Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy in NYC: The Aftermath III

Sandy in NYC: The Aftermath II

Subway service is coming back although large parts of it are still out, as this maps shows.

Sandy in NYC: The Aftermath

Well, Sandy is gone but her ravages remain.

NYC was hit by one of the worst storms in its history. Hundreds of thousands are without power, the subways are out, homes have been destroyed, trees are scattered everywhere, and chaos reigns.

But not really -- not the chaos part anyway.

The city is slowly but surely getting back together. Trees are being removed, the subways are being pumped out, people are getting shelter, and power is being restored gradually. It's tough but the city is surviving.

I must say, I'm very impressed with how well the state, city and federal governments have responded to this. Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo and President Obama have been outstanding in providing help and relief from this huge storm.

Right now the chattering classes are talking about how this storm shouldn't be politicized but forgive me if I go ahead an politicize it right now. This storm shows why Willard Mitt Romney and his sleazy sidekick Paul Ryan must not be elected president and vice-president next week and why it's more urgent than ever that Barack Obama and Joe Biden be returned to the White House for four more years.  

First, this storm is a result of global warming. Don't believe me? Check this out. 

Second, what we saw in President Obama's response was that of a leader who cares about the people he serves and believes that government has a role to provide relief. His FEMA is not stocked with hacks and incompetents like Bush's was. Even Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, is praising Obama's leadership. As for Romney? He's actually said that he doesn't believe the federal government has a role in disaster relief! I kid you not! So if Romney had been president the last four years Osama Bin Laden would still be alive, the American motor industry would be dead, and the federal government would be AWOL form this awful storm. Thank God he's not president now -- and let's hope to god he won't be president the next time a disaster hits NYC or anywhere else in America. 

It's a risk we can't take.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Crane Dangles at West 57th Street

Check out the live feed here.

Memo from NYC

As this presidential campaign reaches its penultimate days, Mr NYC has been looking at election nights past. Thanks to the glories of YouTube, you can look back at history being made, as presidents are elected and, in the case of the below clip, unelected.

We looked at 1972, the night the soon-to-be-disgraced Richard Nixon won a second term as president. This clip is fascinating for a few reasons: 1) Nixon carried New York state, one of only three times after WWII that a Republican carried the Empire State; 2) there's a short interview with John Ehrlichman, a top Nixon aide, who laughed off the Watergate story as something that would soon be coming to an end; and 3) a brand new senator from Delaware is elected, a very young Joseph Biden who is, of course, the current vice-president and will be on the ballot again a week from tomorrow.

Then we looked at 1996, the night that Bill Clinton won a second term. This clip is also fascinating because you see Donald Rumsfeld, one of the worst people on the planet, talking about how Bob Dole is still planning to win the presidential election -- even after he's lost. Shortly thereafter you see Clinton's brother Roger pondering his sister-in-law's possible political future -- and, of course, we know that Hillary would eventually become a senator from New York and eventually the secretary of state.

Now we take our final look at election nights past -- 1976. This was the night that former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford. Ford had become president only two years earlier after Nixon had resigned in disgrace because of Watergate -- the same story that John Ehrlichman had previously laughed off. Ford was the first incumbent president since Herbert Hoover in 1932 -- forty-four years! -- to lose. This clip is interesting because apparently, at this moment, Ford was fast asleep in the White House and didn't even know that he was out of a job. It's also interesting because there was some controversy about ballots being cast in New York that the Ford campaign was making some noise about having re-counted. This never happened, obviously, and the controversy died quickly. Carter became president in 1977 and lost re-election to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

And, of course, there's 2008, and this clip literally speaks for itself.

Now we look to the future. A week from tomorrow the country will be voting for president and, it goes without saying, that we must re-elect President Obama. The idea of Willard Romney as president is horrifying: he will destroy Medicare and Social Security, strip women of their reproductive freedom, probably start another war in the Middle East, and implement anti-union, ant-worker laws. His ridiculous tax policies will only make the deficit worse, and he will re-introduce the a level of government secrecy that is practically fascistic. 

If you liked George W Bush, you'll love Willard Romney.  

Of course, Willard doesn't want you to associate him with Bush -- who wants to be associated with the one of the worst presidents in American history? Willard would have you believe that, even though both he and Bush are Republicans, that they have very little in common.

