Metro: NYC Council Member arrested at #Killthebill healthcare protest in DC

July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017

A New York City Council Member was detained at Capitol Hill yesterday after protesting the repeal of Obamacare, which Republican Senators have been threatening to abolish without a replacement bill.

Corey Johnson of District 3 was taking part in a protest inside the Capitol at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office when he was arrested and removed by authorities while onlookers shot live footage of the action for social media.

The Council Member tweeted a video of himself being escorted out by police while shouting that he was there to defend those in need of healthcare, saying, “This is gonna hurt so many Americans!”

Being HIV-positive, Johnson’s life depends on his coverage to which he says he’s fortunate to have access. In a statement released yesterday evening, Johnson remarked, “As an elected official, I am lucky to have good health care. But there are countless others who could literally die if the Republicans get their way.”

Johnson also called attempts to end the ACA “pure evil.” “We must not allow it,” he stated.

The GOP healthcare bill’s future remains uncertain after the latest version failed to pass the Senate.


New York Daily News: City councilman arrested during protest at Mitch McConnell’s D.C. office to fight Obamacare repeal bid

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

City Councilman Corey Johnson was among more than 150 protesters cuffed inside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday while protesting the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.

Johnson (D-Manhattan), the chair of the Council’s health committee, was arrested around 4 p.m. after a sit-in at the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Hundreds of demonstrators with pre-existing medical conditions targeted the offices of Republican senators.

“I am HIV-positive. As an elected official, I am lucky to have good health care. But there are countless others who could literally die if the Republicans get their way,” Johnson wrote in an email to constituents.

Johnson said he spent about five hours in custody and was charged with misdemeanor incommoding, a District of Columbia statute that prohibits demonstrations inside the Capitol complex.

Capitol police said demonstrators were arrested at three Senate office buildings, saying there were about 45 different locations where protesters gathered.

Of the 150 people arrested, four were charged with resisting arrest.

The Republican health care bill has been stopped for now, after a handful of Republican senators said they would not vote for it, leaving it without the votes needed to pass. McConnell then said he’d hold a vote to repeal Obamacare outright with no immediate replacement, but enough GOP senators have also said they’ll vote against that.

Liberal groups went forward with Wednesday’s protest, saying the Affordable Care Act remains under threat.

“Trump, McConnell and Ryan are still driving hard to repeal the ACA and strip health care from tens of millions of Americans. What they are doing is pure evil. We must not allow it,” Johnson said in a statement.


Chelsea Now: Steps to Safer Streets Sought After Deaths of Chelsea Cyclists

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

At a July 17 stakeholders meeting convened in response to a pair of Chelsea-based fatalities involving cyclists hit by charter buses, the Department of Transportation (DOT) offered a list of preventative measures.

On June 17, Michael Mamoukakis, 80, was traveling down Seventh Ave. when a charter bus making a right turn on W. 29th St. struck him, police said. Mamoukakis’ death was less than a week following an incident where Dan Hanegby, a 36-year-old investment banker from Brooklyn, collided with a charter bus on W. 26th St. (btw. Eighth & Seventh Aves.) after swerving to avoid a parked van on June 12, according to police. The similar nature and proximity of the two deaths led to Councilmember Corey Johnson calling for an emergency meeting with the DOT, NYPD, other electeds, Community Board 4 (CB4), and bus companies immediately following Mamoukakis’ death.

The group, which excluded the bus companies, met on Monday to discuss possible next steps to improve safety and mitigate present dangers. According to a DOT spokesperson, the agency was looking at possibilities for more protected crosstown bike lanes. Additionally, the DOT is looking for ways to better communicate the city’s designated truck routes to bus companies and drivers, including meetings and training with the company representatives.

In terms of punitive measures, the DOT noted increased use of warning letters, a stricter process for bus stop permit renewals, and working with the NYPD for more thorough enforcement on buses traveling outside of designated truck routes, according to Johnson’s office.

The councilmember said the morning meeting was productive as both the DOT and stakeholders were prepared with solid ideas towards increased safety.

