Denuncian aumento de robo de salarios por subcontratistas

A pesar de las leyes aprobadas en el estado se siguen cometiendo estafas contra trabajadores informales

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Trabajadores Luis Gil, Mauricio Jimenez, Jose Francisco Lopez con Modesta Toribio. Robo de Salario. (Photo: El Diario)

Por Edwin Martinez

Publicado en El Diario el 17 de octubre 2017

“La otra semana le pago”. “Deje de molestar tanto”. “Qué quiere que haga si a mí no me han pagado”. “A mí no me importa que usted no tenga pa’ comer”. “Si me sigue llamando le echo a ‘La Migra’”. Esas son algunas de las frases que diariamente cientos de trabajadores informales escuchan por parte de subcontratistas que se “aparecen como ángeles” en momentos de vacas flacas, y luego de ponerlos a trabajar con salarios de solo $80 por el día entero, principalmente en labores de demolición, pintura, construcción y limpieza, se niegan a pagar y terminan borrándose del mapa.

Eso le pasó al ecuatoriano Mauricio Jiménez, quien en el 2014, tras la angustia de llevar tres semanas sin trabajo, fue contratado por un paisano suyo en obras de construcción, y no solo le “robaron” su pago sino que terminó siendo el malo de la película.

“El tipo empezó pagando bien, pero luego ya me daba poco, no me daba la semana completa, solo partes, y al final ya no me volvió a pagar y me quitó dos semanas. Lo llamaba y lo llamaba y lo buscaba en su casa, pero se molestó conmigo, se puso tenso y nunca me pagó”, comentó el inmigrante, quien decidió demandarlo, y aunque ganó el caso en la corte tras dos años de batalla, finalmente el dinero se perdió.

Se desapareció y nadie sabe nada de él. Seguramente sigue haciendo esto como un negocio, sigue contratando más trabajadores, los roba y desaparece, pues ese es el modus operandi de muchos subcontratistas que lucran a cuenta de los trabajadores y cambian de celular, de nombres de compañías o de lugares de trabajo”, agrega el inmigrante, quien en enero del año pasado volvió a caer en las garras de otro empleador deshonesto.

Me volvió a pasar con otro paisano ecuatoriano. Me quedó debiendo un mes, pero ahí, gracias a la ayuda de esta organización se llegó a un acuerdo y me pagó los $2,500 que me debía, porque los abogados lo llamaron y seguramente a él le dio miedo que se corriera la voz o que se metiera en problemas”, agregó Jiménez, al tiempo que contó sobre otras tácticas sucias que suelen aplicar.

“Muchos pagan cada quince días y se inventan una semana de ‘security’ que no se sabe por qué es, y siempre va a quedar ese dinero faltante porque esa semana se queda en el aire y al final, si son honestos, pagan el resto pero esa no la pagan”, dijo el trabajador, advirtiendo a quienes tienen historias similares que denuncien y luchen por sus pagos.

“Eso que hacen ellos es un asalto en el que uno sabe quién es la persona y cuanto le robo, y sabiendo esos datos uno puede denunciar y la justicia tarde o temprano llega y se les frena el negocio sucio que están montando”, dijo el ecuatoriano.

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Mauricio Jimenez. Robo de Salario. (Photo: El Diario)

El salvadoreño José Francisco López, padre de cinco hijos, también cayó en las redes de los empleadores avivatos, y le fue peor, porque hasta su vida estuvo en juego.

“Yo quería cobrar mi sueldo y me decían que ya me habían pagado, me enredaban y pasaron semanas que no me pagaron, pero eso no fue lo peor sino que una vez el patrón hasta me tiró una máquina encima para matarme porque recibí una llamada”, comentó el inmigrante, quien quedó deshabilitado y ahora depende de su hijo de 17 años, quien sostiene a la familia, trabajando en un lavadero de carros y en una pizzería. “Mi jefe me terminó robando como unas cinco semanas, no me dio compensación por un accidente que tuve y aunque llevo año y medio con el caso en la corte, aún no me han podido recuperar nada, pero sigo en la lucha porque eso va a salir bien”, agregó el trabajador, quien siente rabia de que los empleadores “jueguen con el hambre” de familias enteras.

Estafas en aumento

Los casos de Jiménez y López son solo una pequeña muestra de una realidad que cada vez es más común. Modesta Toribio, defensora de los derechos de los trabajadores de la organización Make the Road Nueva York, aseguró que las estafas de subcontratistas han ido en aumento, pero advirtió que con datos básicos se pueden recuperar los salarios. Esta organización recibe en sus oficinas un promedio de 300 denuncias al año.

“Esta práctica se ha vuelto muy común, especialmente en el área de la Roosevelt, en Queens, donde yo recibo semanalmente entre 5 y 7 casos de robo de salarios de inmigrantes a los llevan a trabajar duro y luego no les contestan el teléfono y no les pagan, pero es importante que ellos sepan que tienen derechos y que podemos ayudarlos a que les den su dinero”, aseguró la activista, al tiempo que agregó que el 80% de los casos que manejan tienen un final feliz para el trabajador.

Muchos trabajadores no tienen idea que pueden recuperar el dinero y dejan a los contratistas que se roben su plata, pero si no se hace nada contra ellos, no solo van a perder su derecho de obtener su salario sino que van a seguir haciéndole eso a otras personas”, comentó la dominicana, quien pidió que los trabajadores siempre tengan información precisa del contratista como la dirección donde vive, nombre completo, teléfono, placa del carro que usa y hasta fotos del empleado en el sitio de trabajo.

La activista afirmó además que en esta lucha para que se respete la dignidad de los trabajadores sería muy útil si hubiera leyes más fuertes que persigan más a los subcontratistas aprovechados, por lo que  mencionó que al Departamento de Labor del Estadole hace falta un seguimiento más feroz de los “mala paga” y más prontitud en el manejo de los casos.

El Estado debe hacer más

Daniel Dromm, concejal del distrito de Jackson Heights y miembro del Comité de Labor del Concejo Municipal, destacó que los asuntos laborales en Nueva York están delineados por el Estado y advirtió que aunque en 2011 se aprobó el Acta de Protección Salarial que protege a los trabajadores, necesita fortalecerse más a través de la organización y la educación.

“La ley está ahí, pero seguimos escuchando gente que trabaja y no le pagan, por lo que es importante seguir el trabajo que estamos haciendo desde el Concejo con fondos para advertirle a todos los neoyorquinos, tengan papeles o no, que las leyes los cubren y que todos los trabajadores tienen sus derechos y pueden reclamar si son víctimas de jefes que no les pagan”, advirtió el líder político de Queens, quien pidió que se incrementen los castigos a los subcontratistas “ladrones”.

Ellos son criminales y están haciendo algo terrible, por lo que es necesario verlos como delincuentes y darles mayores castigos incluso enviarlos a la cárcel, porque no podemos permitir que victimicen a personas vulnerables que están cayendo en sus manos”, agregó Dromm.

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Se Hace Camino coordinadora Modesta Toribio. Robo de Salario. (Photo: El Diario)

Rafael Espinal, presidente del Comité de Asuntos del Consumidor, lamentó especialmente que muchos subcontratistas pretendan legitimar el robo de salarios amenazando a los trabajadores con ‘La Migra’, y advirtió que ordenará una investigación más exhaustiva sobre esta problemática para ponerle freno a los empleadores abusivos.

“Los trabajadores deben recibir un pago por el trabajo que realizan y nunca ser intimidados por los empleadores que desean explotar su estado migratorio”, dijo el concejal de Brooklyn, donde se reportar muchos de estos robos de salarios. “Como presidente de la Comisión de Asuntos del Consumidor del Concejo, haré que el personal investigue y estudie estos abusos para asegurarnos de que estamos haciendo todo lo posible para lograr que los neoyorquinos reciban salarios que se han ganado con trabajo duro y que han sido robados por propietarios de negocios turbios”.

Cristóbal Gutiérrez, defensor laboral de Make the Road NY advirtió que los trabajadores que han sido víctima de lo que describió como un negocio endémico no deben permitir que violen sus derechos.

“La ley dice que cualquier día trabajado en este país, independientemente del estatus migratorio, debe ser pagado conforme a la ley del estado en el que se está trabajando, al menos el ingreso mínimo correspondiente”, dijo el chileno mencionando que organismos como el Departamento de Labor, las fiscalías y hasta las cortes de pequeños reclamos están prestas a ayudar. “Aunque cada caso es diferente hay que pedir ayuda, pero lo ideal es que si hay varias personas a las que les está pasando lo mismo se unan y van a ser más exitoso”.

Es un delito

El Departamento de Trabajo de Nueva York, que tiene una unidad de ayuda de salarios no pagados, advierte que los empleadores que no cumplen con sus obligaciones salariales están cometiendo un delito, considerado menor y hace un llamado a que las víctimas presenten sus reclamos.

“El Departamento de Trabajo ayuda a cobrar los salarios adeudados a los trabajadores que no han recibido el salario mínimo, una vez que nos presentan un reclamo. Las normas laborales investigan y se esfuerzan por recopilar estos reclamos para salarios pendientes de pago, salarios retenidos, deducciones ilegales y también hacemos cumplir las reglas que prohíben a los empleadores tomar sobornos ilegales de los salarios”, advierte ese organismo.

La Fiscalía General del Estado también ha lanzado una dura batalla para recuperar los salarios robados de los trabajadores y aseguran que en el último año lograron pagos pendientes de más de $2.7 millones que beneficiaron a más de 1,500 empleados en casos civiles y penales. Desde el 2011 el monto supera los $30 millones.

“Como Fiscal General, estoy comprometido a luchar en nombre de los trabajadores de Nueva York para asegurar que obtienen un pago justo por cada jornada de trabajo”, aseguró Eric Schneiderman. “Seguiremos luchando todos los días en favor de las familias trabajadoras de Nueva York”.

Dónde pedir ayuda

  • Si usted tiene una queja acerca de su empleador, no dude en llamar al 311 y solicitar la Oficina de Normas Laborales del Departamento de Asuntos del Consumidor
  • El Departamento de Labor del Estado ofrece ayuda en la línea 888-469-7365 o a través de la página https://www.labor.ny.gov/home/
  • Asimismo puede llamar a la línea del distrito de Nueva York al 212-775-3880
  • La organización Make the Road NY tienen una oficina especializada en ayuda a recuperar salarios. Para ayuda llame al 1877 466 97 57 o visite sus sedes en el 301 Grove St, en Brooklyn, 161 Port Richmond Ave, en Staten Island o 92-10 Roosevelt Ave, en Corona, Queens
  • En Make the Road de Queens puede llamar al 718 565 85 00 ext 4472 a Modesta Toribio
  • En la oficina de Make the Road en Brooklyn puede llamar al 718 418 76 90 a Nieves Padilla.

Leer más aquí.

REPORT: 1 IN 10 NYC STUDENTS HOMELESS AT SOME POINT LAST YEAR

By Lindsey Christ

Originally published by NY1 on October 11, 2017

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With more homeless children attending city public schools than ever before, a city council committee heard testimony Wednesday that the education department is not doing enough to address the crisis. NY1 Education Reporter Lindsey Christ has the story.

One in ten city students was homeless at some point last school year, according to new state numbers.

That’s a record 111,500 students, a six percent jump from the year before.

Members of the city council say it’s a staggering problem.

“It is a crisis, and the numbers are mind blowing, actually,” Queens City Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “It seems like they are trying to get a handle on it, but they are not quite there yet.”

Education department and Homeless Services officials testified for several hours on student homelessness before the council on Wednesday.

