Staff and children hold hands during a sports program class. Photo by Michael Furino.
Every Saturday for the past four months, Michael Sforza, 11, spends his morning at Be the Best Sport, track and field lessons in Port Washington, Long Island. Running, leaping and landing on two feet doesn’t seem difficult for most, but for Sforza, spending 45 minutes at the Port Washington Tennis Academy, running back and forth to constantly perfect his form is an accomplishment his father couldn’t be more proud of.
Sforza enjoys sports, video games, the internet and exercising, but what differentiates him from most children his age is that he has autism. Sforza was diagnosed when he was 20 months old. His father, Nick Sforza said that although his son likes to be at home on the computer, this program, allows Sforza to get out of the house and spend time doing what he loves to do, run.
About six years ago, Nick Sforza heard about the sports organization for special needs children in Nassau County, which offers an array of programs ranging from soccer, basketball, track and field and others.
Edgar Sanchez, the Sports Program Director, said that although the organization is sports oriented, children also learn how to improve their listening skills and social functioning.
“One of the kids that we had in the previous class, he would walk around flailing his arms, falling on the ground, said Sanchez. “Any bit of sensory stimulation that was too much for him, he couldn’t handle it, and now, he comes in and he knows what’s expected out of him. He’s able to control his emotions so much more.”
Since 2009 Be the Best Sport has been providing Nassau County with sport programs for special needs adults and children. The organization aims to strengthen their motor, cognitive, and social skills.
The CDC reported that in 2016 nearly one in 68 children in the U.S. have autism.
Ameera Ullah, 14, who has microcephaly, a condition where the brain develops abnormally.also participates in the program. Her father, Sayeed Ullah, said that there are three components that all humans need to benefit your life.
“Sports to give strength, music for amusement and education for tools of success,” he said. “These three elements are very important in human life.”
When Ameera was one and a half years old, her father noticed something was wrong when she was only crawling. A neurologist determined that Ameera had microcephaly, now, at 14, Ameera’s brain functions like a 3 year old.
Whether or not the town or county provides sports programs for special needs children, Sayeed Ullah believes that doesn’t give an excuse for parents to overlook their children’s needs.
“Some towns don’t have it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the parents should sit on the couch. Physical fitness is very important for making your mind feel fresh and healthy. If the community doesn’t provide it, you as a parent need to move forward, look forward.”
Nick Sforza said he is grateful that his son has sports in his life.
“I think the hardest thing for a parent with a child on the spectrum is there aren’t enough things to do for them,” said Nick Sforza as he smiled while watching his son run his last lap around the track. “To have the ability to do this with him, it means more than anything.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline project has been a strongly opposed development for the past 18 months. It would create a new underground oil pipeline designed to carry roughly 470,000 barrels of oil across 1,172 miles of land per day. The pipeline would pass through four Midwest states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois – connecting Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.
The most active opposition has come from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Sections of the pipeline would cut directly through sacred holy ground and potentially damage their water supply, so protestors have been drawn to the land to stop construction. Many camping at Standing Rock have faced attack dogs, pepper spray, and even fires being set to camp grounds.
Social media users across the nation took to action with the hashtag, #NoDAPL. Towards the end of last month, demonstrators in North Dakota requested Facebook users to check-in at Standing Rock. This was done in an effort to create a cyber smokescreen, and prevent local law enforcement from using the social media platform to target protestors. This past week, New York joined the fight.
Keith Claxton has been attending the race for the five years in a row. A person he met on the sideline gave him the sign, but Claxton cheers for everybody.” – Photo by Lisa Setyon
For the fifth year in a row, Keith Claxton, 53, of Eastchester Road in the Bronx, stood near the Willis Avenue Bridge encouraging the runners soaked in sweat to finish the race.
“I love the sport and I think it is something awesome that people run 26.2 miles,” Claxton said. “I just come to show my support for them. It is the least I can do.”
Today , 21 miles away from the finish line, Claxton, an accountant originally from the Virgin Islands, was among the thousands of spectators, waving, cheering and pushing the runners to get through the Bronx. Every year Claxton arrives at 8 a.m. and stands by himself, in a red track jacket, grey sweatpants and Nike sneakers.
While most of the other spectators are in groups and at the bridge to support a friend or family member, Claxton is there to support everyone.
“I cheer the last person to come across so I’m going to be here until the night,” Claxton said. “It just gives me a good feeling to be here, to be able to cheer them on, because, if they can run 26.2 miles, what is it for me to just turn up here and cheer?”
