We’ve All Piled On the Cricket Lady and Now It’s Time to Stop

The Cricket Lady, née Zaida Pugh, is an idiot. She made a huge mess on the D train, killed untold numbers of insects, and emotionally scarred everyone forced to witness her ill-conceived buffoonery in addition to snarling their commutes. Her muddled attempt at art, which she meekly defended as “awareness raising,” did nothing but reinforce the idea that’s it’s best to keep your head down in the face of crisis, and flee in the face of urine. The brave souls who did intervene were made to look like gullible fools. OK then.

Pugh has been arrested and charged on several counts, including reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration, false reporting an incident and disorderly conduct. She deserves them all.

She also released a tearful 40 minute video that sounds like it was filmed in a sewer after a rainstorm. “People hate me and probably want me dead,” she sniffles, water dripping forlornly in the background.

Too little too late, you bristle, because her stunt was incredibly reckless, and self-righteousness can be cathartic.

But as stupid as Pugh’s offenses were, she does not deserve the blast furnace of hatred to which she has been subjected. She does not, as she intimated she’s been told, need to kill herself. The internet will move on in a few days (hours), but Pugh has written repeatedly on Facebook that she “doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” Her feed is filled with comments like this:

IDK if I’ll get through this life doesn’t seem like it’ll last long in a few but w.e happens I love u all


W.e happens to me aunty whether I’m alive or not I love u and make sure u tell the fam not to stress and just always stick together tell them I’m sorry I stayed away but I was always going through slot in my life but now this happen I’m failed as a parent and my life

Internet rage knows no restraint. I know — I too post things on the Internet for a living. This very weekend, I wrote a quick item in which I fucked up the location of the Grand Canyon — turns out Yellowstone has a Grand Canyon, too! I’m a silly twit, yes, and I fixed the problem within minutes of publishing, but by then it was too late. The commenters had noticed — they smell geographical errors like a shark smells a drop of blood. One informed me how lucky I was that they were being so “cool,” noting that such gaffes had previously inspired lashings so thorough that by the time they were done, the offending writer had turned to dust. “I think we made Foster Kamer cry one time,” she wrote proudly. It grated my nerves for the rest of the day.

Do you remember Justine Sacco? The woman who fired off an insensitive tweet about AIDS before boarding a plane to South Africa? By the time she landed 11 hours later, she found herself in a whole different world from the one she departed — one in which she no longer had a job, but also one in which she was subsumed by a fiery sea of blind, righteous hatred. The internet rage machine does not sleep, and why should it? Why wrestle around in the muck in search of a complicated Truth when a slick, facile one is available right here? Why contemplate Palestine or gun control when there’s the Cricket Lady?

There are differences, certainly. Sacco thought she would make a little joke, and it backfired terribly. Pugh specifically sought attention with her stunt, and she got it. It just turned out to be very, very different than the kind she wanted.

The moment you take something you made and put it online, it’s no longer yours. The internet can be a viciously mean place, particularly because it comes furnished with the security blanket of anonymity. You wouldn’t wish ill of someone to their face, probably. But if you’re a specific type of person — maybe alone in bed, after Instagram has been tapped, maybe slowly wasting under tubed fluorescent lights in a cubicle — you’re perhaps surprised how easily it comes to you. Emphasis on how easily it comes to you. It turns out having someone insult you in print stings almost as much as having it said to your face.

Art is often stupid. Pranks are often stupid. People are often stupid. Zaida Pugh did a dumb thing and she is paying for it. Let’s leave her alone now, okay?

If you or someone you know might be suicidal, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or seek help from a medical professional.


Whitesboro, N.Y., Officials Finally Agree to Change Their Terrible, Racist Seal

Earlier this year, the Village Voice reminded the world that Washington’s football team isn’t only public entity proudly waving offensive logos. Nope, a village in upstate New York has also been making waves with its controversial seal.

So what’s the deal with this seal?

Back in the 1780s, settlers began populating what would later be known as Whitesboro. (You can thank founder Hugh White for the name.) Legend has it that a so-called friendly wrestling match took place between White and one of the area’s Oneida tribe leaders. White won the match and more than a century after that fateful day, the village decided to memorialize the event on their official seal.

