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Safe Travels to Central Park Biking Oasis 02

Could Cynthia Catch the Wave? 06

A Next Gen Wigstock 12

Rendering courtesy of George Janes

A rendering of the proposed 775-foot Extell Development tower on W. 66th St. set against Central Park.

Battle Against Supertalls Hits W. 66th St. BY SYDNEY PEREIRA An Upper West Side block association is revving up the fight against a proposed tower at 50 W. 66th St., and in the process, it scored a meeting held last Tuesday with the Department of City Planning to talk about zoning loopholes the group says are spawning inappropriately tall buildings north of Midtown. Extell Development Company is proposing that the tower, originally expected to rise 25 stories, top out at 775 feet. Following a pattern emerging across Manhattan, Extell’s building is designed to have a tall mechanical void space, which will allow it to reach that height in only 40 stories. Void spaces, typically seen as “excessive” to opponents of new tall towers, allow developers to build higher while still meeting a neighborhood’s floor area ratio zoning requirment that limits a building’s total floor space relative to the lot it sits on. The taller the building, the better the views for top-dollar luxury apartments, in this case looming over Central Park. “It’s become quite controversial lately,” said Chris Giordano, the president of the 65th and 66th Streets Block Association, the group that met with City Planning last week. Other loopholes that community groups and elected officials have slammed in recent months are gerrymandered zoning lots that increase the allowable building height and higher floor-to-floor heights,

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA In next Thursday’s Democratic primary, State Senator Marisol Alcantara and former City Councilmember Robert Jackson will face off for the second time — but the political dynamics in New York have changed a lot since their first encounter in 2016. T his year, party activists as well as ma ny mai nst re a m

SUPERTALLS continued on p. 4

IDC continued on p. 17

Photo courtesy of Robert Fife

Former Councilmember Robert Jackson at a True Blue NY rally focused on State Senator Marisol Alcantara’s role in the Independent Democratic Conference for much of the past two years.


Photo courtesy of Joanna Herrera

September 6 - 19, 2018 | Vol. 04 No. 18

State Senator Marisol Alcantara at an immigrant rights rally.


Central Park is an Oasis for Cyclists — But Can They Get There Safely?

Photos by Sam Bleiberg

Broadway sets a gold standard for a combination of pedestrian and safe bike infrastructure.

BY SAM BLEIBERG Cyclists, joggers, walkers, and all manner of rollers earned a sanctuary from danger and stress when the last car rolled out of Central Park. The move to designate Central Park as a car-free space starting in June was a major victory for safe streets advocates and cyclists of all levels. At last tourists, casual riders, and spandexclad racers have miles of pavement free from the risks of vehicular traffic. But despite the transformation of the park into a beacon for people-centric urban design, improvements to surrounding streets have lagged, with fatal consequences. The tragic death of a tourist just outside the park in August made clear the work left to be done. Manhattan’s car-free refuge remains surrounded by streets that have not received safety improvements in years. In the latest installment in our series on biking on the West Side, NYC Community Media takes a look at how riders can travel safely between Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen and Central Park. Cycling is a natural choice for exploring Central Park’s miles of paths in a single day. While visitors are guaranteed safety from vehicles within the park, they will find little accommodation outside the park’s boundaries. Vendors rent bikes within the park, but anyone patronizing a bike rental business outside the park or utilizing the Citi Bike network must contend with

traffic on the surrounding streets. A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation (DOT), emphasized the importance of safe street infrastructure around the park: “Safe bike infrastructure provides improved access to Central Park and other destinations in the area for both residents of and visitors to New York City, and can be especially important for encouraging less experienced cyclists to get around the city by bike.” Department proposals point to increased ridership and decreased pedestrian and motorist injuries on streets with protected bike lanes. Yet the slow pace of street safety improvements has continued in a patchwork fashion. Infrastructure is frequently implemented several blocks at a time with years between projects, resulting in “disappearing” bike lanes on almost every avenue. Furthermore, the DOT confirmed that community board presentations for crosstown lanes servicing Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown on W. 55th and 52nd Sts., originally slated for this summer, have been delayed until fall. Melodie Bryant — Chelsea resident, biker, and safe streets advocate — voiced her frustration with the current cycling infrastructure on the West Side. “I have no typical route to Central Park because there is no good route,” she said. “Frankly, as a cyclist, I am feeling more and more unwelcome in CYCLISTS continued on p. 10

The Sixth Ave. protected bike lane provides a safe corridor toward the park, but cuts off after W. 34th St.


September 6, 2018

NYC Community Media

Second Entrance Open at 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station

Photo by Michael Rock

Centered on W. 35th St. and Hudson Boulevard East, the new exit features stairs and three escalators, which transport riders between the mezzanine and the street.

BY MICHAEL ROCK Development of the Hudson Yards neighborhood reached another milestone early on the morning of Sat., Sept. 1, as the second entrance and exit for its subway station opened to the public. The 34th Street-Hudson Yards station is the only such stop west of Ninth Ave. and south of 59th St. Its opening in September 2015 served as a major symbol of the neighborhood’s development since funding was first secured in 2005. It is also in complete compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) — one of the few that are such in the city’s system. The new “ingress” is centered on W. 35th St. and Hudson Boulevard East, and features stairs and three escalators which transport riders between the mezzanine and the street. Beyond the turnstiles, four more escalators transport commuters to the lower portion

of the mezzanine, from which they can travel to the platform — a total of 125 feet below the street, by way of an elevator or one of eight flights of stairs. The space between both entrances features a total of 16 escalators along with four elevators. In a press release, MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber welcomed the entrance’s completion as part of Hudson Yards’ development. “The extension of the 7 train to Hudson Yards has helped to create a whole new neighborhood with as much office space as Downtown Phoenix or Miami and thousands of new jobs,” he said. “And we brought this entire project in within the budget set more than 10 years ago.” Aside from said press release, MTA spokespeople declined to offer further comment. Robert Benfatto, President of the SECOND ENTRANCE continued on p. 20


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September 6, 2018


SUPERTALLS continued from p. 1

which also increase a building’s allowable height. These loopholes, coupled with dramatically improved building technology, allow developers to build taller, which has created what opponents are calling the “Midtown creep,” casting shadows on Central Park and bringing tall towers into the Upper West and Upper East Sides. After months of asking for a meeting, Giordano’s group finally got the chance to lay out its concerns to City Planning about the void loophole and other zoning law quirks that many neighborhood groups want the city to halt. “Our question was how does City Planning see individual community needs within the Lincoln Square Special District, and they put that conversation off for month after month after month, and we finally got a meeting with them,” he said. Giordano argued that community activists aren’t NIMBY — Not In My Backyard — explaining, instead, “We thrive on the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation for New York, but we also want to control our own destiny.” He argued that the Lincoln Square Special District zoning parameters should prevent towers such as the Extell development proposed just around the corner from his apartment building. He can see the lot where foundation work has already begun from his kitchen window. “We feel like the special district established parameters give a lot of background on that,” he said. “On the human side, how do you have a 775foot building with over 200 feet of empty space in the middle of it during an administration that’s saying we need more housing and more affordable housing for our city? But yet you allow a building to have 200 feet of empty space just for the purpose of pushing apartments up higher to have better views?” “It seems like a contradiction,” he added. A spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, Joe Marvilli, would not confirm whether the meeting hap-

Photo courtesy of Chris Giordano

Excavation work at the W. 66th St. site of Extell Development’s proposed new 775foot tower as seen from Chris Giordano’s apartment kitchen.

pened nor, of course, who attended when Manhattan Express asked late last week, but said the department is looking closely at how to deal with excessive mechanical voids in the city. The department is listening to all stakeholders and expects a proposal by the end of the year to address the issue, according to Marvilli. In an email advisory to the 65th and 66th Streets Block Association membership, Giordano reported that the City Planning team at the meeting was led by Manhattan director Edith Hsu-Chen. Hsu-Chen, he said, indicated that the department does not “embrace” the use of voids simply to build taller and would complete a study of their proliferation by the end of the year. She added, however, that City Planning has never regulated floor to floor heights and would not change its approach on that issue. City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal did not attend last Tuesday’s meeting, but she said there was no need for her to be in the room. City Planning hearing the voices of residents is much more powerful, she said. “I just think it’s terrific,” she said. “I don’t need to be there. This is good government.”

PUBLISHER Jennifer Goodstein jgoodstein@cnglocal.com Manhattan Express, the newspaper for Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides PUBLISHED BY

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September 6, 2018

EDITOR IN-CHIEF Paul Schindler editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc ART DIRECTOR John Napoli

In mid-August, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and several other councilmembers including Rosenthal requested a meeting between land use staff from the Council and the borough president’s office and City Planning. Referring to a town hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio in late June, the elected officials said they want the City Planning Commission to evaluate all of the zoning loopholes as a package — rather than taking a “piecemeal” approach, such as focusing on voids alone. “If allowed to continue, zoning lot abuses and the construction practices enumerated above will allow developers to construct buildings that are far larger than what one would reasonably expect from a fair reading of the Zoning Resolution,” the elected officials wrote to City Planning Commission chair Marisa Lago. The Upper West Side is expected to see another tall building at 200 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 69th and 70th Sts., after the Board of Standards and Appeals upheld Department of Buildings permits that neighbors and local elected officials blasted as faulty in late July. That 668-foot proposed building

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used a zig-zag shaped lot, which community organizations called out as “gerrymandering.” The opponents are weighing whether seeking an Article 78 hearing before the New York State Supreme Court might be the next step in their effort to stop that building. For the proposed tower at 50 W. 66th St., community groups are weighing a potential zoning challenge. The deadline to file such a challenge is Sept. 9. “My real problem with [50 W. 66th St.] is what they’re bringing the community,” Rosenthal said. “One hundred twenty-seven apartments is not worth it to me for the light and air it will be taking away from the community.” She described the 127 apartments as “ultra-luxury” units that “only the top .01 percent could ever afford.” Given the city’s stated policy of increasing affordable housing citywide, such a building proposal doesn’t make sense, Rosenthal said. The building is technically as-ofright as well, so it skirts the public review process called Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, that would give the local community board and the City Council greater leverage. For the buildings overlooking Central Park moving further and further north of Midtown, the larger question for Sean Khorsandi is who should enjoy the public benefits of Central Park. “Who has rights to Central Park?” said Khorsandi, executive director of Landmark West. “Who has air rights to Central Park? Who owns the view? And what responsibility do these developers have to the infrastructure?” Sometimes building developers will promise the community mitigations, such as school seats or transportation improvements, for the added nuisance of construction, the influx of new neighbors, and towers that are out of context in a neighbhood. “We’re not here to shake someone down for a school,” Khorsandi said. “We just want someone to build responsibly, with the community in mind.”

