100 Most Powerless New Yorkers


Have you noticed that power lists, which have been spreading like the clap lately, from the Time 100 to the Forbes 500, tell you things you already know about the rich and famous and give publicity to people who already have more of it than they know what to do with? For the rest of us, here’s a power list to get 2012 going in the right direction. They’re in no particular order. (Like it really matters.)


1. Weed-delivery guys


The reason so many marijuana arrests are of black and Hispanic people is not because they smoke weed more. White New Yorkers, by the NYPD’s own numbers, have a higher per-capita rate of contraband when they’re arrested. However, white people stay safe in their apartments while colored folks deliver drugs to them. Delivering drugs puts you on the bottom of a pyramid scheme where you usually earn less than minimum wage, making you vulnerable to homicide and giving you about as much of a chance of becoming a rich kingpin as being a production assistant or a media intern gives you of becoming a celebrity.


2. The St. Mark’s Bookshop staff


These are not good days to be a bookseller, and the staff of the St. Mark’s Bookshop are particularly at peril. Although celebrities as diverse as Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Moore have recently given their endorsement to the quaint bookshop (and Voice neighbor), and Cooper Union has granted it a rent reduction reprieve, its staff’s jobs are on the line if either of the seemingly inevitable occur: the continued rise of e-books and the fury of Cooper students at the possibility of having to pay tuition.


3. Bodega owners


Over the past decade, your neighborhood bodega has likely been replaced by a bank outlet or driven out of business by a Duane Reade popping up nearby. Walmart’s unrelenting push to move many stores into the city (with a tacit blessing from Michelle Obama and an explicit blessing from Ruben Diaz) seems inevitable eventually, considering mounting public support. The day Sam Walton rolls into town, the few bodega owners still holding on (and their arguably more powerful cats) will be as toast as the bread in a $2.99 bacon, egg, and cheese special.


4. Any cab driver looking to fill up or take a leak in Manhattan


Cabbies have to rely on Starbucks for somewhere to urinate, but then there are those rumors that the coffee-joint johns might close. As for finding a pump to fill up at in Manhattan, there are only 41 gas stations on the entire island.


5. Rosemary Maude, Access-a-Ride user


Like many elderly people living in New York City, Rosemary Maude depends on Access-a-Ride to get around. This leaves her waiting on the street for long stretches of time, and she sometimes misses rides when her drivers come early and stand her up. Like many people her age, Maude doesn’t regularly have access to a cell phone, so if she goes up to her 11th-floor apartment to call and see where the hell her ride is, it might miss her at the curb and leave.


6. Registered Republicans


The vast majority of New York voters are registered Democrats, leaving Republicans and independents effectively powerless in general elections. All but five of the City Council’s 51 seats and the state’s electoral college hasn’t gone to a Republican since Calvin Coolidge’s landslide of 1924. (Still, City Hall has been in Republican hands for anywhere from two to five terms, depending on which party Mayor Bloomberg is claiming at the moment.)


7. The person holding the sign at the end of the Trader Joe’s line


Bouncers have power over lines and who can even get into them; the Trader Joe’s employees who have to hold a sign are just showing people the end of the damned line. All they can do is bring misery to people.


8. Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate


De Blasio is the holder of the most useless office in the city, a position so powerless, it was first held by Mark Green. Since it was created, its budget has been cut nearly in half, and there are repeated calls to abolish it altogether. And though second in line to succeed the mayor, no former occupant has yet to move into Gracie Mansion.


9. Carriage horses


These horses work in the hottest hot and the coldest cold. Despite the fact even the best-trained horse can be spooked unexpectedly, they walk right in the middle of traffic on the busiest streets of Midtown, even at rush hour. This past year, three have collapsed, one fatally, on the job.


10. Food-delivery people


Not only is a food-delivery person (typically a Chinese or Hispanic immigrant) usually murdered every year, but also far more are killed in bicycle accidents. Moving through the city while carrying large sums of cash, they are easy targets for theft and assault. Because many are undocumented, their assailants think they’re too powerless to go to the authorities.


11. NYPD officers working evidence rooms


As Graham Rayman reported in the Voice, cops go to the evidence rooms when they’ve been stripped of their guns, their mobility, and the power to police the streets (indeed, just about every reason they became cops in the first place). It is among the most humiliating and least powerful jobs on the entire force. Further, when a cop is sent to guard the 10 million items in evidence (about 1.6 million added per year), they aren’t even given the tools to effectively police these inanimate objects. As Rayman wrote: “The responsibility for tracking that sheer volume of items is difficult and complicated. But in the year 2011, a time when computer scanners and bar codes are commonplace in Walmart and Rite Aid stores all over the country, it is shocking to learn that the NYPD still relies on ledger books, black ink, typewriters, and carbon copies to track that volume of material.” Evidence is routinely lost and unable to be found.

12. The New York Public Library’s homeless patrons

Spend some time in the city’s public libraries (not the fancy main research building on Fifth Avenue with the lions, but its dumpy cousin across the street or any of the branch libraries), and you’ll know what it’s like to be in a mental asylum. It’s here where legions of the city’s homeless and mentally ill residents, with nowhere else to go, spend their days. They’re sleep deprived, and if they nod off (or their eyes close for even a few moments), they are harassed by library security. The library is a warm place, but not especially comfortable, and there are few bathrooms. (Like anyone, homeless patrons are, however, allowed to look at porn, and we’ve even noticed some using the library’s Wi-Fi to set up appointments to engage in sex work from time to time.)


13. The NYPL’s librarians


Perhaps the only people less powerful in the library system than the homeless patrons are the librarians themselves. Gone are the days when a master’s degree in library science and a job in the nation’s largest public-library system meant that you would spend your days helping writers to research and mesmerizing people with your encyclopedic knowledge of the Dewey decimal system. Today’s NYPL librarian needs to be a social worker, a specialist at dealing with the homeless and the severely mentally ill, a computer-tech wiz at solving people’s Wi-Fi problems, and a job (and suicide-prevention) counselor helping people look for jobs that simply don’t exist. Even those librarians at the flagship Fifth Avenue main branch (who have been inoculated to some degree from the shit storm of the branch libraries) are preparing for it. As a recent article in The Nation reported, the 3 million books beneath the Rose Reading Room will soon be shipped off to a storage facility in New Jersey and replaced by seven floors of computer terminals. As a former NYPL librarian said of the branch across the street and the main branch’s future: “That place is utter chaos. And it will all come here—the noise, the teenage problems, the circulating DVDs.”


14. Mary Lee Ward, an 82-year-old being evicted in Bed-Stuy


“Ms. Ward,” as she’s affectionately known in Bed-Stuy, received a predatory loan in 1996 of $10,000. Despite never receiving the money (and the broker losing his license and his firm being shut down by the state for predatory practices), Ward’s loan was considered delinquent, was bundled and repackaged multiple times, and resulted in her home being sold at auction last year. She has only evaded being kicked out because of Organizing for Occupation’s eviction blockades around her house, which started in August. Almost as powerless is Shameem Chowdury, who bought Ward’s house at auction in 2008. Because Wells Fargo, who sold the home to him, couldn’t provide the actual deed, he might not legally be the owner of the house he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for.


15. Building supers


Although they can come into your apartment and collect your rent, many times, building supers are just another powerless cog in the real estate machine. Often working off the books, their payment can be in the form of an apartment to live in, sometimes in the basement or an undesirable part of their building. At the whim of employers for their livelihood and their home, supers are very much at their mercy.


16. Mark Green, former Public Advocate/perennial candidate


Of the three people who have been Public Advocate, the most powerless is Mark Green, the perennial candidate whom no one likes. Green eked out a win over Freddy Ferrer for the Democratic nomination for mayor in 2001 (which probably wouldn’t have happened save for the fact that the primary was on September 11 that year and had to be rescheduled), only to go on to lose to a Republican named Michael Bloomberg who’d never held public office before. Since leaving office, Green has had such powerless stints as being president of Air America, losing to Andrew Cuomo in the 2006 Democratic nomination for attorney general, and, most humiliating, losing a runoff to Bill de Blasio just to be nominated to run for the Public Advocate job he’d already inhabited. (Green craves publicity and public acceptance so much, we imagine he’ll tweet with pride that he made this list. However, he’s so powerless, he doesn’t even have a Twitter, just a Facebook fan page with only 182 likes that hasn’t been updated since 2009.)


