Can New Yorkers feel safe riding the subway now that New York is in Phase Two? Andrea Pineda-Salgado reports.
Can New Yorkers feel safe riding the subway now that New York is in Phase Two? Andrea Pineda-Salgado reports.
15 May 2019
NEW YORK — Instead of spending rush hour behind the wheel of his yellow cab one April morning, taxi driver Robert Chow slumped on a park bench behind a taxi stand in Lower Manhattan, tears streaming from his eyes.
It has been almost one year since his brother, also a taxi driver, committed suicide, but Robert Chow is still reeling from the loss.
His grief is compounded by his own struggles as a taxi driver of one of New York City’s iconic yellow cabs, whose once thriving business has been since decimated by the arrival of Uber, Lyft and other e-hailing car services that have rendered his taxi medallion virtually worthless. It was the loss in value and mounting debt that ultimately drove his younger brother Kenny — another medallion owner who followed in Chow’s footsteps — to financial ruin and suicide.
Chow cannot help but feel somewhat responsible for Kenny’s death, he said.
When he secured a $410,000 loan for his taxi medallion — the aluminum plate required to drive a yellow taxi — almost 16 years ago, Uber had yet to begin operating in the city and the medallion’s market value was climbing steadily. The sustainable flow of income from Chow’s investment was what prompted Kenny to follow suit. Five years later, Kenny had taken out a loan of his own to invest in a $700,000 medallion — just two years before the medallion peaked in 2013 at a market price of over $1 million. Chow recalled how he and Kenny, after hearing the news, had celebrated what they then thought was a small price to pay for lifelong stability.
Until the medallion, and the city’s cab industry dependent on it, began to plummet in value by as much as 80 per cent from its peak, dragging drivers’ livelihoods—and lives—along down with it.
Kenny Yu Mein Chow, who was 56 when he died, told loved ones that, amid mounting loans and the plummeting value of the medallion, he could not afford to pay for his daughter’s college education and the medical bills following his wife’s diagnosis with cancer.
“My brother, he was working so hard, seven days a week, over 12 hours a day,” Chow said, choking up. “In the end, he was sick and tired of working. He was sick and tired of not making money.”
Kenny’s death marked the fifth of seven yellow cab driver suicides since November 2017 — all immigrant men in their 50s, 60s and 70s who arrived in the city in search of the American Dream, which they had found in the once-prosperous medallion. But today, taxi drivers like Robert Chow, who devoted most of their adult lives to driving for the city, face a deteriorating industry trapped in financial ruin from plunging revenues and prohibitive loan payments that they are still expected to pay off. Since the invasion of ride-hailing apps in the city, there has been a 30 per cent decline for yellow taxi driver trips per day and more than a 70 per cent increase for Uber trips per day, according to data collected by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
“The problem is directly attributed to the intervention of 50,000 Uber drivers in the city, swamping the value of the medallion,” said Graham Hodges, a former New York yellow cab driver, Colgate University historian and author of Taxi!: A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver.
For Robert Chow, who says he is determined not to end up like his brother, even his own prospects look bleak. Despite the medallion’s current worth of as little as $175,000, according to the T.L.C., Chow still owes $400,000 from his medallion loan, compounded with additional fees incurred from his house mortgage, monthly bills, his two children’s college tuition, and the monthly maintenance of his taxi cab.
With each day, his dream of retiring before age 70 is becoming less and less of a reality. “I used to work six days a week, now I’m working seven days, 15 hours a day,” said Chow, shaking his head. “And it’s still not enough. I’m 60 years old now, and I don’t know how much longer I can do this for.”
And since the beginning of February, when a $2.50 congestion surcharge was tacked onto all cabs operating below Manhattan’s 96th Street by the state of New York, Chow’s already declining income from a disintegrating taxi industry has plummeted even further.
A Chinese immigrant, Chow speaks slowly and softly, often struggling to string together sentences in English. Yet, with greying hair and crow’s feet that crinkle when he smiles, any shortcomings in Chow’s speech are easily outshined by his amicable demeanor and unapologetic attempts to express his anger.
In late February he stood among the nearly 200 taxi drivers outside Governor Cuomo’s midtown office protesting the newly-imposed congestion surcharge. “Tax the rich, not the poor!” they chanted, as a collection of horns blared in agreement from taxi cabs driving by.
