Monday, July 30, 2007

Ain't Nuthin' But A G Thang

KensingtonBrooklyn has another post up on the temporary extension of the G train to Church Ave.

As a commenter there notes:
The local tracks at Smith-9th and 4th Ave will be covered with temporary wood platforms. At Carroll Street the local tracks will physically shift over to the express tracks, temporarily, then shift back after 4th Avenue. This means that the express tracks can't be used to turn back the 'G'. The 'G' must go to Church Avenue, where it will use the the ramps and switchovers south of Church to turn back, or turn back at 18th Avenue using the center track.

In other words the MTA is misleading us. The 'G' will be extended to Church, but only during the construction project for operational reasons. It will return via the local tracks as the xpress tracks will be out of service.
And commenter Scott adds:

Also, part of the project includes the replacement and upgrade of the switches at 4th avenue to allow trains to switch between both local and express tracks (and to upgrade to CBTC switches) allowing greater operational flexibility. This suggests that MTA is exploring additional express service and re-routings, otherwise, there would be no need to add additional switches and cross-overs.
What I'd like to see is a little more transparency from the MTA, and a firm commitment to restore the F express service. If work needs to be done at Bergen Street before express service can resume, it should be performed while the Culver Viaduct rehab is under way. We cannot afford to wait for additional repairs after the viaduct work is completed.

The Yard

I've walked past this place in recent months, and wondered about the goings on there. Turns out the ladies at MeanRed Productions have been keeping a busy social schedule over there: "BBQs, music showcases, festivals, dance-parties, and concerts, and the summer is no where NEAR over!"

As it happens, we have company coming in from out of town this weekend, maybe we'll check it out.

On the web:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Movies At The Farm (Red Hook)

This is the stuff that makes city living great, courtesy of an email from CB6:

Bring a blanket, bring the family, then grab a lemonade or some locally-produced ice cream, and lean back on a hay bale for this summer's Movies on the Farm!


Mad Hot Ballroom (PG)
A documentary about NYC kids and competitive ballroom dancing!
Thursday, July 26th
8:15 PM


When We Were Kings (PG)
A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali!
Thursday, August 16th
8:15 PM

Red Hook Movies in the Parks are happening every week from now through August 16th- in Coffey Park, at Valentino Pier, and on the Farm. For more information and a complete schedule, check out:

Before each feature, Hook Productions presents short films produced by neighborhood teens! Check out the local talent at:

... And don't forget to come down to the Farm on Saturdays for our Market and Volunteer days! This week we're harvesting greens, string beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, summer squash, radishes, carrots, beets... and the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are starting to turn orange...

Directions to the Red Hook Community Farm:

AC/F train to Jay Street Borough Hall Exit the station. Cross Jay and Pick up the B61 going towards Red Hook. Take the B61 to Van Brunt and Van Dyke Street. Exit the bus and cross Van Brunt Street. Walk up Van Dyke three blocks to the Farm.

F/G to Smith and 9th Street. Exit the station to the rear of the train (there is only one exit in this station). Transfer to the B77 (right in front of the station) Take the B77 to Van Dyke and Dwight street. You’ll find yourself in front of the Liberty Heights Taproom. Take a left crossing Dwight Street and proceed up Van Dyke to Red Hook Community Farm (one block walk, from the bus stop you can actually see the farm at the end of the street).

What Up, G?

KensingtonBrooklyn spots a tidbit in the MTA's latest release:

Extending the G train to Church Avenue.

We noted a few weeks ago the maddening route of the G train one Sunday; the train rode all the way out past Church Ave, turned around, and sat with doors closed for several minutes, and then left. All they had to do was open the doors, and some people could have gotten to their destinations along the G route. To the extent that this takes some riders who would normally take the F to Jay Street to switch for the A off of the F, it will benefit riders at Carroll and Bergen as well.

Incremental improvements, folks. This is a plus but we need to keep pushing. Bring back the F Express!

360 Smith Plaza Non-news Post

Via Streetsblog, I found this post on the McBrooklyn blog about our well-loved local subway plaza.

In other forums I've gotten into heated arguments with posters on the merits of the plaza, which I found hard to believe. I guess if you never get out of your SUV and actually ride the subway, you wouldn't appreciate how nice it is to stand outside in the sun (or shade of a tree) while waiting for your train.

I'll have some more substantive stuff up about the F train petition later (3561 signatures).

