Share to the Utmost, or Admit That You Have No Business Here at All
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Speech,” 1943. Illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post”, February 20, 1943. From the collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.
Fear not, dear reader. You are in no danger of being asked to peruse a Broadsheet endorsement—a prospect that would amuse many, but persuade few. Instead, we will ask you to consider a contrarian, even heretical question: Why bother voting at all?
Students of history like to showcase their erudition (in this case, really disguised cynicism) with the weary observation that, “voters in the presidential election of 1800 got to choose between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. But these are choices we get?”
This may be one of the very rare instances in life, however, when it’s appropriate the blame the victim (in this case, us). Because our self-pity is really a game of bait-and-switch, in which we willfully ignore democracy’s greatest (but least acknowledged) danger: It is a process that delivers the choices and outcomes not that we demand (because in truth, we seldom demand much of anything), but instead those we are willing to settle for.
Search online for insight and you will be force-fed a quote attributed to Plato: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” The trouble is, he never said it. This appears to be a paraphrase of a paraphrase: In his 1870 essay, “Eloquence,” Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “Plato says that the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government is to live under the government of worse men.” (Large numbers of lazy archivists appear to have assumed that Emerson must have known what he was talking about.)
What Plato actually said, in “The Republic,” was that decent people avoid public office, refusing to be tempted by power, honor or financial gain. He concludes that the primary reason good people will consent to hold power is to avoid punishment (in the form of bad outcomes), and that the most severe such punishment, “is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule.”
Plato was talking about the then-new form of government, known as democracy, as it was practiced in Athens. This was both a purer and messier (if you can believe it) politics than our modern version. But its founder, Pericles, had this to offer about participation: “We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.”
By 150 years ago, Emerson was already fudging the distinction between, “hold office and rule,” versus “take part in the government.” And the truth is that, in contrast to the Athens of 23 centuries ago, participating directly in legislation and government policy is not a practical option for most Americans in 2020s.
Aristotle, who followed Plato by a generation and Pericles by a century, seemed to anticipate this evolution, when he dropped the emphasis on holding office, and instead suggested that we all find a way to engage: “If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.”
Translation: By the mere act of showing up, you are adding a single grain of sand to the virtuous side of the scale, regardless of whom you vote for, irrespective of whether your preferred candidate wins or loses. Just by engaging, you make it better. By remaining on the sidelines, you make it worse.
So why bother voting? Because if you’re tired of the wounds that cover our dysfunctional body politic, you should stop inflicting them. Instead, show up. Worst case, you might lose a few hours of time that would otherwise be spent streaming Netflix or listening to Spotify. Best case, you might help to build the world you wish for, rather than merely perpetuate the one you’ve always had to settle for.
Downtown Dowager Gets Her Due
First Lady of Lower Manhattan Recognized, Half a Century On
If you live in Lower Manhattan, and are even remotely fond of the community, you owe a debt of gratitude to the woman who saved it from slum clearance and multiple highway schemes. The late Jane Jacobs (she died in 2006) was recognized last week with a plaque outside her longtime home at 555 Hudson Street, in the West Village.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation honored the author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” for multiple battles, waged primarily against master builder Robert Moses, that preserved the community fabric of not only Greenwich Village, but also of Soho, Tribeca, Little Italy and Chinatown, while additionally making possible the creation of Battery Park City.
re: Howard Hughes Corporation Proposes Scaled-Back Towers for Seaport Site
The BroadsheetDAILY (10/27/20)
Advocates and residents of the Historic Seaport District have no problem with developing the 250 Water Street parking lot if the development is within the context of the current zoning requirements of 120’.
We further have no problem with affordable housing as long as it is within the current zoning requirements. There are many super tall residential buildings that have and are going up in the FIDI area.
The museum has always been the number one priority of the residents of the seaport area and have proposed a plan to use the sale of the air rights outside the historic district to fund the museum, which, by the way, will give the museum greater financial stability than what HHC is offering.
I find it interesting that supporters of HHC have no interest in finding a better solution to the 250 Water Street development than just build a super tall structure, that is completely out of context with the rest of the Historic District.
To the editor:
Your recent story about the Howard Hughes (HHC) plan to build two new 47 story towers in the South Street Seaport relied a bit too heavily on the very slanted press release put out by HHC with the assistance of their high paid PR consultants.
