Join Community Voices Heard in Following Black Women

Community Voices Heard writes:

We are on the precipice of change. President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson signals confirmation of a true commitment to change and representation in our nation’s highest court.

We know Black women are an extremely powerful voting bloc, and we also understand the critical role we play in our families and communities. We also know that outside of our communities the contributions of Black women have often been overlooked and undervalued. The Biden Administration is continuing to show that it believes in Black women, and in the wisdom of following our lead. This nomination is long overdue, and we look forward to a swift confirmation, so Ms. Brown Jackson can get down to the business of justice.

While getting the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court is monumental, there is still work to be done and more reason why we must continue working to elect and have representation at all levels that center the voices of communities like ours.

To do that, we need to hear from you! Complete the Follow Black Woman Survey so that we gain more insight into the issues that you care about. Our goal is to survey 5,000 Black women and to engage in discussions that explore the key concerns and priorities. 

Thank you for being a partner in this great work.

Continue Fighting,

Juanita O. Lewis
Executive Director
Follow Black Women Survey

Fallout Shelter is Rat Infested

An article from the New York Times in 1963 specifically mentions conditions in a series of East Harlem tenements that were designated as Cold War-era fallout shelters:

The article goes on to point out that sanitary conditions were not considerations in the designation decision-making process.

Today one of the buildings mentioned on East 131st Street is gone (now private openspace), but the others remain:

To read the full article, see:

Even Bigger

Fast Company is reporting that the urban critters we see (yes, a euphemism for rats) are getting bigger. So it’s not your imagination:

Photo Taken In Germany, Frankfurt Am Main

Researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History are expressing surprise at the results of a new study showing that urban mammals are growing. A quartet of scientists analyzed over 140,000 measurements from more than 100 North American mammals over 80 years. They found that the urban dwellers are significantly longer and, um, fatter than their non-urban cousins.

“That wasn’t what we expected to find at all,” said coauthor Robert Guralnick, curator of biodiversity informatics at Florida Museum of Natural History, in a statement. Animals in warmer climates tend to be smaller (a phenomenon known as Bergmann’s Rule), and scientists had previously observed that higher temperatures from climate change are likely shrinking animals. “This paper is a good argument for why we can’t assume Bergmann’s Rule or climate alone is important in determining the size of animals,” added lead author Maggie Hantak, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The scientists had expected to find smaller vermin and other mammals in cities due to the heat island effect, where structures like buildings and roads absorb more heat from the sun than, say, a neighboring forest. Instead, the findings suggest that urbanization is reshaping the bodies of the animals within.

The researchers hypothesize that the mammals are growing bigger because cities provide something of a TV-dinner-on-the-couch lifestyle: easy access to calorie-dense food, less need to scavenge, and fewer predators, which facilitate species expansion, literally.

As Seen on 3rd Avenue

A great (commercial) mural on the facade of a sneaker store, formerly close-out store, and in the distant past, a theater. 3rd Avenue at 102nd.

Rats! Back Up

The Department of Health (and Mental Hygiene) has finally released their new, improved Rat Portal (which sounds like something you wouldn’t want rats to have access to…).

You can go to the portal, select your community district, and look at your block to see where rat complaints, sightings, eradication, and inspections are going on:

The data, like all 311 data, is biased towards communities who report such things, but it does give you a sense of where rats may be lurking in your community. In the map below, pink buildings/locations are rat hot-spots:

Every complaint and inspection is digitally documented, and you can see that the building at the corner of 124/Madison Avenue (north-west corner), has had 20 rat inspections in the last 6 years, and is currently listed ‘pink’, and thus evidence of rats was found with DOHMH inspectors last went to the location.

Rapid Rehousing

The Rapid Re-Housing Program (RRH) at the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) is a housing
intervention method used to connect individuals and families, who are domestic and interpersonal
violence survivors, to permanent housing through tailored financial assistance and supportive services.

