Sunday, February 28, 2010
I toke the A train starting at Dyckman Street and took it all the way to Broad Channel. I normally don’t take the A train so I thought it would be an interesting experience. But because I live in Rego Park it was a hassle to get from one end to the other. The trip brought me through three boroughs in about two hours. At Dyckman Street there were very little amount of people on the train and they didn’t look at me weirdly or didn’t even give me a second glance because I guess it looked as if I could possibly live in that area of Manhattan. But as the trip went on and got further to Far Rockaway and to Broad Channel I got a lot of looks, three and four glances from the same people as they watched me explore the A line.
The train got busy at the normal congested spots of Manhattan like 42nd St Port Authority, Canal Street, Fulton, Jay St. and so forth. The people getting on the trains at these points and for the majority of the trip was business people, college students and the normal people you would see on the train during the day on a weekday.
When the ride got to Lafayette St. I started getting looks from the passengers like I was in the wrong neighborhood and that I didn’t belong on the train but none the less I continued the trip and admired the difference in the subway stations as I got closer to Broad Channel.
The train ride to Broad Channel was a long and interesting one. I found the ride more enjoyable then the area of Broad Channel itself. The train ride was extremely interesting as soon as the A train exited out of the subway the walls were covered in graffiti and the houses became less enjoyable to look at. Once I got closer to Broad Channel the houses looked more like boat houses, or areas that you would expect to see in the south. But the topper of the trip was when the train started to go over the water at first I was a little nervous because I never knew that subway cars went over water like that, but then it started to go through what seemed like swamp lands and after that the area just seemed to get more run down. Houses were run down and surrounded by what seemed like unwanted overgrown grass.
It was an interesting experience and tells me a lot about the way the subway system was mapped out. Because as we got closer and closer to the run down area of Far Rockaway the train became less crowded with business people and instead became full with what seemed to be run down hard workers, living pay check to pay check. They seemed to be construction workers due to their dirty clothing and construction boots and tools in their bag. What disappointed me the most was the drastic change in upkeep in subway stations as we got closer to the poorer areas, shows where the governments concern is at.
9. Are there gated communities in any of the boroughs? Where are they [name one] and tell me the history of it? [when was it built, etc…]
Gramercy Park in Manhattan which focused around Gramercy Park, a private park between East 20th and 21st Streets at the foot of Lexington Avenue is a Gated neighborhood in New York City. Allow Gated communities are hard to come across and for the most part many of the communities that we see as gated communities do not follow the standard definition of a Gated community. Gramercy Park's boundaries are roughly 14th Street to the south, First Avenue to the east, 23rd Street to the north, and Park Avenue South to the west (Fons,4).What makes the neighborhood private is that they all share the private park of Gramercy Park, where people within the area are the only ones with a key to that park. Also what makes the neighborhood a gated community is that it is privatized, expensive and exclusive.
Gramercy Park was a vision of Samuel B. Ruggles, a developer and advocate of open space. In 1831, he proposed the idea for the park due to the northward growth of Manhattan. The area was created for a private area for Theodore Roosevelt to get away and later became a place where the famous people lived or got away to. It is a place of many elite and private clubs that takes a lot of money and prestige to become a part of like The Players Club or the National Arts Club. The park and surrounding blocks were designated a historic district in 1966 (Fons,7).
The Area is high class and exclusive in everything they do. Originally the area was built and meant to be a public place where all could go due to the upward movement of Manhattan but like with all good things it became privatized for investment and profit and is now home to the richest of the rich.
Fons, Mary K. “Manhattan’s Gated Community: A Glance inside Gramercy Park.” The Cooperator: The Co-op & Condo Monthly October 2004
By CAITLIN BUTLER - SCAVENGER HUNT ACTIVITY
2. At Chelsea Market I found many different types of people shopping there. They were young, middle aged and older people. But one thing I noticed was that it was mostly families and younger people who were shopping there. The atmosphere at Chelsea Market was very lovely, warm, friendly, and fun. The moment I got there, I was very shocked at just how big it was. It was like I had just entered into a whole different world. Even the architecture there was beautiful. It was mostly old red brick and metal all around the place. Chelsea Market used to be a biscuit company in 1898 all the way through 1958, but then turned into Chelsea market later, which we have now. It was very narrow but had many stores, such as food markets, sweet shops, food and baskets shops, restaurants and Ice cream shops. My favorite part of Chelsea Market though was the water fountain statue that they have right inside the Market. It was so cool. I loved its colors and I even made a wish! So I ended up taking a picture of the fountain. I also had really good gelato ice cream. It had caramel and Green tea gelato. Yummmmyyyy! Another cool thing that I did not know about Chelsea Market was that they shoot Channel 1 there. It even has a separate elevator that you can take to go up into the Channel 1 studio. I thought that was very neat. Who ever knew it was filmed in Chelsea Market. I used to watch channel 1 all the time in my High school. I even went shopping into Chelsea Market grocery store and bought some groceries. Overall, I thought Chelsea Market was very beautiful and had a lot to offer to its shoppers. I would definitely go back there!
