Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll look at the latest sweep in Mayor Eric Adams’s campaign to clear homeless encampments. We’ll also look at a former corporate vice president — better known for his earlier career — whose picture will be on the company’s signature product through the end of the year.
The word from the city had gone out four days earlier: A cleanup crew would remove any belongings left behind on Anarchy Row.
That is what people call the miniature tent city on the sidewalk across from Tompkins Square Park.
On Wednesday, the site — ground zero for the resistance to Mayor Eric Adams’s campaign to rid city streets of homeless encampments — was visited by a city cleanup crew for at least the seventh time in six weeks.
When dozens of police officers, a sanitation truck and one outreach worker for the homeless arrived — and a recording played over a police loudspeaker barked “you are ordered to leave the area” — no one moved.
Eight people were arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration for blocking the planned cleanup. The people arrested included activists from anti-eviction organizations and groups fighting the sweeps. My colleague Andy Newman writes that all but one of the eight went willingly — Johnny Grima, a homeless man who has emerged as the public face of the movement. Officers pulled him out of his tent and carried him toward a police van.
“They got 250,000 vacant apartments in the city, man,” Grima, who wants permanent housing for every homeless person in the city, yelled at one point. “Why am I homeless? Why are my friends homeless?”
Sweeps of homeless encampments were as frequent under Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio, as under Adams. But de Blasio rarely talked about them, while Adams has focused attention on sweeps as an essential element of what he describes as a push to restore order to the streets.
Adams’s efforts to present the cleanups as serving the best interests of the people being moved out have been complicated by videos showing officers handling homeless people and their belongings roughly.
From March 18 to May 1, the city conducted more than 700 cleanups, many of them at the same sites.
In the same six-week period, 39 people “accepted placement,” according to statistics the mayor’s office released on Tuesday.
The city implied that the placements were in shelters, but officials have not said how many of the 39 remain where they were placed. People who agree to go to shelters typically leave within weeks, often returning to the streets.
Some advocates say Adams should call off the sweeps and concentrate on making more beds available in specialized shelters known as safe havens, which often provide more privacy and operate with fewer rules than the traditional shelters many street-homeless people avoid. Adams recently announced plans to add more than 900 beds in specialized shelters.
It’s a mostly sunny day in the low 70s. At night, it will be mostly cloudy, with temps dropping to the mid-50s.
In effect until May 26 (Solemnity of the Ascension).
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A former executive’s picture goes on the coffee can
Still-sleepy coffee drinkers may not have noticed, but an instantly recognizable New York icon changed last month. The jagged New York skyline on Chock full o’Nuts cans was partly obscured by photographs of a former vice president of the company.
There he is on the phone at his desk, an executive in a suit and tie. “Mr. Jack R. Robinson,” reads the nameplate in the foreground of one of the photographs. “Vice President.”
The other photograph shows Jackie Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.
Chock full o’Nuts hired him after the 1956 season, which had ended when he struck out in Game 7 of the World Series and the Dodgers lost to the Yankees. His salary was $30,000 a year, and the job came with a company car. Given responsibility for labor relations, he plunged in, touring the company’s restaurants and becoming acquainted with employees.
“What appealed to me most was that I wasn’t being hired to have my name adorn a letterhead,” he said, “but I was being asked to join the company and become an integral part of the operation.” He described his job as “a challenge, but that’s the way I like it.”
In the film he was shown meeting with William Black, who had founded Chock full o’Nuts. Black had “a good reputation for his employment practices,” the author Courtney Michelle Smith wrote, and had “maintained fair practices for both Black and white employees.” Other accounts note that while he was working for Chock full o’Nuts, Robinson led a fund-raising campaign for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
But Robinson’s job might not have been the perfect fit. Smith wrote that Robinson “ran into some friction unlike the kind of friction he had experienced as a baseball player.” After an abortive unionization effort, “some employees lashed out at Robinson and accused him of dissuading Black employees from forming a union. An investigation by the National Labor Relations Board cleared Robinson of any wrongdoing, but the incident hinted at tensions building within the Chock full o’Nuts company.”
In February 1964, “around the time that his contract expired,” Robinson resigned, according to Smith, who cited news reports describing the parting as “amicable” and that Robinson “wanted to devote his energies to Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign.” Rockefeller, the governor of New York and the first candidate to enter the race for the Republican nomination, dropped out that June.
Robinson’s pictures took their place on the Chock full o’Nuts cans as Major League Baseball commemorated the 75th anniversary of his debut with the Dodgers. Chock full o’Nuts — now owned by an Italian coffee conglomerate that also controls brands like Chase & Sanborn and Hills Bros. — says it will package its original blend in the Robinson cans through the end of the year. Part of the proceeds will go to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which has paid out more than $100 million in aid to college students since its founding in 1973, the year after Robinson died.
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I was at the Museum of Modern Art. After reading the curator’s blurb on a wall about the wooden bed that the artist Robert Gober had built himself, I turned to view it.
It seemed similar to any normal single bed I had ever slept in. Leaning up against one of its legs was a pair of white, knee-high boots and a small, fashionable backpack.
Wait a minute!
Under the sheet and purple blanket was a woman who was returning my stare. I made an inane comment. She smiled politely, and then closed her eyes to feign sleep.
I immediately returned to the blurb on the wall to find out whether I had missed something about the piece being performance art.
My answer came from the mouth of a security guard who sped over from an adjacent gallery and commanded the woman to get out of the bed.
She sat on the edge of the bed, put on her boots, stood up, put on her backpack and walked over to the white, wooden platform supporting Jeff Koons’s “Pink Panther.” She stepped up on it and retrieved the smartphone she had been using to record herself. Then she walked off, slowly and stylishly.
Later on, I returned to Gober’s art-bed and chatted briefly with a guard who was standing near it. I told her I had seen what happened earlier and asked whether she had remade the bed.
A curator had been summoned to do it, she said.
— Bob Siegel
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.