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For just $10 each, New Yorkers are taking back their city. Because rent is too damn high.

A new group is putting power — and real estate — back in the hands of everyday people.

For just $10 each, New Yorkers are taking back their city. Because rent is too damn high.

It's known as the city that never sleeps. Maybe that's because we're all so freaking busy working just so we can afford to live here.

Historically, New York has served as one of the greatest hotbeds for creativity in the country. It's where people like legendary musicians David Byrne and Patti Smith became, well, legends. But since that heyday, Byrne and Smith have gone public about how the city's focus on catering to the wealthy and ever-rising rents — on studio spaces, living spaces, and community space — are closing the door on creativity and culture in New York.


"If that's a veiled criticism about me, I won't hear it, and I won't respond to it." GIF from "Arrested Development."

They've got a point. But it's not just happening in New York. Building rents across the country are on the rise, making it harder and harder for working artists and locals to put down roots in their communities.

Median rent in Denver is up over 10% from last year. Over 8% in Kansas City. 7% in Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas. And New Yorkers are getting hit especially hard: Median rents have jumped 75% from 2000 to 2012. Meanwhile, hideously expensive (and, uh, hideous) luxury buildings are being erected left and right.

Wealthy foreign buyers are using shell companies to snap up these eyesores on their behalf and — insult to injury — they're not even doing anything with the eyesores they bought.

It's a pretty disheartening situation. So much so that Patti Smith went ahead and proclaimed that New York City has been taken away from the young and the struggling.

Her advice? “Find a new city."

How about a longer-term strategy that doesn't involve a U-Haul? A strategy for locals and artists to own a piece of the real-estate pie?

Hold onto those horses, Patti. There's hope yet.

Enter: The NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative (NYC REIC), organized by a group of local residents, artists, and activists.

Tired of rising rents forcing out small businesses and locals, they asked themselves: “What if investment in real estate and concern for local community went together?" GOOD QUESTION. (Uh, maybe one that should be at the heart of all city planning?)

Cumulus? Nimbus? Venn diagramus. Image via NYC REIC.

And they came up with a brilliantly simple idea to take back their city.

The plan is this: Anyone can join the co-op by pitching in $10. (There's also a hardship fund so you won't be turned away if you don't have the cash on hand.) Then, members democratically choose a commercial space to purchase. Throw in some help from the org's lawyers and a little community oversight, and you've got a property for local businesses to operate, for artists to work, and for community groups to organize — that's guaranteed to have affordable rent forever.

Yeah, you heard me. Affordable rent forever. That is too damn awesome.

And New Yorkers seem to think so, too: Within one month of launching, NYC REIC received pledges of over $1.2 million.

The cooperative now has hundreds of members, and they're on the hunt for their first purchase.

The founders of NYC REIC believe that real prosperity means community prosperity. And their belief is grounded in fact.

They were actually inspired by a similar cooperative — the first of its kind in the U.S. — that was started in Minneapolis. There, over 200 local residents pooled their resources into the NorthEast Investment Cooperative (NEIC), purchasing two buildings on a neglected avenue. Business is booming today on Central Avenue, with a locally owned co-op brewery, bakery, and bike shop.

Oh, hey, Central Avenue. You look nice. Image via NEIC.

Now, NYC REIC is scaling up that model, with the goal of making New York a place where small businesses and local culture can not just survive, but thrive. So far, NEIC and NYC REIC are the only real estate co-ops of their kind in the U.S.

So far…

But the beauty of it is that it's a simple, highly adaptable model that communities around the world can use to take back their cities.

So, Patti? Maybe come back to New York. And to all the rest of you exhausted and overworked creatives: Here's to a future where we can afford to do what we love AND sleep like normal human beings.

One hour before my next shift. Just going to rest my eyeeezzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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