Category Archive 'New York City'
07 Oct 2018

An Interesting Anniverary

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My 1983 arrest photo, taken at 4 in the morning. I look tired and disgruntled.

I’m a Baby Boomer and consequently, at this point, a geezer. My original Yale class arrived with short hair, wearing jackets and ties, at a non-coeducated Yale featuring strict parietal hours (meaning no girls in your room after 10 PM). I was, by the merest of accidents, at Woodstock.

I am going to confess, reluctantly, that I very recently turned 70. 35 years ago today, when I was 35-years-old, half a lifetime ago, I made a citizen’s arrest in New York City which involved reducing the culprit to possession by shooting him in the leg, causing me to be arrested, thrown into the NYC jail system, and charged with First Degree Armed Assault, plus some firearm possession charges (which –oddly enough– were never really discussed as the whole thing proceeded).

My shooting incident occurred a year earlier than the famous Bernhard Goetz Subway Shooting. I could easily have been what Bernhard Goetz became: a nationally-famous test case involving the private use of force against the then-epidemic minority violence terrorizing New York City.

I was, of course, smarter than Goetz. I used the threat of publicity to persuade the Manhattan DA’s office to back down and actually follow the law. Publicity was not in their interest. And it was not in my interest. Had the story broken, no doubt they would not have backed down, the Grand Jury would have indicted me, and I’d have been convicted, gotten a criminal record, and served time for something.

I saved the local CT newspaper article, some of the legal correspondence, and other material related to the event in a scrapbook at the time, and a few years ago, scanned the most interesting bits into my computer.

If anyone wants to read the story of all this, here it is: Shooting a Rapist.

05 Sep 2018

WSJ Reviewer Eats a $180 Steak Sandwich

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Somebody has to try these things for the rest of us. Jason Gay did.

I ate a $180 steak sandwich. Not for me; don’t be ridiculous. I did it for journalism.

Let’s dispense with the obvious: A $180 steak sandwich is an indefensible purchase. It is a foodstuff strictly for vulgarians, a decadent symbol of 21st-century gluttony and the over-luxurification of everything. To buy it is to wallow in one’s privilege, one’s shameless indifference to the plight of humankind.

Other than that, it’s pretty tasty. …

Unlike, say, the beignets at New Orleans’ Cafe du Monde, the Don Wagyu $180 sandwich seems to be less of a foodie’s bucket-list experience than a freak-show curiosity: How could a sandwich cost as much as a plane ticket to Florida? This is, after all, the type of thing that makes the rest of the planet think New Yorkers are out of their minds. Was the $180 sandwich a legitimate food experience or some kind of commentary on late-stage capitalism?

I should call the sandwich by its real name: the A5 Ozaki. The “A5” is a reference to the summit-grade of Japanese beef, and “Ozaki” is the farm from which Don Wagyu gets the meat (the only U.S. establishment to receive it, the server says while I’m there). Don Wagyu also serves more affordable Katsu sandos—there’s a $22 off-menu burger, for example—but the $180 Ozaki is the cleanup hitter at the bottom of the menu. It is served medium-rare.

Ordering the A5 Ozaki is not a showy experience. The lights do not dim, the kitchen does not clap; it does not require much more of a wait than a turkey club at a diner. A slice of beef is encrusted with panko, fried, placed on toasted white bread and served quartered, like a preschooler’s PB&J. Nori-sprinkled french fries and a pickle spear are the only accompaniments.

Breaking news: I liked it. I’m not a food critic. I hardly know my cuts of meat, and I cannot offer a detailed analysis of why the A5 Ozaki is $100 more of an event than the closest-priced item, the A5 Miyazaki. I will not try to justify paying such an absurd amount for a single piece of food, especially one that can be tidily consumed in the space of five minutes. But the A5 Ozaki was light and buttery to the point of being almost ethereal, as if the sandwich knew the pressure of delivering on its comical price.

Which, of course, it does not. There is no sandwich that is possibly worth $180. But that’s the thrill (and the crime) of extravagance, is it not? Eating this thing felt right and completely wrong—more like a caper than a lunch.

RTWT

13 Aug 2018

New York City versus San Francisco

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19 Feb 2018

New York vs. San Francisco

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just click on image for the link.

