Welcome Back From NYC

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is viewed as a likely candidate for mayor of New York City in 2021, apparently is upset about gentrification and displacement.  During a recent speech at a Martin Luther King Day celebration, Adams made some controversial remarks on the topic that made mention of Ohio.

12016738035_d242e539fc_bAccording to a Washington Post report on his remarks, Adams complimented long-time residents, saying:  “You were here before Starbucks.  You were here before others came and decided they wanted to be part of this city. Folks are not only hijacking your apartments and displacing your living arrangements, they displace your conversations and say that things that are important to you are no longer important.”  The Post article reports that Adams then turned to the topic of recent arrivals to New York, and said:  “Go back to Iowa.  You go back to Ohio! New York City belongs to the people that [were] here and made New York City what it is.”  The article also states that Adams said: “You are not going to enjoy this city, and watch the displacement of the people who made this city.”

Gentrification and displacement are serious issues, and obviously Adams feels strongly about them.  Still, telling recent arrivals to get out of town doesn’t exactly seem like a thoughtful and measured response to the issues — even by blunt New York political standards — and a Martin Luther King Day celebration seems like an especially ill-suited forum for delivering that kind of negative message.

Since Adams is urging people to go back to Ohio, I just want to note that Columbus, and other parts of Ohio, would be happy to welcome transplanted New Yorkers — and anyone else who wants to come to a place where they won’t be judged by how long their family has lived in town.  We think that Columbus belongs to whoever lives here and wants to be part of our community.

 

The Joys Of Recess

  

On lunch break in Brooklyn, I walked past a park and saw a bunch of schoolkids playing during recess. They had no equipment other than a ball and no teacher or monitor telling them what to do, but they obviously were having fun playing a game of their own creation where one kid stretched out on the ground and the others had to bounce the ball over her prone figure.

Who doesn’t remember recess fondly — and these kinds of unsupervised moments are the most memorable.

The Homeless Guy At The Window

I was in Brooklyn Sunday night and went to a Mexican restaurant near my hotel for dinner.  Because I was a single diner, the hostess asked if I’d like to sit at the bar.  I had a book to read and the lighting at the bar was a bit brighter than the table area, so I agreed.

I sat down at one end of the bar, ordered my food, and sipped at my glass of wine.  When I glanced up to look out a nearby window, a street person was there, staring in at me.  He was right up against the window, only a few inches from the glass, radiating that kind of aggressive, wild-eyed look that you see from some members of the homeless brigade — the kind that makes you give them a wide berth.  That’s weird, I thought.

IMG_6983_2I went back to reading my book, was served some chips and salsa and began munching away, looked over at the window again . . . and the guy was still there, giving me the hard-eyed once-over.  From then on, I became acutely aware of his glare.  And as my meal progressed, from time to time I would try to surreptitiously look over to see if he was still there — and he was.  And he saw me looking over, every time.

Why was he doing it?  Was he trying to guilt-trip me into going outside of the restaurant to give him some money so I could eat my meal without being eyeballed?  Was he just bored, and decided to pass the time by playing mind games with a random stranger?  For that matter, was he even aware of where he was, and what he was doing?  I didn’t know, of course, but I was sure that directly interacting with him, or acknowledging his presence any more than I already had, was not a good idea.

I began to wonder what would happen when I finished my food and had to walk past the guy to get back to my hotel.  I didn’t exactly relish the prospect of an unwanted encounter with an apparently angry man in a strange city on a Sunday night.  But finally, as I was finishing my food, I took one last glance over — and the man was gone.  I quickly got my check, paid it, grabbed my book, and hit the road.

It was one of those unsettling experiences that stick with you and make you wonder about the arbitrary elements of life.  I didn’t sleep very well that night.  Of course, he probably didn’t sleep very well, either — that night, or any night.

Bad Choice

So the Democrats have picked Philadelphia as the site for their 2016 National Convention, selecting the City of Brotherly Love over the other two finalists — Columbus, Ohio and Brooklyn, New York.

Apparently Philadelphia’s role in American history tipped the balance.  According to the New York Times report, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz touched the Liberty Bell and said:  “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering.”  Because both Columbus and Brooklyn presumably also were committed to having “a seamless and safe convention” — at least, you’d sure hope so — we can surmise that Philadelphia’s past role as site of the Constitutional Convention, home of Ben Franklin, and so forth was the deciding factor.

I’m a fan of Philly, but I think this is a bad choice — and not just because I’m a Columbus resident who hoped that both the Republican and Democrat conventions would be held in the Buckeye State in 2016.  The issue is whether you are forward-looking, or backward-looking.  It’s like the decision that was made years ago to change the location of the presidential inauguration ceremony from the east side of the Capitol building to the west side.  The east side had tradition, but the west side was spacious, with a vista spanning the Mall and its monuments.  The country’s future lay to the west, and moving the inauguration ceremony was a solid symbolic move — as well as allowing more space.

