Saturday, June 30, 2007
I've been reading about this character ever since the Duke Cunningham scandal broke, and for the life of me, I can't figure out what role this shadowy figure plays that he's constantly getting get-out-of-jail-free cards from the Feds.
Something stinks here, badly. It's time to eliminate covert operations from our governments toolbox altogether.
Troll the archives at WarandPiece and TPMmuckraker for more on this slippery fellow. How does he manage to stay out of the headlines of every New York paper? Not one investigative journalist for a NY paper or news program, as far as I know, has done an expose on this guy.
Photo from the Queens Press, from an unrelated story where Kontogiannis plead guilty in a local bribery case . . . which involved nearly $5 million swindled from the city . . . and NO ONE went to jail. What gives?
This April 2006 article from the San Diego Union-Tribune is an excellent source of reporting on Kontogiannis' checkered past.
Credit where due, the PlaNYC proposals have stimulated people's way of thinking about transit and our city. The voices in the wilderness for the past several decades have suddenly been handed a megaphone. Suddenly it seems we're taking a fresh look at the way New York gets around, and open to making big changes for the better. I'm excited about what's going on in this city today.
Here are some other proposals that are under consideration:
- Connecting the BDFV & 6 trains at Broadway-Lafayette
- Pedestrian and bike lanes on the Verrazano Bridge
- Demolishing the Gowanus Expressway after building a tunnel along the seawall - a pet project you'll here lots more about here at FirstandCourt
- Building the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel to get truck traffic off our streets and highways; trucks are destructive to infrastructure, pollute our air, and dangerous to others sharing the roadspace; a freight tunnel from New Jersey to Sunset Park would allow the movement of millions of tons of freight east of the Hudson without trucks.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Jen at KensingtonBrooklyn has some good shots up on her blog (and great picture resolution, I am jealous) so go check out her site . . .
It was an honor to be in such great company today. Community activism can be a wonderful thing.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The best moment of the meeting occurred about halfway through. Board Member Andrew B. Albert, whom I've never met, took a moment to express support the F&V petition.
Albert: I'd like to second what Mr. Reilly said about restoring the F express train in Brooklyn.
Kalikow: Was this something that was always intended when the express was shut for repairs originally?
Albert: Yes it was, but after the horrible fire we had at the Bergen Street station, it was put on the shelf.
Eliot Sander: We're looking into it.
News 12 conducted an interview with me after the meeting, which I assume will air tonight or sometime this week. Thank you News 12, for the interest.
After the meeting, I had chance to speak briefly with Board Member Norman Seabrook. The bottom line: our pleas are not falling on deaf ears.
Today was a good day. We still have Acts II and III ahead of us. How it ends is all that matters.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The article has an accompanying graphic, however, that is of questionable accuracy. It lists the F train at 100% of track capacity . . . which is only true if you ignore the unused express tracks lying between the local tracks through Brooklyn.
The Times article does highlight THE key issue facing New York City today: our underfunded transit infrastructure is at the breaking point. At some point, NY will either buck up and fund the system properly, or face another exodus of people and wealth as the quality of life plunges.
The desire for change is palpable; I put a petition for better service on the F&V online, and nearly 2500 people signed on in under two weeks! People want better transit options. We need dedicated streams of funding for transit, and a re-imagining of the system that looks at the historical inefficiencies left behind by the disjointed history of subway construction and brings the system to a level of service better than any city in the world.
Demand it! I'll be delivering the petition to the MTA Board tomorrow morning at 9:30 sharp. The meeting is open to public comment, but you must arrive by 9:00 to sign up.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The rise of the automobile was a devastating blow to this city, among others. For 50 years, scarcely any additional resources were put towards developing our transit systems, as countless billions were spent building and rebuilding thousands of miles of space hogging, environmentally disastrous highways and additional lanes on local streets.
Pedestrian flow is the life of this city. How conducive to community is it to cross a six-lane through street to see your neighbors? Or to cross under a dark, noisy and crumbling structure like the Gowanus Expressway to get to a park? Or to look out your window and see a Cross-Bronx Expressway or the BQE gouging its way through your neighborhood like a deep, painful scar?
