No need to recount the misery of the past decade. We know it was bad; we lived it, too.
It’s time to shake off all that dark history. Meet The Observer’s Insurgents—the young New Yorkers who are storming the barricades of the old in each of the areas we care a lot about: media, politics, business, culture and style. Many of them—like the trio of TV-ready butchers in Brooklyn or the Wall Street blogger who is inflaming old-line CEOs—are people you’ve probably never heard of, which speaks to the amazing opportunity in 2010 New York: For a city with as many unspoken rules as this one, New York has never been as conquerable as it is today. Old leaders and old ways of thinking are discredited; the voters are eager to be led; consumers of media and fashion and the arts are on the hunt for new voices.
Signs of optimism are way past due. Rarely have we seen such a power vacuum in a city that absolutely abhors such a thing. The 9/11 attacks gutted us, and then the wrenching Wall Street meltdown did it again. Old culture leaders were flayed (Howell Raines) or killed off entirely (Dick Fuld), leaving a gaping hole in New York’s power structure.
While the city didn’t die in the Aughts, it certainly lost its way. And for the past year or two, as Wall Street collapsed, high-rises were shelved or shuttered and every other magazine seemed to close, we’ve wondered whether we were ever going to find our way out.
This list is our way of moving things along. Some of the Insurgents—like Emma Hearst or Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld—are the children of people who used to be big. But being born on third isn’t enough to make you an Insurgent.
Insurgents think of things we didn’t think about or were too lazy to mull over much. They have the spirits of street fighters. But whether you like them personally doesn’t really matter. That economy that flattened dreams all over? It emboldened them. (For a visual representation of where the Insurgents fall in the new pantheon, check out our nifty pullout, which begins on page 12 of the print edition.)
The Insurgents may not know it yet, but they’re about to remake this town in ways many of us can’t even fathom. We don’t know which ones will thrive and which ones will flame out. But what we do know is this: It’s going to be a hell of a show.
Meet the people who are going to make the Teens worth watching.
Because of someone else’s car accident and a physics-class coincidence, Bess Levin is the most important young Wall Street blogger in the country. “I randomly emailed Jesse Oxfeld—because he was the Gawker editor at the time—one night my senior year of college: ‘I don’t know if you’re looking for people, but I’d love to talk to you,’” she recalled recently.
“And he emailed back and said, ‘We’re not looking for writers, but are you Alan Levin’s daughter?’” She was! Her father happened to have been one of Mr. Oxfeld’s science teachers. So he connected her to another former Gawker editor, Elizabeth Spiers, who was starting up a gossipy and knowing Web site for Wall Street called Dealbreaker. Ms. Levin got an internship, then a job.
Still, she didn’t begin doing really serious work at the site until its editor, John Carney, was bedridden by a very bad accident. He now writes for ClusterStock at The Business Insider, one of the few other exceedingly sharp, funny and big Wall Street blogs.
But Dealbreaker has a certain crackle—a taste for picking out and serving up the day’s fascinating little nuggets of finance news. It’s a must-read. The powerful hedge fund manager Cliff Asness, for example, logged on to the site’s comments section last year to complain about “vicious animal liars like this Beth Levin creature.” In the past month alone, Ms. Levin has written about conversations with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (he hadn’t been playing his guitar “in like a year”—and showed his lack of calloused fingertips to prove it), and with the scandal-plagued billionaire Steven A. Cohen. “But ladies, I will confess,” she said about Mr. Cohen, who was accompanied by a bodyguard with a gun, “he was cool. Seriously.”
Her boss, site publisher David Minkin, said she’s an excellent employee, except for the random songs she hums out loud, “really loud,” at her desk.
What’s interesting about Brooklyn’s Chris Dixon isn’t that he was an early-stage investor in Skype (acquired by eBay) and the huge young consulting group Gerson Lehrman, or that he co-founded SiteAdvisor (acquired by McAfee) and a savvy young search engine called Hunch. It’s that Mr. Dixon wants to help shape New York into the country’s tech capital. “We think the East Coast is poised for a technology revival and we hope to be part of it,” says the Web site for his brand-new seed-stage venture fund, the Founder Collective. “None of us have ever been bankers. We like products and building stuff.”
It began with falling in love. Helena Durst interned for the Hudson River Park Trust; became enamored of parkland; and brought that ardor to her family’s real estate concern, the Durst Organization.
Vishaan Chakrabarti spends a lot of time these days complaining—writing rants; lecturing—about infrastructure. Or more precisely, complaining about how government spews money to prop up the suburbs; how gas taxes are far too low; how sprawling development will ruin this country; and how rail and mass transit is given the short end of the stick.
This soapbox is a fresh role for Mr. Chakrabarti, the newly christened academic who took the helm at Columbia’s real estate development program earlier this year. And in the world of New York City real estate, his background—architect, then city planner, then developer—is a rich one.
When the Bloomberg administration arrived in 2002, Mr. Chakrabarti was plucked from the powerhouse architecture firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill to head the Department of City Planning’s Manhattan office. There he led the rezonings of the area around the High Line, the city’s highly successful elevated rail line–turned–public park; and of the far West Side, clearing the way for a giant new office district (which has yet to materialize).
He then went to the Related Companies, the development firm that built the Time Warner Center, where he helped craft the firm’s plans for the West Side rail yards, the giant open space by the Javits Center where Related aspires to erect a set of gigantic office towers and apartment buildings.
But more than anything else, his time since he left the city in 2005 has been defined by Moynihan Station, the massive planned expansion and renovation of Penn Station that has been on the drawing boards since the start of the 1990s, but that has always proved one step too many for city and state officials. (He’s still involved in this project for Related, which was designated years ago to build office towers to help finance the project.)
In terms of the future, much of Mr. Chakrabarti’s relevance in the city would seem to rest on how well he can position himself and Columbia’s development school as a catalyst for discussion and forums, perhaps in a manner similar to veteran N.Y.U.-based political observer Mitchell Moss.
I’m going to not talk,” Mr. Meister said recently to a reporter requesting an interview. “I want to stay humble and shy.” But it’s hard not to take notice: According to Fortune, his $3 million compensation made him one of the 10 best-paid people under 40, and he happens to manage Carl Icahn’s multibillion-dollar hedge fund. Mr. Meister, who sits on Motorola’s board, can plot his next move from the lovely East 75th Street townhouse he bought this year for $10.9 million.
Sweet Veronica Mainetti, whose frank green eyes and fresh-faced demeanor exude a certain niceness that’s hard to find in New York’s propertied classes, has, on the wings of father Valter’s Roman real estate empire, rapidly acquired power in the city’s notoriously ill-natured and hyper-masculine real estate industry.
In 2009, as head of Sorgente Group’s U.S. operations, she bought a controlling interest in the Flatiron Building, which she plans to turn into a hotel once the tower’s main tenant leaves, in 2018. Meanwhile, she busies herself with Sorgente’s first residential project ever—the redevelopment of 34 Greene Street into seven exquisite condominiums—and she’s building her very own REIT, still unnamed, that with mostly institutional backing will become operational next year and invest in the sort of historic trophy towers that have made Sorgente’s brand.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, she sat on the edge of a couch inside the fourth-floor model apartment at 34 Greene. Tortoise-shell glasses gripped her ski-jump nose; her short brown hair was swept back into a sort of rockabilly-inspired do; her black cardigan, underneath a gray tweed blazer, was zipped to the chin.
“We literally grew up on a construction site,” she said, the “we” referring to herself and her older brother, an actor in Italy.
Ms. Mainetti, a Greenwich Village resident, came to New York five years ago with the idea of enrolling in a master’s program for architectural design. She decided instead to get into the family business.
“[My father] was extremely scared in the beginning, and did not like the idea of me being a developer,” she said. “He knows it’s a tough environment, and he knew I would probably be the only woman. As a dad, he was concerned. Now, he’s extremely happy.”
A melodic strain from Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano interrupted the conversation—it was her phone, resting on the Calacatta marble counter in the kitchen far, far away.
Ms. Mainetti has expansive dreams. In addition to the aforementioned REIT, she’s close to closing on a 50,000-square-foot, cast-iron, 1865-era office building in Tribeca.
She points to her family’s American roots to explain her affinity for New York. Her great-grandfather, Luigi Binda, came here in the early 1920s and founded Binda Company, which built load-bearing frames for buildings. He died here. And Ms. Mainetti’s grandmother, her father’s mother, is an American citizen.
Dennis Crowley, Naveen Selvadurai and their tiny team of 20-to-early-30-somethings have created one of the most exciting mobile-phone applications across the two coasts: FourSquare. The app, part friend-finder, part social city guide and part nightlife game, allows users to “check in” to restaurants, stores, cafes, parks—all kinds of locations—and let their friends know where to find them and what kind of fun activities they can do. Businesses have just started signing on to reward FourSquare users with incentives to “check-in” to their spots, even offering discounts to the “mayors,” or the most frequent visitors to their locations. Since debuting in March, FourSquare has launched social guides in dozens of cities all over the world, and the iPhone app has attracted more than 150,000 downloads. What’s next? Look for an early version of BlackBerry app to (finally!) be released soon.
Flickr via NewYorkAnnie
These days, editors are increasingly seen as little more than a money-suck in an era full of “content creators.” But The New Yorker, the only magazine spared from hefty budget cuts at Condé Nast this year, still believes in those rumpled visionaries, those bold procurers.
The features editor there, a 38-year-old named Daniel Zalewski, reminds us why the world still needs editors. He’s become one of the most indispensable invisible hands keeping the magazine going, instituting weekly story meetings and editing some of the most prominent writers (including David Grann, Alex Ross, Jane Mayer, George Packer and Lawrence Wright, to name just a few) in the New Yorker stable.
“It’s not by accident that these people have had some of their best work in the last five or six years,” said New Yorker editor David Remnick.
Mr. Zalewski is a lifer at the job. At 24, he worked on 8,000-word feature stories at Lingua Franca. He was hired away from there by Adam Moss at The New York Times Magazine after Mr. Moss found his résumé in an enormous pile of applications for an editor’s job. About six years ago, he decamped for The New Yorker.
“He became important to the magazine instantly,” said Mr. Remnick.
Mr. Zalweski is an expert at wrangling long, reported copy into beautiful, narrative-driven nonfiction stories—those pieces that really make The New Yorker one of the very last few magazines on the face of the earth.
“I’m devoting myself to that idea,” he said in his office, dressed in a blazer and jeans. “I don’t think I’m being nostalgic or anachronistic or vestigial. You read something like David Grann’s piece about Cameron Todd Willingham and you realize the difference between a really capable 4,000-word newspaper piece about the injustices of the death penalty and a piece that has hairpin narrative turns and that actually seduces you and manipulates you in a certain way.”
Mr. Zalewski is an enthusiast. He’s not the sort of editor who gets frustrated by a first draft, or manhandles its copy. His writers adore him because he adores their subjects and the very process of figuring out how best to construct a piece.
“Despite being a completely bookish intellectual—unexpectedly, Dan also has a touch of Cecil B. DeMille in him in that he loves casting, and has an intuitive sense of what each of his reporters’ strengths are,” emailed Ms. Mayer.
“He is a natural storyteller, and has an instinctive sense of how a story should unfold,” said Mr. Grann.
Over the past year, Nate Westheimer became one of the most prominent advocates for the relatively obscure New York tech scene. He thinks 2010’s gonna be a big year.
“Two thousand nine was when everyone was working hard and coming up with amazing ideas,” Mr. Westheimer told The Observer. “In 2010, we’ll see all those ideas come into fruition.”
After all, according to Mr. Westheimer, the city is home to some of the most creative, buzz-building start-ups, including MakerBot, Drop.io and, of course, the social-mobile app FourSquare.
Take that, Silicon Valley!
Since December 2008, Mr. Westheimer has been leading the New York Tech Meetup, a monthly gathering of the city’s tech folks, growing its membership to more than 11,500 technologists and miscellaneous geeks. And this year, he left his entrepreneur in residence position at Rose Tech Ventures to launch his own start-up, AnyClip, an iTunes of (legal!) movie clips. In September, AnyClip took home the Audience Choice award at the TechCrunch50, a conference that’s sort of like Sundance for tech stuff, and was also a runner-up for the grand prize.
“I’ve worked late nights and red-eyed mornings with some of the most amazing people on this planet,” he wrote on his blog, innonate.com, soon after the win. “Together, we’ve built a new company, with a vision which inspires young, old, computer and otherwise illiterate, poor and rich, friends and family; and, we’ve built the technology to back it up.”
In November, Mr. Westheimer also joined Boston-based venture firm Flybridge Capital Partners as an adviser for New York–based investment opportunities. He was hired to raise Flybridge’s profile in New York (they already invest in open-source database company 10gen) and bring in some ideas on killer investments, too.
Back in July, Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone, fingered Goldman Sachs as the biggest blowhard behind the real estate bubble. “[The] history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates,” he wrote.
