Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Livin' Long Enough for the City

As someone who just became a father a week ago, it was a pleasant surprise to read today that the life expectancy of babies born in NYC beats the national average. Babies born in our fair city can now expect to live an average of 80.6 years while babies born nationwide can expect to live 78.2 years.

That's amazing!

Proof that living in NYC is great for your health. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mr NYC is a Daddy

Just a small note that my current and, probably, future lack of blogging is due to the birth of my Little Miss NYC yesterday.

Yes, as scary as the thought is, there is a wonderful little girl in this world tonight who calls the shlub who writes this blog Dad.

Thank you for all your kinds thoughts.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Classic Mr NYC

The hit play from a couple years back, "God of Carnage", is now a movie directed by Roman Polanski, simply called "Carnage." 

It was a huge success on Broadway. It'll be interesting to see how popular the movie is.

Yours truly went to see the play back in 2009 and posted a little review of it here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Re-Imagine NYC?

NYC is a place that always changes -- including geographically.

Trying to grasp how it has transformed over 400+ years is virtually impossible. The city's geography has evolved in countless ways. And it's not just the bridges and tunnels that have been built over the decades, nailing this city of islands together.  It's not just the buildings that populate our skylines. 

It's the land of NYC itself.

Manhattan was largely filled in by concrete, smoothing out the skinny islands rough edges. Wards and Randalls Islands used to be two separate islands until they were fused together. Same with the islands off the Bronx that were joined to form Orchard Beach. Central Park, Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows Park, etc. -- none of these green oasis existed until human beings created them. Our topography is a work in progress. 

And now comes another idea that is both horrifying and amazing: building a land bridge from Lower Manhattan to Governors Island. You read that right: essentially extending Manhattan island downwards until it meets and then subsumes Governors Island -- as this picture indicates. It's a wild idea. 

I don't know what I think about it. I like Governor's Island the way it is and needless to say the cost and controversy of doing something like this is so huge that I doubt it'll ever happen. But who knows? Maybe it will. 

Recently this was discussed on WNYC and has always been the subject of some articles. Research it for yourself and see what you think. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mitt takes Manhattan

Apparently Republican Presidential candidate Mitt "I'll say anything, take any position, be whatever you want me to be, whore myself out to anyone" Romney was in town today. He was showing what a salt of the earth, man of the people he is by spending the entire day raising money from hedge fund billionaires.

It's probably a good thing that he was surrounded by these rich people, since they're probably the only people in NYC who'll vote for him.  

As the great Matt Taibbi once wrote, Romney is an utter tool. He's as phoney a politician as I've ever seen and I really, really, really, really hope he loses. 

Even though I didn't vote for them, I felt sorry for John McCain and Bob Dole when they lost their presidential elections because those two men totally devoted their lives (even their bodies) to serving this country. Not Romney. He's devoted his life to serving Mitt Romney. He was born to wealth, grew up wealthy, spent his life getting wealthier, never served in the military, had trouble getting elected to office and then, when he did, had trouble staying in elected office, and now he thinks he should be president. 

Please. 

Unlike McCain and Dole, if he loses the nomination or the general election, it will fill me with nothing but joy. Go Mitt! (To defeat!)

City Talk: Pete Hamill, author, "Tabloid City" Part 1

City Talk: Pete Hamill, author, "Tabloid City" Part 2

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Halloran Files

A few times over this past year, I've blogged about Dan Halloran, NYC's strangest city council member.

Here's a weird, weird, weird guy. And a fraud. And a crazy zealot.

Recently, the Village Voice did a big article on Halloran which profiles just how odd this man in a position of power is. You should read it and can also check out my previous posts on this lunatic. Hopefully, as colorful as he is, he will no longer be in office after 2013. For now, however, let's enjoy the train wreck while it lasts.

Gotta Love New Yorkers

Girl on the subway, yakking into her cell phone:

"So remember I told you that I applied for a job two weeks ago? It's to be the Assistant to the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary General of the UN ..."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas NYC

I love Christmas in New York City. A beautiful, amazing city becomes a huge holiday exhibit. Walk up and down 5th Avenue and check out all the decorated store fronts. There's the Rockefeller Christmas trees, the Salvation Army santas ringing their bells. In all corners of the city, the holidays make their presence known, with Christmas trees being sold on the corners, and decorative lights straddling the lampposts over the streets.

Not only that, but there's so much to do!

Shows, concerts, choruses, exhibits, ice skating! It's quite the holiday feast here in NYC.

So what's worth doing here in NYC? This little guide gives you some helpful tips of what's worth your time and money if you're spending the holidays here in NYC.  

Make it a good one!

The Madoff Legacy

Three years ago this weekend, the Bernie Madoff scandal broke.

The greatest Ponzi schemer of all time, a once respected investor and former NASDAQ head was revealed to be nothing but a huge fraud. He lost billions and billions of dollars, and thousands of people were financially destroyed. Madoff plead guilty right away and is now serving 150 years in the pokey. His family was shattered, a son committing suicide last year, his wife cutting him off forever. Their story is the subject of books, countless magazine articles, and a long 60 Minutes profile.

But what about their victims? What about the people trying to uncover the biggest financial crime in history?

Needless to say, this story continues. The victims are trying to rebuild their lives and finances, and hoping that the investigators will recover some of their money. Meanwhile the investigators have what has to be the most awful job ever. They are suing people who actually profited from this scheme -- and those people are suing back. They are dealing with victims' frustrations at the slow pace of the investigation (how could something like this possibly be fast?). And then there are the prosecutors who are still trying find out who else was in on this scheme and who else needs to be punished.

Some legacy, Bernie.

A legacy of pain. A legacy of misery. A legacy of destruction. And worse, a legacy where the only people who benefit are loners.

As I get older, I wonder about what kind of legacy I'll leave behind. What will I create (or not) that my family, friends, and others will have to deal with? Hopefully it will be something good. It might be something very modest (maybe nothing more than this blog) but at least I hope it will be something that makes them happy or least content. Hopefully it just won't be, like Bernie Madoff, a legacy of pain.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cuomo, Legislature agree on middle class tax cuts

Sleeping on the Subway

Today I saw something that drives me nuts: people sleeping on the subway. 

What do they think the subway is? Their bedroom?

Sadly, for some people, it is (I guess). But even most homeless people manage to get to shelters and sleep there or they do it on the streets. Most of the people who sleep on the subway clearly have a bed at home but I guess they just can't wait. What drives me nuts the most are people who fall asleep on the person sitting next to them. This has happened to me gawd knows how many times and it drives my meshughana. This is what I saw today. And just watching it makes me mad!

But most people like me wonder: how can anyone sleep on the subway anyway?

After all, the subway is always stopping and starting, stopping and starting, clack-clack-clacking away. People are moving about and talking, doors melodically opening and closing, announcements blaring, even babies crying and people singing ... it's a real party. So how can anyone sleep?

Well, a couple of doctors with too much time on their hands apparently decided to study it. It seems that people can sleep on the subway but just not very well (no kidding). There are five stages of sleep but subways sleeps usually only get to stages one or two -- the least restorative stages. So on top of annoying people and putting themselves at risk of getting mugged, subway sleepers are getting lousy sleep. 

Wow, these doctors sure are brilliant.

Perhaps the MTA could create a sound-proof sleeping car with bunk bends. Then I just myself start sleeping on the subway too.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Transit Tidbits

Here in NYC, transportation is a constant concern. Anyone who reads this blogs knows transit is one of my chief areas of interest -- and gripes -- about this town. NYC is the greatest city in the world yet getting around it is always a challenge. Just one of the many, it turns out, about living here. 

Most of it is the fault of You Know Who -- but that's for another time. 

Yet two stories this weekend highlight a couple of interesting developments in the never ending saga of NYC transit.

First, there's the fact that as bridge and tunnels tolls have increased, there has been a 4% decrease in the number of cars going across and through them. In the last year, as tolls have gone up, there are almost a million fewer vehicles going in and out of this town. Subsequently, ridership on public transportation has increased! Fewer cars, more people maximizing public transit -- who says there's no good news?

Second, as the economy lumbers back to life, one of the sectors experiencing growth in NYC is the "tech sector." Yes, good ol' Silicon Alley is back and better than ever! One of those great pieces of 21st century lingo is the "tech corridor" -- areas populated with tech company giants and start-ups that are linked by similar transportation routes. Most people probably think of highways in Northern California when they think of "tech corridors" but the one in NYC connecting Silicon Alley together is naturally on the subway -- specifically, the R train. New economy meets old infrastructure, I guess. Who knew the future of NYC's economy lay on one of its crappiest subways line?

Moving around this dynamic city is and always will be ... dynamic.

Memo from NYC

Oh no! Catastrophe! This is a total disaster! 

The unemployment rate fell dramatically. 

Wait, that's bad news? Well yes -- if you're a Republican.

For the last three years, ever since Obama became president, the Republican have been doing everything they can to destroy the economy since they think this will make Obama a one term president. Never mind that it was a Republican president named Bush who created this economic mess -- as the one in office since the great recession began (actually, just before he took office), Obama has been on the receiving end of Republican blame for the bad economy -- again, never mind that the Republicans are the ones responsible for it. 

But suddenly the unemployment rate fell from 9.1% to 8.6%. There have been 21 straight months of job growth. Things are looking (slowly, slowly) up. So obviously this is terrible news for the Republicans because, if this keeps going, Obama will be re-elected. And the Republican party will be totally discredited once again. It will show how wrong they've been about the economy and, well, everything and how Obama, despite his flaws and stumbles, has done well.

Bad news for Republicans.

Good news for America.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jim Henson's Fantastic World

We are all Jim Henson's children.

The brilliant creative mind that created the Muppets -- those furry talking animals with lots of attitude and lots of heart who loved to sing and dance -- has literally given generations of children countless hours of joy. Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzy bear, Rowlf the dog, Gonzo, Scooter, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the Swedish Chef, Statler and Waldorf, Sam the eagle, ANIMAL! -- we grew up with them, and now our children are growing up with them. The Muppets created a world we all wanted to belong to and where everyone was wanted.

Some day we'll find it ... 

It's hard to describe how much I love the Muppets -- in fact, I don't know anyone who doesn't. And best of all the Muppets are back and bigger than ever with a new hit movie and a big exhibit here in NYC. 

At the Museum of Moving Image through January, you can go to see "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" that explores the life and work of the man who left the world too early in 1990. Henson was a puppeteer, a filmmaker, a writer, a singer, a voice over artist, and a visual genius. He worked on Sesame Street in its early years, created The Muppet Show and their subsequent movies plus Fraggle Rock and also made movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. He had a unique vision that the world loves to this day. 

What's great about this exhibit is your learn how much work went into Jim Henson creating his fantastic world. There are countless exhibits of his drawings and notes. Remember the great beginning to The Muppet Show? You get to see the original drawings that Henson did for it, seeing how he storyboarded the shots and the song lyrics to match them. The exhibit teaches you a lot more things about Henson that I'm sure you didn't know -- like that he had four kids, he was nominated for an Oscar in the 1960s, and he created Kermit the Frog as far back as 1955. 

It's a great exhibit about a great man -- one that all us all should be grateful we had for as short a time as we did. He made us all a little bit more innocent, a little happier. He made all of us ... better people.  

The lover, the dreamer, and me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

They come, they see ... they spend money

One of the biggest businesses in NYC is the city itself. This town is quite literally a magnet, snapping  tens of millions of people towards it each year. 

In these hard times, tourism has become one of the few growing sectors of the NYC economy.

And oh boy, do they come. This year the number of tourists flocking into our city will top 50 million for the first time. Yeah, that's a lot of people. That's the population of Australia and Canada combined plus a few million. That's basically the entire equivalent of France. As big as our city is and as huge as our population is, it's virtually impossible to conceive how many people come here each year just to visit.

Here are some of the stats, according to New York magazine:
  • Of the roughly 50 million visitors, roughly 10 million of them are from abroad and roughly 40 million of them are from the USA
  • The typical American visitors stays two days and spends less than $500 
  • The typical foreign visitors stays a week and spends almost $2000
  • Ten percent of all foreign tourists are British
  • Visitors from Scandinavian countries spend the most money here
  • The fastest growing demographic of foreign tourists are Brazilians
As economies around the world boom and the dollar remains weak, foreigners love to come to NYC and drop coin. It's cheaper for them here than at home (if you can believe that). And surprisingly, most of the American visitors to NYC actually live about 30 miles from town.

Obviously, we love tourists. They pour tons of money into our economy and keep up afloat. 

But is this a good thing? 

The obvious answer is yes. Mo' tourists, mo' money. But there's always a dark cloud.

The dark cloud is that tourism is replacing real economic growth. Mayor Bloomberg himself says that in this article, apparently without any worry about it. But I worry. NYC's economy must always been dynamic, growing, evolving. We don't want to become a Venice or Colonial Williamsburg, a once great city existing purely on its historical reputation or famous sites. We want to be a thriving city, a metropolis on the move.  

Also, as this article points out, tourism has boomed in the last several years thanks to a cheap dollar and low crime rates. But what if the dollar strengthens? What if crime goes up or there's another horrible terrorist attack? Then tourism will plunge and what will replace it then?

So when it comes to tourists, I say the more the merrier (and the more money, the much merrier). But let's also not turn into a city of navel gazers, thinking we're so great while the city crumbles about our ears. Let's create new businesses, attract new industries, and keep the city's economy dynamic. Then we'll really be something to see.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How the 1% Lives

Much of the Occupy Wall Street protests have focused anger at the richest of the rich Americans -- the so-called 1% -- and how they don't pay their fair share in taxes. Basically, the argument goes, they don't pay enough and the government goes without much needed revenue to do the things that will improve our society.

"But that's not fair!" the 1% and their defenders shout. "The 1% pay the most in taxes!"

Not really. See today's huge article about how one of NYC's richest men -- Ronald Lauder of the Estee Lauder fortune -- cleverly hides his money from the government in legal tax shelters. It's really scummy and depressing. The loopholes and "donations" to various "charities" and foundations dramatically reduce the amount of taxes that so many rich people like Lauder have to pay. 

