Friday, August 15, 2014

Cabs Are For Kissing

There are cabs -- and there are New York City cabs. 

They are a world unto their own. These yellow automobiles have a certain romance to them, a certain ambiance, a certain je ne sais quoi that people love. It's not that people enjoy paying a fortune to be stuck in traffic -- no. Instead, it's about being a part of the New York City experience. It's about remembering uniquely New York moments. 

Think about being transported, as if by magic, from one part of the city to another. 

Think about being out late at night, then relaxing and getting home (relatively) quickly.  

Think about dashing out of the rain with a loved one, into a cab, escaping to warmth and shelter. 

Think about being in the back seat with a girl and ... never mind. 

Think about going down Park Avenue, late at night, seeing the famed boulevard ablaze in lights.
Think about coming back the airport in a cab, seeing the city for the first time in days, weeks, even months, and feeling at home. 

Think about traveling back to your apartment with your wife and newborn baby in the backseat.

Yes, these are just some of my taxi memories. My daughter's first car ride was in a NYC cab just like mine had been, 34-years earlier (sans the car seat). Cabs are a vital part of the New York life.

That's why I love this blog, Cabs Are For Kissing, created by a NYC taxi driver who's been on the job since 1977. This blog as been in existence since 2006 and it's a wonderful, uplifting continueing story of the a cab driver and this city. You must check it out.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Myths and Legends

During his 12 years in office, the general consensus about Mayor Michael Bloomberg was that, sure, he might be a heartless technocrat but ... he was competent; sure, the cost of living in NYC might be exploding but ... he was competent; sure, the police might be using aggressive, possibly illegal tactics but ... he was competent; sure, he might be trying to destroy the public school system and teachers unions and turn education all over to for-profit charter schools but ... he was competent. Yes, he might be overseeing the destruction of middle class NYC, turning us into a city of haves and have-nots but ... he was competent!

And what was the basis for this competency claim?

Well, he loved technology. Loved, loved, loved it. Under Bloomberg's watch, Google opened an office in NYC and, in conjunction with Cornell University, built a tech campus on Roosevelt Island. The media loves technology, the powers-that-be love technology, so if Bloomberg loved technology and wanted to apply it to government, that must make him great ... and therefore competent. He vetoed living wage laws and did other heartless things with the budget so he was viewed as "fiscally responsible." He instituted  "bike share" and other such fancy programs. Most of all, his background as a Fortune 500 CEO gave him the reputation of the ultimate skilled manager. Bloomberg was competent because, well, he had to be!

Mayor Mike also benefited from a very compliant City Council, lead for most of his time in office by the obsequious Christine Quinn, as well the contrast of the gubmint' in Washington, DC which, no matter who is president or which party is in control, seems incapable for governing. This made it possible for Bloomberg to boast about how he "got things done", "got results," etc. etc. etc. He regularly made the Time 100.

When Bill De Blasio was elected to replace Bloomberg as mayor, the media and "centrist" intelligentsia bemoaned the loss of this super competent technocrat executive at the city's helm, believing that he had bequeathed a wonderful, paradisiacal city that his class warrior successor would inevitably screw up. Et in arcadia ego.  

But it was all a lie. In fact, Bloomberg left behind a mess. Bloomberg was not the mythically competent mayor that his media allies and sycophants proclaimed. Bike share is going broke. The policing at Riker's Island is criminal disaster. The city's emergency response has been dysfunctional for years. Mayor Bloomberg left behind more than a 100 city contracts unsigned with the public workers unions, forcing De Blasio negotiate all of them. And these are just some of the problems the great Mike left for his successor.

The argument for heartless, mean-spirited governing ala Bloomberg style is that, well, you know, leaders have to make tough choices and can't give in to every do-gooder's Utopian wish list which will ultimately bankrupt the government. In this view, competency = cruelty. But what if, like Mayor Bloomberg, you're both cruel and incompetent? Well, then you are the ultimate failure. Because at least the do-gooders have good intentions, competency or not. The cruel don't have even that.

