For de Blasio, It’s Lonely at the Top

I can predict with confidence that Mayor Bill de Blasio will not alienate any more prominent NY Democrats this year.

He’s already alienated them all.

The latest supposed ally to lash out against the mayor is City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Complaining that he tried to take credit for an agreement on the ride-sharing service Uber last week, an angry Mark-Viverito said “I’m not going to allow anyone to save face at the expense of this council. This was a process that had nothing to do with the mayor.”

She then took a stroll off the deep end, saying: “I find this offensive as a woman and as a Latina.”

Huh? What does that have to do with anything? Whatever you think of our mayor, he is an equal-opportunity offender. Just ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Last month, de Blasio lashed out at Cuomo, saying he lacks leadership and that he carries out “vendettas,” a word usually reserved for mobsters.  I’m sure our governor will be much more cooperative with him now.

Meanwhile, de Blasio had an unpleasant surprise for former boss Hillary Clinton, who he failed to endorse on the day she announced her presidential campaign. The mayor first demanded to see her “progressive vision.”

Wait, I’m sure we can find at least one prominent NY Democrat who gets along splendidly with our mayor. What about NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer?

Stringer complained last week that de Blasio’s effort to cap the growth of Uber “made no sense” and that his proposal was “backwards.”

Let’s not give up hope yet. What about our freaky friend Anthony Weiner? After the mayor’s non-Clinton endorsement, Weiner fumed to The Wall Street Journal “Hillary was working on a progressive vision of health care when Bill was still smoking pot at NYU, or wherever he went.” Ok, scratch Carlos Danger.

De Blasio has been on the road a lot lately for both business and pleasure — jetting off to California, Iowa, New Mexico and Italy, among other places.

When he runs for re-election in 2017 and seeks a top Democrat to campaign with him, he shouldn’t be surprised to find Clinton, Cuomo and Mark-Viverito out of town as well.

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Waiter, There’s No Fly in My Soup!

Eat any insects lately? What are you waiting for?

Earlier this month, Wayback Burgers launched an Oreo mud pie cricket protein milkshake with chocolate-flavored cricket powder.

Cricket. As in bugs.

The burger chain tested the item at one of its Long Island locations on April 1 (started as an April Fool’s joke to create buzz). But the cricket shake proved so popular, the chain is offering the buggy treat in its stores through September — and may make it permanent.

At an Explorers Club dinner at the American Museum of Natural History in March, all of the cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres were made of insects. Neal deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, sampled the cricket canapé wrapped in bacon.

While noting the insect sampler was “not as good as a rib-eye,” Tyson told NPR that “insects have been long known as a great source of protein, so I don’t have a problem with that.”

Insects also contain high levels of nutrients, and eating them is good for the planet. I’ve obviously been looking at the cockroaches crawling around my kitchen the wrong way. Talk about convenience food!

I hate to break it to you, but peanut butter and other processed foods already contain an FDA-approved limit of insect pieces. So yes, you are already consuming them on a regular basis. Sorry about that.

At this point, a lot of you are probably bugging out. I’m pretty adventurous, and have eaten alligator (tastes like chicken) and other exotic dishes. I suppose I could down an insect, especially if it’s disguised in a shake.

Could you?

We are horrified when nationalities eat dog or horse meat, but have no problem with cows and pigs. Seems like disgust is in the eye of the beholder. Eating sushi — raw fish — was once considered repugnant in our culture. It eventually became mainstream. Can insects ever be considered a delicacy here? Such fare is already popular in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and eaten by about 2 billion people worldwide, according to the UN.

Here in the United States, Fresh Direct started carrying Exo protein bars made from cricket flour a year ago, and it’s only a matter of time until a major American chain offers its insect line.

Bugger King, anyone?

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Landmarks and Grand Parks and Bears, Oh My!

When my girlfriend Vicki asked me to go with her to the Central Park Arsenal Gallery’s exhibition celebrating city parks to mark the 50th anniversary of NYC’s landmarks law, I admit my first thought: boring!

But when she told me the “Living Landmarks” display was beside the Central Park Zoo and I could visit my favorite grizzly bears, Betty and Veronica, I was sold.

What I didn’t expect was how the photos and stories of the birth and development of such scenic landmarks as Central, Prospect and Riverside parks, as well as Eastern and Ocean parkways, would strike such a nerve in me.

All were designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Olmsted and his design partner, Calvert Vaux. Olmsted insisted that the parks be truly public and that their green space be accessible to all citizens.

Reading how the City of Brooklyn acquired the land for Ocean Parkway in 1868, as part of a network of landscaped thoroughfares leading to major parks, brought me back to my childhood. The parkway connects Prospect Park to Coney Island, and I’d ride my bike down its tree-lined bike path to Coney with my pals.

Other times my dad would take me to Prospect Park to eye the gorillas and watch the seals snatch fish from the air. I flashed forward to my adult life in Manhattan and the endless wonders of Central and Riverside parks. None of this would have been possible without the vision of Olmsted and Vaux.

The destruction of the old Pennsylvania Station in 1963 and the Brokaw Mansion on Fifth Avenue in 1965 were the catalysts for the landmarks law. In 1965, real estate developer Fred Trump (you-know-who’s dad) acquired Coney’s Steeplechase Park site, and before it could be granted landmark status, held a “demolition party,” inviting showgirls and others to hurl bricks through its beautiful facade.

Cut to the present, when historic buildings and churches are being torn down to make way for high-rise condos, and it’s clear the battle to protect classic New York edifices and parks is still relevant.

The free exhibit runs through Aug. 28. We enjoyed the visit, and yep, dropped in on playful Betty and Veronica afterward. Not a bad NYC afternoon.

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Donald Ducks Responsibility for Corporate Trump Dump

Whoever said all publicity is good publicity is now retracting that statement, as Donald Trump’s self-destruction tour continues.

Trump’s Mexican-immigrant-bashing entry into the GOP presidential race has backfired on The Donald big time. He has made himself a human piñata, and I’m not just talking about the Donald Trump pinatas doing brisk business in Mexico.

His rant against Mexicans (“They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists”) has already led NBC Universal, Macy’s, Univision and other corporations to turn Trump’s signature line (“You’re fired!”) on him. Of course, like an obnoxious, dumped boyfriend, Trump claims he’s doing the dumping. NYC is also reviewing its contracts with him.

Still, Trump insists he’s a brilliant businessman__so brilliant that he’s the only person running for president who is losing tons of money by doing so.

As far as Trump’s claim that he will “build a great, great wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it,” how exactly would he accomplish that? Restart the Mexican-American war?

While Trump’s popularity has alarmingly risen among some Republicans since his bombastic remarks, polls show he has zero chance of winning a national election. Trump as U.S. president? Maybe president of the Hair Club for Men. While he runs to promote his brand, it looks more and more like he’s destroying it.

Meanwhile, Trump has moved up to second place in Republican polls. For a party trying to recruit Latino voters, Trump is a nightmare. How do you reach out to Latinos when one of your leading candidates is insulting and demonizing them?

But the Republican Party should collectively check the mirror. The GOP’s constant mockery and rejection of any reasonable immigration bill is a theme that Trump merely picked up and ran with, in its crudest form.

As his empire crumbles around him, will Trump drop out, or figure he has nothing left to lose and just go for it?

With the first GOP debate just a month away, the Party has gone into full panic mode. Their overflowing clown car of candidates now has a wildcard passenger elbowing his way into the driver’s seat. And they realize Trump is fully capable of taking them all over the cliff with him.

 

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C is for Creepy

What would you do if a stranger on the street grabbed your daughter or sister in a bear hug? What if he insisted on taking a photo with her, then demanded money?

Call a cop? Punch him in the mouth?

Now, what if he were disguised as Cookie Monster, Elmo or Spider-Man?

According to statistics from the Times Square Alliance, the number of costumed characters in the area has skyrocketed in the past few months__and the above scenario happens about once a minute, according to my on-hand observation last Thursday.

Most of the characters behaved responsibly. But in the hour I was there, too many acted inappropriately, including a Spider-Man manhandling teen girls who passed by. Later, Spidey and Elmo counted stacks of 10s and 20s they’d finagled from intimidated tourists.

But the issue isn’t just costumed characters. Two guys sold CDs by requesting a tourist’s name, writing it on the CD, then growling, “I can’t sell this with your name on it; you owe me $10.” And virtually nude “Vegas showgirls” targeted a group of teen boys for photos.

One Cookie Monster approached a tourist family with a hearty, “Hi! Welcome to New York!” Many of the tourists believed the characters are hired by the city — not independent operators shaking them down for cash. (A Cookie Monster was arrested in April after he allegedly grabbed a teenage girl’s breast.)

One scam repeated more than once: Minnie Mouse corralled a visiting family for a photo, Mickey rushed over to take part, then they demanded $20 each.

I saw one dazed tourist break away from a predatory pack of costumed characters, fuming, “They forced me to pay all of them.” Another cried to a Cookie Monster, “You didn’t give me enough change.” Perhaps it’s time to drop the “Cookie” part of his name.

“I have no issue with people asking for tips, but aggressive solicitation and intimidation is something else,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, told me. “There are hundreds of people a day being made to feel uncomfortable or worse, and it’s just not being dealt with.”

Is this how we want NYC visitors treated?

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Glistening Towers Cast a Dark Shadow

The sun shone brightly on a gorgeous June weekday afternoon in Central Park. A sudden chill surprised Victoria Keane and her sons enjoying their time at a park playground, as the sky darkened. A passing cloud? An approaching storm? Nope, just the long shadow cast by One57, a new megatower on West 57th Street.

One57 recently broke the record for the highest price paid for a NYC residence: More than $100 million. The 1,004-foot skyscraper will be joined in 2018 by the Nordstrom Tower at 217 W. 57th. Other mega high-rises on what is being called “billionaires row” are also under construction. Many of these new luxury palaces are being purchased by rich foreign investors.

Down below, many New Yorkers look up at this rapidly developing, haphazard new skyline and see red. Manhattan’s Community Board 5 recently asked for a moratorium on construction of all buildings 600 feet or higher without them first undergoing a public review, giving city officials time to study the impact of these new skyscrapers on average New Yorkers.

Meanwhile, the race to the sky continues. According to the board’s Sunshine Task Force (desperate times call for desperate names), “seven new supertall buildings are underway along the 57th Street corridor,” with more skyscrapers in the planning stages.

The board recently held a packed meeting to air grievances. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer demanded more transparency regarding air-rights transfers to developers, and expressed concern about the shadows cast by these gargantuan structures.

But Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development Co., the developer of One57, has said “the shadows cast by these tall, slender buildings . . . are very brief” and that the structures are creating many permanent jobs.

Back in Central Park, Keane’s older son said the shadow on the playground reminded him of an episode of “The Simpsons” in which evil gazillionaire Monty Burns plunged the town of Springfield into darkness just because he could.

So which is it? Are the mushrooming skyscrapers a blight on our city or a jobs-creating tribute to progress and prosperity? I guess that depends on your perspective — whether you’re high up in the gleaming towers, or down on the shaded ground with Keane, her sons and the rest of us.

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When Politics Becomes Religion, We All Suffer

Another spate of shootings in the city last week, and another week of denial by our mayor.

Just as some right wingers deny all evidence of evolution, left wing Mayor Bill de Blasio ignores statistics showing the number of shootings and homicides in NYC are on the rise. Why?

If your arguments are based on reason, you will abandon them if the facts go against you, said philosopher Bertrand Russell

But if your arguments are based on faith, no amount of facts will change your mind. De Blasio was, is, and always will be a political ideologue, whether the issue is education, housing — or crime.

NYC first lady Chirlane McCray let the cat out of the bag earlier this month when she talked lovingly about 1977, her first year in New York, recalling how, “The city was strong. The city was inclusive and dynamic. We want the city to stay that way.”

Excuse me? The city was a hellhole in 1977. A time when a serial killer was shooting women in parked cars (“The Summer of Sam”), crime was out of control, the Bronx was burning, the subways were graffiti-covered and filthy, and a blackout led to mass rioting. Outside of that, things were swell.

Despite all this, the mayor said his wife made “a really powerful point.”

“. . . Those were not ideal times,” conceded de Blasio (you think?), “but at least you could find a place you could afford to live.”

Of course you could. The city was in chaos, and people were fleeing in droves.

For someone who is for strict gun control, it’s amazing how much Democrat de Blasio mirrors his true believer Republican counterparts when it comes to shootings. It doesn’t matter how many bodies pile up — if it clashes with their respective ideologies, they don’t want to hear it.

In 1990, a 22-year-old tourist from Utah was viciously attacked and killed on the subway defending his family in a case that drew national attention. Three years later, law-and-order candidate Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor. The city had had enough.

Hopefully, it won’t take another attack on a tourist before de Blasio stops ignoring rising shooting and homicide rates and takes action — even if it goes against his political religion.

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What Is It About Brooklyn’s James Madison High?

What do Democratic presidential contender and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, singer-songwriter Carole King, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Judge Judith (“Judge Judy”) Sheindlin have in common?

They are all graduates of Brooklyn’s James Madison High School. Somehow, the public school nestled on Bedford Avenue between Avenue P and Quentin Road has produced three U.S. senators, four Nobel Prize winners and an eye-opening list of other graduates who have made major contributions to society.

The school has selected honorees for its 2016 Wall of Distinction, former Madison alumni association president Richard Kossoff told me. They include food critic Arthur Schwartz, renowned physicist and mathematician Barry Simon, screenwriter Roger Schulman, who co-wrote “Shrek,” and the late David “Sonny” Werblin, the NY Jets owner who brought Joe Namath to the team.

“People always ask me, was there something in the water?” said Kossoff. “I tell them the real key was middle- and working-class parents . . . who stressed education so that their kids could do better than they did.”

Past honorees include former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, radio personality Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow and health journalist Jane Brody.

Through the years, Madison High has tried to live up to its namesake’s belief: “Education is the true foundation of civil liberty.” Honorees talk about two things: a particular teacher who affected their lives, and the unique experience of growing up in Brooklyn.

When New York Sen. and Madison graduate Chuck Schumer attended the award ceremonies, he said, “We received two degrees at Madison: an academic degree, and one in street smarts, which served us well over our lifetimes.”

Kossoff founded the Wall of Distinction in 2001 to assure that these grads who had a positive influence are never forgotten. James Madison students look at the wall of neighborhood kids who achieved so much and are inspired.

Kossoff told me a student quietly studied the names on the wall recently, then asked, “Were they rich?” “No,” Kossoff replied. “They were smart and they worked hard.” She thought for a moment, then said, “That’s what I’m going to do.”

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We’re Curious, George–Why Are You Running?

Can you identify George Pataki? An actor on “Star Trek”? Nope, try again. That’s right, he was once governor of New York. And now Pataki is running for president. And we can only ask: Why, George, why?

Pataki made it official Thursday in New Hampshire. He’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination, boldly declaring, “It’s time to stand up, protect our freedom and take back this government,” and a few other cliches already used by the mind-numbing number of GOP candidates in the race. Plus the obligatory bashing of Democratic front-runner and fellow New Yorker Hillary Clinton.

Pataki has about as much chance of being our next president as Lady Gaga. Pro-abortion rights and pro-gun control, Pataki is “a voice of moderation,” says his loving wife, Libby, which sounds very reasonable, and also guarantees him getting trounced in the Republican primaries.

In an increasingly crowded GOP field in which no one has pulled away from the pack, a lesser-known candidate can convince himself that he has a shot. But a smart man like Pataki has to know deep down that he has no real chance.

So why does he run? Denial? Delusion? Ego?

Most likely for the same reason Donald Trump throws his hair into the ring every four years — to promote his name brand. It’s a surefire way for vaguely remembered politicians such as Pataki to get their mugs plastered all over the media. A declared candidate can tour the nation, making speeches and giving interviews, which leads to greater name recognition, higher speaking fees, more corporate board appointments and other moneymaking opportunities.

Look, it worked for Mike Huckabee, who parlayed a 2008 presidential run into a book deal and Fox News gig. Now they all want to be like Mike.

Five candidates are tied atop the Republican presidential polls with 10% of the vote each, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday. It’s easy to fantasize that you’re the guy (or gal, in Carly Fiorina’s case) who’ll get lucky. It’s a win-win either way, right? But what about the gazillions wasted on the seemingly endless race? Hey, it’s other people’s money.

And politicians wonder why we’re so cynical about them?

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Frequent Fliers or Frequent Liars?

About to board a flight out of LaGuardia Airport Saturday for a brief vacation, I noticed a half-dozen passengers in wheelchairs at the front of the line. When we landed, only two required wheelchairs to leave. Was my plane diverted to Lourdes?

Nope, just the latest scam from fliers without shame. Don’t want to wait on line with the rest of us? Fake a disability.

Infuriating, isn’t it? People with disabilities deserve compassion, but those who fake being disabled deserve only contempt. Federal law requires accommodations for disabled passengers, and airlines provide them, usually without requiring proof of injury or disability. And of course, the usual suspects think they’re brilliant to game the system.

Two dogs were on my flight as well. Were they service animals? Who knows? On most airlines, service and emotional support animals travel at no charge. The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t allow businesses to quiz people about their disabilities.

And so the number of emotional support dogs, monkeys, parrots, ferrets and other species is proliferating, as is the number of certificates issued for them online, no questions asked. In November, a woman brought her “emotional-support pig” on a US Airways flight and was tossed off after the porker became disruptive and relieved itself in the aisle, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Most people who use service animals truly need them. But sorry, just because you’ll miss your little Fifi doesn’t make her an emotional-support dog.

Those who use bogus disabled placards or tote fake service animals anger those with real disabilities, and can you blame them? These scammers bring doubt upon those with real disabilities, especially those that are not obvious, like serious heart conditions.

Someone once offered me a disabled-parking permit, like the ill-gotten one he used. I said no, that I had no desire to deprive some truly disabled person of a spot. He glared at me like I was calling him a heartless sociopath. Which I was.

When the plane landed and the miraculously cured sprinted off the plane, I fantasized about tackling them and making them earn their disabled status.

I resisted the urge. This time.

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