Data disaggregation bills passed in New York City: A Big Win for LGBTQ people and Communities of Color

By Kevin Nadal, PhD

Originally posted by the Huffington Post on November 4, 2016

CACF: COALITION FOR ASIAN CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Mayor de Blasio signing the Data Equity Bills on October 31, 2016.

CACF: COALITION FOR ASIAN CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Mayor de Blasio signing the Data Equity Bills on October 31, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you belong to different non-majority populations, it can be easy to feel like you are different or alone. You don’t see yourself represented on television shows or movies; you don’t see retail stores celebrating your holidays. You open up history books to learn about groups besides your own, and you sometimes have to travel miles or hours to find food that even remotely matches your grandmother’s cooking skills.

As a Filipino American, born to immigrant parents, I spent my childhood years feeling like my cultural heritage was invisible or odd. I watched TV shows like Punky Brewster and Diff’rent Strokes– never expecting to see any Asian Americans. I learned that the country operated on a Black and White paradigm and that I should just be happy that my parents were able to provide us with opportunities. The few times I saw Filipino Americans on shows like MTV’s The Real World or movies like Hook, I felt validated that ethnic group existed.

At the same time, as I started to identify as gay and as a queer person of color, I genuinely presumed I was the only one. There weren’t any out LGBTQ people in my family, and the few LGBTQ people I saw in media were mostly portrayed in negatively stereotypic ways. Without any role models or friends to overtly tell me it was okay to be gay, I stayed in the closet for the first two and a half decades of my life. Perhaps if I knew that millions of other teenagers were struggling in a similar way, I might have bypassed the depression, the suicidal thoughts, and the pleas to God to make me “normal.”

It is because of these experiences that I wanted to study the communities that were so important of me, and why I pursued my PhD in psychology. As a doctoral student, I faced many research challenges that my peers didn’t encounter. For example, if my peers were interested in studies that understanding differences between major racial groups on certain variables (e.g., Black versus White health outcomes), they could access public datasets with large sample sizes to statistically analyze and compare groups. However, if I wanted to study health differences between Asian American ethnic groups (e.g., Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese or Korean Americans), I would have to collect my own data because those same public datasets usually would not provide information on diverse ethnicities. Relatedly, if a colleague wanted to examine gender differences related to school children or hospital patients (e.g., academic achievement, access to care), they could request access to institutional records to answer their research questions. Yet, if I wanted to replicate a similar study with LGBTQ students or LGBTQ hospital patients, I could not, because the data on sexual orientation or gender identity would never have been collected. Finally, if I ambitiously wanted to report how many Filipino American LGBTQ people there were in the country, I would have to give up entirely, because there simply was no data on the intersection of the two.

On October 31st, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City signed three pieces of legislation – Intros. 251-A, 551-A, and 552-A. The bills which were sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm and Council Member Margaret Chin (and which passed a nearly unanimous City Council Vote), require that New York City agencies use a new form to collect information on gender identity, sexuality, language spoken, ancestry, ethnic origin, and multiracial identity. The form would be voluntary in that the individual could choose to skip any question and would not need to disclose anything identity they did not feel comfortable. The form would be anonymous, in that no one person could be identified based on their answers.

These new policies in New York City are important for a few reasons. First, as New York City is now one of three jurisdictions in the US to pass a data equity law, there is a potential for more advocacy for data equity on all federal, state, and city agencies. For communities of color and immigrants, the impact would be groundbreaking, as it would encourage service providers and policymakers to understand the nuances between groups that are usually lumped into umbrella categories. For example, comprehensive data on Asian Americans could unveil the ways that Asian American ethnic groups differ on issues like poverty, education, and violence. With such information, we would know what kinds of services need to be provided to different groups and what major languages need to be spoken with people to access those services.

Second, because the U.S. Census Bureau does not collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, we do not know how many LGBTQ people there are in New York City, let alone in the entire US. While the Williams Institute at UCLA does their best in estimating the LGBTQ population, we need more definitive numbers. In order to best serve our communities (and to advocate for more funding for research and services), we need to know the numbers of LGBTQ homeless people, LGBTQ incarcerated offenders, LGBTQ-identified students in high schools and colleges; LGBTQ suicide or hate crime victims; and more.

