Friday, July 31, 2009

Stout

You'd probably think that a restaurant/bar in the Penn Station/Madison Square Garden area would be a madhouse -- and you'd be right. That said, as midtown madhouses go, Stout on West 33rd street is one of the best.

Stout is big. Really big. It not only has a huge bar area but also a couple of spacious dining rooms -- separated from the bar -- where you can sit and eat comfortably. We got there at about 6:30 on a Tuesday night, at the height of the after-work bar scene, and got a table right away. There's also a really big bar area downstairs where I went to a party once, and the people weren't all jammed in together like in most bars in this town. One could drink and walk around comfortably. Also, it has a decor I really like, a non-pretentious old-time pub look.

Their selection of beers is really good too, and they even have daily special brews. I had a lager that I forget the name of but enjoyed immensely. Their food, particularly the burger and fries, is above par for bar food, and comes in sensible portions. Best of all, the service was excellent, and we had one of the friendliest and nicest waitresses that I can remember in a long time. Considering that she was working in a midtown bar at the height of happy hour and waiting on a lot of people, I was doubly impressed.

Stout even has good bathrooms. In one of them they had a hand-drier that was so intense it completely dried off and warmed my hands in about 5 seconds. I also liked that Stout had TVs everywhere so you could get your ESPN fix and the music, while loud, is not deafening like at a lot of other bars.

So if you find yourself in midtown and are looking for a place to hang with friends, you really can't do any better than Stout. Mr NYC highly recommends it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Homeless Expats

Homelessness is a chronic problem in NYC, and it obviously gets worse when the economy is bad. For decades the city government has struggled with ways to deal with this problem, including shelters, drug rehab, subsidized apartments, you name it. Rates of homelessness rise and fall but the homeless have never entirely disappeared from our streets.

But maybe that will change.

Mayor Bloomberg has developed a program where the city tries to hook up homeless people with family members who live out of town. The city literally buys them a ticket out of New York and, in some cases, provides money to the families who have agreed to take in their homeless relatives.

So if you're homeless in NYC these days, the city will do everything it can to give you a helping hand ... to leave it.

This plan sounds both sensible and mean. Sensible: it dispatches the homeless from our streets and our shelters and reunites them with family. Mean: it basically says that the city can't and won't do anything more to help these poor souls and shifts the burden of taking care of them to others.

Sensible and mean ... so is life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Green Day @ Madison Square Garden

Last night the wife and some friends and I went to the second and final Green Day concert at "da' Garden." It's the first time I've ever seen them and the first time I've seen any show at MSG in fifteen years (the time before was for Phil Collins in 1994 -- I was 17 at the time and I didn't pay for the tickets so there!).

Anyway, gotta hand it to Billie Joe and the boys, they put on one hell of a good show.

Opening act was a British band called the Kaiser Chiefs. Lame-O that I am, I was unfamiliar with their music but some of my friends knew some of their songs. KC was really good if not exactly memorable. They played for about half-an-hour (8-8:30) and were received well if not overly enthusiastically.

Then: intermission.

Towards the end of this half-hour lull, as we spectators were getting pumped for Green Day to take the stage, who and what should come on the stage but someone dressed in a pink bunny costume ... wearing a Green Day t-shirt ... drinking a beer. The drunken bunny stumbled around the stage for a while, mooned the audience, and pulled up his shirt every so often. It was an odd if not totally crazy sight. He was quite the naughty bunny.

Then ... out came the band! Lights flashed! Voices screamed! Tre Cool ran around the stage and cheered and threw drum sticks into the audience and then Billie Joe came out and they launched immediately into "21st Century Breakdown", the name song of their new album. Shortly thereafter they jammed to "Know Your Enemy" and the crowed went nuts. At one point Billie Joe yelled, "Put down your iPhones, put down your cameras; this is a fuckin' memory, so live it!"" Or I think that's what he said.

Green Day played a lot of their old stuff and new stuff. They played a lot of stuff, even bizarre covers like "Earth Angel." They were on stage for almost three hours (9-12) and the music and hijinks's were non-stop. Amongst the hits: "When I Come Around", "Holiday", "20,000 Light Years Away", "Basket Case", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "When September Ends" and, of course "American Idiot" (during the encore. They played MUCH more stuff than that but I can't make this the longest posting ever.)

