News

Gothamist: Cyclist Killed By Charter Bus Driver Was 80-Year-Old Cobbler

June 18, 2017


By DAVID COLON
June 18, 2017

The cyclist who was hit and killed by a charter bus driver has been identified as an 80-year-old man who owned a shoe store in lower Manhattan.
The NYPD identified the man killed by the charter bus driver as 80-year-old Chelsea resident Michael Mamoukakis. Mamoukakis was killed at about 1:30 p.m. when, riding his bike south on 7th Avenue, a charter bus driver also going south on 7th Avenue turned into him while trying to make a right onto West 29th Street. The driver, who remained on the scene, was not charged.

An NYPD spokesperson originally told Gothamist that Mamoukakis was killed shortly before 4 p.m. when he was going south on 7th Avenue and collided with the bus that was moving west on West 29th Street.

The bus driver told the Post that she didn’t realize she’d hit someone until people started yelling for her to stop the bus. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” she told the paper. “I was driving the bus, but when I looked, I didn’t see anybody. When I heard the thump, I didn’t see anything.”
The News spoke to a witness who told the paper “I turned around and I saw bus wheels go over a man’s body.” The paper also spoke to members of Mamoukakis’s family, who told the paper he was a cobbler who owned Mike’s Shoes in lower Manhattan.

With Mamoukakis’s death coming just days after the death of Citi Bike rider Dan Hanegby, who himself was killed by a charter bus driver just blocks from where Mamoukakis was hit, Chelsea City Council Member Corey Johnson issued a statement in which he wrote that “traffic violence is preventable” and that the “City can and must do better” in working to reduce traffic violence.

“I am angered and heartbroken to learn of a second cyclist fatality tonight in my district,” Johnson wrote in the statement. “This is the second cyclist fatality in Chelsea in five days. Both fatalities were caused by charter buses and both incidents took place in the West 20s near Seventh Avenue.”

Johnson went on to call for “an emergency meeting that includes the NYC DOT, the NYPD, my colleagues in government, Community Board 4 and representatives of charter bus companies that operate in Chelsea and West Midtown.”

News

NY Times: Stonewall Inn Project to Preserve Stories Behind a Gay Rights Monument

June 17, 2017


By SARAH MASLIN NIR
June 17, 2017

The little park outside the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, the site of a major turning point in the gay rights movement nearly 50 years ago, became a permanent beacon last year when it was named a national historic monument.

But those who remember the night Stonewall patrons defiantly clashed with the police have dwindled over the years. Their stories risk going untold.

On Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York announced a $1 million grant from Google.org, the internet giant’s philanthropic wing, to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, to start a project preserving the oral histories and human experiences of the people who stood up and fought back during those tense days in 1969. The initiative is in conjunction with the National Park Foundation, which will create an educational curriculum for students and a digital platform intended to magnify the reach of the monument beyond the small triangle of parkland in the West Village.

“The purpose is to spread the word about the Stonewall uprising and the progress we have made as well as the distance we have to go,” Mr. Schumer said. “And it sends a great message to Washington, especially in these times: We celebrate our diversity and cherish it, we don’t shrink from it and we don’t fear it.”

On the night of June 28, 1969, Martin Boyce was at the Stonewall Inn on the gay haven of Christopher Street. Mr. Boyce and other patrons fought back when police arrived for one of their near-nightly stops at the bar, lining up customers and arresting several for what seemed like arbitrary reasons.

“The only place we had to go was Christopher Street,” said Mr. Boyce, now 69 and a chef living in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. “Christopher Street was the one place you didn’t have to look behind you, it was all your people. Here was the one spot we had — now raided and ruined.” When the police told a group to disperse, he remembers, that night they advanced instead. “People who didn’t even want to do this, they just wanted to be free,” he said.

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, an artist and a veteran of the Stonewall uprising in 1969. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times
The idea for the project came from William Floyd, Google’s head of external affairs for New York, who lives with his husband in Chelsea and walks past the Stonewall Inn when he takes his young son to school. Unlike some other national monuments, Stonewall commemorates a struggle that continues to evolve, he said.

