nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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When primary doesn’t mean school

In the UK the word primary usually gets associated with he word school. When I was a kid I went to primary school from age 5 to 11, then I went to secondary school until age 18. Here in NY primary schools are called elementary schools, then kids go to middle school and then on to high school.

The only reason I think of this today is because it’s primary election day today. This means that a load of candidates are trying to get the nomination for their party to stand for the real election in a few months time. Here in New York City that means a lot of people are vying to get the democratic nomination for various spots on the State government, including the Assembly, the Senate and a number of other posts I don’t really understand.

This does mean that getting down the street is quite hard without being assailed by a leaflet toting campaigner who thrusts leaflets at you. I’ve given up telling them I can’t vote, it’s just too much hassle, so I collect them all, have a bit of a read and discard them. A lot of trees have died for this campaign.


One of the more interesting races is that for the nomination for New York State Governor. Currently, it’s a man called Andrew Cuomo, whose father was also Governor in years gone by. He reminds me of the character played by Chris Noth (previously Mr Big in Sex and the City) in The Good Wife, which is a ridiculous legal based drama that R and I like to watch and laugh at, but secretly like. Mr Cuomo is not quite as handsome as Mr Noth.

Andrew Cuomo has done little to campaign for re nomination and I haven’t seen any campaign posters for the Governor’s race. But he is being opposed by a woman with the best name ever: Zephyr Teachout. She’s a law professor from one of the city’s universities and she’s focusing on anti corruption and drawing attention away from Cuomo. It’s been interesting following her campaign and it’s unlikely she’ll get much of the vote today.

The New York Times was wonderfully sniffy about it all and refused to endorse Cuomo, saying he hadn’t lived up to his promises to sort out corruption in the State Government. But they refused to endorse Teachout because she has no legislative experience. So, we’ll see what happens when the count is over and if Cuomo is tarnished at all. Whatever happens today, New York State will elect a Democrat as Governor, it’s just that kind of state.

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Busts in the Bronx

The weather’s calmed down a bit so J and I have been off on our New York adventures. Today that involved a trip north on the 4 train way up into the Bronx to Burnside Avenue. Not quite like the Upper East Side, that’s for sure, but home to a little known treasure hidden in the vast grounds of the Bronx Community College, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.

I couldn’t quite believe how this could be in an obscure bit of the Bronx, but over 100 years ago the Chancellor of New York University decided to build a monument to mark the great men of America. This involved building a kind of 630 foot open air collonade. Basically an arc of columns under a patterned roof and between each column sits the bust of a famous American.


I loved the phrase written into the iron gates as you enter the collonade:

“Enter with joy that those within have lived.”

For me, many of the names were obscure but maybe for Americans they would know them instantly.

The statesmen section included many Presidents: Washington, Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln. Benjamin Franklin stands proud too – we like him because he invented the lightning rod, which I thought was pretty cool. There’s Alexander Graham Bell and Edgar Allan Poe, a new favourite since my visit to the Morgan Library last year. And of the 100-ish busts there are ten women and I’m sorry to say I hadn’t heard of any of them. They seemed to be mostly in education and in the anti slavery movement. And I think Franklin D Roosevelt, President until 1945 is the newest one of the lot and his bust is distinctive because it’s literally just his head, unlike all the others which included their shoulders.

I liked it. I thought it was a really peaceful, thoughtful place. I think in winter you can see right across to the Cloisters and possibly the Hudson River, but there were too many trees full of leaves to tell either way. I don’t know that it gets many visitors, we were the only ones in the hour I spent there. J enjoyed checking out the beards, he has a thing about them for some reason.

It might be worth the trip for anyone interested in US history, but I would recommend dressing down and not looking too much like a tourist, it’s just not that kind of place. Check out the photos below, apologies they are a bit dark, but the light was not in my favour, but you get the idea.

Entrance to the collonade

Entrance to the collonade













Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln













Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe









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Slightly more serious than usual

Here’s a sobering chart. Every time I give someone a tip, I think it’s just a bit extra, a bit of cash in hand. But no, every time I tip, it looks like I am effectively topping up an incredibly low wage. The US tax man also thinks that I am tipping, so taxes on that income, so if I don’t tip, they have to pay tax anyway. President Obama is promoting a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour and most states get nowhere near that. What a system.

























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Nelson Mandela slept there

So in the cold wastes of New York, I find myself in the same bedroom that once saw Nelson Mandela and other dignitaries who visited the Mayor of New York. The official residence of the Mayor is called Gracie Mansion and it’s only a few blocks from our apartment. It was built in 1799 but has only been the home the Mayors of New York since 1945; prior to that was mostly in private hands.It’s pretty fancy inside, having been lovingly restored under Bloomberg’s watch, but he never lived there, preferring his much fancier town house on 79th Street by Central Park. The new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, is moving in soon, so the tour that I went on today is unlikely to continue much longer. Good timing from me, then.

I did wonder why de Blasio would want to move from super trendy Park Slope in Brooklyn to Gracie Mansion. It’s right next to the FDR, which is a really busy road running down the east side of Manhattan. It does have great views of the East River, but then so does our apartment and we don’t have to look at cars racing by all day. It’s basically a creaky floored old museum, stuffed to rafters with old furniture and fittings either on loan or given by previous residents.

It’s amusing to see the graffiti in the glass made by the children of previous Mayors, when everything else looks so perfect. Good job de Blasio’s kids are in their late teens, because I wouldn’t put a toddler anywhere near that place. Even the tour guides made us cling to the bannister when going up the grand staircase, as health and safety went safely mad in there. Not sure it would be a comfy place to chill out and watch the telly, but then again, if you’re the Mayor of New York, maybe you’re just a bit too busy.

Take a look for yourself at the Gracie Mansion website.

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1 year on

So we’ve been in New York for exactly one year now. I didn’t quite get to 200 posts, but close at 187. I’m conscious that the blog has become fairly obsessed with food and art with a smattering of politics. I don’t think I really intended this, but it’s just the way it’s turned out.

I think I’ve probably said most of what can be said about the people here. I’ve got used to the language and cultural differences. It still bugs me when people don’t say ‘thanks’ when you give way to them on the pavement, but I try not to let it bother me too much. But I have got used to the fact that no one gives a toss that I’m British. And I am so pleased that New Yorkers are as obsessed with the weather as us Brits.

It’s nice to feel almost a sense of community after one year. Cities are lonely places, but when you come here with small children, they kind of open up for you. I bump into people I know via the school in the street and at the lovely playground near us. It’s nice when the butcher knows your name and baffling that the dry cleaner is excited to see your toddler and knows his name but can’t remember mine despite the fact I go there every week.

I have staked out my favourite food places and have become a creature of habit in what I buy in each. I spend a fortune in Fairway; I treat myself from Dean and Deluca; and am selective in the lovely Agatha and Valentina. I thought I’d cook a lot more, but I don’t. In fact the food here is so easy to buy all done for you, that really there’s no point in doing lots of it yourself. And of course everything can be delivered, so you don’t even have to leave your home. I’d been concerned about portion size, worried about becoming larger than when I arrived. Perversely I have lost weight since being here, but I put that down to the miles I walk with J and the running in Central Park.

And the weather? I love the fact that summer starts in May and pretty much goes on until late October. Basking in the beautiful northern parts of Central Park on 2 November was a real highlight and a huge contrast to NW3. The colours of the trees changed throughout October and some are still hanging on now. When we arrived last year I hated the greyness of the city, how drab it all looked with bare trees and brutal architecture. Now that I’ve seen New York through its four seasons, I don’t mind so much, knowing it won’t last too long.

I have felt hugely privileged to see as much art as I have this last year. I am blown away by the range and choice of places to visit. Visiting the Bronx to see the Gramsci Monument earlier in the summer was a real highlight and I was pleased we got to see 5pointz before it was painted over last week. There’s still so much more to see and I have a long list of where to go next, with strategic public transport planning to minimise the number of steps to drag my buggy being key to all visits.

So here’s to another year.  I’m excited to continue to discover the more obscure parts of New York, including the recently refurbished Queens Museum. I plan to spend lots more time in Central Park, visiting every one of its 21 playgrounds with J, having been to about half of them so far. We must go to Long Island and visit the Hamptons, just to see what it’s like. And of course I will be following the travails of the new Mayor of New York. I have just loved learning about New York politics.

And most importantly, I am looking forward to the arrival of Whole Foods on the Upper East Side. This is hugely exciting for us (err, me). Perhaps I should get a job and stop fretting about food?

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And the winner is…

Bill de Blasio. He will be the 109th Mayor of New York on 1 January 2014. He won by a landslide, with his Republican opponent only scraping a small percentage of the overall vote. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have even known about the election yesterday, it was so low key around here. R said it was because the Democrat was so likely to get in that it would have been a waste of money to plaster the place with posters. There are 4.3 million voters in New York; 700,000 of them are registered Democrats, so I suppose that makes sense, but even so, there hasn’t been a Democrat mayor in 20 years.

