The moment that inspired action
by Emily Gallagher
Jul 03, 2015 | 309 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What inspires you to act? Every activist and political person I know has a moment that flipped the switch for them. In casual interviews, friends have cited enormous moments like the Iraq war and more local moments, like anger over inadequate public facilities for their child. Books that made advocacy seem accessible, mentors who encourage, corruption that infuriated. The reality is, if our eyes are open, we should be reawakened every day to act. Too many moments, though, can make us completely overwhelmed and shut down to our own potential power. For me, looking back, it was an odd moment that pushed me to the brink of involvement. Yes I had met many people suffering from fear of displacement or in the midst of it, but I didn't know what that had to do with me. I had read books, but they seemed far away and I felt very small and powerless. I felt in many ways that I didn't have the skills, the insight or the experience to be truly helpful. I fantasized that in 10 or 20 years, I would have an awakening that would signal "my turn." But then I opened up the Greenpoint Star on my lunch break. Seriously, it was this very newspaper! The year was 2007, and I was shocked to find a young man's photo on the front page under the headline "cyclist killed." I was 23, and this young man, whose name was Craig Murphey, was only three years older than me. I read the article with horror as his eulogy asserted what a good and righteous person this man was. Craig was an activist. He did anti-hunger work and volunteered in his free time providing safe walks home for women and LGBTQ people, the article told me. Friends spoke of a warm and generous spirit. I had never met him, but In reading about him, I admired him and wanted to be his friend. And as I read of his death, I started to cry. Deep inside me, I had a revelation. I had been afraid to start. I had used my youth and ignorance as an excuse. But the reality was, I already had the only skills I needed. The skill to listen with empathy, learn, and ask questions. I was usually afraid to speak my own opinions in that period, but I knew how to grow them. And there was Craig Murphey, who had lost a life he was using generously and well. And here was I, still alive, who had something still undiscovered to give. I vowed to start asking questions and listening to the answers. And I vowed to stop excusing myself for what was really my duty as a person who loved and cared. It is hard to stay motivated, especially since this city requires so much struggle. People can be mean, greedy and short sighted. But there are so many around us who aren't that way. Who are giving and concerned for all of us. And I, well though I often stumble, I am finding that voice inside me more and more every year. Not a month goes by that I don't remember that man I have now outlived, who I never knew but loved this community as I do. I hope I am doing him justice. I am thankful that he woke me up to my own power, and my own responsibility to serve others, and I'm sorry we couldn't do this work alongside each other.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Audit finds hundreds of NYCHA apartments vacant
by Holly Bieler
Jul 03, 2015 | 166 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Comptroller Stringer's audit found some NYCHA apartments had been vacant for more than a decade.
Comptroller Stringer's audit found some NYCHA apartments had been vacant for more than a decade.
slideshow
While more than 270,000 New Yorkers languish on months-long waiting lists for public housing, hundreds of NYCHA apartments sit vacant, oftentimes for years, according to an audit released by the City Comptroller’s office last week. “These are real apartments that could have been given to real New Yorkers who are in real need,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer during a press conference releasing the findings at Fort Greene’s Ingersoll Houses last week. “It’s shameful they’ve been empty for so long. The audit found that in many cases repairs contributed to protracted vacancies, both because the repairs themselves took so long, but also because the agency failed to re-enter fixed units onto the market after repairs had been completed. The audit found that apartments made vacant by elevator maintenance, for instance, remained empty for an average of 288 days after renovations had been finished. On average, the audit found that NYCHA apartments undergoing major repairs stayed off-market for seven years, siphoning nearly $8 million in potential rent over a three-year period, no chump change for an agency currently bogged down with $16 billion in unfunded capital needs across its portfolio. Indeed, the audit contends, ludicrously long renovation times can in part be attributed to NYCHA’s record deficits, which have left much of its aging infrastructure in rapidly worsening states of disrepair. In a statement, NYCHA said underfunding greatly contributed to the problems outlined in the audit. It also said that many of the issues were already being addressed through NextGen NYCHA, the city’s sweeping 10-year plan to revitalize the agency. However the audit found that in many cases apartments stayed off-market for years even while funds had already been allocated for its repairs. Of the 80 apartments that were vacant and off-market for more than a decade as of September 2014, 55 already had funds allotted for those repairs. The audit also found that NYCHA fell far short of its aim to fill newly-vacant units within 40 days. The audit found on average units remained vacant for 116 days. “At some point we have to say enough is enough,” Stringer said. “We have to break the cycle of ineffectiveness and deliver housing to New Yorkers in need.” Anthony Sosa, Resident Association president of Ingersoll Houses, was particularly troubled by the audit’s evidence that numerous NYCHA units had been overtaken by squatters, with investigators in some cases finding evidence as blatant as graffiti on the walls and empty liquor bottles strewn across the floor. “We are very disguised with NYCHA, how they’re treating our residents,” he said. “We’re a connected group, and we won’t stand for this.”
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Mt. Sinai Queens celebrates Sweet 16
by Patrick Kearns
Jul 03, 2015 | 154 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Caryn Schwab, executive director of the hospital, celebrates the achievements of the past few years.
