Monday, April 30, 2012

One World Trade Center is Tallest Building in NYC

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pete Fornatale, RIP

Sad news in the world of NYC radio: legendary rock DJ Pete Fornatale passed away the other day. 

Back when rock ruled the airways and DJs were stars who educated their audiences about music, Pete Fornatale was one the best. Listening to him, you could hear his love and encyclopedic knowledge of rock'n'roll in his every word. It burst through the radio and infected his listeners.

Along with the late Allison Steele, Pete Fornatale was one of the last great rock DJs in NYC.

Pete had a long career in NYC radio. He bounced around the dial, from the old WNEW, K-ROCK, WFUV and others. He was on the air at the time when rock was redefining itself constantly, and Pete one of the people who redefined radio in the 1960s and 70's by introducing audiences to the gods of rock: Bob Dylan, Elton John, Buffallo Springfriend, and so many more. For Pete, rock wasn't just the music he played to collect a paycheck, it was his life.

I became familiar with Pete Fornatale in the early 1990s when he was on K-Rock, still a classic rock station then. He was on during mid days (after Howard Stern) and sometimes I would listen to him during my free periods in high school on my old-school Walkman. Pete Fornatale, along with Stern and Allison Steele and Dave Herman and Maria Molito, made K-Rock easily the best station in NYC at that time: great music with great hosts. It was a tiny golden age in NYC radio that is, sadly, long gone. 

So here's to Pete Fornatale. Your legacy will always be remembered, and your love of music will live on.

Space Shuttle Enterprise Flies Over New York City April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Their Cheatin' Hearts

Big news! 

Huge news! 

Monumental news!

All of New York tonight is abuzz with this earth shattering development!

There is a website which you may have heard of (but that will remain nameless here) that makes it possible for people to meet other people who are married or in relationships to have "discrete affairs." Anyway, this very reputable site has just released a report indicating which towns and neighborhoods in the metro areas contains its highest per capita membership. And the neighborhoods in NYC with the highest number of people who belong to this "cheaters site" are, roughly in order: Park Slope, the Upper East Side, Forest Hills, Tribeca, Douglaston, Riverdale, and Howard Beach. 

Basically, with the exception of Howard Beach, the most affluent neighborhoods in NYC contains the most cheaters. At least, according to this "report," they do. 

What to make of this? 

Part of it is obvious. Wealthier people are more likely to be able to spend their money on silly things like this website. They are more likely not only to be able to afford the membership but all of the necessary accouterments of adultery: hotel rooms, secret cell phones, velvet robes, oils and lotions, negligees, whips and chains, masks and dog collars, riding crops -- you know, the basics. They can afford to hire babysitters to watch their kids while they're out doing their illicit banging. They probably work jobs that require them to travel and can use the excuse of "Oh honey, I'm gonna have to be out of town for a few days ..." Heck, part of it just technical: wealthier people are more likely to have high speed Internet connections in the first place!

Also, wealthier people like to do things in a more orderly, verifiable way -- like finding their lovers on a website designed for anonymity.

Part of me just thinks this is bogus. How does membership on a website really determine which neighborhoods have the most cheaters? I'm sure there are lots of people in poorer parts of town who cheat but do it the old fashioned way -- namely, bang their friends' girlfriends or people they pick up in bars. Something like adultery is probably impossible to quantify.

But here's the thing: this is not news. This isn't close to being news. This is a non-story story. It's nonsense. 

So why is it a huge news story? Why are dopes like me even blogging about it? 'Cause it's titilating. 'Cause it's easy to understand. 'Cause it's (literally) sexy. 'Cause it's a diversion.

And so much more interesting than the depressing state of the world. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Law and Money in NYC

It's not exactly a secret that money plays a huge role in unbalancing the scales of American justice. 

It's easier for wealthy and powerful people to shield themselves from the legal consequences of their gross misdeeds while poor and powerless people get the book thrown at them for even the most minor of infractions. Every time there's a high profile criminal trial, it's always noted by the public and the press how rich defendants buy their acquittals with high priced lawyers. Every time a big corporation wins a liability case, it's usually noticed how their armies of lawyers win the day. 

Justice isn't blind -- it's for sale.

But those are only the high profile, sensational stories. How money and power really perverts justice is in the day to day, routine administration of it. When affluent people are arrested, they can easily bail themselves out. When poor people are arrested, they can't. When affluent people are arrested, their family can get a lawyer ASAP who can get the charges dismissed. Poor people are dependent on overworked public defenders who can't. Affluent people have the means to fight charges. Poor people don't. So affluent people are much more likely to wriggle out of legal problems while poor people are very often forced to take pleas. 

It's an awful, unfair situation. And it's alive and well in NYC. Read about it here.    