It was one of the first of many weekly protests organized by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), a 21,000-member union. Alliance members fear that the fee, intended to raise money to help fix the city’s subway system, will drastically reduce already low driver incomes and chase off customers when the industry is already suffering.
Yellow cabs have lost 40 per cent in revenue since 2015 and with the imposition of the congestion surcharge, it is expected to dip by another 30 per cent, according to NYTWA executive director Bhairavi Desai.
Since its imposition on Feb. 2, the NYTWA’s main battles have been geared toward advocating for the removal of the congestion surcharge. While a surcharge on private cars and trucks is forbidden by law to go into effect before December 2020, the NYTWA argues that the entire congestion surcharge plan will crush the yellow cab industry who are by no means newcomers to the affected “yellow zone” and therefore not responsible for the congestion.
“We’re out here today because this surcharge, that exists basically on the poor, comes while there are taxes that are left on the table that could be easily put on the ultra-wealthy in New York State,” said Desai, who has led the NYTWA since she founded it in 1998.
Despite the seemingly small figure of $2.50, said Chow, every loss adds up. A minimum taxi fare has inflated to $5.80, which has meant drivers lose out on short-distance trips—passengers now look to alternatives like the shared-ride services of Uber Pool and Lyft Line which are able to provide them lower fares.
Chow said he collects more than $40 worth of the congestion surcharge every day, on average. Just last month, he paid approximately $500 to the state of New York.
“The city, the state, they don’t care about us,” Chow said.
Another taxi driver, Golam Talukder, was quick to jump in on the conversation. A father of three and a taxi driver for the past 17 years, Talukder no longer knows how he will afford to send his children to college.
“My loans are a disaster,” said the 53-year-old Bangladeshi man. “Now, I might lose my house, my medallion, everything.”
Talukder purchased a medallion for $400,000 in 2002, which to this day he is still trying to pay off. Ten years ago, before the influx of Uber, he made a minimum of $200 each day.
When asked how much he makes today, Talukder pulled out the receipt for his Monday shift from his wallet, speaking rapidly as he calculated how much he pocketed from his nine-hour shift the day before: After accounting for the congestion surcharge, tolls, taxes and other additional fees, Talkuder’s initial $143.21 dropped to $95.45.
“It’s always been a very low-esteem, poorly paid, difficult job. No one stays in it if they don’t have to,” Hodges said. However, the job was once more stable. “There was mobility, and there was stability. And now it’s all gone.”
Mimicking Talukder, Chow pulled out his own stack of crumpled receipts from his jacket pocket, along with a blue ballpoint pen. From his 12-hour shift from the previous day, Chow brought home just $239 before taxes and after accounting for the $62 worth of fees that will go to the state. Flipping over one of his receipts, Chow does the math for what he would lose each year from the congestion surcharge if he were to take no days off: circled in dark ink was a chilling figure of $22,320.
“We’re here to say to our governor, enough suicides, enough bankruptcies, enough foreclosures,” Desai said. “The thing that hurts us, is that last March, when this law was passed, we were on the steps of City Hall, mourning the four brothers who by then, had committed suicide because of economic despair.”
Taxi drivers have a name for the new congestion pricing, according to Chow. The “suicide surcharge,” they call it. But even before the imposition of the surcharge, seven taxi drivers in the past year were driven to suicide from being trapped by high financial debt from an industry years in decline.
Chow’s younger brother, Kenny Yu Mein Chow, was one of the first victims.
At the time, Chow had no idea how bad things had become for Kenny until last May when he received a call from his sister-in-law to say that his younger brother Kenny had not returned from his shift at his usual time of 9:30 p.m. Chow said he will never forget contacting the GPS company to learn the exact location that his brother’s cab was last seen, only to arrive at the spot on 86th Street and East End Avenue at 11 pm. that night to find Kenny’s parked cab with no one inside it.
Most painful of all, burned into Chow’s memory is the call he later received from the medical examiner’s office that broke the dreadful 11-day silence throughout which Chow spent worrying: floating on the East River, just under the Brooklyn Bridge, Chow was told, police found Kenny’s lifeless body.