Not until the 8th paragraph did you report the key element making these buildings so controversial and inappropriate… that they are proposed to be built within the 10 block South Street Seaport Historic District. Nor did you mention that prior eight or nine proposals to build far smaller buildings in this special district characterized by 4 and 5 story buildings were all denied by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) because they would “dominate and overwhelm the neighboring buildings in this low scale district by virtue of its size” and “cause an abrupt change in scale within the district which would be disruptive of the district’s homogeneous quality.”
The 12 story height limit agreed to in 2003 which would allow for a building at 250 Water St that would be properly scaled for this historic district, was supported by entities ranging from CB1, local elected officials, the Downtown Alliance, EDC, the City Planning Commission, and the South Street Seaport Museum.
If two 47 story buildings were proposed elsewhere in Lower Manhattan, no one would object just like no one objects to far larger supertowers going up a block or two outside the Seaport Historic District.
You also failed to mention that the Seaport Historic District has a special mechanism that allows for the transfer of unused development rights (aka air rights) to sites outside the Historic District that could easily generate far more affordable housing and funding for the Seaport Museum and for other needed local improvements than the HHC plan. That is a far better plan to assure the future of the Seaport Museum and Historic District.
To the editor:
As we told them three times at three different “stakeholder” meetings, this plan is a “Non-Starter”. The Seaport Coalition has a better plan to save the museum AND the historic district. www.seaportcoalition.com
To the editor:
The fate of the museum has always been paramount for CB#1 and our community. 250 Water Street will be developed by this plan or by “as of right”, resulting in a 14-16 story blockhouse on the site.
One way or the other the parking lot will be developed. One way, we weigh in as to what goes there and save the museum for years to come. The other way is a death nell for our museum.
In my many years fighting for our community we stopped many developments and supported some. We have 7 schools with another in the process by allowing development. There is only one South Street Seaport Museum.
Let’s save the lynchpin of our historic district.
To the editor:
Re: Sovereign Impunity
(BroadsheetDAILY October 26)
Children need to go to school where they live.
Adults need to work where they live.
Everything else is about power.
Real estate policies and politics throughout the United States must change.
New York City as a prime example, it does not work.
This country no longer works at all.
Sirje Helder Gold
Eyes to the Sky
November 2 – 15, 2020
Big sky, long night
Evening sky circa 7pm. November 2, 2020.
See gibbous moon rise first, then Taurus the Bull’s brightest star, Aldebaran.
Constellations and planets approximate positions November 2 – 15.
Moonrise later every night. Illustration: Judy Isacoff/Starry Night
Night is fast overtaking day. During the course of November, day length will shrink from 10 hours 26 minutes to 9 hours 30 minutes, when there will be only 15 minutes left to lose in December. Earth-centered celebrations of the harvest and fellowship in November quickly lead into preparations for winter solstice holidays, when light is foremost in our cultural festivals.
For our ancestors, oil lamps, candles and open fires lit the darkness. To make light was a triumph. Natural materials, gathered from the wild and farmed, were the hard-earned fuel for creating light. Living by the radiance of the Sun, moon and stars was optimized, both physically and spiritually. To read more…
Validating the Vision
CB1 Offers Qualified Endorsement to Plans for Brooklyn Bridge Revamp
The August designation of two winners in the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge design competition has spurred Community Board 1 (CB1) to weigh in about the pragmatic implications of the vision contained in the proposals.
The competition, sponsored by the City Council and the Van Alen Institute (a New York nonprofit architectural organization, dedicated to improving design in the public realm) was announced in February. The contest was sparked by the fact that, after 13 decades, the Brooklyn Bridge is in need of some surgical enhancement.
The Tale of the Ticker Tape, or How Adversity and Spontaneity Hatched a New York Tradition
What was Planned as a Grand Affair became a Comedy of Errors
New York’s first ticker-tape parade erupted spontaneously from bad weather
and an over-zealous stockbroker.
While the festivities in New York Harbor didn’t go as scripted that afternoon, the spontaneous gesture it generated from the brokerage houses lining Broadway famously lives on more than a century later.
On October 28, 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was to be unveiled to New York City and the world as it stood atop its tall base on Bedloe’s Island. But the morning mist had turned to afternoon fog, blurring the view of the statue from revelers on the Manhattan shore and the long parade of three hundred ships on the Hudson River.
