Sunday, December 28, 2008

Widow “Belts” Boxer’s Grandson

Rocky Graziano was a boxer. Rocky Graziano was a champion. Rocky Graziano was a New Yorker. Paul Newman starred in a boxing movie about his life called, "Somebody Up There Likes Me." Famous, loveable guy, he was. Sadly, his grandson looks to profit from the man’s fame instead of being proud just to be related to it. The grandson, Aaron Graziano, was recently looking to sell the prizefighter’s belt. That’s when Rocky’s widow, Norma Graziano, 83, got wind of it and “stepped into the ring” to fight back. The belt was awarded 61 years ago in Chicago. The year was 1947 when Rocky beat Tony Zale in Chicago. Norma said that she let her daughter Audrey hold the belt. When she died, the “little creep” as she referred to Aaron, got hold of it. He promised to return it but never did. Aaron insists he owns the belt. Let’s root for the widow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Green And Blue In Our Red Apple

There are 105 additional green and blue recycling bins throughout the five boroughs helping the city get a “do over” with its waste. The cost for this program which began in April 2007 is minimal. The message and goal is significant though. So New Yorkers, be “color coordinated” when next out in public. It's the good neighborly thing to do.

Counting Bodies In 2010

The City of New York wants its estimated half-million illegal immigrants to legally complete the 2010 Census forms. This will better reflect the actual number of people living here to help the city obtain more federal dollars. It’s unlikely however that many will step forward for fear of deportation. So why are we seeking hundreds of federal bucks for each illegal alien when each one reportedly costs New York City residents thousands of dollars annually? Especially now during this severe economic downturn, doesn't it make more sense than ever to enforce existing laws regarding illegal immigration from all countries?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gun Permits Permit Few Gun Carriers

35,210 people have gun permits in "Gun City," uhhh "Fun City." This total includes both “premise” and “carry” licenses for firearms. The NYPD which issues permits says that figure has dropped from 41,173 active licenses in 2003. The NYC gun application and approval process may take up to 18-months and cost many hundreds of dollars. New York is considered to be among the toughest cities in the nation in which to get a concealed-carry license. Qualifications include the ability to show documented threats against the applicant or proof that the applicant routinely transports cash or valuables in business. At first glance, it would appear that the rich and well-connected have a better chance of gun permit approval than decent and humble NYC residents looking to protect themselves or their families (Can any amount of cash or valuables be more important than this?) in a city of high violent crime statistics and criminals on the loose. To many, the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States grants all the approval they need to bear arms. It states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.Not to all though … especially here.

Marriage No Divorce Yes

A New York judge decreed that a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts may divorce in New York City. This, even though same-sex marriages are not permitted here. It seems as though “the three rings of marriage,” (1. The engagement ring. 2. The wedding ring. 3. Suffering.) are the same, whether "gay" or "straight." Divorce. Something we all can agree on.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Scoop On New Poop

New York City is so desperate for cash that’s it’s "going to the dogs." Dog owners must now pay $250 for their doggies’ illegal dump on the “Sidewalks of New York.” That’s more than double the original fine of $100 established in 1978 when the pooper-scooper law went into effect. In the past fiscal year, only 763 summonses were issued. This obviously isn’t a big enough money-maker to get us out of the economic toilet. However, Mayor Bloomberg has recently proposed taxing "plastic bags" at 5-cents each. Maybe the mayor’s real bailout plan here is to get dog owners to use more plastic bags for doo-sposal ... at a nickel a plop.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Nueva York Is Getting Más Grande

In 2007, Latino populations increased in every borough except Manhattan which showed a 4% decline. A recent survey shows that New York City’s Latino population increased 5.4% to 2.27 million. Only Los Angeles, CA has a higher concentration of Hispanic people with 4.67 million. For English, “Push 2.”

