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Tag Archives: New York

Covid-19 has struck New York and the worlds most dynamic city has become something strange and unsettling

It is a miracle that New York works at all, EB White once wrote. The whole thing is implausible.

Every New Yorker instinctively understands the truth of that observation. The citys infrastructure is a disaster; its apartments are famously tiny; everything is overpriced; there are too many people in too small a space; and the whole city will one day have to reckon with the ravages of an encroaching sea.


Wall Street
  • Top: A construction worker in the financial district of New York City. Bottom left: New York stock exchange. Bottom right: A commuter talks on the phone while walking through the Fulton Street metro station.

Yet New York has grown from a tiny New World trading post to a muscular global metropolis whose very name evokes dynamism and fierce, unruly vitality. It has survived booms, busts, world wars, the threat of cold war nuclear annihilation, 9/11, gentrification and more, and thrived. The city swallows people of every nation and language and spits out New Yorkers; it generates vast fortunes; and it is responsible for a dazzling expression of art, literature, music and intellectual life. By comparison many other world capitals feel like sleepy museum exhibitions.



  • Top: Grand Central Station at 3pm in Manhattan, New York. Bottom: A doorman in New York City.

Now, however, this city of eight million people has met its match: a deadly virus, invisible to the human eye and ruthlessly efficient. Covid-19 has stretched New Yorks health infrastructure to breaking point. Every day cases, and deaths, mount. A military hospital ship is docked, imposingly, in New York harbor. There are field hospitals in Central Park. Millions of New Yorkers have shut themselves into their homes.

This is a city under quarantine. No longer were there individual destinies, Albert Camus writes in The Plague: Only a collective destiny, made of plague and emotions shared by all.

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  • Top left: An EMT at Bellevue hospital center in Manhattan. Top right: A member of the press takes video of the temporary morgue at Bellevue hospital. Bottom left: Creative face masks in midtown. Bottom right: Used vinyl gloves and a dead pigeon on the streets of Manhattan.

The photographer Jordan Gale ventured out to capture this strange new world.

In Woody Allens film Manhattan, the narrator found it impossible to look at the city without feeling that it pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin the jazzy, life-affirming exuberance of Rhapsody in Blue. Yet New York, now, is eerily quiet.

Any noise you hear is startling, Gale said. He was walking down a street in SoHo when he realized that the only sound was a clip on his camera bag, clacking as he walked.



  • Top left: Empty streets outside Central Park. Top right: Empty park seats at Bryant Park in Manhattan. Bottom: The Brooklyn Bridge deserted at 4pm.

The city is a vacant lot, he said. Roads are empty. Sidewalks are empty. Stores are boarded up. The owners clearly believe looting could start any minute.

In residential areas occasional people can still be seen in the street; they are making expeditions to the grocery store or bodega or taking the daily walks which increasingly feel like a minimum mental health requirement. The commercial areas of New York, on the other hand, are ghost towns.




  • Top: A lone person along the streets in the Bronx. Middle: Gloves and surgical masks line the curb outside a Covid-19 testing facility at the Brooklyn medical center. Bottom: An empty subway car.

Times Square, a crowded intersection most New Yorkers gladly cede to tourists, has been abandoned by both. You can take a photo down 42nd Street and theres not a single person, a single car, Gale said. The only people you see are other photographers.

The more iconic the landmark, the more empty and unsettling. Grand Central Station looks like a tomb, he said.

Its eerie. To take a photo of Grand Central like that, normally, youd need some kind of special clearance youd need to shut down the whole place.

details in queens


  • Top left: A bench outside an apartment complex in Queens. Top right: A flower arrangement in a window at the same complex in Queens. Bottom: Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.

Many parts of the city, he noted, look cleaner than they have been in years, thanks to diligent scrubbing and disinfecting. The ground, however, is littered with blue vinyl gloves and broken surgical masks.

When New Yorkers come out to scout for provisions their faces are concealed with whatever they can find surgical masks; scarves; painters masks; bandannas draped across their faces like outlaws in the old west. As they pass in the street, they keep a wary distance; if they acknowledge each other it is with terse, silent nods.

the bronx
  • Left: A customer leaves Family Dollar in the Bronx. Right: Empty shelves at the Family Dollar.

When people do talk, all conversations in some way concern the coronavirus. The rest of America tends to regard New Yorkers as liberal, unflappable, even heedless; but these days New Yorkers sound like rightwing survivalists. They speak of stockpiles, shortages, contingencies, plans.

Everyone knows someone who has lost their income to coronavirus, or been hospitalized. Everyone wonders when the present predicament will end but, of course, no one knows, and for New Yorkers, like people the world over, that may be the hardest part of all.


  • Cherry blossoms at an empty park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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Authorities announce two deaths in Florida as the number of US cases increases to at least 400

The death toll from coronavirus in the United States rose on Saturday afternoon to 19 people, as authorities announced two deaths in Florida, the first US deaths outside the west coast, two more in Washington state and the governor of New York declared a state of emergency.

Across the country, there were at least 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments.

More than 3,000 people remained quarantined on the Grand Princess, a cruise ship moored off the coast of San Francisco, California, as authorities tested crew members and passengers among those from 50 countries onboard.

At least 21 of those had tested positive for the virus, and Donald Trump said Friday that he preferred the passengers stay onboard the ship, so they would not increase the number of coronavirus cases on American soil.

I like the numbers being where they are, Trump said, in widely criticized remarks. I dont need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasnt our fault.

The head of the US Food and Drug Administration said in a rare Saturday briefing that materials for 2.1m coronavirus tests will have been shipped to non-public US labs by Monday, as the Trump administration aimed to counter criticism that its response to the disease has been sluggish and confusing.

Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, told reporters at the White House that manufacturers have told the agency they believe that by the end of next week they could scale up to a capacity of 4m additional tests.

New efforts have been announced to prevent the spread of disease and protect vulnerable people. Officials in Seattle, Washington, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the country, are setting up locations for homeless people who might need treatment or self-quarantine for coronavirus.

On Friday, the gig economy organizing group Gig Workers Rising had published a petition asking chief executives at Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates and Handy to give workers paid sick time off during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday night, an Uber executive made a partial response to concerns about gig economy workers vulnerability to contagion, saying the company would pay drivers and couriers diagnosed with the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, or quarantined by public health officials for up to 14 days, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, the number of cases of coronavirus continued to rise across the country, fueling continued concerns about whether the nations healthcare system was prepared for the additional strain.

A person wearing a mask walks down a street a day after 60 people were brought to nearby hospitals to be tested for coronavirus, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Andrew Cuomo, New York states governor, announced there were at least 76 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state as of early Saturday afternoon, a jump of 21 overnight, and that he was declaring a state of emergency, which allows a state to take special control of funds and resources.

He criticized the Trump administration, where the vice-president, who has been put in charge of containing the crisis, and the president, have been speaking at cross-purposes.

On Thursday Mike Pence, the vice-president, said there were not enough coronavirus testing kits available in the US to meet medical demand, but on Friday afternoon Donald Trump said there was testing available for all who needed it.

That has caused consternation, anxiety, Cuomo said on Saturday. You know whats worse than the virus? The anxiety, and the fear and the confusion.

There is a growing sense that the US government is not fully in control of preparing for and managing either various aspects of the medical situation or public information.

The White House should have been telling every hospital to be prepared to see these cases, knowing how to manage bed space in hospitals if this gets bad and preparing the public for the fact that were going to be facing a pandemic rather than saying its containable, Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious-disease physician, told the Washington Post. The idea of containment requires a lot of public health resources that can be better spent.

The US capital, Washington DC, reported its first presumptive case on Saturday evening.

In the Pacific north-west state of Washington, the main center of the outbreak and death toll so far in the United States, healthcare providers said medical supplies, including masks, are growing scarce, the Seattle Times reported.

And in Washington DC, financial regulators made contingency plans for how to oversee financial markets as the coronavirus closes in on the capital. Officials said Friday that the first three cases of the pneumonia-like disease had been diagnosed in Montgomery county, Maryland, home to thousands of federal workers who commute to nearby Washington daily.

Concerns about coronavirus led to the cancellation of major events, including South by Southwest, a tech, music and film conference that typically draws more than 400,000 people to Austin, Texas, in late March.

Similarly, the forthcoming womens world hockey championships in Canada were canceled Saturday.

In California, the San Francisco Symphony has cancelled performances at its symphony hall through 20 March.

At least two universities on the west coast announced that they would temporarily hold classes online, rather than in person. The University of Washington, being at the center of the US spread so far, and Stanford University, in California, where the university announced that two undergraduate students were in self-isolation after possible exposure to coronavirus.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, three students who were tested for Covid-19 have all tested negative, and the university is continuing to hold live classes on campus for the moment, the universitys chancellor, Gene Block, said.

Internationally there is disagreement among leading experts about whether the virus has reached pandemic status.

California state authorities were working on Saturday evening with federal officials to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship to a non-commercial port and test the 3,500 people aboard.

There was no immediate word on where the vessel will dock. Pence said at a meeting in Florida with cruise line executives that officials were still working on the plan.

All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as necessary, he said.

In Seattle, Washington, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States, local officials said they have designed a plan to help treat any members of the citys homeless population who might contract coronavirus.

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Two years after getting a $100 million commitment from 21st Century Fox to build a mobile-based live streaming platform that could compete with Twitch, the startup Caffeine has scored another coup by partnering with the biggest name in music — Drake.

With buying power of Fox Sports, a Murdoch on the board (Lachlan), and an exclusive contract with Drake, Caffeine is hoping to take its streaming service beyond gamers and sports and become the platform for live streaming entertainment of all stripes.

“The combination of the Caffeine platform with a content studio that benefits from Fox Sports’ expertise in live events and programming will help position Caffeine to deliver compelling experiences in esports, video gaming and entertainment,” said Lachlan Murdoch, in a 2018 statement. “We are excited to partner with Caffeine and build something special for fans in the growing live social streaming esports and gaming space.”

The multi-year collaboration with Drake, terms of which were not disclosed, will debut with the launch of Ultimate Rap League, a battle rap platform which was distributed on its own app as well as through YouTube.

As part of the deal Caffeine will live stream and co-produce new rap battles alongside Ultimate Rap League. It’s the first property that Drake ad Caffeine are jointly bringing to market and presages other live events and content that Drake will shepherd to production, the company said.

“I’ve always loved URL and admired what Smack and his team have been able to create, it just wasn’t accessible. It’s exciting to be in a position where I’m able to bring Caffeine to the table and help provide URL with the tools they need to elevate the viewing experience and make it more accessible to fans,” said Drake in a statement.

Drake has a history with SmackURL. He was called out to battle rap on the platform back in 2015, but declined to show.

Initially created by Troy “Smack White” Mitchell as an event series in New York’s Queens borough, home of hip-hop artists Nas, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Mobb Deep, and A Tribe called Quest, the Ultimate Rap League boasts a roster of boosters including Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Joe Budden, Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Kid Capre, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def and Method Man. 

“We are proud to partner with Drake and support him as he brings his vision and channel to life,” said Ben Keighran, Caffeine’s founder and chief executive, in a statement. “As a platform, Caffeine gives Drake the freedom to pursue his creative ideas and we are excited about the whole slate of fresh content that he will share with his communities.”

Keighran, a former wunderkind product designer at Apple, has grounded Caffeine’s pitch in the technology that the company has developed from its Silicon Valley headquarters to stream live video. The company boasts that its streams are 15 seconds to a minute faster than other streaming platforms. In addition, the company prides itself on its moderation technologies and use of human moderators to ensure a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, hate speech and racism, the company said.

Caffeine bases its appeal to artists on a revenue share model that is more generous than other streaming platforms like Twitch or Mixer — a model based on in-app purchases and tipping.

Drake may be the biggest artist to join the Caffeine platform, but he’s far from the only one. The company’s roster of talent includes the musicians Offset and Doja Cat, athletes like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Collin Sexton, and Kyle Kuzma and gamers including Cartoonz, Ohmwrecker and Crainer.

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From a festival that helps artists trade work for healthcare to a regional micro-currency, Kingston is trying to build an inclusive and self-sufficient local ecosystem

Kingston, New York is a diverse city of 23,000, flanked to the east by Rondout Creek and the Hudson River and to the west by the Catskill mountains. It boasts a rustic industrial waterfront, a colorful historic district and Revolutionary War-era stone buildings. A stranger might call it bucolic. The streets of uptown are bustling with eateries and, of late, places to buy velvet halter dresses, vintage boleros, CBD tinctures, and LCD tea kettles with precision-pour spouts. But strolling by 10-year-old Half Moon Books, passersby might glimpse a different side of this city. The bookshops windows exclusively feature nonfiction on the end of the world as we know it. I started out putting together a window of utopias, says bookseller Jessica DuPont, but somehow I ended up with the death throes of capitalism.

I moved to Kingston from New York City just over a decade ago, on the heels of the 2008 recession. I was three years out of university, but my fledgling career in media stalled with the economic downturn. Friends of mine two painters, one in her 30s, the other in his 40s owned a building with an available apartment on the second floor where I could afford to live and work.

Around Kingston, a network of bike trails connects local towns to local farms in anticipation of the day when there is no more gas for cars. Photograph: Chris Boswell/Alamy

My new neighbors artists, musicians, shop owners, builders, gallerists, restaurateurs treated me like family. Our community was diverse in age, but we all had our independent creative pursuits in a place with scant economic opportunity otherwise. Thus, many of us shared the same problem: a lack of access to healthcare. Americas healthcare system has long been in shambles: then and still today, where single-payer care was available, premiums and deductibles were astronomical. Luckily, among our friends were doctors and dentists who valued the work we did as equal to their own. So, we came up with a plan. Drawing on the age-old system of barter, we figured out a way to trade the art of medicine for the medicine of art.

In October 2010, we launched our first weekend-long festival of street art, live music and health-related events. We called it O+, like the blood type. The general public attended by donation. Licensed health professionals volunteered to staff our on-site pop-up clinic. Over the years, thousands of participating artists, like Lucius, Spiritualized, and locals who played with the B-52s and David Bowie, have received medical, dental and wellness services worth hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars. Some artists say the care they received even saved them.

Not long after the first O+, I left Kingston for a work opportunity. Now, I live in Savannah, Georgia. But O+ carried on. Its organizers have constantly expanded to connect the general public with more resources Narcan kits, CPR training, health expos and year-round wellness classes. Local politicians and residents who take issue with the public art that earns participants dental work and medical appointments have thrown up various roadblocks, but the cause has always been fueled by a sense of rebellion, with the understanding that artists need healthcare, and that art has health benefits.

The O+ festival started in 2010 as a weekend-long festival of street art, live music and health-related events. Photograph: Nicole Digilio for O+

The way you change a system nationally is you do thousands of local things, and eventually the system evolves, says O+ executive director Joe Concra, whose building I lived in when we first got O+ off the ground, and who volunteered full-time for years until grants and donors made it possible to pay modest salaries to three full-time and seven part-time employees. Every time I walk into the clinic, I think: Oh yeah, it is possible to build a new system. I refuse to believe we cant. So, we keep doing it.

The week before the 10th annual O+, Concra and I are sitting at the bar in another of Kingstons independent bookstores, Rough Draft, which opened in 2017 and often hosts fundraisers for local nonprofits. All three baristas are sporting O+ T-shirts.

When we started this thing, Concra says, indicating himself, me, the room, we didnt even realize what we were doing. He hops up and darts across the store for a copy of David Flemings Surviving the Future(2016), a treatise on sustainable communities in the aftermath of the market economy and opens to a chapter called Carnival.Look, he says. We were bringing carnival to the revolution.

Joe Concra, executive director of O+ Photograph: Courtesy of O+

O+ may have brought the carnival. Now, its far from alone in the revolution: Kingstons anti-capitalist, anti-establishment healthcare network is just one example of a model that could supplant corporate America. Locals have launched a non-commercial radio station, Radio Kingston WKNY, with widely representative, hyper-local programming that broadcasts via power generators if the grid goes dark. A regional micro-currency called the Hudson Valley Current now exists to, according to co-founder David McCarthy, create an ecosystem that includes everyone.

