Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Philly Cheesecake Newswoman Screams/Creams NYPD Officer … Or Was It Just A Dream?

In a story yet to be sorted out and with “he said/she said” on both sides, news anchor Alycia Lane either did or didn’t “insult/slap” a female NYPD police officer. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Don’t expect this story to end with, “and they all lived happily after.”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weather Experts Blowing Hard Again

Remember when people referred to really bad weather simply as storms? Seems like now we always seem to have a powerful nor-easter headed our way. New Yorkers know it’s just some wind, rain, sleet and snow. We’ll deal as we always have before.

So chill (pun intended), weather girls (pun intended). No need to “battan down the hatches,” fearless forecasters. Go put on a hat and coat, morbid meteorologists. I’m sure somehow you’ll survive just like the rest of us.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

MTA’s Lost And Found Service Is Losing What’s Found

Leave something on a city train, bus or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and you can probably wave goodbye to it forever. Poor recordkeeping, inadequate storage facilities, weak security measures and more abuses by MTA officials and workers have pretty much seen to that. According to Inspector General Barry Kluger’s recent report, of 8,000 items that were reported lost and turned in, only 18% were ever returned to their rightful owners! Many items never make it to the pickup office at Penn Station. Other facts from this document were equally appalling.

NYC Transit has supposedly instituted many of the recommendations from this report to improve the custodial care and to ensure the safe return of rider’s lost goods. We’ll believe their assurances, if and when we see them produce better statistics. In the meantime, “hold on tightly to your belongings, riders!” MTA employees might be more dangerous than the thief riding next to you. In the words of Bette Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Price Of Friendship

A gold medal commissioned by George Washington and presented to the Marquis de Lafayette just sold for $5.3 million dollars at Sotheby’s in Manhattan. The medal was symbolic of the bond and friendship between America and France that existed at that time. It’s nice that the medal increased in value over the past 200-plus years but unfortunate that the bond and friendship between the two countries isn’t valued as it once was. Where are today’s Washington’s and Lafayette’s when we really need them?

NOTE: To add insult to injury, Brooklyn's famous Lafayette High School was recently closed down.

Carnival Of Fights Leads To Festival Of Lights

Congratulations to Hassan Askari. He courageously stepped in to defend Walter Adler and his friends from a vicious gang beating. This gang reportedly taunted and began fighting with Askari and his Jewish party in the subway system on a moving Q train. As the fighting continued and blood was being spilled, Adler managed to pull the train’s emergency brake. Police entered the car and subsequently arrested ten men. Based on eyewitness accounts, this appears to be a racial bias incident. None of the suspects have been charged with a hate crime as of yet. The Brooklyn D.A.’s office is still investigating the matter.

The story made headlines because Askari, a Muslim, aided Adler, a Jew. In sincere gratitude for his efforts, Adler invited Askari to his home to share in his family’s Chanukah festivities. The unreported and perhaps bigger story is why nobody else on board the train did anything to help. That is too often, a sad truth with violent crimes. Fear of involvement and physical injury is understandable. Admittedly, not all of us are heroes. However, failure to help others in need is a ride within a dark tunnel to a sad destination. It’s definitely not a trip on board the “Soul Train.”

The next time you ride the subway, pray you’re surrounded by those who will come to your aid if need be. And if need be, be as brave and selfless as Mr. Askari. He set a noble example I pray we all have the guts to follow.

Horse Carriage Riders May Soon Be Hailing Cabs

Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens) introduced a proposal to end all horse carriage rides in New York City. He believes they’re inhumane and detrimental to traffic patterns in Midtown. The Horse and Carriage Association objected to Mr. Avella’s claims and goal. They actively support this 100-year old industry citing it’s importance to hundreds of working class families in the industry and the carriage’s great popularity among tourists. Their spokesperson Carolyn Daly maintains that horses are well cared for and that the industry does far more good than harm in the Big Apple.

Horse carriages are undoubtedly one of the lesser causes for city traffic jams. If Mr. Avella so strongly believes that horses are put at risk while in traffic, than he should extend his ban to police mounts too. That of course would be a foolish thing to do. However, Mr. Avella’s position does have some merit. Perhaps it’s time to consider restricting carriage rides to Central Park or to designated zones where horse and driver can better co-exist than they do now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Public Meters Matter To The Parking Public

Believe it or not, the city is considering a plan to increase parking meter rates to as much as $15.00 an hour; all in an effort to reduce traffic. Metered parking in midtown now costs $2.00 an hour for cars and $9.00 an hour for trucks. Muni-Meters currently cost $2.00 an hour, $5.00 for two hours and $9.00 for three hours. Nevertheless, outside consultants and city planners are looking for still more. What a surprise!

