Why You Should HEART on, not HATE on Murray Hill

Today is my birthday!  As I reflect on another year of my life, I recognize many changes, but I also recognize one big thing that has not changed: my love for Murray Hill. For those who are not familiar with New York City, Murray Hill is a neighborhood east of midtown Manhattan (see red arrow below), and I’ve lived here pretty much since I moved to New York City 14 years ago.

I love Murray Hill so much that I have tripled-downed on Murray Hill: 1) I live in Murray Hill 2) I work in Murray Hill and 3) I volunteer as a Trustee of the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. I have had lots of crazy adventures living in Murray Hill, including surviving a fire that burnt down my apartment and living next door to madames that operated a brothel above my bedroom. Pretty much all my life over the past decade has consisted of living, working, and enjoying life in Murray Hill, and it seems like it keeps on getting better and better as each year passes.

But, for the same time that I have lived here, it seems to me that everyone in New York City loves to hate on people like me who live in Murray Hill.

There are a couple of big stereotypes…

The first is that Murray Hill is just a bunch of obnoxious, drunk, non-cultured, recently graduated kids out of college.  This video illustrates this stereotype (coincidentally, this video features people like me that a) live in Murray Hill b) worked at Lehman Brothers and c) went to college at Indiana University).

In the New York Times article titled “In Murray Hill, the College Life Need Never End,” reporter Joseph Berger interviews a resident who states that “Murray Hill is losing its coolness” and whenever someone asks her where she lives, she is embarrassed to answer Murray Hill “because she knows she is making fun of herself.”

If that isn’t enough embarrassment, the Midtown Uniform Instagram account has amassed an audience of over 100K+ followers and its sole purpose is to make fun of residents and people who appear to look like residents of Murray Hill (contrary to the caption of the post, none of the people pictured below resemble any of the actual Trustees of the Murray Hill Neighborhood Associaton).

The second stereotype is that Murray Hill is just “Curry Hill,” named for the overwhelming number of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi restaurants and spice shops on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 30th Streets (I actually don’t mind having all these restaurants and spice shops, as I love these cuisines).

But, given these stereotypes, here are THREE REASONS why EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU should actually HEART on, and not HATE on Murray Hill.

1) Do you HEART America?

Did you know that without the people of Murray Hill, there would be no America? Here’s the story…

On September 15, 1776 (only a couple months after declaring independence on July 4, 1776), the American army, led by General George Washington was terribly defeated in the Battle of Brooklyn and had to fully retreat in order to not be completely defeated as the British army almost wiped out the American revolt only months after it started. So in secret, in the middle of the night, over 9,000+ soldiers boated across to the river to Manhattan (they landed on Kips Bay, the area just south of Murray Hill). The next morning, as the American army was retreating north towards Harlem, the American soldiers passed through Murray Hill (which was then just informally known as the farm and residence of the Murray family).

Shortly later, the British army, led by Admiral William Howe, a known womanizer (we’ll get to that shortly), conquered Brooklyn (as the American army deserted) and then continued its conquest across the river in Manhattan.  As the British came running after the American army as it was retreating, they passed through Murray Hill.

That’s where Mary Lindley Murray, the quick-thinking matriarch of the Murray family, comes in.  She helped save America by slowing down the British.  With her Murray Hill charm, she invited the British officers to tea and cake at their home as their soldiers came through her family’s farm (see the depiction below).  The story goes that Admiral William Howe was so enchanted by the Murray family women that it allowed the Americans time to get away.  This succeeded in delaying the British troops for a period sufficient to allow a successful American retreat, and this gave General George Washington and his American army enough time to win.

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Remember, America did not win the revolutionary war in 1776, we just declared independence in 1776.  We actually won the revolutionary war in 1783 via the Treaty of Paris in which Great Britain agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the United States and formally ended the war.  We won because we dragged the war long enough and eventually won some major battles like the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 which caused British support for the war to fade in both the British Parliament and the British public, thus triggering this diplomatic peace treaty.  Helping drag the war long enough is exactly what Mary Lindley Murray did.  Unfortunately, Mary Lindley Murray passed away in 1782 (the year prior to the passing of the Treaty of Paris, but as you see in the plaque below, she credited as being a true Patriot that helped the Americans win the war (this plaque is located on Park Avenue at 37th Street).

2) Do you HEART electricity and light bulbs?

Did you know that without the people of Murray Hill, there would be no electricity and electric light bulbs? Here’s the story…

Banker JP Morgan was inventor Thomas Edison’s biggest financial investor, and they both wanted to bring the technological innovation of electricity to the world.  JP Morgan lived in Murray Hill, and his home (see pic below) served as a lab for Edison’s experiments.  His home was the first in the world to be outfitted with electricity and had at least 400+ electric light bulbs, and the house even had its own generator.  Before that, people actually used to light candles to see at night. The home had to be lit with candles, which was very dangerous and caused many fires and deaths.  Murray Hill served as the world’s window to the future, as Morgan invited many to his home to see the marvel of the electric light for the first time.  And, you are probably reading this article right now with some electric light bulb shinny somewhere near you.

