On December 18, Jupiter (brighter) and Saturn were photographed in the southwest sky from Lower Manhattan at sunset. Scroll down to Eyes to the Sky for details on tonight’s rare celestial alignment.
Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Snow dude waiting for a game on the ballfields. Photo: courtesy BPCA
Clamping Down on Vice
Niou Joins Lawmakers Calling for Rollback of NYPD Unit
Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: “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.”
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has 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.”
The joint letter also cites the case of, “an undocumented woman in a Chinese massage parlor [who] described being forced by officers to disrobe and walk naked, handcuffed, around the massage parlor, even as she begged the officers to let her put her clothes on.”
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.”
In a separate (but related) development, the New York State legislature is considering a bill that would repeal an anti-loitering statute that has come to be known by a bitterly ironic name: the “Walking While Trans” ban. This law, theoretically written to target sex workers, gives 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 are 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.”
Ms. Niou recalls 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 says. “All she did was walk out of the restaurant.”
photo: Alison Simko
Offbeat And Upbeat
On Monday, December 21, starting at 6:30 pm, Trinity Church will host an online LGBTQ Holiday Gathering—a festive and supportive virtual space for celebration and companionship among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer family and friends.
Participants are invited to wear their funniest holiday sweater and bring their favorite holiday songs. All are welcome.
The Downtown Community is rallying around one of its own.
Tammy Oliver has worked since the late 1980s, serving thousands of children at P.S. 234, as well as at the after-school and Downtown Day Camp programs operated by Manhattan Youth.
In May, Ms. Oliver’s husband Joe (once a bus driver for Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Day Camp) suffered a stroke that requires him to have full-time home care. To cover this cost, Ms. Oliver is now working extra, part-time jobs (from 3:00 to 6:00 am, on weekends and holidays), in addition to her full time work at P.S. 234.
Both husband and wife are grappling with exhaustion, stress, and uncertainty. But many of the families who have benefited from Mr. and Mrs. Oliver’s work during the past 30 years are banding together by contributing to a GoFundMe campaign, to help pay for the care Mr. Oliver needs.
The Church Street School for Music and Art will continue a decades-long Downtown tradition (albeit, in virtual form, as a concession to COVID-19) by offeringGingerbread House Decorating Kits (priced at $85), now through Christmas week.
Each take home kit includes one homemade gingerbread house, a variety of candy, freshly made icing, and one foiled round to set your house up on. In addition to offering great holiday fun, this program is one of the most important fundraisers for the highly regarded non-profit institution that has brought enrichment to the lives of generations of Lower Manhattan kids.
“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox: that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”
Eyes to the Sky
Jupiter and Saturn closest meeting in centuries on the 21st: get ready!
The show is on and thrilling to observe!
Everyday this week, within one hour of sunset, in the colorful sky to the southwest, brilliant planet Jupiter and fainter Saturn appear aligned just above skyline. See the two shining, star-like points of light incrementally closer to one another each successive evening. We are witnessing the overture to a phenomenal astronomical moment known as a Great Conjunction of the largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn.
A few nights ago, we looked southwest just after sunset and saw the crescent moon arcing over Lower Manhattan. Here, Jupiter is visible over the Battery Park City high-rise, but Saturn is too faint to see. Tonight, the two planets will align and be seen from our Earth perspective as one.
photo: courtesy BPCA
Community Board 1 Landmarks & Preservation Committee
Non-Profit Outlines Plan for ‘Safe Haven’ Shelter on Washington Street
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to create a homeless shelter at a historic building on Washington Street, in the Greenwich South neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, in partnership with a highly regarded non-profit, the Center for Urban Community Services.
As discussed at the Thursday evening meeting of the Quality of Life Committee of Community Board 1, CUCS proposes to launch a “safe haven” shelter for up to 84 clients, at 105 Washington Street.
