Sunshine Recorder

Link: Loneliness in New York

Loneliness can be a shameful hunger, a shell, a dangerous landscape of shadowy figures. But it is also a gift.

The bluest period I ever spent was in Manhattan’s East Village, not so long back. I lived on East 2nd Street, in an unreconstructed tenement building, and each morning I walked across Tompkins Square Park to get my coffee. When I arrived the trees were bare, and I dedicated those walks to checking the progress of the blossoms. There are many community gardens in that part of town, and so I could examine irises and tulips, forsythia, cherry trees and a great weeping willow that seemed to drop its streamers overnight, like a ship about to lift anchor and sail away.

I wasn’t supposed to be in New York, or not like this, anyway. I’d met someone in America and then lost them almost instantly, but the future we’d dreamed up together retained its magnetism, and so I moved alone to the city I’d expected to become my home. I had friends there, but none of the ordinary duties and habits that comprise a life. I’d severed all those small, sustaining cords, and, as such, it wasn’t surprising that I experienced a loneliness more paralysing than anything I’d encountered in more than a decade of living alone.

What did it feel like? It felt like being hungry, I suppose, in a place where being hungry is shameful, and where one has no money and everyone else is full. It felt, at least sometimes, difficult and embarrassing and important to conceal. Being foreign didn’t help. I kept botching the ballgame of language: fumbling my catches, bungling my throws. Most days, I went for coffee in the same place, a glass-fronted café full of tiny tables, populated almost exclusively by people gazing into the glowing clamshells of their laptops. Each time, the same thing happened. I ordered the nearest thing to filter on the menu: a medium urn brew, which was written in large chalk letters on the board. Each time, without fail, the barista looked blankly up and asked me to repeat myself. I might have found it funny in England, or irritating, or I might not have noticed it all, but that spring it worked under my skin, depositing little grains of anxiety and shame.

Something funny happens to people who are lonely. The lonelier they get, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired. Loneliness is accretive, extending and perpetuating itself. Once it becomes impacted, it isn’t easy to dislodge. When I think of its advance, an anchoress’s cell comes to mind, as does the exoskeleton of a gastropod.

I thought of those dreamlike crumbling rooms, extending across the water, where men long since dead freed one another

This sounds like paranoia, but in fact loneliness’s odd mode of increase has been mapped by medical researchers. It seems that the initial sensation triggers what psychologists call hypervigilance for social threat. In this state, which is entered into unknowingly, one tends to experience the world in negative terms, and to both expect and remember negative encounters — instances of rudeness, rejection or abrasion, like my urn brew episodes in the café. This creates, of course, a vicious circle, in which the lonely person grows increasingly more isolated, suspicious and withdrawn.

At the same time, the brain’s state of red alert brings about a series of physiological changes. Lonely people are restless sleepers. Loneliness drives up blood pressure, accelerates ageing, and acts as a precursor to cognitive decline. According to a 2010 study I came across in theAnnals of Behavioral Medicine entitled ‘Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms’, loneliness predicts increased morbidity and mortality, which is an elegant way of saying that loneliness can prove fatal.

I don’t think I experienced cognitive decline, but I quickly became intimate with hypervigilance. During the months I lived in Manhattan, it manifested as an almost painful alertness to the city, a form of over-arousal that oscillated between paranoia and desire. During the day, I rarely encountered anyone in my building, but at night I’d hear doors opening and closing, and people passing a few feet from my bed. The man next door was a DJ, and at odd hours the apartment would be flooded with his music. At two or three in the morning, the heat rose clanking through the pipes, and just before dawn I’d sometimes be woken by the siren of the ladder truck leaving the East 2nd Street fire station, which had lost six crew members on 9/11.

(Source: sunrec)

Link: 'Excuse Me. May I Have Your Seat?'

Revisiting the 1970s Milgram experiment on the New York subway.

Thirty years ago, they were wide-eyed, first-year graduate students, ordered by their iconoclastic professor, Dr. Stanley Milgram, to venture into the New York City subway to conduct an unusual experiment.

Their assignment: to board a crowded train and ask someone for a seat. Then do it again. And again.

"As a Bronxite, I knew, you don’t do this," said Dr. Jacqueline Williams, now an assistant dean at Brooklyn College. Students jokingly asked their professor if he wanted to get them killed.

But Dr. Milgram was interested in exploring the web of unwritten rules that govern behavior underground, including the universally understood and seldom challenged first-come-first-served equity of subway seating. As it turned out, an astonishing percentage of riders - 68 percent when they were asked directly - got up willingly.

Quickly, however, the focus turned to the experimenters themselves. The seemingly simple assignment proved to be extremely difficult, even traumatic, for the students to carry out.

"It’s something you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there," said Dr. David Carraher, 55, now a senior scientist at a nonprofit group in Cambridge, Mass.

Dr. Kathryn Krogh, 58, a clinical psychologist in Arlington, Va., was more blunt: “I was afraid I was going to throw up.”

More than three decades later, the memories are still surprisingly vivid, testimony perhaps to the trauma of their experience and an unintended postscript to a rare study on the delicate subway order.

Two weeks ago, a pair of reporters who set out to replicate the experiment struggled with similar inhibitions. The incredulous reactions they got from riders were the same as well. But they also stumbled upon convincing proof that New Yorkers have mellowed with time. The results were far from scientific, but, remarkably, 13 out of 15 people gave up their seats.

