Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review "Sidewalks" -Maya Jourieh

Author and sociologist Mitchell Duneier’s book “Sidewalk” trailed in several themes throughout the book. A common ideology used throughout the book was Jane Jacob’s insight on the urban life around the street vendors of Greenwich Village in New York City. He is a sociologist that spent with the homeless/ “unhoused” book dealers on 6th avenue in New York and discovers an incredibly complex economy and society. Specifically he explores uncovers the dignity of the homeless.
As a sociologist, he spent five years trying to get to know these vendors and understand not only what they do for a living, but how they get by on the streets of New York City everyday. For example, the first vendor he introduced, Hakim, a book vendor, that he got to know through a student of his. While spending time in the streets with this man he is surprised to learn that he is quite well educated and knows what he is talking about, yet lives the way he does. He’s fascinated by the way these venders live their lives. He even based an entire chapter in his book to explain how the unhoused men manage to go to the bathroom (explaining that a bathroom is a luxury, and not always available).
The most interesting point he made in his book was when he tried to make a connection between the vendors lives and their race. He made note in his book “the gaps in American society is the difference between people related to race and the discourse revolving around this volatile issue.” Duneier is a white, middle-class sociologist who infiltrated a stretch of lower Sixth Avenue. He realized the differences of the ways they were raised and lived- for example, he was Jewish and most of the vendors were Muslim or Christian, they all had different levels in education (he held a Ph.D in sociology as well as attended two year of law school, whereas some of them did not graduate from high school), he was a professor and they were vendors. His attempt in trying to connect the vendors backgrounds and current lives made him uneasy.

This book relates to a lot of we have learned in class. I was reminded of our early discussions in the class right away when he quoted what Hakin said had reminded him of Jane Jacobs, “People like me are the eyes and ears of the street.” In that Hakim was referring to not only street vendors, like himself, but people who are of the norm with the street. Another theme in the book that I related to class discussion was when he mentioned the "intereactional vandalism," and when people ignore social cues on purpose. These men do it to women passing by, but it also mentioned that telemarketers do it with their spiel, by preying on the fact that people find it hard to be rude to them while on the job.

Activity 10 -Maya Jourieh

The trip to Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island was pretty interesting. I learned a few new things about what used to the the dump. However, being that I live on Staten Island, I do not like the idea that it is known for that dump.
I never knew how big the area they were redeveloping is. It is pretty exciting to think that something that used to be known to be so disgusting is going to be turned to something amazing.
Fresh Kills, lived up to it’s name and used to be “fresh”. Prior to being dumped on, it was all flat wetlands, completely natural, and wild life has roamed that lands. It wasn’t until 1948 that New York City’s garbage had completely flooded what used to be so beautiful and had turned it to a filthy wasteland. In 2001, it was decided that Fresh Kills should be cleared once again and the city should rid Staten Island of this dump.
The city got rid of a lot garbage, however, they covered up the rest with soil, creating four different mounds on the land. Not only did this clean up the land, but it prevented the waters from being any further polluted; the water now is said to be clean. To cover the mounds of garbage they covered the garbage with a soil barrier layer, followed a gas vent layer, a drainage layer, then a barrier protection material, lastly by soil and then the grass and trees. It’s like cover up for a blemish, you can’t tell that these used to be mounds of garage. These mouds a pretty high as well; however, providing us with a beautiful view of the Verrazanno Bridge, Manhattan, the Goethals Bridge, the Outerbridge, the Bayonne bridge, and the parachute drop in Coney Island (that I could personally not see).
When this park is completed in 30 years it is said that it will be the second largest park in New York. Developers plan on making it available for certain activities such as kayaking, canoeing, sporting fields, bike tracks, horse trails, ski slopes, bird watching towers, and more.
This will certainly change the view of Staten Island in the years to come.

Activity 9- Maya Jourieh

This blog relates to what we have learned and discussed this semester because it mentions the public space in the metropolitan area being taken up by parking spots. It discusses how planners and designers sometimes forget to consider to leave open space for parking spots. It’s necessary for them to remember that because in the end, then the cars end up taking space that could be used for something else.

This blog discusses how Florida is mainly dominated by cars. Without a car, people seem to be falling behind. They have no other means of transportation, even in the city area people seem to take cars more. This thought relates to the blog because it discusses how means of transportation are required in an urban area. Without it how else would people get around.

I think this blog relates to our course the most only because we discussed that Atlantic Yards issue. This project is taking a toll on a lot of people. Many are against the idea because they do not want to deal with the new construction and would like to keep the area as is. This relates because we talked about renovating and redeveloping areas.
On schedule, new Marlins ballpark rises (way) over Miami’s Little Havana

Although this blog is about Miami, it’s still an Urban area and I find that it relates in a way when talking about building something new when in an crowded area. Things like this not only take time and a lot of money, but space that could be used otherwise.

This blog relates in the way that it talks about the necessity for finding public space in urban areas. Public spaces are necessary because they make society feel safer in a way.

Activity 8 -Maya Jourieh

For this activity, both our group (group 3) and the other group we were assigned to work with one another and were to take each other on a trip the other group is not familiar with.

The other group’s leader was familiar with the St. Marks village area because she had lived there her entire life. We had all met up at Astor place and walked straight down from there. I was already familiar with the area but being around someone who have lived there their entire life made me open my eyes to it more than. St. Marks is known for its artsy style and diversity. She had taken us around the block and shared what she personally knew about the area. It’s different when someone has personal memories of a certain place.
While we were walking and talking about it, we passed several tattoo and piercing shops, clothing stores you wouldn’t find anywhere else (once of which is Trash Vaudville, a personal favorite of mine), restaurants, and so much more. Even the people of the area seemed like they belonged there. It was something about the atmosphere that made it all the more different. We then walked down further to the dog park and around the East village a bit more- passing places of the night life, that are dead during that time of the day. We walked around the and then continued back up towards out starting point. Along the way, we passed a small community garden, where some of the group members took pictures (we actually spent some time in front of the garden, trying to figure out if it was public or not- it was). As we kept walking, we passed the only Polish church in the area. It was interesting to learn that it was the only one there. After our walk, we decided we were all going to stop for something to eat at Tahini’s, a Middle Eastern restaurant. I enjoyed the food, but it wasn’t anything special to me because I’m used to eating Middle Eastern food on a daily basis, being of Syrian decent. After having lunch with everyone, we ended our first trip by walking up to the train station to head towards the Brooklyn Bridge, where our second trip would begin.
We took the 6 train going downtown, to the last stop, to take us to the starting destination of our group’s trip, the Brooklyn Bridge. It was my job to lead both groups around the area and share some history about the bridge and the area, DUMBO. I learned a lot of new facts while doing some research. The most interesting ones was that people used to suspend themselves from the bridge as a sport until they realized how dangerous it was, and that a majority of the buildings used to be factories and had been transformed to lofts. The walk across the bridge was amazing. It made me feel like I was in two places at once when I had arrived at the middle. Once we reached the end, I we realized there was a significant differences between both areas of St. Marks and DUMBO. DUMBO was more quiet, and things seemed to be kept to themselves. Some parts of it were being renovated, and others were left astray. The alley ways between the buildings were my favorite part of the walk. The cobble stone streets and empty buildings looked like they were pulled out of a black and white photograph. We realized as we became closer to the pier there were more people. The area by the water and the park was filled with people at the time. Once we reached the pier, we stopped for some ice cream at Brooklyn’s Ice Cream factory- it was a twenty minute wait on the line, but it was all worth it in the end.
It was pretty clear that St. Marks was more diverse, and DUMBO was a bit more low key. This trip showed the differences in the area. All in all, I enjoyed it, it was fun.

Activity 5 -Maya Jourieh

I had attended a community board meeting with Danielle Nicolosi, who is also in the class. We had attended a meeting on Staten Island, where they mainly discussed the issue of the after math of a storm. There were about five tables of people who seemed to be important and lead the majority of the discussions throughout the night. We sat in the back as they were taking attendance to see which members of the council were present and who was just attending it for outside information. The ages of the main members ranged from about men and women in their 30-70s.
They called up the first speaker to the podium. It was a member of a team that was helping to fix the damages of the storm; however, I forgot the name of the team he worked for. The next speaker was from the Department of City Planning. He was at the meeting to explain the department’s new plan for redeveloping the island’s waterfronts. He had even come prepared with a (boring) informative power point.
The third speaker was the most interesting one of all. A middle aged Caucasian woman, who was fighting against her speaking time at first, had angrily walked to the podium to state her problems. Besides her ranting and throwing out violations (as if she knew all about them), all I understood from her speech was something about a parking lot at the dentist’s office. The funniest thing was her repetition of the phrase “Just bare with me!” with an attitude none the less; Danielle and I kept a tally, she said it six times during the few minutes she was up there.
Santa Clause was next! Well he wasn’t the actual Old St. Nick that descended from the North Pole on a sleigh, but he could have passed off as a look alike: long beard, low worn small glasses, and long white hair that was tied back. I didn’t concentrate much on what Santa was saying either; I couldn’t not tell whether or not he was against the cranky woman before him. The next speaker after him spoke of the same topic, but thankfully spoke clearers than the last two. He spoke against the violations and wished for the property to would once again be used for land use.
The next speaker had touched the hearts of almost everyone in the room. He was and elderly man who had lived in the same house for 50 years in Annadale. His home was completely ruined by the floods the storms had caused. He was very upset over what happened and was asking for any help anyone could provide. Someone had advised he call 311 and tell them of this occurrence, apparently they were planning on help those whose homes were ruined by the storm’s floods that night.
Lastly, the last speaker who walked up was to the podium was one of the dentists from the office building that the blonde lady was complaining about. He stated that he does not see a problem in the parking lot and the reasoning for the office taking up so much space was its ramp that was used by children with spcialized needs and does not feel like this is causing a problem.
All in all, the meeting wasn’t so bad. I’d have to say watching the people’s reactions to certain things was the best part of all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Check This Outt!!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Activity 10 - Zachary

Fresh Kills began life as a salt-marsh. In 1947, Robert Moses proposed making it into a park, beginning with filling in the ponds with trash. The park never materialized and Fresh Kills instead became a massive landfill composed of four huge mounds. According to Phil Gleason (quoted in New York Magazine), Fresh Kills landfill was as big as Manhattan below 23rd street. The landfill was closed in 1999 and, in 2003, Bloomberg proposed turning it into a park. The landscape architecture company won the ensuing contest for plans to convert the massive landfill into a park.
New York Magazine reports that "Field Operations settled on a philosophy that has guided all of their planning for the site: They would not build a new park on top of an old dump. Instead, they would make the old dump a part of the new park, by acknowledging it, reclaiming it, recycling it on behalf of a modern metropolis. [Designer James] Corner did not see Fresh Kills as a painting, in other words; he saw it as a palimpsest, a collaboration between a landscape architect and his landfill." Standing on top of one of the mounds, seeing lower Manhattan in the distance, and being surrounded by pumps that gather methane produced by the decaying garbage beneath the now-green mounds makes the consequences of this philosophy clear - and it is marvelous. What struck me about Fresh Kills as it is today is that it is at once beautiful and dystopian, scenic and a product of breathtaking human artifice. It is, in fact, impressive in all of the ways that the city itself is. Field Operations made no attempt to conceal the fact that the park is built on top of a landfill, and, rather than detracting from the majesty of the project, this decision makes the park what it is. It is astounding that humans can produce so much garbage and it is equally as astounding that other humans (or, perhaps, some of the same humans) can transform that trash into a calming, green space with the best view of Manhattan I've seen anywhere besides an airplane.
Corner's genius is in blurring these lines between artifice and nature, between park and landfill. "At Field Operations, he is attempting to expand the idea of ecology to include not just rivers and streams but also subway lines, movements of capital, and weekend traffic. “To me, a city is an ecology—it’s an ecology of money, an ecology of infrastructure, an ecology of people,” he says. “Everyone thinks ecology is about nature, and it is, but there are so many other systems.”" (NY Magazine) Fresh Kills is supposed to be a lesson in sustainability. By refusing to hide the garbage dump history of the park it reminds park-goers that New York still ships its waste to South Carolina and Pennsylvania. It certainly accomplishes that goal, but the process of building a park out of a garbage dump has an implicit notion of sustainability that goes far beyond identifying individual ecological problems.
Fresh Kills seems to chart a course outside of what appears to me to be deadlocks in Green theory. The scale of the park and the amount of time that will be required to finish it put to shame the idea that ecological problems will take care of themselves. On the other hand, Fresh Kills challenges elements of Green theory that identify an anthropocentric mindset, industrial technology, or scientific reason as the cause of ecological destruction and unsustainable living. These theories have an advantage in pointing out the severity of our collective ecological situation, but they can't account for Fresh Kills which will, through collective action and the application of modern technology, reclaim as livable a space that would otherwise be lost. Fresh Kills is a monument to what the human powers to transform and appropriate nature can do if they are applied with sustainability and livability in mind, and that is its significance for me.