City Council Capitulates To Mayor Miiike III

The City Council voted 29-22 (26 votes were needed) to approve Mayor Bloomberg’s bid to extend term-limits. This actually gives all elected city officials the legal right to seek third terms. The question is, does this extension give voters "more choice" by permitting an incumbent to run or "reduce options" by enabling an otherwise ineligible candidate to rerun. Bloomberg believes this last-minute move gives voters a “fuller choice.” Opponents were quick to argue that voters turned down term-limit referendums in 1992 and 1996. This new bill circumvents what New Yorkers voted against. Interestingly enough, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg were also in favor of term-limits … until recently. No man should insist he’s “the only one” to lead us from economic darkness. Nobody should claim to be Moses or the Messiah. Those parts have already been played. New Yorkers are being played 2,000 years later. Mayor Bloomberg has done much for the city, but what might new blood do? The country voted “change” for President. In New York City, it seems the more things change, the more likely they will stay the same.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cash Flows From Waterfalls

The 2008 exhibit, “Waterfalls” overflowed city coffers with $68.6 million in economic activity … $13.4 million over estimates. Approximately 79,200 additional tourists visited New York City to see the East River’s water pouring forth from designer Olafur Eliasson’s four man-made structures. Circle Line reported water tour sales were up 213,000 compared to the same time last year. So what public art project is “on tap” next, Mayor Bloomberg?

New Ice Age For NYC

The American Museum of Natural History is opening a skating rink behind its building but you won’t see skating dinosaurs. This state of the art facility, located on the Arthur Ross Terrace near the Theodore Roosevelt Park is for humans only. It will offer skating on a high-tech, artificial surface measuring 12,000 square feet. It’s scientifically advanced surface won’t melt, require refrigeration or maintenance either! This is going to be a fun trip “back to the future.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

MTA Busing In Digital Ad Future

Commercials for commuters and communities. That’s what the MTA is testing in Manhattan with huge digital screens on the sides of buses on the M23 route. If they're pleased with the results, screens will be installed on at least 200 buses early next year. Titan Worldwide has a 10-year contract with NYC for this advertising. Using GPS technology, they transmit different ads based on each bus' location. In this way, they target ads to a specific market which should deliver better results for the advertiser. The screens may also be used to broadcast news bulletins or "missing child" alerts. Outdoor advertising is undergoing a digital transformation. The MTA is looking to boost passenger fares with more advertising. This year, their advertising revenue is expected to hit $125 million. In an effort to make more and more money, expect to see ads in more and more places. In our "captive consumer society," sellers will always look for innovative ways to bring ads to us, rather than wait for us to stumble across those ads. If money can be made working for the seller, expect the seller to have a vehicle (in this case a New York City bus) to get their message out to the public.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Video Store On Fast Forward To Unwind

In Manhattan’s East Village on Marks Place, the very popular Kim’s Video store is up for immediate sale. As video rentals and sales decline, the store’s owner, Youngman Kim, has decided to skip the business by January, 2009. He insists that a new owner must buy his entire 55,000 videotape collection and continue his policy of only charging an inexpensive membership fee. It’s hard to believe he’ll find an interested buyer with those requirements. The wide availability of movies on the Internet and declining sales can't help his cause, either. Kim was a very successful New York City entrepreneur. Sadly for him, he should have seen this day coming many years ago. Let’s hope a local library or community group can reach a deal with Kim soon. Film students and movie nostalgia buffs should be able to enjoy this diverse collection long into the future.

Sounding The Crimestoppers E-larm

[Insert "George Orwell, 1984" reference wherever appropriate.] The NYPD wants you! A new Web site encourages the good citizens of New York City to report on bad citizens suspected of criminal activity. It’s easy now to submit “e-tips” or upload photos or videos of alleged criminals or crimes in action. The site is This website is secure, anonymous and has five language options making it more accessible to the general public. A tipster receives an unique identification number for a tip. A call to the Crimestoppers hot line at 800.577-TIPS lets the tipster follow the case’s progress. In September, police began a similar program for cell phone users. With only 13 texts, 4 images and 1 video received so far for that concept, it can’t be said that the public is overwhelmingly embracing the “dirty rat” concept. It takes time for society to be changed. However, one of those tips did lead to an arrest. The NYPD is testing image and video transmission direct to police in the field. In the past 25 years, Crimestoppers has helped police solve 2,500 violent crimes including over 1,000 homicides. Substantiated tips leading to arrest or indictment are eligible to receive up to $2,000 from the New York City Police Foundation. It’s generally known that cell phones and personal computers are easily traceable back to the user. In a time when being Photoshopped is commonplace, it’s hoped that the police are careful in their response to any anonymous received. Bringing crime down to zero and catching real criminals is a good thing and we should all be on board with that effort. How police respond to a SPAM campaign against an innocent person remains to be seen. People, be very sure of your facts before you click that Send button.

