Archive for November, 2007

The New York Times Keeps Up with the Times
November 8th, 2007

Oh, what a brave new world wide web we live in.

The New York Times has waded further into the tumultuous ocean of online discussion, and its writers are both excited and wary.

In his column, the Times’ Public Editor Clark Hoyt ruminates on the recent ability of readers to leave comments on actual articles, and not just blog posts. Comments must meet discerning guidelines to be accepted by moderators – they must be “coherent, on point, not obscene or abusive, and not a personal attack.” But still, as their experience with the blogs go, things can still slip through the editorial cracks. For example, one reader left a now removed comment on the Lede blog that said, “Have all the displaced ILLEGALS from the FIRES Move into the TIMES NYC HQ Building … and let them urinate in the halls like they do infront [sic] of most every Home Depot in all the rest of the USA.”

It’s comments like this that leads many bloggers to approve of the moderation. The NotionsCapital blog thinks these type of comments proliferate because of the anonymity the web provides, and wonders if they shouldn’t go even further. “What newspaper would print a “Letter to the Editor” without confirming the identity of the letter-writer?” it wrote. “It is time to apply the same standard to reader replies on the Web?”

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By on November 8, 2007, 9:12 am
In category: nextNY,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Beyond Congestion Pricing
November 7th, 2007

Americans, particularly New Yorkers, tend to think they know everything, but anyone who has visited Denmark knows the Danes have something to teach us about livable streets. Last night on the Upper West Side, Danish planner Jan Gehl offered his vision for what New York City could be. As reported in Streetsblog (which offers a lengthy account), Gehl sees an end to auto supremacy on the streets. Instead, it continues, his “New York is one of flourishing street trees, attractive and functional street furniture, dedicated bus lanes, local outdoor art, complimentary lighting, relaxed pedestrians and so many cyclists that the city will need to widen bike lanes to make room.” If it all sounds like idle fantasy, remember but the city government has hired Gehl.

By on November 7, 2007, 4:42 pm
In category: Environment,Land Use,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Campaign Cash
November 6th, 2007

Dan Donovan, the Republican district attorney on Staten Island, has outspent Democratic challenger Mike Ryan by a margin of about 6 to 1, according to NYPIRG figures reported on the Daily Politics. This is the one heated, nasty contest within the five boroughs this Election Day — but you have to live in Staten Island to vote. (For what’s at stake all over the city, see Gotham Gazette’s Guide for the Last Minute Voter and check our election table for results as they become available.)

By on November 6, 2007, 4:08 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | Comments Off on Campaign Cash

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Abolishing St. Pat's Parade As We Know It
November 6th, 2007

Though she boycotted in ’06 and attended one in the mother country last year, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she would consider a proposal this morning to abolish the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in its current form so to include marchers representing Northern Ireland.

A proposal put forth on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show by The Irish Voice Publisher Niall O’Dowd, the so-called abolishment is not aimed at doing away with the city’s longstanding parade. O’Dowd would like to redirect its emphasis from green beer and pubic intoxication to a message of inclusion and the Irish culture’s future.
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By on November 6, 2007, 2:41 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City | Comments Off on Abolishing St. Pat's Parade As We Know It

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An A for Bloomberg and Klein
November 6th, 2007

While some teachers blast the Department of Education’s latest attempt at measuring success – the release of school report cards yesterday – both The Daily News and The New York Post think the cards are a good idea.

The Post recognizes it will take time for parents to understand the score’s methodology, but “so far, so good.”

According to The Post, “Not only will principals and school staffs receive rewards – or penalties – based on their grades, but parents will have an opportunity to pressure the schools to improve (or look to transfer their kids out of them), once they see an objective measure of how well the schools are doing.”

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By on November 6, 2007, 9:33 am
In category: Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Sleepy Town, Sleepy Election
November 5th, 2007

Everybody is fond of referring to this election as “sleepy,” but nothing, perhaps, is as sleepy as the hamlet of Raquette Lake in upstate New York, which this year’s statewide ballot proposal revolves around. Voters here in New York City have a say in where that little town, some 225 miles north of here, gets its drinking water from.