17. Ruben Diaz Sr., state senator


“Papi” has been a one-trick pony throughout his career, basing his power largely on one thing: hatin’ on the gays. When the Marriage Equality Act passed, making Diaz Sr. the sole Democrat and senator of color to vote against it, Diaz’s bigotry-based power dissipated entirely on June 24, 2011, and rendered him irrelevant. His power was further tarnished when the Bronx’s gay Community Pride Center moved into a building bearing his name.


18. Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx borough president


“Junior” has been wrapped up in an Oedipal political relationship with his father throughout his career. How much he’s his dad’s whipping boy became clear during Bronx Week, the kind of ceremonial shit that’s the highlight of a powerless position like borough president. “Papi” decided to have an anti-gay marriage rally right on the steps of Junior’s office, under his Bronx Week signs, during the Bronx Week parade (and at the same time as the AIDS Walk). Junior, who tries to swing both ways when it comes to gay rights, was so powerless in that situation that he ignored his father’s rally, wouldn’t renounce or endorse it, and was AWOL the first day same-sex marriages started happening in his office building a few months later.


19. Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan’s Panel for Educational Policy appointee


After “mayoral control” was enacted, the Board of Education was replaced by the Panel for Educational Policy, which has eight members appointed by the mayor and one appointed by each of the five borough presidents. Patrick Sullivan, Scott Stringer’s appointee for Manhattan (whose kids go to the segregated Lower Lab gifted school the Voice profiled in 2010), routinely votes against the mayor’s eight appointees. But even if he got all four other beeps’ appointees to vote with him (which he never does), he could never have any effect. In fact, the mayor’s appointees have little power, either, as he’d simply fire them if they ever stood up to him. The entire PEP is a powerless farce to give the appearance that the mayor is listening to anyone in making educational decisions, and the meetings often feel like they’re about to break out into a riot.


20. Cathie Black, former schools chancellor


Black was once a media mogul for a powerless, dying industry (print media!), and then her billionaire fellow media-mogul friend must have said something to her along the lines of: “Hey! You’ve perhaps never even been in a public-school building your whole life! Wanna run the biggest public-school system in the nation?” at a party. She said, “Sure!” But, after joking about birth control preventing future students as a creative answer to overcrowding, flirting with reporters, and acting like Marie Antoinette at PEP hearings, her BFF Bloomy lost patience after three months and tossed her under a yellow school bus.


21. Joel Klein, former schools chancellor


Klein, a product of the city’s public-education system, came to helm its highest post despite little formal education experience. Eight years later, he departed, having learned how to masterfully interact with the city’s million schoolkids, 100,000-plus teachers, and infinite stakeholders. He was also a national player in education reform and was reportedly on Obama’s short list for Secretary of Education. He traded this in to go work for Rupert Murdoch, who shipped him off to London to be his legal butt boy, defending Murdoch from possible criminal charges (and the occasional custard pie) in the phone-hacking scandal while trying to stave off the worldwide collapse of News Corp.


22. Tiffany Cocco, homeless young lesbian


Cocco sounded damn powerful when she spoke about LGBT youth homelessness at a recent Union Square rally. But she also talked about the beauty of waking up to the sun rising in Far Rockaway after spending the night on the A train. Cocco (and nearly 4,000 homeless youth, who are disproportionately LGBT) has to fight for one of less than 300 shelter beds for homeless kids. Of those on the street, about 20 percent become HIV-positive. The budget to help combat homelessness has gone down under Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, while rates of homelessness (and his personal wealth) have consistently risen.


23. Tina Brown, editor, Newsweek/The Daily Beast


After running a series of publications into the ground (and starting one of her own to destroy), Brown took over Newsweek only to make it into a media player so powerless, an issue earlier this year contained just six ads. (We imagine she’ll be screaming “B to the W!“—”balls to the wall”—even as the ice-cold water of the North Atlantic starts sweeping the desk chairs away.)


24. Howard Stern


Stern makes a bajillion dollars these days and doesn’t have the FCC riding his ass all the time, but nobody hears him. The day he went to Sirius was the last time a single deli butcher, cab driver, construction worker, and Wall Street suit ever asked, “Did you hear what Stern said this morning?” How powerless has the one-time “King of All Media” become? He has to go on America’s Got Talent, like any unknown entertainer, just to get people to notice him again.


25. Scott Stringer, Manhattan borough president


As if being a borough president isn’t impotent enough, holding the ceremonial post is especially humiliating in Manhattan. It’s the borough, after all, where the mayor (who is also the city’s wealthiest citizen) lives and works, making the beep look especially irrelevant. This leaves Stringer wielding about as much power over New York City as the mayor of Washington, D.C., does over the federal government.


