New York’s French American Blogger

With almost a nervous grimace, Ansar recounts her first apartment in Alphabet City. With little knowledge of the area, she wasn’t expecting her Manhattan apartment to be dangerous. Within her first year of living in the city she was held at knifepoint, and was robbed of her purse and phone on separate occasions.

“I wanted to leave for the first year!” said Ansar, “I was like, what the hell am I doing here?”

Ansar slowly rotates the ring on her index, stating, “It’s like I went through an awkward two-year transitional period when I moved here. I didn’t know how to feel.”

Today, Ansar can be found posting warm-toned Instagram images highlighting her personal fashion and décor in her newly found home. Situated next to Central Park, and once home to the Guggenheim family, Ansar feels she found a hidden gem of New York real estate

Sitting with her fingers laced around a steaming cup of tea, Ansar began her morning under the vintage Tiffany glass ceiling of her Upper West Side apartment. “It’s incredible, I feel lucky,” reflected Ansar.

She pushed her long curly stand of hair off her shoulder, set her chin on her propped-up hand, and began speaking about her passion for travel. With her eyes wandering across the room in remembrance, Ansar states, “I felt so free (in Myanmar). I remember being in the forest, walking around, and seeing people with no shoes on. They were just smiling.”

Taking trips like this with her mother gave Ansar insight on being more mindful and appreciative of her own life, “I learned everything is not a dire issue,” she stated, looking down at her tea.

Born in Chambray-Lès-Tours, a small town in France in which her family history is visible across decades, Leanne moved to America when she was seven-years-old. “My mom came with her two kids and seven suitcases for a fresh start,” Ansar stated, describing her mother’s journey for a fresh start in the U.S.

As she came of age in the U.S, Ansar adapted to the language and culture, but didn’t pay much mind to her roots. She attended West Virginia University and majored in French language.

“I felt like I was stuck between two cultures,” stated Ansar, in response to this time of her life. “I didn’t know where I wanted to end up,” she stated.

In hopes of finding direction post-undergrad, Ansar moved into her family villa in the South of France “My mother had her own blog dedicated to “the single woman traveling the world alone”, and that inspired me to create my own blog dedicated to travel,” stated Ansar.

In flux, Ansar was able to find solace in travel. They travelled to Thailand; they explored the country for five months after she graduated college. “she was like, let’s go, let’s get away from it all,” stated Ansar.

“I feel very privileged saying this, but it’s also so cheap to get a place to stay there,” she stated with concern. After this trip, Ansar decided to pursue her Master’s in France, all while traveling to nearby countries for content on her own travel blog and Instagram page.

“It was amazing, I could travel to Italy for a few Euro and be back by the end of the day,” she stated.

Upon receiving an internship in New York City, Ansar picked up and moved away from France yet again.

While it wasn’t apparent at first, Ansar found that she didn’t have to break the bank or quit her nine-to-five advertising job to continue her travel blog. She began to brand herself as a hospitality, lifestyle and fashion blogger.

“Then I realized there were hotels in New York and started contacting them offering exposure through my social media. My boyfriend does photography, so him and I were able to stay for free,” she stated.

Due to the fact that her boyfriend does fashion photography as a side-gig, Ansar has access to high-quality images that she can release to her clients in exchange for free rooms.

“We try to leave the city whenever we find the time, even if it’s a short weekend-trip that ends up causing us more stress than anything else,” she stated, laughing it off.

This wasn’t limited to New York either, they’ve traveled to Europe a handful of times, staying for free, and reviewing luxury Airbnbs and hotels on her blog.

All the while, Ansar had been working her way up in the advertising and marketing industries. After years at advertising agency JCDecaux, she now works as the Director of Marketing for France-Amerique Magazine.

As time has passed, Ansar’s work in the marketing industry and her blogging have become mutually beneficial. With her blogging connections, she can attend PR events and cultivate long-term sponsorships with high-end brands. Similarly, with her increased knowledge of advertising and marketing, she can brand herself and market products to her followers.

“Once you sell something, you want to remain consistent,” stated Ansar. As she has perfected her self- branding, she remains loyal to luxury hotels and products in order to maintain a consistent stream of lifestyle content. By doing so, she promotes high engagement and has accrued over 30,000 followers on Instagram.

At her current position, Ansar has found her equilibrium between French and American culture. “Now, every day I’m surrounded by French culture at work,” stated Ansar. Where she once struggled to connect her two homes, America and France, she now has a space for both in her life.

“I am able to incorporate it into my blog,” she stated, “and now things go together quite cohesively with my work and free-time pleasures.”

As she finished off her cup of tea and settled into her chair, Ansar reflected, “I feel like everyone had a dream or plan, and I got my dream in a way.”

She peered off to her right, looking out of a street-facing window framed by a terracotta-potted olive tree, “I started from no home, to having a knife to my back, to here,” she stated.

 

 

 

Hunter Hard News Story

Hunter College boasts about their “setting at the heart of New York City”, but does the school’s administration live up to New Yorkers’ standards? With over 23,000 students and counting, Hunter students are often left feeling lost and unsupported.

 

When seeking help with financial or registration needs, many students are faced with road blocks. Instead of a CUNY system ready to aid and support, they are met with multiple offices which give them conflicting responses to the same question.

 

“The college is made out of tin, but the outside is stone,” stated Hunter junior, James Reilly. After two years at Hunter, Reilly voiced concern over how difficult it is to solve issues within the school’s bureaucracy. When the funds for his scholarship didn’t show up in his financial aid portal, Reilly had to go to his counselor, the Office of Bursar, and the Office of Financial Aid to fix the issue. “None of them knew how to help; I kept getting sent somewhere else,” said Reilly.

 

Hunter senior, Tahra Jirari, stated, “You get 10 different answers every time and your calls get transferred.” Although the Hunter’s registration and financial offices are close in proximity, they lack in communication with one another. With a phone that goes straight to voicemail, and never-ending lines, the offices at Hunter are rubbing students the wrong way.

 

However, these issues may not be exclusive to Hunter, since the school is connected to the larger CUNY system. “It’s a whole lot of red tape to maneuver around any time you want to get anything done,” proclaimed film student, Doug Guida. Students may not know the root of Hunter’s administrative issues, but they do feel the red tape when they try to get things done.

 

New York’s Policing of Public Transportation 

New York’s Policing of Public Transportation 

With questionable allocation of funding and sub-par on-time performance, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has consistently been walking on thin ice with its community throughout its existence. Within the past year, two years after the issuance of a formal transportation crisis by Governor Cuomo, there has been a crack-down on rider fare evasion. 

But has the strengthening of these subway laws disproportionately affected people of color and those who are impoverished?  

Upon surveying over 10 New Yorkers in lower Manhattan, it became evident that they acknowledge a problem within the system. While they did not agree on a single cause of the issue, there was a consensus regarding the increase in fares. 

This constant increase in fare and lack of improvement of the public transportation system has become a breeding ground for contention. 

From the outside, the system may seem to be getting its act together, but some New Yorkers see this as another step in the wrong direction. “It’s criminalization of poverty,” states NYU alum, Jenna Hackman. As the years go on, fares continue to increase from what once was 50 cents in the 1970’s. 

Today the current cost-per-ride has hiked up to $2.75, while monthly unlimited cards have reached $127. 

 The repercussions for hopping a subway turnstile includes either an arrest or a $100 fine. If someone cannot afford the increased fare, the odds of them being able to pay off a ticket or bail are little to none. In result, some believe this has disproportionately put the working homeless at a disadvantage. At $2.75, those who are lesser fortunate may have to decide between a meal and train fare. “It’s not a humane system,” stated Jenna Hackman. 

But are the poor the only possible group being targeted by this increase? Twenty-year-old Lebanese student, Yasmine Bousaid was a victim of racial profiling when a police officer wrote her a ticket for walking between train cars. While this is against the train rules, it is done frequently by experienced riders. The officer’s only explanation for issuing her a ticket, rather than a warning, was that “they have to meet a quota.” Not only is the implementation of ticket quotas illegal, but the officer mistakenly assumed Bousaid’s nationality; the ticket had “Hispanic” scribbled out under race. 

With a transportation system in a state of emergency, government officials are scraping together plans for the future of the MTA. In order to reduce fare evasion, Governor Cuomo plans to increase underground police presence by 20 percent (NYT).  

Similarly, the rise of MTA funded ads promoting a “better system” places the responsibility on the hands of its riders. 

In response to these ads, New Yorker since 2004, Vanessa H. stated, “the idea of all citizens policing each other is grotesque.” The dehumanization and emphasis on the illegality of fare evasion can often create an us versus them phenomena.  

Recently, with the increase of surveillance and physical presence of police, there has been a large pushback. Protest ensued last week after a viral video circulated displaying a police officer aiming a gun at an unarmed black teen suspected of fare evasion. While there was little news coverage of the event, it spread across social media platforms rapidly. Large crowds of people hopped turnstiles in protest to this injustice. 

While there is a large movement of people against the increased police presence, not every New Yorker agrees. Art K. stated, “that doesn’t mean there is a systematic racial bias. I pay my toll every time I go and if other people are evading them, I’m paying a higher toll than I need to.”  

The price increase of subway fare has caused annoyance in a community pained with run-down subway cars and an outdated signal system. Opinions may be mixed about whether the recent police presence is right or not, but New Yorkers agree that money isn’t being allocated within the MTA in an efficient way. 

Funding of the MTA has been framed in multiple ways within the last decade. The most recent occurrences have been through the proposal of congestion pricing and a crackdown on fare evasion. The theory of congestion pricing will tax cars entering the central business district during rush hour in order to fund the necessary repairs to the transportation system. While some see this as a possible solution, others are starting to lose trust in the MTA’s plans.  

Lindsey Soloman proposed an, “application of energy elsewhere, like the protection of POC and queer people who are being attacked.” Aligning himself within the queer community, Soloman questions, “where are you when I need you then?” With an increase of police presence, one might hope for safer subways, not police pulling guns on unarmed teens. 

New Yorkers want a fair and functioning subway system. With the current crackdown on fare evasion, it’s reinforcing the idea that the system isn’t fair to the whole community. 

New York’s chaotic streets cultivate a unique community. The people of New York find beauty in the little things: central air conditioning, safe streets, and an accessible subway system. As Vanessa stated, “every time I get on the subway and swipe, and that is not cheap! That’s literally a bagel, that’s breakfast!” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Climate Movement in New York

Sparked by the actions of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, students all over the world joined forces on Friday, September 20th, to school strike for climate. The worldwide strikes on the 20th took place two days before the UN Climate Summit in Manhattan. In hopes of inspiring change, approximately 250,00 people marched within Manhattan from Folley Square to Battery Park. With the sun was beaming down on the lawn of Battery Park, things were moving fast in anticipation for the incoming crowd. Police were stationed around the periphery of the area, stage crewmen were working diligently on the audio and visual displays, and early arrivers were beginning to crowd with their posters and reusable water bottles in hand. With the words “prosecute polluters” painted across her cheeks, Laguardia high school student Arwen Viramarche stands among a group of her friends stating, “we want to save the planet, it’s really that simple.” The people ranged from teens, like Viramarche, to media personnel and more experienced protesters. While politics are often ageist, the strike was filled with people of all ages who were together for a common purposeWith the encouragement of Mayor Deblasio, New York students were able to miss class without penalty. The area was littered with posters such as “the planet is screaming”. Within the crowd, was Now This News’ Snapchat story curator, Brianna. Although reluctant to give her last name for use in print, she commented that, “kids across the globe are realizing we need to take change.”  

The Impact of Photoshop

 

 

 

Aliana Jabbary and Elizabeth Jankovic, sophomore Muse Scholars and Media Studies majors, decided to combine forces to investigate the effects of Photoshop on self-esteem between genders. Aliana is a freelance multi-media artist and photographer. Upon reflection of her own work and creative process, she was inspired to investigate how her work as a photo editor may affect the subjects she shoots. Elizabeth, a Journalism concentration, has written many stories and conducted various interviews. She was interested in how people may react to seeing photos of themselves edited to “perfection” by another person’s standards. Their idea was to photograph one male and one female college student, edit a single photo of each, and upon reveal of the before/after, capture their reactions.

The inspiration for this project comes from the inner conflict that many artists face. Creators are judged based on their work, and therefore want to create the best works possible. Therefore, as a photographer, certain colorization and photo-retouching decisions must be made, but at what cost? When the subject receives the complete images, they are often not given the RAW original files, and therefore they are unaware of the original image. All they see is the final product. This is the final product of what an editor thought would look best. This calls to question, how would they feel if they saw the original (untouched) images? How would they feel, knowing someone edited their appearance, to fit their own standards? Would this affect their self-esteem in future photos that aren’t professionally retouched? Elizabeth and Aliana set out to investigate these questions.

Aliana worked with James Reilly and Claire Leto, both sophomore Hunter students.  She photographed each of them in naturally lighting by the East River, then selected one image of each student to edit with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. (It is important to keep in mind that portrait photography in direct sunlight will highlight skin imperfections)

This is the original and edited image that Aliana picked for James:

 

 

 

 

After editing the photos, we sat down with James and asked him a few questions about the photos.

Upon his reflection, Aliana added graphical representation of his reactions.

 

Before seeing any of the photos:

ELIZABETH: What do you want the picture to look like?

JAMES: I want it to look good.  I want my skin to look clear.  I want my hair to look good… I want it to cast me in a good light, literally and figuratively.  I want to look happy; I want to look confident.  I don’t want it to look perfect, I just want it to look presentable.

E: What do you think the picture is going to look like?

J: I don’t know.

E: Do you like having your photo taken by another person?

J: If it’s gonna be edited.

E: Why?

J: Because I don’t want to put a bad photo of me out in the world.

E: Would you rather edit it yourself or have someone edit your photo?

J: I don’t edit my photos… I don’t believe in editing photos of myself because… there’s just no point to it.  I’ll either take a good photo, and post it, or not post it.  I won’t delete it though – I don’t delete photos.

E: Are you excited?

J: I’m excited to have the photo to put on LinkedIn.

E: Do you always post it when people take photos of you?

J: No, not always, because I don’t really do social media much.

 

Aliana then showed James the final, edited photograph.  Initially, James laughed and said, “Why am I looking like that?  What’s wrong with me?”  77.jpg

After seeing the edited (retouched) image:

JAMES: My eyes are crossed, so that’s something… My eyes are literally not facing the same direction.

ELIZABETH: What do you like about this photo?

J: I like the way my beard looks, and my hair, I think.  I think it’s like vibrantly messy.  I like the color, but that’s the edit… I like it as a photo, regardless of who’s in it.

E: Can you point out anything you don’t like/any insecurities this edit highlights?

J: Acne scars is big, that’s the big one.  That’s like it, actually.  My skin’s edited, obviously, because I have many more zits than that.  And you can almost not see my acne scarring, almost, but it’s still there.

E: Was it what you expected?

J: She didn’t pick the pose I thought she would pick… I picked a good outfit, I looked good in the clothes.

 

Finally, Aliana showed James the raw file of the photo, without any editing or retouching. 

jjjjames

After seeing the original (unedited) image:

ELIZABETH: Are you surprised at what you see?

JAMES: Not really, because I know what I look like.

E: Do you think it looks drastically different than the retouched one?

J: The only difference that I see is that my skin’s just redder, that’s it.  The main edit is the resolution, honestly.  It’s so high-quality that, in my opinion, anybody who is in a high-quality photo is going to look better because it just looks good.

E: What do you like/dislike about this image?

J: [I dislike] my skin, obviously.  But I don’t hate it.  I still would settle for this photo in the long-run.  What’s funny is, because you turned clarity up, my acne scars actually look worse in the edited one. What I don’t like is the nose thing, because it’s weird-looking.  I look like I’m Russian now – not like that’s a problem; it just isn’t what I look like.

Afterwards, Aliana revealed to James the specific edits she made to the photo, such as brightening the eyes, retouching skin and undereye bags, and adjustments to color and highlights.  James said he didn’t even notice the eyebags in the unedited photo when compared to the edited one.  He was curious about certain choices Aliana made; for example, when Aliana said she added a drop shadow underneath James’ nose and retouched his neck, he asked, “interesting… why?”  Additionally, he said, “You didn’t edit my hair, which is surprising.”

Overall, James seemed curious about the choice behind certain edits but overall satisfied with the image, especially the skin retouching.

 

_______________________________

This is the original and edited image that Aliana picked for Claire: 

 

 

 

We conducted the an interview for Claire with the same general questions as James’:

Before seeing any of the photos:

ELIZABETH: What do you expect to see?  What do you want the picture to look like?

CLAIRE: I’m excited, I just want it to be a decent picture.  I think we got some good angles and definitely worked well with the lighting that we had.  I’m just excited to see them; I’m expecting them to be good.

E: Do you like having your photo taken by another person?

C: Not really, at all, I just am not a fan, but since I was with people that I trust, I had a fun time; I had an enjoyable time.

E: Would you rather edit it yourself or have someone edit your photo?

C: I’d rather edit them myself, I think just for the obvious point that I can manipulate anything that I want on it.

E: Do you use Photoshop to edit photos?

C: Not really.  Sometimes I’ll edit a pimple out on FaceTune.

E: Do you usually post the photos when someone photographs you and gives you edited images?

C: I am not active on social media.

Aliana then showed Claire the final, edited photograph.

Untitled-1

After seeing the edited (retouched) image:

Claire’s initial reaction to the photo was: “I like her!”

ELIZABETH: How does seeing this portrait make you feel?

CLAIRE: I enjoy it; it’s a really nice picture.

E: What did you like about the photo?

C: The colors are nice.

E: Can you point out anything you don’t like/any insecurities this edit highlights?

C: My hair definitely looks greasy.  My jaw line does look kind of weak.  I also kind of look like I don’t have an eyebrow, but that’s due to my own lack.

E: Was it what you expected?

C: Yeah, no, it’s definitely above and beyond what I expected.  I’m SO pleased with it, thanks!  Now I’m scared to see the unedited version.

Aliana then showed Claire the unedited photograph.

Untitled-2.jpg

 

After seeing the original (unedited) image:

Claire’s initial reaction to the original image was: “Wow, my bags in that.”

ELIZABETH: Do you think this looks drastically different than the retouched one?

CLAIRE: I don’t think it looks drastically different, but I know that I’m obviously going to scrutinize it more than anyone else will.  It’s just in the eyes that I really see the biggest difference.

