Author Archives: amyye

Encountering Strangers!

It took me a few weeks before actually having the nerve to go up to three strangers. I think it was partly because I was subconsciously using symbols to pick and choose whom to ask. I didn’t want to ask people who felt that I would be a nuisance to them. In addition, growing up in New York City showed me that some people could be very hostile or make a fool out of you if you bother them.

Keeping those past experiences in mind, I observed my surroundings on a calm Wednesday at the Jamaica Center bus stop. I bought a small hot coffee from the vendor on the corner. I looked down the road and saw that no bus was coming, perhaps because it wasn’t rush hour. From my peripheral vision, I saw a Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker in the process of eating an orange on the street a few feet away from me. I went up to him and told him that I was a St. John’s University student doing a project about encountering strangers. Then, I told him that I would like him to answer this question, “Who are you?” and that he could be as general as he wished. From my encounter with him, he told me that he was just, “an old man.” I asked him what he meant by that. He told me that he worked many different occupations and working with the MTA is one of them. He also has a nephew that is in the business school at St. John’s and is really familiar with the area. Prior to speaking with him, I believe that I chose to interview him because I saw a prestige symbol – he was wearing an MTA uniform. My virtual social identity of him was that he wasn’t going to be hostile and be mature about this encounter.

My second encounter was when I was at the Chase bank on the corner of Utopia Parkway and Union Turnpike. I was behind a lady, probably a year or two older than I am, on the line for the ATM. I decided to interview her because I felt that she wasn’t going anywhere – as in, I wouldn’t be a nuisance to her if I interviewed her – since there were two people ahead of her in line. Also, she had some prestige symbols that made me comfortable to ask her. She wore glasses, had a Jansport book bag, and was on her iPhone, texting. My virtual social identity of her is that she was patient, since she wasn’t making any fidgety movements while having been waiting on the line for a few minutes. Since we were at Chase bank, I asked her, “Do you prefer Chase bank over other banks?” She told me that she did prefer it to other banks. She only has a Chase account and is a resident in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

My third encounter was at my building’s lobby. I stopped and interviewed the security guard. My building is co-op and it is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s in a pretty safe neighborhood and one reason is because of the security guards. They are in charge of signing people in and routinely searching the vicinity for suspicious activities. It was around 8pm and I was going back home from a long day at school. I asked him where he was during Hurricane Sandy. He was very nonchalant while speaking about his response. He told me that he lives in Canarsie, which was one of the areas that was heavily flooded. But he went to his relative’s home in downtown Brooklyn since he heard the warnings. When he went back to his home, his whole basement was flooded and there was a lot of work to be done to reconstruct it. It had been two weeks since Hurricane Sandy struck and he said he would still probably live in his relative’s home for another few weeks. I decided to ask him because, like my first encounter, he was wearing a uniform, which is a prestige symbol. In addition, right when I opened the lobby’s door, he smiled and said, “good night.” Though, many security guards do that, I felt comfortable asking him for those reasons. His virtual social identity was very nice.

I thought that this field observation was very interesting. It wasn’t my intention, but I wounded up asking three different questions to three different people. I also noticed that I chose many people with prestige symbols – uniforms and glasses. I wasn’t comfortable going up to people with sigma symbols because I was just afraid of what might happen if I did. Hey, it’s New York City.

Negotiating Public Space!

After taking this Discover New York course, I became more observant as I went about my city. I had not noticed how people used public space prior to this course. There are always numerous protests, fairs and events in New York City that it didn’t struck me that that was how people used public space.

I decided to do my field observation report on the calm J train from Lorimer Street to Jamaica Center at 1 in the afternoon. J train runs from Broad Street (or Brooklyn Bridge on weekends) in Manhattan to Jamaica Center in Queens. It crosses through many neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg, Bushwick, Cypress Hills, and Woodhaven. Before attending St. John’s University, I have never took the train past Myrtle Ave and I have always thought it was a very unsafe train. However, it is now my priority route to campus.

