Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter Wonderland

We're enjoying a few days up in the mountains.  Santa was kind enough to deliver over a foot of snow, on top of a few pop-culture goodies I was coveting:

That last one I have been looking for in used bookstores for about six years, with no luck.  Thanks to the popularity of Game of Thrones, it's been reissued and ended up in my stocking.  Now, it's a hot cup of coffee, a fire in the hearth, and some good entertainment.  I wish you all the same!
(EDIT: Updated with Amazon links for my Christmas goodies - already tearing through Fevre Dream)

Friday, December 21, 2012

PPW Bike Lane Haters Have No Shame

At long last sir[s], have you no decency?  

For Jim Walden, Iris Weinshall, Norm Steisel and the rest if the gang, the answer is no. No shame, either. 

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park: An Unnecessary Evil

Perhaps evil is a strong word but it does make for a nice turn of phrase. 

There has long been consistent, strong and reasoned opposition to building condos in the park. Park space is scarce enough as it is, it's a tenuous financing scheme, it amounts to a quasi-privatization of parkland.  It also happens that the park will flood during a storm surge, as was made abundant clear by Hurricane Sandy. 

The Bloomberg administration has remained stubbornly wedded to the idea of a self-financing park. The recent storm experience gives the Mayor an opportunity to rethink his position, and I hope he takes it. 

And if we just can't shake the concept of a self-financing park, a version of the re-zoning finance plan offered up by Senator Squadron could make it work, without shoehorning condos into parkland. 

* The case of One Brooklyn Bridge Park is an exception.  Leaving a solidly constructed existing structure actually makes economic sense. 

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Smith/9th Street Opening Delayed

Sometime in Q1 2013, we're told.  I'd read that as "late March". 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Traffic Calming on Court

I'm not sure when this was installed, but I was happy to see it this
morning. A two-fer: improves visibility at the dangerous Pacific
Street intersection while adding bike parking. Nice.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Tappan Zee Replacement, Location Adds to the Cost -

A 50 year old folly, soon to be compounded.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

R train’s Montague St. Tunnel expected back on Friday

Another piece of the system restored after Sandy. This should help a
lot with Downtown commutes.

Fixing South Ferry is going to be an expensive, drawn-out mess
however. And the refurbished station will have to be hardened against
a repeat if this disaster.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I never stopped to wonder where the word marshmallow came from until I
noticed "mallow" as an herbal ingredient in my Ricola cough drops.

Quite an interesting origin as a sore throat remedy from the
marshmallow plant. Modern marshmallows have no medicinal properties
(or any marshmallow), but I do believe in the restorative power of

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Thursday, December 13, 2012


FCC finally cracking down on the obnoxious practice of ramping the
volume on TV commercials.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Flipped Car on Huntington Last Night

Crazy.  DOT is going to implement a "slow zone" in Boerum Hill.  Perhaps it's time to consider one for Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill as well.  A 20 MPH speed limit on residential streets improves street safety and quality of life for residents.
More information on DOT's neighborhood slow zone initiative here:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Elected Officials and Advocates Push for Brooklyn Gateway Plan

An excellent plan. Here's a link to the report (pdf):


Sent to you by Gary via Google Reader:


via Mobilizing the Region by Joseph Cutrufo on 12/11/12

TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool (left) and New York City Council Member Letitia James (right) spoke at Tuesday's release of BK Gateway Transportation Vision at DeKalb Station in Brooklyn. | Photo: Ryan Lynch

Population and transit ridership have skyrocketed over the last twenty years in Brooklyn, but the New York City Departments of Transportation and City Planning have yet to develop a plan to accommodate increased demand on the borough's transportation infrastructure. A group of elected officials, civic groups and advocates are bringing attention to the matter with today's release of BK Gateway Transportation Vision, a report that highlights the challenges facing Downtown Brooklyn and the need for a comprehensive transportation-land use plan for the area.

The BK Gateway area, defined as the downtown neighborhoods bounded by the East River, Nostrand Avenue, Empire Boulevard and 9th Street, has seen a surge in residential and commercial development, is home to the brand new Barclays Center arena, has seen dramatic increases in transit ridership and has suffered hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities in recent years. The report lays out a number of key recommendations to help accommodate growth, ease congestion and improve safety, including

  • implementation of residential parking permits,
  • targeted subway service improvements on the R, N and D lines,
  • creation of a "Pedestrian Safety Rapid Response Team" to address safety concerns around the Barclays Center
  • and an expanded protected cycling network, paricularly along Flatbush and Atlanic Avenues.

The Vision grew out of discussions with community boards and after a community charrette last March and ongoing community outreach will continue to identify areas of concern within the Gateway area. A follow-up community meeting is expected to take place on Saturday, January 26.


