Photo of the day: RED WHITE AND BLUE, REMEMBERING TYRONE MAY – The World Trade Center 9/11 memorial’s security walls came down today and as a native New Yorker tour guide who visited the site several times a week, it is very odd and it takes some getting used to that there are no longer any long snaking lines, advance $2 tickets and airport type security screening. As of now – you can walk right up to the waterfalls. Tyrone May’s family came to remember him as they privately visited the newly opened museum, they left this red, white and blue remembrance for him. On this rainy day, the raindrops looked like tears.
Photo of the day: REMEMBERING, 9/11 NEVER GETS EASIER – The mood was still very somber ‘the day after’ on September 12. Standing by the side of the south waterfall was this survivor who just simply stood there for hours with his hand touching his loved ones name. One of 2,998 names officially counted. It never gets easier.
CYNTHIA NIXON, HARRY BELAFONTE, SUSAN SARANDON
Photo of the day: ACTIVISM IS BEAUTIFUL FOR CYNTHIA NIXON, HARRY BELAFONTE AND SUSAN SARANDON
– Since we have lived under the greedy dictatorship of Mayor Bloomberg and councilwoman Christine Quinn – we have lost TWELVE
, possibly 14 hospital since they have been in office for the last 12 years!! St. John’s hospital on Queens Blvd, where I was born – closed. St. Vincent’s Hospital, founded in 1849, took in the only survivors of the Titanic in 1912. It was at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in Greenwich Village, was first in line to take in the 9/11 victims and lastly took in the passengers from ‘the miracle on the Hudson’ in 2009.
With the voracious greedy appetite and financial payoffs from the real estate Goliaths, the Rudin family, Quinn eased the hospital into becoming luxury condos. She tore down the hospital, the church and the 911 memorial with it so that all memory is gone!
Mayor Bloomberg who acts as the über nanny in not allowing 16 oz sodas to be consumed by New Yorkers, controls what New Yorkers eat under the guise of being concerned for our health, has looked the other way as 12-14 hospital have been shut, turned into condos or are not admitting new patients. This is the reality of our mayor – the city of Bloombergistan.
Councilwoman Christine Quinn wields single handed power to control our laws and see to it that Bloomberg gets his way, if, as a fellow councilmember you vote against her, the funding for your district is cut off or reduced. I could go on.
There is one mayoral candidate who has been at all the protests, getting arrested and is speaking up for the inequality of the Bloomberg greedy years – Bill DeBlasio. In the last few months we have literally been in danger of loosing one hospital a week! This genocide of the middle class is alarming. If New York City were to have another hurricane Sandy or another terror attack – where are the ambulances and hospitals for us to go to?! This is a ticking time bomb. There are some who have the passion to speak out and say ‘enough is enough.’ These are the wonderful New Yorkers such as Cynthia Nixon, Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte and mayoral candidate Bill DeBlassio.
On Monday August 19, we all rallied outside the remains of St. Vincent’s hospital in hopes that under a new leadership, the rape of our citizens and it’s hospitals will stop.
ANYBODY BUT QUINN!
BILL DeBLASSIO FOR MAYOR!
When Cynthia Nixon speaks – Susan Sarandon listens!
TWO PROUD MEN
WHAT THE FUCK?!
SARANDON THUMBS UP
SAVE OUR HOSPITALS
PROUD CYNTHIA NIXON
LOOKING AT ST. VINCENT’S
CYNTHIA NIXON PROTESTS
DEBLASIO AND BELAFONTE
ANYBODY BUT QUINN !
Photo of the day: ANYBODY BUT QUINN! – To my country wide and international readers, this may seem like a localized issue, but it is sadly not.
I as a tour guide lost my job in 2011 at Gray Line tours, the double decker bus company soley because of councilwoman and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn. How it came to be: two men complained that the tour guides could be heard on Greenwich Avenue in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan. It is a main commercial thoroughfare with the now gone St. Vincent’s hospital across the street with their blaring sirens going all night. Bars line the street that play European soccer matches till 4am in the morning. A grade school play ground is across the street, all that noise, but we were too much. A “headset bill’ was instituted by Christine Quinn with a sound test to be done, it was never ever done. Councilwoman Gail Brewer insisted to insure the tour guides jobs, a proviso be included in the bill that the headsets be connected to a live guide, that was done. But — Twin America is the monopoly that owns both the double decker bus companies (the blue City Sights and the red Gray Line) wanted the ‘live guide’ proviso taken out. Why pay for my health insurance and salaries when you can have a recording do it for free? In the middle of the night Quinn took out the live guide proviso saying “it isn’t necessary.” You see, Twin America has always contributed heavily to her political campaign.