Don't believe it.

As this article smartly indicates, Willard is running very much in Bush's shadow. Bush haunts him. Bush overwhelms him. And this isn't surprising. After all, Willard is basically promising to restore the Bush policies that did so much to damage this country while trying to distance himself from the man. It's a tightrope to the White House that Willard deserves to fall off of. Bush and Willard are two peas in the same political pod and that's why it's vital that Obama win. 

Why would this country want to go back to the horror that it's only now digging itself out of? 

Obama has restored the economy, saved the auto industry, endorsed gay marriage and repealed "Dont Ask Don't Tell", appointed two smart women to the Supreme Court, signed the pay equality bill, enacted historic health care reform, and ended the stupid war in Iraq.

And yes, he killed Osama Bin Laden.

That's a good record, worthy of a second term. Willard isn't worthy of a first. 

Let's hope America makes the right decision next week and that this will be an election night we can look back fondly at. 

Is It Fair?

One of the great glories of NYC is its public parks system.

For almost two centuries, this city has wisely invested in creating millions of acres of green space for its people -- starting from the days of Olmstead to Moses to the present day. Without our parks, NYC would be uninhabitable and, thanks to our parks, millions of our city's residents have some place to find refuge from the urban jungle.

Our parks are part of what make NYC truly great.

But in the last couple of decades, our parks have almost become representations of the great socioeconomic divide in our city. While there are parks big and small in every borough, all officially under the auspices of the city's parks department, some parks located in wealthy neighborhoods have created private foundations that help to augment only their parks. They help to beautify and maintain them, build playgrounds and plant trees and such, and make them stunning. That's great, but the result is that many other parks in poorer parts of the city do not get the same TLC and are allowed to drift while the big rich parks become better than ever.

Such is the case this week of the billionaire John Paulson who recently gave $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy. This eye-popping, historic donation goes only to improvements in Central Park and Central Park alone -- and not to the any of the other several hundred parks across the city. This gift is both amazing and grotesque at the same time.

Now I love Central Park as much as anyone and have enough great memories of it to last a lifetime. It's truly an amazing, beautiful place and has a special place in the heart of all New Yorkers. But it's hardly a park without enough money, it's certainly not in any state of decay, and it's really doesn't need even more money to be improved. On the other hand, go to any park in the Bronx or Queens or Staten Island and you'll parks that need a lot of work. 

Ever been to Flushing Park, Mr. Paulson? That's a park that needs A LOT of work and is also frequented by probably as many people as Central Park. Believe me, $100 million in Flushing Park would create wonders. Couldn't you send your money there?

I hope that in the years to come, as Bloomberg's New York becomes a thing of the past, there will be an effort by the private and public sectors to do more -- and invest more money -- in the people and neighborhoods and parks that aren't rich, aren't connected, and aren't all in Manhattan. 

Only then will we truly live up to our city's democratic ideal.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Islanders come to Brooklyn

Starting in 2015, NYC will have not one but two NHL teams.

Recently the New York Islanders announced that they will be abandoning Nassau County and heading to the new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. Along with the Nets, it will be one of two major league sports teams located in the borough.

So here's the breakdown of sports in NYC (as of 2015)

Yankees in the Bronx.

Rangers and Knicks in Manhattan.

Mets in Queens.

Nets and Islanders in Brooklyn.

Jets and Giants in New Jersey.

So now four of our five boroughs will have big time sports in them. That's pretty amazing. 

Let's hope it helps the local economies. 

Bloomberg in Winter

The mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg is winding to a close, and in about fourteen months this decade-plus experiment in corporate plutocracy government/noblesse oblige will be coming to an end.

So what does Mike himself think about it?

Well, naturally, he thinks he's done a great job.

You should read this long, rambling interview with the man himself to get an insight into the man of the man who has ruled this city for so long. By turns arrogant and intelligent, you get a real sense of how he thinks and what his values are.

Too bad the words "middle class" appear nowhere in the transcript. 

FDR and George Carlin: Getting their due

Was there ever a better president than Franklin Delano Roosevelt? (Well, maybe Lincoln but FDR is probably second).

Was there ever a better comedian than George Carlin? Short answer: no!

These were two great men, two immense figures, who's places in history are burnished like no other.