Like most rich people, the Lauders of the world get to eat their cake and have it to. It's the best of both worlds really: the rich can boast that they are "oh-so generous" buy giving huge amounts of money to "charity" and earn brownie points with the public for how "good" they are. In reality, they're just reducing their tax burden, moving money around from a taxable entity to a non-taxable one. It's gotta be great to reduce your taxes and get free positive publicity instead paying your fair share and getting no glory. 

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Call it vanity unfair.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Classic Mr NYC

Following up on my post below, I thought it would be cool to re-post a blog entry from last year about secret places in NYC. Needless to say, there's a lot! Enjoy.

An Underground Park?

Ever since the Highline opened in 2009 -- and gave NYC its first park in the sky -- the idea of "re-purposing" city areas for parks or other public uses has become quite the urban vogue. NYC is very big but also very dense -- so making use of every inch of it and making it as great as possible is a very wise indeed.

So what not have a park right under our feet? 

There's a couple of eager young engineers who want to design a subterranean park under Delancey Street. They want to hollow out a long buried, ancient trolley terminal (who knew those even existed?!) and make it into a park using fiber optics to channel natural light for photosynthesis. 

You should check out this article about it and look at some of the designs -- they're quite impressive. This project is still very much in the planning/its-gotta-get-financed stage but, hopefully, it'll become a reality. 

After all, NYC is a place that it's always re-imagining itself so why not?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Robert Moses Redux?

Besides warping this city's infrastructure and destroying neighborhoods with his ill-conceived highways, parks, and other structures, the "master builder" Robert Moses also did this city another great disservice: he made the idea of huge public works scary.

Over the last forty years since Moses fell from power, New Yorkers have looked askance at attempts to build huge, city-altering projects.

Ten years after 9/11, Ground Zero is still a work in progress after years of financial and regulatory problems and squabbles. Recently the Arc Tunnel project connecting NY and NJ was killed and people both in New York and New Jersey don't seem to care. Moynahan Station and the Second Avenue Subway still remain frustrating out of reach. And now there is great debate over the Tappen Zee bridge which Governor Cuomo wants to repair but wants to do on the cheap -- which would mean not including any kind of public transportation improvements like a rail connector or pedestrian walkways. 

Building big or re-imagining our city and our area's physical plant almost seems impossible these days.

Obviously it comes to down to money (i.e. taxes) and public will (i.e. political power). If New Yorkers aren't willing to pay the taxes or tolls for more public works, then our infrastructure won't improve. If we are going to punish politicians who want to raise the taxes and build these public works with electoral defeat, then our infrastructure won't only not improve -- it will degrade. Sadly, not only in New York but around the country, politicians have been getting elected by promising to kill things like high-speed rail and other public works. Clearly, not only in NY but elsewhere too, we're not going in the right direction in terms of our city and nation's physical plant.

This article makes this point and more. And it makes you wonder: do we need another Robert Moses? The man who got things done despite the politicians?

I don't think so but our city does need to get over its fear of building big. We need to clearly and soberly look at what our city's infrastructure problems are, come to a political and financial consensus about the work required and the costs it will entail, and then move forward boldly. We just don't need to do it the way Robert Moses did.

And this is what we need: we don't need more highways or bike paths -- we need more subways lines and light rail links. We don't need more public housing projects and luxury skyscrapers -- we need more affordable housing constructed in a way that compliments and doesn't destroy neighborhoods. We need to re-build our sewers and other hidden but vital infrastructure. None of this stuff is "sexy" but vital.

We need to build in a way that will make it easier for New Yorkers to live, work and get around this city -- and that will ensure our future. 

Henry Rollins Letter to Woody Allen

Woody Allen: An American Master

Tonight and tomorrow on PBS, there will be a two-part "American Masters" documentary on Woody Allen. Premiering at 9 PM each night, it is billed as the most comprehensive look at "New York's mensch auteur", one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. 

I can't wait. 

Anyone who has read this blog knows I'm a huge Woody fan. Perhaps that makes me a typical, boring yuppie New Yorkers but I don't care. 

The breadth of his achievement is truly amazing. He has been making almost a movie a year since 1969, acting in many of them. He has written books, plays, and articles. Before he became a director, he was also a brilliant stand-up comedian. His influence is on generations of filmmakers and comedians is immeasurable -- he's influenced people who have influenced people. Woody Allen is truly a brilliant artist and few ever have or ever will reach his level.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Madoff Speaks!

On yesterday's Leonard Lopate show, Stephanie Madoff Mack talked about her life as a member of the most notorious family in America.  Listening to this woman -- a daughter-in-law of the great Ponzi schemer who was married to his son Mark (who killed himself last year) -- is to listen to a victim trying to make sense of her shattered life. It's really emotional but I give Ms. Mack an immense amount of credit of speaking about it so honestly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garbo Walks!

If you love old movies, then you must see the films of Greta Garbo. 

The Swedish beauty was the biggest movie star of the 1920s and 1930s, and the first true international star. She went from being a silent star to the first big star of the talkies ("Garbo Talks!" was the tag line for 1930's Anna Christie, her first speaking part). During the Great Depression, Garbo took Americans out of their doldrums with such classics as Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Camille, and Ninotchka. I've seen them all and they are as entertaining as anything being made today. Not only that, but Garbo's sex appeal has transcended into the 21st century.  

Garbo was gorgeous but also a first rate actress. She had an amazing, magical talent. Often she played in dramas and was the ultimate doomed femme fatal. But in 1939's Ninotchka, she gave what has to be one of the greatest female comic performances of all time. 

She was beautiful, soulful, and funny. Also, she is immortalized in Cole Porter's song "You're the Top":

You're the National Gallery!
You're Garbo's salary!
You're cellophane!

Many have said she was probably the greatest female movie actress of all time.

And then, in 1941, she walked away from it all.  

Garbo quit the movies and chose to live a private life. Occasionally she was tempted to return to the screen but it always came to nothing. Not only did she not act again but she almost never gave interviews, never went on TV, never made public appearances, and never wrote a memoir. Along with JD Salinger, she became one of the most famous of recluses.

In the early 1950s, Garbo moved to NYC where she lived until her death in 1990. Though she fiercely guarded her privacy, Garbo loved to take long walks around Manhattan and spotting her almost became a sport for New Yorkers. 

Garbo's most famous line is from 1932's Grand Hotel where she exclaims, "I want to be alone!" And alone she lived in NYC for almost forty years. 

Garbo spent her final decades in an apartment building on East 52nd street, just off 1st Avenue. It is at the end of a dead-end street overlooking the east river. For a recluse who wants to live in Manhattan, it's the perfect place because it's not easy to get to and is very private.

Recently, I was in the area and remembered that this is where she used to live so I -- having the time and interest -- trotted down the street and snapped a photo of her building. As you can see, it looks just like any upscale Upper East Side building. Elegant, but not as spectacular as its most famous deceased tenant.

And I noted something: considering that Garbo was one of the most famous movie stars in history and lived in this building for almost half her life, you might think there'd be a plaque or something outside the building commemorating her. After all, many other buildings where other famous people lived in NYC have such things. Some even name the street where they lived after them! 

But not here. Not at all. You'd never know this was where she lived. Even in death, the great Garbo just wants to be alone.

Scenes from Occupy Wall Street in Exile

So early this AM, Mayor Mike sent the NYPD to break up OWS and sent the protesters a'scatterin' 'round town. The purpose was ostensibly to "clean" the park but it was really just a power play -- the 1% cracking down on the other 99%. Think Bloody Sunday without the bloody.

But OWS regrouped quickly. 

Around 9 AM, several protesters convened at Duarte Square on the corner of Canal and Varick streets. Yours truly was on the scene -- actually several stories above it at the time -- so I snapped some pics before going down observing it in the raw. So these pics are a Mr NYC exclusive!








This re-grouping turned out to be rather anti-climatic. They chanted a bunch and waved signs. The cops turned out en masse (many of them in riot gear) and intimidated the hell out of the protesters. Eventually, by the early afternoon, the protesters left. By 4 PM, it was as though nothing had ever happened and no one was ever there.

But it was a unique moment in NYC history, like being in Times Square on VJ-Day or at the Stonewall Riots or something. And I was lucky enough to gawk (and photograph) it.

Riot Police Clear Out Occupy Wall Street Camp - Nov. 15th

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Corporate City

The media today is obsessed with the Republican/Democrat, Red/Blue, Liberal/Conservative, urban vs. rural socioeconomic/political/cultural divide. The two America's at war with each other, pushing and pulling the country apart -- one America wanting to make us more like Canada (the liberal urban Democrats) and the other wanting to make us more like Mexico (the conservative rural Republicans). This "divide" is at the heart of the current narrative of American politics, with NYC as the capital of Blue America (and I guess the whole state of Texas being the capital of Red America but there are many contenders for that title I suppose).  

But like so many simplistic generalities, this "narrative" is wrong. For NYC isn't really the bastion of liberalism that the media, the conservatives, and the rest of America think it is. And it's not just that we've just elected Republican mayors for the last 20 years (but that's part of it). It's that NYC has become, over the last thirty years, a corporate city, one where corporations and powerful private interests have acquired huge power over our city's government, dictating policies that affect our lives, all while eviscerating public power and crushing the middle while helping the rich.
Let the Free Market rule! 

Ad increasingly, since the age of Ed Koch and Ronald Reagan thirty years ago to the time of Mike Bloomberg and George Bush and Barack Obama today, the Free Market has been ruling NYC and controlling its destiny like never before.

Private money has never been more powerful than it is today in NYC. Same is true in other "hotbeds of liberalism" around the country like Chicago and Washington, DC. I could go on here and give example after example of how NYC today is a Corporate City and how it's "liberalism" isn't quite what it seems. But the always great Matt Taibbi and the brilliant David Sirota have written about it in such perfect language that I will simply re-post some of things they said about it here.

First, Taibbi writes about Mayor Bloomberg, the ultimate corporate mayor, and how this incredibly reactionary mayor has thrived in "liberal" NYC for more than a decade: 

       [Bloomberg] is a billionaire Wall Street creature with an extreme deregulatory bent who has   quietly advanced some nastily regressive police policies… but has won over upper-middle-class liberals with his stances on choice and gay marriage and other social issues.
Bloomberg’s main attraction as a politician has been his ability to stick closely to a holy trinity of basic PR principles: bang heavily on black crime, embrace social issues dear to white progressives, and in the remaining working hours give your pals on Wall Street (who can raise any money you need, if you somehow run out of your own) whatever they want.
He understands that as long as you keep muggers and pimps out of the prime shopping areas in the Upper West Side, and make sure to sound the right notes on abortion, stem-cell research, global warming, and the like, you can believably play the role of the wisecracking, good-guy-billionaire Belle of the Ball…
Second, David Sirota notes what Taibbi wrote and also looks at the corporate city as a wider American phenomenon. Sirota writes about how Chicago has privatized its public infrastructure, selling off highways and parking meters to private interests. The big city Democratic mayors have been trying to destroy public employee unions with the same zeal as Republican governors (Chicago again, and Denver). The charter school movement that has been funded by big private interests -- including Wal Mart! -- has spread in "liberal" cities like LA, New Orleans, and DC (which gave us the odious Michelle Rhee, the schools head who wants to destroy every teachers union in America). Many "liberal" cities have been slashing city budgets and reducing public services while refusing to raise taxes on the rich but offering huge public subsidies for stadiums, office buildings, and public/private ventures (always making the argument that this will "create jobs" and "raise tax revenues" for cities -- but almost never doing that in reality and in fact costing these cities money in the long run).  

These are corporate cities if there ever were any, and NYC is at the forefront of it. But because our media is so obsessed with cultural issues over economic ones, a city is "liberal" if most of its people support abortion or gay rights or gun control -- not if its leaders are selling their people out to private interests and destroying the public sector. Sirota writes:

Though Taibbi was writing about Bloomberg specifically, his words aptly sum up what the American cityscape has become — yet more scorched earth in the successful assault of Limousine Liberals and Crony Corporatists on Lunch-Pail Liberals and Progressive Populists. In political terms, it represents the broader success of the transpartisan moneyed class in fully redefining “liberal” exclusively as “social-issue liberal” — without regard for economic agenda. 

So when you look at Occupy Wall Street you see a movement that is simply angry at money and the corporate state controlling our lives and our destinies -- and it goes beyond any party, any mayor, any city. It goes to the heart of what NYC and America has become -- and it wants to fight back. 

A good fight indeed. 

Why'd They Call it That?

In NYC, we have lots of bridges, roads, parks, streets, even whole neighborhoods named after historically important dead people. 

But do we know who all of them are? Or were ...

LaGuardia airport is obvious. So is Washington Square. Madison Avenue is named after -- you got it -- James Madison.  Lincoln Center? Take a wild guess.

But who was Van Wyck and why does he have a major expressway named after him? Same with Major Deegan. Who was Bruckner? Kosciusco? Who was the Tompkins in Tompkins Square Park?

Did they really name Astoria after the Astor family? (Yes!) 

Did you know the Holland Tunnel was named after a guy named Clifford Holland who designed the freakin' thing?

Listen to this segment from Friday's Leonard Lopate show that explores the people named after many of the important structures and parks and areas of this town. It's surprising to find out who some of these people were and some of the arbitrary reasons why certain important things were named for them. (Bruckner, for instance, was a Bronx Borough President who used his mojo to give a major road his monicker.)

More surprising are all of the important people in NYC history who don't have stuff named after them. Like me.

As the saying goes, what's in a name?

NYC on TV

There have always been a plethora of TV shows set in NYC. From I Love Lucy to All in the Family to The Cosby Show to Seinfeld, from Barney Miller to Night Court to Law and Order, NYC has had many lives and identities on the small screen over the decades. Like the city itself, there have been many different versions of this multifaceted city.

But how realistic are many of these shows? Is the NYC on TV the NYC in reality?

If you watch shows like Law and Order, NYPD Blue or Mad About You, you get a realistic sense of the insanity of life in this town. If you watch shows like Sex and the City or Friends, on the other hand, you get a very unrealistic, fantasy version of it -- NYC as playground, NYC has an ideal, not a place. 

Don't take my word for it, however. Or don't let me be the last word. Instead, read this article from The Atlantic that takes a look at the shows set in NYC and determines there "realistic-ness" on a 1 to 5 scale. Some I agree with, some I don't but it's an interesting list and you should give it a look. 