Third, we could also examine trends among multiracial people. Though the U.S. Census Bureau gathers data on multiracial or multiethnic identity, other government agencies tend not to collect, analyze, or disaggregate data on multiracial people. Data equity bills like these advocate for multiracial people to no longer be forced to check a box or settle for an “other”. Similarly, Middle Eastern or Arab Americans (who are often classified as “White” or “Other”) will also be able to self-identify, which could lead to greater understanding and visibility of these communities.

Fourth, having this data is important because it helps our country to celebrate its diversity- a concept that is particularly salient amidst our upcoming elections. While some political candidates have demonstrated commitment to combatting racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia, some candidates have not. Perhaps disaggregated data can influence these political candidates and strategists to recognize population sizes and voting trends of various groups. If politicians knew how much power LGBTQ people, immigrants, and communities of color have in determining elections, perhaps candidates would advocate for the issues that matter to these groups.

But perhaps most importantly, disaggregated data can help these communities to learn how many of them actually exist, which can help them to empower themselves. If LGBTQ people were provided with evidence that they were numerically larger than, or equal to, oppositional religious groups or political parties, maybe they would activate as a collective front. If Asian American ethnic groups knew how many of their community members were affected by particular health, educational, or mental health issues, maybe they could collectively strategize on ways to solve these disparities.  And if communities that historically feel marginalized formed coalitions (like the LGBTQ, immigrant, Asian American, Latinx American, Arab American, and Multiracial people of New York City did), perhaps they would recognize that they have even more of a voice.

I know I can’t change my past, but maybe one way I can positively impact the lives of young people is through my research. In the future, when I learn about a young person who feels like they are “the only one” because their sexual orientation, gender identity, or ethnicity, I can confidently turn to the data and provide them with empirical evidence to show them that they are not alone.

Author’s Note: Thank you to Noilyn Abesamis-Mendoza, MPH of Coalition for Asian Children and Families for her assistance on this article.

Read more here.

Analizan ley para proteger del bullying a estudiantes vulnerables y LGBT

Aunque las autoridades educativas defienden su desempeño, el Concejo asegura que cientos de jóvenes siguen siendo víctima de acoso e intimidación por su orientación sexual, raza o aparienca

 

By Edwin Martinez

Originally published by El Diario NY on October 23, 2016

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José López tiene 16 años y desde que entró a la escuela secundaria, las burlas y comentarios ofensivos de algunos de sus compañeros se han convertido en pan de cada día.

“Me dicen todo el tiempo cosas feas porque soy afeminado, y como estoy un poco gordo, pues me va peor”, comenta el colombiano, quien estudia en una escuela de Queens, y quien por temor a sufrir más rechazo, prefiere ya no quejarse con sus maestros. “Me toca ser fuerte y tratar de ignorar las burlas, pero hay compañeros míos que hasta han pensado en suicidarse. A mí me han empujado, dicho ‘marrana’, ‘miss arepa’, ‘chupa pitos’ y cosas obscenas que para ellos son simples chistes, pero que acaban con cualquiera”.

Y es que a pesar de que el Departamento de Educación de Nueva York asegura que ha implementado varios programas y campañas contra el bullying en los centros educativos, el Concejo de la Ciudad considera que hay fallas gravísimas que ponen en riesgo el bienestar, la salud mental, el desempeño académico y hasta la propia vida de jóvenes LGBT y otros estudiantes vulnerables.

Por ello el Comité de Educación del Concejo comenzó esta semana el análisis de una iniciativa de ley de supervisión contra la intimidación, el acoso y la discriminación en las escuelas, que pretende lograr mayor efectividad a la hora de proteger a los niños más vulnerables.

“El bullying sigue siendo un problema serio cada día en todas las comunidades, empezando en preescolar y poniéndose peor cuando los niños van creciendo”, aseguró el presidente del comité, el concejal Daniel Dromm, al tiempo que mencionó que además de las quejas serias de acoso a niños musulmanes, discapacitados y por cuestiones de raza, la orientación sexual es otro de los elementos que hace más vulnerables a los estudiantes.

“Los estudiantes LGBT son víctimas abrumadoramente de bullying y acoso, y según un sondeo del grupo (GLSEN) sobre el ambiente escolar en el 2013, más del 74% de los estudiantes LGBT fueron acosados verbalmente y el 36% físicamente”, dijo. “Tristemente los malos tratos se extienden a las políticas de las escuelas y sus prácticas”.