3. I found this one woman in her 40’s who was reverse commuting from New York City to Tarrytown, New York. I asked her why she was reverse commuting and she told me because she works in Tarrytown, New York for a small company dealing with medicine. I then asked her if she liked reverse commuting to Tarrytown from New York City and she said at first she did not like commuting because she had to travel out of her way to just go to work, but then she said she got used to it and found out that there were some great things about her reverse commuting. She said that she was going against the all the traffic because everyone was going into the city while she was out of the city and vice versa. Also the Metro North line was very peaceful and quiet ride where she could catch up on her reading and relax. She also liked the fact how she could get a seat every time because the trains were less crowded when she went. She seemed overall very happy about doing reverse commuting.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Activity # 3 -Private Versus Public
I walked from Broadway to Greenwich St. in Tribeca to Canal Street. I originally went to go over to Pace University to visit a friend but thought I might as well explore the place. Tribeca is an amazing place full of a hipster kind of feel and was extremely close to SoHo so that feel was added into the area. Being in that area I expected to see the same kind of feel that we have around Hunter College since it was a college area of Pace University and also Borough of Manhattan Community College. But it took on a different look when I had to explore the area in the sense of private versus public. It was a lot of walking but passed by very fast. I went on Wednesday which was a very nice day to go. I loved the feel of the area, it was very old fashioned and seemed to high class for it to be still existent. There were cobblestone streets and what seemed to be really expensive over priced housing. But Jane Jacobs would appreciate the fact that there were sidewalks and that they were full of bustling people going about on their normal routines., or exploring as I was.
The one thing I loved most about the area was that there weren’t that many chain places. A lot of the pharmacies and restaurants were privately owned. The normal chain stores you’d see otherwise in Manhattan weren’t there but don’t get me wrong there were a few chains but for the most part they were privately owned. The privately owned parts of Tribeca was probably everything, all the stores were privately owned and some stores even required for me to buzz or ring a bell to be allowed in which surprised and also turned me off from wanting to go in. Some places seemed to be too good to enter in. All the stores were little boutiques or thrift shops or stores not normally seen in New York City and were privately owned. The only thing that seemed public in the area were the sidewalks until we got to Canal Street were the streets were swarmed with vendors so the streets now became an extension of the shops leaving us with no private space.
The only thing that could have possibly been a private area would’ve been a park we walked that was gated. I didn’t attempt to enter since no one was in it and there was a gate surrounding it so I assumed it was a park that belonged to an apartment building nearby.
The city is swarmed with hundreds and hundreds of streets, stores, parks and so much more but nothing seems to be a public area anymore. Things that were once a public area for people to socialize and become a community but instead our city has become a place of commerce and capitalism and that is all instead of a place of gathering and coming together. I determined what was public and what was private by just looking at it. If it seemed like anyone was allowed to be there then I considered it public but I saw very little of these places except for the few stores. Then the private areas was obviously everything else which was a little disappointing because I would hope that there were places everywhere in the city where any person could go just because they wanted to but I guess not.
Overall I had a lot of fun with the project and got me thinking about Jan Jacobs and helped me visualize what she meant by everything she said about sidewalks and its impact on a neighborhood. This also helped me understand or visualize the public versus private argument.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
CAITLIN BUTLER PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE
The place that I went to visit was midtown. I walked around 38th to 28th street. The first thing I did was walk around, looking at all the people and different shops. I went on Friday at about 3pm. It was pretty crowded and everybody was in a rush. Typical New York City. It was very nice out. Thank God it was not raining. The first place I went was inside a wholesale jewelry store on 37th and 6th avenue. That street is literally filled with wholesale shops. I noticed that when I went inside they had to buzz me from inside to let me in. That right there tells me that this particular store was private because they control who comes in into their store. Also it’s private because you must buy at least more than one item. Sometimes they won’t let you buy anything unless you purchase about 10 things. I personally do not like that because I feel like I am being forced to buy many things especially when I do not need or want that many things. That would be private because again you cannot just buy one item, but are forced to buy more than one. So I got out of that store very quickly. Then I decided to go into the 34th street Manhattan mall. The mall to me would be considered public and private. It’s public because it welcomes everyone to go in, but there are some signs in the mall that restricts people from doing certain things such as smoking. It’s also private because if one thinks about it there are all different stores in this one big building, which is the mall and different companies and people own each individual store. That to me also makes the mall a private place. From there I went walking back to 40th street to visit Bryant Park. I sometimes walk my dogs there and I like that park because in there for the most part are friendly. If you sit down by the grass, people will actually start talking to you. It’s very friendly. Or at least for me it is. Like Jane Jacobs said it’s vital for people to have gathering places where they can communicate with one another. This park is the perfect public gathering spot to chat in. With all the technology today, people are being dumbed down in how to speak with one another. I just think it is really sad that we as people are so hung up on technology the most. My Grandmother doesn’t even know how to use a computer. In her generation things were very different compared to mine. In her generation they did not have advanced computers like today and everything was done in a simple matter. Communication with people was easier to do in her generation than mine, because of less technology in her generation. The park is definitely a public place where literally anyone could go in. After the park I walked to an Irish pub bar on 38th street. I would consider this bar/restaurant private because a person owns it. This of course makes it very private, but then makes it public gathering space because it invites almost everyone in to drink and talk. It doesn’t allow bums and homeless people to come in. If I owned a bar, I definitely would not let in homeless or bums in. Finally I went to visit Lord and Taylors on 38th and 5th avenue. I would consider that to be public. Anyone can just walk in it. But they do have security guards there to watch what is happening at all times, so I am sure if a homeless man came in, that would not be tolerated. I went again to visit all these places on a weekday as well. I went on a Thursday. It was less crowded compared to a Friday. All the shops were less crowded because most people would shop on the weekends when they would not be working. But I know that I would shop during the weekdays too! I think places should have more public gathering spots. I do not think there are enough in my personal opinion. I would like to see more places where people could go and sit down just to talk to other people. It would be a great way just to meet and greet with one another. The more friends the better! I think for a place to be public, it has to welcome everyone inside and if the store, etc. does not include a buzzer to get in its shops, then that also makes a place a public place and not private. For a place to be private, it either has to have signs that tell you it is and if it does not let everyone in. Also ownership over a certain place allows for something to be private. If someone owns something of their own, then they are entitled to either make their place public or private. All I know is that the city is full of both public and private places. That is what makes the city so great! There is literally something for everyone there. The city is the best place to offer that to people. I prefer public places over private places because everyone can be welcomed to a bigger atmosphere that includes everyone in it, and not just one particular group. Overall, public gathering spaces can become a whole cultural experience for all people of race, color and gender.
