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


At Great Wall

April 2, 2010

Great Wall is the largest Asian supermarket chain in the Eastern United States, with branches in Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virgina. Styled after major American food chains, Great Wall offers locally-produced groceries as well as those imported from all over Asia, with an emphasis on freshness, cleanliness and customer service.

These stores combine many of the features of traditional Asian markets (seasonal produce, medicinal herbs, live fish swimming in tanks, butchers ready to cut meat to order) with American tastings, discount cards, weekly circulars and sales.

There are always some things, however, that may seem strange to Westerners. I found this item in a refrigerated case at the Great Wall store on Northern Boulevard in Flushing.

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Looking into the refrigerator case

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A closer view of the label: Pork Blood

Great Wall


Suddenly Spring

March 20, 2010

After a season of frigid winds, record snowfalls, bitter cold and torrential downpours, the last official day of winter brought a sudden, delightful change in the weather.

The sun was bright, the sky was clear, the temperature soared to record-breaking heights, and winter-weary New Yorkers shed their heavy gear and headed outside. The area near the State Supreme Courthouse in Long Island City, Queens presented the contrast of bare branches and sun worshippers, both welcoming this preview of Spring.

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An office worker taking a break in the sun

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A perfect day for a bike ride – and shorts

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Students carrying their jackets

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Playing leapfrog with a parking meter

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Going for a run on Jackson Avenue

WNBC: Spring Fling Brings Record Warmth To The Tri-State


Memorial Day Surprise

May 26, 2008

The plan was to attend a massive Memorial Day parade in Queens, but the directions I’d received were incomplete and left me stranded in a sketchy neighborhood where there was no sign of a celebration. The store fronts on the street were closed, few people were out, and those I found knew nothing about a parade. Feeling discouraged, it seemed the best recourse would be to return to Brooklyn and head for the beach.

Back onto the train, Brooklyn-bound, I noticed a brightly painted building in the far distance. I’d spotted it before, of course, while traveling through Queens (it was impossible to miss), and had always intended to explore it, but I’d never had the time. On this day, however, time was unlimited. I got off and just followed the colorful splashes of paint until I arrived at the place known as 5 Pointz.

Located in an industrial complex that houses artists’ studios and several garment factories, the building serves as a gallery of aerosol art. With the enthusiastic approval of the building’s owner, graffiti artist Meres One is the curator and absolute ruler, deciding who may paint here, where, and how long their work will remain before it is painted over by another.

Graffiti aficionados from around the world regard 5 Pointz as a mecca, arriving with “black books” of sketches, bags of paint, ladders, and cameras to immortalize the work they hope to produce here. Everything that happens on these walls (and floors, fire escapes, and roofs) is up to Meres, who grants permission to photograph or add to the display.

It was a clear, sunny day, a national holiday, and dozens of graffiti writers were arrayed around the building, spraying the walls with intricate, colorful, sometimes beautiful designs. I circled the enormous building, wishing that I had a better camera with me (I had an unreliable old cheap-y that I’d found in a thrift store for $5.00), admiring the skill and probably annoying the painters with my questions, until I arrived at the main entrance/loading dock.

There, amidst the paint and dumpsters of discarded fabric, a group had gathered for a great American tradition: a Memorial Day barbeque. They greeted me as though I was an expected guest, presented me with food and drink, and urged me to return. And, when I get a new camera, I certainly will.

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View from the street

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Front of the building

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Another section of the front

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Painter at work

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Painter working on painted sidewalk

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Painter working

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Tools of the trade

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Portrait mural

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Finished fairy mural

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Completed skull mural with calligraphy

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Another side of the building

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Mural with calligraphy

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Paint over metal doors

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Painted metal shutters

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Sign at loading dock

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Trash bin filled with fabric scraps

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Models, photographers and artists enjoy the barbeque

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Painters with Meres One

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The view from inside

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Spraying to prepare a clean “canvas”

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The fire escape

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Painted lamppost

5 Pointz Official Web site
MySpace: Meres One
NY Times: Museum With (Only) Walls


Lunar New Year’s Parade

February 9, 2008

The day was rainy and cold, but spirits were still bright for the 13th annual Lunar New Year parade in Flushing, Queens.

Here, in the neighborhood that is home to New York’s largest Asian population, the Chinese and Korean communities marched down Main Street to welcome in the Year of the Rat. Happy New Year!

