Month: February 2012

The Bloomberg administration directed the NYPD to forcibly evict Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park in November. Coordinated evictions of Occupy encampments in most U.S. cities followed.

The Call for Mass Action against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement, stated, “The state planned and unleashed naked and systematic violence and repression against people attempting to exercise rights that are supposed to be legally guaranteed. This response by those who wield power in this society is utterly shameful from a moral standpoint, and thoroughly illegitimate from a legal and political one.”

1000 have joined in calling for, including Cornel West, who led Occupy Wall Street to protest the NYPD “stop and frisk” policy; Scott Olsen, the Iraq veteran who was shot in the head by the Oakland police in October; Boots Riley of The Coup; former poet laureate of the United States and U.C. Berkeley professor Robert Hass;, writers Chris Hedges and Rebecca Solnit; attorneys Michael Ratner and Gideon Oliver.

Travis Morales, an organizer of the rally, stated, “Now, after these evictions and mass arrests, we’re seeing in the press lies about violence, drugs, filth and crime in the Occupy movement used to justify police brutality and destroy Occupy’s widespread public support.

On February 28, Take Back The Bronx joined the call with others publicly saying “We Stand with The Occupy Movement” and Oppose this Suppression.

 Full Message From Noam Chomsky

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Washington: US park police detains a Christian religious activist during a pro-life demonstration in front of the White House in Washington on February 16, 2012. (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

Washington: US park police detains a Christian religious activist during a pro-life demonstration in front of the White House in Washington on February 16, 2012. (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)



Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.

Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidently disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.

Hours after the act passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.

In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offense, but those occurrences covered as special event of national significance don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.

Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring.

When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.

And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?

On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occuring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.

United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”

“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.

Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus from American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.

Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.


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We reject the agenda of the 1%, which has led to cuts in funding for public education, soaring student debt, school privatization and job insecurity.

Student loan debt in the United States is now around $1 trillion.

Tuition at public colleges and universities in New York is scheduled to rise $300 a year for the next five years.

Over the past decade, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Department of Education has closed more than 117 schools.

Only 13% of Black and Latino students in New York City graduate from high school prepared for college.

RSVP on facebook here:

NYC Day of Action Schedule:

Morning: Local actions at schools and campuses throughout the city!

2pm: Manhattan Convergence @ NYC Department of Education (Tweed Court House, 52 Chambers Street)

March over Brooklyn Bridge – University and Bank actions in Downtown Brooklyn

4pm: Convergence and Rally Ft. Greene Park, Brooklyn

Evening: Rally at the PEP Meeting on school closures, Brooklyn Technical High School


NYC Endorsing Organizations:

New York City Student Assembly
Students United for a Free CUNY
CUNY-Wide General Assembly, City University of New York
Occupy Student Debt Campaign
GSOC-UAW Local 2110


CALL TO ACTION: March 1st, 2012: National Day of Action For Education

We refuse to pay for the crisis created by the 1%. We refuse to accept the dismantling of our schools and universities, while the banks and corporations make record profits. We refuse to accept educational re-segregation, massive tuition increases, outrageous student debt, and increasing privatization and corporatization.

They got bailed out and we got sold out. But through nationally coordinated mass action we can and will turn back the tide of austerity.

We call on all students, teachers, workers, and parents from all levels of education —pre-K-12 through higher education in public and private institutions— and all Occupy assemblies, labor unions, and organizations of oppressed communities, to mobilize on March 1st, 2012 across the country to tell those in power: The resources exist for high-quality education for all. If we make the rich and the corporations pay we can reverse the budget cuts, tuition hikes, and attacks on job security, and fully fund public education and social services.

This is a call to work together, but it is up to each school and organization to determine what local and regional actions—such as strikes, walkouts, occupations, marches, etc.—they will take to say no to business as usual.

We have the momentum, the numbers, and the determination to win. Education is not for sale. Let’s take back our schools. Let’s make history.


