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.”
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Where to Go When Things Get Rough
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.
The streets of Briarwood. Photographed by Nadia Chaudhury.
By Nadia Chaudhury
No one’s ever heard of Briarwood, my quiet, small neighborhood off of Queens Boulevard, tucked in the outskirts of Jamaica and Kew Gardens. My credit card statements are addressed to Jamaica, New York, as if Briarwood doesn’t even exist to Citibank. Though, the MTA recognizes the neighborhood enough to create a subway station there: Briarwood-Van Wyck, home to the F train.
Whenever I tell people I live in Queens, they gasp and say, “Oh my god, that’s so far away! How long does it take you to get to school?” Forty-five minutes to an hour, I answer, depending on the train. Then they gasp again, “Oh my god, that’s so long!” Compared to my hour-and-a-half trek to high school in the Bronx, going to Lang is a breeze. Even getting home during the late hours (or early morning, whichever way you choose to look at it) is easy because the F train never stops; although there might be a twenty minute wait.
I live on 85th Road, on top of a hill. One side is so steep for several blocks that it rests on Hillside Avenue. The other slide slants slowly, twisting and meshing into other streets, until it comes to a stop on Queens Boulevard.
Outside my apartment, there are two other similar buildings, all part of the same apartment complex. In the center is the circular pathway where I learned to ride my bike, going round and round until dark and the pathway that became a make-shift baseball field, each entrance substituting for the bases. A stout, wide bush where I saw my first robin in spring sat in the very center of it. Children walk to the elementary school just across the street, and when they’re a bit older, they walk a bit further to the junior high school right behind that elementary school. The sky’s clearer above and I can count how many stars I see with two hands.
Despite this calm and serene atmosphere (and because of it), Briarwood is not very exciting. Besides the Little League parade every spring, not much happens in this little neighborhood. I spend most of my time in Manhattan, where it’s livelier.
Going home, though, is an indulgence I get to relive every night, because it’s a break from the constant motion of Manhattan, walking through the quiet, hilly roads of Briarwood where I used to play manhunt through the streets and buildings of the neighborhood and watched in awe as a friend threw a ball up to the roof of a six-story apartment building. Briarwood is where I grew up, and for now, it’s nice being here.
The entrance to the South Ferry terminal. Photographed by Nadia Chaudhury.
By Audrey Quaranta
Well, I’m from a borough of New York City, anyway. It isn’t Brooklyn, it’s not Queens and no, it isn’t the Bronx either. That leaves “the forgotten borough”–Staten Island. I’ve lived in the ultra-suburban New Dorp area my entire life and continue to commute to and from Lang via the MTA express bus for about 3 hours daily. It’s the place where if you’re not Italian you’re in the serious minority, fake tans are a key trend amongst the youth (yes, they do turn you orange, so don’t try it), and the world’s largest landfill can be spotted from outer space. The MTV program True Life: I’m a Staten Island Girl exemplified the ruling social class–super suave, sporting perfectly gelled hair and gold jewelry bought with mom and dad's credit card. And yes, we all have those accents. Mine is not that bad, but I’m often surprised when a classmate asks “Where are you from?”
Still, it isn’t as painful as it sounds. One thing I’d never give up about Staten Island–besides having a car–is the close-knit group of friends that is so easy to form. Neighborhood hangouts draw the same people you went to high school with, and as years pass it is still easy to stay connected. If you’re broke on a Friday night, there’s nothing to do but congregate in a parking lot or in someone’s basement, but at least we’re all doing it together and turning it into a good time. And it’s such a small world over here that it’s almost like Cheers, where “everybody knows your name.” As out of place as I may sometimes feel on Staten Island–I don't buy my clothes at the mall or drive a nice car, and I wear what I want to when I want to–I know I’ll always have my childhood friends a short drive away. And when I’m really starting to hate this place, I just remember that it's the home of the Wu-Tang Clan and all feels right with the world.
Illustrated by Jeremy Schlangen.
By Connor Molloy
Sometimes, in an attempt to make conversation, I ask, “So where do you work?” Only at Lang do I get the response, “Oh, I don’t have a job.”
How can you not have a job? I quote directly from my little brother’s email when I say, “I mean, if you don’t work, doesn’t natural law kinda say that you starve?”
We talk constantly about awareness at Lang, but no demographic is more consistently unaware of reality than the upper class. The majority of them are totally oblivious to the daily math that goes into the earning and spending of your own money.
