Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Bloomberg Way

Whatever you think about Mayor Bloomberg's tenure, even those who approve of it will confess that he is a supremely arrogant man. He knows best. He's smarter than everyone else. Anyone who dare challenge or criticize him is considered stupid, irrational, and pitiful. 

And the people who work for him are exactly the same way. 

Right now a fellow named John Haggerty is on trial for allegedly stealing $1 million from Bloomberg 2009 campaign. This Republican operative apparently siphoned off some dough being channeled through the creepy Independence Party so that he could buy a house. Sleazy. And illegal.

So his only defense is to put the Bloomberg way on trial -- to reveal the casual attitude that Bloomberg operatives have to the millions upon millions the billionaire mayor sloshed around to secure victory. Hey, money was everywhere, everyone had their hand out, and I took mine! It's a thin defense at best yet it's all he really has. 

But what's even more revealing is how arrogant and mean these people are. Patti Harris, the first Deputy Mayor, earns almost a quarter million dollars a year but also operates Bloomberg's charities. The reptilian Kevin Sheekey, a former Bloomberg Deputy Mayor and campaign manager accuses Democrats of "always" injecting race into political campaigns (maybe because, you know, it's always an issue you scumbag). These people just have no shame.

The Bloomberg way is the art of arrogance. It's the "I know best, screw you" attitude that pervades his administration. It's the highhandedness and disconnected insensitivity that we have to endure from him and his people. 

And this is one New Yorker who is sick and tired of the Bloomberg Way. 2013 can't come soon enough.    

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Casinos are Coming! The Casinos are Coming!

Well, maybe. There already here, sorta (they're called "racinos" -- racetrack casinos).

It's yet another way for the state to raise money without raising taxes on the wealthy -- because, you know, we can't do that. Instead, we just need to take suckers for a ride. 

Read about it here

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Maced/Pepper Sprayed by NYPD

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eat and Drink in Williamsburg

Continuing with the food themes of today, I would be remiss in not pointing out that, when it comes to eating and drinking in this town, Williamsburg is a world all its own. (I would be remiss in not  pointing out that I have personally spent next to no time in Williamsburg. Therefore I am not an expert on food and drink in this 'hood. But that doesn't mean I can't point out to my faithful audience what a great place it is to go to eat, drink, and make merry in). To whit: 

The Village Voice has a great article on something called Smorgasburg, an outdoor food festival held every Saturday through November. The article gives some great advice on some of the best food items you can get there -- and man, do they look scrumptious!

Also, yours truly went to a bar recently in Williamsburg called Berry Park. Now I'm not much of a bar hound but, whenever I find one in this town that I like, I feel the need to give it "props." Unlike crampy, noisy bars in Manhattan, Berry Park is a big, open space (I think the building used to be a factory). It has a huge downstairs area and, even better, a great roof deck with a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. They have a great selection of beers and the people who work there are very friendly. There are lots and lots of bars in Williamsburg and I'm sure many others could tell you about other great places but, if you're ever in need of a bar in this neighborhood, you can't go wrong with Berry Park.

Finally, the nation appears to be falling in love with waitresses from Williamsburg. A new show on CBS called 2 Broke Girls appears to be a big hit and it is about ... guess what?

If any of you can know of other great eating and drinking options in Williamsburg, please feel free to share!

Classic Mr NYC

In the City of New York, there are lots and lots of restaurants.

Of them all, the very best is called Per Se.

Three years ago yours truly go to eat there.

Here is my story. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NYC as City State

Centuries ago in Europe, many parts of the continent were divided up not into countries but city states. Basically these were politically autonomous regions dominated by a single city that were, for all intensive purposes, countries. Many of these were in Italy: Venice was a city, Florence was a city, for example. There still a few in existence in the world, namely Singapore and Monte Carlo. 

What these city states lacked in land and population, they more than made up for in economic power. They were places where their wealth came not from plundering their natural resources but in unleashing their human ingenuity.

New York City is not, technically speaking, a city-state. Heck, we're not even a state in the United States of America! We're a town like any another in this country, at the mercy of a state and the federal government. But New York's economic and cultural power, plus our status as a city where anything and everything is possible, gives our city an international prestige that crosses all domestic and foreign boundaries. The image of New York as a distinct, amazing place makes it almost its own country.

When the terrorists hit us on 9/11, they chose NYC for a reason. It represented the zenith of American economic power -- and they wanted to damage it.
Obviously they failed. And in the decade since then, NYC has only continued to develop as its own kind of country. We see in our nation's government total dysfunction thanks to the corruption of big money, scorched earth politics, and ideology run amok. But in NYC, we have a government that is, for the most part, politically functionally, uncorrupted, and sane. And with an influx of population from around the world, more and more talent floods into our city every day, growing the city's prominence.

Our city is the world -- not just the nation's -- but the world's financial, fashion, publishing, theater, broadcasting, and legal capital. Plus we compete strongly in areas that seem to be the domain of other big cities, namely film and television as well as technology. With so much power, New York can't help but to be see almost as city state. And as the world become only more of a global village, cities matter more than ever -- and NYC, London, Paris, Tokyo, Rio, and others will matter as much if not more so than the countries they are contained in.

A few years ago, I blogged about this phenomenon of NYC as the "international city." Mostly what I write about here in the provincial lives most of us New Yorkers live, or about New York as an idea, a philosophy. But sometimes I look at NYC as a world leader, a city state of sorts. And I was ahead of my time! 

A huge article in The Atlantic this week looks at Mayor Bloomberg and NYC as a world leader, a country of its own, very much in the same vein of my blog post from almost three years ago. As the rate of global interdependence speeds up, it will matter as much who is the mayor of these world capitals as much as who is the leader of those nations. The leaders of these cities will wield enormous power not only over their cities but over the global community centered in them. Call it a power shift or a paradigm shift -- in globalization, cities matter now more than ever. In this new world, the city state is rising and NYC is, as always at the forefront of an important change.

Faceoff at 55 Wall St.

End of the Parking Meter

Those upside down, bulbous metal posts that line our streets -- called parking meters -- are withering on the urban vine. The last one was officially removed on Monday and the plan is to remove them city-wide very soon. In their place, we will have Muni-meters, boxes where you can use coins, dollars, debits or credit cards, that will print out a small ticket that you then display in your car's windshield.

Yet another sign o' our times. 

As I opine on here often, the city is changing before our eyes in ways big and small, and in ways we could never have imagined a few years ago. Parking meters were one of those things that were just ... there ... as though they'd always been there and would also be there ... as though they'd grown naturally out of the asphalt.

No they are no more. The only place you'll be able to see them soon will be in museums. We'll be telling our grandchildren about them and they'll have no idea what we're talking about. 

So farewell parking meters -- you had a great run taking our money and forcing us to look for coins. You'll always have a small place in my heart ... even if it's for no good reason why.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Mystery of Marble Hill

When you live in NYC, you don't so much live in a big city as in a small city -- one of the 300 or so small cities that make up NYC. With the exception of Greenwich Village and Long Island City, we call these small cities "neighborhoods." 

Many of our neighborhoods have distinct identities, the very name of which conjure up different ideas of what NYC is: think Soho, Astoria, Park Slope, Riverdale, the South Bronx, the Upper East or Wide Sides, Bay Ridge. Lots of New Yorkers identify as much with their neighborhoods as with the city as a whole. The neighborhood makes the New Yorker, or so you might say.

So what do you do if your neighborhood has an identity crises?

For once, I'm not talking about gentrification or the gutting of middle-class edgy New York for the blandness of rich New York. I'm talking about a specific neighborhood that, depending on who you talk to and depending on what map your looking at, doesn't know which borough it belongs to! It is betwixt and between, an orphaned neighborhood.
Welcome to Marble Hill. This neighborhood is tiny and, physically, is part of the Bronx. It's right across the river from the northern tip of Manhattan. It has a Bronx area code, a Bronx zip code, it is serviced by the Bronx. As what borough they live in, most Marble Hillers will say that they live in the Bronx. But it's not part of the Bronx! Legally, it's part of Manhattan. If you look at a map of NYC, you'll see a little slice of the Bronx cut-out. People who live in the Bronx are forced to go all the way downtown to serve on jury duty. They vote for the Manhattan DA and Borough President and Manhattan City Council members.

But here's where it gets really weird: there are literally buildings and schools that fall into both the Bronx and Manhattan. There are businesses that also straddle both boroughs. It's truly bizarre -- and gets legally and politically complicated.

So how did it end up this way? Because more than a century ago a small river ran around this area and it was claimed by Manhattan. But then the river was filled in and it became landlocked. And yet, legally, it was stayed in Manhattan.

There are some people who want to change this and it probably should just be absorbed into the Bronx. But in the meantime, let's celebrate this neighborhood that belongs to two boroughs -- just another example of keeping NYC interesting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

History Down the Block

When you walk down the streets in NYC, you're really walking through history.

I'm not just talking about the historic sights or tourist attractions. I'm not talking about passing great buildings like the Empire State or places like Fraunces Tavern. I'm talking about the homes and businesses that make up our neighborhoods, and the people and families that live and have lived there, sometimes for generations. Together they tell the story of our city.

And that history surrounds us -- and we interact with it daily. 

I've lived in two neighborhoods in NYC -- Morningside Heights and Astoria -- and in both there are people who have lived there for decades, if not all there lives. They remember the old stores, the old buildings. They remember when there was a movie theater on that corner, a fish store on that. I remember the old mom and pop drugstore that sadly went out of business -- replaced by the chain drugstores. But I'm heartened that Chinese laundry that opened in the 1950s is still there. 

And there are still some of these old businesses hanging on in our city. In this era of chain stores, franchises, and mega-marts, these are defiant stand-outs that have managed to survive the corporate onslaught. A great article today looks at how some of these small businesses have hung on while the neighborhoods they exist in have changed -- some for the better, some for the worse -- but how they have all kept the history of their neighborhoods alive. We should be thankful and grateful that they have. 

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Some day all of these businesses will be gone. History will be replaced with more history (hey, even Borders is going out of business so not even the big stores are immune).   

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Some day, all of these businesses will gone. For example, the original Ray's pizza is closing in Little Italy. Not the Original Ray's Pizza or Ray's Original Pizza or any of the countless Ray's knock-offs -- no, the original Ray's Pizza that's been a hallmark of its neighborhood since 1959. This was an iconic pizza shop, a place where New Yorkers of all stripes went to get a slice. No more. On September 25, it will close. And a little bit of NYC's history will be lost. 

Riots in the Streets! So says our mayor

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On the Street where George Carlin Lived ...

Many a time on this blog, I have quoted and paid tribute to the brilliant, late comedian George Carlin. He was a legendary comedian, pushing social boundaries that most of us didn't even know existed, saying things most of us would never dare even to think about let along say out loud. 

His place in history was secured in the 1970s when his "Seven Dirty Words" monologue challenged FCC guidelines that ended up in a Supreme Court case, and then in 1975 he was the very first host of "Saturday Night Live." Over the decades he influenced and inspired every comedian who came after him and his insights on the insanity of American life made him the Mark Twain of his time (in fact Carlin was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for comedy).

Carlin was an American original -- and a native New Yorker. 

Best of all, he grew up in Morningside Heights -- my neighborhood! (I've only mentioned that on this blog a couple million times.) Now there is an effort underway to rename a part of 121st street, the street where Carlin lived on Morningside Drive, after the late genius. This effort is, not surprisingly, something that Carlin would have mocked and pointless vanity. But his daughter Kelli is supporting this drive and so are many others. Thus far, almost 3,500 people have signed this petition, including yours truly. It is a petition to Community Board 9 in Morningside Heights, formally requesting that this name change be considered. And I greatly encourage all of my readers all over the world to sign this petition as well.

Oh, and while some might thing this re-name is a bit silly, consider this: Carlin was a life long, avowed atheist and yet he grew up, as all of us Morningside Heights natives did, in the shadow of Riverside Church. So a street bearing the name of an infamous atheist just down the block from a house of worship has a certain irony to it -- and it's something that I'm sure the great one would have approved of.

Sign it now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On the streets where they lived

In the early 1940s, the world was changing. Like now, it was a crazy time. 

We were at war. We were coming out of the depression. America was still reeling from the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the death camps in Europe were still a secret. One of our greatest presidents, FDR, was in office as was one of NYC's greatest mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia. For everyone in NYC and around the world, life was at a crossroads.

But then, as now, life still went on. 

Vendors sold hotdogs, people drank in bars, children played in the streets, and ships came into port. The routines of life and economy were and are perennial. 

Between 1938 and 1969, a photographer from Indiana named Charles Cushman came to NYC many times and took some of the best photos of this city that you could ever hope to see. He had a beautiful Kodachrome camera -- which took lush color photographs -- and he took lots of them.

This article contains some of the Cushman's best photos of NYC in 1941 and 1942. You have to see them to believe them, they are truly breathtaking. You can also see more of the other NYC pics he took on a Flicker page here. They're really amazing. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The 9/11 Windfall

Fascinating article in the Village Voice about people who have literally profited over the last decade from 9/11.  What was tragedy and heartbreak for many became filthy lucre for some.

Our former mayor is the most famous example of 9/11 profiteering (he apparently is now worth $52 million -- wow!). But this exploitation of tragedy for profit goes way beyond him and includes companies that have gotten sketchy tax breaks to move to downtown Manhattan, "witnesses" to the attack who has gone on the lecture circuit, and the abuse of government contracts by shady security companies. There's also a myriad of strange "charities" and "non-profits" that have raised money off the attacks in order to "help" the victims, etc. It's been quite a cash cow.

Oh, and did you know that the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero is not a national memorial? No, it's a private, profit-making enterprise. And the people who run it are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year! There's even, I kid you not, 9/11 wine. Yes, you read that right.

The greatest tragedy in our nation's history has become a big business for many. Some people are evening calling it blood money -- but I'm not quite prepared to go that far.

Still, it's a tribute to the unending power of greed. The lust for money is never sated. Even this great tragedy was seen by many as a chance to cash in. These people aren't doing anything illegal (well, as far as we know), they just have no sense of decency and see everything as an opportunity to wheel and deal and make a quick buck. Hey, it's the American way. 

Politics ain't beanbag

There's a special election for Congress in Brooklyn and Queens today. The polls close in less than two hours. It's a very conservative district and it'll probably go Republican tonight. That would be awful for NYC and America but these are crazy times. After all, a Democrat won a special congressional election in upstate New York this past May for a seat that had been Republican for eons. So anything is possible these days. 

These days, what's up is down and what's down is up. Everything's a mess.

The race is between Democrat David Weprin, who has proven to be a lousy candidate, and Republican Bob Turner, your typical Tea Party scumbag. This race basically comes down to this: the district is very old, very conservative, very religious, and very racist. Therefore they hate President Obama. So they think that by voting for this Republican they'll hurt and embarrass the president. Simple as that. 

And, wouldn't ya know, the filthy Republicans are up to their usual dirty tricks. Apparently the Turner campaign is jamming the Weprin campaign's phonez and now the Turner campaign has -- ready for this? -- "served papers" on the Weprin campaign challenging the election results -- and the polls haven't even closed yet! So the narrative the Republicans are trying to set up is this: if we win, great; if we lose, it was voter fraud. Republicans have always been sore losers and now they're sore winners! Scary.

But if the Democrats lose this one, they'll have no one to blame but themselves. They ran a lousy candidate and a lousy campaign. Weprin failed to effectively show what a lying fraud Turner and Weprin made gaffe after gaffe. The good news is that this district is probably not going to exist after next year so, whoever wins, he'll have a short career in congress. And that's the only good thing about this awful, miserable election.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mr NYC Looks Back

If you'd like a to look back at how 9/11 has been remembered or referenced on this blog, please click on this link and you'll find a variety of posts over the years. I hope they shed some light -- and boost our sorely sad spirits on this day.

National Sept. 11 Memorial: A Look Back

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Arrogance of Power

Mayor Bloomberg has managed to avoid most of the ugly, petty scandals that dog so many politicians. His money and popularity, for years, kept him above reproach. But his popularity has plummeted and his share of problems have increased (Cathie Black, the snowstorm, City Time, etc.). Now, for the first time in his decade in power, Bloomberg's has been revealed to be just another politician.

Last month, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith resigned, allegedly because he wanted to go back into the private sector and because he was ill-suited for the job. He is widely blamed for screwing up the December snowstorm response and he seemed more interested in fancy ideas instead of the nuts and bolts of governing. So when he resigned it was shrugged off by Bloomberg and the press as, "Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time but it just didn't work out."

But that wasn't true. 

Turns out, Goldsmith resigned because he was arrested in DC in July for domestic violence. Now that's bad but what made it worse was that Bloomberg covered it up! He lied to the public at the time, said basically, "The guy's resigning because he's unhappy in the job and we don't like him anymore." Bloomberg NEVER revealed the real reason and it dribbled out in the most sleazy manor.

And what's Bloomberg's response now that scandal has been revealed? Total indifference. He basically says "Oh, I didn't want to embarrass the guy so that's why I didn't reveal it. But I liked him and would have kept him in the job anyway." Bloomberg flunked the basic lesson of Political Scandal 101: it's not the crime but the cover-up. Had he just said at the time the real reason why Goldsmith resigned, then there would be no scandal. It would be out he goes and that's the end of it. Shameful.

This shows you who Mike Bloomberg really is at his core. He is supremely arrogant man. And this is the arrogance of power in action: protecting your friends, and yourself by extension, by deceiving everyone else. It's wrong -- and our mayor should be ashamed of himself.