New York City

The Forgotten 50,000

Eleven years after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, more than 50,000 people rested in homeless shelters and on the streets of New York City last night — nearly 45 percent of which were children. As numbers have reached an astonishing height within shelter population, New Yorkers are hoping the next mayor elected will provide permanent shelter and resources for families and children in need. The New York Times reports:

The next mayor will have to do better by them than Mr. Bloomberg. He once proposed energetic and aggressive initiatives on behalf of the homeless. Now he speaks of them with resentment: “You can arrive in your private jet at Kennedy Airport,” the mayor said recently, “take a private limousine and go straight to the shelter system and walk in the door and we’ve got to give you shelter.”

Read more here.

New York City Sues Orthodox Shops Over Dress Codes

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are a fast-growing population in New York City. Photo courtesy SVLuma/shutterstock.com

The New York City Commissionon Human Rights is suing ultra-Orthodox Jewish business owners in Brooklyn because they posted signs calling on customers to dress modestly in their stores. 

The commission said the owners, whose businesses are located in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, violated human rights law with signs that read: “No shorts, no barefoot, no sleeveless, no low-cut neckline allowed in this store.”

Ultra-Orthodox Jews practice a strict form of Judaism; men, women and older children are expected to wear clothes that cover their arms, legs and necklines.

Homeless, Not Helpless

THE RED, RUN-DOWN, two-story frame house on Morris Avenue in the West Bronx that houses the Picture the Homeless offices looks much like those around it, except for the organization’s blue banner that hangs from the porch. The youths (there are older members too) who log in to their homeless blogs and look for jobs on the computers upstairs, surrounded by images of Zapata and the Selma freedom marchers, are mainly black and Latino, and they could be almost any of the young people you see on the street. Picture the Homeless is seamlessly embedded in this New York City neighborhood, where the new poor from Africa and South Asia join the long-established poor from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Picture the Homeless (PTH) combines social action, advocacy, outreach, and community and is run almost exclusively by homeless and formerly homeless New Yorkers. The organization’s name references the importance of challenging widespread stereotypes about people who are homeless. “Don’t talk about us; talk with us” is a PTH slogan, and it claims as a founding principle that “in order to end homelessness, people who are homeless must become an organized, effective voice for systemic change.”

Kendall Jackman, in her 50s, one of PTH’s housing organizers, lives in a women’s shelter not far from Morris Avenue. The former postal worker from Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood—“No matter where I live, I will always be a Bed-Stuy girl,” she said—lost her housing two years ago when the building she was living in was foreclosed on.

“Of the 72 women in my shelter, 69 of us either work or go to school,” Jackman said. “With no low-income housing available, shelters are now the homes of the working poor.”

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9/11? My Children Don't Remember

American flags commemorating 9/11, Vladimir Korostyshevskiy, Shutterstock.com
American flags commemorating 9/11, Vladimir Korostyshevskiy, Shutterstock.com

My children don't remember.

I mean, the younger children in my church don't remember. It was eleven years ago. The oldest of them was six when the towers were destroyed and we went to war. I'm wondering how I talk to them about it. I wonder how I tell them the story without subjecting them to the trauma so many people experienced that day.

So, no video footage. No point in giving the kids nightmares. I'm just going to talk about how many kinds of religions there are in the United States. No longer simply a liberal posture, it's an issue of national security, no? If we want to be at peace with our neighbors locally and globally, we need to understand them. We need to have something to work with, some kind of conecpt of how they live.

Q&A with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, RNS photo by Enid Bloch
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, RNS photo by Enid Bloch

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has spent most of his adult life trying to build interfaith and international bridges. But to many Americans, he is the public face of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque," one of the most controversial religious projects in recent U.S. history.

Rauf reflects on that turmoil in his new book, Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America. But as the book's subtitle suggests, the longtime imam spends most of his time facing forward — toward the development of a distinctly American brand of Islam. He spoke recently with Religion News Service. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.    

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: I wrote this book because the American public saw me and heard me, but really didn’t get to know me very well, or to understand what my work was all about. This book is my calling card to the American public.

