The 9/11 Memorial
March 1st, 2006

More than two years after an expert panel chose the design for the 9/11 memorial — and about two weeks before work is set to begin — opponents of the design are becoming increasingly vocal. The Daily News reports today that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has called for a delay in construction, citing “‘major … adverse effects the memorial will have on the towers’ footprints and access to the solemn site. And on Monday, hundreds of police, firefighters, emergency workers and victim families rallied at Ground Zero to protest the design.

The idea of a below ground memorial (one not seen from street level) doesn’t seem right to many of the family members of the victims since the attacks and the loss of life occurred high above the granite pit that is now all that is left of the World Trade Center, wrote Victor Lana in blogcritics.

Police and firefighters object to the names of their dead being listed with all other victims. In a posting on Take Back the Memorial, firefighters union president Steve Cassidy said the names of the firefighters should appear in a separate space, with each one memorialized as they functioned that day by division, battalion, unit and rank, with their badge number listed with their name. He also calls for a safety review of the underground site.

Liza Sabater in Daily Gotham is more concerned about the problems raising money for the memorial. She writes, What does it say of our government that it won’t pony-up the money for a memorial?…What does it say about the Bush administration that they could care less about what goes on at Ground Zero?

But Chrissy in livejournal questions the need for any monument: Donating money, homes, supplies, and such to the Katrina victims and victims of other horrible events in order to help them live, in the names of the victims of 9/11, would be a better memorial.

By on March 1, 2006, 9:08 am
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Glitz Comes to Queens
February 22nd, 2006

For those bored with the Manhattanization of Brooklyn, welcome to the Manhattanization of Queens. Plans have been announced for a major expansion of Queens Silvercup Studio in Long Island City. According to Curbed, The expansion, dubbed Silvercup West, would include studio space, soundstages and stores galore, an ‘unnamed cultural institution’ (hot!)and over a thousand apartments that would presumably gaze at the Manhattan skyline from those towers.

Some observers see the plans, still awaiting approval, as a vote of confidence in Queens and the citys film industry. What would you pick – a new Brooklyn or a new Long Island City? asks Gothamist. The thing that has stopped Queens from truly being the next Brooklyn (at least for younger NYers) is its less ideal downtown access, though the views can be more spectacular. And, says Brownstoner, Pretty soon, all the movie stars in Boerum Hill won’t ever have to set foot in Manhattan.

But an anonymous poster on that blog has doubts: I just love how like Atlantic Yards is promoted as a sport stadium when its really a high rise condo project, this is being promoted as a film studio when its really a massive condo development.

By on February 22, 2006, 1:13 pm
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Returning That 2,500-Year-Old Italian Vase
February 6th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times believes the Metropolitan Museum of Art is doing the right thing by returning the 2,500-year-old Euphronios krater (a mixing bowl) and several other antiquities to Italy, because the Italian government has demonstrated to the museum’s satisfaction the likelihood that they were stolen. The Times decries the notorious corrupt antiquities market and its ceaseless cultural ransacking.

By on February 6, 2006, 12:52 pm
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Evicting the Choir
February 1st, 2006

Citing mismanagement by Walter Turnbull, founder of the Boys Choir of Harlem, the New York Post praises Schools Chancellor Joel Klein for evicting the famed group from its building. It says, By standing firm, Klein, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Bloomberg showed they care more about orderly education than political backlash from Representative Charles Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins and others who have sought to fight the eviction.

By on February 1, 2006, 9:37 am
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Wendy Wasserstein, 1950 - 2006
January 31st, 2006

Wendy Wasserstein’s “outrageously premature death yesterday,” her friend Gail Collins writes in the New York Times, “deprived the nation of a beloved playwright, but it also stripped the city of one of its best people.”

By on January 31, 2006, 5:50 am
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Defending The Drawing Center, Attacking Pataki
January 14th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times uses the news that the Drawing Center may relocate to the South Street Seaport to praise the museum, lament once again the cultural squabbles at Ground Zero, and take several shots at George Pataki who, “in a memorable spasm of apparently unscripted patriotism” essentially drove the Drawing Center out of the planned cultural center to which he had previously welcomed it. “If nothing else, the battle over culture at ground zero made it perfectly clear that Governor Pataki favors free speech, but only if it takes place in another part of town.”

