Archive for ‘East Coast US’

April 23, 2012

Interacting with fountains – Anna

When I went to Boston, just before coming to Bard, last summer, my favorite moment in the couple of days I was in the city was when I saw the Rose Kennedy Greenway fountain. Seeing all these children playing with the water, and constantly being exited, scared, running around etc was absolutely delightful. But it was also a real revelation to me: Not only were children running around ON the fountain, but it was actually designed purposefully FOR people to interact with the fountain. For me, this was a totally foreign concept: All of the fountains I had seen so far, had always been beautiful sculptures, meant to be admired from afar,  sculptures. If one had any contact with them, it was to drink from them (In Rome, for example, a city  filled with small fountains, they have filled a historical role as the main source of drinkable water to the population as a whole, which would not otherwise necessarily have access to it), and tolerated was leaning against them, but even dipping one’s toe is usually prohibited. And here I was with people IN the fountain.

For me this is particularly exhilarating because I come from a culture which uncomfortable with the very notion of interacting with nature in the Urban landscape: Parks are strictly fenced, even when with low, small barriers, one knows that he-she is not to go on the grass(one of the reasons being the so-called delicacy of it. Most of the time, a lawn will carry the sign “Au repos”- “resting”). For this reason we have benches and ironl chairs, in the Tuileries or Luxembourg, or Palais Royale gardens for example. There will be this flamboyant fresh grass in front of you, but you have to stick to the iron chairs.

This idea of not interacting with the water is something I have often thought about when seeing the I.M Pei fountains outside of the Louvre: Their general shape is that of triangles, but the lanes separating them are so narrow, that sometimes it feels(especially when it is really hot, and the air makes things a little blurry) like people are in the water! Most of the time though, unfortunately, it is only an illusion.

The idea of having people in the water, actually, has been brought to France! I went to a conference  two years ago, given by the highly influential landscape designer Michel Corajoud, who directed the re-habilitation of the Garonne  banks in the city of Bordeaux. The part of the project he talked about was one that he lead in collaboration with the fountain designer Jean-Max Llorca. On the Place de la Bourse(name of teh square), every 15 minutes the stone is covered by 2 centimeters of water, which then reflect the surrounding architecture. After that, the water drains through small holes, while new water is sprayed in the air, creating a mist. The whole is controlled by computer systems, and the water is stored in an under-ground system. The rediscovery of water, and of the architecture, through the use of the water, is fantastic. But, as a video on youtube said, what really is amazing is the sense of magic, of fun, and most of all, of liberty.

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February 26, 2012

Stirn and Fall Kill Creek- Jean

The Final Master Plan document for the Fall Kill Plan provides many interesting ideas on how to approach the problems regarding Fall Kill Creek. The project seems to be in its early stages, and the sense that I get from reading the Master Plan is that the primary aim of the project is to gain support from the community for the project. The concept of the Plan is to create a Chain Reaction, one that starts from creating a network of public spaces along the creek. In contrast, the Spirn reading focus primarily on ecological concerns with water supply.

The concept behind the Final Master Plan of the Fall Kill Creek project is to create a network of public spaces along the creek. This would involve several small- scale projects designed to draw residents to the creek. An interesting idea that is brought up in the master plan is the desire to create walkways connecting neighborhoods. These walkways will be both recreational and commuter- oriented through the city. These walkways will connect to the main walkways in the city, such that the creek will act as a “bridge” between different communities and the central areas in Poughkeepsie.

I think the creation of these walkways is extremely vital to the ultimate aim of the Fall Kill Creek Plan. From the lecture given by Janette, I get the impression that the biggest problem faced is that the residents of Poughkeepsie do not feel attached to Fall Kill Creek or to Poughkeepsie. The disconnection between residents and their environment poses a problem, and I view the Fall Kill Creek Plan as a means to repair that relationship. By creating a mutual walkway, residents from different walks of life will be given the opportunity to interact. By promoting interaction, the Creek can help residents gain a clearer understanding of what it means to live in a community larger than that of their isolated areas. This in turn will foster a stronger sense of community, and hopefully instill a desire to develop a public good together, namely The Fall Kill Creek.

