Monday, September 29, 2008

NYPD Big Blue Boo-boo

Should a current NYPD Commissioner promote one of their corporate suppliers? Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley did just that for IBM. In a two minute commercial, Kelley was touting IBM’s technology and praising it for helping to solve crimes more quickly. The computer equipment was purchased with the support of the not-for-profit Police Foundation group. The commercial’s concept was IBM’s approach to advertise its problem-solving, solution-based business. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, no NYPD official ever acted in a similar manner. Deputy Commissioner Paul Brown said the video was not done to benefit IBM but to “highlight” the Center, “which the department and the Police Foundation are very proud of.” Kelley was not paid for his services. In the future, it might be best to promote NYPD successes in local news headlines and improved crime statistics, rather than in commercial endorsements. Save those for a real New York cop/actor ... like Dennis.

Terrorism Recedes Into PA’s PAst

The “threat color level” for the Port Authority appears to be rosy. Security patrols around midtown’s Port Authority Bus Terminal have been reduced to pre-9/11 levels; reportedly to save on excessive overtime costs. This is the busiest bus-port in the world with over 200,000 passengers a day yet three security booths, constructed after 9/11, are now unmanned 24/7. The PA was found liable in 6 deaths and 1,000 injuries in the 1993 WTC bombing. Critics say that New York’s commuter hub is far less safe than it should be. Port Authority spokespeople claim its safer now than ever before. Hopefully circumstances won’t lead to a court ruling against the PA once again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

School Safety Study Smells After Seven

How many years does it take to review traffic outside our schools? Well, there’s a study in Queens that’s ongoing for seven years! The Department of Transportation took responsibility for an important pedestrian and traffic study back in 2001. It had funding of $2.5 million. To date, only 10% of new schools have been studied. According to New York Councilman Eric Gioia, at this pace, it’ll take another twenty years for DOT to complete their research! He correctly states that traffic patterns and population vary over extended periods of time. Long-term studies have "little to no value" to resolve any immediate dangers for our children. "Little to no value?" Kind of like the DOT and city government personnel who permit things like this to take place during their stewardship.

Is There A Criminal In The House?

The Brooklyn House of Detention, located on Atlantic Avenue, is reopening after being closed for five years. Neighbors are none too glad to see it back. Mayor Bloomberg plans to reopen the facility with almost the double the bed capacity to 1,469 cots. The city closed the prison because it was bad for the area’s rejuvenation. Those who bought into the rejuvenating neighborhood and those who were planning to buy, will undoubtedly oppose this new jail in court. The facility is due to open in 2012. It will be used to house inmates with sentences of less than one year. A Correction Department spokesperson said they’re firmly committed to the project, believing it’s a great thing for the criminal justice system. With the new Nu Hotel across the way, one wonders if their guests who pay over $300 for a room will enjoy hearing Jailhouse Rock when they shut their eyes

Have We A Ye-She-Va?

Former New York Yeshiva University professor Jay Ladin left two years ago. Joy Ladin returned to begin teaching where Jay Ladin, left off. Yes, Jay/Joy is a transsexual. Many rabbis and other school officials there are not pleased by the change. They believe it violates Torah law, morality and ethics. To make matters worse (depending on one’s point of view), Joy reportedly retains Jay’s manhood. This dispute began in 2006, shortly after Jay was tenured. At that point Jay announced he was in the process of becoming a she. After months of debate, it was agreed that Jay could return as Joy. Jay’s wife left him, taking their three kids with her. Joy now heads the writing center at the university. King Solomon hasn’t been reached for an opinion, but he might suggest that for those writing about this topic, check their spelling for the proper usage of “a’s” and “o’s” and for the appropriate use of past and present tense.

Astroland Rides Up For Sale

Doing your Christmas shopping early? How about buying a 275-foot-high Astroland Space Tower at $99,000? Perhaps the Water Flume water ride for $199,000, Break Dance for $299,000, Dante’s Inferno for $225,000, Bumper Cars for $199,000, Merry-Go-Round for $95,000 or the Top Spin ride for a meager $499,000? Step right up and buy ten rides including those previously mentioned for a steal at only $2,724.000! Two dozen other rides will either be listed soon or stored. Carol Albert, Astroland’s longtime operator, must quickly clear Brooklyn's famed Coney Island park of all rides and 16 trailers of carnival items too. Hoping to close a deal with the landlord, she may have waited too long to start the sale. Many hope the Astroland Tower, built in 1963, will be saved and rebuilt somewhere nearby.

NYPD Segway Scooters Supposedly Suck

Since 2003, some cops have been patrolling on two wheels instead of two feet. Police Officer Gary Schneider, 42, trained other police officers on how to properly navigate around town on a Segway scooter. Sadly, a software glitch caused a demonstration ride to lock its wheels and throw him to the ground. He broke his leg so severely that he was unable to continue working for the NYPD. Now, he’s suing the Police Department for all of their purchase, maintenance and repair records. He believes that Segways suck and he’s looking to protect his fellow cops. He’s not faulting the city, but Segway, the manufacturer. Why again is it that cops need these gizmos instead of walking their beats in New York City?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

TKTS Booth To Raise Curtain

Shakespeare wrote that, “All the world’s a stage and all of us, merely players.” Well, New York City taxpayers were bit players in the production of the new $19 million TKTS Booth in Manhattan’s Times Square. This state-of-the-art and visually spectacular booth will sell discount Broadway and off-Broadway tickets like the old booth did. Not unexpectedly for public projects in NYC, this facility is 18 months late and $11.4 million over budget. "Unforeseen" business hardships and "poor" project management by the Times Square Alliance are to blame. The group’s Board of Directors however places the blame with its president, Tim Tompkins. The play and the way we’re constantly played, goes on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yankees Shut Out Singing Soprano

Since the 1930’s, Dominic Chianese, 77, (aka “Uncle Junior” on the popular HBO Sopranos show) has been a Yankees fan. His wish was to sing the Star-Spangled Banner on the Bronx field before the Stadium closes. The former tenor (not soprano) who’s performed at New York City's Carnegie Hall, apparently made the Yanks an offer they could refuse. The team said they turn down many requests each year, so this denial is not out of the ordinary. For the balance of the year, management has decided to play a recording of the anthem instead of inviting singers. In other words, Junior, FUHGEDDABOUTIT!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bus Riders Bust Buses

The first ever local bus Rider Report Card survey is over. 22,109 riders graded bus service in 18 categories based on their own experiences. The results are in, but I bet the big bosses at the MTA wish they weren’t. Citywide, bus service in New York City received a C-minus. What a shame we can’t require Transit officials to commute to work in the same conveyances other New Yorkers have no choice but to use.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bites Into The Big Apple

Street surfaces typically last 15-20 years in NYC. For many of our thoroughfares, time is up. New York City streets are on the bumpy road to hell. If you’re a city driver, you’ve undoubtedly felt this sad truth on your backside already. In fact, only 66.4% of our streets were rated “good” in the fiscal year ending June 30th. That’s downhill from 79.8% in 2003. The Department of Transportation expects to pave 1,000 “lane miles” this year. That's up from 950 miles last year, but we need more repairs than that to improve the situation here. For the foreseeable future, we’re all in for a really rough ride. Buy yourself a good seat donut and better shocks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Drugstore Injections And Needlers

Governor Paterson signed into law, a bill permitting pharmacists to administer flu and pneumonia vaccinations at the local pharmacy. No need to run to the doctor's office now, but is it safe? A pharmacist may have a customer's pill list but do they have knowledge of a patient's medical condition as a doctor would? Some might get a shot that can cause irreparable harm. Starting December 4th, pharmacists who received official state training and certification may legally “stick it to you!” Some health experts say that 50,000 more senior citizens in New York City may be inoculated under the new program. Before running to your pharmacy, check with your doctor.

Court Claim Against NYC Craigslist

A Manhattan man was shot six times with a gun purchased on the popular classifieds website, Now, Calvin Gibson, 50, is looking to unload both barrels on because he believes they’re partially responsible. His suit claims they failed to supervise and monitor the transaction and that had they done so, the shooter could never have acquired the gun to shoot him. A quick look at the site shows that they do post the following under the text link, “partial list of prohibited items”: Partial list of items for sale and services the advertisement of which is not permitted on craigslist: Weapons and related items, including but not limited to firearms, disguised, undetectable or switchblade knives, martial arts weapons, scopes, silencers, ammunition, ammunition magazines, BB guns, tear gas or stun guns. A free classifieds site can only do so much to "police its posts." I know for a fact that (New York City) does bounce inappropriate ads when the find them. It’s regrettable that Gibson was shot, but it’s a bit of a stretch to sue the website where his assailant bought the gun. And why stop there? Why not sue the computer manufacturer which enabled the gunman to find the ad? Or every manufacturer that made components for that computer? Or the electric company for providing the power? The telephone company for the connection. The shooter’s parents? Or the gun seller? Or the seller’s parents? And so on and so on and so on. Again, a complete and speedy recovery to Mr. Gibson. It’s important to remember however that there must be limits to liability, offline and online.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bloomberg III May Be Blocked