The seal they created in the early 1900s was — you guessed it — pretty racist and offensive, depicting White basically strangling his opponent. In the 1970s, the seal was ever-so-slightly amended and White’s hands moved from the neck area down to the shoulders, for an image that… wasn’t much better.

Since then, the seal has stayed put, making Whitesboro look like a real-life version of Pawnee from Parks and Recreation. The Voice even offered up ideas for new, less offensive seals, but the villagers wouldn’t budge.

“I am aware that people are upset about it,” Whitesboro mayor Patrick O’Connor told the Voice in 2015, adding that he doesn’t think it’s racist. “It’s actually a very accurate depiction of friendly wrestling matches that took place back in those days.”

For months, people have been pestering village officials to change the darn image to just about anything else. Finally, Whitesboro officials heard the masses’ P.C. cries and decided to let residents vote on whether to keep the seal or opt for something less offensive.

On January 11, 2016, the villagers voted and decided to just keep on keepin’ on — much to everyone’s dismay.

But now, just two weeks after the voting fiasco, Jessica Williams and The Daily Show tackled this issue with the same verve we’re sure White stepped into the ring with all those years ago. It worked.

According to The Daily Show, Whitesboro officials will now be working with the Oneida nation to come up with a new village seal that (hopefully) eschews the scary strangling scenario. We’ll keep you updated.


Video: Here’s the Blackface Act of the Baltimore Cop Hosting a Fundraiser for Cops Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death

Bobby “Al Jolson” Berger, a retired Baltimore cop, insists to Ebony magazine that there’s nothing “racist” about the blackface minstrel act he’s performed for years — and that he’s currently scheduled to reprise at a fundraiser for the Baltimore cops charged in the April 19 death of Freddie Gray. Tickets for the event, to be held November 1, run $45, and the Baltimore Sun reports some 600 have already been sold.

The news is a shock, of course.

As New York faces the recent anniversary of the death of Eric Garner, and as Americans demand answers in the case of Sandra Bland, and as police departments across the country face accusations of racial bias, why would Baltimore cops choose this as their entertainment choice?

Here’s what that act actually looks like, courtesy of an early-Eighties news report:

Berger’s act has long been a source of controversy for the Baltimore PD, and he even was kicked off the force in the early 1980s. He later brought a civil suit against the department, and in 1990, four years after his reinstatement, he received a $200,000 settlement.

In the news report above, over footage of Berger sporting cork-black makeup and a wide vanilla circle over his lips, Berger describes the thrill of the first time he blackened up his face. “I tried it out, and I didn’t recognize myself when I got home.”

At times, the news report is bitterly funny. The reporter notes that minstrelsy was “the beginning of a phenomenon that continues today: white America interpreting black American music and lifestyle.” To illustrate, the report shows the Rolling Stones and the Blues Brothers. That’s the headwaters of today’s fascinating arguments about cultural appropriation — but it’s followed up by footage of Berger smearing on the black, paying tribute to an idea of blackness already considered noxious back when he was a kid.

For Berger — who is, weirdly, shirtless for much of that vintage TV interview — the blackface isn’t about a black face. He insists that it’s instead about paying tribute to Al Jolson. “That’s a big difference,” the reporter in the clip says, a point certainly up for debate. Even in the early 1980s, you couldn’t get far arguing “No, my racism is nostalgic, not hateful.”

Berger seems to think his portrayal of Jolson’s portrayal of blackness is not rooted in racial animus — that, mostly, it’s a way for him to lose himself in performance. But it’s key to remember just how pernicious Jolson’s depiction of black life actually could be. Here’s a video every bit as alarming as the one above, of Jolson himself in the 1934 film Wonder Bar, a deliriously mad Busby Berkeley musical with lots of pre-Code filthiness — and even one unabashed gay joke. The film closes with Jolson’s performance of “Goin’ to Heaven on a Mule.” The number is a stunner: All the craft and ingenuity of Hollywood’s best set to the task of imagining a Negro heaven that’s home to dancing watermelon, free fried chicken, and the like.

This is what Berger is nostalgic for?


A Crowdfunding Effort to Shame ‘Awful’ Explosion Lawsuit Duo Is Nixed by GoFundMe

All New Yorkers have that moment when they look at other New Yorkers and wish they would just…leave. And when Nicolas Briseño learned of separate $20 million lawsuits filed by two women who lived near the site of the March 26 building explosion on Second Avenue, he set to work on making them disappear.

He nearly succeeded.

Like many New Yorkers, Briseño took personal offense to the exploits of Anna Ramotowska, 26, and Lucie Bauermeister, 23, who were subletting an apartment at 129 Second Avenue, just three buildings down from 121 Second Avenue, where the explosion originated. They have since spent much of the past two weeks making enemies with their tone-deaf pleas for sympathy (and money), broadcast on television and in other news and online outlets. After the women sued for damages, claiming they had been “severely injured, both physically and mentally,” they told the Post that they needed “to get out of New York,” and expressed an interest in moving down south.

Briseño took to the crowdfunding site and launched a campaign to help them do just that. He asked for funds to buy the women “two symbolic one-way tickets out of NYC…in the form of an ad in a yet-to-be-determined NYC/local publication.”

Nicolas Briseño
Nicolas Briseño

“My initial thought was that if they wanted to leave, they needed a one-way ticket out of here,” Briseño tells the Voice. “But then it didn’t really make any sense to give them anything. So I decided to try for a full-page ad somewhere telling them to get out of town. The whole thing was to get people’s attention and to maybe get them to laugh a bit at the expense of these money-grubbing women and hopefully inspire them to give even five dollars that could go to the real victims.”

He launched the campaign on Tuesday, April 7, to little fanfare, and as of Thursday afternoon had raised just $166. But at 5:04 p.m. Thursday, he received an email from GoFundMe administrators informing him that his campaign was not allowed under the site’s terms and conditions. The admins did not cite a specific reason for the decision. GoFundMe removed the campaign from the website but told Briseño he could keep all of the money that had been donated to that point.

The Voice reached out to GoFundMe to ask why the campaign had been taken down but has not yet received a reply. We will update the post if we do.

Briseño says he has split the donations, giving half each to the families of Moises Locon, who died in the explosion, and Mildred Guy, whose family lost their home. “I really wish I could let the donors know their money did go to the real victims, but I can no longer reach them through GoFundMe,” he says.

While he’s hopeful the donations he received will be able to do some good, he’s less confident that the two “heartless opportunists” seeking to cash in on the tragedy will learn anything as a result of the flogging they’ve taken over the past several days.

“Maybe the dynamic duo will change after a healthy dose of public shaming,” Briseño posted on his Facebook page after GoFundMe nixed his campaign. “But I have my doubts.”


Critics Assail Governor Cuomo’s ‘Expensive’ Medical Marijuana Plan as Unfair to the Poor

Wanda Hernandez Parks smokes weed every day. But she’s far from a recreational user.

The 52-year-old says marijuana helps keep up her appetite, and numbs the nerve pain that she experiences daily. Hernandez Parks has HIV.

“[Smoking marijuana] helps me cope,” she says. “It pretty much allows me to get out of bed every day and do what I do.”

See also:New York State Will Legalize Marijuana. Just Not the Kind You Can Smoke.

Along with using cannabis herself for medical reasons, Hernandez Parks is active with an organization called VOCAL-NY, which advocates for, among other things, the legalization of medical marijuana. When Governor Andrew Cuomo last year agreed to take steps toward legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes, VOCAL-NY called it a positive development. But now, others like Hernandez Parks say they’re concerned about a byzantine maze of proposed regulations that will make it difficult for poor people to get their hands on the legal pot.

“We don’t want people feeling criminalized because they’ve found something helpful,” she says.

In July 2014, Cuomo enacted the Compassionate Care Act, which legalized medical marijuana and instructed the New York State Department of Health to come up with a plan for how to regulate the the drug. On December 17, the department released a 120-page document outlining its proposed rules. The department is accepting public comment on the proposal until February 13.

The proposal is extensive and complex, and legalization advocates express worries on a couple of fronts. The department plans to allow twenty cannabis dispensaries to serve the 20 million people in New York State, which many argue won’t be enough. Others fear the state has no plan to subsidize medical marijuana, which is not covered by insurers, and will thus be imposing a barrier affecting low-income patients disproportionately. And the dispensaries themselves will only be allowed to sell cannabis as an oil concentrate. Edibles, like marijuana candy or baked goods, and actual smokable weed will not be available.

According to the state health department website, smoking cannabis will remain illegal because smoke is harmful to the lungs.

