From Mumbai to New York City

The New York City skyline (Photo: Claudia Bracholdt)

The amount of international students in the US is rising again: After a decline in growth following the 2001 9/11 attacks, 723,277 students were enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2010-2011 academic year, which means an annual growth of 4,7 percent, according to a report form USA Today. As the newspaper reports, international students and their dependents contributed  $20 billion to the US economy last year.

Although it has become easier to get a visa for studying within the US, many students still face challenges when going through the process: They have to show that they have gathered enough funds to pay for university tuition and living expenses. Moreover, they have to prove that they are not planning to settle in the United States.

Aditya Bir, 27, is from Mumbai, India. Together with his sister, he planned to come to the US in summer 2010. He said that coming to the US is a dream for many students in India. Below you find an interview with Aditya, as he describes the things he observed during his own visa application process.


Something is Rotten in the Neighborhood of East Harlem

Restaurant owners in East Harlem say that rain can be hazardous for their business. The issue is that the sewers are not properly maintained, and this causes them to flood and back up when it rains on major streets.

Orlando Plaza, owner of Camaradas El Barrio, says that he has had an ongoing problem with a sewage back up that occurs below the building that houses his restaurant. Since he opened seven years ago, he noticed the pungent smell of raw sewage that would emanate from the back of his restaurant every so often.

“We call it the mystery smell,” says Plaza. “Who’s going to want to sit down and pay ‘x’ amount of money for that kind of smell?”

Kartik Chandran, an assistant professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University, says that the root cause of flooding is the combined sewer system that New York City is built on. This means that both rainwater and sewage together are conveyed through the same pipes.

“During times of severe rain it’s a big problem,” says Chandran. “This is a problem where the sewer capacity is exceeded. It happens quite often.” When the capacity is exceeded, water can’t be conveyed quickly enough and the streets flood, according to him.

East Harlem’s problem with flooding might be comparatively more severe than the rest of the city because parts of it are on low-lying land, Chandran says. “I can see the streets going down towards the East River,” he says.

However, for Plaza, it’s emblematic of the city’s disregard for poorer neighborhoods like East Harlem, which he why he never contacted them in trying to solve his problem.

“That the sewage problem doesn’t receive the attention it should from the city agencies doesn’t surprise me,” he says. “That’s always the way it’s been in this neighborhood.”

In A League Of Her Own: Milani Malik

The newest addition to the New York City Thunder ABA men’s basketball team stands 5-feet-6-inches tall and wears her hair in a tight ponytail. The only female player in the entire league, Milani Malik earned a spot on the Thunder’s roster a month ago, the latest step in the 24-year-old Brooklyn native’s quest to becoming a full-time professional basketball player.

Occupy CUNY

With tuition rising across CUNY’s more than twenty schools, many students are becoming frustrated. The Students for a Free CUNY group is taking that frustration one step further, calling on the CUNY administration to abolish tuition altogether and make CUNY free, like it was 40 years ago.

The CUNY Chancellor’s office has pointed out that CUNY schools are still some of the cheapest in the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped thousands of students from taking to the streets to voice their anger.

Victor Roundtree: Redemption in the Ring

When Victor Roundtree started hanging with drug runners in Brownsville Brooklyn as a young man, his old boxing coach pulled him off the streets and taught him how to train boxers. But Roundtree struggled to leave his old life for good. Today, Roundtree, fully reformed, coaches kids at the Teddy Atlas Cops and Kids after-school program, which will soon open its third gym in his native Brownsville. In an interview, Roundtree discusses what eventually got him off the streets for good.

A Look Behind The Fence: The Brooklyn Navy Yard

It’s an unassuming albeit daunting stretch of Fort Greene Brooklyn. But behind the walls and barbed wire, history, technology and innovation can be found. It’s called the Brooklyn Navy Yard and was once considered the world’s premiere ship building facility.

At it’s peak during World War II, the Yard encompassed a workforce of over 70,000 employees. After the city repurchased Navy Yard land in 1967, it has since reemerged and today is now home to over 275 businesses and state of the art green buildings.

A new museum, called the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92, encompasses achival footage, oral histories, and relics from an active Navy Shipyarp. Opened on Veterans Day, BLDG 92 is allowing the public onto the ground of the shipyard for the first time in the Yards 200 year history.

Risky Business: Being Muslim in NYC

On November 18, an estimated 2,000 people turned out in downtown’s Foley Square to protest the rising trend of Islamophobia in New York City – from police harassment and surveillance, all the way down to smaller, everyday incidents, bigoted comments or strange looks on the street.

The latest survey put out by the mayor’s office suggests that a full 80 percent of NYC’s 600,000 Muslims have experienced some sort of discrimination and harassment in the city. Four-fifths of those who said they’d faced prejudice didn’t report the incidents to the authorities, out of fear – fear that they wouldn’t be heard, or worse, that they would be further discriminated against.

Hate crimes against Muslims, too, are on the rise: After falling steadily since their peak in 2001, in 2010 the number jumped by nearly half from the year before.

As New York City’s Muslim community struggles to stop the hate and the bias, hear from two women who’ve experienced the harassment themselves. The video below spotlights the stories of Khadeejah Bari and Sundus Arain, both students at New York University and active members of the college’s large, involved Islamic Center.

Protestors march against police violence

Harassment, violent behaviour, racism – the Occupy the Bronx protesters’ list of accusations against the NYPD in the Bronx is long. Because they feel ignored in community meetings, protestors go to speak-outs, where they share their stories and get tips on how to deal with the police.

About 30 protesters met at Southern Boulevard in Hunts Point in the end of November. Many of them said they have been harassed by police officers, who treated them like criminals.

“This is an event to unoccupy the Bronx from the NYPD. We are here to put an end to police violence,” said Divad Durant, 24, member of the Direct Action Team of the Bronx General Assembly. He organized the speak-out.

Every month, community residents can address their problems in front of NYPD representatives at council meetings. Durant said, the police would ignore the criticism residents present.

To demonstrate their frustration, the Hunts Point protesters marched from Southern Boulevard to the 41st Police Precinct, shouting chants against the NYPD.