Friday, December 5, 2008

Hoocoodanode?

Calculated Risk has the analysis on today's horrific employment data. I keep hearing the words "No one could have predicted" with respect to the economic crisis. This is false. Many people, including myself saw the coming collapse in the housing and stock markets.

Via Anonymous Liberal, here is a telling series of clips from Fox News (that bastion of journalistic integrity) featuring a series of howling baboons and Peter Schiff as the lone voice of reason. Watch how he is scoffed at, laughed, and ridiculed . . . for telling the truth. And then wonder, why the hell do these other talking heads still have jobs? How can you possibly justify paying a salary to Larry Kudlow, or Neil Cavuto, or Ben Stein, when they have been consistently 100% wrong about everything? Why is it that many bloggers got it right, and yet millionaire talking heads got it consistently wrong? Some of these people are just bone stupid but many of them are paid to lie. Be skeptical, it's good for your brain and your wallet.

LATE NOTE - To clarify, I disagree with Peter Schiff on plenty of things. But in these particular vignettes what he's saying is dead on.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ravitch Commission Plan Released

Second Avenue Sagas is hosting the document in an easily readable format.

This plan is balanced and very necessary to ensure the continued viability of the MTA. The City and State underfunded transit and relied on debt for far too long, which led to the current crisis situation.

We will also need a significant amount of federal infrastructure spending to build out the capital plan. But the Ravitch Commission Plan is a fair and workable plan to put the MTA on solid footing. It must be passed.

Already, you can hear the voices of false populism decrying the impact on the lower and middle classes. To them I say, what about the far greater number of New Yorkers who can't even afford to own cars? Mia and I happen to own a car. We have family in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and sometimes Mia uses the car for work. We both use the subways virtually every day. Every time I ride an F train into Manhattan, I pay for it. It's not too much to ask people who want to drive their own personal transportation device pay for the privilege.

An impressive roster of transit supporters and other organizations has already assembled to support the plan. Lots of great quotes in the press release from the Empire State Transportation Alliance . . . which I can't seem to find online, damn it. I'll use Ben's fancy tool:

2008-12-03 ESTA Press Release - Free Legal Forms

Monday, December 1, 2008

R.I.P. Tanta

One of my favorite bloggers, Doris "Tanta" Dungey succumbed to a long battle with ovarian cancer this weekend. She was 47. We never met outside of the comments on Calculated Risk, and I didn't even know her real name, but the feeling of loss is overwhelming. I was always able to convince myself that she would get better. She had to.

An incredible wit and intellect has been lost. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from you, Tanta. I will miss the truth in your voice.

For anyone who wants to learn more about how we got to the place we are in today with respect to the housing finance bubble, Tanta's Ubernerd pieces are incomparable. Tributes to Tanta - The New York Times, Paul Krugman.

We lost another friend within the past two weeks to cancer, a beautiful, wonderful woman of 24, now gone. Life seems terribly unfair sometimes; remember to let the people you care about, respect, love, appreciate and cherish know how you feel about them. You can never tell your family and your partner, "I love you" too much.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

American Prospect Profiles Sadik-Khan

And it's a great piece, read the whole thing. This is just an aside, but something that people lose sight of when thinking of Mike Bloomberg and transit:
On the national level, Mike Bloomberg is now recognized as a progressive reformer, and his history as a Democrat turned Republican turned Independent, all for political gain, is largely overlooked. But New Yorkers, whose memories are longer, could hardly have predicted that the most recent iteration of their mayor's chameleon career would be the promotion of a bikeable, walkable city. What even most local observers don't realize is that the Bloomberg administration's unexpected commitment to these issues is due less to ideological conviction than to the influence of one woman: Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of New York City's Department of Transportation. . . . Bloomberg's own record on public spaces was far from stellar. An expert hired to direct the Transportation Department's cycling program, Andrew Vesselinovitch, quit in 2006, claiming that Weinshall and Bloomberg rejected most of his ideas and were insufficiently committed to reforming the streetscape. Under the influence of former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff, another Wall Street veteran, the Bloomberg administration had been pushing unpopular proposals to construct massive sports stadiums and apartment towers, replete with thousands of parking spaces, on the far West Side of Manhattan and in downtown Brooklyn. "Here we have the most transit-oriented city in America, and many of Bloomberg's most treasured development plans, at that point, were tied to 750-spot parking lagoons, as if this were the suburbs," says Aaron Naparstek, editor of Streetsblog, which lobbies for "livable streets."
Bonus points to TAP for quoting Aaron. Hat tip to MAC for the heads up.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hillary Clinton next SoS; Nydia Velazquez to Senate?

Looking pretty certain at this point that Obama will appoint Hillary to Secretary of State . . . I was pretty sure that Hillary would get (offered) prominent placement in the Obama administration, and this could go a long way to satisfying Hillary supporters. I think she'd do a good job.

Of more pressing importance for us in NY is who will get her seat? I'm hoping for Nydia Velazquez, currently one of our solid local Congressmembers (I'm in Yvette Clarke's district, but right near the edge and the two districts are adjacent.)

There will be tough competition for the spot I'm sure, especially as upstate residents clamor for the seat. But Velazquez would be an excellent candidate for the spot, and certainly good for NYC just when we need federal help more than ever.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Worst Market Crash Since Great Depression.


Wow. This is now officially the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression. Down well over 50% from the peak. Graph courtesy of dshort.com by way of Calculated Risk.

Employment Situation Worsening


The chart (courtesy of Calculated Risk) of continuing claims says it all. The administration is still trying to massage these numbers, attempting to carve out those who are on extended continuing benefits . . . but even so, we're now over 4 million.

I expect jobless figures to significantly worsen.

We absolutely need a major infrastructure spending package from the federal government. It might not happen until President Obama is sworn in, but it must happen, and it will.

I expect to see significant transit infrastructure spending included. We need it, it will create jobs, and set the conditions for future economic growth. IN a related matter, I'm working on a statement on the rumored MTA cutbacks. Short version: the worst possible move they could make at this point would be to cut service.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Marty: Keep Development Along Gowanus Sane

An open letter from CG resident and architect Chris McVoy, who along with John Hatheway is advocating for moderation in development along the Gowanus Canal. Please help spread the word:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Many of us in the neighborhood have been working to establish appropriately scaled development on the Gowanus Canal. This rare channel of water in our urban fabric, gradually being cleaned up, has incredible potential for a publicly-accessible urban respite park (last month I met a fisherman who regularly catches striped bass form Carroll bridge!)

City Planning proposes 12 story residential development along the canal south of Carroll Street bridge. Though this re- zoning is not approved, Toll Brothers is moving ahead with plans to build a large development on the canal between 2nd and Carroll Streets at the 12 story height.

While many of us support re-zoning to allow residential development along the canal, most of us in the neighborhood believe the development should be limited in height so that:

- It has less impact on the adjacent historic 2-4 story brownstone fabric of Carroll Gardens

- It provides necessary sunlight and open sky required for the relatively narrow publicly accessible canal-front park.

To build their project, Toll Bros needs special approval through ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process), which includes approval by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Last week, John Hatheway (architect, member of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association and advocate for responsible development for those who don't know him) and I gave the attached presentation to Marty, advocating an 8 story height limit, which allows the same built area and affordable housing as Toll Bros. but at an appropriate height for Carroll gardens and the Gowanus park.

He and his staff were receptive. But for Marty to advocate for our proposal, he needs to know that we have support of many in Brooklyn.

If you agree with us PLEASE SEND MARTY AN EMAIL at the below address saying you are "a resident of Carroll Gardens and support John Hatheway and Chris McVoy's proposal for limiting development on the Gowanus to 8 stories" for reasons above and any others you wish to mention.

askmarty@Brooklynbp.nyc.gov

This is likely our last chance to scale back the development! - and Marty actually reads his emails!

On Wednesday we will give the same presentation at the Borough Pres' public hearing. It would also be very helpful if any of you could come and voice your support for our proposal at the hearing:

DATE: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TIME: 5:30 pm

PLACE: Brooklyn Borough Hall
First Floor, 209 Joralemon Street Brooklyn, NY 11201

Thank you!

Chris McVoy,
Carroll Street
Carroll Gardens

Hoocoodanode?

Dean Baker has a short piece on the hypocrisy of the mainstream corporate media (in this case, the Washington Post) in their economic reporting.
The point is extremely simple. There was a huge housing bubble that should have been visible to any competent economic analyst. The bubble was fueled by an enormous chain of highly leveraged finance. (As head of Goldman Sachs, Mr. Paulson personally made hundreds of millions of dollars from this bubble.)

It was entirely predictable that the housing bubble would burst and that its collapse would have a huge impact on the financial system and the economy as a whole. There is zero excuse for Paulson being caught by surprise by a "storm" that he helped create. The Post should not be in the business of covering up for Paulson's massive failure.
The Post piece is a fawning bit of hagiography on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, which fails utterly to address the fact that as CEO of Goldman Sachs, Paulson himself had a direct role in creating this mess we are in. And made $500 million, cash money, by doing so.

Talking Points Memo also caught the Post fawning starry-eyed this morning.

Why do people still buy these newspapers?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Carroll Gardens Street Cleanup: This Sunday 11/23

This group has latched on to a simple and great project. I like to pick up a few pieces of litter every time I take a walk, it always makes me feel good about myself. Why not take an hour or two this Sunday to help clean up the neighborhood, if only to make yourself feel good?

Brooklyn Cleaning Project
Sun. Nov. 23rd, 10 AM
Corner of 2nd Pl + Smith St.
F line to “Carroll St.” station
For further info,
E mail Terry at soujiny@gmail.com
www.nysouji.seesaa.net
www.cleanupnewyorkstreets.com

511: Your Number For Transit

NY State DOT is unveiling a new phone and internet one-stop traffic and transit resource:
Please join the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council on Thursday,
November 20 at 1:15 PM for a presentation on 511, New York State's new
official traffic, transit and travel info source announced this week
during the ITS World Congress. Todd Westhuis, Project Director, and Mary
Harding, Outreach Coordinator, will discuss how 511 works, give a live
demonstration, and talk about plans for expansion at the meeting of
NYMTC's Program, Finance and Administration Committee meeting.
To see how 511 works in advance of the meeting, please visit http://www.511ny.org/ or
call 511 within the New York City and suburban areas.

The meeting will be held at NYMTC's office at 199 Water Street, 22nd
floor. For security purposes, please reply to Andrea Miles-Cole at
amiles-cole AT dot.state.ny.us or 212 383-7200. The meeting will also be
webcast live, and will also be archived for viewing at a later on
www.NYMTC.org.
This could be fantastic; everything hinges on execution however, and I hope they nail this one.

Amanda Burden At CB6 On The Gowanus Rezoning, Carroll Gardens Downzoning

We couldn't attend last night's meeting due to a family commitment, but Pardon me For Asking and the Gowanus Lounge provide the details.

While I'm encouraged to hear that the Carroll gardens downzoning has been faststracked and should be unveiled next June, we'll need to be vigilant and carefully scrutinize the terms, and make sure to turn out in force for every meeting. Bill deBlasio should be commended for elbowing CG to the front of the line; there's no question in my mind that we would not have achieved what we have so far without his efforts on Wide Streets and downzoning.

On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to put 12 story buildings on this side of the Gowanus Canal. (The Public Place site is a different matter, given the viaduct that circumscribes the site.) The Gowanus should not be a trade-off for a downzoning of Carroll Gardens.

Lastly, (for now) I was disappointed with the earlier CB6 approval of the Toll Brothers plans along the Gowanus. We have truly put the cart before the horse in taking this one developer's parcel and spotzoning it ahead of the entire Gowanus framework. The result of this is a bootstrapping of the ultimate framework itself, and a skewing of the analysis of development impacts in favor of the developers.

Breaking: Health Dept. Forces LICH To Maintain Obstetrics Ward

From Crain's:
Citing Brooklyn’s shortage of maternity beds and pediatric care, the State Department of Health has denied Continuum Health Partners’ request to end obstetrics, neonatal and pediatric services at Long Island College Hospital. The department has also ordered the hospital to continue running several school-based health clinics that the hospital wanted to close at the end of the year.
Looks like the neighborhood has gotten a reprieve. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Attorney General Cuomo's investigation of Continuum's books will turn up.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brooklyn Greenway Benefit


Tuesday night at Galapagos in DUMBO. Mia and I will be there to support a worthy cause and have a great time.

Details:
Making Way for the Greenway
A Benefit for Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
Tuesday, November 18th, 8pm (doors open at 7pm)
at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO

Join supporters and friends of the Greenway for an evening of music and program shorts from some of Galapagos’ fabulous resident artists! Proceeds support the development of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile off-street bike and pedestrian route that will connect Brooklyn’s parks, neighborhoods and people. Galapagos is located midway along the planned route, so it’s the perfect place for a celebration of recent milestones. Matt Wasowski, founder and Big Boss of Nerd Nite will give a 10 minute presentation about the Coney Island hot dog eating contest and the fascinating world of competitive eating. Featuring the hot and sweet sounds of Michael Arenella and his music. Other acts TBA. Raffle items include dinner for two at iCi in Fort Greene, one day of temp help from AppleOne, an ODM Spin watch and gift certificates from The Diamond in Greenpoint, New York Water Taxi, Fairway and Tres Belle Petite Medispa. And cupcakes from Nine Cakes for all! Advance tickets are $20 per person, or two for $30, so bring a friend! At the door, tickets are $25 per person, cash.
Purchase Tickets!
For more info go to: www.brooklyngreenway.org

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On the Prospect of Federal Infrastructure Funding

The Observer has a good piece today on state and local officials seeking out federal infrastructure funds.
City and state officials are positioning themselves to garner funding from any new federal stimulus package for various transportation and infrastructure projects. Most of the projects are smaller-scale and nearly ready to start development.


Longtime readers know that I am a believer in federal funding for transit, sewer, energy and communications infrastructure, especially in tough times. As we stand at the edge of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we need sensible infrastructure spending to provide jobs and set the conditions for our next generation of growth.

One of the lasting lessons I took away from "The Power Broker", Robert Caro's fantastic biography of Bob Moses, was that those who were ready with plans for their dream projects were the first in line for funding when stimulus was available. Bob Moses secured a fortune for New York public works from the WPA and related agencies, and we are still enjoying the fruits of those investments today. It happens that Moses's vision for what to do with that money was disastrously flawed, but there can be no question that he was effective in getting things built.

New York needs leadership that will seize the opportunity in this crisis to make our city better and more sustainable, to preserve New York's preeminent stature as a world class city. But now is not the time for small thinking. It is a time for bold initiative. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity here to dramatically improve our city. Let's aim high.

Our city and state leadership must avoid the trap of thinking small and focusing only on quick fixes. We could: Extend the Second Avenue Subway. Connect La Guardia to the rail transit system. Connect Penn Station to Grand Central. Build the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel. Bury the Gowanus Expressway, with dedicated transit facilities. Fix our outdated combined sewer systems. Turn Third Avenue into a green oasis. Build the Vision 42 light rail connector in mid-town. Create true high-speed intercity rail. Regionalize our subway system and commuter lines.

You can get a flavor for what I would do with the money here, here and here.

Will Imploding Real Estate Bubble Sink Toll Gowanus Plan?

First yesterday was the Bloomberg headline: Toll Brothers Revenues Plunge 41%.

Then there was the unseemly grasping of CEO Bob Toll for a handout from the federal government. Believe it or not, Bob Toll, who cashed out stock to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars at the height of the bubble, is now asking for a federal handout for LUXURY home builders. Can't blame him for trying, what with every investment bank and now the automakers squealing at the trough, but this would be utterly wrongheaded policy. The problem in the housing market is that home prices detached from fundamentals (household incomes and rental value) due to easy monetary policy and lax regulation.

Now to top it all off, Toll says that the New York market is hitting the skids:
“New York City was a nice stand-alone beacon,” he said in a conference call this afternoon. “Now it has joined the rest of the country.” That happened, he said, in mid-September after the financial crisis worsened.


Many people do not want to hear it, but the housing market is crashing, and for sound reason. The price of homes rose far beyond what people could afford. Price to income ratios broke through the roof during the bubble and have yet to return to sustainable levels. Most of all the fault lies on Alan Greenspan's shoulders, but the Bush administrations abject failure of regulation, after the GOP-led deregulation of the 1990s is also to blame.

Expect home prices to decline precipitously over the next 18 months. The 4th quarter 2008 and 1st quarter 2009 numbers in particular will be jarring. And builders are still churning out new units into a softening market at near record pace. Projects that have not broken ground, or even been permitted at this point (such as Toll Brothers proposed Gowanus development between Carroll and 2nd Street) have a high probability of being shelved or killed.

At this point, I imagine Toll Brothers will still proceed full steam ahead with their efforts to re-zone the property. If they are successful, they can flip it to another developer or hold onto the site for a period of years. But whether they succeed with the rezoning or not, it grows less likely by the day that this development will be built any time soon.