"Uh, O.K., " said one man, holding hands with his girlfriend, before getting up. "I’ve never heard that one before."

A construction worker sneered to a male reporter, “If you were a woman, then… .” He got up anyway.

Another woman, who sprang up from her seat, twice asked the reporter, who kept her eyes fixed on the ground, if she was O.K.

Dr. Milgram, who died in 1984 at age 51, got the idea for the experiment from a conversation with his mother-in-law, who complained to him one day that no one had offered her a seat on the subway. “It occurred to me: What would have happened had she asked for a seat?” he said in a 1974 interview in the magazine Psychology Today.

He suggested the experiment to one of his graduate student classes, but the students recoiled. Finally, one student, Ira Goodman, volunteered to try it with a partner. But instead of coming back after 20 trials as he had promised, he returned with only 14. When Dr. Milgram asked him what had happened, he said that it was just too difficult.

Dismissing his students’ fears, Dr. Milgram set out to try it himself. But when he approached his first seated passenger, he found himself frozen.

"The words seemed lodged in my trachea and would simply not emerge," he said in the interview.

Retreating, he berated himself: ‘What kind of craven coward are you?”

A few unsuccessful tries later, he managed to choke out a request.

"Taking the man’s seat, I was overwhelmed by the need to behave in a way that would justify my request," he said. "My head sank between my knees, and I could feel my face blanching. I was not role-playing. I actually felt as if I were going to perish."

Link: Loneliness in New York

Loneliness can be a shameful hunger, a shell, a dangerous landscape of shadowy figures. But it is also a gift.

The bluest period I ever spent was in Manhattan’s East Village, not so long back. I lived on East 2nd Street, in an unreconstructed tenement building, and each morning I walked across Tompkins Square Park to get my coffee. When I arrived the trees were bare, and I dedicated those walks to checking the progress of the blossoms. There are many community gardens in that part of town, and so I could examine irises and tulips, forsythia, cherry trees and a great weeping willow that seemed to drop its streamers overnight, like a ship about to lift anchor and sail away.

I wasn’t supposed to be in New York, or not like this, anyway. I’d met someone in America and then lost them almost instantly, but the future we’d dreamed up together retained its magnetism, and so I moved alone to the city I’d expected to become my home. I had friends there, but none of the ordinary duties and habits that comprise a life. I’d severed all those small, sustaining cords, and, as such, it wasn’t surprising that I experienced a loneliness more paralysing than anything I’d encountered in more than a decade of living alone.

What did it feel like? It felt like being hungry, I suppose, in a place where being hungry is shameful, and where one has no money and everyone else is full. It felt, at least sometimes, difficult and embarrassing and important to conceal. Being foreign didn’t help. I kept botching the ballgame of language: fumbling my catches, bungling my throws. Most days, I went for coffee in the same place, a glass-fronted café full of tiny tables, populated almost exclusively by people gazing into the glowing clamshells of their laptops. Each time, the same thing happened. I ordered the nearest thing to filter on the menu: a medium urn brew, which was written in large chalk letters on the board. Each time, without fail, the barista looked blankly up and asked me to repeat myself. I might have found it funny in England, or irritating, or I might not have noticed it all, but that spring it worked under my skin, depositing little grains of anxiety and shame.

Something funny happens to people who are lonely. The lonelier they get, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired. Loneliness is accretive, extending and perpetuating itself. Once it becomes impacted, it isn’t easy to dislodge. When I think of its advance, an anchoress’s cell comes to mind, as does the exoskeleton of a gastropod.

I thought of those dreamlike crumbling rooms, extending across the water, where men long since dead freed one another

This sounds like paranoia, but in fact loneliness’s odd mode of increase has been mapped by medical researchers. It seems that the initial sensation triggers what psychologists call hypervigilance for social threat. In this state, which is entered into unknowingly, one tends to experience the world in negative terms, and to both expect and remember negative encounters — instances of rudeness, rejection or abrasion, like my urn brew episodes in the café. This creates, of course, a vicious circle, in which the lonely person grows increasingly more isolated, suspicious and withdrawn.

At the same time, the brain’s state of red alert brings about a series of physiological changes. Lonely people are restless sleepers. Loneliness drives up blood pressure, accelerates ageing, and acts as a precursor to cognitive decline. According to a 2010 study I came across in theAnnals of Behavioral Medicine entitled ‘Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms’, loneliness predicts increased morbidity and mortality, which is an elegant way of saying that loneliness can prove fatal.

I don’t think I experienced cognitive decline, but I quickly became intimate with hypervigilance. During the months I lived in Manhattan, it manifested as an almost painful alertness to the city, a form of over-arousal that oscillated between paranoia and desire. During the day, I rarely encountered anyone in my building, but at night I’d hear doors opening and closing, and people passing a few feet from my bed. The man next door was a DJ, and at odd hours the apartment would be flooded with his music. At two or three in the morning, the heat rose clanking through the pipes, and just before dawn I’d sometimes be woken by the siren of the ladder truck leaving the East 2nd Street fire station, which had lost six crew members on 9/11.


Before New York
Of all the visitors to New York City in recent years, one of the most surprising was a beaver named José. No one knows exactly where he came from. Speculation is he swam down the Bronx River from suburban Westchester County to the north. He just showed up one wintry morning in 2007 on a riverbank in the Bronx Zoo, where he gnawed down a few willow trees and built a lodge.
"If you’d asked me at the time what the chances were that there was a beaver in the Bronx, I’d have said zero," said Eric Sanderson, an ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. "There hasn’t been a beaver in New York City in more than 200 years."
During the early 17th century, when the city was the Dutch village of New Amsterdam, beavers were widely hunted for their pelts, then fashionable in Europe. The fur trade grew into such a lucrative business that a pair of beavers earned a place on the city’s official seal, where they remain today. The real animals vanished.
That’s why Sanderson was skeptical when Stephen Sautner, a fellow employee at WCS, told him he’d seen evidence of a beaver during a walk along the river. It’s probably just a muskrat, Sanderson thought. Muskrats are more tolerant of stressful city life. But when Sautner and he climbed around a chain-link fence separating the river from one of the zoo’s parking lots, they found José’s lodge right where Sautner had said it was. When they returned a couple of weeks later, they ran into José himself.
"It was just getting dark," Sanderson said. "We were standing on the riverbank shooting the breeze, when all of a sudden we saw the beaver. He swam right up to us, then he started doing circles in the river. We backed up a little, and he did that beaver alarm call with his tail, slap, slap against the water. So we decided we’d better take off."
The beaver’s return to the Big Apple was hailed as a victory by conservationists and volunteers who’d spent more than three decades restoring the health of the Bronx River, once a dumping ground for abandoned cars and trash. José was named in honor of José E. Serrano, the congressman from the Bronx who’d pushed through more than $15 million in federal funds over the years to support the river cleanup.
For Sanderson, José’s story meant something more. For almost a decade he has led a project at WCS to envision as precisely as possible what the island of Manhattan might have looked like before the city took root. The Mannahatta Project, as it’s called (after the Lenape people’s name for “island of many hills”), is an effort to turn back the clock to the afternoon of September 12, 1609, just before Henry Hudson and his crew sailed into New York Harbor and spotted the island. If people today could picture what a natural wonder Hudson had looked upon, Sanderson figured, maybe they’d fight harder to preserve other wild places. “I wanted people to fall in love with New York’s original landscape,” he said. “I wanted to show how great nature can be when it’s working, with all its parts, in a place that people normally don’t think of as having any nature at all.”
Long before its hills were bulldozed and its wetlands paved over, Manhattan was an extraor­­­dinary wilderness of towering chestnut, oak, and hickory trees, of salt marshes and grasslands with turkey, elk, and black bear—”as pleasant a land as one can tread upon,” Hudson reported. Sandy beaches ran along stretches of both coasts on the narrow, 13-mile-long island, where the Lenape feasted on clams and oysters. More than 66 miles of streams flowed through Manhattan, and most of them sheltered a beaver or two—making José’s appearance, in Sanderson’s eyes, a rare glimpse of the way things used to be.
"You might find it difficult to imagine today, but 400 years ago there was a red maple swamp right here in Times Square," he said one day not long ago, as he waited for the light to cross Seventh Avenue. Dressed in black jeans and a Windbreaker, he didn’t look much different from the tourists beside him on the curb. But unlike them, in his mind he was following a trail along a swampy creek that disappeared beneath the entrance to the Marriott Marquis Hotel at the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street. "Just over there was a beaver pond," he said, as a bus rumbled by. "It would have been a good place for deer, wood ducks, and all the other animals associated with streams. Brook trout probably, as well as eels, pickerel, and sunfish. It would have been much quieter, of course, although today’s not so bad."
Sanderson conceived the Mannahatta Project one evening in 1999, after buying a coffee-table book of historical maps of the city. A recent transplant to New York from northern California, he was curious about how the city had evolved. “The landscape in Manhattan is so transformed, it makes you wonder what was here before,” he said. “There are views in this city where you cannot see, except for a person or maybe a dog, another living thing. Not a tree or a plant. How did a place become like that?”
One map in particular caught his eye: a beautifully colored print from 1782 or 1783 that showed the hills, streams, and swamps as well as roads, orchards, and farms on the entire island—something no other contemporary map had done. More than ten feet long and three feet wide, the map had been created by British military cartographers during the eight-year occupation of New York during the American Revolution. Later called the “British Headquarters Map,” it showed the island’s topography in unusual detail because British officers needed that information to plan their defense of Manhattan. To Sanderson the map presented a unique opportunity to strip away the city’s skyscrapers and asphalt and look at least partway back to the island’s original landscape.

Before New York

Of all the visitors to New York City in recent years, one of the most surprising was a beaver named José. No one knows exactly where he came from. Speculation is he swam down the Bronx River from suburban Westchester County to the north. He just showed up one wintry morning in 2007 on a riverbank in the Bronx Zoo, where he gnawed down a few willow trees and built a lodge.

"If you’d asked me at the time what the chances were that there was a beaver in the Bronx, I’d have said zero," said Eric Sanderson, an ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. "There hasn’t been a beaver in New York City in more than 200 years."

During the early 17th century, when the city was the Dutch village of New Amsterdam, beavers were widely hunted for their pelts, then fashionable in Europe. The fur trade grew into such a lucrative business that a pair of beavers earned a place on the city’s official seal, where they remain today. The real animals vanished.

