Breathtaking Inanity: Pirro and Kerik, BFF

September 27, 2006

pirro2.jpgI haven’t had a good Breathtaking Inanity post recently, so the Republican nominee for New York attorney general (formerly the Republican candidate for Senate to challenge Hillary Clinton), Jeanine Pirro, once again steps up to fill the void.

First, a recap: She fumbled through her announcement to run for Senate, shuffling for a lost page of her speech for an uncomfortably long time, completely unable to proceed without the text in front of her. Then she waffled on her position on late-term abortion, leading some observers to comment that she’s not quite ready for prime time. Then came a scoop from New York Observer’s Politicker that she’s taken campaign donations from a company suspected of ties to the mob. It was also widely noted that her husband, a Republican lobbyist, served 11 months in federal prison for his conviction on tax fraud in 2000. He also fathered a child in an extramarital relationship in the 1990′s (a different news report said the child was conceived in the 1980s — I don’t know or care which decade is correct). I predicted that she wouldn’t make it through the Republican primary to even challenge Hillary, which turned out to be true when she was forced out by fellow Republicans.

Now she’s running for the AG’s office against Andrew Cuomo. In this race, she’s already had to cancel a pro-death penalty press conference at Ground Zero when it came out that a man who had been wrongly imprisoned for sixteen years was being let out of prison at the very same time. So? Well turned out the prosecutor who replaced Pirro in Westchester (a position she quit to run for Senate), did not object to letting him out of jail based on evidence proving his innocence that PIRRO REFUSED TO HEAR.

Now for today’s news, I turn to the AP:

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Republican state attorney general candidate Jeanine Pirro has been told she is under federal investigation for allegedly plotting to secretly record her husband to find out whether he was having an affair, two people familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

I love it. The best part is, who did the alleged bugging for her? Bernard freakin Kerik, the would-be homeland security czar but for his den of iniquities at Ground Zero and ties to the mafia. From the Times:kerik.jpg

Seething with anger, and choking up as she laid bare her marital problems, Ms. Pirro said that two federal agents approached her at her home late one recent night and revealed that the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York was investigating her surveillance discussions. They had been caught on tape by Bronx authorities who were conducting a separate investigation of Mr. Kerik.

It doesn’t get any better than this. Politics is indeed show business for ugly people, some of them sublimely stupid ugly people.


Dumbo Clocktower

September 26, 2006

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In a rather confusing post, Dumbo NYC is reporting that two penthouses at 70 Washington St. have been purchased for $3.4 million and will be combined, which includes the clocktower space where I took a series of photos a couple of years ago (several of the Manhattan Bridge, above). I don’t really get it because the clocktower is the only penthouse space up there, unless someone purchased the floor below and is combining apartments that way. Regardless, the four, 16 foot-high clocktower windows that face in every direction, well, let’s just say the views are spectacular beyond description. To see the full slideshow, click here.

UPDATE: Apparently, I’m the one who’s confused (putting the dumb in Dumbo, if you will). The photos I took are from inside the Dumbo clocktower in 1 Main Street, not 70 Washington St. See comments.


Real Estate: Unplugged

September 26, 2006

Phew! If you want a no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle assessment of the real estate market, check out a Q&A in New York Magazine with Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at NYU. If this guy is even half-right, we’re in for a wild ride. Just a sampler:

…since 1997, real home prices have increased by about 90 percent. There is no economic fundamental—real income, migration, interest rates, demographics—that can explain this. It means there was a speculative bubble. And now that bubble is bursting.

And he’s just getting started.


Consider Tribeca

September 25, 2006

One of my new favorite blogs is The Built Environment, which recently posted about Tribeca.

TriBeCa is defined by its edges. Even the name — Triangle Below Canal — comes from its northern boundary, not a landmark like Flatiron or a geographic characteristic like Cobble Hill. It is this lack of a uniting feature, geographic or constructed, which causes TriBeCa to feel so decentralized and empty.

I like how The Built Enviornment integrates images with text to construct a post, rather than allowing one to merely support the other. Not to mention, it’s intelligent, well-thought out stuff (minus the tiresome need to snark everything up). To see this post and others, click here.


Photo Double Feature

September 24, 2006

flood03.jpgThe occasion of Katrina’s one year anniversary has naturally precipitated a lot of documentary activity, from Spike Lee’s HBO special “When the Levees Broke,” to architectural photographer Robert Polidori’s show at The Met, which I went to see recently (as well as Ecotopia at the International Center for Photography, which I’ll get to in a minute). As I stood there gazing at the large format photographs taken on four separate trips to New Orleans over the past year, it occurred to me how wide the gap has become between the time-space it takes to document and transmit these disasters all over the world (and even turn them into works of art), and the reality of actually recovering from these disasters. The former happens instantaneously, and the latter seems to take ever longer as the disaster recedes in the distance. There’s something a little disorienting about gazing at these tragically beautiful photos as if the event were something that happened long ago (a Times review of the show refers to New Orleans as “the modern Pompeii”). I understand the need to document and exhibit, but it seems to have the perverse effect of absolving us from having to face, in real time, the human suffering that is ongoing.