In contrast to the aim of the Fall Kill Creek Plan, the reading by Stirn focuses primarily on the ecological concerns with the water supply, and the actions that should be taken to address these concerns. In the article, she mentions Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” and the measures taken to make it what it is today. She also writes that while it has been praised as a “landmark in American park planning”, “public recreation was an incidental benefit”, and that the focus of the project was primarily on improving the sanitation of the river.

The approach taken in Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” is a more direct approach to raising the status of the river. In addressing an issue regarding sanitation, the team that worked on the Boston River provided residents in the area with a necessity, one that would allow residents to appreciate its river a lot more because of the immediate benefits felt.  I think that the decision to focus on sanitation was efficient and effective. That being said, I do not think that this contradiction should discount the efforts made by the team involved in Fall Kill Creek, due to the different circumstances of the two teams. The team that is running the Fall Kill project is dealing with the most pressing problem of uniting the city. While the creek is a liability, it is not Poughkeepsie’s main source of drinking water, but it is an eyesore.  Moreover, though the project has been given a decent amount of funding, the funding given is conditional, limiting the scope and aims of the project. The sense that I get from the Fall Kill Creek Project is that the “outsiders” from NYC have their hands tied, and can only do so much to save a landmark that is not theirs. At the end of the day, the decision to improve water quality and make the creek an active public good still lies in the hands of the residents.

 

 

December 12, 2011

Female Flaneur Unleashed! (we were turtles and now? tigers)- Myan Melendez

Flaneurs had a few things right. Namely: Viewing the city in it’s entirety as their own sort of living theater, not allowing the stress of urban living stress them beyond the point of enjoying all the things that make urban living worthwhile and walking turtles on leashes.  Okay,so maybe the last one was a bit overblown but, it definitely made their stance on urban living and exploring hard to ignore. I feel like I and some of my friends embody the spirit of the 19th century flaneurs without the pretense. I am a Native New Yorker. As young kids my mom instilled a love of the city in me and my sisters, she would take us on rambling trips all over the four boroughs (she didn’t care much for Staten Island so the closest we got to exploring the 5th borough was riding the Ferry back and forth). We WALKED everywhere. When she was a kid my mom’s dad had preached the gospel of pedestrianism citing a long list of it’s health and social benefits. He would often tell my mom and her four siblings that New York City was made to be walked…how else could you explain all the glories of the street level? Oh the people you’d meet! The stories you’d have to tell! The amazing little hidden restaurants, stores, and oddities you’d find! But, despite my early indoctrination to the flaneur faith I lost my way in my early teens. I started becoming one of those city kids who grumbles about tourists and being bored while living in one of the biggest and coolest cities in the world. By the time I was a sophomore in high school however, I was quickly rediscovering the amazingness of NYC and reclaiming the city as my own. In a way I began to reform myself as an active native tourist. I started researching free events and festivals and going out of my way to utilize all those coupons usually geared towards tourists. I also took to walking the streets…where ever. In the summer I’d pick a subway line, randomly get off at a stop and just spend a few hours meandering around the neighborhood it was in. The subway itself is a wonderful little microcosm of the larger city…it’s basically an underground amphitheater: street performers station themselves on platforms and roam through moving trains singing, dancing and doing magic, peddlers sell their various wares, and the people watching is premium! It’s also a sign of the times that I can do all this as a young female. There are of course your standard hazards of harassment but, for the most part those are circumventable and well worth the fight to enjoy my urban paradise (and no it’s no eden…no perfect virginal garden…but, it is a fascinating place anyhow)

December 12, 2011

Bard Spaces: Winners and Rejects- Myan Melendez

When we were told to go on a hunt for underused/well used bard spaces an abundance of examples of both sprang to mind…like BAM. Bard has this weird deal where it seems like whomever “planned” student spaces/seating areas at Bard just pressed a button and let the pieces fall where they would. Because walking around Bard is like walking around a strange outdoor version of Ikea…There are tables, there are chairs, there are benches, walls, walls that function as benches, chairs that function as beds, beds that are used as couches, etc. etc. During Finals week you find a lot of students re-appropriating random pieces of furniture/campus real estate for napping areas. I took this picture last week on Wednesday in the RKC:

But, back to the juxtaposition between underused and well used bard spaces. It’s actually super interesting (and by interesting I mean sorta confusing) to consider what makes one space appealing to users and another space unappealing. On the hill slope between Manor and New Robbins there sits a little rickety memorial wooden gazebo right next to a really beautiful black marble bench with an integrated chess board also a memorial to a late bard student. Although the gazebo is pretty devoid of human presence at odd hours of the day usually by the early evening it’s crammed with pairs or groups of kids taking in the scene and/or smoking. Yet, I have never once seen anyone utilize the pristine marble bench in any manner. Perhaps its the fact that the marble bench lacks the protective element that the covered gazebo has. Also in the spring when the days begin to get long and hot so does the black marble which probably does not make for a comfortable sit down. I also think the gazebo promotes conversation by having two forward facing benches inside of it partially enclosed walls. So I guess those differences in comfort, convenience and accommodation alone can account for the disuse of the marble chess bench and the use of the little gazebo.

Waiiiit…there is one piece of ungainly furniture that I’ve seen utilized a lot despite it’s lack of convenience. The white wooden enclosed circle bench on the lawn of the Hessel Museum forces it’s users to clamber over it’s sides to gain entry into it’s circular seating area yet, I often see people lounging within it in the company of friends. But,maybe it’s the bench’s unique/artistic element that makes people willing to accept the challenge of utilizing it.

December 12, 2011

Temporary/Re-appropriated Spaces: A Very Bronx Water Park- Myan Melendez

Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s a pretty popular idiom and also super true. Over the summer I was flipping through facebook and came across this picture which a friend of mine (who I met spontaneously on the 6 train btw! wooo yeah strangers and spontaneous connections in the urban context! Right on Jane Jacobs!) took in the South Bronx on one of those super duper hot summer in the asphalt jungle death to your sweat glands kind of days.

Photo Credit to J. Skye Cabrera

I really love this photo because it shows how innovative and imaginative people get when it comes to adapting their resources and environments according to their needs and desires. In a lot of areas like these in the Bronx and citywide, lack of immediate access to parks with sprinklers and pools motivate people to take to the streets and crank open fire hydrants, releasing a powerful and refreshing gush of cool city water. Although it is technically illegal to open fire hydrants in NYC there is a legal alternative to enjoy the city’s time tested summer tradition. Firehouses provide spray caps to residents and will even travel to any one of the city’s 109,000 hydrants to open and install the caps for you! The caps reduce the excessive amount of water wasted when hydrants are opened illegally.”While it may be tempting to cool yourself off by opening a fire hydrant, open hydrants can lower local water pressure, hinder the efforts of firefighters, and endanger the lives of children who may be propelled into traffic by the force of the water. An open hydrant wastes 1,000 gallons of water per minute, overtaxes the sewer system and causes flooding of City streets.” (http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/hazards/heat_safety.shtml)

I also found this really great slide show of photos showing people enjoying hydrants in the city on the Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/20/open-fire-hydrants-in-nyc_n_904482.html#s312121

December 5, 2011

Reading Viaduct – Grace Diliberto

Talking about New York City’s High Line in class the other day reminded me of a similar space in Philadelphia: the Reading Viaduct. The Reading Viaduct is an abandoned elevated train track that was built in the 1890s and runs 10 blocks through the city. The viaduct is, more or less, a bridge that connects a number of diverse neighborhoods, many of which are seeing rapid development.

The Reading Viaduct Project is a group that is seeking to preserve the viaduct as a public and open green space by transforming it into a public park. Creating this elevated park, in conjunction with the continued redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhoods, could serve to further rejuvenate the heart of Philadelphia. This installment could also potentially lead to further economic development and tax revenue for the city. As opposed to demolishing the viaduct, a feat that could cost the city up to $51.2 million, restoring the space as a public park would cost an estimated $5.1, 10 times less. Overall, this project would hold the benefits of bringing together communities that are both economically and culturally diverse, generate economic development, and potentially spurring further redevelopment of this portion of North Philadelphia.

Reading Viaduct Project website: http://www.readingviaduct.org/index.html

 

 

November 28, 2011

Effect of the Suburb on Philadelphia – Grace Diliberto

In researching the process of gentrification in Philadelphia, the immense effect that the development and popularization of the suburb in the 19th century had on the city has become clear. While this issue has more of an effect on Philadelphia pre-gentrification, it is still instrumental in understanding the process of urban renewal that followed this urban decline.

