Summer Panhandling Strategies

Image by Ed Yourdon. Click on image for license and information.

Image by Ed Yourdon. Click on image for license and information.

My office moved a few blocks south earlier this year, which puts me in the Flower District and means that I have a fifteen minute walk from Penn Station. As the summer months wane, the obstacle course of tourists and panhandlers grows more complicated. In this regard, New York City is like any summer town: an influx of visitors during the warmer months means an increase in profitable opportunities in many contexts. It's a pattern that you can readily observe in some of the smaller towns on the eastern tip of Long Island and in other small town vacation destinations. In a metropolis like New York City (and this applies throughout the boroughs), it might be harder to catch because the hustle and bustle never quite slows to sleepiness as it does in "proper" summer towns, but the ebb and flow is there: as the number of tourists and vacationers increase, so too does the number of panhandlers. Continue Reading »

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The Smell Next Door

Oct 12 2010 Published by under Community

Truffles from Mont-Ventoux. Shared by Poppy on Wikipedia.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ways a smell can help trigger a memory. Yesterday, I saw this article in the New York Times about a smell that's driving people away. It seems that residents in one luxury condo building are coping with a smell of a different sort: truffles.

The problem started after Urbani Truffles--an Italian truffle company--purchased a retail condo in the building and began using it to store boxes of the high-end mushroom. While truffles may be wonderful when served over your favorite dish, they're actually quite pungent. And it's creating a problem for folks who want to rent or sell--or just live--in the building.

The story reminds us of how personal smells can really be. Real estate agents, who are professionals at marketing undesirable spaces, are having a hard time masking this particular odor:

One [agent's] clients sold his 12th-floor penthouse in Gramercy Park after a bakery moved in and he couldn’t tolerate the odor of onion bagels. (Another family, she noted, bought a TriBeCa loft over a spice shop because they found the smell of curry comforting.)

Maybe the building needs to start marketing to truffles aficionados.

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Evaluating the Power of Social Cues in Public Encounters

Are we losing our sense of social appropriateness? Or are transgressions more exaggerated now that we interact more frequently in the digital space where important social cues tend to be missing? Read on below the jump for an ethnographic account of my my run-in with an older man who just needed someone to talk to.

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Sleepers, Squeezers, Lurkers, and More: Interacting With Subway Riders in Their Natural Habitat

In a city that values personal space, we sure spend a lot of time in close contact with one another, particularly on mass transit. I personally will only board a packed subway car if I am running late and have to get somewhere immediately, otherwise, I'm perfectly content to scope out the platform, note where the doors open, and wait for the next train (this behavior makes me a camper, as we will discuss shortly)—if I have learned anything traveling via mass transit, it's that there is always another train.

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