Articles in section: 'New York Interest'

Man “Baked to Death” in New York City Jail Cell

Man baked to death in NYC jailA man in New York City was picked up last month on the charge of trespassing. He had been found by police sleeping in a stairwell of a public housing project in Harlem. It has surely been a very cold winter in New York, and I guess that’s one of the places where someone without a home of his own could find some shelter. Public housing projects in New York City generally have token and non-functioning security mechanisms, so that anyone can just stroll in off the street and do whatever they want in the stairwells—which is naturally catastrophic for the quality of life of all of the residents (and yet our new mayor is more concerned about banning carriage horses from pulling carriages, rather than fixing such a fundamental problem for so many poor city residents). The easy accessibility of a legally-prohibited sleeping space was arguably tragedy number one for this man, Jerome Murdough, although really it had come after all of those other tragedies that led him to his life of living on and off the street. [Read more →]

New York City Winter

There hasn’t been a winter like this in New York City since … well, since there were wolves in Wales.

Dog in snow New York City

And yet at once one has to apologize, because what New York City has been experiencing is nothing compared to what others have been going through, in places like Minnesota and the Dakotas, and indeed in Georgia and North Carolina where they were just plainly unprepared for a bizarre onslaught of cold white material falling right out of the sky. Although my experience is limited, I doubt that there is any city in the world better able to deal with winter storms than New York, where the very worst blizzards only seem to succeed in slowing the city down for a couple of hours. It’s one of what seem lately to be a decreasing number of advantages to living in this city. [Read more →]

Snowstorm in Central Park

The statue of Balto (hero sled dog of 1925) watches over the first real snow of winter in New York City today.

Balto with snow in Central Park
[click for larger] [Read more →]

Visiting the September 11th Memorial

September 11th MemorialThe National September 11th Memorial opened in lower Manhattan on September 12th, 2011; so, it has now been open for two years. Yet, though yours truly is a resident of New York City, I only got around to seeing it for the first time last week, in the company of an out-of-town visitor who was interested in going there. Frankly, I’d had no great interest in seeing it (which I knew meant reserving a ticket and then standing in line to gain access to the memorial). Why? I suppose—although I fully appreciate the purpose of a national memorial for the victims of the September 11th attacks—that I just felt no need to utilize it. Without wanting to come across dramatic and angst-ridden, I think I can honestly say that I remember the 9/11 attack each and every day that I am in New York. And I’m quite sure that something very similar is true for most New Yorkers who were here on the day it happened. It’s merely human nature. Familiar things retain the sense of such an emotional event. I can’t so much as glance at the skyline without some measure of remembrance, however fleeting. A jet airliner flying relatively low … it’s just the way it is, and will be, till these bones are desposited into the earth. And just the typical weather of September in New York City evokes that day, in a similar way to that in which a specific smell can evoke vivid memories of a long past moment.

In addition to that, I didn’t lose a loved one in the attacks, so the site would not be a place for me to go and remember or pray for any one in particular.

Nevertheless, I can well understand why out-of-towners would want to go, and so I dutifully accompanied my visitor. It was not a challenge to reserve tickets online a day before (the rush has diminished since the opening two years ago). And the line to get in, through the entrance at the corner of Greenwich and Albany, moved pretty quickly. In line, one’s first impression is the similarity to going through airport security. There is a fairly thorough security check (please leave your guns and bombs at the hotel) and the passes I’d printed out from the internet were checked no less than three times.

At the end of it, you emerge into the September 11th Memorial, which is entirely outdoors. It basically comprises the land area that was occupied by the Twin Towers, and the space between them and immediately around them. (The new World Trade Center “Freedom Tower” is immediately adjacent.) When the towers were standing, you would have been able to walk through this space freely, entering from multiple points on the Manhattan street grid. Now that they’re gone, there is the single entrance via the security checks. [Read more →]

Sad Commentary: A Fatal Fall at Sutton Place

Sad commentary: Fatal Fall at Sutton PlaceA 35 year-old woman fell to her death from the 17th floor of a building on 57th St. in New York City last night (or early this morning). She was apparently leaning against the railings on her apartment’s balcony when those railings suddenly gave way. The details are no doubt still to be fully established. Obviously, tragic accidents occur every day. This one is in the news at all only because of the particular drama of such a fall in midtown Manhattan. The story itself is, truth be told, relevant only to the people personally involved, and the people who mourn the woman’s loss.

