Reflections on the City Immediately Post 9/11

I wrote a piece about my experiences after September 11th in NYC. There was a period where there was a very different feeling in the air and we all felt connected. You can read it here:

NYC September 12th: In the Midst of Tragedy, A Gentle, Open Feeling in the Air

NYC Street Poetry: Marge Piercy’s “To Be Of Use”

New at my personal blog, Cathryn’s World (updated nowhere as frequently as this one!):

NYC Street Poetry: Marge Piercy, “To Be of Use.”

Poetry taped to a light post on an NYC street. You never know where you’ll find some culture!

Spotlight: Neighborhood Blog – The SoHo Memory Project

A new blog has popped up in SoHo! Only in existence since January 1st, 2011, the blog focuses on growing up in SoHo in the ’70’s and includes lots of great photos and insight into SoHo’s history as well as present day.

FOOD cooperative restaurant at Prince & Wooster, 1970's

Tiffany & Co., 550 Broadway at Prince, 1850

Check out The Soho Memory Project:

Every person has his or her own 1970’s SoHo, and it is very different from the SoHo of today. For me, it was a wonderful place to grow up and explore and make friends. In a way, my 1970’s SoHo resembled a description of your average American neighborhood, where people know their neighbors and all the children play together. But on the other hand, I did learn how to ride a bike in my house! Anyone visiting SoHo today could not even fathom such as place existing in lower Manhattan. And because this aspect of SoHo has not been well documented thus far, I would like to build this collection of recollections over the coming months and years before our ephemeral memories fade and disappear forever.

Photo of Tiffany & Co.: Curbed via Flickr

Two Recent Attacks At Washington Square

I noted last week how empty Washington Square Park was as I walked there but at no time did I feel nervous walking through. Yet, A Walk In the Park Blog reports that two people (one a Parks Department employee) have been attacked in the last month in Washington Square, one attack occurred last week.

On February 10th, a Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officer patrolling the park was assaulted, and, a few weeks prior, a tourist was apparently attacked in the men’s room. People leaving comments at A Walk in the Park Blog have stated how “dangerous” they believe Washington Square Park is and suggested that the New York City Parks Department is keeping these incidents quiet.

With redesigned Phase I in place and the other three Quadrants of the Park closed for Phase II (and now, also Phase III) reconstruction, IS Washington Square Park dangerous now?

From A Walk In the Park Blog:

New details have emerged in the attack of a female Park Enforcement Officer (PEP) in Washington Square Park on Thursday, February 10th. PEP Officer Brooks was attacked by a homeless male described as an emotionally disturbed person (EDP) at approximately 11:30am.

The officer, working solo, was sitting in a vehicle when she was approached by multiple park patrons complaining of man harassing people in the park, according to city sources.

The man was reportedly going up to people making gestures like he was going to hit them. One patron said “Hey this guy is going to hurt somebody, you have to say something to this guy. “

The piece continues, reporting that the officer, a female, told the man to stop; he approached her and was “irate.” The officer called for back-up which did not arrive in time to assist her. No one from the public intervened. After some words, the man kicked her in the stomach and then fled the park.

In addition, A Walk in the Park writes of the other attack at the park:

This incident follows a vicious assault on a tourist by an EDP in the men’s bathroom a few weeks earlier in the park. The tourist, believed to be French, was punched in the face and left bloodied, and knocked out on the floor. The assailant is reportedly a park regular. No arrests have been made in that incident either. – Geoffrey Croft

This brings up a lot of questions: Are these isolated incidents? Is having 3/4 of the park closed at one time leading to a more insecure and vulnerable situation there? Has the climate of “safety” in the city changed in general? Are other parks experiencing this?

The Arch in the Snow ! over at Luma Blog.

New Entry at Cathryn’s World Blog: Lost Garden

I came across an arrow indicating a “Lost Garden” next to an isolated diner along the West Side Highway on a snow-covered morning in the far West Village awhile back. Does it still exist? Can something like that exist in NYC today? More on this at Cathryn’s World.

New LUMA Blog

Coney Island Wonder Wheel Day of Mermaid Parade

You may not remember LUMA, a restaurant that existed in Chelsea in the ’90’s on Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue but I loved it there. My new LUMA blog is devoted to the spirit of LUMA – or how I remember it.

LUMA Blog will be broader in focus than WSP Blog – it’ll cover NYC with probable emphasis on the Village and Brooklyn; it’ll look at places and people, issues, and well.. life.