The same cycle would go on for the next twenty stops: someone gets up, someone sits down. As I looked around the J train, I saw many people on their phones, listening to music and playing games, unaware. Two people dominated one half of the bench, leaving little space for a third person in the center. When a middle aged lady came on the train, she stood over between two people and breathed, “excuse me.” The lady on her right reluctantly picked up her bag and the middle aged lady squeezed in between and sat down.

Another notable social norm was highlighted when a father carrying a baby carriage, a mother and a young daughter got on the train. About ninety percent of the customers get off at Sutphin Blvd because it is an easy transfer to the E express train and numerous buses as well. A lady got up at 121 street (one stop prior to Sutphin Blvd) and let the family sit.

From my distinctive observations, I saw that people like to dominate public space. Even when more and more people start to fill the train, people wait until they are being asked to move their bag from their sides. From my knowledge of New  York City, I feel that this is a social norm because every one is very individualized. People aren’t very considerate about the surrounding people unless necessary. Additionally, I have seen the bystander effect occur in New York City a lot, and it is very apparent in many Subway cars. For example, people don’t make space for other people when they are seated because they believe that their stuff shouldn’t be on the floor and that other people would make space for the people that standing, and the obligation isn’t in their hands.

The second observation reveals that people get up for others to sit when it is convenient for them and when their generosity is emphasized. When the woman got up, it was because she was getting off the next stop. It is highly unlikely that she would have gotten up if her stop was ten stops away. Overall, through the observed social norms, I think that New York is notorious for individualistic behaviors.

5 Pointz!

It was my first time going to 5 Pointz on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 with our Discover New York class. Prior to that, I have only wondered what the story is while glimpsing at the long stretch of graffiti on the walls when I took the 7 train from Manhattan to Queens occasionally. I always thought it was an abandoned area that people used to spray graffiti on, and somehow it lasted throughout the years. Furthermore, I thought that the graffiti had never been updated, and that these graffiti were from ages ago. But this trip proved all my assumptions wrong.

The graffiti, as a matter of fact, is updated frequently, most likely on a yearly basis because the graffiti doesn’t last due to weather conditions. Although, there are many exceptions, such as the graffiti on the side of the building near the top of the roof. But generally, new graffiti is created often.

The two photos displayed below are examples of graffiti that are still being drawn. I felt that the raw sketch of the blue jay was very intriguing because we get to see a part of the process of making such as large piece of artwork. Additionally, I got to see the finished product of the blue jay and it is truly beautiful. The second photo is the unfinished 3D graffiti that Meres is completing at the moment. He still hadn’t finished the whole piece when we visited. However, his ideas evolved from flat and 2D graffiti to an interactive 3D graffiti where people can stand on the hand of the giant boy and take a picture on it as well. We can see the evolvement of graffiti – from the idea of graffiti being a deviant act to the idea of graffiti being an interactive event.

Below is a picture of a graffiti that I enjoyed looking at the most, which is the Beauty and the Beast. The color, the style, and every detail were just so phenomenal. I felt as if I were hypnotized because I wanted to examine every inch of this graffiti. Furthermore, the main color of this graffiti had a glowy blue and it reminded me of midnight, and how time is running out. Everything about this graffiti is so intense.

Overall, I really enjoyed this trip and I was very glad that Meres took us around. I would’ve been clueless staring at the numerous graffitis on the walls. Meres was very resourceful and I could tell that he was really passionate about 5 Pointz.

Ellis Island!

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October 6th, 2012 was my second time visiting Ellis Island on a school wide trip. My first time was in eighth grade. Though my memories are faint, I remember that there wasn’t a Wall of Honor, nor were there such interactive exhibits. I also noticed that the exhibits were much more vibrant and everything, from between staircases to the hallways, were very historical and meaningful.

