Monday, August 31, 2009

The Ronettes - Be my baby

If you've never heard of Ellie Greenwich, you definitely heard some of her songs. "Chapel of Love?" "Be My Baby?" "Leader of the Pack"? "Hanky Panky"? She wrote these and other hits and defined pop music for a generation.

She died last week of a heart attack (her age was not disclosed). A Brooklyn native who songs had the earthy sexiness of her native city, Ellie Greenwich's music will live forever.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back

Mr NYC has packed up his fishing pole and swimming trunks and returned to civilization. I feel great. All of the usual stresses and nervousness have been wrung out and replaced by a Zen-like calm. Now the fall and its attendant challenges and joys await. Back to work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Outta Town

Mr NYC will be taking a respite for a 'lil bit, going someplace where there's less traffic and more trees. So no updates for the next week or so -- unless I get my hands on a 'puter and have something brilliant to say (which would be a first). Until then ...

New York: From Dusk till Dawn

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The NYC Teenager

What Happened to the NYC Teenager?

Well, a lot of them went on reality TV. Or they stopped being teenagers. They got older, went to work, gained weight, lost hair, and developed ulcers.

NYC may be the greatest city in the world but being a teenager anywhere, anytime is the worst.

NY No Longer has a Lt. Governor

The State Appeals court has ruled Governor Paterson's appointment of Richard Ravitch as Lieutenant Governor was illegal. So now we don't have a tie-breaker for the State Senate which puts it in danger of more coup hi jinks. Let's hope this doesn't happen again.

That said, I agree with this decision. Lieutenant Governors or Vice-Presidents or whoever is first in-line to take over any elected job needs to be an elected official as well. Either that, or the appointed #2 needs to be confirmed by the legislature. So this was the right move by the court even though I totally sympathize with Governor Paterson's move. Let's wish him luck.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eating in the Clouds


With the opening of the Highline, NYC now has its first park in the sky. But according to this in-depth article in the New York Observer, "skyscraper restaurants" that look literally look down on the town are withering away.

The Rainbow Room is closed and is having trouble finding a buyer. Other such restaurants are falling on hard times (what isn't these days?). The most popular of these eateries remains the one that revolves at the top of the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square. The views sound great but I've never known anyone who's gone there -- or wanted to -- and it's supposed to be not only tacky but something of a culinary graveyard. Considering it's at the top of a hotel, what can you expect?

Obviously the most tragic of the city's sky-high restaurants is Windows on the World that was atop the World Trade Centers and came crashing down with it. I went there once for a party about ten years ago and the views were stunning but the food ... eh. Still, we all wish it was still there.

I haven't been to that many "elevated" restaurants in NYC but I did go to one recently and it's the fantastic. Interestingly, it's far away from midtown and doesn't attract a tourist crowd. It's called Terrace in the Sky and is located on 119th street between Morningside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue. It attracts a lot of people associated with nearby Columbia University and it not only has gorgeous views of Manhattan but also really great food.

The Terrace is a particularly great place in the summertime as you eat in twilight, watching the sun going down over the city and then seeing the glittering lights of Gotham coming alive. Along with a great meal, this place makes for a magical night.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bloomberg and the Naked Cowboy

They're both running for mayor. And this week's New Yorker has interesting profiles of them.

First, the Bloomberg profile is a very long, very insightful expose of how this odd-ball billionaire wields power in NYC. On the one hand the profile is glowing; on the other hand, it's quite damning.

In short: Bloomberg's money and connections have benefited New York City's schools, health, parks, and quality of life immensely. He obviously can't be bought and that has kept our city government relatively scandal-free. Considering everything that's going down in New Jersey at the moment, this is something of a miracle.

The problems: Bloomberg's policies have helped the wealthy and developers more than the middle class. He's detached from the problems of ordinary New Yorkers and doesn't seem to care. And even though he can't be bought, his money means he can buy (and buy-off) other people, including his political competition. This has made him a virtual dictator, an inverse of the corrupting influence of money in politics, and basically making Bloomberg, as the richest and most powerful man in town, a modern day Medici. Ouch.

