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

Ah, the Dutch

The Birthday of Two Willems,
An Excuse to Celebrate Holland

The Netherlands has a special place in the heart of New York and its role in the city’s history helped forged its profound differences from other U.S. cities. Since today is the 108th birthday of a famous Dutch New Yorker painter, Willem de Kooning, we thought we take a moment to gather some of the latest, and quirkiest, highlights from the land known around the world as the Low Countries.
Today is also the 479th birthday of another Willem, a prince known as the Silent or Willem the Orange, with a passing connection to New York. So as we celebrate these two, let’s stop by at a Repair Cafe to fix something broken, check an amazing street-making machine, choose a snack from the Insect Cookbook, and see how long is the wait for the world’s first lab-grown meat to be served.
For a relatively small country sitting mostly under sea level, the Netherlands‘ has had an admirable influence over world culture. During the Renaissance and the Enlightenment era, seminal artists and philosophers came from or made their home there, and arguably, the liberal ideals thriving in the period infused ‘the island at the center of the world,’ New York, with its diversity and unique agnostic spirit.
While most European nations were mired in bloody, thousand-year fanatical wars, Holland was the cradle of the humanities and religious pluralism. It was the defeat of William the Silent’s eldest son, Dutch governor of Brazil Johan Maurits van Nassau, by the Portuguese, and Continue reading