Construction for a school continues on Franklin Avenue as Crown Heights becomes a focal point for gentrification. Photographed by Sam Lewis.
By Kevin Dugan
Nigel lights a cigar and looks out from his deli onto the neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Outside, storefront churches dot the streets where, with some luck, the garbage trucks pick up the day's trash.
Inside, he tapes up money for good fortune over a thick-paned window: 50 Haitian gourdes, 50 Jamaican dollars, and above them, 50 Euros.
But Nigel may not stick around to see how long his fortune lasts.
"It's not worth it to me," he said. Nigel, a New York native who declined to give his last name, has been in Crown Heights since the early 1960s. He says the neighborhood has seen better days, and that gentrification will only make life harder for local residents.
"These kids don't realize how easy it is to replace them," he said, referring to young, black Crown Heights residents.
White residents have been moving to the city in droves in the last decade or so, transforming ethnic neighborhoods like the Lower East Side and Williamsburg into bohemian enclaves. As rising rents displace the locals, they are forced to find new homes in other poorer areas. Old residents often feel bitter, causing tension between new and former tenants. Displaced residents have, rightly or not, charged landlords with racism and preferential treatment for younger, white inhabitants.
But New York's neighborhoods have always been shape shifting, often in tandem with the ups and downs of the economy. What is unique about gentrification is not the displacement of one ethnicity over another, social scientists say, but an influx of amalgamated cultural values. A century ago, an Italian neighborhood certainly looked very different from a Jewish one. Today, white cultures have largely been lumped together, in part because far fewer immigrants come to the United States from Western Europe.
The gentrifying process often follows the same script. First, new residents, typically young professionals and students, cannot afford richer areas and move into poorer ones. As the demographics begin to change, landlords raise their rents to profit off of the influx. This prices out many of the former residents, who find refuge in other affordable neighborhoods. Then, banks and businesses move in, looking to capitalize on the new market. Old businesses often cannot compete, and the local character evanesces.
Crown Heights seems on the cusp of such a transformation.
Lying east of Prospect Heights and south of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights is in the heart of Brooklyn. African-Americans and black Caribbeans make up most of the neighborhood. According to the city, the 77th precinct, which includes Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, was 80% black in 2000, the last date available. There is also a sizable Hasidic Jewish community centered around the Chabad-Lubavitch international headquarters on Eastern Parkway.
Andrew Lewis, a Heights resident and student at Medgar Evers College, said that the area is getting "rougher" and that it won't end up "like Williamsburg." According to the city, 30% of residents live at or below the poverty line.
But Nigel sees the hard days in the neighborhood as only the first step in mass displacement. He expects "crazy, crazy gentrification," and says the warning signs are obvious. Residents have no choice but to "prepare for their own slaughter," he said.
"The best thing that can happen to Brooklyn and Queens is for the economy to crash," he added.
Within the last year, numerous buildings in the neighborhood have undergone major renovations. The Landmarks Preservation Committee voted to preserve 472 buildings as landmarks in April. The Landmark status keeps residents from changing their building's facade without commission approval.
According to The New York Times, "the beauty of the architecture owes much to a lack of money in the 1970s and 1980s."
The Committee wants to form "a historic district that will serve as the cornerstone for establishing similar districts in the neighborhood," according to their website. Nearly one thousand more buildings have been proposed for landmark status.
In 1985, a Crown Heights studio apartment could cost between $300 and $350 a month, according to a study by The New York Times. Now, a search through multiple real estate companies and private listings yield prices that begin at $825, but are often in the $1000+ range.
The issue of gentrification has left conflicting emotions for white residents all over the city.
Ivan Raykoff, music professor at Lang and Harlem inhabitant, does not feel personally responsible for gentrification.
"I don't feel guilty personally because I don't exactly see myself as part of the force of gentrification,â€ he said. Raykoff cited "corporate interests" as the main agency behind Harlem's transformation.
Brendon Rist, Lang senior and Crown Heights resident agrees. "I realized that we were kind of the bleeding edge of gentrification," he said. But he "wasn't concerned."
But Sari Ganulin, Lang sophomore and Inwood, Manhattan occupant, differs. "The whole process sucks, and no one should be wrongfully forced out of their home," she said. But gentrification is mostly caused by "luxury condos going in [rather] than my personal renting of an apartment," she added.
"When a Starbucks opens up, it seems to be a sign," she said.
Ganulin and Raykoff both have Eastern European backgrounds. Rist claims to have had family in New York since the American Revolution, but also cites an Irish and Italian background.
Crown Heights has had to fight an uphill battle against its negative image. Extreme poverty in the '70s and '80s forced poorer New Yorkers into the area, where crime rates surged. In 1980, the 77th precinct lead the city in homicides with 88 murders. In 1991, a Jewish man ran over a Guyanese boy, sparking underlying racial tensions into a three-day riot that resulted in the death of one Hasidic man. Racial tensions are still apparent. Several residents interviewed expressed anti-semitic sentiments on the gentrification issue.
The riots are still a sensitive issue for the neighborhood. None of the buildings approved for preservation by the Landmarks Preservation Committee are where the "unrest" occurred, according to The New York Times.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has seemingly given landlords free reign to choose who they rent to. However, he has "asked for a guaranteed minimum of 30 percent affordable housing for area residents, 86 percent of whom rent their homes," according to the North Brooklyn Alliance.
When called for an official opinion, his office declined to comment, citing time constraints.
Markowitz, who grew up in Crown Heights, supports the buildings' new historic standing. Speaking at the Landmark Preservation Committee in 2006, he said the new status "strikes the right balance between preserving the character of some of our most beautiful historic areas while also planning for our bright future."
Chilling at a Franklin Ave. bodega. Photographed by Sam Lewis.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Lang student checks out a ventilator at the Fresh Kills dump. Photographed by Sam Lewis.
By Ben Kelly
The perspective from Staten Island's Fresh Kills is unparalleled. Standing on one of the four monolithic mounds in the former landfill, you have clear views of downtown Manhattan and south Brooklyn. On one side is the shimmering Arthur Kill canal that separates Staten Island from New Jersey. 2,200 undeveloped acres—a space three times the size of Central Park—spreads out in every direction. And beneath your feet, separated by 15 feet of dirt and polymers, is three hundred million tons of trash; the refuse of half a century of New Yorkers.
The landfill closed in March 2001 after pressure from Staten Island residents and the Environmental Protection Agency, although it was re-opened briefly after September 11 to accommodate debris from the World Trade Center site. The city had a daunting pile of trash—an almost too easy symbol of American excess—on its hands. But rather than leave Fresh Kills as a haunting reminder of the perils of unchecked consumerism, the Department of City Planning wants to throw a picnic on top of the trash graveyard.
