Sunday, January 30, 2011

Donald on the Green?

Amongst the embarrassments that Mayor Bloomberg has had to deal with lately (the snowstorm debacle, Cathy Black, CityTime) is the fact that Tavern on the Green has been closed for over a year. After booting the Le Roy family in 2009 (which had run it since 1976), the city made a deal with Dean Poll to re-open the restaurant in 2010. Poll, however, failed to make a deal with the union representing the restaurant workers and so Tavern has been out of business. For now.

The city has turned the space that once housed Tavern into a visitor's center, and there are also vendors with food carts parked outside. It's unbelievable that a restaurant that used to pull in upwards of $40 million a year -- the highest grossing non-chain restaurant in the country -- is closed. It's an embarrassment to the city. It's absurd.

Enter Donald Trump. The real-estate mogul has said that he's made a deal with the restaurant union and is prepared to invest $20 million into a new Tavern on the Green. And he's ready to do it ASAP.

But for some strange reason, Mayor Bloomberg is hedging. He doesn't seem to want this deal to happen. For a man who's supposedly all about results and getting things done, Bloomberg is acting like quite the vacillator. Very weird.   

Now I'm not a huge fan of either Donald Trump or Tavern on the Green. Both the man and the restaurant are hopelessly tacky -- more interesting to tourists than to real New Yorkers. But it seems to me that if The Donald wants to re-open Tavern that he should be allowed to do so. After all, nobody else has been able to strike the necessary deal to re-open it ,and it's ridiculous that such a valuable asset -- and a part of the city's history -- is closed. If the sticking point was a deal with the unions -- which has now been resolved -- and someone has the cash and reputation credible enough to re-open it, then why not?

New York needs Tavern on the Green the same way Hollywood needs the Hollywood Sign. Tavern might be silly but, at the end of the day, it's a part of the New York spirit and it would be great if it could come back. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Doughnut Plant

If Homer Simpson came to NYC, I'd immediately take him down to Doughnut Plant on Grand Street. 

A tiny little store, they sell big and tasty donuts along with chai teas and stuff like that. The deal is, they bake a whole bunch of donuts in the morning and then sell them all, not baking anymore. They sell organic and cake-like donuts, including chocolate pudding, hazelnut, ginger and coconut (amongst others). The owners like to mix it up, selling different kinds of donuts at various times so you never know what to expect. I recently got a square, cake organize raspberry jelly donut that was totally delicious. The hazelnut donuts were also really, really good.

The donuts aren't cheap (about $2.50 each) but they are worth the money. Mmmm ... donuts  ....

Taxi Yoga

I can't think of a more stressful job in this town than riding a cab. Traffic. Airports. Crazy passengers. Lousy tips. Sitting on your tuchus for twelves hours at a time has got to be tough on your back. Not to mention that you don't have much time to eat healthy. It's a tough job.

That's why it's fascinating to hear about a yoga class in Queens that's meant exclusively for cabbies. It's a really brilliant idea. I know for myself -- who spends most of my days sitting and staring into a computer screen -- that yoga is a welcome relief. It really relaxes my mind and gets the kinks of daily life out of my body. In my own yoga class we have some cops and pretty tough looking guys so yoga is no longer for women or pansies -- it's for everybody!

And for cabbies, yoga must be wonderful release. It's great to know that there are people out there who recognize this. See, who said there's no good news in the world?  

I'm Gonna Always Love You - The Muppets Take Manhattan

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NYC as Philosophy

Very often on here, I harp on what NYC is, has been, and is becoming. This blog is not just about NYC as a place but about NYC as an idea, a spirit, a feeling, even a philosophy. 

What is the philosophy on NYC? Well, just read this whole blog and you might start to get an idea. But it would only be a start.

I've also blogged recently about the proposed Walmart in NYC, and about how it represents everything that NYC is not. Like Robert Moses building his highways by gutting neighborhoods, Walmart and the other big box stores are their 21st century equivalent -- big, impersonal impositions that come to dominate and ruin the neighborhoods they arise in. 

Big highways and big box stores are, in my opinion, antithetical to the philosophy of NYC. NYC is about diversity, about small neighborhoods that, knit together, make the greatest metropolis on earth. Highways and big box stores basically say, "To hell with the neighborhoods. The city is just one big mall and parking lot." 

