planet: August 2010 Archives






Continuing their "Action Against Illegal Energy Waste", members of Code Pink returned today to some of the Fifth Avenue stores they had visited July 23rd, once again acting as a part of the international mutual aid movement, "NYC Oil Addicts Anonymous".

This is an excerpt from the text of an email sent out this week by Code Pink:

Two years ago, the New York City Council passed a very reasonable law prohibiting large stores from cranking their air conditioning and leaving their doors open. But they still do it - one retailer was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "It's business; sometimes you got to do what you got to do." As consumers, we have to show these businesses that we're disgusted, not enticed.

Leaving the doors open cranks their electricity use by 25% during peak hours, overloading the power grid, making blackouts more likely, and increasing the oil and nuclear demand in New York. It makes as much sense as leaving gas pumps flowing onto the sidewalk when you're not using them. And as conscious women working for peace and justice we see the direct links between resource wasting, addiction to oil, wars for oil and on and on!

I joined the group on the door-shopping trip up Fifth Avenue which began at noon today, gamely juggling two protest signs, my not-so-lightweight camera, and several sturdy bags I was going to need later at the Union Square Greenmarket.

There was no shortage of targets from the very start, but most of the stores closed their doors very soon after our banner and signs appeared outside, and the chants began. When we got to the Gant Store however we encountered more than a little resistance: Not only did the manager refuse to close the two large doors (through which, incidentally, I could feel the store's cold air as I stood behind the banner about 20 feet across from the opening, its fabric coming down only to my knees), but she called the police, who arrived with remarkable alacrity.

I wasn't a part of the conversation which our excellent guides, Sally Newman and Dana Balicki, had with the two or three officers, but it was clear they wanted us to leave, and they definitely refused to do anything about the open doors. In all fairness to them, the cops may have been aware that our City Council had passed a statute (two years ago) whose enforcement responsibilities were placed in the hands of the understaffed Department of Consumer Affairs.

Eventually they decided we cold remain, as long as we did not obstruct the door or the passage of any pedestrians (in fact, we had not been a threat to either, from the beginning).

Before I decided to go today I thought about the scale of the action. There are so many huge problems, more dramatic and immediate crises than that which provoked the response of which I was to be a part, but I said to myself that this is clearly a no-brainer. We only have to bring the issue to the attention of the merchants. There can't be any rational excuse for leaving doors wide open while you're pumping cooled air produced by polluting and non-renewable fossil fuels through your store, sending even more hot air out the other end of the system.

I was right: It is a no-brainer. Apparently there are just fewer brains out there these days.


  • Lewis Dodley, with video, on NY1
  • Daniel Tucker, writing on WNYC News Blog
  • Jennifer Glickel reporting for DNA info
  • Natural Resources Defense Counsel staff blog post by Eric Goldstein
  • Rebecca Myles, interviewing Sally Newman Friday evening, on WBAI Evening News (starting 3 minutes into the broadcast)
  • Catalina Jaramillo writing in El Diario
  • Fuji News Network, covering the issue and the action on Saturday


Barry and I headed for the Irish Hunger Memorial shortly after noon on Monday (after my visit to City Hall Park) to see an excerpt of "The Voyage of Garbhglas", choreographed by Christopher Williams and presented, courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, as a part of the River To River Festival.

It was a total delight, a magical allusion to ancient Irish faerie lore performed in a magical Irish place on a beautiful afternoon, and I recommend it to anyone who can make downtown for the two performances remaining, Wednesday and Thursday, at 12:30 each day. The Memorial is located inside Battery Park City, 290 Vesey Street at North End Avenue, an easy, almost straight walk west from the World Trade Center stop of the E train.

The performers were Ursula Eagly, Kira Blazek, Caitlin Scranton, Michael Ingle, Sydney Skybetter, Moses Kaplan, and Andrew Smith. I believe Michael Ingle was the celtic youth, and the three other male dancers were what I'll call "the tubers". Christopher Williams himself and Matthew Tutsky played troubadour harps of different sizes, and the music was by Gregory Spears, who can be seen in some of the images directing the singers.