“Convening this step of stakeholders is a crucial step in helping ensure that our streets are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is literally a life or death issue.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who attended the meeting, said far too many pedestrians and cyclists were being injured and killed by buses and trucks on streets they don’t belong.

“DOT and NYPD are right to step up their enforcement of truck and bus route regulations and educating and warning bus and truck drivers to obey the law, or pay the consequences,” Gottfried said.

Christine Berthet, a CB4 member and attendee at the stakeholders meeting, said there were a lot of ideas exchanged, but it would ultimately come down to implementation. CB4 has been aware of the hectic situation with the charter buses using non-truck-routes and has already brought up many of the possible solutions mentioned.

But on top of protected crosstown bike lanes and better enforcement, Berthet mentioned the idea of permit revocation for certain reckless drivers and their companies.

“If proven that the behavior of the buses was responsible for death, we’d like the permit to be taken away from the bus companies,” Berthet said.

As for future incidents, the CB4 member recommended that the NYPD not speak about the incidents until the investigation was more complete to avoid misinformation.

While the bus companies were not involved in the July 17 meeting, Johnson’s office is working on scheduling the next meeting to include those stakeholders.


Chelsea Now: B-Ballers Back to Sinking Baskets at Renovated Court

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

It’s game on at the Robert Fulton Houses as officials unveiled the newly renovated basketball court on Ninth Ave.

Young b-ballers, parents, and community advocates joined New York City Housing Authority reps, elected officials, and the developer during the July 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new courts between W. 18th and 19th Sts.

The court renovations were done as part of Artimus Construction’s 18-story affordable housing project at 413 W. 18th St. that would provide 160 units of permanently affordable units. The $77.8 million development will build onto the complex’s parking lot and began construction in May. As part of the deal, the developer agreed to renovate the basketball courts and the children’s playground.

The previous courts at Fulton Houses had seen years of wear and tear resulting in bent backboards and torn nets, according to the players. But the renovation breathes new life into the courts with fresh hoops and a vibrant red and blue layout.

Jordan Hughes, who’s at the court daily, said the old backboards and ground were uneven. Many spectators would often have to stand as the benches were sparse and beat up, he added. Zayin Bumbray, another frequent player from Fulton Houses, said the old courts looked trashy.

“The courts were busted, the hoops were destroyed, the nets were torn up,” Bumbray said.

But now, their local court is ready for some serious pickup games.

“It feels better,” Hughes said of the new court. “It helps you work on your shot to make you more dominant and the spacing is good, it’s like a real actual court.”

Councilmember Corey Johnson said the court was a big win for the residents as it’s rare a developer is willing to offer amenities or assets to the community they invade.

“In one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the United States of America, it takes a lot of teamwork to accomplish more than just what a developer wants to potentially give or what the city is asking for them,” Johnson said at the ribbon cutting.

“To make this happen is a really big deal,” Johnson said. “It’s because of all your hard work and us coming together collectively… to ask for more.”


Patch: Basketball Courts At Chelsea Public Housing Complex Renovated

July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017

CHELSEA, NY — Newly renovated basketball courts were officially opened this week at Chelsea’s Robert Fulton Houses.

The public housing complex got the newly renovated courts, located on Ninth Avenue between 18th and 19th streets, as part of a massive new development project coming to the area. The public housing complex is getting a brand new building, courtesy of Artimus Construction, which will bring more affordable homes to the area.

In May, the city’s public housing agency announced that the new building at Robert Fulton would bring 160 more units to Chelsea, and those units would be permanently affordable.

Artimus Construction, which won the bid to build Robert Fulton’s new building, also agreed to renovate the basketball courts, in addition to updating the local playground and parking lot.

Community leaders including Council Member Corey Johnson, who represents Chelsea in City Council, gathered at the courts on Wednesday for a ribbon cutting at the new courts.

In total, the new developments at Robert Fulton are expected to cost about $77.8 million, according to NYCHA.


Patch: Aetna Headquarters To Move To Chelsea

June 29, 2017

June 29, 2017

CHELSEA, NY — The health insurance giant Aetna will move its headquarters to Chelsea, transplanting its massive operation from Connecticut and bringing with it 250 new jobs to Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday morning.

