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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at


My friend Mandy and I spoke earlier this week. She lives in California and mentioned that she’d heard our temperature was starting to scratch the 80’s; at least one day.

I missed that day. Its existence has been confirmed. People recall it, fondly. I just missed it.

We’re at the end of the first week of May and spring is still waiting to wrap its arms around the city and the state. Most people are still in jackets and sweaters. Winter is not surrendering to the new season.

We did have a day of sun this week; otherwise it was pretty bleak, mostly like today: a high in the fifties, may be sixties, drizzle, threats of heavy rain, cold winds in off the rivers.

Sadly enough, it fits the mood of the city.

This was the week that the fifty-cent increase to the subway and bus fares went into effect, after a very New York kind of battle. Thrown about were accusations of two sets of books being kept while attempts were made to get a court injunction to stop the raise – oh, it was kind of brouhaha that New York revels in, no matter the outcome. Adding insult to injury, say the pundits, is the fact that you can only buy single ride cards through the machines, which will only give a maximum of six dollars in change. Don’t have anything larger than a fiver because the folks working in the booths have been instructed not to give change to help out.

Masks haven’t made their appearances on the subways, as they have in Hong Kong, but my advice is don’t cough more than twice as it will result in a slight shifting of folks away from you and lots of nervous glances.

This was also the week that featured stories about New Yorkers packing up their homes and moving to the suburbs to avoid the hike in property and income taxes. In addition, rent stabilized apartments are about to be hit with a rent hike, larger than most years it looks like.

Now there is a group of New Yorkers to whom the income tax hike feels a bit irrelevant. That’s because they have no income except, perhaps, if they’re lucky, unemployment benefits. The city’s unemployment rate dipped a bit, down to 8.5%, which is the best it’s been in eleven or so months.

The smoking ban is in effect in restaurants and the streets are cluttered with glatches of puffers huddled together against the cold while indulging their need for nicotine.

Downtown for a meeting at 55 Broad Street, it was interesting to look up toward the New York Stock Exchange. The barricades are everywhere, a sturdy fact of our urban lives. And more and more of them are appearing. It has made it a bit of a challenge to walk down the sidewalks in certain parts of Battery Park City. More than one person has paused while solving the puzzle of how to make it through the maze.

All of these are changes settling in on the city, made more real by the weight of the weather and the length of time that has passed since the barricades began rising while the city’s finances fell.

The Mayor and the Governor are bitterly bickering but all of the financial stress was beginning to take form even before 9/11. That, a generally falling economy, and a war, have all created the perfect storm for New York. And, perhaps, other places…

The city is enduring. That’s what I felt this week. We seem to be developing a bit of a stiff upper lip kind of attitude, a stoicism that would make our British cousins proud.

Laughter all seemed a bit of the gallows humor kind. We have now accepted the barricades and will endure the fare hikes and the higher taxes, personal and property. Or we think we will. Even those I know who are financially secure are weighing departing in their minds – who needs this eternal winter of sad weather, barricades and financial buffeting? Florida, anyone?