•March 27, 2017 • 1 Comment

The pro-choice vs pro-life argument has taken place long before our current political climate, and so has the fight for female reproductive rights. It wasn’t until the 1960s that birth control became available — and even then, it wasn’t always accessible due to states opposing the sales of birth control pills. Women like Margaret Sanger advocated for birth control and a better way for women to take charge of their own health, strongly supporting the use of birth control so that women could control unwanted pregnancies to have have better and healthier lives. Sanger opened her own birth control clinic, and fought for women’s reproductive rights through lobbying for the legality of birth control in the US. More famously, the Roe v Wade decision of 1973 famously declared that state bans on abortion were unconstitutional.

Despite all this progress, Trump and Congress have pushed more and more votes and bills in an effort to repeal Obamacare and, in effect, defund Planned Parenthood by stripping all federal funding for the organization.

There is a common misconception here. Federal tax dollars do not go to paying for abortions. Instead, it goes to reimburse Medicaid claims, preventative medicine, cancer screenings, HIV tests, as well as to birth control.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would take away access to health care from patients who depend on Medicaid (60% of all Planned Parenthood patients do!). This is especially important because the majority of Planned Parenthood patients are people of lower income groups. In many cases, there aren’t enough other medical care providers, especially for reproductive health services, to replace Planned Parenthood in the event of defunding.This is not the first time that disadvantaged people and communities are placed in an even more disadvantageous position. In “Nuclear Wasteland”, Valerie Kuletz describes nuclear waste affecting indigenous peoples, writing that although it is an issue that affects all people, this “price we pay for our freedom…is paid by those with disproportionately less power” (Kuletz 95).

Defunding Planned Parenthood matters because access to healthcare should be a universal and basic right.

Safe access to birth control and abortions protects women. In an article about repealing the 8th, Leslie Spillane, an Irish women, wrote “Abortions happen, everyday. Making them illegal doesn’t stop woman needing, or wanting them, or inflicting them on themselves — there will always be coat hangers, broken bottles, painkillers, stairs to fall down, fists to hit, medicines to swallow” (O’Shea). Ireland is one example of what shutting down Planned Parenthood would do (SHUTTING DOWN not defunding).

Planned Parenthood has an estimate of 2.5 million patients. This means that one in five women in the United States visits Planned Parenthood at least once. The sheer number of people they help requires us to stop and re-evaluate the importance of this organization.

Planned Parenthood EDUCATES. For teens and children growing up in this country, Planned Parenthood often works to educate the public on their reproductive rights as well as sexual education. This helps to decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancies and prevents the spreading of STD’s and HIV. In “Greetings From the Salton Sea”, Kim Stringfellow investigates the Salton Sea issue, writing that “perhaps a better understanding of these interconnected processes will allow us to make much more informed political decisions regarding the environmental and ecological concerns of today and those of the future” (35). Similarly, Planned Parenthood spreads accurate information to voters and potential voters and actively promotes access to health care.

Works Cited

Haberman, Maggie. “Trump Tells Planned Parenthood Its Funding Can Stay If Abortion Goes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

“How Federal Funding Works at Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Planned Parenthood|. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Kuletz, Valerie. The Tainted Desert: Environmental Ruin in the American West. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Stringfellow, Kim. Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005. Chicago: The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2011. Web.


12 Trillion Tons

•September 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment


There’s not many classes in an undergraduate college environment that allow you to dedicate all of its’ time to focusing on one major issue that not only affects New York City in a deep socioeconomic and environmental way, but also to promote mental growth and understanding within yourself. Choosing a topic for a semester long project requires passion to avoid creating something that is not truly good; good work will only come from your own interest. This is a project in which you spend copious amounts of physical, mental and emotional energy studying a certain area or problem of New York City with all the five senses involved in making the final product.