Someone who lives in the West Village and works 6 hours a week is living an entirely different existence from someone who works over 30 hours and then goes home to Sunset Park. In fact, this difference is comparable to the divergent realities of male and female, or black and white, or Muslim and Christian. Class, however, is never brought up in the demand for diversity at Lang. Nor, like the black kid in an all white seminar, are we ever asked to empathize with our less affluent peers.
Rent can cost as little as $650 a month, but you’d have to live pretty far into Brooklyn, spend over 10 hours a week commuting, and spend $76 monthly on a MetroCard. That is $726 already, and you haven’t eaten yet. Give yourself $10 a day to spend on food, including all meals, snacks and drinks. It might seem fine, but kids drop that without thinking on one lunch alone, maybe a burrito and soda at Chipotle ($9.26), or for the health-conscious, a salad and juice from Cosi ($9.06).
That’s $300 on food in a month, so now you’re at $1,026, but you haven’t bought toothpaste, Kleenex or shampoo, haven’t bought that book for class or done the laundry. We’ll add $124 for that, which brings our monthly expenses to $1,200. In this equation we are ruling out Netflix, a new blouse, aspirin, the Of Montreal CD and giving to the homeless.
And that’s forever, too; we’re not “putting it off till next month,” because next month is the same formula. You can go see Joanna Newsom at Webster Hall for twenty bucks, but then you can’t eat for two days. The anxiety is there with every purchase, every rent check and every store you can’t go into.
To make this budget work with a $9 per hour job, you need to work over 31 hours a week. That is on top of class time, homework, commutes and anything else you need to do just to get through the week.
There is also the subtle, dirty and unspoken shame. It comes up at times where no one else even thinks twice. Kids will say, “Come on, I’m hella broke too, let’s go to Joe Juniors—the sandwiches are only five bucks.” Yeah, well actually they’re $5.95, and that doesn’t include tax, and after a tip it’s an $8 sandwich, which you don’t think twice about but which only leaves me $2 for the rest of the day.
Instead, I say, “uh, naw dude, I’ll just peace out.”
But the differences are as fundamental as they are subtle. Someone with a 30-hour-a-week job and a 10-hour-a-week commute spends 40 hours simply not being able to do homework. Not only do other kids get a 40-hr/week head start on homework, they could spend those 40 hours sleeping more, or flirting with a girl, or learning how to skateboard, or writing a fucking novel. But kids without jobs go on bitching about being “so poor” or living in an East Village apartment that’s “ghetto as fuck.”
At a college where the student body is constantly preoccupying themselves with raising their critical consciousness concerning race, gender and sexuality, it would do everyone a great deal of good to work class into that equation.
Jonathan Veitch, Dean of Lang, addressed students' concerns last week. Photographed by Emily Alexander.
By Peter Holslin & Hannah Rappleye
At a Dean’s Forum hosted by the Lang Student Union last Tuesday, Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch and other Lang administrators encouraged students to write a petition that would open 65 West 11th St. and 55 West 13th St. buildings for 24 hours during the school year.
The handful of students in attendance brought up a litany of concerns, including gripes over the university’s unpredictable building hours. Students also questioned the lack of scholarships, requested copy machines in the Lang building and expressed doubts over the quality and cost of the cafeteria food offered by Chartwells, the university’s cafeteria service.
The deans agreed with students that current building hours are inconvenient and that the students could benefit from additional technology in the Lang building, like copy machines and printers.
Amos Himmelstein, Assistant Dean at Lang, noted that opening the buildings for 24 hours would demand that university staff re-organize work schedules. He also said it could raise safety concerns.
Nevertheless, Guinevere Molina, director of Lang’s office of Student Development and Activities, noted that university security is headquartered in 55 West 13th, which could help the students’ cause.
The next day, the LSU wrote the petition and are now looking for student support. LSU can be contacted at LSU@newschool.edu.
Students also said there is a lack of support for those who are interested in pursuing service projects that address social justice issues, especially those that relate to people of color in New York City.
“It’s really hard to get support if you don’t have connections, if you don’t know this person in this office or this part of the administration,” one student said. “It’s hard to do work that’s genuine and responsible.”
Ella Turenne, Director of Special Projects, said that administrators and faculty are working to ensure that students are able to get involved in community building. She said that next spring, Lang will introduce a three-year program that focuses on long term service projects, but in the meantime, students should speak out if they have an idea for a project.
“If you have ideas, you should let us know,” Turrenne said. “It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in conversations with faculty and administration and students, because it take a lot of time and resources to put that kind of thing together.”
Turrenne also said that students should reach out to organizations like LSU and the Student Life and Outreach Committee. “Sometimes it’s better that the administration is not part of what you’re doing,” she added.
