Manhattan’s Appeal Dims

One of the aspects of Manhattan that I have always found interesting is how Gotham has successfully achieved a social contract between the rich and the average person. You see this played out in residential housing, where next to a $4,000 a month loft is a "little old lady" paying rent controlled $400 a month.

Rent control violates every tenet of my political and economic ideology, and economists across the political spectrum agree that rent control is destructive to a city. Indeed, Assar Lindbck, the Swedish economist of some note said that "In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing." However bad it may be, the agreement that New Yorkers have seems to work.

The other aspect of this social contract (and remember that I am a Bay Area native, never lived in NYC) is how businesses have accomodated this arrangement as well. Next to an art gallery in Midtown might be a plumber, and that stitch-and-sew factory in the Garment District could well be next to an advertising agency.

There does appear to be a shift in recent years, part of a glacial move to gentrify and sanitize Manhattan. I was saddened to read that one of my favorite stops whenever I found myself in NYC is moving.

First a little background, I collect woodworking hand tools, vintage and new. It’s a booming business sector as woodworking is enjoying a resurgence and appreciation for small run high quality hand tools is booming. Companies like Lie Nielsen, Adria, and Clark & Williams are growing impressively while not succumbing to mass produced "made in China" strategies, and vintage tools, as in old tools or old brands, are booming as well. Some people like stamps or coins, I like tools.

Tools for Working Wood was located on West 20th Street in a warehouse; you rode the freight elevator to the 5th floor and entered the showroom/warehouse with little fanfare. I loved this place, made it a regular stop while in NYC and could easily spend hours there.

They are moving to Brooklyn and that means my ability to just stop in will be greatly impaired. As these businesses move out of the Manhattan I can’t help but think that the texture of Manhattan will change in a meaningful way.

From a catalogue retailer’s viewpoint, New York City is a disaster. Sure, we’ve got great food, great museums, and great stores, but what New York doesn’t have is affordable warehouse space. Our lease is up in Manhattan in a few weeks and we are moving to Brooklyn. It’s still New York City (if Brooklyn were its own city, it would be the 4th or 5th biggest in the country) but we’re going to be in an industrial area. No more models and actors heading to auditions and portfolio reviews in sharing our elevators.

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Crisis Management

I just watched a press conference about 6 trapped miners in Utah. This one press conference should be a case study in crisis management.

- The representative detailed the equipment and manpower that were being brought in to excavate the cave-in.

- A detailed accounting of mine personnel and rescue workers was provided

- A clear estimate of the distance required to excavate in order to get to the miners, and the time required to do that, along with the life support available to every miner. There was also a short but informative presentation on how gases build up in mines and why this mine does not have the level of gases that other mine disasters have had to deal with.

- The "representative" was the owner of the company that owns the mine. A couple of quotes, forcefully delivered, that caught my attention: "I worked underground for 10 years in the mines, and I’ve been trapped in mines" and "I take the saftey of my employees to bed with me every night, nothing is more important to this company" and "we have brought in the best safety and rescue professionals in the business, but we won’t know the outcome until it’s over".

Quite a contrast from the typical press conference you would see in an unfortunate event like this, where they are typically delivered by a PR person, have sanitized quotes, and lack specificity about things that aren’t completely obvious.

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Unionized Bloggers

In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.

I was thinking that if I joined a blogger union I could finally get some leverage against my boss (aka "the Man") for a decent wage, get some health care, workplace breaks, and so on… yeah, I think I should be required to pay myself a basic living wage and hold myself accountable for providing myself orthopedic home office furniture. Bloggers could band together and be like the Teamsters or the UAW!

On a more humorous note, as if the above wasn’t enough, there is this final graph in the story:

"Blogging is very intense – physically, mentally," she said. "You’re constantly scanning for news. You’re constantly trying to come up with information that you think will mobilize your readers. In the meantime, you’re sitting at a computer and your ass is getting wider and your arm and neck and shoulder are wearing out because you’re constantly using a mouse."

It’s all someone else’s fault… victimology.

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