Saturday, January 31, 2009

LaGuardia vs. Moses

This past week I went to Robert Caro's last lecture on "The Shapers of New York" at the New-York Historical Society. This final lecture was about the battle between New York's greatest Mayor and its greatest builder as they wrestled for control of the city's destiny during the Great Depression and World War II. While history has sainted Fiorello LaGuardia's Mayoralty as the one that successfully implemented the New Deal into our city, in the end Robert Moses won the battle as to who would set the city's priorities for literally decades to come.

LaGuardia and Moses were two titanic egomaniacs who literally could not stand the sight of each other. When the Mayor and his Parks Commissioner would be in the same room together, they would pace around each other like two boxers in a ring waiting to the punch the other guy out. They would yell and scream and call the other loathsome names. Moses would call LaGuardia a "dago" and "wop" or, even worse, an "organ grinder." And LaGuardia, the lesser educated and refined but more gentlemanly of the two, would call Moses "your grace."

As I mentioned in my first post about this series, each year LaGuardia would present a city budget that would take care of the needy and poor in NYC and Moses would then swoop in and re-jigger it so that he could get money for his building projects. But their disputes weren't only centered around money. Theirs was a brutal battle of wits and raw power.

This conflict is probably best exemplified in the Astoria Ferry incident
of 1936. Shortly before Triborough Bridge was to open, Robert Moses wanted to get rid of the ferry service that took people from Astoria across the East River to Manhattan. These were working people who couldn't afford cars to go over Moses's new bridge and this service was vital to them. LaGuardia ordered that the ferry service continue. So one night, literally minutes after the last ferry had pulled away from the dock on the Manhattan side, a couple of barges pulled up in front of the dock. Bulldozers and pile drivers were unloaded and they began ripping and shredding it to pieces. A furious LaGuardia ordered the police to head down and stop this. Armed cops told the workers to cease and desist immediately. Their reply? "We don't work for you. We work for Mr. Moses." And their work continued without incident.

Robert Moses was so popular, so powerful, his power so unquestioned that not even the Mayor and police department of the greatest city in the world could stop him.

That said, Fiorello LaGuardia's impact on NYC was enormous. He reformed the corrupt Tammany Hall-controlled government and steered the city successfully through the Depression. He was als
o an out-sized, only-in-New York personality who liked to read comics to children over WNYC radio. But in his last years as Mayor, he was literally dying. After he left office in 1945, he would eat lunch at his favorite downtown club and grumble that Robert Moses had too much power -- and that while he, LaGuardia, could control him (which wasn't true) now no one could (which was true). He died in 1947. Today's he's remembered as NYC's greatest mayor and has an airport, a street, a high school and a college named after him. (This is especially ironic since LaGuardia never graduated from either). If you ever walk down LaGuardia Place, between Houston Street and Washington Square, you can see a life-sized statue of the Little Flower that captures his personality perfectly.

These final lectures were a lot of fun and very informative. It was great to hear Robert Caro bring old New York back to life and I was especially grateful that he autographed my copy of The Power Broker. He also told a funny story about how, when he was writing the book, he couldn't get a hold of Moses's Triborough Authority records which were legally sealed. However, he was told that carbon copies of all these records were stored by the Parks Department under the 79th Street Boat Basin. So Caro and his wife Ina would go there to browse through these carbons. The Parks Department made it clear they didn't like having them there and, whenever the guard went to lunch or stepped out, he would remove the light bulbs so that Caro and Ina would literally be in the dark. So after that they would bring their own light bulbs and screw them in whenever the guards went away.

Carbons and light bulbs -- just one of the ways that great history is unearthed so that the rest of us can better understand the great city that we live in.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Would You Want to Live Someplace Else?

Poll Finds People Like Home but Want to Live Elsewhere

8 out of 10 people want to move from wherever they live. This poll doesn't say how many New Yorkers wish to flee our fair city but I guess I'm one of those fringe 2 out of 10 folks who's happy where he is.

Madonna - Speed The Plow

In October I reviewed the Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow. This play has had a rather bumpy ride since then, when Jeremy Piven dropped out for rather fishy reasons.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my review, the female role in this play was originated by Madonna in 1988. This Entertainment Tonight report covers her Broadway debut in Speed-the-Plow when she was still a hot young star (as opposed to being a hot middle aged star today). It's hard to imagine that this happened more than 20 years ago!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flight 151

Pubs are one of the staples of city life. You know the places. You walk in and its your typical bar and then, a little farther back, are booths and tables where you can get a burger and brew.

Most of these places in NYC are a dime a dozen. However, this weekend some pals and I went to Flight 151, a pub in Chelsea, and really enjoyed it. As its name denotes, it's a pub devoted to ... aviation. It's got an airplane theme, and while this might sound tacky, this joint actually makes it cool. They have lots of airplane, airplane, and airport signs and swag on the walls. Best of all, you go into the bathroom and hear, over some speakers ... jet engine noise ... and occasionally an airline attendant's voice comes over -- sounding like an airline attendant than a real airline attendant -- who tells you to make sure the toilet seat is in an upright position or some other such witty thing. This might sound kinda silly but it's actually endearing.

Another cool thing: on the tables, they have paper place mats and cups of crayons so that you and your friends can draw wacky pictures while awaiting your food (the drunker you get, the more interesting the pictures I suppose). My friends and I had a lot of fun drawing stuff and feeling like we were back in kindergarten.

The food at Flight 151 is pretty good and they have a fine selection of beer. Best of all, the service was really good and friendly which made the experience all the better. So if you're ever in Chelsea with some friends and want to hang out, Flight 151 is a great find.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Flatiron to be a Hotel

Italian real estate investor buys stake in Flatiron building, eyes hotel

Don't know how to feel about this. First the Plaza, now the Flatiron. Not to sound xenophobic or anything, but what's with all these rich people gutting our architectural jewels? I guess this is globalization in action -- and it sucks.

Yours truly used to work in the Flatiron building and, while its exterior is probably the most gorgeous in the city, its interior is drab and dull to the point of being depressing. Besides paying almost $200 million for this building, these investors are going to have to spend a FORTUNE re-doing the interior. Except for the nose of the building, which has a nice view of Madison Square Park, most of the building overlooks Broadway and 5th Avenue, and the views from there are boring. The ceilings are low and the building doesn't get a whole lot of sunlight. Fung shui-ing this building is gonna be hard.

Also, I don't see what makes it a great location for a luxury hotel. It's across from Madison Square Park (which is nice) but the Plaza, Pierre, or Sherry Netherland are right across from Central Park and have amazing views of it. On top of everything, the traffic on 23rd street is crazy and noisy beyond belief. I can't imagine that the guests of this hotel, who will be paying top dollar, will like dealing with that. The Flatiron does, however, have an N-train stop right outside the door so those wealthy guests willing to brave the subway will be pleased.

I'm not good at making predictions but my gut tells me this is going to be one of the biggest New York City real estate debacles ever (even bigger than the new Plaza or Trump Soho). But I could be wrong. Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"What Must the Widow Feel?" The Compassion of Al Smith

This past Wednesday we went to the second of Robert Caro's lectures at the New-York Historical Society on "The Shapers of New York." This time the subject was Al Smith, the great New York Governor who served on and off from 1919 to 1928. (I had blogged about Al Smith in October when both McCain and Obama, at the height of the presidential race, appeared at the Al Smith Dinner which is held every year in the old Governor's memory to raise money for Catholic charities). Caro indicated that this was his favorite lecture to give because of his great admiration for Al Smith (1873-1944) .He also sad that, sadly, there are no great books about Smith so learning about him and how important he was is difficult.

In this lecture, Caro talked about Al Smith's incredible rise from being a street kid in the Bowery to New York's first Catholic Governor. Smith worked as a laborer and ran errands for the corrupt Tammany Hall machine. Eventually he worked his way into a seat in the State Legislature where he became one of the hardest working and most capable legislators Albany had ever seen (amongst other things, he actually read the legislation he voted on, something a lot of his colleagues didn't do). During his time in the legislature (he rose to Speaker before becoming Governor), Smith came up with ideas that were revolutionary in early 20th century America but are commonplace today: state farm insurance, worker's compensation and safety laws (following the terrible Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire of 1911), health insurance for the poor, and higher teacher salaries. His compassion for the working poor and working women in particular was extraordinary. In fact, his ideas were so revolutionary that when FDR implemented the New Deal in the 1930s, he told people that "What we're doing is basically what Al Smith in New York." If FDR was the Father of the New Deal, Al Smith was its Godfather.

