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Edith Prentiss, fierce voice for the disabled in New York, dies at 69

Edith Prentiss, a fierce and ardent disability advocate who fought to make the city she loved more navigable for everyone, died March 16 at her home in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. She was 69 years old.

The cause was cardiopulmonary arrest, his brother Andrew Prentiss said.

In 2004, the city’s taxi fleet had only three wheelchair-accessible taxis – vans with ramps – and people like Ms. Prentiss had less than a 1 in 4,000 chance of hailing one. “They’re like unicorns,” she told The New York Times that year. “You have to be pure to catch one.”

The number of accessible vehicles would eventually reach 231, but it took nearly a decade and a class action lawsuit – of which Ms Prentiss was a complainant – before the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed to make the fleet 50% accessible by 2020 (this deadline has been pushed back amid the pandemic and other issues ; the fleet is now at 30%.)

Ms. Prentiss also fought for accessibility in subways and in police stations, restaurants and public parks. And she fought for issues that didn’t directly affect her, such as those that might bother people with mental, visual, hearing, or other disabilities.

When the city held a hearing in 2018 on the ban on plastic straws, a cause cherished by environmentalists but not those in the disability community, it made sure to assemble a group and present an opinion. There are those who cannot hold a cup, the group wanted to point out, and straws are essential tools for visiting a restaurant.

At the meeting, group after group testified in favor of the ban. But Ms. Prentiss and her colleagues were not approached.

“It’s hard to miss us – most people are in wheelchairs,” said Joseph G. Rappaport, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and director of communications and strategy for the Taxis for All campaign, of which Ms. Prentiss was the president, “but it went on and on and finally Edith had it. She said, “Hey, we’re here to talk. We have an opinion on this bill. »» The group was allowed to speak.

“She worked the inside, she worked the angles, and if she had to scream, that’s what she did,” Mr. Rappaport added. “And she did it well.

She was bristly and relentless and always prepared. Woe to the city officials who did not keep their promises or do their homework. She knew within an inch the proper length of a ramp and how high a sidewalk should be cut. She drove her motorized wheelchair as she spoke, with great confidence and at times a little intentional recklessness; she was not above straddling the toes of those who stood in her way.

Among the many New York City officials to release statements following Ms. Prentiss’ death were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and, in a joint statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Victor Calise, commissioner of the mayor’s office for people with disabilities.

In May, Ms. Prentiss will be inducted into the New York State Disability Rights Hall of Fame, and Mr. Calise will appear at the virtual ceremony in her place.

“She was brilliant,” Ms. Brewer said in a telephone interview. “She didn’t take any prisoners. She dispensed with the niceties, but her heart was so generous.

Edith Mary Prentiss was born on February 1, 1952 in Central Islip, New York, on Long Island. She was one of six children (and only daughter) of Robert Prentiss, electrician, and Patricia (Greenwood) Prentiss, social worker.

Edith was asthmatic, then diabetic. She started using a wheelchair after her asthma became severe in her late forties.

After earning a sociology degree from Stony Brook University in Long Island, she attended the College of Arts and Science at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio.

Early in her career, Ms. Prentiss was an outreach worker for ARC XVI Fort Washington, a senior care center. Working at the Port Authority bus station, she performed blood pressure tests and helped elderly people apply for municipal services and other benefits. She then worked with Holocaust survivors. Fern Hertzberg, ARC’s executive director, said Ms Prentiss’ last job, before her retirement around 2006, was at a physiotherapy center in her neighborhood.

Ms. Prentiss has served as president of the 504 Democratic Club, which focuses on the rights of people with disabilities, and has held positions in many other advocacy groups.

She was not known only for her means of intimidation. Years ago Susan Scheer, now CEO of the Institute for Career Development, an employment and training group for people with disabilities, was a New York City government official, and she met Ms. Taught in the usual way: being yelled at during various audiences. . Yet when Ms. Scheer, who suffers from spina bifida, started using a wheelchair about ten years ago, she called Ms. Prentiss for help. She realized that she had no idea how to navigate from her East Village apartment to her work at City Hall by bus.

“Don’t worry,” she recalled Ms. Prentiss, saying. “I am on my way.” (It took a while, with the usual obstacles like broken subway elevators.)