The established financial press quickly jumped down his throat. Why?
On a recent Sunday, Andrew Ross Sorkin sat on Chris Matthews’ Sunday morning talk show on NBC. Mr. Matthews reached his regular segment, “Tell me something I don’t know”—a moment where reporters float gossip that’s almost never prophetic—and looked to Mr. Sorkin. Mr. Sorkin said that Citigroup would pay back all of its bailout money. Mr. Matthews oohed and aahed. Really? The next morning, it was reported that Citigroup was about to strike a deal that would allow it to pay back all of its bailout money. Mr. Sorkin has transcended his role as a Times reporter. In addition to his weekly column, he edits a blog, Dealbook, that Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has said should be regarded as a model for other reporters: build something, generate revenue and then get a little compensation for it. His book—Too Big to Fail—was published this year, and it was accompanied by all the things you’d expect: lots of television appearances, and a big, splashy book party at Monkey Bar, hosted by Graydon Carter. Jamie Dimon showed up, as did John Mack, and even Warren Buffett sent a giant telegram. Vanity Fair asked the next day: “Is Andrew Ross Sorkin More Powerful Than Obama?”
The New York Times
In July, Ricky Van Veen left the video site he co-founded, CollegeHumor.com, after nearly a decade making dorm dwellers laugh at their pranky, punky viral videos. He graduated to a new role as chief executive of Notional, a production agency under Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp hood that is experimenting with video content on all kinds of platforms—from TVs in living rooms to those mini-computers in pockets (and he hired Bee Shaffer, Anna Wintour’s daughter, as his assistant). Mr. Van Veen already has a slate of upcoming projects, including a dance competition show called Ready, Set, Dance! and game shows like You vs. America and Chase the Money. Mr. Van Veen has also been rubbing shoulders with former NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman, who has his own IAC project, called Electus; this makes them a double-whammy team of Web viral smarts and network TV know-how.
Brooke Hammerling, founder of Brew Media Relations, is a New York public-relations and strategy maven for a new generation of tech-savvy clients. Ms. Hammerling’s hyper-connected personality has landed her big-time clients—including NetSuite, Zynga and Zong—and her strategy to snub snarky tech blogs and instead “whisper” about her clients’ projects to influential Twitterers and tech stars landed her a profile in The New York Times last July. She named her company after her childhood nickname, Brew, and is certainly still cooking up a buzz in 2010.
Chris Balfe was 18 years old when he first approached his favorite radio DJ and offered to build him a Web site. This was 1997, years before Glenn Beck would become one of the country’s most influential conservative pundits. At the time, he was a top-40 DJ in New Haven. From the get-go, the two clicked. A few years later, Mr. Balfe was working for Accenture (having dropped out of the University of Connecticut to start a business) when he got a call. Quit your job, said Mr. Beck, and together we’ll build an empire. And so they did. “I remember telling my parents that their college-dropout son was leaving the world’s most prestigious consulting company to work for a DJ at a 70 percent pay cut with no benefits,” said Mr. Balfe. “My mom started crying.” But under Mr. Balfe’s watch, the business soon took off. In 2009, Mercury Radio Arts, Mr. Beck’s Manhattan-based production company, brought in some $23 million in revenue; it includes a top-ranked cable TV show, America’s third-most-popular radio program, a string of best-selling books, a comedy tour and a booming Web site. Mr. Balfe oversees it all.
The publishing industry just went through a demoralizing autumn. Not one of the major houses managed to avoid getting stuck with a turkey or several, and all their springtime hopes for a Dan Brown–induced sales spike have been put to rest. Still, the men and women on the ground soldier on, including the young ones who are no doubt wishing they’d been born in a different time. Megan Lynch, a 30-year-old senior editor at the Riverhead imprint of Penguin, is among the most spirited of these. The Brown graduate started out in the Random House associates program, which led to a job with Nan A. Talese, where she met 2003 power punk Sean McDonald, and later a position at Little, Brown. When Mr. McDonald moved to Riverhead to work under Cindy Spiegel and Julie Grau, he invited Ms. Lynch to come with him, and she’s been rising at the company ever since despite a dramatic regime change that saw Ms. Spiegel and Ms. Grau defect for jobs at Random House. Ms. Lynch’s most recent triumph came with Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, which got a nice boost this month from Stephen King, who called it his favorite book of the year. Up ahead for Ms. Lynch is the second book from Ethiopian novelist Dinaw Mengestu, whose debut, which she published in 2008, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction and the Guardian First Book Award. Ms. Lynch is also currently editing a novel by Fence editor Rebecca Wolff and a memoir by Megan O’Rourke.
When financier and media mogul Bruce Wasserstein died earlier this year, it left his trophy media holding, New York magazine, in the control of his heirs.
The family is not planning to sell the magazine, so suddenly two of his children, Ben and Pamela Wasserstein, are holding the reins of one of the city’s most powerful arbiters of taste and status.
Not that they are entirely new to the media universe. Ben has spent time as an editor at New York, but left the family shop for positions at The New Republic and, more recently, has taken up with Sarah Condon, whose independent production company is based at HBO. Recent credits include the development of the new New York–centric Jason Schwartzman–Ted Danson–Jake Galifinakis comedy Bored to Death.
Around the time Josh Tyrangiel turned Time.com from a money-losing proposition into an attractive and revenue-generating Web site, the phone calls started. From at least a half-dozen news outfits, he heard the words: “Would you like to come work for us?” Word around town started, too: Whenever Rick Stengel steps down, Mr. Tyrangiel will be the next editor of Time.
On the morning of Nov. 17, when it was announced that Business Week had named Mr. Tyrangiel as editor, Time writers Karen Tumulty and Joe Klein wrote gushing odes to him on Time.com’s successful political blog, Swampland—which was, incidentally, a Tyrangiel invention. (“If this guy doesn’t go on to become the finest editor of his generation, I will be shocked,” wrote Mr. Klein.)
“This is the smartest hire I’ve made since I convinced John Huey to run The Wall Street Journal Europe in 1982 when he was 35,” said Norm Pearlstine, a Time veteran himself and the chief content officer at Bloomberg, which recently bought Business Week.
Mr. Pearlstine explained: In 1982, Mr. Huey was the Atlanta bureau chief, barely known inside the paper and completely unknown outside it. Mr. Pearlstine plucked out Mr. Huey and sent him to Europe. Mr. Huey later became the editor of Fortune and the editor in chief of Time Inc.
“It’s in that context that Josh represents the same kind of genius that I saw in John,” he said.