A significantly higher parking rate would unfairly target moderate and lower income drivers. It’s one thing for private garages and parking lots to charge high fees. It’s the driver’s choice to park in these lots. However, it’s quite another thing for public parking meters to be setup with exorbitant rates. In so doing, they’ll create private parking spots for the rich by making these spots financially prohibitive to the general public of generally lesser means.

We know “Free Parking” is easier to find on a Monopoly board than in midtown Manhattan any day of the week. A reasonable meter fee is acceptable. With $15.00 meters on city sidewalks though, finding cars nearby valued under $10,000 will become a rarity … kind of like finding a parking spot now while circling around and around. We urge the Department of Transportation and other city officials to come up with a more creative plan to reduce traffic. Maybe we can reduce the fleet size of city vehicles as a start?

Transit Rate Rise Is No Pre-Christmas Surprise

While we’re happy that the basic $2.00 transit fare will not be raised, it’s unfortunate that rates for multiple-ride programs will increase. Though prices will increase for some, service will remain the same for all ... without any significant improvement in service. While transit-goer advocacy groups strongly oppose the measure, it’s unlikely to prevent the December 19th increase. It’s hard to win a battle against the combined forces of the MTA, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer.

It’s hoped that the no-toll policy for Santa’s sled and reindeer will be maintained. But give it time. Political grinches are probably working on the legislation now to impose that kind of fee. With increased pressure every year on politicians to do away with Christmas altogether, it’s conceivable that they will look to increase city revenue by imposing a new "San-tax." Reindeer rider-ship need only drop by one to affect those who still hold the Christmas holiday deer … uhhh dear.

Queens Pet Happy To Be In A Hog Heaven Haven City

In St. Albans, a gentle one-year old, 200-pound porker by the name of Romeo occasionally strolls the neighborhood with members of the Cummings family. This pot-bellied pig is the family’s pet and apparently not a nuisance to the neighbors. While keeping a pig this size is in violation of various city animal and health codes, city officials don’t appear to be in any rush to evict this illegal. Who said it’s tough to find a porking spot in New York?

Public Toilets Parked In Madison Square

Twenty toilets in a silver-bullet shaped building were setup the other day in Madison Square Park. The general consensus of neighborhood residents was that these outhouses were unwelcome. The Department of Transportation is admittedly moving forward slowly with this project … unlike others where they speed to get things done? They should be in operation by year’s end. Mayor Bloomberg is expected to perform the ceremonial first flush when he returns from China. The name of the city attendant to perform the less glamorous first plunging is yet to be announced.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

OTB May Finish Out Of The Money in 2008

Mayor Bloomberg said OTB could be done with horse racing by June of 2008. It’s simply not making enough to keep it “in the money.” To his credit, the mayor doesn’t want city taxpayers to pay any increase to subsidize OTB. That’s because the present revenue sharing agreement with Albany takes too large a cut from the city. It’s their piggish percentage that is making OTB unprofitable for the city to keep as a “cash cow.” If Albany refuses to change an unfair revenue sharing plan with the city, the city’s only legal bookie may be on the unemployment line. The mayor is right to play hardball with the governor over this issue. They need the racing revenue upstate. They’d be wise to take millions less rather than collect nothing at all. Hmmmmm. Politicians in Albany being wise? OTB may truly be on it’s last legs. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cell Phone Locker Plan Schools Still Absent From Schools

On the one hand, you have parents, who for safety concerns want their kids to carry cell phones to and from schools. On the other hand, Mayor Bloomberg wants to prohibit students bringing cell phones into all school buildings. A pilot program to install “cell phone lockers” on school premises was to serve as a compromise for the two sides. Not surprisingly, testing is now on hold until sometime next year. It seems that both government and Board of Education officials can’t figure out how to safeguard a row of lockers on their premises! A year, perhaps years of planning and then installation loom ahead now. Realistically, it should probably take just a few weeks or months to decide and act upon.

This latest example of the lack of leadership and decision making that’s needed here makes me wonder about two things. Do we really trust that this kind of management team is responsibly protecting the city’s students now? Will we, the citizens of New York City, ever learn our lesson and demand better service and accountability from those who work(?) for us?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The New Battlefront Is Here At Home For Some Old Warriors

The National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that the number of homeless military veterans in New York State doubled in 2006 to 21,147. That number includes 5,670 in New York City and Long Island alone. Throughout the country, they now estimate that one in four homeless people is a veteran. These numbers are both staggering and appalling. These statistics cry out for action to reduce and eliminate them long before the next study is completed. But do we have the mindset and heart to accomplish that?

America honored its military personnel on Veteran’s Day and rightly so. Without these Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine troops and the courageous sacrifices they’ve made throughout our history, we might not today be in a free land called “America.” It might have been lost to a conquering enemy years ago. One national day of remembrance is certainly not enough to pray and give thanks for our sons and daughters who served. Commemorating America’s veterans should last a lifetime, demanding gratitude and respect from us all. Quite simply, America can truly never repay or honor these brave and patriotic men and women for all that they so justly deserve. The debt we owe is staggering … beyond comprehension … yet worth every penny, plus interest. Nevertheless, we must try. We must all be doing whatever we can to contribute to this cause of civilians protecting our veterans. Let it begin with these, our homeless veterans. Let it continue to those in VA hospitals. And let it embrace those on active duty as well.

New York City makes huge investments every year to invite tourists here. Can we not make a significant effort as well to welcome home and care for our homeless sons and daughters? These individuals have each paid a very high price for their service to our country. For some apparently, it’s cost everything. We all need to give whatever it takes to get the job done to help them … just like they previously gave all they had to do the same for us. Contact your local VA facility today to find out what you can do to help.

Monday, November 12, 2007

NYC Pigeon Proposal Is Full Of Poop

So now there’s talk about penalizing those who feed pigeons in New York City with a $1,000.00 fine! I guess our politicians believe we each have “money trees” in our backyards to afford that kind of fine. Councilman Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn said “We hope people who are spending their time collecting old bread from bakeries to feed pigeons to poop on your head will stop." The belief is less food, less pigeons, less baby pigeons.

History shows that regardless of the plans that have been tried before, pigeons have never flown the NYC coop. There are too many food sources here besides breadcrumbs from the elderly. Strong initiatives should be taken to control the pigeon population (as with rats) but not with another new civil law and layer of government behind it. We don't need a "NYC Pigeon Czar." Try asking the public to understand the problem and to stop feeding the birds … don’t levy yet another outrageous fine upon those who elect you. We may respond better than you give us credit for.

To all the do-gooder councilmen and other city officials, let’s be more concerned about pigs wasting taxpayer’s money instead of pigeons pooping on the statues of ex-politicians. Who knows? That attitude might get a statue erected for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tough To Find A Real Home Bargain In NYC

The Empire State Building was erected (land included) at a cost of $24.718,000. 102 stories … monkey not included. Now, rumor has it that a real estate tycoon by the name of Leonard Blavatnik may buy a 3 story condo atop the Mark Hotel on East 77th Street for a record $150,000,000! Fortunately for him, he’s a billionaire. Things like that help when you’re shopping for new digs, I’m sure.

Now, I’m a sensible guy. Manhattan real estate has gone up a bit since the early '30s. I know too there’s about 75 year’s difference between these two purchases. I’m sure inflation took its toll in the huge price/floor disparity. But, for $150,000,000 for only 3 floors compared to roughly $25,000,000 for 102 floors … can the seller be nice enough to throw in a big gorilla too?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"I Love New York" Vs. "Mr. Bloomberg Goes To Washington"

Rumor has it that New York city Mayor Bloomberg will run for New York state governor in 2010 and not the White House as President in 2008. With a 75% job approval rating here in the city, he’s likely to give current governor Eliot Spitzer a serious run for his money. Knowing the political histories of both candidates and the amount of money Bloomberg can spend, this race might be over long before it begins … assuming Spitzer is even in Albany that far in the future.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Links Between Unhealthy Homes And Asthma

Protestors were out in force the other day demanding that authorities take action against landlords who fail to rid homes of dangerous mold, mildew, dust, rodent infestation, bedbugs, cockroaches and harmful pesticides. These harmful agents of disease and death are most widespread in the poorer areas of NYC. Extermination helps control problems but repairs and lifestyle changes are often needed too. Activists want the Department of Health to amend the health code to include these agents as asthma triggers. To this point, the DOH insists additional study is required to make health code requirements any stronger.

Molds in particular can cause severe breathing problems. This should be of great concern to all New Yorkers where an estimated 300,000 children have been diagnosed with asthma. It’s important to note that asthma is the number one cause of children being absent from school. One problem leads to another.

All sides must work together to reduce this problem. Landlords must provide safe and healthy living conditions for tenants. Tenants must be held to a higher standard for keeping their homes clean and available for monthly exterminating. Lastly, the government should take immediate and appropriate action against whoever is responsible for poor sanitary conditions. If they can insist that transfats be removed from our burgers, they should act even more aggressively to eliminate bigger dangers that put our children and the rest of us at greater risk.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Skateboarders “Bomb” On Broadway

The “Broadway Bomb” is an unofficial/illegal eight mile long race of extreme skateboard enthusiasts. About 100 men and women participated a few days ago. The course winds dangerously down busy, traffic-laden Broadway, beginning on 116th Street and ending at Bowling Green. Boarders takeoff downtown at breakneck speed (literally), ignoring traffic signals and trying to avoid pedestrians, potholes, cars and police … not always without incident. The race’s motto … “You could die.” seems like an understatement!

