It’s been a long, long time

Hello Blog World,

I realized I haven’t posted in about a year. It’s been a busy one. I’ve been in Oxford, working on my MBA at the University of Oxford and that is now nearly finished. It has been an exhilarating and amazing experience every single day to live in this beautiful city. One reason that I haven’t written much here is that I have been blogging about my experiences on a regular basis at the Financial Times.

On a professional front, I’m proud to report that Skillbridge was sold to TopTal in April. It was a great experience to grow a company from almost nothing into something much bigger. And I was able to work with super talented people along the way. I’m gonna miss that.

My other big announcement is that a film that I have worked on for over 5 years has now come to fruition. Catch AMANDA KNOX on Netflix as a Netflix Original starting September 30. And if you’re in Toronto earlier in September, come check it out at the Toronto Film Festival where it will be premiering. It is so gratifying when hard work pays off.

I’m also happy to report that my passion for healthy living is still in order. I was lucky enough to have the Green Templeton College gym in my backyard this year, eliminating my need for ClassPass. I feel as good as I ever have.

As much as this is a time of endings for me (Oxford, Skillbridge, Amanda Knox), I am excited about many new beginnings. I don’t know where the world will take me next, but I’ll be sure to update you as soon as I find out.

Talk soon,

Stephen

 

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Your body is stronger than you think: Notes after two months on ClassPass.

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I am not a “gym guy.” Other than a very brief stint on an elliptical machine as a sophomore in college, and a second brief stint on a stairclimber at Crunch Fitness in LA in 2008 (conveniently located across the street from my place of residence), I haven’t been to a gym in years. I have always preferred outdoor sports – cycling, flag football, hiking, and tennis. Part of this is because I’m an unabashed germaphobe, and I feared what microorganisms were waiting for me in various locker-rooms and workout machines.

I have never been able to motivate myself to work out regularly: I had a small belly that for years I couldn’t get rid of. Eating and drinking right is — or was — easier for me than partaking in fitness regimens.

During the summer of 2014 I heard about ClassPass from my friend Anastasia Leng. I was intrigued by ClassPass’s value proposition, but I didn’t immediately join: I figured that with so many weekends away in the summer, it wouldn’t be worth it.

However, at the start of Labor Day Weekend, on my 29th birthday, I had a mild existential crisis and thought it would probably be better if I lived to 100 instead of 75. So I joined ClassPass. I decided to plunk down $99 per month to go to dozens of gyms (3x maximum each per month). Yes, this sounds expensive at first, but for me, it was a lifesaver.

What do I love ClassPass? It is perfect for Millennials — especially Millennials with ADHD. There is no commitment to one gym, and every day is different. Sure, some classes I love more than others, but all have value in improving the body.

And I’ve realized: The locker-rooms and machines at 90% of the gyms I have attended are sufficiently well-cleaned so my germaphobia was misguided!

Here are some of my favorite ClassPass classes:

1. BCL Fitness (Prospect Park and Central Park) – Melissa Carter is a lovely person and inspirational teacher. This is a simple boot camp held in Prospect Park or Central Park. You are drenched with sweat after it is over, and it feels so good.

2. Swerve Fitness (at 18th and 5th in Manhattan): I love that this is a cycling class with built-in sprints and competitions. I have become (psychotically?) competitive  – I scored an 809 here recently and was #1 in class. Halston is my favorite instructor here, but the others are equally inspiring. I also love that Swerve emails you your scores 15 minutes after class ends, making great use of data.

3. BFX (at 17th and 6th in Manhattan) – From boxing classes to cycling, this (new!) gym is great. Helpful instructors all around.

4. AQUA Studio NY (78 Franklin St – Tribeca) – This is cycling (spinning) in a pool. Yes, the concept is a bit crazy, but it is an intense workout, but it works wonders after a stressful day/week at work.  Anne K. is my favorite instructor as she doesn’t stop pushing you to your limits.

5. FlyWheel (Multiple locations) – Ah, FlyWheel, the redheaded stepchild of SoulCycle. The teachers here (I have had many) are all special and do such an amazing job of motivating you. One small problem: Waiting in line for the showers after class. Oy!

After two months, I have noticed significant changes in my body: My stomach is flat, my legs feel lighter, my hair looks thicker, my disposition is cheerier,  and either I now have delusions of grandeur or I really feel like I can conquer the world. Despite the unending stress of startup life, I am dealing with it far better than I did previously.

