October 7, 2015

Street Eats in Summer Heat

By Adam Poplawski

Contributing Writer


Photo Courtesy of Jenifer Valmon Students waiting on line for Halal food at Community Hour.

Photo Courtesy of Jenifer Valmon
Students waiting on line for Halal food at Community Hour.

During lunch time in New York, people line the streets looking for a relatively cheap food option, and now, food trucks are part of that ever-growing list of choices.

Although Halal carts, like Halal Brothers dominate the scene throughout the five boroughs, there is plenty of competition from other food trucks and stands, such as Waffles and Dinges.

Food Trucks exploded into the New York dining scene in the past decade and their presence has been growing ever since. Now, in addition to the already plentiful Halal carts, there are food trucks that serve Thai, Vegan, and even Polish food. Food trucks aren’t just cheap eats and have evolved into a medium that has more expensive options as well.

“I love food trucks because they’re so accessible and usually have great food, and they’re not too expensive,” said Joyce Ling, a student at John Jay.

Ling added one of her favorite meals was chicken over rice from the local Halal truck outside of the school. Its flavorful meat, balanced with a variety of sauces and rice makes it a popular choice at John Jay.

Waffles & Dinges, which makes fresh Belgian and Liege waffles, was able to branch out from a food truck into established food stands and even a brick and mortar location in the East Village. Their success is a path that many food truck owners would like to emulate, but that usually means an increase in prices.

The waffles at Waffles & Dinges are not the airy waffles that Americans are used to. Instead, they are Liege waffles, which are dough based waffles, as opposed to the batter based ones that most of us know and love. They’re hot, crispy and sweet due to the Belgian pearl sugar that is folded into the waffle dough. When they hit the waffle iron they expand slightly and an amazing smell fills the air.

You can eat one plain and be completely satisfied, most eat it with whipped cream and speculoos, their famous cookie butter spread made from spiced Belgian cookies.

Photo Courtesy of Jenifer Valmon Food truck selling smoothies on 59th St and Columbus Circle.

Photo Courtesy of Jenifer Valmon
Food truck selling smoothies on 59th St and Columbus Circle.

“Well, I’ve always wanted to try food trucks but I’m always afraid of the sanitary issues,” said Christina Zhu.

Some people are worried about the safety of the food in food trucks, and the image of mice running underneath a hot dog stand is one that can definitely traumatize some.

Food trucks and stands now dominate nearly every major street, especially those that are surrounded by office buildings. Food trucks do not spend money on rent, but they still need licences and must go through other bureaucratic steps to get their food to us.

“The halal trucks are my favorite, and I feel all the trucks break up the street and make them feel more welcoming,” said Vincent Blandino, a student at John Jay.

The extremely popular Halal Brothers is another example of a food truck that evolved into owning a storefront. It is one of the most heavily reviewed eateries in the entire city, sitting at just over 6000 yelp reviews, averaging four and a half out of five stars.

They are known for their chicken and lamb over rice, and especially for their famous white sauce. The line at the Halal Brother’s location in Midtown always stretches to the end of the street with hungry tourists and professionals waiting for their food.

Although food trucks can be affordable, one New York resident, Kevin Ching, said “I like how food trucks offer some variety from other lunch places, but I often find that the food trucks are overpriced.”


Walls of Hate: Vandalism Found on Campus

By Fathema Ahmed


Long known for being prevalent as a form of hip-hop culture in New York City, graffiti has been used to express one’s artistic ability and to express one’s feelings. Recently graffiti has been found on campus to express hate towards certain groups.

On March 10, Director of Public Safety, Kevin Cassidy sent out an email informing the John Jay community graffiti was found in two restrooms. The graffiti consisted of hateful words and drawings.

The next day President Jeremy Travis sent out an email updating the community on the vandalism. The email stated that the graffiti showed multiple messages consisting of anti-Semitic, racist and anti-gay messages. They were found in two restrooms and a classroom. Lynette Cook-Francis, vice president of Student Affairs had met with students on the issue.

Also, Travis said that they were in contact with the Hate Crime Unit of the New York City Police Department.

Cassidy was first informed of a swastika on a bathroom stall. Cassidy’s initial reaction was to paint over the graffiti just like any other graffiti because he believed that it was an isolated incident. A couple of days later, another swastika was found and at that point he reported it to President Travis and got in touch with the New York City Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit.

“As things started to escalate we worked with the NYC Police Department’s Hate Crime Unit and various people here at John Jay to check to see if there were any more graffiti that was found and we asked students to report it to us,” stated Cassidy on what actions he took after the incidents.

All the incidents reported to Public Safety were reported back to the NYC Police Department’s Hate Crime Unit. The Hate Crime Unit then came in and took pictures of the different incidents, interviewed people who saw the graffiti, and did an investigation. The investigation is still ongoing since nobody has been charged yet.

“For the most part, we here at Public Safety have stepped up patrols to check out bathrooms, we’ve checked out facilities to make sure they’re checking out restrooms as well and encouraging students to report anything that they see, we’ve asked students faculty and staff to bring it to our attention, whether it’s one student or a group of students, we take it very seriously,” said Cassidy.

Besides Public Safety increasing the number of patrols, the college is also working on a bias response team that will consist of faculty and students that would look into incidents such as the graffiti on campus.

“When these kinds of incidents happen, are there enough people out there talking to the students, talking to the faculty, talking to the staff, getting feedback on how people are feeling about things and talking about the issues? It’s something many colleges have and it’s something that it’s time for us to do, it’s not only about the graffiti, it’s about anything,” said Cook-Francis on what measures the college is taking.

“My first reaction was that this was unacceptable and shocking because we’re college students and I feel like it really is affecting the whole college community. That just proves that things like racism still exist,” said Araceli Cruz, junior, on her initial reaction to the graffiti.

Some students felt that the way that the issue was handled wasn’t right. “The immediate response which was given was not considerate of students feedback as well as the administration’s response, the appropriate response was to automatically shed light on the issue so the students were aware of the issues and the administration should have created more opportunity to discuss an appropriate response for the graffiti,” said John Jay senior Hernan Carvente  referring to Cassidy’s initial response of painting over the first incident of the graffiti.

Some students felt that students could have been better informed about what happened.“Nobody even knows what the remarks made were, they kind of shadowed it by saying racist, homophobic, anti-Arab. I think when you hit students with the real actuality of the events then they will feel more like they need to do something as students to make sure hate speech doesn’t go around even more,” said Susan Abdel, sophomore.

In addition to the email sent out there was a meeting on March 26 to discuss the graffiti incidents with students. Both Vice President Lynette-Cook Francis and Director Cassidy were present at the meeting. Some concerns raised during the meeting were the first incident of the graffiti not being reported and the fact that there were also anti-Arab comments found that wasn’t reported to the campus community.

Cook-Francis addressed the issue of the anti-Arab remark not being included in the email during the meeting by pointing out that when the email was sent out, it hadn’t happened yet.

“It was totally my decision to clean it up based on the fact that we thought it was an isolated incident. We don’t know how long it’s been there, whether it’s been there a day, whether it’s been there an hour or whether it was there a year. The important thing to take away from this is the fact that we saw a pattern developing and that we decided to take action,” said Cassidy on the matter of painting over the first incident reported.


Pressing Polarization: The Dangers of Fringe Politics (Democrats)

By Yannis Trittas

Contributing Writer

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

When our editors approached Jay Cruger and I this cycle and proposed a topic for our column, my colleague and I did not disagree vastly. Funny enough, that’s not as rare of an occurrence as many would expect it to be. As President of the John Jay College Democrats, a political science major, and an operative of the Democratic Party, I wear my party on my sleeve (or more literally, my backpack which is covered in buttons of campaigns I’ve worked on).

Jay Cruger is the President of the John Jay College Republicans, but he is also someone I consider a friend. While we may disagree on the best way to accomplish our goals, we have the same mindset; to serve our fellow citizens and strengthen the United States of America.

Political polarization in the United States has hit hard, particularly in the past decade. Democrats and Republicans see themselves as being in a culture war, seeing their party identification not as a choice that most closely represents their political views, but something much more personal. References to red states vs. blue states are very common, dividing up our United States and creating rivalries among Americans.

Furthermore, classifying a state by the majority party marginalizes members of the minority party and leaves those voters feeling hopeless and resenting those with other views. This occurs to a different degree at the local, state, and national level.

Many events have divided our country ideologically in the past, but the current state of affairs is worse than ever with expected vitriol between political adversaries. There are many reasons for this, but the main ones in my opinion, are the mainstream media, the internet’s increased role in information gathering, extreme factions within the parties, and Citizens United.

Mainstream media has fetishised partisanship for many years, with some of the most evident perpetrators being Crossfire, Hannity and Colmes, or the local NY1’s Political Rundown, which features Gerson Borrero and Curtis Sliwa. They masquerade as “debate” shows which showcase liberals and conservatives battling it out in front of a studio audience while propagating the lie that they offer two viewpoints so that viewers can choose for themselves.

In reality, they serve as a way to double viewership by including two demographics, liberal and conservative, in one timeslot. With content that puts preference on quick jabs and personal attacks instead of intelligent debate, the purpose of the programs are revealed. The viewers of these shows do not watch them with the prospect of changing their mind, they watch them to see the opposition trashed.

