NYC: October 2004 Archives


Okay, next time I'll be on my own bike. The perineum probably could have managed it this time, but I hadn't gotten the bike ready. Also, last night when at least part of an especially colorful and joyous Critical Mass flowed East on 23rd Street I was in the back of the apartment and first thought it was a political demonstration and I wondered how I had missed hearing about it (actually, after the events of the past months, it really was necessarily political). Although I raced to a front window, I was in the midst of cooking and couldn't even get down to the street for a picture.

Actually I'm pretty happy with this one.

I love bikes, and I love bike people. It's so simple: We belong in the streets. Some day everyone will understand that.

I'd call it an art zap. Ephemeral by design, the success of Joe Ovelman's street images depends upon our seeing them - quickly, almost necessarily today. This time he's spread the work throughout Chelsea, and there's something like a star map at each stop to help locate the next piece.

Bloggy has the details.


"Sooo . . . What do you wear to a civil war anyway?"

A week ago I wrote that I would probably post a list of progressive spaces which are encouraging visitors to hang out next Tuesday evening, on the [first?] day of our federal election agony.

I ended up contributing to a list which Barry assembled and has now posted on his own site. We haven't yet decided what we're going to do that night ourselves. The only thing I've done so far in the way of preparation is to get half way through a good apartment cleaning, the remainder to be completed tomorrow. I just knew I wouldn't feel like doing anything once the street fighting began.

Having also done tons of laundry this week, I'm now free to think about the balloon in the last box of the latest "get your war on."

[image from "get your war on"]

outside Chelsea Health Center, Tuesday, 7:45 am

[if you're only interested in the logistics, go straight to the bold area within the text below]

I'm not going to go into the political, social, even moral issues surrounding the disastrous loss of half of the nation's supply of influenza vaccine this year. I'm not going to write about what the ensuing chaos in the distribution of the remaining supply says for the competence or resolution of our local, state and federal authorities. And I won't even allude to the implications this mess has for our ability to deal with the major terrorist biological strike those same authorities have been warning us about for at least three years.

I'm only going to describe how I got a flu shot yesterday morning, in the hopes that the story will help others to duplicate my success.

Although I'm not 65 years old, I happen to fall within at least three so-called risk groups for getting a serious case of influenza. Even before those numbers had added up, I had been innoculated every year.

This year as usual, for many weeks beginning late summer, I had trusted in the ability of my primary care doctor, a specialist in HIV disease, to secure a vaccine virtually all of his patients really depend upon each year. The office assured me several times that it was only the usual delay that was postponing my shot. I suspected otherwise, but I did not think any other source would be more reliable than my own physician. When my last call to the office, made the week before this one, produced a flat confession that they would not be getting any supples and (more shocking) that they could not direct me anywhere else, I was left totally to my own devices. By this time the possibilities were of course extremely limited, since the national panic had already begun.

I called every local governmental, institutional and private office I could think of, but every lead came up empty (most of them actually only directing me to each other). My worst experiences (for incompetence) were with the New York's 311 operators and the recordings and individuals answering the phones at the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. One hotline person said there was nothing in my zip code area, suggested I give him another one, and when I suggested rather that he give me one, I was asked, "How about New York, New York?"

Council Member Chistine Quinn's office showed some real interest in my search when I called on Monday, and they had in fact already been trying, thus far without much success, to assemble practical information for those who needed it. Many reports had said that the Chelsea Health Center was giving innoculations, but no one was able to describe the circumstances. Quinn's office promised to continue its investigation and suggested that I stop by the center, which was only five blocks from our apartment. I walked over early that afternoon where I got the information which got me back at their doorstep the next day before dawn.

It was pretty dark. I had forgotten that there even were such hours as those crowded around 6:30 am. The night doorman was still on duty, which seemed to surprise me, perhaps because I wasn't really very much together yet, this being mathematically the middle hour of my usual sleep assignment. A few feet further down the block I smiled to the nice South Asian fruit and vegetable guy as he assembled his display on the sidewalk (he's regularly still at his stand until early evening - his kids will probably end up at Columbia or NYU). The guy who runs the corner newstand was still assembling his display, and inside the doorway of the still locked Gristede's across the street were big bags of fresh crusty bread, apparently at no risk of being snatched away before they were liberated by store staff.

I decided I really like dawn - and the thereafter. But there would still be that problem with getting to bed eight hours earlier, so I'm not likely to rearrange things so long as I live in Manhattan.

I got to the neatly-landscaped art deco Health Center building (west side of 9th Avenue, just below 27th Street) at 6:45. I had been advised the day before to be there by 7 am, to be among the 350 people who would be given shots that day. I was out by 10:30, having drawn number 126 when they distributed the cards which assigned the order to the people lined outside the building.


Shots are available at seven clinics in the city, but I can only describe the specifics of my own experience. At the Chelsea clinic 350 shots are allocated each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (I don't know how finite the total supply may be).

Access to rest rooms is available in the building, although I'm not sure at what time that first becomes possible. There is an elevator to their basement location. Bottled water is occasionally distributed to those waiting, and there is a drink vending machine inside.

I did not see any neighborhood address requirement being invoked, although it may be necessary to be a resident of New York City to receive an innoculation. Only those who are most at risk are being given shots, and some evidence of risk status is being required. That could mean a drivers license or Medicare card for proof of age 65 or above, a doctor's certificate describing an immune suppression (including those with HIV disease), or conditions like heart disease, lung problems and asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, treatment for cancer, high doses of steroids, and sickle cell anemia. I saw some people accepted who were only able to produce (easily identified) prescription items. I did not see any babies.

Around 8 o'clock you are given a number corresponding to your position in line and you are then free to leave for a while or take shelter sitting with your very interesting neighbors inside one of the city buses parked at the curb. Shots will be distributed beginning at 8:30, at the rate of approximately 100 per hour, so you will have a good idea of when you should be back in line.

Once your number is called there is an efficient screening interview and then the vaccine is delivered in your upper arm.

ADDENDUM: If you're looking for a neat little spot close by for a snack or a coffee, head for Lunch Basket on the north side of 24th Street, just west of 9th Avenue. Owner-crafted light food, very cozy, with a few chairs.

Remarkably, especially for those who know me well, I found the entire experience to be totally stress-free. There were no snags, no uncomfortable incidents. Most of the people I was surrounded by were older than myself, and there was certainly a strong element of crusty Lefty veterans of urban campaigns. But overall, there was an amazing diversity, camaraderie and just plain good will and caregiving (a number of people had canes, walkers, wheel chairs, folding seats of every description, and accompanying one elderly couple seen inside the building was a large oxygen tank which served the very sprightly and beautiful wife).

Everything was very orderly, with absolutely no confusion. The clinic staff was efficient, but they were also magnificently considerate, informative and charming. Everyone, patients and employees or volunteers, seemed to delight in a gentle comic humor as well.

But the fact remains, none of those people should have had to leave their homes in the night and wait outside in the cold in order to get a simple flu vaccine in the first place. We should do better, at least as well as the rest of the developed world does for its citizens, but I doubt that we ever will. It's all about the god of the free market, a false and indifferent god, but it's our very own.

American Fine Arts [no website] opened a smashing new show, "Election," last night, but the legendary gallery founded by Colin de Land (and currently located in the last home of the equally fabulous gallery created by Pat Hearn) will close when this show is taken down November 18.

This is a very big loss, but I can't imagine a gallery scene without Daniel McDonald around and I don't expect we're going to lose sight of him.

Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln really enjoyed the show in the space Daniel has been managing full-time at least since Colin's tragic death last year (just three years after we had grieved for his wife, Pat) is fully worthy of its history. She adds that it's a must-see, and preferably before the momentous [civil?] war-time election going down just eleven days hence.

The show was organized by James Meyer. There's no gallery checklist yet, so the images I can show below have only a skeletal description.

