Nearly two million New York City residents would probably be unable to read this article. That includes 884,000 people who speak Spanish and 373,000 folks who speak Chinese at home and, according to the American Community Survey, do not speak English “very well.” They are joined by 110,000 Russian speakers and 65,000 who prefer to use Bengali, some 7,000 Vietnamese linguists and 1,200 who speak Armenian, and people who are more likely to use one of 33 other languages from Hindi to Hebrew, Serbo-Croatian to Swahili than the tongue I am writing in.
Like the 4 million New Yorkers who do speak English at home, and the 2 million or so who don’t speak English at home but do speak it “very well,” those non-English speakers are our fellow New Yorkers. That’s not a political statement. It’s a simple fact.
New York City’s language diversity reflects its role as a magnet for migrants, its history as a polyglot urban stew—the essence of its identity and energy. The five boroughs encompass myriad—often separate—worlds. Yet we share one city. And that’s why it’s important, and just plain interesting, to know what’s happening behind the city’s many language barriers. We might not be able, here at City Limits, to produce news that everyone can read. But we can make an effort to hear what those other neighbors are saying.
Bridging the divides of language and culture was the rationale 18 years ago when, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and an unprecedented crackdown on Muslim New Yorkers, the New York Independent Press Association, led by Abby Scher, founded “Voices That Must Be Heard” to bring to English-speaking audiences the story of New Yorkers experiencing that backlash. Over time, Voices evolved to showcase work from the hard-working, often overlooked but always essential ethnic and community press around the city. In 2011, the Center for Ethnic and Community Media at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism took over the project and relaunched it as Voices of New York. (That archived site can be viewed here.)
Today, City Limits takes up this proud tradition by relaunching Voices of New York with the first of what will be a continuous stream of stories translated and curated from foreign-language newspapers and the neighborhood press. Our goal is not to steal these outlets’ thunder but to amplify it, for the benefit of all New Yorkers.
In today’s stories—and in the first edition of an email newsletter that will contain our Voices work—you can learn about the ongoing impact of the killing of a salon worker in Queens, efforts by New York’s Polish community to honor its heroes of the first World War and the sudden increase in Taiwanese students who are making their way to New York. Deputy Editor Jeanmarie Evelly also presents (reproduced below) a round-up of “back to school” coverage from community news outlets around the city.
This represents City Limits’ latest endeavor to bridge gaps between New Yorkers and the news that matters to them. Our Max & Murphy radio show, Accountability Reporting Initiative for Youth and City Limits en Español initiative are also part of that effort. These projects compliment and amplify the in-depth reporting readers get from our Mapping the Future land-use coverage, and our climate, transit, aging and art-policy coverage.
Back to School: Education Coverage From NYC’s Community News Outlets
Students at Bronx Prep Middle School took top prize in NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge, beating out more than 5,000 other entries from across the country with their podcast about periods and the taboo around menstruation. “The more we talk about it, the easier it will be for other generations to talk about their bodies and not feel ashamed,” one student told the Bronx Times. Read the full story here.
South Brooklyn Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis rallied with local parents against a proposal from the de Blasio administration to eliminate Gifted and Talented programs at city schools, according to Bklyner. Read their story here.
The Hunts Point Express reports on a recent milestone for Hyde Park Charter School in the Bronx, which will see every student in its inaugural kindergarten class head to college this fall — the first class in the school’s history to boast a 100 percent college acceptance rate. Read it here.
Administrators at Orthodox Jewish private schools in Queens are worried about a State Education Department proposal that would enact new, stricter regulations. “Members of Queens yeshivas…are worried that the increased oversight would compromise the values instilled through their religion-based institutions,” reports the Queens Daily Eagle. Read more here.