Former Public Advocate Mark Green believes enough is enough. He’s forming a group of labor and civic leaders to block any attempts by Mayor Bloomberg or his associates to change term limits. Green said, “After seven years agreeing to a two-term limit, Mayor Bloomberg’s potential flip-flop is outraging a lot of civic and labor leaders who I think will come together to oppose such a Putin power grab.” Green may still be smarting from his 2001 loss to Bloomberg. In that race, he was outspent $74 million to just $16 million. However, his opposition now may be something worth considering. After all, the people have opposed the end of term limits twice before. New Yorkers said “FUHGEDABOUDIT!” In the words of one of America’s greatest presidents, Thomas Jefferson, “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.” Closed-door manipulations of the people’s will by City Council members or others should be recognized for what they are. An abuse of power. Maybe the Mayor should look into this.

What's The 911 For 9/11

New York City has a new ad campaign out for those still suffering from medical and psychological effects from 9/11. Some New Yorkers need help according to Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden. Respiratory ailments and post-traumatic stress are the two biggest possibilities. The memories of September 11th will live with most of us the rest of our lives. Physical and mental anguish, should not. If you need help, get it. Click here for more info.

Astroland Is Asta La Vista

New York's Coney Island Astroland rides have ridden off into the sunset. Recently, Astroland operator Carol Albert sent a letter to the lawyer of the landlord, site developer Joe Sitt. She threatened to close her amusement park if she wasn’t granted a two-year extension. Sitt sat pat, saying “We are extremely disappointed that Carol Albert has decided to give up on the future of Coney Island when her current lease isn’t even up for a number of months. A Sitt spokesperson added that Astroland will be replaced next summer with new “amusements, games, shopping and entertainment.” Astroland closed because they couldn’t reach a deal with Thor Equities. Children and families will suffer the most as a result. Albert claims she didn’t give up on Coney, just dealing with Thor and Thor’s CEO, Joe Sitt. Her lease expires on January, 31, 2009. Albert claims she needed the extra time to sell off rides to avoid penalties from Sitt. Time to eBay the rides, Carol. The landmarked Cyclone and Wonder Wheel will not be affected. Though Sitt promised to replace Astroland’s rides, the ones he arranged for this summer were a flop. So for now, a few more childhood memories of Astroland and Coney will be carried out to the ocean by the waves along the beach. Let’s hope that the future of Coney Island maintains a Brooklyn flavor, good and bad, without the corporate, antiseptic taste of Disney.

Bar Bull

This boy’s momma sure didn’t raise him up to be a cowboy! Aaron Schnore, 38, is suing a New York City bar for injuries he sustained when thrown from a mechanical bull at Johnny Utah’s in Rockefeller Center. He claims he was riding like a rodeo star until an unidentified bar employee jacked up the speed. No specific injuries were cited. A sign near the bull specifically warns urban cowboys to be sober before riding. Schnore signed a waiver before climbing aboard, but the lawyer plans to challenge it in court. Warning signs and waivers should weed out cowboy wannabees and wimps before they whine! If a bull is properly maintained and controlled, bullsh*t cases likes Schnore’s should be tossed out of court and the varmints should be run outta town!

Monroe The New Yorker

Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe was a New Yorker. So says Manhattan Federal Judge Colleen McMahon in a dispute between Monroe’s estate and the heirs of photographer Sam Shaw. He took famous shots of Marilyn including the famous one of her in a billowing dress over a New York City subway grate. Because she died a New Yorker, the judge ruled in favor of the heirs to the Sam Shaw archives. They're now entitled to copyright royalties from images of the dead celebrity. The judge used Marilyn's last income tax filing address and the fact that she kept a Manhattan pad as primary evidence in the ruling. Monroe reportedly told a friend that her trips to California were purely for business. I guess that made New York "Fun City" to Ms. Monroe. Thanks, judge! Marilyn’s an “official” Big Apple beauty, now!

New York City Comes Alive!

The New York City Health Department reported that infant births went up by 3,455 beautiful babies in 2007. The total was 128,961, up from 125,506 in 2006. Asians accounted for about half the increase. No reason was given for the extra fireworks going off in bedrooms in Chinatown and across the city in 2006 to cause the rise in 2007. Hmmmmm. 2006 was the Year of the Dog. I guess Asian guys got their way a bit more often than others.

Wrecking Ruth’s House

No bad trade, no bad free-agent signing, no bad season and certainly no good Red Sox team ever did it. No owner like the one who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers out of Ebbets Field or the one who moved Manhattan's Giants out of the Polo Grounds did it. Nobody ever took down the Yankees or the Stadium. Only Father Time and the pursuit of the almighty dollar have done that. Now, the city has requested bids from companies to demolish Yankee Stadium. They’ll put a wrecking ball hit on the House that Babe Ruth built for a $27,000,000 contract. New York City has given the New York Yankees until February 28, 2009 to "vacate the premises." And so they shall, to create a proud new tradition right across the street in their new Stadium. From March to May of 2009, asbestos will be removed from the old ballpark. The month of May will bring memorabilia collectors and recyclers to remove the stadiums treasures and valuables. The seats will be removed along with many of the smaller items. The well known "smokestack bat," a familiar meet-up spot and the white frieze along the roofline will be tougher items to sell. They may be moved to Heritage Field once it replaces the Stadium. Demolition will begin once everything worth taking has been removed, probably through early 2010. Many Yankee fans, find it hard to believe that the Stadium’s days are numbered. But we should remember is that we’ll remember uniform numbers even more than the Stadium. #3 Ruth. #4 Gehrig. #5 DiMaggio. #8 Berra. #10 Rizzuto. #7 Mantle. #16 Ford. #15 Munson. #49 Guidry. #23 Mattingly. #42 Rivera. #2 Jeter. The list of Yankee greats, near greats and others who have worn the pinstripes is a long one. With a tear in one eye to the end of an era, we look with a dry eye across the street. Yankee fans can start now to imagine the all-time players and memorable moments yet to come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Pane In The Glass

Many New Yorkers believe that an apartment overlooking Central Park is about as good as an apartment gets in New York City. How about one with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling views of that scenic park below? Well, there are four elderly tenants in rent-controlled apartments at Lincoln Square who prefer to pass on the possibility. They filed suit against their landlord, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, to prevent installation of those wonderful windows. They’d be irreparably harmed by construction, so they claim. The landlord argued new windows were necessary to transform the property into a “premium building.” The judge agreed with the tenants saying the work wasn’t “necessary.” As of now, only the four tenants who sued will have old windows after renovations are completed. According to the landlord’s spokesperson, the tenants refused $25,000 each, but supposedly agreed to have the work done for $100,000 apiece. The tenants deny they were offered that amount, though it seems one or two might be interested in a higher offer. For that kind of money, they might even agree to live in glass houses!

Growth At Ground Zero

Finally! It’s taken nearly seven years but the first steel column was set into place for the 9/11 WTC memorial. Workers finished laying the foundation for the National September 11th Memorial and Museum last month. The first object to be lowered into the Manhattan bedrock was a Vesey Street exit, also known as the “Survivors Stairway.” This flight of steps enabled hundreds to escape the World Trade Center attacks on that horrific morning. When completed in time for the tenth anniversary of September 11th, the memorial will include two large reflection pools with the victims names inscribed around them. A plaza with 400 trees will surround the pools. Leaving the footprints of the two towers intact was an inspired idea. They'll serve to remind the people in New York City for generations to come of just what we lost that tragic day. People. Buildings. Innocence.

In The Middle Of It All

New York City’s newest pedestrian-friendly islands won’t be making good buddies of midtown drivers anytime soon. Broadway’s pedestrian plazas merge four traffic lanes into two between Herald Square and Times Square. They’ll undoubtedly create additional traffic problems and pollution for midtown. For those who wish to be surrounded by speeding traffic and vehicle exhaust fumes, “Welcome to Fun City!” Other new traffic-related projects in Manhattan include a bicycle lane on Ninth Avenue between West 16th Street and West 23rd Street, bike lanes on both Washington Street and Greenwich Street and a bus-only lane along 34th Street. Let’s hope city officials are monitoring the popularity, safety and impact all these new initiatives have on both foot and vehicular traffic. It's not smart to play in traffic, or with it.

School Locker Limbo

Here's another Board of Education plan that didn’t go ... according to plan. Not surprised, are you? It’s over a year now that they decided to install guarded mobile phone storage systems in 16 New York City schools, for both intermediate and high school grades. To date, "0" of the planned "5,600" lockers have been setup. First, there was a delay regarding who would monitor these coin-operated lockers. Then Celstor, the company chosen to handle the project demanded a longer contract. Kids don't like the plan. Parents aren't crazy about the idea. There's no end in sight to the delays. Demanding that kids give up their cell phones in school and requiring them to pay “locker fees” for storage are bad ideas. Let’s end it all now before we waste more money for a bad plan that has as much of a future as those who work for the Board of Education … were they not Board of Ed employees.