26. Juan Baten, deceased tortilla-maker


Baten, a 22-year-old undocumented Bushwick tortilla-factory worker, was killed in January when he fell into a mixer. Despite the fact that a relatively inexpensive guardrail over the machine would have prevented his death, the factory was never closed for safety violations. (Instead, it was shut for just slightly more than a week because the owner hadn’t paid workers’ compensation.) Baten had toiled at the factory for six years before his life ended there. The food-processing industry is one of New York’s few manufacturing sectors that is alive and well, but it depends entirely upon an invisible, undocumented workforce that is largely powerless against wage theft and unsafe working conditions.


27. Members of the FDNY “limbo class”


When federal judge Nicholas Garaufis told New York City that its FDNY hiring process was racist and gave the city five options to reform it, Mayor Bloomberg basically said: “F— you. We ain’t takin’ none of your stinking options.” The entrance exam was scrapped, and a new one was written. But for years, there was a “limbo class” of would-be firefighters who aced the allegedly “racist” exam even though many of them weren’t white. They have been held in purgatory for years and have to study for (and hope they similarly ace) the new test scheduled for February or March.

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)


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.

39. Parents of children in “co-locating schools”

When charter schools move into a school building, they can bring exciting choices for the families (as the Voice profiled in a February 2011 story, “Class Struggle,” about the Bronx Success Academy 2). But when a charter moves into a building, it also cannibalizes space and resources. For the other school in the building, this can be terrifying, and it often leaves the students, teachers, and parents—who deal with rough circumstances in the first place—feeling powerless as they lose resources and real estate.


40. The Occupy Wall Street crust punks


When Zuccotti Park was taken over by Occupy Wall Street protesters, the “crust punks” were pariahs from the beginning. Everyone including Fox News, the NYPD, and even some of the more “serious” OWS politicos, who found the crusties were weighing them down, derided them. One of the best tweets we read after the Zuccotti raid pointed out that it wasn’t an assault on the right to free speech but rather on the right to free assembly, another step in making homelessness itself illegal.


41. Riders who get on the M15 Select Bus without a receipt


If the police catch you on the new M15 bus without a receipt from a kiosk, even if you have an unlimited ride MetroCard on you, you will not be able to escape a $150 ticket. Even Michelle O’Neill, a kindergarten teacher and cancer patient who, on her way to her oncologist a year ago, unwittingly got on one of the new buses without knowing about the new rules (and pleaded her case before a judge), was powerless to avoid the fine.


42. Street vendors who sell porn magazines


Porn in the back of bodegas (and off to the side of the occasional newsstand) used to pull in customers so reliably, shop owners could also talk them into buying a pack of $14 cigarettes. But in the age of the Internet, who is buying porn on the street? (Indeed, who is paying for porn at all?) Yet, in a handful of the few remaining bodegas that haven’t been replaced by bank branches or pushed out of business by a Duane Reade, you can still find that special section.


43. Tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village


For decades, Stuy Town was one of the few harbors of middle-class living in Manhattan. When Met Life’s public-private partnership was finished with the city, the complex was sold in the biggest residential real estate transaction in the history of the United States. When Tishman Speyer wasn’t able to evict all the rent-stabilized tenants they’d hoped to and quickly make a profit, they walked away from the property in 2010 to avoid bankruptcy. Ever since, the 25,000 tenants of the development have been in a bizarre limbo while dealing with a holding company and looking into going co-op in some fashion.


44. Postal workers


Post-office workers in New York, long mocked even though they let “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” stop them from delivering on foot in this town, now have a new level of hellish powerlessness: the possible closure of 30 post offices right here in the five boroughs.


45. Pay-telephone users


Pay phones were always grimy, and they’ve taken on a new stigma at a time when even some poor people can get subsidized cell phones. The most recent time we attempted to use one, we tried six in a three-block radius before finding one that barely worked. Having to rely on a pay phone requires bringing your own cleaning devices, and they don’t even send or receive texts.


46. Verizon workers who went on strike and then back to work without a contract


When 45,000 Communications Workers of America went on strike at Verizon last summer, they created the biggest labor stir the city saw in the past year (until a little thing called Occupy Wall Street). After blinking and agreeing to go back to the bargaining table, they have been working for months now without a contract and have lost the power that being on strike gave them while showing Verizon that members couldn’t last indefinitely.


