Heroes & Villains

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09/15/2010 5:00 AM |

Heroes: New Yorkers We Love

Yoko Ono

A strange choice, you could say, but hear us out: The often (and unfairly) maligned Yoko Ono has long been a hero of New York City’s creative class, by virtue of the fact that she’s continued to be a part of it long after earning the freedom (financial and otherwise) to abandon it altogether. Whether it’s avant garde music, experimental film, conceptual artwork (her latest exhibition just opened in Berlin), or any number of the other formats she’s worked in over the years, she’s as committed as anyone to a life spent trying to affect change through the creation of art. And for that, she’s our hero.

Donna Marsh O’Connor

O’Connor is the spokeswoman for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of—well, the name is pretty self-explanatory. Speaking from a position of not insignificant moral authority, O’Connor—whose pregnant daughter died on 9/11—has been tireless in championing American ideals of tolerance, open-mindedness and freedom, seeking to ensure that 9/11 not be used as justification for violence, revenge or bigotry. Though she’s not always succeeded (two long wars!), O’Connor’s recent defense of Park51 has been a true testament to her faith in the Constitution, and in American values. As she said herself: “We recognize that we are all in pain. And we go forward. We do what is right.” Amen.

Adrian Schoolcraft

Courageous Insider
And a nod as well to Graham Rayman, the Village Voice reporter who authored the paper’s seasons-spanning five-part series about the secret recordings made by Schoolcraft—a cop in Bed-Stuy’s 81st Precinct, who documented the NYPD’s cynical institutional culture, callous enforcement of stop-and-frisk quotas, and whitewashing downgrades of serious complaints. Schoolcraft blew the whistle after being forced into a psych ward by his panicked superiors. His cause—seriously: the salvation of the NYPD—is a noble one, and his tapes are essential listening.

Ronald Bronstein

Renaissance Man
Bronstein’s Frownland is one of the key independent films made in New York City in recent years—a sympathetic, painful study of personal relationships among characters with some of the most awkward social skills ever filmed—and he starred as the epically irresponsible “cool dad” in the Safdie brothers’ terrific Daddy Longlegs. At least as impressive as the essential D.I.Y. cinema, though, is Bronstein’s day job, as a projectionist for repertory film screenings at MoMA and elsewhere (presumably this is how he learned about both movies and antisocial people).

Peter Pizza

Bike Fixer
A word-of-mouth-known savior to many and bike-refurbishing messiah to all, Peter Pizza, a sturdily true-blue Brooklyner who repairs, rebuilds and resells mixed multitudes of mostly vintage frames and parts out of his Lorimer Street garage, is a veritable civic hero for our resource-strapped, occasionally MTA-downtrodden times. He is dexterous, industrious and fair—and since he despises bike thieves like he loves old Schwinns, Antonio Ricci himself would have to go elsewhere in search of stolen wares. It might seem clich√© to call Mr. Pizza the real-bike-deal, but such a greased glove befits him all the same. And yes, Peter Pizza is indeed his real name.

Villains: New Yorkers We Hate

Malcolm Gladwell

Chatter Provider
One might be considered a villain for being extremely argumentative. Not so with Malcolm Gladwell, whose consistent act of villainy is to never make a real argument or take a critical stance. As such, he renews his villainous status every time he writes a book or article or has what he’d call an “idea.” Worse yet, Gladwell’s article-length “review” of Ben Macintyre’s Operation Mincemeat in The New Yorker reads a bit too much (coincidentally?) like Gladwell’s own research. Yet since the primary weak question he poses therein—”Is spying good or bad?”—goes unanswered, the otherwise informative piece certainly has the force of a Gladwellianly fistless punch.

2 Comment

  • Really, Jane Mayer’s piece in the New Yorker about David Koch makes her heroic? Last time I checked, an attack piece using 10 year old Wall Street Journal quotes isn’t good journalism. Maybe she should also highlight the fact that Koch’s funding has gone to condemn the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on drugs.

  • Since this city still is “rat race of do-anything/go-anywhere” of just survival forget transit I think the DOT’s bike policy sucks. They seem to treat bicycling as equivalent to taking a Sunday drive. Real Slow. In reality I use my bike because I gotta get somewhere fast. I am working not out for a relaxing pedal. And I think this is 90 percent of the bikers, at least in Manhattan. The “protected” bike lanes are especially horrible and dangerous. They are slow, filled with pedestrians, and turning cars don’t see you as well. If it’s quicker for me to go the wrong way down a one way street I do it. And guess what? No one is hurt.