Hospitality Pathways Auction

I have been involved with many non-profits led by people who want to make a difference. Sometimes, they replicate what others are doing in the same city; sometimes, they grow into something unique, and other times, they never get off the ground. Hospitality Pathways is unique because it was started by someone who wanted to give back after spending her entire career in hospitality and to share her knowledge with others with the hope that she could help others end up in a career that she loved: hospitality.

We supported this last cohort through The Public Housing Community Fund, and I enjoyed speaking to this past group. We support programs like Hospitality Pathways that help NYCHA residents find careers. Sometimes, finding a job and feeling confident about going and interviewing for that job is not easy for many. You can’t be what you don’t know.

What happened is unprecedented. For the last cohort of 20-plus people, over 700 people applied. That speaks loud and clear that what Beatrice (the founder of Hospitality Pathways) has created is a gift to the community. At Gotham, we have hired incredible people from the last cohort and plan on hiring more.

Of course, the biggest issue is funding. If this was a company and not a non-profit and over 700 people clicked to buy, the investors would come pouring in, but looking and asking for money from foundations and people is a whole other ball game.

And so, Hospitality Pathways is raising money through an auction. The capital raised goes directly to someone sitting in the next class, who will be hired with new knowledge to enter the world of hospitality; many of them will work in cannabis, an industry that has only begun to grow in NYC. I can tell anyone that the people we have hired at Gotham have been wonderful. Many have been with us since the start, and some have been given promotions. That is an impact I always feel good about.

Please bid or give. We do, we have, and we are huge fans.

Last Day in Montgomery, Alabama

This morning, we went to the Farmers Market Cafe. Everywhere we ate, people would ask if we were from Montgomery. Perhaps it was just an icebreaker in a town of less than 200,000.

An egg and cheese biscuit sandwich and a pancake to share was the call. Good coffee, too!

One of us came in a day later, so she had not seen the park, which is an absolute must, so we dropped her off while we headed to a farmers market. This one is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. We were told that it was much busier on Saturday. FYI, nothing here is regulated. There are signs at every farmer’s booth noting that the products (jams, soups, pickled veggies, etc.) were not made in a government-regulated location, so you are on your own.

We met a few of the locals. This woman was lovely, and we bought her local sweet, delicious strawberries and freshly shelled pecans.

The tea man was great. I bought two teas for the summer months: fresh ginger root and Georgia peach.

We picked up our friend and visited the National Memorial of Peace and Justice. Here you can take pictures. This museum is dedicated to lynching victims. Once again, the names, the stories, and the art all give a powerful punch to the gut. You enter the structure that has large rectangular pieces of iron hanging over an outlined rectangle that the hanging piece could fit into if it dropped.

Each piece is etched with a lynching victim, the year it happened, and the city/county and state. These are only the people that they can find through massive research.

You can hear water as you pass all the hanging structures, which get higher as you walk through.

When you turn the corner, there is a wall that rotates water, which I thought must represent the tears shed. It is an ode to the names of people they will never know who have left no history.

As you continue through the mile loop, I looked back at the new section of graves in front of me and the large lynching structure behind me. The chosen materials have begun to patina throughout the museum, which lends itself to the long, dark, covered history of slavery.

It was our last stop, although we did call in an order to Martins Restaurant for some more fried chicken. This time, the place was packed. While we waited, we got a glimpse at the gravy, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and heaps of fried chicken serving the locals.

This trip has taken me a few days to process. I now look at the world with a completely different set of eyes. America’s horrifying history of targeting Black people who had been kidnapped from Africa has left trauma in our country that still reverberates today. These Legacy Sites are a step in the right direction that more of this country and the world need to see. Our history is what too many would want us not to believe. That must change. Everyone needs to bare witness.

Montgomery, Alabama, Day 2

We had breakfast in the hotel and plotted our day. We always check out the local art. I had found two spots, and we started our day at one of them, the Alabama Artist Gallery, located on the first floor of a very tall Government building. There are a bunch of enormous government buildings but few people on the streets, which made us ask multiple questions that were never answered.

