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Today's Reason to Be Happy the ‘Observer’ Hasn't Gone Bankrupt, Yet

Pat Buckley, the legendarily well-dressed socialite also known as Mrs. William F., died Sunday at her home in Stamford, Connecticut, and the event has prompted a flow of fond and admiring obituaries. The Observer takes its turn in paper, and it presents this delightful paragraph, which gets only more delightful as you read on:
“My favorite story is the time John Kenneth Galbraith brought Ted Kennedy to visit them in their chateau in Rougemont,” said Linda Bridges, a friend of Mrs. Buckley and a longtime editorial assistant to her husband. “And then Kennedy was going back to Gstaad, and the Galbraiths were going in the other direction. Kennedy asked if he could borrow a car to go back to Gstaad and Pat said, ‘Certainly not — there are three bridges between here and Gstaad.’”
We have no idea why the piece is illustrated, online at least, with a portrait of Molly Shannon. But, you know, small pleasures. Great Lady [NYO]

RIP Rudy's Gun-Control Plan, 1980–2006

One of the unpleasant side effects of the Virginia Tech tragedy is that every presidential candidate is scrambling to reiterate his stance on gun control. In Rudy Giuliani's eyes, per the ex-mayor's campaign statement, the massacre "does not alter the Second Amendment." Funny thing, though: As the Politico's Jonathan Martin notes today, with a YouTube clip to back him up, Old Rudy used to argue for federal firearm regulation. Giuliani's big idea — one he's been pushing, in his own words, "since at least 1980" — is to treat gun licenses like driver's licenses: to institute a written test and a physical test (for marksmanship?) under a federal law, with state-specific tweaks here and there. Leave it to Rudy to sidle up to the my-cold-dead-hands base at the moment when even some gun-loving Virginians are doubting their beliefs in the wake of a senseless bloodbath. Oh, Rudy: They still won't like you, and now you'll hate yourself too. Rudy No Longer Interested in Federal Mandate on Handguns [Politico]

Dodging the Imus Bullet

Tommy Thompson
As public figures continue to run their mouths off, the slur-apology cycle now boasts all the spontaneity of the tea ceremony. (Is that offensive? We apologize.) At this point, all one has to do is plug in the names and the insulted ethnicities and handicap the fallout. Today's culprit: Republican presidential candidate Tommy "Not Fred Dalton" Thompson. The offended party: Jews. The "joke": "I'm in the private sector, and for the first time in my life, I'm earning money. You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition, and I do not find anything wrong with that." The apology (relayed via spokesperson): "Governor Thompson recognizes he misspoke … in complimenting the success that Jewish people have had in the United States." Seeing how Thompson hasn't even bothered to damage-control the flap himself, the fallout from this one is not likely to reach Imus levels. It probably won't even ruin the man's campaign, mainly as there's not much to ruin; at this point, Thompson's fund-raising operation is outpaced by Dennis Kucinich's. Clearly, the man could use some Jews on his staff. GOPer Apologizes to Jews [NYDN]

At Least It's Free-Cone Day

Free Cone Day
While you're angrily contemplating what exactly your taxes are paying for this year, cool your fury with free ice cream. Those hippie liberals from Vermont are giving away their sweet fatty goodness for nothing! From noon to 7 p.m., experience a tastier equivalent of a Soviet bread line. The ice-cream oligarchy of Ben and Jerry's will be happy to serve you, but no promises on the availability of Americone Dream. It can be tough to find. Store Locator [Ben & Jerry's]

Fortune 500: New York City Can Kick South Korea's Ass

The 2007 Fortune 500 was released today, and the humble five boroughs — or at least two of them, Manhattan and Brooklyn — are home to 45 companies on the list. Ranked by revenue, our top two are Citigroup, at No. 8 ($146.7 billion), and American International Group, at No. 10 ($113 billion). Together, that gives New York City a GF500CP — that's a gross Fortune 500 company product — of $1.361 trillion, someplace between the GDPs of Brazil and South Korea, according to the CIA's World Fact Book. Oh, and the sole Brooklyn company? That's Keyspan, coming in at No. 326 with revenue of nearly $7.2 billion. That's a little better than the Bahamas' GDP, but not as high as Malawi's. Keep trying, Keyspan. Fortune 500 New York Companies [Fortune via CNNMoney]

