Saturday, May 31, 2008

When Will They Learn?

Tardy students at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn have quite a tale to tell. According to them, they’ve been denied entrance into school for their lateness. School officials have vehemently denied the charges. This high school has an average daily absentee rate of 38%. School attendance and lateness issues here demand an immediate review by those at the highest levels of the Board of Education. Students who come to school to learn should not be dismissed without even setting foot in the school, late or not. Turning your backs on these children now may lead to employers and society turning their backs on them later. Our children MUST LEARN reading, writing and arithmetic. Our children MUST RECEIVE all of the basics in education that they need to succeed; even in the most trying of circumstances. Teach our children that they MUST BE ACCOUNTABLE for their actions in life. For example, if they’re late for class, make them responsible for doing community service for the school, minute for minute, for every minute they're late. Both students and Board of Education civil servants all have much to learn. I suspect the students may long before Board of Education personnel will.

New York City Is Still a "Big Draw"

New York City has always attracted the young and old from all walks of life and from all over the world to fulfill their dreams, right here at the center of the universe. Remember the lyrics, “If you can make it here, You’ll make it anywhere … ”? Well, 25-year old sketch artist Jason Polan ( of Michigan is here now to succeed. His dream is to sketch EVERY SINGLE New Yorker. A big dream indeed, but why not? He’s not sure what he’ll do once he achieves his goal. Frankly, I’m not sure what he’ll do either. But, I admire him for having the guts and determination to capture New York’s best attribute, it’s people. If nothing else, he's already caught our attention.

Love Italian Style

It’s been three weeks now since Mike Walsh hired Mike D’Antoni to be the coach of the New York Knicks. We haven’t lost a game so far which means they've already improved the team! Mike D. brings an impressive 267-172 (.608) lifetime record to the job. I bet he wishes that he could bring the Phoenix Sun’s players over here too. With the Knicks, one miracle at a time though. As we all know, this first one has been a long time coming.

The Reality Check Is In The Mail

The Upper East Side’s 10021 Zip Code was where New York’s "wealthiest of the wealthy" once lived. Last year, the United States Post Office divided 10021 into three Zip Codes; 10021, 10065 and 10075. Today, 10065 is where the city's wealthiest residents proudly call home. Rich socialites who once coveted a 10021 residence now find themselves living on the wrong side of the local Starbucks. Let’s hope our well-heeled neighbors in 10021 can cope with their unwelcome mediocrity, all thanks to the USPS.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Blood In Their Veins

Bedbugs have been found at various locations throughout the subway system. They’ve been detected on benches, turnstiles, pillars and even commuters. They likely can be found in New York City buses, taxis and offices. In fact, bedbugs can unknowingly be transported wherever people go. East side, West side, they’re all around the town! It’s frightening to think about how unsafe we and our loved ones are during this new blood-bug outbreak! Perhaps it might be best to lay down awhile now to relax. But, is being tucked in your bed the safest place you could be?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

City Tree Plan Gets Three Green Thumbs

Mayor Bloomberg’s "green" initiative to plant 1,000,000 trees was recently boosted by The Police. No, not the NYPD, but the rock group headed by Sting. The band generously pledged $1,000,000 to the cause. Their donation will support 10,000 new trees in our boroughs. The legendary musical group also agreed to play their last concert in New York to aid perennially-financially strapped public TV. For their civic contributions, the three band members each received keys to New York City. Like any door here would be closed to them!

“Fly” Moviemaker Shoots In Subway

An unknown videographer is taking crotch-shots of male subway riders and posting them on the Internet. Because everything pictured is on public display and the videographer isn’t making money off the images, experts say nothing can be done. Only in New York, right? So gentlemen, remember to zipper up ... or some film fetishist may be snapping at the little birdie.

Ferry Service Makes Commuters Merry

Sunset Park residents in Brooklyn and inhabitants in the Rockaways section of Queens now have water ferry service to Wall Street. For only $6 a trip, the commute to lower Manhattan can now be a wet one instead of a wait one on city buses, trains or roads. It'll be the most enjoyable yellow taxi you ever hailed.

Rents Going Through The Roof

The cost of renting an apartment in New York City could rise 9.5% if the proposed increase is approved on June 19th. Rent Guidelines Board Chairman Marvin Markus thinks that’s the appropriate number now. Many are unhappy with a straight, across-the-board increase. So why not try a more specific approach? Future rate increases could be directly linked to the quality of life and conservation/recycling efforts for each building. Buildings with higher grades would get higher rent increases. In that way, tenants will truly be getting what they pay for. Dollhouse owners need to play nicer with their lower and middle income-class toys.

Shooting Guns And Photo Shots

The “Pistol Cam” is an audio/video device that attaches to a real gun. It activates magnetically whenever the gun is withdrawn from the holster. Encrypted software prevents illegal tampering with captured data. “Pistol Cam” representatives believe that the $600 cost per unit would be offset by the millions the city could save in lawsuits alone. That's possible when the officer is innocent; expensive when he or she is not. Justice should always prevail. To this point, the NYPD and most New York City politicians have refused to comment on the "Pistol Cam" or are withholding judgment. I’m curious about something now though. How do you get an armed suspect to smile when you point a gun at them and say, “Cheese!”?

New York City Really Woks!

In early 2007, there were roughly 2,300 Chinese restaurants in New York City compared to about 1,400 in 1997. That's a huge increase in ten years. Admittedly, few things taste better than a Chinese meal! But, can you figure out why there are 900 more Asian eateries around? Try using your noodle to read between their noodles to get the answer. If that doesn’t help, try looking inside your fortune cookie.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mass Transit Riders Up With Fuel And Toll Hikes

Though it doesn’t seem like our streets and highways are any less congested, passenger totals on New York’s trains, buses and ferries are up significantly the past few months. The MTA is smiling. Random questioning of riders found that this uptick in MetroCard users is a direct result of higher oil prices and bridge and tunnel fees. Many will never return to their gas-guzzling ways again. (Now who says Gothamites are dumb???)

Petit Revives Grande Memories

In 1974, Philippe Petit walked a cable stretched between the towers of the World Trade Center. He was arrested by the NYPD and sent for psychiatric tests. After all, what normal man would dare to amaze and excite people with a high-wire feat not performed with the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus inside Madison Square Garden? Though many doubted his sanity by the height of his stunt, he was judged to be normal. An older, but no less entertaining Philippe Petit walked a tightrope in Washington Park recently; this time, a mere five feet above the ground. Nevertheless, he still evoked memories of the WTC and a time when we New Yorkers were able to look skyward and witness beauty and miracle combined. Thanks for the memories, Phillipe.

“Superbug” Cases Flying Higher

Since February, over 700 cases of the MRSA have been confirmed in New York by the city Health Department. This extremely drug-resistant virus killed a Brooklyn boy in February. Only 21 of 49 labs have reported in so far. That means the actual number of cases could easily be twice as much or even more. Caution needs to be taken. Until official protection directives are issued or a cure is found, stay safe New Yorkers.

NYPD Going “Higher-Techie”

New York City is planning to build a state-of-the-art $30 million command bunker in lower Manhattan on Park Row for the NYPD. It will be connected to police headquarters. This eight story facility will contain all the toys to effectively deal with crime fighting, terrorist attacks and natural disasters. In the same way that the President’s primary responsibility is to protect America, city officials' main duty should be to protect New Yorkers. Build the building. Fill the toy chest.

Taxi Medallion Sales Drive Record Prices

The city collected $54 million dollars recently after selling new medallions for cabs. TLC Commissioner Mathew Daus said "The industry has never been better." A regular medallion sold for a record $524,000. A pair of wheelchair-accessible medallions also sold for a record $1.31 million dollars. As part of the auction, 87 medallions for wheelchair-accessible minivans were sold. This will bring New York City’s fleet of taxis available for the disabled to 231; the highest in the nation. Nice to have all the additional cabs around town, but will any come with a polite driver who speaks English, willing to drive to the outer boroughs?

Rent Fractions Dividing Tenants From Money

One third of all New Yorkers now give one half of their paychecks to landlords for rent. The number of renters coping with this new math is up 15% from just 9 years ago. With rising costs and a fairly liberal Rent Guidelines Board, don’t expect the numbers to head down in the tenants favor anytime soon. We can’t really fault the landlords here though. It’s simply another sign of our economic times. But, they’re still the easiest villains to target.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Ads Will Help The Wheels Of The Train Go Round And Round

Ad revenue from the Big Apple's mass transit system was $105 million last year as compared to only $37 million dollars in 1997. New York City Transit wants even more. The MTA is now testing exterior train car advertising on the 42nd Street Shuttle. This will work like advertising does on the outside of city buses. Continental Airlines is the first client to try this new media approach. In short time, the plan will likely be approved and expanded throughout the system. Commuters looking for a bus or train will undoubtedly see more commercials first. Advertising in your face. That’s the business of New York, people.

Hamilton “Grange” To Find New Home On His Range

Alexander Hamilton’s 206 year old Manhattan home on Convent Avenue and 141st Street is about to receive a new address and complete rehabilitation. The “Grange,” as it’s known, will be moved around the corner to 141st, just inside St. Nicholas Park. Coincidentally, the new location was part of Hamilton’s original estate. The house will be turned into a museum, slated to open in 2009. Hamilton is regarded by many historians as one of our nation’s greatest founding fathers. He was also a major player in establishing America’s banking system and founded the New York Post newspaper. Not known as a superb duelist however, he was shot dead by Aaron Burr in 1804. Once the museum and memorial are complete, New Yorkers and tourists should visit to better know the man whose face is on the $10 bill. After all, it’s not all about the Benjamins.

