Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bucks For Blaze Boys

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

Bloomberg Wonder Wheels And Deals

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fountains For The Five Boroughs

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

Brooklyn Means Business

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

Blood Banks Drying Up

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chomping Champ Chestnut Swallows Victory

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

Ellis Island Immigrant #1

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

Tour Buses Obscure The Sights

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

Boxed In By Debt

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

Tin Pan Alley Hits Bad Note

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

20/20 Vision For Ground Zero

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

Monday, October 27, 2008

Queens-Midtown Tunnel Fizzle-Missile

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

S and M Shops Look To Hit Back

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

Navy Yard Ready For Inspection

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

OK To Geronimo

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

Yankee Stadium Not Yanked Yet

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

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

Lock Your Pedals To The Metal

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

Home Values Heading South

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

The Ball Isn’t In His Court

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

War For Tobacco Wampum

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

Our Intrepid Friend Is Home

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

EMT’s Booted For Boots

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

Dog-NYP'd Detective Sues

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

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PA Ground Zero Workers Being PAtrolled

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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Private Religion In Public Schools

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

The Language Of Money

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

Taser Slay Jolts NYPD

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not Made In America

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

Doesn’t NYS Love NYC?

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

Sharpen The Budget Scissors

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

A Tree-House Grows In Manhattan

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

The Taxman Means Business

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

FREE Ferry A Fine Ferry-Tale

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

Mayor Makes Menu

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

Tap Water Sales May Tap Out

A local entrepreneur is trying to tap into a fortune. Craig Zucker, an Ohioan transplant since 2003, is bottling NYC’s tap water (eliminating chlorine and impurities through reverse osmosis) under the name Tap’d NY. Reports from around the city indicate his water bottles aren’t exactly flooding the market. New York City's water is considered to be one of the best waters in the world. It’s what makes our local pizza taste so good too! Zucker’s intentions to provide New Yorker’s with the best water possible is honorable. He believes import water is an insult to New Yorkers. Perhaps his sales are at a "slow drip" because selling water New Yorkers get for free is an insult to our intelligence.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

S And M Spanked In No-Fun City

Bad girls. Bad girls. Beep, beep. A Tribeca S and M "pleasure palace" was busted after a dominatrix offered sex to an undercover cop. The Manhattan club, Rapture NYC was closed with the owner and pain management domme now charged with prostitution. Whether the charge is true or not, a jury may decide. A sign in the establishment states, “We do not engage in any form of prostitution whatsoever, so don’t even ask!” Other signs are posted stating that sex isn’t permitted. Who knows what really went on behind their closed doors? Let's get real, people. It's 2008. What one defines these days as "prostitution," another might define as "pleasure for payment' with both partners regarding the sex as a "business arrangement" or "mutually consensual." Was this act so despicably different from a "date" where the male or female willingly engages in sex after money was spent on them? Who are the victims in either situation? Activities at this club were going on behind closed doors. This is not to defend hookers selling their wares on city streets. Actions of that sort have a far greater negative impact than an S and M club or even a house of prostitution. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine privacy rights and the definition of what constitutes criminal behavior in our society. Maybe we should consider that if a woman has a right to abortion in America, she should also have the right to use her body as she chooses, for her own reasons. Once again, the stipulation being that our New York society and neighbors shouldn't suffer as a result.

Fun City Is Condom Capitol

New Yorkers are getting screwed again and again and again! The Mayor’s Management Report states that the city Health Department gave away 39,070,000 male condoms during the 2008 fiscal year. That’s more than double what was handed out the last fiscal year. It far surpasses that of the next municipality too with a similar type of program. The cost was a little over $1 million, not counting the cost of female condom products that were also given out though in lesser supply. That price is significantly cheaper than the estimated $350,000 lifetime cost of medicating a single AIDS patient. It's a good investment for city residents/lovers on many practical levels. This year, the goal is to distribute 51 million male condoms. Legitimate, distribution organizations (In other words, no eBay entrepreneur types.) may request as many as they can put to good use. Finally, a good city government program being put to good use. What a rarity. Let’s keep it up New York!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Nuke-Not NYPD

The Police Department received a $29.6 million anti-terrorism federal grant that will help complete a radiological detector “ring of steel.” This network of high-tech devices is supposed to prevent radioactive materials and nuclear weapons from entering New York City (I wonder if these security measures prevent these things from leaving the city if they’re already here.). Let’s pray the new equipment will work as well as the NYPD has since 9/11.

The Card King From Kings

To be a poker champion is not in the cards for most players. Brooklyn’s Ylon Schwartz, 38, has proven to be an ace among jokers, however. He’s become a recognized and successful tournament player. A former chess master at 23, he did poorly in school. Yet, because of his "gambler’s" reputation, he received several lucrative Wall Street jobs offers; each of which he declined (I wonder if Wall Street institutions still like to hire gamblers after the stock market collapse.). In the 1990’s Schwartz took up and subsequently mastered poker too. This year alone, he’ll earn over $1 million. Not bad for the Park Slope native who once hustled chess games in Manhattan's Washington Square Park.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kings And Pawns In Queens

It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. There’s an obvious divide in the city between those with money in their pockets … and those with gaping holes. Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) believes Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed 5,000 apartment public housing project along the Long Island City waterfront is an opportunity to do more for the middle class and poor. His vision of the plan provides more apartments for middle and lower-income families. Perhaps the recent decline in the stock market ends his argument before it’s raised. The line between all New Yorkers has been narrowed. In this instance, it's probably not a good thing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Return Of Squeegee