Monday, February 22, 2010
In describing the qualities necessary for a street to be safe for and because of strangers passing through, Jane Jacobs asserts that "there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects." (35) In doing so, she makes the erroneous assumption that a space either is or is not public/private, regardless of a person's race, gender, style of dress, and behavior. The question we ought to put to Jacobs is: public for who? Private for who?
In his essay Post-Scripts to Societies of Control Gilles Deleuze gets us much closer to understanding how public and private space work by imagining "a city where one would be able to leave one's apartment, one's street, one's neighborhood, thanks to one's (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person's position--licit or illicit--and effects a universal modulation." Clearly we have not a point where technology is so brazenly applied to control the behavior of individuals, but his vision does adequately describe the basic logic that governs public and private spaces.
A private space is anywhere you can't go without the cops arresting you or someone beating you. A public space is anywhere you can go without the cops arresting you or someone beating you. For a pedestrian, there is no other meaningful definition of public/private places. Clearly, then, a space is not intrinsically private or public. It changes over time. A restaurant is public space during its hours of operation. It is private space at all other times. A space that is public for one person may be private for another. If I walk into a restaurant during its hours of operation there is a limited timeframe (perhaps five minutes, perhaps two hours) in which I might stand in the entrance or sit at a table without signaling any intent to purchase anything before the staff asks me to leave. At that point, intransigence may mean a call to the police. For the other people in the restaurant that have observed etiquette and purchased food, this is public space. For me, it is private. I must leave or face the consequences.
These variations sometimes create ambiguity. One may not be sure whether a park is open, whether one is on the guest list at a club, whether a courtyard is to be exclusively used by the residents of the surrounding apartments. Perhaps a space is only private or public in the past tense. If one traversed it without incident, it was public space. At that time. For you. Like the door to the law in Kafka's Trial, each space was made just for you. Who knows what might happen for another? Or if you tried to pass again? Temporal variability in the nature of a location means that a space, properly speaking, is called into existence by a person that passes through it, changes forever as a result of the passage, and never reverts to its former conditions.
In short, public and private spaces are always mediated by perception and are, consequently, mere speculative judgments. At best, we produce a rough set of signs that designate places we are not allowed to wander. However, there is never any certainty. If you have any doubt, just consider the situation of a person who's home has been foreclosed on, someone murdered by the police while peacefully walking in their own neighborhood, or mugged in broad daylight.
This ambiguity strongly shaped my approach to this activity. My time was spent attempting to identify probable signs of public and private space. In doing so, I focused primarily on specific details of the location I walked through.
Note: Gilles Deleuze's essay Post-Scripts on the Societies of Control may be found online at http://www.n5m.org/n5m2/media/texts/deleuze.htm among other places.
I made two walk-throughs of the same area. Once on Sunday between 1 PM and 2 PM. It was a chilly, sunny day. Again on Monday between 3 PM and 4 PM. It was a cold, overcast day.
14th st. and 1st ave. - I begin observing here. Half a block down 14th street I find a church with open doors leading to a courtyard and a parking lot. It is unclear whether I am welcome or whether these areas are only for members of the church. On Monday, I find the gates to these areas closed and locked.
On 14th st. between 1st Ave. and Ave. A I find a post office closed and locked. On Monday, however, people freely walk in and out.
14th st. and Ave. A - I find a shuttered and padlocked laundromat. Both are good signs that this is a space I am not supposed to be. The next day, however, I see two smiling employees inside through the clean, glass windows.
13th st. and Ave A. - I find a shuttered store w/ graffiti on the shutters. This is an interesting juxtaposition of a sign saying "this is not yours!" and an anonymous public response of "yes it is!"
11th st. and Ave A. - I find an interesting contrast. Street vendors have set up at the corner and are selling watches and small electronics. This corner is unoccupied by any buildings but instead has high fences surrounding a basketball court. No one is inside of the fences. The next day I find the vendors gone and the court still empty.
At the north-east corner of Tompkins Square Park I see a basketball court with high fences, but this one has open gates and people skateboarding around the perimeter. There are even more skateboarders on monday. A padlock hangs from a chain on one of the open doors to the gate, reminding me that this space is public at the moment, but that my presence here at other times would likely would elicit a response from the police if I were observed.
On 10th street between Ave. A and B is a New York Public Library. How public, I wonder. Could I sleep there?
I enter Tompkins Square Park and see that it is teeming with life. The warm weather has brought people out to bike, walk, play with their dogs, and watch people playing with dogs. The park, as it turns out, appears to be a patchwork of public and private spaces. Sidewalks for the public, enclosed lawns for viewing only. The fences are not intrusive or menacing, but they are high enough that they would be impossible to simply step over. This is a good sign of private space. The next day the park is still alive, but contains fewer people.
I find a farmers market at the south-east corner on Sunday. This is another example of people utilizing sidewalks as true public space where they can loiter and conduct business rather than as simply a conduit from store to store. It is gone on Monday.
I see a man pushing a shopping cart full of...stuff. He appears to me to be homeless. Any place where the homeless can freely stay for a time is generally a public space.
9th st. and Ave. B - I find an enclosed courtyard attached to a church. The high fence says it is private, but the open air setting and benches suggest that it is public for someone.
6th st. and Ave. B - I find a gated community garden with high fences. Public for some, not for others.