20 Dec 2017

New York Used to Be So Much More Romantic

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03 Dec 2017

NYC Has Solved the Rat Diversity Problem

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Uptown rats are genetically different from Downtown rats, and you can even easily differentiate West Village rats from East Village rats. I can only suppose that most Upper West Side rats are probably liberal and Jewish. The Atlantic:

Manhattan’s rats are genetically most similar to those from Western Europe, especially Great Britain and France. They most likely came on ships in the mid-18th century, when New York was still a British colony. [Fordhan University grad student Matthew] Combs was surprised to find Manhattan’s rats so homogenous in origin. New York has been the center of so much trade and immigration, yet the descendants of these Western European rats have held on.

When Combs looked closer, distinct rat subpopulations emerged. Manhattan has two genetically distinguishable groups of rats: the uptown rats and the downtown rats, separated by the geographic barrier that is midtown. It’s not that midtown is rat-free—such a notion is inconceivable—but the commercial district lacks the household trash (aka food) and backyards (aka shelter) that rats like. Since rats tend to move only a few blocks in their lifetimes, the uptown rats and downtown rats don’t mix much.

When the researchers drilled down even deeper, they found that different neighborhoods have their own distinct rats. “If you gave us a rat, we could tell whether it came from the West Village or the East Village,” says Combs. “They’re actually unique little rat neighborhoods.” And the boundaries of rat neighborhoods can fit surprisingly well with human ones.

Combs and a team of undergraduate students spent their summers trapping rats—beginning in Inwood at the north tip of Manhattan and working their way south. They got permission from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which gave them access to big green spaces like Central Park as well as medians and triangles and little gardens that dot the city. And they asked local residents. “More often than not, they were very, very happy to show us exactly where they had rats.” says Combs. A crowdsourced map of rat sightings also proved very helpful.

Rats, although abundant, are not easily fooled into traps. They’re wary of new objects. To entice them, the bait was a potent combination of peanut butter, bacon, and oats. And the team placed their traps near places where rats had clearly crawled. They looked for rat holes, droppings, chew marks on trash cans, and sebum marks—aka the grease tracks rats leave when they traverse the same path to the garbage over and over again.

For the DNA analysis, Combs cut off an inch or so of the rats’ tails. (Over 200 of these tails are still saved in vials in a lab freezer.) The team also took tissue samples for other researchers interested in studying how rats spread diseases through the urban environment. And some of the rats they skinned and stuffed for the collections of the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History, where they will join stuffed rats from 100 years ago.

RTWT

24 Aug 2017

More Statues in Danger

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How much longer will Christopher Columbus look out over New York’s Columbus Circle?

New York Post:

Mayor de Blasio opened a historical can of worms Tuesday in his quest to rid the city of offensive monuments, ducking for cover when asked if Grant’s Tomb might be shuttered because of actions two centuries ago.

The mayor had no ready answers when pounded with questions about flawed historical figures, from Ulysses S. Grant to little-known former New York Gov. Horatio Seymour, who are being honored in the city.

Grant issued an order to expel Jews from three states during the Civil War while Seymour’s campaign slogan in 1868 was “This is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.”

Monuments to Christopher Columbus have also sparked criticism over his treatment of native populations.

“We’re trying to unpack 400 years of American history here — that’s really what’s going on,” de Blasio said defensively.

“This is complicated stuff. But you know it’s a lot better to be talking about it and trying to work through it than ignoring it because I think for a lot of people in this city and in this country, they feel that their history has been ignored or affronts to their history have been tolerated.”

Hizzoner at one point acknowledged he hadn’t considered whether the review should include portraits until the one of Seymour hanging inside City Hall was mentioned.

He also couldn’t say whether school names or other dedications would be reconsidered.

“To some extent the commission’s going to have to figure out what are the appropriate boundaries,” de Blasio said. “We may end up doing this in stages because this is complex stuff.”

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In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch is demanding that Britain follow the American example and remove Lord Nelson from his column in Trafalgar Square. Sure, Nelson won the battles of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar, and prevented a Napoleonic Invasion of England, but, hey! what about the black contribution to British history?

We have “moved on” from this era no more than the US has from its slavery and segregationist past. The difference is that America is now in the midst of frenzied debate on what to do about it, whereas Britain – in our inertia, arrogance and intellectual laziness – is not.

The statues that remain are not being “put in their historical context”, as is often claimed. Take Nelson’s column. Yes, it does include the figure of a black sailor, cast in bronze in the bas-relief. He was probably one of the thousands of slaves promised freedom if they fought for the British military, only to be later left destitute, begging and homeless, on London’s streets when the war was over.

But nothing about this “context” is accessible to the people who crane their necks in awe of Nelson. The black slaves whose brutalisation made Britain the global power it then was remain invisible, erased and unseen.