I recently read a wonderful article about this very subject. In words and mood much better than I could ever convey, the author of this article, which you must read, ponders about the proposed Walmart in NYC and what it means -- and will mean -- to the city's future. It is, really, a moment of truth for us. He writes: 

"If (and when) the retail juggernaut does come, its presence will be definitive of the state of the city. It will indicate how desperate we may be for work—any work. It will be a further sharpening of the edge between high and low, luxury and convenience, rich and poor. And it will show us all how far we are willing to let the city change to be able to buy thongs and pacifiers in the same place."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Dan Halloran: NYC's Strangest Politician

Meet Dan Halloran. 

Representing Bayside and other parts of eastern Queens, he has been serving in the city council for a little over a year. 

And the guy is just plain weird.

When Halloran first ran in 2009, the Republican party wanted to kick him off its ballot when it was revealed that he is a Pagan. That's right -- this guy actually worships trees and rocks or something like that. But hey, this is America, and we're free to worship whoever or whatever we wish. So ,no sweat, he gets elected to the city council. This is NYC, after all, and we believe in diversity.

As soon as he gets elected to the council, however, he starts throwing his weight around. Before even taking office, he demands -- DEMANDS -- that he be made the city council Republican leader. Now, granted, there are only five Republicans on the council but three of them outranked him in seniority. So this was a little bit of cheekiness from the newbie. Halloran's logic was that since most of the Republicans on the council were from Queens, then a Queens person should be the leader.  Never mind that one of the councilmen from Queens already outranked him. Fortunately, the other Republicans on the council told him to take a hike and he didn't become the leader. But it was not a good way to start.

Then, in June of last year, he got into a very bizarre traffic incident in his district. He claimed that he saw a traffic cop blow a light. Halloran then followed the cop in his car, claims that the officer blew even more lights, and then, when the cop stopped outside a Dunkin' Donuts, Halloran started taking photos of the cop car. It was at that point that this cop, coming out of the store and seeing the councilman snapping away, gave Halloran a $165 ticket. Needless to say, Halloran was outraged! Outraged! He was a victim of the police! And he's a white councilman no less!

But this story doesn't make sense. If Halloran really saw all this, couldn't he just have taken down the license plate and quietly called the head of the traffic cops? As a city councilman, they certainly would have listened to him. Or is it possible that none of this happened and that Halloran was just embarrassed at getting a traffic ticket? And maybe he made up this story just to make himself look like a victim, win points with his constituents who all hate getting traffic tickets, and cover himself politically?

And yet it doesn't stop there. 

After last month's snowstorm, Halloran went screaming to the media, claiming that anywhere from three to five sanitation and transportation workers came to him and said that they had been ordered to work slowly in cleaning up the snow -- to hit back at proposed worker and budget cuts, to have the union embarrass and teach Mayor Bloomberg a lesson, etc. Halloran's claims triggered a federal investigation and a grand jury is currently looking into the claims (after all, if this is true, it's a very dangerous breach of public safety). 

So far, however, when asked to divulge the names of the whistle-blowing workers, Halloran steadfastly refuses to do so. He's claiming, bizarrely, that they are protected by attorney-client privilege. But Halloran isn't representing these people as a lawyer! 

And now Halloran's story is "evolving" -- Halloran is saying, well, maybe the workers didn't claim that they were directly told to engage in a slowdown, just given "hints"? What? 

Halloran is expected to testify to this grand jury under oath sometime soon where he may have to give up the names. If he doesn't, and if it turns out that none of this happened and that Halloran was lying ... the freshman councilman may be in a whole heap of trouble.

All of this comes at what must be a difficult time for him personally. Even his private life is weird (never mind his religious beliefs). In 2008, he was cited for building an illegal bathroom in the basement of his home. After he was elected to the council, he began to accuse the department of buildings of issuing improper citations ... on people building illegal bathrooms. Then he recently asked the buildings department to approve adding a second floor to his home even though its against zoning rules in his neighborhood. This was made extra strange since, apparently, Halloran and his wife are deeply in debt. Halloran has said that he and his wife are planning to divorce but they haven't filed yet.


Perhaps Halloran is going through a tough time personally and is cracking up, lashing out at other people to cover up his pain. Or perhaps this sad time in his life is totally coincidental to the very real outrages that he has been involved in lately. But this is all a little strange, don't ya' think? 

