Readers Eye on NYC

August 29, 2007

I saw the notice in Time Out New York magazine.

Issue 618 : August 1, 2007 – August 7, 2007
Readers’ Eye on NYC

We want to see a version of this city we’ve never seen before—yours.

Send us recent photos of how New York appears through your eyes, whether it’s your favorite forgotten landmark, your undiscovered ’hood or a photo diary of your night on the town. (In other words, keep the Brooklyn Bridge postcard photos to yourself. )

The photos you submit could be published in an upcoming issue—maybe even on the cover! Plus, you could score a little cash.

Before you send, please make sure you do the following:

  •  *Check that the photo is recent (i.e. taken within the past two years).
  •  *Check that the file size of your image is between 1MB and 3MB (preferably in JPEG format). Especially large files will be bounced back by our email program.
  •  *Include your name, a descriptive caption and the date the photo was taken
  •  *Make sure that we receive your images no later than Friday, August 17.

Got that? Cool.

So, I sent in some photos and out of “nearly 1,000 submissions, including 91 street shots, 58 landscapes, 50 reflection photos, 47 parades, 44 shots of Coney Island, 42 pics of grafitti and four candids of some chick’s boyfriend,” Time Out New York selected one of mine for publication in the August 30 issue.

Today, the magazine with my photo in it came out. Even though I subscribe, I couldn’t wait for this week’s issue to arrive in the mail. I went to a newsstand, grabbed a copy, flipped through until I found the image and exclaimed, “Look, my picture is in the magazine!”

I turned it around so that the man behind the counter could see the page.

He studied the photo for a moment, looked at me and solemnly said, “It doesn’t look like you.”

“No,” I replied. “It isn’t a picture OF me, it is a picture BY me. I took the photo.”

He gave me a puzzled smile and nodded. “Yes, of course,” he replied, averting his eyes.

I paid for the magazine and headed towards home but when I saw a friend on the sidewalk I had to stop and show her the picture.

“Look, look, my photo is in this magazine!”

“Wow, let me see!”

I handed it over. She peered closely at the page, looked back up and said, “That doesn’t look anything like you.”

Argh. Never mind, I’m happy.

08-30-2007 12;34;32PM.BMP
The magazine cover

Burkhas & Rugrats
My photo

Announcement of Readers’ Eye on NYC

The J&R Music Fest

August 24, 2007

J&R is a large electronics store located in lower Manhattan, directly across from City Hall. Founded more than 30 years ago as a record shop (“Mommy, what’s a record?”), music remains an important part of the store’s business and, for more than a decade, it has sponsored a small annual music festival in City Hall Park.

This evening’s program featured three performers: Javier, a new singer/songwriter with his roots in R&B music, J. Holiday, a sleepy-eyed heartthrob with a hip-hop edge and Suzanne Vega, who writes and sings of city life and is best known for “Luka,” her 1987 hit about a battered child.

Each singer attracted such a different audience that the park emptied out — and was refilled by a new crowd, ready for the next artist — at the end of each set. And, of course, each performance was followed by an autograph-signing session at the J&R store.

J. Holiday onstage

J. Holiday singing a Stevie Wonder song

Javier with his guitar

Javier singing

Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega sings Tom’s Diner

J&R Music Fest
MySpace: J. Holiday
The Official Community of Suzanne Vega

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story

August 22, 2007

Tonight I attended a special screening of Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story at the ImaginAsian Theater. The documentary tells the story of Megumi Yokota, a Japanese schoolgirl who disappeared in 1977, and of her family’s long, heartbreaking struggle to find her.

Decades after she vanished, a North Korean defector revealed that Kim Jong Il’s henchmen had abducted more than one dozen innocent Japanese citizens. They were transported across the Sea of Japan and forced to teach North Korean spies how to speak, look and “act” Japanese. Taken at the age of 13, Megumi was their youngest kidnapping victim.

While the abductions have made headlines and caused governmental upheavals in Asia, they are little known in the rest of the world. In fact, I wasn’t aware of them until I saw this award-winning film.

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story is the first effort from husband and wife directing team Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim. They appeared onstage for a question and answer session and described how reading a small article in the Washington Post inspired them to put Megumi’s story on film.

Also present was Noel Paul Stookey, the “Paul” of the legendary folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary, who performed his Song for Megumi. He explained that he wrote the song because folk music traditionally tells stories of struggle and injustice. 

He sang, “Return to me, Megumi, across the waves of the sea. Send me your spirit. My heart will hear it. And lead you home to me.”

Noel Paul Stookey, Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim

Noel Paul Stookey

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story
Rescuing Abductees Center for Hope
Abduction Blog
Noel Paul Stookey
World Politics Watch: American Folk Singer Pens ‘Song for Megumi’
ImaginAsian Theater

Un Concierto Gratis en Coffey Park

August 19, 2007

The notice said:

Councilwoman Sara M. Gonzalez Te Invita A…
Futuray Sentimieto
Un Concierto Gratis en Red Hook
Live Performances: TITO NIEVES, OCHO Y MAS
Coffey Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Para mas informacion: (718) 809-7952 ~ (917) 309-6838

Translation: there’s a free party in Coffey Park!

Coffey Park is an 8-acre patch of green surrounded by vast public housing projects. It’s a rough neighborhood, in an often-overlooked corner of Brooklyn, where many of the residents are more fluent in Spanish than English.

The day was hot and the sky threatened rain, but the when the music started people flocked to the park, crowding around the stage, dancing on the grass and curved walkways, and catching up with old friends.

I beat a hasty retreat when the downpour began, but the locals stayed on, not yet ready to stop partying and go home. A little rain wouldn’t scare them off; they grow ’em tough in Coffey Park.

Dancers at Latin Fest
Dancers ready to go onstage

Couple dancing on the grass

Dancing on the walkway

Dancing near the stage
Slow dancing near the stage

Face painting in Coffey Park
Face painting at the Latin Fest

Band onstage at Latin Fest
The band onstage

Security guards
Security guards watch the crowd

The rain came but they kept on dancing

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation: Coffey Park
City Parks Foundation: Coffey Park
Councilwoman Sara M. Gonzalez

NYC Campaign Finance Board: Sara M. Gonzalez

I ♥ Anderson Cooper

August 15, 2007

The graffiti about the popular newscaster was written on a construction wall near the entrance to the 66th Street-Lincoln Center subway station.

I felt a bit guilty asking the elderly man who was leaning against it to move so that I could take a photo, but he readily obliged. As he slowly moved past me, the fellow grinned, leaned over conspiratorially and whispered, “If what I’ve heard about him is true, that might have been written by a man.”

“If what I’ve heard about him is true,” I responded, “it might have been written by his mother.”

Entrance to 66th Street-Lincoln Center station

I ♥ Anderson Cooper

CNN: Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper 360°
Anderson Cooper 360° Blog
Wikipedia: Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria Vanderbilt

Red Hook Ballfields

August 12, 2007

It began a few decades ago but until recently, the vendors who sell food at the Red Hook Ball Fields were known only to a select and enthusiastic crowd.

Once upon a time, a group of Latin American immigrants formed a soccer league and began playing regularly on the public sports fields in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park. Located in a swath of open space between gritty warehouses, docks and a vast public housing project, the 59-acre park featured an abundance of room to run and the isolation to make plenty of noise.

There were only two drawbacks to the location: it was a long walk from the closest subway station, and there were no shops or restaurants nearby where the players could buy refreshments. In response to the lack of available food and drink, a few of the league wives brought grills to the matches and began cooking on the spot for their hungry broods.

Soon, the women were cooking at the fields every summer weekend, selling their regional and family specialities to the enthusiastic athletes and specatators. As the league grew, and other nationalities joined the matches, the variety of dishes sold at the field also expanded. Today, the Red Hook Ball Fields offer soccer, baseball, running and the finest of South and Central American home cooking.

When artists and hipsters began to move into the empty industrial spaces of Red Hook, they also “discovered” the vendors under the tents at the Ball Fields. Word spread rapidly, and in the last two years nearly every major local magazine and newspaper has run at least one feature on what New York Magazine described as the city’s “ad hoc Latin American food court.”

