Last month, more than 700 tuxedoed and ball-gowned revelers gathered in the Museum of Natural History’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life for the annual S.L.E. Lupus Foundation gala. As the attendees feasted on black American caviar, Margaret Dowd, the foundation’s executive director, was marveling at something else: the size of the crowd.
The foundation had not seen so many people at its annual gala since 2007. “It’s been very tough the last few years, and we had to cut expenses drastically,” she said. “In 2009, many of our donors said, ‘Our portfolios were really harmed and we have to cut our donations, but we’ll be back.’ And they did come back. This year has been much, much better.”
The benefit raised $2.5 million—a significant jump from the $2.2 million raised at last year’s. Things have not returned to the 2007 level, when the gala’s $3.2 million haul set a national record, which has yet to be topped, for lupus research funds collected at a single event, but the foundation is on track to raise 10 to 12 percent more this year than the previous one. Ms. Dowd added that the nonprofit’s spring luncheon saw such a dramatic spike in attendance this year—a 30 percent increase—that next year they plan to hold it in the Plaza.
One mans trash is another mans treasure. A nice idiom, one my grandmother, a child of the Great Depression, liked to repeat. She also liked, “waste not, want not.” Keeping both in mind, she strove to throw out nothing, expecting, that it would one day become treasure again. Thus the stack of Life magazines from 1957 to 1960 currently propping up our dining room table.
In the modern data driven world, the idiom has changed. Now, it seems, one mans trash is another mans consumer trend index. At least for the Independent Budget Office (IBO), who released a report yesterday, compiling numbers from the Mayors Management Report showing that the amount of waste produced by New Yorkers has dropped progressively from it’s high in 2004 of about 4 pounds a day per person to just under 3 pounds now.
There are many ways for a politician to prove his or her leadership skills. One of them, surely, is to put the common good (and common sense) ahead of the narrow interests of supporters. Especially well-known supporters.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn passed that crucial test recently when she refused to back down on an ill-advised bill despite intense public pressure from high-profile supporters, especially feminist Gloria Steinem.
We’ve been critical of Ms. Quinn in the past because she seemed to take positions based not on principle but on political calculation. She is, of course, one of the leading candidates to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor next year. As Speaker of the Council, Ms. Quinn is the second most-powerful elected official in municipal politics, so her performance in the role should offer some insight into the kind of mayor she would be.
Big isn’t always better!
Best Buy did a monstrous belly flop in the pool of big retailers last Thursday, reporting a $2.6 billion quarter loss and sending tidal waves to similar retailers. Best Buy, along with many of its retailing rivals, is shifting their focus to opening smaller locations. We are facing down the end of the big box story, according to Bloomberg.
Red Carpet Real Estate
Looks like there is some rumbling in the Johansson household! After Scarlett Johansson dropped her mom, Melanie Sloan, as her agent, the mom has lost quite a bit more than just her 10 percent.
This Old House
Shadow inventory. It was supposed to be the boogeyman of the real estate bust, thousands upon thousands of unsold properties scattered across the city. Bought or built for more than they were worth, people would hang onto these homes until the market improved, giving a better appearance to the housing supply than actually existed. It’s like the difference between the standard and broad rates of unemployment.
No matter. To real estate doyenne and new Brooklynite Elizabeth Stribling, there is no shadow inventory, or so she tells The Times in one of its patented 30-Minute Interviews.
One of the confounding things about the past three years is that while the economy has slumped and housing has been an absolute mess nationwide, in New York, we are almost back to the same levels as during the boom, especially as far as rentals are concerned. Crain’s sees some softening ahead, however.
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As the new CEO on The Office, James Spader has been killing it. The season premiere saw the 80s star return as the enigmatic and semi-threatening Robert California taking Dunder-Mifflin’s “winners” out to a special lunch. After asking Jim an innocuous question about Sesame Street, he went off on a diatribe about the significance of one of its major characters.
“Elmo. God save us… the Elmo era. Sesame Street was created to reflect the environment of the children watching it. The complete self-absorption of Elmo is brilliantly reflective of our time. Our’s is a cultural ghetto. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Yes. We agree! Don’t stare at us with your cold, reptilian gaze, Mr. Spader! Not only do we agree with you, but we’ll raise you one better: That Sesame Street‘s introduction last night of “Lily,” a Muppet whose family lives below the poverty level, is proof that the show is not even trying to be subtle anymore about reflecting America’s current economic crisis.
Some good news and some bad news for the design and construction industry. The American Institute of Architect’s Architecture Billings Index—The Observer‘s favorite leading indicator—rebounded last month, according to numbers released today.
Those who are stubbornly optimistic about the return of the Manhattan office market might want to take a close look at this report from the New York Building Congress.
It looks like major commercial development in Manhattan is still sluggish, which is no surprise considering the recent recession. In fact, the report blames the downturn in significant new office construction on the “dramatic decline in employment along with a sharp rise in office vacancies.”
Still, ever-positive as the Building Congress is, the trade group sees a silver lining to this slowdown.