Little victories, big woes:🗽‘Growing up’ in Rikers🗽More housing blues🗽Wage theft & scams
Hello, New Yorkers! Welcome back to OptOut New York, the newsletter where I curate the best financially independent news about New York City and state, brought to you by the OptOut Media Foundation.
Speaking of which, did you see the feature on OptOut by Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab? (We are here to stay! Be a part of our journey)
A glimpse at our bulletin board on this snowy day:
- The New York Taxi Workers Alliance won a pay raise after three strikes (third strike’s a charm).
- The street of the 2022 Bronx fire has been named 17 Abdoulie Touray Way in honor of the 17 victims killed and a Gambian icon in the Bronx.
- Universally Intimidating Fave Ruth Bader Ginsburg is getting her face carved at the Albany State Capitol, one of the first to be added in 125 years. Galentine’s Day came a month late, but it did!
It wasn’t a lot of money, but it’s something.
As an immigrant—and definitely as a brown woman—I relate all too well with these words. Too often, we follow the idea that “not a lot” is still “something”—receiving the bare minimum feels like a favor being given to us in some way. Bring social class into the equation, and it is so much more complicated and exhausting.
The words above were shared with CITY LIMITS by Micaela, one of 15 employees at a Queens laundry company who was a victim of wage theft that left them short a total of $90,000. As part of a settlement following a lawsuit against Enterprise Cleaners (aka JM Pro or KTN Cleaner or…soul-less), the workers received the $90,000—which amounted to a few thousand dollars for each person.
Micaela shared that even though they didn’t receive much, she hopes that the lawsuit, deemed unprecedented following the Attorney General’s investigation, will mean it will be harder for bosses to take advantage of laborers like her, especially immigrant women.
I have a confession: my level of basic is that I watch way too many true-crime shows and then obsessively talk about them. And if there’s one thing that continues to shock me every time I’m binging on nachos and following a show, it’s how little it takes to find someone guilty in court. I watch and read about the details and am constantly like: wait, can they just do that?
And the answer is a very resounding: Yup!
HELL GATE (which recently launched a podcast) delves into the story of Prakash Churaman, a Queens immigrant who was arrested for a robbery based on an ear witness (the assailants were all wearing masks). Churaman was arrested and confessed after cops urged his mother to beg him to do so, convincing her it was the easy way out.
Here’s the thing: it wasn’t. It landed Churaman in prison where he practically “grew up,” according to Max Rivlin-Nadler, a journalist who has been following the story and shared his account on HELL GATE’s podcast.
There are deeper, graver layers to the story—how it is one of many sitting in an abyss of unaddressed cases, especially an issue in Queens. The irony that stuck with me the most? How the cops are extremely quick to force a confession but how slow the system is processing the case. Prosecutors didn’t pay attention to defense lawyers trying to contact them about evidence that would help Churaman free.
One more time: Wait, they can just do that?
Listen to the story here:
In other news, fossil fuel companies are taking an interesting route to create panic among western New Yorkers about Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to phase out natural gas by prohibiting it in newly constructed units. A robocall reviewed by NEW YORK FOCUS falsely claims that natural gas would be removed from homes entirely, which “could lead to power outages and cost increases.”
The calls were orchestrated by an upstate firm called National Fuel, which is using these messages to encourage its customers to call their state representatives to oppose this plan.
Chinese immigrants in New York and other big cities in the U.S. have lost $10 million through a scam that has been circulating on the messaging app WeChat. About 500 people are said to have fallen victim to this “Ponzi scheme” by a company named HomeX that has targeted Chinese immigrants in California, Minnesota, Florida, and New York.
New York alone is home to 300 victims of the scam. Evan Jiang, an Uber driver in the city, is currently one of the volunteers organizing a victims’ justice group, and he shared his story with DOCUMENTED.
In the true New York spirit of Don't Care About Thy Neighbor, the city recently recorded its first construction worker death after a wall collapsed on a 64-year-old worker. A lawsuit filed soon after addresses a similar issue with another building under construction just a block away. But the owner of the building adjacent to that one is refusing to let in contractors, who need access to the building in order to fix the dangerous wall.
Read THE CITY’s story:
Thanks for following the best of independent news in New York! See you in two weeks.
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