“This is a living, breathing, active thing,” he said. “It’s not like Mount Rushmore or a physical natural thing of beauty, it’s civil rights. We thought it was really important that we could provide money and technology to capture those voices and help amplify them.”

One of the voices will probably come from Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt. As a teenager in the ’60s, he had run away from home in Linden, N.J. Stonewall was a refuge, he said, explaining how he ended up as one of the self-described “street kids” who joined the fray that night.

“It happened spontaneously, and it happened mostly because of the civil rights movement in the ’60s that broke ground before it, and the women’s movement,” said Mr. Lanigan-Schmidt, now 69 and an artist. “They created a mentality that’s about freedom and being a full person. When we were in the street that night, that exchange of ideas had built up to that point. Everyone became a fighter pretty quick.”

The Stonewall project will join a group of similar initiatives by Google to preserve oral history. In conjunction with the Equal Justice Initiative, a group working to end mass incarceration, Google has funded a project that documents stories of lynching through the descendants of those who were murdered.

Though the $1 million donation is significant, the West Village’s gay center still needs to raise money to pay for components of a monument like an informational kiosk in the park. The goal is $2 million, which the Park Foundation is raising. Mr. Floyd said Google’s donation would cover things like the oral history component, a social media platform for visitors to share their stories, and educational aspects, which Google is best suited to support.

“My hope is that we transform the scale and the reach of the Stonewall National Monument from a physical location to really a shared experience,” said Glennda Testone, the executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “What we want to do is make sure that that inspiration and that touchstone is available to everybody, wherever they may live in the world.”

News

STATEMENT BY COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON ON SECOND CYCLIST FATALITY IN FIVE DAYS

June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017

“I am angered and heartbroken to learn of a second cyclist fatality tonight in my district. This is the second cyclist fatality in Chelsea in five days. Both fatalities were caused by charter buses and both incidents took place in the West 20s near Seventh Avenue. Tonight’s fatality took place one block from my district office.

Although the NYC Department of Transportation has made a number pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements in recent years and is in the process of planning a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue, our City can and must do better.

I believe all stakeholders should convene an emergency meeting that includes the NYC DOT, the NYPD, my colleagues in government, Community Board 4 and representatives of charter bus companies that operate in Chelsea and West Midtown.

Traffic violence is preventable. A sustained focus must be kept on developing creative solutions. We must work vigilantly until traffic-related deaths are brought to zero.

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Council Member Corey Johnson represents District 3 in the New York City Council, which includes the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Flatiron, Times Square, the Garment District and part of the Upper West Side.

News

The Villager: Renew Mayoral Control of City’s Public Schools

June 15, 2017


By Corey Johnson
June 15, 2017

It’s another legislative session in Albany, and once again State Senate Republicans are holding a key New York City issue hostage in order to extract concessions: mayoral control of New York City’s schools.

Let’s put aside the obvious question of why legislators who represent districts hundreds of miles away from here have the authority to determine how New York City runs its schools. We must then ask whether or not mayoral control has been a success. The answer is yes, and it’s outrageous that it’s being held up for political horse-trading.

Before mayoral control, New York City schools were run by a myriad of school boards and a seven-member Board of Education, appointed by six different entities. This labyrinth resulted in no accountability, no direct lines of authority and no centralized decision-making. It was unclear who was responsible for the failing education system. Therefore, no one was responsible.

Mayoral control allows for a singular vision for our school system with stability, efficiency and clear accountability. The buck stops with the mayor.

Fifteen years into mayoral control, it is abundantly clear that it has paid dividends. During Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term, the city’s graduation rate increased from 50.8 percent to 66 percent. Mayor Bill de Blasio has further built on that progress. New York City’s four-year graduation rate hit 72.6 percent last school year, the highest rate in city history and a 2-point increase over the year before. Before mayoral control, 22 percent of kids dropped out of high school. Last year, New York City’s dropout rate hit an all-time low: 8.5 percent.

