New Places to Hang

When I was a kid, we hung out at the Montgomery Mall. The mall opened in 1968, and we moved to that area in 1971. I remember first going to the mall and how unbelievable it was that so many stores were under one roof. Sears, Garfinkels and Woodroth and Lothrop were the anchor tenants. Two of these three stores do not exist anymore. Unclear what it was I would do all day, considering I did not have a credit card, but somehow dropping me off at the mall for hours on end appeared to be the thing to do. Perhaps built-in teenage babysitting.

Over the years, the mall evolved, eventually opening a food court, as all good malls do. At one point, cinemas entered, and new stores came and went. Finally, traffic slowly reached the point that the property was worth more than anything else.

1993 the mall was sold to a group, and Westfield took it over. The name has changed, of course, to the Westfield Montgomery. Spending that kind of money would make it seem that having your name on the wall is essential.

In 2018, the time came to completely renovate the place, as in knock it down and start again. Teens hanging out in the mall ceased, and so did endless shopping days at the mall, so the next generation needed to be built. Now, there is a hotel, housing, common areas, a vast complex, an ice skating rink, and tons of stores for food and other items. Having 717 residential units will be the ultimate key to their success.

If you have not been to Domino Sugar Factory, you are missing out on one of the best developments I have seen in a long time. Of course, there are no malls, thank god, but the stores are curated, and there is plenty of rental housing. 30% of that housing went to middle-income housing, and those people were awarded those places in an auction. There is an outstanding green area with plenty of different activities on the water.

We saw a film at 28 Liberty this past weekend that has been completely remodeled with pickleball courts inside, an art area, hanging areas, an Alamo Draft House, and plenty of new spaces to take over. It could eventually be an excellent spot for teenagers to hang out all day after a film.

How we interact and experience retail is changing. It is exciting to see developers begin to rethink their buildings and how people want to engage with them. Housing is also first and foremost, but having a supportive system for everyone living there is the right step towards building new communities, at least for now.

The Year in Movies

I love films. We have watched almost every film up for the Oscars this year, including foreign films. It was an excellent year for cinema. Perhaps one of the reasons we are seeing better films is the world of cinema is connected globally. Most of my favorite films these last few years have been made in other countries, and we can easily watch them. That was not as much the case a decade ago.

There are a few films that have stuck with me, so I am going to share. American Fiction and the Holdovers are entertaining films with underlying messages and excellent acting. Both are worthy of your time.

Anatomy of the Fall is a legal drama thriller set in France and keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish. The lead female lead character is in two top films this year. Past Lives is about two childhood friends who reconnect after two decades, having known each other as children. As one left to come to the US as a young child and the other grew up in Korea, their impact on each other speaks to everyone’s journey. The Zone of Interest refers to the restricted zone around Auschwitz. It is loosely based on Rudolph Hess, whose dream home is butted up against Auschwitz, where his wife lives raising their children. It is a stunning film that gives insight into the life of the elite Germans during WW2. Haunting. More foreign films are making it onto the list of the year’s top films.

Poor Things takes from Frankenstein and might be one of the most creative films I have seen in a long time. Emma Stone is phenomenal. Her character grows over the film and begins to find herself, which is complex and captivating. One scene might be one of the top scenes ever shot.

There are three foreign films nominated for best foreign film that I continue to think about. The Zone of Interest was nominated for Best Movie and Best Foreign Film, as I mentioned above. Society of the Snow is based on the true story of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Alps in 1972 and their survival. The other one is Perfect Days, which tells the story of a Tokyo toilet cleaner who goes about his days over two weeks. It is slow, repetitive, and subtle. No matter how simple one’s life appears, everyone has their complexities.

Although not nominated for the Oscars, my favorite film is The Taste of Things. It is a masterful slow crescendo about food, community, love, and culture. It is exquisite. The food scenes dominate the film, I only wish that the theater provided the aroma to what was happening in the films kitchen. I loved this film; it is food for the soul.

I am not providing much context because I am far from a “reviewer of films,” but being able to enjoy this many films in one year and have them all impact me that still resonates is powerful and one of the most amazing things about the movies. As they say, see you at the movies!

Phoenix Open

On weekend afternoons, Fred and I like to lounge in the den and put on golf or basketball, but golf is definitely more chill, and while Fred naps, I usually get stoned and catch up on reading.

I love watching golf. I attempted to play it in between one of my careers, but it just didn’t stick. I get it, but the whole gestalt doesn’t work for me, although I applaud it.  

The Phoenix Open was this past weekend. It is an entirely different experience than any other open. Stadium box seating is built annually for this event. The concept is that this place is for the people. There is even a rope drop, like skiing, for a run that begins at 715am to get the best seats on the course—nothing quiet and elitist at this golfing event.

For every fan wearing green, WM gives $1 towards giving back, and that adds to the $14.5m that is towards giving back this past year. Charity is what it is all about, and their annual giving is impressive.