Caryn Schwab, executive director of the hospital, celebrates the achievements of the past few years.
slideshow
Mt. Sinai Hospital in Astoria celebrated its “Sweet 16” with a special anniversary celebration on June 25. Awards were presented to employees for outstanding service and the weather held out, making it a great afternoon. The celebration was well attended by the hospital's top doctors, nurses, employees and representatives from the offices of a multitude of elected officials. “I know with all of your support, we’re going to be really successful in making Mt. Sinai Queens the hospital of choice for Queens,” said Caryn Schwab, executive director of the hospital. “I truly believe this is Mt. Sinai Queens’ moment.” Schwab celebrated some of the big moments and achievements for the hospital in recent memory. “Our milestones are coming fast and furious,” she said. “The fact that we’ve accomplished so much over the past two years is absolutely extraordinary.” It started with EPIC, a technology program that transported all of the hospital’s records to an electronic database. According to Schwab, it instilled confidence in the staff that they could compete in service with any other hospital. EPIC was an innovative program that made records more easily accessible and cut down on human error significantly. A big point of pride for hospital officials at the celebration was that last August they achieved Magnet status, something only eight hospitals hold nationwide. Mt. Sinai Queens is the only facility in Queens to have achieved that level of status. “We have to keep celebrating these events because they are not insignificant,” Schwab said. In December, the hospital upgraded its cancer services and built a new infusion center. It also became a member of the world-renowned Tisch network for cancer treatment after the upgrades. “We’re committed to bringing to Queens the services that people with cancer need, so that they no longer need to cross the bridge,” Schwab said. President and Chief Operating Officer David Reich spoke about the hospital’s deep commitment to the community of Astoria and Long Island City. “This hospital and its past are firmly rooted in this community of Astoria,” Reich said. “Everyone is so tied-in in this community to this hospital.” Reich said, when the hospital struggled with patient satisfaction three years ago, there was no doubt in his mind that because of those deep connections they would rebound and improve with the right encouragement. Today, they have some of the highest patient satisfaction scores in the entire Mt. Sinai hospital system. At the celebration, various awards were presented to hospital employees that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide unheralded service. Awards were given out for manager of the year, team of the year, physician of the year, service excellence, employee of the year and various FDNY EMS awards were presented.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Avella presents longtime volunteers with Liberty Medal
by Patrick Kearns
Jul 03, 2015 | 199 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Frank Skala, Mandingo Tshaka and Arlene Fleishman, join Senator Tony Avella at a ceremony on Monday where they received Liberty Medals.
Frank Skala, Mandingo Tshaka and Arlene Fleishman, join Senator Tony Avella at a ceremony on Monday where they received Liberty Medals.
slideshow
At a special ceremony in State Senator Tony Avella’s Bayside office on Monday, four longtime community activists were honored with the Liberty Award, one of the highest civilian honors that can be bestowed by the State Senate. “There’s no recognition for those who have spent decades, literally decades, working on behalf of their community,” Avella said to the three that were able to attend the ceremony, plus family, friends and other community activists. The four honorees were Frank Skala, Arlene Fleishman, Mandingo Tshaka and Rich Hellenbrecht. The New York State Senate Liberty Medal is similar to the national Congressional Gold Medal, and is given to individuals who have merited special commendation for exceptional, heroic, or humanitarian acts and achievements on behalf of their fellow New Yorkers. To receive the medal, the selection has to be approved by a State Senate vote. Avella plans to start honoring members of the community on a yearly basis. “It’s only supposed to be for very special individuals who exemplify what this community is all about,” Avella said. Those that received the medal recalled their decades of service at the small ceremony. “Before you know it, you’re so deeply involved that you don’t want to pull out of it,” Fleishman said. “It’s a wonderful experience to have lived through it. I’m embarrassed to say president is my middle name” Throughout her lifetime, Fleishman has served on the community board and the school board of District 24. She has also been active in her co-op, as well as various other services to the community over the years. Skala was was a longtime teacher in Queens, and founded the East Bayside Homeowners Association and the New Bayside High Alumni Association. He also served on Community Board 11 for over a decade. “It was a surprise and it's an honor to be picked today,” Skala said at the ceremony. Tshaka was the other honoree that was able to attend the meeting. He recalled trying to get the drug dealers off the streets of Bayside – he was even hit over the head with a bat during a march against the dealers one time. “I find that with my life, it’s a calling,” he said of his years of serving the community. Tshaka was an active member of Community Board 11 for many years and also an advocate for parks in the Bayside community. Hellenbrecht was not able to attend the meeting as he was out of town. He has served as president of the Queens Civic Congress and Bellerose Hillside Civic Association.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Judge puts brakes on Willets West
by Shane Miller
Jul 03, 2015 | 837 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plans for a mega-mall on part of the Citi Field parking lot took a hit yesterday, as a judge ruled that the developers of Willets West would have to seek approval for the project from the state. The private project, which included a “mega-mall” and was touted as necessary to finance the larger Willets Point redevelopment, would have technically been constructed on parkland. Approval from the state legislature is necessary to give public land to a private entity. “Today’s decision sends a message loud and clear – our parks are not for sale,” said State Senator Tony Avella, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city. “The fact of the matter is, this land was intended to be parkland, not the development of a shopping mall.” The city gave the land to Related Companies for the 31-acre project under the Bloomberg administration in 2012, arguing that the 1961 law that authorized Shea Stadium also allowed for development of the parking lot. The judge in the case rejected that argument. “We are disappointed in the court’s decision and are reviewing our options,” said Law Department spokeswoman Kate O'Brien Ahlers in a statement.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet