Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NYPD U-ranium

Local law enforcement has new water-weapons in their arsenal. They’ve added two $1 million high-tech police boats capable of detecting radioactive uranium which may be smuggled by boat into New York. These TRACS (Tactical Radiological Acquisition and Characterization System) are similar in size and design to existing police boats. By their nature however, they’re built for more serious missions. The NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau has searched for water-borne uranium before. The equipment aboard these new craft though do it better and provide greater detail about what’s detected. Eight additional boats should be added in 2009. That’s long overdue news to nervous residents of New York City. It’s understood that only so much can be done to safeguard our city. No preventative measure will ever be foolproof. Nevertheless, nearly seven years after September 11th, NYC should already be guarded by a fleet of these boats, in every access waterway and on duty 24/7. Let’s hope that this apparent chink in our armor is merely deception to mislead those who would seek to harm us. Let’s hope too that all that needs to be done is already done. Finally, let’s say a special prayer of thanks to those who guard the frontlines, whether on land, in the sky or on the water.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mud Holes In Gotham

22 of 28 New York City car washes need to be cleaned up and out for the dirty ways in which they hire and treat employees. It can only be assumed that the other places around town operate in a similar manner. The majority pay their workers less than half the minimum wage. Most employees are illegal immigrants so complaints aren’t heard ... not in English anyway. I wonder if it’s illegal to underpay illegal aliens who were illegally hired? In this day and age, it may even be illegal to pose the question.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome Housewarmings Eight Months Away

Our neighbors are moving down their respective blocks. Both the Yankees and Mets move into new homes in 2009. The Yankees will welcome fans to their baseball home opener in the Bronx at the new Yankee Stadium on April 16th. The Mets start their season at Citi Field in Queens on April 14th. Let’s hope their new digs are as great a place to visit and cheer as the old!

Mad Dog On The Loose

The WFAN sports broadcasting team of Mike Francesa and Chris Russo is no more. Chris opted out of the last year of his contract. The pair will certainly be missed for the information and entertainment they brought to New York City sports fans. After nearly 19 years, Chris will no longer play Mike’s lap dog. Inside sources say that the salary difference between Chris and Mike (about $200,000) was the main reason for the divorce. It fed Chris’ resentment and insecurity. In recent months, increased tension in their on-air debates was painfully obvious to regular radio listeners and viewers on the YES cable network. Chris is expected to sign a $3 million deal with Sirius. Together, the boys brought WFAN $15 million annually in advertising sales. That total is very likely to drop. Time will tell though if Mike’s ego can fill the Dog’s void to maintain the show’s popularity. As the “boys” were well known for their predictions, I’ll make one myself. A new “team” will bump Mike's time slot within the year. Like the Yankees, Mike, no team stays on top forever. To both of you, thanks for the memories.

A/C Bill To Bill A/C Abusers

The “greening” of New York City continues. Mayor Bloomberg is expected to sign a bill into law that will fine some stores from keeping their doors open when the A/C is running. He’s admittedly lukewarm to the idea himself. He believes it won’t make much of a difference. That's probably true. The new law will apply to chain stores with more than five locations and to businesses of 4,000 or more square feet. Fortunately, small stores and restaurants with outdoor seating will be exempt. The bill goes into effect 90 days after it becomes law. As a result, expect to see some store owner’s temperatures rise in 2009. First time offenders will get a warning; then $200 tickets for each subsequent occurrence. Bill supporters believe stores will save 20-25% on air conditioner electricity. Many affected owners claim that business goes down 20-25% when their doors are closed. They also believe energy costs won’t go down as suggested because their doors are always opening and closing. This new law makes you wonder just how intrusive government plans to be to save the planet.

Where Rock Belongs

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum is in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland, Ohio? It’s true, but there’s good news on the way. The famous music museum is opening a 25,000-square-foot satellite museum in New York City’s SoHo district in November. Party on Big Apple!

Money-Making Metrocard Machine

For almost three years at a Penn Station MetroCard machine, three friends illegally received FREE fares totaling $800,000! Authorities claim it was the rarest of circumstances and combinations that enabled the trio to collect these fares undetected. They sold most of the LIRR and MTA cards to a long list of eager friends. Only a routine audit of a software glitch exposed the theft. New York City cops staked out the machine and eventually made their arrests. When they finally get out of prison, the three amigos would be well advised to walk the streets, not ride the rails. Easier to resist temptation that way.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Grad Glass Remains Half Empty

New York City high school graduation rates have risen from 46.5% in 2005, to 49.8% in 2006 to 52.2% in 2007. To be fair, GED’s add a bit more to each statistic. Unfortunately, "a bit” isn’t nearly enough to do justice for our kids. Some proudly point to these increases as “progress.” I think it points to the continued failure of those we entrust to educate our children. Special needs children who need even more of our attention graduated at a significantly lower rate; 19.8%. Despite these low numbers, local politicians applaud themselves. Board of Education school officials applaud themselves. Next year though, over a third of our kids probably won't receive diplomas. Why all the celebration then? Mayor Bloomberg said, “I don’t think you can overstate the value of a high school diploma.” I agree, but in today’s marketplace, a college education should be stressed ... not a high school education. Regardless of the rhetoric, much more needs to be done NOW to graduate a higher % of our kids in 2009; higher still in the years to come. Billions of dollars have been thrown at the problem. That’s not the answer. Parents must take charge of ensuring their children’s education. Good people with foresight and proven principles need to be responsible for our children’s scholastic future too. From top to bottom, the school system needs to be revamped. Who then is qualified, courageous and independent enough to take on this school of hard knocks?

Thanks Vice President Al Gore

The Carbon Disclosure Project convinced officials in twenty American cities, New York City included, to measure their carbon footprint. This will be done to find ways to curb dangerous emissions. Each city is required to collect specific data and assess citywide emissions. The CDP is scheduled to publish the study’s results in January 2009. Perhaps this information is important. Perhaps of equal importance, we'll get to see direct evidence linking mankind to this latest of many global warming cycles in our planet’s history. Think we’ll find that missing proof in their report?

Bad Economy Burns Ex-New Yorkers

As hard economic times take root in the city, fewer New Yorkers can afford to leave the traditional way … in a casket. More and more families are turning to cremation as a less expensive alternative to saying “goodbye” to the dearly departed. Low end cremations cost around $400 compared to $8,500 for a burial crypt; plot not included. The Cremation Association of North America claims that cremations are up by 33% between 2004-2006. I wonder why the Association doesn’t have more current statistics available. I guess they’re waiting for the smoke to clear!

Where Politicians Find NYC Bread

A Manhattan Upper East Side zip code, formerly 10021 (now 10021, 10065 & 10075), gives the most money to politicians and into political coffers. In this blue city, most donations wind up with Democrats, not Republicans. Over the last two years in fact, the NYC metro area raised $144.6 million compared to Washington D.C., $121 million and Los Angeles in third place with $73 million. New York City. It's quite a place for politicians to find bread for all the baloney they serve us during election seasons.

"No Bid" - No More

Yet another questionable deal by New York City's Board of Education has come to light. The Board claim their “no bid” contract policy gets things done quicker and provides for a better curriculum. In fiscal year 2000, they approved 7 no-bid contracts for $693,000. In fiscal year 2007, 76 were approved for $72 million. In 2003, the Board of Ed came under Mayor Bloomberg’s control; except that the bidding process seems to be spiraling out of control. “No bid” contracts with the Department of Education, or with any city agency for that matter are “no good.” Often, money is wasted on deals with questionable contractors with poor monitoring and unfavorable results. Whether or not the school's “curriculum” improved by a factor of 100 like bid contract totals the past seven fiscal years is doubtful. The city’s bidding process for government contracts should be wide open to public scrutiny. All qualified bidders (Measured by dollars and details.) should be permitted to contest for all city contracts. New Yorker's are entitled to the most and the best for their money. Every penny of it.

Jet Brett

To begin with, quarterback Chad Pennington’s attitude and effort in New York will always be appreciated. His leadership and grit will be missed. May happiness and success follow him to Miami (Except for the Dolphins’ two games against the Jets.). With that being said, it’s still hard to believe that Brett Favre is a New York Jet. Even after reading the newspapers, watching his press conference, seeing him play in exhibition football games, it’s still hard to believe that Brett Favre is a New York Jet. Unfortunately, being a long suffering Jets fan, I know disappointment is a certainty every year. Even with future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, we fans will likely have our hearts broken somewhere during this NFL season. But for now anyway … J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!

Lipstick On A Pig

The MTA may sell corporate sponsorships of subway stations. This would generate cash for New York City Transit while granting station-naming rights to the company. It would also create mass confusion for mass transit riders. They’d be forced to relearn already familiar train stop names. Instead, why not offer exclusive advertising and special rates throughout select stations? That revenue could be used to improve that station. In the long run, changing a station’s name won’t make the subway look, smell or run any better. Money and effective management will. MTA-Mass Transit Authority-Must Try Again.

MTA Perv Posters To Be Posted

New York City's female commuters have been under attack, underground. 10% claim sexual abuse when using mass transit while an astounding 63% report being sexually harassed. Ever responsive to the immediate needs of transit riders, NYC Transit will put up signs to combat this indecency! These signs state that “sexual harassment” is a crime. Victims will be encouraged to report incidents whenever they occur. That's the MTA's response. Our subways shouldn’t be a Coney Island amusement park, "tunnel of love" for low-lives. I think more undercover cops and stiffer court sentences might reduce the problem. How about "lifetime bans" for convicted touchers from taking trains or buses with mandatory jail time if they're ever found on board? The MTA’s solution is a sad sign of our times. The poster-writing is on the wall.

Falls May Fell River Café’s Trees

August is not the time to see brown autumn leaves. That’s the scene though at Brooklyn’s landmark eatery, the River Café. One of four water displays, which is part of New York City’s newest public arts project, “The New York City Waterfalls” is kicking up a saltwater spray. This mist is turning tree leaves brown and doing damage to the landscaping. Similar harm is being caused at Governors Island. To their credit, the Public Art Fund has responded quickly. They’ve hired a landscaper to get to the root of the problem.

Don’t Wait To Walk The Dog

New York City’s Web site has, “gone to the dogs.” Mayor Bloomberg announced that dog owners may now go to to get or renew licenses for their pooches. This will save about three weeks compared to mailing back and forth. Surprisingly, an estimated 500,000 New Yorkers own dogs. Not surprising is the fact that many New Yorkers don’t register their dogs. What dogs!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

JFKosher Airport

Oy vey! Kosher food vending machines have finally been installed in the Terminal 4 food court at John F. Kennedy Airport. Now, Orthodox Jews can fly closer to God with a settled stomach. The “Hot Nosh 24/6” machines offer food selections like knishes, hot dogs, onion rings and pizza. Prices are pretty high ($4.50 for a hot dog) but worth it for hungry, observant Jews who travel. Though the machines say they’re open “24/6,” they’re actually open all week long. Gentiles who travel on Friday-Saturday evenings enjoy a good kosher hot dog too!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Biker Accidents Revvvvving Up

It’s believed that higher gas prices are compelling more riders to trade their four wheels for two. At the same time, hospital emergency rooms are seeing more victims of motorcycle accidents than ever before. It’s probably not coincidence. New York City motorcycle registrations have risen from 26,798 in 2004, to 30,592 as of June 2008. New riders without proper training or experience are probably the cause. Easy Riders, they ain’t.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Seat-Of-The-Pants Driver

NYC Transit fired a driver who refused to wear pants or culottes at work. Tahita Jenkins, 35, claims she couldn’t wear them for religious reasons (Weren't job applicants told of a "dress code" prior to employment?). The MTA thinks it’s a matter of safety for drivers; male or female. Ms. Jenkins pastor from the Holy Ghost Headquarters Prayer Band Mission of New Beginning Deliverance Church wrote a note on her behalf. It confirmed her deep religious conviction and long-standing aversion to pants. Now, Ms. Jenkins is suing New York City for reinstatement. The case will be reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Religious discrimination should never be tolerated in any form or forum. However, freedom of religion shouldn’t mean that employers must accommodate the religious principles of everybody’s religion. What would an employer do for example if two employees had religious principles which opposed one another? How can the employer defer to one without offending the other? Can't be done. There are times when an individual must decide if their religious beliefs prohibit them from working where a job's requirements are contrary to those beliefs. If that’s the case, and the regulations aren’t intentionally discriminatory, it might be best to pray for divine guidance ... to find a more suitable position elsewhere.

Subways Will Be Sub-Par For Some Time

NYC Transit President Howard Roberts Jr. spoke the train truth. It’s something all transit riders know but didn’t want to hear from an MTA official. Even with increased ridership in 2008 and two projected fare hikes over the next three years, there won’t be enough money to fix the subway’s maintenance and service problems. In fact, serious problems are very likely to get much worse. New York City has 468 train stations. Less than 25% are considered “acceptable” (probably a lot less than that) by MTA standards. Roberts claims his predecessors cut cleaning and maintenance services which exacerbated the problems. For example, we’re down to one cleaner patrolling five stations. Safety inspections are conducted every 72 hours instead of every 24 hours as before. The list of health and safety concerns stretches longer than an eight car train! The 3rd rail of the situation is this. The health and safety of riders is threatened every time they ride. Current thinking and approaches will probably never make a meaningful difference to correct these conditions. New people and new innovative ideas must be introduced NOW to fix the problems. Who can lead us from this gloomy and dangerous tunnel we’re in?

Foreclosures Building In Big Apple

Compared to July 2007, foreclosures are up 67% citywide (215%-Staten Island, 81%-Queens, 63%-Brooklyn, 16%-The Bronx and 7.6%-Manhattan). So far in 2008, the total number of homes lost in NYC is 2,216. Despite the losses, New York City is still doing better than most large cities in the U.S. With only a 30% homeowner base, New York City is somewhat fortunate during these tough economic times. Things might be worse here if fewer people rented. Many experts agree that many current foreclosures were often caused by overly-lenient mortgage companies who approved overly-enthusiastic home buyers. Buyers took chances and gambled with adjustable rates on their interest payments. Some lost. Whatever the reasons, it’s hoped that the economy will improve soon. Those in power should initiate reasonable measures to help our home-owning neighbors now. Also, they must act to prevent future lenders and buyers from falling into the same mortgage traps again.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

J-igantic Jumbo Jet At JFK

A couple of weeks ago, the largest passenger airliner in the world touched down at Kennedy Airport. New York City was the jet’s first American stop. It certainly won’t be the last time for this plane or the others likely to follow. The much-hyped plane is a brand new double-decker, Airbus A380 owned by Emirates. It carries a $327 million price tag along with 489 passengers plus crew! The Port Authority spent $179 million to reinforce runways and taxiway bridges to accommodate aircraft of this type. It was proven a wise investment once the future of commercial aviation landed in Queens. 105 years after the Wright brothers’ success at Kitty Hawk where only one flew in a glider, five hundred can now take to the sky in a jet. Automakers the world over should be embarrassed by the tremendous advances in transportation made by the aviation industry. Hey, Detroit! Build us that long talked about 100 mpg car and drivers might be impressed by your technology leap too.

Mayor Does The Job For Trade Schools

Reading, writing and arithmetic will now be stressed at the city’s 21 technical training schools. This policy will make New York’s young craftspeople better scholars upon graduation. Along with this new emphasis, Mayor Bloomberg will ask various business trade corporations and industries to better support local business trade schools. This is his two-prong plan to improving vocational schools. Good for students. Good for business. Good for New York City.

NYPD BlueTube

Big Brother wants to watch you. Actually, the New York City Police Department wants to watch what you see and video-record if it contains evidence of criminal activity. Very soon, they’ll make it very easy for people to upload videos and text, direct to 911. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says this will increase the flow of information which in turn will help law enforcement and make New York a safer place to live and work. As most sports fans know, video replay of a close play can eliminate doubt and bring the truth to light. In that light, this is a good program. Evidence will help protect the rights of the innocent and to obtain justice when necessary; depending on the camera angle, of course. It remains to be seen whether or not police receive many spiteful videos from neighbors filming neighbors littering or not cleaning up after their dogs. This new system may become an invasion of privacy for some but may ultimately prove to "make better neighbors" than Benjamin Franklin's fences.

Life’s A Big Baked Apple Beach

The 18th annual beach report prepared by The Natural Resources Defense Council is in with the tide. Their top beach rating is 4 stars. Rockaway in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn each had beaches with 2 and 3 stars while Orchard Beach in the Bronx received only 1 star. Overall, our local shores had the second highest increase of "contamination closings" in the nation. Their report concluded that storm water runoff was the cause of contamination 70% of the time while raw sewage was the culprit another 19%. Common sense suggests that local sun worshippers check out local health conditions at their favorite beach before slipping on the Flip-Flops.

City Construction Costs Climbing

Building in the Big Apple is getting more and more expensive. Prices have risen 32% in just the past three years alone. Blame that on the costs and availability of materials, higher labor rates and the general expense of building in congested areas like New York. What’s more, an office building here will cost twice as much as in Chicago, three times as much as in Atlanta. Don’t expect costs to go down anytime within the next few years either. These higher building costs greatly affect not only office buildings and skyscrapers but large public projects too. Ground Zero, the PATH Transit Hub, the Javits Convention Center’s expansion and the MTA’s Fulton Street Transit Center have all been delayed or scaled down to save money. Mayor Bloomberg is looking to increase bid competition for public-works projects to lower costs. That may help a bit, but increased building in India and China, coupled with less available steel worldwide, may be a building not even our Superman-like mayor can vault.

Doorman On The Outside Looking In

Six weeks ago, Brooklyn's Richie Randazzo, 44, won $5 million in the New York Lottery. Since then, he's lived life large, often in the public's view. Randazzo received much notoriety, first from his expressed desire to find a girlfriend, second by finding one and partying with her in Atlantic City. After ignoring a warning from his employer about his deteriorating work habits, Randazzo was fired. He quickly filed a complaint with his union which is now investigating the matter on his behalf. His 23 year old girlfriend, Sabina Johansson has her problems now too. She was recently busted for allegedly promoting prostitution at a popular New York City lap dance club. It seems that money has bought them some temporary happiness. Soon, it may have to go towards buying a couple of good legal shysters. Not even $5 million will last that long when divided by two NYC lawyers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Transit Toilets Flushed

A recent check of 18 subway bathrooms in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens found most were locked, poorly stocked or inadequately maintained. Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Assemblyman conducted the review. No comment yet from the MTA. Could any regular subway rider be surprised by the results? I’m not. Undoubtedly, the most surprised individual was one of Hikind’s inspectors. On his tour, he walked in on two men engaged in sexual activity! Maybe they were tourists from a third world country who were glad enough just to have indoor plumbing … whether it worked or not.

New York City May Be Sold

New York’s Governor Paterson recently raised the possibility that government may sell off public bridges, tunnels and roads to private groups helping offset budget deficits. Whether it’s a long-term solution or fiscal gimmickry remains to be seen. Hopefully things here won’t get to the point where this becomes necessary. However, if finances run lower, those that monitor things for the public must examine the financial details before we put a “For Sale” sign in NYC's front window.

Naked Cowboy Escapes San Fran Ban And Can

New York City's famous Times Square troubadour, Robert Burck, was recently arrested in San Francisco for playing his music in violation of their city's park regulations. The case against him was dropped however because the arresting officer put the "wrong code" on the ticket, thereby making it invalid. After several hours of legal wrestling, he left court a free man. Good thing, too. The thought of being jailed might have made Mr. Burck soil his costume undies!

A Taste Of Brooklyn Bridge Park

A small section of Brooklyn Bridge Park was recently opened to the public. Highly controversial prior to its approval, there are few critics now except for those asking why this park wasn’t approved sooner! One day, in the not too distant future, residents of New York City will have a brand new 85-acre park. Breathtaking views instead of missed opportunities should help us all see other possibilities around the city more clearly.

OTB To Consider Video-Lottery Terminals And More

David Cornstein is the new chairman of New York City’s OTB Corp. He envisions construction of an entertainment center to include movie theatres, retail stores and possibly hotels … not to mention VLT’s throughout. He thinks it could eventually employ 5,000 employees and attract even more tourists to the city. Is this guy running state-controlled bookie joints or envisioning himself as a combination Donald Trump/Steve Winn in the casino/hotel business? Horses too fast out of the chute usually don’t finish in the money. Perhaps Cornstein should commence by offering the daily bettor more at existing facilities rather than calling for blueprints for yet another.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pigeons Purloined For Pennsylvania Shootists

New York City’s unofficial birds, pigeons (AKA “flying rats”) are being illegally netted by thieves and sold to brokers for a few dollars each. These brokers often resell them to Pennsylvania gun clubs for up to $9.00 apiece. Pigeon shoots are illegal in New York but remain legal in some rural Pennsylvania counties. Bird-blasting shooting contests can last for days. Contestants may number in the hundreds; dead NYC birds in the thousands. Something tells me that solving crimes of this type is not high on the NYPD's agenda. Local statues in the city remain mum on the issue, although smiles have reportedly appeared on their stone and bronze faces.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bloomberg x 3

Don’t go. Please stay. It’s believed that’s the desire of many New Yorkers with money and power regarding Mayor Bloomberg. They’d love to change New York City’s term limits policy and encourage the mayor to run one more time after his second term ends in December 2009. The term limits law must be changed by next July to make that mayoral run possible. Despite the opinions of many others too for “more of the same,” it’s important to remember that term limits are a vital protection against the occasional poor choices we voters make. New Yorkers have twice voted against extending term limits. Recent polls confirm they would do so again. After 9/11, many in New York looked to extend Mayor Giuliani for fear of who might follow in his wake. That fear turned out to be unfounded. Mayor Bloomberg has truly done an exceptional job for New York during his tenure. Let’s hope though that there are no "backroom deals" that deny the will of the voters.

San Fran Arrests Our Times Square Man

SFO police officers busted NYC’s Naked Cowboy for sidewalk singing in a “restricted” area of their version of Union Square. Liberal as they are on the “left coast,” a New Yorker in his underwear is somehow offensive to their society. Radicals can disrupt church services, illegal aliens are embraced by the local government, but our Robert Burck can’t belt out a ballad in the “city by the bay.” Perhaps a singing cowboy from New York is only welcome out there when part of a larger singing group like the Village People.

Black Grad Rates Don’t Make The Grade

New York City ranks near the bottom nationally in its ability to graduate black students with a high school diploma. In 2006, only 32% received their sheepskin compared to 57% of white students. Both figures are an outrage. Sadly, New York ranks 54th out of 63 big city school districts in the country. When will Board of Education and city government officials actually work to improve statistics? Annually posting stats in reports that fewer and fewer young New Yorkers are capable of understanding is appalling.

Songbirds Make Jailbirds

They say, “Music soothes the savage beast.” Apparently, it can bring out the beast in some people too. More and more immigrants are attempting to smuggle expensive songbirds into New York through our local airports. Often, they bring them in less than favorable conditions to the birds’ health. The birds may inadvertently pose a health risk to humans, too. It’s hoped that authorities will make these criminals “sing” about who their local managers and buyers are.

Cable Wars Coming To A TV Near You

It may still be hard to find something good on TV, even with hundreds of stations, but at least there’ll soon be something good about cable TV. Verizon has received approval to build their high-speed, fiber-optic network in New York City. It's scheduled to take six years to complete. Cablevision and Time Warner’s cable TV monopoly is about to receive its biggest challenge yet. It’s going to be bloody. There are too many dollars in the market for it not to be. But, we the customers will benefit from extra channels, competitive prices and improved service as Verizon’s system approaches our neighborhoods. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Subway Shakespeareans

Many consider Romeo and Juliet, William’s #1 play. Well, here in New York, we have Broadway. Romeo and Juliet ride the #1 train! This summer, USC drama students Peter Vack and Troian Bellisario have been performing the play’s famous balcony scene between train stops. They like the variety of audiences that enter at each stop and time their performances accordingly. Tips have ranged from a penny to $20. Live performances in the subway are often a very entertaining diversion from our famous hole in the ground. However, Troian shouldn’t be standing on train seats in order to recreate a terrace. New Yorkers don’t stand on things meant to be sat on, Troian. You shouldn’t either. Despite some nasty scenes you’ve undoubtedly witnessed while riding the rails, we got some class here!

"New" New Yawk Talk

Within the next few months, all New York City agencies providing public service must do so in six foreign languages (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole). Mayor Bloomberg believes our newest residents’ great diversity can also pose significant challenges when it comes to dealing with the government. It probably does. Of course many who are fluent in "the King's English" are challenged by government bureaucracy too! It's a fact that for hundreds of years before initiatives like this language assistance program, one of the city’s, and for that matter, the nation’s greatest strengths was the “great melting pot” our ancestors were a part of. Our relatives were compelled to learn the language and customs of the new nation where they chose to live. Of course they had fewer options back then. In so doing though, they became a more integral part of something far better than they left behind. Immigrants should have the right to celebrate their heritage. Each wave of newcomers often enhances our society in some manner. However, they should be more open to the idea of assimilating into America’s culture; language included. A "common language" is a better way to build a society with a cohesive bond among all its' people. I wonder if this plan of the mayor’s will contribute to a more cohesive city or, if it adds another floor to the Tower of Babel. That kind of skyscraper we don’t need anywhere in New York.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hot-Foot In The Summertime

Children’s playgrounds should be sanctuaries from neighborhood streets. For dozens of kids every summer though, they’ve become dangerous stopovers before visiting a hospital emergency room. Kids are getting burned. The black tiled mats which prevent slip and fall injuries have reached temperatures of 166.9 degrees. Swing seats have been clocked at 138 degrees. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe admitted that the mats get very hot but said they’re in use nationwide. Changing the mats to a more heat reflective color wouldn’t help much. According to Benepe, all New York City parks meet today's safety standards. They have signs posted to advise people to wear shoes. All of that sounds reasonable. One of the first things all kids learn is, “That’s hot! Don’t touch!” Remind them before they go out to play.

Vending Machine Makes Mirth

Funulator” for fun, anyone? What’s a Funulator, you ask? It’s a square, gumball-type dispenser that offers fun ideas and trinkets for fifty cents. It can be found at a few locations on the streets of New York. The creator, Jake Bronstein believes “Adults have forgotten to have fun.” This machine is his quick fix to the problem. So what “fun” things can you get from this gizmo? Here are some examples: A note encouraging you to buy a lottery ticket with a suggestion not to scratch it and telling people you "like your life as it is." A note saying “For a little fun, how about trying a Donald Trump comb-over?” A quarter. A sticky starfish. A lamp keychain. Are we having fun yet, people? Bronstein claims a vending machine company is interested in franchising his idea. Now that, is funny.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Muhammad And The MTA

Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj is behind a campaign to advertise in 1,000 NYCTA subway cars this September during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Wahhaj is a former member of the Nation of Islam. He’s also the first Muslim to deliver an invocation at the U.S. House of Representatives. Several years ago, he was named as one of one hundred seventy unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plans for the destruction of other buildings here in New York City. Nevertheless, Islam is one of the most revered religions in the world. There are, and will always be, radical individuals from all religions who don't extol the best virtues of their religion. That fact shouldn’t diminish another follower’s beliefs nor have non-believers think any less of that religion. Religious knowledge should always trump what we know about those who look to subvert an entire religion for their own goals. The Islamic group states its goal with these ads is to promote the true nature of Islam to non-Muslims. Hopefully, this is true. Knowledge is better than ignorance. The group’s ads will invite transit riders to visit to learn more about the faith. The imam’s expressed beliefs are certainly inflammatory to most Americans, but this is still the great country of America where religious tolerance and differing viewpoints are permitted. So long as the group’s ads don’t incite violence and are in strict accordance with the advertising policies of the MTA, they should be posted. New Yorkers will undoubtedly respond to these ads as they do to most other subway messages; either with a lack of interest or graffiti.