Things you can do from here:


"Tell me again how that person won’t miss her Medicare"

To raise the Medicare eligibility age would be cruel, counterproductive and unnecessary. The money quote:
"Here's the thing, once again: all of this is unnecessary. The deficit caused by Bush's tax cuts, wars and recession will be largely mitigated by reinstatement of the upper income taxes, drawdown of the wars, growth(duh!) and, most importantly, controlling health care costs, the best method for which would have been expanding Medicare to cover everyone. We don't need to make this "clever" accounting change that will result in elderly and disabled people suffering. .... (Hell, we could even raise the top income tax rate above the Clinton levels, at least for those making a million dollars a year. These people have been making out like bandits and surely won't miss the money.)"


Sent to you by Gary via Google Reader:


via Hullabaloo by (digby) on 12/11/12

"Tell me again how that person won't miss her Medicare"

by digby

This piece by Aaron Carroll explains in full detail why raising the Medicare age is daft (and cruel):

What you're seeing is life expectancy at age 65 broken out in to the top half of earners and the bottom half of earners, from 1977 to 2007. I got these data from a study that appeared in Social Security Bulletin in 2007. The paper was entitled, "Trends in Mortality Differentials and Life Expectancy for Male Social Security-Covered Workers, by Socioeconomic Status." We know that average life expectancy went up less than 5 years overall in this period. But what's somewhat stunning is how much of a disparity there is in these gains. The top half of earners gained more than 5 years of life at age 65. The bottom half of earners, though, gained less than a year.

If you raise the age of eligibility by two years, then you are taking away more years of Medicare than half the country gained in longer life. Moreover, we've already taken away these people's Social Security. The Greenspan Commission in the early 1980s made it so that the retirement age is already 66. It's scheduled to rise to 67. So those at the bottom half of the socioeconomic ladder have already lost more years of Social Security than they've gained in years of life life expectancy at 65.

Sure, in a perfect world poor young seniors could get Medicaid if we take away their Medicare. That is, of course, if their state accepts the Medicaid expansion. Many haven't. Less poor young seniors can go to the exchanges, I suppose. But if you're a 65 year old widow and you make $46,100 a year in a high cost area, then your premium will be over $12,000 for your insurance. And you could owe another $6250 in out-of-pocket costs if you get sick. Tell me again how that person won't miss her Medicare.

(He also explains is simple language why this whole " raised life expectancy" trope is nonsense to begin with. It pertains to life expectancy at birth not at the age of retirement. The designers of social security and medicare understood this even if nobody else seems to.)

So, we know that raising the Medicare age is a bad idea. How about the other very "clever" idea floating around these discussions: changing the accounting formula to cut benefits across all federal programs?

Here's the answer from Social Security Works:

Some politicians in Washington are preparing to cut your Social Security COLA for good--even after two years without getting a COLA. This COLA cut has an obscure name: chained-CPI. But it would do real damage by changing the formula used to calculate the COLA. Here's what you need to know about it:

It's a benefit cut. It's not some minor technical change to the COLA. It's a real cut to the benefits you have earned every year into the future.

It cuts benefits more with every passing year. After 10 years, your benefits would be cut by about $500 a year for the average retiree. After 20 years, your benefits would be cut by about $1,000 a year.

It hits today's Social Security beneficiaries. Politicians like to say that their cuts to Social Security will not affect those getting benefits today. Wrong! Switching to the chained-CPI would hit all current beneficiaries.

We need a higher COLA, not a lower one. The current COLA is not large enough--it does not adequately account for large health care cost increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities.

And it's not just social security. It's veterans and military retiree benefits, disability payments, federal worker pensions, anything the federal government funds.

Here's the thing, once again: all of this is unnecessary. The deficit caused by Bush's tax cuts, wars and recession will be largely mitigated by reinstatement of the upper income taxes, drawdown of the wars, growth(duh!) and, most importantly, controlling health care costs, the best method for which would have been expanding Medicare to cover everyone. We don't need to make this "clever" accounting change that will result in elderly and disabled people suffering. We can get serious about a rational national security policy, controlling health care costs, and espurring conomic growth and stop listening to the disaster capitalists who are intent upon using this window of opportunity to cut the programs they hate, whether the economy is good or bad. (Hell, we could even raise the top income tax rate above the Clinton levels, at least for those making a million dollars a year. These people have been making out like bandits and surely won't miss the money.)

If you know any veterans or military retirees, you might want to pass this fact sheet along to them. They tend to get testy when their promised benefits are threatened. They are a constituency worth organizing against this.



Things you can do from here:


Fwd: Watershed Relief Map Presentation

Not sure if the formatting will hold up, but giving it a shot. What a amazing map 

NYC H2O logo   

Watershed Relief Map Presentation     

Saturday January 12, Noon 

Queens Museum of Art   

Watershed Map
Watershed Relief Map (DEP website)

New York City hosted the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing, Queens. To show off the city's water system that tapped mountain springs as far as 100 miles away, the Cartographic Survey Force, a branch of the Works Progress Administration, constructed a 3-dimensional model of the system out of wood and plaster for @ $100,000 (about $1.5 million in today's dollars).

