August 29, 2016

Following the One in Furry Red

By: Pema Chozom

It was around 11 p.m. on a Friday night in Times Square and the lights continued to shimmer bright from the electronic billboards as the sounds of cars from 42nd street filled the air. Policemen moved to and from patrolling the area, and crowds of tourists filled the air with excitement. The individuals dressed as fictional characters such as; Iron Man, Elmo, The Cookie Monster and Mickey Mouse, hovered around and badgered the tourists for photos in front of the H&M building.

He placed his fuzzy red helm on one of the nearby tables; his face was flushed as he reached into the front pocket of his furry red costume, counting his earnings after what was probably a long night of nagging tourists for photos.

A petite male of Latino origin dressed, neck-to-toe, with a dirty matted Elmo costume sat on an open chair at the corner of 42nd street and Broadway. After a minute, he brushed his shaggy black hair back, picked up his helm from the table and wore it.

It was time to get to work. He jumped up and down a little to energize himself and made his way into the crowds of tourists. He walked around eagerly and moved towards a group of teenage girls, “Hey babe,” said the Elmo in a shaky accent, “want a picture?” The group of girls politely ignored the wannabe Elmo and made their way.

After nagging tourists for about five minutes, Elmo had a change in tactics. He moved towards a young family of four; the parents appeared to be in their early 30s and the son and daughter were probably in their pre-teens, were taking photos of each other near the corner of 43rd street and 7th Ave. As the father of the family was preparing to take a picture of his wife and kids, Elmo subtly moved in and stood behind the wife and two children. After seeing that the father of the family had taken a picture, Elmo announced, “five dollars for picture.”

The parents were shocked with disbelief to find themselves in such situation.

“I didn’t take a photo of you, you just walked into the picture,” said the Father of the family, slowly lowering his camera. “Yeah, we’re not paying for that!” said the wife, distraught.

Elmo walks towards the father of the family pointing at the camera, “I am in picture. Yes? Then you give me five dollars,” said Elmo in his furry red costume speaking with a shaky English accent switching from his forced, squeaky, high-pitched Elmo-like voice.

After a couple of minutes of arguing, the couple gave in and gave him five dollars. As the couple and their kids turned away with disgusted looks on their faces, Elmo took off his glove from one hand and stuck out his middle finger out at their direction as he mouthed some probable curse words, and quickly recoiled his hands, put on his gloves and went back to looking for more tourists to nag.

As he made his way towards his initial position, in front of the H&M building, a passerby whom looked in his early 20s offered him a high-five for his hilarious efforts to attain that five dollars.

“Good job,” said the passerby as he giggled with amusement.

A few minutes after mindlessly wandering around the area, he noticed a man suited in an Ironman costume and a woman in a Hello Kitty costume taking pictures with some tourists near the New York Police Stand in Times Square. The tourists; two female and a male, looking like they are in their late 20s, were posing for a photo with Iron Man and Hello Kitty when Elmo quickly rushed into the scene, photo-bombing the tourists and his costumed colleagues.

“Elmo just photo-bombed you,” said the male tourist, giggling at the hilarious situation they were in.

“Aw, Hi Elmo,” said the shorter female amongst the three.

Elmo replied with a squeaky, “Hi,” as he waved his hand over his shoulder. He leaned in towards the two women, slowly shoving his arms across their shoulders and, pushing Iron Man and Hello Kitty to the side. Iron Man and Hello Kitty moved to the side without a word and posed with Elmo and the girls for a few snaps.

The male from the three shook hands with the three characters and handed them each five dollar bills. He and his friends, thanked them and made his way. They were rather polite compared to the last group of tourists Elmo photo-bombed.

Elmo moved into the corner of 42nd street and Broadway, as he slowly removed his helm, revealing his flushed face and shaggy hair. He reached in his fluffy pocket, revealing a smartphone and some bills. As he counted his earnings, the woman dressed in the Hello Kitty costume stood next to him and greeted him. She took off her Hello Kitty helm and revealed a middle-aged woman of latino origin, flushed, and tired, with her hair tied back into a ponytail. They spoke in a vaguely Spanish dialect as she sat down on one of the open chairs in Times Square.

They sat down for a few minutes and stood up slowly, picking up their helms and making their way towards the front of the H&M building. They shook hands with the man wearing the Ironman costume, gave a heart-warming hug to a man wearing the Statue of Liberty costume, speaking loudly in Spanish.

They said their goodbyes and finally walked towards the subway station,with their furry helms in hand, ending the long night of nagging and photo-bombing tourists.

The secret lives of bed-stuy house cats

By: Martin Joseph
In Bed ford-Stuyvesant, small business owners are finding a new source of cheap labor within the homeless population. These workers are usually tasked with killing mice in basements and open lots. They happily work for $1.25 a day, as long as it is paid in cat food.

Hugo is an orange cat who works at La Bellaca, a bodega on the corner of Hancock and Tompkins. “He comes and goes” said Fernando, the owner of the store. Hugo kills mice and rats in exchange for one can of wet food a day, usually generic, and a warm place to sleep.
Hugo is not a pet, however according to Fernando ; he has no collar or permanent home. He can usually be found burying his feces next to any one of the trees within his territory on Hancock street between Marcy and Tompkins.

