Category Archives: Politics

New York/Wall


Heinersdorf, Germany 1987 — from The Lost Border, The Landscape of the Iron Curtain
— © Brian Rose

The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico.

 

Unsurprisingly, there are engineering firms and architects who are interested. One small architectural firm explains their willingness to participate:

To put it directly: we have never said that we are designing a wall. We are responding to the government’s solicitation for a new model of border infrastructure which we hope will provide a corrective to the privileging of iconicity, spectacle, and security at the border. (full text here)

Jake Matatyaou and Kyle Hovenkotter, JuneJuly, March 3, 2017
management@junejuly.co

 

New York/Atlantic City

We are barely two months into the Trump presidency and it’s been some scary ride. I have gotten a good start on my Atlantic City project, which highlights Trump’s bankrupt casinos as a jumping off point. I don’t know where things go from here — with my project, or with Trump’s reality TV show writ large. As the esteemed blogger Digby says, “He’s running the country like he ran the Taj Mahal.”

Most of my landscape projects have incorporated social/political issues, but this is by the most targeted, and the most connected to current events. So, in the interest of getting the work out into the world as soon as possible, I’ve taken the photographs I’ve run on my blog over the past few months and put them together in a mini-website. Please take a look — recommend to others. Resist!

New York/Williamsburg


Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose (Painting by Damien Mitchell)

Trump unmasked.

Update — a quote from Simon Schama’s piece in the Financial Times. I first came across Schama when living in the Netherlands. His book The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age is highly recommended along with his later Landscape and Memory.

He writes:

The challenge, as with all such imaginative counter-attacks, is the capacity to project the message beyond the halls of college and museum and into the street where it counts. Prints lend themselves perfectly to poster polemics but the most effective challenge may yet come from creative adventures in the digital media, where inspired derision coupled with the defence of truth can go viral. Should that happen, the complacent dismissal of resistance art as the self-indulgent playtime of a defeated “elite” will die on the faces of the powerful. Aux armes, les artistes!

https://www.ft.com/content/0ded5de4-fe6d-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

By the time I get back to Atlantic City, these images of Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza will almost certainly be gone. Workmen were busy removing any signs of Trump’s involvement in Atlantic City when I was there less than two weeks ago. But the evidence will not be easily erased.

In 2015, the Trump Taj Mahal was fined $10 million for money laundering.

“Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shaky Calvery. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectation, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
United States Department of the Treasury
Press release — March 6, 2015

 

New York/Atlantic City


(
Trump) Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

On January 24th this year, a northeaster swept up the coast eating away at the dunes erected along Atlantic City’s boardwalk. In front of the (Trump) Taj Mahal the waves nearly broke through the dune barrier leaving behind a sharp cliff of sand.

Maps provided by (Atlantic City Director of Planning) Elizabeth Terenik show why Atlantic City presents such a unique case study for what sea level rise can do to a city. The majority of Atlantic City’s casinos, four of which shuttered in 2014, along with the boardwalk, rest along the highest point of elevation, while the residential portion has a much lower elevation, putting the homes in harm’s way. Names like “Trump” and “Bally’s” dominate the skyline of a community that sees little of the industry’s profits.   — National Geographic

 

New York/Atlantic City


B
orgata and Harrah’s casinos, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Atlantic City has seen five of its 12 casinos close since 2014 (two were Trump casinos) amid ever-increasing competition from gambling halls in neighboring states. That has caused the city’s tax base to crumble. It also led the city’s remaining casinos to file hefty tax appeals, claiming their property assessments were too high thanks to the downturn. In turn, that blew large holes into the city’s budget over the last few years, helping bring the city to the brink of bankruptcy.
–NJ.com

So, in a nutshell, the Borgata, the most successful of all the casinos, bankrupted Atlantic City. It should be obvious at this point that the casinos were never really about the revitalization of the city. Atlantic City’s unemployment rate remains extremely high, and city services have declined. The casinos were, and are, about the transfer of billions of dollars into the pockets of people like Donald Trump, aided by politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And there is ample evidence that much of Trump’s money came from nefarious Russian sources to whom he remains indebted and obligated in unknown and potentially dangerous ways.


Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Donald Trump came to Atlantic City promising glamor and untold riches. He left it in ruins — though there is still plenty of gold all over the city — like in the Gold Mine directly behind the empty and now de-Trumped Taj Mahal.

New York/Atlantic City


Golden Nugget, former Trump Castle, at left — © Brian Rose

Initially, most of the casinos were built on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Since most gamblers were not interested in the raucous entertainments of the boardwalk, nor were they likely to be found sunning themselves on the beach, several casinos were built on the other side of Absecon Island in a marshy area well away from the crime-ridden streets of the city. Trump Castle was the first to locate in that area.

Like a rat abandoning a sinking ship, Trump pulled out his interests in Atlantic City little by little. In 2011, the Trump Marina (formerly Trump Castle) was sold for about a tenth of what it was originally worth, and now operates steadily under new management as the Golden Nugget.
— Vox

Now he was looking for work as a livery driver. Brown also used to work in the casinos, at the Showboat, bussing tables, and at Trump’s Castle, stripping and waxing floors. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” he said. “It was the eighties, I was a teen-ager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back.”
— The New Yorker

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

The Trump Taj Mahal appears from the boardwalk as a complex multi-leveled building festooned with towers, domes, and a grand staircase leading up to the sky. The reality, however, as seen along Pennsylvania Avenue — the Monopoly Pennsylvania Avenue that is, not Washington, D.C. — is a massive windowless box containing cavernous casino, restaurant, and entertainment spaces. Everything is internalized. Only the high rise hotel rooms offer views of the ocean and the New Jersey  pine barrens to the west.


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

As I walked along the wall of the Taj casino I came across the abandoned Human Resources Offices of Trump Entertainment Resorts. No jobs available here any more. Lots of smiling faces of fictional employees and a dead pigeon.


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

And then, to my astonishment, a group of women came walking along Pennsylvania Avenue carrying  “Make America Great Again” signs. Even here, at the epicenter of Trump’s business dissolution, at the nexus of Russian dirty money and the fleecing of gullible gamblers, there are, apparently, true believers.

New York/Atlantic City

Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Back in Atlantic City on a bright, somewhat cold, February day. Earlier in the week, I read that the Trump name was being removed from the Trump Taj Mahal.I decided that I better go back and get some more photographs of the Taj before it was completely de-Trumpified. All traces of the name had already vanished from the Boardwalk. On the back side of the tower, however, workmen high on a crane were busy detaching the red letters from the facade. It was not something I could do much with using the view camera, so I moved on.

I walked out on the beach for an overview, stopping behind a restaurant, closed for the season, with some of its furniture shrink-wrapped in plastic, the bulbous shapes oddly echoing the onion domes of the Trump Taj Mahal. The casino, as i’d noted before, looks less like the Taj Mahal of India than it does a Russian Orthodox church. Despite all the Trump/Russian connections, that was probably not the original intention. But it’s one more thing that makes you go hmm.

New York/Airports


La Guardia Airport, New York — © Brian Rose

This is who we have become.

American airports have become frightening places. On Tuesday, a man was held and questioned for an hour attempting to enter the United States. He had visited Iran three years before. His passport indicated that he was no less than the former prime minister of Norway.

When I photographed the Iron Curtain back in the 80s, I had to cross the border from east to west many times. It was always a harrowing experience. The East German guards were curt and officious. Your passport was taken and examined out of sight. You never knew whether you would be allowed to pass through the checkpoint or not. Several times I was taken aside and questioned about my camera and my reason for entering the country. I was never detained for more than 15 minutes.

This was the German Democratic Republic, a brutal autocratic government under the sway of the Soviet Union.