That’s why Sanderson was skeptical when Stephen Sautner, a fellow employee at WCS, told him he’d seen evidence of a beaver during a walk along the river. It’s probably just a muskrat, Sanderson thought. Muskrats are more tolerant of stressful city life. But when Sautner and he climbed around a chain-link fence separating the river from one of the zoo’s parking lots, they found José’s lodge right where Sautner had said it was. When they returned a couple of weeks later, they ran into José himself.

"It was just getting dark," Sanderson said. "We were standing on the riverbank shooting the breeze, when all of a sudden we saw the beaver. He swam right up to us, then he started doing circles in the river. We backed up a little, and he did that beaver alarm call with his tail, slap, slap against the water. So we decided we’d better take off."

The beaver’s return to the Big Apple was hailed as a victory by conservationists and volunteers who’d spent more than three decades restoring the health of the Bronx River, once a dumping ground for abandoned cars and trash. José was named in honor of José E. Serrano, the congressman from the Bronx who’d pushed through more than $15 million in federal funds over the years to support the river cleanup.

For Sanderson, José’s story meant something more. For almost a decade he has led a project at WCS to envision as precisely as possible what the island of Manhattan might have looked like before the city took root. The Mannahatta Project, as it’s called (after the Lenape people’s name for “island of many hills”), is an effort to turn back the clock to the afternoon of September 12, 1609, just before Henry Hudson and his crew sailed into New York Harbor and spotted the island. If people today could picture what a natural wonder Hudson had looked upon, Sanderson figured, maybe they’d fight harder to preserve other wild places. “I wanted people to fall in love with New York’s original landscape,” he said. “I wanted to show how great nature can be when it’s working, with all its parts, in a place that people normally don’t think of as having any nature at all.”

Long before its hills were bulldozed and its wetlands paved over, Manhattan was an extraor­­­dinary wilderness of towering chestnut, oak, and hickory trees, of salt marshes and grasslands with turkey, elk, and black bear—”as pleasant a land as one can tread upon,” Hudson reported. Sandy beaches ran along stretches of both coasts on the narrow, 13-mile-long island, where the Lenape feasted on clams and oysters. More than 66 miles of streams flowed through Manhattan, and most of them sheltered a beaver or two—making José’s appearance, in Sanderson’s eyes, a rare glimpse of the way things used to be.

"You might find it difficult to imagine today, but 400 years ago there was a red maple swamp right here in Times Square," he said one day not long ago, as he waited for the light to cross Seventh Avenue. Dressed in black jeans and a Windbreaker, he didn’t look much different from the tourists beside him on the curb. But unlike them, in his mind he was following a trail along a swampy creek that disappeared beneath the entrance to the Marriott Marquis Hotel at the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street. "Just over there was a beaver pond," he said, as a bus rumbled by. "It would have been a good place for deer, wood ducks, and all the other animals associated with streams. Brook trout probably, as well as eels, pickerel, and sunfish. It would have been much quieter, of course, although today’s not so bad."

Sanderson conceived the Mannahatta Project one evening in 1999, after buying a coffee-table book of historical maps of the city. A recent transplant to New York from northern California, he was curious about how the city had evolved. “The landscape in Manhattan is so transformed, it makes you wonder what was here before,” he said. “There are views in this city where you cannot see, except for a person or maybe a dog, another living thing. Not a tree or a plant. How did a place become like that?”

One map in particular caught his eye: a beautifully colored print from 1782 or 1783 that showed the hills, streams, and swamps as well as roads, orchards, and farms on the entire island—something no other contemporary map had done. More than ten feet long and three feet wide, the map had been created by British military cartographers during the eight-year occupation of New York during the American Revolution. Later called the “British Headquarters Map,” it showed the island’s topography in unusual detail because British officers needed that information to plan their defense of Manhattan. To Sanderson the map presented a unique opportunity to strip away the city’s skyscrapers and asphalt and look at least partway back to the island’s original landscape.