And on 26 May, news from Kenny’s dental office, whose analysis of his teeth — the only part of Kenny’s body still identifiable — confirmed that it was indeed him.
Almost one year later, unable to fully articulate what he felt in those moments and what he still carries with him to this day, Chow breathed out a shaky sigh. “I was so sad,” he finally managed to get out.
“I think he was very depressed, that’s why he couldn’t make it. That’s why he wanted to [commit] suicide,” Chow said, glancing down at his hands interlinked on his lap. After a few beats of silence, he continues. “Not just him. All my friends, including me. We’re very depressed. We’re not making enough money, we’re thinking of going home.”
A Chinese immigrant from Myanmar, Chow and his nine other siblings moved to Queens, New York more than 30 years ago in search of better financial opportunities.
“Before I started working in this business, Uber and Lyft weren’t here yet, so we had good business,” Chow said. “My American dream was coming true. We came to New York, and we were making money. My dreams were coming true.”
The arduous odyssey of Kenny and Robert Chow is not an uncommon one. Roy Kim, the most recent taxi driver to commit suicide, was also an immigrant in search of the American dream. At 58 years old, the Korean taxi driver hanged himself with a belt in his home in Queens last November.
“If you look at the ages of the eight brothers that we’ve lost, they were men in their 60s and 70s,” Desai said at the vigil held for Roy Kim last November. “They’d given all of their adult years to driving for this city.”
Red, yellow and pink carnations drifted along the murky waters of Corona Park’s Meadow Lake in Queens on Nov. 18 as a group of 20 taxi drivers huddled around the water’s edge to mourn Kim’s death.
“He is the kindest person I have ever met in my life,” said Dong Lee, 62, a fellow driver and longtime friend. “My friend is now gone,” Lee said, before breaking down in tears.
As the vigil, held on a bleak Sunday morning, drew to a close, then-Queens state Senator-elect John Liu, gripping red carnations in his hands, said the City of New York should take responsibility for easing some of the financial burden that have driven the seven drivers to their deaths.
“The drivers have taken this business risk willingly, but in such a short amount of time, they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Liu said. “It’s only right that the city, who’s collected those billions of dollars, also share in that lost revenue.”
City officials, after rising concerns around the driver suicides, began taking steps to alleviate some of that pain late last year. In August, the City Council approved a cap on Uber and other ride-hail vehicles in light of a 65 percent increase in ride-hail cars on New York’s streets from 2011 to July 2018. This was met with backlash from Uber, who sued the city in February in an attempt to prevent the continuation of the cap when it expires in August. In response, the T.L.C. said that they are closely monitoring the effect of the limit on for-hire vehicles.
“The trip data shows that [for-hire] daily trips continue to grow throughout the city,” said acting taxi commissioner Bill Heinzen. “Before the cap, the T.L.C. received more than 2,000 new [for-hire vehicle] applications a month, and this oversaturation in the market was harmful to driver income.”
The T.L.C., responsible for the regulation of the taxi industry, have also recently lowered the medallion transfer tax fee from five percent to 0.5 percent, which has “encouraged liquidity in the market,” according to Rebecca Harshbarger, a T.L.C. representative. And in an effort to prevent more suicides, 63 per cent of the T.L.C.’s employees have completed mental health first aid training, with a particular focus on staff that interact frequently with drivers, such as officers.
“Someone is always ready to help around the clock, every day of the year, in many different languages,” Harshbarger said.
But is it enough?
Desai is calling for the city to waive at least 20 per cent of existing loans from the medallion debt, and to establish a driver retirement program.
For Lal Singh, a 62-year-old Punjabi taxi driver, after three decades in the business, he no longer holds much hope for the future of the industry and his place in it.
“Our life is in the dark,” Singh said. “We can’t see anything in front of us — there’s no future for us. We used to feel like kings, now we feel homeless. We’re surviving off of Uber’s leftovers.”
Singh’s friend and fellow cabdriver Victor Salazar feels differently. A 54-year-old immigrant from Ecuador, Salazar considers himself one of the lucky ones. He has not, like many others, had to declare bankruptcy to stay afloat.
