Niou’s Push to Repeal Law That Targeted Transgender People Signed Into Law
Above: State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: “I have watched trans folk get followed by cops, ‘just because.’ Doing things cis-gendered people do every day. Waiting for the bus. Walking on sidewalk. Standing at a stop sign, waiting for traffic to pass. And get questioned, arrested. For what? Antiquated laws.”
Below: Trans-phobic decals recently posted around Lower Manhattan
A bill pushed through the State Assembly by member Yuh-Line Niou (who represents Lower Manhattan), which aims to repeal an anti-loitering statute that has come to be known by a bitterly ironic name—the “Walking While Trans” ban—was signed into law on Tuesday.
This law nullified by the new measure, section 240.37 of the New York State penal code, was theoretically written to target sex workers, but gave police officers broad discretion to arrest “suspects” (in practice, almost always women or transgender persons, and usually people of color) merely for walking or standing on the street. Officers were also empowered to consider whether, for example, a womanʼs clothing is too revealing, when deciding whether to make an arrest for “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.” While that law remained on the books, many local district attorneys, recognizing its discriminatory impact, decided of their own volition to stop bringing cases based on it.
Ms. Niou recalled the example of seeing a woman in a short, sequined skirt exit the now-defunct China Chalet restaurant on Broadway in the Financial District, and walk to the curb. In less than a minute, an unmarked NYPD van sped over, and officers jumped out, placing the woman in handcuffs. When Ms. Niou identified herself as an elected official and demanded and explanation, the officers told her they had ascertained that the woman was a prostitute simply by the way she was dressed. “She hadn’t approached anybody or even spoken to anybody on the street,” Ms. Niou said. “All she did was walk out of the restaurant.”
“I have watched trans folk get followed by cops, ‘just because,’” she continued. “Doing things cis-gendered people do every day. Waiting for the bus. Walking on sidewalk. Standing at a stop sign, waiting for traffic to pass. And get questioned, arrested. For what? Antiquated laws.”
In signing the repeal into law, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “the ‘walking while trans’ policy is one example of the ugly undercurrents of injustices that transgender New Yorkers—especially those of color—face simply for walking down the street. For too long, trans people have been unfairly targeted and disproportionately policed for innocent, lawful conduct based solely on their appearance. Repealing the archaic ban is a critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalization transgender people face simply for being themselves.”
In a separate (but related) development, multiple anecdotal reports indicate that trans-phobic militants have been sporadically posting small pink stickers around Lower Manhattan, emblazoned with the words, “Trans Women Are Men, and Most Have a Penis.”
On another front, Ms. Niou has also joined a coalition of elected officials calling on the New York Police Department (NYPD) to investigate and possibly disband the troubled Vice Unit, which has been plagued by allegations of bias and corruption in recent years. Ms. Niou joined a bloc of State and City legislators, who co-signed a December 14 letter calling upon leaders of the State Senate, Assembly, and City Council to convene hearings and open an investigation into the Vice Unit, which enforces laws related to prostitution.
Their letter noted that, “this unit’s actions have cost the city over $1 million settlement fees in false arrests since 2014,” and that, “undercover police have consistently engaged in unethical and deceptive practices, including sexual violence and obfuscating police recordings, in order to earn overtime pay for making these low-level arrests.”
They also allege that, “in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods, police have made three times as many arrests as in whiter neighborhoods. Of the 1,800 people charged with prostitution, 89 percent are non-white, and of the 3,000 accused of attempting to buy sex, 93 percent are non-white, predominantly from Black and Latino neighborhoods, despite surveys with sex industry workers showing that over 65 percent of customers are white.”
This push comes in response to an expose by the highly regarded non-profit investigative journalism organization, ProPublica, published on December 7, which detailed a litany of alleged abuses by the Vice Unit, including sexual assault, false arrest, and a practice of maximizing dubious arrests in order to inflate overtime pay.
In response to this report, the Lower Manhattan-based Legal Aid Society called upon the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to, “dissolve the troubled unit immediately and discontinue the use of undercover policing operations targeted at sex work.”
“The NYPD must take a critical look at how its practice of policing sex work has led to corruption and sexual misconduct within its Vice squads,” said Leigh Latimer, supervising attorney of the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention project. “It is time for the NYPD to acknowledge that Vice officers engage in unethical and, sometimes, illegal behavior and to ensure that those officers are held accountable for the harm they cause. This unit is beyond repair, and we demand the NYPD dissolve it immediately and terminate undercover policing operations targeted at sex workers.”