There have been a couple of classes that I haven’t enjoyed as much as the ones mentioned above, but it has probably been a mixture of my personal preferences (e.g. lack of showers or difficult to get to) that have led my to these conclusions. I was excited to learn that ClassPass raised $12 million a few weeks ago and will therefore be around for a while. Give it a shot. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Raj De Datta Is Wrong: You are not “wasting” your 20s at Google or McKinsey. Here’s why:

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This morning, when I logged into LinkedIn, I saw an article titled “Don’t Waste Your 20s at Google or McKinsey.” And I disagree with it completely.

The article’s author Raj De Datta writes, “Going to work at a start-up or growth company in your 20s will put you on the fast-lane learning curve. It will be the best investment you can make because you’ll find yourself.” Your 20s, are, of course, a period of 10 years. I am now 28 years old, and have spent approximately half of my time thus far working for others, and the other half working for myself. While I may be happier overall when pursuing entrepreneurial activities, I am very thankful for the many learning experiences I had at big companies.

The article’s author, Raj De Datta has worked at a couple of larger firms, Cisco in the tech space, and at the investment bank Lazard. Perhaps he chose not to learn while working there, or he didn’t want to advance up the corporate ladders of those institutions.

I am more and more dismayed when I see wantrapreneurs striking out with poorly thought out ideas, wasting their parents hard-earned money, or having zero idea how to run a business because they have never worked at a successful one.

I am quite thankful for the time I spent at William Morris Endeavor (only Endeavor when I worked there), Mother Jones magazine (a large non-profit, technically), Seamless.com (now merged with GrubHub), and Quirky.com — all far larger companies than SkillBridge is today. At larger companies you learn to deal with people: Sure, not every person will be the best. But it is your job to learn to work with them, come hell or high water — so that you, your team, and the larger company can succeed. These experiences have certainly benefited me as an entrepreneur: My customer service skills are now superb because of my experiences dealing with colleagues and customers over the years.

As for De Datta’s argument that Google or McKinsey aren’t ideal places to work, that is complete and utter nonsense. My most intelligent friends from the University of Pennsylvania and other fine institutions started their careers at Google, McKinsey, or other large tech or consulting firms. Some of them are still there — and those who stuck around seem quite happy. For example, my good friend Josh Steinberg heads professional services for Google in Tokyo, his dream city, and has traveled all around the world, on Google’s dime. My other good friend Anastasia Leng founded Hatch.co after working at Google for five years. Neither of them would change a thing about their 20s. They were able to pay off their student loans, travel, and live excellent lives that will prepare them well for the future.

It is no secret that at SkillBridge, we recruit individuals to become our consultants who have at least three years experience working at large, name brand corporations. This is not an accident: We know that Google, McKinsey, and other top-tier firms have vetted their candidates well. We know that it is challenging to work at these places and that Google and McKinsey employees solve real-world problems every single day. Therefore, we know that Google, McKinsey, Bain, and BCG produce the cream of the crop. Why wouldn’t we want these top-notch people to work for us at SkillBridge?

Plus, not everyone is an entrepreneur; Not everyone wants the stress of starting a new company. And not everyone can afford to take the risk to work without payment for a long time, as many entrepreneurs do. Many people would rather spend time with their kids or spouse rather than working at a startup.

More than 90% of startups fail, despite what some Millennial-focused publications may have you believe. There is nothing wrong with wanting the stability, benefits, and perks that come with working at a large corporation. If you have to pay back student loans, few more sensible options exist.

There are dozens of valid reasons why someone would want to work at Google, McKinsey, or another top firm. Heck, many people treat a stint at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG as a free ride to graduate school in which you are being paid to work. The training that you will get at these firms is incomaparable, and can lead to life-long benefits — being able to bill out at $150 or more per hour at SkillBridge being just one of them.

So, to Raj De Datta — who may have just written that article as a recruiting tool for his startup: Stop spreading your gospel, as it is inherently false. And to everyone who did work at a large corporation in your 20s, I don’t need to tell you this, but you made a smart choice.

The Reason Why Silicon Valley Can’t Find Europe… Because Europe Doesn’t Deserve To Be Found.

I got 79 languages and startups ain't one...
I got 79 languages and startups ain’t one…

I recently read Sten Tamkivi’s post on TechCrunch that states some reasons why Americans, in Silicon Valley specifically, should be investing in European startups. Tamkivi’s post was echoed by similar sentiments in a post by Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson. While there are here are 5 major tech hubs in the US (SF, NYC, Boston, LA, Austin) and a similar number in Europe (Berlin, London, Paris, Stockholm, and Helsinki/Tallinn), I do not equate these groups with each other, for reasons I will outline below. And while I admire both Tamkivi and Wilson, they are both wrong in this instance.