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Sharon De La Cruz (right) being honored at Project Reach gala

                      Sharon De La Cruz (right) being honored at Project Reach gala                                            ÂÂ


Sharon De La Cruz, artist and activist from The POINT, honored for community work in the Bronx



Much like the programs she runs, Sharon De La Cruz is the very definition of “unique.”

The 25-year-old Dominican artist and activist, with eyeglasses that take up half of her petite face, coordinates the program WOMEN (Where Our Minds Empower Needs) at The POINT in Hunts Point.

She teaches young women about sexual health issues, and she has taken over the management of the group ACTION (Activists Coming to Inform Our Neighborhood), which she belonged to as a teenager.

Raised in the Bronx until the age of 15 before moving to Florida until she was 17, De La Cruz attended college at The Cooper Union in Manhattan, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study experimental filmmaking in Lima, Peru, and returned once again to the Bronx.

Between the two programs she currently runs at The POINT, and her commute to and from Fordham where she currently lives with her partner, De La Cruz takes whatever free time she has to devote to her art.

“I do graffiti, that is my art form. It’s inspired by the work that I do as an activist,” says De La Cruz. “I’m usually painting walls in my free time. Any free time I have is dedicated to improving on my craft.” Some of her work can be found online at

On February 9, De La Cruz’s activist work in her community was honored by Project Reach, a youth organizing center that works with groups across the city. Project Reach’s 40th Anniversary Gala was dedicated to “Women Warriors,” and billed.

De La Cruz was among ten women honored at the gala, including Gabourey Sidibe, star of the Oscar winning film “Precious.”

“We wanted to honor people (at our gala) who are real visionaries and Sharon represented that,” said Project Reach director Don Kao, who has worked with De La Cruz in various anti-discrimination programs including workshops for Bronx youth. “She challenges her own young people to stretch themselves and she is just so passionate about her work. Sharon has a lot of energy and people love her. When we were making the decision (on the honorees) and her name came up, everyone said ‘Of course! No question.'”

De La Cruz has big plans for the future for her programs at The POINT. She is currently working on a fellowship that will increase resources for the groups to get them working on a political level.

“You don’t have to leave your community to live in a better one,” says De La Cruz.

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Student’s from the Bronx battling a system being lead by profiteers not interested in their Education.

Gomper’s High School Students in the Bx take over a DOE hearing


It’s Nice To Share, But School Co-Location Can Cause Problems, Public Advocate Warns: Updated

A study by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the Alliance for Quality Education says school closings and the practice of “co-location,” where several different schools share the same building, “can disrupt students education and decrease their access to school facilities such as classrooms, gymnasiums and cafeterias.”

The study comes in the wake of a state appellate court ruling that stopped the city from closing 19 schools, in part because the city Education Department didn’t give the community enough information about the plan’s effects.

“We cannot improve our education system if the DOE ends up shortchanging students while it is trying to create better schools,” said de Blasio. “This report essentially asks Chancellor Klein not to make the same mistakes he made when he tried to close 19 schools earlier this year. The DOE must conduct a meaningful information process that explains to parents how changes in school buildings will affect their children’s education and gives them an opportunity to provide feedback.”

Mayor Bloomberg has sharply criticized the ruling, saying what it means is that there is a whole bunch of kids that at least for one year will get a terrible education that they’ll probably never recover from.

Update: The DOE responds, “We are always looking to improve our community engagement efforts. With a better public process in place, more parents will understand the urgent need to replace schools that fail children year after year with new schools that have been shown to perform far better. We wish the Public Advocate showed the same amount of concern for our children stuck in failing schools as he does for DOE processes.