2 Dead, At Least 8 Injured in Empire State Building Shooting

Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

Updated at 11:22:  New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Jeffrey Johnson, 53, shot and killed a former coworker at Hazan Imports, 41, with a 45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Johnson had been laid off from the women's apparel company. 

Nine other people were wounded or grazed as police exchanged gunfire with the shooter. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said some of the injured may have been victims of accidental police gunfire, and none of them were seriously injured.

"I want to assure people that this had nothing to do with terrorism," Bloomberg said.

Updated at 10:30 a.m.: According to Reuters, two people are dead, including the shooter. At least eight were wounded. 

Earlier:

According to the Associated Press, several people have been shot near the Empire State Building in New York City.

From the report: 

"City police say three or four civilians have been wounded in the Friday morning shooting and that the shooter is dead. A fire department spokesman says it received a call about the shooting just after at 9 a.m. Friday and that emergency units were on the scene within minutes."

We at Sojourners offer our thoughts and prayers for all those involved in yet another instance of senseless violence.

 

QUIRK: New York, the Nanny State and the Impending Demise of the Big Gulp

Big Gulp. Photo by section215/Wylio.
Big Gulp. Photo by section215/Wylio.

If New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets his way, Big Gulps and any other super-sized sugary soft-drinks will go the way of smoking at the Oyster Bar and Times Square peep shows and trans-fat-deep-fried corndogs.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg proposed a citywide ban on any serving of sugary-sweet soda more than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters and street carts throughout the Big Apple.

In a column posted Friday on CNN.com, Edward Morrissey, a senior editor and correspondent for the conservative commentary website hotair.com said Bloomberg overreached (again) when he "hit the panic button" over super-sized soft drinks.

Jon Stewart did not take Bloomberg's menacing of to his (apparently) beloved Big Gulp lying down. "Mister Mayor, this ban makes your assinine look big," Stewart said on Thursday's The Daily Show.  "And what do you do about Slurpees?! A drink that lives in the netherworld betwixt physical states. Is it a solid? A liquid? Ultimately a gas?"

Occupy Wall Street Lives!

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
#OWS protesters march in lower Manhattan on Tuesday. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

As I walked around Union Square in NYC yesterday between 4 and 5:30, waiting for the march down Broadway to begin, memories of occupied Zuccotti Park came to mind. Handmade signs about a very wide range of issues were everywhere. There were drumming and musical groups doing their rhythmic things and people dancing as they did so. There was Reverend Billy performing, and an incredibly well done colored chalk piece of artwork on the sidewalk near 17th and Broadway. People everywhere, mainly white folks but diverse, lots of young people but with a significant number of non-young people.

And a spirit of hope, a spirit which declared: “we are here, we are organized, we have not been defeated and we are not going away.”

N.J. Leaders Seek to Ease Anger Over NYPD Probe of Muslims

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
Muslim leaders address issues around police surveillance of Muslims in NJ last month. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

NEWARK, N.J. —  Amid concern over the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims beyond New York City, New Jersey and federal law enforcement officials plan to hold a summit Saturday (March 3) to assure Muslim leaders that they are addressing the NYPD probe.

Amin Nathari, a spokesman for Newark's Muslim Community Leadership Coalition, said Muslim leaders planned to meet in Trenton with representatives of the FBI, the New Jersey State Police and the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to discuss the NYPD operations.

The U.S. Attorney's Office of New Jersey, the state police and the FBI's division in Newark confirmed they plan to attend, but offered no specifics. The state Attorney General's Office and Homeland Security declined to comment.

Gotham is No Gomorrah: New York's New Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Photo by Getty Images.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York hugs an American journalist outside St. Peter's Basilica Saturday. Photo by Getty Images.

VATICAN CITY — On the eve of his elevation to cardinal, New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan said he would like to change the caricature of his city as a modern-day Gomorrah.

"New York seems to have an innate interest and respect for religion and I'm going to bring that up because I don't like that caricature that New York is some neo-Sodom and Gomorrah," Dolan told Reuters after celebrating Mass here on Friday (Feb. 17).

"I have found the New York community to be very religious and innately respectful of religion, interested in religion," he said.

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