Monday, September 18, 2017

"Fatal Attraction"@30

It's hard to believe but thirty years ago today, the ultimate male nightmare flick opened in theaters: Fatal Attraction. The story of a married New York lawyer who has a fling gone
 real bad with a beautiful but deranged book editor became the cultural sensation of 1987 -- and one of the best thrillers ever made. It's also a NYC story -- a place where ambition, greed, and lust.

I remember when this movie came out, it played at the now long-gone Paramount Theater on 59th Street and Columbus Avenue. I went to school nearby and, walking to the bus stop on my way home, would pass by the now iconic poster/billboard for this movie. The movie ran at this theater for about six months -- back when hit movies had much longer runs in theaters than they do now. 

Fatal Attraction still holds up -- and should make any man think twice about cheating. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Interview: Ross Barkan of the Village Voice and the Guardian

Politics in NYC is a complex world. Few report about it so well as Ross Barkan, columnist for the Village Voice and Guardian. Ross is that rare thing in political reporting these days -- a thoughtful, impartial, and honest voice. As NYC gears up for its own elections this fall, Ross was kind enough to give Mr NYC readers his insights about the state of New York politics and the future of this city. You can follow Ross Barkan on Twitter at

Crime and affordability have been the Big Issues in previous NYC elections but this year doesn't seem to have one defining issue. What do you think will be the main issues in this fall's campaign?

Crime is so low right now, but I imagine Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee, and Bo Dietl, the Trump-like independent, will try to make it an issue. To me, that's silly. There are actual problems facing this city. Housing is extremely unaffordable, which has fed our homelessness crisis. Our subway infrastructure is coming apart. Unfortunately, the city has so little say when it comes to transit--the MTA is state-run and effectively controlled by Governor Cuomo--but the mayoral candidates certainly have a right to debate fixes. I hope they do. Housing and transit should be at the forefront of the race. Will they actually be? We'll find out. I hope we stop talking about statues. 

During his first term, Mayor De Blasio was not overwhelming popular and yet he won big in the primary and is favored to win a second term. Does this show the power of "holding your base" in politics or because, despite what the polls show, New Yorkers think he's actually done a good job?

It's an interesting question. De Blasio's 2013 primary win was more dominating than people understand, and helps explain some of his arrogance. In a crowded field of big-time contenders--Christine Quinn initially dominated media coverage, followed by Anthony Weiner--de Blasio was able to hit 40 percent and avoid a runoff, something no one thought was possible before that race began. He won almost every assembly district in the city. He won every borough. He built a coalition of liberal whites, Latinos, and blacks that isn't seen often in city politics. As mayor, he has never had a sky-high approval rating (Bloomberg and Giuliani went north of 70%) or a disastrously low one (Bloomberg sat in the 30's at one point). He's not a major personality, he has an awful relationship with the media, and he doesn't inspire visceral devotion or loyalty. But he has a core following, particularly in nonwhite outer borough neighborhoods. He is the first mayor in two decades to explicitly make it his mission to care about people who are poor and disenfranchised. Does he do enough to help them? It's fair to say he can do much more, but he's tried. Is he too beholden to real estate developers? Sure. Did some of the corruption investigations, even if they didn't lead to indictments, say something about an administration that prioritizes big donor access? Yes. De Blasio also has serious accomplishments as mayor--the universal pre-K program in particular--which voters can respect. He's been blessed with a good economy and a low-crime environment. He's definitely someone who benefits from the way our politics are set up, where Democratic primaries are everything, because his core base of support is so far unshakable. I'm not convinced, however, he couldn't win an election overwhelmingly if turnout increased or we held (as we should) nonpartisan elections open to all voters.

What effect, if any, will the Trump presidency have on this election? Does a President Trump hurt the Republican candidate by motivating Democratic voters or does he actually help her by motivating Republican voters?

Donald Trump is not good for Republicans in New York City. There are a lot of Republicans with intriguing ideas who deserve to be heard, like J.C. Polanco, the Republican candidate for public advocate. But Trump is extremely unpopular in the city and is toxic for the Republican Party here. Malliotakis has a challenge--on one hand, she's worried about losing core Republican support by disavowing Trump because he does have many fans in her home borough, Staten Island. On the other hand, her chances of even coming close to winning are zero if she's successfully branded as a "Trump Republican." (In her defense, she backed Marco Rubio pretty strongly in the primary.) Malliotakis' cause is rather hopeless, truth be told. Joe Lhota got 24% against de Blasio in 2013. Malliotakis can improve on that margin. How much, though, is unclear. This is another argument for nonpartisan elections or a "jungle" primary, where candidates of all parties run together and the top 2 face off in November. Malliotakis, a real conservative on many issues, represents viewpoints that aren't held by a lot of people in the city. 