Once there, Ms Prentiss led Ms Scheer out of her apartment building and through the sounds of traffic on 14th Street, blocking vehicles threatening them, as she dragged Ms Scheer through her first shutdown. bus water, which was rocky. As she ping-ponged down the aisle, she ran on the driver’s toes. “It’s not your problem,” Ms. Prentiss shouted from behind her.

Ms Prentiss then ordered the less enthusiastic driver to secure Ms Scheer’s chair (drivers are not always diligent at this stage). And as the passengers moaned and rolled their eyes, Ms Scheer said, Ms Prentiss looked them down and announced, “We are learning here, people. Let’s be patient.

During her many trips, her brother Andrew said, Ms Prentiss has had numerous road accidents and been struck by numerous vehicles, including taxis, a city bus and a FedEx truck. She was in the emergency room a lot, but if there was a community council meeting or town hearing, she made sure to call from the hospital.

In addition to her brother Andrew, Ms. Prentiss is survived by her other brothers, Michael, Robert Anthony, William John and David Neil.

In early January, Ms. Prentiss received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Fort Washington Armory. Needless to say, she had a few complaints, as she told Ms Hertzberg: The pencils for filling out the health questionnaire were kind of golf pencils and too small for people with certain manual disabilities. The font of the questionnaire was not large enough. And the chairs set up in the post-vaccination waiting area did not have arms, which many people need to stand up. She called the hospital that ran the program there – and, Ms. Hertzberg said, you can be sure it didn’t take long for the issues to be resolved.

For three years, Arlene Schulman, photographer, writer and filmmaker, has been working on a documentary entitled “Edith Prentiss: Hell on Wheels”, a title with which her subject first quibbled. She didn’t think it was strong enough.

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Video: New York mayor announces new acceptance period for in-person learning

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New York mayor announces new acceptance period for in-person learning

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that all New York City students in the public school system, who have learned distance learning this year, will have another opportunity to register for in-person learning between March 24 and April 7. .

New and very important development of the CDC, the new guidelines for the reopening of schools and the new opt-in. So go for all classes. And I will explain it carefully. We will go for all grades, although only some of them will be ready to open in the short term. We want to ask parents and children of all skill levels if they want to come back when the opportunity arises. Thus, the opt-in process will begin this Wednesday March 24 and end on Wednesday April 7. Based on everything we know now, we intend to institute the opt-in period and then honor those who wish to reactivate it. in, bring these children back during the month of April, by the end of April, for a three-day primary school and special education from District 75 up to elementary level. Very exciting, I know so many parents. I know the Chancellor will talk about it. I have heard from parents. She has heard from parents, so many parents who want the opportunity to send their children away. This opportunity has now arrived.

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Video: New York high schools to reopen on March 22

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that high schools will reopen for in-person classes from March 22, a milestone for the city.

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Heavy snow forecast for the Great Lakes region of New York

The winter storm is expected to hit much of New York state, with heavy snowfall along the Great Lakes until Tuesday morning, said Dave Samuhel, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.

Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse could all have a foot or more of snow, with the region’s worst affected areas reaching up to 18 inches, Samuhel said.

New York City might not have snow, but the forecast was for freezing rain that could cause dangerous road conditions. As temperatures warm overnight, the rain is expected to get heavier.

“It’s a fast-paced but high-impact storm due to the heavy nature of the precipitation,” Samuhel said.

In response to the storm, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered state agencies Monday afternoon to make emergency preparations for snow and ice. State officials have warned that travel conditions can become “at times extremely difficult.”

“This massive weather system is making its way across the country and is poised to deliver a double hit of snow, ice and high winds statewide for the next two days,” Cuomo said in a statement. . Adding that conditions could become “extremely dangerous,” Cuomo advised New Yorkers “to avoid unnecessary travel.”

State officials said they were ready to deploy emergency resources, including pumps, chainsaws, sandbags, generators, cots, blankets and water. bottled if conditions get bad enough.

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Video: Rapid snowstorm hits New York area

A winter storm hit the New York metro area on Sunday, bringing heavy snowfall just days after another storm left about two feet of snow.

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The storm was one of the biggest in recent New York history.

This past winter has been tough for New Yorkers who enjoy building snowmen or, inexplicably, don’t mind tripping in the snow all the way to the subway or digging their cars.

Surely this week brought a smile to those folks: New York was smothered by 17.2 inches of snow early Tuesday, more than all of last winter, when just 4.8 inches fell on the city.