The town’s source of drinking water has become contaminated, but to open up a new well, they need a constitutional amendment since the area is in the constitutionally protected Adirondack Park. The amendment would allow for the use of one acre of land for a well, which would be replaced by at least twelve new acres of protected parkland.

It seems that anybody who has an opinion on the matter supports the amendment. But the Albany Times-Union is worried downstate residents might vote against the measure since it concerns upstate: “Because the amendment benefits an upstate community, it is more than possible that many downstaters might pull the ‘no’ lever by reflex, in the mistaken notion that approval will drive up taxes.”

“This is a municipality, this is a community in the state of New York … We should have the same rights that any other community in the state has to provide clean drinking water,” Republican Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who represents the area, told Newsday.

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By on November 5, 2007, 10:18 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Governing | 3 Comments »

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C for Controversy
November 4th, 2007

It’s report card week for the more than 1,000 New York City public school as letter grades for each of the city’s schools will go up on the departent Web site in the next few days.

Writing in the Daily News, Errol Louis, a supporter of Chancellor Joel Klein’s “data-driven system” predicts “some entrenched interests will try to shoot down the new report-card system. There’s too much money, power and prestige at stake to avoid a nasty fight.” But, he continued, instead of focusing on that single letter grade, parents “should examine the actual report cards, which contain a vast amount of information about a school’s progress.”

(Funny, that sounds remarkably similar to what kids say when they don’t do well.)

While in the usual style of the Department of Education the grades have been wrapped in secrecy, the scores have already attracted criticism.

Writing on NYC Public School Parents, Diane Ravitch said, “The whole scheme is simplistic and misleading. It humiliates people who are doing a good, even a great job, of educating children. It attempts to replace nuanced human judgment with a computer’s calculations. The effort to remove human judgment is yet another sign of the degradation of education–a supremely human and judgmental activity–under the current DOE.

And in a scene that is sure to be played out across the city this week, the principal at IS 289 is protesting her school’s grade of D. The apparently well-regarded school got the low mark because of a drop in reading scores at the school, even though those scores exceed the city average, according to a report in Sunday’s Times. The Department of Education thinks something is clearly amiss when scores at any school go down while overall scores in the city are rising (or so they say). But principal Ellen Foote told the Times, “It is just so demoralizing to have a number or grade assigned that is just sort of trivializing things. It doesn’t reflect, I think, the valuable work and the very complicated work that we do here.”

Stay tuned for more of this as the week goes on.

By on November 4, 2007, 11:02 pm
In category: Education | 6 Comments »

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To Burn, or Not to Burn
November 2nd, 2007

By writing off garbage incineration as undesirable, New York is actually doing worse by the environment, writes Jack Lauber in an letter to the editor for the Albany Times-Union. By using modern, efficient and clean burning waste-to-energy facilities, the state could cut back on its consumption of imported fuel, reduce its energy and garbage removal costs, and lower its contributions to global warming, he argues.

In the letter, Lauber, a former engineer at the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation who now works at Columbia’s University’s Earth Engineering Center, compares New York City to Baltimore, which generates energy by incinerating garbage. Baltimore has lower energy costs and spends less than a quarter of the cost per ton for waste removal than New York.

The subject of waste-to-energy plants – commonly called garbage incinerators – is a volatile one here in the city. It’s so unpopular that when the last landfill in the city was closed, the government didn’t even consider incineration, and opted instead to export all of it out of the area at considerable cost.

Columbia’s Earth Institute, which the engineering center is a unit of, has been the biggest advocate of waste-to-energy plants in the city. But many environmentalists here remain skeptical.

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By on November 2, 2007, 12:37 pm
In category: Environment | 9 Comments »

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Sharing Space with Start-Ups [Updated]
November 2nd, 2007

Charlie O’Donnell doesn’t think working from home is the most productive way to get something finished. “You tend to be a lot more informal about meeting times and there’s a lot to distract you,” he says. But O’Donnell and his partner were unable to afford office space for their start-up business, which helps college students decide what to do after graduation. So they resigned to working out of their apartments and using sites like Cup of NYC, where they could find coffee shops with free WiFi. Soon, however, they caught a break. The CEO of a larger business had some free space, and offered it to the pair, free of charge.

Now, O’Donnell is reaching out to other mid-size companies, trying to get them to offer extra, unused space in their offices to other small start-up companies. He envisions the model as an informal form of incubator, where a company can gain a foothold while it grows into maturity.

“We use normal bandwidth for our regular office activities and hardly ever use the phone. We borrow a conference room about twice a week and we probably take two sodas/juices a day each from the free machine,” he says. “I’d be surprised if our actual incremental cash cost was $150 a month.”

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By on November 2, 2007, 8:46 am
In category: Economy,nextNY,Tech | Comments Off on Sharing Space with Start-Ups [Updated]

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The (Insert Numeral Here) Point Congestion Plan
November 1st, 2007

As public hearings continue across the boroughs on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, Councilmember Lewis Fidler is distributing and presenting this evening a so-called more precious plan – pun intended.

The councilmember released a plan today, titled “The 9 Carat Stone Plan: A 9 Point Plan to Clean our Air, Reduce All Traffic, and Support Transportation Operations in New York’s Environs,” which outlines his alternative to a fee for driving into Manhattan below 86th Street during the workday.

Fidler was an opponent of congestion pricing even before it was announced.

The report states instead of reducing pollution in Manhattan only, a traffic plan should be adopted that cleans “everyone’s air,” including those in the outer-boroughs that are typically overrun with pollution and consequently asthma.

The plan proposes the following nine items as an alternative to congestion pricing:
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By on November 1, 2007, 5:02 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Supreme Courting
November 1st, 2007

If you’re thinking you might vote next week, you might not want to think too hard about the Supreme Court candidate on your ballot line, says Jason Boog in Judicial Reports. In fact, you might as well “close your eyes” while you vote. Why is that? Because the Democratic Party has done the work for you already with its judicial delegate convention, he writes.

The constitutionality of these conventions are currently the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing, but it looks likely that this is the way it will continue for some time. So what, exactly, happens during a convention? Boog takes a look at the process of how Paul Feinman’s name made it onto the ballot in Manhattan this year.

By on November 1, 2007, 1:25 pm
In category: Governing,Law | Comments Off on Supreme Courting

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Spike in Hate
November 1st, 2007

While crime citywide heads down, hate crime has increased nearly 21 percent this year.

The stat was woefully cited at a press conference this morning on the steps of City Hall, where Council Speaker Christine Quinn, joined by scores of religious, political and civil rights leaders, announced a “Day Out Against Hate,” scheduled for November 29. The citywide remembrance is meant to strike back against numerous episodes of discrimination and hate that have sprouted throughout the city. The announcement came as another swastika was found painted on a Columbia professor’s door yesterday.

From swastikas on synagogues in Brooklyn Heights to nooses slung on doors at Columbia University, the “Day Out Against Hate,” said Quinn, will show copy-cat hate mongers that the spread of fear is not tolerated in the most diverse city in the world.

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By on November 1, 2007, 12:35 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Coming to a Neighborhood Near You
November 1st, 2007

The Bloomberg administration has lots more to do in its plans to reshape city neighborhoods, planning commissioner Amanda Burden told a conference sponsored by the Manhattan Institute today. And one area still in its sights is Coney Island. According to Burden, the mayor soon will announce a plan to preserve the amusement park, making it a year-round attraction, and coupling it with “entertainment and housing in the right location.” The dispute over whether and where to put housing in Coney Island is largely credited (or blamed, depending on your point of view) for scuttling the Coney Island plan proposed by Thor Equities, which owns much of the Astroland site. (For more on planning for Coney Island, see Making Coney Island Green.)

The conference – kind of a lovefest for Bloomberg administration zoning policies and efforts to promote “regional business districts” – opened with Bloomberg hailing his own accomplishments. His administration, he said, has rezoned nearly 6,000 city blocks – more than under the last six mayors combined.”

And he’s not done. About 25 other districts are slated for the rezoning before Bloomberg leaves office, Burden said, vowing, “We will touch every neighborhood in the city.”

By on November 1, 2007, 11:59 am
In category: Community Development,Land Use,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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