When it comes to sustainability, they are up there. It is part of their mission. What does WM do? They are a publically traded waste management company. The Zappos of waste management. The company does things like Zappos, but the principles are the driving force. I was blown away by the CEO, who seems to have led WM into a next-generation company.  Everything he was speaking about regarding charity sustainability and all the people was music to my ears. I was blown away.

These days, there is so much rhetoric that fuels anger that I have come to believe I am in the minority when it comes to empathy. That could be caring about lifting others, making our planet healthier, and doing the right thing without bureaucracy, but it is not something I have seen in a while. Could it possibly be that a publically traded company of this size seems to have done it right? If so, it makes me return to my optimistic self and gives me some faith in our future.

A Week in NYC

This past week, I spent much time walking the streets of NYC and attending events. The streets are alive. There are many new stores, restaurants, and art galleries.

At the start of the week, I went to the Shoppe Object trade show at Basketball City, where Gotham Goods had a booth. The place was booming, and the energy in the space felt good. It was a successful show, and we are excited about our new products, partnerships, and outlets.

That night, we had dinner at the Grill to celebrate. I love the Grill. It is iconic. The service is top-notch, and the food is delicious. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Seagrams building, and Philip Johnson was the co-architect. The Grill is landmarked; those shimmering curtains and stunning bar can never change. If we ever have them, our great-great-grandchildren could sit at the same bar or eat in the same room, celebrating an event years from now just as we have done several times. Something about that feels insanely good.

I went to the PAC to see a production and am returning this week. I stopped by the kick-off party to celebrate the new Edie Parker cannabis line carried at Gotham. I walked the streets down to Lower Canal to see Yves Tessiers’ gallery opening at the Shrine. The streets were packed, and so were the events.

We went to Upside Pizza for lunch, and the line was out the door and around the corner.

I went to a Knicks Pacers game on Saturday night and to dinner at 11, where people had no intention of going home.

Spring was in the air this week, which feels strange yet good in February. The city has its share of problems, but a buzz on the streets feels insanely good.

Cigs or Weed

My Grandmother, although she didn’t smoke cigarettes, had small glass holders for cigarettes in her living room. Her apartment was fancy, and in the ’70s, smoking a cig at someone’s home during a dinner party was the norm.

In 7th grade, I nabbed one of those cigarettes out of curiosity. I palmed a few and brought them home. I wanted to try one, which I shared with my mom. I remember sitting on her bed, lighting one up, and she said to me, “Now inhale,” and I coughed my head off. The lesson was noted: don’t smoke cigarettes.

I smoked cigarettes off and on through high school, college, and early adult life, but I was lucky to have a random gene where I never became addicted. I could smoke a few a week and then just put the pack down. When I lived in London during my junior year abroad, I smoked plenty, but once I got on the plane to come home, I decided to stop, and that was that.

I started getting stoned in eighth grade, and from the first time, I never understood why it was illegal. Compared to watching my peers tap into their parents’ alcohol on the weekends, finding them wasted or ill, cannabis was a walk in the park. It took the edge off in a good way.

Alcohol and cannabis are probably the top vices. Ends up, I was on to something. Twenty-six percent of Americans aged 18-34 say they prefer cannabis vs. five percent for cigarettes, which is considerable. Over half of Americans used cannabis in the past year, making alcohol numbers go down. It is not shocking that tobacco and alcohol companies are trying to jump into the cannabis space and are spending plenty on lobbying.

All of this added up makes us wonder, what is the Federal Government waiting for exactly?

The End of Positively Gotham Gal

I began building out the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival in the fall of 2010. My partner, Nancy Hechinger, was a professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and believed there were not enough women in tech. I wasn’t convinced about that, but I did believe that women network differently, and they were out there. To back up my theory, I began writing about women entrepreneurs almost weekly from November 2010 through 2016. We launched WEFest in January 2011, which ran for six incredible years.

Between writing about women, investing in women, and running a women’s festival, I got a front-row seat to a new generation of women using technology platforms to enter and build new industries.

I started to wane on writing those weekly women’s posts and began to think about a new medium. It was a group effort, and the move to the podcast Positively Gotham Gal started in November 2016. I kept that going until sometime last year when my career and bandwidth shifted.

I have had the honor of speaking with over 400 women about their careers and putting their stories out in public, and that doesn’t include the countless women I have talked to about their businesses. It has been a gift. There is no doubt that women should be leading the world. The good news is more women are, and it is about time. A lot of change has happened since 2010.

I want to acknowledge this, as the podcast just stopped without a word. I have shifted my time into building out Gotham, chairing the Public Housing Community Fund, and other things. I am still passionate about helping women rise in their chosen careers. At Gotham, most of our team are women. I have also worked on a docu-series about women that has yet to find someone who wants to take it on, but I will get there.

