By Ashleigh Baker
By Jesus Izarra
“Help! I’ve been robbed,” Alma Cruz remembers shouting, as she stood in the middle of the street after being robbed by a man with a knife.
On the sidewalk in front of the John Adams housing project in the southeast Bronx, she cried and clutched her head in despair, she said, when Robert Vega, who was passing by said, “What happened to you?”
Cruz, 59, said she recalled vividly the evening of Oct. 4, when she was on Westchester Avenue on her way home.
As the 12 years of the Bloomberg administration come to an end, the mayor likes to boast of how much safer New York City has become. Yet, that improvement provides little comfort to a crime victim.
As Cruz stood on the street after the robbery, tears rolled down her cheeks, she remembers. “I’m fine but very scared,” she later recalled telling Vega. “The man threatened to stab me if I didn’t give him my handbag, I had no choice but give it to him and ask God to protect me; the man took the handbag and ran to the other corner of the street moving away quickly from my sight.”
Cruz said she called the police right away, but they couldn’t find the robber when they searched the neighborhood.
Robberies have dropped sharply in the 45th Precinct, down 24.7 percent in the last two years, according to Police Department data, but that still left 137 people victimized since the start of the year.
“It was the first time I’ve been a crime victim,” said Cruz, a tall Dominican woman. She is still haunted by the moment when she was walking on the street at
about 9:30 p.m. and a man wearing a black hoodie was standing in front of her with a knife. “Every time I pass by Westchester Avenue, I remember him and it makes me feel anxious,” she said.
She usually feels connected to the incident and sometimes the lingering fear can be worse than the original crime.
Angel Oropeza, a psychologist, said in an email interview: “Robbery is a particular type of aggression, and therefore the first consequence is that victims feel violated. Now, recovery factors will depend on what is called the Act Attribution, which claims responsibility for what happened. In other words, whether she feels responsible for the incident or whether she attributes the incident to other people. Generally, people who claim responsibility of a traumatic situation to other people will recover faster.”
Looking back on that night, Cruz said, “It was a horrible moment in my life, and I hope it will never happen again.“
By Laura Rossi
Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the Northeast was so devastating that many people are still recovering a year later. The storm victims tell stories of searching for loved ones, rebuilding destroyed businesses and escaping floodwaters. These four New Yorkers talked about how Sandy affected them and continues to affect them to this day.
Located in Manhattan’s Financial District, 17 State Street is a 42-story building that houses commercial offices in industries ranging from software to insurance and serves as a workplace for many New Yorkers. When Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, the building sustained costly damages. Building Manager Deloy Stoll can recall the experience all too well.
Reporting by Brad Williams
Gary Griffith is a retired New York police officer, but it was his summer house in Brick, N.J., that took a hit. He discussed his Hurricane Sandy experience and where he stands now.
Reporting by Taylor Bilecky
One lesson that could be useful in preparing for future storm was the use of food trucks to distribute hot meals to the worst-hit neighborhoods. The co-owner of the Mexico Blvd. food truck, Jordi Louisa, talked about how he was able to join other food-truck operators to help out.
Reporting by Peter Bell
Just after the storm, Irina Bondartseva’s home in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, seemed fine, but she later found it would need four months of renovation.
Reporting by Dmitriy Godunov
Remembering Sandy in Photos:
By Alex Goetzfried
About 625,000 undocumented immigrants live in New York State, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Hispanic Center. And because New York requires a Social Security number to get a driver’s license, most of these immigrants who drive are doing so with an out-of-state license – or no license at all.
As of now, in 10 states, an undocumented immigrant can get a license using a tax identification number, a passport and proof of residence (such as a utility bill, lease or cable television bill), or some combination of those three. Not so in New York, although it’s regarded as progressive on immigration issues. This leads many undocumented immigrants to go to Connecticut, Michigan, New Mexico, Washington or six other states to get a driver’s license and return to New York, where they live and use it.
This is illegal.