The rise of the internet also increased partisanship, offering a place for those on the extreme left and right a larger audience than they could have ever had before.

Our Facebook feeds allow us to mute those that post statuses that oppose our views. This is especially dangerous considering the Pew Research Center reports that 63% of conservatives and 49% of liberals say most of their close friends share their views, a circumstance which it has termed an “ideological silo”. Left and right wing blogs can spin news in ways conventional news agencies cannot and spread misinformation on a massive scale.

These blogs and forums create a haven for the more extreme members of parties and allow them to organize fringe groups within the party. A perfect example is the Tea Party, which has succeeded in pushing the Republican party towards far more conservative stances by threatening current leadership with electoral challenges.

In 2014, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the primary for his seat in Congress, despite having held that seat since 2001, to an economics professor without experience in elected office, named Dave Brat. Cantor had outspent Brat 40 to 1, but Brat’s Tea Party backers had doomed Cantor by painting him as too much of a moderate.

The Citizens United ruling which removed caps on campaign contributions by special interest groups also contributes to more partisan rhetoric by parties. President Obama said, in reference to the ruling, “You have some ideological extremists who have a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics. And there are a whole bunch of members of Congress right now who privately will tell you, ‘I know our positions are unreasonable but we’re scared that if we don’t go along with the Tea Party agenda or some particularly extremist agenda that we’ll be challenged from the right.”

Moving towards the middle is necessary for the good of our country. It’s in our nature to feel passionately about things, and as social beings, we tend to align with people with whom we can agree with. Associating with only those who share similar views restricts our knowledge and stifles our progress as a whole. A polarized world without positive interactions among different people is detrimental to society. The best way to truly accomplish our shared goals is to compromise and learn from each other.

Pressing Polarization: The Dangers of Fringe Politics (Republicans)

By Jay Cruger

Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons


I enjoy shock value sometimes. A good joke or riveting story helps in the political sphere, especially when you need to bring your point across with humor. At times it’s good to humanize the political discourse when times are tense. The type of tenseness we were faced with was the one that we had in the first round of committee on clubs for our budgets. In the meeting I sat withYannis Trittas, of the John Jay College Democrats. Shocked yet?

It was the tense easing moment of laughter when we took the roll call of clubs saying “I’m Jay Cruger, president of the Republican Club,” and then immediately followed by “I’m Yannis Trittas, president of the Democratic Club.” The laughter, at the same time, is also very sad.

It is sad because it’s almost impossible to believe that Democrats and Republicans can get along together and agree on something, even when in the same room as each other. It’s expected that Democrats and Republicans fight often, even on campus.

The reality between the president of the College Democrats and myself, is that we do not harbor any bitterness with each other at all. Although Trittas tends to see himself as a “Clinton Democrat” and I brand myself as a “Rockefeller Republican,” both of us embrace most of our parties’ core ideologies on economic issues, but on varying issues we trend towards the political center.

Politics, especially in opposition, has become increasingly vicious, even on a national level.

There are few to no Conservative Democrats or Liberal Republicans left. It’s a shame since New York especially had a great examples of Democrats and Republicans working together. New York Republican Senator, Jacob Javits, worked with Democrat Senator, Robert Kennedy, to solve the problems that arose after the enactment of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Both of them created partnerships between government and the private sector in manpower training and employment.

President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House, Thomas O’Neill, were political rivals but at the end of the day, they could sit down, drink and talk like regular men. Can anyone imagine that with President Obama and Speaker Boehner?

The national political climate is deplorable. There is no room for compromise in Washington anymore. George Pataki, who was governor from 1995 to 2006, won his third term with the help of public sector unions like Service Employees International Union 1199, a relationship unheard of today. Any Republican who followed in Pataki’s footsteps would be dismissed by more rightward leaning Republicans as a “Republican in Name Only.” It is clear that the sensible center is a vanishing phenomenon.

Earlier this month we could not agree on whether or not to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Before that it was a government shutdown, a sequester and another government shutdown. We are too concerned about being ideologically pure and not what needs to be fixed in our economic and social atmosphere.

Polarization has happened because we have lost the ability to listen. Howard Baker, former Republican United States Senate Minority leader, was described as an eloquent listener. In 2011 he said, “There is a difference between hearing and understanding what people say. You don’t have to agree, but you have to hear what they’ve got to say. And if you do, the chances are much better you’ll be able to translate that into a useful position and even useful leadership.”

A study by the Pew Research Center in 2014 said the polarization in the United States “is not just in our politics. American adults are less likely to compromise and often decide where to live, who to marry and who their friends should be based on what they already believe.” Should I start checking my dates’ voter registration card?

How ridiculous is it that we cannot see past each other’s ideologies at the end of the day? How can we not remember that we are all just regular Americans, people who should interact with one another as it is healthy to do so?

