Tag Archives: city

The Cinch Review

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.

The Cinch Review

Sandy: aftermath of the tempest

Clearly this storm has been a disaster for many who badly need assistance and prayers. Here at Cinch HQ in NYC we can only be grateful not to have lost power or suffered any other significant damage. Were it not for seeing it on the news, we wouldn’t even know it had been such a damaging storm. Would that everyone could say the same thing.

In terms of New York City at large, it seems the damage to the subway system is the biggest single issue hanging over the recovery effort. Shutting down the system was meant to avoid serious flooding by salt water, but it occurred anyway, and that’s a very big deal which will impact service for quite some time and cost plenty to fix. Continue reading Sandy: aftermath of the tempest

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Sandy: an update from within the tempest

‘Tis well I remember Hurricane Irene from 14 months ago. I remember going out just about when it was predicted to have been at its worst. The rain had stopped and light was breaking through the clouds; it seemed for all the world like a nice day. I thought: “Wow, this must be the eye of the storm.” But no: that was the storm — at least in our neighborhood.

I’m so tempted to say “Deja-vu all over again.” Yet, it’s clear enough from news reports that low-lying areas by the sea are getting inundated, and no one can say this storm isn’t going to be very serious for many people. But as far as dramatic effects in the heart of New York City … well, there have been passing summer thunderstorms that created more of a stir. We’ve had breezes, the occasional howling gust, and some moderate but intermittent rain. The focus in the media right now on a single crane slightly dislodged in midtown seems to sum things up; there’s a distinct lack of news, at least in Manhattan. Continue reading Sandy: an update from within the tempest

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Empire State Building shooting

Update 10:45 a.m.: So, although reports continue to be somewhat contradictory, it does appear at this point to have been an isolated shooting, based on a personal motive, unconnected to terrorism. The picture will be clearer after a few hours, but I think it would be pointless for the likes of yours truly to continue updating at this point.

So, signing off, with a prayer for the recovery of those who are being treated for their injuries as a result of this morning’s events.

Update 10:28 a.m.: Local TV now interviewing people outside kvetching about not being able to get where they’re going.

Two are reported dead, counting the gunman. Eight others reported injured.

Suspect was reportedly fired from his job yesterday, according to local CBS News television. They also report that it was the manager of the business who was shot and killed by the gunman, at about 9 a.m. today.

Update 10:15 a.m.: NY Post says it was a “dispute between coworkers” which spilled out onto the street.

Update 10:09 a.m.: Shooter was “disgruntled employee” of a business located at the building, according to a report on NBC New York.

At least 10 people shot at the Empire State Building in New York City this morning, including reportedly the gunman. In addition to the total lock-down by the NYPD around 34th St. and 5th avenue, the FBI is on the scene. At this stage all the injured are said to have been taken to hospitals.

Based on watching the police activity on TV and laying down of markers, it appears that at least some of the shooting took place right in front of the building on 5th avenue between 33rd and 34th. Some victims reportedly found in the lobby.

The obvious remark is that no one would start shooting at that location unless they were fully prepared to lose their own life in the process. It is one of the iconic sites in Manhattan were there is always a police presence and an expectation of possible terrorism. If anything, at this point, it is surprising the gunman managed to shoot so many people. But at this point what we really know is nothing. Will update this post if it seems justified.

The Cinch Review

New York ban on church use of space in schools upheld

For some years now, a number of religious congregations in New York City that were short of worship space have taken advantage of unoccupied public school buildings, and paid a fee to use such space for their services. Other community groups and organizations do similar things. A win-win, you would think. However, the City of New York has long been suing to prevent churches—and only the churches, mind you—from utilizing public school space in this way. Something to do, I guess, with the terrible danger to innocent kids of merely knowing that the space they’re sitting in might have been occupied the evening before by a person who professes belief in God. Continue reading New York ban on church use of space in schools upheld

No God, But New York City Public School Students Have “KARMA”

Below are two very recent headlines I grabbed:

“School shut down by Board of Ed for teaching secular Bible course.”

“Court says teacher must take down patriotic banners mentioning God.”

You see these kinds of stories all the time, with schools or teachers running afoul of what is characterized as “the separation of church and state” (which is a phrase some people mistakenly believe resides in the U.S. Constitution, but no matter that now). God doesn’t belong in a public school classroom, we are told, and that goes double for the Bible, which is a manifestation of that specific Judeo-Christian God.

Although I’m not personally an advocate of this idea of actively expunging religious concepts from the natural life and thought that would take place in schools, I do understand the concept. It’s why, when passing a public school in my New York City neighborhood, I’ve raised my eyebrow at a sign that has long hung over the main entrance. It says: “Robert F. Kennedy Students Have KARMA.” That’s PS 169, of the New York City Public School system.

KARMA 1

The students have KARMA? I think most of us know what the word means, but let’s go to Merriam-Webster for an official definition: It is “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.”

PS 169 is neither a Hindu nor a Buddhist school, but is, as mentioned, a New York City public school. So this is why my eyebrow was raised. Still and all, you see a lot of things in New York City, and you learn to keep walking. It was only one poster.

Recently, however, I had occasion to visit the same school on other business (voting). Walking through the lobby and hallways, I couldn’t help but notice that this “KARMA” concept was repeated. Again and again. It seemed to be all over the place, in fact, and in a myriad of different incarnations.

One posting says “GOOD KARMA,” with a picture of a scale, and the exhortation, “BALANCE OUT THOSE NEGATIVE VIBES.” We’re assured that “P169 HAS GOOD KARMA.”

KARMA 3

Another (my favorite) says that “STUDENTS WITH KARMA REMOVE HATS GIVE ALL CELLPHONES, IPODS, ETC. TO MR. REEVES.”

KARMA 2

Another sign—this one quite elaborately constructed in three dimensions—presents each letter of KARMA as the first letter of another word: Kind, Appropriate, Responsible, Mature, Accountable. There’s a big smiling sun perched alongside.

KARMA 4

So, that’s the root of this. Further research found evaluations of the school on an official New York City government website, and documentation regarding the “KARMA” behavior modification program, which has apparently been in place since at least 2006. As in this report (.pdf):

The school’s philosophy is that achievement is inextricably linked to behavior, so to that end the school has implemented the ‘KARMA’ initiative in school, standing for kindness, appropriacy, responsibility, maturity, accountability. All activity in the school is linked to ‘KARMA,’ from clarity about which behaviors are expected in which location in the school, to a rewards and sanctions system, in which students can “buy” such things as leisure time on the computer, book bags and pencils with the rewards of good behavior. This is reinforced in every lesson, every classroom and by every member of staff.

“KARMA” is an acronym for these behaviors and attitudes that the school wishes to encourage. Clearly, though, the use of the term also plays on the original Hindu/Buddhist concept of consequences for ethical choices. In all, it’s really very clever.

However, imagine if instead of “Robert F. Kennedy students have KARMA,” the signs said, “Robert F. Kennedy students are filled with the Holy Spirit.” Maybe someone could come up with qualities worth promoting which corresponded with those letters; let me see … HOLY: Happiness; Orderliness; Levelheadedness; Youthfulness; SPIRIT: Sensitivity; Patience; Irony; Readiness; Imperturbability; Tolerance. (I make no claim to be an expert at this but you can get one for the right price.)

Or imagine if the signs said (God forbid!): “Robert F. Kennedy students follow the Ten Commandments.” Think of the heads that would explode. Picture, if you will, the ACLU helicopters swooping in to rescue the students before their helpless and innocent minds could be contaminated by such thoughts.

KARMA is assuredly a concept that has entered the common lingo, especially since John Lennon’s big hit record, but the same can certainly be said of concepts like the Holy Spirit and the Ten Commandments, which have been around for 2000 years and more. “Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Yet these words are proscribed in the public schools, while KARMA may be promoted?

It also needs to be noted that to the same degree as KARMA is a concept born of Hinduism and Buddhism it conflicts with Judeo-Christian beliefs. KARMA presumes a cycle of existence, of incarnation and reincarnation, that just doesn’t square with the Judeo-Christian belief in reckoning and justice from a particular God: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God Jesus called “Father.” The idea of reincarnation and KARMA appeals to New-Agey kinds of Westerners who are more comfortable worshiping an impersonal creation rather than a personal Creator, but for believing Christians and Jews it is plainly unbiblical.

Therefore plastering the idea of KARMA all over a public school is not a neutral act. It displaces Judeo-Christian thought and symbology (although those thoughts and symbols have already effectively been banned).


So, where does this all lead? Am I writing this because I want KARMA stripped from this school and any other school that might use it? No. Personally, I’m not greatly incensed by the cutesy use of this term in a program intended to improve student behavior. Maybe the program works. It’s not the use of the Hindu/Buddhist concept that bothers me, but rather the zero tolerance afforded to the Judeo-Christian God and related concepts. It’s the double-standard.

Another posting I came across in the school was a quote from Malcolm X: “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything

No big argument here. But it also brought to my mind another old aphorism (often attributed to G.K. Chesterton but apparently from a Belgian writer named Emile Cammaerts):

“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything.”

It’s merely my fantasy, of-course but I sure would like to see that posted prominently in the school. I think it might balance out a little of their KARMA.

……

The Cinch Review

Central Park is closed?

Central Park is closed?
Well, not exactly. With gusty winds this afternoon, the city decided to “close” Central Park, due to the risk of falling branches. Two people have been killed by falling branches there in the past couple of years, so it’s by no means a theoretical problem. Still, closing the park today seems driven by a pronounced fear of litigation, the same fear which drives a lot of ultra-cautious decisions. In any case, it’s pretty difficult to close Central Park in practice, given its size and the enormous number of entry points. And it was pretty hard for New Yorkers (and their dogs) to resist the cool afternoon breezes today, and the desire to get out for a long walk after being cooped up by rain. Continue reading Central Park is closed?

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It’s been a breeze

Solely from the perspective of our vantage point in the upper east sector of Manhattan, Hurricane (or Tropical Storm) Irene has been next to nothing. Expecting to wake up to screaming winds and rain this morning as the eye was approaching New York City, instead we found it to be lightly raining and barely breezy. The dog has had two quite pleasant walks already today. The sun has peeked out a couple of times. Continue reading It’s been a breeze

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New York City the day before Hurricane Irene

Starbucks closed

Apocalypse: Starbucks

I’ve lived in New York City (Manhattan) through 9/11, through blizzards, one major blackout, innumerable other storms and kerfuffles, but I’ve never seen anything like what I saw today. A line of people snaking down the block outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts.

What the heck is going on here?

As was the point of my post yesterday, the truly unprecedented thing which New Yorkers are having to deal with is the system-wide shutdown of all public transportation, which was announced yesterday by the mayor and governor and which began at 12 noon today. It will presumably last at least until Monday morning.

P.C. Richards

Closed and no batteries

The knock-on effects of this are massive. I thought the stores were crazy yesterday afternoon, but today Mrs. C. tried to get a modest few items at a local supermarket and witnessed madness and stripped shelves on a far more frightening scale. The issue, in my view, is not so much that people were running out to get things because there’s some rain and wind coming, but that they were running out to get things because—with employees unable to get to and fro work, due to the transport shutdown—they know the stores will be closing, and will remain closed until Monday morning. Continue reading New York City the day before Hurricane Irene

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Spring in New York City

New York City, to those who love it, is very often beautiful, but only very rarely pretty.

There’s the strange beauty of an overcast day, with a low-hanging grayness shrouding the Empire State Building and the other clustered midtown skyscrapers. There’s the unique beauty of a subway car crammed with a motley herd of travelers — every race, creed, style of dress or undress, almost every economic class — sitting, standing, jostling, and (honestly more often than not) avoiding coming to blows. There’s the olfactory beauty of the varying and mixed up aromas of cooking that one encounters while charging down the street — the pizza places, the falafel stands, the donut shops and even the dirty-water hot dog carts (I don’t eat ’em anymore but I do like to smell ’em). Continue reading Spring in New York City