Firehouse Names Too Hot For FDNY Brass

Poor behavior and recent booze and broad scandals of some New York City firefighters is forcing officials in the Fire Department to try to clean up it’s public image. One way to do this, they believe, is to eliminate politically incorrect nicknames for firehouses. After a three year battle with a firehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the FDNY has prevailed. That means the “Happy Hookers” firehouse in Red Hook is no more. Gone too is the moniker “Southern Comfort” in Staten Island, “Animal House” in the Bronx and “Fosters” in Brooklyn. Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta believes this is the right approach. Perhaps more severe punishment should be meted out to specific individuals who bring shame to the Fire Department rather than cutting out part of the spirit and camaraderie which all fire personnel and many neighborhood residents enjoy.

Parking Tickets Are Moving Up

2,535,308 parking tickets were issued the first three months of this year. That’s 200,000 more tickets (+8%) compared to last year. The city has collected $162 million during that period as compared to $150 million last year; a 12 million dollar increase. The NYPD currently employs about 2,800 traffic agents. That’s up from 1,900 people in 2006. 238 additional agents will hit the streets in June. The NYPD claims that there is no “ticket blitz” taking place. Perhaps that’s true. Perhaps not. Maybe it’s just the city going green with extra money by going orange first.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bellevue Plan Is Crazy

In the summer of 2009, the city’s Department of Homeless Services will close it’s homeless shelter in the former Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. The reason for the eviction of our less fortunate neighbors? The building has been sold and will be converted into yet another luxury hotel for out-of-towners! 600 clients currently being served there may be back on the streets. Those fortunate enough to make it to the outer boroughs may be housed in homeless facilities there. Homeless Services Commissioner Robert Hess guarantees that permanent housing will be found for most of the homeless folks and that others will be taken in by borough shelters. Wouldn’t it be nice if Mr. Hess as the official in charge guaranteed everyone that he will personally take in every homeless person who might fall through the cracks in his plan? Doubtful, huh? Ah, yes. Personal responsibility in government. Such a rare commodity.

Motel 6 They Ain’t

Three New York City hotels, The Plaza, The Bowery and The Duane, are among 136 hotels in 53 countries judged to be the hottest “new” hotels in the world. That, according to Conde Nast in their new Traveler’s Annual. Congrats to them! All are located in Manhattan. That of course means higher rates than comparable (Yeah, right!) hotels in Staten Island. For example, rates at the Plaza start at $775 per night! So weary, wealthy travelers, sleep well. And if you can’t nod off, try counting dollar signs instead of sheep.

Armory Plans Have Some Neighborhood Residents Up In Arms

After 12 years of searching for a beneficial use for an old National Guard facility, a solution may be right around the corner. Once, the largest military drill hall in the world, vacant since, the Kingsbridge Armory may soon become home to a major department store and dozens of smaller shops. Happily, the Bronx building’s exterior with it’s distinctive towers, turrets, crenellated parapets and huge arches will remain intact with only minor alterations. As is usual when major change in a neighborhood is proposed, some will rise to oppose it. In this instance, it seems that potential benefits outweigh the complaints. Jobs and money will be brought to the surrounding areas. Of great significance too, a magnificent structure erected between 1914-1918 with 575,000 square feet can be reclaimed along with the neighborhood around it. To the developers, respond to the fears and concerns of local residents. To those in the area, be open to new possibilities. Build it and they will come.

Tag – New York Is It!

Graffiti is up an incredible 81.5% in New York City from 2006 to 2007. So say the NYPD in a recent report. “Taggers” are scribbling their names, sayings and graphics all around town. Both public and private property is being affected. The new “pop culture” has the current generation of kids believing this is a legitimate form of art expression. It’s kind of like or, on an offline basis. Arrests for this criminal behavior are up too, but there’s no end to tagging in sight. So, is society changing for the better as a result of this primarily juvenile behavior? The answer is as plain as the writing on the wall.

The Beaver And The Building

Last month, during the pope’s visit to the United Nations, an ill beaver was plucked from the East River by cops on a NYPD Harbor Patrol boat. Sadly, the beaver could not be saved by wildlife experts on shore. It died a short time later. The experts believe that "Denny" (the beaver) died from swallowing pollutants in the water from unknown sources. However, suspicious/sarcastic political experts believe that’s this is what results when a structure containing international U.N. delegates is placed too close to the shore.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

An Airport Scanner To Make Superman Blush

It’s been over a month now since an X-Rated, X-Ray scanner has been operating at JFK Airport. This high-tech machine is capable of revealing very intimate body-part details underneath a passenger’s clothing in advance of boarding a plane. We’re all that much safer by finding out if a terrorist is looking to smuggle a weapon onto a plane. "It’s working extremely well so far," according to officials at the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA). I wonder if those looking to join the “Mile High Club” have been able to benefit from this device as well.

NOTE: If preparing to fly in the near future, wear clean underwear. And a smile.

Drink Up – It May Be Later Then You Think

New York City at night isn’t Podunk. Not even in the daytime. Nevertheless, local community boards are only approving liquor licenses for new nightlife-industry businesses if they agree to close at 2:00am. Officials at the State Liquor Authority are reportedly rubber-stamping their licensing approvals, only in accordance with these boards. Both parties deny the allegations. I guess time will tell who’s telling the truth.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Neighbors And Fences

It’s believed that Johan Santana (New York Mets) recently purchased a co-op apartment in an Upper East Side luxury building in which Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees) is already a tenant. The great American patriot and philosopher, Ben Franklin is quoted as saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” I’d bet Rodriguez and Santana are on different sides of an outfield fence about where batted baseballs should land! Can’t wait to see if they travel together to their Manhattan pads following each game of the Subway Series!

Yankees Win Games – Lose Money

Financially speaking, the New York Yankees (valued at $1.306B) lost $47.3 million dollars in 2007. So says Forbes magazine. There’s a well known economics adage that goes something like this: “What’s the difference between a good accountant and a great accountant? Ask a good accountant to add 1+1 and he’ll get 2. Ask a great accountant to add 1+1 and he’ll get any number you want!” Before I pity the Steinbrenners, I need to contact Forbes and borrow their accountant. I want to recalculate my taxes!

Red Hook Plans To "Ride" Into The Future

A scenic Brooklyn waterfront community with limited public transit is seeking to become the city’s most bike-friendly neighborhood. A competition is underway for designers and developers to conceive bikeways in Red Hook that offer far more than painted lines on busy streets. They hope to provide “bike stations” where riders may buy drinks and snacks, fix a flat or even safely park before hopping on a bus or train. More should be done throughout New York City to encourage bicycle riding and safety for bike riders and pedestrians they seek to steer clear of. This may lead to a wheel-thought-out idea we all could benefit from.

An Island With Views - But No Vision Yet

Later this year, the Empire State Development Corporation will accept new proposals from private developers for the 172 acres on Governors Island. For years, this prime land has been unused because no group has impressed officials with their grand designs and purposes. Nestled between Brooklyn and Manhattan, it’s unquestionably one of New York City’s premiere islands. Let’s hope that all New Yorkers can soon be excited over hearing about it’s next incarnation.

Term-Limits Limit Political Excess

Our highly popular Mayor Bloomberg may have a secret desire to run for a third term. To do so, he’d most likely have to appoint a new Charter Revision Commission (including all of it’s members) to review the city’s entire charter. Having done that, they'd put a referendum on the November ballot for voters to approve an increase of public officials’ terms from two to three. Term-limits were first approved in 1993 and reaffirmed in 1996. During his tenure, Mayor Bloomberg has greatly benefited New York City in many ways. Better he continue do so in a different post rather than by manipulating a law that benefits New Yorkers from many politicians eager to benefit themselves. Keep term-limits as they are.

Horseless Carriages Sought To Replace Horse-Drawn Buggies

Animal rights activists are once again pushing to eliminate horse-drawn carriages in New York City. This time, they recommend replacing them with nostalgic “green” replicas of antique cars. These classic autos are now made to run on propane and hydrogen and will soon be manufactured to run on electricity. In general, tourist trade horses are well cared for. Their health and well-being should be vigorously overseen by city officials. But for those looking to go “green,” what mode of transportation can better accomplish that than one which occasionally plops down brown?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Concrete Curse Reversed, Guaranteeing The Red Sox Will Be Worse

Several weeks ago, a destructive construction worker surreptitiously buried a David Ortiz, Red Sox baseball jersey two feet below a freshly poured foundation in the new Yankee Stadium. Well, we New Yorkers (and fortunately, the new Steinbrenner high command too) have a thing about "dumping garbage" on what will soon become hallowed Bronx ground. The stained shirt was quickly dug up and removed. Recognizing it’s collectible value though, Yankee ownership acted magnanimously. The jinxed jersey was auctioned on eBay with the total proceeds ($175,100) donated to The Jimmy Fund; a Boston based charity for children stricken with cancer. Rest assured Yank's fans that that kind of act buys mucho good baseball karma for sure. Now, as in the early 1900’s, the Yankees (then the Highlanders) have spotted the Red Sox a few World Series Championships. Big deal! History is known to repeat itself. Check back here in 92 years to see how many more World Series the Yankees have won as compared to their beantown buds. Even if the attempted “curse in concrete” had gone undetected, a buried Sox jersey wouldn’t have any detrimental effect on a “player in pinstripes.” It could only have been a precursor of things to come … for your team Sox fans. We're gonna bury you for another century!