Friday, October 2, 2015

NYC For Sale: From 68th Street to Times Square, Labor Struggles, Free Speech Battles, and Pharma Greed #savetimessquare #cunyneedsaraise #PSCCUNYBC

8:05 AM This writer and Chancellor James B. Milliken,
who can't seem to get us a new contract.
68th Street

10:35 AM, speaking out for free speech in Times Square

12:30 at 6TH AVE and 45th

11:35 Times Square
Three actions in four hours - a day well spent.

There are days that New York blows me away.

Today, I woke up at six, hopped on my bike and rode out of Brooklyn for three street actions, one for my union, another against the ongoing clean up (class cleansing) of Times Square, and a third around pharma greed for ACT UP. 

Much of the day, took place at the intersection of the world, around Times Square. This used to be a place for cross-class contact, notes Samuel Delany in Times Square Red/Times Square Blue.  On days like today, it still feels like it can be.  It should be. Yet, it is always being remapped, redrawn, with each new round of plans and reconfigurations, a further effort and pushing the poor further to the periphery, out of site, away from the world, from the intersections between cultures.  Here the high dances with the low in a Broadway Boogie Woogie in which New York thrives. 

Yet, there are always people out there who resent this melding of cultures, planning new rounds of plans to "fix" the area.  Why because topless women roam or people hustle, preach or hang out too long. 
"In order to bring about this redevelopment, the city has instituted not only a violent reconfiguration of its own landscape but also a legal and moral revamping of its own discursive structures, changing laws about sex, health, and zoning, in the course  of which it has been willing, and even anxious, to exploit everything from homophobia and AIDS to family values and fear of drugs," wrote Delaney after the 1990's rezoning of Times Square.  Yet, there are other story lines of the city, of living here, when workers push back against power brokers, organizers offer counter narratives to homogenization of public space, and health care activists push back against the abuses of privatization, greed, and a system which rewards profits above all else.  Make no mistake, the super rich want this city to work for them, charging exorbanent prices for medications, clearing the messiness of Times Square and balancing the CUNY budget on the backs of students.  But there is another story of New York City.

We spent the week working to plan for the actions, making signs and costumes into the night on Tuesday.

Imagine what New York would be like without CUNY?  Yet, the governor seems more interested in 
taking the calls of the KOCH Brothers than fund the City University of New York as his father and past governors have. It will not be our last call visit to those putting road blocks in front of our contract.

So, I rode my bike out early to join a picket in front of the house of our new Chancellor James B. Milliken . 

Thursday, October 1, 8:00 AM
CUNY faculty and staff will mount a protest in defense of quality education and deliver a wake-up call to Chancellor James B. Milliken at his Upper East Side apartment building. A year into the job, Milliken apparently still hasn’t woken up to the crisis of academic quality brewing at CUNY, where the faculty and staff have worked six years without a raise. CUNY’s academic departments are struggling to recruit and retain faculty, professors and advisers are less able to give student the attention they deserve, and tuition has gone up every year.
Protesters will call on Milliken to deliver a fair economic offer to their union and allow resolution of their contract. Milliken still has not put one penny on the table.
Hundreds of CUNY faculty and professional staff, members of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
CUNY students, labor and community allies
Other CUNY employees, also working without a contract
A wake-up call, morning protest in front of the CUNY chancellor’s apartment building
Faculty in academic robes with signs and placards
Hundreds of alarm clocks ringing in unison
Life-sized photo cut-out of the CUNY chancellor
Thursday, October 1 at 8:00-9:00 AM
215 East 68th St. (East 68th St. & 2nd Ave.)
About the Professional Staff Congress:
The Professional Staff Congress (PSC/CUNY), affiliated with NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, NEA and the AFL-CIO, represents more than 27,000 faculty and professional staff at the City University of New York and the CUNY Research Foundation. Our members teach and support half a million matriculated and continuing education students at CUNY. PSC-CUNY.ORG, @PSC_CUNY
Barbara Bowen wrote out a call to the union membership.
The CUNY faculty and staff have gone six years without a raise, but we continue to do our jobs. It’s time for Milliken to do his. That’s the message we will deliver tomorrow morning: we need a fair contract and we need it now!
Students and allies from labor unions across the city are coming to join us; we need to make sure that there are hundreds of PSC members—or more. We need you there.
Where: 215 East 68th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues).
When: Tomorrow, Thursday, October 1.Gather at 7:30 a.m., rally from 8:00 to 9:00. Please join us even if you can attend only part of the demonstration.