“The negative health consequences of smoking of marijuana are well established,” the website says. “As the National Institute of Drug Abuse notes, ‘The smoke of marijuana, like that of tobacco, consists of a toxic mixture of gases and particulates.’ ”

Legalization proponents maintain that smoking is the cheapest way to take the drug.

“Oils and concentrates are very expensive,” says John Hellman, a spokesman for an AIDS and drug reform nonprofit in the Bronx called BOOM!Health. “We know [low-income patients] are not going to be able to afford it. And if people can’t afford medical marijuana, then they’ll still participate in the illicit market.”

On February 2, Hellman joined about 100 other advocates at a forum held at Hostos Community College to criticize the proposed regulations. The forum featured speakers including City Councilmember Mark Levine and Veterans for Peace advocate Bill Gilson, both of whom spoke out against the limited number of conditions that will make patients eligible for medical marijuana. Common conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and migraine headaches are not on the list.

The forum’s attendees also took aim at the state’s restrictions on growers and dispensary owners. Only five companies will be hired to grow cannabis — at four dispensaries each — throughout the state. And each company will only be allowed to produce five government-approved strains of cannabis — another proposal that Cuomo’s critics say is too limiting, as different strains of the plant can have unique effects like battling nausea or reducing seizures.

But while many are frustrated with the governor’s plan as it exists now, some are holding out hope. Janet Weinberg, a volunteer for the Drug Policy Alliance, uses the example of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income Americans enacted by Congress in 1965 that, over time, has evolved and expanded to cover more people. “Many times, we start with a compromised bill,” she says. “And the activists keep working on it, until it keeps getting better.”

Legal marijuana isn’t expected to become a reality in New York State until about 2016, which will give those activists some time to push for more pot-friendly regulations.

The health department declined to respond to most questions for this article, but did say those who wish to comment on the proposed rules may send their response “through the website.” On that site, the email to which members of the public can send comments is listed as


Here’s Why Manholes Explode Each Winter in New York City

Besides train delays, canceled flights, and countless piles of lovely slush, the city’s wintry conditions are also causing manhole covers to spontaneously pop out of the ground and, in some cases, do serious damage to pedestrians. Within the last 48 hours, there have been more than 200 cases of manholes smoking, catching fire, or even exploding, according to Con Ed.

Two incidences were recently reported in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The first explosion, at 11:20 a.m on February 2, sent a 70-pound manhole cover flying into the head of 71-year-old Sal Grillo, who was out with his dog. Grillo was rushed to the Lutheran Medical Center; fire department officials say he’s lucky to be alive. Another victim of the incident was Marge Contorno, 93, who was cut by flying shards of glass after the violent blast shattered her window.

The second explosion occurred at 4 a.m on February 3. No one was hurt, but six nearby buildings were evacuated owing to high levels of carbon monoxide in the area.

Con Ed spokesman Phillip O’Brien says the flying manhole covers often appear at this time of year, when heavy snowfall is followed by the spreading of salt on the roads. This salt-and-snow combo subsequently escapes underground into the electrical system, he explains, where some of the cables already sport nicks and tears from overhead traffic vibrations, natural wear and tear, and gnawing rats. The briny mixture seeps into those cuts and erodes the insulation on underground electrical wires, causing them to spark, smoke up, and, in extreme cases, explode. O’Brien says it’s not necessarily related to NYC’s aging infrastructure. Some cables are old and some are new, and either can be affected by corrosion due to salt and snow.

In fact, manhole explosions were worse in 2014 because of dreadful snowstorms, which consequently meant more salt-spreading. One preventive measure Con Ed has used for a long time: installing vented manhole covers, which have more openings, thus allowing smoke and built-up gas to escape more easily. The approach, however, only mitigates the effect; the salt still trickles down to the cables through the numerous holes.

Rescue workers flee from an exploding manhole in Brooklyn on February 2.
Rescue workers flee from an exploding manhole in Brooklyn on February 2.

Manhole explosions are common in other parts of the U.S. — and, indeed, the Northern Hemisphere — in winter. No breakthroughs have been made, at least from Con Ed, in determining when a manhole is likely to “pop.”

