Week Of March 4, 2008
Inside OEM’s Command Center
The Office of Emergency Management headquarters looks sleeker and newer than most of the other government buildings around Cadman Plaza Park in downtown Brooklyn, but it shares their concrete squatness. The building was first occupied by OEM in December 2005, replacing the former Manhattan headquarters destroyed on 9/11. But behind its apparent ordinariness is self-sufficiency; it can generate its own power and has a camera in the sterile first-floor briefing room that can send out signals on an independent channel without reporters being present. On the third floor is the ominous-sounding situation room, dominated by a long conference table with phones in the center and a starkness that would lend itself to nail-biting decision-making. If the situation room calls to mind “Dr. Strangelove,” the vast adjoining emergency operations center – where liaisons from city agencies, utilities and local universities would hunker down to coordinate efforts in the event of a large-scale emergency – looks more like a Vegas betting parlor, with flat-screen TVs at almost every conceivable position. But instead of streaming sports events, the screens could track the developments in a terrorist attack or the progress of a hurricane. “In the event that something of that scale were to happen, every seat would be filled,” said deputy press secretary Chris Gilbride, indicating the 136 work stations for agency liaisons, configured in rows around the OEM’s elevated command area. At the back is the watch command room, a well-lit hive buzzing with TVs, radios and computers that can turn a Big Brother-esque gaze to virtually anywhere in the city – with the help of traffic cameras and unfiltered data from the police, fire department and Port Authority. —Cotton Delo
Climate of Fear
When a steam pipe burst in Midtown last summer, commuters in the vicinity couldn’t help but wonder whether another 9/11 was unfolding. It was another sign that the specter of terrorism is taking a toll on our nerves. The results of a study released last week found that the 9/11 attack changed the way we dream. Researchers assessed the dreams of 11 men and 33 women who ranged in age from 22 to 70. They had been recording their dreams for years, and none had relatives or friends who died in the attacks, the investigators note in the journal Sleep. The dreams after 9/11 showed more intense images. Some New Yorkers cope by denial. “There are people who don’t take fire emergencies seriously or get annoyed by security measures like showing ID to get in the building, even if that’s the protocol,” said Manhattan social worker Robert Kupferman. He called such thinking “numbing.” It’s hard to ignore the threat, thanks to campaigns like the MTA’s “See Something.” While some say the such security campaigns tap into the collective fear of “another one” seething just under the surface, others don’t agree. “I don’t know if these campaigns make people more afraid,” said Karen Greenberg, executive director of the NYU Center on Law and Security. “They make people feel they have more control.”—Lauren Wilkinson
EXCLUSIVE: FDNY Fails On Radios Leading To Injury, Union Says
By Sascha Brodsky
The FDNY’s failure to provide emergency buttons for radios led to the injury of a firefighter during a blaze last week, a union official told the Resident. For six years, union officials have been asking the FDNY to install emergency alert buttons that allow firefighters to communicate without taking off their protective gloves or unbuttoning their coats. When the button is pushed, an alert beep is broadcast to other firefighters and then the radio sends a stronger signal so the firefighter in trouble can be heard. But the button system is currently only a pilot program installed in the radios of firefighters in 30 companies in Queens. During a fire in Queens last week, a firefighter “seriously burned” his hand because he did not have an emergency alert button, said Deputy Chief Richard Alles, of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. The firefighter was injured when he had to take off his glove to activate his radio. “This incident shows we need to speed up the testing of the system,” Alles continued. He blamed the lack of the emergency buttons on the fire department’s “bureaucracy.” A fire department spokesman did not return calls seeking comment by press time. The FDNY’s radio communications system was widely criticized as unreliable during the World Trade Center attack. Since then, the department has installed higher-powered radios.
What’s On This Week
ART: In “CHRON,” The Drawing Center examines how drawing informs the multimedia work of L.A.-based artist Ruby Sterling, whose body of work includes Formica sculptures as well as spray-paint and nail polish drawings. Through March 27. drawingcenter.org
DANCE: Be the first to see new material from the dancers and choreographers in Dance New Amsterdam’s “Raw Material.” March 6-8. dnadance.org
FILM: The boys of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas are all grown up in “City of Men,” the sequel to 2002’s gritty “City of God.” At the Angelika Film Center. angelikafilmcenter.com
MUSIC: Unlikely opera singer Paul Potts shot to stardom after winning TV’s “Britain’s Got Talent.” See him at Town Hall on March 11.
THEATER: The much-anticipated revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” hits Broadway with an all-star cast featuring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard and Anika Noni Rose. At the Broadhurst Theatre.
The Whitney Museum presents its biennial report card on the state of contemporary American art with the latest installment of the Whitney Biennial. The 2008 edition of the show is so large that it stretches to the Park Avenue Armory. In the past, the show has earned a reputation for making careers – catch the latest crop of talent, plus some well-known names, through June 1. whitney.org
What’s On Credit: Sterling Ruby, “Sphere and Pedestal,” 2007. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Spotlight Credit: A still from Mika Rottenberg’s 12-minute video “Cheese” Collection of the artist