Yet, what’s really remarkable is seeing the kinds of comments on this story that so many people have left, using in most cases their real names and Facebook identities. I don’t read comment sections anymore as a rule, but the first ones I saw on this were so horrible that I felt obliged to go on and see if they continued in that vein. And they did. Many of the most vile remarks were those directed at the dead woman because the story had reported that she was smoking on her balcony when the accident occurred. People felt it worthwhile to pause long enough on the page to leave brief derisive comments such as, “Who wants to date a woman who smokes and smells like tobacco – yuck,” or “She was a smoker. Poor judgment is par for the course.” Or something along the lines of “Tobacco kills!” Again, people using their real names, with photos and actual Facebook profiles attached (sometimes hugging a spouse or clasping their small child in their arms) stop to leave a random insult on a public webpage with a story about a woman who has just died. They are capable of being just that shameless. [Read more →]

Freedom Tower Spire Takes its Place in the New York Skyline

Freedom Tower SpireIt’s been a long time coming, but it’s there now, nearly twelve years after the September 11th attacks which brought down the Twin Towers. Watching the spire put into place, it’s a reminder that this is how big things are achieved: metal on metal, on concrete, on bedrock, time after time after time. It is difficult and dangerous work and it is an amazing effort of vision and will and strength on the part of so many people. It’s hard to build big buildings. The people who took the World Trade Center towers down could not have erected them in a thousand years. To destroy these American buildings, they had to use American jetliners, cutting people’s throats with blades to take control of them. That defines where such people stand and what they stand for. If they can, they ought to change their hearts and their minds and look to create and to foster life, instead of destroying and killing in the name of their death cult. Meanwhile, in a clearly tangible answer to their hatred, the skyscraper goes up in place of the one they brought down, all 1776 feet of it, the tallest building in the western hemisphere today. [Read more →]

Photos of New York City past

Flatiron Building, winter
Via here, and via here.

Whether you live here or not, if you are at all enamored of New York City, you are likely to enjoy scrolling through a Tumblr photo blog called “NYC Past” (via Mick Hartley), which evidently collects photos of New York City down through the decades from sources such as the Library of Congress.

In substantial ways, there are few places which change as much and as quickly as New York City, with a competitive and churning commercial atmosphere that leads to the quick rise and fall of many businesses, and of-course a constant influx of new immigrants from far flung and exotic places like Haiti, India, and Oklahoma. Waves of immigrants had their particular eras as we well know: the Italians, the Irish, the Germans, and so on, but it never ends. Neighborhoods that are at one time slum-like (or actually slums) then become fancied by the artists and wannabee-layabouts, then become hip, then fashionable, then unaffordable by the common man. One way or another all of these cycles continue and yet in some deep-down ways New York never changes; it is still a crazy mix of absolutely everything and it has remained the best shot at a true melting pot that we’ve discovered. Or so I think.

In photographs over the past 100-plus years, for all of the changes, there are the constants. The Flatiron building, pictured above, and built in 1902, is one of the greatest of those, and—although I’m no architecture egghead but merely an average citizen—it seems to me that it is one of the most nearly-perfect buildings ever constructed, occupying its particular location at Fifth and Broadway so aptly as to make one wonder if that corner could have ever existed without it, and maintaining its grace and physical poetry through each and every year since, irregardless of the chaos all around. You can’t take a bad picture of the Flatiron (or at least it’s pretty darned difficult), and it sheds a sense of timelessness over the entire Madison Square neighborhood.

An even-older anchor of New York which you’ll encounter repeatedly if you scroll through NYC Past is the Brooklyn Bridge, which is to bridges what the Flatiron is to buildings. It is just as it should be, and reminds one of how few edifices actually exist in our world of which you could make the same observation.