Not having had my car on the course at the time and not having been an endangered pedestrian myself, I think there’s something very “New York” and thrilling about this kind of race. Maybe there’s something to be said for living life boldly and flaunting authority just a bit. Maybe in some ways too, a part of us wishes we could skateboard past the city’s traffic jams or crowded sidewalks. Imagine Errol Flynn boldly striding past “Do Not Enter” signs. You know he’s wrong to do so, but there’s a smile on your face anyway. You have a certain respect and admiration for him. In some ways, you might wish you were a rebel like him. Maybe there’s some skateboarder in you?

Pack a skateboard in your car’s trunk tomorrow. Stick one in your bag if you’re on foot. Tomorrow may be the day when you decide to take on Broadway yourself … all eight miles.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Marathon Man Bests Mass Transit

Jeremy Olshan clocked 4 hours, 55 minutes in the 2006 ING New York City Marathon. The other day, using seven buses and three subway trains which covered roughly the same route and distance (26.2 miles) of the Marathon, Jeremy required 4 hours, 57 minutes to complete his journey … 2 minutes longer than when he ran! It’s not known if Jeremy has any entrepreneurial ambitions or not. If so, he might consider offering piggyback rides to transit commuters looking to save time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Papa’s Got A "Recycled" Bag

A new proposal would require stores over 5,000 square feet to setup an in-store recycling program and to sell reusable bags. The bags would have a consumer reminder printed on them such as “Please return this bag to a participating store for recycling.” Recycled bags can then be used to produce new bags and a variety of other products, even furniture. If passed, the new law would affect some 700 food stores and retailers in the city. It still needs final approval from the city council and Mayor Bloomberg.

Years ago, we gave up our use of brown paper bags to save our forests. Paper bags were replaced by plastic ones. Environmentalists now believe it takes years for these plastic bags to biodegrade and that they pollute our soil and water. A more responsible “green” policy here would reduce that danger and the oil needed to make plastic bags by millions of barrels annually. Seems like an environmentally sound idea on many levels.

Other cities around the world have mandated these changes. New York City should too. I believe that swift passage of this bill is … in the bag.

Work Here But Live Where?

Last year, Mayor Bloomberg introduced legislation to permit members of the city’s largest municipal labor union (District Council 37) to work for city government but live in nearby Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Putnam, Nassau or Suffolk counties if they so chose. At present, DC 37’s 175,000 union members must reside within the five boroughs of New York City. Lawmakers have yet to act on the Mayor’s proposal. Many believe instead that city jobs should be given to city residents.

It seems reasonable that a city be able to mandate residency as a condition of employment. In a similar policy, public schools are only open to city children. People who work and live here support the city much more than those making money here and then scramming across city borders to spend their paychecks elsewhere. That’s one argument. On the other hand, it seems unfair for government to demand that its employees setup home in New York City's environs if they and their families can live better nearby.

Tough to choose who is right and who is wrong. Both sides’ arguments have merit. But perhaps it’s just a matter of how the issue is framed that makes the choice difficult.

In the end, workers have freedom and flexibility to work anywhere that their skills allow. If they work here, they do because they’ve determined it’s in their best interests to do so. However, a city cannot move around like an individual. Its borders may be altered a bit over time but basically, its latitude and longitude remain unchanged. A city must do what’s in its best interests to remain vital … and to stay on the map! Therefore, if it can be proven that it’s in New York City’s best interests to have employees be residents, then that must be the only position city politicians and the mayor should support. Many qualified Americans would gladly move here to live in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island or the Bronx if it meant getting a good city job with benefits.

The “I Love New York” theme song should play loudly during all official talks on this matter. It should resonate in the minds of our politicians and city workers. Do what’s best for New York City in this matter and you’ll be doing what’s best for true New Yorkers.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Noose Nonsense

The past few weeks, it’s saddened me to read about hangman’s nooses being found in several places throughout the city. They’re apparently meant to target and intimidate individuals by using a truly dark symbol from American … more correctly perhaps, human history. These are regrettable incidents, rightly condemned by those in authority. More in government should speak out. It’s hoped that the faceless cowards who have no guts for direct communication, do have the sense to see that their messages of hate in New York City are falling on deaf ears and before courageous hearts.

Hey Nostradamus! It’s All About Location, Location, Location!

I just watched a television show on the History Channel. It was on the famous 16th century French prophet, Nostradamus. Many consider him the greatest “seer” of them all. His prophecies and quatrains have survived and have been studied for nearly 500 years. (I sure hope he was wise enough to secure copyrights to his work!) Most things in the show dealt with the usual topics. Things like the antichrist, end of the world, famine, disasters, war, death, ecological disasters, etc.. The usual Sunday night, pick-me-up kind of stuff. You know.

Regrettably, there was no mention at all about specific Manhattan buildings going co-op. I really want to get in at the “insider price” to make some big dough before they convert … and it has to be before 2012 … which unfortunately is the end of time as we know it. So, he was no help, and my time … make that our time, is running out.

So this evening, I’m seriously questioning his voyeuristic abilities. Nostradamus may have envisioned many future events, but I don’t think he ever witnessed the high price of high-rises on Manhattan’s upper west side in 2007. If so, he would have sailed here and bought all of Manhattan 50 years before the Dutch who saw $24 as a pretty good investment for the place.

Nostradamus … famous prophet … lousy real estate speculator.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Feng Shui Gives Yankees Win Over Mets

Feng shui (pronounced FENG SHUWAY) is the ancient Chinese practice of placing and arranging things in space to achieve the most agreeable harmony with the surrounding environment. Chi (pronounced CHEE) is the life force or spiritual energy within all things. What’s all that have to do with baseball, you ask?

Judith Wendell, a noted feng shui and chi expert declared the new Yankee Stadium superior to that of the Mets’ Citi Field. A variety of tests and “energy vibrations” she felt at each construction site convinced her of that. In other words, better feng shui in the Bronx will give the Yankees better chi than their cross-town rivals. Or, put yet another way … more chi, more wins. Great news for Bombers’ fans!

Both fields are scheduled to open for the start of the 2009 baseball season. Perhaps a new chant will rise up from the crowd to the facade in the Bronx on opening day … “We got chi! We got chi!”

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Where There’s Steam ... There’s Something Boiling Below

The cause(s) for Con Edison’s July, 2007 steam pipe explosion has yet to be determined. Whether Con Ed is to blame for inadequate maintenance or whether a city-owned water main (broken a few days prior to the blast) triggered the other pipe to burst, nobody knows. It will be awhile before anything is confirmed. Perhaps, we may never know exactly what led to this tragic event.

I believe there are some things we can safely predict. For example, in the years to come:

1. There will be lawsuits and counter-lawsuits aplenty. Suits on behalf of the two people sadly caught in the blast, Con Ed vs. the city, the city vs. Con Ed and each of the building, store and property owners with damages vs. everybody standing. Maybe others too.
2. All sides will produce “expert” testimony. Each party pointing hired fingers at the other side. Each expert will present reasonably logical arguments while possibly obscuring important facts in the process.
3. Regardless of who wins and who loses, all costs will ultimately be passed onto New York City taxpayers and Con Edison’s customers.
4. More explosions, resulting from the city’s decaying underground infrastructure which is over 100 years old in many places, may be expected.
5. City residents will be generally unsupportive of tax increases to subsidize the “big fix” that’s needed underneath our town.
6. Local politicians won’t adequately address the growing dangers or propose important legislation to counter these threats. Heard any yet?
7. When all is said and done, there will be several additionally rich tort lawyers flashing their $1,000 bills to attract the gorgeous blondes in Bungalow 8.

There once was a time when pedestrians crossing NYC streets need only be cautious not to step behind horses or into an open manhole. Nowadays, horse manure isn’t a big concern. Sidestepping manholes, even those with covers securely in place, may still be a wise precaution. Unless of course you want to risk being launched through the 10th floor window of a skyscraper.

Tread lightly New Yorkers. There's a cauldron of trouble brewing beneath your feet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

JFK Airport Cats Receiving Free Transportation

For many decades, the descendants of abandoned, escaped and lost cats have roamed the terminals, grounds and runways at JFK. This has caused unsafe and unsanitary conditions throughout the airport. Kindly airport workers who leave food for these feral cats may unwittingly be attracting birds too. Birds fly into jet engines which may cause expensive repairs and dangerous flying conditions. Recently, “cat roundups” have taken place with the participation of federal wildlife officials. Sadly, most of these cats may be euthanized (because they're unadoptable) but their removal makes conditions safer for both passengers and air crews.

Seems logical enough, right? Not for some of the most vocal cat lovers it isn’t! Valerie Sicignano of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative volunteered her group to trap, neuter and vaccinate the cats for free. She said that cats that could be put up for adoption would be, but that the rest would be returned to the airport! The Port Authority rejected her group’s offer. I agree with the P.A.’s decision. It's common sense (which is far from "common" nowadays, it seems). Ms. Sicignano’s proposal was only a partial solution to a serious problem when only a complete solution will ensure safety. Animal activists do good deeds and deserve support ... to an extent. That extent being that they must come up with comprehensive ideas that rationally balance the people's
rights with the animals they’re trying to protect.

“Superbug” Finally Lands In NYC

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Omar Rivera, a 12-year-old student in Brooklyn, New York. His is the first known death of a New Yorker from MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), a highly drug-resistant staph infection bacteria. Any death saddens and diminishes us; a child’s most of all.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a report stating that in the United States in 2005, there were 94,360 MRSA infections resulting in 18,650 deaths. For whatever the reason, New Yorkers have been spared the ravages of this deadly bacteria … until now.

Staph infections typically spread by skin to skin contact with an open wound or the sharing of personal items. All New Yorkers are urged to practice good personal hygiene including frequent hand-washing. Short of each of us living in a protective bubble, what more can we do?

Omar Rivera’s death may serve to protect others by alerting us all to this new threat. Those wishing to send letters, gifts or donations to Omar’s family might try contacting his school: I.S. 211, John Wilson Intermediate School, 1001, East 100th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11236. Attention: Principal Buffie Simmons-Peart. Tel 718.251.4411.

Good Garbage Vs. Bad Garbage

Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty is expanding the distribution of the familiar green and blue recycle bins. They’ll be placed in city parks and in the Staten Island Ferry terminals. This effort will hopefully encourage people to recycle waste when out in public just as they’re required to do at home. Good idea Commissioner!

While you’re at it, how about more of the regular trash bins too? More often than not it seems, New Yorkers must balance their refuse on top of overflowing garbage pails. The green and blue receptacles will likely be filled with “bad” garbage and not recyclable material otherwise.

Fair Fare Fear

MTA Executive Director & CEO Elliot Sander and his staff are dedicated to controlling costs while coming up with ways to increase mass transit traffic. Their innovative solution for us? More fare hikes for commuters; beginning next year and currently planned at two year intervals thereafter to keep pace with inflation. We're so very fortunate to have their expert management skills working on our behalf.

I realize operating expenses steadily rise and fares must rise accordingly. I just find it hard to believe that every option to cut waste and make money with the transit system to defray costs has been examined. How did the transit system run so well for so many years with so little money by comparison (See below.)?

Officer, I’d like to report a mugging.

NYC Mass Transit Fare History (1904-Present)
1904 $0.05
1948 $0.10
1953 $0.15
1966 $0.20
1970 $0.30
1972 $0.35
1975 $0.50
1980 $0.60
1981 $0.75
1984 $0.90
1986 $1.00
1990 $1.15
1992 $1.25
1995 $1.50
2003 $2.00
2008 $2.25 (projected)

A Real Sewer Doer

Even in 2007, not all neighborhoods in NYC have sewers. Mayor Bloomberg announced that the Annadale section of Staten Island will be getting their sewer system built and connected in June of 2009. Rats not included.

Calorie Count Cops Menu Mania

City health officials are still looking to force some fast food restaurants to post calorie counts on their menu boards. They recently lost a similar case in Federal court. Undaunted by that defeat, they’re pressing forward now with a new plan to make these demands on chain eateries of only 15 or more outlets. I wonder if city-run food programs for the poor and homeless are as meticulously managed.

Admittedly, too large a percentage of New Yorkers are overweight or obese (government employees especially … or is that just my imagination?). It would be a healthful thing for many of us to lose some weight, I agree. But, do we really need government involved here to unfairly compel fast food establishments alone to list calories? To my knowledge, not a single upscale restaurant with “white linen” on the table will be affected. Seems unfair and besides, we eat more at home than outside anyway. If their honest goal is for us to lose weight, then when will they begin to lay down the law about posting calorie counts on our cabinets and refrigerators?

Astroland Won’t Be "Lost In Space" Just Yet

On September 9th, it appeared that Astroland in Coney Island had entertained its last customer. Thankfully, a deal was reached with Thor Equities to extend the park’s official closing one more year. Thor also extended eight other attractions by the Boardwalk. It’s an unexpected, but very welcome surprise that a settlement was reached.

Thor’s $100 million dollar investment to redesign and develop Coney won’t save Astroland or many of the other places we know. That means New Yorkers and tourists have just one more season to enjoy what remains of old Coney Island before “Corporate Coney” replaces it. Future images of this world famous attraction look more like a generic Disney theme park than a unique Brooklyn experience. That's sad. We can only hope that Coney Island will become as wonderful and distinctive a place as it once was, many, many, many years ago.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Recycle The Proposed E-cycle Program

City Councilman Bill DeBlassio (D-Brooklyn) is trying to put through a bill requiring certain manufacturers to be responsible for the collection and recycling of their products. This currently includes items such as televisions, computers and other electronic devices. A provision in the bill would prohibit manufacturers from selling their goods in New York City unless they agreed to the new policy. According to him, a deal with the mayor is imminent. Requests to the Councilman’s office for additional information have gone unanswered.

At first glance, this proposal seems well intentioned though a bit ill conceived. At second glance too. Who truly benefits by this bill and how? If companies are held responsible for disposing of their products beyond the product’s lifetime, it’s likely that costs will rise. Perhaps the Councilman has another bill pending to help NYC consumers offset a price hike? Perhaps not. If this bill passes and manufacturers decide not to sell in NYC, what will happen? Consumers will need to make arrangements for the collection of their electronics. NYC retailers will lose business as consumers will shop in New Jersey, Connecticut or upstate; an inconvenience to the people here and a loss in city tax revenue. Lastly, why limit this bill to electronics companies, Councilman? Why not also force auto manufacturers to tow away junked cars, plastics manufacturers to collect coffee cup lids and God to collect the leaves that fall to the ground every Fall?

Gowanus Canal Plans Still Murky

Toxic chemicals in the Gowanus Canal and its surrounding areas remain because of “scheduling conflicts” between city officials and the Army Corps of Engineers. This bureaucratic mess is delaying vital cleanup of the 1.5 mile long canal and slowing much of the area’s planned development and growth. Worse still, thousands of homes may be completed before work on the canal is done. This may require additional decontamination efforts in years to come. Who’ll be responsible for future rehab costs and associated health problems? Let’s have names!

Here's a name. 231 years ago, George Washington courageously stood up in a boat while crossing the Delaware River. He inspired his troops, led them to victory and buoyed a young nation’s spirit. Is there nobody now willing and able to stand up to take control of this ecological disaster to get the job done? If not, could it be that there’s fear among our “leaders” about falling off a boat into toxic waters? Government workers and military officials would do well to keep in mind that there are families with children who presently live by the shores of “Lavender Lake.” Many more will be arriving. Action is needed NOW … not ineffectiveness from those who can’t even manage their Day-Timers.

Do your jobs NOW people, or in the words of an old Brooklyn philosopher, "Take a long walk off a short pier!" (I’m sure you can guess where that pier might be located.)


For a previous generation of fringe music fans, a once sordid spot on the Bowery became a world famous, punk rock mecca. CBGB’s was born, lived and died in just a few dozen years. Not much time by some measures. Enough time though for CBGB’s to become legendary. To clubbers who entered and enjoyed, the memories will live on.

A chic boutique will become the first of several upscale businesses to open on CBGB’s grave. The Bowery and the surrounding neighborhood are changing; supposedly for the better. That it’s happening isn’t news, really. Like a volcano periodically spewing out lava, rebuilding the land around, New York City too incessantly rebuilds the new over the old. Dig deep enough and you’ll see generational histories, one built on top of another.

If punk is old now, those who “lived” it are older. Punch an air hole in the lava, rockers. It’s your only chance to survive. Or lay still beneath a trendy boutique in what was once the center of your world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where’s The Party?

According to a survey by Maxim magazine, New York City is home to 66 strip clubs and 88 modeling agencies. Maxim states that as “party cities” go, we now rank fourth in the nation. Miami, Los Angeles and Atlanta were 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Obviously, Maxim’s researchers have no clue whatsoever about the partying that takes place on our crowded subway cars and buses in as little as a New York minute! Pay your fare and be fair with us, Maxim!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hey Cabbie!

The Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed to pay a British firm $500,000.00 to design new taxis. I guess we Americans no longer lead the world in automobile manufacturing or ecology technology. More conveniences for the passenger. More green science to benefit the environment. The first of these new cabs is expected to hit NYC’s streets in the Fall of 2009 (Want to bet?). Let’s just hope these English engineers remember which side of the road we drive on.

Don’t Bet On OTB Winning A Fixed Race

In 2006, the city’s Off-Track Betting Corporation had a gross profit of $125 million dollars. A very tidy sum indeed to spend within the five boroughs. Unfortunately, the now four year old revenue sharing deal with Albany somehow netted the state $134 million dollars on that $125 million gambling surplus. Believe it or not, we owed $9 million on top of the $125 million they already took from us!

Dracula knew how to sip on a neck and not gulp. He didn't completely drain his victims to leave them dead. He managed his resources more intelligently than those controlling the bottom lines now. OTB is looking very pale.