This will not be the end of the world, but it will be tough for many of us. We do need to take concrete steps to keep people working. I have been saying for a long time now that we need a Federal program of public works, specifically in transit infrastructure, clean energy, clean water, and high speed data networks to get our economy moving again and lay the foundation for the next generation of growth. I hope that President Obama will be even more ambitious than FDR in this regard.

Parody New York Times Issue Today

Dated July 4, 2009. Pranksters handed out copies to commuters all over the place this morning in a well-executed stunt. I was not fortunate enough to get my own copy, but I did a double take when I saw a woman reading a New York Times with the headline "IRAQ WAR ENDS".

The whole thing is available online, but the genius of the prank is that they actually printed full size, high quality copies and handed them out to people. My favorite is the fake Tom Friedman column I am dying to read for real, which begins:
The sudden outbreak of peace in Iraq has made me realize, among other things, one incontestable fact: I have no business holding a pen, at least with intent to write.


Pure genius. And if you happen to see this Tom Friedman, stick to alternative energy and away from middle east policy, where you have been totally and disastrously wrong.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

LICH Meeting Recap

Gowanus Lounge has some details from last night's meeting. I was over at a CB6 meeting, but I understand that Barbara and Beverly were among residents of Carroll Gardens that spoke out last night.

Obviously a matter of grave concern for the community.

Monday, November 10, 2008

MEETINGS TONIGHT: LICH, CB6

Lot's going on tonight. CGNA has cancelled our meeting tonight, instead encouraging Carroll Gardens residents to attend the Borough President's meeting tonight on the future of LICH. In addition, the Executive Committee of CB6 is meeting tonight, and under consideration are changes to the Bylaws of the Community Board. This could also be a very important meeting.

“Long Island College Hospital and the Ongoing Health-Care Crisis in Brooklyn.”
6:30-8:30PM, TONIGHT
Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom
209 Joralemon Street (between Court and Adams Streets).
Speakers are limited to three minutes and asked to bring ten copies of testimony. Per and email: “This meeting will address the closing of LICH by Continuum. Please take this opportunity to let the BP know what you think…”

Nov 10 CB6 Executive & Fin/Pers/Law
Discussion and consideration of possible amendments to CB6 by-laws.
Board member attendance review
Other business

Cobble Hill Community Meeting Room
250 Baltic Street
(between Court/Clinton Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
6:30 PM

I'll be attending the CB6 meeting tonight to see what kind of changes are under consideration. Rumors of an attempted non-board member disenfranchisement swirling.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins Big; Dems To Take Majority in NY State Senate

And I feel like a million pounds have been lifted off of my shoulders!

Many of the things I want to happen in NYC over the next several years (mostly huge infrastructure investments) were predicated on the Democrats taking control of the White House and expanding majorities in Congress. Now that that is a reality, we can actually get down to the business of rebuilding the country that the GOP has driven near to bankruptcy and ruin.

Investing in our infrastructure (transit, clean energy, clean water, etc.) is what will get the city and the country back on its feet. I am fired up!

Also, having spent half the day in Queens today, and half of Thursday as well, it was highly gratifying to see Joe Addabbo pick off Serph Maltese . . . we're going to have a Democratic State Senate for the first time since 1964 . . . 10 years before I was born!

VOTE TODAY . . . And Plan On Waiting A While

Over at PS 58, the line for our electoral district (79th) was the longest I've experienced . . . but the people there are doing a great job of moving the process through. A pleasant surprise - Maria Pagano of CGNA was among those working the table when Mia and I finally made it to the front of the line.

We arrived at 7:30 and were out at 8:30 . . . your results may vary, but give yourself plenty of time . . . and be sure to vote! Ran into Dan Squadron, our next State Senator at First and Court and wished him luck.

We voted a straight Democratic ticket (left column) from Barack Obama to Devin Cohen, and I encourage you to do the same!

Off to IND to pick up some palm cards. Their is excitement in the air . . . and also the smell of baked goods: be sure to pick up a coffee and snack from the PTA on your way into the polls. A buck a piece to a good cause, and money well spent when you're standing in line for an hour!

To find out where to vote: http://govote.org/

Or text: "pp street address zip" to 69866
(For example: pp 400 E. 8th Ave. 80203), texted to number 69866.

Go vote!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Electronics Recycling: SATURDAY 11 - 4 in Cobble Hill

Thanks to Paco Abraham of Cobble Hill Association and Tom Gray of Bill deBlasio's Office for bringing this to our attention (and for making it happen!)

Electronics Recycling -
Saturday, November 1st.... 10am - 4pm
Schoolyard of Brooklyn PS 29, 425 Henry Street, entrance is on Baltic between Henry & Clinton St in Cobble Hill

We will accept Working and non-working:
-Computers (laptop & desktop), Monitors
-Printers, scanners, fax-machines, copiers
-Network devices (routers, hubs, modems, etc.)
-Peripherals (keyboards, mice, cables, etc.)
-Components (hard drives, CD Roms, circuit boards, power supplies, etc,)
-TVs,VCR & DVD Players
-Radios/Stereos
-Cell Phones, pagers
-PDAs,Telecommunication (phones, answering machines, etc.)
-Media (SMALL QUANTITIES of floppies, cd's, zips, VHS tapes)

-Sponsored by Councilmember Bill DeBlasio, the Cobble Hill Association, and PS 29 PTA.

Remember, all of these items have toxic chemicals and heavy metals that leach into surrounding soils if not disposed of properly. They also contain some exotic elements that can be recycled into new components, obviating the need for new mining . . . so it's a win - win.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Killing Conservative Lies

Over at NY Mag, Matt Taibbi tears Byron York into tiny, perfectly coiffed pieces over the roots of the economic crisis. A sample:
M.T.: You don't think the unregulated CDS market was a major factor in the current crisis? Were you watching when AIG almost went under? Were you watching the Lehman collapse?

B.Y.: I think that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were also major factors. And I believe that many of the problems in the mortgage area can be attributed to the confluence of Democratic and Republican priorities: the Democrats' desire to give mortgages to people, particularly minorities, who could not afford them, and the Republicans' desire to achieve an "ownership society," in part by giving mortgages to people who could not afford them. Again, I believe that if you are suggesting that the financial crisis is a Republican creation, or even more specifically a McCain creation, I think you're on pretty shaky ground.

M.T.: Oh, come on. Tell me you're not ashamed to put this gigantic international financial Krakatoa at the feet of a bunch of poor black people who missed their mortgage payments. The CDS market, this market for credit default swaps that was created in 2000 by Phil Gramm's Commodities Future Modernization Act, this is now a $62 trillion market, up from $900 billion in 2000. That's like five times the size of the holdings in the NYSE. And it's all speculation by Wall Street traders. It's a classic bubble/Ponzi scheme. The effort of people like you to pin this whole thing on minorities, when in fact this whole thing has been caused by greedy traders dealing in unregulated markets, is despicable.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Primary Day!

Tuesday September 9th is the Democratic Primary . . . and in these low turnout contests, your vote does matter.

With the presidential primary long past (February), many people are simply unaware that there are a lot of hotly contested Democratic contests Tuesday . . . so turnout really matters.

You can find your polling place with THIS handy tool on the Board of Elections website.

Tomorrow I'll be proud to pull the lever for DEVIN COHEN, candidate for Civil Court in the 1st Judicial District and a solid progressive. I am confident that Devin Cohen will be scrupulously honest and fair behind the bench. While Devin is a true progressive Dem and a selfless volunteer, his mercenary opponent Roger Adler has a long history of working with the Conservative Party, even authoring their amicus brief against same sex marriage. In addition, Adler represented disgraced former Democratic leader Clarence Norman. We need to elect a good Democrat in this race; we need to elect Devin Cohen.

I'll also be voting for State Senator Marty Connor. Marty has served our neighborhoods for decades now, in the frustrating position of the minority party in the Senate. But this is the year that we will break the Republican hold on the Senate, and for the first time since 1965 win a Democratic majority. There is a lot to be said for institutional memory, and Connor is an old hand in the Senate: he has the experience to take a leadership role once again, and would be well positioned to provide a strong voice for our community. I've met Connor's challenger, Dan Squadron, a number of times, and I have nothing bad to say about him. In fact, I like Dan. But given the unique situation we are in this year, I believe we should place a premium on experience. And so I think we should reelect Marty Connor.

Lastly, it's outside of Brooklyn, but I want to express my support for Assembly Candidate Paul Newell. Paul has waged a courageous campaign against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver is an example of an entrenched politician who could benefit from a primary challenge. Silver, you'll remember, let the congestion pricing plan wither and die. Paul Newell will make better transit, and transit funding, a reality for our City. If I could vote in the 64th, my vote would go to Paul Newell.

