The Centrality of Central Park to NYC

First post participating in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in which I feature my first encounter with Central Park in New York City.

Well, it’s November 1 and I’ve decided to take part in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). That means I’ll post something on my blog every single day this month. Thousands of people are participating in this event all over the world so the ‘National’ should really be changed to ‘International’ resulting in InBloPoMo. But at the moment it remains the blogging counterpart of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) during which hundreds of thousands of would-be novelists churn out 50,000 words during the month of November. Well, i guess they haven’t heard of the demise of the novel…

So I was in New York City last month for about 9 days and found myself staying one short block from Central Park. Before reaching the city I had had ambitions of walking in the Park every single day of the precious 3 days at that particular address. No such thing happened and I found myself hurriedly getting a walk in on the very last day. What surprised me was that even though it was the end of October very few trees had changed to the traditional autumn colours of yellow, orange and red. Was this another sign of the creeping climate change we’ve all been noticing recently?

The apartment I was staying in was at 102nd st very close to the 103d st entrance to the Park. There’s a lovely duck pond there with benches sprinkled here and there. What I hadn’t expected were the little plaques on each bench evidently placed there by the individuals or families who had paid for the particular bench. I’ll post some of the photos I took below:

CentralPark01 CentralPark02 CentralPark03 CentralPark04 CentralPark05 CentralPark06 CentralPark07 CentralPark08 CentralPark09 CentralPark10 CentralPark11

And soon after getting back to Kingston I came across the article below which I found alarming considering that Central Park in effect constitutes the lungs of the city…are the proposed skyscrapers akin to invasive cancerous growths that will eventually cause the demise of this treasure?

Luxury Skyscraper Shadows Are Devouring Central Park

One57 looms large over Central Park, its shadow resembling an appropriately obscene gesture. (Warren St. John)

The city’s parks are among the few empty spaces protected from New York developers. No parking garages will ever trample Central Park’s Sheep Meadow and no high-rise Walmart’s will ever raze Prospect Park’s Nethermead. But there is one threat to the park’s sanctity that perhaps few people had considered: The Shadows.

It’s not a weird hypothetical sprung from the world of sci-fi. Developers are eying the south side of the park as the new home to seven enormous towers which will serve as second and third homes for as-yet-unborn children of gallingly wealthy oil moguls around the world. The towers, nicknamed Billionaire’s Row, will stand as tall as 1,424 feet, and the shadows they will cast over the park will serve as chilling reminders that their owners are probably on a plane destined for Saint-Tropez anyway, and you’re on the ground shivering under their icy umbra. It’s an allegory for your life.

Looming skyscrapers can make a particular difference in the winter months, Michael Kwartler, the president of the Environmental Simulation Center, told Warren St. John, who penned an op-ed in today’s Times on this very issue. At noon on the winter solstice, Kwartler calculates that the building’s shadows will fall half a mile into the park by noon, and up to a mile as the day wears on. “The cumulative effect of these shadows will be to make the park less usable and less pleasant to be in,” Kwartler said.

Doubletake: First Mattathias Schwartz, Now Dan Rather. What ails Jamaican media?

After Dan Rather’s in-depth coverage of the Lotto Scam in Jamaica might it be a good time to ask why local media doesn’t produce similarly aggressive, investigative reporting?

News outlets in Jamaica this week were inundated with coverage of  and responses to the US media’s unprecedented focus on the Lotto Scam, a locally generated con game, whose victims are elderly Americans. Former 60 Minutes stalwart Dan Rather visited Jamaica some weeks ago so his in-depth exposé of the scam, Just Hang Up, which aired on March 12, complete with heart-rending interviews with some of the victims didn’t come as a surprise. The documentary was timed to air in tandem with evidence presented to the US Senate’s Committee on Ageing yesterday. At least two  other major US channels also aired stories on the scam.

The US Embassy in Jamaica obligingly posted links on Facebook with the following note:

As you are aware, there has been a great deal of U.S. media attention focused on advanced-fee fraud (also known as “lotto scams”) recently. Below are the links to the Dan Rather, CBS and NBC stories.

