Governor Hopeful Cynthia Nixon Tackles NYCHA

By Andrea Nieves

Housing apartments on Rosedale Ave. in Bronx, New York. Photo by Andrea Nieves.

Along with calling for functional healthcare, justice and transit systems, New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is taking on the city’s housing authority. For Lehman students who have endured harsh conditions in public housing, change couldn’t come fast enough. 

“This winter we didn’t have heat in our apartments,” said Lehman sophomore Danielle Serrano. “It took them forever to acknowledge our complaints and take action but even then, the heat didn’t last long. It would be on during the day but off in the night.”.

Nixon, 52, visited the Albany Houses in Crown Heights with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to see the harsh living conditions that NYCHA tenants have been complaining about. Nixon and Adams met a few of the tenants and after seeing the conditions in which they live, Nixon said to PIX11 News, “It is definitely in a state of emergency.”

Among the many repair issues addressed, lead-based paint was found in many if not all NYCHA buildings across the five boroughs. 

Nixon said lead paint was the main concern, and that its dangerous to NYCHA tenants. This has led to a large-scale lawsuit brought against NYCHA. Nixon told PIX11, “I am very troubled that the chair knew about the lead paint and did not inform families. I can’t understand why she did that; That’s going to be a very hard thing to overcome.”  

Lehman students find it hard to trust the housing authority after their recent controversy. Lehman senior Mitali Sarkar said, “They can get away with not telling tenants because most people aren’t aware of lead in the paint. Most people are distracted by school or work so they don’t look for these things. I live in an apartment as well so to hear about people getting lead poisoning from this is very alarming.”

According to The Daily News, NYCHA tenants filed a lawsuit against the city demanding retesting of apartments because they claim Housing Authority managers are lying to tenants about the status or lack of presence of lead in their units.

Since then, there has been “a political crisis” regarding NYCHA and their need for more money in the budget. Among the controversy, NYCHA chairwoman Shola Olatoye has resigned but denies her resignation was forced by recent scandals. 

On March 12, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. held a press conference in the Jackson Houses, along with Governor Cuomo to speak on the issues. Diaz said, “We know that the NYCHA residents day in and day out are living in unacceptable conditions.” Problems stem from molding, walls that are crumbling, roaches, lack of heat and hot water, and lead paint in the apartments. Governor Cuomo questioned what was being done by the Housing department to address these issues. “It’s not about blaming or shifting responsibility. Let’s just improve the lives of the people. That’s what government is about and that’s what we’re going to do” Cuomo says.

Nixon, who faces opposition to her run from the Democratic party, has also challenged Governor Cuomo over his sudden interest in reversing the longstanding deterioration of public housing. During a press conference reported by Charlotte Brehaut, Nixon rips into Governor Cuomo by saying, “We’ve all seen it. Andrew the bully. But worst of all his budgets bully our children and our families by shortchanging them, by boxing them in, by denying them the opportunities they are owed…And I am here to tell you that I am one woman who has the experience to say that the people of New York are sick of being bullied.”  

The 2018 New York gubernatorial election will take place on November 6, 2018. Nixon is running against Randy Credico as well as incumbent Governor Cuomo. If successful, Nixon will be the first female governor of New York. 

Nixon for Governor? Lehman Students Are on the Fence

By Shaiann Frazier
Cynthia Nixon, actress and activist, who plans to run for governor of New York. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Cynthia Nixon, actress and activist, who plans to run for governor of New York. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“The only words in my head are not again,” said Jason Nieves, 27, a Lehman business major. He explained, “It’s not because she is a female, it’s because she is a celebrity. Nixon can have all the qualifications, but it’s the celebrity part that’s going to affect the voting.”

Nieves was reacting to Cynthia Nixon’s candidacy for governor of New York, which Lehman students have met with a mix of doubt and guarded optimism. The Emmy-award-winning actress and activist best known for her portrayal of the lawyer Miranda in the HBO series “Sex and the City,” announced on March 19 that she will run against incumbent Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming Democratic primary, which will take place on Sept. 13. 

So far, Nixon has won support and praise from many of her colleagues, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, who acted alongside Nixon in Sex and the City, and Rosie O’ Donnell, a comedian and television personality. She has also gained support from Black and Latino communities because of her recent ideas to decrease mass incarceration, as well as from the LGBT community, of which Nixon is a prominent member. 

Lissy Dominguez, 22, a Lehman student and media and communications major said, “I loved her character in Sex in the City and it’s interesting that she’s running for governor years later.  I don’t see it as shocking, considering who our president is.” She added, “I think that maybe she will be a good change for New York.”

Many wonder whether she is capable of serving as the governor of New York. Benaiah Warr, 19, a film major said, “I just feel like a person who doesn’t have that much experience in that field shouldn’t run. We need a leader to be there, that will be able to do the necessary things to make the right decisions for the greater good of the city.”