Now get out and vote . . . these are low turnout contests and quite literally, every vote counts.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

CGNA Meeting Monday Night 9/08/08

A message from Maria Pagano, President of the CGNA:

Hi Everyone!
Just a reminder- the new cycle of CGNA General Meetings will begin next
Monday, Sept. 8.
We will continue to meet on the second Monday of each month (except as
noted for holidays) at our new location: the Hannah Senesh Community
Day School, 342 Smith St (entrance mid block between First and Second
Places) at 7:30 PM.
Looking forward to seeing you all!


Also of note this week, the General Meeting of CB6 at LICH (339 Hicks St) on Wednesday night at 6:30.

No guest testimony at the General meeting, but there's always valuable information.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wanted: Brownie Leader

I received an email from a woman looking for a co-leader for a local Brownie troop and was going to post it . . . but Katia beat me to it and has a cute picture to illustrate. Why reinvent the wheel?

Click through to Pardon Me For Asking if you or someone you know might be interested in helping out. Thanks!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cobble Hill Bike Ride September 14th


Lots of good news these days for pedestrians and cyclists in NYC. We had Summer Streets, which was a refreshing turnover of roads from cars to people walking, running, biking and skating.

Last week, DOT's Chris Hrones and a colleague presented a number of new bike lanes on tap for Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, and Downtown Brooklyn at the CB6 Transportation Committee meeting.

And now this:
The Cobble Hill Association and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative announce the first ever Cobble Hill Bike Ride.

September 14th, 2008
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cobble Hill Park
FREE, to participate simply email your full name and daytime telephone number to CobbleHillBikeRide@gmail.com
http://cobblehillassociation.blogspot.com/2008/08/join-cobble-hill-bike-ride.html

The Cobble Hill Association and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative are hosting a 12 mile casual bike ride that will start at Cobble Hill Park and then pass through the Columbia Waterfront District, Red Hook, Park Slope, Prospect Park, Gowanus and loop back to Cobble Hill.

There will be several scenic rest stops as the ride follows mostly calm streets with some light vehicular traffic. Several Bike Marshals will travel alongside the group, guiding the ride. Bike Marshals will also be prepared to handle any urgent bike repairs needed. Light snacks and water will be provided but riders should be prepared with sunblock, plenty of water, and ready for a light pace that will include some cobblestone streets in Red Hook and the 9th Street hill in Park Slope, with an option to also ride hill within Prospect Park's car-free loop.


I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Working Seven Days A Week Is Fun!

But does not allow much time for blogging.

- The Denver Police are taking a page from the Bloomberg/Ray Kelly playbook and planning in advance to harass and detain cyclists at the Democratic National Convention next week. Besides being wrong on many levels, it is just asinine.

- The Brooklyn Paper has an article on the Devin Cohen / Roger Adler civil court primary. This one is hugely important for progressives. Registered Democrats, please get out and vote for Devin Cohen on September 9th . . . it's a choice between one of the best, most altruistic community activists I've ever met (Devin) and a mercenary political hack (Adler). These primaries are typically low volume affairs . . . your vote counts!

When I get a chance to catch my breath, there's a lot of transit blogging to catch up on. We've got a real opportunity this year to revisit our transit funding schemes and fund the infrastructure investments that will keep New York on top . . . or we could make the same mistakes of the 70s.

Enjoy the unusually cool August weather . . . summer will be gone before you know it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Various Items

Still working 6 days a week. Hope you're enjoying your summer! Some items of note:

- Alternate side parking changes are in the works for Cobble Hill / Carroll Gardens beginning August 18th. See NYC DOT for details. More at the Gowanus Lounge.

- Bob Dylan in Prospect Park tonight.

- BQE entrance ramp on Columbia will be closed the next two weekends - plan accordingly: "Trocom Construction will begin working on the BQE entrance on Columbia Street this weekend. The entrance and exit ramps will be closed for the next two weekends. We are currently installing VMS boards to notify the residents and commuters of this closure. The exits will be closed from Aug. 15th 10:00PM until Aug 18th 5:00AM, and Aug. 22nd 10:00PM until 25th at 5:00AM"

- Assemblyman Joe Lentol sends an open letter to MTA regarding the neglected stepson of the NYC Transit, the G train. Brooklyn and Queens deserve better.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quick Hits - 65 Hour Workweek Edition

Posting has been light due to many hours in the salt mines of legal work.

A few interesting bits:

- The MTA informs us that the closing of Carroll Street subway station main entrance has been delayed indefinitely, until developer Billy Stein is ready to do the work that requires closure. That's good! But 90% of the plaza including the news stand is still closed. That's bad.

- The wide streets text amendment sailed through the City Council this week, passed unanimously. Great work CGNA, CORD, Bill deBlasio and everyone else. Thank yous as well to Marty Markowitz, CB6, Marty Connors office, Joan Millman's office, and the countless individuals who fought for this. Maria Pagano, Glenn & Katia Kelly, John Hatheway, Rita Miller, Lucy deCarlo, Triada Samaras, Vince Favorito, Maryann Young, the list goes on and on. But this was the easy part! Downzoning and landmarking are going to be longer, tougher fights, but we CAN make it happen.

- From the Inbox:
"a local site called stoopsales.com . (www.stoopsales.com) It's a place where people can list and find stoopsales all over Brooklyn. The site features:
- mapping
- Browsing sales by neighborhood
- Advanced searching
- RSS feeds
- Email alerts for neighborhood sales
- Sale "bookmarking"
- and more..."

No postings for Carroll Gardens yet . . . but this looks like a great neighborhood tool. My cousin Dave will love it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Heat Wave Relief

We don't use an air conditioner at home, so last night we upgraded our fan power. For $75 we bought a floor fan from Lowe's that pushes 6000 cubic feet of air per minute. Put that sucker on the windowsill and let 'er rip. It gets the job done.

For those for whom that might not be a viable option, Assemblywoman Joan Millman's office has the word on neighborhood cooling centers:

Due to the heat wave this weekend, I would like to let everyone know of
additional weekend hours during which our local senior centers will be
open as cooling centers. I encourage you to pass this information on to
elderly family members, friends and neighbors

Eileen Dugan Senior Center
380 Court Street
Saturday 7/19 and Sunday 7/20 from 11 AM to 3 PM
Lunch will be served

St. Charles Jubilee Senior Center
55 Pierrepont Street
Saturday 7/19 and Sunday 7/20 from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Lunch will be served

Raices
420 Baltic Street
Saturday 7/19 and Sunday 7/20 from 10 AM to 2:00 PM

This heat is no joke for the elderly. I doubt I have many octogenarian readers, so please spread the word.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Carroll Street Station Closure


Bad news for Carroll Gardeners - construction of the Oliver House condos, previously known as 360 Smith, will shut the station as of July 28th . . . for 6-8 months.
(I took this picture with my phone on Monday . . . the sidewalk shed has expanded greatly since then, and looks like it will cover the entire courtyard.)

Full statement:
This is to inform you that MTA NYC Transit will be closing the Carroll
Street F station's plaza entrance at 2nd Place and Smith Street on
Monday, July 28, 2008 due to the construction development which is
currently being performed by Oliver Developments at 360 Smith Street
(a.k.a. 131 2nd Place).
Because the safety of our customers is of
utmost concern, this closure will be in effect on a 24-hour, 7 days per
week basis for 6-8 months (subject to the progress of the construction
project)
.

Please note this is only an entrance closure, and the station will be
open for business at all times. Customers will be asked to use the two
other station entrances at 2nd Street and President Street. We have
installed two additional high-wheel entrances/exits for customer usage
at 2nd Street, and a station agent will be on duty at all times at the
2nd Street entrance. We will be posting signs at the station in short
time which will notify our customers about the entrance closure and
alternate entrances.

NYC Transit will have an engineer on site at all times during this
construction project in order to ensure the structural integrity of the
station and the safety of our customers. We will be happy to provide
you with periodic updates on the station-entrance reopening schedule as
more information becomes available. In the meantime, you can always
contact me via e-mail or by calling me if you have any questions or
concerns regarding his project.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Devin Cohen For Civil Court, 1st District

It is hard to find a more committed public servant than Devin Cohen. Anyone who has seen Devin in action at Community Board 6 or responding to a crisis as an EMT knows that Devin is compassionate, dedicated and truly cares about the community. An attorney, a long-time community activist and solid Democrat, Devin is running for Civil Court Judge and we would be fortunate to have his service.