Mayor Bloomberg Speaks at Flight 587 10th Anniversary Memorial Service

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kudos, Props, and Requests

A lil' bit of blog bid'ness that I hope you, my sweet readers, will pay some sweet attention to.

First, if you check out my right-hand links, you'll see that I made some additions and subtractions. Added some new links, got rid of some dead ones, and re-arranged a few others. Browse and enjoy at your leisure.

Second, I'd like to request my great readers to send me any links to blogs or websites that are NYC-related so that I can add them to the link list too. If you have an NYC blog and would like it linked here, even better! Just click on the Comments and send me the link and, if it's cool, I'll include it here. Any other comments are welcome as well.

Third, I'd just like to thank the over 76 thousand people (and counting) who have stopped by this blog over the last four-plus years. The vast bulk of my readers are from the USA but there's also a strong number of visitors from the UK, Germany, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands, China, France, and the Ukraine. Considering that this blog is about NYC, a big international city, it's great to know that this blog has an international audience. 

Keep up the great work!

Happy Birthday George Washington Bridge!

The GWB turns a grand old eighty years old today. 

Looking pretty good for an octogenarian. 

Love everything about this structure except the traffic.

Here's to another eight years. 

New York Neuroses

Interesting article that looks very closely at the unique neurosis of NYC. What is it when we talk about "neurotic New Yorkers" exactly? This article attempts to explain why.

Full disclosure: I was actually interviewed for this article last week but my comments, sadly, were left on the cutting room floor. But it was an honored to be consulted and it's a good read nonetheless.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

New York Broads

"There ain't nothing like a dame!"

And there's nothing like New York dames -- or broads -- either.

Take these two very different but very interesting examples.

Liz Smith is probably the greatest gossip columnist in this town's history. She's been practicing her trade for decades (as I've written about here). Recently, Vanity Fair did a great short profile about her and how she's an only in New York kind of gal, how New York has made her what she is today. But she's not originally from here -- oh no, she's from Texas. But when she's a classic New York broad because she came here and conquered, she made this town her own and made her mark. This town may have made her but she also made part of it too. Tough as nails, smart as a whip, a living legend, Liz Smith is one great New York broad.

But New York produces his own great broads too. 
Ellen Barkin has a been a prominent actress for almost thirty years. She's made classic movies like Diner, The Big Easy, Sea of Love, and countless others. And this year she won a Tony for the play The Normal Heart. But for all her fame and fortune, Ellen Barkin is and wants the world to know that she's a New Yorker first and last. You must read her hilarious and wild Twitter feed, where this famous actress bills herself simply as "Bronx girl." And boy -- does her Twitter have a Bronx attitude! She's a real talent and a real New York broad. 

They don't make 'em like this anywhere else.

Haggerty Verdict

On the Streets Where They Lived Revisited

Add this to the culture file for NYC.

As much as we love the arts in NYC, we also love real estate. And hey, artists, they gotta live somewhere right?

Check out this website called Right Here NYC that lists that addresses and sometimes even has pictures of the various homes and apartments where some of the great writers, actors, musicians, and other artists who have lived in NYC over the years.

Where did you Jimmy Cagney grow up?

Where did Greta Garbo live during her reclusive years?

Where did Papa Hemingway live?

You can find out.

Old Friends

Eric Clapton once wrote a great song called "Old Friends" where you opined:

Hello old friend ... Really good to see you once again ... 

Speaking for myself, the greatest friendships are those based on nothing more, nothing less, than mutual affection. Not money, power, opportunism, or anything else -- just good old fashion trust. Those are the friendships that last the test of time, that weather every crises and the changes and vicissitudes of life. True, lasting friendships bow to nothing and no one and truly stands the many tests of time. 

That's why it brought a tear to my eye to read this column last week about two Bronx men in their late eighties who have been friends for ... eighty years! They were both born in Ireland and knew each other as children. Both men then migrated to America and had lives here -- but remained friends throughout. Neither man became wealthy or famous but they had good lives as a gravedigger and a transport worker, respectively. Both married, had families, and the two old Irish friends would sometimes vacation in that workers Riviera known as the Rockaways. 

It's a beautiful story. An eighty year friendship. And thought they've both lived in America for over 60 years, they still have their old country Irish brogues -- so whenever they speak to each other, they remember where they came from and how far they've come.

Sadly, one of them is dying of cancer and soon they will be parted. But there friendship will endure.

An old man passed me on the street today
I thought I knew him but I couldn't say 
I stopped to think if I could place his frame
When he tipped his hat I knew his name
 

Cultah', cultah', cultah'

The cultural life of NYC is so massive that there should be a TV show about it.

And now there is! 