Second, the Naked Cowboy. It's actually a short, as-told-to piece by the father of the Naked Cowboy who lives in Ohio. He tells the story of how his weird, wayward son came to NYC and became the city's third most popular tourist attraction! WTF?

As Cindy Adams would say: Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pickup On South Street [1953]

This week Quentin Tarantino has a new movie coming out called Inglorious Basterds. I can't wait to see it -- it looks looks "ingloriously" over-the-top and entertaining.

Tarantino has always said that one of his favorite directors -- and biggest influences -- is Sam Fuller, who directed lots of movies and TV shows from the late 1940s until the mid-1990s. One of his very best movies, and one of the greatest New York City noir films ever made, is Pick Up on South Street from 1953.

Richard Widmark stars a petty criminal who, one morning on the subway, stealthily robs the handbag of a beautiful, troubled woman played by Jean Peters. What he steals turns out to be a lot more valuable than money -- it's a message for Communist spies. Now this thug has got both the cops and Commie agents coming after him, and he's in a world of hurt. Of course he ends up falling for the dame he robs, so besides the law and the Reds, he's also got woman trouble!

They just don't make movies like this anymore. Richard Widmark is so classy, so smart, so fast-talking and smooth, you just can't help rooting for him (he even wears a button down shirt and tie throughout the movie!). When he's not out robbing and conning, he lives in a small shack on the pier off South Street, where he keeps his beer in a pale that he lowers into and raises out of the water. Jean Peters is your classic noir femme fetale, a Barbara Stanwyck/Joan Crawford type, the kind of broad who men give up their lives for. The supporting actors are all wonderfully creepy and dimensional, especially Thelma Ritter who got an Oscar nomination for her performance.

And the NYC of this movie is like a living picture book. This is the New York City of your dreams, in black and white, of smart men and even smarter women, of crazy Jazz and automats, of flashing neon lights, of Studebakers and elevated subway lines, where no matter how sleazy a person was, they were always classily dressed. The South Street of the early 1950s is totally different than today. Back then, there weren't the giant glass office buildings or Battery Park. Instead, it was a shanty town of fishing shacks where even a lowlife could find a place to hang his hat (literally).

Best of all, this movie is fast-moving and short. It's pulpy-noirish feel is just thrillling, and you can understand how it would influence such a huge movie geek like Tarantino. So put Pick Up on South Street on your Netflix queue and go back to the New York of dreams.

Studio 360

Last year Kurt Andersen, host of the radio show Studio 360, did a great short interview for this blog. As always, he was and is one of the smartest and most articulate social critics around.

You really must listen to Studio 360 as often as you can, it's one of the best long-form interview shows on the radio -- or anywhere -- today. You can find it broadcast several times during the weekends on WNYC.


Recently Kurt rebroadcast some interviews his did about Andy Warhol as well as one with John Cale, the front-man for The Velvet Underground -- one of the greatest rock bands (and a New York band) ever. If you have the time, take a listen. You won't regret it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Governor's Island




Just off the southern tip of Manhattan lies an island that, until recently, few New Yorkers knew about and almost none had ever visited: Governor's Island. I went there yesterday and, if I had to tell you only one thing about it, it's that it's beautiful and incredible (okay, so that's two things. Forgive me).

Some history: from 1624 until 1674 it was a landing place for Dutch settlers and was used as a military base and farm. When the British took over in 1674, it became the home for British royal governors of New York State -- hence the island's name (although it was not officially given this moniker until 1784). During the Revolutionary War (1776-1783), it was occupied at various times by both the Continental and British armies and used alternatively either to attack or protect New York Harbor. From 1783 until 1966, it was used as an Army Base. Then, from 1966 to 1996, the US Coast Guard used it as a base.

Between 1996 and 2003, it was abandoned but controlled by the US Government. In early 2003, authority was transferred to New York State and since then people have been able to go to it. But only in the last few years have people started to visit Governor's Island in droves -- and discovered just how amazing it is.

