A Bookstore Plots for Sustainability
Bluestockings turns to worker-owned cooperative status
By Sarah Molano
Red Schulte remembers the first time they came to Bluestockings. They were 15 and had snuck away from their school trip to New York City, got on the subway with some friends and traveled to the Lower East Side to a place they heard about from online message boards.
There the Texas teenager browsed crafty-looking zines, the self-published mini magazines made by artists, musicians and punks. Schulte, a self-described punk teen at the time, felt at home. After that, Bluestockings was always their first destination when they came to the city, and Schulte started volunteering when they moved here over three years ago.
Since that first visit in 2002, Schulte watched Bluestockings steadily expand into the bookstore and activist center it is today.
Bluestockings has been selling books, serving coffee and hosting community events in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for over 21 years. It calls itself an activist center with left-leaning politics. Its electric blue bookshelves boast nontraditional sections like “Queer Fiction,” “Disability Justice,” “Radical History” and “Sex Work.”
Visitors will also notice a large container of free condoms, free hygiene kits and colorful posters centered around justice movements.
When I moved here, I was feeling alone and without community, and this was the first place that I stopped where I felt seen, I felt held.
Seeing Lots of Hope for Housing
Community Land Trusts aim to make New York affordable
By Sarah Molano
Every Saturday for months, Hannah Anousheh and other volunteers visited vacant lots all over East New York, Brooklyn. Many of the parcels were overgrown with weeds, trash scattered all over—a waste of perfectly good space.
With more than 200 lots surveyed, the East New York Community Land Trust volunteers created a list of target sites to potentially acquire. The next step was to survey homeowners, tenants and businesses to find out what the community would like to see in those spaces.
“It’s about collective ownership of land and collective wealth-building,” said Anousheh, a staff coordinator with the East New York trust.
The group began its work in December 2019, holding public meetings intended to educate the community on the concept of a community land trust (CLT). The trusts, nonprofits formed by community members, acquire land and seek community input to determine what to do with it.
Land is taken out of the private market, comes under CLT ownership and then it is leased for permanently affordable housing or another community purpose.
CLTs are often regarded as tools to fight off displacement of residents. Their boards are usually made up of housing advocates and community members—people who have a stake in the use of the land.
I think people were just really hungry for change. The pandemic really made a lot of things clear and people were really ready to organize.
A Union-Forged Bike Shop
The founding formula of a worker cooperative offers a vision for the future
By Dimitri Fautsch
When David Kellman and Briton Malcomson worked at Citi Bike in 2013, they helped launch a unionization drive to address low wages and poor working conditions.
The launch of Citi Bike was plagued with problems, they said, from loose pedal cranks to software bugs in the station docks. And at the Farley Building in Manhattan, in what is now the Moynihan Train Hall, a loading dock with 12 mechanics had no air conditioning, the veterans recalled recently.
Then a Google doc listing the hourly wage of a bike mechanic, $14.75, compared to the annual salary of a manager for the ride-sharing service, $85,000, circulated through every department.
“The data on pay was really important,” Kellman said. “To see that discrepancy between people who are actually doing the work compared to people in the office, that annoyed me.”
That’s when they decided to try to get workers to join the Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU), the union that represents tens of thousands of New York City transit employees.
“We had 80% support, almost right away,” Malcomson said.
Then Kellman and Malcomson went to work on a bike-sharing network at Stony Brook University on Long Island. The school, located in Suffolk County, was too far from the city and too small for Citi Bike to operate the contract.
They formed a partnership in 2016, which later led to the founding of a cooperative called Bed-Stuy Bikes in Brooklyn. In consultation with the Industrial Cooperative Association Group, the oldest national consultancy specializing in worker ownership, the TWU drafted bylaws for the cooperative.
That’s the first step in creating dignity at these jobs, is making sure that people have a voice in the workplace