Halloran seems to be one of those people who always finds themselves mired in problems and disputes. One of those people always getting into trouble or finding trouble -- and always claiming ignorance or innocence as to how it happened. Halloran seems to be the drama queen of the NYC council -- and he's only in his first year. 

Let's hope that for him, and the city, his next three years on the council are a little more sedate. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Busy Season in NYC

Busy, busy, busy. I've been quite busy lately, thus the lack of blogging. And NYC has been busy too, based, at least, on what's been going on within our fair city. So let's see wuzzup:

Well, the sad news first. The Jets won't be headed to the Superbowl. They came up a little short against the Steelers on Sunday night. So while the Jets may have a been a Superbowl bridesmaid for the second time in two years, they didn't get to be the bride. But maybe next year. We still love our Jets anyway.  

And while the Jets aren't headed to the Superbowl, at least a whole bunch of mobsters are headed to jail. Last Friday, over 100 real-life "goodfellas" were busted in the biggest Mafia take down ever. Many of them were busted here in NYC (including many members of da' five families) but this bust stretched to places like Rhode Island and Florida. It'll be fascinating to see how many of these mobsters cut deals. Will they be given offers they can't refuse?

The worst part about going to jail, I would imagine, is the bad food. Mr NYC loves to eat particularly, amongst other things, cupcakes. So look out! You thought Starbucks had totally colonized our city, pushing its coffee on all our citizens, but now Crumbs bakery plans to become to the Starbucks of cupcakes. It's opening stores all over town, hocking its cupcakes and other baked goods to 8 million-plus people.

And Walmart is back in the news -- whipping up a pathetic PR campaign to get public support to open one of its stores within the five boroughs. They are relentless. Last year I blogged about what an evil company Walmart is and, a few weeks ago, a troll sent me a comment saying why Walmart was just dandy and that "poor people" needed Walmart. I did not publish this hack's comment because I suspect he was paid by this organized effort. And hopefully Walmart will stay out of NYC -- forever.

But the expansion of Crumbs and Walmart in NYC is, I'm sure, welcome news to Mayor Mike who is profiled in a lengthy Esquire piece. It's a must read. It gives you sense of how this guy who rules our city thinks -- and what he thinks of all of us.

Finally, if all of this is too much for you, may I suggest a pleasant escape. This past weekend the wife and I headed to the Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory. It is the one of the best and most high-end antiques shows in the whole country and the breadth of their offerings is stunning. If you have a few thousand dollars (make that a few hundred thousand dollars), you can purchase ancient art, medieval army, beautiful first editions of classic books, furniture in good shape that's only a few hundred years old, as well as autographed mementos from people like Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, and JD Salinger. It's really amazing (not that yours truly bought anything) but you should check it out.
So all in all, it's a busy season in NYC. And you were just getting over the holidays! Ha ha.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Betting Mayors

Tomorrow's Jets vs. Steelers game is shaping up to be a huge game. Whoever wins gets to go to the Superbowl. Imagine: after tomorrow, after more than 40 years, the Jets may be in the Big Game. Makes you glad you've lived this long.

So when a big championship game shapes up, the Mayors of the respective cities makes bets with each other. The rewards have usually been the losing Mayor sending the winning Mayor foods items distinctive of their cities. Or it can involve the losing Mayor wearing the jersey of the winning team at a public event. Something silly like that. 

This year the Mayor of Pittsburgh and our own Mayor have come up with an interesting bet: the losing mayor will wear the jersey of the winning team while preparing care packages for the returning soldiers from the winning city. If the Jets win tomorrow, I can't think of a better way for them to be ushered into their first Superbowl in almost half a century, then for the Mayor of Pittsburgh helping out the soldiers of NYC.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I like to watch ...

Tonight at 10 PM on PBS is a program (a repeat actually) of something called Dutch New York. As the title suggests, it's about life in our city when old New York was once New Amsterdam. It's also about how the Dutch influence on this city remains to this day. Even if you don't get to see the show, you should check out the website which has more info and interactive maps showcasing in detail what this city was like more than four hundred years ago.