In class we have read and discussed the development of the suburb and how it came about as a result of the ideal becoming an escape from the city through finding refuge in nature. Being outside of the city, in the ‘country’ came to be viewed as the ultimate freedom and escape. This development was, however, greatly propelled by the government as well with the Federal Highway Act which contributed to a rise in automobile transit and, therefore, allowed for more sprawl-like living (a.k.a. suburbs), a push for home ownership through the use of mortgages, and creation of standards required to loan eligibility. These standards required houses to be detached, set back at least 30 feet from the street, single-use, and preferably new.

The rise of the suburb resulted in a significant exodus of people from cities all across the country. Philadelphia did not bear the brunt of this migration well. Starting after World War II, Philadelphia began to transform into a dark and blighted city in social and economic decline as city residents moved out to the suburbs in increasing numbers. Aided by the rise of the car, people desired more space, greenery, and privacy from the street and public life. Additionally, the availability of the car made commuting much easier. Often people would commute from the suburbs, thus leaving the city deserted after the typical work day. With the city turning into a ghost town after the work day, many stores and businesses began to suffer as well. Philadelphia fell into a pattern of population decline that has only this year been halted.

November 4, 2011

Shrinking Cities- Armaan Alkazi

With the Shrinking of Cities all over the world, more and more urbanized land is being left vacant. This land, which is often a eyesore also opens up a huge array of possibilities in this new urban playground. Dozens of projects have sprung up trying to deal with these new spaces, whether through urban farming or new urban art, they all aim at urban renewal. I believe when looking forward to what we can do, it is important to appreciate why urban decay took place in these cities. The answer, in part, is the flying around of capital. Most of the cities currently in decline Detroit, Manchester, Baltimore etc were once industrial powerhouses. They were built up by huge capital investments for mass production of goods and were destroyed once it became more profitable for companies to move elsewhere. The cities were built to service the global market and were created around the assumption that they would always be competitive. The cities did not focus on small scale, local industry and commerce which has to be rooted in a specific place. Their inability to build a (somewhat) self sustaining entity is what has allowed them to get destroyed.

The way forward, I believe, has to be rooted in small scale,sustainable and people centric production. Capital is not emotional towards its effects, its movement will always be controlled by where it can be most quickly reproduced. Networks of small industry and commerce on the other hand, that are grounded on a human scale, understand that in an economy the producers matter as much as the consumers. These networks and bonds are what create communities and communities are far harder and more resilient in falling then big corporations.

But perhaps the best way to explain why these cities have ended up this way is by quoting Marx. “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks. Marx

 

October 31, 2011

Bulldozing America’s Shrinking cities- Violeta Borilova

I found a New York Times article called “Bulldozing America’s Shrinking cities”  at the end of the article there is a blog in which people discuss the article. It is interesting to read the discrepancies there are on this topic, and the observations people bring up which link the topics of mobility, and urban policies, and what people think of them. I attached bellow some facts from the article:

“In 1900, every one of the 20 largest American cities was on a major waterway. All but two (San Francisco and New Orleans) were in the northeast quadrant of the country that is framed by the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These cities grew because rivers and lakes made it possible to bring the great wealth of the American hinterland to the markets of the east, and then because manufacturing concentrated around transport hubs. Over the 20th century, a more than 90 percent decline in the cost of moving goods over space made these advantages obsolete, and Americans moved to newer Sun Belt cities built around the automobile.”

“The hallmark of declining places is an abundance of infrastructure relative to people. It is therefore particularly foolish to try to save declining places by building new infrastructure or homes. Buffalo would have done better to invest in its children than in light rail.”

“Razing abandoned buildings is the extreme acknowledgment that declining cities aren’t about to achieve former population levels. Parks are better than abandoned buildings, and Mayor Williams is right to want to right-size his city. So while the Obama administration hasn’t yet embraced the bulldozer, I’m hoping that they will embrace urban policies that put people ahead of place.”