Academic performance continues to improve under mayoral control. Last year, there was an 8 percent increase over the year before in students taking and passing at least one Advanced Placement exam. Participation in the A.P. exam among black students increased by more than 14 percent, and it rose 10 percent for Hispanic students. In 2016, the share of the city’s students who passed the state English exam jumped by nearly 8 points to 38 percent, matching the state average for the first time. While test scores are by no means the best measure to evaluate our schools, the positive trend they reflect can’t be ignored.

Mayoral control fosters innovation. In 2014, the mayor’s Pre-K for All program increased access to early-childhood education to nearly 70,000 children. This year, the mayor announced he will now build on that work by setting on a path to offer a free, full-day, high-quality education for every 3-year-old.

Clearly, this should be a no-brainer. But, true to form, the Republicans are not motivated by the merits. They are holding mayoral control hostage in exchange for giveaways to charter schools and tax credits for private and parochial schools.

Luckily, we have outstanding Democrats representing us in Albany, including Senators Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron and Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried, Deborah Glick and Linda Rosenthal. It is our job to support them and to send a strong message to the Senate Republicans: Stop playing politics with our children’s futures.

News

Statement On Guilty Plea of NYC Landlord Steven Croman

June 6, 2017

“I want to commend Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and his team for their successful pursuit of Steven Croman, one of the most notorious, unscrupulous, abusive landlords in New York City. Nearly every week, my office receives calls from this man’s tenants throughout my district. Many of them are elderly, disabled and living on fixed incomes. Steven Croman targeted them with illegal tactics, and now he will pay the price. I hope landlords across New York City hear Attorney General Schneiderman’s message loud and clear: if you violate the law and harass your tenants, you will face justice.”

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Events

Delivering the Commencement Address at my former high school, Masconomet Regional

June 5, 2017

I was honored to deliver the commencement address at the 2017 graduation ceremony of my high school, Masconomet Regional High School. In addition to my own experiences as a high school student, I spoke about being of service, being compassionate, that facts matter, resisting and being a generation that helps lead in changing our country for the better.

News

The Salem News: Masco Grads Gold to Take Time and Reflect

June 2, 2017


By ARIANNA MACNEILL
June 2, 2017

BOXFORD – Masconomet Regional High School graduates were told to take time to appreciate the moment, as well as to be honest with themselves.

Before the Class of 2017 made their way onto the stage to accept their high school diplomas, they were offered advice from classmates as well as others with more life experience.

“The world that I entered is far different than the one you face today,” said Corey Johnson, a New York City councilman who graduated from Masconomet in 2000.

The newly minted high school graduates sitting in front of him were barely born when Johnson graduated from high school, but he left them with some important, powerful messages about life.

“If you are open an honest with yourself, you will find a beautiful world willing to embrace you,” he said.

Receiving an embrace was the first thing Johnson was given when he nervously told his guidance counselor that he’s gay while attending Masco. Johnson detailed how he kept it a secret from age 12, and how the weight of his secret caused him to alienate himself from his friends and fail classes.

But starting with his mother, and eventually expanding to his entire football team and school, Johnson came out. He expected insults and negativity, but he didn’t receive any of that.

“I finally felt like a full human being,” he said, adding that at the time, he was the only openly gay student at Masco.

Johnson also drove home the point that “facts must matter,” and that the young have often been the ones to lead the country’s most important social movements – Civil Rights, women’s suffrage and others.

“We have to look to the generations that are coming and ask them what is the next movement,” he said.

From Jacob Klingensmith, class vice president, graduates were told to remember to live in the moment. He described how early in his high school career, he wanted nothing more than to graduate. But now, he realized that instead of looking ahead, it’s important to appreciate the present.

“The ingredients for happiness are all around us,” he said.