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September 6, 2018


Change in the Air: But in the Cards for Cynthia? BY PAUL SCHINDLER Following an Aug. 22 appearance before a small crowd of mostly young LGBTQ people of color at a downtown Brooklyn hotel, Cynthia Nixon took a moment to answer the most critical question NYC Community Media had about her uphill quest to become governor of New York. How in the less than five months between election day in Nov. and the Apr. 1 deadline for the state to deliver its annual budget does she propose to turn around a huge ship amounting to roughly $170 billion to reflect the progressive values she has crisscrossed the state to espouse? “You know, if I am elected governor of New York State it will usher in such a new day,” she said. “And I’m not the only person up for election this year. We will have Andrea StewartCousins as the leader of the State Senate Democrats, and we have had so many priorities teed up for so long that the Republicans will not introduce into the State Senate.” Asked, in a follow-up, if she was saying that Albany’s Democratic establishment would readily embrace her as their leader — both Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie are supporting her opponent, incumbent Andrew Cuomo — she responded, “Absolutely, because what you have now is a governor who calls himself a Democrat and calls himself a progressive but is really looking for cover from Republicans for all of this legislation he doesn’t want to enact, either, because it’s too progressive. He thinks it puts him in a bad position when he runs for president. Or, more often, he just does nothing.” Nixon’s answer was not without its merits. Throughout her campaign, she has emphasized progressive goals that have widespread popularity in the age of Trump but have not advanced under Cuomo in two terms — comprehensive campaign finance reform, more equitable funding for public schools statewide, improvements in the city’s ailing subway system coupled with enactment of a comprehensive congestion pricing scheme to curb the city’s traffic gridlock, single payer health care, codifying the reproductive freedom now guaranteed by an imperiled Roe v. Wade, and marijuana legalization. And in highlighting those shortfalls in Cuomo’s record, Nixon repeatedly cites something that angers many progressive New York Democrats — the governor’s


September 6, 2018

Photo by Donna Aceto

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon meets a group of LGBTQ young people on Aug. 22.

implicit support for the eight Democrats who, until recent months, had caucused as the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and, along with one other dissident Democrat, made it possible for the minority Republicans to maintain control of the State Senate. Those Republicans, in turn, have blocked the issues Nixon highlights in her campaign, many of which Cuomo has also given considerable lip service. Despite the strength of her political positioning, Nixon is clearly struggling. In her last campaign finance filing, she showed less than half a million dollars on hand versus more than $16 million for the incumbent. The challenger touts her clean hands for not accepting corporate donations, but she has notably fallen short in motivating the type of small-dollar grassroots donations that have fueled other political insurgents. Public polling also offers scant encouragement. In more than half a dozen surveys by three different polling outfits, Nixon has never done better than a 22-point deficit compared to Cuomo, and the three most recent polls put the gap at more than 30 points. In her remarks on Aug. 22, Nixon seemingly acknowledged that yawning gap by arguing that New York State, since the election of Donald Trump, has seen a surge of new Democratic registrations totaling more than 580,000, “most of them progressives,” she said. “We have a real path to victory,” she insisted. But the new registrations Nixon cited amount to more than the total turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, when Zephyr Teachout, who had less

name recognition than Nixon enjoys, surprised pundits by capturing 34 percent of the vote. Nixon’s troubles are, in some respects, at odds with news elsewhere. In recent gubernatorial primaries in Georgia and Florida, Democrats chose the progressive alternatives, both African-American, in Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, respectively. Closer to home, of course, political newcomer Alexandria OcasioCortez toppled Congressmember Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic leader. A key hurdle Nixon faces is the suspicion that many Americans — and progressives, especially — have toward “celebrity” candidates in the wake of Donald Trump’s emergence. Earlier this year, two seasoned political observers, in comments to NYC Community Media, articulated this handicap in blunt terms. George Arzt, who owns a communications and lobbying firm long active in city politics, noted that Cuomo could say, “You have a novice in Washington, and look at what a mess he’s made of the nation, if not the world, in terms of destabilizing it. You need an experienced hand to defend our values.” Mitchell Moss, an urban policy and planning professor at NYU, was even more scathing in his assessment, saying, “I believe that government requires some level of knowledge and experience that is not found on the Broadway stage or the TV screen or the wrestling ring. The problem we have is that we don’t know enough about Cynthia Nixon and what we know about her is not relevant.”

It’s safe to bet that neither Arzt nor Moss style themselves as part of the resistance, but a daunting challenge facing Nixon is that many people who do identify as Trump’s opposition have repeated much the same view in conversation or social media posts. Unsurprisingly, Nixon has found little support among institutionalized advocacy groups that rely on long-term relationships to advance their issues. Organized labor is solidly with the governor, and, in fact, the primary effect of the Working Families Party’s endorsement of Nixon seems to be the party’s loss of its key labor alliances. More distressing for the challenger, no doubt, is her inability to win a stamp of approval from leading women’s and LGBTQ rights organizations. Cuomo boasts endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign and the New York chapters of both Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women. And it’s not just the established players that have eschewed her candidacy. Leading grassroots marriage equality activists took Nixon to task in no uncertain terms when she implied that Cuomo’s key role in winning equal marriage rights here in 2011 was his way of helping New York Republicans get an issue that was increasingly hurting them off the table. In a sign-on letter in which longtime activist Cathy Marino-Thomas, a former board president of Marriage Equality USA, took a lead role in crafting, the group stated, “Ms. Nixon’s account of the political landscape at best shows naivety and ignorance or at worst is a cynical omission of the truth. Her take is not just inaccurate, it’s undermining of important work by true activists and supportive elected officials. It is also self-serving and amounts to a gesture intended to serve her current purposes that rewrites history and erases work that transformed hundreds of thousands of lives for the better.” If the rebuke from grassroots marriage activists stung, Nixon arguably got the better of a more famous intraLGBTQ fracas. In March, when Nixon, a staunch supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s two mayoral campaigns, announced her run, former Speaker Christine Quinn, who did not enjoy Nixon’s support in 2013, told the New York Post, “Cynthia Nixon was opposed to having a qualified lesbian become CYNTHIA continued on p. 11 NYC Community Media





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September 6, 2018


At 10, Parent-Focused Literary Salon Has Grown Up Nicely BY TRAV S.D. The old saying notwithstanding, there may be certain circumstances in which it is quite possible to have your cake and eat it, too. That’s the official stance of Pen Parentis, a notfor-profit whose mission is to support writers who’ve chosen to start families — not always the most popular or well-understood path within the arts community. Now celebrating its 10th year, Pen Parentis is marking the occasion this month with a salon showcasing graphic novels by American Book Award winner Victor LaValle, acclaimed novelist Mira Jacob, celebrated nonfiction illustrator Josh Neufeld, and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Darin Strauss. “People need to understand that parenting is a life choice, not a career choice, whereas writing is a career choice, not a hobby,” said M.M. De Voe, founder and co-host of Pen Parentis. “You can have kids and still make art.” An award-winning writer and mother of two herself, De Voe founded Pen Parentis in 2009 after conversations with colleagues in which they commiserated about the difficulty of being a parent and a writer at the same time. “Everything is geared toward supporting fulltime artists who don’t have children, [e.g.,] things like month-long residencies. There’s almost a stigma that artists with children are not quite as dedicated, an almost institutionalized position that the really serious people were ones who don’t have families.” To offer parent-authors moral support and encouragement, Pen Parentis presents salons on the second Tuesday of each month, from September through May. The

Photo by D. Suziedelis

M. M. De Voe moderates a lively conversation with award-winning novelists Cara Hoffman, Marina Budhos, and Ann Hood. Photo by Teddy Wolff

American Book Award winner Victor La Valle will be reading at the Sept. 11 Pen Parentis salon.

authors read their work and then participate in moderated discussions about how they manage to stay productive while raising a family at the same time. A crucial, if unofficial, part of the organization’s identity is its Downtown location, at the Andaz Wall Street hotel (75 Wall St.). Andaz sponsors the salons with inkind donations of space, snacks, and beverages. De Voe moved to the neighborhood in May of 2001, just months before 9/11. Following the disaster, long-term effort has gone into the revitalization of Downtown, including the arts. The creation of Pen Parentis has been part of that process, receiving grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, among other local supporters. Integration into the community has been key to the group’s

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success. In addition to the partnership with Andaz (“who actually courted us,” De Voe said with amazement), they’ve benefitted from the pro bono assistance of the law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. “Their office is nearby,” De Voe noted, “and one of their lawyers came to our salons for about six months. She’s not a writer and she’s not a parent. She just enjoyed our events. Through her efforts, Milbank helped us get our not-forprofit status in 2014.” De Voe is quick to point out that the salons are a group effort. In addition to her co-host and event curator Christina Chiu (who, like De Voe, holds an MFA from Columbia), there are numerous full-time volunteers contributing to such aspects of the effort as tech and communications. Their collaboration has paid off. Ten years down the line, Pen Parentis has presented close to 300 authors, among them such well-known writers as Jennifer Egan, Rick Moody, Jennifer Probst, Jennifer Belle, and Sarah Langan. The organization prefers to present writers of fiction, according to De Voe, but they have also presented writers of non-fiction, such as Laura Vanderkam and Erin L. Thompson. “From the beginning we sought out writers who had managed to make work while parenting, who’ve won awards, and gotten published — and talk with them about how they did it,” De Voe said. “It’s often very emotional. We’ve had [participants] cry during the salons. You’re not allowed to talk about this stuff.”

Novelist and Pen Parentis participant John Reed calls it, “a rare and invaluable resource for writers and other creatives who have children. While having children is of course enriching and an essential part of the life experience that writers seek to express, it can also be an obstacle, in terms of networks and finances. Making the arts more sustainable to more people is a familiar mission statement, but Pen Parentis delivers.” In addition to its salons, Pen Parentis offers writing fellowships, creativity workshops, and is now developing a new database that will list residencies, colony initiatives, and other opportunities for writers that are parent-friendly. The next Pen Parentis salon will be presented on the second floor of the Andaz Wall Street hotel (75 Wall St., at Water St.) on Tues., Sept. 11, 7pm to 10pm. The salon is open to the general public for a suggested donation of $10. Supporting Title Members are admitted free, and a limited number of complimentary student and senior tickets are also available (all writers who are parents are eligible to become Title Members). The organizers stress that you do not have to be a parent or writer, but if you are one of the former, please don’t bring your children, as audiences are 21+ only. Reservations are recommended; you may make them at: penparentis.org. “We always fill the house,” De Voe warned. “During hurricanes, maybe half-full.” Spoken with the realism of a parent, and the wit of a writer. NYC Community Media



NYC Community Media

September 6, 2018


CYCLISTS continued from p. 2

Manhattan.” A look at the streets in the area below Central Park reveals that safe bike infrastructure essentially disappears as one approaches the park from Chelsea. Bike infrastructure in Manhattan ranges from areas with no dedicated bike lanes to lanes painted with white outlines or filled in with green, to protected lanes that rely on parked cars or physical dividers to separate cyclists from vehicles. Protected bike lanes are the safest option aside from paths that ban vehicles altogether. Madison Lyden, a 23-year-old tourist from Australia, was riding in an unprotected bike lane on Central Park West when a doubleparked car forced her into traffic. A sanitation truck struck her, and she died hours later in the hospital. This same failed infrastructure factors into every potential route from Chelsea to Central Park. Sixth and Seventh Aves. connect to the now bike-only streets within the Park, but the avenues have received no design updates to cater to their new purpose. The protected bike lane on Sixth Ave. abruptly cuts off at W. 34th St., forcing cyclists to ride in traffic on the 5-lane stretch or find an alter-

Photo by Sam Bleiberg

Cyclists leaving Central Park face a stretch of Seventh Ave. without a protected bike lane.

nate route. The protected bike lane on Seventh Ave. also disappears close to the park, starting its downtown route on W. 30th St. A father-daughter duo from Spain, David and Alba, braved the traffic on Sixth Ave. with only “a little bit of fear of the cars and trucks.” Trailing David and Alba as they rode on Sixth yielded several situations where the riders were overtaken by impatient drivers, honked at, or forced to stop and wait for a red light to go around turning vehicles.



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Zoe and her family, from Belgium, opted to walk their bicycles on Seventh Ave. rather than ride in traffic. “We don’t want to ride them on the street. It’s a bit crazy. There’s no path for bicycles on the road,” she said. New Yorker Paul McGeever, finishing up a ride in the park, offered justification for the tourists’ concerns. “I try to avoid the craziness on the avenues because I’ve had too many near-death experiences.” Eighth Ave., another bicycle artery through Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, also suffers from gaps in its protected bike lane close to the park — once at the Port Authority bus terminal, and again at W. 56th St. This will be the first street to receive a safety update from the DOT, with a protected bike lane starting at W. 56th and continuing through Columbus Circle, scheduled for implementation this fall. Moving westward, Ninth Ave. offers the most consistent protected bike lane from the park to Chelsea. Enduring construction, however, compromises the efficacy of the lane. “I use Ninth Avenue, but it is harrowing,” said Tim Frasca, who used to ride between the park and Chelsea at least twice a week before being hit by a car for the second time. “The bike lane is torn up and full of nasty potholes, and there is so much foot traffic that one has to be very cautious and alert not to hit people wandering into the lane.” Tenth and 11th Aves. lack bike infrastructure, but afford more experienced cyclists a fast-moving path free from pedestrian sidewalk overflow. “Even though the road on 10th isn’t ideal, biking on Eighth is too difficult with so many commuters walking in the bike lane,” said Oliver Demonicis, who rides from Chelsea to Central Park for a weekly running club. “I have to deal

with trucks and potholes, but it’s better than risking bumping into somebody.” This brings us to the most westward path, and our recommended route for traveling between Chelsea and Central Park: the Hudson Greenway. As a carfree space, this path accommodates cyclists of all levels. Riders can enjoy views of the river and the closest thing to clean air. Unfortunately, the journey along the Hudson is not without obstacles, literally. “I used to take the Greenway but now the Jersey barriers are scary pinch points,” Bryant said, referring to metal dividers erected in the middle of the path to keep vehicles out at intersections. “Even riding vigilantly, I’ve had people come up from behind and just miss me as they rode through.” Erected in response to the Greenway truck attack in 2017, the dividers, called bollards in infrastructure jargon, have come under fire for tight spacing that falls short of recommendations from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, creating choke points at intersections. Critics such as Bryant have called for the city to investigate alternative, lessintrusive methods to keep vehicles off the path. Then there is the issue of getting to and from the Greenway. Protected bike lanes on 26th and 29th Sts. became mid-Manhattan’s first crosstown lanes when they were installed earlier this summer, but the original proposal included protected lanes on 52nd and 55th as well. These crosstown lanes would provide a safe connection from the Hudson Greenway to the park. They also serve an area marred by tragedy: Last June, a truck hit and killed 17-year-old Corbin Carr at the intersection of 10th Ave. and W. 55th St. As mentioned, the process on the proposal has already been delayed beyond the DOT’s original timeline. While the West Side has made significant progress, safe bike infrastructure in the area falls short of a cohesive network. None of the avenues except Ninth have complete protected lanes between Central Park and Chelsea. A single crosstown corridor serves the entire area from the West Village to Hell’s Kitchen. The gaps leave cyclists confused and forced into unsafe situations when protected lanes disappear. Zoe, visiting from Belgium, did express hope for improvements in the future. “There’re a lot of countries that have paths,” she noted, “so I’m sure they’re going to come some time.” Until then, many cyclists will opt to walk their bikes to Central Park. NYC Community Media

CYNTHIA continued from p. 6

mayor of New York City. Now she wants an unqualified lesbian to be the governor of New York.” This was not Quinn at her best, and Nixon wasted no time making hay of the gaffe, saying via Twitter, “When I announced yesterday that I’m running for gov, one of Cuomo’s top surrogates dismissed me as an ‘unqualified lesbian.’ It’s true that I never received my certificate from the Department of Lesbian Affairs, though in my defense there’s a lot of paperwork required.” “Unqualified Lesbian” T-shirts soon surfaced. Nixon, who married her wife Christine Marinoni — a public policy expert who shares her deep commitment to issues of educational equity — in 2012 and has three children, including a 21-year-old transgender son, does have her LGBTQ supporters. The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club endorsed her, and Brooklyn’s Lambda Independent Democrats were sufficiently divided between the two candidates that they made no gubernatorial endorsement. Among gay elected officials, Brooklyn City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca endorsed Nixon very early, and has since been followed by Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Upper West Side Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell. It was O’Donnell, as sponsor of the Marriage Equality Act, who put the first points on the board when the Assembly passed the measure in 2007. Ken Sherrill, an out gay professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, commenting earlier this year, was impressed by Nixon’s campaign launch, saying he was struck by “how much more polished she

Photo by Donna Aceto

Cynthia Nixon takes questions from NYC Community Media on Aug. 22.

was as a candidate than Zephyr Teachout.” In Sherrill’s view, Cuomo has few substantive achievements to tout from his second term, in part because he had co-signed Republican-IDC control of the State Senate in order to maximize his own power by having a divided Legislature. That power, however, is largely the power to block things — more state spending, higher taxes, and wealth redistribution — according to Sherrill. Nixon has focused considerable attention on issues that require spending. Cuomo’s tightfistedness, he suggested, is where Nixon’s message “can resonate.” Pointing to Cuomo’s leadership on marriage equality in 2011, Sherrill noted that most of his “progressive” achievements have been on issues

that didn’t involve spending money. Cuomo, however, has won endorsement from the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, and the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, along with Council Speaker Corey Johnson from Chelsea and Councilmembers Daniel Dromm of Queens and Ritchie Torres from the Bronx. Meanwhile, LGBTQ endorsers of Nixon have been joined by other leading progressives across the city, including Ocasio-Cortez, Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Brad Lander of Brooklyn, former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, several candidates, like Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson, waging primary campaigns against IDC-affiliated state senators, resistance groups such as several chapters of Indivisible, and political clubs including the Broadway Democrats, the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, the Coalition for a District Alternative, the Downtown Independent Democrats, and the Village Independent Democrats. The Nation magazine, which was a big booster of de Blasio’s candidacy in 2013, has also endorsed Nixon. It will take something like a political earthquake for Nixon to prevail over Cuomo on September 13. But even in defeat, she could take pride in raising the visibility and viability of key issues including marijuana legalization, universal health care, and the governor’s accountability for saving our subways. And it is certainly refreshing to hear a candidate speak in such unvarnished personal terms about having a child come out as transgender and being warned by a mother who had to resort to an illegal abortion about the dangers of ever going back to that time.

IMAGINATION TAKES FLIGHT Visit the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to discover a legendary aircraft carrier, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets and a guided-missile submarine.

SEPTEMBER ON INTREPID ACCESS FAMILY PROGRAM Submarines: Life Underwater September 16 Learn about the submarine Growler and the life of a submariner. Families have the option to explore Growler or immerse themselves in the interactive exhibition Submerged. Free. Register in advance. 11:00am—Children ages 5–17 2:00pm—Teens (15+) and adults

September 20–23 Meet astronauts, explore exhibits by NASA, chat with our expert partners, stargaze on the ship and more during four days of out-of-this-world events at the Museum. Learn more at intrepidmuseum.org/space.

September 28 Sip drinks beneath the space shuttle Enterprise, hear talks about cutting-edge science, and see shows in our pop-up planetarium. Ages 21+. Free. Register in advance.




NYC Community Media

2018 © Intrepid Museum Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under applicable law, this work may not be copied, published, disseminated, displayed, performed or played without permission of the copyright holder.

Intrepid A to Z A View from the Deep: the Submarine Growler & the Cold War Don’t Be a Dilbert! U.S. Navy Safety Posters Ports of Call

September 6, 2018


Old Wigs and New Attitudes Drag, trans, next gen artists share the stage at Wigstock 2.HO

Photo by Bob Krasner

Candis Cayne (left) told Charles Battersby (right), “When I perform on stage in a lot of makeup, I’m a trans drag performer. One is your identity and the other is fun.”

BY CHARLES BATTERSBY There’s nothing worse than middleaged New Yorkers complaining about how the city has changed since the “good old days” — but it’s wonderful when cranky old coots get up and actually do something to recreate the lost wonders of the city. That’s exactly what drag queen Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris have done with Wigstock. The long-running outdoor festival of drag performances was held in NYC for nearly twenty years in the ’80s and ’90, but fizzled out back in the early 2000s. The event was resurrected as “Wigstock 2.HO” at Pier 17 on Sept. 1, as a daylong festival with scores of performers, wig cannons, the world’s oldest drag


September 6, 2018

queen, and several close contenders for that title (SNAP). Aside from being a fun show, it also showed how cultural attitudes towards gender identity and drag have changed since the ’90s. There was no shortage of middleaged queens talking about how the city used to be cooler in the Back When times; back when Frankie Knuckles was DJing, when Union Square was still a “needle park,” and when the Club Kids roamed the streets from the Limelight to Pyramid. Naturally, these cultural references were lost on half the audience. Among the longtime Lypsinka fans were some drag enthusiasts who weren’t even born when Divine still walked the Earth. To

these younger attendees, drag means RuPaul’s reality TV series, and Wigstock is something from the history books. We spoke to Dany Johnson, who not only directed Fogo Azul, a Brazilian drum corps that opened the show, but she was also the stage manager of Wigstock from 1989 through the early 2000s. She told us that the younger members of the band “...had no idea what [Wigstock] was. I sent them a link to Tom Rubnitz’s movie and the other movie from 1995.” According to Johnson, even the “Woodstock” reference is lost on some of the youngsters. This younger generation might also have trouble remembering social attitudes about gender expression and gen-

der identity in the 20th century. Some of the performers at Wigstock 2.HO straddle the line between drag queen and trans performer who happens to do drag. Actress Candis Cayne, who performed at Wigstock in the ’90s and also has worked in contemporary film and TV, told us, “To me, drag is what you do, and trans is who I am. “I take trans roles, but I also I take cis [nontransgender] roles. When I perform on stage in a lot of makeup, I’m a trans drag performer. One is your identity and the other is fun.” About Wigstock in the ’90s, Ms. NEW ATTITUDES continued on p. 18 NYC Community Media

NYC WORKS â&#x2DC;&#x2026;


Meet the Real Power of the Labor Movement;

The Rank and File

Latonya Crisp Recording Sec’y

Earl Phillips Sec’y Treasurer

Tony Utano President

Nelson Rivera Administrative VP

TWU Local 100 | Union Headquarters | 195 Montague Street | Brooklyn, NY 11201 | Tony Utano, President




Grand marshal is the head of the class Michael Mulgrew, chief of United Federation of Teachers, to lead festivities BY JAMES HARNEY Michael Mulgrew is no stranger to being up front. He spent a decade in front of classrooms teaching English at William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, but at 10 am on Saturday, Sept. 8, Mulgrew will be in front of a different, much larger gathering, as grand marshal of the 2018 New York City Labor Day Parade. Since taking the helm of the 189,000-member United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers’ union, in 2009, the Staten Island native has used his leadership position to advocate for smaller class sizes, more city and state funding for public schools, increased parental involvement in their children’s education, and less reliance on standardized testing. Under Mulgrew’s leadership, in 2014 the UFT won a

GRAND MARSHAL: Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, is this year’s grand marshal of the 2018 New York City Labor Day Parade and March. United Federation of Teachers teachers’ contract with the city that included an 18 percent pay raise.

He serves as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers; an executive board member of New York State United Teachers, executive vice chairman of the city’s Municipal Labor Committee, and on the executive board of the New York City Central Labor Council. His UFT bio mentions that the veteran union leader “actively promotes issues that include economic fairness, immigration reform, equality and social justice.” When the Central Labor Council tapped Mulgrew to lead this year’s parade, he joined such local labor union luminaries as Thomas VanArsdale of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, John J. Sweeney and Denis Hughes of the AFLCIO, Peter Ward of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, Lillian Roberts of DC 37, and Mulgrew’s pre-

decessor as UFT president, Randi Weingarten, who have led New York’s signature labor union march. “I’m proud and honored I was chosen this year to be the grand marshal of the parade,” the veteran union leader told Community News Group. “The Central Labor Council said to me, ‘your union is out front on labor issues, especially lately since unions have been under attack; we wanted you to be at the head of our march.’ But this is not just about spreading the message on the day of the parade; it’s also about the week leading up to the parade, spreading the message about workers’ rights. Having those rights is the only way we’re going to be able to fi x the income disparities in this country.” Mulgrew said he sensed “a new wave of energy inside the labor movement in

New York,” and pointed to his own union as a prime example. “The UFT is at the lowest number of people who are non-union, about 400 out of a union of nearly 200,000. That’s phenomenal,” he said proudly. “More than ever, [workers] are embracing the value of unions.” He warned, however, that labor unions “should never, ever, stop moving forward at all times,” and continue to fight to protect workers’ rights to fair wages, adequate healthcare coverage, and retirement benefits against forces that would try to strip those away. “If someone had said 15 years ago that Wisconsin would be the most unfriendly state in the country for labor unions, I would have said ‘no way in hell,’ ” Mulgrew said. “But now that’s the case.”





Once again, Fifth Avenue the place for the parade BY PHOEBE VAN BUREN Roughly 50,000 labor union members and supporters will take their fight down Manhattan’s storied Fifth Avenue for the annual New York City Labor Day Parade on Sept. 8. Since its inception in 1882, the parade has become a banner event for the labor movement not only in the city, but across America. “It’s really viewed throughout the country, even outside the city, as the signature kind of event for the Labor Movement,” said Vincent Alvarez, who is the president of the New York City Labor Council, which puts on the parade. “Even though it’s a parade, it’s a march — it’s a march for rights.” The architects of the parade, Matthew MacGuire, who was a machinist and secretary of the Central Labor Union, and Peter MacGuire, who was a carpenter, secre-

tary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, had come up with an idea to introduce a labor holiday. On a Tuesday in 1882, they brought together 30,000 people in Union Square, meaning that workers had to forfeit the day’s wages to attend. The march was so popular that it was held again one year later, sparking a campaign for a Labor Day across the country. Congress named the fi rst Monday of September as Labor Day in 1894. Masses of union members and their supporters have marched across the city most years, barring periods that it didn’t happen due to several reasons, such as poor attendance as people began viewing the holiday as the fi nal weekend of summer and leaving the city. The parade has its own fl air, however, differing from

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all of the other parades in the city because it is 100 percent participatory, meaning that anyone can join, Alvarez said. “If you are part of the labor movement, a family member, neighbor, friend of the movement, we say march. If you’re a worker in the city whose industry is under attack, we say march,” he said. In the 1800s, participants marched down Broadway, but that changed in 1959 when it moved to Fifth Avenue. A permit for the stretch is almost impossible to secure these days but an existing agreement between the Labor Council and the city allows it to continue on that route. This year, it will be led by Grand Marshal Michael Mulgrew, who is the president of United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, while the chair is Lester Crockett, Regional President, CSEA-AF-

AMERICAN VALUES: Local 764 Wardrobe union member Andrae Gonzalo Associated Press / Bryan R. Smith marches. SCME Local 1000, Region 11. And with each year comes different campaigns. In 2018, revelers can expect to see many “Count Me In” signs and banners from construction workers, referring to a campaign against including non-unionized construction workers in big developments across the city. Doing so puts workers at risk since not everyone has proper safety training, Alvarez said. Since the parade is the

Saturday before the primaries, the New York City Labor Council also puts resources into advocating for candidates it supports for office. Beyond being a time-honored New York City tradition, the parade is a way for workers to come together and show the public just how many people are fighting for them. “We show our strength and show our solidarity by marching together,” Alvarez said.


32BJ SEIU and Airport Workers on Historic Quest for Economic and Social Justice Change often comes after years and years of hard work. No one knows this better than low wage workers. On Labor Day, they are taking a step back to look at their progress towards the ongoing fight still ahead of them. Six years ago, Andrea Bundy was struggling to survive on just $7.25 an hour while working as a cabin cleaner for a subcontractor at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. She struggled to make ends meet and take care of her daughter. Many of Andrea’s co-workers talk about similar, everyday struggles. Their stories are now well known. In 2012, subcontracted airport workers at LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and the John F. Kennedy International Airport started organizing for a union, higher wages and benefits with 32BJ

SEIU. The historic campaign has been wildly successful, as 9,000 low-wage workers organized themselves into 32BJ SEIU and nearly doubled the minimum wage at New York’s airports. But it didn’t come without a struggle. In the airports campaign, the broad aim was not to organize workers at a few subcontracting companies here and there, but to organize the entire airport industry. 32BJ SEIU successfully organized thousands of workers in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and won a commitment from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners to a $19 minimum wage for 40,000 employees at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia working for multiple employers. This sectoral approach has helped 32BJ SEIU in the past 20 years organize nearly 100,000

new members up and down the East Coast in the airport, security, cleaning, residential building and food service industries, and 90% of those members are covered under industry-wide “master” contracts that multiple employers sign onto. Organizing the majority of workers in an industry actually reduces the incentive for employers to fight unionization because companies are no longer competing against

each other in a race to the bottom for the lowest labor costs. Unions can create a floor for wages and benefits in the market, which raises job standards throughout the industry, thereby reducing employee turnover and improving the quality of services. It’s not easy but it can be done and in fact, it’s already making life better for thousands of workers. And another remarkable thing that

has come out of these efforts is the realization that raising standards for wages and benefits is not only an antidote for poverty for these workers of color but an economic stimulus for the communities in which they live. Unions remain the best vehicle workers have to fight for better wages, benefits and working conditions and by actively participating in our democratic process we can still speak to the aspirations, direct interests and core values of all working people. It’s been unions that are pushing a bold vision for issues beyond the workplace, including expanded social security, progressive taxation, affordable health care and prescription drugs, extended sick time and family leave, childcare benefits, pre-K for all children, no-cost college and reduction of student loan debt.

In 32BJ,

We Win!

Airport workers won a wage increase to $19 an hour —one of the highest in the nation—because we came together in union with 32BJ to demand the good jobs we deserve. Thanks to our fight, the Port Authority has voted to increase wages over the next five years that will get all 40,000 airport service workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports to $19 an hour. Find out more: www.seiu32bj.org/airports 32BJ SEIU 32BJSEIU

32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 25 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011 • www.seiu32bj.org




Labor pains, and labor gains


STATE OF THE UNION: (Above) Union activists and supporters rally against the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, case, in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan on June 27. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that public employee unions cannot require nonmembers to pay fees. (Left) The New York State Nurses Association called for more staffing to better care for New Yorkers at 14 of the city’s private hospitals in 2015. (Below) Crown Heights Tenant Union tenants and activists protested outside the Bedford Union Armory building in Crown Heights in 2016, demanding the city reverse the RFP given to Slate Property Group to convert the armory building into 330 apartments.

File photo by Paul Martinka

Associated Press / Richard Drew

Associated Press / Karla Ann Cote

BY PHOEBE VAN BUREN Since the Labor Movement took hold of New York City in the 1800s, its workers have fought for fair wages, reasonable hours, and important benefits. With every new government comes new fights, and with new fights, come opportunities to improve workers’ lives, its leaders say. Whether it be against developers behind some of the biggest building ventures in the city or media employees working for the chance to unionize, New York workers are now facing a myriad of issues. The larger movement is at a crossroads right now, as it will need to start using its money and members to keep members while coming to an agreement politically, according to one expert. “It’s going to fi nd itself spending resources to keep members they are already have,” said Ed Ott, who has spent 40 years in the Labor Movement and is a lecturer at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute Worker Education and Labor Studies. “We have to fi nd out how to keep what we have and what our political situation is at this point.” Perhaps the biggest labor issue of the 2018 came when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that people who are represented by a public unions but aren’t members don’t have to pay fees. As a result, unions expect that they will lose 10 to 30 percent of their members and the money that comes with them. To help unions suffering from the ruling, the New York City Central Labor Council has been working to stabilize unions and prepare them with the support they need to keep operating effectively, Vincent Alvarez, the president of the Council, said. While it struggles to recover from the Supreme Court decision, the movement is also experiencing a political divide. “There are many workers split in the Labor Movement who supported and continue to support Trump. We have other unions who are adamantly opposed,” Ott said. Trump supporters can be found in trade unions, while those who oppose the president include the teachers and nurses unions. As workers across the country fight to keep their unions alive, New York workers, nearly a quarter of those who are unionized, have been involved in several campaigns for their rights this year. The “Count me In” campaign launched in response to the developer behind Hudson Yards on the city’s west side using a mix of union and non-union labor. This can create safety hazards, as the nonunion workers may not be properly

trained, Alvarez said. “It’s an issue that’s extraordinarily dangerous and a tremendous amount of danger that exists in construction.” In July, workers at retail store H&M urged the company to negotiate with them for a fair contract that would include the elimination of making workers take back-to-back closing and opening shifts without at least 10.5 hours rest, ensuring a minimum number of hours per week, and the right to time off after five consecutive days worked. Members of the New York City Council got behind the workers and urged the company to


come to the table. And people working in digital media, an increasingly volatile industry, are battling to unionize and strike deals with their employers that would ensure job security, fair wages, and benefits. In August, workers at culture blog Thrillist went on strike after their company refused to reach an agreement with the union. Graduate school unions have been hard at work too — Columbia University employees urged officials to meet their demands to put an end to issues with late paychecks, rent increases, and inadequate medical coverage they

say interferes with their ability to provide the best education possible. Even as they face these new challenges, the problems that come from the government are still the same, Alvarez said. “There’s always the broader attacks on working people from the government.” In 2018 and beyond, workers will have to continue to come up with innovative ideas in order to effectively keep their unions and their livelihoods strong, according to Ott. “Old forms may not work in new capitalism and new forms are gonna be have to be created,” he said.


Buy America This Labor Day 9PJ:FKKG8LC Let’s try an experiment. It’s Labor Day weekend, when we take a moment to appreciate the contributions made to America by its working men and women. It’s also a weekend when we barbecue. So while you’re at one, ask a friend this question: Do you think New York’s public projects, paid for with your tax dollars, should be spent on American-made goods whenever possible? I bet you know the answer you’d get: “Of course!” That response is in line with statewide and national polling that finds majorities of voters think American-made spending plans for public projects are a good idea. And they are. By guaranteeing that domestic manufacturers are given the first shot when our government repairs a highway or builds a bridge, Buy America laws promote domestic economic growth. They create an incentive for companies to set

up shop in America, and that means more jobs in New York. And more jobs in New York means an expanded tax base and a smaller burden on the social safety net. And they don’t soak taxpayers. Buy America laws always include waivers if domestic material is prohibitively expensive or only available in limited quantities. Here’s an example of domestic preferences applied: A

few years ago, when the Metropolitan Transit Authority went looking for 15,000 tons of steel to replace the upper deck on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, it ended up buying it on the cheap from stateowned companies in China. That’s a lot of business for government-subsidized steelmakers on the other side of the planet, which instead could have put American workers on the job.

