Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cathie Black Not Qualified

Monday, November 29, 2010

She's In

It looks like Cathy Black will be the next NYC Schools Chancellor. Today the State Education commissioner granted the waiver she needs in order to assume the job on January 1st.

Now that its been granted, the only thing between Ms. Black and her Tweed Courthouse office is a lawsuit that her opponents will file in order to derail her. While I'm not a fan of this appointment, it's hard to see how it can be legally vetoed -- what would be the sound legally reasoning to say that the State Education commissioner wasn't allowed to, or somehow erred in, granting this particular waiver? Seems hopeless to me. So I think we'll be hearing Chancellor Black for the next three years. 

Whether or not she'll be a good Chancellor is almost besides the point for me. It's the arrogance that gets me.

Why, I wonder, is it okay for a rich mayor to appoint one of his rich friends with absolutely no experience in the education field to an incredibly important position? 

What's her vision for the education and the New York City Public Schools? 

What's her philosophy of education?  

How is this not just a case of upscale cronyism?
Ernest Hemingway once told F. Scott Fitzgerald that "the rich are different from you and me", to which Scott replied, "Yes, they have more money." But this appointment shows that differences between the rich and the ordinary go beyond dollars and the stuff you can buy them -- it goes to the matter of privilege. 

Cathie Black would not have the privilege to be serving in this post if she was not a wealthy and powerful person. 

She knows nothing about education or the public school system. Yet her wealth and position gives her the privilege to leapfrog over those who have spent years, decades, working in education, in order to get such an influential job. Just like the rich get the privilege to travel places most of us don't get to go to, meet people most of us don't get to meet, go to restaurants and parties that most of us can't get into, so they are able to attain a level of professional experience and fulfillment that they have NOT worked for, not earned ... because they're rich. They get the privilege to serve in powerful posts that only their money qualifies them for.

But then again, all's fair in love and capitalism -- especially in NYC. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bryant Park

Nestled behind the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, right between Times Square and Grand Central Station, Bryant Park is a beautiful oasis in the overactive thyroid gland of Midtown Manhattan.

The fact that it's just ... there, and has been there for as long as anyone can remember, means that it's easy for most New Yorkers to take it for granted. Yet it really is a jewel and, particularly this time of year, is one of the little things that makes you grateful to live in New York.

In many ways, Bryant Park is the place that most reflects of the city. It does this in three major ways.

First, it's a place where natives and visitors alike can escape, right in the middle of the city, from their work or their trips, and take a few minutes to restore themselves. The big beautiful green space is fun to loll on and there are lots of tables and chairs for people to sit and relax on. Best of all, you can get a great look at the majestic buildings that surround the park and really get a sense of what an extraordinary city this is.

Second, Bryant Park is a place where, especially in summer and winter, New Yorkers can get together and have fun. In the summertime, on Monday evenings, HBO shows free classic movies in the open air. I've gone to the movies there a few times of the year, seeing A Streetcar Named Desire and MASH with several thousand of my fellow New Yorkers. In wintertime, Bryant Park turns into a holiday theme park. The park is taken over with small stores selling everything from candles and toys to fragrances and jewelry. In the middle of the park, the green space turns into a free ice skating rink. My wife and I went there recently (neither of us had been skating since childhood) and we had lot of fun swooshing around the (frozen) Pond. Amazingly neither of us fell down and it only made us want to skate again soon. (Warning: the line to get into the skating ring, particularly on a weekend afternoon, is incredibly long but it moves fairly fast). So in Bryant Park, New Yorkers come together to have fun in the sun and celebrate the Season.

Third, the history of Bryant Park almost reflects the history of NYC as a whole. It seems that whenever New York falls on hard times so does the park. But whenever the city resurrects itself, the park leads the way. In the 1920s, Bryant Park had fallen into ugly disrepair -- the city government under Tammany Hall let it go completely to seed. In the 1930s, however, under the WPA, the park was restored and once again became an urban refuge. By the 1970s and 1980s, however, it had once again come undone, this time becoming a playpen for drug addicts and prostitutes. In 1988 the park was closed and was renovated for four years. By the 1990s the park had once again become the beautiful space that it is today. In many ways, if you want to see how the city is doing, go to Bryant Park.   

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lennon NYC

We are coming upon the sad anniversary of John Lennon's death. On December 8, 1980 a deranged fan gunned down the legendary Beatles singer in front of the Dakota on West 72nd street. Music, and the world, have never quite been the same since.

Lennon lived in NYC for almost a decade before his death and loved this city like no other. Though a native of Liverpool, England, like many a transplant to our fair city, when Lennon moved to NYC, he felt like he had come home. 

PBS is currently showing a documentary called Lennon NYC about his life here. These were tumultuous years -- Vietnam, Watergate, the financial crises, inflation, rising crime -- and through it all, Lennon's music and message of peace and love provided a ray, hopeful light during a dark, dark time. He wrote some great songs during this time and, in many ways, he became the ultimate New Yorker -- a strong, unapologetic voice fighting against the warmongering mainstream. 

Today it sometimes feel like we're living through dark times as well. This last decade has been a particularly rough one -- war, terrorism, oil spills, natural disasters, financial crises, the Bush Presidency, the Tea Party movement -- but we can listen to John Lennon's music and remember his legacy and that can help us keep the faith that things will one day get better. 

Only in New York. Imagine. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Face of a Changing City

When you think about how a city changes, it's easy to point to new buildings or public works that have been constructed -- or to remind people about the old ones that have been demolished. You can look at various neighborhoods and see how they've changed -- physically, economically, racially, etc. Cities change in many ways. The most obvious way is to see what exists vs. what no longer does, or to see who lives there vs. who no longer does, in order to measure the rate and scope of change.

Anyone who remembers what Times Square looked like -- or the kinds of people who inhabited it -- twenty-five years ago vs. today know exactly what I'm talking about. But what about the nature of experience when it comes to the face of a changing city? Increasingly, the very daily experiencing of NYC seems poised to change. 

Certainly the physical and sociological changes of NYC over the years have affected how we experience the city but what about the changes that are less obviously but still profound? A perfect example are the newly proposed taxi's that the TLC has proposed. New Yorkers, all of us, can actually vote on the new design and construction of the cabs and one of them will be selected to replace the current version. Personally I think they all look like the equivalent of spacecrafts from various bad sci-fi movies and TV shows, and they don't have anything that screams NYC about them ... but as the city becomes more global, I guess cabs are one of the first thing to lose that special New Yorkness. 

Face of a changing city.

But it's not just the cabs in our streets that are changing. Apparently more and more New Yorkers want to shed their accents -- the beautiful, unique NYC accent is under assault! According to this  article in The New York Times, native New Yorkers are being told to go to speech therapists in order to stop "tawking like New Yawkas'" because people in the global marketplace find them annoying and hard to understand. 

I find this horrifying. I don't have much of an accent but several of my relatives do and I find their accents endearing. The New York accent is so distinctive, so strong, so in your face and unrepentantly urban, that the idea that people are trying to get rid of them (or feeling forced to do so) is awful. Someone, somewhere in this town should be able to say "I'm going to Thoity-thoid and thoid!" without apology. If people from elsewhere don't like the New York accent, so what? 

Since when have New Yorkers ever caved in to outsiders? Since when have we ever given a damn what people outside NYC ever thought? Since when do we buckle and let the global marketplace dictate how we live? NYC is the global marketplace -- we are it's LEADER, not it's FOLLOWER! And lead we must! 

Do you think Fiorello LaGuardia wouldn't be outraged by this?

If we all want to start sounding like we're from Cleveland or something then we might as well all move to Cleveland! Well I don't want to move to Cleveland and I don't want New Yorkers to start sounding like there from there! Long live the New York accent! 

Do you think Southerners wouldn't be offended if we told them to lose their accents? Of course not! You know how much Southerners love guns ... if you told them to lose their accents, they'd probably shoot you. And in the old days, New Yorkers would too! 

Don't get me wrong, I know that NYC has to change -- I'm not one of those statists who wants the past to be ever present and who shuns the future. But change at the expense of identity isn't change -- it's loss. And telling New Yorkers to lose their accents is a loss. So while the face of our city must change and while NYC must adapt to the ways of the global community, I beg all New Yorkers not to lose to ignore what makes this city unique -- and the great leader that she has and always will be.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Neue Galerie

In a town chock full of great museums, sometimes it's a pleasant change of pace to go to a gallery devoted to a single art form or subject. Such is the case with the Neue Galerie, a small space featuring German and Austrian artwork. Modest though its offering are, this gallery is real jewel. 

The Neue is housed in a three-story building on 86th street, right off Fifth Avenue. The permanent collection features paintings, drawings, and decorative arts by early 20th century artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Marcel Breuer (amongst others). The most famous work in the collection is Klimt's 1907 painting Portrait of Adele Bauer-Bloch I, a woman from turn-of-the century Viennese society. Referred to sometimes as the "German Mona Lisa", this painting was rescued from the Nazi's during WWII and was bought by the owner of the Neue, Ronald Lauder, for $135 million in 2006. It is a stunningly complex painting of gold on canvas and, whenever you're at the Neue, it's the painting that always has the most people around it.

Currently the Neue is featuring a special exhibit of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. An 18th century sculptor, he became famous for creating "character heads", busts of people making bizarre, funny, and odd faces. When you look at them, you think you're looking at Dada-esque works of Modern Art but no ... these busts are over 250 years old. I had never heard of Messerschmidt before and this is the first full-scale exhibit of his work in the United States. It's great to know that during a period of great conservatism (18th century European art is generally referred to as "neoclassical"), there was someone like Messerschmidt stirring things up, challenging the predominating aesthetic and conventions. To say that he was ahead of his time is an understatement -- his works were dangerous and practically revolutionary. This exhibit is showing until January 10 and I would urge all Mr NYC to run out and see it -- you may never get the chance again.

So if you're an art lover and looking for something different yet classy, the Neue is a great find.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Interview: Simone Grant of "Sex, Lies & Dating in the City"

Dating in NYC is such a crazy adventure that, over the decades, there have been books, movies, and TV shows aplenty all trying to make sense of the madness. From Annie Hall to Sex and the City, the stories of New Yorkers and love has been exhaustively told -- and inhabited numerous multimedia platforms. Naturally, in the 21st century, this has come to include blogs, and numerous New Yorkers have created some really great ones chronicling their travails of the dating scene here.

Few, however, has done it with such originality as Simone Grant of the intriguingly named blog Sex, Lies & Dating in the City. Her blog might be called the first Web 3.0 dating blog, where she not only tells her own dating stories but also conducts polls of her readers on their dating stories/advice and  directs them to products that might make their love lives a little spicier. Simone was kind enough to share her thoughts of sex, love and dating in the city and what makes her blog so unique.   

There are lots of dating/sex/relationship blogs out there but yours is a little different than most. Tell us about what makes it so unique and why you named it "Sex, Lies & Dating in the City"? 

Well, to be fair, I'm sure every one's blog is unique in some way.  

Back when I first started my blog, in 2008, I wanted to make sure it was true to my experience of dating. I didn't want it to be one funny story after another, or one horror story after another.  I could have done that, and maybe it would have been more popular.  But all of my dating stories aren't funny.  Some are.  And some are sad, or frustrating, or just repetitive (because a lot of dating is just repetitive).  My goal was to create something that real people could read and relate to.

As for the name, that was just me being a dumbass.  I wasn't particularly experienced with blogs or publishing online and it hadn't occurred to me that putting SEX in the title would be a bad thing. Most people cannot read my blog at work, if they work in any kind of business environment; nor can you read it at public libraries or many chain coffee shops which seriously affects my blogs ratings. The name was just a mishmish of "Sex and the City" and "Sex, Lies and Videotape".  Neither are particular favorites of mine, btw.  I was just tossing around ideas for names and they came to mind and the next thing I knew ...  Like I said, me being a dumbass. 

You like to poll your readers about various aspects of their love lives. What inspired you to create these polls and what do they tell you about your readers?

I'm a question girl.  Always asking questions and attracted to people who ask questions.  I find the answers amusing, but take them with a grain of salt.  I find that people's answers change with time, with experience, with alcohol.  Seriously, I adore my readers and love reading the comments, but tend to think that people lie (on polls and most everywhere else).  

So what does Simone Grant look for in a guy? Has your blog affected your love life in any way?

What do I look for?  Damned if I know.  OK, that's a lie. But it's a complicated question.  I'd like to think I'll know him when I see him, but I've thought that before and been very, very wrong.  

For now, I'd like to meet a kind man who I'm massively attracted to (which has more to do with what's on the inside than the outside) to date and build a solid relationship with.  Slowly.  Like a date or 2 a week for the next couple of years.  

The blog has affected my love life, but only in that I know I cannot become involved with a man who would not be OK with it (the blog). And I know that many wouldn't.  A couple have already failed the test.  C'est la vie.  

A question about blogs in general: you seemed to have turned your blog into a successful business. What advice can you give to other aspiring bloggers to do the same?

I was a writer who became a blogger who then became a social media consultant. And, I'm still a writer at heart.  The writer in me screams, pretty much daily, at the horrifyingly low quality of much of what's out there in the blogosphere. Sometimes I'm screaming at myself, because I put stuff out there that I know isn't that good. I just don't have time to make it better (because I'm working on a deadline, or feel pressure to blog daily).  My advice is that content still matters.  Sure, good content marketed poorly won't find an audience. But bad content marketed well won't earn an audience.

One thing that comes through on your blog is that you're a die-hard New Yorker. What is it that you love about NYC so much -- and what is your opinion of the dating scene here?

As for the dating scene, it's not for the faint of heart.  One of my dear friends, and native New Yorker, is fond of saying that you have to fight for everything here. No where is that more true than in the dating scene.  You have to be wiling to fight.  For your sanity if nothing else.

Tell us something about Simone Grant that we don't know.

I'm a lot cooler IRL. For real. 

Thanks Simone! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There Must Be 50 Ways to Love NYC

They don't call it the "rat race" for nuttin'. 

Sometimes living in NYC is like being a rat -- a desperate, exhausting, frantic race for survival. A rat will do anything to survive, and survivin' in NYC is all that and more.

But we live here because we know -- we know! -- in the the depths of our soul, in the recesses of our brains, in the lining of our bowels (okay, that was gross) that all the expense and craziness of NYC is worth it. Damn worth it. Because if a New Yorker is forced to live anywhere else, they might just start to consider suicide. 

Today I heard Nora Ephron on the radio say that when she moved to California as a child, she didn't care how great the weather was -- she wanted to go back to NYC right away. 

On Saturday night I was walking around Bryant Park with my wife. The weather was perfect, the gorgeous buildings piercing the sky with their blasting lights. It was the perfect New York night. And my wife and I agreed that if you live in NYC and you look at this site and don't feel excited and grateful to live here, then you should leave immediately and move to ... wherever. 

In short, we New Yorkers live here because we have to

That is why I was so happy to find this latest blog post from the Village Voice entitled 50 Reasons to Be Pretty Damn Euphoric You Live in New York City. Authored by someone named Jen Doll, it's a great, brilliant piece, writing at it's finest. You should click on the link and read it here but I'll just give you a few of the best reasons:

47. There is always someone crazier than you. ALWAYS.
46. The view from the Brooklyn Bridge.
45. The view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

26. Smart people are the norm, not the exception. (Which doesn't mean they're sane, but at least no one's boring.)

13. There is an insane Korean day spa (Spa Castle) waiting for you in Flushing. And Russian and Turkish baths in the East Village.

6. You can be alone, but never feel lonely. And vice versa. But if you die and aren't found until a year later, you won't be the first.

This article was so effective that it it led to lots of "haters" making negative comments. And Ms. Doll brilliantly hit back

Remember: this is NYC. No one ever shrinks from a fight here.  

Young People's Day Camp (1988)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Food Court NYC

Among its many splendors, one of the things that makes NYC the best place in the world is that you can virtually eat anything you want here. Think of a nationality or ethnicity and its attendant cuisine and someone here sells it either in a restaurant or some kind of other eating establishment. And for the even more adventuresome, there are groceries stores galore where you can get all sorts of exotic ingredients and cook all sorts of non-traditional meals yourself.

Food is NYC.

Note that I said you can find all sorts of food in "some kind of other eating establishment." For the in the last few years, New Yorkers have been able to break free from the tyranny of either paying restaurant prices or undertaking the burdens of cooking. In the last few years there has been a boom in two things that have more great food more accessible and affordable: food courts and food trucks.
This article in the New York Press highlights the trend in upscale food courts like The Plaza Food Hall, FoodParc, the various food bars in Grand Central Terminal, as well as the recently opened Eataly of of Union Square. If you're looking for variety and communal dining experience, these are some of the places to go.

Food trucks have also surged in popularity in the last few years. It used to be that the only food New Yorkers would by off the street would be hot dogs and pretzels. Then Middle Easterners cooking kabobs, souvlaki, and gyros on food carts found a footing in the NYC diet. Now food trucks in NYC are a full blown New York phenomenon, selling such varied offerings as Kosher Falafel, tacos, bistro fair, even waffles. Some of the best trucks can be found all over the city, from Manhattan to Red Hook to Astoria. If you want to read a list of the best ones to be found around town, go here.
And have no fear. These food courts and food trucks are safe to in (or from). NYC health inspectors have been on a tear in the last few years, inspecting and fining with a vengeance. Never before have eating establishments been so closely monitored for cleanliness and the food grading system (forcing places to display their Department of Health awarded As, Bs and Cs in their window) has added an extra reassurance to customers.