Vendor, Vidi, Vici
Council Member and Advocacy Group Score Win for Street Vendors
City Council member Margaret Chin, in partnership with a Lower Manhattan-based nonprofit, has spearheaded the passage of a new law that is poised to revitalize an economic engine of upward mobility for immigrant New Yorkers living near the poverty line.
On January 28, the City Council voted to enact a bill that will gradually lift the limit on the number of street vendor licenses issued by the City, which has been frozen at roughly 3,000 permits since 1983. To read more…
Wang Guangyi’s Great Criticism series, which juxtaposes revolutionary images with the Coca Cola and other western commercial logos, has become an iconic representation of China’s contemporary art movement. The series has been described again and again as a form of subtle political protest. But what did Wang really mean? Do we oversimplify Chinese art? Peggy Wang, author of the new published The Future History of Contemporary Chinese Art, examines China’s most famous “political pop” and challenges the way the art world views Chinese art. Pieces of China is an online series that tells the story of China, one object at a time. Each live-streamed 15-minute episode features experts, thought leaders, and friends, who will share objects, places, and ideas—personal or culturally significant—that combine to build a unique picture of modern China. Free
Most Americans know the notorious long o’s and w’s of the New York accent—do they really tawk like that?—and the fast pace and frequent interruptions of New York conversational style. Elements of New York speech are unique to the city’s Jewish community, and it has often been Jewish New Yorkers, like Mel Brooks and Bernie Sanders, who have represented New York speech in American pop culture. Join the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Museum of the City of New York for a program exploring what distinguishes Jewish New York speech and its evolution over the last century. $10.00
The 16 months from the Boston Tea Party to the Battles of Lexington and Concord changed the course of American history. In this lecture, Mary Beth Norton will explore what is known as the “long year” of the American Revolution, a time when once-loyal colonists began their discordant “discussions,” leading to the acceptance of the inevitability of a war against the British Empire. This lecture will take place via Zoom. $5
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The seconds are ticking. Day by day the local restaurants of Lower Manhattan are closing and passing away.
Why can the public shop in grocery stores and wine shops; take subways, buses and taxis; and not dine inside restaurants in small, controlled and tracked numbers on the coldest days?
These restaurants are the life successes of many talented and hard-working restaurant owners, the livelihoods of many others, and the breakfast, lunch and dinner stops of very many more.
Of course, during Covid, restaurants need to be highly regulated for public safety with set spaces and barriers between tables, temperatures taken and records kept, strictly limited numbers of diners, effective ventilation systems, uneven instructions for outdoor dining, etc. Constantly changing rules and procedures and the unrelenting threat of violations have made compliance extremely difficult and expensive.
When the NY State and NY City governments mandated indoor dining closure, they basically eliminated 60-75% percent of revenues for renters. Regardless of the lost revenue, the City and the State continued to require business-as-usual payments of permits/taxes/licenses. In addition, all insurance companies are demanding to be paid in full or all coverage will be terminated. For renters, rent/utilities/insurance are not forgiven but deferred, creating a vacuum of debt that 60-80% of them will be unable to repay, thus forcing them to shut down. Recent Downtown losses are Sale & Pepe and Blarney Stone.
For landlords, mandated forced indoor dining closure basically eliminated 80-100% percent revenue from renters income with the state mandate that landowners are not allowed to ask for rent or force an eviction for non-payment. Landlords are now in a major bind –– still mandated to pay all taxes, utilities, and mortgages as well as up-keep at their own expense. This is creating another vacuum of debt that small landlords will be unable to pay that will force the majority of mom and pop landlords into bankruptcy.
Why is inside-dining permitted throughout the State of New York and not in the City? If there is medical and scientific reasoning for this, the government is responsible for explaining why and working with restaurants to provide guidance to keep these businesses alive. Valentine’s Day has been set by Governor Cuomo as 25% opening day –– it is still two painful weeks away. Every second counts and the clock is ticking.
Bill Koulmentas of George’s Restaurant and Bob Schneck
Sounding A Lot Like the Leftists of 2011, Young Republicans Re-Occupy Zuccotti Park
On Sunday afternoon, several dozen members of the New York Young Republican Club gathered in the Financial District to protest alleged stock market manipulation by large traders, at the expense of individual investors.