How will we ever survive this polarizing atmosphere when social media is further driving wedges in our relationships? It is my hope that this divisive trend does not continue. There’s too much at stake to keep fighting like this. Hopefully, as College Democrats and College Republicans, we can set an example to those set in their ideological ways.

President Eisenhower immortalized the sensible center the best, saying “they (the left and the right) deliberately misrepresent the central position as a neutral, wishy-washy one. Yet here is the truly creative area within which we may obtain agreement for constructive social action compatible with basic American principles-and with the just aspirations of every sincere American. It is the area in which are rooted the hopes and allegiances of the vast majority of the people.”

DeBlasio Comes Through on Promise to Muslim Students

By: Rehana Pierre Khalil Elmeniawy (front), Zein Kapadia (middle-left), Muntassir Sayeedi (middle), Jaffer Shareef (middle-right), Neesar Banna (right), and Talha Bhai (back) in the campus prayer room.

By: Rehana Pierre
Khalil Elmeniawy (front), Zein Kapadia (middle-left), Muntassir Sayeedi (middle), Jaffer Shareef (middle-right), Neesar Banna (right), and Talha Bhai (back) in the campus prayer room.

By Fathema Ahmed


On March 4, Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced the addition of the Muslim holidays of Eid al- Fitr and Eid al-Adha as public school holidays, thus fulfilling a promise he made during his mayoral campaign. While the majority of public school holidays are Christian and Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving and Christmas the announcement of public school closures on Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha marks the first time that a Muslim holiday is given a day off in New York.

“We’re here today to make good on a promise to our Muslim brothers and sisters that a holiday of supreme importance to the Muslim community will be recognized in our school calendar so that children can honor the holiday without missing school, so that families can be together on the holiday, so that our city respects and embraces this important and growing community. We’re making good on a promise, and it’s time for this promise to be kept,” stated DeBlasio during his announcement.

“I’m thrilled that we finally have a holiday off that’s recognized by New York State. It’s 2015 and one of the largest religions is finally getting their desired day off ,” said Yellda Balouch, a John Jay senior and vice president of the Muslim Student Association, regarding the days off for the two Eids.

The two Eids are important religious holidays for Muslims that both have their own function. Eid al-Fitr meaning the festival of breaking the fast is a holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan which is a month of fasting for Muslims. Eid al-Adha meaning festival of the sacrifice refers to what Muslims believe to be the willingness of their Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael at the command of their God referred to as Allah in what is believed to be an act of submission. It is celebrated at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Students feel that Muslims having the day off is only fair, “I feel good for the Muslims because it’s only two days of the year for their holiday and now they get to celebrate it genuinely with the peace of mind that they don’t have to worry about the day coming between their families and exams or something school related,” said John Jay senior Christopher Ferreiras.

“I feel as though now Islam as a practice in New York City will be recognized as an authentic practice and respected like the other Abrahamic religions,” continued Ferreiras.

Since the Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar the holidays don’t have a set date. Instead Muslims around the world await the sighting of the new moon, which lets them know when they can celebrate their holidays. The date also depends on ones location since the moon is not seen everywhere at the same time.

“The Jewish Calendar is a lunar calendar, just like the Muslim calendar which shows that those arrangements can be made in advance. We can make those plans in almost certainty, at least a year in advance,” stated Associate Professor of the Anthropology department, Avram Bornstein.

“Yeah, but the point – the point being, each year, the calendar is different. You know, for the schools each year the religious calendar is different as well. So there will be times when both of the Eid holidays naturally do not occur on school days, or one occurs on a school day, or one does not, sometimes both may. So, we will adjust literally year by year according to need,” stated DeBlasio in a press release on the addition of these holidays would affect schools since there is no set date.

The two Eids aren’t celebrated on the same date by everyone, leaving Muslims to depend on their local mosque and the committee that they have in place to let them know what date they should celebrate the holidays on.

“We are going to work with community members to agree upon a formula for that,” stated Mayor DeBlasio on how the dates of the two Eids would be determined.

“I think it’s great in one sense. We have a growing Muslim student community and I think that should be recognized. It makes sense for Muslims to have the day off. There are some wrinkles though, we already have a long semester. We already have so many holidays which makes it difficult for students to adjust. I think it’s a good thing but I think if we do it we have to make it work with the constraints we have without disrupting the semester,” said Associate Professor of the English department, Jay Gates on how having two extra days off would affect a student’s semester.

“For too long, again, families were forced into an untenable situation. Either the children went to school on those holy days because so many children, of course so many families devoted to education didn’t want their children to miss school. Sometimes those school days included important tests and milestones in the educational year. So either the child went and pursued their education and missed their religious observance, or the other way around – they participated in a sacred moment for their families and missed out educationally,” stated DeBlasio on his thought process behind making Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha into public school holidays.

