black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
“DURING his run for mayor, Bill de Blasio pledged to eradicate the Central Park horse-drawn carriage business. He called the industry inhumane, and proposed to replace the retired horses with electric-powered replicas of vintage cabs. Since taking office, he has not agreed to meet with the operators or hear their views. …
The majority of New Yorkers, however, do not agree with him. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that 64 percent of New Yorkers polled support the horse carriages.
I have been a New York City resident for over 20 years, and have enjoyed Central Park for as long. … I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one. It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working. Horses have been pulling from the beginning of time. It is what they have been bred to do.
Horses and their caretakers work together to earn a decent livelihood in New York, as they have for hundreds of years. New York’s horse-carriage trade is a humane industry that is well regulated by New York City’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs. Harry W. Werner, a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, has visited the stables and “found no evidence whatsoever of inhumane conditions, neglect or cruelty in any aspect.”
Every horse must be licensed and pass a physical examination by a veterinarian twice a year; typically, the horses spend about six hours per day in the park. They cannot work in excessive cold or heat, and must also be furloughed for five weeks a year on a pasture in the country.
New York’s horse carriages have made an estimated six million trips in traffic over the last 30 years. In that time, just four horses have been killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles, with no human fatalities. In contrast to the terrible toll of traffic accidents generally on New Yorkers, the carriage industry has a remarkable safety record.
A majority of carriage drivers and stable hands are recent immigrants, often raised on farms in their home countries. They love their jobs and their horses, and they take pride in being ambassadors for this great city. I can’t help but see the proposed ban as a class issue: Their livelihoods are now at risk because the animal-rights opponents of the industry are well funded by real-estate interests, which has led to speculation that this powerful lobby wishes to develop the West Side properties occupied by the stables.
As a result, an entire way of life and a historic industry are under threat. We should ask whether this is the New York we want to live in: a sanitized metropolis, where local color and grit are thrown out in favor of sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars?”
Liam Neeson | NYT

DURING his run for mayor, Bill de Blasio pledged to eradicate the Central Park horse-drawn carriage business. He called the industry inhumane, and proposed to replace the retired horses with electric-powered replicas of vintage cabs. Since taking office, he has not agreed to meet with the operators or hear their views. …

The majority of New Yorkers, however, do not agree with him. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that 64 percent of New Yorkers polled support the horse carriages.

I have been a New York City resident for over 20 years, and have enjoyed Central Park for as long. … I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one. It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working. Horses have been pulling from the beginning of time. It is what they have been bred to do.

Horses and their caretakers work together to earn a decent livelihood in New York, as they have for hundreds of years. New York’s horse-carriage trade is a humane industry that is well regulated by New York City’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs. Harry W. Werner, a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, has visited the stables and “found no evidence whatsoever of inhumane conditions, neglect or cruelty in any aspect.”

Every horse must be licensed and pass a physical examination by a veterinarian twice a year; typically, the horses spend about six hours per day in the park. They cannot work in excessive cold or heat, and must also be furloughed for five weeks a year on a pasture in the country.

New York’s horse carriages have made an estimated six million trips in traffic over the last 30 years. In that time, just four horses have been killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles, with no human fatalities. In contrast to the terrible toll of traffic accidents generally on New Yorkers, the carriage industry has a remarkable safety record.

A majority of carriage drivers and stable hands are recent immigrants, often raised on farms in their home countries. They love their jobs and their horses, and they take pride in being ambassadors for this great city. I can’t help but see the proposed ban as a class issue: Their livelihoods are now at risk because the animal-rights opponents of the industry are well funded by real-estate interests, which has led to speculation that this powerful lobby wishes to develop the West Side properties occupied by the stables.

As a result, an entire way of life and a historic industry are under threat. We should ask whether this is the New York we want to live in: a sanitized metropolis, where local color and grit are thrown out in favor of sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars?”

Liam Neeson | NYT

In a lot of ways this is a city built on Pretend. We pretend that we aren’t getting older, that we can still be out until four in the morning and it won’t be any different when we wake up than it was in our early 20s. We pretend that we have plenty of time to accomplish all the goals we think are still within our reach. We pretend that the careless ways we act and the carelessness with which we allow ourselves to be treated in turn are merely temporary stops on the way to the true happiness that we think is surely our reward for working so hard at the things we pretend make a difference or mean something. We pretend that everything is practice, everything is temporary, and that on the one day we finally decide we are ready to take ourselves seriously the world will stand up and applaud and say, “Finally! Have anything you want, it’s no less than what you deserve!” If we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror as we pass by we pretend that we don’t see the wrinkles, the hard-set eyes, the dents and dings and damage and decay that the years of hard living have chipped out of us, the sad and addled residue that is the inevitable result of what can only be characterized as a toxic lifestyle. But most of all we pretend that everything we eat here hasn’t been touched by rats at some point. Because as rough as all the other stuff is, you can probably cope with it if you really have to, but there’s no way to get by if you are forced to acknowledge just how much anything you put in your mouth has been all rubbed up on by vermin. Now let’s never talk about it again.”