Claxton has lived in the Bronx for the past 25 years. For him, having the marathon in his neighborhood is also a way to add color to an area that has often been discredited.
“It gives people an opportunity to see a little part of the Bronx,” Claxton said. “I wish they could have gone more inside the Bronx so they get a better understanding of what the Bronx is.”
Claxton also sees it as a good way to gather communities together.
“Young, old, black, white, all nationalities are here,” Claxton said. “A sport like this bring everyone together. It just supports one cause, no division, just a marathon.”
Ten years ago Claxton used to run. But with a new job and taking care of his two children, Claxton stopped. But as he watched runners run past him, Claxton was envious and felt it was time for him to run again.
“I got caught up with just life,” Claxton said. “Sometimes you tend to put your hobbies on hold just to make a living. Now my two boys are 29 and 22. I feel like it is just time for me to go back out there and do me.”
His goal for next year is to run the marathon.
“My part right now is just to cheer,” he said “Hopefully next year, I’ll be running and I’ll have someone to cheer for me so I’m excited about it.”
If Claxton was looking forward to attending the marathon, the highlight of his day was seeing marathon winner May’s Keitany’s performance.
“She was sprinting and killed the hill in a sprint,” Claxton said. “I almost didn’t even see her, nobody was nowhere close, she really dominated the field this year. This a repeat for her, the third times she wins that in a row, it’s a big deal.”
Batman fans Bill Spinelli, left, and Anthony Ceddia, right, wait in a block-long line in Ryders Alley to meet the creators of Batman. They were chosen in a raffle by Midtown Comics to celebrate Batman day. Photo by Sophie Herbut
Everyone loves Batman. He has managed to keep his swagger for 77 years. But as times have changed, Batman has remained a straight, rich white male who transcended the death of his parents by becoming a straight, rich white man in a bat suit.
Some fans are longing for a change.
“I feel comics in general have this problem,” said Thomas Tremberger from Midwood, Brooklyn, about the lack of diversity in lead comic book characters. “It’s so hard to get people invested in [more diverse] characters that until pretty recently [DC comics] didn’t have any faith in.”
Longtime fans of the character waited outside of Midtown Comics yesterday on DC Comic’s Batman Day, to meet the creators of Batman. The line was a block long hours before it began.
Some fans want to keep Batman straight and white.
“There’s room for change without having to change the characters themselves,” Anthony Ceddia of Crown Heights, Brooklyn said.
The DC Universe is a web of multiple fictional worlds and dimensions. They’ve used this system to create new diverse characters like a Muslim Green Lantern, black Batwing, and a transgender wedding in Batgirl.
“They’ve introduced a lot of new characters, a lot of diversity, and each character is amazing in their own right and at the same time they’ve never had to change Batman,” Ceddia said. “Which is what I think is great about it.”
These diverse characters have their own stories that run parallel to the original. But these minority characters don’t replace the old characters and they rarely break into the mainstream of movies and television like the Batman has done time and again.
“It’s not really the fans’ fault if they’re not really buying stuff because it hard to be invested in [a new character],” Tremberger said. “You have to sort of build from the ground up to get characters to be like, beloved.”
Tremberger did not think DC’s approach to diversity worked because it kept the minority characters separate and made it difficult for fans to attach themselves to them.
“There’s always room for diversity,” said Bill Spinelli of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “However, I’d be happy with [DC] going the opposite route of what Marvel’s doing where they need to put diversity into characters that are long established and alienate [the] fan base.”
Marvel, on the other hand, has been making their main characters more diverse. They replaced Thor with a female and Iron Man with a young black woman.
“When you’re introducing new characters, you’re always going to have people getting paranoid about us ruining their childhood,” Marvel writer, Brian Michael Bendis, told Time.
Spinelli preferred DC’s approach to diversifying its characters by creating separate universes and having those gain as much popularity as the original and widely known characters. He said this was the best way to bring in more fans without angering existing fans.
“Is separate but equal ever equal?” Tremberger retorted.
Some fans were more attached to Batman’s character than his appearance.
“[If DC] change[s] him,” said Keith Martinez of Crown Heights, “bring in someone new—a girl maybe—that would be pretty awesome. Some people overthink it a lot. If they change the color of his skin, it still has the same impact.”
Notes that participants filled out addressed to Mayor de Blasio asked for protection while biking or walking on the streets that were to be mailed to him. Photo by Brelaun Douglas.
On Thursday evening, as the sun set and the air cooled in signs of fall, a horde of yellow invaded downtown Manhattan.
