Remembering Flight 587

November 12, 2015

On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 departed JFK International Airport en route to the Dominican Republic. At 9:16 am, seconds after take off, the jet crashed into the community of Belle Harbor, killing all 260 passengers and crew and five Belle Harbor residents.

People from France, Haiti, Israel, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States and Puerto Rico were on the flight. Yet the majority were of Dominican descent, traveling to their homeland, or returning from visiting family. The plane struck the ground at the intersection of Beach 131st Street and Newport Avenue, where members of the fire and police departments (many of them off duty) and numerous volunteers rushed to the scene. Despite their heroic efforts, the crash of Flight 587 stands to date as the second largest aviation tragedy in U.S. history.

All New Yorkers were devastated by this terrible event, occurring only two months and a day after the World Trade Center attack. The communities of Washington Heights and Belle Harbor were uniquely affected. Many of the passengers lived in and around Washington Heights. Belle Harbor was home to many police officers and firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.

These communities, together with the families of the victims and the city of New York, have created this monument to honor those who perished and ensure that we never forget those we have loved and lost.

Freddy Rodriguez, a Dominican-born New York City artist, designed the Flight 587 Memorial that stands near the beach in Rockaway, Queens. It was dedicated on November 12, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the day the packed Airbus A300 crashed in nearby Belle Harbor.

Placement of the Memorial was controversial: many of the victims’ relatives wanted it to be built at the scene of the disaster, while residents opposed the idea, saying it would create a constant reminder of the horror that had traumatized so many of them. The conflict was resolved by placing the structure within the boundaries of the neighborhood, but about 15 blocks from the crash site.

The Memorial stands at the end of a street full of shops and apartments near the Ocean Promenade. Its curving wall has window-like openings providing broken views of the Atlantic Ocean. Near the center of the wall is an open door angled towards the Dominican Republic. The rose granite blocks are inscribed with the names of all 265 of the victims. A large block is inscribed with the description of the incident (quoted above).

Directly above the door are the words of the late Pedro Mir, Poet Laureate of the Dominican Republic: “Después no quiero más que paz (Afterwards I want only peace).”

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Inscription on a nearby wall

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The memorial includes a plaza and bench

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The doorway faces the Dominican Republic

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Another view of the doorway

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Names of victims

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Victims

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A family

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Victims

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Victims

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Men, woman, children

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Victims

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Victims

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A family

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Victims

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Victims

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A family

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Afterwards I want only peace

City of New York: Flight 587 Memorial Project
USA Today: Reaction Mixed on Flight 587 Memorial
Pedro Mir


Halloween in the Heights

October 31, 2015

While their fellow New Yorkers complain about how the city is being destroyed by greedy developers, the residents of Brooklyn Heights bite their tongues. That’s because little has changed in the neighborhood in decades.

In 1965, the newly created New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Brooklyn Heights as city’s first historic district. Later that year the neighborhood was also named a National Historic Landmark and the following year, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

All of that governmental recognition and legal protection mean that Brooklyn Heights essentially looks the same today as it did 50 years ago—a mixture of brick homes, brownstones, grand mansions, and wooden houses (some dating back to the Civil War), punctuated with century-old shops and churches.

The area is beautiful at any time, but it takes on a special appeal when decorated for Halloween. These are streets where young trick-or-treaters still troop from door to door, and few homeowners neglect adding at least a touch of seasonal color to their stoops and thresholds.

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Pumpkins and cobwebs

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Skeleton and pumpkins

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Dried corn

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Tombstone and ghost

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“Boo” says the pumpkin

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Pumpkins and evergreen

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Pumpkins and cobwebs

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Skeletons, cobwebs, etc.

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Pumpkins and ivy

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Pumpkins and potted mums

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Pumpkins and squash

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Mums and pumpkins

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Pumpkins, cobwebs and a blue planter

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Witch, bats and ghosts

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Pumpkins and spider

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Pumpkin and metal pots

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Big pumpkins

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Pumpkins and skeletons

Curbed: How Brooklyn Heights Became the City’s First Historic District
National Park Service: Brooklyn Heights Historic District
National Historic Landmarks in New York
National Register of Historic Places
NYC: Brooklyn Heights


Little House on the Brooklyn Prairie

April 9, 2014

Take a look around and guess where we are.

