Friday, November 18

Occupy Protestors Flood the Brooklyn Bridge Again

NYPD estimated 32,500 people rallied the streets of New York last night, in support of "the 99%."  Thousands of protestors took the streets in over 30 cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Portland, ORE to celebrate its birth 2 months ago.
Police formed blockades all around the square, including a blockade of horses at the corner of Chambers and Centre Street.  Standing about ten feet apart, police officers lined the metal fencing that prevented protestors from entering Foley Square and from pouring into the streets.
By 6:00 the crowd started migrating towards the Brooklyn Bridge and began crossing the bridge using the pedestrian sidewalk.  Blinking road signs warned the "Peds on the roadway" that they were "subject to arrest," but that did not stop hundreds from crossing the bridge -- the same bridge occupiers stormed last month.  
Police gathered at the entrance of the bridge to stop anyone from stepping into the streets and continuously warned the protestors that they would be arrested if they did so.
"This is what democracy looks like!" the mob chanted back. "This is what America looks like!"

(Policemen on horses block Chambers Street)
(Moving from Foley Square towards the Brooklyn Bridge)
(Protestors pass out lights to the crowd to light up the bridge.)
"Granny Peace Brigade"

(Mothers of American Soldiers stand up for "schools not wars.")

(Protestors line up to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.)

"Peds on roadway-- Subject to arrest."

(Police officer warns protestors that they are "subject to arrest" over a loud speaker.)

("OWS Bitch.")

Thursday, November 17

Four Decades Later, Struggle Against Graffiti Continues

Graffiti in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Graffiti has been a part of New York’s street scene since the late sixties, and the gradual battle between self-proclaimed graffiti artists and city administrators is still going strong. In an effort to eliminate the controversial form of self-expression from the city’s streets, the Mayor’s office presented a plan called Graffiti Free NYC in 1999. 
The program offers free graffiti removal to properties anywhere within the five boroughs - all that's needed is a form offered on the city government’s website. The requirements are fairly simple - nothing higher than the second story, and private properties only. Statistics boast that over 170 million square feet of graffiti have been cleaned since the program's inception over a decade ago.

Graffiti begun its steady climb in popularity with hip hop culture over forty years ago, and was first noted by the media in the early 1970s. In 1971, The New York Times ran an article about a local graffiti artist called TAKI 183. “Why do they go after the little guy?” the artist was quoted saying about authorities who removed his work from subway stations. “Why not the campaign organizations that put stickers all over the subways at election time?”
Since the days of TAKI 183's generation, New York’s graffiti scene has grown into a world-renowned art concept. The long-going battle between the city’s administrative parties and the artists - and those who just like to doodle on walls - first started in 1972, when Mayor Lindsay declared war against graffiti.
Since then, various mayors have encountered setbacks; the rise of world-renown street artists in the early eighties, as well as triumphs; the last graffitied subway train ran in 1989. In 1995, in one of the biggest anti-graffiti programs in the country’s history, Mayor Giuliani put together an initiative called the Anti-Graffiti Task Force. While New York’s streets are less covered in tags and pictures than they were in the early days of the graffiti movement, the war against it still far from over.

In addition to the Graffiti Free NYC program, The Mayor's Paint Program encourages communities and neighbors to take matters into their own hands and clean graffiti themselves. Once the Mayor’s office approves a removal project, they will provide the applicants with up to twenty-six gallons of paint and roller sleeves.
The program's website also encourages New Yorkers to stay alert and contact the NYPD should they see graffiti painting take place. The efforts to end graffiti do not seem to phase local artists, who have expanded their craft around the world.
“We don't advocate breaking the law,” online graffiti art gallery Art Crimes claims on their website, “but we think art belongs in public spaces and that more legal walls should be made available for this fascinating art form.”

Wednesday, November 16

The Fate of Our Wastes

Compost at the Lower East Side Ecology Center
booth at the Union Square Greenmarket.
New Yorkers generate about 14 million tons of waste each year—but who is really the one taking out the trash?

The city agency known as the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is responsible for collection refuse, which are the contents of trash bags and cans. For recycling, the DSNY currently collects paper such as newsprint, cardboard, but not napkins, tissues, and paper plates/cups. According to the DSNY website, approximately half the paper collected goes to five local paper processors in the metropolitan area. 

After being picked up by Department of Sanitation trucks, all of the plastics, cartons, and metal collected travels by barge or rail to the Sims Metal Management Municipal Recycling in Queens, the Bronx, or Jersey City. Sims Metal Management is also building a new recycling facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park. Construction broke ground in the summer of 2010, and the facility is scheduled to begin operating sometime between December 2012 and June 2013.
Model for the new Sims Metal recycling facility being build at Sunset Park
(photo credit: Sims Metal Management)

However, recycling bins are not always in sight when one is on the go. According to the New York Times article by Mireya Navarro, there are only 500 curbside recycling bins in New York City. The City Council hopes to double the number of recycling bins by 2020.

While the Department of Sanitation collects food scraps from some restaurants and businesses, the DSNY does not collect residential compost. According to the NYC Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling website, “Although the potential for composting is considerable, currently only yard trimmings and Christmas trees can be cost-effectively collected and composted in NYC on a citywide scale.” However, there are locations in each borough that are part of the NYC Compost Project, where residents can compost their food scraps on certain days of the week.

Helen Chang, a parent volunteer from the
Grace Church School, composting at the Lower
East Side Ecology Center booth.
At the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan, people can be seen carrying bags of food scraps to dump into the large gray buckets provided by the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Aurelia Kaelin is the supervisor at the compost collection booth; she also gives advice about how to keep worm buckets at home. “The city always says that there is no space, no room [to compost],” said Kaelin. She usually collects about 8 buckets of compost on Mondays, 12 buckets on Wednesdays and Fridays, and 15-20 buckets on Saturdays.

Helen Chang, a parent volunteer from the Grace Church School, came to the Union Square composting site with a cart full of food scraps to compost. “The school does compost through the City, but they just couldn’t keep up with the amount of food waste being generated,” said Chang. About six months ago, she and nine other parents formed a volunteer group to bring the excess food scraps to the Greenmarket on Mondays and Wednesdays.

In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg initiated PlaNYC to make a greener New York by setting a goal to divert 75% of the city’s solid waste from landfills. When asked if she foresees the City composting on a large scale anytime soon, Kaelin responded, “They’ll have to come up with something sooner or later, there is just too much waste.”

More Than Just A Playground: Parks and Recreation's 'Art in the Parks'

Sarah Sze's Still Life With Landscape (Model for a Habitat) is currently on display at The High Line until June 2012 (photo courtesy of

To many, a park is just an area of open space providing recreational use. A basketball court, maybe a soccer field, and definitely a playground, that is all that many park dwellers ask for. But, a park can be much more.

When walking through the High Line between West 20th and 21st Streets, the elevated urban park suddenly meets two stainless steel metal-rod and wooden volume sculptures. Entitled Still Life With Landscape (Model for a Habitat), the sculpture forms an open archway framing views to the north and south of New York City and mimics the High Line's strong movement trajectory through shooting perspective lines. Sarah Sze's highly architectural work is just one of twenty-two art exhibits currently on display in public parks that are a part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's program, "Art in the Parks."

With a capital budget of $2 billion, the Parks and Recreation, or Parks Department is responsible for maintaining the 28,000 acres of city's parks system of nearly 5,000 properties including more than 1,800 parks and nearly 1,000 playgrounds. With an operation budget of $340 million, the agency also commits to preserve and maintain the ecological diversity of the city's natural areas and furnishing recreational opportunities for city's residents and visitors. In 1967, the Parks Department began to commit to public art by establishing "Art in the Parks."

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Art in the Parks," American sculptor Tom Otterness' Large Sad Sphere was installed at the Hudson River Park from October 1, 2007 to January 5, 2008 (photo courtesy of

According to the Parks Department website, the intention of the public art program is to "use public space as an outdoor museum, letting works of art loose in the city, to set them under the light of day where they intrude upon our daily walks and errands.”

Debuting with an exhibition of Tony Smith's minimalist geometric sculptures in Bryant Park, "Art in the Parks" did not gain recognition until the installation of
Sculpture in Environment, an outdoor group exhibition of contemporary sculpture. Displaying the works of 24 artists, including Claes Oldenburg, Barnett Newman, and Louise Nevelson, sculptures were installed at 9 city park locations and 15 public spaces.

With an undisclosed budget, "Art in the Parks"
is mainly supported by a combination of donations from local businesses and loans of art by commercial galleries. In 1972, the Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization, was established in order to provide artists opportunities to create and display art in public settings. As a result, "Art in the Parks" has been able to install a variety of art, from steel constructions, installations made from an assortment of organic biodegradable media, monumental abstract sculptures to community murals, by artists like Keith Haring, Arturo DiModica, and Barry Flanagan.

In 2007, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Art in the Parks," the Parks Department presented 40 art installations, many of which were displayed in the past including Robert Indiana's Love Wall, Tom Otterness' Large Sad Sphere, and Cheryl Farber Smith's Leaning Firm.

"Art in the Parks" has displayed over 1,000 temporary exhibitions in the city open spaces. As the Parks Department continue to foster the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs through collaborations with a diverse group of arts organizations and artists, "Art in the Parks" continues to enhance the beauty of New York City with both experimental and traditional art.

Funding the culture of New York City: The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Mayor Bloomberg performing a skit in ceremony for the Mayor's Awards for Arts & Culture, 2010
Photo Credit The Department of Cultural Affairs
On November 8th, 2010 Meryl Streep and Mayor Bloomberg announced  stood on stage together to announce the Mayor's Awards for Arts & Culture, a category of awards created in 1974 “to honor individuals who’ve made significant contributions” to the area of culture in New York City.
Streep & Bloomberg presenting the Mayor's Awards
Photo Credit: Department of Cultural Affairs 

With a current budget of $141 million dollars the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is the largest cultural funding agency in the nation; as a government agency, its mission is to support the growth and preservation of the arts in New York City by ensuring “adequate public funding for non-profit cultural organizations, both large and small, throughout the five boroughs.” 

The Department of Cultural Affairs funds provides funding in three major ways:
  1. Funding to organizations that in exchange provide cultural services to citizens awarded primarily through grants
  2. Funding through direct subsidies that support the cost of maintenance, administration,security and energy for the 33 city-owned Cultural Institutions (P.S. 1, The Met, Brooklyn Museum and the New York Botanical Garden are examples in this category of sponsorship).
  3. Through Capital spending that covers the cost of construction & renovation for the 33 city-owned institutions and  applicable institutions that serve low-income communities.
“Percent for art” is an initiative by which selected artists are commissioned to create public works to be placed in the city-owned buildings and public spaces throughout the five boroughs; the program operates on the rule that “1% of the total capital budget for newly constructed and reconstructed buildings must be spent on art; the artist is commissioned 20% of the total art allocation.”
"The Gates In Central Park" by Chrtisto & Jeanne-Claude installed for 16 days in February of 2005
Photo Credit: Jackie Carven 
“Materials for the Arts” is a resource warehouse and initiative ran by Department of Cultural Affairs program that provides art materials for public schools, city agencies and non-profits with art programs that in some capacity serve the city’s public.
Individualize funding and support for artists is also something that happens via this department, applicable artist who hold recognizable contributions to the city’s cultural life are eligible through application for residency in specific city zoning, Soho is one such space.
It wasn’t until 1934, under the direction of Mayor Fiorella Lagurdia that New York city arrived at a “Municipal Art Committee” whose sloe purpose was to direct the government  in ways of stimulating the cultural life of the city, a motivation that arose out of the Great Depression.  Under Mayor Robert F. Wangner the office of Cultural Affairs was created in 1962 and appointed a six member paid staff with an unsalaried cultural executive. 
1964 is when the department received its first operating budget,  $100,020; the city put money into free school concerts, summer theater at Prospect Park and outdoor opera performances at the Metropolitan Opera. 
 The department of cultural affairs continues to exist today because there is an understanding that a thriving cultural community contributes to the economic vitality of the city.