 

The link is:  http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/16/bulldozing-americas-shrinking-cities/

 

October 31, 2011

Changing landscapes of consumption

Le Bon Marché, Paris

The American mega-mall (Mall of America, Minnesota)

suburban malls/ edge-city malls. e.g. Tyson’s, Virginia

Dead malls: http://deadmalls.blogspot.com/

 

Place-specific outdoor malls. Urban heritage/brandng. Fanueil Hall, Boston

October 31, 2011

Braddock, Pennsylvania- Rosemary Ferreira

I first heard of Braddock, Pennsylvania through the work of Latoya Ruby Frazier, a photographer raised in the small town, who has projected a very strong sociopolitical message about the impacts of deindustrialization on her community. Braddock, a satellite town just off of Pittsburgh, is home to Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill, which had attracted immigrants and African Americans to the town, causing its population to swell to 20,000.  Braddock now stands at a population below 3,000 with the majority of its resident’s African American woman and with one third of the population below the poverty line. While Braddock was never truly considered a big and bustling city like Detroit or Baltimore, it is a prime example of the horrifying impacts of what can ensue once capital decides to flee, living behind decaying infrastructure as well as people. In an interview for the Huffington Post, Frazier illustrates the impacts of the steel mill on her community and how those who have lived next to the steel mill in the row houses built by Carnegie have suffered tremendously from various chronic illnesses such as lupus, which Frazier has, as well as cancer and asthma. “The mill has made the whole town toxic.”

Braddock has recently come under the spotlight not only because of Frazier whose work has caught the eye of many, but also because of a new radical “hipster” mayor, John Fetterman, who has attempted to revitalize the town through the creation of community gardens, art studios and a community center. However, Fetterman has been criticized by some community members because of his exclusionary projects such as unaffordable farmers markets or the fact that everyone in town calls the projects as work done by John rather than work done by the community. Still, Fetterman’s job as mayor has even attracted the big denim business Levi’s who had built a campaign using the town of Braddock as their backdrop for their jeans in 2010.  Frazier felt that the Levi’s company and their slogans “Go Forth” and “Everyone’s Work Is Equal” was disregarding the realities of  the town and was exploiting Braddock to sell its jeans while the community continued to suffer from neglect, chronic illnesses, poverty and unemployment.  The first video is Levi’s campaign in Braddock while the second is on Frazier and her work  as well as her performance in front of the Levi’s studio the day of the campaign release.

Frazier’s photographs reflect these harsh realities still faced by many in Braddock within the confinement of the private home she was raised in as a child. Her photos are mostly of family members who have suffered from illness, poverty and unemployment. These are the realities faced by those who live in the “shrinking cities”. While the community gardens and the farmers markets are creating a nice aesthetic for the town, there are still some crucial issues that have yet been discussed such as sources for opportunities for those living in such harsh conditions for so long. I think this quote from the New York Times piece on Braddock sums it up, “Nothing that was happening in Braddock — not the green roof on the old furniture store, not the screen printing studio run by members of a socially-conscious arts collective, not beehives, not the Shepard Fairey art installation on a nearby wall, not the Levi’s ad campaign — has changed the most essential facts of his life: he is poor and without prospects.”

NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Fetterman-t.html?pagewanted=all

October 30, 2011

Gabe Adels-Camden Waterfront

This post could be read in conjunction with Kathy’s article, also about Camden…

Camden, NJ, is located across the Delaware River from my home city of Philadelphia. It is notoriously the epitome of an, ugly, post-industrial, dangerous city. The crime rate is one of the worst ten in the country, even though it’s a relatively small city. Growing up, I felt like the Camden Waterfront was the one thing that made the city worth visiting. Now I realize that the Waterfront just makes the city the epitome of  the privatization of “public space” leading, basically,  to segregation, and a lack of welfare to the actual residents of the city.

Growing up, I’d occasionally frequent Camden for a a very specific set of tasks. The aquarium, the Vans Warped Tour, a really good thrift store off the highway. It always seemed like a depressed place, but I never thought too much about it, too excited to see sharks or A New Found Glory. Last summer, as a cultural experiment, I went back to the waterfront to see an enormous sold-out Phish show. We took the subway one stop past the waterfront stop, and walked from there. We walked through neighborhoods of houses that looked totally abandoned except for vendors selling glow sticks. There was an eery silence, and cop cars flashing lights in every direction. Not only had the entire economy of the city seemingly been converted from Campbell’s Soup Factory jobs to street vendors serving the wealthy stoners of Philadelphia’s suburbs, but the police force had been as well. Dutifully protecting us and our money from the criminal threat of Camden, which was left to its own devices as the festival raged on.

