Last week the Supreme Court reached a decision in Kelo v. New London concerning eminent domain (ab)use. The case involved 19 homeowners who refused to hand over their homes to the city of New London, CT for private development featuring offices, a hotel, and a "pedestrian 'riverwalk' along the Thames River." The case could have far-reaching and devasting implications for many neighborhoods and has been closely watched by many in the New York area. In her dissenting opinion, Justice O'Connor stated that:
“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random.The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more....”
"Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded."
The problem of course is just what contitutes an "upgrade." Arguably any property whatsoever is up for grabs as long as someone with money comes along and says they can do something "better" with it. The most important issue at stake --- one which the Connecticut homeowners based much of their argument on --- was the definition of "public use." Historically, emiment domain cases have usually involved the seizure of private land for public use, such as railroads and hospitals. In writing the majority opinion, Justice Stevens transformed the meaning of "use" into "purpose," which effectively allows seizure of land for private development by private corporations. This begs the question of who knows what is best for you and your neighborhood, town or city.
Closer to home, a disturbing story is playing out on East 3rd St. The owners of a 15-apartment, rent-stabilized building are attempting to evict all the tenants so they can have the entire building to themselves. The owners --- a married couple with one child --- claim they will convert the building into a 5-bedroom, 6-bathroom, 11,600 square-foot apartment.
Landlords have the right to "recover" rent-stabilized apartments for personal use, but the tenants facing eviction suspect that the building will be converted to condos or resold at market rate once everyone's out. As noted in the NY Times:
"The size of the space that somebody claims they intend to live in must pass what lawyers call the 'giggle test' --- the notion that the claim is believable and will not cause a judge to start to giggle. The idea that someone would take 15 units with 60 rooms as a primary residence is absurd."
The case is currently playing out in the courts; a ruling for the landlords would give landlords and speculators yet another tool to use against tenants. How long 'til the bubble bursts?
Image at top by Eric Drooker.
ReAnimation: Magazine for Urban Environment is a new PDF zine designed by Martin Stiegler that explores street art and public space. Part of our zine on the how-to's of street art were adapted for the first issue, which is beautifully illustrated with photos of street art from Milan, Berlin, and Vorarlberg, Austria. From the ReAnimation site:
All over the world, artists are working in and with the urban environment of our cities. The ReAnimation magazine wants to unite all the different approaches to urban space, regardless of the medium.
So every artist, may he/she be graffiti-artist, street artist, photographer, texter or anything else is welcome to participate. Let's reanimate the boring walls in public space!
Colin Moynihan has an article in the New York Times today about our ghost bike project and Time's Up's memorial stenciling project. It's good that this issue is getting mentioned in the media --- the more public sympathy, the more leverage to make change. Here's the article:
On Roads Where They Fell, Bicyclists Are Remembered
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
The day after Andrew Ross Morgan was killed when his bicycle and a furniture truck collided at a Manhattan intersection, a bouquet of lilies stood nearby in a metal coffee can; a scrap of paper on a lamppost bore his name and the abbreviation R.I.P. Soon, those memorials were joined by another.
Just after 9 p.m. on Thursday, a group of people assembled at the same intersection, Elizabeth and East Houston Streets. They unfolded a cardboard stencil stained with orange and blue paint and placed it in the street. A man shook a can of silver spray-paint and pointed the nozzle at the cardboard. When he removed the cardboard moments later, an outline of a human body remained on the macadam.
"There needs to be more visibility for cyclists," said Matthew Roth, 28, of Chelsea, gazing at the image that he had just created. "This is an act of solidarity and tribute."
Over the years, roadside memorials in New York City have become a familiar sight. Their goal is to commemorate lives that came to a sudden end in a landscape of asphalt, brick and concrete where yesterday's events can be quickly forgotten. The most common display involves a milk crate or a cardboard box, tall candles in glass sleeves bought at local bodegas and a snapshot of the deceased.
