Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Category: Class Blog (Page 2 of 6)

Thoughts on New Yorkers and Real Estate

I’ve generally thought that real estate was a thing that everyone in the world discussed and it was surprising to hear today that outside of New York, nobody really talked about it. Nobody really talked about, for example, property values or had strong opinions about which material was best for building: Brick or shingles (Bricks are obviously the better choice, they’re (1) more aesthetically pleasing and (2) far more durable). To be clear, people outside of New York City probably do talk about their properties but not over Sunday brunch as the way we do here. New Yorkers seem obsessed over their real estate and for good reason.

I think New Yorker’s obsession with real estate comes in part from the meaning that many of the streets seem to impart. To buy a home or more realistically, nowadays, a small apartment in New York is to buy a part of history. Some streets are just dripping with history. I was walking home the other day and I walked down Third ave. At a certain point, Third ave, after Delancy, changes into the Bowery. On either side of the street, I noticed in the windowstills of shops and buildings on the street was posters by the Friends of the Bowery that highlighted the buildings, theatres, homes, which once stood there. I clearly remember that in what was now a group of art galleries on an affluent block, flanked by condominiums and high rises, was a poster talking about the first theatre that showed Vaudeville acts that stood once right on that very ground! Much further down the block, near where the Five Points used to be, once stood another theatre that was designed with beautiful, huge greek columns, and wide balconies, designed to entice wealthy patrons but ironically the theatre was ignored like the plague by the rich who preferred prettier theatres uptown and was rather beloved by the poor immigrant groups that lived nearby, First the theatre, at the corner of Canal and Bowery, was patronized by large crowds of German immigrants, who in turn gave way to Italians, then Jews, then finally closed when the last Chinese finally left the theatre. What stands there now is a Chinese Dim Sum place and an ugly parking garage. The streets of New York are just dripping with historic meaning.

When New Yorkers discuss real estate, they’re discussing the lives, the days, the laughter, the smiles, the tears, the blood of those people that have lived on the same land. New York is a place where so many people have walked, so many people have lived and the history, unlike many other places, is so well-known and so well-loved.


For Wednesday

Please read Chapter 8 in the Binder and Reimers book (NOT in Foner).  The chapter is called “A Better Time: New York CIty, 1945-1970.” We will also continue to discuss education issues that we raised in class on Monday.

Following Sports is Worthwhile

Today in class we briefly discussed how talking about sports is a way to connect with people that you may not have anything else to do with.  We also discussed how at the same time following sports could be viewed as a waste of time.  I have always been a big sports fan and have heard my friends tell me that I am wasting my time.  Recently I have been trying to find an argument as to why following sports is not a waste of time and I have come up with a few possible explanations that I have tried to explain to my friends that do not follow sports.

For one, I think that sports being a thing that can connect people that don’t have much else to talk about is powerful.  The topic of sports is something that people have strong opinions about and unlike politics, heated debates don’t usually end angrily.  Having knowledge about sports is valuable because it is something that comes up a lot in daily conversation.  Also, to connect sports to our class, following sports is a great way for immigrants to become more acclimated with American society. For example, if an immigrant who followed sports came to the U.S and found American soccer fans it would probably be easy to talk with them even though there may be a slight language barrier.   However, this is not the only reason I think that following sports could be valuable.

My main reason that I think following sports is not a waste of time is way more philosophical.  I believe that in life the most important thing that one can do is achieve their goals.  However, I believe that sometimes it is very hard for one to realize whether or not they have achieved their goals because sometimes people don’t exactly know what their goals are.  In the world of sports, it is very easy to see whether or not a player or team has achieved their goals.  I believe watching and feeling involved in these achievements makes a person realize what life is all about.  Further, I think that the realization of what life is all about makes following sports a worthwhile investment of one’s time.

Immigrant Sports

In Thursday’s class, we discussed the novel Netherlands by Joseph O’Neil. In Netherlands, Hans grew up playing both soccer and cricket. Although the novel focused mainly in cricket, I found it interesting how both of these sports are “hiding” in the shadow of an extremely popular American sport in the United States. (Baseball and Football) This also reminds me of a previous class in which we talked about the popularity of NASCAR in America while most of the world enjoys formula one racing and finds format of NASCAR uninteresting.

As we discussed in class, the experience of the cricket players in Netherlands mirror the experience of immigrants in America as both were push to the side and adopt a 2nd class status. The immigrants are getting overlooked in America and are not getting the respect that they deserve similar to cricket and soccer after failing to compete with what was already established in the country. In fact, cricket and soccer can be view as more of sports for immigrants than for Americans, as more than half of the U.S. national men’s soccer team are either immigrants, or children of immigrants. In Netherlands, although Hans was different from his fellow cricket teammates, as he was a six foot five, rich, white European, he still had to go through problems due to his immigrant status.

