Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

Omni Berkshire Hotel in New York, Unions and the Mafia

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Is organized crime involved with union affairs in New York City?  Is the mob involved with their daily operations, work stoppages and protests?

I was in Manhattan last week, and while on my way to a meeting there was a big commotion with banging drums and a group chanting, “union…union…” across the street from the Omni Berkshire Hotel on 52nd and Madison.  There was a 10-foot tall inflatable rat placed in the street directly in front of the hotel’s main entrance to imply the hotel’s management is rodent-like in their dealings with their particular union.

Omni Berkshire Hotel New York Union Protests and The Mafia

Omni Berkshire Hotel New York Union Protests and The Mafia

It was a small gathering, maybe 20 guys who looked like rugged dudes from Hollywood Central Casting, if there indeed was a call for longshoreman and construction workers.  The guys were mostly standing around looking like rugged union members tend to look, while a couple of loud-mouths did the screaming into a distorted bullhorn.

And then I saw him, in the sea of ruggedness, there he was.  We made eye contact, and I made him.  He wasn’t rugged, and he wasn’t a loudmouth.  He was standing behind the barricade next to the HVAC guys, looking like a leftover from a Soprano’s episode.  He didn’t wear a well-worn paint-stained t-shirt like the rest of the guys, calloused hands or a weathered leathery skin from decades of working in the elements.  No, he had perfectly combed, slicked-back hair, a designer sweater and gold chain around his neck.  It wasn’t a Sir Mix-A-Lot rope chain, but it wasn’t purchased at Zale’s for $99.00 either.

He looked how “muscle” is supposed to look, or at least how it’s portrayed in the movies.

Could he have been there to protect the “interests” of someone or some group, or protect the union workers from being harassed by hotel security or a local beat cop?  Maybe.

Could he have simply been the well-dressed son of one of the protesters hanging out in the middle of the afternoon showing solidarity and support for his dad’s union?  Maybe.

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Tipping – When Should We Tip And Whom Should We Tip

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

‘Tis the season to be jolly, the song goes, so we often reach a bit deeper into our pockets and drop some coins or bills into the Salvation Army red bucket outside the post office, or other worthy causes this time of year.  Some of us also may slip an extra buck or two to the waiter or waitress for great service or going out of their way for us. It’s the Christmas Spirit.

This brings up the question of when to tip, how much should we tip, and who deserves a tip.  I was in New York City this past week on business, and while not as bad as Chicago service workers for always having their hand out, service people in Manhattan seem to expect something for doing very little.

Cab drivers help you calculate the tip when the ride is over with a screen that shows how much 15%, 20% and 25% would amount to, on top of the fare.  Dinner for four at the Roxy Deli on Broadway and 47th totaled $95.00, and the restaurant was considerate enough to add 18% on the bill as a tip regardless of how shoddy the service was.  I had no choice in the matter.

The Roxy Delicatessen on Broadway in New York

The Roxy Delicatessen on Broadway in New York

Saturday morning when I was checking out of my hotel, a nice boutique hotel right off 49th and Broadway in the Theater District called The Time, the doorman who I had seen for the last few days opened the door for me and asked if I needed a cab.  This doorman, other than greeting me when I walked in and out, really didn’t serve a purpose other than offering a presence at the front door, but I knew he expected a tip and I ran out of small bills.  I immediately apologized, telling him, “hey, I’m really sorry…I ran out of cash…”  He smiled and said it wasn’t a problem.

The Time Hotel Doorman Shakes Down The New York Taxi Driver

As we walked out into the morning cold I looked down the block at a line of taxis that were waiting for people like me who were headed to the airport, as he tried to sell me on the Lincoln Towne Car for $65.00.  I told him that due to a previous experience, I prefer a yellow cab – a real taxi, and he proceeded to flag down one for me.

As the car pulled up and I put my bags into the trunk and settled into the back seat, the previously friendly doorman began shaking down the cab driver.  It went something like this:

Doorman: Hey, you gonna take care of me?

Cabby: Huh, what do you mean?

Doorman: You know what I mean, you gotta take care of me if you sit in front of my hotel.  That’s how it works.

Cabby: That’s not right…

Doorman: C’mon…(as he rubs his fingers together)

Cabby: (handing over a couple of dollars and quickly pulling away) That’s wrong…

I wound up covering the few dollars the doorman extorted from the cab driver, and I am not sure if he did this to cover for the $2 he didn’t get from me, or if he does this to every taxi driver, but it doesn’t leave a very good taste in the mouth of the hotel guest as he or she heads back home.  I would stay at the hotel again, I just won’t trust the hotel’s staff.

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