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Ashes of History

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People come to New York to start fresh, but last week the city kept ramming head-on into the past. Digging a new subway tunnel near Battery Park, workers found themselves confronting yet another eighteenth-century wall that will delay burrowing for several weeks. Former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders accused Isiah Thomas of calling her a “ho” and inviting her for sex dates after he became team president in 2003. That was the year Mayor Bloomberg banned smoking from bars and restaurants, and in his budget address the other day, he proposed a new 50-cent tax on cigarettes. Neither measure would have passed in the Wild West New York of the seventies, although despite the influx of Bugaboos and bistros to formerly forlorn neighborhoods, a 17-year-old kid was shot at yuppie-ish 105th and Amsterdam, right around dinnertime. The luckless boy must have been born around 1988, the year Ellen Barkin married Gabriel Byrne (they’re still friends, but she and Ron Perelman suddenly aren’t). Barkin was born here in 1954, a year after the McHale family opened its bar on 46th and Eighth, which just closed. (It was a few blocks from where Byrne wrapped A Touch of the Poet on Sunday—a play Eugene O’Neill finished in 1942, the year of the mayor’s birth.) Hillary Clinton reached awkwardly into history for a metaphor, likening the House of Representatives to a nineteenth-century plantation. It’s not the type of gaffe George Washington would likely have made (although he owned slaves, didn’t he?), and one wonders whether a portrait of Hill will sell for $21.3 million some day, as one of Washington did at Christie’s. And yet the past faded last week: A fire in Soho burned the offices of Interview, that Warhol legacy, and the Prada store. Venerable Harlem power broker Charlie Rangel, finding himself unconsulted by Eliot Spitzer on his choice of Harlem state senator David Paterson as his running mate, mocked Spitzer as “the world’s smartest man” in the Times. And prevaricating memoirist James Frey was not feeling quite so smart after Oprah Winfrey got ahold of him on live TV.


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