Trump’s War on Disabled Veteran Vendors
In the 1990s, Trump had a real problem with a protected class of New York street vendors. We paid a visit to some of them today. By M. Scott Mahaskey

They are as much a part of the New York City landscape as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Times Square. But the presence of street vendors along New York City’s posh Fifth Avenue corridor gave Donald Trump heartburn in the early 1990s. Back then, he, along with other local business leaders, urged city and state officials to restrict vendor access to Fifth Avenue, including the space in front of Trump Tower. One target of his lobbying efforts included a special class of business operators: disabled veteran street vendors.

“While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax paying citizens and businesses?” Trump wrote in a 1991 letter obtained by the New York Daily News. “Do we allow Fifth Ave., one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”

The fight went back to an 19th-century law that gave every veteran in New York the right to “hawk, peddle and vend any goods, wares or merchandise” throughout the state. Designed to create economic opportunities for Civil War veterans, the law has been amended a number of times at various state and city levels. Advocacy groups say what remains today is an overly complicated legal system that has, in fact, discouraged veterans from obtaining this protected license. Of New York City’s 2,555 general vendor licenses, only 105—and only those held by disabled veterans—permit work in the so-called “midtown core,” a restricted zone created in the 1990s in part to respond to lobbying efforts of the Fifth Avenue Association. It’s a flawed process, veteran street vendors say. Not only is the number too low, but it has led to abuse of some disabled veterans through corruptive “rent-a-vet” schemes where civilian operators pay veterans to use their licenses in this prized area.

Politico photographer M. Scott Mahaskey walked the streets of New York City to document these vendors, who today battle cops, long hours and meager compensation—and many of whom still have fresh memories of Trump’s war against them.

Above, former Marine Dan Rossi, a disabled veteran and long-time New York City street vendor, cleans his food cart while setting up outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 17. Rossi, who has struggled to keep his carts on the streets due to tightening state and city rules, puts the blame on Donald Trump and the Fifth Avenue Association for unfairly targeting vendors. Rossi says of Trump, “He’s done more damage to the disabled veterans in this city than any other man.”

Former Marine Dan Rossi, a disabled veteran and long-time city street vendor, waits for customers outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 17. Rossi once held about 500 permits to vend throughout the city and ran a successful food cart manufacturing business. But in the early 90s, a new law restricted individuals from holding no more than one permit, and Rossi eventually lost his business. Today, Rossi operates just one cart and blames the Fifth Avenue Association for destroying his quality of life.

Former Marine Dominic Raiano stands by a cart operated under his license on May 16 near Central Park. Frustrated at the current political climate, Raiano said, “I don’t even know if I’m going to vote this year.”

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NYC Censored History: NYPD Officers infamously fired 41 shots at an unarmed Amadou Diallo on this day in 1999, killing him and bringing race relations and police brutality to the national stage once again.

One of four children of Saikou and Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou’s family is part of an old Fulbe trading family in Guinea. He was born in Sinoe County, Liberia, while his father was working there, and grew up following his family to Togo, Bangkok, and Singapore, attending schools in Thailand, and later in Guinea and London, including Microsoft’s Asian Institute.

In the early morning of February 4, 1999, Diallo was standing near his building after returning from a meal. At about 12:40 a.m., police officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy, who were all in street clothes, passed by in a Ford Taurus. Observing that Diallo matched the description of a since-captured well-armed serial rapist involved in the rape or attempted rape of 29 victims, they approached him.

The officers claimed they loudly identified themselves as NYPD officers and that Diallo ran up the outside steps toward his apartment house doorway at their approach, ignoring their orders to stop and “show his hands”. The porch lightbulb was out and Diallo was backlit by the inside vestibule light, showing only a silhouette. Diallo then reached into his jacket and withdrew his wallet. Seeing the suspect holding a small square object, Carroll yelled “Gun!” to alert his colleagues. Mistakenly believing Diallo had aimed a gun at them at close range, the officers opened fire on Diallo. During the shooting, lead officer McMellon tripped backward off the front stairs, causing the other officers to believe he had been shot. The four officers fired 41 shots, more than half of which went astray as Diallo was hit 19 times.

The post-shooting investigation found no weapons on Diallo’s body; the item he had pulled out of his jacket was not a gun, but a rectangular black wallet. The internal NYPD investigation ruled the officers had acted within policy, based on what a reasonable police officer would have done in the same circumstances with the information they had. The Diallo shooting led to a review of police training policy and the use of full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. On March 25, 1999, a Bronx grand jury indicted the four officers on charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment. All four officers’ bail were set at $100,000. On December 16, an appellate court ordered a change of venue to Albany, New York, stating that pretrial publicity had made a fair trial in New York City impossible. On February 25, 2000, after two days of deliberation, a jury in Albany acquitted the officers of all charges.