El líder político dejó ver su preocupación por el riesgo que enfrentan los menores y mencionó que a pesar de que hay varias medidas antibullying en efecto en la Gran Manzana, el Departamento de Educación ha fallado en cumplirlas.

Casos reportados

“Entre el 2012 y el 2013, el 80% de las escuelas reportó cero casos de bullying. Un análisis de la Fiscalía del estado sobre los datos del 2013 y el 2014 encontró que el 70% de las escuelas reportó cero incidentes”, comentó Dromm, explicando que en el más reciente reporte el 94% de las escuelas reportaron 10 incidentes de bullying o menos. “Aunque ha habido un ligero incremento en el reporte de incidentes en los últimos tres años, el nivel de casos no reportados sigue siendo inaceptable”.

Elizabeth Rose, vicecanciller de la división de operaciones del Departamento de Educación, comentó que en el último año se registraron 4,293 incidentes de bullying, de los cuales 276 fueron por asuntos de género, 201 por motivos de raza, 195 por orientación sexual y 143 por peso, entre otros, pero defendió el desempeño de las escuelas en la protección de los estudiantes.

“El Departamento de Educación trabaja para promover una cultura escolar positiva e inclusiva que esté libre de bullying basado en prejuicios, acoso e intimidación de ningún tipo, a través de una variedad de métodos”, dijo la funcionaria, destacando el programa “Respeto para todos” del DOE. “Aunque hemos dado pasos significativos para construir escuelas seguras, de apoyo e inclusivas para todos los estudiantes, especialmente para los más vulnerables que enfrentan sus retos únicos, sabemos que hay mucho trabajo por hacer”.

A pesar de las críticas, Jared Fox, director de la unidad de enlace LGBTQ del Departamento de Educación, aseguró que en las escuelas ha habido un enorme progreso contra el bullying de los estudiantes LGBT y mencionó la creación en junio del grupo LGBT+ Advisory Council que trabaja con 34 organizaciones para brindar apoyo a los alumnos y a sus familias.

“Hemos entrenado a más de 1,000 coordinadores de padres que están dentro de los más de 2,000 personas que personalmente he entrenado en casi 40 sesiones de desarrollo profesional”.

Toya Holness, vocera del Departamento de Educación, también defendió el proceder de las escuelas en la lucha contra el bullying.

“Nuestras escuelas son más seguras que nunca y tenemos protocolos explícitos y programas de formación sólidos para manejar cualquier incidente que ocurra”, dijo. “Nosotros tomamos los reportes de bullying muy seriamente y seguimos invirtiendo en iniciativas escolares, incluyendo más orientadores y trabajadores sociales, y proporcionando apoyo de salud mental para las escuelas”.

El concejal Rafael Salamanca hizo un llamado al Departamento de Educación para que se enfoque más en las necesidades de protección de los estudiantes vulnerables y mencionó que apoya la creación de una legislación que de paso sirva para educar sobre el respeto a la diferencia.

Por su parte el concejal Ydanis Rodríguez, quien trabajó 13 años en las escuelas públicas, mencionó que aunque los detalles de la iniciativa aun están por definirse, es partidario de una norma estricta con sanciones, que de paso eduque.

Ley contra el bullying

“Tenemos que asegurarnos de que todos los estudiantes sepan que hay una ley que castiga esos comportamientos y aunque no queremos criminalizar a nadie, si es urgente que sepan que vamos a hacer los que sea necesario para que en las escuelas se detenga la cultura de bullying que le ha quitado la vida a muchas personas”, dijo.

Paola Lebrón-Guzmán, líder del grupo LGBTQ Justice de la organización Make the Road New York, se mostró contraria a que la ley que se promueva se base en el castigo y coincidió con Rodríguez en que hay que educar más.

“Debe crearse una justicia para restaurar y eso es una práctica que tiene que partir de los reportes y comunicar mejor que más es lo que está pasando después de esos reportes”, mencionó la activista.

“El Departamento de Educación deben hacer mucho más, no solo presentar reportes sino ofrecer más entrenamientos y hacer seguimiento, porque aunque hay grupos de género y sexualidad en algunas escuelas, solo son para los que quieran estar involucrados, pero no existe para todos los maestros y para la administración”, dijo, al tiempo que mencionó el caso de uno estudiante LGBT de 16 años fue víctima de burla y agresión física en Crown Heights, Brooklyn el lunes pasado como un ejemplo para comenzar a actuar.