There was moshing, jumping, fist-pumping, screeching galore. It was a real rhubarb.

The show ended on a sweet note when Billie Joe, solo with a guitar, crooned "Time of Your Life." Ahhhhhhhhhhh ... It was quite a refreshing way to end it.

The songs were interrupted by the band's various gags. This usually meant that BJA brought people on stage (usually very young people) to jam with the band (although at one point he performed a mock exorcism on a young boy. I guess he thought it was funny). At one point another young man was playing Tre Cool's drums under the watchful eyes of Monsieur Cool himself. If it had been me, I would have froze but this young drummer drummed admirably.

Also, when one of the girls selected from the audience got onto the stage, she literally assaulted Mr. Armstrong, hugging and kissing him and practically throwing him on the floor. "Ah," he must have been thinking, "'tis good to be a rock star."

Okay, I doubt that's exactly what he thought but the gist ...

I was surprised that the band didn't get into more political commentary but I guess in this post-Bush era, it would have felt moot. At one point, Billie Joe screamed about how the past decade was the craziest he ever lived through and how Bush was the worst, craziest president ever (and when Billie Joe Armstrong is calling something or someone crazy, then that must mean really friggin' crazy) but otherwise the show was about fun, not philosophy.

And it was fun. I enjoyed it. I got my money's worth. I even got my hearing back.

In short, Green Day rocked the Garden last night and I'm sure they'll be rocking for decades to come.

Monday, July 27, 2009

MTA Danger!

Early yesterday evening I traveled from Queens to Manhattan. The N train crawled ... and crawled ... and crawled ... at a snail's pace through the tunnel between Queensboro Plaza and Lexington Avenue. A subway train stopping and starting and going slow through a tunnel is nothing new. Usually there's a signal malfunction or congestion that causes the problem. But this was something different.

Very different.

Just before the train picked up speed again, I saw, through the window, four or five track workers standing right outside the train. They were face-to-face with the window, only inches separating them from the train. You could see that they were petrified, quaking under their orange vests and hardhats. Considering what a hot day it was and what they were wearing, this must have been pure torture for them.

Something clearly was very wrong.

Clearly someone goofed. These men were not given enough time to clear out of the tunnel before the train came. It was a miscommunication of some sorts or just downright imcompetence. The result was a very dangerous situation.

How could this happen? After all the track workers who have been killed in the line of duty, how could such a situation be allowed to arise again?

I cannot imagine that this was business as usual. This was clearly a highly, highly unsafe situation and I'm sure the Transport Workers Union would never agree to let their members labor in such unsafe conditions.

But at this moment I was thankful, not for the MTA which is run by a bunch of hacks, but the subway workers who literally give their lives so that we can get around this town. They have brutally tough job and they should be protected at all times.

I hope something like this never happens again.

Philly Follow-up

My post about my recent visit to Philadelphia invited a comment from someone named Caroline at gophila.com who wrote:

"Wow - you saw a lot of great things here in Philadelphia and really hit on why it's a great city.

Next time, come back, see the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Liberty Bell (and the rest of the Historic Philadelphia) and sleep over in a hotel to see even more the next day!

Thanks for sharing your travels."

My pleasure and I hope to see all that -- and more -- next time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mr NYC Visits Philadelphia


Recently I took a day-trip to Philadelphia or Philly, "the city of brotherly love", home of the cheese steak and current best team in the American league.

Some people also call it the sixth borough of New York City but I won't wade into that debate.

That said, I had a nice time during my brief visit to Philly and discovered a few cool things.

First, like NYC, Philly is a great city for walkers; the streets are wide and clean and the architecture is beautiful so there's lots to see. The area around Independence Hall is really beautiful and there's also a gorgeous park nearby.

Second, we went through the cool Italian market on 9th Street between Wharton and Fitzwater. Like a farmer's market, this is an outdoor area that sells like of fresh pasta, cheeses, sausages, etc. and has a real old-world feel. If you're in the mood and have the time for some Italian eats, it's definitely worth checking out.

Third, you MUST visit the Eastern State Penitentiary. This is one of the oldest prisons in America and the first "supermax" facility where all the inmates stayed in solitary confinement. Al Capone was a resident there once and they even filmed part of "12 Monkeys" there. You really get a sense of what prison life was like back then.