Which city best represents the future here?  Growing Columbus, with its bustling economy?  Diverse Brooklyn, which is constantly reinventing itself?  Or Philadelphia?

At Brooklyn Bridge Park

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If you walk from Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan, you will find the Brooklyn Bridge Park at the end of your journey. With its worn and comfortable benches, its shady vistas, and its beautiful fountain, it’s a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee on a cool and bright autumn morning. Fortunately, there’s a Starbucks nearby, ready to fill that need. (Isn’t there always?)

C’mon, Democrats, Come To Columbus!

The Democratic National Committee is trying to decide where to hold the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  According to reports, the finalists are Brooklyn, New York, Birmingham, Alabama, Phoenix, Arizona, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — and Columbus, Ohio. 

A few days ago Columbus city officials and civic leaders hosted a delegation from the DNC, trying to convince them to come to the capital city of the Buckeye State.  The tried to use crowds, reasoning, friendly signs and t-shirts, and a blue carpet to sway the DNC decision.  Given the audience, I think an appeal to naked political self-interest is far more likely to be effective.  So I say:

Democrats, you owe us — and you’re going to be here, anyway. 

DSC04160Ohio is the battleground state.  You pester us with polls, bombard us with ads, stop traffic for rallies, and hassle us in more ways than we can count in every election.  We put up with this crap in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, and we’ve spent countless tax dollars on police protection and the other municipal services that the constant campaigning requires.  You owe us!  We’re entitled to have your delegates fly into our airport, book our hotel rooms, shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, visit the bigger-than-life statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and — not incidentally — pay all of the taxes that such activity generates.  Fill our coffers, baby!  We’re entitled to it!

You’re going to be here, anyway, so you’ll all save on travel expenses if you start out here.  You may as well get to know the good new restaurants, and the excellent new bars, because you’ll be returning again, and again, and again as the election draws near.  Contrast that with Brooklyn or Philly, which are solid blue, or Birmingham, which is redder than Red Square.  Phoenix is red, too — red hot.  Those places are locked down, one way or the other.  In contrast, Ohio is so deep purple that its residents might as well hum the opening chords of Smoke on the Water with every step.  Wouldn’t you like to have some friendly, and early, firsthand exposure to the swing voters who inevitably will decide the election?

One other thing:  the Republicans are holding their 2016 National Convention just up I-71, in Cleveland.  They know they need to win Ohio, and they’re pulling out all the stops.  Are you really going to dis us and give the Rs a leg up on raking all of our crucial electoral votes?  It’s time for the Party of Jefferson and Jackson to make the pilgrimage and put its money where its mouth will be during the fall of 2016.  You want to win Ohio?  You’d better come to Columbus.

Across The Bridge

IMG_4872I like to walk in the morning.  If you happen to be in Brooklyn on a hot summer morning, what better way to satisfy your walking jones than to take a hike across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan and back again?

This morning the Red Sox Fan and I ventured forth before it got too hot.  It’s a trek that measures more than 3.5 miles, round trip, and takes you right down the middle of the bridge, over the traffic and under the massive stone supports and suspension cables.  It’s a wooden walkway with two way bike and pedestrian traffic that’s a tight squeeze in spots, but well worth it.  We hoofed it over the bridge, stopped for a cup of coffee in City Hall Park on the Manhattan side, and then turned around and walked back to the Brooklyn side.

It was a pleasant stroll on a sunny morning over a national landmark.  Reality intruded, however, when we passed some construction workers involved in the bridge’s renovation and overheard them casually talking about how the “jumper” last week had somehow survived his plunge.  That’s New York City for you, I guess.IMG_4880

Back To The Midwest

Russell will be leaving Brooklyn and the New York City area in the few days; he’ll be heading to the Detroit area to begin the Master’s program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

DSC02096Moving from the East Coast to the Midwest can be an adjustment.  Kish and I had the same experience years ago, when we moved from Washington, D.C. to Columbus.  On the East Coast, you travel by subway and walk a lot.  In the Midwest, it’s a car culture.  On the East Coast, you tend not to make eye contact with people on the street.  In the Midwest, you’re likely to get a friendly greeting and a cheerful hello from a complete stranger you pass in the street.  On the East Coast, the tempo is rapid.  In the Midwest, the pace is slower.  The cultural and social differences are many, and frequently you don’t fully appreciate them until you’ve moved and you’ve noticed the abrupt change.

Even when you were born and raised in one area, you adopt the rhythms and mores of your new home.  Russell’s lived on the East Coast now for six years.  We’ll be looking forward to welcoming him back to his roots and getting him back into that Midwest state of mind.

Keeping Tabs, Through Google Maps

Privacy advocates seem to hate Google Maps.  They think the photos of buildings and houses and people going about their daily business are intrusive.

