NYC: September 2004 Archives

James Abbott McNeill Whistler Symphony in Blue and Pink (ca. 1870)

Disclaimer: I'm posting this even though I didn't attend either of the two New York Philharmonic performances reviewed by Justin Davidson in today's Newsday. I should be a natural and enthusiastic patron of an institution which can bring alive an historical musical heritage which means a great deal to me and which continues to inspire exciting composers and performers in our present century. In fact however, for reasons described in Davidson's critique, I've stayed away for a while, and I don't expect to attend any Philharmonic performances this season.

While the orchestra and I have had a history together, the relationship has been suffering for years and now we may not share any future whatsoever.

I'm showing my frustration now because I've just discovered that someone has outdone the sometimes shockingly-outspoken critic from the NYTimes, Anthony Tommasini, in condemning what has become of our hometown orchestra.

Davidson's review of the orchestra's first two concert programs of the season includes phrases like, "doing business like it has always been done," "executing that chestnut," "arid mannerisms" and "a cannonade of defiant conservatism," but he finally just has to let it all out:

These comments have a ritualistic quality, I know, but if critics have been making them for decades, it's because the Philharmonic has consistently refused to embody the innovative, restless and constantly self-inventing spirit of its hometown. This might be a tolerable failing if the artistic leadership made up in traditionalist thrills what it lacks in enterprise. But Maazel is a taxidermist among conductors: In his hands, great pieces become lifelike rather than alive.
Although we know Tommasini has little love for Maazel, the orchestra's conservative programing and the neanderthals on its Board, in his own review of the opening night concert, compared to his Newsday colleague, he sounds almost like a votary, of both Maazel and the players who reportedly adore their music director. Has he finally been called on the carpet by representatives of an establishment he has offended?

Earlier this year the management team of the New York Philharmonic extended Maazel's contract until 2009, possibly sealing the fate of what has become little more that a dusty museum maintained for shrinking numbers of a musical Old Guard and the few members of a new monied class who seek annointment with "Culture" (but nothing not already hallowed, you understand).

Obviously the only relationship between the text of this post and the picture at the top is the painting's title, but it's beauty is also a palliative in this context. Whistler was once on the edge, but while we can still enjoy his art, here even patrons of the Philharmonic have moved on. Why is it so hard when it comes to the pleasures of Euterpe?

[image, in the collection of the Freer Gallery, from Simon Fraser University]

Ahhh. The Underground Railroad has the dope on the wonderful little video I posted one month ago. This is from the director, Matt Lenski:

We're both native New Yorkers - I was born in Manhattan and lived on Eldridge and Houston when I was little - and of course we were all outraged that Republicans were coming here to use the 911 incident and twist it in their favor. They're coming to our home town and we felt like we did when we were sixteen years old and some bully was steppin to you on your block, talking shit. These Republicans are the ultimate punks. I'm a director and Sam Marks is a writer and a playwright so we said let's come up with something.

[thanks to bloggy]


Only moments before I snapped this picture we had left a restaurant downtown, for a dinner totally unrelated to the third anniversary of September 11. The image is a view from Broadway and Fulton Street of Creative Time's "Tribute in Light," recreated on the edge of the site of the World Trade Center once again yesterday. (note: the partially-completed building to the right is the new 7 World Trade Center, rising on the site where I had worked up to the year before the original was destroyed - fortunately with no loss of life)

The first reminder of the day's significance however was this amazing sandwich board we passed seconds before.


God Bless America
never forget
Kitchen Open
$6 Beer Pitchers All Day
I'm now wondering which image I'm going to remember best.

[apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, but it was very dark, very late and the wine was fine; and no, we never figured out what made the small flecks in the light beams, here seen as wavy lines, although they really made the towers dance last night]

UPDATE: The mystery of the flecks which are visible in the beams of light has apparently been solved. and it's not a feelgood answer. Tom Moody posts an account via Alex (scroll down) that the wavy lines in my photo apparently represent "behaviorally trapped" migratory birds who had become confused by night become day. This was probably not a good thing at all, and it makes me very sad.

What's wrong with these statements, both of which were reported yesterday by Newsday (in an obscure article devoted to another subject altogether)?

