At the Strand Bookstore, a Retail Labor Struggle in the Age of Amazon and Occupy

John Farley  | March 16, 2012 4:00 AM

The Strand Bookstore, located at 828 Broadway in the East Village, is widely considered a New York City icon. Recently, employees say the independent book store has developed a corporate-style atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Blog Nueva York.

In an age where online retailers are forcing  even the largest corporate chain book stores to close, The Strand in Union Square is one of a handful of great remaining independent shops left in New York City, beloved by many New Yorkers. And while most retailers of books, as well as other goods, aren’t exactly known for their excellent employee treatment, most of The Strand’s employees have been members of the United Auto Workers Union (the union supports many industries besides auto workers) for 35 years, and labor rights activists long pointed to the store as a model of good retailer policies.

But lately, Strand employees say that the owners are giving them a raw deal and transforming their workplace into the kind of corporate-style environment they think The Strand should stand against. And now, with help from the Occupy movement, some employees are mobilizing to fight back.

In addition to circulating a press release to local universities and labor groups, employees told MetroFocus that if The Strand’s owners won’t move forward with contract negotiations, they intend to escalate the pressure — possibly with a strike.

(more…)

Edifice Complex: A Crash Course in NYC Architecture

Daniel T. Allen  | March 7, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Will Jones
Publisher: Rizzoli
Publication Date: Feb. 2012

“How to Read New York,” design and architecture writer Will Jones’ latest book, has nothing to do with the city’s literary tradition and everything to do with its rich architectural history. With illustrative photographs and wire frame drawings that resemble blueprints, his book gives you X-ray vision into the details of some of New York’s most iconic, and most overlooked buildings. (more…)

Teddy Roosevelt’s Battle With the Deeply Depraved New York of Yore

Richard Zacks  | March 5, 2012 4:00 AM

In 1895, then-reformer Theodore Roosevelt — fearless and righteous and full of zeal — was appointed New York City police commissioner, assigned to clean up the Big Apple at what many said was its dirtiest, most rotten moment in history.

Author Richard Zacks’ new book, “Island of Vice,” details Roosevelt’s quest, which, depending on your perspective, was either glorious and quixotic or the premise for a dark comedy. In the following essay for MetroFocus, Zacks paints a vivid portrait of the seedy urban underbelly that Roosevelt encountered at the end of the 19th century. (more…)

Op-Ed: Unorthodox – Rejecting Hasidic Brooklyn & Reinventing Myself One Borough Away

Deborah Feldman  | February 27, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Deborah Feldman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: February 2012

When my mother chose to leave her arranged marriage and pursue her dreams of higher education, I lost her to the outside world. My family would not let her near me because they feared she would be a bad influence, and my father was severely developmentally delayed, so I was raised by my grandparents, both Holocaust survivors from Hungary who were deeply entrenched in Williamsburg’s Hasidic community.

I always felt out of place in a world that seemed to have no role for women other than mothers and homemakers. In the Satmar Hasidic sect, parents raise their children according to the strictest standard of observance of Jewish laws and customs. My aunts and uncles would berate and yell at their children for seemingly small infractions, and in school, teachers could be equally abusive.

(more…)

Art Imitates Life in ‘The Darlings’

Cristina Alger  | February 20, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Cristina Alger
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Publication Date: February 2012

I wrote a lot in high school, less in college. I enjoyed the practice of writing itself, but I could never seem to find a truly compelling character or a plot that held my interest. By the time I became a corporate lawyer, my writing was limited to merger agreements and late-night emails to friends.

That changed on the morning of Sept. 15, 2008. I arrived early to work at my law firm, WilmerHale, and found that my hall was already buzzing with bankruptcy attorneys and litigators. By 9 a.m., a firm-wide meeting had been called in one of the conference rooms. Every single partner was present. The stress level was at an unparalleled high. The associates glanced around the room at one another, silently wondering if we were all about to be fired.

(more…)

BOOKS

Looking Up to Look Back: The Fading Ads of New York

George Bodarky and Sarah Berson  | February 17, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Frank Jump
Publisher: The History Press
Publication Date: Nov. 2011

In 1986, when Frank Jump was 26 years old, he was diagnosed as HIV positive. It was a time when doctors still knew little of the disease. They estimated Jump only had a few years left to live.

The doctors were wrong. Nearly 10 years after his diagnosis, things started looking up for Jump — literally.

In 1997, he “discovered” an ad for Omega Oil, a cure-all tonic, painted on the side of a New York City building. It was the beginning of a quest to photograph old ads painted or glued to the sides of city buildings, ads he views as relics of New York’s past. The quest has consumed Jump ever since.

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Q&A: What We Can Learn from 1 Million NYC Singletons

Daniel T. Allen  | February 17, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Eric Klinenberg
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication Date: Feb. 2012

Eric Klinenberg is the author of “Going Solo,” a new book about the seismic social shift that’s taken place in the past 50 years as more people than ever are living alone rather than with family members or roommates. According to Klinenberg, Manhattan was only very recently replaced by Washington, D.C., as the most popular place to live alone in the U.S. MetroFocus spoke to Klinenberg about the facts of single life in New York City.

Q: In the past 50 years, the number of American adults living alone has tripled. What does that look like in New York City?

A: Today there are more than 1 million people living alone in New York City. In Manhattan, about one in two households are occupied by singletons. Some of the people who live alone are old, but they are a minority. The largest group of people living alone are between the ages of 35 and 65. Most of them have been married or lived with someone in the past but at some point they decided they needed a place of their own and the freedom to do what they want, when they want.

What’s surprising to me is that it’s more expensive to live alone. People are actually paying a premium to live alone. (more…)

BOOKS

Q&A With StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay: Love and the City

Daniel T. Allen  | February 14, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Dave Isay
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication Date: Feb. 2012

StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that records, preserves and broadcasts oral histories on public radio. Since launching in 2003, StoryCorps has collected over 40,000 stories from about 80,000 individuals. Until 2008, many of those stories were recorded in a booth in Grand Central Terminal.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the program’s founder, Dave Isay, published “All There Is,” a collection of StoryCorps’ most memorable love stories. MetroFocus spoke to him about love in New York City.

Q: What percentage of StoryCorps interviews would you classify as “love stories”?

A: I think that the theme of love comes up in every interview. I haven’t searched specifically but romantic love is probably in three-fourths of the interviews at least. People will talk about the most important things in their lives, such as their families and parents and kids and people who they’ve fallen in love with. (more…)

Op-Ed: Resurrect CBGB? No, Just Learn to Live With the Dead

Rob Sacher  | February 8, 2012 4:00 AM
Authors: Rob Sacher
Publisher: Selena Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2012

There are only a handful of rock nightclubs in the history of New York City where musicians actually took their art to extraordinary places — before almost anyone knew who they were, or what it was they were giving to us on stage. Among them was the highly regarded Luna Lounge, the Lower East Side club I was fortunate enough to co-own from 1995 to 2005. Another was CBGB, but I’ll address that club — and its rumored resurrection — a bit later.

Luna was, I believe, one place in a million, one place in time; a simple rectangular box bisected by a wall creating two rooms within one. And, within those rooms, people came to create and connect themselves among friends. Luna was also more than a club; it was a conduit to the consciousness of a certain generation of artists, musicians, comedians and painters who found a home running with a kindred spirit. (more…)

Eminent Outlaws: The Truth Behind Why So Many Gay Writers Love NYC

Christopher Bram  | February 3, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Chris Bram
Publisher: Twelve Books
Publication Date: Feb. 2012

I moved to New York City from a small college town in Virginia in 1978, telling my friends (and myself) that I wanted to go to this big, noisy, dangerous city only because I wanted to be a writer; I thought all writers needed to live for a year or two in the “Capital of the Twentieth Century.” I was there to meet other writers and take advantage of the bookstores, art museums and repertory movie theaters.

Not until a few years later, after I was settled with a boyfriend, did I admit that I had moved to New York for sex and love. I knew unrequited love all too well in Virginia. I needed to come here to meet real gay men who might want to go to bed with me as eagerly as I wanted to go to bed with them. Which I did happily for two years, before I met Draper Shreeve, who is my partner to this day.

For a long time, I believed that my first set of reasons for coming to New York — work and culture — were lies and that the second set — love and sex — were the truth. But while I wrote my literary history, “Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America,” I realized that all of my reasons were good, and they were all true.

(more…)

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