Here’s why:

1. Europeans Don’t Want To Put In The Work: In general, and I know this is a stereotype based on my time living in Denmark, Amsterdam, and London, Europeans are just not as hungry for success as Americans. In America, we are often ostracized by Europeans for not having a positive work-life balance. Well, any entrepreneur will tell you, that it’s really difficult to build a company when you’re only working for 7.5 hours per day. (I won’t take low blows on Greece and Spain here, as in America, we have Kentucky and West Virginia to grapple with…) That said, Germans do have a tendency to work hard, as do the Brits (due to the Protestant work ethic I learned about in high school).

2. In Europe, There Is Too Much Regulation: In Europe, everything is slow. Blame the bureaucracy. Blame the welfare state. Blame the aforementioned work ethic, but I found that it took months to do things that would be done in America in days. It’s so simple to hop on a web site and start a Delaware Corporation. (I know, lawyers are still better when starting a business, but it really is easy to do on your own.) Even when you look at the whole micro-entrepreneur food truck boom in America, it happened very quickly. In Europe, there are more food regulations than you can possibly imagine (though the food is certainly tasty over there). Europe’s more complex regulatory system, given how varied countries in the EU are, might be what tears that union apart.

3. Language: In Amurrrrica, we generally speak one language. English. It’s simple. You call your developer in San Francisco and he speaks the same tongue as your sales guy in New York and your CEO in Austin. In Europe, there are so many languages spoken that to attract a substantial and scalable user base for your product, you would have to have it translated into many different tongues.

4. Europeans Stay In School Forever: How many times have you met an Italian dude who’s working on his 3rd Masters Degree at La Sapienza in Rome and still lives with his parents even though he’s 37? Or a Danish guy who is doing his Post-Doctoral research despite being 42 years old? In America, we are surely educated, but in Europe, people are over-educated. I have attended both public and private universities in America, as well as public and private universities in Europe: In America, everything moves more quickly. You have more hours of class per week, and you learn a heckuva lot more. In Europe, how are people going to be starting companies when they finally finish school but also have a family to support? That’s why there are fewer European Mark Zuckerbergs or Evan Spiegels.

5. Security And Privacy: Tamkivi writes that “security and privacy” are great reasons to start companies in Europe. Find me an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to collect people’s data. Data = dollars. Harsh personal privacy laws, while good for consumers, mean less money for most entrepreneurs. There goes the incentive to start a business.

6. “400 Million Customers,” But Many Don’t Spend: Europeans are far more frugal than Americans. In America, we love junk. We love the latest and the greatest. We love to fill our closets with 85 pairs of the latest wears. In Europe, people buy things once, spend decent money on their purchases, and then don’t buy them again for years. Personally, I really like this about Europeans, but if I were a European entrepreneur, it would make me wary. Yes, they may have invented Hermes and Ferraris, but how many Europeans can really afford to buy a Hermes bag and a Ferrari?

7. Europe Is Old: Europe is the oldest continent ever. Medicine and technological breakthroughs will keep these folks living until they’re close to 100. Of those “400 million” consumers, most of them aren’t ideal customers. It’s too bad the healthcare sector is publicly funded in most European societies, as in this area I see room for innovation.

8. Global Skills = Nonsense: Yes, I agree that Europeans travel more frequently than Americans and are thus exposed to different ideas. However, some Americans (like, ahem, me) have traveled frequently and can also be exposed to these ideas. To think that Europeans have better soft skills than those from other places is nonsense. Yes, foreign exchange programs like Erasmus have become ubiquitous in Europe, and this is amazing, but Americans are also now studying abroad at higher rates than ever before. While Americans should surely learn more languages than just English, English has become the de facto business and consumer language of the world.