NYPD On The Lookout For Ad Team

The police department has $40 million to launch a new cadet recruitment campaign. They want to engage an experienced marketing company to help them spend it wisely. The agency must be capable of producing effective television, radio and Web ads. Maybe the NYPD should first recruit a few Darren Stevens types to work in-house so they could save money on expensive ad agency fees? Welllll? (Bewitched TV show, Samantha Stevens, catch phrase for all those under 30.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NYPD Clipped From Cutting Hair

The courts “just said no” to a type of drug testing preferred by the NYPD. The Police Department’s change from random urine testing to comprehensive hair testing was recently cut down in an appeals court. The union representing New York City cops, detectives and sergeants claimed the city never negotiated for their approval during collective bargaining agreements. They also argued that “bald” cops were subjected to “invasive” screening because hair samples from them were taken from legs or pubic areas. The NYPD countered, claiming it didn’t have to bargain because only the “testing technology” changed, not the policy. It sounds like one or both parties are "splitting fine hairs," here. Hair testing can screen for drug use going back 90 days vs. only a few days for urine tests. That fact alone makes it imperative for the safety of citizens and police officers. We must implement this form of illegal drug screening. Not only that, it makes sample cheating more difficult. The city will look for other ways to implement this vital program. What was hair once may be hair again.

TKTS For The Best Seat In Town

There’s a new "smash hit" on Broadway … Broadway and 47th Street, that is. The star is a new TKTS booth in Duffy Square, Manhattan. Not only does it sell discounted tickets to Broadway shows inside, but it offers free seating on its stepped-roof enabling viewers to look down on the world-famous "Broadway and Times Square Show" below. Customers and pedestrians are equally enthusiastic in their praise of this unique edifice. Though the project was beset with delays and cost overruns, it’s a welcome addition to NYC; another bright light on Broadway.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bucks For Blaze Boys

New York City’s firefighters got a well-deserved contract increase. No amount of money can adequately compensate these brave men and women of the NYFD who run towards fire that most humans instinctively know to run away from. Let’s hope that the economy and improved budget management by city officials permit additional raises for them and other vital city workers in the near future.

Bloomberg Wonder Wheels And Deals

New York City purchased a prime acre of Coney Island real estate for $11 million. This maneuver prevents Thor Equities, CEO Joe Sitt, from moving forward with his plans to develop a Vegas-like entertainment complex. It also boosts city policy to build a new amusement park in Coney. The city owns 4 of 9 acres needed to do just that. Sitt owns most of the present-day amusement area. He reportedly did not see Bloomberg "strolling down the Boardwalk" with this bold action. The carnival game between the city and Sitt will go on. Now that Mayor Bloomberg will likely be mayor another four years, it’ll be interesting to see if Sitt will "sit still" in the city’s "dog house" or make a shrewd move to go back into his "life is wonderful in Coney" funhouse once again

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fountains For The Five Boroughs

Bottled-water in the boroughs? Fuhgeddaboudit! The Riverkeeper environmental group wants to see more public fountains in public places to reduce bottled-water use. They claim that only 15% of plastic water bottles get recycled. Their plan will reduce litter and CO2 emissions throughout New York City. This seems like a very good "quality-of-life" idea worth drinking to.

Brooklyn Means Business

The cash is greener on the other side of the East River. That’s what the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership plans to tell Manhattan and New Jersey business owners in 2009. The idea is to attract them to Brooklyn. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz loves the upcoming “Brooklyn business blitz.” In the last four years, extensive rezoning efforts by Mayor Bloomberg created a development boom in downtown Brooklyn. The area’s downfall has been too much residential growth and not enough office and retail space. Maybe the Partnership could target home business entrepreneurs until the proper building mix is reached?

Blood Banks Drying Up

Dracula might have a tough time making a blood withdrawal in this town. The New York Blood Center says blood reserves in the NYC metropolitan area are draining away faster than a retiree's 401(k) because of the financial crisis. Financial service companies were among the largest corporate blood donors. Now, many have reduced or canceled their blood drives. Ironic how these financial groups, greedily and without much concern, sucked away some of our life’s investments but can’t donate to the community now. Former Wall Street employees may soon sell their own blood to make ends meet. In the meantime, all New Yorkers are urged to donate blood at their nearest blood collection centers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chomping Champ Chestnut Swallows Victory

Look out stomach! There he goes again! Nathan’s two-time and defending champion hot-dog eater, Joey Chestnut, ate 45 slices of pizza in 10 minutes to win the Famous Famiglia World Pizza Eating Championship. That’s the equivalent of 5 ½ 16” diameter cheese pies! Godzilla eating his way through Tokyo had a snack compared to Chestnut gorging on "cheesy triangles" in formerly sleazy Times Square! It’s his first pizza pie contest victory. Joey’s chestnuts may soon be in the fire though from new competition. With the fast-rising cost of food in New York City, many city residents may soon be looking to enter food contests just for the “free eats!”

