100 Most Powerless New Yorkers

A 'power list' for the rest of us

81. People working in customer call centers

When New York was a hub to phone companies, there were hordes of call centers here. The few left in town are powerless to stop their jobs from eventually being outsourced overseas (to people who will inevitably ask you if "there's anything else I can help you with?" after being powerless to help you with the one thing you called about).

82. The "worker" checking receipts at the door of the Park Slope Food Co-Op

47. Retail-clothing workers
Caleb Ferguson
47. Retail-clothing workers
76. Disabled riders depending on the MTA
Caleb Ferguson
76. Disabled riders depending on the MTA


Because they're checking receipts of organic foods just purchased by pretentious foodies, the person checking receipts at the Park Slope Food Co-Op tends to have an air of superiority. But once you factor in that they're not getting paid and that by replacing a paid worker, their liberal superiority is seriously misplaced, you get a sense of how truly pathetic they are.

83. Jimmy McMillan, the "Rent Is Too Damn High" guy

Despite multiple runs for political office, McMillan is powerless (as is everyone, sadly) to do anything to keep the rent from being too damn high.

84. Sotheby's locked-out art handlers

The art handlers at Sotheby's, the auction house known to take in hundreds of millions of dollars in a single month, have been locked out of their jobs since August 1. How powerless are they, now, with no jobs and no salary? When they confronted Mayor Bloomberg's girlfriend, Diana Taylor (who sits on the Sotheby's board), at an open meeting about what their situation meant to their families, all they could muster out of her was a promise that if the auction house "accedes to any of your demands, I will resign from the board."

85. Any hotel maid who alleges being raped in post-DSK New York

Maybe the most plentiful of victims from the Dominique Strauss-Kahn incident earlier this year are the hotel maids (or other women in service positions) who might be sexually assaulted or raped in the future by a powerful man. They now have additional reasons not to come forward and to assume no one will believe them.

86. Anyone who has to use the bathroom in New York City

How powerful do you feel with a full bladder when you're away from home in this town? Public toilets are nowhere to be found during your daily subway commute, increasingly hard to hustle into in a fast-food joint, and they're even completely absent from some public libraries.

87. Car-owners in Fort Greene

It's not easy to park a car anywhere in New York, but it has gotten especially difficult in Fort Greene. Once the Barclay's Center opens next fall at Atlantic Yards with a mere 1,100 parking spots to accommodate its 19,000-seat capacity, expect streets in Spike Lee's home 'hood to become gridlocked with cars looking for nonexistent parking spaces during some 200 planned events a year. A plan to grant street-parking permits for residents is considered dead on arrival in Albany.

88. Anyone who voted for term limits

Terms limits were passed in New York City in 1996 by referendum, and a City Council plan to abolish them was rejected in 1998. Despite those clear messages from the populace, the City Council overturned term limits in 2008, allowing Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg to run for and extend their current jobs. The voters expressed their power by going to the polls in 2010 and voting for term limits for a third time, which will certainly last until some other elected officials find a way to get around them.

89. People who work as human billboards

A human being whose sole job is to stand all day in place of a sign for a company that can't otherwise put a sign there is a sad thing to witness. Most are recruited on street corners as day laborers and, paid under the table, are highly susceptible to wage theft. Those who have to pass out flyers have supervisors who spy on them to make sure they're handing them out and not throwing any away. And those in cartoon costumes (who flourish in Midtown like it's an Orlando theme park) have the added fear of an NYPD crackdown to their general physical discomfort and everyday humiliation.

90. Cindy Jacobs Alman, the co-owner of Ruby's on Coney Island

Alman (and everyone who owns a business on the Coney Island Boardwalk) is perennially threatened with a demise that never seems to come yet never goes away. Ruby's has been in her family since the 1970s, but each year stands to be its last, even though it's wildly popular and always packed in the warm-weather months.

91. Myrna Posner, St. Vincent's benefactor

Over the years, Posner, an elderly woman with terminal cancer, was generous to St. Vincent's. According to Westview News, Posner "poured tens of thousands of dollars in donations into the hospital's floundering coffers right up until the last months of its existence." But the hospital took her money and shut its doors before she needed it most. Forced to get her care elsewhere, Posner is now fighting to retrieve her MRI scans from St. Vincent's, closed since filing for bankruptcy in April of last year.

92. Street artists

Busking has never been an easy way to make a living, but street performers had their musical powers greatly diminished in 2010. An ordinance requiring them not to perform within 50 feet of monuments is now being enforced, effectively pushing them out of Washington Square Park, away from Bethesda Fountain, and far from any place where tourists are hanging out. Even drummers, once the rally call of Occupy Wall Street, were slapped down by the General Assembly when the protesters had to reduce their hours.

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