E: What do you like/dislike about this image?

C: My skin doesn’t look as bad as I was expecting it to. I didn’t realize how dark my undereyes were.   I’m really just shocked at the difference within the light hitting my eyes and the shadows of it.

E: Are you surprised at what you see?

C: Not really, I know I have deep set eyes.

E: Does this change the way you think people perceive your appearance?

C: I’m going to say not really, and that’s only because it’s taken me a while to sort of become comfortable with myself to a point where I don’t feel the need to be putting out a perfect embodiment of myself every time I just go anywhere… I don’t feel the need to make myself look decent for school or anything like that.  But that is a really nice picture, so I might be posting that somewhere!

 

Afterwards, Aliana revealed to Claire the specific edits she made to the photo, such as retouching the skin, adding in contour, and retouching hair.  Claire said she noticed that Aliana lightened a lot of the photo, and she noticed that her skin looks more even.  When Aliana said that she darkened Claire’s eyebrows in the image, Claire said she also noticed that, and that it was “necessary.”

Upon interviewing James and Claire, we found it interesting to see how their reactions varied. Although different images, Aliana used the same method of colorization and skin-retouching on both images. What was interesting is that James seemed to question some of Aliana’s editing choices, while Claire was more trusting of the changes. They were both suprised by a lack of editing on a single aspect of their faces (for Claire her jaw, for James his hair). This highlights how they see flaws in photos of themselves that others may not recognize. Claire and James both mentioned an insecurity, but we found that Claire was more suprised by the difference in original versus edited than James was. While they both liked the images, and accepted the original ones, we found that Claire was more open with her reaction.

Cyclists Versus the Bureaucracy: Public Participation within Midtown, Manhattan

A New Yorker’s daily commute can be quite hectic, no matter what mode of transportation is taken. To cope, the city has been working to make the most efficient roads as possible. Although making roads safe for all types of transportation seems like a fundamental right, it is not always that way. In terms of the fifth avenue bus lane proposition, the city is not thinking of the greater good for all transportation, rather it is just improving bus traffic (Meyer, 2017). Using Midtown’s community board, located in lower Manhattan, it is evident that the proposed implementation of the fifth avenue double bus lane displays the role that the “ladder of participation” plays in citizen participation through the concepts of codes and social capital within the context of communication (Arnstein, 1969).

Fifth avenue serves as a major artery within the Manhattan. The large retail and commercial business presence alone the avenue allows for heavy foot traffic as well as many tourists (nyc.gov, 2017). Although data displays fifth avenue area as being mostly bus traffic, many bicyclists are beginning to speak out of their apparent unsafety in the area. Technically speaking, the lack of bike lanes above twenty-sixth street are making the roads a dangerous place to be for cyclists of Midtown (Meyer, 2017). The Department of Transportation argues that the implementation of the double bus structure has worked in the past in areas such as Madison Avenue (nyc.gov). Although many cyclists agree to have safe roads in all aspects of traffic, many feel as if they are feeling marginalized and ignored, which is why there have been many demonstrations (Meyer, 2017). In this past October, cyclists of the city banded together to form a “human protected bike lane” stretching between fiftieth and forty-fourth street along fifth avenue. The demonstration has pushed the Department of Transportation to face the issue more seriously, and make loose promises in regards to bike lanes in the future (Meyer, 2017).

The debate has heeded a large divide within the community and can be observed in the community board meeting of Midtown’s fifth district. The area is make up of people ranging from twenty-five to thirty-four years of age, similarly to the demographics of New York city as a county (US Census Bureau, 2010, T7). Since the residents of the area are within the average age of the entire city, the public participation within the group was high. The homogeneity of age aided conversation, but not enough. Although the attendees were all a part of the same community, there was an obvious tilt in power dynamics (Observation, October 2017). In these situations, it is often that there has been “little effort to examine culture and power in face-to-face communication” (Briggs, 2006). Within the first 15 minutes of Midtown’s board meeting, a man adorned in full cyclist gear yelled “We can’t hear you… louder!” at the board leader. This encounter was followed shortly after by a man in a navy slim cut suit yelling “Hey, be nice!” (Fieldnotes, 2017). The code confusion between these two men is best described as what is bound to happen when a heterogeneous group comes together without fully understanding each other. This confusion is an instance where a small interaction may speak for the larger power dynamics at work within the board meeting (Briggs, 2006).

To put things into scale, Midtown’s residents are some of the wealthiest. In this case, data shows that average Midtown Manhattan resident pays $3,000 or more on rent, while on the Upper East Side in census tract 120, the stats are the same (US Census Bureau, 2015, T236). While the income level affects the dynamics in public participation, it is not for the best. The dichotomy between democracy and the bureaucracy is a tension filled one (Briggs, 2006). Since the codes in which many of the participants seem to follow are economic rank based, this fine line between participation and overstepping the boundary as a participant is clear. While these professionals attempt to follow their codes, the residents that do not get as much attention, the cyclists, affect the dynamics of the meeting (Fieldnotes, 2017).

