Klarman Warns Investors to Be Cautious

Roy Sadler | March 7, 2017 in Business | Comments (0)

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Seth Klarman, Baupost Group Owner. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A private letter written two weeks by Seth A. Klarman to his Baupost Group investors has become one of the most popular reading items on Wall Street in recent memory.

This is not that big of a surprise considering that Klarman, called by The Economist magazine as “The Oracle of Boston,” is most likely the most successful and influential investor that you probably never heard of.

Well known in Wall Street circles, Klarman tends to keep a low profile outside the rarefied environment of finance. One of the few hedge fund managers to earn the praise of Warren Buffet, Klarman declared in his letter the need to come down from the unreasonably high expectations President Donald Trump’s promises has buoyed the investment community with.

Describing the stock market’s response to the election of Trump as a collection of “perilously high valuations.”

“Exuberant investors have focused on the potential benefits of stimulative tax cuts, while mostly ignoring the risks from America-first protectionism and the erection of new trade barriers,” he wrote.

“President Trump may be able to temporarily hold off the sweep of automation and globalization by cajoling companies to keep jobs at home, but bolstering inefficient and uncompetitive enterprises is likely to only temporarily stave off market forces,” he continued. “While they might be popular, the reason the U.S. long ago abandoned protectionist trade policies is because they not only don’t work, they actually leave society worse off.”

Specifically, Klarman fears that investors have become blinded by all the Trump pro-growth policies without giving much thought to the full consequences of such policies. Klarman is nervous about Trump’s stimulus activities actually proving to be “quite inflationary, which would shock investors.”

He is also worried about the expanding national debt that Klarman thinks will undermine long term growth of the economy.

“The Trump tax cuts could drive government deficits considerably higher,” Mr. Klarman wrote. “The large 2001 Bush tax cuts, for example, fueled income inequality while triggering huge federal budget deficits. Rising interest rates alone would balloon the federal deficit, because interest payments on the massive outstanding government debt would skyrocket from today’s artificially low levels.”


Stabilis Capital and TRB Advisors: Working Together

Roy Sadler | February 9, 2017 in Business | Comments (0)

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TRB Advisors has been the largest investor to Stabilis Capital of New York funds since its establishment.  For example, the Stabilis Fund IV, launched in 2015, received the majority of its investment from that firm, headed by Timothy Barakett, who acts as Stabilis Capital’s non-executive Chairman.

Barakett has so far been “impressed” with the performance of Stabilis Capital and believes the privately-held investment management firm has “an exciting investment pipeline.”  Stabilis’ focus is on asset-oriented distressed debt as well as other distinct situations, mainly in America.

Looking at the firm’s asset under management, since its launch six years ago, Stabilis has successfully raised more than $1.2 billion via different investments.  In addition, it has built up secure relationships with investors such as Barakett, which has resulted in the development of a “deep and scalable capital base.”

 


Get Thee to a Monastery: Manhattan’s Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park

Roy Sadler | January 30, 2017 in Museums | Comments (0)

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The Cloisters, Manhattan, NYC. Photo courtesy of Urban.

On the northern fringes of Manhattan there exists an almost mystical park that is resoundingly deserving of a visit. Known as the Cloisters, or more correctly, Fort Tryon Park, this unique site is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fort Tryon Park is perched on a hill overlooking the meandering Hudson River, far from the hustle and bustle of the usual Manhattan atmosphere.  The Cloisters occupies four of the parks 67 acres, and is dedicated to showcasing the incredible artwork, architecture and gardens of the medieval period in Europe.

Architect Charles Collens was asked to design the museum in the early 1930s to house John D. Rockefeller’s famous collection of medieval art which he has acquired from American sculptor and collector George Gray Bernard in 1925 and promptly donated to the Met. Collens was not only inspired by medieval architecture, but several original cloisters from French monasteries where shipped to the US and, stone by stone, were incorporated into Collens’ design.

Today the museum features many aspects of medieval European monastic architecture, including stained-glass windows, sculptures, column capitals, medieval portals, and exquisite gardens which were planted according to information kept in manuscripts from that era.

