Library Rose Room Reopens to All!

Given that the third floor of The Stephen A. Schwartzman Building on Fifth Avenue, formerly known as the main branch of The New York Public Library, is now as densely packed with visitors as Times Square or the #6 subway line, I think it is time that the NYPL board and administrators, who encourage this crowding, hire a grad student to dress up as a topless Jane Austen. She could pass her drawstring bag around for funds. Maybe they could add a Bob Dylan. Literature has super heroes too.
Even if the likes of students, scholars, researchers and writers are no longer enough to justify fund-raising among the 1 percent, the larger issue is that yet another bastion of excellence is destroying itself. Let’s all go visit a fire station to make those cost-effective too. Currently, the only people allowed to enjoy these publicly-owned properties are those who need to be there. Let people in so they can slide down the poles!
Of course the magnificent Fifth Avenue library building should be appreciated by as many as possible, but the hordes now overwhelming the guards and librarians need to be actively policed. This month’s NYPL press release says of the Rose Reading Room: “The entire Room is designated for research and quiet study and there is a small viewing area where visitors can admire and take non-flash photography of the room and ceiling.” That is not the situation unfolding. (text continues below the photos)

NYPL patrons as zoo animals

If you can’t get to the zoo, photograph in the Rose Room

Scholars use the Rose Room

Patrons fill the North Rose Reading Room awaiting close-ups to be taken by visitors coming in from the rain

Visiting teens like to stand on this balustrade.

Liability issues ahead, NYPL!

So, here are some suggestions on how to re-civilize the former main branch of The New York Public Library:

  1. Inform all library guards about the rules of behavior for those wandering and photographing the reading and research rooms and its true patrons. Have them enforce the rules, which they are trying to do now with only moderate success.
  2. Designate guards to take the place of those going on their well-deserved breaks since rubberneckers swarm in taking photos and dragging children unless a guard is standing in the door of the north reading room (which is nearly identical to the south room and is supposedly off-limits to those not using NYPL materials).
  3. Ban strollers and children under the age of 12 from both reading rooms or, better, yet from the entire third floor.
  4. Rope off more lane lines so those attempting to request books can get through the clot of rubberneckers standing in doorways.
  5. Increase your toilet paper budget and improve plumbing because the bathrooms are overwhelmed, as are cleaning people.

  6. Increase your liability insurance because someone is going to get hurt. Before the Rose Room closed, I panicked when I saw a teenager standing on the balustrade on the third floor north side stairwell to impress his terrified buddy. Had the daredevil fallen three stories down to the hard marble floor his grieving parents would have had quite a payday. The building might have had to be sold and turned into condos to pay the legal judgement. Could that be idea? That Wells Fargo guy could buy an apartment in the Rose Room. Please comment in the reply box below.

Airing Facts about AIRBNB

If the legal owner/occupant of a residence is in residence when he/she rents out their home, I have no objection. However, if they are not present, if they permit friends, family and strangers to occupy their property, it is their neighbors (as I have learned) who will bear the brunt of visitors’ carelessness, cluelessness and just plain not knowing that every time they drop their combat boots on the bare floor, the person living downstairs will suffer. Here’s a wonderful explanation about the dangers and dishonestly of AirBNB — and why it must be closely regulated — from http://www.gothamgazette.com and the hotel industry.

Please comment below.

Bill Cunningham: Nobleman of Style

Bill Cunningham, the street photographer, cyclist, one-time milliner and incomparable New Yorker died this week at 87 and none will ever take his place. He had such a reverence for life and so keen a sense of the sacred that he was able to discern that even fashion has a soul. His best comment ever on his N.Y. Times blog went something like this: “People say that New York isn’t what it used to be. Are they crazy? (his voice rising) Have they seen the wisteria?”

Here is a selection of his many blogs, a link to the wonderful documentary about him, and photos that I had the gall to snap when I found him at work on his beloved 57th Street:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Up With The Pope

I really thought this relationship was going to work, especially since this time I wasn’t demanding perfection. However, now it is clear to me that he isn’t the person I thought he was. More to the point, he isn’t the person I wanted him to be.

Things fell apart soon after we got close physically. Well, close physically in that a few Sundays ago I was in Vatican City where he lives rather than in New York where he does not. I have taken some time to decide whether we are truly finished and, yes, we are. He did two things that broke us up:

Papal audience

I felt we were getting closer (see him above red banner looking right at me)

First, he met with Bernie Sanders, a man who also  insulted the laywoman who was supposed to be running the conference where Sanders appeared. She had said his visit was inappropriate. Sanders came anyway and then refused her handshake after he barged in. The prolonged muddle forced me to face the fact that if the Vatican does not want a woman to run a parish church, it probably does not want a woman to run the United States of America.

My former hero said that anyone who thinks meeting Sanders was an endorsement needs a psychiatrist. Maybe Freud could tell us how a man who was in charge of the Catholic Church in troubled Argentina, and who has been a world leader for three years, could fail to understand how meanings are telegraphed to the world. Is the Catholic Church rooted in Rome or in the inscrutable Orient? Interestingly, Bernie has a pattern of being curt to powerful women, but of course he wouldn’t be finding any of those at the Vatican. See Bernie here with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. What if he gets to meet Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde?

Anyway, I learned enough from my break-up with former longtime love Ralph Nader to know that I had to avoid the Socialist from Vermont. Trust me, with Ralph I felt the burn (although there was also my underage thing with JFK). But back to my more recent break-up:

The second final straw was His Holiness’ trip to Lesbos and his airlifting of three vetted Syrian Muslim families to Rome to set an example to us all. Problem for me here is that a few nights earlier, while returning from a visit to Emperor Augustus’ Altar of Peace, I turned on to the Via della Conciliazione where it meets Saint Peter’s Square. Living in New York City, I should be used to suffering humanity by now, but the street’s doorstops writhed with men, including refugees, bedding down under thin blankets, homeless and possibly hungry. I sped past them, fearful and somewhat ashamed. Perhaps His Holiness will soon walk a few hundred meters from his dwelling place to meet these men and to highlight the needy we have literally underfoot. And here’s my other nagging question – why not denounce leaders and movements that drive people from their homes rather than urge the faithful to spare despots by ameliorating crises that should be solved at their roots?

Okay, perhaps I am just a little bitter, but you know how when you look back over a failed relationship you see something that should have brought you to your senses months earlier? Something that lights up a situation like a drone strike? I should have paid more attention last October when he called “dumb” some anguished people of Chile who had strong reason to believe that the new bishop he appointed had collaborated in the sexual abuse of children.

Sometimes breaking up is ultimately not so hard to do. I am starting over. I recall the joy I had with the Dalai Lama. Sure, over the years I got used to him and took him for granted, but he never let me down. Yes, we come from different religions but he lives the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Of course, as stated I have been wrong before but I remember my happiness of years gone by and so I will reach out to him on Facebook. The guy I am leaving can take consolation – the Dalai Lama qualifies as a refugee!

Please share your thoughts by clicking on the headline OR on the blue (sometimes grey) bubble at the top of this post. Thanks!

Diversity Is MIA at Halftime

 

Since this year’s Oscars nominations inspired a worthwhile discussion of diversity, I’ve been waiting for the entertainment media to say more about inclusion – or the lack of same – at the Sunday Super Bowl halftime show. None of the vanilla-talking CBS announcers mentioned the appearance of The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. Nor did I hear those boys mention Gustavo Dudamel, the charismatic music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. If they did, it wasn’t enough, even though they fell over themselves promoting Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. (Chris Martin, not so much).

On Monday the twitterverse and post-show analysts gave Chris Martin flack for being less vivid than Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. He received scant credit for generously inviting them to join him on the show in the first place. Nor was Coldplay’s front man hailed for inviting The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles to back him up. Perhaps he would have gotten his props if he had featured dozens of women cavorting in thongs. That worked for others.