The people so energetically defending statues of Britain’s white supremacists remain entirely unconcerned about righting this persistent wrong. They are content to leave the other side of the story where it is now – in Nelson’s case, among the dust and the pigeons, 52 metres below the admiral’s feet. The message seems to be that is the only place where the memory of the black contribution to Britain’s past belongs.

31 Jul 2017

New York, 1900

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colorized

17 May 2017

Post-War New York City

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Photo by Elliott Erwitt, 1950.

08 Apr 2017

1983 Return of Kong Failed

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3000 lb., 8 story nylon King Kong balloon erected on the Empire State Building in 1983 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the motion picture developed a hole in his left shoulder during inflation and had to be removed and repaired. New Yorkers expressed disappointment. New York Times.

31 Mar 2017

History: New York City’s Professional Nose

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Atlas Obscura recalls a bit of New York City history.

Leaky. Smelly. The Sniffer.

These were all nicknames for one of the more unusual figures in New York City’s history, James Kelly. For decades, “Smelly” Kelly walked the tracks using his seemingly superhuman senses, plus a handful of homemade inventions, to track down hazards, leaks, poop, and eels in New York’s sprawling subway system.

Today New York’s subways are equipped with high-tech machines that sample the air, looking for potential warning signs of dangerous gas build-up, or even biological and chemical agents. But in the early days of the subway, which opened its first underground line in 1904, such detection efforts were left to the keen watch of rough-and-ready subway workers. And there was no one better at ferreting out leaks and problems than Kelly. …

Almost a cartoon of a gruff New Yorker, Kelly was described in the July 26, 1941, issue of The New Yorker as “a hardy, red-faced, Kilkenny Irishman.” His recorded quotes come off in a stern, affirmative staccato. In Daley’s book, Kelly says that all it takes to be a good underground leak detector are “quick ears, good nose, better feet.”

It only took a few years before Kelly gained a reputation for his uncanny ability to locate leaks that no one else could find. As retold in Daley’s [1959] book, [The World Beneath the City,] Kelly was once called to the Hotel New Yorker to investigate a rotten stench. Engineers had located a sewage leak behind one of the walls, but couldn’t pinpoint it. As the story goes, Kelly walked in, confidently announced that he could locate the broken pipe within a half an hour, and got to work. He flushed a staining agent, uranine, down the toilet, and before long, a portion of the wall began to take on a yellow color, indicating the busted pipe was behind it. Daley quotes Kelly as saying, “After that, I was in leaks for keeps.”

Kelly rose to the official position of Foreman in the Structures Division of the Board of Transportation, and was given a small team of assistants (reports differ as to whether he had five or six on his team) who were available around the clock. Kelly and his team were tasked with walking New York’s underground, looking for signs of leaks. Kelly’s exploits soon became the stuff of local legend.

he and his team were said to walk ten miles of track each day, looking for damp spots or other signs of leaks, and using some unorthodox tools of Kelly’s own design to track them down. Kelly was known for a handful of gadgets he had built to help him in his work.

Most notable was the “Aquaphone,” a standard telephone receiver with a copper wire attached to the diaphragm. He would touch the trailing end of the wire to fire hydrants and listen for a hiss that would let him know a leak was near. Another of his creations was a doctor’s stethoscope to which he’d attached a steel rod, which he would touch to pavement to listen for leaks. He is also said to have carried around a map of Manhattan from 1763, which gave him an indication of natural springs and other pre-existing sources of water.

The New Yorker piece shares another common story about Kelly, which was his knack for finding eels and fish that clogged up pipes. In the early 1940s, it wasn’t uncommon for fish to be drawn into the city’s water system from the reservoirs, ending up trapped in pipes and generally mucking things up. Among the creatures Kelly claimed to have pulled out of various parts of the system were a school of 40 killifish that he discovered in a subway bathroom on 145th Street; a two-and-a-half foot eel he’d fished from a sink pipe in a 42nd Street station; and as The New Yorker put it, “a spanking ten-inch trout, which would have been a noteworthy fish, even if it hadn’t been found splashing gaily in a two-foot water main in a Grand Concourse lavatory.

Full story.

24 Mar 2017

Garbo’s Apartment Listed for $5.95 Million

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Garbo’s Kitchen.

Greta Garbo’s former 5th floor coop apartment on East 52nd Street, private elevator, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, with East River views, $9100 a month maintenance, little changed since the star’s death in 1990, only $5.95 million.

Daily Mail

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