Tag Archives: news

A Warning to Ferguson Police

Police officers should approach Ferguson protestors with caution and fully respect their constitutional rights. That is the clear message from recent court awards and settlements against police force abuses against demonstrators.

New York City just paid out $17.9 million to more than 1800 protestors arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, according to CNN.

An Iraq War veteran injured by police during Occupy protest in Oakland has been awarded $4.5 million after being struck in the head by a beanbag fired by police.

UC Davis paid out $1 million to 21 demonstrators who were pepper sprayed during Occupy protests November 2011.  This was $30,000 per demonstrator and $250,000 in attorney fees.  The University apologized and the officer who pepper sprayed the protestors was fired.

Oakland paid $1.1 million to members of the Occupy movement for police misconduct during the protests.

New York paid over $580,000 to 14 protestors wrongfully arrested during an Occupy Wall Street march.

A small town in New Hampshire paid a woman $57,000 after they arrested her for videotaping a police stop.

These awards are in the context of much higher awards nationally for police misconduct.  Chicago paid out $84 million in settlements for police abuse cases in 2013 alone.  Los Angeles paid out $54 million in settlements for police brutality in 2011. Bloomberg News estimated New York City has paid out as much as $735 million for police abuse claims in one year.

Bill Quigley teaches at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.  

The resonance of Occupy

Occupy London camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, London 2012

Activists from the Occupy movement held their latest campaign in London this weekend. The protest movement, now three years old, has global recognition. But how can its impact be measured?

The campaign started in New York, on 17 September 2011. They camped in Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, protesting against corporate greed. Celebrities visited – Kanye West and Susan Sarandon among them. Press coverage followed and President Obama said he “understood their frustrations“.

The Twitter handle @OccupyWallSt has 205,000 followers. The @OccupyWallStNYC and @OccupyWallStNY have 185,000 between them. The Facebook page has 660,544 likes.

The initial action spawned hundreds of similar protests around the world. In London, a month later, activists erected tents at St Paul’s Cathedral. Again it was the city’s financial heart. For more than four months they camped, gave speeches, tweeted and networked before being removed forcibly by bailiffs following a court battle.

The protest was widely followed by the press and discussed in parliament. Again, celebrities got involved – Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Billy Bragg were among a number of musicians to play live for the protesters. @Occupy London has 54K followers on Twitter and 103,044 Facebook likes.

Google Trends graph shows peak of interest in the word OccupyGoogle searches for the word “Occupy” spiked in late 2011

Occupy organisers said at the time that there would be protests in 951 cities in 82 countries. There have been many more since then, but has it made a difference?

Google searches of the word “occupy” spiked in October 2011, but quickly dropped back. They have not spiked since.

“Academics are always trying to find a way to measure the success of protest movements,” says Sam Halvorsen an academic researcher from University College London who wrote his thesis on Occupy. “First you have to work out what it means to be successful. Some people in the protest think it is measured by the amount of media coverage. Others think people like Russell Brand getting involved is really important. Other people may think those things are quite superficial.”

The true success of Occupy is hard to measure. It is, by design, a patchwork affair.

Occupy groups tend to have spin-offs and splinters – some are active while others are dormant. They all have their own social media identities and their own politics. There are no leaders and numerous causes – campaigns range from anti-fracking to keeping libraries open to this weekend’s protest to “save the NHS”.

In the month following the first Occupy Wall Street protest, more than 100,000 different hashtags were used in connection with it, according to Twitter. Up to 330,000 total hashtags about Occupy topics were tweeted each day from the start of the Wall Street protest to 21 October 2011. This included #Occupy, #OccupyWallSt #ows, as well as a few joke tags such as #OccupyTheBathroom.

“Having lots of Twitter handles or followers on Twitter doesn’t actually mean much – so many of them are dormant accounts,” says Prof Charlie Beckett, director of the London School Of Economics’ media thinktank Polis. “It’s very easy to follow something or like something. Measuring something like Google searches can be a much better gauge of reach and actual active presence.”