Everything's Up to Date in Jersey City

On the off chance you missed today's USA Today, we thought we'd point you to some big news on the front page of America's paper: The model of America's urban future, apparently, is Jersey City. The onetime industrial burg across the Hudson is "clean, green and growing," USA Today says. It's gaining residents, jobs, and office space, and it's got plans for a "mix of loft-style residential condos and rental units, restaurants, clubs, galleries, theaters and artists' spaces" in the so-called Powerhouse Arts District. So Jersey City's up-and-coming and a good place for artists. Who knew? Model of Urban Future: Jersey City? [USA Today] If You Lived Here, You'd Be Cool By Now [NYM]

Wherein We Defend German Racism

Governor Spitzer, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other local leaders are up in arms about a German military-training video that makes an offhand racist reference to the Bronx: An instructor orders his charge to imagine something along the lines of "You're in the Bronx. Three black guys come out of a van and insult your mother." The recruit responds with a bleeped-out curse and a furious machine-gun volley and is instructed to yell louder. A German TV station got hold of the video and broadcast it disapprovingly; naturally it's made its way to YouTube. Now Carrion is demanding an apology and Sharpton is trying to get Bush involved.

At Last, Another Good Thing in New York Rudy Hasn't Claimed

From Ben Smith's blog on the Politico today:
A reader points out that the New York State Comptroller's unclaimed funds registry includes four entries since 2004 for Rudy Giuliani, with money due from a couple of health-care providers. He also appears not to have deposited a 2004 state tax refund check. He also has money due from a Los Angeles payroll company that does work for the entertainment industry, SCIE LLC, for which his listed address is the same as the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
It's good to be rich. Not That He Needs the Money [The Politico]

Bloomberg Attacks Guns, Annoys Conservatives, Amuses Us

When it comes to guns, Mike Bloomberg behaves less like a mayor and more like the 101st senator. His national anti-gun drive (okay, an anti-illegal-gun drive) began with a lawsuit against firearm dealers in neighboring states and grew from there to encompass efforts in such far-flung places as Ohio and Kentucky. Normally, and ingeniously, Bloomberg works by recruiting other city mayors to his cause, cobbling together a coalition of counterparts, now about 180 strong. Now, though, he's also lobbying Washington directly: At issue is a Republican measure that bans the ATF from sharing gun-trace data with the police, except in special cases. As a result, says Bloomberg, local authorities never get to see the full scope of firearm traffic in their own communities. A Bloomie-financed TV ad campaign is careful to draw the line between "crime" guns and "legal" ones, but the National Rifle Association is decrying it nonetheless. It's hard to tell if crafty Bloomberg is actually all-out anti-gun or not, much like it's hard to tell how, if at all, Republican he really is. In the meantime, we're just enjoying the sight of our mayor pissing off conservatives from shore to shore. As any good New Yorker should. Bloomberg Bolsters Gun Drive in Ohio and Kentucky [NYT]

Who Loves Ya, Joe Bruno?

What a great week to be Joe Bruno, majority leader of the State Senate and Albany's top Republican. First was a birthday — his 78th, on Sunday — and then came the "Thank You, Joe Bruno" campaign. Some evidently moneyed well-wishers, reports the Daily News, are praising the senator via newspaper ads and car stickers. And, last but not least, the same fans have disseminated a memo to state Republicans with instructions on how to thank Bruno properly and what to thank him for. ("Tens of thousands of new jobs for our children" is one example, because apparently the state GOP favors child labor.) With the FBI investigating his consulting business, his very tight relationships with campaign donors, and allegations of massively unethical quid pro quos, this has got to be the best week Bruno's had since last December. So who's the secret Santa? Not Bruno or anyone on his staff, the senator swears. "We're trying to figure it out ourselves," notes Jay Jochnowicz, the state editor at Albany's Times Union, which printed one of the ads and is now tracking down the entity that placed it. "It's pretty mysterious." We'll assume it's the Democrats: After all, they've got to be thanking someone that the face of the Republican party in New York is Joe Bruno. Bruno Has Some Secret Admirers [NYDN]

Meatpacking Makes History

The meatpacking district has joined the state and national registries of historic places, proudly taking its place alongside lesser Manhattan peers like Trinity Church and the Dakota. That's right, the whole club-infested, beer-drenched, hair-gel-slicked shebang — not just the formerly cute cobblestone square at Gansevoort and Ninth but all the way from Hudson Street to Washington and from Horatio Street to West 15th — is now historic. In state officials' defense, the district was nominated for the designation in 2001, when it was slightly less repulsive. And historic status is good news inasmuch as it means the neighborhood's safe from more new megaconstruction. It also means tax breaks for the area building owners (Soho House has got to be hurting for one) and state-funded renovation-rehabilitation grants. We'd like some money to rehab the Hotel Gansevoort into something resembling presentability. Meatpacking District Is Now Historic [NYP]

Steve Rattner Declares Times Co. Safe

A Reuters item from this morning that's worth not overlooking:
NEW YORK (Reuters) — New York Times Co. investors should not expect the Sulzberger family to change the way it runs the company despite pressure to scrap its dual-class share structure, a close adviser to the publisher said on Wednesday. "There's no possibility of it changing," Quadrangle Group managing principal Steven Rattner told the Reuters Hedge Funds and Private Equity Summit. "I don't think this is a situation where you're going to find some surprise ending to the story."
That's Steve Rattner, former Times reporter, billionaire media financier, and Arthur Sulzberger's best friend, declaring that the kvetching of Hassan Elmasry & Co. notwithstanding, the Sulzbergers, who control the Times Co. and can't be forced to change its stock structure or take it private unless they want to do so, don't want to do so. We suspect he knows of what he speaks. Times Won't Change Structure: Adviser [Reuters] Earlier: A Brief Rant Occasioned By Talk of a Potential Takeover Attempt at the New York Times Co.

Going to the Dogs

Dog people, rejoice: The city's off-leash rules are finally being codified into ironclad law. Come May 1, most New York City parks will officially roll out the welcome mat for your unleashed beast from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., the so-called "courtesy hours." ("Get-mauled-in-the-dark hours" doesn't have quite the same ring.) As tends to be the case with even the slightest adjustments to our city ordinances, this one is a result of a protracted and vicious court battle. Last year, a Queens civic group sued the city to stop the off-leash practice altogether; after the judge and the Board of Health came out on the dog-lover side, the city put the law on the books instead. With new liberties come new restrictions, though: Be ready to show the mutt's proof of license and rabies-vaccination papers at any time. Or get a cat. Off-Leash Laws Get Final Bark of Approval [amNY]

9/11 in Stained Glass

There's news today of what must be a first in cathedral art: A Dutch bishop yesterday blessed a new stained-glass window for Sint Jan cathedral in Den Bosch, a city 50 miles south of Amsterdam, that includes a photographic image of an airplane headed into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. (Click here for a full image of the window.) "It was an assignment by the church to make a stained glass window that was related to the spirit of this time," artist Marc Mulders said on his Website, where he explained that the pane represents hell on earth. We can understand that rationale, we guess, but we're less convinced of its artistry. Looks like bad Hieronymus Bosch. —Tayt Harlin 9/11 Pane in Church Blessed [LAT]

