Thursday, May 13, 2010

Intro: Group 1 Urban Studies Blog

The authors of this blog are students from an Urban Studies class at CUNY in NYC. This blog incorporates personal experiences and different Urban Studies concepts/theories. Moreover, the authors all acquired new knowledge about the city with newly found sharable experiences.
Eunbyoul, Judy, Terry, Alina, and Jennally were all very familiar with the city prior to this class; however, they never explored the foundations which influence how the city operates and how its design is essential to us on a personal level. Some of the things they learned is that the city is diverse, the contrast between private/public space, how parks are designed, zoning laws, and the significance of sidewalks in our everyday lives. The places mentioned in this blog include Roosevelt Island, Freshkills, Central Park, major Plaza's, and other destinations all throughout the Tri-state. Their adventures are described in this collective. Enjoy it- because they certainly had.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eunbyoul Cho Activity #10 Freshkills Park

On May 5th, I went to the second trip the Freshkills Park. Before going to the trip, I read articles but "Turning Trach Piles Into a Bird-Watcher's paradie" by James Barron from New York Times caught my eye. When I got to the ferry station in the Stated Island, I met all of classmates and the instruction. We ride bus to the Freshkills Park and Doug told us about Freshkills Park. To me, Staten Island is a place where I go when I go to the New Jersey. It was my first time actually to go in the Staten Island and visit place, like Freshkills. While going to the Freshkills Park, there were lots of grass and trees around. Also in the directory which Doug hand out to everyone, there was a map of the Freshkills park. I was really big and I remember that Doug mentioning that Freshkills will be the largest park in the New York City. Also, I remember that Freshkills Park is the largest landfill which is made in to park. When we got to the top of the mountain, I didn't see any trash. But noticed that "The mountain was once a garbage pile. Now it has been sealed off with a plastic membrane and covered with a special kind of grass"(Barron). While going to the other side of the moutain, we saw bird cage and bird flying. Doug also mention like the New York Times said " the parks department plans to build for birders, overlooking an adjacent wildlife refuge on land that was never part of the landfill" (Barron). Doug said that they are trying to keep the wildlife in the freshkills park and also making a place where everyone can come and enjoy. Within 5 years, they are planning to open some areas of the park for people to enjoy. Also they are making many kind of place such as bycircle tracks, horse back riding, and fields for people to play sports and more. When I was their, i was really impressed and amazed that landfill can made it as a park. I knew that Staten Island was a place were New York City's trash were putted but now it is a great place for people to go. Also, I was shocked that people used to live around that landfill but it is a great that Freshkiils Park is in the Staten Island. I have already told friends and family about the Freshkills Park. They were all amazed and interested to visit there. However, when Doug mention that all the New York City's garbage were going to the South Carolina, I am and was really worry about people who live there. Also, I learned that recycling garbage is really important for people, including me. I had taken some pictures because I wanted to show it to people who were around me. It was great field trip, which it was my first time having field trip in New York. I really enjoyed and can't wait until Freshkills to open for public.

Eunbyoul Cho Activity # 9

I used yahoo and google to search for urban life blogs. In there blogs, I found interesting blogs from other peoples view point of their own blog. I was amazed that many people had blog about their urban life. Also, I didn't know there were lot of amount of blogs about urban life. It was interesting that people are really into the urban life.
"This Urban Life" is blog by Eric Mencher who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He have taken lot of pictures of his view point in his urban life place. He had many snap shopts and had point to every picutres. In his one of picture I wrote "I like your pictures which shows your interest in your urban life. It is really nice to see your pictures." His picutres were really interesting which made me to look city different ways.

This blog is called "Jane's Walk RVA" which is in Richmond, Virginia. This blog is gathering place for people who were inspired and to celebrate Jane Jacobs works. People in virginia who are in Richimond are having Jane's Walk to give "the opportunity for neighborhood insiders to celebrate the compelcities of urban life that Jacobs cherished..."(in the blog). I was impress that there were many people around nation who cherishes Jane Jacobs work. I also think that Jane Jacob is really great author and activist. In this blog I wrote "Jane's walk is really insteresting. In my urban studies class I have read Jane Jacobs book. I am really glad that there is Jane's walk to cherish Jane Jacobs works."

THis blog is called Larry Janmes; Urband Daily: Overcoming proverty with data. This blog is for the low-income people to help them in the reality. Especially, for people who are challenging hard times, Larry James is providing good informations to help people to live day to day. Larry James is the President and CEO of Central Dallas Ministries. "By looking at your blog, I was amazed to see that blog is really strong website that can help people to live day to day in thier urban life." He posted some video clips for people to watch and help and give many informations. There are many sources that helps people to know the reality of their life in urban cities.

This blog is called best of :Urban / Sam Gallery. Bloggers name is Joey Veltkamp, he made this blog to "focuses on art, food, drinking, friends and more!"(in his profile). THe blogger provides many shorts of information for people to go and enjoy places and events. Also, he have posted pictures and places where he went with his friends. So, I wrote "Your blog has many interesting information for people, including me. By looking at your blogs, I noticed that there are many events and places to go." There were many interesting artistic pictures to look and to enjoy while reading his blog.

This blog is called "urban farmgirl: inquiring minds..." Ths blog is writing her blog and within the blog she have made many changes which helped and provide in her life. There are many furnitures which she made. she talks about her life. She also has her email address that anyone can ask her about anything. However, I didn't send any emails but wrote "I have blog which is for group work in my urban studies class. But by looking at your blog I learned that blog can help and provide people." In her one of blog, she wrote her past years, which made me to think that blog can help people to think about their past and think about their futures too.

After looking and reading other peoples blog, I told few of my friend. Some were interested in the picutres and others were intrested how blog contained many sorts of information that can actually help people living in the reality. This 5 blogs were my favorites, which I continued looking at other blogs. But By sharing the blogs to others made me to realize that blog can be used in many ways but it just depends on people who are intrested or not. However, the bloggers were the one who are really intrested in their blog, which they don't mind who reads or look at it or not.

Teresa Mira: Activity # 10: Freshkills Park Trip

Last week on a beautiful Wednesday by 12pm I was on the Staten Island ferry getting ready to go on a tour of Freshkills Park. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip even after reading “Turning Trash Piles Into a Bird-Watcher’s Paradise” from the New York Times and “Wall-E Park” from New York Magazine. The title of the NYMag article along with the first picture made me almost expect a section of the park to look straight out of the movie Wall-E, despite descriptions of the park such as, “sedges and spartina grass have returned to the tidal estuary, and we see muddy tidal flats, lowland swamps, and drier, prairielike fields.” On the bus ride to the park Doug began telling us about the park and its creation and continued the story throughout our tour.
The landfill turned park we visited was open from 1948 until 2001. That’s over 50 years of garbage now under huge mounds. It’s incredible how all of that garbage is hidden underneath the mounds and made safe to be used as a park. There are layers of various materials separating the waste and the grass to make the park safe. There is a soil barrier layer just above the waste followed by a rocky gas vent layer. This gas vent layer allows the gas and leachate that are by products of the waste to be released without reaching the surrounding environments. There is then a tick plastic drainage layer to prevent rainwater from reaching the waste, two feet of soil called barrier protection material and another six inches of planting soil. This layering allows for the covering of the waste to be safe for the land to be used as a park. Standing on top of the mounds it was crazy to think there was even any waste underneath you, the grass and trees made it seem natural, the only odd part were the gas wells. These wells trap the landfill gas that is released and travels through the gas vent layer and redirects the gas to a plant where the gas is burned to be sold as natural gas. There are also ideas for windmills to be built on the mounds to supply energy. The dilemma they are having with this plan is the issue with the stability of the windmills being built on top of a landfill.
Standing on the mounds and looking around is amazing. There are great views of the city from the top of them. This aspect is part of what is going to make this park truly amazing. There are also a lot of interesting birds that reside in the park and I’m sure more will wildlife will become present as the park nears completion. While on the tour we saw a bird in a nest over the river, I don’t know what it was called as I know nothing about birds. It was very cool to see the mother with her eggs and possibly just hatched babies; it was hard to see into the nest, as it was high up. When the park opens, the wildlife will certainly be interesting to see, especially for bird watchers who can already experience a tour on Sunday mornings.
When the park is finished, they have huge plans for it. The separate mounds are all going to have their own special functions. The mound where they buried the materials from 9/11 is going to be the site for passive recreation, such as hiking and horse trails, cross country skiing and of course some form of memorial to 9/11. There are going to be mutli-use paths and fields where all types of recreation can take place on the other mounds. Various sporting fields will open as well including soccer fields, which will open next summer. Playgrounds will be opened as well throughout the park including one near Travis that is also planned to open next summer. The preserved wetlands and river area will be the site of canoe and kayak launches. The completion of this large project, however, is far in the future, approximately 30 years if everything goes according to plan. It will be very cool to go back when it opens and say that I saw it when they were still building it and I’m sure will go a long way.