Smith's life and career had great highs and crushing lows. Although a very successful governor, he never realized his dream of the Presidency. He was the Democratic nominee in 1928 but was crushed by Herbert Hoover. The reason? He was Catholic, and people outside of New York and the Northeast didn't like Catholics very much back then. (It's amazing to think that 80 years ago a Catholic couldn't elected president but now a black man can.) And when FDR became President, he ignored Smith completely and he was never able to bring his talents to the Federal level. However, in the early thirties, the retired Al Smith helped to build the Empire State Building. But his anger at Roosevelt made him abandon his Democratic party affiliation and become something of an angry reactionary late in life.

One other interesting thing about Smith. He had a young assistant whose career he nurtured named Robert Moses. When Smith was retired and Moses was at the height of his power, Moses re-built the Central Park Zoo just for him. Smith loved animals and Moses made him an Honorary Zookeeper. He also gave Smith a key to the zoo so that the old governor could leave his apartment across the street on Fifth Avenue any time day or night to go into the zoo and visit with the animals. Moses, who was a legendary egomaniac, loved to demonstrate his power by calling everyone, including the Mayors and Governors he supposedly worked for, by their first names (including even Nelson Rockefeller). But Moses always called Smith "Governor" and his respect for him never waned. And neither should ours.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Manhattan - Woody Allen

Woody Allen's 1979 classic Manhattan is 30 years old this year and it certainly hasten lost any of its luster over time. It's as funny and poignant as ever. Before Seinfeld, before When Harry met Sally, before Friends, before Sex and the City, before all those TV shows and movies about yuppie life in NYC, Manhattan defined and influenced the sophisticated urban comedy.

If you've never seen it, Manhattan revolves around TV writer Ike Davis (Woody) who quits his job to write a book. Meanwhile he's dating a 17 year old high school student (Mariel Hemingway, foreshadowing Soon-Yi) and getting involved with Mary (Diane Keaton) the mistress of his married best friend Yale (Michael Murphy). To make matters worse, his now lesbian ex-wife (Meryl Streep) is writing a tell-all book about their failed marriage. People lie, cheat, and steal each others hearts. While a very funny movie, Manhattan is, above all, a morality tale about how the way you treat people will eventually come back to haunt you (so people should treat each other well).

Manhattan was Woody's first comedy after the Oscar-winning Annie Hall, and a lot of people consider it to be the superior film. In many ways, this was a daring film for its day. In 1979, New York City was in terrible economic shape and crime was exploding (as referenced in this opening from the movie). To make a movie celebrating NYC at the time wasn't a particularly cool thing to do. unlike n ow. Also, gay characters didn't appear in a whole lot of movies then, particularly gay people who were unapologetically "out" and happy about it. Not to the mention that Manhattan was shot in black and white which wasn't exactly something that set the box office on fire, then or now. Still, it's one of the most beautiful movies Woody has ever made and was actually one of his biggest hits ever.

Woody Allen co-wrote Manhattan with Marshall Brickman (both had won Oscars for co-writing Annie Hall). Marshall Brickman would go on to write other movies and he's one of the writers of the big Broadway musical hit Jersey Boys. It was the last movie they would write together until 1993 when they co-wrote Manhattan Murder Mystery. Coincidentally enough, Manhattan is also the last movie that Woody and Diane Keaton made until Manhattan Murder Mystery. (After Manhattan, Diane Keaton moved to California and her next big movie was Reds in 1981). Sadly, this great triumvirate hasn't made a movie since 1993 and probably never will again but that's okay ... we'll always have Manhattan.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Big News Day in New York

More like New York State rather than NYC -- although NYC is in New York State, isn't it?

Anyway, Caroline Kennedy will not be replacing Hillary Clinton in the US Senate. Camelot will not be resurrected in the Empire State for now. Instead, Governor Patterson chose Kirsten Gillibrand, an upstate Congresswoman, to fill the seat once held by now Secretary of State Clinton and, before her , Daniel Patrick Moynihan, James Buckley, and Robert F. Kennedy. Those are some big metaphorical shoes to fill so let's wish her well.

The Senator-designate is 42 years old, has two young children, and (if I may be a man for a moment) is easily the most attractive Senator we've probably ever had. Now we all just have to get used to saying her name correctly (it's Kur-sten Gilly-brand, not Kristin Gillebrand).

Some other big news: the former State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was indicted today. Apparently he was steering state contracts to businesses that paid him consulting fees. The usual pay-for-play, back-scratching political stuff. While I realize a New York State official (or former off
icial) getting indicted isn't really news but this one is particularly sad: Joe is in his eighties and his wife died a year or so ago so. Can't help feeling bad for the guy. Hope justice is served but that he doesn't end his days in jail.

So it's never boring in New York. And hey, that's why we live here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What a Beautiful Sight ...

... and so far he's off to a great start. Got a hell of a tough job ahead of him but he seems to be handling it well. Only time will tell. Good luck man!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Little Steven's Underground Garage

Driving home last night we tuned in a radio show that I haven't heard for a while: Little Steven's Underground Garage on Q104.3.

Little Steven is Steven Van Zandt who was a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band as well as an important songwriter and producer. Of course, he's probably best known for playing the mobster Silvio Dante on The Sopranos. Although he's made a whole career out of being the sidekick to famous guys from Jersey,
on the Underground Garage, Little Steven is the absolute star.

This is an eclectic music show and nostalgia trip for anyone who loves or remembers popular music from the 1950s to 1970s. Although it's mostly a rock show, Little Steven also plays various offbeat songs and medleys. The first time I heard the show he played "Do the Mouse" by Soupy Sales and last night he played a bizarre yet hilarious version of Frank Sinatra singing Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson." Most of the songs he plays, however, are by bands I've never heard of but wish I had.

What's great about this show is you get the feeling that you're listening to a guy with the world's biggest, coolest music collection and with an encyclopedic knowledge about music. Little Steven doesn't talk much on the show but, when he does, he's hilarious. On last night's show, he talked about the character Frank Sinatra played named Tony Rome. He was, according to Little Steven, even cooler than James Bond because, instead of sleeping with lots of women, he turned them all down!

The Underground Garage is on Q104.3 every Sunday night from 10 to 12. It's one of the few interesting music shows left in NYC and a great cure to the Sunday night blues.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Inauguration Day in NYC Info

Inauguration Day Parties in NYC

Inauguration Day Planner


Here's a great way to celebrate America on inauguration day: yoga!

Tuesday morning in Bryant Park, from 8 to 8:30, New Yorkers are invited to "send a wave of good karma and positive vibrations" to the new president by participating in a public yoga session in the middle of Manhattan.

This "up with people" event will take place on the ice rink and mats will be provided. Considering that it will be only 28 degrees on Tuesday, I would suggest wearing the thermal underwear and drinking lots of cocoa.

So get the good karma flowing and the positive vibes popping! Start this amazing new chapter in our history by letting the light in you honor the light in others!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Menace(s) to Society

Geese Pose Big Risk at Airports in Region

Sorry guys, you may be adorable but it's time to back to Canada. You may have done wonders for Tony Soprano's psyche but now you're bringing down airplanes. Go home.

Video of US Airways Descent into Hudson River

This is a ten minute video of the plane that splashed down into the Hudson River on Thursday.

It's in real time and shows the plane zipping into the water and then floating. You see how quickly the rescue came and how orderly the passengers got off the plane. It's really surreal.

The plane doesn't appear until about two minutes into the video so you should probably fast-forward to that. At first you can't tell what it is, it's just a moving white speck on the screen but then the camera zooms in and you see everything clearly. There's no sound in this video which is it's only drawback but it's still really cool to see.

Thank God everyone survived!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mark of Robert Moses

Yesterday I went to the first of Robert Caro's three lectures on "The Shapers of New York" at the New-York Historical Society. This one was called "The Mark of Robert Moses." Caro talked generally about the power Moses amassed between 1924 and 1968, how his building projects and highways and bridges altered the physical landscape of New York City, and what affect he had on the lives of New Yorkers then and now. A lot of what Caro talked about, unsurprisingly, came right of his book The Power Broker.

Caro also talked about what made him want to write The Power Broker. He said that when he was a young reporter at Newsday in the 1960s, he would write about how City Parks Commissioner Moses was planning to build the Long Island Expressway. Why would the Parks Commissioner of New York City be building a highway out on Long Island? This was something Caro wanted to investigate at length and what inspired him to write about this man and his awesome power.

About the human impact of Moses on this city, Caro gave several tragic examples, particularly about how the Cross Bronx Expressway basically destroyed the only New York City borough attached to the mainland.

But there was another example Caro gave that was just as sad. When he was Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia wanted to build street-front clinics for poor pregnant women. Every year he would propose several millions dollars to the city budget for these clinics. Yet as the Board of Estimate was reviewing the budget, about to approve them, a fleet of limousines would roar up to City Hall. Out would pop Moses and his engineers, brandishing their blueprints for some highway or another, and they would head into the Board of Estimate meeting. Moses would tell them that he could get $90 million in Federal money for his project just so long as the city could kick, oh, about $10 million or so. Moses influence was so great at the time that the Board of Estimate would relent ... and slash the money for the clinics. This went on year after year and the clinics never got built. But the highways did.

Moses' power was, as Caro said in the lecture, not only in the things he built in the city but in the priorities he set for it. Cars over people. Highways instead of public transportation. Housing projects instead of communities.

"What is a city?" Caro asked at the end of the lecture. "If Rome is power and Greece is glory, then New York City," Caro said, "is home." And he's right. New York is not only my home and the home to more than eight million people, but it's a place where anyone from anywhere can come and be accepted. New York embraces all, rejects no one, says that no matter where you come from, you can have a life here. This city can be anyone's refuge. Anyone's "home."

By destroying and warping the city's priorities, Robert Moses worked to undermine that sense of "home." He didn't destroy it completely obviously -- NYC will always be resilient and will always be "home" -- but he lessened this city's sense of community, sense of home. And we've been paying the price ever since.

Thank God!!

All 155 safe after pilot ditches jet in NYC river

This plane took off from La Guardia, headed to North Carolina, and flew into a flock of birds that were swarming around (Alfred Hitckcock must be smiling up in heaven). This caused the plane to almost crash and the pilot smart ditched the plane into the Hudson River -- on the coldest day of the year! -- and miraculously everyone survived unharmed. Too bad this had to happen but let's be glad it had a happy ending.

Monday, January 12, 2009

.... and (some) of the winners are ...

If the fact that a black man will become President next week isn't miraculous enough, something almost as miraculous happened last night: a Woody Allen movie won a major award for the first time in more than a decade.

His 2008 movie Vicky Christina Barcelona won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Musical/Comedy. Granted it's not a movie set in New York but is there any filmmaker more identified with our fair city than the Woodster? Congratulations are in order for this most nebbishy of directors although Woody famously shuns awards and awards shows like the plague.

In fact, last nights Globes were a very good night for New York-centric entertainment.

30 Rock, the great New York show of the moment, won Best Comedy Series and Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey won Best Comedy Actor and Actress for a TV Show, respectively.

Also, the hot new show of the year, Mad Men, won Best Dramatic Series for a second year in a row.

Personally I think the Golden Globes are, like most awards, total nonsense but it's nice for our city to get a little love -- and 30 Rock most certainly deserved it. And it's nice to have some good news to chew on for a change.

Congrats again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Memo from NYC

"Why weren't they grateful?"

That's the last sentence of Robert Caro's The Power Broker, the book I've been obsessing about all year. Late in his life, a retired and angry Robert Moses would give speeches and carp to friends about how New Yorkers were ungrateful to him for working so unselfishly on their behalf. Moses was baffled. He couldn't understand why the people had rejected him. Caro ironically writes, just before that last sentence, “Couldn't people see what he had done?”

They did -- and that's why they turned on Moses. His ill-conceived highways caused traffic jams to choke the city, he starved public transportation of funds and prevented it from serving all parts of the city, he built ugly and depressing public housing, he botched the city's waterfront, and he destroyed neighborhoods that led to huge increases in crime. People were supposed to be grateful for this?