Governor's Island is really a city within a city. In many ways, it resembles a town like Annapolis or something you might see on the Massachusetts' coast. It has huge buildings in the Federal style, mostly used in the past as administration buildings, but it also has a post office, library, hospital, 700-seat movie theater, two chapels, two forts -- Fort Williams on the northern end and Fort Jay in the center of the island -- and lots of beautiful houses, some of them almost mansion like. There's a also a building that is being turned into a school that will open in 2010. You can really tell that this place was once not only a military base but also a real community. Best of all, there's lots of open spaces, including a parade ground and large green spaces between most of the buildings and houses.

And the views! Governor's Island has some of the most gorgeous, sweepings vistas of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and the harbor you'll ever see. On a beautiful, clear and sunny day like yesterday, you see so much, including lots of freighters and the Staten Island Ferry which grumbles by (you can also look down at the northern tip of Staten Island and realize how far away that borough really is from the rest of the city). Also, there are streets and sidewalks (the most gorgeous is Colonel's Row) that make getting around the island very easy.

Governor's Island also has lots of trees, beautiful shrubbery, and flower beds. There's something very Zen-like, serene and calming, about walking around this place. Lots of people bring bicycles (I think you can also rent some but I didn't check) and they ride around the island, the breeze and beautiful views whisking by their smiling faces.

You go to Governor's Island and just ... relax. It's almost like a Central Park in the water.

There's no way that my two hour trip and short descriptions of what I saw can ever do this place justice. I strongly, strongly encourage you to read more about it and VISIT IT ASAP!

Open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM (until October), you can get the ferry at State Street, right off Whitehall, next door to the Staten Island Ferry stop. The ferry ride is free and super short -- about 5 to 10 minutes.

MR NYC says GO NOW!!

P.S. A few interesting factoids about GI: 1) when the Coast Guard occupied the island, there used to be a Burger King there (but no longer); 2) Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once wanted to turn the island into an airport! Thankfully this never happened and another airport (named after our first Italian, pint-sized mayor) was built in northern Queens; 3) in December, 1988, outgoing President Reagan, President-elect Bush, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had a summit there; 4) finally, their father a member of the US military, Governor's Island is where both Smothers brothers were born; 5) laws have been passed/rule implemented, that will prevent GI from ever having casinos or crass commercial development on it -- but the island's future uses and vision is being hotly debated by all.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dog Ear Tavern

Recently went to the Dog Ear Tavern at Hudson and Charlton Streets, just south of Houston Street on the far west side. It's a nice big place, with a pool table, and you can also sit and get food there. Unlike a lot of crowded noisy bars, this one is spacious and comfortable. Best of all, you don't have fight your way through the crowd at the bar to get a drink -- a friendly waiter comes up to you and takes your order wherever you may be sitting or standing. Very convenient.

There's a huge blackboard that lists an enormous selection of beers, categorized by country. The prices are a bit on the high side but the selections I had ('fraid to say I forgot the names) were excellent.

I must say that this bar has an AMAZING bathroom. It's huge. Most studio apartments in NYC aren't this big. It's cleanliness is immaculate, it has a post-modernistic bookshelf (!) across from the "terlet", and pictures on the wall. I can officially say that this is my favorite bathroom in NYC as of now. And that alone makes it worth checking this bar out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Memo from NYC

Dear Republicans,

Congratulations on once again poisoning our body politic with lies, misinformation, distortions, cultural resentment, and racism. You guys may not know how to govern the country, but when it comes to scaring the hell out of people with good old fashioned fear tactics, no one does it better than you guys.

Bravo.

And if you guys kill health care reform for the umpteenth time, you can take a collective bow, safe in the knowledge that poor people will continue to die, thus maintaining the power structure which protects the (mostly white) healthy and wealthy.

See, you Republicans rant and rave about "death panels" but we already have death panels in this country -- they're called health insurance companies. They exist to make a profit, and they only make a profit if they don't cover a lot of sick people or pay out a lot of claims. And what happens when they don't cover people or pay out the claims of sick people? These. Sick. People. DIE!