“Es inaceptable, ofensivo y desconcertante que eso ocurra y este es un momento importante para las escuelas de Brooklyn y de su escuela en particular, para que involucre a todos el cuerpo escolar a que aprendan sobre la comunidad LGBTQ y cómo ser aliados efectivos”, concluyó.

Datos sobre bullying en las escuelas

  • A nivel nacional el 22% de los estudiantes ha reportado haber sido víctima de bullying
  • Se calcula que cada año 13 millones de estudiantes enfrentan bullying en el país
  • Según el grupo Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) en el 2013 el 74.1% de los estudiantes LGBT fue acosado verbalmente por su orientación sexual y el 36.2% fue víctima de acoso físico
  • Un estudio del Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveló que el año pasado el 40% de los estudiantes LGBT consideró el suicidio y un año antes el 29% intentó hacerlo.
  • Por el bullying, el 60% de los estudiantes reportó sentirse triste o afectado en su vida cotidiana.
  • Se calcula que el 64% de los estudiantes que son víctima de bullying no lo reportan.
  • Las escuelas de Nueva York están señaladas de no reportar todos los incidentes de bullying
  • La Fiscalía de Nueva York descubrió que en el 2013 de las 1,792 escuelas públicas y charter de la Gran Manzana, el 70% no reportó un solo incidente de bullying o discriminación
  • En el 2015 el 94% de las escuelas reportó tan solo 10 o menos incidentes de bullying
  • Actualmente existen leyes y medidas contra el bullying como el “Acta del éxito para todos los estudiantes (ESSA)”, el “Acta por la dignidad de todos los estudiantes (NYC DASA)”, el “Acta de Escuelas seguras contra la violencia (SAVE Act)”, el programa “Respeto para Todos (RFA)” y la Regulación A-832, pero según los críticos parecen ser insuficientes para proteger a los estudiantes de Nueva York.
  • En el último año escolar se reportaron 4,293 incidentes de bullying, de los cuales 276 fueron por asuntos de género, 201 por motivos de raza, 195 por orientación sexual y 143 por peso, entre otros

Read more here.

Street co-named in honor of Jax Hgts civic leader Mary Vavruska

By Bill Parry

Originally published by the Times Ledger on September 23, 2016

Councilman Daniel Dromm (c) joins elected officials and the family of community leader Mary Vavruska as a setion of 34th Avenue is co-named in her honor.

Council Member Daniel Dromm (c) joins elected officials and the family of community leader Mary Vavruska as a setion of 34th Avenue is co-named in her honor.

The life and legacy of longtime Jackson Heights civic leader Mary Vavruska was celebrated last Saturday with a street co-naming in her honor. The stretch of 34th Avenue between 93rd and 94th streets was christened “Mary Varuska Way” in memory of the former Community Board 3 chairwoman, who died in July 2015 at the age of 83.

“This co-naming commemorates the life of Mary Vavruska, who was a beloved member of the Jackson Heights community,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Vavruska dedicated so much of her life to improving Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona. As a Council member and fellow community activist, I had the privilege of working closely with her on a number of projects. I was always inspired by her selflessness and determination to get the job done.”

Vavruska served as head of CB3 during a period of tremendous neighborhood change, Dromm said. She was instrumental in the establishment of the 115th Precinct on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights and the Louis Armstrong middle school on Junction Boulevard.

“Mary Vavruska was a passionate community leader who dedicated her life to Jackson Heights, and whom I was very lucky to know,” Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (East Elmhurst) said. “She loved this community, and naming a portion of 34th Avenue after her is a way for us to not only honor her legacy, but ensure that the mark she left on Jackson Heights is never forgotten.”

In addition to her five decades of service to the community, Vavruska also served as the president of the Brulene Cooperative apartments and advocated for the well-being of the Jackson Heights Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. She received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from NYU and retired from Equitable Life as a vice president of internal auditing.

She was also president of TCE Systems, a family-owned telecommunications company. As chairwoman of CB3 she oversaw the approval of the Delta Terminal and LaGuardia Airport as well as the Marriott Hotel, safeguarding jobs for community residents.