Fernando first met Hugo, “About a year ago”, when a romance between Fernando’s former feline employee resulted in a pregnancy. The small grey cat had been a family pet for years. She wore a collar and came to work with Fernando every day. Fernando offered the kittens to neighbors but sadly they were never born. In late February, the pregnant cat was with a broken neck. She had been struck by a car.

After her death, Hugo became Fernando’s main employee. He usually shows up three times a week in the mornings and works for an hour or so until returning to the streets. He rarely catches anything, but Fernando is satisfied with Hugo’s work. Fernando said, “the smell keeps them away.”
Hugo’s employment has been contested of late. A young cat named Demitry has been encroaching upon his territory. “He doesn’t like to be inside,” said Fernando about Demitry the cat. Fernando believes that Demitry may have been a house cat at one point but he chose a life on the streets. Demitry is larger and younger than Hugo and has begun challenging his territory. The ferocious feline refuses to be pet and will enforce that policy with a bite.

Tensions have been building for a some time now. Fernando suspects that Demitry has only recently come to the neighborhood. Hugo has defended his territory against Demitry on few unknown occasions. Hugo left uninjured every time but Demitry has lost the tip of his ear and shows scars on his face and shoulders. In a standoff which was witnessed on April 17th, Demitry backed down from a confrontation but the struggle is far from over. “He comes here sometimes,” said Fernando about the black cat.

Both Demitry and Hugo can be found in the middle of the block at various times. The trees, however appear to have been claimed by Hugo. Demitry usually slinks in the guitar, hiding under cars apparently biding his time. For now, Hugo is the alpha cat pf Hancock Street between Marcy and Tompkins. He is not old yet and appears to be in his prime ti the untrained eye but the day may eventually come when Demitry has his revenge , however Hugo has defended his throne thus far.

Cats can also be found working around the corner in an empty lot. Brothers Fred and George, work in the lot keeping rodents at bay. Their pay comes in the form of wet food served in a foil takeout container. The abandoned buildings provide graffiti artists, a canvas as well as a dry place for the cats to sleep. Though the fence is high and would be a prison for most humans, the cats can come and go as they please through the spaces in the fence. Neither Fred nor George have been seen outside of their fence due to the competition. Demitry has tried to take their jobs as well, but the brothers were witnessed repelling the invader late one April night.

Demitry appears to have an unpaid position in a construction site across the street from La Bellaca though this has yet to be confirmed. He sprints towards the site when he felt threatened and works his way between the wooden wall of the construction site and the iron bars of the neighbor’s place.

My Day As A Free Hugger

By: Stephanie Balcacer

What do a New York City police officer, a doorman, and a used car salesman all have in common? While this may sound like the beginning of a cliche joke, they all shared one thing: they each stepped forward to give out hugs on the open streets of New York City to a random free hugger; that hugger just so happened to be me.

As a native New Yorker, I have come to understand the rules of the city streets: never make eye contact with the guy who eyeballs you, carry your sharpest key in your hand as an easily fashionable weapon of defense, and when you’re walking you must always scowl as if someone has burnt your chicken dinner.

Despite knowing these cardinal rules, my day as a free hugger was quite ordinary. I stepped out of my house and minutes later I was bombarded by cars honking at me as the drivers sped away yelling “Free Hugs!” Although people had no problem freely exclaiming, and sometimes whispering under their breath as they breezed past me, “Free Hugs!,” they did not approach me unless I prompted them to.

Another observation I made: no one tells you how hard it is to put yourself out there when it comes to giving hugs. When I approached my first hug of the day, an elderly woman sitting solitary in her wheelchair under a medical building’s awning, I found this difficulty manifested itself in my heart hammering away at my chest. The irony of my fear weighed heavily on my mind, and I couldn’t allow myself to be terrified of this woman.

I pushed forward and asked if she wanted a hug; a pause followed, as I imagined her wondering, “Why is this flower crowned hippie with a sign tied around her neck talking to me? Does she want money? Is she homeless?” I had to repeat myself again. She eventually nodded and allowed me to give my first, and rather awkward by my own account, free hug of the day.

As I walked away from my first successful hug, it dawned on me that being a free hugger requires a lot more than what I had imagined. It means mentally preparing yourself to block out the doubts of how effective your own campaign will be. It means smiling consistently through rejections and allowing people to think you’ve lost your mind. A case for example: smiling often garnered one of two responses which were either a smile back or a look of concern specifically reserved for interventions. It’s a tough crowd out here in New York City.

With that in mind, I continued my free hug journey into the concrete jungle by taking a train over to Manhattan. Riding in the middle of a crowded train made it nearly impossible to avoid people staring at me and the glaring neon orange “Free Hugs” sign that hung lazily over my chest. Despite having an abundance of people around me, I only managed to snag three hugs on the subway and engaged in a discreet game of “Catch the Dodgey Eye Glance” with one man. He eventually gave in with a half smile; it was no hug, but I had to take what I could get. It seems the MTA really has done a number on the spirit of New Yorkers.

The next point of destination was John Jay College. The walk to class on 11th Avenue introduced me to a pair of burly guys standing in front of a bar drinking their cans of Coors Light.