Fourth, we went to Independence Hall where, on July 4, 1776, we declared our independence from Great Britain. While great to see, the tour only lasts about 15 minutes and the tour guide's explanations of everything is less than overwhelming. Still, it's free, you just have to get tickets ahead of time.

Fifth, we had a GREAT dinner at a place called Southwark. The service was friendly, the food wonderful, the atmosphere old-timey but not stuffy. If you ever find yourself in Philly and want dinner at a classy place, I can't recommend this more highly.

I'm afraid I didn't get to see the Liberty Bell or go to the Museum of Art but I still felt that I great trip.

So Philadelphia is a great place to go. And it doesn't and shouldn't exist in NYC's shadow. It's a great city with a wonderful culture and an interesting history all its own.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Walter Cronkite's Funeral

This is sad but, at the same time, very touching. Andy Rooney may have a sharp, stinging wit on 60 Minutes but, when it comes to remembering his friend, you see what a sweet guy he really is.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Like this is a big surprise ...

Further Delays Possible for Second Avenue Subway

Electing a black man president of the USA has turned out to be easier than getting this desperately needed subway line built. If it happens in my lifetime, I'll be amazed. Maybe my grandkids -- or great grandkids -- will get to ride on it one day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Modern

Recently the wife and I went to dinner at The Modern. The Modern is Danny Meyer's funky restaurant in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that opened in 2005 and specializes in Alsatian cuisine (meaning it's kinda French, kinda German). It was an interesting dining experience but I have to say that my impressions of it were rather mixed.

The decor is very stripped down and sleek. The lighting is dim. The Modern's interior doesn't really look that different from any other "hip" New York restaurant although I think this is the first time I ever had dinner while sitting in a leather swivel chair. One cool thing is that the restaurant looks out on MoMA's sculpture garden but your table has to be near it -- and ours wasn't.

Now the service is great and friendly. No complaints there. My water glass and bread plates were always full. Best of all, they recommended some very good wines (a delicious Riesling and a glass of some kind of red wine) to accompany our meal and that was much appreciated.

But the food was a mixed bag. We had the Chef's tasting menu and it was good if not exactly memorable. As hor'derves, they gave us roasted fava beans (tasted like baked pumpkin seeds) and little balls of goat cheese (personal favorite of mine). We had a very good, if not exquisitely delicious, ravioli with snails and a little egg. For the first time I had lobster cappuccino which is basically a cup of cappuccino with tiny bits of lobster and and lobster juice. There were some good seafood dishes including one with white fish and salmon but, again, it wasn't amazing. That said, the dessert was really good -- ice cream and lots and lots of chocolate.

This is not the kind of meal you can get in just any restaurant so I give The Modern credit for originallity. However, if you've eaten at Nobu or per se, it falls short of that standard and that's what The Modern begs comparison to. So if you're looking for an interesting dining experience, I reccommend it but, if you're looking for a mind blowing meal, I can't quite go there ... yet.

P.S. My view is shared by Frank Bruni who wrote this review of The Modern in 2005.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Remembering Rocky


Wacky governors and Vice-Presidents have been in the news a lot lately -- including one particularly bizarre Governor who might have been Vice-President.

We've heard all about the various financial, ethical, and zipper problems that Blagojevich, Palin, Sanford, and Spitzer have suffered in the last year. And whether its the sinister, creepy Dick Cheney or the gaffe-a-minute Joe Biden, our Vice-Presidents have been providing lots of comedic fodder to keep the American people amused.

All this talk of Governors/Vice-Presidents got me thinking about the last New Yorker who ever served in high office. That would be Nelson Rockefeller, "Rocky" as he was known popularly known, who was Governor of New York from 1959 to 1973 and then Vice-President under Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977.

His last name tells you everything you need to know about his background. Born to amazing wealth and privilege, Rocky was at the very top of the very top of the ruling class. Elected New York State Governor four times, he tightened drugs laws, created the SUNY system, conserved huge amounts of land, built massive construction projects, and took Robert Moses out of power in 1968. He ran for the Republican nomination for president three times but lost in 1960 and 1968 to Richard Nixon and in 1964 to Barry Goldwater.

Just goes to show you that money can't quite buy everything.