Oddly enough, the show at ICP, Ecotopia, did not have the effect of removing one from disaster, but transporting the observer closer to it. Perhaps that is because New Orleans hits so close to home, or perhaps because Polidori’s photos are almost like still lifes without a human or animal in site, while most of the picture-1.pngimages in Ecotopia include something that at least has the potential for movement. Even Mitch Epstein’s photo of the aftermath of Katrina in Biloxi shows the Gulf alive and well in the background. Many of the other images, from the tragic to the whimsical, succeed because there is humanity. Patrick Brown’s slideshow documents the poaching and trafficking of endangered species throughout Asiapicture-2.png while Harri Kallio recreated life-like dodo birds (which have been extinct since the late 1600s) and installed them in their native habitat on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and photographed them. It’s a brilliant construct, not to mention a lot of work! The entire show is quite a comment on our anxiety about the world and its very survival, and the impact that’s having on art and culture. Definitely a must see. (Click to enlarge the images.)

BTW: Check out Xlist (Now Playing…) for short reviews of things seen, heard, read and experienced.


Sky Mirror Sucks

September 23, 2006

skymirror1.JPGBefore the Sky Mirror was even installed at Rockefeller Center, I wrote a post (click here) guessing that it would not compare well to The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park even though it’s by the same sculptor, Anish Kapoor. Alas, how right I turned out to be! It’s not at all interactive like the The Bean is; it’s not nearly as photographable, and you can’t really get near it. It’s a bigger disappointment than I imagined. Granted, it was a cloudy day, but really it’s just a big shiny satellite dish. The only good thing about the Sky Mirror is that it’s a temporary installation. Otherwise, it would be quite embarrassing to have such an inferior work of public art compared to Chicago.


Location: St. Marks Pl.

September 22, 2006

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This flyer was posted outside my building. According to New York Songlines, St. Marks Place, particularly the block where I live (between 2nd and 3rd Aves.) has a rich history, including my own building where Abbie Hoffman lived in 1967-68 in a basement apartment and cooked up the Yippie movement. Others who have lived on the block include Lenny Bruce and Deee-Lite band members. Across the street was the Electric Circus that featured Andy Warhol and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the Velvet Underground, etc. Yoko Ono held “happenings” in the space that is now Trash and Vaudeville. I know St. Marks has made cameo appearances in several novels and films, but I’m unaware of any films based on the street itself. Recreating 1979 actually shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s a little cleaner, a whole lot safer (so I’m told) and there are some new restaurants, but there’s plenty of old school that still exists, like Trash and Vaudeville, Grassroots Tavern, the Sock Man, DoJos, Gem Spa, and the ubiquitous tattoo and body-piercing joints — not to mention regulars doing the heroin nod on the street, usually in front of what was a “deli” that sold crack pipes as recently as six months ago. P.S. The last picture in the flickr series at right was taken on St. Marks Pl. over the summer, and there’s a whole slide show under Photo Essays at the top.


Parking Squatters

September 21, 2006

Today is International Park(ing) Day, reports Streetsblog, also known as a “parking squat,” where metered parking spaces are transformed into urban parkland. Above is a scene on 8th Avenue and 30th Street. Read more about it here, see more pics here.


Design Lament

September 21, 2006

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Last night, while attending a presentation by New York architect Thomas Phifer regarding his design for the North Carolina Museum of Art, I struck up a conversation with a couple of people about how far behind the United States is when it comes to public space, urban design and contemporary architecture. The impetus for the discussion was the discovery that Thomas Phifer had won a New York City-sponsored design competition for street lighting last year. It’s a surprisingly sleek choice considering how nostalgic most street furniture and lighting designs usually are in American cities and towns, but in fact this design is only included in a catalogue of other approved designs and there’s no telling if any will be installed. So we got to talking about other examples where New York City is aesthetically lacking and not very user friendly. Take, say, Houston Street, which is undergoing a major renovation that, as of right now, doesn’t even include seperate bike lanes, much less a widened median for sustainable landscaping, a dedicated bus/trolley lane, additional pedestrian room, etc.

As the discussion progressed, we began to imagine, what would design aficionados in Amsterdam — people like us standing around with cocktails in hand — what would they be complaining about? “In the United States, they do X,Y, Z so much better.” We were stumped. What do we do better? The only thing we could come up with was commerce. We are very good at business, and everything about our cities is essentially geared toward smoothing the way for commerce and doing the bare minimum when it comes to that which does not directly facilitate transactions. What’s worse, this default method of operating can actually hinder the smooth operation of business, a point that was made recently by those in favor of congestion pricing. When Mayor Bloomberg was asked recently about the traffic problem in Manhattan, he dismissed it as a sign that business is good. That’s a rather narrow view of what is a serious waste of time and energy (which is bad for business), not to mention bad for people’s health. From London to Stockholm, other cities are finding ways to deal with traffic and make urban life better. New York should be leading the way in the United States, but even with a progressive mayor like Bloomberg, we seem to be falling further and further behind.