It was also the biggest snowstorm since a record snowstorm in 2016, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.

The storm was so fierce it crippled public transportation, forcing the shutdown of the outdoor subway service on Monday and the shutdown of the area’s three major commuter train lines, as well as a train line connecting Manhattan and the New Jersey.

Still, that was a far cry from the pounding the city received in 2016, when a storm threw 27.5 inches of snow on Central Park.

There have also been much more destructive storms, like the 1888 blizzard, which dumped 21 inches of snow on the city and killed around 200 New Yorkers. Of course, back then horses were the primary form of transportation, which made the journey much more perilous than a contemporary subway car.

Across the region this week, total snowfall approached the 2016 record in Central Park. The deepest was 26.2 inches in Bloomingdale, Passaic County, NJ

The snowfall in this storm was very wet and abundant, “which is good if you like making snowmen and having snowball fights,” said Dominic Ramunni, meteorologist with the Weather Service.

But snow like this is also harder to clean up, Ramunni said, noting that “shoveling this stuff is almost like shoveling bricks.”

Mr Ramunni, who said flurries and some rain could continue throughout Tuesday, also mentioned another sobering statistic: six of the 10 deepest snowstorms since authorities started recording them in 1869 have been performing since 2000.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo addressed the issue in a radio interview Tuesday morning.

“We now have a 100-year storm twice a year,” Cuomo said.

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The MTA outdoor subway service in New York will be closed due to the storm

Outdoor subway service in New York will be suspended from 2 p.m. Monday due to the snowstorm, officials said.

There were no immediate plans to suspend subway service, but that could change, said Sarah E. Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit, which manages the city’s subway and buses.

“This is a dangerous and potentially fatal situation,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said at a press conference Monday. “And expect major closures, so you’re not surprised. And we don’t want anyone to be stranded in a place where they can no longer return home. “

The only time the subway was closed due to a snowstorm was in 2015, when Mr. Cuomo ordered the system to shut down at 11 p.m. on January 26. stop in a few hours.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he discovered the closure when the public did. And the storm largely spared the city; the metro slowly began to reopen the next day, although the closure disrupted the city’s economic life.

The metro was also closed in August 2011 before Tropical Storm Irene and in 2012 before Hurricane Sandy.

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Video: New York snowstorm delays vaccinations

The storm is disrupting our vaccination efforts and we need to keep people safe. We don’t want people, especially the elderly, going out in unsafe conditions to get vaccinated. We know we can reschedule appointments very quickly because, of course, we have supplies. We will use the offer we have. Our problem is the lack of supply. So we can take the supplies we have and distribute them very quickly over the next few days, and make sure everyone gets the nominations. But that is not certain today. The vaccinations are therefore canceled today. They will also be canceled tomorrow. Based on what we are seeing right now, we believe that tomorrow it will be difficult to move around the city, it will be freezing, it will be treacherous. We don’t want seniors, in particular, to come out like this. We will therefore stop the vaccinations for today and tomorrow, come back in force on Wednesday. We will be able to catch up quickly because, again, we have enormous capacity. We don’t have enough vaccines. So we’ll just use the days later in the week. Increase those hours, move people back to those days.

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Video: New York wakes up to major snowstorm

New York City wakes up to major snowstorm On Monday morning, six inches of snow had already fallen in New York City, as officials braced for widespread power losses and high winds. The winter storm is expected to produce more than a foot of snow in some areas, according to the New York Times.

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Video: “ Hypercautious in New York City ”: Cuomo addresses an indoor dinner

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‘Hypercautious in New York’: Cuomo addresses indoor dining

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday announced that officials were assessing whether dining room could soon return with limited capacity to New York City, which he banned last month.

New York City is obviously in a different situation, given how dense, crowded, and hyper-cautious New York is, but still keeping up with the data. We’re going to talk to all health officials – we’ve already done that. We will talk to them this week, we will talk to officials, to elected officials. I’ll talk to the mayor. I will speak to the local elected officials concerned and the restaurant community from a planning perspective. And by the end of the week, we’ll have a New York restaurant map. I fully understand how difficult it is to close them, not just for restaurants, but for everyone who works there. On the other hand, there is the speed at which this virus can take off. But we’ll have a plan for New York restaurants by the end of the week.

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