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Art World Wars

The New York City art world is a big scary place.

If you're an artist, it's basically impossible to make a living from your art but it is possible, for the very lucky few, to make a fortune. For an artist in this town, if you want a career, you have to be good at your work but also good at business. You have to know people, get to know more people, network, get your work displayed and seen by the right people, and stay ahead of the trends. And your work has to stand out, be special, and resonate with collectors and art fans. 

Needless to say, it's tall order to have a career in the arts in this town.

I have a couple of relatives who are career artists and they are amazing at their work and have had success in the NYC art world. But whenever I talk to them about it, they tell me how hard it is to create and sustain a career. 

A couple of articles this week shed light on this very subject.  

New York magazine has a big special issue on how to make it in the art world in NYC. It's an unbelievably complicated, almost treacherous terrain. Obviously the thing that makes it so complex is the vast amounts of money sloshing around the art world in this town. Collectors are paying record amounts of money for art but there are also a record number of artists out there, hustling. The competition is fierce. The money is (potentially) huge. The egos are just as huge. 

Game on.

And money, ego and history along with downright stupidity are what lead to the demise, last year, of the historic Knoedler gallery. This was, believe it or not, the oldest gallery in NYC, older than the Met. The Knoedler essentially invented the NYC art world and lasted for 165 years -- but was brought low by selling forged artwork. It's an unbelievable story -- and shows just how complicated the art world in NYC is. Vanity Fair does an amazing investigation into what lead to the demise of the oldest art institution in NYC. 

It's a tragedy wrapped around a farce.

For once, great news

The week is young but already it's shaping up as one of the most consequential weeks in the history of NYC real estate ever. 

Consequential, mostly, for what won't be happening.

Namely, rent stabilization is here to stay and Walmart is staying out.

First, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by some Manhattanites seeking to overturn the state's rent stabilization rules. That means that over one million New Yorkers who live in rent stabilized homes are no longer in danger that their rents will skyrocket. It's hard to overstate what a big deal this is. This city's middle class is already dying but rent stabilization is one of the few things propping it up. Had the court heard the case and overturned the law, the havoc this would wreck on the city's middle class would have been devastating. Mercifully it won't happen. Personally, I was surprised: this Supreme Court is the most conservative in almost a hundred years and has shown no hesitancy in overturning laws that it finds ideologically distasteful. This has been the most pro-business, pro-rich, anti-worker, anti-poor Supreme Court ever so the fact that they decided to leave these rules intact is quite pleasant. For once, this Supreme Court made me happy -- as it should for the whole city.

Second, the stench of Walmart is probably guaranteed not to waft into this city anytime soon. The retail giant has been busted for bribery in Mexico. This scandal is just in the nascent stage and it's hard to know how big it'll get or what the fallout will be. However, the argument that Walmart is good for this city is now harder and harder to make. Why should this city give the green light for a criminal organization to set up shop in our town and destroy small businesses? Even it's proponents can't defend the company. And, boy, the proponents should try hard. A few times that I've blogged about Walmart, I got "comments" from "readers" saying how great Walmart is for NYC. These were probably paid hacks spouting some company generated talking points. I wonder if such "comments" will be forthcoming now.

So this has been an historic and historically good week for real estate in NYC. Homeowners and small business owners got a break. Let the good times roll!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Can't Beat the Rent

Beating the rent is one of the fundamental characteristics of any New Yorker. Paying as little as possible for as much space as possible is built into the DNA of all the people who call this city home. 

So how about living in a mansion for free?

Believe it or not, some people do it. There are a very, very lucky few people manage to land gigs as caretakers of historic homes all over the city. The basic gig: they get to live in these places rent free so long as they make sure the homes are properly maintained and sometimes give guided tours. Sure, they are paying rent in terms of labor (being a caretaker is a job) for which they don't get paid, but having a huge place to live in the densest city in the country ain't a bad deal.

Needless to say, as someone who loves NYC and history and would love to live in a big house rent free, yours truly is jealous. 

Let's just hope that, for these caretakers, ghosts of the previous characters don't urge them to kill their families. Remember this dialogue from The Shining?
Jack: Mr. Grady, you were the caretaker here.  Grady: I'm sorry to differ with you, sir, but you are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I should know, sir, I've always been here. Did you know, Mr. Torrance, that your son is attempting to bring an outside party into this situation? Did you know that? ...  Jack: It's his mother. She, uh … interferes.  Grady: Perhaps … they need a good talking to, if you don't mind my saying so. Perhaps … a bit more. My girls, sir, they didn't care for the Overlook at first. One of them actually stole a pack of matches and tried to burn it down. But I corrected them, sir. And when my wife tried to prevent me from doing my duty, I … corrected her.    
Awesome scene.
And talking about care taking and NYC real estate, some people are really taking care of their buildings roofs. Check out these photos, they're amazing. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reality Estate

When you watch TV shows set in NYC or other great places, if you're like me, you wonder how much the characters' home or apartments might cost to own or rent. Never mind the plot -- what about the digs?

