Heroes & Villains

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09/15/2010 5:00 AM |

For the purposes of cable news soundbites and superficial political campaigns, the world is often neatly divided between heroes and villains. And though we know that the real world is populated by flesh and blood human beings, complicated, conflicted, just trying to figure what to do next, that doesn’t stop us from wanting heroes and reviling villains. We just can’t help it… Here, then, is our NYC pantheon for 2010.

Heroes: New Yorkers We Love

Daisy Khan

“We will cater to the lunch crowd—a religion becomes accepted in any country once its food is accepted.” So said Khan, Park51 co-founder and director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, referring to one of many devious strategies at the proposed Islamic Cultural Center in downtown Manhattan (not a mosque, not at Ground Zero). As religious intolerance and bigotry sweep across America (thanks to a villainous few, see below), it’s vital that thoughtful, bridge-building leaders like Khan—who has worked tirelessly for women’s rights in the Muslim world—continue working toward the kind of free and open society that has always been at the heart of the American Dream. (And c’mon people, Sufis are basically the Unitarians of the Muslim world, so calm down.) Don’t give up, Ms. Khan.

Baruch Herzfeld

Bike Saint
A few issues ago, we brought your attention to Herzfeld’s near-saintly dedication to reconciling the Williamsburg Chasidic community and the Williamsburg fixed-gear community—for that effort alone, he’s a hero. But that’s not all: Herzfeld has also created a fund to help cover injured cyclists without health insurance, an all-too necessary safety net in this city, despite all the new bike lanes… Thanks, Baruch.

Automotive High Pistons

Football Team
We’re all about bringing Friday Night Lights to Williamsburg, as the highly talented Automotive High School football team (go Pistons!) finally gets to play some home games at McCarren Park (rather than being forced to play an entire season on the road). The first game is September 25th (with game two scheduled for November 7th), and we’ll be there to cheer on the hometown boys—and so should you…

Brooklyn Grange

Urban Farmers
From Ben Flanner, the former e-trader who brought you Greenpoint’s Eagle Street Farm (the city’s first rooftop soil farm), and the crew from Bushwick hippie-hipster pizzeria Roberta’s, came—after brief setbacks owing to pestering permit problems—the city’s biggest commercial rooftop farm. Since soil arrived by crane to the acre atop 37-18 Northern Boulevard in Long Island City last May, the team and a small army of eager volunteer farmers have grown and harvested veggies for local restaurants and their farm stands. Heroic cooks can get Brooklyn Grange crops at Brooklyn Flea, Roberta’s, or by joining their good old-fashioned CSA.

John Lurie

Reclusive Genius
Did you read that crazy profile about John Lurie in the New YorkerM last month? It was crazy. Literally the coolest man in the world for a four-year stretch in the mid-80s, Lurie—leader of the legendary Lounge Lizards and muse to a young Jim Jarmusch—was never able to figure out what his second act was all about, winding up his moment in the public eye with the sublimely bizarre early 90s TV show, Fishing with John. From that point on, it would seem, Lurie drifted into a reclusive, low-grade paranoia, escaping to California, where he’s only lately taken up music again… So why is this heroic? Well, most of the iconic downtown New Yorkers from the 80s either died (see Basquiat) or drifted into senescent mediocrity (see Jarmusch, or David Byrne). So, we salute you, John Lurie, for never compromising, even if it made you a little crazy.

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.