Measuring 32 feet by 20 feet it never made it to the Fair and instead was put into storage; some said it because it was too big, but others have said it was to protect the City's Water system from spies as the country was beginning to contemplate war.  It was shown once in 1948 - at the city's Golden Anniversary Exposition - and then forgotten. In 1991, DEP's chief architect Michael Cetera discovered it sitting in the Jerome Avenue Pumping Station (built 1906) when he was charged with renovating the landmark building. The map was in rough shape after 40 years of neglect. In 2006, it was restored by McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory in Ohio and has been on display at the Queen's Museum since 2008.

You can now see the map for yourself and hear about its story from NYC water educator Matt Malina.

This is a family friendly event. The Queens Museum also has a scale model of the entire city that is not to be missed. This event is free with a suggested $5 entrance fee to the museum.  

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Streetsblog New York City » Council Members Call for Countdown Clocks at Bus Shelters

Brad Lander in the news again with a sensible call for bus countdown clocks.

The benefit to countdown clocks is disproportionate to their costs.
It's hard to calculate the state of emotional wellbeing that derives
from having some certainty over your bus or subway arrival, but it's
significant. In addition to Weprin's practical coffee example, the
reduction in stress and agitation is huge.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Park-n-Ride Hell

I'm just going to take this full post, and say I concur. 

Sent to you via Google Reader

Park-n-Ride Hell

I'm all for more trains everywhere, but instead we should really be encouraging (and by encouraging, I mostly mean allowing) infill development around stations instead of spending immense amounts of money on parking. Philly has a very extensive commuter rail system, and plenty of the stations are in places which are almost-sorta-kinda-walkable, but the big parking lots around the stations don't help that. Zone for multi-story, multi-family mixed use around the stations. That's the way to get more riders.

On Thursday, the SEPTA board approved spending up to $282,788 for 4.86 acres owned by real-estate developer Wolfson Verrichia Group Inc., of Plymouth Meeting. The deal is still in negotiation, and the board on Thursday authorized SEPTA officials to acquire the property rights by condemnation if the developer declines to sell.

"We've had numerous discussions, and it's our intention to amicably acquire it," said SEPTA real estate director Gerald M. Maier.

About 3.5 acres would be used to build a 600-space parking garage, and 1.3 acres would be used for an access road to connect with U.S. 1, Maier said.

Parking constraints at many stations are real, but the solution isn't more parking. It's more people being able to walk.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Surface Parking Lots - The Image of Urban Blight

Serendipity to get these two links together in my Google Reader feed:

It's smart development policy to revise our property tax calculations - at least in an urban environment where development is a desirable good. 

Cheap land taxes mean that a speculator can park (pun intended) a desirable property for decades gambling on a big payday, to the detriment of the surrounding community.  It doesn't have to be that way. 

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Friday, December 7, 2012

What Krugman Says


388 Bridge Rising Fast

As a (office) refugee from Sandy (55 Water still out of commission)
I've lost my awesome vantage point for viewing downtown Brooklyn and
surrounding areas. I didn't realize just how fast this one was going

That's a good location for dense development. As opposed to say,
Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope or Windsor Terrace. The dense
and moderately dense complement each other.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Old and Improved Eastern Parkway

Nice restoration and improvements. I'm looking forward to the finished product.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brooklyn Bridge Park Ped Bridge To Be Erected This Month

I'm looking forward to taking the bridge from Squibb Park over to the waterfront.  It will make a nice loop for a Promenade walk and return via BBP.

Video of 7 Line Extension to Far West Side

Fun to watch.  MTA should do more of these!

Effect of Low Rates On House Price Affordability

It's pretty dramatic. What will happen to prices when rates go up?

Hint: don't expect another meteoric rise in housing prices any time soon. Assuming the Fed ever raises rates again, or backs off their QE efforts, mortgage rates will rise putting a significant break on home prices. 

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Monday, December 3, 2012

50 Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America - The Huffington Post

If you're going to run for City Council and lose, it helps to ease the
pain when the winner turns out to be a really impressive talent.

Brad Lander, our City Council member for Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens,
Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington and Boro Park listed among 50
young progressive leaders nationwide.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

A Murder on Wall Street

Fascinating story.  I've long been of the opinion that our clandestine services are a fount of organized crime and corrosive to an open society.  And while intelligence gathering is a necessary and legitimate function, the whole directorate of operations is essentially a state-sponsored criminal enterprise.
But it does make for some fascinating stories.  Of course the unmentioned historical figure that this story brought to mind was Sirhan Sirhan. 

A Brewtopian Vision for Downtown Brooklyn

Theater chain moving in to City Point that pairs movies with food and libations.