Devin can't ask for money, but I'm happy to do so for him. There's a fundraiser for Devin tomorrow night - details are below. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday July 9th
Fundraiser for Devin Cohen for Civil Court Judge
at the home of Harley Diamond and Jonathan Lovett
363 Washington Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
6:30-8:30 pm

City Council Campaign Event

For those of you following the campaign, the Brooklyn Paper covered our fundraising event on Monday June 30th. I owe a debt of gratitude to Hilary Meyer and David Caress for signing in guests and allowing me to spend all of my time talking and listening to constituents. Thanks also to our friends Lou and Dave at Layla Jones for hosting us in their space.

We raised nearly $2,000 that night, which will yield an additional $10,000 in matching funds from the Campaign Finance Board. While I wouldn't wish the paperwork on anyone, the campaign finance system allows the average citizen an opportunity to compete with the candidates who raise tens of thousands from developers, and that is a great thing.

We recently added to Team Reilly: Bart Robbett will be working with us throughout the campaign on media and mailing. Ben Schaffer's Media Mezcla will be putting together a top notch website for the campaign. We'll be rolling that out in a couple of weeks.

It's going to be a great campaign. I'm looking forward to hearing from as many people as I can about the issues affecting the workers and families and transit riders of Brooklyn.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

CB6 Land Use Committee Mtg: Public Place Site

An important meeting to attend. See you there.

LANDMARKS/LANDUSE COMMITTEE
THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2008
TIME: 6:00 PM

P.S. 32 - AUDITORIUM
317 HOYT STREET
BROOKLYN NY 11231

A G E N D A

- Presentation and introduction by representatives for the Department of Housing Presentation and Development of the development team selected by the City of New York to develop “Public Place,” the City-owned 6-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Smith & 5th Streets (Block 471, Lot1).

There's more on the agenda, but this is the main attraction.

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative


Last night was a gala fundraiser for the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. They are making real progress on the Greenway, which has already beautified stretches of the Brooklyn waterfront.

More good things to come, with stretches by the Brooklyn Navy Yard and ultimately a wider berth along Columbia Street. The picture above includes an unbuilt stretch passing between One Brooklyn Bridge Park and the soon-to-be park itself, and was taken before many of the attendees had arrived.

We like what these guys are doing. Check out their website and pitch in if you can.
http://www.brooklyngreenway.org/

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Obama: Invest In Rail Infrastructure

It's been so long, I almost forgot what leadership looked like. This is change we can believe in:
We can invest in rail, so that cities like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis are connected by high-speed trains, and folks have alternatives to air travel.
Barack Obama, via Matthew Yglesias via Streetsblog via my Blackberry.

Long time readers know that high speed intercity rail is one of my dreams for this country. If you've ever ridden the TGV in France, you know what we're missing. I hear the new AVE in Spain is even nicer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DOB Reform Rally; Scarano Charged

The Four Borough Neighborhood Alliance held a rally on the steps of City Hall this afternoon demanding reform of the DOB. I was there, along with numerous elected officials, other council hopefuls and civic organizations.

Raul Rothblatt of Four Borough put together a powerful alliance to call for reform. I am reminded that it was just in April that John Hatheway, Vince Favorito and I went to the Assembly hearing on DOB's governance failings to provide testimony on stricter regulation. Sure lancaster was ousted, but to what effect? At the hearing, it was clear to all that the interim successor, LiMandri, was an apologist for the current regime and would not effect change.

Sure enough, LiMandri's DOB pulled back their crane inspections as soon as they thought no one was looking . . . just in time for another tragedy to occur. We need REAL change at DOB . . . there is talk of loosening requirements to let LiMandri become the permanent DOB Commissioner. This is exactly wrong: LiMandri must GO!

In better news, Brownstoner reports that the DOB has finally taken action against scofflaw architect and serial bad actor Robert Scarano. The entire City press release is posted at Brownstoner. Check it out.

Credit where due; more like this please.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Quiet, Everyday Hero


The New York Times has an excellent profile today on Sergeant Andrew McGoey of the 72nd Precinct.
In the New York Police Department, officers who reach the rank of sergeant typically retire after 20 to 25 years on the force. Sgt. Andrew P. McGoey waited longer to turn in his badge — a lot longer.

On Monday at police headquarters in Lower Manhattan, Sergeant McGoey will surrender Shield No. 801 after 39 years on the force. Of the city’s roughly 4,000 sergeants, none has held the rank longer than his 31 years.



Sgt. McGoey is retiring only because he can't stay any longer; the NYPD has a mandatory retirement age of 63. I've been impressed with the quiet strength and dignity of "Mr. McGoey" since I met him 10 or 12 years ago. His son is a good friend (and was one of my roommates at Rutgers College) who has always been proud of his dad's work. I can remember reading an article on Sgt. McGoey back then from US News and World Report that Jeff kept from the 80s.

Sergeant McGoey, your service will be missed in Brooklyn.

Photo from the New York Times.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gowanus Rezoning

I haven't had a chance to get into the details, and I missed the meeting due to the IND endorsement meeting, but Pardon Me For Asking Gowanus Lounge and Brownstoner were there, and they took notes.

Last night was the unveiling for the "Gowanus Framework" . . . and the most contentious point will probably be the proposed 125' height limit on several blocks close to the canal.

More on this later when I've had a chance to review.

Electronic Recycling Drive on Smith Street

Thanks to Tom Gray from Bill deBlasio's office. I've had a bag of junk in my closet fro months now, which I'll be parting with tomorrow for good and all.

N BROOKLYN
Saturday May 31, 10am-4pm
Sunday June 1, 10am-4pm
Monday June 2, 4pm-7pm
Smith Street between Carroll and President Streets

The Department of Sanitation is holding electronics collection events in all five boroughs this spring, for more information please click here.

2 Dead In Manhattan Crane Collapse

Via Curbed.

What in bloody hell is it going to take before we reform the Department of Buildings? This is the singular failure of the Bloomberg administration: an abject failure to exert even a modicum of restraint on development in this City.

The Wild West atmosphere of development has to be checked. As we've seen lately in the finance arena, anything the Bush administration is supposed to regulate, and tragically our DOB: when regulators turn a blind eye, abuses will multiply.

Beef up enforcement at DOB . . . and end the disgrace of self-certification NOW. Getting rid of DOB chief Patricia Lancaster (who "resigned" in disgrace after the last crane collapse) was only a start. Lancaster's interim successor, Robert LiMandri, proved to be an evasive apologist for the administration and the DOB when grilled at the Assembly hearing on April 24th. Vince Favorito, John Hatheway and I were all at the hearing to submit testimony on reforming the DOB.

Credit where due: Assemblymember Jim Brennan has been one of the choice few that has shown true leadership in this area. Remember that at election time.

Brooklyn Politics Roundup

Last night brought a round of endorsement meetings at local political clubs.

At IND last night, the club endorsed:
Assembly, 52nd - Joan Millman (Incumbent)
Female District Leader - Joanne Simon (Incumbent)
Male District Leader - Alan Fleischmann (Incumbent)
State Senate, 18th - Velmanette Montgomery (Incumbent)
State Senate, 20th - Eric Adams (Incumbent)
State Senate, 25th - Marty Connor (Incumbent)

Challengers Tony Herbert (Senate - 18th) and Dan Squadron (Senate - 25th) were also on hand to present their cases to the club, but had a difficult time making inroads against two fairly popular incumbents.

In Other News
The Brooklyn Paper (among others) reports that Mike McMahon (City Council District 49) has been endorsed by the Staten Island Democrats to run for outgoing GOP Congressman Fossella's seat in the 13th Congressional District. From the Paper's ubiquitous Mike McLaughlin,
Staten Island’s Democratic County Committee voted 131-40 in favor of McMahon on Wednesday night — and the councilman told The Brooklyn Paper that Brooklyn Democrat Party boss Vito Lopez, the Bushwick assemblyman, had also agreed to back him. Lopez did not return a deadline call.
But even though he has the support of both county machines, McMahon will face a primary challenge from Steve Harrison, the plucky Bay Ridge lawyer who lost to Fossella in 2006 and told supporters this week that he would fight on. Harrison was not allowed to speak at Wednesday’s meeting until after McMahon had been selected. His supporters stormed out.

With GOP in total disarray, the primary is going to be where all the excitement is this year.
~

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Truth About The Wide Streets Amendment

Pardon Me For Asking has a must read post today on the Wide Streets Text Amendment.

The CGNA forum has been been inundated for days now with mis-information, dis-information and utter nonsense, mostly from one persistent opponent of the text amendment who is masquerading as a local preservationist. The sad thing is, to the casual observer, most of it sounds perfectly reasonable.

Please click through and read the entirety of the post above to get the true story on the text amendment. The misinformation flying around has sown confusion, fear and doubt where there should be clarity and unity. The wide streets amendment will help PREVENT out ofd scale development in Carroll Gardens. That is the point. That is precisely why a few would-be developers are fighting so hard against it.

