How John Jay Got Its Name (but Not Who Suggested It)

It was originally dubbed the College of Police Science in 1965, but students considered the acronym (COPS) undignified. A contest was held to find a better name (the prize, half a gallon of Scotch). Theodore Roosevelt was rejected because he was already memorialized in other institutions. Objections were mustered to Felix Frankfurter — the name, some said, invited ridicule.

Which is how John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which dedicates its new campus — including the verdant Jay Walk — on Wednesday, got its name (though the college says it has no record of who won the naming contest). Jay, who lived from 1745 to 1829, was a founding father, the first chief justice of the United States and foreign minister and second governor of New York.

“John Jay was the perfect choice as namesake for this college,” Jeremy Travis, John Jay’s president. “He was a great American, a great New Yorker, a revolutionary who knew the importance of good government. Like him, this college is deeply concerned about the rule of law, international affairs and the future of our democracy.”

Many of Jay’s descendants also played prominent roles in New York: John Jay Chapman, his great-great-grandson, a reformer in late 19th-century New York and promoter of Theodore Roosevelt; John Jay Iselin, the former president of WNET-TV; and Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, can also trace their lineage to Jay.

And on Wednesday, several of Jay’s descendants plan to attend the dedication ceremony for the $600 million, 14-story building at 11th Avenue and 59th Street.

Jay was born on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, raised in Rye in Westchester County and studied law on John Street, not far from what is now Federal Hall, where the Stamp Act Congress convened to register the colonies’ opposition to taxation without representation. He favored reconciliation at first, then evolved into a revolutionary, a spymaster in Westchester, a drafter of the State Constitution, jurist and diplomat, whose negotiations with Spain, France and Britain eventually led to the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War.

Through Larry E. Sullivan, the associate dean and chief librarian, and Mayra Nieves, an assistant vice president, the college invited Jay descendants to the dedication ceremony and solicited their reflections on being related to a Founding Father.

“I have recently felt that perhaps I am carrying on his ‘legacy’ in working for social justice on a very small scale, many cities away,” Emily Wipper, a social worker in Atlanta, wrote. “This past summer, I went to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for a seminar on International Conflict Resolution, with my grandmother, Jane Hughes Gignoux, who is a real social activist in New York City.”

Sarah H. Carr, who runs a travel agency in Connecticut, wrote that she lives in a colonial house that was occupied by a family friend of John Jay’s father, the Rev. Samuel Johnson, who became the first president of King’s College (now Columbia), which John Jay attended.

“For me, the Jay legacy is about paying attention, respecting all points of view and being grateful for the wisdom of life to express itself,” Jane Hughes Gignoux of the Upper West Side wrote.

The Rev. John Jay Hughes of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in St. Louis, however, sounded a mild dissent. He wrote of his ancestor: “His draft of the New York State Constitution contained a provision that no Roman Catholic could hold a state office. Had this prohibition had been adopted and retained, it would cripple state government today. In my esteemed ancestor’s day the invitation with which you have honored me, a Catholic priest, was as unthinkable as my grateful acceptance of such an invitation would have been. Today we can thank God that we live in a changed world — and in this respect at least a better one.”

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The Madoffs Come Trick-or-Treating

Just in time for Halloween, members of the Bernard L. Madoff family have emerged from wherever they keep themselves to squeeze a little more money from anyone willing to pay attention to them. The holiday is the perfect occasion for this sort of venture. It is the season for ghouls, isn’t it?

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

An authorized biography of the family is being published on Monday. You will have no problem learning its title somewhere else. It’s not incumbent upon me to contribute to the hype more than is absolutely necessary.

As if one self-serving volume weren’t enough about a clan described by The New York Post on Sunday as “the worst family on earth,” there is a dueling book. It bears the name of a former Madoff daughter-in-law, Stephanie Madoff Mack, and was released midmonth. Ms. Mack was married to Mark Madoff, Bernard Madoff’s older son, who committed suicide last December.

Months earlier, she had gone to court to purge herself and her children of the Madoff name because she found it so odious. Somehow, she has managed to hold her nose long enough to make it her middle name for the book.

There are rituals in the rollout of books of this sort. One involves publicly donning a hair shirt, in the form of agreeing to be scrutinized on television and in newspapers. That sales might be thus increased is not an incidental consideration.

Bernard Madoff’s wife, Ruth, who has said little to nothing since her husband’s enormous Ponzi scheme collapsed in December 2008, did her part. She agreed to a couple of interviews, including with The New York Times, because her surviving son, Andrew, had asked her to help promote the biography.