By comparison, the recent Tappan Zee Bridge construction project was partially funded by federal money, and was therefore stuck to Buy America rules. And it just so happened that New York officials found it cost-competitive to purchase all the steel required for the new span from U.S. manufacturers. The results? Making it in America saved more than $1.5 billion and years of construction time. It also nearly 8,000 American jobs in the production of its construction material. While you’re at that barbecue, ask your friend which deal made more sense. New York last winter moved to bring its state-level procurement policies into line with federal ones. It now requires the use of American-made iron and domestically melted and poured steel for any and all work on road and bridge projects over $1 million. It also requires the use of domestic iron and do-

mestically melted and poured steel for all contracts over $1 million awarded by the Dormitory Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Bridge Authority or the Thruway Authority. It would be good to see all New York agencies implement such rules in their procurement policies. But this is a good start, because when correctly applied, buying American supports American jobs. New York’s tax dollars should remain in the state and national economy – and not be used to promote jobs overseas, especially when costcompetitive and quality goods are available here at home. They’re a good idea, and they’re good for our economy. So, next time you find yourself using a piece of public infrastructure, ask yourself a question: Do I know where this bridge or road was this made, and by whom? With strong Buy America rules, you’ll know the answer.

American workers built our past.

American workers can build our future, too. www.americanmanufacturing.org




Labor in New York BY PHOEBE VAN BUREN The New York City Labor Movement has spanned more than four centuries, dating back to the 1600s. Over time, the key players have changed but the problems remain very much the same. It would be nearly impossible to put together an exhaustive list of all of movement’s events in The City That Never Sleeps, but we’ve compiled a brief history showing how workers have fought for their rights time and time again:

1882 Approximately 30,000 Knights of Labor convene at City Hall for an unofficial march that would become the city’s fi rst Labor Day Parade. The event was held on a Tuesday, meaning that workers had to give up a day of wages to attend. Matthew and Peter MacGuire proposed the day be named Labor Day to celebrate workers. The parade was held the following year, inspiring a campaign for the holiday across the country.



1894 Congress names the fi rst Monday of September Labor Day.

1909 Roughly 20,000 women, primarily Jewish, working in shirtwaist factories, walked out of the job in protest of unfair wages, working conditions, and hours, marking the fi rst mass strike by women in United States history. The following year, the women’s demands were met.

1911 A fi re broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village, killing 146 garment workers after they became trapped in the building due to locked exits and only one fi re escape. The tragedy was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in American history.

1930s Folk singer Woody Guthrie performs at Webster Hall in support of union workers.


1954-1968 One million black workers enter the Congress of Industrial Organizations, sparking a new campaign from black workers to use labor issues to win the fight for racial justice. During that time, tensions rise as some unions refuse to make any changes to their traditions.

1959 In a milestone event for the Labor Movement, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations merged to create the AFLCIO, the largest federation of unions in the country. That same year, the Labor Day Parade moves to Fifth Avenue, where 115,000 union workers and their supporters celebrated the day. Also in 1959, city fi refi ghters decide to unionize in a bid to win a pay increase.

1960 Union leaders urge the city to set a minimum wage of $1.25 per hour, asking that the state or Congress raise the rate.



1. Steven Wallaert, head of Patco’s local 291 in Norfolk, Va., center, shakes hands with Patco President Robert Poli, left, during the parade in 1981. At right is Wallaert’s wife Connie. Wallaert, whose picture was published nationwide when he was taken away in chains by federal authorities, said: “They put me in chains symbolically and this is a symbol that they can keep Patco in chains.”2. Horse-drawn carriage drivers supported by the Teamsters Union march. 3. Local 361 iron worker and Brooklynite Robert Farula carries an American flag during the 2012 parade. 4. Former mayor Ed Koch marches in the parade on Fifth Avenue on Sept. 7, 1981. 5. Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale, center, vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, and New York’s Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo wave to New Yorkers as they march in 1984. 7. Members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union wave from a float in 1961. 7. Union members march up Fifth Avenue. 8. Stagehands Local 1 Union member Al Cittadino rides a motorcycle up Fifth Avenue. 9. Members of 1199 Service Employees International Union march up Fifth Avenue in 2015’s Labor Day Parade and March.



through the years 1961 The Brotherhood Labor Party demands a $1.50 minimum wage, and six-hour, five day a week work schedule. In December, city labor leaders announce they will support a New Year’s Day strike for a 20-hour work week. The city labor commissioner jump-starts negotiations to avoid a strike that may affect streetlights.




City Council passes a bill that raises minimum wage to $1.50 an hour, boosting the paychecks of approximately 400,000 workers. In return, business owners sue, alleging that the pay raise is unconstitutional.

1965 Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoes the $1.50 an hour wage, arguing that the raise would force businesses owners to take their work elsewhere.

1967 More than 6,000 handymen, elevator operators, porters, and custodians strike to protest building owners’ assertion that complying with union contracts would mean that they would have to raise rents. The strike affected 1,000 apartment buildings across the city.

1970 Letter carriers in Brooklyn and Manhattan walk out on the job, beginning the fi rst mass work stoppage in the history of the United States Post Office Department. The strike grew to 210,000 employees, causing President Richard Nixon to declare a state of emergency and deploy the military to New York City post offices.



Approximately 20,000 New York City police officers refuse to report for duty during the fiveday NYPD work stoppage after a lawsuit that would have increased pay for police and fi refi ghters is struck down. Officers said they would still respond to serious crimes, but would not participate in regular patrolling duties. As a result, the city was patrolled by as few as 200 officers at some times.

1985 Roughly 14,000 workers from 45 hotels walk off the job to protest unfair wages in the fi rst walkout in the history of the Hotel and Motel Trade Council of the AFL-CIO.

2005 Starting on Dec. 20, during the busiest shopping week of the year, New York City transit workers went on strike for two days, stopping most bus and subway service. This was a result of a breakdown in negotiations for a new contract over retirement, pension, and wage increases.




Supporters of the “Fight for $15” campaign win big when a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is signed into law along with a 12week paid family leave policy. COMMUNITY NEWS GROUP • NYC WORKS • SEPT. 6, 2018



They love a parade! More than 150 unions, locals and organizations will march this year SECTOR 5 March Time: 12 pm

BY JAMES HARNEY Some 150 unions and union local members of the New York City Central Labor Council are set to step off from Fifth Avenue and 44th Street in the 2018 Labor Day Parade and March on Saturday, Sept. 8. Here is a list of the line of march:

New York City District Council Of Carpenters and local unions Elevator Constructors Local 1 International Union Of Operating Engineers and local unions Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1

LEAD-OFF SECTOR: March time: 10 am

Tile, Marble And Terrazzo Local 7

NYPD Color Guard LEAD-OFF BAND: The Tottenville High School Marching Band GRAND MARSHAL: Michael Mulgrew, president, United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2 PARADE CHAIR: Lester Crocket, regional president, CSEA-AFSCME Local 1000, Region 11 NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO: Officers and executive board

SECTOR 6 March time: 12:15 pm

UNION PROUD: Union activists and supporters rally against the Supreme Court’s ruling International Brotherhood of Elecin the Janus v. AFSCME case, in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, on June 27. trical Workers (IBEW) Associated Press / Karla Ann Cote

International Alliance Of Theatrical Stage Employees and local unions New York Council Of Motion Picture

New York State AFL-CIO

SECTOR 1 March time: 10:15 am

New York State Department Of Labor

United Federation Of Teachers and AFT local unions

Pride at Work

New York State United Teachers and local unions

A. Philip Randolph Institute

Civil Service Merit Council American Federation Of Government Employees and local unions

IBEW Local 3 IBEW local unions New York State Allied Printing Trades Council Allied Printing Trades Council Graphic Communications Conference

SECTOR 3 March time: 11 am Building and Construction Trades Council BCTC officers and staff Helmets To Hardhats

SECTOR 7 March time: 12:45 pm United Auto Workers Region 9A & local unions Utility Workers Union Of America Local 1–2

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance

United University ProfessionsDownstate Medical Chapter

Coalition Of Black Trade Unionists

Professional Staff Congress

The Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills

Coalition Of Labor Union Women

Council Of Supervisors and Administrators

Non-Traditional Employment for Women

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

Labor Council For Latin American Advancement

United Food & Commercial Workers


Plumbers Local 1

UFCW-RWDSU Local unions

New York City Alliance Of Retired Americans

AFSCME District Council 37 and local unions

Steamfitters Local 638

Union Veterans Council

AFSCME District Council 1707 & local unions

Laborers’ Local 731, 147 and National Postal Mailhandlers Union Local 300

International Longshoremen Association and local unions 920, 1814

Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94

Cement & Concrete Workers Dc 16, Locals 6A, 18A & 20

Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854

Pavers And Road Builders District Council, Local 1010

SECTOR 8 March time: 1:15 pm

Public Employees Federation

Cement Masons Local 780

Teamsters Joint Council 16 and IBT local unions

Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition New York Branch NAACP Jewish Labor Committee New York Labor History Association James Connelly Irish American Labor Coalition Italian American Labor Council New York Committee For Occupational Safety & Health Mount Sinai Selikoff Cornell Worker Institute

SECTOR 2 March time: 10:45 am Communication Workers Of America and local unions The Association Of Flight Attendants

Plasterers’ Local 262 Mason Tenders District Council & Locals 66, 78, 79, 108, 279 & 1261

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco & Grain Millers and local unions

SEIU Local 1199 SEIU Local 246 SEIU Local UNIONS

SECTOR 4 March time: 11:30 am

Workers United

Roofers And Waterproofers Local 8

Transport Workers Union Of America and local unions

CUNY Murphy Institute

Amalgamated Transit Union & local unions

Empire State College-SUNY

American Postal Workers Union

Sheet metal Workers Locals 28 & 137

Seafarers’ International Union Of North America

New York City Labor Chorus

National Association Of Letter Carriers

Ironworkers District Council and Locals 40, 46, 197, 361, 580

Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, District 1

American Federation Of Musicians Local 802

New York State Nurses Association

Heat and Frost Insulators Locals 12 & 12A

New York Taxi Workers Alliance


Boilermakers Local Lodge 5

Unite Here! Local unions

American Guild Of Musical Artists

Office and Professional Employees International Union & local unions

Writers Guild Of America East

Organization Of Staff Analysts

International Union Of Painters & Allied Trades DC 9 & Locals

International Association Of Machinists & Aerospace Workers

Actors’ Equity Association


Air Line Pilots Association


NY Hotel & Motel Trades Council

New York City Brags About the Expansion of UPK, But… New York City Must Provide Wage Parity for The City’s Public Center-Based Day Care and Head Start Employees Employees working for public center-based early education centers are being cheated out of thousands of dollars of income over their careers by the City of New York. And the City is doing nothing about it. For years these dedicated public day care and Head Start employees have made exceptional sacrifices to work in their profession. The City’s response has been to pay them tens of thousands of dollars less than their public school counterparts, even though they are mandated to hold the same education and state education credentials. These employees have provided high quality early childhood education services to New York City’s children and toddlers for nearly two generations. The City has created a multi-tier wage disparity program with Early Learn, Head Start and UPK teachers and other staff earning disparate and lower wages, it seems, because the majority of employees are women and women of color – and many are heads of households. This not happening in Alabama or Mississippi. This is happening in progressive New York City. In fact, a retention crisis has developed in many centers caused by the lack of wage parity. Early childhood education staff earn their credentials and often leave for the public schools. Across the city many centers experience inordinate turnover rates when staff leave the jobs they love for better paying jobs in public schools or other career opportunities. It is the children who suffer because staff retention is necessary for young minds to flourish. The toll on staff and families in these communities-in-need is also particularly painful. It is discrimination at its lowest form. The City of New York cannot pretend to ignore it anymore. New York City must act now to end this thoughtless crisis in child care by providing necessary funding for salary/benefit increases to the staff at the unionized nonprofit early childhood education centers across the city. The time for change is now! Name (print): _____________________________________________________________________________ Address: ________________________________________________________________________________ Date: ____________________ District Council 1707 AFSCME | 420 West 45th Street New York, New York, 10036 | 212-219-0022 COMMUNITY NEWS GROUP • NYC WORKS • SEPT. 6, 2018



Lights! Camera! Unions! BY JAMES HARNEY Labor — who does it, for whom, and what, if any, is acceptable compensation for it — is a never-ending story. Through the decades, the employeremployee relationship has spawned its own vernacular: walkouts, work stoppages, slowdowns, demonstrations, layoffs, strikes, riots, unions. From time to time, clashes between labor unions and management — and sometimes, the individuals who have emerged at the forefront of those clashes — have drawn the attention of Hollywood’s spotlight. Here are a few noteworthy movies that have crossed the silver screen in recent years:

gling colleagues to go on strike after Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, tries to one-up business rival William Randolph Hearst by raising the prices that the “newsies” have to pay to buy newspapers from Pulitzer’s distribution centers.