Here’s the full report:


Here’s an example of whats been happening with our city schools management and who has been involved:

Michael Duffy and the “turnaround” of Victory charter schools

A new charter school called Great Oaks is applying to the state to start in NYC’s District 2, to be located on Governors Island, though Downtown Express reports that the Education Committee of Community Board I opposes it.  The charter school’s letter of intent to NYSED lists as the lead applicant Benjamin B. Carson, described as a former statistician for the NYC DOE charter office, as well as the Co-Founder of the Great Oaks Charter School in Newark.
The Newark branch only started last August and has no track record, but the letter of intent says the network has formed to replicate the successful methods of the MATCH Public Charter School in Boston,” featuring high academic expectations, a No Excuses school culture, a focus on engaging classroom instruction and individualized attention to students needs via high-dosage tutorin
One of the co-founders of the proposed NYC school and a board member will be Michael Duffy, who is the former head of the NYC DOE charter office, well known for his blase attitude towards protesting parents during intense co-location hearings. Duffy is also listed as the key contact for the Great Oaks Charter School in Newark on the NJ State website.
Michael Duffy
Duffy is now employed by a company called Victory, which has started at least 16 charter schools in NYC, Philadelphia and Chicago.
Victory has had a generally dismal reputation in NYC for charging large management fees while running some of the lowest-performing charters in the city. Here is what Kim Gittleson of GothamSchools wrote about the chain in 2010, after analyzing their management fees and results:
I found that the five Victory Schools that had progress report scores in 2008-2009 placed in the bottom 35 percent of all charter schools and in the bottom 20 percent of schools citywide These middling performance numbers come despite the fact that the seven schools paid around $2,163 per pupil to Victory Schools for the company’s services. This is 17 percent of these charter schools per pupil revenues from the state.
DOE now intends to close Peninsula Prep charter, a school run by Victory until recently.  Unfortunately when NYT /School Book ran a story about DOE’s plan to close the school, Duffy was quoted as a approving of the decision, as an apparently disinterested observer, without noting that he currently works for the company that ran the school until June 30, 2010.  Indeed, in Peninsula Prep’s  most recent annual report to DOE, dated July 2011, the board made clear that they had dropped Victory as their management company, in an apparent attempt to persuade DOE to allow the school to stay open:

a. Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School disassociated itself from Victory Schools as a management company.
b. PPACS adopted the New York City Department of Education scope and sequence for Social Studies instruction instead of the Victory proprietary Core Knowledge Program. and: c. PPACS increased the student enrollment to from 300 to 350.

In the NYT/Schoolbook article, Duffy supported DOE closing of the school:
I definitely think in 2012, what was good enough even five years ago is no longer good enough, Mr. Duffy said. (He should know!)
Duffy left DOE to work for Victory in July 2010, shortly after Victory’s Albany charter school, New Covenant, was shut down by SUNY because of poor performance.
In October 2010, Victory converted to a management company, now called Victory Education Partners, that would contract with charter schools to provide services to their schools in an apparent attempt to exploit a loophole in the new charter law, which bans any new charters in New York State that are operated by for-profit companies.
According to GothamSchools, The group Victory will retain its for-profit status, but will continue to work in schools by offering a variety of services, from professional development to back-office support, that schools can choose to purchase.
Victory’s website says that they can provide full service support for charter schools with a wide selection of individual services to choose from, including New School Development, Academic Support, Operations, Finance and Accounting.
The exact arrangement between Great Oaks and Victory, financial or otherwise, is mentioned nowhere that I can find on the Great Oaks website or in the documents they have filed with the state.
Yet in a recent bio, Michael Duffy is described as the Managing Director for Victory Education Partners, a privately held company that advises governments and schools. In this role he has spearheaded an initiative to launch a new network of charter schools, the Great Oaks Charter Schools, the first of which will opened in Newark, New Jersey this year.
Duffy is also listed as the President of the Great Oaks Foundation Board, along with Steven Klinsky, the Board Chair, who is the founder and chief executive of New Mountain Capital, LLC, a private equity firm who founded Victory Schools to serve these schools and to act as an advisor for other schools and school districts.

Question: if a for-profit company is launching a network of charters, including one in NYC, doesn’t this violate the intent of the new charter law?  Even the logo of the Great Oaks charter school resembles the logo of Victory Education Partners.