But what's a few million dead people? At least we'll be saving our country from "socialism"!

And if you Republicans get back into power (shudder hack cough vomit), I'm sure you'll continue to roll back the frontiers of socialism. Why don't you start by getting rid of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, national parks, the national highway system, and the Federal Reserve? What about the EPA and Veterans Affairs Department? Who needs them?

Please Republicans, take this country back to the time before Roosevelt -- Theodore Roosevelt. After all, ever since he left office 100 years ago, America's just gone down hill.

It's not like we became the world's greatest superpower or something.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alexander Hamilton Didn't Die There


202 years before former (love typing that word, former) Vice-President Dick Cheney blasted one of his hunting pals in the face with buckshot, one his his predecessors, Aaron Burr (VP to President Thomas Jefferson) infamously killed Alexander Hamilton -- our nation's first Secretary of the Treasury and the father of modern American capitalism.

Both were New Yorkers with big egos and got into a tiff and decided to settle the tiff with a duel. (Why they dueled is a long, long story involving politics, power, personalities, and peccadilloes. Sound familiar?). Anyhoo, they decided to their dirty business in a place where doing dirty business -- even 200 years later -- is most appropriate: New Jersey (Weehawken exactly).

So early on the morn' of July 11, 1804, these two titans of America fired upon each other with .56 caliber dueling pistol. Burr was fine. Hamilton ... not so much.

Now this is where the history gets screwy. Allegedly he was rushed to the home of William Bayard who lived at 82 Jane Street in Greenwich Village where he died the next. There's even a plaque, which I have seen, consecrating this fact.

But it's a lie! William Bayard's house was NOT at this location. His house, and Hamilton's deathbed, were elsewhere (nearby but not there) and the house was torn down a long, long time ago. This house belonged to someone else. Thus we do not actually know exactly AH died and this plaque is misleading.

So if you're walking on Jane Street (perhaps going to and fro from the Highline) and you pass this plaque, you can show off and say "Yeah, it's not true!"

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"He fits no paradigm, sets no precedent"

As Mayor Bloomberg runs -- most would say cruises -- to a third term, it's fair to say that most New Yorkers know very little about the man who rules their city with almost dictatorial power. Joyce Purnick, a former reporter and columnist for The New York Times, has written the first comprehensive biography about our mayor called Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics.

I can't wait to read this book. Sounds fascinating. Purnick is a great writer and she has found a subject that offers to tell an amazing and mostly unknown story. How did a Jewish kid from suburban Boston, whose origins were very humble, become one of the richest and most powerful men in New York City -- and America? How did he accumulate his billions and then use them to shape the greatest city in the world? Truth be told, until know, we have known very little about this man and that's why this books is so important.

You can't compare Mike Bloomberg to most of our previous mayors because we've had so few mayors like him. Most mayors work their way up through the political process, serving in various elected and appointed posts in government before scoring the big chair in city hall. Not Bloomberg. He never served in government before shocking the political world and winning in 2001, right after 9/11. And he brought to this public position -- a job almost two hundred years older than the US presidency -- a totally different viewpoint and way of doing business that has revolutionized city government.

Nor can you even compare Bloomberg to people like the Rockefellers and Astors, etc., people who, like Bloomberg, built great fortunes and businesses. Unlike Bloomberg, these people never sullied themselves with the dirty business of politics and government. But Bloomberg has and has used his economic and political power to shape this city like no mayor before him.

Is Mike Bloomberg the greatest mayor this city has ever had? Only history will say. But it's clear he's very one of a kind. And as this upcoming book concludes, as far as our mayors go, Bloomberg "fits no paradigm, sets no precedent."

Moses v. Jacobs Redux

Very recently I wrote about the book Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City. Yesterday the author, Anthony Flint, did a really great interview about it on WNYC. Listen to it here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Stuy Town Blues

If you want to read about a real life example, a textbook case, about the tyranny of money in NYC and how it's eviscerating the middle class in this town, read this article in this week's New York Press.