I wonder if the McBrooklyn blogger knows that the plaza is currently threatened with extinction by a developer and designated villain Robert Scarano's to cut down the trees and build there?

Check out the CORD blog which is run by neighborhood activists fighting the development.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Congress Must Use Its Inherent Contempt Power

Rutgers Law Professor and constitutional scholar Frank Askin had an Op-Ed piece published in the Washington Post this Saturday that is a must read. The conclusion:
So, far from being defenseless against the president's refusal to prosecute or the threat of presidential pardon, Congress could take into its own custody defiant administration officials who refuse to cooperate with legitimate inquiries into executive malfeasance. Those targets would have the right to seek writs of habeas corpus from the federal courts, but as long as Congress could show a legitimate need for the information it was seeking pursuant to its legislative oversight functions, it would be standing on solid legal ground.
Prof. Askin is director of the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic.

Time to show some mettle, Senator Reid & Leahy, Congressmen Conyers and Sanchez. Don't let them derail the process. Restore the legislative branch to co-equal status and use the inherent contempt power.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Time to Revisit Executive Privilege

I've been saying this for years, but TPM's David Kurtz says it better:

I fully recognize that there is a basis in law for executive privilege. But both the legal justification for executive privilege and the policy justification rely mostly on the mistaken assumption that the public interest is served by the President being able to avoid public scrutiny in the execution of his public duties.

It's well past time to revisit that assumption.

If your advice to the President is so scurrilous, so outrageous that you would be ashamed should that advice become public . . . maybe you shouldn't be giving that advice to the President. And we as a people deserve to know about. Go and read his whole post.

BREAKING: Asexual Former Mayor Closes Barn Door After Horses Are Gone

Thanks a lot, Ed. Your 5 years of cheerleading for this disastrous war and this disaster of a President will not be forgotten.
I’m bailing out. I will no longer defend the policy of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq to assist the Iraqi central government in the ongoing civil war.
There are few things on earth I find more grating than the sound of that sanctimonious fool's voice; I change the station whenever he comes on to do one of his editorials on Bloomberg.

Image lifted from New York Magazine (best NY magazine out there)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Commission to Study Congestion Pricing Approved

Like I said, rumors of the death of congestion pricing have been greatly exaggerated. And as for the $500MM we lost forever after missing that arftificial deadline?

The City Council would be required to approve whatever plan the commission recommends, and the Legislature would have until the end of next March to approve it, Mr. Bruno said.

The agreement appeared far more modest than what the mayor originally proposed. Still, state and city officials said they had been in talks with Bush administration officials and believed New York might still qualify for as much as $500 million in federal aid, despite the passage of an ostensible Monday deadline for cities to submit congestion plans to the Department of Transportation.

“We will continue to work together to access the federal funds that are available,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement.

Well, what do you know.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NYC Underground: Steam Pipes

Wow. I narrowly avoided that tremendous explosion of a steam pipe in midtown this evening.

I passed through the area on the 4/5 at about 5:45, and was stunned to see on televison less than half an hour later that there had been an explosion akin to a small volcano. At least, that's what the steam plumes looked like to me.

Gothamist has some great information up in an old post about just what lurks beneath our city streets. Among the links there is a graphic from National Geographic, to scale, which shows the utilities beneath our feet, including the city water tunnel that comes in at an almost unbelievable depth.

Queens Sleaziest, Part II: Thomas Kontogiannis

Disgraced and imprisoned felon/former Congressman Duke Cunningham (R - Alcatraz) has apparently begun to cooperate after a year in the slammer.

And that means more juicy details on Queens connection to one of the most egregious bribery scandals in US history: Thomas Kontogiannis.

Some choice tidbits:

The FBI stated that:

More than $1 million in bribes was laundered by being sent to Kontogiannis instead of going directly to Cunningham. Investigators identified at least 70 bank accounts maintained by Kontogiannis at one bank.

Despite his many businesses, Kontogiannis has not filed a tax return since 2001.

For the first time, investigators shed light on what Kontogiannis expected to get from Cunningham – help on a potential sale of fighter jets to his native Greece.

The Rolls-Royce that drew so much attention early in the investigation was not the only car that Cunningham made the contractors buy for him. In only two days in early 2002, the congressman bought a $43,000 Thunderbird and a $41,000 BMW from Bob Baker Ford in San Diego with $63,000 of his payment coming from bribes. That was three months before Wade gave him $10,000 toward the used Rolls-Royce.

