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September 30, 2013

Among 1890s Wall Street Elite, "It Was Fashionable to Be Anti-Semitic"



GentlemenBankersBK2013-09-27.jpg













Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.






(p. A11) J.P. Morgan may well have been the most powerful banker who ever lived. Certainly he was the most powerful American banker. But the banking world that he and his firm dominated was a short-lived one, lasting only from the 1890s to the Depression of the 1930s. Susie J. Pak explores Morgan's world, especially its social aspects, in "Gentlemen Bankers," and the exploration is very interesting indeed.


. . .


In Wall Street at the time, there were two groups of private banking firms; those with Jewish partners and those with gentile ones. And while they did business together, often forming syndicates to handle large underwritings, they led separate social lives. They belonged to different clubs, stayed at different hotels and resorts. They didn't attend the weddings of one another's children. The reason, of course, was anti-Semitism. But as Ms. Pak notes, it had nothing to do with the ancient, religiously motivated anti-Semitism typical in Europe. This latter-day anti-Semitism was essentially social in character: To be blunt, it was fashionable to be anti-Semitic.

In earlier decades of the 19th century, affluent Jews had mingled socially with their gentile neighbors. They had been among the founding members of such old-line clubs as the Union Club (est. 1836) and the Union League Club (1863). Jesse Seligman, a partner in the well-regarded Jewish banking firm of J. & W. Seligman, was vice president of the Union League Club in 1893. But when he put his son up for membership that year, he was rejected. "Those who voted against him," a biographer of the Seligman family wrote, "said they had nothing against him personally; they objected to his race." His stunned father resigned from the club. He died the next year, aged 66; some said the incident contributed to his death.



For the full review, see:

JOHN STEELE GORDON. "BOOKSHELF; Book Review: 'Gentlemen Bankers' by Susie J. Pak; In the age of J.P. Morgan, the sons of Jewish bankers attended Ivy League colleges, but were excluded from the myriad social and athletic organizations." The Wall Street Journal (Fri, August 30, 2013): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date August 29, 2013, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; Book Review: 'Gentlemen Bankers' by Susie J. Pak; In the age of J.P. Morgan, the sons of Jewish bankers attended Ivy League colleges, but were excluded from the myriad social and athletic organizations.")


The book under review, is:

Pak, Susie J. Gentlemen Bankers: The World of J.P. Morgan, Harvard Studies in Business History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.







August 21, 2013

FDR and LaGuardia Legacy for NYC: Feds Fund Foolish Projects?



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Source of book image: http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/OB-XZ916_bkrvam_DV_20130627152210.jpg






(p. 16) Fiorello La Guardia is regularly ranked not only as the greatest mayor of New York City, but as the greatest mayor of any city in all of American history. His pugnacious charisma, managerial competence and expansive vision still set a near-impossible standard for any candidate for municipal office.

But, as Mason B. Williams's fascinating new book "City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York" reminds us, La Guardia's success rested to a large degree on Franklin Roose­velt's decision to "channel the resources of the federal government through the agencies of America's cities and counties."

The questions raised by the New Deal's role in the development of New York remain relevant. President Obama champions infrastructure spending, but does that spending create local value? Should Washington support cities, like Detroit, that cannot support themselves? Does the power created by an expansive public sector lead to unacceptable abuse?


. . .


Williams tells the story of La Guardia and Roosevelt with insight and elegance, but his book doesn't address the deeper controversies around that partnership. Did La Guardia's New Deal spending saddle New York with obligations too expensive to maintain in the long run? Did a car-heavy construction strategy eventually enable an exodus from the city? La Guardia built much that still has value, but did the precedent of federal funding make foolish projects more likely?

Still, Williams's aim is to write history, not policy analysis, and he succeeds impressively at that. America's cities are the country's true economic heartland, and much of our most important past is urban. "City of Ambition" helps us to understand that past.




For the full review, see:

EDWARD L. GLAESER. "Fiorello!; LaGuardia's Outsize Personality Contributed to His Success, But So Did His Partnership with Franklin D. Roosevelt." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., July 18, 2013): 16.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 18, 2013, and the title "Fiorello!; 'City of Ambition,' by Mason B. Williams.")


The book under review, is:

Williams, Mason B. City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.






July 22, 2013

Great-Grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt Privately Built First Highway Dedicated to Cars



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Source of book image: https://lihj.cc.stonybrook.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Motor-Parkway_review.jpg




(p. 13) It survives only as segments of other highways, as a right of way for power lines and as a bike trail, but the Long Island Motor Parkway still holds a sense of magic as what some historians say is the country's first road built specifically for the automobile. It opened 100 years ago last Friday as a rich man's dream.

As detailed in a new book, "The Long Island Motor Parkway" by Howard Kroplick and Al Velocci (Arcadia Publishing), the parkway ran about 45 miles across Long Island, from Queens to Ronkonkoma, and was created by William Kissam Vanderbilt II, the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

. . .


The younger Vanderbilt was a car enthusiast who loved to race. He had set a speed record of 92 miles an hour in 1904, the same year he created his own race, the Vanderbilt Cup.

But his race came under fire after a spectator was killed in 1906, and Vanderbilt wanted a safe road on which to hold the race and on which other car lovers could hurl their new machines free of the dust common on roads made for horses. The parkway would also be free of "interference from the authorities," he said in a speech.

So he created a toll road for high-speed automobile travel. It was built of reinforced concrete, had banked turns, guard rails and, by building bridges, he eliminated intersections that would slow a driver down. The Long Island Motor Parkway officially opened on Oct. 10, 1908, and closed in 1938.


. . .


But by the end of Vanderbilt's life (he died in 1944), the public had come to feel entitled to car ownership. And there was growing pressure for public highways, like the parkways that the urban planner Robert Moses was building.

. . .


In 1938, Moses refused Vanderbilt's appeal to incorporate the motor parkway into his new parkway system. The motor parkway just could not compete with the public roads, even after the toll was reduced to 40 cents, and Moses eventually gained control of Vanderbilt's pioneering road for back taxes of about $80,000. The day of public roads had come, supplanting private highways.


. . .


The parkway marked the beginning of a process: the road was designed for the car. But in offering higher speeds, the parkway and other modern roads would push cars to their technical limits and beyond, inspiring innovation. In that sense, the first modern automobile highway helped to create the modern automobile.



For the full story, see:

PHIL PATTON. "A 100-Year-Old Dream: A Road Just for Cars." The New York Times, SportsSunday Section (Sun., October 12, 2008): 13.

(Note: the centered bold ellipses were in the original; the other ellipses were added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 9, 2008.)


The book mentioned in the article, is:

Kroplick, Howard, and Al Velocci. The Long Island Motor Parkway. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.



LongIslandMotorParkwayRouteMap2013-07-21.jpg "Approximate Route of Long Island Motor Parkway." Source of caption and map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.







May 28, 2013

Modern Cities Are "Successful Former Slums" that Allowed "Vibrant Economic Activity"



(p. 82) Babylon, London, and New York all had teeming ghettos of unwanted settlers erecting shoddy shelters with inadequate hygiene and engaging in dodgy dealings. Historian Bronislaw Geremek states that "slums constituted a large part of the urban landscape" of Paris in the Middle Ages. Even by the 1780s, when Paris was at its peak, nearly 20 percent of its residents did not have a "fixed abode"--that is, they lived in shacks. In a familiar complaint about medieval French cities, a gentleman from that time noted: "Several families inhabit one house. A (p. 83) weaver's family may be crowded into a single room, where they huddle around a fireplace." That refrain is repeated throughout history. A century ago Manhattan was home to 20,000 squatters in self-made housing. Slab City alone, in Brooklyn (named after the use of planks stolen from lumber mills), contained 10,000 residents in its slum at its peak in the 1880s. In the New York slums, reported the New York Times in 1858, "nine out of ten of the shanties have only one room, which does not average over twelve feet square, and this serves all the purposes of the family."

San Francisco was built by squatters. As Rob Neuwirth recounts in his eye-opening book Shadow Cities, one survey in 1855 estimated that "95 percent of the property holders in [San Francisco] would not be able to produce a bona fide legal title to their land." Squatters were everywhere, in the marshes, sand dunes, military bases. One eyewitness said, "Where there was a vacant piece of ground one day, the next saw it covered with half a dozen tents or shanties." Philadelphia was largely settled by what local papers called "squatlers." As late as 1940, one in five citizens in Shanghai was a squatter. Those one million squatters stayed and kept upgrading their slum so that within one generation their shantytown became one of the first twenty-first-century cities.

That's how it works. This is how all technology works. A gadget begins as a junky prototype and then progresses to something that barely works. The ad hoc shelters in slums are upgraded over time, infrastructure is extended, and eventually makeshift services become official. What was once the home of poor hustlers becomes, over the span of generations, the home of rich hustlers. Propagating slums is what cities do, and living in slums is how cities grow. The majority of neighborhoods in almost every modern city are merely successful former slums. The squatter cities of today will become the blue-blood neighborhoods of tomorrow. This is already happening in Rio and Mumbai today.

Slums of the past and slums of today follow the same description. The first impression is and was one of filth and overcrowding. In a ghetto a thousand years ago and in a slum today shelters are haphazard and dilapidated. The smells are overwhelming. But there is vibrant economic activity.



Source:

Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking Adult, 2010.

(Note: italics, and bracketed "San Francisco" in original.)






April 11, 2013

Global Warming Causes Trees to Grow Faster and Absorb More CO2



CentralParkTrees2013-03-08.jpg "CITY TREE, COUNTRY TREE; Scientists have been looking more closely at urban plant growth in places like Central Park." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D3) . . . , some . . . scientists have moved beyond political questions to explore how rising levels of heat and emissions might provide at least some benefits for the planet.


. . .


Lewis H. Ziska, a plant physiologist for the Department of Agriculture, . . . [said] . . . , "we need to think about the tools we have at hand, and how we can use them to make climate change work for us."

Among the tools are cities, which have conditions that can mimic what life may be like in the temperate zone of a heated planet.

"The city is our baseline for what might happen in future decades, and with all the negative effects global warming may have, there may be a bit of a silver lining," said Stephanie Searle, a plant physiologist who led a Columbia University research project on tree growth, and now works as a biofuels researcher at the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation. "Higher nighttime temperatures, at least, may boost plant growth." Robust growth takes more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.


. . .


The effects of higher, mostly urban emissions are what prompted Dr. Ziska to reappraise global warming as a potential benefit to humanity. In an essay last summer in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr. Ziska and a group of colleagues from across the world argued that an expected increase in world population to 9 billion people from 7 billion by 2050 necessitated a "green revolution" to enhance yields of basic grains. Carbon dioxide, the group suggested, could be the answer.

Since 1960, world atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen by 24 percent to 392 parts per million and could reach 1,000 parts per million by the end of this century.


. . .


In New York, the Columbia researchers studied for eight years the growth of red oak seedlings at four locations, including an "urban" site near the northeastern edge of Central Park at 105th Street and a "remote" site in the Catskills 100 miles north of Manhattan near the Ashokan Reservoir.


. . .


The Columbia team's first red oak experiments ended in 2006, and average minimum temperatures in August were 71.6 degrees at the city site, but 63.5 degrees in the Catskills. Researchers also noticed that the city oaks had elevated levels of leaf nitrogen, a plant nutrient.

The team did two more rounds of experiments, then in 2008 made a final outdoor test using fertilized rural soil everywhere so all the seedlings got plenty of nitrogen. The urban oaks, harvested in August 2008, weighed eight times as much as their rural cousins, mostly because of increased foliage.

"On warm nights, the tree respires more," Dr. Griffin said. "It invests its carbon sugars to build tissue." By morning, the tree's sugars are depleted, and it has to photosynthesize more during the day, he continued. The tree grows more leaves and gets bigger.



For the full story, see:

GUY GUGLIOTTA. "Looking to Cities, in Search of Global Warming's Silver Lining." The New York Times (Tues., November 27, 2012): D3.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed "said" added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 26, 2012.)



The Ziska article mentioned above, is:

Ziska, Lewis H., James A. Bunce, Hiroyuki Shimono, David R. Gealy, Jeffrey T. Baker, Paul C. D. Newton, Matthew P. Reynolds, Krishna S. V. Jagadish, Chunwu Zhu, Mark Howden, and Lloyd T. Wilson. "Food Security and Climate Change: On the Potential to Adapt Global Crop Production by Active Selection to Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279, no. 1745 (Oct. 22, 2012): 4097-105.


The article co-authored by Searle and Griffin, and mentioned above, is:

Searle, Stephanie Y., Danielle S. Bitterman, Samuel Thomas, Kevin L. Griffin, Owen K. Atkin, and Matthew H. Turnbull. "Respiratory Alternative Oxidase Responds to Both Low- and High-Temperature Stress in Quercus Rubra Leaves Along an Urban-Rural Gradient in New York." Functional Ecology 25, no. 5 (Oct. 2011): 1007-17.






March 26, 2013

New York Resisted Roosevelt's Enforcing "Stupid" Vice Laws



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Source of book image: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/i/island-of-vice/9780385519724_custom-e38a25fc66f104a049d4d24aa39dbe92d42fbd57-s6-c10.jpg



(p. C9) . . . as Richard Zacks's excellent "Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York" ably shows, while we might like to believe that the stretch from 1970 to 1995 represents the city's nadir, it was just about business as usual in New York over the centuries.

From its time as a Dutch colonial outpost, the city has always been pretty bad. You'd almost think New Yorkers prefer it that way. Of course, we don't like fraud, robbery, assault, arson, rape or murder any more than anyone else does. But the deliberate injury of one's fellow citizen isn't the only way to break the law. There are also those crimes that fall under the broad category of "vice": things such as gambling, prostitution, indecent exposure and selling alcohol at a convenient time. Historically, the average New Yorker has not greeted these acts with the same immediate urge to suppress that many of his or her fellow Americans have had. You don't get a nickname like "The City That Never Sleeps" without having a certain amount of things worth staying up for.


. . .


In the end, Mr. Zacks's exhaustively researched yet lively story is a classic battle between an irresistible force, Roosevelt's ego, and an immovable object, the people of New York's unwillingness to follow laws they thought were stupid. In this case, the object won, and handily. Mr. Zacks's account of the way the city's saloonkeepers instantly turned their establishments into hotels to take advantage of a loophole in the law is particularly amusing. Eventually, the police department, not unsympathetic to the Sunday tippler, began finding ways to wriggle out from under the commissioner's thumb, and beer-friendly Tammany Hall, with the people solidly behind it, began peeling away his allies.



For the full review, see:

DAVID WONDRICH. "BOOKSHELF; Teddy's Rough Ride." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 17, 2012): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 30, 2012.)



Book under review:

Zacks, Richard. Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-Loving New York. New York: Doubleday, 2012.






March 8, 2013

Most in NYC Oppose Bloomberg's Nanny State Soda Ban



OgunbiyiRocheDrinksLargeSodaTimesSquare2013-02-23.jpg "Theodore Ogunbiyi-Roche, 10, who is visiting from London, drank a large soda in Times Square . . . " Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A18) . . . , New Yorkers are cool to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's plan to prohibit sales of large sugary drinks in city restaurants, stadiums and movie theaters, according to a . . . poll by The New York Times.

Six in 10 residents said the mayor's soda plan was a bad idea, compared with 36 percent who called it a good idea. A majority in every borough was opposed; Bronx and Queens residents were more likely than Manhattanites to say the plan was a bad idea.


. . .


. . . those opposed overwhelmingly cited a sense that Mr. Bloomberg was overreaching with the plan and that consumers should have the freedom to make a personal choice . . .

"The ban is at the point where it is an infringement of civil liberties," Liz Hare, 43, a scientific researcher in Queens, said in a follow-up interview. "There are many other things that people do that aren't healthy, so I think it's a big overreach."

Bob Barocas, 64, of Queens, put it more bluntly: "This is like the nanny state going off the wall."



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM and MARJORIE CONNELLY. "60% in City Oppose Soda Ban, Calling It an Overreach by Bloomberg, Poll Finds." The New York Times (Thurs., August 23, 2012): A18.

(Note: ellipses in caption and article added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 22, 2012, and the title "60% in City Oppose Bloomberg's Soda Ban, Poll Finds.")






January 16, 2013

Descartes Saw that a Great City Is "an Inventory of the Possible"



(p. 226) Joel Kotkin writes about "The Broken Ladder: The Threat to Upward Mobility in the Global City." "A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th Century, represented 'an inventory of the possible,' a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families. In the 21st Century--the first in which the majority of people will live in cities--this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility will become ever more critical."


Source:

Taylor, Timothy. "Recommendations for Further Reading." Journal of Economic Perspectives 24, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 219-26.






November 18, 2012

"The Bulk of New Yorkers Do Not Have an Unlimited Appetite for Growing Their Own Kale"



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". . . , Ena K. McPherson holds the key to three different community gardens." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. D1) There is some evidence, . . . , that the bulk of New Yorkers do not have an unlimited appetite for growing their own kale. Official counts of New York gardens are fragmentary. But John Ameroso, the Johnny Appleseed of the New York community garden movement, suspects that the number of present-day gardens -- around 800 -- may be half what it was in the mid-1980s.

In his long career as an urban extension agent for Cornell University, Mr. Ameroso, 67, kept a log with ratings of all the plots he visited. "I remember that there were a lot of gardens that were not in use or minimally used," he said. "Into the later '80s, a lot of these disappeared or were abandoned. Or maybe there was one person working them. If nothing was developed on them, they just got overgrown."

The truth, Ms. Stone said, is that at any giv-(p. D6)en time, perhaps 10 percent of the city's current stock of almost 600 registered GreenThumb gardens is growing mostly weeds. "In East New York, I can tell you that there are basically many gardens that are barely functioning now."


. . .


An honest census would reveal that many gardens (perhaps most) depend on just one or two tireless souls, said Ena K. McPherson, a Brooklyn garden organizer. She would know because she's one of them.

Ms. McPherson holds the keys to three community gardens in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (Ms. Stone appreciatively refers to these blocks as "the Greater Ena McPherson Zone.") And she serves on the operations committee for the nonprofit Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, which holds the deeds to 32 garden plots.

"In an ideal situation, we would have gardens with everyone in the community participating," Ms. McPherson said. "But in fact, a few die-hard people end up carrying the flag."


. . .


The original gardens followed the city's vacant lots, which by 1978 numbered 32,000. Mr. Ameroso, though trained in agronomy, pitched them as an instrument for community renewal. "How did you take back your block?" he said. "Put in a community garden and stop that dumping."

Ms. Stone, who laughingly (and earnestly) describes herself as a socialist, continues to embrace something of this mission. "All the people who are marginal in society -- and I'm not using that as a judgmental term, it's children, senior citizens, people on disability, the 47 percent -- these people are the main power people in the garden," she said.

These days, Mr. Ameroso espouses more of what he calls an "urban agriculture" model: a food garden with a dedicated farmers' market or a C.S.A. These amenities make stakeholders out of neighbors who may not like dirt under their nails and rural farmers who drive in every weekend.

"The urban-agriculture ones are flourishing," he said. "There's a lot of excitement. They're active eight days a week." But "community gardens, as such, where people come in to take care of their own boxes -- those are not flourishing."

It's almost a cliché to point out that this new green model seems to have attracted tillers with a different skin tone. "Back then," Mr. Ameroso said of his earlier career, "when we worked in Bronx or Bed-Stuy, it was mostly communities of color. Now when we talk about the urban agriculture stuff, it's white people in their 30s."

What explains this demographic shift?

"I have no idea," he said. "I'm still baffled by it, and I'm involved in it!"



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL TORTORELLO. "IN THE GARDEN; Growing Everything but Gardeners." The New York Times (Sat., November 1, 2012): D1 & D6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated October 31, 2012.)






August 5, 2012

In Health Care, He Who Pays the Piper, Calls the Tune



(p. A15) Under the Bloomberg plan, any cup or bottle of sugary drink larger than 16 ounces at a public venue would be verboten, beginning early next year.


. . .


Here is the ultimate justification for the Bloomberg soft-drink ban, not to mention his smoking ban, his transfat ban, and his unsuccessful efforts to enact a soda tax and prohibit buying high-calorie drinks with food stamps: The taxpayer is picking up the bill.

Call it the growing chattelization of the beneficiary class under government health-care programs. Bloombergism is a secular trend. Los Angeles has sought to ban new fast-food shops in neighborhoods disproportionately populated by Medicaid recipients, Utah to increase Medicaid copays for smokers, Arizona to impose a special tax on Medicaid recipients who smoke or are overweight.



For the full commentary, see:

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. "BUSINESS WORLD; The 5th Avenue to Serfdom; Nobody thought about taking away your Big Gulp until the government began to pay for everyone's health care." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., June 2, 2012): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 1, 2012.)





May 2, 2012

"There Was Never a Plan . . . Just a Series of Mistakes"



CaroRobert2012-04-30.jpg "Robert Caro in his Manhattan office. The later volumes of his L.B.J. biography have taken more years to write than it took the former president to live them." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 37) "There was never a plan," Caro said to me, explaining how he had become a historian and biographer. "There was just a series of mistakes."


. . .


(p. 38) Caro had a[n] . . . epiphany about power in the early '60s. He had moved on to Newsday by then, where he discovered that he had a knack for investigative reporting, and was assigned to look into a plan by Robert Moses to build a bridge from Rye, N.Y., across Long Island Sound to Oyster Bay. "This was the world's worst idea," he told me. "The piers would have had to be so big that they'd disrupt the tides." Caro wrote a series exposing the folly of this scheme, and it seemed to have persuaded just about everyone, including the governor, Nelson Rockefeller. But then, he recalled, he got a call from a friend in Albany saying, "Bob, I think you need to come up here." Caro said: "I got there in time for a vote in the Assembly authorizing some preliminary step toward the bridge, and it passed by something like 138-4. That was one of the transformational moments of my life. I got in the car and drove home to Long Island, and I kept thinking to myself: 'Everything you've been doing is baloney. You've been writing under the belief that power in a democracy comes from the ballot box. But here's a guy who has never been elected to anything, who has enough power to turn the entire state around, and you don't have the slightest idea how he got it.' "

The lesson was repeated in 1965, when Caro had a Nieman fellowship at Harvard and took a class in land use and urban planning. "They were talking one day about highways and where they got built," he recalled, "and here were these mathematical formulas about traffic density and population density and so on, and all of a sudden I said to myself: 'This is completely wrong. This isn't why highways get built. Highways get built because Robert Moses wants them built there. If you don't find out and explain to people where Robert Moses gets his power, then everything else you do is going to be dishonest.' "



For the full story, see:

CHARLES McGRATH. "Robert Caro's Big Dig." The New York Times Magazine (Sun., April 15, 2012): 34-39 & 52.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed letter added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 12, 2012.)


Caro's book on Robert Moses is:

Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1974.





July 24, 2011

Bricks-and-Mortar Restaurants Use Police (Instead of Better Food) to Beat Food Trucks



KimImaAndKennyLaoFoodTruck2011-07-16.jpg "Kim Ima and Kenny Lao parked their food trucks on Front Street in Dumbo." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D4) FOOD trucks, those rolling symbols of New York City's infatuation with haute casual food, are suddenly being chased from Midtown Manhattan. In the last 10 days, the Treats Truck, which has sold cookies and brownies for four years during lunchtime at West 45th Street near Avenue of the Americas, has been told by police officers that it is no longer welcome there, nor at its late-afternoon 38th Street and Fifth Avenue location. The Rickshaw Dumpling truck, a presence for three years at West 45th Street near the Treats Truck, has been shooed away as well.

The police "have told us they no longer want food trucks in Midtown," said Kim Ima, the owner of the Treats Truck, a pioneer of the city's new-wave food-truck movement, who began cultivating customers on West 45th Street in 2007.


. . .


Mr. Lao and other food-truck operators said they suspect that the police are responding to complaints by brick-and-mortar businesses that resent competition. Such was the case last year, when store merchants on the Upper East Side complained about Patty's Taco Truck, which sold tortas, tacos de lengua and cemitas on Lexington Avenue. The truck was towed several times and the operator arrested, prompting the Street Vendor Project, an advocate for vendors based at the Urban Justice Center, to file the lawsuit that resulted in Judge Wright's ruling, which said food is merchandise that can be regulated.



For the full story, see:

GLENN COLLINS. "Food Trucks Shooed From Midtown." The New York Times (Weds., June 29, 2011): D4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated June 28, 2011.)






June 22, 2011

Some New York Public School Teachers Still Well Paid to Do Busy Work



(p. A1) For her first assignment of the school year, Verona Gill, a $100,000-a-year special education teacher whom the city is trying to fire, sat around education offices in Lower Manhattan for two weeks, waiting to be told what to do.

For her second assignment, she was sent to a district office in the Bronx and told to hand out language exams to anyone who came to pick them up. Few did.

Now, Ms. Gill reports to a cubicle in Downtown Brooklyn with a broken computer and waits for it to be fixed. Periodically, her supervisor comes by to tell her she is still working on the problem. It has been this way since Oct. 8.

"I have no projects to do, so I sit there until 2:50 p.m. -- that's six hours and 50 minutes," the official length of the teacher workday, she said. "And then I swipe out."

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg closed the notorious reassignment centers known as rubber rooms this year, he and the city's teachers' union announced triumphantly that one of the most obvious sources of (p. A3) waste in the school system -- $30 million a year in salaries being paid to educators caught up in the glacial legal process required to fire them -- was no more.

No longer would hundreds of teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence, like Ms. Gill, clock in and out of trailers or windowless rooms for years, doing nothing more than snoozing or reading newspapers, griping or teaching one another tai chi. Instead, their cases would be sped up, and in the meantime they would be put to work.

While hundreds of teachers have had their cases resolved, for many of those still waiting, the definition of "work" has turned out to be a loose one. Some are now doing basic tasks, like light filing, paper-clipping, tracking down student information on a computer or using 25-foot tape measures to determine the dimensions of entire school buildings. Others sit without work in unadorned cubicles or at out-of-the-way conference tables.



For the full story, see:

SHARON OTTERMAN. "For New York, Teachers Still in Idle Limbo." The New York Times (Weds., December 8, 2010): A1 & A3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated December 7, 2010 and has the title "New York Teachers Still in Idle Limbo.")





August 14, 2010

Both New York City and Cars Assert Individuality and Enterprise



(p. C5) If the culture and character of some cities are closely associated with modes of transportation (gondolas in Venice, bicycles in Amsterdam), the automobile may be the defining force in New York, not because it decreed the layout of streets or because it is essential (as in Los Angeles), but because its assertion of individuality and enterprise and its readiness to expand beyond assigned boundaries had so much to do with the city's spirit.


For the full review, see:

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN. "Last Chance; Exhibition Review; The Anatomy of a Citywide Traffic Jam." The New York Times (Tues., July 20, 2010): C1 & C5.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 19, 2010.)






May 18, 2010

Housing Crumbles Under Portugal's Rent Control Laws



Stigler and Friedman's only co-authored paper showed the flaws in rent controls. Although excellent, the paper apparently is seldom read in Portugal (or New York City).


(p. B3) LISBON -- José Gago da Graça owns a Portuguese real estate company and has two identical apartments in the same building in the heart of Lisbon. One rents for €2,750 a month, the other for almost 40 times less, €75.

The discrepancy is a result of 100-year-old tenancy rules, which have frozen the rent of hundreds of thousands of tenants and protected them against eviction in Portugal. Mr. Gago da Graça has been in a lawsuit for a decade over the €75-a-month apartment, since his tenant died in 2000 and her son took over and refused to alter his mother's contract, which dates to the 1960s.

