Monday, July 28, 2014

Sharknado in NYC!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gotta Love Mr NYC ... Lurkers

I love getting comments from Mr NYC readers, particularly when they are funny, smart, or add information to the post that was lacking.

Sometimes, however, I get comments that are downright strange. For instance:

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Now, while I appreciate that the reader found the post helpful, I didn't include any info regarding a sex shop or organs so I don't really know what this reader was getting at.

The other comment that was curious was: "This is a great option for best escort girls unlimited enjoy.Thanks Companions in Prague & Czech porn escorts". I don't know why the reader thought my blog was conducive to this kind of business but, again, I guess I'm sort of flattered by the attention.

Of course I know that these are just spam messages but still ... how does Mr NYC attract such comments? I thought this was a classy blog.

White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge

Impy and Bill in Italy

Mayor De Blasio is currently in Italy, vacationing with his family and revisiting his family origins in the "old country." Since NYC is an international city, when this or any mayor goes abroad, it's almost like a visit from a head of state: there's lots of press coverage, the local politicians and heavyweights meet the mayor, and there's lots of talk of the "connection" between New York and [insert country here].

It used to be, back when NYC politics was dominated by Italians, Irish, and Jews, that mayors would try to visit the three Is: Italy, Ireland, and Israel. As the Hispanic population has grown, particularly with immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, visiting those countries has become important for NYC politicians as well. Pretty soon, I'm sure, trips to China and Indian and other Asian counties will be required.

However, De Blasio's trip is nothing compared to Mayor Vincent Impelliteri's trip in 1951.

During his first full year in office, Impy (as he was popularly known) made a 32 day trip to Italy and Israel. In both countries, his arriving was red carpet, headline grabbing news. He was greeted by every dignitary, there were parades and parties, it was a big honking deal. Impy was actually born in Sicily so, after visiting Rome and getting an audience with the Pope, he visited the town where he was born and was greeted like a conquering hero.

I blogged about Impy in 2007, just a few months into this blog's existence. History has mostly forgotten him but, in this brief shining moment more than 60 years ago, Impy was not only king of New York but one of the most famous men in the world.

Postscript: it was during this trip, in 1951, that Bobby Thomsen hit "the shot heard 'round the world" out at the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn -- so Impy missed an important piece of NYC and world history back home. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer of '94

I've blogged about the year 1994 -- probably one of the most culturally and politically consequential years of the last quarter century -- several times so I won't bore you with another nostalgic post. 

But it seems that I was onto something. WNYC is currently running a month long series called "Summer of '94" where they go back and examine the music of that year and the impact it had: the death of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, rap going mainstream, Dookie, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, the debuts of Beck, Weezer, and Notorious B.I.G. 

What were you doing in 1994?

Madeline's NYC

"In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines ... the smallest one was Madeline."

I've read this opening sentence ad nauseum lately since Ludwig Bemelans' classic children's book "Madeline" is one of my daughter's favorites. The spunky young girl made her debut 75 years ago and would go on to appear in six more books. This month a big exhibit at the New-York Historical Society is opening called "Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans", featuring everyone's favorite Parisian convent girl and other art from the master himself.

But if she lived in Paris, you might ask, what does Madeline have to do with NYC?

Because she was born here. Bemelman had a Belgian father and a German mother and was born in Austria in 1898. As a young man, he immigrated to the United States and, after many years as a frustrated artist, he dreamed up the story of Madeline at Pete's Tavern on Irving Place, scribbling her for the first time on the back of a menu. Generations of children have grown up to love the "Madeline" stories and, Parisian that she is, Madeline definetely has a New York spirit.

This exhibit will be on display until October and the wife and I are hopefully going to see it soon. If you have kids, you might want to check it out.

Interesting postscript: Bemelmans decorated the bar in the famous Carlyle Hotel on 76th street and Madison Avenue and that's why, no surprise, it's called the Bemelman's Bar.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NYC Real Estate: The New Swiss Bank Account

Blind trusts. Tax shelters. Offshore bank accounts. Shell corporations. 

They are "barely legal."

These vehicles are ways for wealthy people to hide their money from government tax collectors, a bright shiny line between what is legal and illegal in the world of tax avoidance. 

Rich folks hire an array of accountants and lawyers to find such schemes, even traveling the world to find places where they can deposit their cash tax-free. The amount of time and money rich people will spend to evade taxes is incredible but, they figure, it's a bargain compared to what they would otherwise have to pay to the G. And they're always on the look-out for the next opportunity to avoid taxes.