“Free hugs? You giving free hugs?” one of the guys asked as he leaned casually against a car.

I gestured to him for a hug to which he replied, “Free hugs are here, but you gotta get a free drink with me in there.” He motioned his head over to the bar in front.

“Nah man, I’ve got class,” I said as I gave him a consolatory hug. While I walked away, I made a mental note to give free hugs next to bars in the near future if I wanted to get my drink on.

As I approached John Jay’s campus, a pair of construction workers called out for free hugs. After I gave one of them a hug, he had one simple request: “Don’t forget to send the college girls over to me for more free hugs.” Duly noted.

All these random encounters might have some people wondering: why she decide to sacrifice herself to the massive hub of 8 million people that is the city of New York? Simply intrigue. Free Huggers walk about freely in all their altruistic glory, but it’s debatable whether people bother to look into why they’re okay with placing themselves into the shark tank that is the city.

As it turns out, The Free Hugs Campaign began in 2004 as Juan Mann’s journey (the name is not a joke) of seeking a way to open up human lines of communication beyond the confines of technology. As the campaign’s official website puts it, “In this age of social dis-connectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs Campaign [have become] phenomenal.”

It is a message that has the ability to resonate with many people who may feel isolated in a world where interactions are mainly executed through social media; it was one that I had to explore for myself.

The discovery I made was that the campaign moved well beyond the portal of technology to create connections. As Juan Mann said, “It’s two words, one idea. [Hugs] translate through so many different cultures and to so many different people and so many different places. It’s not a brand new idea.”

My walk around New York City echoed those sentiments, as I found myself being embraced by people from all walks of life. From the clean-cut doorman who beckoned me over for a hug to the somewhat criminally inclined ticket scalpers at Madison Square Garden, hugs were welcomed and warmly received as the universal sign of solidarity.

For Juan Mann, it is canon as a free hugger to always “Expect the unexpected. You go out thinking one thing, You just don’t know; you just don’t know what the city has in store.”

Being a free hugger for a day taught me how truly undervalued that piece of advice is. What did the city have in store for me?

During an order I was placing at a McDonald’s on 57th street, one of the managers in charge came out from behind the counter to give me an enthusiastic embrace.

“Free Hugs for you, free hugs for me!” he boomed. Unfortunately for him, McDonald’s policy requires free hugs to be exchanged under certain conditions. His supervisor came out to mildly reprimand him by exclaiming, “No, no free hugs until after 6 P.M.”; he waved her off and gave me a wink before departing for his duties. The Free Hugs campaign had no limits or boundaries binding it down.

As my day began to wind down, I added one final touch to my day as a campaigner; I wanted to make myself more available to people, so I decided that music was the best way to do it. I incorporated a wireless speaker into my journey and blasted music from 59th Street down to Herald Square. Was it not Madonna that said, “Music makes the people come together”?
I had plenty of looks that translated into annoyance, but it was all made up for by the moments when people joined me in my musical expedition; men clapped along to Pharrell’s “Happy” song, and a UPS guy cheered from the inside of his truck to “Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior. Not everyone was a part of it, yet somehow they were.

My final hug for the day was given to me by a noticeably tipsy man down in the Time Square’s shuttle hub. Although he did not understand the language of the sign I held, the smile I gave him was enough to produce an embrace. It was a reminder of something Juan Mann had mentioned: “The catch with free hugs is that it has the word free on it. It belongs to everyone, even if they don’t want it. It’s up to everyone else to decide how they will use it.”

I later came to understand that the man only spoke Spanish. Although I am a Spanish speaker myself, I’m not quite proficient in it. Despite this minor obstacle, it became my business, after a day of embracing all kinds of people, to make sure this man was included in this journey. It was the culmination of my days work in one person; it was finally understanding what the Free Hugs Campaign is really about.

As Juan Mann said, “Everyone is responsible; it isn’t just a solo project. This is a team effort. It requires everyone. We’ll always be a part of something. It’s just a matter of whether the something we’re a part of is the right thing.”

Stress and teens: How it’s affecting their everyday life

By: Alexandra Contreras

More and more teens are showing high levels of stress and health problems according to a study done by the American Psychological Association (APA). Today, many of them are facing health issues due to the constant stress that they are going through. The study showed that teens are overwhelmed or depressed because of their high stress levels. Eventually, this affects the way that they perform at school, work, and even at home.

So, why are teens getting so stressed out? The same study determined that at least 83% of teens think that school has a significant impact on their stress level. 10% of teens are increasingly receiving lower grades, but 40% admit to neglecting their responsibilities at home. Finally, 21% said the same for job and school-related duties.

APA also states that since teens are unaware of the negative impact that stress has on their mental as well as physical health, they ignore it. Many teens say and feel that stress has minimal to no influence on their lives, but the report shows that they experience the same symptoms as adults who suffer from high levels of stress. These symptoms include feeling nervous, tired, irritable, and anxious.

Dante Mendoza, a junior at John Jay, said that working and going to school is very stressful for him. He works two jobs and attends school full-time. His schedule includes classes in the morning, working part-time until nine at night, then going to his overnight security job.

“It got to the point where I had to pick between school and work. Unfortunately school was not paying my bills, so I had to take the semester off. It was tough because my plan was to always finish in four years, but things happen,” he said.