By on January 14, 2006, 4:11 pm
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Playing for the Choir
January 9th, 2006

A leadership battle may be shaping up at the famed Boys Choir of Harlem — and the Girls Choir as well. In an editorial, the Daily News praises former Mayor David Dinkins for stepping in and trying to save the choir, which is in debt, facing eviction by the Department of Education and unable to pay staff. “Dinkins has taken on a huge job because the choir organization needs rebuilding from the ground up,” the News says. “Its survival depends on the introduction of fresh leadership and new, professional management. ” As part of that, the News says, founder Walter Turnbull must step aside — and, it says, “Dinkins politely signals in a fund-raising letter that [Turnbull’s] role will be diminished.

In an op-ed in the News, Dinkins and Representative Charles Rangel, who is also heavily involved in efforts to save the choir, are not so explicit. Extolling the choir for its musical and academic accomplishments, Rangel and Dinkins say, “the choir has experienced a number of operational, managerial and financial setbacks and as a result has been unable to raise the funds necessary to meet” various contractual and financial obligations. In a subtle reflection of what’s in the News editorial, the two men say the choir needs to “regain its prominence, particularly in the area of its leadership.” In any event, with Dinkins’ help, writes MultiCult Classics, it “Looks like the fat lady won’t be singing just yet.”

Meanwhile, the choir has been the recipient of some unusual largesse. The Associated Press reports that Rangel is donating $2,000 he received from a law firm linked to disgraced lobbyist (is that redundant?) Jack Abramoff to the choir. And Hip Hop Blogs says that rapper 50 Cent’s G-Unity Foundation has donated $150,000 to the group.

By on January 9, 2006, 8:49 am
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On Watching King Kong During The Transit Strike
December 22nd, 2005

Nobody takes the bus or the subway in the New York of the new “King Kong.” There are a few trolleys, but everybody travels mostly by car and cab, by ship and – in the beautiful blonde’s case – by ape.

There is something even less likely: When Adrian Brody dashes through Times Square to try to rescue Naomi Watts from the rampaging Kong (or is it to rescue both of them?), he hails a cab.

“It’s all yours buddy,” the cabdriver says, opening the door for Brody and running out.

By on December 22, 2005, 10:41 am
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New York IS Monstropolis (Or Soon Will Be)
December 13th, 2005

The staff artists at Pixar Animation Studios — creators of Monster, Inc.; The
Incredibles; Toy Story and Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, and A Bug’s Life — made a startling revelation at the preview to the new Museum of Modern Art exhibition, “Pixar: 20 Years Animation.” New York City was an inspiration.

“The city you see when Mr. Incredible is young is more or less modeled on New York,” said Lou Romano, that film’s production designer. “The brick texture and color palette feels New York to us.”

Bug City in A Bug’s Life “is sort of an evocation of Times Square,” said Bill Cone
But it is Monstropolis in Monster, Inc. that is most like New York, according to Harvey Jessup, its production designer. Though they took trips to Pittsburgh, not New York, “we looked at a lot of photographs of New York in the 1930’s, Bernice Abbott’s photographs. The TWA terminal at JFK, and the old Penn Station provided inspiration for specific locales.

“At one point, we designed a whole subway system,” Jessup explained. “But they just wanted the monsters to walk to work.” By they, Jessup doesn’t mean the Transport Workers Union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; he is talking about the director of Monster, Inc.

By on December 13, 2005, 3:32 pm
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The Best Of Culture In 2005 (Says NY Mag)
December 13th, 2005

New York Magazine offers what it calls
its culture awards for 2005, which is really just a list of stuff (and people) their staff happened to like this year.

Here is the summary about
“In 2005, the bubble didn’t burst, and the Chelsea gallery scene kept expanding—while heavies like Matthew Marks and Damien Hirst called attention to themselves (yet again). The Met reestablished its stellar reputation. Digital art took a small step forward. Oh, and someone put a bunch of saffron fabric in the park.” (a terminally hip reference to The Gates Project)

Here is their summary about theater:
“Sondheim killed as Broadway showed a taste for butchery—not to mention molestation. Cherry Jones flew high as a nun, while Ethan Hawke wallowed in self-destruction. Amid revivals and nostalgic musicals, some playwrights proved they could smartly tackle current events. And Doug Hughes directed everything.”

By on December 13, 2005, 9:10 am
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Does Your Favorite Museum Fund Terror?
December 11th, 2005

Matthew Bogdanos, a Marine Reserves colonel and an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, has an op-ed piece in the New York Times about the underground market of priceless artifacts, and how it funds terrorists.

