All Articles Tagged "new york city"

Travel Trials: I Almost Got Kidnapped By A Cult In New York City

March 31st, 2016 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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(As relayed by Lauren R.D. Fox based on a culmination of experiences)

Last year, I completed a domestic study abroad at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The experience was superb and I learned a lot about the music industry. As everyone knows, New York City can be a tough place to make friends and I had a hard time meeting people. However, one day after walking around aimlessly in the campus bookstore, I met Leia.

Leia was a nice person but to be honest, something about her energy was off. She carried her Bible around wherever she went and during conversations she referred to it often; even when discussing something as small as the weather.

One day Leia asked me if I would like to attend her church and, although something told me to decline her invitation, I felt it would be rude to do so. Once I said yes, Leia began to spew information about her church’s history and told me once I stepped foot into her church’s sanctuary I would feel the presence of God.

Although I was weirded out by her church  “pitch,” I couldn’t lie, I needed God more than ever during my time in New York. In the midst of keeping up with my school work, interning at a record label and going on unpredictable Tinder dates, I felt exhausted. I thought visiting Leia’s church would help lift my spirits and give me the encouraging boost I needed.

However, I thought wrong. When the day came to visit her church, Leia told me to meet her at Grand Central station. Once I arrived, she led me outside and a white van approached us. She told me the van’s driver would transport us to the church. Although I never asked, I assumed her church was located in Manhattan; it was in New Jersey.

When we reached our destination, I was shocked. Her place of worship was actually a warehouse. Once we exited the van, we were greeted by Leia’s church family who called me Sister Nina, despite me not being a member of their congregation. I ignored their eerie niceness and entered the church to find the praise and worship team warming up. As I tried to sing along to their musical selections, I noticed a few members carrying a plastic bathtub into the sanctuary.

Once the congregation stopped worshiping, the entire church surrounded me. A woman then came forward and told me to strip naked and sit in the bathtub. When I asked why, she said the Lord was ready to receive me. I looked for the nearest exit and, of course, security was in place just in case I thought of running out. Unwillingly, I undressed and as soon as I did, the members (Leia included) started to chant (in an unknown language) and throw buckets of water on me. Afterward, they gave me towels and told me how happy they were  to have me as a member of their church. I continued to play along with their “baptismal” service that extended well into the evening time. I asked Leia if we could leave several times and she ignored me. Eventually, the driver took me and Leia back to New York City and once we arrived at Grand Central, I ran to the nearest train.

Interestingly enough, I never saw or heard from Leia after I became a member of her church. She has since deleted all of her social media accounts.

If You’re Black In The Big Apple, Homeownership Is Tough

June 19th, 2015 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Getting a mortgage in New York City is tough for everyone, according to DNAinfo, but it is particularly tough for Black Americans.

In the Big Apple, 18 percent of all mortgage applications are rejected — compare this to the national average of 12 percent, according to researchers from StreetEasy, a real estate service. Naturally, rejection rates are higher in the city because of its high prices. But when we zoom in on African-Americans, the figures drastically jump.

Denial rates for Blacks hover at around 34 percent — twice that of White households — which saw 16 percent of their loan applications thrown by the wayside.

“When it comes to achieving homeownership here in the city, race matters,” StreetEasy’s Alan Lightfeldt said.

Lead investigators discovered that Blacks applied for mortgages at a much lower rate than Whites. Even though African Americans (and Latinos) represent 51 percent of the New York City population, their submissions only make up 11 percent of the Big Apple’s mortgage applications.

In New York City, the homeownership rate by race and ethnic group are as follows: 42 percent for Asians, 27 percent for Blacks, 16 percent for Latinos, and 41 percent for Whites.

Why is the homeownership rate for Blacks this low? According to Lightfeldt, socioeconomic factors, such as poor credit and low income, play a big part of the problem. But Matthew Hassett from the Center for NYC Neighborhoods says discrimination is another culprit.