Himmelstein responded to concerns that Lang was not receiving any money from the BA/FA program, saying that Lang should receive at least 30% of the funds next fall.
Students also asked why Lang is introducing majors and minors, expressing worry over what they feel is the “mainstreaming” of The New School.
Associate Dean Kathleen Breidenbach explained that by law, Lang is not allowed to require that students state concentrations because the only undergraduate degree the college offers is Liberal Arts.
The majors should not be any different from the concentrations, Breidenbach said.
“All we’re doing is trying to certify what we’re doing already,” she added.
Earlier, Dan Schulman, an LSU facilitator, asked why financial services took away the merit-based scholarship of a student he knew. Veitch said this student should contact the Dean’s office directly, and explained that the only way students could lose such a scholarship would be if they either failed to submit an application on time, or if their GPA sunk below the required average.
About 70% of students at Lang receive some kind of financial aid and most of students’ awards reflect their financial needs, Veitch said. On average, there is a 38% discount to families in need.
A proposed floor plan for the first floor of 65 Fifth Av. Provided by curbed.com
By Cait McGinn
Come Spring, 2008, you can kiss the old New School goodbye, when ground is expected to break on an estimated 400 million dollar project to create a new “signature” building for the university. Part of the “new” New School project is a plan to demolish the Graduate Faculty building at 65 5th Avenue, and rebuild a structure, that according to a working document on the University website entitled “What is 'new' at The New School?,” will be a “pedagogical innovation that will not only speed the transformation of The New School, but also be a model for higher education in a globalizing world.” (For more on this topic, see editorial on page 2.)
Assisting the University in achieving this academic utopia is IDEO, an innovative design team based out of Stanford, California. IDEO researchers have been interviewing, shadowing and even videotaping students in the Lang courtyard for the past few weeks in an attempt to create a “human-centered design” based on student experience and concerns, according to Gitte Jonsdatter, an IDEO researcher.
“We spend time with students, faculty, administration, and visitors who use the space to gather stories about what is working well and what’s not so great,” said Jonsdatter. “As a design team, we gather all these stories together and look for themes or recurring issues that are the most important, and try to come up with solutions to those problems.”
Another way the design team is engaging students is through a blog. Some blog topics include “Secret Places,” where students go to get away from it all, as well as “Favorite places to study.” Incidentally, many responses listed the GF as their preferred place to hit the books.
New School student and IDEO blogger Aaron Jaffe voiced apprehension about the University’s decision to demolish and rebuild.
“It is not altogether clear to me why this procedure is necessary,” Jaffe said. “The building meets all the New School needs and it intuitively seems more cost effective to buy or rent other space nearby in the city than to destroy and rebuild what is already a critical functioning element of The New School.”
However, Jaffe, a graduate student at The New School for Social Research, did applaud the University’s decision to involve IDEO in the process.
“To explore student usages of space at the current building, the IDEO approach is a welcome change of pace,” he said.
By Emily Alexander
On Friday, April 20, my Lang mural-painting class visited Rikers Island, New York’s largest jail facility, housing over 14,000 inmates. We met with a class of juvenile inmates attending Island Academy, a high school on Rikers (the others serve older GED candidates). The purpose of our visit was to meet students and discuss the artwork decorating the school and its meaning.
A few weeks before the trip, Ella Turenne, Lang’s Director of Special Programs, stopped by our class to give us some background information. In 20 minutes we attempted to learn the history of Rikers, some background on the students, security protocol, what not to wear and what not to say. Still, I had no idea what to expect.
My class, made up of seven students, mostly females, was told to wear loose-fitting clothes. We had originally intended to wear our college-issued bright orange Lang Mural Project t-shirts, but later received an emphatic email: “...DO NOT wear the orange Lang Outdoors t-shirts,” it read. “Some of the incarcerated men's uniforms are bright orange. Any other colors are fine.”
The day of the visit, we took the F train to Astoria then transferred to the Q101 bus—basically, the Rikers shuttle. Once at Rikers, we put all of our belongings except photo IDs into a locker. We entered the first holding room while Ella checked us in, then waited about 40 minutes. While waiting, I discussed with my friends in the class my own brushes with the law.
We cleared security and received blacklight stamps on our hands and waited for the Rikers shuttle bus. The bus brought us to Island Academy high school. The building looked exactly like all of the other prison buildings: big, grey with few windows and surrounded by barbed wire.
Mr. G., the school's outgoing assistant principal, greeted us. He led us inside where we walked through a second security checkpoint. He gave us a brief tour of the main hallway that was decorated with several childish paintings of smiling, bigheaded figures walking on a curvy sidewalk towards a giant diploma. There was a black line painted down the center of the hallway; we were told the prisoners were required to stay on the right side of the line, close to the wall.
Near the hallway's end we saw the mural we had come to Rikers to discuss, entitled “Choose Your Green.” The painting depicts a man kneeling beneath a razor-wire fence, trying to climb out. The figure is dissected in two; his left half is dressed in a traditional prison uniform and his right side, closer to the fence, is clad in military camouflage. A mask and night vision goggles conceal his face.
I was the first to enter the classroom, and was greeted by wide-eyed stares and a lot of murmured comments. It was a poetry and hip-hop class of about 20 young men between the ages of 16 and 18, all of color, and many about to be transferred to the adult section of Rikers. They represented all five boroughs of New York City. I was struck by the fact that most of them were only one year younger than me.
By Lang standards my class is very racially diverse. However, I perceived that as soon as we had all entered the classroom the students probably saw us all as exactly the same—just the way we are conditioned to see them.
Ella instructed us to play an "icebreaker." We introduced ourselves to one another, and asked each other questions like, “What do you do for fun?” What was I supposed to say? One of the guys asked me if I smoked pot and had sex, because that’s what he used to do for fun.
I answered “yes,” partly because I don’t think the purpose of visiting Island Academy was to pretend to be some sort of shining example for the students there. Instead, the idea was to meet people with different experiences and have some sort of artistic exchange, while learning something about the reality of U.S. prison systems.
After the icebreaker we broke into groups and talked about the “Choose Your Green” mural. We asked the students what they would like to be different if it were to be changed, and to draw pictures of what they’d like to see.
One student said that there was no way he would ever join the army. Some of us understood how it might be another way of being held captive by the U.S. government. We asked what the students’ plans after their release were. The answers varied from traveling, to working in construction, to attending Hunter College in the fall. Some didn’t know what they were going to do. This is something I think our correctional system should help prisoners, especially juveniles, figure out.
Since our visit I have been thinking a lot about America’s prison-industrial complex, and how our current correctional system focuses more on making money than lowering crime rates or rehabilitating criminals. Prisons provide the US with low-cost labor and mainly house members of society that are economically disadvantaged and therefore politically underrepresented. America holds over 2-million prisoners, more than any other country in the world. According to the US Department of Justice, 64% of prisoners belong to a racial or ethnic minority and an estimated 32% of black men will enter state or federal prison in their lifetime.
These young men will be labeled for the rest of their lives by something they did when they were teenagers. Like many young people, I did a lot of stupid shit when I was in high school and still do some stupid shit now. But I am a middle-class, white female and no one is looking to get me into trouble. If I ever do get caught, it’s unlikely I’d be punished in the same way.
Here on a Monday noon, all is calm—except for these "proper" drunks. Photographed by Bob Lewis.
By Connor Molloy
I went to the northernmost Bronx hoping to find the exact spot where the city meets suburbia—a place where rugged inner city life comes crashing up against the opulent lives of the suburban elite. What I found instead was a predominantly Irish neighborhood called Woodlawn Heights. Woodlawn Heights is a place largely forgotten by its urban neighbors to the south as well as its suburban ones to the north. That is something that seems to sit just fine with the rosy-cheeked people who call this place home.
Exiting at the last stop on the 4 train, one thing struck me immediately. The area was spread out, a foreign concept to people in Manhattan. I tried to find a comparison to my surroundings. The first place that came to mind was Chicago with it's exposed subway and platforms that take you over the highway. There was a strange emptiness to the place. Maybe a clump of cars at a traffic light or a group of people pushing out of a bar, which made me think of St. Louis, Missouri, and Arlington, Virginia. Absent were Manhattan's hordes of people pushing past each other and the never-ending stream of cars threatening to wipe out pedestrians at every intersection. There were apartment buildings, but also homes with driveways, gas stations, trees, and flags—Irish flags, everywhere.
I walked up a hill and found two men sitting on a bench I assumed to be a bus stop, but later learned was simply a bench next to the road. They offered no explanation as to why they were sitting there at 3 p.m. on a weekday. They were the ones who told me about Woodlawn's overwhelmingly Irish heritage and about the neighborhood's borders. The Bronx River Parkway separates Woodlawn on the east from "the minorities," the men said. To the north is Yonkers, to the west is Deacon Parkway, and to the south is the sprawling Woodlawn cemetery, the eternal resting place of such famous New Yorkers as Lionel Hampton and Irving Berlin.
The four borders of Woodlawn might as well have walls built around them, because what you find within is so different from the rest of the city. The Irish seeps into everything—Irish newspapers are on the newsstands, Irish cola is stocked on the shelves, and here and there signs are posted in Ireland's native language, Gaelic. There are pubs everywhere, two a block on the main drags of McLean Parkway and Katonah Avenue. Residents of Woodlawn are always saying hi, unlike the other New Yorkers who are quicker with a "fuck you" than a "how do you do?" If they recognize you as living there they will talk your ear off anytime you pass them.
I met a woman originally from England who had an easygoing job at a video rental store. She told me Woodlawn reminded her of small-town England—no Blockbusters or Rite Aids, just a half dozen corner shops staffed by boys with shaved heads, short sleeves, and tattoos of shamrocks running up and down their arms.
I drank an orange-flavored Irish soda in a cafe adorned with crosses and four leaf clovers. I talked to a woman who had just moved to the United States six months ago and another waitress who had come from Galway two years ago. They enjoy the United States, they told me, but want to end up back in Ireland. "Ireland's my home," said the one from Galway. Clearly, Woodlawn helps ease the pain of being away.
What are the issues in Woodlawn? Not much, I'm told.
One of the waitresses responded to my question distractedly. "People are here to get on with their lives," she said. That seems to be the case. Everywhere I went on the sunny late afternoon people were smiling. Men nursed beers in bar windows and young girls rambled on to each other in an English I could barely understand.
Perhaps the biggest testament to these peoples' genuinely carefree attitude can be seen in their near total lack of carryover regarding the North/South, Protestant/Catholic infighting that is so rampant in Ireland. "There�s none of that here," the girls tell me. "Maybe with some young men if they're proper drunk, but even that's rare."
I�m so glad I went to Woodlawn. It allowed me to come up for air from the incessant hustle and flow that is the norm in Manhattan and West Brooklyn. It is a place I could get lost in, and one I felt more than a little sad leaving. Actually, I did get a bit lost on my walk back to the train. But in a way I think it's better that way. Getting lost in Woodlawn is a lot like staggering home drunk in Dublin. You know any bar you stumble into will greet you with a song and a beer, any stranger you run into will offer you a smile and directions, and any shop you walk into will be staffed by cute South Irish girls with even cuter accents.
By Najva Soleimani
Ok, ok. It�s finals time. I get it, but does that mean you aren't going out at all? New York City hasn�t shut down just so you can do your latest philosophy paper. If you're having trouble finding time, consider these events as part of your assignments for the week. Just call them your "cultural studies" homework. And for all you broke kids, there's only one listing that isn't free!
Indie-favorites Brazilian Girls are DJ-ing Cheeky Bastard, a free party at Hiro on Thursday, May 3 starting at 10 p.m. The party is hip, the music will be slammin'—just drink your vodka-redbull and dance all night. Sweating is good for you. It makes up for the fact that you haven't gone to the gym all week.
Friday is journalistically-themed with Docu-Jam 2007, a free Youth Documentary Showcase at 4:30 p.m. at the Museum of Television and Radio. Go see what other kids are doing and indulge in a few hours of idealism.
Following that is a reading of Best American Magazine Writing 2006 at Barnes and Noble at the Lincoln Center at 7 p.m.** Finally, you get to listen to good writing purely for pleasure. Maybe you can give Inprint some tips.
Cinco De Mayo comes Saturday, which is, of course, an excuse to party. If you want to rally to "party" legally, go to the World Wide Marijuana March starting at Washington Square at 1 p.m. If you do actually indulge and want a destination with better ambiance than a protest, then consider dropping by Studio B in Greenpoint at 10 p.m. where Moby is spinning a special rave DJ set. Tickets are $10.
Though that final week of school is probably your vision of hell (yes, you procrastinators), there�s one event that's bound to make you feel better: Chuck Palahniuk is reading at Union Square Barnes and Noble on May 9 at 7:00 p.m. Whatever disturbingly satirical and nihilistic tale he tells will make your life seem peachy keen. Just be prepared—so far over 60 people have fainted at his readings.
When all is said and done, all you need is love. So when school's out, stick around the city on May 19 for New York�s First Annual Love Parade—a dance parade that goes from 32nd St. to Washington Square. Over 42 different styles of dance and 6,000 dancers are to be represented, and that's just who signed up. The parade begins at 2 p.m., and ends whenever your legs give out. Celebrate self-expression, movement, and freedom from your laptop. Remember, all work and no play makes you a very dull college student.