I was in on the Dudamel-YOLA secret because I am a regular listener of the classical music station WQXR. It became my go-to background station when I realized it would keep me in my chair. Stravinsky’s rousing Firebird, unlike Katy Perry’s Firework, is impossible to sing or dance to (except for those on pointe).

WQXR hosts in the week leading up to Feb. 7 mentioned that Dudamel would be appearing with YOLA, the group of disadvantaged young musicians he founded. This led me to believe that I would see something generous as well as fun at the Super Bowl halftime. I thought the uninitiated would discover the joys of classical music. Not at all, as it turned out. However, one did see some diverse if uncredited faces behind Martin as he ran around bringing the camera to as many of them as possible. Asians! Latinos! Possibly a blonde! Parts of a few kids were glimpsed in the tight shots of Martin, Beyoncé and Mars, but mostly it was their clothing.

Those kids were happy. I’m hopping mad. So here’s my new song of choice: Coldplay’s Life in Technicolor. Since it includes singing, working hours I will go with Vitamin String Quartet’s version.

Please comment below, especially if, unlike me, you heard mention of Dudamel or YOLA. This is a blog of facts

50,000 Frenchmen (and Women) Can’t Be Wrong — Right?

Springtime in New York is particularly tinged by grace notes of Paris this year, as the N.Y. Times has pointed out. The French consulate estimates that 50,000 French citizens live in New York City. Based on the number of tourists milling about, it seems that friends and relatives are visiting most of them. When they ride our subway, do they feel more at home or less? Peruse these photos from the Paris Metro to decide.

casquette de baseball

The N.Y. Yankees have un ami in this Montmartre metro entrance

Easy listening

Easy listening

Graffiti, French style?

Graffiti, French style?

FDR, we are here

FDR, we are here

The Metro really is cleaner

It does look cleaner

Re-attribution for that Clinton Portrait

Nelson Shanks just revealed that he took it upon himself to immortalize Monica Lewinsky in his portrait of President Bill Clinton 6a00e550199efb8833010535c75e34970bthat hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. He also decided to omit Clinton’s wedding ring. Less known is the fact that the work is actually a tribute to newsman Ted Koppel. Unknown

Fashion from the ’70s — the 1070s

New York Fashion Week for Fall 2015 featured spare and bohemian looks from the 1970s, but cutting edge Proenza Schouler showed something… Proenza Schouler Fall 2015 … that harkens back to William the Conqueror, depicted below on the Bayeux Tapestry at the dramatic moment in 1066 when he lifts his helmet to show his troops that he is still alive. William lifts his helmet The classics. notably military looks, always return. Please share your thoughts in the reply box below.

A Small Midtown Business Survives!

Just in time for the Lenten season comes the miracle of a resurrection — Jim’s Shoe Repair is saved! Having now signed a new lease for the space at 50 E. 59th Street that it has occupied since 1932, Jim’s is a rare example of a successful and hallowed New York City business beating back the encroachment of a faceless mega-corporation. Some eighteen months ago the adjacent Duane Reade store, owned by Walgreen, tried to take over the space of the family-owned business, reportedly because to wanted to install refrigerators. Landlord SL Green Realty was ready to kick Jim’s out and it looked like another small New York City business would be swallowed in the maw of a national chain. (See May 2, 2014 post for background) 

Although SL Green drove Posman Books in Grand Central Station out of business, the firm and its tenant Walgreen decided to relent in the case of this repair shop. Joseph Rocco, grandson of the founder, credits his lawyer Bill Brewer who worked pro bono. “Without Bill Brewer we would be out of here,” he said. “He brought his shoes in here one day and said, ‘What do you mean you are losing your lease? You are not losing your lease.'” Rocco also acknowledges the help of Fox 5, the N.Y. Daily News, bloggers who reported on their plight, and customers who signed their petition. Surely it also helped that customer Kim Cattrall was bringing in a black handbag for repair when the Daily News came to do its story.

The Roccos were determined to save their business and looked for another location. They did manage to find one last fall, and they thought they had a deal. However, that fell through when their prospective landlord dropped them for another tenant who offered more money. Disaster loomed until just before Thanksgiving when Brewer phoned Rocco, inquired if he was sitting down, and said that SL Green had agreed to renew. By Valentine’s Day the papers were ready. Could it be that mega-businesses like Walgreen, and even Real Estate Board of New York members like SL Green, care about their image? Maybe this time.

