Trick-or-Treating, Honestly

Dear Diary:

While nearing the end of my journey trick-or-treating last year in Forest Hills — I was then almost 11 — I came upon an unmanned house with a huge bowl of candy on the doorstep.

Picking up my jaw from the ground, I couldn’t believe my good luck. My shoulder devil immediately materialized with a poof and whispered quietly into my ear: “Take all of it! Nobody’s there … This much loot could last YEARS!”

As the possibilities of mouthwatering candy crept into my brain, I sprinted for the doorstep. Only as I came to a halt at the base of the worn brown stairs did I notice the security camera’s blinking red light and the small, handwritten sign above the candy that said “ONLY TAKE ONE, BECAUSE GOD WILL KNOW!”

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New York Today: Li’l Lhota vs. De Blasio Jr.

High schoolers impersonated the candidates at a pre-Halloween debate.Kirsten Luce for The New York Times High schoolers impersonated the candidates at a pre-Halloween debate.

We wanted to cover Halloween today. And mayoral politics.

Could we do both?

Yes. We just had to travel to Queens.

There, at Townsend Harris High School, seniors were costumed as politicians on Wednesday to enact a mayoral debate.

Joseph J. Lhota, played by a lanky Samuel Schrader, donned a striped red and blue tie.

Bill de Blasio, otherwise known as Jin Won Seo, was more relaxed.

He wore his older brother’s suit and black tennis shoes.

It was clear that both teenagers had done their homework.

“Income inequality should exist in any society that’s not Communist,” Samuel thundered in his role as Mr. Lhota.

Jin, playing Mr. de Blasio, responded, “I’m taxing those people who can still afford to eat caviar and shark fin for breakfast.”

The two debated the stop and frisk practice, the soda tax and other issues.

Afterwards, two girls in the stairwell declared faux Lhota the winner.

“The only voters de Blasio is going to get are the hardcore Democrats,” said Irene Joseph. “Or the undecided freshman.”

Then they admitted their bias: they were playing Mr. Lhota’s wife and his press secretary.

Here’s what else you need to know for Thursday.


Trick-or-treating tip: go early unless your costume’s waterproof.

Chance of rain is 30 percent at sunset, rising to 50 percent by 8 p.m.

If you plan to be out after midnight, staple an umbrella to your gorilla suit.

Quite warm in any case, with a high of 66.


Subways: Click for latest status.

Rails: Click for L.I.R.R., Metro-North or New Jersey Transit status.

Roads: Click for traffic map or radio report on the 1s.

Alternate-side parking is in effect today but suspended tomorrow.


- The real Mr. de Blasio greets voters on a Bronx corner and marches in the Park Slope Halloween parade.

- Mr. Lhota is on “Good Day New York” at 7:15 a.m., greets trick-or-treaters on Staten Island and City Island in the Bronx, and hits two kosher supermarkets in Brooklyn.

- There are tons of Halloween festivities, but the biggest is the resurgent Greenwich Village parade, which steps off at 7 p.m. at Avenue of the Americas and Spring Street.

- Senior Halloween parade: at the Sirovich Center on East 12th Street. Indoors. 1:30 p.m. [Free]

- Gowanus dog parade: muster outside the Yuppie Puppy/Green Pup store at 544 Union Street in Brooklyn at 4:30 p.m. [Free, with prizes]

- Last day for people whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy to register for the city aid program NYC Build it Back.

- A Halloween-themed light show on the Empire State Building. 8:30 p.m. [Free. Just look up.]

- For more events, see The New York Times Arts & Entertainment guide.


- The City Council raised the age for buying cigarettes to 21. [New York Times]

- At their final debate, the real Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Lhota mocked each other’s qualifications. [New York Times]

- Mr. Lhota is chipping away at Mr. de Blasio — but still trails by 39 points, a poll shows. [Politicker]

- Someone took a photo of a boy on a subway who resembles Avonte Oquendo, the missing autistic 14-year-old. [Daily News]

- In other subway photograph news: it’s the New York City Subway Operators’ Photography Club. [Atlantic Cities]

- Scoreboard: Knicks shoot down Bucks in Garden debut, 90-83. Nets fall to Cavs, 98-94.

Joseph Burgess contributed reporting.

New York Today is a morning roundup that stays live from 6 a.m. till about noon.

What would you like to see here to start your day? Post a comment, email us at or reach us via Twitter using #NYToday.

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The Ad Campaign: De Blasio’s Tone Poem to a Diverse City

First aired: October 30, 2013
Produced by: Acres and Co. and AKPD Message and Media
For: Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor, on Wednesday released his latest television ad. Titled “Our City,” the 30-second commercial is running on broadcast and cable channels across New York City.

