Who’s Winning Money on the Horses in NYC?

Friday the NY City Council will vote on two bills, one to move their salaries up 30% and the other to move the carriage horses into Central Park. Which do you think is the better bet?

“I hope very much that there has been no horse trading between the two bills,” Dick Dadey, earnest executive director of the watchdog Citizens Union, told the NY Times. Yes, and I hope my 100 to 1 shot comes in this Friday at Aqueduct.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan includes reducing the number of carriage horses from 180 to 75, to be stabled in Central Park. The mayor suddenly became the horse whisperer in 2011, coincidently right after receiving substantial campaign donations from anti-carriage horse group NYCLASS, headed by former property developer Steve Nislick.

The new plan calls for a ban on pedicabs below 86th Street, where most of the tourists roam. Am I being too cynical suggesting that this industry got shafted because when it comes to campaign contributions, they didn’t pony up?

When de Blasio’s team presented the carriage horse bill, they offered no statistics reflecting the dangers of horses on the street or how much it would cost to build the stables. The only thing certain is if the bill passes, the valuable land the stables now occupy will be up for grabs. As with virtually every important issue in NYC, this is all about real estate.

When carriage horses are moved, or a popular restaurant in your neighborhood closes, or NYC gas stations vanish, the issue is always the same: valuable NYC acreage. And if we lose a neighborhood treasure or necessity due to the machinations of real estate developers, sorry, tough luck.

Waiting for your elected representatives to remedy the situation? You must be new in town. When confronted with why he contributed to both Republicans and Democrats, presidential candidate and real estate developer Donald Trump made no bones about it. He gave them money to buy influence.

So what do you think? Is the mayor’s proposal really about the welfare of the horses? To quote a famous movie line, follow the money.

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Get Ready for the Apocalypse

Tomorrow evening, “You, Me and the Apocalypse” will debut on NBC. The show is about the last days of humankind. No, I’m not talking about the GOP presidential debate, which is also scheduled for prime time tomorrow on Fox News.

The last Fox News debate featured a testy confrontation between moderator Megyn Kelly and candidate Donald Trump, and the long-anticipated rematch may break ratings records–if he shows up.  In that debate, Kelly asked Trump why he called women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” Trump later said Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her . . . wherever.” We’ll see whether Trump is bleeding from his wherever after Kelly gets through with him.

Meanwhile, for some reason, the Democrats have gone the opposite way, inconveniently scheduling their comparatively low- rated debates on the Saturday night before Christmas and a Sunday night in the middle of a three-day weekend. And that “some reason” seems to be because the head of the Democratic National Committee is a buddy of Hillary Clinton, trying to avoid giving Bernie Sanders an audience. Don’t be surprised if they schedule the next one at 3 a.m. — or opposite the Super Bowl.

So what to watch? Should you tune in to “You, Me and the Apocalypse,” already a hit in England and featuring Rob Lowe as an unholy preacher, or the GOP debate, which features Trump as an unholy candidate apprenticing for the presidency? (Unless the peevish Donald make good on his threat to pass up the debate if Kelly moderates.)

Why did they schedule these the same night? To help you choose, you should know that the NBC show features disaster and fear, while the Fox debate will peddle fear and disaster.

The NBC series has been described by the London’s Independent as one in which “moments that might have made you laugh almost tempt you to cry.” NBC says its show features “an unusual assortment of mismatched characters, each coping with the impending end of the world in his or her own bizarre way.” Wait, are we talking about the debate again?

I’d really like to watch both. What’s that? The NBC show is on at 8, and the GOP debate at 9? Perfect.

As to which is funnier or scarier, you’re on your own.

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Ted’s Bigoted Adventure

Will our next president despise us? Don’t look now, but according to the latest polls, smarmy Ted Cruz has a real chance to win in November. And it’s frightening.

At the most recent GOP debate, the Republican senator from Texas actually made Donald Trump seem sympathetic. He attacked Trump for having “New York values,” and made it clear he didn’t mean tolerance and inclusiveness, two traits for which Cruz seems to have no use. The way he bashed New Yorkers seemed like a dog whistle to religious extremists and bigots.

For example, Cruz claimed New Yorkers excessively focus on “money and the media.” Hmm, which ethnic group associated with those two subjects might he be talking about? Give me a minute …

Unfortunately, when it comes to Cruz, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. In November, he spoke at a conference in Iowa headed up by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who believes gay people should be put to death.

Cruz’s father, a featured presenter at the conference, said gays should be given time to “repent” before being executed. Family values, indeed.

Both Democrats and Republicans who have dealt with Cruz over the years have expressed revulsion for the man, from former President George W. Bush (“I just don’t like the guy”), to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (“In one 30-second sound bite he was offensive to gays, he was offensive to women, he offended 18 million New Yorkers”) to Rep. Peter King (“Go back under a rock,” the Long Island Republican said of Cruz).

Strangely, Cruz seems to have no trouble at all with New York’s banks, including Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a managing director. When it was reported by The New York Times that Cruz failed to report a significant campaign loan from Goldman, Cruz said the Times was out to get him, then claimed it was an “oversight.” It was then revealed Cruz also didn’t disclose a loan from Citibank. Another oversight?

So don’t despair. Cruz’s later, backhand “apology” for his NY remarks came across as weaselly. By bashing New Yorkers, I’ve got the feeling Cruz may have handed the Republican nomination to Donald Trump.

And when that’s the good news, we’re all in trouble.

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Queens vs. Brooklyn for the White House?

It’s conventional wisdom that New Yorkers wouldn’t do well in a national presidential race, because we are too gruff and outspoken. That myth has been shattered.

“I will make America great again!” boasts Queens native and leading Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress!” growls Brooklyn-born Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the Democratic nomination race, closing in or surging ahead in state polls.

The country is in an angry mood, sick of conventional politicians. While in most ways, Sanders and Trump couldn’t be more different, they are both native New Yorkers with blunt speaking styles that have caught fire across the nation.

Trump’s silver-spoon upbringing in Jamaica Estates doesn’t preclude him from sounding like the blowhard at the end of a NYC bar. His verbal barrages against minorities and fellow politicians never cease.

He’s systematically knocked off GOP opponents with a cutting, New York wiseguy-style word or phrase, starting with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (“Wisconsin is doing terribly!”), and Rick Perry (“He put on glasses so people think he’s smart”). Trump constantly mocks “low energy” Jeb Bush, taunting him with, “Your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster those last three months that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.”

Meanwhile, Sanders, who was brought up in a working-class Brooklyn home and sounds it, has generally taken the high road in his battle with Clinton. Many Bernie supporters are itching for him to take off the gloves, and lately Sanders has gone after her for being in the pocket of the big banks.

Trump and Sanders haven’t spared each other, either. “We need a tough, strong leader in the White House, and it’s not this guy!” Trump mocked, while Sanders has called Trump “an embarrassment to our country.”

Can you imagine it coming down to gruff Bernie from Brooklyn and preening Donald from Queens squaring off in November?

That would be yooge.

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Block Party Is No Fun

A stroll down Manhattan’s brownstone-dominated, tree-lined West 85th Street used to be relaxing.  Now it’s infuriating

I took a walk there recently, only to find the sidewalk blocked halfway between Columbus and Amsterdam. Horns blared as cars were prevented from entering the street. Why? Work being done on private Manhattan Country School, which received a variance to enlarge its new building despite protests from the community concerning increased noise, traffic and the negative impact on light and air.

Similar situations are driving New Yorkers nuts all over the city. Construction, scaffolding, a steadily growing number of ugly sidewalk sheds, traffic congestion, all doing their part in making too many NYC streets and sidewalks nearly impassable. Last week in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, a 74-year-old Prius driver on an obstacle course street flipped out and tried to squeeze his car through the bike lane. Bad idea. The damage? Four sideswiped parked (and double-parked) cars

The streets have become a nightmare to navigate, says Manhattan tour guide Jim Sterner. “Construction, bike lanes, more Uber drivers__it’s overwhelming,” said Sterner. “Until recently, I could show people everything north or south of 42nd Street in four hours or less. Now that’s impossible.”

Back on the sidewalk, the noise is deafening. According to the NY Times, complaints to 311 about banging and jackhammering have reached record levels. Yet the noise and tumult continues to grow. If you can walk more than two minutes anywhere in 2016 New York City without passing a noisy construction site, you’re lucky.

How much congestion can the city endure? Unless you’re running out of tube socks, I think we can agree that it’s time to limit the number of street-clogging festivals. How many cookie-cutter street fairs (we now literally have hundreds of them) peddling souvlaki, slushies and schlock do we really need?

Noise, traffic and construction are part of the deal when you live in New York, but there’s a limit__isn’t there? City officials continue to study ways to contain congestion, but it’s only getting worse. Seems that builders and others with political clout continue to get the permits, variances and whatever else they ask for.

Meanwhile, we everyday New Yorkers are losing time, our hearing, and our minds.

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My Six Wishes for 2016

Strolling on the beach in Coney Island recently, I stumbled over a glowing lamp, and guess who appeared? Yep, a Brooklyn genie. “Yo, watch where you’re walking pal!” the genie grumbled. “What are you doing on the beach anyway? It’s winter!” “But it’s 60 degrees!” “Good point,” said the genie. “For freeing me from that lamp, I grant you three wishes for 2016.” “Just three—are you kidding?” I replied. “How about six?” “Ay, don’t get greedy. Ok, six. But one more word, and you get zilch.” So here are my wishes:

1) That Education Will Rule the Day: In the world, our politicians, and ourselves. We need freedom to educate all children__boys and girls__in every nation. We need fewer “low information voters” in the U.S.—and fewer low information politicians. In the last GOP debate, Gov Chris Christie said “When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan, I will say to him, You have a friend, sir, who will stand by you.” But King Hussein won’t answer. He’s been dead for 16 years. No other candidate, nor CNN moderator, corrected him. Ignorance is not bliss.

2) That There Will Be No More Fearmongering: “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” is President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most enduring quote. But today’s politicians have replaced FDR’s reassurance with “Be afraid—be very afraid.” When a creep sent a threatening email to L.A. schools, the city panicked and shut down every one. Meanwhile, NYC quickly determined an identical threat was a hoax and classes remained in session. Yes, there is real danger we must address forcefully, but if we quake, hide and don’t live our lives, the terrorists win. This band of fanatics can’t defeat us. Only fear can.

3) That The Summer Olympics Will Be Safe: This August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Summer Olympic Games will involve over 10,000 athletes from 206 nations. Besides the obvious security concerns, Rio has a serious problem with its water venues. Waters that the athletes will compete in contain extremely high levels of bacteria, viruses and sewage that pose a potential health hazard. A spokesman for the Rio 2016 games said the city would like to clean up this mess before the Olympics begin. You think?

4) That Our Politicians Will Adopt Higher Standards: Let’s set the same expectations in politics as we do in our personal lives. That means no loudmouths, bigots or connivers who think rules, facts, compromise, and civility are for suckers. No one you wouldn’t want in your own home, let alone the White House. Let’s make it happen__at the voting booth.

5) That the NY Mets Will Come Out on Top: I want the Mets to complete the journey they began this year and win the 2016 World Series—and that Sandy Alderson, the general manager who built this team, will beat cancer and share in the celebration. Ya gotta believe!

6) That These Dreams Come True: More empathy. Less anger. More tolerance. Less hate. More love and forgiveness. In the world, the nation, and in of all of our hearts.

Happy New Year, and keep the faith!

 

 

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The Seven Most Surprising Events of 2015

 The good, the bad, the ugly and the ridiculous– 2015 has been quite a tumultuous year, with a few things no one saw coming:

1) The Donald Dominates: Donald Trump has long flirted with running for President, but this year he meant business. Trump continues to dominate his fellow Republican contenders in polls, and has put them in a real quandary. If the GOP disowns him, the party risks losing his many supporters. But if it backs him, they become the religious entry test/demonize immigrants party. Now that he’s promised not to run as an independent, could this narcissistic blowhard actually be the Republican presidential nominee?

2) Jenner’s Transformation: Bruce Jenner, 1976’s “World’s Greatest Male Athlete,” announces he is becoming a woman. The next time we see him (sorry, Caitlin Jenner), she’s on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in lingerie, and soon after accepting ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award to a standing ovation. God bless America!

3) Mets Mojo: Long-suffering NY Met fans finally had a reason to cheer in 2015. The last week of July, the Mets were a feeble-hitting team playing .500 ball, as shortstop Wilmer Flores proved there is crying in baseball. But on July 31, the Mets traded for the powerful hitter Yoenis Cespedes, went on a winning rampage, beat the Cubs and Dodgers in the playoffs and made it to the World Series. Wait ‘til next year!

4) The Pope’s Revolution: Early in his papacy, Pope Francis said “if someone is gay, searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”__which some took to mean that he endorses gay marriage. However, the Pope preached during his U.S. tour in September that while the church should open its doors to everyone, the “true meaning of the couple and human sexuality in God’s plan is marriage between a man and a woman.” Ok, not such a surprise.

5) Feel the Bern: Bernie Sanders, a plain-spoken, disheveled, 74 year old democratic socialist with a heavy Brooklyn accent, draws huge crowds in Iowa and elsewhere as he battles Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Among his most memorable debate one-liners is telling Hillary “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!”

6) The Stewart Shuffle: “You will never have to see me again,” Stewart told startled viewers when receiving an Emmy for his last season of The Daily Show. He soon broke that vow when he announced a production deal with HBO. More important, he became a fierce public advocate for the Zadroga Bill, which Congress finally renewed last week. I’m glad Stewart broke his promise.

7) De Blasio/Cuomo Blood Feud: Ever since Mayor Bill de Blasio accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of carrying out “vendettas”, it’s been icy between the two. They recently tried to patch things up at a secret dinner at a midtown Italian restaurant. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the sitdown didn’t go well. One highly unreliable source believes things turned ugly when de Blasio attempted to glom all the leftover cannoli, and Cuomo barked “Drop the cannoli—pick up the check!”

 

 

 

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Foot-Dragging National Politicians Frustrate New Yorkers

I’m going to cheer you up today by reminding you of one more reason we are lucky to live in NYC and its vicinity. While we have our share of incompetent and, yes, crooked politicians, at least they all band together in sanity around the issues of terrorism and 9/11 heroes.

New York lawmakers have been fighting to reauthorize the Zadroga Act, which funds health screenings and treatments for 9/11 responders but was allowed to expire, leaving them hanging. After much foot-dragging, Congress is expected to reauthorize the bill this week. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, too many national politicians who talk tough about battling terrorism have a funny way of showing it — like fighting attempts to stop those on federal terror watch lists from buying guns. Between 2004 and 2014, those on the lists purchased guns from American dealers more than 2,000 times, according to the FBI. But the attempt to halt this scary practice is merely “a distraction” from the fight on terror, says House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

A bill to restrict sales of guns from those on the federal no-fly list was recently shunted aside by House Republicans. Those who argue against the bill say they’re concerned about people put on the list by mistake. So, clean up the list while you protect Americans! Of course, the fat wads of cash opponents receive from the NRA have nothing to do with it.

But before you think is a “Republicans all bad, Democrats all good” screed, know that the politician leading the fight to ban gun purchases by those on the terror watch list is Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican.

“This is a tragedy waiting to happen,” warns King, who also supports extending the Zadroga bill. “We see all the potential threats and dangers that we have, and we’ve seen what’s happened in Paris. Don’t make it easier for them by allowing them to go into a gun shop and buy a gun.”

Despite all the support for this bill, Congress has blocked it. Frustrated Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy recently said he would issue an executive order to bar such purchases in his state by suspected terrorists. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering doing the same in New York.

Good for them — because waiting for national politicians to do the right thing is a total waste of time.

Ok, “cheer you up” might have been an exaggeration.

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Demagogue Donald Strikes Again

Just when you think you’ve hit bottom with Donald Trump, the trapdoor opens. Trump now demands a religious test for entering America, calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.

Trump justified the extreme measures with a blanket statement of the “great hatred” felt by “large segments of the Muslim population” toward Americans. The comments evoked strong fear of reprisals in the American Muslim community.

This was the last straw for many of Trump’s GOP rivals. “Donald Trump is unhinged,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “You don’t need to be banning Muslims from the country,” said N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. That’s a ridiculous position.”

The nation is understandably on edge after last week’s mass killings in San Bernardino, California. But Trump seems to delight in playing on people’s fears.

Trump hit a new low by mocking a disabled New York Times reporter. Though he later denied the repulsive act, it was clear to anyone who saw the video.

His pattern of bullying minorities, women and now disabled people is undeniable, yet Trump still leads in the GOP presidential polls. What gives?

“Trump’s like Biff from ‘Back to the Future,'” said comedian Holly Walker on “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” “Too many people want to be on the side of the rich bully.”

According to Bob Gale, writer of “BTTF Part II,” blowhard Biff using profits from his 27-story casino to influence the GOP in the movie was, indeed, inspired by the Donald.

Trump is a charismatic, TV-savvy guy who speaks his mind. Some admire him because he’s not politically correct. I agree — smearing Muslims, calling women disparaging names and mocking disabled people is far from P.C. It’s also far from right.

Still, his poll numbers keep rising. But let’s remember that we’re talking about roughly one-third of Republicans, a small percentage of the nation. Polls show a majority of Americans don’t consider Trump qualified to be president. Perhaps it’s time for the saner voices in the GOP to figure out why this demagogue is so popular with a significant percentage of their voters.

Trump can be a humorous, entertaining guy. But spreading fear and hatred is far from funny

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No Offense, But We’re Highly Offended

The proud members of LOON (League of Outraged, Overreacting Nincompoops) are celebrating the holidays with their favorite seasonal whines.

You’ve probably heard their cry that Starbucks has declared a “War on Christmas” by serving coffee in plain red cups—without trees or snowflakes on them! The bright holiday decorations and Christmas Blend coffee at my local Starbucks apparently isn’t enough for the LOON brigade. “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks…” suggests holy man Donald Trump. “If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” Or God help us.

But that’s not all. Welcoming both right and left wingnuts, members of the LOON army still hold a grudge against those who dared to wear “offensive” costumes this past Halloween. Yale University’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an e-mail directing students to be sensitive when selecting their Halloween getups, making sure they don’t mock “real people or cultures.” So much for my Trump and Bernie Sanders costumes.

When faculty member Erika Christakis suggested that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society,” she was met with a blizzard of anguish, and yes, threats. According to The Atlantic, one student whined in a school publication that “I have friends who are not going to class, not doing their homework, skipping meals and suffering breakdowns.” From being told not to make a big deal about Halloween costumes?

By Thanksgiving, LOON’s animal rights extremist division stormed the field near the end of the Lions-Eagles football game to protest turkey day. “We love our dogs and cats at home, but spare little thought for the turkey lying dead on the table,” said activist Cat Roberts (yes, that’s her name). Bon appetit!

So what’s LOON’s next target? Seems obvious to me: Christmas songs. Are you “Dreaming of a White Christmas?” I’ll bet you are, you racist! And what about “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” Isn’t it bad enough making the poor deer drag Santa’s fat butt around all Christmas? Now you’ve got to mock his shiny nose? Animal hater!

Consider yourself warned. When it comes to offending the sensitivities of LOON, you can never be too careful. To quote the group’s favorite Christmas tune, You better watch out!

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