9. Grants: When you compare how films are funded in America vs. how films are funded in Europe, they are very different from one another. European countries have film commissions that deliver grants to filmmakers. Filmmakers apply for the grants and then wait months or years to learn whether they have been selected. In America, films are made by means of capitalism and Kickstarter: You hustle your brains off or you don’t get your film made. (Kickstarter, however, may further democratize European film production.) That said, my friends Torsten Mueller and Frederik Fischer received money for their startup Tame.it from “the German Ministry of Technology and Economics, the business development and promotion bank of the Federal Land Berlin and from a successful Crowdinvesting campaign on Companisto.de.” In America, our government may give money to occasional startups in the energy/defense sectors, but they sure as heck ain’t giving it to a Twitter context search engine. Plus, Americans are way more likely to use our disposable income for crowdfunding. (That said, in America, we still have nonsense laws that prevent the common man from crowdfunding in exchange for equity, which they have eliminated in Europe.)

In Europe, there’s a higher expectation that the government and regulation will solve problems. Perhaps it’s the inner-Ayn Rand libertarian in many Americans, but we have greater faith in the private sector than in the public sector. In Europe, there is also a more incremental, rather than disruptive, approach to progress. That said, don’t forget that the Dark Ages lasted for nearly 1,000 years.

This isn’t meant to knock European companies. I have many European startup founder friends, and I admire the work they do. I am also a fan of European companies like Skype and Spotify. That said, these companies had to come to America to truly make it.

I don’t think the future of Silicon Valley investors is across the pond. Tamkivi writes, “Yes, stuff is happening in Boston and New York, but not so much that a once-a-month trip can’t cover most of it.” Quite frankly, this is an idiotic statement, as New York specifically has seen its technology sector grow rapidly during the past few years. (I’m surprised that Mr. NYC VC Fred Wilson didn’t call Tamkivi out on this falsehood.) So yes, while Europe is certainly the place to go for wind energy startups (Denmark), architecture firms (the Netherlands), and a whole host of random startups from London to Sweden to Finland to Berlin, my bet is still on America.

How to Quit Your Job and Live the Dream

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Reinvention is one of America’s most overused terms.

But reinvention defines some of the best things that have come out of America in the past decade. Yes, celebrities have reinvented themselves: Betty White, Jon Stewart, and Ellen DeGeneres, to name a few. But the rest of us, plebeians, also have the ability to reinvent ourselves, and it has never been so easy.

The most inspirational and functional guide for personal reinvention is certainly James Altschuler’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself that he published in Tech Crunch in October. His words are inspiring and the message is clear: A lot of hard work combined with laser focus and you can become one of the best in whatever your chosen field is.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the burden of tech, as it seems like America truly has start-up fever. When even our prisons are hosting start-up accelerators — and this isn’t to say that prisons aren’t strong markets themselves for start-ups — we either are in the midst of a very serious start-up bubble, or are enabling anyone to live the American dream (or some mix of the two.)

But what if you didn’t want to create a tech start-up? What if you wanted to get your hands dirty in something like product manufacturing? What does that really take?

My friend Michael Paratore quit his job at a law firm to become, in his words, a “peddler.” Yes, being a peddler doesn’t sound as lucrative as legal work, but Michael wanted to seize his opportunity that came when he accompanied his wife Michelle on a trip to India.

Paratore once found himself wandering around Bombay’s backstreets. It was there that he met a shoe peddler who would change his life. Michael discovered what he describes as the world’s most comfortable shoes, and he decided that he should manufacture and sell them in America — and around the world.

And now, one year after his journey began, Michael’s dream has come true.

His Mohinder’s Kickstarter launched, and I happily bought a pair for $50, knowing that they’ll probably the first ethically made pair of footwear I’ve ever owned. Mohinder’s will also likely help the Indian village cooperative comprised of second and third generation shoe-making artisans who manufacture his products. (The cooperative was set up by an Indian NGO that uses a micro-credit style model to ensure artisans are paid fairly and can “break the cycle of poverty” while helping the artisans build valuable business and entrepreneurial skills.)

Whether you need a few hundred grand to create the “first open sensor for health and fitness” on IndieGoGo, or $34,000 to create a funky and eco-friendly YogoMat (I’m still waiting for mine because of production problems), the internet democracy has enabled entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves. I don’t know if the guy who invented the open sensor was a garbage man, a science teacher, or had a PhD in physics before he launched his crowdfunding campaign. I don’t know if the guy who invented the YogoMat has ever done yoga in his life! C’est la vie. I, and millions of others, are helping people to reinvent themselves every single day.

We should all feel lucky that we live in a society where reinvention is completely acceptable. A hundred years ago, you wouldn’t find many people — unless they had just committed some sort of heinous crime — attempting to reinvent themselves. Now, it’s as easy as putting in some hard work and putting up your wares on a crowdfunding site.

If there’s an interest, then, BAM! You’re in business.

