Supporters display at light up sign for Sanders at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before the Democratic presidential debate yesterday or Sanders. by Leann Garofolo
Bernie Sanders supporters brought a carnival to Brooklyn Navy Yard before yesterday’s Democratic presidential debate. There were homemade light-up signs, a customized “Bernie for President” computer game, a life-sized Bernie Sanders muppet and more.
They came from all over the country to take on the more subdued Hilary Clinton supporters who gathered on the opposite corner carrying the official “I’m With Her” signs. But it was the eclectic array of homemade Sanders campaign gear that stole the show on this chilly spring night.
“I have never come out like this for anybody,” said Kyle Cranston, of South Hampton in Long island, New York. He was decked out in a black “Feel the Bern” t-shirt, topped with a blazer sporting colorful Bernie buttons. His black fitted baseball cap said “Bernie for President,” and he carried a blue sign emblazoned with the same logo.
It was not Cranston’s first time braving the cold for Sanders. In February, he attended the New Hampshire primary, traveled to Boston for Super Tuesday, and has been making phone calls and canvassing for his candidate.
The stakes were high for the democratic candidates who both have roots in New York. Sanders were born in Flatbush, Brooklyn to Jewish immigrants, and Hillary Clinton was the city’s senator for eight years. She calls New York her adopted home.
Liz Sawyers, of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, was the coordinator of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) members who attended the rally. Under her black winter coat was a white t-shirt that said “Bernie is bae”, with a sketch of the candidate’s face inside a red heart.
“Earlier this afternoon, just as the sun was going down, the CWA members marched down the street,” said Sawyers. “We had like, 600 CWA members here. It was great.”
As an independent business owner teaching public speech and rhetoric, Sawyers is passionate about fair labor. Earlier in the week, the CWA began striking back against Verizon after the parties failed to negotiate a fair contract.
Sanders showed his support and solidarity for the workers on Wednesday when he joined a crowd of 2,000 CWA Verizon and Verizon Wireless workers on the picket line in Brooklyn.
“Bernie was on the picket lines with them, as he was has been on the picket lines with labor unions and teacher unions for years,” said Sawyers. “He’s been consistent on these same issues for 31 years.”
But this rally was also interactive.
A Playstation was set up where kids and adults got to play Bernie “jumping” over obstacles to reach the end goal of being elected as president. A virtual Bernie was navigated as he jumped over things such as “Big Oil Problem” and “Dodged Another Bush.”
“You basically jump over corporate interest and Wall Street bulls and try and get to the end and try and get elected,” said the game’s creator, Grayson Earle of the game that was projected on a big screen. He made the game in just about two weeks in his spare time with The Illuminators, a political art project based in N.Y.C. “If you don’t win you just go back to the community and you reorganize and you try again.”
While many came to show their support, others came to rally for other causes that were near and dear to their heart.
Paul Schuberg, of Rockaway, Queens, stopped by with a “War Wagon” to support veterans.
His mobile cart was piled thick with campaign buttons, along with a donation jar adorned with the American flag. His goal was to sell buttons and raise money to donate to homeless vets who need food, shelter, and permanent housing.
While not an actual veteran himself, he called himself a veteran of “the war on poverty, the war on injustice.” Schubert said he votes based on the candidate, not the party.
“I am a voter,” said Schuberg. “I vote for the best person for the job after examining their history, their record, very carefully.”
Evan Siegel, of Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, came to support Sanders while distributing flyers to raise awareness about military spending.
“I think we need to have a conversation about that,” said Siegel as he continued to give out flyers to passerby. According to the flyer’s colorfully coordinated pie chart, 54 percent of federal income tax dollars are spent on the military budget, which Siegel viewed as a problem.
“Bernie at least says that we should freeze the military budget at its current level,” said Siegel. “I’m for protecting whatever is left of social equality in our country.”
A group called Black Men for Bernie also came out to support him.
Still, others at the rally just wanted to get in on the action.
April Brooker, of Sunnyside, Queens, had hopes of getting inside the venue. She carried a puppet of Donald Trump, who she referred to as “Donald J. Tramp.” Despite the puppet, she did not say she wasn’t a Trump supporter or which of the democratic candidates she supported.
“I’m investigating both sides,” said Brooker, mimicking the Trump puppet as though it were the one speaking. “I like a lot of what Bernie Sanders has to say, but I like the experience Hillary has, so that’s why I’m very eager to see how it turns out.”
Ronald Castorina, Jr. speaks at Richmond County Young Republicans. Photo by Dale Isip.
On Staten Island – the city’s most conservative borough – voters are hoping to make an impact on one of the most crucial presidential primaries in decades.
Members of borough’s the Richmond County Young Republicans met yesterday in the neighborhood, to discuss the election, listen to a Republican guest speaker and conduct a straw poll for the upcoming primary. Leading the event was Eric Campione, the RCYR president, who is active in organizing young Republicans in Staten Island.
“We’re a local club that helps Staten Island stay red, as I like to say.” said Campione. “We try and help political candidates that are Republicans stay on the ballots, and make sure that they get elected.”
Staten Island – with an estimated population of 474,558 in 2015 – is the borough with the highest number of registered Republican voters., In the last 12 general presidential elections, the majority of Staten Island voters have voted for Republican candidates nine times. They will have a chance to vote again.
Ron Castorina, Jr., a Republican who is running for New York State Assembly District 62 in a special election next week, was the night’s guest speaker. He spoke on the island’s heroin epidemic, education, and class issues.
“There are lots of issues in education where I don’t believe we should be giving money away to those who don’t deserve it,” Castorina said. “I do, however, I think we should be enhancing TAP, and we should be assisting those in the middle class to advance and to get ahead.”
Key to middle class issues in the presidential primary have been trade economics and tax plans. The Republican candidates have all argued for lower taxes, with some proposing more radical changes to the system than others.
Under Ted Cruz’s proposed tax plan, the seven personal income tax tiers will be simplified into one personal income tax rate of 10 percent. The plan also states that the first $36,000 of income for families of four will be tax-free. In addition, Cruz’s proposed plan eliminates the corporate income tax and will has a flat rate for business tax at 16 percent.
Propositions for a flat, or fair tax, have been common among Republican candidates for two decades, and have gained popularity among Republican voters.
“[T]here should be some sort of even tax distribution, based on the amount you make,” said George Palesano, a Republican-leaning retired member of the New York City Police Department. “Whether it’s federal tax on business services and no income tax, or everybody pays a flat tax with an equal amount of deductions.”
In contrast, Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan favors those making under $25,000 – and those married filing jointly with a combined income of less than $50,000. According to Trump’s website, this means that 75 million households will manage to avoid filing personal income taxes.
Campione, who helps run a plumbing heating and air conditioning company with his family, seemed to favor Trump’s plan because of this.
“In actuality, his tax plans benefit me because I don’t make that much money,” he said. “So I would be able to pay a lesser tax.”
Both Cruz and Trump’s plans are markedly different from the current 2015 single filer personal income tax brackets – and neither reaches the current rate of 39.6 percent for the top income bracket of over $413,200. Ohio Governor John Kasich has one of the most moderate rates of the proposed tax plans, with top income earners paying 28 percent.
In a straw poll conducted at the meeting, Trump won nine votes, Kasich won four votes, Cruz won one vote, and one was undecided.
“I actually read a poll somewhere a while ago. Trump was polling around 65 percent in the 11th Congressional district, which is our district,” said RCYR Secretary Patrick Donegan. “So in this small sample size, this is pretty much on target to what Trump was getting there.”
That Staten Island Republicans would favor Trump, and his economic policies, could be a result of the island’s demographics. Staten Island is the wealthiest borough in New York City, and this is especially true of the island’s mostly white, working and middle-class conservative South Shore – that is, neighborhoods below the Staten Island Expressway. Here median incomes range from $72, 495 to $83,441, depending on the neighborhood. In 2012, over three quarters of residents worked on the island itself, with a majority of jobs in health care, retail, and construction sectors.
The desire by many to reform or simplify taxation reflects middle class concerns among Staten Islanders, just one of many class concerns in this year’s presidential primaries.
“I just went and did my taxes, five or six sheets, I gotta save thousands of receipts, and not only that … people that are wealthy have more access to other ways of cutting their taxes,” said Palesano, “To me, that’s not fair.”
The corner of 5th Avenue and 55th Street is the intersection of luxury watch and jewelry stores. The St. Regis Hotel, one building over on 55th, brings an affluent clientele to the Rolex and Des Beers shops at this corner, and on this mid-December evening, they are out shopping for the holidays, bundled in Canada Goose parkas.
Since 1875, this corner has also been the home for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. This time of year, it is the only building on 5th Avenue that isn’t decorated in twinkling lights or garlands. In fact, the majority of the building’s Victorian Gothic façade is almost entirely obscured by scaffolding, the red sandstone clock tower and steeple just barely peek out of the top. The only seasonal additions to the building are a simple wreath hanging from a cross above the front entrance, and a homeless woman sitting by the edge of the building, wrapped in a thin wool blanket against the cold, holding a sign that pleads for assistance.
The homeless have become a common sight in New York City, with the Coalition for the Homeless reporting a swell of nearly 60,000 homeless individuals in it’s shelters this past season. That’s as high as it was during the Great Depression, and it’s an 86 percent increase from ten years ago. Those are just the numbers of people who take refuge in city shelters, no one has a head count on those who would rather freeze to death than go into the system.
The Department of Homeless Services believes that houses of worship have the ability to influence individuals on the street who are fearful or resistant to city shelters. To reach them, the de Blasio administration will funnel $19.5 million beginning January 1, 2016, in order to incentivize churches to make space for homeless during the coldest months of the year. The new project, called the Opening Doors Initiative, hopes to double the amount of beds made available in churches by adding an additional 500. This year Fifth Avenue Presbyterian hopes to use those funds to make space for 10 homeless women.
The staff of Pavement Pieces, traveled to Baltimore for a 3-day multimedia project. The students covered multiple issues that showed the struggles and promise of the city.
View the project here
Samatha Romero (left), Elizabeth Guess (center) and Katie Schmelcer (right) held signs and cheered on strangers at the NYC Marathon Sunday night. Photo By Jordyn Rolling
With her hands cupped around her mouth, Samantha Romero stood with a small group of friends and leaned over the barricades belting uplifting words and calling out runners by name.
Like many, Romero, a native of Miami, Fla., stood on the sidelines of the 2015 New York City Marathon on Sunday night near the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park to lend her support to friends, strangers and her mother.
“She’s in her 50s and killing it,” Romero said. “I’m very excited for her.”
Romero’s mother was one of the 14,326 lottery applicants selected to run in the marathon.
“She started running in her 40s,” Romero said. “She’s never been athletic in her life. She was just inspired by this movement and if someone her age can get up and do that it’s pretty amazing to see.”
Over 80,080 runners applied for the lottery, with only around 18 percent being accepted. Runners could also by submitting previous marathon times that met the marathon’s qualifying standards.
What made this race so special to Romero and her mother is the fact that she had never pushed through a total of 26.2 straight grueling miles before.
“She’s done a bunch of halves and this is her first time,’ she said. “She’s so excited.
Romero’s friend, Elizabeth Guess, was cheering by her side.
“It’s just the most supportive environment you’ll ever find yourself in,” Guess said.
If you didn’t realize the runners names were printed on their chests, you might think Guess knew every participant forging through to the finish line. Her voice carried above the crowd noise, one name after another.
Guess herself recently conquered the Chicago Marathon a few weeks before.
“All of these people have any number of goals, ultimately crossing the finish line, and it’s just an incredible feat,” she said.
A live band performed loudly across the street turned racetrack, encouraging runners as they approached their final destination.
In total, more than 50,000 people from across the world ran, and in their own way, won the NYC Marathon.
Sala Cyril believes that finishing the New York City Marathon is an achievement itself, despite being one of the last placers in the event. Photo by Eugene Y. Santos
A few months ago, school director Sala Cyril, 38, took an opportunity of a lifetime. She would train and run this year’s New York City Marathon for the benefit of her institution, the Little Maroons Childcare Cooperative in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It was the school’s 10th anniversary, and around $5,000 was crowdsources and would be given to Cyril when she finished the marathon.
With barely any marathon experience under her belt, she trained for only four months.
“I even had a concussion in the last two weeks,” she said. “I wasn’t able to train fully.”
More than the physical training, Cyril of Bedford-Syuyvesant said that she had to train her mind as well to strengthen her endurance.
Today, at around 11:00 am, Cyril found herself in the starting line. She put her game face on. She told herself she would finish the race no matter what.
Eight hours later she crossed the finish line.
“I just really pushed myself to do my best,” she said. “My family went out to support me. My colleagues went as well, so I wanted to show my loved ones that I could finish the race. This is definitely the most intense experience I’ve had in my life so far.”
The marathon, as Cyril put it, was challenging.
“I was slow and I took many bathroom breaks,” she said. “The water and energy stations even malfunctioned so it was hard. It even became discouraging after a while because there were less people cheering me on, so it was a matter of mental strength, too.”
But at the end of the race she was all smiles. She was greeted immediately by her loved ones. She took her hard-earned medal, and grabbed a marathon cape and goodies along the way. The race was officially over.
“I feel really successful and also tired,” she said, as she made her way out of Central Park. “I can’t join the NYC marathon next year as I wasn’t able to participate in the qualifying race for it. I do look forward to running in its 2017 edition, even if I’m not going to raise funds for my school. Next time, I just want to run the whole thing and just enjoy it better. There’s definitely room for improvement in my performance.”
For now, Cyril is happy to fulfill her commitment to Little Maroons. The school, which was established in 2005, aims to “reinforce” African education (ideologies, culture, and history) to black children, as a means of reminding them of their roots and nurturing their love for learning. The money that Cyril was able to raise will go to various educational endeavors, such as school supplies.
Cyril said the marathon gave her a fresher perspective on motherhood, as she felt like an inspiration to her daughters to keep pursuing their dreams no matter what gets in the way. She advised would-be marathoners to “not be afraid of being slow in the race because all you need to succeed are discipline and practice. The goal is to finish the race no matter what.”
Jackie McMahon is all smiles as she anxiously waits in Bay Ridge for her NYPD coworker to run by in today’s New York City Marathon. Photo by Alexandra Zuccaro
Even before the first New York Marathon runner hit the track this morning, NYPD officers could be seen in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn lining the streets with caution tape and blocking off roads with their squad cars. As the crowds started to emerge around 9:30 a.m., additional officers were walking up and down the streets, trying to clear walkways and control the abundant excitement.
But the uniformed officials weren’t the only NYPD attendees at the marathon this morning. Many members of the NYPD were seen running in the race, with their supportive coworkers flocking to the sidelines to cheer them on.
Jackie McMahon, an NYPD employee, was one of these cheerleaders. She was more than happy to get up early to cheer on her comrades.
“I always enjoy watching the marathon,” said McMahon. “I have a sergeant who I work with who is running. I don’t know if I will see her in this huge crowd, but I told her I would be here.”
Once the race was in full swing, McMahon waved and smiled at all the runners who were sporting NYPD shirts “Way to go NYPD!” she shouted.
Along with her NYPD coworkers, McMahon was also very excited to see the handicapped runners, who started trickling in during the early hours of the race. The crowds was sparse , but McMahon makes a special effort each year to see the handicapped participants roll by in their wheelchairs.
“My sister is handicapped, so I just feel very supportive towards the handicapped runners,”she said.
Although McMahon has watched past marathons all around the city, she now loves watching in her Bay Ridge neighborhood. The energy here is different she said.
“It’s not as big of a crowd as you would get in Manhattan, but the energy is very high because they are just starting out,” she said.
In Bay Ridge, the buzz was definitely alive, with runners stopping along the sides to take selfies with the viewers or high-fiving the kids sticking their hands out as they were held over the railing by their parents.
Bay Ridge spectators also made an effort to keep the runners pumped. While marathon runners trudged up the hill on 94th St, a group of locals, including a few NYPD officers, chanted “Welcome to Brooklyn!” Some of the runners waved to the officers and cheerers in response, and used that hype to make it around the upcoming turn onto 4th Avenue.
“There’s a big police presence and it’s exciting,” said McMahon. “It’s what makes it a nice event.”