Unveiling of New Temporary Art Bring Tears to their Eyes

Tuesday, November 15th, under a cloudy sky and the glacial UN building, Jonathan, of the New York City's Art in the Parks Program stood in front of a crowd of almost 30 people to unveil a new temporary work of art by Rachel Owens entitled, Inveterate Composition for Clare. The event took place in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 1st Avenue and 47th Street. The atmosphere was a bittersweet one, for the 'Clare' referred to in the sculpture's name is the late Clare Weiss, who worked as the curator of temporary art for the Art in the Parks Program until her death in 2010 after struggling with breast cancer.
The fruition of this piece marks one of the last Ms. Weiss curated.
"The last thing I did with Clare was pretty much interview Rachel and-I don't believe in karma- but I think it was good." Jonathan said through tears as he ended his opening speech.
Inveterate Composition for Clare will stand in the center of the park until May 2012. It is a statue built from one Hummer SUV. The pieces have been remodeled and painted white to take the shape of an iceberg. Within, Ms. Owens placed the first underwater recording of a humpback whale made in 1971. The sound echoes from the great structure belly like from the belly of a hungry beast. The piece is in response to issues on global warming and consumerism to which Ms. Owens insisted,
"Though this piece does not propagandize, it sits in solidarity with freedom of speech and battles against oppression."
Although Inveterate was created originally for the location, Owens hopes that it will move on to other places at the end of its term.
Ms. Owens, born in Atlanta, Georgia is currently living and working in Brooklyn. With the exception of an exhibit in Miami, Owens has shown only locally to New York City. Many of her sculptures comment on global warming and the environment. She often uses found materials to create situations surrounding animals and their relationship to waste and consumerism.
As this is one of Ms. Weiss' last acheivments as curator, the Parks Department, like the scultpture has chosen not to forget her. A new award, entitled The Clare Weiss Emerging Artist Award will be put into action next year, the deadline being January 2012. The award recognizes upcoming artists as well as locations around the city, underserved with public art, the current outstanding location for the project is Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx.

Smooth Is The Water Where The Brook Runs Deep.

(A worker in a New York Water Plant. Photo credit: Randolph Mase)
                   The New York City Water Board is rarely spoken of, but perhaps that is because the nature of its service: To remain as seemingly smooth and natural as spring water rounding a river rock; a set of only six board members (appointed to two-year terms by the mayor) working behind the scenes of something so omnipresent.
An afterthought for many New Yorkers, the water infrastructure brings in an estimated one billion gallons of water to New York City each day. It is the responsibility of the New York City Water Board to determine the rates and regulations that fund this flow of water throughout NYC. The Water and Sewer System is simply referred to as ‘The System”, but the Board is invested in considerable transparency, offering regularly updated, accessible reports on meeting minutes, rate regulations, public notices, and more, including a little Blue Book with very large plans.
In addition to determining rates, the New York City Water Board (working with the Department of Environmental Protection) is involved in initiatives to fund large projects. The largest and most expansive are the plans for the Croton Water Filtration Plant.
Plans for the Croton Water Filtration Plant. Photo Credit: NYC Gov Parks)

The Croton Water Filtration Plant, which will start in 2012 and is planned to be operational in 2013, will be the first WTP to be located in the boroughs of New York.  It will have the capacity to handle 30% of New York’s water supply, and will be located underneath the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park. All told, it will be the single largest construction contract in New York history.
At an estimated cost of 3 billion dollars and 12 acre construction (including an estimated 73,000m of rock and soil to be excavated), the DEP has worked to ensure good will with the Bronx community. The DEP has agreed, in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, to offer $200 million toward developing parks throughout the Bronx. Space has been an issue, including the Plant’s temporary takeover of the Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park. Ten acres of land will be turned back into a gold course upon completion of the Plant.
While issues of space in the Plant have arisen, funding has proven an occasionally even choppier obstacle.  Funding for the Croton Water Filtration Plant (and other projects) has been costly. According to a 2012 Blue Book report, DEP’s ‘current daily expenditure rate is nearly $9 million per day on construction, design, and construction management’. One way of closing the current $26.6 Billion debt is a proposal by the board to increase water and sewer rates by 7.5%. The estimated annual household cost to fund the Croton Water Filtration Plant mandate would be $44, nearly double the cost of the Ultraviolet Disinfection Facility ($23), but only slightly more than the Newton Creek Treatment Plant ($42).
If New Yorkers feel the rates are too high, too low, or, even, just right, the New York City Water Board will be meeting this Friday (November 18th) at 8:30 A.M at 22 Reade Street (Spector Hall). 