What was planned as a grand affair-with President Grover Cleveland as the main speaker-became a comedy of errors. The fog prevented efficient communication between the dignitaries on the island and the ships awaiting orders to fire their salutes and blast their horns at the given signal.
Even the dramatic unveiling moment itself went awry. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
Laika, the first dog to orbit the earth.
61 – Emperor Constantius II dies of a fever at Mopsuestia in Cilicia; on his deathbed he is baptised and declares his cousin Julian rightful successor.
1333 – The River Arno flooding causing massive damage in Florence as recorded by the Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani.
1903 – With the encouragement of the United States, Panama separates from Colombia.
1908 – William Howard Taft is elected the 27th President of the United States.
1911 – Chevrolet officially enters the automobile market in competition with the Ford Model T.
1936 – Franklin D. Roosevelt is re-elected President of the United States.
1957 – Sputnik program: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 2. On board is the first animal to enter orbit, a dog named Laika
1960 – The land that would become the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established by an Act of Congress after a year-long legal battle that pitted local residents against Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials wishing to turn the Great Swamp into a major regional airport for jet aircraft.
1964 – Lyndon B. Johnson is elected to a full term as U.S. president, winning 61% of the vote and 44 states, while Washington D.C. residents are able to vote in a presidential election for the first time, casting the majority of their votes for Lyndon Johnson.
1969 – Vietnam War: President Richard M. Nixon addresses the nation on television and radio, asking the “silent majority” to join him in solidarity on the Vietnam War effort and to support his policies.
1979 – Greensboro massacre: Five members of the Communist Workers Party are shot dead and seven are wounded by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazisduring a “Death to the Klan” rally in Greensboro, North Carolina
1986 – Iran–Contra affair: The Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reports that the United States has been secretly selling weapons to Iran in order to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
1992 – Democratic Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton defeats Republican President George H. W. Bush and Independent candidate Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election
2014 – One World Trade Center officially opens.
AD 39 – Lucan, Roman poet (d. 65)
1749 – Daniel Rutherford, Scottish chemist and physician (d. 1819)
1801 – Karl Baedeker, German author and publisher, founded the Baedeker Publishing Company (d. 1859)
1903 – Walker Evans, American photographer and journalist (d. 1975)
1933 – Michael Dukakis, American lawyer, academic, and politician, 65th Governor of Massachusetts
1949 – Anna Wintour, English-American journalist
1456 – Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, father of King Henry VII of England (b. 1431)
1926 – Annie Oakley, American entertainer and target shooter (b. 1860)
1954 – Henri Matisse, French painter and sculptor (b. 1869)
Howard Hughes Corporation Proposes Scaled-Back Towers for Seaport Site, Along with Package of Amenities
The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) has unveiled its plans for 250 Water Street (a 1.1-acre parking lot in the Seaport District), including high-rise towers, more than 100 units of affordable housing, and a plan to build a new headquarters for the South Street Seaport Museum. This announcement has inspired both enthusiastic support and fierce criticism.
The full-block site, bounded by Beekman, Pearl, and Water Streets, as well as Peck Slip, has been the focus of debate and speculation ever since HHC purchased it from the Milstein family of real estate developers, for $180 million in 2018. Planning for the parcel was complicated the following year, when HHC disclosed after purchasing the site that environmental tests indicated contamination with mercury, lead, and other toxins—remnants from its historical use as the location for a thermometer factory in the 1800s. This led to the parcel becoming part of the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The cleanup’s primary investigation phase wrapped up in early September.
Just below the surface of City Hall Park sits one of New York’s architectural gems. Built during the City Beautiful movement, its design sought to uplift the spirits of New Yorkers on their daily commute.
City Hall Loop station—Contract One, Station One—was the flagship of New York’s first subway and the focus of the international press on October 27, 1904, when Mayor George McClellan connected the Tiffany-designed motorman’s handle to propel the first train north to its endpoint on 145th Street and Broadway.
The design of the other twenty-seven stations it stopped at that afternoon was dictated by the practical needs of subway efficiency—the architect’s only role was to choose the tile work that would cover the structural columns and walls. But the station below City Hall Park is different. Here, design and structure are one in the same.
City Hall subway station, was designed to be the showpiece of the new subway system with its elegant platform and mezzanine featured Guastavino tile, skylights, colored glass tilework and brass chandeliers.