Similarly, the advancements of the allotted involvement within the meeting affects participation. The “ladder of participation” that covers all different levels of public and government participation partnerships displays how the community board has actually had the chance to affect policy (Arnstein, 1969). In this case, Midtown’s board allowed for speakers from any identity within the community, to voice their opinions on the fifth avenue bus lanes. While many cyclists spoke up for their community, they were shorty later shut down by the speakers for the Department of Transportation (Observation, October 2017). Their allowance for hearing out the other side puts them at a “placation” rank on Arnstein’s 1969 ladder. Although this ranking is a good step for the role that participation has in the community, it was affected by the power relations within the community. When speakers of other organizations would disregard the cyclists’ arguments, the cyclists threw their hands up holding flyers stating “No safety? No Plan.” (Observation, October 2017). Their lack of impact on the meeting’s proceedings displays how the “window-dressing ritual” is in effect (Arnstein, 1969). They are seen as statistics pf participation rather than citizens with voices.

In a larger social context, the reality of public participation in the twenty-first century is dwindling. Statistics show that “since 1973 the number of Americans who report that “in the past year” they have attended a public meeting on town of school affairs has fallen more than a third” (Putnam, 2000). Part of the cause of this large social change has been the inability of global, cities such as New York, to adapt to the growingly diverse community. Due to the lack of faith in government it seems as if many citizens have given up (Putnam, 2000). There is no doubt that this attitude is partially due to the lack of control that the public has in their own communities. In reference to the fifth avenue bus lanes, the actual population who has rallied together for a cause is not taken into account when voting. Instead the board listens to the Department of Transportation discuss how they have to prioritize the transportation of busses first (Observation, October 2017). While the tension is a disappointing sight to witness, the cyclists’ army of at least 30 people there to support their cause was rather refreshing. It is possible that the rise in distrust in government and the rise of young people getting involved with their governments will amount to greater participation, such as in Midtown, so that the local governments of these communities will allow for actual changes to occur (Rowe and Frewer, 2004).

In addition, the idea of the “right to a city” impacts the overall identity of each public participant (Jonas, A.G., McCann, E., & Thomas, M., 2015). This idea can be seen through the shift in income in the area at question. In the case of Midtown Manhattan, over the past decade, the community has shifted to become a more affluent once. Adjusted for inflation, the percent of households in Midtown that make $125,000 or more has increased by 3.9% from 2009 to 2015 (US Census Bureau, 2009, 2015, T56). The shift has affected the way that the community board operates. The meeting was set at a private school that had no signs welcoming the public. Due to that lack of publication, it seemed as if the community could have done more to rally participation. This may be why the majority of the non-cyclists there were people working for a government official, or some of the more affluent dwellers with something at stake (Fieldnotes, 2017).

The main issue is that although participation within Midtown is occurring, the local government is choosing to not hear all opinions of the community. By giving a false sense of fulfillment by allowing people to sign up to speak, but to not take these opinions into account, they are systematically limiting the effects of public participation.  To solve this issue, the first thing to look at is the Department of Transportation. Currently, the DOT does know about the cyclists’ fight for a 5th avenue bike lane and they have tweeted on the issue saying that bike safety is an ongoing battle (nyc dot, 2017). The solution for this problem begins with two large ideas. First, big steps need to be taken to improve bike safety in Manhattan. It may be beneficial to fix America’s Surface Transportation Act that covers pedestrian and cyclist safety, but the movement is not proactive in this cause (Han, 2016). By taking the steps to keep Manhattan safe on a local level seems to be the answer. The protected bike lanes within New York have reduced crash related injuries by 17% (nyc.gov, 2014). Secondly, for the larger issue within the community’s rank on the “ladder of participation”, the locals within the community need to band together as they have started to, before seeing a change (Arnstein, 1969). The human bike lane triggered the DOT to send out a message; this is the start to change within a community based on the citizen’s request. Although it took time and effort, by coming together and voicing their opinions, Midtown’s inhabitants can creep up the ladder and eventually have a direct say in what occurs within their local government.

 

References

5th Ave (61st st – 34th st) Bus Lane Improvements [PPT]. (2017, September 25). New York City: Nyc.gov.

Arnstein, S. (1969). A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 287-292.

Briggs, X. D. (1998). Doing Democracy Up-Close: Culture, Power, and Communication in Community Building. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 18(1), 1-13. doi:10.1177/0739456×9801800101

Dot, N. (2017, October 11). This project is not our first or our last on 5th Ave. But 75,000 daily bus riders shouldn’t have to wait. pic.twitter.com/hzGgCvecdM. Retrieved December 17, 2017, from https://twitter.com/NYC_DOT/status/917915468958195713

Han, E. (n.d.). Recent GAO Study Examines Bike/Ped Fatalities. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from https://www.enotrans.org/article/recent-gao-study-examines-bikeped-fatalities/

Jonas, A.G., McCann, E., & Thomas, M. (2015). Urban geography: A critical introduction. West

Sussex, U.K.: Wiley Blackwell.

Meyer, D. (2017, October 11). Hundreds of Volunteers Made Fifth Ave Safe for Biking Last Night. DOT Can Do It Permanently. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/10/11/hundreds-of-volunteers-made-fifth-ave-safe-for-biking-last-night-dot-can-do-it-permanently/

Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital. Culture and Politics,223-234. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-62965-7_12

Rowe, G., & Frewer, L. J. (2004). Evaluating Public-Participation Exercises: A Research Agenda. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 29(4), 512-556. doi:10.1177/0162243903259197

Trottenberg, P. (2014, September). Protected Bicycle Lanes in NYC [PPT]. New York City: Nyc.gov.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Retrieved December 17, 2017, from http://socialexplorer.com.

 

 

 

 

Spanish Harlem’s De Facto Border

Although New York’s public spaces were created as havens for contrasting identities to coexist, many have become exclusive areas for a select few elites. Due to the increase in cost of land and lack of space, the cultural border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem is shifting, as it is apparent in the Monterey Public Garden. As the Upper East Side pushed the border further, the massive cultural shift in Spanish Harlem became evident due to the revalorization of the community’s public spaces. This not only transforms the culture of their public spaces, but also creates inequality as a result of the interlocking systems of oppression.

For years, 96th street had served as the de facto border between Spanish Harlem and the Upper East Side. In the past few decades, the demographics of this area have evolved into something new. As the clear divide between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem had waned, proof of the merger can clearly be seen within the local public spaces (Zimmer, 2016). This cultural evolution is explained by the shift in prioritization of these spaces in the public’s agenda. Lately, public spaces have been changing their areas financial, moral, and visual statuses (Zukin, 1998, pg.1). Financially, this can be seen through the change from locally operated businesses to the introduction of more corporate brands and franchises into the area (Jabbary, 2017). In terms of housing, because of the middle and upper-class’ search for cheaper rent, the ethnic enclave of Spanish Harlem has suffered. In 2016, East Harlem was labeled as having some of the fastest raising rent because of the 5.5% raise in median price for a single bedroom apartment (Nonko, 2016). The shifting demographics in Spanish Harlem are changing the culture of the community. Zukin argues that the culture of an area is reflected by the public spaces (1998). Recently this has shown how some cultures are being cast out of the area. This financial shift has affected the original inhabitant’s ability to remain in the area, which evidently is shaping the community’s current culture.

The case of the Monterey Public Garden is a prime example of changing financial, moral, and visual aspects of an area based on its public spaces (Zukin, 1998). Located on 96th between Lexington and Third Avenue, this public space is along the historical border of Spanish Harlem and The Upper East Side. This public space displays how private businesses have entered into the area and shaped the community. The Monterey luxury apartment building, located next to the public space, owns and operates the garden. This private ownership of the space has given the area new value and as well as a visual effect like Zukin describes. By creating a space connected to apartments with one bedroom apartments priced at $3,400 per month, an unspoken class and cultural barrier is formed (“Available”, 2017).  Because of this privatization, the space is used by a select few who feel comfortable enough to use the pristine gardens, consequently creating a divide in the community.

In addition, due to the creation of the Q line, access to Harlem has been made easier, allowing for newer inhabitants to flock to the area. Kanoria states, “The presence of the 4, 5 and 6 train service make connectivity to downtown Manhattan, and the Bronx easy” (2017). Due to the close proximity to these transportation hubs, predominantly white business men and women now walk along 96th street. In addition, the types of housing, businesses, and transportation have worked to evolve the financial and cultural aspects of Spanish Harlem. The dichotomy of the two merging cultures is evident when observing the foot traffic in front of the garden. Aesthetically, the garden works to create the atmosphere of a “good” neighborhood. The well-kept planters, and clean exterior uphold certain visual expectations for the area. This and the daily sweeping of the area by hotel workers, has created an unspoken rule of who can use the public space (Jabbary, 2017). While these new developments are arising, two blocks North are the last few ethnic stores displaying the African and Spanish culture which was once dominant in the area. With the regimes of public spaces described by Zukin, this area has morphed from what it once was.