‘On the Waterfront’ “On the Waterfront” was a 1954 movie directed by famed Hollywood director Elia Kazan that depicted union violence and corruption and racketeering on the Hoboken, N.J. waterfront. It featured a star-studded cast that included Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Rod

‘Hoffa’ “Hoffa” was a 1992 fi lm biography of the notorious union boss Jimmy Hoffa, chronicling 40 years of his life, his rise to the top spot in the rough-and-tumble International Brotherhood of Teamsters, to his leadership of a violent strike, to his sinister involvement with organized crime, to his well-publicized clashes with U.S. Attorney General Robert

jealous of her closeness with the labor activist, as well as fierce opposition from her employers. The movie climaxes with the workers voting to form a union. In addition to Fields’s Best Actress Oscar win, the 1979 fi lm also won an Oscar for Best Original Song for the theme song, “It Goes Like It Goes.” And in 2011, “Norma Rae” was chosen to be preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, because it is “culturally, aesthetically or historically significant.”

‘Harlan County, USA’ “Harlan County, USA” was a 1976 documentary about labor tension in the coal-mining industry, in which director and workers’ rights advocate Barbara Kopple fi lmed a 1972 strike by miners at the Brookside Mine in rural Kentucky. After the miners join a union, the mine’s owners refuse the labor contract. Once the miners walk off their jobs, the owners bring in “scabs” top replace them. The strike dragged on

High points in “Newsies” include a confrontation between Jack, his compatriot Les Jacobs and Pulitzer in the publisher’s office, a refusal by Brooklyn-based newsies to join the Manhattan newsboys’ strike, and a climactic ambush of the distribution center and destruction of all its newspapers.

‘Norma Rae’ Starring Oscar-winner Sally Field, “Norma Rae” was based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton, a worker in a textile mill in a small North Carolina town where the pay is low and the hours long. Inspired by a rousing speech from a visiting labor activist — and af-

F. Kennedy during a federal investigation into Hoffa’s infamous mob dealings, to his unsuccessful bid to re-take control of the Teamsters, to his violent death in a hail of gunshots, presumably fi red by a mob hitman. It ends with Hoffa’s body being taken away in the back of a truck, to an undisclosed location. Exactly where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is buried remains the stuff of organized crime lore.


Steiger, Pat Henning and Eva Marie Saint, with a soundtrack composed by the legendary Leonard Bernstein. It told the story of the conflict between a cold-blooded union leader and a disenchanted dockworker. The dockworker had been a talented boxer on the rise until a powerful mob boss persuaded him to throw a fi ght. But when a longshoreman is murdered before he can testify in an investigation into the mob boss’s violent control of the waterfront, the dockworker courageously decides to testify himself.


‘Newsies!’ “Newsies!” was a Disney musical based on the real-life New York City newsboy strike of 1899. Starring Christian Bale, and featuring Ann-Margret, Robert Duvall and Bill Pullman, the 1992 movie centers around the story of struggling newsboy Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, who spurs his equally young, equally strug-

gests that the “accident” may have been murder, but the case has never been solved. In real life, Silkwood’s death gave rise to a 1979 lawsuit, Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee. The jury rendered a verdict of $10 million in damages to be paid to Silkwood’s estate, at the time the largest amount in damages ever awarded for that kind of case. Eventually, the estate settled for a $1.3 payout.

ter poor working conditions at the mill start becoming hazardous to workers’ health, including her own — Norma Rae is moved to rally her beleaguered colleagues to unionize. She encounters anger from a fi ancé


Released in 1983, “Silkwood” starred Meryl Streep in a role inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood, a whistle-blowing worker and labor union shop steward who died in a mysterious car accident while on her way to meet with a news reporter investigating alleged wrongdoing and serious safety defects at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant where she worked. The movie sug-

for nearly a year, and confrontations between strikers and scabs often became violent, with even Kopple and her cameraman beaten in one incident. Clashes were often punctuated by gunfi re, and in one, a miner was killed. Kopple and her crew spent years with the families depicted in the fi lm, documenting how they suffered while striking for decent wages and safer working conditions, and how some miners contracted Black Lung Disease. “Harlan County, USA” won Kopple an Oscar for Best Documentary.


Ratting out the scabs! The story of Scabby the Rat, the inflatable star of many a picket line BY JAMES HARNEY It was early September, 2016. Labor Day had come and gone, and a new semester at the Downtown Brooklyn campus of Long Island University was supposed to have begun. But instead of standing at the front of their classrooms, faculty members — embroiled in a salary dispute with the university’s administration in which replacement educators had been brought in — were marching on the sidewalk outside the school’s main building on Flatbush Avenue, waving placards and chanting slogans. And Scabby was there. For more than 40 years at labor unions’ picket lines around New York, Scabby the Rat — an inflatable charcoalgray rodent with a bubbly pink underbelly, pointed claws, reddish eyes and protruding buck teeth, has often loomed silently nearby, a six, 15, 20, or even 25-foot-tall snarling sym-

bol of protest against real or perceived mistreatment of employees by management. “New York is still a labor union town,” says Senior Professor of Journalism Dr. Ralph Engelman, a former vice president of the LIU Faculty Federation. “Bringing out the rat to embarrass the university and call attention to its attack on labor was something we felt was very important.” Workers who have crossed picket lines to replace union workers have historically been vilified as “scabs,” or “rats,” but “Scabby” didn’t begin appearing at picket lines, demonstrations, or marches until 1990, in Chicago. That’s when the Chicago branch of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers union approached Big Sky Balloons and Searchlights, based in suburban Plainfield, Ill., and asked owners Mike and Peggy O’Connor to design and produce a larger than life inflatable rat that

would send a menacing message alongside a union demonstration. “He [the union official] turned down Mike’s first design, saying, ‘No I want it to look meaner,’ ” Peggy O’Connor remembers. “So Mike tweaked it to give it more snarl, with meaner-looking nails and teeth and that nasty pink belly. That’s what they wanted.” As it turns out, that’s what a lot of striking or demonstrating labor unions wanted. “Scabby” is now in such demand that Big Sky now produces seven sizes of the inflatable vermin, ranging from 6-feet-tall models priced at nearly $2,600 to 25-footers that cost almost $10,000. The price includes a blower, with an extension cord, to inflate the balloon, and stakes to hold it in place on the ground. O’Connor estimated the firm makes “about 50 in a year,” and has expanded their line of inflatable protest bal-

RATS!: Union activists hoisted the giant, inflatable rat outside a residential development in Gowanus in 2015, alleging worker exploitation by the File photo by Jason Speakman contracted construction company. loons to include a “corporate fat cat [a pompous-looking, feline wearing a suit and grabbing a construction worker by the neck in one hand, and a money bag in the other], a “greedy pig,” a cockroach, and a Border Patrol agent. “We once even designed an inflatable bedbug for a group protesting a New York hotel that had bedbugs,” she said. “We’re in the balloon business; they asked for it, so we made it.” In the past, victims of “Scabby the Rat” have chal-

lenged its legality — and lost. In 2011 that National Labor Relations Board ruled that the inflatable rodent was a symbolic form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. And in 2014, a Brooklyn federal judge upheld the right of a laborers’ union to use “Scabby” in its demonstration. “In an era in which attacks on labor are taking place on multiple fronts, it’s particularly important for unions to fight back,” Engelman said. “The use of the rat at our lockout was part of that fight.”



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union rate put those workers at risk. In the end, it’s those workers who suffer. He thinks Saturday’s parade “shows that unity brings strength, that we’re the working class people who build and move everything around the city.”

Four workers tell why they value union membership BY JAMES HARNEY

Dave McIntosh Journeyman, Plumbers Union Local 1

“My boys rely on me, I needed to work in a place that’s unionized, where I don’t have to worry about layoffs the way people do working in the private sector,” Diaz said. “I feel a lot more secure knowing I’ve got the protection provided by Local 100.” That’s why she feels union workers should “go out there [and march] in force,” in New York City Labor Day Parade and March on Saturday, Sept. 8, “to show that union presence.”

There are more than one million unionized workers in the New York metropolitan area — policemen, firefighters, schoolteachers, letter carriers, longshoremen, hospital workers, construction laborers, electricians, hotel and motel employees to name just a few — toiling for some 300 union locals, some with predictable names, like the American Postal Workers Union, or the New York State Nurses Association; others with such unique identities as Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Local 7, or the Heat & Frost Insulators Locals 12 & 12A. Many have interesting personal stories about their paths to union membership, and why they value that membership. Here, Community News Group profiles four such workers:

Barrington Anderson Professional mover, Local 814, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Gloria Diaz

Photo by Caleb Caldwell

Photo by Zoe Freilich

Photo by Caroline Ourso

Train operator, New York City Transit, Transport Workers Union Local 100

Diaz is a single mother who lives in Bensonhurst with her three sons, ages 21, 16 and 11. For a while, she worked as an operations assistant for a marketing fi rm based in East New York, then later went into business for herself, running a small home improvement company. Neither, she says, provided the fi nancial security and healthcare benefits she wanted for her family. “The marketing company didn’t really offer benefits, and with my own company, if no customers came in, I didn’t make any money. I was out there fending for myself,” Diaz said. In 2009, Diaz took the exam to become a New York City Transit train operator. She passed, but then waited six long years before she got the call in 2015 to come in for training. “They put me in a training program that lasted eight months, and it was rigorous,” she said. “NYC Transit holds trainees to a high standard of perfection, which I understand, since as a train operator you’ve got thousands of lives in your hands at any given time.” But Diaz was up to the challenge, and in October she’ll mark her third year as a train operator. She says she’s grateful for the opportunity, and for the security she gets as a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100.