But in the last week, memorials of a more noticeable and lasting nature have appeared in Manhattan and Brooklyn to designate the spots where bicyclists have died. They have been created in response to a recent spate of deaths on major thoroughfares and are intended to recognize the dangers cyclists face. According to police records, Mr. Morgan, 25, a food market manager from Brooklyn, was the 10th bicyclists to die this year in a collision with a car or truck; there were six by this time last year. In 2003, there were 16 fatalities, and in 2004, there were 15, the police said.
"There's a lack of education for drivers about sharing the road," said Mr. Roth, adding that many motorists endanger bicyclists by abruptly swerving their cars or by swinging doors open. And bicyclists sometimes bring danger upon themselves by riding in a risky fashion.
Mr. Roth, who is a member of a bicycling advocacy group called Time's Up!, said his organization had compiled a list of hundreds bicyclists and pedestrians killed in the last 10 years in collisions with motor vehicles. In the last week or so, he said, the group placed seven stenciled images at spots where fatal accidents had occurred. It is unlawful in New York City to place painted messages on public streets. But Mr. Roth said that a desire to call attention to the deaths made him and others decide to create the images.
The stenciled images are not the only new memorials for bicyclists. Last week, a collective of artists called Visual Resistance began using bicycles that have been spray-painted white, called "ghost bikes," to designate spots where bicyclists have died. The first was on Fifth Avenue near Warren Street in Park Slope, where a 28-year-old lawyer, Elizabeth Padilla, died after being struck by a truck on June 9, said Kevin Caplicki, 26, of Fort Greene. Mr. Caplicki is a member of the collective and said he happened by Fifth Avenue moments after Ms. Padilla died. The experience motivated him and others to introduce to New York this type of memorial, which has appeared on the streets of St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
"I feel an affinity with any cyclist who has fallen," Mr. Caplicki said. "I hope that people can make a connection when they see a riderless bicycle and think about a life that's gone."
At 11:30 p.m. Friday, Derek Bobus, 21, an architect's assistant from the Lower East Side, stopped to gaze at a Raleigh 10-speed painted white and chained to a signpost on East Houston Street near Avenue A. He read a small white sign fixed to the post above the bicycle; the sign bore the name Brandie Bailey, a 21-year-old who died nearby after being struck by a garbage truck on May 8.
Mr. Bobus said the memorial moved him to reflect on Ms. Bailey.
"She woke up that morning, and she had no idea she was going to die," he said. "It proves how life is really fragile."
Kareem Fahim and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting for this article.
Related: Visual Resistance's New York City Ghost Bike Project.
At around 1pm today, members of Visual Resistance installed a "ghost bike" on the corner of Houston St. and Elizabeth St. in Manhattan. A bicycle, spraypainted white, and a small stenciled plaque were attached to a street sign as a memorial to Andrew Morgan, a 25-year old bicyclist who was killed by a truck at the same spot on Wednesday, June 22.
The memorial is the third of its kind. The first was installed June 15 in memory of Elizabeth Padilla, a 28-year old bicyclist killed during her morning commute in Park Slope. The second was installed June 21 in memory of Brandie Bailey, killed May 8 on Houston St. and Avenue A on her way home from work.
As noted in the comments to a previous post, Houston St. is the most dangerous stretch of road for bicyclists in New York City. Bicycle advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives, Time's Up!, and others are working overtime to lobby the city for more physical infrastructure to keep bicyclists safe. And a growing network of artists and activists --- of which Visual Resistance is a part --- are working to raise awareness of bicyclists' right to safe travel.
Anyone interested in getting involved, email us at visual.resistance[at]gmail.com, or keep checking this site for more information.
Creating and installing a ghost bike is heart-wrenching every time. It's a project we would like not to have to continue. But we will create memorials as long as they are needed, in respectful memory of each life lost. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Andrew Morgan, Liz Padilla, and Brandie Bailey.
Background: Ghost Bike Project.
Photos from the memorial vigil available here.
Yesterday morning at around 10am, Andrew Ross Morgan was struck and killed by a truck on Houston St and Elizabeth. A few of us came across the crime scene yesterday morning but I hesitated to post anything here until I had more information. The Daily News has the horrific details. Bike Blog and NYC Indymedia will be providing additional coverage.
