This is a zine I put together a few months ago with poems and art based on my travels throughout The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Newark. The poems are inspired by observations and one in particular, The Rationale, is based on common justifications for not helping the homeless. It's about how we turn our discomfort into anger and prejudice when we see a street-homeless person whose existence forces us to confront injustice.
On Thursday, I covered the annual City Council Candidates' forum at St. John's University for City Limits. The event gives Queens councilmembers and their primary challengers a chance to share their positions on a range of hot topics, including homelessness. Sixteen council candidates (including five incumbents) attended the event and each demonstrated
Anti-homeless policies (not necessarily anti-homelessness policies) appeal to a lot of voters, especially in the suburban, upper middle class districts near Long Island. For those candidates, it's not 'How will you address homelessness?' It's 'How will you keep homeless people out of our district'.
Here's an excerpt on homelessness from my article:
All candidates addressed the impact of homelessness in their districts, but few provided specific proposals for addressing the housing crisis. Instead, their responses contained varying shades of “NIMBY-ism” regarding shelter placement: few were willing to welcome shelters, though only District 32 overlaps with a community district that ranks among those with the highest ratio of shelter beds to population.
During the second session, Councilman Barry Grodenchik and challenger Concannon from District 23, candidate Anthony Rivers from District 27, candidates Mike Scala and William Ruiz from District 32 and candidates Adrienne Adams, Hettie Powell and Richard David from District 28 – a seat vacated by Ruben Wills’ corruption conviction – said new shelters shouldn’t be built in their home districts.
“We have been the dumping ground for everything that every other community does not want,” said Adams from District 28, which includes parts of Jamaica and South Ozone Park. “We continue to fight for equity. Everybody needs to bear this burden – not just Southeast Queens.”
Vallone, whose district spans Northeast Queens neighborhoods like Bayside and Little Neck, said he and other shelter opponents are not “bad guys” – their opposition reflects the need for more community participation in deciding where to place new shelters.
“We want to have a say in the process,” he said. “We’ve stopped every attempt to put them in our district because it doesn’t make sense. Make sure there’s input from everybody before you just stick one in our backyard.”
Graziano, the primary challenger, also said he opposed any shelters in District 19 and called Holden – president of the vocal Juniper Park Civic Association – a “hero” for confronting the mayor’s shelter expansion plan.
“Our area shouldn’t have any homeless shelters because there’s about forty homeless families in all the 19th Council District,” he said. “We need homeless shelters and we need affordable housing in the places that need them.” (The mayor has also expressed interest in siting shelters near to the places where homeless families live before becoming homeless.)
Meanwhile, Crowley and Holden each claimed responsibility for rejecting the use of a hotel to house homeless families in Maspeth, a flashpoint in the debate over housing homeless New Yorkers in commercial hotels and opening shelters in middle-income communities.
“We were out there every night protesting,” Holden said, as a small band of his supporters cheered. “We stopped that Holiday Inn.”
After moderators prompted candidates about what to do with vacant NYCHA units, Ruiz suggested filling the vacancies with homeless families.
“If we have a huge problem with the homeless and we have all these empty apartments, let’s fill them,” he said. “Instead of paying thousands of dollars to landlords, let’s fill in NYCHA.”
(NYCHA, according to a 2015 report, has a very low, one percent vacancy rate. The authority has committed to providing at least 1,500 units to homeless families each year through 2020, though some advocates would like to see even more given to homeless families.)
Several distinct soccer cultures converge in Ridgewood, a little triangle along the Brooklyn border hemmed in by the industrial zone north of Metropolitan Ave and the freighter tracks to the east. Yesterday, I saw a guy walking on Fresh Pond Road in a Lewandowski jersey (representative of the neighborhood’s large Polish population) and a little kid in a Barcelona SC kit – the yellow one cluttered with more ads than an XVideos page – kicking a ball against his garage (an example of the Ecuadorian set). Meanwhile, my Albanian landlord is obsessed with Real Madrid, Serie A, Albanian SuperLiga and seemingly every other world league. There are also Romanian-American cultural and soccer centers, minivans decked out in Chivas paraphernalia and a growing footy hipster contingent who visit local bars to brunch with the Premier League.Read More
Woke up looking out the window into Queens and all those pleasantries:
Woodhaven Woodside Ridgewood Sunnyside;
Beaches, Points, Parks, Gardens, Hills.
The lead paint chipping off the factory cross the street
trickles into the sewer with the rain.
Everyday there's a new mattress blocking the sidewalk at the bus stop.
The sad old man bar has a slot machine
that's 'sposed to be for fun.
Just ask the gambling addict.
I first met Queens idling in line outside the Shea parking lot.
Lotsa deconstructed cars, you know?
There's a junkyard in a forest on toppa a mountain in my hometown
and I always thought, this is here to stay forever, huh?
Just because one hoarder couldn't get enough carburetors
and so he 'ccumulated several acres of doorless car carcasses.
People mock real estate developer spin:
East Williamsburg, Something or other Heights
Do you know that "Blissville" in Queens
Borders a toxic creek? It's just poison factories
And a crowded field where formaldehyded beings
One Sunday afternoon in June, I spotted two chill dads chatting beneath an old cabinet warehouse after they left Nowadays, a gravel parking lot turned weekend gathering spot with a suburban-backyard theme. The dads had Baby Bjorns, plaid outfits and a golden retriever sniffing around. I had to capture this consummate Park Slopian scene. Except Nowadays is on Cooper Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, just past the Bushwick border.
An EPA Superfund site leaches radiation into the ground next door. In fact, The New Yorker, declared it "the most radioactive place in New York City" in 2014, a year after the area received the Superfund designation.
You'd never know unless someone told you or if you looked for it online. I found out by accident after Googling the address of an overgrown vacant lot down the street.
A new luxury condo complex rises on the other side of Irving Avenue, catty corner to the toxic waste dump (which emits radioactivity beneath an auto shop and a Dominican bodega). We need Captain Planet over here.