News

Seatrade Cruise News: NYC Announces Single Operator, $38.5m Upgrades to Manhattan, Brooklyn Terminals

May 26, 2017


By ANNE KALOSH
May 26, 2017

The New York City Economic Development Corp. has selected Ports America to operate both the Manhattan and Brooklyn cruise terminals through 2029. As part of the new agreement, Ports America has agreed to invest $38.5m in capital improvements at both terminals, strengthening New York City’s position as one of the country’s premiere cruise ports.

Ports America will be responsible for vessel berthing and stevedoring, maintenance, parking, security, billing and additional operations at both terminals. Ports America will also provide ancillary services such as event management and military and yacht dockings.

With the partnership of council member Corey Johnson and the entire City Council, the lease agreement with Ports America was approved this week for the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, the final approval needed for NYCEDC’s operator selection. Ports America has agreed to invest $23.5m in capital improvements at the terminal, which will include new capacity for larger vessels and improvements to Pier 90, among other investments.

Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will be receiving $15m in capital investments, conceived through a partnership with Brooklyn Borough president Eric L. Adams, which will include an increased capacity for larger vessels, among other improvements. Adams initiated this project with a $1.2m capital allocation in fiscal 2016, and supplemented the effort with an additional $1m grant in fiscal 2017.

NYCEDC said the designation of a single terminal operator will lower costs and streamline operations between the two terminals, which will create new opportunities to secure long-term agreements with cruise lines. Ports America has managed and operated the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in successful partnership with NYCEDC for two decades, generating substantial growth in cruise volumes.

‘New York City’s rich maritime history must continue to inform and strengthen our current economy. Our partnership with Ports America marks continued progress in leveraging the city’s waterfront assets to create jobs, attract tourists and drive growth in an important industry,’ NYCEDC president and ceo James Patchett said. He thanked the elected officials in Manhattan and Brooklyn for their leadership in securing a ‘vibrant future for our two cruise terminals.’

‘For more than two years, my administration has been intensely focused on the revitalization of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and the working waterfront as a whole, envisioning a future where the port’s infrastructure and services are able to attract and accommodate the high level of tourism traffic that our borough is excited to welcome,’ Adams said.

The investments put Brooklyn a ‘big step closer’ to becoming a top-tier player in the global cruise industry, the borough president said. He called Ports America’s $15m investment a game-changer for economic development in Red Hook and the entire waterfront, as well as the complementary impact it will have on businesses and cultural institutions across the borough.

‘I am so proud to have worked with the International Longshoremen’s Association and local stakeholders, as well as the leadership at NYCEDC, to make this a reality,’ Adams added.

‘The cruise industry is a major economic driver for New York City,’ said council member Johnson, ‘and I’m pleased that this new agreement will help us grow our position in this industry while directing more revenue to Hudson River Park.’ He thanked NYCEDC for striking a competitive deal that brings additional resources to local communities.

The new Brooklyn operating agreement requires zero-emissions environmental controls. Also, the new NYC Ferry dock is located adjacent to the cruise terminal, providing an additional local transportation alternative for passengers, crew and workers.

‘Ports America is energized about the future of the cruise industry in NYC under these new agreements,’ said Steve Loevsky, vp-cruise, Ports America. ‘We are also implementing strategies that will increase vessel calls and passenger volumes, while enhancing the overall guest experience, asset utilization and safety. Ports America looks forward to our continued partnership with NYCEDC and our cruise line partners to provide for world-class facilities and services at both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Cruise terminals.’

Presidents of International Longshoremen’s Association locals also expressed their support for the new agreement, including Louis Pernice of Local 1814 (Brooklyn) and Ronald Misiti of Local 824 (Manhattan).

NYCEDC issued a request for proposals for a new operator for both terminals in 2015. Metro Cruise Services had previously operated the Brooklyn terminal for many years.

In 2016, more than a million passengers cruised through New York City and the industry accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual economic impact. The business also generates more than 1,000 full-time jobs through the International Longshoremen’s Association, the Port Police and Guard Union, and employees in accommodation, retail and food and beverage sectors.

