Remembering a Tiny But Relentless Fighter

Again within the fall of 2001, the town was nonetheless reeling from the 9/11 assaults when staff on the Village Voice heard that certainly one of our personal was engaged in her personal determined wrestle.

J.A. Lobbia, who wrote the Towers & Tenements column detailing the immoral—when not outright felony—dealings of crooked landlords and the politicians who enabled them, had been recognized with ovarian most cancers. She died a bit greater than two months later, on Thanksgiving, at age 43.

So a lot of those that Julie wrote about and advocated for—the evicted, the homeless, the cheated—in addition to the politicians and judges whom she questioned and challenged and demanded extra of, together with those that labored along with her within the Voice’s rabbit warren cubicles, have by no means forgotten her.

Beneath are a few testaments to a journalist who set a bar the remainder of us nonetheless look as much as.


Small Stature, Large Affect

I didn’t like her a lot at first.

She had caught the attention of my oldest and dearest good friend on the Voice, Joe Jesselli, and regardless of no matter feminist ideas I mouthed, I used to be jealous, and aggravated. Plus she was tiny and beautiful, fearless and intrepid—and given all that, who needed her round?

Ultimately, everybody, together with me. She married Joe; I didn’t go to the marriage, I’m ashamed to say. We made mates slowly, however like so many relationships that get off to a rocky begin, our bond ended up being deep and profound, or a minimum of I wish to suppose so.

On the floor, we didn’t have a lot in frequent. She was a demon bicycle owner; I used to be a clumsy oaf who hadn’t been on a bike since elementary faculty. I used to be the style editor of the Voice and I liked to buy. Julie was of the if-you-buy-something-you-have-to-give-something-away faculty of acquisition. She was a severe investigative reporter on the housing beat, with many awards to her credit score, dedicating her life to exposing corruption and venality. Although I used to be the top of the union and cared mightily in regards to the rights of my fellow staff, I’ve all the time operated on the Lynnie, you deserve a current! precept to get me by way of the day.

Which isn’t to say that Julie didn’t have her personal type—she would usually change in her workplace from her bike garments into certainly one of her trademark thrift retailer clothes. And he or she did often let me take her purchasing for new issues. She could have been saintly, however she was by no means sanctimonious. We shared a depraved humorousness. She liked ribald songs—one particularly, which concerned a faintly lascivious dance, nonetheless makes me chuckle.

I keep in mind seeing her popping out of Kmart as soon as, her arms piled excessive with blankets and pillows she had simply purchased for an indigent household she had written about. With my normal heat and tact, I snarled, “Julie, you are not supposed to solve their problems yourself!” “I can do whatever I want!” she shouted again.

What she needed was to do essentially the most good for the most individuals within the shockingly brief time she had on Earth.

Julie was recognized simply a few days after 9/11, which solely went to show that tragedy might strike huge and small, that no horror is like another and but they’re all alike in some ways.

Simply earlier than she handed away, when she knew that the state of affairs was hopeless, she went for a wild journey with out her helmet. I like to think about her that approach, rushing down the East River Drive, her stunning auburn hair streaming behind her.

Slightly greater than a 12 months and a half after she died, a type of commemorative avenue indicators that grace corners in New York Metropolis was erected at Herald Sq. along with her identify on it. Her mom was on the dedication, and he or she turned to me and mentioned how good it was, and I, channeling Julie’s frankness and audacity, replied, “It’s nice, but it sucks.” Her mother, who had the identical steadfast intelligence as her daughter, nodded.

“Yes. It sucks.” And it did, and it nonetheless does.