Rebel Cities
Occupy Wall Street staged a rebellion against corporate corruption and economic inequality in Manhattan’s parks and streets, but the battle for the city began with nineteenth century electrification of Broadway.
To wander Manhattan is to step into the modern fulfillment of an earlier age. The hurtling traffic, the stylish storefronts and bars, the pyramids of cupcakes, the lantern light of iPhones—it may all seem dreadfully contemporary, but its antiquity lies in the time of steam. “New York is a product of the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution,” Lewis Lapham observed in the fall 2010 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, “built on a standardized grid, conceived neither as a thing of beauty nor as an image of the cosmos, much less as an expression of man’s humanity to man, but as a shopping mall in which to perform the heroic feats of acquisition and consumption.”
If the lust to acquire and consume is one defining feature of the city, so too is its complement–deprivation and economic disparity. David Harvey, author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, describes Manhattan as “one vast gated community.” He describes the process by which the rich push the city’s less well-off to its peripheries and take hold of urban life. Tracing the history of urban uprisings from the 1870s to Occupy Wall Street, Harvey argues that cities have long been contested spaces, where the interests of money collide with the public good. Beginning in the late nineteenth-century—when modern New York took shape—one finds the dawning sense that for the city to be made safe for consumption and its contented, bourgeois destiny, it needed to be purged of the blemish of the poor.
For Industrial Revolution-era exponents of this belief, the spectacle of “acquisition and consumption” was one of arresting beauty. Were you to climb the spire of Trinity Church in lower Manhattan in 1872, you would have an uninterrupted view north along Broadway as far as Grace Church on Tenth Street. That vista, hemmed on both ends by Gothic steeples, offered a glimpse of the awesome scale of New York. Man shrank into the precision of the pumping city. “The long lines of passers and carriages take distinct shapes, and seem like immense black bands moving slowly in opposite directions,” wrote James D. McCabe, a nineteenth-century chronicler of the city. “The men seem like pigmies, and the horses like dogs. There is no confusion, however. The eye readily masses into one line all going in the same direction. Each one is hurrying on at the top of his speed, but from this lofty perch they all seem to be crawling at a snail’s pace.” Broadway had real power, absorbing the frantic striving of the individual into the rhythm of a city so much larger than him. It was, in McCabe’s words, “the most wonderful street in the universe,” dwarfing all other European or American rivals in “the extent of its grand display.” Broadway was “a world within itself.”
What sparkled in those two marvellous miles between the churches? What great display condensed the wonder of the universe into this single stretch of New York street?
Shops, of course. McCabe, the author of the guidebook Lights and Shadows of New York Life(1872), delighted in listing the proliferating stores that studded Broadway. There at the corner of Grand Street sat “the beautiful marble building occupied by the wholesale department of Lord & Taylor.” On Prince Street you would find “Ball & Black’s palatial jewelry store.” Passing theatres and hotels—the St. Nicholas, the Comique, the Metropolitan, the Olympic, and so on—you would finally reach “an immense iron structure painted white,” the vast edifice of A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, one of the city’s first department stores, occupying the entire block between Ninth and Tenth streets. “It is always filled with ladies engaged in ‘shopping,’ and the streets around it are blocked with carriages. Throngs of elegantly and plainly dressed buyers pass in and out.”
McCabe dropped quotation marks around the word “shopping” because it was a novel activity. As a pastime (and not simply an exercise of necessity), shopping came into its own in the second half of the nineteenth century, when consumer-citizens, liberated by the mobility of the street car and the new safety offered by gas and electric street lamps, found disposable time and income to spend on the stuff of the industrial age. Shopping reflected the growing prosperity, elegance, and aspiration of New York. Broadway lay at its heart. “Jewels, silks, satins, laces, ribbons, household goods, silverware, toys, paintings… rare, costly, and beautiful objects of every description greet the gazer on every hand. All that is necessary for the comfort of life, all that ministers to luxury and taste, can be found here in the great thoroughfare.”
On Broadway, “no unsuccessful man can remain in the street. Poverty and failure have no place there.” One finds in McCabe’s guidebook an early example of the very bourgeois faith that we are what we buy. Broadway was, in his view, much more than a street. As a triumphant expression of both progress and prosperity, the spectacle of consumption was the defining scene of the age.
Today’s New York, where the belief that you are what you buy has been taken to an absurd extreme, might be familiar to McCabe. According to the CUNY-based urban geographer David Harvey—a contemporary Marxist scholar of the city—the “quality of urban life has become a commodity.” Ambitious consumption in New York encourages the sort of vacuous pursuit of fashion that prompted Ian Schrager, a slick hotelier and developer, to write: “Nationality and class have been replaced by lifestyle.” The ideal New Yorker has no past and no background, only a wallet and a will to buy.

Rebel Cities

Occupy Wall Street staged a rebellion against corporate corruption and economic inequality in Manhattan’s parks and streets, but the battle for the city began with nineteenth century electrification of Broadway.

To wander Manhattan is to step into the modern fulfillment of an earlier age. The hurtling traffic, the stylish storefronts and bars, the pyramids of cupcakes, the lantern light of iPhones—it may all seem dreadfully contemporary, but its antiquity lies in the time of steam. “New York is a product of the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution,” Lewis Lapham observed in the fall 2010 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, “built on a standardized grid, conceived neither as a thing of beauty nor as an image of the cosmos, much less as an expression of man’s humanity to man, but as a shopping mall in which to perform the heroic feats of acquisition and consumption.”

If the lust to acquire and consume is one defining feature of the city, so too is its complement–deprivation and economic disparity. David Harvey, author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, describes Manhattan as “one vast gated community.” He describes the process by which the rich push the city’s less well-off to its peripheries and take hold of urban life. Tracing the history of urban uprisings from the 1870s to Occupy Wall Street, Harvey argues that cities have long been contested spaces, where the interests of money collide with the public good. Beginning in the late nineteenth-century—when modern New York took shape—one finds the dawning sense that for the city to be made safe for consumption and its contented, bourgeois destiny, it needed to be purged of the blemish of the poor.

For Industrial Revolution-era exponents of this belief, the spectacle of “acquisition and consumption” was one of arresting beauty. Were you to climb the spire of Trinity Church in lower Manhattan in 1872, you would have an uninterrupted view north along Broadway as far as Grace Church on Tenth Street. That vista, hemmed on both ends by Gothic steeples, offered a glimpse of the awesome scale of New York. Man shrank into the precision of the pumping city. “The long lines of passers and carriages take distinct shapes, and seem like immense black bands moving slowly in opposite directions,” wrote James D. McCabe, a nineteenth-century chronicler of the city. “The men seem like pigmies, and the horses like dogs. There is no confusion, however. The eye readily masses into one line all going in the same direction. Each one is hurrying on at the top of his speed, but from this lofty perch they all seem to be crawling at a snail’s pace.” Broadway had real power, absorbing the frantic striving of the individual into the rhythm of a city so much larger than him. It was, in McCabe’s words, “the most wonderful street in the universe,” dwarfing all other European or American rivals in “the extent of its grand display.” Broadway was “a world within itself.”

