National Geographic December 2015, Part 2

New New York, by Pete Hamill, photographs by George Steinmetz

Hamill, who was 80 years old at the time he wrote this article, grew up in New York City.  He explored it on foot and by subway through the decades, and in New New York, he looks back at the New York City of his youth and compares it to the New York City of today.  To some extent, Hamill seems to be having a “hey, you kids, get out of my yard” moment, to the extent that they have yards in New York City.  You know what I mean.

One of Hamill’s chief complaints is that the old neighborhoods are going away, being replaced by high-rise apartment buildings.  I have to admit that I share Hamill’s disdain for 432 Park Avenue, a big stick with windows a couple of blocks southwest of Central Park (see image).  However, part of the loss of neighborhoods can be placed on the emphasis on suburbs in the United States over the last seventy years.  Men who went off to fight in World War II came home and moved out of the cities into the suburbs, where instead of streetcars, they had automobiles and instead of neighborhoods, they had housing developments. Three generations (1946-1966, 1966-1986, and 1986-2006) have grown up living in separate boxes and traveling to jobs, schools, stores, churches, etc., in separate boxes.  The cohesiveness of a neighborhood is foreign to them.  And now, to get ahead in their jobs, they are moving into the cities and taking their isolation with them.

432 Park Avenue
432 Park Avenue, taken from the Empire State Building, July 2015. You can see Central Park off there in the distance.

Hopefully this isolation will only be temporary.  Once they discover the joys of being able to walk where they need to go, neighborhoods will form again.  Their children’s generation will be likely to connect, and reconnect, in both new and old ways.  Perhaps the old neighborhoods will never return, but it will be interesting to see what this new generation of city dwellers will create.

Haiti on Its Own Terms, by Alexandra Fuller, photographs by students of FotoKonbit

FotoKonbit is a project that allows Haitians to borrow cameras and photograph Haiti as they experience it.  Too many people outside Haiti merely hear of strife, poverty, and natural disasters.  FotoKonbit works with students both in the cities and in the rural areas to learn photographic skills and to show the outside world the beauty of Haiti as well.

The text accompanying these photographs goes into the history of Haiti and also a bit of its future.  You see, Haiti has billions of dollars of resources under its soil and someday people may come from outside to exploit them. This could be a benefit, if the companies extracting the wealth do it in a responsible manner and pay a fair price, or a disaster, if the companies follow business as usual and ruin the environment while cheating the Haitians out of what is fairly their own.

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