Assuming all the incumbents are re-elected, who will be the leading candidates for mayor in 2021?

2021 is so far away, and I've learned many times over not to make firm predictions about politics. But you do have a field, at least, that is already coalescing. Comptroller Scott Stringer, who hungers for the office like few others, will run. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has said he'll run. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will probably run. Public Advocate Letitia James may run. You could see the next speaker of the City Council take a shot at it, or even outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, if she's so inclined. There will probably be other Democrats. Maybe Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. Maybe someone we can't even imagine.

Finally, what do you think most of the media and public are missing or don't fully understand about this year's NYC election?

In terms of issues, I wish there was more focus on public housing. Were NYCHA a standalone city, it would be among the largest in America. In terms of the election, what is the public and media missing or doesn't understand? Maybe that 2017 is a return to normalcy for city politics. You had 20 years of Republican mayors, which meant competitive general elections and primaries where Democrats fought among themselves for the opportunity to take down the Republicans. NYC is a Democratic town and we'll probably look back at that 20 year period as an anomaly. You also had crises that drove Democratic incumbents from office (Abe Beame, David Dinkins.) We're in a period of relative stability. De Blasio, the incumbent, is on firm footing. I don't think it means a decline in civic life if you don't get a feisty 2017 primary and general election. Ed Koch glided through two Democratic primaries and the Republican Party was so dead n 1981 it gave him its ballot line. No one remembers Robert Wagner's first re-election. There's a reason for that. 

Thanks Ross!

Friday, September 15, 2017

We'll Always Have Allison Steele

Even though I wrote it almost ten years ago, one of my most popular blog posts remains the one about Allison Steele, the legendary radio DJ who ruled NYC overnights for decades. She died more than 20 years ago but, amazingly, people who listened to her back in the day still remember that gentle, beautiful voice. In tribute to that post, I've decided to give Mr NYC readers yet another listen to the wondrous sound and soul of Allison Steele.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Like the New Look?

After more than a decade, I decided to give Mr NYC an upgrade and give the blog a hotter, bolder, more colorful vibe. I hope it meets with your approval.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Re-Elect De Blasio as Mayor in 2017

He gave my family and tons of others Pre-K. Crime is low. It still costs too damn much to live here but he knows that and is trying to do something about it. That's enough for me. Onto victory in November!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

About Queens

If you like tennis, and are a US Open devotee, you'll enjoy this big article on the McEnroe brothers. Queens natives, they helped to redefine and popularize the game back in the day -- particularly John McEnroe, with his crazy on the court antics and outrageous personality ("YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!" is now sports lore). Most of all, they helped to put Queens on the map, making it the de facto capital of tennis in America. 

And the face of Queens is changing too. If you commute through Long Island City everyday, as yours truly does, you're going through a construction site. High-rise buildings are going up en masse. People are moving in at a rapid clip and a once somewhat sleazy, industrial neighborhood is now the latest "discovery" for gentrifiers. For a long time LIC was "up and coming" but it never "up and came" until now. It's rather amazing that this neighborhood right across the river from Manhattan was such an urban desert of construction and people, you'd think lots of people would want to live there. The reasons for this delay in interest are various: there isn't great public transportation, crime was high, it was located near the Queensbridge Housing Projects (racism surely played a role), it doesn't have great park space, it didn't have great shopping districts, it didn't have great public schools, and it just seemed bleak. And, yes, it was sleazy: you could literally see strip clubs from the Queensborough Plaza subway station. But now that's all changed now. LIC is the latest hot neighborhood -- and, of course, it's getting very expensive.  

Of all the boroughs in NYC, Queens is the most diverse, both ethnically and geographically. It's full of dense, built up neighborhoods and suburbs. This is reflected not just by the buildings and houses but also by the food. Recently, food guru Anthony Bourdain toured the borough for his CNN show Parts Unknown. It's a great episode and very revealing of what a culinary marvel the Garden Borough is.

Like all of NYC, Queens has a proud history but it's also changing all the time -- making history every day. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Classic Mr NYC

Today is 9/11, sixteen years since "the event" that changed our world forever. Obviously today is an important day of remembrance.

Of course, down in Florida, the honorary 6th borough of NYC, the people there are recovering from Hurricane Irene. Since today is 9/11, and hurricanes are in the news, I recall the last time a big storm hit our city and our populace endured its toughest test since 9/11 -- Hurricane Sandy.

During that big event, I blogged about it constantly and provided updates. If you'd like to take a stroll down memory lane (hard to believe it's nearly 5 years ago), please go here

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Nostalgia Heap

So the "big" news in NYC this week is that the Village Voice, that sixty-plus year old free weekly newspaper, will no longer put out a print edition. Like most publications these days, it'll be online only. 

To me, the newsworthiness of this story isn't that the Village Voice is going online only -- but that it took so long. The destruction of print publications has been happening for the better part of a decade now. Still, NYC will look a little bit different as the blue and white voice of progressive values vanishes from our streets and transfers to our "devices." 

Call it a sign of the times -- or a victim thereof. 

This change in the Village Voice is triggering the predictable nostalgia articles for the "good old days" by people who used to work there. As I've mentioned before, nostalgia is all the rage these dark Trumpian days, particularly in NYC.

To sling further items onto this nostalgia heap, it's worth remembering that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of Studio 54, the hottest nightclub in history, the club that defined the disco era and the beautiful sleaze of the 1970s. It was the club everyone wanted to go to and that nobody could get into. It's the club that spawned movies and documentaries and a whole culture of chic. Predictably, the people who "remember it when" are writing about Studio 54 with affection and sadness. The most amazing thing about the Studio 54 era is how short it was -- roughly from the Spring of 1977 to early 1980 (when its owners got busted for tax evasion and went to jail). The club has become legendary -- probably because the Studio 54 era was so short lived that it never got old and lame. 

But the reality is that Studio 54's reign was probably destined to be brief, no matter how tricky the tax returns of its owners were. By 1980, Ronald Reagan was marching towards the White House, the economy was stuck in stagflation, American hostages were languishing in Iran, and the original cast of "Saturday Night Live" was departing. The mood of the country was changing, the culture getting more conservative. Even by 1980, Studio 54 seemed like an embarrassing relic of an embarrasing era. Like a great show that's been on the air one too many seasons, it probably would have suffered a backlash at some point. 

But once something is cancelled, once it goes away, the fond memories begin. The memories pile up -- thus, the nostalgia heap.  

Ah, nostalgia. I get it. Again, I'm as nostalgic as the most nostalgic person there is. But to my brothers and sisters in the nostalgia business, I plead to you: stop it. All of these articles, all of these "memories" ultimately just lead to depression. They don't do you or your readers any good. They make us  sad about the present and scared for the future, and risk giving us false feelings about a past that probably wasn't so great to begin with. "But," these nostalgia mongers might argue, "just look at the maniac in the White House -- can you blame us? Wasn't the past better?"

Who cares? The future is here and always will be.  We're not going to make our futures better by crowing about how great the past was. NYC isn't going back -- and shouldn't. Let not us not remained trapped in a museum of memories. Let's go into the future and keep the nostalgia pile to a minimum. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vanishing New York & Mr NYC -- Blogs of a Feather

Once upon a time (2007, actually), two New Yorkers got brilliant ideas for blogs about their favorite city ...  one was called Mr NYC; the other, Vanishing New York

Unlike Mr NYC, Vanishing New York hit the big time. The eponymous Jeremiah's blog about the demise of Old New York City has attracted vastly more readers than Mr NYC ever did (and now a legit book deal and lots of media attention too). 

I bear no umbrage; Vanishing New York deserves its success. Its single-minded, determined effort to chronicle the changes of the NYC landscape is impressive and, especially these days, badly needed. It's a beautifully presented and extremely well-written blog.

Mr NYC has always been more general-interest and ramshackle. It's about everything and anything NYC. It has no specific focus. It has no specific theme. That's both its virtue and, I suppose, its shortcoming. 

But both blogs were born of a love for NYC and everything it means to people.

I do take some pride, however, that, while both Vanishing New York and Mr NYC started in 2007, mine started in March of that year and Jeremiah's began in July -- so this blog, technically, has some seniority. 

And yet, to quote Christopher Walken in "True Romance", that's of minor importance. What's of major effing importance is that both blogs started within months of each other at what was, in retrospect, an inflection point in NYC's history. Back then, the city was still recovering from the trauma of 9/11, the psychological wounds still raw, a sense of inertia still intact. But things were changing -- slowly at first, then faster and faster. NYC was, to quote then-Mayor Bloomberg, going from "open to business" to "back in business." The buildings were getting bigger and glassier, the mom and pop stores and old neighborhood businesses were disappearing at a quicker rate, and the already hot real estate market was turbo-charging thanks to the influx of foreign money. It was, many of us felt at the time, going to be a very different city in the years ahead. 

How right (unfortunately) we were. 

NYC in 2017 looks quite different than 2007. There are more and more big buildings, more and more chain stores, and less and less neighborhoods that look and feel like actual neighborhoods. This is still a great city but its spirit has been enervated by gentrification. 

Still, that spirit has not died completely. That spirit is reflected, in part, by Mr NYC and Vanishing New York and the fact that both blogs have lasted more than a decade. That fact should be a point of pride for both of us. So kudos to to both of us. May both blogs last another decade -- and more.

P.S. Grubstreet has a good list of some old school bars and restaurants that have yet to vanish. Go before they do!