“This is our city. A city that understands that greatness is not measured by the height of our skyscrapers, but by the strength of our neighborhoods…”

Nothing in this ad is inaccurate. It is more of an expression of hope than a polemical packed with facts or accusations. Besides, how can one prove whether Mr. de Blasio actually understands what is best for people in Soundview, on the Lower East Side, or anywhere else?


This ad was already available online, so there is no element of surprise, with Election Day just under a week away. But barring something cataclysmic, the ad is likely to be the last one that voters will see from Mr. de Blasio, who is the overwhelming favorite against his Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota.

So perhaps it is appropriate that in a campaign anchored by the “Tale of Two Cities” slogan, his closing argument is essentially a tone poem to a city of incredible diversity, filled with regular people, some hopeful, others determined, going about their everyday lives.

It is striking that Mr. de Blasio does not appear or say anything in the ad. Nor does his family, even though they have been central to his campaign. The only hint that it is a campaign ad, before the reminder that supporters should vote next Tuesday, is the small print noting the addresses of Mr. de Blasio’s website and Twitter feed.

But the imagery and tone are unmistakable here, in what could almost double as the first draft of an inaugural address: The candidate is, in effect, saying, “I am Bill de Blasio, and I want to be an inspiring and inclusive leader for all New Yorkers.”

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New York Today: Fall Colors

No need to leave the city to peep leaves. This is Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan.Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times No need to leave the city to peep leaves. This is Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan.

Updated 6:06 a.m. | Foliage season in the Catskills has come and gone. Vermont maples are brown or bare.

But you’re in luck: New York City’s leaf-peeping season is hitting its peak.

This weekend should be the most colorful of the year in much of the city, said Tim Wenskus, a natural resource manager with the city parks department.

One of his favorite spots is the Aqueduct Trail in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

“You have a little bit of topography, where you can get something close to a vista,” Mr. Wenskus said.

New York City is big enough and varied enough that a place like Alley Pond Park in Queens might peak a week after Van Cortlandt.

At High Rock Park on Staten Island, Mr. Wenskus said, early-turning ash and elm are being joined by the yellows of persimmon and tulip tree, orange-tipped oak and the deep blood-scarlet of red maple

But with 2.5 million trees on public land in the city, you probably have your own favorite.

Tell us: Where do you go in this town to see the leaves turn?

Here’s what you need to know for Wednesday.


Eh. Just a cloudy day with a high of 60. Clearer tonight, but Halloween might be drippy.


Subways: No delays. Click for latest status.

Rails: Fine so far. Click for L.I.R.R., Metro-North or New Jersey Transit status.

Roads: No major delays. Click for traffic map or radio report on the 1s.

Alternate-side parking is in effect today and tomorrow but suspended Friday.


- The final mayoral debate between Bill de Blasio and Joseph J. Lhota, at 7 p.m. Watch on WNBC-TV. Listen on WOR-AM 710.

- Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway speak at a panel, “The Measured City: Using Data to Improve New York City Government” at New York University this morning.

- The New York Review of Books presents a two-day conference on privacy and the Internet, at the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. [Free, registration required]

- It’s Mexican Day of the Dead. Build an altar, learn how to make a sugar figurine and dance, at a daylong celebration in East Harlem. 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. [Free, though you can buy food]

- The citywide architecture festival Archtober is almost over. Tour the building of the day, the Queens Central Library. 1:30 p.m. [Free, click to register]

- That’s no pumpkin, it’s a basketball. The Knicks open at home against the Bucks. The Nets start the year in Cleveland.

- For more events, see The New York Times Arts & Entertainment guide.


– The former of home of a company in Ridgewood, Queens, that sold radioactive material for atomic bombs may become the city’s next Superfund site. [New York Times]

- A rabbi at a youth center in Beverly Hills was arrested on charges that he sexually abused boys as a youth worker in Brooklyn in the 1990s. [KABC]

- A City Council measure to raise the age for buying cigarettes to 21 now covers e-cigarettes, too. [Daily News]

Scoreboard: Rangers beat Islanders, 3-2. Devils beat Lightning, 2-1.

Joseph Burgess contributed reporting.

New York Today is a morning roundup that stays live from 6 a.m. till about noon.

What would you like to see here to start your day? Post a comment, email us at or reach us via Twitter using #NYToday.

Find us on weekdays at

A Departed ‘21’ Club Fixture, Known for His Stories, Inspires a Few

Lorenzo Robinson, a bathroom attendant at Robert Stolarik for The New York Times Lorenzo Robinson, a bathroom attendant at “21,” in a 2004 photograph.