Anderson has been a member of the Teamsters local representing professional movers in the city since 2005. The work takes him to jobs all over the city, and at times even as far as towns in New Jersey. The work can be tough at times, and he says he wouldn’t even think of doing it without the wage and healthcare protections his union local provides. “I live with my wife and six children in Yonkers,” Anderson, 40, said one day last week during a break from a job at a large hotel in midtown Manhattan. “Being in this union helps me maintain a fair wage and get the coverages I need for my family.” Anderson is so convinced of the value of union membership that he spends some of his down time doing union outreach work. “I represent the freelance movers who aren’t affi liated with one company or another,” he explained. “When they look for jobs and are looking for information within the union, I’m one of the guys to go to.” Anderson says the moving industry in New York is often infi ltrated by non-union workers, a practice he thinks is a bad idea. “There are some ‘fake unions’ out there that aren’t really unions,’ he said. “Their members aren’t certified, they can’t OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] cards to do jobs on some of the newer developments being constructed these days. Unions are important because they protect us in the event of injuries on the job. Companies that try to get by with non union labor to save money and pay their workers less than the

McIntosh, a 13-year member of Plumbers Union Local 1, likes to stay busy. “I wear a couple of hats for Local 1,” McIntosh, 43, readily admits. “Out in the field, I’m a full-time plumber. I was recently elected for my second term on the Local 1 fi nance committee. And I also teach an orientation class — we call it the Heritage Class — for new union members.” The class, which McIntosh teaches two nights a week at the Trade Education Center in Long Island City, is intended to give new members “an idea about unions, what they’re about, and a taste of labor history.” He says the Heritage Class particularly resonates with him because of his own, sometimes rocky, path to union membership. “I was working as a non-union plumber, and did some work as an apprentice, but it was a farce,” McIntosh recalls. “I knew union members made higher rates of pay and had benefits, but this was before the Internet and smartphones, and I didn’t know anything about how to get into a union. I fi gured you had to be a friend of a friend, I thought it was a closed situation.” That changed, he says, when a friend gave him the phone number to the local Plumbers Union hall. On a whim, he called it, left his phone number with a secretary and, to his surprise, got a return call asking for resume. The conversation led to McIntosh signing on with the union “at the absolute lowest entry level, plumbers helper.” In the years that followed, he worked his way up the union ladder from a helper in the service division, to a journeyman in the higher-paying new construction division, attending training classes at night to become more skilled at his trade. He excelled so well in those classes that he was eventually asked to teach them. “I’ve been doing it now for about four years, working as a plumber by day and teaching incoming union members by night,” McIntosh says. “I feel like it’s me giving back to the organization that’s provided such a great opportunity for me.” The married father of three, who lives with his family in Teaneck, N.J., says joining the Plumbers Union

NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE changed his life, and he’s a firm believer in its value. “I’m convinced that labor unions are the only viable vehicle for upward mobility. We are the middle class. If an employer is not paying a decent rate of pay, how are workers supposed to get medical coverage for their families, and to have enough money to live on when they retire? Asked why the parade is important, McIntosh said: “I hate to sound jaded, but what are the two things that matter to politicians? Money, and votes. So by turning out in force for the Labor Day Parade, and putting our boots on the ground, so to speak, we’re showing what kind of a force we can be in the political arena.”

Construction engineer, Local 14, Crane & Heavy Equipment Operators Union When Stephens stood before a meeting of Local 14 of the Crane & Heavy Equipment Operators Union in Flushing, Queens in June, 1987, she broke the union’s glass ceiling, becoming the union’s first woman member. The milestone didn’t surprise her; becoming a construction engineer for Local 14 — the union her father, Monroe, had belonged to as a laborer for many years — was a goal she had pursued for several years. What did surprise her was the applause. “About 300 men at the meeting applauded me for fi nishing the training,” Stephens remembers. “It was overwhelming. Then I was told that I was officially in the local. A couple of days later, I went to work as a full-fledged unionized construction engineer.” That moment was the culmination of a road that had begun when she was a young woman who was disenchanted with fi nance classes at Pace Univer-

Photo by Trey Pentecost

Evet Stephens

sity, and with law enforcement courses at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and decided she wanted nothing as much as a career as a construction engineer. “My dad was old fashioned, he didn’t want his daughter working with men who used bad words all day, but when he saw I was undeterred, he relented and drove me to the Local 14 offices,” she said. After trips between union offices in Manhattan and Queens, Stephens completed and submitted the necessary paperwork.

“The man at the union hall looked at me and said, ‘Don’t waste my time. Are you sure you want to do this?’ I said yes, I’m sure.’ Somehow I convinced him,” she said. She was accepted for training in November of 1982, and four years later was inducted into the union as its fi rst woman member. “I went through the same learning and training as any man would do,” Stephens recalls. “When I fi rst started working on jobs, the men would look at me as if to say, ‘What are you doing here?’ It took some time for them to get used to it, but they fi nally realized that I was serious, and that I was going to show up to class every single time, they came around.” After 31 years as a construction engineer at various job sites in the metropolitan area, Stephens says she is “as satisfied now as I was then,” and notes that now, there are “25 to 30” women members of Local 14. “It is a long time coming,” she says of other women joining the union. “It didn’t happen for the fi rst few years. It wasn’t like [women] were pushing in the door to [become construction engineers].” But Stephens has never regretted her career choice, and insists that “unions are what made this country. You have job security when you’re with a union; you’re able to make a decent living and take care of your family. Hiring non-union workers is dangerous; they have no training whatsoever. We’re constantly doing training, doing refresher courses for everything we’ve learned, the industry is changing and we’re studying to change with it.” The parade “shows solidarity for the workingclass man and woman, and it shows that as union members they’re safer, more efficient, and qualified to get the job done.”





Flipping Our Lid for Wigstock Scenes from Sept. 1â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relaunch at Pier 17 PHOTO ESSAY BY BOB KRASNER

FLIP LID continued on p. 23

NYC Community Media

September 6, 2018


Wigstock is Best When Served with a Sense of Self Bob Krasner recalls festival’s gritty East Village roots

Photos by Bob Krasner

Some in the crowd reached the heights of self-expression commonplace during Wigstock’s early era.

Neil Patrick Harris’ Hedwig was a literal showstopper.

BY BOB KRASNER I remember seeing a flier on an East Village lamppost years ago, advertising something called Wigstock. This will be interesting, I thought. Talk about understatement — it was fascinating. I made it a point to go every year that I could (I was at almost every one), shooting god knows how much film and marveling at the creativity and outrageousness of everyone involved — and everyone was involved. There wasn’t much separation between the performers and the audience then, it was all one big communal gathering in a perfect setting that felt like our backyard. In the very early days in Tompkins Square Park, you could probably count the attendees without much trouble. There was no real “backstage,” and, for me, the real show was the audience. People filled the park with costumes of bold inventiveness, served with a sense of humor and a sense of self. Custom-made wigs defied gravity, and so did some of the queens, tottering on heels that may have been modified from stilts. In the days long before RuPaul was a household name, Lady Bunny and Scott Lifshutz had created a particularly unique event — one day a year when the denizens of the Pyramid’s drag scene, and anyone else, could parade about and be admired (and gawked at) in broad daylight. Of course, it was inevitable that the event would

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September 6, 2018

NYC Community Media

outgrow the park, and once it did it was never really the same. It was mounted at Union Square Park and then on a pier on the West Side, losing the charm of our East Village oasis. Please do not think, however, that I am not thrilled that Lady Bunny was once again onstage at Pier 17 on September 1, showing off her wigs, her legs, and her not-exactly-PC brand of comedy. For a somewhat pricey ticket, you got stellar talent, with Wigstock veterans Joey Arias, the Toilet Böys, Lypsinka, and hardcore performance art by The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black and Kembra Pfahler, alongside “Drag Race” stars Bob the Drag Queen and Peppermint. Justin Vivian Bond was her usual riveting self, and Amanda Lepore was, well, Amanda Lepore (but that’s all she needs to be). Neil Patrick Harris (also a producer of the event) doing a number from “Hedwig and The Angry Inch” in character was a showstopper and, in fact, the end of the show. This year, it was really all about the show. While many audience members dressed for the occasion, they were in the minority and very few showed the kind of originality that was on parade back in the day. Comparing the latest edition of Wigstock to the original neighborhood dragfest is a bit like thinking about the way you miss your kids when they were younger. You know they had to grow up and you are glad that they are mature and healthy, but you can’t help missing how cute they were back then. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a major sign that this culture has entered the mainstream, and Wigstock’s success was a stepping stone along the way. I still remember leaving Tompkins after another Wigstock, as RuPaul was standing on a bench trying to sell her T-shirts. Things have definitely changed.

Lypsinka might be from the old guard, but her performance style is still cutting-edge.


Fewer audience members showed up in full drag than in years past, but this one’s look is both minimalist and effective.


Photos by Bob Krasner

Absolutely fabulous, and not just because she’s got it in writing. NYC Community Media

September 6, 2018


Five Cool Questions for Peppermint Sweet star is killing on Broadway, slayed at Wigstock BY VICTOR O Ensconced in a corner of the sprawling staging area one floor below the rooftop venue where Sept. 1’s Wigstock 2.HO weaved its magic, NYC Community Media’s four-person team waited patiently for a trail of drag queens to avail themselves. But the demands of glitter, gloss, and glam (to say nothing of tucking) took its toll on the period set aside for press interviews. So when we saw Peppermint on the outskirts of the “do not enter” dressing room area, our Victor O seized the moment and got his interview with this sweet and approachable artist. The Season 9 veteran of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was taking a rare afternoon off from performing as Ptyhio, The Oracle of Delphi, in the musical “Head Over Heels.” It’s yet another trail blazed for the recording artist and internationally recognized entertainer, who recently made her Broadway debut as the first transgender woman to create a principal role. Seen by this publication during previews, we were smitten with Peppermint’s charisma, comedic timing, vocal chops, and vulnerability. Knowing she was pressed for time, Victor kept it to the basics. VICTOR: How do you feel, being here today at Wigstock? PEPPERMINT: It feels amazing and epic. It’s a huge celebration of drag, and it’s just great to have

Photo by Bob Krasner

An army we’d gladly be drafted into: Peppermint and crew, at Wigstock.

something so historic come back. I remember being inspired by [1995’s] Wigstock: The Movie” before I came to New York. And then, once I got here, I went several times and even had a chance to perform a few times. So it’s very kind of full circle for me, and I’m just happy that in two weeks, they were able to throw it together. VICTOR: That’s so awesome. Right now you’re getting so popular, because you’re in “Head Over Heels.” How is it to be in the show? PEPPERMINT: It’s a dream come true to be on Broadway, and it’s an even better dream to be in a

show that you believe in — the material. So it’s great. VICTOR: I’m taking everyone to see that show. Because I saw it, and it was amazing. I was laughing through the whole thing [Victor sizes up Peppermint’s wig]. I was actually wearing a wig, too. PEPPERMINT: Today? VICTOR: Yeah, but I took it off because people thought I was Adore Delano. PEPPERMINT: Oh, my god [laughs]. Good, then you’ll do it and get paid. VICTOR: I’m gonna put it on again, and that’s how I’ll get backstage. PEPPERMINT:Yeah! VICTOR: What’s in the future for you? PEPPERMINT: I don’t know. I mean, I would like to think the sky’s the limit. I’m interested in all types of projects — big or small, mainstream or, quote, underground. I mean, Wigstock was an underground thing for a while. I’m interested in any type of projects that are going to help me grow. VICTOR: In which direction: acting, singing, movies? PEPPERMINT: All of it. Yes, yes, and yes. VICTOR: One final question: Will you be back for an all-stars season [of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”]? PEPPERMINT: You’ll have to wait and see, darling [laughs].

