Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sublets in New York. Once again.

Approaching the end of my second sublet in two days, I am fast moving to the next one. Not that I found one, not really. As a consequence, I can’t stop bitching against the living conditions of New Yorkers compared to Londoners.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that London is of exceptionally high living standards. Not really, as most big cities aren't. Space is limited, rent prices are high and the commute time is twice as long compared to New York (simply because London is twice as big geographically speaking). But one thing is certain: you are not exploited by tenants. Subleting is illegal most of the times and if you decide to go ahead, you need the landlord’s approval. In my seven year London stay, I only met one girl who was renting out the second room of her apartment – probably illegally. Nobody else has even done it.

In the Big Apple, new comers are exploited on multiple levels. First, the property developers who build non-stop and play a significant role in rental prices. Then, the owners who, due to the lack of space, rent out their places at extremely high rates if the apartment is not rent-controlled. Then follow the brokerage firms. You have to pay a fee to a broker in order to get an apartment. Why? That’s only happening in NYC. Usually it’s the landlord who pays the real estate agent when the deal is closed. Not the future tenant. That’s insane. And finally, you have the lease holder who, for a mysterious reason has a lot of power. Since when tenants became so powerful? Once you sing a lease, you can sublet your apartment at any price really, very often two or three times your rent. So this is how you make money. Why getting a 9-5 job? I strongly believe that the lease holders, who actually pay rent themselves, are also responsible for rental prices. If rent was entirely on the hands of owners, the prices would be lower. Lease holders raise the prices because illegally double and triple them! Or, even worse, make money out of nothing. I personally experienced the following: girl out of town looking to sublet her place while traveling, was asking for "deposit" money to secure viewing of the apartment. Now, who is insane here, the girl or those who actually agreed to pay her?
And don't get me started with the actual apartment themselves: one didn't have a window, the second did not have a bathroom (had to use the bathroom across the hallway). The other one had a smell of cat piss.

if you are a newcomer to the city, not a millionaire or Donald Trump and you look for a place to stay, you will be exploited on four levels! Do you get it?

Does it show the low level of living standards in the Big Apple? Probably. In civilized cities, lease holders do not need to sublease. They make enough money to leave their apartment empty with no company when they are away. London is one of those cities. Civilized.

EVENTS in New York

Do you enjoy movies? Do you have some time to volunteer? Then you can attend the
Volunteer Recruitment event for the Tribeca Film Festival.

Monday March 5th from 7:00 - 8:30 pm
At The Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street at Laight Street
(Take the #1, #9, A, C or E trains to Canal Street)

Or visit the website for more information: http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org/volunteer-info-2007.html

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Food for thought

During the last few days, I have been doing a lot of thinking. Thinking of my future in New York city, the new sublet or room sharing I need to find before the end of the month, my job hunting (or freelance work hunting), London and why I left it six months ago, how cold the weather is in the Big Apple and so on. And I won’t mention topics as the situation of the subway, the people on the streets and how rude they are, the absence of space, the poverty rates and the mice!

And although “critical” thinking is good when you study in College, write essays and articles for publication or do your taxes, very often excessive thinking can get the opposite results. Or, you get no results at all. What I am trying to say is that occasionally is better not to think. In my case, we are talking about “comparative thinking” (London vs New York and vice versa). Creative so far, it has generated at least a blog (that may or may not be interesting or useful, I don’t know). But will it bring out my best-self or my “comparative” self? Will it bring opportunities or limitations? Will my thinking help me evolve or stay still? My questions are all on the right direction but I am afraid they need more thinking to be answered!

On the topic of thinking and thought: what else will it fit better than last night’s show entitled “Food for thought” at the MaMa experimental theatre club? This unconventional, interactive and musical theatrical event was more of an invitation for cooking and eating than actual acting. Actors sing, dance, perform, talk about food, cook and eat! Audiences on the other hand, are invited to become part in this culinary experiment by tasting the food the performers had cooked for them (last night, we tasted some salad, apples, the Mexican molĂ© and plenty of cookies). If this play fails to deliver “acting” results, it definitely succeeds at offering both food and thought!

As for me, no more thinking this coming Oscar weekend. Time for the red carpet, fancy dresses (those you don’t really see in New York) and outrageously expensive bags!


Only tonight 2-24 and tomorrow 2-25
La MaMa etc
74A East 4th St. NY, NY 10003 212.475.7710 Office Hours: M–F 10am–6pm


Opening on Saturday, Feb. 24
Brooklyn Artists Gym Gallery is proud to announce it's first photography show, LOOK SEE :: PHOTOGRAPHS ON REFLECTION.
The opening reception with the artists is this Saturday from 6:00-9:00. Please come enjoy some wine and some amazing photographs.
Over 50 artists have have been chosen who have taken on the theme of reflection and initiated their own exploration. The quality of the work and the depth of the conversation is stunning.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Gym project

Last weekend I visited the Lucille Roberts, 80 Fifth Avenue, New York, 1-800-USA-LUCILLE. URL: www.lucilleroberts.com.