Ellis Island Immigrant #1

On January 1, 1892, Ellis Island opened its doors to the world. 14-year old Annie Moore from Ireland became the very first immigrant to be processed there. She received a $10 gold piece in commemoration of the event and was front-page news. Once the “Wee Annie” accolades died away, she went on to make her way in her new country. Sadly, she led a fairly hard life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When she died at 50, Annie was buried in an unmarked grave in Calvary Cemetery in Queens; placed there with 5 of her 11 children. A recent film about Ellis Island led to curiosity about what happened to her. Filmmaker Megan Smolenyak and city Records Commissioner Brian Andersson searched through numerous records to uncover her fate. Once found, five of Annie’s great-grandchildren raised $25,000 to give the family matriarch a beautiful headstone and commemoration ceremony attended by 200 family and friends from America and Ireland. Though Annie’s life wasn’t easy, many of her descendants prospered here. That was America before Ellis Island. That was America in 1892 and the early 1900’s. That’s America today. Only in America are people from around the world welcomed as they are. God bless America for it.

Tour Buses Obscure The Sights

“On a clear day, you can see” … well, thanks to many tour bus industry owners, you may not even be able to see across the street! There are eleven major tour bus companies in the Big Apple. All were required to retrofit their vehicles by January 1, 2007. A recent report from the Department of Environmental Protection concluded that only one company (Gray Line New York City Tours) of the eleven tour companies performed any emission upgrades "by the deadline" … and that was only on 19 of their 206 vehicles! To date, six companies have taken initial steps for vehicle conversion, three have taken no steps whatsoever and one has gone out of business. Double-decker tour buses can emit up to six times the pollution of city buses and other buses up to 25 times. All bus companies continue to operate without fines or any serious threat of license revocation. The DEP states it’s compiling a new report that will likely show better conversion compliance. Imagine the numbers it might have shown if city-imposed deadlines were actually enforced! However, it would seem in this instance that the concern for the greening of our city is less important than the "green dollars" tourism brings.

Boxed In By Debt

In a sense, we Americans and our politicians have outspent The National Debt Clock located above 44th Street and Sixth Avenue. As a result, 14 boxes instead of 13 boxes are required to display America’s debt on this electronic financial measure. To broadcast our record $10.2 trillion deficit, a “1” was added to the box that previously displayed only the dollar sign. Each family’s share of the estimated debt ... a gut-wrenching $86,000! Where once Americans only took on debt for necessities or to build assets, now we "flash plastic" for frivolities. Want some good news? Debt can’t increase to a $100 trillion number. The clock doesn't have enough boxes for it.

Tin Pan Alley Hits Bad Note

Those who enjoy local music history and those who look to preserve it “won’t like the sound of this!” Five buildings from New York City’s famous “Tin Pan Alley” will be sold and demolished for $44 million. The four-story brownstone buildings at 47, 49, 51, 53 and 55 West 28th Street will be razed to be replaced by yet another (Do we really need “another?”) high-rise tower. This area on West 28th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway was the heart of American music between the 1890’s and 1950’s. Some consider it the “birthplace” of American music. This was the place where songwriters and music publishers once "cranked out and crooned their hit tunes.” No more. Perhaps a bronze plaque will commemorate what once took place here. Perhaps not. One thing is certain though. East Side, West Side, All Around The Town … things are definitely changing. Perhaps without proper reverence and concern about our past. And the beat goes on.

