The best (and worst) of 2007

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WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE New Yorkers flocked to the Floating Pool in Brooklyn in the summer of ’07.

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE New Yorkers flocked to the Floating Pool in Brooklyn in the summer of ’07. Photograph: Courtesy of Brooklyn Bridge park Conservancy

THE BEST...

…cure for seasonal affective disorder
Everything is illuminated in “Provoking Magic,” the Cooper-Hewitt’s retrospective of German lighting designer Ingo Maurer that debuted in September. The cheeky works on display include Tableaux Chinois, which incorporates a pool of live goldfish, and Maurer’s signature Lucellino model, a bare bulb fitted with tiny goose-feather wings. Betcha Edison wished he thought of that.

…update on Grandma’s favorite pastime
In January, the Museum of Arts & Design changed our view of stitch work in “Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting.” This fall, they followed it up with even more provocative pieces in “Pricked: Extreme Embroidery.” We chuckled at Maria Piñeres’s embroidered celebrity mug shots and blushed at Laura Splan’s doilies depicting sexually transmitted diseases. Guess there’s more to handicrafts than BLESS THIS MESS.

…hobby that skeeves us out
In June, the new Ripley’s Odditorium in Times Square debuted a record number of shrunken heads (24 comely craniums in all). In November, Park Slope’s Union Hall hosted Secret Science Club’s third annual Carnivorous Nights taxidermy contest. Earlier this month, Bed-Stuy artist Nate Hill led the Chinatown Taxidermy Garbage Tour, a safari of deceased critters along Canal Street. And all year long, cryptozoologist Takeshi Yamada has been showing off stuffed fauna in “Museum of World Wonders” at the Coney Island branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Clearly it’s not just psychotic pet owners who want their loved ones preserved for posterity.

…case of Lower East Side gentrification
The Jews aren’t big on resurrections, but what else would you call the Eldridge Street Synagogue’s $20 million makeover, which wrapped up this month? The 120-year-old house of worship was in terrible disrepair for decades (water doused the congregation through holes in the roof), but after a two-decade renovation, the Moorish-style shul has its shayna punim restored, with ornate lamps, gorgeous stained glass windows, and a new museum and culture center. St. Pat’s better start looking over its shoulder.

…use of the Brooklyn waterfront
Confronted with tourists, high temperatures and inexplicable odors, New Yorkers tend to flee the city in droves in summertime. But this year we hightailed it to Dumbo to take advantage of the Floating Pool, the free swimming hole moored off the Brooklyn Bridge Park beach. Opening weekend was marred when a flooded ballast almost caused the pool to tip over, but days later we were back to playing Marco Polo and improving our doggy paddle.

…news about Coney Island
If Mayor Bloomberg’s plans for Coney come to pass (and that’s a big if), the area will see improved parking, a dazzling steel roller coaster, a skating rink, 4,500 new apartments and scads of new stores. The Cyclone, meanwhile, will probably wind up in the lobby of Donald Trump’s latest condo building.

NEXT: The Worst and Report Card

THE WORST...

…update to NYC cabs
Those flowery decals adorning Gotham taxis look almost as tacky as the garish new logo, especially after a few months of wear and tear. But our biggest beef is with the backseat monitors recently installed in the city’s fleet. Watching TV as you jostle around midtown is a recipe for nausea. And now that they’re broadcasting TONY On Demand segments, we run the risk of having to watch ourselves on the tube. As if car sickness weren’t enough.

…scapegoating of culinary lifesavers
Last year, Nueva York author Carolina Gonzalez introduced us to the savory pupusas and crunchy flautas available at Red Hook’s ball fields. But if vendors can’t meet the stricter heath standards imposed by the city, they may be banned next summer. Heck, we’d trust them over the West Village’s rat-infested KFC/Taco Bell franchise any day.

…treatment of a prince of the city
It’s no secret that fickle Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has long resented Joe Torre’s popularity with fans and players. This year, after 12 straight playoff appearances and four World Series rings, Steinbrenner forced his longtime manager’s hand by offering Torre a pay cut and a one-year contract—an insult to the man many still consider the finest skipper in the game. Torre opted for warmer climes—and gave a big “fuck you” to New York baseball—by accepting a post with the L.A. Dodgers. You’re out!

Report card: New York’s cultural landscape was busting at the seams with new construction this year. (We’re loving the New Museum.) So it’s only fitting that 2007 saw the legacies of the city’s most famous urban planners reexamined: Robert Moses got his due with a multipart display at the Museum of the City of New York, Columbia University and the Queens Museum of Art (which also refurbished “Panorama of the City of New York,” Moses’s scale model of Manhattan for the 1964–65 World’s Fair). Meanwhile his archnemesis, Jane Jacobs, was the subject of an exhibit and lecture series at the Municipal Art Society. Next year sees even more growth, with the American Finance Museum, the Sports Museum of America, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Museum of Arts & Design all set to open new digs. With that many ribbon-cuttings, we predict a run on oversize scissors.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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