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Indy at 15: The Highlight Reel of Our Best Coverage

Indypendent Staff Oct 8, 2015

November 2000Why is New York becoming unaffordable for working people who’ve stuck it out in the city through good times and bad? Heather Haddon breaks down the policies that have made New York City ripe for hyper-gentrification at the beginning of the new millennium.





May 2001 — Union organizer Stephanie Greenwood takes readers through a grueling campaign to win union recognition for more than 300 overworked and underpaid residents at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital. She writes, “The process of organizing a union has only flashes of idealism and high-road inspiration. … Each meeting, conversation, trip to a legislative member’s office or community board, each letter of support, each day another person wore a union button was another piece of pressure brought to bear on a complicated, financially distraught institution. …

For [hospital] residents whose overriding problem was a lack of time and energy for out-of-work activity, the piecemeal nature of building a campaign required lots of faith and motivation to keep going. ‘How will we get the union? Well, come to a meeting with Community Board 9 and ask for its support. Will that work? No, but it will help.’”


September 2001 The Indypendent publishes a four-page special issue within 48 hours of the 9/11 attacks and another 12-page special issue a week later. As the Bush administration rushes to exploit public rage and fear following 9/11, the Indy becomes a magnet for New Yorkers who are alarmed by where the country is headed.




March 2002 — Six months after 9/11 and long before most people are paying attention, Mike Burke examines an already growing body of evidence about the possible long-term impact on New Yorkers of the collapse of the Twin Towers. “Many experts,” he writes, “including dissident scientists within the Environmental Protection Agency, describe the event as an environmental disaster on a scale unlike any the city has ever seen.”



November 2002 — Four months before the United States invades Iraq, the Indy publishes a special issue titled “Why War? Why Now?” The issue debunks official rationales for war, offers a first-hand glimpse into the lives of ordinary Iraqis, and covers the growing antiwar movement. A two-page center spread highlights dozens of sites in the United States where weapons of mass destruction are developed and produced. It is later reproduced as a glossy, full-color 24-by-36-inch poster. Thousands of copies are sold across the country, financing the growth of the paper.


February–April 2003 — The Indy distributes 25,000 copies of an eight-page special issue at the massive antiwar protest, held February 15 in Midtown, that draws upward of 400,000 people. The Indy collective produces five more issues over the next 10 weeks that focus heavily on the Iraq War and the beginning of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.




November 2003 — “A growing number of landlords are using tenant-screening companies that offer detailed data on prospective renters far beyond routine credit checks,” Steven Wishnia writes in an exposé about intrusive new data gathering practices that punish prospective tenants who have previously used housing court to defend their rights.




June 2004 — Bennett Baumer makes his way into a rigged longshoremen’s union election. “At the Holiday Inn,” he writes, “no third party mediated the voting and locks did not appear on some boxes. I asked [Local 1235 President Al] Cernadas if the voting had ended. Referring to the union members, he said, ‘Oh no, they have until 6 p.m. to vote.’ Putting his arm around me, Cernadas steered me toward the other end of the room from the open ballot box.”



Summer 2004 — While the corporate media push unsubstantiated scare stories about protesters and terrorists besieging New York during the upcoming Republican National Convention, the Indy trumpets the rights of protesters and reports on the many reasons they are taking to the streets. Two August issues have print runs of 100,000 and 150,000, the largest circulation in decades for a radical, grassroots newspaper.



December 2004 — John Tarleton profiles Harold Noel, a Brooklyn-born Iraq War vet who finds himself fighting mental illness and sleeping outside at the onset of winter while his family falls apart around him. Noel’s story is subsequently picked up by Democracy Now! and retold by CBS, CNN, the New York Post, the Christian Science Monitor as well as a number of websites. Noel tells The Indypendent, “I walk around crying every day. I feel lost in my own land; the land I fought for. … Sometimes I just feel like picking up a gun and calling it quits. … But, something’s got to get better. I didn’t just risk my life for nothing. There’s a God out there — somewhere.” A month later, an anonymous donor puts up $18,500 to cover a year’s rent for a three-bedroom apartment in the Bronx for Noel, his wife and three kids.


February 2005 — With the Republicans entrenched in the White House for another four long years, the Indy declares it’s “Moving Beyond Bush and Dick” in its first annual sex issue. Featured articles include a look at the working life of a dominatrix, boot fetishes, BDSM and the use of safewords, a how-to guide for making dildos and a first-person piece on fighting back against the police harassment of queers cruising in Central Park’s Ramble area.



April 2005 “In devising a strategy to defeat Iraq’s insurgents, the Pentagon may be gaining the upper hand at the cost of pushing Iraq toward civil war,” Indypendent co-founder Arun Gupta writes in a groundbreaking piece. Later that summer, Gupta writes an in-depth analysis detailing how the conflict between Iraq’s Sunni and Shi’ite populations has devolved into “civil war,” a term most of the U.S. media refuse to use for almost another year and a half.