4th and Ave. B - Fenced off area with razor wire. PRIVATE. On Monday I find three cars parked inside.
4th st. and 1st Ave. - I cease to observe.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Starting Point: E. 67th street and Park Avenue.
Ending Point: E. 59th street and 5th avenue.
Packed with eyes, the city life never stops moving, or ‘dancing’ as Jane Jacobs decides to call it (The Death and Life of Great American Cities  pg. 65). 5th Avenue by Central Park was crowded with tourists with big cameras, mothers out with their kids who are on Winter Break, dog walkers with five, six, ten dogs at once, and everyday business people trying to get to their job or out on their lunch break. A seemingly safe city and a completely open, public space. Its sidewalk users and a “network of doormen and superintendents, of delivery boys and nursemaids, a form of hired neighborhood, keeps residential Park Avenue supplied with eyes” (pg. 51). No doubt that it’s daily users have taken Upper East Side/Midtown East to be their own space watching it all the time. However, this area is all very open and public. Through the street there are many residential homes, condos, and a few stores here and there: House of Mai, Godiva Chocolatier, Salih Salon, parking lots, to mention a few. I was having trouble defining was public and private. For example, stores, restaurants, salons. Are those private or public? Unable to make up my mind, I decided they are both. Yes, they are public because whoever can go in, but private because you can’t just enter Salih Salon with a group of ten friends and sit to have coffee. You can go into Godiva with your boyfriend and have a bite of every chocolate that catches your eye. In the sense, they are private. Along the avenues, there were hotels, institutes, big stores (Apple Store, F.A.O Schwarz), jewelry stores, plazas and obviously, Central Park. Besides the Park and the plazas, everything else I considered private. In 5th avenue and E.60street, Dories C. Freedman Plaza, there is a big open sculpture “The Ego and the I.D.” This is public. People are allowed to be around it. Kids play near it and under it. Many take pictures by it. Along the same street, there are men offering people horse-rides. Now, this is public. Paid-public? Private-Public? I’m really not sure what to name something that is public but not free. Then the plaza itself and the plaza by the Apple Store and F.A.O Schwarz are completely public. With rock benches, beautiful fountain, tables and chairs where one can sit and relax and just enjoy the scenery and observe city life. These and the park are considered gathering spaces. It’s not like the salon that I mentioned earlier that you just can’t go in, sit down and chill, but where you can run around, jump, scream, play, eat and relax because there is nothing holding you down.
Considering the cold weather on Friday, there was a fair amount of people in the street, in the park, and the plazas. Not one soul was sitting Doris C. Freedman Plaza, they’d probably freeze to death, but by the Apple Store, many where relaxing on the chairs. Including me. By noon, however, 5th avenue was very crowded than just 20 minutes before. On Saturday, I arrived expecting to see twice or even triple the amount of people on that were there on Friday, but no. It was basically the same amount. The same fast-paced environment with families, and dog-walkers and tourists. Okay, maybe a bit more. But not crazy-much like you would expect on a weekend. I was surprised, maybe because it was roughly the around the same time, maybe it got more crowded at a later time. What I did notice on Saturday, though, was that the Freedman plaza had less snow and more people. Since it wasn’t as cold as Friday, people find it more comfortable to sit there to relax a little. The Apple Store plaza was also more crowded as well. And as I passed by Central Park, I saw that the petting zoo also had more children. Now, is the petting zoo public because it is at a public park? Or private because you have to pay and admission fee? I shall classify it as both. Not a gathering space, however. Just, well, a petting zoo.
Besides the plazas, the few benches on 5th avenue bordering Central Park, the streets I passed by in Upper East Side/Midtown East does not offer much of a gathering/public space sort of area. Mostly it has many residential homes, stores, and hotels were people constantly go in and out, having a good time and wasting loads of money in the expensive Manhattan streets. So though there are wide sidewalks with plenty of walking, “public” space, I consider this neighborhood mostly private.
Friday, February 19, 2010
This was my first visit to Elizabeth Center, located on Elizabeth Street in China Town of New York City. It was at the end of Elizabeth Street and surrounded by what seemed to be empty, old buildings and Asian restaurants. This had reminded me of when Jane Jacobs brought up how we differentiate sidewalks from being safe or not. I had decided that it would be safe, seeing that there were people around. As it turned out, Elizabeth Center is a small mall, most of it is located underground, giving it it’s street name China Town’s “Underground Mall”. In this mall are small shop such as salons, studios, game shops, and etc.
Elizabeth Center had reached some of my expectations. Its shopper’s consisted mainly those of Asian decent, most like due to it’s location. It had stores just like every other mall as well; however, not all the stores were of those that one would find in an everyday common mall. Elizabeth Center’s lower level consisted mainly of shops aimed at younger shoppers, such game shops, toy stores, and etc, and its upper floors’ shops consisted of small boutiques, a photo shop studio, and etc. I had expected most of what I seen, I did not however expect it to be as empty as it was nor the area it was it.
I came to a self-proclaimed conclusion that places like Elizabeth center would normally be located in urban areas.
I am convinced that the reason for such observations was that I was was there on a early Saturday, when all schools have given their students a day off. The start of a young one’s weekend seems to be spent at that mall. The mall was heavily populated with a younger crowd, teens falling between the ages of 12-16; as it grew later in time, an older crowd began to arrive.
The mall was rather crowded, not with shoppers, but mostly with what I, myself, would personally define as a loiterer. They seemed to have just been there to waste time. Spending their time at the mall gave them something to do, other than being at home. The mall was an obvious occupancy. Although, there were those who had legitimate reasons for being there, shopping, exchanging, making returns, others were just sitting around giving themselves something to do. I realized those who were there to shop were mainly of a older crowd, and those doing otherwise were young teenagers.
