AMAZON FOLDS AS QUEENS APPLIES PRESSURE

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A week after 2018’s Election Day, residents of New York City were hit with the news of Long Island City as the chosen location for the new Amazon HQ2. With this unveiling, horrendous details of this deal between Andrew Cuomo and Jeff Bezos’s tax evading company began to make headlines. Not only was Amazon coming to Long Island City, a section of Queens undergoing rapid gentrification, the company was being granted up to 3 billion dollars in state subsidized grants: NEW YORK TAXPAYER MONEY. Amazon avoided paying taxes in 2018 and it has been reported that they will avoid paying taxes again in 2019 despite making double the profits they had last year:

According to a report published by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy Wednesday, the e-tail/retail/tech entertainment/everything giant won’t have to pay a cent in federal taxes for the second year in a row. This tax-free break comes even though Amazon almost doubled its US profits from $5.6 billion to $11.2 billion between 2017 and 2018. To top it off, Amazon actually reported a $129 milion 2018 federal income tax rebate—making its tax rate -1%. – Fortune, 2019

One of the richest men in the world, notorious tax evader, was being given 3 billion dollars in CORPORATE WELFARE. On top of it, the Amazon HQ2 would’ve had a helipad in exchange for 25,000 jobs and “job training” for NYCHA residents in the area. All of this would’ve been located next to Queensbridge Houses, the largest project complex in the country. With the news of this, the pushback from local grassroots organizations and coalitions such as Queens Anti-Gentrification, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), CAAV, Fuck Off Amazon, and several more was enough to scare the corporate giants away from Queens. These organizations and coalitions were able to organize the people in Long Island City to mobilize against Amazon by petitioning, rallying, interrupting city council meetings, and employing tactics that applied pressure on city officials, state officials and the company itself. In Amazon’s statement on their decision to not follow through with HQ2 in LIC, the negative response from “state and local politicians” is pointed as the primary reason:

After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.” – Amazon, 2019.

Somehow the long struggle fought by the members of the community isn’t mentioned. This trend is also seen in the cover article of the New York Daily News titled “Amazon Killers,” which features New York state politicians who opposed Amazon and blames them solely for the company’s departure.

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Although these politicians were vocal about their disdain for Amazon and the bad deal it was for New York City, they were NOT the ones who were foot on the ground and bringing the community together against the cause. With the people pushing Amazon away, only the bourgeois capitalists are the ones hurt and scared about the deal falling through. Real estate agents and tech companies alike are fearful about what the future holds as one of the biggest companies folded from the backlash. Real estate agents were depending on the “Amazon effect” to boom housing which would result in millions for these leeches. The same housing that natives local to the area would never be able to afford. They were banking on Amazon to attract more gentrifiers to an area that’s already affected by gentrification at rapid rates.

“I’m certainly disappointed. It’s been a really surprising morning, to be honest,” said Lauren Renee Bennett, a broker for Corcoran who has serviced the area for the past six years, and lived there more than a decade.She told CNN Business she recently had five contracts that were sent out within a one week period, and all were signed in “record time,” because of the boom. She was even featured in the New York Post for quickly selling several condos in the area after Amazon’s announcement in November.She estimated there had been a total of $8 million worth of real estate deals with signed contracts, as well as another $4 million to $5 million currently in negotiations.Bennett was hardly the only one who saw a sudden change in the market. – KXLY, 2019

Tech companies are also fearful about what the future hold for them in New York City and big cities around the country. These same companies are the ones who import gentrifiers and in turn create little utopias for them in conjunction with real estate agencies:

“I think it’s a continuing trend of how companies are running smack into the face of communities they have ignored,” contended Li. “The reality is when you move into a city, you have to build relationships. But Amazon basically marched in with an attitude of, ‘Hey, you will be lucky to get us.’ What we are seeing is tech companies are no longer the knight in shining armor. ‘Oh, let me bestow my benevolence upon you’ — 25,000 jobs — but only if you do my bidding.” – Yahoo, 2019

Charlene Li has the right idea. In Amazon’s statement they claimed that about 70 percent of New Yorkers were in favor of their move to Long Island City, but the pushback from the local organizations, coalitions and residents proved that this isn’t the case. These communities should always have a say in what they want because they are the ones who are affected greatly by developments of gentrifications. These effects are never beneficial to the residents of these neighborhoods. As much as publications, politicians, capitalists and all those alike refuse to acknowledge the strength in the organization of working-class people, it is THE COLLECTIVE POWER OF WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE OF QUEENS WHO GAINED THE VICTORY! YOU CANNOT DENY OR IGNORE THE PEOPLE! IT IS MORE OF US THAN IT IS OF THE BOURGEOIS CLASS! LET IT BE KNOW THAT THE WORKING-CLASS IS NOT FUCKING AROUND! WHEN WE SAY GET THE FUCK OUT, WE MEAN IT!

 

NEW YORK CITY IS THE BIGGEST FUCKING SLUM LORD

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The New York City Housing Authority also known as NYCHA, had a truly eventful year in 2018 with the headlines they made over a span of months. With many of these atrocities hidden for years by the city, these public health crises were finally uncovered and brought to light. The cases that are more recent are still deplorable and need to have continuous light shed on them due to these instances not being isolated by any means. NYCHA’s tenants and observers within New York City already knew of the agency’s uselessness, but with all these cases highlighting New York City’s negligent nature in handling of them, its only right to declare New York City itself as the biggest fucking slumlord of them all. Let’s discuss some of these deplorable, unfortunate examples:

EXAMPLE 1: THE ACTUAL NUMBER OF KIDS TAINTED BY LEAD
NYCHA has long been under fire for lead-paint cases that led to developmental delays in kids that have been affected by it. The city only admitted to 19 children who lived in NYCHA that tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood in the last 10 years but in June 2018, a shocking revelation hit the news making month-long headlines. The city actually was aware of more than 800 children living in NYCHA who tested positive for levels of elevated lead in their blood between the years of 2012 and 2016; A COMPLETELY STARK DIFFERENCE IN WHAT WAS ORIGINALLY REPORTED:

For the first time the city acknowledged that from 2012 through 2016, 820 children ages 5 and under living in NYCHA apartments had tested positive for elevated lead levels of 5 to 9 micro-grams per deciliter of blood. Since 2012, the CDC has recommended public health intervention for any child from infants to 5 years old with blood-lead levels of 5 micro-grams or greater. Elevated blood-lead levels are known to cause developmental delays in small children. – 2018, NYTimes

 

EXAMPLE 2: NYCHA Water Contamination
Another NYCHA public health crisis was exposed in July 2018. It was revealed that NYCHA’s water tanks were examined by city inspectors of the New York City Department of Health. The water tanks were found to have dead birds, dead rats, flying insects, dead squirrels, and feces amongst other grotesque findings. All these life-threatening, hazardous findings were handwritten in NYCHA’s “Annual Roof Tank Inspection Reports,” which are filled with findings and horrendous details that NYCHA refused to report to city health officials.

“Inside a stack of hundreds of internal NYCHA documents, vivid details of contamination leap off dozens of pages– dead birds and squirrels, flying insects, and things floating and growing inside NYCHA’s many damaged wooden drinking water tanks. But the documents also show that evidence of potentially hazardous conditions in its water tanks was blotted out using white-out under a recent policy change that appears to have had a chilling effect.” – City & State, 2018

 

EXAMPLE 3: Rat infestation
In 2018, NYCHA residents in the Claremont Houses in the Bronx had to deal with a terrifying rat infestation after a trash compactor in the basement was shut off, making the rats move upwards to apartments and making conditions unlivable. A 1-year child was bit on the stomach by a rat and had to receive care with antibiotics. Videos were captured by the tenants which shows rats climbing on sinks in the kitchen, all throughout cupboards and in toilets.

“I should never have to experience not one but seven rats in my kitchen,” Martinez said. It’s disgusting. All over the stove, the washing machine, they just invaded my apartment.” – CBS New York, 2018

EXAMPLE 4: No heat or hot water on holidays or coldest days of year
A problem that has been prevalent throughout the decades for NYCHA continues to persist. During the Thanksgiving break, NYCHA tenants went without hot water or heat to celebrate their time with their families.

“I’ve heard so many stories of the pipes freezing and that’s why there’s no heat or cleaning the water tank and that’s why there’s no water,’ the 45-year old mom said. “It’s literally the same excuse every year. You couldn’t have done this in the summer so by the time comes winter it’s done?” – NY Post, 2018

Recently on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, New York City experienced weather as low as 9 degrees and NYCHA residents faced the same fate they did during Thanksgiving break and random times throughout the harsh winters:

“No heat, no hot water! It’s cold in there! We got the stove going all day and still freezing! It’s cold in here. It’s terrible!” said Deloris Byrd, one of 2,829 residents affected at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Houses when the heat went out due to an electrical issue Monday morning. “I’m going to be 78 and I got health issues. No hot water, no heat. I pray they get it back soon or I’ll be in big trouble,” she said.” – NY Post, 2019

These are only a few examples from 2018 to present 2019. Years and years, tenants of NYCHA have been facing negligence at the hands of NYCHA and New York City. The poorest and most vulnerable segments of New York City’s population live within NYCHA and deserve adequate housing conditions. These aren’t just random instances, or regular issues. These are the public health crises NYCHA’s tenants are burdened. Usually when we think of state-sanctioned violence, we think of police brutality cases, but causing physical harm to the health of hundred thousands of tenants is also state violence. Knowingly hiding and keeping details to cover their asses has harmed and put hundred thousands of poor people at risk of serious health complications. This is state violence at play and the tenants are the subjects of it. How long are we going to stand for New York City’s violence towards NYCHA residents? When the year’s list of worst slumlords are compiled, make sure to put New York City on top as the reigning champion.

AMAZON HQ: WORKING-CLASS NYC’S “L”

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The unveiling of the proposed Amazon HQ in Long Island City was the end of the year slap in the face to working-class New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo decided to grant one of the richest men in the world and his company Amazon with a damn near 3 billion dollar tax break with state subsidized funds, also known as New York taxpayer money. Jeff Bezos and Amazon plan to bring 25,000 jobs to New York City with this proposed headquarters but who will be filling those positions up? Surely not native New Yorkers. Long Island City is already one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Queens and this Amazon HQ will surely further plague the neighborhood.

The increased gentrification of NYC has made ACTUAL affordable housing harder to obtain for working-class New Yorkers. Who cares though when Jeff Bezos is getting a fucking helipad, right? The richest company in the world was granted CORPORATE WELFARE while working-class New Yorkers struggle with shitty public transportation, education, lack of affordable housing and student debt. With this CORPORATE WELFARE granted to Amazon, New Yorkers will most likely see a slash in social services that are a necessity with gentrification making living harder for working-class people. Letitia James, Jumaane Williams, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ydanis Rodriguez and Yvette Clarke are just a few popular NYC politicians that signed on in FAVOR of Long Island City becoming the site for Amazon’s new HQ.

 

Not to mention, several reports have come out about Amazon’s deplorable treatment of its workers:

A separate survey released Sunday by labor group Organise found that  74% of 102 fulfillment employees surveyed avoided using the bathroom to prevent disciplinary action. Most said they were concerned about missing increasingly high targets. 55% said they have suffered from depression since starting their work at Amazon, and 57% said they’ve been more anxious. Another undercover report in The Mirror by Alan Selby documents disturbing conditions in fulfillment centers — workers were asked to stand for the entirety of their 10-hour shifts, except for two 30-minute breaks. Bathroom breaks were automatically timed by work stations. Selby says he witnessed someone collapse and saw another have a panic attack after learning they would have to work a 55-hour week during Christmas. “ – DIGG MAGAZINE, 2018

We all know Queens as the most diverse borough of New York City, home to someone from almost every nation, country, and island in the world. Queens has a high population of immigrants within it and Amazon is helping the Trump administration by providing technology to ICE:

Asked about Amazon’s efforts to sell facial recognition technology to ICE, Huseman replied, “We provide that recognition service to a variety of agencies and government should have the best technology.” He said the company has a “positive record” on immigration, including advocating for Dreamers and green card reform. – Gothamist.com, 2018

So Amazon is helping NYC while helping Trump with his deportation machine? Lets now talk about the NYCHA residents of Long Island City who are stiffed with this deal. Residents of Queensbridge Houses won’t get preferential treatment in terms of employment with Amazon either. They’ll only get “job training,” which we see is the common “benefit” when companies come to rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods to lessen the blow.

So whether you support this shitty ass Amazon deal or not, you better know that none of this shit is for New Yorkers who need it the most, but one of the richest men in the world got free taxpayer money, as if he fucking needed anymore.

 

 

LIL BOO – “OH LORD” (VIDEO)

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If you haven’t heard of her by now, you should get to know Brooklyn’s young, beautiful lyricist, Lil Boo. Equipped with a completely polished flow that pairs well with witty lyrical content, Lil Boo can hang with and out-rap women and men alike. In “Oh Lord,” Lil Boo shows us a gritty side and delivers as usual.
Check out the video for “Oh Lord” below:

Lil Boo’s social media:

IG: @lilboo.official

Facebook: Lil Boo

“A SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY!” EP – CHALICE

 

IMG_4987Out of every few artists, there’s always one artist that is well-rounded in style, flow, delivery, song creation, and lyrical content. Chalice is one of those who can shift and manipulate multiple sub-genres to match his energy. With “A Surprise Birthday Party!” EP, Chalice takes on the current mainstream sound and jazzes it up with his natural Scorpio flair.

Stream it below:

THE ICONIC, CULTURAL STREET GAME OF SKULLY/SKELLY TOPZ

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Prior to the advanced technology we have today, the kids of New York City played heavily in the streets. Whether it was freeze tag, manhunt, running around in the Johnny pump, double dutch or hopscotch, city kids always found creative ways to play. The game of skully is one of the most iconic street games New York City has seen. Since the 1950s, kids of New York City have been melting crayon, clay or wax into bottle caps to create their playing pieces. With chalk, players would draw out the skully board on the sidewalk or asphalt:


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Below are the rules of skully:

Make a skully board with chalk on a patch of available and relatively smooth street or sidewalk. The board consists of 13 numbered boxes, 1 through 12 on the periphery of the board, and a box labeled 13 in the center surrounded by a “dead man’s zone” or “skull.”
Start at a line outside the skully box and aim for the “1” box, flicking your bottlecap with your finger. If you get it in (without it touching any line), you keep your turn and shoot for the next box. You can also advance a box by hitting the cap of an opposing player. If you’re close to another player’s piece, you can try to blast the piece halfway down the block with your own. In some neighborhoods, you can replace your cap with a special heavy one (like from a juice or peanut butter jar) for this purpose, though you couldn’t do this if someone calls “no blasting allowed.”

After going from 1 to 13, you have to return, going from 13 to 1. After completing the full journey, you shoot back into 13 and then navigate the “skull,” shooting your piece in the forbidden “dead areas” of the skull while declaring your new powers (“I am a killer diller”).

From this point on, you hunt the other players. Only you (or other killers) can safely go within the skull. If you hit another player (3 times consecutively), they’re out of the game. If they hit you, they become a killer too (or, if you decide beforehand, they’re out of the game). The last person left wins.

Thought not as popular, skully still remains a cultural staple in New York City. Check out a very hood tutorial of the game below:

VERNDOLLA$ – AUGUST (EP)

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Verndolla$ is a 20-year old rapper representing Queens. His debut EP “August” is a 12-track experience with production from AEBeats, Lezter, Cxdy, Regreting and a host of others. Amongst the standout tracks on the EP are “Run With It,” “Really Like Me” featuring Kota the Friend, “Catch Up” featuring Kalonji Law$. and “Outta Pocket” featuring Purp. Stream “August” below:

 

 

REMEMBER WHEN TWO EX-GOOGLE EMPLOYEES THOUGHT A VENDING MACHINE WOULD PUT BODEGAS OUT OF BUSINESS?

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Remember when those two dudes, Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan, who used to work at Google thought they were going to make bodegas and mom-and-pop shops obsolete with a glorified ass vending machine called “BODEGA?” They even had the nerve to use a cat as the company’s logo to represent the heart of all bodegas, the bodega cat. We all know bodegas to be the most convenient place in the hood for us to buy food, drinks, snacks, household items and anything we may need. Bodegas have been a New York City staple since the influx of immigrants from Latin America to the United States.  For people in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, bodegas hold the same significance with bodega translating to grocery store in Spanish. There are also the Arab-owned delis that are prevalent here in NYC. This “Bodega” startup  was met with huge backlash and many took offense to these two tech capitalists trying to rid us of these cultural staples that we adore while adopting the name simultaneously.

In an interview with Fast Company in 2017, McDonald had this to say:

I asked McDonald point-blank about whether he’s worried that the name Bodega might come off as culturally insensitive. Not really. “I’m not particularly concerned about it,” he says. “We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said ‘no’. It’s a simple name and I think it works.

Exactly who did you survey because it damn sure wasn’t Papi who owns these stores. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t appreciate being put out of business by some mamaguevos that used to work for Google who think putting 100 things in a vending machine is equivalent to the work they put in 7 days a week.  After all that backlash, McDonald and Rajan got the message clearly and relaunched their little vending machine startup as “Stockwell” and it has none of the Latin American hood flair that our bodegas have. How McDonald and Rajan even mustered the courage to do this foolishness is beyond me. 

There’s no way you can replace that feeling of just walking out your crib for a quick run. Whether you want a beef patty, chopped cheese or a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll with an Ari, and some papers to go with it, Papi or Ahky (no pork bacon) got you. Depending how long you lived in a neighborhood or whether you grew up there, you’ve built relationships with the people who work in the bodega. There’s an unmatched level of respect. Let’s not ever get that confused again. 

 

 

RAP LOOKS THAT WE LOVED GROWING UP

Hip Hop fashion has always been influential. We’ve seen the durag co-opted by high fashion brands such as Chanel and sold as “urban head rags.” From Lil Kim’s colorful wig and fur combinations, to Cam’Ron’s all pink everything and Fabolous’ throwback jerseys, let’s explore some looks that stood out from late 90s to mid 2000s.

 

 

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Fabolous in the “Trade It All” video with the bandana over fitted and Lakers jersey.

 

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In the same video, Fabolous wore the infamous towel bandana.
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Ghostface Killah donning a green fur frock with a championship belt in the “Cherchez LaGhost” video
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Fire camo jacket and bucket hat combo in Cam’Ron’s “Get Em Girls” video
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Nas in a leather and Cartier frames in a “Belly” scene
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Method Man in a mustard yellow Avirex leather and fuzzy kangol in “Belly”
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Pink bandana jacket with the matching timbs customized in paisley bandana print & the Diplomats logo in the “I Really Mean It” video
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Cam’Ron’s infamous pink fur coat/headband combo
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Nas & then Puff Daddy donning furs in the “Hate Me Now” video
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Nas’ infamous Avirex in “Belly”
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EVERY SINGLE LOOK IN LIL KIM’S “CRUSH ON YOU” VIDEO
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Foxy Brown in a stunning fur with a sheer dress/ bra combo
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Foxy again in a yellow body con with an orange shearling/hat combo

 

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Jay-Z and Mya in the North Carolina Tarheels Jordan jerseys in the “Best Of Me” video
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Only Killa could make the USA flag look redeemable in his Jeff Hamilton Diplomats custom.