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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

From Unreasoned Righteousness to Reason

November 5th, 2012 No comments

Leo Villareal’s BUCKYBALL installation in Madison Square Park. Seems like an obnoxious display of power when thousands in the city are still without electricity (although its LED tube lighting may use relatively little wattage it looks abrupt when considering those on the city’s forsaken periphery).  ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

New York- So weird. A week ago today I was getting thrown around Long Island City by 90 mph gales as Hurricane Sandy thrashed Queen’s over gentrified littoral while NYPD barked on loudspeakers through sheets of rain not to get near the piers while shooting photos. In the interim, houses were smashed and burned, whole boardwalk areas ravaged and now tens of thousands of people are not homeless from one day to the next. But most of the lasting damage was hyper localized to where people in midtown and uptown areas of Manhattan had their lives interrupted only when the subways were demobilized all over the city as a precaution. I trekked around in an effort to do what I could to document the crisis–with an image from this blog getting selected for New York Magazine’s Sandy portfolio “What We Saw When the Lights Went Out.”

Many, many improvements have been quickly made, particularly in the areas of Manhattan that were politically and economically prioritized. But in the outskirts of the so-called outer-boroughs, people may likely freeze tonight, out of sight, out of mind from the rest of this city. People will shiver in the cold shadow of tomorrow’s mega ego election where a wobbly incumbent  who’s carried out highly dubious extra-judicial assassinations of American citizens in Yemen, faces off against a “weird Mormon billionaire” as an old friend of mine put it (though he’s only worth a paltry reported $250 million).

As largely toothless idioms like “the new normal” and neologisms like “superstorm” were thrown around all week by politicians and media figures, significant change will not occur until long outdated thought paradigms are cast aside forever, a highly unlikely proposition. Americans have been brainwashed for the last decade that Sunni terrorism of the Salafi-jihadi strain is the biggest threat to their survival (or messianic Shia Twelver state warfare from Iran if one is a Likudnik).

This narrative is only remotely believable if one narrowly views the struggle for and within humanity as amongst various interpretations of monotheisms. Rubbish. The fundamental threat to human survival is a catastrophic misreading of the environment, human and animal evolution, and the development of the solar system we inhabit. The media and politicos are extremely unhelpful in this regard describing the violent characteristics of a terrifying natural occurrence like Sandy using terms like “deluge” and “biblical proportions.”

Not to say these forces in the world are not genuine threats but they are a mere blip during the long evolutionary march of history. The terror wars have spawned a vast and mostly unregulated and hence unaccountable security industry that is now here to stay. Fear Inc. has been very profitable for some but has provided little palpable public benefit beyond those personally enriched by constantly over stating imminent threats on the horizon. In this period, the global  environmental crisis has carried on untended to as the proverbial ‘elephant in the room.’ Developing a smarter, faster drone air force to chase finite  ”bad guys” in the world’s ungoverned geography is far less challenging than confronting large scale glacial meltdown and rising sea levels.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo encapsulated my point perfectly the other day with this quote: “[Utility companies] They’re regulated by the public service commission. The utilities were not created in the Bible. They’re not in the Old Testament. They’re not in the New Testament. God never said, ‘New York shall have these utilities forever, and Con Ed is the utility, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s really not in the Bible.” Here is a case of a frustrated, angry political leader–perhaps without giving such a statement much rational forethought–injecting and legitimating Abrahamic themes into the public discourse thereby doing a great disservice to his millions of constituents by obfuscating the real history and nature of…nature.

Figures like Cuomo are not wont to offhandedly riff on the Jurassic Period or the Mesozoic Era during such a public tirade but perhaps they should. Referencing Noah in an era of bitter and confused climate change debate certainly isn’t helpful. Western observers scoff at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for hailing the sought after return on the Mahdi–the promised return of the Twelfth Imam who has been in a state of occultation since he ‘disappeared’ during the year 874 A.D.  But are American leaders pandering to the masses really all that different in this respect?

We need more reasoned, empirical science and far less politicized seance if people are to grasp the environmental threats that lay before them and realize the inherent grand context of such events. It shall be no easy task. The “March of Unreason” continues.

Rather than a nonsensical “deluge,” Hurricane Sandy was part of a continuum of punctuated natural violence that has formed continents and oceans, and played a key role in human evolution and its great migrations. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

In Sandy’s Path

October 31st, 2012 No comments

New York City firefighters trying to extinguish smoldering debris in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. The sea water surge from Hurricane Sandy triggered a massive fire likely cause by a gas explosion. © 2012 Derek Henry Flood

New York- I did a mission out to Breezy Point, Queens on the Atlantic coast of the Far Rockaway Peninsula yesterday that was the hardest hit area of New York City by ‘Superstorm’ Hurricane Sandy. A fire raged through the center of this community razing many dozens of homes in the densely developed beach community 26 miles from Manhattan. I haven’t seen destruction like this since I covered the anti-Uzbek pogroms in Osh, Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. The logistics of getting there were a story in itself but for now for the sake of time, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

A firefighter prepares the nozzle the continue extinguishing burning debris in Breezy Point long after the principal blaze had been put out. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A black pool lay in what until hours before had been the foundation for someone’s home in Breezy Point, Queens. In the background residents scurry through the rubble attempting to salvage belongings. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

An NYFD firetruck attempts to maneuver through floodwaters in Breezy Point, Queens. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A local resident walks through her neighborhood that was razed to the ground on the night of October 29-30. The scorched, fetid earth emitted a putrid stench evocative of many of the man-made disasters I’ve covered over the years. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Ocean Avenue. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard soars over the wreckage of Breezy Point. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

 

Often the brick chimneys were all that were left of these homes. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A field of debris. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A roof sits on the ground. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

 

Frankenstorm

October 29th, 2012 No comments

New York-Went out to my beloved Long Island City in the borough of Queens to shoot some photos and get a feeling for Hurricane Sandy as it made landfall while high tide was approaching. Was getting shouted at by NYPD over loudspeakers trying to shoot. Winds felt like they were about 90mph, nearly fell down just getting out of the taxi. Here are a few photos.

