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Posts Tagged ‘new york city’

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Art: Liu Xiaodong
“Thank you 2020.4.9” (2020), watercolor on paper, at New York City’s Lisson Gallery.

People from around the world often perceive New Yorkers as brash, rude. But if you have spent any time in the city, you know there’s another side, a side that is helpful and kind, that will drop everything to give a stranger detailed directions to the Empire State Building or a place to buy the freshest lychee nuts.

During the height of the pandemic, artist Liu Xiaodong seems to have seen the generosity, humanity, and vulnerability of New Yorkers and to have captured it in his watercolors.

John Yau writes at Hyperallergic, “Charles Baudelaire said in his 1863 essay that the ‘painter of modern life’ is the ‘passionate observer’ who can be ‘away from home and yet […] feel at home anywhere.’

“Among contemporary artists, the Chinese observational painter Liu Xiaodong is the closest embodiment of Baudelaire’s ideal that I know. For years, he has been, in the words of Baudelaire, an ‘independent, intense, and impartial spirit’ who observes the ‘ebb and flow’ of the world around him. This has led him to set up a temporary studio near an orphanage in Greenland and one among Uyghur jade miners in China’s harsh northwest. …

“In 1978, when Liu was 15, his family sent him to live with his uncle, who had studied Western painting at the Jilin Academy of Fine Arts and had gone on to become the art editor of a magazine. His uncle taught him watercolor, and showed him the books he had about English watercolors, European oil painting, and the Peredvizhniki, a group of late 19th-century Russian realists who believed that Russia and its people possessed an inner beauty.

“The date of 1978 is significant: it is two years after the death of Mao Zedong, the end of the Cultural Revolution, and the Tangshan earthquake, which devastated the region where he and his family lived. Born in 1963, Liu belongs to a generation that has both witnessed and been directly affected by the convulsive social, political, and economic changes that China has undergone during Mao’s lifetime, and since his death. …

“His instinct to respond to what is directly in front of him with whatever medium he has on hand endows his views with an unrivaled propinquity. He is, to cite Baudelaire, at the very center of the world he is depicting, and unseen by it. …

“[A recent exhibition provided] a visual and written record of a specific area of Manhattan, determined by what he can walk to.

Liu made his watercolors during an extreme period in New York’s history, starting with the empty streets during the first months of the COVID-19 quarantine, and including the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations in response to the video-recorded murder of George Floyd.

“Even in this acute moment in our history, he is able to slow down his looking to find and celebrate the beauty of human determination, as well as recognize feelings of wariness and displacement. …

“The watercolor ‘Kitchen Paper cannot be flushed down the Toilet, right, 2020’ [is] a wonderful tonal view of a roll of paper towels resting on a toilet tank, a quick yet careful placing of pale yellows, blues, off whites, and grays. …

“[But] the range of subjects and views underscores a person who is remarkably open to the world, from a blooming tree, to children’s toys left at a park, to an evening view of the top of the Empire State Building, seen between two buildings, to a homeless man’s legs sticking out of a doorway. … You never get the feeling that he is looking for something; there is no hierarchy to what he chooses. …

“As Manhattan transitioned from the largely empty streets of the quarantine to demonstrations and large groups of police, Liu kept looking, kept going out, and kept making watercolors and taking photographs, to work on later.  His attention to detail, to the color and light, is masterful and precise. … The merging of mark and color, and his sensitivity to light and dark, feel effortless, though we know they are not. This is Liu’s genius; there are no signs of hesitation in his work.

“In Liu’s watercolors and painted-over photographs, the viewer encounters scenes in which hand, eye, and intelligence work in astonishing tandem. … We are the lucky beneficiaries of a vision at once candid and sophisticated, open and sincere, witty and compassionate — an unlikely combination in this dark, nerve-fraying, and isolating period in history.”

To see an array of Liu Xiaodong’s New York paintings, go to Hyperallergic, here. And fall in love with that city all over again.