What: A wake-up call in academic regalia to demand action on a contract that protects educational quality. We will supply academic gowns, alarm clocks, signs and music to make sure CUNY management wakes up!

The RMO jammed to "Working 9-5" as we left.
Thanks for all the solidarity gang.  Its great to see us out in the streets.

Writers and authors, organizers and administrators, even
students descended on 68th Street. 

Thank you, PSC members!
You came out by the hundreds on Thursday morning to demand that Chancellor Milliken take action now to settle the contract. Close to 1,000 people joined the protest. Click here for a slideshow from the event, and here for a video made by a member.
Faculty and staff from every campus, together with CUNY students and labor allies, demonstrated outside of Milliken's ridiculously expensive apartment chanting "No contract, no peace!" and "Wake up, Chancellor, wake up!" We were accompanied by hundreds of ringing alarm clocks and a brass band. Aided by his PR firm, Milliken will no doubt try to minimize the impact of the protest, but it is already clear that our message was heard as far as Albany.
Media coverage included print and on-line reports both before and after the demonstration; and The Daily News published a perfectly timed op-ed about the crisis in educational quality at CUNY caused by under-investment by the State. News of the protest reached more than 30,000 readers through the PSC's Facebook page and thousands more through Twitter. Follow the hash tags #CUNYneedsaraiseand #CUNYcontractnow to see photos and more. Additional press clips and video footage will appear on the PSC website as they become available.
What comes next? The goal of the protest was to force movement on a fair economic offer. The PSC and CUNY management have several bargaining sessions scheduled for the next few weeks, and we will use them to press hard for progress on economics. At the same time, the union leadership continues to advocate directly with the State government for an allocation of funds to cover our contract. I was in discussion with the Governor's Office on our contract as recently as Thursday afternoon.
We hope that Milliken has woken up to the urgency of providing a workable economic offer. But if necessary, the PSC is prepared to escalate further. We will soon announce plans for a more disruptive action scheduled for November 4. The depth of participation in Thursday's protest makes it clear that union members are ready for a more militant action. We will need all of you, though, to be sure that the next action is a success. 
Thursday's early-morning demonstration was an impressive showing of commitment by PSC members and of support from the entire New York City labor movement. Our success was thanks to every one of you who made the effort to be there and to the hundreds of members who made sure to bring others. Thank you all. October 1 was an important step in the PSC's strategic effort to achieve the contract we need.
In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC

Finishing the action, we descended upon Times Square where the times-square-task-force was making plans and recommendations to sanitize the space, pushing costumed characters and topless woment into special zones away from the crowds.  But what of freedom of assembly or cross class contact, we wondered.  Public Space Party planned to make an appearance as the Free

Public Space for the People.  But many of us wondered: Would this be a public space or a police space, a free speech or speech free zone?  It was a question we've asked a lot in recent years. 

Mellow Yellow helped us frame the question earlier in the spring.

Times Square and its public spaces are vital to the streets of New York.  They help us define this space  in much the same way  the Prague’s Wenceslas Square, Paris’ Champs Elyssee, Venice’s Piazza San Marco, Barcelona’ Las Ramblas, Miami’s beaches seem to embody these cities.  Indeed, great public spaces help bring people together, acting as incubators for   ideas, community engagement, reforms, revolutions, culture, activism and new ways of looking at social problems.  Times Square has always been a place where people gather, high culture intersects with the low, stories grow, and reform movements take shape.