With an intended goal of reducing the amount of time, the individual or family is homeless.
Our Rapid Re-Housing Program will locate and recruit landlords within our communities willing to rent to individuals and families attempting to flee domestic and interpersonal violence and receiving assistance from the VIP Rapid Re-Housing Program. We will work together to match our program participants/ clients to appropriate housing. Program participants/ clients will be offered permanent housing that is decent, safe, and affordable even after our financial assistance ends.

Mice and Rats!


MacKenzie Scott Donates to El Museo and The Studio Museum

MacKenzie Scott, one of the richest women in the world, promised to keep giving her fortune away “until the safe is empty” following her divorce from Jeff Bezos in 2019. Over the past year, Scott has donated some $6 billion to more than 500 nonprofit organizations, and this week announced a new round of grants worth a combined $2.7 billion. The funds will be distributed to 286 higher education, social justice, and arts organizations working to support marginalized and underserved communities.

FILE – In this March 4, 2018, file photo, MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. Scott, the billionaire philanthropist known for her impromptu multi-billion dollar donations to charities and racial equity causes, announced Tuesday, June 15, 2021, that she has given $2.7 billion to 286 organizations. It is the third round of major philanthropic gifts Scott has made, which together rival the charitable contributions made by the largest foundations. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Among the arts organizations receiving funds are the Studio Museum in Harlem and El Museo del Barrio.

Enroll in the Rat Academy (yes, it’s a thing)

You have likely heard (and perhaps seen) that rats have made a comeback in the COVID era. With so many restaurants closed, or open in a reduced presence, rats have had to head toward residential garbage for their food needs.

In New York City, property owners are required (PDF) to keep their properties rat-free and address conditions that can lead to rats. They may have to hire a pest management professional when appropriate. Tenants can do their part by following our prevention tips below and promptly reporting rats to property owners, building managers or co-op associations.

If property owners are not fulfilling their legal requirement to prevent and manage rats and repair conditions that can attract rats, tenants can report the issue online or by calling 311. The Health Department will send inspectors to investigate the situation.

Learn more about what you can do prevent rat infestation, or how you can drive them out if they have already settled in your home or property:

Secure Garbage

The best way to prevent rats from settling in your home and property is to carefully dispose of your garbage. Be sure to:

  • Provide enough garbage cans with tight fitting lids to hold all garbage between pickups.
  • Bring garbage to the curb as close to pick-up time as possible. Garbage left on the curb for too long attracts rats.
  • Follow your building’s policy for garbage disposal and recycling.
  • If your building has a garbage chute, bag and tie your garbage before putting it down the chute.

Destroy Potential Shelter

Make your home inhospitable to rats by attacking their favorite places to seek shelter and reproduce:

  • Clean up any clutter or litter in and around your building, including your basement and yard.
  • Remove piles of newspapers, paper bags, cardboard and bottles.
  • Store items away from walls and off the ground.
  • Control weeds and shrubs around your home.


To learn more, consider enrolling in a virtual Rat Academy class:

The next on is on: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

You can learn about safe and effective methods for rat prevention in your home and community at this 3 hour virtual training.

Giant Step Arts – Free Performances Celebrating John Lewis and the Civil Rights Struggle

Groundbreaking artist-focused non-profit Giant Step Arts continues Walk With The Wind, a free series of performances in Central Park honoring the legacy of U.S. Representative and
civil rights leader John Lewis

Saturday, October 10 at 1 p.m. – The Nicole Glover Trio: saxophonist Nicole Glover, bassist Daniel Duke, drummer Nic Cacioppo
Sunday, October 11 at 1 p.m. – The Chris Potter Trio: saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Joe Martin, drummer Nasheet Waits
L-R: Immanuel Wilkins, Tyrone Allen, Josie Say (AcroYoga) and Nazir Ebo  © Jimmy Katz
“Giant Step Arts [is] a nonprofit dedicated to giving underappreciated but visionary jazz musicians the support they need to make quality live albums. Palmer is a…thrifty improviser with a vast dynamic range and an ambitious composer.” – Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times
Finding new ways to support musicians during the pandemicWhen the pandemic hit, Jimmy and Dena Katz, creators of Giant Step Arts, the groundbreaking, artist-focused non-profit dedicated to supporting visionary jazz musicians as they create adventurous new music, realized that it would be a while before they could continue their work commissioning, showcasing and recording music by some of modern jazz’s most innovative artists.  

