Tag Archives: manhattan

The Story of Civilization: Stuck in Traffic

22 Jan

Are things too big and out of hand? I’m bumping this one from September 2012 to the top of the queue.

One day I waited an hour in traffic to go a quarter of a mile so I could enter the Holland Tunnel and cross under the Hudson River to my home in Jersey City. While sitting in the cue and kept thinking why why why? Why?

In answer the question with a boiling-frog story, a parable about Happy Island. I conclude by suggesting that the world is happy island and we’re stuck in traffic.

Tunnel Traffic

I live in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan. Whenever I go to Manhattan I use public transportation, which is reasonably good, though just a bit inconvenient from my present location.  Driving my car through a tunnel or over a bridge and parking it on Manhattan, that’s VERY inconvenient. And so I avoid doing it.

But I had to go to rural Connecticut to meet Charlie for a trip up to Vermont. I could have taken public transportation to a point where Charlie could pick me up. But that’s a longish walk and four trains, or a longish walk and three trains and a long walk or a cab. Which was a hassle. So I decided to drive. Yes, I’d have to cross the Hudson River, but the Holland Tunnel’s nearby and I could avoid rush-hour traffic on both trips, too and from. And driving on Manhattan was a bit of a hassle, but not too bad on this trip because I’d be mostly on the West Side Highway.

So I drove. I left on Thursday morning at, say, 9:45 AM. By 11:30 I’d crossed off the northern end of Manhattan and was headed toward Connecticut. That’s an hour and forty-five minutes to go the first 15 miles, and probably an hour to go the first four miles, from my place in Jersey City through the Holland Tunnel and onto the West Side Highway headed North.

And that wasn’t rush-hour.

Nor was it rush-hour mid-afternoon on Saturday when I made the return trip. It took at least 45 minutes to get from West Side Avenue and 12th street into the tunnel, and traffic was unusually slow inside the tunnel, for whatever reason. Continue reading


Manhattan District Attorney Subpoenas Occupy Protester’s Twitter Account | The Nation

16 Feb

The Manhattan District Attorney subpoenaed the Twitter account of Malcolm Harris, who’d been arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in an Occupy event on 1 October (crossing the  bridge with 700 others). They were seeking “any and all user information including e-mail address, as well as any and all tweets for the period 9/15/11-12/31/11” for his account, which has almost no bearing on the offense:

Why the prosecutor would bother to conduct an investigation into the most minor of offenses, one that even upon conviction does not result in a criminal record is unclear. But whatever it is that is under investigation—perhaps the entire Occupy movement—it is not Harris’s alleged disorderly conduct. New York criminal defense attorney, Earl Ward, who is familiar with the case, but not involved in it, calls it a “fishing expedition meant to have a chilling effect on protest” and says it is “prosecutorial abuse, an effort by the DA’s office to get into personal communications of these protesters, for the purpose of chilling their First Amendment rights.”

via Manhattan District Attorney Subpoenas Occupy Protester’s Twitter Account | The Nation.

Field Studies

25 Oct


World Island: A Permanent World’s Fair for a World that’s Permanently Fair

23 Sep

Our sense of what to do tomorrow is conditioned by what we want to happen after that, and then after that. That is to say, our sense of how to act in the present is strongly determined by our sense of that future. If we have hope for the future, if we can see a world for our grandchildren that’s better than our own, then we read the current situation as the starting point of a journey to that world. If the future looks bleak, then the current situation is taken as an arena in which we must begin constructing defenses against impending doom.

The mood in America is bleak, and has been for some time. The current recession has darkened the bleakness, but it did not create it. Nor did the bleakness descend, all of a sudden, on 9/11. It’s been with us, in one way or another, for some time.


Some years ago I met a man who changed my sense of the possible, and the necessary. He had a dream, this Jerry Greenberg (he now calls himself Zeal), and he called it World Island. He called it a World’s Fair for a World that’s Permanently Fair. Though it could be built anywhere in the world, he planned it for Governors Island, a 172 acre island off the tip of Manhattan in New York Harbor. Governors Island had been a Coast Guard base until it was finally decommissioned and turned over to the joint custody of New York State and New York City.

The State and the City created the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation to come up with a plan for the Island. GIPEC decided to solicit proposals for the private development of the Island. I worked with Zeal and others over a period of several years to craft a proposal, which we entered into a competition. We lost, but then so did everyone else. Just what’s being done with the Island is not exactly clear, though interesting things do happen there.

But Governors Island is a side-issue at this point. What’s important is Zeal’s vision for this World Island. That changed my sense of what is possible in the world, and of what is necessary. I’ve appended to this post a short work of fiction that takes the form of a news paper story announcing plans to construct World Island on Governors Island. As I said, however, this could happen anywhere in the world. Perhaps, in view of the Arab Spring, it should most fittingly happen in the Middle East.

That is one thing. That will give you a sense of the proposal. As you read it, remember that it is fiction. None of the events described therein have happened, or will happen. Should you want more, I have uploaded the executive summary from our proposal. You can download that here.

* * * * *

Governors Island to be World Resource Center


At a press conference later today the Governor and the Mayor will announce plans to transform Governors Island into a world resource center. “Our goal is to create a place where the world can experience the world,” says the Governor. “The redevelopment of Governors Island is the key to revitalizing New York’s waterfront so that it is truly the gateway to the world,” says the Mayor.

The overall development will take place under the joint guidance of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) and the World Development Endowment Foundation (WDEF). GIPEC is an agency of New York City and New York State governments that was formed to administer the Island when the Federal government transferred it to New York State and City in 2003. The WDEF is a private not-for-profit corporation founded by businessman Gerald “Zeal” Greenberg for the purpose of developing Governors Island as a center for world culture, education, tourism, trade, and economic development.

The project is expected to take twenty years to complete and will employ an evolutionary approach designed to organize the participation of people, governments and organizations around the world while also giving New Yorkers a chance to experience the Island and guide the development of this new “city within a city.” An essential aspect of this process is that it will be guided by an bold and imaginative vision of the Island’s full potential. The WDEF and GIPEC have already proposed such a vision and will work with others in New York and around the world develop and modify it over the life of the project. Given the scope of the proposed development the project is being called World Island.

“The World Island vision is truly remarkable,” observes a former Secretary of State, who has become an advisor to the project. “The State and City are to be commended for proposing such an innovative approach to development. This will be a landmark to future generations.”

Two Signature Projects

Several things will happen during the first phase of development, which will concentrate on the northern part of the Island and on the Battery Maritime Building (BMB) in lower Manhattan. The WDEF will develop the BMB as a multi-use center with harbor-view restaurants, performance venues, and retail shops. The BMB is also the terminal for ferry service to Governors Island, which GIPEC will enhance.

One other signature project is planned for the first phase: The New York Time Exchange. It will be an interactive historical theatre and museum telling the story of New York City from 17,000 years ago, when the land was covered with glacial ice, through settlement by Native Americans, the arrival of the Dutch, through to New York’s current status as one of the premier cities of the world. The time-exchange will use multi-media technology and live actors to create an experience of living history.

While these two signature buildings are being developed GIPEC and the WDEF will oversee the general development of hospitality, restaurant, and water recreation facilities in the historical portion of the Island along with Island infrastructure and transportation. GIPEC will oversee the physical development of these structures while WDEF will concentrate on developing marketing strategies to present the Island to the public.

“The idea is to take a conservative approach initially,” says GIPEC’s President. “We want projects that can draw people to the island and sustain themselves economically.” WDEF’s President, Zeal Greenberg, agrees. “This will be the first time the Island is open to the public. We need to get people here and make the Island a part of New Yorker’s lives. At the same time we need a chance to build international awareness so that we can do something really special and spectacular with the rest of the Island.”

Global Marketing Campaign

While the first phase development is taking place, the WDEF will be orchestrating a world-wide campaign to present the Island to the world and to bring the world to the Island. In this effort the WDEF will be working closely with Good News Broadcasting, headed by Emmy award winner Paul Sladkus. “Good news helps people keep their spirits up,” says Sladkus, “and the project is good news for everyone.”

To present the Island to the world the WDEF and Good News have developed a campaign called “Nurture Our World” (NOW). The campaign is based on a song, “The Heart of the World is in Your Hands,” written by Greenberg and composer Carman Moore. “It’s not so much a song, as it is a world philosophy,” says Moore, “its about how are young people hold the future in their hands.” Together with composer Jim Papoulis, Moore will tour the world with a children’s choir, presenting the song to children and their parents in 20 cities. At the same time Moore and Papoulis will work with children in those cities to teach them then song and let them develop it in their own way.

The tour will be filmed and the film will be made into a documentary and section of it will be incorporated into a short animated film about how a band of children save the earth from destruction by repairing the heart of the world.“ The WDEF will be working with a Japanese anime master to develop the film in anime style. “Anime’s the hottest thing in world youth culture,” says WDEF’s Associate Director, William Benzon, “and we want to use it to bring the World Island story to the world’s youth.” The WDEF will be showing the film in theaters around the world and has created a website where people can participate in the story by suggesting ideas and episodes for an ongoing manga adventure presented on the web. The website will also serve as a gateway to other youth-oriented websites and allow users to make suggestions about what they want to see on World Island.

At the same time the WDEF will be bringing the world to the Island in a series of World Investment Summit Expositions (WISE). The WISE events will be trade shows oriented to the development needs of municipalities and will take place on Governors Island two times a year for the next three years. Each WISE will focus on a different region of the world and last a week. Development officials, financial institutions, non-government organizations, philanthropies, tourist experts, and organizations selling goods and services to municipalities will be invited to participate. The WDEF is currently working with online media experts to establish an online community called The WISE Network.

“The World Island complex will be New York City’s gift to the world,” says the Mayor, “but the world has to play an active role in developing it if it is to work. We’re providing the Island, a general framework for development, some ideas, and some financing. The rest is up to the world. What do you want?”

An Evolutionary Process

In its current state, the WDEF’s vision calls for office space, hotels, a convention center, restaurants, schools, stores, and recreation facilities. “What’s important, though, is not the buildings, but what takes place in them,” says Greenberg. “We want to focus on education, culture, and economic development at the municipal level.” “Every community has institutions devoted to culture, education, commerce, and spirituality,” notes WDEF’s Benzon. “Our objective is to maintain a balance among these sectors as development unfolds.”

“What we’re doing,” notes Greenberg “is starting an evolutionary process. We have a goal and we’re going to move toward it, using what we learn to modify the development plans so that the goal is always in sight.” The project is planned in five phases. The plan has been developed so that each phase is complete in itself. Funding is in place for the first phase and some funding has been committed for later phases as well. As the design is refined and as funding is secured, later phases will be constructed.

The urban plan is being developed by Some Appropriate Architects. “As the project moves through its phases master architects from all over the world will be invited to create designs. “A World Island should be designed by architects the world over” says Senior Partner. “The trick is to blend the designs into a harmonious whole.” Some Partner, an expert in environmentally responsible design with Some Other Appropriate Architects, will be working with Senior Partner on the plan. “Our goal is to make World Island a model of sustainable development,” he says, “enhancing the harbor environment, not detracting from it.”

WDEF’s Greenberg says that we are creating a model city within the greater city of New York. “As World Island unfolds, we want people to think about it from the point of view of their children’s children. What will it mean to them, what is our legacy to them?” “We have lived through a century of war,” observed the Secretary of State. “We must act now to create a century of peace. That is what World Island is about.”

This seagull opposes nuclear energy

11 Sep


Standing Watch

10 Apr