Here is an excerpt from guidelines for responsible charter governance, suggested by Greg Richmond, chief executive officer of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, based in Chicago:

Members of a charter school governing board should not be employees of the management organization running their school, nor should they be compensated for their service or selected by the management organization.
In this case, Duffy will sit on the NYC Great Oaks charter school board, while heading the Great Oaks Foundation board, and remain the Managing Director of Victory.

Other warning signals: One of the members of the Great Oaks Foundation board is listed as Jay Cross, President of Related Hudson Yards, leading the Related Companies development efforts of the 26-acre HudsonYards site on the west side of New York City NYC parents should beware of a Victory-connected charter school proposed for Hudson Yards, where a public school is currently supposed to go.

Yet another board member is a top aide to Bloomberg: Gregorio Mayers, who joined the Administration of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2006 as the Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development. In his current capacity as a member of the Mayor’s senior team at City Hall, Mr Mayers serves as the lead member overseeing the School Construction Authority’s $11.5 billion  capital plan and its strategic plan; all public/private partnership initiatives. Watch to see if taxpayer funds are expended on proliferating this charter chain throughout the city.

But Victory is not limited to the Northeast.  Last spring, it was announced that the company had received the contract to run two more charters in Chicago, and the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, made a key policy announcement about lengthening the school day at one of their charter schools last fall.

Amazing how an overcharging, poorly performing for-profit charter management company can turn around its fortunes, seemingly overnight.

via nycpublicschoolparents

Deception 101 – Charter Schools: from co-location to astro-turf parent groups


Public School advocates Cheryl Ortega and Robert D. Skeels on KPFK’s Politics or Pedagogy with John Cromshow November 17, 2011



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Press Release February 24, 2012

Ad Hoc Committee against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement

Contact: Debra Sweet
[email protected]
646 807 3259

Union Square Rally to “Stand with Occupy”Against Suppression, Tuesday February 28
What:  Rally & March
When: Tuesday February 28 4:00 pm 6:00 march
Where: Union Square, New York City (north plaza)

Supporters of the Occupy Movement, including the Rev. Stephen Phelps, Senior Minister at Riverside Church, civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel and musician Peter Yarrow will join Wall Street occupiers Tuesday in Union Square in response to a call for “mass action against the suppression of the Occupy Movement.”  The Bloomberg administration directed the NYPD to forcibly evict Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park in November.  Coordinated evictions of Occupy encampments in most U.S. cities followed.

A Parks permit has been granted for Union Square, but the 13th Precinct of the NYPD has not yet given a permit for sound at the rally.

The Call for Mass Action against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement, says, “The state planned and unleashed naked and systematic violence and repression against people attempting to exercise rights that are supposed to be legally guaranteed. This response by those who wield power in this society is utterly shameful from a moral standpoint, and thoroughly illegitimate from a legal and political one.”

1000 have joined in calling for, including Cornel West, who led Occupy Wall Street to protest the NYPD “stop and frisk” policy; Scott Olsen, the Iraq veteran who was shot in the head by the Oakland police in October; Boots Riley of The Coup; former poet laureate of the United States and U.C. Berkeley professor Robert Hass;, writers Chris Hedges and Rebecca Solnit; attorneys Michael Ratner and Gideon Oliver.

Travis Morales, an organizer of the rally, said today, Now, after these evictions and mass arrests, we’re seeing in the press lies about violence, drugs, filth and crime in the Occupy movement used to justify police brutality and destroy Occupy’s widespread public support. On February 28 we are calling on thousands to come out publicly say We Stand with Occupy and oppose this suppression.  We have seen historically that movements grow, and can only grow, by answering repression with even greater and more powerful mobilization.

General Assemblies of the Occupy movement reached consensus to support the Call for Mass Action on February 28 in NYCGA (Occupy Wall Street), Occupy Chicago, Occupy Cleveland, Occupy Houston, Occupy Lincoln, Occupy Minneapolis, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy St. Paul. More information at

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Known as Gina Marshall when she attended Lafayette, Gina Arias ’93 took on her mother’s maiden name shortly after graduating. Her commitment to family and devotion to empowering women has continued to expand even further into her professional and community life.

Gina Arias '93 (right) talks with Washcarina Martinez '11 at a McDonogh Network conference in April 2011.

Gina Arias ’93 (right) talks with Washcarina Martinez ’11 at a McDonogh Network conference in April 2011.

Senior community partner coordinator for Bronx Teens Connection, a CDC-funded project under the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Arias is not only making a difference in the Hunts Point and Morrisania neighborhoods of the Bronx, but if successful the project will serve as a model that could be implemented citywide, to reach an even larger number of teens throughout New York City.

The project aims to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health in the South Bronx. According to Arias, a major component involves implementing evidence-based sexual and reproductive health curricula at local schools and other adolescent-serving organizations and institutions as well as linking youth to quality clinical services. The main goal is to decrease teen birth rates during the five-year span of the project.

Arias focuses on coordinating community engagement and mobilization, which involves directing a team of community advocates and overseeing youth involvement efforts. Both the community and youth advocates work to educate stakeholders, such as elected officials, about the issues.

We are recruiting youth for a youth leadership team, Arias says. They will help to raise awareness on the issues affecting their sexual and reproductive health.

The project is in its second year. Arias is eager to see how it will help a population she has been working to serve since her days at Lafayette.

An international affairs graduate, Arias wasn’t always certain what she wanted to do after school, but she was always engaged in community-based work.

I was very involved when I was at Lafayette, she says. I didn’t think college should just be about academics.

A member of Association of Black Collegians, she also volunteered with various programs, including a soup kitchen and homeless shelter in Easton. College should not be an ivory tower where you isolate yourself from the rest of the world, she says.

An important mentor for her was John McCartney, professor of government and law. I just adore him, she says with great appreciation, noting that he helped her to think about politics as a force that requires one to act in the world beyond simply voting.

A year after graduating from Lafayette, she became involved in health and nutrition education with the Peace Corps in Niger from 1994 to 1996, where she worked with traditional midwives and at the village dispensary.

That is actually what started my interest in the public health area, says Arias.

Upon her return from Niger, Arias attended graduate school at Columbia University where she received the Latino Fellowship from the Department of Population and Family Health, School of Public Health. She was able to study full time and earned a dual master’s in international affairs and public health in 2000.

Arias is always paying it forward and sharing her knowledge. She returned to campus last spring to serve on a panel and interact with students at the Connecting You to Me: Building a Personal Brand conference sponsored by the McDonogh Network to provide guidance to African American and black students about building a successful career. Her advice to all students: Try different things. You’re still finding yourself and what you like. You are learning about yourself. Volunteer. There are plenty of venues and a lot of need.

Her list of mentors continued even further through and beyond her studies.

When I came to New York City I got involved pretty quickly in the social justice movement, she says. I have several beloved mentors from that work.

Much of her political development she credits to Richie Perez, a former South Bronx teacher who was a leader in the Young Lords Party, a revolutionary activist group, who eventually went on to work as director of political development at the Community Service Society. He died of cancer in 2004.

At Columbia University, Drs. Mindy and Robert Fullilove as well as Dr. Marilyn Aguirre-Molina assisted tremendously in her professional development, says Arias. Another person who ranks high on her inspiration list is Gregg Gonsalves, whom she worked with at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. She calls him a fierce HIV/AIDS activist.

Her roots in activism have continued to inform her current work.

I am pleased that in a short period of time the Community Action Team has grown to become an active body, she says. People seem really engaged in the process. I think it’s been successful thus far with a wide diversity of people in terms of what organizations they represent.

But her largest mentoring project of all happens to be her son, Khalil Harper Arias, her most boastful accomplishment.