“Article 2 of the Constitution, the commerce clause, allows you to move between states; however if you reside in a state where the license is not issued for over 90 days you, by law, have to change to the state you live in,” said Brian DeSesa, an attorney in Sag Harbor who deals with traffic violations. “By going to a different state, getting a license and returning to the state you live it’s illegal. If you work in New York, and live in New York, you have to convert that to a New York license.”
Javier Navarro moved to New York 23 years ago from Mexico City. While he is a United States citizen, many of his friends and extended family are not. Navarro said many undocumented immigrants have to use a friend’s name to insure his or her car. Vehicles must be insured in order to be registered.
“A lot of people have an accident and they run away because they don’t have a license and a friend got the insurance for them,” Navarro said. They would stay at the scene of the accident, he said, if the government gave them a license. “If you give a license to these people, they’ll pay taxes, pay insurance, it will be more money for the city, but government doesn’t think like that,” he said.
In the outer boroughs of New York City and on Long Island, many undocumented immigrants need a driver’s license to get a job. Many of the undocumented immigrants outside of Manhattan are landscapers, painters, construction workers and day laborers. These jobs require that they be able to drive work trucks to different job sites throughout the day.
Driving without proper insurance also causes problems. When an uninsured or illegally insured vehicle gets into an accident with a legally insured driver, the legally insured driver’s insurance must cover the damages, in some cases causing that person’s premium to go up. That is because New York is a no-fault state; insurance companies are required to cover damages regardless of who caused the accident. The legal driver’s insurer must cover the expenses of the accident, even if the legal driver was not at fault.
Part of the resistance to making it easier for immigrants to obtain licenses is that ticketing generates revenue for government. A driver caught operating a vehicle without a license can be fined $75 to $300, imprisoned to 15 days or both.
Determining how many tickets are issued by the state and how much revenue that generates is nearly impossible though. “It’s one of those types of questions that comes up a lot, unfortunately it’s hard to get that kind of data from the state,” said John Bowman, communications director at the National Motorists Association. “We wish that the states and local authorities would do a better job of reporting this kind of data, because it goes towards transparency of what is a basic law enforcement function.”
Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute agreed. “There’s probably little data because it’s all anecdotal; if you’re not a licensed driver it causes a problem,” Barry said.
In 2007 driver’s license reform was a big part of the overall immigration reform issue in New York. Governor Eliot Spitzer pushed to allow undocumented immigrants to receive licenses – once as an executive order, then as a legislative bill, and once through the Department of Motor Vehicles. But he withdrew the executive order, and the other two attempts were defeated by intense political opposition. The issue has not been a priority ofstate officials since.
California is now in the process of passing measures to allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses and other benefits. The other nine states that have relaxed the regulations for obtaining a driver’s license are Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Colorado.
By Roxanne Torres
Two guards stood outside the main entrance of Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, the oldest public hospital in the United States. As two Filipino nurses in their blue medical scrubs walked by, they nodded to the two men in a show of familiarity.
These nurses have been working in one of the city’s busiest hospitals for 23 years. Once, they were immigrants, part of the great influx of nurses coming from the Philippines, drawn by America’s nursing shortage. These two nurses earned work visas within three months of applying and promptly found employment.
Two decades later, the nursing shortage is still prominent. But while some Filipino nursing graduates wait roughly two years to earn nursing positions, others wait far longer, as their hopes and patience diminish, because a weak economy and budget cuts have curtailed hiring.
Jennifer Cabero, a 46-year-old registered nurse at Bellevue, was an immigrant Filipino nurse hired by an agency during the 1990s. “The agency that I applied for took care of all the visa processing and all other papers I needed in order to come to this country and everything was free,” she said, as she turned the combination to her locker in the nurses’ changing room. “Even airplane tickets were paid for by the recruiter.”
During the early 1990s, 61 percent of trained nurses in the Philippines found jobs in, and migrated to, other countries, according to the Philippine Nurses Association. Close to 2,000 Filipino nurses found jobs in the United States at that time, according to the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration.
The numbers continued to increase until 1996, when the number of nurses obtaining jobs in the United States dropped to 270. These nurses not only passed the nursing exam administered by the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing School but had experience in hospitals in the Philippines, which is part of their collegiate training.