A significant addition to Ellis Island’s exhibits this year is the Wall of Honor. First of all, it gives visitors the access to go outside near the waterfront to take pictures of the view. Furthermore, it offers a chance for present residents in America, whether they are immigrants or Americans, to honor their ancestors that went through the grueling immigration process to come to America. There are over 700,000 names found on the Wall of Honor. When I went, I looked for my ancestors’ names, but I couldn’t find any under the family name of “Ye.” But, I am proud that I saw numerous family names from the Chinese descent. Also, this new addition of the Wall of Honor is a very nice gesture because when someone registers a name on the Wall of Honor, it gives both the immigrant and the person registering the name closure and pride.

Immigration was indeed a grueling process, which I learned during this trip. Many people packed their bags not knowing if they were rejected once they arrived to Ellis Island or not. Many also contracted diseases along the way and were denied when they were only minutes away from the Manhattan harbor. It truly was a hit or miss mission. But, this did not stop the immigrants from attempting, as we see today. America is wholly made up of immigrants, with the slim percentage of Native Americans that are still alive today.

The hospital’s preparation on Ellis Island was very impressive in my opinion. Many people have the misinterpretation that if a person has a disease, they are sent back home immediately. But that isn’t the case on Ellis Island. If the immigrant had a temporary and not contagious disease, and had family members in New York already, he or she is allowed to use Ellis Island’s medical treatments in order to get healthy again, which I learned while taking one of the interactive case scenario exhibits near the hearing room exhibit on the second level.

From using the same interactive case scenario exhibit mentioned earlier, I also learned the other characteristics that do not allow an immigrant to enter the United States. Examples include being a single woman, having less than fifty dollars, having no relatives in New York at the moment, and having some sort of a medical issue. So, if I were to enter the United States, I would be rejected because I am a single woman. This is very astonishing because these reasons are actually legitimate. People may mistake it for cruel reasons but if an immigrant didn’t have family or a place to stay in United States, they would loiter around on the streets, perhaps just trying their luck to find somewhere to stay. They will in turn because a nuisance to the environment, which relates to the concepts that I’ve learned in this class. Moreover, if I were an immigrant and I didn’t have fifty dollars on me at the time of arrival, it would be very difficult for me to buy a ticket to travel to where I need to be, which is possibly a relative’s home.

Other than the actual immigration process, the architecture of Ellis Island was very intriguing. I took pictures that represented the size of which Ellis Island grew to accommodate to the large amount of immigrants and their needs, medical and daily. From the first picture to second picture of the architecture (attached), there are a lot more buildings in the second one. Also, the creators filled the area that was water with land in a sense to maximize and beautify the Island. Though I only took pictures of two stages of the expansion of the island out of four, I noticed that the main priority is to expand the hospitals, other than its recreation building. The extended part of Ellis Island held the “Contagious Disease Hospitals”, “New Hospital Extension”, the primary hospital and the administration building.

Another surprising fact about Ellis Island is that it had other uses besides being an immigration center. From what I noticed in “Naming an Island,” a picture that I took from the museum, it listed the different names and years in which Ellis Island was renamed. The Native Americans named the island “Kioshk or Gull Island” in 1600. Thirty years later, it was renamed to Oyster Island because Michael Paauw bought it from the Native Americans and Dutch settlers could enjoy fishing there. Fifty years after that, a New York’s collector of customs, William Dyre owned it and named it “Dyre’s Island.” Then New York City received this island in 1730, and thus named it Bucking Island, but the meaning of the name Bucking is unknown. In 1765, it was tragically named Gibbet Island or Anderson’s Island because Anderson, who was a wayward sailor, was hanged from a gibbet on the island. Lastly, in 1780, it is named Ellis’s Island because Samuel Ellis owned it, which is the name of the Island today. After the Samuel Ellis period, Ellis Island has been used as a fort, named Fort Gibson for coastal defense, a place to hold enemy aliens in World War I, a deportation center, Public Health Service hospital, Coast Guard Station, and now holds a museum.

After visiting Ellis Island, I felt more connected to the immigration spectrum in America’s history. The Wall of Honor, an immigrant’s desire to come to America, the impressive preparations of the hospitals, the reasons why a person can be denied access into America, the architecture, and the past, present and future purposes of the island were the things that grabbed my attention the most.