So eat up NYC! In these trouble times, when things look like they couldn't be any worse, isn't it great to know that food in NYC has never been better?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Commies in NYC

At one point in Woody Allen's classic movie Annie Hall, Woody says to his friend: "Don't you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we're left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers?"

Well, almost 20 years of Republican mayors in this town should put that idea to rest. However, believe it or not, twenty years since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, there actually are still some Commies around -- and, not surprisingly, they congregate on the west side of Manhattan.

Have no fear -- these Commies aren't "operational", they're not planning revolution or taking to the streets. No, this Communist cell is basically a debating society and apparently all are welcome to participate and pontificate -- even Republicans! 

Seems that these communists like to sit around all day in nice surroundings and blither. I figure that's probably the safest thing for them to do these days. 

And considering that both Communists and Republicans believe in a narrow, hardcore, unworkable ideology, in many ways they make natural allies.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mr NYC on Twitter

It's a gala day here on Mr NYC! (A "gal a day" is all I can handle, ha ha ha. Ok, sorry, Groucho).

Anyway, I finally buckled and decided to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. I think this will help the blog reach more people and branch out. So as of today, you click on the Twitter feed to MrNYCBlog on the right hand side and get brief descriptions of new blog posts, heads up on blog posts that I'm planning to write in the near future, as well as some exclusive non-blog comments about my various comings and goings in, and observations about, NYC. I hope you'll follow it and find it informative and fun!

Governor Cuomo: The Sequel

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It Coulda Been Different

Right now the Congressional Democrats are going to their slaughter and, as this interesting column points out, there's no reason why this should be happening. Posting this article may be a little too late but it basically backs up my point from my previous Memo from NYC. Naturally it's much funnier and insightful than anything I could ever write (which is why I write a blog and not for a real publication).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview: Anonymous

Recently I blogged about how structurally corrupt our city government has become. Many of us think think this corruption doesn't affect our daily lives but, in fact, it does. Here is one story in our city of eight million. It is an outrageous story of police corruption and how a good, innocent person was screwed. For the sake of privacy and safety, I am keeping this person's identity secret.

So tell us your story.

I feel the need to share this with the public. People need to have this brought to their attention.

Last month I went to traffic court for a simple traffic violation (improper cell phone use), when in fact I was pulled over and the police witnessed no such action.

I went to court with a copy of my itemized bill showing the judge I was not using it. What shocked me to my core was the false testimony the cop gave: “I observed her talking with her left hand to her left ear." Because I went into shock over the blatant lie, I argued (probably not to my benefit) and still lost the case, having to cough up to those criminals $80 bucks so I can still keep my license. When I showed the judge my proof she completely ignored it. Here is what I’m pissed about ... I'm deaf in my left ear! I’m appealing the charge to the Traffic Court but it makes me angry as hell (as I read countless events online that police perjury is out of control and it affects us all, innocent and guilty alike).

What is the status of the case now?

Closed after the judge found me to be "guilty" with no explanation but reduced the $185 fine down to $80 and it had to get paid or else my license would be suspended. When I asked the judge to explain after I gave her my proof, she said, "This is my decision. If you don't agree appeal it." Of course I see now why she said it, it costs 10$ to file the appeal and another $50 to have the hearing transcribed, and then evaluated.

Have you called your city councilman or local representatives?

No, I didn’t realize I can, nor would they be interested. What can they do?

What message do you want to send to New Yorkers about what happened?

How police officers abuse their positions as law enforcers and it is a known fact police TESTI-LIE in court, just Google police and perjury and you should see the countless pages that come up. What is annoying is I didn't tell the judge at the time that I have hearing loss in the left ear cause I felt that was violating my privacy, and i was sure enough that the proof from my cellular statement will show I was not engaged in a call. I was so angry at that time because a) I wasn’t equipped with the proper "court/ law" wording and b) I was just a civilian who was taken advantage of by the system we empower to protect us. I can't even put a complaint on the officer directly because the system also says while they allow for complaints to be filed and if the complaint is investigated and revealed their was no error on the police officer, he IN TURN can file a complaint against you, and if you are found to be guilty, guess what -- JAIL TIME! I’m far from guilty, but what do you think the odds would be in my favor, when the police officer pulls me over in my gray BMW, harasses my sister why she has two PBA CARDS (police benevolent cards, like "get out of jail car" an officer gives you as a courtesy to show to officers you have an "in") when my sister told him to call the officers to vouch for us he didn’t.

Thank you for sharing your story, Anonymous. Just another example of how the powerful protect their own and the regular people are their victims.