47. Retail-clothing workers


In Sweden, a worker at a retail store must, by law, receive a work schedule one year in advance. In New York, a worker is lucky to get one a week in advance. This makes arranging for child care, trying to take college classes, or budgeting what you’ll be earning almost impossible. Stuart Appelbaum of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union is trying to pass the Living Wage Bill, which would at least make any business getting city tax subsidies pay their workers a minimum of $10 an hour.


48. Security guards (every last one of them, everywhere)


Yes, security guards (at libraries, office buildings, schools, and shops) might look in your purse, poke a flashlight in your backpack, watch your X-rayed naked form, and do everything short of checking your body cavities while asking you to turn your head to the right and cough. But they are truly, utterly powerless individuals. There is no rhyme or reason to how they search your bags, everyone who passes them tries to shit on them, they have the outfits of law enforcement without the power to enforce the law, and nobody—not their employers nor the people whom they allegedly protect—respects them. (And, as the Voice‘s Nick Pinto showed last week, even security guards at our airports are paid poverty wages.)

49. City University of New York students

CUNY students might have felt powerless to stop tuition hikes last year, but a few hundred of them decided to go to the school’s public board meeting at Baruch in November, where the board is supposed to take input from the community. The students decided to make themselves heard, only to be beaten and arrested.


50. Journalists who come up with power lists


Whether it’s compiling lists of powerful celebrities, rainmaking politicians, local media singles and couples, or 100 of the city’s most powerless, there’s always some reporter or editor with the thankless task of making estimates of power that only emphasize his or her own powerlessness.


51. Coney Island bathroom guards


The New York Post made the Work Experience Program workers who guard the bathrooms on Coney Island’s boardwalk seem pretty powerful last summer when they reported on how the employees ration out toilet paper. The Voice also saw workers at the same “comfort station” chase a group of Japanese tourists away while screaming: “Rack it up, bitch! Rack it up!” But in truth, these WEP workers have little power, are not given enough toilet paper to keep their stalls filled, and terrorize tourists and New Yorkers alike to compensate for how little influence they truly wield.


52. All city pool guards

Like their brethren at the city’s bathrooms, the WEP workers at the public pools have some trappings of power. (If you’re male, they peek inside your bathing suit to make sure you have netting in your trunks before you can get in the water, for instance.) But they, too, are WEP workers who make little money and have little else going on in their lives except to harass hot, powerless New Yorkers trying to cool off on one of the handful of summer days when our pools are even open.


53. Camilla Guzman

Guzman is one of a handful of New Yorkers to make our list posthumously. She came to New York City from Chile to embrace greater acceptance as a transgendered woman. She was murdered on August 1.


54. Michael Grimm, Republican Staten Island house representative

Grimm not only has about the worst name for a conservative politician not trying to sound dour, but he’s also one of the few Republican members of the house in New York City or State, which gives him (despite our Republican mayor) little room to push his weight around and establish any kind of power base.


55. Bill Thompson, former mayoral candidate

Thompson was a black Democrat running for mayor in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, against a mayor who overturned term limits voters had twice overwhelmingly passed, the same year the nation inaugurated its first black president. But he was so powerless, he couldn’t get much of a real endorsement from Obama when he swung through town to haul cash, nor could he close the gap of just 50,000 votes to beat Bloomberg.

56. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, and Elena Kagan

Although the Supreme Court has four New Yorkers from four different boroughs (everyone’s represented but Staten Island), they are relatively powerless. True, they sit on the highest court of the land, but as one reliable conservative vote and three reliable liberal votes, they are impotent compared with the capricious swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is quickly becoming the new Sandra Day O’Connor. Lawyers before the bench are increasingly building their cases tailored specifically toward him.

57. The Empire State Pride Agenda

ESPA, the biggest gay advocacy group in New York State, had one major goal: to achieve equality for LGBT people in the state. Whether or not they want to admit it, the passage of the Marriage Equality Act basically granted gay people equal rights under state (not federal) law. With the end of powerlessness for LGBT couples under NY State law, so ended the power of ESPA. They have nothing substantial to push nor chips to play, except to make excuses to their donors as to why they should still exist.