She and Andrew also appeared Sunday night on the CBS “60 Minutes” program. Ten days earlier, Ms. Mack performed a similar rite on ABC’s “20/20.” Not to be outdone, Barbara Walters, also of ABC, talked off-camera with Bernard Madoff at the federal prison in North Carolina where he is supposed to spend the next century and a half — or as much of that time as he can do.

This is the modern way. Do wrong, or at least be part of an operation that does wrong, then go forth and write a book, perhaps labeling it “tell all,” even if it is at best “tell some.” Whether this brings absolution is debatable. It does, however, often bring a sizable advance from the publisher.

Public officials engage in this routine all the time, first building careers on the taxpayers’ dime, then reaping multimillion-dollar book rewards. The fact that the information they possess belongs to the American public — with they themselves having been no more than temporary custodians — gets lost in the money shuffle.

Of late, we have been subject to a parade of senior officials from the George W. Bush administration — Dick Cheney, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Bush himself — hawking books in which they justify their actions, like going to war in Iraq to pry Saddam Hussein’s hands from those illicit weapons he did not have. Even lesser lights have joined the act. They include the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet (originally of Little Neck, Queens), and Scott McClellan, who was Mr. Bush’s press secretary for three years.

Mr. McClellan was an avatar of the book-peddling tradition. He went on NBC’s “Today” show in 2008 to say virtuously that the president had relied on “propaganda” to sell the war while he, Mr. McClellan, had misgivings a good 10 months before he finally quit.

Why did he wait so long to acknowledge what he knew to be the truth? Well, he said, “you get caught up in the White House bubble.” Oh.

Who knows if lives might have been saved had he spoken up sooner.

Lives were ruined as well in the Madoff scheme, with paper losses totaling nearly $65 billion and cash losses more than $17 billion.

The good news is there is not much to lose with these new books — $27 plus tax for the hardcover editions, less on Kindle. Of course, if you buy them, you must accept on faith that you are not being taken in yet again.

As ever with the Madoffs, there is no money-back guarantee.


For more local news, including the cleanup after the weekend’s record snowstorm, a soldier’s death raising suspicions in Chinatown, and that likelihood that a person with ties to President Obama, Clyde Williams, will challenge Representative Charles B. Rangel, see the N.Y./Region section.

Here is what City Room is reading in other newspapers and blogs.

Occupy Wall Street demanded the return of confiscated generators. [DNAinfo]

Snow and cold temperatures made it difficult for Zuccotti Park protesters. [CBS New York]

A woman was in critical condition after being hit by a shopping cart tossed from four levels above at a Target. [New York Post]

The funeral was held for a Brooklyn woman killed while shielding children from gunfire. [NY1]

Metropolitan Transportation Authority service may be shut down in some neighborhoods if Halloween vandalism becomes a problem. [Daily News]

The renowned Little Italy’s Ray’s Pizza closed down with $1.50 slices. [DNAinfo]

Giant “Occupy Halloween” puppets will be in evidence at the Village parade. [DNAinfo]

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Complaint Box | In Apartment Buildings, There Are Treats, but Little Else

Can we dispense with apartment building trick-or-treating?

I’m not the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween. Quite the contrary. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a creative costume. If you’re having a party, invite me. I’ll show up with bells on — literally, as a Christmas Ornament. If there are themed festivities around the city — balls, cruises, the Greenwich Village parade — I’m there, in spirit if not by invite. But if you’re a parent, do yourself a favor and stop with the high-rise candy begging since most people don’t even bother to open the door.

Back in the Bronx where I grew up, we used to go freely from building to building. Although it was always about the candy, a k a loot, it was also about showing off your Wonder Woman/Spiderman/go-go dancer/cowboy ensembles. Now, hardly anyone sees the outfits, because most people in apartment buildings — at least the ones in my Upper East Side neighborhood — just leave the candy in a bowl outside their door with a gentle reminder to take only one piece so there’s something left for all the other children, whom the occupant does not want to see.

People who do open the door often do so while on the phone or otherwise preoccupied, so there’s really no gushing, “Oh look, it’s Batman!” (The closest thing to a gush that my daughter and I got the last time we made the rounds was an exchange of compliments with another mom and a Raggedy Ann whom we passed on the stairs.)

I stopped taking my kids on the treat-collecting circuit a couple of years ago. Out of a decade’s worth of celebrating, only three years were memorable, and none of them included going through our 21-story building and ringing doorbells.

One year, we spent Halloween at a family member’s house in Queens, where the children went from one decorated house to the next with their cousins and a whole group of their friends. Another year, we went to the party held at the American Museum of Natural History. Again, we were out and about for the world to see my son as Harry Potter and my daughter as Hello Kitty. The coup de grâce of Halloweens was when we were invited by friends to make the rounds in the high 70s and low 80s around Park Avenue, where brownstones were transformed into haunted houses and their owners welcomed visitors in their own All Hallows’ Eve regalia.

I regret the times I chose to stay close to home when the kids were little, mostly out of fear of having them out after dark or thinking that there would be so much Halloween action in a skyscraper that we wouldn’t have to look elsewhere.

Maybe it’s a matter of overkill — too many children, too many residents, too many reasons to ignore the holiday altogether. But if you live in a big apartment building, you should consider taking your Catwoman, pirate, Disney Princess and Power Ranger where they’re appreciated — which is far from home, if you want a ghost of a chance at a good time.


Lorraine Duffy Merkl lives on the Upper East Side and is the author of the novel “Fat Chick” (Vineyard Press) and a columnist for Our Town, The West Side Spirit and Care.com.


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For a Free-Form Radio Conference, a Kindred Spirit

It would be hard to overstate the level of preposterousness that surrounds Jon Gnarr, the punk rocker-turned-comedic actor-turned mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland. Mr. Gnarr was elected in 2010 after he formed a quasi-satirical political party, the Best Party; his campaign promises included putting a polar bear in the city zoo and offering free towels in the swimming pools — as well as a promise to break all his campaign promises.

Given that degree of personal absurdity, his appearance in New York on Saturday, to speak at a small conference dedicated to the future of radio, would qualify as merely unlikely. Mr. Gnarr was the keynote speaker of the first Radiovision Festival, a three-day conference put on by the  radio station WFMU; other guests included representatives from Twitter, Kickstarter,  the Web site Know Your Meme and Makerbot, which produces 3D-printers.

“Being a free-form station, I thought it was fair to put together a bit of a free-form conference,” said Benjamen Walker, Radiovision’s organizer. The festival was concurrent with the popular WFMU record fair, now in its 18th year.

Mr. Gnarr agreed to participate on a whim. “I met Benjamen in Lyon, in France, in a similar thingie,” he said, “and he told me about this event and there was just something — a kind of intuition. I just said yeah, I’ll do that.”

The mayor arrived with Heida Helgadottir, his general secretary – a title Ms. Helgadottir, the only paid member of the Best Party, said was purposely invented to sound stuffy. Mr. Gnarr, in a black sweater, black jeans and the kind of buzzed, slicked-back haircut that would not look out of place on an aging British rocker, and Ms. Helgadottir, who sometimes served as his translator, dug right in.

“The Best Party was the first anarcho-surrealist party in the world,” Mr. Gnarr began. “The party doesn’t have any sort of aim or philosophy,” he continued. “It’s based on pure nonsense. The thing is, I believe in nonsense.”

“Comedy is my religion,” he added, as the audience laughed. There were fewer than 100 people in the room, and several left during Mr. Gnarr’s talk. (“I came for Ira Glass,” Gabe Pittleman, a Princeton University senior and music director of the campus radio station, explained on his way out.)

But much of the crowd was delighted by Mr. Gnarr’s appearance. He discussed the vagaries of the currency market (the Icelandic króna is “crap,” said Mr. Gnarr, who prefers the dollar — “the euro is simply not cool”); whether Iceland should join the European Union (Turkey should get in first; it’s only polite, Mr. Gnarr said, as they’ve been waiting longer); and answered questions about the challenges of being mayor.

“One of the most difficult things you can do in life is changing a school system,” he said. “It’s a bit like moving a cemetery. You don’t get any help from inside.”

In office now for over a year, Mr. Gnarr admitted it had been occasionally boring, adding that he was surprised his staff members, many culled from Iceland’s punk rock scene, had not quit. But he noted that being a political tourist, as he called himself, was an asset in getting things done.

“I don’t really care if people like me or not,” he said. He has led Reykjavik’s gay pride parade dressed in drag  and made a Christmas video as Darth Vader in a Santa hat. “One of my personal goals is to damage this image of the leader,” Mr. Gnarr said. (Ms. Helgadottir, who met Mr. Gnarr through a friend who directed a documentary, “Gnarr,” about his campaign, nodded her agreement.) Mr. Gnarr even showed off a calendar he keeps, counting down to his final moment in office. “I have 959 days, 3 hours, 30 minutes and 8 seconds left,” he announced.

But he is far from flip: in an interview backstage, perched on an audio equipment case, he appeared thoughtful and sincere in his vision. “We are having a unique opportunity to disrupt and think things over and make them better,” Mr. Gnarr said. “And I think we have to; the whole thing with politics, it’s over, politics are dying. The sure death will take some time, and something extraordinary will come instead.”

In Mr. Gnarr’s view — and in his life — comedy can be exalting. “I believe that humor and happiness is a power in itself that can solve things,” he said during his talk. A “South Park” fan, he had wanted to see “The Book of Mormon” in New York, but thought the tickets were too expensive. So Mr. Gnarr went to Occupy Wall Street instead, dressing for the occasion in a black suit jacket and an orange-haired orangutan mask.

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Building Collapse Kills Construction Worker

A construction worker was killed after a building he was working in collapsed and buried him under six feet of rubble in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon, the police said.

Muhamed Kebbeh, 51, of Story Avenue in the Bronx, died at Jacobi Medical Center shortly after the accident. About a dozen pillars in the basement of a two-story commercial building had given way, causing the structure to collapse. Two other construction workers escaped unharmed, a spokesman for the New York Police Department said.

Firefighters dug Mr. Kebbeh out from under the rubble with their bare hands about 10 minutes after the collapse, said Jim Donlevy, a F.D.N.Y. deputy chief from Division 6. Around 50 firefighters responded to the scene, he said.

“He was buried under six feet of bricks and other debris,” Deputy Chief Donlevy said. “He was hurt pretty bad.”

The chief said that a construction crew was doing “active demolition” in the basement of the building at the time.

Nick Ayd, 34, was across the street at a carpet store that his cousin owns when he heard the collapse.

“We heard a big noise and we thought it was the train passing,” said Mr. Ayd, who dialed 911 at 12:10 p.m. “Then I went out and saw that the building had come down; it was crazy.”

Efforts to identify the current building owner were unsuccessful.

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A Tattoo Parlor Prepares to Depart the Chelsea Hotel

The tattoo parlor on the ground floor of the Chelsea Hotel was nearly empty on Saturday afternoon, and Ivan Arte, a worker there, said he had only one scheduled appointment, a man coming in to get a half-sleeve dragon with flowers.

Mr. Arte said the snow and Halloween weekend might have combined to keep customers away.

But after the snow is cleared and Halloween is over, the shop, the Rising Dragon Chelsea Tattoo Company, will be gone.

The parlor’s owner, Darren Rosa, has operated out of the Chelsea Hotel since 1997. He said that when his lease ran out in 2007, he and the hotel’s longtime manager and part-owner, Stanley Bard, were unable to agree to terms for a new lease. Instead, Mr. Rosa said, they shook hands on a deal for him to pay rent on a month-by-month basis.

In August, however, the developer Joseph Chetrit bought the landmarked building on West 23rd Street.

In early September, Mr. Rosa met with the building’s new management and, he said, was asked to move his shop elsewhere. “He said they were looking for retail that would embody ‘lifestyle,’ ” added Mr. Rosa, 46, remarking that he was unsure what “lifestyle” meant.

The Chelsea’s other storefront tenants, he said, like Chelsea Guitars, were not asked to leave. “The guitar guys were cool,” he said, laughing.

It is still unclear exactly how the new owners intends to remake the hotel, which stopped accepting guests in August and is now undergoing renovations.

But the departure of Chelsea Tattoo may signal the direction, and renovation documents filed with the Department of Buildings offer further hints. According to a form filed by Gene Kaufman, the architect carrying out the renovations, the new ownership plans to add a gym and a rooftop bar to the building.

The building’s managers did not respond to requests for comment.

Most of the tenants of the Chelsea’s 83 apartments remain, and many of them are unhappy with how the renovation is being carried out. Three weeks ago, the residents of about 40 apartments formed a new tenants’ association and hired a lawyer, Samuel J. Himmelstein, to represent them. The two sides were scheduled to meet last Wednesday, but the Chelsea’s owners cancelled the meeting, Mr. Himmelstein said. They were likely to meet this week, he added.

Rising Dragon must move out by Monday.

Dan Courtenay, the owner of Chelsea Guitars, said he was unsure who his new neighbors would be. He got his sole tattoo years ago at Rising Dragon. “I feel terrible that it’s going out,” he said, “because they’re great guys and very talented.”

The tattoo parlors employees, however, will not lose their jobs, Mr. Rosa said. After his lease ran out in 2007, he opened a second parlor on West 14th Street, just east of Avenue of the Americas. He said that store was on a much busier block and did well.

That parlor is on the second floor. He said he was renovating other space on fourth floor for the tattoo artists who were leaving the Chelsea.

“They’re going to land on their feet,” Mr. Courtenay said.

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Urban Forager | Reishi, the Leathery Healer

It’s difficult these days to walk around the city without finding fungi growing in planters, on wood mulch, or at the base of trees, so I wasn’t surprised to discover a beautiful cluster of red-shellacked reishi mushrooms growing fan-like at the base of a tree at the College of Staten Island.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) a k a ling chih or lingzhi, or varnished conk, is considered a rare medicinal mushroom, though if you’ve seen recent reports of the fungus — from the local 10 o’clock news to City Room — one would think it was appearing everywhere. Reishi has a smooth, dark-reddish-mahogany varnished cap, with whitish edges when young, but flip it over and you’ll find a white-yellowish underside filled with tiny pin-prick pores (it’s a polypore, a brown spore print).

In traditional Chinese Medicine, ling chih is considered the “mushroom of immortality” or “herb of spiritual potency” (according to Gary Lincoff’s “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms”), and is used as an immunity boost as well as a cancer treatment. (Apparently, it’s edible only when very young and tender, though I have never tried it).

Prior to finding my first reishi growing at the base of a willow tree in upper Manhattan, I’d only ever seen it gracing the shelves of Chinese pharmacies. Since then, I’ve found Ganoderma lucidum growing on hardwood trees — favoring maples and the occasional London plane, and also on the decaying recesses of fallen logs.

Whenever I find a fresh batch away from traffic and the path of city canines, I boil the mushroom for several hours in water. Reishi makes a very bitter, herbal tea that can chase a sore throat away.

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#OccupyWallSt Roundup, Day 42

With snow in the forecast and Zuccotti Park newly bereft of gas generators protesters are stocking up on Mylar sleeping bags and bike generators. [City Room, Dawn Hoag via Twitter, Young Manhattanite]

Looking at search trends, Google found that peak interest in Occupy Wall Street was slightly higher than it is for Tea Party news, but that coverage of the two movements was equal in volume. [Google Politics and Elections Blog]

The police said parts of Zuccotti Park had become dangerous at night, and the president of the sergeants union promised to sue any protester who assaulted a union officer. [Daily News]

A Fox News reporter said a protester in the park threatened to stab him in the throat with a pen on Friday morning. [Fox News]

The New York Civil Liberties Union headed down to Zuccotti Park Friday to set up a table for legal advice. [NYCLU]

A freelance Web producer in Brooklyn questioned her dismissal from a public radio news program after she pitched a story about her involvement in the Occupy Wall Street protests, but no news organization’s integrity rules could stop Brian Williams from slow-jamming the protests with Jimmy Fallon. [Gawker]

One percenter Peter Schiff and others tried to defend capitalism to Zuccotti Park. [Washington Post]

Bloomberg BusinessWeek profiled a leader of the leaderless movement, David Graeber. [BusinessWeek]

CUNY students and faculty will march from Union Square to Zuccotti on Saturday afternoon to protest tuition increases. [CUNY on the March]

Occupy Wall Street protesters will join community activists in southeast Queens on Saturday to march and symbolically reclaim foreclosed houses there. [New York Communities for Change]

At City Hall, protesters will rally and march with civil rights activists and watch the documentary “Sing Your Song,” followed by a discussion with its subject, Harry Belafonte. [Occupy Wall St.]

On Sunday, POPS Art Project will take over a privately owned public space in Midtown to create and display art related to the financial crisis. [POPS Art Project]

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The Week in Pictures for Oct. 28

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include the opening of the first casino in New York City, a record-breaking gift for the High Line, and haunted tours through the State Capitol.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in Sunday’s Times, Sam Roberts will speak with Sam Sifton, Corey Kilgannon and Clyde Haberman of The Times, and with Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Tune in at 10 p.m. on Saturday or 10 a.m. on Sunday on NY1 News to watch.

A sampling from the City Room blog is featured daily in the main print news section of The Times. You may also browse highlights from the blog and reader comments, read current New York headlines, become a City Room fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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A Word From Our sponsor On Protecting Your Condo Investment

Do you own a condominium? Are you looking to own one? If you are, continue reading. There are some important things to consider when purchasing or renting your own space – your condominium.
Apparently, you want your independence and are ready to enter the world of satisfaction you have by owning your own “piece of the rock”.
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But, you might wonder how to obtain coverage. Well, just click on the search engine of your favorite browser and enter the words Florida Condo Insurance. That’s all it takes, and you are well on your way to protecting your new source of pride.
You may wonder just why you need insurance on your condo. It is simple. Your home is probably your biggest investment. Your home furnishings and your vehicles are also large investments that are associated with your home. These things could all be gone should difficulties such as fire, water damage, theft or other natural disaster occur. No one would be there to pick up the pieces for you. You are on your own if you don’t protect yourself with Florida Condo Insurance.
So prepare for the future by protecting what you currently have. You’ll be glad you took the few minutes it takes to “be prepared”.