Hans Haacke Star Gazing

Carl Andre and Melissa Kretschmer Welcome to Bushworld detail

Claire Pentecost Molecular Invasion detail of installation

John Waters Have Sex in a Voting Booth

Paul Chan Baghdad in No Particular Order still from video

Innocent until proven guilty? Not anymore. One of the most basic principals of our law has been trashed regularly and systematically by our courts since September 11th. While what is happening to four peace activists here in New York at this moment may not be the most egregious examples of a justice system turned upside down and striking out at people all around the world, it's no small thing for the victims themselves and for the broad and fundamental evil of the judicial precedent it establishes.

Sixteen people were arrested in Manhatan on March 26, 2003, for (intentionally) tying up rush hour Midtown traffic in a protest against the murder of American peace activist Rachel Corrie by an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip, as well as the U.S. attack on Iraq. They were all convicted on March 22 this year on the outrageous, Orwellian charge, "obstructing governmental administration."

Twelve of the codefendents have been sentenced to community service and fines. Four have not been sentenced yet, because the Manhattan District Attorney had a judge unseal their older records. The D.A. then cited their previous demonstration arrests, most of which resulted in all charges being dismissed, as a reason for the judge to sentence them to an (unspecified) jail term (under the law the judge can sentence each of the four to anything from 0 to 365 days in jail). The twelve codefendants who were earlier given sentences far less severe did not have their records unsealed.

The four remaining now face posssible jail time for alleged acts in the past which were never proven in a court of law.

Every citizen, whether active in political demonstrations or just unfortunate to be arrested for any offense, however minor, and including misdemeaners, must be made to understand that there is no longer any assumption of innocence in the American courts. If you have appeared before a judge at any time in the past, not been tried but rather had your case dismissed and its record "sealed," the fact that you had been in that court may be used against you years later in order to determine your sentencing for a conviction totally unrelated to the previous offense.

The D.A. and the judge merely have to be really mad at you, and they don't have to tell anyone why.

The corollary to this incredible development has to be that from now on no one will be able to afford to accept a "dismissal" of his or her offences, regardless of the practical attractions of such a resolution, but must instead pursue every charge all the way through the courts. Of course neither the individual nor the judiciary is actually going to be able to live with that burden; something will have to give - or explode.

Like so much else that falls under the rubric, "everything has changed since 9/11," the politicization of our courts is swiftly contributing to the destruction of the society we think we are defending.

The four M26 defendents (the name refers to March 26, the date of the action for which they were arrested) who still await their fate have already gone through two appeals, and both have been rejected. The outcome of a third appeal will not be known prior to November 18, the scheduled date of their sentencing.

The range of possible outcomes runs from the best-case scenario - fines and community service, despite their "records" of dismissed charges - to the worst case scenario - taken directly from the courtroom to Rikers Island Penitentiary.

They've put out an appeal for people to be with them in the courtroom on the morning of the sentencing, since it's vitally important to show the judge that they have community support. And of course some of the media will be there.

The people who await the disposition of their cases have one more request to make of their supporters, and it's characteristically thoughtful and generous. This is Steve Quester:

AP4 will see many cases that day, not just ours. Please come at 9 am so you can get a seat in the courtroom before it fills up. And please keep in mind that there will be many defendants and their families and friends present. Unlike the four of us, few if any of those defendants will be White. Unlike the four of us, none of those defendants will benefit from an outpouring of community support. If you are able to stay for some of the cases that follow ours, please do. I cringe at the thought of an exodus of hundreds of mostly White people from the courtroom as soon as we're sentenced.

THE LOGISTICS: Go to 100 Centre Street, which you can locate here. They will be on the 4th floor, in Arraignment Part (AP) 4. The nearest subways are the J, M, N, Q, R, W, Z, and 6 trains to Canal Street. You can also take the 4 or 5 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, or the B or D to Grand Street. The closest stop on the A, C, and E trains is Canal Street; Franklin Street on the 1 train, and Chambers Street on the 2 or 3.

