Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Monday, July 26, 2021
Over the last few weeks, readership of Mr NYC has spiked tremendously -- like exponentially.
I know if it's bots or some kind of joke but, assuming real live human bein's are reading this here blog, all I gotta say is, to each and every one of youse, is THANK YOU!
Brooklyn Borough President and NYC Mayor-presumptive Eric Adams just did a long interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker on the magazine's radio show/podcast. In this interview, Adams refers to the city as "dysfunctional" and how he plans to make it functional.
It's the kind of high-flying rhetoric, the kind of Ialonecanfixit braggadocio that all aspiring chief executives in government promise when on the cusp of power. They yammer on about how "the system is broken" but some way, some how, with some magical powers that only they possess, some great wisdom and superior skill inherent within their person, are going to change decades, if not centuries, of government "dysfunction" and incompetence and make everything perfect -- or at least what their idea of perfect is.
Here's the dirty little secret: most of the government is functional. It provides more services, does more stuff, than anyone can possibly conceive -- and, like plumbers, does it so well that we don't notice unless there's a problem somewehre. The problem is that governments are big institutions, and all big institutions possess a level of inherent dysfunction, or at least strategic incoherence, because you have literally thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands (like the NYC government) doing myriad things at once. It's impossible just to change of all that, easily, if at all. It's like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier -- but much, much harder.
So good luck, Mr Adams. Assuming you're elected in November, we'll check in on how "functional" you've made the city in four years.
Friday, July 23, 2021
When the history of COVID-19 finally appears in the history books, the summer of 2021 will be seen as the time when the pandemic, which could already be 100% over, got stuck in the mud.
Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated but now -- with the nasty Delta variant out there and huge swaths of the population refusing to get a shot -- we are backsliding. The infection rate is rising and, in some places, restrictions are being reimposed. We were making great progress but it's being put at risk, again, by stupid people, by the COVID deniers and vaccine refuseniks.
In NYC nearly 60% of the population is either fully vaccinated or has had at least one dose. But here, like everywhere else, there are pockets of recalcitrants who won't get vaccinated -- and it's spreading to the rest of the city.
And the biggest pocket is Staten Island.
The "forgotten borough" is making its presence known this summer by having vastly higher rates of unvaccinated and new COVID cases than the rest of the city. The politically conservative borough, our very own Alabama, has an arrogant "Don't Tread On Me!" stubborness and meanspiritedness that's keeping the pandemic going. These folks on Staten Island would rather die in order to "own the libs" than stay healthy and end this nightmare. They like making everyone else as miserable as they are.
It's cruelty personified -- and for, these stubborn people on Staten Island, that's the whole point.
So when the history of COVID-19 in NYC is written, and people wonder why NYC fell off the vaccine wagon, the finger can and should be firmly pointed to the city's smallest and most stubborn borough.
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Astoria-native Melanie Safka is one of those under-the-radar singer-songwriters whose name you don't readily remember but whose songs you know -- especially her 1972 hit "Brand New Key."
Yet three years before that big success, Melanie played Woodstock, one of only three female solo acts to perform (the others were Janie Joplin and Joan Baez -- great company).
Melanie didn't die young like Joplin or have quite as colorful a life as Baez -- she just wrote and performed great songs, and continues to do so to this day.
"Brand New Key" appeared in a VERY MEMORABLE NSFW scene in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights -- and the song is even sexier than the scene, truly, the the most sexy song of all time.
Currently the most hotly debated development plan in NYC has nothing to do with new highrise buildings or stadiums or convention centers -- it has to do with that 1-mile long island off the coast of the Bronx called Hart Island.
Small and remote as it is, Hart Island has a storied history -- it was a training ground for black Union troops during the Civil War and, more recently, actual missilles were stored there during the Cold War. However, the island is best known as a potter's field where poor dead New Yorkers found their final rest. In addition, the island and its 19 buildings have been used for drug rehab, tuberculosis and psyche patients, prisoners, the homeless, and juvenile deliquents.
Basically, the history of Hart Island is a history of a place that's out-of-sight and out-of-mind, just the kind of place where society likes to put people it wants to keep out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
It's those 19 buildings that are the subject of this controversy -- they are old, very historic, imbued with lots of architectural and actual history. But they're also decrepit, unused, and unsafe. Now the city wants to tear them all down and turn the island into a wildlife and graveyard preservation refuge, part of something called the Hart Island Project. Others want to retain the buildings and turn it into an historic attraction.
Both ideas would be noble uses of this oft-forgotten part of the city and, of course, only one vision can prevail. The controversy is currently bogged down in protracted arguments over process, public hearings, transparency rules, and lots of other boring legal stuff.
But the result will be fascinating -- either Hart Island will become a gorgeous natural habitat or an amazing site for previously unknown NYC history.
For more Mr NYC coverage of Hart Island, go here.
Monday, July 19, 2021
Read this great story about a volunteer group of people bringing cheap, non-commercial Internet -- or "guerilla Wi-Fi" -- service to low-income residents of the city.
People like this give me a shred of hope for humanity. Find out more about NYC MESH.
Friday, July 16, 2021
Last year I blogged about the 1990 movie The Bonfire of the Vanities based on the 1987 bestselling novel of the same name by Tom Wolfe. The book was a big success -- the defining 1980s novel about greed, ego, lust, institutional corruption, etc., every cardinal sin -- but the movie was an historic flop, so historic that a book was even written about it.
The book was called The Devil's Candy, written by journalist Julie Salamon, and this book has now been turned into a mutli-part podcast, hosted by Salamon and produced by Turner Classic Movies, as part of a series called "The Plot Thickens."
While I made clear in my review that the movie is bad -- really bad -- I also indicated that it was worth seeing because, visually, it captured NYC in very original, beautiful ways. And this podcast is very much worth listening to because it not only tells the story of the making of this classic bomb but it also vividly brings back to life what NYC was like 30-odd years ago -- a very different city from today.
So read the books (both the original novel and the making-of book), listen the podcast, and, if you're brave, watch the movie -- and, while you'll eventually be "Bonfired"-out -- you'll also be brought back to a New York City that is both quite familiar and very distant.