100 Most Powerless New Yorkers

A 'power list' for the rest of us

70. Teachers in failing high schools

When teachers end up in a school with a failing grade, it's a mark of death for them. If they leave a school slated for closure (which can take years to phase out) and try to get a job elsewhere, they are considered ignoble for abandoning a sinking ship. But if they stay until the end, they become pariahs. No principal wants to hire a teacher from a "failed" school. (Even more powerless are students in the end, who, if they graduate, might do so from a school that is no longer accredited.)

71. Parents of students in the Ida Straus "zone" school

37. Meter maids near the U.N.
Caleb Ferguson
37. Meter maids near the U.N.
77. The homeless woman living on a Voice box
Steven Thrasher
77. The homeless woman living on a Voice box


In February 2010, the Voice profiled two schools under the same roof: the Lower Lab Gifted School, made up primarily of wealthy white and Asian students who tested to get in, and the Ida Straus neighborhood "zone" school, which anyone can get into. The mostly black and brown families in the Straus school are second-class citizens in their own building and have fewer benefits (and even use separate entrances) than the kids under the same roof. (And the Manhattan member of the Panel for Educational Policy, Patrick Sullivan, has his kids enrolled at the Lower Lab School, giving the rep of hundreds of thousands in personal interest in one school but not the other.)

72. Mohammed Manik and Iqbal Hossain of the New Bombay Masala restaurant

Manik and Hossain run the New Bombay Masala Restaurant, a business they have poured considerable money and sweat into. But like many business tenants, they unknowingly took a lease out on a building, 1241 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, which was headed for foreclosure. Through no fault of their own, the building was sold at auction in October, and they have no idea whom the new landlord is nor what the future of the lease they hold will be.

73. Mayan-language speakers

The city's Latin American immigration population has exploded in the past decade. Among those who are the most vulnerable are immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries who speak indigenous languages. They don't speak English or even Spanish and are cut off from New York City and set within a tiny subpopulation, winding up in the most exploited jobs.

74. Dr. George Campbell Jr., former president of the Cooper Union

Once the head of the most prestigious tuition-free college in the nation, Dr. Campbell is now a retired academic left holding the bag for Cooper Union's financial woes. Fairly or unfairly, Campbell looks suspect having left the stage right after Cooper went on a construction binge and right before it considered a plan to start charging tuition. He's powerless to re-shape his legacy with the school at this point.

75. Yvonne McNeal, mentally disturbed homeless woman shot by the NYPD

The mentally ill have been pretty powerless since they were turned onto the streets by the Reagan administration, and the homeless have been on the run as their numbers have swelled (and shelters have been de-funded) during the Bloomberg years. No story better shows the crisis confluence of mental illness and homelessness more clearly, perhaps, than that of Yvonne McNeal, a mentally ill homeless lesbian who wielded two knives at a homeless shelter in October and was shot dead by the NYPD.

76. Handicapped users of the subways and buses

Not every physically challenged person can qualify for (or depend upon) Access-a-Ride, and they manage, admirably, to navigate the MTA's bus lifts and limit themselves to the few subway stations which have elevators. But when one of those subway elevators goes out—say, at a transfer station while the handicapped customers is already en route—they can be up shit creek and stuck on a platform.

77. The homeless woman living on a Voice box

For at least two days in October, a homeless woman was living on top of a red Voice box. Something about her choice of a bed and the Strand tote bag, we fear, says something not just about the powerlessness of the homeless, but also about print media.

78. The Civilian Complaint Review Board

The CCRB takes complaints about the NYPD, and, well . . . that's about all they do, given our one experience filing a complaint with them. They take a complaint . . . and . . . and . . . and we're not sure what else they're empowered to do after they take the complaint, quite honestly.

79. Anyone who wants to see the 9/11 Memorial and wasn't related to one of the 3,000 killed

If you were related to one of the people killed on September 11, you can quickly get in to the private museum (with a very well-paid staff). If not, or if (heaven forbid!) you are someone without access to a computer, it's not so easy. You must go online, e-mail, or call in advance to make a reservation . . . and this is not just to get into the not-yet-open museum—this is to get into the acres of outdoor space. It's free to go, but you'll get a healthy dose of guilt to donate.

80. The elderly crossing Queens Boulevard

"The Boulevard of Death" and reportedly most dangerous street in the five boroughs, Queens Boulevard renders the elderly trying to cross the wide road especially powerless. The most recent septuagenarian mowed down was 72-year-old Pat Dolan, run over on her way to a Community Board meeting.

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