There’s a white-washed building topped by a stout brick chimney. Rough hewn wooden posts holding up a shingled roof. Wood framed double-hung windows with slightly sagging screens. A wide porch holding an assortment of ladder-back rocking chairs, some with seats of woven rush, others with canvas webbing.

Are we in a small, sleepy Southern town? Or are we someplace in the American Heartland, perhaps an old farmstead out on the wide prairie?

Sorry, but no and no.

Actually, this rustic-looking structure is the Avenue H subway station on the Q line, deep in the heart of Brooklyn. Built in 1906, over the years the station has been updated and renovated but, thankfully, never replaced.

Now, don’t just stand there. Grab a glass of lemonade and let’s do a little rocking before we catch the next train to Brighton Beach.

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The Epoch Times: Renovated Brooklyn Station House, Relic With Modern Feel
NYC Subway: Avenue H Station
Subway Nut: Avenue H 


The Land Where St. Patrick Walked

March 17, 2011

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue is the world’s biggest, noisiest, happiest celebration of Ireland and its patron saint. Between the dancing, drinking and green hair, it is easy for an observer to think that those who hail from “the land with 40 shades of green” have always been welcome and accepted here.

But the story of the Irish in New York has many a tragic side. Most terrible is the reason that so many Irish citizens arrived on our shores 150 years ago; they were fleeing the disaster known as An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger). The devestation began in the late 1840s, when a virus attacked the potatoes planted in the fields of the land where St. Patrick had walked.

Cheap, filling, and easy to grow, potatoes were an essential source of nutrition for poor, rural Irish families. When the virus caused the potato plants to wither and their crops to fail, it wasn’t long before starvation set in.

The Great Hunger, also known as the Great Potato Famine, lasted from 1845 to 1852. During that period approximately one million Irish people died and two million more emigrated, many of them landing in New York Harbor. Now, in a quiet corner of Battery Park, near the spot where those desperate survivors arrived, stands the Irish Hunger Memorial.

Created by New York artist Brian Tolle, the memorial opened in 2002 on a quarter-acre of land shaped to resemble a burial mound cut from an Irish hillside. The base of the memorial is made of slabs of concrete interlaced with bands of plexiglass-covered metal bearing excerpts from reports, poems, songs, sermons and letters describing the desperation and destitution of the victims of the famine. These are intermingled with information about world hunger today.

After walking around the base, visitors walk through a short, dark corridor where recorded voices recite facts about the Hunger and emerge into a small atrium lined with stone walls. A dirt path winds up the hill past thirty-two massive stones, each marked with the name the Irish county that donated it, a roofless stone cottage, wildflowers and grasses, all imported from Ireland.

Every aspect of this small patch of land is significant and symbolic; even the size of the space reflects the Irish Poor Law of 1847, which denied relief to those living on land larger than a quarter of acre. Small, subtle and enormously moving, the Irish Hunger Memorial helps illuminate the wonderful, terrible history of the Irish in New York City.

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Approaching the memorial from West Street

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Closer to the entrance

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Plantings overhanging the concrete

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Through the entry corridor

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Words on the walls

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More quotations on the walls

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The words stretch on

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Climbing the hill

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The view from the top of the hill

CRG Gallery: Brian Tolle
The New York Times: A Memorial Remembers The Hungry
New York Magazine: Irish Hunger Memorial
NYC: Battery Park
Battery Park Conservancy


Don’t Let The Name Fool You

July 19, 2010

When you hear the name of the place, it would be reasonable to assume that it is somewhere along the Hudson or East Rivers. But don’t let the name fool you. Manhattan Beach is not on, or near, the island of Manhattan. In fact, this neighborhood is located on the narrow peninsula that forms the southernmost boundary of Brooklyn.

Physically, Manhattan Beach is about 12 miles from Manhattan Island and less than two miles — straight down the road — from the bright lights, clatter and raucous throng at Coney Island. But culturally, economically and spiritually, Manhattan Beach is a world unto itself.

The area was first developed as a summer resort by the Manhattan Beach Improvement Company. In 1877, the company opened two luxury hotels here along the sparkling sand. By the time World War I erupted, the hotels had both been torn down and the land sold to a residential developer. Soon the quiet stretch of beach, only three blocks wide, was filling with single family homes, many of them lavish enough to be described as mansions.