58. Those black guys harassed by Officer Michael Daragjati caught on federal wiretap

The Voice has covered NYPD misbehaviors and “stop-and-frisks” for decades while waiting for a “Rosa Parks” moment when a citizen would refuse to be arrested for just happening to be black at the wrong time. This, of course, never happened, even though the overwhelming number of stop-and-frisks (more than a half-million a year) are of young men of color who are doing nothing wrong. If they protest their unfair arrest, they’re arrested for “resisting arrest.” It was sheer luck that saved two anonymous black men when NYPD Officer Michael Daragjati boasted that he’d arrested and “fried another nigger” while he was on a federal wiretap investigating possible insurance fraud. No one would have believed these two powerless New Yorkers otherwise (one who had a previous record) if they had just told people they were arrested unfairly.


59. Anthony Weiner, former Queens house representative

Weiner began last year as a powerful potential mayoral candidate in the city. On the national and international stages, he married into American Democratic royalty by wedding Hillary Clinton’s right-hand aide, Huma Abedin. With one public tweet that was meant to be a direct message, he ended it all, leaving the career politician with nothing to do except to turn his overwhelmingly Democratic district over to a Republican in a special election.

60. Eliot Spitzer, former governor, fired CNN host

The one-time sheriff of Wall Street, poised to emulate Teddy Roosevelt’s mantle as progressive-New-York-governor-turned-presidential-candidate, lost all political power when he was caught shipping a sex worker across state lines in 2008. His power disappeared when he was fired from hosting a show on CNN last year.

61. David Paterson, former governor, New York University professor

Paterson, once a powerful state legislator who accidentally became the governor, stepped away from the spotlight at midnight on January 1 of last year, when Andrew Cuomo succeeded him and left Paterson’s legacy to be judged by the memory of one scandal after another and less-than-flattering spoofs on Saturday Night Live. He now teaches a class at NYU.


62. Greg “Grover” Washington, squeegee guy

No, we’re not talking about the jazz great, but rather the guy the Daily News calls “the squeegee king of New York.” Squeegee guys have been cast as demons since the Giuliani administration and have had their one form of generating income turned into an illegal enterprise. Getting arrested some 186 times, Washington does it anyway.

63. NYPD Officer Daniel Chu

En route to get a Coolatta, traffic cop Chu was allegedly speeding through a red light in Whitestone last year when City Councilman Dan Halloran spotted him. Chu illegally parked outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts, and one interaction with Halloran and a YouTube video later, Chu found himself exposed as “Big Bad Dan,” the terror of Queens. Chu had some vacation days revoked, was re-assigned to foot patrol in Long Island, and had his car taken away as punishment.

64. Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president

Brooklyn beep Markowitz fancies himself the Most Important Ambassador from Brooklyn the World Has Ever Seen. (Indeed, he has told the courts he needs to promote the borough as far away as Turkey, and we’ve personally witnessed the aftermath of his glad-handing in Haifa, Israel.) But Markowitz is so powerless, he can’t get Apple to build a store in the borough with perhaps the most concentrated population of Mac users in the universe outside of California, and his decision to bring his wife, Jamie (or, as he calls her, “The First Lady of Brooklyn”), abroad with him cost Markowitz $20,000 in fines.

65. Transgendered prostitutes in Hunts Point

When Times Square became Disneyfied, it drove a lot of sex workers out of a (relatively speaking) safe and public space. This especially affected transgendered sex workers, who are disproportionately the victims of violence and who now work largely in places like Hunts Point in the Bronx, deep within industrial New York and far from public eyes. They also routinely face harassment from the police when they report crimes.

66. Frank Santarpia, head of the Staten Island Tea Party

Santarpia is a lone voice in the wilderness as the head of Staten Island’s Tea Party. He’d have a lot more power if he lived in another state—any state, really—and could gather more than three or four other people who might vote for the most conservative Republican running for president.

67. Glennda Testone, executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center

As a young lesbian and the first woman to helm the city’s LGBT Center, Testone has often been considered one of the youngest and most powerful homopoliticos in the nation. But she was rendered absolutely powerless and made to look like a fool twice when she folded to the whims of Zionist pornographer Michael Lucas last year. Lucas was enraged when he discovered that Siege Busters Working Group, a pro-Palestine organization, was using the LGBT Center for meeting space. Although Testone repeatedly said that the center was an open space for free speech and that she was not taking orders from Lucas, she ate her words, twice, first being forced to kick out Siege Busters, then reversing herself and allowing them in when they reconvened as a “queer group.” Then she had to eat her words again, barring all discussion of Israel and Palestine from the Center when Lucas complained a second time. Her handling of the situation showed that she’s no defender of free speech in a center that was founded as an open place.