Agricultural initiatives like Farm Hub work toward equitable, resilient food systems. A network of bike trails quietly connects local towns to local farms (for the day when there is no more gas for our cars). And organizations like RiseUp Kingston, Kingston Citizens, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, and the Kingston Tenants Union facilitate civic engagement, combat displacement, and advocate for policies to address an increasingly dire housing shortage.

From my vantage in the deep south, it looks as though, one mission at a time, Kingston is piecing together the infrastructure for a self-sufficient community one that wants to survive the possibly impending systemic collapse we nervously joke about over beers at Rough Draft.

DuPont at Half Moon doesnt believe the average Kingstonite is actively battening down the hatches for a societal implosion. But, she says, I do think the economic pressures especially skyrocketing housing costs are causing people to look to new ways to network and support each other. Meanwhile, directors of the above organizations and others are facing questions like How can we make sure we have all the resources we need? and How do we not leave anyone behind? quite head-on.

The first weekend in November at a local elementary school, the public is welcome at a conference called Surviving the future: Connection and community in unstable times. Leading thinkers in the field of system change and transition will discuss key themes for an inclusive, holistic, just transition away from capitalism to something new whatever that might look like.

The installation of wheatpaste work by O+ artist Bonnie M. Smith in 2010. Photograph: courtesy of O+

Imagining it from the ground up is a big part of the work at hand: On a panel about housing as a human right, co-hosted by Radio Kingston, O+, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center and others, Callie Jayne of RiseUp Kingston says of working models to address her primary concern, the housing crisis: If it hasnt been done before, thats probably a good thing, because what were doing now is not working.

Im privileged to be part of the high-level conversations about what happens next, says Radio Kingston executive director Jimmy Buff. Other people here are just trying to find a place that doesnt take 50% of their income, trying to stay in the places theyve lived for decades and not be gentrified out of their neighborhoods. The climate crisis, potential civil unrest How do we unify locally to provide for ourselves when all of these things that seem to be going south do indeed go south?

I wonder about this constantly. But in Savannah a racially divided, politically divided city of 124,000 with a poverty rate a quarter higher than Kingstons Im in a very quiet minority. There is no AM frequency of ongoing conversations of equity via the diverse voices of my neighbors. I havent seen apocalyptic lit in the bookshop windows. When I think about how unprepared we are for a meltdown, I miss Kingston most of all.

When the shit hits the fan, no ones coming to rescue us, Buff says. Weve got to figure it out ourselves, because this is our city. This is where we live. This is what weve got.

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Jonathan Keidan, the founder of Torch Capital, had already built a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen, before he raised single dollar for his inaugural venture capital fund, which just closed with $60 million.

Keidan, a consummate networker who began his professional career as a manager working with acts like The Nappy Roots, The Getaway People and a young John Legend, just managed to be in the right place at the right time, he says (thanks, in part, to his gift for gab).

The final close for Torch Capital’s first fund is just the beginning for Torch, which is angling to be one of the premiere firms for early stage consumer internet and consumer facing enterprise software.

The firm began raising its first fund in October 2017 and held a $40 million first close just about one year ago. Keidan and his partners had targeted $50 million for his first investment vehicle, but wound up hitting the hard cap of $60 million, in part due to high demand from the New York-based entrepreneurs that Keidan considers his peers.

In addition to backers like the George Kaiser Family Foundation and billionaire Hong Kong fashion mogul Silas Chou, Keidan was able to tap startup founders like Jennifer Fleiss, the co-founder of Rent the Runway; Casper co-founders Philip Krim and Neil Parikh; and Bryan Goldberg, the founder of Bleacher Report and owner of Bustle Media Group (which includes Gawker, Bustle, Elite Daily, Mic, The Outline, and The Zoe Report, which collectively form Bustle Digital Group).

“Because I’ve taken a more startup approach i was recruiting raising money and doing deals at the same time,” says Keidan. 


A sampling of Torch Capital’s portfolio investments

Along with partners Sam Jones, a former London-based investment banker; Katie Reiner, an investor at the data-driven growth fund, Lead Edge Capital; Curtis Chang, a technology-focused investment banker from HSBC’ and Chantal Haldorsen, a serial startup executive; Keidan has certainly done deals.

He started investing as an angel while still working at his own media company InsideHook, and began forming special purpose vehicles for larger investments as soon as he departed, about three years ago.

For the first year-and-a-half, Jones and Keidan worked on the SPVS, which allowed them to put together a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen — as well as startups like ZocDoc and the ketchup brand, Sir Kensington’s.

Since launching the fund, Keidan and his partners did 15 investments in the first year — including investments into . the consumer-focused Ro Health, which sells erectile dysfunction medication, supplements for hair growth, and more recently menopausal products for women.

Torch Capital has also backed the fintech company, Harness Wealth, sustainable cashmere manufacturer and retailer, Naadam; and Splendid Spoon, a vegan breakfast and lunch prepared food provider akin to Daily Harvest.

Keidan’s interest in investment stems from his experience in the music industry. It was a time when Spotify was just beginning to emerge and Napster had already shaken up the market. The creation of digital platforms enabled artists to connect more directly with the consumer in a way that traditional companies couldn’t understand.

Instead of embracing the technology labels and artists fought it, and the writing on the wall (that the labels and artists would lose) became clear… at least for Keidan. 