In fact, there are two groups of vendors at the Red Hook Ball Fields: the much-lauded, organized cooks near the soccer fields and the less noted vendors across Columbia Street near the baseball fields. Both locations offer home made Latin American specialties, but the newcomers rarely visit the baseball field vendors; as a result, the lines are much shorter there, but there is also far less likelihood of finding a printed menu or a vendor who speaks perfect English.

Lately, the vendors at the Ball Fields have run up against the bureaucrats at the Parks Department and the Department of Health. As a result, many foodies believe that this could be the last summer that the delectable Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean treats will be sold under the tarps and tents at Red Hook. Activist and organizer Cesar Fuentes is doing all he can to fight City Hall, but the outcome of his efforts won’t be known for months.

So, quick, lest they disappear, come down to the ‘Hook and dig into the Columbian empanadas, Ecuadorian ceviche, Salvadoran pupusas, Mexican huaraches, Honduran tacos, Chilean tuna stew and more, along with gallons of fruit waters and mountains of succulent, freshly-cut mango, pineapple, coconut and papaya.

You’ll run out of room in your tummy before you run short of cash; most of the delicious offerings cost less than $5.00 each. While you munch away, don’t forget to watch a game or two.

The sign at the soccer fields

Munching on a quesadilla

Waiting for papusas

Mango, jicima, papaya, cucumber, melon
Cut mango, jicima, papaya, cucumber, melon

Guatemalan goodies on the grill
Guatemalan goodies (including stuffed potato) on the grill

Grilling ears of corn

Preparing meat tacos

Aguas frescas (fruit waters)
Jars of aguas frescas (fruit waters)

Grilling wooden skewers of meat

Preparing corn with lime, mayonnaise, cheese & chile

Making charcoal-grilled steaks for tacos

Eating a hurrache

Soccer players

Pitcher during a baseball game

It’s My Park: Red Hook Food Vendors Video
NY Magazine: The Last Summer of the Red Hook Park Vendors?
Eater: Red Hook Vendors Have 10 Days to Address Health Dept.
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook, the Drama Continues
NY Parks Dept: Red Hook Park
NY Magazine: Tour Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez
Time Out New York: On the Hook
NY Times: A Latin Fiesta, Near the B.Q.E.
NY Times: Stuffing Tortillas and Parkgoers, Dawn to Dusk
NY Magazine: Mmmm, the Red Hook Ball Fields
NY Times: A Potted Palm Grows in Brooklyn
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map
Gothamist: Soccer, Swimming Y Salsa
Gothamist: Soccer Mamacitas
Ed Levine Eats: Chuck Schumer Makes Goat Tacos Good Politics
onNYTurf: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map (w/subway lines)
NY Sun: On the Red Hook Waterfront
Village Voice: Plotzing for Masa (Not Matzo)

Drumsong African Ballet Theatre

August 11, 2007

Part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival, Drumsong African Ballet Theatre burst upon the stage at Josie Robertson Plaza with a program called “We Are Griots.”

This international troupe of performance artists, led by husband and wife team Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye and Andara Rahman Ndiaye, feature the West African drums and folk dances of Old Mali and Senegal.

The group, formerly known as Sabar Ak Ru Afriq Dance Theatre, exuberently combine drumming, dancing, singing and rhythmic chanting (griot) with the earthy humor, rituals and ceremonies of the Sabar and Senegambia peoples.  

A young dancer

Dancer with a prop

Dancer with a prop

Two dancers

Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye

A “gossip” dance

The dancers

The finale

The company in Josie Robertson Plaza

Race Matters: Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye
West African Dance Teachers in New York
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Josie Robertson Plaza

Howl on the Road

August 11, 2007

After a couple of years’ absence, the Howl Festival is back. The event, named in honor of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem about love, madness and death, is designed as a celebration of art created in Greenwich Village and the East Village.

This year, the ultimate downtown festival has taken a detour uptown to participate in Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Summer of Love: Celebrating the Spirit of the ‘60s.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” gathering in San Francisco—a defining moment of the era …. For its own “Summer of Love” 2007, Lincoln Center Out of Doors offers music, dance, street theater, and family events highlighted by artists and styles of the period.

Held on Josie Robertson Plaza, the celebration included art, music, dance, puppetry and even a fashion show. Participants dressed as hippies sang, danced and distributed flowers, incense and love beads. 

Three interactive art installations added to the experience: Block Busting by George Spencer, Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy, and Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota.

In early September, the complete, full-blown Howl Festival will return to its home turf downtown, in and around Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.

Minds! New loves!
Mad generation!
down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river!
They saw it all!
the wild eyes! the holy yells!
They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof to solitude!
carrying flowers!
Down to the river! into the street!
Allen Ginsberg, Howl

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota

Hippie chicks

The self-described “Goth Ethel Merman”


Hungry Marching Band

Block Busting by George Spencer


Monsieur Pierre (Todd Shaffer)

Paper peace dress

Channeling the spirit of Janis Joplin

Flower child

The Federation of East Village Artists
Howl Festival
Terry Hardy
Jan Lynn Sokota
Hungry March Band
Wikipedia: Bob Holman
East Village Dance Project
Howl at Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Josie Robertson Plaza
Footnote to Howl
Wikipedia: Howl
NY Times: Special section on Allen Ginsberg
Literary History: Allen Ginsberg
The Beat Page: Allen Ginsberg
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Howl’s 45th anniversary
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Howl & Banned Books (click under his photo)
GOH Productions
Bonnie Sue Stein
Village Voice: Ed Woodham
Martha Tornay

A Midsummer Day’s Mess, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 8, 2007

Early today, while most of the city was still asleep, Brooklyn was hit by a tornado.

The storm was the most powerful to strike the borough since the National Weather Service began keeping reliable records. With wind speeds reaching 135 mph, the tornado tore through Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, downing power lines, ripping up trees, shattering windows, tearing roofs from buildings and crushing trucks and cars.

The storm dumped three inches of rain on the city in just about an hour, overwhelming the sewer system, flooding streets, tunnels and subways and disabling the subways, trains and busses.

As hundreds of thousands of people tried to go to work, a spokesman for the Transit Authority, interviewed on a local television station, said, “The entire subway system is virtually shut down. If you can stay home, do it.” Unfortunately, the people who most needed to hear that messsage were already en route. Outraged commuters were stranded, the transit authority’s Web site crashed and chaos ensued.

Fortunately, the worst of the tornado’s ferocity bypassed my neighborhood and by the end of the day, most of the city’s transportation system was running with limited service. It was definitely time for something light and entertaining.


Shakespeare in the Park is a longstanding, beloved tradition in New York City. More than 50 years ago, Joseph Papp (who was subsequently accused of un-American activities), began to stage free productions of Shakespeare’s plays in at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.

Today, the shows are still free, but entrance to the famed open-air theater comes at a price.

Approximately 1,500 seats are available for each performance. Tickets are distributed on the day of the show on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to two per person. It is not unusual for people to camp out in the park overnight in order to obtain a pair, a feat that has been described by the New York Times as an “endurance test” requiring determination, patience and fortitude.

All tickets are for reserved seats and are non-exchangeable. If a performance is rained out, the ticketholder is simply out of luck. The well-heeled, of course, avoid the long queues by either hiring others to wait for them (the going rate is about $100) or by donating money to Shakespeare in the Park (a $150 donation earns one reserved seat).

When a friend offered me the opportunity to attend a run-through of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the show will officially open on August 23), I headed straight for the soggy subways.

Thanks to the storm, it took me about two hours longer than usual to reach Central Park, but it was well worth the trip. Those who braved the muddy fields and branch-strewn paths were transported from the chaotic, storm-torn city and treated to a calm, clear night, a first-rate company and more than a little much-needed magic on a midsummer night.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 2


Daily News: Brooklyn becomes Tornado Alley!
Newsday: Tornado, storm wreaks havoc in NYC
Gothamist: Wild Wednesday Weather
NY Times: Free Theater, But the Lines? Unspeakable
NY Times: It’s Free Theater, but With a Price
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Public Theatre: Shakespeare in the Park
Public Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Central Park Conservancy: Delacorte Theater Delacorte Theater
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation: Central Park

Lord Ganesh of the Lake

August 5, 2007

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races are held on Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park in Corona, Queens.

The ground around the lake is swampy and slippery, full of tall reeds, grasses and deceptively deep, muddy hollows. On Saturday, as I moved closer and closer to the edge to take photographs, I cautiously kept my eyes pointed downward.

When I reached the shore, I noticed something bobbing on the surface of the water. It appeared to be the back of a picture frame. I carefully reached down, grabbed it and turned it over.

To my amazement, it was an image of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh, the god of intellect and wisdom. The picture had gotten a bit gritty, but being submerged in the lake didn’t seem to have done it any real damage.

I wrapped the dripping frame in a plastic bag and brought it home. It now occupies a space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen.

However, I can’t help wondering: How did Ganesh get into the water? How long had he been there? And — was there any significance to the fact that, out of the thousands of people assembled by the shore, he washed up at my feet?

Any theories?


Wikipedia: Ganesha

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

August 4, 2007

Dragon Boat racing is only in its 17th year in New York, but in China, the land of its origins, the tradition goes back more than 1,500 years.

Dragon Boat racing stems from the death of poet and reformer Qu Yuan, who served the emperor in the kingdom of Chu (present-day Hunan and Hubei provinces) and was regarded as wise, loyal and honest. An idealist who was loved by the common people, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest governmental dishonesty and corruption.

One of his poems says:

In sadness plunged and sunk in deepest gloom,
Alone I drove on to my dreary doom.
In exile rather would I meet my end,
Than to the baseness of their ways descend.

Remote the eagle spurns the common range,
Nor deigns since time began its way to change;
A circle fits not with a square design;
Their different ways could not be merged with mine.

Yet still my heart I checked and curbed my pride,
Their blame endured and their reproach beside.
To die for righteousness alone I sought,
For this was what the ancient sages taught.

Heartbroken, Qu Yuan grasped a large stone and plunged into the Mi Lo river. Nearby fishermen raced to save the beloved poet. As they went, they tried to frighten away harmful fish and “water dragons” by beating drums and splashing their oars on the surface of the water. Sadly, they failed in their mission and Qu Yuan’s body was never found. Ever since, dragon boat races have commemorated his death and the efforts to rescue him.

The people of Chu believed that Qu Yuan’s hungry ghost came back to the river every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and tried to help him by throwing rice in the water. Today during the Dragon Boat Festival, people eat a dish of rice steamed in bamboo leaves called Joong or Zonzi (also known as Chinese Tamales) to symbolize the offerings of rice.

In China, Dragon Boat Races are a major holiday and the tradition has spread to communities with large Chinese populations around the world. In New York City, the Races are celebrated at Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, not too far from Chinatown. 

This year more than 150 teams competed, most of them sponsored by corporations and community groups. Each team had its own tent near the lake, where crew members and their supporters could relax, prepare and celebrate. Some teams even had their own portable restrooms.

They raced in boats made of solid teak, 40 feet long and weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Each craft is decorated with a wooden dragon head at the bow, a dragon tail at the stern and painted with dragon-like scales. A drummer sits in the bow and beats a drum while crew members row furiously.

In addition to the races, the crowd was treated to musical entertainment, martial arts demonstrations, modern and traditional Chinese crafts and sponsor-supplied games and giveaways.

If you decide to go next year, one warning: because the teams supply their own rest areas and cater their own meals, there is very little seating, shade, food and drink available for spectators.

Festival newbies squinted in the bright sunlight, repeatedly trekked to the boat house for water, filled their rumbling tummies with dumplings and noodles (the only foods available throughout the day), and squatted on the scorchingly hot grass. Experienced festival attendees arrived laden with umbrellas, parasols, lounge chairs, picnic baskets and barbeque grills, sat back and enjoyed the spectacle.

Relaxing inside a team tent

Spectator with parasol and dragon tattoo

Working in a sponsor’s giveaway tent

Tying knots in the craft tent

Selling knots at the craft tent

Calligraphy at the craft tent

Paper Joong/Zonzi for sale in the craft tent

Face painting at craft tent

Flying a kite

Leaving the shore

DSCN1463Getting into position
Getting into position

DSCN1455 Ready to start rowing
Ready to start rowing

A drummer in the bow

Crossing the lake

Rowing hard

Manuvering on the lake

Nearing the turnaround point

DSCN1519 Turning

A photographer captures the scene

DSCN1421 Posting race results
Posting race results

A winning team

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York
Home | MAD Dragonboating Club
Xtreme NY – Dragon Boat Crew of New York
Yang Hsien-yi & Gladys Yang: Poetry of Qu Yang
Making Joongzi
Making Joongzi 2

A Legend Early in the Morning

August 3, 2007

Every summer two popular television programs compete for early morning audiences by broadcasting concerts live from New York City.