When a caller to his weekly radio show criticized the unusually wide arrest net cast by police, [the Mayor of New York] said: "You can't arrest 1,800 people without having somebody in the middle who shouldn't have been arrested. That's what the courts are there to find out afterward."
In addition, if we look at another quote in the same article, we see that Michael Bloomberg just managed to make himself more look ridiculous when he tried to qualify an earlier assertion of the sort we're more accustomed to hearing from Ari Fleisher or John Ashcroft:
Meanwhile, a visibly exhausted Bloomberg backed away from his remarks Thursday equating anarchists' harassment of delegates with the al-Qaida terrorists.

"Obviously it's not the same level, not the same level of - you probably shouldn't compare the two," he said at a news conference. "But the anarchists are trying to keep you from expressing yourself."

All italics are mine.


From 15th Street and our short glimpse of Pier 57 Barry and I headed down the pedestrian path along the Hudson this afternoon until we reached this exquisite lotus in the Koi pond just above North Cove in Battery Park City. After having to move around under an occupation for a week we were able to appreciate the freedom of the River, the sun and the fresh air more than ever.


It was pretty quiet this afternoon around Marine & Aviation Pier 57, where nearly 2000 people were arrested and detained this week while they were exercising freedoms they imagined might be protected by the American legal system, or, in some cases, just because they happened to be near the police at the wrong moment. The only activity visible today was that of workmen collecting the countless port-a-sans which had been set up inside each of the filthy metal holding pens inside. We didn't get too close.

The nation which is being told that everything went smoothly in New York this week can't be shown enough evidence to the contrary. Another friend and indefatigable activist colleague of ours had a lot to say about on Gotham Gazette yesterday.

I knew they were taking their time and dragging this out as long as possible. I still believed we were being processed and my cellmates were being released. Every 20-40 minutes four names were called on my floor and people were led out. My name is called. I will be out soon. I am led up a flight of stairs into a different cell. A few guys who were first led out are sitting there. They didn’t move along in the system at all. The police seemed to be playing a shell game. Keep us calm and cooperative by making it seem as we are being released when we really weren’t. We call the Lawyers Guild and learn there is only one judge on the bench now and few if any are being released. The word is that we are going to be held until the convention is over Thursday night.
Jon is safe at home now, but like the multitudes who witnessed the assaults by Republican guards on New York streets this week, whether they were zip-cuffed or not, I'm certain he remains an enemy of the fascism which is succeeding in making victims - and activists - of us all.

Sandy Katz, a former ACT UP comrade who served as aide to Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messenger, has sent his friends this account of his own experience with our new domestic order. On Tuesday afternoon he accidently became caught up in the enormous police action which saw 1200 people arrested for the offense of being on the streets of New York. In his own description, written after he was released 23 hours later, never having been arraigned and never having seen a judge or a lawyer, he says he ended up being handed a desk appearance ticket; he has to be back in court in three and a half weeks, "i am charged with disorderly conduct for consorting with an unauthorized gathering of people."

it’s over now. i hate being locked up. i didn’t choose to be arrested, as i have done several times in my life. back in the day the new york police routinely warned peaceful demonstrators to move before placing them under arrest. that was back before dissent was a threat to national security, when it was understood as the freedom to disagree.
Click on the link below this line for the entire story.

completing the Hearst Building

It's probably the most interesting building now going up in New York. That may not be much of a recommendation these days, but seriously, Sir Norman Foster's solution for completing a 75 year-old skyscraper is well worth a detour even as it's still going up.

I've been lucky to be able to visit 7th Avenue and 56-57th Street and watch this column grow all summer.

If you look at the familiar tower of the Empire State Building it rises in a similar fashion, set back from a base the width of a city block, even if in its case the same elegant style is continued throughout its height.

The Hearst Building was never completed after rising only six stories. Today it may finally making up for its deprived youth. Be sure to check out its interesting history on the link above.

Welcome citizens! (wire and flesh, inside the holding pen on Pier 57)

I'm sure we haven't heard the end of the story of Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson, but in the meantime here's a small footnote to the account of what thousands experienced there this week.

The September newsletter from our wonderful New York State General Assembly representative, Dick Gottfried, arrived in our mailbox yesterday. One of the smaller stories is headlined, "What Future for Pier 57?" Until this week "Pier 57" was the name of the large Hudson River dock the NYPD had recently fitted-out to serve as a detention center for its political prisoners.

Gottfried's Community Update must certainly have gone to the press before the mass arrests of this week and probably even before his staff or the general public knew the details of the police department's plans for political protest, yet the short text which appears under the headline manages to send shivers down my spine (I'll explain below):

Pier 57, at West 15th Street, which was most recently a bus depot, is in the process of getting redeveloped as part of the Hudson River Park
But the NYPD has now tasted blood, and it seems to have other plans for the waterfront real estate, according to an article in the New York Post excerpted in the New York Press and appearing here via Bloggy:
The most disturbing bit of information concerning the West Side holding pen, however, was buried in the Post's account. Just a brief mention:

"Cops fear some protesters might hang around after the convention to disrupt other events, like the U.S. Open, so the pen will remain open indefinitely."

The U.S. Open? Other events? Like what, the 3rd Ave. Street Fair? The grand opening celebration at a new Payless Shoe Source in Queens?

In other words, a year-round internment camp is now part of the ongoing West Side development project. Does the Olympic Committee know about this?

The shivers follow my thoughts, stimulated by reading historical accounts and seeing the physical evidence of countless memorial plaques, of improvised holding pens and interrogation rooms created by long-gone 20th-century authoritarian regimes.

If the old Marine & Aviation Pier 57 ever does become part of a park, I want to see an historical marker displayed prominently on the site. I only hope it won't have to describe greater horrors than those already visited on our city this week.

[images from indymedia, by anonymous]

protesters raise hands and shout cheers as police bus believed to be carrying arrested protesters leaves a temporary detention center yesterday, heading for another holding tank downtown

They've suspended habeas corpus, so this must be war.

I'm not just talking about the familiar smokescreen created by the "class war!" accusations Republicans lay on Democrats when they try to point out that the GOP is already fast at work at the singleminded task of piling up more and more power and plunder for themselves at the expense of the poor and the middle class. This is more like full civil war, brought to us by an immensely greedy protofascist hierarchy manipulating the stupidity of the pawns they so easily frighten, and demonizing those with the intelligence and the courage to resist. (actually, we're going to need more of both those things, especially to avoid serious violence; we're barely holding on right now)

War will always invite the suspension of liberty, and in the U.S. the assault usually begins with the elimination of the protections of habeas corpus.

This week in New York peaceful protesters, their legal observers, outside reporters, photographers, along with food delivery people, tourists and innocent bystanders were caught up by the web (we call it "freedom fencing," and it's bright orange) laid by an increasingly autocratic regime's 50,000-strong augmented force of uniformed guards.

Many of the brave or merely unluckly people who were trapped, and immediately and effectively branded "enemies of the state," languished, some of them still languishing, within filthy chain-link cages that were topped with razor wire, the "cells" improvised inside an abandoned bus garage on a Hudson River pier. (with hyperbole which may be counterproductive, many have been referring to it as "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson") Even their names go unreported to anyone outside, and while they are held they are without access to legal cousel, family, friends, even essential medications.

What's it like inside? In fact, what's it like in Manhattan this week? Here's one of the best accounts I've read, by theoria posted on Daily Kos. I would add: If you haven't gone through it yourself or at least been a witness to what's going on here this week, you'll find it hard to believe what you'll read, but it should make your skin crawl nevertheless.

Apparently some or all of these detainees may now have been moved to the prison known during two centuries as "The Tombs," a notorious criminal detention center located Downtown, closer to the courts. Not surprisingly, it's almost impossible to get information anywhere. Did I say it's like war? Some 1800 people have been arrested since last weekend and Newsday reports that from 500 to 700 remain in custody at this time, but the facts are hard to pin down.

Their mothers and families have been gathering at the downtown site, 100 Centre Street. We're very lucky we still have independent judges not appointed for their subserviance to authoritarianism who can still make it hard for self-appointed guardians of [their own idea of] political and moral decency to throw away the keys altogether.