The Post 9/11 Era

During Thursday’s class, we discussed the different aspects of Joseph O’Neill’s novel, Netherland. This novel mostly takes place in New York City after the devastating event that was and still is 9/11. September 11, 2001 was provably one of the worst events to happen not only in New York City, but in the United States and the world. That event derived out of pure hatred and terrorism, and was truly an event that no one can ever forget. To be honest, I do not remember 9/11 from my own memory since I was merely a 3 year old girl. However, my parents vividly remember that day. It is ingrained in their minds. They remember the sky being unmistakably blue and without a cloud in the sky. However, after the attacks, they felt lonely, confused, and scared. In Netherland, Hans feels a similar way. He is profoundly affected by the Twin Towers collapsing and finds himself dazed, merely floating above his world. He feels disconnected and lost.  This feeling is extremely similar to how both New Yorkers and Americans felt during this sad and vulnerable time.

Looking back on a day that forever be in our hearts, one can not help but wonder what is in store for the future. Will something like this happen again? Will this country ever truly recover? With the new administration that this country is under, no one can entirely be sure. Our current president is entirely taboo of anything we have ever experienced before. However, it is up to us to decide how we want to mold our future. As New Yorkers, we have become more aware and more weary of our surroundings over the years. We have taken caution and note of whatever is in our path. However, the best way to combat our feats and losses is if we support this country in times of success and in times of sorrow. If we can do this, we will be unbreakable.

Is the American Dream dead?

Today, one of the things we discussed was the American Dream. In the novel Netherland, the character Chuck is the archetype of this dream. He represents the optimism and patriotism in the American system. Nowadays there is a rising pessimism in the American Dream. Some are even proclaiming it to be dead.

Is the American Dream dead? Research has shown that on average 30-year-olds now are earning less than their parents. Also, the income gap is larger than ever before. In monetary terms, it seems like the American Dream is dying, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. I don’t believe that money is what the American Dream is about. The Constitution promises all Americans the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We have become so fixated as a society on equating money to happiness that we lost touch with what happiness truly means. Happiness can found no matter how much money you have. What made me realize this was speaking with my parents and grandparents who are all immigrants. They spoke of their struggles and persecution against them. America afforded them a life of comfort and rights they couldn’t have imagined. This is where they found happiness. As a native born American I think I can sometimes lose sight of this. We need to find what truly makes us happy and find meaning in our lives. America gives us the right to pursue this dream. This to me is what the American Dream truly is, and it seems to be alive and well but you just have to take advantage of it.

9/11 and the Eternal Fear of Chaos

While discussing Netherland by Joseph O’Neill in class today, the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center were brought up. These attacks not only had a big impact on the events in this literary work, but they also greatly impacted American foreign policy and history. The thought of these attacks, and the possibility that they could happen again, frightens me immensely. They are not something that I think about every day, however when I read the newspaper to catch up on current events, my fears are reestablished. New York City appears to be an optimal place for a terrorist attack to occur since it is one of the most important and well-known cities in America. This makes our home more of a target than other cities in the United States are. In addition, our class also discussed other people’s experiences on 9/11. Unfortunately, most of my classmates, including myself, are too young to be able to remember the events of this day first-hand. However, I have often heard my friends and family members tell stories about this day. Each person is able to recall what he or she was doing when these attacks began. Many of them say that they had never seen people be as kind to one another as they were in the first few weeks after the tragedy. The 2017 Presidential Election is the only situation I have experienced that I can liken this to. Much like those who witnessed 9/11, I was shocked when I awoke to discover that Donald Trump was the 45th president of the United States. Baruch was eerily quiet that day. I even had some professors and peers who cried during class. For me, this was the most shocking event that I can remember living through. I am sure that I will never forget it.

Pursuing this thought further, another perplexing question that was raised in today’s class was whether the events of 9/11 spread so much panic that they would eventually cause the people of the United States to pick Donald Trump as their president, out of fear of immigrants. This theory makes sense since Trump repeatedly spews negative stereotypes about people of particular nationalities and maintains a loyal following despite these discriminatory remarks. At first it was difficult for me to understand where all of this hatred stemmed from. However, after listening to our class’s discussion, I have realized that perhaps this racism was perpetuated by the tragic events of 9/11. Fear of terrorism caused Americans to turn to the antithesis of tolerance, Donald Trump. However, it is important to remember that hate only breeds trepidation. We should embrace other cultures; we can’t live in fear of people’s differences forever.

Trendy or Local?

During Wednesday’s class, we discussed at the very last minute the “anomaly” of having an unexpected customer in an ethnic restaurant. There was a shared opinion that often when we see a restaurant, especially an ethnic restaurant, that has diverse clientele, then that restaurant must be doing something right and worth trying.

This raises the question of why do we have this mindset? What influences or persuades us to take the leap of faith to try someplace new when we would never have bothered to notice it before solely because others are going there? One of the many answers is social media. When mouth watering images of food plague our feeds and dashboards, it’s difficult to not notice or at least get curious. However, why is there a party heralding this movement to begin with? These “trendsetting” foods would never have been considered as “trends” if they were never “discovered” by a third party. Whomever this third party is, in regards of which racial, age, professional group whom we put our trust in, they undeniably have the omnipotent power to define which stores or restaurants will be successful and which will be left in the dust.

The example I am most concerned with are “food trends” that appear all over social media and as a result, credit and respect for diversity seems to be thrown out the window. For example, rolled ice cream in 2016. The concept at first is indeed inventive and the making process is possibly classified as art. However, what is herald and validated as something “brand new” and “innovative” by whomever received credit as the first store to have it available to the public, completely disregards its cultural history and presence in Eastern Asia where it has been a popularized decades prior to its first appearance in the states.

Simply put, go beyond your favorite dishes and the Instagram posts that decide for you what you should eat, what you should visit, and frankly who you should care about. To solely give social media the benefit of the doubt that this is the “correct” way to “genuinely” seek out “authentic” and “trendy” foods because an unrelated third party decided to take the opportunity to capitalize off something that has been around us the entire time is quite disappointing. There are established communities where locals and other people do enjoy without the approval of anyone else why they should go there instead of here because they live in and know their neighborhood. NYC itself allows us the privilege to do the very same thing as exploring the world with a simple train ride to the multiple ethnic neighborhoods throughout each borough of the city to discover. There will be places worth going and knowing if you simply explore for yourselves what the world really is and not the world only present behind the screen of your phone or computers. With that mindset, one can find themselves grow and learn more and more about themselves and about their world.

Halal Food as a Legal Issue

During today’s class discussion, I was intrigued by the mention of cases regarding Halal food being brought into U.S. courts. I feel that such a situation is completely justified in the case of a wrongful advertisement of food as “Halal” or when failing to meet the standards of the consumer’s requests for Halal food. If we were to look at this issue from the perspective of a person with allergies, celiac’s disease, or a vegetarian diet, few people would object to bringing the case to court. Failing to provide food that is for example cooked separately from any food that may contain allergens is likely the strongest argument for bringing the law into the industry, but there is still relevance when considering gluten free and meat free diets. Customers with Celiacs disease can expect that their food will be cooked separately from the food that contains gluten if the restaurant advertises its compliance with such dietary restrictions. Similarly, restaurants that feature a vegetarian or vegan menu are expected to comply with the standards of such a diet, even if it may seem extreme to some. In my opinion, these dietary restrictions prove just as relevant when it comes to people who practice their religious values. Those who eat Kosher and Halal have every right to expect their dietary restrictions to be accepted and complied with in the same way that a vegetarian diet may be.

In my opinion, these dietary restrictions prove just as relevant when it comes to people who practice their religious values. Those who eat Kosher and Halal have every right to expect their dietary restrictions to be accepted and complied with in the same way that a vegetarian diet may be, but that’s not to say that all restaurants are expected to be able to do so. In my opinion, restaurants should have the option of serving Kosher and/or Halal food to their customers, but if they choose to do so they need to be held accountable for accommodating all restrictions of those diets or at least giving clear information about what is in the food and how it is prepared. Liability for restaurant owners would lie in the failure of presenting information accurately to consumers, therefore by being upfront about the food that is served, owners can avoid any legal issues. If problems do arise regarding the improper preparation of food according to the regulations of the Halal and/or Kosher diets, I believe it is justifiable to take the case to court and make an argument against the restaurant owners who were negligent in the matter.

Halal Carts

I have never ordered at a Halal cart, I don’t even know what Halal carts serve, but I guess I’m about to find out.  Because of my Kosher dietary restrictions, I have only ever smelled Halal carts, and been jealous at how conveniently placed they are around the city. I never realized how many different things went into the Halal cart business.  I always just assumed that the one or two guys in the cart did everything.  On my strolls by Halal carts I have noticed that primarily immigrants are working inside, but it is never really something I thought about.

To be honest, before this semester, immigration was never really something I thought about.  After talking about Korean owned groceries today, I realized that I have never really considered what ethnic groups did what jobs or anything of the like.  I did not know what the class People of New York City was going to be about when I first walked in, but I find that I’m learning new things and encountering new things that I never knew and have never encountered before.  This class has been a great opportunity for me to be able to step outside of my comfort zone and learn about different types of cultures.

While I unfortunately will never be able to eat at a Halal cart, I think it’s important to learn about the immigration aspect of Halal carts and the dietary restrictions of Islam.  I have always gotten a little annoyed when someone had no idea what Kosher is and I had to explain it to them, but now I realize that I know nothing about Halal and I probably should never have gotten annoyed.  I think this class is really helping me get over some ethnocentrism that I might have felt being raised in a mostly Orthodox Jewish community.  While it is great to be part of a community, I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the outside world, and become more acclimated with other cultures.

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