20/20 Vision For Ground Zero

New Yorkers know that rebuilding at the World Trade Center site has been painfully slow with many hurdles. In the past, the Port Authority has generally made it difficult for us to peer into Ground Zero as if to hide their disgrace. Suddenly, the Port Authority has changed its view and will change our view of this cherished land. A new, see-through mesh fence will be erected. Described as a “clean and informative wrapping,” it will enclose much of the area’s 16-acres. Imprinted directly onto this fencing will be artist renderings of all the site’s signature projects. Screen designs will be updated periodically to reflect building design modifications and progress. There’ll be an open viewing area created on Liberty Street enabling spectators to look straight down into the construction pit. The new PA barrier is a clever concept and welcome change. It should be remembered that no fence will ever be more touching or inspiring than those which sprung up throughout New York City in the days and weeks following 9/11. New Yorkers spontaneously created those fences where the world collectively grieved. Seven years after September 11th 2001, New Yorkers should see more than "pretty pictures" on a barrier. We should see floor after floor of magnificent towers rising towards the heavens. Let’s ensure that the PA manages this project more effectively now. Or, let’s guarantee that “the writing will be on the wall” for those who mismanage it again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Queens-Midtown Tunnel Fizzle-Missile

Arye Sachs, 48, was recently in Federal court facing trademark infringement charges. It’s the way he got there that makes this story memorable. Sachs drove a 25-foot-long “missile” through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and through the streets of Manhattan numerous times without being stopped! The phony rocket had the words “Viva Viagra” along the side. That didn’t make “little-blue-pill” manufacturer Pfizer Inc. any too happy. The judge, who ultimately ruled against Sachs, seemed more curious about how Sachs did it than what he did. According to Sachs, on September 8th, he simply towed his rocket right past laughing toll booth cops. In fact, Sachs stated that he drove the rocket through the Lincoln Tunnel five times without being questioned. Pfizer also took exception to the entrepreneur's mobile-billboard drive past their corporate headquarters too! A Port Authority spokesperson doesn’t believe Sachs could drive as freely as he did without being pulled over. He vows they’ll look into the matter. With the severe threats New Yorker’s face just by being New Yorkers, it’s pathetic and possibly criminal that the PA needs an investigation now to determine if this happened the way Sachs said it did. Shouldn't they already know for certain that it's impossible? It is impossible, right?

S and M Shops Look To Hit Back

Between the poor economy, prostitution raids and beaten clients who are deadbeats, local dommes are taking a beating! Some say business has been beaten down up to 70%. Many places along New York’s notorious “Dungeon Alley” in midtown have scaled back their sessions. Fear pervades the industry now and ("I've been a bad boy.") johns are too nervous to make appointments. Will things improve? One dominatrix says, “The uncertainty is torturing us.” To fight back and protect their interests, many are now looking to form a political-action committee and union. Unlike escort agencies and prostitutes, many in the BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) business believe their business is legit. The law is unclear. “DomPAC” will soon lobby lawmakers to exclude BDSM practices from prostitution. (Could prostitutes legally become sex surrogates?) Dommes hope this may lead to legal unions, 401(k)s, insurance plans and unemployment benefits. One wonders if Sonny and Cher’s hit “The Beat Goes On” will still be a hit with the "S and M’rs" in 2009.

Navy Yard Ready For Inspection

After 200 years, the public finally gets to see what’s going on “behind closed docks.” The Brooklyn Navy Yard will finally open for tourists next month. This 300-acre industrial park along the East River is located on Brooklyn’s north shore. It was the birthplace of many American naval ships throughout history. None perhaps was more famous than the ironclad USS Monitor which was built during the Civil War. Tour stops include several historic buildings and the actual dry dock where the USS Monitor was built. Tours begin November 2 and will be conducted every Sunday. Tickets are priced at $30 per person.

OK To Geronimo

Superman may now return to Gotham! It’s apparently alright to “leap over tall buildings in a single bound,” in New York City. City-approved permits may now be obtained by parachutists looking to jump off Big Apple buildings. The building owner’s permission is also required. During the Great Depression, many people jumped off buildings because of their financial losses and uncertainty about the future. I wonder if the recent stock market plunge will cause others to “take the plunge,” permit or not, parachute or not.

Yankee Stadium Not Yanked Yet

No baseball farewell, perhaps no farewell in any walk of life, will ever be remembered as fondly as the one given by Lou Gehrig, July 4, 1939. Diagnosed with a fatal disease, Lou was saying "goodbye" to all of us, that day. Now, the Yankees are giving their loyal fans an extended opportunity through the end of the year to say “goodbye” to their old friend, “Yankee Stadium.” Mets fans have no such opportunity to do the same with Shea. As everyone knows, the Mets never ever did things to match the Yankees’ "class and tradition." In a hallowed place that’s given us so many wonderful memories, here’s a chance for Yankee fans, baseball fans and all New Yorker’s to have one last, intimate moment with the ballpark itself. Tickets will be $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Children 14 and under may enter free. For ticket information, call 718.293-4300.

Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Address, 7/4/39
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?
Sure I’m lucky.
Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?
Sure I’m lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies -- that’s something.
When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter -- that’s something.
When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body -- it’s a blessing.
When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed -- that’s the finest I know.
So, I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.

Lock Your Pedals To The Metal

As NYC becomes more "bicycle-friendly," there’s a definite need for more security stations to protect rider’s bikes. At present, the city has 5,000 U-shaped bike racks for that purpose. Most appear to be underutilized. Perhaps they’re not even noticed because of their simple design. Well, there’s a "bike rack bike contest" that's underway in the boroughs to change that. The goal is to come up with a unique design for many new “lock-down locations troughout the Big Apple. The contest winner will receive a check from New York City for $10,000. Once selected, our “greening” city will install 1,000 additional racks by next July in the new style at a cost of $275 each. The nine design finalists are currently on display at Astor Place in Manhattan. Why not ride over and lock them over?

Home Values Heading South

As financial portfolios decline in Wall Street's Stock Market debacle, so do the prices for most people’s largest asset, their homes. On average, NYC July 2008 home values dropped 16.3% since last July. The study didn’t include co-ops and condos. There are some signs of a price-drop slowdown but no basement price is in sight yet. New York City homeowners did comparably better than owners in other cities. That's little consolation to those hurting here. This bad economy is hitting most of us hard … right where we live.

The Ball Isn’t In His Court

Bruce Ratner’s plans to build his $950 million NBA arena in downtown Brooklyn have run up against a pressure-defense of neighborhood opponents. As a result, groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards project has been delayed at least 6-months. This means his New Jersey Nets can't relocate until 2011 … at the earliest. Now, Ratner demands that New York State claim the land under “eminent domain” laws. This game is really getting out of hand. It’s unlikely that Ratner will be denied development forever. Therefore, it makes sense for the two sides to get together, talk and reach an agreement. Both sides must play on the same team to benefit New Yorkers.

War For Tobacco Wampum

The city is d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e for money, so what’s a mayor to do? Declare WAR on honest tobacco-selling Indians, that’s what! Mayor Bloomberg is suing eight Long Island smoke shops on the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic, Long Island for selling cigarettes (about $5 per pack) without charging local and state tax. He contends that if cigarettes weren't sold in these stores, they’d be bought in New York City instead. He believes this has cost the state $525 million and the city $195 million since 2004 however estimates vary. He’s called upon Governor Paterson for action. The governor is reportedly “negotiating.” An Indian spokesman believes they’re being unfairly blamed for the fiscal problems of others. That may be true. According to New York state law, cigarette buyers are responsible for reporting tax-free purchases, not the stores. Indian smoke shops operate legally throughout New York. These establishments buy cigarettes wholesale and then sell them without tax. All legal. No “smoke and mirrors.” Without a change in state law and unless NYC can somehow prove that cigarette buyers would purchase packs in the five boroughs and not on the reservation, Mayor Bloomberg’s case will likely go "up in smoke." One other thought. Since Mayor Bloomberg is actively engaged in reducing smoking in New York City, shouldn't he be looking to curtail sales as opposed to making money from them?

Our Intrepid Friend Is Home

A “gray lady” may now be seen on a Hudson River pier. Fresh from a two-year restoration in Staten Island, the USS Intrepid majestically cruised back to the West Side of New York. USS Intrepid, back home at Pier 86, reopens to the public on November 8th. To students of history and to all yet to learn of America’s great naval history, this is a trip worth taking. About 250 ex-sailors took the tow from Staten Island to Manhattan. What memories they must have. What memories you will have.

EMT’s Booted For Boots

The FDNY reported that 18 EMT workers who complained about the department’s new boots were reassigned to desk jobs. These boots became mandatory footwear on September 8th. Workers started "kicking up a storm" shortly afterwards. They claim the 8-inch-high, leather-and-fabric footwear causes bleeding, rashes, back pain ... even stress fractures! The FDNY is awaiting delivery of alternatives. IF, there’s nothing wrong with the boots, why order the alternatives? IF, as this pending delivery suggests, there may be something wrong with the boots, why keep highly trained and necessary technicians with their aching feet up on desks? Let them wear what they were wearing before September 8th. Get them back in their trucks where they belong! Lifesavers like these professional men and women shouldn’t be "kicking back" in New York City.