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Photo: Celeste Sloman for the Washington Post
In New York City, where the Covid-19 lockdown is putting many residents in danger of going hungry, immigrants at Migrant Kitchen are feeding multitudes.

I always like stories about how much immigrants benefit America, and this one from the Washington Post is a great example.

Richard Morgan writes, “At 5:30 a.m. in a godforsaken industrial crevice of Queens, Daniel Dorado recently waited in a line of mostly undocumented restaurant workers before the opening of Restaurant Depot, a wholesaler like Costco on steroids available only to the industry. His goal was 2,000 meal containers, and, boom, he was in and out in 12 minutes.

“The containers would soon be packed with sumptuous entrees: citrus garlic salmon with Cuban black beans and coconut herb rice, or moussaka-stuffed zucchini with dirty rice and beans, or mojo chicken with chimichurri and roasted potatoes with grilled shishito peppers. …

“Dorado, an American-born son of a Mexican immigrant, has been running what is probably New York’s largest restaurant-quality active cooking operation during the pandemic lockdown, serving 6,000 meals a day.

“Last year he and two former colleagues from Ilili, a Lebanese-Mediterranean restaurant in the Flatiron District, formed the Migrant Kitchen NYC, ostensibly a catering company, which orchestrated an alliance with four other kitchens. …

“As much attention as beleaguered restaurants have gotten in the pandemic’s lockdown, far less attention has been paid to catering companies, which can produce food on a massive scale but not within the limits of a la carte orders available through delivery apps. Enter Migrant Kitchen. They pay wages of $20 to $25 an hour in their kitchen, [Nasser Jaber, a Palestinian immigrant who was an Ilili waiter,] said, and with the four other kitchens pooled 40 largely undocumented workers from Make The Road, a civil rights group — plus workers and volunteers who handle packing and delivery. …

What started out on March 13 with 100 meals to hospitals and shelters quickly grew to 6,000 meals a day to 13 hospitals, four food pantries, three homeless shelters, three senior centers, public housing complexes in the Bronx and Queens, a Queens mosque and dozens of covid-19-infected families. …

“A few days before Ramadan began on April 23, they switched all meals to halal-certified. ‘We don’t just want to give people food,’ Dorado said. ‘We want them to know we took their needs into consideration. We don’t want anyone getting food that they don’t want to eat. It’s for them, not for us.’ For families, Migrant Kitchen also makes grocery bags of staples like eggs and milk, and tucks in chicken tenders or pizza for children. Even diapers. …

“Sam Bloch, [World Central Kitchen’s] director of field operations, laid out Migrant Kitchen’s strength: ‘It’s beautiful, right? How many win-wins can you have? Where the food is coming from, who’s making it, how it’s supporting that individual person, how it’s supporting that [kitchen], and all that built on top of the fact that someone who really needs that plate of food is receiving it.’ …

“Head chef Ryan Graham explained the [Migrant Kitchen] mission: ‘A lot of big-batch cooking … doesn’t monitor seasoning, the flavor, the texture, the veg, the meat, the starch, the digestion, the nutrition.’ By contrast, he noted, he was slow-cooking a sauce that included 20 spices for nine hours. One of his cooks also recommended that a dish’s tomato paste be caramelized. (Bloch called the approach ‘food with dignity.’) …

” ‘I’m trying to keep myself strong. I’m alone but I don’t feel lonely,’ said a 76-year-old Bangladeshi man who lives by himself in the heavy-hit Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens. …

“He said he was ashamed to be publicly identified as in need. He hasn’t left his home since the first week of March. His income is $500 a month. Through [social justice group Desis Rising Up and Moving, DRUM, his Migrant Kitchen meals — two a day — come every afternoon, but, in accordance with Ramadan, he waits until sunset and pre-dawn to eat them. ‘It’s a blessing for old people,’ he said. ‘It’s an example for humanity.’ ”

More here.

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shutterstock-567624058Photo: Shutterstock/Elizaveta Galitckaia

She looked me dead in the eye and said: ‘How do I know I’m real?’

It takes nerve to put yourself out there to answer people’s philosophical questions. After all, most potential questioners have only the fuzziest idea of what philosophy is or what questions would be relevant to a philospher’s expertise. Some people are bound to treat the philosopher as a Dear Abby advice columnist, a psychiatrist, or an astrologer.

Here is what Boston University philosopher Lee McIntyre experienced, according to his report at the Conversation.

“The life choices that had led me to be sitting in a booth underneath a banner that read ‘Ask a Philosopher’ – at the entrance to the New York City subway at 57th and 8th – were perhaps random but inevitable.

“I’d been a ‘public philosopher‘ for 15 years, so I readily agreed to join my colleague Ian Olasov when he asked for volunteers to join him at the ‘Ask a Philosopher’ booth. This was part of the latest public outreach effort by the American Philosophical Association, which was having its annual January meeting up the street. …

“I sat between Ian and a splendid woman who taught philosophy in the city, thinking that even if we spent the whole time talking to one another, it would be an hour well spent. Then someone stopped.

“At first glance, it was hard to tell if she was a penniless nomad or an emeritus professor, but then she took off her hat and psychedelic scarf and came over to the desk and announced, ‘I’ve got a question. I’m in my late 60s. I’ve just had life threatening surgery, but I got through it.’

“She showed us the jagged scar on her neck. ‘I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life,’ she said. ‘I’ve got a master’s degree. I’m happily retired and divorced. But I don’t want to waste any more time. Can you help?’

“Wow. One by one, we all asked her to elaborate on her situation and offered tidbits of advice, centering on the idea that only she could decide what gave her life meaning. I suggested that she might reach out to others who were also searching, then she settled in for a longer discussion with Ian.

“And then it happened: A crowd gathered. …

“One young woman, who turned out to be a sophomore in college, stepped away from the group with a serious concern. ‘Why can’t I be happier in my life? I’m only 20. I should be as happy as I’m ever going to be right now, but I’m not. Is this it?’

“It was my turn. ‘Research has shown that what makes us happy is achieving small goals one after the other,’ I said. … ‘You can’t just achieve happiness and stay there, you have to pursue it. … You’ve got to choose the things that make you happy one by one. That’s been shown from Aristotle all the way down to cutting-edge psychological research. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.’ …

“Again it was quiet. Some who passed by were pointing and smiling. A few took pictures. It must have looked odd to see three philosophers sitting in a row with ‘Ask a Philosopher’ over our heads, amidst the bagel carts and jewelry stalls. …

“And then I spotted her … an interlocutor who would be my toughest questioner of the day. She was about 6 years old and clutched her mother’s hand as she craned her neck to stare at us. Her mother stopped, but the girl hesitated.

” ‘It’s OK,’ I offered. ‘Do you have a philosophical question?’ The girl smiled at her mother, then let go of her hand to walk over to the booth. She looked me dead in the eye and said: ‘How do I know I’m real?’

“Suddenly I was back in graduate school. Should I talk about the French philosopher Rene Descartes, who famously used the assertion of skepticism itself as proof of our existence, with the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’? …

“Then the answer came to me. I remembered that the most important part of philosophy was feeding our sense of wonder. ‘Close your eyes,’ I said. She did. ‘Well, did you disappear?’ She smiled and shook her head, then opened her eyes. ‘Congratulations, you’re real.’ ”

More here.

 

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Photo: The Guardian
What it looked like when a swarm of bees attacked a New York City hotdog stand.

As you know, I think New York City is an endlessly unspooling entertainment reel. This adventure with swarming bees is a typical example. Wish I had seen it. The police officer in charge must have been surprised to discover that a bit of obscure training would actually come in handy someday.

As Adam Gabbatt reported at the Guardian, “Productivity came to a halt across New York City offices on Tuesday afternoon, as hordes of people eagerly followed the removal of 20,000 bees from a hotdog stand. …

“Thousands watched a Reuters livestream – the stand is located outside the news agency’s New York headquarters – and followed on Twitter as a police officer was called in to remove the bees. With a vacuum cleaner. …

“Officers from the New York police department stood guard, some more willingly than others, as one of their colleagues donned a beekeeper’s hat and approached the hotdog stand.

“The bees had gathered in a densely packed, roughly 15-square-foot clump, and the unidentified officer, who wore a white jacket, thick gloves and has a moustache, proceeded to vacuum up the bees. The bee cleansing took about 40 minutes, much of which was watched online.

“By around 3 pm, the officer, who told journalists he ‘has training,’ had removed the bulk of the bees, but many remained in the area, swarming around a selection of soft drinks displayed on the hotdog stall. …

“Andrew Coté, who runs the New York City beekeepers’ association, had answered a call from the NYPD and was watching as the bees were removed. Removal by vacuum cleaner – it was a specially adapted vacuum cleaner – was common, Coté said. He estimated there were 20,000 bees on the umbrella, but said: ‘You’ve got to count the legs and divide by six to be sure.’

“Coté said … this late-August swarm had likely occurred because of an ill-managed beehive. He said there were a number of hives within a block of the hotdog stand.

“By 3.15 pm police had re-opened the street, although a number of bees were still on the scene.” More here.

You definitely have to know what you’re doing with bees. I’m sure a transplanted Minnesota beekeeper I know in Berlin, Massachusetts, would have managed his hives better if he had set up in a city. Beekeeping is serious business, and you don’t want to be responsible for anyone with an allergy getting stung.

Video: Reuters

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Still shot of Manfred Kirchheimer’s nonverbal documentary Stations of the Elevated, which depicts the graffiti and anxious ambience of New York City in the late 1970s.

There’s a story about a documentary created by my sister’s friend Manny Kirchheimer. For years, though admired by critics, Stations of the Elevated could not be distributed because it was not possible to meet the price set by a jazz musician’s widow for use of the music.

Then a film buff from Artists Public Domain discovered the artistic, wordless evocation of a New York moment tucked away on a shelf.

As Joel Rose reported at NPR in 2014, “The first film to point a camera at the graffiti movement in New York City was Stations of the Elevated, which debuted at the New York Film Festival in 1981.

“The film hasn’t been seen much since, except by generations of graffiti fans and writers who watched it on VHS tapes. Now it’s being re-released on the big screen. …

Stations of the Elevated is not a documentary in the usual sense. It’s only 45 minutes long; there’s no narrative and hardly any dialogue. The camera follows subway cars painted from top to bottom with vibrant graffiti compositions over a soundtrack of jazz by Charles Mingus. One critic compared Stations to a nature film, in which director Manny Kirchheimer stalks graffiti-covered subway cars in their native habitat.

” ‘He went big-game hunting, and he caught the big game, you know?’ says graffiti writer Lee Quinones, whose work is featured prominently in the film. … ‘This is the first film of its kind that captured a beautiful golden age where a lot of these cars were being painted, and that urgency,’ he says. ‘He was able to capture that, and way before the established art world even got a pulse that this was going on underneath their feet.’

“Kirchheimer … was born in Germany and fled to New York with his parents in 1936. He was in his late 40s when he shot Stations of the Elevated in 1977. He didn’t know anyone who wrote graffiti, and he’d never given it much thought.

” ‘As a matter of fact, there was a great deal of graffiti around that I didn’t pay much attention to,’ Kirchheimer says. Then he found himself driving up to the Bronx early in the morning, and he saw the trains running overhead.

” ‘They would come by and it would be screaming full of colors — just gorgeous,’ he says. ‘The smart thing I did was shoot it all outdoors. Most of the lines are indoors, and the way most people see these paintings was indoors. Doing it outdoors gave a whole other perspective.’

“It was a grittier time in New York’s history, when the city could barely afford to clean subway cars, inside or out. Most straphangers considered graffiti writers a nuisance, or worse. But Kirchheimer was focused on ‘elevating’ their work. …

” ‘The genre, if there is one, is one that goes back to the beginning of cinema. That’s the city symphony,’ says Jake Perlin, who is reissuing Stations of the Elevated through his company, Artists Public Domain. …

Stations of the Elevated contrasts the painted subway cars with outdoor advertising on billboards — giant images of cigarettes, alcohol and semi-nude women. Artist Quinones says the film captures something essential about a moment in the history of the graffiti movement, and of New York City, which is long gone.” See more at NPR, here.

You may also check out Criterion for a review by Joshua Brunsting: “This short documentary contains some really beautiful richly colorful photography of the elevated subways and the neighborhoods around them circa 1980. It’s filled with impressionistic scenes of subway cars, passengers and track workers, junkyards, neighborhood kids, billboards – scenes of everyday life. Interludes of Mingus drift in and out along with background subway announcements and ambient noise and conversation.”

And now that Artists Public Domain has settled the music rights question, you can get the movie here.

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I’m still getting used to having an iPhone and was surprised to learn that my new one was counting my steps. When my husband told me that in Japan, walking 10,000 steps a day is considered ideal for good health, I wondered if I could manage that. At home, it means taking two constitutionals a day, a feat I doubted I would be able to keep up in the winter.

But in New York City, no problem! One day this week I walked more than 16,500 steps without thinking twice. New York is just such a fun place to walk — so much to look at, constantly entertaining. Maybe the storefronts don’t change numerous times a day, but the array of people does. And their pushcarts, fruit stands, clothes, behaviors.

People seem so uninhibited in New York that you could express your inner self to an unheard-of degree and no one would blink. Of course it’s sad that some people on the streets clearly have mental illness. But being used to living around them seems to free up New Yorkers not to care much what people think of their own behavior. I watched one guy oblivious of furiously honking rush-hour traffic and blocking a whole lane while he tried to hook a car to his shish-kebob trailer after work.

Another slammed into wet leaves on a rented Citi Bike and wiped out with a loud crash in the middle of an intersection, picked the bike up, and went on his way. If that happened where I live, it would be on the front page of the local bugle the next Thursday.

Most of what I saw happened too fast for me to get a picture, but I include a couple things that stayed still.

It’s relatively quiet to walk along Riverside Drive in the early morning, and many people and dogs do. Other people sit on the benches and read the paper or drink coffee. This worn park bench had a plaque I particularly liked. It says, “The friends of Susan G. Schwartz honor her and remember how she taught us to sit still.”

Going home today to sit still.

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The first stage of waiting is over. Some bad things avoided, others not so good. While waiting for my sister to be out of surgery, I walked  around New York City, sometimes with her husband and close friend. I took these pictures.

I’m not going to add a lot of description, but I wanted you to know that the amazingly beautiful garden, managed by volunteers, is in Riverside Park, that there is lots of biking in Central Park in the morning, that the city has “cooling centers” for seniors on hot days, and that the place I’m staying has a lobby like the Alhambra.

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Photo: MICRO
A visitor examines the MICRO mollusk museum.

Good things come in small packages, even museums, as we saw in this 2013 post. Since then, enthusiasm for micro museums has only increased, as Margaret Carrigan reports at the Observer.

“When scientist Amanda Schochet and designer Charles Philipp unofficially started MICRO, they wanted to make the world’s smallest museum about mollusks, a passion of Schochet’s.

“They realized that might be easy, considering there were no real mollusk museums at all. But as they started developing content and design, the pair realized that even small museums could have a big impact.

“In a year-and-a-half, they’ve created five 6-foot-tall natural history museums that have been installed around New York City, with the latest unveiled in mid-December at the Ronald McDonald House on the Upper East Side. The goal for Schochet and Philipp is to foster equal access to fundamental knowledge by creating installations that can be found outside of the traditional museum setting. …

“With intentions to become the most-visited museum in the country within five years … Schochet and Philipp plan to debut a new MICRO museum module every year, starting with the core sciences before delving into math and art. Their first physics edition, the Museum of Perpetual Motion, [was scheduled to] launch in early February. …

“Philipp: It started as a kind of tongue-in-cheek idea just between my partner, Amanda, and I. Amanda is a computational ecologist and knew there was a really rich history of mollusks in New York, especially oysters. So when she first moved here a few years ago, we started looking into whether we could go to a museum about mollusks. But we couldn’t find one, so we joked that if we made the smallest mollusk museum it would also de facto be the largest. …

“It wasn’t until we had a four-hour wait in a doctor’s office that it seemed like there could really be a market for something like this. There was a captive audience right in front of us looking for entertainment, and something to distract them that wasn’t just whatever rerun was on the office television. It was then we realized a mini-museum could have an impact, and we bounced the idea off some friends who worked in museums who really saw some sort of potential.

“We started doing some research and found that something like 90 percent of museum visitors across the U.S. are non-Hispanic whites. We also found that there are 135 museums in Manhattan, but in the Bronx — which has a comparable population — there are only eight. These both seemed like problems that could be addressed by bringing more museums to areas where there were few institutions with larger populations of minorities. And one way to do that was make small museums that could be installed anywhere. …

“We don’t have enough room in MICRO to get into a lot of history and context, so we have to be really mindful about how to present information and how best to do it that would entice the average passerby: How do we make someone with little knowledge of the subject who is perhaps just in the middle of running an errand and totally focused on the day-to-day stuff they need to be doing interested and curious enough to spend 10 minutes learning?

“We’ve come up with some interesting ways of solving that. In the mollusk museums, we’ve installed an eye-catching hologram in the base of it that boasts a digital aquarium. And we chose to use recognizable B-movie alien characters as a way of introducing mollusks to the viewer, since we found that many of them are based on these organisms because they seem so otherworldly.” More here.

I love that they want to get their museums into the Department of Motor Vehicles. Now that is an idea whose time has come!

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Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Sing For Hope
Jon Batiste performing on June 5 at the 6th Annual Sing for Hope Pianos Kickoff Event at 28 Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan. You may know Batiste from Stephen Colbert’s Late Show.

Many of the artists, musicians, and theater people who live and work in New York City believe in the importance of bringing the arts to children in underserved schools. And they are turning their beliefs into action by supporting Sing for Hope.

On June 5, Sing for Hope sent out a press release on the unveiling of 60 new artist-designed pianos destined to go to public schools after a summer on the streets.

“Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader and Sing for Hope Board Member Jon Batiste kicked off the performances at 12 noon, followed by a special performance of Bach’s Prelude in C performed by 45 pianists simultaneously on 30 Sing for Hope Pianos. Other performances included renowned pianist Michael Fennelly, who played Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’

“Each year, Sing for Hope selects local and international artists to create unique piano artworks that are placed in parks and other public spaces for anyone and everyone to play. This year, through a special partnership with the New York City Department of Education, Sing for Hope will place all of the Sing for Hope Pianos in permanent homes in NYC public schools after the pianos’ time on the streets, benefiting an estimated 15,000 New York City school children. …

“This summer marks the placement of the 400th Sing for Hope Piano to date, making NYC host to more street pianos than any other city in the world. …

“In time for the big reveal of the 2017 Sing for Hope Pianos, the world’s first-ever mobile app for street piano discovery and engagement is now available. The app helps people to discover, visit and play the pianos – and then share their experiences via social media. Now in its third year, the app will allow people to take curated tours of the pianos, discover special concerts by artists and performers taking place at the pianos, and sign up to give their own pop-up performances on the pianos. The app, designed and developed by Craver Inc., is free to download and available in the App Store.”

More here.

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You probably know that a library is a haven. But in case you didn’t, here is a story about what libraries mean to New Yorkers these days.

Winnie Hu writes at the NY Times, “Matthew Carter’s summer hideaway … does not require a car ride or a small fortune to keep up.

“Mr. Carter, 32, an adjunct professor of music at the City College of New York, simply holes up at the Inwood Library in northern Manhattan with his research books. It is quiet, air-conditioned and open every day.

“ ‘I’m a total leech of public libraries,’ he said. ‘It’s my summer hangout. It’s where I spend the majority of my time, and where I’m most productive.’ …

“Far from becoming irrelevant in the digital age, libraries in New York City and around the nation are thriving: adding weekend and evening hours; hiring more librarians and staff; and expanding their catalog of classes and services to include things like job counseling, coding classes and knitting groups. …

“Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association, said library workers had shown people how to file online for welfare benefits and taught classes in science, technology, engineering and math to children who could not afford to go to summer camps. …

“A recent contest to recognize neighborhood libraries underscored their vitality: 18,766 online and paper nominations were submitted in one month, up from about 4,300 when the yearly competition was started in 2013. Nearly every library was nominated at least once. Some received hundreds of nods.

“One young man wrote that he was homeless when he started going to the Arverne branch of the Queens Library, where the staff not only helped him study to become a security guard but also hired him to work as a mentor to teenagers. Today, that man, Richard Johnson, has two jobs and his own apartment.

” ‘Ever since becoming a member of the Queens Library, I have been bettering my life,’ he wrote in his statement. …

“The recent gains by libraries have delighted Christian Zabriskie, a librarian and executive director of Urban Librarians Unite, an advocacy and education group that organizes an annual ‘read-in,’ in which people take turns reading nonstop for 24 hours, to support the libraries.

“ ‘In New York City, there is somebody using library materials every second, every day of the year,’ Mr. Zabriskie said. ‘It’s showing that libraries are the fabric of society.’ “

More here.

Photo: Alex Wroblewski for The New York Times
The Inwood Library in northern Manhattan is quiet, air-conditioned and open every day.

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A friend from my childhood called Caroline has been following this blog, sometimes making comments related to her field, which is architecture.

Today Caroline sent me a link that she knew would be a perfect fit here. The story is about a design competition to address New York City’s rising seawater.

Kayla Devon wrote about it at Builder Online, “In the next 30 years, roughly 30% of Manhattan is expected to sink below sea level, according to a climate study by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Instead of trying to stop the inevitable, Brazilian architect Walmir Luz focused on embracing it.

“After studying climate predictions from the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project and the history of Manhattan’s edge, Luz designed a utopian/dystopian future for New York (depending if you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person).

“Luz’s NYC 2050 concept makes flooding a part of city life by taking inspiration from Venice. Luz designed structures as levels that could allow water to move through lower levels as the sea rises. Streets would become permeable so water can wash over the roads instead of flooding them, and more barriers would surround the city’s edges.

“Luz completed the concept as his thesis for his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University, and won a Silver award in the urban planning and urban design category at the A’Design Award & Competition. He now works as an architect for Gensler.” More at Builder Online.

I love it when people who read the blog come upon topics that they know will fit and then send them along. I like being able to share the cool stuff with a wider audience. Thank you, Caroline.

Design: Walmir Luz
Luz won a design award for a concept making the best of rising sea levels in New York City.

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The last tidbit from my recent New York City trip is about the Kelpies on loan in Bryant Park, near the New York Public Library.

Kelpies are water spirits of Scottish folklore, typically taking the form of a horse. Artist Andy Scott was inspired by the legends to create giant ones for Helix Park in Falkirk, Scotland.

The ones in New York are smaller maquettes but still pretty huge.

The artist writes that he came up with an idea eight years ago about “mystical water-borne equine creatures. …

“Since then it has evolved dramatically and in the process the ethos and function has shifted from the original concept. Falkirk was my father’s home town and that inherited link to the town has been one of my driving inspirations. A sense of deep personal legacy has informed my thinking from the outset …

“The mythological associations behind the original brief have been absorbed by other sources of inspiration in the creative processes, and the ancient ethereal water spirits have been forged into engineered monuments. The Kelpies are modeled on heavy horses (two Clydesdales of Glasgow City Council actually served as models in the process), and it is this theme of working horses which captured my imagination and drove the project.”

