Monday, October 27, 2014
Yesterday’s real estate section reported data from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey on occupancy in some of the ritziest neighborhoods in the world. 285 of 496 apartments (people in Manhattan do not live in private houses surrounded by white picket fences) are vacant at least 10 months of the year in the area of East 56th Street to East 59th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue. Immediately to the north, East 59th Street to East 63rd Street (Bloomingdale’s Country), 628 of 1,261 homes, or almost 50 percent, are vacant the majority of the time. Those areas contain large, very expensive apartments, not cubbyholes where you might leave your yoga pants or skateboards for random fits of exercise after an exhausting day wreaking havoc on the world’s economy.
At first, I am heartened by the absence of the sort of people who can afford to stay away from these exclusive confines. Less crowds at Tiffany’s, Per Se, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Museum of Modern Art. The price of cocaine is kept in check. Fewer double-parked Maybachs and Rolls-Royces. Less demand for electricity and bottled water.
On the other hand, what if we could arrange a sort of AirBnB for inadequately sheltered New York families using the comfortable space left vacant so much of the time. While moving is almost always disruptive, our deserving folk may not mind so much if each destination proves fit for a Saudi prince, Russian gangster or Chinese oligarch. Since the target neighborhood is quite compact, their children should be able to remain in their local schools, eliminating one concern when relocating. Decent living conditions might lead to greater family stability and improved job performance, and these real New Yorkers would actually pay local income taxes unlike their absent landlords.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The New York Law Journal printed some of my favorite reading this morning, the list of applicants who passed the latest bar exam. First some numbers: 11,195 people took the exam (none identified as corporations in spite of the generous view of the United States Supreme Court); 7,264 passed. As usual my approach to the list is somewhat idiosyncratic. It wasn’t a bad year for Cohens – 21, however, they were edged out by 23 Chens. The 5 Levys were swamped by the 26 Lis. There were 13 Murphys, but no Corleones. The most common last name was Lee (58), which is polyethnic. I couldn’t find any name that was uniquely euphonious, but I’ll give honorable mention to I’Asia Caprice Scarlett-Jones. Good luck to all.
Stony Brook Steve joined me for lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, which centered on soup for me with a blossoming cold. We discussed a case that I am now handling that has some characteristics resembling my personal experience. He challenged my objectivity under these circumstances, but, knowing what views I come to the table with, I believe that I can deliver a fair opinion. We all have biases; managing them is the challenge. Let's get the alleged economic malfeasors into court, those titans of Wall Street who turned the housing mortgage market into a cesspool of lies and corruption, and then see if people like you and me can render fair verdicts.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
My cold had morphed from simply annoying me to annoying people around me, so I understand if you step back from the page. I continued my soup therapy for lunch, today at Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street (September 12, 2011, November 5, 2012). The Cantonese dumpling soup ($4.95) was so good and hot that I had two bowls. The dumplings were fat with shrimp, but it was the hot broth that I wanted, so I did not object to getting six dumplings in the second bowl of soup after getting seven in the first.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Last night we saw It’s Only a Play, by Terrence McNally, reputedly the hottest ticket in town, if only because of a cast headed by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. By coincidence, it’s the second McNally play that we have seen this week. On Sunday, we saw Lips Together, Teeth Apart, which I saw originally in 1991. While I recall mixed feelings about the play back then, as opposed to the almost consistently cold feelings aroused the other day, the 1991 performers stuck in my mind. The four-person cast was Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, Anthony Heald and Swoosie Kurtz, none yet as prominent as they later became. Kurtz was somewhat disappointing in the role of a childless woman whose brother recently died of AIDS. While the character is supposed to be troubled and confused, Kurtz merely seemed tired. On the other hand, Baranski and Lane could have raised the Titanic with the verve that they brought to their parts. Those memories remain clear.
It’s Only a Play is also a revival, but I never saw it in the earlier productions of 1982 and 1986. The play is far less substantial, a backstage, Broadway comedy taking place on an opening night, populated by the playwright, the director, the producer, the leading lady, the playwright's best friend and the schlepper, literally a new kid in town who is handling guests' coats and drink orders. It is funny. By contrast, Lips places two heterosexual couples, with secrets and stresses in their lives, on Fire Island on the Fourth of July, amid gay celebrants on either side. There are some displays of mordant wit by the unhappy characters, each bearing an apparently incurable physical or emotional burden. Oy, vey.
On a lighter note, let's look at global warming. Today's Times has a very interesting commentary on the political sensitivities on the issue.
While some Republicans are too busy bandaging their knuckles that have scraped on the ground as they strolled, certainly others are aware of the dangers that are the byproducts of the massive economic progress of the last century. Yet, many elements of society, trade unions as well as corporations, are unwilling to admit that serious retooling of our transportation, energy, manufacturing, agricultural and mining industries are overdue if we wish to guard the health and safety of future generations. No surprise that their political acolytes in both parties continue to play dumb (if any playing is needed) on the issue. There is no doubt that jobs are immediately threatened by the needed reforms (revolution in some cases), but our experience teaches us that more jobs and greater prosperity often result from accepting the need for innovation, consider America's industrial response to the Axis or the transnational expansion of the automobile industry. Yes, the displaced coal miner will have to be supported because it is not likely that he will have a role in the "clean" economy. But, we are willing to pay farmers for not farming. Don't we usually place good health as our greatest personal value, especially when it is absent or threatened? Don't allow the material interests of the Koch brothers to override the health and safety of your children and generations to come.