“This is a common occurrence each winter, especially in the periods of weather like we’re experiencing,” reiterates fire department spokesman Frank Dwyer. He urges New Yorkers to call 911 immediately if they hear crackling sounds outside, or if carbon detectors go off in homes or in other structures surrounding a troubling manhole.

The clip below is from a manhole explosion in 2014:

In 2009, three research scientists from Columbia University’s Center for Computational Learning Systems collaborated with Con Ed engineers to create a manhole profiling tool that ranked the structures in order to help predict when serious events like smoke, fire or an explosion occur in a manhole. In a later publication of the paper in 2011, titled, “21st-Century Data Miners Meet 19th-Century Electrical Cables” the researchers said, “New York City has the world’s oldest grid, and we computed that over five percent of Manhattan’s low-voltage underground cables were installed before 1930.” Interestingly, the article also revealed that NYC alone has more than 94,000 miles of underground cable, enough to wrap around the Earth three and a half times. “There is simply too much cable to replace or individually monitor–we’re not even close,” it reads.

Four years later, after Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught on the city, Con Ed drafted storm-hardening measures, which involved fortifying electric systems from future storms. According to the initiative, in order to protect their underground tunnels against flooding, Con Ed installed “reinforced concrete tunnel entrances” designed to prevent or greatly reduce water intrusion. Pumping equipment and back-up generators were also set up to remove water that might get in. Con Ed spokesman Sidney Alvarez says the utility company has made significant strides in ensuring public safety. In the past, a manhole fire would result in mass power outages, but now “when we have a manhole fire, there are different feeders that control it,” Alvarez says. As part of the storm-hardening initiative, Con Ed installed “smart” switches that reduce the number of homes and businesses that lose power when there is a fault in the system. The smart switches automatically disconnect affected parts of the electric grid so that unaffected areas continue to have uninterrupted power while repairs are being made.

Manhole Profiling Tool To Help Determine Serious Events

And New Yorkers, as usual, panic on Twitterverse:


People Are Selling Issues of Charlie Hebdo on New York Craigslist for as Much as $500,000

A surprising and somewhat macabre cottage industry has emerged in the wake of the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris that left eleven dead and eleven injured — the sale of back issues and questionable souvenirs. The post-attack issue, featuring a cartoon Muhammad holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign beneath the headline “Tout est pardonné” (all is forgiven), sold a record 7 million copies around the world, and a robust internet aftermarket emerged to meet the overwhelming demand. On Sunday, Upper West Side bookstore Book Culture sold out of its copies in a matter of hours, and while that store’s sales of the issue profited only Charlie Hebdo and the victims’ families, some vendors aren’t nearly so principled.

On Craigslist, about twenty enterprising sellers are offering Issue 1178 (“Je suis Charlie”) for between $35 and $1,500, and a handful of vendors (presumably the same people who sell lists of New York apartments for rent and magic cancer cures) are selling a PDF file for between $3 and $5. One ad includes a link to Charlie Hebdo Shop, a twee dedicated e-boutique from which one can purchase either an original hard copy ($99) or the PDF file ($5). On eBay, there are a whopping 434 active listings ranging in price from a penny to $120,000, many of which have abundant bids.

Post-massacre issues seem to be saturating the online market, but the issue said to have incited the attacks (Issue 1011) is far scarcer. Two Craigslist vendors are offering the controversial issue, one for a half-million dollars, the other for a comparatively cheap $10,000. According to the seller of the former, who identifies himself as Patrick Legrain — and who, despite listing the item on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, apparently lives in Paris — it’s still available for purchase. In an email, however, Legrain says he has received at least one offer for his asking price.

Perhaps even stranger than all the magazine issues are the offerings available on Etsy. In addition to the standard “Je suis Charlie” T-shirt selection, sellers are offering a remarkable assortment of tchotchkes: from budget-friendly pencils and pins to lampshades, decorative pillowcases, and even a “Charlie Hebdo–themed” engagement ring (because every kiss begins with senseless slaughter and censorship).

While some of the peddlers look to be trying to capitalize on a tragedy, it’s unclear just how many are actually cashing in. A January 14 eBay listing of the post-attack issue sold for $20,000 with a remarkable 117 bids, but the market appears to have dropped off since publication; current auctions have bids, but none is even close to approaching five figures. More recent auction results show outcomes between $100 and $150, and live listings show even less action.