The museum houses over 2,000 incredible works of art, and between the gardens, the architecture and the view, it is a joy to visit.


Charitable Spotlights

Roy Sadler | January 18, 2017 in Charity | Comments (0)

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Last month the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College featured Harlem Children’s Zone – a charitable organization supported by Jeff Feig and his wife Michelle – in their community organization spotlight.  This NPO “provides a comprehensive network of programs around education, culture, social and health services to more than 25,000 children and adults in Central Harlem.”

Located in Manhattan, in 2015 one of its programs – the Healthy Harlem Initiative – assisted over 7,000 students, ensuring they were engaged in daily physical activity as well as nutritional education.  This comprised the “two bite” taste tests (for pre-schoolers) as well as nutritious recipe cook-offs for parents and older students.

To date, over 3,000 adults have benefitted from the programs offered by the Harlem Center Zone, such as: support groups, subsidized farmers market and more.  Ultimately a staggering 1.5 million healthy, nutritious meals were prepared almost completely from scratch.

It is organizations such as Harlem Children’s Zone that successfully “provides comprehensive, critical support to children and families and reweaving the very fabric of community life,” which keeps our communities alive and well.

UPDATE (APRIL 4, 2017): I was doing my regular morning reading today when I came across an article which referenced Harlem Children’s Zone. Apparently, HCZ has had some staggering successes recently with 98% of their 2016 seniors at Promise Academy High School having graduated on time and headed off to college this past fall. Kudos HCZ, and kudos to donors like Jeff Feig for keeping this program running smoothly!


The Queen of New York is Worth a Visit

Roy Sadler | January 5, 2017 in Museums | Comments (0)

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The Queens Museum. Photo by Schapsis.

The Queens Museum is a hidden gem of amazing exhibits worth a visit. At the moment, there are four temporary exhibitions we think will excite and entertain.

•    Its About Us: A New Yorkers Exhibition- Running for only one month, from December 15 to January 15, this exhibit features the creations of participants of museum workshops during 2016, including Experimental Watercolor, Collective Storytelling, Photobook Storytelling, Drawing Sound, Basic Sculpture, Basic Digital Photography, Drawing Journal, Spanish for Mandarin Speakers, Advanced Silkscreen, and Design Thinking.
•    Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art- From September 18 2016 until February 19, 2017, the QM is showing a retrospective of Ukeles art which explores issues related to the role of women in society, cultures of work and labor, and urban and community resilience.  Perhaps this artist is best know at the official, unsalaried Artist-in-Residence and New York’s Department of Sanitation, a distinction she has had for over 36 years.
•    Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix- From April 10 2016 until January 22, 2017 the QM has created a multi-facete project together with the writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit. Solnit has written 15 books which discuss the connections between the environment, landscape, community, art, politics, stories and hope.
•    A Passion for Tiffany Lamps- Journey with Austrian immigrants Dr. Egon and Hildegard Neustadt as they assemble the largest collection of Tiffany Lamps in the world. It all began in 1935, when the newly married couple purchased their first Tiffany lamp in a secondhand shop in Greenwich Village for $12.50. Over the next 50 years the couple acquired over 200 lamps of every kind. The QM has a special fondness for Tiffany lamps because the company’s glass furnace, bronze foundry, and workshops were housed in Corona, Queens, only two miles from the museum.

This is certainly worth a trip to the QM, yes?


Some of New York’s Most Unusual Dining Adventures

Roy Sadler | December 14, 2016 in Restaurants | Comments (0)

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Does New York really have everything? Well, not literally everything, but it probably has just about everything, or anything, anyone could actually want or imagine they might want. Here are a few more unusual, if not obscure, eating adventures awaiting the bravest among us.

•    The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory: This place is fun! The story goes that ice cream was invented in China several hundreds of years ago, during the Tang Dynasty. Over the intervening years ice cream has continued to get better and better. And where is it at its best? Of course at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory! The store has been around for 30 years, constantly

Photo by Jason Lam.

coming up with unique tastes to attract attention, at the very least. If wasabi, black sesame or peanut butter and jelly flavored ice cream appeals to your tastes, then run on over and start eating.