That being said, there are many sociopolitical issues in NYC that revolve around social justice and inequality- and rightfully so. NYC has the richest of the rich, and the poorest of the poor. When I walk out of my apartment, say good morning to my doorman, and continue onto Union Square, the wealth disparity is obvious within seconds.  There are women with children on the streets, unable to give their child a comfortable & safe place to grow up while employees exit Credit Suisse with their six-figure paychecks after accomplishing absolutely nothing (if anyone can explain to me what Credit Suisse actually does in terms of offering a legitimate service to customers, let me know, because no one has been able to explain it to me yet). And, however much frustration this causes me, I know I cannot write about this as a topic without the guilt of hypocrisy.

This is exactly where the difficulty of deciding my topic came in. I grew up with everything I could ever want in life- loving parents who had good jobs within a bubble community in Connecticut.  I fundamentally do not feel that it is appropriate for me to write about the wealth in America in a negative light; that corporate America is evil. I am a product of corporate America. I would not be at NYU if I was not a product of corporate America. My parents worked for conglomerate advertising agencies that dispute against FDA regulation in order to maximize advertisements for their pharmaceutical clients. And as fundamentally incorrect as it is, they did it to raise me and give me the best life they saw fit. And I love them more than anyone could know. Therefore, to dedicate my time in exposing the lies and hypocrisies of these corporations that institutionalize inequality- be it racial, gendered, etc., would make me a hypocrite myself. At the end of the day, I will not attempt to make empty, opinionated statements that I cannot say I have experience before in my life. It is not my place.

So, that being said, I have decided to steer clear of social justice issues to not only avoid offending other parties, but to also avoid offending my family. Please understand, this is not because I do not find them unimportant, it is truly the opposite. I want to focus on something that I can study, raise awareness for, and hopefully change that comes from the bottom of my heart.

I have, however, always been interested in environmental science, and have tried to take an environmental science-related course every year since my Sophomore year of High School. Environmental issues are extremely underrated. The damage of our environment is something bigger than humanity itself- and surely NYC had to have some pretty prevalent environmental issues being one of the most urban and dense areas in the world. After a little research, I found the perfect topic.

12 Trillion Tons

Just read these websites. If the statistic do not make your stomach churn like it did me, then hopefully my final project will. New York City alone, a city of 8 million people, produces 12 trillions tons of waste a year. That is 10,000-12,000 tons of waste a day.  That means each person produces pounds of trash each day. My project will focus on three major waste management sites in New York City; the Newtown Creek industrial park in Brooklyn, the Northshore Marine Transfer Park in Queens, and Freshkills Park in Staten island. I am hoping to get access into the Transfer Park in Queens in order to get footage, interviews, and knowledge into the infrastructure behind it all. I am going to get footage of Freshkills Park, one of the most impressive transformations of a massive landfill into a natural park in the world. I went to Newtown Creek recently to capture some photographs of how its done and where it goes, only to realize just how much actually goes into the whole process in the first place.


Some perspective: 1 billion vs. 1 trillion

This project is not a criticism on the actual management of waste of NYC. In fact, NYC’s waste management infrastructure is probably one of the best out there. Just visiting the Newtown Creek waste management site gave me a newfound respect for the hundreds of workers who deal with it all every day (and I went on a Sunday). It would be impossible for anyone to know that 12 trillion tons of waste are produced in the first place. But where these 12 trillion tons go in the first place is what I want to explore, and the many detrimental facets that are caused by it.

Newtown Creek Industrial Park & Waste Management Site

I was not allowed access into the sites so I had to do my best to sneak around the creek area and get as close into the warehouses as I could. I am looking forward to getting deeper into the process behind waste and recycling both. The NYC recycling infrastructure is very advanced, and if used more could reduce the 12 trillion statistic greatly. It would also reduce the many other environmental harmful facets that come out of the fact that 12 trillion tons of waste, coming from one city, needs to go somewhere in the first place (which is certainly not anywhere near the NYC metropolitan area).

