NYC: January 2008 Archives

a silent cry from a witness across the street two days ago

Whatever the bureaucratic, commercial or political story which lies behind the human tragedy of New York City's dreadful and totally irresponsible eviction of over 200 men, women, children and their pets from their homes in the darkness nine days ago on one of the coldest nights of the year, if this doesn't radicalize New Yorkers, we deserve whatever we get.

But there is no acceptable outcome to this particular tale other than the quick return of these people and a proper accounting of the official malfeasance which resulted in their removal in the first place.

Bloomberg, Markowitz, Quinn, anybody out there? We do note that that very decent local member of the City Council, David Yassky, has been with this story from the beginning, was at the scene on Sunday, and appears to be very supportive of the vibrant and creative community which has lived and worked inside this massive, 11-story Williamsburg building block for ten years.

For more on the story of 475 Kent, see Bloggy and any number of other on-line sites.

The images below were taken this past Sunday night. They show tenants retrieving their possessions (boxes, art, bicycles, baby carriages, parakeets, etc.) in the last moments before the building was finally padlocked, for a painfully-indefinite period. A large crowd gathered across the street in the bitter cold to observe the sad scene.

If you go to Barry's flickr images, note the Police van parked on the sidewalk adjacent to the large crowd which was repeatedly pushed back from the parking lane onto that part of the sidewalk not occupied by an NYPD vehicle.




Janáček in a Slovak-Moravian borderland village a century ago, recording singers onto wax

the performance

Did anyone see either of the two performances of the Gotham Chamber Opera's "Scenes of Gypsy Life" presented this week at the Morgan? Barry and I went on Wednesday, but at this point I'm feeling I must have imagined the experience. While the singers were not to be faulted and in fact should be commended for their courage, the production was otherwise really bad on virtually every count.

I've seen nothing in the media suggesting it ever happened (only pre-performance announcements). I waited almost two days before posting this because I thought that maybe I totally missed something. I was hoping to read a review which might explain what the brutal staging was all about, but now I think that reviewers who would ordinarily be inclined to support the company weren't able to shine a better light on this weird evening than I could.

Basically, I'd like to know whether we're the only ones who thought it was ill-conceived and incredibly ugly, not to say sadistic and shockingly racist. Neither the poets nor the composers, Antonín Dvořák and Leoš Janáček, who set their words into the music heard this week, had intended a slander of the Roma people with whom they all shared a culture. They had all, in fact, intended homage.

And it wasn't just the director's treatment of all three gypsies as stock characters. Actually, if there were any reason for the existence of an anti-defamation organization for farm boys represented as monsters, it too would have to be interested in Eric Einhorn's direction. The raw setup should have presumed one wholesome youth, four pretty gypsy girls, a gentle pastoral scene, music. How (or why) does this scenario become so intensely horrible?

This all seems especially weird since I've been to and enjoyed most of this company's early productions and I would expect to be a part of its audiences in the future. The inspired and often masterful mounting of relatively-obscure operas, with exciting casts and designers, and presented in modest-sized auditoriums: What's not to like?

the auditorium

I wrote just now that I expected to go back to the Gotham, but I will never go back to a performance at the Morgan library. It's not so much the architecture of Renzo Piano's expensive new addition, which is a mess of mall-inspired multiple planes and giant muntins in a confusing layout forced into the spaces separating several worthy late nineteenth and early-twentieth-century buildings, as if these spaces were only so many cavities which needed filling.

It's the auditorium itself, Gilder Lehrman Hall: I had no idea the architect had retractable feet. But even such a wondrous anatomical gift couldn't justify making those of us who don't suffer the consequences of the shape and arrangement of the seats in his little wooden hall. The over-hyped super-star museum architect forgot that most of us ordinary mortals, even when seated, have feet attached to and extending forward from their legs.

Hey, we don't look anything like the tiny folks for whom Carnegie Hall was designed in 1890 (and refurbished to the same specs a hundred years later); we're the giants who showed up in 2008, and this is a totally new building!

UPDATE: The NYTimes review, by Vivien Schweitzer, finally appeared in Saturday's edition. It praises what should be praised and at least as edited for publication almost totally ignores what I found deeply troubling. There will be no more performances, so the review cannot affect a potential audience, and in spite of the writer's reference to a bloodstained shirt, shackles, and young women being chained up, there is little in her report which might have enlightened anyone who had actually seen the production and been disturbed by it.

[image from]

like almost every other public convenience in this city, the two facilities inside the 23rd Street/8th Avenue subway station, one of which is marked by this old whited-out tile sign, has been closed for decades

Now once again [see this 2004 news article, and note that it was certainly not the first] we're being told that help really is on the way.

The city fathers and mothers (who must never have had to pee, once they were out and about, since some time after World War II) have been talking for years about setting up a few above-ground single-user toilet units around the city for the rest of us. Now we are being told that eventually twenty big automated toilet boxes will be spread over the five boroughs.

There are real problems with this solution which are obvious even now: They call it street furniture, but they won't be occupying space reserved for cars but will instead be another encroachment on the space left for the increasingly-marginalized pedestrian; it looks like we'll still have a very long walk between water closets, and a potential wait in line once one of these things is located, particularly if it's in a high-traffic neighborhood, as I assume they all of them will be; commercial advertising (plus a quarter from each visitor) is supposed to pay for them, meaning that they will also be adding to to the visual pollution of New York's runaway public billboard epidemic; the toilets will be open (surprise!) only from 8 am to 8 pm; and, oh yeah, they will each use 14 gallons of our precious water reserve to clean the inside of the unit every time it's flushed (hey, do you think we're going to be allowed inside to pee during our not-infrequent summer droughts?); finally, how often will they be out of order?

Before replacing it with something else the authorities peremptorily abandoned a system which worked, however problematically. We've had half a century to think about what to replace it with, and sadly this is the best they could come up with. I know this is America, but can't we try thinking minimal once in a while?

This page is an archive of entries in the NYC category from January 2008.

previous archive: NYC: December 2007

next archiveNYC: February 2008