Life on Staten Island is not what I would categorize to be urban life. Although, my view on this may not differ from many views, Staten Island, to me, seems more suburban. To me, urban life would be categorized as life in any of the other five boroughs. However, due to the idea that Staten Island is urban, I’ve based my observations on that. The observations I made at the mall can tell me a few things about urban life. Those living in urban communities always seem to want to be busy. People loving urban lifestyles live in a rush. It’s something that one becomes accustomed to.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The place that I went to was Central Park. When I arrived to Central Park, it was already getting dark. I walked all around Central Park, looking and admiring the beautiful nature around me. It was amazing, just to actually take time to walk around and do nothing else. It was a great stress reliever for me! I saw people doing everything there. I saw families, friends, single people, etc. doing things like kissing, talking, walking, sitting, walking their dogs and kids, etc. It was what I expected. I knew that Central Park was already a very popular and famous park to go to. It is probably one of the main places where many tourists go to go sightseeing. I think it is so great to have a nice park to go to in a big city like New York. It is a place where one can go to escape from their everyday chaotic life. Jane Jacobs in her book titled, The death and life of great American cities, talks about her personal experience visiting Boston. At first she thought that Boston was this old run down city. The city was also known as the slum. But once she saw how people were standing in the streets just talking to one another and smiling and just not caring about how anything looked around them. It seemed not to faze them one bit. Even though their town was not so great looking, that still did not stop them from hanging out and communicating with one another in the street. She noticed this and was very amazed by it. She loved it. Just how there could be so much energy and happiness right on the streets in such places such as Boston. It goes to show her and everyone else that you cannot always take everything word for word of what someone else tells you about a particular city. Her friend over the phone told her that Boston was a basically a horrible place, when in fact it wasn’t. But of course Jacobs had to go to Boston herself to find all this out. Central Park reminds me of Jacobs experience in Boston because everyone in Central Park also stopped to talk to one another, just like the people in Boston did. I mean even though Central Park wasn’t really located on the street, it still has something like side walks where people would talk for hours. I love the idea of everyone just taking time off and talking to everyone else. This reminds me greatly of where I live in the summers, which is Long Island. Everyone there will stop right in the sidewalks just to talk and gossip. It’s an amazing thing. I think all places should be friendly like that where with people communicating with one another. It’s just good for people’s souls. It just makes everyone smile and really appreciate the simplicity of just talking to one another in a social atmosphere. Another nice thing about the park is how there are no cars at all. This is what is so great about going into parks. No distractions and fumes from the cars. You can actually hear people talk to one another. I like what Jane Jacobs had to say about city planning. She said that city planning is more vital than cars. God this could not be truer. She says how people no longer care about how things work, they only care about what is the quickest and easiest way to build something. That is it, which is so silly because isn’t it more important to learn about how things work in detail than just the quick and easy way out of things? Jane Jacobs really knows what she is talking about. She is a very insightful person and even though before this class, I had no clue who she was, I now do and will pass down to others who she is because I just love how she tells people the truth about cities and how they truly work and are. The best part about visiting Central Park was seeing the dog park. It was so big. I’ve never seen so many dogs in my entire life all at once. Since I am such an animal lover, I think it is extremely vital to carry dog parks in parks. It will not only make the person happy, but it will also make their pets happy as well! I really enjoyed just relaxing and taking a nice long park in Central Park. It is definitely a place in which I will go visit much more often now.
My fear as I was traveling to Yankee Stadium was that I would find a deserted, desolate stadium surrounded by closed shops dedicated entirely to selling Yankees shirts and caps. I expected to encounter few people on the sidewalks and, at best, high speed traffic passing by on a major street or two. How, I wondered, could a project like Yankee stadium not be entirely given over to appearances without any consideration given to the use of the area by the surrounding residents? Maybe it was the long-standing hatred of the New York Yankees that my father instilled in me from a young age, but I thought that I was set to discover a nightmare in urban design. What I found surprised me.
Yankee stadium is massive. It covers an area bordered by 164th street to the north, 161st street to the south, Macombs Dam Bridge and Jerome Avenue to the west, and River Avenue to the east. My expectation that the area would be deserted of pedestrian traffic was compounded by the fact that I went on Valentines day, a holiday where few people seem likely to travel to Yankee stadium just to stare at it, and on a day when the stadium had no particular reason to exist or be used, being a there was no game.
Strangely, design or by accident, the area around the stadium was a perfect example of a mixed-use urban area. Consequently, I found a large number of pedestrians walking around the stadium. This is fully in line with the conclusion that Jane Jacobs reaches on pages 36 of the aforementioned book: "[stores, bars and restaurants] draw people along sidewalks past places which have no attractions to public use in themselves but which become traveled and peopled as routes to somewhere else..."
The block of River Avenue that runs along the stadium is lined with stores. Following it down a bit further I found stores selling Yankees paraphernalia, as well as a multitude of restaurants. Following 161st street east took me past delis, restaurants, a bank, and a large courthouse. Most of the stores along the street housed apartments or offices in the floors above.
164th street further proved the usefulness of mixed-use development for creating pedestrian traffic. Just north of the stadium I found Mullaly Park which was entirely devoid of people. In spite of the lack of interest in the park, there were still people walking along 164th street. Given that they were carrying shopping bags, my belief is that they had been shopping on the other side of the stadium and were walking to the apartment complexes along Jerome Avenue.