The guides protested at all the local TV stations with our slogan “Keep New York Live.” My dear friend and anti-Quinn champion Donny Moss joined in. At our last gasp rally to be held at noon on the steps of City Hall, no press showed up. When I called a local TV reporter friend of mine asking where the press was, I was told Quinn had told everyone the rally was canceled. The bill passed. Oddly enough, any guide that had been seen protesting try to save their jobs were not fired but simply not ‘allowed’ to come to work anymore – I was one of them.
Councilwoman Christine Quinn wants to be mayor of this city. She is the puppet of Mayor Bloomberg. During their time in office, New York City has lost many hundreds of long time established restaurants, shops, bars, schools, hospitals, parks, and memorials for the sake of greedy real estate greed to build “luxury” apartment buildings than that of any other political team in the city’s history. We tour guides get almost daily notices of yet another hospital, restaurant or long time establishment closing due to doubling rent – yes double. Doubling rent on businesses has become the norm, leaving only the chain stores to survive. Zoning variance – the norm, Quinn rubber stamps them, the money goes in her pocket. The hospital I was born in is gone. Also St. Vincent’s hospital that took in the only survivors of The Titanic was at the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, was first in line to respond to the 911 victims has been torn down by Quinn. But – that was not enough, St. Vincent’s church was torn down as well and the 911 Tiles For America Memorial across the street has been torn down too, to assure no memory is left of the site. If she becomes mayor, there will no “New York” left for you to see. Quinn/Berg plan to completely surround Grand Central Station with bulging sky scrappers. The Chyrsler Building will be hardly seen anymore! None of these building plans take into consideration that our electrical grid is already stretched to the max. Instead of protecting our shores from the rising sea level and future hurricanes, Bloomberg and Quinn build, build, build more glass boxes for instant profit, chain stores take over and screw the future. She herself changes the laws to fit her monetary gain. This is how dictatorships start.
QUINN IS GAY FOR PAY! Touting herself as the breaktrough first gay mayor of NYC – she has not voted for ONE pro-gay bill or legislation, not one. But on gay pride day – she runs to the front of the parade waving her arms in the air. GAY FOR PAY!
I have joined Donny Moss and the ‘Defeat Christine Quinn’ and ‘ABQ’ campaign. HELP SAVE NEW YORK. I will vote for New York, I will vote against corrupt Christine Quinn!
I am fighting hard for the ANYBODY BUT QUINN campaign. If you are a New Yorker, please read on to inform yourself of her devious record. . .
In 2011, New Yorkers working on the campaign to educate the public about Christine Quinn’s record had a busy year, with more than 20 protests at her public appearances and 2013 campaign fundraisers. Before the 2009 City Council election, many people in her district told us they were planning to vote for Quinn. Once they looked at her record, however, many were just as dismayed as we were. These voters who paid closer attention are part of the reason Quinn struggled to win re-election in her own district. We believe that our campaign made a difference, and we intend to have a more profound impact in the 2013 election for Mayor. In the meantime, Quinn continues to give people new reasons to join the movement against her:
On December 2, the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center released its 2011 NYC Council report card, which grades Council members on their “record in promoting the human rights of New Yorkers” during the previous 12 months. Christine Quinn received a D+, the second to lowest score. To quote the report: “Both the political power of the Speaker and the reticence of the Council Members to challenge it are inhibiting the advancement of human rights in New York City. The power of the Speaker has delayed hearings, stalled votes and restricted the passage of legislation.”
Example: As Michael Powell wrote in the October 10, 2011 New York Times, “A year ago [City Council] members tried to push through a living wage in the Bronx and to mandate a few sick days for workers. [Christine Quinn] ensured each effort ended up baled, tied and set by the BQE for early sanitation pickup.”