In mid-2004, when Cunningham needed to make repairs to his boat, he called Wade and demanded $6,500 in cash. Wade took the money out of his petty cash, stuffed it into a bulging envelope and rushed it over to a Cunningham fundraiser at a Washington restaurant, giving it to a Cunningham staffer.

In his prison interviews with investigators, as summarized by the FBI, the former congressman is reported to have:

Openly “recalled exerting pressure on government officials” to reward his bribers.

Said Wilkes told him he was “hiding money in a bank account in Panama” to pay him bribes.

Spoke of having had to find ways to get around objections from Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, both of whom tried to block Cunningham's spending projects for Wade and Wilkes as wasteful and unneeded.

FBI Affidavit (pdf)
FBI Transcript (pdf)

What will it take for our local press to get interested in this story?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gowanus Public Place/Mixed Use at 5th and Smith

So long, cement plant, hello affordable housing. (Affordable housing always seems to find it's way to toxic waste sites and flood plains, somehow.) Here's the press release from NYC:

Located at the southeast corner of 5th and Smith Streets and bounded to the east by the Gowanus Canal. The development’s affordable component will consist of at least 400 rental and/or cooperative units located above the community and commercial spaces of which a significant portion will be set aside for senior citizen housing. Twenty percent of the total residential units must be affordable to households of four earning up to $56,700 or up to $39,700 for a single household. A further thirty percent of the residential units must be affordable to households of four earning up to $92,170 or up to $64,480 for a single household. And one hundred percent of the senior housing must be affordable to seniors making no more than $34,020 for a couple or $29,760 for a single senior.

The development must include a community facility component that will add to and enhance the current inventory of community and cultural uses and spaces available in the neighborhood. Preference will be given to projects that include a boathouse, youth/teen center, community space, or artist studios and/or galleries.

The development must also incorporate a significant amount of landscaped open space. Open space must be located adjacent to the Gowanus Canal and should be designed to allow for and encourage public use. In addition, the project is subject to HPD’s New Construction Sustainability Requirements, which mandate design practices and materials that ensure healthy indoor air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation and the use of environmentally preferable products.

Get cracking on your RFP response now!

I took a couple pictures of the existing site from the elevated tracks. I'll post one when I have a chance.

Regional Rail Working Group Meeting 7/18, 6pm

One of my favorite aspects of Streetsblog is the calendar of events.

Wednesday night there will be a meeting of the Regional Rail Working Group, which advocates for better coordination of transit planning among regional transit agencies such as MTA, Metro North, LIRR, NJ Transit, PATH, hell, even SEPTA.

While responsible transit planning is not a panacea, it does come awfully close:

National security implications? Check. Reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Environmental Concerns? Check. Cleaner air, better resource allocation.
Health issues? Check. People walk more, stay more fit. See also cleaner air, above.
Traffic? Check. Tired of sitting in hours of traffic? Make it easier for people to use mass transit.

And so on. Here's the meeting details:

Regional Rail Working Group Meeting

Regional Rail Working Group
A Consortium of Transit Advocacy Organizations

A key topic for discussion will be a proposal by several New Jersey rail advocates to extend the #7 subway west under the Hudson River to New Jersey, to Secaucus Transfer. Also, discussion will continue on rail equipment options for thru-running at Penn Station.

Agenda items for the July 18, 2007, meeting will include a quick update on each of these key initiatives:

  • Through-running at Penn Station -- special emphasis on rail technology issues
  • Upper Level Loop Alternative for LIRR East Side Access
  • Penn Station-Grand Central Connection
  • Rockaway Cut-off -- one-seat ride Midtown Manhattan-JFK Airport
  • Lower Manhattan Access
  • Regional Rail Freight plan
  • Intercity rail issues

The key discussion item will be options for extending the #7 subway to New Jersey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 6 to 8 PM
Conference Room, NYPD Downtown Center 104 Washington Street (just north of Rector Street)
Cost - Free!
More Info:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Asst. Crp.

A few items for your consideration:

Yassky, Montgomery: End the Ratner Gravy Train! (meanwhile, Vito Lopez showers Ratner with public cash via insane tax breaks)

Damn: Court St. Trader Joe's won't have Two-Buck Chuck after all.