Bottom line: the wide streets amendment will preserve the neighborhood scale by treating the Place blocks and a few others with 33' courtyards exactly like they should be: the same as President Street and other Carroll Gardens residential streets.

We are working to get the neighborhood downzoned to a more appropriate R6B. A number of people are working hard on landmark status as well. In the meantime, we need to get this wide streets amendment passed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Transit Blogging Serendipity


Mia and I took a long weekend up in the Berkshires to get some hiking in and relax in a rural setting. I grew up in the woods, after all, and it's nice to get back to nature every so often . . . while working to make sure that we preserve the rural environment through sound transit and development policy.

We stayed at a rustic little place called the Race Brook Lodge just outside of Great Barrington, MA, where we had a fantastic dinner Saturday night at their Stagecoach Tavern. I can't begin to explain the eclectic and rustic decor of the place, which along with the candlelight gives it an incredibly cozy, homey feel. I almost wished it were winter, so we could enjoy our meal next to a roaring fire.

Anyway, all this is just setting the scene. On Sunday afternoon we hiked up to the Race Brook Falls(cascade pictured above). We paused at the foot of the falls, about 1 mile into our strenuous hike, to take in the view, and met a gentleman in his 50s who was coming down the mountain. We made small talk while he waited for his son Ben and the rest of their party. Ben emerged from the woods and began cleaning out a scrape in the pure cold water of the brook . . . and I'll be damned if it wasn't Ben Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas.

120 miles from Brooklyn, in another state and a mile up a mountain on a steep hiking trail. What are the odds of that? I guess support of mass transit and a love of the outdoors go hand in hand.

I Am Popular!

How else to explain such heartfelt entreaties in my inbox from wealthy strangers living abroad?
Honey,
URGENT More information
i want to come to your country to stay with you,honey,please dont be surprise,my parents were died by food poison and my uncle sent me out from his house,he is wicked man i hate him and i can never stay with him anymore.

if you promised to send me letter of invitation and will not cheat me when i come to stay with you,i promised you will never regret having me,my late father has with his bank 2.5MUS$,i was his only daughter living nexk of kin,my uncle is wicked thats why i refused to give him my inheritance and he send me out from his house.I am 20 years old and my brother 17 years oId from Small country origin Seirra Leone Republic,i want to be a nurse when i come to your country,the bank remittance director said i am too small to handle such money that i should look for foreign partner to stand for me for easy transfer and investment purposes,that is why i am seeking for your help if you wish.

Pls,honey,tell me about you? and i want to see your picture how you look like?

Rose Linda Benjamin


O internet, you bring me so much joy.
~

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gowanus Goes Green - Next Sunday June 1st


This looks like a lot of fun . . . and who can argue with environmentally friendly fare, food, and entertainment? I took my niece to see sokme music at The Yard last summer. It really is a great space. The combination of trees, the adaptive reuse of the silos for studio space, and the location right on the Gowanus made for a very pleasant experience. I regretted then that they weren't selling refreshments, but it looks like this time around they'll be stocked up. Details below and available in full at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.
Come celebrate the Gowanus Canal and its watershed at an all day festival on the banks of the canal! Showcasing an assortment of environ-mentally-conscious products andservices from Brooklyn businesses.Great music, organic and natural food,educational workshops, kids activities and more for the whole family!!!! Free admission for the public.


The Yard - Carroll Street on the Canal(between Bond and Nevins Street)
Sunday,June 1, 2008 - 11:00am to 6:00pm
featuring The DEFiBULATORs playing at 12:00 and 2:30

For more information on exhibiting or sponsorship, please contact Lauren Collins at (718) 858-0557 or lauren@gowanus.org.

Check it out!
~

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Fresh Steaming Pile From The Brooklyn Paper

And I mean that in the nicest way.

The Paper excreted a podcast on a fantastically functional, fecally-focused feature of a Fort Greene community garden.

A community garden in Fort Greene has installed a solar-powered, composting toilet — and, naturally, Editor Gersh Kuntzman loaded up on high-fiber cereal and coffee to offer his review

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reminder: G Train Rally Today

The rally for the G-train will be tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. The church is located at 85 S. Oxford St., and can best be reached by taking the G-train to Fulton St., and walking up Fulton to S. Oxford, or taking the C train to Lafayette, and walking up Lafayette to S. Oxford. The church is on the corner of Lafayette and S. Oxford, with the entrance that we will be using on the S. Oxford St. side of the building.

Attending the rally will be Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Councilwoman Letita James, Councilman David Yassky, Councilwoman Diana Reyna, as well as representatives from Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Assemblywoman Joan Millman's offices, representing a broad swath of both city and state leaders whose districts rely on the G train.

Yours truly will be there representing CGNA.

It's not enough to merely demand better G service . . . a line that sorely needs improvement in terms of longer cars, stations served, and timeliness. Our state officials, having failed to pass congestion pricing, need to step up to the plate and come up with funding for the mass transit improvements and expansion this city desperately needs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NY-13: Fossella Not Running; Recchia Out?

Swing State Project has a post up with speculation on candidates . . . potentially one or more Staten Island Dems will challenge Steve Harrison for the Democratic nomination and speculation that Domenic Recchia will drop out, while the GOP is looking for a successor to Fossella, who announced he will not stand for reelection. (Ya think?)

Another interesting race this year, as the national Republican party implodes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Toll Brothers CEO: Traffic is "worst we've ever seen"


It looks like Manhattan is still one of their stronger markets, plus Westchester and CT, but overall the housing crunch is taking its . . . Toll. I'll be here all week.
In its release, Toll Brothers said the average price of contracts signed in the quarter was $590,000, down from $711,000 a year earlier and $634,000 in the fiscal first quarter.

Robert Toll said current customer traffic is "the worst we've ever seen," but noted that potential buyers are well-qualified, with an average credit score of 747.

That's a hell of lot of price chopping, with more to come. We will soon see a marked slowdown in residential and commercial building, and we need to start planning for infrastructure projects to help smooth out the disruption in the jobs market. We really, really need to start investing in our transit and utility infrastructure, and soon we're going to need the jobs too.
H/T Calculated Risk (best finance and economics blog on the planet).

UPDATE: Brooklyn market has "faded". I saw in comments elsewhere that the Toll CEO had given the Brooklyn market an "F", but I haven't been able to confirm that yet so please take it with a grain of salt.
Toll gave most U.S. home markets poor grades, saying Southern California and Illinois are `F-,' Arizona an `F,' and New Jersey a `C.' He said the New York exurbs earned a grade ``B+'' and that sales in the city borough of Brooklyn have ``faded.''

Please, God, Let It Be Williamsburg


MTV's The Real World is coming to Brooklyn . . . Smith Street is one of the locations being floated by the Observer, along with Bedford Ave.

Please, God, let it be Williamsburg.

Photo of past Real World luminaries Ruthie and Puck and some other dude from www.mm-agency.com

Monday, May 12, 2008

Future of the Gowanus Forum(s)


Last week, in all the Wednesday meeting madness, Councilman Bill deBlasio hosted a "Future of the Gowanus" event at the foot of Second Street on the Gowanus. deBlasio had on hand representatives from DEC, DEP, Army Corps, the NYPD, the Fire Department, the MTA and Parks, as well as the Gowanus Canal Conservancy/GCCDC and the Gowanus Dredgers.

The upshot of the meeting was an announcement that experts from the various agencies would be on hand for a series of community "town hall" meetings to share information and take input on plans for the Gowanus.

And it looks like it starts May 29th, as Tom Gray sent out this reminder for the upcoming CB6 Land Use Committee meeting today:

May 29 6:00 PM Landmarks/Land Use


Update and presentation by representatives for the Department of City
Planning on the next phase of the Gowanus Land Use Framework planning
being developed by the department. For background on the work done to
date visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/gowanus/index.shtml

P.S 32 Auditorium
317 Hoyt Street
(at Union/Hoyt Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Image of deBlasio and Army Corps DEP official courtesy of my Blackberry

Cory Booker: Revitalizing Newark Around Transit


Downtown Newark and University Heights (my old law school stomping grounds) have excellent access to transit facilities. Cory Booker, Newark's reformer Mayor, is working to expand growth in Newark around these terrific assets.

Growing dorm populations for Rutgers and NJIT should help to provide a critical mass on some of the blocks which were, as of 2005 anyway, still desolate at night. Of course, since then, the light rail connection to Broadway was completed and dorms have been springing up. I've got to make a pilgrimage back to see how progress is moving.