No judgment for those of you who will want to drop those new year’s resolutions (or whatever other health kicks you’ve got going on) after reading this PSA:
NYC Restaurant Week launched this week, as hundreds of hot spots citywide have been lining up special delivery deals through February 28.
Promotions include lunch or dinner with a side for $20.21, two-course brunches and lunches ($26) and three-course dinners ($42), mostly Monday through Friday. (Some participating restaurants are honoring those prices on weekends.)
Dozens of restaurants south of Chambers Street plan to take part in NYC Restaurant Week, including Brooklyn Chop House, The Fulton, Crown Shy, Stone Street Tavern, The Dead Rabbit and more.
The Restaurant Week website lists several more tempting options to treat yourself — even if it means playing it a little fast and loose with your commitments to fitness. (We won’t tell.)
On Thursday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio, at his eighth (and final) State of the City address, announced that a dedicated bike lane would be coming to the Brooklyn Bridge (with another slated for the Ed Koch Bridge) before the end of this year.
“The Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge are iconic and deeply intertwined in the daily lives of countless New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Sparkling, blue-white Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky, rises in the east-southeast 20 minutes after sunset this evening and will rise simultaneously with sunset by month’s end.
As twilight deepens, Sirius – from the ancient Greek Seirios for “scorcher” or “glowing” – appears above the skyline leading one of winter’s most alluring constellations, Canus Major, or The Big Dog, into the sky.
January’s Full Wolf (or Hunger) Moon rises at 4:55pm on Thursday the 28th as the Sun sets on the opposite horizon at 5:02pm. Twilight gathers half an hour later.
Astrophotography by Mario Motta, MD. All Rights Reserved
TODAY IN HISTORY
1913 – Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist (d. 2005)
1169 – A strong earthquake struck the Ionian coast of Sicily, causing tens of thousands of injuries and deaths, especially in Catania.
1555 – John Rogers is burned at the stake, becoming the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England.
1789 – George Washington is unanimously elected as the first President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.
1797 – The Riobamba earthquake strikes Ecuador, causing up to 40,000 casualties.
1801 – John Marshall is sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States.
1859 – The Codex Sinaiticus is discovered in Egypt. In 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt, in the Monastery of Saint Catherine, by the Leipzig archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf. The Codex Sinaiticus is an ancient handwritten copy of the Greek Bible, and alongside the Codex Vaticanus, it is the finest Greek text of the New Testament.
1938 – Adolf Hitler appoints himself as head of the Armed Forces High Command.
1945 – World War II: The Yalta Conference between the “Big Three” (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) opens at the Livadia Palace in the Crimea.
1967 – Lunar Orbiter program: Lunar Orbiter 3 lifts off from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 13 on its mission to identify possible landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo spacecraft.
1974 – The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps Patty Hearst in Berkeley, California.
1976 – In Guatemala and Honduras an earthquake kills more than 22,000.
1999 – Unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo is shot 41 times by four plainclothes New York City police officers on an unrelated stake-out, inflaming race relations in the city.
2004 – Facebook, a mainstream online social networking site, is founded by Mark Zuckerberg.
1447 – Lodovico Lazzarelli, Italian poet (d. 1500)
1676 – Giacomo Facco, Italian violinist and composer (d. 1753)
1677 – Johann Ludwig Bach, German violinist and composer (d. 1731)
1818 – Emperor Norton, San Francisco eccentric and visionary (d. 1880)
1902 – Charles Lindbergh, American pilot and explorer (d. 1974)
1906 – Clyde Tombaugh, American astronomer and academic, discovered Pluto (d. 1997)
1913 – Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist (d. 2005)
1921 – Betty Friedan, American author and feminist (d. 2006)
1943 – Ken Thompson, American computer scientist and programmer, co-developed the B programming language
1947 – Dan Quayle, 44th Vice President of the United States
211 – Septimius Severus, Roman emperor (b. 145)
1555 – John Rogers, English clergyman and translator (b. 1505)
1905 – Louis-Ernest Barrias, French sculptor and academic (b. 1841)
2000 – Carl Albert, 54th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (b. 1908)
2006 – Betty Friedan, American author and activist (b. 1921)
2007 – Jules Olitski, Ukrainian-American painter and sculptor (b. 1922)