For students such as Khadija Rahman a John Jay junior and Secretary of the Muslim Student Association it is a struggle deciding whether to take the day off from school, “I’d always have to debate whether there’s an exam or if I’d miss out too much material that day. I’d have to take into consideration if it was worth missing a day.”

“We are a nation that was built to be multi-faith, multicultural. That was the concept of this country. That is why people came here to develop this country from the beginning. And we are carrying out that vision here and now. We as a city need to do more to deepen our connection to Muslim communities all over the city, to work more closely with community leaders,” stated DeBlasio in a press release.

Tech-nically Speaking

By Dominique Goodwin

Staff Writer

For John Jay students taking the subway to school is natural as it is usually a part of their daily routines. As people squeeze in the train carts during rush hour, everyone has their hands full with things like tablets, iPhones, iPads or laptops.

Things aren’t much different on campus. Students are walking through the atrium or sitting on the couches that decorate the floor and are on cellphones.

Corinne Kreymer, a Queensborough Community College student said she usually gets distracted when using the computer for school work, admitting, “If I’m doing work online I most likely have quite a few tabs open, most of which relate to the work I’m doing and maybe just one tab open for something random.”

Development of technology not only affects students but professors as well. Seldom does a professor ask you to hand in a written piece of work. Chances are your professor wants you to hand in a typed paper or send it through email. Web based platforms are more common for educational purposes like, blackboard or safeassign. Now students have the option to take online classes.

The average user of Facebook spends 40 minutes on the website and checks the app 14 times daily said factslides.com. Students even access Facebook in class using the “check in” feature of the app.

Oscar Llivisaca, a major in Criminal Justice said “Sadly, I think i am on Facebook way too much then what I would like. It feels like its the norm now, to check every hour whats going on with friends or what is being liked or what pictures are being uploaded and if there is any big news among my peers. Guess we can say I don’t want to be left out and want to be up to date on everything. Seems like Facebook is more up to date than the local new stations unfortunately.”

Seventy percent of Instagram users check the app at least once a day says Buzzfeed.com.

Ten tweets per second mention Starbucks according to Socialtimes.com. In fact, Twitter has become such a large platform that jobs are focused around social media, like the title of a social media manager.

Zainab Bhatti, a student at Queens College said “I’m on Twitter any chance I get, it’s like an addiction. I can find almost anything to tweet about. I’m always reading my timeline before class starts.”

Students aren’t only spending time on social media but watching endless hours of video too.

YouTube is now partnered with companies like Disney and CBS. YouTube has become a successful platform. People can watch anything from beauty moguls, sneaker reviews to vlogs.

Anna Baloutch, a sophomore student majoring in International Criminal Justice, said, “I do have a YouTube account and it is very addicting because I love YouTube, I’ve had it ever since I was in high school and I love watching new things learning new things, such as cooking, makeup , hair and many other things. So that is very distracting but I try to manage.”

For college students the rules in school are less harsh compared to middle or high school concerning technology use. Everyone can walk through the hall with headphones in iPod blasting and texting and theres no one to to say put it away.Some John Jay students believe that its the updating of technology that increases the distraction.

Baloutch answered, “Yes, definitely, technology is more resourceful than from high school because now many of our schools have apple computers and iPads so it has been very updated than when I started high school.”

Every month Netflix releases a list of new releases of shows and movies. Now, Netflix has its own original series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. In 2015, the list will continue to grow, as noted on websites like USA Today or complex.

As a criminal justice school, many students are intrigued with shows based within the criminal justice system like Orange is the New Black.

Kreymer said, “I would say that the TV and my phone are the most distracting. Though at times I have to seriously buckle down and shut off and the TV. I could go from getting a text to going on twitter and then ending up doing a bunch of other things before getting to my work.”

Estefani Llanos, majoring in Forensic Psychology, said “When it comes to school work and technology I do not believe that technology is distracting. I think it all depends on the persons character and morality. If I know I have a lot of work to do, I’m going to get it done instead of playing games on my phone, texting my friends, and using social networks. It’s a simple matter of prioritizing.”

Attorney General Holder Implements Initiative

By Edir Coronado

Staff Writer

On Sept. 18, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in conjunction with Yale Law School, UCLA, and the Urban Institute will conduct a project named, “National Initiative for Building Community Trust.” This comes amid public outcry about law enforcement unfairly targeting minority groups.

Last year, the country witnessed two police officers acquitted for the murder of two unarmed black men. A lot of the country’s minority communities felt that racism still runs prevalent in our nation, especially those in urban areas. A recent gallup poll published Dec. 8, 2014 showed that only 26 percent of the Black community in urban areas have confidence in the police. The National Initiative, which will be held in several cities across the country will try to raise confidence in these cities.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in 2014, 37.5 percent of the inmate population was African American and 59.1 percent of the inmate population was White. According to the U.S. Census, only 13.2 percent of the population consider themselves African American.