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IDC continued from p. 1

Democrats, fired up in opposition to President Donald Trump, are also taking aim at some of the eight Democrats in the State Senate who for most of the past two years sat as the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and gave their leadership votes to the minority Republican Conference, allowing the GOP to hold on to control of the Senate and block key progressive initiatives from winning passage. Alcantara was a member of the IDC from the day she took her seat in January 2017 until the caucus was dissolved this past April and its members rejoined the regular Democratic Conference. Though critics charge that the IDC-Republican alliance blocked progress on issues including universal health care, women’s reproductive rights, strengthened protections for rent-regulated tenants, immigrant protections, and transgender civil rights, Alcantara touts 12 bills she has written and seen enacted and more than $7 million she’s brought back home to Senate District 31, which runs up the west side of Manhattan from Hell’s Kitchen to Inwood. Still, despite the dissolution of the IDC, a number of its former members are facing high-profile challengers like Jackson. When asked about her time in the IDC and if voters should believe it is truly dissolved — the defecting Democrats pledged several years ago to return to the fold only to later renege on that commitment — Alcantara argued that even after the Democratic Conference was reunited, with the exception of Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder who separately aligns himself with the Republicans, key progressive legislation couldn’t get passed. Two months remained in the legislative session after the IDC folded up shop, she noted, but the New York Health Act, and the DREAM Act were among the progressive goals that still did not win approval. “I don’t even know what to tell people,” Alcantara said. “If it’s dissolved, it’s dissolved. What else can I do?” Voters, she added, will have to decide for themselves. Among her accomplishments in her 20 months in the Senate, Alcantara said, are a law requiring landlords to publish non-rental fees for rent-regulated apartments, another requiring the State Health Department to take “immediate action” when lead NYC Community Media

poisoning is found, and a variety of measures providing assistance to underserved communities, including one that supports several mental health services centers in her district addressing the high rates of suicide among Latinas and LGBTQ youth. The last contest between Alcantara and Jackson, who served in the Council from 2001 through 2013, was a tight race. Jackson lost by just 533 votes with 30 percent of the electorate. Micah Lasher took 31 percent of the votes, and Alcantara 32 percent. Jackson had also run for the seat in 2014. But, he said, 2018 is entirely different. New groups have popped up — “like flowers in the springtime,” Jackson said — such as No IDC NY and True Blue NY, due in large measure to the grassroots energy that has exploded since Trump’s election. Constituents, Jackson said, “know that all of these bills have been passed by the New York State Assembly and basically have not even been voted upon by the New York State Senate because of Republicans controlling the agenda,” Jackson said. Jackson — a longtime parent activist for school funding — said that when Alcantara took her seat a pressing need facing schools around the state was the $4.3 billion shortfall in education funds Albany owed them under the terms of a 2006 court ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. A key mover in bringing that suit, Jackson said the amount owed to schools in District 31 alone amounted to $52 million. The IDC, he charged, failed to stand up for the public schools, helping to scuttle the State Assembly’s effort to force the state to make good on its obigation. It’s “shameful that they basically disregarded the children’s education,” Jackson said. “[The] IDC and Marisol have enabled the Republicans to maintain that control so none of those laws has been passed.” Alcantara argued that even without the eight IDC votes, the defection of Brooklyn’s Felder continued to give the Republicans control of the Senate. “People always say, ‘Oh, you guys want to use Simcha as an excuse,’” she said. “Well it’s not an excuse, it’s a reality.” The challenges that Jackson and others are mounting against IDC incumbents are part of a larger pro-

gressive insurgnecy in New York and elsewhere that in June propelled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, to defeat Congressmember Joe Crowley, a 19-year incumbent and the head of the Queens Democratic Party, in a district that also includes sections of the Bronx. In August, Alcantara, speaking on Ben Max and Jared Murphy’s WBAI radio show, said that she — as a woman of color — is held to a “purity test” that isn’t equally applied to others, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is widely seen as having implicitly supported the IDC’s aligment with the Republicans. When asked if Cynthia Nixon’s tough primary challenge to Cuomo wasn’t an effort to hold him accountable, as well, Alcantara argued that the governor has won the lion’s share of establishment endorsements, which she does not enjoy. Another self-described democratic socialist, Julia Salazar — who is challenging Brooklyn incumbent Martin Malave Dilan, who was not part of the IDC faction — also “gets a pass,” as Alcantara put it. “You see the case of someone like Julia Salazar in Brooklyn, who totally made up the story of who she is,” Alcantara said. “Because she’s not in the IDC, she gets a pass.” City & State last week challenged Salazar’s claims that she is a Colombian immigrant from a working class family, quoting some of her family members. Claiming Ocasio-Cortez’s mantle as a democratic socialist, Alcantara asserted, allowed Salazar to dodge questions about the anti-choice viewpoints she championed while in college. Alcantara is correct that, unlike Cuomo, she has not drawn the bulk of endorsements from establishment Democrats. Jackson is supported by Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, other elected officials from the district including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Assemblymembers Linda Rosenthal and Deborah Glick, former Mayor David Dinkins, and former Congressmember Charlie Rangel. Jackson also has cross-endorsements with gubernatorial hopeful Nixon and attorney general candidate Zyphyr Teachout, whom he described as a “corruption buster.” Alcantara, however, has a key supporter in Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who heads the Democratic Conference, and has

been endorsed, as well, by uptown Assemblymembers Inez Dickens and Al Taylor, and powerful unions including SEIU 1199, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the New York State Nurses Association, TWU 100, and District Council 37. Alcantara told Manhattan Express she has recently been focused on passing a long-stalled bill to protect tens of thousands of farmworkers from labor abuses across the state. A priority for both both candidates is strengthening the rent laws — and giving the power back to the city to control its rent-regulated apartments by repealing the 1971 Urstadt Law that keeps that authority in the Legislature in Albany. A package of bills advancing those goals passed the Assembly earlier this year but did not get Senate approval. The Assembly measures would have ended vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus given landlords and forbidden preferential rent used as a come-on to tenants later given allowable increases that they can’t afford. Asked about new legislative priorities, Jackson said his focus, if elected, is on clearing the backlog of progressive measures he said the IDC has been instrumental in blocking. “New legislation — we need to wait on that,” he said. Restoring speed cameras in front of schools and addressing rent law reform and public school funding are among the highest priorities he mentioned. Pushing back on the narrative that the IDC has stymied progressive measures, Alcantara highlighted bills she wrote that passed the Senate but not the Assembly, including one directing the State Health Department to study black women’s maternal mortality rates. If re-elected, she hopes to see that legislation become law and to focus on more bills to help women — and women of color, in particular. When asked whether she would have chosen differently two years ago when she joined the IDC if she had it to do over, Alcantara said, “I joined the IDC when a lot of people from the mainstream establishment were not willing to support a candidate with my background.” Voters will have the ultimate say on what Alcantara’s role in the IDC meant and which candidate can best advance the progressive policies supported by the city’s elected officials at the ballot box on Sept. 13. September 6, 2018


NEW ATTITUDES continued from p. 12

Cayne told us, “Back when I started drag, it was still a very fringe thing on the edge of society. We were doing it then for an outlet to be creative, glamorous, and to perform. Because for a lot of us that was our only outlet.” Also on hand was Peppermint, who audiences might know from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and her current work on Broadway, in the musical “Head Over Heels.” We asked her about being openly transgender before achieving fame as a drag performer. “It’s important to make the distinction that many trans women may not want to be considered drag queens,” she said, “Because it promotes the idea that being trans and being a woman and feminine is a put on. Something that is fake, that’s not serious... The idea of ‘a man in a wig’ or ‘a man in a dress’ is attached to drag — but it’s also attached to negative stereotypes about transness.” We also asked Peppermint about trans performers taking on roles in mainstream entertainment, such as in “Head Over Heels” — where her character is of non-binary gender. With the entertainment industry trying to feature trans characters, there isn’t necessarily a trans actor ready to take on all of these roles, or to write and direct them. According to Peppermint, “Everyone wants an authentic performance and an authentic connection to the art. The best way to do that is to have trans people telling their own stories, or participate in telling their own stories,” she explained. But, she clarified, “It’s not necessarily that cisgender people can’t be involved in that. It’s about creating space that doesn’t exclude trans people.” Backstage at Wigstock, we spoke to trans icon Amanda Lepore and drag artist Sharron Needles, a pair of performers who perfectly sum up the influence of the trans community on the drag community, and vice versa. Readers may know Ms. Needles from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Lepore is a model who describes herself as “the most expensive body on Earth,” due to her exquisitely sculpted doll-like features. Needles calls herself Lepore’s biggest fan (she even has a tattoo of Lepore on her shoulder, and recorded a single titled “I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore”). Ms. Needles was too young to be in the original run of Wigstock, but recounted the tale of how she discovered a VHS copy of 1995’s “Wigstock: The Movie” documentary and says she “hid it under my mattress the way most teenage boys hid porn. I used it almost as a bible and a manual to become


September 6, 2018

Photo by Bob Krasner

A sign of things to come, here today: Desmond is Amazing, an 11-year-old drag kid, performed at the show.

Courtesy of Charles Battersby

L to R: Drag artist Sharon Needles, Charles Battersby, and trans icon Amanda Lepore.

Photo by Bob Krasner

Peppermint (left), at Wigstock with Lady Bunny. On the topic of art and authenticity, she noted, “The best way to do that is to have trans people telling their own stories, or participate in telling their own stories.” Photo by Bob Krasner

Dany Johnson, who directed Fogo Azul (a Brazilian drum corps that opened Saturday’s show), was a longtime stage manager for Wigstock’s original run. She noted that the younger members of the band had no idea what Wigstock was.

who I am.” She went on to say, “I gives me goose pimple to think that I’m [At Wigstock] today being able to participate in something that meant so much to me cinematically as a kid.” About the club and drag scene near the end of the original run of Wigstock, Ms. Lepore told us, “Drag was sort of dying in the club scene, and it was sad. There were people holding onto it, but it wasn’t like it was in the ’90s where

everyone did drag. When ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ came, you would see superyoung queens doing drag, and it was amazing. And Lady Gaga helped too, for the freak factor.” “I have to agree,” Needles chimed in. “The post-‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ world are people that want to do drag. But before, we needed to do drag. In a post‘Drag Race’ world, drag queens become the celebrities of their communities

— but before, we were considered the freaks of beauty, and glamour, and fashion. Being shocking and extreme was a necessity to us girls who came before ‘Drag Race.’ It softened the blow of how people approach drag queens, and I think that’s a good thing.” Needles also impishly added, “But I also understand when people say ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ done f@cked up drag.” In an optimistic sign of the potential influence of Wigstock 2.HO, we saw Amanda Lepore greeting Desmond is Amazing, an 11-year-old fan, “drag kid,” and fellow performer at the show. NYC Community Media

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SECOND ENTRANCE continued from p. 3

Hudson Yards/Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, told this reporter that the new entrance was always part of the station’s design “as far as I know,” pointing out that most of the city’s subway stations have two of them. Still, he praised the new entrance. “It keeps the flow and makes things easier to manage.” Benfatto elaborated further. “If you took the train, it’s more convenient now that if you live north, it saves you a city block,” he noted, and then proceeded to highlight the new entrance’s relationship to the neighborhood’s final appearance. As more park space emerges in the surrounding area, it will offer a “better aesthetic.” Gary, a veteran who operates a halal stand by the station, expressed similar sentiments. “I used to come down here before the station was built,” he said. “It’s the only way to commute to the far West Side. Either this or by crosstown bus.” As for the new entrance, he was also very pleased. “It’s nice,” Gary said, taking particular interest in the distance between the street and platform. “There’s no other as deep as the 7 train.” Still, some New Yorkers who regularly take the 7 to the station feel the

Anthony, who works in the neighborhood, said that he liked the new addition but feels there could be even more entrances.

station can further improve. Anthony, who works as a dishwasher and host at a restaurant in the neighborhood, said that he liked the new addition to the station, but that the station “still has some more things to work on, namely more entrances... since it’s a big station.”

Photos by Michael Rock

On the platform, a sign guides riders to the new exit.

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