The same reports show that, for more than 1,000 teens, they show early stages of stress symptoms that can follow them through adulthood. The survey done by the APA states, “With teens mirroring adults’ high-stress lives, they are potentially setting themselves up for a future of chronic stress and chronic illness.”

In the long run, these high levels of stress in teens can make their immune systems weaker as well as exhaust their bodies. Viral infections are more easily attained, in addition to inflammation, which is known as the link to the development of cardiovascular disease.

According to Sharon Jayson, a writer for USA Today, and clinical psychologist Norman Anderson, stress that is usually seen in adults is now being seen in young adults. In response to this, things like “lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits” begin to happen.

“Stress affects our body in different ways,” said Marian Cortes, a social worker at St. Lawrence Community Health Center in the Bronx, New York. “Stress can produce a number of health issues including anxiety, insomnia, headaches and even muscle pain.”

In the APA study, when teens were asked how they respond to their increasing stress levels, the results varied only slightly. While 32% said that they cry and suffer from headaches, 30% have feelings of sadness and even depression. 26% have had changes in their sleeping patterns and 23% saw changes in their eating habits. Lastly, while 36% constantly feel tired, the same amount of teens actually have episodes of insomnia.

Although these statistics represent adolescents as a whole, females have been shown to have a higher stress levels than males. On a scale of 1 to 10, teen female stress levels averaged at a 5.1, while teen males were in the 4.1 region.

“I never had to work and go to school at the same time,” said Maury Mayen, a freshman at Bronx Community College. “It was okay once I started, but now it’s like I get overwhelmed fast and I don’t feel like I have time for anything. On my days off, I just want to sleep all day. When it’s a lot going on I randomly cry… honestly it’s a lot sometimes.”

According to the APA, in order to help these teens from continuing to suffer this way, we need to create opportunities in their everyday life. We also need to teach them about the dangers of stress and the healthy ways to deal with it. This will help them in the long run, so they don’t have to deal with shorter lifespans, a variety of illnesses, and health issues.

“We need to give them the skills to take control over their lives in healthy ways and allow them to grow into healthy adults,” said the APA.

Coffee Rivals

By: Jessica Enchauetegui

It’s late Tuesday evening in North Jersey. The local Dunkin Donuts parking lot is eerily empty and a lone worker can be seen slowly sweeping the store from the outside window. At first, one might assume that the level of inactivity at the popular franchise could be due to the fact that most people are only a few short hours away from going to sleep, and so their need for caffeine has finally subsided. However, just a couple blocks down, the Starbucks coffee house is an oasis for those who intend to burn the midnight oil, despite the fact that the store ironically closes long before its competitor (the local Dunkin Donuts is open 24-hours whereas Starbucks’ doors close by midnight without fail). The Starbucks is dimly lit, but there’s a certain brightness in the buzzing students and professionals propped up in front of their laptops having business meetings and study sessions. At this late hour, there is not one vacant seat available.

The locals unanimously agree that Starbucks is the pricier option of the two, so in this economy, why does it appear to be the more frequented location? The division becomes more apparent when discussing personal preferences.

James Betancourt, a long-time mailman and concierge, is no stranger to working long hours and he definitely depends on his coffee to get him through. He  admitted that he spends more money than he should on his daily coffee consumption, as his wife looked on in awe trying to tally up his numbers. “I have two cups in the morning, and maybe four more throughout the day. People in my building always bring me coffee throughout the day so it’s always there,” he said.

Betancourt said that he personally prefers Dunkin Donuts coffee to Starbucks. “I walked into a Starbucks once and asked for a medium coffee. The cashier had no idea what I was talking about, it was ridiculous,” he said. Coffee is becoming more of a culture, with many shops adopting their own lingo and endless flavor combinations being stirred into lattes. This complicating of a simple beverage might leave some consumers like Betancourt feeling alienated. Nonetheless, where you choose to buy your coffee has begun to indicate your social status to some degree.

Adam Soto, a 22-year-old New Jersey resident, also relies on coffee for his daily productivity. “If I could afford Starbucks, I would have it every day, but usually I have to make my coffee at home,” he said. Soto’s eyes opened wide as he explained that when he does visit a Starbucks, he likes to order a frappuccino. Catering to personal preferences even further, one could order something like an iced quad soy caramel macchiato. This beverage is simply espresso poured over milk with a caramel drizzle, with an extra espresso shot and a non-dairy option it will run you around $7.00 for a “venti,” which is the second to largest size. That could add up very quickly in a society that consumes several cups a day on average.

Arlenne Rodriguez is a recent college graduate going through the day to day grind searching for success. “When I got my job, I graduated from Dunkin Donuts to Starbucks,” she said. She explained that besides better quality coffee, there was some guilty pleasure in being able to spend a few extra dollars on something she loves so much. Rodriguez noted a correlation in being able to purchase her coffee at a more expensive coffee shop and her sense of overall success. “It seems silly, but it makes you feel like you’ve somehow moved up in the world,” she said.

Most coffee houses monopolize on the growing popularity of the beverage by building up their brands with specialized drinks and offering rewards programs for regular customers. There are seasonal and limited addition flavors, as well as merchandising that only aids in further advertisement for the giant corporations behind the scenes. Eli Gonzalez has been a barista at Starbucks for several years. He’s able to memorize most of his customer’s orders due to their consistent daily visits to his store, knowing what they are going to order before they even reach the register.

Gonzalez saw a familiar face in the crowded store. “Another one?”, he asked as he handed over the beverage. The customer hurriedly replied, “It’s that kind of day.” Gonzalez grinned and continued to build each unique drink with ease. He slid a cup of the popular caramel macchiato over to yet another one of his regulars. Something is different about the beverage, though, as the espresso is not sitting on top of the milk. “I know you always stir your macchiato, so when you want it stirred just ask them to make it ‘upside-down’,” he said to the customer.

It’s a strange world we live in. There are not enough hours in the day and our coffees can be ordered upside down. The patron smiles at their drink, there’s something special about someone knowing how you like your coffee.

Superheroing 101

By: Tariq Sims

On March 25th Batman V. Superman hit theaters and instantly caused chaos within the fanbase. Like its predecessor, Man of Steel, it features a darker version of Superman. After the events of Man of Steel, Superman is being held accountable by Batman for all the damage that has been caused since his first public appearance. Batman decides he must prepare to fight Superman, and if needed, kill him.

This has been an ongoing trend for years, taking a known superhero and reimagining them in a darker, more realistic light. It, and other superhero movies, helped to breathe new life into the dying medium of comic books.

So why do we like dark and edgy superheroes? 

The idea of darker and edgier superheroes stemmed from what is called The Dark Age of Comic Books. It began with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, both published in 1986. These comics deconstructed the superhero genre that had been established at this point, and started to add more political and psychological statements and more graphic depictions of violence.

The most impactful idea to come from The Dark Age is that not all superheroes are the pictures of purity. They were starting to be shown as individuals with psychological issues and violent tendencies.

A lot of heroes have gotten a redesign, after The Dark Age rebooted them. One of those rebooted heroes was Batman. After The Dark Knight Returns, Batman was made a lot more serious, and the blue and light grey costume he wore was replaced with a black and darker grey one. Batman has still been well-received as a hero and had a squadron of fans.

“I liked him because he doesn’t have any powers and he’s always looking out for what’s best even if it’s at his expense,” Ieasha Galloway, a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said. “His trauma fuels him. He’s a hero because he doesn’t want others to experience what he’s been through.”

“Part of the allure of superheroes is that they give people a figure to look up to. A figure that, at the end of the day, ultimately prevails in what he or she is doing,” Jamel Burroughs, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and a licensed psychotherapist in New York, said. “The more psychologically damaged characters provide someone to relate to.”

Batman V Superman, and by extension, Man of Steel, has shown a drastically different Superman than any of the previous incarnations of Superman to hit the big screen. Throughout the movie, one of his biggest struggles was that he felt like he was outsider, since he is from another planet.

“He’s not perfect, and he struggles to do what he thinks is right and balance that with what other people think of him,” John Mooney, a 21 year old senior, said. “He has flaws and suffers emotionally because of it. Personally, I like it.”

Relating to a superhero is part of the reason why people like them. Viewers are made to see these heroes and heroines as the ideal individuals.

Superheroes also satisfy the idea of escapism. Escapism is something that exists to distract a person from any unwanted, unpleasant or unnerving thoughts, and provide an escape for them. A person read a comic, or saw a movie and now wants to imagine that they are that hero that they have seen, without the pressing issues in their own lives. It’s not just superheroes that have done this. Almost anything that a person can take an interest in can be a form of escapism, from stamp collecting to base jumping, from music to art. Some individuals with depression have used the idea of escapism to temporarily relieve their depression.

“Escapism is a form of coping, also known as avoidance coping,” Burroughs said. “With this, a person could take some negative stimuli from his or her life, and push it away by bringing their attention to anything that can be a distraction.”

Projection and hope are two reasons that people like superheroes, according to Galloway. “They want to believe that they and others out there who want to do good just for good. They want to believe that something greater can happen and sometimes they want to see themselves as the hero.”

Batman V Superman has brought back a trend stemming from Ancient Greek times, according to Mooney. “Like the Greeks before us, we like seeing our idols in their own flawed image. It shows that even super powered beings have similar emotions to us and how they struggle in situations make them more human.”

Richard Felipe, a 22 year old senior, thought that the escapist idea was something that superheroes represented. “Be it the personality, the body, the life they live, etcetera. You can imagine yourself as that hero”

The changing times have also changed things about heroes. Spider-Man’s alias is Peter Parker. When he was first introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), he was a 15 year old high school student with a love for science. In 2016, Peter Parker now owns his own company.

Community vs. NYPD Aspiring Cops React to Deadly Shooting

By Javier Calderon

On Gold Street outside the two glass doors of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn, two pictures lie side by side of Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos.

On December 20, 2014, both officers were shot point-blank range and killed in their patrol car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Before making his way up to Brooklyn from Baltimore, Brinsley, suggested on social media that he planned to kill police officers in anger over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.

The fatal shooting would be the first of three incidences that have led to the death of four New York City police officers over the past year. On May 2, Officer Brian Moore, who followed in his father’s footsteps to become a police officer, was shot and killed while patrolling a residential neighborhood in Queens. The most recent incident was the death of Officer Randolph Holder, shot in the head and killed on October 21, while chasing a gunman down in Harlem.