Barry has posted a video, on Bloggy, of a short segment of the 30-minute performance and has a link to his Flickr set.

As someone who tries to take advantage of what New York has to offer culturally, I think a lot about how everyone who would like to see art in performance (in any medium) can find a way to do so without having to deal with discouraging lines, fifth-balcony-in-the-rear seats, or even sold-out notices. In my own case it helps that I'm usually interested in work that most people are unlikely to even be aware of, and I'm lucky to have the leisure to seek it out. But what happens when something really good becomes well known, and suddenly everyone wants to see or hear it?

I was considering this subject with Barry when we left the performance of "Garbhglas". His answer was that the ideal would be that there would be so much art out there, and really good art, that there would never have to be a line or a crowd. We'd all have so many options that we wouldn't have to keep bumping into each other, or fight for tickets. Of course that ideal assumes we all think and feel for ourselves and aren't seduced by the inevitable hype - including, I suppose, in this case, my own modest efforts at making a ballyhoo.

This time the subject had come up because in Monday's surprisingly intimate, georgic performance by Williams' dancers and musicians, while everything took place outdoors, it seemed that there was really room on the Memorial's platform for only about a hundred people to fully experience it, not including whatever the numbers were for those standing on the street below.

While I imagine there must be other things to do at lunch time Wendsday and Thursday, if you go, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to plan on getting to "Garbhglas" early for its final two performances.







Jessica Sunflower planted in CIty Hall Park

UPDATE: A public hearing concerning the City's proposed new rules will be held next Tuesday, August 10 at Chelsea Recreation Center, 430 West 25th Street, at 11:00am. It should be very colorful. The New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) is urging its supporters to testify about the importance of making community gardens permanent. Information can be found on the Coalition’s web site, including the proposed rules themselves, the expiring 2002 agreement, and a history of the evolution of New York City community gardens.

New York City appears to have officially abandoned its efforts to preserve the 500 community gardens which have been protected from development since 2002 by the Spitzer Agreement ("Preservation Agreement"). That compact, which ended a hard-fought battle begun more than 20 years earlier, saved hundreds of community gardens, but it expires on September 17 this year.

Proposed Department of Housing and Preservation (HPD) rules will permit these precious urban green spaces to be legally transferred for commercial development. These popular and flourishing bootstrap gardeners' oases had replaced neighborhood vacant lots where buildings had been abandoned by landlords following the flight of residents to the outer boroughs and the suburbs during the sixties and seventies.

These older structures, neglected and often torched, but ultimately leveled in any case, all eventually became city property. The City hoped to profit from their sale and the tax revenues which would follow their development, but there was no commercial interest in the properties until residents, both old and new, had worked hard to successfully rebuild and improve their neighborhoods.

The communities which have fought for these spaces and nurtured them for years are understandably very angry. Yesterday Jessica Sunflower and some friends decided to bring the Time's Up! campaign to preserve these gardens down to City Hall itself. The precise venue chosen was City Hall Park, on the doorstep of both the Mayor's office and the City Council Chamber. Sunflower managed to climb into a tree planted in the Mayor and Council's own official "garden", and she was joined on the ground by some serious community advocates.

modern activism: back on the ground, even as Sunflower was being ushered into a police vehicle, supporters were busy broadcasting the action from a laptop resting on the plinth of a bronze sculpture at the edge of the park

the voice of one crying in the City Hall wilderness - will it be heard?

for thirty years, the communities have chosen gardens over brick

kale bouquet: the Times once described New York's more successful community gardens as "spectacular stretches of kale-toned respite"

the sunflower petals abandoned by the prisoner while she was being removed from the tree were quickly salvaged and recycled back on the ground

[image at the top by Rebekah McCabe, from a Flickr set uploaded by Barbara Ross]

This page is an archive of entries in the planet category from August 2010.

previous archive: planet: June 2010

next archiveplanet: March 2011