nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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An all-perv ticket

Ah, what a great headline on the front page of this week’s New York Observer. ‘Dems brace for an all-perv ticket’. This is reference to two politicians here who have recently tried to resurrect their political careers after some rather dodgy behaviour in their recent pasts. Anthony Weiner is a former New York US Representative who resigned after he sent sexually explicit pictures of himself via Twitter to one of his followers. He is now, two years on, trying to get the democratic nomination to become Mayor of New York and giving Christine Quinn a run for her money. He is also interesting because he is married to Huma Abedin, who is a key aide to Hillary Clinton. There was an article in the New York Times Magazine earlier this year about them, which is worth a read, if you’re interested.

And just this week Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York, also put his hat into the ring for the race to become Comptroller of New York State (the chief fiscal officer of the state, responsible for pension funds and payroll amongst other things). His controversy stems from 2008 when he had to resign the Governorship after he was found to have a bit of call girl habit “costing him tens of thousands of dollars in legally questionable transfers” according to the New York Observer. I’m not entirely sure that’s a great CV for a finance post. The Huffington Post confirmed that he had got the required number of signatures to get on the ballot for the democratic primary in September, so someone obviously thinks he can do the job. It’s a hilarious part of this year’s elections and I’m sure will have plenty of food for the headline writers as we get closer to voting day.


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Crazy world of the New York property market

When we left NW3 the property market was mad. House prices just kept going up and up and most flats in the area were going for well over 1,000 pounds per square foot. It was unaffordable to many but very attractive to a lot of foreign money, with many overseas buyers looking for havens for their spare cash. I still subscribe to a few estate agent websites and see the jaw dropping prices of flats near where we used to rent in NW3. It comes as no surprise then that New York is pretty much in the same position: little inventory, lots of demand. There was a front page article in the New York Times yesterday about this. Property selling works a bit differently here. The buyer has an agent and the seller has an agent. So often the buyer and the seller don’t even meet, it’s done through their representatives. Open houses are common, with the seller’s agent arranging viewings with the brokers representing the buyers. The New York Times article talks about 100 buyers crammed into open houses for one bed flats; with dozens of above asking prices offers; and the level of all cash buyers is stunning. It’s  a crazy world. I’m so glad we aren’t buying here.


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Not sure what to think

I follow lots of New York media via Twitter, it’s a great way to get a broad flavour of what’s happening in the city without trawling through websites or buying the papers every day. Yesterday I saw a tweet from the New York Post saying “Never pee on the third rail”. I was intrigued. The tweet took me to the full story on the New York Post website. I’d assumed that someone had been electrocuted whilst actually in the act of peeing, which can never be a good thing. But on closer inspection it was that he had got down onto the track to pee, stumbled when he’d heard a train coming, tried to get off the track and fell on the third electrified rail. It just shows that the 140 character limit of Twitter can create an impression that something has happened in order to send traffic to a website but it’s really not quite the truth when you get there. I see from the Post website today that the story had re-tweeted 47 times, but had appeared on other media Twitter feeds so there were many more re-tweets. More ghoulishly, 209 people ‘liked’ the story as it appeared on the Post website. I wonder if they really thought about that: the fact that this poor 30 year old man died in a freak accident and they ‘liked’ it. Maybe I’m just as bad, as I am blogging about it too.


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They’re not Phil and Kirstie

Ah yes, Location, Location, Location, the UK property show that promised you a predictable hour of entertainment. British couples who want a property, can’t decide what they really want, look to Phil and Kirstie to guide them on their way. They see a terrible property, a not so terrible one and after a few more ups and downs and the mandatory flirting between the two hosts, they find the home of their dreams. Safe, predictable evening TV from Channel 4.

And do we have that here? Err, no. we have Million Dollar Listing: New York. A fabulous catty programme that focuses on three different real estate agents as they try to make as much commission as possible by selling incredible multi million dollar apartments. The agents all hate each other and do whatever they can make the deal and there’s high camp drama all round. I love seeing the seeing amazing properties that look like they came straight out of a magazine and of course seeing all the streets of New York. It’s mostly focused down town in areas like Chelsea and Tribeca, with occasional trips uptown. It’s brilliant. It’s great entertainment. Watch it on-line and become addicted.

http://www.bravotv.com/million-dollar-listing-new-york

 


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Smoke alarm

Today’s papers are focusing on an announcement made by the New York City Government about plans to increase the age at which you can buy cigarettes from 18 to 21. As a non-smoker, this sounds good to me. Any disincentive to smokers has to be a good thing. I have been surprised at how little smoking you see in New York. In London you would see gaggles of people outside buildings, puffing away during office hours. The smoking ban in pubs and restaurants back in 2007 made a huge difference to anyone who hated coming home stinking of cigarettes. It was a relief not to have to air my clothes on the radiators after a night in the pub. Here, you aren’t allowed to smoke in parks, beaches (not many of those in New York City!) plazas and other public places. The argument here against raising the age for buying cigarettes is all about liberty: the freedom to buy cigarettes when you are old enough to fight for your country, you’re old enough to decide whether it’s a good thing to smoke. On a more political front, the New York Times observed that the announcement made here on Monday about these proposals was fronted by Dr Thomas A Farley (they are big on using the middle initial here) who is the city’s health commissioner and Speaker Christine Quinn. Previously anything health related would have been announced by Mayor Bloomberg. The Times speculates that this is him passing the mantle to Quinn, in her bid to be Mayor. Whatever the truth, the New York Post has the best headlines as ever: “The Cig is Up. Quinn Bill to hike cigarette age to 21”.


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Give me an A

Yep, that’s what all the restaurants in New York want. Mayor Bloomberg introduced a new health inspection regime in July 2010 that means that each restaurant now displays a ‘Sanitary Inspection’ grade by the front door. An A is very good, means that the inspectors only turn up once a year; a B not so good, as the inspectors will turn up four times in a year to see what you’ve been up to. E and I have been tracking these letters and often comment on them, wondering if anyone would get an A+ and what would happen if you got a Z. I am yet to see a C grade, which is the lowest grade you can get. I had a look at the New York Department of Health guidelines on inspection and grading. It’s a thrilling one page read. If you don’t get an A first time round, you get another chance, with a random inspection a month later. This explains the ‘Grade Pending’ notice on a restaurant near us, which has been puzzling us. But given it’s way more than a month, I’m not sure the regime is working perfectly and with 24,000 restaurants to inspect, it’s no surprise.

Today, the New York Post got all in a lather about this, calling the Department of Health staff ‘killjoys’ who walk into restaurants and ruin everyone’s dinner as service pretty much stops as the inspection takes place.  The Post goes on to say “Bloomberg’s blue-coated buzzkills are increasingly invading city eateries during peak times, shutting down service for several hours and leaving diners hungry and businesses broke”. Fantastic alliteration and I suspect total overkill on what’s actually happening, but entertaining as usual from the Post. So watch out next time you fancy a meal out!

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/rii/how-we-score-grade.pdf


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Financing the election

The New York Times produces a fascinating table of how much each candidate for the New York Mayor has raised and spent.

I predicted in an earlier post that Speaker Christine Quinn would get the Democrat nomination, which concludes on 10 September. The golden number is 40, she needs 40 per cent of registered Democrats to vote for her to get the nomination. The papers here are predicting she is pretty close based on various polls. So far she has raised over $6.5 million, nearly double her closest rival, Bill de Blasio. Interestingly they have both spent about the same so far, around $1.1 million.

Unfortunately I can’t get it to look fancy here on this page, but the interactive map is at:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/03/16/nyregion/how-much-the-nyc-mayoral-candidates-have-raised-and-spent.html?_r=0

It’s great though, when the best the New York Post can do is print a photo of Christine Quinn walking to work in her business wear and be critical about the fact she is wearing trainers, like that’s news.


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Did you see the game?

This is the conversation of the day. No explanation needed, everyone is talking about the Super Bowl. I had never seen it before nor had any interest in its existence but you could not escape it here. Every bar, every cafe had some sign up encouraging people to watch it on the big screen, eat lots of junk food and drink beer. Even when I went for a run in Central Park early on Sunday morning there were reminders, as the fun run also going on in the park split a section of the road into the San Franciso 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens who were the competing teams. In honour of the great day, Animal Planet, a cable channel shows Puppy Bowl, which is in its 9th year. It is a mini American football field filled with puppies and goes on for two hours, over four quarters, just like the real Super Bowl. However after half an hour of ‘ahh, aren’t they cute’ it does get a bit samey. Although I did enjoy the hedgehog cheerleaders and the guinea pig commentators. I did watch the entire Super Bowl which started at 6.30 pm and went on until past 10.30, not helped by a power outage just after half time which the conspiracy theorists say gave the losing team time to recover and stage a come back. R explained the rules to me all the way through, quite how he knows all about this, I have no idea, but it did make a bit more sense that way. Because each play of American football is so short, it’s a great excuse to show lots and lots of adverts and because each break is variable in length, it’s hard to watch on time lapse, so I saw a lot. Beyonce strutted her stuff during the half time break and put on an impressive show, her legs seem to go on forever!  Oh, and Baltimore won. I put it down to their kit, so much nicer than the San Francisco ensemble of red and brown.


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Dear New York Times

I like your paper, I only buy it on a Sunday because the rest of the week I am fond of the New York Post and I don’t have time to read both of you. But there is one thing I really dislike about you. It is really irritating when you start an article on one page and then finish it off on another page. I understand when you do this on the front page of the main news section as there are lots of stories and it sort of makes sense. But in the Arts and Leisure section you start a review of the new TV show Americans on page 20, pause it half way down the page to then tell me to turn to page 23. The reason for this is another article on an actress called Brett Butler and this article ends with a request to turn to page 23 as well. So on page 23 we have the remnants of both articles. Just jiggle the page layout to get the articles to start and finish on the same page, please. Your current approach, which is littered throughout the paper, makes no sense.

Yours, nyc-newbie.


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NYU sugar daddies

When I went to university it was free, in fact I got a grant to pay for accommodation and living expenses. It wasn’t much, but I did leave university with no debts. There were no tuition fees back then either. In last week’s New York Post, which is a bit like the Daily Mail crossed with the Sun, they were very excited at the high number of New York University students who had enrolled with a sugar-daddy dating site called seekingarrangement.com. The article is pretty superficial and full of comments from people who only gave their first name, probably out of sheer embarrassment. The Sugar Daddy Blog on the front page of the website rather cleverly wrote about the high numbers of students and provided the figures by university to the media which resulted in some great free publicity as not only did the Post pick it up, but USA Today, Cosmopolitan and the Huffington Post.

I looked up the cost of undergraduate tuition at NYU and for one semester in the Arts and Science Faculty, the fees are a staggering $22,000. Multiply this by three for the three semesters per year and then over three years and you get tuition fees of around $200,000 just to get a degree! And of course, don’t forget, they have to then live, so it’s no wonder that students here in New York need to work or find some way of earning cash through sites like this one to get by.