Meanwhile, the New York of our hearts increasingly slips away, from reality to legend. Thanks to Bloomberg's "competency", soon we won't recognize it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gotta Love Mr NYC ... Lurkers

I love getting comments from Mr NYC readers, particularly when they are funny, smart, or add information to the post that was lacking.

Sometimes, however, I get comments that are downright strange. For instance:

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Now, while I appreciate that the reader found the post helpful, I didn't include any info regarding a sex shop or organs so I don't really know what this reader was getting at.

The other comment that was curious was: "This is a great option for best escort girls unlimited enjoy.Thanks Companions in Prague & Czech porn escorts". I don't know why the reader thought my blog was conducive to this kind of business but, again, I guess I'm sort of flattered by the attention.

Of course I know that these are just spam messages but still ... how does Mr NYC attract such comments? I thought this was a classy blog.

White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge

Impy and Bill in Italy

Mayor De Blasio is currently in Italy, vacationing with his family and revisiting his family origins in the "old country." Since NYC is an international city, when this or any mayor goes abroad, it's almost like a visit from a head of state: there's lots of press coverage, the local politicians and heavyweights meet the mayor, and there's lots of talk of the "connection" between New York and [insert country here].

It used to be, back when NYC politics was dominated by Italians, Irish, and Jews, that mayors would try to visit the three Is: Italy, Ireland, and Israel. As the Hispanic population has grown, particularly with immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, visiting those countries has become important for NYC politicians as well. Pretty soon, I'm sure, trips to China and Indian and other Asian counties will be required.

However, De Blasio's trip is nothing compared to Mayor Vincent Impelliteri's trip in 1951.

During his first full year in office, Impy (as he was popularly known) made a 32 day trip to Italy and Israel. In both countries, his arriving was red carpet, headline grabbing news. He was greeted by every dignitary, there were parades and parties, it was a big honking deal. Impy was actually born in Sicily so, after visiting Rome and getting an audience with the Pope, he visited the town where he was born and was greeted like a conquering hero.

I blogged about Impy in 2007, just a few months into this blog's existence. History has mostly forgotten him but, in this brief shining moment more than 60 years ago, Impy was not only king of New York but one of the most famous men in the world.

Postscript: it was during this trip, in 1951, that Bobby Thomsen hit "the shot heard 'round the world" out at the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn -- so Impy missed an important piece of NYC and world history back home. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer of '94

I've blogged about the year 1994 -- probably one of the most culturally and politically consequential years of the last quarter century -- several times so I won't bore you with another nostalgic post. 

But it seems that I was onto something. WNYC is currently running a month long series called "Summer of '94" where they go back and examine the music of that year and the impact it had: the death of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, rap going mainstream, Dookie, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, the debuts of Beck, Weezer, and Notorious B.I.G. 

What were you doing in 1994?

Madeline's NYC

"In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines ... the smallest one was Madeline."

I've read this opening sentence ad nauseum lately since Ludwig Bemelans' classic children's book "Madeline" is one of my daughter's favorites. The spunky young girl made her debut 75 years ago and would go on to appear in six more books. This month a big exhibit at the New-York Historical Society is opening called "Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans", featuring everyone's favorite Parisian convent girl and other art from the master himself.

But if she lived in Paris, you might ask, what does Madeline have to do with NYC?

Because she was born here. Bemelman had a Belgian father and a German mother and was born in Austria in 1898. As a young man, he immigrated to the United States and, after many years as a frustrated artist, he dreamed up the story of Madeline at Pete's Tavern on Irving Place, scribbling her for the first time on the back of a menu. Generations of children have grown up to love the "Madeline" stories and, Parisian that she is, Madeline definetely has a New York spirit.

This exhibit will be on display until October and the wife and I are hopefully going to see it soon. If you have kids, you might want to check it out.

Interesting postscript: Bemelmans decorated the bar in the famous Carlyle Hotel on 76th street and Madison Avenue and that's why, no surprise, it's called the Bemelman's Bar.