FDR saved America during the Great Depression and then saved the world during WWII. He gave us Social Security and destroyed Fascism. Pretty amazing.

George Carlin re-invented comedy in the last decades of the 20th century and has influenced generations of comedians ever since. He was also the first host of "Saturday Night Live", launching an important part of television history.

Both deceased (FDR since 1945, Carlin since 2008) both were great men who also happened to be native New Yorkers.

Now the city that claimed them is finally recognizing them.

Recently, on Roosevelt Island, a long planed and overdue memorial to FDR has opened: the Four Freedoms Park was recently commemorated by Mayor Bloomberg and President Clinton and is a fitting, amazing tribute to the man. About ten years ago a memorial to FDR was built in Washington, DC but there was no memorial to him in NYC. Now there is and it's a great thing.

As for George Carlin, he recently got a street named after him. Up in Morningside Heights, the community board recently voted to name West 121st street after the great comedian and the city council should approve it shortly. Yours truly signed a petition to make this happen so it's exciting to see it finally occur. Also, I grew up in the same neighborhood as Carlin so I'm happy about this on a personal level. Naturally, the eternal cynic George Carlin would probably find naming a street after him silly ... so, fitting, the joke is happily on him.

In a world of bad news, it's great to see these two New Yorkers be recognized by this city.

Hurricane Sandy

She's a comin'! If you need to get more info about how this will impact NYC, go to the Office of Emergency Management for more info.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Transit Happenings

Well, here's some rare good news out of the MTA. 

As any NYC resident knows, getting to and from LaGuardia airport is only slightly less painful than getting a cavity filled without Novocaine. There's no direct subway route or "air train" like at JFK so either you're doomed to overpaying for a cab or taking one of the very, very, miserably slow buses that go there.

But that's going to change.

This week the MTA announced the creation of three new super-fast buses to LaGuardia under the designation Select Bus Service -- or SBS. They will have limited stops, curbside payment, and will go to and from currently under served parts of the Bronx and Queens. This should cut down the travel time via bus to LaGuardia significantly and be a lot less costly than a cab.

It's not the same as building a subway line but at least it's something.

Talking about the subway, there was a strange happening underground there this week. One Rick Springfield, 1980s rock star one-hit wonder extraordinaire, was see performing his big hit "Jessie's Girl" with a bunch of folks there. Who would have guessed? As silly a song as it is, it's a great song to belt out when loaded at a karaoke bar (not that I would know) and, of course, it's memorialized in the classic movie "Boogie Nights." 

Only in New York, kids. Or possible LA. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Meet the New Parks Boss

Interesting profile about the new Commissioner for the Department of Parks and Recreation. She's only going to have 15 months on the job and is hoping to make the most of them.

Let's wish her luck. 

The Parks Department may seem like a quiet, not that important city agency but it is, in fact, a small empire. There are over 1700 parks in this city along with 500 community gardens and 14 miles of beaches. There are also a large number of public pools and recreation centers spread out among the five boroughs and all this real estate and personnel add up to a little city in and of itself. Heck, the Parks Department is so big that it even has its own flag!

As important as the mayor is in this town, once you appreciate how big things like the parks and police departments are, as well as the school and library system, you come to realize how powerful the commissioners and heads of these departments are. They are little czars unto themselves and, unlike the mayor, they don't have to be elected to wield power. 

How cool. 

Espada Era Ends

Pedro Espada, one of the most loathsome men to have ever served in New York City and State government, is finally going to jail. This is a great thing and long overdue.

Some of you may not know who he is and, hopefully, he will be forgotten soon. Espada was a NYC City Councilmen and then a NYS Senator who used his various offices to enrich himself and his family. He also ran a healthcare clinic in the South Bronx that he plundered so that he and his family could live high on the hog.

He became a big figure three years ago when this nominal "Democrat" and another loser State Senator voted to caucus with the State Senate Republicans. This threw the legislature into turmoil for over a month and made the state into a laughingstock (tells you a lot about the Republican party in this state that they'd do business with a criminal like Espada -- they are basically no better than him).

Anyway, Espada was defeated for re-election two years ago and then indicted for fraud. He was found guilty, was trying to appeal but I guess he saw reason and finally agreed to plead guilty. Looks like he'll be in the pokey for a very long time. 

Pedro, we knew you too long and you won't be missed. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tribute to old-school Manhattan Public Access TV!