News

NYC Patch: NYC Issues Zika Warning For Summer Travel Season

May 25, 2017


By BRENDAN KRISEL
May 25, 2017

NEW YORK, NY — The Zika virus may not be grabbing many headlines these days, but city officials announced Thursday that New Yorkers traveling abroad this summer should still take precautions to avoid contracting the disease.

The city Health and Human Services Department warned that New Yorkers — both men and women — who are trying to conceive with their partners should avoid traveling to areas where the Zika virus is still being transmitted. These areas include the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America, the department said in its warning. The virus is no longer circulating in Miami-Dade County, Florida or Brownsville, Texas.

“This season, our campaign and awareness efforts are shaped by what we learned over the past year. Although local transmission of the Zika virus remains unlikely, the virus continues to circulate in Latin America and the Caribbean islands,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “We urge women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, along with their sexual partners, to avoid traveling to these areas.”

As of last week, 1,067 New Yorkers have contracted the disease while traveling abroad or from a partner who traveled abroad. Of those who contracted the disease, 402 are pregnant woman. So far, 32 babies were born in New York with defects consistent with Zika virus or have tested positive for the virus, according to city officials.

To avoid spreading the disease men should use condoms for six months after returning from an area affected by Zika and women should avoid getting pregnant for two months after returning from such areas, the health department said.

Despite that fact that no local transmissions were reported in the city last year, the health department will continue to monitor local mosquito populations, city officials said.

“Just because a health threat is no longer in the news, it isn’t any less dangerous,” Chair of the City Council’s health committee Corey Johnson said in a statement. “Reminding New Yorkers who travel during the summer months that certain precautions need to be taken to avoid the Zika virus is every bit as important now as it was last year.”

To find a full list of areas still affected by the Zika virus, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

News

Chelsea Neighbors Declare Victory In Fight To Preserve Manhattan’s Last Underground Railroad Stop

May 24, 2017

By ALEX SILVERMAN
May 24, 2017

On a quiet block of West 29th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, one of the townhouses is not like the others.

Its face is beige stucco, not brick. Its windows are sealed with blue boards. Scaffolding looms over the sidewalk. And this house rises higher by a single, not-quite-finished, story. But hold that thought — because to truly understand why it’s not like the others, you have to go back to the days of the Civil War, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports.

“The Gibbons family provided shelter for slaves that were running away for their lives,” said Fern Luskin, who teaches art and architecture at LaGuardia Community College and lives just down the block from Manhattan’s last remaining link to the Underground Railroad. “The slaves were with them at their dining room table.”

In the summer of 1863, New Yorkers rose up against the government’s attempt to enforce the draft laws. The mob descended onto 29th Street, then known as Lamartine Place, with torches. They knew abolitionists lived there. Abigail Hopper Gibbons and her family managed to get up to the roof and across the adjoining buildings to safety.

“Their escape, over those rooftops, is precisely why this half of the block was landmarked,” Luskin said.

So, back to that roof. About a decade ago, Luskin noticed the fifth story rising, obscuring the escape route. She and neighbor Julie Finch formed a group called Friends of the Hopper Gibbons House, and began to fight. Permits were revoked. Court rulings came down agains the developer, Tony Mamounas. Finally, this week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission ruled that the roof is integral to the house’s story, and denied Mamounas’s revised construction plan.

“The relationship of these buildings kept that aspect of its historical events alive,” said Meenakshi Srinivasan, the commission chair. “That relationship speaks to events that are very unique to West 29th Street.”

“It took long enough,” said City Councilman Corey Johnson. “This was a complete and clear violation of what was allowed.”

Mamounas, the developer, has not returned a call from WCBS 880.

An emergency order from the Department of Buildings requires him to tear the fifth floor down within sixty days, and restore the facade to its historical appearance. If Mamounas does not comply, a department spokesman said the city will hire a contractor to do it and send him the bill.

“And if he doesn’t pay the bill, we’ll put a lien on the building,” said Johnson.

Preservationists see it as a strong signal that the city will listen to those who refuse to take its past for granted.

“It’s a landmark decision,” said Luskin. “And a victory for history.”