This is that “just 10 degrees warmer please” time of year, when the long, gray drudgery of March starts to crack into early Spring. People are sick of it – you know it’s April in New York when it gets just a hair above 60 degrees, and the sidewalk cafes are packed with bundled-up diners pretending not to shiver. But as the flowers begin to appear, first tentatively, then explosively, we know sweet May is not long off.
These are some photos tracing the end of Winter and the first baby steps of Spring. Near the bottom are pictures of the almost-complete 1 World Trade Center
On Friday, I compiled my running string of Facebook and Twitter posts dealing with “Superstorm” Sandy. Today, with relief and recovery efforts underway, and as another nor’easter bears down on the NY – NJ metropolitan region, I once again present a compilation of my hour-to-hour posts.
Some photosets of post-storm NYC:
Scenes from a blacked out Manhattan: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157631914010512/
Scenes from the Rockaways: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157631950208338/
As nightime temperatures approach freezing, millions are still without power, and many communities are completely displaced. People are no less in dire straits than they were when the storm hit. Here are a few resources for those who need help, and those who can offer help:
A site specific to the Rockaways – a resource for volunteers and those needing help: http://rockawayhelp.com
By all accounts I’ve heard and seen first hand, OccupySandy has been doing an excellent job getting into areas and helping in ways that conventional relief agencies have been unable to:
Check out the site if you need help, or can provide it: http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/
An NYC.gov apartment sharing resource. Be a host, or a guest! https://www.airbnb.com/sandy
– A tremendously comprehensive crisis map from Google. Even a week after the storm, things are changing hour to hour, so always double check!: http://google.org/crisismap/2012-sandy
Text SHELTER + zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to receive information on the nearest shelter in your area
Friday, November 2, 2012 –
Yesterday I took some photos from within the “blackout zone” of Manhattan, the immense stretch from 34th Street to the Battery:
The full photoset: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157631914010512/
– Lights are coming back on in Manhattan, and the marathon has been cancelled. You can probably hear the cheering from space. It’s just in time too. Manhattan is dealing really well, but I can’t see it taking the lack of access to food and water for too much longer.
– In the city alone, more than 200 lost pets need foster homes: gothamist.com/2012/11/02/urgent_adopt_or_foster_these_dogs_a.php
– An incredible shot of a darkened Chinatown:
– So power’s coming back rather quickly to Manhattan – Considering the nightlife “meccas” that were hit, whatever bar manages to open is surely going to see a rager tonight.
It was before I was born, but many recall that during the blackout of 1977, which didn’t last nearly as long, the city saw terrible rioting and looting. I can’t say enough about all the comraderie and generosity I’ve seen; people really did become reacquainted with their immediate neighbors. You see it often on the news happening in other parts, but it’s really striking to see the Nat’l Guard handing out MRE’s in NYCNow that things are looking up for Manhattan, hopefully more attention can be focused on the really devastated areas in the Rockaways, the Brooklyn oceanfront, and, of course, the Jersey Shore and Staten Island. It’s a neighborhood most people don’t know, but it’s coming out that Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, which was not officially in the Zone A evacuation area, saw tidal surge upwards of 8 feet. Another shattered neighborhood among many.On a brighter side, many would-be marathon participants are offering help and their hotel rooms to the displaced. Also, the NY Aquarium, which was completely flooded, seems to be on the path of recovery, with most of the animals unharmed.
Jersey City and Bayonne are back on the grid, may be another week for the Rockaways. Floyd Bennett Field is a staging ground. People are waitng on line for more than 4 hours for gas – one stretches for two miles. Some counties are enacting rationing – (even days for plates that end in an even number)
They’re still looking survivors all along the shore. Many have lost everything. Devastation and terrible stories from Connecticut down to New Jersey – The world’s 4th largest metropolitan area and then some.
It’s been a week since my first post about the storm, when the heavy salty air hung over the city and the vanguard clouds began to appear. I’ve heard it said that the way people react during the first week of a disaster is a no-brainer, in fact sometimes the numbers coming out to help overwhelms the coordination.
or call 1-866-VOTE-NYC
The first of May has a fascinating folk history. In pre-Christian tradition, it was the first day of summer and a day to celebrate fertility. But beyond maypoles and bonfires, the Industrial era gave the day a wholly new meaning.