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Mounted police officers lead the parade

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NYPD Marching Band

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The Chinese marchers begin

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There’s a kid under that gigantic mask

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Carrying flags

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The mouse ears symbolize the Year of the Rat

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A lion on parade

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Carrying flags

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A little lion dances

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A dragon held aloft

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Martial arts demonstration

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Beating the drum

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The kids are enthralled

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A costumed dancer

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Large dragon is held aloft

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Korean-American Association

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Marching band

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Drummers and dancers

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Banging the gong

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Riding on a float

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Beating a drum

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Clanging the cymbals

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Girls in Korean dress

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Traditional Korean costume

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Korean War veterans

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Veterans marching on Main Street

WNYC: Lunar New Year Kicks Off in Flushing
Times-Ledger: Flushing Gears Up


Open House New York: Richmond Hill

October 7, 2007

I spent this, the final day of OpenHouseNewYork, in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Located more or less in the center of the borough, in many ways Richmond Hill seems more like a suburban community than a part of the city of New York. The streets are filled with single homes, many with driveways and garages. The residents spend sunny days washing cars, mowing lawns and puttering in vegetable gardens.

There is a small business district cluttered with store-front lawyers and tax preparers, family-run candy shops and discount stores, fast food joints and Latin American restaurants. Richmond Hills also contains a handful of notable churches, a few neighborhood institutions and more than its share of boarded up buildings, including a train station abandoned by the Long Island Railroad.

The most remarkable aspect of the area, however, is the way it has been divided into two camps: the long-time residents who want to preserve its past and, far outnumbering them, the newcomers who have come here to build.

Not long ago, Richmond Hill was best known for its stock of century-old wooden Victorian  houses, many with large yards. But, unlike many areas where such buildings are protected, the residents here have never been able to rouse the city into giving the structures here protected landmark status.

As a result, the newcomers tend to treat the houses either as tear-downs (the house is demolished and a new structure built in its place) or remodels (original features are destroyed and replaced by incongruous, often gaudy elements).

Trees are ripped out and buildings extended to the very edges of their lots. Fishscale shingles are covered with vinyl siding, cedar shakes are hidden behind asbestos tiles and brick veneer. Wrought-iron gates are replaced by chrome, wooden millwork is stripped off, gilded plaster hidden behind suspended tile ceilings. Satellite dishes replace privet hedges and lawns are turned into parking lots.

A walking tour through the district is accompanied by a sad litany of vanished treasures. But the long-time residents are fighting back. They’ve organized the Richmond Hill Historical Society and are working to preserve and protect their neighborhood’s heritage.

Richmond Hill still contains architectural treasures including the remaining Victorians, the public library (an original Carnegie library), the Catholic and Episcopal churches and Jahn’s, an ice cream parlor founded in 1897 which still contains its original fountain, player piano, hanging lamps and furnishings.

While the majority of the newer residents have no interest in historic preservation, other newcomers are busily painting, plastering, re-pointing and restoring their historic homes to their former glory. Clearly, the final chapter in the battle for the character of Richmond Hill has yet to be written.

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Victorian home with stained glass windows and wooden trim

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Syrup dispenser in Jahn’s

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Jahn’s soda fountain and amber light fixtures

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Restored Victorian features several types of shingles

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Sleeping balconies were used on hot summer nights

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Another type of sleeping balcony

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A homeowner lovingly paints his Victorian

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A “Painted Lady”-style paint job

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Experimenting with contrasting shades and colors

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The roof lines were inspired by pagodas

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Painted terra-cotta on old apartment building

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Crumbling remains of a community center

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Entryway to former RKO Keith’s movie theater, now a flea market

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The theater’s grandeur hidden behind florescent lights

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Wooden Victorian “improved” with plaster columns and circular marble staircase

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When these remodelers ran out of vinyl siding, they continued in a different color

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Victorian house “improved” with columns and bricked-over windows

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Wooden Victorian “improved” with asbestos shingles

openhousenewyork weekend
Richmond Hill Historical Society Archive Museum
Historic Richmond Hill Walking Tour
The Richmond Hill Historical Society
Forgotten NY: Richmond Hill
richmondhillny.com
The Food Section: Jahn’s, the Best Way to Travel Back in Time
Wikipedia: Carnegie Libraries


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?

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Wikipedia: Ganesha


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