Monthly Archives

October 2014


The Villager: Seniors are praying church won’t boot them in favor of film crews

October 30, 2014

Members of the Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center are crying “Cut!” over rumored plans to move them out in favor of film crews.  Photo by TEQUILA MINSKY

Members of the Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center are crying “Cut!” over rumored plans to move them out in favor of film crews. Photo by TEQUILA MINSKY


BY CLARISSA-JAM LIM  |  Film shoots block the sidewalks for hours and inconvenience local residents, sometimes preventing them from even going to and from their own homes. Now comes word that a historic Village church may soon boot local seniors out of its basement in favor of movie crews.

The senior center’s members are panicking amid rumors that Our Lady of Pompeii Church will not renew the lease of Greenwich House’s Senior Center.

Located in the basement of the church on 25 Carmine St., the center has been a fixture in the Village for decades. It provides 1,400 meals a week and a whole host of activities and day trips for the elderly.

Cathryn Perbanazov, 71, has been going to the Our Lady of Pompeii center for two years now. She pointed out that the space is shared with other groups that hold classes and events.

“Many people use that center, not just seniors — people who are homeless, people who are either physically and/or mentally handicapped,” she said.

The New York Post reported that the church’s Father Walter Tonelotto, who is the behind the decision not to renew the lease, wants to rent out the basement to film crews instead. However, Perbanazov emphasized that the space is big enough for everyone to co-exist.

“When they’re filming something, there’s enough room in the basement so that the showbiz people and the people using the center can be there,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that if we’re there, they can’t be there, and vice versa.”

Perbanazov said the alleged reasons for evicting the senior center don’t make much sense.

“What is the real agenda? You want to rent this out and make more money?” she said. “If it’s a staging for television or motion pictures — we’re already doing that. We move to another part of the room, we do our exercise, and then we leave. They don’t bother us, we don’t bother them!”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said he spoke to Tonelotto, and that the father told him he could see another use for the space since it is not currently at maximum usage.

However, Hoylman said, “I don’t think the senior center is the type of facility that lends itself to a cost-benefit analysis.”

Connie Masullo, 86, who has been an on and off member of the center since it opened in 1973, said the move was deplorable.

“This is our community, this is our community church,” she declared. “Whoever is going down to the center are the last people who have made the Village. These are the old-timers, and I think they deserve to have better treatment.”

In an effort to salvage the center’s current space at Our Lady of Pompeii, Hoylman has spearheaded a joint letter co-signed by a number of elected officials imploring Cardinal Dolan to intervene. The letter stated that Greenwich House was willing to address concerns that the church may have, including a rent hike, in order to renew the lease.

“However,” the letter states, “it is our understanding that Father Walter has instructed the senior center to begin looking immediately for alternative space, which suggests he doubts the senior center will be allowed to remain.

“We have heard from many constituents who rely upon the center and are confused and upset that the church would suggest evicting such a treasured and longstanding community institution,” the letter to Dolan continues. “We respectfully urge you to work with Father Walter to ensure that the senior center operated by Greenwich House remains at Our Lady of Pompeii Church and that the specter of eviction be removed entirely from these negotiations.”

The letter is co-signed by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Gale Brewer, state Senator Dan Squadron, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Councilmembers Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin.

Hoylman expressed concern that Greenwich House, the nonprofit organization that operates the senior center, will not be able to find another space.

“We’re talking about some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers who may be evicted from the location, and that would be a travesty,” he said.

For others who live close by, the current location proves convenient. Rina Rosillo, 90, who used to work in insurance, is unable to go too far with her walker from her house on MacDougal and Bleecker Sts.

“I retired when I was 70 and have been coming to Our Lady for more than 15 years,” she said. “For a lot of us, it’s not just the food at lunch, it’s a place to come and talk and have people to socialize with.” Should the basement lease not be renewed, she said, “I’ll have to stay at home.”

Although Hoylman said the ultimate decision does not rest with Tonelotto, but with the archdiocese, the priest nevertheless has considerable say in the matter.

“Here’s a plea I make to the public,” the state senator said. “I would urge members of the church to let the priest know that they want the senior center to stay. Our seniors in the Village deserve to be treated with respect, and I’m hopeful that Our Lady of Pompeii agrees.”