The Principal Principle

In this school year, the Board of Education will pay $16 million in salaries for 154 unplaced assistant principals (APs). These are principals with no permanent post ... so they basically do nothing for their pay. This is WRONG and should be ended, IMMEDIATELY! Schools Chancellor Joel Klein believes these “qualified” administrators should "leave" the system. Leave? Shouldn’t Klein "boot them out" if possible? Or, be more concerned about enabling them to work in some kind of teaching capacity? Or, establishing new policy that prevents others from following in their footsteps … right to the bank without helping our schoolchildren? Where is the concern about wasting money of New York City taxpayers? Maybe others in the Board of Education should “leave” too.

NYC Baseball Is The World Serious

NYU adjunct professor, John Tepper Marlin, prepared a report to show how much money New York City businesses will lose if New York’s two baseball teams fail to make the post-season this year. The following figures represent the amounts for each team at each level of play. For the Yankees elimination, $26 million for the AL Division Series, $54 million for the AL Championship Series and $61 million for the World Series. Should the Mets not play “October baseball,” $21 million for the NL Division Series, $45 million for the NL Championship Series and $81 million for the World Series. Marlin was chief economist for three former city comptrollers so he knows something about money. But, how can he be talking cash at a time like this? Neither team is a lock to get in! He may know money but he obviously knows nothing about the heart of Big Apple baseball fans. Should either team fail to make it, money lost will mean nothing to their faithful. We’re talking the end of the world, here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Old-School Withdrawals

In 2008, bank robberies are up 57% in New York City. So far this year, there have been a total of 263 Big Apple bank heists. How yesterday! Haven’t these thieves ever heard of using an ATM to get money?

Schools May Have New Ruler And Rules

The school year for NYC’s 1.1 million students has started and will end in June of 2009. Coincidentally, Mayor Bloomberg’s control of the school system which began in 2002 ends June 30, 2009. Groups are forming on both sides now to present their cases to the state legislature over who should have authority over city schools on July 1, 2009; the mayor or the original seven-member Board of Education. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will push to retain mayoral control. Klein (who was appointed by Bloomberg) is one of the 13 current board members. Many parents are upset with the lack of say they have in important school decisions. New York City’s 32 Community Education Councils (CEC’s) believe they’re powerless on major issues too. Many in the CEC’s believe that a Chancellor should be more independent of the mayor than Klein. The other side argues that since Bloomberg took over school control in 2002, per-student spending has risen from $10,694 to $15,110. Graduations have risen from 51% to 62%. Major crimes have fallen from 1,577 (2000-2001) to 1,047 (2007-2008). Before anyone looks to take the mayor out of the equation, they should offer very detailed plans on how they intend to improve upon his results. As it seems to students every September, "June will never get here!" For parties on both sides of this issue however, the time to come up with ideas that benefit our children is already running out.

Gas Fuels Frauds

As gas prices go up, more and more gas guzzling cars, trucks and SUV’s are going too. Some, supposedly by theft. Some, in flames. So far in 2008, New York State Insurance Department investigators have caught 88 insurance scammers in New York City alone. That’s compared to just 77 here in all of 2007. The climbing fraud statistics are reminiscent of those seen in the 1970's when gas prices also rose significantly. Disgusted owners of fuel wasting vehicles believe they can only get a car's "book value" from their insurance carriers. Some are willing to risk arrest trying to fake a crime. Insurance companies are well aware of what goes on in today’s economic climate. Each have special investigative departments for the sole purpose of checking out insured’s claims. They use the latest investigative techniques whenever fraud is suspected ... and it usually is. They can and do deny payment even if there is no arrest of the vehicle’s owner. Borough car owners would be well advised to be satisfied with whatever they get legally for their inefficient vehicles, or simply to drive less. It beats making license plates in prison for someone else’s ride … or being an "inmate’s ride" while you’re in jail.

It Looks Like Rain

New York City weather may have clear skies across its five boroughs, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be golden showers raining down on one of Manhattan’s newest restaurants, Delicatessen. This hot Nolita eatery opened in July. It’s a glass-roofed lounge with pricey food, model patrons, tons of yuppies, but also an angry, unknown fellow citizen who isn’t happy that the restaurant is there. You see, at least one of their neighbors (maybe more) is pissed off to the point that he (or she) is peeing down on the restaurant's glass roof below. It’s not an intellectual or classy protest but it delivers a message as clear as "yellow snow." Someone doesn’t like the restaurant there. Many residents at 265 Lafayette Street complain that the trendy restaurant’s glass ceiling does nothing to keep loud noises inside. Its patrons hope that the roof is properly sealed to keep urine, outside the panes. Hopefully, the disgruntled protestor doesn’t resort to hitting the restaurant with plan “number two.”

Meter Man In The Can

New Yorkers hate feeding parking meters. What car driver in any city could possibly be happy about parking meters? Well, Maurice Mizrahi of Brooklyn loves them. He must because he was arrested by the NYPD with 87 of them in his home! It’s believed that they were illegally hijacked in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. This makes Mizrahi’s eighth arrest for copping these coin collectors. Residents say Mizrahi would go up and down their blocks, shaking meters until he found a full one. It’s believed that later in the evening, he’d back his car up to knock the meter out of the ground. Sometimes he’d simply drill into the meter to take off the top. Meters can carry up to $90 in cash. They cost the city $500 each. DOT has no estimate on the amount of money Mizrahi may have stolen. It’s a safe bet that Gravesend motorists want Mizrahi out of jail and back on their streets again ... before they park again!

Waterfalls Hard On Brooklyn Trees

“A tree grows in Brooklyn” ... but they don’t grow like they used to! It seems that the Waterfalls have been kicking salt up into the air which damages local trees. In an effort to save the trees along the Brooklyn shoreline near the art exhibit, New York City officials are cutting the hours that the Waterfalls may be turned on. Local residents wanted the water turned off after Labor Day. City officials decided to keep the water flowing less than 50 hours a week. Additionally, the city promises to wash tree leaves daily (That should be an exhibit all by itself!). Opened in June, the water is supposed to pour through October 13th. Let’s hope the trees haven’t been harmed too much and survive the winter.

Getting Humped At The Pump

Many local gas stations are advertising low gas prices but charging more than the attractive price. So says New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. A survey by his office found these “bait and switch” tactics going on at 25% of the 130 gasoline stations they investigated. Cease-and-desist orders were sent to 30 stations.

High Fives For High Bridge

Mayor Bloomberg announced that High Bridge Park in Washington Heights is now "safe." He also declared that the 1800’s pedestrian bridge that connects Manhattan and The Bronx will be getting a $60 million rehab. This project will be part of many other improvements throughout the park. Much more needs to be done in this long neglected area. Nevertheless, local residents and all New Yorkers should celebrate the fact that something is finally being done. In our "city of bridges," this is a truly beautiful and historic span worth every penny spent towards its preservation.

The Bronx Is Gay Family Friendly

A new study has found that Manhattan's gay couples are more likely to hit city nightclubs, while gay pairs in The Bronx are more likely to be at home with their kids. The Bronx has an estimated 11% of New York City’s gay couples and 32% of homes where children are being raised by homosexual or lesbian couples. In fact, nearly half of all gay households in the Bronx are raising kids. That's close to NYC’s overall rate of 55% of households with kids. Statistics show that minority same-sex partners are more likely than gay white couples to have children. Maybe the Bronx rates so high because most gay men in Manhattan are more concerned about careers, working out and clubs than diapers and families. Perhaps another reason is that the four “outer” boroughs are a better place to raise kids than Manhattan.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Good Guys Playing “Hide And Seek" With Bad Guys

GPS tracking devices are being used by the NYPD to fight crime. One device that they employ is a $439 LiveWire GPS system. It’s a transmitting device about the size of a deck of tarot cards. This device transmits a car’s location every five seconds relaying the vehicle's location, speed and direction. Cops simply plant these devices in the suspects’ vehicles, receive vital information from them and make their arrests at the appropriate time. Police say they have been using devices like these in just this manner for years. Cops have not always bothered obtaining a search warrant for this electronic cop, though. They claim they’re not using it to catch suspects; only to monitor their movements. In other words, it’s like high-tech tailing. That argument is now being challenged in court. It’s suspected that the good guys are going to win this legal battle.

JFK JetBlue In New Blue Heaven

JFK Airport will soon have its first new terminal since 9/11. It’s a massive $743 million ($663 million from the Port Authority) renovation of Terminal 5 by JetBlue. It's scheduled to open this October. Inside, flyers and their guests will find nine sky-high-class restaurants. Other amenities and services will include food orders delivered right to the gate, automated baggage screening, high-tech bathrooms and twenty fast security lines. Kennedy Airport's Terminal 5 is connected to TWA’s unique and beautifully styled Eero Saarinen-designed building. It's been vacant since 2001, in part because TWA’s former building simply can’t accommodate modern jets. It may eventually be turned into a museum by the Port Authority. As nice as JetBlue’s facility will be, I wonder if travelers will want to depart for their destinations!

