Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
A New York year in photos takes you to unexpected places: from below Second Ave, to the soaring heights of the World Trade Center. Below is a collection of some of my favorite photos shot in 2011.
On the 86th floor of the World Trade Center on an unseasonably warm fall day, steel workers had actually stopped working because of high winds. The large amount of structural steel actually made this floor wind-proof so it was dead still. But, if the workers had climbed above this floor to continue installing steel, the winds would've been unbearable.
This photo was taken at Zuccotti Park after 700 protesters had been arrested crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. At this point the park was filled to capacity, with tents, a library, multiple meetings happening at the same time and a real sense of momentum, despite the large police presence.
William Schwartz, was one of hundreds of protesters at the UN General Assembly who objected to Palestine's bid to get a seat on the Security Council. The park that day was full of protesters. Some were protesting Palestine, and some were protesting for Palestine. On the other end of the park Falun Gong practitioners were protesting treatment in Korean and China, and Tibetans were also demanding freedom and equal rights.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, family members gathered at the foot of One World Trade Center to hear President Barack Obama and George W. Bush speak. Afterward, the 9/11 Memorial opened for the first time and family members could see the pools and touch the names of the victims.
The "Tribute in Light" started in March 2002, and this year, the Municipal Arts Center has asked for donations to keep the memorial project going for future anniversaries. The blue beams, which are reported to be visible for 60 miles, are comprised of 88 separate 7,000-watt searchlights, which are powered by a gas-run generator housed in a tractor trailer just outside of the parking garage. This shot was taken across the river at the Brooklyn Heights park.
This was taken at the site of the 2nd Avenue subway tunnel. There was no particular story, the MTA just invited reporters and photographers to see the work site and discuss the progress that has been made so far. Businesses have complained about how long the project has gone on and say it has taken away foot traffic because of construction.
On the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots, I went out to get a sense of what has changed since then and what has not. The answers I received were as diverse as the neighborhood. Nearly everyone agreed tensions between the Jewish community and the large Carribean community have calmed and the neighborhood has only grown more diverse. This man is a member of the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters.
Every summer, Central Park has designated nights when children are allowed to camp out, and this was shot just before dusk on the last night of the season. Children from all over the city played a huge game of tag, using the tarp as a "safe" spot.
On one of the early days of summer, on an amazingly hot morning, I headed to Coney Island to find signs of summer. It wasn't hard. Lifeguards were digging holes to put in new chairs, kids were slurping ice cream, a high school was taking a field trip, which involved a game of beach volleyball. And Phillip Drayton from Bayridge threw down a towel and enjoyed his first beach day of the year.
There was only one place to be in New York City when the gay marriage bill finally passed this year. Outside the Stonewall Inn, site of infamous riots and a mecca for gay rights activists, the scene was exuberant. A steady stream of people gathered, checking their cellphones as New York Senators voted late into the night. When it was confirmed that New York would be the sixth state to pass gay marriage legislation, an impromptu dance party erupted, and continued late into the night.
The day that the city's new ban on smoking in public parks went into effect, Bill Paley, the son of media and cigar mogul William Paley, who also created several "vest pocket parks," in the city, which are privately owned, and therefore impervious to the smoking ban. Paley held a smoking party on the day the ban went into effect, which also happened to be the 44th anniversary of Paley Park.
The day after Osama bin Laden was killed, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly held a press conference at the World Trade Center site. Outside the area, hundreds gathered waving the covers of the tabloids or newly printed bin Laden t-shirts. Kelly warned that New Yorkers need to remain vigilant.
The 103-year old Willis Avenue bridge was replaced this year, and the old steel structure drifted down the East River at dawn, headed for a scrap yard. The city offered to give it away, but there were no takers.
Developer Larry Silverstein held several press conferences this year to give updates on construction at the World Trade Center site, and announce new lease signings for his buildings. Here, at 7 World Trade Center, on the 48th floor, the future home of a law firm, a pianists plays.
As protest erupted in Cairo, hundreds of Syrians, Iranians and others marched from Times Square to the United Nations. Samira Saueh is from Clifton, New Jersey and has been in the U.S. for 20 years, but still has many family members back in Cairo. She says her mother can't go to the hospital now and grocery stores are running out of food and that she hopes Mubarak will step down soon.
During a brief thaw as snow began to melt, I headed down to Chinatown to see how much had melted.
The Wonder Bread factory in Jamaica, Queens closed this year after 130 years leaving 175 people jobless. In the parking lot on the last day, several gathered to drink beer, and even offered to give me one last tour of the factory.
In the early morning hours, workers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn clear the sidewalk as salt trucks race into Manhattan to clear the streets. This was a familiar sight last winter.