Mr. Tyrangiel, 37, was a music critic and general assignment writer for Time for years, and before that worked at Vibe, Rolling Stone and MTV.
After a reporting gig for Time in London, he was assigned to work on the redesign of the magazine’s Web site. In the process, he turned a lot of heads at the Time & Life Building and was later given the whole Web site to manage.
Now on to his next assignment: Leading Bloomberg Business Week in the ’10s. Mr. Tyrangiel admits he hadn’t read much of the magazine prior to landing the job and has written only very little on business.
Now not only does he need to get up to speed, but he’ll have to oversee the merger of Business Week with Bloomberg, in an environment that is basically inhospitable to business magazines.
“The challenge of trying to make this new culture out of two very distinct cultures, I felt that played to strengths that are uniquely mine,” he said over breakfast at Blue Fin at the W Hotel in midtown.
Earlier this month, about 100 people packed into the Upper East Side apartment of Cathy Lasry to show their support for Reshma Saujani, a 34-year-old Indian-American attorney who is trying to do the politically impossible: knock off a sitting, scandal-free, ideologically uncontroversial and reasonably popular incumbent in a primary.
“This has nothing to do with her opponent,” said Ms. Lasry, referring to Carolyn Maloney, the incumbent in question, who has held the seat since 1993. “It just has to do with the fact that I love Reshma and think she’d be a great representative for our district.”
In its early stages, Ms. Saujani’s campaign—which is technically still “exploratory”—seems to be focused less on particular policy gripes with Ms. Maloney and more on Ms. Saujani’s youthful enthusiasm, combined with her inspiring biography.
Her parents fled a comfortable life in Uganda when Idi Amin took over the country, and they settled in Illinois, where Ms. Saujani was born and attended college. She went on to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and then Yale Law, before moving to New York in 2002. She went to work at Davis Polk & Wardwell, and last year took a position with Fortress Investment Group (from which she’s resigned to focus on her candidacy). Ms. Saujani lives on the Lower East Side.
Ms. Saujani, a novice retail politician who is not yet giving on-the-record interviews, is attempting to rally support with the same sort of “change” message that helped sweep Barack Obama into the White House. Which is somewhat ironic, since Ms. Saujani, who was an intern at the Clinton White House, raised money for Hillary Clinton last year.
“She was very close to Secretary Clinton and a lot of people in Clinton-world, and a lot of women who are active in politics are very supportive of her,” said Maureen White, a Fifth Avenue–penthouse–dwelling former finance chair of the Democratic National Committee who is one of Ms. Saujani’s most enthusiastic backers.
The two women met sometime around 2003, when both were active in John Kerry’s campaign. Ms. Saujani founded South Asians for Kerry and, for the first time, asked people to get out their checkbooks—a skill she employed to great effect for HillPac in 2008, and now is employing for herself.
Ms. White, who attended the recent fund-raiser for Ms. Saujani at the Lasry home, said she was surprised by some of the other attendees.
“There were a lot of people who were there who I would have thought were old-guard,” she said.
He was chief of staff to a New York State assemblyman when he announced he'd like to run for a City Council seat that was possibly going to open up. He departed, but the Council seat remained occupied. Since then, Mr. Kallos has kept himself busy, putting his knowledge of technology and geeky insights to use in local government. The result is a series of Web sites that take local political info out of dusty file cabinets and up online. One site lets people see if they’re registered to vote. Another lets users check the attendance records of state lawmakers. His latest creation: a crowd-sourced calendar for political events around New York City and the state.
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His hair is long, but he wears a suit and tie, even when partying. Mr. Kwatra, as the political director for the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, has a powerful position in a union that always seems to wind up on the winning side of fights. He backed Michael Bloomberg for re-election, and helped Senator Joe Addabbo topple longtime Republican incumbent Serf Maltese in Queens.
When he started, he wasn’t old enough to drink at the fund-raisers he organized. At 19, Mr. Leopold was one of the youngest members of Barack Obama’s national finance committee. With a politically connected father, Stephen, Arthur and his twin brother, Alex, quickly ran through New York’s political hierarchy. Alex spent the summer with Representative Charlie Rangel, but is now in school in Montreal. Arthur, now 21, is at Duke University, where he’s catching up on a year’s worth of debauchery. When reached by email this week, he said he’s raising money for the Roosevelt Institution at Duke and “studying for my American Presidency final.” We’ll bet he passes.
Last spring, Andrew Hoppin left his former post working on upgrading NASA’s social community and serving as an adviser to the Obama administration to join the New York State Senate as chief information officer. His mission was to bring the notoriously corrupt and disjointed Senate into the 21st century by ushering in transparency, accountability and efficiency through technology. Despite the coup and inevitable mess in Albany, Mr. Hoppin and his young CIO team managed to relaunch the Senate Web site, implement new software, get more senators communicating to constituents on Twitter and Facebook and launch numerous open data initiatives.
One runs across the Brooklyn Bridge before sunrise. The other is often up late, seeing to the demands of two young children.
Yet Liz Benjamin, pictured above, of the New York Daily News and Maggie Haberman of the New York Post—reporters, 37 and 36, respectively—still find time to dominate the specialized, hypercompetitive industry of covering New York politics.
“Maggie’s like fucking changing a diaper with one hand, holding a BlackBerry in the other, and breaking stories, and I’m like, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’” Ms. Benjamin said in a recent interview.
Did we mention that they’re self-effacing? (Ms. Haberman declined to be interviewed for this article, while Ms. Benjamin spent the entire time trashing herself.)
Ms. Benjamin, one of the best-known and best-sourced reporters in state politics, busies herself with a maniacal workout schedule. Marathons, 100-mile-long bike rides, weight lifting … it all fits with her über-competitive nature. When it comes to political reporting, that’s a welcome commodity.
Earlier this year, she ran in the New York City Triathlon, as did the newly elected state chairman of the Republican Party, Ed Cox. Ms. Benjamin did hers in under three hours. Mr. Cox did not.
Ms. Haberman, who is universally known, respected, and maybe a little bit feared in City Hall (on a first-name-only basis) had her name attached to a number of the defining stories of the last mayoral cycle, including the classic tabloid piece about Anthony Weiner taking illegal campaign contributions from sexy foreign models that basically scared him out of the race.
Ms. Haberman and Ms. Benjamin also have risen to the top of their field by steering courses that are institutionally independent of their prominent fathers. Ms. Haberman’s father is New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman, who writes a twice-weekly column about the city. Ms. Benjamin’s father is Gerry Benjamin, a political science professor whom former governor Mario Cuomo used to call for advice about state constitutional matters, and who gets quoted on contemporary state politics more than your average state lawmaker (though never in his daughter’s column).
