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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Remember how James & Cumbo took up the Atlantic Yards-related sex harassment issue 18 months ago? They didn't.

It's important and overdue that we're having national/local conversations and investigations regarding sexual harassment in political and media circles (while remembering that some less publicized workplaces leave workers even more vulnerable).

That said, I echo those who note there's a difference along the continuum between boorishness and sexual abuse/rape, which should--adjusted by the timing, frequency, and workplace-related consequences of the actions--result in different sanctions.

And I can't help but think that public statements, especially by elected officials, are made not merely on principle, nor solely in recognition that our standards have shifted, but also because of political calculation.

The reason: the wall of silence after Atlantic Yards- and Barclays Center-related sex harassment episodes that surfaced just two years ago, with a credible, sympathetic witness: a young black woman who'd lived near the project site all her life.

Issue surfaces

Described being around construction workers as "like being in a shark tank," the woman outlined one particular episode in a letter: she was called "an ugly bitch" by a worker, treated poorly by a group of workers around him, and then was stymied when she tried to speak with a supervisor. She said she felt disrespected "as a black female" when that supervisor refused to shake her hand.

Walking home one night, she was "ambushed" by three drunk men apparently leaving the arena after the night's boxing match. One man danced in front of her and grabbed her in a bear hug. A second grabbed her from behind, and "proceed[ed] to dry hump me from behind." The third was "laughing and yelling in the street."

Five months after this was recounted, in a letter read by friends at a public meeting, the woman went public in a 4/11/16 article by Michael O'Keeffe in the New York Daily News. Less than a month later, the developer of the project, Greenland Forest City Partners, implemented a long in-process improvement: color-coded ID stickers that were aimed to help residents better identify workers.

That hasn't ended all harassment--there was an incident in October 2016 with seeming homophobic overtones toward a lesbian couple, though the identity of the workers is unclear, as the victim was unwilling to pursue things more publicly.

But the situation seems to have improved around Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, thanks to a victim willing to stick her neck out (with assistance), neighborhood activists, some press attention, and a company nudged to do the right thing--not because of the leadership of elected officials.

The lack of response

As I wrote 5/4/16, my essay in Gotham Gazette, James Takes Softer Stance on Atlantic Yards, dissected why Public Advocate Letitia James made a phone call on behalf of the project developer, as a critical Daily News series loomed. Nor did she comment after the series was published.

I also pointed out that 35th District Council Member Laurie Cumbo, James's successor, was curiously reticent.

Neither James nor Cumbo, both black women who've taken on sexual harassment and who presumably would identify with a younger constituent, took advantage of the opportunity to speak out. The evidence suggests that they were--and are--wary of challenging a powerful real estate developer.

Though James wouldn't comment in response to my request, and Cumbo wouldn't initially comment, she did provide a statement, which was excerpted significantly in my essay. Her statement, interestingly enough, didn’t acknowledge the victim but indicated respect for the developer. Here's the full statement:
As Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, I have fostered strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, worked with advocacy groups and survivors year-round, secured additional Council funding totaling more than $6 million for fiscal year 2016 to support citywide initiatives, and introduced legislation that will raise awareness to prevent sexual harassment and assault. The 35th Council District is home to several venues that attract thousands of New Yorkers and tourists daily. As a result, neighboring residents have experienced an increase in pedestrian and vehicular traffic among other quality of life issues. In recent weeks, there has been greater visibility on the need to address sexual harassment within our community. Every year, thousands of New Yorkers experience cat calls, lewd gestures, inappropriate language and unwarranted comments about the physical characteristics of their bodies. In the City of New York, these acts will not be tolerated. Today and every day, we echo the words, ‘enough is enough.’ I want to acknowledge Ashley Cotton, SVP of External Affairs, Forest City Ratner Companies for working with the NYPD, Barclays Center, contractors, and unions to implement several measures including a color-coded identification system for its workers to improve accountability and a guest code of conduct for Islanders games to enhance public safety. These preliminary steps are indicative of our collective commitment to fostering a safe environment for women, the LGBTQ community, and countless others who deserve to freely commute,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.
Since then

Politico on 2/28/17 reported:
The New York Police Department’s rank and file officers would be required to receive sensitivity training on the best way to interact with victims of sexual assault and abuse under a new proposal slated to be introduced in the City Council on Wednesday.
Councilwomen Laurie Cumbo, Vanessa Gibson and Helen Rosenthal are sponsoring the legislation, which seeks to expand training that officers receive in relation to sex crimes.
Gothamist on 4/12/17 reported:
The fallout from the many sexual harassment claims coming out of Fox News continued today, with Public Advocate Letitia James's announcing a rally outside the company's headquarters in which she'll call for an investigation into sexual harassment claims against Bill O'Reilly and denounce Fox News' "culture of sexual assault and racism."

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