A Power List for the 99%: The 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers

The Village Voice has an antithesis to the obnoxious power lists  pumped-out by money-loving publications like Forbes. We all know that a tiny, elite group of billionaires controls our world. But what about the other 99% of us is? Tinged with instances of race, class, and education, The Voice's 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers light-heartedly explores how every day workers and the less privileged so often get the shit end of the stick. 

Number One on Voice's powerless list is, quite appropriately, marijuana delivery men:

"The reason so many marijuana arrests are of black and Hispanic people is not because they smoke weed more. White New Yorkers, by theNYPD's own numbers, have a higher per-capita rate of contraband when they're arrested. However, white people stay safe in their apartments while colored folks deliver drugs to them. Delivering drugs puts you on the bottom of a pyramid scheme where you usually earn less than minimum wage, making you vulnerable to homicide and giving you about as much of a chance of becoming a rich kingpin as being a production assistant or a media intern gives you of becoming a celebrity."

Delivering drugs also puts you in a position where arrest is more likely, especially if your skin isn't white. With 85% of stop and frisks for Black and Latinos, and the NYPD's tendency to pull pot of a black or brown kid's pocket or bag, then say it was "in public view" -- a more serious offense than decriminalized personal possession -- running weed in New York is not the most ideal situation for a black or brown man. 

Similarly, at number 58 on the list, are "Those black guys harassed by Officer Michael Daragjati caught on federal wiretap":

The Voice has covered NYPD misbehaviors and "stop-and-frisks" for decades while waiting for a "Rosa Parks" moment when a citizen would refuse to be arrested for just happening to be black at the wrong time. This, of course, never happened, even though the overwhelming number of stop-and-frisks (more than a half-million a year) are of young men of color who are doing nothing wrong. If they protest their unfair arrest, they're arrested for "resisting arrest." It was sheer luck that saved two anonymous black men when NYPD Officer Michael Daragjati boasted that he'd arrested and "fried another nigger" while he was on a federal wiretap investigating possible insurance fraud. No one would have believed these two powerless New Yorkers otherwise (one who had a previous record) if they had just told people they were arrested unfairly.

Sadly, they weren't the only victims of crooked cops to make the list, and marginalized groups were also not in short supply.  Arab students at CUNY, Black Hebrew Israelites, multiple members of/advocates for the LGBT community, and  handicapped users of public transportation made the top 100 Most Powerless. 

Working class people were also prevalent on the list, including New york City  fire fighters in limbo:

When federal judge Nicholas Garaufis told New York City that its FDNY hiring process was racist and gave the city five options to reform it, Mayor Bloomberg basically said: "F--- you. We ain't takin' none of your stinking options." The entrance exam was scrapped, and a new one was written. But for years, there was a "limbo class" of would-be firefighters who aced the allegedly "racist" exam even though many of them weren't white. They have been held in purgatory for years and have to study for (and hope they similarly ace) the new test scheduled for February or March.

Sotheby's locked out workers, Bodega owners threatened by rapidly multiplying Duane Reades, postal workers facing the possible closure of 30 post offices in New York, and Verizon workers who went on strike, then back to work without a contract, also made the list. Other powerless workers include librarians, teachers in failing schools, any maid who alleges being raped in Post-DSK New York, human billboards, nannies, retail workers, coney island bathroom boards,  and all city pool guards .

Home-owners, too, are powerless, of course, including a couple facing eviction for paying rent to a fake landlord, and tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, who evaded mass eviction but are stuck in a limbo while dealing with a holding company and looking into becoming some kind of co-op.

Also powerless are press-pass-less members of the press, who are just as subject to random arrests and beatings as are Occupy Wall Street protesters. But press-pass-carrying members of the press were right below the pass-less on the list. As the Voice said, 

Perhaps the only members of the media with less power than those without press passes are those who have deluded themselves into thinking they have special power by having one. As the Voice's Graham Rayman asked, does it make sense to carry a press pass by agreeing to be "stuck in a pen? Conferred fewer rights than a regular person? Poked and prodded and pushed around all in the idea that there's some special access right around the corner, and if you just play your cards right, you'll get it?" (And as regular Voicecontributor photojournalist C.S. Muncy puts it, having the pass is basically like having a target on your back.)

Sticking to the OWS-trend, here are some more Powerless people:

34. The librarians of theOccupy Wall Street"People's Library"

One of the most fun aspects of Zuccotti Park this fall was the "People's Library," a wide selection of books that sparked freewheeling discussions. Volunteer librarians (like Bill Scott) guarded it with professional care. Although they protected it from Mayor Bloomberg's first threatened raid on the park (by taking the books away via Zipcar to an "undisclosed location"), the librarians were rendered utterly powerless after the city launched its surprise raid and returned the collectionlooking like shit.

35.Citibankcustomers trying to close their accounts

Citibank customers were not feeling "The Power of Citi" when they tried to close their accounts in an Occupy Wall Street action and were arrested.

When charter schools move into a school building, they can bring exciting choices for the families (as the Voice profiled in a February 2011 story, "Class Struggle," about the Bronx Success Academy2). But when a charter moves into a building, it also cannibalizes space and resources. For the other school in the building, this can be terrifying, and it often leaves the students, teachers, and parents—who deal with rough circumstances in the first place—feeling powerless as they lose resources and real estate.

49. City University of New York students

CUNY students might have felt powerless to stop tuition hikes last year, but a few hundred of them decided to go to the school's public board meeting at Baruch in November, where the board is supposed to take input from the community. The students decided to make themselves heard, only to be beaten and arrested.

 Read the full list here

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at January 12, 2012, 7:18am