Nipple Gate In Perspective

News Item: Times Square street hustlers now include “desnudas” — nearly nude women with body paint, posing with tourists for money.

What is it about the desnudas that has suddenly made them a New York City cause celebre? With so many other issues on the table — under-performing schools, crime, lack of affordable housing to name just, oh, a few — how did Nipple Gate capture and hold Page One?

IMHO, the desnudas’ arrival is the straw that broke The Real New Yorkers’ backs, in terms of nakedly communicating that NYC has become a city catering first for outsiders — tourists and non-residents — rather than the tax base. That is, those who actually live and work here 365/24/7.

Under the reign of Bloomberg,who said from the outset that his legacy would be based upon how the public schools were at the end of his tenure (they still stunk) developer deals flourished.  His city was marketed and transformed into a “luxury product” designed to attract the world’s 1% and, in addition, separate ever-greater hordes of tourists from their money.

“Regular” NY’ers?  We were told to “see a Broadway show” when a blizzard shut down the city, and to move our cars or be ticketed, even as they were frozen in place on unplowed outer-borough side streets.

Meantime, buildings such as One57 (!)  rose like a giant middle-finger to the rest of the city.  This building casts its vulgar shadow across the populist Central Park, both metaphorically and literally.  Who lives there?  Assuredly, not your dry cleaning guy.

And part of the plan was to create pedestrian malls for the Velveeta-butts in tank tops and cutoffs.  Yes, the throngs who gorge at Bubba Gump and thrill to “Momma Mia!”  Who cares that the entire pedestrian and vehicular flow of midtown was disrupted? That would only fuel desire for His Highness’ congestion pricing plan, which was templated off London’s (where Bloomberg has a residence and — who knows — may run for mayor).

Once the pedestrian mall in Times Square was created, the aggressive costumed characters came, sleazily sidling up to tourists, posing for photos, their hairy hands out for money.  Ersatz Elmo, Spiderman, Batman, Hello Kitty, the Penguin, the Joker, Buzz Lightyear and Cookie Monster shoved sisters, cursed cousins, and groped grannies.

All as traffic sizzled on side streets, diverted from the already slow Times Square flow, and hopping mad midtown office workers wound through the throngs, late for appointments.

And now, we have the desnudas, the icing on this hot mess of this Times Square cataclysm.

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Now, our new mayor and his police commissioner are being pilloried for being ballsy enough to even consider a return to the Times Square of yesteryear.  That is, pre-mall.

Surely there is a way to design a public space in this so-called “crossroad of the world” that simultaneously

  • protects pedestrians
  • creates a reasonable traffic flow
  • considers the needs of local citizens

Tourist money is great.  And the world’s tourists will visit a fun, safe, inviting New York.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think tourists come to New York to pose with a flea-bitten Minnie Mouse character.

Here’s the deal: THIS IS NEW YORK CITY, PEOPLE! This is not Vegas, Orlando, Asbury Park or Branson, Missouri.  All are fine tourist destinations.  But they are not New York City.

This doesn’t have to do with being anti-fun.  Or with being prudish.

This has to do with realizing that our hard working citizens need to get to where they are going without bumping into detours, four-abreast tourists from Tulsa, or Batman’s behind.

We are a hard-working world capital.  Not Wildwood, New Jersey.




New York Music: Never Let Go


Flash Picking an Electric Guitar

Real New Yorkers” is a term I use to describe those who have New York City in their hearts.  One does not have to be born here, to be a Real New Yorker.  You just have to have that “NYC” groove in your heart.

That is, the New Yorker’s ability to stay true to oneself.  Real New Yorkers know who they are and what they want to achieve.  And they pursue their dreams and make it work, somehow, in the face of the impossible odds that life puts before each of us.

In the realm of Real New Yorkers, there are some commonalities.  One is the lifelong maker of music.  New York is a great, global gumbo of a music scene.  Here you will find men and women who love making music and refuse to let go of this passion.

One such Real New Yorker is Sal Cataldi, owner of the eponymous, award winning public relations agency.  Since 1988, he has managed to juggle client service, child rearing, writing music and gigging.  Always gigging.

Add recording to that list.  Days ago, he released “Sketches of Spam,” his 16-track, 69-minute, genre-surfing debut release from Spaghetti Eastern Music (Bad Egg Records, 30003,

While he and his team orchestrated PR for the recent PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Gala, in the midst of the Charlie Hebdo fury earlier this year, Cataldi finalized his debut album, which evokes 70’s Miles, Ennio Morricone, Fripp & Eno and includes a brilliantly re-imagined DADGAD version of The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride.”

This is a native New Yorker from Flushing who, like a lot of local kids here in the mid-60s, clipped Borden milk container coupons to exchange for nosebleed Mets tickets.  While some kids are bitten by the sports bug, it was always music for Cataldi.

And, while most folks leave their dreams at some point in their lives, Cataldi’s passion for music was actually woven tightly into the fabric of his work life as the years passed.

“I worked for Bigelow Pharmacy in the Village when I was in college, and delivered prescription drugs to Electric Ladyland Studios on 8th Street,” Cataldi said.  “Once in the public relations profession, I created events like the LA Rock-N- Roll Trivia Tour, the Dewar’s Bagpipe Festival, even a national air guitarist search for the best ‘Guitar Face.’  Finally, I’ve been proud to promote the annual John Lennon Tribute concert.

At work, Cataldi’s guitar is always at the ready, never far from his phone.  When inspiration strikes, music wafts through his agency’s 29th Street headquarters.

“I’m a professional person who just refused to give up on my love for the craft, for music,” he said.  “Today’s technology makes it possible, but it is important for all of us here in the New York City pressure cooker to express ourselves through our art.  Never let go.”