Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Rainy Dusk in Wall Street by Mathilde Poncet & Sumesh Shiwakoty

NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE, October 24, 2017, 4 pm
By Mathilde Poncet and Sumesh Shiwakoty

In Manhattan’s Financial District, at the crossing between Wall Street and Broad Street, the market is about to close. Nothing seems to prevent business people in a hurry from catching their train or going to a meeting. Zig-zagging between tourists, people in suits seem to be used to all this animation and do not pay any attention to dozens of people taking selfies and pictures nearby. At the front door of the New York Stock Exchange, people are getting out, one by one or in little groups, armed with umbrellas and suitcases, fleeing toward the subway.
The Big Red One - as he likes being called – is a private security contractor. He did not want to say his name to stay into his character’s skin. Very tall, dressed in a red coat, a hat and sunglasses on, even if it rains, people can’t miss him. He is used to this mix between tourists hanging out and people in a rush. He talks about it with a certain lassitude.
 “Usually people are asking me about the bull. Where is the bull? Where is the bull? I said to them, it is bullshit”, says Big Red One, laughing. He actually refers to the Wall Street statue made by Arturo Di Modica, not far from the Stock Exchange, which has become over time a touristic attraction and a symbol of the neighborhood.
            When business people are not running to catch their trains, they are busy talking on their phones. Except for Tim, who is in the website business. Tim, who chose not to give his last name, does not work in the Financial District and had to go to a meeting in this area. He is sightseeing before catching his train. According to him, “there is too much power and wealth for one single place”.
The majority of people who are seen in the Wall Street can be categorized into two types. First are those with selfie-stick and second with suits. 
Most of the selfie-stick people do not really understand the inside details of the stock market, but they are there because they either watched a movie about Wall Street, heard about Wall Street in political debates or they just want a selfie with the ‘Charging Bull'. The people wearing a suit, on the other hand, are the ones with busiest schedules. The hardest thing in the Wall Street is to find someone in suits who will speak with you. Every single of them would have either meeting, interview or conference call to catch. After requesting around twenty people in suits, Jack Halsey, a corporate attorney by profession agreed for an interview, a walk-and-talk interview. According to Jack, there is not much money left in the Wall Street these days in comparison to the Park Avenue.
“All the new banks and big financial firms are based in the Park Avenue, and that’s where all the money sits,” he said. “Wall Street is just a thing to say”.

            In front of the statue of George Washington that sits next to New York Stock Exchange, Ahmad Ali, an immigrant from Egypt was selling ‘halal food’ in his food cart. “What kind of people usually come to eat here?” With a smile on his face, Ali replied, “All sort of people, from tourists to bankers”. Pointing to tall buildings nearby, he added, “I have few regular customers who work in these buildings.” When asked if his customers wear suits, he answered laughingly, “money can buy you food but not taste”. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Does the U.S. government have a need to keep information secret?

By Maddie Miniats
 OCTOBER 3, 2017- The United States government has a definite need to keep information secret from the United States public because it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the American people. Allowing the American people to have full access to the government’s classified information would dismantle the difference between the citizens and the government. In some ways what Edward Snowden did was courageous and heroic but sometimes the citizens simply do not need to know.
As the Deputy Director of the NSA, Richard Ledgett, says if you are not placed into a category by the National Security Agency as a threat to national security, they have no interest in your activities online. It isn’t as if they are scrolling through the data of the recent meme searches of a 17-year-old online or shuffling through your chainmail.
Snowden expresses that the reason why the people should be up in arms is that we need to protect our rights for when we actually need them and not give them up so quickly. A response to that would be that no one is “giving up” their rights, people are just not as paranoid of the government.
People know the government needs to do what it needs to do to protect its people. All in all the people trust the system and trust the government. Though it is important for people like Edward Snowden to check the government’s actions and reveal to them that the citizens of the U.S. are cautious, there will not be a day in which there will be a free flow of information between the citizens of the United States and the United States government.

The citizens of the U.S. don’t want to know everything the government is undertaking just as much as the government doesn’t want to know that you have online shopped one too many times this month.

A Drizzly Afternoon in Lincoln Center

By Karmen Kollar and Maddie Miniats
LINCOLN CENTER Oct, 24, 2017: 4:15pm- On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, three ballet dancers crossed the square. Some tourists were taking pictures enthusiastically. Flocks of students passed by with heavy backpacks. We were debating the significance of the iconic fountain among the buildings of Lincoln Center.