"We're the only country in Europe that doesn't have a free housing market and that's just amazing," Mr. Gago da Graça said.

Rules like these, which economists also blame for contributing to Portugal's private debt load, help explain why this nation of 11 million has followed Greece and Spain into investors' line of fire.


. . .


The . . . rules helped protect tenants, but also led to a chronic shortage of rental housing. This, in turn, persuaded a new generation of Portuguese to tap recently into low interest rates and buy instead -- often in new suburbs -- thereby exacerbating the country's mortgage debt and leaving Portugal with one of Europe's lowest savings rates, of 7.5 percent.

"This system of controlled rents is a major problem for the Portuguese economy, but we will probably be waiting for a generational change to have room for institutional reform," said Cristina Casalinho, chief economist of Banco BPI, a Portuguese bank. Beyond fueling housing credit, she added, the system "basically stops flexibility and mobility in the labor market because you can perhaps find a new job in another city but it will then be very difficult to rent a house there."


. . .


"Nobody has had the political courage to change something like these rental laws and I don't see the situation changing in the short term, even if I don't think the Portuguese tend to react as dramatically as the Greeks," said Salvador Posser, who runs a family-owned company renting out construction equipment.

Besides distorting pricing in the housing market, the tenancy rules have left physical scars. Portugal's historic city centers are dotted with abandoned and crumbling houses that are either subject to a court dispute or have rental income that cannot cover repair and maintenance costs.

"This economic crisis is clearly keeping our very slow courts even more occupied because of the amount of conflict that it is creating between landlords and tenants," said Menezes Leitão, a law professor and president of PLA, a property owners association.

Mr. Posser cited a recent estimate that 8 percent of the buildings in central Lisbon were deserted, in large part because of rent-related obstacles. In Porto, the second-largest city, less than 10 percent of inner-city housing is available for rent, which has helped shrink the population by a third over three decades.

"We're still losing about 30 inhabitants a day," said Rui Moreira, president of the Porto Commercial Association.




For the full story, see:

RAPHAEL MINDER. "Like Spain, Portugal Hopes to Make Cuts, but It Is Mired in Structural Weakness." The New York Times (Fri., May 14, 2010): B3.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated May 13, 2010 and has the title "Portugal Follows Spain on Austerity Cuts.")

(Note: ellipses added.)


The original source of the Friedman and Stigler article (in pamphlet form) was:

Friedman, Milton, and George J. Stigler. Roofs or Ceilings? The Current Housing Problem. Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1946.





May 11, 2010

Alert Street Vendor Hero Saves the Day



OrtonLanceStreetVendorHero2010-05-05.jpg"Lance Orton, center, who sells T-shirts, said that as a veteran he was proud of his actions. But he spurned most questions." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


Hernando de Soto has shown that entrepreneurial street-vending is an important path for the very poor to constructively improve their lives. And yet governments around the world, including ours, consistently make it hard for street vendors to ply their trade.

Yet, on balance, street vendors make our lives better, not only through their products and services, but also through their alert eyes that make our city streets safer. Jane Jacobs made the point that the presence of good people observing the streets is a key ingredient of urban safety, one that was too-often removed by well-intentioned, but ill-conceived city-planners' urban-renewal projects.

The incident recounted below also adds one more case to the well-documented conclusions of Amanda Ripley, who showed us that our safety in avoiding and being rescued from disasters rests in the alertness, preparation, level-headedness and good will of ordinary citizens on the scene.

There may be professionals who are better trained, but outcomes often depend on what is done quickly, and usually only those who are on the scene are able to act quickly.

And although the politically correct will glower at you for mentioning it, there are obvious implications for the issue of gun control.


(p. A19) Even in Times Square, where little seems unusual, the Nissan Pathfinder parked just off Broadway on the south side of 45th Street -- engine running, hazard lights flashing, driver nowhere to be found -- looked suspicious to the sidewalk vendors who regularly work this area.

And it was the keen eyes of at least two of them -- both disabled Vietnam War veterans who say they are accustomed to alerting local police officers to pickpockets and hustlers -- that helped point the authorities to the Pathfinder, illegally and unusually parked next to their merchandise of inexpensive handbags and $2.99 "I Love NY" T-shirts.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, the vendors -- Lance Orton and Duane Jackson, who both served during the Vietnam War and now rely on special sidewalk vending privileges for disabled veterans -- said they told nearby officers about the Pathfinder, which had begun filling with smoke and then emitted sparks and popping sounds.


. . .


But in a city hungry for heroes, the spotlight first turned to the vendors. Mr. Orton, a purveyor of T-shirts, ran from the limelight early Sunday morning as he spurned reporters' questions while gathering his merchandise on a table near where the Pathfinder was parked.

When asked if he was proud of his actions, Mr. Orton, who said he had been selling on the street for about 20 years, replied: "Of course, man. I'm a veteran. What do you think?"

Mr. Jackson, on the other hand, embraced his newfound celebrity, receiving an endless line of people congratulating him while he sold cheap handbags, watches and pashmina scarves all day Sunday.


. . .


As for Mr. Orton, he rested on Sunday at a relative's house, leaving others to talk on his behalf. "When he was in Vietnam, he said they had to make decisions and judgments from their gut, from their own feelings," said Miriam Cintron, the mother of Mr. Orton's son. "His instinct was telling him something's not right. I guess he was right."

She said Mr. Orton would mediate disputes between the police and other vendors, and when something did not look right, he would alert the police. "He always said, 'Downtown is where they're going to come to, and I'm going to be right there,' " Ms. Cintron said.

When Mr. Orton left Times Square about 7 a.m. on Sunday, he did so to a hero's reception. As he walked down the street, employees from Junior's restaurant stood outside applauding him. He briefly entered the restaurant before heading toward 44th Street.

Using a cane and wearing a white fedora, Mr. Orton limped away and hopped a cab home to the Bronx, but not before repeating a terror-watch mantra: "See something, say something."



For the full story, see:

COREY KILGANNON and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT. "Vendors Who Alerted Police Called Heroes." The New York Times (Mon., May 3, 2010): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 2, 2010 and has the title "Vendors Who Alerted Police Called Heroes.")


The most relevant Hernando de Soto book is:

Soto, Hernando de. The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World. New York: Basic Books, 1989.


The most relevant Jane Jacobs book is:

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961.


The Amanda Ripley book mentioned is:

Ripley, Amanda. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.





May 3, 2010

New York City Government Protects Us from More than Three Living in an Apartment



RoommatesBreakingLawMouaGroup.jpg"From left, Doua Moua, 23, George Summer, 30, and David Everett and Jasmine Ward, both 21, are among six people in a four-bedroom apartment in Hamilton Heights. "It's part of New York City culture," Mr. Moua said." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A16) Doua Moua, 23, played a menacing gangster in a Clint Eastwood movie, but Mr. Moua swears he really is a nice, gentle and rules-abiding fellow. At least he was until he moved to New York City and unwittingly slipped into a world of lawlessness.

Mr. Moua lives with five roommates. And in New York, home to some of the nation's highest rents and more than eight million people, many of them single, it is illegal for more than three unrelated people to live in an apartment or a house.


. . .


Mr. Moua's landlord, who did not want his name published for fear of a crackdown, said he wrestled with converting some of his apartments into four-bedroom units. He knew it was illegal to allow four unrelated people to live together, but decided that if tenants were willing to live in what was once a dining room, it was fine with him. He could collect slightly more in rent over all and charge less for each room.

"If it's done in a good way, and there's not unlimited cramming in, and the shared facilities are adequate," the landlord said, "then it actually helps solve the affordable housing problem, which I think is a good thing."



For the full story, see:

CARA BUCKLEY. "A Law Limits Housemates to Three? Who Knew?" The New York Times (Mon., March 29, 2010): A16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 28, 2010 and has the title "In New York, Breaking a Law on Roommates.")



RoommatesBreakingLaw2010-04-30.jpg"From left, Anya Kogan, 27, Jordan Dann, 33, Nick Turner, 29, and Michelle McGowan, 32, share a town house in Brooklyn." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





April 29, 2010

New York City Would Creatively Adapt to Global Warming



NewYorkWaterfrontNewLandscape2010-04-26.jpg "Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront In this MoMA show, a model by Architecture Research Office marries a wholly new landscape to Lower Manhattan's streets." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


Much is in doubt about "global warming" including how much the globe will warm, and how fast, to what extent the benefits of global warming would balance the costs, and what actions (such as Nathan Myhrvold's creative plan) might be taken to counteract global warming.

But one certainty is that if governments leave innovative entrepreneurial capitalism alone, human creativity will find ways to adapt in order to increase the benefits and reduce the costs.

Few cities have displayed as much creative destruction in architecture as New York. (One book on New York architecture was even called The Creative Destruction of Manhattan"). The article quoted below describes some visions of how New York City might adapt to an increase in sea level that might result from global warming.


(p. C21) "Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront," a new show at the Museum of Modern Art, reflects a level of apocalyptic thinking about this city that we haven't seen since it was at the edge of financial collapse in the 1970s, a time when muggers roamed freely, and graffiti covered everything.

Organized by Barry Bergdoll, the Modern's curator of architecture and design, the show is a response to the effects that rising sea levels are expected to have on New York City and parts of New Jersey over the next 70 or so years, according to government studies. The solutions it proposes are impressively imaginative, ranging from spongelike sidewalks to housing projects suspended over water to transforming the Gowanus Canal into an oyster hatchery.


. . .


(p. C23) A general interest in re-examining parts of the urban fabric that we take for granted, like streets, piers and canals -- as opposed to the more familiar desire to create striking visual objects -- is one of the main strengths of the exhibition. A team led by Matthew Baird Architects, for example, has focused on a huge oil refinery in Bayonne, N.J., that, if current estimates hold, will be entirely under water before our toddlers have hit retirement age. Rather than taking the predictable and bland route of transforming the industrial site into a park, the team proposes a system of piers that would support bio-fuel and recycling plants, including one that would produce the building blocks for artificial reefs out of recycled glass.

Those large, multipronged objects, which the architects call "jacks," could be dumped off boats in strategically chosen locations, where their forms would naturally interlock to create artificial reefs once they settled at the bottom of the harbor. The jacks are magical objects, at once tough and delicate, and when you see examples of them from across the room at MoMA, their heavy legs and crushed glass surfaces make them look almost like buildings.

But here again, what's really commendable about the design is the desire to look deeper into how systems -- in this case, global systems, both natural and economic -- work. According to Mr. Baird's research, the melting of the ice cap could one day create a northern shipping passage that would make New York Harbor virtually obsolete. The manufacturing component of the design is meant as part of a broader realignment of the city's economy that anticipates that shift.




For the full story, see:

NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF. "Architecture Review; The Future: A More Watery New York." The New York Times (Fri., March 26, 2010): C21 & C23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: The online version of the article is dated March 25, 2010 and has the title "Architecture Review; 'Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront'; Imagining a More Watery New York.")


The book I mention in my comments is:

Page, Max. The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.





December 18, 2009

The Wall of Wall Street Failed to Repel the Invaders



WallStreetMap2009-11-11.jpg












"New York City's history begins in the small space below Wall Street." Source of caption and map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. 34) Bowling Green was then part of "a parade ground where soldiers practiced maneuvers," he continued. "That very quickly turned into a market space where farmers in outlying districts brought their produce to sell. It became a famous place for prostitutes to haunt in the evening. And in the early 18th century it was where people played lawn bowling."

From the start, Mr. Caldwell said, it was a party town, known for its many taverns, "the all-purpose repositories of night life. There were theatrical performances, dancing, gambling and concerts."

In 1979 and 1980 archaeologists dug for the remains of two famous taverns that had stood on Pearl Street near Coenties Slip. Transparent panels in the plaza along Pearl Street display part of the stone foundation they found of the King's House tavern (also known as Lovelace Tavern), built in 1670. Light-colored paving stones nearby outline the modest footprint of the City Tavern (Stadt Herbergh), built in 1641. In 1653 it also became the first City Hall, the Stadt Huys. And it contained a jail.

"So you could, in one day, go from sitting on a court case to a drunken debauch to jail, without ever leaving this little place where we're standing," Mr. Caldwell noted.

A few blocks north, at what was then the edge of the city, the Dutch built a defensive wall across the island in 1653. Like Fort Amsterdam, it proved of no use when the British seized New Amsterdam in 1664 and renamed it New York.

"It was essentially an earthwork with a wooden palisade on top," explained Steve Laise, the National Parks Service's chief of cultural resources for Federal Hall National Memorial, a Greek Revival landmark on Wall Street. Today's Wall Street follows the dirt lane that was just inside this defense. "When you walk on Wall Street, you're literally walking in the footsteps of the burghers of New Amsterdam," Mr. Laise said.




For the full story, see:

JOHN STRAUSBAUGH. "Weekend Explorer; Home on the Corner of Boom and Bust." The New York Times (Fri., January 2, 2009): C29 & C34.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated Thurs., Jan. 1st.)





October 11, 2009

Dutch Were Too Busy Trading to Build a Church



NewAmsterdamPrint2009-09-26.jpg "Print of New Amsterdam by Joost Hartgers, 1626." Source of caption and image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A15) The financial collapse of 2008 and the Great Recession have had, not surprisingly, a major adverse impact on the economy of the country's financial center, New York City. There have been over 40,000 job losses in the financial community alone and both city and state budgets are deeply dependent on tax revenues from this one industry. There has been much talk that New York might take years to recover--if, indeed, it ever can.

But if one looks at the history of New York there is reason for much optimism. The city's whole raison d'être since its earliest days explains why.

The Puritans in New England, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland first and foremost came to what would be the United States to find the freedom to worship God as they saw fit. The Dutch--who invented many aspects of modern capitalism and became immensely rich in the process--came to Manhattan to make money. And they didn't much care who else came to do the same. Indeed, they were so busy trading beaver pelts they didn't even get around to building a church for 17 years.

Twenty years after the Dutch arrived, the settlement at the end of Manhattan had only about a thousand inhabitants. But it was already so cosmopolitan that a French priest heard no fewer than 18 languages being spoken on its streets.


. . .


Deep within the heart of this vast metropolis--like the child within the adult--there is still to be found that little hustly-bustly, live-and-let-live, let's-make-a-deal Dutch village. And the creation of wealth is still the city's dearest love.



For the full commentary, see:

JOHN STEELE GORDON. "Opinion; Don't Bet Against New York; The financial crisis has been devastating, but the city has reinvented itself many times before.." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 19, 2009): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





May 18, 2009

Greenmarket Rules Are "Cumbersome, Confusing and Contradictory"



HesseDanteGreenmarket.jpg "Dante Hesse, . . . , of Milk Thistle Farm, thinks Greenmarket rules are too hard on dairies." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. (Note: ellipsis in caption added.)


(p. D4) The basic aim of the producer-only rules is to ensure that all foods sold at market originate entirely or mostly on family farms within a half day's drive from New York City. The 10-page document detailing these rules, however, is anything but clear.

"Cumbersome, confusing and contradictory," was the assessment of Michael Hurwitz, the director of Greenmarket, which operates 45 markets in the five boroughs.

Pickle makers can sell preserved foods such as peppers in vinegar, but not processed foods such as hot sauce. Farmers, on the other hand, can sell processed hot sauce if it is made with their peppers. Dairies may purchase a higher percentage of their milk for cheese if the cheese is made from one type of milk rather than two milks, such as cow and sheep. Cider makers can buy 40 percent of the apples they press from local farmers, whereas wheatgrass juice sellers must grow all their wheatgrass.



For the full story, see:

INDRANI SEN. "Greenmarket Sellers Debate Maze of Producer-Only Rules." The New York Times (Weds., August 6, 2008): D4.





October 20, 2008

Women Earn More than Men, in New York City

 

WomenMenNYCearningsOverTime.jpg   Source of the graph:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

(p. A1)  Young women in New York and several of the nation’s other largest cities who work full time have forged ahead of men in wages, according to an analysis of recent census data.

The shift has occurred in New York since 2000 and even earlier in Los Angeles, Dallas and a few other cities.

Economists consider it striking because the wage gap between men and women nationally has narrowed more slowly and has even widened in recent years among one part of that group: college-educated women in their 20s. But in New York, young college-educated women’s wages as a percentage of men’s rose slightly between 2000 and 2005.

The analysis was prepared by Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College, who first reported his findings in Gotham Gazette, published online by the Citizens Union Foundation. It shows that women of all educational levels from 21 to 30 living in New York City and working full time made 117 percent of men’s wages, and even more in Dallas, 120 percent. Nationwide, that group of women made much less: 89 percent of the average full-time pay for men.

Just why young women at all educational levels in New York and other big cities have fared better than their peers elsewhere is a matter of some debate. But a major reason, experts say, is that women have been graduating from college in larger numbers than men, and that many of those women seem to be gravitating toward major urban areas.

 

For the full story, see: 

SAM ROBERTS.  "For Young Earners in Big City, a Gap in Women’s Favor."  The New York Times (Fri., August 3, 2007):  A1 & A16.

 

   Source of the graph:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




May 17, 2008

New York Rent Control Limits Incentives to Build Apartments


NewYorkLoftBuilding.jpg "Tryn Collins, left, and Mary Hill share small quarters at a loft building in Brooklyn that was transformed from a factory." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

New York City has had rent control in effect for decades. Economists predict that one effect of rent control is that incentives are reduced to build and maintain apartments. As a result, those seeking living space, have fewer options. (For example, the WSJ a few years ago ran a front page article explaining how some enterprising New Yorkers were living in abandoned elevator shafts.)

The article quoted below, provides additional evidence.

(p. A1) One "room" is a cramped cubby that measures, in all, perhaps 25 square feet, just enough for a full-size mattress and whatever can be stashed beneath. The first-floor rooms, in the basement, are musty and windowless, like caves. The second-floor rooms have plywood walls but no doors, only cut-out windows that overlook a kitchen cluttered with day-old dishes, a chore wheel and the odd paintbrush.


One of the residents likens her home to a "giant treehouse." Another says it is like "living in a public bathroom."

"Where the stalls are just superficial sight lines that block the other person, but you can hear everything they do," said Robyn Frank, a 23-year-old artist. She had just moved in to the McKibbin lofts in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and sometimes they literally become bathrooms. They are known for their giant, raucous parties; revelers occasionally urinate in the halls.