68. Emily Henochowicz and members of Siege Busters Working Group

Henochowicz went to Israel as a Cooper Union foreign-exchange art student and started a life of protest, which ended with her losing an eye. But when she and members of Siege Busters wanted to rent meeting space in the LGBT Center (as “non-gay” issues like South African apartheid and health care reform had for decades), they were kicked out once pornographer Michael Lucas got involved.

69. Seafarers

Sailors and seafarers were once ubiquitous in the city, and even though just about everything you touch, use, and put on or in your body comes from a ship, seafarers have disappeared. Most are now foreign nationals, whose cargo container ships dock in places like Elizabeth, New Jersey. They primarily live at sea, and their ships unload so quickly, the sailors barely have time to go to a Jersey mall (let alone time to stroll through Manhattan like Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in On the Town). The few American seafarers who come into the city are between jobs. With few choices for transitional housing, they’d be near homeless, save for places like the Seafarers & International House.

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

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.

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

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.

93. Iris Weinshall, wife of Senator Chuck Schumer

Yes, Weinshall wields some power as a former Department of Transportation commissioner and current vice chancellor of CUNY (not to mention going to bed every night with Chuck). But despite all of these connections, when the sometimes-modest supporter of bike lanes was struck with a virulent case of NIMBYism as a bike lane was built on Prospect Park West, she wasn’t able to kill it. (And what good is being the wife of a senator and a former transportation politico if you don’t have the power to kill one lousy bike lane in your front yard after imposing miles of them on other people?)

94. Ex-cons

Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s “Young Men’s Initiative,” few men (and they’re mostly men) who spend time on Rikers Island will ever get jobs, especially with such high unemployment. Three-quarters of all ex-cons will go back to jail.

95. Arab students at CUNY

Apparently just being Arab and a student at CUNY is enough for the NYPD to watch you. As veteran NYPD watcher Leonard Levitt revealed on his blog NYPD Confidential, the NYPD “has been spying on hundreds of Muslim mosques, schools, businesses, student groups, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.” The police department “has also been monitoring Muslim student associations at seven local colleges: City, Baruch, Hunter, Queens, LaGuardia, St. John’s, and Brooklyn.” Still, Levitt found that “documents do not specify whether the police have evidence or solid suspicions of criminality to justify their watching the Muslim groups.”

96. The Black Hebrew Israelites

The self-proclaimed “original, true Jews” who scream in Times Square have had their thunder stolen twice recently. First, the inauguration of President Obama really took the black victimhood wind out of their black nationalist sails. Then, their gimmick of occupying spaces and yelling until they’re heard has been completely usurped by the (largely white) Occupy Wall Street movement.

97. Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann

Beck, not finding Fox News to be right-wing enough (nor willing to allow him to yell loud enough) and Olbermann, not finding MSNBC left-wing enough (nor willing to allow him to yell loud enough) departed mainstream cable for GBTV and Current TV, respectively. And just like Howard Stern, though they’re now allowed to rant and rave like lunatics to fellow like-minded inmates (in an asylum where they even get to control the bouncer’s list), they have all but disappeared from even from the partisan communities of political discussion.

98. Nannies

The (mostly foreign-born) women who care for the children of the extremely affluent do not make much money. (It’s hard to determine how little they do make when the recent Park Slope Parents Nanny Compensation Survey revealed only 14 percent of parents pay their nannies on the books.)

99. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan, the lead supporters of Cordoba House/Park51/”Ground Zero Mosque”

The power couple of New York’s Muslim community set out to build an interfaith center that was the equivalent of a Jewish community center. But they were so powerless in building alliances or heading off anti-Muslim sentiment, public opinion slipped nearly out of reach by the time the project was at a crisis moment in the summer of 2010. A year later, it seems like the funding to make the project might not even come through.

100. Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs

Geller tried everything to kill the “Ground Zero Mosque” (and every other mosque in the city under construction), but couldn’t do it through xenophobia, try as she might. (If the Park51 project doesn’t happen now, it will probably be because of “the economy, stupid.”)