Inconvenient, Yes, But …

September 19, 2006

gore.JPGI saw Al Gore speak at NYU yesterday about how we can address the imminent global warming catastrophe. Unlike the movie, An Inconvenient Truth — which is mostly devoted to making the case for global warming and only spends a little bit of time at the end on how to fix the problem — this lecture urges action on the part of people, corporations and the government (“political will is a renewable resource,” he likes to say).

One of Gore’s major points yesterday:

Buildings, both commercial and residential, represent a larger source of global warming pollution than cars and trucks. But new architecture and design techniques are creating dramatic new opportunities for huge savings in energy use and global warming pollution.

He then urged architects and the building industry to join the 2030 Challenge, a pledge to become “carbon neutral” by 2030 (meaning that buildings would not require any fossil fuels in order to operate). Some other propositions: an immediate “carbon freeze“; dropping the payroll tax in favor of a pollution tax; assisting American automakers to retool production as leading manufacturers of hybrids and electric only cars (presumably with tax money).

As for what will happen to New York as sea levels rise, click here.sealevel.jpg


Original Copy

September 17, 2006


Amy Arbus, daughter of famed photographer Diane, has a collection of photos she took for the Village Voice compiled in a new book On the Street, 1980-1990. One of the least interesting on its merits is still a sentimental favorite: a shot of Madonna on St. Marks Pl. in 1983, shortly before she became hugely famous (it looks to me like the shot is facing west between 1st and 2nd Aves.). Twenty-five of Arbus’s photos are on display at the Cohen Amador Gallery, reaffirming the relationship bewteen NYC street photography and fashion as artistic self-expression. For an audio slideshow on the Times website, click here, narrated by a photo editor who quotes Oscar Wilde: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

To view my St. Marks photo essay, click here (first one).

Annals of Self-Invention [NYT]


Pecha Whacha Night?

September 15, 2006

Pecha Kucha Night is coming to New York … okay, what’s that, you ask? According to the website, it’s a way for young designers to meet and share their work without 1. having to “chat up a magazine editor,” or 2. without having to endure architects/designers windbagging all night. Each presentation is limited to 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. Call it Renderings for the Ritalin crowd. Pecha Kucha (the Japanese sound for conversation) in NYC will commence Sept. 20 at 8 PM at Bohemian Hall and Garden in Queens. For a list of designers and more info, click here.

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Gov’s Island: Open Source Planning

September 15, 2006

Now that all the bids for Gov’s Island have been scrapped, perhaps the most important piecegovsibus.jpg of undeveloped land in the Northern Hemisphere could become the first open source urban planning project. Kicking it off is The Built Environment, with a plan for a bus rapid transit system (which is much cheaper than rail service, for an explanation of that, click here) that would connect the World Trade Center to Gov’s Island, and on to underserved areas of Brooklyn, ending in South Slope (click thumbnail for larger view).

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Second, TBE takes note of the New Globe Theater idea that’s being floated by the Castle Williams group. They have a site on the Island that is almost exactly the same dimensions as London’s Globe Theater and have developed plans to have Norman Foster design a New Globe Theater. Brilliant. But first, a master plan!


Casualty Fridays

September 15, 2006

crash.jpgThose happy-go-lucky kids over at Streetsblog have a post on Fridays called The Weekly Carnage, a round-up-o-rama of casualties and deaths — not in Baghdad — but in the New York region as a result of traffic accidents. Just a little sampler:

Death Missile: Airborn driver in Long Island crashes into second story of an apartment complex;

Bronx man dancing in street hit by bus;

L.I. girl out for ice cream critically injured.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the regular Monday wrap-up: Bridge and Tunnel dumb-f**k alcohol-related injuries and deaths.

Have a great weekend!


Gov’s Island Plans in the Circular File

September 13, 2006

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Crain’s is reporting that every single one of the proposals submitted for redeveloping Governor’s Island is being scrapped due to cost. The master plan bids, narrowed to 10 finalists last month, are all going into the circular file and the Governor’s Island Preservation and Education Corp. will break down development into smaller bits. Probably a good idea. Given how these massive redevelopment projects have a tendency to get bogged down (WTC site, to name one) to the point of total paralysis, taking one chunk — such as a 40 acre park, which is mandated — and making that happen, is probably a good place to start. And no, Calatrava’s Gondolas aren’t going to happen, either.

Breathtaking Inanity: Gondolas to Gov’s Island [Polis]

Update: A person very familiar with the planning process for Gov’s Island tells me that it’s actually a good thing that the bids were scrapped because they were all terrible and too expensive. The problem, much like the even more disastrous WTC site, is that a master plan was never completed before the bids were solicited, allowing developers, like the WTC site, to throw designs and ideas at the wall like spaghetti to see what sticks. Fortunately, in the case of Gov’s Island, nothing stuck, and now a master plan is actually going to be completed. Too bad the same thing won’t happen with Ground Zero.


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