Years ago, Rudy squeezed them out of the city to benefit our “quality-of-life.” Rudy’s gone. Now, street window-washers have returned. Several have been spotted "cleaning up" near the Lincoln Tunnel wiping windshields for tips, much to the dismay of drivers. These wipers were known to pursue their cleaning chores in an aggressive manner, leaving motorists intimidated … and with a dirty windshield. Some drivers report the same behavior. New York entrepreneurs should be admired. New York "squeegee guys" should be arrested. Hot dog vendors aren’t allowed to shove their wieners down your throat. Nobody should be permitted to force their wet wipes on your windows either.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Civil War-rior Recognized

A Midwest researcher helps a long forgotten New Yorker. Roderick Connelly may now rest in peace and receive the respect he’s deserved for over 143 years. Once buried in an unmarked grave, an appropriate tombstone now honors his burial spot at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. Connelly was among 3,300 courageous Union soldiers who attacked Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865. While many of his comrades were killed, wounded or fled, Connelly bravely remained behind and fought along with his unit until the Confederate troops surrendered. His actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. An ordinary man who became a hero. America is blessed to have had people such as Mr. Connelly throughout our history. We're blessed that brave and patriotic men and women still rise from among us today.

Shea For Sale

2,500 items are listed for sale from the former home of the New York Mets. Amazingly, Mets ownership is selling the 1969 and 1986 championship banners. In their defense however, these are not the original banners. They’re actually replacements used because of weather damage to several previous sets. Total sales on the Shea goodies is estimated to be $2.6 million (seats not included). Both the Shea homerun apple and city skyline will be sent to their new Queens home across the street, Citi Field. To all of the Mets fans who saved money on Playoff tickets this year, go buy a souvenir to remember the few good memories you can have about the place; the place that often brought more disappointment than a New York politician after being elected.

Jehovah’s Witnesses See The Profit

Robert Levine, the developer who’s building condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park is paying $92 million for the once-famous, Bossert Hotel. The money will be paid to the publishing arm of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. He plans to convert the 14-story landmark hotel into student housing. It was once known as Brooklyn’s “Waldorf-Astoria.” Old-time baseball fanatics may remember that it hosted the Brooklyn Dodgers 1955 World Series victory party. Well, no more Dodger parties at the old inn. It’ll probably become the scene for many “Animal House” shenanigans real soon though.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ferry Settlement For Victim

Darius Marshall, 25, left home in October 2003. He never returned. Sadly, Marshall died in the Staten Island Ferry crash in 2003. This September, his family was awarded $2.3 million for their terrible loss. Marshall survived the 9/11 attack. He was standing near the South Tower when the jet struck the building. His family received word of the payment, also on 9/11. It’s hoped that the settlement will bring comfort and closure to his loved ones.

Billy-burg Bike Bashers

Babes on bikes are apparently riling many Jewish religious leaders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Hasidic community leaders complain that new city “bike lanes” in their neighborhood bring an unwelcome element into their neighborhood; "non-kosher cuties." They’re demanding that the city eliminate existing bicycle lanes on Bedford and Wythe avenues. They also want canceled any future lanes planned for the Hasidic vicinity. Bicycle lanes have proven to be a big hit with many New Yorkers throughout the city, including young hipsters from North Williamsburg. Religious law dictates that Hasids are not permitted to look upon women unless they’re fully clothed. That's a respectful doctrine for the Jewish followers of this religion. However, the extension of their faith into public streets seems a stretch. It's very sad how in many instances, the most religious among us reveal themselves to be the least tolerant of others. New York City is a beautiful multi-religious mosaic. No religious group should impose its will on its neighbors to deny them their freedoms. That just wouldn’t be kosher.

Police Holding Fire

“Stop or I’ll shoot” followed by the sound of gunfire has been heard less frequently around NYC recently. NYPD records state that shooting incidents were down12.6% in 2007 compared to 2006; however the number of bullets fired rose. Cops shot their weapons 111 times in 2007 versus 127 in 2006. They used 588 bullets in 2007 (136 during one occurrence alone) compared to 541 in 2006. 7 police officers were shot (3 fatally) and cops shot 19 people (all male, 10 fatally). Officers shot 39 dogs last year opposed to 30 dogs in 2006 (Can't let our city "go to the dogs," right?). Considering the tough job that police have, statistics confirm professional restraint by our men in blue. The police should be commended for their great service in New York City. When there’s trouble, theirs is one of the toughest jobs in our community. Don’t expect it to get easier for them anytime soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

9/11 Still Hurts

Not every victim of the terrorist’s cowardly attack in New York City on September 11th died that infamous day. An estimated 664 World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers have died since. A partial review of their death certificates revealed that an unusually high number of these brave souls died of cancer. No official link has been made to Ground Zero yet. Expect a connection to be made soon though. Additionally, roughly 70,000 people suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder over the years. They say that, “Time heals all wounds.” Seven years is not nearly long enough for time to heal all of ours.

Renovated Plaza Doesn’t Please

Manhattan’s famous Plaza Hotel was formerly one of New York’s grand inns for the well-heeled. As a semi-converted co-op though, it reportedly leaves much to be desired. An estimated 50% of the new co-op owners are so dissatisfied with their properties that they’re putting them back on the market. More may follow. As the story goes, many apartments were purchased sight unseen. Promised improvements were never made. Additionally, the quality of the renovation work that was completed is in question. In case you’re interested, prices range from $1.8 million to $50 million for the ritzy city residences. Caveat emptor.

Ferry Man’s Ship Comes In

In 2003, a Staten Island Ferry crashed into the dock. It left James McMillan, 44, paralyzed. A jury awarded him $23 million. Now it’s up to the judge to determine the award. The jury based their decision on McMillan living another 25 years with necessary medical costs and for "pain and suffering." Let’s see if the judge agrees or torpedoes their judgment.