In April 2002, as a result of the killing of Diallo and other controversial actions, the Street Crime Unit was disbanded.

via Wikipedia


The Statue of Liberty under construction in Paris, 1883. The statue arrived in New York Harbor today in 1885. 

Source images (1, 2, 3) from The New York Public Library.

The interior of the D. Appleton & Company stereoscopic shop on Broadway, New York City, c. 1860. Animated stereoview (fixed). Source.

NYC Censored History: In 1968 Students Protest Racism And Militarism At Columbia By Taking A Dean Hostage

In early March 1967, a Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society activist named Bob Feldman discovered documents in the International Law Library detailing Columbia’s institutional affiliation with the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a weapons research think-tank affiliated with the U.S. Department of Defense. The nature of the association had not been, to that point, publicly announced by the University.

Columbia’s plan to construct a gymnasium in city-owned Morningside Park also touched off negative sentiment on campus and in the Harlem community. Opposition began in 1965 during the mayoral campaign of John Lindsay, who opposed the project. By 1967 community opposition had become more militant. One of the causes for dispute was the gym’s proposed design, which would have included access for residents of Harlem through a so-called “back door” to a dedicated community facility on its lower level.

The first protest occurred eight days before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In response to the Columbia Administration’s attempts to suppress anti-IDA student protest on its campus, and Columbia’s plans for the Morningside Park gymnasium, Columbia SDS activists and the student activists who led Columbia’s Student Afro Society (SAS) held a second, confrontational demonstration on April 23, 1968. After the protesting Columbia and Barnardstudents were prevented from protesting inside Low Library by Columbia security guards, most of the student protesters marched down to the Columbia gymnasium construction site in Morningside Park, attempted to stop construction of the gymnasium and began to struggle with the New York City Police officers who were guarding the construction site.The NYPD arrested one protester at the gym site. Columbia SDS chairman Mark Rudd then led the protesting students from Morningside Park back to Columbia’s campus, where students took over Hamilton Hall, a building housing both classrooms and the offices of the Columbia College Administration.

via Wikipedia


On This Day in History February 7, 1964: the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) arrived in the United States for the first time on a ten-day tour, giving rise to Beatlemania.

For Further Reading:

Daguerreotype view of a street in Brooklyn, New York City,  c. 1850’s.

Source. More information.

Remember when New York City was covered in weed? Well it turns out that even as the city oversaw historic removal efforts in the 1950s, there were already some in government urging swift legislative reform. From WNYC’s Campus Press Conference, 1951. Read the full story here.

photo: Weeding out operation–Police Inspector Peter Terranova, commanding officer of the narcotics squad, flanked by Anthony Cristiano, a Department of Sanitation workman, and Frank Creta, general inspector. photo: Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.

Censored NYC History: Langston Hughes Dropped Out Of The Ivy Leagues To Pursue A Dream

A young Langston Hughes, born Feb. 2nd 1902, made a deal with his father, despite their strained relationship. Langston would study engineering, like his dad wanted, but only if he could study at New York’s Columbia University. Hughes managed to maintain a B+ during his first year attending the Ivy League, but racial prejudice at the school factored into his decision to leave in 1922.

Hughes spent months writing, getting to know the surrounding Harlem neighborhood, and working odd jobs before finding employment that would take him overseas for years. Langston Hughes ended up traveling to West Africa and Europe while continuing his career in poetry and journalism.

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This water, “unable to escape during the heating period because of the pressure, had flashed into steam at the moment of the explosion and shattered the starch granule,” explained historian Harrison J. Thornton. Each rice grain, Anderson observed, had “expanded to eight or more times its original volume, while retaining its original form.” Other cereals reacted similarly. The cornstarch had expanded into a white porous mass. Realizing the commercial potential of his discovery, Anderson forged ahead to develop it into an enormously popular household staple: puffed cereal.

(via Plant Talk » Breakfast in a Blast: The Invention of Puffed Cereal at NYBG | NYBG)

Today in unexpected things invented in unexpected places. ~LM

“Contrasting 331 East 39th Street with Chrysler Building and Daily News Building”
by Berenice Abbott, 1938
via Museum of the City of New York

In typical Abbott style, contrasting the old and the new. She was documenting disappearing New York. 

In fact, this photo was used on the cover of her collection:

“ The National Museum of the American Indian in New York wishes all a wonderful Labor Day holiday. In 2002, the museum celebrated the industrial labor of the Mohawk [ Kanien'kehá:ka] Ironworkers, who even today are a crucial component of the awe-inspiring highrise construction throughout New York City. Learn more about the Ironworkers here: “ -  (Smithsonian’s National Museum Of The American Indian Facebook)