Occupy Zuccotti Park pictures

It is mostly for convenience that the protest at Zuccotti Park is still referred to as the headquarters of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now it has become a veritable tent embassy for a series of mostly unrelated left-wing causes, though perhaps with the common belief that somehow capitalism is to blame.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite pictures from a quick little jaunt I took around the park yesterday. Hopefully, you’ll see what I’m on about.

You’re not special anymore

They’ll sit in their co-ops on Park and Fifth and East Seventy-second St and Sutton Place, and they’ll shiver with the violence of it and enjoy the show. Cattle! Birdbrains! Rosebuds! Goyim! You don’t even know, do you? Do you really think this is your city any longer? Open your eyes! The greatest city of the twentieth century! Do you think money will keep it yours?

Come down from your swell co-ops, you general partners and merger lawyers! It’s the Third World down there! Puerto Ricans, West Indians, Haitians, Dominicans, Cubans, Colombians, Hondurans, Koreans, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Ecuadorians, Panamanians, Filipinos, Albanians, Senegalese and Afro-Americans! Go visit the frontiers, you gutless wonders!

The Bonfire of the Vanities

I come from a great multi-cultural city, Sydney. It’s great. I love feeling like I’m in an international city, connected with and comprised of people from all over the world. One of the only things I disliked about living in Colombia for five months was that, like much of Latin America, it was a veritable nation-state.

The upside to this was that I was considered somewhat exotic. My accent, my blue eyes, my pale skin and freckles. People loved having a foreigner (and not just another American) in their midst, and often made a special effort to talk to me, ask me about my homeland, what I thought of Colombia etc.

But come to New York and you’re not special anymore. It is an exceptionally international city, a wonderful melange of all things African, Asian, European, American and more. It seems like every language other than English is spoken sometimes, in parks and cafes catering to every cultural taste.

The upshot of this is that there’s nothing particularly interesting about a foreigner in New York. You think where you come from is exotic? We’ve got a whole neighbourhood full of people like you. ‘Little Something’.

A foreigner can still be considered exotic in other cities of the US, but not in New York. I hear Australian accents on the streets and don’t prick up my ears like I would if I was back in South America. It’s an unremarkable coincidence.

Saying “I’m not from here” doesn’t mean much. New York doesn’t just attract foreigners looking to make their mark, but Americans too. When someone stops me on the street to ask for directions, they don’t seem deterred by my accent, because half the city has one.

You’re not from here? Pfft. Who is?

What It Looks Like Inside The 9/11 Memorial

This is an article I wrote for New Matilda this week on the recently-opened 9/11 memorial.

It took a decade and plenty of wrangling over costs and administration, but Manhattan finally has a public memorial to the attack on the Twin Towers. Daniel Fitzgerald was one of the first visitors.

They need the clicks more than me right now, so follow the link.

Cheers.

New York: no longer the home of the skyscraper?

Kurt Vonnegut once called New York “Skyscraper National Park”, and I’m sure it was an apt description at the time.

But Kurt is (sadly) dead now, and so is the accuracy of his remark. New York City has not only been surpassed as the home of the skyscraper, one might even argue that its skyline isn’t particularly impressive anymore. A visit to any major city in Asia now puts it in the shade.

It’s not really New York’s fault, of course. Skyscrapers are, by nature, major investments, so they tend to follow economic trends. The turn towards Asia began to occur in the early 90s when towers in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan began to approach the heights of New York and Chicago’s, reflecting the emergence of the Asian market. The turn was made official in 1998 when the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur took over from Sears Tower as the tallest in the world.

That shift has now moved to include the oil-rich (not to mention flat and open) UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Dubai alone has 13 buildings currently in the top 50 tallest in the world, all of them completed in the last five years. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, in 1930, 99 of the 100 tallest buildings in the world were in the United States, 51% in New York City alone. Today, Asia boasts 72 of the world’s 100 tallest buildings. New York has only six.

The result, then, is that New York fails to awe the way it used to. Speaking from personal experience, I found that Hong Kong had far more of an impact on me when I visited last year. Because there is a premium on space in the former British colony, developers have no place to build but up. As a result, every square inch of space, even on mountainsides, is stacked with towers of at least twenty stories.