What sparkled in those two marvellous miles between the churches? What great display condensed the wonder of the universe into this single stretch of New York street?

Shops, of course. McCabe, the author of the guidebook Lights and Shadows of New York Life(1872), delighted in listing the proliferating stores that studded Broadway. There at the corner of Grand Street sat “the beautiful marble building occupied by the wholesale department of Lord & Taylor.” On Prince Street you would find “Ball & Black’s palatial jewelry store.” Passing theatres and hotels—the St. Nicholas, the Comique, the Metropolitan, the Olympic, and so on—you would finally reach “an immense iron structure painted white,” the vast edifice of A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, one of the city’s first department stores, occupying the entire block between Ninth and Tenth streets. “It is always filled with ladies engaged in ‘shopping,’ and the streets around it are blocked with carriages. Throngs of elegantly and plainly dressed buyers pass in and out.”

McCabe dropped quotation marks around the word “shopping” because it was a novel activity. As a pastime (and not simply an exercise of necessity), shopping came into its own in the second half of the nineteenth century, when consumer-citizens, liberated by the mobility of the street car and the new safety offered by gas and electric street lamps, found disposable time and income to spend on the stuff of the industrial age. Shopping reflected the growing prosperity, elegance, and aspiration of New York. Broadway lay at its heart. “Jewels, silks, satins, laces, ribbons, household goods, silverware, toys, paintings… rare, costly, and beautiful objects of every description greet the gazer on every hand. All that is necessary for the comfort of life, all that ministers to luxury and taste, can be found here in the great thoroughfare.”

On Broadway, “no unsuccessful man can remain in the street. Poverty and failure have no place there.” One finds in McCabe’s guidebook an early example of the very bourgeois faith that we are what we buy. Broadway was, in his view, much more than a street. As a triumphant expression of both progress and prosperity, the spectacle of consumption was the defining scene of the age.

Today’s New York, where the belief that you are what you buy has been taken to an absurd extreme, might be familiar to McCabe. According to the CUNY-based urban geographer David Harvey—a contemporary Marxist scholar of the city—the “quality of urban life has become a commodity.” Ambitious consumption in New York encourages the sort of vacuous pursuit of fashion that prompted Ian Schrager, a slick hotelier and developer, to write: “Nationality and class have been replaced by lifestyle.” The ideal New Yorker has no past and no background, only a wallet and a will to buy.

Interpol - Untitled (from Turn On The Bright Lights)

Interpol is an American indie rock and post-punk revival band from New York City. Formed in 1997, the band’s original line-up consisted of Paul Banks (vocals, guitar), Daniel Kessler (guitar, vocals), Carlos Dengler (bass guitar, keyboards) and Greg Drudy (drums, percussion). Interpol, having first performed at Luna Lounge along with other notable bands like The Strokes, Longwave, The National and stellastarr, is one of the bands associated with the New York City indie music scene, and was one of several groups that emerged out of the post-punk revival of the 2000s. The band’s sound is generally a mix of staccato bass and rhythmic, harmonized guitar, with a snare heavy mix, drawing comparisons to post-punk bands such as Joy Division and The Chameleons. Interpol’s debut album Turn on the Bright Lights (2002) was critically acclaimed. Subsequent records Antics (2004) and Our Love to Admire (2007) have confirmed the band’s initial success and turned them into a commercial and critical success. The band released its fourth, self-titled album on September 7, 2010.

(Source: sunrec)




Twin Towers jumpers that Americans will not talk about
Many would rather believe that those who fell from the World Trade Centre were forced from their offices as saying they jumped connotes suicide; a few, however, see courage in their decision to take charge of the manner of their dying.
At the New York office of the chief medical examiner — in charge of recording and investigating all the deaths on 9/11 — they will not even use the words “jump” or “jumper”. Nobody jumped, they say, they only fell or were forced from the towers.
“We’re pretty firm on that position,” said the medical examiner’s spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove. “People were forced or pushed out by the force of the heat and the flames.” To be a jumper, many people feel, implies the act of suicide, an act that some perceive as shameful.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opens at Ground Zero in a year’s time, will include a small display devoted to those who died that way. The committee that set up the museum spent months agonising over how the story of the jumpers should be told. It was decided that visitors would need privacy to see the images — and should be given the choice of whether to view them at all — so the display will be hidden in an alcove.
I assumed it would not be hard to establish the facts about how many people jumped, who they were, how their deaths were recorded and so on. In fact, it proved nigh on impossible at first. Nobody would talk, and people had stopped asking.
There had never been an official count. Or so it appeared, until I discovered an account buried in a massive report devoted to how and why the towers fell, prepared by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). So hidden was the study that even NIST’s own press officer was initially unaware of it, and told me he thought no such account existed.
Fortunately, he double-checked and found that among the report’s numerous appendices was a clinical analysis of the precise time that people jumped and fell, noting the floor and even the window they came out of.
The report records 104 such deaths, although NIST says its tally is not definitive, and that the actual total is probably higher. Nevertheless, this is the first time any official figures on the subject have been published.