Don’t Mention the Rats

NYC’s “first drinking fountains were installed after the Croton Aqueduct began bringing down fresh water from north of the city in the 1840s.

Touring the fountains, you can sip a bit of New York history.

The 1888 Temperance Fountain in Tompkins Square Park was a gift from a doctor who hoped it would encourage residents to drink less alcohol. 

fountain in Union Square from 1881 features a woman with a baby and a child to remind New Yorkers of the virtues of charity. And the 1992 Friedel Memorial Drinking Fountain in Central Park features the likeness of a beloved dog.”

“New York City tap water is healthy, affordable and safe. We perform more than half a million tests a year to confirm that.”

Plumbers are fine-tuning more than 3,100 fountains in NYC this month - by May, they’ll all be spouting.

“Every city is simultaneously a seedbed of novelty and a hothouse of nostalgia, and modern New York presents a daily dialectic of progress and loss. As Colson Whitehead notes in “The Colossus of New York,” you become a New Yorker — or perhaps a true resident of any place, whether you were born there or not — when you register the disappearance of a familiar spot. “You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city.” But this subjective landscape of memory and desire is built on an infrastructure of social and economic reality, on the concrete facts of race and class that Mr. Lee insisted on pointing out.
New Yorkers, like most Americans — white, upper-middle-class Americans in particular — prefer to address such matters through an elaborate lexicon of euphemism and code, speaking of “good schools,” “sketchy” blocks and “improvements” in the retail and culinary amenities. National politics has a tendency to revert, in the age of Obama, to the shadow language of white supremacy, with its rhetoric of laziness, dependency and cultural pathology. The word “class” is uttered sanctimoniously when preceded by “middle” and scoldingly when followed by “war” but is more often swallowed up in numbers and abstractions. We’d much rather talk about the 1 percent or the 47 percent, inequality or envy, diversity or opportunity than about labor, wealth and power. But maybe Brooklyn is a place to start, and perhaps culture, rather than politics, is a more fruitful area of investigation. The name of New York’s most populous borough does not signify what it used to, and embedded in that change of meaning are some clues about the current state of our old friends the cultural contradictions of capitalism.
The new Brooklyn is easily mocked — and almost as easily embraced — as a utopia of beards, tattoos, fixed-gear bikes and do-it-yourself commerce. Everyone is busy knitting, raising chickens, distilling whiskey, making art and displaying the fruits of this activity in pop-up galleries and boutiques, farm-to-table kitchens and temples of mixology. “Brooklyn” might as well be a synonym for the Portland of “Portlandia,” or for the sweet, silly, self-important, stuff-white-people-like Gestalt that television series has come to represent. Its ethic is both countercultural and entrepreneurial, offering an aesthetic of radicalism without the difficult commitment of radical politics. The tension built into the “Brooklyn” brand is that it’s both a local, artisanal, communal protest against the homogenizing forces of corporate culture and a new way of being bourgeois, and as such participating in the destruction of non-middle-class social space. Its rebellious energies are focused largely on restaurants, retail and real estate.
Not everyone in Brooklyn has a chin-strap beard or a sleeve tattoo or a home bacon-curing operation, of course, but with remarkable speed this image of a county of 2.5 million people has become a global brand. And it has almost entirely displaced an older Brooklyn, whose image was once almost as pervasive.”
Read on: Whose Brooklyn Is It, Anyway?

Every city is simultaneously a seedbed of novelty and a hothouse of nostalgia, and modern New York presents a daily dialectic of progress and loss. As Colson Whitehead notes in The Colossus of New York,” you become a New Yorker — or perhaps a true resident of any place, whether you were born there or not — when you register the disappearance of a familiar spot. “You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city.” But this subjective landscape of memory and desire is built on an infrastructure of social and economic reality, on the concrete facts of race and class that Mr. Lee insisted on pointing out.

New Yorkers, like most Americans — white, upper-middle-class Americans in particular — prefer to address such matters through an elaborate lexicon of euphemism and code, speaking of “good schools,” “sketchy” blocks and “improvements” in the retail and culinary amenities. National politics has a tendency to revert, in the age of Obama, to the shadow language of white supremacy, with its rhetoric of laziness, dependency and cultural pathology. The word “class” is uttered sanctimoniously when preceded by “middle” and scoldingly when followed by “war” but is more often swallowed up in numbers and abstractions. We’d much rather talk about the 1 percent or the 47 percent, inequality or envy, diversity or opportunity than about labor, wealth and power. But maybe Brooklyn is a place to start, and perhaps culture, rather than politics, is a more fruitful area of investigation. The name of New York’s most populous borough does not signify what it used to, and embedded in that change of meaning are some clues about the current state of our old friends the cultural contradictions of capitalism.

The new Brooklyn is easily mocked — and almost as easily embraced — as a utopia of beards, tattoos, fixed-gear bikes and do-it-yourself commerce. Everyone is busy knitting, raising chickens, distilling whiskey, making art and displaying the fruits of this activity in pop-up galleries and boutiques, farm-to-table kitchens and temples of mixology. “Brooklyn” might as well be a synonym for the Portland of “Portlandia,” or for the sweet, silly, self-important, stuff-white-people-like Gestalt that television series has come to represent. Its ethic is both countercultural and entrepreneurial, offering an aesthetic of radicalism without the difficult commitment of radical politics. The tension built into the “Brooklyn” brand is that it’s both a local, artisanal, communal protest against the homogenizing forces of corporate culture and a new way of being bourgeois, and as such participating in the destruction of non-middle-class social space. Its rebellious energies are focused largely on restaurants, retail and real estate.

Not everyone in Brooklyn has a chin-strap beard or a sleeve tattoo or a home bacon-curing operation, of course, but with remarkable speed this image of a county of 2.5 million people has become a global brand. And it has almost entirely displaced an older Brooklyn, whose image was once almost as pervasive.”

Read on: Whose Brooklyn Is It, Anyway?

New York City may be an expensive place to live. Jobs are not easy to find, even as the city rebounds from the recession. And the public transit system is not always reliable or comfortable.

"The streets are filled with garbage in even the best of neighborhoods…

During the winters the sun is something spoken of only as rumor, and the persistence of darkness denies you the distraction from the emptiness of your existence that a bright summer’s day helps obscure. As you trudge through the dank, refuse-encrusted streets you are constantly reminded that the work you do is meaningless and no one would miss you if you were gone, even the people for whom your passing might mean more insignificant toil added to their own useless list of tasks.

The constant cacophony of construction carries the twinned curse of brutal bursts of deafening sound at unpredictable intervals and the visual reminder that these new shiny glass monstrosities—these blots on the skyline that are doing permanent damage to the horizon—are being built for the people who have somehow figured out the trick of accruing compensation for the magic arts of prevarication which you are either too incompetent or self-important to manage on your own. Each time you cross the street because another expensive tower is going up it is a series of swift blows to the psyche with the implicit rebuke to your failure the sharpest punch.

Your days are spent in a constant pageant of activity and everyone takes part in the charade because that is the way we convince ourselves that our drudgery has merit and isn’t actually anxiety-inducing motion gone through for the sake of personal validation. No one stops to question why we suffer through this demoralizing routine when only a small number of people—who have already been the beneficiaries of a system designed to ensure that those with the most are able to keep it and get more—actually enjoy the returns on all the make-work. In those rare moments when you aren’t driving yourself deeper into the hole to keep up your illusion of value there is no respite to be found in stillness, only an echoing chasm the utter hollowness of which is made slightly less empty by your filling it with regret, alcohol and episodic television, which we are all making claims for as the Great Literature of Our Age rather than cop and mob shows with better production values.

Your loneliness is matched by a horrible disquiet, the source of which is the unspoken truth that everything is terribly tenuous and even the meager living you are scratching out right now is but one or two small accidents or omissions removed from that of those sad unfortunate souls you see sleeping on the streets or muttering mindlessly to themselves as you pass them by, pretending not to notice. It would take one tiny tug of the thread for everything to unravel and even all the energy you presently put in to papering over the terrible flaws and dark parts of your personality will no longer do you any good because after a certain point there is no compassion, no forgiveness and finally not even an acknowledgement of your existence.

When you sleep it is only with the aid of powerful prescription medication which helps drown out the sirens signalling the injury, death and wanton acts of human cruelty all around you.”

But despite the challenges of city living, the city’s population is growing in ways not seen in decades.

Alex Balk: Population Growing

art: Drawings for Manhattan

©2011 Kateoplis