The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Liberty Island to Reopen Amid Government Shutdown

Posted by vmsalama on October 12, 2013

I had an amazing view of Lady Liberty around sunset tonight. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state would pay about $61,600 a day to reopen Liberty Island on Sunday (tomorrow) through Oct. 17. If the government shutdown is not resolved by then, officials said, they will renegotiate to keep it open.

I haven’t been over to the Statue since I was in grade school — I might have pay the old gal a visit. PS — I took this photo from Battery Park – one of my favorite places in NYC. They’ve truly done wonders with it!

Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in Battery Park, Cuomo, Debt, Government Shutdown, New York, Obamacare, Statue of Liberty, Uncategorized, Washington | Leave a Comment »

Sunset from Battery Park

Posted by vmsalama on October 10, 2013

Been spending a lot of time in Battery Park these days….did you know the southern shoreline of Manhattan has long been known as the Battery, and was a popular promenade since at least the 17th century….It is also home to the East Coast Memorial, which commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II, and several other memorials. The city has done some extraordinary things with this neighborhood since the tragic September 11th attacks (the World Trade Center is only 4 blocks away from where I’m standing right now).

Anyway, we’ve had some storms blow in and out of the city this week and with them, some extraordinary sunsets, pointing my camera towards downtown Jersey City. I’m so proud to have taken these photos — I AM NOT a professional photographer, but I don’t think these are half bad (these were taken on my cell phone and I did not use photoshop or any special effects — what you see is what I saw)!!!  What do YOU think?

Sunset -- October 7, 2013 (Photo by Vivian Salama)

Sunset — October 7, 2013 (Photo by Vivian Salama)

Sunset -- October 9, 2013 (Photo by Vivian Salama)

Sunset — October 9, 2013 (Photo by Vivian Salama)

Posted in Battery Park, Hudson River, Jersey City, New Jersey, New York, sunset | Leave a Comment »

Arab-Americans Set to Play Key Role in US Election

Posted by vmsalama on November 4, 2012

By Vivian Salama

Al-Monitor (click here for original link)

Arab-Americans are poised to play a critical role in the US presidential election.   Numbering about 4 million, they’re heavily concentrated in several battleground states — including Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia — where every vote will count in a race that many consider too close to call.

A mid-September survey of 400 voters conducted by the Arab American Institute revealed that President Barack Obama leads Republican candidate Mitt Romney among Arab-Americans, 52% to 28%, with 16 percent of Arab Americans still undecided. This compares to the 67% to 28% lead Obama held over John McCain among Arab Americans in 2008, signaling a potential loss of some 100,000 voters for Obama, according to AAI.

A substantial drop in Arab-American support for Obama, relative to 2008, accompanied by the large number of undecided voters, especially in key swing states, could be a signal to the present and future candidates.

The Arab-American political community had its challenges following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Patriot Act, arrests, detentions and deportations targeted members of the community. A New York Police Department surveillance program and opposition to building mosques and Islamic community centers, like the Park51 center near Ground Zero, preoccupied the community’s political leaders. Instead of campaigning for broader national and international issues, Arab-Americans found themselves fighting as much, or more than ever, for their civil liberties. (more…)


Posted in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Christian, Culture, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Lobby, Media, Middle East, New York, NYPD, Palestinians, Politics, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Social Media, Sudan, Terrorism, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

See What I See: Rediscovering Greater New York

Posted by vmsalama on January 5, 2012

More than a month back in New York and I continue to marvel at the beauty around me. New York is an amazing place in winter (especially now that the holidays are over and the hordes of tourists, gone!!! With all due respect tourists: you bring out my inner -sidewalk-rage in ways I can’t describe.) Here are some new shots from the city and in Westchester County.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Park Avenue at night/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Westchester County/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

East Village/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Somewhere in Westchester!/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tappan Zee Bridge from Tarrytown, NY/Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in New York | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Back in the concrete jungle…

Posted by vmsalama on December 16, 2011

I’ve always found New York to be a beautiful place. The people are amazing to watch. The fashionistas. The crazies. The businessmen in suits. The ladies in fur (sorry PETA). I especially love the buildings. There was a time when I believed my calling (well, one of my callings) was architecture  (although I confess, it took me three tries to spell it correctly!! Thank you, spell check)

I’ve been back about 3 weeks now. Perhaps I have yet to re-embrace the hustle and bustle attitude of the city, but I just can’t stop myself from looking up and around me at the beauty that’s everywhere here. That said, I thought to take a break from revolutions and foreign policy to share a few nice shots I’ve taken around the city. Enjoy!