A man lurks on the Pulaski Bridge looking over the Newtown Creek separating the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens as water surges approaching high tide. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The tollbooths at the entrance of the Queens-Midtown tunnel appear deserted as New York CIty officials announced as host of bridge and tunnel closings effectively isolating Long Island. After 8:30 pm the tunnel was shut after it began taking on flood water. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The New York Police Department attempted to seal off Gantry State Park in Long Island CIty as the East River approached a full moon high tide. The United Nations, center, was shut along with all other public facilities in Manhattan. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

An idiot attempts to fly a kite in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. A terse police sergeant put an end to that and said yuppies fled back inside on police order. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Welcome to Brooklyn, Frankenstorm! Hardly any vehicles were on the roads but a few must have felt they could justify their travels. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The Empire State Building, left, and the Chrysler Building, right, are shrouded in the hurricane as the worst of it is about to hit the city. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Out for a smoke. Two things people wouldn’t stop doing no matter what: taking their dogs for a walk and lighting up. Man puffing a grit on Vernon Avenue. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

I found a New York taxi completely enveloped by a fallen tree. Probably the scariest thing about walking around was that something could just crush you or lash you in tenths of a second. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood.

Such Great Heights

March 28th, 2012 No comments

1 World Trade Center begins to enter the final stages of its façade construction more than a decade after the destruction of its predecessors. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

New York- I was doing some writing yesterday about my experiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia in the months after 9/11. Delving into the assassination of Massoud, the death of an Italian colleague, meeting the Taliban, and all of the other random seeming things that led me to be in New York on 9/11 and in Afghanistan shortly thereafter gave me pause to reflect on the constant of time, the merits of what we call progress. In the near future the new WTC will be completed with tourists, wallets bulging with euros (if the euro survives), pounds, yen and yuan, trampling grounds that to me look more reminiscent of Abu Dhabi’s corniche than the considerably less imaginative original twin towers architected by Minoru Yamasaki in 1965.

4 World Trade Center makes its hulking ascent over lower Manhattan. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

From #2 to #1: Ayman al-Zawahiri and the question of al-Qaeda’s Leadership Succession

The new WTC tower reflected in window of the Brooks Brothers store against backdrop of an American flag during President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero following the killing of Osama bin Laden. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- So bin Laden is dead, sunk to the bottom of the Arabian Sea in a weighted body bag. What comes next for al-Qaeda? A lot of assumptions come into play, the foremost of which is that the angry Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri will assume the top position. Analysts seem to think that al-Zawahiri is combative ideologically and lacks any of the charisma of bin Laden. Many would probably like to believe al-Qaeda is a spent force..highly unlikely. Some wonder if it can survive without its leader. Therein lies the debate about whether AQ is a leaderless ideology or a leader-driven cult-esque movement akin to the LTTE. When Prabhakaran was killed on the edge of that lagoon in May of 2009, that was the effective end of the LTTE as a leader-led, mass movement. But it was certainly not the end of Tamil nationalism/separatism (assuredly not in the Tamil diaspora or doubtfully in South India). Al-Qaeda will obviously not fade away overnight but I find it hard to imagine crowds of henna-bearded Islamist protestors in the sweltering streets of Karachi marching around with al-Zawahiri posters. He’s just simply not iconic or photogenic like OBL nor are there loads of great images of him. I remember when I first traveled across Pakistan way back in 1999, people (well men since I don’t recall socializing with women there then) informed me that almost no Pakistanis had ever heard of OBL prior to Bill Clinton’s cruise missile strikes in Khost the summer before. The American attempt against him, in the wake of the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, is what really propelled him to fame in Pakistan, not any kind of indigenous love for him as I would venture to guess most Americans/Westerners would believe.

President Barack Obama visited Ground Zero/the new World Trade Center site today to quietly lay a wreath on the grounds of the new memorial. I never caught site of the guy but got a few nice snaps. The NYPD officers assigned to the event were fairly relaxed and it ended up being a low key affair compared to the 9/11 anniversaries I’ve covered.

Crowds gather around the new WTC tower during President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero following the killing of Osama bin Laden. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A young woman donning a 2008 Shepard Fairey Obama t-shirt captures me on her iPhone in the crowds. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Buh Bye

Pan Arab satellite channel al-Arabiya announces the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Special Forces in Abottobad, Pakistan at an Egyptian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- A-B-C-ya!

Coming Home

April 17th, 2011 No comments

Ground Zero from the sky where this journey without end began (sort of) almost 10 years ago. Thankfully this US Airways flight did not require Captain Chesley Sullenberger at the helm. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- Following six weeks of African adventure of all sorts, it felt alright to return to New York (before turning right around and heading to Washington for Jamestown’s MENA conference) with all of the difficult readjustment that entails. I’ve realized that one of the most difficult things about returning to the United States is the change in diet. After eating a nearly vegan, preservative-free diet in pre-Lent Orthodox Ethiopia-where practicing Christians eat vegan for nearly half of every year- for the last ten days, it’s tough on the body returning to a sugar heavy, preservative-laden American diet.

To buy tickets to this Wednesday’s MENA conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on think tank row in DC, click here.

An Ethiopian Orthodox priest reads the gospels in a moment of quiet, vegan contemplation on the stoop of an 800 year-old church carved out of solid bedrock called Beit Emmanuel. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood .

World Trade Serenade

April 7th, 2010 No comments
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