“Mary Vavruska was very active in our community, and a clear proof of that is that her footprints are all over Jackson Heights, from the current location of the 115th Police Precinct to IS 227 and a terminal at LaGuardia Airport,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “With the corner of 93rd Street and 34th Avenue co-named the Mary Vavruska Way, future generations will learn about the legacy she left behind, especially when it comes to fighting for education and social matters.”

Read more here.

School Supplies Giveaway

Originally posted by the Queens Gazette on August 31, 2016

(L. to r.); Samaritan Village President and CEO Tino Hernandez, NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky deliver free backpacks and other school supplies donated by Queens Center Mall to students at the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence.

(L. to r.); Samaritan Village President and CEO Tino Hernandez, NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky deliver free backpacks and other school supplies donated by Queens Center Mall to students at the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence.

Last Wednesday, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone, Elmhurst) and Samaritan Village President and CEO Tino Hernandez joined NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) for a back-to-school backpack giveaway sponsored by Queens Center Mall at the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence.

Dromm and Stavisky delivered over 200 backpacks to students of all ages living in the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence. The 216-unit facility is located at 79-00 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, and has provided shelter to homeless families with children since June 2014.

“All children have a right to a quality education,” said Dromm, a former NYC public school teacher. “These free school supplies help provide that by enabling them to excel in the classroom. I am pleased to join Queens Center Mall and Senator Stavisky in delivering these backpacks, notebooks and other supplies to our neighbors in need.”

“Proper school supplies set children on the right track for the school year,” said Stavisky. “No one should be denied a backpack, notebook, pens or any other materials they need to be a productive student. I look forward to participating in this giveaway with Council Member Dromm every year, because I believe families should not have to choose between buying groceries or buying school supplies. Socio-economic status should not determine your access to a great education.”

“It is always our pleasure to partner with the community in Back-to-School events,” said Queens Center Mall Senior Property Manager Jeffrey Owen. “Queens Center is pleased to have contributed 1,400 backpacks this year. Queens Center continues to be a proud sponsor and supporter of these events year after year.”

Read more here.

Talking About Coming Out With the Cast of ‘Fun Home’

By Elizabeth A. Harris

Originally posted by the New York Times on August 25, 2016.

At a gathering with the cast of “Fun Home,” which won the Tony for best musical, Samuel Nathanson, a volunteer with Pflag NYC, tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

At a gathering with the cast of “Fun Home,” which won the Tony for best musical, Samuel Nathanson, a volunteer with Pflag NYC, tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The volunteers visit schools in pairs. One person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and the other has a family member in one of those categories. They stand at the front of a classroom and tell their families’ coming-out stories.

This month, about two dozen of these volunteers received an invitation that could, perhaps, happen nowhere but New York City: Would they like to get some public speaking lessons from the cast of a Broadway show? It’s called “Fun Home,” and it won a bunch of Tonys.

The show, adapted from the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman through phases of her life as she learns that both she and her father are gay. The show, which won the Tony for best musical, among other awards, is now approaching the end of its run. It is scheduled to close in September and go on a national tour a few weeks later. The volunteers were invited to attend a workshop on Wednesday, and then to stay to watch the show.

“We thought they could learn a lot from professional actors about public speaking skills,” said Drew Tagliabue, the executive director of Pflag NYC, an organization for family members of gay and transgender people. The group runs the Safe Schools Program, which sends those emissaries into classrooms to talk about coming out.

And so it was that about two dozen Pflag volunteers, some in their 20s, clad in sneakers and tattoos, others comfortably into retirement age, found themselves in the very guts of the Great White Way — a windowless, subterranean room in Midtown Manhattan with gray linoleum floors below the Circle in the Square Theater.

Volunteers meeting with cast members in Midtown. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Volunteers meeting with cast members in Midtown. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Before them sat six cast members from the musical: Michael Cerveris, who plays Bruce, the father; Judy Kuhn (Helen, the mother); Beth Malone (Alison, the main character); Emily Skeggs (Medium Alison, the character in college); Roberta Colindrez (Joan, the college girlfriend); and Kally Duling (the understudy for Medium Alison and Joan).

But what was planned as a class about how to hold onto an audience became something different. There were two sample presentations, but instead of coaching, there was a conversation between two groups of people, strangers to one another, about how what they do — whether on a Broadway stage or in a busy public-school classroom — is actually quite similar. They tell stories that are not often told.