As soon as Tip O’Neill came back from the men’s room at the “21” Club, Nicholas Verbitsky knew that Mr. O’Neill had fallen under the charms of the Rev.

“Tip came back to our table with a big smile and said, ‘I just met the nicest guy in the bathroom – he really knew his stuff,’” recalled Mr. Verbitsky, chief executive officer of United Stations Radio Networks, after finishing lunch on Tuesday in the dining room at the “21” Club, the venerated Midtown restaurant on West 52nd Street that was once a speakeasy.

This was in the 1980s, and the elated restroom user was, at the time, the speaker of the House of Representatives, something that the savvy bathroom attendant knew instantly, addressing him as Mr. Speaker and offering him a hand towel.

This was no ordinary restroom attendant. It was Lorenzo Robinson, who since 1989 served the rich, famous and important customers of “21” during their most private moments.

Mr. Robinson, known to scores of “21” customers as the Rev, died Thursday at 71, shortly after delivering the eulogy at a service in Connecticut for a sister, officials at the restaurant said. The officials did not know the cause of death, and Jerelene Robinson, Mr. Robinson’s widow, did not immediately return a phone call on Tuesday afternoon.

“The Rev was an amazing raconteur – he would be up to date on the economy, world affairs, and he could just wax poetic about a myriad of issues,” Mr. Verbitsky said. “It’s not often you look forward to going to the men’s room, but with the Rev there, you did.”

Mr. Verbitsky’s dining companion, Marty Weisberg, another longtime “21″ customer, nodded.

“He wasn’t a washroom attendant – he was your friend, and he was an essential part of the ’21’ experience,” Mr. Weisberg said.

Mr. Robinson was as much a part of “21” as the cast-iron jockeys guarding the door, the red-checkered tablecloths, and the steak tartare. And restaurant employees said he was still working in the days before he died.

Dressed in his smart white uniform, Mr. Robinson would greet restroom users while turning on the faucet and offering a towel. He would also offer a once-over of a gentleman’s clothing with a little brush.

Mr. Robinson, an ordained Baptist minister, would keep current by reading several newspapers every morning while commuting by train from his home in Stamford, Conn.

In 2004, Mr. Robinson told The New York Times that he came from an extended family of Baptist ministers and his father, uncle and nephew all worked in the bathroom at “21.” He took over the job after the 1989 death of his uncle Otis Cole, who had worked the restroom at “21″ since the 1940s, he said.

According to an obituary placed by Mr. Robinson’s family in The Stamford Advocate on Tuesday, Mr. Robinson was active in community service, served as pastor at multiple churches and headed several civic organizations. The Robinsons had one child, a daughter.

Two of his favorite interactions were with Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan, said Shaker Naini, a longtime greeter at “21.”

“The Rev met Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton and he had conversations with them,” Mr. Naini said, offering an anecdote about Mr. Reagan trying to turn on the faucet to wash his hands, only to have Mr. Robinson say, “Please, Mr. President, I have to do that for you.”

Then Mr. Reagan handed Mr. Robinson his cufflinks with the presidential seal. Mr. Robinson wore the cufflinks to work every day after that, Mr. Naini said.

Mr. Robinson performed wedding ceremonies for several customers and employees, including Ed Kennelly, a bartender at “21.”

“The Rev insisted on doing my wedding,” Mr. Kennelly said on Tuesday, wiping down the bar. “He was a true character. Men would bring him out of the restroom to meet their families.”

“We have CEO’s coming in here crying, learning that the Rev died,” he said. “The Rev took that job, and he elevated it.”

My Morning Jacket Plans a Resort Rock Festival, Yoga Included

My Morning Jacket performing in New York this month.Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for CBGB My Morning Jacket performing in New York this month.

Remember when going to a rock show meant packing into a crowded, grungy club, where the music was loud and the air was filled with smoke (various kinds), sweat and the aroma of beer? If you’re happy to have all that well behind you, but still have a yen to rock out – perhaps with some ritzy conveniences – the Southern rock band My Morning Jacket has a deal for you.

The band is presiding over One Big Holiday, a four-day festival that the group is calling “an all-inclusive musical adventure,” an hour south of Cancún, Mexico, near Playa del Carmen, Jan. 26 to 30.

At prices that range from $1,249 to $2,599, tickets to the festival – which the band is calling “an all-inclusive musical adventure” – include a room at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, as well as meals, drinks, activities (yoga classes, tennis, kayaking, snorkeling, tequila tastings and dance parties are among those promised). And, of course, concerts.

My Morning Jacket plans to play three full sets. Also on the bill are the Flaming Lips, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mariachi El Bronx and the D.J. Rob Garza, from Thievery Corporation.