Freshkills North Mount Looking At The City

Diagram of the Park's Infrastructure from the Freshkills Park Site Tour Guide

Freshkills Park Site Plan, 2006 from the Freshkills Park Site Tour Guide

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Freshkills Tour (Activity 10)-Alina Gertsenshteyn

I attended the Freshkills tour last week (I was in the afternoon group). Our tour guide Doug told us that the word “kills” means body of water in Dutch. The area got that name because it used to be very beautiful and natural. Ironically, men had literally killed the area by turning it into a wasteland. According to an article posted on nymag titled “Walle-E Park” By Robert Sullivan there is about 150 million tons of waste, leaking chemicals, and “312 gallons of liquid dump excretions processed by the Sanitation Department every minute” in this area and the Sanitation Department is not planning on leaving for at least another thirty years. In addition, the National Grid buys gas from the city (produced in Freshkills) for $10 million annually. While this seems like a good thing, unfortunately there is another problem lurking called leachate which is not a healthy chemical for us. This is all a result of us messing up the land but now we are trying to design it to be a fun place full of activities (as Doug told us) such as horseback riding. There are different specialists advising on how restore Freshkill such as ecologist Steven Handel who is suggesting how nature plants should be planted to absorb sunlight and to attract birds to bring in seeds (Robert Sulivan). The first step is to plant grass and bring in soil which is very expensive to do but it is getting done. We saw a patch of its “work in progress” when we came out of the bus.
A memorable aspect of the tour was observing the birds. Doug told us to be on the look out for a red-tailed hawk and we were. We saw a bird nest on a tall pole when the mother or father was present and we were amazed by it because in our urbanized environment we do not usually witness something like this. We were informed that bird-watchers come to Freshkills and there are many species there. The other reading we were given prior to the tour is from the nytimes website -“Turning Trash Piles into a Bird Watching Paradise” by James Barron and it states that “it is not uncommon to have a large bird population on a former landfill site.” This point was definitely validated my by own observations.
My thoughts about Freshkills after the tour are a mixture of excitement for its future and concern over how we will deal with our trash from now on. Our environment is changing constantly and even though we are improving technology and designs we kill nature on the way there and even restoring it will never get it to be exactly the same. Dumping our waste to North Carolina does not seem to be a great fix because who is to say that NC is not as important as NYC. With that being said, I think this experience has opened my mind to be more environmentally conscious and to start recycling.

Activity #9 "Why Blog if No One Reads It?"-Alina Gertsenshteyn

When I googled “urban life” an overwhelming amount of blogs came up including ones from different countries. I read through a few and picked out five which I thought were interesting. Below is what I found.
This particular blog is about volunteering in Brooklyn. It informs that there is going to be an event in Brooklyn on May 13th in which 95 different organizations will hand out information on different volunteering projects. The blog described the event and talks about how there will be free admission and refreshments there (it seems that urban events almost always involve food/drinks whether they are free or sold by vendors- a theme we talked a lot about in class). Moreover, the event is being advertised here by incorporating quotes such as this one by Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board 6., ““A real measure of a neighborhood’s strength is the extent to which its residents share their time and talents in their community.” This piece reminds me a lot about my community board experience since during the meeting I attended one of the issues outlined was volunteering. It is nice to discover that there are people out there that actually care about these community board meetings enough to quote representatives and take events seriously.
This is my comment which is pending now “I love how you point out that volunteering is for everybody. It is not just for kids who do it so it looks good on college applications. I think that volunteering is a good way for people across all ages to interact with each other. An event like this will make volunteering possible for different people since everybody has distinct abilities and interests.”
Here the author talks about his/her (?) trip to Paris and the astonishing differences the city has from US cities. This is what the author noted “Some things I remember noticing about Paris from my first trip was that you could buy beer in a coffee shop, the metro system used rubber wheels and wasn’t noisy, it had incredible headways, and the lattice design allowed easy “anywhere to anywhere” journeys. Usually whenever I visit a place I come away with at least one new good idea.” I loved the last line in this quote because I think that the whole point of all of our field trips in this class was to leave a place with new ideas about the design and structure of a city and how it affects our lives. I am in awe that the metro system is not noisy in Paris because in NY all we hear is noise everywhere and the funny thing is that I do not even notice it. I am completely immune to it. I am now wondering if Paris is “quiet” by our standards.
My comment: “People from different cities rely on certain senses more than others. In the book I read “The Hidden Dimension” by Edward T. Hall he talks about how people across cultures vary in their sensitivity to sound, smell, seeing, and touch. In my opinion, New Yorkers rely more heavily on sound than the French do but the French are more sensitive to the sense of smell.
This blog is about the cost of life in urban cities which is expensive. It is interesting that the author says that even though he/she has a car this person still takes advantage of public transportation and biking. Transportation is a theme we explored in class. The author even points out that when he/she lived in the suburbs owning a car was more important. Every time you use a car you have to spend on gas and at times parking; therefore, substituting it for a bike or a bus is both beneficial to yourself (you save money) and to your community since traffic is not a positive aspect of the city (our city is constantly trying to reduce congestion).
My comment: Wonderful that you are taking advantage of bikes and public transportation! You are not only saving ourself money but you are helping the community and enjoying yourself outdoors. In addition, using these alternatives might get you where you need to go faster since a common problem in the city is traffic.
This is a New York times blog about NY and it reads like an academic piece. Steven Johnson writes how much safer NYC is presently than it was throughout history. Even though the population is growing there is “there is remarkable diversity with very little ethnic or religious conflict; and dozens of major new parks and public spaces are either being planned or built”. I would have to agree with him. In the gender/sexualized activity we did (activity 6) I was surprised to discover how there are many gay spaces which seem to be existing peacefully. It is also great that there are new parks being built…just like in Freshkills! I was able to read this piece and actually know what he is talking about because of the exploration we did during the semester.
My comment: The city needs more parks. I believe that by living in such urbanized areas we are losing touch with nature and we need to restore it. With that being said, I would like to bring up the Freshkills project which is going to transform a former garbage dump to a gorgeous park! Our city is definitely improving and it is amazing that we are becoming smarter in its design.
This blog is very scientific and psychological. The author says that “After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory”. I agree with this to a certain degree. When we had to do the urban storytelling assignment I personally felt overwhelmed because my brain could not focus on a certain place since there is just an ENORMOUS amount of information each city space gives off. Even a place that has personal meaning to me had multiple meanings so forming one story in my brain was super difficult. Also, from my experience since we see so many different faces in a day it becomes harder to recognize people. It might also be more difficult to remember how to get someplace or to determine if you are on the right block (the one you need to be on) since everything kind of gets mushed together and starts looking the same.
My comment: Our mind and senses are indeed limited. Can you imagine having to process all the different senses coming towards you at once while walking down a city block? How would we ever focus? Usually I find myself blocking everything out altogether and just concentrating on some personal matter one my mind.

