News


World Trade Center

For a New Yorker who was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, I don’t have a harrowing or even very interesting story. I was not near the Towers; I was not near death. I did not see the planes. My life was not saved by a delayed train or by bringing my child to school or by voting in the mayoral primary or by stopping for coffee or by a heroic act by a fellow New Yorker.

I was at my desk in Midtown when the planes hit. As word spread, I gathered with coworkers to watch, horrified, on the news as the Towers burned and then fell, as the Pentagon smoldered. With thousands of others, I walked to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, and then I got a ride home from a coworker. It was a sad, even terrifying day for me, but not a particularly dangerous one.

Eight years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, I find myself still in awe of the brave passengers who crashed their plane in Pennsylvania. Still in awe of the firefighters who climbed the Towers to rescue my friends, relatives and neighbors despite the obvious dangers in doing so. Still in awe of the ordinary citizens who, simply by being employed in New York’s two tallest office buildings, became unwitting soldiers in our constant battle against hatred and destruction. Still in awe of the scores of volunteers who sifted through the rubble while I watched on TV from the safety and comfort of my home and my family.

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Beehive

According to findingDulcinea, private beekeeping has been illegal in NYC since 1999, but may be on its way back thanks to a new bill, and maybe to the Obamas.

Apparently many New Yorkers had been ignoring the ban, and “It was the already-present beekeeping community that encouraged councilman David Yassky to introduce a bill that would allow beekeepers to keep bees if they are licensed.”

I guess, in an election year, Yassky figures he’ll catch more flies with honey. (Thank you, I’m here all week.) I do like his idea of licensing them, though. I mean, you don’t want your neighbor to suddenly fill his apartment with hives without anybody knowing about it. Plus it’s almost worth joining the NYPD just for the off chance that I’ll get to respond to a complaint about bees and ask the proprieter if I can see his bee license.

Of course, allowing bees as pets isn’t all roses. (Sorry, I just can’t help myself.) I mean, if you think the DMV is bad, try spending a day at the BBL (Bureau of Bee Licensing, natch).

The most interesting part of the article, though, comes a bit further down, when it mentions that the same 1999 ordinance that banned bees also banned poisonous snakes, ferrets, and elephants. Elephants! Was this a problem prior to 1999? I can’t imagine that pet elephants were very widespread even when they were legal. I mean, just the mental image of the pooper scooper you’d need should be enough to dissuade you from the elephant section at Petco.


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Fleet Week 2009

It’s Fleet Week in New York and, like most New Yorkers, I love seeing scores of sailors in bright white exploring the city, and not just because this blog takes its name from “On the Town,” the underrated musical about three U.S. Navy sailors who find love and excitement while on the loose in New York.

My favorite staples of Fleet Week, in no particular order:

  • The requisite photos in the local papers of sailors in full uniform with Times Square mainstays like the Naked Cowboy (yesterday The New York Times had some guys with the Naked Cowgirl on their front page).
  • The Fleet Week sailors on the morning shows. (Friday morning they were on pretty much every channel, and on Saturday The Today Show will feature Navy vs. Marines tug of war.)
  • The large group of uniformed sailors at the Mets game (or Yankees game). I love the big applause they always get from the rest of crowd almost as much as I love the chants and cheers they do when one of their own throws out the first pitch, or gets shown on the big screen. It’s too bad they can’t do it this year, because the Mets were out of town and the Yankees are just too damned expensive.
  • The jokes about Fleet Week on late night television. Highlights of Letterman’s “Top Ten Things I’ve Learned During Fleet Week In New York City” last night include “Katz’s Deli has knishes that’ll make you plotz” and “I spent a month’s pay on Yankee tickets.”


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Seinfeld commercial filming

Part of living or working in New York is being occasionally inconvenienced by the street you need to use having been shut down for the filming of some movie or episode of Law & Order. And part of being a New Yorker is sneaking a peek at the actors at work. Both happened to me today, but just outside of New York City.

Jerry Seinfeld has spent the past couple of days filming a TV commercial right around the corner from my house. And with all the news the past couple of weeks about mishaps during the filming of a movie in Times Square, I figured this was close enough to mention here. The photo above is from today’s shoot, as is this one of Seinfeld chatting between takes:

Seinfeld on Cedarhurst Ave


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This week’s Newsweek has a great essay by historian and Brooklyn Bridge “biographer” David McCullough about the perils of the proposed luxury condo in Dumbo that would block the view of the iconic bridge for most folks on the Brooklyn side.

Sadly the project was approved by the City Planning Commission this week and now head to the City Council for final approval.

On the Newsweek Web site is a counter-essay, written partly by Kurt Soller and mostly by the development company, that argues in favor of the project. Their argument aside from pointing out that the development will include some affordable housing units and a public school in addition to the luxury condos, essentially amounts to a claim that everyone (including the Community Board and the Borough President) wants the condo except for a handful of neighborhood kooks who have “hoodwinked” McCullough, a New England resident.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the very few New York institutions that has not been surrounded by T-shirt shops and other tourist-trap BS. In fact, a walk across the bridge is something I always recommend to out-of-towners or new transplants, because it’s so landmarky without being touristy. Living nowhere near the bridge, I don’t really have any skin in the game but I’d hate to see the view of the truly inspiring American landmark marred so that some rich developers can get richer.

Citi Field

I got my first up-close glimpse of the Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, this weekend. Needless to say it’s a vast improvement over Shea. The views are better, the concourses wider, the sound system more audible, the bathrooms more plentiful (and cleaner), and of course it’s a whole lot prettier, inside and out. Overall, I love it. But I’m not IN love with it.

First, the good:

Jackie Robinson Rotunda
The much-hyped Jackie Robinson Rotunda is stunning, inside and out. Symmetrical curving staircases, giant paintings of Jackie, enormous windows, and lots of dark gray steel and orange brick. There’s also a 10-foot-high, 3-D, Dodger blue number 42 where people will no doubt be taking pictures all year long. It did strike me as a bit odd to have such a grand tribute to a man who never played for the Mets and had no direct connection to them, but if any player deserves such a tribute, it’s Jackie. The whole thing is truly majestic and worth walking through even if you’re parked on the other side of the stadium.

Home run apple Citi Field
The new home run apple looks great in dead center, and will look even better popping up after each Met homer. And the old apple from Shea is here too, just inside one of the outfield entrances to the stadium.

Citi Field interior
The field itself is beautiful. Gone are the dead patches of outfield grass we saw in Shea. And the outfield dimensions are quirky, with enormously deep gaps, and fences of varying height. Lots of foul ground in the infield, very little in the outfield.

Citi Field bleachers
The bleachers not only go all the way around the stadium but have multiple levels. I have to say it’s nice to see fans in the outfield. And, unlike at Shea, you don’t have to buy 100 tickets to sit there.

Citi Field bathroom
The bathrooms are located evenly and frequently throughout the building, and they’re all controlled by sensors, so you don’t have to touch anything. By midseason that will be a huge selling point.

Now, the bad:

Citi Field is kind of like John Mayer: there’s nothing specific to point to as bad, but there’s an overall feeling that it’s lacking somehow. What I mean is, it’s just as nice as the Nationals’ new stadium. And the Phillies’ new stadium. And the Reds’ new stadium. And the Rangers’ new stadium. In fact, it looks just like them. And that’s the problem. Aside from the home run apple and the rotunda, there’s little tying this stadium to New York, or even to the Mets. I feel like, with a few minor logo changes here and there, the stadium could be airlifted out of New York and dropped in any major city and fit in just as well.

The whole reason all these new stadiums were built was to replace bland, soul-less cookie-cutter stadiums. But what the architects at HOK Sport have done in several recent cases is simply replace the old, round cookie cutter with a nicer one. I expected more from the Mets, more from New York. I expected the stadium to have a soul.

Still, it’s gorgeous and comfortable and nicely appointed and modern and classic, and I’m going to truly enjoy my new summer home. It may have no soul, but its body is a wonderland.


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new-yankee-stadium

The new Yankee Stadium officially opened to the public today. Much has been made of the design touches that replicate parts of the “original” Yankee Stadium. There’s just one problem with that story: the original stadium–the House that Ruth Built, that DiMaggio graced, that hosted Larsen and Berra’s great hug–was destroyed more than 30 years ago. The building that was demolished this winter was a cheap imposter.

The 1976 renovation of Yankee Stadium (which actually began in 1974) was so drastic that it turned what had truly been a baseball cathedral into Shea Stadium North, a bland mass with little personality, lots of terrible seats, and a false claim to history. The centerfield wall that stood behind DiMaggio and then Mantle was 461 feet from home plate; the one that got knocked down this winter stood at 408. During that renovation, the stadium’s upper deck was completely rebuilt; it’s famous facade was removed from the top of the stands and a phony version was tacked onto the top of the scoreboard (which was also completely redesigned).

The version of Yankee Stadium that closed at the end of the 2008 season was so different from the one that closed at the end of the 1973 season that director (and lifelong Yankees fan) Billy Crystal had to film the 2001 movie 61*–about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’ home run chase–in Tiger Stadium instead of Yankee Stadium. Because, as the official press release about the film explained, “the current renovated stadium bears little resemblance to the architecture of the original,” and Tiger Stadium looked more like Yankee Stadium than Yankee Stadium did.

So sure, get excited about the new digs. But don’t rave to me about how nice it is that it has a new new version of the old new version of the original facade. It’s like going to a housewarming party and having to listen to the owner brag about how he installed a replica of the orange shag carpeting that had once been in the den, and restored the electric fake fireplace left behind by the previous owner. The best parts of the new stadium are the ones that hark back to its grandfather Yankee Stadium (1923-1976), not to its overrated imposter father, Yankee Stadium Jr. (1976-2008).


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