Friday, November 6, 2009

Cobble Hill Bike Ride TODAY!


I'm really late to the party on this one, but it's been tough to post from work and my evenings have been pretty jammed. In any case, I can't ride this year (10 year old niece to entertain this weekend!) but last year's ride was a blast.

Details from the indefatigable Dave "Paco" Abraham:

When: November 8th, 2009, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Verandah Place at Cobble Hill Park
Cost: FREE, simply rsvp to
Space is limited to 50 riders maximum. Preference will be given to those who register ahead of time, as well as Cobble Hill Association members.

The Cobble Hill Association and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative are hosting a 10-mile casual bike ride that will start at Cobble Hill Park and pass through Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, the Columbia Waterfront District, Red Hook, and Carroll Gardens then loop back to Cobble Hill.

There will be several scenic rest stops as we ride along mostly calm streets with some light vehicular traffic. Several Bike Marshals will travel alongside as well as a mechanic for any urgent bike repairs needed. It may be chilly so please dress accordingly, and know that riders should bring helmets and observe all the proper rules of the road.

Jon Stewart Does Glenn Beck - Hilarity Ensues

Mother of god, this deserves an Emmy. H/T Atrios and a billion other internets.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tonight: CGNA Meeting featuring District 39 City Council Candidate Forum

CGNA October General Meeting TONIGHT!

Monday, Oct. 19, 2009

7:00 PM- 9:00PM

Hannah Senesh Community Day School

Gym, first floor

342 Smith St.


Report from 76th precinct

Updates from our local elected officials

CGNA Committee Notes

Guest Speakers:

City Council Candidates Brad Lander (D), Joe Nardiello (R), Dave Pechefsky (G)

Please join us. Everyone is welcome!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saturday: Cobble Hill Book Swap

The Cobble Hill Association is sponsoring a free Book Swap on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at the Long Island College Hospital (LICH) Sitting Park located at Henry and Pacific Streets in Cobble Hill, from 11 AM until 3 PM.

The idea for the Book Swap is simple: bring a book and get a book. LICH staff members will also be on hand to meet the community and will conduct free blood pressure screening and an asthma information table at the park. Books will also be available for sale at $1 or less. All proceeds and remainder books will be donated to the Hospital by the Cobble Hill Association.

This low-key, neighborly event is the perfect time to meet neighbors and support our local hospital, too. In case of rain, the Book Swap will be held at the same time and place the following Saturday, October 24th.

To check on rain status that day contact:
To volunteer, please contact Margaret Ablon or Judi Francis at 718.855.3982


Back to Blogging

Now that the campaign is over and I've had a few weeks to ease back into a regular life again, I'll be updating the blog more frequently again. So much going on in our little corner of Brooklyn - plus the citywide elections coming up. It's good to be back.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Lights - American Can Factory

Events have conspired to keep me from Rooftop Films' wonderful events this season - but no longer. Tonight I am looking forward to taking in some audio-visual entertainment on 3rd Avenue:

David Lowery’s debut feature is a pre-teen Badlands, a lush and visceral young American drifter tragedy. Astonishing imagery, evocative soundscapes, heartbreakingly smart and subtle performances, and a story that reveals layer after layer of complexity form a masterpiece of introspection and exploration.

Venue: On the roof of the Old American Can Factory Address: 232 3rd St. @ 3rd Ave. (Gowanus/ Park Slope, Brooklyn) Directions: F/G to Carroll St. or M/R to Union Ave.
Rain: In the event of rain the show will be held indoors at the same location
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Live music by Cameron Hull presented by Sound Fix Records
9:00PM: Film
11:00PM–12:30AM: Reception in courtyard including free sangria courtesy of Carlo Rossi sangria
Tickets: $9-$25 at the door or online

Presented in partnership with: Cinereach, New York magazine, & XØ Projects

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mayor Endorses Gary Reilly's Proposal for F Express / V To Brooklyn

Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg announced a number of proposals for improving transit service (which I'll get into in more detail later).

The headline for the city-wide media is the proposal for free cross-town bus service in Manhattan (a good idea). But the big news for Brooklynites is the Mayor's belated support for enhanced F/V service on the Culver Line in Brooklyn, which I and other transit advocates have been calling for for years. From the Brooklyn Paper,
“Closer to Downtown, you’re talking about a couple of minutes. As you get farther out towards Coney Island you’re talking about potentially saving 20 minutes — that’s huge. But it’s also about the possible alleviation of crowding everywhere,” said Gary Reilly, a Democratic candidate for City Council in Carroll Gardens, who has advocated for years on behalf of the F line. “We need this and we deserve it. It’s a low–hanging piece of fruit.”

Back in 2007, over 4,300 people signed on to my petition to restore F Express service and extend the V line out to Brooklyn. Ben from Second Avenue Sagas, Jen from KensingtonBrooklyn and I have kept the pressure on the MTA and elected officials over the years to ensure that Brooklyn gets these despeerately needed transit improvements when the Culver Viaduct reconstruction is complete - and we led the fight to ensure that the Viaduct reconstruction would include the necessary track and signal work to accommodate express service.

In the summer of 2007, I held a press conference at the Church Avenue F station with Councilmen Bill deBlasio, Simcha Felder and Domenic Recchia, along with Paul Steely White from Transportation Alternatives and Gene Russianoff from the Straphanger's Campaign to demand enhanced F/V service fro Brooklyn.

In these difficult times we need to make the most of our transit infrastructure. The restoration of express/local service on the F/V to Brooklyn is a relatively cheap and efficient way to not only improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of Brooklynites, but also to aid in the revitalization of Coney Island and South Brooklyn.

Brooklyn deserves enhanced F/V service. And our time is coming.

All posts on the F/V Petition

The battle for better transit service is what inspired me to run for City Council - if you care about improving the state of our transit system, visit my campaign website at Our team is growing every day, and you too can help to make our city a better place to live.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ravitch Named Lt. Governor

What in the name of all that's holy . . . finally some good news out of Albany!!

Governor Paterson has named Richard Ravitch, of late renown as the head of the Ravitch Commission (whose suggestions were largely stymied by the Fare Hike Four, resulting in last month's fare hike and continuing the MTA crisis at a lower boil)

If Paterson can break the logjam in the Senate with this appointment (and a terrific choice, by the way) he deserves some praise. Gatemouth likes this appointment as much as I do . . . while paying a - I'm not sure backhanded compliment is the right term, but I'm not coming up with a better descriptor - to Governor Paterson for the effort.

Now if Ravitch can get a second bite at the apple with the MTA funding situation (bridge tolls et al) we might have some hope yet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Carroll Gardens Downzoning: CB6 Thursday

From Tom Gray of Councilman Bill deBlasio's office, a reminder to turn out in support of the long-awaited Carroll Gardens downzoning at the CB6 Land Use Committee meeting on Thursday night. The rezoning will protect the community from out of scale new development and preserve the character of Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Waterfront District.

Jun 25 Landmarks/Land Use Committee Meeting
PUBLIC HEARING on Carroll Gardens/Columbia Street Contextual Rezoning plan (ULURP No. C 090462 ZMK)
Discussion and formulation of a recommendation on an application submitted by the Department of City Planning (ULURP No. C 090462 ZMK) to contextually rezone Carroll Gardens and a significant portion of the Columbia Street District neighborhoods to protect the existing built form environments.