And so, RIP to the blog posts and podcasts highlighting incredible women. I loved doing it. It was just time for me to change into something new.

NY Cannabis Rollout

Perhaps last week, the NY cannabis rollout has finally come to a head, but that is the optimist in me. It is still unclear to me, and most others, how exactly the Office of Cannabis Management was set up during the Cuomo administration and precisely what rules and regs Hochul inherited.

Who actually gets to make decisions, how do they get made, and why is there a void in the leadership? There have been countless lawsuits and inconsistent decisions made. But again, this is what I read, what I hear, and how Gotham has attempted to wade through all of it.

Last week, Hochul finally blew a gasket. She called the rollout of New York State’s cannabis program a “disaster,” and said that it was unlikely the program could be fixed without significant changes to the cannabis legalization law itself. The comments were made in response to questions from the editorial board of the Buffalo News. “It’s not every street corner,” Hochul said, referring to illegal retailers in New York City. “It is every other storefront. It is insane. It is about time.

Regardless of everything that has come before, people inside the walls of this administration should want to make the Governor happy. The taxes and jobs lost over the past two years are unacceptable. That is, first and foremost, as it should be. Gotham Gives is supporting Hospitality Pathways, an organization that serves the cannabis, hospitality, and leisure industries with a program led by Beatrice Stein. Gotham has hired from this organization. People in underserved communities see the opportunities in these new businesses. This last cohort had 700 people apply for 20 seats. These are the jobs that create change. If all of these applicants can see it, why can’t the state get these licenses out so we can hire these people?

I continue to be optimistic but it is not easy.

Dry January Ends

Dry January has been an enormous plus for the cannabis industry. The data shows us that young people are shifting away from alcohol and view cannabis as a healthier vice. This shift is creating a challenge for the liquor industry, and that impact is being felt in arenas. People can’t puff inside an arena but can undoubtedly take a gummy.

Bloomberg did many things when he was in office, but no smoking inside might have been the most felt globally and in our lungs. I would not roll that back ever. What should be sold at events? Fast-acting mints and gummies, cannabis drinks, vapes?

As more and more people opt for cannabis over alcohol, the shift will be seen. Alcohol companies will start buying cannabis companies and lobbying for wine shops to sell cannabis or the other way around. It will be interesting to see what cannabis sales look like when Germany legalizes cannabis on April 1st. They do not have lobbyists urging them not to sell cheese, sweets, or savory condiments in a wine shop.

Party planners want to bring on the products, arenas need to figure this out, and in the end, the consumers will always find the products; the question is how can events take advantage of what everyone is taking before or during the event straight from their pocket?

Cannabis is out of the bag; it is time for the Federal Government to embrace it.

Talking on Thinking Outside the Bud

I enjoyed speaking to Bruce Eckfeldt on his podcast Thinking Outside the Bud. A 30-minute listen. You can listen here.

Some info on the site about Gotham and me below.

Cultivating Success: Inside the High-End Cannabis Industry with Joanne Wilson

In this episode, we have Joanne Wilson, Founder and CEO of Gotham NYC, a prominent cannabis dispensary in New York. Joanne shares her professional journey, highlighting her venture into the cannabis industry and the challenges faced within the New York regulatory landscape. The conversation delves into the intricacies of building a distinctive brand, emphasizing the need for a high-end luxury experience for customers. Joanne discusses the dynamic nature of the cannabis market, reflecting on her vision for the future, potential expansion into other states, and the incorporation of psilocybin products.

Joanne is a successful early-stage angel investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist with a diverse background in retail, wholesale, media, real estate, and technology. She has over 140 companies in her investment portfolio such as Food52, Eater, Just Works and Parachute Home, and has invested in several restaurants throughout downtown New York City. Joanne is the co-founder of Frame Home, a Brooklyn-based residential real estate development company that prioritizes sustainability with style. In addition to her business ventures, Joanne is actively involved in non-profits as she sits on the board of The Highline and The Public Housing Community Fund in NYC. Joanne’s passion for innovation and community development is evident in this latest venture, GOTHAM, which she cannot wait to share with the city she loves.

IG @gotham.ny –
TikTok @gotham_nyc –

Luna Luna

In the summer of 1987, an Austrian artist, Andre Heller, created an artist concept in Hamburg, Germany. He brought together over 30 artists from across the globe to create an amusement park. Some artists were Keith Haring, David Hockney, Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Roy Lichenstein, and Salvador Dali.

You could explore the magical world of an amusement park with rides and concepts created by some of the most whimsical artists in the world.

Instead of taking a global journey, the park closed at the show’s end. After years of litigation and the change of ownership, Luna Luna exited a Texas warehouse where 44 crates had been stored.

The first stop is in downtown LA, in a warehouse. We could see it before it closes or before this goes on the road.

Who found out about this, had the pieces restored, and re-created this event? Drake and his DreamCrew team. It’s quite an epic undertaking and worthy of all of our time.