Currently serving in Iraq, he talks about terrorist’s “underground bunkers filled with automatic weapons, ammunition stockpiles, black uniforms, ski masks, night-vision goggles … and 30 vases, cylinder seals and statuettes that had been stolen from the Iraq Museum.” He thinks that “as a cash source for the terrorists, it ranks just below kidnappings for ransom and on a par with forced donations from local residents and merchants.”

As a solution, he proposes a multi-faceted approach including stepped up funding in relevant countries for theft prevention, more international attention and cooperation, and the cultural foundations’ financial assistance for art-theft squads.

Cultural institutions need a strict uniform code of conduct that clarifies the documentation and diligence required for an artifact to change hands legally, Bagdanos says. Failing that, he says, Congress should mandate it.

In the introduction to his piece, he cites an incident with the Metropolitan Museum of New York, who is in talks with Italian officials for being in possession of stolen Italian antiquities.

He vows to “return to the Manhattan district attorney’s office early next year and head the city’s first task force dedicated to investigating and prosecuting antiquities theft and trafficking.”

By on December 11, 2005, 12:52 am
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John Lennon's New York
December 8th, 2005

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon — and local opinion writers are remembering the artist and his connections to New York.

The New York Times’ Jack Mitchell unveils a previously unpublished photo of Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken shortly before the musician was shot and killed outside his Upper West Side apartment. The Times also has a feature on Dr. Stephan Lynn, who was running the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital that night.

In the Daily News, David Hinckley ponders Lennon’s legacy and what he really left music fans and his critics.

Newsday offers an audio slide show which begins “John Lennon could have lived anywhere in the world. He chose New York.”

And a New York Post cover story claims “City Apple of Lennon’s Eye.”

“New York was a natural fit for John Lennon in 1971 — a king of rock ‘n’ roll who had divorced his bandmates and was now wedded to an avant-garde artist,” the Post writes. “Where else to escape the stodgy conservatism of England — where Lennon had been set up for a drug bust by an overzealous cop — than the cultural capital of the world?”

By on December 8, 2005, 7:41 am
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Madonna May Love New York, But What's The Official Anthem?
November 16th, 2005

Madonna’s new song “I Love New York” is, says Gawker, the “perfect anthem” for New York (though Wonkster realizes this is hip talk for “dreadful”), and then reprints the lyrics:

I don’t like cities but I like New York
Other places make me feel like a dork
Los Angeles is for people who sleep
Paris and London, baby you can keep
Other cities always make me mad
Other places always make me sad
No other made me glad, except New York
I love New York

This begs the question — what is New York’s official anthem?

The Politicker and the world-renowned NYC administrative law judge and Big Apple enthusiast Barry Popik both have said that it’s New York For The Time Of Your Life, by Frank Wildhorn, who wrote the Broadway musicals “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Dracula”, and that the lyrics go like this:

It’s a great front row seat for the world at your feet
It’s the Yankees and Knicks, the Rockettes doin’ kicks.
You can sail Sheepshead Bay, see a show on Broadway.
It’s Fifth Avenue, plenty to see and do. …
New York, New York
Winter, spring, summer, fall
Baby we’ve got it all!
New York, anytime of year
New York, it’s all happening here
New York, for the time of your life!
You can shop ’til you drop, live your life to the top.
Double header at Shea, somethin’ new every day.
It’s the lights in Times Square, the moments you share.
Summer breaks. Paint the town — paint it up, paint it down.
Take the ferry to Staten from lower Manhattan. It’s a bagel and schmear, it’s a whole other gear.
It’s a hot dog from Coney, a waiter named Tony. Yellow cabs, limousines. It’s the subway to Queens. It’s so nice, see it twice, paradise by the slice,
Brooklyn Heights, The Bronx Zoo, somethin’ old, somethin’ new
I love New York, baby come paint the town

Others, however, say it’s “New York, New York,” which was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb for Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film of the same name and which former Mayor Ed Koch proclaimed the city’s official song in 1985. The lyrics, as modified by Frank Sinatra, who made it a hit when he recorded it in 1980, go like this:

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it, New York, New York
These vagabond shoes are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York

I wanna wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap

These little town blues are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you , New York, New York

New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m A-number-one, top of the list,
King of the hill, A-number-one

These little town blues are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it in old New York
A-a-a-nd if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

But then what about Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green’s New York, New York (It’s A Helluva Town), or Billy Joel’s New York State Of Mind or Norah Jones’s “New York City (Such A Beautiful Disease)” ?

By on November 16, 2005, 7:09 am
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Commercial Street (And Ugly Too)
November 3rd, 2005

Now when, after 14 years of failed attempts, the city finally has entered into an agreement for new “street furniture” — 3,650 newsstands, bus shelters and public toilets, etc. — one question the Municipal Art Society has is: Will they all be as ugly and crass as the stuff on the streets now?

They hope not, as they wrote in a letter to the mayor, asking that the new designs be “simple, elegant and timeless” — and that the public have a chance to see them in advance. If instead, the news racks and kiosks and toilets are poorly designed, “they will surely detract from the quality of city life, as does so much of our existing street furniture.”

It’s bad enough that so much on the street is “ramshackle,” as the society puts it. The current street furniture is also increasingly full of “obnoxious” and “oppressive” advertisements — much of it illegal. “Fact: all advertising on sidewalk sheds is illegal, unless the sign is for an establishment located in that building,” Vanessa Gruen writes on the Municipal Art Society Web site.

By on November 3, 2005, 11:38 pm
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Why Not Pay Your Cab Fare With A MetroCard?
November 3rd, 2005

Here are some of the new ideas for NYC taxicabs — from the fanciful to the immediately implementable — that came out of workshops organized by the Design Trust for Public Space, presented in an exhibition opening last night at Parsons:

More easily visible “Vacancy” signs on top of cabs.

On-board air filters

Taxis that are fully wheelchair accessible, “with sliding doors, a low curbside ramp, interior floor locks for stability, and a rear safety light to indicate boarding and exiting.”

Child seats, such as ones that fold down from the back seat

Driver hats, yellow in color, but of various styles, reflecting the origins of the cabdriver — for example, a taxi fez, a taxi turban, and a taxi snow hat.

The return of the old “Checker Cab” with an updated design. (Currently, the standard yellow taxi is the Ford Crown Victoria)

“Calling a cab” through a cell phone that sends out a signal telling cabdrivers of their would-be passenger’s location.

Cabs with skylights

Cabs in which the partition is a console that offers the passenger such amenities as a microphone, cup holder, credit-card reader, even Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, a “GPS” (Global Positioning Satellite) screen — a map that traces your location.

“Green” taxis — smaller, less polluting (with a hybrid engine), with interiors made out of environmentally friendly materials.

Certain curbs marked as loading and unloading zones for cabs

Taxi stands “where passengers can get a cab and purchase MetroCards, and also where drivers can take a break, use the restroom, and recharge the batteries of future electric cabs.”

“Cashless payment” methods, such as the use of the MetroCard

By on November 3, 2005, 7:02 am
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Selling Off Art, Selling Out The Public
November 2nd, 2005

Lee Rosenbaum is the latest to lament the increasing practice of museums to sell off public treasures. Many of the examples she gives in this Op-Ed in the NY Times are from New York cultural institutions: “Last May, the New York Public Library sold its most admired painting, Asher B. Durand’s “Kindred Spirits,” [below, to a Wal-Mart heir] for a reported $35 million. Sotheby’s will soon auction 18 more of the library’s works, including two important Gilbert Stuart portraits of George Washington. In 2003, the Museum of Modern Art privately sold a seminal Cubist Picasso of superlative quality”

The reasons for this failure “to protect and preserve the public patrimony” are hollow or outright false: “When the Guggenheim Museum sold a major Kandinsky in 1990, for example, it argued that it could easily spare one because it had so many. But this explanation disregards a museum’s responsibility to collect artists’ work in depth.
“Many museums simply explain that their missions have changed: Works valued by previous curators and visitors are no longer deemed part of the “proper scope” of the institution’s collecting. The New York Public Library, for instance, has decided that it should still collect drawings and prints but not the paintings and sculptures it displayed for generations. Similar second thoughts ravaged the folk art collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1999. The Whitney decided that 19th-century folk art was “not essential” to the Whitney’s mission of collecting post-1900 art. But its founding director, Juliana Force, not only had mounted folk art shows but was also a pioneering collector in that field. More recently, in both 1974 and 1980, the Whitney had organized definitive folk art exhibitions. ”

For more on this trend, see “Kindred Spirits: Art and Money”

By on November 2, 2005, 12:35 am
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Get Rich Or Die Trying Somewhere Else
November 1st, 2005

Errol Louis of the Daily News is not just mad about the giant billboards promoting a new violent semi-autobiographical movie called “Get Rich or Die Trying” starring 50 Cent, which are going up in neighborhoods throughout New York and across the country. He is also urging his readers to call Paramount Pictures and parent Viacom (he even provides the telephone numbers) to urge the removal of the billboard, which shows 50 Cent with arms outstretched, a microphone in one hand, a gun in the other. Councilmember Letitia James, he says, also has called a rally Friday morning in front of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters. “This isn’t about censorship. 50 Cent is free to sell lies to his mostly suburban audience about a mythical ghetto where guns, violence and dope-dealing are glorified and respected. But those of us who actually live in the neighborhoods that 50 Cent fled long ago have freedom of speech, too – and we have to set the record straight.”

Protests in Los Angeles already have prompted Paramount to remove the billboard there.

By on November 1, 2005, 6:51 am
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Bloomberg And The Arts (Something Omitted)
October 24th, 2005

On the same day that The New York Times “enthusiastically” endorsed Michael Bloomberg for re-election, it ran a long article on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section that said, while the mayor has little patience personally for the arts, “his administration has done more to promote and support the arts than any in a generation.”

Author Jennifer Steinhauer writes: “The mayor’s arts agenda has infused policy-making throughout the municipal government. The administration has created the first public school arts curriculum in a generation, and created zoning policies to encourage the growth of the art galleries in Chelsea. In the process, it has developed a constituency that is perhaps more enamored of the mayor than any other special interest group in the city.”

Oddly omitted from the article, though, are any comments from the major arts advocates in the city, including those from the Alliance for the Arts and the New York City Arts Coalition, who have not been shy about expressing their disappointment with the Bloomberg administration for having an arts expense budget lower than it was during the final fiscal year that began under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Instead, the Times article mentions Bloomberg’s personal contributions of many millions of dollars over the past three years to hundreds of small cultural institutions in the city through the Carnegie Corporation, and then concludes: “The donation blunted criticism about his budget-cutting.” An Associated Press article over the summer, however, put it differently: Bloomberg’s personal donations “help those organizations absorb cuts made by his administration.”

Not every member of this “special interest group” seems all that enamored of Bloomberg, or of the Times article. Alex Barreto, an artist on the staff of an (unnamed) arts organization, expressed outrage in the blog “Play Rey Play” at the Times “puff piece” appearing two weeks before the election: “This is not news; it is blatant political endorsement.”

For more about the current state of the arts in New York, see Is New York The Cultural Capital of the World?, Campaign 2005: Long-term Issues Facing The Arts In NYC and Arts Funding 101

By on October 24, 2005, 8:53 am
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Rethinking Rebuilding Again
October 23rd, 2005

In an effort to take a more prominent role in the future World Trade Center site, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the Daily News editorial board that he would like to kick developer Larry Silverstein, who holds a 99-year lease on the site, out of the rebuilding process. “It would be in the city’s interest to get Silverstein out, [but] nobody can figure out how to do it yet,” Bloomberg said. The mayor also expressed his concern over the power of victims’ family groups, who lead the fight against the International Freedom Center.

In response, a Daily News editorial, entitled “How to Build at Ground Zero,” calls the plan to build huge office towers “fundamentally flawed” and warns that “New York faces the terrible prospect of having a ghost town around Ground Zero for decades.”

“Pataki, Bloomberg and the Port Authority must focus on breaking Silverstein’s hold on Ground Zero,” the News writes. “He must be made to see that his interests and New York’s interests rest in opening most of Ground Zero’s five parcels to residential, retail and hotel development. The area would then boom.”

By on October 23, 2005, 11:03 am
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Monstrosity or Landmark?
October 17th, 2005

The destruction of the old Penn Station to make way for Madison Square so appalled many New Yorkers that it paved the way for our current landmarks preservation law. But now the New York Times finds that three leading preservation groups have put the arena on a list of significant modern buildings. Could landmark status be next?

While the Times did not quote anyone who flat-out called for preservation of the garden, Kate Wood, of Landmark West!, which is spearheading the movement to landmark 2 Columbus Circle said, “I’m all for a public hearing for Madison Square Garden. It would tell us a lot about where we are in our ability to evaluate the architectural and historical significance of the recent past.” But many New Yorkers still cringe at the thought of honoring something they view as an architectural atrocity. “This building remains unforgivable by any standard,” Paul Goldberger, dean of the Parsons School of Design, said in an e-mail to the Times, while Diana Goldstein, who was among those who sparked the original protests to save Penn Station, e-mailed, “Who on earth thinks that building is worth preserving?”

By on October 17, 2005, 11:43 am
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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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