September 2005 The Indy publishes a post-Katrina special issue that looks at the blatant disregard for Black lives in the response of the government and the corporate media as well as the hidden heroics of people coming to each other’s aid. “I’m in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, the only part that isn’t flooded,” writes former New Orleans Black Panther and community organizer Malik Rahim. “The water is good. Our parks and schools could easily hold 40,000 people and they’re not using any of it. This is criminal. People are dying for no other reason than the lack of organization.”


November 2005 — The Indy looks at the struggle for justice at the City University of New York with a package of stories that includes a feature on the trials and tribulations of Hostos Community College activist Miguel Malo by Sarah Stuteville and Yvonne Liu’s first-person piece about teaching sociology to mostly immigrant students at LaGuardia Community College. Liu states, “The students loved Marx. They really understood, felt and lived Marx’s writing on alienation from your work, the process of working and the end process of your work. They almost had it down to a chant. ‘Why are people alienated?’ ‘Because they don’t own the means of production!’”


January 2006 — “You can call it ‘save the world fiction,’ but it clearly doesn’t save anything. It just calls people’s attention to the fact that so much needs to be done,” legendary science fiction writer Octavia Butler told the Indy’s Kazembe Balagun in her last published interview. Butler, 58, the author of 11 science fiction novels, including Kindred and Parable of the Talents, died from a fall six weeks later.




March 2006 — Photojournalist Andrew Stern spends a month living in Cité Soleil, Haiti, in the run-up to the country’s first elections since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was toppled in a 2004 U.S.-backed coup. Stern’s photo essay captures the spirit of a sprawling urban slum on the edge of Haiti’s capital city, where repression by and resistance to foreign troops is a part of daily life.




November 2006 — Soon after NYC Indymedia journalist Brad Will is murdered by paramilitaries while covering anti-government protests in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, The Indypendent comes out with a special issue on the life and death of the legendary activist.





November 2007 — When the House of Representatives approves the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act by a vote of 400-6, it seems a sure bet that the measure will sail through the Senate and be signed by President George W. Bush. However, when Jessica Lee’s reporting reveals how the legislation could be used by the government to target people engaged in First Amendment-protected activity and traditional forms of protest, a firestorm of criticism ensues from activists and civil libertarians across the political spectrum. The legislation subsequently dies in the Senate. Lee would later win a Project Censored award for writing one of the 10 most important under-reported domestic news stories of that year.


February 2008 With the future of Harlem’s famed 125th Street Corridor up for grabs, Renée Feltz looks at the battle between community activists and black-owned small businesses on one side and proponents of turning the neighborhood into an entertainment destination on the other. “If the only black presence in Harlem is a memory in the form of museums and place names, to hell with that,“ says historian Michael Henry Adams.



April 2008 — Using the story of a dementia-afflicted, 86-year-old homeowner in Crown Heights as a starting point, Joseph Huff-Hannon does a deep dive into the predatory practices of sub-prime mortgage lenders in neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy. “If the housing market falls precipitously here as it has across much of the nation,” Huff-Hannon warns, “a cascade of foreclosures is likely to follow. An alarming number of those losing their homes will likely be black seniors.”


October 2008 — Read it and weep! Arun Gupta, illustrator Frank Reynoso and four others team up to create “How to Wreck the Economy,” an illustrated, step-by-step guide that explains the financial products and processes that Wall Street used to blow up the global economy and set the Great Recession in motion.




March 2009 — Sarah Secunda captures the zeitgeist of the Great Recession in her coverage of striking immigrant workers at the Stella D’oro bakery in the Bronx who find themselves locked in a bitter labor battle against a private equity company demanding deep cuts in pay and benefits. 





October 2009 — Jessica Lee drills down into the science of the controversial drilling practice known as fracking. Her reporting also highlights grassroots groups that will carry out a multi-year battle that ultimately leads to a ban of fracking in New York State.





June 2010 — How does an apolitical family of four on New York’s Upper East Side go from apathy to being avid readers of Noam Chomsky and committed activists in the Palestinian solidarity movement? Alex Kane tells the story.






September 2010 — Wealthy backers of corporate-style “school reform” have dominated the debate on public education for the past decade. But in a special back-to-school issue of the Indy, we hear from activist parents, teachers, students and radical education scholars on issues such as the overreliance on standardized testing, the importance of teachers unions and the misuse of “gifted and talented” programs to maintain a system of de facto segregation in New York City’s public schools.


January 2011 — Nicholas Powers pens the first work of fiction to be published in the Indy. In it, he vividly depicts the rise of a movement that spurs thousands of disillusioned Obama supporters to converge on Wall Street and confront the system that stole their future. Nine months later, life imitates art.