A Cellphone Can Be More Powerful Than a Press Badge

It is not news that twitter and other forms of social media have become an invaluable resource for reporters and revolutionaries alike, and the events at Zuccotti Park in the wee hours of November 15 sent the twitter accounts of activists and journalists into a caps-locked frenzy.
A twitter user uploaded video of mace being used against protesters to Y-Frog, a service that allows twitter users to share pictures and videos. You can watch the video here.

At around 1 am on November 15th I opened my Tumblr dashboard, a blogging platform heralded for its simplicity, and saw a post by Suzy Exposito (aka Suzy X), a former Eugene Lang student, simply stating “1:17 AM: Zuccotti park is being raided by nypd right now” with a link to the Occupy Wall Street livestream. From the comfort of my Brooklyn apartment I was able to watch as the NYPD threw personal property, the contents of the Occupy Wall Street public library, and tents into the garbage. And I was able to read in live time the tweets of protesters and journalists who where there.

It appeared that the Internet was filling in for journalists who were barred entrance into the park by the NYPD, and citizens were able to learn about banishment of reporters as it happened. Chris Glorioso, a reporter for NBC4, had his press badge taken away by an NYPD inspector and Twitter users fell into action. Newyorkist, the twitter account for, tweeted a picture of the inspector and constantly informed followers on the status of journalists attempting to cover the police raid.

One journalist, who may have been the only person with a press badge to make it inside of Zuccotti Park during the raid, had an onslaught of twitter followers as he documented the experience. Josh Harkinson wrote about his experience for Mother Jones, an online publication, "The police had created a one-block buffer zone around the park—in some areas two or three blocks—and were refusing to admit even the most credentialed members of the press. A New York Times reporter had already been arrested, a member of the National Lawyers Guild told me."

After the tents were cleared, the zip-ties secured, and the NYPD's Counter Terrorism unit was sent home twitter calmed down but reports of the sheer brutality of the raid continued. Denying access to the press was blatant censorship, but has given Twitter and "citizen journalists" new power as the watchdogs of authority.
Although twitter is still rampant with absurd rumors

Keeping New York a Culture Capital

"Splotch 15" a Sol Lewitt structure on view at City Hall Park sponsored by Public Art Fund which is supported by the DCA. Photo: Jason Wyche
A tourist in New York might visit a few museums, such as the Museum of Natural History or the Met; wander around one of the three botanical gardens, in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens; and take in a showing of the New York City Ballet or New York City Opera. All of these institutions and many more well known, highly frequented establishments are city-owned and city-funded.
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) supports the 33 members of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG). All of the mentioned institutions are part of this group. The support the DCA offers the CIG includes the city-owned property these institutions are located on and the capital needed for basic security, maintenance, administration and energy costs. It has two other funding units: Program Services, which supports 881 nonprofit cultural organizations, and Capital Projects, which provides funds for design, construction and equipment. The Department of Cultural Affairs also gives grants for small capital projects initiated in lower income neighborhoods or that target lower income audiences.
Faced with a small DCA budget when sworn into office in February 2002, current Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs Kate D. Levin said, “It will be my nonstop effort to see that the cultural community is made whole to the extent that it’s possible.” In Levin’s 9 years as Commissioner, the Department consolidated two separate funding streams into the Cultural Development Fund, supported the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s new 82,000 square-foot wing, launched a new program called The Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts aiding art education in public schools, and received the then largest budget in the agency’s history in 2006.
According to a report by the Center for an Urban Future made in 2005, “New York City’s budget for arts and culture nonprofits and individual artists is unrivaled in the country.” In fiscal year 2006, the DCA had an expense budget of $131 million (larger than the National Endowment for the Arts’ annual budget) and an $803 million capital budget for 2007-2011. This June 2011, Mayor Bloomberg initially proposed cuts of $50 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs budget, continuing the trend of the Departments slowly declining share of the city budget. He later restored $30 million to their budget, bringing it to the final $149.5 million.
Out of this budget, the 33 members of the Cultural Institutions group receive $110.2. The remaining 26.3% of the budget is split between the Department’s other two funding divisions, the grants it awards to applicants and the two programs it runs, Materials for the Arts, which provides materials to organizations, and Percent for Art, which supports the creation of public art in New York City.
The Department of Cultural Affairs, in existence in some form since 1869, has a large role in the city’s cultural atmosphere. It serves as a conductor of finances to city-owned and non city-owned institutions and nonprofit cultural organizations across the five boroughs. The amount of funding it receives impacts the support it can give to large establishments and the many small arts organizations throughout New York. The preliminary fiscal year 2012 budget for the DCA is $49 million less than the 2011 budget, coming out to $101.3 million.
In July when Mayor Bloomberg restored $30 million to the 2011 DCA budget, Randall Bourscheidt, president of Alliance for the Arts, said to The Arts Newspaper, “I think that the restoration of the cultural budget is nothing short of heroic and it represents a very strong commitment from the city council and the mayor to the arts in New York.”