Friday's Critical Mass will be a memorial ride for Andrew. May he rest in peace.
An article by Elizabeth Hays about the Ghost Bike project appears on the Daily News website:
Memorial outlines bike death
BY ELIZABETH HAYS
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
A 10-speed bicycle, spray-painted ghostly white and a tombstone-like plaque have been erected at the Park Slope corner where a biker was recently crushed by a truck.
The eerie memorial - called a "Ghost Bike" - is part of an informal web of similar projects that have been slowly popping up across the country at deadly bike crash sites.
"It's a quiet statement in support of bikers' rights for safe travel," said Eliot, a 24-year-old artist from Clinton Hill, who installed the memorial after dark one night last week.
Eliot - who declined to give his full name because, as he put it, "I'm sure it's illegal" - said he did not know Elizabeth Padilla, the 28-year-old cyclist, but he felt personally moved by her death.
"I've been in close calls riding to work just like she was," added Eliot, a member of a group called Visual Resistance. "A split-second difference and someone could be painting a bike for me."
Padilla, a public-interest lawyer, was killed instantly June 9 on Fifth Ave. near Warren St. when the driver of a parked truck opened his door, causing her to swerve and fall under a moving truck.
Eliot said he heard of the growing Ghost Bike trend from a friend in Pittsburgh, where bike advocates have installed similar memorials. It is thought to have started in St. Louis.
Other cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle also have seen the unsettling, all-white bikes pop up on their streets.
"I don't know if it's happened before in New York City," said Eliot. "I thought it would be a nice and respectful memorial to do."
Bike advocates with Transportation Alternatives said they thought similar memorials may have been erected in the city in the past, but perhaps only temporarily.
"Anything that draws more awareness to the problem is a good thing," said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White.
So far this year, nine cyclists have been killed by cars or trucks - a 50% jump from last year, according to police statistics released by Transportation Alternatives.
Eliot said he hopes he has no reason to continue the Ghost Bike project.
"I'd like to say that we'll never do it again, but we may have to," he said.
Related: Ghost Bikes.
Founders and long standing members of TATS CRU got their start painting trains in the Bronx over twenty years ago. Today, TATS CRU has established itself as a legally legitimate company of professional muralists. They paint murals for small businesses and organizations throughout New York City. However, TATS CRU also accepts business from more shady corporate clients.
In 1996, TATS CRU was contracted to paint a series of advertisements for Coca-Cola. Click here to read about Coca-Cola’s international human rights abuses. Click here and here to check out some anti-Coke street art.
A recent Hummer advertisements painted by TATS CRU has aroused some interesting controversy on the street. Two identical Hummer ads were painted in Williamsburg (North 8th and Bedford) and the West Village (Avenue A and 2nd Street). Here is a picture of the Williamsburg ad, which has been tagged over with comments such as “No Blood For Oil,” “Cars kill,” and “Ride a bike.” The Hummer logo has also been crossed out. I also coulden't help but notice the GoreB painting installed near the Hummer ad.
Check out Wooster’s picture of the West Village advertisement, which has also been defaced.
Considering the city’s unhealthy levels of smog, it’s not hard to understand why New Yorker’s would react negatively to these ads, which peddle an off road vehicle that gets an estimated 13 miles to the gallon. (it’s hard to get an accurate understanding of the Hummer’s gas mileage because its uncanny weight exempts it from mileage-reporting requirements) The Hummer is the epitome of America’s environmentally deadly SUV fetish.
The mural pictured below, painted by students at El Puente High School, reflects serious community concerns about smog and environmental justice issues.
Members of TATS CRU might want to take these concerns into consideration before accepting future commissions that impose negative images on communities that have sponsored their art and livelihoods for years.
In memory of Liz Padilla, a 28-year old bicyclist killed last week, VR members created a small and somber memorial in Park Slope. The night before a memorial ride led by a coalition of bike advocacy groups, a bicycle painted all white was locked to a street sign and a small stenciled plaque was bolted in place above it.