On May 1, 1886, workers throughout the United States struck and rallied for the establishment of the 8-hour workday. The largest participation was in Chicago, a rapidly expanding industrial town that had seen a huge influx of immigrants, many of whom were exploited as cheap labor by Gilded Age robber-barons. After a few days of protest, a bombing and subsequent shooting at Haymarket Square led to a massive crackdown on worker’s groups which resulted in a number of executions based on inconclusive evidence.
Over the next decades, the 1st of May became a rallying day for socialists and anarchists around the world, and in an attempt to distance itself, the U.S. government decided to set aside the first Monday of September to recognize Labor. Eventually May Day became a focal point for Communist nations, which made its celebration complete anathema to America. Its name was changed for a time to “Americanization Day”, and then to “Law Day” and “Loyalty Day” (which is today is the official name for May 1)
Nonetheless, International Workers’ Day, which has become an official holiday the world over, and has been dedicated to “Saint Joseph the Worker” by the Catholic Church, never stopped being remembered in the U.S., though never to any great extent.
That is, until this year. It’s been festering for decades, but the past months have seen a distinct resurgence of the concerns of class inequality and of corruption of a government closely tied to financial interest.
Early in 2012, during the winter in which it was said that the Occupy movement was over, Occupy LA called for a May Day “General Strike”, a day in which the so-called 99% would not work, go to school, nor participate in the economy in any way. The move was quickly approved nationwide, and over the next months gained support and endorsement from a number of unions, immigrant groups, and labor coalitions. Of course, no one truly believed that a vast number of the population would strike, but the goal was rather to make a large statement of solidarity and to demonstrate the power regular people can have if they band together, even outside of the traditional frameworks of American politics.
And so, on Tuesday, May Day returned home to the United States for its largest commemoration in generations. With the old labor movements and the Communist era receding further into history, the day is no longer about Socialism per se, nor does it carry antiquated “un-American” connotations any longer.
There were participants in hundreds of places across the country. But of course, urban centers attracted the most attention. In New York alone, upwards of 50,000 turned out, and other cities had proportionally similar attendance. In addition, there were countless online supporters who could not participate in person.
Most of the mainstream media have painted an awfully skewed picture of the day, focusing primarily on arrests and a handful of shameful vandals. I was out for 12 hours on May Day, covering miles of Manhattan, and the following was my experience, and the experience of many others:
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out…”
The first stop was Bryant Park, the rallying point for numerous small-scale pickets to various locations throughout Midtown Manhattan. At 9am, it was rainy and the initial turnout was disappointing. This very quickly changed over the next few hours. The first picket that I went with numbered in the hundreds and wound its way through Times Square and around various bank office buildings along 6th Avenue near Radio City. On the way we passed and supported pickets of employees who’d walked out of their workplaces. The group, while spirited, kept to the sidewalk and remained resolutely peaceful. Of course, a small army of police tagged along.
“When immigrant workers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Next from Bryant Park we went with an immigrants group picketing various locations guilty of abuses towards restaurant and service industry workers. The police somehow missed this one, and the march took to the roadway, moving along the middle of Madison Avenue and then into the streets surrounding Grand Central Terminal. When the riot police showed up, the crowd immediately decided to return to the sidewalk and continued on with no loss of inspiration.
Meanwhile, Occupy Williamsburg and Occupy Bushwick had come across the Williamsburg Bridge (on the pedestrian walkway) and some were about to set off on a “wildcat” march – Historically, a wildcat strike is one in which people are participating without the consent of their unions. We were unable to catch up with it, but later heard reports of vandalism and purposeful taunting of police committed by idiots dressed in black, who were bent on tarnishing the day’s positive spirit to satisfy their own destructive impulses. Their actions have been condemned by the vast majority of May Day participants, but this unrepresentative 15-minute incident is one that the media chose to latch onto in their coverage of the day, in a strange attempt to amplify what they called “clashes with police”.
“Who do you protect, who do you serve?!”
We caught up in Washington Square Park, where a rally of NYU students was taking place. By now, the sun had appeared and the temperature was rising into a summerlike humidity. Many of those in the park eventually set off on a march towards 6th avenue with the ultimate goal of arrival at Union Square, where thousands were already converging, including the huge contingent from Bryant Park. Very soon after setting off, a few protesters on bikes were arrested, a couple first being thrown to the ground, and one suffering a bloody nose. The arrests were seemingly random, as we observed no criminal act and no warning; the ferocity of the police attack was completely uncalled for. Immediately the cops shut down the avenue and hundreds of officers in riot gear swarmed the block, creating a disruption far worse than that of the sidewalk protesters.