“Most recently, these communities of color were particularly hard hit because of predatory lending,” he said. Hassett added that despite the fact Blacks represent a small fraction of New York homeowners, they make up 30 percent of all scam victims.

Hassett also pointed out that the Great Recession left the Black community in shambles and contributes to their difficulties in owning a home. “In New York City, like a lot of parts of the country, wages are stagnant and have been stagnant for years, and it’s very hard to qualify for a mortgage right now,” he said.

Hassett concludes that even for the middle class, homeownership is out of reach. It’s time for New York City, he says, to create initiatives that support affordable housing.

“If we don’t,” Hassett warns, “there’s going to be a continued turnover of homes to investors, which we are already seeing.”

New York City Creates Publicity Videos For Democratic National Convention Bid

January 13th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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The City of New York is busy promoting itself as a candidate host city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC). The goal of the DNC is to nominate and confirm who will be the Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2016 November elections. Aiming for a win for Brooklyn, New York City’s government has released a series of videos of native New Yorkers and celebrities who grew up within in the five boroughs.

The Daily News reports, die-hard New Yorker Rosie Perez said in her video, “If the DNC comes to Brooklyn, you are going to understand why we are so proud and loud about it. Can we tawk?” The lead of the Motown Broadway show, Josh Tower who acts as Berry Gordy hailed New Yorkers. “We have the biggest stars, the brightest lights, and nowhere else in the world can you have this much fun and see this great of a show,” he says.

The DNC committee will choose between Philadelphia, New York and Columbus, OH. New York Mayor de Blasio’s spokeswoman Marti Adams says New York out-fundraised the competing cities. Despite the Big Apple financial advantage, sources exclusively told the Daily News that donors to the DNC are not sure if the convention should be held in Brooklyn due to the shooting that left two police officers dead in December.

Do you think New York City should host the DNC?

Is Washington D.C. Really More Expensive Than New York?

October 15th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Washington D.C. Is More Expensive


According to new report from The Washington Post, Washington D.C. is the most expensive place to live in the United States. Yes, even more expensive than New York City.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says Washingtonians spend the majority of their finances on housing, utilities, furnishing and equipment. In his report “Housing: Before, During and After the Great Recession” economist Demetrio M. Scopelliti compares the expenses of housing between major American cities. Scopelliti’s research relies on 2012 data and construction jobs. The report notes Americans spend on average $16,887 on housing whereas Washington residents spend approximately $28,416.

Despite Scopelliti’s findings, The Wall Street Journal claims they are flawed because the report is based on how much residents are spending but not what they receiving in return. For example, Texas residents may earn $100,000 but spend $400,000 on mansions. In comparison to those who live another state, who may earn a $50,000 income but spend $350,000 in order to live in a home that is a fraction of the size of a mansion.

The Wall Street Journal also notes the average Washington earns $116,000 but may spend $28,000 on housing whereas the average New Yorker’s salary is $81,000 and will have to spend $24,000 on housing. Josh Zumburn, author of the Journal’s counter reaction  also states, we also have to consider residents who live but may not work in the New York City region.

The two cities are unquestionably pricey, the question is value. Residents have to decide where they’re getting the most bang for their buck.

Poor Door?! NYC Luxury Condo Will Separate Entrance For Poorer Residents

July 23rd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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UPDATE: NY State Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal and City Council Member Jumaane Williams have launched a petition to eliminate NYC’s “poor door” policy.

Their petition, which has 1,500 signatures to date, calls on Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to get rid of the  loopholes that permit real estate developers to create separate entrances for wealthy and low-income tenants and to prohibit low-income residents in NYC luxury buildings from using amenities such as the gym, laundry and parking.

 “Taxpayer money is being used to subsidize segregationist housing policies. All while wealthy developers continue to benefit from loopholes in the law to increase their profits. This is unacceptable, and we must put a stop to housing discrimination now,”  Rosenthal and Williams state in the petition.

