IN THE LAND OF THE ICE QUEEN
My friend Mandy and I spoke earlier this week. She lives in
California and mentioned that shed heard our temperature
was starting to scratch the 80s; at least one day.
I missed that day. Its existence has been confirmed. People
recall it, fondly. I just missed it.
Were 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. Dont have anything
larger than a fiver because the folks working in the booths
have been instructed not to give change to help out.
Masks havent made their appearances on the subways,
as they have in Hong Kong, but my advice is dont 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. Thats because they have
no income except, perhaps, if theyre lucky, unemployment
benefits. The citys unemployment rate dipped a bit,
down to 8.5%, which is the best its been in eleven or
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 citys
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
The city is enduring. Thats 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,