Will Bloomberg Buck the G.O.P.?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a way of not making enemies, even among those who disagree with him. That’s one of the reasons Democrats had such a hard time mounting a challenge against him last year. The Republican Mayor was simply too well liked—or, to put it another way, nobody seemed to dislike him with any particular intensity.
Safely re-elected with a significant mandate, Mr. Bloomberg apparently is pondering a more confrontational approach in Term 2. He is considering throwing his support, and resources, behind Democratic City Council member Joseph Addabbo, who is thinking about challenging a long-term Republican State Senator from Queens, Serphin Maltese. The Mayor’s aides say privately that he is tired of seeing the city treated unfairly by his own party’s majority in the State Senate, based upstate and in the suburbs.
If the Mayor proceeds on this course, he will be taking on not just Mr. Maltese but the entire state Republican Party. The State Senate has been a bastion of Republican rule (and patronage) for decades, and the party’s operatives have made the defense of its Senate majority a priority.
In recent elections, however, that majority has begun to shrivel. Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 35 to 26 in the Senate, but a number of Republican stalwarts—including Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno—are in their 70’s or older. If they retire, their seats may well turn over to the Democrats.
Mr. Bruno owes his power to his position in the State Senate. If the Republicans lose the Senate, Mr. Bruno loses his place as one of the three politicians—Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader—who decide every important issue in Albany.
So there is a lot at stake if Mr. Bloomberg decides to support a Democrat against Mr. Maltese—a man who, by the way, is no friend or ally of the Mayor. Mr. Maltese supported the quixotic Mayoral campaign of Conservative Party candidate Thomas Ognibene last year and helped block school-aid reform for the city. And Mr. Bruno, of course, has bumped heads with the Mayor on several issues, most conspicuously the now-defunct West Side stadium.
Mr. Maltese would certainly be vulnerable to a well-funded Democrat, since among his district’s registered voters, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one. But if Mayor Bloomberg jumps into this race on the side of the Democrats, he should be sure that his motivation is truly to serve the best interests of the city, and not just a desire for political revenge. Payback will be hell if he backs a losing cause.
Fashion Week: No Dim Bulbs
With its explosion of flash bulbs and airy hype, Fashion Week might seem like a frivolous business that pops up on the calendar far too often. But even if you’re not staggering into the Bryant Park tents on three-inch heels, it’s worth pausing to appreciate what this whole spectacle means for New York. What makes it especially great? It’s the old guard of designers who just keep on going season after season, even as the young upstarts who show their collections in achingly hip alternative spaces flame up and burn out. Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, now even Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan and Diane von Furstenberg—these are names that have been around for decades, diligent workhorses of Seventh Avenue who, in their loyalty, consistency and tireless work ethic, are a credit to our city. Add the enthusiasm and glamour of socialites and celebrities and magazine editors, and it’s like a soap opera with characters that you know and love, and who all behave in exactly the same way, season after season (maybe with the occasional cast change, as when Francisco Costa took over for Calvin Klein). Just as surely as you know that the trees will be blossoming soon enough, you know that Mr. de la Renta is going to have embroidery, and Ms. von Furstenberg will have a wrap dress, and Marc Jacobs is not going to start on time. And off the runways, you can be sure that local hotels, restaurants and theaters all receive a boost.
Fifty years ago, New York was the manufacturing center for the garment industry. Today, we are the world center for the design and marketing of fashions that are made and sold all over the world. Fashion Week is about the ways in which the city has reinvented itself as a hub for new ideas and a magnet for talent. It’s also about the impressive way the city has refurbished its green spaces. It’s easy to forget that not so long ago, Bryant Park was an unsafe, squalid haven for drug dealers, until the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation, a public-private partnership, was formed to clean it up. Today, it is the chosen backdrop for the fashion industry’s premier event.
So love it or leave it, but Fashion Week dresses up the city in ways that benefit everyone.
Holding Hands: Rx for Anxiety
Holding hands may be a sign of old-fashioned romance, but it’s an act of affection that sophisticated New Yorkers tend to shy away from, at least in public. But new research may drive previously cool and distant couples into a frenzy of palm-clasping. In a study soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science, neuroscientists report that when a woman is anxious about a real or perceived threat, the touch of her husband’s hand immediately soothes the deep regions of her brain that were bracing her to fight or flee.
The researchers began by selecting a group of happily married couples—as measured by intimacy, communication and shared interests—and then placed the wives in an M.R.I. and told them that they would be receiving a mild electric shock to their ankles. In anticipation of the pain, the women’s brains showed peak activity in areas associated with fear and other negative emotions. When the husbands reached a hand inside the M.R.I. and took their wives’ hands, however, activity in each of the affected regions dropped remarkably. When a stranger’s hand was proffered, the women experienced some relief, but not at the same high levels. (The researchers did not, it should be noted, test the reaction if that stranger happened to be George Clooney.)
The degree of relief provided by the touch of a husband’s hand directly correlated with how happy the pair was in general. Happy couples got more from the handholding than less-happy couples. But it seems the researchers failed to study what happens when the wife’s distress is a direct result of, say, something stupid or ridiculous that her husband has just said. In that case, handholding might be less effective than a handy “I’m sorry.”