Assemblymember Rosenthal represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side and parts of Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen, where real estate developer Extell is building a new luxury building with a separate entrance for rent-regulated individuals. Council Member Williams chairs the council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Originally reported July 23, 2014


 File this under incredibly insulting.  It seems like we’re going back to the days of separate water fountains. In this case, it is not to separate white from black, but poor from rich.

A New York City luxury condo wants to have its lower-income residents use a separate entrance. And a proposal to do so has been given the go-ahead.

The proposal was made by developer Extell, and it was NYC-approved under a city program meant to incentivize affordable housing, the New York Post reports. It appears that New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development gave the approval. And it was okayed under the city’s Inclusionary Housing program, which lets developers use more square footage than they’d normally be allowed to if they set aside some units for affordable housing. Also in return, developers get tax breaks amounting to millions.

The building, which will be 33 stories high, is still being built at 40 Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side. When completed, it will have 219 luxury units facing the Hudson River. But part of it, on floors two through six, will feature 55 street-facing units for the building’s poorer dwellers. The people who live in this segment will enter through a separate door.

“The more affordable units will be given to families of four whose annual income is $51,540 or less — about 60 percent of the area’s median income,” reports The Huffington Post.

Besides not using the same entrance as their upper crust neighbors, lower-income residents of the condo are also banned from using amenities normallyoffered in Extell properties, such as a gym and swimming pool.

Since last August, city officials and community members have been calling for Extell officials to forgo the “poor door.”

“This ‘separate but equal’ arrangement is abominable and has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the Upper West Side,” Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal told the blog West Side Rag last year. “A mandatory affordable housing plan is not license to segregate lower-income tenants from those who are well-off.”

So You Want To Move To NYC?

July 9th, 2014 - By Dee Rene
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There’s no place like NYC but moving here can be a beast. If you have dreams of living it up in the city of bright lights like a character off “Sex and the City” there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Brokers’ Fees / Application fees

Most apartments require a credit check and background check. That will run you about $30-$50 per application. If you use a broker, find out their fees before you fall in love with an apartment. Brokers’ fees are the cost you pay to the person that shows you the apartment and helps you go through the paperwork.  Most apartments have a broker. The Broker does the work which is why the owner of the building enlists their services. Unless the apartment is listed as “no fee” there is a broker’s fee. This is usually 10-15% of the ANNUAL rent. An apartment that costs $1,300 a month costs $15,600 annually ($1300 x 12) which means your broker’s fee would be $1,560 – $2,340 IN ADDITION to your first month’s rent and a security deposit of one month’s rent. Which makes your total move in cost (1st months + security + broker’s fee)  4,160 – $4,940. Rough.

Getting the apartment – Time is a factor!

If you plan to move July 1, you can’t start looking for an actual apartment until June. Apartments go within the same day sometimes. You might catch a listing and by the time you call that afternoon the apartment is rented. You’ll need to have your money ready (via money order or cashier’s check) and your documents (copy of your ID, bank statements, application, copy of tax return, etc) in a packet ready to go so that if you love an apartment you can apply within 24 – 48 hours. Unlike other cities, there aren’t many places you can apply months in advance. To save yourself time, go visit different neighborhoods during the day and at night to decide the area you want to live in. Once you have the area narrowed down, when it’s closer to the time for you to move, you can use sites like Pad Mapper and Naked Apartments  to search the area for what’s available.

What’s nearby? Do you reallllly want a car?

Do you have to take the bus to get to the train? Will it take you two hours to get to work? These are all factors you want to consider when moving. The closer you are to the train line the more expensive the rent but sometimes you are paying for convenience. Use an app like HopStop to check your potential apartment address with your work address. The app will tell you the route you’ll have to take and the estimated time. You should walk around the neighborhood. Is there a laundry mat nearby? A real grocery store and not a bodega? Look for the type of things you’ll need weekly and remember this is a walking/train/bus city. You want to be nearby to something you use frequently.

