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