New York's Most Powerless
by Mark Riley
posted Jan 12 2012 10:26AM
First, let me be clear. This wasn't my idea, but that of Steven Thrasher of the Village Voice. In Wednesday's edition, he has the cover story, The 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers. The piece is brilliant, and while this humble blog can't share the entire list, a good number of the most powerless are worth noting. There are a bunch of politicians on the list, but they're not particularly powerless or interesting. Others, whether categories or small groups of people, make the story worth reading.
For example: weed delivery guys. Certainly they're doing something illegal, but they also, according to Thrasher, at the bottom of a pyramid scheme as far as sales and distribution are concerned. In other words, they'll never get rich. Bodega owners also make the list. I'm not sure why, but in New York City anything that isn't a large supermarket like Whole Foods has become defined as a bodega. Little by little, as the city changes, these small businesspeople are being driven out.
Homeless people who hang out in public library branches, librarians themselves, carriage horses, and an 82 year old resident of Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant who's facing eviction from her home (don't ask!) are among the most powerless. Weed delivery people aren't the only powerless deliverypeople, according to this list. Food delivery people take it on the chin as well, as everyone knows they carry cash and often get robbed.
A young lesbian also made the most powerless list. She's homeless, and spends her nights on the subway. Even members of the press made the list. This is because 21 or 26 journalists busted trying to cover the Occupy Wall St. protests didn't have press passes the NYPD doles out. Right after them come those with press passes, since they think they have an easier time by trying to flash them. Also among the most powerless: food cart vendors, pedicab drivers, riders who get on a "Select Bus" without a receipt (that gets you a $150.00 fine), postal workers, retail clothing workers, security guards, and journalists who have to come up with lists like the one done by Thrasher (refreshing to see a writer with both a sense of humor and irony).
After scanning this list, one comes away with a unique sense of what it's like to live and work in New York City, but not being able to exert much influence on the forces that call the shots. Here's hoping Steven Thrasher does another list next year.
Maybe things will get better for some of those on this year's.