A lady in a French beret, who was posing for pictures in front of the Met, appeared to be at home. Natasha, as we later found out, was originally from Russia but now lives in Florida, had lived in Queens for 20 years. She immediately stated with pride that she had never missed an opera performance at The Met during the years she lived here. She explained that she had seen Aida seven times and would be seeing The Hoffman Stories that night for the second time. When asked how she felt about Lincoln Center she said “This is my life” smiling, her eyes sparkling behind her green eyeliner.

4:30pm - A couple standing under the awning of the New York City Ballet looking at a poster of ballet dancer Chase Finlay. Jalna Jaeger, from Connecticut, a self-identified “ballet geek,” says enthusiastically “We know him!” She has been going to the New York City ballet since she saw the Nutcracker as a little girl when Lincoln Center first opened. To our surprise, Jalna expressed her love of the fountain.

Two Fordham students, Kyle and Nathaniel, standing by the fountain explained that they often come here to relax and reflect between classes. Nathaniel, wearing a red Fordham sweatshirt, said that he has often come on dates here. Turns out he is also an opera and theater fan and goes to shows and performances frequently. Alluding to the iconic scene in which Cher attends the Met with her date: “This also where Moonstruck with Cher was filmed so…” and laughs.
4:50pm - A few teenagers sitting under the trees next to the reflection pool, Madeline, Emma, Jadelyse, students at LaGuardia High School, explained that Lincoln Center was a nice place to come after school. While the three girls sat giggling and posing for our photo, the boy sat with them indifferently - possibly anxious to get away.

Though the rain continued to fall softly over the buildings and the square, it did not stop people from leisurely crossing between the famous buildings of the Philharmonic, Ballet and the Met. Tourists would enter the square with happiness in their eyes and for a brief moment, this one place became everything that mattered, where dreams have come true and hearts are opened.

Monday, November 6, 2017



Editor's Note: A random Tuesday night, but is there any such thing in an international city like New York? Bard Globalization and International Affairs students pounded the wet pavement in late October to compile a snapshot of America's great metropolis. Here is their report: 

Grand Central Station, October 24, 2017: 4:07pm

         By Hannah Buehler and Nour Bakri  

     The rush hour crowds pour into Grand Central Station. Businesswomen shake rain from umbrellas, a little boy stamps his light-up rain boots on the marble floor and tourists emerge from plastic rain gear. These moments of pause to adjust from the bad weather are brief. People quickly dart off to board the subway or rush to grab a coffee and a newspaper before their train.

Others are in much less of a rush. For some, Grand Central is a must-see site on a trip to New York City. Tourists with their mouths slightly agape, gaze up at the celestial figures on the ceiling. One of them is Susan Janssen, an older woman, donning a fleece vest and a camera strapped around her neck. Susan is visiting from Holland with her family and were drawn into Grand Central today to escape the rain. As she glances up at the towering columns and ornate ceiling she says: “It's very big, like everything in New York City, but there is so much detail.”

Most New Yorkers push past the swarms of tourists, barely glancing at the famous backdrop. For them, Grand Central is a transport hub, bringing in commuters and connecting the city’s subways. But for some New Yorkers, Grand Central is still a source of inspiration. One New Yorker who declined to give his name stands staring up at the glass windows behind the staircase, equally in awe but snapping no pictures. “See those walkways up there?” he says gesturing towards the clear walkways high up on the other side of the windows. “My dream is to go up there and photograph Grand Central.” He is a New York native, proudly born and raised in Manhattan, but now makes the 90 minute commute from his home upstate to his law office in the city. “I’m retiring soon though, and from then on out it will just be photography.” 

Other artists also use Grand Central as an inspiration. A girl in glasses hunches over a sketch-book, looking up occasionally to capture details of the building and the passers-by. Dana Keng is a student from South Korea who came to New York three years ago to study art at the Pratt Institute.

“I wanted to come to New York because there's better art schools,” she says. Kang was assigned to come to Grand Central for a school project but she was pleased with her assigned location. “Just like New York, Grand Central is very busy and diverse, which makes it fun to draw.”

