03/21/17 1:43pm

In early February the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to divest from Wells Fargo Bank because of its financial backing of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. While your checking and savings accounts may seem paltry compared to the assets of the 18th largest city in the U.S., moving your money to a credit union is an incredibly effective way of investing in your local economy and taking your hard earned dollars out of the hands of corporate interests.

Large corporate banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank and TD Bank use customers’ deposits to invest in a wide range of ventures, some of which are risky, divisive and take money outside of the communities where customers live. We’re talking an oil pipeline that threatens drinking water and Native American sovereignty; we’re talking mortgage-backed securities; we’re talking investments that you the consumer are never consulted about and may never know about, in companies and with entities you would never intentionally support.

Unlike so many thorny political and financial issues of conscience though, there is a good answer for this dilemma: Join a credit union.

“It’s like shopping local,” says Michael Mattone, the vice president of public relations for Municipal Credit Union. “We’re the shop local of banking.”

(more…)

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03/09/17 11:37am

Moovn Apps

On January 28, the hashtag #DeleteUber started trending with a vengeance. Following the announcement of the Trump administration’s executive order declaring a travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, NYC taxi drivers went on strike, declaring a one-hour work stoppage at JFK  in protest of the ban. At the same time, Uber announced that it would suspend surge pricing at the airport, which many saw not as a consumer service, but as an attempt to profit from the strike, and from the ban. For many already uneasy users it was the last straw for a company whose CEO was then still on Trump’s Business Council.

That same weekend Lyft, Uber’s rival in the ride-sharing game, announced that they would make a $1 million donation to the ACLU, and got a boatload of new customers out of the controversy. However, Lyft still counts Carl Icahn and Peter Thiel, two of Trump’s biggest richest supporters, as members of their board. Both companies have grappled with reputations for treating drivers poorly and for bro-centric work cultures.

Socially-conscious riders eager for an alternative have started turning to Moovn, a new ride-sharing app that prides itself on a no-surge-pricing policy for customers, as well as better wages and stronger protections for drivers. It’s also a tech business with a black founder, which is important to note as the disruption game is notoriously white.

“We put the driver first,” said Godwin Gabriel, founder and CEO, in a phone interview. “As long as we do, he or she will go the extra mile for the customer…the driver is our biggest stakeholder.” He sees other platforms as “pushing the driver to the curb.”

Gabriel went to say, “Drivers are getting paid well on our platform. We only take a 10-15 commission…we are looking at going even lower. At any time, the driver maintains 85-90% of the fare, not including tip. You hear all of these issues about drivers being disenfranchised, marginalized. They don’t earn enough on other platforms.” For lack of a better word, Gabriel explained, many drivers told him it was like “modern day slavery.” (more…)

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02/28/17 8:54am
Photo: Amanda Duarte

Photo: Amanda Duarte

We never forget the one that got away. No, I don’t mean your last Tinder date. I’m talking about missed connections of the creative variety. The song that was just a catchy chorus short of Top 40 euphoria. The webseries one clever concept away from Comedy Central success. Drafts languishing in drawers and hard drives all over the city. Murdering your darlings is essential writing advice, but sometimes you’ve got to wonder what it would be like to bring them back to life.

Amanda Duarte understands. The voice-over artist, singer, actress, and creator of the Pussy Grabs Back campaign has a monthly show called Dead Darlings, dedicated to all of those creative corpses, the ideas that were just too pretty to live.

February’s edition at the historic Judson Church began with Duarte’s rendition of the Stephen Sondheim classic, “I’m Still Here,” reengineered for life under the Trump administration. She’s an Elaine Stritch in training, and a reminder that the revolution must include humor.

After the rousing opening number, the performers and their darlings for February included work from cartoonist Emily Flake that was passed over by the New Yorker, a killed article and video short about a polyamorous commune that just happens to raise wolves by journalist Jessica Bennett (Duarte’s partner in Pussy Grab’s Back), and scenes from an abandoned play about rehab from playwright Jaclyn Backhaus. In what was perhaps the most surprising (and surprisingly emotional) moments of the night, comedian Bowen Yang lip-synced along to the infamous moment on Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model, when Tyra Banks screams “I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you” at recently-eliminated model hopeful Tiffany Richardson.

I didn’t know I needed that moment in my life, but Amanda Duarte did. Post-show, I chatted with her about her inspiration for the show, what it’s like to go viral, and what’s next for Pussy Grabs Back in the Trump era. (more…)

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02/21/17 10:33am
Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Let me introduce you to the 5th Brooklyn Scouts, where their motto is “traditional scouting for everyone.”

