Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Memo from NYC

From a native New Yorker to the undistinguished junior senator from Arizona Jon Kyl: you sir, are a hypocritical, dishonest scumbug.

I would call you nastier names if I hadn't been raised with such good manners.

As you may know, US Solicitor General and current US Supreme Court-designee Elena Kagan is sitting through her confirmation hearings this week. Like most Supreme Court hearings these days, it's basically dull political theater, with the Democrats and Republicans being faily predictable in their rhetoric towards her. But one comment by Senator Kyl really pissed me off.

This creepy senator with a creepy name (I can't trust anyone whose first and last name comprises a total of only six letters) said that Ms Kagan's background is "unusual" for a Supreme Court nominee (presumably because she's not a white conservative Republican WASP male like Jon Kyl) and that her life and career "draws from a world whose signposts are distant from most Americans."

Chief amongst these "distant signposts": the fact that Elena Kagan is from Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

As you might imagine, this snide, cynical "observation" drove me nuts. Not only is yet another unimaginative piece of divisive cultural warfare by Republicans but it also show what an anti-Semite Jon Kyl is. Because when the not-so-good Senator talks about the Upper West Side being "distant" from most Americans what he's really saying is "it's a place where a lot of Jews live. And, you know, those Jews aren't like most Americans unless, you know, they vote Republican."

What a douche.

Really, Senator Kyl, can't you do better than this? And whoever came up with the idea of "distant signposts" is really a moron (and the worst kind of moron too: a moron who thinks he or she is smart). What the hell does "distant signposts" mean anyway? Please!

Also, saying that Elena Kagan's experiences are somehow foreign from those of most Americans is dumb. Do you think it was easy being a short, homely Jewish woman trying to make it in legal profession in the 1980s? (Well, the bigoted Senator Kyl probably thinks it was easy for her but not most sensible people.) Struggling to attain your success is the most admirable American attribute there is. He should be praising her for it, not casting aspersions.

But here is where Senator Kyl's dishonesty and hypocrisy really gets to me: this man is, himself, a child of privilege and power -- he's the son of a former US Congressman. And Kyl spent his pre-political career as a high-powered lawyer and lobbyist.

Senator Kyl, is that actually the resume of "most Americans?" Do you think your life experiences have been a little bit, you know, less than ordinary?

Don't just take my word for it. Take it from the great state of Arizona itself. I just came across a wonderful blog out from out there called Random Musings by someone who writes with a maturity Mr NYC could only hope to attain. This blogger writes: "If Kyl's political blood was any bluer, he'd be getting ready to star in the sequel to Avatar." I'm glad to know that at least one of Senator Kyl's constituents doesn't buy his crap and I think it also shows you that my complaints aren't just those of a typical New York liberal.

And speaking for the Upper West Side itself, Joe Conason just wrote a great article in defense of the Upper West Side. Among the great Americans who lived there: "Scott Fitzgerald, Theodore Dreiser, J.D. Salinger, Saul Bellow, Humphrey Bogart, Harry Belafonte and George M. Cohan, an Irish Catholic who won the Congressional Gold Medal in 1936 for composing "You're a Grand Old Flag," among other achievements. (Rush Limbaugh used to live there, too. And Joe Scarborough says he "loves" living there with his family today.)" (I exclude Rush Limbaugh and Joe Scarborough from the great Americans roster, they're scum just like Senator Kyl, but it just shows you how tolerant and diverse the neighborhood is.)

Oh, and let's not forget that the Upper West Side is where the TV show Seinfeld took place -- you know, one of the most popular American shows ever?

I think the only one who's most "distant" from most Americans is Jon Kyl and not Elena Kagan.

So if there's any justice in this world than Elena Kagan will become a Justice. And hopefully, one day, Jon Kyl's political career will go down the ... jon.

Monday, June 28, 2010

W Blues

And no, I'm not talking about our former -- God I love saying that -- FORMER president.

A few years ago I threw out my old computer. I had bought it during my freshman year of college and it served me well during my collegiate experience and through my first years of "the real world." But after eight years of loyal service, it had become a clunky, unreliable dinosaur and it had to go. So I coughed up the dough, bought a new one, and sent my old computer to the electronic morgue.