A little later in NYC history, the Empire State makes the statement only it can make, and the Chrysler building forever seems like an impish and more clever response to it (even though it was actually finished about a year earlier).

Strolling through the streets of New York City past through these photos is a fascinating delight, and the strongest impression for yours truly is how little things have changed in a fundamental sense, and yet how interesting are the changes which have taken place.


Interesting, and sometimes sad. The photograph below, taken sometime in the early 1900s, shows the waiting room at Grand Central Station. Grand Central Station still exists, thank God, and is as impressive as ever. I maintain that if you approach it from Park Avenue South, it takes on the appearance of the grandest-of-all paperweights, holding down Forty-Second Street and indeed midtown-in-general. On the day it is removed, New York will surely explode, just as everyone has been expecting it to do all of these years. The sad change evidenced in the photograph has taken place in the people. Back then, as you will notice, people knew how to wear hats. Both the men and the women. Even just sitting, waiting for their train, they would not be without the appropriate cranial decoration. It is not so today. The decline in the wearing of hats (baseball caps do not count) has been accompanied by too many other declines to list here. Well, thanks to NYC Past, we can dream of a better age.

Grand Central Station Waiting Room
Via here, and via here.

Edward I. Koch, 1924 – 2013

Edward I. KochMy favorite story about former New York City mayor Ed Koch—who passed on the other day at the age of 88—is one he used to tell about himself. He enjoyed telling stories about himself, of-course. This story involves a boating operation called the Circle Line, which ferries tourists around the entire island of Manhattan, up the East River and across the Harlem River and down the Hudson, with a tour guide pointing out the sights. As it chugs up that part of the East River adjacent to 88th Street, the tour guide would naturally point out the graceful old mansion situated there, which happens to be named Gracie Mansion. It is the official residence of whoever is the mayor of New York (although our current monarch, Mr. Bloomberg, chooses to stay in his own fancier digs on 79th Street).

Circle Line ferryAs I recall hizzoner Mayor Koch telling it, he would enjoy going outside of the residence sometimes and looking for the Circle Line ferry approaching; as it passed, he would wave wildly and yell something like, “Here I am! It’s me! Here I am!”

The story is especially funny, I think, because it is so very easy to picture him doing this. [Read more →]

Carol Singing and Tree Lighting on Park Avenue in New York City

In 1945, a tradition was begun in New York City by a group of families led by one Mrs. Stephen C. Clark, to illuminate fir trees up and down the median of tony Park Avenue to honor members of the military who lost their lives in World War II. It is continued to this day as a memorial to those who have lost their lives defending the nation, and is accompanied by the singing of Christmas carols, with the throngs gathering in front of the Brick Presbyterian Church at 91st St. and Park Avenue. It takes place on the evening of the first Sunday of December, which was today. Park Avenue in the vicinity is closed to vehicular traffic and the crowds stream in on foot from the south and the north.

Traditions like these are worth cherishing. There’s a very short video clip below captured during this evening’s proceedings. [Read more →]

Sandy: The political parade of mutual congratulation

In 2005, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush was caught on a microphone saying “Heckuva job, Brownie,” to the then-Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown. This quick bit of positive reinforcement for his FEMA head was subsequently (and is to this day) hung around Dubya’s neck and juxtaposed with every iota of human hardship associated with Katrina and New Orleans. How could Bush compliment Brown when so many people were still suffering?

That was then. Consider what we’ve been witnessing since last Tuesday, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, in terms of political leaders and bureaucrats praising one another in a non-stop cavalcade of love and affection. You can’t tune into any of these press conferences, by Bloomberg, Cuomo or Christie, without hearing a great litany of how happy the various leaders and governments and agencies are with one another. “Unprecedented cooperation.” “FEMA is doing everything we ask.” “Couldn’t be happier.” “So grateful.” It has all been crowned, of-course, by the outpouring of gratitude and appreciation on Wednesday between Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and President Barack Obama. [Read more →]

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