Image borrowed from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign blog linked above.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

One Last Post On Fossella

Commenter Slappy over at Gothamist had this to say on the latest news on Fossella:
So tired of hearing about the sex lives of politicians. Its their political, not personal actions that are important. If there was more expose about what they are doing that really affects all of us, it might be more interesting. But I don't really care about their personal lives.

Ben Franklin contracted syphilis. Poor guy. So what.


It's a good point. I take some glee when real family values hypocrites like Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, or others flame out. And I'll be glad to see Fossella lose his seat in the election later this year. But it's HYPOCRISY that makes me angry, not who's shtupping who or has engaged in some stupid drunken behavior.

Excessive prying into people's private failings is corrosive, and ultimately, the calls on Fossella to resign his job are overblown. What if your banker, insurance agent, personal trainer, doctor, or other professional exhibited the same failings? Should they be forced to quit as penance? Wear a scarlet letter?

Fossella will almost certainly lose his seat in November. He's damaged his family life, perhaps irreparably. But nowhere has it been said that these failings had anything to do with his job performance. The people can choose to turn him out of office in November, or he can decide not to run again. But resignation? Let's keep some perspective here.

I say this as a staunch Democrat who is eagerly looking forward to picking up that seat. But let's keep our fairness and humanity intact. I wonder how perfect are those who are piously calling for Vito Fossella's head right now.

High Gas Prices "Driving" More People To Transit

The New York Times has an excellent front page article on this phenomenon today.
Mass transit systems around the country are seeing standing-room-only crowds on bus lines where seats were once easy to come by. Parking lots at many bus and light rail stations are suddenly overflowing, with commuters in some towns risking a ticket or tow by parking on nearby grassy areas and in vacant lots.

Now, if only we had used tax policy to do this 30 years ago, instead of funneling countless billions in extra dollars to the oil companies, various despots, and speculators then we'd have a transit system the world would envy. The Federal gas tax needs to be increased, and the funds must be dedicated to building a world class transit infrastructure. We are decades behind Europe and Japan in our high speed rail infrastructure. It's time to show some leadership again.

UPDATE: Second Avenue Sagas goes a little more in-depth on this issue.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Blogfest!

Three cheers to Louise Crawford of Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn and her team for putting together an incredible event. I wasn't expecting a crowd of that size, or such a well organized production. Or such good beer - hats off to Outside In for providing some excellent beverages for the occasion . . . and a pretty cool "place blogging" service as well.

Morgan Pehme over at Brooklyn Optimist shares his thoughts and posts the cool film he put together . . . a tribute to photo bloggers set to some rousing industrial music.

Good to see old friends like Katia Kelly (Pardon Me for Asking), Bob Guskind (Gowanus Lounge) and Ben Kabak (Second Avenue Sagas) . . . and also to meet familiar bloggers like Kevin from Forgotten NY Anne from Sustainable Flatbush, the guys from Fading Ad blog and Dan from Gerritsenbeach.net.

Good times!
~

Clinton Can Not Be Obama's Vice President

Matt Yglesias hits the important notes on why Hillary can not be Obama's choice for VP.
This reflects, I believe, an incredibly damaging mindset that's been crippling the Democratic Party for years and the prospect of excising this mindset is the single most appealing thing about the prospect of Obama being the nominee. Clinton's "street cred" on national security consists, of course, of being massively wrong on the most important national security issue of her career. Paradoxically, a lot of folks find her massive wrongness on this hugely important issue reassuring because they and their friends were also wrong and they view having made the right call to be a suspicious quality. After all, the Iraq War may have led to thousands of U.S. deaths, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and millions of Iraqi refugees all at a cost of over $1 trillion and in ways that's damaged the strategic position of the United States, but war opponents were all a bunch of hippies.


Seriously, who thinks this would be a good idea, except Republicans, the few pro-war Dems left out there, and the corporate media?

Hillary rightly or wrongly galvanizes the right-wingers in this country, and would bring them out in droves. She would also undermine the message of change. I strongly believe that an Obama/Clinton ticket would be weaker than virtually any other combination.

Pick someone else without the baggage and negatives. (h/t Atrios)

UPDATE: The Observer also has a piece on whether Obama can afford to eschew Clinton and a so-called "Unity Ticket". The upshot? Yes he can!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fossella Love Child

What a week it's been.

If it had just been the DWI, Republican Congressman Vito Fossella (Brooklyn & Staten Island) probably could have hung on this year. But now that he's acknowledged an affair and a love child, he's got to be finished.

Fossella's got two experienmced opponents coming at him in the form of Domenic Recchia and Steve Harrison. Long time readers will recall that Domenic Recchia (along with Simcha Felder and Bill deBlasio) strongly support our efforts to improve subway service on the Culver Line (full express and local service).

I hope we can keep the Democratic primary civil. If we win this seat, we make the NYC congressional delegation 100% Democratic. A strengthened NYC delegation will help us realize major projects like the Cross Harbor Tunnel, the Gowanus Expressway Tunnel, and other major infrastructure programs that require federal funds.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hilarious Parody of Matthews/Russert

For anyone who is a political junkie, but sick to death of TV pundits, this is awesome.

Obama/Gore '08!

Last night was the final nail in the coffin for Clinton's campaign. Truth be told, her campaign has been dead man walking for two months, but lingers on. After two solid months of negative campaigning against Obama she was unable to turn the tide. It's over. She'll officially pack it in before May is through.

In a bit of poetic justice, the "gas tax holiday" pander blew up in her face, contributing to her disappointing showing in Indiana (the barest squeaker of a win, where she was previously poling a double-digit victory). That kind of pandering is just insulting, and it solidified any doubts that middle-of-the-road voters may have had about her integrity.

In any case, we can now say definitively what I've been saying to friends since September: Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee for President in 2008. Which brings me back to the "dream ticket" I proposed almost one year ago: Gore/Obama '08!

Gore would make a fine Vice President . . . hell, he already has 8 years on the job experience. Give him total responsibility for Energy and Environmental policy and he just might want the job.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Weil Gotshall To Brooklyn?

The Brooklyn Paper reports that a major law firm is headed for Downtown Brooklyn.

"Forest City Ratner Vice President Mary Anne Gilmartin made the announcement at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable on Tuesday that the 500-lawyer white shoe firm would soon relocate to Metrotech."

A major coup for FCR and Downtown boosters. I know I'd rather commute to Downtown Brooklyn than Manhattan, given the choice.

UPDATE: Too good to be true. Back office peeps only.

Spring Is In The Air


And lots of activity in the streets. This morning I spent an hour flyering the block for the Public Hearing tomorrow afternoon at Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St, 5:30). Also I saw on the stoops there were flyers out for deBlasio's meeting tomorrow afternoon. I didn't see any today, but there are also some flyers that anonymous persons put out with scare tactics to confuse the issue of the wide streets amendment. The times and locations of the various public meetings tomorrow are HERE.

The picture above is of a guy making the best of the construction fence situation on 1st Place between Court and Clinton. Nice work!

* And in case it isn't clear, I wholeheartedly support the text amendment to close the "wide street" loophole that allows out of context development on the Place blocks and other blocks with courtyards *

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iron Man


Highly recommended. Flawed genius Robert Downey Jr. was a brilliant casting choice for the flawed genius Tony Stark. Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, and Terrence Howard all turned in terrific performances.

I loved comic books as a kid, which is why I sneak off to see superhero movies as an adult. Iron Man was never a favorite character of mine . . . Spiderman, Batman, the X-Men, and Daredevil were all faves. I loved all three Spiderman films, the first two X-Men installments, and Batman Begins. Daredevil and Ang Lee's Hulk were severely disappointing. It's really a roll of the dice when you go to see a childhood favorite translated to the big screen . . . so it's a delight when they hit one out of the park, like Sam Raimi did with Spiderman, or Jon Favreau did here with Iron Man.

Marvel has done a hell of a job bringing these old pulp characters to life on screen.

Iron Man might be my favorite adaptation yet. Be sure to wait the five minutes for the credits to finish (as in the X-Men films) for a special bonus scene / teaser.

I'm looking forward to a chance at redemption for The Hulk (June 13th) and another Batman installment from Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, July 18th).

Shaping up to be a great summer movie season.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Congressman Weiner: Hillary or Gas Tax?

Still waiting for a substantive response from the Weiner camp on McCain/Clinton's incredibly stupid, pandering "Gas Tax Holiday" plan.

Meanwhile, condemnation of the plan is virtually universal from every economist or policy wonk on either side of the aisle. Here's Mayor Mike:
Mayor Bloomberg is criticizing a proposal to suspend the federal gas tax during the summer months, a plan backed by senators Clinton and McCain, as "about the dumbest thing I've heard in an awful long time, from an economic point of view." . . . . Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday he thought, "In this case, Obama had it right."