Yet, in August of this year, Police Chief William declared he hoped to tear up the pedestrian plaza in Times Square.  Even as he’s backed off on the idea, he’s endorsed a new model of policing the area, leaving public space advocates to wonder: is this going to be policed space or public space?  Is this a space for free speech or a speech free zone?

These spaces benefit urban spaces culturally, economically, and socially. 

Yet, today, they are under attack, with the police and the mayor calling for new forms of policing to control the space, to corral off access to the space, and curtail expressive first amendment expression.  

Topless rights:
‘I didn’t expose myself – I exposed everybody else’ explained performance artist Holly Van Voast after successfully litigating against the New York Police Department (NYPD) for arresting her for walking around public spaces of New York topless.1 On one occasion, she was busted for strolling in front of Hooter’s topless, wearing a mustache and a Marilyn Monroe wig during the 20th anniversary of the New York Court of Appeals decision which found women have the same right to stroll topless in public space in New York as men do. ‘After experiencing a number of busts, we are pleased to announce that Holly Van Voast has received compensation’, noted her lawyer. ‘The policy of the NYPD has been changed as a result of Van Voast’s experiences, and now the NYPD has been properly instructed as to the proper handling of bare breasts.’

Yet, today we have to wonder if the NYPD really does know how to handle bare breasts.

After all,  the courts have spoken.  TOPLESSNESS is LEGAL, and morals have no place there. 

What are we concerned about?
Access to public space.  Even if the mayor is no longer considering doing away with the pedestrian plazas of Times Square, the threat to this space is very real.  Today, the Mayor begins a new round of policing Times Square for "Quality of Life" just as Giuliani once did.  Have Giuliani era crack downs on the first amendment begun anew?

The "Times Square Unit" is modeled on the city's Neighborhood Policing model. Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to hire an additional 1,300 police officers for the community policing effort, beginning in October.  With all the police coming to the space, will there be room to speak, talk, protest, or enjoy first amendment protections? 

The Free Speech Unit reminds you public space is for the people.  Just like no one can be kindov pregnant, we do not kindov have First Amendment Rights. We full have First Amendment Rights. Take advantage of it and remind the world Times Square is a place where stories start.  Be part of one.

We'll be at Times Square on October 1 at 11 AM at TKTS steps at Broadway between 46th and 47th.  Join us!

So we arrived, asking if this was going to be a free speech or speech free zone?

I talked with several costumed characters about their feelings about the plans of the Mayor's task force.  Were any of these workers on the task force?  Were civic groups as opposed to business groups invited?  What of regular people?  Where were the voices of these workers?  What free speech?  A few of stood on the soap box and asked the question. 

"Who are on this task force?" we asked, talking with reporters awaiting the recommendations for the Mayor's task force.

Along the way, one policeman actually said he hoped we'd come every day.  And more and more people took part in our small action. 

The Gothamist later published an article on the recommendations. Normal Siegel battles Giuliani on this stuff and it looks like he is going to have to battle Mayor Bratton and company. 

"If you're going to sort of create different areas where people are allowed to do things and not others, I suppose you have to provide proper warning that they're entering a muppet zone, or a nipple zone," Kuby said. "DANGER: NIPPLES PAST THIS POINT. Or other things to properly inform the public of the perils they face."

The recommendations look beyond absurd.  While the Giuliani era XXX zoning law specifically called for regulations of "discernibly turgid" male genitalia in clubs, the new news have a similar ridiculous and unconstitutional feel. 

"The more I thought about it the crazier it all seems:rules about what you can or cannot wear! Would it be no longer be possible to wear a silly outfit and walk through midtown?"  noted Michael "Ziggy" Mintz, of Public Space Party.  "I almost can't wait for our future protest at borderlands between the yes-nipple and no-nipple zone..." 

Erik conspired the costumed charact for one big photo shoot.  Later, he wrote a summary of the action, posting some wonderful pictures. 