For most, the natural reaction to this flagrant profiteering would be outrage, but Book Culture owner Chris Doeblin offered a decidedly Hebdo-worthy take: “The only sacrilege is telling people what they can’t do,” he told the Voice. “If they want to pray, they should. If they want to be Muslim, they should. If they want to sell this to make money, they should.”

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Two More Days to Get to These Holiday Pop-Ups — Which Is Worth It?

“Text if you want to vote for Peppermint Place,” the sign says. That would be the gingerbread house that looks like all the rest except it’s got a peppermint swirl for a roof. You could also vote for the Cinnamon Shack or Cocoa Cottage, though the creative differences in houses that make up Gingerbread BLVD are so minimal, you’d swear you’ve landed in a cookie version of a retirement village in Boca Raton.

In reality, you’re in Madison Square Park, looking at a beautiful Christmas tree while companies hawk free goodies in order to persuade you to spend more money. Cater your holiday dinner, says one. Don’t bother baking dessert when we have ours ready to go, says another. Gingerbread BLVD takes precious childhood memories and turns them into a marketing campaign — and the holiday spirit here has about as much a chance at survival as a sequel to Sony Pictures’ The Interview.

Cinnamon Shack. Notice the craftsmanship.
Cinnamon Shack. Notice the craftsmanship.

The saddest part of this corporate gingerbread subdevelopment is that it competes for attention with the work of a real guy out there, chef Jon Lovitch, who creates a large-scale gingerbread village every year and gives away the pieces for free at the end of the season. It’s called Gingerbread Lane, and it’s located at the New York Hall of Science — the last place on earth a kid would think to spend the holidays.

His is a much more magical place than this goods-hawking attention ploy, but it’s located far from well-trafficked Madison Square Park, which lures tourists and locals looking for a festive stop.

This tree is just a distraction to get you to start buying stuff.
This tree is just a distraction to get you to start buying stuff.

If you or visiting relatives must see a gingerbread village this year, go to Lovitch’s version. If you’re just looking for a holiday pop-up with genuine cheer, on the other hand, head instead to Miracle on 9th Street, a pop-up bar with holiday-inspired drinks. See the “Wise Men,” served in a frankincense-smoked glass, or “Bad Santa,” a warm rum drink with coconut milk in a jolly St. Nick-shaped mug.

It’s a silver lining in a town covered in tawdry tinsel.

Gingerbread BLVD and Miracle on 9th Street close on December 23; Gingerbread Lane is open until January 12.

Ghosts of product placements past perhaps?
Ghosts of product placements past perhaps?

Poland Spring Bottled Water Is the City’s Top Beverage, Proving New Yorkers Really Do Hate Themselves

Earlier this month, Poland Spring — a company that filters free, decently clean water, and then packages it and sells it for a profit — launched a “cheers” campaign highlighting its status as New York’s number one beverage brand. The company did so in support of the NYC Marathon, which is a fine enough gesture. But come on, New York, bottled water?

Unless you live in a place with no access to clean drinking water (by our gutted EPA’s standards, anyway), drinking bottled water is a wasteful exercise. Yes, yes, we all need water to live, and if you’re in Central Park, a public water fountain is certainly a risky proposition in these days of Uber-riding Ebola doctors.

Poland Spring predicates its entire existence upon being from Maine, and it isn’t — at least not entirely. Nearly every bottled-water company purports to source from a specific body of water, but what hits the shelves is mixed and matched from many sources. It’s like blended whiskey, except this is inherently worse because it’s flavorless water that you can get for free. Poland Spring’s water comes from Poland Spring, yes, but also from nearby towns and as far away as Massachusetts.

Moreover, we city dwellers are supposed to be famously proud of our tap water (we’re famously proud of a lot of things, come to think of it…maybe we should cool it a little), so the fact that bottled water could be the most consumed beverage in this town of big ideas and bigger bladders is a travesty. Poland Spring being the number one beverage brand in New York is the quaffable equivalent of Taylor Swift being our ambassador.

We think we should change this — so here are five of our favorite local beverages that deserve the people’s love more than some bottled water. And these are just beverage brands. To us, New York City’s official drink will always be a tossup between an egg cream and a tepid, half-drunk coffee spilled on the floor of a subway car. Cheers!