“I have some advice for anyone who is thinking of coming out, or if you have friends who are thinking of coming out,” said Samuel Nathanson, 24, a Pflag volunteer who tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. “Don’t do it while your mom is driving.”

The Safe Schools Program in New York City began about 15 years ago, not so many years back, but at a time when gay issues received an immeasurably chillier reception in this country than they do today.

“We got a lot of pushback in the beginning,” said Suzanne Ramos, a Pflag NYC board member and the mother of a gay man. “Back then, schools used to say: ‘Oh, we don’t need anything like that. We don’t have any gay kids here.’”

“Fun Home,” adapted from the memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman as she learns that both she and her father are gay. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

“Fun Home,” adapted from the memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman as she learns that both she and her father are gay. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Today, Mr. Tagliabue and Ms. Ramos said, schools are much more open. During the last school year, volunteers spoke to almost 6,000 students. That is many more students, and often much younger children, than they used to address.

Still, there is resistance. Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Democrat who helped found Pflag Queens, and who quietly found a folding chair toward the back of the room on Wednesday, said it took years to get Pflag into certain schools. Mr. Dromm, who is gay, has been involved with the group for a long time.

When Ms. Malone takes the stage, or when Mr. Nathanson stands up to face rows of young people at desks, they are not just speaking to the most obvious audiences. There are gay people who come to “Fun Home” eager to see a story even a little like their own sung on a stage, just as there might be gay teenagers in a classroom relieved to see that when they grow up, they might just be all right. But there are others.

“There are people who come to New York, who show up in the summer and they just want to see what won best musical — ‘We’ll just go see that!’” Mr. Cerveris said. “Those audiences are, in some ways I think, our favorite ones, because we’re not preaching to the choir at that point.”

“And as you go into schools, you may have a couple receptive kids,” Mr. Cerveris continued. “You’re trying to give those kids a sense of confidence and help them feel not so alone, but you’re also, maybe even more, helping other kids who don’t know that their minds need to be opened.”

“The thing that we have discovered so fully,” he added, “is the value of showing up and telling stories.”

Read more here.

Those ice cream truck jingles are keeping New Yorkers up at night

By Rich Calder and Natalie O’Neill

Originally published by the NY Post on June 27, 2016

Photo: Christopher Sadowski

Photo: Christopher Sadowski

The city isn’t sweet on late-night ice cream truck jingles.

Vendors shouldn’t be allowed to blast the dizzying ditties between 9 pm and 9 am, the Department of Environmental Protection said at a hearing Monday.

New Yorkers have lodged a brain-freezing 1,013 noise complaints about the trucks so far in 2016 — and summer has only just begun.

Despite hundreds of complaints, only one jingle-blasting jerk has been ticketed for playing music too loudly this year, city officials said.

“Something is not working when you have violations at such low of a level. C’mon only one? Give me a break!” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), who introduced a bill to mute the tinkly tunes last year.

“Ice cream jingles are among the most annoying noises assaulting New Yorkers’ ears every day.”

Micheal Hearst — who composed “Songs for Ice Cream Trucks,” used by vendors across the Big Apple — begs to differ.

“I love the sound of an ice cream truck jingle— it’s nostalgic. I would vote for ban on Harley Davidson volume before ice cream truck jingles. It’s unfair to single-out jingles,” Hearst, 43, said when asked about the bill.

Right now, it’s hard for the city to issue summonses because inspectors have to catch vendors in the act. Officials are pushing to change that.

Dromm also also wants to amend the city’s noise code to give inspectors more leeway in issuing summonses. The law now allows jingles to be played at a low decibel level.

Residents— especially ones in the Bronx and Brooklyn — have griped for years that the music keeps them awake and jangles their nerves.

Hearst, a Brooklyn resident, even admitted, “It can be annoying hearing one song over and over.”

Read more here.

All single-stall bathrooms in NYC to become gender neutral under bill passed by City Council

By Erin Durkin

Originally published by the NY Daily News on June 21, 2016

 Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. (BRANDON LAUFENBERG)

Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. (BRANDON LAUFENBERG)

All single-stall bathrooms in the city will have to go gender neutral after the City Council passed a bill to mandate the change Tuesday.

The legislation, passed by a vote of 47-2, will require business owners to take down the “men” and “women” signs on one-person bathrooms starting on Jan. 1.

It’s a move to make sure transgender New Yorkers can comfortably access facilities — which backers say will also cut down on waiting for all customers, especially women who usually face longer toilet lines.

“Most New Yorkers take their unfettered access to bathrooms for granted, yet every single day transgender and gender non-conforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their choices may lead to harassment or worse,” said Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Queens), the sponsor.

“Designating single-stall bathrooms as all gender is an easy way to create a welcoming environment for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” he said. “As an added bonus, anyone who is looking for an unoccupied bathroom will now have more options.”

Mayor de Blasio has already issued an order saying that city-owned buildings must allow people to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity.

Larger bathrooms with many stalls will not be affected by the Council’s bill.

Mayor de Blasio signs a bill mandating city facilities to allow people to access bathrooms in line with their gender identity. (NYC.GOV)

The measure is also meant to send a message decrying laws like the one passed in North Carolina requiring people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

Pols there “are perversely obsessed with the bathroom habits of others,” Dromm said. “Their recently enacted anti-LGBT law belongs in the toilet.”

The Department of Buildings will have to determine fines for building owners who maintain gender-segregated bathrooms.

Read more here.

East Village Students Win Fight for LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum in Classroom

By Allison Hope

Originally published by DNAinfo on June 17, 2016

Students from the Earth School have successfully advocated to push a national online education provider to include an LGBT-specific curriculum.  Photo: Colin Schumacher

Students from the Earth School have successfully advocated to push a national online education provider to include an LGBT-specific curriculum. Photo: Colin Schumacher

EAST VILLAGE — An education company that supplies learning materials to millions of students across the nation will be adding LGBT studies to its elementary school curriculum after one New York City public school fought to make it happen.

BrainPOP, an interactive digital educational company based in the Flatiron that’s used by students in public schools across the city, has agreed to create a new LGBT Civil Rights-specific curriculum by the fall — following nearly a year of pressure from students the East Village’s Earth School as well as an outpouring of grief following the recent tragedy in Orlando.

“Children of all ages are exposed to the terrible news, and as parents and teachers, we are once again faced with having to explain the unexplainable. To help provide kids with context, we’ll be publishing a topic that addresses the historic Gay Rights movement and encourages tolerance and acceptance,” BrainPOP Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Din Heiman wrote on the company’s website Monday — a day after gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people in an LGBT club and wounded 53 more before he was killed by police.

“I do hope that the Earth School children that expressed a wish to see a BrainPOP topic realize that their request was heard, and led to real change even before the events of this tragic weekend,” Heiman added in a separate email to the school shared with DNAinfo New York.

Heiman told DNAinfo he planned to prepare standalone LGBT educational materials ready in time for the new school year.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hugs a student from the Lower East Side's Earth School during a meeting to brainstorm ways to advocate for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum in their elementary school.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hugs a student from the Lower East Side’s Earth School during a meeting to brainstorm ways to advocate for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum in their elementary school.

The announcement came as welcome news to the students at the Earth School, where fourth and fifth grade students had been calling on BrainPOP to create an elementary school curriculum devoted to the fight for LGBT Civil Rights.

“What is the purpose of education if not to change things for the better?” said Earth School teacher Colin Schumacher, who spearheaded the charge after his fourth grade class realized last year during their civil rights studies that BrainPOP had nothing available regarding the LGBT community’s struggle.

The students sent an email to the company to find out why and to ask that it get added. When the company failed to respond, the students called elementary and middle school principals in the area and asked if they would lend their support. The students sent a second request to BrainPOP with the list of supportive educational leaders, but still heard no response, Schumacher said.

The Earth School’s Principal Abbe Futterman eventually got an email from BrainPOP’s Editorial Director, Jon Feldman, who wrote, “I doubled-checked with our standards provider, and it seems that at present only four states, including New York, have specific standards around LGBT rights. Every one of those standards is at the high school level. While there are high school classrooms that use BrainPOP, we do not create topics that are applicable only to those grades,” according to the email she shared with DNAinfo.

BrainPOP officials wrote in the email that they would consider, “revising the Civil Rights movie to better highlight the connection between the historical movement of the 1960s and the activism it inspired in subsequent generations. This will naturally include the LGBT Rights movement.”

But that wasn’t a sufficient response for the students, they said.

“The kids did not believe that adding LGBT rights as an addendum to any existing video is fair and equal treatment for one of the most significant civil rights movements of their lifetime,” said Schumacher, who teaches fourth and fifth grades at The Earth School, which serves 300 students between pre-K and fifth grade.

