Could the End of the Embargo Kill the Cuban-Cigar Industry?

Michael E. Miller
José "Pepe" Montagne has battled Cuban lawyers over his cigars' trademark.
"When did you last travel to Cuba?" the man demanded. "And when was the last time before that? And before that?"

The questions cut through the decades. The room was bigger now. The windows were no longer barred. Men in suits had replaced soldiers in fatigues. And the crackle of firing squads had faded into history.

But for José "Pepe" Montagne, the interrogation echoed back to 1964. Back to when he was a baby. Back to when it was his father — not he — being hounded by Fidel Castro's henchmen.

"Are you a member of any organizations of Cuban-Americans?" the man in the suit continued. "Would you welcome the overthrow of the present Cuban government by force?"

Forty-one years after imprisoning his father, the Cuban government had now come for Pepe. In a law office high above Coral Gables, Florida, Castro's attorneys grilled him not about democracy or freedom of speech or civil rights, but about something even more dangerous for the revolution: cigars.

More »

Window Washing Is A Terrifying Gig: A Brief History

Photo credit: angeloangelo via Compfight cc
Cleaning windows in New York City is a tough, thankless, and, quite frankly, terrifying job. The city saw that last week when window washers Juan Lopez and Juan Lizama found themselves trapped on a dangling scaffold outside the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center. For more than 90 minutes, the two were suspended hundreds of feet in the air outside the tallest building in North America, to the horror of onlookers below, before they were rescued by members of the FDNY and Port Authority police department.

More »

The Third Rail: How It Feels to Support New York City FC, the Team That Doesn't Yet Exist

The Third Rail is the name of the supporters group for New York City FC, a team that has yet to play a game, put together a full squad, or find a permanent stadium. And up until the 11 a.m. hour on Thursday, they didn't know what their team's jersey would look like.

More »

Bronx Barnes & Noble Will Remain Open for at Least 2 More Years [Updated]

Barnes & Noble will be shutting down its retail store in Bay Plaza at Co-op City in the Bronx after more than a decade of serving the borough. Or as the Daily News aptly put it, "the Bronx is about to go bookless" because of a lease disagreement between the bookstore chain and its landlord, Prestige Properties & Development.More »

Brooklyn Nets' Minority Owner Values Franchise at $1 Billion

In 2003, real estate mogul Bruce Ratner bought the New Jersey Nets for $300 million.

Over the next 11 years Ratner sold all but 20 percent of his stake to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets moved into the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the NBA's popularity grew exponentially.

Now Ratner, who owns the development firm Forest City Enterprises, is looking to sell the rest of his stake in the team, and his company has set the Nets' value at $1 billion, the Sports Business Journal reported.

More »

New York's Not Exactly "Open for Business": Report


Governor Andrew Cuomo earned a big, fat D in a recent grading of his fiscal policies by the Libertarian Cato Institute.

This, of course, comes as the governor has declared New York "open for business."

Cuomo's D  -- on a scale of A through F -- might have a little bit to do with a different group's ranking New York dead last in terms of how business-friendly its tax policies are.

Of New York's governor -- who is eying a run for the White House in 2016 -- the Institute says the following:

More »

Brand It, Post It, Sell It: How Millennials Are Reshaping Business As We Know It

social media.jpeg

Laura Murray, an FIT student by day and live music photographer by night, has a fascination with exposure: "Being able to show people things that are going on all over the world sounds incredible." She admits on her website that she has a "slight case of wanderlust" and her dream job would be a band's designated photographer. To satisfy and achieve both journeys, she had to start off with basic grassroots marketing that required little cost: she handed out promotional marketing cards anywhere she snapped photos at, made up stickers with her name on them and assisted photographers in every way possible. 

But her biggest obstacle was the ambiguity that came with a popular form of artwork like photography: she had equipped herself with skills in the field throughout high school and college but she also knew that thousands of other people her age could muster those same talents.

"It seems that everyone with an SLR (single-lens reflex) camera these days wants to get into photography, just no one knows your name," she said. It was her goal to stand out among the rest - a credo of the entrepreneurial spirit. In the usual fashion of small business, she had to brand herself. And what better way to do that by using her name.

More »

Veto! Bloomberg Rejects Wage Bills, Says City Council Proposal Would Kill Jobs

bloomberg, city hall.png
via feed.
As expected, Mayor Mike Bloomberg today vetoed the City Council's wage legislation, but unlike his past public comments on the matter, he didn't go so far as to compare the bills to Communism.

Still, if the legislation passes, Bloomberg will sue.

The proposals in question were the prevailing and living wage bills, which essentially would require that businesses pay employees higher wages -- $10 an hour plus benefits, instead of the current $7.25 minimum hourly wage -- at some city-subsidized developments.

The bills are significant because they have come to represent a politically important challenge for City Council Speaker Quinn, a mayoral hopeful who has been forced to navigate the competing interests of business and labor leaders in negotiating the legislation. Additionally, the living wage battle has pitted the mayor against Quinn, who has typically been seen as the potential successor most aligned with Bloomberg's views, especially given their pro-business records.

More »

Christine Quinn Loses Major Business Group Support for Living Wage Bill; Says 'Writing Legislation is Difficult'

Quinn and reporters.JPG
Sam Levin
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, expected to run for mayor in 2013, addresses reporters today.
Christine Quinn, faced with the challenging task of simultaneously negotiating the interests of labor groups and business groups in a new living wage bill, has lost the support of the city's major business organization -- a disappointment for the City Council Speaker, who is expected to run for mayor in 2013.

The surprising news last night that the business group Partnership for New York City would no longer support the bill was a major shift from what was said at a press conference in January when Quinn was able to bring together business leaders and labor leaders and announce a compromise that both sides could stand by.

"Unfortunately, the original group of supporters we had that day in January are not fully intact at the moment, which is a disappointment, but I'm very proud and glad with the final version we are getting to," she told reporters this morning.

More »

Chinatown Property Owners Say City Illegally Charged Them BID Fees Before BID Even Existed

A before and after shot from the BID's website.
Some Chinatown property owners didn't really want to be part of a Business Improvement District in the first place. Now a group of them are claiming that the city illegally charged them fees corresponding to months before the BID even officially existed.

The city told the Voice yesterday that it is correcting that error, but that's doing little to appease some frustrated business owners.

These BIDs, which are public-private partnerships, are intended to revitalize neighborhoods and support economic development through a partnership of local property owners and commercial tenants. Businesses pay annual fees that BIDs charge for cleaning sidewalks, picking up trash, and other local efforts.

To those who didn't want to be a part of a Chinatown BID in the first place, the alleged financial mishap is an extra slap in the face, especially as businesses are struggling to stay afloat during a tough economy.

More »