Sadly, for us New Yorkers, real estate always wins out.

That's why you must check out this piece from Vanity Fair by New York real estate legend Barbara Corcoran appraises the values of fictional TV dwellings past and present?

Would the Jeffersons still be able to afford their dee-luxe apartment in the sky?

How much would the rent on Carrie Bradshaw's apartment be -- and could a newspaper columnist afford it?

What about the 2 Broke Girls?

And do you know it would be cost almost a quarter of a billion dollars to buy Downton Abbey?

For shows set in NYC, some do a more realistic job than others in portraying the homes of New Yorkers. For example, in Mad About You, the size of Paul and Jaime's one bedroom was realistic -- except for the size of their bathroom which was enormous. Friends, on the other hand, was roundly criticized for having several minimally employed twenty-somethings living in apartments the size of Australia. Seinfeld was mostly realistic -- although how Kramer ever payed rent remains a mystery.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Milestone

Today Mr NYC hit another milestone: over 100,000 page views. That averages to about 20,000 a year over the last five years. 

Not bad.

Granted that's not exactly a record setting number but let's put it into perspective: there are countries with smaller populations than that. There are major cities in states in this country with smaller populations than that. Heck that's more people than vote in your average election. 

And it's an especially good number for a blog that's not a diary of someone's sex life. 

So thanks to all of you who read this blog and keep reading. I'll try to make it sexier in the future. 

The Woes of Willard

Wannabe president and monumental douche Willard Mittens Romney boasts about how his business career makes him the ideal guy to be the next president. 

Apparently destroying companies to fill his pockets makes him qualified to help unemployed people. 

You should read this Village Voice article that sheds some light on this awful man's 'bidness career and how it has destroyed lives and communities. He really is a narcissistic, greedy, and deluded scumbag who will make the already huge disparities of wealth even huger, will destroy the social safety net, will roll back women and minority rights, and turn this country into a banana republic.

Is this the man we want leading our country? You have to mentally ill if you do.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Secret World of Poker Clubs

This you gotta read

A story about the illegal poker games that float around NYC -- in private apartments, the basements of buildings, the backrooms of bars, and other places you might not think were housing organized crime (well, bars maybe). 

Not that there's any killing or hooking or kneecapping going on at these places. Just a bunch of drunk middle aged guys playing cards while chowing down food. The author of this article used to work as a waitress at some of these games and would supply the players with food and drink while they gambledtheir life savings away. 

It's like something out of Goodfellas. Fortunately there's no stories of "Hey Spidah' go get me a drink!" and no one seems to have gotten their foot shot at -- yet. 

What's interesting about this story is how cloak and dagger these games are. How they are everywhere and nowhere and how operate in their own secret world. But what's most fascinating is how Old School this is. It's hard to think that, in the second decade of the 21st century, these kinds of games still go on. Considering that there's legalized gambling in much of the country now, along with Vegas and Atlantic City, along with the new avenues for gambling on the Internet, it's amazing to see that some guys just can't shake the old ways. They still just want to sit around, gamble, and eat. Technology and casinos just can't compete with that.

Memo from NYC

Let's call this post Requiem for a Lunatic.

Now that former -- FORMER -- Senator Slicky Ricky Sanitorium is no longer running president, part of me feels sad. 

See, while he is completely crazy and hopefully will never be elected to anything ever again, at least he wasn't a political weather vane like his opponent -- Mr Willard Mittens Romney of Massachusetts/Michigan/Utah and wherever else. No, Santorum was a man of principle. Granted, they were principles that were probably cutting edge in the latter decades of the 16th century but principles none the less. Most people don't have any principles at all these days.

Willard's only principle is his own ambition. Santorum actually believes in something besides himself.

The only good thing to come out of this is that Santorum's exit from the race has provided wonderful opportunities for jokes. This man, who doesn't believe in contraception (!), has been forced to "withdraw." He has "aborted" his campaign and some feel, like me, that he should be forced to "carry it" to the end. 

Now the GOP is saddled with perhaps the most phony, dishonest, arrogant, vile, out-of-touch elitist presidential candidate it has ever had -- and considering that this party nominated George W Bush twice, that's quite an accomplishment. Most Republicans are about as excited about him as high school students are about the SATs. Democrats hate him -- as they should. There's something about this guy that I find nauseating -- like two week old leftovers in the bottom of the fridge.