Pushing his black-framed glasses up the bridge of his nose, Salazar wistfully recounts his career behind the wheel. In 1993, he began driving and saving for a medallion which he secured 10 years later. In 2004, he paid $300,000, an investment that he remains proud of. “For me, it wasn’t a waste,” Salazar said.
But underneath his pride in an industry that he has devoted years of his life to, are the sacrifices he is not as willing to share. For Salazar, his beginnings as a taxi driver was not so much a choice as it was a necessity. His then-undocumented status and the birth of his first daughter left him without many other options career-wise.
“I always wanted to be an architect. I never was able to become an architect because I’m an immigrant, supporting a family,” Salazar said. “I was undocumented. And later, when I became documented, it was too late for me to go to college. I already made a family. I had to make something of my life. So I ended up purchasing a medallion.”
He now hopes to give his children the opportunities to pursue their own dreams — opportunities he did not have. Yet even those prospects seem unlikely: He, like several other taxi driver fathers, does not have the money to send his 13-year-old son to college. “He would probably have to learn how to drive the taxi in the future,” Salazar said.
Feeling trapped in a failing industry, Salazar has not much choice but to stay devoted to the medallion investment he made years ago. “It’s the only thing I know how to do now,” Salazar said. “If I sell the medallion, what am I going to do?”
For Salazar, migrating over to Uber or other e-hailing apps is out of the question.
“How would I consider moving to Uber — a company that clearly said, publicly, that they are going to replace drivers with driverless cars?” Salazar said, enraged at just the thought of it. “Giving my sweat and time to a company that one day is going to kick me in the butt and say ‘we don’t need you anymore’? I rather die with my boots on.”
Salazar often drives through Manhattan, from Harlem to Wall Street, searching in vain for passengers. While breaks are rare, the corner of 27th Street and Lexington Avenue is a popular hotspot for taxi drivers to grab a quick bite or go for a bathroom break. Indian restaurants are scattered along the block, and along with it usually sit 15 yellow taxi cabs parked outside.
One taxi driver, Mahmood Wara, a short, plump Afghani man with thick glasses, emerged from the doors of a restaurant after a break one evening. For Wara, his life at home has taken the hit for the extra hours he has had to put in to make up for the loss in income. Nowadays, he begins his shifts at 5 a.m. and clocks out at 5 p.m.
“You don’t have time for a family. To make them love you, to be with them,” Wara said. “They don’t see you. They don’t care, you’re just someone paying the bills.”
Wara has been driving for 32 years, evident in the way he confidently cruises down from Kips Bay to the Lower East Side without a single glance at a map. He hums a small tune while waiting at a red traffic light. All he seems to be doing lately, is waiting, he said.
According to Wara, he now makes 50 percent less than he used to earn before Uber arrived on the scene in 2010. A 12-hour shift today would give him $220, but after expenses, he often walks away with just $60 in his pocket. Every month, he is behind on his bills by approximately $1,000.
His oldest son of three was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Unable to keep up with the medical bills, Wara had his son become a ward of the state four years ago and placed into a group home, where he visits him twice a week.
“It’s not easy,” Wara said. “Life is getting harder and harder everyday. Especially when you have a blue-collar job. You don’t count. You’re just a slave.”
On the topic of depression, Wara is hesitant to answer. “It’s very hard to talk about these things because a taxi driver’s life is a miserable life,” Wara said, not taking his eyes off the road. “It’s embarrassing to talk about it because taxi drivers don’t get respect from society, they don’t get respect even from their own family.”
Wara, whose home life has been rocky since taking on more hours behind the wheel, no longer believes in love, he said. But, pulling out a black portable keyboard from the front seat of his taxi where he also stores his tambourine, recorder, harmonica, and in his trunk, his Indian drums, he lets his fingers flutter over the plastic keyboard keys. A melancholic tune fills the small space of the parked cab.
A hint of a smile played on his lips, the first of the day. “My love is now music,” he said.
The streets of Midtown rang with the voices of men, women and children singing Ke$ha’s “Praying” in solidarity with sexual assault survivors.
Yesterday’s performance protest, held on 36th Street, was in response to Saturday’s Senate-wide vote that confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by three women, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against him during the confirmation hearings late last month.