One of the beautiful things about New York is that millions of our inhabitants can get by without ever owning a car. Without an expansive, 24 hour transit system this would be impossible. It follows that the greater the transit coverage, and the more frequent and rapid the service, the more people will travel the rails and buses, and get out of their cars.
After 50 years of favoring the automobile and truck, it's time for New York to invest in transit for people and for freight, to take back pieces of the road infrastructure for open space, and remember that a thriving city centers around people and places, not cars.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Now I want a pupusa and some plantains to go with.
June 22, 2007
Thank you for your email regarding the food vendors at Red Hook Park in Brooklyn.
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has been issuing "Temporary Use Authorizations" to two separate groups to operate a food market at the ballfields in Red Hook Park. We began the process a few years ago in an effort to legalize the vendors at Red Hook, helping them become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, and the park users have benefited from their presence. They enhance and diversify the Red Hook neighborhood, and particularly our ballfields, by serving great food at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, once it became clear that the Red Hook markets would regularly be open for more than 29 days a year, we could no longer legally renew their temporary permits without opening up the concession to the public solicitation process.
I would, however, like to correct a common misperception that we are offering the site to the "highest bidder." In order to comply with the concession regulations in the New York City Charter, we will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP). This will allow Parks to evaluate proposals based on qualitative criteria such as operating experience and planned operations. We plan on releasing a RFP shortly for the operation of vending markets at the various ballfields at Red Hook Park; the term of the license will be six years. This process will give the selected vendors the permanence and regularity that they deserve.
We have received positive feedback regarding the Red Hook vending markets and we look forward to the active participation of the existing vending groups at Red Hook in the proposal process.
I appreciate your taking the time to write.
He hates us for our freedoms.
Meet Dick Cheney, a country unto himself, the all-powerful Vice president who claims with a straight face to be his own fourth branch of the federal government.
From what I've heard, the developers plans for the site are for low-rise townhouses that would fit contextually with the neighborhood. A business in the footprint is said to be relocating to Red Hook, which is still in the neighborhood, more or less.
So far, so good. However, it's worth noting that this developer put up J Condo in DUMBO . . . so we'll have to keep our eyes open.
A nice new round-up over at SecondAvenueSagas on the coverage. Ben rightly notes that the Brooklyn Paper's Ariella Cohen did a great job of covering the issue. And who's that handsome devil in the picture?
Spread the word and tell your friends, neighbors, and bitter enemies, because I'll be printing out the petitions and handing them out at the MTA Board meeting next Wednesday, June 27th. The Culver Viaduct rehabilitation is on the agenda, which provides an opportunity to address the issue. With a two minute speaking limit, your signatures will matter more than my words.
Streetsblog has picked up the petition as well.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Brooklyn Eagle has a story out today that DBP has endorsed congestion pricing as well as a number of transit enhancements, including free street transfers, restored express service on the F line, and more local service.
All of these enhancements would be good for New York.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Dear Friend,Good to hear.
Thank you for contacting Obama for America (OFA) about the recent personal blog post written by OFA’s outside counsel, Bob Bauer, regarding the Lewis "Scooter" Libby case. We appreciate hearing from you.
Senator Obama opposes a pardon and strongly believes that Libby should be held accountable for his actions, including serving jail time. Mr. Bauer was speaking on his own behalf and his views do not represent Senator Obama's or the campaign's.
Thank you again for contacting us.
Obama for America
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I thought Bloomberg would throw his hat in the ring for 2008, but now I'm just flabbergasted. No idea where he's going with this.
To paraphrase Clark Griswold: I couldn't be more surprised if I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet.
Come on, MTA, make this happen. Investments in transit pay off in increased quality of life for everybody. Let's find the money and get this done. make NYC a better place to work, live, and move.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Lots of fireworks to come on this over the next 12 months.
RNC Destroys Emails, Alberto Gonzalez Complicit
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
MTA is looking into other ways to do F express so it does not have to wait until the construction is done [on the Culver Viaduct].
We're making progress here people. Keep spreading the word!
