenge from the residents of the West Village. Now, those “concerned citizens” have managed to come up with some pretty fucked up “solutions” to the “problem” of queer and trans youth of color over the years. At one point, residents requested that Park Enforcement Patrol officers, who are not police officers, be armed in order to deal with the “special population” of the Piers, the queer and trans folks that one woman at a community board meeting dubbed “leftovers.” But what they’re trying to push through now is exceptionally disgusting.

Currently, there’s a 1 am curfew in place on the piers; at that time, the Park Enforcement Patrol clears folks out. The logical route for one being forced to leave the piers is Christopher Street, which is a busy commercial street lined with shops, bars, and restaurants that are open until all hours. However, the residents are apparently put off by the queer youth who walk down Christopher and other nearby residential streets as they leave. FIERCE and other groups have advocated for a later curfew of 4 am, which would allow pier-goers to leave in a more gradual, interspersed manner, thereby reducing noice and crowding.

But that’s not good enough for the residents. Their solution?

They want to install metal barricades at the entrances to Christopher Street and other residential streets, blocking access to those leaving the piers and corraling them along the West Side Highway, either north to 14th St or south to Houston St. Advocates of this plan claim that no discrimination or profiling will be applied when directing people away from the barricades. However, as a friend and FIERCE organizer said to me a few nights ago, it’s highly doubtful that the wealthy white person walking their dog in the park who claims to live just a block away will be turned away. As FIERCE stated in a recent action alert, “only ‘some’ people will be allowed down Christopher Street – and they have no answers, other than discrimination, to tell the difference between us and the people who pay for property in the West Village.”

This Monday, there’s going to be a meeting of the Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee in the West Village where the plan will be discussed. FIERCE is planning to show up in force to protest this unacceptable move by the West Village residents.

FIERCE needs the help of its allies to demonstrate disapproval of this plan! If you’re a New Yorker who thinks that this plan is total b.s., show up at 6:30pm at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, 3 Clarkson Street, 3rd Floor (7th Ave). Hear FIERCE’s plan and help save seats inside so that as many FIERCE members and allies as possible can pack the meeting and make their voices heard. And if you’re a queer or trans youth, contact FIERCE at 646.336.6789 x108 to find out how you can join up and fight back, too.

For more info on this fiasco, check out this article from the Villager: Gate may be closed to gays in park’s crowd-control plan. A choice bit from this article that demonstrates the attitudes of these folks against queer youth:

Asked what the gay youth would do once they leave the park at 14th and Houston Streets, [David Poster, president of the Christopher Street Patrol], noting there are many subway lines on 14th Street, said: “Let them go home. Let them go where they want. The idea that they have to be on Christopher Street is a fallacy. Maybe they’ll find something much more positive than being with prostitutes down there. Maybe it’ll help them.”

Yes, I’m sure that this guy is really concerned about or knows a damn thing about helping queer and trans youth. Clearly, making it more difficult and less safe for them to be in one of the few safe spaces they have in this city is a great way to help them. Yeah. Right.

Ferrer, Bloomberg, and the “Puerto Rican Card”

From the New York Times this morning: The Mayor Tries to Trump His Opponent’s Puerto Rican Card

Reaching into a core constituency of his opponent, Fernando Ferrer, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg attended an East Harlem rally of cheering Latino supporters yesterday and said that he had received the endorsement of Jorge Santini-Padilla, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Now, being a Puerto Rican New Yorker who is most definitely voting for Fernando Ferrer, this article really got on my nerves.

Let’s start with the title: “The Mayor Tries to Trump His Opponent’s Puerto Rican Card.” First off, can I just express my continued annoyance at the Card Phenomenon? In other words, the consistent use of phrases like “race card” and “Puerto Rican card” when discussing the attempts of politicians, be they white or people of color, to win the votes of people of color. When are we going to hear the mainstream media talking about the White Card that so many white candidates hold in their hands and play so easily? Oh, but wait, I forgot – white folks don’t have race. Race is what we talk about when we’re talking about people of color. Silly me.

Aside from the general annoyance of the phrase – how exactly does a white man trump a Puerto Rican man’s Puerto Rican Card? Has the support of some deluded Latino supporters and a few opportunistic Puerto Rican politicians suddenly transformed Bloomberg into a Boricua? Sorry, no.

And, let’s talk about these Puerto Rican politicians who have nothing better to do than to support a white man over a Puerto Rican man in the NYC mayoral elections. The NY Times article cites the mayor of San Juan, Jorge Santini-Padilla, and three nameless members of the P.R. House of Representatives as having endorsed Bloomberg.

Well, a bit of research on Santini-Padilla confirmed my immediate hunch – the man is a member of the Partido Nuevo Progesista (New Progressive Party) of Puerto Rico – the party that promotes and campaigns for full U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico. So to me, it’s no surprise that a man who is willing to sell out his people and his national identity by making our nation of Puerto Rico even more a possession of the United States, a man who is the mayor of one of the richer cities in a country with a poverty rate of 48.2%, would also be willing to shill for a white Republican mayor over a Puerto Rican Democrat who actually gives a damn about NYC’s Puerto Rican and poor people. Disappointing, yes, but not surprising in the least. Santini-Padilla may be Puerto Rican, but this Boricua could give a damn about what he thinks is best for the Puerto Rican people of NYC.

(As an aside, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the governor of Puerto Rico who has endorsed Ferrer, is a member of the Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party), which is not so good as to endorse independence, but at doesn’t want things to go beyond the current commonwealth status.)