I haven’t yet seen the entire documentary featuring Rather (its available free on iTunes though only in the US not in Jamaica) but the excerpts shown on TV here have been riveting. The American TV team even lured a scammer, tracked down by his IP address, to a meeting in Montego Bay, showing him live and direct for all to see. Naturally the impact has been sensational especially because this well-crafted documentary was shown on prime time TV in the United States. It suddenly came home to Jamaicans that ‘Brand Jamaica’, as local technocrats and the media in general have taken to calling it, was going to take a battering.

Relying on tourism and American visitors as much as Jamaica does this could be potentially devastating.

What does it mean that serious crimes like the Lotto Scam and the Tivoli genocide (the 2010 killing of 73 plus citizens by the State in its pursuit of fugitive don, Christopher Coke) are exposed by foreign not local media I asked on Twitter yesterday. For although the media here has carried any number of stories on the Lotto Scam, many of them bizarrely claiming that most of the scammers are gay, we’ve never been given a true idea of the scale of the problem, affecting enough Americans for their political representatives to start raising the alarm about it.

Several media folk I follow on Twitter reacted negatively to my question, interpreting it as a slight or a claim that there had been no local media attention to the scam. It s true that there have been many stories about the Lotto scam here. To my mind however there’s a qualitative difference in the way the story was investigated and reported on American TV and the way it’s been carried in the local media which mainly focused on the scam when police action brought it to the forefront. Piqued by public criticism Simon Crosskill played some of CVM’s previously aired coverage of the Lotto Scam last night. It did cover much of the same ground as Rather’s documentary but the audio was poor and too many of the people interviewed had their faces obscured and voices disguised, thus robbing it of the impact it could have had.

Are there some stories local media consider too dangerous to touch? or don’t have the resources to I wondered puzzling over this variance in the quality of media coverage. In the case of the 2010 Tivoli carnage also there had been nothing in local media to approach the in-depth investigative article by American journalist Mattathias Schwartz whose exposé provided evidence that the US had given Jamaica military assistance in the May 2010 incursion into Tivoli despite the Jamaican government’s claims to the contrary. In both cases it was the American media that brought these stories to international attention, and sustained interest in them, not local media.

Let it be noted that Jamaican media are perfectly capable of executing well-researched, hard-hitting, in-depth stories when they’re ready to. In 2004 Cliff Hughes’s TV programme Impact won an Emmy in the United States for its documentary on sniper Lee Boyd Malvo called ‘The Potter and the Clay’. It was so good it not only attracted the attention of the US media, it won one of the most coveted journalism awards there. Other journalists such as Earl Moxam, Simon Crosskill, Dionne Jackson-Miller and Emily Crooks are as good as or better than their American peers.

Is it that there’s a lack of political will from the big media houses to provide the best journalists with the required resources and time to follow up the really important stories? Or are there more sinister reasons why Jamaica doesn’t have aggressive, exposé-driven investigative news outlets such as 60 Minutes and ABC’s 20/20?

The closest thing Jamaica has had in recent times to similar hard-hitting TV newsmagazines, was Doubletake, produced by Anthony Miller and CARIMAC lecturer Yvette Rowe for TVJ in 2000-2001. Despite winning awards the programme was phased out after only 8 or 9 episodes because it was considered too hard hitting and perhaps too close to the truth for comfort. It was felt that the broadcasters’ relentless focus on corruption and calling out politicans and others without fear or fanfare was ‘mashing too many corns’. This was the perception of the hosts of the programme; the station apparently discontinued it for lack of sponsorship although it was extremely popular and well-received by the public. Why a popular, well-made documentary programme would have difficulty finding sponsors is anybody’s guess. But it reinforces the point I’m making about the lack of will on the part of those with the means to enable and sustain high quality, hard-hitting journalism.

Among other subjects Doubletake covered, were the death and funeral of Grants Pen area leader Andrew Phang in Death of a Don, colour and race issues in The Browning Syndrome, the politics of the 100 Lane Massacre and other such matters. Whatever was the issue of the day was grist for their mill and with a miller like Anthony, no holds were barred. We desperately need a show like Doubletake again.

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