Memorial Day

Let me begin by saying that I take Memorial Day seriously for its intended purpose. In my immediate family, I have two World War II vets (both now dead), a Korea vet, and a post-Vietnam volunteer vet. Mrs. __B has several World War II vets in her immediate family, all of whom served in Russia on Eastern Front. Despite this, amazingly, neither of us is related to anyone killed in action.

Memorial Day has taken on another meaning for a subset of New Yorkers. It’s when the site clean-up at the World Trade Center officially ended in 2002. There was nothing resembling debris left on site, so that was the end. “Reconstruction” officially began the next day, although meaningful reconstruction didn’t get going for months after.

I was long gone by May 2002. I reached my limit in late November 2001. My decision to stop was the combination of very long hours on site; physical difficulties with my feet, knees, and back that were getting worse each time I went to the site; my disgust with the encroachment of politics, business promotion, and petty inter-agency jealousy into what had been a volunteer effort; and most of all, my overwhelming sense of being emotionally drained. I could have kept going, but when I think about the long-term effects that I have had, I shudder to think how bad they would have been with another six months on site.


A Great City, Decaying

A friend’s picture from the Havana trip says it all:

Cuba does not have the resources to maintain and repair the portion of its cultural heritage that is its irreplaceable built environment. For every repaired building we saw, there were twenty that needed work. Worse, the combination of the US embargo and the Cuban government’s reluctance to work with international agencies has kept most outsiders from being able to help.

As has been shown again and again, once the heritage is gone, it doesn’t spontaneously regenerate.

Meaningless, Endless Voyeurism

A part of today’s line-up watching 71 Broadway for signs of Dominique Strauss-Kahn:

That’s a police van just to my right; several more photographers and the five media trucks aren’t visible. I’m all for freedom of assembly and freedom of assembly, so I would have nothing done to move these assholes, but perhaps someone could explain what the “news” is here. DSK has a corporeal body that has to exist in some physical space? A man on bail and effectively under house arrest isn’t stepping out for a stroll? Cops assigned to guard an apartment-house front door are bored?

If he’s still living at 71 when he goes to trial, I imagine these morons will trail him the dozen blocks to the courthouse every morning and back every evening, thinking that they are performing some vital public service.

The Heroic Image

One of our projects made it to the New York Times yesterday, but no one knows because we’re not mentioned. This is common: reporters will mention only the architects as if they designed everything by themselves or, more rarely, only the engineers. I don’t think it’s space, as I’ve seen this happen in a 1000-word piece. I think that reality – that architects, engineers from all disciplines, and contractors work in teams – is at odds with the heroic image as exemplified by Howard Roark blowing up his building, by Frank Lloyd Wright interfering in the design of the structure of Fallingwater, and by Mr. Brady working in his study while Greg and Marcia get into some moronic difficulties. Reality loses.

Good News, Badly Reported

The population of lower Manhattan is on the rise. However, the reporter (and headline writer) need to learn that these people are not living “near Ground Zero.” They are living in downtown Manhattan, the oldest part of the city and one of the oldest settlements in what is now the U.S.; most live in Battery Park City, which is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town.

In short, fuck you. There’s actually more to this part of the city than a terrorist attack.


I’m off to Havana for a conference. Since I’m not taking my laptop*, I’ll be relying on internet cafes, which is to say that I may break my string of consecutive days posting after 4-1/2 months. C’est la vie, as the Cubans say.

*It’s a probably futile attempt to make the horrendous customs/immigration inspections simpler.