I saw a lonely de Blasio poster out in Queens on Monday and a lot of City Councillor posters locally and that was about it. Public school kids got the day off as their buildings got used as polling stations. R shook hands with Joe Lhota and Rudy Guliani (Mayor before Bloomberg) who were hanging around the subway station in the morning, which was about as exciting as it got.

Here’s today’s newspapers, just to prove it actually happened.


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When Corey was just an 80s teen film star name

Remember Corey Feldman? He was the little boy in the Lost Boys, my favourite vampire film, mostly because of the presence of a young Kiefer Sutherland, but also I just loved vampires when I was a teenager. He also starred alongside the long departed River Phoenix in Stand by Me. The last I heard of Corey he was surrounded by porn stars, but that’s another story. Remember Corey Haim?  He was the other Corey in the Lost Boys, sadly he died back in 2010.

But this post isn’t about them, although it is fun remembering the Lost Boys. No, this post is about Cory (no ‘e’) Booker. Not sure if his fame has spread to the UK, but here in the US and in New York and New Jersey mostly, he is incredibly well known. Cory Booker just got sworn in as one of the two senators for the State of New Jersey. The seat became vacant earlier this year on the death of the long term incumbent, 89 year old Frank Lautenberg.

Why do I care? Well, I have been following his campaign with great interest. Cory Booker was the Mayor of Newark in New Jersey. And like the other Coreys, and me,  is in his early 40s and probably loved the Lost Boys too (I speculate there). Cory Booker doesn’t love vampires (I don’t think, it didn’t come up during the campaign) he loves Twitter.

He has 1.4 million followers. He lives on Twitter and he’s really good at it. I don’t know how he manages to respond to so many tweets, but when he does he comes across as a really decent bloke. He is brave enough to re-tweet all the horrible tweets and respond in such a way he comes out the better for it. I’m not so keen on his quotes from various sources, they can come across as a  bit sanctimonious, but I’ll forgive that.

If I lived in New Jersey, I would have run with him – he did night time runs all over New Jersey with his supporters. If I lived in New Jersey I probably would have donated some cash because he asked me to so many times (I subscribed to his emails). And I was tempted by the Cory Booker For Senate T shirt and the bumper sticker – he knows how to get people interested. He told me each week how much cash he needed and told me that his opponent was horrible, so I needed to give him more cash. I didn’t, but I like the approach: it’s begging but it’s done nicely.

So, here he is on his first day as a senator. Have a look at the link below to a 90 second video  to see what you think of him. Seems like a good bloke, let’s hope he can keep that up in Congress. Oh and by the way, he only gets the seat for a year (he’s finishing Lautenberg’s term and has to stand again to sit for the full six  year term) before he has to go through all this again. I think one Cory Booker for Senate campaign is quite enough for me.

“I will keep working in 2014”

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Ah, so that’s why

There are NYPD cops all over the place around 4pm this afternoon and there are railings the length of Park Avenue. This is the Upper East Side, what is going on?

blog pic 40

One cop tells us that the President ‘may be coming down here soon, but we don’t know’. I overhear another cop tell a lady that there’s a film shoot going on, so they’re shutting down the streets. I tend to believe the former as I read in the New York Times that the President is in town to visit schools in Brooklyn and that they shut down Prospect Park because of it. Blimey. Well, I was on a train back from Washington last night, he could have sat next to me and kipped on our sofa bed. Much cheaper.

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What is he up to now?

Blimey. I thought old Anthony Weiner had got over his leacherous ways, but apparently not. The press here has been all over the confessions of his sometime ‘sexting’ partner, Suzie Leathers – what a great name, it has to be made up. Seems that he created an alias for himself – Carlos Danger (!) so that he could carry on his pervy ways. I’m not sure whether the UK press would have done what the New York Post did here. Through their Twitter account they published the text ‘conversation’ between Carlos and Suzy. They blacked out the rude words, but you didn’t need to think very much to know what they were. It was soft porn for the masses. Apparently he has a thing about high heels. Naturally there has been intense speculation as to whether he can continue in the race to get the Democrats to nominate him as their candidate for the election for Mayor of New York. So far he is still in, but his campaign manager has legged it, but he’s only 31, so I’m sure he’ll be just fine. It’s hardly comforting when your main man clears off a few weeks for the all important primary election on 10 September. I am quite addicted to following Mr Weiner now, shame I can’t vote.

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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.