As a parent, though, I think Google Maps is a very useful resource.

Here’s what I mean.  Russell is moving to his third apartment in Brooklyn.  We can’t go there to see what it looks like.  But, using Google Maps, we can see that his new place is above the JR’s Furniture on Broadway in Brooklyn, next door to what looks like a very intriguing meat market — literally, the Broadway Meat Market, which features “lamb, pork, poultry, dairy products, deli” — as well as Angel Fish and a discount store.  Elevated train tracks run down the avenue at the second story level, and across the street is a Chinese restaurant, a pawn shop, and another deli.  In short, it seems to be a classic urban Brooklyn neighborhood.

I haven’t seen Russell’s new digs, and probably won’t for a while.  But thanks to Google Maps, I feel like a have a better sense of where he is and what he is likely doing — and a parent, that’s what I really want.

The GOP Targets Weiner’s World

You’ll remember former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace after his curious on-line conduct and later misrepresentations about it were disclosed to the American public.  His sordid tale dominated the airwaves in June.

Tomorrow a special election will be held to replace Weiner.  His New York City district formerly was viewed as safely Democratic — it covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and was the political springboard for current New York Senator Chuck Schumer — but now polls indicate that the Republican candidate may actually win.  Such a result would send shock waves through the Democratic Party and might cause more Democrats to begin questioning President Obama and his leadership of the party.

The old saying is that all politics is local, and local issues have been important in this race.  The district includes a large Jewish population, and Republican Bob Turner has urged them to send a message to President Obama about his policies toward Israel.  The polling also indicates, however, that President Obama’s general unpopularity may be a drag on the Democratic candidate, David Weprin.  The President carried the district by 11 percentage points in 2008, but a recent poll indicates that he now is viewed unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents, including 38 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

You normally can’t make too much out of a special election to replace a politician who resigned amidst scandal, but tomorrow’s special election could be an exception to that rule.  If a safe Democratic seat flips to the Republicans, it may be a sign of greater voter unrest, and larger political waves, at work in America.

The Quiet Joys Of Bars Without TVs

When we went to visit Russell on Saturday, we stopped for an afternoon beverage at a nearby Brooklyn establishment called Dram.  It was a quiet place, with open windows and dark wood and thin leather cushions on bench-style seats.  Excellent music was playing over the sound system, and a fine array of beers were available for the quaffing.  How could I resist a beer called “Pork Slap Pale Ale Farmhouse Ale”on a sultry afternoon — a beer that turned out to be quite good, even when served in a can?

I liked the place immediately, and found myself idly wondering why that was so as I savored the taste of the Pork Slap.  And then it hit me:  this place had no TV sets anywhere!  Unlike every other American bar I have been to in recent memory — from bars in campus neighborhoods, to bars in the finest hotels — this quiet neighborhood watering hole had no television broadcasts blaring in the background, butting into conversations, and competing for attention with the music being played.  It was incredibly pleasant to be free of that incessant drone!

When we were in Paris and stopped at a bar, there were no TV sets to be seen.  In American bars, on the other hand, they are ubiquitous.  Are Americans so easily bored that it is crucial to have a TV nearby to attract their attention whenever a lull in the conversation occurs?  Is learning the latest sports news so essential to our lives that we can’t bear to be away from the boob tube for even a short while and enjoy the delightful pleasure of a quiet drink with friends?

The View From A Hot Brooklyn Rooftop

On Saturday, Kish and I paid a brief visit to Russell, who is sharing space with multiple roommates in Brooklyn on the top floor of an aging apartment building.

His apartment includes access to the roof by steel ladder up a narrow passageway.  On a hot day, the rooftop affords better access to the cooling breeze, but you also feel the heat pulsing from the black tar roof.  And there is no railing, which is a bit disconcerting when you need to walk to the edge of the roof to get the view of the lower Manhattan skyline that appears in the far distance in the photo above.

The ACORN Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, in their "pimp" and "hooker" costumes

James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, in their "pimp" and "prostitute" costumes

Here’s another article and video featuring ACORN staffers — this time in Brooklyn — advising a self-proclaimed pimp and hooker on how to get a house, fail to disclose their income, and otherwise game the system to set up a house of prostitution.   This is the third ACORN office, after Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in which the same “pimp” and “hooker” have found ACORN staffers perfectly willing to help them in their unlawful schemes, and from the sounds of it videos on two more ACORN offices are soon to be released.

What kind of organization is ACORN that it employs such people, who have no problem advising people how to realize their goal of engaging in illegal conduct?  The old saying is that the acorn does not fall far from the tree.  What does it say about ACORN, the national organization, when ACORN staffers in three different local offices take similarly receptive approaches to strangers proposing criminal activity?  And what does it say about ACORN that a significant part of its response, as the linked article indicates, is to threaten the individuals who exposed how its staffers improperly conduct ACORN business with some kind of lawsuit?