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.

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?
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

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

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:

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


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

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.