And it made me sad! I nearly came to tears the night I took the old computer apart and tossed it. This computer had served me loyally for nearly a decade and, even though it was a totally inanimate object, it had outlasted college, relationships, and more than a few jobs before we parted ways. So the night it left my life forever, I felt a pang of loss.

Well, I had yet another such pang this weekend. As of last Friday night, one of my subway lines, the W, is no more. Thanks to the economic downturn and subsequent budget cuts, it has been phased out and replaced by the Q. While the loss of this line hasn't quite brought me to tears, I do feel sad. The W really was the Astoria line, a special subway line for a special neighborhood, and its loss is a sad, small change to an otherwise wonderful, dynamic neighborhood. This line existed when I first moved here, when I got married last year, when I began a great new chapter of my life.

And now its gone.

However, unlike my old computer, this time I don't have to grieve alone. Many other Astorians have been mourning the W, holding vigils and mourning together. The W may be gone but it's not forgotten. Yes, the powers that be can take away our subway line, make our commuting lives more difficult, but they can't take away our spirit.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup NYC

Yesterday, sadly, the US was eliminated from the World Cup. Mr NYC has been so busy as of late that I haven't had the time either to watch or track the games much. That said, you only have to walk down the street on any given morning or early afternoon and see bars and restaurants jammed with people, watching the games and having fun. It really quite a sight -- walking past bars at eight in the morning that are not only open but crowded and noisy. This really is the city that never sleeps.

So who are you now rooting for to win the World Cup?

The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Episode 24

Classic Mr NYC

A couple of years ago I blogged about the last 1980s/early 1990s show The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, a great NYC if there ever was one. If there was ever a show about New Yorkers that managed to both magical and realistic at the same time, this was it. The incredible Blair Brown played Molly with such skill, I think it ranks with the greatest female TV performances of all time (she was nominated for several Emmys for this part but kept losing to Candice Bergen for Murphy Brown).

When I blogged about it this show two years ago there weren't any clips of the show available except for the intro. Well now there are some clips you can see, like the one above.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Key to the City

Now here's an idea: you no longer have to be a celebrity, sports star, or other famous figure if you want to get a key to the city. All you gotta do is head to Times Square and get one.

Currently, in the crossroads of the world, is a kiosk called Key to the City that bestows keys to people who have demonstrated a noble reason to receive one. This might be because you have a perfect attendance record at school, or that you call your mom everyday, or that you read to school kids -- whatever! -- if you can convince the holder of these keys at the kiosk that you somehow deserve a key, you'll get one. And you might even meet people online and make new friends.

Better yet, these keys actually open stuff. There are twenty-four locations over the city where you can use these keys and get into special places that are otherwise closed to the general public. How cool is that?

This is a very interesting, unusual, somewhat tricky to understand project. But if sounds like a wonderful only-in-New York kind of thing, a little piece of everyday magic.

Unlocking New York, One Date at a Time

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Playa' Piano

Now I don't mean a player piano like the ones you see in bars in old Western movies, or the Vonnegut novel, or the ghetto slang phrase"playa" (playa piano would be a nonsensical phrase anyway) -- I mean you should go play a piano ... on the street!

For the next two weeks, at 60 spots around town have installed various pianos on the street with signs beckoning "Play Me, I'm Yours." The project's goal is to give kids and non-musical people the chance to play a few notes and discover whether or not they have a secret love for making music.

It sounds like an interesting idea and I hope New Yorkers like it.

Who is Robert Steel?

He's the new deputy mayor for economic development, that's who. Mayor Bloomberg appointed him to the job on Monday. Naturally the press and the powers-that-be are cheerleading the appointment, saying he's a great choice. Oh, he has glittering credentials, one of those smartest guys in the room types.

I'll admit that I know nothing about this guy. Problem is, neither does anyone else.

But there are two things on his resume that I find highly disturbing. First, he used to be a top guy at Goldman Sachs, the company that Matt Taibbi so brilliantly described as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity." He wrote of the company in 2009: "...the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates ... The bank's unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pump-and-dump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere — high gas prices, rising consumer credit rates, half-eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts. All that money that you're losing, it's going somewhere, and in both a literal and a figurative sense, Goldman Sachs is where it's going."

Second (as if that wasn't bad enough), Mr. Streel was also an undersecretary for domestic finance in the Bush administration. You know, the same administration that exploded the national debt, bogged us down in two unwinnable wars, corrupted the Justice Department, ignore Hurricane Katrina, and oversaw this country's collapse into the greatest economic crises since the Great Depression?

Yes, that administration. This Steel guy worked for a company and an administration that, in their various slimy ways, destroyed the nation's economy in order to benefit the wealthy. And now, apparently, he's coming to NYC to do the same thing to all of us.

Happy happy joy joy!

Only a pompous, out-of-touch elitist like Bloomberg could think this guy is a good choice to run the city's economy. In my opinion, guys like Steel should be in jail, not serving in government.

Be afraid NYC. Be very, very afraid.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rock Rock Rockaway Beach

Mr NYC has never been much of a beach-goer, my preferred swimming venue generally being lakes. But now that summer humidity is choking the city, I thought it high time to check out one of our many local shoals and bake by salt water. A good friend directed us to Rockaway Beach on the south shore peninsula of Queens and off we went to the "Irish Riviera."

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, the zenith time for beach crowds. Yet while the beach was heavily populated, it wasn't unbearably crowded. There was plenty of space for us to layout on our towels and lie down comfortably. Best of all, no one was blasting music or making a scene. Plus, the beach was clean, not much trash on the sand, so you don't always have to look under your feet.

And while you can wade in the water wherever you want, you can't swim everywhere on the beach -- just between certain sections divided by jetties, where lifeguards in bright orange outfits patrol the shore. If you are doing anything even the least bit dangerous, the lifeguards will loudly blow their whistles, keeping you safe. The waves and surf are intense so you need to be very careful when going in the water (make sure the "undertow" doesn't blow you off your feet). That said, once you do get in, the water is cold and refreshing.

We spent about three hours there and, man, it relaxed me. Although I still have some issues with sand (it really irritates my girlishly sensitive skin), consider me a beach convert.

A few things you should know about Rockaway Beach:

1. The lifeguard hours are from 10 AM-6 PM daily. The best way to get there is by car although you can also take the A train and walk a few blocks to the beach. If you do go by car, make sure to get there early -- while there's lots of free parking around, much of it is unavailable later in the day.

2. The neighborhood around the beach is not the best. Lots of people park around there so your car will be probably be safe but make sure you know where you're going, you don't want to get lost in this area.

3. Rockaway Beach has a rich history in books, TV, music and film: "Rockaway Beach" is classic 1977 song by the Ramones; Woody Allen's Radio Days is largely set near there; the classic Seinfeld episode "The Marine Biologist" episode centers on Rockaway beach; and the beach is cited in great American novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

4. There is another beach nearby called Jacob Riis Park. This is NYC's only beach with a topless/clothing optional space. If you're with a loved one or feeling naughty or just want to run free, you should check it out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good News

Faisal Shahzad, the pathetic headcase who planted a defective car bomb in Times Square on May 1, has plead guilty to all ten counts against him. It seems that, even without a trial, this sad man is going away for a long, long time.

Even better, he had to plead guilty to a Judge named Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum.

How long he'll spend in prison is unclear. It appears that since his capture he's been singing like a canary, giving up his terrorist contacts, funding, etc. The Feds have apparently gotten tons of information from him that will help keep America safe. This is obviously a great day or NYC and America.

But it's also a really bad day for Republicans. First, the Obama administration can claim a scalp on the War on Terror. Second, this guy apparently talked and talked and plead guilty even after he was read his Miranda rights and without being tortured. So it basically blows to pieces their theory that we must discard our values and resort to barbaric tactics to secure America.

Mission accomplished.

Still Here

I realize it's been almost a week since my last posts but life has a way of getting in the way of blogging. It's all good stuff that's been going on but it does take up time. However, I plan on diligently blogging for the rest of this week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pat Benatar Rules

If you grew up in the 1980s then you know who Pat Benatar is. She was an awesome singer, an original "rock chick", who had numerous hit including "Love is a Battlefield", "Heartbreaker", "We Belong", "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "You Better Run" -- the second video to ever appear on MTV on August 1st, 1981 (right after "Video Killed the Radio Star") and the first by a woman. Pat's songs populate jukeboxes around the world today and they define modern day classic rock.

