Save Coney Island!

March 30, 2007

It isn’t often that members of the NYPD tell protesters, “I really hope you guys win.” But then, these weren’t ordinary protesters; this motley crew had trekked in from Brooklyn and assembled on the steps of City Hall to try and save Coney Island.

For decades, Coney Island has been a beach resort for New York’s working-class, a haven for artists and source of housing for the poor. Recently, a large section of the neighborhood was sold to a developer, Thor Equities, which wants to build luxury high rise condos in the heart of the Amusement District.

Thor is trying to convince the city to allow them to build towering multi-million dollar residences on the boardwalk. Their opponents warn them to expect “a vicious war.”

Today, Coney Island’s artists and residents gathered at New York’s City Hall to speak out against the developer’s plans. Their appearance was whimsical but their intentions were serious. Beneath the feathers, glitter and mermaid tails were concerned, thoughtful members of an endangered community.

Speaking to dozens of reporters, the protesters declared their love for Coney Island and their commitment to ensuring that it is not turned into yet another exclusive playground for the wealthy.

The burly cops, many of them remembering sunny childhood days spent on the rides at Astroland, nodded in sympathy and, speaking softly to the protesters, said, “I wish you luck, you guys. Good luck!” 

Miss Coney Island & Miss Cyclone lead the procession
Originally uploaded by annulla.

The Hungry Marching Band in the parade
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Protester in lobster hat
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Coney Island tribe
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Angie & Ekaterina on the steps
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Louis Scarcella, President of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Coney Island pirate
Originally uploaded by annulla.

James Ferguson (aka Tigger) in mermaid tail
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Protester in a purple boa & pink gloves
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Two protesters
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Protester in a pink feathered mask
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Dianna Carlin (aka Lola Staar)
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Save Coney Island
Gowanus Lounge: New Coney Island Tactic
Gowanus Lounge: Demonstration Details
NPR: Developer Eyes Coney Island
NY Post: Coney Development
The World Famous Pontani Sisters
Coney Island Polar Bear Club
Lola Staar
Center for an Urban Future: Dianna Carlin
Thor Equities

Leaning Firm on Cadman Plaza

March 28, 2007

One January day, a large red metal object suddenly appeared on Cadman Plaza in the space normally occupied by the Greenmarket. No fanfare, no announcement, no sign, no plaque.

When the farmers arrived, they shrugged their shoulders, set their stands up and carried on with business as usual. The curious peered closely at the large red object, circled it and guessed at its meaning.

Was it a part of something bigger? The beginnings of a machine or a building? A fountain? A sales display? A work of art? The base bore what appeared to be a signature or brand name  — C.F. Smith — but no official explanation was forthcoming.

Finally, this week, I did some research. It wasn’t easy, but I learned that the big red object, a sculpture entitled Leaning Firm by Cheryl Farber Smith, is here only temporarily and will be leaving Brooklyn in July.

From the artist’s Web site:

Cheryl Farber Smith’s aluminum sculpture fuses simple geometric shapes to create a composition that simultaneously suggests motion and repose. Painted with a high-gloss red finish, it stands 9’4″ high, 7’5″ wide and 5’7″ deep.

Post office in the background
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Looking towards the Commerce Bank
Originally uploaded by annulla.

In front of the Courthouse
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Looking towards Borough Hall
Originally uploaded by annulla.

The signature on the base: C.F. Smith
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Cheryl Farber Smith
Public Outdoor Art: Current Exhibits

The Fire Stills Burns in Memory

March 25, 2007

In the heart of New York City near Washington Square
In nineteen eleven, March winds were cold and bare.
A fire broke out in a building ten stories high,
And a hundred forty-six young girls in those flames did die.

Ballad of the Triangle Fire by Ruth Rubin

On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the eighth floor of Asch building, a massive structure at the corner of Washington Place and Green Street.

The top three floors of the 10-story building were occupied by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a manufacturer of women’s clothing. That afternoon the factory was packed with nearly 500 workers, most of them young immigrant women.

The factory was a typical sweatshop where workers, including children as young as 12, labored 14 hours a day, 72 hours a week. The place was dirty, crowded, loud and dangerous. Although it was filled with paper and fabric and lit by open gas flames, there was only one exit, no fire extinguishers and no sprinklers. A single stairway led to the roof.

That day, when the cry of “Fire!” was heard, workers rushed to the exit, only to find the supervisors had locked the door from the outside, a common practice intended to prevent them from taking breaks or stealing materials.

The fire department was on the scene within minutes, but their ladders were too short to reach beyond the 7th floor and the water from their hoses went no higher. The windows were the only way out. Terrified girls jammed onto the only fire escape, which buckled, twisted and collapsed under their weight.

The firemen held life-nets, trying to catch the desperate workers who were jumping from the windows, but the nets couldn’t withstand the force; the girls’ bodies tore straight through the fabric and crashed into the pavement. Eyewitnesses told of girls sailing through the air hand in hand and of a couple who embraced and kissed before they lept together.

By the time the fire was extinguished 146 people were dead, making it the worst industrial disaster in New York City history. It took one week to identify the dead; seven remained unknown, as did the cause of the fire.

The tragedy at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory galvanized working women, leading to increased trade union membership and a series of strikes across the nation calling for higher wages, safer conditions and women’s suffrage. It also focused public attention on the inhumane working conditions in the city’s factory’s and led to massive reforms, including the creation of the new safety and labor laws, strict building codes and fire inspections.

Today, the 96th anniversary was marked by a solemn ceremony outside the Asch building, which withstood the blaze and is now owned by New York University.

Politicians, fire officials, labor leaders and clergy honored the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and railed against the dangerous working conditions that still exist around the world. A prayer was said and the Ballad of the Triangle Fire was sung.

Finally, schoolchildren were given white carnations, each tagged with the name of a victim. A silver fire bell tolled 146 times as the children read the names, then placed the blossoms in a pile, forming a tangled mound of crushed flowers and stems on the chilly sidewalk.

The plaque is the only memorial here
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Victims’ names written in chalk
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Union members holding signs
Originally uploaded by

Workers listening and holding union signs
Originally uploaded by

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scarpetta
Originally uploaded by annulla.

City Council President Christine Quinn
Originally uploaded by

Kids from P.S. 20 listen to speakers
Originally uploaded by

Students holding a union sign
Originally uploaded by

Cardinal Egan leading the group in prayer
Originally uploaded by

Victims’ names attached to white carnations
Originally uploaded by

Cornell University: The Triangle Fire
Historybuff: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
The Gale Group: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: 1911
Library of Congress: An Elegy for Fire Victims
New York Times: Workers Assail Night Lock-Ins by Wal-Mart
Hamlet: the Untold Tragedy of the Imperial Food Products Fire
International Labour Organization: The Kader Toy Factory Fire

A Peek Inside a Padded Room

March 24, 2007

Priscilla Monge: Room for Isolation & Restraint
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Yesterday the Brooklyn Museum opened the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. The inaugrual exhibition, entitled Global Feminisms, includes this work, Priscilla Monge’s “Room for Isolation & Restraint (Cuarto de aislamiento y proteccion),” an “installation with sanitary napkins inside a wood-framed structure.”

To the right of the door is white bin overflowing with white disposable shoe covers and a sign saying “Please put on shoe covers before entering this room. Por favor, utilicen los cubre zapatos desechables para acceder a esta habitacion.”

Global Feminisms includes work by approximately eighty women artists and will be on display at the Sackler Center until July 1.

Brooklyn Museum: Global Feminisms
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
Marco Canepa Gallery: Priscilla Monge

The Red Balloons

March 20, 2007

I saw this woman at the corner of 8th Street and Broadway, the dividing line between Greenwich Village and the East Village.

The scene reminded me of one of my favorite films, Le Ballon Rouge (the Red Balloon) by Albert Lamorisse, the story of a young boy who chases an elusive balloon through the streets of Paris.

Woman in a red coat with red balloons
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Red Balloon: The Film
Red Balloon: The Book
The Village Alliance
East Village

The Wearin’ o’ the Green

March 17, 2007

On March 16 the city was battered by a fierce blizzard and an ice storm. Trains and flights were cancelled, drivers skidded and slid off the roads and pedestrians ran to the nearest store, stocked up on bread and milk, then scurried home and locked their doors.

But for those who wait all year for the wearin’ o’ the green, winter’s last gasp was a mere inconvenience; nothing could stop the 246th New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This is the city’s largest and most popular parade, typically drawing 2 million spectators and 150,000 marchers.

In New York the tradition is older than the nation; our first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was organized by Irish soldiers serving in His Majesty’s service more than 10 years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted.

The St Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the few that allow no cars, floats, trucks or other vehicles; anyone who wants to participate goes up Fifth Avenue, from 44th Street to 86th Street, on foot.

So, despite the day-long storm that nearly brought the city to a halt, city sanitation crews worked throughout the night to clear the route of ice and snow for today’s big parade. Other municipal agencies were busy, too, as subway and railroad schedules were adjusted to accommodate parade goers, the surrounding streets closed and barriers erected along the parade route.

The weather prevented the work crews from painting the traditional green stripe down the middle of the street, but everything else was as usual. Pipers and marching bands from around the country (and a few from the auld sod) nervously fingered their instruments. Firefighters and police officers assembled in their full dress uniforms. Souvenir vendors loaded themselves up with green balloons, green hats, green beads, shamrock stickers, Irish flags and badges saying “VIP: Very Irish Person” and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.”

At the stroke of 11:00 the parade began, and it didn’t end until about 4:30, when the last red-headed, green-shirted boy giddily heard the applause as he crossed 86th Street. I hope your St. Patrick’s Day was as happy and exciting as his.

A lamppost on Fifth Avenue
Originally uploaded by annulla.

The last boy across 86th Street
Originally uploaded by annulla.

A green tie and a special cap
Originally uploaded by annulla.

The Buena Colts Marching Band from Arizona
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Wearing a green beret
Originally uploaded by annulla.

An experienced piper
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Banner of the Glasgow Celtic Supporters
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Father & daughter marched together
Originally uploaded by annulla.

A visitor from Vermont
Originally uploaded by annulla.

You don’t have to be Irish
Originally uploaded by annulla.

A marcher from New Jersey
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Displaying his faith
Originally uploaded by annulla.

His mother comes from Kerry
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Official St. Patrick’s Day Parade Web Site
Emigrant Online
Irish Echo
Irish Dirt

%d bloggers like this: