Comments: Week of August 3, 2009

1. Trendy Brooklyn neighborhood Williamsburg has been hit harder than most by the economic downturn, particularly in the real-estate sector. David Amsden’s investigation into the neighborhood’s high-end-housing crash (The Billyburg Bust,” July 20–27) garnered a lot of attention, particularly from those reveling in Schadenfreude: “This is perfect: a building called NV. Who were the ones, if you were so fortunate to live at NV, who were expected to envy you? I suppose it was the ‘bitter renters.’ Now it is those bitter renters who are to be envied for not having walked into the trap.” Disgruntled Williamsburgers, current and former, took a more somber note. “We lived in Williamsburg for seventeen years,” said one commenter. “We lost our loft when our greedy landlord sold out a couple of years ago. Now our former home is an unfinished hole in the ground.” Another exile chimed in, “What isn’t mentioned in this article is that hundreds of people were evicted in 2005 to clear the way for this massive failed ‘development.’ I was one of them. It is initially gratifying to see the developers fail, but heartbreaking to see the wonderful neighborhood I called home for twelve years destroyed.” But at least one person was able to see something positive in the situation: “While developers may lose, the neighborhood will win. The housing stock will adjust to supply and demand and recession. Prices will drop to a more affordable rate, and the rich will live more with everyone else.”

2. Between his purchase of the New York Observer and his romance with (and now engagement to) Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner turned himself into a public figure. But Gabriel Sherman’s profile of him, and his relationship to his felonious father, Charles (The Legacy,” July 20–27), earned the young mogul no fans. “Not nice people,” said one. “They betray their family, seem obsessed with money and power, and don’t seem like smart businesspeople.” Other commenters impugned the Kushners’ business practices. “The Observer has gone downhill since Jared took over,” said one. “He knows nothing about the newspaper business, and it shows.” Another commented, “I live near some of the rental buildings he bought in Harlem. On the one hand, he has been cleaning up the violations on these buildings bit by bit. On the other hand, lots of drug dealers and other criminals still reside in these buildings—mostly getting subsidized rents. Overall, I give him a C+ at the moment.” A lone commenter mounted a defense of the family: “It’s easy to pick the worst parts of someone’s life, put it in ink, and have all of these folks commenting anonymously. The story merely glosses over the fact that [Charlie] Kushner keeps hundreds employed in this horrendous market; the dozens of charities he funds; and his own reputation as a father, a religious man, and a good husband. Yes, they are shrewd businesspeople, but that’s something to admire, not fault.”

3. The annual rundown of New York City’s affordable restaurants (The Cheap List,” July 20–27) earned plenty of praise around the web, though the top-twenty pizza list proved very controversial, as we expected it might. Much outrage was expressed that Lucali, the beloved Carroll Gardens institution, didn’t make the cut. “Lucali’s absence throws the whole list into question,” said one commenter. Another vocal contingent proclaimed the superiority of the pie at Bensonhurst’s L&B Spumoni Gardens. “If you’ve never been to L&B, you have not lived yet,” said a fan. Many other excluded favorites were also enumerated, including “three pizzas in Staten Island that beat the overrated UPN single-handedly”: Lee’s Tavern, Denino’s, and Joe & Pat’s. As for the non-pizza items, the cost issue was, as ever, contentious. “So ‘cheap’ now is $18 a plate?” asked one. “Perhaps you ran out of space for the title ‘Cheap Eats for Mike Bloomberg’?” Geography was another sore spot: “So, everything ‘cheap’ and ‘good’ is in Manhattan or Brooklyn? You have one, exactly one, entry for Queens, the most multinational culinary borough in the whole friggin’ city.” Several more commenters had a beef with Adam Platt’s burger rundown. “I think this guy Platt doesn’t realize that we have average New Yorkers reading his stuff, and $26 is not cheap,” said one commenter. “However, in New York you have to be prepared to pay top dollar for what might not even be the best.” Minetta Tavern’s Black Label burger in particular took some heat, as commenters fumed, “For $26, I want a steak, not a burger.”

4. While Alex French’s profile of Bobby Vaughn, the owner of a new surf shop in Rockaway Park (Gangster Surf,” July 20-27), provoked some cynicism, one commenter brought the conversation back to surfing’s positive vibes: “First of all, anyone who is a true surfer believes in operating in the present, second chances, building a proud brotherhood with the boys, and bringing up the groms in the area. I’m from Southern California and now live/surf New York waters, and can speak for anyone who’s seen talent in both pools, Rockaway groms are light years away from other East Coast powers, and even further away from their California and Hawaiian peers. Point being, if no one takes the time to mold the groms in the area, they will never grow into top-level surfers. To all the boys at FTW, keep ripping, stay stoked, and always remember Eddie would go, and to Vaughn, I’m pumped to see someone pass on the stoke and soul of having fun riding waves with the next generation. Go Get Barreled!”

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Comments: Week of August 3, 2009