DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.





The ultimate urban luxury is open space, preferably green, say a penthouse, a terrace, a small garden out back. If you don’t have that, then a park will do. Living on Paris’ memorable Place des Vosges is great but you are beleaguered by tourists. New York’s Gramercy Park is private and off limits to visitors but it is in full public view. But in New York there are stately porte- cochères that lead to secluded courtyards with limited access assuring your own private space - welcome to gated luxury.

Porte-cochères aren’t quite dime a dozen in New York - in fact, there are a number of them around town, some old, some new. But there are only six that open to a courtyard or a flowering garden and that is what makes them unique. 


The first and the oldest of these is The Dakota Apartments, now simply the Dakota. It was completed in 1884 on Central Park West, then a sparsely developed part of Manhattan – in fact, a wasteland of empty lots and ramshackle gerrymandered buildings. It was one of the first luxury apartment houses for the upwardly striving merchant class, the wealthy still house-bound in brownstone and granite mansions, in midtown and the east side. It had “tennis courts, marble staircases, oak-and mahogany-paneled dining rooms, 14-foot ceilings, ornate fireplaces, and, of course, those [just recently completed] Central Park views”.  

Over the years, the Dakota has had its fair share of glamor, notoriety and tragedy. John Lennon was shot to death in the arch of the main entrance, Lauren Bacall lived and died there, Leonard Bernstein, Roberta Flack and Rosemary Clooney wrote and sang the tunes, Rudolf Nureyev danced the dance and William Inge wrote the play.

The Dakota, a block long square fortress of a building with an arched porte-cochere leading to the central courtyard, has a gated entrance large enough for a horse-drawn hansom cab. The gate, complete with a bronze and brass sentry box, is a natural barrier to the uninvited. 

Many rave about Dakota’s architecture. I never liked it, it being much, too much for my taste or as one critic put it a “profusion of architectural elements … [a] mix of gables, arches, balconies, oriel windows, dormers [and] finials”. The overall effect is high dungeon Victorian with only the pale-yellow brickwork to lighten the mood.

As for me, Dakota’s courtyard is what sets it apart from the others. It is Goth and dark, secret, mysterious and guarded - a safe, secure but far from welcoming space but then, when built, it had adjacent gardens and croquet courts.

It may not be a green all flowering like the others but it gives some light and air to the original 65 apartments, no two of which are alike. The enormous newly installed austere slabs of grey Devonian stone lining the perimeter give the courtyard simplicity in contrast to fussiness of the building. The centerpiece is a common feature, an ornate fountain encircled by Iridian granite pavers giving the courtyard a sense of place counterbalancing the basement’s mundane skylights.


Seven blocks and two avenues west is the Apthorp another block square behemoth with a green, flowering heart developed by William Waldorf Astor, the expat American who became an English lord. It has a porte-cochère which distinguishes it from Astor Court, the other nearby Astor property, which does not. However, experts say that Astor Court’s architect Charles Platt’s inaccessible-to-carriages garden refuge is far superior and “[n]othing like it had been done in New York, and its design remains one of the most thoughtful in the city.”

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Over the years, my father has melded his love of exploring with his excellent memory and professional expertise [he’s an attorney in New York City who has litigated high profile cases for clients from the US, Europe, Africa and South America]. The result: timely, often provocative, essays and opinion pieces that have been published both in America and overseas by outlets including The Litchfield County Times and The Country & AbroadScrisul Romanesc [Romania], Britić [Great Britain), and Pećat [Serbia].                                                                    

                                                                                                                       CLICK HERE TO READ FULL REVIEW  




Thomas Nast, The Power of the Press, Harper’s Weekly 1872

Some claim that the cornerstone of democracy is a free press; others claim that integrity, not necessarily the truth, is its lifeblood; still others swear fake news is the cause of its demise with censorship a contributing factor. Whatever position you espouse be sure that you understand the dangers and pitfalls.  

In revolutionary Russia and Communist USSR Izvestia and Pravda contributed to democracy’s demise; in Franco’s Spain it was La Vanguardia and ABC that championed the fascist cause; in post-World War II Yugoslavia Politika was the regime’s clarion call; in today’s Egypt government owned newspapers Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Guhriya espouse President el-Sisi’s party line ; and in a Turkey where democracy has taken a turn to dictatorship it is Hüriyet and Sabah that print President Recep Erdoğan’s cant.

