Taxing Asset Purchases

Nobody is quite sure where the tax conversations will end up at the Federal level. But, one thing is clear; we need to fix shit. We should spend more money on the arts, education, transportation, public housing, and a medicare system that keeps everyone proactively healthy.

Why don’t we tax different asset purchases 1%? That is it, just 1%. It is just an additional tax on making certain purchases. For example, if you buy a piece of art, an additional 1% tax goes directly to artists, artist programs, and organizations around the country. If you buy a car, an additional 1% tax goes directly to our transportation bill. That money will go directly to building street rail, repair our roads, build faster trains, and better urban transportation systems. If you buy a home, 1% goes to the public housing fund, where new housing built by the best architects in the land creating happy environments for the backbone of our cities. If you go to a private school, an additional 1% goes towards the public education system, including charter schools, and move them all into the digital age.

1%. It isn’t a lot. It would be the consumers who put money into the economy. Just thinking out loud here, but we need some serious help.

Expanding the Pool

A few years ago, I decided it was time for a new challenge, a new career per se. I was probably a chameleon in my other life. I am quite good at reinvention but always keeping the dots from my past with me. I started to think about getting on more mature private boards. So I began exploring.

I spoke to several companies and recruiters. It didn’t take much of a learning curve to see that I did not fit into the pool. The pool consists of people who have the right degrees, the right schools, corporate-type experiences, or an experience of building something substantial from scratch. I have done the latter, but that was in my garment center life, and actually, my fingers were deep in that at Silicon Alley Reporter too. And, after that, I resigned from the position of building other men’s companies.

Diversity is finally forcing the pool to look for some new faces, and now it is a larger pool when it comes to women on boards. There are so many brilliant women out there that would be valuable board members coming with a completely different sense of how they look at the world, and the business.

I challenge all the board members to take just one seat and fill it with something out of the pool. At non-profits, take a few seats and fill them with artists, writers, community members who might not write a check, but they can give in so many others ways. Their voice is probably worth more than anyone can imagine.

I have moved on from the board seat search, and I am excited about what I am working on now. More on that later. The bottom line, the pool has to grow, and the lifeguards have to look outside the pool too.

Gage and Tollner

We never made it over to Gage and Tollner all the years we lived in Brooklyn, even though I knew I should. The restaurant is historically open from 1879-2004. I have never been a big lover of Southern cooking. I’d look at the menu and not get excited. Things have changed.

The legit team behind Gage and Tollner have kept an important piece of history and brought it into the future. Applause all over town. They have taken off the dust that sat for years and recreated the vibe, feels, architecture, and overall luxury of the place. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. Look at the wallpaper. It is the same remade in an elegant textured fabric.

The drink program is strong.

The menu is classic old school style. My personal favorite way to peruse a menu.

Parker House rolls were obviously part of the program. Crisp on top, dense and soft in the middle covered with just the right amount of salt and that tad of sweet.

Works quite well with the broiled clam bellies drenched in miso butter covered with crisp medium sized crunchy croutons. Wow. Quite decadent.

The lightly fried slightly crunchy hen-of-the-wood mushrooms paired with a spicy sriracha sauce is delicious.

She-crab soup is as one would make she-crab soup. Rich, buttery, with a hint of sherry and chunks of crab. Two bites were all I needed. Fred managed to eat all of his and half of mine.

Classic wedge with blue cheese dressing, crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes, and pickled shallots. For a rich salad, this was not so rich. More chunks of cheese and a richer dressing would have been more in line with everything else.

Of course, fried chicken with cornmeal fritters and kale and kimchi slaw on the side.

I am so glad we went, and we will certainly be back. Gage and Tollner feel like the Grill of BK. There is this good feeling you have when walking into those rooms with their own history. I can’t go often, but an annual event feels just right. The reality is, I do it eat like I used to.  I have watched Emily change the way she eats, and she is always exploring new food experiences. I give her the total nod for how I have changed my diet. I am not eating as much meat. I will eat it when it is the right call, but it is not what I choose. It has changed how I indulge too. When I indulge as I did at Gage and Tollner, I don’t feel as good afterward. Trust me, it was fantastic going down, but I can’t do it as often as I used to. Sigh.

The room was packed. All the waitstaff wore masks. Some people wore them coming in while others didn’t. Everyone had their own comfort level, as they should. There are definitely other options on the menu, so next time I will move in new directions, but the first night, well, it all had to be about those Southern classics.

If you are coming through NYC get there. It just feels good.

Victoria’s Secret Woke Up!

I would love to know who pulled the trigger and woke up over there at Victoria’s Secret. It is impressive. After all, they still own almost 20% of the lingerie market, stumbling down from about 35% five years ago. Countless DTC brands have been building in this space for the last 5 years. Could this be the company that saw reality and actually reacted?

I have been watching Victoria’s Secret with fascination since they came on to the scene. Their brand screamed that we are appealing to what men want and supposedly the body that the media has told women they should want. It worked and foisted eating disorders on a generation of young women. The fashion shows they are famous for made me wonder, is this what Hugh Hefner’s parties are like? It ends up plenty of bad misogynist shit was going on behind closed doors at Victoria’s Secret. Shocker.

It feels terrific seeing brands give equality to a myriad of faces, bodies, genders, and anyone that should be represented in the woke world we are living in. This part of the woke world I love. It is forcing all of us to recognize the reality of who we are as individuals into advertising, content, and the media.

Will Victoria’s Secret be able to turn this around that fast? Only time will tell. What they are paying the next faces of Victoria’s Secret is unclear, and I hope those faces are making their mark on a new reality. But, truthfully, their past message was offensive.

Baked Rice With White Beans, Leeks and Lemon

I have said this before; the NYTimes food app is a superior product. This recipe came across my phone, and it sounded good. You could do different beans, toss in different cheeses, use mushrooms and other vegetables, or use certain herbs to skew towards a certain region. This might be a solid recipe to experiment with this summer.

  • 4 leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed, white and pale green parts sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sliced raw almonds
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked basmati rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of white beans (such as cannellini or great northern), rinsed
  • 2 ½ cups boiling water
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced or chopped basil, chives, mint or fennel fronds, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 400. Rinse the leeks really well, pat them dry, and slice. Peel 1-inch lemon strips off an entire lemon. Keep the lemon for later.

Toss the leeks, lemon strips, red pepper flakes, almonds, and olive oil in a 9×13 roasting pan. Season with ample salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until you see the leeks begin to caramelize.

Please take out the lemon strips and finally chop them, then return to the pan. Sprinkle the rice evenly over the rice, pour the beans evenly over the rice, season again with a bit of salt. Finally, pour the boiling water over the rice, seal with tin foil. Bake for another 20-22 minutes.

Take the pan out. Let it stay covered for about 5 minutes. Take off the tin foil, add the parmesan cheese, toss and then toss mixed chopped herbs over the top or mix in.

If I made this again, I’d do 2 cans of the beans and more cheese. It would just be a bit heartier. Again, maybe feta next time?

Seed Crackers

I am obsessed with seed crackers. There are multiple recipes out there. I decided to experiment with my own recipe and make some pea dip on the side. I read David Lebovitz’s recipe and had ordered furikake in advance. That is a worthy ingredient—a wasabi rice seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 300.

In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup flax seeds, 1/2 cup chia seeds, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, 1 tsp. red chili flakes, 3 tbsp. Furikake, 2 tsp. sea salt and 3/4 cup cold water. Mix and let sit about 3 minutes or more

Cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Put the mixture on top and then cover with another piece of parchment paper. Using any item, you have to flatten the seeds evenly to bake. I used a flour scraper. Then peel off the top piece of parchment paper. Put in the oven for 45 minutes until the large cracker is crispy and even a little browned.

Take it out of the oven. Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting the pieces up. It is a big win. We will be seeing a lot of this over the summer.

As for the peas, total ad hoc boiled a bag of frozen English peas. About 3 cups. I took 2 of the cups, put them in a Cuisinart with about 1/2 cup of the water I used to boil the peas and pureed. Then I added a handful of mint, 1/4 cup of sliced almonds (I was out of pine nuts), and 1 cup of parmesan cheese, pureed again. I needed a bit more water, so I added more to make it smoother. Then put it in a bowl, took the rest of the whole peas, and mixed in.

Perfect with the crackers!

Stay Out Of Jail Please

Violence is slowly escalating. Crime escalates for multiple reasons, but the biggest one has to be jobs. If you don’t have cash, even good people do crazy things. I fear that crime is going to become a huge issue for the next mayor. The choices they make will have generational repercussions. We have seen crime escalate in our city before and are now witnessing a generation lost to the streets because of our policies.

There are plenty of people in our city who could fill the available jobs. There are available jobs, and there would be even more if all the jobs were filled because of the ability to grow. The city should be spending money on programs training people for the available jobs. Don’t just give them the job; first, have the city train them in short three-month programs to understand the labor force. Then keep them up. Have a support system to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks to help their mental psyche. We should spend the money truly needed on support systems. Anyone who is a first-time offender goes through this course. We can also make this course available to the under-served community, so there isn’t a first-time offense.

You have to believe that if we stop dribbling money at these problems and change the entire path we have been on, then our cities would all be better off. This bleeds out to the neighborhoods surrounding cities. It is good for everyone. Pour money into a new program that creates a positive outcome. As nothing ever does, it won’t work for everyone, but we have to have new ideas. The old ones didn’t work so well.

Sisters on Track

Without a lot of fanfare, the Tribeca Film festival turned 20 this year.  They spread across the boroughs this year, but the marketing was so minimal many didn’t even know it was happening.

We had the luck of going to see Corinne van der Borch’s documentary Sisters On Track outside at Metrotech.  It reminded me it is good in the world.  It is a coming-of-age story that follows three sisters, Tai, Rainn, Brooke Shepperd, their mother, Tonia Hardy, and their track coach, Joan Bell, over a 5 year period.  Three sisters end up on the cover of kids Sports Illustrated for their accolades in track while living in a homeless shelter.   The tough love of their track coach, the hardships of a caring mother who is working hard to be a Mom and get out of her financial situation.  They are rewarded with rent paid for two years in a furnished apartment by Tyler Perry.  It is game-changing.  These young women, who are now 16, 17, and 14, are on a completely different path, and it could have turned out otherwise.