29 Things I Learned in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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As anyone who’s been following me on Twitter or is a Facebook friend knows, I’ve been quite obsessive in trying to coordinate relief efforts post-Sandy. I’ve now been to many of the most affected areas of New York, and I know that recovery will take years. In this list, I mix the funny with the serious, hoping that we can laugh and learn.

1. New York State Troopers need a fashion makeover, ASAP.

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2. LIPA is the worst power company on the face of planet earth!

3. Hurricanes don’t discriminate between rich and poor.

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4. There is no shortage of bottled water donations to Sandy victims.

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5. Your and you’re will always be difficult … (especially when trying to stop potential looters!)

6. People have shotguns on my sister’s street, and are ready to defend themselves.

7. People who helped others for many years can find themselves in need.

8. People keep a boatload of junk in their basements.

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9. A petition can be an extremely effective tool for change and media will take note! (Heck yes, we stopped the marathon!)

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10. Minimalism should always be in vogue, because nobody needs so much stuff.

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11. Some people will profit from disasters, but it’s okay, because it’s necessary.

12. Don’t take your favorite local brewery for granted! (We’ll get you back on your feet, Barrier.)

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13. When there is no power, communication goes old school. (I spent time distributing flyers around Long Island with the latest information, and at times, when there was no paper, people even had to act, essentially, as town criers.)

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14. You sometimes need to turn into a press conference into an angry rally to get stuff done. (And for this, I am proud of the citizens of Oceanside, my home town.)

15. People are generally good except for the 0.1% who are absolute scumbags. (People have become known as “regulars” at donation sites, as they’re clearly hoarders who are stocking up based on the goodwill of others.)

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16. If politicians try to place sole blame for the lack of response post-disaster on a power company, they should be booted from office in their next election (or sooner!).

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17. You don’t feel the pain when you’re not in an affected area. (When I’ve been at work in Manhattan, I would never know that 10 miles away there are people who are desperate.)

18. Nor’Easters suck, and so does that mid-word apostraphe.

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19. Rebuilding should be strong and take advantage of technology.

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20. We need oysters to protect us from the next big storm.

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21. Hopefully evacuation orders will be taken seriously in future storms.

22. Zipping around Manhattan on a bicycle out of necessity isn’t as scary as it would seem.

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23. There are so many individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty, who will never get the recognition that they deserve. (The folks who take care of my grandma, for one.)

24. Suburban areas that are incorporated as villages or cities face an easier time recovering from the storm because they have government and emergency officials on staff. (My hometown, Oceanside, only has a volunteer fire department, a school board, and a library to absorb all of the administrative efforts associated with what will surely be a long relief process.)

25. Tragedies do ignite a strong sense of community that would not exist otherwise.

26. The Occupy Movement has been able to re-brand itself as a force for tangible social good with Occupy Sandy.

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27. Don’t go swimming around here for a while.

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28. Lydia Callis, NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s interpreter, deserves a Tony Award.

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29. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is here to help (even though their name is un-PC).

Dear Mayor Bloomberg: Let New Yorkers Drink Beer in Public Parks

I roll my eyes every time someone says that New York is the greatest place on earth.

The inhabitants of the greatest places on earth have freedom. The people of New York, well, we have civil liberties that are in line with the plutocracy in which we live.

I spent 2009 through early 2012 living primarily in a collection of places that should be noted for their strong offering of individuals freedoms. One needn’t flex the imagination too hard to extol the virtues of life in San Francisco, where it seems like 99% of all legislation is progressive. From marijuana decriminalization to recycling programs to living wages, San Francisco knows what’s good for citizens in a supposedly enlightened democracy.

(That said, 82 San Francisco bus drivers made more than $100,000 per year during the depths of the recession, which, is not only absurd from the standpoint of a recovering English major who will never rake in such sums, but also a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.)

And I spent a good chunk of the past three years in Denmark, Amsterdam, and the UK, where, with all of their cradle-to-grave protections, one can, at the very least, enjoy the simple pleasure of sipping a beer in a public park with friends, oftentimes paired with a BBQ.

Adults living in a free society should have the inalienable right of beverage choice in public parks. However, in New York, this is not the case. I learned this the hard way on Memorial Day weekend in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, because, while attending friends’ anniversary party, I had the misfortune of being seated beside two completely EMPTY beer bottles when a trio of cops decided to write summonses for having “alcohol in the park” to three of the six of us present. (My anger only heightened when I discovered that being cited in the park isn’t the worst of it, because under New York City’s draconian laws, you can’t even drink a beer on your own stoop.)