Rocky's private was also a bit ... rocky. While he was still governor in 1962, he divorced his first wife and then married his mistress Margaret "Happy" Murphy the next year. As you might imagine, this was a considered a huge scandal at the time. In an era when America was still very much in a conservative 1950s frame of mind, venerated politicians -- and a Rockefeller no less! -- simply did not dump their wives and marry younger women. It was considered quite gauche and had a lot to do with Rocky not getting the GOP nod in 1964 (which many people at the time felt he was owed since he didn't get it in 1960 and Nixon had then subsequently lost the general election to JFK).

Rocky quit the Governorship in 1973, returning to his life of privilege and considering another run for president in 1976. But history came knocking on his mansion door. After Gerald Ford became president in 1974 when Nixon resigned because of Watergate, Ford tapped Rocky to be his Vice-President. Rocky was confirmed by the Congress in December 1974 and served until Ford left office in 1977. Sadly for Rocky, Ford dumped him from the GOP ticket in 1976, replacing him with Bob Dole and thus ending Rocky's political career.

Rocky returned to NYC and lived here for the last two years of his life. The circumstances of his death have became somewhat legendary. The official version is that he was found dead in his office on January 24, 1979 slumped over his desk while working on a book. In reality, he died on that day in his townhouse while engaging in an ... amorous embrace ... with his 25 year old secretary.

So here's to good ol' Rocky, the last New Yorker who served in national office. He political career was impressive, his service to our state and nation admirable, and his private life worthy of the tabloids. And compared to our modern day politicians, he was unquestionably a giant.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food Bank for New York City

The largest hunger-relief organizing in the five boroughs, the Food Bank for New York City has been feeding the poorest of New Yorkers for over 25 years. This is an important organization that helps people who can't help themselves, and you can check out their site if you would like find out more info.

Walter Cronkite RIP

Probably the greatest television newsman who ever lived, Walter Cronkite passed away last night at the age of 92. Long called the most trusted man in America, he did what good reporters should do: he spoke truth to power. Whether it was telling LBJ in front of millions of America that the Vietnam war was a failure or exposing the crimes of Watergate just days before the 1972 election, Cronkite was never afraid of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

But in his grandfatherly manner, he also comforted America at one of its darkest moments: November 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was killed. Despite his clear sadness, Walter Cronkite reassured America that, despite the tragedy, everything would be okay.

His strong, classy, professional demeanor, his ability to communicate effectively to millions, and his enormous credibility will greatly missed.

We probably will never see his likes again.

P.S. The Kennedy assassination reminds me that 10 years ago yesterday JFK Jr and his wife and sister-in-law perished in a plane crash. It feels just like yesterday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The New York City Charter

The whole hubbub about whether or not Governor Paterson can appoint a Lieutenant Governor made me wonder: what if the Mayor's office fell vacate? Who takes over then? What's the deal?

From what I understand, the first in line is the Public Advocate. If the Mayor dies, resigns, is removed, or becomes incapacitated at any point during the first three years of a term, the PA takes over for 60 days until a special election can be held. Whoever wins then finishes that term. However, if the Mayor's job is vacated in the fourth year of a term, the PA serves as acting Mayor until the end of that year and term (there's no special election since in that year there's already a regularly scheduled Mayoral election). Also, an acting Mayor does not have the full powers of an elected Mayor (can't appoint or fire people, can't sign bills, etc.). Got it?

However, I took a quick look at the City Charter today and found a confusing clause: apparently, it doesn't have to be the PA who necessarily takes over. It can also be the Comptroller or some other unspecified official. There's all kind of clauses and rules and confusing jargon in here that makes it unclear precisely who becomes acting Mayor and for how long. There's paragraphs of stuff about succession upon a vacancy and a lot of it is contradictory. It's very odd.

To me this seems ridiculous and dangerous since it can create a vacuum and battle for power. Also, holding a special election 60 days after a vacancy creates unneeded political turmoil and makes a proper and smooth transition problematic.

I think this is dumb.

We should revise the City Charter and make it clear: one person, one elected city official (either the PA or Comptroller) should become Mayor upon a vacancy. That person should then complete the end of that term with full mayoral authority.

Either that or a Deputy Mayor should be elected with the Mayor like a VP is with the President or an LG is with the Governor. That way there doesn't have to be an uncomfortable or confusing political situation - for example, if a Democratic PA succeeds a Republican Mayor, the new Dem Mayor might have different policies than the old GOP Mayor. Seems smart to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

WNYC Buys WQXR

Big news today in the world of New York radio: two of the oldest stations in town are merging.