For decades, wealthy people from around the world parked their dough in Swiss or Cayman Islands bank accounts. They would also create dummy corporations to "invest" their cash in and then take a tax write-off. Remember Mitt Romney when he ran for president in 2012? He had all sorts of money invested in offshore accounts and shell corps that he refused to release his tax returns -- something that helped cost him the nation's highest office.

But some tax shelters are not so hard to find. In fact, in one place, they are literally in the air. 

Here in NYC, real estate has become a very popular way for wealthy foreigners looking to avoid paying tax. They will buy expensive real estate in order to offload their money and pay less in taxes at home. Eventually, of course, they plan to sell the real estate at a big profit but, in the meantime, they are converting their money into real estate and not paying a dime in tax to their home governments.

This is, needless to say, sleazy, and it's one of the reasons why the NYC real estate market is so insane. Some have proposed laws to crackdown on this but, in the meantime, we are living in one of the world's biggest tax shelters -- and making real shelter even more difficult to afford.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Today is a momentous day in the history of New York City. For 90 years ago on this date, WNYC transmitted its first radio broadcast.

It's hard to believe that this radio station, which is a staple of New York City, has existed for almost a century. In this world of crass commercial radio, it's a great thing that it does.

Back in 1924, of course, there was no television. Or Internet. Nobody had smart phones or even Walkmen. If you wanted to get news about the city, you had to either read a newspaper or listen to the radio. But as people quickly discovered, radio was more than about getting information -- it was about community, about literally bringing together the "8 million people who live in freedom and enjoy the benefits of democracy" as WNYC would proudly announce every day that it signed on.

Today, in 2014, WNYC still holds together this city's vast and diverse community. The station still has great news and entertainment programming. It respects the intelligence of its listeners and broadens our horizons.

All this week, WNYC is remembering its history by going into its vaults and re-broadcasting its classic programming. You can find a link to it here. You'll here a 1959 report on Greenwich Village where they talk about the "problem" of black men and white women being seen in public together. There's a bizarre and hilarious series from 1998 of Kurt Vonnegut broadcasting from the afterlife (I kid you not). And there are also interviews with the Master Builder himself, Robert Moses and his ultimate antagonist Jane Jacobs.

WNYC is a treasure, the crown jewel of the New York City air waves And as it complete its first century of broadcasting, I'm sure the best is yet to come.  


Twenty-five years ago this month a little TV show premiered on NBC. Not considered good enough or appealing enough for mainstream audiences, this pilot episode was burned off during the summer, outside of the regular TV season. It was a show about a New York City comedian and his oddball friends as they did exciting things like talk about the placement of buttons on shirts and wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant. Many TV critics, as well as the executives at NBC, didn't know what to make of this odd pilot and figured that this show would be a "one and done" -- broadcast once and then never seen again.

Instead it went on to change television history.

"Seinfeld" was a show of its time and ahead of its time. Although the first episode was shown in 1989, it became the defining show of the 1990s. What made it stand out? What made it so great? What made it so ... revolutionary? 

Many reasons but, most of all, "Seinfeld" was defined but what it wasn't. It wasn't sentimental. It wasn't warm and funny. It wasn't about anything important. It was about four very unlikable New Yorkers as they wandered about the city and vented about the trivialities and petty annoyances of life. "No hugging, no learning" was the mantra of co-creator Larry David. But most of all, it was a show that appealed to the intelligence of its viewers, that invited the audience to be in on the in-jokes, that said "you're smart, you'll get this humor" -- and tens of millions of people did. It was a low-concept show with a very high IQ. 

It was a real New York show. It was the first time that a show with a deep-seeded NYC sensibility permeated middle America. You might say today that it was a very Blue America show that Red America embraced.

You also have to remember what was on TV in 1989. Shows like "Cosby" and "Cheers" were popular at the time -- family friendly, touchingly sentimental shows with an "aw-shucks" humor that were set either in family homes or work places. "Seinfeld" was the opposite of these shows -- it was about four single New Yorkers who were supposedly friends but didn't seem to like each other very much. 

"Seinfeld" went off the air in 1998 but today, 17 years later, it's still very popular. You can still catch repeats of it on TV. Also, there is a Twitter feed called "SeinfeldToday" that incorporates that various aspects of social media and smart phone culture that didn't exist back during the show's hey-day. The legacy and impact of this late 20th century show still reverberates here in the 21st. In many ways, in this age where the trivial predominates while the world burns, "Seinfeld" is more relevant today than ever before.