Category Archives: news and headlines

Traveling While Hungry

One of the first things I do when planning a trip is to explore to culinary offerings where ever I am going. Food and travel are my two favourite ‘past times’ and I combine them whenever possible.

Lately, I have another way to combine them. These days, I am quite often found – on a Monday morning – down at the Puritans Radio studio talking with Peter Evan Jones about food on the ‘Jones on Food and Travel’ program.  On a recent Monday, my topic was food worth traveling for. CNN Travel made some bizarre choices – including ketchup (not a food, in my opinion, much less a food worth traveling for), buttered popcorn (another head scratcher) and potato chips (honestly?) which is what prompted this segment.

What food is so good that you would tackle traffic, airport lines and baggage restrictions to reach it? And yes, my better half – I mentioned the tapas from Bar Pinotxo in La Boqueria in Barcelona. 🙂 When do we leave?

If you’re a fan of food and/or travel, the show is on every Monday from 10-12 (UK time) and I will be posting links to past programs  for those who prefer to catch it later on. This week’s whole show can be heard at

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Aging ‘Gracefully’ The NYPL Way

Time gets to all of us eventually – and The New York Public Library is no exception. Like many other Grande Dames of Gotham, it’s having a bit of work done. When I say a bit of work – I mean a LOT. But then, that’s what the Grande Dames mean too. What’s a lot? A $300 million overhaul that will see the removal of seven floors of stacks and open up the the building’s central section. Meaning, when you walk in – you’ll see ALL the way across and through. Visually very impactful.

Not useful when researching the history of NYC taxis or compiling a bibliography of Jewish periodicals or examining the Kerouac papers – but pretty. Behold the NYPL’s YouTube channel “tour” of their idea:

But let’s get back to that whole removal of seven floors of stacks thing. This renovation isn’t happening in a void. It also comes part and parcel with two other major changes – the closure of the Mid-Manhattan branch across the street and the smaller Science Industry and Business Library on 34th Street. The materials from those two will be folded into the collection at the 101 year-old main building. The collection which is losing seven floors of stacks. Hmmmm… I guess they’ll have to be stored off site. Not much use for a research library, I would think. If I drag myself all the way down there and I’m neck deep in minutiae only to be told the journals I want must be sent for from some storage site in NJ, I’m gonna be yonked off. And if the answer to that concern is “email or call in advance.” I can only assume it’s an answer from someone who has never done research and has never found themselves following an unexpected but rich thread in a wholly new direction.

But don’t worry – after many people pointed this out (some more shrilly than others), the NYPL found someone (possibly several someones) to donate $88 million to create more storage space underneath the new window-filled atrium where the stacks used to be. You’d think that this would have part of the original redesign – finding a way to store the books. But what do I know…

nypl_picsOn the upside, the redesign is supposed to actually make the wasted space (and there was a LOT of it) usable – making what was mostly empty offices and storage space into a second floor public workspace for up to 300 people (who presumably will be there to use the books they’ve had to find a way to shoehorn in. But let’s not beat the drum about that any more). Other things I am pleased to note:

  • the reading rooms remain in place and intact (considering how much time and money was just spent redoing them, this isn’t surprising)
  • the special collections will remain as they are (presumably the Science, Industry and Business collection will largely end up in here)
  • and a great deal of the building that has been off limits to the public for many many years will now be usable, open and – frankly – SEEN at last. Take all my other complaints and put them aside in light of this single accomplishment for which everyone deserves credit and applause. The fact that this building has been so closed off for so long and so badly and inefficiently used has been a tragedy.

There will also be:

  • a new teen center (were teens using this branch of the Library? I’m all for encouraging kids to familarize and use the library system as it is a very valuable resource but I question the need for such a thing at THIS branch. Are there outlying branches – in actual residential areas – without such things that could have used a teen center?
  • a children’s room (presumably to keep them out of the teen room as teens don’t want to be lumped in with the kids. I ask the same “outlying branch question in regards to this element.)
  • a below-ground education space (for . . . ? Non-children and teens?)