Also, upcoming this Friday night on IFC is a new show called Portlandia, about a life in that lovely, quirky city in the Northwest. It stars Fred Armisen of SNL (seen below portraying out Mayor Mike) and Carrie Brownstein of the old band Sleater-Keanie. Last year I visited Portland and had a great time, blogging about it here. I hope this show captures the town's funky "alterna" spirit. As some have said, this is a town where the 1990s will never die and, as someone I know who lives there, it's the town where young people go to retire. Today Armisen and Brownstein did an interview on WNYC and they actually relayed my "retire" comment to them. Check it out! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Classic Mr NYC

Last year when the TV show Law and Order was cancelled, I penned a post bemoaning its demise and assessing its legacy. I was particularly ticked off since it was being replaced by Law and Order: Los Angeles. Now it appears that L&O has crossed the pond to the Mother Country. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting Law and Order: UK

Really. It's being shown on BBC America. And it's really creepy. It's just like the original L&O except everyone and everything is British. And the judges and lawyers wear wigs!

Bly me!

A Message from the Mayor of New York City (Michael R. Bloomberg)

"We Make Your Dreams Come True!"

Last week I posted a cheesy 1986 commercial from Grand Prospect Hall, the event space in Brooklyn. If you haven't seen it, it's a must see. The owners are hilariously unironic, declaring that they want you to hold your wedding there while also encouraging you to "Have an affair here!" To top it all off they insist that "We make your dreams come true!"

Well, it seems their dreams are coming true: their business is very successful. More than 25 years after this commercial, the Grand Prospect Hall is doing a roaring trade, even in this economy. Ya gotta hand it to them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Old Timers

New Yorkers are a multifaceted breed, many coming here from around the country and around the world to live and work and transform their lives, turning themselves into New Yorkers.

Then there's the natives. Those of us born and bred here, and who never left. 

This charming piece is about a seventy year old man from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn who has lived in the same neighborhood his whole life and is beloved by his neighbors. He seems to define old time New Yorkers, who have seen the city evolve over the years but who never sough to flee to the suburbs or Florida or anywhere else -- who stayed and persevered. 

They are the city's memory bank, the characters who give our city character. We're lucky to have them and we can learn a lot from them. They prove that New Yorkers can be just as provincial as anyone else -- that though this is a town like no other, it's also a town just like any other. It's a place called home.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Greatest NYC

New York magazine has an interesting cover feature this week called The Greatest New York Ever. It is trying to determine what were the greatest times, and what were the greatest cultural artifacts to come out of this city, in the last 100+ years? Plus, who was the greatest mayor? There are articles, transcripts of round table discussions, and even charts are graphs all trying to determine what was "great" about NYC in the last century.

This seems like a daunting, impossible task but its worth checking out. 

Basically they break things down into various categories (greatest movie, book, TV show, mayor, building, athlete, etc.) and consider various cases for who and what should be considered New York's "greatest." The criteria used to determine this is slippery and totally subjective so, naturally, no one or nothing should be conclusively called "the greatest." But since this is fun, I will take a slab at considering who and what I consider NYC's greatest. Some of my choices might seem boringly obvious but, at the same time, my reasoning it hard to argue with:

Greatest Mayor: LaGuardia. The pint-sized politician guided this city through America's darkest days -- the Great Depression and World War II -- and NYC came out of it on the other end as the world's greatest city. This was no easy task and, considering the obstacles he faced, his achievement was amazing. No one has topped him since.

Greatest Musical: West Side Story. Besides being a collaboration of 20th century musical theater's greatest talents (Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein), this 1950s update of Romeo and Juliet set in the gritty streets of our city still has resonance today. 

Greatest TV: All in the Family and Law and Order. All in the Family (no, not Seinfeld) is the most realistic sitcom about New Yorkers in any borough and no show set in this city made you feel it in your bones more than Law and Order.     

Greatest Athlete: Babe Ruth. 'Nuff said. 

Greatest Building: The Empire State Building. Iconic to its core. built in the 1930s during the Depression, a sign of enduring stregnth at a moment of despair, this great structure encapsulates the romance and grandeur of NYC like no other. 

Greatest Novel: The Great Gatsby. The greatest American novel of the last 100 years perfectly captures the restless spirit and sometimes tragic reality of the American dream -- and New York is a vital, almost starring character in the plot.

Greatest Film: Manhattan. No it's not the greatest movie ever (but it's up there) but no other movie makes such unabashed love to the city -- and no other movie captures the New York personality more perfectly.  

Greatest Song: "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel. Combining rhythm and blues and soul, this soaring song about leaving and coming back to NYC puts the city in your soul like no other. 

