NO. 1 IN BLACK-OWNED BIZ. Harlem shop blossoms amid city opportunities

EVERYTHING'S COMING UP roses for flower shop owner Tara Simone Powell, whose business is blooming in its new Harlem location. Her family's growing floral and decor company is just one of an increasing number of African-American-owned businesses that are finding fertile ground in the city. New York was home to 98,076 black-owned businesses in 2002, making it the metropolis with the most black businesses in the nation, according to a report released yesterday by the Census Bureau. That's up 55% from five years before, outpacing growth in the country as a whole. Nationally, the number of black-owned businesses jumped 45% between 1997 and 2002 to 1. 2 million, while their revenues rose 25% during that same five-year period. That's well ahead of the 10% growth for businesses as a whole in that time period, the Census Bureau said. The city's diversity and strong black communities attract the "cream of the crop" from places like Africa and the Carribean, as well as African-Americans from around the country, said Lloyd Williams, CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. "As they bring their dreams to New York, the opportunity to turn them to reality better presents itself here. " Chicago came in second behind New York with under half the number of black-owned businesses, and Los Angeles came in third, the survey showed. The city's black-owned businesses racked up revenues of $5. 12 million in 2002. In 1998, 29-year-old Powell joined the business that her mother and uncles started in 1972, and last year Barbara's Flowers (named for Powell's mother) opened a second location that she runs. Powell credits the abundance of information and resources from both the local Chamber of Commerce and the city for providing help. "I'm pleasantly surprised at how quickly I saw a positive momentum in business," Powell said. "People said, 'You have to wait two years to see,' but within about four months, I knew that we were headed in the right direction. " Continue Reading


WASHINGTON - President Bush made a lightning-quick visit into Baghdad yesterday to assure the new Iraqi government the U. S. will stand by it and to urge all Iraqis to "seize the moment. " "I have come to not only look you in the eye; I've also come to tell you that when America gives its word, it will keep its word," Bush told a stunned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In a replay of his secret 2003 Thanksgiving visit, Bush swooped into Baghdad for 5 1/2 hours of face-to-face talks with the Iraqi cabinet and an emotional address to U. S. troops and civilians. "My message to the Iraqi people is this: seize the moment; seize this opportunity to develop a government of and by and for the people," Bush told the troops and other Americans in Baghdad's Green Zone. He twice had to pause to regain his composure amid huge ovations from the troops. Maliki was told about the surprise visit just five minutes before meeting Bush, who was on his way home last night. "Good to see you," Maliki said. "Thanks for having me," Bush responded. The President was stern with the new Iraqi leaders who had assembled expecting to talk with Bush by teleconference. "The decisions you and your cabinet make will be determinate as to whether or not a country succeeds that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself," Bush told the Iraqi leaders. Maliki told Bush he appreciated the U. S. effort and added: "God willing, all of the suffering will be over, and all of the soldiers will be able to return to their countries with our gratitude for what they have offered. " But on his plane home last night, Bush told reporters that Maliki and others also expressed concern that U. S. troops might leave too soon. "There's a worry almost to a person that we will leave before they are capable of defending themselves," Bush said. "And I assured them that they didn't need to worry. " It appeared to be the latest effort by the administration to tamp down Continue Reading

Bill’s big bargain on faith: In formally welcoming small churches into vacant school buildings on weekends, Mayor de Blasio has an opportunity to make an important statement

The U.S. Supreme Court has given Mayor de Blasio a perfect opportunity to set standards for striking the right balance between church and state. He can start with small churches that for years have rented space in public-school buildings on weekends. Although the churches took advantage of the same first-come-first-served rental privileges extended to secular community organizations, the Bloomberg-era Department of Education sought to evict them. The department ridiculously claimed that second graders and their families might be confused into thinking that the city had established an official state religion. Then, knowing that discriminating purely based on viewpoint would never fly, Bloomberg wrote regulations that banned anyone from holding “worship services” in public buildings. Which put the government in the downright dangerous position of defining when religious content tiptoes into unacceptable territory. Praying? Allowed. Taking communion? Not allowed. Unhelpfully, the U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear an appeal of a court decision upholding the Bloomberg “worship” standard. The ruling gave de Blasio a free hand to enforce his predecessor’s unfair and unworkable worship ban and begin evictions. Smartly, de Blasio instead plans new regulations to authorize church use of school buildings on weekends. He’ll draft the rules as part of a broader bargain that is emerging between City Hall and religious groups. The mayor’s openness to accommodating faith-based groups is very welcome, with the proviso that de Blasio must calibrate his policies in keeping with the First Amendment rather than solely to please religious political constituencies. He has until now seemed to prefer the latter. When he approved closing the schools for the Muslim holidays of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, the mayor’s stated rationale was “to reflect the strength Continue Reading

‘Gloria’ review: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play tracks the tension in an office filled with angst and opportunity