"Public Space Party members are forming a Free Speech Unit to be in force as opposition to the Times Square Unit, enforcing the celebration and utilization of First Amendment rights and public space. We will "patrol" and "enforce" at 10:30am. At 11am we will have a little speak out in a Free Speech zone where you can jump up and shout whatever you want. Sing, dance, yell, take off your shirt, etc.
Public Space Party were able to connect with New York City Artists United for a Smile, the organization fighting for the rights of the costume characters in response to Mayor de Blasio and Bratton's attempt to get rid of the pedestrian plazas in Times Square and bringing in 100 police officers to patrol TS specifically to maintain "quality of life" starting October.
This is all on the pretense that they want to get rid of the Desnudas - painted topless buskers, and the characters posing for photos. But once they take away this plaza, then they'll take away more and/or maybe lead to having other public spaces heavily patrolled. Not the kind of NYC I want to live in.
El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!
© Erik Mc Gregor - - 917-225-8963"

Finishing at Times Square, we ran up the street to join act up and vocal to denounce hedge fund manager who upped the price of an aids drug.

Pharma Greed Kills!  End Drug Profiteering
JOIN VOCAL-NY, ACT UP/NY and the Hedge Fund Clippers!

GATHER: 11:45AM at 46TH & 6TH AVE in front of the Duane Reade

RALLY: NOON at 1177 6TH AVE between 45th/46th Streets

Bring your rage and your hedge fund clippers to Turing Pharmaceuticals and demand an end to systematic profiteering by Big Pharma and Wall Street. Join us at the offices of Michael Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals, because life saving drugs should be a public good, not a commodity for hedge funds looking to make a killing. Shkreli is just the latest example of our dysfunctional system for developing and distributing prescription drugs. Our tax dollars fund cures that universities turn into lucrative start ups and multinationals produce for pennies per pill. Time to get rid of the all parasitic turds in the litter box!

Share widely and RSVP!

Mark Milano compared Shkreli to a parasite in need of cat litter. 

Once again, Erik joined us, taking the best pictures.  

"PRICE GOUGING ON DRUGS MUST END! is the message Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY) and ACT UP New York activists brought to the lobby of Turing Pharmaceuticals Offices in Midtown, New York City. Activists are protesting Martin Shkreli's despicable money making scheme, raising the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750.00
These groups demanded and end to pharmaceutical price gouging for all drugs. People's lives must not be held hostage by greed-driven drug company CEOs and hedge fund managers.
ACT UP NY Mark Milano and Vocal NY Carl Stubbs were seen pouring cat litter in a cat litter box with the photo of Martin Shkreli at the bottom outside Turing Pharmaceuticals Offices in New York City as part of a symbolic visual protest against Martin Shkreli's despicable money making scheme, raising the price of Daraprim a drug to treat Toxoplasmosis from $13.50 to $750.00. Toxoplasmosis is mainly contracted by exposure to infected cat feces.
© Erik Mc Gregor - - 917-225-8963"

"People Not Profits, Pharma Greed Kills" - Activists today from Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY)., ACT UP New YorkThe Hedge Clippers,Health GAPGMHC, and others take over the lobby ofMartin Shkreli's office to call him and other bad Pharma CEOs out for price gouging life-saving medicines and their attempts to get rich off the sick.#shame photo and captions by Erik Mc Gregor" 

 Storming the offices of greed: These folks are guilty of raising the price of a 62 year old generic drug over 5000% - from $13.50 per pill to $750.00 dollars. The drug: Daraprim. Coat 66 cents to make in the UK - which we the US can't buy because of trade agreements - and cost 10 cents to make in India. ACTUP - FIGHT BACK - END AIDS!!!! — withBenjamin Heim ShepardMichael KerrIvy ArceBryn Marie and Jason VernaKular Walker. photo and caption by Dominic Romeo


It was a day for the ages, one which helps us all feel like New York can be for everyone. 
We hope it can be. So, we'll keep on fighting and hanging out and smiling. 

A drink with Wyatt and a smile with Caroline Smith to finish the day. Photo of the Manhattan Bridge today by Wyatt Smith

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