As I say – I am glad they are opening up the spaces to be better used and used by more people. I get that they are trying to create an inviting feel – I just wish they didn’t seem to equate inviting with coffee house and modern with airport terminal. What do you think of this?

Finally, there is (in my opinion) a bit of a personality disorder being created here. I get that they are trying to turn this research library into a circulating library and so must find a way to make the two very different things live together in a the same space. I just question whether a circulating library makes much sense in that location. Yes, I know it was part of the original mandate 100 years ago. But the demographics of that neighborhood have changed. Yes, I know selling off the Mid-Manhattan Branch and Science, Industry and Business library buildings generates money for maintenance and librarians.

But what does it do to the research library facilities? Would it not make more sense to move the specialist collection from Science, Industry and Business into the main branch and create a SMALLER, more efficient circulating library in an area of dense foot traffic. Say – between the main building and Grand Central? What were the user stats of Mid-Manhattan? Were people actually USING it as a circulating library to any great extent? If not – why hamstring the research library by tying it to deadweight and if there was a demand, surely you want to keep it as accessible and user friendly as possible.

Related links with pictures and opinions from various sides of the issue:

Much Ado About The Obvious

Hey, did you know that people who make major donations to political parties get invites to special VIP gatherings? Of course you did. You have eyes, ears and can read. You haven’t been living under a rock since the beginning of time. But for some reason this revelation – that major donors to the Conservative Party (UK) have been dining with the leader of that  party – has shocked a bunch of people from other parties who all do the same thing. And how did this well-known, well-established tit-for-tat come to light? The usual way. Some guy – trying to make the VIPness sound even better than it was – started blowing smoke up the donors’ skirts. Smoke along the lines of  “and by virtue of being in the same room, even at the same table, you have a chance to influence policy!”

Yes, THAT is what has everyone’s knickers in a twist. Suddenly, the whole thing has escalated from ” some guy puffing up the benefits list for major donors, those donors making the VERY IMPORTANT DECISION of chicken or fish and then No. 10 telling everyone ‘calm down it ’cause was just dinner for crying out loud.‘ ”  (which is what happened) to ” OMG! David Cameron is taking orders from people writing checks of ÂŁ250,000 or more! And he refuses to tell us who was sitting at this table dictating to him” (which isn’t what happened). But why stick with boring facts if you can blow things utterly out of proportion – which makes far better copy and has the added bonus of distracted the populous from the fact that all the parties do it (as demonstrated in the Cash for Influence scandal of 2010, some even more directly than others – I’m looking at YOU, Labour. Remember Cash for Influence 2009? I won’t even bothering mentioning Cash for Honors. Oh. Sorry. I just mentioned it, didn’t I. It also helps politicians of all stripes keep anyone from noticing that they aren’t doing much else these days.

Call me cynical but it’s hardly worth yawning over. Not when it could have been so much worse. Such as, oh let’s see – convening an actual policy-making task force, let’s say an Energy Task Force for the sake of example, and holding those meetings behind closed doors and refusing the publish the list of people they met with or the companies those people represented. That? That’s worth a few twisted knickers. People writing big checks so they can get their picture taken with the PM or say they know people?  Calm down, Britain. It’s called fundraising. It’s reality. Your choice is that or funding it yourselves. Frankly, I’d prefer choosing between chicken or fish.

Anyway, the whole thing sounds like a rip-off to me.. For ÂŁ250,000, dinner better be damned entertaining. Dining w/ Cameron? Snore. Mayor of London Boris Johnson? Now THAT’S value for money *grabs checkbook*

Gotham News Peruse: Feb 16

Signs of thaw. I can come out of my self-imposed “It’s Spring Indoors” exile and look about me once again. And what to my wondering eyes did appear but the following news! Lots happened while I was refusing to acknowledge winter!

