Monthly Archives: March 2011

Why My Showcase Is Worth Doing

[audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24204836/Underground%20Tattooing.mp3]

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that tattooing in New York City was banned for 36 years through 1961 up until 1997. The fact that just 14 years ago tattooing in New York City was illegal is pretty bizarre considering how deeply tattooing is rooted into the City’s culture and even American culture as a whole – especially now with mainstream kitschy television programs like LA Ink and Miami Ink.

Many tattoo enthusiasts like Mike Bakaty of Fineline Tattoo and Wes Wood of Unimax Supply Company are certain that the City Health Department’s justification for banning tattooing was not true at all. Tattooing was made illegal because the Health Department found a series of blood-borne hepatitis B cases coming from tattoo parlors in the early 1960’s.

Wes Wood, one of the people who fought to get tattooing re-legalized, admits that maybe there was one or two hepatitis cases involved with tattooing, but that was definitely not the real reason for the Health Department to pull the plug on tattooing.

“The Health Department’s position was that they were against legalization because they didn’t want to spend the money – they thought it was a waste of taxpayer’s money. They even knew that no one was getting hepatitis or aids. When tattooing became popular people got concerned with that and people got the perception that because there is blood involved people are getting diseases – it’s that perception that drove all this hysteria,” said Wood.

During the 1960’s tattooing was still a stigma, it wasn’t like it is today. A November 2010 New York Times article reported that the Food and Drug Administration estimated that as many as 45 million Americans currently have tattoos.

Ever since the 1890’s when tattooing was born in America is was a popular thing to do, but just different kinds of people who were presented in a bad light were making it popular. The artwork has infinitely changed since the prohibition years and even before that. The reasons people get tattoos have also changed and it would be interesting to explore the tattoos of the old and young and the differences between techniques and style.

Some people like Jon Clue, a tattoo artist in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, have strong feelings that people getting tattooed nowadays make poor selections in choosing a tattoo in order to make a fashion statement or keep up with the trendiness of getting a tattoo. That may even be true, but I think it is just too general of a statement. So many people have such intricately, thought out tattoos that leads me to believe they aren’t so vapid. A tattoo is probably one of the most blatant forms of expression a person can display. Many people have real, strong reasons behind why they ink their skin and others just simply like the way it looks.

According to a 2006 survey conducted by Pew Research, 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo. A certain kind of person will cover their arms or legs in tattoos. And a certain kind of person will ink their actual face, but regardless of one tattoo or 10 tattoos, a tattoo’s permanence makes it a very powerful form of expression, which is worth being explored.


NYPD: Wrong Nine Times Out of Ten

There is no doubt about it that New York City police officials use the stereotypes of certain groups of people in order to determine whether or not those people pose a threat to society. And when you think about it in that way – it makes sense.

Many times police officials have to act on instinct and use their judgments in order to keep the city safe, but when it is completely blatant that the NYPD singles out and accuses, specifically, black and Latino people of having committed a crime or that they are about to commit a crime – there is a serious problem.

The phrase “stop and frisk” refers to the authority of a police officer to stop and search a person for concealed weapons without a warrant. The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy raises major concerns when it comes to racial profiling and basic privacy rights.

According to an analysis devised by the New York Civil Liberties Union more than two million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2010 – black and Latino communities were the vast majority of where these degrading searches take place.

Every year the police stops hundreds of thousands law abiding New Yorkers and nearly nine out of 10 times those people were completely innocent. According to NYCLU, in 2010, the police stopped 601,055 New Yorkers with less than probable cause. An outstanding 517,458 (86 percent) of those people were innocent, 317,642 (53 percent) of those people were black, 190,491 (32 percent) of those people were Latino, and 55,083 (nine percent) of those people were white. Do you see the pattern?

The problem seems to be that many of these “stop and frisks” are completely unconstitutional and a violation of basic human rights. With absolutely no probable cause NYPD officials get away every year illegally stopping, questioning, and humiliating hundreds of thousands of people – primarily blacks and Latinos, according to the numbers.

In order to justify such high and blatant numbers, police officials propose that they are just doing their job and acting under suspicion. I would agree with the stop and frisk policy if the NYPD was right nine out of 10 times instead of wrong nine out of 10 times. This policy is clearly based on racial profiling and there is no doubt about that.

It appears as though this “stop and frisk” policy just broadens on the notion of the “broken windows theory.” The broken windows theory is a criminological theory that was introduced 1982 article written by social scientists George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson and it was published in the Atlantic Magazine.

The central theme of the broken windows theory holds that when neighborhoods appear to be broken down or in a state of disarray, those neighborhoods will directly attract crime and anti-social behavior. The broken windows theory is not saying that broken down neighborhoods cause crime, but that they just attract crime. But the theory never really explicates on what causes the crime. And maybe this is why so many stop and frisks occur in underserved New York City neighborhoods like Brownsville and Bushwick where the majority of residents are of black and Latino decent.

It is interesting how the NYPD used the March 2, 2011 shooting in Bensonhurst, a Brooklyn neighborhood of primarily white decent, in order to exemplify the restraint of the NYPD. Derek Gallo, 33, fired eight shots from his Glock 9-millimeter pistol at the police – the police surprisingly did not return fire.

It’s times like these where one would think the NYPD has a right to return fire when they are blatantly being shot at. One to many times you hear stories of the NYPD blasting 40 bullets into a black man who was only pulling out his wallet, mistaking it for a gun.


A Once-Dying Art, Now Alive More Than Ever

Tattooing in the United States essentially began in New York City in 1846 when Martin Hildebrant, a German immigrant, opened the first American tattoo shop on Oak Street. In 1875 Samuel O’ Reilly opened up the second tattoo shop in New York City in Chatham Square in the Bowery, and it was in the 1890’s when modern tattooing was invented.

By the 1920’s the center for the New York tattoo world moved from the Bowery to Coney Island. During the 1961-1997 New York City tattoo ban, the New York tattoo world moved entirely underground. According to Mike Bakaty, 74, tattooist and owner of Fineline Tattoo in Manhattan, there were probably 500 tattoo artists in the entire country during the years of the ban.

The tattoo ban was enacted due to health reasons, however there was still a stigma involved in the general public’s perception on people who inked their skin. Tattooing was primarily associated with “drunken-sailors,” convicts, and bikers, but today that has all changed.

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there are currently approximately 1,700 licensed tattoo artists in New York City.

Many male and female New York City residents patiently await their 18th birthdays because that is the legal age one can get tattooed at in New York City. Women and men of all professions get tattooed for all different kinds of reasons. My showcase is going to feature these diverse people who all share one specific thing in common – the need to ink their skin.

The art of tattooing has worked itself so deeply into America’s mainstream culture and people have a vast array of reasons as to why they ink their skin. Some people get tattooed to mark a turning point in their lives, to exemplify their individuality, to give “meaning” to their aesthetic, to express themselves visually, to be hip and keep up with the trends, or just because they simply like the way a tattoo looks. Whatever the reason may be, tattooing in New York City has exploded from the prohibition days into such a highly regarded widespread art form.

My showcase is going to feature all different kinds of New York City residents who have tattoos and the reasons why they get they ink their skin. It would be ideal to actually sit in on someone getting a tattoo with that person’s permission, of course, to film. I want to capture the piercing sound of the needle as it hits the skin and I want to capture a person’s reaction while getting tattooed. Getting tattooed is an extremely painful process, but for people who love getting inked it’s worth it.

The exclusive book “New York City Tattoo: An Oral History of an Urban Art,” by Michael McCabe has a vast array of old school pictures of the prohibition days of tattooing that I could possibly scan and use in my slideshow.

 


Peter King Seeking To Root Out Muslim Radicals

Peter King, the New York Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has opened now-historic hearings into Islamic radicalization in America on Thursday, March 10, 2011.

King claims that it is because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that gives him such passionate drive in rooting out Islamic radicals among the Muslim-American population. This requires the participation and the cooperation of the entire Muslim-American community. King has grouped Islamic radicals together with the Muslim-American community, in turn, unfairly stereotyping an entire group of people, which is why many Americans view these hearings as unconstitutional.

However, if al Qaeda is recruiting alleged “homegrown” terrorists in the United States, something obviously has to be done in order to prevent this threat of national security. I just don’t  see exactly what Peter King’s hearings are going to do in order to prevent acts of terror. These hearings link the concept of terrorism directly to Muslim-Americans and even isolate this group of people from the rest of America. I don’t see how King is going to get the Muslim-American community to “cooperate with him” in rooting out Islamic radicals when he is essentially labeling and segregating an entire group of people and linking those people to the same types of people he is seeking to root out.

King told CNN, “I have no choice, I have to hold these hearings, these hearings are absolutely essential,” he said. “There are elements in that community that are being radicalized, and I believe that the leadership, the leaders of that community, do not face up to that reality. Too many cases are not cooperative, not willing to speak out and condemn this type of radicalization that is going on.”

Peter King’s actions have been compared to those of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunts and the Japanese internment camps during World War II, which I could see where people are coming from when they make these analogies, but I think that would be taking this situation to the most extreme point.

We live in a country that is forced to be politically correct – so politically correct that it seems that people do not even have the right to free speech anymore because when people say what they really want to, it automatically makes them bigots or racists, which are words many people have been using to describe Peter King.

King claims that the purpose of holding of these hearings about radicalization in the Muslim-American community is to alert the

New York Congressman Peter King

people of America that there has been a change in strategy by al Qaeda to recruit and radicalize Muslim-American in the United States and to generate support in the Muslim-American community in order to get more responsible leaders to come forward and cooperate with these efforts.

As a New Yorker who has experienced first hand the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I am as sensitive to the topic of terrorism as anyone, but I can’t help but see these hearings as a political ploy by congressman King. I honestly see them as a waste of time, because I don’t see anything positive or progressive that would come out of them. If anything, only negatives will come out of these hearings and it will only increase the tension between the Muslim-American community and rest of America. This country still has not learned that not all Muslims are terrorists. I’m not saying that this country should not be focused on the issue of alleged “homegrown” terrorists in the United States, but I don’t think these hearings involving the entire Muslim-American community are a tactful way to handle this crisis.

There should be hearings going on about issues such as, health care and access to education in the United States.


Bloomberg Fails His City

New York City snowstorm of 2010 stumps Mayor Bloomberg

The brutal New York City winter of 2010-2011 took a tremendous toll on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which lead many New Yorker’s to question his leadership skills or lack of them when approximately 18 to 24 inches of snow hit the pavement, completely putting the city at a halt for days.

“The world has not come to an end,” said Bloomberg. “The city is going fine. Broadway shows were full last night. There are lots of tourists here enjoying themselves. I think the message is that the city goes on.”

Well, maybe Bloomberg is right in saying that the city goes on for the tourists, but what about the taxpayers who fund the city whose streets were not plowed for days after the snow fell. Bloomberg announced that a reduced Department of Sanitation workforce manned 2,700 city plows, but the only streets that seemed to get plowed were major avenues and by no means was the plowing immediate.

This powerful blizzard with wind gusts at approximately 60 mph began on a Sunday and the plowing of major streets didn’t even begin until Tuesday. This massive snowstorm had the ability to shut down roads, airports, and mass transit systems, which stranded thousands of travelers for hours. But there is no doubt about it that it was the city to be blamed and not the snow. There is no excuse why it took days for the city streets to be plowed, which also constitutes as a severe hazard. Bloomberg told the people of New York to only call 911 for emergencies, but the whole city was in a state of emergency.

There were dozens of stalled and abandoned cars and buses all over the city, which did block some snowplows, but that alone was the city’s excuse as to why no streets were getting plowed. The fact is New York City knew this snowstorm was coming and Bloomberg decided to mobilize his efforts just hours before the snow fell. It astonishes me that New Yorker’s had to spend the night dirty, freezing subway cars because of snow on the tracks. This is New York City, we’ve had snowfalls before, and it should be apparent by now that New York City requires specific preparation and planning when a snowstorm is about to hit. This past winter’s snowstorm was not to be taken lightly, but it was, and the only person to blame for that is the man himself – Mayor Michael Bloomberg.