Petition is here.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
A post on Gothamist, as well as continued coverage at KensingtonBrooklyn and The Gowanus Lounge have spread the petition far and wide.
A city with a $4.4 billion budget surplus can afford to make commuting a more pleasant experience for its residents and visitors.
Graphic from allposters.com ($40 for a framed poster, for the down F'ers)
You do have to appreciate the originality in this one: no oil company or bank corruption or funds looted from an African treasury . . . this one combines elements of "Three Kings" and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Dear Sir,Feel free to toy with this clown if you have hours to kill. But there's no way you will top the 419 Eater. For the all-time best scam-baiting, check this out. May be the funniest thing you'll ever read, and you'll learn the story behind the picture above.
I have managed to sneak out this email to you from my confinement here in one of our military bases in Germany.My name is Col.Charles Telma of The US Army. I was based in Iraq until recently,I was sent back to Germany because of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal in which I was unfortunately implicated. I am still under House Arrest,pending the outcome of investigation.
During my sojourn in Iraq, I was able to successfully smuggle US$ 21.7m out of Iraq to a location in Europe. I reckoned that being a soldier I would not be in the best position to give a satisfactory account of how I came about such an amount of money.I could therefore not conclude the proccess of securing the money before I was apprehended as I was at a loss about into which account one could pay it and that is where your assistance comes in.
I have resolved to share the total sum with you in the fairest ratio that we shall both agree on as settlement for your own part of the deal.
Please,ponder over this and feed me back as I am in dire need of your assistance at this time.Please, send me your private contact info. in order to facilitate an easier and more private correspondence between us.
I must assure you that this will not expose you to any risk as all the possible risk has been foreseen and taken care of. I must also remind you that transaction of this magnitude and nature is to be handled carefully in order for both of us to be well protected. I shall send you more details as soon as I hear from you.I implore you to really consider this offer and feed me back. Also let me know how you wish to be settled for your role in the business.Please,reply firstname.lastname@example.org I await your response with much optimism.
Thanks in advance,
Charles telma (Col).
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The Gowanus Lounge
Second Avenue Subway Sagas
Ben over at SASS does a very detailed analysis of the proposal. I highly recommend reading it.
I've also been in touch with the editor over at the Brooklyn eagle, and reps from City Council Member Bill DeBlasio and Assemblywoman Joan Millman.
The MTA needs to know there is demand for this project. Sign the petition today!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Bloomberg has the bad news:
U.S. foreclosure filings surged 90 percent in May from a year earlier as more homeowners fell behind on their monthly mortgage payments, RealtyTrac Inc. said.
. . . .
A jump in foreclosures at a time of year that traditionally is the busiest for home sales means the slide in prices probably isn't over, said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. Typically, more than half of all home sales occur in the April to June period, according to Freddie Mac, the No. 2 mortgage buyer.
``Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,'' Saccacio said in the report. That will add ``to the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.''
The New York market has so far been spared the carnage. Partially due to the strong local economy; partially due to the high proportion of renters; partially due to the more conservative lending/borrowing practices vis-a-vis, say, California. Take a look at this map from Business Week posted a few months back to get a sense of where the real pain is and will be.
But we're not immune here. A lot of people are overextended these days, and it's not a good thing.
Specifically, the petition calls for restoring express service on the unused tracks on the F, and running the V out to Brooklyn as a local. Sign up!
Monday, June 11, 2007
To view the pdf yourself (and it should go without saying, pdf warning for any remaining dial-up users out there), click the hyperlink above. Click the "download file" box on the right side of the page. Click the download box that appears. type in the 4-digit code, and the pdf will open in your browser. Sounds annoying, but takes about 5 seconds.
Friday, June 8, 2007
What I was not aware of was the plans to boot the cement factory adjacent to the parcel as well. Via the Brooklyn Paper, that is part of the plan for the site.
But now, as the city moves forward with a plan to build residential towers and parkland on the 5.8-acre Public Place site, the 35-year-old company could be evicted within the year, with not a cent of reimbursement.
Gowanus Lounge also has blogged about this project on occasion, but I wasn't a regular reader back in the day (now, it's at least a daily visit).