Abuse of City Funds
The Speaker position concentrates an extraordinary amount of power in the hands on one person. As Speaker for the past five years, Quinn has abused that power to advance her political career at the expense of the democratic process and the public she alleges to serve.
Among the most powerful weapons in Quinn’s arsenal are the discretionary funds—tens of millions of dollars that Quinn doles out to reward campaign donors and loyal Council members and withholds from Council members who challenge her agenda. As Jason Farago wrote in a December 15 editorial in The Guardian, “Quinn is not only the most powerful legislator in the city; she’s pretty much the only legislator in the city, and from her perch she has nearly unilateral control over lawmaking. She decides what comes to the floor… and her caucus votes for it, or she makes them pay.”
Example: In March, Quinn strong-armed Council members to vote to rename the Queensboro Bridge in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch. Months later, in December, Koch endorsed Quinn for Mayor—two years before the election. A poll found that a majority of voters (64 percent) opposed renaming the bridge after Koch, and Council member Peter Vallone Jr., of Astoria, spoke out against it. Quinn responded by cutting Vallone’s discretionary funds by $600,000.
To put this political stunt in historical context, the Triboro Bridge wasn’t renamed after Robert F. Kennedy until 40 years after his assassination.
On October 4, Clyde Haberman of The New York Times observed in a piece entitled “Like Putin, Like Bloomberg” that Russia’s Prime Minister “was more scrupulous about observing the niceties of term limits than were New York’s political leaders: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his Medvedev equivalent, Christine C. Quinn….” With the help of “complaisant council members,” Haberman wrote, Bloomberg and Quinn “simply changed the law to reward themselves with third terms.”
After the 2008 slush fund fiasco destroyed her chances of becoming Mayor in 2009, Quinn needed four more years to improve her image. But her role in overturning term limits has only further damaged her reputation.
Real Estate Ties
As Kate Taylor reported in the January 5 New York Times, Quinn has already raised more than $4.9 million in campaign contributions. The vast majority of donors who have made the maximum legal contribution of $4,950 to Quinn’s campaign are real estate executives, as are many of the campaign bundlers who have raised more than $20,000. In return, Quinn advocates tirelessly for real estate developers at the expense of her constituents. As WestView readers know, Bill Rudin is planning to build 450 luxury condos on the site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Quinn’s district. True to form, Quinn has publicly stated on several occasions that the Lower West Side needs a full service hospital while helping pave the way for Rudin to erect his condos. As of July 2011, seven members of the Rudin family had contributed a total of more than $30,000 to Quinn’s campaign, which may help explain why Quinn not only refused to advocate for tapping into millions of dollars in available reserve funds that might have helped save St. Vincent’s, but also refused to support a community effort to keep the St. Vincent’s site zoned for community use.
In its 2009 City Council scorecard, the NY League of Humane Voters concluded that the “biggest obstacle to more humane laws in NYC is the inexplicable opposition to animal welfare legislation by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,” who has “attacked virtually every effort in the Council to make life better for animals, despite claiming in letters to concerned citizens that she cares about animal welfare and even ‘supports animal rights.’”
Not only has Quinn killed every substantive animal protection bill introduced into the Council, but she has also fast-tracked several meaningless bills that make her look like she’s helping animals when, in reality, she’s only helping herself politically.
Example: A majority of New Yorkers support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. Quinn does not, and she has killed legislative efforts to take the carriage horses off the streets. But in an effort to make herself look as though she cares about the welfare of the horses, Quinn fast-tracked a bill in 2010 that was filled with fake reforms such as banning carriages operators from working below 34th Street, where they don’t work anyway, or between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00 a.m., when no customers are out. The purpose of the bill was to grant carriage operators a rate hike, but Quinn only touted the fake reforms in the press, giving the impression that she’s an advocate for animals when she has been just the opposite. In 2011, at least seven carriage horses collapsed, tripped, spooked and died in midtown.
In January 2011, Quinn fast-tracked another bill that makes it illegal for New Yorkers to chain their dogs outside for more than three hours. Quinn admitted that the bill is unenforceable, but she held a press conference promoting this meaningless bill, again giving New Yorkers the impression that she cares about animal welfare.