Queens' Sleaziest Politician: Republican City Councilman Peter Gallagher

Damn it All: Teenage Hooligan Edition

Mysterious 19th Century Bunker Complex in Ossining

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James Indicted

I went to school in Newark for three years, and this is truly heartening news from the Star Ledger:

The 86-page indictment said James, 71, arranged for the city to sell municipal real estate at a steep discount to a Newark businesswoman, Tamika Riley, then secretly shared in the profits when Riley sold the parcels to developers.

Prosecutors also accused James of using city-issued credit cards to pay for lavish trips he took with eight women, including Riley, to places including Martha's Vineyard, Rio de Janeiro, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The credit card charges - hundreds between 2001 and 2006 totaling more than $58,000 - covered hotel rooms and luxury suites, meals and fine dining, airfare, car rentals, tickets to sporting events and other expenses, prosecutors said.
Check out the picture of the young entrepreneur that James was funneling cash to, and taking purely professional trips with.

Gay Republican Hypocrites: McCain Campaign Edition

If these self-loathing a-holes could come to grips with who they are and find the courage to come out of the closet, the world would be a much better place.

From Talking Points Memo:

Florida state Representative Bob Allen (R), who is co-chairman of McCain's Florida campaign, was arrested in a Titusville park restroom on charges of solicitation after he approached a plain clothes police officer and offered to perform oral sex on the officer for $20.
UPDATE: Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but in this case, it's basically his word against the officer's. And here's a photo lifted from Local 6 News:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Clemen's Taco & Burrito Bar

Two Sunday's ago we took a nice walk from Carroll Gardens to Boro Park by way of Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington. Along the way we stopped and had some dynamite burritos at Clemen's Taco & Burrito Bar.

hey had a wide assortment of fillings. I had a bellybusting carnitas and pinto bean burrito with assorted fixins, while the Missus enjoyed some vegetarian fare. We washed it down with a refreshing Tamarind soda. The place is a bit on the gloomy side, which was actually a welcome respite from the hot sunny day outside.

If you're in the area, it's worth checking out. I'd definitely eat there again.
Clemen's Taco & Burrito Bar
Windsor Terrace
252 Prospect Park W
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 768-0909

Trader Joe's Coming to the Hood?

All right, not exactly to MY neck of the woods, but close enough.

Two-buck Chuck comes to Brooklyn!

A short history of Trader Joe's can be found on the ever-popular wikipedia. I imagine they'll be forced to keep the signage tasteful, and I'm glad they're finding a solid tenant for that beautiful bank building.

Some have expressed concerns about Sahadi's; I think they'll be OK. We bought most of our wedding snacks there, and with all the new residential cropping up in that stretch I think they'll keep a solid client base.

Red Hook Piers: Industrial Use May Survive After All

Via the Observer, we learn that the Bloomberg administration is reconsidering its efforts to replace a part of the working waterfront with more condos and cruise ships.
The Bloomberg administration, which has long advocated phasing out the container port in Brooklyn to make way for more residential-friendly development, may decide to keep the shipping facility there after all.
. . . .

ONE OF THE INEFFICIENCIES OF the port is that, while Red Hook is the only container port on the east side of New York Harbor, cargo is sometimes sent back over to New Jersey or Staten Island by barge because there are better distribution channels on that side.

In the past, both the Bloomberg administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the piers, played down the idea that Red Hook would ever amount to anything. The container port there is much smaller than the region’s other ports on Staten Island and in New Jersey, and it lacks any rail connection or much upland storage space, necessitating the use of barges.

Urban renewal projects, adaptive reuse, and brownfields redevelopment are all good things . . . when you're renewing, adapting, or redeveloping unused, abandoned, or derelict properties.

Forcing out active businesses with solid working class jobs to shoehorn in more condos and beer gardens is shortsighted (and I love a good beer garden).

Monday, July 9, 2007

F/V Petition Hits The Big Time: NYT's Jake Mooney Reports

Had a great, relaxing weekend upstate, but was anxious to get back and crack into Sunday's New York Times. Jake Mooney put together a terrific little piece on our terrific little F&V petition.

Since Jake was good enough to include a link in the article, the signatures have jumped to 3,064 as of this writing. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that our friends at SecondAvenueSagas and KensingtonBrooklyn continue to highlight this important issue as well.