Keeping the car is a matter of personal preference. But most neighborhoods have alternate day street parking. That means you will be moving your car every day from one side of the street to the other so that the street sweepers (boom boom baby) can come by and clean. Or you’re paying to house your car in a garage each day. You really can get 90% of places on the train or bus. But if having a car is a big deal to you, then you’ll want to search for a neighborhood with parking or without alternate street parking.

Utilities & Bills

Heat and hot water come pretty standard for most buildings as part of your rent. However, there are a few that don’t offer this which could significantly increase your monthly bills. It’s cold 80% of the time here and you want to factor in your heating bill before you pick a place where heat / hot water aren’t included. You can call National Grid (the gas company) or ConEd (the electric company) and find out how much the bills were throughout the cold season for the last tenant to help give you an idea of the cost. Moving to NYC also comes with new bills! Your monthly metro pass ($100+) is one. You also want to factor in that everything costs more here. A bottle of shampoo at Target in a smaller city at may be $4.00 but here it’s $6.50. Things are expensive. And of course your new “fun” bill. Living in NYC there is always something to do so consider you may spend a bit more on fun activities.

Use your network

No one can tell you where to live or what borough is best for you. You’ll need to hang out and explore each borough to figure out where you might want to live. Exploring is the key to finding a place that fits you. When you do go out looking, be sure to take someone that has lived in the city for a while. He or she may know the some key factors about the neighborhood (like the park that’s so pretty in the daytime is a bit too popping at night for you to walk home safely) that could save you a headache down the line.

The last thing to keep in mind is that although this is a hard, cold and hectic city, it’s the most amazing city to live in even for a little while. Random free concerts by your favorite artists, endless food options even at 3 am, culture, parties, arts and anything else you’re into is all here somewhere. Living in NYC isn’t always easy but it’s an experience you can’t trade. If you’ve always wanted to do it, keep these few tips and tricks in mind and make the jump! You never know if it’s the best decision you’ll ever make.

Minimum Wage Bill Takes Into Account That New York Is One Of The Most Expensive Cities On Earth

June 18th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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While New York City is one of the most expensive cities in America, its inflation-adjusted minimum wage is among the lowest of the major cities too.

Obviously not good news for residents. But the city has no control over its minimum wage. It is set by the state government. So even though it’s 2.4 times more expensive to reside in Manhattan than Buffalo, for example, the minimum wage is the same in both places, something that doesn’t sit well with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who pointed this out in a new report.

But a new bill in Albany may change this. “On top of raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015, it would allow independent municipalities like New York City to make their own minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state minimum wage. That means if the state minimum wage were $10.10 per hour, New York City could have a minimum wage of $13.13 per hour,” reports The Huffington Post.

According to Stringer’s report, this would put an extra $100 in the pockets of 1.2 million New Yorkers each week.

“New York City deserves the ability to set its own minimum wage,” Stringer said in a press release. “We are falling behind other states and cities when it comes to the minimum wage, despite the fact that this is the most expensive city in which to live in the nation. There is no one size fits all when it comes to the minimum wage; raising it to $13.13 would make an enormous difference for more than one million New York City residents.”

According to Stringer it is a win-win proposal. Businesses don’t have to decrease their staff. Instead they can adjust to higher wages through a “combination of higher prices, lower profits and increased efficiency.” And he pointed out that research proves that higher wages result in an increase in spending by low-income households, which in turn helps local businesses.

But who knows if the bill will get passed. New York’s legislative session ends this Thursday and many state Senate Republicans are against it.

Workers statewide will rally in Albany Tuesday to push for legislators to pass the bill.

The Reported Errors In Avonte Oquendo’s Case

March 28th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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From Black Voices 

A report on an autistic teenager who disappeared from his New York City school and was later found dead lists errors that contributed to the tragedy, but it does not recommend any specific disciplinary action.

The report was released Wednesday by the schools’ special commissioner of investigation.