In September 2011, Quinn fast-tracked another bill that erased a law requiring a city-funded animal shelter in every borough. She did this as a favor to Bloomberg so the City could dodge a lawsuit demanding that it fulfill this obligation. (Shelters are desperately needed in The Bronx and Queens.) Rather than being honest about the purpose of the bill, Quinn added language to it mandating increased resources for existing shelters, thereby making a step backward for animals look like a step forward.
How much of Quinn’s campaign is being funded by NYC taxpayers? In the last election, it was a fair amount. In an article in the August 20, 2009 Village Voice, Elizabeth Dwoskin reported that 31 of Quinn’s “more than 90 volunteers” were in fact paid staffers, though Quinn’s spokesperson claimed they were doing the work on their own time.
Quinn has a vast amount of taxpayer-funded city resources at her disposal for her campaign, including a chauffeured SUV. She has the support of Mayor Bloomberg, his paid consultant Ed Koch, the Democratic Establishment and the LGBT community. She has a bully pulpit as Speaker and has the Mayor inviting her to speak at high profile events. But perhaps that’s not a bad thing, because the more potential supporters are exposed to her, the more chances they have to see how much there is about her candidacy not to like.
On our side, we have the truth about Quinn’s record; a public that is becoming more informed about her; several other viable candidates for Mayor; and the will to fight to restore ethics, fairness, democracy and humanity to NYC government.
My 87 year old mother canvases our local street handing out fliers to anyone that will listen – so do I.
See you in the streets.
For more information, see Donny Moss’ documentary “Christine Quinn: Behind the Smile” on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uhR3-8xK6s
Photo of the day: MEET 35 OF MY NEW FRIENDS FROM INDIA – Through my friendship with Ajay and Ankur Bansal of the India Unexplored travel agency in India, I get the sheer joy of showing stary-eyed students the city of their dreams. Since they come from all parts of India, the reaction to New York ranges widely from bewilderment, confusion, to the thrill of recognizing places from their movies and music videos.
The children in this group ranged from age 8 to 15, so therefore their reactions varied greatly. The group always is divided into the expected subsections. The cool pretty girls, the science geeks, the way too cool coming-of age guys dressed as ‘NYC’ as possible, the introverted, the shy and the terribly obdeient to parents and tradition. It amuses me greatly to watch this predictable age old tradition and dividing up carry on. Can you pick out who is who in this group photo?
On Sunday, July 7th we first visited the Statue of Liberty. The high rate of security overwhelmed them a bit at first. To watch their eyes grow wider and wider as the boat drew closer was endearing. Some children just grow very quiet and look studiously up at her. Here she was! The statue they had seen in every movie, “Did you see ‘I Am Legend’?! That movie was cool!” I always point out to them that the statue is not standing still as it first appears, that she is breaking the chains of oppression at her feet and is moving forward towards freedom, “Oooooh!” I always ask – do you know what the 7 points in her crown represent? “The 7 continents” is the most frequent answer as opposed to the correct answer, the 7 seas. I then ask them to take 2 American pennies out of their wallet to show them just how thin her copper skin is, there is always amazement at that. Despite the oppressive heat wave we took the time to make sure everyone got that one special photo with Miss Liberty – you know, you get on your knees and photograph upwards so that friends and Miss Liberty are all in one shot. Then it’s the race for the gift shop. “I wanted more Liberty Statues” one adorable girl exclaimed. I assured her, once we got to Timers Square, there would be dozens including many live ones for her to choose from!
Next it was on to the 9/11 memorial. More stringent security. Since half the group was of such a young age, I had to explain the whole tragedy to them and the importance of the site. Many had thought the waterfalls would be above ground “you know, like Niagara Falls.” I told them to look up and imagine 110 floors of people working at their desks possibly about to loose their lives. Silence and bewilderment came over their faces. ‘But why?’ their faces seemed to say. How do you explain terrorism to an 8 year old? I tried in the gentlest manner possible, trying to explain “hate”. Many also sought to touch the ‘survivor pear tree’ and felt it was a true miracle.
Since they wanted an American lunch, where else but – McDonalds on Broadway with the live piano player, this was very exciting to them. They were like kids in a candy store. Very happy and very placated. We then walked around the City Hall area and waited for our bus to take us to the Empire State Building. What was incredible to them was that it was built in just 13 months. “That can’t be sir? It is not possible to construct such a thing in so short a time.”
Out of respect, I am called “sir” – it is endearing, an old age culture of respect and a bit surreal. Some dared to call me “Sir Hans” but that was tried by only 1 or 2 of the older boys. Imagine this soft little voice calling you “sir”, it warms you heart to the fullest.
The Empire State Building was the third time they were subjected to the heavy ‘welcome to New York security’, this is how our lives have changed. Security guards took away a golf ball from a little boy. I was furious and in disbelief. I had an umbrella which I could have dropped down as a missile, but this little boy’s NYC golf ball he had bought for his dad was confiscated?!? (I bought him another one at twice the price, but I was NOT going have this
be his memory of the Empire State Building!) Once we got to the top, having come from the other side of the globe, I was asked if that land mass to the west was Canada – I had to explain, no…”it’s Jersey”.
Our final stop was the much requested Times Square. The ooohs and ahhhs were abundant. Each older student was required to hold the hand of a younger student. I lead the group holding up an American flag they could follow, we were quite a parade. “Sir! This is where we should have spent the whole day!” Most of them just wanted to shop, try on Nike sneakers and buy as many I ♥ NY t-shirts as possible, and oh yes, and buy many little mini Liberty statues.
Here is where our culture differs greatly from India’s. We made our meeting point by the red glass TKTS stairs. As we waited I looked in their bags and would ask them “so – what did you buy?” Many of them responded that they had not bought nothing for themselves, but something for their sister, father, brother or mother. It was truly humbling. One little girl was so proud that she had bought a red, white and blue teddy bear with big eyes for her little sister, “I know she will like this very, very much.” I couldn’t have loved them more in that moment. Now it was time to head back to their hotel in Long Island City and continue their NYC adventure Monday . . .
FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Is King Kong really real? Where does he live now?” asked 8 year old Kavish Singh with thoughtful wide eyes and wonderment. I had to bite my tongue from laughing and remember I believed in Santa Claus till 5th grade, so it was with a smile I tried to explain that it had been an animated doll – he seemed disappointed.
Photo of the day: THE GRAVES AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER – With the advent of the final spire being lifted and set in place at The New World Trade Center, Thursday May 2nd, here is a more uncommon view of the Trade Center taken from the graveyard of St. Paul’s Church. It dates back to 1766 and is one of the oldest graveyards in New York. St. Paul’s has always been known as the church George Washington attended, his pew is still inside. But today it is also known as ‘The Little Church That Stood.’ Despite it’s age and being right across the street of the former Twin Towers, the church did not have one chip in the stone, nor one crack in the glass while all the other buildings in the immediate area suffered damage. It is ironic that this old graveyard would come to be an unusual vantage point of what is now yet another grave site across the street.
MEET 59 OF MY NEWEST FRIENDS FROM INDIA! – Three years ago my friend Ajay Bansal took one of my NYC tours while I was working for a horrible private touring company which wasn’t very “receptive” to their guests. Ajay left that company and came to me privately to lead his student tours through New York and it has been a joyful relationship ever since. This spring 2013 tour was comprised of 52 gifted students (all boys) and 7 chaperones. Their eyes were filled with wonderment and eager with anticipation, hanging on my every word. As with most children abroad, their only concept of America and New York is through movies, videos and commercials.
Their naïveté is adorable – upon seeing the Empire State building the youngest ones asked “Ooooh, is that the World Trade Center?” “Where is the Liberty Statue?!” “Can you see movie stars on the street?” “Have you met the president?” “Do you live in a penthouse?” I simply fell in love with all of them. The age range was from 13 to 18, so the group ranged from total innocence to hip hop wanna-bees. But one thing they all have in common is a stringent politeness. It took me a whole day to stop them from calling me “sir’ and we finally settled on “Mr. Hans”.