Today, the neighborhood, where the streets are in alphabetical order, is one of the wealthiest, quietest and safest in New York City. Since 1955 it has included a 40 acre public park that boasts fountains, playgrounds, picnic tables, two baseball diamonds and tennis, volleyball, basketball, and handball courts.

In fact, the most significant change to the stability of this enclave of about 7,000 people has been an influx of newer residents, many of them immigrants from Russia, during the past decade.

Many of the newcomers have purchased older houses, torn them down and replaced them with larger, showier, more elaborate places. Quite a few of these new residents tend to favor architecture reminiscent of The Sopranos or Las Vegas. But they, just like those who have lived here for generations, adhere to the neighborhood’s unspoken creed: they are fiercely protective of their property, their privacy and their community.

An armed private security force, the Beachside Neighborhood Patrol, drives through these wide, quiet, shady streets, keeping an eye out for trouble. A significant number of the homes prominently display burglar alarm signs, security cameras, keypad locks. Houses and yards are hidden behind impenetrable hedges (both natural and artificial), high fences, locked gates.

And yet … this is no exclusive, gated community that is locked away from the world. The residents of Manhattan Beach are sophisticated, dedicated urbanites who have consciously chosen to live in the most populous borough in the largest city in the US.

Here, behind the thick hedges, beyond the manicured lawns, they enjoy the best of both worlds: the richness, diversity, art and culture of the city, along with the space, tranquility, peace and quiet of the country — and all of that, just steps from the ocean and public transportation.

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No Trespassing signs on a dead-end street in Manhattan Beach

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A backyard with an ocean view

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Hedge and wall ensure privacy

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Fence embellished with gold paint

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A home in Manhattan Beach overlooking Sheepshead Bay

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Plenty of custom windows here

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Paved driveway behind gates

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Curved plantings echo curved stairs

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A synagogue in Manhattan Beach

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Cedars in pots hide the back yard

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Beige stone with red tiles

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Off street parking

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Elaborate roof structures

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Little room between these houses

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Red brick and white woodwork

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Victorian-inspired with multiple balconies

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Balcony and roof deck

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Elaborate front gate

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Mediterranean influence

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Front yard with plantings

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No one can see inside when there are no windows

Beachside Neighborhood Patrol saved after surge of support from Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach Community Group
If You’re Thinking of Living In Manhattan Beach
Sheepshead Bites


Seasons Greetings from the City of New York

December 25, 2009

This wreath is hanging above the plaza of the Manhattan Municipal Building, a magnificent limestone structure at the intersection of Chambers and Centre Streets, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge. Happy Holidays to you and yours from the City of New York.

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The view from Chambers Street

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A closer look at the wreath

The City of New York: Manhattan Municipal Building


The Dudley Memorial Building

August 10, 2009

At first glance, the building at 110 Amity Street looks as though it might be a grand residence. But upon closer inspection, the brick and limestone structure reveals broken, boarded up windows, a slew of paper notices taped to the front door and a dusty-looking “for sale” sign.

Two names appear above the entrance: The Dudley Memorial, which is carved into the facade, and, painted directly below, The Long Island College Hospital Stanley S. Lamm Institute for Developmental Disabilities. So, what’s the story here?

This empty structure at the corner of Amity and Henry Streets was built in 1902 in memory of Dr. William Dudley, one of the founders of nearby Long Island College Hospital, which is now celebrating its 150th anniversary. Designed by Charles Hough, for five years it served as a private pavilion for the hospitals patients, then became a residence for its nurses.

Later, the building housed the Stanley S. Lamm Institute, a facility for the comprehensive care of the developmentally disabled. Several years ago the Lamm Institute’s programs were moved to other locations and the stately-looking building has been vacant ever since.

Most recently, a developer proposed a plan which included the construction of a rooftop bulkhead and six townhouses in the rear. A combination of community opposition and fallen real estate values has resulted in any plans being delayed indefinitely.

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The view from Amity Street

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At the corner of Amity and Henry Streets

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The names above the door

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For sale sign

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Notices taped to the door

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A broken window

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: LICH Consolidation and Buildings’ Fates
Opposition to 110 Amity Plans Grows
The Long Island College Hospital


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