Many also question her run for governor because of both her sexual orientation and her gender. America witnessed what it is was like for a female politician in the spotlight when Hillary Clinton ran against Donald Trump in 2016. Clinton was ostracized and relentlessly ridiculed through the media because she was a woman. 

Currently, data provided by the Center for American Women and Politics shows that of the 535 members of Congress, women hold 105 seats, 21% serving in the United States Senate. While a quarter of state legislator seats are held by women, a mere 12 of these are governorships. According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 31% of men and 41% of women  believed that Americans are not ready to elect a woman into higher office. 

However, some argue that the relative scarcity of women proves that more of them should be in government. Franklin Taveras, 21, a Lehman student and film and television major said, “I feel that it’s a good thing that a woman is running for the governor of New York … Because woman have been misrepresented in numbers in our government, and it’s overwhelmingly disproportionate.”

According to a 2017 study done by Politico, American University, and Loyola University, President Trump’s election has led to an increase in political action by women who are Democrats. The study also found that women in both the Republican and Democratic parties have been discouraged to run for office because of President Trump’s win.

Nixon has many plans if she gets elected into office. One is to legalize the use of marijuana which she believes can raise revenues in New York, if it is taxed. She also wants to address mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos in New York, as well as fix income inequality as she believes New York has become “the most unequal state in the country with both incredible wealth and extreme poverty.”

Vennela Perikala, 21, Lehman student and film and pre-med major, said “I look at her and I think of Sex in the City, but it doesn’t take away from her. I support [her run] and I would go vote for her.”

Target’s Self-Checkout System Frustrates Workers and Customers

By Perla Tolentino
A wide-angle view of the self-checkout station, showing that no team members were helping customers at the moment. Photo by Perla Tolentino.

A wide-angle view of the self-checkout station, showing that no team members were helping customers at the moment. Photo by Perla Tolentino.

The Marble Hill Target on 225th street in the Bronx recently introduced new self-checkout registers to improve customers’ shopping experience, but the changeover has disappointed many workers and local shoppers. Their experiences suggest that customers and staff may end up paying a steep price for the move.

Rhadames de la Cruz, a former Target employee, suggested that these innovative point of sale machines are meant to benefit customers by increasing efficiency. Three Target team members at the store who did not want to be named agreed that the new registers have shortened lines at the registers. 

Other employees, however, argue that the self-checkout system brings the threat of layoffs. One team member, Dulce, who asked not to give her last name, explained “They hired around 100 seasonal employees last year. They were all let go after they started the self-service, especially in the night shift there are not so many employees sometimes.” Dulce told the Meridian that most companies hire seasonal employees to avoid paying taxes and the expense of annual wage increases. She thinks the self-checkout registers may bring higher sales, but added, “I don’t think they will hire new employees any soon.” 

Research supports her view. According to a study cited in a Guardian article from Aug. 2016, 7.5m retail jobs in the US “are at ‘high risk of computerization,” with the 3.5m cashiers likely to be particularly hard hit.” The article also quoted a Target employee in Wisconsin, Caleb Kulick, who summarized the impact of the new self-checkout system: “Suddenly, a job which used to require four employees now only requires one.”

Target Department Store at 225th in the Bronx. At 7:05PM the lights of almost all Self-Checkout registers appear to be lit indicating the register is open. Behind them the lights of only 4 out of 29 available manual registers that require team members are lit. Photo by Perla Tolentino.

Many regular customers at the 225th location also think the registers have worsened, not improved, their shopping experience. Scarlett Nuñez, who was shopping in her work uniform, said she shops in Target almost every day. “The self-checkout registers are constantly damaged or not working, I’d rather just go to the cashiers.” Another customer who also shops regularly at the store agreed. 

Rosy Morel, a 25-year-old Lehman College graduate, also expressed her frustration with the new machines. “Sometimes they don’t work, and when they do, they still require a cashier, like when I’m buying fruits and vegetables, they have to come and put a code,” she said. Rosy noticed that the new registers were taking over the jobs of Target associates.

Bronx residents are dissatisfied with the self-checkout registers because they feel that the registers still require assistance from target associates — which is now often slower to arrive. Jasmille Peralta, a Bronx resident who shops at both 225th and the 161st street locations said that the wait is the same when you are using the self-checkout. “Some functions of the self-checkout require a team member, but they are never around so I have to wait for a long time for one of them to come. One time, I waited for almost an hour,” she said. 

Lesia Willis, Vice President of the Career Services Department & Alumni Affairs of ASA College in Manhattan, is also frustrated. She said the system “is just not as efficient, you still need a team member for some of the transactions made.” Willis said she prefers the old cashier registers since she uses coupons and these usually have to be supervised by team members.

An additional downside of the automated system is an apparent increase in theft. Madeline Espinosa, a Bronx resident and regular shopper at the 225th location pointed out that self-checkout machines often see a rise in shoplifting. Espinosa was employed in the Target store in Temple, PA in 2013 where the self-checkout registers were launched first. She said the loss prevention team at the time in her PA store noticed that many of the items missing weren’t stolen on the floor, but at the self-checkout lanes. “At that store we had secret shoppers and two security guards at all time and very rarely they found people shop lifting, but they were short when inventory was done. So they realized that the gap had increased since they added the self-checkout registers,” she said.

A taxi driver who operates outside of the 225th Target store, Roger Oseda better known as “Tito” also believes that the new system has driven up theft. He pointed to circumstantial evidence of this. “There is always someone stealing something in there. They always have to call the police.” His observations are confirmed by data. According to Atlantic Magazine, a 2015 study of one million self-checkout transactions in the UK showed that almost $850,000 worth of items “left the store without being scanned and paid for.”

Ultimately, Target’s new investment may lead them to lose more than was projected.  According to an April article in Forbes, Target’s new implementation has not been profitable, causing a decrease in their earnings growth in the last year.

Bronx Residents Oppose FCC’s Eradication of Net Neutrality

By Jorel Lonesome

New Yorkers oppose the FCC’s ruling to eradicate net neutrality. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Along with politicians, activists and tech companies, many Bronx residents oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ruling on December 14, 2017 to discard net neutrality, which demands that ISPs treat all web traffic the same. Without net neutrality, internet service providers (ISP) such as BT Broadband or Comcast could influence what we see online and how quickly we can access it. 

Bronx residents feel that ending net neutrality further disadvantages them economically. “Net neutrality has an important place in this economy,” said Carlos Diaz, Jr., 33, Bronx resident and part-time Teaching Assistant at Tiegerman School for Language in Woodside Queens. “Shopping, banking, and online trading on the internet will charge extra fees. It will just be too costly,” he added.

Without net neutrality, “There will be a domino effect. Small businesses on the internet will go out of business and people will lose jobs,” agreed Jamila Magoro, 30, Bronx resident and Tax Preparer at Liberty Tax Service on East Fordham Road in the Bronx.

Businesses, she added, “can’t get any traffic on their websites without paying ISP fees to get traffic from people who visit their sites. Many customers that buy products online will cancel their services because they can no longer afford to pay for additional fees to access certain sites.”

Until net neutrality was rescinded, data from big and small companies alike traveled on the same frequency at the same speed, thus the ISPs could not favor one company over another. Under net neutrality laws, larger companies can’t overtake their competitors. Even to watch videos on YouTube, browse Facebook, or read the news, an ISP is required.

Without net neutrality, companies will have to pay ISPs more money, favoring bigger companies that can afford to pay for better service. This could also lead to higher prices for customers. ISPs would charge customers premium prices to watch videos online or listen to music at times when websites are busy. 

However, ISPs argue that if there was less regulation and they were able to charge a premium for faster service, they could reinvest the money in a better infrastructure that could include improved access for people in remote and rural areas.

According to Harper Neidig in an April 3 article, in TheHill.com, “most Republicans want to replace the net neutrality rules with legislation…” which they hold, “…will end the regulatory uncertainty that the telecom industry faces with the prospect that the rules will change every time the White House switches parties.”

Network Neutrality logo. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Attorneys general across 20 different states are suing the FCC for axing net neutrality rules the Obama administration enacted in 2015. States such as Washington began to take initiative to counter congressional action by signing their own net neutrality bill, followed by legislatures in New York, Maryland, Montana and California. Courts are now opening more avenues for companies to file lawsuits against the FCC’s net neutrality changes. Kickstarter, Etsy and Foursquare were among some of the companies taking legal action against congress. They contend that net neutrality creates a level playing field which spurs innovation by giving small startups a fighting chance to grow and even surpass their big rivals. 

As the net neutrality debate continues, ISPs wait for the FCC’s repeal of internet regulations to take effect. Major broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast agree with the FCC’s move toward giving gatekeepers more power over the people. They believe open markets on the web and breakthroughs of online products are hindered by too much internet regulation. 

Aside from the debates regarding the fate of net neutrality, Bronx residents also disapprove of the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. People also feel axing net neutrality regulations is unlawful and won’t allow the autonomy for internet users to search information they want to see. 

Bronx resident and real estate business owner Sharai Pérez, 40, said, “It should be illegal. It’s totally unconstitutional. There shouldn’t be any type of rule on the internet that companies and government powers can control. Net neutrality represents freedom unless the content is harmful or inappropriate.”