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  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    King Kong Takes Manhattan... Yet Again.

    We all remember King Kong, the lovable big ape from Skull Island, in the last scenes of the 1933 black and white movie, which mesmerized Depression audiences. He was on stage at a Broadway theater, ripping apart his manacles and getting ready to romp through Times Square in search of his true love, Anne Darrow, who, he thought, had a thing for gorillas.Now King Kong is back yet again. Last week, a new musical based on the 1933 Kong Kong movie opened in Melbourne, Australia, and will play through the end of August. If it does well, the talk is that the play will head to Broadway in 2014. Kong will be back home, lumbering through the canyons of New York and trying to swat planes from the top of the Empire State Building.What is the magic of the King Kong story, still successful in this fading recession, eighty years later? Americans have always loved exotic beasts from the past, but none have captured our hearts like King Kong.

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    The young Salinger, mordant yet hopeful

    On Nov. 18, 1941, a struggling Manhattan author wrote to a young woman in Toronto to tell her to look for a new piece of his in a coming issue of The New Yorker. This short story, he said, about “a prep school kid on his Christmas vacation,” had inspired his editor to ask for an entire series on the character, but the author himself was having misgivings. “I’ll try a couple more, anyway,” he wrote, “and if I begin to miss my mark I’ll quit.”He ended the letter by asking for her reaction to “the first Holden story,” which he said was called “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” and signing, simply, “Jerry S.”The writer was J. D. Salinger, then just 22, with works like “The Catcher in the Rye” still ahead of him and his literary success hardly assured. When Salinger died in seclusion in 2010, at the age of 91, he remained a mystery to his millions of readers, having shared little of himself with the world beyond the few fictional works he had published....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    The $2 billion Wall St. Church

    There has never been any doubt that Trinity Church is wealthy. But the extent of its wealth has long been a mystery; guessed at by many, known by few.Now, however, after a lawsuit filed by a disenchanted parishioner, the church has offered an estimate of the value of its assets: more than $2 billion.The Episcopal parish, known as Trinity Wall Street, traces its holdings to a gift of 215 acres of prime Manhattan farmland donated in 1705 by Queen Anne of England. Since then, the church has parlayed that gift into a rich portfolio of office buildings, stock investments and, soon, mixed-use residential development.The parish’s good fortune has become an issue in the historic congregation, which has been racked by infighting in recent years over whether the church should be spending more money to help the poor and spread the faith, in New York and around the world. Differences over the parish’s mission and direction last year led nearly half the 22-member vestry — an august collection of corporate executives and philanthropists — to resign or be pushed out, after at least seven of them asked, unsuccessfully, that the rector himself step down....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    In Lower Manhattan, memories of ‘Little Syria’

    At the turn of the last century, Manhattan’s Lower West Side was a bustling hub of life for Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants who set up shops and moved into tenements in a community known as Little Syria.Now, there is little left marking the old neighborhood, seen as an epicenter of Arab immigration that was once home to stores like Brooklyn favorite Sahadi’s. But advocates are lobbying the Landmarks Preservation Commission to change that.“Every Arab-American who would have come to the United States would have probably spent some time or had ties to the Lower West Side of Manhattan,” said Todd Fine, co-founder of Save Washington Street. He calls Little Syria “the beating heart of Arab immigration to the United States,” with an important literary community and restaurants and cafes selling Lebanese food and pastries as the Ninth Avenue El whirred by....

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