The National Broadcasting Company’s Today Show holds their concert series on the Plaza at Rockefeller Center. Concerts from the American Broadcasting Company’s Good Morning America program take place in Bryant Park.

Both concert series are held in midtown Manahattan, both are free and open to the public, both include a variety of performers and musical genres. Good Morning America’s offerings take place on Fridays; the Today Show’s concerts are generally held on Tuesdays or Fridays.

Recently friend asked why I, who live so close to the venues and enjoy music so much, have never attended one of these peformances. This note from Good Morning America’s Web site might explain:

Show up at Bryant Park (41st and 6th Ave) around 6:00am, or earlier, to get a good spot in line.

Nevertheless, I decided to set my alarm extra early and give a (practically) crack-of-dawn concert a try today when R&B singer, songwriter and pianist John Legend appeared on Good Morning America.

Legend, a Grammy-award winner, performed romantic ballads influenced by gospel, jazz and hip-hop. After the show, the audience received free samples provided by the program’s sponsor, Listerine mouthwash.

Wonder whether the Listerine is at all responsible for Legend’s sweet, mellow sound?

The temporary stage in Bryant Park
The temporary stage in Bryant Park

Singing during the rehearsal
Rehearsing with back-up singers

Singing during the rehearsal
Singing during the rehearsal

Joking with Diane Sawyer & Sam Champion

John Legend performing with the band

John Legend making hearts flutter
John Legend making hearts flutter

John Legend
MySpace: John Legend
Today Show Concert Series
Good Morning America
Bryant Park: Good Morning America Concert Series

A Texas Honky-Tonk in New York City

August 2, 2007

Castle Clinton was constructed at the southern tip of Manhattan for the defense of New York City. Designed as a near-twin to Castle William on Governor’s Island, the building stopped functioning as a military base after the War of 1812. The castle was converted to an opera house, then an immigration processing center, and finally an aquarium before being named a national monument in 1946.

Today this circular red sandstone building in Battery Park serves as the ticket office for ferries going to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. And, for a few magical summer evenings each year, it is transformed into an open air concert hall. A portable stage is erected, folding chairs are opened, a refreshment stand set up and tickets (first-come, first-serve) distributed to the crowd that waits outside in the sun for hours.

Why do they stand so patiently in the middle of a heat wave? Simple. Because the space is intimate (only 600 seats are available), the price is right (free), and the acts are first-rate.

Today, as day turned to night, this former military fortress became a Texas honky-tonk when Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock — also known as the Flatlanders — performed for those lucky enough to score tickets.

The sounds of these veteran country singer-songwriters had the New York City crowd clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and finally, up on their feet and happily dancing under the stars.

The Flatlanders on the stage

Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Butch Hancock
Butch Hancock

Joe Ely
Joe Ely

Rob Gjersoe on bass
Rob Gjersoe on bass

Joe Ely singing
Joe Ely singing

Butch Hancock singing
Butch Hancock singing

Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing
Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing

New West Records: The Flatlanders
Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Welcome
Wikipedia: Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Joe Ely
Wikipedia: Joe Ely
Wikipedia: Butch Hancock
Castle Clinton National Monument

More Broadway in Bryant Park

August 2, 2007

Another sunny summer Thursday, another free lunchtime performance in the Broadway in Bryant Park series.

Once again, the concert featured excerpts from current shows and I was able to catch some of the best moments from Hairspray, Mary Poppins and Stomp.




