Honoring a Very Early New Yorker

Juan Rodriguez is not a household name — not yet, at least. In fact, the name has been so lost to history that people cannot agree even on how to spell it. Nonetheless, one version will soon grace street signs on three miles of Broadway in Upper Manhattan, and the honor may prompt a debate about when to start celebrating New York City’s 400th birthday.

Who was Juan Rodriguez? That’s not certain, either, but enough agreement has emerged that Rodriguez, a native of what is now the Dominican Republic, was the first non-Indian to settle in New York that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed legislation on Tuesday to co-name Broadway in Rodriguez’s honor from 159th Street in Washington Heights to 218th Street in Inwood. Both neighborhoods have heavily Dominican populations. Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (no relation, apparently, to Juan) sponsored the legislation.

In 1613, Juan (or Jan or Joao) Rodriguez (or Rodrigues) appears to have accompanied Thijs Mossel, a Dutch sea captain, on the vessel Jonge Tobias from San Domingo, now known as Santo Domingo. Mossel returned to the Netherlands, while Rodriguez was marooned in what became New York (on either Governors Island or Manhattan) or more likely decided on his own to remain.

Something of a linguist, he is believed to have mastered the local Indian language and manned a tiny trading post (the Dutch apparently gave him 80 hatchets and other tools and weapons as payment for his services).

Much of what is known about him comes from affidavits by another captain, Adriaen Block, who complained that Mossel, presumably through Rodriguez, was overpaying for beaver pelts and was ruining Block’s business. Mossel insisted that Rodriguez was not his agent, but rather that Rodriguez had abandoned ship and remained on the island voluntarily (at least into 1614, when Mossel returned) and might have eventually married an Indian woman.

Crew members said in affidavits that the “mulatto” or “Spaniard” had “run away from the ship and gone ashore against their intent” and that Block’s crew “ought to have killed him” when he refused to go with them to Holland.

A report by the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of the City University of New York concluded this year: “Juan Rodriguez happens to be the first historically recorded individual of non-Native American ancestry to have ever resided in what is today” metropolitan New York, before the Dutch named their settlement New Amsterdam.

Since there is no archival evidence that Rodriguez left, said Ramona Hernandez, director of the institute, Rodriguez is “the first immigrant, the first black person, the first merchant, the first Latino and, to us, the first Dominican to have ever lived in New York City.”

The city seal proclaims 1625 as the year New York was founded by the Dutch. But with Rodriguez now freshly remembered as having become a New Yorker a dozen years earlier, maybe New York City’s 400th birthday candle will be lighted in 2013.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source

A Few Words With a Royal Artist

Alexander Creswell was saying he had drawn while bouncing in a speedboat alongside a yacht and while hanging out of a helicopter. So the watercolor showing what happened on April 29 of last year — something that happened indoors, that did not involve splashing or motion sickness and that was over in less than an hour — must have been an easy assignment, right?

“No,” he said.

Mr. Creswell is a British artist with 38 watercolors in the Royal Collection, which has its Rembrandts and Vermeers, and also the crown jewels — and which has been making acquisitions since the Middle Ages. That’s a lot longer than April 29 of last year.

Why does April 29 of last year keep coming up, anyway? For Americans who do not memorize important dates in the royals’ lives, April 29 of last year was the day on which Prince William married Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey.

And Mr. Creswell’s maquette — in effect, the final draft of the larger one that went to the newlyweds — is on display in New York in an exhibition at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries at 730 Fifth Avenue, where a reception was held on Tuesday.

Back to April 29 of last year. For Mr. Creswell, it was a workday, and a complicated one. “I very nearly didn’t get there because of the crowds,” he said, and he had allowed time for an early start.

As it was, he was in his seat, sketching, “two hours before and four hours after.” He said he covered 25 pages in his sketchbook. He even did “watercolor notes” — sketches in color — so that he would have a record of the colors of the day when he painted the final version, back in the studio.

“I was drawing as all the guests arrived,” he said. By the time the ceremony was over, he said, “I was drawing without looking at what I was drawing. You download from your eyes. You’ve got to get it down while you remember it.”

The maquette apparently passed muster with the bridegroom’s father. Prince Charles visited Mr. Creswell’s studio — “not to approve it or anything,” Mr. Creswell said. What was the prince’s reaction to the maquette? “I survived to paint another day.”

At the time, Mr. Creswell was working in the studio of the late-Victorian painter George Frederic Watts, who is famous for large allegorical scenes and for the way G.K. Chesterton described him: “He may not be certain that he is successful, or certain that he is great, or certain that he is good, or certain that he is capable: but he is certain that he is right.”

Mr. Creswell was the first painter to work in Watts’s studio in Surrey since Watts died in 1904; the reception at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries on Tuesday honored the Watts Gallery in Surrey’s efforts to save Watts’s house there.

Mr. Creswell has said he found watercolor appealing because it is considered the most difficult medium. “You cannot make mistakes” in a watercolor, he said. “Well, you cannot correct them.”

He does not work on a small, delicate scale: The maquette of the royal wedding is 22 inches by 30 inches, and “Roman Forum,” completed in 2006, is nine feet wide by five feet tall. “I’m pushing the boundaries,” he said. “I’m starting a 12-by-5.”

He has been closely associated with the royal family for more than 20 years, but said he had not met Prince William or Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. “I’ve been in the same room as them on occasion.”

The royal family and the House of Lords commissioned him to paint the lying in state of the Queen Mother after her death in 2002, and he was the official artist when Prince Charles went on a tour of Central Europe in 1998.

“The artist’s job is to see things he is too busy to see,” Mr. Creswell said, describing Prince Charles’s trip as “six manic days, drawing at state banquets” in Slovakia and Bulgaria, among other places.

The conversation turned back to what he was doing at the royal wedding: being a witness, documenting an important event. “The tradition in the Royal Collection is they commission artists to record events, be they happy or sad,” Mr. Creswell said.

He mentioned the painter and printmaker John Piper, who was appointed an official war artist in World War II. “There are millions of photographs” of London during the blitz, “but the idea is you get something more than the literal truth of the event.”

Half a century later, it was Mr. Creswell’s turn to document a gloomy moment in British history, the devastating fire at Windsor Castle in 1992, the year Queen Elizabeth called “an annus horribilis.”

What if there had been an official artist in Las Vegas in August to document the party at which, judging by cellphone videos that turned up on the celebrity Web site TMZ, Prince Harry lost more than his shirt at strip billiards?

“I would have done a much better job than an iPhone,” said Mr. Creswell, who is 55, “but I’m too old to go to that kind of a party, I suspect.”

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source

With a New M.T.A. Ad Policy, Thinking About the First Amendment

Should you wish to place an advertisement in the subways or on buses, there are a few things you need to know.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

The ad must not be “false, misleading or deceptive.” So says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in its guidelines, and who can argue with that? The material also must not promote “unlawful or illegal goods, services or activities.” Fair enough.

Tobacco products are out of the question. No surprise there. So are images of minors in sexually suggestive clothes or poses. Quite right. And don’t even think about an ad that features “sexual or excretory activities” shown in “a patently offensive manner.” Makes you wonder if it’s possible to show “excretory activities” in a patently inoffensive manner.

There are other prohibitions, one of which was newly codified by the transportation authority’s board just the other day. It bans ads that “the M.T.A. reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt or interfere with safe, efficient and orderly transportation operations.”

This rule has potential trouble written all over it.

It has already come under fire from tabloid editorialists, who raise a reasonable First Amendment question that is probably being asked by other New Yorkers as well:

Has the authority effectively handed veto power over free expression to any extremist who threatens to bomb a subway station or set fire to a bus because he or she or can’t abide the message on a poster?

The authority isn’t eager for a public discussion of what sort of ad might qualify as creating an imminent threat. For that matter, it doesn’t offer a definition of violence or of breach of the peace, terms that can encompass broad ranges of action. Does mere yelling breach the peace? Some might say yes.