“This facility will not for warehousing,” said CUCS’s chief operating officer, Douglas James. “We aim to move people from the streets to permanent housing.”
Imagine what it’s like to be a kid who, for some reason, isn’t on Santa’s list. Now, just imagine what a huge impact you can make in the life of a child and their parents by being their secret Santa.
Stockings with Care, a charity based in Lower Manhattan, steps in to help when parents cannot provide Christmas gifts for their children, so no child is left out. But the organization, which has benefited over 40,000 children since 1992, needs your help. The parents give the gifts that donors (such as you) provide to the child, preserving their dignity and connection, while ensuring the gifts received are the ones the child wished for. Stockings with Care has created five easy ways to contribute.
DOT Overrules Community Concerns about Delivery Bike Facility in Tribeca
The City’s Department of Transportation has ignored calls from Community Board 1 to address concerns of Tribeca residents before installing a cargo bike corral on Warren Street (between West and Greenwich Streets), to facilitate the use of powered bicycles when making grocery deliveries. To read more…
The Giving Tree
Trinity Church wants to help you make a stranger feel special this Christmas.
Purchase a Christmas gift to support children, adults, and seniors served by several of Trinity’s partner organizations throughout New York City.
Your gifts will go to fellow New Yorkers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom wouldn’t receive gifts this year without your help.
Lower Manhattan’s First House of Worship Gets a Facelift
The ongoing evolution of Lower Manhattan’s preeminent landmark, Trinity Church, is proceeding with new signage on the fence surrounding the property, and a new stained glass window within its facade, facing Broadway.
Most recently, following a December 8 hearing, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved requests to add two pairs of new signs (one set of traditional display frames and one pair of digital screens) to Trinity’s exterior fence, which dates from 1827. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Antonov An-225 Mriya is a strategic Russian airlift cargo aircraft that was designed during the 1980s. It is powered by six turbofan engines and is the heaviest aircraft ever built, with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tons. (Wikipedia)
AD 69 – The Roman Senate declares Vespasian emperor of Rome, the last in the Year of the Four Emperors
1620 – Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
1907 – The Chilean Army commits a massacre of at least 2,000 striking saltpeter miners in Iquique, Chile
1913 – Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.
1963 – “Bloody Christmas” begins in Cyprus, ultimately resulting in the displacement of 25,000–30,000 Turkish Cypriots and destruction of more than 100 villages.
1967 – Louis Washkansky, the first man to undergo a human-to-human heart transplant, dies in Cape Town, South Africa, having lived for 18 days after the transplant.
1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 is launched from the Kennedy Space Center, placing its crew on a lunar trajectory for the first visit to another celestial body by humans.
1988 – A bomb explodes on board Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270. This is to date the deadliest air disaster to occur on British soil.
1988 – The first flight of Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest aircraft in the world.
1995 – The city of Bethlehem passes from Israeli to Palestinian control.
1542 – Thomas Allen, English mathematician and astrologer (d. 1632)
1603 – Roger Williams, English minister, theologian, and politician, 9th President of the Colony of Rhode Island (d. 1684)
1615 – Benedict Arnold, Rhode Island colonial governor (d. 1678)
1795 – Jack Russell, English priest, hunter, and dog breeder (d. 1883)
1804 – Benjamin Disraeli, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1881)
1872 – Trevor Kincaid, Canadian-American zoologist and academic (d. 1970)
1918 – Kurt Waldheim, Austrian colonel, war criminal, and politician; 9th President of Austria and for a time head of the United Nations(d. 2007)
1926 – Joe Paterno, American football player and coach (d. 2012)
1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress, producer, and activist
1940 – Frank Zappa, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 1993)
1944 – Michael Tilson Thomas, American pianist, composer, and conductor
1940 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1896)
1945 – George S. Patton, American general (b. 1885)
1992 – Albert King, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1924)
2017 – Bruce McCandless II, US astronaut who conducted the first untethered spacewalk (b. 1937)