David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay, will be the professor leading the project. In the past he has been involved with other projects such as “Operation Cease Fire” which resulted in the reduction of homicides among youth by 60 percent.

Kennedy is also the co-chairman of National Network for Safe Communities, which is dedicated to reducing crime, incarceration, and racial tension linked to original crime policy.

The team of professors and researchers will work with cities across the country to tackle this issue, which has motivated so many to protest.

Some criminal justice experts agree that research on the subject is extremely important; however, they feel that perhaps too much time is being invested into just research.

Professor Donaldson of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Zebratown” and “The Ville” dedicated his career as a journalist to covering topics specifically pertaining to neighborhoods in New York City with high crime rates.

Donaldson feels that this kind of national research is important work, but that more action needs to be taken.

Donaldson is currently running a program to teach children in Brownsville, Brooklyn how to become better public speakers. While the initiative aims to mend criminal justice issues, he believes more of the funds should be invested into programs like his.

“The community needs to learn to trust the police, the police are paid to protect us and we should let them,” said Frank Mesi, a retired NYPD Detective.

Mesi has experienced strain between the police and community spanning across his 22 years on the force.

He agrees that the bond between the police and the community needs to be restored and that this initiative is great, he also agrees that it is a two way street and the police needs to learn to trust the community as well. “I would rely on recent data to implement programs to fix the distrust the community has against the police,” said Mesi

Ray Tebout, a consultant at the Vera Institute, a nonprofit center that places emphasis on justice policy and practice, is very excited about this new initiative and has high hopes for its success.

“My hope is that both the justice community and communities of color will be able to put to the side their feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and blame and work toward seeing each other as human beings with a shared responsibility for ensuring a healthy and safe community for all,” said Tebout. “Responsibility is not about blame, but about identifying where you have the power to change a situation for the better or worse.”

Free For All: Educational Equality

By Yannis Trittas

Contributing Writer

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

On Jan. 8, while aboard Air Force One, President Barack Obama made a video announcing a plan to invest in the middle class and bolster the country’s economy by ensuring free community college to those that work for it. He later reinforced the proposal during the 2015 State of the Union.

America’s College Promise is a plan to ensure that those who pursue a college education will have the opportunity to attain an Associates Degree, or take their first two years of a bachelors degree, free of charge at one of the nation’s community colleges. The requirements set forth in the proposal are simple: students must maintain at least six credits, have a minimum GPA of 2.5, be part of a work program that will teach them job skills, and have a household annual gross income of below $200,000. The proposal calls for over 60 billion dollars in funding over the next 10 years.

The plan borrows its name from a program already being implemented at the state level, created by Tennessee’s Republican Governor, Bill Haslam. The Tennessee Promise has already had success with a 90 percent enrollment rate of high school seniors in Tennessee. An added stipulation of enrollment in the Tennessee Promise is community service, reigniting civic engagement in our youth that will connect students with their communities on a scale rarely seen these days.

State programs like this are important considering that President Obama’s proposal requires one-fourth of funding to be supplied by the states, which will allow for tailored implementation.

The criticisms facing the program are that free education garners less commitment from students, opposition towards the cap of $200,000 AGI to qualify for the program, and that the federal government should not be increasing funding for college education considering FAFSA and other state programs already exist.

Regarding the lack of commitment of students receiving government aid for their education; conclusions are anecdotal, at best. One can not draw conclusions on one variable without realizing that those receiving student aid have a multitude of factors affecting them. Concerning the annual gross income cap, many on the left criticize the cap for being too high and not focusing enough on those with lower incomes. In response to that, it must be argued that those with lower incomes do not stand a chance of mobility into the middle class while it is increasingly shrinking.

An analysis done by Bloomberg Business in August of last year, showed that tuition costs have risen by 1,225 percent since 1978. Coupled with crippling student loans, these higher rates are widening the gap of income inequality at a rate never before seen. Removing the cap altogether would have negligible effects considering that as of 2012, the IRS statistics report that adjusted gross incomes under $200,000 account for 96.5% of tax documents filed.

As for the last main criticism, that it is not the federal government’s responsibility to increase funding for college education, it is disproven by precedent set by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In 1965, after it became clear that our economy demanded a workforce with at least a high school diploma, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. As part of his War On Poverty domestic policies, its main purpose was to bridge the income gap in America by increasing the amount of high school graduates.