“We are the 99%”
Every demonstrator across the city now arrived at Union Square, site of the labor and May Day protests of the Progressive era. At 4pm there began a brief rally of short speeches and a few musical performances for what was now a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands; the entire park and surrounding streets were completely packed. It had turned into a beautiful afternoon and evening. At 5:30, the main event of the day, the march to Wall Street, set off down Broadway. It took around an hour to move the entire park out, and the line stretched for blocks, perhaps around 3/4 of a mile long.
The march demonstrated the wide variety of causes at work: the United Federation of Teachers, the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns, the Transit Workers Union, solidarity groups from Montreal and the suburbs, construction workers, Socialists, immigrant groups, Ron Paul supporters, and of course, Occupy Wall Street, to name only a few.
People watched from their windows and fire escapes while bemused tourists on the sidewalk snapped photos. There were many shouts of solidarity from the bystanders, and a handful of taunts from others.
“Get up, get down, there’s revolution in this town!”
The participants could be numbered in the tens of thousands. Though impossible to accurately count, my conservative estimate was roughly 30,000. As the march approached the financial district, the mood rose to a joyous fever pitch climaxing into euphoria as it arrived at Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the movement. Compared to the numbers on the streets, the park looked small – an inspiring testament to what had became of a handful of campers back in September, not all that long ago. Wall Street itself was guarded by a phalanx of cops on horseback, and the march ended at the Battery where there were speakers, a small free-food kitchen, and a large General Assembly that celebrated the day and discussed the future. A few hundred yards away the New York Bay was silent, untouched by the fervor of the streets.
The whole way down, an army of NYPD, including 3 helicopters, “guarded” the demonstration, moving walls of scooters alongside protesters, despite the fact that the route was already barricaded in the manner that all NYC parades are. We witnessed one seemingly pointless arrest as riot police plucked an individual from the crowd for who-knows-what.
Despite isolated incidents of this sort, the march was hugely peaceful. The local media reported that the Office of Emergency Management had issued an advisory of “emergency street closures”. In fact, the march had city permits, was anticipated, and followed the protocol of all New York parades. There were no “emergency closures”. Along with the isolated “clashes with police”, traffic disruptions were another fixation of the day’s mainstream reportage. Surely, there was a disruption, but certainly no more than that caused by sports victory parades, St Patrick’s Day, and scores of other parades that happen year round across the city.
The mainstream media has regularly proven itself skewed across the board. But this is becoming less and less important as independent journalists have increasing ability to get their stories out there.
My 12-hour, citywide, May Day experience was wholly positive, communicated very serious issues, and brought together a plethora of causes in a spirit of solidarity and common goals. All this was conveyed with much vigor, but, to my eyes, always remained peaceful. Aside from the handful of despicable vandals, disruptions were relatively few. No matter one’s position, how can one hold in contempt the fundamental right of citizens to petition their grievances? “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” it has been said. If people are passionate enough to take their message to the street in significant numbers, who can say that their voices should not be heard, and their actions not reported with accuracy?
But no matter- it was certainly the largest protest since the autumn, and the future promises exciting developments. This May Day, as recognized by folk tradition, was truly the beginning of summer.
Major NYC blog, Gothamist.com, used my photo for a piece last night –
This was taken on Wednesday at Bryant Park, right before OWS’s march on Bank of America and other Midtown financial headquarters (as part of a national day of action that saw demonstrations across the nation).
Even the police were cracking smiles at this comic relief. Though about 15 minutes later, one of their clown friends was arrested.
One-day protests come and go, usually without much notice. In our world of continual distraction, these things are easy to gloss over – especially in the hands of an apathetic media. The strategy of indefinite occupation is far more effective – it is designed to create ever-increasing involvement and solidarity. As the word spreads, the movement is moving beyond fringe groups. This week has seen the picketing of postal workers and pilots’ unions before the steps of the New York Stock Exchange:
Today was the 12th day of the Occupy Wall St movement and it is growing in strength and in numbers, not just in New York anymore, but all over the country and world. (http://occupytogether.org/)
The optimism and determination at the Zuccotti Park encampment is fueled by this progress. It is palpable as you walk around- scattered about are small groups talking policy, tactics, by-laws, etc. Organization is being organized. Along Broadway, demonstrators appeal to the rush-hour crowds. Makeshift cardboard signs line the perimeter of the park – attracting tourists, shoppers, and businessmen – some of whom express support, others of whom have many questions, and, of course, those who pass with mocking laughter. The weather has been weirdly summer-ish; but more humid rain is coming – tarp-lined beds are being set up.
