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:








Why Things Have Gotten Quiet In NYC

Wealthy New Yorkers have managed to shut down debate about what is good for New York City, including the vanishing middle class and those who believe in zoning laws. A N.Y. Times story today about opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s outsize development plan for area around Grand Central Station points out that disgust with the plan for midtown east has helped to revive the formerly moribund City Club of New York. It reports that club secretary Stuart Pertz, an architect who was on the City Planning Commission in the 1980s, says that organizations are stymied by their need for donations and they fear offending executives, or working against their interests, when they need them to provide funding.

The Bloomberg Administration is finally drawing to a close, four years later than we expected it to by law, but puppeteer Bloomberg will still have his billions, so look for this situation to continue. The Koch Brothers and those hedge fund managers who do not receive crippling fines from the government, all hold sway on important boards. At this point non-profits that are afraid to pursue their missions, or decided to pursue agendas at half-throttle as many do, should disband for all our sakes, or, as in the case of the once influential City Club of New York, get loud.


Sallie Mae exports U.S. jobs to Asia, Where It Overcharges Our Military

Today brings the news that Sallie Mae may be bilking our military — the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will accuse the student lending firm of charging more than the 6 percent it is allowed, according to the N.Y. Times story.

But Sallie Mae has long been a bad citizen. For at least a decade, as U.S students and their parents labor under a high debt load (much of it to Sallie Mae) and suffer from a high unemployment rate, Sallie Mae has exported jobs to Asia. A decade ago it employed Indians as customer service representatives, now they is more likely to be Filipinos. Why not employ Americans who labor to pay off Sallie Mae? I think even organized crime understands the logic of this. Return Sallie Mae jobs to the U.S. and give them to young people and their parents. Hapless Americans are plagued by high unemployment, and are burdened by long-term debt to Sallie Mae. Western New York State would be an excellent place to set up call service centers.

I know about the reps because I was foolish enough to take out a Sallie Mae loan a dozen years ago to help finance graduate school. I have been dealing with their reps, many of them impossible to understand, especially when the discussion is about numbers, for years. I have written about this to New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, as well as to Sallie Mae CEO and president John F. Remondi. No response from any of them, although I first contacted the senators months ago. A garbled boiler plate response saying your-concerns-are-my-concerns from Schumer’s people might have been his reply. Impossible to tell. I recently sent a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who may be less beholden to Wall Street lobbyists. It’s time U.S. citizens received value from our debt. Cheap labor from Chad and Chloe in the Philippines is not helping Americans or its economy which has been sacrificed for multi-national corporations who own the ears and conscience of our politicians.