Well, sort of: public radio station WNYC and the media company Univision have bought classical music radio station WQXR from The New York Times Company. They have actually bought two radio band signals: 96.3 FM and 105.9 FM. WQXR will be moved from 96.3 FM to 105.9 FM and, presumably, 96.3 FM will become a Spanish language station.

The good news is that classical music radio in NYC will be saved. In the last couple of decades this has been an endangered species. The bad news: the 105.9 FM band isn't as strong as the 96.3 FM band and it will probably not be as easy to find or get as many listeners.

Still, we should be glad that there'll be some classical music on New York radio as opposed to none. And by having it become a public radio station, this relieves it of commercial pressures.

So now an 84 year old station (WNYC) owns a 73 year old station (WQXR). Both stations are legends. And this tribute to a former WQXR broadcaster from 1983 gives you a flavor of what an important and amazing legacy this station has.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Canadian Donuts Invade NYC


If you like They Might Be Giants or the girl who played Juno in Juno, then you might like the newest Canadian import that's hitting NYC this week -- Tim Hortons. Little known in the USA (they have some stores in the Midwest), they're now taking the biggest city in the country by storm.

Tim Hortons has shrewdly managed to take over more than a dozen Dunkin' Donuts franchises including ones in Penn Station and Times Square. They are even going to be a couple of stores in Brooklyn (in fact, I think there already are). These new stores virtually materialized overnight and it's been catching some of our fellow New Yorkers off guard. One day it's a Dunkin's and the next it's a ... Tim Who?

This is quite an audacious business move. Whoever said Canadians weren't good capitalists?

So is Tim Hortons as good as Dunkin' Donuts (which I love)? Sorta. I actually go to Canada a lot and have eaten there several times but never had the donuts. Tim Hortons also sells sandwiches and soups and full meals (at least in Canada) and the food was pretty good when I had it. As for the donuts (including maple donuts), I can't say but I'm willing to give them a shot.

Still, for my money, nothing in the world can beat Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

So welcome to NYC Tim Hortons. If you can make it here, etc.

Now if only we could get In'N'Out Burger in NYC then Mr NYC would be really, really happy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why are NYC addresses so crazy?

In the cell-phone/e-mail/digital age, people don't send letters much anymore. But people still have to live someplace and therefore still have physical addresses. If you live in New York City then, you know that our addresses make absolutely no sense.

The typical address is "number, street name, apartment or unit (if any), city, state, zip code." In NYC, however, it's the "city" part that gets a little confusing.

Too whit: there are five boroughs that are all part of the City of New York. Therefore, logically, every address here should be "New York, NY" or "City of New York" or "New York City." But no! Only if you live in Manhattan do you get a "New York, NY" address. And that's not because you live in New York City -- it's because Manhattan is co-extensive with New York County. So the "New York" part actually has nothing to do with the city.

And there are no correct addresses that are "Manhattan, NY" or "New York City" or "City of New York." Why? I don't know!

And it gets odder. In the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, almost all city addresses are "Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island." I say almost because, in the Bronx, if you live Riverdale, then the city name is "Riverdale." But the rest of the Bronx is "Bronx, NY" or "The Bronx, NY" and Staten Island and Brooklyn are always "Staten Island" and "Brooklyn." And this has nothing to do with these boroughs' county names (like with Manhattan/New York County) because only The Bronx is Bronx County -- Staten Island is Richmond County and Brooklyn is Kings County.

But where it gets REALLY confusing is in Queens (i.e. Queens county). There are no Queens' addresses that are "Queens, NY." Instead, the city part of any address in Queens is by neighborhood i.e. "Flushing, NY", "Forest Hills, NY", "Long Island City, NY", "Astoria, NY", "Woodside, NY", Fresh Meadows, NY" and on and on. So if you live in Queens, you better know what your specific neighborhood name is or else you'll have problems.

I know that NYC is a huge city and, since it extends over five boroughs, it's impossible to have a uniform city address. But why can't it be easy? You know "Manhattan, NY", "Bronx, NY", "Queens, NY", and "Staten Island, NY"? Why does it have to be so inconsistent and confusing?