Classic Mr NYC

About four years ago I blogged about George Plimpton, the great Renaissance Man and NYC icon who died almost ten years ago.

If you'd like, go back and read about a real NYC original. 

Corporate City Redux

Last year I blogged about how NYC is increasingly becoming a corporate city -- a city ruled by and for the very rich. Of course, NYC has always been a "corporate city" since it has long been the capital for corporate America, with many great national and international businesses headquartered here. But there used to be a division between the corporate world in NYC and how the city government was actually run. 

The corporate/private enterprise world didn't control our government, didn't have power over our land-use, our public schools, even our parks. 

But now it does: charter schools are replacing public schools, parks are being run less by the parks department and more by private foundations -- and the city is turning over huge swaths of our public lands to corporations. 

Look at this week's New York magazine for proof. There are two huge articles -- one a huge new super-expensive luxury apartment building (that is primarily for people who don't even really live in NYC) and another on Hudson Yards which will be the biggest, most expensive private development in our city's history. 

This is radical. And totally out of character with NYC's history. 

It's very depressing and scary to think about how this wonderful, great city -- a place where "our poor huddled masses" used to come in search of a better life is being turned into a place where only the rich are welcomed and can survive. It's still a great city, still great place to live but, if we continue down the road of the corporate city, will we still be so?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Christopher Columbus on the Couch

Today is Columbus Day, one of those convenient pre-holiday holidays where people sleep-in, go to bargain sales, clean the apartment, maybe even visit a friend.

Of course, it's also a day where we celebrate the Italian who, on Spanish ships, discovered America.

It used to be a perfunctory aspect of American life that we accepted that Columbus discovered America on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria in 1492, that he was welcomed by the indigenous people that he found there, and that the story of America began there and then. Of course, it was always a little more complicated than that (like the fact that Americo Vespucci discovered America first) but basically it was an accepted and non-controversial fact of American lore.

Then ... It Got Real.

Twenty-or-so years ago a bunch of people began kvetching that we shouldn't celebrate Columbus because he did unfortunate things like commit genocide against the said indigenous folks, spread diseases, seized their lands -- you know, stuff like that. Suddenly a man who had been dead for centuries -- and was best known as the man responsible for used car sales and parades where lots of smoked sausages were sold -- became very controversial. The PC police yelled that CC was the Devil while the old timers said he was the hero we always knew he was, historical facts be damned. 

Then people realized it was a stupid debate and it died down.

This year, however, things are a 'lil different. Today, as we again "celebrate" Columbus Day, here in NYC,  the statue of the man's likeness in the square that bears his name on 59th street is covered up by ... a living room ... A huge scaffolding containing a living room covers the statue and people are allowed to walk up the stairs and look at the great marble man face to face. 

It's a tad odd but also interesting and re-invents this particular piece of public art -- and maybe the man its celebrates.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Justice Delayed. Justice Denied?

As another presidential election grinds to a close, let's go back to those halcyon days, those days of yore, that lovely memorable time -- the year 2004 -- when another president was running for re-election. That's right, I'm talking about when George W. Bush, without a doubt one of our greatest presidents, was seeking a second term to continue his magnificent work governing this country.

In that year of wonderful peach and prosperity, Bush's Republican party held its convention right here in NYC. It was only three years after some trouble had occurred but obviously the then-POTUS's party didn't want to politicize the event so it was only a mere coincidence that the party held its convention here. 

And when they did, for some totally inexplicable reason that only highly-paid psychiatrists in Austria could figure out, thousands upon thousands of people turned out to protest the convention, the president, his party, and situation in the country in general. They were mad for some reason, and they had the chutzpah to let the world know.

This resulted, naturally, in mass arrests. The NYPD went medieval on the protesters, sending in provocateurs to turn them violet and then caged them in their thousands, beating them up, throwing them into pens unfit for human habitation. No, never the mind the misfits on Wall Street who were quietly plotting to blow up our economy -- these were the people who were arrested. 

And, unsurprisingly, they sued. 

Now, eight years later, justice has been served. No, not on the arrested protesters but on the NYPD.  A US judge has ruled that they were arrested without probable cause, clearly violating their 4th Amendment constitutional rights. 

So it only took a decade for some justice to be smacked down. Too bad it took so long.