Organizers Ruby Pittman and Laura Diffenderfer say they chose the song “Praying” because it is about finding strength after surviving a sexual assault.
“It’s a very natural way for us to express ourselves,” Diffenderfer said. “I sometimes feel so sad about these events we’ve gone through recently, and I don’t know that I necessarily want to go to a protest and yell or be angry. I just want to have emotions and let them go and I want to gain strength from other women and other survivors.”
Before taking to the streets, the group of performers spent an hour rehearsing the song with one hand in the air, the position Blasey Ford took while being sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27.
“We came together against the appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court but also in support of women’s voices and for those who understand what it means to be silenced or misrepresented or not given equity in situations,” Pittman said.
Fatima Sindhu, 17, attended the protest after being shocked by Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Saturday.
“Me and my mom watched the vote yesterday, and she kept saying ‘he’s going to get confirmed,’” Sindhu said. “She always believes the negative. I was so hopeful and I really thought people wouldn’t vote for him. I was like ‘how could people support that?’ I was so angry.”
Sindhu said she attended to make her voice heard despite being too young to vote.
“This morning I found out about this protest and I felt like I had to do something,” she said. “It was very emotional. I don’t know how to explain the feeling but it was like I was a part of something. Everyone here was united for one cause.”
Diffenderfer said she was moved by the scope of the protest.
“I was in awe that so many people were there and we got to have this experience together and feel supported by one another,” she said. “That was probably the emotion that I felt most. I think a lot of this has made a lot of us feel very vulnerable and to have the onlookers join us felt really powerful.”
Although she found strength in her fellow protestors, Diffenderfer said she is still concerned about the future with Kavanaugh on the Court.
“It feels unbelievable in 2018 that we have to fight for this,” she said. “It’s not just Dr. Blasey Ford, it’s also that [Kavanaugh] wants to take away our rights. It’s not just this one event like did it happen, did it not. The whole picture doesn’t look good for women.”
The streets of Midtown Manhattan were flooded with protestors Monday night, as thousands gathered to march against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“It is important to show up to have these conversations,” said New York University student and protestor Sylvie Wilk. “We need to center the focus on those who are most vulnerable to this newest assault on the justice system.”
Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. But it was the testimony of Blasey Ford on Thursday and the rush to confirm the judge that led to New Yorkers marching. The march began at Madison Square Park, then stopped in front of the Yale Club, a private club for Yale alumni and faculty, and ended with a rally at Grand Central Station.
Morris Rakner, a graduate of Yale University and an attorney, is strongly against Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“I watched the hearing, I thought that Judge Kavanaugh handled himself very poorly and I think he was truly offensive,” said Rakner. “I think he would potentially be way too partisan to judge issues that had a political bearing.”
Samantha Schwartz attended the march to fight the gender double standard.
“I think it’s really disappointing that men get to grow up with this idea that their actions don’t have consequences,” said Schwartz. “With Kavanaugh in a place of power it shows young men that their actions don’t have consequences and it can get them into a place of power.”
In addition to Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, some protestors believe that Kavanaugh should not be nominated because they think that he lied in his testimony. Dr. John Heon, an education consultant, did not believe that Kavanaugh was honest in the hearing.
“This (Kavanaugh’s hearing) is truly an indication that we are in the post-truth era,” he said. “Kavanaugh has such a record that we can’t say at this point exactly what happened, but there is enough evidence that things did happen that were reprehensible and we have to take it seriously.”
Heon also believes that Republicans should propose an alternative for Kavanaugh in the nomination.
“If the Republicans can’t come up with someone who is untainted by sexual assault, then there is a problem,” said Heon.
By Alexandra Mathew
Hundreds of people marched from Madison Square Park, to the Yale Club and Grand Central Station last night in protest of the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
“They don’t get no peace, if we don’t get no justice,” they shouted as the members of the private club for Yale alumni and faculty shut their blinds.
The protest came in the wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh’s highly charged hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Despite Blasey Ford’s powerful testimony of being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, the committee pushed through his nomination. But they have agreed to allow a one week long FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.
For the protesters at the Yale Club, this wasn’t enough.
“They’re just trying to ram the nomination through still,” said Susan Ryan, 48. “They’re pretending to appease the public and adhere to procedure, but in actuality this is a Republican interest agenda, it’s a corporate agenda. That’s all they care about.”