This is life in what some refer to as the McKibbin "dorms," a landing pad for hundreds of postcollegiate creative types yearning to make it as artists, and live like them too, in today's New York.

Newcomers marvel that such a place exists: two sprawling, almost identical five-story former factories filled with mostly white hip young things, smack in the middle of a neighborhood that has little in common with Williamsburg proper, its cocktail-mixing neighbor to the west.

Perhaps 300 people live in each building, which face each other and sit, respectively, at 248 and 255 McKibbin Street. Between one and eight people live in each loft. Few were born before the mid-1980s. Rents can range from $375 for one person to roughly $800 for a space.


For the full story, see:

CARA BUCKLEY. "Young Artists Find a Private Space, Only Without the Privacy." The New York Times (Weds., May 7, 2008): A1 & A17.




January 26, 2008

Free Market Can Provide Better, Cheaper Health Care

 

   "Eve Linney, 5, who had an infected finger, went with her family last week to a walk-in clinic at a Duane Reade drugstore on Broadway in Manhattan. Her father, John, is at the counter."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.  

 

Clayton Christensen and co-authors in Seeing What's Next, make a plausible case for the improvement of health care through disruptive innovation.  A key aspect of their vision is the increasing role of nurse-practitioners in taking on increasingly routinized tasks, a development they see as generally both effective, and cost-efficient.

The article excerpted below suggests that this trend is promising, if it does not get killed by the government, and by organized medical doctors protecting their turf from competition.

 

(p. A1)  The concept has been called urgent care “lite”:  Patients who are tired of waiting days to see a doctor for bronchitis, pinkeye or a sprained ankle can instead walk into a nearby drugstore and, at lower cost, with brief waits, see a doctor or a nurse and then fill a prescription on the spot.

With demand for primary care doctors surpassing the supply in many parts of the country, the number of these retail clinics in drugstores has exploded over the past two years, and several companies operating them are now aggressively seeking to open clinics in New York City. 

. . .

More than 700 clinics are operating across the country at chain stores including Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens and Duane Reade.

New York State regulators are investigating the business relationships between drugstore companies and medical providers to determine whether the clinics are being used improperly to increase business or steer patients to the pharmacies in which the clinics are located.

And doctors’ groups, whose members stand to lose business from the clinics, are citing concerns about standards of care, safety and hygiene, and they have urged the federal and state governments to step in to more rigorously regulate the new businesses.

. . .

(p. A16)  Patients, however, have flocked to the clinics, according to a new industry group, the Convenient Care Association.

“I think it’s great you don’t have to make an appointment. That could take weeks,” said Ezequiel Strachan, 33, who lives in Manhattan and walked into the clinic at the Duane Reade store at 50th Street and Broadway on a recent morning for treatment of a sore throat. “People here value their time a lot.”

The average waiting time for an exam at such clinics nationwide is 15 to 25 minutes, according to the Convenient Care Association.

The association estimated that 70 percent of clinic patients have health insurance and are using the clinics because of convenience. For them, costs may not be much different from those at doctors’ offices, because the same insurance co-payments apply. But uninsured patients could reap substantial savings.

In New York City, one in five residents lacks a regular doctor and one in six is uninsured, according to a recent survey by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and overcrowded emergency rooms are often their first resort for routine care.

. . .

MinuteClinic officials insisted that there was nothing improper in the relationships between providers and the drugstores and that medical care is not being compromised.

“We are transparent with regulators,” said Michael C. Howe, the chief executive of MinuteClinic, which is based in Minneapolis and operates more than 200 clinics nationwide. using the motto “You’re Sick, We’re Quick.”

Mr. Howe said the concerns of doctors’ groups and other critics “are being raised by voices of people who have not really studied the model.”

Preliminary data from a two-year study of claims from MinuteClinic by a Minnesota health maintenance organization, HealthPartners, which was released to The Minneapolis Star Tribune in July, showed that each visit to the retail clinic cost an average of $18 less than a visit to other primary-care clinics, but that pharmacy costs were $4 higher per patient.

Duane Reade, New York City’s largest drugstore chain, which opened four clinics in Manhattan in May, plans to open as many as 60 more across the city in the next 18 months. A key difference at the Duane Reade clinics is that they use doctors, while nurse practitioners and physician assistants typically provide the care at most retail clinics.

 

For the full story, see:

SARAH KERSHAW.  "Tired of Waiting for a Doctor?  Try the Drugstore."  The New York Times  (Thurs., . August 23, 2007):  A1 & A16.

(Note:  the title of the online version is "Drugstore Clinics Spread, and Scrutiny Grows."  Ellipses added.)

 

   "Dr. Maggie Bertisch saw Eve while her mother, Claire, waited."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.  

 




January 12, 2008

Newfoundland Benefits from Global Warming

 

 NewfoundlandIceberg.jpg   "An iceberg as seen off the coast of Twillingate in Newfoundland."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. B1)  Up and down the rock-ribbed coast of Newfoundland in centuries-old fishing villages like this one, Americans and Europeans are taking advantage of a warming climate and a struggling regional economy to buy seaside summer homes for the price of a used SUV.

. . .  

In Twillingate, at least 17 inns and bed-and-breakfasts regularly book Americans and Europeans, up from just two a decade ago. The tourists come to watch the shimmering procession of icebergs the size of city blocks that calve off the coast of Greenland and ride the Labrador Current past town between May and July. After the icebergs are gone, the waters fill with humpback, right and fin whales that spend summer feeding offshore.

. . .

Climate change is attracting some of the tourism. The average temperature during the summers in Newfoundland and Labrador has increased by nearly four degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years, says David Phillips, the Canadian government's senior climatologist. From 2001 through 2005, there were an average of 123 days when the weather was 77 degrees or warmer. In 1991-1995, it averaged just 63 days. Over the last 50 years the growing season -- the gap between winter's last frost and autumn's first -- has widened by three weeks.

. . .  

Some Americans have begun to try to flip properties. New York artist Brian Byrne (sic) and his business partner bought a waterfront, six-bedroom home two years ago for $72,000. Now they're asking $170,000. "There's a lot of potential up there for tourism," Mr. Byrne (sic) says.

 

For the full story, see: 

Douglas Belkin. "Property Report; More Americans Warm Up To Homes in Newfoundland." The Wall Street Journal  (Weds., August 8, 2007):  B1.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

 NewfoundlandHouse.jpg   Brian Bryne (sic), a New York City artist, along with a partner, bought this Newfoundland house as a speculative investment.  Source of photo:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

 




December 21, 2007

"People Giddy on Hope and Thrilled to Be Changing"

 

   "Emily Prager at her lane house in Shanghai."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.   

 

The centers of dynamism are not set in stone.  I once asked the philosopher Alan Donagan why the Scottish enlightenment had occurred where (Edinburgh) and when (in the mid-late 18th century) it did.  With his usual good humor he told me that I was asking a bad question--that my question assumed that enlightenments were determined.  He instead believed that they were chance occurrences resulting from the free-will choices of individuals.

I think that there was something to what he said.  But I also believe that some institutions, and some policies of government, can greatly increase the probability that fruitful dynamism will occur.  For instance, free markets tend to tolerate diversity and experimentation, and to reward initiative. 

In the past, locations of economic dynamism, also were often locations of intellectual dynamism.  I wonder if the connection is still true today, and if not, why not? 

Among past centers of dynamism were Miletus, Athens, Florence, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and New York City.  Today, centers of economic dynamism include Las Vegas, Dubai and Shanghai.  The article quoted below paints a generally appealing picture of Shanghai.

 

(p. D1)  I decided to move myself and my 12-year-old daughter, Lulu — whom I had adopted as a baby in China — from the old capital of the world to the new: to make a home in Shanghai, a city of the future.

I knew something about Shanghai, having been here on trips several times in the last few years. The city was always so excited it could hardly contain itself. It is a microcosm of the Asian boom, stuffed with people giddy on hope and thrilled to be changing. It recalls the greatness of New York in the early ’70s, except for one thing: Like the rest of China, Shanghai was largely closed to the outside world, and real economic growth, for nearly 50 years after World War II. It is a place where every car on the road is brand new and every pet recently acquired, but the person you just met might trace his family back 70 generations. The modernity and polish that Manhattan learned between 1945 and 1995, Shanghai is cramming for as fast as it can, and it’s fascinating to watch.

. . .

(p. D6)  Pets are new to Chinese people and they don’t know very much about them. Dogs are not neutered and they are walked without leashes. Many people are terrified of dogs, particularly given the country’s serious rabies problem.

Twice when I was walking Skippy, young women caught sight of him and screamed in terror at the top of their lungs. Because having a pet is so new, there is a video showing how to pick up after a dog and wash his paws after his walk, which appears many times a day on a huge video screen on Huaihai, the city’s other main shopping street.

 

For the full story, see: 

EMILY PRAGER. "At Home Abroad; Settling Down in a City in Motion."  The New York Times  (Thurs., July 19, 2007):  D1 & D6. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

   "On the streets of Shanghai, the author's injured foot attracts less attention than her pet dog, still a rare sight in the city."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




November 18, 2007

The Internet Adds Value for Restaurant Consumers and Efficiency for Restaurant Owners

 

   Source of graph:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

(p. C1)  SAN FRANCISCO, June 17 — Town Hall, one of the busiest restaurants in this food-crazed city, seems the very model of old-fashioned dining. Patrons who arrive to claim their reserved seats are greeted by a hostess who consults a piece of paper with the day’s reservations and leads her guests to the appointed table.  

