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Happy 2023, New York!

I’m OptOut New York Editor Samira Asma-Sadeque, here to bring you the most important New York updates from the best of independent media. Follow along for all things New York: our stories, rants, and GIFs.

Writing to you today from Lenape Land in Queens, New York.

My new year resolution is to have George Santos’ level of unchecked self-confidence. What is in the water he’s drinking and why do I not have it? Has anyone monopolized it yet? (JK, please no one monopolize water. *laughs in climate anxiety*)

ICYMI: George Santos, a Republican congressman-elect for Long Island and northeast Queens, lied about *checks notes* every important thing on his resume, including his academic degree, work history at banks such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and maybe that his mother died on 9/11. He also tried absurd ways of saying he is Jewish, but also not Jewish? “Jew-ish”. Idk. It’s all very Rachel Dolezal-ish if you ask me.

He then appeared in an interview and very calmly claimed that honestly admitting to his faults (that someone else exposed) makes him all the more qualified to serve his constituency. Okay.

Sounds like George has a George problem.

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who launches a strike on NYE?! We live in a capitalist society, so whoever needs to. Such an announcement is a symbol of how dire the conditions are for the striking workers.

On Dec. 30, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) announced that its member nurses would be striking for the following demands: safe staffing, fair wages to recruit and retain enough nurses for safe patient care, no healthcare benefits cuts, better health and safety protections, and community benefits, NYSNA Executive Director and registered nurse Pat Kane told me.

By the stroke of midnight, a grand total of one facility had reached a tentative agreement, leaving 12,000 nurses still waiting for answers from their respective workplaces.

I had the opportunity to hear Kane’s thoughts about the issue. Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

OptOut: It appears that NewYork-Presbyterian reached an agreement rather promptly. Was this expected? Is there hope that this will encourage other hospitals to follow?

Kane: We have been bargaining with our employers for months, and congratulate the nearly 4,000 NYSNA nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital who reached a tentative agreement on a fair contract late on Saturday, Dec. 31, hours before their contract expired and one day after delivering a 10-day notice to strike to hospital management.

Those nurses now will vote on whether to ratify a new contract.

We urge other hospitals to follow NewYork-Presbyterian's lead in negotiating in good faith for fair contracts that respect nurses and patients by delivering safe staffing and fair wages and benefits.

OptOut: Could you share a bit about what kind of backlash participating members are facing?

Kane: Hospitals have engaged in unfair and unlawful behavior, trying to silence RNs from speaking out about safe staffing and speaking to the media, bargaining in bad faith, threatening RNs who have spoken out, spying on and questioning RNs about our union, interfering with union rights, directing RNs to remove union stickers, and discriminating and retaliating against union members.

OptOut: Can you share an example of an incident?

Kane: For example, the labor board recently found merit with an unfair labor practice charge NYSNA filed against a hospital. The hospital prevented an off-duty nurse leader from participating in a virtual meeting in her private office and directed her to seek the hospital's permission before speaking to the press, among other retaliatory tactics.

No worker should be subjected to bullying and intimidation for speaking out for the safety of themselves, their colleagues, and their patients.

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when Mayor Eric Adams announced that cops could involuntarily transport New Yorkers to mental institutions, advocates raised alarm bells about it. Now, those on the ground are expressing valid concerns as well.

In what he calls a “recipe of disaster,” Anthony Almojera, lieutenant paramedic with the FDNY EMS, explains in an interview with THE CITY’s FAQ NYC podcast that the current system creates a potential conflict between two first responders: EMS and the cops.

“It also violates a little bit of the trust that you have to establish with the patient,” he added.

Even though police don’t have sufficient training to address mental illness, they do have authority over the medics to make a decision about whether a person needs to be admitted, Almojera said.

He also shed light on the new patterns he is noticing: many patients he sees are recently homeless, and many homeless people are working 9-5 jobs.

Give it a listen. Content warning: This episode discusses suicide.

LISTEN: A Medical First Responder Talks About Treating the New Yorkers Who Fall Through the Cracks
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what on earth was that thing with Southwest Airlines over Christmas? They canceled more than 15,000 flights across the country, rendering passengers without luggage, and leaving many stranded at airports. It will someday become a meme, but right now it exposes what is at the core of the whole mess: how workers on the ground face the brunt of such crises.

While the Southwest crisis highlighted how airline staffers suffer, there is another community that is also hurting: airport workers, many of whom are immigrants.

This DOCUMENTED NY report explores how Swissport USA, a Swiss-owned international aviation services contractor that manages services such as cleaning and cargo handling, is allegedly stealing wages, cutting hours, and not providing sick days or paid time off for immigrant workers at LaGuardia Airport.

The workers are paid as low as $19/hr, which in turn has led to a labor shortage, thus exerting more pressure on individual workers.

One worker whose job is to load luggage off planes claimed that on top of his regular duties, he also had to clean inside plane cabins.

“You know how much the bags weigh here bro? I lift 99 pounds by myself,” Jennifer Zambrano, a baggage handler, told DOCUMENTED NY.

Ahead of the Holiday Travel Season, Immigrant Airport Workers Are in Crisis - Documented
LaGuardia Airport workers employed by Swissport USA are protesting what they say are grueling work conditions and low pay
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who is pumped about this? me, you, and…grandkids? New York state’s first licensed weed dispensary opened last week! Yay! Happy for all New Yorkers but especially for this kid and her grandma:

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why are New York’s environmental advocates in a tug of war about a new bill despite all wanting the same thing? They’re in disagreement about whether Gov. Kathy Hochul should amend parts of a carpet recycling bill that some say would reverse anti-pollution measures, while others argue the difference will be insignificant and not worth potentially vetoing the bill.

The bill requires carpet producers to take back and recycle carpets. There are certain recycling methods that are banned, as they have a high rate of pollution.

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The amendment proposes removing such provisions. Some advocates say this would be a “dangerous loophole,” while some others argue the amendment would not make too much of a difference.

“A showdown isn’t worth the risk of spurring Hochul to veto the entire bill, they argue. If she does, hundreds of millions of pounds more carpet will likely wind up in landfills,” writes Colin Kinniburgh.

Read it in NEW YORK FOCUS:

‘Chemical Recycling‘ Fight Endangers New York’s Carpet Bill
Some environmentalists say Kathy Hochul’s amendments would allow unacceptable pollution. Others argue they’re missing the point.
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It was a tough year for Buffalo: from the white supremacist attack in a Black community (HELLGATE NYC’s reflection on that here) to the merciless snowstorm the city suffered at the end of the year. The blizzard during the December holidays killed at least 40 people in western New York, with Buffalo bearing the majority of the toll. Locals are suffering, and many believe that the mayor owed them a better response.

We’ll take a moment  to honor those who died and those who are still reeling from the disaster. 🕊️ 🕊️ 🕊️

Say hello!

A newsletter for New Yorkers is nothing without the voice of New Yorkers. Send us your favorite or annoying New York moment, whether it’s on the subway or with the pigeons or overhearing tourists. We’ll pick our favorite to highlight in the next newsletter. Email!

I’ll be back in two weeks, that exciting window when most of us will start giving up on our resolutions. See you🗽

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