Ashley Brown & Devynn Pedell from Mary Poppins signing autographs

Ashley Brown as the title character in Mary Poppins

Jacob Levine, Ashley Brown and Devynn Pedell in Mary Poppins

Jacob Levine and Gavin Lee singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins

Broom dance from Stomp

Dancing with brooms from Stomp

Cast dancing with poles from Stomp

Mary Poppins
Devynn Pedell
New York 106.7 FM: Broadway in Bryant Park
Bryant Park: Broadway in Bryant Park
Bryant Park
New York City Department of Parks: Broadway in Bryant Park

Dance of the Gypsies

August 1, 2007

In addition to the Sand Sculpting Contest, last week’s celebration at Coney Island featured a performance by a group billed as (I believe) the World Wide Gypsies.

Clad in bright, flowing silks, adorned with countless jewels, bangles and spangles, three women swayed and whirled on the sunlit Boardwalk.

When the moustachioed violinist launched into Ochi Chyornye (also written as Ochi Tchornya or Ochi Chernye), the lead dancer sang along.

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus’ ya vas
Znat’ uvidel vas ya ne v dobryj chas

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Frightful and beautiful eyes
I love you so, I fear you so
For sure I’ve seen you at a sinister hour

Passers-by were captivated by the romantic melody, the flamboyant costumes and the laughing, dancing gypsys.

Swirling their skirts
Swirling their skirts

Playing Ochi Chyornye

The gypsy sings of love & suffering
The gypsy sings of love & suffering

Captivating a passerby

Dancing with the Boardwalk boys
Dancing with the Boardwalk boys

A few belly dance moves
Doing a few belly dance moves

A lively mazurka
Dancing to a lively mazurka

Twirling gypsy dancer

Bay News: Fairy tales still thrive in Coney Island
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A plea to readers

August 1, 2007

I’ve never written a post like this before, but the issue is too important to ignore. If you are a New Yorker, ever plan to visit New York or just care about freedom of speech and expression, this is a plea for your help. 

A controversial new city proposal would require formal permits for a wide range of casual photography and would affect visitors and residents alike.

“Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

“The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.”
— New York Times, June 29, 2007

It seems absurd, doesn’t it, that a city like this would crack down on people taking photos in public places, but the threat of that happening is very real — and implemention of the rules imminent — unless we make our voices heard.

Following a request from the NYCLU, New York City has agreed to reopen the period for members of the public to submit comments about this proposal. The City will accept comments until Friday August 3.

Comments should be sent as soon as possible to the following person:
    Julianne Cho
    Assistant Commissioner
    Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
    1697 Broadway
    New York, N.Y. 10019

An ad hoc coalition of working artists, filmmakers, and photographers have joined together to fight the proposed rules. Calling themselves Picture New York, they have launched a blog and an online petition which will be closed on Friday, August 3.

If you believe, as I do, that we should remain free to take photos and shoot videos on the streets of New York City, please let officials know before it is too late. They will stop accepting comments in only two days.

If you live outside the city, or even outside the U.S., you might hesitate to contact the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

You may think that it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to get involved in what seems like a local fight, but the city needs to hear from as many people as possible, no matter where they live. Please help us keep New York accessible and open to all photographers.


Award-winning newscaster and commentator Keith Olbermann has named Julianne Cho Worst Person in the World for July 31, 2007.


“Responding to an outcry that included a passionate Internet campaign and a satiric rap video, city officials yesterday backed off proposed new rules that could have forced tourists taking snapshots in Times Square and filmmakers capturing that only-in-New-York street scene to obtain permits and $1 million in liability insurance.

“In announcing the move, officials at the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting said they would redraft the rules, intended to apply to commercial film and photography productions, to address complaints that they could be too broadly applied. They will then release the revised rules for public comment.

“It appears that the mayor’s office on film has come to their senses,” said Eileen Clancy, a member of a group formed to protest the rules. “Clearly, they did not anticipate the way in which the rules were likely to affect so many different groups of people.””

For the rest of this New York Times article, click here.

Picture New York blog
Picture New York petition
New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)
Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
Text of Proposed rule (Amendment to Title 43) [pdf]
NY Times: Artists Organize to Fight Camera Permit Proposal
NY Times: City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography
Sewell Chan: A Shout Out to the M.O.F.T.B.
Olde English: Free NYC Rap video
Keith Olbermann
NY Times: After Protests, City Agrees to Rewrite Proposed Rules

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