Each of these officers under the age of 35 risked their lives to protect their community. However, the tension between the community and law enforcement continues to grow and become more hostile. It leaves the question of whether or not joining the NYPD is the correct career path for young students out of college.

After college, many of the young cadets that graduate from the police academy are put directly out into the field. “It is different for officers who work out in the field,” said Steven Litwen a detective for Brooklyn’s Cold Case Division. For those young cadets, training only last six months and you are dumped into a community that most the time you are unfamiliar with.

The police officer with the 77th precinct in Crown Heights Brooklyn with six and a half years experience on the job, was straight forward about working in unfamiliar neighborhoods and the dangers that come with it. “The job is always going to be dangerous, and most the time you are put into a situation where you have to deal with people who are for the most part disturbed and it’s hard to know how to act in situations like that…it really comes down to the department and the need for more training.”

More police training is not a new topic of discussion. Over the past year, a lot of the talks about police training have become more extensive due to several police brutality cases such as the case of Eric Garner, where a Staten Island police officer put Mr. Garner in a chokehold leading to his death. The incident sparked several protest in New York City and around the nation.

Not only have the police brutality cases sparked protests, but they have also created a divide between the people of the community and police officers, each of them falling on opposite sides of the spectrum. The shaky and unstable conflict between the police and the community has left several students second-guessing a career path with the NYPD.

Stephanie Rodriguez 22, a recent graduate from John Jay College, who wanted nothing more as a kid but to follow her mother’s footsteps in becoming a NYPD police officer, has chosen to depart from her childhood dream and choose a different career path in sports management. This is due to the recent conflicts between the community and law enforcement officials. “It is just not the same anymore…You are under so much pressure as a cop now and even my mother who has over 20 years on the job thinks that joining now would be a mistake for the younger generation because the tension between the community and police officers is only getting worse,” said Ms. Rodriguez.

Not all students feel the same however. Rillind Jonbalaj, a senior at John Jay College, who was asked about officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos affect his decision to join said, “No, death can happen at any moment, it does not matter whether you are a police officer on duty or not, death is a part of life.”

Death is, in fact, a part of life and Evelin Gutierreza, a detective for Brooklyn’s cold case division. He worked 21 years on the job and is afraid the killing of police officers this year is not over. “It is usually around the holiday times when we see another tragic death, and it is a sad time when you have to report that type of incident to an officer’s family…it’s just not right.”

Although relations with the community and the NYPD continue to grow apart and become more dangerous for police officers, on June 22, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced because of a new budget deal, New York City is going to add 1,300 new cops to the city’s payroll.

New York City is already the home of the largest police force in the country. According to the New York City’s website www.nyc.gov, there are approximately 34,500 police officers in the NYPD. With 1,300 more officers on the way, it puts much pressure on to the department to “serve and protect” over 8.4 million people in New York City.

Along with the pressure from the community, much pressure of being a police officer comes with leaving your family every day to worry at home. Detective Jason Palamara states, “My family tends to worry a lot about me and what I do…they know it is a dangerous job, but they understand that…it still doesn’t stop them from feeling worried when I don’t call back.”

Married to Your Major or Open Relationship?

By Cintia Feliz

Think about it. Graduation day has finally arrived after four long years. You now have your gown and cap. However, your hands and legs are shaking. You look around, and you notice familiar faces, people you have not met yet, your family and teachers. They call your name, and your heart starts beating. The first thing that comes to your mind is, “Am I being punked?”

That is what Christopher Ferrerias, a John Jay graduate who majored in English, first thought when he walked on stage to receive his diploma last May. He felt a sense of relief knowing that he had picked the right major, stuck with it through his final college years and is now ready to start his career.

Many college students feel pressured to pick a major that is right for them because they feel that this type of decision will have a huge impact on their lives. However, picking a specific major does not always mean you have to stick with it for your whole life.

“When I chose my major, I didn’t know if you could make a good living with my major and that was a huge concern for my parents. However, I learned that, when you’re really good at what you do, you’ll do well. It all comes back to having passion,” said Kenneth Holmes, the Dean of Students and Assistant Vice President at John Jay.

Holmes, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Masters in Higher Education, first started as a pre-pharmacy student. However, he later changed his mind when he realized how much he loved interacting with students.

“When I was in college, I worked in campus activities. I would help clubs make signs and posters. I loved engaging with students.”

The same passion that Holmes had for his major was the same passion Ferrerias had with his.

It was night time as he sat on the cold grass of the Jay Walk and spoke about his choice of major. A few students were lounging around with their friends.

When asked if he felt like the English major impacted his life in any way, he said the English major refined his eyes for observation. “My major made me see things in nature that perhaps was beautiful before but I did not have the words for it.”

Ferrerias, who is currently writing two conceptual poetry books and works as a tutor at the Writing Center, finds himself always looking for theories and orienting himself in the world in the way that he did when he was a student, always looking for deeper meaning in things.

He always wanted to be an English Major. “From a writer’s perspective, it was English or nothing else. English was where I saw my potential growing,” said Ferrerias.