Although Zukin’s ideas work to frame how public spaces have affected their surrounding areas, Susan Ruddick delves deeper into how an individual’s experience locally can mirror a national one. Ruddick describes how the “matrix of power relations” has created the phenomena of “interlocking systems of oppression”, or “intersectionality” (1996). Varying across time and space, intersectionality depicts “how the overlapping of multiple identities complicates the experience of discrimination” (Rosenbaum, 2017). The idea is that an African American woman with long dreadlocks in a predominantly White community will be ultimately aware of her identities within a public space more than a White man would (Ruddick,1996). When she enters a public garden, she immediately fills the roles of an African American and a woman; these identities now define her. The ideal public space would be a melting pot of identities that provides a unique social context, but this is a utopia that our society can only reach for. With certain groups benefitting from their public stereotypes and others feeling shamed for theirs, we cannot be this symbiotic melting pot. These interactions within public spaces work to form our identities, but in part become “relational constructs” as well (Ruddick, 1996, pg.9). This affects who enters and uses public spaces within an area. Once an area is no longer made up of a single dominant ethnic group, divides start to form and public spaces are no longer inclusive to all.

In society that survives off the interest of elites, different forms of oppression are created. Society’s experiences are based on context and individual identities which in part become the basis for oppression (Ruddick, 1996). These power structures morph depending on the context of situations. These occurrences, which are seen in public spaces, are mini models for what is going on in the world. The idea of “jumping scales” from local to national levels shows how deeply rooted these issues are (Ruddick, 1996, pg.10). Simple experiences in a local space can describe the happenings of others around the world. This affects the identities of people in a given community as they’re trapped into these “interlocking systems of oppression” (Ruddick, 1996).

In the case of the Monterey Public Garden’s, it is clear that certain identities and cultures are being amplified, while others are being oppressed. The rich Spanish and African American culture of Spanish Harlem are being toned down by the recent inhabitants. Ruddick describes how, “gendered and racialized identities function to constrain participation in the public sphere (1996, pg.1). This is seen throughout the garden which in itself, is an exclusive public space. With well-kept shrubs, and swept floors, the garden is the epitome of what the new inhabitants want Spanish Harlem to be. The area is used as a meeting place for White and Latino people around the ages of 30 to 50 (Jabbary,2017). The systematic role amplification is evident when examining the visitors. A Latino mother attempted to keep her young son quiet as he ran through the garden while a White man spoke loudly on the telephone while pacing around. (Jabbary, 2017). The ideas that a Latino woman needs to make herself as small and quiet as possible when in public is one of these “scripted” identities that Ruddik describes (1996). The notion that the White business man felt no need to make his presence unknown shows how the culture of the area has shaped their behavior. The Spanish culture that once was, is now becoming overshadowed by the White upper-class presence. Although many of the original residents are seen walking around the area, their presence is make unknown by the overwhelming abundance of new residents and companies that are erasing the former culture (Jabbary, 2017). Like many global cities, the cultural enclave is now becoming white-washed.

The dividing line between Spanish Harlem and the Upper East Side is diminishing, but the two area’s predominant cultures could never be more separated. This shift has created systems of oppression within the community’s public spaces due to the revalorization of the area. Potential avenues for further research on this shift would be to examine other public spaces in the area as well as further North into Harlem. The limits of this research were directly on the border of 96th street and a few surrounding blocks. It would be beneficial to explore further into Central Harlem as well as the demographics of the schools in the area to see the cultural shift in action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Available UES Apartments | The Monterey | No Fee Rentals In NYC. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://themonterey.com/availability/

Kanoria, N. B. (2017, January 24). East Harlem on the rise. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.metro.us/new-york/east-harlem-on-the-rise/zsJqax—1K599aPsepzw

Nonko, E. (2016, November 21). East Harlem rents are among Manhattan’s fastest-rising this fall. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from https://ny.curbed.com/2016/11/21/13703220/fall-market-report-nyc

Rosenbaum, J. (2017, June 29). Doing Better At Intersectionality. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doing-better-at-intersectionality_us_5953fc66e4b0f078efd986e5

Ruddick, S. (1996). Constructing differences in public spaces: race, class, and gender as

interlocking systems. Urban Geography, 17 (2), 132-151.

Zimmer, A. (2016, December 20). 17 Predictions for NYC’s Residential Real Estate in 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20161220/astoria/affordable-housing-rent-buy-2017-residential-real-estate-nyc

Zimmer, A. (2011, August 04). Dividing Line Between Upper East Side and Harlem Blurring. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110804/upper-east-side/dividing-line-between-upper-east-side-harlem-blurring

Zukin, S. (1998). Politics and aesthetics of public space: the “American” model. Real city, ideal

city: Meaning and function in the Modern Urban Space. Barcelona: Centre de Cultura

Contemporània de Barcelona.