5. Dr. Brown’s Sodas
The good doctor’s fizzed things up since 1869, and it’s now produced by PepsiCo in its NY bottling plant. For many New Yorkers, this line of soft drinks recalls trips to the local deli. Available in classic flavors like cream, root beer, and black cherry, Dr. Brown is perhaps best known for the celery-flavored Cel-Ray, one of the few vegetable sodas in the world. It’s an acquired taste; the soda is slightly bitter, like tonic and most New Yorkers.

4. Kombucha Brooklyn
Brooklyn’s practically a global brand, and this crunchy outfit fomenting the fermentation revolution seems as good a drinkable mascot for our city as any. In addition to offering DIY kits that let you nurture your own SCOBY mother to fizzy fruition, the company sells bottles of its proprietary brew for a reasonable $3 per bottle. Plus, think of the children: Kombucha comes with a built-in science lesson that’s just waiting to be Googled.

3. New York Distilling Company
Alan Katz, Tom Potter, and Bill Potter have carved out a little slice of malted heaven in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Launched in 2011 with a duo of gins (including a navy-strength that’s become a favorite of city bartenders), the team recently introduced a classic rock and rye. A mix of rock-candy syrup and rye whiskey, the vintage liqueur — a pre-Prohibition favorite — found a place in medicine cabinets during our nation’s dry spell. While other distilleries release white dogs and under-aged whiskeys, these guys have found a niche market and really gone for it.

2. Brooklyn Brewery
As co-founder of both the New York Distilling Company and Brooklyn Brewery, Tom Potter has done more to wet New York’s whistles than nearly any other beverage entrepreneur. While the Bronx is burning up with carboys and tons of hops, the current multi-borough beer renaissance has this ubiquitous King’s County brand to thank for its fermented futures. Started by Potter and Steve Hindy in 1984, Brooklyn Brewery has achieved success thanks in large part to the efforts of outspoken and lauded brewmaster Garrett Oliver, who recently bit back at David Chang for his staunch opinions about suds.

1. Manhattan Special
Nonstop is what New York does best, and this centuries-old espresso soda couldn’t be a better representation of our values. This city can exhaust even the most ambitious among us, and this drink can help you gain your competitive edge one sugary, caffeinated sip at a time. It also happens to taste great, with a satisfyingly strong coffee flavor met with a clean cane-sugar finish. You want versatile? Try it in cocktails, mocktails, or straight up, or, hell, freeze it for some of the best granita you’ve ever tasted.


Most of New York’s Judges Are Dudes

Despite women making up 52 percent of the population, fewer than 46 percent of judges in Manhattan and Bronx courts are female, according to a new report from the New York State Bar Association.

Now for the bad news: That number up there? It’s the good news.

While women are significantly underrepresented in the First Department, which encompasses Manhattan and the Bronx, the rest of the state is much, much worse. Like, sort of astonishingly bad.

In the Third Department for example, which includes much of the state directly to the north of the city, women represent just 19 percent of lower-court judges on the bench. The other two departments aren’t much better; in the Fourth Department, comprising most of the western part of the state, only 26 percent of judges are women, and it’s 38 percent in the Second Department, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and parts of Long Island.

The lack of diversity goes beyond gender, too. There’s currently a grand total of one non-Caucasian serving on the bench in the Third Department’s lower courts. On the Supreme Court? Not one. In fact, the Third Department, the report notes, made up of 28 counties, “has never elected a minority to the Supreme Court bench since the court system was created 300 years ago.”

So what gives? The report notes that New York is among the most diverse states in the country, and in fact, the judiciary is more diverse here than in a lot of other places. Judge Jane Bolin, for example, was the first black woman ever to serve as a judge in America, and she was appointed right here in New York City in 1939. (Bolin was also the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, where she went after attending Wellesey College, where she and the only other black student were obliged to live in an off campus apartment.)

The problem seems to be mostly an upstate one. Since just 35 percent of attorneys in New York state are women, the numbers in and around New York City, while still somewhat out of whack, match much more closely with the overall attorney population, from which judges are drawn. The news isn’t all bad though. In First Department, non-white judges are actually disproportionately represented on the bench as compared to the overall population.

Visit the Bar Association’s website to read the rest of the report, which includes background on some of the state’s judicial milestones, like Bolin’s appointment.