PBS has a wonderful show called Sunday Arts that explores the various aspects of arts and culture in our fair city -- be it music, dance, opera, theater, art exhibitions, creative profiles, or information about various artistic and cultural institutions and support groups in town. If you, like me, consider yourself a culture junkie and an NYC junkie, then this is the perfect show for you.

Hey, it's PBS so you know it's gotta be classy. 

Also, if you love culture and NYC, you probably love ... wine! And PBS has a show about that too: Vine Talk, hosted by the great New York actor Stanley Tucci. Here you get to learn about new wines and see celebrities drink them. How classy is that?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Howard Stern as Clarence Thomas

Twenty years ago this month, this nation was roiled by the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. The former law profession was accusing the Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment and accusations and counter-accusations flew. Before Lewinsky, before the 2000 recount, before the Iraq War, this was one of those events that helped drive one more wedge into the political culture war that divides America to this day.

Back then, Howard Stern was a mostly local "shock jock" who also had a hilarious TV show on Channel 9 on Saturday nights. He did this incredibly funny, very politically incorrect send-up of Thomas in the summer of 1991 -- a few months before Anita Hill came forward with her allegations. This bit was inspired by the revelation that the very conservative Clarence Thomas has once smoked marijuana -- which Howard then turned into a comedy gold.

Watch this and laugh, and relive some history at the same time. It's Howard at his best.

Fightin' da' power, knockin' dem boots

Fighting for change is a wonderful, fulfilling thing to do. It gives meaning to your life and the lives of others.

It's also a really great way to score.

Ever since OWS began, it's not only helped shine a spotlight on the economic injustices of this country -- it's helped a lot of people get laid

Apparently people are hooking up at OWS like crazy. Bankers, those of the evil 1%, have even been propositioning the hot chicks of the other 99%. Even some rich broads want to bang some of the OWS guys because, I guess, they're "dangerous." Left and right, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor -- hey, they all get horny.

And maybe that's the best way to unite these hopelessly divisive times : nookie.

It may be that, very soon, OWS will turned into a huge orgy. And, if it does, I'm sure that OWS will be more popular than ever.

Public Private NYC

You must listen to this fascinating clip from WNYC today about the public/private spaces in NYC. Did you know that there are over 500 privately owned public spaces in this town?

500! 

Oy vey. 

Most, not surprisingly, are located in Manhattan but there are a few in the other boroughs. This segment also includes a wonderful clickable map of all of the spaces so you can see exactly where they are. 

Thanks to OWS, the issue of privately owned public areas is coming to light.

It's just another one of those endlessly fascinating things about NYC that we should all know about.

Judgment Day!

No, I'm not talking about the supposed end of the world which, according to that crazy preacher guy, is supposed to happen this Friday (I think it was supposed to happen a few months ago but didn't. Considering this guy's track record, I'm not holding my breath).

No, I'm talking about judgment day for John Haggerty, the Republican Bloomberg aid who provided "ballot security" (otherwise known as voter suppression) in order to help Hizzoner secure his third term. While providing this valuable public service, Mr. Haggerty allegedly stole $1 million of Bloomy's filthy lucre for himself. This has led to a widely publicize trial of Mr. Haggerty as well as a trial by press coverage of the very unethical way that the 2009 election was won. Now the trial is over -- and Mr. Haggerty's judgement day awaits.

While this trial hasn't turned out to be a New York City Watergate -- a full blown scandal that brings down a powerful leader -- it has, like Watergate, exposed the sleazy way that Bloomberg -- that billionaire  "I'm not a politician" man of the people -- has gone about acquiring power.

Voter suppression. Money laundering. Legal loopholes. Free lunches to "supporters" to turn out at public hearings about extending term limits. Bribery.

No matter if this guy is convicted or not, it will be a judgment day for Bloomberg of sorts. How his money has corrupted the civic and political life of this town -- and if it will ever be the same again. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Idiot Rides Outside The Subway Car

Third Time is not a Charm

I've ranted many a time about how Mayor Bloomberg's third term has basically been a disaster. Now the media is catching up.

Read here

Happy Anniversary OWS

What a difference a month makes!

Occupy Wall Street has grown from a curiosity to a media event to a world-wide global phenomenon.

You know it's a real phenomenon when the abbreviation OWS is casually used, since the assumption is that now everyone knows what it is.

And OWS has changed the national debate. shining a huge spotlight on the issues of unemployment, corporate malfeasance, and the gap between rich and poor. OWS has stolen the Tea Party's thunder, with 54% of Americans approving it, and only 24% approving of the tea baggers.

Suck it Republicans!

The most amazing thing: this movement is only a month old. One little month. And considering how big it's become in such a short time, who knows where this could lead? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

A few months ago, I blogged about the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. Believe it or not, NYC has a national park that's even bigger than Central Park, located on a salt water marsh not far from JFK Airport. When I blogged about it, I said that I had never been there but hoped to go. Well, now I've been there and can report that it's really quite amazing. Let my photos speak for themselves: