Two days ago a news alert popped up on my phone from the New York Times.
Moments after I finished reading the article in question, I found myself with the urge to respond to it. Not to echo it’s words and sentiments, but to offer a completely dissenting opinion, much broader in scope than the offending article, which can be found here:
Before you read further, I recommend you read the article itself, so as to get a complete picture of the circumstances under which my own rejoinder was penned.
Have you read it yet?
On to my response:
“Dear Sirs and/or Madams,
Having recently read your article entitled: “That Noise? The Rich neighbors digging a basement pool in their $100 Million Brownstone” I became thoroughly fired up.
But not for the reasons you think.
I subscribe to the NYT for a myriad of reasons, mostly because I’d like to be informed about the various goings on in the world, as well as in the city I call home. I enjoy your publication immensely, the articles are well written, thought provoking, and informative.
This one, however, struck a different chord with me, one that involved multiple instances of eye-rolling. That chord was simply one of “Why should I care about the problems of opulent people who can afford to live on the Upper West Side, and why is such a prestigious publication even bothering to get involved?”
It’s a personally vexing question, as I have learned about political corruption, changes in the law, and the problems of nations half a world away from the NYT.
But this, this is a waste of your time and resources.
I am not a wealthy man, I live well below the poverty line. I work a 9-5 in the city and I commute to and from Brooklyn twice a day, five days a week. I just got health insurance in August of last year (a tremendous cut to my already meager paycheck.) I justify this by telling myself “You don’t have the best job in the city, but you definitely don’t have the worst one either.”
Because of my financial circumstance, I must walk a razor’s edge between solvency and ruin, finding myself occasionally putting off doctors appointments because I need to save up for my co-pay (heaven forbid I ever need to address something major.)
I’m barely getting by, and in this, I know I’m not alone.
Which is exactly why I was so perplexed when I read Mr. Margolicks article.
Make no mistake, David Margolick seems like a fine journalist who has no doubt done his homework on the matter, his talking points were unbiased (as much as they could be, since the titular subjects of the article in question refused to be interviewed) and the overall quality was admirable.
However, it is not his quality of his work that I took issue with, it is the angle at which he approached the subject matter. The article may well be re-titled “Rich People Problems, a glimpse into the lives and complaints of the wealthy, and their pets.”
First off, the most obvious reason these people are complaining about the noise and the air quality is because they are home during the day. All day in fact, from the sounds of the article itself.
These people are either working from home, or they are retired (and the blurb about the fellow whose rooftop garden had a smaller yield than in previous years due to the air quality? Well, I don’t even know why you bothered to include him at all. I’ve never met anyone in any of my own social and professional circles who even knows someone who has gotten permission for a private rooftop garden from their landlord. All the gardens I’ve ever heard of are community run and owned. None of them are private.)
Furthermore, not only do these residents constitute part of the rich 1 percent-ers, but somehow it seems that we are meant to feel sympathy for them.
Honestly, I feel more for their pets, whose owners can buy them expensive sedatives, but haven’t even considered boarding them elsewhere during the day.
Sure, I see the merit of the article, a merit which seemed to scream “See? Rich people have problems too.” But I assure you, if asked to raise $5,000 to move out of their apartment, my own neighbors would consider it a ludicrous and impossible idea, akin to building a homemade rocket with the expectance of landing on Mars (more than likely, they would sabotage and vandalize the offending construction equipment under cover of darkness and obtain their peace and quiet that way, but that is—of course—my own speculation, and not at all based in any researchable fact.) Let the residents of this little section of 69th street spend a few weeks in Canarsie or Brownsville and I promise you they would return to their homes, realizing how good they have it.
I don’t mean to sound callous, I’ve dealt with construction noise on a daily basis myself (my office is—quite literally—a stones throw from the Hudson Yards development that has been going on for the last few years) and near constant jackhammering does tend to take a toll on ones fortitude. But we did what any good New Yorker would do given the same situation, we lodged our complaints with our building managers at Brookfield, tried to go through the proper channels, and at the end of the day, we dealt with it.
This article—at least in my view—was a waste for a few reasons:
It didn’t provide any new information about daily life in the city. We all hate noise, so what? The City won’t step in, as I’m sure the financial benefits gained by outrageous property taxes outweigh the ire of a few upper middle class folks. But what else is new?
The article itself seems as though it were written at the behest of these wealthy individuals to call attention to the fact that their lives have been “upended” by a byproduct of super-gentrification. But as far as I know they’re not being forced from their homes, they’re not being asked to pay more in rent, and they’re not being constantly accosted by the police due to the color of their skin, or because they’re in “the wrong neighborhood.” No, “upended” is definitely the wrong word. This is, plain and simple, the wealthy denizens on the UWS using their money and influence to serve their own interests, which is exactly what this article is so hastily lambasting, but on a much grander scale. The irony here is not lost, it is proudly standing in plain sight.
Finally, at the articles conclusion, I began to envision the whole situation: The wealthy detesting the ultra wealthy, which again, is not a new concept. Gentrification is and has been a part of life in New York for decades, except now—instead of being hailed as “cleaning up the neighborhood”—it’s suddenly an inconvenience, a burden that is being imposed by a single person (or in this case, a married couple) and the only discernible difference is that the people who are being affected are all moderately wealthy, and light skinned. (Which, if that is truly the case, the article should be entitled: “Rich White People Problems…”)
As journalists, and as seekers of truth, ask yourselves: If this were happening in a poor Spanish neighborhood, or a poor black neighborhood, would The Times even bother sending a reporter out to investigate it? Would a story even appear in the paper?
It makes me sad to say that the answer would almost definitely be “No.”
And it disappoints me greatly that Mr. Margolick chose to limit the scope of the article to one section of one well-to-do street in one of the most affluent parts of Manhattan, rather than opening it up and broadening its scope to include extreme situations of gentrification that have occurred—and continue—in Queens, Brooklyn, and The Bronx. Thereby encompassing all who have suffered directly and indirectly at the hands of those with greater wealth and privilege than they.
While I’m sure this response to Mr. Margolick’s article will only be read by an intern, I would hope that whoever you are, you might pass this up the chain as far as you dare, or as far as your sphere of influence will allow. Perhaps others will be moved, and perhaps they will not. I’ve been a loyal reader for many years, and this is the first time I’ve ever gotten the sense that maybe, just maybe, the greatest news publication in the country might be a little out of touch with its readers, or quite possibly gone tone deaf from all the construction.
Very truly yours,
A New Way Forward
FILLING THE VOID WITH ART CLOSE TO HOME
Nov. 25, 2018
When I first started snapping pictures at the tender age of who knows when, the best piece of advice I got for finding subjects was to start with people I was already close to, immediate family, friends etc. Take their pictures so you can practice the craft. Light, composition, color tone, mood, exposure. Even if some of the early photos I took of my family were a bit surreptitious, it was a valuable lesson.
I find that in the moments in between the day job and the side hustles I tend to get bored, stymied creatively, and I start to lose my edge. I hadn’t had a freelance gig in a little while, and I was starting to get restless. One morning I packed my gear and ventured outside, determined to find something, anything that could ease the ennui. I ran into a friend and suggested we go shoot in Prospect Park (It being the beginning of autumn, the leaves were spectacular.) I must have been very convincing, because she brought her two friends along and the four of us had a blast. It has since snowballed into an ongoing project of portraits I’ve taken of my friends and neighbors on my little street in Brooklyn. It’s still in the beginning stages, with piles of photos building up and needing editing. Many of them end up in my Instagram feed, but a few, a select few I’ll be adding to the website over time, ultimately creating a new section dedicated solely to the Beekman Portraits project.
(Pictured: Kiara Alba)
New York City Marathon 2017
November 5, 2017
The New York City Marathon begins at the western end of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge on Staten Island, and ends in Central Park, passing through all five of New York City's boroughs in between. Part of the course runs right by my apartment. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to be a part of it, even if I was only a spectator. So, I slapped on my 85MM lens, changed my batteries, and went to check it out.
What immediately impressed me was the sense of camaraderie among both spectators and participants; everyone was cheering the runners on, giving encouragement, high fives, and general applause. "This is what New York City is supposed to be about, cheering each other on." I heard one spectator comment to a friend.
But it wasn't just New Yorkers that participated, runners from all over the globe came to represent their nations and fly their colors. Some jerseys had participants names, and some bore political messages as well as the names of charitable organizations, and many of them had flags. Some runners were serious, some were winded, and some were just trying to have a good time. There were costumes, wigs, face paint, everyone was in a good mood. Of course, this was at the beginning of the course, so I'm sure everyone was optimistic.
I captured several photos of the event, and will be adding more over the next few days. Be sure to check out the full gallery here.
October 27, 2017
One thing I've come to see in advertisement is the perpetuation of perfection, especially when it comes to the human body. We're saturated with pictures of airbrushed, photoshopped, and re-touched versions of people that couldn't possibly exist in real life. No one's skin is that perfect, no one is without scars—be they physical or emotional—and no one is perfect. While I, like many other photographers, am at least partially versed in photo re-touching, I've grown to dislike the way that people are portrayed when they get put up on a billboard.
I want to show that people are not just beautiful, but they're weird, quirky, flawed, scarred, and imperfect. I want people to be comfortable in their own skin, no matter their shape or size or color, no matter their scars, blemishes, tattoos, piercings, you name it.
People are, and will always be, perfect in their imperfection.