Long Island College Hospital
339 Hicks Street
Brooklyn NY 11201

6:00 PM

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rooftop Films In Gowanus This Weekend

Sounds like fun - I love the rooftop theme to this series:

June 27th
Voices from El-Sayed:

In this smart and charming documentary, the world’s largest community of
deaf people is suddenly given a gift that threatens to disrupt local

Venue: On the roof of the Old American Can Factory
Address: 232 3RD St. @ 3rd Ave. (Gowanus/ Park Slope, Brooklyn)
Directions: F/G to Carroll St. or M/R to Union Ave.
Rain: In the event of rain the show will be held indoors at the same location
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Live music presented by Sound Fix Records
9:00PM: Films
11:00PM–12:30AM: Reception in courtyard including free sangria courtesy of
Carlo Rossi
Tickets: $9-$25 at the door or online

Presented in partnership with: Cinereach, The Israeli Cultural Consulate,
New York magazine & XØ Projects
BUY TICKETS:;Rooftop_Films_Voices_from_El-Sayed

No refunds. In the event of rain, the show will be indoors at the same
locations. Seating is first come, first served. Physical seats are
limited. This means you may not get a chair. You are welcome to bring a
blanket and picnic.

Overflow Magazine - Primary Education

Overflow Magazine interviewed the 5 candidates for City Council District 39 including yours truly. It's a fun read and includes pictures of all the candidates in our native habitats.

Flash, so I can't cut and paste . . . but copies are available for free at participating local establishments. Lots of other good stuff in there too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bloomberg Campaign Ties To Jailhouse Bar Mitzvah Rabbi?

New York politics can be fascinating stuff.
The rabbi[Leib Glanz] at the center of an investigation into a bar mitzvah that was held at a New York City jail last year had three scheduled meetings in the last four months of 2008 with Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, the man in charge of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s political operation, records show.
The sordid details of the jail as Orthodox party hall made for some great tabloid fodder.

But to truly appreciate the story you must read this Gatemouth piece on Rabbi Glanz over at Room 8.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rutgers Law Professor and Preservationist John Payne, RIP

I had the privilege of working as a research assistant for Professor Payne while I was in law school at Rutgers. Nominally he was my torts professor (and later my Land Use prof) but he was also the premiere scholar on the Mount Laurel affordable housing cases. I spent months poring over court records and exhibits spanning four decades to provide background for a book on these groundbreaking affordable housing decisions.
John M. Payne, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers School of Law – Newark and key participant in the Mt. Laurel cases, died Wednesday of brain cancer at Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, NY. He was 67 years old. Services are private. A memorial service will be held at the law school in the fall.
. . . .
Payne was also a driving force for historic preservation in New Jersey and critical to protecting the work and legacy of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a former president of the national Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and former director of Preservation New Jersey, the New Jersey partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As an academic, Payne wrote and lectured extensively. In addition to his Mt. Laurel writing and articles on housing and historic preservation issues, he co-edited one of the most highly respected and widely-used casebooks on land development and land law use (Planning and Control of Land Development, 7th ed., 2008, with Daniel Mandelker et al.).

Prof. Payne cared deeply about the struggle to provide quality affordable housing fairly, as well as about historic preservation. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to know and learn from him. He will be missed.

Squadron Seeks MTA Review of F Line: What About F/V Service?

The Brooklyn Paper ran a story yesterday on Senator Squadron's request that MTA review service on the Culver Line (aka the F train in Brooklyn).

Ben over at Second Avenue Sagas lays out some alternatives for improving service along the line, including the enhanced F/V service that we have been advocating for years now.
Right now, the Culver Line isn’t close to being at capacity. It could easily support the V train running out to Church at rush hour, and as one person commenting on Gersh’s article notes, the MTA could probably even run the V along the A/C through Lower Manhattan to pick up Wall St. commuters bypassed by the F. In one felt swoop, the MTA would make travel easier while alleviating congestion on the Culver line through Brooklyn.
The second solution — an observation — is a call for those people impacted by this service to just wait. On July 5, the MTA will extend G train service south to Church Ave. While not ideal, those who cannot get on the F train due to congestion can ride the G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn and transfer to the A or C. It’s not nearly as convenient as extending the V, but it may serve the same function.

There is a lively discussion in the SAS comments, check it out.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whither the State Senate?

Things just get curiouser and curiouser.
“We have access, we have keys, and we’re going to open the door to do our business,” Mr. Espada said early Wednesday.

But that never happened. Mr. Monserrate’s talks with lawmakers on both sides of the leadership fight held up a planned 3 p.m. session, and he ultimately asked Mr. Espada and Republicans to delay the reopening of the Senate for a day while he continued to talk to Democrats; he said he wanted “to continue the discussions” with other Democrats “that I believe will build our coalition.”
. . . .
Mr. Espada’s former Democratic colleagues spent much of the day mulling over their leadership. Democrats met privately Wednesday morning for about 40 minutes in their conference room on the third floor of the Capitol. When they emerged, few were willing to express any confidence that Mr. Smith would be able to hang onto his job.

Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, the Democrats’ deputy leader and a sometime rival of Mr. Smith’s, said, “I can’t speculate on that,” adding, “We live day to day.”

Pedro Espada is done for politically.

So is Malcolm Smith.

This little coup may yet turn out to be the best thing that ever happened in the NY Senate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Defector Espada Failed To get $2MM In Earmarks For Related Entities

Via the NYT CityRoom blog.
State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. requested more than $2 million dollars in Senate earmarks this year for two groups with links to the health care organization that he founded and which appeared to have been created in part to receive such grants, according to several Democratic officials and aides with knowledge of the requests.
. . . .
When Senate officials expressed reservations about the grants to Mr. Espada’s staff, aides to the senator asked to resubmit the grants with a new address for both organizations: 742 East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. Several weeks later, as Senate officials continued to balk, Mr. Espada finally asked that all the money be earmarked for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, an existing and well-established organization.

The GOP can have these two sleazy pols. It is clearly where they belong.

UPDATE: Speaking of where they belong, I almost forgot that Pedro Espada doesn't even live in his district in the Bronx . . . he lives in Westchester! Espada is a fraud and a crook.

Ground Broken for New NJ-NY Rail Tunnel

Apparently, this is the biggest transit infrastructure project in the country. And long overdue.

Two Members Of "Fare Hike Four" Reveal True Colors

Indicted domestic abuse suspect Hiram Monserrate (Queens) and campaign finance train wreck Pedro Espada (Bronx), two grasping, power-hungry nominal Democrats just went full-dirtbag and joined the Senate Republicans in an attempted coup.

It remains to be see how this mess will sort out, but one thing is certain: progressive Democrats need to unite to ensure these two treacherous, self-serving walking scandals never see another term in elected office.

Friday, June 5, 2009

No Wonder Brooklyn Museum Needs Money

In 2005 their former payroll manager stole $620K, according to the Post.

The first thing I thought of was this article from the Brooklyn Paper on the financial troubles at the museum. City budget cutbacks have certainly impacted the museum - but better oversight of their finances would help.

I thought that was the end of the story for now. But this bit from the Daily Intel is priceless:
He faced 20 years in prison. Donna was probably pretty pissed about that. But she scraped together the $600,000 bond to make sure he could come home to his kids. Then, yesterday, after his first hearing, they exited the courtroom together. As they walked into the courthouse lobby, Dwight broke into a sprint, running down the building’s steps and careening down the sidewalk, away. Donna probably wondered why she had so easily abandoned her detective skills.

The Daily News has an action shot of the great escape.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Free Brooklyn to Governors Island Ferry

Eh, guv'nah?

Senator Squadron's office writes that after giving Brooklyn the cold shoulder last summer, GIPEC will finally provide free ferry service from Brooklyn to Governor's Island . . . starting this Saturday! Full release below:
I am writing to share some exciting news- this summer there will finally be free ferry service between Brooklyn and Governor's Island!

This ferry is something that Senator Squadron has long requested to better connect the Brooklyn Waterfront with the rest of New York Harbor, and we hope that you will be able to celebrate with him at the ferry's innaugural launch this Saturday, June 6 at 11:00 am, at Fulton Ferry Landing.

The ferry will leave Fulton Ferry Landing every hour, every Saturday when there is programming scheduled for Governor's Island. [UPDATE - The ferry will not continue to Battery Park as originally stated]. Please visit for a full schedule...

...and please join Senator Squadron and other community members to celebrate the first launch this Saturday at 11:00!

Hope to see you then.

Great news. Thank you, Senator and staff.

Massive Mortgage Fraud In Queens: NYC Media Ignore It

Back in 2007, I wrote three posts on an unbelievably sleazy criminal, one Thomas Kontogiannis.

I contacted the news rooms at several local papers, including the Times, the Daily News, the Post, and a paper or two in Queens. Nothing but crickets in response. This is no boring story: Tommy K is now in prison for bribing California GOP Congressman Duke Cunningham. This was HUGE news on the West Coast - but not a single column inch of coverage here in NYC. Why?

Via Talking Points Memo, Reuters has a story up on Kontogiannis's $92 million dollar mortgage fraud. Maybe this contributed to Queens foreclosure rates dwarfing those of every other borough.
Real estate developer Thomas Kontogiannis, 60, and eight other defendants are accused of orchestrating fraudulent loans that were subsequently sold to the financial firms.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI said the scheme was centered around property developments that Kontogiannis bought and subdivided from 2001 to 2003 in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

To finance the projects, the defendants are accused of staging sales of the properties financed by mortgage loans. Bogus appraisals supported the price of the properties, even where buildings had not yet been constructed or had fictional addresses, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, which is prosecuting the case.

The Daily News failed to cover any aspect of this story, except for this mention in an article about tax delinquents:
Federal prosecutors who indicted Long Island financier Thomas Kontogiannis for laundering bribes to California Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham tied him to at least 22 companies including Westshore 480 Development, which, the city says, owes $751,708 in taxes on a waterfront property in Brooklyn.
A lawyer for Kontogiannis denied his client owned Westshore 480 or owed money for its property taxes. "He has no ownership and no liability," lawyer Robert Wolf said. "It would not be accurate to report that he does."

Apparently this guy was also involved in some shady business with spy agencies. All the more reason local papers should take an interest in an investigative story - but so far, no takers. What gives?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Andrew Ross Sorkin: Out Of Touch

After reading about NYT's columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin's anti-union comments on MSNBC's Morning Joe, I wonder if this guy ever worked a single day in any sort of blue collar job. I'm betting "no".

This is not Sorkin's first bout of anti-labor ignorance. Last fall he gave wide dissemination to the (false) stories of $70/hour auto workers.

It is amazing to me the extent to which the right has managed to demagogue labor in this country over the last 30 years. And the extent to which our establishment media, which spreads these myths, is still somehow regarded as liberal.

By the way, the New York Times lost approximately $58 million last year and $74 million in Q1 2009 . . . Surely the fault lies with the Times's union employees, at least in the eyes of people like Sorkin.

Cold Ironing: Reduce Port Emissions In NY Harbor

The Brooklyn Paper has an article on a setback in a Red Hook blogger's quest to reduce port emissions through "cold ironing". Cold ironing means that a ship turns off its diesel engines at port, instead plugging in to the electrical grid to reduce emissions. From the brooklyn paper article:
The missing piece, the Port Authority and city claimed, was discounted electricity from Con Edison, because the standard rate for the juice is too high to justify turning off the diesel engines in favor of plugging in.

But the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, nixed the so-called “shore power” idea on jurisdictional grounds in April, telling the Port Authority and the city to negotiate instead with the New York Power Authority, the port agency’s main supplier of electricity.

If I read the article correctly, there is still hope. It's a matter of working with the Power Authority to make this happen. It looks like the City and Port Authority were barking up the wrong tree - but this isn't over yet. Reducing the emissions from these ships should be a top priority.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Red Hook School Closings - Flu?

From Craig Hammerman at CB6:

Please be advised that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene just relayed this announcement regarding 2 local school closures in Red Hook effective tomorrow...

June 2, 2009 - Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that the City Health Department has recommended closing two more schools - P.S. 15, which is co-located with the PAVE Academy Charter School in Red Hook, Brooklyn - after documenting an unusually high amount of influenza-like illness over a number of days. The schools will be closed as of Wednesday, June 3. The schools will reopen on Monday, June 8.

The details for the schools are:

P.S. 15 (The Patrick F. Daly School, 377 students) in Red Hook Brooklyn, which is co-located with the PAVE Academy Charter School (86 students). A total of 20 students were documented with influenza-like illness on Monday and Tuesday.

Click here for more information (pdf warning!)

Carroll Gardens Downzoning Process Under Way

City Planning gave us a wonderful preview presentation; now they issued a press release announcing the start of the public review period for the downzoning of Carroll gardens and Columbia Waterfront. Brownstoner has the entire press release posted. A snippet:
Initiated in response to community requests and developed in close consultation with Community Board 6, local community groups and Council Member de Blasio, the rezoning was crafted block by block to:

 Preserve the row house character of over 80% of the study area by introducing a contextual zoning district (R6B) with height limits of 50 feet. R6B would be mapped on predominately residential east-west side streets as well as the north-south streets of Smith, Hoyt, Bond and Hicks Streets and portions of Henry, Clinton and Columbia Streets.
 Match new zoning to preserve the established built character by mapping contextual zoning designations (R6A and R7A; height limits of 70 feet and 80 feet, respectively). Along the mixed-use corridors of Court and Columbia Streets as well as other more densely built blocks, R6A zoning would more accurately match the existing built context. On Tiffany Place between Kane and Degraw Streets where existing 7-story manufacturing buildings have been converted to residential use, the proposed R7A would better match the built character.
 Promote vibrant, mixed-use corridors on certain local commercial thoroughfares. C2-4 overlays
would be mapped to promote an expanded group of ground-floor commercial uses at specific locations along Smith, Henry and Hicks Street where commercial uses already exist, but where no commercial zoning is present to permit new or expanding businesses.
 Reduce the depths of commercial districts to reflect existing development patterns and preclude commercial intrusions into residential side streets. In certain locations where no commercial uses currently exist and where such uses would be inappropriate with existing land use patterns, commercial overlays would be removed.
All in all, a great proposal. And it wouldn't have been possible without the tireless work of CGNA and others, especially John Hatheway and Glenn Kelly.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brooklyn Greenway Benefit June 18th

The Brooklyn Greenway is having their annual gala event on June 18th, and Mia and I are looking forward to it. lats year was a lot of fun, and this year it will be even better with great views from Erie Basin Park. Tickets are $60, which benefits a terrific cause, and includes beer and wine as well as a "Swedish Smorgasbord".

Rallying Cry For Transit Advocates

What Ben said.

When the MTA had to turn, cap in hand, to Albany this year, politicians trotted out the old tired tropes in an effort to portray the MTA as a less than scrupulous organization. Some claimed the MTA keeps two sets of books, a charge found to be untrue in a court of law. Others called the agency heads “untrustworthy and corrupt,” as Sander puts it an Op-Ed in The Times today. In the end, the MTA, a transit agency entrusted with making the trains on time, were no match for a bunch of politicians whose specialties all seem to be making themselves look good even when approving poorly-constructed funding fixes.

The politicians are the problem - not the MTA. The MTA has been used as a scapegoat for politicians in Albany, aided and abetted by years of journalistic malpractice. We need to elect people to office that understand the importance of transit, and that the root of our current problems lies not at the MTA, but in Albany. That's one reason I am running for office myself.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fare Hikes & Service Cuts

Lest anyone think the MTA funding crisis is over, it is not. Many of our elected officials are patting each other on the back for averting a full scale meltdown, but the can has just been kicked down the road. And while the fare hike is not as dramatic as feared, fares are going up more than 10% next month, with projected increases every year.

We're keeping our buses - for now. But we still do not have a funded 5 year capital plan. And now we learn that many station agents, who provide a human presence in the system, will be cut. Comptroller Thompson's office has a handy tool you can use to see how your local station will be affected.

As an example, the Carroll Street station is set to lose 1 part time station agent from the cuts. No station agent means no one to release the gate when you need to get a package or stroller through. No one to answer questions about service outages or directions. No one with a line to call for aid or report suspicious/criminal activity. I'm a believer in adding cameras to the subways for security, and in adding computer based train controls to improve efficiency. But station agents provide a valuable human element to the system that is hard to quantify, but improves the safety, accessibility and convenience of the subway system. These cuts are penny wise and pound foolish, but they are being forced by the same Assembly and Senate members who failed to pass a real transit funding bill this year.

It has become fashionable to blame the MTA for all manner of shortcomings - but the fault lies in Albany. Only your elected officials can fix the problems our system faces. Demand it!

Cuts on the F line:

Proposed Changes to Service on the F
Station Changes on the F
2nd Ave / Lower East Side One full-time agent eliminated
W 4th St (B,D,F,V) One full-time agent eliminated
23rd St (F,V) One full-time station booth eliminated
East Broadway (F) One part-time agent eliminated
169th St (F) One part-time agent eliminated
Carroll St (F,G) One part-time agent eliminated
Jay St / Borough Hall (A,C,F) One part-time agent eliminated
Bergen St (F,G) One part-time agent eliminated
Essex St / Delancey St (F,J,M,Z) One part-time agent eliminated
179th St / Jamaica (F) One part-time agent eliminated
Coney Island / Stillwell Ave (D,F,N,Q) One part-time agent eliminated
34th St / Herald Sq (B,D,F,N,Q,R,V,W) Three part-time agents eliminated
47th-50th Sts / Rockefeller Center (B,D,F,V) Two part-time agents eliminated
Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Ave (E,F,G,R,V) Two part-time agents eliminated
42nd St / Bryant Park (B,D,F,V) Two part-time agents eliminated

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

City Council Candidate Debate Tonight

IND and CBID are co-hosting a panel of candidates for the 39th Council District tonight at Church of Gethsemane in Park Slope.

This blogger, also known as Gary Reilly, will be among the candidates. Come check it out!

May 19, 2009 - 7 pm
Church of Gethsemane
1012 8th Ave (at 10th St)
Park Slope

F Train to 7th Ave. Front of Coney Island bound train exits to 8th Avenue, rear of Manhattan bound train exits to 8th Ave.

It's My Park Day: Carroll Park

I've been down for a few days with a bug. Swine flu? Captain Trips? SARS? In any case, it beat me down quick but I'm back on my feet as of today.

But before I was floored by that malignant pathogen, on Saturday Mia and I spent a few hours helping to spruce up Carroll Park with the Committee to Improve Carroll Park and other volunteers. I posted a few iphone photos online in a public album. Check them out here.

Thanks to Glenn, Katia, Sara et al, as well as NYC Parks Department for organizing this and giving us an opportunity to help out.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Local Groups Organizing To Support Canal Cleanup

Signs are sprouting up in the neighborhood and now there is a website as well, calling on the EPA, local officials and residents to support the Superfund designation of the Gowanus Canal.

As I've stated before: either the canal qualifies or it doesn't. If it does, we can't pretend that it doesn't and try to shove the genie back in the bottle. Like it or not (and there certainly has been some organized opposition to designation) the state DEC completely changed the equation when they requested Superfund designation for the canal. We need to listen to what the scientific experts have to say and then clean up the canal to the fullest extent possible. From what I've heard, bringing in the EPA is the most effective way to make this happen.

I am hopeful that this administration will put federal dollars into cleaning up polluted sites as a stimulus measure and as good environmental policy. $600 million has already been committed to the Superfund, and I will wager there is more to come.

Whatever happens, cleaning up the canal is long past due. In addition to remediating the site, we need to make some serious investments in sewer infrastructure to eliminate the CSO issue going forward. New York is an old city, and much of our sewer infrastructure predates modern standards (like separate sanitary and storm sewers). It's past time that the Federal government committed additional resources to upgrading these antiquated sewers that dump raw feces into our waterways every time it rains.

The EPA has been giving NYC DEP a pass on CSO discharges under a consent decree established several years ago. It's time to stop giving us a pass and give us the resources to clean up our waste. The good news is, the Obama administration actually believes in governing, providing basic services, and cleaning up the environment . . . so fixing our sewage problem is a distinct possibility.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gowanus Grind Saturday 12:00 - 4:00pm

It should be a beautiful day . . . sounds like a nice way to unwind after the CORD/SoBNA "Dazzle Me" Forum at the Brooklyn Library branch at Union and Clinton Streets. All of the Democratic candidates for the 39th Council District (including yours truly) plus the Green candidate will be there. The Forum starts at 10:30.

The Gowanus Grind, a completely separate event, is sponsored by Friends of Douglass Greene Park.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CHA Happy Hour Wednesday 4/22

From the inbox: CHA Launches Cobble Hill Neighborhood Happy Hour

The CHA is not just about politics. We are also trying to build community and draw young people and new arrivlas into the mix. With those goals in mind, we are launching a new monthly series of bar nights called the Cobble Hill Neighborhood Happy Hour. We hope you will come out and help us launch this new initiative by having a drink with your neighbors. Who are they? Now you can find out.

WHAT: The first-ever CH Neighborhood Happy Hour
WHEN: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 6 to 9 p.m.
WHERE: Last Exit, 136 Atlantic Avenue

Come on over and meet your neighbors! Cobble Hill residents get $4 pints and well drinks, and buckets of Miller High Life for $15.

Sounds like fun. I will try to squeeze in an early appearance before a meeting.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rooftop Films, Comedy In Gowanus 4/23

I get some interesting PR pieces from time to time . . . this one shouts out for attention. The people behind Rooftop Films (and what a great idea - taking a page from the Beatles) are also promoting a comedy show in the Gowanus next Thursday 4/23. Sadly for me, I've already got two campaign related events that night - but hopefully some of you can check it out and report back. I do love live comedy.

Thursday, April 23rd
Rooftop Films presents
Industrial Strength Comedy
Live performances by Wyatt Cenac (pictured), Sean Patton, Mitch Magee, Becky Yamamoto, and Claudia Cogan, along with hilarious short films

*Venue: Indoors at The Øld American Can Factory
*Address: 232 3rd Street, at 3rd Avenue in Gowanus (near Park Slope)
*Directions: F/G to Carroll or the R to Union. More directions HERE
*8:00: Doors open
*8:30: Live comedy and Short Films
*Admission: $6


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gowanus Superfund Meeting Last Night

Found In Brooklyn has a useful summary of last night's festivities for those who could not make it.

Kensington Man Writes Novel On F Train

At least one person has benefitted from a lack of F Express service: Peter V. Brett of Kensington, Brooklyn, has used his commute on the F train to write a 400 page novel.

The Warded Man, a fantasy epic featuring humans battling demons, is Brett's first novel.

What's really bizarre is that I tore this article out of the AM-NY April 8, 2009 issue . . . and it's nowhere to be found on their website. I wanted to link to the article, but where the hell is it? UPDATE: Article is HERE. (Thanks Scott!)