Ms. Haberman and Ms. Benjamin live on the same street (Henry Street) in Brooklyn Heights and have a number of notable colleagues as neighbors, including Dan Janison, Tom Robbins, Josh Robin and Jacob Gershman.
Ms. Benjamin says her extracurricular activities aren’t a distraction from her reporting, but rather an important component of it.
Behind the tallest elected official in New York—the 6-foot-5-inch public advocate–elect, Bill de Blasio—is Emma Wolfe, just over 5-foot-3.
At 30, she’s probably the most sought-after field operative in New York. After this past election cycle, during which she helped get Mr. de Blasio elected by a surprisingly comfortable margin over his Democratic opponents, she landed a job as his chief of staff. Mr. de Blasio’s new perch, from which he can fairly be expected to make Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term uncomfortable, makes him a leading prospective candidate for mayor in 2013, putting Ms. Wolfe in good position to shape the battlefield for the next few years.
Ms. Wolfe made her political debut working for the Senate Democrats in Albany, where she made a name for herself by demonstrating an ability to avoid the usual inanities of office politics. (Everyone liked and respected her, in other words.)
Then she was enlisted by the Working Families Party in the city, where she became the group’s organizing director and election campaign director (yes, two titles!), doing everything from helping make sure Robert Morgenthau was reelected Manhattan DA in 2005, to pushing for the Paid Family Leave Act around the state, to helping Dan Squadron in the State Senate. The WFP’s political rise has coincided with her own.
Colleagues comment on her laser-beam focus and tireless work hours. Jef Pollock, a Democratic consultant, gushed that Ms. Wolfe “is one of the most talented political operatives” he’s ever worked with.
One former co-worker recalled getting emails from Ms. Wolfe as late as 2 a.m. only to find another set of messages from her starting at 6 a.m.
In announcing Ms. Wolfe’s departure from the Working Families Party, the group’s executive director, Dan Cantor, credited her with helping shift the balance of power in Albany.
“She did as much as anyone in New York to end 40 years of Republican control of the State Senate through the campaigns she oversaw in 2007 and 2008,” he said at the time. “And then she led our astonishingly successful work in the N.Y.C. elections in 2009.”
He came of age in Chuck Schumer’s office, first as an aide and later as a collaborator on Mr. Schumer’s best-selling book, Positively American. At 28, he mounted a primary challenge, with Mr. Schumer’s backing, to State Senator Marty Connor, a longtime incumbent in a district that covers parts of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Mr. Squadron won on a progressive platform, promising to push for greater transparency and stronger ethics laws in Albany. Since his term began, he’s introduced legislation on both issues, but so far, progress has been slow. At least he’s trying.
In September, the young chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez survived a seven-way free-for-all primary, capturing a reform-minded Brooklyn Council seat despite having been labeled the “machine candidate” by his six rivals. Now he heads to City Hall with the nagging presumption that he’ll be the Brooklyn boss’s Man in Manhattan. That could make for some strange dynamics. Council Speaker Christine Quinn has had a touch-and-go relationship with the powerful assemblyman. And this fall, Mr. Lopez tried to oust—in both the primary and general elections—the neighboring council member, his former chief of staff, Diana Reyna. Should Mr. Levin and his boss ever have a similar falling-out, the new councilman has his own political instincts to fall back on. He grew up watching his father’s cousins, Congressman Sandy Levin and Senator Carl Levin, maneuver their way in Washington.
Leanne Shapton, 36, just quit her job as the art director of the New York Times op-ed page. “Everyone thought I took the buyout, but I didn’t—I just quit,” she said last week by phone from Toronto, where she used to live before moving to New York. Most of the next two or three years, Ms. Shapton said, she will spend working on a new book.
Ms. Shapton’s last book, published in February by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, was an uncommonly inventive work of multimedia art that took the form of an auction catalog; through old photos, notes, ticket stubs and other ephemera, it told the story of a photographer and a New York Times food columnist falling in and out of love. That book, Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry, was hailed as a triumph at the time of its release, and earned Ms. Shapton admiration for the ease with which she could move a plot and set a mood despite the severe formal limitations she had placed on herself. About a month after its publication, what might have been a mere critical hit won the attention of Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman, who optioned Artifacts and have indicated that they want to star in it.
Ms. Shapton, a professional illustrator who has done work for such august magazines as The New Yorker and Harper’s but also for Elle and Jane, had been at The Times a year and four months when she quit to focus on her new book. Asked whether it would be as formally innovative as her last one, Ms. Shapton said it was too early to say anything. “I have an idea but I’m not quite sure if it’ll work yet,” she said. “It’s liquid in a mason jar. It’s nothing to speak of right now.”
Things less liquid in Ms. Shapton’s immediate future include a book of abstract pattern paintings coming from the Canadian outfit Drawn & Quarterly and an increased involvement in J&L Books, the art publisher she started with her art-school friend, the photographer Jason Fulford. Ms. Shapton also plans to continue to illustrate book jackets, which she has done for years; one of her most recent was the new Vintage edition of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Mary.
It was only a matter of time before New York got a daily “epicurean” email service recommending little-known regional microbreweries and the best authentic Dutch pennekoeks. But the driving force behind Tasting Table is not Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group, which pitched in the funding with chef John McDonald (who had the original idea); it’s Geoff Bartakovics, a former UBS business manager who approached Pilot with a new technology platform for daily emails (Pilot already owned Daily Candy and Thrillist) and ended up as the CEO of one. With five city editions and counting, Tasting Table is now approaching a million dollars in revenue after launching in October of 2008, and has already been profitable for three months; Mr. Pittman recently called it the fastest-growing email product he’s developed. “I think we initially underestimated the extent to which people in major urban centers have become obsessive about food,” said Mr. Bartakovics, whose formula, unlike the many breathless food blogs, is focused on the tested and worth it, not the new. He’s hired local editors, a network of 40 food writers and even his own recipe testers. “In terms of editorial, it’s probably a little closer to Gourmet magazine—rest in peace.”
Hordes of fresh-faced hipsters arrive in New York each year with visions of indie superstardom dancing in their heads, and, let’s face it, most of them are probably jealous of up-and-coming pop star–slash–Brooklyn It Girl Jemina Pearl. Since moving to Greenpoint last year from Nashville, Ms. Pearl has been spotted around town with old-school Manhattan cool-folk Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, who discovered her when she fronted the noisy teenage punk band Be Your Own Pet. Ms. Pearl’s debut solo album, Break It Up, (think the Ronettes but with short bleach-blond hair and tattoos), was released on Oct. 6 to glowing reviews—it didn’t hurt that it includes a duet with Iggy Pop!—and with new songs already in the works, we’re guessing this is just the beginning of newsmaking for this Southern transplant.