Title I of the legislation stated that it was the federal government’s social and economic responsibility to fund education as needed by our growing economy. The act has been reauthorized every five years since its signing and includes a provision to be rewritten to meet current needs. In the 70’s, the act was rewritten to include textbooks, and now it has provisions to purchase tablets and other technology.

Although the ESEA does not cover college education, the precedent it sets is clear; the federal government has responsibility to make sure that citizens have fair access to at least the minimum level of education necessitated by our job market.

The necessity of a college degree in today’s job market is undeniable. Increases in production due to technology mean most employees in any sector are required to have a general familiarity with technology even at entry-level. Looking past the initial success of the Tennessee Promise or the precedent set by the ESEA in declaring that it is the government’s responsibility to fund education would be irresponsible.

America’s Promise is a common sense policy that will strengthen our country. Failure to pass legislation enacted by our current Republican Senate or House would be an obvious retaliation against our President and a gross betrayal of the American people.

Not-So-Free Community College

By Jay Cruger

Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

This year, President Obama outlined his plan for “free” community college for students seeking Associate’s Degrees in his State of the Union Address. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the plan will cost $60 billion over 10 years. This figure remains an “estimate.”

Yet again we are faced with an ambitious strategy to legitimately do some good, at least in intention, for education in America. The only difficulty with the President’s plan, as with many strategies of his, is that in wake of its proposal, the flaws are readily apparent and major.

Part of the President’s plan to finance his proposal is to tax the special saving funds, called “529 plans,” which people can use to gather money to pay for their children (or theirselves) to go to college. Under current law, 529 plans allow you to put money in and the money grows tax-free for college.

Distributions are tax-free, provided that they are to pay for college. Under the Obama plan, earnings growth in a 529 plan would no longer be tax-free. Instead, earnings would face taxation upon withdrawal, even if the withdrawal is to pay for college. This was the law prior to 2001.

The proposal was calamitous for education, simply because the cost of education is already very heavy, as understood by John Jay students especially. Tuition costs are constantly on the rise and families of multiple income levels are finding it increasingly difficult to finance their children’s education. These 529 plans, the plans the President plans on taxing, are one pathway available to Americans looking for an effective way to save money for education expenses.

As the College Savings Foundation reports, “close to 10 percent of 529 account holders have incomes below $50,000, and more than 70 percent of the total number of accounts are owned by households with incomes below $150,000.” So while The President wanted us to believe that he is “fairly” taxing those of higher income to pay for quality education, the reality is that his taxes on the last vestige of savings for tertiary education will affect people already struggling to afford college across the board.

As usual with these upward taxation plans, this strategy almost inadvertently punishes the middle class.

Even without the fiscal issues, the President and the Democrats continue to ignore a simple fact about society today: not everyone has to or should go to college. The average age of someone in a trade is in the middle to upper fifties or sixties. What does this mean? It means trade work suffers as a culture is pushed more and more to go to a college or university as a means to get a job.

As unpopular as it is to say into a microphone, not everyone is cut out for a college or university, and any push to offer “free” community college is likely to further push a society into that. Not everyone needs a degree to be successful in life (see: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker). We live in a country where people in trades are making better livings than those in dentistry, for example, but are suffering from a lack of potential employees due to the educational backlog.

The problem with the proposal is that if we just add more school, then our students will graduate from more schools that they are not prepared for.

The plan will lead to lower level schools simply moving students along under the appearance that the next institution or level of education will fix them. This becomes disastrous when the next level has their own material to cover and therefore has no time to go and re-teach (or, in many cases, teach for the first time) lessons that should have been gained in the lower levels.

What we need is to correctly target our children’s ambition for college or university academics to trade schools while also improving lower-level schools to better prepare students for either skills and career training or academic study.

If the president wants a legitimate fixture to education and additions of accountability to the education process, he could maneuver his plans differently. He could lessen the federal intrusion in education across the country and introduce programs and initiatives that reward state-level improvement based on statewide growth.

We can also fix education by incentivizing private education, which would force competition and drive public schools to do better.

In essence, the President’s plan does not solve any key educational problems. What we need to do is redirect many who simply are not interested in college or university academics to trade schools while also improving lower-level schools to better prepare students for either skills and career training or academic study.

What we do not need is a plan that will punish the middle class.

A City For Everyone: DeBlasio Announces Affordable Housing Plan

By Jade Jetjomlong

Staff Writer

A view of some of the affordable housing near JohnJay.

By: Ryan Durning A view of some of the affordable housing near John Jay.

In the theatre of Baruch College on Feb. 2, 2015, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio began his second State of the City address with the story of his grandmother immigrating from Italy in the early 1900’s to New York, and like so many other immigrants, looking for opportunity. DeBlasio expressed the uniqueness of New York’s endless possibilities, leading up to his primary concern for 2015, that uniqueness being ”at risk because so many who live in New York struggle to afford to be here.”