Still, it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what could cross a red line, to use an expression that is in vogue in a different context. Almost certain to be rejected as incendiary would be an ad deemed to mock Muhammad, like the Danish cartoons that sparked riots in the Islamic world. But wouldn’t that amount to blatant caving in to threats, even if in the name of promoting civil discourse?

“We believe that we’ve always had the power to withhold advertisements which in the judgment of our security professionals would present an imminent threat of violence,” Adam Lisberg, an authority spokesman, said on Monday. All that the newly adopted rule does is “make it explicit,” he said.

Banning a particular ad is “not something the M.T.A. would ever undertake lightly,” Mr. Lisberg added. “It would be done in consultation with our security professionals when they would foresee an actual risk of physical violence, not merely the threat of vandalism.”

Vandalism is what happened last week to subway posters that called on people to “support the civilized man” over “the savage” — to “support Israel” and “defeat jihad.” Those words went up after a federal judge ruled over the summer that the transit agency had run afoul of the First Amendment when it rejected the ads as violating its ban on messages that “demean” individuals or groups.

So last Thursday the authority’s board scrapped the “demean” rule. Instead, it adopted the imminent-threat-of-violence standard.

You have to wonder why transit officials don’t reject these noncommercial “issue ads” altogether, and stick to less nettlesome dollars-and-cents messages hawking new movies and negligence lawyers. Advertising of all types, the authority says, covers about 1 percent of its annual budget of roughly $13 billion. Issue ads provide about 1 percent of that 1 percent. That comes to $1.3 million, a drop in the bucket. The authority runs through that in less than an hour.

If it wished, the authority said the other day, it could confine itself to commercial ads and avoid First Amendment agita. But that would be too limiting, it said. It preferred to adhere to a policy of permitting advertisements that “express views on a wide range of public matters.”

But the price of accepting subway placards with generally noncontroversial messages – say, an appeal for blood donations – is having also to put up with something like a “savage” poster, no matter how much it is bound to offend some people. That, almost by definition, is a recipe for trouble.

The authority no doubt wishes that such irksome ads would disappear. It’s not interested in making waves, and that’s perfectly understandable. It’s in the business of a running a railroad safely, not arguing the world. What’s far from clear, though, is whether all it has done with this new imminent-threat rule is replace one constitutionally suspect guideline with another.

E-mail Clyde Haberman: [email protected]

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source

A Dead Smartphone Underground and a Connection to Make

Dear Diary:

It’s about 5 a.m. in Brooklyn, and my first day on the job starts at 9:30. I can’t sleep. Why not take the subway and see how long it’ll take, you know, just in case? In minutes I’m showered, dressed and making my way down President Street.

The 4 is out of service. Blast. I hop the 3 to Barclays Center. The cab is dead and the passengers are mute. It’s raining outside. I keep glancing at the map, making sure I keep note of the stops, as my smartphone is lifeless and I’m disconnected.

When we arrive at Barclays, several passengers and I hurry to the middle track, where we await the 4. Within minutes it approaches, on the wrong track. Scatter.

Several of us rush down the stairs, telling passers-by of the mishap and to follow quickly. One trips; some double back to help. Others take long, double-step strides to reach the departing train. “Stand clear of the closing doors, please.”

There’s one laggard, a nurse. I reach out to hold the door open against the signs that say not to. She boards the train safely. My phone’s still dead, but we are all most certainly still connected.

Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail: [email protected] or telephone: (212) 556-1333. Follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source

Brooklyn Transformed, for Better or Worse?

Residents celebrated and demonstrated, made noise and complained about noise, raised a glass to Brooklyn’s pulsing addition and, in some cases, kept on raising glasses into the early morning.

But for all the dueling ambitions of those who gathered Friday for the Barclays Center’s opening night, one goal was common: to form a first impression of the city’s newest nerve center up close, beneath the weathered steel that has been termed both an architectural wonder and, in the words of one passer-by Friday afternoon, “the ugliest thing I ever saw.”

Would the arena’s opening event, the first in a series of concerts by the hip-hop star Jay-Z, snarl traffic as many predicted? Would the streets fill with drunken revelers? Would anyone ever again be able to walk three blocks along Atlantic Avenue without seeing a hat or T-shirt supporting the Brooklyn Nets?

Skeptics and believers could all find support in Friday’s early returns.

Here was a procession of well-coiffed ticket-holders — thick heels and leopard-print flats, T-shirts emblazoned with Jay-Z’s face and sneakers so white they appeared to have been bought on the way in the door.

And there was a man, stumbling along Flatbush Avenue, slurring deliriously as an officer led him into the backseat of a taxicab, pushing his head through the doorway as he might for a common criminal.

Watts Hopkins, 55, distributed light-up sunglasses to passing concertgoers. “We’re ushering in a new era of entertainment for Brooklyn,” Mr. Hopkins said, as his partner hawked a flashing bow tie.

Bars and restaurants kept their doors open well into Saturday morning, ensuring that wayfarers in Nets regalia would have a place to continue the preseason party.

But at least one establishment seemed immune to the appeal of the neighborhood’s unofficial new logo: Beacon’s Closet, a clothing exchange store near Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place.

Tiffany Collings, the store’s manager, was asked if the business would ever carry the team’s apparel. “Only when it becomes vintage,” she said. “We’ve got 40 years.”

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source

Arrest Made in Robberies Using Hypodermic Needle

The police said Monday that they had arrested a Bronx man in connection with a spate of holdups in which a robber wielded a hypodermic needle to frighten victims into giving up their electronic devices and other property.

The man, Angel Cintron, 39, of West Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx, was taken into custody without incident around noon in the Getty Square neighborhood of Yonkers, the police there said.

The New York City police said the man had been tied to at least eight daytime robberies around the Bronx stretching back to August. Last week, they identified Mr. Cintron as a suspect in the case.

Mr. Cintron was charged with robbery and criminal possession of a weapon.

In most of the robberies, a hypodermic needle with a syringe was used to threaten young men into handing over their belongings. It was not clear if the man claimed that anything specific was in the syringe.

Five of the robberies occurred on one day in September.

During the Friday morning rush on Sept. 14, the police said, the suspect snatched an iPod from a 31-year-old man. Less than an hour later, and one block away along East Tremont Avenue, he took a cellphone from a 14-year-old boy after brandishing the hypodermic needle, the police said. Roughly 10 minutes later, an iPad was taken from a male victim a short walk away.

The suspect then tried talking with a 17-year-old on board a bus before taking out a knife and trying to rob the teenager, who managed to escape, the police said. At 6 p.m. the same day, the police said, the suspect threatened a teenager and made off with his iPod.

The Daily News reported that a robbery on Saturday morning using a hypodermic needle may be tied to the same suspect.

Since the beginning of the year, the police said, more than 11,000 Apple products have been reported stolen, an increase of 40 percent over last year. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said last month that such thefts “drove the spike in robberies and larceny” this year.

The image of a needle wielded as a deadly weapon recalled past instances. In 1988, a man claiming to have AIDS held a needle to a woman’s neck and robbed her of jewelry. The police said at the time that the man did not appear to have the disease.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source

Take Care Of Your Short-Term Employees

Temporary worker insuranceMany people find themselves working on a temporary basis for a company and at that time they are eligible for temporary worker insurance. Many people who are employed for a short period of time for a company decide to opt of short-term health insurance to cover them and their families for this time. Premiums for these short-term premiums are reasonable and many companies will cover from 30 days to 12 months, some insurance companies are now offering coverage for 36 months. The benefits and the length of coverage varies from state to state, these types of short-term policies are really designated to protect the families from catastrophic issues and major emergency illnesses.

Temporary worker insurance is also available to people who have been laid off or are between jobs. The cost of COBRA is exorbitant for most people to deal with, especially those who have lost their jobs and for which money is a huge issue. Plans can be purchased for as little as a month. It is always important to have health insurance as we do not know when a major illness will strike or when we are involved in an accident of some kind and need to spend time in the hospital.

Temporary worker insurance protects your family through a short-term period while you are looking for another job. Workers who are temporary cannot tap into the full time employees’ benefits, so short-term insurance is a benefit for them.

Click here to know more about World Wide Specialty Programs.