Councilman Simcha Felder's office continues to support the effort as well. The Councilman wrote a letter to the MTA last week advocating for the cause.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Have A Great Weekend!

Mmmm . . . prime rib.

I'm off to Albany for my best friend's wedding. Soon the Shuff-Irwin alliance will be sealed.

Amuse yourself with this until I get back. Be warned, it's an addictive time-waster.

That Was Fast: 9th Street Bike Lane Forming Like Voltron

Streetsblog has a picture up; the hotly contested bike lane for 9th Street is already shaping up.

We're looking forward to getting some bikes now that we have room, and actually using some of the miles of new bike lanes sprouting up around the city.

Streetsblog: Ninth Street Earns Its Stripes

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wayward V line struggles to find meaning; we can help

I missed the Daily News article on Monday about the forlorn V line, which has a few diehard fans but has never appealed to a broad audience . . . the Hudson Hawk of subway lines.

As Ben Kabak rightly notes, extending the V out to Brooklyn would gain the line the respect it craves. Hit up Ben's blog for the Daily News article.

Also, from that visit to SecondAvenueSagas I added a new link in the sidebar to SubChat: where the elite meet to talk tracks and fleet.

As always, sign the petition to bring back express service to Brooklyn and extend the V line HERE.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hedge Funds

Ask 10 people you know what exactly a hedge fund is. There's a good chance not one of them can answer the question accurately. The Washington Post has an interesting look at hedgies today.

Hedge funds are not governed by SEC reporting guidelines and have zero transparency in their affairs. This is justified by the fat that only well-heeled investors with deep pockets are typically allowed to invest in hedge funds.

But a significant source of growth in hedge fund assets has come from pension funds. Thus, millions of average Joes are invested in these secretive, highly risky vehicles, but are blissfully unaware of it.

When Amaranth collapsed earlier this year, one of the losers was the San Diego pension fund. Where is your pension invested?

If hedge funds are to remain unregulated, they should be banned from taking pension funds.

Keith Olbermann Special Comment: Resign, Bush

Keith throws down the gauntlet to Bush/Cheney.

If you told me a few years back that a former sports anchor would be the best news journalist on television (Bill Moyers not included) , I'd have laughed.

But Keith Olbermann has been dynamite. I saw Good Night and Good Luck in the theater, and while it was a terrific film, I think Keith's best stuff is more powerful. What will it take for MSNBC to give more clout to their best asset?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wasted G Train

I have little use for the G train, usually. It's great to connect to the A train when I need to get to JFK, but that's pretty much my only G train usage.

But Sunday we were out for a long walk around the hood, loping from our home base in Carroll Gardens, through Park Slope and Kensington out into Boro Park and then circling back to Church Ave for the F train.

I wasn't aware that the G train ran all the way out past Church to turn around. My experience was eerily similar to those reported by KensingtonBrooklyn and SecondAvenueSagas. Empty G trains rolling in and out, waiting, never opening their doors. Consider that the G trains roll in, sit, and wait. There is absolutely no reason on earth they could not pick up passengers.

I understand that fixing this is in the works, given the upcoming construction plans, but why wait? All they have to do is open the doors! At least with the express tracks, there is some excuse for not expanding the service immediately. This is indefensible.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Convicted Felon Scooter Libby Loses Bid To Stay Free

Scooter loses his bid to stay free pending appeal. 30 months for you, Scooter old chap. Don't drop the soap!

Bush commuted Scooter's sentence. Can you say, obstruction of justice? I sure as hell hope that Patrick Fitzgerald and the Congress can. Is there no end to this blatant trampling of the rule of law?

It ain't over Scooter.

TPMmuckraker has the Bush's statement on Cheney's decision to commute. I await Patrick Fitzgerald's statement on this matter. I hope he does make a public statement after this slap in the face miscarriage of justice.

NY Times's Michael Gordon: War Propagandist

Recall the worst of Judy Miller's journalistic sins in the runup to the war in Iraq. Did you know that she often shared her byline with Michael Gordon?

Gordon continues to catapult the propaganda from the front page of the Times, only these days the villain is Iran. Glenn Greenwald has a post up dissecting Gordon's latest military press release.

It's long past time that Gordon followed Judy Miller into unemployment and obscurity. The man is an uncritical stenographer at best, a willful propagandist at worst. Plus, I'm sick of his scowling visage greeting me from the Times website.