19 Oct 2008 2 pm eastern

Housing Works launch

We call ourselves web designers, but sometimes we are more than that. Sometimes we get to participate, in however small a way, in something much larger and more important than ourselves.

Started in 1990 by four members of ACT UP, Housing Works helps people who are homeless and have HIV or AIDS. Housing Works not only saves lives, it restores dignity, purpose, and hope to those whom society has cast aside. Happy Cog is honored and humbled to have worked with this amazing organization and to announce the relaunch of the Housing Works website, redesigned by Happy Cog.

Our thanks to Housing Works’s Christopher Sealey and his team—we bow endlessly in your direction, sir. And my thanks and commendation to the amazing people at Happy Cog who did the work:

[tags]Housing Works, AIDS, HIV, homeless, homelessness, advocacy, hope, happycog, work[/tags]

Filed under: Advocacy, business, Community, democracy, dreams, engagement, Happy Cog™, homeownership, New York City, NYC, Philadelphia, poverty, war, peace, and justice, work

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18 Apr 2008 11 am eastern

Breach of Peace (Freedom Riders site launch)

In the spring and summer of 1961, several hundred brave Americans—the Freedom Riders—entered Southern bus and train stations to challenge their segregated waiting rooms, lunch counters, and bathrooms.

Breach of Peace is a new book, and website, that honors their courage and attempts to tell their story—a “photo-history told in images old and new.”

Author Eric Etheridge traveled America meeting, interviewing, and photographing surviving Freedom Riders, usually in their homes. The initial result of his three years of work and research is a compelling book of portraits and stories, now available for pre-order. (I’ve read the galleys.)

A tremendous amount of material did not fit into the book. The website will document those additional facts and stories.

Presently, during its soft launch, the site is limited to a blog, but already the blog is compelling. Read Barnett to Kunstler: What If Your Daughter Married One? and you’ll see what I mean.

Although it documents some of the vilest aspects of American racism, the website is primarily a tribute to the courage of several hundred Americans, black and white, male and female, who defied the prejudice of their time, risking their freedom and lives to advance the cause of justice.

Filed under: books, poverty, war, peace, and justice

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28 Feb 2008 8 am eastern

Night and day

Two homeless men have taken up residence in the temporary supply hut of the Chinese Embassy construction on the corner.

One man, who may be Colombian, sleeps sitting up in the hut. The other, who could be Australian, sleeps on a folding chair facing the hut, his long legs extended so that his boots just cross the hut’s threshold.

In a pretty, almost calligraphic hand, one of the men has decorated the hut with sayings such as, “Life really sucks.”

Besides the hut, the advantages of the site are a temporary roof that blocks some rain and snow, and the presence of three working Port-a-Potties.

Everyone, including the neighborhood residents, appears to have decided to treat the temporary encampment as a private residence. When the homeless men are off somewhere foraging for food or money, their possessions (mainly, blankets) sit unmolested by the supply hut.

In the morning, the Chinese construction site bosses ignore the two homeless men while inspecting the efforts of their African American construction workers.

A few blocks north, the Secretariat of the United Nations is clearly visible.

[tags]homelessness, chineseembassy, nyc, newyorkcity[/tags]

Filed under: experience, family, glamorous, poverty, war, peace, and justice

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12 Dec 2007 4 pm eastern

Homeownership is a privilege, not a right

I need five certified checks for tomorrow’s closing. To get them, I’ve come to the Chase Bank nearest me with my checkbook, a pen, and a list of payees and dollar amounts I culled from a half-dozen of our lawyer’s e-mails.

(Names changed to protect the innocent: Dewey and Howe are the seller’s lawyers. Prescott is our lawyer. Lincoln is our mortgage broker.)

Dewey and Howe were supposed to send final figures well in advance of closing. Instead they’ve chosen not to correspond with us. As one of New York’s five oldest law firms, they only busy themselves when Tildens and Vanderbilts are involved.

Waiting in a long line gets me six pieces of paper to fill out. There’s an inch of free desk space by the front door, which is propped open to better circulate the December winds. The seventh time the December winds blow my paperwork across the lobby, I kick the doorstop across Park Avenue and pull the front door closed, not caring who sees me do it.

Now that the paperwork isn’t flying, I can find out what the bank needs from me before it will issue the certified checks.

One thing it needs is the addresses of the payees. Who knew? Not me, not our lawyer.

I call Prescott; he looks up the addresses on the internet while I scribble. (He can’t tell me the addresses by looking at paperwork, because Dewey and Howe haven’t sent any.)

I’m sweating and my writing hand is beginning to cramp.

Prescott, whose AOL e-mail account was having problems earlier in the day, is now receiving a flurry of messages from Lincoln the mortgage broker. In-between looking up payee addresses, Prescott tells me what’s in Lincoln’s e-mails.

What’s in Lincoln’s e-mails is an additional $5500 in fees that will be owed to various parties on top of the original cash motherload we paid at the beginning of this mess and the second two-ton payload we’re converting into certified checks at this moment. In the absurd economy of middle-class Manhattan home-buying, nearly overlooking an extra $5500 is like forgetting to mention the dollar charge for gift-wrap.

The throbbing Christmas music that has accompanied all action thus far seems inappropriately sedate as I cross the lobby perspiring like a bridegroom, bearing my newly filled-out forms.

Now I’m looking at two cashiers and praying I did the addition right. (Long story. Short version: you have to subtotal all the amounts yourself before this bank will issue you more than one certified check at once.)

Now I’m looking at three cashiers working on my certified check order. The one twenty years younger than me is the senior cashier in charge.

The third cashier working on my order says I have nice handwriting.

Now it’s just me and the littlest cashier.

Now I have my five certified checks.

Now I have to proofread them against the payee list I compiled earlier. Thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand and 44 cents.

Amused by my aura of suppressed hysteria, the littlest cashier says have a nice day.

Thank you, I say, meaning it.

[tags]sentfrommyiphone, homebuying, homeownership, NYC, apartment, home, bank, banking[/tags]

Filed under: experience, family, glamorous, homeownership, poverty

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23 Oct 2007 10 am eastern

Don’t sleep here

Makeshift bed at construction site.

The area above Madison Square Park in Manhattan is in a condo- building frenzy. Of course all of Manhattan (and Brooklyn and Queens) is in a condo-building frenzy. But above Madison Square Park there is a particularly feverish keenness to the activity, as the glamor of the Flatiron District moves north to a zone that was formerly best known for its gaudy wig and cheap lingerie wholesalers.

The richie rich are buying, and who can blame them? Proximity to Madison Square Park and the chic shops south of 23rd Street makes for an elegance that is almost Parisian—or at least suggests the possibility of such a way of life.

Huge signs affixed to newly rising high-rises and condo converted prewar office buildings trumpet the glory of living here. But there are other signs, as well.

Barely noticed in the builders’ gold rush, the poorest poor, pushed off the benches of Madison Square Park, take shelter in the very construction sites that signify their doom. When this building is finished, the rich will sleep here. ‘Til then, it’s the poor who do so. And what do they dream?

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[tags]americandream, housing, homeless, homelessness, shelter, cities, urbanism, newyork, newyorkcity, NYC, boom, highrises, condos, condosandcoops, nest, citythatneversleeps[/tags]

Filed under: architecture, business, cities, Design, dreams, homeownership, poverty, reportage, wealth

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