Basically I am going to start advertising these blogs on a small scale to get people into it. First, I put up a link to our blog as my status on facebook... not to sure who will actually go on it but you never know...I have about 400+ added friends. I also messaged my best friend who loves the NY Times and told her about the blog I found from their website and she said "cool I will check it out" and I think that there is a good chance that she will go back to it being that she is a sociology major and took an urban class before (but she wasn't introduced to blogging). So even if it is just one is a start. In addition, if I am ever on the conversation topic of urban studies with someone I will tell them about my blogs and the odds are that they will be interested in looking at it since they are engaged in the conversation.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"The Hidden Dimension" by Edward T. Hall -Alina Gertsenshteyn

Edward T. Hall is an anthropologist and author of the book “The Hidden Dimension.” He has coined the term “proxemics” to the field which studies how men across cultures make sense of their space. As he explains “people from different cultures not only speak different languages but, what is possibly more important, inhabit different sensory worlds” (3). Furthermore, since our urban setting are man made it has been created to appeal to our different senses but not every culture makes use of space the same way. A person and his/her environment are constantly modeling each other. Hall uses many anthropological concepts in his book by discussing evolution and the biology of senses. He points out that since a changing environment influences how a species evolves than when humans create an environment they are directly shaping who they will become in later generations (4).
Furthermore, in chapter two of his book Hall discusses how similar we are to animals in regards to space. Animals are territorial to protect themselves from danger and to acquire needed resources; however, some species prefer to live in communities to protect themselves from factors such as predators. Similarly, we are the same way…we build gated communities to mark a safe space yet it is a community nonetheless for nurturing reasons. Hall also explores how when we communicate there is a concept of keeping a “safe distance” and it varies upon the relationship between the individuals (15). In an experiment done with observing rats in a community he found that “An increase in population density leads to a proliferation of classes and subclasses” (28). This is another striking similarity with us because class systems influence how space is created to appeal to certain groups and exclude others by, for instance, making the place expensive and therefore only affordable to its desirable crowd.
In addition, Hall outlines our reception of space through our eyes, ears, and nose. These three are our distance receptors which examine distant objects and our skin, membranes, and muscles are immediate receptors which feel the world up close (40). With that being said, he gives cultural examples of how our senses are used differently. For instance, Germans use double doors and thick walls to drain out sound and they have a harder time than us to have to rely on physical concentration to not pay attention to noise. Also, in America using deodorant is the norm and public odors are suppressed- Americans have an underdeveloped and bland use of olfactory space (44). Hall gives examples in the later chapters of how the senses are used across groups.
I liked the chapter “The Language of Space” in which he uses great authors such as Mark Twain, Butler, and Thoreau to describe how people poetically perceive their dimensions. He points out that even though the text were written a long time ago they could have been written today since they are so applicable (95). Poetry and fiction rely on senses to appeal to readers.
In conclusion, since our world has become increasingly “man made” we are getting better at creating things which appeal to us best. This makes sense from an anthological perspective since space has primitive usage for survival. Besides that, our space is a reflect of other culturally designed concepts such as those dealing with prejudice and class status- we are in a sense picky of who we share our environment with. For instance, I know that when my parents were buying our house one of their main concerns was to find a safe neighborhood and they liked the fact that ours was very middle class suburban and had plenty of other Russian people around because those are the types of people they want to be next to. It made them feel that they are doing the right thing by picking a safe place to raise kids and they had the advantage of being around people of similar interests who can always help out when needed. Therefore, many of the factors in Hall’s book are applicable to my personal experiences.

