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.