On one hand, it will be nice to clean up that parcel and do something positive with it. On the other hand, it is a very industrialized area with working businesses. The cement factory is busy, which I can attest to having lived a block and half away for a couple of years. Where are these businesses supposed to go?
This, along with the American Stevedoring business and countless other industrial uses, are also a part of the community. Like it or not, we need cement, we need working waterfronts, and we need the jobs they provide.
If they do end up booting the cement factory however . . . how about the grain silo in Red Hook? Recently a Mr. Quadrozzi was proposing that site as a cement storage facility, the site is dormant, arguably in an even better location, and conveniently, could be leased from the city.
CORRECTION/UPDATE: The Columbia Street Grain Elevator and surrounding acreage were sold by the Port Authority in 1997 to a private entity called the Gowanus Industrial Park, Inc. The President of Gowanus Industrial Park is none other than John Quadrozzi, Jr., who also owns Quadrozzi Concrete. Quadrozzi's own proposal for re-use of the grain terminal as a cement storage facility makes a lot of sense, and he presumably would not be inclined to hand over the plum site to Ferrara Brothers.
From the Google, this Village Voice article from 1998 yields an interesting spippet:
One mob-tied company, Quadrozzi Concrete, gave $3000, starting with $1500 in November 1996, at the very moment that Marlin approved the no-bid, discounted sale of a 43-acre, authority-owned grain terminal to the firm. John Quadrozzi, who was awaiting sentencing for making payoffs to the Luchese crime family when the deal closed, was allowed to buy the site even though he was barred from doing business by another state agency, as well as the federal government. The law firm that represented Quadrozzi on the transaction, which was approved by Marlin, donated another $500.
Every time I think I'm done with this post, they keep pulling me back in.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Per the DOB website, the most recent plan for the 360 Smith site was disapproved as of yesterday. The disapproved plan called for six stories with a height of 70 feet, encompassing 46 dwelling units.
Yesterday was not a good day for Robert Scarano Architects; Bill DeBlasio also held a rally against not only the project, but the architect in front of the 360 Smith site. While DeBlasio may have his own agenda, the rally yesterday should bring some positive attention both to this site and to Scarano's other egregious abuses of the zoning laws.
I'm looking forward to the CGNA meeting at Scotto's funeral home (1st and Court!) on Monday 6/11 at 7:30pm.
Everybody needs to make a living, I understand that. What I don't get is someone putting their thumb in the eye of an entire neighborhood to squeeze out extra profits. At some point, the greed becomes repulsive.
Ahh, a link from Brownstoner! I've finally arrived. Don't know how I missed this article from the Brooklyn Paper (h/t Brownstoner commenter ActionJackson) on the brouhaha. Also added above, a picture from the Brooklyn Paper / Greg Mango.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
The Gowanus Lounge: The Absolute Last Straw: City Wants to Kick Out Red Hook Food Vendors
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Via Gowanus Lounge, Councilman Bill DeBlasio is leading a rally against the Scarano project (and it seems, against Scarano in general) Wednesday June 6, 12:30 at the proposed building site.
Via the CGNA mailing list, here's a NYT article on Scarano from April 2006.
And here's a snippet from another email on the CGNA listserve:
> hiMoving in the right direction, at least. More to come on this. But seriously, in a neighborhood where brownstones are fetching $2MM and more, there is simply no justification for building out of scale.
> received some information last night from the
> -mta has approved plan
> -the building will not look at all like the
> drawing on the website, but the actual rendering is
> not yet finalized & not available for viewing yet
> -the 2 place portion is set back to line up with
> the neighboring houses and most of the subway plaza
> is open--the bldg does not come out as far as the
> parking lot "line" as the orig drawing suggests
> - it is still quite tall (the highest point is at
> 70') but the height is graduated rising as the
> structure goes toward and around smith st
> -the finish on the 2 place side will look more
> like a brownstone--the tallest portion's finish,
> which will be where the 2 pl and smith st sides
> meet (around the area of the present
> newsstand) ,is still undetermined
> -the developer seems open to reasonable