Best of all, Pat's a New York girl, born in Brooklyn (yeah!) and raised on Long Island (yeah ...). Anyway, she has a new book out called Between a Heart and Rock Place and she recently did a wonderful interview on WNYC that you can listen to here.

Pat Benatar -You Better Run

It's No One's Fault

Believe it or not but New York State does not have no-fault divorce. Instead, when couples split, they must either be legally separated for a year or one party must accept blame for the marriage's failure (hence the divorce must be someone's "fault"). Most states already have no-fault but our beloved Empire State still has a rather archaic, almost Victorian view of marriage.

Fortunately this appears to be ending. The Assembly just passed a law for no-fault divorce and its prospects look in the State Senate and the Governor appears willing to sign it. There is, believe it or not, still some opposition. The Catholic Church is opposed to no-fault on moral grounds and women's rights advocates believe it gives poor women less leverage in their divorce proceedings.

But it's probably a good thing that the law's set to change. Divorce is obviously a sad, awful situation and creating circumstances where couples can more easily end their marriages and move on is for the best.

Monday, June 14, 2010

All That Chat

Last night was Tony night when the celestial stars of Broadway congregated to reward one another for their work. I'll admit that I didn't watch the ceremony as I usually do (even with Green Day rocking the house) but I hear it was good.

But the Tonys are but once a year and the bidness' of Broadway is year 'round. There's a wonderful chat forum for Broadway fans and professionals alike called All That Chat. There are lots of discussion forums about everything that's going on on Broadway and in the NYC theater world in general so, if you're a theater fan, you should definitely check it out.

Scandal in Bloomberg Land

For the last eight-plus years that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has ruled this town, his administration has been remarkably free of scandal. Since he's so rich and doesn't has to fundraise, he's been able to avoid the natural corruption that is bred from politicians who have to hit up businessmen and unions and other assorted scoundrels for campaign cash.

However, that doesn't mean all the money he's thrown into his three elections has been 100% clean.

Today a Republican operative who worked on his last campaign was indicted for laundering a million dollars from the campaign through the Independence party and into a shell "consulting" company that went towards -- get this -- buying this guy a house. It's grand larceny pure and simple and, yes, Mayor Mike is clearly the victim. It's totally inexcusable even for a billionaire to be ripped off.

But this case sheds some interesting light on the corrosive role of money in our politics in general and the creepy third parties that co-exist in this state in particular. First, this case proves the lie that somehow if a political candidate is rich and self-funds his or her campaigns that somehow they and their people are incorruptible. Second, this guy funneled the money through the Independence party, a bizarre, cult-like organization that exists only to serve as a second ballot line or (mostly) Republicans candidates to win elections.

This is something that needs to be changed. For some reason New York State allows candidates to run on multiple party lines -- usually with Democratic candidates running on the Working Families Party line as well and Republican candidates running on the Conservative and/or Independence lines. Sometimes candidates are able to run on both the Republican and Democratic lines!

This is wrong. And deeply cynical.

The Independence Party is used by Republican candidates for Governor and Mayor who, in cities like NYC with huge Democratic majorities, couldn't win elections otherwise without people pulling the lever for them on this other line. It's cynical, it's absurd, and it needs to stop.

And, as we can see, it is a source ripe for corruption.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Sun Won't Come Out Tommorrow for Little Orphan Annie

After eighty-six years -- 86! -- New York's favorite orphan is going away. The final Little Orphan Annie cartoon is running today, and tomorrow -- tomorrow! tomorrow! -- her newspaper life will be no more. With the decline of newspapers and the cartoon industry, Annie was currently appearing in less than 20 newspapers. So the end was nigh. But eighty-six years is a respectable, ripe old age and marks an extraordinary run.

And yet tomorrow Annie fans will have to clear away the cobwebs and the sorrow.

The first Annie cartoon ran on August 5, 1924. At that time, Calvin Coolidge was President, the Charleston was the hot dance craze, movies were still silent, F. Scott Fitzgerald was still writing The Great Gatsby, and Adolf Hitler was just some nut hanging around German beer halls. To say it was a different time is a bit of an understatement.

I will admit that I never really read the Little Orphan Annie cartoons. Also, I was a little too young to go to the musical when it was still on Broadway. (The Annie musical ran from 1977-1982 and is now legendary because one of the Annies was a young girl named Sarah Jessica Parker.) Apparently there is a planned Broadway revival for 2012.

However, my first movie going experience, or at least the first movie I can remember going to, was the 1982 Annie movie. It wasn't a great movie in retrospect but at the time I loved it. Even though it was set at the depths of the depression, Annie was such a bright, fun little girl who was so nice to everyone that she was exactly the kind of friend a little five-year boy like me wanted. And the movie presented a romantic, beautiful New York that can only exist in the movies. Thus I've always had a little affection for Annie and am sad to see her go.

So goodbye, Annie. You made generations and generations of people happy. And remember:

"When I'm stuck a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Great NYC Show: "Northern Exposure" at 20

It's so hard to believe but it was almost twenty years ago this summer when a funky little show called Northern Exposure premiered on CBS. Long before Sarah Palin, this was the thing that really put Alaska on the map (and was so much more appealing). And, ironically, it was also a great NYC show.

It was about a young Jewish doctor named Joel Fleishman who owes the State of Alaska several years of service in exchange for the state paying his medical school fees. At first he's going to be sent to Anchorage but then he's exiled to the tiny town of Cicely where he tends to the maladies of an eccentric bunch of people who wouldn't be out of place in NYC (take that, Wasilla). At its heart it was a New York Jew "fish out of water" story but it was also about how a bunch of people formed a special community and learn to love and depend on each other.

Northern Exposure was a funny, heartful show with razor sharp writing, great characterizations and, amazingly, it contained a lot of New York grit than most shows actually set here (take that, Friends). It lasted five years (1990-1995) and was really ahead of its time. Quirky shows like this were forerunners for later groundbreaking shows like The Sopranos, Lost and Mad Men and for that we owe it a debt.

Northern Exposure Showdown - Alaska vs. NYC

NYC: The iPhone App

The New York Times has created an iPhone Application that boasts to be "An Inside Guide to New York." It's essentially the city at your fingertips and consists of lists of restaurants and bars, shows and events happening around town, and "Only in N.Y." sightseeing experiences.

Sounds like a cool, very useful thing.

I have not yet downloaded or tested it yet but I plan to do so shortly. If you'd like to get a head start on me, you may do so yourself here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gotta Love New Yorkers

Grace under pressure is a most noble virtue. And New Yorkers have it in spades. I just saw a great example of it today.

This afternoon on the subway a truly horrible man walked onto my crowded train, cracked open a Bible, and began ranting about how gays are going burn in hell.
Yes, he was that original.

This guy was something else. Loathsome in every way. He talked about how we might all die at any moment, how our dinner tonight might be the last meal we ever eat, and then he hit a real low by saying that if there were any gay earthquake victims in Haiti that now they are now "being fried."

Wow! It truly stuns me, the vile hatred that some people can hold in their hearts. It would never occur to me to think that, let alone say (or yell) it out loud.

This guy kept yakking about how gays can only be saved if they are "born again" and "accept Jesus." Then he talked about how he used to be a drug addict until he himself was born again. Apparently, in this guy's warped mind, spewing virulent hatred has made him a better person than when he was on drugs. In my opinion, he was a better person then.

God must be shaking his head, depressed that guys like this make Him look ridiculous.

I really hate people like this guy. The most insufferable people are those who used to be "bad" -- drinking, drugging, whoring, committing crimes, etc. -- then are "saved" and replace their addictive behavior with religion. Then these people go around and try to "save" everyone else "come to the Lord." Apparently they can't believe that some people in this world can be neither a degenerate or a religious freak.

Our last president was a guy like this. The entire horrible presidency of George W. Bush, another bad boy turned "good" who was "born again" -- who thought God wanted him to be in office, who pushed a radical religious agenda down our throats, who invaded Iraq after consulting, not his own father who was also president and fought against Iraq, but his "higher father" -- was an example of this.

At least this prick on the subway today didn't have access to the most powerful military on Earth.

But I digress. What impressed me today was how my fellow New Yorkers reacted to this guy. Namely, they didn't. Nobody said a word, no one tried to shout him down, and thankfully no else encouraged him by shouting "right on" or crap like that. They just ignored him. They didn't get rattled. They just let the baby cry. A handful of my fellow New Yorkers kept their cool and behaved like adults -- and believe me, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wanted to slug him (I actually had a fantasy of kicking him in the nuts just as I was getting off the train but thought the better of it).

So you, my fellow New Yorkers on the train this afternoon, made me proud. Thank you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life in the Theater

Many years ago I worked in various aspects of the New York theater world -- both on stage and off. I was very young at the time and never seriously considered working in theater as a career (it's a really hard way to make a living unless you "breakthrough" or "make it" and that was never going to happen for me). So I went on to have a square life and career and have never regretted it.

That said, I fondly recall what life in the theater was like -- daily life. And this short article from today's Times reminds me of what it was like and inspired a wave of nostalgia in me: you work at night and your days are free (except Wednesdays and Saturdays when there are matinees). During the day, you can catch-up on your sleep, do your errands, and enjoy the day. Then, as dusk settles over the city, you go to the theater to your small temporary family of actors and crew. Even though most of the shows don't run that long (even people who work on hit shows only usually work on them for a year at time), it does feel like a temporary family, contra mundum. Working on a show is a unique experience that will never be replicated.

You can almost understand why so many movie actors say that their first love is the theater.

The most fun you have is when the show is actually going on. There's a tension in the air, everybody feels it -- that thrill of doing the performance and the relief that comes when it's finally over and been a success. In most shows, not every actor appears on stage every minute so there's nothing more fun than shooting the breeze with other actors and crew members backstage. You're all in this together and you become like a "band of brothers" -- with women of course. While it can be frightening and horribly embarassing when a show goes wrong, the joy that comes from when it goes right can't be described (I won't say it's better than sex but, well, in some ways it is).

Of course, and this is the reason I didn't pursue a theater career, it's very hard even find a job in the theater. Most shows come and go very quickly and the rejection that can come from getting fired or getting bad reviews is absolutely brutal. But when life in the theater is good ... it's very, very good.

I don't know if any theater people read Mr NYC but, if they do, I'm sure they know what I'm talking about and I would love to hear what their lives in the theater are like.

Who Pays the Rent?

In NYC, we have something called rent regulation. These are certain apartments that fall under either rent control or rent stabilization. In case you were wondering what the difference is between control and stabilization, it's basically this: rent control is a fixed rate that applies only to people living in apartments since 1971 that were built before 1947 (once people move out or die, the apartments become rent stabilized); rent stabilization applies to apartments only built before 1974 and sets maximum rates for rent increases, keeping rents relatively low.

We are really the only big city in the country to have rent regulation and it's always been controversial. Fierce defenders of rent regulation think that the laws have been watered down and weakened over the years (they have) and that the laws have been too complex. People on the opposite side of the spectrum think that rent regulation interferes with the free market, warps the city's economy, and should be gotten ride of. Because of rent regulation, thousands and thousands of apartments have been made affordable for the middle class. But over the years there have been many attempts made by landlords and developers to phase out the rules which has only made them more complex.

The hub of the current controversy over rent regulation is that there are some people who live in rent controlled or rent stabilized apartments who could, otherwise, afford market rates. A new study by the business-friendly Citizens Budget Commission estimates that there are roughly 100,000 relatively affluent families living in these apartments. They believe that, in this case, people who can afford market rate apartments should not be allowed to rent these regulated apartments and should have their protections lifted. These people are, the CBC argues, hogging apartments intended for less affluent. And the CBC believes, over all, that rent regulation is bad and should be gotten rid of because, really, it hurts the people it's intended to help.

This is a bunch of crap. The CBC is a cynical, sneaky, mean-spirited attempt to strip poor and middle class people of their affordable apartments. Here's the deal: even though some people who can afford market rate apartments live in these protected units, vastly more of the people who live in them cannot afford market rates. Also, rent regulations are not meant to protect only the poor: they are meant to protect all tenants in NYC, to shift the market so as to keep all rents relatively affordable (not that it's an easy task). The CBC's suggestions would decrease the number of rent regulation apartments available in the city and this would weaken rent regulation even more.