Written by an NYU junior, it describes how the once solidly middle class Stuyvesant Town -- which used to be a middle class enclave in Manhattan where people of modest means could live in spacious apartments and have a good quality of life -- has been wrecked by its sale to a big development and the encroachment of NYU. Not only are people getting priced out of their apartments but now that NYU students are moving in, these young'uns are doing things like blasting music, smoking weed, and making noise in the middle of the night. I can only imagine how the middle aged, normal residents of Stuy Town must feel.

That said, I congratulate Henry Melcher, the author of this article, on writing something so insightful and comprehensive. He gives me some hope for his generation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Congrats Sonia, RIP John Hughes

Good news and sad news so often coincide, as shown here in NYC today.

The good news: Bronx gal Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed as the newest Supreme Court Justice. The first Hispanic, the third woman, and latest New Yorker to join the high court, today she makes all New Yorkers proud. All of the Democratic Senators voted for her and so did some Republicans. Most of the Republicans voted against her but what do you expect of people who believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old? Sonia beat them -- by a 68-31 margin. You go girl -- to the Supreme Court.

But now the sad: remember Sixteen Candles? The Breakfast Club? Ferris Bueller's Day Off? John Hughes, the writer/director of those great 1980s teen comedies died today here in NYC. Apparently he was just walking down the street and died of a heart attack. He was 59. John Hughes' movies defined the 1980s and helped to liven up what was a very boring decade. He will be missed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Odds and Ends

Mr NYC doesn't have a comprehensive post today, just some random interesting stuff.

First, there's a new book about the battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs called Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint. It's about how Jacobs mobilized grassroots support in opposition to Moses's proposed highways that would have destroyed Washington Square Park and whole parts of Soho, Greenwich Village and Chinatown. Ms. Jacobs succeeded and defeated these proposed highways which were, as the author of this review of the book indicates, "clearly insane."

That's putting it mildly. All New Yorkers owe Jane Jacobs a great debt of gratitude.

Moving on, I got an email from someone asking me to plug a new website called the New York Future Initiative that's sort of like a New York City version of Digg. It's a localized news aggragator and is associated with the Democracy Forum and the New York Observer. It's pretty cool, check it out. I've also added it to my NYC blog roll.

Finally, someone named Carrie sent me the following message:

Hi!


I was reading through your post about the Green Day show at MSG .. and it really sounded amazing! I've been a fan of Green Day, but wouldn't say that I am a fanatic .. but reading through your post made it sound like even I would've had an awesome time there. Definitely am going to have to check out their show, next time they're in town.

Anyway, I thought that you and your readers might be interested in the following Green Day content.

Think that you're the ultimate Green Day fan? Check out Alex Iglesias and the FanCam, as they hit up the Green Day concert to see just how poetic the fans can be. Check it out here: http://video.msg.com/Videos/MSG-Networks/7LvrHcj0JANB_367O95RvDat3vvxLXa_


Thanks, and please share with your readers!

Best,
Carrie


Done and done. Looks like Mr NYC is becoming an trend-maker. Ha!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Central Park Summer Stage

Last night I went to see banjo player extraordinaire Bela Fleck and Mali musician Toumani Dibate at the Central Park Summer Stage. If you've never gone to Summer Stage, you must. They have some great shows and most of them are free!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where Did the Mob in NYC Come From?

The Mafia, "the Mob", la cosa notra, the Family -- organized crime has always intrigued New Yorkers. Whether its through The Godfather movies or "The Sopranos", New Yorkers have been fascinated with the people who live and work outside the law. They seem to do whatever they want (to whoever they want), they kill, rob, lie, deceive, extort, con, defraud, beat up, and then they finish their days eating big fancy meals at expensive restaurants with their wives or goomahs while wearing fancy suits and bling, and then drive home to their gorgeous houses in their sleek new cars.

Or at least that's what we think.

Of course while popular culture and tabloid headlines give us an idea of what the mob does, we know little of its history and how it took root here in NYC. There is a new book, however, they tells the history of the mob in NYC and how one immigrant's arrival here in 1892 was the beginning of what we know (and fear) today as "the mob."