—Lynn Yaeger


“No Woman, No Cry”
A Music for Julie Lobbia

Julie Lobbia, unapologetically, was all up in my face the primary time we met, at some point in 1990. We had been newcomers to the Voice, and I used to be nonetheless navigating my approach across the maze of shanty-like newsrooms within the paper’s headquarters, at 842 Broadway. It was my fifth go to as a freelancer, after masking Black New York’s response, a few months earlier, to the responsible verdicts within the Central Park rape trial, and I acquired misplaced working my approach again to editor Michael Caruso’s chopping ground. And wouldn’t it—I didn’t ask anybody, for worry of ridicule. Oddly, although, I used to be attracted by a stomping gait that introduced the presence of an astonishingly spirited Lobbia, who stood barely 5 ft tall and gestured wildly with short-bread fingers. “Over there!” the stranger with the beautiful face instructed, pointing to a room subsequent to a sprawling newspaper morgue, and out of nowhere she started to upbraid me for behaving intemperately towards the sharp-eyed sleuths of the fact-checking division.

She mentioned she’d heard me rattling off solutions to a fact-checker’s persistent queries in my generally combative Trinidadian brogue. She mentioned she realized the method was nonetheless all new to me. I’d higher decelerate. Be affected person. My tales moving into the Voice depended closely on the fact-checkers’ say-so. And, please, Lobbia added, putting a be aware of levity as I grimaced, tone it down on these sultry calypsos I’d been belting out whereas aimlessly milling in regards to the staid office. I informed her that the music in my head for the reason that verdict was Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” a tribute to the grieving moms of the Central Park 5.

Months later, after the Voice relocated to 36 Cooper Sq., my unique reportage in regards to the rising Black activist motion round police brutality and social injustice in New York Metropolis grew to become a savage bone of rivalry amongst some veteran anti–Al Sharpton critics on the paper. Lobbia jumped to my protection, mentioning that it wasn’t simple corralling Black rage—and accessing Black management is why the paper employed me within the first place. Her intense critique of my story “Why is Al Sharpton Behaving?” (after the activist had referred to as for a nonviolent response to the white man who stabbed him within the chest) begat a hasty rewrite that may assist me show the naysayers mistaken. It formed the way forward for the so-called “race beat” on the Voice. Lobbia would go on to edit a few of my items, assuring them most publicity in Metro, the front-of-the-book part later renamed CityState.

Lately, following Eric Adams’s election because the second Black mayor of our metropolis, I reminisced about Lobbia’s earlier predictions regarding his political ambitions. Her eager curiosity in him proved hauntingly correct. In February 2001, Lobbia, who was not enhancing me by that point, pushed for a function on the outspoken police captain, who was in a uncommon place of authority for a Black man within the NYPD. After studying a draft I had despatched to her touting “Eric Adams for Police Commissioner,” Lobbia mentioned that a couple of strains portray a human image of him may endear him to white skeptics who in any other case would dismiss the story as a joke. Wasn’t Adams a likable determine who she had heard described someplace as “the laughing policeman?”

My story was prepared for publication in July, and I added these strains with Lobbia in thoughts: A stocky, clean-cut determine with an imposing stride, the bald-headed Adams is usually known as “the laughing policeman” due to his ebullient giggle. For weeks after that I didn’t see a lot of Lobbia across the newsroom, and I came upon later that she was sick.

But one afternoon, because the summer season of 2001 light, the sound of Lobbia’s trademark stomping pierced by way of the keyboard clatter of muckrakers on deadline. “Noel!” she shouted, and stored on pushing her bicycle towards a again workplace the place she’d toiled for a few years. A couple of minutes later, I discovered Lobbia with movie critic J. Hoberman. She leapt into my arms and squeezed. “I have cancer,” she mentioned. “I never imagined I’d be in your arms crying.” I embraced the little darling with a tight hug. She hugged again, even tighter, as if to say, I really feel you—and it’s OK. I let go as my tears gushed, and I walked away, singing, “No Woman, No Cry.” I by no means noticed Julie Lobbia once more.

—Peter Noel



Hallelujah for an Editor

I consider I met Julie on her first day on the Voice, in 1990. I used to be a freelance author, previously an intern. The paper had simply employed a Metro editor, and I adopted the excitement off the elevator to the Voice’s equal of a water cooler—our receptionist Frank “Frankie Bones” Ruscitti’s desk. And there was Julie, shining in her real and enthusiastic approach: 5’ 0’’ with a Chicago accent, sparking dialog and welcoming individuals as they welcomed her. You would inform she was passionate in regards to the paper, about righting wrongs, and couldn’t wait to leap into the fray.

Julie was interested by every little thing, and had a nice eye for the weird, if not the salacious. Working example, the intercourse lifetime of dwelling prehistoric creatures. After all horseshoe crab mating season in NYC would make a nice story! It appeared foolish but primordial to be on Brooklyn’s Plum Seashore with a whole lot of those pointy-tailed attractive throwbacks on high of one another or slowly inching into place. Julie was such a distinction to these anthropods seemingly frozen in time. Each outing, each trade along with her felt like dwelling life to the fullest. And he or she was proper. She wrote a very entertaining piece.

We had been all thrilled when Julie was given extra time to put in writing about housing and poverty points (which finally led to her column, Towers & Tenements), but it surely left a huge gap for Metro writers. A terrific editor is like having a higher you on the job. One Christmas Eve afternoon I needed to be at 36 Cooper Sq. to work on a housing piece with an editor I didn’t all the time get together with. But, hallelujah, once I acquired there it turned out that Julie was my editor. Finest Christmas reward ever! On the subject of housing, she was insightful and zealous, often bouncing round in her seat like a shark sensing which approach to flip the story to go in for the kill. We labored within the shadow of a small statue of Jesus, arms outstretched, a part of Julie’s assortment of discovered objects. And there was her bicycle, all the time on the prepared.

It’s exhausting to consider she’s been gone so lengthy. I think about all the great she would have completed and the awards she would have received, in addition to the issues I might have realized from her. She was a true city hero, using the town streets, looking for out injustice and having fun with the journey.

—Jill Weiner


Hellacious Rider

She needed to be buried in her bike sneakers.

Julie Lobbia was a mad bicycle owner. For years, she logged a minimum of 125 miles a week—generally way more—operating errands, reporting, doing loops of Central Park, and taking lengthy weekend rides. She stored observe of the miles she was placing on her new bike body, a petite one she had grudgingly chosen to go well with her top.

I met Julie years after I left my job as copy chief for the Voice, as a result of a mutual good friend who labored there, Karen Prepare dinner, thought we might hit it off. She was proper. We met for dinner, and Julie, in her trademark old style old-lady wingtip boots, defined that she was skipping her favourite half—crimson wine—as a result of she had gout. Gout! I used to be entranced by her throwback ailment, after which shocked by her racy humor and raucous chuckle.

We rode throughout New York Metropolis, delving into Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. And with the New York Cycle Membership, we sped alongside in tight, disciplined formations deep into New Jersey and Lengthy Island. Not with the quickest group of cyclists, who had been anticipated to common 23 miles an hour, however with the second-fastest, averaging 21 miles an hour. We might hit 50 and even 60 on a main downhill, and we might journey all day.

How robust and fierce she was. Complete vitality, intelligence, and grit. I as soon as floated the concept that she had “short woman syndrome,” as a result of, at 5 ft tall, she might outreport, outwrite, outbike, outlaugh, and outlast just about everyone. Every part was extra fascinating with Julie. She’d make odd connections, tease you. She referred to as us all by our final names, tough-guy type.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2001, simply hours after I had seen her final, I acquired a name telling me she was gone. I wrote a draft of her obituary and we despatched it to the New York papers. Someone questioned that our biking group made three loops of Central Park in beneath an hour. “That’s like 20 miles an hour,” the skeptic mentioned. “Come on.” Oh, no, I mentioned. We had computer systems on our bikes, and we tracked our velocity obsessively. We averaged 20+.

Julie was fierce on hills. “Hills are your friends,” bikers say; they hone your approach and make you robust. My view: With mates like that, who wants enemies? But Julie darted up, regardless of the grade, standing to get all her 100-ish kilos into the pedals and haul ass.