It was a full three day schedule including: the Empire State Building, bus tours, a harbor cruise to see Miss Liberty, The 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, the United Nations, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (who knew they had a Bollywood exhibit?!), the Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!) and of course M&M World in Times Square. It was a busy schedule. As we toured through the city several quotes come to mind:
“What are all those white boxes in the windows?” = air conditioners.
“The water coming from the sky is definitely making me wet.” = rain.
“Was King Kong really right here?” = no…that was a doll (the little boy seemed rather disappointed.).
“Is that Canada?” = no, it’s New Jersey.
“Will it snow today, please?” = no, it’s too warm.
“This food is most pleasing” = ‘delicious.’
We may laugh at some of these comments but they are terribly endearing. To have had the privilege to spend time with such innocent, polite and loving children made the tour such a joy. All the sights excited them, I think the big ‘hits’ were the Liberty Statue and the wax museum. They were fascinated that are streets are filled with such diversity “in our country – everyone looks the same.” But above all that, they had only one consuming desire and that is – to shop! (Head phones seemed to be atop most of their lists.) So Best Buy was their main goal.
Their next stop is on to Washington, D.C., and then on to Disney World. Not bad, huh? It was hard to say goodbye to them, but same time next year, I’ll have some little boy tug on my sleeve and say “Sir . . . how far is Best Buy from here…?” I look forward to that already.
This is the story of how an African King, a Greenwich Village hero, a former World Trade Center worker, a ceramics enthusiast and people who care came together.
Dusty Berke is a 9/11 hero. No she didn’t rush into the burning buildings to save people, nor did she ever work at the site, but she is an impassioned community activist.
Tiles For America was started shortly after the attack. It is an empty lot owned by the MTA (M.ass T.ransit A.authority) with a simple chain link fence around it. It is right across the street from what used to be 150 year old St. Vincent’s Hospital. (I say ‘used to be’, because greedy politicians such as Mayor Bloomberg and councilwoman Christine Quinn saw to it that after the hospital went bankrupt in 2010 – it was quickly turned into a giant condominium complex, leaving all of Greenwich Village and lower west side Manhattan without a hospital.) St. Vincent’s handled the cholera epidemic of 1849, took in the only survivors of The Titanic. It was at the center of the AIDS epidemic and took in the first survivors of the World Trade Center 9/11 attack and in 2009 cared for the passengers of ‘the miracle on the Hudson‘ – the landing of Airways flight 1549 by Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III. The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay got her middle name from the hospital.
Just hours after the attack, loved ones rushed to the hospital clutching quickly made flyers looking for their loved ones. The hope was, their loved ones would yet be found under the rubble, perhaps were passed out inside the hospital or were wandering around the city in a daze. They gathered outside the hospital and across the street at the empty lot waiting and waiting….and waiting. Volunteers came from the community with clothing, blankets, food and offers to donate blood for 2,998 victims that were never to arrive at the hospital. The anxious hours that passed turned into days which turned into weeks. The gathering place for survivors was along side this empty lot.
Tiles For America
Local resident Lorrie Veasy who was the owner of a paint your own pottery shop called ’Our Name Is Mud’ came to the hospital with her husband to donate blood the day of the attack. Wanting to do more and to reach out and comfort those who waited and to comfort a community, she created 500 ceramic angel and flag tiles and attached them to the fence. Customers came to the shop to make tiles of their own. ‘Texas loves you!‘, ‘We will never forget’, ‘God bless the USA’, ‘In loving memory of…‘. Videos of the tiles made it onto the internet and soon school children and people of all ages from around the world started to send their own hand painted tiles to the store to be put onto the fence. Germany, Spain, England, Israel. From Maine to Alaska tiles arrived and created a place of hope and comfort. For eleven years the tiles became a tourist destination. A place of pride in the community. A place to remember and never forget.
‘Our Name Is Mud’ sadly went out of business, but right around the corner, lives Dusty Berke, a long time Greenwich Village resident who was and is determined to preserve the tiles memorial. ‘The Tiles For America Preservation Society’ was founded by her. In 2011, the ten year anniversary of 9/11, hurricane Irene threatened to devastate lower Manhattan and possibly the tiles. Dusty quickly gathered a group of scrappy volunteers who within hours took down all the tiles and brought them to safety. When all was clear they were lovingly re-hung on the fence.