What we found at the gallery was an installation of the local high schoolers’ work, many of whom had been given colored ribbons. Seeing what kids at that age make is definitely insightful. This was one of the pieces, a ballerina’s slippers.

The next stop was Freedom Sculpture Park. It is pure luck that this park opened a few weeks ago. The big opening is June 19th; although you can visit the park now, you can not take photos except for a few locations. This is the journey’s start, and I was allowed to photograph this.

The park is set on 17 acres on the banks of the Alabama River. The landscape consists of trees typical of the South, with branches up high, creating shade from the heat. The reality of American history is about to hit you in the face. The attention to architectural and historical detail is awe-inspiring. Commissioning art from a slew of American Black artists today who use their medium to feel the generational trauma that they have endured next to etched iron stories of slaves is gut-wrenching. It is also brilliant because even if you do not take the time to read every piece of information, although we did, you just have to see the artwork to understand the agony these people endured and how inhumane it all was. Each museum is consistent with the art installations, historical factual stories, and personal narratives.

The committees that worked on this and the donors who gave have left us all a gift that can help change how we discuss race in this country. Every 9th grader should go and see this museum; it would be game-changing, and you can’t help but leave with a different set of eyes.

Montgomery was the major center of slavery; at one point, over 65% of the people who lived there were enslaved. We walked through the circular path around each of the art pieces, telling the history of the slave trade, beginning with the transatlantic passage of those kidnapped and then sold into bondage.

At the end, we were allowed to photograph this 43-foot by 155-foot sculpture etched with each slave’s name that was recorded somewhere, many were not.

We needed lunch, so we went to Capitol Oyster Bar, which sits over a tiny marina amid scrap metal yards. This place is legit, and there is live music many nights.

Oysters are from the river down in the South. They are big, creamy, and not so briny. I like them raw, but the way to eat them down there is fried, so we did.

After lunch, we had time to sneak in at the Southern Arts and Makers Gallery. True local art. We each bought something before heading to the Legacy Museum. Again, no photographs.

We were lucky throughout the trip that few people were visiting the Legacy trio, which allowed us to take it all in. The museum sits on the spot where enslaved people were taken before they were auctioned off. Each spot is self-guided, so each story is told as you move through the museum. They mirror each other so people stay on their side; it is replicated. It is super smart for crowd control.

Again, these places take no prisoners, and they shouldn’t. The first room is dimly lit, with one path down the middle. On both sides is a moving picture of waves crashing up and down, making visitors feel like they are on the boat. As the water drops down onto the sandy banks and pulls back, multiple sculptured heads in obvious agony are installed there. And then the journey through the Legacy Museum begins.

The rest of the rooms tell stories from the slave trade to mass incarceration and police brutality. Interactive stories about people in jail, including a few short films, are also featured. This museum exposes the reality of Black history in America. At the end of the visit are two extensive galleries filled with works of Black contemporary artists that point directly to their generational trauma from slavery. It wasn’t expected, and making sure that art is part of the story is ingenious.

We left and sorely needed a drink. What a day. We hit up the bar and then the Central restaurant across the street. It is a new spot that probably brings people from outlying areas into town, which is good. Personally, I prefer the local spots that haven’t changed in decades.

The last piece of the Legacy trio is tomorrow. What a day.

Montgomery, Alabama

I traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, with two friends this past week to see the Legacy Sites. These three sites are the brainchild of Bryan Stevenson, the Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. I am sure there are many others to acknowledge, but he leads the charge.

In 1989, Stevenson, then 29, moved to Montgomery and began the Equal Justice Initiative to guarantee legal representation to every inmate on the state’s death row. He has dedicated his life to defending injustice in the criminal justice system. Everyone should read his book, Just Mercy, a Story of Justice and Redemption.

After seeing the Legacy Sites and reading this book years ago, I believe Stephenson is a national treasure. We need more people like Bryan Stephenson.

I am going to spread this trip over three days of posts. We flew in Tuesday afternoon and grabbed a rent-a-car. It is not a big town, but you do need a car, and I did not see one Uber. Our first stop was Chris’s Hot Dogs, established in 1917. The last renovation, including the grill, was probably in 1950.

Next door, There Is A God In Heaven.

We went with the classic hot dogs and fries, you have to. There are hot dogs under that sauce, I swear.

I do like to get to a local farm where they teach agriculture to the community. The town felt empty, and the farm was empty. Eat South Farm located at the ends of a large parking lot might have school groups but it is not easy to get in the office, no stair.

We moved on to the Rosa Parks Museum. We were one of five people there. The museum is really well done. It tells a story that would relate to a 6-year-old or an 80-year-old. Impressive. The story is about how Rosa got fed up and refused to move from her seat on the bus to give to white people, which launched the civil rights movement, starting with people boycotting buses. I know the story well, as this was part of our kids’ curriculum growing up, as it should be.

The hot dog did not do the trick, so we went to Martins Restaurant.

A local family spot for some of the best fried chicken, fried okra, collard greens, coleslaw, and, of course, sweet Tea on the side.

We had to walk into Winn Dixie, the local grocery store, to see a bit of local flavor. I have never seen these eggs in our NY grocery shop.

We stayed at the Trilogy Hotel. The hotel is a year old but has some history, as everything does in Montgomery. It was built by the Threefoot Jewish German family, who migrated to Montgomery in the 1800s through Ellis Island. Unfortunately, the building was built in 1929. It then went through several owners, preserving history by sitting there vacant. It was rebuilt by Ascent Hospitality, which partners with the largest hotel groups, such as Marriot, to build hotels that make sense in 2024. Impressive job.

The chicken was a snack, so dinner and a drink were needed. We had a drink at the hotel and met a variety of friendly people at the bar, most of whom were doing work in Montgomery. Then, we headed down the street to Moe’s Original BBQ. It is a chain across the country, but they do have fine ribs.

As we have all learned, the future of Montgomery, unless the state is willing to put capital into Montgomery to maintain local spots and build local restaurants, the city will begin to look like Moe’s. For everyone’s sake, I hope not. They can look to other cities, such as Detroit, which has managed to keep the local flare and support the people who have been there for generations.

Tomorrow, we begin the Legacy trilogy.

Chat GPT and AI

I am a big fan of the ability to work from home a few days a week. Everyone should have flexibility in their lives. It makes for a happier work culture. Most people do the right thing and get their work done no matter where they hang their hat on a particular day. Then some don’t.

Through my experiences, I know and have heard stories of employees working two jobs simultaneously. God knows why someone would want to do that, but eventually, everyone figures it out. The first question I ask is where integrity has gone.

Perhaps it is easier to pull this off with Chat GPT and AI. We are all asking ourselves how these technologies will change our world. Obviously, they help some people do two jobs at once. However, once that cat is out of the bag, their reputation will never be the same, as if they care.

Fred and I were talking about how this changes education. Our Government has cut back on education funding for decades, and it became very apparent during COVID that we need significant reforms. Everyone learns differently, from creatives to math brains. Some kids are behind the curve; others are way ahead. Technology can change that, allowing teachers to oversee their students in a different light—no longer cookie-cutter curriculums, but access to all curriculums.

When I grew up, I attended Lake Normandy Elementary School in MD. For whatever reason, Montgomery County used this facility as a new way to teach. The building had a library in the middle and quadrants for different grades. For instance, fifth and sixth graders were paired together in multiple areas to learn. A teacher never stood in front of the class but helped us each individually to learn at our own pace, and you had to be a self-starter. Unfortunately, my teacher was a serious stoner who hung out more than interacted with the kids.

I was curious but also a rebel, so instead of becoming the smartest kid in the class, I became the jacks, tetherball, and spit champion while never learning the basics, such as verbs and nouns. When I got to 7th grade, where there were seven classes a day in classic form, I found myself in an English class with the true slackers. I quickly caught up and was put in the top English class, although every day, I faked it until I made it.

Looking back at Lake Normandy, they might have been 50 years ahead of their time. The structure would be perfect for AI. They closed the school years ago, but there are many lessons to learn there. One lesson that should be taught is never to attempt to get away with two jobs at once while keeping your employers in the dark. It is not a good look, and it will eventually bite you in the ass.

Pet Peeves

NYC can be very small for a city of over 8 million people. I love it when I bump into people I have not seen for a while, be it at events, a restaurant, a play, a gallery, or on the street. It’s always fun.

I do have one pet peeve that I would like to believe should end with my generation, but it appears it has not. It only happens with women, too.  

The first question I get asked is, “How are the kids?” I am happy to share with you what our kids are up to, aka adults, but there are many other things to question. How have you been? What have you been up to? How are you spending your time these days? 

Someone I sat next to someone at an event once who asked me, “What was the most interesting thing you did today?” It was a great icebreaker that led to more conversation.  

Many of the people who ask that do not even know my kids, which makes it more ridiculous. Our relationship was never based on our children, so why ask the question?  Perhaps I sound like a curmudgeon, but no man I have ever bumped into has started the conversation with, “How are the kids”?

The kids are my heart and soul. They are living productive lives, and I am honored to be part of their world. But, please ask me how I am doing; that seems more on point.    

Gaetano Pesce, RIP

We have been collecting art since we graduated from college. We are drawn to various mediums, from paintings to charcoals to sculptures and more. We have met some of the artists we have collected, but not enough.

I purchased a piece from Gaetano Pesce years ago. His big rubbery vaselike structures. The one we own sits in a corner. He was a multi-faceted artist who worked as an architect, an industrial planner, an urban planner, and a lover of color. I love this quote, “One day, you have an idea for a poem; the next, you have an idea for a song. The best artists are also physicians, mathematicians, and musicians. That’s how I like to work.”

His most famous piece is the “Up” chair pictured above, which he designed in 1969 for C&B Italia. The chair is an ode to women; as he said, “Women suffer from the prejudice of men.” Amen.

He died last week at the age of 85. I read many of his obituaries, and this particular quote stuck with me. “I believe that the treasure of the world is diversity. If we are all the same, we can not talk because there is nothing to say. But if you and I are different, there is a lot to exchange.” Not only an incredible artist but a very wise man. If only we could all think this way.


The media is broken. That began when blogging platforms started to take off at the end of the 90s. People began to espouse their own opinions, just like me. It is one thing for me to go to a restaurant and write a review, but it has become another thing since platforms are now being used to push out any information regardless of fact.

I know a few people who have become Foxers (I’m not sure that’s a term), but they watch Fox all day long and believe anything they tell them. Their fair and balanced motto was inaccurate; now, it is real news we report, you decide. How about we lie, you believe?

Instagram is a feed to the world. We can watch someone making food in rural Turkey, some random kids in suburban America perform, and others espouse their political views. It is a little bit like being on the subway, where you can see everything and keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening. Instagram has flattened the world, creating chaos in the world causing anxiety in our youth and anger in adults. It’s painful to watch. It’s why there is an epidemic of sadness.  I believe it is also the long tail of Trump’s ire, although that anger has been simmering for decades. That happens when the beneficiaries of most taxes go to the wealthiest.

As an eternal optimist, I believe we will figure out the value of platforms like Instagram, but perhaps there needs to be more oversight. Journalism has a code of ethics when reporting, such as confirming information with multiple channels to create fair and balanced stories. It isn’t a law, but maybe it should be.

Each country monitors its media differently, even though global companies report the news. Perhaps it is time to create laws that treat online platforms differently than old-school print. Slanted journalism is one thing; full-out lies are another. We evolve and must be aware of the need to monitor lies that spread throughout society. Change is inevitable, but right now, we all have a front seat to what is happening to our children and the people who have crawled down the Fox-hole, no pun intended.

Madison Square Park Conservancy

Last night, I attended an event to honor Danny Meyer for his incredible, city-changing work at Madison Square Park. Under a tent in the pouring rain, he shared a story with the audience, one that I already knew. It is one of the joys of living in this city long enough to be part of its history and remember what has changed.

Fred and I moved to the city in August of 1983 and into 80 Madison. At that time, the neighborhood was filled with single-room occupied hotels that the city had put people up in. The area was overwhelmed with prostitutes, homeless, and drug addicts, but we could both walk to work, so what did we know?

Many nights, we would walk through Madison Square Park; depending on the hour, we would walk around it, down 5th Avenue, which was also a bit suss, to the Village for food, drink, and entertainment. The only guide was Zagats, which I discovered a bit later on.

Fast forward, Danny made it his mission to bring the park back to the days of yore, when it was beautiful and the community used it. He brought in an art program, thanks to his Mom’s dedication to the arts (it was her idea), and went to people like us to raise capital alongside the big donations from the insurance companies that loom over the park at 11 Madison.

It was the first significant gift we had ever made to an organization: $20K of Yahoo stock. Danny didn’t realize he should sell the stock when it changed hands and watched it go up, up, up before calling Fred to ask what he should do. Fred said sell, as all organizations should sell immediately, but in this case, luck was on the side of the park, as it has been since Danny touched it. The stock had more than tripled.

We celebrated at an event upstairs at 11 Madison with the original donors, who only filled two tables. Times have certainly changed. What has stuck with me is the conservancy and, of course, the private-public partnership, as all parks (except Bryant Park, which created a separate deal) are part of the NYC Parks Department. A conservancy sits on top of the park that has working capital to make sure the park never crumbles back into despair again.

Now, I am the Chair of the Public Housing Community Fund, which is working on cleaning up years of neglect in NYCHA parks, and a few other things such as job training. We want to create a conservancy for the NYCHA parks, too; we want to make those parks beautiful with people using them and enjoying them daily, and we want to see rotating art in those parks. Those parks might sit inside NYCHA communities, but they also affect other residents of NY. Can we imagine what an incredible city we could have if we treated public housing like we treated other residential areas? And why wouldn’t we? After all, 17% of all residents live in those buildings.

The parks went through a tough time in the 80s; remember Tompkins Square Park when it was encamped with homeless people, and they put a gate around the entire park? It is time for NYCHA parks to get the love they deserve. We have redone a few parks, but there are countless left.

I am passionate about making these changes alongside our board and the executive director, Alex Zablocki, who is one of the best I have ever worked with. The time has come to do the right thing for the residents of NYCHA.

The Reality of Cannabis

This week, I read an article in the Washington Examiner on why Republicans must turn against cannabis. The article confirms that the media is no longer fact-checking real data; at least the Washington Examiner isn’t.

Here is a paragraph from the article. “Besides the data behind why recreational marijuana should be discouraged and prohibited, why indulge in it, to begin with? Seeking a high in all its forms is illogical and foolish. You lose even the slightest control of yourself, and you will either do something you will regret or be incapable of reacting spontaneously in an unexpected situation“.  Has this person ever had an alcoholic drink? The article is a quick read and good for a few laughs, but I believe the cat is out of the bag, and the data actually points to why it isn’t Federally legal already. The scientific data does not concur with this article’s absurd points.

Cannabis sales are expected to exceed $31 billion in 2024, with a 30% increase over last year. Almost every state has some cannabis reform, be it medical or recreational. The Governor of Virginia vetoed cannabis this past week; if I lived in Virginia, I would wonder about his ability to make intelligent decisions based on that. Who is paying him off? Maybe the illegal markets that seem to be blossoming.

If a company has more than 500 shareholders, it must go public. That law was passed in 1964 due to fraud in the over-the-counter market. Granted, it is not the same in the cannabis market. Still, when 70% of Americans want to legalize the plant, 55% of Americans smoke, and 72% believe that smoking is better than consuming alcohol, one has to wonder what the hell is happening at the Federal level.

If we all decided that cannabis should never be legal, as Youngkin in Virginia and the writer in the Washington Examiner believe, the only people who would be applauding are the illegal markets that are having their best moment ever.