Don’t be fooled by the word “traditional.” Part of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA), an all-inclusive scouting organization that has been in existence worldwide since 1907, the 5th Brooklyn Scouts is not the gender-segregated experience that you remember from being a Cub Scout or a Brownie, and does not have the same history of discrimination against gay and transgender children and leaders. (Last month, The Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would allow transgender boys to join.)

Just as importantly, Brooklyn Scouts seamlessly blends the joys of forest school, the community service of a social justice club, and outdoors-focused field trips, all for $180 for the entire year. Children spend a lot of time outside, and learn real skills.

The Brooklyn chapter speaks openly about their challenge to diversify in their Park Slope enclave, which is a focus for their organization this year, as well as a historical value of the organization. “Scouting has even transcended and risen above racial divisions and prejudices in the movement’s past,” says scoutmaster Jillian Tate. “Our founder, Lord Robert Baden Powell, refused to allow racial segregation in scouting until his death in 1941–even in countries like South Africa and India where the ruling colonists attempted to create all-white organizations.” (more…)

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02/17/17 1:25pm

Yesterday immigrants, both legal and undocumented, went on strike around the U.S., underscoring their contribution to the workforce and the country. Some McDonalds shut down. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, where Hillary Clinton was valedictorian in 1969 removed every piece of art created or donated by an immigrant from its halls, leaving many spots bare.

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue to defy state officials from red and blue states alike in an immigration sweep, the largest since Trump took office and one that many advocate groups are saying is more significant that what they’ve seen in the recent past. According to a report from immigration advocacy organization New York Immigration Coalition, 40 were arrested by ICE agents across the New York area in a five day span, and 600 across the country.

According to The Nation,  “One hundred and sixty immigrants were arrested in the Los Angeles area; some 200 undocumented immigrants were arrested in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina this past week….Another 200 people were arrested throughout the Midwest: in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin.”

ICE claims that said raids are, as a spokeswoman told radio station WNYC, “ not unusual for a week long operation’,” and that  “95 percent of them had criminal records.’”ICE spokeswoman Rachel Yong Yow told the Nation on

New York Immigration Coalition spokeswoman Thanu Yakupitiyage believes ICE is exaggerating the number of those arrested with previous criminal records. As she explained in an email to Brooklyn Based, “They aren’t “raids” necessarily–but they are targeted enforcement pick-ups by ICE. If you read the memo [a leaked memo NYIC obtained], you’ll see that the way ICE justifies it is as operations targeting people with “criminal convictions.” However, people beyond those with convictions have also been swept up in some of the arrests.” (more…)

02/14/17 10:50am
Photo: MNDFL Williamsburg

Photo: MNDFL Williamsburg

Taking deep breaths and closing your eyes to meditate in your cluttered bedroom, under fluorescent lights at your desk, or even on a crowded train is not exactly ideal, but it’s still an effort that many of us put forth as often as we can. Studies showing that meditation helps with everything from stress to fatigue to monkey mind, plus convenient apps like Headspace and Calm have inspired a new interest in the ancient practice and devotees swear that even the F train can yield moments of inner calm. Still, imagine that there was a dedicated space–a soft, undisturbed room in the middle of the city–the only function of which was to house a group of people who wanted to escape the hubbub and work on their mindfulness. Sort of like a yoga studio for meditation.

Now there is, and you can find it in Williamsburg.

MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good,” says Lodro Rinzler, meditation teacher, author, and co-founder of MNDFL, a meditation studio with locations in Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, and now Williamsburg. “It was a natural partnership from the beginning,” says co-founder Ellie Burrows, who met Rinzler while volunteering for his non-profit. “I knew that I wanted to open this studio, but I couldn’t have done it on my own. I’m not a meditation expert, I’m just a lover and practitioner of meditation.” (more…)

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02/07/17 11:17am
PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

Today the Senate, plus Vice President Mike Pence, voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is by many accounts the worst possible Secretary of Education and her policies will affect students in New York City, the only question is how.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, perhaps realizing that he’s running for reelection, has presented himself as a progressive defender of civil rights, including the right to education. As Chalkbeat reported, he stated that the latest New York City budget was devised “with the assumption of profound challenges from Washington.”

What he didn’t explicitly outline was how profoundly those challenges might impact the NYC Department of Education.

Dr. James Kemple, Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU Steinhardt, told Brooklyn Based that “the role of the federal government in education is pretty narrow.” Current federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in 2016, and, Dr. Kemple points out, gives states much greater discretion over their education budgets and educational standards than its predecessor, No Child Left Behind. It would usually take an act of Congress to rewrite legislation like ESSA, but with Trump’s penchant for executive orders, it’s hard to say what the future of education policy from a federal vantage point will be.