Anyway, the article quotes Brett saying, "It's really sad to say my muse lives on the F train, but it may come to that." Brett, you've got 4-5 more years before we can bring back the express service, but don't worry - you can always take the local.

Monday, April 13, 2009

At Last: Broadway Lafayette B/D/F/V Connection to Uptown 6 Under Construction

Second Avenue Sagas blogged about this nearly two years ago and I linked to the story back then (as well as lifting this rendering just now). This would be a major improvement for Brooklynites bound for the East Side.

This may not be on MTA Capital Construction's Major Projects list, but projects like this have a tremendous improvement on quality of life . . . a few minutes a day for hundreds or thousands of people adds up to a lot more happiness in the world.

The thrust of the Daily News article today is on the temporary inconvenience to area merchants, but that shouldn't overshadow the ongoing benefit the riders will see from this connection.

Obama To Detail High Speed Rail plans This Week

Via Atrios, ABC News reports:
This week, Obama will unveil his vision for high-speed rail in the United States after unexpectedly adding $8 billion to the economic stimulus package for high-speed train travel -- the biggest commitment of its kind ever made by the federal government.

America is miles behind. In Japan, the bullet train can wisk passengers from one city to the next at nearly 200 miles an hour. It's the same on France's TGV train, where passengers can get from Paris to Lyon in a little less than two hours. A dozen countries around the world enjoy high-speed rail, but America is not one of them.

I'm excited about the prospects. Anyone who's used high speed rail in Europe or Asia can attest, it would be a tremendous boon to short and medium haul intercity travel. Clearly you're not going to hop a supertrain for a regular bicoastal commute, but by stringing together regional high-speed networks we could significantly reduce air and auto traffic and improve air quality . . . while making these trips more pleasant.

Gowanus Superfund: Toll Brothers Lobbying Hard

Toll Brothers has hired the Geto/Demilly PR firm to campaign against the possible Superfund designation of the Gowanus Canal.

Something to consider when you are reading (or writing!) press reports.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Carroll Gardens Gays Get A Nightlife (on Mondays)

I somehow missed this article in the New York Times last week on a new Monday night gay/lesbian themed party at South Brooklyn Pizza (just south of PJ Hanley's on Court at 4th Place).

With the upcoming drastic MTA fare hikes and service cuts, this could help the local gay community save a few bucks and some aggravation commuting into Manhattan (yes, I can and will link any topic to transit).

Julio Vincent Gambuto, neighborhood resident quoted in the article forwarded the story to my attention and added: "The "Fondle" gay night has been going for a few weeks now and is a great addition to the neighborhood...especially for the gay Italians in this old-meets-new slice of Brooklyn."

According to the Times, Gambuto is also "the star of 'Julie From Staten Island,' a one-man Off Broadway show about being gay in a traditional Italian-American community." Next show is Saturday, April 25th.

The Brooklyn Paper has an article up on potential police scrutiny for this new event, but also a couple of quotes from locals:
“It doesn’t bother me, “ said Omar Stewart, who lives in the neighborhood. “I like to think of myself as a progressive.”

Others shared that liberal idea.

“To each his own,” said Michael Rosario, who works next door to the restaurant.

Gowanus Canal Superfund Hearing

Below are the details for an informational meeting regarding the nomination of the Gowanus Canal for Superfund designation:

Congresswomen Nydia M. Velázquez and Yvette Clarke invite you to a

A Public Information Forum with US EPA

Regarding the Gowanus Canal Nomination for Superfund

Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 PM
PS 32 Auditorium 317 Hoyt Street
(between Union & President Streets)

Bring Your Questions!

EPA personnel will be on hand to explain the Superfund program and nomination process.

Oh, I predict a packed house for this one.
(Photo of Canal from Wikipedia)

Gowanus Canal: Superfund Site?

This still needs some digesting. First heard rumors on this last Thursday, but without any substantive detail. Below is the press release issued by EPA, in full (emphasis added):

Press Release

Region 2 - New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn Proposed for EPA Superfund List

Contact: Beth Totman (212) 637-3662,

(New York, N.Y.—Apr. 8, 2009) – Thanks to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to add Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal to the Agency’s Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), the waterway will once again become an asset to local residents. The proposed listing would allow the Agency to further investigate contamination at the site and develop an approach to address this contamination. The Gowanus Canal is severely impacted by contaminated sediments as a result of its history hosting heavy industry. EPA is asking for public input on its proposal to list the Gowanus Canal.

“By proposing to list the Gowanus Canal, EPA can ensure that a thorough investigation into the source and extent of the contamination can take place,” said Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “The sooner we get the listing underway, the sooner EPA can begin its work, so that one day the Gowanus Canal can be used again to benefit the people of Brooklyn.”

The 100-foot wide canal extends about 1.8 miles from Butler Street to Gowanus Bay in Brooklyn, New York. The adjacent waterfront is primarily commercial and industrial, and consists of concrete plants, warehouses, and parking lots, with proposed residential use. The canal is also surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The waterway is used for commercial as well as recreational purposes, and a public fishing area just downstream of the canal in Gowanus Bay is fished daily. [Ed. Note: Really? I'll have the chicken, thanks.]
The canal was built in the 19th century to allow industrial access into Gowanus Bay. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal became a busy industrial waterway, acting as the home to heavy industries, including manufactured gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, chemical plants, and oil refineries. It was also the repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff.

Although most of the industrial activity along the canal has stopped, high contaminant levels remain in the sediments. The extent of the contamination traverses the length of the canal. Sampling has shown the sediments in the Gowanus Canal to be contaminated with a variety of pollutants, including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and volatile organic contaminants (VOCs), and significant contamination associated with coal tar.

With the proposal of this site to the NPL, a 60-day comment period will begin during which EPA solicits public input regarding this action. For instructions to submit comments go to or contact Dennis Munhall, Region 2 NPL Coordinator at (212) 637-4343 or Once the site is placed on the NPL, EPA will expand its investigations to further define the nature and extent of contamination.

To date, there have been 1,596 sites listed on the NPL. Of these sites, 332 have been deleted resulted in 1,264 sites currently on the NPL. There are now 67 proposed sites awaiting final agency action. There are a total of 1,332 final and proposed sites around the country.

To find out more about the NPL Site Listing Process, visit: For a Google Earth aerial view of the Gowanus Canal: (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

MTA Fare Hike, Service Cut Rollout Schedule

Second Avenue Sagas has the breakdown.

For anxious Carroll Gardens residents: Fare hike happens May 31st; the B75 sleeps with the fishes June 28 . . . . if the Senate Republicans and the Fare Hike Four (or six, or whatever it is today) don't knuckle down, face reality, and enact the Ravitch Commission Plan or similar.

I've said in other places, the Ravitch Plan could be tweaked slightly by applying the payroll tax to employees, rather than employers. Every economist will tell you, the employees will bear the cost either way . . . this does, however, eliminate the "anti-business!!1!" disingenuous rhetoric from opponents of the plan.

I understand many drivers do not want to pay tolls on the bridges. But the reality is we need the revenue from those tolls. And tolling the bridges will reduce traffic through our residential neighborhoods, giving us safer streets, by eliminating the perverse incentives for commuters to avoid tolled crossings like the Batrtery Tunnel in favor of "free" routes like the Brooklyn Bridge.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The big item on tonight's agenda is a forum for elected officials and their representatives to hear from you on the MTA funding crisis and Albany's inaction.

Date: Monday April 13, 2009
Time: 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: Hannah Senesh Community Day School, 342 Smith St

The Ravitch Commission set forth a clear roadmap, including bridge tolls, to avert the catastrophic fare hikes and service cuts that WILL take place if we don't act. But our elected officials need to hear our voices on this.