With affordable housing as the top priority for NYC improvements, DeBlasio is aiming to build 80,000 units of affordable housing throughout the five boroughs of New York by 2024, in addition to raising the minimum wage from its current rate at $8.75 to over $13 by 2016. This would benefit not only New Yorkers with families but also New Yorkers in college. DeBlasio speaks of families, veterans, and artists needing affordable housing and higher wages, but what about students who can’t afford the limited dorming options?

“Most colleges don’t offer housing, especially City University of New York (CUNY) colleges. Students commute from other boroughs, I commute over an hour from the Bronx and I have friends who come from [New] Jersey and Pennsylvania to attend classes at least twice a week,” said John Jay Junior Saishalie Fabian, 21. “I’m a transfer from a private college in Jersey so when I came here I didn’t want to commute, so I dormed at the New Yorker for a semester. The commute was awesome, from anywhere in Manhattan it took at most 20 minutes to get back to my room.” The New Yorker is a hotel located at 34th Street Penn Station where Educational Housing Services (EHS) holds floors exclusively for certain colleges, according to the EHS homepage.

With it’s own membership of urban universities and community colleges, CUNY is home to 480,000 students at 24 campuses throughout the five boroughs, according to the CUNY homepage. This is not including private colleges and universities such as New York University, Pace, Columbia, and St. John’s.

Most private colleges offer student housing in private apartment buildings or exclusive floors dedicated to college students in hotels that are located near campus, but it is very limited housing and often extremely competitive and expensive. “It was about $10,000 for two semesters, so a full school year, the price is the reason I only stayed for one year” stated Fabian.

When asked if the dorms were worth the price she recalled “The room was small, my roommate and I didn’t click, and I paid all that money to have dumb rules enforced all the time. I was paying around $10,000 plus tuition and couldn’t have any friends over? No, not worth it at all.”

DeBlasio feels that “if we fail to be a city for everyone, we risk losing what makes New York … New York.” According to his statements, due to gentrification, New Yorkers are currently being pushed out of their affordable housing by landlords in an attempt to bring in higher income tenants. New Yorkers are then forced to move to other neighborhoods because it is the only housing they can afford. New York at that point would only be for outsiders and those with set careers and high incomes, not for those who are looking for opportunities in the City of Dreams, as DeBlasio confirms that “for generations, New York has been a city that unleashed human potential.”

Another look at affordable housing.

By: Jenifer Valmon Another look at affordable housing.

“A lot of my clients are from other states. They’re from everywhere but New York and they move to neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Bedstuy and Bushwick, into buildings that were just built or renovated,” said 21 year old Real Estate Salesperson and former John Jay student, Alberto Vigilance. “These are people who want to be closer to the jobs in the city, the neighborhood most similar to Manhattan without Manhattan rent prices.” Vigilance focuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan apartment rentals, specializing in western neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

CUNY students do not get to experience the “going away to college” experience offered by out of state or SUNY colleges since it is extremely hard to find locations large enough to zone exclusively for students and it is expensive to live in many of the Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods.

In order to shorten their commute or “go away to college”, students often move out of home and into their own apartments that are considerably closer to their campus. Most times students move to inconvenient locations, cheaper places farther away from simple public transportation or they move to expensive locations that require them to work full time jobs while being a student. If a student stays at home, their family might be at risk of getting evicted by a landlord to make room for higher income families.

According to Vigilance, most New Yorkers from Manhattan look to relocate to more affordable Williamsburg or Greenpoint, or they are Brooklyn natives relocating from Williamsburg to cheaper neighborhoods like Bushwick or Bedstuy because the rent becomes too much for their income. When it comes to students, Vigilance observed most want locations such as Stuy Town, near East Village in Manhattan, but most have to settle for Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

“Median rates for studios and one bedrooms in popular neighborhoods of Manhattan range north of $2,200 with the exception of Harlem. That means a person has to make at least $27,000 annually to pay rent alone, without any other expenses… If I get paid $8.75 an hour with 40 hours a week, I’m only making $14,000 annually. It’s not impossible but it’s uncomfortable to be a young person with a conventional job working full time and going to school while living in the city,” said Vigilance.

Kayla Strauss, a 22 year old CUNY BA graduate, recalls renting one room from an apartment in Washington Heights for eight months until she decided it was not worth it and sublet the room. “I was paying so much for a 4×4 that still wasn’t convenient for me. I’d rather stay in Staten Island than do all that extra work,” Strauss currently lives in Staten Island and started a savings account. “I hope the mayor tries to come up with a plan that includes affordable student housing as well, it’s hard and sucky to commute on the trains that never work when you already are working hard to get a degree that’s supposed to help you be able to afford staying in your home”.