Federal money makes up only about 10% of the New York City’s DOE operating budget, but 10% of $23 billion is a significant sum. Trump has demonstrated something like eagerness to yank federal funding from Sanctuary Cities, like New York, including the provision to do so in  the executive order he signed on Jan. 25, though the legality of cutting off federal education funding is unclear.

We spoke to several education policy experts for clues on how DeVos and the Trump administration might affect New York City public schools, which we’ve outlined below. If slashing funding for schools with a high proportion of low-income students, taking away reduced-price lunches, and laying the groundwork for more charter schools and school vouchers aren’t part of your New York values, we also have some ideas for how to fight back. (more…)

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02/02/17 10:18am

February may be the shortest month, but it has a tendency to feel more like the longest page on the calendar. Instead of despairing that your work schedule or bank account won’t allow you to escape somewhere warm to recharge, find some inner sunshine with these three inward retreats, for less than you spend on your morning coffee.

7310557616_1aa99df928_z_0_0Lovingkindness Fridays
If you love the idea of guided meditation, but don’t want to wear yoga pants or feel like you’ve joined a cult, The Interdependence Project may be where you make more space for yourself in New York City. The approach is a secular study of all aspects of Buddhism, mixed with psychology and a deep exploration of meditation as a tool for living better and more fully. In addition to special classes, intensives and series they offer regular weekly sessions like introduction to meditation classes on Sunday afternoons and Metta meditation on Friday evenings, which focuses on exploring the Buddhist concept of “lovingkindness.” Many workshops and classes are also available online, including a series called Transforming White Privilege, if you prefer to dive inward in the privacy of your own home. The suggested donation for most classes is $10-20, and the center is committed to making sure that people of all incomes are welcomed and have access to the community. (more…)

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01/31/17 10:36am
Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves. --Hussain ibn Ali Photo: Fatima Alvi

Fatima Alvi  volunteers with Who is Hussain?, a group inspired by the life of Hussain inb Ali, who said, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” Photo: Fatima Alvi

When Linda Sarsour spoke at the Women’s March on Washington saying that she was “unapologetically Muslim American, unapologetically Palestinian American, unapologetically from Brooklyn, New York,” she was not wearing a pink pussy hat. The march co-chair wore black and white headscarves, layered and tucked into a black jacket, instead. Despite Sarsour’s simple elegance in a sea of wild fuchsia and deep magenta, to some, her choice of headgear made her a far more potent target for hate.

It didn’t take long for headlines like, “Women’s March Organizer Linda Sarsour Makes Islamic State Signal,” to start popping up on far-right and white nationalist websites, like Jihad Watch where that post appeared on Tuesday, Jan. 24, just days after the march. The hashtag #IMarchWithLinda began to trend across social media, as supporters rallied behind the activist.

As a public figure who wears the hijab, Sarsour has been called a terrorist, a friend to ISIS, and a supporter of Sharia law in the past, but following the march, she was attacked with renewed vigor. She may be highly visible as an activist and executive director of the Arab American Society of New York, but she is not the only hijabi in the city who has been singled out for being identifiably Muslim in recent months.

In a post-election climate in that has seen an uptick in anti-Muslim bias crimes, and with President Trump’s executive order to suspend visas from seven Muslim-majority countries last week, some Muslim women have considered changing the style of hijab that they wear, donning less distinctive headgear like hats, or simply not wearing a head-covering at all, out of concern for personal safety as Islamophobia becomes more pronounced. (more…)

01/19/17 10:52am

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_-_kate_winslet_-_jim_carey_-_h_-_2016

So, it doesn’t exactly feel like winter this week. It’s downright temperate, in fact. Rest assured though, there will be a frigid weekend sometime this winter, even if 2017 proves to be as warm, or warmer than, 2016. Or maybe you just need to warm your soul. We’ve got three wintery movies and a recipe to pair with each. Gather your supplies, settle in on the couch and escape for an hour or two.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michael Gondry, written by Charlie Kauffman, starring Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Wood
Where to find it: On Amazon or iTunes, starting at $2.99 to stream
Recipe: Tomato Basil Chicken Stew from Gimme Some Oven

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is celebrating its 13th anniversary this year. Isn’t that wild? It’s probably safe to say that the Oscar-winning film still has a strong hold on film fanatics–even if you can’t quite recall the last time you viewed it, you certainly remember how it made you feel. The film is a dizzying cornfield of memory–the way your brain tries to fight your heart, what it is to love and to lose, to neglect and to remember. (more…)

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