Author Archives: janesoliternik

Graffiti: An Art or a Crime?

As one travels around the city of New York, he or she may begin to notice that graffiti is all around them, whether it’s in a form of a mural or a simple tag. Some believe that it is a category of art with a unique medium. Others, however, strongly disagree with the idea that graffiti is an art, and instead consider it as vandalism. Graffiti has become a huge problem in New York City to many. It falls under a category of deviance because it is considered a socially unaccepted behavior that violates the norms of society. Graffiti has been viewed as disorder and a sign of social degradation.

There was a rise in graffiti during the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. It emerged as a major issue, carried out by young people, especially those of poor non-white families (Vitale 88). It has cost a great deal of money to restore property ruined by tags and murals on public transportation and buildings. Since this upsurge, the government has taken many measures to regulate vandalism. According to Alex Vitale’s City of Disorder, urban liberalism, in which there was a rise in the middle class, didn’t produce effective results to restore order in regards to graffiti (Vitale 73). One way the government responded to vandalism was by creating strict policies as a part of the “quality of life” development (Vitale 2). William Bratton, commissioner at the New York Police Department, and his fellow members enacted new tactics against crimes. One of them is known as “Reclaiming the Public Spaces of New York,” which addresses the crime of graffiti as an illegal act that should be controlled by punitive policies (Vitale 45). NYPD statistics show that reports on property crime rates, which include graffiti, have decreased by 24.8% in the past ten years (criminaljustice.ny.gov). The government continues to address this quality of life issue by creating new programs, such as the Citywide Vandals Taskforce (nyc.gov). Their mission is to monitor and prevent vandalism in the five boroughs. They have joined with the Transit Bureau, especially because a great number of vandalism is still found in the city’s public transportation. Citizens are able to report damaged property due to graffiti by calling 311. This taskforce continues to enhance their program by creating new ways and tools to track and control graffiti (nyc.gov). There is also an “Eagle Team”, consisting of men and women who work to protect the property of others and reduce the practice of graffiti. Ever since the establishment of the Eagle Team, vandalism rates have been reduced by more than 54% (mta.info). The NYPD offers a $500 award to anyone who knows information on vandals and it has handed out thousands of “Combating Graffiti” posters and brochures (Police Chief Magazine).

Although I agree with most of the policies that the city is enforcing, I also believe that graffiti should not be completely restricted. Strict laws should be imposed on damage to personal property, such as tagging a store window. However, opening up places and warehouses specifically designated for graffiti artists would be a great idea. It is neither damaging personal property nor it is illegal since the owner would allow it. A tactic like this could possibly decrease vandalism if places such as 5Pointz opened up around the city. This way, graffiti artists would have a place to put up their work instead of having to resort to illegal vandalism.

Works Cited

Criminaljustice.ny.gov Index Crimes Reported to Police by Region: 2002-2011.”

Criminaljustice.ny.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.

<http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/indexcrimes/Regions.pdf>.

“Mta.info- MTA’s Eagle Team.” Mta.info. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.

<http://www.mta.info/news/stories/?story=683>.

“Nyc.gov.” NYPD – Crime Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.

<http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/crime_prevention/citywide_vandals_taskforce.shtml>.

“Police Chief Magazine – View Article.” Police Chief Magazine – View Article. N.p., n.d.

Web. 24 Oct. 2012.

<http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch>.

Vitale, Alex S. City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New

York Politics. New York, NY: New York UP, 2008. Print

5 Pointz Reaction Post

Jane Soliternik

My favorite trip that I took as a freshman in St. John’s is the 5 Pointz trip because it was truly inspirational and it opened my mind to a whole new perspective. I used to appreciate graffiti, but not as much as I started to after visiting the place. I have never seen graffiti like this before. It ranged from portraits to landscapes, words to phrases. The artwork was incredibly beautiful. Every artist portrayed some sort of message in their work, like one in particular that depicted an emotional scene from beauty and the beast. As an artist, I usually stick to acrylic, oil. or water color painting on canvas, but I have been wanting to try a new medium and 5 Pointz is the perfect place. I was encouraged to perhaps put up one of my own pieces someday. Unfortunately, I was shocked when I heard about 5 Pointz possibly being closed down. More people should see this type of graffiti as an important piece of art that characterizes our era. We conserved the sculptures, monuments, and columns that characterized the height of the Greek and Roman Empires, and the Romantic paintings of the French Renaissance Era. Why shouldn’t we conserve the warehouse that characterizes the era we are living in right now instead of destroying it?

Encountering Strangers

Jane Soliternik

Encountering strangers was a very difficult assignment for me because I am quite shy and it always has been hard for me to speak to random people and strangers. For every time that I came up to a stranger and introduced myself and the assignment I was working on, I hoped that they wouldn’t think of me as a bother.

My first encounter was at the local bagel shop by my house. I sat next to a woman, who looked like a college student, wearing a Queens College sweatshirt. At first I was hesitant to approach her because she seemed irritated and tired. As a college student, I know how that feels. I was able to introduce myself and explain to her that I am a college student as well, working on a field observation report for my Discover New York course. She didn’t seem as irritated and annoyed as she looked after all. She was interested in the assignment and gladly spoke to me about her experience after the hurricane. She was staying over her uncle’s house temporarily because the area in which she lived in has lost power and her building was slightly flooded. I asked her how she would identify herself in regards to the hurricane, and she replied that she was affected severely. She had lost all Internet access, was not able to go on Facebook, and her family’s car was flooded. That was when I realized how much people do not appreciate the fact that all their family members are still alive after this tragic event. Many young people worry about losing power and access to social networking sites, or materialistic things such as cars.

My second encounter was on the line at a gas station. Lines were still long as people waited for the tank to bring gas into the station. As I put my car in park mode, I got out to join a group of people who were discussing the damage that happened during the hurricane. There was one man wearing a suit who seemed to be a business man of some sort. I was hesitant to approach him because he seemed too serious to speak to a stranger about himself. I told him about my assignment, however he wasn’t too fond about the idea of me asking him questions. My prediction was correct, although he did eventually cooperate. He identified himself as a victim of the hurricane because he was not able to get gas to get to work in the city. I asked him whether his family was okay, and he replied that everyone is safe and sound. This encounter, again, made me realize how people under appreciate the important things, the things that come first, and instead worry about things that come second such as work and cars. 

Right after the hurricane, many trees came down, especially in the park near my area. That is where I encountered another stranger. I spotted a very old man sitting alone on a bench, wearing expensive looking snow boots and a large winter jacket to keep warm from cold weather. These prestige symbols allowed me to approach him easily, keeping in mind that he is most likely a very cultured and welcoming man. I approached him and introduced myself as a St. John’s student who is conducting a field experiment. After explaining the purpose of the assignment, the man agreed to participate. I quickly recognized his heavy Russian accent. I tried to speak with him in Russian in order for him to understand me better. I noticed he was the only person in the park that day, and so I asked him what he was doing in the park in such weather conditions after the hurricane. He told me that his house is still out of power and stated “why should I stay home passing time on my grandson’s iPad when I could be outside and observe another harsh event in New York’s history that I may possibly never witness again, as I am very old. Many of us do not appreciate both the good things we are given and the bad things that life allows us to survive through.” We conversed about his life back in Russia, his greatest accomplishments, and his experience during the hurricane. I finally asked him a question about identity: “how do you identify yourself, in general or specific terms?” and he gave me a sophisticated answer in the most calm manner: “happy.” This one simple answer made me realize that although this man had a low paying job his whole life, he was passionate about what he did and had a big family to support him and make him the content man that he is. He did not take anything in life for granted, unlike the other two strangers I have encountered.  

After encountering three strangers, I realized that the younger generations seem to appreciate materialistic things, such as the businessman or the college girl. Older people, such as the old Russian man, seemed to know the value of things that actually matter. 

Negotiating Public Space

Jane Soliternik

When people are used to being in the same public space many times, they usually don’t observe their surroundings. I have chosen Times Square as a public space to negotiate because it is one of the most interesting and diverse places in the city, filled with people of many backgrounds who all seem to follow the same social norms. When getting lost in the large crowds in Times Square, I viewed everything from a different perspective, not from the perspective of a typical New Yorker. These observations allowed me to identify these social norms, and how they are negotiated or contested. 

The stereotype “the city that never sleeps” can be perceived in the midst of all the lights and skyscrapers, where hundreds of New Yorkers and tourists roam in Times Square around midnight. My first goal was to observe how people interact with each other, and how these interactions in this public space are different from other places I have been to. Being a resident of Queens, I have noticed that many people keep to themselves. This is different in the heart of Manhattan. Strangers become friends and locals offer welcoming gestures to lost tourists. When sitting on the TKTS booths, I overheard a conversation between a young woman from France and a couple who sat in front of me. Their interest in her background led to a lengthy conversation and an exchange of contact information. The norm to converse with and befriend strangers is one of the key aspects that shape the city of New York. 

I then passed by a few people wearing costumes and interesting suits. The one that stood out to me the most was the naked cowgirl. People posed by her side to take pictures while others enjoyed the view. One woman standing next to me gave me a disturbed look and said, “this is disgusting, this is not normal” with a heavy Russian accent. She proceeded to complain to other foreigners around her who complied with her. I figured she was a tourist who follows different social norms just as the others who agreed with her comments. Her remark made me realize that even though I have seen the naked cowgirl before, my reaction was the complete opposite. I became aware that seeing a naked woman on the streets of Times Square is normal for a local like me. This norm is contested, however, when in the presence of many who do not recognize it as a norm in their perspective. I have also witnessed this norm being negotiated. Some passerby’s who looked confused at the sight of the naked cowgirl were influenced by people who stood there admiring the woman as an essential part of what New York City is: the city that accepts everyone, all different kinds of people. The passerby’s began to admire her as well and smiled in amusement.

It was interesting to have done this field report in the midst of one of the world’s greatest cities. You never actually notice these things if you have lived in this area for a while. I have come to recognize many norms that I failed to notice before hand, and became a bit more observant of my surroundings, not just in New York, but also in other places that I visit. 

ASL Reaction Post

Jane Soliternik

Back in September I decided to get my service hours over with early so I chose to work at Kehilat Sephardim, the Bukharian Jewish Center of Kew Garden Hills. I never thought that volunteering here would be a life changing experience. I did not know what to expect from working here, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t be too awkward. Upon my arrival, I found out that most of the staff are from Ukraine, my home country. They spoke with me in Russian and Ukrainian, so I was able to have a better connection with them. It was not awkward as I thought it would be. I was assigned to work at the food pantry. I had to pack certain foods and beverages in each bag, including grape juice, canned soup and vegetables, and fresh fruits. For the first few hours, I was working in the back, packing bags and carrying heavy boxes. I was getting a bit bored because it was repetitive, and tired because my back hurt from carrying loads of boxes that contained heavy cans and bottles. My supervisor saw me struggling with it and assigned me to give out the packed lunches. I worked at the front around people for the rest of the time I had left. I met many other individuals who also volunteered at the pantry. They were kind and we all seemed to have a lot of fun. I also conversed with the people who came to pick up their food and saw some familiar faces. I never realized how rewarding giving out food for those in need was until I volunteered here. I felt warmth in my heart when I was told “thank you” and was given big smiles for my effort. I had a great experience volunteering here, and will continue to volunteer at other food pantries to contribute to people in need. 

Ellis Island Essay

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Ellis Island is one of the places that I have visited the most, yet each time I go there, I always get something new outof the experience. As I stood on the line for the ferry, I was really looking forward to the boat ride. I always found it to be the best part of the tour, with the cool breeze flowing past you as you sway gently from side to side on the calm waters of the Upper New York Bay. The view was great from the top of the boat, especially now that the Freedom Tower is visible. Looking at New York City from a different perspective is extremely fascinating because you can see what’s beyond the tall skyscrapers.

When I arrived on the island, I noticed many changes since the last time I visited. There was less construction on the building, and the architecture looked extraordinary. I wasn’t sure which exhibit to observe first, so I checked out the American Immigration Wall of Honor. It contains names of individuals or families that immigrated to start a new life in America. It contains over 700,000 names, and it is still open to new entries. Neither my surname, nor my mother’s maiden name, appeared on the wall, since my parents were the first in my family to immigrate to the United States. Surnames, such as Solomon, would have appeared around my last name if it were inscribed in the wall. 

I passed through many rooms, but a few really caught my interest. The Treasures From Home exhibit was a room full of artifacts that came from many European countries such as Poland or Italy. I was surprised to see that a lot of pieces such as clothing or glassware came from Ukraine, my home country. There was a beautiful embroidered costume on display, consisting of red, black, and white designs. I noticed that there wasn’t much of a difference in the type of clothing worn by immigrants from Ukraine back then to the traditional clothing that Ukrainians wear now.  

Other rooms that really appealed to me were the ones that consisted of a variety of psychological examinations and qualifications in order to be allowed in the United States. These qualifications were quite strict and somewhat ridiculous. For example, unmarried women or those who suffered from certain mental or health conditions were not permitted. If I were immigrating into the United States, I would not have been allowed to enter because I am unmarried.

One exhibit displayed the medical utensils used and types of medical practices performed on immigrants. I compared the tools used back then to the tools used now, and was really shocked to see how much medicine has advanced over the years. Many immigrants who did not pass examinations were kept in the dorms temporarily. When entering these dorms, I encountered clustered bunk beds, an old dusty piano, gray abandoned cribs, and other remains that really portrayed the atmosphere of life on Ellis Island.

Throughout the tour, I was not able to find any information or trace of my family. On the ride back to the city, however, I became really curious about my family history. I was inspired to collect every piece of information I could about my family, ranging from stories to pictures. The Ellis Island trip was truly inspirational and life changing.