But upstairs, in the restaurant’s office, a different scene is playing out. In a veritable mission-control setting, a reservationist answers eight phone lines while seated in front of two computers that log reservations and hold an archive of past and future electronic bookings.

The software also reveals the idiosyncrasies of thousands of guests. The restaurant staff knows in advance, for instance, that a regular always insists on a table under a particular piece of artwork. They know about another person’s request for kosher food — but only when dining in certain company. And there is the guest so reliably late that staff members know to add 45 minutes to the reservation time.

After decades of relying on telephones to book tables, and piles of index cards — or a maitre d’hotel’s memory — to collect information about diners and their quirks, the restaurant business has finally gone unabashedly high-tech.

Technology may not make it any easier for diners to get a reservation at the most sought-after spots, like the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., or Babbo in New York City. But the perseverance of a San Francisco-based company called OpenTable, which has come to dominate the business of online restaurant reservations, is making it much easier for restaurants to manage reservations and improve customer service.

. . .

(p. C5)  Making a reservation through OpenTable costs the diner nothing. And it reduces the inconvenience. Say you want a table on short notice at a busy Manhattan restaurant — Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe. Placing a phone call there usually requires calling during business hours, enduring loud jazz for hold music, and talking with a reservationist for a while before finding an acceptable time. OpenTable might give you the same results, but it will do the work in 10 seconds.

. . .

Many of the restaurants discovered that they had to surrender to the automation because their popularity suffered if they did not.

“It was a long, long time before that was proven,” said Bill Gurley, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose company, Benchmark, has invested $21.6 million in OpenTable over the years.

It took three years for OpenTable to seat its one-millionth diner. But now, the company seats two million diners every month. And Zagat, the restaurant rating service, has adopted OpenTable for reservations made through its site, zagat.com

  

For the full story, see: 

KATIE HAFNER.  "Restaurant Reservations Go Online."  The New York Times   (Mon., June 18, 2007):  C1 & C5.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

   "Doug Washington, left, and Mitchell Rosenthal are partners in Salt House in San Francisco, one of 7,000 restaurants using OpenTable."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




September 16, 2007

Congestion Pricing in NYC Will Reduce Traffic and Pollution

 

   Traffic congestion on Ninth Avenue in New York City.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

(p. A1)  ALBANY, June 7 — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to reduce traffic by charging people who drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan received significant support on Thursday as Gov. Eliot Spitzer endorsed the idea and the Bush administration indicated that New York stood to gain hundreds of millions of dollars if the plan were enacted.

If the measure is approved by the Legislature, New York will become the first city in the United States to impose a broad system of congestion pricing, which was introduced in London in 2003 and has been credited with reducing traffic there.

Governor Spitzer said he would work to ensure passage of the plan, which is a major part of the mayor’s blueprint for improving air quality and traffic flow for the next several decades. The Bloomberg administration has estimated that it could put the program into effect within 18 months of legislative approval.

 

For the full story, see:

DANNY HAKIM and RAY RIVERA.  "New York Bid on Traffic Pricing Draws State and U.S. Support." The New York Times  (Fri., June 8, 2007): A1 & A29.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "City Traffic Pricing Wins U.S. and Spitzer’s Favor.")

 




August 22, 2007

Why New York City Needs Wal-Mart

 

(p. 7)  . . .  an enduring mystery of the retail economic world: why don't people in New York City want a Wal-Mart in Midtown?


Manhattan is the most underserved market I have ever seen for retail customers. There really is nowhere for bargains on ordinary household goods and groceries in the whole borough. Yes, I know unions hate Wal-Mart. But not every New Yorker is in a union, and every New Yorker needs food and paper towels. (I, by the way, am a member of three unions: the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Writers Guild of America, West. How many unions is Mayor Michael Bloomberg in?)


Don't the consumers deserve a break, too? I know Wal-Mart is not hip, slick and cool. It's for people who have to live within a budget, not for people who see movies with subtitles and have houses on Martha's Vineyard (or would like to). But don't working-class people deserve bargains on their daily bread?


To keep Wal-Mart out of New York -- or my home, Los Angeles -- is simply to inflict a snobby class prejudice on working people. Why they and their representatives put up with this classist, ''let them eat Whole Foods'' nonsense is yet another mystery, and one that could be solved if politicians really cared about consumers.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

BEN STEIN.  "EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS; Assorted Mysteries of Economic Life."  The New York Times, Section 3  (Sun., May 13, 2007):  7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

 




July 9, 2007

Most New Jobs Created in Opportunistic Newcomer Cities

 

Over the past 15 years, it has been opportunistic newcomers -- Houston, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas, Riverside -- that have created the most new jobs and gained the most net domestic migration. In contrast there has been virtually negligible long-term net growth in jobs or positive domestic migration to places like New York, Los Angeles, Boston or the San Francisco Bay Area.

. . .

Fortunately the jobs are headed in the same direction. After all, companies depend not only on elite MBAs but upon on the collective skills of middle managers, technicians and skilled laborers. Most companies also tend to be more mindful of basic costs, taxes and regulations than the average hedge-fund manager or trustafarian.

This perhaps explains why the largest companies -- with the notable exception of Silicon Valley -- have continued to move toward the more opportunistic cities. New York and its environs, for example, had 140 such firms in 1960; in 2006 the number had dropped to less than half that, some of those running with only skeleton top management. Houston, in contrast, had only one Fortune 500 company in 1960; today it is home to over 20. Houston companies tend to staff heavily locally; this is one reason the city was able to replace New York and other high-cost locales as the nation's unchallenged energy capital. Another example of this trend is Charlotte's rise as the nation's second-ranked banking center in terms of assets, surpassing San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles, indeed all superstar cities except New York.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

JOEL KOTKIN.  "The Myth of 'Superstar Cities'."  The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., February 13, 2007):  A25.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




July 8, 2007

Dubai Is "Turbo-Charged Free-Market Capitalism"

 

DubaiCamel.jpg   Dubai skyline.  Source of photo:  online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A9) Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates, represents turbo-charged free-market capitalism at its purest -- sometimes crass, often over-the-top, and always in motion. Home to more than 1.2 million people, more than 80% of whom are resident aliens, Dubai is as much a multicultural melting pot as New York City was in its late 19th century heyday. And like New York then, Dubai teems with winners and losers, the rich and not-so-rich, and immigrants who often find that life in the glittering metropolis is cold, hard and unfair. But the government maintains order, spends billions on infrastructure and is dedicated to establishing the city-state as a global capital of, well, capital.

. . .

Seeing Dubai as an economic model for other parts of the Arab world is admittedly a challenge: Like Singapore, it has the virtues of a small ruling class, a tiny population and not much territory, and that is not something Egypt or Syria could emulate. But as a cultural model, or an attitude, it does offer an alternate vision of the future, one with its own excesses and vices for sure, but still free of the divisiveness and religious conflict that has become the assumed status quo in other parts of the Middle East.

Dubai should not be written off as little more than an Arab Las Vegas. It deeply challenges the assumption that Muslims, Christians and Jews cannot find common ground and work together to construct a shared future. Dubai is proof, not perfect, but real, that they can.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

ZACHARY KARABELL. "City of Dreams." The Wall Street Journal  (Sat., March 17, 2007):  A9.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




March 27, 2007

Beaver Returns to Bronx: More Evidence of Environmental Improvement

          A beaver whose discoverers call "José" is the first beaver to make a home in the Bronx in 200 years.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. 

 

(p. A12) A crudely fashioned lodge perched along the snow-covered banks of the Bronx River — no more than a mound of twigs and mud strewn together in the shadow of the Bronx Zoo — sits steps away from an empty parking lot and a busy intersection.

Scientists say that the discovery of this cone-shaped dwelling signifies something remarkable: For the first time in two centuries, the North American beaver, forced out of town by agricultural development and overeager fur traders, has returned to New York City.

The discovery of a beaver setting up camp in the Bronx is a testament to both the animal’s versatility and to an increasingly healthy Bronx River.

 

For the full story, see:

O'CONNOR, ANAHAD. "After 200 Years, a Beaver Is Back in New York City."   The New York Times  (Fri., February 23, 2007):  A21.

 




March 15, 2007

Immigrant Entrepreneurs Thrive in New York City

   Manuel and mother Mercedes of the entrepreneurial Miranda family, inspect the corn flatbread called "arepa."  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

Immigrant entrepreneurship contributes to the vitality and dynamism of New York and the nation.  Note the graphic at the bottom of this entry shows that employment increases in the same areas of the city in which immigrant entrepreneurship is thriving.   

 

Manuel A. Miranda was 8 when his family immigrated to New York from Bogotá. His parents, who had been lawyers, turned to selling home-cooked food from the trunk of their car. Manuel pitched in after school, grinding corn by hand for traditional Colombian flatbreads called arepas.

Today Mr. Miranda, 32, runs a family business with 16 employees, producing 10 million arepas a year in the Maspeth section of Queens. But the burst of Colombian immigration to the city has slowed; arepas customers are spreading through the suburbs, and competition for them is fierce. Now, he says, his eye is on a vast, untapped market: the rest of the country.

. . .

