Wednesday, December 21

Saturday, December 17

A look inside the cemetery across the street

The Second Cemetery, or New Bowery Cemetery is much smaller than it originally was. Burials began here in 1805, in what was a much larger, square plot extending into what is now the street. The Commissioners' Plan had established the city's grid in 1811, but not until 1830 was West 11th Street cut through, at that time reducing the cemetery to its present tiny triangle. The disturbed plots were moved further uptown to the Third Cemetery on West 21st Street. In 1852 city law forbade burial within Manhattan, and subsequent interments have been made in Queens.

Friday, December 16

NBA - Owner's Loss and Player's Gain Not Anymore

Tired and sour-faced owners and players sit with NBA Commissioner David Stern after reaching an agreement to end the lockout.

This year’s NBA lockout, overlapping briefly with that of the NFL brought to light the fact that the inherent differences between ordinary US citizens and professional athletes, exists not only in natural ability but also in compensation for said ability.

The lockout originated when NBA owners stopped work after the expiration of the existing collective bargaining agreement established in order to avoid a lockout in 2005. The existing agreement granted the players 57% of all basketball-related income, it also included new age minimums for rookies (resulting in many top high-school athletes to attend college for a single year in order to continue playing until they were eligible for the NBA draft). The 2005 agreement was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2011, at which time having been unable to reach an agreement with players, the NBA owners ceased work.

Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers is the head of the NBA Player's Union and represented the players in negotiations.

The major issue driving owners to such an agreement stemmed from the enormous financial discrepancy between large and small market teams. Last season alone, the NBA reports that 22 of 30 teams lost money, amounting to a grand total of $300 million lost in a single season. As the owners sought to recompense those loses, they attempted to reduce the percent of income granted to players universally. The players refused to concede their salaries. This created the major sticking point in negotiations causing the NBA to cancel almost half of this season’s games.

The owners desired to so-called level the playing field by imposing a salary cap, reducing the overall spending potential of large-market teams namely those in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. They also sought to create a 50-50% split between players and owners for all basketball-related income.

Michael Jordan, famous as one of the greatest basketball players the NBA has ever seen, and present owner of the Charlotte Bobcats lead NBA owners in demanding money from players' salaries.

Players immediately balked at such a suggestion. Their refusal to accept any deal granting them less than 51% of said income caused negotiations to drag out over months, with the NBA canceling the entire preseason, then the first half of November, then all of November. Negotiations remained stagnant until Thanksgiving weekend at which point a tentative agreement was reached granting the players as much as 51% of basketball-related income and as little as 49$, entirely based on performance.

While the players argued they were the league’s primary attraction, they seemed to neglect the role played by owners in league management and their enormous losses seemed irrelevant, establishing the question, when did they forget that they were at their core, entertainers?

Newtown Creek, Still Disgusting Now Has Hope

Newtown Creek, the infamous waterway dividing Queens from Brooklyn was designated in September of 2006 as a Superfund sight.

According to the EPA, the Superfund is “the Federal Government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.”

Newtown Creek has long been rated by the EPA as one of the most polluted waters in the United States. Due to its convenient location, it has been utilized long before the 19th century as a major thoroughfare for industry in and around Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. However, lacking any natural waterflow – meaning that the water entering the stream has no natural paths of egress, creating within it an enormous backlog of filth stemming from general pollution due to water traffic as well as from the unregulated dumping of hazardous materials before any sort of organization existed for such regulation.

The Creek’s geographical location made it an obvious place for industry to establish itself several centuries ago, and to this day it remains as such. In 1870, Newtown Creek counted over 50 petroleum-processing plants along its banks while currently the Long Island Railroad maintains a freight line along the northern bank of the creek, while a liquid natural gas port is under construction along the south bank.

However the greatest source of pollution to the creek to this day came from the Greenpoint Oil Spill – one of the largest oil spills recorded in the history of the United States. According to Riverkeepers, the organization advocating clean-ups along all of New York’s waterways, the spill took places slowly yet consistently over the past century, in which between 17 and 30 million gallons of oil seeped from the ExxonMobile refinery along the creek across 50 acres of undeveloped land.

The spill itself wasn’t discovered until 1978 when a helicopter patrol discovered a massive plume of oil “flowing out of the banks of the creek” according to Riverkeepers. It was then that researchers discovered the full extent of the spill. And with the nature of the creek as lacking of any natural waterflow, the toxic sludge has seeped into the Creek, permeating the surrounding area with such a degree of filth that the very water is in a constant visible state of pollution.

However that is all hopefully about to change. According to the EPA, in 2010 $443 million was spent of appropriated funds to clean up currently existing Superfund sites, and their stated goal is to continue to raise that number in the future. With the new Superfund site, Newtown Creek can begin to expect substantial sums of money being spent on its renewal efforts.

Wednesday, December 14

A Visual Tour of Cecil Beaton: The New York Years

Curated by Donald Albrecht, Cecil Beaton: The New York Years begins with a series of illustrations of portraits in charcoal, gouache, ink, and watercolor. Although many of the portraits were of fashion models, some were of celebrities including Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo.

Portions of the exhibition were dedicated to certain artists and celebrities that Beaton was heavily influenced by or associated with, including Spanish artist Salvador Dali and his wife, Gala. Other portions were dedicated to Marilyn Monroe and Truman Capote.

During World War II, Beaton was given the task to of recording images from the home front. The image of Eileen Dunne, a 3 year-old Blitz victim, clutching her teddy bear as she recovered in a hospital landed Beaton the title of an established and prominent photographer.

During his time in New York City, Beaton decided to get involved in the design world. He began designing sets and costumes for Broadway shows, ballets, and operas. A set of costumes, including a red silk number that opera singer Charles Anthony wore in the 1961 performance of Turandot, showcases Beaton's design talent.

An early sketch of the red silk dress that Anthony would later wear in the 1961 performance of Turandot.

One of many images of Greta Garbo, the Swedish film actress was not only one of Beaton's muses, but a lover.

Andy Warhol had been fascinated by Beaton and for many years, seeking and ultimately succeeding him. The shot of Warhol and members of the Factory taken by Beaton remains a cultural touchstone.

Cecil Beaton: The New York Years comes to and end with an image of Mick Jagger sitting in front of his hotel window with a night view of New York City behind him. Although it may have been one of Beaton's last photographs, the laughing Jagger ends the exhibition in a light, happy note.

(All images were taken by me, except for the September 23, 1940 Life magazine cover, courtesy of and the Mick Jagger photograph, courtesy of Conde Nast)

Cecil Beaton: The New York Years

Cecil Beaton (left) pictured with Truman Capote

Throughout his career, Cecil Beaton did it all. He photographed for Vogue and Life, drew apparel illustrations, designed costumes for My Fair Lady and Gigi, built theatrical sets for Tenderloin and Coco, and mingled with glamorous celebrities including Katherine Hepburn and Elsie de Wolfe. At the same time, the British taste-maker made an impact in the art, design, fashion, film, photography, and even the celebrity worlds. Beaton story was rarely spoken of, but the Museum of the City of New York finally broke that silence.

Entitled Cecil Beaton: The New York Years, the exhibition walks us through Beaton's 40 years in New York City. Beginning with a quick overview by Donald Albrecht, MCNY's curator of architecture and design and then leads to a series of illustrations. Varying from charcoal, gouache, ink, and watercolor, the illustrations of models and celebrities including Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo reveal Beaton's interest in high society.

"Beaton has a snobbish obsession with class and status," Albrecht said to the New York Times.

But Beaton's glossy photographs are probably better referred to as he had a tendency to only capture images of the rich and famous including Salvador and Gala Dali and Marilyn Monroe, with many of them gracing the covers and pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Life. Yet, possibly the most well-known image Beaton captured had nothing to do with fashion or high society.

In a glass case near the back of the gallery, a vintage issue of Life displays an image of a young girl with her head bandaged, clutching her teddy bear as she recovers in a hospital. During World War II, Beaton was given the task of recording images from the home front and the image of Eileen Dunne landed him the title of prominent photographer.

But, the Big Apple continued to offer Beaton more opportunities. He decided to dive into the design world, creating costumes and sets for Broadway shows including Lady Windermere's Fan and My Fair Lady. Colored sketches are pinned against the wall behind a set of dresses including a red silk costume worn by Charles Anthony as Pong in the 1961 opera, Turandot.

Ending with even more photographs including Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, and Mick Jagger, Cecil Beaton: The New York Years may seem to show how obsessed Beaton was with glamour, but Beaton himself was glamorous.

links for alex