Are Subway Rescue Plans Off Track?

I recently saw a little girl seated on the subway, without prompting, offer her seat to a frail older gentleman, who gratefully accepted. Sweet, right? Well, prepare to see fewer such tender moments if the MTA gets its way.

Part of the MTA’s roughly $800 million subway emergency rescue plan includes removing seats on certain lines. Yes, it would create space for more riders per car — for them to collapse in a puddle when the train is delayed on a sweltering summer day and the air conditioning goes down.

Aside from offering that dubious solution, returning MTA chairman Joe Lhota seems sincere in trying to fix the living nightmare that our subways have become.

Lhota, who quickly got the subways back up and running after the tracks were flooded during superstorm Sandy in 2012, all but admitted he had to be dragged back kicking and screaming by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the thankless position. “I had to do some soul searching,” he said.

In August 2013, Lhota made headlines after a pair of lost kittens frolicking on the subway tracks brought trains to a screeching halt for hours, delaying thousands of riders. Lhota said he wouldn’t have stopped service, leading to a New York Daily News headline screaming, “Die Kitties Die!” beside a glaring photo of Lhota.

So it’s understandable if he was a tad reluctant to return to the line of fire. Now that he has, Lhota’s immediately caught in a tug-of-war between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over MTA funding.

The mayor’s latest idea to rescue the subway is to have wealthy New Yorkers pay for the effort, despite knowing that the Republican-controlled State Senate would almost certainly reject such a “millionaire’s tax.”

Lhota is having none of it. “Emergency train repairs can’t wait on what the State Legislature may or may not do next year,” Lhota told The New York Times.

So what is the real solution? Tolls on East River bridges would be a good start. Prioritize fixing antiquated signals that cause endless delays over a few gleaming new stations perfect for political photo-ops. Lhota seems to get this, so maybe there’s hope.

Unless that light at the end of the tunnel is just another stalled train.

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We Need a Vacation From Trump’s Vacation

Friends, New Yorkers, countrymen, lend me your ears (and your vacation homes, if you have one).

Today is day seven of our uniquely tanned president’s 17-day “working vacation” at his New Jersey golf club, one of the seemingly endless getaways Donald Trump has taken in his half a year in office. Many criticize his jaunts to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and other luxurious destinations that bear his name and benefit from free publicity.

Some call Trump, who rattled the world’s nerves with words about North Korea, a hypocrite for having constantly bashed President Barack Obama for spending too much time away from the White House, then taking more than triple the vacation days Obama did in his first six months in office.

“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump solemnly promised during the 2016 campaign. “I would not be a president who took vacations . . . I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Yet somehow it seems Trump has worked in more time for golf than Tiger Woods. And more power to him. Doesn’t the president need time off to recharge his batteries? Don’t you? Haven’t you ever taken a 17-day vacation from work? You haven’t? Well, maybe you have a vital job that requires your presence.

OK, forget that.

But I am here to praise Trump, who will be in NYC next week, not to bury him. In March, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s trip to his Virginia golf club by observing it wasn’t all play, and that “on a couple of occasions, he’s actually conducted meetings, he’s actually had phone calls . . .”

You tell ’em, Spicey! Spicey?

While I admit to finding fault with much of Trump’s behavior to date, now that he’s away, I miss the rascal. To paraphrase Marc Antony (the Roman statesman, not the singer): “My heart is in Bedminster with The Donald. And I must pause till it come back to me.”

But not to worry. Trump will be back in Washington on Aug. 21, working on his agenda to slash health benefits, cut taxes on the rich, and kiss up to our enemies while he insults our friends.

On second thought, perhaps 17 days isn’t enough.

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Disowning the NYer in DC

Through the movies, TV, and real life, New Yorkers have long been stereotyped as brash, cynical and tough. From Bruce Willis’ wise guy hero in the Die Hard series to Joe Pesci’s vicious mobster in Goodfellas, these in-your-face guys were portrayed as quintessential New Yorkers.

Born in Queens with a silver spoon in his mouth, Donald Trump always admired and imitated those tough-talking New York street “killers,” as he calls them. The president has surrounded himself with such types, from his snarling lawyers to foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci. “The Mooch” was fired Monday as White House communications director at the request of new chief of staff John Kelly, as late night comedians wept.

Sure, as a group, New Yorkers can be blunt, brash, and occasionally ill-mannered. We are also intellectually curious, honest and caring. Which characteristics would you say best describe our president?

I’ve lived in New York all my life and appreciate our directness and savvy. As former Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, we have a unique ability to recognize a con when we see one.

New Yorkers are known for telling it like it is. Trump lies about virtually anything, from his inauguration crowd size to President Obama being a Kenyan.

But is Trump really one of our own? It appears New Yorkers don’t think so, since four of five voted against him for president. From bragging about groping women to humiliating his staff, Trump’s bullying behavior has earned the scorn of most locals.

On the other hand, four of five white Evangelicals voted for Trump. According to the Martin Marty Center for the Study of Religion, the number one reason white Evangelical pastors gave for voting Trump was the “personal character of the candidate.” Seriously?

Trump’s latest scapegoating involves banning transgender people from the military, as leaders from the so-called family values crowd cheer him on. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, “applauds President Trump for his courageous decision,” as did Tony Perkins, president of the American Family Research Council.

By overwhelmingly supporting Donald Trump, the religious right has embraced a man whose vulgar, mean-spirited behavior clearly contradicts its supposed values. Why? To punish “sinners,” and push the country in the political direction they desire.

And New Yorkers are the cynics?

 

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Need a Part Time Gig? How About Mayor or Governor?

How would you like a well-paying job where you could come and go as you please, hang out at the gym, take foreign trips and even audition for other work, all on the company tab?

You’re in luck!

Two such plum positions are opening up this November: Mayor of New York and Governor of New Jersey.

Up for re-election this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently noted on his weekly WNYC “Ask the Mayor” segment how awful it is that the United States decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, and how each of us now “has to change their own habits to start protecting the Earth.”

Except him?

When a caller wondered whether de Blasio might set a good example by not taking an SUV motorcade to the Y in Park Slope, his favorite gym, every day, and instead work out at the Asphalt Green gym two blocks from Gracie Mansion, the mayor was not amused. Such an environment and time saving move would be “cheap symbolism,” de Blasio huffed, before going back to lecturing listeners on changing our wasteful habits.

Thank you, Mayor Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Speaking of “the rules don’t apply to me” mindset of local politicians, can anyone beat New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in pure chutzpah?

With term limits barring him from running for a third term in November, Christie recently pulled himself off the beach for auditions as a WFAN radio sports talk host. What fun! But who’s minding the state while he’s screaming at Sal from Brooklyn about the Mets?

Meanwhile, as you and millions of other locals swelter on the trains during our transit “summer of hell,” remember part of the money originally designated for a badly needed new train tunnel under the Hudson River and squelched by Christie, is now being used to ferry a tiny handful of Monmouth County commuters to Jersey City and Hoboken.

But Christie need not be concerned about such trifling matters as he is chauffeured to his sports radio auditions. Perhaps he can wave to de Blasio as the mayor heads back from his Brooklyn gym.

Nice work if you can get it. For them. Not us.

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Welcome to Idiocracy 2017

When “Network” was released in 1976, predicting a bunch of screaming political extremists would take over a TV network to boost ratings, people thought it was exaggerated. Now it seems almost tame.

Similarly, when the less heralded film “Idiocracy” was released in 2005, people smirked at its predictions: That a future America would be contaminated with a vulgar culture, moronic citizens, environmental disaster and an amoral celebrity president. Move over, Nostradamus!

Last week, one of the president’s personal lawyers responded with an expletive-laden rant to an emailed suggestion that he and the president resign for the good of the nation.

Meanwhile, singer Kid Rock, who writes such poetic lyrics as “Hoes they all adore me, I stop and they all swarm me,” said he is running for the Senate in Michigan. To cap off the idiocy, Jared Kushner’s lawyers say he mistakenly left his Russian meetings off his security clearance form because he accidentally hit the “send” button too early. Only problem: There are 28 send buttons on this form.

In “Idiocracy,” citizens are anti-intellectual and apathetic, and elect a vulgar celebrity wrestler as president who can’t speak in complete sentences, gets little accomplished and sits in front of the TV all day and screams at it. Where did they get such crazy ideas?

Mike Judge, the creator of “Beavis and Butt-Head,” is the director of “Idiocracy.” “People will email and post stuff on Twitter that’s like, ‘Hey, you predicted it right,’ ” Judge once said. “But it’s not always nice because you want the world to become a better place.”

In a time when real news is called fake news and officials mock scientific findings, nothing seems too strange. The piles of stinking, overheated garbage depicted in “Idiocracy” are the least of our future calamities, according to the movie.

Luckily, there may still be time to reverse our decomposition and save our democracy. Support science. Be civil. Talk to people outside of your political tribe, and listen with an open mind. Stop getting into fights with strangers on the internet. Don’t disparage those who disagree with you — they may actually know something you don’t.

And pray that it’s not too late.

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Sex and Ice Cream: Your Guide to Better Health?

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day, and not a moment too soon. In these turbulent times, the simple pleasures of life can offer us sweet relief, and the creamy treat is near the top of most everyone’s list.

In 1984, when President Ronald Reagan declared the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day, he once again proved that the way to our hearts is through our stomachs, winning re-election later that year in a landslide.

While ice cream has gotten a reputation as being bad for you, it also brings some surprising health benefits. For starters, it’s loaded with calcium, which strengthens teeth and bones. It may also enhance the possibility of a woman getting pregnant.

You read that right. According to newhealthadvisor.com, consuming full-fat ice cream improves a woman’s chances of having a baby, and that “women who eat it at least two or more times every week have a lower risk of suffering ovulation-related infertility.”

But wait, there’s more good news. Studies show that men who have frequent sex are benefiting their prostate gland. According to a report in The Telegraph, having one orgasm a day could significantly reduce a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer.

A Harvard Medical School study reveals that those who have sex more than 21 times a month are at a 22 percent lower risk of getting the disease. “The results of this study are particularly encouraging,” Jennifer Rider of Harvard Medical School told The Telegraph. I’ll say!

Sex is also aerobic, and can add years to your life. Or maybe life just seems longer without it?

So my take-away from these studies is, if sex and ice cream are pretty much all you think about, you are admirably health-minded and a role model for us all.

Of course, ice cream is also loaded with fats and sugar, and can help make you obese, increase your cholesterol, give you diabetes and heart disease. And yes, too much sex could bloat a man’s prostate to the size of a cantaloupe. So there’s that.

But both also can do you some good. In moderation. So why not focus on the positive?

Hey, it’s summer!

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Trump Meets Putin: The Secret Tapes

Down in Times Square over the weekend, I was lucky enough to obtain a pirated tape of the Trump-Putin meeting from a street vendor dressed as Jack Sparrow. Here are the highlights:

Trump: “Wow, you’re short! If you had run against me in the Republican primaries, I would have called you Tiny Vlad.”

Putin: “Cute. I would have called you “Tiny Hands.”

Trump: “Then I would have called you—“

Putin (cuts him off) “Okay, why don’t we talk about the issues between our nations?”

Trump: “Issues? Oh sure! But first I want to thank you for your help in the 2016 election. I couldn’t have won it without you. You’re not taping this, are you?”

Putin: “Would I do that to my great comrade Donald? Never!” By the way, your son Donald Jr. was a delight to work with.”

Trump: “Terrific. I’ve already declared for 2020, and would love your assistance.”

Putin: “No problem. But I’d have to ask for something in return.”

Trump: “Of course. I’m the best negotiator in history, so ask away.”

Putin: “I’d like you to end the sanctions you put on my country for invading Ukraine, then interfering in your American democracy.”

Trump: “That’s it? Done.”

Putin: “Really?”

Trump: “Yes. Why wouldn’t I trust you? When I saw that photo of you preening bare-chested and riding a horse, I said, that’s my kind of leader. So, anything else I can do for you, my friend?”

Putin: “Uhm, sure. That Alaska deal we made with you in 1867? It always stuck in my craw. We’d like it back.”

Trump: “You want Alaska back? It’s freezing there!”

Putin: “I’m well aware.”

Trump: “Let me check with Sarah Palin. She can see you guys from her house, you know. But now I need something else from you.”

Putin: “Do you now?”

Trump: “Yep. You didn’t think you’d get off just helping me win the next election, did you?”

Putin: “You are an incredible deal-maker. So what else would you like?”

Trump: “I’ve always wanted to meet Nikita Khrushchev and Joseph Stalin. Could you arrange that?”

Putin: “Nikita–? Uhm, sure, maybe next time.”

Trump: “It was a real pleasure meeting you.”

Putin: “Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. And I’d like to move quickly on that Alaska deal.”

Trump “What’s the rush? You don’t think I’ll be running in 2020?”

Putin: “Oh, I think you’ll be running alright.”

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My Musicals That Didn’t Make the Cut

The New York Music Festival kicks off its annual launch of 30 new musicals on Monday at venues around town. Despite the selection of such shows as “Numbers Nerds” (about an all-girl math team from Wisconsin) and “Backbeard: The Musical” (about the hairiest pirate who ever lived), somehow all of my submissions were rejected.

Here’s what you will miss:

–You Ain’t Going Nowhere: A jukebox musical about subway riders who’ve lost jobs, friends and eventually, their minds due to subway delays. Songs include “Uptown (and Downtown) Funk”, “Stuck in the Middle With You”, and “By the Time I Get to Midtown (I’ll Be Jobless).”

–OMG, I’m Sick!: A heart-tugging musical about The American Health Care Act. Songs Include “A Million Reasons (You’re Not Covered)”; “I Don’t Want to Live Forever (but Not Die This Early!)” and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Because it was too Expensive in New York)”

–Adios Mr. Met: A frustrated mascot of a baseball team in freefall loses his job when he flips off booing fans. Songs include “I’m a Loser”, “We Aren’t the Champions”, and “That’s What Happens When Your Head Gets Too Big.”

–A Horse’s Tale: A mayor pretends to care about the welfare of carriage horses in Central Park, until the man behind the reform effort stops giving him money. He then reverses field and uses one of these same horses to take him from his gym in Park Slope to Gracie Mansion each morning. Songs include “Take the Money and Run”, “Horse With No Name” and “Whip It!”

–Hot Hot Hot!: A newly appointed EPA director laughs at climate change, then changes his tune when he finds his Florida vacation home 20 feet under water. Songs include “It Will Rain (Really Hard)”: “Cake By the Ocean (Now Flooding My Condo)”; and “Goodbye Florida!”

–Can’t Get Uber You: When a young Uber driver picks up a gorgeous model on Madison Avenue, more than his prices surge. She casually mentions Per Se as her favorite restaurant, and he takes her to dinner at the $500-a-meal food mecca. When she won’t return his texts afterward, Uber-guy realizes he’s the one who’s been taken for a ride. Songs: “I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In”, and “Forget You!”

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Fourth of July: What Are We Really Celebrating?

What are your plans for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend? Most celebrations involve the five F’s: fireworks, frankfurters, family, friends, freedom.

Maybe you’ll watch the fireworks at Macy’s East River extravaganza. You might enjoy grilled franks at a barbeque with family and friends.

But freedom? We use that word a lot. Americans have fought and died to defend our freedom. But how many understand what it really means, and why we celebrate this holiday?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Know the origin of that sentence? Right, the Declaration of Independence. But do we really believe and live it?

How about the Constitution? Founding Father James Madison might not have a hit musical written about him, but his Bill of Rights forms the heart of our democracy. Are you familiar with its First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . .”

Separation of church and state was vitally important to our Founding Fathers. Blurring that line would be a big mistake and, in fact, would threaten our religious freedoms. Want to live in Iran, Saudi Arabia or other nations where church and state are not separate? Not me!

Don’t like what you see in the media? Some hate Fox News, others The New York Times. One of the first things Hitler did was crush the press for daring to criticize him. We celebrate the fact that we live in a country where people can express viewpoints on all sides of the political spectrum.

Although the occupant of the White House is not the first to be at odds with the media, he should remember Thomas Jefferson’s words: “Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

I’ll be at a barbecue this weekend eating franks and ribs, drinking beer, then watching the fireworks with family and friends. Some will see eye to eye with me politically, some won’t, but we all agree on one thing: America’s freedom is something to celebrate.

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Dating in the Age of Trump

Three little words have always made the difference between romance and rejection: Do you smoke? That was the big question, the dealbreaker — no matter how attractive you found someone, if he or she smoked and you didn’t, game over.

Now four little words are being asked earlier and earlier in a relationship: Do you like Trump?

A friend recently met a woman online. They exchanged witty messages, and when they spoke on the phone, hit it off, joking and laughing. Until the toxic T-word came up.

My friend asked whether she could believe President Donald Trump’s latest lie. The woman said Trump never lies. My friend gave five examples. The woman asked where he read those, “the lying New York Times?”

She then said “Killary” Clinton is not only a bigger liar, but had people killed. My friend said, “Since we’re screaming at each other already, perhaps we shouldn’t meet.”

Hello? Hello?

I’ve heard stories like this, some from people looking for love, others from those already in relationships. What to do if you discover to your dismay that your partner absolutely loves — or hates — Trump?

According to a recent study by Wakefield Research, 24 percent of Americans who are married or dating (and a whopping 42 percent of millennials in that category) report that “since President Trump was elected, they and their partner have disagreed or argued about politics more than ever,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Among those who didn’t vote for Trump, 33 percent would consider divorce if they discovered their spouse voted for the president, according to Wakefield. That number rises to 43 percent of millennials with a spouse or partner they discover voted for him.

So it appears Trump has not just wreaked havoc on our relations with allies worldwide and our national politics, but in our bedrooms and on dating sites. It seems there is faint hope for those in relationships in which one can’t stand Trump and the other supports him. But take heart, it might not be a lost cause.

As with smoking, no matter which side you’re on, you might be able to make it work. Just hold your breath for the next few years.

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