Judyta Banach Activity#10

For the last activity, our class went to a trip to Staten Island to Freshkills Park. The park, at 2, 200 acres will be the biggest park in New York City and it is a project that will continue for the next 30 years. The important part of the Freshkills Park is that it is being developed on the biggest landfill and that is one of the reasons why the creation of the park will take so many years.
We were picked from Staten Island ferry by our tour guide. Although I have been in Staten Island many times I never knew about the development of this park. As I learned during our trip, the final closing of the landfill was on March of 2001. Although people living in there oppose the idea of having the landfill next to their houses, it took many years until the city decided to close the dump area. As we all know, the same year that the landfill was closed, terrible tragedy happened in September. The cause of it was that the waste disposal was re- opened because the city had to take all the rubble from Ground Zero.
The Freshkills Park that used to be a flat and wet land, now has many high picks in its landscape. They are divided into North, South, West, and East. The West Park is the area where the 9/11 rubble was taken, and in the honor of those people that bodies have not been recover, the memorial will be created. Standing on the North mountain, out tour guide made as realize that we were standing on tons of garbage that was being hidden under many layers of soil that serve as protection barrier. The gases that are being produced by all the waste and that are dangerous for the environment are cleaned and reused in many houses in Staten Island.
The Freshkills Park will not only serve as a recreation land, but also as a home to many birds and other animals. There are already visible traces of birds migrating and settling in the park. Some of the attractions that are going to be offer by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation are biking, kayaks, and even cross-country skiing during the winter season.
Although the whole project is going to take many years, the city plans to open some of the park to the public in three or four years. This trip taught me many interesting things and also made me realize more how because waste takes so long to decompose, it destroys the nature around us. The sad thing is that the landfill in Staten Island was closed, but the garbage from the neighborhood is being taken to North Carolina landfill, where it destroys their land.

I also attached picture of the landfill and one picture of how the park will look like in the future.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Picture from Roosevelt Island

Activity 8-Alina Gertsenshteyn

For this activity we went on two different trips during our designated lecture time. The first one was to Roosevelt Island which the other group picked for us all because not only is it one stop away from Hunter College through the F train but it is actually a pretty place. We took the train there together and when we got off we ran into starbucks and got ice coffee. Matt was the only guy with us and he was our tour guide. He did a great job leading us through the area in the limited time we had since some of us had class afterwards. The water was very pretty and one the other side we saw large hospital. The area was residential with apartment buildings, a church, and a school. Matt actually called his friend- a local Roosevelt Islander to come out of his apartment and say hi to us all. Everything there was clean. I liked a cozy restaurant we passed there which had outdoor seating. We also spotted a Hispanic woman with a white child and we started talking about this trend we noted in class- we assumed it was the nanny not the mother.
The second trip was also done during our class time on one of the days class was canceled. We went to Central Park and one again Matt was our tour guide. I had been at central park many times before on my own and I still love it. We saw the statue of Balto which was very cute and made me remember the part of the movie when the grandmother was showing the statue to her granddaughter in the park setting. In my opinion, Central Park is more of a public place than Roosevelt Island is because it is not residential. Roosevelt Island had signs that said “private property” even though we ignored it. I learned that the Great Lawn in Central Park was called just that and there were many people relaxing there (like always during good weather). It made me feel a little bit jealous because I did not have that luxury at the time being that I had class right after but it definitely appealed to me enough to want to go there during my spare time and read. We passed by benches which is essential to any park setting and there were vendors selling food and water…they were much at need to make the environment comfortable (as we had said in class). Central Park also provides lots of shading to allow individuals to hid from the sun. Also, people used the rocks to sit on. It is interesting to explore which individuals prefer the rocks and which prefer benches. It seemed that teenagers liked the rocks and that the elderly went to sit on the benches. There was a musician in the park that day and I drooped a dollar in the instrument case. Lastly, we came across the Chess and Checkers House. I was surprised to see it there because I thought that within the tri-state area chess playing was exclusive to Russian grandfathers within my community and they only went to the Brooklyn parks. Yet this hobby is popular there as well and not only among Russians. When I was a kid I used to always watch my grandfather play chess while I occupied the playground part of the park so seeing this brings back happy memories.
In conclusion, I loved going to these two trips. I feel that we had connected together as a group which is rare being that Hunter is not really a place I socialize in (I am mostly just in and out). Besides that I explored Central Park past my usual exploration of it and was introduced to Roosevelt Island- a place which I would actually LOVE to move into!

Judyta Banach-“Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America”, Setha Low-book review

Setha Low in her book “Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America” interviews people and analyzes their reasons for living in gated communities. Her research that is mostly based on communities in New York, Texas, and California, gives the reader clear reasons of why people decide to move to these private enclaves. Although I never been to gated communities, this book showed me a well-defined picture of them.
A big house in suburbs, an expensive car, good job, and big family is an American dream that people living in America want to make come true. According to the author of the book gated communities first appeared in California and Texas, and now “…one third of all new communities in southern California are gated” (Low, p.15). Although there are many reasons of why people move to these communities, the biggest one is the need to feel safe and secure. These communities are usually surrounded by tall walls and gates, where security guards control who can enter the property. Setha Low states in the book that the freedom of the residents and the ease of resident’s access have to be limited in order to make these communities more secure and private.(Low, p.11).
Through out the whole book, the interviews with people living in these private enclaves, give the reader the answer to the big question of why move to gated communities. Sense of security, fear of other ethnicities, and a dream house from childhood, are the most popular reasons that people gave in their interviews. Young parents don’t have to worry about their children being kidnapped, there is less noise in these private neighborhoods, and older people don’t have to worry about maintaining the garden or the outside of their house. Although one might think that people living in gated communities know their neighbors really well, the reality is different. Because many people buy those houses or apartments to have more privacy, in many gated communities there is no interaction within the neighbors. One of the examples that Setha Low gives, is the interview with Andrea who lives with her husband in Manor House located in New York. Andrea agrees that she is not looking to make friends in her community, because she has a social life outside of it (Low, p.79).
There were a lot of interesting and surprising points in the book. The big one that caught my attention was how the houses and apartments are being control by the board. Even thought the residents have an option to be a board member, many of them don’t have time to participate or simply choose others to represent their community. In many cases people don’t like the decisions made by board but since they don’t have time to participate in decision-making they have to accept it. People like George who lives in Pine Hills, New York uses “you snooze you loose” tactic, where he explains that since he doesn’t have time to participate, he accepts boards decisions whether he likes or not. Another problem that people have with boards is that they have to ask for a permission to do anything outside their houses. Since the land is control by the board if residents want to change their landscape, they have to get approved first. Another interesting point made in the book is how people move to these private communities because of the fear of “others”. They want to be surrounded by people from the same class status. Many people that moved to gated communities liked their previous neighborhood, but in many cases the change of ethnicity made them move to these private enclaves.
Reading this book, the one thing that I noticed in relation with our class, was how people choose private enclaves that are surrounded by tall walls over more public ones where they feel unsafe. Although many of the residents agree that these walls don’t really serve as a protective barrier, they still feel safer when surrounded by them.

Teresa Mira: Book Review: Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days In L.A. By Luis Rodriguez

Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days In L.A. is an autobiography by Luis Rodriguez about his youth in East L.A. and his involvement in gang warfare. As a young child, he moved around with his family, his mother, father, brother Joe and two sisters, living in various poor neighborhoods in the L.A. area mostly populated by Chicanos. With this moving around came the switching of schools making it difficult for him to fit in and do well especially with his background of being a Mexican American and speaking little English. Finally settling in South San Gabriel Luis encountered his first gangs. They began innocently, like cliques of friend for sports and trips. These small cliques evolved into larger and more dangerous groups later becoming gangs. The two towns, South San Gabriel and Sangra, became mortal enemies with their respective gangs, La Lomas and Sangra. Luis became a member of La Lomas and slowly was drawn into this dangerous and destructive lifestyle. Drugs, violence and other destructive behaviors fill their young teen lives. They get high in every conceivable way, smoking, snuffing, heroine, pill popping, anything. Fights are a norm with their lives as they become more violent and deadly. The idea of attending and finishing school is almost out of the question with a combination of their disinterest and the school’s racist attitudes. With the construction of the Community Centers, life turns around for the better for Luis. He reenters school and participates in violent and destructive gang activities less. Luis also has a large part to do with reforms within his school, one that initially expelled him. The formation of Chicano groups and the spreading of awareness allows for the bettering of the school and the possible education of future Chicanos. Luis attends College for a short time, though it is ended by a small run-in with the ever-abusive police, his life turns for the better with his leaving the gang and it’s activities.
Police brutality and violence are huge themes within this book. The violence of a force that is meant to protect the public is ever evident through Luis’s experiences with the police. When he is caught by the restaurant for attempting to leave without paying, he makes it clear how very violent the police can be. He says, “They beat on us all the time. Especially them sheriffs. They’re the worst.” (144). In every incident that involves police, enforcement there is mention of unnecessary and horrible violence from the police. They not only beat them with their nightsticks and fists, but also entice them and find reasons to start with the Chicanos. Violence is seen everywhere in Luis’s life. It begins with his brother’s treatment toward him as a child. When we are first introduced to Rano, Luis is yelling to his mother, “Amá mira a Rano, He’s hitting me again.” (13). His mother also is a violent character as she is the one who gives the punishments of lashings with a belt. Violence is carried through the stories, as it is a central part of the gangs. They get into countless fights, with each other, the police and anyone who they feel like. Initiation into the gangs often involves violence as well. Violence is also not simply a male characteristic as not only his mother, but many of the females in the gangs are very dangerous and violent as well.
The amount of violence especially from the police was quite appalling and alarming to me. I had heard of police brutality and racism from the police of course, but the extent to which they take it is incredible. As I have been doing research on the Tompkins Square Park Riots, the violence Luis speaks of seems far worst than seen in New York. The first incident at the beach seemed at first relatively calm, it didn’t seem too wrong seeing how they were young teenagers alone with drugs and alcohol. The treatment they received, however, was horrible, “They had us squatting there for five, ten, then fifteen minuets. We couldn’t stand up, kneel or sit. The circulation in my legs felt blocked. The muscles cramped and ached. But we weren’t supposed to do anything but squat.” (66-7). They treated them as if they weren’t human and gave them harsh and undeserved punishments even before they had proof they had done anything seriously wrong. The police continue this behavior in escalating forms throughout the story.
In relation to the class, the main theme that I noticed was how they used public places for private use. Almost all of their major battles and confrontations take place on streets, in parks and lots. They use the tunnel as a place to get high and even sleep in lots and other such open places. There are various sexual acts that take place in general open places as well such as on porches and on the hills. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of differentiation between acts that they do in private and in public places throughout the book.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eunbyoul Cho Book review, Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier

Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier
This book is written by Mitchell Duneier. In this book, there are many descriptions on people who work in the sidewalk. People who he talks about in this book are from New York City. They are vendors, scavengers, and panhandlers who Duneier have met and learn many things through them. The main theme in this book is that there are different lifestyles in New York City for vendors, scavengers, and panhandlers. Even though people might think they know about vendors, scavengers, and panhandlers, there are different then we know as Duneier experience with their lifestyles.
In this book there are many examples of people who are in the sidewalk. People who works in the sidewalk, they are usually black people. In this book, Duneier talks about Marvin and Ron, who works in the sidewalk, they sell magazine to the people. In this book, Marvin is like a ‘caretaker’ to Ron. Marvin has trust on Ron so they work together. Marvin always cares and tells him to not to do bad things to Ron. Marvin believes that one day Ron will live without doing bad things like drugs. By reading this book, most of people never or doesn’t think about the vendors, but I noticed that within working in the sidewalk, there are trust and people who really care about each other. There are social relationships created within the sidewalk, which I didn’t know until I read this book.
The most important, interesting, and surprising points of the book was in the beginning of this book. The book vendor called Hamkin shows his relationship with people who he sells book to. Hamkin is educated person; I want to mention this because there are stereotypes that people who work in the sidewalk aren’t educated. Hamkin went to Rutgers University but he couldn’t graduate because he couldn’t pay five hundred dollars to the school, which he owed. Before working in the sidewalk, he used to work in many companies. But now days he sells his ‘black’ book, which is history of black people, and give choices to people which ones are good books for them to read. It is interesting and surprising that Hamkin is educated person but works as a book vendor. There is diversity of people who buys book in Hamkin’s vendor. Jerome is 22 years old who works near the Hamkin’s vendor. Jerome buys book from Hamkin and Hamkin gives advices to Jerome. Hamkin helps Jerome to get GED and promises that he will support him. Also, Hamkin introduced Jerome to other person, who he was professor. Hamkin tries to help Jerome to get better life and education than he has it now. There is a suprising relationship that Hamkin supporting Jerome. He even promises that he will financially help Jerome.
As we discuss in class about Jane Jacobs of view, Hamkin is a perfect example to draw connection. There was deliveryman but the shop was close so he asked Hamkin to hold until the shop opens. Hamkin said yes to the deliveryman. This is a trust that deliveryman and Hamkin have. Because Hamkin is always there in his vendors, deliveryman knows that Hamkin will be there until the shop is open. Like Jane Jacobs said that there is relationship or trust in neighborhoods. Also, as we discuss in class, even though we don’t ‘know’ neighborhood, we know them. In this book, people who work in the sidewalk has trust within them and within people who are around them.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Teresa Mira: Activity # 9: Why Blog If No One Reads It? Finding Urban Life Blogs

When you google “urban life blog” a surprisingly large number of results come up. Looking through them it’s very interesting to see what others have to say on the topic. The first blog I looked at was In this blog entry, they discuss the green movement and how cities have begun to try to follow it. Particularly leaving lights on is discussed and how they often aren’t turned off during the day for example in NYC and how they are on in unnecessary places at night. Many of the other posts on this blog deal with NYC as well as other cities. It seems however that when someone thinks urban life NYC always comes to mind.
The second blog I looked at was This blog is mainly a photo blog by a man living in Philadelphia. I really liked this blog; it was like seeing the city through the eye of the camera and the man behind it. I loved the pictures they are absolutely fabulous. It was really interesting to see how the photographs could speak for themselves and tell stories about the city and urban life.
The third blog I looked at was This blog has interviews with various composers in New York City. It was interesting to see a different way of looking at urban life, through music. The composers have had their work performed in the city, discuss their influences, their processes, and their work, and give advice for young composers.
The fourth blog I looked at was This blog discusses various issues that pertain Brooklyn and its residents. There are posts on this blog dealing with everything from a sprained ankle, to the Times Square bomb threat to various cultural events in Brooklyn. It was interesting to see how someone has complied such a wide variety of topics all dealing with the same urban place into a single blog. Many of these posts deal with events happening in Brooklyn, I’m thinking I have to keep an eye on this blog for this summer.
The fifth blog I looked at was This was a photo slideshow blog entry of Tel Aviv in 2007. It was really interesting to look through the photos and see what it looks like, as I haven’t done much traveling I thought it was really cool to see. I really liked the graffiti art on the walls; it was really interesting to see how there were so many similarities between here and cities in the US.

I commented on the following blog:

Judyta Banach Activity#9

For this activity I explored others blogs that were related to “urban life”. I was trying to find blogs that I can relate to the most, and the first one that caught my attention is called “urban legends”- I picked this blog first because the themes of it are very similar to the blog that I and my group have. We as well as the author of the blog, who is a young Indian woman, explore New York City through different activities. She talks about taking a train and exploring the neighborhoods around her, and presents her blog as a small guide for tourists. It is written by an urban planner who is living in London, and explores the city as a flaneur. I found her blog very interesting because she shows many pictures of the city through as she stated”her professional city-trained eyes”. Although I am not trained as an urban planner, this class and other blogs related to this topic help me to explore the city that I live in, differently than before.
Another blog that I found through recommendation of the first one is also written by a woman that lives in London- Her blog is about the London’s cool places, but not the ones that are the main attractions of the city, but about places that tourists normally don’t see. I like this blogs because it gave me an opportunity to see London in different perspective. The author of the blog shows pictures of graffiti, and old buildings that make people realize that this city could be known for something else than famous Tower Bridge or Buckingham Palace that can be found in every tourist guide. Unlike my blog where I and my group members mostly explore places in New York where there are high density of tourists, this blog shows hidden but interesting places of London.
My next step in searching for blogs related to mine was to find something about New York City. I wanted to see how NYC bloggers react to different things happening around them, and how they represent their perspective about the city they live in. This is what caught my attention:
This blog is mostly designed around real estates in New York. I found it interesting because of the fact how expensive houses and apartment are in our area and I decided to explore this topic more by looking at this blog. It has a section where bloggers can search for news about real estates by neighborhoods. Because my last project for the class was to talk about a place that I remember and I picked Greenpoint, I turned my attention to this neighborhood. I found there an interesting picture that was taken in Leonard Street in Greenpoint. The landlord posted a sign on the apartment door of the tenant stating that she doesn’t pay rent. Because Polish people largely occupy this community, the landlord posted the sign in Polish and English. In my opinion this blog is very helpful because it shows New Yorkers the real estates prices by neighborhoods.

Here are the links to the blogs where I posted comments: