By early afternoon on Tuesday (January 1st), the estimated 50 tons of garbage left behind by the crammed crowds of approximately one million partiers, who had descended upon Times Square the night before to ring in the new year, had been cleaned up and by this morning when I passed through the "crossroads of the world" you could not tell that such a large scale, multi-faceted event had taken place there at all. Instead, on this first day of business of the new year for most, New Yorkers were rushing in every direction returning to work or maybe to the gym to live up to their New Year's resolution, many clutching newspapers with front page stories on 2013 predictions. At least two NYC papers reported on changes New Yorkers and New York can expect in 2013. These include a better prepared NYC for another Sandy, and a return of the NY Marathon. Also coming in March is the dreaded but inevitable public transit fare increases when flat train/bus fares will increase from $2.25 to $2.50 and monthly unlimited passes increase from $104 to $112, which still not bad compared to the BART or most other US public transit systems. Another much talked about change to take place this year is in mid-March when the new law banning "big gulp" soda drinks from being sold in NYC goes into effect. This has been both controversial and fodder for late night talk shows since the law was pushed in 2012 by the health conscious mayor Michael M. Bloomberg.
Since Bloomberg took office ten years ago, he has continued what his predecessor Rudolph W. Giuliani (NYC mayor from 1994) began - a tough fight against crime in New York City. It has paid off apparently. Bloomberg announced last Friday that murders in New York City dropped so much in 2012 that they fell to their lowest level in almost 50 years. The longtime mayor made the statement during a police academy graduation ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for one thousand new NYPD officers who will join the ever-growing ranks of beat cops in NYC. Flooding crime-ridden neighborhoods with cops walking the streets has been cited as a key component of the successful fight against all crime in NYC that began during the Giuliani administration. The fight against crime adapted the "broken windows" criminological theory, which believes that by having a zero tolerance towards such street level non-violent law-breaking as having broken windows would turn around urban disorder. Other things not tolerated included forms of urban blight (offenders were fined), weed smoking in public places (once an accepted part of NYC street culture), and graffiti (which gave name to James and Karla Murray's first NYC graffiti book). At last week's graduation, Bloomberg also attributed the low murder rate to the department’s “stop, question, and frisk” practice. This is the highly controversial NYPD practice of randomly stopping New Yorkers (mostly black and Latino males in poor hoods) and aggressive hot-spot policing, in which officers are deployed to areas with crime spikes. The number of murders in 2012 was the lowest since 1963. That 2012 figure was 414 murders - not only down from 515 in 2011 but down from 2,000+ in 1992. When Mayor Bloomberg last said that, "The essence of civilization is that you can walk down the street without having to look over your shoulder," he spoke some truth since NYC is definitely a safer place to be these days than back in the early '90s. It is also a very different place - as illustrated in the video below of the Times Square district of before Guiliani and Bloomberg.
Dirty Seedy Old Times Square and 42nd St. ("The Deuce") before gentrification
Accurately tagged "Dirty Seedy Old Times Square and 42nd St. ("The Deuce") before gentrification" by Zerkzeez, the above video is so amazing because of how much this area has radically changed in just a few decades. Simply put, if you only had this video image to go by you would not recognize it as the same place, with the exception of say the subway stop. If you go to the actual YouTube posting of this video you will see in the heated comments between the two viewpoints on the ever hot topic of gentrification in New York City and the complete makeover that this city has undergone over the past couple of decades. As a fan of graffiti, I sure miss the old New York, but as a fan of life I don't miss the threat of someone mugging me on the subway like I once did. However, I am opposed to the stop and frisk practices of NYPD and the amount of (mostly minority) New Yorkers who are behind bars over small amounts of weed as a result. Additionally, I side with the critics of Bloomberg who say that he is the one responsible for the death of the small mom-and-pop type business in New York City. However I see this displacement of small businesses by large big chains as more of a national problem than a regional one.
Concerts and events happening this week in the Big Apple include tonight (Jan 3rd) the New York Philharmonic with Jean-Yves Thibadet at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Jon B. at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in the Times Square area at 237 West 42nd St. (near 8th Avenue). Other shows at BB King's this week include The Calypso King playing there on Saturday (Jan 5th) and blues influenced guitar rock legend Johnny Winter on Tuesday next (Jan 8th). Washington DC rapper Wale plays the Bowery Ballroom on Monday (Jan 7th); tickets are $40. More info here on that show and also on the cool Friday (Jan 4th) show at the same downtown Manhattan location with The Dirty Pearls headlining and opening sets from both Brothers NYC, and The Nuclears, plus a DJ set from Ian El Dorado ($16).
On Tuesday Queensbridge rap legend NAS along with Anthony DeCurtis play at the Kaufmann Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y - entrance on Lexington near E 92nd Street (sold out but tickets at above face value cost are available from such sites as AllGoodSeats.com). On Friday (Jan 4th) morning from 10:30am - 12:00pm will be the 36th Annual Three Kings Day Parade in East Harlem inviting community members and folks from afar to come and "experience camels, colorful puppets, parrandas, and dancing on this magical day" as they join El Museo de Barrio for their annual Three Kings Day Parade, a festive holiday celebrated throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Led by the Three Kings, the parade will wind throughout the streets of El Barrio. Admission is free. More exact parade details and participant info here.
And finally I leave you with a video of a song that, every time I ride the A train up to Harlem, pops into my head. It is of course the 1930 jazz standard composition "Take The A Train." The version is an early one by Duke Ellington and band from 1943 (not the better known later version with Ella Fitzgerald). This film clip is a segment taken from the 1943 Charles Barton directed film Reveille with Beverly that starred Ann Miller, Franklin Pangborn, and Larry Parks.