Greatest Artwork: Anything by Andy Warhol. He defined what it meant to be an artist in this city and his work (like the Campbell Soup cans) still resonates and influences to this day. 
Greatest Year: 2011. The present is always the best time to be in NYC.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vanished Venues

There is a continuing series on WNYC's music show Soundcheck about long gone music hot spots in NYC called Vanished Venues. This series started in October of last year and so far they've done about eight installments with hopefully more to come.
Some of these venues you may have heard of, others you may not have, but all of them were places where past and future legends of music came to make music -- and history.

There was the Old Metropolitan Opera House on 39th Street where opera in America was born.

There was the Palladium in Union Square where The Band, AC/DC and the Clash amongst others performed.

The Fillmore East featured the Allman Brothers Band and the Jefferson Airplane.

Max's Kansas City is where many great bands from the 1960s to the 1980s played and where the Velvet Underground performed several legendary shows. 

And there was Danceteria on the lower west side where Devo and Phillip Glass amongst others used to perform -- and where young singer and Michigan transplant named Madonna got her start. 

It's a really series that gives you a wonderful insight into the history of music in America and New York's past. Hopefully they'll do more installments -- I can't imagine how series about vanished venues in NYC can't include CBGBs. 

Who knows? Maybe one day the Bowery Ballroom, Irving Plaza, the Hammerstein Ballroom or Terminal 5 will be all but a memory ...

These venues may have vanished but their ghosts live with us, and the music they produced and the cultural impact that they had are very much alive today. 

The Grand Prospect Hall Commercial (1986)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Man Who Screwed Up the Storm

Meet Stephen Goldsmith, Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith to you that is. He was given the job by Mayor Bloomberg last year and is a former Mayor of Indianapolis himself.

That's right, one of the Deputy Mayors of this town is probably rooting for the Colts tonight. And he's a Republican. He was an advisor to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and our own Rudy Giuliani. Egads.

So why was this fella Goldsmith hired? Well, don't you see, he's brilliant of course! Yes, Mayor Mike thought (and, I'm sure, still thinks) that Goldsmith is "dynamic" and an "out of the box" thinker and he was tasked with "transforming" city government to make it more ... I don't know what.

It's also his job, as deputy mayor for operations, to make sure that the city government is actually, you know, operating. Well, he did a "heckuva job" when the city government so manifestly failed to operate properly last week during the snowstorm. Apparently this recent transplant was in Washington, DC of all places, spending Christmas with his family. That's right: the man whose job it is to make sure that the city is operating full blast during emergencies was 250 miles away during an emergency!

Too bad this guru of "transformation" couldn't transform himself into an airplane and fly back the day after Christmas to do his job. 

It gets worse. In the year this supposedly brilliant Midwest Republican has been on the job, he has totally failed to learn how the city government or the city itself actually operates. He really is out of his depth and in over his head (sorry for the mixed metaphors). Can you imagine LaGuardia putting someone like Goldsmith in this job? Think not. 

And seriously, Mike, what were you thinking appointing someone who worked for George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaigns? Considering what a disaster that presidency and that campaign turned out to be, should we really be surprised? Anyone who worked for those two maniacs shouldn't be hired for anything, in my opinion. If someone who worked for them applied to a job I was hiring for, I would head for zee hilz! 

So please, Mike, tell Stephen to pack up and go home to Indianapolis. NYC already got David Letterman and Kurt Vonnegut so we don't need him.

From Ashes to ... 2nd Avenue?

The legendary Elaine Kaufman of Elaine's saloon apparently stated in her will and testament that she wanted to cremated and then have her ashes scattered ... along Second Avenue.

Makes sense. After all, her restaurant was located on Second Ave for 47 years so that strip of the city was buried in her identity. Problem: it's illegal. 

Remember, Second Avenue is public, not private, property. But that's not really the problem. I think New Yorkers might be just a tad weirded out by knowing that the remains of Elaine Kaufman were wafting up and down the street, getting into their hair and onto their faces and into their clothes.

Can you imagine people having this conversation? 

"Eww, I think I got some dirt on my face."

"That's not dirt, that's ... Elaine Kaufman ..."

