What New Year’s Resolution Should Your Loved One Make?

Every year around this time, people make their little lists of things they will do differently in the days to come.

This year, we’re looking for something different: New Year’s resolutions that you would like a loved one to make.

Please submit in the box below.

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Little Changes in Big Ways

A young woman on a narrow sidewalk in Chelsea reached into her handbag the other day and pulled out a smartphone. Then she did a remarkable thing. She stepped to the side, getting out of everyone else’s way while she checked her messages.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

What made this worthy of note?

Simply that every day thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers walk with eyeballs glued to smartphone screens as if therein lies revealed truth. Every day thousands of those New Yorkers hog the sidewalk, walking so slowly that they may as well be standing still. Elsewhere, they practically crawl when entering elevators or reaching the top of subway stairs.

Totally self-absorbed, they couldn’t care less about how they frustrate others who are walking behind them in a notoriously fast-paced city.

As I passed the young woman, I thanked her for her thoughtfulness. She smiled. She was only doing the right thing, she said.

It struck me, not for the first time, that New Yorkers often make life tougher than is necessary for one another, that there are all sorts of small ways, like stepping to the side, in which we could ease up a bit — we, meaning both officialdom and individuals — without losing the grittiness that is a source of civic pride.

Is any of this cosmic? Of course not. Far more important issues loom, huge ones:

Homelessness is at record levels. Poverty rates are high. Too many children leave school barely educated, facing bleak futures that may include prison. Recovering from Hurricane Sandy will be difficult and costly. Serious planning is needed as to how, or even if, to build along the water. Far too many corrupt politicians grab every dollar they can lay their mitts on. The race for mayor will soon exponentially increase the tonnage of blather.

But life, including its vexations, tends for most of us to be built on the small stuff. This is, admittedly, a modest end-of-year reflection. It also happens to serve as a quiet farewell to my column.

After 20 months, it is time to call it a day for The Day. Actually, the end comes after more than 17 years of columnizing, including my long-running gig, which was called NYC. Unlike The Day, it appeared in print as well as online. But circumstances change. They have for me again, though I seem destined for at least one more act, of a different nature, at this newspaper.

I suppose this would be a convenient moment to dwell on the state of newspapers and of city columns. But, frankly, I don’t feel like it. I did have some thoughts on that theme in my last NYC column, in April 2011; you may read them here if you wish.

Among the points I made then was that correcting injustices was never a sure thing for newspapers and their writers. Some readers believe — and bless them for it — that all we need to do is expose a problem and it will be solved. To borrow from myself in that final NYC scribbling, “No columnist and no newspaper can make something happen if those who hold true power do not wish it. That’s natural law.”

But I also wrote then that sometimes words can at least “make the day better for people.” To return to the theme set forth earlier, New Yorkers can do the same for one another in simple ways. Here are but a few observations, offered at random. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Must the subwaymeisters drive riders crazy with emergency exits that set off alarms that screech mercilessly? Nobody, absolutely nobody, responds as if an emergency were in progress when those doors are opened. All that the alarms do is assault people’s ears and add a needless annoyance to the subway ride, with no apparent safety benefit. Shut them off.

While we’re talking about the subway, how difficult can it be to repair broken escalators and elevators in a timely fashion? In a city with a population that is aging, these routinely useless devices are an insult to many older people – and to younger ones with strollers and bicycles — effectively telling them that they’re not really part of the mass in mass transit.

Why can’t the city crack down on landlords who encase their buildings in those hideous sidewalk sheds and then allow the work to drag on forever, assuming it is done at all? It’s as if officialdom wants New York to be as ugly, and soul-deadening, as possible.

Are New Yorkers so self-involved outside their homes that they cannot hold onto their empty coffee cups or old newspapers until they pass a trash basket? Do they have to toss their garbage to the pavement or onto the tracks, thus making life harder for the poorly paid working stiffs who must pick up after them?

Hey you, is it really necessary to spit out your gum on the sidewalk? Or swear loudly nonstop in public, heedless to the sensibilities of others? Or barrel your car (typically an S.U.V.) into a crosswalk and send pedestrians scrambling? Or ignore red lights on your bike, or ride the wrong way on one-way streets?