Pittsburgh


Point of View, by James West (2006), Pittsburgh — © Brian Rose

George Washington and the Seneca chief Guyasuta stare into each others eyes above Pittsburgh — wearing pussy hats, of course.

New York/Cooper Union

As a proud alumnus of Cooper Union, my appeal to the administration for a statement regarding President’s Trump’s immoral and unconstitutional executive order:

We urgently need a statement from Cooper (Laura Sparks/BoT) condemning President Trumps’s executive order against refugees and Muslims. Cooper Union has always stood for religious and racial diversity. This is a moment when that commitment needs to be reaffirmed in the strongest and boldest terms.

Echoing the constitution, Peter Cooper said, “Neither my own religious opinions nor the religious opinions of any sect or party whatever shall ever be made a test or requirement, in any manner or form, of or for admission to or continuance to enjoy the benefit of this institution.”

The president’s actions violate American principles and pose a threat to Cooper Union and other institutions of higher learning dedicated to free inquiry, inclusiveness, and the nurturance of community across borders both physical and spiritual.

Cooper Union must take the lead and speak out.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Now baby everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

— Atlantic City, by Bruce Springsteen

New York/Atlantic City


H
ouse near Revel, currently empty casino — © Brian Rose

1963: Pauline Hill becomes executive director of the Atlantic City Housing Authority and Urban Redevelopment Agency. Under her leadership, about 80 acres of South Inlet land were razed to make way for casinos and high-rises. The project displaced more than 1,500 residents, and development never came. The still-empty tract is known as Pauline’s Prairie.

Press of Atlantic City


South Inlet neighborhood, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

It was poor before casinos, poor when it had them, and it’s even poorer now that five of them have been shut down. Most of the people you see in the South Inlet are people of color. Most of the businesses are run by ethnic minorities. The Alpha & Omega grocery is owned by Greeks and staffed by Oaxaqueños. Around the corner, the marquee of the Baba Jones Food Market announces you can buy baby food with your EBT card. There’s also Mike Hauke’s pizzeria Tony Boloney’s, which sells tikka masala slices to intrepid hipsters, construction workers and the few remaining neighbors. In 2015 in a New Yorker article, Hauke described his patrons as a mix of “shitbags, crackheads, hustlers, and pimps.” These were happier times. Today even the shitbags seem few and far between.

Route 40


Atlantic Avenue — © Brian Rose

Historic black church (Price Memorial AME Zion Church) on Atlantic Avenue with abandoned fire station.

During the early years, Blacks were integrated throughout the city. However, as their numbers increased they were forced out of White neighborhoods and into a ghetto known as the “Northside,” an area that was literally the other side of the railroad tracks that ran through that section of town.

The Northside became a city within a city. As Blacks encountered racial prejudice, they reached inward to construct a social and institutional life of their own. While White racism had created the physical ghetto, it was civic-minded upper- and middle-class Blacks who led their community to create an institutional ghetto in order to provide services that the White community had denied Blacks. The first major institution established by Blacks in Atlantic City was the church.

— Nelson Johnson (from his book The Northside)

 

New York/Atlantic City


Trump World’s Fair site — © Brian Rose

In the 1980s and ’90s, the casinos with which Trump was associated comprised between a third and a quarter of AC’s gaming industry. The Playboy Hotel and Casino, which was founded in ’81, became the Atlantis in ’84, and went bankrupt in ’85, was acquired by Trump in ’89 and renamed The Trump Regency; he renamed it again as Trump’s World’s Fair in ’96, and it was closed in ’99 and demolished in 2000. Trump Castle, built in cooperation with Hilton in ’85, was rebranded as Trump Marina in ’97, sold at a loss to Landry’s Inc. in 2011, and is now operated by Landry’s as the Golden Nugget. Trump Plaza, built in cooperation with Harrah’s in ’84, went bankrupt and shuttered in 2014 and now just rots.

Joshua Cohen