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I’m heading to pricey New York for Christmas

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Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:06 am, Sat Dec 22, 2012.

In 2003, I traveled from Lodi to New York to spend a few days at Christmas time in the Big Apple. I had lived in New York for many years during the 1960s and 1970s, and had fond memories that I wanted to relive. By 2003, New York was on its way to recovery from the 9/11 attacks. The city had begun to rebound.

After returning home, I wrote my weekly Lodi News-Sentinel column about my trip's highlights — although "highlights" isn't the right word. My observation that generated the most reader interest was my story about having to put down a cash deposit on a pot roast. Sure, Lobel's is Martha Stewart's favorite meat market, and the roast was terrific. But no tourist that I know has ever been able to top my pot roast story as the most outrageous example of the cost to move around New York.

By the time you read this column, I'll be headed back to New York for another Christmas season. I can't report directly on current costs for the obvious reason that I'm not there yet. But I can share with you that two Broadway show tickets, dinner at a medium-scale restaurant and a taxi comes dangerously close to a wallet-breaking four figures.

While I'm fully prepared to enjoy my Manhattan days, a story I recently read threatens to take much of the fun out of my trip. According to a recent news report, New York has the greatest income disparity of any major U.S. city. While income inequality is rampant throughout America, only in New York is the gap between rich and poor at sub-Saharan Africa levels, as the New York Times reported. According to Census Bureau data, the median income for New York's lowest-fifth earners was $8,844, down $463 from 2010. For the highest, it was $223,285, up $1,919.

The 400 richest Americans' wealth has increased more than fivefold during the past 20 years. As the nation struggles to regain its pre-recession prosperity, the wealthy have benefited the most. During the recovery's first full year, the top 1 percent of earners netted 93 percent of the income gains. Ironically, New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the world's richest men. Forbes magazine estimates his net worth at $25 billion.

Income inequality feeds on itself. To stimulate the economy, money needs to pass from one group to another. When it's concentrated in one group, the economy dies.

The huge income gap has been growing for years. No immediate solutions are apparent. But a good place to start would be to increase the minimum wage, an idea that politicians treat as toxic, and for corporate chief executive officers to reduce their salaries while raising those of the support staff. An honest congressional debate about the U.S. wage structure could result in immediate corrective legislation. If Obama can move fast on gun control, he can do it on wages, too.

Over the long term, America needs to restore manufacturing jobs where an individual could earn a decent wage, participate in a pension plan and have company-paid health coverage. Since outsourcing has been in vogue for decades, returning to a manufacturing-based economy is a challenge.

Next week, I'll do my best to help New Yorkers out — stay away from the big retail giants, eat at smaller, family-owned restaurants and tip more generously. These are, to be sure, small gestures — but important ones that may make someone's life more comfortable at Christmas.

Joe Guzzardi worked for the Lodi Unified School District. He wishes his readers a Merry Christmas. Contact Joe at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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  • Doug Chaney posted at 7:30 am on Mon, Dec 24, 2012.

    advocate Posts: 502

    And in Brooklyn, just across the East river from Manhattan, named Williamsburg there is a four block long strip of businesses on Broadway that include thrift shops, dollar type shops, clothing, home furnishings, many restaurants, again mostly family owned, delis galore and is a mix of Puerto Rican and black Hassidic Jewish businesses and venues. The tiny Puerto Rican Restaurants offer breakfast, lunch and dinner at such reasonable prices it's unbelievable. My wife and I had breakfast, including coffee, toast, Puerto Rican style cubed and seasoned potatoes, along with two eggs, any style, with choice of ham or sausage, and the bill was less than 7 dollars for both of us. That was in 2009 and I imagine theprices may have gone up some. The Jewish eateries are mostly cafeteria deli-style and offer the standard kosher foods, including pizza, Most dishes are tasty and many contain no meat products, although fish is in great demand. I'd suggest you try this area for a reasonable meal and just browsing. And for reasonable show and venue tickets, go to the brokers on 5th avenue or near the Statue of Liberty for tremendous savings on your entertainment. Merry Christmas, Joe, and a prosperous new year.

  • Doug Chaney posted at 7:15 am on Mon, Dec 24, 2012.

    advocate Posts: 502

    Joe, having sold our brownstone in Brooklyn in 2008 and still making frequent trips there, there are many neighborhoods that have their own ethnic type foods such as Polish, Jewish, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, etc. that offer great cuisine at very reasonable prices. Some of my favorite spots are Brighton Beach (Russian), Greenpoint (Polish) and Brooklyn near the Williamsburg bridge that not only offers the world famous Peter Lugars steak house ($25 hamburgers with lettuce, tomato, etc at an added charge) but also Jewish and Puerto Rican/Cuban dining, again mostly family owned. Brighton Beach has many restaurants with Polish/Russian cuisine and many are family owned and very reasonable if you check out those on the side streets toward the ocean. There are all sorts of businesses selling clothing, jewelry, many bakeries, and export markets that offer fresh vegetables, many from California, and two markets that offer homemade Kielbasa and any kind of european meats, bakery products, specialty entrees and appetizers, Russian candies and eye appealing desserts. Just catch the Q train and take it to the end and you'll find yourself in for a great treat and meals served and prepared by those who treat one like royalty. Brighton Beach is also located next to Coney Island and there are many seafood venues there on the property, offering fresh clams, oysters, fish, etc. The same holds true with Greenpoint, a Polish community, with many Polish restaurants, again mostly family owned, export markets, fruit stands and meat/ grocery markets that offer Polish kielbasa freshly made and any kind of fresh meat that you could imagine.


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