Not one to pay a $25 fine for an offense that I didn’t commit, I went to court and fought the ticket. It wasn’t the money that was the problem, it was that I was erroneously issued a summons by one of “New York’s Finest” (I’ll let him save face here by not revealing his name) for a crime that never happened. That said, my summons was issued at the end of the month, and as a shocking episode of “This American Life” revealed, NYPD officers have quotas to fill (even though they usually deny this), and I was more than likely just a victim of the system.

And while this alcohol policy is set by the city, it’s not the city government, nor the taxpayers, who are paying for the majority of upkeep, maintenance, and other critical day-to-day administration of city parks. Rather, it is such groups like the Central Park Conservancy and Prospect Park Alliance that provide the funds to make New York’s parks awesome. The latter pays 2/3 of the park’s $12 million annual budget. That said, these organizations don’t set policy, so their leaders should pressure the municipal government to change these Kafkaesque laws.

Going to court to fight my “alcohol in park” case opened my eyes to an even more shocking problem in the New York City parks: Thousands of ordinary people are charged with being in the park after dark, because New York City parks can close anywhere from dusk until 1 a.m.

During the 90 minutes that I waited to plead my case (which, for the record, I won in about 23 seconds, with the summons being dismissed and the case being sealed), I heard a few dozen other people defend themselves in front of the judge at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. By far, the most common accusation was for being in parks after dark.

Nobody wants junkies or other nefarious people residing in our parks during off hours, but until the NYPD solved every murder, rape, and robbery, all the way down to the misdemeanor level, enforcement of “park after dark” laws should be the NYPD’s lowest priority (even though a female college student has even been arrested and sent to jail for 36 hours for this crime).

It’s necessary to make a clear distinction between being in a park after dark and subway-jumping — petty crime crackdowns that Malcolm Gladwell famously discussed in his first pop sociology staple, The Tipping Point. In Gladwell’s book, he demonstrates that, according to “Broken Windows Theory,” it is important to reduce petty crimes because the same individuals who don’t pay for the subway are likely to be the same folks who are offenders in more serious cases.

However, the vast majority of the people I witnessed defending themselves seemed to have entered these parks after dark by accident. 

Taking a late night jog to let off some steam after a long day at work? Think again! Going for an after dinner stroll with friends to burn off some chocolate cheesecake? Not so fast. Don’t read English well? You’re SOL.

Tara Kiernan, in the Public Affairs department of New York City Parks, said her department did not keep statistics about the number of offenses committed in parks. She wrote in an e-mail, “Closing times vary by parks but generally parks are open 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. unless otherwise stated on parks signage – rule on our website http://www.nycgovparks.org/rules/section-1-03.”

However, the problem is that New York’s 1,700 parks have wildly stagnating closing times. Some close at dusk. Others close at 10 p.m. There seems to be little logic behind the variation in closing times. And from poking around parks to research this piece, I can say with certainty that many park entrances are not clearly marked, making entering a park after hours incredibly easy.

For the past month, the NYPD has adamantly refused, despite 10 phone calls and four e-mails, to provide me with city-wide data and statistics about the number of “alcohol in parks” and “in parks after dark” violations from recent years. One can infer from what I witnessed at a single court in Red Hook that many thousands of New Yorkers and visitors are affected by this nonsense each year.

So what can New Yorkers do to stop this nonsense?

Step 1: Petition your New York City Council members and the Bloomberg administration to change the silly no alcohol in parks rule so that it is no longer a petty offense to drink alcohol in parks. (If this fails, I imagine that an Occupy Prospect Park Protest, with thousands of New Yorkers linking arms, each clasping beers between them, will be necessary.)

Step 2: Require that the Parks Department post clear signage, in multiple languages, at every possible park entrance. And make it such that it is only an offense to be in a park after dark if you are engaging in some other activity other than merely walking, running, or sitting.

Step 3: Require that the NYPD reveal statistics that show just how many citations are issued for petty park related offenses, as this will reveal how many resources are dedicated to this. (The $25 summons that I had dismissed cost the city way more than that in terms of the amount of time and energy that a judge, clerks, police officer, legal aid lawyer, and administrator had to spend dealing with my case.)

Step 4: Once the laws are changed, enjoy your beer in the park at a time when it is open, and save me one if you can. (I prefer Hogaarden or Guinness.) Thanks.