So why does this project matter? What will all this time and effort actually be for? In my opinion, awareness is not enough. This project will be the means in which I educate myself and those who look at it to feel inspired to, yes, “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. However, I am also taking many classes on Product and User Experience design. I want to combine this project with the tech skills I am accumulating to ultimately design a website and application prototype that can DO something about this issue. Whether it be tracking your own trash, identifying products with packaging that can actually be recycled vs. what cannot, or even both- I want to make something that helps the problem, and ultimately attempt at reducing that terrifying 12 trillion tons.

Stay tuned with this blog to see this white girl from Connecticut get her hands dirty and try to make our environment even a tiny bit better.

Thank you for the read,


Affective atmosphere of Mandela Garden

•September 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment



Mandela community garden on 267 West 126th Street embodies Jane Bennett’s term “vibrant matter” or “thing-power” (Bennett, 20). Bennett argues that nonhuman matters that we usually perceive as lifeless and inactive are in fact alive and exert power to create impact. Mandela garden, currently imperiled by New York City’s “affordable” housing project, is a public space that serves as an important social infrastructure to the Harlem neighborhood. With a paucity of green-space and open space in the area, the community garden is powerful in connecting Harlem residents, facilitating community activities, and providing a scarce space for the neighborhood to have direct interactions with nature. Mandela garden influences the experience of residents in the community and the formation of perceptions on the neighborhood. The affective role of Mandela garden develops from its vibrant greenery that exudes a sense of warmth and liveliness despite the surrounding graffiti walls and rundown houses that seem lackluster.

mandelaGarden copy.jpg


However, the current situation of Mandela garden against the development of ridiculously expensive housing units for the neighborhood places a complex layer on top of such affective role. The poster up on the garden fence that reads “#savemandelagarden” in bold letters seems to scream for help to pedestrians who pass by the garden. The garden with the poster suddenly creates an “affective atmosphere,” as Teresa Brennan explains, that alters the impression of the garden as well as its surrounding (Brennan, 1). The warm greenery of the garden with the protest sign on the fence induces an affect of vulnerability, danger, and fury. Brennan mentions “transmission of affect,” which means that “we are not self-contained in terms of our energies.. and there is no secure distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ‘environment” (Brennan, 6). Due to the combination of affects I perceive from Mandela garden, my impression of the garden and the neighborhood alter as I feel tension and great conflict in the atmosphere of the surrounding environment. 

-Sumin Choi

Jane Bennett, Preface, Chapters 1 & 2 in Vibrant Matter, 2010 

Theresa Brennan, from The Transmission of Affect, 2004 

Jerome Avenue (165th to 184th Street) – Disruption of A Communities’ Affect

•September 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Jerome Avenue is home to a diverse community of local barbershops, diners and auto repair shops that have been around for decades. These small primarily immigrant owned shops have brought culture and ambience to the area, through the services they provide. This element reminds me of Teresa Brennan’s “The Transmission of Affect”, which identifies in order to understand “how one feels the others’ affects, or the “atmosphere, has to take account of physiology as well as the social, psychological factors that generated the atmosphere”. When going to a new place, it is the sensations of sights, smells and the physical factors that changes how we feel about the environment and atmosphere we’re in, a unique element that becomes embedded in our minds. As these physiological factors get torn down by the rezoning plans, it will cause drastic changes to not only the members of the direct community in the area but also surrounding communities. This leads me to my research on the logistics behind the Rezoning Plan set for Jerome Avenue.

Through further research into the Rezoning Plan, recently approved by the City Council, I discovered the controversy over this plan between the locals and city council. The rezoning plan is a part of the de Blasio effort to provide more affordable housing in the near future. Changes to the area will affect areas around 165th street and 184th street on Jerome Avenue. The promise of transforming “the corridor by broadening permitted uses, allowing housing, and most importantly affordable housing, schools, and other community facilities where none are permitted today under the outdated zoning”, stated by City Planning Chairwomen, comes at the cost of eliminating 77 local businesses and displacing 584 employees. Already, members of the community are facing challenges as auto repair shops are no longer able to renew their lease and facing limited options in terms of where they will go once the rezoning plan hits full on.

I intend to approach the project from an objective manner and observe the impacts as it unfolds both through interacting with the direct community and by following the physical effects that takes place. As pointed out in Jane Bennet’s “Vibrant Matter”, outside of “human designs and practices”, which we tend to focus on, the “thing power: the curious ability of inanimate things to animate, to act, to produce effects dramatic and subtle”, can tell us the role that these physical structures have in public life and how that is about to all change with the demolition of these structures.


Works Cited:

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell, 2004. 

The (Changing) Affect of Jackson Heights

•September 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

My close friends and I have grown up in Jackson Heights all my life — but within the past few years, we weren’t able to quite pinpoint why the neighborhood was starting to “feel” so different.

In Jane Bennett’s “Vibrancy of Matter,” she challenges the notion that matter is lifeless and inactive. Instead, she argues in support of matter’s active power to shape experiences and perceptions. In addition, Teresa Brennan’s “The Transmission of Affect” discusses how affect has the ability to alter “…the biochemistry and neurology of the subject. The ‘atmosphere’ or environment literally gets into the individual” (1).  The subjects I chose for my second round of images were inspired by Bennet’s exploration of the affective role nonhuman materials play in public life and Teresa Brennan’s discussion of the biological impact an environment has on individuals due to transmission of affect.

As Bennett states, matter is alive because it is capable of making a difference. Physical matter of housing units, public spaces, and merchants have a deep impact on the social, economic and cultural fabric of Jackson Heights. The arrival of a non-immigrant demographic in Jackson Heights coincides with the arrival of new tastes and expectations. These new tastes and expectations are personified through the forms of “vibrant matter” such as the construction of condos, the re-construction of public spaces, and the removal of local merchants.


Jackson Heights Resident Looks at Poster on New Construction of Old “Apna Bazaar”

One subject of choice was the reconstruction of “Apna Bazaar,” a local grocery store that predominately served Jackson Height’s South Asian residents. I never paid much attention to the affect of the grocery store until it was stripped away and replaced by construction. To me, the only affective remains of Apna Bazaar is from the local advertisements placed by South Asian professionals on the construction billboard. Once the billboard is gone, the construction is lifted, and the new project is revealed, the physical neighborhood will feel less reflective of its South Asian residents.


The “New Jackson Heights”

Another subject of choice is a residential condo near “Diversity Plaza”. Although this condo has been present in Jackson Heights for a while, it was one of the few buildings that always seemed odd and out of place to my friends and I. This building felt irrelevant and amusingly out-of-place. This is may be due to the fact that “Diversity Plaza,” construction of a new luxury condo, and new storefronts didn’t exist (pictured below).

With the recent developments, the “ratty local stores” feel like the outlier and no longer suit the affect of the “new Jackson Heights.” Suddenly, this condo feels like the only physical matter that makes sense with the affect of the new environment.

With these new developments, immigrants are pressured to either flee from or assimilate to a neighborhood that no longer serves them. Thus, nonhuman matter, or “vibrant matter,” has altered the course of events for immigrants living in Jackson Heights.

Before, I couldn’t understanding why my neighborhood felt so different. After reading Bennett’s and Brennan’s work, I have a new awareness of how “vibrant matters” can cause affective change and have developed an understanding of the deep-rooted impact transmission of affect can have on myself, my friends, and other long-time residents of Jackson Heights.


By Mahin Rahaman

LIC 44th Drive – the Inconsiderate Rezoning

•September 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The moment I walked out of Court Square Station on 44th Drive of Long Island City, I felt a completely different atmosphere with Manhattan. It was a Sunday afternoon and that area was dead- there were few people on the street, all factories had their roller gates shut, countless buildings with “Work Permit” signs, 5 parking lots along 44nd Drive were almost empty. I also noticed scattered trashes on the ground and inadequate infrastructure. Walking a few blocks down to 47th Ave, Long Island City suddenly surprised me with a completely different look, several luxurious skyscrapters that serves as apartment buildings stand next to one another. From my point of view, most of those buildings are at least 20 stories high, as they blocked most of the sky view. The streets and lawns around the apartment area were packed with people living in the neighborhood. The sheer difference between two areas in LIC reminds me of “The Transmission of Affect” by Teresa Brennan, which points out “the transmission of affect” as “the dichotomy between the individual and the environment and the related opposition between the biological and social”. As individuals are constantly influenced by the environment they are in, the “effects” shaped by environment will not only influence how people feel, but also how they tend to behave. This links me immediately to my research on rezoning project in LIC and its effects on local community.


Photo1: Dense apartment buildings in LIC residential area

Through research, I learned about the dispute on the rezoning project of two city-owned lots where 44th Drive meets the East River, which is part of the overarching project Mayor de Blasio announced in 2017 to have Long Island City as one of the dozen or so neighborhoods the city planned to rezone as part of his plan to create an estimated 300,000 affordable units. The rezoning area includes 5-40 44th Drive, which is currently a Department of Transportation facility, and across the street at 4-99 44th Drive, which includes a Department of Education parking lot and the shuttered Water’s Edge restaurant, which has already been torn down under the plan. TF Cornerstone, the company assigned by NYC Economic Development Corp (EDC) for the rezoning project, promised to bring estimated 1,000 units – 250 of which would be deemed affordable. With only 25% of affordable units, TF Cornerstone gained authorization to build on city-owned land. LIC community held rallies against this project, as EDC never seem to be hearing what the community wants. There has been no public engagement events yet for this rezoning project. “This is completely unacceptable,” said Lisa Deller, chair of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee. “You have to understand that we are looking for economic diversity. This is city-owned land, it is our land…and if it is not 100 percent affordable it should be 50 percent affordable to people with modest means.” The major disputes lying in this project involves using public land for private and corporate interests, overdevelopment, lack of open space and school seats.


Photo2: Department of Transportation facility involved in rezoning project

Apart from those disputes between two parties, I’m willing to take a objective perspective towards the precarity of the problem. Jane Bennet’s “Vibrate Matter: A Political Ecology of things” raises a term “thing-power” which offers an “alternative to the object as a way of encountering the nonhuman world”. Through this ecology project, I will not only interview parties involved in the project, but also pay attention to the “thing-power”- objects, infrastructures and other evidences that are capable of speaking for themselves.


Work Cited:

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. 



Vlog Post 3

•May 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

What really is trash?  Is one person’s trash another’s treasure?  Nelson Molina certainly believes so!  Nelson Molina is a, now retired, NYC Department of Sanitation worker who, for over 30 years, collected items that were throw out, and stored them in a warehouse in Harlem.  In an interview with Hyperallergic, Molina describes his ability to spot treasure through a trash bag often by listening or observing the shape and feel of the bag.  I found this to be a really interesting addition as the aesthetics of garbage are most often to hide it away in opaque bags.  As I looked further into the museum, I began to think how these things ended up there.  Did people just trow things out?  Did someone die?  Was it an accident?  How much in value do ya think is thrown away every year?  I wonder what would happen if someone who visited found one of their own heirlooms.

I find this situation to be a bit confusing.  On one hand, finders keepers, but what if it was an accident?  Are there ways to ensure we don’t get rid of precious things?  Are there better places to discard of unwanted items still with value?  What I think is missing from people’s interaction with discard is a lack of creativity when it comes to repurposing or finding ways to more actively get rid of things.  The disconnect and lack of conversation around what to do with things we don’t want causes the anxiety around cleaning.  Studies, and mothers, say that a clean working environment makes keeping thoughts organized easier, but at what cost?  What can be done with things we don’t want?  At first, I thought this museum was a really interesting idea.  However, after looking into it further, I have found it is not often open to the public.  I was confused, as I think to have a museum of collected garbage should be for people to reflect on their own consumption.  I believe the lack of communication around consumption and convenience is harmful to all of us.  The issue, while at the surface, becomes ingrained in us.

We like to be healthy, to pay for organic, and to but all the artisan ally packaged goods, pick out the gluten free and the vegan, but we still aren’t doing much of our part in understanding the value of our consumption.  Since the development of agriculture, we have been able to produce our own consumption, yet more than ever, we rely on the convenience of people packaging our desires, and dumping the responsibility of consumerism on us.  I think the trash museum shows how even valuable or personal things are temporary, and we are always looking to change things up, and move on from items.  We crave more, but hen have to move, and can’t bring it all.  Or worse, we are gifted more space, and thus the desire to fill it.  Without communication between the person, their garbage, and the collector, there is no easy way to remember accidentally throwing away your wedding ring, or precious family photo.  The way we interact with our garbage, “tie it off, throw it to the side, and let it be someone else’s job” does not foster a positive feedback.  It becomes a lack of a thought, and without an inhibitor, consumerism is free to flourish like a virus.  Its is free to run a muck, and alter our perception.  To recycle is to do the better thing, to buy organic is to do the better thing, so if we do more of that, we can just throw everything else out, right?  Does it matter how much we consume so long as we make sure we leave it to someone else to be disposed of properly?  Or worse, do we trust those who don’t know how to properly recycle not to cause the whole lot to be wasted?


The Trash museum:

Vlog post 1

•April 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This is unbelievably inefficient as there is no communication between either party, rather only a negative feedback loop.  I believe the precarity exists in the lack of communication largely due to a desire to distance oneself from trash.  In this day and age, every company thinks they have the thing you really need.  How do they do that?  Packaging.  Think about it.  If a company just sold you their product without a label, how would you ever know what you’re getting?  Sure you could look at it, but what if it’s a knockoff?  Well. You can always check for certain distinguishable markings, or better yet, register the code on the side of the box online!  All of these little things, including the product’s key features, require a lot more space than on the product itself, plus, who would ever be caught wearing the tag?  (Unless its the sticker on a hat, but that’s different, I guess?).  Well….. Don’t worry, because you can recycle it!  Easy peasy.  But there is so much more.

What is garbage?  Garbage is the end product of something of value.  At some point in the lifecycle of an object in a consumer capitalist economy becomes zero at which point it becomes equal.  Equal to literally anything “who’s” value has officially “died”.  What do we do with things of no value?  We can’t simply keep it lying around, because in a consumer mindset, what is something valueless but a nuisance? We trash it.  Along with the rest of the trash.  A ripped t-shirt, a banana peel, tissues, food wrappers, coffee cups, and whatever else someone decides This needs to go.  So what do we do with all of our waste?  Well, that for which we see a possible future, we can recycle.  Recycling is great, is important, however, does not even begin to scratch the surface of the issue.  The main issue at hand is consumerism, however I can’t even begin to get into that yet.  But it’s ever-present.  So I think it’s important to note.  I guess I could call that precarity, for now.

“First, the only way to find things out about what happens when complex objects … is to carry out such interactions – it has to be done live, with no control sample.  Objects here should also be understood to mean processes embodied as objects, as elements in a composition.  Every element is an explosion, a passion or capacity settled temporarily into what passes for a stable state.” -(fuller 1)

The system is giant, so for now let’s start basic, with a trash chute and compactor, an invisible highway of waste.  On either side of this system are a host of people interacting with trash.  The act-ants of the system are the residents, constantly feeding the loop with new purchases, old clothes, etc.  they act with the system, and it’s maintenance crew.  The assembly of the system is a series of funnels which continue to compact waste, but require human act-ants in order to complete the assembly of the complete system.  The hard working people who are responsible for the pick up and drop off of the conspicuously dark bags filled with heavily compacted nastiness.  Each time they interact with the human, waste becomes further compiled, garbage bags of bags which are thrown into garbage bags for garbage bags of garbage.

Which brings me back around to the fundamental issue which I mentioned earlier.  At this time I but only have questions.  Is air-tight, sealed, out of sight, out of mind the best way to interact with trash?  Is it the most comfortable?  What is waste and who is responsible for creating it?  Who manufactures waste, and who is responsible for the redistribution of it?  What is mechanic about the process?  What are the physical limits of the system?