Empire State Building/Photo by Vivian Salama

New York's Tallest Building, the Empire State Building (Did you know where are 1,860 steps in the Empire State building from the street to the 102nd floor?! /Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

City Hall, Lower Manhattan/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

5th Avenue/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Whitestone Bridge from the Upper East Side/Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in 5th Avenue, City Hall, Empire State Building, Journalism, New York, Upper East Side | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Facebook and the NYPD

Posted by vmsalama on December 6, 2011

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times today about officers with the New York Police Department making malicious comments on Facebook about parade goers at the recent West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn. The officers in question referred to people as “animals” and “savages.” One comment said, “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out,” according to the report by William Glaberson.

I’m a bit torn on how i feel about this. While I’m certainly an advocate of free speech (and not naive to prejudices in the world and, certainly, among police forces across the country), I do feel that certain professions must do more to punish their own for expressing certain opinions on the web when it goes against their practice. The NYPD apparently has restrictions on officers who post “disrespectful remarks” on the internet — but how can they “police” all the remarks of the 34,500 officers in the NYPD?

In Journalism, for example, I am a big fan of restricted social media because while journalists are entitled to their opinions, certain opinions run the risk of jeopardizing objectivity. If that journalist is linked to a news organization, it threatens the objectivity of the entire newspaper/network, or whatever.For police officers, I suppose it goes back to any amendment that judges a man based on color or creed. The fourteenth amendment, for example, states that: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

But by not posting their opinions on Facebook or any other social media platform change the fact that these men have an obvious bias? Would their treatment of anyone from, in this case, the West Indies, be any different or any less apparent had they not posted their remarks? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

On a related note, I’d love any recs on good articles or books on policing the internet/internet security — it relates to a project I’m working on. Thanks in advance!

Photo by Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Photo by Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Posted in discrimination, Internet, New York, NYPD, racism, Social Media, West Indies Parade | Leave a Comment »

Abu Dhabi Bankrolls U.S. Students as NYU Joins Sorbonne in “Uber-Swanky” Gulf

Posted by vmsalama on September 15, 2010

By Vivian Salama

Click here for original story.

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) — When U.S. teenager Anthony Spalvieri-Kruse was considering which college to attend, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse from 7,200 miles away in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m receiving a full ride to attend, including flights and an allowance of $2,000 a year,” said Spalvieri-Kruse, now ensconced in what he calls “uber-swanky” accommodation in the United Arab Emirates. “It was pretty incredible considering that I was looking at $30,000 a year from other places.”

The 18-year-old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, is among the first students at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, which began classes this week. The college is being bankrolled by the emirate as it tries to underpin a $500 billion development plan by more than doubling investment in education this year.

NYU follows Paris’s Sorbonne University, which started offering courses in Abu Dhabi in 2006. Mubadala Development Co., an investment arm of the emirate, agreed last year to build a 93,000 square-meter campus for the French institution.

Of the 162 branch campuses in the world today, half are located in the Persian Gulf, with 25 percent in the U.A.E. alone, according to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a London-based information service. Branch campuses differ from overseas programs offered by U.S. universities in that they usually function independently from the main school and have academic and administrative support on site.

‘Urgent’ Investment

The need for investment in higher education “is absolutely urgent,” said Rafic Makki, executive director at the Office of Planning and Strategic Affairs and Higher Education at the Abu Dhabi Education Council. “We are definitely on the right track, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.”

While Dubai, located an hour and a half across the desert, built skyscrapers and glitzy malls to turn itself into a hub for tourism and finance, Abu Dhabi is trying to become a cultural center with branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums and visits from the New York Philharmonic.

Abu Dhabi has the means to do it. The emirate, which spent $20 billion bailing out Dubai’s excesses, holds about 7 percent of the world’s oil supply. Under its 22-year economic development plan, the Abu Dhabi government estimates that non- oil industries will contribute half of total gross domestic product by 2015 versus about 40 percent today.

“From a fundamental development point of view the first and most important goal should be human capital development,” said Giyas Gokkent, chief economist at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. “It takes a long time to establish a good university. You need experienced professors, libraries, campuses.”

Closing Shop

Some U.S. universities have been and gone in the U.A.E. Washington-based George Mason University shut its doors last year in Ras al Khaimah, one of the northern emirates, citing the global economic crisis. Michigan State University closed its Dubai campus in July, six months after the bailout by Abu Dhabi.

One of the challenges is convincing students to make Abu Dhabi or Dubai their college town instead of Boston, New York or Chicago. In the 2008-2009 academic year, U.A.E. enrolment in U.S. universities jumped 24 percent from the previous year as student visas increased to pre-September 2001 levels, according the New York-based Institute of International Education.

The Abu Dhabi government plans to spend more than 1.3 billion dirhams ($350 million) on education this year, compared with 655 million dirhams in 2009 and more than six times the expenditure in 2008, according to statistics included in a preliminary government-guaranteed bond prospectus in July.

Research Spending

As much as $1 billion in academic research investments is needed per year through 2018 for Abu Dhabi to compete globally with some of the top universities in the world, Makki said.

Other colleges represented in Abu Dhabi include New York Institute of Technology, which offers a degree program, and U.A.E. University. Australia’s University of Wollongong and Canada’s University of Waterloo offer programs in Dubai.

Similar efforts have been made in Qatar, where Georgetown University and Texas A&M are among a half dozen American schools now operating in Doha’s academic hub, a 2,500-acre campus known as Education City. Like NYU, these campuses receive their funding from a government-run foundation.  (Click here to read my story on Qatar’s Education City)

The NYU campus, situated in a temporary facility near Abu Dhabi’s waterfront, will relocate to Saadiyat Island, a manmade plot by the emirate’s Tourism Development & Investment Co., known as TDIC. It’s scheduled for completion in 2013.

‘Strategic Investment’

Along with paying all costs associated with the university, Abu Dhabi will reimburse NYU for the expense of replacing the faculty staff relocating to the Middle East. Abu Dhabi has also made a $50 million gift to NYU, John Sexton, the university’s president, said in an interview earlier this year.

Of the 150 students in the first intake, about a third are American citizens and about 8 percent from the U.A.E. The rest hail from countries including China, Hungary and Russia.

Bringing NYU to Abu Dhabi “is a strategic investment just like everything else we are doing here,” Mubarak Hamad Al Muhairi, managing director of TDIC, said in an interview.

Hasnain Zaidi, 23, an Abu Dhabi native who graduated from Duke University in 2008 and now works as a consultant in the U.S., said partnerships with more universities may also convince many of the Gulf’s foreign college-bound students to stay.

“Public service, athletics, social life, personal development — none of those things was readily available at any of the options in the U.A.E.,” he said. “That’s slowly getting better, but still not completely fixed.”

Spalvieri-Kruse plans to major in mathematics and relishes the idea of classes with no more than 20 students, he said.

“Abu Dhabi doesn’t even fall in the realm of college environments most American kids consider,” he said by e-mail. “Actually seeing the town for myself totally changed things. My visit gave me the impression that everyone involved was highly invested in the success of the incoming class.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi at vsalama@bloomberg.net

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Education, Middle East, New York, New York Philharmonic, Politics, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, United States | 4 Comments »

‘Sex and City’ Sequel May Face Abu Dhabi Ban

Posted by vmsalama on May 29, 2010

by Vivian Salama 

click here for story link

May 29 (Bloomberg) — Abu Dhabi is the setting for “Sex and the City 2.” Yet the movie may never be shown there.

The Warner Bros. film, released this week in the U.S., moves its high-rolling stars from New York to one of the richest cities in the world — where it has stirred anger even before the United Arab Emirates censors decide if its sexual content is unacceptable. The first “Sex and the City” film in 2008 was banned for its risque story.

Critics of Abu Dhabi say that censorship makes it unsuitable to become a cultural hub. The emirate produces more than 7 percent of the world’s oil supply and wants to attract art, music, theater and other creative industries to help its economy diversify. The film may help boost tourism at a time when the Abu Dhabi government is aiming to lure 3 million foreign visitors a year by 2012.

“In the Middle East there are three taboos that people don’t talk about: religion, sex and politics,” said Mohammed Aboelenein, chairman of the sociology department at the U.A.E. University in Al Ain, a city in Abu Dhabi. “In the meantime we want our society to modernize. It’s contradictory.”

The new film’s scenes of the stars riding camels through the desert and confronting women in face veils are an injustice to Abu Dhabi’s diversity, said some opponents.

“In most Hollywood films, Arabs are shown either as terrorists or Bedouins,” said Aboelenein.

Sex and the City 2

Arab Stereotype

The film “identifies Abu Dhabi with camels?” asked Jack Shaheen, author of “Reel Bad Arabs,” a book about Arab stereotypes in film and television. “The producers and writers of Sex Inc. grew up with these stereotypes. It’s what they know — the mythology rather than the reality.”

Critics also note that the movie’s “Abu Dhabi” scenes were actually shot in Morocco. The National Media Council, the government body that decides which films are appropriate for viewing, said that it was never approached by the filmmakers about whether they could shoot in Abu Dhabi. A spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said that any talk of a ban on the film was merely speculation when the country had not yet been presented with a copy.

Abu Dhabi television programs and films cut clips showing nudity, physical intimacy, or scenes that are homosexual in nature. The emirate bans art or music deemed offensive to Islam. Popular websites including Skype and Flickr are blocked in most of the country.

Shooting Stars U.A.E., the distributor for all Warner Bros. films in the country, has no knowledge if the movie will be released, Roy Chacra, the company’s general manager, said in a telephone interview.

Bikinis, Bars

Until recently, Abu Dhabi was in the shadow of its less conservative neighbor, Dubai, which built its reputation as a haven for foreigners looking to join the region’s prosperity while embracing more liberal lifestyles. A mere 5-hour drive from the border of Saudi Arabia, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are tolerant to bikini-wearing beachgoers, bars and clubs.

Abu Dhabi last year provided $20 billion in assistance to its neighbor after Dubai World, a state-run holding company, moved to reschedule payment on $26 billion debt.

“Since the economic crisis, the drying up of credit, and the spate of redundancies, both expatriates and nationals have been hurt, and social tensions have increased,” said Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East studies at Durham University in the U.K., who is writing a book about Abu Dhabi.

Kissing Arrest  

Two Britons were arrested in Dubai for kissing in public, after an Emirati woman complained that the display of affection insulted her last November. A teenager in Abu Dhabi who claimed she was gang-raped faced a possible lashing for having sex out of wedlock and she retracted the accusation.

The emirate’s non-oil businesses will contribute 50 percent of its gross domestic product by 2015, adding about $167 billion per year, as stated in its 22-year economic plan.

Abu Dhabi has built a Formula One raceway, and is working on theme parks with companies including Time Warner Inc., Ferrari SpA and MGM Mirage. The government has invested 100 billion dirham ($27.2 billion) for a cultural district on Saadiyat Island, including new branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.

To contact the writer on the story: Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi at vsalama@bloomberg.net

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Censorship, Film, Islam, Media, Middle East, New York, Religion, Sexuality, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

Abu Dhabi buys Chrysler building

Posted by vmsalama on July 10, 2008

My favorite building in my hometown of New York City has been gobbled up by the wealthy Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi.  It seems that given the current economic environment in the United States, the country has no choice but to hold a bit of a garage sale!!!  For God sake, even Budweiser – “America’s Beer” – was just sold to the Belgians.  


Abu Dhabi Buys 90% Stake in Chrysler Building


The government of Abu Dhabi bought a 90 percent stake in the Chrysler Building on Tuesday for $800 million from German real estate investors and Tishman Speyer.

But while it might seem that the buyer, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, got a controlling interest in the Art Deco tower, a landmark, for that kind of money, that was not the case.

Despite having only a 10 percent holding, Tishman Speyer Properties will continue to control the property and manage it, much as it has since 1997, because it controls the land beneath the 77-story tower, with its trademark stainless steel crown, gargoyles and elevator cabs that evoke the chrome-laden autos of the 1930s.

Tishman Speyer Properties and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, an arm of the Gulf emirate government, which tends to shun publicity, did not return calls requesting comment.

Teresa Miller, a spokeswoman for Prudential Real Estate Investors, which managed the German fund, confirmed on Wednesday that “we no longer own a 75 percent stake in the Chrysler Building.”

Ms. Miller declined to disclose the fund’s sale price. But real estate executives who were told about the transaction said that Tishman Speyer sold the investment council an additional 15 percent, and that the total price was $800 million. The investment council is also negotiating to buy the retail space in the seven-story glass Trylons, or pavilion, that Tishman Speyer built next to the Chrysler Building.

Tishman Speyer and its partner, Travelers Group, bought the Chrysler Building, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, and the adjoining Kent Building in 1997 for about $220 million from a consortium of banks and the estate of Jack Kent Cooke.

Jerry I. Speyer, the chairman of Tishman Speyer, outmaneuvered competing bidders for the property by pre-emptively securing a 150-year lease with Cooper Union, which owns the land underneath the tower.

The tower was built in 1930 by Walter P. Chrysler, the automaker, and was briefly the tallest building in New York, losing out months later to the Empire State Building.

The Chrysler Building’s lobby featured African marble and chrome, and the Sky Club on the 66th floor offered spectacular views.

But by the 1970s, the building was badly in need of refurbishing.

Tishman Speyer poured $100 million into a three-year renovation, which included erecting a retail pavilion on East 42nd Street under three glass pyramids between the Chrysler Building and the 32-story Kent Building, which was not included in the sale.

Less than four years later, Travelers sold its 75 percent stake for $300 million to the German real estate fund, TMW. “Tishman Speyer will maintain a controlling interest and full decision-making authority” over the building, Mr. Speyer said at the time.

Prudential later acquired TMW and sold its share of the Chrysler Building on Tuesday. Such funds generally buy assets for five to seven years and are not interested in being long-term owners of real estate.

Ms. Miller of Prudential Real Estate said that the fund had earned a 20 percent annual return on its investment in the Chrysler Building, the last property in that fund to be sold before it closes.

Last year, TMW and Tishman Speyer sold 666 Fifth Avenue, a 1.5-million-square-foot office tower, for $1.8 billion. They had bought it in 2000 for $518 million from Sumitomo Realty, a Japanese company that acquired the building in 1988 for $488.6 million.

Japanese companies and institutions flooded into New York during the 1980s real estate boom, with Mitsubishi Estate’s purchase of Rockefeller Center touching off an outcry over foreign control of American property.

The Japanese lost a fortune after property values plunged by 50 percent during a recession in the early 1990s.

Since 2000, German groups have been vying with Middle Eastern interests to be the top foreign investors in New York office towers, apartment buildings and hotels, according to Real Capital Analytics, a research firm. Together, they have accounted for $22 billion of the $30.2 billion invested by foreign entities over the past seven years.

In 2001, German investors accounted for virtually all of the foreign investment in New York. But with prices escalating sharply in 2007, Middle Eastern interests spent $4.4 billion for New York property, compared with the Germans’ $1.8 billion.

Still, with American companies like BlackRock and Apollo raising huge amounts of money from individual investors and institutions around the world, it has become difficult to determine the national origin of investment groups today, said Dan Fasulo, a managing director of Real Capital Analytics.



Posted in Abu Dhabi, Chrysler Building, New York | 1 Comment »