måndag 26 februari 2018

New York New York

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Fame, fortune and success – New York City at Manhattan is the place where dreams come true and illusions are broken. Here are the lights on Broadway, Wall street with the Worlds Financial Center as well as Greenwich village with all its artists and exhibitions. New York is also, however, the Harlem with black and Spanish-speaking people as well as East Village for bohemians and criminals.

It takes nine hours to fly from Stockholm to New York. The SAS Airbus 330 with 377 passengers, that leave Arlanda airport at 10 am, reaches the Newark airport at lunchtime. Between lays the difference in time. New York is six hours after Sweden and eight hours after Moscow. The flight is, however, comfortable with free lunch, free drinks and free pizzas for dinner. Each passenger gets a nice pillow, a warm blanket, earphones and a small TV-screen in the back of the chair in front of them. One can listen to music, play with the computer or choose between ten different movies. The first hours, however, the view from the window is impressing. Below are the Norwegian mountains with snow on the tops, the glaciers of Island and a lot of icebergs outside Greenland. Thanks to video-cameras in the front of and under the air-craft one can see for example take off as well as the landing in detail on the video-screen. Finally, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean and Canada at 10 000 meters height there is America – the land of dreams and glory for so many people during decades.

Centre of almost everything

Manhattan - the 57 square kilometres island that is New York City - is about 30 minutes away. The bus drives over the Washington bridge and through the Lincoln tunnel to get there. Nearly 2 million people live at Manhattan and 9.9 million people travels here every day to work. Manhattan is the Worlds Financial Centre and the place for the most important business of the world. The headquarter of the United Nations is sited here as well as TV-stations like CCN and newspapers like the New York Times, who are great symbols of the free press. No politicians or other people with power should ever dream of trying to influence over what is sent or written here. At least no journalist have to fear for their lives for doing their job and telling the truth.
Before September 11, 2001 the silhouette of Lower Manhattan was well known to the whole world. One of the reasons was the two 110 story tall twin towers of World Trade Center. Today there is just a big hole left at Ground Zero - and a lot of tourists buying souvenirs. Deep down in the hole the metro is going again as before on repaired tracks. Soon a 640 meters high “Freedom Tower” is coming up. Till then the salesmen of postcards, books and t-shirts will go on selling souvenirs with the old Manhattan silhouette. The Americans just refuse to admit the result of the terrorist attack.  

The man and his mission

- Know the facts, says Harry Roland, a black nice looking, former security guard at the southern entrance to Ground Zero. This is history. Don´t let it be a mystery!
Harry Roland survived the terrorist attacks thanks to his 7 year old son Devon. He used to be at work early every morning, but September 11 he went with Devon to school. Now, he has made it his mission to tell people the truth.
- My boss phoned me. He said a hijacked jet airliner had crashed at full force into the north tower near the 95th floor. I didn´t believe him. Fifth teen minutes later another airliner crashed into the south tower at about the 90th floor. First the south tower collapsed and then the north tower sending debris and ashes throughout Manhattan.
The Twin towers, however, were not the only buildings crashed that day. Seven buildings collapsed. Later four more buildings had to be demolished brick by brick. The last one still stands as a threat to the surroundings about 60 stores high.
- There were not a single window left in the whole area, says Harry Roland. All buildings were damaged except St Paul Chapel that was built in the 1700s. It was berried under concrete dust but not a single window was broken.
About 3 700 people died that day Harry Roland says. That is about 900 more than the official numbers. The dead were employees, rescue workers and guests but also workers who illegally had been in the US for several years. Their families can expect no help from the authorities.


In every way the greatest

Still New York City has its 103-story tall Empire State Building. It is open for 3,5 million visitors per year every day from 9.30 till midnight. After a security check as at an airport the visitors goes with 73 different elevators to the 80th floor in 45 seconds. Each elevator take up to 50 persons each time. Other elevators take them further on to the observatory at the 86th floor, where the view over Manhattan is absolutely fantastic.
- At the moment you have to wait one and a half hour, says a security guard. There is always a terrible long queue to the elevators of Empire State Building.
Manhattan has got its character from its inhabitants. Most of them were once immigrants. Therefore, they are people of all kinds and colours from the whole world. Among the most famous quarters are Chinatown, Little Italy, Chelsea, Harlem and Greenwich village. Outside Manhattan there are Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. In the middle of it all is the very large Central Park with 26 000 trees, 36 bridges, 8968 benches to sit on, two lakes, 275 different types of birds and 25 millions of visitors each year. Manhattan also have a lot of garbage, since there are no special garbage-rooms at for example the restaurant. Therefore the garbage sacks grow to mountains on the sidewalks each day, before garbage trucks collects them during the night. They say that there are at least ten rats on each human individual at Manhattan, which means around 20 000 – or is it 120 000 000?! - rats in the cloaks and sewage pipes. 

Fast food and musicals

There are shops of all kinds at Manhattan. From exclusive furriery and design models of clothes to second hand clothes at the shop of the Salvation Army. All is modern and no one cares what one choose. Everything is fashion and all is accepted in New York. Between almost every shop is a restaurants, bar or café. The people seem to eat all the time - and they do not seem to cook the food by themselves. The whole system is based on fast food like hot dogs, soaps, hamburgers, sandwiches and above all byffés with everything from vegetables to fried fish, meat balls and octopus to all sorts of lamp chicken and the most delicious fruit. Pick what you want and pay after weight the same price for everything. The food is warm, so bring it home or eat where you stand. It doesn´t matter.
There are also fantastic restaurants like the most beautiful Russian Tearoom that has four floors, all with different looks. It is sited next to the famous Carnegie hall, where the greatest artists perform.
- There is a bear ballroom with ten arched panels of Russian performing circus bears, says a tourist guide.
There is always something to do in New York. There are sightseeing-buses everywhere, boats for cruises on the Hudson river and helicopters to take a ride around town in. Broadway is the greatest theatre district in the world. All the famous musicals are shown here. After two years “Mamma Mia”, based of the music of the Swedish group Abba, still is a big success among musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Nine and Chicago. Here the party seems the never end at jazz- and nightclubs. Limousines are gliding up in front of the theatres and yellow taxi cars hurries here and there. Now and then, day and night, the sirens from police cars and ambulances is howling like in the movies. In the middle of it all loneliness is a problem. But better party, people seem to think. Better stay busy and do not think about it.
Monica Antonsson

From the beginning there were only Indians. Then came the viking Leif Eriksson from Iceland around 1003, before Christopher Columbus “discovered” America 1492. Later came the Dutch and the English explorers who started to build the New World. Today nearly half of Americas 1 300 000 000 people can trace their roots back to millions and millions of immigrants.

New York got its name of an Englishman who probably came from York in England. He worked for a Dutch company, so the island he explored – that today is Manhattan or New York City – got the name New Amsterdam after the capital of Holland. Manhattan and the rest of America is characterized by the immigrants. One quarter is for example called Chelsea after a Chelsea in London. Chinatown and Little Italy got their names after the people who once settled here.

The Golden Land
It was the Englishmen who first did business with slaves from Africa. From 1740 till 1810 special head hunters forced 60 000 slaves per year to come till they were about 11 millions and the system was forbidden 1865. In other words, the first immigrants did not come by free will. Later, at the end of the 1800s, Italians, Poles, Armenians and Russians arrived as well as Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Very soon there were also coming people from France, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia. Some had left their homelands because of a catastrophe like an earthquake or famine. In Ireland, for example, a terrible disease in the mid 1800s destroyed the main farm crop – potatoes – for several years in a row. The famine lasted many years and nearly 2 million people died of starvation. Almost as many people left for America. When there was a famine in Sweden in the 1860s, whole villages packed up and left for America. But many immigrants fled for other reasons. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, thousands of Russian Jews were killed in terrible pogroms, which were massacres often organized by the government and sometimes even by churches. Millions of Jews left Russia and eastern Europe because of these pogroms, as well as other kinds of religious persecution. To them America was a “Golden land” where they could get a decent job, go to free school and eat well as long as they were willing to work. 

Three million Russians

Civil unrest and economic instability were hallmarks of Russian life in 1881. Jewish citizens were victims of violence and restrictions on their ability to live and work in their homeland. More that 3 million Russians – about half of whom were Jewish, had arrived in the United States by 1914. Two decades earlier unstable economic conditions had prompted a similar wave of Polish immigration. By 1914 over 2 million Poles had settled in United States. During the 1920s the new communist regime in Russia banned Jewish religious studies and encouraged the resettlement of Soviet Jews. Approximately 20 000 Russians came to the US then, while another 30 000 Russian immigrants arrived following World War II. Soviet restrictions during the Cold War limited the number of people allowed to leave for the United States, but in the 1970s Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate once again. Many of the latter Russians immigrants settled in New York and California. By Russians means even Ukrainians and people from the Belarus and the Baltic countries. At the time for the first World War the emigration was sharply curtailed by the Bolshevik seizure and consolidation of power. Since this time, Russian immigration has been extremely limited, but has risen dramatically since the demise of the Soviet Union in late 1991.

Ellis Island in New York

Many Russians had to leave their homes during the night to escape mobs that were beating and murdering people. They had to go to a big town with a port somewhere to be able to reach a boat heading for America. There were often several difficulties to face. Sometimes the government did not want boys and young men to leave, since they wanted them to serve in the army. Other problems was thieves  who stole the gods, while they were sleeping. Some had to pay bribes to the border guards to be able to cross the border to another country. The trip overland sometimes took weeks. Then they might have to wait two weeks or longer at the port before the ship was ready to depart. With a sailing ship the trip to America could take from 40 days to six months. By the late 1800s the steamships took over the business which made the trip faster – from six to thirty-two days. Like most other immigrants the Russians came to America in poverty. Less than six per cent brought more that 50 dollars with them. 
Almost all immigrants came to Ellis Island in New York, that today is the American Family Immigration History Center, where people interested in genealogy can find their relatives. Ellis Island is sited on a small island close the Statue of Liberty only 15 minutes way with the ferry from lower Manhattan.

Most of them got in

According to a United States law the ship companies had to pay the return fare for anyone who had to be sent back from America. So before leaving, ship doctors examined all passengers to see if they had any illnesses like typhus, yellow fever, smallpox or cholera that would prevent them from being allowed to enter the United States. The doctors vaccinated and disinfected them all. Their arrival in New York was an ending as well as a beginning – the midway point in a voyage of transformation that had begun thousands of miles away.
Ellis Island was like a miniature city for the immigrants. There were waiting rooms, dormitories for over a thousand people, restaurants, a hospital, baggage room, post office, banks to change foreign money, a railroad ticket office, medical and legal examination rooms, baths, laundries, office areas for charities and church groups and courtrooms. Ellis Island was the last hurdle the immigrants had to pass before they were to enter the country.
For most the experience was over in four or five hours, when they were curtly waved down a flight of stairs toward the exit and out into the New World. Following signs marked “New England” and “West” most of the immigrants quickly dispersed to distant towns and cities around the country. For one in a four of the final destination was Manhattan. That is also where most of their descendants live today.
Monica Antonsson



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