Our first century—100-mile journey—was truly solely hers. The route was out to Montauk, on the southeastern tip of Lengthy Island, and Julie took the longest of the organized routes, ranging from the Plaza Lodge, throughout from Central Park. She logged 120 miles that day, all the best way to the Montauk Lighthouse. My cousin Tim and I took the prepare and began 40 or so miles in. We had been already beat when she caught up with us, someplace close to the Hamptons—and left us in her mud, little doubt with a juicy taunt misplaced to time.

We’d packed crimson wine and frozen steaks within the baggage the journey organizers ferried out for us, meant to carry simply a change of garments. We’d booked a cabin close to the seaside, and we grilled the steaks and guzzled the wine by way of the starry summer season evening. She and Tim cracked one another up by emulating outdated lechers mumbling about wanting “a little sumpin sumpin.” They carried on with it on the bus journey again the subsequent day, and by some means, for actual, it simply didn’t get outdated.

One 12 months, we did the self-billed “flattest century,” within the Delmarva Peninsula (which incorporates most of Delaware and elements of Maryland and Virginia). The beginning was early, and our resort’s partitions seemed to be engineered to transmit the sound of the coke-fueled bacchanal subsequent door. At 11 p.m., we referred to as the desk and requested if the 2 {couples} partying could possibly be urged to chill it. Moments later, we heard their telephone ring, after which the slam of the headset and a lady’s defiant voice, in pure New Jersey twang: “We’re not lowd! We’re not lowd!”

We had the entrance desk put us by way of to the room, and we assured the lady that she was, certainly, very lowd.

I fell asleep, however Julie didn’t, not till they stopped, round 1:30 within the morning. At daybreak, once we staggered out into the car parking zone, Julie was struck by evil genius. I can’t keep in mind which certainly one of us truly referred to as the desk, requested for the room, and, when the exact same lady picked up, mentioned, “We just wanted you to know what it’s like not to be able to sleep.” Ms. Not Lowd whimpered, “I will nevah stay in this hotel again.” We had been so happy with ourselves.

Nevertheless sleep-deprived, you’ll be able to’t actually be sleepy whereas biking. Perhaps 60 miles in, we noticed the well-known wild ponies within the space, and Julie, riffing off the street indicators, noticed that she had “a Chincoteague in my Assateague.” A man from a group of born-again riders (as marketed on their jerseys) pedaled up and tried to proselytize us. A number of miles later, we adopted him onto a pretty prolonged, extraordinarily unwelcome stretch of bumpy terrain, and Julie growled quietly, “Where’s your god now?”

No marvel she needed to be buried in her bike sneakers.

And so she was.

—Andrea Kannapell


Who Wants Artwork?

Effectively, as I rummage round in my reminiscence, let me additionally search by way of the Village Voice archives … and right here it’s, the primary masthead with that enigmatic moniker: J.A. Lobbia, Assistant Options Editor, within the December 18, 1990, problem. Some say that the most effective items are available small packages, and Julie Lobbia, a righteous muckraker from Chicago, was an early Christmas current to Gotham that none of us knew we had coming.

I wasn’t but a author in these days—I used to be a painter with a day job doing paste-up. Laying out each the adverts and the editorial columns on the large blue-lined boards was the proper vocation for a voracious reader, and I quickly realized I would wish to strive my hand at supplying a few of the paper’s content material. I had gotten to know Julie by way of discussing labor points as they associated to the paper’s personal, all the time contentious union negotiations in addition to within the bigger world, and we had been in fundamental settlement that the bosses ought to discover it of their hearts to half with extra of their earnings for the overall good. But I used to be additionally hoping to grow to be a profitable artist, and Julie would cackle on the ludicrous disconnect between the intrinsic price of a portray’s supplies—canvas, wooden stretchers, paint—and the obscene costs that, say, a Warhol Marilyn Monroe diptych would deliver at public sale. It was Julie’s rivalry that such frivolous baubles of manufactured need shouldn’t even exist till each human on Earth had, at minimal, first rate shelter and many to eat. My arguments in regards to the sheer magnificence or difficult ideas or ameliorating humanism of nice artwork would elicit a dismissive shake of her head and a withering remark about some rapacious landlord who additionally had a huge artwork assortment.