Unfortunately, not many students are completely sure on what they want to major in and end up changing majors.

About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing majors at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career.

However, not being able to pick a major also has to do with the varieties of majors offered in universities. According to the New York Times, colleges and universities reported nearly 1,500 academic programs to the Department of Education in 2010; 355 were added to the list over the previous ten years as colleges compete to stay current.

As reported by the Washington Post, only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major. This is not a big labor-market problem because it could just mean that many jobs do not require a specific field of study.

Joel Armstrong, a John Jay graduate who majored in Philosophy and now also works as a tutor at the Writing Center, can use his skills that he learned throughout college with his current job.

“With my major, I get to interpret things and answer questions based on my interpretation of it. Also, with my job because I know how to argue, I can help students with their essays.”

Despite that, choosing a major does not always mean someone has to stick to that one field of choice. Kristina Simonsen, who is an Assistant Director for Employer Relations at the Center for Career and Professional Development, agrees with being flexible with your major.

“I don’t think a student should be married to their major. It’s definitely an influence, but it’s not the deciding factor. However, I do think education gives you that foundation to give you that background of what are the expectations for a specific area,” said Simonsen.

For any students who are unsure of what to major in or what jobs they want after college, Simonsen recommends to start early with their exploration and visit the Career Center.

The Center for Career and Professional Development allows students to bring their resumes and work with Peer Career Educators to review it.

They also help prepare students for job interviews in which they set up a mock interview and ask questions that would normally come up in an interview. Even if students have a couple of questions, they can stop by and ask.

She also recommends students to start early with their internships and visit John Jay’s upcoming Spring Job Fair, which will be held next year on March 31st from 1 to 5.00 p.m. in the Haaran Hall Gym.

“Internships allows students to ‘try on different hats’. They can learn about what areas are their strongest point and what areas aren’t. Interning can allow students to gain experience but also be aware of what they will really look for in a future job,” says Simonsen.

The Center for Career and Professional Development is open Monday- Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located in the New Building in room L72.00.

From Attending To Trending: The New John Jay College Experience

By Isidoro Rodriguez

The average student today is busy. At least 80 percent of students in the U.S. have a job while attending college, according to a 2013 study by Citigroup and Seventeen magazine. This is very much the reality at John Jay, a commuter college where students balance full or part-time jobs with school. Many don’t have the time to enjoy any of the student and club events happening every day around campus. Turning to social media to engage these students, John Jay College’s Division of Student Affairs is redefining the college experience.

“We are always trying to engage 100 percent of the students,” says Lynette Cook-Francis, “and that’s not always an easy thing to do on a campus like ours.” The Vice President of Student Affairs at John Jay, Cook-Francis assembled a communications team almost a year and a half ago to develop creative and innovative ways of engaging the student body. With 7,882 followers on Facebook, 6,707 on Twitter, and 2,828 on Instagram, they hope to create a sense of community at the college for anyone who can’t always physically be there.

This effort works best for students like Michelle Valdez, a senior majoring in English who says, “I commute every day from Yonkers, so I don’t really go to events on campus.” Instead, she uses her Instagram account to keep up with the law, grad school, and LGBT events on campus that interest her while still focusing on graduating in the spring. At a time when the Pew Research Center reports 65 percent of adults are using social networking sites, students like Valdez are becoming the norm.

“It’s a cultural issue,” says Mark Rivera, Social Media Marketing Manager for the division of Student Affairs. “Students today have to work more hours than our parent’s generation did. Today’s students are working multiple jobs. Today’s students are parents. There are a lot of factors that hinder students from fully getting involved.”

In light of this reality, Rivera thinks that new methods need to be used to engage a wider range of students. “Maybe a successful event live streams their keynote speaker,” he says. “Maybe a successful event uses Periscope,” a live streaming video mobile app. For Rivera, making John Jay students feel that they can go about their day and still be involved in the college and connected with people in a virtual way is the key to changing how they define their college experience.

Christie Graziano, John Jay’s Coordinator for Student Transition Programs, thinks involvement begins with the exchange of information. “Social media makes the whole experience a lot easier,” says Graziano. “Students are helping other students find what they need quicker.” By sharing news on Instagram or Twitter, students are no longer forced to navigate the John Jay websites for things like graduation dates or yearbook info. Sharing basic yet important information like this is the first step towards an online community.

For the students of Club Row, these new communities then offer a potential for new members and a broader range of student interest. “A lot of people don’t even know Club Row is here,” says Kenneth Ortiz, a junior majoring in International Criminal Justice and the social media coordinator for the Dominican Students Association (DSA). “By promoting through John Jay on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter we bring a lot more attention to the clubs.”

That attention proved a big help when Ortiz and his club joined with the African Students Association for an impromptu flash mob on March 24th, 2015. The video of the event that Ortiz posted on Instagram earned seventy-one likes and thirty friend requests for the club, helping expose more people to John Jay’s diversity and spark interest in the DSA. As clubs begin to devote more of their time to establishing an online presence like this, their popularity only grows.

“It’s the best way to communicate with the students,” says Marie Iachetta, a senior majoring in Criminal Justice and Vice President of the Theatrical Players. “Especially the millennials.” Since investing more time on their social media, Iachetta’s club has developed a larger following on sites like Instagram, where their posts about events, such as their upcoming production of the play “Twelve Angry Jurors,” have received anywhere from twenty-eight to forty likes.

