Another instance of demolishing precious architecture in NYC: can you all even imagine what Penn Station used to look like? We would have had another magnificent Grand Central Station. Instead…well, you know what we have. In case you don’t know, here are some photos to refresh your memory.

The City Room blog at The New York Times recently gave us some archival documents from architects-turned-protestors who tried to stop this from happening. Interesting stuff.

grafitti that reads "bronx" on a wall in brooklyn, ny

Photo licensed by Creative Commons. By bitchcakesny.

Interesting article in The New York Times Magazine (an installment of Adam Davidson’s always-interesting economics column) about the Bronx economy and why it hasn’t prospered in recent years like parts of Brooklyn.

Why has Brooklyn gentrified and experienced “phenomenal economic growth” while the Bronx continues to be known for “unemployment and rampant prostitution”? Why do “nearly a third of [Bronx] residents over age 25 lack a high-school diploma”?

Davidson argues that housing stock has a lot to do with it:

Brooklyn and Queens were once collections of independent towns whose homegrown economies were rooted in Long Island agriculture, not Manhattan mercantilism. Local elites built expensive town houses on tree-lined streets. These neighborhoods fell on hard times during the 1970s, but their expensive stock was perfectly positioned for revitalization as the Manhattan boom of the past few decades pushed young professionals across the river. The Bronx, however, never developed its own economic drivers. It became, by the late 19th century, a haven for immigrants attracted to (but unable to afford) Manhattan. The borough developed far fewer wealthy areas, and many neighborhoods became devoted to less-gentrifiable housing units.

All this means that not only are upwardly mobile people not moving in, but the current residents make their money and largely do business transactions (a.k.a spend money and fuel the economy) in Manhattan, not the Bronx.

The Brownstoner blog adds a relevant statistic that Davidson left out:

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated 29 Historic Districts in Brooklyn and only 11 in the Bronx. Landmarking is largely responsible for preserving large swaths of attractive housing stock in Brooklyn during tougher times and for preventing the construction of “less-gentrifiable housing units.”

Obviously, improving the local economy should not rely on the investments of gentrifiers and inevitable displacement of low-income and working-class people. What about improving the lot for people who already live in the Bronx?

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is attempting to spur local jobs by building “an indoor mall that could bring 2,000 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent positions.” He’s also hoping to lure a developer to build a luxury hotel near Yankee Stadium so travelers crash there instead of in Manhattan.

One piece missing from this argument is that even Brooklyn’s economic development is piecemeal. Areas like East New York and Brownsville continue to struggle and aren’t seeing the median income level in their neighborhoods rise. Indeed, as Brownstoner points out, “Brooklyn’s recent boom has been a rising tide that has not lifted all boats.” Let’s hope that the Bronx model doesn’t replicate the disparities.

This is great news:

On the evening of Monday, November 7, The Ali Forney Center …reopened a 20-bed emergency shelter in Brooklyn as a shelter specifically for this population.  The reopening was made possible by a $620,000 grant from the New York City Council, turned over to the AFC by the New York City Dept. of Youth and Community Development. As the shelter is an existing shelter, previously operated by an organization that failed to comply with licensing requirements, it does not add to the city’s total number of shelter beds, which currently stands at around 250. However, it does increase the percentage of such beds set aside for LGBT youth, and brings the total of AFC-operated beds to 77.  Nonetheless, the AFC’s waiting list currently stands at 199 youths – a figure which has grown by 40 percent in the last year alone.

I reported on the rally and movement for more shelter beds in my last blog post, and I can’t help but feel like this must have been a direct result of the activism that has been taking place. I don’t know if it’s the increased media attention on Occupy Wall Street, yesterday’s elections, or what, but it does feel like there is a revival of progressive direct action and activism afoot. People are waking up from the slumber of Obama’s first term.

For the complete press release and more information on the LGBTQ homeless shelter update, click here.

I attended a rally on Monday of this week put on by a coalition of organizations fighting for more homeless shelters for LGBTQ young people. According to the flyer, an LGBTQ teen is 8 times more likely to experience homelessness than a straight teen in New York City. This is because as people come out younger and younger, many are being kicked out of their homes or facing isolation and bullying in schools. Every night in New York City, almost 4000 young people are without stable housing, but there are fewer than 200 youth shelter beds. Facing cuts by the city and state, supporters came out to demand protection for these vulnerable young people.

I interviewed a few people at the rally and spliced together a quick video of people’s impressions:

If this inspires you to take action, visit aliforneycenter.org.

I shot some video at last night’s Occupy Wall Street protests in Times Square (commentary by my friend Matthew Palevsky, a strategist at Purpose):

By the time I got to Times Square around 6:30, the group, with number in the tens of thousands, had already marched over from Washington Square Park, and some confrontations with the cops had already taken place. (I did see an older woman with short hair on the ground with a bloodied head getting assistance from others. I don’t know the details, but 50+ people were arrested as the cops stifled the movements of the marchers.)

While I was there, the situation was more diffuse, with hundreds of metal barricades set up so that protesters were mainly relegated to the sides, allowing some car traffic to drive through. Protestors, tourists, and onlookers were squeezed into narrow spaces and kept apart from one another, so as far as I could tell, there was no central spot for Occupy Wall Street. Instead, there were mini hubs up and down Broadway from 42nd street up to 47th, with people grouping around one another in each block to chant, do mic-checks, etc. This was probably not ideal–and it’s probably exactly what the cops wanted. The protest was effectively fragmented. I was getting word that a General Assembly was happening, and even though I suspect I was only half a block away from it, there was no way to get to it or hear what was going on.

I just stayed until there was a decision made to march back to Washington Square Park. Perhaps the situation in Times Square was too tense, crowded, and tight. According to reports, people stayed in the Park until midnight or 1 a.m., when police enforced the curfew.

Queer APIs (Asian Pacific Islanders) were invited for the first time ever to participate in New York City’s annual Chinese New Year Parade held in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Check out this article and great video that interviews many of the participants, including Pauline Park, well-known transgender leader who I saw at the recent Creating Change Conference:

Steven Tin, executive director of the Better Chinatown Society, said there was no reason to exclude the groups. “Why not?” he said. “We basically welcome groups that want to do a cultural celebration.”

I was at the Chinese New Year Parade in Flushing, Queens (a smaller affair than the Manhattan festivities), so I missed this. I didn’t see any LGBT groups at the Queens parade.  Who wants to change that?!

(P.S.: The Year of the Tiger is my year!)