community Service means Business!

9 March 2010


Young Adults’ Attitudes about Pregnancy

via Sociological Images by gwen on 3/9/10

Allie B. sent in this image found at Washington City Paper that shows how many men and women (aged 18-29) would be pleased by an unexpected pregnancy, despite reporting they wish to avoid pregnancy (additional images taken from the report found here):

Notice that in every category, men are quite a bit more likely to report they would be happy by an unplanned pregnancy. As the WCP article suggests, this would seem to undermine the common perception that women are baby-crazy and secretly hoping they’ll get pregnant.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both men and women are more likely to report they’d be happy about a pregnancy as they get older.  Hispanics also stand out as significantly more likely to report they would be happy about an unplanned pregnancy than non-Hispanics.

Despite this, the vast majority of all groups said that pregnancy should be planned, with men actually a little bit more likely in all categories:

The responses to these two questions seem contradictory: you believe pregnancy should be planned, yet a significant proportion say they would be happy about an unintended pregnancy. Thoughts about what’s going on there? Perhaps individuals are saying that though they don’t want a pregnancy, they would not be devastated by one, or their distress would be outweighed by the excitement of having a baby, even if they hadn’t actually planned on doing so? Maybe a sense of fatalism–pregnancy should be planned, but sometimes things just happen and you have to make the best of them? I’m somewhat stumped on this one, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We also see that, while in many cases the difference is negligible, in general women are somewhat more likely to say it’s acceptable for a woman to have a child outside of marriage:

It’s interesting that despite the common stereotype that African Americans are more accepting (or even encouraging) of single motherhood, in this study they were actually less likely to support doing so than were Whites and Hispanics.

(View original at

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

A Job In Government

via Big Government by Veronique de Rugy on 3/8/10

Study this USA Today chart and cry:

According to USA Today:

“Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.”

And let’s just add insult to injury:

“These salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.”

So now when you put your kids to bed and they tell you that when they grow up they want to be a doctor and a veterinarian, your answer should be: “Honey, these are all great choices, but what you really want to be is a bureaucrat.”

Here and here are more arguments to convince your little ones.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

8 March 2010

Definition of "Homeless"

via's End Homelessness Blog by David Henderson on 3/8/10

Poverty advocates have long doubted the relevance of the antiquated federal definition of poverty, which is based on the cost of food in the mid-1950s rather than the cost of living in the 21st century. The federal government recently took an initial step toward redefining the federal definition of poverty using a new formula that more accurately reflects the cost of living and people's assets and incomes.

As homeless advocates, we should follow the lead of those fighting to change the federal definition of poverty and encourage HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to expand its definition of homelessness to include not only people living in the street or in shelters, but people in motels and with friends and family due to economic hardship, as the McKinney-Vento definition does.

Definitions are important. Definitions provide the constraints in which we collect data.  Good data should be representative of reality. However, data is only meaningful when it is collected, and interpreted, in the context of sound definitions.

For example, the City of Pasadena, California, just announced the results of its most recent annual homeless count. Like most homeless counts, the city attempted to enumerate the total number of persons living on the streets or in shelters on a particular day. The city identified a total of 1,137 people as homeless, a 13 percent increase over last year. Provide homes for those 1,137 and the problem disappears, right? Wrong.

While I have serious doubts about the methodologies used in homeless counts generally, my point here is not to dispute the method of the count, but rather to comment on the definition it is predicated on. It is simply inane to assess the level of homelessness in a community and not include people living in motels or double or triple occupying cramped apartments with friends or family. The risk in not adopting a more realistic definition of homelessness is very real.

If we are to end homelessness, we have to agree on what homelessness means, and how we measure it. The current HUD definition, which acts as the basis for homeless counts, fundamentally obscures our ability to assess the true number of persons experiencing homelessness. I believe that data is important, but I don't like playing number games. If we end homelessness based on a definition that under-counts the true degree of human suffering, we will have ended homelessness by definition, but not by deed.