What do you think of $3 subway fares and drastic bus service cuts? Come to CGNA tonight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Robert Guskind Memorial Gathering: Saturday, April 4

From Phil DePaolo by way of CORD:
A memorial gathering to honor the memory of Robert Guskind will be held from 2 pm to 5 pm Saturday, April 4 at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 4th Avenue between Union and President Streets in Park Slope. Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblymember Joan Millman have sponsored a resolution to honor the life and work of Gowanus Lounge founder Bob Guskind.

I am pleased to announce that Resolution 1131 passed in both houses on Tuesday. The video shows Squadron speaking on the resolution. Among the quotes: “He took this new form of communication and really took it to a new level. He was able to take community concerns, describe them, and distill them, and distribute them in ways that never could’ve happened without him. We’re going to miss him sorely.”

Please RSVP if you can, since that helps with planning for refreshments. (There is an opportunity to sign up to speak.)

Please try to arrive around 2 pm. There will be an opportunity to get seats and get refreshments before the program starts. Also, the program will not last until 5 pm, so there will be an opportunity for those attending to talk informally.

If you’d like to make donations in Bob’s memory, four charities have been designated.

Thanks to the many people volunteering their time and donating goods and services. Thanks to Juventino Avila at Get Fresh Table and Market in Park Slope and Rafael Soler of the Red Hook Vendors for generously donating food. Thanks to Eric Richmond of the Brooklyn Lyceum for generously donating the space.

Gary here. Bob was an inspiration to me and many others, and he did a tremendous service to Brooklyn. His legacy deserved to be officially recognized - this was a classy move by Squadron and Millman.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New F Train Cars; MTA Testing 11 Car Trains

Second Avenue Sagas posts on the new subway cars on the F line:
Last week, New York City Transit rolled out some new rolling stock along the F line. Riders from Jamaica to Coney Island-Stillwell Ave. will now enjoy the clean, sterile comfort of the new R160s and the crisp announcements that come along with it.
I've ridden a couple of these new trains, and they are a vast improvement over the old ones.

Meanwhile, the Daily News reports that the MTA has tested an 11 car train configuration on the F line.
"We obviously neither have the capital nor operating funding to implement anything like this in the foreseeable future," NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said.
"We are just looking at feasibility for planning purposes," Roberts added.
My initial sense is that upgrading the signaling would be a better solution than undergoing construction to extend platforms at multiple stations as would be necessary to run an 11-car configuration. But I'm open to the possibilities if the numbers work out.

Brooklyn Greenway: Columbia Street Cleanup Saturday

Come out this Saturday for a fun way to give back to the community by cleaning up Columbia Street:

Saturday, April 4, 10:00-11:30am
Columbia Greenway Clean-Up
Lend a hand at BGI’s monthly cleanup along the new Columbia Street section of the greenway. These cleanups are held in cooperation with the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association, in order to keep the newest section of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway free of trash and other debris.

Tools, trash bags, work gloves provided, but please make sure to dress warmly!
Meet at BGI’s office, 145 Columbia Street between Kane and Degraw
(Ring BGI’s doorbell on left-hand side of residential entrance)
RSVP to Brian: bmccormick(at)

BGI is doing great work opening up the waterfront and inland communities to pedestrians and cyclists . . . putting a stretch of green through Brooklyn that makes safe public park space more accessible to all of Brooklyn. Join Mia and I on Saturday as we pitch in to help. This is my favorite type of community service.

Photo of Columbia Street stretch of the Greenway from Brownstoner.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Brooklyn Gets A Calatrava!?

And in Carroll Gardens no less.

While the Claret Group has been notoriously tightlipped about it's plans for the Collection on Court between Union and Sackett, word has leaked that the developer has decided to go all in on the property. Apparently banking that star power will pull in buyers even in this recessionary market, Claret has hired starchitect Santiago Calatrava to build a scale replica of the spire project that is currently under construction in Chicago. The new design will also come with a new moniker: InSpired by Court.

Calatrava himself has reportedly likened the project to the scaled down Statue of Liberty on the Seine River in Paris.

Happy April 1st!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Breakfast-of-Candidates (39th Edition): Gary Reilly

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn is running a series of profiles of candidates for local office, including yours truly. We had a good long chat about my background, the issues facing the district, and how I came to be a candidate for City Council. An excerpt:
Thousands of F-train commuters signed Gary's petition. Later he testified before the MTA Board and at City Council and State Assembly hearings on transportation issues.

As an advocate for public transportation, Gary found his issue and his voice. This powerful experience also cemented his belief that public transportation is an equalizer and an important engine of democracy. "It creates mobility which equals opportunity," Gary told me. It also ties in with environmental sustainability, another issue close to Gary's heart.

"Transportation policy dovetails with development policy, land use, how we view our streets, how we share our space and making the city safe for pedestrians and cyclists," he said. The F-Train petition experience also convinced Gary that he would one day run for office. But he didn't think it would happen quite so soon. It was when he realized that Bill deBlasio was at term limit that he decided to jump in. But not before asking his wife how she felt about it. "Let's do it," she said. And that was that.

I highly recommend reading the entire series as they are posted. I've also read her profile of Bob Zuckerman, and it is a refreshing to get a look at the candidates in their own words. I know I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reinventing America's Cities

Times architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has a good piece up on the importance of planning and a strong government role in modern day urban renaissance.
The problem in America is not a lack of ideas. It is a tendency to equate any large-scale government construction project, no matter how thoughtful, with the most brutal urban renewal tactics of the 1950s. One result has been that pioneering projects that skillfully blend basic infrastructure with broader urban needs like housing and park space are usually killed in their infancy. Another is that we now have an archaic and grotesquely wasteful federal system in which upkeep for roads, subways, housing, public parkland and our water supply are all handled separately.

With money now available to invest again in such basic needs, I’d like to look at four cities representing a range of urban challenges and some of the plans available to address them. Though none of the plans are ideal as they stand today (and some of them represent only the germ of an idea), evaluated and addressed together as part of a coordinated effort, they could begin to form a blueprint for making our cities more efficient, sustainable and livable.
The parts on the Bronx and Buffalo make for particularly good reading. The Pratt plan for eliminating the Sheridan Expressway and reopening the South Bronx waterfront is a stroke of genius. And when it comes to Buffalo, a high speed rail connector that ties Buffalo to NYC and other cities in the region (both in the US and Canada) would be a major boon.

Image above of Northeast High Speed Rail Network taken from The Transport Politic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vapor Intrusion Law: Food for Thought on Gowanus Residential Development

The Chair of CB6 was thoughtful enough to share this article from the New York Law Journal with the Community Board.

This is something to think long and hard about when contemplating the Gowanus rezoning and the appropriateness of concentrated residential development on these contaminated sites. An excerpt:
Vapor intrusion is a potentially harmful condition in which volatile chemicals in soil and groundwater emit fumes that enter buildings; such chemicals are often present at old industrial properties, or where a former industrial property has been redeveloped for commercial or residential use.

In the past, many state environmental regulators, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), had not included vapor intrusion as a consideration when granting closure for cleanup of contaminated properties because the general thought was that chemicals could stay in the ground under a building, as the foundation was a barrier preventing contact with those chemicals.

More recent evidence has shown this is not always the case, as some chemicals can penetrate foundations at levels that raise health and safety concerns for the occupants. However, NYSDEC and other state regulatory agencies granted hundreds of site closures without always accounting for the possibility of vapor intrusion exposures.

Over the past several years, NYSDEC and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) have been investigating the vapor intrusion issue, including reopening "closed" remediation cases and setting new standards for human exposure. Other states (e.g., California, New Jersey) are taking similar steps with respect to vapor intrusion.