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3) Do you HEART Christmas & holiday lights?

Did you know that without the people of Murray Hill, there would be no electric Christmas lights? Here’s the story…

One of the experiments that came out of Thomas Edison’s lab was electric Christmas lights. Before that, people actually used to light candles and put them on Christmas trees (see pic below). That all changed when Edward H. Johnson, Vice President of the Edison Electric Light Company, was the first in the world to display his Christmas tree, which was hand-wired with 80 red, white and blue electric incandescent light bulbs the size of walnuts, on December 22, 1882 at his home in Murray Hill (since Murray Hill was also the first section of New York City to be wired for electricity). Come each year’s holiday season when everyone enjoys the electric Christmas lights, we can remember to thank the residents of Murray Hill.

Now, do you still need even more reasons to not HEART Murray Hill?  I don’t think so.

So, as you see, if it was not for the amazing people of Murray Hill, the world might not have America, electricity, light bulbs, and even electric Christmas lights.  Of course, some of our Murray Hill residents are frequently drunk at the bars and recently out-of-college, and others that work at the are South Asian restaurants and spice shops on Lexington Avenue.  But as you see with my stories, there is a lot more to the diversity and history of the residents of Murray Hill.  Some are historically famous like Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, Ayn Rand, and even Andy Warhol, and others are diplomats who serve at the nearby United Nations or at their country’s New York City consulate.

As you see below, I love living in Murray Hill so much that I do things like:

1) Planting flowers on Park Avenue.

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For the past couple years I've been honored to serve as Co-Chairman of Patrons of Park Avenue (POPA) as a Trustee of @murrayhillnyc. #POPA supports the care, maintenance and planting of the trees, plants, and flowers of #ParkAvenue in the #MurrayHill neighborhood of New York City. NYC is amazing and abundant in so many ways, but we can all agree that our concrete jungle lacks in greenery and nature – especially in trees, plants, and flowers. And with 8.6 million human beings living in NYC, we need all the nature we can get. #POPA is the doctor, surgeon, stylist, interior decorator, and pharmacist for the beautiful malls on Park Avenue. NYC also needs all those trees, plants and flowers to keep NYC looking it's best, which supports all the residents and tourists visiting the city. But, most people don't realize that the City of NYC doesn't have a budget to support the extra care and maintenance that trees, plants, and flowers really need. That's where John Chadwick, Chairman, and Irma Worell Fisher, Founder, Urban Arborists, and all the sponsors have done amazing work with POPA for the past 34 years. It didn't always look this way, and took a team effort. Next time you walk down Park Avenue between 34th and 39th Street, take a moment to experience the beauty and recognize all the hard work it takes to constantly make it shine. http://patronsofparkavenue.org

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2) Put up and take down the Christmas lights on Park Avenue.

3) Clean-up the trash and mulch the trees.

So, for anyone that is reading this that lives in Murray Hill, I encourage you to not ever be embarrassed by the haters and be loud and proud of where you live.  On top of that, if you are as passionate as me, get involved in doing great things for the neighborhood to make Murray Hill an even better place to be.

For everyone else reading this, I hope I inspired you to know something you didn’t previously know about what I consider an amazing place to live, work, and enjoy.

10 Years Ago Today, the Global Economy Crashed!

Today is the 10 year anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy (the largest bankruptcy in the history of bankruptcies), which triggered the crash of the global economy!

I remember thinking that today that we might soon be living in a world of anarchy and chaos, marking the end of civilization as we knew it. It was a very scary moment, but it’s good that it didn’t happen. And because of that, I’m able to share with you some of my most memorable moments working as an investment banking analyst at Lehman Brothers, including:
* Sneaking into Stanford University and scoring a job at Lehman Brothers
* How Lehman Brothers’ conservative dress code and culture sparked my creativity and interest in entrepreneurship and fashion
* Smuggling beer in duffel bags and organizing secret weekly happy hours inside of Lehman Brothers
* Why I left Lehman Brothers 80 days before it went bankrupt

Even though Lehman Brothers is gone forever, I will always still remember the simple life lesson as to why this all happened. Banks like Lehman Brothers failed to follow the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Banks did not treat their customers or their investors the way that they would have wanted to be treated.

What happened was in the years prior to Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, banks found new ways of increasing revenues by lowering their loan qualification standards for homeowners by creating “subprime loans,” and marketing these loans to lower income and riskier “unsophisticated borrowers”. Because of this, previously unqualified people become now became qualified borrowers, and these borrowers used their loans to buy homes they really could not afford in the long run (“subprime loans”). Banks knew it was a long-term risk for these people to take on that debt but still sold it to them because of the short-term revenue they generated for each mortgage they sold. Because of this increased demand from new home buyers, home prices became artificially increased, which then made even more homeowners feel more wealthy, and gave even more people the confidence to borrow more money against the inflated value of their homes (which created even more debt in the form of “home equity loans”). As this was happening on a mass scale across the U.S., banks like Lehman Brothers were compiling, bundling, marketing, and selling these loans (called “mortgaged-back securities”) to investors who wanted a piece of this booming real estate market, and banks like Lehman Brothers were generating even more revenue by selling these securities to investors. This was happening for years, and bank profits were going up and up as the market kept booming, until this booming real estate bubble came to an epic, apocalyptic bust with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

The bankruptcy triggered an intense fear that the failure of Lehman Brothers would cause other major banks to fall like a stack of dominos in a major seismic wave, which would completely collapse the financial and economic world as we knew it. I did not work in the real estate division at Lehman Brothers, as there are hundreds of different divisions within a global investment bank, but it was because of the decisions made by this part of the firm that ended up destroying the company and the world’s economy.

And yes, this could have all been avoided.

Borrowers, homeowners, and investors should have all been treated the same way the banks should have wanted to be treated. When the banks didn’t don’t do that, and they were taking short-term value without properly giving long-term value, the world eventually corrected itself. And in this case, it was an extremely dramatic and cataclysmic correction. In business, it’s difficult to refuse new ways of generating revenue, and it is always important to do new things to stay ahead of the competition. But at the same time, it’s vital to always analyze how that new shorter-term business opportunity stacks up against its longer-term societal impact.

Lehman Brothers was a global prestigious investment bank that had been in business for over 150 years, and avoiding events likes these in the future should not be complicated. All we have to do is treat others the way we would want to be treated. Even though it was 10 years ago, the lesson of the collapse of Lehman Brothers is still extremely timely and relevant to the consequences of what may happen when we don’t follow the golden rule.

The Doorman Said “No”, So I Said “Hello”!

I love parties.  In high school, I created house parties in the basement of my house (since we were underage, there were only a limited amount of places high school kids can hang out).

The basement of my house with high school friends. 

Then in college, I became a Brother in Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at Indiana University where I learned how to create parties on a much larger scale and even collaborate with other organizations and sorority houses.  Also, since there were hundreds of house parties taking place on campus each week, there was a lot of inspiration to boost our creativity.

Our most creative party was called Arabian Nights (aka “Barbary”), which included a) turning our entire fraternity house into a Middle East palace filled with sand, camels, and running water fountains and b) getting the entire campus excited about the party by delivering exclusive invitations to the party by one of our pledges riding on a camel and wearing a sultan’s robe.

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Facade of my fraternity house, Phi Kappa Psi at Indiana Universtiy, during the Arabian Nights Dance. 

To me, the best parties consist of celebrating with people you know and welcoming those that are mutually connected.  But when I moved to New York City, I noticed that parties were generally filled with people that did not know each other or were connected in any significant way, and everyone was not always welcome. In high school and in college, I had very little money, but I still knew how to make it a great time. But in New York City, I discovered nightlife is much more than just fun parties with friends, it is about the money.

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Am I the LinkedIn Lover?

I love LinkedIn.  I lots of LinkedIn connections, and my LinkedIn profile is extremely open and revealing.  My connections consist of people that I have long-term, meaningful relationships with, and others that are more short-term and random.  Further, my most intimate and personal life stories are also fully exposed on LinkedIn and my personal blog for anyone to read and engage with.

So, am I the LinkedIn Lover?

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New York City Initially Rejected Us, but then Eagerly Requested Us

As we developed relationships with the visual creative teams of the world’s fashion brands, we learned more about what it takes behind-the-scenes to create the world’s fashion window displays.  We wanted to share those stories with the world through a guided tour of the window displays in New York City.  After starting WindowsWear in 2012, we decided to launch a Fashion Window Walking Tour shortly after in 2013.  Our tour currently has a 5-star TripAdvisor rating and has been taken by tens of thousands of people from around the world.  But as you read below, our tour had to overcome its biggest challenge, which was being initially rejected by New York City.

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My Most Cherished Chabad Experiences

Chabad has been a part of my life before birth. You see, when my parents immigrated to America from Israel in the late 1970’s, they were familiar with Chabad’s international efforts. Knowing that when they build a new life for themselves in America, they could find a local Chabad House to connect to the Jewish community and meet other Jewish people in America.

Like many immigrants, my parents arrived in America with a dream for a better life, where they can give back and reach their fullest potentials. My parents wanted their children to have a better life, and at times, that meant sacrificing themselves, to give me and my sister a better life.

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