Whose life story is it, anyway? That’s the burning question of “Gloria,” a tight, twisty and impeccably acted drama about office angst and opportunism. The answer, by the way, is subject to change without notice. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a playwright on a roll, displaying diversity with this contemporary work that’s a world away from his sly, slavery-themed “An Octoroon.” The new play isn’t as daring or deep, but it’s dexterous and entertaining. The author draws on his experience working at the New Yorker. Editorial assistants Dean (Ryan Spahn), Ani (Catherine Combs) and Kendra (Jennifer Kim) all think they deserve a break. But when will opportunity knock? The drones bide their time and wait for the next step up the food chain. They have Miles (Kyle Beltran), a lowly intern, fetch them snacks. They put up with fussy fact-checker Lorin (Michael Crane) and the outcast Gloria (Jeanine Serralles), who works in another department. Director Evan Cabnet has assembled a terrific cast of newcomers and seasoned stage pros. Most play more than one role and impress in each. The plot detours drastically. The ambitious wannabe writers pick up the pieces — and get busy pitching publishers. The script isn’t airtight. One editor’s efforts to capitalize on a big event stretch credulity. But the dialogue tolls like a tuning fork and captures everyday interoffice insecurity. That laughter coming from behind a closed door? It must be at your expense. Right? Wrong. And that’s not really what you need to worry about. Takeshi Kata’s versatile sets underscore that every workplace is the same. You never know what’s going on at the water cooler and who’s coming around the corner. [email protected] Continue Reading

Cuba sí, embargo no: President Obama’s meeting with Raúl Castro is an opportunity to push Cuba on human rights, and hopefully a step on the road to ending the U.S. economic freeze

History is expected Saturday when President Obama meets with Cuban President Raúl Castro in Panama — the first time the nations’ respective leaders will talk directly to one another since the Cuban revolution. View this and other moves not as a triumph for the island nation’s repressive Communist dictatorship — but as an opportunity for smartly liberalizing American policy to bring long-denied freedom and prosperity to Cuba’s 11 million people. To this day, Cuba remains ruled by a dastardly regime that silences dissidents, strangles the press, tramples property rights and imprisons trumped-up enemies of the state at will — and harbors American fugitives to boot. RELATED: Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands in Panama Those are realities that must be challenged consistently by American diplomats and Presidents, including by Obama this weekend. The purpose of the President’s December decision to normalize diplomatic relations was to give engagement a chance to change what a half-century of systematic isolation had not. Diplomatic ties were severed in early 1961, when Cuba was a Soviet satellite and a direct military threat. Then came America’s victory in the Cold War, and the collapse of the USSR. The Castros remained in power, denying their citizens basic rights — and gaining strength from the bogeyman of a hostile United States just 90 miles to the north. The Soviet Union’s demise and the diminishment of Cuba’s reach will place Obama on solid footing if, as anticipated, he accepts a State Department recommendation to remove Cuba from the list of states that support terror. The Cuban government is many dishonorable things; it is not a security threat to America. Since the President’s historic December policy shift, planes have flown there directly from America, and American companies are beginning to feel out the market. But a President Continue Reading

New Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island will create opportunity for all, add much-needed STEM emphasis to public schools

Today marks a major milestone for the future of our city, and in particular, our children’s future. Cornell Tech broke ground on the construction of its new applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island, and announced a gift of $100 million from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fund construction. In 2011, as founding principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, I was part of the city’s vision for public-private partnerships to create technology institutions to produce home-grown tech talent — a formula to supercharge our tech ecosystem and create opportunity for all New Yorkers. EX-MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG TO DONATE $100M FOR CORNELL TECH CAMPUS And that is what the success of Cornell Tech will help do. It will inject more of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education we need in our public schools and will breed a new class of entrepreneurs, who will build businesses here that will turn industries upside down and create opportunities. Some people misunderstand what Cornell Tech and tech education mean to this city, believing it will only benefit a select few at the high end of the economy. They could not be more wrong. Developing institutions like Cornell Tech and P-TECH will be a major tool in the fight against inequality, by spinning off companies that create  good-paying jobs for people of all skill levels, which will strengthen the middle class and provide a path to rise for countless New Yorkers. Cornell Tech is also already spurring improved tech education in our public schools through partnerships with local schools by helping teachers incorporate tech thinking into teaching. The results are tangible: six students of P-TECH graduated ahead of schedule with their associate degrees from our college partner, City Tech, and all six were offered jobs with IBM. Bloomberg demonstrated extraordinary vision in founding Cornell Tech and P-TECH, and I want to thank him for Continue Reading

NeNe Leakes announces exit from ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’: ‘This is my opportunity to spread my wings’

In the words of NeNe Leakes, "Girl, bye." Eight years after beginning her journey on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," the star, 47, is moving away from reality and dipping her hand into primetime TV. 5 THINGS TO MISS WHEN NENE LEAKES LEAVES 'THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA' "This was definitely a hard decision for me," Leakes told People about leaving the show. "Me and my husband (Gregg Leakes) have been going back and forth on it for weeks now. But my contract is up and I just think this is the right time. This is my opportunity to spread my wings and do different things." FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE." Fans don't fret though, the sassy housewife will still be appearing on the small screen. "I'm actually going to be doing a new primetime television show with a big legend," she shared. "All of my fans will get to see me be really happy, witty and funny and tell all of those one liners that I always have said on Housewives." BRANDI GLANVILLE SAYS SHE MAY SOMETIMES REAPPEAR ON 'THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS' Sometimes change is good. Since making her big decision, Leakes said that she feels like a weight has been "lifted off my shoulders." The new show isn't the only project that the Leakes have been involved in recently. JOE GIUDICE, DAUGHTERS, ARE FILMING BRAVO REALITY TV SHOW WHILE TERESA GIUDICE IS BEHIND BARS The actress is the newest famous face on the highly successful Kim Kardashian app, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. @ElizabethRoseVM ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Continue Reading

E! pulls the plug on ‘Fashion Police’ until September: ‘We look forward to taking this opportunity to refresh the show’

Bye bye "Fashion Police." E! has pulled the plug on the style show until September according to a statement issued by the network. "E!'s comedy series 'Fashion Police' is going on hiatus and will return in September," the statement begins. "We look forward to taking this opportunity to refresh the show before the next awards season. Our talented co-hosts Giuliana Rancic and Brad Goreski, along with Executive Producer Melissa Rivers, will continue their roles as we evolve the show into its next chapter for the legions of "Fashion Police" fans around the world." It seems that Kathy Griffin's exit Thursday was the last straw for the program, which has had several blow over the past month. The downhill spiral seemed to come after Rancic made a comment about actress Zendaya's hair at the Oscars. The co-host said the star's hair being in dreads made her look like she smelled of "weed." The Disney actress took to Instagram calling Rancic's statement an "ignorant slur." The controversy surrounding the racist statement caused co-host Kelly Osbourne to leave the show. Continue Reading

Carey Mulligan on landing female lead in ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’: ‘It’s a rare opportunity’

Female lead roles in Hollywood do not come along every day. Carey Mulligan got the opportunity to do so in the upcoming film "Far from the Madding Crowd" and tells the Daily News' [email protected] column, "it was a dream job." "I haven't played a lead for seven years," the 29-year-old actress, who plays Bathsheba Everdene, said at a special screening of the movie at New York's Paris Theatre Monday. "Sadly I think quite rare for women to get interesting characters to play onscreen so to have this opportunity and especially with (director Thomas Vinterburg)." "Far from the Madding Crowd, " which is the big-screen adaption of Thomas Hardy's classic novel, also stars Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen. "Even today this story seems quite shockingly fresh because you've got this female character in the center of it, who's a complex heroine, she's an employer, she's a boss," Sheen told The News. "You don't see that anywhere. Even today it's hard to name anything where the main character is a female boss who's not a bad guy or a caricature so he was groundbreaking then and the fact that it's still groundbreaking now says something quite sad about our society I suppose so (author Thomas Hardy) is an extraordinary writer in that respect." Schoenaerts, who plays opposite Mulligan as Gabriel Oak, called the story "timeless." "There's something true about what (Hardy) writes and because it's true it surpasses time, space and form and that's why people today can still relate to what he wrote back then, 150 years ago even though the social context was completely different, the human reactions and the depth of those emotions, he wrote them down in such a way that they are still relevant today and that is what I think a great work of art does." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

National Urban League president: Freddie Gray’s death can be an opportunity for historic change

Sometimes difficult circumstances present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about historic change. Such is the case at this moment in history, when Baltimore and other cities are grappling with civil unrest prompted by police violence toward unarmed young men of color. BALTIMORE POL TELLS CNN THE WORD 'THUG' IS RACIALLY CHARGED The death of Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed under unexplained circumstances, was the latest of more than a dozen incidents over the past 18 months. This week we reiterated a call, first issued in December, for a national policy to address police reform and accountability. But this week’s unrest isn’t simply a reaction to a single incident of violence, or even the ongoing trend of violence. PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS HE HAS NO IMMEDIATE PLANS TO VISIT BALTIMORE While the relationship between police and the communities they serve must be repaired, we also must address the economic hopelessness that drags down communities and puts young people at risk. The National Urban League 10-Point Justice Plan, together with a significant federal economic stimulus plan, would change the trajectory of the nation’s inner-city neighborhoods. When the Great Recession threatened the nation’s financial institutions, we responded with an unprecedented infusion of resources. The plight of the jobless is no less urgent. A public-private initiative, targeted toward the poorest neighborhoods, with a significant public-sector jobs component, must be a part of any plan to address urban unrest. Marc Morial is the president of the National Urban League. Continue Reading