Thus the concept of the new law clearly is a good one. However, NYSDEC, which is largely responsible for enforcement of the Tenant Notification Law, has to date offered no formal interpretive guidance on the applicability of the law or how it will be enforced. As discussed further below, there are numerous vague and undefined terms and ambiguous provisions in the statute that have created confusion and challenges for the regulated community members and their advisors.

The whole article is worth reading for those that don't mind getting into the weeds of a legal discussion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bus Rapid Transit and NYC

Tonight I attended the meeting of Auto-Free New York, which as you might imagine is a transit advocacy group. The focus of the meeting was a presentation on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) by Joan Byron of the Pratt Institute.

Byron started off with an in-depth introduction to the subject matter that focused on inequity in transit accessibility and commuting times across the city. The summary is that for a high percentage of poor and/or minority residents, commuting times often exceed an hour, whereas accessibility to white collar jobs and the homes of (largely) white people is far better.

The solution put forth by Pratt together with COMMUTE, is BRT. Byron pointed to BRT programs in Curitiba, Brazil and Bogota, Colombia as examples of BRT success, along with the "Select Bus Service" operated along the B12 line in the Bronx. The B12, however, is not a BRT system; rather it incorporates a few aspects of BRT service that are more suited to a New York environment. First, the B12 lets riders purchase tickets in advance and board from both doors on an "honor system" that is enforced with spot checks and summonses for farebeaters. Second, parts of the bus route are painted and enforced as bus only lanes. Third, technology on board the bus can make sure that the bus always gets a green light at intersections. prioritizing transit over individual vehicles.

Here's the rub: as Cap'n Transit has laid out in excruciating detail, THIS IS NOT BRT. It's also no replacement for rail transit, which while expensive, is the efficient core of a successful transit system.

I encourage Pratt and COMMUTE to focus their advocacy on driving the following improvements to the entire MTA Bus system: (1) off-board payment and dual door boarding, (2) signal prioritization for buses, and (3) bus lane enforcement cameras mounted on MTA buses. These are fairly cheap, readily implementable improvements to the existing bus system that would dramatically improve bus service, and bus utilization, throughout the city.

I would hate to lose sight of the goal of improving transit outcomes for poorly served areas by focusing on a concept (BRT) over results. We can make incredible service improvements to our bus system - and we don't need "BRT" to do so. Our bus system is an essential complement to our rail network that can and must be improved, dramatically. But to maintain a sustainable transit system that can serve the needs of a growing city, we will have to continue to expand our rail network.

Lastly, it is worth noting that one of the primary success stories held up as a BRT exemplar, Curitiba, is replacing it's BRT system with . . . subways!

I've got a lot more to say on this syubject, but I wanted to put something up while the meeting was still fresh in my mind. Good night!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Murder On 1st Place and Henry Street Yesterday (!)

This is highly disturbing. George Weber, a radio reporter and blogger (whom I've only just now learned about) was brutally murdered this weekend in his apartment on Henry at 1st Place. That is just over a block away from me.

Coverage in the Brooklyn Paper and the New York Post. From the Post:
Weber, who would have turned 48 today, was discovered half-naked in his bed shortly before 10 a.m. inside his apartment with his throat slashed and more than a dozen stab wounds to his neck.

His hands and feet were bound with duct tape, sources said.

There were no signs of forced entry at Weber's apartment on Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, sources said. The bathtub spigot was running and the place had been ransacked, said one source, who described the home as "a bloody mess."

Detectives were investigating the possibility he knew his attacker.

George's blog can be found here.

It's also a disturbing reminiscent of that stabbing murder on Carroll Street last year. Both victims were killed in their apartments, with stab wounds to the neck.

This is some seriously disturbing stuff.

Update: Coverage from Gothamist and The NY Daily News.

CBID's 40th Anniversary Dinner

Mia and I went to the dinner last night, which was well attended by politicians and candidates. The Daily Gotham's mole333 has a rundown of the evening's events . . . why reinvent the wheel? Click through for a lengthy description of the awards.

MTA Telethon: The Ghost of Transit Future?

Transportation Alternatives takes a look at what the future might hold if the Senate continues to fail spectacularly to address the MTA finance crisis. It ain't pretty!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Iconic Brooklyn Blogger Bob Guskind, RIP

Wow. I just read the news on Brownstoner that Bob Guskind, well known for his Gowanus Lounge blog and for his contributions to Curbed, has passed. OTBKB has a more detailed post on Bob's untimely passing. Katia also has a piece in memoriam.

This is truly a black day for Brooklyn. Bob's blogging was partly responsible for my own foray into blogging. I was inspired by his passion for Brooklyn's neighborhoods and his love of "iconic" structures that hearkened back to our industrial past.

I first met Bob at a CGNA meeting at Scotto's funeral home in 2007. He was an outsized, softspoken, friendly man with an output I could never hope to match.

We are all poorer for this loss. You'll be missed, Bob.

Jon Stewart Slams CNBC, Santelli

I do so love Jon Stewart. If there is any justice, the economic crisis would result in the utter destruction of CNBC and every single commentator on that execrable channel of disinformation would be exiled to Siberia. Enjoy! (via Dealbreaker)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tom Friedman: A Buffoon You Should Ignore

A lot of well-meaning people still put some stock in what Tom Friedman has to say. I tend to get frustrated trying to explain that while Friedman is occasionally right, and usually sounds quite reasonable, he has been disastrously wrong with an alarming frequency.

Most notably, Friedman has been wrong about essentially everything he has ever written about Iraq. This Vanity Fair piece lists a few other memorable Friedman gaffes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Toll Brothers City Council Hearing Tomorrow!

To the surprise and consternation of many, City Planning broke out the rubber stamp for the Toll Brothers requested re-zoning of their parcel on the Gowanus Canal. Part of the surprise is that City Planning approved Toll's plans on February 17th . . . while the first inkling members of the community got was from Pardon Me For Asking on February 28th. One more indignity in a process that has been flawed from the beginning.

The Toll Brothers site is being re-zoned, by itself, ahead of the broader Gowanus re-zoning that is currently being studied. Why?

One of the biggest selling points that Toll used in seeking approval for this re-zoning was the promise of affordable housing. It turns out that the affordable housing was a chimera; when CB6 went back to condition their (unfortunate) approval of Toll's plans to condition it upon required inclusion of affordable housing, Toll cried foul.

So now we have a major change of zoning for a parcel that was considered outside of the zoning process for the rest of the Gowanus region, which if approved will have zero requirements for affordable units.

A number of area residents will be at the City Council Zoning Committee Hearing tomorrow to urge the council to vote no to on this one-sided rezoning. Please join us if you can:
Public hearing on the Toll Brothers proposal located at 363-365
Bond Street
Where: City Hall, Committee Room (R to City Hall or A to Chambers St.)
When: March 4, 2009 9:30am

If you are unable to attend in person please send written testimony to and

Additional Information about the Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee

Monday, March 2, 2009

Meeting at 250 baltic on Street safety

UPDATE 3/3/09 - POSTPONED! I'll post the rescheduled details when available.

Kevin Duffy has been working hard for months on improving street safety on 9th Street, among other area streets. Thanks to his efforts Brooklyn DOT will be in the neighborhood tomorrow to hear from concerned residents. I'll be there and I hope you'll join us. From the mailbox:
An fyi, there is scheduled meeting tomorrow at CB6 offices at 250 Baltic Street at 4pm to discuss traffic conditions and safety proposals, including rerouting commercial truck routes.

Craig Hammerman, CB6 District manager and Joseph Palmieri, Brooklyn Borough DOT commissioner will attend. Consequently, this meeting will be important as effective representative leadership will be on hand.

I encourage anyone and everyone interested in participating in this strategy discussion to attend. It is informal and an important community issue. Thoughts and implemented ideas are likely to set the tone for other streets in our increasingly residential neighborhood.

Thank you all!

No Kevin, thank you!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009 Will Be A Tough Year for NYC Real Estate Market

First, a look at the national scene to set the stage: New Home Sales Hit A Record Low.

While prices have fallen precipitously in some bubble markets (e.g. Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego) NYC has held up relatively well. However, we are merely behind the curve here; as I've posted before NYC is subject to the same factors behind those declines.

A figurative crack in the dyke appeared in an article in the New York Times today:
Given the current sales drought, even a handful of auctions could reset prices for new condominiums citywide, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, a Manhattan research and appraisal company. He said he expects the auctioned properties to sell for 40 to 45 percent below the asking prices of the first quarter of 2008, when the market peaked.

. . . .

There are 8,000 new condos on the market in New York City, and 22,000 more are scheduled to go on the market by the end of next year.

And from Clusterstock there is this on Manhattan inventory:
1. inventory now at 11,000 listed homes, condos and coops in manhattan which is almost 3x normal
2. inventory actually grew 1200 units over the last 30-days (the attached stats are a couple of weeks old and the listing velocity INCREASED the last 2 weeks)

I would expect to see some striking declines in apartment prices and to a lesser extent in rents over the next two quarters.

Something to think about for policy makers, as this will not be a blip, but a reversion to historical valuations based on fundamentals (price/rent and price/income ratios).

Graph taken from the Calculated Risk post linked above.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fresh Air Fund Looking for Host Families

Let it never be said that Sara from the Fresh Air Fund is not persistent!

In all sincerity, the Fresh Air Fund is a great organization - please take a moment to check them out and make a contribution or volunteer to help low income city kids take in a bit of the countryside this summer. Just click on the image above top go to their website.

Wikipedia on Fresh Air Fund

Culver Viaduct Contract Awarded: Service Disruptions Ahead

A frequent question I get is whether the Culver Viaduct rehab will be cancelled or delayed due to the finance crisis. The answer is no; the Viaduct work is a critical project that must be done, and is still on schedule.

The latest from the Daily News:
The MTA board Wednesday is expected to award a $179 million contract to rebuild the Culver Viaduct, a crumbling concrete and steel structure above local streets and the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens.
The F line is the third busiest in the system with more than 575,000 daily riders. The viaduct has two stations: Smith-9th Sts. and 4th Ave.-9th St. . . . .Depending on the phase, some riders will have to take shuttle buses or double-back and take a train south to another station and catch a northbound ride.
The first impact, Cafiero said, would be a benefit. Starting in the fall, the G train's route will be extended deeper into Brooklyn to Church Ave.
In a much needed glimmer of good news for the MTA, the contract to be approved by board Wednesday is $62.5 million less than originally estimated.
It is nice to see some good news in the mire. The other good news is that, once this project is completed in 2012 or 2013, the only thing necessary to restore express and local service on the Culver Line is political willpower.

The stations affected by closures will be Smith - Ninth and 4th Avenue.

Monday, February 23, 2009

ESTA Unveils New Ad, Website Calling For Reliable Transit Funding

The Empire State Transportation Alliance and campaign for new York's future rolled out a new ad campaign and website to support reliable, adequate funding for NYC's transit system. Take a minute to visit the website, Keep New York Moving, and tell your elected officials that NYC needs reliable transit, and we can't balance the budget on the backs of riders.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tolls Bros. Price Chopping: Bigger Than We Thought

Brownstoner makes a catch that Curbed missed yesterday: penthouse units at Northside Piers have been chopped 35-37%!

Again: what does this bode for the Toll Bros. Gowanus project?

It looks more and more likely that Toll will get its approvals for the site (outside of the overall rezoning of the Gowanus, where it should have been included) and either sit on or sell off it's newly acquired approvals.

The approval process has been an absolute disgrace. This rezoning should never have been reviewed outside of the greater Gowanus rezoning. It's not too late for the City agencies to do the right thing and roll this parcel into the broader Gowanus rezoning, but given the current administration, I am not holding my breath.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Toll Bros Chopping Prices At Northside Piers

Per Curbed, Toll Bros. is slashing prices at its Northside Piers project in Williamsburg. They are currently building an entire second tower to add to that development.
While the penthouses and most-expensive units at One Northside Piers were left unharmed, a large crop—over 30 units—are a bloody mess. A quick scan of StreetEasy to survey the wreckage shows reductions up to 25 percent in some cases, including this 11th-floor 3BR unit, marked down to $894,990 from an ask of over $1.2 million.
Critical thinking exercise: what do you think this means for the Toll bros. Gowanus project?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Assembly Introduces Package of Tenant Protections

And this time, with a Democratic Senate, some will pass. Tenant protections were gutted in the 1990s and again in 2003. It's about time the pendulum swung back in the other direction. But no article would be complete without a few red herrings and demagoguery from the (intentionally misleadingly named) Rent Stabilization Association:
“You will see increased foreclosures on multiple dwellings,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a powerful landlord group. “You have total chaos in this city when you have large complexes being foreclosed on.”
News flash: There is going to be a wave of foreclosures regardless. Over the past 8 years credit standards were abandoned, prices were inflated far beyond fundamentals, and speculators bought properties based on pie-in-the-sky pro forma financials. Before I went to law school I was a financial analyst and a lender for a large regional bank (until 2002). The decline in credit standards from 2002 - 2007 was nothing short of breathtaking. It was also the logical outgrowth of Bush administration policy: open the credit spigot, abandon regulatory practices and let the good times roll.

This is the reason for the current economic crisis. It was always unsustainable, and while the adjustment back to valuations based on fundamentals (price/rent ratios, debt service/income ratios) will be painful for many, it is also unavoidable.

Of course the big landlords are going to fight it tooth and nail. But don't rely on them to argue honestly.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

RPA On The Cascading Benefits Of Improving the Northeast Corridor

Improvements to Amtrak's inter-city rail system will also help every single commuter rail system in the region. Seven different commuter rail lines share the tracks and corridor that Amtrak uses. Last year, Amtrak carried 13 million people on the Northeast corridor between Boston and Washington DC. That's a lot of people. But the commuter rail systems carried more than 200 million passengers. That's even more people. In fact, it's 75 percent of all the commuter rail ridership in the nation.

Second, making the Northeast corridor lines faster and more reliable would induce more people to choose rail over air for travel within the megaregion. This in turn would free up valuable space in our overcrowded Northeast airports, making landing slots available for more economically valuable, longer-haul flights. Passenger rail already accounts for nearly two-thirds of the combined air/rail market between New York and Washington and half of the market between New York and Boston. Bringing both of these shares to close to 100 percent, as is the case between many European city-pairs at this distance, would make a lot of sense.

Right now, 20 percent of all the flights out of the New York metro airports are less than 350 miles, the majority of which are to two destinations, Boston and DC. More than 150 daily flights from the New York metro area are destined for Boston and Washington. Faster, more frequent and more reliable Amtrak service would make rail competitive with these short-haul flights, particularly for time-conscious business travelers.

Third and finally, track improvements will not only increase speed, they will also add capacity. They will enable millions of additional people to travel along and within this corridor, which in turn, will enable the Northeast to absorb more gracefully the additional 16 million people expected here by mid-century. Improving the central train corridor of the Northeast is not only an economic development tool, not only a quality of life tool, it's a central part of a long-term growth plan for the region. And part of that growth plan should be a lower carbon footprint for the region, something better rail travel is an integral part of.
Worth reading.