At the other end of the park, drummers and various other musicians have assembled in an improvisatory canon resembling the Terry Riley classic “In C”
And in true NY entrepreneurial spirit, a number of food carts have set up along the edges of the square – In a weird comingtogether, both protester and police have lined up to partake of their offerings.
The movement has attracted a number of high-profile figures, including Immortal Technique
Protest movements have always attracted harsh criticism and cynical mockery. People do not like their boats to be rocked. It is very easy to forget that many of the rights we enjoy come from a similar voice as that of the current expressions. Both the Progressive era of 100 years ago and the Civil Rights movement of 50 years ago attracted their fair share of scorn in their day. However – their outcomes are now a part of common American life.
From the stalwart of rugged individualism that was Theodore Roosevelt, the progressive, come these:
“A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”
“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”
“The liberty of which Mr. Wilson speaks today means merely the liberty of some great trust magnate to do that which he is not entitled to do. It means merely the liberty of some factory owner to work haggard women over-hours for under-pay and himself to pocket the profits. It means the liberty of the factory owner to close his operatives into some crazy deathtrap on a top floor, where if fire starts, the slaughter is immense….We propose, on the contrary, to extend governmental power in order to secure the liberty of the wage workers, of the men and women who toil in industry, to save the liberty of the oppressed from the oppressor. Mr. Wilson stands for the liberty of the oppressor to oppress. We stand for the limitation of his liberty not to oppress those who are weaker than himself” also T. Roosevelt (1912) http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5722/
More info: https://occupywallst.org/
Looming over Lower Manhattan on Broadway, near Wall St., 1915’s Equitable Building symbolizes a turning-point in high-rise construction and urban zoning.
Incredibly, the New York skyscraper was born on the narrow 17th century streets of Lower Manhattan. As each new tower went up around the turn of last century, more and more sunlight became obscured from the ground- much to the horror of citizens who were grappling with this type of architectural scale for the first time in history. To this day, in fact, some streets here have not seen direct sun in a century.
The Equitable Building so obscured Broadway that a public outcry resulted in changes in zoning law which required tall buildings to have setbacks. This helped usher in the sleek, “pointy tower” Art Deco era of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.
Incidentally, the Equitable Building contained more office space than any other building in the world until the opening of the Empire State in 1931.
Built in the 1930’s and used until 1980, this elevated freight line ran up the West Side from the Meatpacking District. Abandoned through the 80’s and 90’s, wild plants and grasses took root up here and it became the (illegal) haunt of graffiti artists and urban adventurers. There were always rumors about the best ways to evade security and sneak up here.
Towards the 2000’s, the city started to move to tear it down, but thanks to the efforts of community groups like “Friends of the High Line”, it was instead turned into a city park.
For more check out:
Gothamist picked up my pic the other day-
Along 9th Ave., in the decidedly un-hip shadow of the PA Bus Terminal on Manhattan’s West Side, lies Rudy’s, a dive of dives in the great tradition of Subway Inn, Holiday Cocktail Lounge, St. Jerome’s et al..
Rudy’s has all the elements of a great dive bar- a dark interior that hasn’t been washed in half a century, sticky duct-taped booths, that familiar but indescribable stale smell, fading snapshots taped to the wall behind the cash register, the same pushing-old-age women daily tending bar…
This place, though, kicks it up a notch.
For 7 dollars you can get a pitcher of “Rudy’s Blond”- a suspect, watery swill that one can imagine is drippings gathered from the beer-tap drain. For 3 dollars more, you can shoot some vodka to disinfect the stomach. For 0 dollars, you can soak it all up with delicious scum-water hotdogs. There’s an element of “grown-up day-care”, the same men day after day getting their drink on from noon to night- guys with union t-shirts and tool boxes and their retired counterparts who seem as if they’ve never left the place- including a couple of emaciated octogenarians. At the same time, it is a mixed crowd- unpretentious artists, writers, Broadway musicians, and the odd tourist.
The thing about dives is that most everyone is ready for conversation- and talk is in no short supply at Rudy’s. It’s the sort of place where you invite strangers to your booth and chat away the evening.
Sadly, bars like these are a dying breed in New York- lurking in the shadows of hyper development, waiting to be bought up and replaced. Hopefully though they can hold on just a little longer.