Yes, it’s nice to believe that discussing such matters in a newspaper column would produce solutions. But as with bigger issues, no change will comes unless people want it. That’s still natural law.

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Several Eras End at One Lower East Side Building

The collapse and demolition in 2006 of the First Roumanian-American Congregation synagogue at 89 Rivington Street — the “cantors’ Carnegie Hall” — seemed to have eradicated almost every trace of what was once a large and vibrant Jewish community.

Building Blocks

How the city looks and feels — and why it got that way.

But it had not. There is a remarkable vestige of the First Roumanian-American Congregation at 70 Hester Street, between Allen and Orchard Streets. It is the synagogue that the congregation built in 1860 and expanded as its membership grew, before moving to the much larger sanctuary on Rivington Street.

The narrow, two-story space still has a U-shaped women’s gallery and a stained-glass window over the wall on which the ark was situated. Two octagonal skylights dimly enhance what little daylight reaches the space through vaguely Moorish arched windows. Gas jets poke out of the walls. Scraps of prayer books still turn up in crevices.

Last used for worship in the 19th century, the space housed a still during Prohibition and a raincoat and shower-curtain factory after World War II. In 1967, the artists Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins moved in. They made their paintings and sculptures there. They raised their son there. And they lived much of their lives there until June, when they were told to get out in 30 days. With the help of a lawyer, they won a stay of eviction until the end of the year.

Through Brown Harris Stevens, 70 Hester Street was sold Friday. The asking price was $3,999,999. A spokeswoman for the brokerage did not identify the buyer or divulge the purchase price.

The existing building has roughly 4,000 square feet of space, but zoning rules would permit an 11,288-square-foot structure on the lot, which “makes this desirable for a developer,” the Web listing said. “But for the buyer who wants to renovate and own a piece of significant New York history, this dramatic synagogue is worth the restoration,” the listing continued. Whether the buyer considers it a tear-down or a fixer-upper is a mystery at the moment.

This much is certain: the Nozkowski-Robins association with 70 Hester is ending after 45 years. So is another chapter in the Bohemian era of the Lower East Side. The couple, now 68, met as students at Cooper Union. They were looking for a 2,000-square-foot loft for $100 a month. That was once a realistic aspiration.

On the day after their wedding in May 1967, they spied a “For Rent” sign at 70 Hester, owned by Sarah Feifer, an old-fashioned leftist. “The only newspaper she read was The Daily Worker,” Mr. Nozkowski said. Harry Snyder ran a fabric store on the main floor, but the former sanctuary upstairs had been vacant since the factory closed, leaving a floor full of grommets. Yet Ms. Robins, who had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family, said she discerned something “very genial and obviously special” about the place.

In exchange for a few months of rent-free tenancy, the couple spent about $3,000 and a lot of elbow grease to replace windows, upgrade electricity and add plumbing. (From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.) The space was certified habitable under the city’s artist-in-residence program.

Warm, it wasn’t. When the couple decided to have a child, they built a small bedroom so there would be one easily heated space in the loft, which had only a potbellied stove in early years. “We spent winter nights with a stolen shopping cart out looking for wood,” Mr. Nozkowski recalled.

Their son, Casimir Nozkowski, now 36, attended Public School 124 on Division Street. You’d think a loft would be an ideal place to bring pals. It was — to a point. “The pro was that there was a lot of floor area,” the younger Mr. Nozkowski allowed. “The con was that everything was covered in art; not just on the walls, but mounted on the floor and hanging from the ceiling. You were so easily backing into a ceramic piece of sculpture.”

Casimir Nozkowski is a writer, director and video artist. He is working on a documentary about his family’s last days at 70 Hester, remembering how he used to spend evenings enveloped in a couch from which he could watch a television set and, a few feet away, his father painting at his easel. Upstairs, in the women’s gallery, his mother would be working on her paintings and sculptures. Music — often soul music — filled the space, which was ablaze in incandescent light.

When Casimir left for college, his parents moved their primary residence to High Falls, N.Y. In 1992, their lease expired at 70 Hester. They have been month-to-month tenants ever since, paying a rent of $1,100. They don’t, in other words, expect a violin accompaniment. “We weren’t so unrealistic as to think this wouldn’t one day happen,” Mr. Nozkowski said. “But it’s a shock when it does.”