Following some advice from mentors including the super-producer and music mogul, Quincy Jones, Keidan went to business school. He graduated from Columbia in 2007 with an MBA and then did what all former music managers do after their MBA training — he joined McKinsey as a consultant. The stint at McKinsey led Keidan to Jack Welch’s online education venture and from there, Keidan started InsideHook.

Keidan grew the company to over 2 million subscribers in the five years since he helped launch the business in 2012. From that perch he saw the rise of direct to consumer startups and began making angel investments. His first was ZocDoc, his second, Sir Kensingtons (which sold to Unilever) and his third was the real estate investment platform, Compass.

That track record was enough to convince Chou, the Hong Kong billionaire that turned around Tommy Hilfiger and built Michael Kors into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse in the world of ready to wear fashion.

Like the rest of the venture industry, Keidan sees the technology tools that have transformed much of business are now remaking the ease and reach of building direct to consumer brands. Unlike most, Keidan has spent time working on the ground up to develop brands (artists and songwriting talent in the music business).

Everything that Torch Capital invests in has at least one eye on an end consumer, whether that’s direct consumer investments like Ro, Sweetgreen or the business surveying startup, Perksy.

Torch invests between $500,000 and $1 million in seed deals and will invest anywhere between $1 million to $3 million in Series A deals, according to Keidan.

“What makes a consumer company successful at scale is very different than enterprise software or consumer internet deals,” said Keidan. “VCs were having trouble getting their heads around this… [their companies] were overvalued too early… and when they couldn’t meet those goals they were doing things that were detrimental to the brand.”

Keidan thinks he has a better approach.

“Between InsideHook and watching companies grow and my own investments i’d seen the nuances of what it takes to get to scale,” he said.

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Pop icon accepted the advocate for change award and gave both a playful and emotional speech, bringing the audience to its feet

Madonna, a pioneer for gay rights, accepted the advocate for change award at the 2019 Glaad media awards, with a rousing speech that went from playful to emotional, bringing the audience to its feet.

The 60-year-old pop icon turned heads as she walked to her table at a Hilton hotel in New York on Saturday night, before taking the stage to celebrate her three decades of advocacy work for LGBT equality.

Why have I always fought for change? Thats a hard question to answer. Its like trying to explain the importance of reading or the need to love. Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didnt fit in. It wasnt because I didnt shave under my armpits, I just didnt fit in, OK? she said.

The first gay man I ever met was named Christopher Flynn. He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me, that made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist and as a human being. I know this sounds trivial and superficial, but he was the first man to tell me I was beautiful.

Madonna went on to say Flynn took her to her first gay club in Detroit, and that the evening changed her life.

For the first time I saw men kissing men, girls dressed like boys, boys wearing hot pants, insane, incredible dancing and a kind of freedom and joy and happiness that I had never seen before, she said. I finally felt like I was not alone, that it was OK to be different and to not be like everybody else. And that after all, I was not a freak. I felt at home, and it gave me hope.

Madonna also said Flynn pushed her to leave Michigan and go to New York to pursue her dreams. And when she arrived in the Big Apple in 1977, she was in awe with all New York had to offer diversity, creativity but she also learned about the AIDS epidemic.

The plague that moved in like a black cloud over New York City and in a blink of an eye, she said and snapped her fingers, took out all of my friends.

Madonna: Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didnt fit in. It wasnt because I didnt shave under my armpits, I just didnt fit in, OK? Photograph: Eduardo Muoz/Reuters

After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring, happy birthday Keith, I decided to take up the bull horn and really fight back, she added.

Madonna, teary-eyed from her seat, received the award from Anderson Cooper, Mykki Blanco and Rosie ODonnell, who gave a powerful speech about how Madonna helped her become more comfortable in her own skin.

So here I was, VG, very gay, dating a man and I went to Madonna for advice, said ODonnell, who co-starred in 1992s A League of Their Own with the singer.

I was questioning and unsure, my gay life was blossoming but I didnt quite know what to do. And she told me, Rosie, just follow your heart advice. I still follow to this day.

The multi-hour Glaad event also gave awards to Andy Cohen, the FX series Pose and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Samantha Bee, the film Boy Erased, CNNs Don Lemon and R&B singer Janelle Monae. The event will air on Logo on May 12.

Despite winning seven Grammys, two Golden Globes and countless other honors, Madonna said getting Glaads Advocate for Change Award has a special place in her heart.

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Fans gather as rapper attends court following incident last year, in which police say an argument led to brawl

Cardi B has rejected a plea deal in a case stemming from a fight at a New York strip club last year.

WNBC reported that the rapper did not speak to journalists before or after a three-minute court appearance on Friday.

Fans got as close as they could. One, Briana Minore, 19, came from another part of Queens to catch a glimpse of the star, who waved to her, according to the New York Daily News.

They wouldnt let you close to her, but I was shaking, Minore told the newspaper after Cardi swept past in an all-white outfit. I love her so much, Ive been planning this day for so long.

The singer is due back in court next month on misdemeanor reckless endangerment and assault charges.

Police say Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, and her entourage were at the club when she argued with a bartender and a fight broke out in which chairs, bottles and hookah pipes were thrown, slightly injuring the woman and another employee.

Cardi Bs lawyer has said she didnt harm anybody.