America's own power broker is leaving the Presidency soon and, to be cliche, it's deja vu all over again. Bush and his fellow Republicans are screaming about people's ingratitude to him. Americans are ungrateful to him for "keeping us safe." Iraqis are ungrateful to him for "liberating" their country." This whining has been going on for some time now. A few examples:
  • On 60 Minutes last year, Bush said, "I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude." The American people, "wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."

  • Andrew McCarthy from National Review wrote "Thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions in taxpayer funds have been expended to provide Iraqis the opportunity to live freely ... Yet, to be blunt, the Iraqis remain ingrates."

  • After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, Jr. called Louisiana Democrats "ungrateful" for everything Bush had done for their state (!)
This blather goes on and on. The case -- or narrative, or spin, or whatever you want to call it -- that Bush and his few remaining acolytes are fashioning goes like this:

"George W Bush is a courageous, deeply moral and principled man, a natural leader, the right man at the right time, who did everything he could to protect and strengthen America and didn't care what popular or elite opinion thought about it. He didn't care what anyone thought about it! And in being so bold and so brave, he made unpopular decisions that history will ultimately deem were the right decisions. You see, George W is like Harry Truman, another president who left office unpopular but has since been reevaluated by history as a great one. We're so lucky to have had Bush for these last eight years. We're just too stupid to realize it right now."

This "Bush-will-be-redeemed-by-history-and-he's-like-Harry Truman" stuff has become accepted dogma in the right-wing intelligentsia. Even a former Mayor of NYC not named Rudy buys this crap. In an article called "History Will Redeem Bush", Ed Koch wrote:

His position can be compared with that of Harry Truman who left Washington unpopular and alone in 1953 … Like Truman, George W. Bush, in my view, will be seen as one of the few world leaders who recognized the danger of Islamic terrorism ... We will recognize his worth long after he is gone."

Truman recognized the danger of Islamic terrorism? Silly me, me thoughts it was Communism. Oy vey. Hiding behind the skirt of history is the ultimate sign of failure. As for this Bush-as-Truman myth, the late great David Halberstam debunked it beautifully with words and wisdom I’ll certainly never be able to muster as well.

In The Power Broker, pondering the Moses legacy, Caro quotes Sophocles who said, "One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.”

In the evening of the Bush presidency, how splendid has “the day” been?

He turned the largest budget surplus in US history into the largest deficit, he trashed environmental rules and regulations and did nothing to address global warming or our nation's addiction to foreign oil, he let an already broken health care system worsen and placed impediments on scientific research, he appointed hacks and incompetents all over the government and tried to put one of them on the Supreme Court, he politicized and undermined the credibility of the US Justice Department, he botched the government's response to one of the worst natural disasters in US history, he totally ignored warnings of the terrorist threat prior to 9/11, he invaded and screwed up the occupation of a country that never attacked us and posed no threat to us, and he spent almost four years telling us that this invasion was going just dandy when reality showed it to be a disaster. Oh, and he spied on Americans without warrants, tortured people, and increased government secrecy to a level not seen since Nixon. His government failed to properly regulate the financial industry that led to one of the worst economic calamities since the Great Depression.

And where the hell is Osama Bin Laden?

This is his record. This is the reality of his presidency.

History is going to redeem that? For this we should be … grateful?

"But don't you see," most Bush supporters say, especially when it comes to the economic crises, "most of this wasn’t his fault. A lot of it was out of his control."

So even though Bush has been a great president, he never really was in charge …


Caro wrote in The Power Broker that Moses “believes he will be justified by history, that his works will endure and be blessed by generations not yet born.”

Well, history hasn't redeemed Robert Moses. Today, generations later, New Yorkers are still living in, and trying to grapple with, the mess that he made of our city. The best Bush can hope for is that Barack Obama fixes the disaster he's leaving behind so that Americans years from now aren't still living in it and blame him. Maybe history will be kinder to Bush then. Who knows? That's a big, unknowable maybe ...

... but then again, Bush and his supporters already know what history is going to say. You see, we're not as smart as they are, we’re just too stupid to understand his greatness …

Can't people see what he's done?

Why aren't we grateful?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Staten Island Girl

Mr NYC tries to wrap its loving arms around the whole city -- and that includes Staten Island. I plugged in Staten Island on YouTube to see what might pop up and this rather bizarre video called "Staten Island Girl" topped the list.

This young "guidette" talks about her life, guys, her ambitions, guys, Staten Island, guys ... you get the idea. It's a hoot.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Proof of Recession in NYC

You know the economy is really bad when you see headlines like this: Manhattan Apartment Sales Drop, Office Rents Fall

They went down nearly 10% from last year. The recession officially started in December 2007 so even though most people thought New York City real estate was immune from the overall macro-economy, clearly this was not the case. It's as fallible as everything else. I don't know if this is good news or bad news. Falling real estate prices are good for future home buyers like myself but if they keep falling -- and certainly if they plummet -- that's a sign of another Great Depression. Let's hope this stabilizes soon!

And here's a more subtle sign of falling fortune (like my alliteration?):

Deal for Wireless Access in City Parks Collapses

The deal between the City Parks Department and the contractor Wi-Fi Salon collapsed because the contractor couldn't get corporate sponsorship. The city and various private ventures have been working on getting the parks "hot" for wi-fi these several years. Clearly the economy had other plans. A little bit of progress put on the back burner -- for now.

I'm going to look high and low for good news stories on NYC. After all, this is a basically upbeat blog and, in these trouble times, I will venture to soothe your fears and lift your spirits :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Most Important News Story in NYC Today

New Yorkers Who Drink Have More Sex Partners, Warns Survey

Warns? Warns? Interesting turn of phrase there.

Sorry, I'd write more about this but I gotta run to the liquor store ...

Selected Shorts

Apparently I'm a powerful enough New York City blogger to be contacted today by Symphony Space (along with about 1,000 other city bloggers) to plug Selected Shorts at Symphony Space.

These are short story readings performed live on stage by various actors and actresses of the stage and screen, and they are also broadcast on NPR.

There's a bunch of Selected Shorts events coming up this month and next so you can check them out here.

We can all breath a big sigh of relief today ...

Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won't run for Senate in 2010

Jebby says "his decision wasn't based on politics, but on his 'personal journey.'"

Huh? Let's hope his "journey" doesn't lead him to running for president in 2012 -- or ever.

You know the Republican party used to be the paryt of Lincoln, TR, and Eisenhower. Now they're basically just real estate brokers -- always trying to get their favorite clients, the Bush family, into the White House.

"He said his brother's low approval rating didn't factor into his decision ..."

Is there any lie these Bushies won't tell?

Say goodnight Georgie and Jebby, you won't be missed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Stuart Smalley in the Senate?

Looks like it.

Democrat Al Franken wins Minnesota senate recount

The state of Minnesota has certified his victory although the Senator he beat, Norm Coleman, vows to sue. We'll see how this plays out. Although it's only by about 250 votes (!) a win is a win is a win.

So congrats to Al Franken, comedian and Senator. That makes him one out of ... sorry one of 100.

Al Franken aka Stuart Smalley was a writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live" during the 70s and 80s. He wrote some of the most brilliant sketches during SNL's golden years. If he's as good a Senator as he was a writer, he'll be pretty damn good.

Interesting irony this election: Al Franken is from Minnesota but made his career in New York at SNL. Now former Senator Norm Coleman is actually from Brooklyn, NY but made his career in Minnesota. Two sides of the same coin (or "kern" as the Brooklyn-born Coleman might say).

Another interesting thing about this race: Norm Coleman lost the 1998 Minnesota Gubernatorial race to Jesse Ventura. As Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone noted, this makes Coleman the first politician to lose not to one but two television personalities. How friggin' embarrassing.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Broadway Blues

If you want proof, real demonstrative evidence that the economy is bad then it doesn't get any more clear than this: a record thirteen shows are closing on Broadway this month.

Perhaps it's only fitting that it's 13, that most unlucky of numbers.

These closings include some really big hits, certified audience-pleasers like Hairspray, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, and Young Frankenstein. The end of Hairspray and Spamalot are, in particular, significant since they've been running for years. But audience demand obviously isn't big enough right now to justify the costs and so the markets have rendered their verdict.