Jorma Taccone may be the least recognizable member of the Lonely Island, the trio responsible for the goofy, occasionally brilliant SNL digital shorts that blow in between sketches each Saturday night. (Mr. Taccone’s childhood friends Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer make up the rest of the group.) But that’s about to change. After a banner year collaborating on viral hits “Jizz in my Pants” (in which Mr. Taccone memorably loses control of himself in front of Jamie Lynn-Siegler) and the Grammy-nominated “I’m on a Boat,” Mr. Schaffer can expect an even bigger 2010 when he directs his feature film MacGruber, based on his original SNL sketch of the same name. It’s been a while since a movie’s been spun off from SNL (especially a good one—remember The Ladies’ Man?) But we’ve got high hopes for Mr. Shaffer. He’s got a leg up: His SNL sketch is actually good.
Last December, Jimmy Fallon was three months away from making his Late Night debut when NBC launched LateNightWithJimmyFallon.com. Mr. Fallon, the wired, giggly SNL alum, and his supervising producer, Gavin Purcell, rented a camera, cobbled together some sound equipment and started shooting Web videos, do-it-yourself style. “Lorne [Michaels, executive producer] talked to the press and said we were gonna do that on the Web,” Mr. Fallon reminisced with The Observer in a recent interview. “So it was like, ‘Oh man, did you see this? Well, we have to do this.’”
From there, Mr. Fallon and Mr. Purcell, also 35, concocted a plan to lure future viewers via the Web site and Twitter. “I remember telling Gavin, ‘If I get 3,000 followers, we’ll be set. We’ll be golden!’” Mr. Fallon said. He now has 2.3 million of them.
Nearly a year later, Mr. Fallon has settled nicely into his role as King Geek of late-night television. Thanks to a willingness to incorporate gadgets, video games and other techy stuff into sketches and interviews, he’s distinguished himself from his fellow late-night hosts. Last summer, for instance, he had Tiger Woods play Wii golf in Times Square. He’s also come up with sketches that are surefire viral hits.
“Everybody wants a YouTube moment,” Mr. Purcell said. “People are excited to try things now because they know that’s the currency of the Internet. Getting something exciting on the Web is a good publicity move for them.” Recent examples? Snoop Dogg reciting a heartwarming The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Jude Law performing a dramatic reading of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” Talk about link bait!
Mr. Fallon said he’s working on trying something new on the show every night.
“I don’t know how long we can keep that up,” he told The Observer. “But you’ve got to have fun.”
On the one hand, seeing a baby-faced movie star like James Franco, 31, attend the DIA Art Foundation Fall Gala or sign on to play Alan Ginsberg in the movie Howl is unsurprising: Hollywood’s prettiest men—Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp—have been taking on weird roles or intellectual hobbies for years to scuff their own oppressive sheens and prove there really is more to life than being “really, really ridiculously good-looking”. But Mr. Franco, co-star of the Spider-Man franchise and Pineapple Express as well as Milk—in which he wore a mustache and kissed Sean Penn—is taking this further than most. He’s currently doing serious New York things like pursuing not one but two graduate degrees (fiction-writing at Columbia, film at N.Y.U.); attending art events around town; chatting up Lauren Collins at the New Yorker Festival; and appearing on Dave Eggers’ highbrow Wholphin DVDs. He even recently announced a stint on General Hospital as “performance art” by writing an article in The Wall Street Journal. In fact, with all his flattering interest in our city’s intellectual life, it’s easy to forget Mr. Franco has been spotted shooting Eat, Pray Love with Julia Roberts and appearing in Gucci ads. Maybe that’s the point.
Dickensian-named Molly Crabapple (born Jennifer Caban) is quickly becoming ubiquitous in the pop art scene. In 2005, the 26-year-old artist and Williamsburg resident founded the racy, Burlesque-oriented life-drawing class Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. Four years and more than 80 worldwide branches later, the event has become something of a must-see for the adventurous and artsy downtown set, which the dark-haired and comely Ms. Crabapple has chronicled as the in-house artist for the Lower East Side’s neo-vaudeville spot, the Box. But Ms. Crabapple also has some more wholesome notches on her résumé too—she’s drawn for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins and the Bloomberg Corporation; she published her debut graphic novel, Scarlett Takes Manhattan, with fellow author and illustrator John Levitt. Next up, she’ll have gallery exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles and Paris, along with some loftier goals: “I would love to travel the world painting girls with swirly hair and doing crazy large-scale collaborations with the circus gods,” she said. We can’t wait.
Ever since 500 Days of Summer squeezed its way between the big blockbusters and onto 2009’s must-see list of movies—and now, onto the list of Golden Globe nominees—Summer’s screenwriter Michael Weber has been a very busy man. Along with his co-writer, Scott Neustadter (whom he met when they both worked at Tribeca Productions), Mr. Weber is trying to return the beleaguered genre of romantic comedy back to the realm of respectability: They’ve sold a script, suggestively titled Underage, to Ivan Reitman; Warner Brothers has enlisted them to rewrite a Judd Apatow script about four friends in love with the same girl; there’s the adaptation of Beginner’s Greek, a Jane Austen–inspired novel set in modern Manhattan; and finally there’s Friends With Benefits, a single-camera television show—also about modern love in New York—that they recently sold to ABC. But for all his Hollywood success, the New York native is content to stay put in the East Village. “I’m there [Los Angeles] all the time these days, but as soon as work is done, I get on the next flight back,” he said. “I always wanted to be a writer and to live in New York.”
Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen got a special kind of education in the world of cinema: The duo met in 2000 while they were both working as assistants to mega-mega producer Scott Rudin. “We both had always wanted to produce,” said Mr. Knudsen, 31. “We learned a lot from Scott, and he gave us the tools.” Added Mr. Van Hoy, “We certainly learned how to work really hard! It was a great introduction to the film business and also to New York City.”
After setting off to start their own shop, Mr. Van Hoy and Mr. Knudsen took turns being on unemployment (while scouting for interesting talent and projects) while the other took freelance gigs in postproduction or production. “We felt like in order to be good producers, we needed to understand every single thing about how a film gets made,” said Mr. Knudsen. In the fall of 2004, they co-founded Parts and Labor, currently housed in a loft in Williamsburg. “We both just jumped in and decided it was now or never,” said Mr. Van Hoy. “We’ve been doing it ever since. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve been able to produce a lot of films we’ve been very proud of.”
The indie world has certainly taken notice, thanks to productions like Old Joy, Wild Tigers I Have Known and Treeless Mountain. Most recently, they had a critical hit at the Tribeca Film Festival with The Exploding Girl (which won star Zoe Kazan best actress at the festival), and currently, they’re finishing production on Beginners, written and directed by Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) and starring Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor. Plus they’re still working with their old mentor, Scott Rudin.
“They’re smart, industrious and talented, and they are occupying the toughest and most brutal corner of the producing landscape,” said Mr. Rudin. “I believe in them and have since they both worked for me, and I wanted to make sure they get the best possible shot at making their business fly.”
Klaus Beisenbach, the German-born curator who has been affiliated with the Queens kunsthalle ever since he left Berlin for New York 15 years ago, will take over as director of P.S.1 in January. He replaces beloved founding director Alanna Heiss, who started P.S.1 in 1971 and ran it for almost 30 years as a nimble, unpredictable laboratory where organized chaos reigned, before agreeing, in 2000, to enter into a partnership with the Museum of Modern Art. Though Mr. Beisenbach is said to have been directly recruited and groomed by Ms. Heiss, there is a feeling among art world insiders that P.S.1 without its founder at the helm is not P.S.1 at all.
In this reading, Mr. Biesenbach will essentially be starting a new institution—one that just happens to be called P.S.1. In his first year on the job, Mr. Biesenbach will have to demonstrate to skeptics that he is where he is for a reason, and that he has the vision and the verve to give the place a second life.
Nicola Trezzi has a job that comes, historically, with a bright future. The first person to be U.S. editor for the Milan-based art magazine was Jeffrey Deitch, now one of the top gallerists in New York. Then there was Francesco Bonami, who went on to direct the 2003 Venice Biennale and is co-curating the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Then Massimiliano Gioni, now the star curator at the New Museum; and then Andrea Bellini, who now serves as director of Artissima, the International Fair of Contemporary Art in Turin.
Danielle De Niese is not particularly young to be the new reigning diva of Peter Gelb’s Met: After all, young starlets in the opera like her have been working for major companies since their teens.
But Ms. De Niese is an insurgent force in contemporary opera because of the position she takes on the relevance of opera to contemporary life.
She’s managed the tricky feat of making herself popular in the downtown arts scene, not by the gimmick of using her classically trained voice to belt out movie-musical standards and Broadway classics but by bringing opera to smaller, intimate venues like (Le) Poisson Rouge, and by producing videos in the style of a Mariah Carey or Janet Jackson while belting out arias.
"I pick projects based on any number of things,” Alison Pill recently explained to The Observer via email. “Sometimes it’s just a character I want to try, sometimes it’s an extraordinary bond with a director or writer, sometimes it’s the story, and sometimes I just don’t want to work outside of New York.”
At 24, the lovely, round-faced Ms. Pill has already done a staggering amount of work; she began as a child actor in her native Canada, and steadily grew up in front of the camera, popping up alongside of Lindsay Lohan in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Katie Holmes in Pieces of April. After being just about the only lady player in Gus Van Sant’s Milk and making a stunning turn on HBO’s second season of In Treatment, Ms. Pill is firmly in the front of the pack of Ones to Watch.
But Hollywood might just have to take a back seat—this actress’s heart appears to belong to Broadway. Nominated for a Tony after her debut in The Lieutenant of Inishmore in 2006, she has continued to gravitate to the stage; in 2007 she appeared in the critically acclaimed Blackbird and co-starred with F. Murray Abraham in Mauritius. Next up, she’ll tackle the role of Annie Sullivan, made famous by Anne Bancroft in 1959, in the Broadway revival of William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker, opposite Abigail Breslin and Matthew Modine.
“I can’t even describe how happy and terrified I am,” said Ms. Pill, who praised her co-stars and director Kate Whoriskey. “It is a bigger and tougher play than I realized. But I am getting to know more about the history of Annie Sullivan, and about the realities of her life, and I am awed by these two powerful female characters who were also real people with flaws and histories like any other. And anything good enough for Anne Bancroft is okay by me.”
After more than five years in the East Village, Ms. Pill recently relocated to the Upper West Side. “I love the grocery stores, the 2/3 train and how it doesn’t stop at Columbus Circle, and the Natural History Museum,” she said. “I kind of love the lack of night life, and the extremely busy mornings that I never had in my old neighborhood. Also, I now have a dishwasher. Reason enough to live up here.”
While the silly rumors of French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld somehow dethroning our Queen Anna have quieted down, her darling son, Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, has been making himself into a “curator,” or an “art tailor,” as he reportedly prefers to be called.
Mr. Restoin-Roitfeld grew up in Paris (clothier Christian Restoin is his father; fashion photographer Mario Testino is his godfather); graduated from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he also worked as an assistant to a producer at Paramount; and modeled for Rock & Republic before arriving in New York last year to pursue his new career. Le petit roi has organized three shows in New York—two of them coincided with Fashion Week, when his parents and family friends were in town—featuring the work of artists such as Richard Hambleton and Nicolas Pol. He has named his company Feedback Ltd., renting an office on West 26th Street and hiring an assistant.
“I am still discovering everything as I’m doing it,” he told The Observer recently by phone from his Upper East Side apartment. “I love New York. When you’re young and studying a business, it’s a city that inspires you to do a lot.”
His shows, which take place in large spaces he rents downtown, feel much more like an evening at the Beatrice Inn than a typical overlit Chelsea gallery opening with cheap wine (though Mr. Restoin-Roitfeld himself is no velvet-rope worshiper; after a period dating the requisite model, Lily Donaldson, he said he has moved on to someone more obscure).
“I was going to different exhibitions and it always had this feeling of a closed circle, and it was something very hard to enter for many,” Mr. Restoin-Roitfeld said. “So I thought if I just did it in a different way, I could capture the interest of a different crowd of people”—including Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gisele Bundchen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Genevieve Jones, Patrick Demarchelier, Mary J. Blige and the Hilton sisters. “I just decided to rent very large spaces and invite a huge crowd of people and present art that I believe to be amazing and just make it more fun and open-minded.”
