Saturday, April 17, 2010

New York State of Mind

It's been a big week for New York City. There were a few victories, a couple of arrests, a big protest, and lots and lots of naked men. If you don't recognize this building, it will become very familiar to you in the weeks to follow. This is the recently completed new home of Goldman Sachs at least before they are sent to jail. But more about that in the weeks to come. Let's get to victories and other naked truths about the city first....

Local - I don’t think I’ve ever told you about the New York Board of Education reassignment centers or “rubber rooms” as they are commonly called. These are holding facilities for NYC teachers who have been pulled out of the classroom for various and sundry reason from incompetence to assault. Since the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) protects teachers from being summarily fired without a fair hearing, the accused are parked in these rubber rooms with full pay until they have been either cleared of any wrong doing or in the most agregious cases, convicted of the most heinous crimes against children. They are pretty much paid to sit all day and stare, though one guy who's been in the rubber room for years has quite a lucrative real estate business. All the while, the City (and taxpayers) must foot the bill to the tune of $30 million a year. Yes, they continue to be paid while in these “rubber rooms” and it can take years for these cases to work their way through the system.

Well, we finally won a big victory this week for our school and our students when the head of the UFT, Michael McGrew and Joel Klein, Chancellor of the Board of Ed., came to an agreement to shut down the rubber rooms and streamline the hearing process. Instead of uselessly parking the accused indefinitely, the DOE will now have a limited amount of time to either formally charge a teacher. If no charges are filed, the teacher can get back into the classroom in a matter of few months rather than years. If they are to be further investigated, the Union has agreed that they should now have to work for their salaries in non-teaching positions until they are cleared or convicted. It’s a real victory for the teachers, the students and the taxpayers.

However, the NYC homeless may not fare as well. Mayor Bloomberg is floating the idea that the city should charge the homeless families for shelter. He wants to require that at least one member of the family have a job before the city will provide vouchers for housing. This is to encourage the homeless to participate in their economic recovery. Fair enough, but in our present economic climate, I am not sure what I think about this. The city has double digit unemployment and finding a job is hard enough for thoses who have a permanent place to live and money in the bank. Asking someone to get a job before they can get help seems unnecessarily harsh. And if there are that many job openings, why are there so many out of work.  I think this will be a no-go for Bloomberg.

Life in the Naked City (WARNING: Naked men ahead, approach with caution) – Bronze statues of anatomically correct naked men have been popping up all over Manhattan lately. Well, this week, one appeared on a ledge of the Empire State Building. It was just high enough to look like a real person and caused panicked pedestrians to dial 911 to report a possible jumper. The police rushed to the scene only to find that it was just a statue. The pedestrians had every reason to panic since only two weeks ago, some poor young soul actually did jump from the building’s observation deck to his obvious death. Though I don’t mind anatomically correct statues of naked men, I would think that an artist would have been a little more sensitive.

And as long as we are talking about anatomically correct naked men, New York had yet another first. The Museum of Modern Art introduced a new “performance art” piece comprised entirely of live naked people. As you can imagine, these nude “statues” were positioned throughout the museum to evoke various calculated responses from the observers. Yippee for art. But wait, that’s not the “first” part. In a museum first, a “piece of art” has filed its (his, her?) first sexual harassment complaint against one of the more overly enthusiastic observers. As a result, a long time museum patron was stripped of his membership and told never to return after he fondled the anatomy of one very shocked piece of art. This is probably the first piece of art to complain about a patron.

And finally – Tax Day Tea Party New York style -

We came, we chanted, and we rejoiced in the Constitution of the United States. There were about 10-12K of us, but who’s counting. So, enough about the Tea Partiers, I want to talk about the “anti” tea partiers. This was the first event where we actually had a real counter protest, so let me tell you what they look like.
Amazingly, they looked exactly like the Tea Partiers only more so. There were about 20 or so people from various liberal groups from around the city – some group from “”, a few sweet Coffee Party members, and one very misguided 911 conspiracy theorist who would not shut up. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were all upper middle class white people. But don’t let them know that or they may have to call themselves “racists rednecks” and that would make them feel bad about themselves, so they'll give up and stop protesting.

So anyway, I volunteered to be a “marshal” for our group [shameless plug] This means that many of my fellow volunteers and I manned the frontlines for problems and directed attendees to the protest area. My little trio was first stationed at the corner of 31st and 8th Ave.  Lucky for us this was also the same corner where all of the counter protestors had to pass through first. I have to say it was a little scary when they all started moving towards us, but the cops were very close and ready to jump in, if necessary.