Not only are tall buildings in ample supply in Hong Kong, but the tallest of them are still incongruously impressive. The Two International Finance Centre building (at the right of the picture above) is a remarkable sight, so much so that even Batman felt compelled to jump off it. It truly justifies the name now given to such structures: ‘supertall’.

The completion of 1 World Trade Centre (projected for the end of 2013) will mark an impressive return to the supertall scene for New York, of course, though with five more taller buildings set to be completed over the next five years in Seoul, Shanghai, Incheon, Mecca and Busan, the tallest building in the United States will barely be clinging to the global top ten.

All of this means that New York is no longer the skyscraper capital of the world. Arguably it isn’t even the skyscraper capital of the United States, with Chicago boasting the tallest building in the country (Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower) as well as more entries in the top 50 in the world (four to New York’s two).

However, while I may cite economic and geospatial issues as driving this change, I like to think it reflects one factor most of all: a declining lack of ambition. New York is a developed city in every sense of the word. It is not an emerging power with a point to prove to the rest of the world; it’s New York, the most famous city in the world, the original seat of power. Its skyscrapers, though they may not be the tallest, are standing testament to the durability of the city’s influence over the rest of the world. Oldest is probably more impressive than biggest, which these days is a fleeting honour.

In that sense, then, New York will always be the home of the skyscraper.

World Police and Fire Games 2011

One of the less solemn events in the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has been the World Police and Fire Games, which wound up in New York City yesterday.

Claiming to be the “second largest multi-sport event in the world” after the Summer Olympics (not sure how the organizers of the World Games or Commonwealth Games feel about that), the Games are held every two years, with the next event set to take place in Belfast in 2013.

I actually went along to watch a mate from back home compete in the dodgeball event at the Javits Convention Center near Penn Station. Christening themselves the ‘Drop Bears’ (after the Australian urban legend commonly used to trick tourists) the boys from Sydney quickly became a crowd favourite with their light-hearted warm-up routines.

With beer available for purchase and a number of competitors getting hit in the face with balls, I regretted not looking into the event sooner.

The most enjoyable thing to witness, however, was the genuine camaraderie between the teams. Far be it from a pencil-pushing office type like me to fully understand the special bond between those who put their lives on the line as a profession – a reality which no doubt is felt more keenly on weeks like this – but it was a nice display to bask in, all the same.

See you in Belfast.

Welcome to Newer Yorker

You come to New York to find the ambiance that will evoke your best. You do not necessarily know precisely what that might be, but you come to New York to discover it.

-Dr. James Hillman

I never had any great ambition to end up here.

I’ve probably not been here long enough to describe such an observation as being from an educated standpoint, but I’d like to think that New York attracts people who always wanted to live in New York. I was never one of them.

I left my home, sure, but this wasn’t where I was planning to settle. I moved to Colombia earlier this year to learn Spanish and to experience a foreign culture as an insider. I told my friends and family back home that when I’d had my fill of that, I would just see what happened.

New York happened. Even from another continent, its pull is strong enough to drag an aimless man to its shores.

I never put up a fight, of course. I love New York. Without even trying, I’ve ended up here four times in the last two years. There’s always a reason to come back. I never get bored with it.

You can find pieces of New York in every part of the world, but this is the only city where you can find them all in one place. That is its glory. That is has everything that’s great about every city of the world: history, culture, nightlife…

It is, as Alistair Cooke put it, “the biggest collection of villages in the world”. There is something on every corner: a good place to eat, something to do, a story. Always something.

Many have tried to capture its essence, in film, in song, in words. This blog is my attempt.

So what really can you expect from this blog? I’ll be aiming to update at least three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) with a variety of fresh content. There’ll be reviews, advice, and a spot of creative writing. The rest I’d like to leave as a surprise for now.

Feel free to hit me up at danielpfitzgerald@gmail.com if you have thoughts you’d like to pass on, particularly if these thoughts should follow some sort of theme about what a splendid chap I am.

Cheers,
DF.