Many of the protesters shared their anger at how the treatment of Blasey Ford during the hearing was a direct example of how women are treated in America.
“We are being confronted with misogyny everywhere,” said Katie Cooney, 37. “Our radar for trouble is always on, we are always on guard and we see the direct psychological effects of how sexual assault ruins your life with Dr. Ford. We need to change the culture.”
The credibility of Blasey Ford’s statements 36 years after the alleged assault is what was most commonly called into question by Republicans during her hearing. But other sexual assault survivors said lapses in memory are common for survivors.
“She was 100 percent credible in her statement,” said Kathy Hayes, 44. “Being a survivor of sexual assault I remember what she remembers. I remember the laughter.”
Ryan expressed her anger at how sexual assault victims are left as the one’s suffering while their assailants never face repercussions for their actions.
“He thinks he’s entitled to this position,” said Ryan. “And it doesn’t matter what he did, it doesn’t matter that he lied under oath, their going to push him through. It just speaks so clearly to how we blame victims and don’t take their allegations seriously as a country.”
The allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have incited a wave of activism and conversation in New York.
Hundreds gathered at Madison Square Park, marched to Yale Club, and then rallied at Grand Central on yesterday.
Among the chanting of “Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, Kavanaugh has got to go,” Sarah Whitman, 34, said she was frustrated by the process that might lead to the confirmation of Kavanaugh, despite the sexual assault allegations against him.
“They don’t care about humans,” Whitman said, speaking about politicians who support Kavanaugh. “They specifically don’t care about women.”
She believes he will be confirmed.
“I don’t know why anyone would think otherwise,” she said “Looking at history, looking at what happened in the judiciary committee hearings, and looking at the motivations behind the Republican majority, it feels very clear that he’s going to get confirmed. If they were not going to confirm him, they would have already pulled his name.”
On a much smaller scale, a quiet group gathered in Washington Square Park to show solidarity to victims of sexual assault. Many spoke of their own experiences and reasons for not reporting at the event organized by women’s activism group, “I Will Not Be Quiet.”
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke about her reactions to the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“I am absolutely disgusted by it, but I’m not surprised by it.” she said. “Like a lot of the women here, I’ve tried to report rape. It’s a commonplace thing for authorities to either think we’re lying or say, ‘well, you know you wanted it, you provoked it’.”
Many of Kavanaugh’s supporters cite the lack of physical evidence and the time gap between the date of the alleged assault and when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford decided to come forward. But supporters of Dr. Ford argue that negative and often accusatory reactions are exactly why victims of sexual assault are hesitant to report.
The pending decision was also heavily discussed on New York University’s campus.
Alison Biedron, an NYU sophomore gender studies major at NYU, recognizes the problems that people have with the 36-year-old time gap, while still echoing her support for victims.
“There is such a doubt, for men all around, even liberal people, to believe survivors,” Biedron said. “There is, in the US, ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ But, you shouldn’t be shamed for coming forward and immediately be called a liar. I think that students, especially male students, have a hard time with that.”
Biedron is sympathetic to victims, especially in Dr. Ford’s case, where many feel that her motivations are pure.
“[Victims] know that there’s nothing in it for them, except for closure,” Biedron said. “There isn’t a reason for [Ford] to come forward other than to tell the truth.”
While women staunchly defended Dr. Ford and other victims of sexual abuse, many were resigned about the outcome.
“It’s not really a matter of whether they believe her at this point, it’s whether they care,” Lena Friedman, a sophomore at NYU, said. “And I don’t think they do.”
Hannah Whitaker, a sophomore at NYU, believes that the discourse revolving around Kavanaugh and Ford is having an impact.
“I think it’s really redefining how we see consent, especially with the #MeToo movement,” Whitaker said. “Some people still see it as a bad thing. But times are changing.”
Whitaker said that it is unfortunate that men grow up in an environment where inappropriate behavior with women isn’t discouraged.
“That’s why the rest of us have to scream in protest, and really put an effort in to change people’s views, minds, and just change the people that are in charge,” she said.