“I was very conscious of the spiritual qualities of the space,” he said.

His son remembers something else: having a hard time going to sleep on occasion, looking out at Hester Street through three high Moorish arches. “It’s a little creepy,” he said. “You’re staring at these huge windows that have a vibe like ghosts are passing through.”

The real estate listing said, “Delivered vacant.” One wonders.

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Smoke, But Little Fire After Manhole Blasts in SoHo

The explosion echoed in the streets of SoHo on Saturday afternoon as tourists walked along dampened sidewalks and a crowd gathered inside the Fanelli Cafe, one of the city’s older restaurants.

Eric Buechel, the manager of the cafe, which is on the southwest corner of Prince and Mercer Streets, said that the lights began flickering just after 2 p.m. He went down to his basement office to check electrical lines, then heard the noise which he said sounded like “a very deep pitch, muffled explosion sound” then a “multiple series of follow-up pops.”

Michael Beyer, who works at another nearby cafe, Angelique Express, described the sound he had heard as a “big boom,” then added: “a couple booms.” A moment later he saw a crush of people running from the intersection of Prince and Mercer, where swirling smoke poured from beneath a parked car.

Within minutes firefighters arrived and determined there had been a manhole explosion, said a Fire Department spokesman, Michael Parrella, adding that there had been reports of others.

Firefighters found elevated carbon dioxide readings in the area. They evacuated 94 Prince Street a five-story red brick building that houses the Fanelli Cafe, a speakeasy during Prohibition that later catered to factory workers and painters before SoHo became fashionable.

In the midst of the chaos the car’s owner arrived and found that the rear bumper of his maroon Lexus had been blackened and its rear window was covered in soot. The owner, Tim Duff, 29, of Brooklyn, said that he had been away only a brief time, to visit the Apple store down the street.

“I’m more baffled than anything,” he said, gazing at the firefighters and police officers near his car. “I was all psyched I had found a great parking spot.”

Some of the Fanelli patrons fled without paying their tabs. Others stuck around outside. Then, after a second reading by firefighters revealed that the air quality inside 94 Prince Street was back to normal, a crowd again filled the bar and the bartender resumed pouring drinks, even though the electricity was still off.

As men and women sat at the darkened bar, swapping stories, Mr. Buechel went to the office and grabbed some tall white candles in glass sleeves emblazoned with religious illustrations. Then he arranged them across the bar.

“We have the same candles from Hurricane Sandy,” Mr. Buechel said. “The same ones, re-lit.”

Sometime after 5 p.m. explosions sounded again from outside but this time few people noticed.

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Mystery Powder Leads to Evacuations in Greenwich Village

A search for narcotics in a Greenwich Village apartment on Saturday morning led to a call to the bomb squad and evacuations after detectives discovered explosive powder, the police said.

Members of the narcotics squad, who had executed a search warrant in the apartment building, at 8 West Ninth Street, were told by someone in the apartment that the powder was “some sort of organic explosive,” a police official said.

The police official said that it did not appear that the powder was being used to make a bomb. It was removed by the bomb squad, and it was unclear exactly what the substance was.

The police official added that two guns were also removed from the apartment and that charges in the case were pending.

Still, police tape stretched across sidewalks and parts of the street on Saturday morning, sealing off the block of Ninth Street, near Fifth Avenue, where the powder had been found.

Jennifer Han, 31, said that she woke up shortly after 7 a.m. and saw several police officers banging on the windows of buildings on the south side of the block and evacuating people. Officers later allowed those who could prove that they lived or worked on the block to duck beneath the tape.

As snow began to fall, some people walking up and down Fifth Avenue stopped to gaze at the police vehicles on the block and the officers posted near the tape, an unusual scene in an area filled with elegant brick townhouses.

“It’s totally not normal,” said Scott Adams, a psychologist who was escorted beyond the tape and into his office by police officers about 10:30 a.m. “There’s very little crime here.”

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Beached Whale Buried After Necropsy

The necropsy of the emaciated 60-foot finback whale that beached itself at Breezy Point in Queens found lesions in the animal’s stomach and kidneys on Friday, but it is not clear what, if anything, they had to do with the animal’s death, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service said.