According to the New York City Department of Planning, by 2037, Fresh Kills will be transformed from one of New York's most notorious eyesores into a sprawling public space with campgrounds, bike trails, a marina and wildlife areas. The project, designed by James Corner of the firm Field Operations, is an ambitious attempt to reclaim a wasteland and render it green.
"Fresh Kills is to the 21st century as Central Park was to the nineteenth,” Parks Commissioner Benepe told New York Magazine. “It will be the largest park built in the city in more than 100 years.”
If the project seems far-fetched, consider this: Pelham Bay Park and Flushing Meadows were both built atop mounds of garbage. In Germany, an abandoned iron mill was turned into a green "theme park." In Beirut, a bomb site is set to become a public garden.
"It's a very new science," said Lang Professor Nevin Cohen, who arranged a field trip for his Urban Studies classes to Fresh Kills last Wednesday. “But it's a very important science, since we have so much degraded land."
Cohen looked out at the huge expanse of empty land and explained that the project required cultivating an entire ecosystem. "This is an incredible laboratory," he added.
In 1949, Fresh Kills seemed an ideal spot for a landfill. A system of natural canals lead from the land to the Hudson River, allowing trash-laden barges to easily navigate a course from Manhattan. At the time, Fresh Kills was marshland and most of Staten Island was undeveloped. Robert Moses approved the landfill with the intention of it operating for three years. But the spot proved so perfect for dumping trash that it wasn't closed until 2001. Throughout those 50 years, Fresh Kills earned the dubious honor of being the bigger of the only two man-made structures visible from space (the other is the Great Wall of China) and for a time it was the tallest peak on the east coast, stacked higher than the Statue of Liberty.
Now, nearly all of that trash—which, aside from household appliances, is strictly the type associated with fish-heads, banana peels and Glad bags—has been “capped.” Construction-site debris has been dumped on top of the garbage. A sheet of durable plastic, called an “impermeable membrane,” is laid on top. Two types of environmentally sound soil are put over the plastic. Pipes are laid beneath the soil to drain the methane gas that is a byproduct of the garbage's decomposition. Studies are being conducted to find appropriate species to re-seed the land.
"Without the trucks, you'd never know it was a landfill," a Ranger from the Department of Parks and Recreation told the Lang class.
That's not exactly true. While grass grows on the mounds, it is still patchy and somewhat weedy looking. Methane drainage pipes poke out every few feet. The land is eerily quiet and lifeless.
"You can tell it's degraded land from the Phragmites," an alert student pointed out. She explained that the plant, often called the common reed, was an indicator of ecological problems. She added, "It just looks like a capped landfill."
There are a few signs of the greening of Fresh Kills, however. On the field trip, the class saw geese swimming in a rainwater pond, a red-tailed hawk and a nesting kill-deer at the top of one of the mounds.
Now that Fresh Kills has been turned into park, New York's trash is shipped to the south—to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, states that bid for the Big Apple's trash contracts. Since it closed, two other landfills—one in California, one in India—have grown even bigger than Fresh Kills. A better solution to getting rid of our waste hasn't yet been discovered. Other options, like burning it, are usually even worse for the environment than burying it. Whether sustainable public places can be built over these areas remains to be seen, but Cohen had a different take on what to do with our trash.
"The question is," he said, "how much can we do to reduce and recycle?"
Park rangers inform students about plans for Fresh Kills. Photographed by Sam Lewis.
Students Launch New Podcasts
By Courtney Nichols
In January, students of Sarah Montague's class "Making A Radio Station" would have believed that formulating and premiering a radio station by April was more of a creative idea than a concrete possibility.
However, through weekly meetings with administration, significant out-of-classroom diligence and the help of more than one person who happen to own the correct technology, The New School's radio station has debuted. On April 23rd, a gala was held in the Eugene Lang cafeteria to commemorate the success of the station. Its goal is to "connect a university that suffers from a lack of community," said senior Amanda Jean-Black.
Though not yet a streaming station online, WNSR is currently an iTunes podcast overflowing with original material from New School bands and solo artists. Also included in the podcast are news segments and DJs broadcasting music and performances from peers.
Asked where she sees the radio station in two or so years, Montague said, "It will depend on budget limitations, but hopefully there will be online streaming in real time."
"In the short time we have podcasts with a wealth of materials," she continued. "In the future, we would like to see the radio station as a training ground for producers in the same way *Inprint* is a training ground for journalists."
Though a formal response listing budgetary needs still needs to be given to the administration, at the moment WNSR has a large stockpile of recordings so the podcast can be consistently updated until an online streaming website is established. Through time and further networking, it is hoped that within a year popular music can be aired on WNSR along with breaking news feeds. As with all her students, Montague is "excited for the enthusiastic response from the administration. Everyone has put so much energy into WNSR already."
“WNSR is definitely going to secure The New School as an arts college," said freshman Jake Weingarten. "Not only will it attract incoming students, but it will connect the entire school through one main source.”
If WNSR continues to build up support, it’s almost positive a New School radio station is here to stay. The final proposal is being presented to the board in one week, and from that point WNSR will be a school recognized institution—and all those who ever stared into a mirror and wailed "Hi, it’s a chilly 40 degrees in our town, but let’s warm it up with some hot new music," will get a chance to shine.
By Peter Holslin & illustrated by Jeremy Schlangen
There is no building at this university more dismal than 65 5th Avenue, otherwise known as the “GF.” Once home to a department store, the GF hosts faulty elevators, noisy fans and a maze of hallways that lead to classrooms so small that you wonder if they should be used at all. It is not unusual to see students wandering the halls, looking for class.
The New School plans to tear this building down and put a new building in its place—one with a gym, classrooms, innovative Internet and Audio/Visual capabilities and student space. According to a recent paper by Provost Ben Lee, this is a $400 million venture. So far, the administration has raised about $60 million for the project and hopes to begin construction in Spring 2008. That is great, if it happens.
Yet, the administration has even more ambitious plans for the university. Two weeks ago, Lee introduced what has come to be known as the “strategic planning initiative” to a crowd of administrators and some students in the Orozco room in 66 West 12th Street. The administration, he said, intends to overhaul administration and budget rules, develop the Faculty Senate and introduce a new series of cross-divisional programs that will use projects and civic engagement as an innovative pedagogical method.
In Lee’s paper, a working document entitled “What is ‘New’ at The New School?,” he argued that the traditional university system is no longer equipped to address global issues like terrorism, economic crises and environmental decay. Traditional disciplines—a major in English, for instance, or History—pigeonhole these problems into outdated frameworks. Addressing them requires a collaboration that will address complex issues and lead to incremental improvements, not sweeping ideologies. Lee calls this a “micro-democratic” process.
The New School already has a number of programs that work in collaboration with institutions in India and China, or offer social services in New York City and across the United States. This university also has hundreds of courses in different divisions that address urban and environmental issues. The problem is that most of these do not fall under one program. “We call them orphaned courses,” Lee said.
The idea is to turn these disparate programs and courses into university-wide programs. The signature building will be a collaborative and technologically-advanced space for the programs to flourish. The New School recently hired IDEO, a design-consulting firm, to research student lifestyles and help design the most accessible student space possible.
It was only last summer when Lee kicked off meetings with the deans to discuss bureaucratic hurdles and tensions over the university’s budget, so this process is at its earliest stages. Even so, it will be an immense challenge to execute these revolutionary projects.
The university will likely depend on full-time faculty that are willing to work in these budding programs, or at multiple divisions. But last semester, one dean told me the complexities scheduling courses for professors who work at more than one division are sometimes “beyond human comprehension.”
Tuition drives this university, but The New School lacks space for offices for all of its professors and communal areas for students. Too often, there are complaints that there is scant free space for students and student organizations to meet. Securing this space can be a monumental hassle. These limitations aside, the university still needs to build an undergraduate class and a bigger reputation. This way, undergrad divisions will grow and graduate divisions, which administrators say typically run on a deficit but require prestigious lecturers, will not go bankrupt.
Fundraising for the building throws more demands into the mix. Recently, Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch said strategic planning would grind to a halt if the university cannot raise enough money in time.
Even more pressing is the fact that some of Lang’s curricula is still in flux—requirements and core courses mutate every year for departments like The Arts and Science, Technology and Society. Students from any concentration can sometimes fill up space in popular courses, shutting out the students who need to take them. As Lang administrators shift their attention to a university-wide curriculum, they must still keep working at these complex issues and developing our budding concentrations.
To be sure, the strategic planning is moving along: New School President Bob Kerrey told *Inprint* last week that securing real estate, working out schedules and recruiting full-time faculty are integral parts of this process. Professors recently voted to approve the new Faculty Handbook, the work-rules for faculty at the university, Kerrey said.
Veitch said that committees are currently developing structures for Environmental Studies, Media Studies and International Studies. Kerrey said administrators expect to finish structuring programs by the end of the '07-08 school year, so they can begin hiring faculty and recruiting students the following summer.
In the Orozco room, Lee was blunt: The planning should be in a much more developed state six months from now. Otherwise, he said, “this process has failed.”
After the event, as senior administrators and Kerrey gathered in the hallway, I boarded an elevator with three school officials. Just as we sunk below the fifth floor, the elevator ground to a halt. One of us pressed an emergency bell, and a metallic trill reverberated through the halls.
This was a familiar ring. From time to time, the elevator will stall and this emergency bell will sing its song. When you’re playing with $400 million, it's little things like these that can become big setbacks.
After all, in our quest to create a bigger and better space to meet with students and attend class, the last thing we would want is another GF, a labyrinth-like network of hidden hallways and cramped rooms. But overcoming bureaucratic red tape, rethinking our curriculum and building this new space is no simple feat. So now that we know that the university has a comprehensive plan for the future, we need to make sure that these plans actually come to fruition.
By Rob Buchanan, Nadia Chaudhury & Sam Lewis
Bridges are (usually) above bodies of water. While crossing a bridge, you cannot fall into the water, normally. You are not on solid ground, you are in transit. You are up in the air, like being in an airplane, except, if you're walking, you are experiencing your temporary suspension.
Bridges conform to nature and necessity, are suspended through air and, most importantly, bring you from point A to point B.—Nadia Chaudhury
Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, between Kingston & Rhinecliff, NY. Rob Buchanan
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City. Sam Lewis
Verazzano Bridge, New York City. Rob Buchanan
Manhattan Bridge, New York City. Sam Lewis
Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Tampa Bay, FL. Nadia Chaudhury
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. Nadia Chaudhury
Tappan Zee Bridge, between Nyack & Tarrytown, NY. Nadia Chaudhury
By Nadia Chaudhury & Photographs by Rob Buchanan
In the course of a semester, students in "Lang on the Hudson," one of several new 'Lang Outdoors' classes, cut, sawed, glued, planed and completed their final project: a 25-foot Whitehall gig—a rowing boat based on a traditional New York Harbor design. The boat can be seen in the windows of the Albert List Building on 14th St. just east of Fifth Ave. where it will remain until its launch date, May 4, at 10 a.m.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Where to Go When Things Get Rough
Noel Garrett, director of Student Support and Crisis Management. Photographed by Nadia Chaudhury.
By Nadia Chaudhury
Noel Garret works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Armed with his pager and cell phone, he is constantly available to deal with problems that arise for students at The New School.
Garret has been the director of Student Support and Crisis Management (SSCM) for three years. SSCM, along with Counseling and Health Services at The New School, deal with students who need help: physical, mental, emotional or some combination of the three. Students can turn to any of these offices if they feel they want to talk or get some answers.
For his part, Garrett offers anxiety-ridden students a place to sit down and just say, “I am overwhelmed.”
Garrett works closely with Eric Garrison, director of Health Education, who years ago chose to work at The New School over Virginia Tech—the site of the recent tragedy where a student gunman slaughtered students and faculty. Garrison’s key objective is to educate students about their mental and physical health. The lessons he teaches tend to be preventative, in order to avert any future harm.
“Our goal is to create a healthy student, not for now,” Garrison explained, “but forever.”
Common issues New School students face include eating disorders, anxiety, symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression. These issues, Garret said, are common among college students. According to the National Health Assessment, the top three issue that New School students face are stress, anxiety and depression.
Garrison stressed the importance that all students should feel comfortable seeking help. “There’s a myth that only people who are in dire need of help go to counseling services,” Garrison said. “One of the things that I do is I try to tell everybody that the happiest, healthiest straight-A student should be in counseling right now, to stay that way.”
“If you do have a mental illness, you could still function as a student and graduate,” he added.
Garrett’s office is next to Counseling Services, Financial Aid and Housing on the fifth floor of 79 Fifth Avenue. Rather than send students twenty streets away, the common location “takes the legwork away,” Garrison said, which makes getting help more accessible.
University offices, faculty and even other students refer students to Student Support. Garrett works with students, faculty and staff to identify when someone needs help and then reach out to that person.
During regular workshops, administration and faculty learn how to deal with potential situations. They study the science and symptoms of depression. They also learn to pick up on signs that indicate a student might not be well—like if a loyal student is suddenly absent for three classes. In this case, the faculty member will approach a student and ask if everything is okay.
“It’s really a conversation about identifying a student who may be having some difficulties, for some reason or another, before it becomes problematic,” said Linda Reimer, Senior Vice President for Student Services.
The New School coordinates with a number of outside programs, such as drug rehabilitation centers. The dormitories have protocols set in place with local hospitals, Garrett said. Also, the university is affiliated with New York City police precincts. If needed, someone from Student Support will walk a student over to the police station and be present as the student files a police report, just so the student is not alone.
In case of any health issue, there is nurse phone line (212-229-1671) available at any hour of the day. With this service, a registered nurse can direct students to a local hospital, pharmacy, or any other location they might need. Students can also call if they are off-campus or out of New York City.
During freshman orientation at undergraduate divisions in the university, information about Student Support is given to new students and parents. This includes different types of incidences that occur within New School grounds, which mostly consist of drugs and alcohol.
However, not every freshman attends orientation.
“We’re not blind,” Garrett said. “Students are going to experiment.” He understands that New York City is The New School’s campus. This means that many incidents will occur outside New School grounds. With that in mind, Student Support also educates students on how to deal with “uncompromising situations.”
The main lesson, as Garrett puts it, is to “be careful all the time.”
Last Spring, Lang student Ariella Goldberg dealt with Student Support. Though it was helpful, she discovered it could also be an arduous process. Returning to the 20th Street dormitory after spring break, she found her room in disarray—laundry spilled all over the floor, furniture overturned, unwashed dishes, misplaced items, a missing digital camera and more.
Goldberg and her three other suitemates suspected that the fifth suitemate—a Lang sophomore who was the only one with a key—of foul play. They turned to Student Support. Each suitemate had separate meetings with staff and discussed their role and experience of the incident. Then, they each had to write a personal account.
Acknowledging the process was necessary, Goldberg said. “We were fine doing it only because we hoped it would better improve our living situation,” she said.
In the end, the suspected suitemate moved out of the dorm, but remained in housing at the university.
“We were furious. We felt like our voices only got us so far in the process,” she said. “When we said that we did not feel comfortable with her still living in our [dorm], we felt as though the school should have believed us and taken care of the situation much quicker.”
“This office is about the students,” Garrett said. “We’ll catch more of those people who fall under the radar,” Garrett said, “before they fall.”
New York City Real Estate
So Many Places to See, So Many Places to Go
Map designed by Liz Garber-Paul.
photographed by Nadia Chaudhury
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it.—Walt Whitman
photographed by Peter Holslin
I live in Brooklyn. By choice.—Truman Capote
photographed by Linh Tran
photographed by Catherine Iftode
The road to Tomorrow leads through the chimney pots of Queens.—E.B. White
photographed by Nadia Chaudhury
photographed by Nadia Chaudhury
My whole world before I joined the Navy was my neighborhood in the Bronx.—Tony Curtis
How Not to Find an Apartment in Brooklyn
A gaggle of flies congregate at one of 100 S. 4th St.'s few light sources. Photographed by Ryan Hale.
By Peter Holslin
When my current roommate Ryan and I embarked on a search for a new apartment after moving out of Loeb Hall two years ago, our friend Gabe told us not to settle. “Just don’t settle, guys,” he said. “Do anything but settle.”
First, we settled for a shady loft deal at 100 South 4th St., in the heart of Williamsburg. The 1,000 square foot area we rented for $2,600 a month, plus utilities, was still under construction. Twenty days after we moved in, we still did not have a stove, a kitchen sink and a door to the bathroom.
Six months later, we settled on some new roommates, Martin and Anthony. We soon discovered they had no bank accounts. They shared an affinity for speed. One had a mental illness and the other had delusions of one day filming a T.V. show in the apartment. About a month before we had to move out, we still owed a few thousand dollars in unpaid rent.
Luckily, 100 South 4th St. did not have a Certificate of Occupancy, so we had been under no legal obligation to pay rent for the entirety of our commercial-loft lease. (See sidebar.) We ditched the loft and found a duplex on Powers Street, just off the Graham stop on the L, in a cozy Italian neighborhood. The apartment had two floors, two bedrooms, a modest back patio and a free grill! Rent was $1,700 a month, including utilities.
No matter that the walls needed a serious paint job and the carpets were disgusting. We settled.
The day we moved in, the apartment exuded a dank, thick smell. We decided the carpets were the problem. We had them cleaned the week before, but they were damp and stained. We tore them out and hired two German fellows off of Craigslist to install cheap tiling. The total cleaning costs exceeded $600.
Still, the apartment stank. We found big black spots all over a closet on the second floor. Ryan soon started to get breathing problems—a biting dryness in the throat, an acidic pit in the stomach. He began sleeping in the basement of Loeb Hall most nights.
Our landlord, Ceasar Pecoraro, never called us back. Our broker—who worked for the Pecoraro family, whose brothers own a number of buildings in Brooklyn—delayed any investigation into these mysterious black spots, and whatever else plagued the space.
We threatened not to pay the rent, and Ceasar came down from the cheese factory he runs in Albany. We showed him the sinister black spots. “That’s just humidity,” he said, as he rubbed the spots with his thumb. “That’s just humidity!”
The next day, a worker from AmeriSpec, a national organization that specializes in home inspections, dropped by to examine the building and collect mold samples. Mold, he said, comes in three varieties: benign, toxic and lethal. It shows up in houses all across the city, as a result of water damage and old wood. Any form, he added, is not good for you.
We walked him through the apartment. He pointed at what looked like black dirt or paint on the wall near the floor: mold. He pointed at faint spots showing through painted walls upstairs: mold. He pointed at dry, black muck that covered the stairs: mold. Then he went to the dark, dank basement and shone a flashlight on the corners by the radiator, caked-over with black mold.
“Gentlemen,” he told us, after the tour, “you have mold.”
He took three samples around the building with a sucking device and returned to his office. A week later, AmeriSpec told us we had a mold spore count of 160. Without proper protection, a house with 500 is uninhabitable, they said.
The Pecoraros simply did not believe that the mold was a problem—so they covered it up. Over the course of the month, a construction crew showed up at 7:00 a.m. every day to plaster stucco over the wood shingles on the building’s exterior, hiding thick layers of mold. The crew also painted over the black spots in our second-floor closet.
After two months, Ryan and I agreed with the Pecoraros to break the lease. And on a random, rainy night, our friend Peter—an undergrad who works in the rare practice of fair and equitable brokerage—showed us a newly renovated, spacious two-bedroom in Bushwick. I often refer to this neighborhood as “Blade Runner territory,” for its towering subway platform and ramshackle storefronts. But the apartment was almost brand new, the J train was four blocks away, rent was $1300 and Peter promised to cut half of the broker’s fee.
Here was an offer we could trust. We settled. And for now, at least, our nightmares are over.
By Peter Holslin
Before putting any money down on a new apartment, be sure to know your rights.
New York Statute 50-7-235-b states that the landlord is legally obligated to ensure that a space rented out to a tenant must be "fit for human habitation and for the uses reasonably intended by the parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety."
If you encounter any problems with your landlord, document everything. Mail letters of complaint. Make sure they are certified and return-receipt-requested. For added support, forward the letter to a local tenant's rights organization. Also, take photographs and send emails to build a paper trail. Never agree to anything with a shady landlord in person. Hearsay has no legitimacy in a courtroom.
Be sure to consult the Department of Buildings homepage on nyc.gov. This website is rife with information about building codes and housing court. It has links to community organizations and law agencies in every borough. Best of all, it hosts an exhaustive search engine that reports Certificates of Occupancy (C of O), permit requests, violations and other statistics for nearly every building in the city.
A search for 98 South 4th St., my old loft apartment, revealed 16 complaints, 26 Dept. of Buildings violations, 16 Environmental Control Board violations and scans of two C of O documents. One was signed December 7, 1928 and the other December 18, 1949, for a single story building. The building, known as the "Rocket Factory," currently has eight stories. The landlord recently applied for another C of O, but it was never finalized.
An article in The Village Voice last summer reported that landlords renting out buildings with at least three dwellings, specifically under a commercial lease (as opposed to residential, which is the lease you sign for most apartments in the city) are not legally allowed to charge rent, sue for back-rent or evict tenants for not paying rent, if the building does not have a C of O.
After discovering my loft had no C of O, I consulted a lawyer. He charged $250, looked up my building on the Dept. of Buildings site, noted this law and recommended that I stop paying rent.
Nyc.gov also has home pages for the Department of Housing and the Loft Board, which have even more information about tenant rights and housing regulations.
Six Things to Know Before You Begin Your Search
A student checking out possible apartments in Union Square. Photographed by Sam Lewis.
By Liz Garber-Paul
I used to be a Manhattan real estate agent. It’s a hard thing to admit if you live in New York. People look at you with shock and disgust, like they’d look at someone who just admitted they enjoy opening car doors on bicyclists or have a thirst for infant blood. My supervising brokers taught me the real tricks of the trade, like how to get the landlord and the renter to pay the fee. But I’ve changed, I promise. No longer do I dream of vacant lofts and the dimwitted clients who’d spend $4,000 a month on them and pay my full fee. However, the experience wasn’t in vain. Though I never made much money, I did learn how to use agents and agencies in the most effective way. So, because I’m such a sweetheart, I’ll reveal what they’re good at and what you’re better off doing on your own.
Know what their job really is.
An agent's job is to match the renter up with the apartment they like and can afford. They cultivate relationships with management companies in order to have exclusive rights over a building or a group of buildings. They also share their listings with brokers all over the city, so most brokers are going to have a lot of similar listings.
They meet with clients to figure out the clients needs and match them up with a reasonable apartment. In exchange, they ask for a commission of around 15% of one year’s rent, which is about two months rent—quite a sizable fee given the average price of a Manhattan one bedroom is $1,750.
Do your homework.
It’s always better to do research before you go talk to a salesman, especially when their commission will be in the thousands. A few months before you move, start looking around the internet. Check out sites like NYC.gov and the New York City Rent Guidelines Board (at Housingnyc.com) to understand your legal rights, like which fees they can charge you and what is illegal.
Keep an eye on rental message boards, like Craigslist, to get an idea of what kind of space you can get in each neighborhood for your price range. When you start to see a favorable trend, go check out the neighborhoods to see if you could handle living there. Try the restaurants, peek into the laundromats, see if they have your brand of iced tea at the deli—these are the things that will make you feel comfortable if you end up there. Also, look around for signs put up by owners or managers. It may seem simple, but calling them directly is still the easiest way to find a place on your own.
Decide what’s most important to you.
Price, location or space: you can only choose two out of three. First, figure out what you can qualify for. If you want an apartment between $1,000 and $1,250, you need to have proof of a salary of at least $50,000, which is 40-50 times your rent. But if, like some New Yorkers, your income is made up of part-time hours and under-the-table babysitting, you’ll have to get a guarantor that makes at least 80 times the monthly rent. Each application can only have one guarantor. If you and your friend are going in on a $2,400 apartment, that means one of you needs to have a friend or relative, usually in the tri-state area, that pulls in $192,000 a year and can prove it.
When you’re ready, find someone you can trust.
Not everyone needs to use an agent. For some, a quick look through the online classifieds will yield the apartment of their dreams. But for others, a months-long search can leave them empty handed. If you end up in that second category, using an agent might be the answer.
A good agent can find you a place in less than a week. Prepare yourself by gathering last year’s W2s, a pay stub, a letter of employment and a recent bank statement to bring with you. If you’re relying on a guarantor, take their documentation and, if possible, the guarantor themselves. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a place and losing it while you’re waiting for your mother’s fax machine to start working again. Believe me.
At your first meeting, be as specific as possible. Go in with a few location options and know what your price range is, and what your minimum square footage is. They should be able to take you out to see three or four locations that day that meet some, if not all, of your requirements. If they don’t meet your standards, ditch the agent. All they’ll do is waste your time and theirs.
Realize that most times, they can get you a better deal.
Agencies spend years cozying up to Manhattan’s most prominent owners. That means management companies will let agencies do all the advertising and applicant screening for them, and not post any ads themselves.
Ngoc Cong of Best Apartments Inc. says that it’s her job as listings manager to build and maintain exclusive relationships with these accounts. “These landlords have problems marketing their apartments to the public,” she says. “All they have to do is just receive paperwork, get a glimpse of what they’re being presented with and do the approval process.” That cuts their job in half, so many don’t even bother working with the public.
Understand that it’s in their best interest to find you the right place.
Miracles in Manhattan are few and far between. “I’ve seen great deals that are posted by individual landlords who have maybe one or two buildings or a brownstone,” says Cong. “The only thing is, that it’s very competitive.” A beautiful two bedroom on the Upper East Side can be legitimately listed at $1,500, but chances of you winning over the landlord are slim. Landlords, like many professionals, are predictable. They will always choose a single or a married couple over a roommate situation, and they definitely prefer the renter to have an acceptable income instead of dealing with a guarantor. (Some don’t even accept guarantors.)
If your plan is to live with a few friends to drive down cost, it may be harder than you think to get the manager or landlord to call you back. The thought of three people living in their one bedroom may make some ill. But a good agent knows which landlord will let you in. After all, they get nothing for showing you out-of-reach apartments; they only make money if you sign a lease on an apartment they show you.
The agent will make you sign a form before they’re allowed to show you anything. All it should say is that if you decide to take an apartment they show you or an apartment in the building they show you, you owe them the fee. If you’ve already seen a place with one agent, don’t take it with another. You might end up paying the broker’s fee twice.
Like with all major transactions, trust your gut. If you emerge from a meeting feeling slimy, chances are you should find another agent. While the vacancy rate is at 1%, an all-time low, there is never a shortage of agents who are willing to work hard for you—for a price.
By Estelle Hallick
Commuted for: A year and a half, 2-3 days a week
Current Residence: East Village
Where did you live? I started commuting an hour and 15 minutes from Raritan, N.J., then my parents moved to Point Pleasant, N.J., turning my commute into a three hour journey.
Why commuting? I lived in the dorms at the School of Visual Arts my freshman year and hated it. I then transferred to Lang. I made plans to get an apartment with different friends and that fell through, so instead of subjecting myself to dorm life again I chose to commute.
My morning started at: 6 a.m. to catch a 7 a.m. train (Raritan) and 5-5:30 a.m. to catch a 6:42 a.m. train (Point Pleasant).
I can’t leave home without: Coffee and a non-school related book.
One time I forgot: To take an umbrella and had to buy one in the city because it was pouring out.
Cons: Getting up at the crack of dawn. But what was even worse was the commuters. All I could think is how I never wanted to be any of these people. The businessmen and women looked so miserable and void of any happiness in their lives. It was sad.
Pros: Time to do homework or read. I had tons of time with nothing to do except work. Now that I live in the city I have to force myself to sit down and get work done.
At the end of the day I felt: Tired and would usually whine to my parents about how much I hated commuting because my train was late or because some random person decided to talk to me.
In a perfect world I could: Own my own place at some point, instead of paying rent forever. That could happen more realistically in Brooklyn, although I hope that someday, somehow, I can afford to own an apartment in Manhattan. I would love to live over in the West Village or Chelsea, although I do love the East Village.
Posted by Inprint at 12:40 PM
By Estelle Hallick
Concentration: Writing, Poetry
Commuted since: Fall semester of '04.
Current Residence: Deer Park, NY in Long Island
Why commuting? I lived at Union Square the semester before that, but it wasn't for me. I need to be at my home where my band and friends are, but I love the city too. I think I get the best of both worlds.
My morning starts at: 5:30 A.M.
I can’t leave home without: My yoga mat, Odwalla bar & Zune.
One time I forgot: I've forgotten papers that were due before, so now I usually send a backup copy to my email just in case.
Cons: I hate paying so much money for the LIRR. It feels like most of my money goes towards traveling to school. I definitely feel like I'm disconnected from the school.. If there's an event on a day that I don't commute, I'm likely not to go because I don't want to spend over twenty dollars to get there. Plus, I don't get to hang out with people from school too often because I'm usually on Long Island in the evening.
Pros: I love falling asleep on the train. It's good nap time.
At the end of the day I feel: Happy to be back and closer to the people I love.
In a perfect world I could: All I want right now is to be able to move out of my house into an apartment on Long Island somewhere. I'm going to have to save a little bit more still because Long Island is so expensive.
Photographed by Sam Lewis.
Beware of Scammers
I share a common nightmare with most other college students: adding to the student loan debt I’m already in. However, by the end of freshman year a common dream I share is getting out of the dorms. Where do I go? Craigslist. Everyone uses it, right? That’s right, everyone—including people with the same moral values as your average bank robber. So I followed the hordes and got the Brooklyn apartment, signed the lease, and went back to Craigslist to sublet the apartment for the summer, until school begins again in the fall. Now I’m not more gullible than the average person, and I’m smart enough to be in college. So when I got huge checks in the mail from potential roomers I had been corresponding with for three weeks (via internet and phone), I thought if anything they were the idiots in the situation. They sent me, a total stranger, a check for three grand, and trusted that I would keep the first month’s rent and send the rest of the money back to them. I should have know it was too good to be true… A week or so later, after most of the money had been transferred back to them (and how unfortunate, they can’t sublet anymore due to a “fatal family car crash”), the check bounces and my bank account is drained. I barely had anything in the account to begin with, so one morning I woke up to discover the amount had plummeted into the negative thousands. This may all seem like an obvious plot, but I can promise you these people are great at what they do and it really only takes one hopeful college student desperate to sublet, to run such a scam. So yes, everyone uses Craigslist, but not everyone has three grand to send you or the ethical standards to let you know if they don’t. Now I’m stuck with more debt to pay off, rooms to sublet, and police reports to file.
—Pip K. Francis
Imagine coming home from a sunny day in the park to find that your roommate has separated the fridge into two with tape to ensure that you wouldn’t touch any of her precious macrobiotic food. Well, if your roommate’s a self-absorbed anorexic actress, this is what happens. But it didn’t stop there—imagine visits from her porky Russian mother who critically asked, “Are you really going to eat that?” to whatever your dinner was. What about your roommate installing a lock on her bedroom door to ensure that you didn’t steal her quarters for your laundry? Well, that was my roommate freshman year. My only advice, avoid actresses.
Union Square Hardcore
During my freshman year, the four floors of apartment style dorms in Union Square had more disciplinary write-ups than any of the other, much larger, residence halls. At the center of this maelstrom was my apartment. Two of my five apartment mates were older, hardcore kids from Philly who had recently graduated from straight-edge to binge drinkers. One was big and stoic, the other small and loud-mouthed—I’ll call him Napoleon. Because of my dread-locks, he referred to me exclusively as ‘shit-locks’ and constantly threatened to shit in my pillowcase.
Early on, somebody found a box of terrible records on the street. Three hours and a dozen 40s later, we were smashing records across each other and throwing the jagged pieces like death Frisbees, embedding them in the walls. Breaking things became a nightly tradition. As we weren’t cleaning up after ourselves, the task soon became insurmountable. The funny part was that other people loved hanging out there. The ‘anything goes’ atmosphere attracted freshman like a carcass attracts flies. At times, people brought things over for us to smash. When guests left items, especially cell-phones, we would glue them to the ceiling.
One incident was too gross to be proud of or ignore. The shower drain had been slowing down for a long time and when it finally stopped up—I’m not making this up—white, crawly, worm-like creatures emerged from the grate. We called the maintenance guy.
By the end of the school year, Napoleon never had lived up to his word about defecating in my pillowcase. When all was said and done, I proved to be the bravest. No one else thought it was possible to extract the dishes or appliances from the layers of grime. I took the bet and walked away with a full kitchen set, including a toaster and microwave.
Interviewed & Photographed by Monica Uszerowicz
20 years old, Sophomore at Lang
Neighborhood/Train: South Williamsburg, JMZ
Commute Time: 30 minutes, but an hour if transfers are bad
Rent: $2,000 a month. David pays $650.
Roommates: 2 roommates
Bedroom/bathroom: Loft, 1 bathroom
Signed a Lease?: Yes, but there's no certificate of occupancy.
Average Neighborhood Rent: Not sure
Highlights: "I can do whatever the hell I want—I can swing!" quiet, cheap, better than living in Manhattan. "I really like it a lot."
Drawbacks: Because it's a very Orthodox & Hasidic Jewish neighborhood, lots of places close early on Friday. Also, it's sometimes difficult to get appliances fixed because "the super sucks."
Interviews & Photographed by Monica Uszerowicz
21 years old, Junior at Lang and Jazz
Neighborhood/Train: Historic Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill, 1,A,B,C,D
Commute Time: Just under 30 minutes
Rent: $1400 a month. Collin pays $775 for the bigger room.
Roommates: 1 roommate
Bedroom/Bathrooms: 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom
Signed a Lease?: Yes.
Average Neighborhood Rent: "Totally cheaper than $1400. $400-600."
Highlights: Has a real neighborhood vibe, quiet, great park, St. Nick's Pub—has its own Sugar Hill Brew, really good food (including a Mexican restaurant that features Mexican pop stars), ability to practice instruments loudly, everything is cheaper.
Drawbacks: There was a break-in and people who were living illegally upstairs were hurt, the commute gets old (but it's not bad), the weather that far north isn't always so great, no elevator, no good grocery store (makes it impossible to eat healthily), apartment is a bit small.
Interviews & Photographed by Monica Uszerowicz
Dena H. Saleh
24 years old, Junior at Lang
Neighborhood/Train: Prospect Heights, 2/3 or Q/B
Commute Time: 35 minutes
Rent: Rent-controlled, $1240. Dena pays $415.
Roommates: 2 roommates (friend & girlfriend)
Bedroom/Bathroom: 2 bedrooms, 1 bath
Signed a Lease?: No. Her roommate's girlfriend had the place for a while (hence the rent-controlled bit), moved to Chelsea and essentially handed it over to her girlfriend. The girlfriend invited Dena and her own girlfriend to move in—Dena didn't have to sign a lease because it's under the other two girls' names. So it's legit.
Average Neighborhood Rent: $1700-$2000, although it's sometimes less, sometimes more.
Highlights: Lots of restaurants, Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Really chill neighborhood, close to everything, has beautiful architecture. "It's a really great pocket of Brooklyn."
Drawbacks: "Lots of dog poop everywhere."
How does one “live” etiquette? In other words, how do I become charming?
The mechanics of etiquette can be taught to a certain extent, and you may know that I taught them for a living before college. It only takes a few minutes to figure out what goes where on a proper dinner table, how to tie a bow tie and whose cigarette you light first in a group. Most of this information is available in classic and contemporary etiquette books and, if you look very carefully, on the internet. You should read about these mechanics, but more importantly, put them into practice. Attend or host a formal dinner or cocktail party, get yourself invited to a barristers ball or society wedding, or dust off your giant jaunty hat and take a trip to the Kentucky Derby. I once advised a reader who was distraught over the low-end liquor served at parties to get a higher class of friends. If you find yourself with infrequent opportunities to groom your social graces, it would serve you well to do the same.
The universality of charm is somewhat limited because of divergent tastes. The two unrelated Hepburns, for example, are both undeniably charming, but if you like one very much, you may find the other repellant. Consider your audience and the sort of people you would like to attract.
Like most things in life, archetypes and tropes are the keys to the kingdom. Enumerate people with an appearance of being charming and consider their commonalities. They’re usually smart but more importantly, they are clever. They keep their cards close to their chest, revealing the least significant ones as a teaser when accused of being too opaque. Drinking and smoking are to be expected, but never to status-compromising excess. Being good-looking never hurts.
You can become a rogue like Marlon Brando or an ingénue like the heroines of Neil Simon, a hero like Rock Hudson or a perennial damsel in distress like Lois Lane, a mysterious misanthrope like James Dean or an unrelenting socialite like Tracy (Red) Lord to Cray Grant's lovable charlatan in The Philadelphia Story. Be aware that whichever type you choose, it must have practical applications with regard to your own life. If you must be surrounded at all times by your giggling gaggle of friends, the misanthropic route is not for you. Likewise, if you have even a shred of agency and can’t quite get the hang of a constant expression of doe-eyed wonder, than the ingénue is not for you.
I think what you’re really looking to do is cultivate a little affectation. Very few people are genuinely charming—I can count fewer than four among everyone I’ve ever known. For most, however, cultivating a few nuanced idiosyncrasies is enough to get by. Invent a signature cocktail for yourself (Parisians are taken), address everyone you meet with an affectionate moniker, never read anything written after 1950 and listen to unrecognizable jazz. And when you are choosing what type to mimic, please don’t overlook perhaps the most charming type of all: etiquette columnist.
To many New School students, you are just another place to score free printouts for class presentations and catch up on missed episodes of Lost. To Inprint, however, you are more than just an occasional fling or one night stand during finals week: you’re our better half, and without you, producing the newspaper would be impossible.
Every other week, nearly a dozen staff members gather at workstation K to pound out another issue of the paper, chugging coffee and scarfing bagels from Murray’s to stay energized for our late night rendezvous. Since September, we’ve been together every other weekend, drudging through the lousy headlines and deadlines, and everything in-between. With BSB videos and The Office episodes providing background noise and a solid working beat, we’ve gone all the way and back again to put this paper out…and we’ve done it together, UCC, side by side and hand in hand.
As we near the close of our 15th and final issue of the school year, Inprint would like to take a moment to salute you, coffee cups raised dangerously close to vulnerable keyboards.
As the Golden Girls would say, thank you for being a friend, UCC. U rock!!!11111oneoneone
By Zach Warsavage
Jean-Luc Godard once said, “All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun.” The same theory can be applied to the contemporary experience of watching films: all you need is a girl and a gun. The gun is for when the film inevitably disappoints. The girl is to blow off steam afterwards.
I went to see Grindhouse on April 20th, and found the experience rather atypical. It was a beautiful day in Manhattan. People everywhere were smiling and enjoying being outside and doing drugs for the holiday. Yet everyone was still isolated and completely disinterested in one another. At 9 p.m., when the sun had gone down, I entered a full theater. Every seat was taken, every eye was on the screen and, amazingly, almost as a single unit, for over three hours, a giant room full of New Yorkers laughed and cheered very convincingly. Granted, this was to be the expected response for a Tarantino production. But the cinematic bond in the theater was powerful. A film had taken a group of people, shut them up, elated them and then sent them off.
I realize that this is what films are supposed to do. Make your eyes glaze over, your head stiff and upright and take your brain to another world. A film is like a dream. The director dreams it, wholly in his or her own image, the audience is invited into the dream world and then the critic analyzes what the dream meant. But this is not the case today. Today, the director, the critic and the audience are isolated from each other and the film as a whole. Film today is like a gluttonous asshole. It keeps stuffing more bullshit into its mouth while charging more and more money to watch it eat. Sometimes what it eats is easy to swallow, like a comedy. Other times it’s harder, like the endless line of biopics, pretentious political thrillers and masturbatory save-the-world films laced with a crappy plot about Africa. The mark of an important American film today relies mostly on the names attached to it, or the deeper pretense it has because George Clooney helped produce it. It is almost a given that each film is a compromise of many values and that no one is actually responsible for the film, as it is collectively fucked all along the way towards its release. This leaves a film with little value, and leaves the critic with the spineless role of creating sound bites that will be chopped up with some ellipses, and then finally left at the bottom of the hundredth commercial for it…Fantastic!
Tarantino and Rodriguez’s two films within Grindhouse were different. They demonstrated a true cinephilia and love of film history, and a true authorship over their films, having written and directed them. This immediately made me think of the French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) for its obsession with films and its auteur theory. The theory was first introduced in print in the article, “A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema,” in the great French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema. Written in 1954, by the then young critic Francois Truffaut, the article stressed the need for the director to author the work. Cahiers had many young critics who would go on to become famous directors, and they gained their influence for this autonomous style from geniuses like Hitchcock, Hawks, Renoir and Cocteau. I could not agree with this concept more. Just as no one would want to read a novel written by 15 different people, no one can fully enjoy a film that has no true author. When there is a lack of an author, the dream suffers on all levels. The vision is unclear, the audience thus cannot appreciate the film and the critic has no one to blame and little to analyze. This is why directors like Tarantino and Wes Anderson are so popular today. Both of them have their own worlds, and both of them carry out their fantasies uninhibited onto the screen. It should come as no surprise that Anderson has said one of his favorite films is Truffaut’s first film, the masterpiece The 400 Blows. Tarantino not only dedicated Reservoir Dogs to Godard, but he also named his production company A Band Apart, a reference to Godard's Bande a part.
Tarantino is a known film aficionado, with a propensity to mimic genre films, such as Kung Fu, Blacksploitation, B Films and the New Wave. The young Cahiers critics were the exact same way, except many of them were inventing new forms. The Cinematheque in Paris, which was frequented by cinephiles, and portrayed in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, was a nest of obsession. This is what we need today. People obsessed with films, who appreciate above all the role of an author in a film, and who have the creative drive to continue this tradition. Truffaut, Godard, Rivette, Charbrol and many of the other young critics/auteurs exemplified filmmaking as a 20th century modern art. These young artists wanted film to be the most important modern art and, while they did their part, their art, and art in general, changed after their main era.
These young Cahiers served many roles that do not exist today. First of all, they were able to contextualize an art that was still elusive in its role. The Cahiers wrote essays on what films are, and what they should and could be doing, and then went ahead and broke all the rules. This kind of rebellion does not happen very much today, as many of the edits and jump cuts and the overall realism of their stories can merely be copied. Godard revolutionized editing with his first film A Bout de Soufflé (translation: Breathless) by breaking norms and even allowing characters to wear different outfits within the same scene. There simply is not as much room today for innovation in camerawork, so this then leaves the innovation to be on the side of the concepts the film deals with. Films today need to be like poetry, or literature, and redefine the human condition, or redefine what it means to tell a story. In this regard, films today are embarrassing failures.
While some directors, if given the freedom, create great films, the industry does not produce enough. I cannot imagine crowds of youths squeezing into a cinematheque to get their art fix in this generation. The Cahiers loved American films, and while the tradition of filmmaking changes, Hollywood stays in a direction of smug inferiority. Films need a one of a kind touch, whether it's David Lynch or David O. Russell; movies made in this era should be more about thinking and less about politics. There are only a handful of films each year that I see at the theater, and rarely do I think I have seen something new. The Nouvelle Vague was new. When I first watched The 400 Blows, featuring Truffaut’s alter ego, Antione Doniel, I thought I was reading a novel lived by the author. Truffaut’s first film, and many thereafter, were his own tales twisted into a realist dream. His film is like a piece of first person narrative literature. Godard for Breathless, and most of his other works, used Raoul Coutard as his director of photography. Coutard filmed footage in the military, and Godard loved the idea of his films blurring the lines between fiction and documentary. To watch these New Wave films is to live in the dreams of the author, and not on the outside looking in.
What I especially love about the New Wave, Tarantino, Anderson and any auteur in general, is that for an author to make up his own characters, casting is essential. A dream can only be realized with the right players. The best example of this is Anna Karina. Unlike today’s films, where casting is about names and potential profit, Godard discovered Karina in a soap commercial. Godard knew that her face, her looks, the way she walked, talked, and simply sat still had unprecedented enigma. This is what cinema needs: people born for the screen. To watch Une Femme est une Femme (A Woman is a Woman), Bande a part, Alphaville, or Pierrot le fou, is to watch Karina, and her character, through the eyes of Godard, her creator. In this the style is seamless in its approach to authorship, and this results in great cinema where the audience and the critics role’s are valuable again. Godard married Karina, more fully blurring cinema with life.
Godard may have been right when he said all you need for a film is a girl and a gun. But today, it seems you might need that girl to be accompanied by a few other girls. And they should be unaccompanied by well fitting clothes. You might also need a bunch of guns. Probably a cannon, as well. If Nicholas Cage is available, then make sure you also have explosions and plots where people can see two minutes into the future. Godard proved he too could see into the future, when he once said, "I pity the French cinema because it has no money. I pity the American cinema because it has no ideas."
Fire escapes in Yorkville. Photographed by Sam Lewis.
By Linh Tran
The Upper East Side has a secret hidden between East 59th Street, East 96th Street, Third Avenue and the East River—it’s called Yorkville. Yorkville is the less trendy, less polished, less expensive section of the Upper East Side.
The Upper East Side is not all Park Avenue penthouse apartments and expensive Madison Avenue boutiques. Beyond Lexington Avenue to the east, Yorkville boasts small thrift stores and antique shops, and the only area on the Upper East Side where you can find self-service laundromats.
I’ve lived in Yorkville for a little over a year in a small two-bedroom, railroad-style apartment two blocks away from the East River. At the end of the two blocks, right along the FDR, is John Jay Park. It’s a real gem and everything I think a park should be. It has a playground, an extensive network of slides and swings and a large fountain for kids, and the occasional college student, to run through in the summer heat. For me, the defining feature of the park has to be its large swimming pool. For a college student who can’t afford a gym membership, the free public pool in John Jay Park is a great resource.
If you head west after an afternoon in the park, you’ll hit York Avenue, a lovely two-way street running north and south that is dotted with cafes and bakeries. My favorite Saturday afternoon café is Beannochio’s. The patrons reflect the type of residents of this section of the city—young couples, college students and lots of children.
Yorkville is a great place to wind down, especially after spending all day downtown. There are very few bars and clubs up here. It’s quiet and the streets are relatively vacant of drunken twenty something’s. The atmosphere is as laid back as New York City can get. In Yorkville, you feel like you’re away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, but not too far away from it.