Check in the days leading up to the sentencing, to learn about any (unlikely) possibility of a further delay in sentencing.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe Design Proposed for the Hall of Representatives, U.S., Section from North to South (1815) ink and watercolor on paper

For weeks now Barry and I have both been dismayed by the strange candidacy which Peter Hort has mounted for Representative of our local Congressional district.

I believe what is happening only shows that even supposedly sophisticated New Yorkers are naive when it comes to politics, or that money can persuade otherwise good people to act quite badly. Both explanations are pretty disturbing, but each is still better than some of the other possibilities.

For his reading of the subject, including both background and foreground, see Barry's post of last night which links to his previous entries, to Hort's own site and a number of other relevant sources.

[image of the old House chamber from Library of Congress]

from the front of the bus, 9th Avenue in the forties, on a Saturday afternoon (these vehicles aren't moving)

We live in Manhattan. We're supposed to be able to get around the city without each of us piloting two or three tons of private metal, but it's getting harder and harder to assume the availability of the public transportation which makes this city possible.

Barry and I had decided early this afternoon that we should have no trouble running up to 57th Street to see two gallery shows which close today and then heading back in time to look into a number of Chelsea locations before their doors were locked at 6 pm. But we hadn't bargained on the virtual disappearance of both subway and bus service, and in the end we were reminded that Manhattan's transportation failings are far greater scale than that represented by a badly-organized and underfunded MTA.

When we discovered (only after descending the stairs into the station) that there were no uptown trains running from our corner, 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, all weekend, we decided to risk a cab and potential Midtown congestion. There were no complications once we settled into our roomy Toyota van, but less than an hour later the transportation mishaps started to pile on top of each other.

We made the mistake of trying to rely on the subway in order to get back to Chelsea. Our train ground to a halt in the staition just one stop south of 59th Street, where we had boarded it. The repeated announcements about a short delay were eventually replaced by one saying that there was a train broken down ahead of us and there was no way of knowing how long we would be held in the station. We abandoned our car and walked a long block to the 9th Avenue bus, thinking that passing only a couple of dozen numbered streets would be a quick hop, since there was so little traffic in sight. Traffic suddenly appeared out of nowhere and we ended up frozen virtually immobile by the SUV's heading back to New Jersey through the Lincoln Tubes (see the picture above).

Well over an hour after leaving 57th Street we finally emerged back on 23rd Street. We had made the trip (a total of about a mile and three quarters) at the dizzying pace of 1.5 miles per hour. I have to remind myself that all this was happening on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

The subway had failed us once again (this is not uncommon); surface transportation was ridiculous (even in the best of circumstances we have to live with primitive bus designs, passengers exiting through the front, or entry, doors, clumsy fare-collection machinery and the total absence of dedicated bus lanes). In addition, every intersection box was blocked by cross traffic, meaning that the bus had to wait through two signal changes even after it reached the stripe at the cross street (there were no traffic police in place anywhere along our route).

I saw one fire truck in the middle of the almost chaotic scene; fortunately those guys were not on an emergency call this time, but had the circumstance been otherwise . . . .

All forms of transportation on at least the west side of Manhattan, with theoretically the most mobile population in the nation, had been rendered impossible. And still our elected and appointed officials persist in believing that the job of municipal transportation oversight is to get more cars to move still faster into and through the streets of a city already suffering from an impossible burden of private car ownership.

Oh yeah, I just reminded myself that all of this traffic was created even without the impact of the insane proposal for a West Side stadium.

This week the MTA announced liklihood of really major cutbacks in service, which will leave room for still more cars. Great planning.

Facing years of spiraling deficits, the MTA is proposing to eliminate 14 percent of its bus lines as part of a severe cost-saving package that would come on top of a fare hike and more than 160 subway token booth closings.

The bus route closures, slated for 2006, would hit all five boroughs and include some lines that follow major arteries in Manhattan.

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

previous archive: NYC: September 2004

next archiveNYC: November 2004