All in New York

Jazz, Jail, and the New Jim Crow

Since his first encounter with police 65 years ago, Jazz has emerged as a prominent community activist in Harlem. He has earned four university degrees, participated in the lead-up to the 1971 Attica Rebellion in New York, and led a class-action lawsuit against New York State to end its practice of disenfranchising prisoners and parolees. At 71 years old, Jazz continues to organize, and has become one of the leaders of the fight against stop-and frisk.

One of the most difficult elements of coping with terrorist attacks is managing the emotions that it elicits from victims. It is a simple enough argument to state that another terrorist attack on U.S. soil would be unbearable to the American people, but such an attack is inevitable-if not from abroad, then from the new crop of "home-grown" extremists materializing everywhere from Portland, Oregon, to Fort Hood, Texas. The future of terrorist attacks in the U.S. is not going to be on the scale of Sept. 11.

When I moved to New York City last year to attend Columbia University, I knew that finding housing would be a challenge; after three weeks of frustration, I finally managed to find an acceptable studio apartment one mile north of campus. What I didn’t know was that the apartment was available because the previous tenant had recently leapt to his death out of the 15th-story window. That element of surrealism would foreshadow some of my sociological experiences in the new building.

Susan said that her commune was “the best kind of anarchism, for a short time.” It functioned as an artists’ retreat, collective, and farm; although it now functions solely as a land collective, the colony’s hand-built houses still dotting the hill that leads to Haystack Mountain. A new bridge runs across the brook, whose banks are overgrown with wild raspberries. Upstream, a giant waterfall flows, where the commune members bathed every day, surrounded by rock sculptures. The construction along the brook is destroying their woods, and mountaintop tree removal is visible from the pastures and dirt roads.

Frank Lloyd Wright had a useful hint for the contemporary urban planner: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” As sentimental as this advice might sound, the role of nature in the context of the built environment is no light concern in the minds of policymakers and planners today. In a nod to the spirit of these “green” times, two current New York exhibitions are exploring the realities and potentials of this role—and in so doing offer two contrasting ways of approaching an understanding of the relationship between the built form and its underlying ecosystem.

One of my first assignments at Columbia, for University Writing, was to sit in Bryant Park for an afternoon and write about my experience there. I hopped on the subway and headed downtown excited, eager to discover some wonderful secret of New York City. However, when I arrived at the park, I was immediately taken aback by the scene of poverty before my eyes. Instead of glamorous fashion or an urban oasis, I found a sick, elderly woman digging for food in a garbage bin, and, underneath a tree, an old veteran desperately shaking a cup in hopes of a few coins. A wonderful secret, indeed.