The survival of Jim’s is a rare victory for those who love New York City and who fight to help its people to thrive. However, more than blogs and Kim Cattrall are needed if even one more small business is to be saved. Today a stroll up Madison Avenue from Jim’s to East 72nd Street offers a visit of at least one empty store front on every block.

Last July, Danny Meyer wrote in the N.Y. Times about the threatened closure of his Union Square Cafe and called for New York City to create a body like London’s Rent Assessment Panel that has helped to preserve neighborhoods. Recently Mayor Bill de Blasio summoned the perfect metaphor when he said that New York City should not be a “gated community.” Nor should it resemble a strip mall in Stamford, but it does. Within a two block radius of my apartment building on the Upper East Side there are two Duane Reades and two Walgreens, plus a CVS. We have more bank branches than delis, which is no accident because the banks took over the spaces of the family-owned food shops that all used to thrive in the days of commercial rent control. If the city can’t bring back fruitful regulation then it must explore the creation of an arbitration panel for commercial rent rates or a similar mechanism that will promote New York’s economic diversity. If the city’s business elites can’t bother to figure out how they can profit from the economic well-being of residents, let them at least think of the tourists. Those Stanford strip malls aren’t much of a draw to all those people that are flying in from Beijing and Rio. Please scroll down to the “Leave a reply” box and comment.

Note to Met Museum Cafeteria: I’d like a side of atmosphere

It’s not enough for me that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art possesses Vermeer’s “Women With a Water Jug,” the Temple of Dendur and a large room full of armor. No, what I would like, truly, is to take pride in its cafeteria. That generic basement eatery could be anywhere, including a suburb in a declining Midwestern city. The posters that someone finally installed on its windowless walls have not improved the experience.

Graeco-Roman or 1930s Hollywood?

A nook at the Met Museum public cafeteria. Photos invoke 1930s Hollywood, not the Greek and Roman wing.

In the earlier public cafeteria space, art-lovers could munch on perfect medium-rare roast beef sandwiches in the aura of McKim, Mead and White’s marbled Roman atrium. That was taken over by the sublime Leon Levy and Shelby White Court of Classical Art.  Since then, the cafeteria has been déclassé, despite the high prices. In fairness, a few years ago the Prado’s cafeteria seemed plain, but its gazpacho imparted a cultural experience that was the best of Madrid, the essence of Spain.

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris should be an inspiration to the Met Museum. The food twice is good as Met fare, which makes it seem half the price (a friend paid $19 at the Met cafeteria for a plate of indifferent mashed potatoes and green beans, whereas I paid $23 at the full service d’Orsay brasserie for a large serving of smoked salmon, crudités and bottomless bread basket that I shared with a companion). Price is of course tangential to  visual aesthetics.

At the Musée d’Orsay, patrons at the snack bar, formally known as the Cafe de l’Ours, can enjoy a view of François Pompon’s delightful sculpture of an imposing polar bear.

by Sophie Boegly, free image from Musée-d'Orsay

Cafe de l’Ours snack bar at Musee Dorsay

While the Bear Cafe is just right for many museum patrons, those who want a meal can go to the restaurant that was part of the original Hotel d’Orsay adjacent to the train station that became the Musée d’Orsay.

Musee Dorsay

Restaurant Hotel d’Orsay combining haunt French style and plastic chairs with panache

And for those of us with appetites and budgets just in the middle, there is the Cafe Campana brasserie designed by the Campana Brothers of Brazil. They also devised the set for Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim Museum in 2008.

Lively atmosphere with decor of art

Who could have a bad time at this brasserie designed by the Campana Brothers of Brazil with art piece room divider?

Yours for 25 euros!

Yours for 25 euros!

Providing a more imaginative experience at the Met Museum cafeteria could be monetized. Do as the French. Remember: Exit through the gift shop!