 Netflix loved Corrine’s concept and backed the film.  A worthy watch when it rolls out.

 

After we headed to Frankie’s for some pizza, and a few other treats.  

I can’t say enough about these wine-poached prunes over marscapone.  The manager told us, it is what you want a cinnamon bagel to be.  It sounds crazy but spot on

That evening we made our way to EN Brasserie, which was at one point in our lives in heavy rotation.   It was as good as I remember.  Sitting in those comfy low mid-century brown leather chairs is extremely relaxing.  
More to come in the weeks ahead before we pull out of town for the summer.  Right now, it’s feeling insanely good to be in NYC. 

Discover 3 Years Ago

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-25,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

If you have Google photos, every day, they foist a montage of past photos at you. Sometimes I push the button, but most days, I ignore it. This past week I went on a trip down memory lane every day. Three years ago we were in Paris. Perhaps the trauma of Covid filled me with some desire to look at those pictures of a different time.

We had dinner with friends this weekend, and one of them recalled that the only time in our history where life took on such epic proportions of daily fear was Britain, 1945. One day a bomb could destroy your entire neighborhood while you quickly went out for provisions. Britain was bankrupt. Fear permeated through the streets daily as havoc, and daily uncertainty became routine. Different than Covid but similar too. Covid is silent; one could say it has been worse.

The world has been traumatized. The US has fared better than most as I am watching our city come back to life. Others around the globe are not so lucky. So much has changed, and much is changing but much seems like an odd return to normalcy.

Our conversation was positive yet cynical. We all understood the trauma we have been through, the silver linings of friendships, and the acknowledgment of mental health issues, but where does this go? If you look at major historical events, we can point to changes that took place over time. Nothing happens overnight, but when you look back, you always realize how much has actually changed.

The summer will prove to be a breath of fresh air with people just busting out, hopefully responsibly. Yet the financial divide has been amplified, many have lost family members, systemic racism has been prevalent in our country from day one, and now it is finally shining brightly around every kitchen table. Businesses will struggle for a while to figure out new models. Younger generations have lived through one of the strangest social experiments per se in everyone’s lives, and pets are everywhere. Where’s fashion going as it always reflects history, what will restaurants become and, our living spaces have become even more important. DIY continues to grow, and returning to our basic needs, such as baking bread, growing plants, and slowing down, amplifies.

Bottom line, all of this will reverberate for years to come. The question that looms is what will it feel like in the years to come?

Will We Always be Fixing?

Twenty years ago, Fred and I were invited to an intimate gathering of tech founders and senators. It was memorable for many reasons, but the one that has always stuck with me is our Government’s inability to break glass, be bold and make game-changing decisions. These days it seems to infuriate me more.

There were just as many tech founders at this particular event as there were senators, and that alone changed the conversation. Bill and Hillary Clinton were there too. Schumer ran the event. We each talked about issues that were near and dear to our hearts. At the time, I was chairing MOUSE, an organization that empowers students with technology.

My question was simple. Why don’t we spend the money it takes and fix the problems from kids going home without access to the internet (aka the digital divide) and put the money needed into public schools, getting rid of all the fat? God forbid that should happen. Why? Pure and simple, politics. I don’t want to upset anybody. And most important, how can we do just enough to change the directions, make some impact, and at the same time stay in power, make everyone feel good, and get re-elected. If they had made some bold decisions 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be where we are now.

Covid forced education to change and wake up. Where we will go in the post-pandemic world, unclear but forcing education to move into the future was fueled by Covid. Private industry around education was ready, willing, and able. Let’s see what comes next.

If we went to that same event right now, I would be asking different questions. Public housing is celebrated in other countries. It should be celebrated here too. There is a physical structure to help those in need live inside our cities. Their jobs are the backbone of many parts of our city. Why shouldn’t their housing also have solar power, wireless access points everywhere, washers and dryers in the basements, split HVAC systems and just feel wonderful? Data has proven that when people live and study in positive feeling environments, the impact is felt.

Why don’t we take city-owned land across the boroughs and build enough buildings to house every person from the old buildings? Engage the community in the conversations about what they want their buildings to be. It should be a community process. Create beautiful, forward-thinking housing where there are parks, social systems built-in, bodegas that carry products the community wants, and carbon-neutral buildings and can produce money with solar power. Then once they are in perfect working order, let every person who currently lives in public housing take a look, so they are thrilled and help them move in. Then take the old buildings and implode them. After that, rebuild more public housing in that space from the ground-up with the same future program.

It wouldn’t cost $40B, the number it takes to fix the buildings at large but $200B. If anyone does the math, they will see quite clearly that the extra $160B will save us money in the long run, and the positive impact of everyone living in those buildings and on our city will be tremendous.

There is a saying when you build projects; cheap is expensive. We have to stop running this country year to year but decades to decades.