I've done my best to answer this question, asked everyone I know who might know the answer, even scoured the web but have found no clear explanation. If you know the reason, please let Mr NYC know.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sonia's Turn

Next week, Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings to the US Supreme Court begin down in our nation's capital. These hearings certainly having the makings for good political theater: the Democrats will call on some of the most expert and respected legal minds in the country who support her nomination to testify on her behalf; meanwhile the Republicans will trot out blowhards and Neanderthals who oppose her to explain why the most qualified jurist in over a century shouldn't ascend to our nation's highest court.

Oh, and Mayor Bloomberg will be there too in order to testify in support of Judge Sotomayor.

This should be interesting.

Yet with her confirmation all but assured, it looks like Sonia will be leaving NYC in a few months time and heading to DC in order to become our nation's newest Associate Justice. Since most Justices remain on the court until right before they die, she'll probably never live in our fair city again.

But while she may be leaving New York in her rear view mirror, as this great in-depth article explains, Sonia is and always will be a quintessential New Yorker. This city is imbued in her values and experiences. She grew up in a housing project in the Bronx, excelled in our public schools, won scholarships to Princeton and Yale, worked in the Manhattan DAs office, loves the Yankees, theater, and the opera, resides in Greenwich Village, and is a 24-hour a day workaholic.

This is one very tough lady and her path to the Supreme Court has not only been well earned but also has a distinct NYC edge. And I'm sure she'll be a great Justice and do our city proud -- hopefully for decades to come.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's Over (For Now)


If we still lived in the days of pimply-faced newsboys with funny caps standing on street corners, holding a stack of papers and waving another one in the air, this is what we'd probably hear tonight:

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Espada returns to Democrats! State Senate deadlock over! Extra! Extra!"

And so it goes.

That of model of selfless public service, Pedro Espada, has returned to the Democratic fold, giving them the party 32 votes. Along with the new LG Richard Ravitch, it looks like the final nail has been wedged into the coffin of this power grab by the Republicans. For the time being (nothing is ever permanent in politics), the New York State Senate can go ahead and be its regular dysfunctional self instead of its irregular dysfunctional self.

Espada actually apologized for putting this state through hell for the last 31 days. Oh, what a gent. I guess he realized that this new arrangement wasn't going to give him any actual power so he made the best possible deal he could to end it. So now the Democratic party once again gets to be home to this criminal opportunist. Aren't they lucky?

The unanswerable question, of course, is are we?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When Harry Met Sally ... Twenty Years Later

Wow! Can you believe it's been twenty years since When Harry Met Sally came out?

The classic, iconic movie about love and relationships in NYC was released two decades ago this month and became an instant classic. It stirred up the ages old debate about whether or not men and women really can be friends, about how sex confuses love, about how old relationships affect new relationships, about how love in NYC is a crazy adventure.

Everyone who loves this movie has favorite scenes, favorite lines. Some agree with the movie's philosophy, some don't but still enjoy it anyway. My personal favorite parts of the movie are the short scenes of older couples sitting on the couch talking about how they met and fell in love.

Also, this movie is an unrequited love letter to New York. Remember, this flick came out in 1989 when NYC was still viewed by many as a crime-filled cesspool. But this movie had faith in the city when a lot of people didn't, and had faith in the power of love and marriage when at times it can be very, very difficult.

Of course the most famous scene in this movie is when Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in the middle of Katz's Deli. It never fails to be funny, no matter how many times you see it.

Breaking News!

New York State has a new Lieutenant Governor -- maybe.

Governor Paterson just appointed former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch to fill the empty post.

Normally the job of Lieutenant Governor is a do-nothing position who only casts tie-breaking votes in the State Senate -- but with a deadlocked State Senate, this means the job currently has a great deal of power.

It is not clear if this appointment is constitutionally permissible but it's also not clear if its forbidden. Legal minds differ. The courts will decide. But if it is, our month-long political misery will be over.

Let's hope this succeeds.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Exit Strategy NYC

So you're on the subway and get out at a given station. You locate an exit and head towards it.

You're supposed to be getting off at X street and Y avenue but you get out at the wrong exit and find yourself on Y street and Z avenue.

And suddenly you don't know where you are.


Sometimes getting out at the wrong spot can totally throw you off track. You can get lost on your way to your final destination. It can cost you time -- and time is money.

