Segregated By Design

A long time reader of my blog sent me this video. There is nothing in here that I didn’t know but watched this a few times. It is the history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.

We need to come to terms with our history and change our future.

Will We Finally Change?

Is the US finally having an awakening about our past? Women are finally running some of the top companies in the US. Could this be the moment when we make amends and educate ourselves so we can have a more equitable society? One thing is for sure, there is a lot of change taking place at the top and when that happens it is hard to turn back.

Art institutions are putting on shows that are about the Black experience in our country. They are powerful. It is hard not to walk out of these shows and discuss our sordid past.

Howardena Pindell was commissioned by the Shed to create a few new pieces and a film to install along with past pieces. This piece is clear, creating a memorial to the four 14-year-old girls who were killed when their church exploded from white terrorists, yes terrorists. Her movie is incredibly powerful listening to Pindell’s voice as she talks about historical lynchings.

Then there is the show at PS1, featuring art made by people who have been or are currently incarcerated. Jail can’t stifle an artist.

There have been more than a few Black editors-in-chief named to oversee magazines and Elle Decor is one of them. This month’s issue is possibly one of the best I have seen in years. The stories are different and so is the narrative. Asad Syrkett had Jerald Cooper write an article with photographs of the architecture of his hometown, Cincinnati. Syrett’s impact will definitely be felt.

Even films are being made by more Black directors giving everyone a glimpse into other conversations and lives.

People are expecting change from our institutions and it is happening. The tech world’s boards are is also expecting companies to prioritize equitable hiring practices. There isn’t a commercial these days on television that doesn’t have a mixture of Black, Latino, and Asian as the actors for the spot. All of this is stirring the pot.

When things begin to change at the top of every industry, then we will see a significant change in the right direction. Maybe this is the moment. The pandemic has done one thing good, it has made all of us more aware of the injustices in many of our communities. Everyone has time to pay attention and the longer we have to stay at a distance, the longer we have time to focus.

Will Politicians Ever Be Creative?

One of the joys of the startup world is that anything is negotiable and nothing is standard as long as there are legal documents backing it up. There are no rules.

Standing in Long Island City this past weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the Amazon deal. The amount of development in this area had begun a long time before the Amazon deal was even an idea and then sealed shut. Developers who bought up buildings to rebuild and turn them into new high-rise apartment buildings, with the hopes that they will attract new people to live there began way before the conversation around Amazon came to town.

We should learn from our past. Bringing jobs to a community does not always help the community that lives there. What it might help is a new community that comes to live there. How do you support the old community and mix it with a new community? That is basically what they did on the Essex Street project. Why can’t we have more people surrounding the table rethinking and being creative about development?

These days we can know exactly what neighborhoods want. CoUrbanize (in full disclosure, a company that I am invested in) just does that. They help transform real estate by connecting to the community through technology. That means not having to listen to the vocal people, who might represent the least amount of people, get riled up in community town meetings. What CoUrbanize is giving everyone is real data to make smart decisions.

How about negotiating for 30% of housing to go to middle-income tenants and only 30% of the commercial real estate to go to large chains, and less parking and more bike paths, and a local teen center. I am just making this up from the top of my head but we need more jobs for communities and more balanced neighborhoods.

Just shutting down development is not the answer. The developers who own those buildings will just cease to do anything to repair what they own and to believe otherwise is just fooling yourself and the politicians who are using these issues for a power platform. The answer is in better negotiations to force everyone to come to the table and do better for the community.

How do we get our politicians to get smarter about engagement and reality vs just saying no? Real data.

A Week in NYC

The inability to be spontaneous is definitely missed but we made the most of our week with a bit of planning. Out to dinner, friends for dinner, museums, and more. For all intents and purposes, it was a regular week in NYC but the backdrop of the pandemic always looms.

Had lunch with one of my favorite people who loves to eat and try as much as me at 232 Bleecker, Dig Inn’s first foray into restaurant dining service overseen by a group of top NYC alums from some of the best training grounds in the city. This koginut squash hummus could be eaten with just a big spoon. Delicious. I picked up Fred a pecan blondie with chocolate chips for an afternoon pickup before we left. He hit me up later asking where was that from with exclamations marks….noting it is incredible!

It was so good that I took Fred back for dinner. The squash pepper lasagna with cheese is so good. Layered al dente pasta stuffed with vegetables, cheese and chopped treviso on top. I had this at lunch and dinner.

Friends over dinner got this freeform apple tart for dessert.