The waterfront, still the hub of economic activity in the area, shifted from an industrial to a recreational space. The entertainment is not targeted towards Camden residents, who don’t have as much money as Philadelphians across the river. The waterfront, and economic activity, becomes defined by non-natives of the city, and the local residents have no means to find work. Drugs, Crime, emigration. The epitome of a shrinking city.

http://www.camdenwaterfront.com/

not an interesting link, just give you a taste of the bland flavor…

October 30, 2011

Use of shrinking cities! Jose Mendez

The United States is well known to be a very industrialized country, which provide a lot of inner and outer benefits. At the same time, the industrialization period causes a lot of physical disturbance and destruction. Many cities during the 1950’s were prosper and successful on their manufactures and local businesses. However, everything is not perfect for these cities and they struggled severely due to many factors and the inflation on the economy is one of them. A vivid example of this is the city of Baltimore. This phenomenon is called “shrinking cities,” where the city becomes a haunted place, where there is no people residing the city. In a literal sense, these shrinking cities become haunted, not because there are ghost around but because there are cities outside of the legal world. The legal system does not care about the landscape of these cities anymore because they do not bring any benefit. Therefore, people like homeless use the landscape on their advantages and the city becomes a haven for drugs and illegal activities.  So do the “shrinking cities” become underground cities that provide a urban space to those who cannot explicit be free doing their illegal activities?

October 30, 2011

A byword for urban failure, Kathy Garzon

Camden NJ, United States poorest cities with a median household income of $18,007 the lowest of all U.S population. In fact half of its population lives below the poverty line. It also ranges at the top 10 of most dangerous., and it has been the most dangerous city in 2004,2005, and 2009. As Detroit, Camden was one a vibrant city, It was a main connector between NJ and Pennsylvania, The railroad made the population increase, commerce was booming as more people were moving in, and others travel back and forth from NYC and PN. Factories led to an increase in job opportunities, RCA, General Electric, and New York Shipbuilding Corporation, and Campbell soup were the major employers of the area. However, since the 1970s several factors lead to a decrease in population (1970 ppl was 102,551, 2010 ppl is 77,344) the sharp decline was do to an urban decay, Highway constructions, and racial tensions.  The 2010 census reveals that the two major populations in the area are Blacks or African Americans with 48.1% and 47.0% Hispanic or Latino.  Another important fact of this city was the political history since its major Milton Milan on was found to be involved in organized crime; the State took control of the city until last year where they had elections for the Major.

 

Redevelopments has been pass and pass through the years to different sponsors, corporations, and individuals.  Unfortunately, many still live in what is the as the Camden ghetto. Seen the pictures of this city is sad because you could see the deterioration of the place, from vacant buildings that have been burn out by the owners so they would get money to live the place, to street paths that have been forgotten and overtime grass is what most have. A article in The Nation describes Camden as “the physical refuse of postindustrial America.” The prediction is that the city would never recuperated, the police are overwhelmed, and they just lost 300 of their members due to budget cuts. Homelessness, drug trafficking, prostitution, robbery are the everyday life of the individuals in this city.

See the work of Camilo Jose Vergara, who has photograph Camden and different cities from 1970s to 2000s to show the differences and the transformations of the invisible cities. http://invinciblecities.camden.rutgers.edu/intro.html

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

October 26, 2011

Shrinking Cities

http://shrinkingcities.wordpress.com/

 

October 26, 2011

Post-Industrial Urbanism

October 26, 2011

Zuccotti Park Before and After (During) #OccupyWallstreet- Myan Melendez

During the summer of 2009 I worked on Wall Street as an intern at Year Up a non-profit organization that is dedicated to “providing urban young adults 18-24, with a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend and corporate internship.” (http://www.yearup.org/) I would often pass Zuccotti park during my lunch hour, it was usually rather sparsely populated by a few business people chatting or eating their lunches. Zuccotti Park has a really interesting history…before 9/11 it was known as Liberty Park and was mostly destroyed during the attacks. It was renovated and rechristened Zuccotti park in 2006.