The students kept up the battle this spring, creating a standalone website entitled,“Kids for LGBT Rights Now,” which features a multi-faceted effort to push for LGBT-inclusive curriculum in schools, including a video they produced and starred in while wearing a rainbow of different colored shirts, standing in front of various locations of LGBT significance including Stonewall Inn.

The website also includes a blog with updates on their efforts as well as a petition calling on BrainPOP to add LGBT content to its suite of offerings.

On April 29, the students met with LGBT Liaison for the NYC Department of Education Jared Fox, who met with them and advised them on ways to make their advocacy campaign more effective, they said.

“We work closely with schools to develop grade-appropriate curriculum that aligns with the New York State standards and includes positive representations of LGBT individuals and history,” Fox said in a statement. “We support the work of The Earth School in creating an inclusive curriculum and encouraging students to get involved through project-based learning.”

A few weeks later, students met with more city officials including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, her Community Engagement Liaison Mili Bonilla, and City Council and LGBT Caucus Member Daniel Dromm.

Dromm, who faced homophobia as one of the few out gay teachers in the New York City system in the early 1990s, then sent a letter to BrainPOP as well as to Apple CEO Tim Cook, since Apple has been heavily promoting BrainPOP on its products.

“These incredibly inspiring activists have one simple mission. They want BrainPOP, a resource they highly value, to cover history accurately. I look forward to receiving your response about why such content is not on your site and why you have no plans to address its glaring omission,” Dromm’s letter read.

On June 8, the students attended the New York City Council pride celebration where they showed the video the kids produced calling on BrainPOP to create standalone LGBT resources. “The kids were the hit of the evening,” Dromm said. “They received a five-minute-long standing ovation.”

The Earth School students with their teacher had planned to return to the New York City Council on June 21 to be recognized for their work as part of the annual ceremony to highlight the accomplishments of New Yorkers — and the news of their success will make the visit even more powerful, Dromm said.

“Many people have laid down their lives, Harvey Milk and others, in this cause for LGBT civil rights,” Dromm said, “So I think to present history in an intellectually honest way is something we must do.”

Read more here.

‘Don’t Turn Homophobia Into Islamophobia,’ Mourners at Queens Vigil Plead

By Katie Honan

Originally published by DNAinfo on June 13, 2016

Councilman Danny Dromm holds up a sign in support of the Muslim community after the deadly shooting in Orlando on Sunday, June 12. The suspect reportedly called police to declare his loyalty to the Islamic State after shooting 50 people at a gay nightclub. Photo credit: DNAinfo/Katie Honan

Councilman Danny Dromm holds up a sign in support of the Muslim community after the deadly shooting in Orlando on Sunday, June 12. The suspect reportedly called police to declare his loyalty to the Islamic State after shooting 50 people at a gay nightclub.
Photo credit: DNAinfo/Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — Standing in the center of Diversity Plaza, a crowd of locals and community leaders vowed Sunday to stay united after 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Flanked by signs reading “Don’t turn homophobia into Islamophobia and war,”Councilman Danny Dromm joined other mourners in the heart of Jackson Heights, the most diverse zip code on the planet, which features both a large Muslim and LGBTQ community.

“I wanted to be sure that nobody divides us,” said Dromm, who organized the vigil within hours of the attack, in which police say gunman Omar Mateen pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State before carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

For Dromm, and for the more than two dozen people who spoke at the vigil, the focus was on the community’s unity and strength after another tragedy. Diversity Plaza has hosted both the Queens Pride Festival and Ramadan celebrations — both of which are being celebrated in June.

“No matter what happens, nobody will divide us,” he said. “Nobody will pit LGBT people against Muslim people, or against anybody.”

The emotional vigil featured tables of flowers and lit candles; many cried as people spoke to denounce the attack.

St. Pat’s for All parade organizer Brendan Fay said he wept when reading the news.

He said he carried fear in his heart — because he knows what it’s like to be denounced “from pulpits, from books, on the streets.”

“But also, I know what it’s like to find hope,” he said through tears.

“We send from this place a love to all of those that have nothing but grief and loss,” he said.

“May the love from this place go forth and help overcome prejudice and hate in our streets, in our communities and our nation. May love prevail.”

Read more here.