  • Gothamist tells us that the DOT is now using Tumblr To tell us about progress in tackling potholes. I commend the DOT for embracing a new form of communication. I would have possibly advised against the name “The Daily Pothole.”
  • I can’t help but notice a distinct lack on the UES hangover dining in this piece from Gridskipper on hangover dining. Never mind, we all know the BEST hangover dining is at the classic NYC diner. Bring me a greasy spoon cheeseburger and fries regardless of the hour and we’re good to go.
  • If you’re still hungry, Restaurant Week is still on. Yes, seems they suspect all that snow we had earlier might have kept people home instead of out filling up restaurant – and so Winter Restaurant Week was extended until to Feb. 27.
  • Borders Bookstores (which staved this off a lot longer than I thought they ever could) finally filed for bankruptcy and released the list of stores they plan to close. The list includes the Borders at 100 Broadway (which is packed whenever I go in but that real estate MUST cost them a pretty penny) and the one in Murray Hill. I didn’t see the Park Avenue one on there but according to the New York Times piece, it is closing and the only ones remaining will be the Time Warner Center and Penn Station branches . I can’t say I feel any great loss about Borders. It was, regardless of branch and as difficult as it is for me to believe about any bookstore – always SOOO dull. Not to mention disorganized.

And that will have to do for now, my friends – the sun is finally out and the temps have gotten above 40! I’m out and about.

Snowed Under

Make. It. Stop.

I like snow. I even love snow. I don’t love this much snow over this long a period of time. There is a reason I don’t live in Syracuse. Well, to be honest – there are a lot of reasons I don’t live in Syracuse but high on the list is their annual snowfall (over 110/year).

Since I am staying indoors until Spring, I had some time on my hands and thought I’d collect a few snowy facts. They won’t make the snow stop but it keeps my mind off the falling flakes of doom and – who knows – it come in handy during some future round of Trivial Pursuit.

In the Snowiest Places in the US category, I stumbled across this interesting tidbit: the most snow to fall in any 24 hour period is 75.8 inches that came down in Silver Lake, Colorado in 1921. Not content with that record, the snow kept coming for an additional 8.5 hours leaving a total of 95 inches of snow on the ground – a record for the deepest accumulation from a single continuous snowfall.

OK, so New York City’s record isn’t quite that high. So far we’ve had 36 inches fall in Central Park this month – consider please that this generally means more fell in places further out so give them an even 40 – and that beating the 1925 record when in January of that year, Central Park for 27.4 inches

I was surprised that the record for snowiest month in New York City history – according to the National Weather Service – is Feb 2010 when 36.9 inches fell. I don’t recall being so snow-weary last year. Maybe it’s all the wind that seems to be accompanying the snow this year. Not to mention the thunder. Though – truth be told, I find the thundersnow to be rather exciting.

The city – in what I suppose might be considered – an ironic attempt to put things in perspective, has a page they call NYC Winter Storm History. It was informative but didn’t make me feel any better or any less like moving to the Cayman Islands immediately wasn’t a top notch idea.

Gotham News Peruse

Straphangers Outraged By MTA’s $600M Overtime Bill: and not without good reason. I’d be outraged myself if I wasn’t already at full outrage capacity over their massive slash and burn tactics that defy logic, common sense and failure to take into account the actual users of the system they are mismanaging so badly.

LaGuardia has made the list! Well, let’s not get too excited – it’s a list of the world’s scariest airports. Badly named in my opinion since it is, in fact, a list of airports considered scariest to land at. If it were overall scary, the list would be quite different. As it is – and based on my own experiences landing there – I’d say LGA;s spot at 8 is probably well judged.

Attention, Attention – summer heat getting you down? Then you might be interested to know that there is a splashy new twist to the now annual Summer Streets days (which start tomorrow). Dumpster pools!

A Greener Shade of Gotham

I have a confession to make. Not a shamed-faced confession. Just a confession of fact.