This rise in popularity has motivated Iachetta and her club to begin using a Twitter account and posting more on their Facebook page. Planning to only increase their use of social media, Iachetta now believes that clubs, in general, should start exploring more options for expanding together. “We’re able to connect with other clubs through social media,” she says. “Maybe we could start linking videos.”

Ideas like that are why Rivera works closely and in person with student organizations. “Even with all the tech, nothing beats face-to-face interaction,” says Rivera, always trying to be available to receive any new ideas and suggestions. It is that same mentality about personal connections that prompted Cook-Francis to establish the information desk at Hound Square.

Located near the center of the New Building complex between JJ’s Cafe and the game room, the desk is staffed by fellow students providing an outlet for their peers to express any ideas or interests they may have. “We always need to make sure that the events that we do are relevant and interesting to students,” says Cook-Francis, “and that means that it’s the students who have to really be the ones who are driving what the events are.”

With a student population of roughly 15,000, achieving the goal of 100 percent engagement will be difficult, to say the least. “Not every event can be live streamed,” admits Rivera. “But whether it means decorating candy apples or doing a fashion show, there has to be something out there that students can connect to.”

And as Club Row becomes more involved in social media and develops more numerous online followings, and student events receive more awareness, those connections will continue to yield results. “There’s always going to be somebody who says, ‘I didn’t know about it,’,” says Cook-Francis. “That’s life. But we do as much as we can and we continue to try and be creative. Because the more engaged students are the more likely they are to be retained and to graduate.”

Bloodhound Central: Student Attendance on Campus

By Bryce Veira

Almost every day, an event is held on John Jay’s campus, whether a speaker series, panel discussion, info session, open mic, or other various campus activities. However, not enough people come to these events. John Jay’s population is estimated to be 15,000, but despite these numbers, events fall short of their target audience.

Bloodhound Central, a newly created website designed for the John Jay community for students and faculty, poses a solution to the advertising problem.

Accessible through https://johnjay.collegiatelink.net/  and through a link provided on the John Jay website under “Web Apps”.

It is a general site accessible to the entire body of John Jay. Bloodhound Central breaks barriers of miscommunication throughout the school. Through Bloodhound Central, it is possible to check out events, announcements, and opportunities that are posted daily, and join clubs or organizations by sending messages or requests through the website.

The Campus Activity Boardroom, located in Club Row on L2 is a petite, white room decorated with minimal furniture. It has several rolling chairs, two tables against the right wall with computers resting on them. A miniature fridge with a microwave on top occupies the left wall along with a supply shelf and a file cabinet. Sitting in the middle of the room was Isaac Hodges. As he introduced himself, he swayed back and forth in his chair. Hodges, 19, a sophomore majoring in Forensic Psychology, is the Cochairman, and Vice President of the Campus Activity Board (C.A.B.), a student-run organization that hosts events on campus, and collaborates with other clubs to co-host events.

According to Hodges, C.A.B.’s main method of advertisement for events is social media. Since “a lot of students are on Instagram, and they are on Facebook, on Twitter,” said Hodges, “we try to get the word out as much as we can on social media through either our Instagram or Facebook, or other clubs that will advertise for us.”

While most events hosted by the Campus Activity Board do well regarding attendance, Hodges is concerned about events where attendance wasn’t as great. “It feels like sometimes if the event is not as big as what it is supposed to be, we could have allocated the money somewhere else that could have used it.”

The awareness of Bloodhound Central is still low. Clubs and organizations know about it and use it to post their events, but students are still unaware. Though he mentions having heard the name tossed around among members of other clubs, Hodges himself knows little about it.

Located in the Urban Male Initiative Computer Lab on L.73 is Maria Vidal who is the coordinator of the Urban Male Initiative. Bloodhound Central is “definitely helpful” when it comes to helping students get more involved on campus said Vidal.

Vidal recommended the use of Bloodhound central over the traditional ways of advertising like bulletins, and e-mails. “…Bulletin boards are always full of different flyers” and “…the emails are not always the best way to contact students.”

Vidal hopes that a mobile app version of the website will be created soon so that Bloodhound Central can become even more accessible.

Kimberly Martinez, 21, a senior criminology major feels Bloodhound Central is “A convenient website…something students would use a lot to get involved.” While being completely new to the website, she finds it “fast, simple, and easy to use.” After exploring all that Bloodhound Central has to offer, she commented saying, “It is something I would use.”

Not everyone is so excited about this new tool, however. Treshana Gaskin, 21, a senior student and Vice President of the Shut Up! & Listen club here in John Jay feels that Bloodhound Central is “unfair.” According to her, clubs are forced to register and upload their events on Bloodhound Central, or they will not be in compliance. “They are forcing us, and we have no other choice but to comply.”

Gaskin does not feel that it is a useful advertisement tool because “It is not something that everyone uses.” When advertising events for her club, she mainly uses Facebook and the mobile app Instagram, posting flyers that promote her clubs events. She says these outlets are just fine for advertising, and that their events usually get “60 to 100 people, sometimes even more.” Her suggestion is to “Leave everything as is.”