However, so far, Tonelotto has been incommunicado, at least according to Johnson. “The Senior Center at Our Lady of Pompeii Church has been a pillar of the Village community since 1971,” Johnson said. “The services offered are at the core of what the Catholic Church is about, providing routine, enrichment and community — and yet Father Walter’s proposal to close this facility is the very opposite. Closure of this senior center will force many seniors to go hungry or travel further for meals, and eliminate social programs to help people age healthily and stay in their homes. Greenwich House has agreed to pay an increase in rent, as well as figure out ways to help the church better organize the space to make it available to other groups. “And in what appears to be an affront to the community, when my office reached out to set up a meeting with the new father to discuss this issue, it was rejected,” Johnson said. “As the community organizes and the choir of voices grows louder, I hope that the father will see the error of his ways. I’m going to work hard with my colleagues in government to reach an agreement on making sure this neighborhood gem stays in place.”

Tonelotto and the archdiocese did not respond to requests for comment by press time.


Epoch Times: Public Health Insurance Must Target At-risk New Yorkers, Says Council Members

October 23, 2014
Councilmember Corey Johnson at a press conference at City Hall in Manhattan, New York, Oct. 23, 2014, to urge the mayor and City Council to increase access to health care coverage for all New York City residents. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)


By , Epoch Times | October 23, 2014

NEW YORK—Health care advocates rallied on the steps of City Hall Thursday in the pouring rain, demanding $5 million for a new initiative to connect poor, largely uninsured communities of color with public health insurance.

The initiative, Access Health NYC, would fund many organizations, such as Arab-American Family Support Center and Spanish Speaking Elderly Council-RAICES to connect these non-English-speaking communities with government offerings of health care.

The demand comes just weeks before New York City opens up enrollment for public health insurance a second time, from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb 15, 2015.

At a hearing held shortly after the rally, the City Council’s Committee on Health found that although last year’s enrollment numbers were high, oftentimes the ones signing up for public health care are people most likely to have known about it, such as the family members of health care workers.

“Last time, we got the low hanging fruit,” said Councilmember Corey Johnson, who chairs the Committee on Health.

He said that this year’s enrollment will be aimed at harder to reach groups—such as undocumented immigrants—requiring an effort like Access Health NYC.

Almost a million people enrolled in coverage the first time, but according to a Committee on Health briefing report, this time won’t be so easy.

Eighty-nine percent of uninsured people have not heard of enrollment opening up in November again.

The Uninsured

The most at-risk and vulnerable New Yorkers, such as the elderly, minorities, and the disabled, might have a language barrier, or simply are not in touch with the health care system.

Nearly 40 percent of adults for whom Spanish is the primary language were not insured in 2012, according to a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene community health survey.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at the hearing that while the Upper East Side has the lowest uninsured rate in the city—2.6 percent—East Harlem, just a 20-minute bus ride away, has an insured rate of 16.5 percent, more than eight times higher.

The top five neighborhoods with the lowest insured rate of above 25 percent were all immigrant-heavy, diverse neighborhoods: North Corona, Bushwick North, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, and Corona.

Premiums and deductibles are some of the jargon that confuses the uninsured, said Esther Lok, an assistant director at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.

These New Yorkers may also not have received information on how to pick a primary care doctor, where the clinics are, and the complexities of using insurance.

Lok said, “Some of them after they receive an insurance card have no idea what to do with it. So for a whole year, they didn’t use it at all.”

Johnson mentioned he wanted to reach out into the Bengali community, the Dominican community, and the Punjabi community, as some examples.

Another reform to educate these communities could be to connect the public health care enrollment with other government welfare services, suggested Lorraine Gonzalez, health policy director at the Children’s Defense Fund.

“When someone collects his SNAP, he should be able to learn about health insurance at the same time,” said Gonzalez, referring to the state’s food stamp program.

Those who are ineligible for Medicaid have several options for health care coverage, such as Child Health Plus, which covers children under the age of 19 in households that can be four times the poverty line.

Another option is Pre-Qualification for Emergency Medicaid, which is offered to undocumented immigrants and visitors for treatment in emergencies.