I sat on a bench located in Babe Ruth Plaza (the large sidewalk area between the entrance to the stadium and 161st street) and watched people until I discerned two distinct groups of people. Most pedestrian traffic seemed to be composed of people that actually lived near the stadium. They traveled mostly alone or in pairs, ignored the stadium, seemed to have some kind of purpose and direction, and showed evidence of having been shopping (carrying bags or pushing carts). Groups of what I believe to be tourists composed the rest. They mostly came in families (parents and children), gawked up at the stadium, and took lots of pictures.
It is significant for understanding the effect mixed-use development has on the neighborhood to realize that most of the people on the street are not there for the stadium itself, but for the surrounding businesses. If most pedestrians were tourists there to see the stadium, it would be difficult to conclude that mixed-use development has impacted the pedestrian traffic in the area. However, given that most people seemed to be walking around to shop or eat, I concluded that mixed-use development in fact produced pedestrian traffic around the stadium.
Everything is clean, white, and reflective. The storefronts, as well as the interior walls of the offices above, are all glass. Bad music is blaring in Aeropostale. The mall is relatively empty. Scarcely more than a hundred people wander around with glazed looks on their faces. They have the look of dazed tourists, unhurriedly shuffling between stores.
I make my way to the top floor and lean against the railing, taking note of a few other people lined around the railing staring at the people below. A few bored looking security guards amble around, staring at the floor in front of them. I wonder what I would have to look like or do to get bothered by one.
At first I feel weird being a flaneur. I have a pen and notebook and am obviously here to watch people, not shop. I cease to be self-conscious once I notice how many other mall-goers are here to watch people. A few people sit on benches by the escalators outside of Penny's, several line the railing on the top floor, one man in the subway in the subbasement even has a pad of paper and a pen.
As I move from store to store I notice that everything is on sale. 70% off at Top Gun, 80% at Aeropostale, Red Zone Clearance at Penny's, Toys R Us may as well be giving toys away, Strawberry has more mannequins than people inside. Has the Great Recession hit New York City retail this hard, or is this just seasonal clearance? JC Penny's has a sign reading "retail therapy for the winter blues." But who has the blues? Is it me or JC Penny's?
I notice several stores have their windows blacked out with paint and their doors barred with bicycle locks. Kiosks on the ground floor are empty and covered with tarps. I wonder what it was like here on this day in 1999.
I briefly consider interviewing a few employees, but conclude that this is not the role of a flaneur. I am not here to learn the reality of the mall, I'm here to observe and draw my own conclusions. There is a certain irresponsibility afforded to me in this role. I can construct whatever narrative I care to, ascribe whatever meaning I choose to the signs I encounter here, make people into whatever I want them to be. I am constrained by bare facts, but bare facts have no meaning in their own right. A bit of creativity easily overwhelms the obvious while retaining plausibility.
I buy nothing. I talk to no one. I touch not a single commodity. After a couple of hours being here, I feel a bit anxious about returning to the bustling streets outside. I stand at the glass door for a time, delaying the inevitable. While I wait to overcome this inexplicable surge of agoraphobia, I read the bizarre rules posted by the entrance:
"No obscene language.
Groups of 4 or more may be broken up.
Photography and film require the mall's consent.
on 5th ave, between 18th and 19th street, (Windsor Terrace), so I decided to drop by. I got myself a delicious Marvel Latte with two awesome chocolate pastries and sit near the window to watch street activity. It was around two o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and the street was as busy as I had expected. There is an elementary school just a few blocks down and a charter school right across the street, so young kids and their parents were walking up and down the sidewalk, in and out of the bakery. But what I want to mention is how the different the buildings of the mass of businesses and residential houses are. It is such a mix of antique and remodeled creating such a great feel in the neighborhood. Although it has a predominantly White population, Windsor Terrace has a noticeable population of Hispanics accentuating the feel of the neighborhood. By the bakery however, most buildings appear to be run-down and old, giving a false impression of the area being an “unsafe” area, as Jane Jacobs would say. But it is not at all. In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” she points out that once she was waiting for the bus and someone out of the window of a building yelled out at her telling her that the bus didn’t stop there and gave her directions of where to go. She also said that in an ocassion, there was a little girl crying and making a scene in the street, and ‘everyone’ from the stores and buildings around them saw, and looked at them, as if to protect the girl from a pedophile or kidnapper (even at the end it turned out it was her father). I saw this in action while looking out the window from the bakery. As the busy street 5th avenue is, the feeling of community is very strong, as people look out for one another while crossing the street, being kind as a man was when a woman, about his age, dropped something while passing by him and picking up the bag and library books she was carrying with a smile. I felt it was the same feeling of community I get in my home neighborhood, Maspeth. I felt comfortable being there. Yeah, I know it’s not “dreamland” or a perfect world in Windsor Terrace, but the mistaken impression some people get of certain areas of Brooklyn are just plain wrong. My friend offered to go with me when I mentioned to him that I was going to go there because he said that it gets dark out early and that “Brooklyn it just not safe.” I turned down his offer because of his five last words. Not safe? NOT SAFE? What do people even classify as safe anymore? A lot of people on the street? No people on the street? Run-down commercial and apartment buildings? I was not sure what he meant and I didn’t even ask. The point is, Jacob’s prespective on “Mixed-use development” comes into play in this area. There are many different building types, commercial, apartment buildings, houses, schools, all jumbled together in one neighborhood. I feel this makes it very “home-y” and a successful place to live because everything you need is just a few blocks away.
I enjoyed my stay at La Boulangerie Lopez and being able to spend time at a different neighborhood. I haven’t yet figured out if the neighborhood felt so comfortable for me because of it’s structure and kindness I saw, or because it reminding me of the nieghborhood I live in. Either way, I will go back sometime soon because I liked it there. Oh yea! And Prospect Park is just a couple of blocks away!!
I found the lack of sitting areas on the first and second level highly uncomfortable and blah. I mean, where was I supposed to sit to do the assignment? Whatever. I comfortably sat in a corner on the top level and just watched people pass by. I was disturbing no one and since it was so early, I was not even noticed. Suddenly, a security guy saw me and began approaching me, it made me giggle a little as his big, dark-skinned self with a blue uniform looking all serious approached me. Of course, I wrote all this down on my notebook. His serious expression, his straight way of walking. He began to walk faster. “Miss?” “Yessir” I looked up with bright eyes. “You can’t sit here.” I slightly cocked my eyebrow? I can’t sit here? Where do you want me sit? Haha. I didn’t say that. He probably would’ve hit with his rod if he could. But I put my backpack on and slowly got up. “Alright.” So I walked away. I glanced back; he was staring at me as if I was a who-knows-what with some destructive plan. Dramatic much? Probably. But he could’ve have been nicer? So I went and stood on the corner of the other side of the same level and just watched people pass me by. Longest hour and a half of my life I tell you. But I found it fascinating how different people in different boroughs can be. The style people have in even the most minimum points. In QC people are always laughing, walking, taking their time, looking at all the stores they pass by. In MM, people were mostly in a hurry. Maybe because it was Valentine’s in a few days? Well no, because I went to QC just a few days before the fourteenth and still people seemed livelier.
Jane Jacobs said in her infamous book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” that “a person must feel personally safe and secure on the street among all these strangers” for the city to be a successful one. It seems that Manhattan is a safe area since so many people are constantly on the street. In this case, although the Mall was quite empty, it felt strange. I think a load of people would’ve made it worse. When QC is empty, I feel safer than when it is packed. I guess that Jacobs forgot to mention that it doesn’t necessarily apply if you are an outside.
Is it that NYC is more “Urban” than Queens? Could it be that the fast-paced life that the businesses in Manhattan live is much, much faster than in Queens? I’m not a Manhattan person. I’ve lived in Queens for almost ten years and rarely do I get out of the borough, only to come to Hunter and few times when I hang out at the movie theater in Times Square or when I walk around Hunter or Central Park. But Manhattan needs to chill out and enjoy that greatness of it all.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Museum was tiny compared to the other extravagant museums in New York but I liked that. It was a hidden treasure of Spanish culture. I spent three hours there exploring the art pieces from countries like Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, countries in the Caribbean and much more. The location of the museum reminded me much of Jane Jacobs’s discussion about sidewalks and how we establish them from being safe or unsafe. When I told my friends I needed to go to Spanish Harlem instantaneously they were like I hope you’re not going alone it’s not safe there. I myself was confused and a little annoyed, I didn’t see why they would think the streets there were unsafe. I have never been in the area before so maybe I was expecting it to be like the rest of New York which for the most part is safe but they insisted that it wouldn’t be safe but I obviously still went. The discussion Jane Jacobs had about the sidewalks reminded me very much about the situation I was left in while going to this museum. I had gone with a friend and walked from the train station to the museum, the sidewalks were busy enough, well busier than I expected. And what kept replaying in my head was do I consider being here safe, why or why not, is it because there are people walking around here, and would I have been different if people weren’t walking around. The area was a pretty place and seemed to be a cultural enriched place.
I learned a lot that day; I learned that the reason the museum was called El Museo del Barrio is because Spanish Harlem the area it is located in is sometimes called El Barrio. I found that a very interesting to learn in that one day, because not only was I learning about the many Spanish cultures but I was now also learning about an area in New York I have never visited or learned about and may not have ever learned about if not for this class.
The artwork was beyond beautiful; it was a new kind of art that isn’t common in the other museums. Instead they were brightly colored and possessed so much history. And I appreciated the arts, history and Spanish culture more due to this experience.
Queens Center Mall is beyond huge and unnecessarily large. I spent two hours on a Thursday between the times of 12:30 to 2:30 not thinking it would the experience it turned out to be. I anticipated that it wouldn’t be too busy but busy to the extent where I had something to work off of, but little did I know it would be as busy as it was. I assumed because it was a week day and during work hours it was would be considerably slow but with my school and work schedule I had little choice in the time frame I went. It was a beyond interesting experience I didn’t think sitting in random spots of the mall would bring such funny experiences. It also made me aware of the different aspects of the mall as in who attends in, age range, sex ratios, and much more. Queens is supposed to be the most diversified city out of America in general but never did I think I’d find it in one spot.
I started with sitting in the sitting areas where typically the husbands and boys sit as their wives or girlfriends shop. This was an interesting spot to sit because yes the majority of the people sitting there were men but they also were also watching over their children which turned out to be fun experience. I watched over one family in particular for about an hour or so. The man looked in complete shambles trying to watch over his two children, one looked no more than eight while the other was at least four. By the looks of him I obviously knew this task was not something he was comfortable or confident in doing. Luckily for him there was a television in the sitting area that kept the children preoccupied for a part of the time while the other half he was busy chasing them around and keeping an eye on them. Although I was supposed to sit and observe it came to the point where I assisted the man in keeping track of his children and preoccupied one of the children with a game. But what kept going through my head as I watched this family and the surrounding people walking the mall is why are there so many truants. These children should’ve been in school along with a lot of the other children or teens I saw walking the mall on a school day during school hours. It came to a point where I was in the food court observing the overwhelming crowd of people eating on their lunch hour, when I saw one of my students. I teach as an afterschool teacher for an afterschool program and I saw one of my students with his friends eating in the food court. He took no notice of me but it was an interesting thing to come across. Not only did I observe him but there were plenty of people walking the mall that I have seen in other places and it took me by surprise because I didn’t think the mall was such a center for a community.
Another aspect of the mall that I found hilarious was not the people aspect but about the amount of stores and sitting areas there were. The mall was so large maybe even unnecessarily too large. It proved my thoughts and feelings on capitalism and material goods ruling the majority of Americans lives which left me depressed and itching to change these ways. But none the less I understand it is a mall but I don’t see the need for there to be so many of them and for them to be as large as they are instead they should be replaced with things of importance and of substance. Teach the generations about politics or something of general concern since the way our country is going in their education level it has gone past unacceptable.
But the adventure was an interesting one because it allowed me to realize the overwhelming diversity of the communities, not only in race but in age sex and in other aspects. I got the chance to see everyone and anyone in that mall and it was all by just sitting there. Because I know for a fact that when I do go shopping in malls I don’t take much notice about the people surrounding me but this experience will hopefully change that habit because I’m missing out otherwise.
I never knew what the word Flaneur meant until I heard it in class. I also realized that I was a Flaneur myself. I never knew other people did what I liked to do. I think it is really fun and exciting to just walk around watching people all day. One day I went to Manhattan Mall and sat down on a bench to watch people. I really enjoyed this because everyone is so different from one another in the way they look and behave. No two people have the same walk I noticed. You would think with all the people in this world, that some people would have the same walk….but the truth is they don’t, which really intrigued me. I also saw a mother talking to her son and she seemed to be quite upset because he would not stop nagging her about buying this certain video game that he wanted. The mother basically said that she could not afford the game right now and that they would have to wait until his birthday. The kid then got really mad and threw a fit right in front of everyone. I can see that the mother was really embrassed and overwhelmed. But I was on the mother’s side. Why should she get her son this video game for no reason, especially during these harsh economic times. Her son should just be glad that the mother is taking care of him and taking him out. I swear I look around today and I see so many kids who are spoiled especailly in this generation. It is pathetic. My grandmother’s generation was so much simpler and very conservative. She always tells me that people today always take things for granted and complain way too much and to tell you the truth she is right. I see it everywhere. It’s like kids and young adults expect everything to be for them. They are too selfish. But I think it’s also how their parents raise them that contributes to their certain behaviors and the sense of entitlement. I know that when I have my own kids, one thing is for certain, they are not going to act that way. It will not be tolerated. Another thing that I saw in the mall that I thought was pretty interesting is that everyone was in a rush. You would think that they would take their time shopping, but I guess not. I know when I go shopping, it takes me the whole day. I hate to rush. It would be interesting to do a study on shopping in different locations to see if people only rush shopping in New York City or does it also happen in other places as well. There are three floors in the mall and a basement type floor where the food court is held, which is really nice because sometimes people can get really hungry shopping so having the food court is a great idea and one that works well! I sometimes go to the mall to shop, but I have to tell you that it’s not what it once used to be. It now has less people shopping there, but I guess the economy has something to do with that. I remember like two years ago how packed it was and now it’s just not anymore. The stores also changed as well. Some of the old stores are now no longer there. I do not even shop there anymore that much because I used to really like the old stores that used to be there instead. When I watch people and observe them, I pretend to make up a whole story about them in my mind all based on what I see. I am sure that some of the things I come up with are true and some aren’t. For example in the mall I saw this older man carrying an old briefcase, walking slowly with his wife, or at least I think it was his wife. I was thinking to myself, now here’s a man who looks like he’s just worn out from life in general. He looks like he works very hard, but isn’t quite fully happy. Maybe he has problems with his wife at home or maybe it’s his job. But one way or another he just does not seem to be happy. Not only does he seem unhappy, but he looks depressed. And depressed people always seem to look like they just don’t care about anything. This man obviously didn’t care about his own briefcase because it was old and torn looking. His wife seemed like she was worn out too, but not because she was unhappy but because she had to deal with her husband being sad. O well….I just felt sorry for the man, that’s all. I don’t even know why he was out in the mall if he looked so sad. As I watch all these people in the mall, I am wondering to myself how much the media really influences everyone into buying the latest hottest stuff like sneakers or clothing. I saw a lot of girls in the mall wearing skinny jeans with boots over them and I also saw other girls wearing tights and big shirts over the tights. That is the new look now. We are constantly surrounded by advertisements for products everywhere. How could we possibly escape the chaos? The point is we can’t and we are not helping either because we buy all of these latest items. The media does an excellent job in sucking all of us in. I must say that I am a victim too. I have boots and skinny jeans, etc. Another thing that we, the consumer should be asking ourselves is, “ Do we really need the item, or do we just buy things because we simply want it”? It becomes an issue of need or want. But I think people just buy things now adays simply because they want it or desire it and not because they truly need it. The only person I know that will buy something because they actually need it, is my mother. She hates to shop for clothes, so she will only go out to shop for clothes If she absolutely needs it. But I love to shop. I guess that is why I am almost broke now..haha. When I look at people buying stuff in the mall, I always think to myself that they just want to buy things just for the hell of it and I do not think that that is necessarily right, but yet again it is their money so hey. My observations from the mall tells me that urban life living is much more fast pace and serious. People in urban places are always running to places and look so serious doing it. It also seems to be a much harder life. I know this because I have the best of both worlds. I have a house in the city and a house out on Long Island. And I know at least for me that life out on Long Island is an easier one. You can actually take your time doing things without getting trampled over. The air there is fresher and cleaner. I like Long Island living better than the city because I am near the beach and my dogs can run freely there opposed to in the city. And just like Jane Jacobs I have too studied big cities such as New York City. It is also vital to plan the city well so that people are not having and living in chaos. I thought that observing in the mall was a good experience. It opened up my eyes much more in discovering that not as many people shop there and what the latest trends are. And how everyone’s lives are different from our own.