Someone up in Albany has to realize you can’t beat a dead horse to cross the finish line. It has no incentive or life. OTB is in a similar state. Under the present financial system, we can’t win in our place, when we have nothing to show for it in the end. Either the state government should restructure the deal to overwhelmingly benefit New York City or the city should put OTB out to pasture until more reasonable minds prevail.

North, South, East, West. Does D.O.T. Know Best?

The city’s Department of Transportation has a test program underway. It plans to install compasses outside of train stations. This, for the purpose of guiding subway riders to their destinations once they hit the streets and become pedestrians. While some of us do take a moment or so to regain our bearings, we somehow manage to find our way on the surface without any navigation aids. On occasion (men generally excluded), we even ask for directions.

This compass idea seems a bit off course to me. I have another idea. Why not install clocks in the sidewalks? With those in place, riders will know if they’re going to make it to where they’re going on time … or if they’ll be late because of yet another transit service delay!

Let’s not waste revenue on nice but unnecessary devices. None of us want the fare to go north again in the near future, do we?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Supersize My City!

For well over one hundred years, Manhattan’s vertical growth in the form of skyscrapers, helped fuel the engine of this city’s economy. More buildings with more floors meant more people, more business, more taxes … more revenue for the city’s coffers. Those concerned about the flight paths of local birds and the harm to their habitats “squawked” but in most cases were overruled. The same species of birds continue to fly overhead today, same as before. Our statues and cars clearly show proof of them on occasion.

Today, there are engineers and developers who wish to expand the borders of Manhattan; this time in a horizontal direction. In our city’s history, it’s been done numerous times before. In fact, one of the more recent success stories is the 92 acres of landfill upon which Battery Park City arose. This time however, it’s those concerned about local fish habitats that seek to kill this project as was done did years ago with the West Side Highway. Kill it dead ... before it even has a chance to get off the ground (Or is that water?), so to speak. Unfortunately, it’s yet to be proven by this lobby that any fish have been harmed by any recent landfill project. Nevertheless, this project is now at risk.

New York City became one of the great cities of the modern world with progressive thinking. We need it now to remain a vital location and destination. Let’s make sure all of the homework is done by experts (on both sides) and thoroughly checked before proceeding. Any large scale building project that may have any possible negative impact needs to be studied. Unless the opposition can present undeniable proof of irreversible harm to the citizens or wildlife around the city, I say … “let’s change the maps and make New York City a bit closer to New Jersey.”

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Contemporary Design From The Past With A Futuristic Style

Forty-eight years ago today, a world famous art museum designed by the great Frank Lloyd Wright opened on Fifth Avenue and 89th Street in Manhattan. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, located right here in New York City, remains one of the most architecturally striking buildings ever built within our boroughs. Whether observing this structure from the outside or inside, you're guaranteed to be impressed. Oh, and for you art lovers, there's a few paintings hanging on the walls too. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Flood Of Pedestrians On Brooklyn's Ocean Parkway Bicycle Path

Fewer people than ever it seems are respecting the designated bicycle path that stretches from the Prospect Expressway to the Boardwalk in Coney Island. People often walk as though in a fog or else in a deliberate, uncaring manner. This puts them as well as bike riders in unnecessarily dangerous situations. It's enough to worry about cars, lights and broken pavement without having to negotiate around people, carriages and the occasional can lady's shopping cart. Try to tell them they're in the wrong and you'd better hope they don't hit you with a fallen tree branch!

Be courteous to your neighbors, people! Walk where you're supposed to. Getting hit by a fast moving bicycle can definitely ruin your afternoon stroll ... maybe even the way you're able to walk in the future.

... And New York State Driver Licenses For All

When lawful tourists visit New York, they buy souvenirs. When illegal aliens (regardless of their countries of origin) come to live in New York, they could soon be handed a New York State driver license ... courtesy of our elected officials! This, for the expressed purpose of identifying illegals living in our midst. We’re told that the state's legal residents will benefit from this. It’s easier to imagine though taxpayers paying even more for financial aid programs benefiting non-citizens once these people are exposed.

A recent poll found that only 22% of New Yorkers approve of this license giveaway. 78% of New Yorkers should provide a "get out of town" ride to those in office who turn justice into road kill.

A diverse population is one of America’s greatest blessings. So too is our judicial system. Let’s continue to support legal immigration, not reward those who don’t obey our laws.

Joe Torre Departs The New York "Yankees Universe"

Thanks for twelve glorious baseball seasons and a lifetime of wonderful memories to enjoy. I wish, most Yankee fans wish, that you would have stuck around for at least two more. You certainly earned them along with our eternal respect.