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The former director of the Manchester international festival has a reputation for bringing diverse creative talents together. At Manhattans the Shed, he says, everything is up for reinvention

In 2014, Alex Poots, then artistic director of the Manchester international festival, was approached by a group of New Yorkers with a perplexing proposal. Would he be interested, they asked, in moving to Manhattan to run an as yet unbuilt arts centre, to which $75m (57m) in public money had been committed but for which, at that stage, there were no offices, no staff, no website, no bank account and no mission, beyond that of creating something that was unlike anything else in New York? A blank space, in other words, and terrifying, says Poots, which is why his instinct was to jump and say yes. Theres that quote: if youre not in over your head, how will you ever find out how tall you are?

Five years later, we are in the offices of what, this April, is going to open as the Shed, the largest new art space to have opened in New York since the Lincoln Center in 1962. Since being hired, Poots and his board have raised half-a-billion dollars in private funding and doubled the scale of the Shed so that, when it opens this spring with a programme of original commissions including works by Steve McQueen and Bjrk, it will be in a multistorey glass complex where the largest performance space can accommodate up to 1,200 people. There will be rehearsal and lab spaces for emerging artists, a pop-up bookshop and a 20,000 sq ft outdoor plaza for huge events. Behind all of this will be Poots who, at 52, has the kinetic energy of someone staring down an extremely short deadline and asks the central question of any public art space: Who is it for?

A quick way to answer this is to revisit one of the small, pivotal disagreements Poots had with the original concept for the Shed when he signed on in 2014. At that point, it existed largely as the brainchild of Daniel Doctoroff, at the time deputy mayor of New York under Michael Bloomberg, who came up with the idea of a spectacularly funded arts space to be built alongside Hudson Yards, a luxury housing development on the west side of Manhattan that was attracting criticism as yet another of the citys gifts to the rich. The Culture Shed, as it was then called, would be built on public land as a way of broadening the scope of the overall development.

All of which sounded great to Poots, with the exception of the name. I didnt like the sound of it, he says. Culture Shed it sounded a bit preachy. He called a friend, one of the creative directors at Framestore, the company responsible for the CGI sequences in the Alfonso Cuarn film, Gravity. And he said, Why would you call it Culture Shed? Its like a soap opera putting on a laugh track to tell your dumb audience when to laugh. Then he called Marina Abramovic, who in her inimitable style said: Why call it that? When they made Apple, they didnt call it the Apple Computer.

The Shed will keep back 10% of the seats in every row for low-income visitors, who will be able to buy $10 tickets. Photograph: Christopher Lane

Finally, Poots went back to the board and suggested dropping culture from the title and just calling it the Shed. I liked the idea of the Shed because its where you make things, he said. Plus, it wouldve been shortened anyway, like the Met, so you may as well save on rebranding costs in three years time.

The point about all this is that Poots wanted to signal, from the name down, that this was not a conventional museum or a gatekeeper to high culture. It would not house a permanent collection, nor would it stage revivals of existing works. It was a radical new space for work across all disciplines, a commissioning centre for all arts, which, in New York at least, had never been done before, with an emphasis on emerging talent. The inaugural show will be a five-night concert series called Soundtrack of America, a celebration of African American music directed by McQueen, but featuring largely unknown musicians. Were launching a half-a-billion dollar arts facility with unknown, early-career African American talent.

If anyone can democratise access to the arts it is Poots, whose work as an impresario goes back to his early 20s, when he played trumpet in a band and, with the canny eye he would later bring to multimillion dollar shows, told the band leader after a single rehearsal: This band could be better and I should start by firing myself. It was his short-lived career as a trumpet player that laid the foundations for everything that came after, teaching Poots to be suspicious of the conventional hierarchies between high and low art, and before that, while he was still a schoolboy in Edinburgh, suggesting to him he could actually be good at something.

I was really painfully average at everything else, he says, whose Irish father was a dentist and French mother a teacher. None of it interested me. But I had this thing I was able to play the trumpet really well and if I hadnt had that, Id probably be on the scrapheap somewhere.

He trained classically, but started doing jazz and pop from an early age. Subconsciously, I had the feeling, Why is it when I go out and play pop, its second-class music, even though sometimes when I play it, Im playing better than I ever have? But when I go out and do a classical thing, thats like the pillar of everything, whether Ive played well or not? That has definitely informed everything Ive done.

Dancers from Paris Opera Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor in Tree of Codes, a work based on Jonathan Safran Foers novel with music by Jamie xx and visuals by Olafur Eliasson, at Manchester International Festival 2015. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

For a while, Poots thought he might become a professional musician. Then, one night in his early 20s, he had a sobering experience after performing in a production of Verdis Requiem in Edinburgh. I was doing the offstage trumpet part, where you do nothing for most of the production, then play for about three minutes and go home. Its highly stressful and I had a dream that night, in which I was doing Verdis Requiem but I was 50 the age I am now. And the thing that woke me up in a cold sweat was that it wasnt quite as good as when I was 20.

He quit trumpet cold, moved to London and enrolled in a degree course in music at City University, where he wrote his dissertation on what would become the driving interest of his career: How, between art forms, theres a shared essence. I studied it through [the lens of] Miles Davis, who brought in Debussian techniques, bebop and rock music. And when he gets it right, theres this synthesis. Even though theyre antithetical, theyre also complimentary. There can be that blossoming.

For the next 10 years, Poots worked his way through the major institutions of British culture, starting at the Barbican as a curator and moving on to oversee projects with David Brook at Channel 4 and Nick Serota at the Tate, including a series called Tate Live, his first real foray into visual art, in which he worked with McQueen, Wolfgang Tillmans and Arvo Prt. He was very good at creating events that generated publicity but which occasionally backfired. In 2001, Poots came up with the first Fatboy Slim concert on Brighton beach I remember pitching that idea to Norman to which tens of thousands turned up, causing chaos and dominating headlines.

He was also very good at dismantling traditional barriers between the arts. In 2005, when Poots was appointed as artistic director of the inaugural Manchester international festival, he wanted to celebrate the citys roots as the first modern industrial centre by investing in wholly new projects. One of the breakout successes in Manchester was Monkey: Journey to the West, a pop opera collaboration between Damon Albarns band Gorillaz and the director Chen Shi-Zheng, a stage production with an anarchic circus-like feel to it and an electric energy. Hes constantly challenging you by putting different kinds of creative forces together; the kind of thing nobody would think of doing, but he does, says Chen, whose new show, Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, is in the opening lineup for the Shed. When Poots first approached Chen with the idea of creating an opera in Manchester, they cycled through scores of potential music collaborators until Poots suggested Gorillaz. He showed me their video and their songs, and I immediately fell for it. I thought this would work.

Chens new show is styled as a futuristic kung fu musical and written with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, creators of the Kung Fu Panda movie franchise, and would have been impossible to stage anywhere else, he says. The liberating thing about the Shed is that it marries Pootss vision to a flexible performance space, in which the walls can retract and the audience can be moved around. Directors are always trying to destroy the proscenium theatre, to expand, come out, extend and come closer to the audience, says Poots. A new space gives new opportunities for your art form. Now we have that.

Artist and film-maker Steve McQueen (right, alongside Quincy Jones and Maureen Mahon) will open the Shed with a five-night concert series. Photograph: Adam Hart

Among other startling collaborations in the Sheds opening schedule will be the dramatic work Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, written by the poet Anne Carson and starring Ben Whishaw and Rene Fleming (Carson wrote it specifically with Whishaw in mind and after reading the script he jumped at it). The painter Gerhard Richter will collaborate with the composer Steve Reich for an immersive live performance.

One of the most exciting events will be the Sheds opening show, Soundtrack of America, devised and directed by McQueen and with a creative team including Quincy Jones. As Poots says: I dont think anyone can disagree that African American music is the most influential art form of the past 100 years. I dont think even film goes as deep and as far as this. Each night, a handful of artists will trace the roots of their own music back through the genealogy of African American music and, after performing that journey, will end with their song.

McQueen and Poots have known each other for almost 20 years; in fact, it was McQueen who introduced Poots to his wife, Kathryn Spellman, a visiting sociology professor at Columbia University. What I like about Alex, says McQueen, is that he says lets do it. In the UK, its often about making do, or being told we cant do that. But he says lets do it and that mentality is very similar to mine.

This rapport was particularly evident in the lead-up to the pairs 2007 collaboration, Queen and Country, in which McQueen created 155 sheets of postage stamps, each bearing a photo of a British solider killed in Iraq, and which before he turned to Poots, had stalled. I came out from a very bad meeting with the Ministry of Defence, who shut the door in our faces when we asked for help with addresses of next of kin and so forth. One of them suggested we [illustrate the stamps] with landscapes. After the meeting I was sitting with a colleague in a restaurant and Alex was sitting two tables from us, and my colleague said we should ask him for help. And the second we asked, he was getting numbers out, calling people and we got it done. We found an amazing researcher, and 94% of the families approached responded in an overwhelmingly positive way. And thats Alex Poots: the whole question of anything in the world is how do we do it? How do we get it done? Its that simple, and Alex is a genius at it.

The word relevance can be deadly to any artistic production, but Poots is keen for younger audiences, in particular, to have a sense of the impact of how obscure or abstract works can resonate in the real world. He cites Henry David Thoreaus essay, Civil Disobedience, written in 1849, which goes on decades later to inspire Mandela, and Martin Luther King. What very few people know was that Thoreau was inspired by a 13th-century poet from Persia, called Saadi of Shiraz. So you can say to a bunch of kids: Who says that art doesnt have the power to influence changing society? Heres a really good example.

Rene Fleming and Ben Whishaw will star in poet Anne Carsons play Norma Jeane Baker of Troy. Photograph: The Shed

The education and involvement of young people is one of Pootss primary ambitions for the Shed. He talks with frustration about his experience of education departments at many cultural centres in the UK, which, he says, have tended to be the poor relation. It was the thing you put at the end of the corridor to satisfy the Arts Council. And I thought, Cant we do better? I wanted the Shed to have the widest civic responsibility, to go beyond being a space that commissions work for the public.

To this end, he sat down with Tamara McCaw, the Sheds chief civic programme officer, and came up with one of the opening programmes most radical commissions, involving three years of work in local schools and building on foundations laid down by Poots during the three years he was director of the Park Avenue Armory. It is called Maze and features a dance company led by Reggie Gray and made up of dancers, spotted and trained via the Sheds FlexNYC programme, from lowincome neighbourhoods across the city.

The production will specialise in a dance movement called flex. When I was in my 20s, [the theatre director] Peter Sellars said to me, Alex, one day you will stumble on something in the community that is so precious and beautiful; just make sure you notice it and grab it with both arms. And over 20 years later I rang him and said, Ive found them! Theyre amazing, these flex dancers in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn thats the great news. The challenging news is you have to co-direct the show and its in seven months.

There were challenges. These dancers are all self-taught and unpaid, says Poots. Kids who do it at night; by day, theyre working in fast-food chains or [have] no work. When I gave them their first ever show at the Armory, in 2015, some of them had not been out of Brooklyn to Manhattan. Some did not have bank accounts.

What is extraordinary about this show is the way Poots and McCaw have devised it as a sort of self-perpetuating commission. Tamara said, Why dont we make a programme that is three-dimensional, so that the kids become teachers? Because they can do it already and they teach other kids in the community for free. So why dont we formalise it: pay them for it, train them, almost become their company management, and make that part of the commission? Thats a project and kids in three years will be able to learn flex and join the company.

Without waving any banners, this aspect of the Sheds ambitions is effortlessly political, as are some of the more formal structures in place. Ticketing, for example, will reserve 10% of every row for tickets priced at $10 for those on low incomes, ensuring that, rather than sitting up in the cheap seats, they will be next to those who paid $195 apiece. Everything is up for reinvention, with the hope that, as long as it isnt faddish, the result will push forward every format and bring to fruition a line Poots likes to quote from EM Forster: Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted.

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Pink hair, plus-size models and an improvisation welcome mood bring Savage x Fenty fashions to life

Anyone looking for an alternative to the increasingly outdated Victoria Secrets lingerie showcase would have found it in Brooklyn Navy Yard on Wednesday evening. There, Rihanna staged her Savage x Fenty fashion show for the lingerie label she launched in May.

The set here was like the garden of Eden sent into the future, with plants sprouting out of geodesic domes. It was populated by about 30 Eves, in many different guises. With a sort of improvisation welcome mood, they threw shapes across the stage in Savage x Fenty designs.

Plus-size models and girls with pink hair shared the stage with the Hadid sisters and former Victoria Secrets angel Joan Smalls. Rihanna herself joined them for a finale, drawing much whooping from the crowd.

At show like this, clothes arent really the point but, for the record, these had a louche, decadent vibe with lots of coloured satin and leopard print. Interpretations of underwear ranged from sports bras to full-on basques.

When Rihanna launched Savage x Fenty, it swiftly sold out both online and in stores. This show aimed to keep up the heat, with a livestream broadcast on YouTube and some pieces available to buy after the show.

Savage x Fenty follows Fenty Beauty, a makeup line which launched in 2017 and saw queues of women outside Harvey Nichols in London. Both brands champion diversity and body positivity, with Savage x Fenty available in seven nude shades and up to a 44DD cup size. Like the show, the initial advertising campaign for the brand featured a range of skin colours and sizes.

Female empowerment is the zeitgeist-friendly message of the musicians underwear range. Women should be wearing lingerie for their damn selves, she said to US Vogue in May. I want people to wear Savage x Fenty and think: Im a bad bitch. I want women to own their beauty. The young women on the stage on Wednesday night were a great advertisement for doing just that.

A model presents a creation from Rihanna during the Savage X Fenty event. Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

Rihanna, who earned $36m in 2016, is one of the most influential style figures in pop culture currently, much admired for her risk-taking and spontaneity. Such is her influence that when she appeared on the front of British Vogue for August, she single-handedly made pencil-thin eyebrows a faux pas for many years a trend again. Her 2016 collaboration with Puma on a Fenty clothing collection generated $1bn for the sportswear brand. Savage x Fenty is the latest way she is monetising that influence.

Marc Jacobs show was earlier in the evening. It was scheduled for 6pm but was delayed by nearly 90 minutes, causing Anna Wintour and several other high-profile editors to leave before it started. There are already consistent rumours that the Marc Jacobs brand is in jeopardy, with stores in Europe closing earlier this year. This latest talking point isnt likely to stop the rumours.

The collection was a summer take on the designers autumn/winter 80s odyssey. There were boxy suits, glitter tights and puffball cocktail dresses. Frills were extreme, with some dresses like the mille-feuille of the most luxurious of cakes, in sugared almond colours. These fabulous concoctions will no doubt be eaten up by stylists next season, though their wearability beyond the fashion shoot is untested.

Jacobs is now a celebrity as well as a designer. In April, he proposed to his partner Charly Defrancesco with a flash mob in a branch of Mexican fast food restaurant Chipotle. The video went viral. His summer since then has involved a birthday party with Debbie Harry bringing in his cake, and holidays with Kate Moss. This show is just the latest instalment for his many fans to absorb.

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Confrontation reported at Harpers Bazaar event where Cardi B was seen leaving with what appeared to be a bump on her head

Nicki Minaj and Cardi B were involved in an altercation on Friday night at a New York fashion week party, leaving the latter rapper with a mark on her head.

Cardi B reportedly threw one of her shoes at Minaj.

A person who witnessed the incident but asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly said Minaj was finishing a conversation with someone when Cardi B tried to attack her, but Minajs security guards intervened.

Video from the Harpers Bazaar Icons party circulating on social media showed Cardi B lunging towards someone and being held back. Another video showed the rapper being escorted out of the event by security.

Cardi B, wearing a voluminous red Dolce & Gabanna gown, was seen leaving the party with what appeared to be a bump on her head. She was barefoot.

She and Minaj have been rap rivals since Cardi B began achieving huge success over the last year.

In a post on Instagram Cardi B did not call out Minaj by name but alluded to the fight and said she was sparked because her mothering skills were being disparaged. She and rapper Offset recently had their first child together, a girl.

Minaj did not immediately comment.

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