The installation is meant as a reminder of the tragedy that took place on June 9 at the corner of Warren and 5th Ave., and a quiet statement in support of bikers' right to safe travel. It was inspired by Ghost Bike Pittsburgh, which was in turn inspired by a similar effort in St. Louis.
We'd like to never have to do this again.
Further info: Ghost Bikes.
Fans of Os Gemeos' mural at Coney Island won't want to miss the unveiling of the Dreamland Artist Club project. Organized by Steve Powers (aka ESPO) and funded by Creative Time, Dreamland got 17 contemporary artists to make hand-crafted signs for Coney Island vendors and sites and 10 more to make prizes for game booths. Details:
Art Tours of the 40 + Dreamland Artworks. June 18 tours leave at 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, and 4:30 p.m. and then every Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. or by request throughout the summer from THE CLUBHOUSE (1206 Surf Ave.). Win artist designed prizes at participating arcade games. Opening Party @ Ruby's on the Boardwalk, 5:00-8:00 p.m. FREE TIGER BEER AND DOOR PRIZES!
The recent deaths of two young bikers, 21-year old Brandie Bailey and 28-year old Liz Padilla have sent shockwaves through the NYC biking community. Both women were commuters riding on busy streets with no bike lanes; both were killed by drivers who acted irresponsibly and claimed they never saw them, and neither death has resulted in any charges.
These tragedies have brought together a coalition of bike advocates to honor those killed and argue for safer conditions for the rest of us. (As Mother Jones said, "Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.")
Now, FreeWheels is calling for a ride tomorrow morning (6/16) from Park Slope to City Hall. From the press release:
At 8 am on Thursday, June 16 cyclists representing an alliance of New York City bicycle groups will embark on a Vigil Ride from 5th Avenue and Warren Street in Brooklyn to the steps of City Hall, at 9 am, to memorialize Elizabeth Padilla, Brandie Bailey, Jerome Allen and the 201 other NYC bicyclists killed since 1995....
At City Hall at 9 am the alliance will lay down flowers in memory of the 204 fallen cyclists and ask Mayor Bloomberg to convene a multi-agency task force to develop --- in cooperation with the NYC cycling community --- an action plan to prevent further deaths and injuries....
"It's time for the NYPD to stop coddling drivers who infringe on cyclists' lawful right to the road," says Charles Komanoff, co-ordinator of the traffic-safety group Right Of Way. "State and city traffic law are full of provisions intended to protect safe cycling, yet virtually none of them are ever enforced," Komanoff says.
An alliance of Transportation Alternatives, Time's Up!, Right Of Way, the New York City Bicycle Messenger Association, and FreeWheels ask Mayor Bloomberg to convene a task force of the Departments of Transportation, Health, Police, City Planning and Parks to develop an action plan to prevent further deaths and injuries to bicyclists.
Visual Resistance will be making our own contribution to the memorial project in the next few days. Between the city's scapegoating of Critical Mass and the lack of infrastructure for bikers in NYC, bikers are being forced into dangerous situations every day. It seems like an especially critical time to speak out for our rights and safety. These efforts and the nascent coalitions being formed around them are a great start.
We're kickin' off a new project with the Street Art Workers (SAW), a national collective of printmakers, stencil artists, graffiti writers and designers who use the streets for art and activism. The previous poster project themes were entitled, Whose Media?, Utopia / Dystopia, and Art vs. Prisons.
The call for this year's project is now up at streetartworkers.org/call:
SAW wants to look at how globalization has affected our lands and how people are fighting back. How has it affected land in the cities — especially housing? How has globalization impacted land and workers in the countryside with farming, mining, drilling, logging and other resource extraction? What are the connections between land struggles in the global south, indigenous nations and the industrialized north? What are some of the connections between the landless peasants movement of Brazil and the squatter movements of Europe and North America? What links together the struggle against dams in India, hydroelectric projects Canada and water privatization in Latin America and South Africa? How are farmers and campesinos resisting industrial agriculture, like biotechnology and GMOs (genetically modified foods), in the U.S., Mexico and India? What organizing strategies have worked and hich ones have failed?
These questions are a starting point. We want to see more questions from you and some hard-hitting answers. We want powerful ideas and inspirational art that we can broadcast directly to the streets in 2005.We want posters that build connections between international struggles and actual organized projects with high profile publicity.
We especially want to see multilingual submissions and work from the perspective of women, Third World communities and indigenous/First Nations. We suggest that artists collaborate with grassroots, social change organizations of their choosing to make posters. We want posters that are both imaginative and relevant to “on the ground” organizing around issues of land, housing and globalization. Working with an organization is not required, but it is encouraged.
The deadline is September 1, 2005 --- designs will be curated and printed in Winter 2005-6 and wheatpasted in Spring 2006. Full details on the submission process and specs for designs are available here. For more information, visit streetartworkers.org or email streetartworkers[at]gmail.com.
Open the Cages: A Night of Political Prisoner Support
Saturday, June 11
$8-10 donation. sliding scale-no one turned away for lack of funds. All proceeds benefit the Jeffrey Luers Legal Fund and Jericho NYC. Contact: email@example.com
DUMBA Art space, 57 Jay Street [between Front and Water Streets]. Down under the Manhattan bridge in Brooklyn. F train to York Street. Exit train, make right, go two blocks down Jay Street. DUMBA is on your right side.
There will be food donated by Foodswings, veggie chili dawgs, info-tables of radical groups, pinatas, copious amounts of beverages, a DJ dance party [starting around 11pm] and some surprises!
7pm -- The NYC premiere of the film '22/8: the Jeffrey Luers Story'
8-9pm -- Speakers Ashanti Alston, Andy Stephanian, and representives from the Jeffrey Luers Defense Network and Jericho NYC.
9-11pm -- Music by Cipher, Casey Neill, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra
For more info go to freefreenow.org
As some of you know already the 9 train's final departure occured on May 31st. We all know that sometimes saying good-bye is hard to do. So why not come out with friends and family "1 more time for the 9." Gospel music, story-telling, dancing, surprises, and of course 9's! Not convinced? Check out pics from the Q's final day. Also read the Gothamist post.
Meet at Chambers St. Station Uptown 1 train--last car. 9pm sharp. Tonight June 9th!
A great exhibit about the history of Danzine is currently showing for FREE at the Art Gallery of The Graduate Center, City University of New York until June 25, 2005. The address is 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY and the Gallery Hours are Tues-Sat 12-6 pm.
Danzine began 10 years ago in Portland, OR by and for exotic dancers, escorts, and lingerie models. Cutting and pasting the first issue on a folded piece of paper, Danzine was left "in every dressing room where a gal provided entertainment and labor." From that, several community outreach programs were initiated. StreetReach entered the community and offered a no nonsense needle-exchange program. DanceReach was founded to educate women on STD's and unwanted pregenancies. The Sex Work Task Force, working with local Portland agencies, investigated the risk of HIV transmission among sex workers there. Lastly, the Danzine Resource Room, with various resources and services, provides a safe place for people to meet and talk about their experiences in and outside of the industry. DanZine has also helped to create a space for newer publications like Spread Magazine.
Here is a description of the show from their website:
"This installation recreates 'Switzerland', a neutral space within the Danzine agency where one could retreat to a small beautiful room to read, watch videos or take a time out. From the Danzine Archives come paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, collage, covers of the publication danzine, framed film festival and benefit art auction posters, books/pamphlets on harm reduction such as syringe exchange, overdose prevention and safer sex, safer sex supplies, gear, post cards and the last Danzine T-shirt. "
As we enter the summer months, the fight against massive urban development in the city will be warming up. The West Side Highway Stadium plans have been postponed until this Monday, setting up a dramatic situation that may have ramifications on whether or not the city will become home to the 2012 Olympics. In Brooklyn the opposition to a stadium and development complex situated around the Atlantic Railyards will be holding a rally this Tuesday, meeting up at Brooklyn Borough Hall at 5pm and arriving at City Hall at 6pm. To download flyers go to the Develop Don't Destroy site.
A group of activists hit Fayetteville, Arkansas with stencils, spraypaint, and posters to protest Wal-Mart's annual shareholders' meeting. The good news is that the posters look great, and the action made the local news. The bad news... they got caught:
Police said five men and one woman used glue early Wednesday to stick posters that criticized Wal-Mart on several campus buildings. One of the posters said "Everyday Low Wages," and the other said "I Will Eat Your Town and Smile."
Officers said the group also spray-painted anti-Wal-Mart slogans on campus. University police spokesman Gary Crain said he is used to seeing small problems in the past during the annual Wal-Mart shareholders meeting, as well as and during other events on campus.
An account from one of the arrested is on up on Austin Indymedia:
At approximately 4 in the morning, 2 nights before the Wal Mart Shareholders Convention, some associates and I were working on an art project around Bud Walton Arena, site of the upcoming Walmart Orgy. We were stopped by some “Walmart-Loss-Prevention Officers” and UAPD, who proceeded to question us about our activities, which might have included some wheatpasting and graffitti in Walmart territory....
As the UAPD made clear to me and my comrades, “if you are ever on the UA again, especially when Walmart is here, we will take you immediately to jail.” What good neighbors...Always.
Protests against Wal-Mart's shareholders' meeting are being coordinated by Against the Wal Coalition. Wal-Mart's labor practices --- notably sexual discrimination, union busting, and low wages --- and it's creeping threat to local communities are well documented.
See the news report about the action here. Wal-Mart Watch is the best place to start getting information on Wal-Mart; perhaps the most exciting activist project I found through their resources page is the Los Angeles Superstore Ordinance, and there are many more.
Great job to the people who made the posters --- next time, don't get caught!
If you can please try to make it to uniondocs tonight for a screening of Speak Out: I Had an Abortion. Before the film begins artists Linda Zacks and Swoon will be on hand presenting their work and afterwards there will be a discussion with the filmmakers and some of the women from the film.
The following is text from the film's webpage:
"1.3 million women get abortions each year in the U.S. alone. For most it is a secret. The debate itself is loud and paralyzing while the voices of the women who get abortions are submerged.
"Speak Out: I Had an Abortion," directed by Gillian Aldrich and co-produced by Aldrich and Jennifer Baumgardner, documents the stories of 11 women ranging in age from 21 to 85. The film cuts across race, religion, region, class, sexuality, and politics--demonstrating that abortion effects all women."
As part of the film's outreach to change perceptions and attitudes about abortion Jennifer Baumgardner has designed a simple t-shirt reading "I Had an Abortion,"explaining that "About a year ago, I decide to work on a DIY (do-it-yourself) project to encourage women to “come out” about their abortion procedures. The political reason behind it was that I believe that one of the reasons it is so easy to demonize abortion is that the issue is often isolated from the very women (our mothers, sisters, friends, grandmas, selves) that have abortions." Additionally, she also produced cards "to be distributed to abortion clinics that read “If you’ve had an abortion, you don’t have to be sorry” and then listed resources such as non-judgmental counseling, the religious coalition for choice, ways to be involved politically, and how to raise money for your or another woman’s procedure."
You can purchase shirts from Clamor and to order cards, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo by Tara Todras-Whitehall can be found here.
May's Critical Mass proved to be festive and one of the largest in recent memory. After months of police intimidation, threats, and arrests this month's ride went off relatively smoothly. About 500 or so riders convened together on the streets of the city starting from Union Square (and elsewhere) and eventually ended up at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery. This is not to say that the police have changed their stance.
11 arrests, helicopters overhead, and undercovers abound the NYPD continue to waste money and create unwanted tension at an otherwise safe and friendly event. Thanks goes out to Freewheels who once again provided arrestees with loaner bikes through their Steal it Back! program.
And great work by our friends from Notanalternative/Change You Want to See Gallery who helped facilate a huge amount of cardboard visuals for the ride and for the performances by Rev. Billy and his Choir. Check out pics here.
If you haven't yet donate to the TimesUp legal defense fund!
Also, continue to check out and send your work to our new webpage dedicated to Critical Mass art!
Still We Ride!