“We know that for many of them, school is a vital source of stability,” Deputy Schools Chancellor Elizabeth Rose testified. “To this end, we provide additional academic, health, and mental health supports and services.”

The mayor has included a temporary appropriation of $10 million in each of the last two city budgets to support homeless students.

But advocates point out that the spending was almost cut this year. They also say it’s not nearly enough. At more than 150 schools, at least ten percent of students live in shelters, but the funding provides only 43 social workers dedicated to homeless families.

“The level of trauma that a child goes through living in shelter, I don’t think we are adequately prepared to help them with,” Brooklyn City Councilman Stephen Levin said.

Another troubling statistic is how many families are placed in shelters in the same borough as the youngest child’s school. Only half of families were sheltered in the same borough, down from 70 percent four years ago — and well short of the goal of 85 percent.

“I read that and I see an ever-deteriorating situation,” Levin said during the council meeting.

Being sheltered far from school means children endure long commutes and frequently miss classes. More than half of students in shelters miss at least a month of school.

Last year, the city began offering bus service for kindergarten through sixth graders in shelters. 5,000 students are now picked up from 500 bus stops and brought to 1,000 different schools.

But education outcomes for students in shelters remain dismal. Only 15 percent are on track in reading and 12 percent of students are on track in math.

See more here.

LPC landmarks Old St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst

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Old Saint James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst/NYC Landmarks Commission (Jackson Heights Post)

By Tara Law

Originally published by the Jackson Heights Post on September 20, 2017

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate the Old St. James Episcopal Church, located at 86-02 Broadway, a landmark on Tuesday.

The church was constructed in 1735-36 and is the second oldest religious building and oldest Church of England mission church in the city.

The building is recognized as an example of the colonial meetinghouse architectural style and features 19th Century Gothic Revival and Stick Style workmanship.

“As the second-oldest church building in the City, pre-dating St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, it is a site well-deserving of the protection landmark status provides,” said Meenakshi Srinivasan, the landmarks preservation commission chair.

The church was constructed as part of what was known as Newtown Village, one of the original five towns in Queens County. The building was used by British troops during the American Revolution. The church became an early member of the Episcopal Diocese of New York after the revolution.

In 1848, the parish built a larger church a block away to accommodate the area’s growing population, and the church became the parish hall.

Following storm damage in 1883, the building was modified with Victorian design elements.

In the 20th century, the hall served the community as a centrally-located meeting place.

In 2004, grants from the Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program helped to restore the church to its 1883 appearance.

The church is currently not in use, although part of property used as parking lot.

“The Old St. James Church is an American treasure,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, who wrote a letter in support of landmark status to the Commission. “It is a beautiful work of art and an important part of our history. The Old St. James Church tells the story of how our nation came to be.”

Read more here.

TRUMP, RACISM CONTROVERSIES ON THE SYLLABUS AT ON EDUCATION EVENT

By Grace Segers and Jeff Coltin
Originally published by City and State New York on August 16, 2017

(Photo by Alexis Arsenault)

(Photo by Alexis Arsenault)

With President Donald Trump again drawing a moral equivalency between the white nationalist marchers and their counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, racism and diversity have become a central topic of discussion at many events – including at City & State’s forum on New York education policy.

“I think that what’s happening in Washington is something we need to talk about in our classrooms,” New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm said during a panel discussion at the annual On Education event, held Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. Dromm said that controversies surrounding the Trump administration are raising issues about culture and history that students need to understand.

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman agreed, adding that the Trump administration has “instilled an institution of fear in our public schools.”

“I think that kind of climate sets a bad tone, not just in New York state, but across the country,” added Hyndman, who previously worked for the state Department of Education and served on New York City’s Community District Education Council 29.

The president’s remarks and his administration’s education policies was a recurring theme during the conference. During a discussion of a federal push to promote private schools, Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of New York, said that many professionals in private schools were skeptical of the president’s campaign promises to dedicate $20 billion of federal funding to school choice.