Autocratic regimes and more benign forms of government, including democracies are all prone to nurture news media that speaks in a brighter shade of pale, from a complete disregard to a shading of the truth. Neither should be countenanced in today’s sophisticated and savvy internet world.

“Fake news”, once derided as propaganda, as outright lies, has become a daily topic of discourse in the United States with Donald Trump invoking that derogatory term at least 83 times in presidential tweets since his inauguration. “Fake news” has become a term of art, of common usage, but “fake news” is easily debunked as it is based on provable lies. Hard facts, physical evidence, the laws of physics – you can’t be in two places at the same time – are enough to refute them.

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Neo-Nazis marching in Chicago 1978 - Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune

I went to Skokie, Illinois four times in 1977 and 1978. Each time I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, rented a car and drove to Skokie, a Chicago suburb that called itself “The World’s Largest Village”. It was then predominantly Jewish with six thousand Holocaust survivors calling it home. It was also the home of the bowling operations of the Brunswick Corporation, the sports conglomerate headquartered in nearby Lake Forest, Illinois, where I would spend the night.

My visits were with Brunswick’s legal team trying to resolve a New York piece of litigation, a dispute over a bowling lanes contract. The dispute was not acrimonious, it was over money. It was “just business”, one side trying to screw the other, “nothing personal”. After the theatrics staged for our respective clients the attorneys would socialize over drinks at White Hart Pub in Lake Forest’s posh Dear Park Inn.

During one such pleasant chat we discussed the legal issues of the then raging controversy over a proposed political rally of the Nazi Party of America – originally the National Socialist White People’s Party but then Frank Colin’s National Socialist Party. While I had been aware that there was a Communist Party in America – its home being in New York City’s Astor townhouse on West 26th Street directly across the street from the Serbian Cathedral of St. Sava, the church I attended - the existence of domestic Nazis in the United States in 1977 was news to me.

I have a history with the Nazis. Six months after I was born Hitler invaded Yugoslavia and my life would take “a road less travelled”, eventually to the United States. That life was in jeopardy when the Gestapo raided, then searched our house in Belgrade failing to find incriminating documents hidden in my crib. My father was arrested and jailed by the occupying Germans twice escaping execution by a stroke of luck. As a result, my sentiments are understandably not pro-Nazi.

As for the political rally, it seems that the Nazis, some 30 of them had sought a permit to march the streets of Skokie in make believe uniforms complete with red, white and black swastika armbands, unfurling huge swastika adorned flags that would flap in the wind and in the residents’ faces.

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Norman Rockwell Election Day 1944

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch and there ain’t no such thing as a free and fair election here in the United States or for that matter anywhere else in the world.

That’s because the system is rigged, the house always wins, the deck is loaded and the roulette wheel and the music stops when the croupier decides. Just consider the elections that brought Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, England’s Theresa May and Congo’s Joseph Kabila to power.

Elections are far from perfect. They reflect the societies in which they operate. Recognizing them as flawed human endeavors allows one to guard against their misuse.   

I am infuriated by the multiple interviews of two bit, second rate politicians voicing indignation over Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election in response to a conclusion made by America’s intelligence agencies. To hear them spout platitudes and extoll the sanctity of America’s election process you would think that the Virgin Mary had just been gang raped when the real state of affairs is that a madam has been called just another whore.

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator and presidential contender, in a high dungeon mode rants against Russian cyberwars that hacked the National Democratic Committee’s computers. He calls them acts of aggression, of war yet he remains mum and silent about the domestic sabotage by Democratic Party officials who favored Hillary Clinton and denied him the nomination and possibly the presidency. Apparently for Sanders only foreign interference taints an American “free and fair” election.      

He and his brother senators and representatives confirm ignorance of post-World War II history and deny the reality that numerous foreign elections were compromised by our government. For a start need I remind them of the 1948 Italian general election? The National Security Act of 1947 allowed CIA covert operations in foreign elections – in Italy millions of dollars in cash were delivered to our guys, forged letters were concocted compromising opposition leaders and a major media campaign was funded. Of course, the Russians reciprocated in kind. Was that a “free and fair” election? I think not.   

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