Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Interview: Suzannah B. Troy

If anyone is Jane Jacob's 21st-century, digitally-savvy successor, it would be Suzannah B. Troy -- the most outspoken political activist in NYC.

On YouTube, on her blog, and in the streets, Suzannah shines a bright light on things that the powers-that-be in this town would prefer you not notice: community destroying development, the vanishing middle class, official negligence, and the political cronyism that enables it.

Needless to say, the big media in NYC does its best to ignore people like Suzannah so Mr NYC decided to see if Suzannah would share her thoughts on these topics and she happily obliged. The interview is below:

You're an artist and outspoken political activist. Tell us a little about yourself and what fuels your art and activism.

I found the "on switch" when NYU targeted St. Ann's at 120 East 12th Street. I urge people to pass by and see the new hideous mega dorm. The facade from 1847 is still there fronting yet another zone busting mega-dorm. NYU mega-dormed the East Village to death.

I got the Parks department to return bathroom doors to the women's bathroom in Tompkins and DOT wrote me in response to passionate letters and a drawing of Alfredo Feliciano asking for two speed bumps for schools on the Lower East Side. A public member of the community board told me I would never get them. I have a letter from DOT stating they are coming and thanking me for caring about school safety.

Bottom line: write the city directly, write the newspapers, make YouTubes and band together.

I am part of a group Fed Up New Yorkers that fought Bloomberg and we wanted to hire a bus and drive from borough to borough protesting no third term. Judging by how close the election was I am sad we never got the bus!

Bloomberg's soul crushing tsunami of community crushing development really got me started using the term activist and take action.

How long have you lived in NYC and what makes you take such a big interest in the city's fate?

A big part of my family was born here including my maternal Grandfather on Ludlow Street in 1904. To have me they moved across the border to NJ and I moved back to the city in 1984. I have lived the most years of my life here. When I was six weeks old we moved to England for a year. I've lived there two years.

My first apt was an illegal sublet on Carmine St. Her rent was 100 dollars and she charged me 350.

I picked the Village because there were very few tall buildings and the light was spectacular. I loved how it was truly a village. I love the buildings, even the trees and nature seem beautiful and rebellious. I love the NY character and characters. I am one and I am sure you are. I love the passion.

Like you, I'm concerned that NYC is turning into a bland playground for the rich, squeezing out the middle and working classes. What do you think can be done to turn this around?

Bloomberg and socialite mega-millionaire city planner Amanda the peoples' Burden have crushed this city with reckless development fueled by the very same stupidity and greed that brought down this city.

It truly may take a revolution to turn this city around. If not a revolution than new dynamic leaders that truly care about the people. Benjamin Lesser of The New York Daily News wrote some articles that exposed city council members including Christine Quinn getting kickbacks aka campaign donations from developers.

New leadership, reform or a revolution...

You're a ubiquitous presence on the web and YouTube. Tell us how many blogs, websites, and YouTube videos you have, and how you use digital technology in your art and activism.

Short answer: a lot. All 334 YouTubes were removed before the election or theft of a third term by king Mike for 28 hours. Many activists spoke up on my behalf and Norman Siegel represented me.

Google wrote me an apology.

I use my IPhone and film as events unfold and post immediately to YouTube from the street.

The Villager and NYU hosted the debate between Christine Quinn and her opponents. Somehow magically Quinn's people all got to the front of the line and in. The Villager turned away the press including NY1. They told NY1 you had to stand in line with everyone else. I caught [them] turning away a senior citizen, long term community member who made an Olympic effort to get there in a wheel chair. Norman Siegel, I and some really dynamic activists fought hard and eventually we got him in. Huffington ran a piece on it. The IPhone described in the article as NYU's public relation nightmare is mine.

The associate editor Lincoln Anderson of The Villager sent me all these emails harassing me. I had told him to leave me alone and he didn't. I filed an aggravated harassment complaint.

The Villager and NYU backed Quinn who sold out to developers and Mike Bloomberg. John Sexton of NYU ran down to testify [that] Mike Bloomberg must have a third term. Sure, Mike and Amanda Burden care more about students than they do about New Yorkers.

The voters sent a message to Mike. The most humiliating and expensive win. It was proof we can't rely on newspapers and we have to take to the streets with video, go to churches, community centers, make YouTubes, blog because the media, even most little rags, are owned by developers or mega rich in bed with Bloomberg.

The night of the election they finally had to go off script and report the truth ... the election was too close to call.

Could you imagine is the press had given protesters some coverage, ditto for Tony Avella and Bill Thompson?

Mike Bloomberg barely won. The next morning I was receiving calls congratulating me.

You protested at Mayor Bloomberg's latest inauguration. What other kinds of protests and activity have you done and what advice can you give to other aspiring political activists?

I answered some of this already like getting bumps that DOT has promised to install by two schools not that far from where the tenement house were my Grandfather was born.

I have been urged to keep making my YouTubes even though I have to admit I am exhausted. My newest slams Mike for burdening tax payers to what The New York Post estimates is 2 million dollars to hire his campaign staff when he should and could have payed out of pocket. It is criminal to do vanity hires for his legacy when he is closing homeless shelters, firehouses, libraries, schools and laying off people! So I got on YouTube and made a series.

Many New Yorkers don't have computers so you have to get out on the streets to get your message out.

The city has a tremendously rich history of dynamic activists using every way possible to protest and I am sure the future will bring more ways that maybe we haven't begun to even fathom.

I am moved by how many hip New Yorkers bring their kids to protest. We had a stunning girl holding a protest sign at the mass eviction at 47 East 3rd Street. She is our future.

My advice is be passionate as if today is your last day on Earth because it just might be. Hold on to your passion!

What are your favorite things about NYC and your favorite places in the city?

I love what is left of the historic buildings, culture and history. I love the energy and the diverse mosaic of people. I will be in the subway crushed together with the broadest range of people, all colors, mixes, ages and I think wow they are beautiful and you won't find this mosaic in LA, Tokyo, anywhere.

Tell us something about yourself and NYC that most of us don't know.

Short answer: I did grunt work on the film Wall Street. That was not the original ending which was darker. Oliver res-hot the end which I thought was a mistake.

Long answer: after Sept 11 I can't express the pain, upset and grief but anyone here, anyone who lost someone knows the feelings.

At some point later I met this fireman that was clearly shaken. I think he had spent too much time digging in the rubble. I remember when Rudy tried to tell the FDNY they could no longer take the trucks down to pick up their guys if and when they were lucky enough to find the DNA. Of course they did go down.

He was huge! He looked like he walked out of a photo of New York firemen from the turn of the century. He was divorced, maybe six foot five and I call him Mr Heaven on Earth.

We were so sad and a service was coming up to honor a hero at St Patrick's we both knew. This guy did CPR on my soul. I am still in shock about Sept. 11 and I can't believe it happened. He was this one positive light.

I voted for Bloomberg twice and I would never vote for him again. He destroyed the city pushing massive displacement and pushing all these sky piecing mirrored buildings reflecting a history destroyed and communities no longer welcome.

I ask myself if this is another horrifying bad dream like 9-11 that I can't wake up from. I look around the city and I am shocked. It is unrecognizable, soulless, so many empty store fronts ... People have been forced out.

I do think about leaving. Reuniting with Mr Heaven on Earth or someone like him and finding some more Heaven outside NY.

I know whether I stay or go so many dynamic activists will keep on keeping on as they have before me and will after I am gone. I think of the kids that showed up with their parents to protest and truly I think a revolution maybe needed to bring change.

Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me.

Thanks! After this interview, Suzannah sent a couple of short notes which I'm happy to include here:

The air sale over St. Ann's by the USPS to NYU was illegal because the USPS never notified the State of New York as legally obligated. I called Environmental Crimes at the State Attorney General Offices and had him talk with Andrew Berman of Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation. He said we had a case. I gathered we needed as much money as NYU and the USPS to go after them. But still make the phone calls, leave a paper trial and blog on.

I would advise activists to seek out lawyers. Norman Siegel has been critical to me. I even discussed the law re: putting up my Mike Bloomberg King of New York Poster. I wanted to put the poster on every empty store front to highlight Mike's new NY but Norman said I could get ticketed so I turned to YouTube.

Thanks again!


  1. Great interview. God bless Suzanne and people like her for having the energy and the courage to work to keep New York City.

  2. Love working with Suzanne. A real powerhouse that is nice and loves NYC so much with all this criminal behavior by our elected officials and corporate elite. She marks the spot. She is an angel on Earth too.


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