The events in Charlottesville, in which brawls broke out and a counterprotester was struck by a car and killed, and the president’s response remained at the forefront of many discussions, even ones related specifically to New York. State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal from June, which outlined ways to increase diversity in New York City schools but failed to mention the word “segregation” or directly address integration.

“Call it out. You’ve got to name it,” said Rosa. She added that the events of the past six days had underscored the importance of school integration, alluding to Charlottesville.

The New York education sector has had its own controversy over race in the past week: Daniel Loeb, a political donor and chairman of the board of directors of Success Academy, the state’s largest charter school network, said in a since-deleted Facebook post that state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is black, was worse for racial minorities than “anyone who has ever donned a hood,” because of her support of teachers’ unions. A separate 2016 Facebook post from Loeb was also uncovered this week saying the teachers’ union “has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination than the KKK.”

Loeb’s comments have been roundly criticized, including during a Monday rally in Harlem where politicians showed support for Stewart-Cousins. Loeb has apologized for the comments, but many, including de Blasio, called for him to step down from the Success Academy board.

Rosa joined the chorus today, saying she was “outraged on every single level” that Loeb would compare an African American woman to the KKK, adding that Success Academy students would be better served by having somebody else as chairman of the board.

There were other signs of tension involving charter schools. Last month, the State University of New York introduced a proposal that would let some charter schools hire uncertified teachers and instead develop their own in-house certification that was less arduous. One proposal would require only 30 hours of classroom instruction.

“I could go into a fast food restaurant and get more training than that,” said state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. Rosa called the proposal “insulting.”

Janella Hinds, vice president for academic high schools at the United Federation of Teachers, connected the proposal to the Trump administration, saying it was “an indicator of  what’s happening nationally around the deprofessionalization of education and this privatization moment that doesn’t really serve students or their families.”

Read more here.

Queens Exhibit Celebrates 25 Years of Borough’s Pride Roots

By Roger Clark
Originally published by New York 1 on Friday, June 9, 2017

Queens’ role in LGBT history is the focus of a new exhibit at the Queens Museum.

“The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens” looks at LGBT activism in the borough dating back to the early 90s.

Many pieces in the exhibit come from the personal archives of City Councilman Danny Dromm, who founded the Queens Pride Parade.

“It’s going to be across the board, the history of the last 25 years of the history of the LGBT movement in Queens. Which a lot of people don’t know about. There’s been activism here, and our own unique history here in the borough of Queens,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm.

The exhibit coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Queens Pride Parade, which was celebrated in Jackson Heights last Sunday.

To see more, click here.

Residents File Class Action Suit Against MTA Over Lead Paint on 7 Train

By Matt McClure
Reported by NY1 on Monday, May 22, 2017 at 08:05 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.06.10 PMA group of Jackson Heights residents has filed a class action lawsuit against the MTA. They say lead paint chips falling from the elevated 7 train line pose a public health hazard. NY1’s Matt McClure filed the following report.

Standing under the elevated 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights you can’t help but notice it: Paint chipping and falling away.

“I have two small kids,” said Dudley Stewart, a Jackson Heights resident and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “

Every day we walk through Roosevelt Avenue and I get worried because you see the dust falling from the train. We know it’s filled with lead aint.”

A recent study by a painter’s union found lead levels in paint chips here were more than 40 times the legal threshold.

Now, four Jackson Heights residents have joined together in a federal class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), calling on the agency to fix the problem.

“This is something the MTA has known about for years,” Steward said. “We want them to fix it. They refuse to fix it. Now is the time to force them to do it.”

“When all other avenues have failed, we believe that this lawsuit will then force the MTA to cure this hazard, which has existed for too long,” said attorney Dan Woodard, who represents the plaintiffs.

Among other things, the lawsuit accuses the agency of intentionally causing dangerous conditions by painting the structure with lead paint, then not maintaining it. City Council Member Daniel Dromm says it’s a public health hazard. He also believes it’s been 35 years since the structure between Woodside and Corona has received a fresh coat of paint.

