100 Most Powerless New Yorkers

A 'power list' for the rest of us

28. The graphic logo of the man on the bike in bike lanes

There are all kinds of stakeholders in the bike-lane wars: the Department of Transportation, bike riders, business owners, and self-identified "environmentalists" who get excessively NIMBYistic on the streets where they live. But what of the poor bike man? He has no say in what happens except to lie on the ground like a doormat and let people ride all over him.

29. Dan Halloran, Republican city councilman from Queens (and First Atheling of a fractured kingdom called New Normandy)

89. Human billboards
Caleb Ferguson
89. Human billboards
48. Security guards (all of them)
Caleb Ferguson
48. Security guards (all of them)


Halloran, the "King of Queens," came into office as "America's Top Heathen" and one of the first people elected with support from the Tea Party. Yet two years into his term, he's bogged down in a federal grand jury for possibly lying that Department of Sanitation workers told him they were ordered to purposefully keep the roads from being cleared during "Snowpocalypse." Also, the Camelot phase of his reign as the head of his Theodish tribe New Normandy seems to be over, as many of his "thralls" have left.

30. The Department of Sanitation and the Department of Transportation workers Halloran fingered in "Snowpocalypse"

Regardless of the truth of Halloran's claims about an intentional snow-response slowdown, the two DOT supervisors he met with (and the thousands of sanitation workers implicated) were rendered quite powerless by the doubt his claims cast upon their work ethic.

31. Press-pass-less members of the press

Mike Bloomberg might say he's friendly to start-ups, but Gothamist doesn't buy it, after their reporter Christopher Robbins has repeatedly been denied a pass for months, and reporters from the publication have been turned down for seven years. Members of the media without city-issued press passes were far more likely to be arrested while covering the Occupy Wall Street raid in November, with 21 of the 26 reporters lacking official passes.

32. Press-pass-carrying members of the press

Perhaps the only members of the media with less power than those without press passes are those who have deluded themselves into thinking they have special power by having one. As the Voice's Graham Rayman asked, does it make sense to carry a press pass by agreeing to be "stuck in a pen? Conferred fewer rights than a regular person? Poked and prodded and pushed around all in the idea that there's some special access right around the corner, and if you just play your cards right, you'll get it?" (And as regular Voice contributor photojournalist C.S. Muncy puts it, having the pass is basically like having a target on your back.)

33. Food-cart vendors

Street vendors have some of the harshest lives of any working New Yorkers. They get up in the middle of the night to be ready to peddle to the earliest workers. As the Street Vendor Project puts it, while they "do not pay retail rent, of course, they also do not get the benefits that go along with an indoor space—ample space to display and store their wares, a roof over their heads, heating and air-conditioning, and a secure gate to pull down each night. Instead, vendors push their carts or tables back to their garages, where they do pay rent each month." They also have to pay someone to watch over their carts just to be able to take a bathroom break, or they risk being fined.

34. The librarians of the Occupy Wall Street "People's Library"

One of the most fun aspects of Zuccotti Park this fall was the "People's Library," a wide selection of books that sparked freewheeling discussions. Volunteer librarians (like Bill Scott) guarded it with professional care. Although they protected it from Mayor Bloomberg's first threatened raid on the park (by taking the books away via Zipcar to an "undisclosed location"), the librarians were rendered utterly powerless after the city launched its surprise raid and returned the collection looking like shit.

35. Citibank customers trying to close their accounts

Citibank customers were not feeling "The Power of Citi" when they tried to close their accounts in an Occupy Wall Street action and were arrested.

36. David Stoller and Kenny Lloyd of 964 Dean St.

Stoller and Lloyd are residential tenants whose Brooklyn building was put up for auction last October. They had been dutifully paying rent to the person they thought was the owner for months, only to find out that there was a new owner, claiming they owed thousands of dollars in back rent. Stoller and Lloyd said they watched someone they thought was one of their landlords being led away in handcuffs.

37. Meter maids (a/k/a traffic cops) working near the United Nations

Traffic cops write up millions of dollars' worth of parking tickets to ambassadorial staff near the United Nations and the city's many consulates. When it's time for those tickets to be paid, the offenders claim diplomatic immunity and don't pay them. The city is powerless to force them.

38. Pedicab drivers

There are few people on the road with less respect (and often, less money) than pedicab drivers. Because of licensing and insurance requirements, most are owned by a handful of companies who rent them to drivers for about $200 a week. A lucrative day of constant peddling around in bus fumes and car exhaust can raise some serious dough, but competition from increasing numbers or bad weather can leave drivers in the red to their owners.

« Previous Page
Next Page »