The global demand for highly skilled nurses began to grow in the 1970s, according to the International Migration of Health Workers. Filipino nurses saw an opportunity to work overseas in such countries as Saudi Arabia and the United States. During that time, American working visas were a trade-off for lower wages and what were seen as dangerous working conditions, especially after the discovery — and growing numbers — of HIV/AIDS cases. To address these conditions, Filipino nurses formed nursing organizations, such as Philippine Nurses Association of America, to unite and protect themselves.
As of 2012, about 2.7 million registered nurses were employed in the United States, and roughly 7.3 percent of those were Asians, including Filipinos, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In recent years, the tide has turned. After the financial crisis of 2008, many hospitals scaled back or closed, including St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, North General Hospital in Harlem, and St. John’s Queens Hospital.
Anna Pineda, an honors graduate of LaGuardia Community College, feels the constant disappointment of rejections. At age 46, Pineda managed to complete numerous college term papers, study for exams and work at two part-time jobs to pay her bills, all before attaining her citizenship. “It was hard for me because being out of school for 15 years and not being able to speak the language like you know, the kids in my class,” Pineda said. However, despite her status as a nursing graduate and American citizen, she is still unable to find a nursing position. “Most of my classmates who were younger got a job, but the ones like me, who are old, don’t,” Pineda said. “Though I know hospitals now can’t hire as many nurses,” because of budget cuts.
“Back then, there were 11 RNs working during the day shift,” said Aleth Abadilla, a 50-year-old staff nurse at Bellevue, referring to the years before the recession. “Now, we are happy to have six or seven.” Abadilla is not only sympathetic toward her fellow Filipino nurses who are unable to obtain working visas, but she is also feeling the immense pressure of having her responsibilities increase from the time she arrived in the 1990s. Both Cabero and Abadilla are no longer serving the usual one patient at a time; they now dash between at least three patients at a time.
While Pineda continues to pursue her goal of finding a nursing position, others simply give up. This is the case for Joseph Lopez, a 23-year-old graduate of LaGuardia. “I said that if I keep pursuing nursing without getting the requirements, I would just be wasting time,” said Lopez. Like many other Filipino nurses, Lopez migrated to United States to study nursing and find a job in the field. But he arrived in 2005, a decade after the boom. Now Lopez is pursuing a different medical career path as a physical therapist’s assistant.
But not all Filipino nurses in America are stuck with the choice of waiting or changing paths. “Instead of coming to the U.S., Filipino RNs explore the possibility of looking for employment in other countries like, the Arab and European countries,” said a nurse who asked that her name not be used. A 56-year-old RN, she was once an assistant director of nursing at a New York hospital. Like many others, she is very much aware of the cutbacks and their impact on the hiring process. “There was an influx of Filipino RNs coming to the U.S., then a few years later, due to the retirement of RNs, the shortage became a problem nationwide,” she said.
For Anna Pineda and those who refuse to see their journeys end, the future is not entirely doomed. “Perhaps in the next 10 years, America will be in great need of nurses again like before, because many will retire, including myself,” Jennifer Cabero said, as she tied her shoelaces and pocketed her ID.
By Adrien Hobbs
Transformed from a creek in 1869, Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal helped to spark the growth of the surrounding industrial area. Warehouses, cement plants, paint factories, chemical plants, coal stores, manufactured gas refineries and many more industrial businesses sprang up as a result of its construction.
The availability of industrial jobs in the area attracted large numbers of people to an area that was not ready to accommodate them. Improper waste-water sanitation from the large local population eventually led to raw sewage draining directly into the canal and sewage was not the only contaminant.
Industrial pollutants including cement, coal tar, PCBs, oil, mercury and lead began to destroy the once self-sustaining ecosystem.
From the turn of the century until 1955, the canal was frequently dredged, but this ended when many industrial practices in the area became obsolete. As businesses faded, maintenance of the canal was no longer a priority, leading to the conditions of today’s Gowanus Canal.
Today, the canal’s overwhelming stench of sewage can deter a visitor. For those determined to walk near its waters, the level of visible pollution is strikingly apparent.