I did the Fit ball class on Saturday at 11:30 am. The class was fun but also challenging: first fifteen minutes warming-up with steps, step-touches and grapelines, followed by pure strength exercises with weights, the bar and the ball! The instructor was quick, on the spot and never stopped for a breather herself (she was excersing with us!). Despite the sweating, the total of 50 minutes were not enough, not for me. Nice, I dare to say. I felt much lighter afterwards.

Score card

Facilities: 5/10. Entering Lucille Roberts Fitness for Women gym at Fifth Avenue, I was expecting luxury combined with toughness. I didn’t find the luxury. A basic large gymnasium with machines that was also the exercise class room. The changing rooms were next to the toilets and showers in an open space (no real door!). Towels were not provided and to my astonishment not even mats (at least I didn’t see any). Get you own towel, mat and lock. Do I need to mention the large posters on the walls saying “60% of women are overweight”. Is this good marketing?

Variety of classes: 7/10. From the exercise class program I found online, I can see a variety of classes. What is missing is frequency. I recommend the Fit Ball Class. I might try the All in One, Kick, Punch and Crunch or the Upper Cuts and Abs.

Rate of difficulty: 7/10 (for the Fit Ball Class).


The Forest Fire band (Experimental / Rock / Psychedelic) will be releasing their CD tomorrow, February 21st at Zebulon, 258 Wythe Ave. @ Metropolitan, Brooklyn, New York 11211. Join them for a special night. Free entry!

Live music at REBAR, on Thursday February 22nd. This Thursday, Open Trio, a mix of Post-Bop, Ambient Electro, DUB and Drum n Bass. Rebar @ 147 Front Street at Dumbo. It's a nice hangout after work. Excellent Belgian beers!

Don’t miss the famous Carnival Germanic Party, once again. Visit http://www.germanic-london.com/home/home/index.html to register for the party this coming Saturday February 24th. If you like fancy dresses and costumes, dancing and German beer, it's your spot!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tea and Coffee

Comparing New York to London and London to New York is a daunting, challenging and interesting task. I knew I was in trouble since the very first day I decided to create such a blog. Both of those two metropolis, offer variety, multiculturism, plenty of ideas, design, activities and trends. I know London much better. I spent seven years of my life there. But despite my six months in NYC (with the exception of the stints as a tourist), I feel that I “learn and read” it relatively quickly.

“Are there many coffee shops in NYC”, asked me a dear friend from London who never visited New York. “Yes”, I said “that’s the only thing you will surely find in New York. Cafes and coffee shops. In every corner”. She didn’t say anything. “But do New Yorkers drink tea too?”. Ah. That I didn’t expect. “They do” I said “but not so much compared to the Brits”. Speaking of tea, I was out tea tasting on Saturday in East Village. The tea shop with the funny name is called Sympathy for the Kettle. On Saturday, they had a tea tasting open house. Generous was the selection you could choose from: Organic Silver Needle, Lung Ching, Sencha, Rwandan, Darjeeling second flush and finally Organic Citron oolong. I tried them all and I found them unusually tasty and refreshing.

Yes, New York after all is an international place. Tea is not its first priority I would say (pizza might be) but you can get good tea to satisfy your taste and your britishness.

I am not a tea fanatic. I am a coffee drinker really. But my approach to tea changed significantly after having spent so many years in Britain. Now I know what Earl Grey and Assan are and I can enjoy a cuppa in the afternoon. No milk please!

I will be back with the same topic: coffee and tea, London and New York. Soon. Watch this space


New York
If you are into New Age, yoga and Indian philosophy, ABC carpet & home organize the Gateway to India month. Lectures, presentations, events and some food, all are provided in their Broadway store for a month from now. Visit http://www.abchome.com/ABCIndiaAbout.aspx for a schedule of events. I had the chance to see Deepek Chopra on Friday night! A Hollywood Oscar winning actress was there too.

The International Confex exhibition is approaching once again. I am really sorry that I will miss it this year. Targeted mainly for the hospitality and events industry professionals, is open to the public free of charge. If you want a change from your current job or industry, visit this amazing exhibition to experience new hotels, travel destinations, theme parks and more! You will get a lot of freebies and you will eat and drink well during those three days – all compimentary offerings from major hotel outlets, travel organizations and event organizers.

http://www.international-confex.com/, 20-22 February, 2007, Earls Court, London.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Gym Project

As a newcomer in New York and not knowing for how long I will be staying, I decided not to join one gym. I want to visit various gyms, experiment with workouts, try pilates and yoga classes without being making the "commitment". Thinking of my options, I found the answer while reading the Time Out in December: the 2007 New York Fitness access booklet. This amazing booklet offers you 175 passes to dozens of NYC gyms and studios at the very low price of $75 plus shipping (only 4 bucks for that). To be more precise: those 175 passes give access to gyms for two visits, three visits or weekly visits. I even found one that offers a monthly membership! So, if I exclude the passes for Staten island and Bronx (too far to go to exercise) and a half a dozen that are for kids, pregnant women and oversized individuals (which I am not), I can pretty much go to the gym everyday for the rest of the year!

So here is the new project: Gym evaluation. Every time I try out a new gym, I will assess it. This “evaluation” should cover three areas 1. Gym facilities 2. Variety of classes and the “machines area” 3. Rate of difficulty (of the class). Needless to mention that it will be a rather personalized appraisal (does it sound very corporate?). I promise, though, to be as objective as possible ( the good-looking male instructor won't affect me at all). I hope that the gym project will turn out to have not only one but two positive outcomes. First because more information about NYC gyms will be provided and second, it will force me to go to the gym!

Last week, I visited the McBurney YMCA, 125 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011, 212-741-9210

I did the Pure Strength class on Saturday at 10:25 am. I was slightly disappointed because the class started with seven minutes delay (due to a late finish of the previous class). The class was strenuous: first fifteen minutes “tough” warming-up, followed by pure strength exercises with weights for about twenty minutes, and finally, fifteen minutes of stretching on the floor. The instructor was very aggressive (in a good way) but also funny. At the end, she only asked one question: will you be back next week?

Score card
Facilities: 7/10. It’s the YMCA after all. A community gym with plenty of people and kids. There are towels to use in the changing room free of charge but that’s pretty much what they offer you. You need to have your own lock.
Variety of classes: 8/10. I admit an abundance of classes to choose from. Amongst others you can try the Super Sculpt, H2O Fitness (in the pool) and Body Toning. There are also Yoga, Pilates and dance classes.
Rate of difficulty: 7/10 (for the Pure Strength class).

Events this week



If you are high on investing, there is no excuse to miss out on this free, four-day event at the Marriott Marquis hotel from February 17th to February 20th, 2007.
Visit http://www.tradersexpo.com/traderexpo/newyork/main.asp to register online


Anti-Valentine Party
Wednesday 14th February

In honour of Valentine’s day come and celebrate (or commiserate!?!)

At Adam Street Private Members’ Club
From 19h30 onwards
9, Adam Street, off the Strand
Nearest tube: Charing Cross / Covent Garden

Limited places only and strictly on guest list so first come first serve
RSVP to mosaic@mosaicnetworking.com

A voluntary charity donation of £20 is suggested which which will go directly to Friends of Aschiana which are organizing the party.

When: 7:30 PM, Thursday 15 February 2007
Where: United Kingdom
Exclusive private members club. Please send email to: london@thenomads.net for further information Cost: GBP10
The Nomads SPEAKER EVENT presents Carole Stone - Britains Networking Queen
Carole Stone, former producer of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions? programme, and, with more than 28,000 names in her address book, is acknowledged as Britain's networking queen. Leaving the BBC in 1990, Carole now works as a broadcaster and media consultant to a number of large companies, bringing together journalists, politicians and business people to discuss particular issues that interest them all. Today Carole is well-known for her 'salons' - regular gatherings at her Covent Garden flat - and her huge Christmas party
Then visit us at http://www.thenomads.net

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Take the L

As a present Brooklynite, I very often get the L line. Actually, I take the L line a few times every day. Let’s admit it. It’s not the best line in the city. Once I had to wait for a Manhattan bound train for twenty-five minutes. Another day, the train was not only late but also jam-packed with millions of Brooklynites so the doors couldn’t open. And, don’t get me started on weekend construction work and the replacement buses (I will compare the subway to London Underground in a different posting soon).

But the L line is fun. Grey colored, same as “my” London Jubilee line that has replaced, brings good memories. Very close to Manhattan, the commute is really short. Mostly full with arty, trendy and weird twenty something year-olds with various accents and funny language. Nearly all of them live in Williamsburg by conscious choice - not only because it is cheaper. “Manhattan is so outdated, nothing happens there” someone told me on the L line once, local neighbor. “Don’t go there. Everything happens here in Williamsburg”. The only sad experience I have to report after being on the L for a few months now is that it makes me feel old. I am probably the oldest person on this train, almost ten years older than an average passenger. Yes, the L introduces brand new ways of looking at my wrinkles too!

But the coolest thing happened on the L platform last Saturday.

I found a yellow post-it note on the subway’s map saying:


Life is good, take the L. This is what I do. A few times a day.
Life is good in Brooklyn. Manhattan you are so over!

Events in NYC:

The author of The New York Trilogy and the The Brooklyn Follies and well-known Brooklynite, Paul Auster will be at Barnes and Noble, Union Square, today at 7pm. Don’t miss him.

Back at Galapagos after popular demand, the musical Little Building is back for an extended run.
Visit http://www.galapagosartspace.com/friday2.html for more information and to book your ticket.

Various private parties are happening this week but unfortunately, I can't publicize them. Sorry!

In London

Capital Woman

Each year, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, invites both women and men to Capitalwoman to celebrate Women’s Day. Don’t miss this free event. You will have the chance to meet the Mayor, question him directly, attend workshops and seminars, listen to a number of inspiring speakers and learn what the London Authorities do about women in the city! I was a “regular” for the last four years. Tip: go early, there are quite a few people going. Lunch, coffee and, of course, tea and biscuits are provided free of charge.

I’d love to see something similar in New York City. Any chance Mr. Bloomberg ?

Click on the link to register:
Date: Saturday 3 March 2007. Time: 10am - 5.30pm. Location: The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre and Central Hall Westminster