In the meantime . . . in 2010, the MTA was planning to construct an air shaft on the lot and that plan came to reality early this year. The tiles? They were to be ‘put in storage’ in Albany. The community’s faith in that idea was nonexistent, especially to Dusty Berke. Along with local residents Paul McClure, Andretti Mullens and friends, a call went out on the street and the internet.
As a local tour guide, I pass by this lot every week and could not believe my eyes, nor contain my anger when I saw posted signs pleading to help save New York’s first 9/11 memorial. You see, in 1983 I got a job at The World Trade Center as a space planner at the design firm Dancker & Sellew. We worked in the clouds on the 102nd floor. At the time I lived in Brooklyn Heights and would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge every morning towards the two shimmering towers. The view from the top was breathtaking. In stormy weather the building swayed to and fro. We would hang magic markers from the ceiling and watch them make the same pattern on the paper on our desks over and over again. It was surreal. Wonderfully surreal and I was so, so proud to work there. To my luck, our lease was up several years later and the company relocated elsewhere downtown. The thought of these tiles also coming down was incomprehensible to me. On a rainy August 14th I joined Dusty and her friends and we gathered on the sidewalk and determinedly asked anyone who passed by to sign a petition to save the tiles. The mood was optimistic. But eventually the word was out the demolition crews were coming and September 11, 2012 was to be the last day of the tiles thanks to the callousness of our politicians. As a born and raised New Yorker and as a photographer, I made it a mission to photograph all of the tiles. A memorial concert was held on September 11th. The next morning we waited and waited and waited. When were the bulldozers due?
The petition drive
Dusty and Andretti were busy buying packing materials to rescue the tiles. The fence may belong to the city, but the tiles – belong to the citizens of the world. Every day I contacted Dusty, ‘call me when you’re taking down the tiles!’. Wednesday September 12th passed, I took some more pictures. Thursday September 13th I showed up, no one was there. Word was the demolition was to take place Monday, September 17th. On September 14th, I assist mom in taking our dog to the vet. I received a phone call.
It was ‘Ladi’, His Royal Highness James Burehmo, to be exact . . . King James Oladipo Aroko-Ola Burehmo the Oba of Idera in Nigeria. A true African king. He leaves his village as king, and comes to New York every summer as a Gray Line tour bus driver to earn money for his people. When I worked for Gray Line as a tour guide, Ladi and I became fast buddies and dear friends. Ladi, a gentle giant, always has a smile on his face. His voice instantly elicits joy and confidence. We have stayed in touch ever since. ‘Hans, I just passed by the tiles and they are boxing them up!’. My mother saw the look on my face, and she simply said ‘go’.
HrH James Burehmo
As I arrived, the last of the tiles were being taken down. Word had come a short time earlier that councilwoman Christine Quinn’s office had said they were taking ownership of the tiles, possibly threatening arrests. There was no time for Dusty or Andretti to do a phone or email blast. They rushed to the site, with many sets of pliers and boxes and hurriedly took down as many as they possibly could and asked any passerby to help. As the last of the tiles were coming down I arrived. Eleven years later and the fence was almost bare, the visual history temporarily erased for now. I looked up at the shell of what was St. Vincent’s Hospital and teared up as I saw the tiles being wrapped up. I photographed the moment as quickly as I could, upset I couldn’t be there right away, but time was of the essence. Passers by stopped in their tracks as what had become a routine sight, was now gone.
Packing the tiles
Andretti takes down the last tile
The tiles will live on, in respect to the 2,998 victims, the survivors, the community and those loving hearts and hands that painted the heartfelt messages on little square pieces of ceramic. The goal is to open a museum in an empty storefront across the street. It will be nice if the city and or construction workers will give us the rusty fence they are going to trash anyway. We hope to line the wall of the museum with that rusty chain link fence and hang the tiles once more. A memorial of survival, of determination and of love. As the sun set the last heart-shaped tile was packed up, the boxes closed in hopes of opening one day soon at the planning of the museum. The tiles are safe now, we are determined.
This is how an African King, a Greenwich Village hero, a former World Trade Center worker, a ceramics enthusiast and people who care came together, to save a piece of American history.
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