Photo credit: Horia Varlan

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Career Conference for Women - $5

Get Involved!

via East Liberty Post by Emily_ELDI on 3/8/10

The City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works Bureau of Transportation and Engineering is holding a Public Meeting for the reconstruction of the South Highland Avenue Bridge which connects the neighborhoods of Shadyside and East Liberty in the City of Pittsburgh. The purpose of this meeting is to provide the community with information on the project and obtain public input on the proposed bridge deign options.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 16th from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Would You?

Packing 400 lunches - and love - to serve the homeless

Kansas City's 'mother of the streets' rises at 4:30 each morning, packs 400 decorated bags, and then seeks out the homeless.

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via Venture Outdoors by admin on 3/8/10

Venture Outdoors (VO) Family & Community Programs are slated to serve more individuals than ever this year thanks to new funding for programs and equipment from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Highmark has awarded VO with a $12,500 for this initiative, sponsoring events throughout the year, including four Family Outdoor Festivals and 13 community programs. Additional funds will provide equipment for urban programming including snowshoes and handheld GPS units, as well as 500 family passes to remove economic barriers to growing participation in outdoor recreation.

“Our ultimate goal is to leave no community without access to nature, said Sean Brady, Assistant Executive Director at Venture Outdoors. “An estimated 17% of Allegheny County residents are minorities. We asked, ‘how we can extend the health, wellness, and social benefits of our programs to all of those residents?’ The Family & Community Programs Initiative provides free and affordable, beginner-friendly outings that take place in diverse neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.”

In and around Pittsburgh, a rich network of parks, trails, and waterways provides multiple ways to get outside. Without knowledge of them, experience in outdoor recreation, or friends to serve as guides, it’s difficult to start on your own. It’s easier with skilled leadership, which is where Venture Outdoors steps in. Programs include free Family Outdoor Festivals in May, June, July, and August, which feature the best of outdoor recreation. Also starting in May, kayaking on the Northside’s Lake Elizabeth is free Monday-Friday, 4:00 PM to dusk. Outdoor Leadership Workshops are available for both adults and youth, so that community members can take the lead in building healthy lifestyles and a strong network of outdoor leaders.
In its first year, the Family & Community Programs served over 7,000 youth and families, including over 4,500 of racial minorities.

“We expected interest levels to be high because these are unique programs, but the results have exceeded all projections,” said Brady. “The community has affirmed our program model through enthusiastic partnership and promotion of outdoor recreation in new communities.”

“No matter what your athletic ability level is, outdoor recreation is a great way to spend time with your family while exercising,” said Mary Anne Papale, director of community affairs at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. “Venture Outdoors’ programming is a fun, exciting and affordable way to become active or improve your current fitness routine.”
Venture Outdoors can also help you learn how many calories you will burn by participating in one of their more than 500 programs. Whether you prefer a Fishing Derby (around 215 calories), a Snowshoe Walkabout (650 calories) or learning to kayak (around 1,000 calories), Venture Outdoors can guide you toward living a healthier life.

About Venture Outdoors:
Venture Outdoors, a local non profit organization, seeks to transform the Pittsburgh region into a place where the outdoors is an integral part of urban culture, identity and lifestyle. By encouraging everyone to participate in outdoor recreational activities, Venture Outdoors promotes Pittsburgh’s unique natural amenities, highlights the region’s excellent quality of life, fosters a greater appreciation for the environment, inspires an active lifestyle and creates a shared sense of community.

Visit for more information about Venture Outdoors initiatives, programs, and community work.


Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Intro--MissingBliss215 from North Carolina

via Prison Talk by MissingBliss215 on 3/8/10

Hello everyone. My name is Rena and I'm 26 years old. I live in North Carolina. My fiance was sentenced to 7 years on Feb.15, 2010 and since then I have been completely lost. I thank God that Jerry and I was able to spend Valentine's Day together before he left. This is my first time ever having to deal with such situations so I am VERY new to all of this; him being gone and doing all this on my own. My family isnt very supportive of me standing beside Jerry; they say 7 years is such a long time. Which I will agree with them on that, but he is everything to me. We have been through so much in life together for the past 3 years that not having him in my life makes no sense to me. I just need others to talk to that know what I am going through; without the judgement and critisism. So I can use all the support I can get online since my family thinks I'm completely nuts! Which I could careless what they think. I cant sleep, I have no appetite and I dont want to really be around anyone. I feel as if when he was locked up; so was I. I know that all of this is so unhealthy for me and I have to find a way to get out of this complete depression. Im sure many of you went through the same thing I am going through right now. My wounds are still very fresh and every morning I wake up reaching for him and he isnt there. I break down at any given moment. But I have to be strong for him. Jerry is the love of my life, he has been there for me through many situations in life. He has done me wrong and I have done him wrong, but we have always made it through the hard times. But this... this is one of the hardest things we have ever had to endure.

What makes my situation even worse is I lost my job on Feb. 12, 2010. Now not only do I have to worry about my fiance being locked up for something that he didnt do, to worrying about:
~How am I going to make it by myself with no job?
~How am I going to be able to support him by sending him money?
~How am I going to hear his voice on the days he can call?

Its like everything has hit me in the face at one time... Losing my job and 3 days later losing the love of my life to the prison system. Somehow I have been able to send him some money and put money on the phone so we can talk to one another. But I'm looking into the future and worrying about what is going to happen then. Its always running through my head how I am going to take care of him when right now I cant even take care of myself. But I have strong faith in God. I pray that he will show me a way to make it through this hard time in mine and Jerry's lives.

I'm looking forward to meeting other people on here that can not only help me out by conversation, but I as well give them some encouragement. :o

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Better Than Releasing People...

via Prisonmovement's Weblog by prisonmovement on 3/8/10

Jacob Sullum | March 8, 2010 Writing in The Sacramento Bee, Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute, likens early releases aimed at shrinking California’s prison population to slightly opening the drain of an overflowing bathtub without turning off the spigot. Connerly blames “laws requiring lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent offenders” and [...]

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7 March 2010

Victims and Punishment

via Governing through Crime by Jonathan Simon on 2/25/10

While we throw terms like"harsh", "retributive" and "punitive" around in describing the American penal system(s) today, the language has yet to capture the distinctive role that the subject position of the crime victim has in shaping the measure of punishment being handed down in US courtrooms and parole boards. While state penal codes continue to list punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and even reform as primary goals of imprisonment, judges are increasingly vocal in insisting that sentences incorporate the scope of the victim's future suffering.

Case in point is the 30 year sentence handed down to a former hospital worker, Karen Parker, who admitted stealing syringes meant for patients and replacing them with used syringes contaminated with Hepatitis C, by Federal District Judge Robert E. Blackburn in Denver this week (read Kirk Johnson's reporting in the NYTimes). It is hard to imagine a stronger case of victim damage (short of death). They were "attacked" at a time of maximum vulnerability, while receiving pain medication prior to surgery in a hospital (Hobbes thought the fact of having to go to sleep at all was enough to justify a punitive sovereign, he did not anticipate surgical anesthesia) and now face a lifetime with an incurable, chronic, sometimes disabling and life threatening disease. Apparently it was hearing the victim testimony that lead Judge Blackburn to the unusual move of rejecting a 20 year sentence agreed to by the prosecutors, and imposing a 30 year sentence this week.

Parker's actions epitomized "selfishness" as the Judge emphasized. But neither was the admitted heroine addict the epitome of the cool calculating "hit-man" or "terrorist" who decides to sacrifice lives to their own deliberated ends.

What troubles me is using prison sentences to work out some kind of just measure of the victim's suffering. This logic inherently leads to excess. What if hundreds were contaminated (as has happened), would Parker have sentences her to life without parole? In other cases judges have handed down life-trashing sentences in the name of the victims' suffering even where the defendant clearly lacked meaningful capacity for responsible action due to severe schizophrenia (consider the Kip Kinkel case in Oregon in the late 1990s).

Clearly the victim's cannot be "compensated" through the punishment of Parker. They deserve better, starting with health insurance for those dropped or forced into a more expensive plan because of their condition. A stiff prison sentence is an appropriate way to communicate the seriousness of crime to the community, and thus to provide the victims public recognition of the terrible wrong they suffered. It is also an appropriate way to deter, although we have every reason to doubt the Karen Parkers of this world respond well to threats of lengthier punishment. A proper combination of restorative justice for the victims and appropriate restraint and punishment for the community is something we can achieve without decades of prison time. But trying to carve justice out of the time a body is locked in prison can only prove futile and cruel.

With our prisons filling with inmates facing lifetimes of punishment, we need to find a way to restore some measure to prison sentences.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Homelessness Ten Years After the "Dark Days" Tunnels

via's End Homelessness Blog by Rich and Elizabeth Lombino on 3/1/10

The first time we watched the documentary Dark Days we could not believe what we were seeing. At the time, we had been working with homeless people for years, but it still didn't prepare us for the magnitude of the film. Hundreds of people living underground in the tunnels under New York City. Some for years. The ultimate survivors.

Some of these homeless persons were afraid to reside above ground with "mainstream" society. Most mainstream society members would be afraid to live in the tunnels. Why are they there? What is their story? How do they do this?

All of these questions and more are answered brilliantly by Dark Days. It's been ten years since the film won three Sundance awards, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary and a Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Documentary, but it's still making an impact. The Tribeca Film Center in New York celebrated the anniversary with a screening. Rich was in attendance and had a chance to experience the film in the theater for the first time, and was able to speak at length with British director Marc Singer. (Read Rich's tweets from the screening). Singer offered his unique perspective on homelessness.

When asked about the genesis of the film, Singer discussed meeting various homeless people who lived in his neighborhood, and noticing many of them hanging around the park and on the streets surrounding the park. "There wasn't really a solution for where everyone should go. The city just didn't want anyone in the park, so everyone moved from the park to across the street and on the sidewalks in the surrounding streets." He started to build friendships and a strong curiosity to see how they lived.

One of the men he met told him about the tunnels. "He was a brilliant poet. He was scared to death to go into the tunnels, but had heard that they could be a safe place for people to go to get off of the streets. There's a lot of mythology surrounding the tunnels. I knew I just had to check them out."

Singer, then just out of his teens, spent the next year exploring the tunnels throughout the city until he found an eclectic community living in an Amtrak tunnel near Penn Station. He basically moved in, built his own home and lived with them for months. "There was this large cross-section of people, they had built elaborate structures ... they were not what the stereotype of a homeless person is -- well, no homeless person fits the stereotype -- they are extremely unique because they are people. People are all different and complicated and have life circumstances and other things that go on."

Singer reiterated that homeless individuals are all "normal people like everyone else." "[Before meeting them] all my knowledge was from what I saw on TV. I think the stereotype of a homeless person is completely born from the media, not from our perception. I think it's been ingrained in us. The people living in the tunnels had built these houses. They hadn't quit. They had made the very best of a bad situation. I had a huge amount of respect for them."

Is it possible to end homelessness? "In an ideal world, yes, everyone deserves a home. Everyone has a right to shelter. It makes a huge difference to have a home, a permanent place to go, no matter how much of a shit hole it is, it's somewhere to go. But is it really possible to end homelessness completely? I don't know. Maybe not because of the cycles people go through ... Maybe just a need for emergency shelter for times of crisis. Life could change dramatically for them if they could get a home."

When Rich left the theater and got on the subway, there was a street homeless man in the subway car. He had four garbage bags filled with his belongings and was riding the trains to stay warm for the night.

See the first ten minutes of Dark Days below:

Photo Credit: Rich Lombino

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Even the Homeless Get Evicted...From Under Bridges

via's End Homelessness Blog by Jessica Rowshandel on 3/5/10

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has evicted a group known as the "bridge people" from their homeless encampment underneath an overpass. Not only has he evicted them, he hired contractors to put up a wall to ensure that they do not return. A wall has been built for sure -- between the city and its homeless population, and Ballard is their Elmer Fuddian antagonist.

Yes, local homeless services providers like the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention did what they could to help the 30 or so residents move out, including offering them social services and shelter. Yes, the mayor felt that the encampment had become a squalid and dangerous shanty town, especially in freezing temperatures. But this is no way to address the problem. And to be clear, the problem is that people have no access to a home, so they live in unhealthy conditions under a bridge. This runs contrary to the opinion of local businesses and residents who think the problem is that these homeless people are a big, irritating, frightening nuisance.

And what's worse is that the Coalition and the mayor are both blaming the good will of sympathetic locals who regularly provided food and supplies to the encampment, which supposedly enabled the homeless by luring them under the bridge and thus deterring them from seeking services. Can you imagine? They are actually blaming people for helping their homeless meet a few basic needs when no other enduring help has been given and then comparing their homeless to feral cats -- they will keep coming back if you keep feeding them.

Sorry, come again? Let me make something very clear: feeding and clothing unsheltered homeless is never going to hinder any real efforts for social change. It will never seriously compete with efforts to end homelessness. It will, however, make sure bellies are full and bodies are warm.

Plus, shame on the homeless services providers and city officials who condone this eviction, freely tossing around ignorant phrases like, "What they need is ... " and "What they need to do is ...." Since when did self-determination take a back seat? Apparently not having a home, a meal or a shower means your right to make your own decisions is automatically revoked.

After the eviction, those who lived in this encampment moved to another outdoor location (gee, we couldn't see that coming), which the Coalition and the mayor's office expected. If this was expected, then why were they forced to move? This only proves whose side the mayor is on. If he were for the homeless, this never would have happened.

This encampment has been around for a while, which means the mayor had plenty of opportunities to intervene in more appropriate ways, and sooner. Tell the mayor how wrong he was to evict those people. Tell him that he is responsible for providing housing for Indianapolis's homeless, not just catering to the whining of pampered citizens. Has it not occurred to you, Mayor Ballard, that providing real housing for the homeless, not just shelter beds, will make everyone happy?

On a more positive note, Indianapolis is doing something for its homeless, even if it's aimed at the more socially-accepted kind. On March 23, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, along with the mayor's office, is hosting 2010 Indy Homelessness Connect, where people who are homeless or near-homeless can connect to services, from haircuts to housing. Hopefully the "bridge people" make it to the convention center -- and don't get thrown out again.

Photo credit: canada.poverty

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Six Simple Factors for Successful Goal Setting

via Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life by DLM Writers on 3/5/10

It feels good when a goal is achieved.

However, the commitment and patience it takes to stick with a goal and then see it all the way to the end is not trivial. It takes courage, faith and a little goal setting know-how to keep the good feelings coming.

Achieving your goals can provide the energy and the confidence needed to continue setting more goals. Goals help you see where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Goals are the fuel that keeps you moving forward.

Goals can vary in size and effort, but successful goal setting relies on the following six factors. When you combine these simple, yet effective factors and allow them to work together you will find lasting goal setting success:

  1. It’s conceivable
    If you can think it, you can likely achieve it. Must goals start with an idea; a vision. Goals are dreams you want to accomplish. When you use your senses to see, hear, smell or touch your goals then they become more tangible; more approachable and more real.

    The first task in goal setting is to clearly visualize what you want to achieve. Spend time considering what you want and then burn this goal into your mind. Once there, the chances of success increase significantly.

  • It has to be believable
    After conceiving a goal, your excitement runs high. You can see the thing you want to gain and with a large dose of enthusiasm you set out to get it. But something terrible can happen along the way – you allow others to tell you that you can’t do it.

    It only takes one or two negative people to put doubt in your mind. An often inaccurate belief system kicks in and you start believing you can’t do it either. Old tapes play in your head; the tapes that say you are not worthy or smart enough to have what you want.

    Learn to replace these lies with the truth. The truth tells you that you are worthy to have whatever you conceive. The truth tells you to believe in your goal because you breathed life into it when you imagined it.

  • It must be achievable
    Successful goal setting is about achievement. The goals you set are intended to be achieved. To do so, be certain to make them achievable. This starts with being realistic.

    Even though you have conceived a goal and you believe in its value (and in yourself), now it’s time to be practical and put together a plan to attain it. The expression, “You can’t an elephant in one bite,” is especially true in the context of goal setting. Make a plan to eat the whole elephant (your goal), but begin by taking small, deliberate and calculated bites.

    See the whole picture first and then put together this plan with the knowledge gained from past experiences. When an obstacle lands in your path, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just as there are some negative people in your life, there are also well-meaning people who care about your success. Reach out to these people and allow them to be a positive, helpful influence.

  • It must be measurable
    Goals need to be specific and measurable so you can gauge your progress and know when a goal has been met. Asking questions like, “When,” “How much,” and “How will I know it has been accomplished?” provide the most common units of measure when assessing goal completion.

    If you are a freelance writer, for example, a measurable goal might be something like, “I want to publish two articles in Vanity Fair and GQ by May 1.”

    This measurable goal has three important parts: (1) It states how many articles; (2) indicates where the articles are to be published and (3) provides a timeline for completion. In this example, the writer will know exactly when the goal is accomplished. Measurable goals not only provide direction; they also give closure so you will know when to move on to the next one.

  • It must be stated with no alternatives
    In war, when lives are at stake, there is no alternative to victory. Seldom is there the same life and death consequence in the business world, but the stakes can feel just as high sometimes.

    When setting a goal, it must be stated with a firm “all-or-nothing” way of thinking. A soft goal isn’t really a goal at all – it’s a hope. You can hope to be successful or you can plan to be successful. Setting goals with no alternatives leads to the success you deserve.

  • It must be something you want to do
    At the end of the day, successful goal setting is about passion. If you have passion for a goal then you are more likely to accomplish it. Your passion gives you the energy to keep moving forward in spite of the negative voices you hear or the obstacles you encounter.

    Generally, people don’t do anything until they are ready. When setting a goal, if your attitude is anything less than passionate, then you have probably set the wrong goal.

    How do you know if you have passion for a goal? The answer is simple: Make a list of the major goals you want to accomplish. The one that jumps off the page and lands right in the middle of your heart is something you may want to do.

    Believe in this one. Make a plan to achieve it. Measure your progress as you go and be resolute that there are no alternatives. When you do, you have mastered the simple factors of successful goal setting.

  • Written on 3/5/2010 by Alex Blackwell. Alex writes for The BridgeMaker, an honestly-written blog about faith, inspiration and personal change. To receive twice-weekly articles subscribe here. Photo Credit: lululemon athletica

    Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

    NYC and Las Vegas from above, at night

    via The Big Picture on 3/5/10

    Photographer Jason Hawkes, a frequent contributor to the Big Picture blog, returns today, sharing with us some of his latest images of American cities seen from above at night - New York City and Las Vegas, both cities that undergo significant transformations after the sun goes down. From Hawkes: "The images of New York were shot on Nikons latest camera, the D3S, using three gyro stabilizing mounts and flown using twin star helicopters. (Eurocopter AS355). We flew from heights of just over 500 ft up to 2,500-ft with no doors on, it was very very cold. The images of Las Vegas were shot for a separate project, using a range of helicopters from a Robinson 44 to Eurocopter AS355". Be sure to see Hawkes' earlier entries here (1, 2, 3), and check out his newly-released book "London at Night". A book of his New York at night photos is due for publication in the Autumn. Captions provided by the photographer. (20 photos total)

    One Worldwide Plaza, Eighth Avenue. (© Jason Hawkes)

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