Second Avenue Groundbreaking: Fifth Time's the Charm

As the Second Avenue Subway's now-it's-for-real-we- promise groundbreaking looms, the Times takes a wary walk down memory lane to recall three similar ceremonies in the seventies. A Willie Neuman–narrated video revisits the consecutive groundbreakings at 103rd Street (1972), Canal Street (1973), and 2nd Street (1974). "The line had at least three groundbreakings," says the author. Oh, at the very least. As Greg Sargent reported in New York three years ago, the first mayoral pickax swing over the star-crossed project occurred way back in 1925, when the mayor was John Hylan. The next time the line came close to reality was 1950, when voters approved a $500 million bond issue to finance it. No pickax action that time: The MTA quietly funneled the money into repairs of existing lines instead. Ten years later, Nelson Rockefeller got involved, which eventually led to the seventies rash of groundbreakings with similar non-results. In a bit of ready-made symbolism, Mayor John Lindsay's swing failed to crack the asphalt in 1972. We'll see how Spitzer does on Thursday. Is That Finally the Sound of a 2nd Ave. Subway? [NYT] The Line That Time Forgot [NYM]

Albany Adventures: Fun With Pork!

Spitzer may have promised that everything in Albany would change on day one, but not even his most idealistic boosters expected his first budget to be magically pork-free — and it's not! But there's one significant shift from the Pataki years: That porcine barrel's contents — $170 million worth — are itemized right there in the budget. This porky glasnost may be good for the public interest, but the real winners here have got to be Albany reporters, like the Times Empire Zone kids, who had all sorts of fun picking it apart. After the jump, some highlights they found.

We Remain in Awe of John F. Burns

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Our favorite thing about swashbuckling Times foreign correspondent John F. Burns is neither his countless tours in Baghdad for the Times nor the difficult and exemplary work he's done elsewhere around the world through three decades at the paper. No, our favorite thing about John F. Burns, as we were freshly reminded by the video offered throughout the weekend on the Times homepage, is his hair. His awesome, awesome hair. Behold. The Battle for Baghdad [NYT]

How to Win Friends and Influence Starrett City

Let's say you're a faceless capitalist entity that's put in a bid for an enormous, subsidized apartment complex. The bid is kind of accepted, then it's rejected. The press rakes you over the coals, the locals are wary, politicians literally race each other to the site to dispense "not on my watch" sound bites, and you mull over suing your own broker. You're done, right? Not if you're David Bistricer of Clipper Equity. If you're Bistricer, you then: 1. Promise the residents "ironclad proof" that their apartments will stay subsidized. (Instead of redeveloping the towers, Clipper now simply wants to build more.) 2. Hire two lobbyists: one at home, with Spitzer connections, and one in D.C., whose brother used to be Bush's chief of staff. Have the latter set up a meeting between you and the federal Housing secretary who had rejected your application. 3. Personally meet with the federal Housing secretary. 4. Do so while flanked by two influential black ministers. 5. Make sure one of the two influential black ministers is a fraternity brother of the secretary. If nothing else, watching Bistricer 2.0 at work is a master class in PR. To be continued, we're sure. Aspiring Buyer of Starrett City Is Back Onstage [NYT] Earlier: Daily Intel's coverage of the Starrett City sale.

Introducing Haute Barnard

New York is already prohibitively expensive to live in — why not make it prohibitively expensive to go to school here, too? In what looks like a domino effect started last month by NYU (where room and board now clock in at almost $50,000 a year), just about every institution of higher learning in the city has upped its cost by between 5 and 10 percent. Columbia will charge $37,410 in the next school year; Barnard is a bargain at $35,190. Fordham is yours for $32,530, Pace is just a little over $30,000. (Pace? $30K? Wow.) Combine this with a Pell grant program that's gone rather stingy in the Bush years, and it's clear that New York's reputation as a rich-kid playground is about to get another boost. Which is to say: You know we've always loved you, our new 18-year-old midwestern overlords, right? Can we buy you a soda pop? New York City Universities Hike Tuition, Fees [Crain's]