They’ve created Walk with the Wind, a series of free performances in Central Park honoring the memory of John Lewis. Performances, which are acoustic and feature small groups, take place at 1 p.m. on The Mall in Central Park. In the event of bad weather, they will be rescheduled. They will continue as long as the weather allows. Upcoming performances include:• Saturday, October 10 – The Nicole Glover Trio: saxophonist Nicole Glover, bassist Daniel Duke, drummer Nic Cacioppo

• Sunday, October 11 – The Chris Potter Trio: saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Joe Martin, drummer Nasheet Waits

“The pandemic has been disastrous for musicians, many of whom normally earn a living through live performances and tours,” says Katz. “We’ve presented and recorded music in various venues, including partnering with the non-profit Jazz Gallery, but the current circumstances have forced us to improvise. We wanted to find a way to continue supporting musicians, bring them together with audiences, safely, and enable them to have a payday! Walk with the Wind, honoring the legacy of the great American John Lewis, is one way we are accomplishing this, and the response has been tremendous. Our goal is to raise enough money from foundations and donors so that we can have performances each spring and fall.”   

The series began with the Wayne Escoffery Trio on August 28th and has included the Eric Mcpherson Trio, Marquis Hill Quartet, Michael Thomas Trio, Marcus/E.J Strickland Trio, Leap Of Faith Trio, Joel Ross Quartet, Immanuel Wilkins Trio, Nasheet Waits Trio, Melissa Aldana Trio and the Darius Jones Trio.  From 11-1 p.m. the pre-show festivities have included Arco Yoga specialist Josie Say and the Robert Lotreck Trio.
Giant Step Arts

Founded by renowned photographers Jimmy and Dena Katz in January 2018, Giant Step Arts is an innovative, artist-focused non-profit organization dedicated to commissioning and showcasing the work of some of modern jazz’s most innovative artists. In an era where it is increasingly difficult for musicians to earn a living, Giant Step Arts offers the artistic and financial resources to create bold, adventurous new music free of commercial pressure. Musicians have total control of their artistic projects and Giant Step Arts is committed to fostering their careers by providing promotional material and publicity services.
For the musicians it chooses to work with, by invitation only, Giant Step Arts:
• presents premiere performances and compensates the artists well
• records these performances for independent release
• provides the artists with 700 CDs and digital downloads to sell directly; artists retain complete ownership of their masters
• provides the artists with photos and videos for promotional use
• provides PR support for the recordings
“Giant Step Arts does not sell any music,” Katz says. “Our goals are to help musicians make bold artistic statements and to advance their careers.  We are also trying to increase our funding so we can help more musicians.”
Jimmy Katz

Through his award-winning photography with wife Dena Katz, and his esteemed work as a recording engineer, Katz has spent nearly 30 years helping to shape the way that audiences see and hear jazz musicians. Katz has photographed more than 550 recording sessions, many historic, and 200 magazine covers. Whether taken in the studio, in the clubs, on the streets or in the musicians’ homes, his photographs offer intimate portraits of the artists at work and in repose and capture the collaborative and improvisatory process of jazz itself. Recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association award for jazz photography in both 2006 and 2011, Katz’s work has been exhibited in Germany, Italy and Japan. Among the world-renowned artists he’s photographed are Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Haynes, Cassandra Wilson, Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, John Zorn, Pat Metheny, and Dizzy Gillespie. In addition to his well-known visual art, Katz is an esteemed recording engineer who has worked with artists including David S. Ware, Joe Lovano, Harold Mabern, William Parker, Benny Golson, and Chris Potter, among others.