Fingers crossed -- Obama will beat him like a drum and, after November, Willard Mittens Romney will vanish from our life once and for all.

But tonight we raise a glass of some beverage or other to Rick Santorum. Bye bye.

Friday, April 6, 2012

TV on the Movies

This is a must read: Vanity Fair culture critic James Wolcott makes a very convincing case that today, in the second decade of the 21st century, TV shows are better than movies. In terms of quality, originality, writing, acting, excitement -- Wolcott says TV is whipping the movies' tuchus.

And I agree. 

Very rarely these days do I get excited about a movie. I don't care for the big Twilight/Harry Potter/Hunger Game "event" movies. They're all noise and action without really interesting plots or characters. Plus, they're all skewed to teenage girls which, at last check, I'm not. I'm more interested in movies by really great directors with good stories and characters but, honestly, most of our great directors aren't making such great movies these days. 

To whit: with the exception of Midnight in Paris last year, Woody Allen hasn't made an exciting movie in a long time. Scorsese used to make exciting movies but they have become less so over time (Goodfellas? Exciting! Hugo? Uh....). Robert Altman is sadly dead. Spike Jonze and David Russell make very few films. I still get excited whenever Quentin Tarantino makes a movie but he seems only to make one every five or six years. And don't get me started on Cameron Crowe and James L. Brooks: Say Anything ..., Almost Famous, Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News are some of my favorites ever. But their most recent movies have been unwatchable. It's like watching great athletes who used to win every competition come in last. 

TV, however, has been an autre histoire. 

In the last ten years there have been some TV shows that have gotten me crazy excited: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, The Wire, True Blood, Lost, 30 Rock, The Office, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Portlandia, Modern Family and lots of others -- really great shows with complex characters, interesting stories, brilliant film making, and amazing production values. And right now I salivate (well, almost) over Game of Thrones and Mad Men. The fact that they're on back to back on the same nights has sent me into geeky heaven. (Heck, even Saturday Night Live is funny again for the first time in 20 years.) 

I'm stunned at the quality of these shows and amazed at how much I'd rather stay at home and watch them (on TV or Netflix) instead of schlepping to the movies and plunk down ten bucks -- only to sit next to or behind douches who talk during the movie or have their cell phones go off. Increasingly, not only are the movies bad but the movie going experience has gotten expensive and annoying.

Plus, snobs who used to ignore TV seem to be ignoring the movies these days. 

Wolcott writes: "Even in cine-mad Manhattan, where the admonitory ghost of Susan Sontag haunts theaters by night, the new movie that everybody’s talking about is being talked about by a shrinking number of everybodies. It’s seldom the presiding topic of cocktail chat and intellectual quarrel, as it was when critic Pauline Kael led the wagon train. (Her successors at The New Yorker, David Denby and Anthony Lane, might as well be tinkling the piano in the hotel lobby for all the commotion they create.)" He also makes the point that it's pretty sad when a cliched, plodding movie like Bridesmaids is acclaimed as one of the best comedies of the year. 

I couldn't even get through it. It just wasn't that funny. 

Wolcott also says Reese Witherspoon is an example of what has happened not only to movies but movie stars: she used to give great performances in fun or excellent movies like Legally Blonde and Walk the Line. Now she's stuck in drivel like This Means War. When was the last time Tom Cruise had a good movie? He used to have one every year. Now everyone talks about Mad Men's Jon Hamm and Tom Cruise is better known for his weird Scientology worship these days. 

Wolcott even asks a great rhetorical question: "Does anyone think The Artist is better than Mad Men?"

Hear hear. 

We really do seem to be living in a golden age of TV and a dark ages of movies. Maybe this will change. But probably not for a while. Movies must respond to the demands of moviegoers -- who are increasingly kids and dopes who care more about spectacle than story. Meanwhile, as TV has gotten more niche driven and cable has found a business model to thrive, there are more outlets for original, daring stuff. Ultimately, like everything, it comes down to money: if the studios can only make money with big noisy junk and TV can make money producing quality -- guess what? That's what you're gonna see!

I'm a culture geek and I want movies and TV to be equally good and compelling. Hopefully, some day, a business model will emerge where great movies can be produced again. But as of now, the David of the small screen has conquered the Goliath of the big screen.  

DNAinfo.com

Have you heard of DNAinfo? I hadn't until recently, when a number of news sources cited it in relation to the "Madame Gristina" hooker scandal as well as some other intriguing stories about town. 

Technically this site is a "Manhattan Local News" one, so it's obviously specialized. But hey, if it's happening in Manhattan, eventually the rest of the city will hear about it, so it's a good site to know about. I've link to it over yonder -- in case you're interested in checkin' it out.