The website adds that the Kelpies in New York City “were installed by Andy and his colleague Simon Chambers, with the assistance of the American Scottish Foundation, the Bryant Park Corporation, Mariano Brothers freight & cranes, Synlawn matting and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Thanks to Creative Scotland for their funding assistance towards the costs of the transport and install.”

You really have to check out Scott’s website. The full-size sculptures are unbelievable. Click here.

Kelpies-Bryant-Park

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Kaili knows how much I want to believe that U.S. manufacturing is not dead. He sent me this example from Wired magazine — a story about the making of Statue of Liberty souvenirs.

Wired‘s Liz Stinson reports that of the many souvenirs you see in New York, most “come from overseas where they’re stamped out on machine-driven assembly lines. But a select batch—the ones you can buy on Ellis Island—were made in the United States, right here in New York City, with actual human hands.

Colbar Art in Long Island City, Queens, creates prototype and custom molds, castings and original artwork, but the factory is most well known for being one of the largest producers of Statue of Liberty figurines in the world, and one of the last in the United States. …

“Ovidiu Colea’s story is the focus of a recent mini-doc made by NYC-based videographer Rebecca Davis.

“Davis, a video journalist at NBC, documented the Colbar Art crew during their daily routine of making statues, and it’s surprisingly fascinating to watch. ‘Growing up, one thing that had a lasting impression on my memory were the Mr. Rogers episodes where they’d go to the crayon factory and show you how the crayons were made,’ she explains. ‘I wanted to see from start to finish how these statues, as New Yorkers we see all over the place, how they come into being.’ ” Me, too.

More.

Rebecca Davis’s charming video, found at http://narrative.ly/meet-your-maker/the-liberty-factory/, captures the Romanian craftsman’s pride in his work and in workers who come from all over the world.

I apologize that the embed code doesn’t work. I wanted to put the video here.

http://www.wired.com/design/2013/08/watch-where-your-favorite-nyc-souvenirs-come-from/

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New York has solicited design concepts for giving its old payphones new life. Now the city is asking “the crowd” to pick its favorite.

As Amar Toor writes at The Verge, “The City of New York this week announced the six finalists in its Reinvent Payphones challenge — an initiative that invites students, urban planners, and designers to propose their visions for the payphone of the future. The finalists were selected as winners in six different categories, and are now in the running for the Popular Choice Award, to be determined later this month.

“Not surprisingly, interactive and digital features play a major role in most of the six designs, including NYC/IO, winner of the Community Impact category. Created by Control Group and Titan, the proposal calls for the city’s phone booths to be replaced with high-tech kiosks, replete with transparent screens that pedestrians could use to not only make calls, but find restaurants, pay parking tickets, or surf the web.”

Read about all six designs, here. “You can vote for the best design on the New York City Facebook page until March 15th.”

And speaking of tapping the wisdom of crowds, Suzanne would love to have you vote on a logo for her new line at the birthstone jewelry company that hosts Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog. Targeted at young women and girls, the new line is going to be called Stellina — it’s the younger sister in the Luna & Stella family. The voting ends tomorrow, March 8. Do take a look at the logo designs, here, and vote if you have a minute.

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Speaking of theater, here’s a new one on me.

According to Edward Rothstein in the NY Times, “Passengers on ‘The Ride’ — a tour bus with floor-to-ceiling windows and nightclub-style audio — tool through Manhattan, encountering such (pre-arranged) sights as a businessman breaking into tap dance, a juggler tossing hot dogs, and a ballerina in a glowing tutu dancing around Columbus Circle.” Read more.

I’d love to look out a bus window and see a businessman breaking into a tap dance. Years ago, I knew a tap dance teacher who wanted to organize groups of “shoppers” who could suddenly break into choreographed tap routines up and down supermarket aisles. Am still looking for them.

I do have to wonder what NYC tourists expect to see when they look out bus windows. An artsy guy, my brother’s classmate, was walking down the street in Greenwich Village minding his own business one day in the sixties when someone leaned out of a bus and called, “There’s one of them now!” One of what? he wondered.

Whatever you’re looking for in New York, you can probably find it. All you have to do is believe.

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