This is exactly what I’m exploring..
Lapa is an up-and-coming neighborhood of Rio with a burgeoning arts community, tons of live music, restaurants, and great nightlife in general whether you’re in the club or just hanging on the street.
This was for CUFA’s taping of “Aglomerado,” a Brazilian public tv show.
Tonight I had dinner in Lapa, an up-and-coming, sort of bohemian area of Rio. It’s the Williamsburg, Brooklyn of Rio, if you will. A group of us went to a restaurant that offered sushi, other Japanese dishes, and also traditional Brazilian fare. I had a soba with squid as well as some grilled fish, brown rice and salad. Might as well mention here that beer in Rio is Always Cold. You’ve never had beer this cold in the US.
Anyway, the main purpose of this dinner was for me to meet a guy named Steve Spencer (from Queens), who has worked in radio for 30 years. Our conversation just grazed the surface of what there is to know about public radio in the US and abroad..We talked in detail about the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the Ford Foundation’s support of public radio (of which he is a grantee), the fact that US expats are not counted as such in elections (slightly less relevant), and more.
What Steve is trying to do is create the equivalent of NPR here in Brazil. I’m not entirely sure where the project stands, though I understand that he has dedicated over a decade to this work. In terms of sustainable infrastructure, this is an extremely timely and important effort for Brazil. Perhaps it’s time is now…?
Though there is Brazilian “public” radio, it is mainly information supplied by and oftentimes for the government. Though some content is important public information, programming does not necessarily reflect a collective voice of the people or deviate from government news and information to highlight human interest stories, local culture, and the like.
Hope to meet again soon with Steve and see how his efforts contribute to the conversation of sustainable development. Furthermore, is there a forum for this conversation to take place?
In the meantime, here’s an article that Steve wrote for the Rio Times on census data and “The Uncountables…”
I met yesterday with Laura, a friend of a friend who works for the City of Rio. Her group provides, what they call “PR,” which, in this case, is government-sponsored information, on transportation, security, and other infrastructural occurrences, via Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of media. This will be increasingly critical information as tourism continues to climb in Rio as a result of the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup.
I am particularly interested in the fact that as a government organization, they provide information to civilians as opposed to private groups, which, for major events such as The World Cup, typically focus on servicing tourism for the short-term. Analyzing the changes that already-exising information systems undergo, could potentially offer insight into better approaches for the future.
I’m finally here in Rio! Welcome to my blog, which will cover this two-month stay. It will include absolutely anything during this time period from work to play. Hoping to do lots of both.
As much as I’m looking forward to surf lessons, however, I’m here for something more:
1) to analyze solutions for sustainable development (particularly in the favelas) as it pertains to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio
2) to produce video content/events with an NGO called CUFA (Central Unica das Favelas, founded by popular rapper MV Bill, who played the main gang leader in the movie “City of God,” among other accomplishments. http://www.cufa.org.br/
At the moment the notion of sustainable development as it applies to Brazil seems a vast and elusive concept. The term, originally coined by the Brundtland Commission is defined as development that ”meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The three fields which make up sustainable development are: environmental, economic and sociopolitical.
In recent years, Brazil has experienced rapid development in all of these areas. Brazil has one-third of the world’s rainforests and the largest reservoir of fresh water. One could speak for days on the deforestation, pollution and other environmental issues that this country faces. Though I may touch on aspects of environment, it will be in the context of economic and sociopolitical issues.
Back in 1999, I spent three months in Sao Paulo working at a radio station and taking a few marketing courses. Everyday Brazil’s currency, the ‘Real,’ fluctuated significantly. I would look online/read the paper to determine the optimal time to exchange USDs for Reis (plural). The exchange rate was roughly 3 reis to 1 dollar.
Today, it’s about 1.5 to 1. Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. The responsibility associated with hosting these events and the consequence that the outcome can have on Brazil’s reputation within the international community is apparent. Brazil’s government has already invested upwards of $19 billion USD on development and this number will grow with private sponsorships.
So how can we maximize the efforts behind this three-week long soccer, excuse me, Futbol, extravaganza? The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is an example of relative success in contrast to, say, Atlanta’s hosting of the Olympics in 1996, which resulted in minimal long-term advantage for local residents…I mean, who really takes the MARTA?
How can Brazil raise standards of education and quality of life for it’s population in keeping with improvements in physical infrastructure, ie: new, more efficient bus systems and six new soccer stadiums nation-wide.
Favelas, or poor neighborhoods situated high in the hills, are considered government land. They are a phenomenon that encompass both the physical and socioeconomic and the government is trying their best to solve this ‘problem.’ New strips of shopping centers line the foothills of favelas, masking their faces. A cable car system, utilized by commuters and tourists, now flies overhead. Several cases of forced eviction by the government have displaced residents. Can covering, flying over, and “pacifying” the favelas by kicking out drug lords and poor residents, make Rio’s living room clean enough for the flood of guests by 2014? Where are the poor people supposed to go, exactly? Will a combination of improved policies, infrastructure and good old urban sprawl do the trick?
In the coming weeks, I’ll seek out the opinions and feedback of youth from the favelas, some of which will be working with me at CUFA on arts and sports projects.
As my friend from The New School GPIA graduate program (Int’l Affairs) just said via Gchat: “There’s always an agenda or at least some sort of politics involved with adults. Kids are like a raw resource (since we’re all commodities anyway). ” Though this remark was slightly tongue in cheek, a reference to Karl Marx’s theory of ”commodity fetishism,” he is right. We are walking commodities.
A few moments later while offering tips on surfing, he explained that it’s important to find the balance points on a board and to learn how to catch a wave before trying to stand up. “Surfing is a metaphor for life,” he said. Wise. Time to go live! Ciao for now.
Due to a perceived lack of access to public restrooms in New York City, Alison and I decided to explore the matter further. We wanted to know if the general public thought that there was a lack of facilities and if so, whether we could help by providing a useful resource. Even today, the Visitors Center in Times Square does not offer information (printed or otherwise) on public restroom facilities…So we decided to make a map and distribute it to the public for their reactions.
Although our knowledge of Beirut is limited to what we read and information from our counterparts at AUB, we were also able to draw some parallels and comparisons between public bathroom access in Beirut and New York City.
The history of public restrooms in New York City is a long one. In 1898, the very first pamphlet by the then-new good government group Citizens Union decried the city’s lack of public toilets.
It has even been chronicled in literature. “I know that I am in distress when I walk the streets of New York. Wondering constantly where the next stop will be and if I can hold out that long,” Henry Miller wrote in “Black Spring” in the 1930’s.
In the early 1900s, the city accepted the need for public toilets in parks. Robert Moses opened 145 in 1934 alone. The subway system also offered accessible restrooms. By 1940, subway stations offered 1,676 public toilets that were inspected weekly.
But in the middle of the twentieth century, the state of the city’s toilets plummeted, due to vandalism and neglect. Currently, about 1,100 “comfort stations” are available in the city’s 1,500 parks, according to the Parks Department. In the city’s 468 subway stations, only 78 restrooms remain available to the public.
In 2000, a survey of city residents sponsored by the City Council found that the lack of public toilets was a common complaint, and made the city less livable. In contrast, NYC has faced opposition to build restroom facilities from organized communities who fear that these public bathrooms would fall into disrepair and attract child molesters, vagrants and other undesirables.
When Mayor Rudy Giuliani came into office, public toilets were one issue he had a strong interest in. The plan was to contract for 20 years with a company that would provide all the “street furniture,” including 430 newsstands and 3,300 bus shelters along with 30 toilets. Then abruptly, the plan was pulled. There was concern that contract was just too big to go all to one company. In 1998, the mayor eventually scrapped the plan, saying the city would prefer to “encourage competition and greater design variation.”
Today, there are a number of limited online resources, which disseminate the locations of restrooms in New York City. Internet guides include The Bathroom Diaries, a guide to bathrooms around the world, as well as in New York.
While we walked around Times Square and surrounding areas, we tried to put ourselves in the place of tourists visiting a bustling city with little reference as to what was available. Are restroom areas clearly marked?
We ventured out onto crowded NY streets, each time during the afternoon and sometimes until dusk. Streets were brimming every type of person imaginable. There were locals in a hurry, workers, visitors, but there’s one thing that everyone had in common: At some point while walking on the street, they would need to use a bathroom.
For this project, we distributed yellow maps of all public bathrooms in NYC along with a legend, describing the name of each location. For a short time, we also had a large cardboard sign, which said “Have to Pee?” but we soon discarded it, as it seemed to act as a deterrent when we approached the public.
So with this box of maps, Alison and I handed them out, while filming public reactions on a flip camera. We would ask someone if they wanted a map and if so, we asked the individual’s thoughts on public bathroom accessibility. We aimed for a variety of demographics, from food vendors to teenagers on their skateboards to German tourists to an older couple from New Jersey in town to see a Broadway play.
We even went into the Olive Garden in Times Square-a location, which we were told is particularly friendly to folks seeking a toilet. When we spoke to the Derek, the manager, who refused to be on camera but said, “This is a family restaurant, so we don’t mind. We really have no way of knowing who’s here to use the restroom…When you gotta go you gotta go. I understand that.”
Our findings showed both differences and similarities between New York and Beirut as well as a clear and consistent message from the public.
Not one single person we spoke to thought that there were enough accessible public facilities in New York City. Everyone seemed to have their own approach to dealing with this issue, and the most common response was “Starbucks,” which showed us, among other things, that Starbucks is more accessible than McDonalds. A few middle-age to senior Caucasian women said that they like to use hotel bathrooms. One native New Yorker said that Bryant Park used to be a ‘needle park’ and that she doesn’t want to use a bathroom where someone is washing themselves in the sink.
Ultimately our findings showed us that the lack of public restroom facilities continues to be an issue in New York City. In addition to accessibility, cleanliness of existing facilities is also perceived as a problem. One major reason, we have found, is sidewalk space. In Times Square in particular, sidewalks are at a premium. There is little interest in compromising that real estate, no matter how large the demand.
The same lack of facilities exists in Beirut, according to a few AUB students who responded to our query. As one student said,
“With the exception of malls and other semi-public facilities, there are virtually no public bathrooms in the city. There is certainly heavy lack of access; this basically applies to all of beirut. no known expections on where there is better access. There is ONE though, which is also architecturally appealing, it’s located in downtown, so it might gove you an idea on what are posh expectations from public restromm facility designs/implementations”
Another said, “I only know of one public bathroom (its actually two small concrete boxes, one for each sex). They are located on the Corniche Street (Near AUB’s Hostler Center). I don’t know how used they are but they certainly look poorly maintained and hygienically poor. As for other modes of semi public/semi private toilets, I know that an “established” homeless person on Bliss street ( the street facing AUB’s main gate) uses McDonalds’ toilet ( Not sure whether they still allow it). Other than that, I’m don’t know of other 100% public bathrooms that exist. I guess people who really need to use a bathroom would rely on semi private toilets (in malls or active food shops as I mentioned just before…)”