A Bowery Bum’s Dream

There’s a grape winery opening in the Big Apple. Wine lovers need not trek to Napa Valley any more. Connoisseurs and collectors may purchase their own oak barrel of vintage wine made right on the spot … in Manhattan! There’ll be 200 casks for sale with prices ranging from $5,000 to $1,500. Price varies depending on the quality of the grapes that are imported from around the country. City Winery owner, Michael Dorf said, “This is for cultural aficionados, sophisticated New Yorkers who want to spend their money in a very special way.” Vintage Brooklyn Bums (non-aficionados) will likely stick with their tasty “egg creams” instead.

NYPD Car Crashes Climbing

Police officers in cars start a new tour of duty by "hitting the streets." Unfortunately, that expression has recently taken on a whole new meaning. New York City has 8,839 police vehicles. Accidents involving these NYPD autos are up 11% over the past three years. Damage reports rose from 4,014 accidents in 2005 to 4,477 in 2007. Most auto accidents occurred in Manhattan below 59th Street. Thankfully, a large number of them are considered very minor. Legal costs for New Yorkers from 2003-2008 are a whopping $155 million. Repairs are additional. Next time you see a “cop in a cruiser,” remind them to "be safe and buckle up!"

7 WTC No Longer A Mystery - Maybe

A three-year study by fifty Federal investigators concluded that fire, not explosives or the building’s stored diesel fuel brought down 7 World Trade Center in New York City on the afternoon of September 11th, 2001. So says Shyam Sunder, lead investigator for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. According to his team, "a single column" gave way when supporting girders were loosened by the heat. This was the factor that caused the entire building to collapse. Sunder admits this has never happened before in a high-rise building. I doubt conspiracy theorists will be silenced by the team’s explanation. It will probably only add fuel to their fire and create even more explosive theories of another government cover-up.

Harlem Stage Is On Cue

Richard Rodgers is about to produce another big hit. The family of this well known Harlem-born composer donated $1 million in his name towards the renovation of the bandshell in Marcus Garvey Park. New York City will also kick in $4 million for the project. Work is set to begin in the latter part of 2009. Rodgers personally donated $150,000 to help fund this outdoor facility in 1970. During his lifetime, Rodgers penned songs for classic plays like The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The King and I and South Pacific. Even though he’s gone, Rodgers still enables the music to play on.

Cops Cop Real Raise

Happy cops make unhappy crooks. New York City and the Police Department reached agreement on a new pay scale for New York’s Finest. NYPD rookies will get $42,000 instead of $36,000. NYPD officers will get a 17% increase over four years. Their base salaries will shoot from $65,382 to $76,488. NYC officers will soon be at a more comparable level to cop salaries in surrounding communities making it less likely for them to leave for greener pastures. It's smart to pay this kind of protection money.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cowboy TV That Ain’t Roy Rogers Re-Runs

New York City’s “Naked Cowboy” may temporarily leave Times Square for Hollywood and places unknown. Our strumming strutter in shorts may soon be taping his very own reality-TV show. Robert Burck, cowboy crooner extraordinaire, said he’s spoken with several producers about doing a talent show. It will feature street singers from around the world. The white underwear wonder will be the show’s judge … without the black robe of course! He said he’ll search more for "character" in the performers than talent. If they’re anything like him, program contestants will be more character than performer! The program sounds like it will be like an outdoor version of the 1970s-1980s hit, The Gong Show. I wonder if there’ll also be an updated version of the Unknown Comic wearing a recyclable plastic bag instead of a brown paper one.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bike Racks By Byrne

Former Talking Heads band frontman and avid NYC cyclist David Byrne has designed nine artistic bike racks. Passersby are definitely turning their heads and talking about them. The rack design concepts are fitting to the particular New York neighborhood they’re in. There’s a shoe rack outside Bergdorf Goodman, a busty woman’s profile rack for Times Square, a dollar sign rack design for Wall Street and an electric guitar in Williamsburg. Timeless art they’re not, but who would want to padlock a bicycle to the Mona Lisa anyway?

Cash For Grades Is A Poor Investment

The Board of Education, in their infinite wisdom, approved a plan to pay some high school kids $500-$1,000 each to pass Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Their goal was to motivate students to get better scores by … showing them the Benjamins! The result? 35% of the test students passed in 2007 without reimbursement while only 32% of the “pupils for pay” passed in 2008. Cash incentives don’t work yet there are those looking for positives in a dismal idea. New York City kids shouldn’t be paid to learn. They should be inspired to take advantage of the opportunity a good education can provide. The reward for our children shouldn’t be "pocket money for the mall." It should be a bright future where they may fulfill their potential and dreams.