Many of those swept up by the police in the last week were taken in actions even the NYPD describes as "pre-emptive arrest," (sound vaguely familiar?) a plan they hoped would ensure a protest-free environment for our Republican Mayor's guests.

The liberties being defended by the protesters are now being further destroyed by the office of the Manhattan District Attorney's outrageous violation of guidelines which require that no one be held beyond 24 hours before they are arraigned for a serious crime and that the rest must be released with desk appearance tickets. In fact there is every indication at this time that the police will not be releasing many of the people they have rounded up until the Convention is over and its celebrants have been spirited away to wherever it is they came from. Pre-emptive arrest followed by pre-emptive detainment.

Habeas corpus has been suspended indefinitely, and once again it's in the name of security. Too many Americans have absolutely no problem with that. Any moment I expect to hear it officially justified in the name of the War on Terrorism.

But this city has received absolutely no credible warnings about terrorist plans that we have been told about, although it has had at least a year and a half worth of public announements that ordinary people were planning to come to New York for peaceful protest directed against, among other things, the monstrous and moronic policy that makes violence our only defense against violence. The terrorists stayed at home; we got busted, and our liberties were confiscated as well. If the police are massed in Herald Square, Harlem, Chelsea, the East Village and elsewhere this week, it's not to tangle with Al Queda. The enemy is obviously us.

What cowardice has let it go this far?

Democracy Now! put this excerpt of its radio report on its site this morning:

Hundreds of people yesterday protested the conditions under which those arrested are being held before going to court saying the site was contaminated with oil and asbestos. Pier 57 is a three-story, block-long pier that has been converted to a holding pen.

Yesterday morning we received a call from one of the protesters being held at Pier 57 who had smuggled a phone inside. Detainees passed the phone to each other and described the conditions of the holding facility. Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke took the call and spoke with the detained protesters.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has denied the city was operating what some called "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson." And defended the use of the of the pier garage saying "It's not supposed to be Club Med."

Last night, a judge ordered protesters who had been held for 24-hours released with desk appearance tickets if they were not charged with serious crimes. Before midnight, some protesters started emerging from 100 Centre St. around the block from our firehouse studio. Some 200 supporters greeted them with cheers and offered food and medical treatment. Despite the judge's orders, a large number of protesters remain imprisoned.

for NUMBERS TO CALL, to help the prisoners, see this link

Barry just added a comment below, directing us to a short account from 100 Centre Street accompanied by some awesome pictures, again via Daily Kos. Don't miss it.

outside 100 Central Booking this afternoon

[image at the top is from Yahoo! News, AP photo of Bebete Matthews; second image from theoria, via Daily Kos]

union members on the barricades this afternoon

Thousands of labor union members overwhelmed the "Free Speech Zone" below Madison Square Garden this afternoon, crowding into pens running down to 23rd Street. It was clear they wanted nothing to do with George W. Bush or the Republican Party, even if he and it were the occasion of an extraordinary rally called for the middle of a work week only days before Labor Day itself.

I walked over to see and hear (feel) what it was like. I can share a few images here in this small gallery. They weren't captured easily however, since in the midst of that great crowd I almost lost it. My eyes repeatedly watered with an emotion I can't quite account for, unless it has something to do with the long, painful history of labor and its movement, a history always rejected by much of America and now almost completely lost even to many of its fortunate heirs. Bush is restoring our memory.

just another evening in Chelsea this week

The media has generally been reporting that, except for the immediate blocks abutting Madison Square Garden, the heavy security blanket covering New York in the last week or two rests lightly on the city's neighborhoods. If asked, residents of Chelsea would describe it otherwise. The words, "martial law" come to mind.

I know it may seem that I'm preoccupied with the police presence in my neighborhood this week, I'd like to think that the current state of Chelsea actually represents New York City as a whole (as is pretty much the case usually) more than most people want to admit, but especially as a really frightening foretaste of what may well be in store permanently for our polity, including that of the entire nation.

For the visuals, see this gallery of half a dozen images taken within the last 24 hours.

This page is an archive of entries in the NYC category from September 2004.

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