May/June 2011 — The Indy provides front-page coverage of a 20,000-person march through the financial district protesting proposed budget cuts by Mayor Bloomberg. Some of the protesters go on to set up a little-noticed protest encampment on the sidewalk across from City Hall. Known as “Bloombergville,” the 24/7 protest lasts three weeks. “Organized through a general assembly that met each night at 8 p.m., Bloombergville also served as the movement’s living room. People could drop in and share donated food and drink, debate politics for hours, take out books from the ‘Bloombergville Library,’” writes John Tarleton, adding, “Bloombergville marked the arrival of an innovative protest tactic in New York that will likely be refined and used again in the future.“


Fall 2011 — The Indy publishes three special issues during Occupy Wall Street and its immediate aftermath. Coverage ranges from photo essays and first-person pieces to analysis of the relationship between Occupy and labor unions, the police and the 99% and why taking over public squares in major global cities is such a powerful tactic.




July 2012Alina Mogilyanskaya looks at the impact of reduced local and federal funding on the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. The program employs 29,000 youths during the summer while turning down 100,000 more applicants. “The fact that it’s a program that is even on the chopping block to me doesn’t make sense because it’s a wise investment and the returns are so much more for us as a society,” City Councilmember and future Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito tells the Indy.


December 2012 — Laura Gottesdiener writes about relief and recovery efforts in Far Rockaway, a community that suffered from decades of government neglect before being battered by Hurricane Sandy. The story looks in part at the evolving relationship between local residents and members of Occupy Sandy.




January 2013 — As Barack Obama begins his second term as president, the Indy appoints a Shadow Cabinet of visionary thinkers and doers. Each Shadow Cabinet member writes a short essay about what she or he would do upon taking office. Shadow Cabinet appointees include Secretary of State Laura Flanders, Attorney General Michael Ratner and Secretary of Energy Bill McKibben, who titles his article “One Thing Before I’m Fired.”



April 2013 — Roberto Meneses, a Queens day laborer, authors a first-person piece that explains why he will continue to work in the shadows rather than participate in a punitive version of immigration reform being crafted in Congress. “After almost two decades in this country,” he writes, “there are a couple of things I have learned: Firstly, don’t trust the politicians, and secondly, it will only be through our own ability to organize and collectively fight for our rights that we will see improvements in our lives.”


Summer/Fall 2013 — On the heels of a media campaign to vilify NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Indy publishes a series of informative, full-color posters in its center spread for four consecutive issues. The posters, drawn by artist Catherine Byun, celebrate Snowden and his fellow whistleblowers Chelsea Manning, Jesselyn Radack and John Kiriakou.




April 2014Amid right-wing protests demanding the fall of Venezuela’s socialist government, Ewan Robertson provides an in-depth report from one affected city. In his reporting, he chronicles the violent tactics of government opponents, their destabilizing impact on daily life and the steady loss of public support for anti-Chavista forces. 




September 2014 — The Indy publishes a 24-page climate change special issue in advance of the People’s Climate March, the largest climate change-related demonstration in history. With the help of scores of volunteers, 60,000 copies of the special issue are distributed around the city.




December 2014 — After protests erupt across the nation in response to the non-indictments of police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Nicholas Powers writes in the Indy, “Cops who kill unarmed Black men go free, one after the other. It’s why we march through the streets yelling, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’ It’s why we shout the names of our dead. We show our hands because we’re scared of being killed by officers who have been given license to kill Black people and go unpunished. I’m asking you to take this weight from us. I’m asking you to hold your hands up too.“


January 2015 — When much of the NYPD refuses to ticket people for minor offenses to register its distaste for Mayor Bill de Blasio, nothing happens. No crime wave, no barbarians crashing the gates. It prompts Aaron Miguel Cantú to explore why the city is so heavily policed the rest of the time. His conclusion: “By aggressively controlling the behavior of poor and politically weak people and by helping clear space for developers to build and wealthier new citizens (with more tax revenue) to move in, the NYPD has done what the police have always been designed to do: enforce the will of the rich by suppressing poor dark people.”


August 2015The battle for the soul of New York unfolds in Peter Rugh’s coverage of attempts to turn the Brooklyn Heights public library into luxury condos and the heated resistance the proposed sale has generated. “We used to fight about getting enough funds to build and expand our libraries,” says one advocate. “Now we’re fighting about not getting enough money so that we don’t have to sell off and shrink our libraries.”



Editor's Note: It Takes Everyone to Build a Newspaper
By John Tarleton

Indy at 15: How to Build a Radical NYC Newspaper, in 15 Steps
By John Tarleton

Indy at 15: Getting the Paper Started
By Ana Nogueria

Indy at 15: Covering 9/11
By Mike Burke

Indy at 15: ‘I Had Zero Experience’
By Sarah Stuteville

Indy at 15: Creating Space for Artists
By Frank Reynoso

Indy at 15: A Photojournalist Finds Her Calling
By Antrim Caskey

Indy at 15: Learning to Think Like a Journalist
By Jaisal Noor

Indy at 15: Happy Birthday
By Nicholas Powers

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