It’s Up To You Nude York, Nude York

"Nakedness in New York" is catching on in local restaurants, a comedy club and at a yoga studio. John Ordover rents out local eateries for monthly parties of about 50 people where a “no clothes permitted” policy (Pretty hard to have a Halloween party with those restrictions. Everyone would be dressed as either Adam or Eve!) is the dress code. The yoga studio has about 10 participants with two basic rules … no clothes and bring your own mat! As if comedians don’t have it tough enough, a few REALLY brave ones perform sans clothing at the People’s Improv Theater where audience members are invited to disrobe too. Should this trend grow, I wonder if one day, Manhattan's Garment District will turn into a nudist colony!

Digital Meters Don’t Matter

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) wants all homes to have digital devices by 2011 to monitor utilities. He believes they’d offer usage info to cut consumer bills by 10% and enable Con Edison to reduce site inspections and better track outages. I guess “10%” is a nice number, but what conclusions is it based on? Assuming any future usage reduction percentage is next to impossible to calculate without facts. What's more, usage is more likely to rise as customers buy more electronics that require more electricity. Besides, consumers already get usage info ... on their bills. More importantly, people know exactly how much they pay out each month for electricity. What better gauge for New Yorkers is there than that? Likewise, Con Edison should be required to operate more efficiently without new monitoring devices. More importantly, Con Ed must respond to outages faster once meters (of any type) are reading zero. Politicians should lead by innovation and example to reduce energy consumption. Getting New York City residents to subsidize new meters now to register existing information is probably not the best way to do it.

Jewels In A Junk Pile

Arie Sharon and his wife Haya were forced into becoming treasure hunters in Staten Island. Arie is a jeweler who left his wife’s $20,000, 3-carat, anniversary diamond earrings in a cleaning solution container. An employee, who thought the jar was empty, threw it away. The couple contacted the Sanitation Department, who to their credit was sympathetic to the Sharon’s plight. The garbage truck that collected their refuse was found a day later. Fortunately for them, it hadn't yet dumped its load. The Sharons were permitted to sift threw the trash. 30 smelly minutes later, the jar with the earrings was found. Quite a “lost and found” story. With apologies to Ms. Marilyn Monroe, “diamonds in the dump were this girl’s best friend.”

Voting May Be Vexing This November

The New York City Board of Elections has money to buy and install federally ordered, touch-screen devices for the handicapped; one to each polling site. That’s good. Unfortunately, they claim they don’t have the money to hire people to run the machines. That’s bad. City Hall officials disagree about there being a budget shortfall. Why it’s so difficult to know what’s in the treasury, to appropriate funds where necessary and to do this without a deadline around the corner amazes me. Disagree? Maybe we should vote on it.

New Pork City

Look around you. See some folks who could afford to shed a few pounds? Think they might be from another state or tourists? Probably not. A federal government study concluded that 25.5% of the people in New York State are obese. That’s good (actually bad) for 19th place on their list. A statewide, county by county breakdown was not made available but by the looks of things around here, New York City is "carrying its weight for the state."

Brooklyn’s Buying Bang

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD are shopping for guns. They’re offering $200 to anyone willing to surrender a working firearm; $20 for BB guns and air rifles. The weapons may be turned in at six local churches but curiously, there’s a maximum payout limit of only three guns per person. This makes no sense. If the idea is to remove guns from the streets, should it matter whether someone is looking to sell 3 or 300? Another problem for our government in buying guns is the New York City black market. It’s a shrewd competitor that typically pays out more for guns than we do.