I am not terribly green. I don’t mean to say that I go out of my way to harm the environment or think of ways to use more than a reasonable amount of energy and resources. I do go out of my way to pick up trash when I see it. I don’t care what your level of “eco-awareness” is – there is no excuse for treating the outdoors like a garbage can. It’s rude if nothing else. In addition, I am very big on finding new ways to use stuff I might otherwise throw away. I suppose it has the effect of deepening my overall ‘verdantness’, but it mostly just satisfies my “aren’t I clever” reflex. So it’s not that I am willfully un-green. I just don’t much think about how green my day-to-day activities are.

Furthermore, I think I am in the majority.

Stop! Before you tell me about how much more environmentally aware society is etc . Yes, I know that as a WHOLE that may be true but I mean, individually. I know ‘going green’ gets a lot of play in the media and every consumer goods manufacturer with their eye on the future of the bottom line has a “green” of eco-friendly line of their goods coming out. However, I think most people, when not confronted with the stories and sound bites don’t actively think about it on an ongoing basis.

So, I decided to really look and see if I was the (unintentional) environmental baddie one might assume such an attitude would create.

Measuring my carbon footprint.

I had great hopes for this step. After all, according to a 2008 report from the Brookings Institution and the Regional Plan Association, New York averages one of the smallest carbon footprints in the nation. Just ignore the lunacy in that same report that says L.A. has the second lowest and the Lexington, KY the highest. (I hope the weed they smoked when compiling the report was organic and locally grown). However, the low footprint for New York makes sense to me. Recycling is a part of daily life – OK, not to the extent that it is in say, Seattle but we do our bit. Even if it is compelled by the letter of the law and fear of fines. The majority of us quite a lot of us don’t have any sort of yard to tend; we don’t own cars and we walk on many of the errands the rest of the country hops in the car to accomplish. For the longer ones we the bus or subway – and our transit system is implementing greener and greener stock (for the buses, anyway). Sure, I grab an occasional cab (a growing percentage of which are now hybrids) when I am running late. That is, I must admit, becoming less of an issue if only because such a thing is like taking one’s life in one’s hands while defeating the whole purpose of having grabbed the cab in the first place. Traffic in the city is more appalling than ever and if the reckless driving doesn’t kill you, the frustration of sitting there idling just might. I may start preaching the good of green JUST to get some of these cars off the roads.

But I digress. Back to measuring my carbon footprint. There are a number of online calculators to help figure this out. Each works slightly differently and involves varying levels of detail so I tried 3 different ones just to see how it went – I am bang on average for even for New York City with a footprint of 6.03 (my scores were 6.03, 6 and 6.5). According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average American’s footprint is 20. I’m feeling greener already and I’ve done nothing but stay put. Of course, that is only a rough an estimate because I don’t have details on how much the recycled portion of my garbage weighs or how much the carbon footprint of the MTA’s new greener buses are vs. the older ones, that level of detail. No, it’s not exact but it’s a stake in the ground and it inspires me to move forward to examine ways to green up my day.

Greener Grocery shopping

Ah, the evil known as plastic grocery bags. The bane, I am told, of the eco-friendly world. OK, I can bring a canvas tote with me instead of using the plastic bags provided. Sounds right but upon reflection, if I don’t have the plastic bags, what will I put my garbage in? I’ll have to buy a box of Hefty bags or something won’t I? Won’t that defeat the purpose? I went to see what my options were.

Something biodegradable, perhaps? BINGO! After just a few moments search, I found many options for businesses wanting to order in bulk – both pleasing and puzzling. Pleasing because I’m glad that there’s a lot of choices for companies who want to do the right thing and puzzling that more of them don’t do it. I mean, with this many choices, they ought to be able to negotiate a decent price for doing the right thing. But I am not a business. I don’t want to buy in bulk (I live in a New York apartment. I have no ROOM for buying anything in bulk). I just want a month of two supply of kitchen bags.

