Curtain Raiser

New York’s New Buccaneers, Colltalers

As headlines top even the goriest fiction, slapping us with the most blood-soaked, brutality-infused news, it’d be an outrage to speak about first world problems, or as it goes, New York real estate for that matter. But that’s exactly what we’re about to do.
Talk about the city is fitting, though: it became New York 351 years ago today, when the British retook it from its founders, the Dutch. Even before that, it’d never lost its international vocation, and appeal to foreigners, from the poorest to the wealthiest of them all.
But unlike the traders, the religious refugees, pirates and adventurers, and the successive waves of immigrants who’ve built it into the colossus that it is today, there’s a fairly distinct class of spoilers taking over New York this time around: global mega-billionaire crooks.
Needing to laundry their ill-earned money, they’re gobbling the city’s skyline by the blockfull, since it’s cheaper to pay its wealth-friendly property taxes, and earn archaic taxpayer incentives to build, than to withstand trial and risk losing it all in their own countries.
There’s a point in walking this rotten-tomato fire line, of discussing wealth and the spending habits of the fabulously criminal, while so many are being driven to frozen parks and street corners, or to the few unsanitary and unsafe city shelters, just to survive the night.
New York has a way of being hit first, and lately, what bad has happened to it, has spread out quickly to the rest of the country.
In fact, one of the unsung unfairness of Sept. 11 is that it hurt the one U.S. city that’s always been the most open and welcoming to ideological diversity, since Giovanni da Verrazzano and Henry Hudson landed on its shores in the 1600s. Again, it sounds flippant to accuse mass murderer Osama Bin Laden of having the discourtesy of not reading first the memo about the city before attacking it.
And it’s really besides the point that Continue reading

A Tale of Two Cities (Revisited)

Downtown New York
Reclaims Its Dark Glow

The glitter’s gone. The boasted safety of Alphabet City’s been taken away after sunset. And even if there’s no looting or sleazy crimes to report at this time, New York has returned to its gritty surname, if only for a, hopefully, brief time. We still remain polite, though.
Downtown has no lights, power, or hot running water right now, and even the traditional Village Halloween Parade has been canceled this year. Alas, if you’re really New Yorker, you’re used, even proud to trample tradition, and start it all over again, every once in a while.
It’s a pain, to be sure. Cold showers are no fun. Finding deli after deli surrendering to the inevitable, and closing their doors on your face is quite disheartening, if you’re a resident. And delivery from your favorite restaurant is out of question. You’re on your own, pal.
Then again, we were getting a bit too comfy with the Bloomberg world of glitzy parties, and supermodels, and unaffordable stores, so Hurricane Sandy was an inconvenient, but needed, shock to the system. And if you really remember the 1970s in the city, you’re almost dismissive.
So what? Let them enjoy Times Square, that ghastly Trump-inspired shopping mall. We’ll walk all the way there to get a decent cup of coffee, but we’re not staying. No open Duane Reade around? Good; that will teach them. Bloomingdale’s closed too? We were not planning to stop by there anytime soon, anyway.
Fine, when the wind howled and the trees began to fall, we cowered for protection just a little bit. And we looked like frightening light posts with our flashlights, wandering like the walking dead, in search for a drink Continue reading