The nice thing about Tumblr (where LUMA Blog is hosted) is that you can follow blogs similar to how you follow people on Twitter.

Today’s LUMA Blog post focuses on the new organic, locally sourced Celebrate Cafe in the Bowery Poetry Club, operated by the Lower East Side Girls Club, which opened yesterday.

LUMA Blog debuted yesterday, June 21, 2010 with photos from the delightful Mermaid Parade on Coney Island.

Blog Update

Washington Square Park

February 8th — I’ll be blogging less for the month of February working on raising funds and writing my book! Any WSP or Parks-related meetings coming up will be posted under Events & Actions. You can also follow me on Twitter. I will get some photos up of the recent construction soon! Thanks for stopping by.

Photo: Katherineg

NYC Parks Department Concedes Artists Have Right to Sell Art in High Line Park Post Arrests

Visit the recently debuted A Walk in the Park Blog to hear the latest on the High Line Park where artists were arrested three times in recent months for selling artwork in the new park. Artist and activist Robert Lederman is prepared to challenge the City Parks Department with a new lawsuit. He has previously prevailed in federal court where it was decreed that it is a First Amendment right for artists to be able to sell art in a public park.  Mr. Lederman met with NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe after the arrests. Subsequently, the Parks Department has retreated from their original position (that this vending is illegal because a permit is required or an issue of “public safety”) and said they would no longer authorize Park officers to arrest artists in the park.

$153 million of public funding has been allocated to the High Line Park’s creation. Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates writes at A Walk in the Park Blog that that money could have been directed towards “communities that desperately need their already established parks fixed up.”

From the blog:

On Saturday [12/12] artists were allowed to sell their wares on the High Line without incident for the first time. The day before, the Parks Department reversed its position which had resulted in three arrests. Their previous vending policy only permitted selling items which included designer muffins, exotic teas, coffee and gelato. Unlike the “expressive matter” vendors, commercial concessions bring in revenue to the city.  The City is currently negotiating a sole source concession agreement with the Friends of the High Line (FOH) which would allow the group to keep revenue from items sold on the park property. Since its opening in the Spring, the City has allowed 29 different permitted commercial vendors on the High Line but no art vendors.

In addition, Croft writes: “One would think that the Friends of the High Line would have made every effort to accommodate artists instead of actively trying to discriminate against them.”

From the Friends of High Line Park:

Artwork is a logical inclusion for the High Line; artists, gallery owners and art collectors were among the earliest supporters of its transformation into a public park space, and it runs through some of the most culturally significant neighborhoods of Manhattan. “

Greenwich Village Daily Photo Takes a look at History Soon to Be Lost as WSP Phase II Begins

Greenwich Village Daily Photo takes a look at Washington Square Park before the Phase II redesign in a post this week.

When asked what I think of Phase I’s redesign (encompassing the Park’s recently opened NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza), I sometimes search for words and say, as a question almost, “it’s … pretty?”  Usually, it’s clear if the person has already come to that conclusion but may not have the larger context in mind (and may or may not realize that’s not meant exactly as a compliment).  Many who have looked on from afar still fail to assimilate the fact that no park users and community activists “fighting” the Bloomberg Administration’s dramatic redesign plans wanted the park left in disrepair, as the ‘bones’ of the park – the paths, the lawns, the lights, the bathrooms – clearly had been allowed to decline.

What people wanted – and fought arduously for – was a design that illustrated some acknowledgment of the park’s rich, more recent history (not sweeping back to the 1800’s, as if that is relevant to today) as well as its lived-in beauty and familiarity and (counter) culture.  The recently opened NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza are deceptively pretty because is a “pretty” park what we all were looking for? For some, yes.  Unfortunately, New York City government, under the Bloomberg Administration (which placed this task in the hands of landscape designer George Vellonakis) wanted to erase the past, and under Mayor Bloomberg, this is going on across our entire city.  So, I think GVDP sums up well how a lot of people feel about what’s going on at Washington Square Park but perhaps it’s been difficult to put into words:

History Lost

Next week the final alteration/destruction of Washington Square Park begins. Last year the City updated the west side of the park, and it’s lovely. Lovely as a freshly scrubbed townhouse, devoid of soul, character or anything resembling history. The east side of the park (seen here last night) has that lived in look. Dig the old railings, the worn out fountain, the broken latches. This is where the Beats and the 60s folkies and all the lost artists held court from the 40s to the 70s. Gone. No more Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger and Alan Ginsberg. Soon the City will wipe the slate clean. This will all be new and improved! Goodbye.

GVDP’s photos here.