It describes how 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo disappeared from his school in Queens on Oct. 4. His remains were later found in the East River.

The report says the school safety agent at the front desk was distracted by another student during the time when Avonte slipped away.

Read more about Avonte Oquendo at 

Communities Of Color Still Struggling To Rebuild After Hurricane Sandy

March 6th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Leonard Zhukovsky /

Leonard Zhukovsky /

Hurricane Sandy occurred more than a year ago but many lower-income residents in the eastern area of the Rockaways in New York City’s borough of Queens have been struggling to rebuild–and their struggles has gone relatively unnoticed.

The media focused most on the problems of the upper-middle-class neighborhoods of the western Rockaway peninsula and the controversy over allocation of Sandy relief aid in New Jersey, while lower-income areas, which are mainly African-American and Latino, have been left without enough resources to get back on their feet following the super storm.

“Critics say government agencies have failed to support the lower-income communities in the Rockaways…,” reports theGrio.  New York City Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents parts of the Rockaways, helped pass Sandy Tracker legislation last year, but even he says federal funds have still been slow to reach his constituents in need. “This was the Ninth Ward,” Councilman Richards told The Grio, referring to the poor, Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that took years to rebuild.

While FEMA did offer aid to New York residents, many of those in lower-income communities of the Rockaways are renters and did not have the economic means to meet FEMA’s criteria, say sources.

FEMA however insists it has helped “tens of thousands of Sandy survivors who are homeowners, renters and neither of the two.”

When contacted by The Grio, new NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office pointed the “Build it Back” initiative offering assistance to displaced New York City residents. But sources claim  this effort was slow to implement help during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor.

“It is worth noting that Build it Back is the last recovery option in a series of City-sponsored initiatives,” a spokesperson from Mayor de Blasio’s office told The Grio. “We helped restore heat, hot water and electricity to more than 12,000 residences within 100 days of the storm – assistance totaling $650 million––at no cost to storm victims. Further, the city created its own hotel program to house displaced storm victims, completely independent of FEMA’s hotel program (which, it is important to note, has its own rules).”

For some residents it was hard to obtain vital information about all the available resources, another hindrance to rebuilding after Sandy. Question is how much longer people are expected to wait for help they need.

Monday’s Madame: Terryl De Mendonca, Founder Of The Misunderstood Youth Development Center

December 2nd, 2013 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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TerrylMonday’s Madame: Terryl De Mendonca

Age: 38

Location: Queens, NY

Terryl De Mendonca is Founder and Executive Director of  The Misunderstood Youth Development Center (MYDC) in New York. Initially, MYDC served as an after-school program for youths in New York City, operating under the guise, “it takes a village to raise a child.” As student membership grew, MYDC began to  provide mentorship, leadership development workshops and field trips for the young people who came through its doors. By exposing students to these three facets, they are able to be exposed to some very positive things. MYDC also benefits families through counseling sessions that  teach life skills to both parents and children.

Her vision provides the platform for both parents and community leaders to be involved in how the youth in their community develop. To ensure this vision comes to fruition in each child’s life who participates in MYDC programs, a contract is given to the children, parents and community leaders. The contract allows the participating students to understand the concept of commitment. It also holds the youths accountable for their grades, behavior and leadership development.

De Mendonca has contributed to MYDC by raising political awareness within New York City. MYDC has been recognized by political leader Marty Markowitz and the Queens District Attorney’s Office for the changes it has made within participating communities. Besides MYDC, De Mendonca has also created The Fresh Start Program. It services troubled teens from the ages of 14-19. It serves the community by reducing crime through efforts to educate teens about self-esteem and employment opportunities. Kudos to you Miss De Mendonca!

Follow MYDC: @MYDCenter

MYDC Facebook Page:


 Monday’s Madame is a new column on MadameNoire that highlights inspirational women who are doing great things in black communities around the world. If you would like to submit an inspirational woman for consideration, please send her name, age, location, photo, and a blurb about the work she’s doing to