"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?" Jacqueline Kennedy

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ten Glorious Days: Impressions Of Oaxaca And Mexico City

Plaza de la Constitucion in Mexico City from above
Pedestrian street in Mexico City
Casa de los Azulejos, Mexico City
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City

Religuous procession
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City's history museum
On the terrace of Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
High above Mexico City

Murals at Chapultepec Castle
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
Café at Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Gran Hotel Cuidad, Mexico City
Splendid glass ceiling of the The Gran Hotel Cuidad
Walking through Mexico City's Chinatown
Ancient City of Teotihuacan. In the distance, Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
The garden at Frida Kahlo's Blue House
Frieda Kahlo unfinished self portrait
Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca. Nothing is more beautiful as sun, hot springs and mountains.
Plaza de la Constitución

The Cathedral of our Lady of Assumption

Colorful streets of Oaxaca

Taking a break in a local eatery
Exploring the markets of Oaxaca

A field of agaves in Matatlán, Oaxaca

Artisanal Mezcal production
Burro Mescalero with rooster
Food, glorious food.
Perfect pool, Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca

I am so sorry for the long silence here on Pardon Me For Asking, but I spent the past ten days in Mexico for some sun, family time and to attend a wedding of dear friends.
Mexico City was a revelation and the four days spent there were too short to really explore everything on my list.  There are just too many amazing museums, so many vibrant neighborhoods to check out, so much street life and energy.
And what can I say about Oaxaca?  The three adjectives that would describe it best are colorful, joyful, and inspiring. I have seldom loved a place so instantly as Oaxaca.
Everywhere we went in Oaxaca and Mexico City, we were welcomed with such friendliness. People were incredibly helpful when they steered us to great eateries and points of interests.
They genuinely wanted us to have a great time in their country,  their town.
Of course, the markets and the street food were my favorite things to check out and to photograph.
The light, the hues, the street life...all was so inspiring.

Gracias, Mexico, for making me feel so welcome!

If you would like to see more photos, check out or better yet, follow Pardon Me For Asking's Instagram page.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Badly Done, City Planning! Badly Done!: City Faces Angry Residents At Gowanus Draft Zoning Proposal Meeting Last Night

Winston Von Engel, Director of the Brooklyn office for the NYC Department of City Planning
DCP project manager Jonathan Keller
Members of the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition For Justice
NYCHA resident Karen Blondel and Zac Martin of Trellis
NYC DCP's Winston Von Engel, addressing angry residents
Councilman Brad Lander (left), standing in the crowd.

Yesterday evening's presentation of the Gowanus Draft Zoning Proposal must have been very rough for representatives of  the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP)'s Brooklyn office, as they faced a mostly hostile Gowanus community.  It was entirely predictable and of DCP's own making.

Instead of providing local residents with a forum in which they could ask questions and get answers communally, DCP had basically printed out its online presentation on poster boards and taped them to the wall of PS32's gym.  As one local resident tweeted, 'the city attempted to turn it into a science fair style open house', which backfired big time. It was obvious from the start that the whole thing had been designed to control rather than to engage stakeholders.

People were generally angry that there was no formal Q and A session this late in the rezoning process. Some called it unprofessional, a total waste of time. Others felt it was disrespectful, especially since many had been involved with the community visioning process for the last two years.

Members of the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition For Justice (GNCJ) tried to engage DCP in a more meaningful conversation by bringing a PA system and by setting up chairs in the gym.
Karen Blondel, who has lived in Gowanus NYCHA housing for the past 40 years and is an environmental organizer for Fifth Avenue Committee, took the microphone to demand a real public meeting. She addressed the lack of commitment from the City to '"fix environmentally unsafe conditions in local public housing."  
In support, NYCHA residents chanted:
"The Gowanus Plan is incomplete-City Hall take a seat!"
"Before you rezone-fix our homes!"
"Scope until our demands are in scope! No Scope until we're in scope!"

Other stakeholders demanded to know how the City planned to address the neighborhood's failing infrastructure,  especially sewers,  schools and public transportation once the neighborhood was up-zoned. "What happened to the inclusion of an Eco District in the rezoning plan?,"  several people asked.

Winston Von Engel and Jonathan Keller of NYC's Department of City Planning eventually tried to placate the audience by promising a proper community meeting at Community Board 6's Landmark/Land Use Committee meeting on February 28th in PS32's auditorium.

Councilman Brad Lander arrived late, so missed most of the initial fireworks,  He tried to diffuse the situation by playing Mr. Nice Guy and by reiterating that the rezoning plan  was unlikely to please everyone.

As for Councilman Stephen Levin, whose district includes all Gowanus NYCHA residents, he did not show up at all.

It was an interesting evening to say the least.
Kindergartener and mini-citizen reporter Charlie of Citizen Squirrel
Linda Mariano of FROGG and Gowanus Landmarking Coalition
Gowanus' very own Jane Jacobs
Gowanus Dredgers brought canoes to demand rezoning plan include docks and boat launches