“Immigrants have been the entrepreneurial spark plugs of cities from New York to Los Angeles,” said Jonathan Bowles, the director of the Center for an Urban Future, a private, nonprofit research organization that has studied the dynamics of immigrant businesses that turned decaying neighborhoods into vibrant commercial hubs in recent decades. “These are precious and important economic generators for New York City, and there’s a risk that we might lose them over the next decade.”

A report to be issued by the center today highlights both the potential and the challenge for cities full of immigrant entrepreneurs, who often face language barriers, difficulties getting credit, and problems connecting with mainstream agencies that help businesses grow. The report identifies a generation of immigrant-founded enterprises poised to break into the big time — or already there, like the Lams Group, one of the city’s most aggressive hotel developers, or Delgado Travel, which reaps roughly $1 billion in annual revenues.

In Los Angeles, at least 22 of the 100 fastest-growing companies in 2005 were created by first-generation immigrants. In Houston, a telecommunications company started by a Pakistani man topped the 2006 list of the city’s most successful small businesses.

 But even in those cities and New York, where immigrant-friendly mayors have promoted programs to help small business, the report contends that immigrant entrepreneurs have been overlooked in long-term strategies for economic development.

. . .

Now, some children of the early influx are trying to build on their parents’ success — success that itself has increased the cost of doing business, by driving up rents and creating congestion.

One example is Jay Joshua, a Manhattan company that designs souvenirs and then has them manufactured in Asia and imported. Jay Chung, who arrived from South Korea in 1981 as a graduate student in design, started printing his computer-graphic designs for New York logos and peddling them to local T-shirt shops. His company is now one of the city’s leading suppliers of tourist items, from New York-loving coffee mugs to taxicab Christmas ornaments.

Mr. Chung’s son Joshua, 26, who was 3 when he immigrated, joined the company after studying business management in college, and recently helped land orders for a new line of Chicago souvenirs. But frustration mixes with pride when the Chungs, both American citizens now, discuss the company’s growth.

“It’s really hard to conduct a business over here as a wholesaler,” Mr. Chung said in the company’s West 27th Street showroom, chockablock with samples. “We get a ticket every 20 minutes, no matter what. We need more convenient places with less rent, less traffic.”

Thirty years ago their wholesale district was desolate. Now hundreds of Korean-American importers are there, said Jay Chung, who is a leader of the local Korean-American business association. They face a blizzard of parking tickets and high commercial rents — nearly $20,000 a month for 1,400 square feet, he said.

 

For the full story, see:

NINA BERNSTEIN. "Immigrant Entrepreneurs Shape a New Economy."  The New York Times  (Tues., February 6, 2007):  C13.

(Note:  the ellipses are added.)

 

The author of the New York Times article has contributed to a New York Times digital video clip that is based on the article and is entitled "Immigrant Entrepreneurs:  A Tour of One Bustling Ethnic Enclave."

 

 EntrepreneuvsJayJoshua.jpg   Entrepreneur father Jay and son Joshua own a firm that supplies New York City souveniers.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 

  Source of graph:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




December 8, 2006

"Nebraskans Preparing for the Imminent Arrival of Several Million New York Refugees"


(p. 12) HOUSING prices are falling on both coasts, and bubble panic is around the corner.  The financial magazines are already grabbing their readers by the throat and taunting them with headlines like:  ''U.S. Housing Crash Continues!'' ''Where Will Housing Prices Fall the Most?'' ''Is It Time to Cash Out?''

What if it is time to cash out?  Where do you go?  If you sell on either coast, then you need to find real estate somewhere that the housing bubble missed.  Guam?  American Samoa?  Wait, how about eastern Nebraska?  Downright frothless when it comes to housing:  the median home price here usually chugs along at the annual rate of inflation and never goes down (up 4 percent last year, up 22 percent over the last five years).

Before you recoil in horror at the thought of living in Omaha, a city of 414,000 souls, consider that this year Money magazine ranked it seventh of the nation's 10 best big cities to live in, ahead of New York City, which ranked 10th.  O.K., now you may recoil in horror.

These compelling statistics have Nebraskans preparing for the imminent arrival of several million New York refugees (victims of post-traumatic bubble anxiety disorder), who will need emergency real estate and housing triage services.

 

For the full commentary, see:

Richard Dooling.  "Sweet Home Omaha."  The New York Times, Section 4 (Sunday, October 29, 2006):  12.






October 19, 2006

Profit-Maximizing Infrastructure Installation


  Verizon employees in New York installing fiber optic cable.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

(p. C1)  Building a whole new state-of-the-art network is a laborious and expensive process that Verizon says it must undertake to fend off rivals like Comcast and Vonage, which are moving fast into the phone business.  As Verizon replaces more of its old copper network with more durable fiber lines, the company also expects to save billions of dollars in maintenance costs.

Verizon will spend about $20 billion by the end of the decade to reach 16 million homes from Florida to California. But it is in New York City where Verizon has the most at stake, because New Yorkers are some of the nation’s biggest buyers of video,  Internet and phone services.  The company plans to spend about $3 billion to reach the city’s 3.1 million homes and apartments.

With such a high concentration of potential customers, competition is fierce — and Verizon has been losing ground.  Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and others are stealing about 1,000 Verizon phone customers a day, and their discounted services are making it hard for Verizon to win them back — another reason to get the fiber network up quickly.

“The guys understand the importance of this fiber project,” said Robert Fighera, a lineman and chief union steward in the Bronx, nodding to the workmen nearby.  “We’re also stockholders, and we know we have to install this or we’ll fall by the wayside of all these other companies.”

 

For the full story, see: 

KEN BELSON.  "Verizon Is Rewiring New York, Block by Block, in a Race for Survival."  The New York Times  (Mon., August 14, 2006):  C1 & C6.






February 3, 2006

"Better Coffee Rockefeller's Money Can't Buy"


(p. 263) In the middle of this fierce competition, with its low quality standards and apparent market saturation, a New York nut vendor and restaurateur proved that a new brand stressing quality could triumph.

 . . .

Black understood the power of advertising.  In radio spots, which blanketed the New York metropolitan airwaves,  Black's second wife, Jean Martin, sang a hummable jingle:
Chock full o' Nuts is that heavenly coffee,
Heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee.
(p. 264) Chock full o' Nuts is that heavenly coffee-
Better coffee Rockefeller's money can't buy.
By August 1954, less than a year after its debut, Chock full o' Nuts had grabbed third place among vacuum-packed coffees in New York City.

 

Source: 

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




January 2, 2006

Thanks to DDT Ban and Recycling: Bedbugs Are Back


Bedbug.jpg Image source: http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews/top/4_1_JO02_BEDBUGS_S1.htm

(p. 1) . . . bedbugs, stealthy and fast-moving nocturnal creatures that were all but eradicated by DDT after World War II, have recently been found in hospital maternity wards, private schools and even a plastic surgeon's waiting room.

Bedbugs are back and spreading through New York City like a swarm of locusts on a lush field of wheat.

. . .

In the bedbug resurgence, entomologists and exterminators blame increased immigration from the developing world, the advent of cheap international travel and the recent banning of powerful pesticides. Other culprits include the recycled mattress industry and those thrifty New Yorkers who revel in the discovery of a free sofa on the sidewalk.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW JACOBS . "Just Try to Sleep Tight. The Bedbugs Are Back." The New York Times Section 1 (Sun., November 27, 2005): 1 & 31.

(Note: ellipses added.)




November 14, 2005

Incentives Matter


    Traffic congestion on 7th Avenue near Times Square. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below, downloaded at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/11/nyregion/11traffic.html



(p. A23) It is an idea that has been successful in London, and is now being whispered in the ears of City Hall officials after months of behind-the-scenes work by the Partnership for New York City, the city's major business association: congestion pricing.

The idea is to charge drivers for entering the most heavily trafficked parts of Manhattan at the busiest times of the day. By creating a financial incentive to carpool or use mass transit, congestion pricing could smooth the flow of traffic, reduce delays, improve air quality and raise the speed of crawling buses.



Source:

SEWELL CHAN. "Driving Around in Busy Manhattan? You Pay, Under Idea to Relieve Car Congestion." The New York Times (Friday, November 11, 2005): A23.




October 5, 2005

If Only Caroline Had Read Schumpeter


Innovation is sometimes slowed because innovators do not know that creative destruction will replace old jobs with equally good, or better, new jobs:

In 1834 Walter Hunt of New York City made such a leap in lateral thinking. In his little machine shop down a narrow alley in Abingdon Square, he devised a machine for stitching cloth with two threads from two separate sources, one a needle on a vibrating arm and the other a transverse shuttle fed by an unwinding bobbin.

. . .

Hunt, an altruistic Quaker, never pursued his invention because his 15-year-old daughter, Caroline, recoiled from the thought that it would put seamstresses out of work. (p. 87)



Source:

Evans, Harold. They Made America: Two Centuries of Innovators from the Steam Engine to the Search Engine. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2004.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




August 29, 2005

The Creative Destruction of New York City


. . . the eyes of the city are focused firmly on its future, not on its history, and as a result, it subscribes to what the economist Joseph Schumpeter has called "creative destruction." New York is constantly remaking and reinventing itself, both in its physical structures and in its population.


From the preface of:

Kenneth Jackson and David Dunbar. Empire City: New York Through the Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




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