The necropsy (click to view graphic photos) did not turn up any evidence of human-caused injury, said the biologist, Mendy Garron, the service’s regional marine-mammal rescue coordinator. Tissue samples from the whale, a male whose age has not yet been determined, have been sent off for analysis, Ms. Garron said. “No cause of death will be determined till those results come back,” she said.

There was no food found in the whale’s stomach, Ms. Garron added. The whale, which washed up on Wednesday still alive, was declared dead on Thursday.

After the necropsy, the whale was buried Friday afternoon in the dunes on land belonging to Gateway National Recreation Area.

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Cause of Death Still Unknown After Necropsy for Beached Whale

The necropsy of the emaciated 60-foot finback whale that beached itself at Breezy Point in Queens found lesions in the animal’s stomach and kidneys on Friday, but it is not clear what, if anything, they had to do with the animal’s death, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service said.

The necropsy did not turn up any evidence of human-caused injury, said the biologist, Mendy Garron, the service’s regional marine-mammal rescue coordinator. Tissue samples from the whale, a male whose age has not yet been determined, have been sent off for analysis, Ms. Garron said. “No cause of death will be determined till those results come back,” she said.

There was no food found in the whale’s stomach, Ms. Garron added. The whale, which washed up on Wednesday still alive, was declared dead on Thursday.

After the necropsy, the whale was buried Friday afternoon in the dunes on land belonging to Gateway National Recreation Area.

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Week in Pictures for Dec. 28

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include the popular Peppermint Pig candy from Sarasota Springs; Christmas in areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy; and a finback whale that washed ashore in Breezy Point.

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 The Times’s Floyd Norris, Clyde Haberman, Jeffrey Henson Scales and Margaret Sullivan, the public editor. Also appearing, Harold Holzer. Tune in at 10 p.m. Saturday or 10 a.m. 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, like New York Metro | The New York Times on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Big Ticket | Sold for $21,450,000

Throughout his career as a developer, David Edelstein has had a knack for buying low and selling high, and he has done it again with the Upper East Side town house that he owned with his wife, Susan, at 122 East 70th Street. The five-story brick and limestone house, which they bought for $12.85 million in 2010, sold for $21.45 million, making it the biggest sale of the week, according to city records.

Mr. Edelstein is the president of Tristar Capital and the developer of the W South Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, where he also owns a penthouse condominium. He started his career in the 1970s, canvassing buildings for a real estate management company by day and driving a cab by night. He bought his first building on the Upper East Side with a $15,000 loan. He has since teamed up with major New York real estate entities, including the Vornado Realty Trust and RFR Holding.

The Edelsteins’ purchase of the house in late 2010 caused a bit of a stir — at least among Upper East Side town house brokers. The house had been on the market for more than a year, with an asking price that started at $20.2 million and was eventually reduced to $14.9 million. Brokers who had nearby town houses listed upward of $25 million feared that the $12.85 million sale price would wreak havoc with property values in the neighborhood. But the large profit that the Edelsteins have turned has no doubt held such worries at bay.

Michael Kafka, an executive vice president of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, represented the Edelsteins. He declined to comment on the sale.

The listing describes the renovated town house as “perfect for private use or lavish entertaining,” having been “redesigned and reimagined for modern living while maintaining the traditional elegance and beauty of its spaces.”

The house comes with an elevator, a garden, four terraces, south-facing rooms at the back that have floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors, and six wood-burning fireplaces, including one carved out of alabaster to look like draped fabric (it was designed for the previous owners by Samuel Botero).

The ground floor has a large kitchen and a family room. The parlor floor has a 30-foot living room that opens onto a terrace, as well as another kitchen and a large dining room with arched floor-to-ceiling windows. The three upper floors have three bedrooms, a wood-paneled library and a media room. The roof deck has a kitchenette, and the finished basement has a staff room, a laundry and a storage space.

The house was bought under a limited-liability company; the buyers were represented by Elizabeth Sample and Brenda Powers of Sotheby’s International Realty. Ms. Sample declined to comment on the deal.

Big Ticket includes closed sales from the previous week, ending Wednesday.

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