Dog-NYP'd Detective Sues

Could a K-9 actually bite a fellow cop instead of "taking a bit out of crime?" Detective Vincent Manco alleges that Officer Figueroa’s dog did just that. His suit claims that the officer failed to properly handle his dog. Also, that Figueroa, “knew well of [its] vicious and ferocious nature and disposition.” He says the city and K-9 unit officers knew the dog had a “record” of attacking people and didn’t take proper precautions. Manco claims the police dog had poor training and was on the wrong leash. Manco crosses the supposedly un-crossable “Blue Line” by also claiming that his fellow officers were either ill-advised or unable to handle their assignment. Cop vs. cop and canine. Is New York's NYPD going to the dogs?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PA Ground Zero Workers Being PAtrolled

The Port Authority will pay $300,000 to LifeMatters, a not-for-profit group for the purpose of hiring psychologists to observe construction site personnel. This is supposedly being done as a precautionary move to prevent accidents. Two counselors will make their way around the 16-acre site looking for odd behavior among the PA’s 700 workers. A union source believes it’s more a crackdown on drinking, smoking and goofing off rather than acting goofy. Worker safety should be of paramount concern at every PA construction site throughout New York. Hiring more experienced supervisors might accomplish that goal better than head-shrinkers. Why not employ psychologists in the Port Authority’s corporate offices instead? All New Yorkers know of the mismanagement and crazy decisions that have come out of there for years!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Private Religion In Public Schools

Advocates for "religious fairness" are pushing to add two Muslim holidays to the school calendar. The holidays being recommended for observance are Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) is the chief sponsor of this religious resolution. Reportedly, NYC officials are not in favor of the change. City Hall meeting officials said that the matter must first be addressed by New York State officials before they can act. An estimated 10-12% of New York City’s student population is now Muslim, so Jackson’s proposal is reasonable. However, in light of generally low academic scores in our public schools, do we need more holidays? Additionally, this matter brings up several unreasonable issues regarding religious holidays for consideration. To be fair and to respect ALL religions, perhaps NO religious holidays should be permitted in the public school system. Maybe days that honor great Americans or historic events in our shared American history should replace them. If religious observance is not permitted in classrooms, public schools should not be closed for religious observance. Strange as it may seem, an across-the-board ban on ALL holidays shows the greatest respect for everyone's religion.

The Language Of Money

SAY WHAT? A test of several city agencies by covert city workers found many customer service centers couldn’t adequately aid those who don’t speak English. Few government offices with walk-in facilities provided accessible translation and/or interpretation services. It’s amazing though how New York’s newest immigrants (including illegal aliens) manage to communicate effectively enough when it comes to collecting financial, medical and educational support services. I’d like for someone to explain in plain English how that can be.

Taser Slay Jolts NYPD

Several weeks ago, a naked and distraught Bedford-Stuyvesant man was mistakenly "Tased" by a NYPD Emergency Service Unit officer. Iman Morales, 35, fell from a window roll-down gate to his death upon Brooklyn's hard pavement below, ten feet below. An initial police review determined that two officers (Lieutenant Michael Pigot who ordered the shot be taken and Officer Nicholas Marchesona who took it) were apparently at fault. Sadly, in the days that followed, the distraught lieutenant committed suicide. Tasers may save lives if used properly. The use of electricity to stun is arguably safer than using bullets to stop. Police guidelines state that a Taser should not be used "when the subject is in a position where a fall may cause substantial injury or death." Also stated in the guidelines is the fact that officers must assess the situation thoroughly before deciding to use a Taser. Had these two rules been followed, two of our fellow New Yorkers would be alive today. In 2008, 180 Taser shootings occurred in NYC. There was only this one fatality. That’s not a bad record for our New York City police department. To their credit and our benefit, even one death is too many. The NYPD is taking swift action and looking into solutions to prevent future fatalities. For example:
· There’s been a new commanding officer installed for the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit.
· All 440 ESU officers are being retrained at a Taser refresher course at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field.
· Advanced knowledge of a situation can be vital to its peaceful resolution. A database of incidents at a particular address may be available to officers responding to emergency calls.
Additional mental health training for cops is being discussed as well as the use of a database culled from existing psychiatric records. This is sure to run up against reasonable opposition.
The NYPD will continue to examine this case for some time to come. Morales untimely demise may lead to a change in the morals of the NYPD. Let’s pray that from this double tragedy, not a single episode like this will ever occur again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not Made In America