This a slippery slope, bit-by-bit attempt to chip away at some of the few remaining law left to protect ordinary people, gradually setting the stage for full elimination of rent regulation.

The folks behind the CBC report know that getting of rent regulation one fell swoop is impossible. Politically, the backlash would be so severe it might actually strengthen rent regulation. So they instead suggest this small, at first blush seemingly reasonable suggestion to tweak the laws so as to make them more "fair" and "sensible"... when in fact their goal is to do away with all protections all together.

The only people who would benefit from this are landlords, developers and financiers. The rest of us? We'd get hosed.

You think the housing crises in this town is bad, just imagine it (or don't) if they got rid of rent regulation. So I urge you to fight against any attempts to weaken rent regulation.

C'mon LeBron

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

David Garth: New York's Boss

Anyone paying attention to presidential politics for the last twenty years has born witness to the rise of the political consultant as celebrity. These are the campaign strategists, the brains of the organization, the men behind the curtains, the power behind the thrones who have helped elect -- some may use the term "make" -- presidents. No longer do presidents win elections themselves -- they are "made" by people of mystical genius and scary powers to influence an entire nation.

Lee Atwater made George Bush Sr in 1988, James Carville and Dick Morris made Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Karl Rove made George Bush Jr in 2000 and 2004, and David Axelrod made Barack Obama in 2008.

Some young budding politicos no longer dream of becoming president -- they dream of "making" them.

In NYC, mayors used to be "made" by the clubhouse. Political bosses like the infamous William Tweed in the 19th century and Carmine De Sapio in the 20th ran Tammany Hall and hand-selected candidates for mayor, oversaw their campaigns, and the results of the elections were basically a fait accompli. Since the fall of Tammany in 1961, the rise of party primaries, and the all-consuming power of television advertising, no longer do political bosses run the city from behind the scenes. Instead, the campaign consultant dominates.

Surprisingly, since 1965, one man has been responsible for helping to elect four of our city's last six mayors. Political strategist David Garth worked on the campaigns of Mayors John Lindsay (1966-1973), Ed Koch (1978-1989), Rudy Giuliani (1994-2001), and Mike Bloomberg (2001-2013). He has played a hand in determining who has run this town for 40 of the last 48 years.

Wow. Talking about reach. Eat your heart out Karl Rove (and company).

And not only that but Garth is responsible for not only making four of our last six mayors, he also helped to un-make the two others he didn't work for. Woe unto those mayors who ran against a Garth client: Mayor Abe Beam lost to Ed Koch in 1977 and Mayor Dinkins to Rudy Giuliani in 1993.

Put simply: the guy was good.

Why? Because he understood television and how to make his clients connect with voters and their concerns. He was a master of the sound-bite. He would create ads that summed up the problems the city's electorate faced and his potential mayor would offer a simple solution:

For example, in 1977, he had Ed Koch say in an ad: "Abe Beame says he wants four more years to finish the job. Finish the job? Hasn't he done enough?" In 1993, the Giuliani campaign slogan was "One City, One Standard."

Garth was something of a political chameleon for his entire career. He worked for both Republicans and Democrats and, for a man who dedicated his life to politics, his own political beliefs remained elusive. Unlike today's hot-shot political consultants who appear on TV and blab their mouths off, Garth shunned publicity, operated stealthily, and worked quietly to alter the course of the city's fate. And he did it for almost half a century.

Today David Garth is 80 years old and very ill. Although the mayors he worked for are known to every New Yorker, Garth is a mystery man to 99.9% of them. But his clients want that to change that: recently Giuliani, Bloomberg and Koch got together to start a fundraising drive to create a special professorship, a "chair" as it is known, at CUNY named after the man who made their careers (David Dinkins was noticeably absent for this event; Lindsay and Beame have been dead for years). I

If their plan works out, Garth will be remembered by our city's educational system for years to come. (Although why billionaire Bloomberg can't fund this chair himself is just strange.)

So know you know more about the man who made or unmade our city's last six mayors. If our city has had a political boss for the last forty-plus years, then it was him. You may hate or love the men he elected mayor but, whatever your feelings, you can't deny that David Garth made NYC what it is today.