I certainly faced great resistance in the US when I began researching this article. But the story of the “jumpers” was haunting, and I had always known I would end up writing about them one day.

Twin Towers jumpers that Americans will not talk about

Many would rather believe that those who fell from the World Trade Centre were forced from their offices as saying they jumped connotes suicide; a few, however, see courage in their decision to take charge of the manner of their dying.

At the New York office of the chief medical examiner — in charge of recording and investigating all the deaths on 9/11 — they will not even use the words “jump” or “jumper”. Nobody jumped, they say, they only fell or were forced from the towers.

“We’re pretty firm on that position,” said the medical examiner’s spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove. “People were forced or pushed out by the force of the heat and the flames.” To be a jumper, many people feel, implies the act of suicide, an act that some perceive as shameful.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opens at Ground Zero in a year’s time, will include a small display devoted to those who died that way. The committee that set up the museum spent months agonising over how the story of the jumpers should be told. It was decided that visitors would need privacy to see the images — and should be given the choice of whether to view them at all — so the display will be hidden in an alcove.

I assumed it would not be hard to establish the facts about how many people jumped, who they were, how their deaths were recorded and so on. In fact, it proved nigh on impossible at first. Nobody would talk, and people had stopped asking.

There had never been an official count. Or so it appeared, until I discovered an account buried in a massive report devoted to how and why the towers fell, prepared by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). So hidden was the study that even NIST’s own press officer was initially unaware of it, and told me he thought no such account existed.

Fortunately, he double-checked and found that among the report’s numerous appendices was a clinical analysis of the precise time that people jumped and fell, noting the floor and even the window they came out of.

The report records 104 such deaths, although NIST says its tally is not definitive, and that the actual total is probably higher. Nevertheless, this is the first time any official figures on the subject have been published.

I certainly faced great resistance in the US when I began researching this article. But the story of the “jumpers” was haunting, and I had always known I would end up writing about them one day.

(Source: sunrec)

Meet Wendy, an installation in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 for the remainder of the summer. Wendy is the brainchild of HWKN, a New York based firm that beat out four other finalists for the chance to realize their project. One of the more interesting things about the project is its attitude about environmental responsibility. Instead of adopting passive strategies, Wendy elects to use active ones:

“Wendy is composed of nylon fabric treated with a ground breaking titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants. During the summer of 2012, Wendy will clean the air to an equivalent of taking 260 cars off the road.”

In a lot of ways, the project is like an angry-looking raincloud. Wendy provides shade for folks underneath her, and a series of fans blows mist through the mesh that covers her spiky arms. But Wendy doesn’t have a silver lining, she has a titania coating.

Link: Before Air-Conditioning

Exactly what year it was I can no longer recall—probably 1927 or ’28—there was an extraordinarily hot September, which hung on even after school had started and we were back from our Rockaway Beach bungalow. Every window in New York was open, and on the streets venders manning little carts chopped ice and sprinkled colored sugar over mounds of it for a couple of pennies. We kids would jump onto the back steps of the slow-moving, horse-drawn ice wagons and steal a chip or two; the ice smelled vaguely of manure but cooled palm and tongue.

People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake. I can recall only white people spread out on the grass; Harlem began above 116th Street then.

Later on, in the Depression thirties, the summers seemed even hotter. Out West, it was the time of the red sun and the dust storms, when whole desiccated farms blew away and sent the Okies, whom Steinbeck immortalized, out on their desperate treks toward the Pacific. My father had a small coat factory on Thirty-ninth Street then, with about a dozen men working sewing machines. Just to watch them handling thick woollen winter coats in that heat was, for me, a torture. The cutters were on piecework, paid by the number of seams they finished, so their lunch break was short—fifteen or twenty minutes. They brought their own food: bunches of radishes, a tomato perhaps, cucumbers, and a jar of thick sour cream, which went into a bowl they kept under the machines. A small loaf of pumpernickel also materialized, which they tore apart and used as a spoon to scoop up the cream and vegetables.

More Historic Photos From the NYC Municipal Archives: One more look into the fascinating New York City Municipal Archives, and their recently-released database of over 870,000 photos throughout the 20th century, a follow-up to this earlier entry. Their subjects include daily life, construction, crime, city business, aerial photographs, and more. Today’s selection from this remarkable collection includes numerous street scenes that are visible today through Google Maps Street Views, and links are provided to let you see the difference the years have made. [50 photos]

Historic Photos From the NYC Municipal Archives: The New York City Municipal Archives just released a database of over 870,000 photos from its collection of more than 2.2 million images of New York throughout the 20th century. Their subjects include daily life, construction, crime, city business, aerial photographs, and more. I spent hours lost in these amazing photos, and gathered this group together to give you just a glimpse of what’s been made available from this remarkable collection. [53 photos]



Twin Towers jumpers that Americans will not talk about
Many would rather believe that those who fell from the World Trade Centre were forced from their offices as saying they jumped connotes suicide; a few, however, see courage in their decision to take charge of the manner of their dying.
At the New York office of the chief medical examiner — in charge of recording and investigating all the deaths on 9/11 — they will not even use the words “jump” or “jumper”. Nobody jumped, they say, they only fell or were forced from the towers.
“We’re pretty firm on that position,” said the medical examiner’s spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove. “People were forced or pushed out by the force of the heat and the flames.” To be a jumper, many people feel, implies the act of suicide, an act that some perceive as shameful.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opens at Ground Zero in a year’s time, will include a small display devoted to those who died that way. The committee that set up the museum spent months agonising over how the story of the jumpers should be told. It was decided that visitors would need privacy to see the images — and should be given the choice of whether to view them at all — so the display will be hidden in an alcove.
I assumed it would not be hard to establish the facts about how many people jumped, who they were, how their deaths were recorded and so on. In fact, it proved nigh on impossible at first. Nobody would talk, and people had stopped asking.
There had never been an official count. Or so it appeared, until I discovered an account buried in a massive report devoted to how and why the towers fell, prepared by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). So hidden was the study that even NIST’s own press officer was initially unaware of it, and told me he thought no such account existed.
Fortunately, he double-checked and found that among the report’s numerous appendices was a clinical analysis of the precise time that people jumped and fell, noting the floor and even the window they came out of.
The report records 104 such deaths, although NIST says its tally is not definitive, and that the actual total is probably higher. Nevertheless, this is the first time any official figures on the subject have been published.
I certainly faced great resistance in the US when I began researching this article. But the story of the “jumpers” was haunting, and I had always known I would end up writing about them one day.

Twin Towers jumpers that Americans will not talk about

Many would rather believe that those who fell from the World Trade Centre were forced from their offices as saying they jumped connotes suicide; a few, however, see courage in their decision to take charge of the manner of their dying.

At the New York office of the chief medical examiner — in charge of recording and investigating all the deaths on 9/11 — they will not even use the words “jump” or “jumper”. Nobody jumped, they say, they only fell or were forced from the towers.

“We’re pretty firm on that position,” said the medical examiner’s spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove. “People were forced or pushed out by the force of the heat and the flames.” To be a jumper, many people feel, implies the act of suicide, an act that some perceive as shameful.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opens at Ground Zero in a year’s time, will include a small display devoted to those who died that way. The committee that set up the museum spent months agonising over how the story of the jumpers should be told. It was decided that visitors would need privacy to see the images — and should be given the choice of whether to view them at all — so the display will be hidden in an alcove.

I assumed it would not be hard to establish the facts about how many people jumped, who they were, how their deaths were recorded and so on. In fact, it proved nigh on impossible at first. Nobody would talk, and people had stopped asking.

There had never been an official count. Or so it appeared, until I discovered an account buried in a massive report devoted to how and why the towers fell, prepared by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). So hidden was the study that even NIST’s own press officer was initially unaware of it, and told me he thought no such account existed.

Fortunately, he double-checked and found that among the report’s numerous appendices was a clinical analysis of the precise time that people jumped and fell, noting the floor and even the window they came out of.

The report records 104 such deaths, although NIST says its tally is not definitive, and that the actual total is probably higher. Nevertheless, this is the first time any official figures on the subject have been published.

I certainly faced great resistance in the US when I began researching this article. But the story of the “jumpers” was haunting, and I had always known I would end up writing about them one day.

Hiroshima, USA

In 1950, a popular magazine depicted what an atomic bomb would do to New York City—in gruesome detail.

There’s no city that Americans fictionally destroy more often than New York.

New York has been blown up, beaten down and attacked in every medium imaginable throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. From movies to novels to newspapers, there’s just something so terribly apocalyptic in the American psyche that we must see our most populous city’s demise over and over again.

Before WWII, these visions of New York’s destruction took the form of tidal waves, fires or giant ape attacks — but after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in Hiroshima and Nagaski, the atom was suddenly the new leveler of cities.

The August 5, 1950 cover of Collier’s magazine ran an illustration of a mushroom cloud over Manhattan, with the headline reading: “Hiroshima, U.S.A.: Can Anything be Done About It?” Written by John Lear, with paintings by Chesley Bonestell and Birney Lettick, Collier’s obliterates New York through horrifying words and pictures. The first page of the article explains “the story of this story”:

For five years now the world has lived with the dreadful knowledge that atomic warfare is possible. Since last September, when the President announced publicly that the Russians too had produced an atomic explosion, this nation has lived face to face with the terrifying realization that an attack with atomic weapons could be made against us.

But, until now, no responsible voice has evaluated the problem constructively, in words everybody can understand. This article performs that service. Collier’s gives it more than customary space in the conviction that, when the danger is delineated and the means to combat it effectively is made clear, democracy will have an infinitely stronger chance to survive.

The illustrator who painted the cover was Chesley Bonestell and it is no doubt one of the most frightening images to ever grace the cover ofa major American magazine. Opening up to the story inside, we see a city aflame.

The first few pages of the article tell the story of a typical Tuesday in New York City, with people going about their business. Suddenly a radiant heat is felt and a great flash engulfs the city. People in Coney Island mistake it for a lightning bolt. A housewife in the Bronx goes to the kitchen window to investigate where the light came from, only to have the window smash in front of her, sending thousands of “slashing bits” toward her body. As Lear describes it, it doesn’t take long for “millions of people, scattered over thousands of miles” to discover what has taken place.