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A Bad Deal from the Start

On February 7th, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, and Bronx Borough President Diaz announced a deal that provides FreshDirect with $127.8 million in taxpayer money to subsidize a relocation of FreshDirect’s headquarters from Long Island City to the Harlem Rail Yard on the South Bronx waterfront.  Two days later, the NYC Industrial Development Agency (IDA) held a hearing on the FreshDirect deal to give provide community members with an opportunity to voice their opinions before the deal was sealed.   South Bronx residents have real concerns about the impact of the FreshDirect deal on the environment, promised job creation, living wages, acceptance of EBT (food stamps), and the inaccessibility of FreshDirect services to South Bronx residents.  Residents came together under the title of “South Bronx Unite: Stop FreshDirect” to speak out against the deal.  South Bronx Unite members have created quite a buzz within the city, raising awareness about the city’s failure to provide community members with a real opportunity to voice their opinions before the deal was decided upon.  South Bronx Unite members have created social media outlets (blog, facebook and twitter) to get the word out about their disapproval of the FreshDirect deal.  There has even been a petition created to stop FreshDirect from building its new headquarters in the South Bronx.

The opposition to the FreshDirect deal has been covered in media outlets all over the city, from El Diario to the New York Times.  New York City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito and NYC Comptroller John Liu have both publicly expressed their disapproval of the FreshDirect.  Despite the opposition to the deal, the IDA held its board meeting on February 14th – which was attended by members of South Bronx Unite – and the FreshDirect subsidy deal was voted on in the affirmative by all parties present except Comptroller Liu.  South Bronx Unite members are demanding to see the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted on the Harlem Rail Yards; for the City Council to demand oversight hearings of the NYC Economic Development Corporation; and for NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to audit the Harlem River Rail Yards deal.  South Bronx Unite members would also like to see Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz hold a public meeting where all South Bronx residents would be invited to express their concerns.

These concerns are real ones, too. While the Bronx Borough President put together a Memorandum of Understanding to try and address the concerns of South Bronx residents, the MOU is non-binding and does not adequately address the concerns:

  • Lack of democracy: Since the very beginning, there was a lack of a true democratic process that would provide community members with enough time to express their opinions before the decision was made.
  • Environmental Impact:  There has not been an adequate environmental impact assessment conducted on the site, nor has any environmental impact analysis been provided to members of South Bronx Unite.  The promise of using a small number of alternative fuel vehicles doesn’t adequately address the concerns of having an additional 130 trucks per day on the road in the South Bronx – already home to highest asthma rates in the country – nor the increased truck emissions that would come from the removal of more than 380 tons of solid waste per month.
  • Job creation:  FreshDirect is promising that almost 1000 jobs will be created over the next 10 years, which may sound like good news to Bronx county with some of the highest poverty rates in the nation.  But there are no written guarantees to ensure that a certain number of these jobs will be provided to South Bronx residents.  Further, past recipients of IDA subsidies have not have a good track record of holding true to promised job creation:  ALIGN – the Alliance for a Greater New York – has reviewed the State Comptroller’s data and found that for the NYC IDA: “Only eight of the 23 IDA subsidized projects that ended in 2009 met or exceeded their job creation promises.”  In addition, the amount of money being provided through the subsidy deal is out of proportion compared to the amount of money given for job creation in previous deals. According to Comptroller John C. Liu’s office, “A few months ago, the EDC attracted a world-class university by promising $100 million in capital for a project that by their own estimate will generate 30,000 jobs. Now the EDC is giving close to $100 million to create 962 jobs.  The cost to the City is $93,000 for each new job.”
  • Living Wages: While nearly 40% of current FreshDirect employees make less than $25,000/year, FreshDirect would be exempted from any local living wage mandates adopted by the city.   According to the New York Times – City Room, “As it stands, the city will pour about $130 million into a modestly profitable company over a decade without requiring that it pay more than $9 an hour to workers who labor in frigid warehouses hauling 50-pound boxes. The workers get less than two weeks off a year, and that includes sick, personal and vacation days.”
  • Labor Practices:  As described in South Bronx Unite’s message to the NYS Attorney General, NYC Comptroller, Bronx Borough President, NYC Economic Development Corporation, Empire State Development, and NYS Energy Research and Development Authority: “Numerous complaints have been filed with city, state and federal agencies regarding FreshDirect’s labor practices, including 27 discrimination and nine unfair labor claims against FreshDirect in the last four years alone.  The description of wages and employment in FreshDirect’s NYCIDA application fails to provide taxpayers with enough information to gauge the quality of jobs, including with respect to salary or how many jobs are part-time or full-time.”
  • Acceptance of EBT: As pointed out by Joel Berg of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, the MOU does not identify FreshDirect as officially agreeing to accept food stamps: “Fresh Direct previously sought to accept food stamps, had been prevented by doing do by “the State”, and that Fresh Direct and the Bronx BP would work together to ‘continue these efforts’ to try to get accept food stamps through EBT.  Unfortunately, Fresh Direct’s story that they were prevented from accepting food stamps by “the State” is likely untrue. Under federal law, only USDA, not any state, has the power to decide which retailers can or cannot accept food stamps.”
  • Servicing the South Bronx:   FreshDirect has never and currently does not serve the South Bronx – only the wealthier areas of the Bronx such as Riverdale.  FreshDirect has only discussed expanding to “new Bronx neighborhoods.” The Bronx Borough President’s office created a facebook page to “illustrate to the company just how many Bronx residents are willing to not only use their service, but have the technical capabilities to do so.” (FreshDirect is an entirely online grocery ordering and delivery system. As the Bronx includes one of the poorest Congressional districts in the nation, many residents do not have readily available Internet access.)  So far, the Borough President’s facebook page has accumulated more opposition than support for the FreshDirect deal.  So has a Crain’s poll.
  • Misuse of public land: As described by South Bronx Unite, “The proposed site at the Harlem River Yards in The Bronx is owned by New York State Department of Transportation and has been leased for 99 years to Harlem River Yard Ventures II (HRYV), which is 95% owned by the Galesi Group.  The purpose of the Harlem River Yards project (together with its partner project, the Oak Point Link) was to reduce air pollution by decreasing truck traffic and to help avoid $500 million in public road improvements through development of a Full Freight Access Program, which has not been developed in the more than 20 years that HRYV has held the lease.  Instead, the Bronx community has had 1.9 miles of waterfront made inaccessible to the public.”
  • Greenway and Waterfront Access:  As described in South Bronx Unite’s message to the Borough President, “Harlem River Yards is essential to a Harlem River Greenway as a necessary Bronx West – East connection from High Bridge and the Harlem River Greenway to the South Bronx Greenway and Randall’s Island.  The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has been negotiating for some time with HRYV to create access to a pedestrian bridge, currently under construction, that will link the South Bronx Greenway to Randall’s Island and then to Queens and Manhattan (the “Connector”).  The Connector will provide a safe and legal means to cross an important waterway that unites the Bronx with the open space and green playing fields of Randall’s Island.  EDC is now granting more than $100 million in public subsidies to FreshDirect, some of which will be allocated to Harlem River Yards, when HRVY has so far refused to grant an easement to complete the vital Connector project through the Harlem River Yards.  Equitable land use, in accordance with the public trust doctrine, includes meaningful waterfront access and recreational opportunities in addition to the swift completion of the Connector.”

With all of these concerns, members of “South Bronx Unite” would prefer “a community-led development plan that makes efficient use of nearly 100 acres of public waterfront land and incorporates sustainable development, living wage jobs, clean air and waterfront access for South Bronx residents.”

A Better Solution

As for improving access to healthy food, landlord and developer Steve Smith has crafted a vision for a regional food campus at Oak Point in the South Bronx, that would provide access to “locally grown, locally raised, locally made” food for South Bronx residents and the larger NYC area.  While the plans are still under development, Paul Lipson, consultant to the project, presented at Bronx Health REACH’s February 2012 Nutrition and Fitness Workgroup meeting. Here’s the story:
A 2003 study gauged the unmet demand for local and regional agricultural products at upwards of $1 billion in the New York metropolitan areas.  The proposed 130,000 sq ft regional food hub would house GrowNYC’s Wholesale Farmers Market and would serve as a non-profit aggregator of growers so upstate and regional growers can have a space to access markets.  There would be an opportunity for store owners and community members to access produce directly. Co-located next to the largest wholesale grocery and restaurant supplier in the New York metro area, it would be convenient for middlemen and store and restaurant owners to do all their shopping in one location. The operation could include a “market within a market” allowing products to be sold directly to Jetro and Restaurant Depo, as well as bodegas, small to medium-sized grocery stores, and small (10-20 table) restaurants.

Plans include a kitchen on the second floor, which would create many jobs for artisanal food manufacturing.  They would also like to create a wash and chop facility – something sorely needed in the city – which would allow everyone – from bodegas to institutions such as the NYC Department of Education Office of SchoolFood – to make more direct use of local produce.

Smith hopes to add a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse operation serving grocery and grocery delivery chains in the New York metro area; an agricultural cooperative aggregating over 60 regional growers and producers; a borough-based brewer of beers and ales (the Bronx Brewery currently brews in Connecticut); a Bronx-based caterer and institutional food service providing meals for charter schools and senior centers; and a produce distributor serving NY metro area.

Moreover, this project would save a lot on carbon emissions, fuel and transportation costs due to streamlining of operations and logistics. Individual farmers would not have to send their trucks to the city, but rather the Oak Point facility could send its trucks to them to pick up their produce and then deliver “tropicals” and other items available only in the city to them on the return trip.

Located on 9.6 waterfront acres, a ½ mile east of the Triborough Bridge and ½ west of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, there would be rail and deep water access, thus creating a means for a true regional food hub.

This whole project is dependent on subsidies – albeit, a tenth of the price of the subsidies the City is planning on giving to FreshDirect.  While it may not “promise” as many jobs as the FreshDirect deal, the jobs would provide workers with living wages, and the regional food campus would have many benefits and implication for public health, including air quality benefits, improvements to institutional food, etc.

Steve Smith and Paul Lipson are currently looking to connect with small food businesses and growers cooperatives that would like to share a food kitchen.  They are seeking support from the City Council and other elected officials to provide public subsidies for the project.  Paul can be reached at paul (at) barrettobay (dot) com


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Mott Haven residents made their voices heard last night over plans to build a new crossroads plaza in the neighborhood.

Protesters gathered outside a Community Board 1 meeting to argue against a development at 149th Street and Southern Boulevard, which includes retail space, a new school and affordable housing.

Those against the plan question its impact on the community and are upset that it will displace their beloved Morning Glory community garden.


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Recently, There has been a great outpouring in many of our communities across the nation in protest and demanding accountability towards many acts committed by law enforcement officer’s (police), acts that are being exposed with a good epidemic of video’s placed online and exposing these acts.

In New York, particularly since the atrocious beating of Jateik Reeds and the Murder of Rahmarley Graham to name just afew. The organizing efforts to end these acts and bring a just and accountable system in place have taken leaps and bounds.

From the organizing effects of members of Take Back The Bronx, Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) and Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) amongst many more.

There is an atmosphere of fear and change right around the corner with the current revelation of CPR “Stop-and-Frisk Opponents Set Sights on Mayoral Race” and some including media outlets are starting attempts to mobilize public opinion and actions against the peoples’ push for a more just society.

In an editorial published today by the nypost who claimed certain entities are operating in open contempt of the law and of custom, one must question who is operating in open contempt of the law and of custom? Is it you who’s time has come who has written that editorial?

This is an old clip showing admittance of the CIA that they use the mainstream media to manipulate the thoughts and ideas of American citizens in the USA. This has not changed obviously and is good to know happened in the past due to our reality today.


Police Brutality in America and Media Complicity I


Police Brutality in America and Media Complicity II

Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide

Carl Dix says, “All this comes down to a slow genocide which could easily accelerate.” On February 18th, Dix broke all this down and spoke to where things are headed if action is not taken. Listen to Dix as he discusses “what kind of revolution is needed to eliminate mass incarceration and all the brutality and misery this capitalist system enforces on humanity once and for all.”

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