De Blasio touted the company’s move as one that would bring 250 “good-paying jobs” and $146 million in economic benefit to the city, according to a statement from his office. The company is getting a $9.6 million financial assistance package from the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

The company’s move is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Property records show that the address listed for Aetna’s new home, 61 Ninth Ave., is currently a vacant plot of land that stretches down 15th Street. The company’s headquarters will be located near Chelsea Market and Google’s New York campus.

“Aetna will bring hundreds of good paying jobs to New York City and I couldn’t be happier that they’re locating in my district,” Council Member Corey Johnson said in a statement. “Aetna’s presence will also help support our local small businesses and provide local hiring opportunities.”

The company’s current headquarters are in Hartford, Connecticut.

De Blasio framed the company’s move as part of his New York Works initiative, a plan he debuted with much fanfare but few details when he promised to spur 100,000 well paying jobs to NYC in the next decade. Aetna’s move will make a 250-job dent in that 100,000 goal, according to his office.


Gothamist: NYC’s Massive LGBTQ Pride Parade Mixes Party And Protest

June 26, 2017

June 26, 2017

A week’s worth of LGBTQ gatherings and celebrations was capped off yesterday afternoon with the enormous Pride Parade, as thousands of marchers, protestors, dancers, singers, and lovers made their way through from Midtown to the Stonewall Inn.

Spectators packed the sidewalks and side streets throughout the entire route, making it feel like the most crowded Pride in years. (And last year’s parade had 2 million spectators!)

The march seemed more politicized than recent years. The front part of the march was led by numerous protest groups, including Gays Against Guns, Black Lives Matter, the ACLU/NYCLU (which was also a grand marshal and invited Gavin Grimm and Chelsea Manning to ride on its car), and several outraged anti-Trump/anti-GOP and contingents. One group, No Justice Peace, returned later in the day to briefly block the parade near Stonewall, resulting in a dozen arrests. The direct action was intended to call attention to what the group calls “the LGBT movement’s complicity with systems that oppress,” particularly the march’s corporate sponsors and the NYPD.

That was after the politicians made their way down Fifth Avenue, a full slate that included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio (who with First Lady Chirlane McCray frequently bolted to the sidelines to high-five spectators), Senator Chick Schumer, State Senator Brad Hoylman (who passed out 5,000 copies of the Constitution), and City Comptroller Scott Stringer. No public servant appeared to be having more fun than City Councilman Corey Johnson, who put on an extended show for the delighted crowd with a range of not-bad dance moves.

Once the corporate-sponsored floats started coming, the mood switched over to non-stop party, as freebies were tossed, club classics blasted, and the sexiness-level soared.


Gothamist: Now There’s A Rainbow Crosswalk Outside Stonewall Inn

June 25, 2017

June 25, 2017

Members of New York City’s Department of Transportation paint the crosswalk outside of Stonewall Inn with the colors of the pride flag in honor of pride week on June 25, 2017 (NYC Department of Transportation)

Just in time for Sunday’s big Pride Parade, the NYC Department of Transportation has painted the crosswalk outside the Stonewall Inn with rainbow colors.

Heritage of Pride, which organizes Pride Week activities, paid for the DOT crew’s overnight work. HOP co-chair David Studinski told AMNY, “NYC Pride is honored to bring Gilbert Baker’s original rainbow to the very streets where the modern LGBT movement began. We are proud to fund the installation of this exciting project. We thank the mayor, city council members and department of transportation for helping us make this long-awaited tribute a colorful reality.”

There will also be rainbow decals placed on crosswalks along the parade’s route, on Fifth Avenue between 36th and 24th Streets. Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Pride Month reminds us that the fight for LGBTQ rights is not yet won, but that we can be proud as a city to have blazed the trail.”

A group has been petitioning—with nearly 20,000 signatures so far—to add permanent rainbow crosswalks to NYC. We’ve contacted the DOT to see if this crosswalk will become a full-time fixture.


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

June 18, 2017

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.”


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

June 17, 2017

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, 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.”