It’s hard to remember life before Brooklyn Flea, the mouthwatering schoolyard bazaar of artisanal pickles, cheese, cannoli, pizza and greasy Red Hook ball-field food that has become the borough’s de facto communal weekend brunch, attracting 10,000 to 12,000 in decent weather. But the Flea, with outposts in Fort Greene and Dumbo and a brand-new indoor winter location in the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, in Fort Greene, as well as a temporary holiday market in the old Tower Records space on Broadway and East Fourth Street in Manhattan, is less than two years old, the brainchild of this Clinton Hill denizen, an M.B.A. and former hedge-funder who found it “silly” that Brooklyn didn’t have such a venue. After Mr. Butler announced the idea on his blog, Brownstoner.com—which, at 1.5 million page views a month, is Brooklyn’s preeminent chronicle of local fascinations—he signed up 80 vendors in 48 hours. “It shows that in this day and age, with advertising way down, people have to be a little more creative about how media companies make money,” said Mr. Butler, who is considering replicating the successful flea-and-blog combination (flog?) in other cities. And while he vows he’ll never export the full market to Manhattan, he might placate the folks across the river with “pop-up clusters” of food vendors. Till then, it’s over the river and through the goodies!
If Vogue editor Anna Wintour is the Bridezilla of the annual Costume Institute gala, deciding on what her guests will wear to the so-called Party of the Year and where they will sit, then Stephanie Winston Wolkoff has acted as her dutiful maid of honor, making sure Ms. Wintour’s every concern is taken care of. But last June, the longtime director of events resigned. Her successor is Sylvana Soto Ward, a dimple-cheeked honey brunette who previously served as an accessories editor and Ms. Wintour’s assistant at Vogue. Ms. Ward is the daughter of Academy Award–winning screenwriter and director David S. Ward (The Sting; Sleepless in Seattle) and soap opera star Rosana DeSoto; she recently married investment banker Adam Ballard Durrett, whom she met at Princeton. Perhaps he can give his honey some money pointers: Ms. Ward will have a reportedly slashed budget, and last year’s gala brought in $2 million less than the previous one.
During a year in which offspring of the famous seemed to sprout from downtown DJ booths like weeds, mugging for the cameras at every opportunity—Richards, Roitfelds, Geldofs, Kravitzes, the long-lost daughter of Gavin Rossdale, and let’s not even get started on the Phillips—Dree Hemingway, leggy, 22-year-old descendant of Ernest, seemed a veritable sunflower. For one, the daughter of Mariel (Manhattan) has a real career, as a mannequin for Halston and Givenchy and magazines like Elle, Interview and V (in which she posed lusciously topless). She’s also regularly squired around town by hot fashion designers like Alexander Wang and Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, suggesting that she may have inherited great-granddaddy’s sociable gene (she’s spending her holidays at the Hemingways’ family compound in Cuba). Is she destined to be the next one-namer, like Agyness or Stam or Gisele? “So, I think some people have this idea of me making it because I am a Hemingway, but I don’t think I’m here because of that,” the young belle of lettres told V. Isn’t pretty to think so?
Friends of the Highline, the organization that helped transform a weed-covered, rusty elevated railway into a chicly landscaped pedestrian boulevard with invigorating views of the Hudson, notably includes Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Lisa and Phillip Falcone, Edward Norton, and Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. But the park’s bestest friends are Mr. Hammond, and his pal Josh David, who found each other at a Community Board 4 meeting 10 years ago. The Giuliani administration was considering demolishing the railway, and the pair were determined to save it. They quickly formed Friends of the Highline and proceeded to raise $44 million of the $152 million needed for the makeover. The duo’s profile should only increase in the next year as the second phase of the High Line, extending to 30th Street, is expected to be completed by fall 2010.
Recently, Brent Young, affable partner in Williamsburg’s much-hyped new butcher shop, the Meat Hook, led The Observer through a walk-in, macabre fridge, past several pink pigs’ heads—the snouts still looked soft and furry—a barnyard’s worth of pigs’ legs, bottles of pigs’ blood and thin plates of cow’s ribs awaiting their fate as short ribs. “Nothing goes to waste,” explained Mr. Young, who, with partners Tom Mylan and Ben Turley, turns these locally sourced body parts (all of which arrive on whole animals) into parsley hams, country pates, bacon cheeseburger sausages and “killer” pastrami for their adoring public (they formerly worked for the haute butcher shop Marlowe & Daughters). “Madness. Literal madness,” is how Mr. Young described the month since the Meat Hook’s opening, in an airy 7,000-square-foot, two-level space under the BQE that they share with the Brooklyn Kitchen store and “Labs,” where they teach classes on curing sausages or “Date Night Butchering.” Mr. Young, who’s from Virginia, was wearing a baseball hat over his blond hair and a scabbard containing at least five large knives hanging from his belt. “All of us are slightly cracked-out and stupid and overworked, but it’s great to be this busy,” he said. The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” was blaring on the radio. Mr. Turley, tall, scruffy, rosy-cheeked and wearing a military cap, took a break from de-boning a pig’s leg to help a customer with “head cheese.” The men’s enthusiasm is apparent in the shop—“We recommend cooking all our stuff with only salt and pepper. It’s that good,” said Mr. Young—and online, where they regularly tweet about special offerings—“NY Strip hittin’ the case! This steak will make you look brand new, lights will inspire you! NY! NY! NY!”—or post pictures of themselves preparing to dominate various carcasses. With their telegenic faces, large personalities and pristine, TV-ready teaching kitchens, the trio seems destined for small-screen stardom. “We just have to find the right network,” Mr. Young said, adding that other future plans include “a day off? A hot dog empire?” —Meredith Bryan
In this town, comely young members of the Hearst clan usually pass the days modeling or at Marie Claire, looking as if they could use a good meal. But Emma Hearst, great-great-granddaughter of William Randolph and chef-owner of the tiny Italian restaurant Sorella on the Lower East Side, is more Lidia (Bastianich) than Lydia, spending long nights on the line turning out signature specialties like chicken liver mousse on duck-fat–enriched English muffins with candied bacon and fried eggs. With no PR and a small, all-female staff, none older than 26, her restaurant has attracted glowing reviews and enthusiastic customers since opening a year ago. Brunet and modest in self-presentation, Chef Hearst grew up in unglamorous Albany, where she attended the Albany Academy for Girls (which she hated); she’s worked in restaurant kitchens since she was 13. “They’re my distant cousins,” she said of her New York relations. “But I do something completely different from what they do, so I don’t have much contact with them—if you know what I mean.” Which is not to say her Hearst-ness hasn’t come in handy: She flies in “gorgeous” beef from her family’s 85,000-acre ranch in California, and was recently named one of New York’s hottest (meaning cutest) chefs by the popular food blog Eater, though, she’s quick to add: “That’s not why I got into this business.”