Beginning at E 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, hundreds of bicyclists decked in yellow flowers and safety vest rode from Fifth Avenue to Washington Square Park in a protest demanding not only safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians, but also that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio take immediate action on Vision Zero and invest in fixing dangerous streets in the city.
Seventeen cyclists have been killed this year, which is more than the last year total of 15.
In 2014, the mayor’s office and various city agencies released the Vision Zero Action Plan, an outline of 63 initiatives that they would initiate to diminish the amount of deaths and serious injuries on the streets of New York. Since its inception, 58 new initiatives have been added including installing speed cameras at 20 new locations and installing 250 speed humps.
But for 46-year-old Andreas Turanski, the plan is not doing enough.
“I was telling someone what Vision Zero meant because they had no idea, so obviously the message isn’t getting out,” he said. “They’re not policing enough.”
Though he forgot his bike at home, Turanski wouldn’t let that deter him from joining the protest and rented a Citi Bike to participate with.
“I have two bikes at home, I forgot to bring one, but I really want to be a part of this because I care,” said the software developer who lives on the Upper West Side. “My son’s 14 and he walks on the streets too and also rides on them, as do I and so does everyone else. I wanted to be a part of this so I grabbed one down in the Financial District where I work and biked up here.”
Riding his bike about 20 times a week, Turanski really hoped that the event would put pressure onto the issue of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by motorists.
“I would like to get real policing so that people who drive are aware that if they speed, if they turn aggressively, they will get a ticket and they will stop doing it,” he said.
Amirl Hamer, 49, is an activist with Transportation Alternative, one of the groups responsible for putting on the protest, also wanted to see a change in the safety of the streets for all.
“We’re fighting for safe streets, whether you’re a cyclists, a pedestrian, you’re in a wheelchair or whatever form of transportation you take besides cars,” she said. “We’re working on having safe streets.”
Angela Azzolino, of Sunset Park in Brooklyn runs an organization called Get Women Cycling, geared towards encouraging women to ride their bikes, and wanted to see a safer environment for that to happen.
“The number one reason in all my conversations with women is that they’re afraid to ride their bikes because they’re afraid of being hit by a car,” she said. “That’s a pity because it shouldn’t prevent you from a healthier lifestyle, so we’re doing everything we can to get safer streets for everybody.”
Adam Johnson,43, a lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen, also came out to show his support in the cause and hoped that real changes would occur.
“This year there have been twice the number of deaths to this point in the year than there have been in past years despite the mayor’s lip service to Vision Zero,” he said, sitting on his bicycle while still decked out in suit pants and a button up shirt. “We need better enforcement of traffic laws by NYPD, we need enforcement of speed limits for cars, we need better infrastructure in support in terms of protected bike lanes where appropriate and better street architecture. That’s why I’m here. That’s why all of us are here and we hope New York pays attention.”
Oxfam America, a global organization that addresses poverty, hunger and injustice arranged used refugee life jackets on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The display was on the eve of two United Nations summits that will deal the refugee crisis. Photo by Julie Liao
Scattered on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, just under the Manhattan Bridge, were 400 worn refugee life jackets. One hundred of them were worn by refugee children. Some of them were ripped up and covered in dirt. Some of the refuges who wore them did not survive. The life jackets were collected from the beaches of Chois, Greece, where refugees from war torn countries struggle to make it to their shores. These tattered life vests were what they wore.
Most of these refugees came from Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan. The conflicts, civil war and terrorism threat in the Middle East drove them to flee their homes.
But today, these life jackets stood as a symbol on the eve of United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Obama at the United Nations Headquarters.
The jackets were a symbol of hope, remembrance and action.
Oxfam America, a global organization focusing on addressing poverty, hunger and injustice issues, came up with an idea of displaying the life jackets to catch the attention of global leaders and as a call for action against global refugee issues.
Marissa Ryan, 32, advocacy and campaigns manager of Oxfam Ireland, saw theme as a testimony to the thousands of refugees who died while seeking refuge.
“If you look closely, the tiny life jackets belonged to babies who drowned, which is continuing year and year in the absence of any coherent or sane response to global migration from world leaders,” she said.
According to a report by the UN Refugee Agency, 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, which was the highest number since World War II.
After today’s event, the collection will be sent to the United Kingdom, to bring attention to this worldwide crisis.
Lauren Hartnett, 32, the humanitarian press officer of Oxfam America, unpacked these jackets on Pebble Beach with her colleagues in the early morning. She said there were 300 jackets for adults and 100 for children. Although some of them were not very sturdy the refugees had used them to cross the sea.
“Some of them were tied together. You can tell (they were) from families that didn’t want to get separated,” she said.
Bogdan Krasic, 28, a Serbian researcher of Belgrade Center for Human Rights, helps refugees who seek asylum in Serbia and other countries. Serbia, serves as an intermediate transition on the road from Middle East to Germany or Austria.
Krasic said the majority of refugees were less educated, non-English speaking and even disabled.
While the number of displaced people has hit new records, Ryan pointed out that, the six richest world economies only accommodated nine percent of the global refugee population.
Krasic thought the most developed countries were very careful about accepting refugees. They resettled some refugees because of longstanding policies, but not because they truly cared.
As the largest economy in the world, the U.S. has always been expected to play the most significant role in solving this problem.
But the U.S. government has resettled 79,560 refugees, not enough according to Krasic and Hartnett.
“I mean we’re always wanting more,” said Hartnett. “Especially Obama is hosting the summit on Tuesday. So we’re hoping for a huge announcement.”
But the presidential election has greatly impacted refugees who have already lived in America and those who are eager to settle down in this country. While Hillary Clinton fully supports Obama administration’s plan to accept more, Republican nominee, Donald Trump wants to temporarily ban Muslim immigration.
Firefighters leave the memorial as flags wave near ground zero yesterday. Photo by Rebeca Corletoo
Fifteen years after the attacks of 9/11, the sun was shining, the air clear. The spot known as ground zero in the days immediately after 9/11 now serves as the memorial site. There’s a memorial museum, store, kiosks with pamphlets and tour schedules, and memorial pools. The memorial pools are both surrounded by black slabs with the names of those who died cut into their surfaces.
Groups of teenage girls gathered yesterday to take selfies in front of the twin reflecting pools, in the imprint of the Twin Towers. Tourists walk along the site plugged in to guided tours, offered for $39 at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Shoppers pass by with bags filled with mementos from the 9/11 Memorial Museum Store.
It was nothing like 15 years ago.
“It was dusty. Smokey. Ungodly,” Doug Marshall, a firefighter from New Brunswick, N.J who was a first responder . “To imagine, that outside the steel that everyone sees in pictures, there was nothing else. Pulverized. You figure all those office buildings—how many desks, chairs—there was nothing. You couldn’t find anything discernable. It was the craziest thing, the force involved.”
He and his department worked for 10 days straight following the attacks. They set up camp at New York University, with kitchens and tents, a temporary base for them to come back to each night.
Marshall pulled himself away. It was time for him and his fellow firefighters to group together for a photo. As soon as Marshall is gone, a couple takes his place and aims their selfie stick at themselves.
Watch the crowd gathered at the 9/11 memorial site and you will see markers of people in service: t-shirts with the names of the fallen beneath the words, “Never Forget”, badges and pins indicating ranks, ladder numbers, and squads. Men and women in uniform stand in clusters all around the site.
One person in uniform is Matthew Hodges, 18, from Ridgecrest, California. Hodges is in the Navy, and came to New York with several sailors from base.
“We were given the option to go to the 9/11 memorial, on the 15th anniversary. It was a chance to get away from base, so I thought I’d come check it out,” he said. “It’s a cool site, I’m from California so I’ve never been this far east. I was also really young when it happened so I like to look into it, see everything. There’s a lot of emotion down there, so it’s different.”
Hodges described 9/11 with the detachment of someone who never knew it as anything other than a historic event. He was just three years old in 2001.
Hodges said he and the other sailors from his base will spend the day at the site, eating pizza, and took photos.
But about 20 feet from the sailors, an older man in a suit and fireman’s hat stood alone at the reflecting pool reading the names from Ladder 42. He stayed for a quarter of an hour, reached out a hand to touch the bronze piece, then walked away, wiping tears from his eyes.
Barry Byrne, an off-duty firefighter from Phoenix, Arizona, wanted to visit on the anniversary. He stood out from the crowd with his jacket covered in firefighter patches and emblems and an American flag bandana worn on his head.
“America cried and America responded that day. It feels right here,” he said. “And this is a very patriotic place to be right now.”
Christopher Persley with his wife, Jenelle, and his daughter, Camilla. Persley is a stay-at-home father who wants to spend as much time with his daughter as he can.
Christopher Persley woke up around 7 a.m. He got breakfast and lunch for his five-year-old daughter, Camilla, before she left for school. For the rest of the afternoon, Persley did dishes, finished laundry, cleaned the house, and squeezed in some reading and writing. Once his daughter got back from school they played, ate a home cooked meal, and started getting ready for bed.
It was a typical day for Persley, a stay-at-home father.
“I have a truly wonderful relationship with my daughter,” said Persley, 42, of the Upper West Side. “There is nothing more fulfilling than that. I get to be the one who picks her up from school, who helps her maturation, who supports her identity development.”
Since 1989, the number of fathers who stay at home with their children has nearly doubled, reaching its highest point at 2.2 million in 2010. The number of stay-at-home fathers who say the main reason for staying home is caring for their family has also grown significantly since 1989, increasing from 5 to 21 percent.
Dr. Caryn Medved, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Baruch College, did an in-depth study on stay-at-home fathers. Her inspiration for this study actually came up when her own brother became an at-home father.
Medved believed that one of the most important takeaways from her project was the establishment of parenting roles with at-home dads and breadwinning mothers was not just a result of economic issues.
“You read a lot in newspapers and things like that, that often times this arrangement is brought about because of economics,” she said. “But I was surprised at the number of couples who were there for all sorts of other reasons.”
Many couples also felt more comfortable with a parent staying at home with their children instead of using daycare facilities or hiring a nanny.
For the Persley family, Christopher and his wife, Jenelle, knew that they wanted someone within the family watching their daughter.
“I think our biggest fear was how much of an influence would someone else be on our child,” said Persley. “Would they stifle who she is and lead her to become someone who she’s not?”
Because his wife had stricter hours at the lab she worked at, it made more sense for Persley, who worked at an independent school, to transition into being the at-home parent. He had worked with kids for a long time at his school and was excited about filling that role
“Jenelle loved the idea of it being me,” he said. “She always felt that I was the parent better suited for that sort of extended time with our child.”
Once the couple officially made this decision, Persley told his supervisor that he was going to be leaving work to be a full-time dad. He was surprised to see that some of his co-workers weren’t as supportive of his decision as he thought they would be.
“There were some other people in the community that really didn’t get it, who thought that I was being fired saying, ‘There’s no way this guy is walking away from this job to be home with his kid,’” he said.
Persley also had trouble finding other stay-at-home fathers he could connect with.
Eventually, he found NYC Dads Group, a community of fathers who get together for playdates, classes and other social events
Medved discovered through interviewing her participants that these societal perceptions of the traditional male role does affect how stay-at-home fathers define themselves. Some of them own their title, but others get more insecure in certain social situations, like at a wife’s work party or an outing at the park.
“They might be at a party and someone asks, ‘So what do you do?’ And there certainly were plenty of men that I talked to that said, ‘Oh it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m a photographer,’ which is maybe a part time job or a hobby they do,” she said. “And sometimes they own it. But those kinds of situations are the most challenging for them.”
For breadwinning mothers, similar social situations can be challenging for them as well.
Cherry Vasquez, is a working mother of two. She currently lives with her husband, Jim, in Dallas, Texas.
When Vasquez first became pregnant at 21, she was making more money as a federal government worker than her husband, and that’s when they decided that he should be the at-home parent. Both Vasquez and her husband immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at a young age, and because of cultural differences, not all of the couple’s friends and family understand their household dynamic. Vasquez said that in traditional Philippine culture, the father is supposed to work and the mother is supposed to stay at home with the family.
That is why Vasquez’s mother envisioned a different life for her daughter.
“My dad always stayed home too,” said Vasquez. “My dad took care of me, so that’s not something new to me. But my mom would have preferred for that not to be my family situation as well, because she was the one working. I’m sure she was hoping that I would change things.”
But she knew that having her husband stay at home was the best decision for their children.
“They actually really appreciate having one of us stay home,” said Vasquez. “So like when dad asks, ‘Oh can I go back to work now? You guys are older.’ They say no.”
And Vasquez doesn’t mind coming home to a cooked meal and a clean house either, since it gives her more time to spend with her family.
“He takes care of cooking and takes the kids wherever they need to be and that way, when I’m off of work, I don’t have to worry about all of that,” she said. “I can just spend time with the kids once I get home.”
Although stay-at-home fathering is still viewed as ‘non-traditional,’ the increase of this family dynamic over the past decade indicates that it is becoming more socially accepted in society. Even big companies like Lego, have introduced a stay-at-home dad figure as part of the brand’s new Lego City line. And many stay-at-home fathers, like Persley just want people to realize that dads are parents too.
“Most of us want to be just as involved as moms in the raising of our children,” he said. “And a man can be an at-home parent just as easily as a woman.”