Da Toscano has such good pasta. Michael gave us this treat that is about to hit the menu. Heaven. Warm cloudy pasta stuffed with light polenta and I believe artichokes. Should be on the new menu soon.

If you are in NYC get over to the Shed to see the Howardena Pindell show. Her work is so powerful and beautiful at the same time.

Also worthy is the at PS1, Marking Time, Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The work is also powerful and incredible at the same time.

Took a stop at Titan’s to grab some feta for another meal.

Marco Moreira has merged his restaurants together outside creating 15 East @ Tocqueville. It is beautiful, warm, inviting and definitely the best outdoor space we have seen.

Even the outdoor walls are part of the vibe. Eating outdoors in NYC this fall has been wonderful in our neighborhood. There are people on the streets, there is a buzz in the air, we see people we know and it feels like NY’s version of a European city. It is really good.

We want to take advantage of what the city has to offer. Always wearing a mask, always social distancing, always eating outside, always going where it isn’t crowded. No doubt it is not with ease but it is worth it.

Apple Clafoutis

Another NYTimes winner recipe. I was going to make baked apples and serve them with dollops of vanilla ice cream. Emily stated a clear fact that nobody really likes baked apples. I thought about it, turned to the NYTimes Cooking app and scrolled through apple desserts.

I have made a plum clafoutis a few times but never an apple. It works. Could be a good afternoon treat with a strong coffee and a little bit of whipped cream. Not sure it is right for a dinner dessert but so be it. That is what I made it for. It is quite good.

  • 4 large, slightly tart baking apples like Winesap
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ vanilla bean, split, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  •  Pinch of salt
  • ⅔ cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ¾ cup low-fat milk

Heat the oven to 375. Use a 10 inch ceramic tart pan.

Cut each peeled apple into 16 pieces. Toss in lemon juice.

Heat butter in a large skillet. Add the apples and saute for about 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Continue stirring until they begin to caramelize. About 6 minutes or less. Remove from the heat and pour into the buttered tart pan.

Whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the sugar while whisking and do the same individually with the salt, flour, yogurt and milk.

Pour over the apples. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Voila!

Steeped in Reality

Everyone has their own reality. When it comes to business, my reality is steeped in data and numbers not hope and a prayer. I think in the future not in the past. Some might consider that a good thing. It works for me.

Right now there are a lot of people, particularly in the real estate sector, believing that the past will return. That properties will come back to the pre-pandemic prices once this is over. Nothing is coming back, it is just going somewhere new. It isn’t clear what the new will look like but the pricing of commercial real estate won’t be what it was before.

It only takes a second to fall down a huge hole but it takes a long time to climb out of it. Once you climb out, the landscape has usually changed.

I spoke to an owner of a property yesterday who espoused the good old days when he made massive amounts of cash running a Chinese restaurant. That was back in the early 90’s when you could pay people cash under the table, put out inexpensive food and deliver all over for town for a song. Now people are eating healthy, you have to pay your workers $15 an hour with healthcare and there are services to deliver your food. The margins have significantly changed.

The comps around him are irrelevant, he still believes that his space is worth what it was before pre-Covid even though it has been empty for 18 months. An incredibly successful businessman who talks about the good old days but sadly those are over.

Drugstores, banks and large chains who just want a presence are not going to take over leases on every corner anymore when how we shop and bank has changed. Financially it makes no sense.

We are moving into a new era. The price of commercial real estate got so frothy that it turned NYC into an American shopping mall. We lost the intimacy of the local owners that made NYC so unique. When reality finally hits the commercial real estate owners (and the bankers who own their loans) between the eyes, NYC will return to the entrepreneurs in the stores, restaurants, galleries and everything in between when the rent marries the data.

The longer these landlords (and bankers) hold on to the past, the longer they keep the city from rebuilding.

Women

Everyone has a story. All of our stories are different regardless of who we are, where we come from or the color of our skin. Some stories make major impacts in our lives, ones that we will never forget. There are the ones that we return to over and over again. To remember the emotional impact, to wonder if it would happen today, and to think has anything changed.

These days, perhaps it is about turning 59, but I am thinking a lot about the generations of women behind me and particularly my daughters. Has the world changed for them around motherhood and a career? They both work for themselves so perhaps in some ways that makes things easier.

There are a few of my stories I have been thinking about and the impact they made on me. Would they happen today?

In college, I went with my boyfriend to visit a friend on the Cape. They were locals of the area. When I met our friends parents they interrogated me with questions about where I was from. I was born in Los Angeles was definitely not the answer they were looking for. They wanted to know if I was a Jew. It freaked me out. It was late and my boyfriend wanted to know if we should just spend the night there and I refused. I was fearful I’d be killed in my sleep.

The other story is when Fred was thinking of going on his own in the venture world. He had found someone he liked doing business with and so we got together as couples. Always good to know the other half when you plan on getting in to business bed with someone. The four of us went to dinner. The wife spent the entire evening saying nothing and sat rotated away from the three of us. I felt extremely male in this super weird way that evening. I can’t really explain it but it made me feel uncomfortable sitting next to a woman who seemed meek and it pained me. Needless to say, Fred did not go into business with him.

Another one was a guy we know was telling me that I should connect with this woman for the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival. He said to tell Fred to email her because she will respond to him (btw, Fred did not know her) and then he can make the intro. It was so insanely chauvinist that I did not respond well. Fred said to me you know the guy is a misogynist why did you respond that way? Because you have no idea how it is to be me.

So many women feel that way every god damn day and we shouldn’t have to. I am a bit fearful seeing less women get funded again and struggling with kids at home. Perhaps that is also whirling around in my brain. We are now all concentrating on more Black and Latino founders although we should have all along but that is for another time. I applaud those investments because I have done them myself. It is important to not lose track of the women. We do not want to have another group of companies that are only men when the only difference would be an assortment of different faces.

Women have made major inroads but don’t stop here. We need to keep moving in the right direction where there is more equality and less stories like mine.

Will Cows be in Zoos?

I have been reading Cool Hunting daily since it began in 2003. Long time reader. They do a great job of aggregating a few articles daily that I am interested in.

The other day I read this in the headline. 24 Potentially “superhabitable” planets discovered. All in capitals. Needless to say I read on. The short blurb is below.

A recently published study titled In Search for a Planet Better than Earth: Top Contenders for a Superhabitable World has revealed astronomers have identified 24 planets that may not only be habitable for humans, but possibly “even better for life than our Earth.” These planets could support more biodiversity and biomass (aka organisms) than the planet we currently call home and were found by researchers examining Kepler Objects of Interest which tracks potential Exoplanets. The discovery supports the Copernican Principle, “a centuries-old assumption that Earth does not occupy a special place in the universe”—meaning Earth is the only planet we are certain supports life (or life as we know it) but that it surely can’t be the only one. The “favorite” planet orbits a star 3,000 light years away. Leading the research team, scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch tells VICE, “We are so focused on finding a mirror image of Earth that we may overlook a planet that is even more well-suited for life.” 

Think about that. Think about the future. Is this the future of my great-grandchildren? Could be. It doesn’t seem so crazy.

Think about the other issues with our planet particularly when it comes to global warming. We have done serious damage to our planet. It is obviously sick. It is coming back to bite us in the ass with fires, floods, heat, hurricanes, tornados, and the list goes on. Our planet is not happy.

As the ultimate optimist I do believe that we will figure out a way to fix many of these things and shift us in a different direction. Perhaps it is living in a variety of planets, it has to be listening to mother nature and changing the way we eat and live.

If things go in the right direction, we could find cows in zoos or the Museum of Natural History in 30 years instead of grazing the farmlands of America.

Watching All the Change

At this point, unless you have completely withdrawn from social media, we all know change is happening beneath our feet. Of course, if you had deleted all your social media (not that I would blame you), well then, you would not be reading me.

The leaders in the stock market are shifting. It wasn’t Trump that changed this, it has been a slow evolution of technology companies built over the last thirty years. These companies are creating a new group of wealthy people who will make an impact on the economy, philanthropy, and Government for years to come. It is also shifting the powers.

Twilio, Cloudflare, Zoom, Tesla, SmileDirect to name a few not including some of the biggest Amazon, Google, Facebook. Salesforce etc. These companies have become the next generations blue chip stocks. It isn’t GE, it isn’t IBM, and it isn’t HP.

When did this happen? It didn’t happen overnight but COVID pushed them all up the ladder quicker than expected. Smarter and innovative companies who are changing how we live.

What are the long term and short term impact of that? Plenty but it happens slowly and then before you know it, we are there. We can look to the end of the ’60s to the ’80s and see how economies and businesses all shifted as companies such as HP went public at the of the ’60s and Microsoft in the ’80s. We aren’t going to repeat that exactly but we can certainly see where growth will more than likely come from. The companies that are leading the charge will be different in the next decade.

Remember in the 80’s Reagan won over Carter in a landslide. We might (hopeful) be seeing this repeat itself in the days ahead. History has a strange way of repeating itself.