Lo! I found them – BioBags. And the prices at some places are less than the price for Hefty bags of the same size. A plus! Is the packaging of these items biodegradable as well? One assumes it would be. I suppose having them shipped to me (the transport costs and the packaging) makes them slightly less green. Of course, if I bought them at the store, the store still had them shipped and they are still packaged. Is that enough to negate getting them in the first place? What if I only got plastic grocery pages WHEN I needed them and used a canvas tote the rest of the time? Sigh – this is getting complicated. Let’s go on to something easier.

What about the actual food? Now, I don’t buy a lot of food at once so I am very good about not wasting food and a lot of what I buy is from the produce section so it doesn’t involve much packaging. Points to me. I am not as good as I might be however on buying local. But you know, “local” in Manhattan isn’t the easiest thing to find. Easier is organic. The grocery stores are stocking more and more of it (though Manhattan grocery stores are space challenged when compared to your typical suburban grocery so one takes what one can get). I can bring my canvas tote to any number of farmers’ markets (taking the bus or walking, of course) and while I can’t know for sure about the carbon emissions spent getting the goods to the market, I can support smaller farms, better farming practices and save some money at the same time.

Energy use

I think we all know that air-conditioners use a tremendous amount of power when compared to a lot of other things in your home. I freely admit to being an air-conditioner junkie. Blame my upbringing. It’s hot and humid in Houston. I don’t care how green you are – if you lived there, you’d live on air-conditioning as well. Here though, things are different. Summer, though hot enough, isn’t as long and my living space, though spacious for an apartment of its type, isn’t as big as my home in Houston was. So with age and maturity (and a move north), I have gained ground but I’ve made a few more changes lately.

I turn the units off when I am going to be gone more than 30 minutes. I also turn them off at night except for the one in the bedroom and I keep that door closed. In the AM (before the heats starts escalating), I open the windows and air the place out before switching stuff on again. If I am working for an extended period of time, only the unit in that room is on. I thought it might be annoying, keeping track of what was on and what wasn’t. But it’s not really. I formed the habit very quickly and it’s very much automatic for me now. And honestly? A lot of the time air-conditioners aren’t actually necessary. Unless it’s BRUTALLY hot out, some open windows and a circulating fan (which I assume uses less power than the air-conditioner) works just fine.

I don’t have a ton of gadgets sitting around plugged in all the time. Yes, the TV stays plugged in and the appliances. But I don’t have a stereo system or iPod dock; don’t leave the cell phone charger plugged in or anything of that nature sitting around leeching power even when off. OK, I feel goodish about that. Other appliances give me slightly more pause. I moved into my apartment in 1991. I still have all the original appliances and they work perfectly well. No, seriously. I haven’t had any trouble with them ever – with the single exception of a hose leak in the freezer door that was fixed by the simple expedient of replacing the tube to the ice maker. So here I sit with 17 year old appliances that work just fine. Energy Star started in 1992 as I recall so I can’t claim to know if they were considered to be among the more efficient models of their day and I am sure the ones being sold today are more energy efficient. My question is — are they so much so that it makes sense to buy new ones just for that reason? Surely, there is an environmental impact in the manufacturer and transportation of appliances.

I suppose the one area I’ve never done anything about the cleaning products I use. I’m sure my standard cleaning supplies aren’t doing anyone any favors and I’d be happy to switch if I can find effective substitutes. I shall have to look into it.

Well, it’s all something for me to think about. There are clearly things I do right and things I do wrong and plenty of little things I can step up or cut down without changing my daily routine wholesale all at once. But I am pleased to know that I’m not doing ungodly amounts of damage from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep.

Weekend Gotham News Peruse

Though a total non-fashionista, Gotham Girl loves street style & checks out the sartorial streets of London & NYC. Last year, New York beat London hands down on the street food front – this time around, London gets a bit of it’s own back.

Today marks the first Friday of the season on Governors Island, as well as the return of its Free Bike Fridays. This is the most awesome of awesome and I can’t wait to get back out there. It’s always a summer highlight for me.

If Governors Island isn’t quite your thing, maybe Coney Island is? If so, the folks at New York magazine have out together a list of Coney Island’s Best Food Under $5 to help you avoid spending all your “splash cash” on Coney Island comestibles.

Speaking of food, the New York City Council seems to have gone all anti-food truck on us and while I’m sure some of the situations that this law purports to address and seems to be in response to are valid – this seems overly harsh and WAY too quick.  And not for nothing, why is that the City Council is fully prepared to move quick and come down hard on stuff like this but on big stuff, they adopt a lethargy that makes sloths envious? Just wondering.

Will we have the first government shutdown in New York history? We shall see but let me just say that the New York State Legislature is a bunch of no good, no account losers who squandered  any chance I would ever listen to them or place any trust in them to do what was not only right but what needed to be done when they spent over a month doing nothing but acting like a bunch of ill-behaved brats. Shut up, sit down and DO YOUR JOBS!

Two-Wheelin’ In NYC

Two items of interest this morning (well, of interest to me and anyone else searching for a sign of sanity and intelligence amidst NYC traffic and transportation news).

  • I was reading The Villager (which you’ve likely never heard of unless you live in the East Side and honestly, even then . . . ). But never mind that now. I was reading it when I came across the greatest truth ever told: “Transportation on Manhattan’s East Side has become unsustainable.” And then the article went on. “This fall . . . 200 blocks of First & Second Avenues are slated for protected bicycle lanes, pedestrian refuges and dedicated bus lanes.”  Please let this be even truer. Please don’t let them mess this up.
  • When I hear that “Protected Bike Lanes Are Coming to Upper West Side“, it is indeed pleasing to mine ears. But I must say I agree with the comment that states, “isn’t it a little silly to do this piecemeal? I think most cyclists besides idiot delivery guys tend to bike more than 20 blocks”

Is that a glimmer of hope, a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel? Well,  not the second avenue subway tunnel of course since, at this rate, that won’t be ready until long after we’re all gone.

But maybe?

In Defense of My Doormen

My doormen are fabulous and I don’t care who knows it. Will their going on strike be an inconvenience to me? Maybe but not a big one and certainly not enough of one for me to begrudge them their due as hard-working and valuable parts of my life.

I am heartily sick of headlines like “New Yorkers May Have to Open Own Doors.” Quite apart from it being a cheap shot at people not party to the negotiations, it is condescending about the staff (who work harder and are nicer, more patient and kinder than almost anyone who lives here) and shows no knowledge about what they actually do from day to day.

They handle a slew of things with far more skill and patience than I would. 24 of that job and I’d be in jail – I am absolutely sure of it.

  • When I came down with chicken pox 10 years ago, it was the staff that went out and got the groceries (this was in the days before Fresh Direct) and the day shift concierge who brought me ice cream each day before he left for home.
  • When the teenage daughter of a resident slipped out of her apartment higher than a kite and ran straight into the street, it was the night time doorman who snatched her out of the way of the oncoming cab, resulting in her only having a bruised ankle instead of something much much worse.
  • When my VERY elderly neighbor was in tears, unable to find a much beloved photo that she was “sure was here just the other day” – two porters joined me in the search, spending their break helping her look through every nook and cranny of that apartment – nooks and crannies they knew better than anyone else having worked here for over 10 years.
  • It is the afternoon shift who make sure the kids get off the bus and inside without incident on this main cross town street.
  • It is the staff who put up with being treated like dirt by residents with more money than class and who’s children are, if anything, worse than their parents and who have never learned to treat others as one would like to be treated oneself.

Sure, there a few bad apples – we had an absolutely DREADFUL guy here for a while who is now thankfully is gone (it was like Christmas the day he left – all celebrated). I’d say we’re at about 98% fabulous at the moment.

This whole “quit your whining and open your own doors” theme I keep seeing. It’s a slam at residents that goes wide and upsets guys like the ones who work here, some of whom have been here 20 years, take great pride in the building and in keeping things running smoothly and work very hard at it.