Exit Strategy NYC is a new app that you can program into your Blackberry, IPhone -- whatever -- and it helps you pinpoint exactly where on the platform you should get onto the train and where exactly you should get off of the train in order to hit the right exit.

Best of all, it doesn't require an Internet connection so it works underground (it would have too after all) and it's cheap (less than $3). Sounds like a pretty wise investment.

BTW I was not paid or anything to promote this. Just caught a couple articles about it so how could I ignore it?

Wireless and Mobile News

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Astor Tragedy

Along with the name Rockefeller, there is probably no name more sterling in the history of NYC than that of Astor. The Astor family's importance and lineage in this town goes back to John Jacob Astor in the eighteenth century and, starting with its original patriarch John Jacob Astor, they have had a huge impact on this city's society, politics, finances, real estate, you know name it, they've had a hand in it.

Heck, without them there'd be no Astoria!


They were the doyenne's of Old New York Money. Even more than the Rockefellers, who made their money in oil (which used to be considered, both literally and figuratively, a kind of dirty business), the Astors first money their money in the fur trade and have always been the considered the very epitome of class. If the term "keeping up with the Jones" means anything, than the Astors were most certainly the New York Jones.

That's why the now unending story of the trial of Anthony Marshall, the late Brooke Astor's son, is so sad. Brook Astor was really the last of her kind and the allegations against her son that he looted her estate -- not only stole from his mother but basically trashed the Astor legacy. It really is the end, not only of a family or a legacy, but of a way of life.

And if you want to follow the whole saga, check out the extensive coverage in Vanity Fair and The New York Times. Never had a real life soap opera been so well written about. It may be the last time we ever read about a tragedy that, even in its squalor, is so ... tasteful.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spirit of the City

The New York Spirit is hard to define -- it's a huge, multivariate thing.

What is it?

It's impossible to sum up precisely, hard to add it up into some kind of understandable equation. But when you walk this city's streets, traverse it via bus, subway, taxi or car, read about it in the newspaper, books, or magazines, watch it on TV or in the movies or listen to it on the radio, or just talk your fellow New Yorkers, you know there is some kind of special inexhaustible energy here that perennially exists within its people.

Perhaps you could say that the New York Spirit is the sum total of its eight million plus residents' spirits. But it's even bigger than yet. It is, in many ways, about what we just celebrated this weekend: freedom. People being free to be who they are and not being ashamed about it. And also being free to learn more, discovering new things about themselves, no matter how long they've lived here.

Just look at today's New York Times. The legendary writer Gay Talese writes about his first Circle Line trip around Manhattan and waxes nostalgic about the city and times he remembers and cherishes.

And then there's the story about the Hasidim in Williamburg, Brooklyn. As this article observes, it's like a piece of the 19th century lovingly preserved. The Hasidum live and worship there much as they did more than a hundred years ago, their traditions still very much intact. In NYC, we try to preserve our city's architecture. The Hasidim in Williamsburg have preserved their way of life, their culture, right in the heart of the most modern city in the world. Sometimes time leaves places behind. This place has left time behind. Only in New York (and perhaps certain parts of Pennsylvania)!

Then there's the touching story of a guy named Short Al, a frequent caller to the sports radio station WFAN. When he stopped calling, fans of The Fan became worried and tracked him down. Fortunately he's okay. Who says this town is so big?

Plus the crown of the Status of Liberty has been re-opened since 9/11. No, the terrorists will never win.

And today is an anniversary in the history of the NYC spirit. For 20 years ago tonight, the pilot episode of a comedy series set in New York premiered to very little fanfare. Its network, NBC, had so little faith that it would ever be a success that it scheduled the pilot in the summer and didn't commit to any new episodes until the next year. Called "The Seinfeld Chronicles", it was a weird little show about a stand-up comedian and his loser friends on the Upper West Side. The show was half sitcom, half stand-up, an odd little hybrid. At a time when family and work place shows were all the rage, this show seemed like a proverbial odd duck on the TV landscape. But its creators were sure that there was something in this show that could make it a good one. They weren't sure what it was quite yet but they were going to work hard and try to find it.

And that, basically, is what the New York Spirit is all about.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Classic Mr NYC

As we head into this July 4th weekend and celebrate America's Independence, here are some observations that I made as a New Yorker looking at his country right after last year's presidential election.