A young New Yorker named Diana, who preferred not to give her last name, says she likes to pass through Grand Central because it is a dramatic cinematic location. Many movies feature scenes set here, and that makes it more attractive to people.
"I have seen a lot of movies that were filmed here, so I like to come  here. It makes me feel like I am in a movie," she says.

Whether people come to Grand Central as a stop on their daily commute, as a tourist destination or just as a dry place to hideout until the rain subsides, it is the place that carries with it different stories for many people around the world. While it watches over the ebbs and flows of the people that fill Grand Central everyday, it takes on the characteristics of the city- grandeur, busyness and beauty of the city. 

ACE HOTEL LOBBY, Oct , 2017: 4:20pm

By Nancy Stanley and Claire Debost

              Midtown Manhattan is relentless and restless; home to many offices, and a destination for millions of tourists. Midtown is a place to work on cardio, not relaxation. In the midst of this chaos lies The Ace Hotel. The flashy-lit location first appears somewhat out of place, but then quickly reminds passersby that everything hip in New York is about being out of place. If you have ever wondered what Richard Florida meant by the “Creative Class,” go to the lobby of Ace Hotel and you will see it with your own eyes. The Ace Hotel is Midtown’s great escape.  

             Upon entering the Ace Hotel lobby, one is immediately hit by an ambience of darkness and mystery. We found Steven Brown as he took the time to open doors for the flow of incoming guests. The thirty-something New Yorker has lived in the city since 2009, explaining that the Garment District and “nearly everything about the area” has led him to where he was today. The part-time designer explained that Ace Hotel is a creature of its own kind, intertwining both arts and entertainment simultaneously. “It's sort of a culture” he told us.

Moving past the taxidermied owls and anatomy-style posters, we spotted Alex Perez, a man tucked behind the front desk and busied with incoming calls. Perez has only worked at the hotel for a few months, a Floridian by birth who is amongst the crowd of aspiring actors that flock each year to the city in hopes of great new beginnings. What he primarily enjoys about the hotel is its progressiveness (gender neutral bathrooms, for example) and this modernity reflecting back through the clients visiting.

             But behind the dark-lit bar of the sultry lobby, there is a man named Xavier Torres, bartending since the early 2000s. “Late nights and crowded evenings are a large part of the scene,” he tells us, and despite his longings for sleep, there is a great history in Ace Hotel that keeps him coming back for more. Above the bar hangs a faded 1950s American flag - two stars short, lacking Hawaii and Alaska. Even the floors and ceiling of the lobby have not been changed from their original form. Still, Torres explains that the frequently changing owners of the Ace Hotel mean a constant flow of new approaches and new décor. After all, even the cocktails change by the season.

             A couple of seats down, Joanna Berkshire found herself in her old stomping grounds. This evening she longed for a laid-back vibe and fusions in a place good for both cocktails and business meetings. The designer based in Bryant Park uses the lobby to carry out her architecture-focused meetings, her Old Fashioned in tow.

            Sarah Johnson, the ultimate New York fan, will give you all the reasons why New York is just better: “there's a sort of diversity that New York offers, and my hometown of San Francisco can't compete nearly to this caliber.” Working within sales at a tech company, she takes breaks in this lobby in efforts to unwind. The hustle and bustle of the city is eased by this Midtown location. It seems the cool vibe of the Ace Hotel Lobby draws personalities from all around the world united by the collective inspiration in the thrills of New York. “There is lots to offer,” Johnson narrates, “and New York City can keep you vibrant”.

COLUMBUS CIRCLE Oct 24, 2017: 4:12pm 

By Aleksandra Logosha
It has been raining almost for the whole day. People are crowded into the subway, shaking off the drops from their clothes and hurrying to get into the cars as quickly as possible to go about their business. Columbus Circle as always is full of people; they move confidently, sometimes stopping and turning their heads, sometimes looking at their watches and continuing to move.  
A lady of about thirty-five years old is sitting on a bench and playing the guitar. No one stops to listen to her play - everyone is too consumed by their business. People generally do not like to stop and look around, especially in the subway. They do not want to be distracted. They are always somewhere in a hurry. As questions are posed, people apologize and say “Sorry I don’t have the time,” and turn to leave.  The interview usually seems suspicious, strange, even inappropriate, but sometimes people are just too lazy to get distracted from their phones.
As the night falls on the city, people think about how to spend their evening. It is only 4:28 pm, and policewoman, Penalo, wants to finish her shift at five o'clock to pick up her children from kindergarten. On this rainy day, the subway is too hot and stuffy, and Penalo is waiting for cooler weather.
There are two ladies sitting on a bench and selling copies of some books about natural phenomena. As they wait for customers, they are also too busy to give a couple of minutes to answer questions. Time goes by, it is 4:48 pm, and the girl that was sitting and waiting for someone for half an hour, cannot stand it and hides on the stairs, shaking her head and wailing about something. Just a few minutes later her place is occupied by a middle-aged woman. She looks around, fixes her hair, and draws her attention to a group of tourists, possibly French - judging by their conversations - that is lead by the cheerful guide in a bright yellow jacket. He convenes all of them together, invitingly calling "this way, this way!" The lady waits, looks at the phone a couple of times – it is 5:13 pm, and after a few minutes of waiting she stands up with a smile to meet her friend. The women and her friend from before, speak loudly in Spanish, attracting the attention of other people, but they obviously have not seen each other for so long - they look so happy! They do not notice the people around them, they go further, as if they were never in the middle of the Columbus Circle subway station.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, October, 24th 2017 4:00pm 
By Zoë Brock
To examine the political climate at Columbia University is to reaffirm a trend that has seemingly encompassed all liberally engaged institutions of higher education. Freedom of speech, political diversity and political correctness are terms that have grown in circulation at a fast rate in recent years, and for good reason, for when broaching the subject of activism and politics on a university campus, their relevance is inescapable. Yet a problem emerges in defining these terms and how these concepts should work in practice on a modern university campus, where such discourses have become habitual.

A recent Columbia Republican event seems to encapsulate this trend, as a group of young women, Columbia students, explained,

“After the Columbia Republican event and the protesting that happened there,” said one student,  there “was a counter protest to those protesters getting in trouble.” Student protesters co-opted the event, and it has been met with backlash from the institution.  

One woman explained further,“What they’re saying those protesters getting in trouble for is like actually interrupting the event and taking over the event,” and “I guess it’s just how you look at everything if that’s okay or not.” Another young woman in the group responded to pose the question, “How far does free speech go?”

One could say that the very nature of free speech makes it without limitation- essentially rendering such a question moot. Yet there remains a fog of confusion that could be attributed to Columbia’s handling of such debates. As one Columbia student put it, “I think Columbia needs to take an actual stance on their opinion… when you have people on campus projecting that kind of hate speech… why should you be allowed here? But I also agree that we should here from both sides. Is it a productive conversation or is it just hate?” And another: “If we’re going to hear controversial opinions that pretty much are just hate I really think that it shouldn’t be in a circumstance where the person is just being paid to project their opinions. It should be in a forum setting.” A young male student explains, “I think that’s the biggest debate – over freedom of speech.” It seems that there is growing debate over the conflation of free speech with hate speech, and it’s certainly not a discourse unique to Columbia.

As for Columbia’s political leanings? In the words of one male student, “It’s still very largely liberal,” but it may not be equally active. Another student responds, “I think the number of people that are politically active... I don’t think it’s a majority. But I think the people that do it are just loud enough that it seems like...” A friend interrupts him and interjects,:“Yeah it’s a minority which is very, very loud.”

Perhaps the seemingly minority of students who are actively engaged could be attributed the lack of political diversity on campus and within the student body.
“Everyone has a broad allegiance to the Democratic Party along with roughly similar ideals, there doesn’t seem to be debate on campus between center left and the far left,” one student said.

Another continued: “I think that most political conversation takes place on a personal level between friends because people aren’t willing to discuss their ideas in a public environment because they’re afraid of how people might react negatively to what they say.”

In an environment which fails to foster genuine public debate and which lacks much of the political diversity to engender it, it comes as no surprise that the conversation revolves around freedom of speech. In what one male student referred to as “a culture of being offended,” it is important to consider what kind of impacts growing political correctness has had on spaces like Columbia University.

The kind of hate speech which political correctness aims to combat has drastically shifted the atmosphere on college campuses, and has moved once publically proclaimed sentiments behind closed doors. The debate becomes whether or not such silencing is right.