NYC Dads Group is changing the narrative on fatherhood, one city at a time. Since its inception in 2008, City Dads group has been working as a support system for fathers from all walks of life. Listen to fathers tell you, in their own words, why parenting, for them, is more than just babysitting.
British milliner Julia Knox looks at her to-do list on Sunday, October 15. The hat maker owns and operates East Village Hats on East Seventh and First Avenue, where she handmakes hats for women and men on premises. Customers can pick up a pre-made hat or have one custom made. “About 40 percent of customers will get them custom,” Knox said.
At East Village Hats, headwear from straw hats to fascinators (or headpieces) to felt fedoras line the walls and the shelves. Knox, who was trained in millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology, makes most of the hats in the store. She prefers to make casual hats, instead of the fancier statement pieces popular in her home country of England.
Knox sews in a ribbon to what will become a felt porkpie hat using a sewing machine from the late 1800s. Felt is Knox’s favorite material to work with due to its versatility and flexibility. “Felt is really easy to work with, it’s really sculptural, it holds its shape, whereas straw is more fragile, you’ve got limits,” Knox said.
Knox takes a blowtorch to a felt fedora in order to create a distressed look that she says is in fashion. The heat creates a light discoloration to the dark blue felt and ribbon, making it look as if the material was bleached.
After working for a few hours, Knox stops at nearby taqueria for a burrito. East Village Hats, which was known as Barbara Feinman Millinery before Knox took over and renamed and relocated the shop just down the street, has been an East Village staple since 1998.
Leaning on a stack of Panama straw hats, Knox talks to a customer about the merits and history of Panamanian straw. Throughout the day, a steady stream of people wander in, attracted to the hats in the window, and wander out without buying anything. But Knox welcomes regulars with open arms as well, offering up hats she thinks they’d like and chatting easily.
While La Nina’s threat of harsh rain is expected to wreak havoc in the coming weeks, New York City is experiencing unusually high temperatures for the month of November. NYU students, routinely bundled up from head to toe by this time of year, are rejoicing.
All around campus, spirits are high, even as finals season quickly approaches; and Washington Square Park, generally a ghost town by the winter months, is still buzzing with life. Street performers, tourists, and students alike are taking advantage of the mild weather.
Owen Tynes, a native New Englander and NYU sophomore eats lunch on the park benches by the fountain every Tuesday. Thanks to the recent swell of warmth, he is still able to enjoy his turkey sandwich in the sunlight this late into the year.
“I have such a busy schedule I don’t have time to go home and eat in between classes,” Tynes said. “I look forward to chilling out in the fresh air for a few minutes every day. I’m happy I can still do that without freezing my butt off yet.”
Like many students, Tynes is still expecting a cold winter to approach in the coming weeks. Senior Manas Malik, recently stocked up on Uniqlo jackets to prepare for what he thinks is going to be a chilly season.
“I’m from California, but I’ve been here four years and I’ve yet to have a warm winter,” Malik said. “No way it’s going to last, but hey I wouldn’t complain if it does.”
Around midtown, Junior Maria Goetz, indulged in a nightly run to relieve stress after pre-med classes. She thanked the consistent warm weather for keeping her in shape this year.
“This time last year I was huddled in my dorm room escaping the snow.” Goetz said. “It’s almost December and I’m still running up to Times Square and back every night. It’s great!”
While still enjoying the September like weather, Environmental Studies student Tess Lancaster said the warmth served as a constant reminder of the rapidly changing climate.
“Over the past 10 years, what we’ve seen take place temperature and climate wise is something that should be taking place over 100 years,” Lancaster said. “So there’s no time for the eco-systems of earth to catch up. It’s a scary thing.”
Despite worrying statistics, Lancaster said climate change hasn’t gotten to the point of being irreversible yet.
“A little sunshine isn’t something to freak out about,” Lancaster said. “I definitely like not having to wear a coat out every day.”
Annual average temperatures have increased in all regions of the state as a result of climate change, which eventually, without drastic preventative measures, will have harmful overall effects. For many NYU students, however, a warmer New York City winter is a desirable occurrence.
“I’m just a happier person the warmer the weather,” sophomore Stephanie Tjoa said. “Especially around finals season, a cloudy day really affects my mood. I’d take 60 and sunny year round.”