Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Will the new rallying cry of New York’s power brokers become, “Let them eat seasonal berries?”

Is eight bucks too much to pay for a cup of coffee? How about toast with butter and jam, with (this time) Starbucks coffee or tea for a piffling $29?

What’s that, Dude? You say you’re on a healthy diet, and that includes breakfast? Not to worry. 

How about a plate of seasonal berries for $23, coffee not included? And if you’re bringing along your pal, the starving lumberjack, he can have a three-egg omelet with bacon and blueberry pancakes. But he may have to chop down a few extra trees to pay the bill. His chit, not including coffee (or tip in any of these cases) will come to $52.

By now, I guess you’ve figured out that I’m not talking about breakfast at Denny’s. Au contraire, mon ami.

An act of charity for the super-powerful

What I have in mind is an eatery called Park Avenue Winter, which out of the kindness of its management’s heart has let leak the news that it will take in orphaned politicians and other power brokers while their favorite power breakfast hangout, the Loew’s Regency Hotel a bit further down Park Avenue, undergoes extensive renovations.

I have to thank Joanna Fantozzi, writing for a Manhattan weekly called Our Town, for digging up the heartwarming news about a temporary new power broker pit stop. The story appeared the paper’s January 17th edition. Sorry, no links, because Our Town/East Side may be the last publication on the planet that doesn’t have a web edition.

[Post Publication Note: I got it wrong. Our Town does have a website, and as Joanna informs you in the first comment below, you can get to it here.]

But no matter. Ms. Fantozzi was intrepid enough to dig up the fact that Joe Lhota is a breakfast VIP there. At this point, I can hear the sound of eyebrows arching here in New York, and of heads scratching everywhere else on the planet.

Joe Who?

Joe Lhota is outgoing Chairman of the New York Transit Authority, the organization that runs the subways and busses while it cries poor and raises fares with the regularity that a jackrabbit in a bunny hutch umm, well, you know what I mean.

Over 300 grand a year? You might still be
too poor to pay out of your own pocket.

Joe has been getting paid $332,000 which is so not outrageous in overpriced New York that I wonder how he can afford regular breakfasts in the Power Broker Mess Hall unless he – dare I say it? – unless he expenses his morning meals there. I mean, heaven forbid he should have a power conference in the MTA conference room, or even over the phone.

Joe, although appointed to the MTA by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, is a product of the Giuliani administration, which was home to coddlers of the rich and superrich in its day. Not surprising that those folks would also want to coddle themselves.

A surprising exception to the eight dollar coffee crowd is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who despite his billions tends to take his breakfasts – and other power meals – at a run-of-the-mill diner called Viand on Madison and 78th, around the corner from the Bloomberg Mansion. (The New York Post claims he has "wined and dined" Janet Napolitano and former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer there, although I do wonder about the wine part.) 

A good sized breakfast at Viand will set you back not a whole heck of a lot more than a cup of coffee at Winter. I base this statement on personal experience. I used to live up that way and ate at Viand on a few occasions. Interesting that when the money comes straight from their own pockets, even the richest politicians go cheap.

Ssh! The booths have ears.

Admittedly, there are some drawbacks to taking power meals at Viand. The booths are set so close together that an ordinary unconnected citizen might overhear your conversation. And then there was the little matter of a health code violation a couple of years back. But since Viand had a sign in the window, at least when I lived up that way, announcing that it celebrated “Greeks for Bloomberg,” I imagine they made their mice problem go away quickly.

Now there’s talk in town that, come the next election, Joe Lhota may decide to run for mayor here in New York. Just think of it! This is a financially stressed city. (Yeah I know, you're gonna ask me to name ten that aren’t.) Teacher and other municipal employees’ pay, promotion, and retirements are under pressure. There’s a threat that eliminating so-called tax rebates on co-op and condo apartments will effectively cause taxes on home ownership here to rise – with the money going toward municipal operations. Infrastructure is crumbling.

In the midst of this fiscal starvation, do we need people who make major decisions away from the office, over what might be a $29 plate of eggs? Just asking.


Joanna F said...

Hey there! Thanks for mentioning my article. However, we definitely do have an online edition. Here's that link!


The New York Crank said...

Thanks, Joanna. Either Google let me down, or I'm going a bit daffy in my dotage.

Crankily yours,
The New York Crank