Occupy Wall Street banner

For a conventional party-based political movement, like UKIP in the UK, it’s easier to measure success. It comes in the form of vote share, election victories and movement towards the party’s main goal – the UK’s departure from the EU. For a movement without any tight list of goals, like Occupy, it’s harder.

Press coverage has also dropped off. A crude search of the Nexis database of UK press articles on Occupy London shows there were 396 stories in October 2011, dropping to 43 in 2012, three in 2013 and 14 in October this year.

Research from YouGov published in September shows that 55% of Americans say that the Occupy Wall Street movement has had no impact on the country, 18% say that it had a positive impact, while 27% say that its impact was negative. But the same survey also shows that 49% believe that protests are an effective way to change society.

“Social media is really important to us but it all goes up and down very quickly – it’s about newsflashes,” says John Sinha, an activist with Occupy Democracy – one of the offshoots of Occupy London.

“Normally it’s very low, but when we have an action it spikes. We were trending second on Twitter for our last action. We have an organic reach of a million on Facebook. We also have a newsletter which we distribute to a few thousand.”

“We don’t measure it [success] in those terms,” adds Inka Stafrace, an activist with Occupy London. “We don’t follow it overall as if we are a political party. We look at engagement per action. Seeing a spike during an action is what makes us feel satisfied.”

Stafrace runs Occupy London TV, which features footage from their various protests. It has accumulated 80,000 views – 50,000 of which she says have been added this year.

Of course, for some protests, it is easier to measure effectiveness. Occupy Wall Street was inspired by the demonstrations in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Protests there led directly to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

An Indignados protest in Barcelona, October 2011Indignados protest in Barcelona, October 2011

The Spanish Indignados movement, which protested in 2011 and 2012 for a radical change in Spanish politics, led to the creation of left-wing political party Podemos (meaning “we can”). The anti-austerity party, led by a university lecturer, won five seats in the European Parliament in May.

Occupy have claimed victories. Activists in Buffalo, New York, successfully lobbied to have the City of Buffalo move $45m out of an account with JP Morgan Chase, and to transfer the money to a smaller regional bank. The New York Times attributed to Occupy a decision by Bank of America to scrap plans to charge additional fees for use of debit cards.

Occupy Sandy activists set up distribution sites for blankets, clothes and hot food to people affected by Hurricane Sandy. They ferried volunteers to the worst-hit areas and set up “construction teams and medical committees”.

There are a number of less visible, local-level successes, supporters say.

“Protests have their big moments when they are in the media and people are talking about it,” says Halvorsen. “That is success on one level. Occupy have branched out to small [and] very small campaigns and they are making a difference there. But actually changing things for good takes a very long time.”

Occupy at St Paul’s: A timeline

Occupy protester in V for Vendetta mask

  • 15 October 2011: Demonstrations which began with Occupy Wall Street, spread to London and other European cities. Protesters – including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – settle outside St Paul’s Cathedral
  • 16 October: Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, talks to protesters and says he supports their right to protest
  • 21 October: Dean of St Paul’s, Rev Graeme Knowles, announces that due to health and safety considerations, the cathedral is closing its doors to the public for the first time since World War Two
  • 26 October: Bishop of London calls for the protesters to leave, and says cathedral officials are considering legal action
  • 27 October: Dr Fraser resigns from post because he disagrees with the authorities’ course of action
  • 28 October: Cathedral reopens to the public; City of London Corporation and cathedral announce plans for legal action to clear the camp
  • 16 November: Corporation attaches eviction notices to some tents
  • 18 January 2012: High Court backs eviction
  • 22 February: Appeal bid by protesters dismissed
  • 28 February: Police and bailiffs clear the site


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Letter: Losing on ‘global warming’ as skepticism grows

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2014 12:00 am

Letter: Losing on ‘global warming’ as skepticism grows

Increasing skepticism about global warming becomes more apparent every day. That’s why President Obama and key administration figures are politicizing it again. It’s the reason protesters were bused into New York City for a recent rally reminiscent of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd. 

Clearly, environmental celebrities attending the rally were surprised by the media’s tough questions. PJ Media’s Michelle Field challenged Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s commitment to the cause, asking him what kind of car he drives and why he flies private jets.

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      Sunday, November 23, 2014 12:00 am.

      Women find their voice in Ferguson protest movement

      Johnetta Elzie saw that she was outnumbered. When she tried to answer students’ questions about the protests that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, the men with her interrupted and answered instead. When she tried to tell her story, the men told theirs instead.

      It was about three weeks after Ferguson erupted in unrest last summer and Elzie, another female activist, and six men from the fledgling protest movement were speaking to a room full of Washington University students in St. Louis. Except only the men were talking.



      An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of fugitive Assata Shakur.


      “The other woman was silent. She was just sitting there,” recalled Elzie, 25. “So I just politely packed up all my stuff and went down to the library. I couldn’t take it.”

      Several young women involved in organizing the Ferguson protests have described similar encounters with a gender barrier: men bowling them over at meetings or not inviting them to help make decisions. The media, they said, also tended to focus on the guys, who sometimes delivered more inflammatory sound bites — about, say, the likelihood of a riot.

      But refusing to be silenced, Elzie and her peers have elbowed to the front lines of protests over the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed, black, 18-year-old Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. As a tense Ferguson awaits a grand jury decision on whether Wilson will be criminally charged in the shooting, many women will be behind the protest bullhorns in the days and weeks ahead.

      With a partner, Elzie, who has more than 20,000 Twitter followers, puts out a daily newsletter about Ferguson that has more than 7,000 subscribers and has become a central repository of information about developments around St. Louis.

      Are Millennials savers? Conflicting studies say yes and no

      A new study claiming that young adults are spending more than they are saving has come a few months after a study that said Millennials are saving earlier and more for retirement than any other generation.

      “Adults under age 35 currently have a savings rate of negative 2 percent, meaning they are burning through their assets or going into debt, according to Moody’s Analytics. That compares with a positive savings rate of about 3 percent for those age 35 to 44, 6 percent for those 45 to 54, and 13 percent for those 55 and older,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

      Their reasons for the savings deficit are a combination of post-recession banking distrust mixed in with staggering student debt and underemployment.

      A negative savings rate “could be interpreted as Millennials plowing all their assets into paying off debt. Moody’s points out that average student loan debt stands at $17,200 for Millennials, while their median net worth averages out to just $10,400,” said the financial blog Main Street. Average student loan debt was only $6,100 in 1995.

      The Atlantic explained that Millennials are notoriously skeptical of banks, “not surprising for a generation that came of age during the Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street.”

      And some Millennials are not saving simply because they don’t have the financial freedom to do so. Widespread under- and unemployment for young adults is partly to blame.

      “There’s people who really can’t save because they don’t have the means to save and that’s not a small group of people,” said Shai Akabas, an economist at the Bipartisan Policy Center, to the Wall Street Journal. “If you’re in a $25,000-a-year job and starting a family, it’s going to be very hard to accumulate savings regardless of your consumption decisions.”

      This trend could have ramifications for Millennials in the future. “A lack of savings increases the vulnerability of young workers in the post-recession economy, leaving many without a financial cushion for unexpected expenses, raising the difficulty of job transitions and leaving them further away from goals like eventual homeownership — let alone retirement,” the Wall Street Journal explained.

      However, the Moody’s study conflicts with the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies‘ annual retirement survey, released in July, which claimed that Millennials (who are currently working full- or part-time in a for-profit company of 10 or more people) are “an emerging generation of retirement super savers.”

      “Some 70 percent of Millennials started saving for retirement at an unprecedented young age, just 22, the survey found. By contrast, the average Boomer began saving at age 35, while Gen Xers got started at 27. Thanks to this early savings start, Millennials have amassed an average $32,000 in their 401(k) accounts, according to Transamerica,” reported Time.

      “Millennials are ‘much more likely’ to be recovered from its economic impact than older generations and 68 percent are confident they will be able to retire comfortably,” said Forbes, reporting on the study.

      “Millennials have seen what happened to their parents, many of whom lost their jobs and savings in the financial crisis — and they are taking steps to avoid a similar outcome,” Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center, told Time.

      So are Millennials savers or not?

      Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post suggested that before making broad assumptions about the Millennial generation, experts should make historical comparisons. “If you look at all of Moody’s data, going back several decades, you’ll notice that young people almost always have had a negative savings rate, with ‘dissavings’ for earlier generations of youth far worse than that among today’s supposedly irresponsible Millennials,” Rampell wrote.

      dsutton@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @debylene

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      Who’s Leading the Pope in Voting for Time’s Person of the Year Will Leave You …

      Ferguson, Missouri  protesters have certainly been in the news a lot this year.

      In fact, they are a contender for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

      With  4.5% of the vote so far, the protesters are ahead of Ebola doctors, John Kerry (‘he’s traveled 600,000 miles!’), the Boko Haram girls and Pope Francis.

      The guy at the top of the list is the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 14%.

      Image credit: Time Magazine
      Image credit: Time Magazine

      If the protesters win the honor, it wouldn’t be the first time. Some of the same people who have flocked to agitate in Ferguson were also celebrated in 2011 for their Occupy activism when Time honored ‘The Protester‘ as its Person of the Year.

      That year, Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party and Spanish protesters were tossed in with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Arab Spring, whose numbers included the brother of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

      You might think it odd Ferguson’s looters, assaulters and arsonists would be considered for this honor, but the group is also feted for its consciousness raising about police shootings.

      Time has been criticized for many of its choices over the years. For instance, genocidal madman Joe Stalin was a two-time winner and Hitler‘s visage was featured once in 1938 for ‘reunifying Germany with Austria’.

      Oddly, considering its penchant for feting world class despots and maniacal killers, Time has not put ISIS on the list for ‘Person of the Year’ consideration this year. It does, however, feature its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdati, who was tied with Kim Kardashian at 1.1% of the vote. Her husband, Kanye West, is also in the hunt.

      Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and the Koch Brothers sit at less than 1% near the bottom, but eek out a small advantage over the man who’s dead last: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

      Time will announce the honoree in December.

      Opinion: It Doesn’t Matter Who Owns Public Plazas

      The dramatic entrance to the Richard Rogers-designed Leadenhall Building in London ostensibly invites pedestrians walking on the ground-level public plaza upwards. The building, however, is not so easily accessed. Image © Flickr CC User Matt Brown

      When it comes to , many assume that while truly is always good, “privately owned ” is always bad. However, in this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “A Plaza is No Guarantee of Democracy,” NBBJ’s Carl Yost argues that the distinction is not so binary. As architects, it’s our job to smooth over the difference between the two, while we’re at work – but most importantly while we’re not.

      The past few months have seen the opening of high-profile projects with contested public space. The Leadenhall Building, London’s “Cheesegrater,” rises above a public plaza that the Financial Times called “problematic,” with “an astonishing array of defensive measures to make it clear that while it may be open to the public, it is still ours” (that is, the landlord’s). In New York, the World Trade Center plaza has taken fire from critics, both domestic and international, who chafe at restrictions on visitors’ behavior.

      It evokes the debate over “privately owned public space,” or POPS, that arose during Occupy Wall Street, when protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park, a Lower Manhattan plaza that is privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties yet must remain open to the public. Many rightly pointed out the restrictions that POPS pose to free speech and assembly, when owners can evict people they consider unwelcome.

      Protests in Ferguson demonstrate how public spaces can become easily—and quickly—militarized by authorities. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

      Yet for all the hand-wringing about privatization, what really matters is not who owns the space, but what activities are allowed to occur there. Take Ferguson, Missouri, where a militarized police force turned rifles and tear gas on unarmed protesters and the press in the most public place of all: the street. The major lessons of Ferguson aren’t about design or privatization—they’re about race, class, and the manner in which the state interacts with its citizens.

      Not for nothing have the events in Ferguson drawn comparisons to civil rights–era Alabama. In Selma, too, authorities responded with excessive force to peaceful protesters who had every right to occupy public streets. More recently, the NYPD illegally detained protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Even non- activities aren’t immune from overreach. Despite a definitive legal setback, “stop-and-frisk” policing remains controversial, and Vice recently reported that loitering has essentially been criminalized on drug-prone streets of Camden, New Jersey.

      In each instance, the quality or ownership of the space matters much less than the authorities’ (sometimes brutal) restriction of (legal) speech and activities. The causes—autocratic leadership, institutional paranoia, and political or financial gain or some combination thereof—differ, but the result is the same: overreaction, and curtailed liberties within explicitly public space.

      Police officers oversee crowds in Times Square. Image © Flickr CC User Elvert Barnes

      And while public space can be restricted, let’s not forget that private spaces can also be productive sites of dissent under the right conditions. After all, Brookfield and the NYPD allowed the Occupy Wall Street encampment to exist for nearly two months before eviction, sparking a worldwide protest movement in the process. (And Mayor Bloomberg’s stated justification for finally clearing Zuccotti—health and safety—would also carry legal weight in a truly public space like Central Park or Times Square.)

      That’s not to say architects and developers are never guilty of over-celebrating space that is only nominally public. Do the Shard’s observation deck, with its £25 admissions fee, and expansive porte-cochère really qualify as “public”? (Or, back at Ground Zero, the observation deck of One World Trade Center?) Nor is it to say that design has no role to play in encouraging or hindering free speech—after all, Haussmann often justified those beautiful Parisian boulevards as a means of facilitating military movements.

      But it’s easy to assume that once public space (whether nominal or actual) has been created, we have done our job—democracy achieved! In reality, the hard work is just beginning. Even careful programming—whether with leisure activities, culture, or even demonstrations—won’t matter if the authorities stomp in with tear gas and pepper spray. It takes political action to ensure a democratic society, not just design.

      So when Dame Hadid says that architects aren’t responsible for the social context that surrounds their buildings, she might have a point. But citizens are responsible—and that’s all of us.

      Carl Yost is a communications manager for NBBJ and an architecture and design writer based in New York.

      Is The NY Fed Really Run By Goldman?

      Allegations have long existed that the New York Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States was a revolving door for regulators and bankers.  Many have said the relationship was too cozy and that Goldman Sachs held an unfair advantage due to this snuggly relationship.

      Well now it seems that at least in one instance, this was absolutely true. Zero Hedge reports today on a New York Times story stating that a former Fed regulator turned Goldman banker was busted colluding with other officials at the NY Federal Reserve Bank, sharing confidential information on another bank that the Fed regulated.

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      Zero Hedge states:

      Naturally, “the emergence of the leak comes as questions mount about a perceived coziness between the New York Fed and Wall Street banks — Goldman in particular. Revelations from a former New York Fed employee, Carmen Segarra, recently stoked that debate. Ms. Segarra released taped conversations suggesting that her supervisors went soft on Goldman, specifically over a deal that one regulator called “legal, but shady.””

      This story is a big deal and has not received the amount of coverage and notoriety in the press as you would expect after the 2008 real estate crisis, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the lack of prosecutions by the Obama administration of perceived Wall Street criminals like former Goldman banker Jon Corzine, who allegedly stole billions in client funds and illegally used them for other purposes.  Today, he walks around scot free.

      The bottom line is that if Goldman receives information in front of other market participants, they have a huge advantage.  That information could take the form of a heads-up on future monetary policy moves by the Fed, information of other competitors as it was seemingly in this case, or possible communications by the Fed on market conditions.

      There is a term in the market called “frontrunning.” It means putting on trades in front of your competitors with illegally gained information. This is very serious business.

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      If the market is not fair to all concerned, then obviously it’s not a free market.  Goldman Sachs has worked hard to change its image, true or not, of making obscene profits at the expense of the American people. This revelation is a setback in that effort.

      I believe this story deserves more investigation by Congress and the administration. Where there is smoke, there usually is fire.  However, our leaders may fail in that effort in their quest for Wall Street campaign contributions.

      Photo credit: Michael Daddino (Flickr)

      The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

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      It’s Happening: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn’t think Hillary is progressive …

      Appearing at a Politico breakfast this week, progressive icon and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio effusively praised his fellow liberal, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but his plaudits for likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was far more reserved.

      In May, Clinton delivered a fiery,“populist” speech, according to press accounts, denouncing the scourge of income inequality. “Economists have documented how the share of income and wealth going to those at the very top — not just the top 1 percent but the top 0.1 percent, the 0.01 percent of the population — has risen sharply over the last generation,” the former secretary of state exclaimed. “Some are calling it a throwback to the Gilded Age of the robber barons.”

      Either he simply did not catch that speech, or even these stratospheric levels of hyperbolic pandering to the left were just not good enough for Mayor de Blasio. “I think whoever runs has to address income inequality. They have to do it morally and they have to do it politically,” he said, in a veiled effort to drive Clinton to the left. “The absence (of which) will lead to failure.”

      After saying that he thinks it is “necessary” for the next Democratic nominee to focus heavily on that issue which so energized the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, the NYC mayor added that he would be “honored” to offer his services to the next nominee (as he did when he served as campaign manager for Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate bid) to help him or her craft that message.

      “The Democrat should be willing to challenge the status quo,” de Blasio said of the eventual Democratic nominee. “The Democrat should be willing to challenge wealthy and powerful interests and should marry that with a grass-roots organizing strategy that epitomizes the message.”

      As for Clinton, de Blasio is still waiting to hear that populist income inequality speech she gave in May. “I don’t think we’ve had the opportunity to hear from her on this new (post-recession) reality,” he said, according to The New York Post.

      When even your former campaign manager believes you do not accurately represent the party from which you are seeking the presidential nomination…

      The curious condition here is that Clinton did not depart from the ideological center of gravity of the Democratic Party, the ideological center of gravity left her. In 2006, well after de Blasio committed to get Clinton elected to the Senate, the junior New York senator was described as the party’s scion of the “liberal wing.” Today, despite her slavish efforts to appease the restless progressive elements within her party by mimicking their tired dogma, Clinton cannot shed the image that she is a squishy centrist.

      This is yet another confirmation that the Democratic Party of the Obama era is well to the left of the Democratic Party of the last decade.

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      MoMA’s Schemes for Fixing Urban Problems Are Either Too Dainty or Too …

      If there is one figure who distills everything that MoMA’s ideologues loathe, it’s Michael Bloomberg, the quintessential billionaire bureaucrat. Bloomberg’s administration saw rising land values as the ultimate measure of New York’s success, but it also delivered bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, temporarily car-free boulevards, pop-up cafés, small-business incubators, microapartments, prefab construction, community-­based zoning, and so on — a record that might have been extracted from the Street Plans Collaborative’s tactical urbanism manual. Mayor de Blasio has pursued his ostensibly more inclusive, progressive agenda with similar tools: a 25-mph speed limit, new street designs — and policies intended to encourage developers to keep doing what they do. These on-the-ground ironies get lost in the political muddle of MoMA’s analysis. Professor Nader Tehrani sounds the usual warnings against neoliberalism’s “pattern of privatization,” but also praises Bloomberg’s signature project, the High Line, as an example of “informal process” and a “testament to resilience.” Never mind that to create the High Line, activists collaborated with a sympathetic mayor, a gaggle of city agencies, the federal government, and the publicly traded freight company CSX — or that the main driver of its success has been the creation of billions in real estate. There’s nothing “informal” about Chelsea’s new super-luxury architectural zone, and in any case all the bashing of the wealthy and powerful feels disingenuous coming from an institution that has raised fortunes to take over virtually an entire city block.