An aquaintance of mine who works as a roadie and show-techie told me that January will be a bizarre month for him and his brethren. There will be tons of work this month as these shows are loaded out of the theaters but after that ... nothing ... And not only will stage hands be out of work but so will all those back up singers and dancers in the big musicals. Hard, hard times in Broadwayland. My best to them all.

It might be interesting yet sad to walk around the Theater District some night in early February. Around 7:30 on any given show night, the streets are usually jammed to overflowing with theater-goers. It'll be interesting to see just how diminished the crowds are. That's when it'll really hit home.

Amazingly, none of these closing shows include The Phantom of the Opera. This show will have been on Broadway 21 years this month! Imagine ... this is the first Broadway show that's actually legally old enough to drink. Who are all these people keeping this show alive after two decades?

Well, for the time being, let's be thankful for them.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Charlotte!

Mayor Bloomberg's mother turned 100 years old yesterday.

Mayor's Mother Turns 100

Hope he got her a nice gift. Apparently she's still going strong and is alert and healthy. We should all be so lucky.

The Rainbow Room

Rainbow Room to close restaurant, citing economy

Actually it's only the restaurant, the Rainbow Grill, that's closing. It's going to remain as a giant bar area. Still, it's a loss. It's one less place for the power elite to go to eat lunch and "be seen." People like Henry Kissinger and Sandy Weill have permanent tables there -- or they did. I wonder if they'll get their money back.

The Rainbow Room actually opened in 1934. Hard to believe that it was actually able to open and thrive during the Great Depression but not now. But if the Russian Tea Room could come back, why not the Rainbow Room? We shall see.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Good News ... Sorta ...

Republicans to flee DC for inauguration

Sadly I think a lot of them are planning to go back. We couldn't possibly be so lucky that every Republican would leave DC permanently. But a boy can dream ...

Will some of these Republicans flock to NYC on January 20th? If so, we New Yorkers should be gracious to them. After all, on that date a lot of them will be out of work, and with the economy being what it is (thanks to them), NYC needs all the visitors it can get. Let's hope these depressed GOPers drown their sorrows in our city's various watering holes and crash in our hotels. That should add some tax revenue to the "ol' coffers," to quote their outgoing President.

My only concern is that a lot of these disgruntled Republicans who might visit NYC during that week would bring guns -- we know how much Republicans love their guns, "from my cold dead hands", etc. Let's just hope they leave the guns behind -- I can only imagine some angry drunk Republican in a New York City bar (or elsewhere in the land) watching Obama getting swore-in on TV and then shooting out the screen. If you're going to a bar full of Republicans on January 20th, better watch the hell out.

We've all heard about the possible record attendance to Obama's inauguration. My guess is that a lot of them will be people who just want to make sure that George W. Bush is one Republican who does leave DC for good on January 20th (personally I won't breath easy until it's wheels up on the SOB's plane). It's sort of like showing up to the funeral of a person you don't like -- not because you're mourning the person, just because you want to make sure that he (or she) is dead.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

One of these days, Alice... Bang! Zoom! Straight to the Moon!

If it's New Year's Day in NYC, then it must mean The Honeymooners marathon on WPIX.

Before All in the Family and The King of Queens, The Honeymooners was the first and still the best show about working class life in NYC.

Each of its 39 episode was basically the same. Brooklyn bus driver Ralph and sewer worker Norton would think up some idiotic get-rich-quick scheme, Ralph's wife Alice would bust his balls nonstop, and Norton's wife Trixie would stand by her man. Inevitably Ralph's scheme would fail and Alice would be proved right.

Throughout the episodes Ralph would threaten his wife -- "Bang! Zoom!" -- but he'd never actually hit her and, at the end of each episode, they'd embrace and Ralph would exclaim "Alice, you're da greatest!"

Although these days, more than 50 years later, jokes about domestic violence fall flat, remember that Alice was always presented as the smart one and that Ralph was all talk and no action. In many ways, The Honeymooners was really the first great feminist show -- and this was before The Feminine Mystique.

Broadcast live from NYC in 1955 and 1956, The Honeymooners remains a classic.

P.S. "The Man from Space" episode we all saw in Back to the Future was not broadcast in November, 1955 but on December 31, 1955. It was a little bit of temporal artistic license on the movie's part.