The “” people were the most vocal and strident. They were expecting us to try and stop them, but we just smiled and let them pass do what they were going to do.  They came ready to rumble and were disappointed that for the most part they were ignored.

My personal favorites were were the five very sincere “Coffee Party” people from Brooklyn handing out little cards. One very sincere guy pleaded with me to “keep an open mind” and beseeched us to“dialogue more” and protest less. I asked him why he assumed that I didn’t have an open mind. He responded that I was obviously sadly misguided and uninformed to be a part of such a mean spirited movement. Well, let’s just say I was polite and he left saddened that he couldn't inform me. For the most part, everyone was respectful and as far as I know I was involved in the only “police action”. One of the BailOut people who was obviously drunk got a little belligerent and had to be escorted away by a group of New York’s Finest. And as a follow up, Our Dear Leader once again leveled his scorn upon us.

As I stare in disbelief, I can only hope that he'll change his mind in November.


AndrewPrice said...

Bev, New York becomes stranger and stranger by the day. Naked art suing for harassment? Rubber rooms to reward rotten teachers with free time? What is going on?

Thanks for doing the protest thing. I hope the message is finally getting across to the government. I think it is because they're obviously so concerned about you. If they weren't, they wouldn't mention you.

I love the fact that the left always thinks they're the one with the open eyes and everyone is just uninformed. Usually (almost always), the opposite is true.

Unknown said...

Bev: The building looks appropriate for Goldman-Sachs. Kinda bloated in the middle. Will the building change shape when the crooks go off to jail (or into the Obama administration)?

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew, at least reason prevailed and the Union relented about the rubber rooms. This time I don't mind the Union crowing because this will benefit everyone.

It is my pleasure to participate in the Tea Party. As I told the disappointed Coffee Party guy, sometimes you just have to stand up and be counted. He didn't get it. None of them understand that most of us are confident enough in what believe to be true, that their name calling does not bother us.

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk - Since I can see the building from my office, I'll check on Monday! I just remembered of friend of mine works at Goldman Sachs. Ooh, I can get the inside scoop!

And if we don't hear from them again, they've probably been whisked off to DC to live in the basement of the WH to advise ODL...where's that 911 Truther guy? He needs to know this.

Anonymous said...

Naked performance art, eh? They must've introduced that this week since I went there last week for the Tim Burton exhibit and I didn't notice any naked folks.

The Tim Burton exhibit was pretty cool. Lots of artwork, going all the way back to his high school years. The man definitely has a style. Also props and costumes from his films. Photography was prohibited but I managed to snap off a few. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Nice post, Bev - It's nice to hear there was an agreement to shut down the rubber rooms. It's amazing what not having enough money to fund this kind of thing anymore can do.

Anatomically correct bronze statues, eh? Go figure. I guess it certainly beats urine soaked Jesus statues. I suppose vandals could spray paint jeans on them.

Tea Party protests - These people no doubt are earnest in their beliefs so I respect that. Still, I loved your response. I probably would have engaged as to where the person is getting their information. Some people rely on the Times for their news so how can we expect them to know any better. Fortunately, I think they are in the minority and headed for a very rude awakening.

BevfromNYC said...

Scott - It's on the 6th Floor and is there through the end of May.
If you go let us know what you think. I'm not a big fan of performance art, so I think I'll skip it.

Now that you're in the area, I can't make anything up mean, I have to check my facts thoroughly...hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

Bev - I didn't make it up that high (my feet were killing me by the time I left) and I'm not big on performance art either.

Don't worry about your facts - I trust you. :-) All is well. Still job-searching and I started my first improv class today at UCB... fun!

I also picked up this book: The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher. It's all about infrastructure, using NYC as a template. It's softcover, features colorful illustrations, and is meant for the layman like me.

Unfortunately, the Look Inside! feature on doesn't show the illustrations.

BevfromNYC said...

TennJed - Thanks! You know, I really liked that poor Coffee Party guy, He just seemed so sad. I may take him up on attending a meeting. Maybe I can convince them that we aren't what they think we are.

Joel Farnham said...


That last was so typical of Obama.

I think there should be a suicide watch on Obama on November 2, 2010.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I agree -- it's good that the union finally agreed to some common sense. But still, the idea of basically being rewarded with free time and your salary when you should be dismissed is truly amazing. Not as amazing as art suing anyone, but still amazing!

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