“They keep telling us it’s in the budget,” Dromm said. “We’ve not seen it painted.”

Tammy Rose, an area resident involved in the lawsuit says the structural conditions of the elevated 7 line are so bad, one day as she was driving down Roosevelt Avenue, a bolt fell and hit her car.

“If a bolt falls off, imagine the amount of paint chips that are falling that we don’t see,” Rose said.

“You can see the structure is in very bad shape,” Dromm added. “I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen down!”

The MTA does not comment on pending litigation, but a spokesperson says their previous tests showed lead levels within EPA standards. The spokesperson also denies that it has been 35 years since the bridge has been painted, although they didn’t say when it happened. There is money in the agency’s current Capital Plan for the painting, but there’s no word on when it might happen.

For the residents who filed this lawsuit, it can’t come soon enough.

See more here.

Dromm, Queens Center, Village People Cowboy Randy Jones Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Queens Pride

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PHOTO CAPTION: NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (back row, third from left), NQAPIA Executive Director Glenn Magpantay, API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC Founder Clara Yoon, Caribbean Equality Project Executive Director Mohamed Q. Amin (left to right, holding awards) and other LGBT activists celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival at Queens Center Mall.

 

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PHOTO CAPTION: The Original Village Cowboy Randy Jones (foreground, right) performs the hit-song “YMCA” with NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (back row, third from right) and other attendees at Dromm’s Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival 25th Anniversary celebration at Queens Center Mall.

This week Council Member Dromm hosted a special celebration in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival at Queens Center Mall.  Sponsored by Queens Center, the event featured a reception and performances by Randy Jones, the original Village People cowboy, and International Dancer Zaman, a trained Kathak, Orissi, Bollywood, Bhangra and Chutney dancer.

At the event, Dromm recognized API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC, Carribean Equality Project and NQAPIA (National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance), three organizations that have contributed greatly to the LGBT rights movement over the past several years.

“It was a pleasure celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade alongside a host of activists, performers and community supporters,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), founder of the parade.  “For 25 years, this parade has opened the hearts and minds of Queens residents and has helped make the historic gains the LGBT community has seen possible.  I thank Queens Center, Randy Jones, International Dancer Zaman, our honorees and all those in attendance for their contributions to this event and our movement at large.”

“Queens Center was proud to be the venue for Council Member Dromm’s event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the first Queens Pride Parade and Festival,” said John Scaturro, Senior Manager for Queens Center.  “Hosting the celebration in one of the most public spaces in the borough was testament to the progress we have all made in our community and what makes us at Queens Center Mall so pleased to be part of the Queens fabric. Partnering with civic leaders like Council Member Dromm is part our corporate mission to actively participate in our local community.”

Background:

Dromm, who in 1992 courageously came out as an openly gay public school teacher is the paradeʼs founder and a former Co-chair of Queens Pride.  Originally conceived 25 years ago as a response to the homophobic attacks on the Queens lesbian and gay communities by then-School Board 24 President Mary Cummins, the parade has become a wonderful mixture of party and politics welcomed by the local community. The Queens celebration is the first in a series of very special events that kick off a month of Pride activities citywide.

Poisonous lead paint is raining down from the 7 train

By Danielle Furfaro

Originally published by the New York Post on April 23, 2017

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous lead-paint chips are raining down on several Queens neighborhoods from elevated subway tracks, threatening the health of passersby, especially children, officials told The Post.

The decrepit No. 7 train trestle — which runs through Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside — hasn’t been repainted in more than three decades, said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, leaving the flaking lead-based paint exposed.

“I’m surprised it’s still standing, that’s how rusted and bad the chipping of the paint is and the lead dust particles are flying through the air,” said Dromm, who grew up in the area.

The amount of lead in the paint is 224,000 parts per million — or 44 times more than what is considered safe, according to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which tested the falling paint chips at the behest of residents, Dromm and others.

Dr. Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Treatment and Prevention Program at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, was aghast to learn about the “extremely toxic” levels falling from the elevated tracks.

“I think the Department of Health or the city environmental agencies should get involved,” the concerned doctor said. “The lead paint could potentially be falling off of every elevated track throughout the city, not just on the 7 [line].”

Davon Lomax, director of the union, noted how heavily populated the area is.

“There are food carts, restaurants and schools under there, and the dust is getting everywhere, and it’s all breathable,’’ he said.

“This poses a threat to people who work and are passing underneath there every day.”

The dilapidated sections of the overhead tracks run from the 52nd street station to Junction Boulevard.

“It’s a poison, and kids shouldn’t be exposed to it,” said resident Samuel Rivera, 62, who lives in Jackson Heights. “The MTA should have repainted this by now, but they take their sweet time doing everything.”

Father-of-two Md Lokman Hossain said he is particularly worried about his 17-month-old son, noting that the tot could mistake a paint chip for food if it fell into his lap as they walked along Roosevelt Avenue.

“He could think it’s candy or something and swallow it, and it could lead to a big problem,’’ Hossain said.

Dromm said he has repeatedly pressed the MTA to take better care of the trestles, especially the area around the 74th Street/Broadway station.

“It has not been painted for at least 35 years that I can remember,” he said.

MTA officials said it has painted the trestles more recently than that, but they couldn’t say exactly when.

“No station on the 7 line, or the connecting infrastructure, has gone 35 years without being painted,” said agency spokeswoman Beth DeFalco. “We do annual joint inspections with NYCDEP of NYC Parks that are adjacent to our subway structures and quarterly inspections of other locations”

Markowitz called lead-based paints “indestructible, and recommended that those who live close to the tracks are at highest risk, and should seek out testing — as should MTA workers and commuters who spend time in the station.

Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, hearing loss and seizures in children, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Read more here.

Frederick Wiseman: The Filmmaker Who Shows Us Ourselves

By A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis

Originally published in the New York Times on April 6, 2017

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Frederick Wiseman has been making documentaries for 50 years. His films vary in subject but return to examination of human beings, in all of their variety and uniqueness. Credit Herve Bruhat/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Frederick Wiseman has been making documentaries for 50 years. His films vary in subject but return to examination of human beings, in all of their variety and uniqueness. Credit Herve Bruhat/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

“The wonder of ‘In Jackson Heights‘ — Mr. Wiseman’s most Whitmanesque film — is that it grounds a vision of America in the particulars of daily life. It discovers a hero in the person of Daniel Dromm, a New York City councilman who tackles the job of representing his neighborhood with shambling, inexhaustible good cheer. Some of the most moving scenes take place in Mr. Dromm’s office, where members of his staff answer phone calls from constituents who need to talk to someone in government. They don’t always have the right branch — their concerns include constitutional law and United States military policy — but the courtesy and patience with which they are treated provide a timely and permanent lesson in democratic values.”

Read more here.

Attack in Jackson Heights Leaves Two Transgender Women Living in Fear

By David Gonzalez

Originally published by the New York Times on April 2, 2017

Gabriela, left, with Nayra, who suffered a fractured ankle in an attack that the police called a hate crime. “I don’t want to see anybody,” Nayra said. “If I do, I freeze. If I go outside to smoke and I hear a man’s voice, I panic.” Credit David Gonzalez/The New York Times

Gabriela, left, with Nayra, who suffered a fractured ankle in an attack that the police called a hate crime. “I don’t want to see anybody,” Nayra said. “If I do, I freeze. If I go outside to smoke and I hear a man’s voice, I panic.” Credit David Gonzalez/The New York Times

Nayra and Gabriela don’t go out much these days, and not just because the two roommates are homebodies. When they venture outside their apartment in Queens, their hesitation is caused as much by emotional wounds as by physical injuries. The two friends are trans women, and though their Jackson Heights neighborhood has a reputation as a welcoming community for gays and lesbians, hate crimes against transgender women have alarmed many in the area.

On the afternoon of March 17, the two women were entering a McDonald’s restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue when they heard a man screaming behind them. When they turned around, they said, he began hurling insults.

“He called us prostitutes, faggots, bitches,” said Gabriela, 33, who, like her friend, spoke on the condition that her last name not be published because of the nature of the assault as well as lingering fear. “I looked at him and said, ‘Girl, this man is crazy.’ He wanted to hurt us.”

Within seconds, the encounter escalated from insults to injuries. The man rushed them, knocking them to the ground as he pummeled Nayra, whose ankle was fractured in the fall. Gabriella said that she had pounced on him but that he had gotten up, grabbed a broken umbrella and used it to beat her on her face and hands.

When he tried to escape, Gabriella chased him, grabbing at the waistband of his pants and slowing him down until the police arrived and took him into custody. No bystanders intervened during the attack, they said.

Now, what has been called a hate crime by the police has turned a neighborhood they love into one they fear.

“I can’t go out and see too many people,” Nayra, 31, said. “If I have appointments, I’ll take a taxi and come back home. I don’t want to see anybody. If I do, I freeze. If I go outside to smoke and I hear a man’s voice, I panic.”

Patrick Omeara, 38, of Oakdale, N.Y., was arrested and faces various charges, including assault as a hate crime. He could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Howard Turman, did not respond to several voice messages requesting comment. The case is in the pretrial stage, and the next court date is scheduled for Tuesday.

Jackson Heights has come a long way since skinheads lured Julio Rivera, a gay man, into a schoolyard and killed him. That 1990 attack galvanized activists and residents, and led to the establishment of the borough’s gay pride parade and a political club that has promoted laws and policies helping gay, lesbian and transgender people. Yet the attacks on trans women — three this year and 16 in 2016, according to local advocates — are an unsettling reminder of the work still to be done.

“People have this idea that New York City is free of violence and progressive,” said Shelby Chestnut, director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “But violence is still occurring against many marginalized communities, and the trans community is deeply affected by that.

“We need to push the public to pay attention to trans issues and see it as a civil rights issue,” she continued. “We are in this moment in society where violence and hatred is emerging in a number of communities, and it exists in New York.”

Nationally, Ms. Chestnut said, transgender women are being killed in greater numbers than any other segment of the L.G.B.T. community. This year alone, she said, there have been seven such murders: Six victims were African-American, and one was Native American.

Advocates said these instances of violence were not isolated but the result of a combination of factors that leave African-American and Latina trans women vulnerable. Harassed in public, rejected by their families and uneasy in school or homeless shelters for men, they are left to fend for themselves and are at a higher risk of becoming victims of violence, advocates said. And the political debate over unauthorized immigrants has left many fearful of speaking out.

“The biggest challenge in working with transgender people is they often don’t have the self-esteem to think they are worth seeking support or help for themselves,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights.

“There is also distrust in going to the authorities, especially the police,” he said. “In the past they have gone there and faced harassment, even at night when they were coming home from the bars. That distrust causes hesitation.”

Nayra and Gabriela encountered some of this after the attack. Although the police who responded were helpful, they said, the detectives who followed up with them at the hospital made them uncomfortable by asking the same questions repeatedly, as if they did not believe them. Nor did the detectives speak Spanish, even though the women, who are Puerto Rican, have limited English proficiency.

Since that encounter in the hospital, the women said, they have yet to hear back from the police.

“We need more laws to ensure the security of trans women,” said Bianey Garcia, a transgender organizer with Make the Road New York. “We don’t need more police. We want the police who are already there to pay more attention to these cases.”

Until then, Gabriela and Nayra are paying extra attention.

“We never had anything happen to us before,” Gabriela said. “Now I walk with fear, like any woman. But now I pay more attention to what I hear around me. I notice more. I look at every little thing. If a couple of people pass by too close to me on the street, I keep walking, wait a little and then look back at them quickly to see if anyone is following me.”

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