Urban Turbines Blow Mayor Away

Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed installing large wind turbines atop New York’s tallest buildings and bridges. Donald Trump likes the idea … but not on his buildings! He said, “My buildings are known for their great architecture, so I’d have to give it some serious thought.” The mayor’s windy ideas are far reaching however, going way beyond the boroughs. He also wants “wind farms” built miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. He believes these farms can supply twice as much wind as land-based wind farms and supply 10% of the city’s energy in ten years. A wind farm is already being built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and there’s a proposal for a larger one on the Fresh Kills, Staten Island landfill. Wind turbine opponents point to problems with funding issues (public vs. private investment), noise pollution, safety issues (think toppling cranes), environmental impact and even the likelihood that the blades will kill birds. Most importantly perhaps, Siemens AG, one of the biggest makers of wind turbines says huge windmills in cities are not realistic. A company representative said that turbines attached to bridges and buildings would put too much stress on the existing structures which weren’t built to accommodate them. Undeterred, Bloomberg believes in using many approaches to solve our energy and pollution problems. The mayor realizes his breezy ideas are unlikely to fly. His intent is simply to get people talking … and thinking. He said the city will welcome “anybody that has brilliant ideas.” Who’s tripping down the streets of the city? Everyone knows it’s Windy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Charter Schools Should Change The Rules

New York City has 24,000 students enrolled in 78 charter schools. That’s only 3% of the total school enrollment; though 8 times more pupils than when Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002. Bloomberg believes in the charter school concept. He cites their success as a reason public schools have gotten better. Give parents the option to place their kids in better schools and they will. Competition is a great thing. However, 3% of anything isn’t much. Certainly 3% after six years isn’t a significant number when charters have proven to be the better option of educating our children. We should increase the pace at which charter schools can be established and chartered. Additionally, the Board of Education should immediately adopt successful guidelines and approaches from the charters and incorporate them in public schools now. Why should millions of kids in the coming years receive a lesser education because they’re not fortunate enough to be in a better school?

An English Language Lesson With NYC Slang

In New York City, students who need help with English are called “English Language Learners.” An estimated 75% of these students don’t receive adequate schooling in their special classes. Not surprisingly, this large percentage of kids doesn’t graduate on time. Only $13.7 million of $380 million in state funding is targeted for these ELL pupils. So now, I’m raising my hand hoping to be seen. I’m waving my arm wildly now and yelling, “Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh” just like Arnold Horshack on the TV show Welcome Back Kotter once did. Finally, someone from the Board of Education points at me. I ask my question on behalf of students who may be unable to ask the question in English, themselves. Why?

Rikers Rule Change Riles Jailers

Amidst rumors that some Rikers Island prison guards gave preferential treatment to inmates, New York City's Correction Department has ordered that all guards be thoroughly frisked when they arrive at work. This has upset some in the uniformed ranks however it’s always been the official policy. It’ll just be better enforced now. It’s probably better to upset a few guards at the gate than to jeopardize any guards who must walk through an already restless population inside the facility.

Monday, September 1, 2008

City Cop Chutzpah For Kosher Cadets

Diversity on New York City’s police force is a wonderful thing. It reflects, as it should, the multiplicity of the population. The NYPD proudly boasts 10 Orthodox Jews in its cadet class; 9 men and 1 woman. They are among a group of 1,218 classmates who hope to graduate in December. The very best of luck to them all! However, the Police Department has already excused this group of ten from working dusk to dusk, Friday to Saturday. This action was obviously taken out of respect for their faith. Does the city have the right to make religious allowances for them regarding their work schedule for non-holiday observance? Non-Jewish cops probably don’t get their work schedules adjusted to accommodate their faith, do they? On a different yet pertinent matter, an ultra-religious city female bus driver was recently fired for refusing to wear department-issued pants. She was disobeying their mandatory uniform requirements. Slacks for women are forbidden according to the dress code of her religion. Prejudice is a crime. So are double standards. To be perfectly clear here, this blog is not a knock against Jewish people or any other people of faith. It is however a knock against city policy makers for enforcing somewhat inconsistent religious rules. All city workers regardless of their faith should be treated the same. Likewise, all those of deep religious convictions who apply for city jobs should recognize that there are certain employment requirements that should be treated as gospel and obeyed as such.