Capital NY: Proposal would change law on transgenders’ birth certificates

October 6, 2014

Transgender people wishing to change the sex on their birth certificate would no longer have to prove they’ve had “corrective surgery” if a bill being introduced Tuesday becomes law.

Health committee chair Corey Johnson will introduce the bill in the City Council that would only require transgender people to provide a signed form from a medical professional.

City law currently requires anyone wishing to change their birth certificate to undergo surgery, which can be medically taxing and financially prohibitive.

Many other municipalities throughout the country require clinically appropriate treatment, which usually involves hormone treatment.

Johnson’s bill would require an attestation from either a physician, a doctoral level psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, licensed master social worker, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, marriage family therapist, mental health counsellor or a midwife.

“This will be the most progressive, forward thinking policy in the United States,” Johnson said Monday afternoon.

Johnson’s bill will be introduced shortly after the city’s Board of Health makes an identical recommendation at its regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Changing the rules through the Board of Health and the City Council will circumvent any legal question as to whether it is the mayor or the council that must approve this type of change.

The Board of Health has typically filled this role but its authority was recently called into question when the state Court of Appeals ruled the board’s move to regulate the size of certain sugar-sweetened beverages exceeded its authority. The so-called soda ban should have come from the council, the court ruled.

The birth certificate issue is one that impacts all transgender people, said Carrie Davis, chief programs and policy officer for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

“It sort of stands for citizenship,” she said. “Without basic documents, people have a hard time participating” in society.

In 1971, New York City was the first municipality to permit changes to a birth certificate for transgender people, but the policy has not been updated and now stands as too restrictive, advocates say.

In 2006, the city’s Board of Health, proposed a similar regulation, but the proposal was withdrawn after concerns were raised by vital records experts. Doctors worried how to determine which patients could be roomed together and law enforcement officials were concerned about where to house prisoners.

“I think there are always going to be people who take a negative perspective but I’m not worried about that,” Davis said. “I don’t think the city is doing anything radical at this point.”

Indeed, the state of New York made a similar move earlier this year, but the change did not apply to New York City, which has its own jurisdiction.

“The reason why this is so important is because transgender people currently do not have accurate documents to be able to access basic things like a driver’s license that matches who they are,” Johnson said. “I look at this as a human right’s issue.”

Author: Dan Goldberg


NY Daily News: Proposal would let transgender New Yorkers change birth certificates more easily

October 6, 2014


Corey Johnson chairman of the Committee on HealthBRYAN SMITH

Corey Johnson chairman of the Committee on Health

Changing your gender on a city birth certificate would become much easier under legislation to be introduced Tuesday in the City Council.

Under the bill, sponsored by Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan),transgender New Yorkers could change their documents without getting sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy.

“It’s going to improve the lives of transgender New Yorkers and allow them to get birth certificates that match their accurate gender,” he said. “Gender won’t be about your physicality. It won’t be about your body. It’s about how you identify.”

The state acted earlier this year to stop requiring surgery or other medical treatments to make a birth certificate change, but since the city handles its own birth certificates, the change did not apply in the five boroughs.

The state, like other jurisdictions that have loosened birth certificate rules, still requires proof of appropriate clinical treatment, such as hormone therapy, for someone who has a conflict between his or her physical gender and the gender he or she identifies as.

The city will instead only require a certification from one of a broad list of providers – including doctors and nurses, social workers, therapists, and midwives – that the person seeking a change is living a different gender than the one listed on his or her birth certificate.

“It’s the most progressive policy in the entire country,” Johnson said.

A similar set of changes to birth certificate rules will also be introduced at the city Board of Health Tuesday, Health officials said.

Transgender people often complain of being harassed or denied services when they’re unable to produce ID that matches the gender they present as.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 40% of respondents had faced discrimination because of mismatched documents.

The gender listed on drivers licenses and other official ID is generally based on the birth certificate, though the city’s newly created municipal ID card will allow people to specify their own gender.

“When people’s gender isn’t portrayed accurately, it causes problems. They get turned down from jobs…They may be accused of fraud, turned away, harassed, attacked,” said Carrie Davis, chief programs and policy officer at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “In the best cases, they face embarrassment, confusion, and delays.”