12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. Many came before. Many arrived since. Immigrants came to America through portals other than Ellis Island too. Now, their stories will be told at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. There’ll be a special wing at the museum called “The Peopling of America Center.” Visitors will learn about the arrival of groups including native Americans who migrated here, blacks imported as slaves, Mexicans who became “annexed” Americans, Asians who came in a wave across the Pacific and a multitude of other groups in more recent times. This is a wonderful idea for all of us to learn about America’s diverse heritage. Near to the Statue of Liberty and the multi-cultural city, New York, there’s no more fitting place to have this remembrance than right here in our harbor.

Doesn’t NYS Love NYC?

Over the years, the “I Love New York” campaigns bringing visitors to New York State have been extremely productive. New York City is by far the most popular tourist destination in New York. Despite this vital fact to the state’s economy, Sean Cunningham, 23, didn’t think it necessary to include a single shot of NYC in a 60-second movie in New York State’s commercial contest. Stunningly, his movie was chosen as the contest winner! Judges chose among 15 finalists to select this Big Apple-absent film. Maybe it’s time NYC reminds the judges who the real star is here. Maybe it’s time to revive the 51st state campaign.

Sharpen The Budget Scissors

Tough economic times demand hard economic decisions. Mayor Bloomberg is sharpening the blades now. He’s ordered $1.5 billion in city-agency cuts. That breaks down to 2.5% this year and 5% next year. He spoke of reducing expenses and raising revenues. Advocates for the city’s largest departments will undoubtedly be heard from very soon. Each will complain that slashed budgets were unfairly decided and will unfairly hurt New York. We know better. All city agencies waste millions of our tax dollars. All city agencies must undergo severe budget cutting ... just like the rest of us. New Yorkers will suffer to an extent, but we’ll survive. We’ve been through worse before. Besides, smaller government doing the same amount of work, or ideally more work, seems like a pretty good idea … except to those who squander our money and must work for it.

A Tree-House Grows In Manhattan

New York residents love public art. Just measure the popularity of “The Gates” or “Waterfalls.” “Tree Huts,” conceived by Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamara may be the next tree-mendous art sensation here in NYC. This project will be on display through New Year’s Eve in the Flatiron District’s Madison Square Park. It features 12 pinewood tree houses in overhead branches. It’s surprising that local tree-huggers, bird watchers and animal activists haven’t "chopped down" the idea yet.

The Taxman Means Business

Either overdue sales taxes will be collected or business owners theselves may be collected … for prison. Local pizzeria owners, used-car dealers and other city business owners dealing primarily in cash, "be on the alert." You’ll soon feel the heat of the taxman and a new force of 125 investigators, auditors and lawyers. It's all part of the state’s new Special Investigation Unit. 10,000 warning letters have been sent requesting money owed. Many small business owners believe these are merely “scare tactics.” They shouldn’t be so sure. Delinquent business taxpayers will no longer be tolerated by New York State. The letters offer a second chance to meet their responsibilities. Penalties will be waived for those who come clean now. All New Yorker's must pay taxes. Business owners hiding currency in their books or at home "under the mattress" risk seeing an “Under New Management” sign in their windows.

FREE Ferry A Fine Ferry-Tale

$5.69 per commuter ride is what New York City taxpayers pay to keep the Staten Island Ferry, “free.” That’s a 23.2% increase from the previous year, primarily attributed to rising fuel costs. On average for NYC’s nine ferries, the fuel consumption rate is 175-275 gallons an hour. The total operating cost was put at $112 million for fiscal year 2007. There’s little desire among politicians or ferry riders to reinstitute the 50 cent fare that was eliminated in 1997. Since there’s no reasonably priced alternative to accommodate our Staten Island residents and no more enjoyable ride in town ... c’mon and take a free ride.

Mayor Makes Menu

“Eat what’s on your plate!” Our mother’s used to tell us that. Now it’s our mayor. Bloomberg is imposing new nutritional standards on the 225 million meals and snacks the city cooks up every year. This policy will improve food in public schools, shelters, hospitals and senior citizen centers. The mayor believes this is within his jurisdiction. Like mom said, “If you don’t want to eat, go to your room!,” the mayor says, “You don’t have to take city food.” We can’t really argue with mom or the mayor looking to serve healthy food.