Thought not. Cute idea but, uh, I think the executors of her estate should probably void this part of her will. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

So Long Guys

Today is a very sad day in the annals of New York journalism: after more than thirty years, the Village Voice will no longer be publishing the brilliant work of Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins. Thanks to budgetary reasons and the Voice's inept ownership, Barrett was let go at the end of the December and Robbins, in an act of solidarity, left with him.

Wayne Barrett is, without question, the best journalist working in this town today. He has done more to rip the scabs off the powerful in this city and state that he should have earned multiple Pulitzer Prizes over the years. Tom Robbins has done similarly excellent work. They are classic shoe leather reporters -- digging up documents, interviewing people, following the money -- journalism at its best. 

Barrett and Robbins did what all reporters should do but few these days do: speak truth to power, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Theirs is indeed a rare breed these days. Too many "journalists" in this town today aren't really journalists at all but thumb sucking opinion writers. "Journalists" like the vile, repulsive Michael Goodwin spend all their time propagandizing for politicians and policies that help the wealthy and powerful while attacking any public figure or policies that dare help anyone making less than $100 K a year. Pricks like Goodwin don't have the balls (or the heart) to engage in real journalism -- they just act as stenographers for entrenched interests. Real journalists investigate what the entrenched interests do to regular people -- and how they get away with it.    

Whether it was his annual list of the city's worst landlords, how Ed Koch basically sold this city to real estate developers, investigating how Rudy Giuliani utterly failed to prepare this city for a massive terrorist attack, how George Pataki is the real culprit for our totally inept state government, or how the Bloomberg administration was complicit in the Duetsch Bank building fire -- they covered the stories most newspapers in this town shied away from.  

They had no holy cows: they went after Republicans and Democrats, unions and corporations, you name it. As this article states, they were good old-fashioned muckrakers  -- they would have made Upton Sinclair proud. 

You should read Wayne Barrett's final Voice column -- it's a hoot. He'll be working at the Nation Institute and hopefully Tom Robbins will land somewhere. But it won't just be the same without these guys at the Village Voice. Our city has lost another small part of its identity. 

They like us ... they really like us

Here's some rare good news: last year was a record for tourism in NYC.

48.7 million people visited our fair city in 2010, up 7 percent from 45.5 million in 2009.

It's a clear sign of economic recovery when more and more people start to travel and, when a big international city like ours gets more visitors than ever, things must be looking up. Of course it also helps that the dollar is still pretty weak compared to many international currencies so it's cheaper for foreigners to come here. Even if it makes traveling for us Americans less desirable, whatever pours more cash in NYC's economy is always welcome.

Let's just hope we reach the city's goal of 50 million visitors in 2011. I can't think of a better way to show that the city is back, ten years after 9/11.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Happy New Year

It's been a tough week here in NYC, as 2010 segued into 2011. A snowstorm hit our town pretty hard and made the last week of last year a rough one. Mayor Bloomberg got something he's rarely used to -- bad press -- for his administration's mishandling of what was, in many respects, a pretty ordinary blizzard. Now there accusations and counter-accusations of whether it was official incompetence or some kind of intentional sanitation worker slowdown that caused the mess. Whatever the reason, it was a bummer.

But there's some good news emerging from the melting snow.

President Obama was finally able to sign the Zadroga bill, the legislation which will cover the health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers. This bill took a torturous route to passage as Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as Congresspeople Maloney and Nadler, heroically pushed it through relentless Republican opposition. It's unbelievable that a political party that has so ruthlessly and cynically used 9/11 for their own political gain would deny the people cleaning up the worst terrorist attack in American history health care -- but they sure as hell tried. Fortunately a few (very few) Republicans in Congress had blood flowing through their calloused hearts and voted for the bill in the end. While it's sad that this bill which should have passed overwhelmingly barely squeaked through, at least it did and now our workers will get the care they deserve.

And last week, amidst the tumult of the blizzard, Old New York society made a rare appearance. The 56th International Debutante Ball was held at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Observer has a great piece about it. Young women from around the country, immaculately dressed and coiffed, are accompanied by two escorts -- a civilian and a cadet from one of the service academies -- to this soiree that marks the end of the Deb season. There is dinner, dancing, and the formal entrance into Society for these young ladies -- as well as reminder that the finer things in life like class and poise and manners are still relevant in this world of Jersey Shore. Call it snobbishness, call it classism, call it elitism or whatever you will, it's nice to know that, under the radar, refinery still rules somewhere in this town.