Monday, November 14


Vincent R. Impellitteri being sworn in
Impy looking bored

Impy at a LIRR meeting with Governor Dewey
Impy at the dedication for the Baruch Houses (with Dewey and Eisenhower)

Robert F. Wagner campaign poster
Jr. and Sr. working on the campaign
Robert F. Wagner Sr. and Al Smith hanging out
Warren Moscow's oral history

"Leading Out the Regiment" Chapter 33 in pictures

"In 1949, Title I of a new Federal Housing Act codified a new concept---urban renewal---that insured  that Washington's role  would henceforth be as crucial as City Hall's not only on low-income housing but in most major urban reshapings." (704)
 Plans for Moses's Cross-Manhattan Expressway that would've connected the East side to the West Side of Manhattan, 12 lanes of traffic that would've gone through 31st street

Demolition on Grand St. (LES) as part of Moses's slum clearance  circa 1948.

Tammany backed mayor William O'Dwyer 1946-1950
“Sachems of Tammany Hall, 1929, including Mayor James J. Walker”
*The Political Machine that is Tammany comes back into power in the absence of La Gurdia 

*O'Dwyer gives Moses the title of  "City Construction Coordinator"
and a position as head of the Slum Clearance Committee
*As the city Construction Coordinator Moses positioned himself as the representative for the city's positions of design and construction controlling all interactions between city, state and federal funding agencies.

*He controlled the Housing authority for a decade and had complete control over the highway system
All his positions together meant he controlled funding from the Triborough Bridge Project, The State Department of Public Works and Federal Funds for Slum Clearance

"Every large scale Public work it sometimes seemed, had to have its arrangements, its payoffs, its deals and its coincidences" (714)
Carroll speculates that write offs , pay offs and favors could be covered up by the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority's vast revenue in the form of : service fees, broker fees, legal fees and commissions. 
"He and he alone--not the city's people not, not the government officials the people elected to represent them, not the power brokers who dominated some of these officials ---decided what public works would be built, when they would be built and to what design they would be built. He was the supreme power broker" (754).

Sunday, November 13

Moses and the Mayors

Mayor William O'Dwyer

Lower Manhattan expressway- unbuilt

Mid-Manhattan Expressway- Unbuilt
Artistic rendition of the Mid-Manhattan Expressway
Photo by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority
Idlewild Airport (A.K.A JFK) where the runways were terrible
Photo by T.W.A
UN Headquarters in Lower Manhattan
Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri
Hulan Jack, Mayor Wagner, Commissioner Moses, Loeb Boathouse Dedication, Central Park, March 12, 1954
New York City Parks Photo Archive, Neg. 28778.2

Wagner about to speak.
Photo by The New York Times