Protect Our Immigrant Population

By NYC Council Members Rory Lancman and Daniel Dromm

New York City is a city of immigrants — and Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world.

Our city is home to approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants who face daily challenges, and with the recent insidious political rhetoric, many may feel forced to seek quick legal advice.

But some providers take advantage of immigrants by offering fraudulent services.

These providers, who aren’t lawyers, often try to capitalize on immigrants’ fear or language barriers and offer pricey services the providers may not be able to legally provide, and that don’t help immigrants on their path to citizens.

To stop these providers, the City Council bill Int. 746 was introduced last year to prevent the unauthorized practice of immigration law. The bill, which has support from 37 Council Members, would prevent providers from offering services that only attorneys should offer.

Providers would also have to list their limitations and include customers’ rights in their contracts, as well as post signs in multiple languages at their locations. In addition, the bill would require the Department of Consumer Affairs update the New York City Council on complaints made against providers.

There have been too many instances of people being overcharged and underserved while seeking legal advice, with some providers using hard-working people’s vulnerability against them. But this month, there was a joint Consumer Affairs and Immigration hearing on the bill — and immigrants are one step closer towards receiving the protections they deserve.

New York City’s diversity adds so much depth to our City, and it’s crucial to make sure that New Yorkers of all immigration statuses are protected.

Daniel Dromm is the Chairman of Committee on Education and the prime sponsor of Int. 746 and Council Member Rory I. Lancman is Chairman of the Courts and Legal Services Committee and a co-sponsor of Int. 746. 

Read more here.

艾姆赫斯特 吟詩點亮聖誕樹 [Elmhurst Poem Reading and Christmas Tree Lighting]

記者俞姝含/紐約報導

 

艾姆赫斯特點燈儀式熱鬧舉行。(記者俞姝含/攝影)

艾姆赫斯特點燈儀式熱鬧舉行。(記者俞姝含/攝影)

 

Originally published by the World Journal on December 2, 2016, 6:00 am

艾姆赫斯特第二屆點燈儀式1日在百老匯街(Broadway)的CC Moore Playground舉行,近百名來自附近學校的學生和居民歡唱聖誕歌曲,八名高中生用中文吟誦學者Clement Clarke Moore的詩歌,聖誕樹在熱情掌聲中被點亮。

當晚,公立13小學、公立102小學以及第五初中的學生們帶領眾多民眾一起唱聖誕歌。市議員卓姆(Daniel Dromm)與州參議員史塔文斯基(Toby Stavisky)一起朗誦學者Clement Clarke Moore的詩歌「A Visit from St. Nicholas」,此後由亞洲人平等會指導的八名來自皇后語言研究高中(Queens High School for Language Studies)的學生用中文邊唱邊朗誦此詩。雖然許多人並不懂中文,但仍對他們精彩的表演報以熱烈的掌聲,一同提前享受聖誕氣氛。

這個公園平日裡有不少民眾聚眾賭博,甚至發生打架事件等。卓姆表示,希望藉此機會提升此公園的知名度,並向附近民眾傳播多元文化意義非凡,希望日後艾姆赫斯特社區能更加文明團結。史塔文斯基也說,艾姆赫斯特附近案件頻發,希望能藉此機會凝聚附近居民的向心力,增加節日的喜氣。

來自皇后語言研究高中的華裔學生翁祺和高Kevin以自身中文能力指導不同族裔的同學們練習,八名學生在兩周內用拼音學習中文詩。表演後學生們非常興奮,紛紛表示這是個獨特的經歷,希望以後還能參加此類慶祝活動,幫助中國文化融入社區。

在这里阅读更多

Read more here.

Wall Street Journal: Use of Pepper Spray in Rikers Island Classrooms Sparks Concerns

City council members raise objections, but correction officials say spray is needed to break up fights involving young inmates

 

Councilman Daniel Dromm, wearing tie, at a City Hall meeting in 2014. He has expressed concern about the use of pepper spray in classrooms for young inmates at Rikers Island. PHOTO: KEVIN HAGEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Councilman Daniel Dromm, wearing tie, at a City Hall meeting in 2014. He has expressed concern about the use of pepper spray in classrooms for young inmates at Rikers Island. PHOTO: KEVIN HAGEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

 

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

20161019_151822

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.”

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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.