Asked about a proposal by the state Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, to apply a similar policy to New York state's gas tax — about 33 cents a gallon — over the summer, Mr. Bloomberg repeated his objections.

"I just do not think that it is intelligent policy and it's not a good energy policy," he said.


This is literally among the worst policy ideas I've ever heard. What disgusts me is that I am certain that Clinton is smart enough to know this . . . but is pandering anyway, going for the low-information voters.

Congressman Weiner, a few short months ago, was absolutely correct to say that we need an increased Federal gas tax dedicated to transportation and especially transit improvements. That is still correct today, and I hope that Rep. Weiner will reiterate his call for a responsible gas tax policy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Fossella Popped For DWI

From the Washington Post:

Rep. Vito J. Fossella (R-N.Y.) was arrested overnight in Alexandria and charged with driving while intoxicated, court records showed today.

Fossella is the only Republican currently representing NYC in Congress . . . for now.

He will be challenged in the election by either Domenic Recchia or Steve Harrison, depending who wins the Democratic primary.

This will help.

Gowanus Lounge: F Train Muggings?

My nanny was mugged tonight around 6:30/6:45 on the F train just before the train left the 7th avenue station by a group of 6 teenage boys (she thinks about 15) . She recognized one of the boys and saw him at the Greenwood Playground today and had seen him other times before. She said the group got on the train at the 15th St station and then walked into her car (there were only 2 other elderly women in the car) and as the train doors were about to close the surrounded her, grabbed her music player and bag and then punched her.
Has this been happening frequently? That it happens at all is unacceptable, but is it a growing problem? My sense, at least at the Carroll Gardens stations, has been no.

Anybody have an experience like the ones reported on G.L. at 7th Ave and Smith & Ninth?

I am looking forward to the security cameras in subway cars, both for the deterrent effect and for catching perps after a crime has been committed. I used to be concerned about the impact on privacy . . . but I think the nature of the subway commute is such that cameras do not impact privacy at all. And that's from a longtime ACLU member.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clinton, Schumer, McCain Pandering On Gas Taxes

Reuters - Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday slammed as bad idea
Newsweek - Political Pandering
Matt Yglesias - "real harm is done to people's lives by this sort of gimmickry"
Streetsblog - Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton: Where Is the Leadership?
TIME - Clinton joins McCain in the race for panderer in chief
Paul Krugman/New York Times - Gas tax follies

Again, this is the sort of bull$hit pandering I expect from the GOP . . . I expect this steaming pile from McCain. But Clinton and Schumer are out there shilling for a "Gas Tax Holiday" which would do NOTHING to help ordinary Americans while exacerbating our underlying problems of oil dependence and runaway deficits.

Ask any economist worth his salt: the Gas Tax Holiday is the worst kind of economic policy. Pandering to the public, yet shortchanging us of any actual benefit.

Barack Obama (video)is the one candidate in this race has called it for what it is.

My question: where is Congressman and Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner on this? Weiner very vocally opposed Congestion Pricing on the promise of increasing the Federal gas tax to pay for transit improvements. Yet he is also backing Senator Clinton for President . . . the same Senator Clinton calling for a gas tax holiday. I've called Rep. Weiner for comment, and his staff was polite. I'll post here when I get a substantive response.

Just in case I wasn't clear above: it might sound good in a vacuum, but this gas tax holiday is HORRIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE ECONOMIC POLICY. If you only have time to click one of the above links, click on TIME for Justin Fox's succinct explanation of why this is bogus pandering of the worst sort.

You Know What Grinds My Gears? MTA Escalator Edition

Last week Curbed posted a story about the broken escalator at Union Square (which is supposed to be maintained by the Zeckendorf Tower owner). Not only has the escalator been left broken for months on end, but the management has FENCED IT OFF . . . so that no one can use it, forcing people to use a narrow, cramped staircase. This type of stupidity is enraging to the commuters who have to look at the broken escalator every day . . . after all as the late comic Mitch Hedberg observed, "an escalator is never temporarily out order - it's temporarily stairs."

Notes a commenter:
The Zeckendorfs were able to build much larger than usual, and therefore the public had to deal with the extra shadows on the park and on the street, in exchange for providing this public amenity in the form of an improved subway station entrance. It is the Zeckendorfs' responsibility to make sure everything is functioning, and it is their responsibility to keep the area clean. They got a bonus worth tens of millions of dollars for providing the improved subway entrance. They NEED to fix it. Those escalators have been broken for YEARS not months. the City should fine them big time.

Sunday, I went to the Pottery Barn up on 59th and encountered another fenced off, broken escalator, and an extremely long one at that.

Today AMNY fuels my rage with another article about broken escalators, this time at 53rd and 3rd. Again, the escalator is supposed to be maintained by a developer who reaped substantial benefits from the City (to the tune of $3 million a year in rent).
Over the decades, it's been a common practice for the city, NYC Transit and its parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to forge deals that would give valuable floor space to real estate developers in return for subway improvements. In the case of the escalator at 875 Third Ave., a deal worth $3 million a year in rental income for the developer was forged more than 20 years ago. Today, after the property has changed hands several times over and the city and transit officials who struck the deal have moved on, the agreement seems forgotten, leaving no one accountable for maintaining it.


This has become an epidemic. Socialized costs in the form of lower quality of living for the sake of private profit. Mr. Bloomberg, where is the enforcement? How long will this continue?

And until then: a broken escalator is still a perfectly functional set of stairs! What the hell is wrong with these people?

Verizon FiOS vs. Time Warner: About Damn Time

The Sun reports (via Curbed) that Verizon will be getting into the cable & internet business in our fair city.
Verizon said 30% of the new network would be built by the end of 2008, 50% by the end of 2010, and 100% by 2014. The first consumers who would be able to access the new service would be residents of Staten Island, by the end of this year.


For anyone who has dealt with the absolutely inexcusable, god-awful service from Time Warner Cable, this is akin to a child discovering his schoolbooks are made of delicious candy.

I've got a lot of problems with Verizon (and AT&T) as a corporate citizen, given their role in enabling the Bush administration's illegal spying. But that is a matter to be dealt with separately through Congress and the courts.

The competition is welcome and sorely needed. And from what I've heard, the FiOS fiber optic internet is much faster than Time Warner. Game on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May 7th Packed with Carroll Gardens Meetings

This is a pretty tight schedule in the local meeting circuit, but a lot of important stuff being covered. From Maria Pagano, CGNA President:

Acknowledging the interest and concern we have expressed, three separate meetings have been scheduled for next week by city agencies,elected officials and KEYSPAN.

The members of the CGNA Board encourage everyone to attend at least one
of the meetings. Bring a family member, a friend, a neighbor! (I don't
think pets can be accommodated).

These three meetings are all scheduled for Wednesday, May 7.

In time order:

1. Check your mail. A notice was sent out from KEYSPAN/NATIONAL GRID.
They will hold the first public meetings to "discuss the remedial
investigation
of a former manufactured gas site located at DeGraw near the Gowanus
Canal".
This is the beginning KEYSPAN's participation in the public discussion
on cleaning up the
Gowanus gas sites. There are a total of 17 sites. Meetings on Public
Place,
the Toll Bros site, etc to follow.
Meeting site: PS 32 (317 Hoyt St at Union)
Times: 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM and 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
[ED. NOTE: more on this at Gowanus Lounge]
2. Borough President Marty Markowitz will hold a public meeting to
discuss the pending text amendment proposed by the Department of City
Planning. This text amendment will correct the inappropriate "wide
street" designation
currently applied to the Place blocks; they will be
designated as narrow streets, as they were originally defined by law
when
they were created, and will match the bulk permitted on the other
residential blocks of Carroll Gardens.
Meeting site: Borough Hall, Community Room
Joralemon St entrance
Time: 5:30 PM
[ED. NOTE: more on this at Gowanus Lounge]

3. Plan for the Future Forum: The Gowanus
Sponsored by City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio,
CB6, Gowanus Dredgers, Gowanus Canal Development Corporation and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy Representatives of the NYS Departments of Environmental Conservation,
Education, City Planning, Buildings, NYPD, FDNY and NYC Parks and Recreation
will be on hand to answer questions.
For more info and to pre-register questions,
call Tom Gray at 718 854 9791.
Meeting site: 2nd St at the Gowanus Canal (off Bond)
There will be a tent at the site if the weather is bad.
Time: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

Once again, we urge everyone to attend at least one of these meetings!

Back to my voice: be sure to check out the new and improved Gowanus Lounge at www.gowanuslounge.com. Bob's work has contributed immeasurably to the flow of information in our neighborhood. Looks great, too!