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2006/06/01/curbed_field_trip_zuccotti_park_on_liberty_street.php#more

Zuccotti Park at Night circa November 2008

 

Double Check or Everyman Statue in Zuccotti Park

 

Zuccotti Park Occupied 2011

October 26, 2011

#OccupytheHood: Much Needed #OccupyWallstreet Spinoff?-Myan Melendez

Two weeks ago or so me and my friend Geo, ventured down to Zuccotti Park to check out the ground zero of Occupy Wall Street protests. The overall vibe I took from the space was extremely lively, motivated and even spiritual. Many people could be seen singing songs in unison or dancing en masse and to a casual observer the whole thing may have come off as a music festival and not the powerful political protest it is striving to be. When talking to the occupiers one got the sense of a real determination to motivate changes in governmental policy and perception by encouraging everyday Americans to become more participatory in protesting long standing economic injustices. There were a lot of people there but, there seemed to be something missing…or rather certain someones. As we walked towards the subway me and my friend Geo talked about the protest at length…what could we do to help? Should we drop out of school and hunker down amongst the protesters in solidarity? Was coming down on weekends and posting pro occupywallstreet sentiments to our facebook walls enough? Where would this protest lead? Would there actually be sweeping changes to policy enacted because of it?Many of the signs at Zuccotti park criticized “the people sitting at home on their couches watching us.” yet, is there really such a hard line between protestors and people who may not have chosen or been able to choose to take to living on wall street?  and finally did the protesters who actually were occupying wall street truly represent the worst off of the 99%? Where were the single mothers/fathers/families who lived below or at the poverty line? Where were the minorities from underserved communities who could barely afford to provide books to the overrun schools within their districts? Was there a way to get these people participating when so much of their time was spent actively providing for their families in the best ways the knew how?

“According to the Village Voice, New Yorker Malik Rhasaan launched a Facebook page for Occupy The Hood after observing what he sees as a lack of racial diversity among OWS protesters. “I noticed there isn’t a strong black and Latino presence. … People don’t know why Wall Street affects them. It affects us the most when we’re not knowledgeable about it,” he told the newspaper. As of Wednesday, the Facebook page had nearly 6,700 followers, and Rhasaan had paired with Detroit-based community activist Johari Uhuru to help spread the word in other cities.”

Read more: http://moneyland.time.com/2011/10/20/is-occupy-wall-street-too-white/#ixzz1bqf0oaza

http://www.facebook.com/OccupyTheHood

Occupy The Hood Logo

October 26, 2011

Gay Nights/Ladies Nights + Gay Clubs/Gender Exclusive Clubs and Lounges: Shabbily Disguised Discrimination or Safe Spaces? – Myan Melendez

During this past summer my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of being newly 21 by checking out some of  the numerous bars, clubs and lounges in NYC that we had been denied entry to in the past. On one such night while riding on the 6 train we received a recommendation from a really sweet and exceedingly well dressed Brazilian dude  named Felipe who told us to check out a club called Greenhouse located in SoHo. He told us they had really great music coupled with a must see decor….lush vines and color changing lights adorned the walls and ceilings. After bar hopping for a bit we headed over. When we had finally reached the front of the line the hostess -a drag queen- moodily asked  us whether or not we knew that it was Gay Night and implied that perhaps we “girls” would feel more “comfortable” coming back another time. The fact that she asked the question in such arch manner made it seem as though we as what she assumed to be heterosexual females were a) not welcome or b) that we would somehow feel ill at ease or turned off by the presence of a dominant population of presumably gay men. In a way it felt that she was playing into negative stereotypes while also attempting to reinforce the segregation of people by sexuality as if we couldn’t possibly all dance together as people who simply wanted to enjoy themselves on a weekend. Apparently, I and my friends are not the only one’s to feel this way as I found a facebook group REFUSED ENTRY TO G-A-Y AND HEAVEN FOR LOOKING TOO STRAIGHT?

“As many of you may have experienced being turned away for not looking like ‘regular’s or being ‘members’…what they mean is YOU DON’T LOOK GAY ENOUGH!!! Sounds crazy right? But unfortunately it’s very true and happening far too often!