Nonetheless, once I did begin publishing artwork opinions within the Voice, Julie, in her everlasting generosity, was one of many first writers who acquired throughout to me, along with her emphasis on fact-checking, concision, and dynamism, that this complete writing factor was going to be damned exhausting. And never for the faint-hearted. Truth-checking? I’m writing artwork opinions, for Chrissakes!

But that was the purpose: All of those phrases and information and (hopefully) knowledgeable opinions had been destined to be ink on paper, grain on microfilm, and—simply a glimmer again then—pixels on screens. You’re all the time writing for posterity, and also you owe it to your readers and to historical past and to your self (just about in that order) to get the information straight and true. And it was a privilege—one which needed to be earned—to have a platform just like the Voice the place you would put your two cents’ price in print.

Nonetheless, Julie was writing about street-level injustices, exposés of Dickensian landlords who barely maintained their buildings, even whereas harassing, threatening, and evicting lawful tenants in a unending quest to drive up rents—so as, I assume, to purchase one other portray at Sotheby’s … possibly one I’d written about sooner or later.

So I used to be stunned at some point when Julie mentioned there was a present on the Whitney that she needed to see. I leaped on the probability to escort her. Snow was swirling amid a feral wind; it should have been the opening, as a result of I keep in mind we handed a lengthy line of parents bowing hooded heads and hugging one another for heat as they waited. It was one thing straight out of Dr. Zhivago, however I had passes from the press workplace and informed her we might saunter proper in. She regarded again on the huddled lots and mentioned, in all seriousness, that possibly if we waited in line we’d respect the artwork extra, since I used to be the one who all the time mentioned artwork was a refuge from ugliness.

I mentioned one thing about her being on my turf now, and apart from, there was loads of artwork that challenged the complacency of those that had been wealthy sufficient to bask in it, and it’s rattling chilly and I’m on deadline, so c’mon.

Inside, I attempted to curiosity her in a Pollock right here, possibly a Robert Smithson or Eva Hesse there—these wonders of formal experimentation and enrapturing aesthetics—however they garnered at finest a well mannered nod. After which we discovered it. The paintings Julie Lobbia had trudged by way of the bitter chilly to see: Hans Haacke’s Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Actual Property Holdings, a Actual-Time Social System, as of Might 1, 1971. We confronted a wall of black-and-white images documenting tenement buildings round New York Metropolis, rows of banal facades garlanded with fireplace escapes. Beneath every picture had been typewritten sheets coated with information and figures, block and lot numbers, gross sales histories, governing rules: “6 story walk-up old law tenement,” “6 story walk-up new law apt. bld. (1901-20).”

Earlier than I noticed that I used to be wanting on the German-born Haacke’s critique of nefarious wealth, a survey of the actual property holdings of Harry Shapolsky, who had many entanglements with the regulation owing to his ruthless enterprise mannequin, sketchy shell corporations, and bribery scandals, Julie had whipped out pencil and paper and was busily scribbling down essential information, straining on tip-toe to carry her maybe-five-foot body up a bit increased to review the highest tier of revelations. 

I sighed and went looking for Jasper Johns’s trilevel American flag portray, the wealthy, luminous encaustic floor seemingly as dense as plutonium.

A lot later, when Julie had crammed up a type of hip-pocket reporter’s notebooks, we wandered a bit extra. As we ready to take our depart, we handed Kiki Smith’s 1992 Story, a sculpture of a lady on all fours with a lengthy tail of feces trailing behind her, a “tale,” because it had been, of abjection, of bodily absolutes, and of all that we depart behind.

Julie beamed at me, and exclaimed, “Now, that’s art!”

And he or she was proper.  

—R.C. Baker

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