•    Burger Joint: Like surprises? Head over to the Parker Meridien Hotel, pull open a curtain, and experience something strange and wonderful. This is the most basic of fast food sellers, with a tiny menu, but all tasty. So, go and get yourself a burger and shake behind the curtain, and enjoy.

•    Kenka: Whatever you know about or think about St. Marks Place, Kenka knows and thinks more. This Japanese cuisine restaurant offers so much more than traditional Japanese fare. If you are in the mood for adventure, Kenka leaves the sushi and tempura far, far behind. Strap on your seat belts and get ready for a meal you will not forget.


Drunk Shakespeare is a Wild and Crazy Night Out

Roy Sadler | November 3, 2016 in Entertainment | Comments (0)

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This was long thought to be the only portrait of William Shakespeare that had any claim to have been painted from life, until another possible life portrait, the Cobbe portrait, was revealed in 2009.

Portrait of William Shakespeare

There is no question that New York is full of surprises, but this is one it would be hard to imagine all on one’s own.

Known as “Drunk Shakespeare,” the premise is that one actor begins his evening with five shots of whiskey, and then, with presumably no time to sober up, begins to perform in a real Shakespearean play.

I imagine that for purists this might smack of sacrilege, but for the rest of us with senses of humor, this could turn out to be a pretty fun evening. Among the other strange elements patrons can expect are a hidden library on the 4th floor of a building on 43rd and 8th Avenue which has more than 15,000 books; a mysterious bartender who serves his drinks through and opening in a 10-foot high bookcase which is made completely of black books; one-hundred valuable novels buried for all time in an amber fluid in front of a king’s throne; and more…

The troupe of actors bringing this fascinating premise to life is known as the “Drunk Shakespeare Society.” They perform nightly at the Roy Arias Stages in Midtown Manhattan, a performance space made to look very much like a library. When the cocktails have been served out the actual “Drunk Shakespeare” performance begins, in close proximity to the audience. A somewhat truncated version of Macbeth ensues. Each evening a different actor, playing a different role, is required to become inebriated and then perform his lines as convincingly as possible.

Due to the drinking atmosphere, the audience is less inhibited, and easily become part of the action. There are two audience members who get special attention, as they have spent extra for the privilege of sitting on royal thrones. These special patrons have purchased the rights to champagne, caviar, and the right to tell the drinker to drink some more, why don’t you?

The show opened in November, 2014, and does not show signs of abating. Performances take place every night of the week but Tuesday. Friday nights have two shows, and Saturday evenings there are three to choose from.


Country-Wide Insurance Now Offers Mobile App Accident Help

Roy Sadler | October 6, 2016 in Business | Comments (0)

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Country-Wide now offers a mobile app to its customers to help smooth the claims process.

Country-Wide now offers a mobile app to its customers to help smooth the claims process.

Anyone who has ever been in a car accident, even the most minor, knows that it is a scary experience. It is normal for our first response to be “Am I and my loved ones OK, physically?” Once you have established that health-wise everything is fine, now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of getting the help you need. But if you are like most people, it is probably hard to think about all the details of what you need to do once you have established that you are physically OK.

Insurance companies know this, and several have come up with an answer that streamlines the process that a car accident sets in motion: a mobile app designed to make the moments immediately following a car accident as stress-free as possible.

Large insurance companies such as Geico, AllState and State Farm offer their customers mobile apps, but did you know that smaller underwriters are also developing and making available mobile apps for their customers as well?

One example is Country-Wide Insurance. This family owned and operated insurance company was incorporated in New York State in December, 1963. It is licensed to write all types of property and casualty insurance, but has a special focus on lower limit private passenger and commercial automobile insurance. They also limit their reach to downstate New York, and offers competitive rates to loyal customers through their neighborhood representatives.

Now Country-Wide is joining insurance companies, big and small, to offer their customers an app for their smartphones which will help smooth the process of getting through a car accident. The app guides users through the necessary steps which must be taken after a car accident, such as collecting all the information required to file a claim; getting whatever emergency responders are needed on the scene as soon as possible; finding the closest towing service; and/or calling for roadside assistance.

The mobile app also helps with tips to remain calm; knows automatically the date, time and location of the accident; produces a detailed accident report, including photos and contact information; easily sends your report to any email address; and has within it answers to the most frequently asked claim-related questions.

It goes without saying that car accidents are extremely unpleasant affairs at their best, and should be avoided to the extent humanly possible. But it’s nice to know that if such an inconvenient and troublesome event were to take place, there is a small precaution you can take which can make a big difference. There is no question that it is a good idea to be prepared with such an app already downloaded on your phone in the hope that you will never have to use it- but if you do need it, you’ll be glad it was there for you.


The Cats of Roosevelt Island

Roy Sadler | September 8, 2016 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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New York City, Roosevelt Island, Smallpox Hospital. Photo by Earnest B

New York City, Roosevelt Island, Smallpox Hospital. Photo by Earnest B

People who are passionate about cats will no doubt be love a visit to the Cat Sanctuary which was established on Roosevelt Island. The island had been a traditional dumping ground for unwanted cats long before the establishment of this refuge for refugee cats, but it is now an offical safe haven for the numerous cats whose owners will not or cannot take care of them anymore.

For as long as people in these parts can remember the presence of cats on the island was tolerated, and sometimes even encouraged, as good Samaritans left food and water for the numerous strays and homeless cats that called Roosevelt Island their home. When a cat named Yin Lang died in 2004, his demise inspired a group to form, called Island Cats. Eleven years ago, in 2005, the group decided it was time to do something to help the cats there, protect them and even find homes for them.

Island Cats began by to trapping and neutering the strays, and they created an adoption program for them. On the southern tip of the island the group operates a small shelter.

The cats have the distinction of being the only creatures allowed into the ruins of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. One day however the hospital may be re-opened, but not until its structure is reinforced.

A good place to observe the cats of Roosevelt Island is near the ruined Renwick Hospital.


The Best of Broadway this Summer

Roy Sadler | August 25, 2016 in Entertainment,Theater | Comments (0)

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Sholom Aleichem circa 1907

Sholom Aleichem circa 1907

Oh no! Summer is almost over and you haven’t yet done something really spectacular? No need to fret, just go to a Broadway show!

Broadway is one of the unique New York attractions that bring people from all over the world to the Big Apple. Why not indulge yourself and another special someone, or even the entire family?

Here is what is on offer on the Great White Way:

Musicals

This genre of theater is really what Broadway a household word all over the world. And for very good reasons; the music is phenomenal, costumes and scenery will blow your mind, and the voices will most assuredly send chills up and down your spine. Pick the right show and you will also be treated to some incredible dancing. The choices are varied and many. Here are some of our favorites:

The Lion King: Based on the beloved Disney movie whose story bears a strong resemblance to Hamlet, the staged version of the animated film takes the music, and everything else to a completely new, and incomparable level.

The Book of Mormon: This controversial original play won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical of 2011, and was nominated for 14.

Fiddler on the Roof: This revival of the iconic 1964 show based on the “Tevye” stories written by Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem tells the story of love between couples old and young; between parents and children; social and political upheavals at the turn of the 20th century; and done with humor, empathy and lots and lots of heart. In short, its themes are universal and guaranteed to please whatever your ethnic origin.

Drama

The Price: This is a revival of a 1968 play written by Arthur Miller, of “Death of a Salesman” fame. The original was nominated for two Tony Awards, and is the story of family dynamics, the price of furniture and also the price of one’s decisions.

Heisenberg: A hit off-Broadway, Heisenberg tells the story of Clare, who notices a “much older than she is” Alex in a crowded London tube station. She spontaneously kisses him on his neck, which sets the stage for the two to engage in a life-changing game.

Photograph 51: See Oscar winner Nicole Kidman perform as Rosalind Franklin, the x-ray crystallographer whose photo allowed Watson and Crick to uncover the structure of DNA. The play focuses on the frantic hunt for the answer to how the shape of DNA transmits the information which carries the secret of life. Written by Anna Ziegler, Photograph 51 is a journey through what is sacrificed for science, love and a place in history.