They are justifying it by calling it a lesbian and gay majority policy but isn’t this another form of discrimination? Does this mean that all the other clubs have straight majority policies? Or that I could get turned away from Tiger Tiger for looking too much like a lesbian??!!

I understand that you don’t want a gay club filled with all straight people but I thought gay clubs were meant to be gay friendly not gay exclusive?? I’m a gay woman, I’ve been turned away at both venue’s on occasion simply because I didn’t look dykie enough that night, what do you want me to do snog a girl in front of you to prove it? lol Or maybe get a gay card I.D perhaps, it’s totally ridiculous!! I like to wear dresses and heels sometimes, other times I like my baggy jeans and a t- shirt…so what’s the problem!!!

I think their policy is dumb and ruins a lot of people’s nights out, if you get turned away and you are in fact gay you feel cheated and angry because you have been judged. Gay people spend enough of their lives being judged by other people, why should they have to deal with it on a night out as well?”

Boys Night Out Club Promotion Poster- Philly

Another questionable practice that follows the same line as Gay Nights is the oft debated premise of Ladies’ Nights. Being a “lady” myself I do in fact, enjoy Ladies’ Nights mostly because they are so generous to my wallet; often allowing for free entrance, and free/discounted drinks and food. However, my freebie euphoria is countered by a smidgen of guilt at the extreme price gouging encountered by my male friends who often have to pay premium prices just to party alongside their companions of the fairer sex. In fact, one NYC attorney – Roy Den Hollander- was so disgruntled with what he perceived as this biased policy that he  sued a handful of nightclubs and bars over it…and lost.

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/new_york_ruling_continues_deba.html

 

“The lawyer had previously sued Columbia University for offering women’s-studies courses. A 2007 New Yorker story of Den Hollander’s apparently long-standing quest portrayed him as a bar-hopping, what’s the word, player, noting that, ‘as a hound dog, his fight to defeminize clubs was perhaps counter to his self-interest.’ ”

Yet, would the abolition of Gay Night’s and Ladies’ Nights promote equality and unity or simply erase much needed safe and fun social spaces which accomodate age old population niches within our social scheme…

An article entitled: Women-only health clubs gain popularity, draw controversy 

seems to support the latter: When she’d tried two different health clubs in Anchorage, Alaska, Joan Pirone never quite felt comfortable working out. She worried about wearing the right clothes and felt too intimidated to venture into the free-weight room.”I was afraid of making a fool of myself,” says Pirone, 60. “All these guys are pumping 250 pounds, and there isn’t even a 4-pound dumbbell for me to pick up. How are you supposed to feel?”

Three years later, Pirone feels so confident with free weights that she offers technique tips to her fellow club members. She uses 20-pound dumbbells for her bicep curls, and never worries whether her jog-bra is too tight or her shorts properly stylish. The difference: Pirone has switched to Women’s Nautilus, one of two women-only health clubs in Anchorage.

“At coed clubs you feel like you’re on TV, like the men are constantly looking at you,” she says. “But our club is so supportive. I have achieved a lot more here than I ever would have at the other clubs.”…

http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/diet.fitness/05/31/women.only.wmd/

October 17, 2011

Gabe Adels-Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia

I wouldn’t necessarily have expected such a young and hip crowd, wearing nothing but colorful vests. I would expect more older and uglier nudist dudes who just wanna be free. But it was mostly hipsters.

People’s behavior generally isn’t sexualized in the magazine advertisement sense of the word. It seems more of an openness, as opposed to flaunting one’s stuff. With the camera panning around, there was only minor noticeable insecurity and one girl whose look seemed to say “check me out”.

Still, one would almost expect a more sexual atmosphere from an event like this. These people are breaking such a cultural boundary, but they’re still just generally standing around in the groups of people that they probably came with. Those alone are mostly talking on cell phones. No one’s hooking up.

Is it a more powerful statement if sexual or non-sexual? Non-sexual says that nakedness doesn’t necessarily mean sex, which is sort of more revolutionary that the sexual, which says that sex is ok in public space. Both are a criticism of engrained cultural premises of cloths and sex, but the former seems somehow more taught in the nurture stages of development, whereas the latter feels like a law that people have to follow. Both are really cultural rules though.