Archive for February, 2008

Weak Signals on DTV
February 29th, 2008

Our technology topic page writer, Joshua Breitbart, learned today that on top of the myriad stumbling blocks on the path to the digital television transition the $39.99 converter box won’t be available for another 4 months and those coupons expire in 3 months. If you’re planning to keep an analog television up and running, you better read up on the transition before February 19, 2009.

By on February 29, 2008, 8:36 pm
In category: Tech | 4 Comments »

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Make Money, Help the Environment
February 29th, 2008

When most people think of recycling, they think of the environment. But another, less intuitive reason to recycle is to raise money. Yes, that old shirt or cell phone may actually be used to raise money for your school or to fight cancer. There are at least two programs operating in the city who use recycling as a fundraising tool.

On such program is called EcoPhones, a for-profit company that pays for electronic waste. At least six schools in the city collect old cellphones, CD players and ink cartridges, which EcoPhones collects and pays for.

At Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, they collect electronic waste throughout the school year, and have received about $300 from EcoPhone since September [corrected].

“It’s easy,” says Sandra Pinder, who administers the program, “If you have an old phone, you just bring it to us.” Not only does the school raise some money, it helps keeps trash that is often toxic from entering landfills.

Another program is Wearable Collections, which recycles old clothing and linen. This non profit organization will set up a bin a requested location in Manhattan (and sometimes the outer boroughs) and then collect it when it is full. They pay you for the textiles, and get the second hand clothing into the hands of people who need them all over the world.

Clothing and textiles account for about six percent of the garbage New York City generates, according to the Council on the Environment in New York City.

Wearable Collections’ founder, Adam Baruchowitz, started the program to raise money for spinal cord research after a friend of his was paralyzed in an accident, TreeHugger wrote in 2006.

By on February 29, 2008, 8:32 am
In category: Environment,Social Services,Tech | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Wasn't Being Honest
February 28th, 2008

Mayor Michael Bloomberg may think that his non-campaign for president helped his constituents, but some people think they deserve an apology now that he is officially not running.

The presidential flirting was a “con job,” says the Post’s David Seifman. He writes that it was never realistic that he could have been elected president, and that for all of Bloomberg’s chastising of the candidates, voters had been turning out in record numbers.

Seifman’s piece led the Voice’s Tom Robbins to chime in, opining that, “As mayor and billionaire, Mike Bloomberg never has to apologize for anything.”

“But he owes us one,” he continued.

By on February 28, 2008, 3:26 pm
In category: Governing | Comments Off on Bloomberg Wasn't Being Honest

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Election (what Election?) Post-Mortem
February 27th, 2008

Democrats and many reformers greeted the day with an almost giddy excitement, following yesterday’s victory by Democratic Assemblymember Darrel Aubertine in an upstate State Senate race. Aubertine’s triumph, in an overwhelmingly GOP district that has not elected a Democrat in any of our lifetimes, trimmed the Republican margin in the State Senate to one seat and had Democrats licking their chops in anticipation of November legislative elections.

Examining the result, the Associated Press said it “carries an ominous overtone for [Senate Majority leader Joe] Bruno and the GOP, who face yielding total control of state government to the Democrats, already in command of the Assembly and the governor’s mansion.”

Certainly both sides realized the stakes were high.
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By on February 27, 2008, 12:58 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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The Gowanus of the Future
February 26th, 2008

Curbed has the details of the two new proposals for the development of the Carroll Gardens/Gowanus area in Brooklyn. Each plan calls for 700 new apartments, retail stores and nearly 90,000 square feet of parkland on what is now a toxic, trash-strewn canal bank. The clean-up is scheduled to begin next summer, and planners hope to have people living in the newly constructed (and better smelling) neighborhood by 2012.

(For more on the possible pitfalls to the develoment, including environmental hazards, see “The Race to Develop a Toxic Waterway” by Tom Angotti.)

By on February 26, 2008, 11:01 am
In category: Environment,Land Use,Waterfront | Comments Off on The Gowanus of the Future

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Greening City Sidewalks
February 25th, 2008

Two separate seeds were planted at City Hall this morning.

An hour apart, two demonstrations were held on the steps of City Hall: One supporting green cart legislation proposed by the Bloomberg administration and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the other railing against it. The bill, which is slated to come to the council floor on Wednesday, would splatter the city with 1,000 new green cart vendors in hopes of promoting healthy eating habits in impoverished areas.

The bill’s backers originally hoped to sprout 1,500 new permits, but a strong backlash from the supermarket lobby seems to have successfully scaled it back.
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By on February 25, 2008, 1:48 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Police No Help for Crime Map Project
February 22nd, 2008

When you type an address or zip code into Everyblock, the website presents you with a variety of localized information. You can find up-to-date news items, restaurant reviews or even CraigsList postings all laid out on a map. You can even subscribe, so updates for an area of interest get sent to you.

They also offer a selection of localized government data, such as building violations and restaurant inspections. But this information comes from publicly accessible databases. And as the folks at Everyblock seek to expand the available information on their site, they’ve begun reaching out to the city and other governments to provide more information than they can scrape from the Web. But the site’s founder, Adrian Holovaty, told the Fimoculous blog, “We’ve run into many roadblocks there, from the political to the technical.”

Currently, they are focusing on getting crime data for New York City. Everyblock is the direct decedent of, so it may be no surprise that they start here. They haven’t been having luck getting that data from the NYPD, however. “I have attempted to get incident level crime data from the Police Department, but was denied,” says Daniel O’Neil, Everyblock’s resident People Person.

No comment was available from the police by the time this post went up.

The CompStat program has gained national accolades for mapping out crimes. But unlike Chicaco’s CLEAR system, the CompStat statistics are not released to the public on a block by block level.

“We commend the Chicago police for doing that,” says O’Neil, “We think it should be the standard”

Everyblock’s next step is a Freedom of Information Law request.

By on February 22, 2008, 5:00 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Tech | 2 Comments »

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The Cattle Branding of Times Square
February 22nd, 2008

Karrie Jacobs wrote a decade ago that Times Square was the only place in New York to “explore the marriage of architecture and electronic technology, of form and image, that is emerging as the defining style of the early twenty-first century. But now, in Metropolis Magazine, she questions the relevance of “a district dedicated to overstimulation for overstimulations sake in todays environment.”

Times Square, she observes, “is now the epicenter of branding, its vitality dependent on the creative brio of the advertising industry. And branding, at this moment, is less a matter of originality and more a matter of claiming turf, whether that turf is a Times Square Jumbotron, a wee cell-phone screen, or the spot that blocks the paragraph youre trying to read on a Web site. Ive always loved Times Square, but Im sick to death of branding.”

Click here to read the article.

By on February 22, 2008, 11:48 am
In category: Arts,Land Use,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Of Drinking Water, Trout, and Floods
February 21st, 2008

The Delaware Basin Reservoirs

New York City is catching some lumps over plans about how to release water from the Delaware Basin Reservoirs in the Catskills, the source of the city’s drinking water. Environmentalists, public officials, fishing organizations, and residents along the Delaware River are not excited about the implementation of the new plan, called the Flexible Flow Management Program. It was an agreement between New York City, New York state, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania to provide enough enough drinking water while protecting the environment and river communities.

But the plan lays out no specific numbers on how much water will ultimately remain in the reservoirs, and devil is in the details for many opponents.

A significant number of those who showed up at the last public hearing about the plan called for the city to keep its reservoirs at 80 percent capacity to avoid flooding along the river. Some believe that the city keeps more water than is needed.

Peter Kolesar, a professor at Columbia University, said the plan would do well for everyone involved, but it needed adjustments to fulfill its goal. He estimated that the plan overestimates the amount of water the city will need to draw by 50 percent. “It assumes that New York City will use vastly more water than it actually requires,” he said at the hearing, “and by so doing, they punish the environment in the Upper Delaware communities.”
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By on February 21, 2008, 3:14 pm
In category: Environment | 3 Comments »

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Cabbies Cruise Into the Future
February 20th, 2008

In a few years, New Yorkers may not hail down, whistle or even curse at a yellow cab careening down Broadway — that image we have all come to know so well.

Those vehicles may look starkly different, according to a new proposal by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

This morning the commission released a request for information, calling on companies to come up with a plan to take taxis physically, aesthetically and environmentally into the future. They call it the “Taxi of Tomorrow” — how fitting and who can’t help but honk enthusiastically at their slick use of alliteration?
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By on February 20, 2008, 1:44 pm
In category: Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Grocery Famine
February 19th, 2008

The Washington Post today reports on another casualty of New Yorks real estate boom: food. While healthy groceries have long been hard to find in the citys poor communities, now condominiums are crowding out neighborhood grocers in areas across the city. The paper quotes Lawrence Sarf, the president of F&D Reports, a retail consulting company, as saying that there are one-third fewer supermarkets in the city than there were six years ago. To try to stem the tide, the state government will reportedly establish a supermarket commission on the issue.

By on February 19, 2008, 1:28 pm
In category: Gotham City,Health,Land Use | 2 Comments »

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Council Members' Web Pages Underutilized
February 15th, 2008

When the City Council released its new Web site last December, one of the features it offered was the ability of council members to manipulate their member pages. The councils communications office even offered training for staffers and council members on how to personalize them. But two months later, the option has barely been used.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s page offers an example of how one could be set up. Members can create tabs for various pages on their site, and they can include links to relevant information. Quinn has a few different pages, where constituents can find press releases, a selection of speeches, or a biography.

The biography is standard, and all members offer that, as well as contact info. Two members offer a news or press page, but one has nothing on it, and the other only one item. Beyond that, however, there isn’t much to see.

“When people are looking for information about their representatives or an issue, their first stop is the Web,” says Tim Hysom. “They don’t go to the Web to find a phone number and then call to get that information.”

Hysom works at the Congressional Management Foundation, which rates the quality of legislative Web sites through their Gold Mouse Report. The elements they find most important in lawmakers’ Web sites are voting records, issue priorities, and the services they offer.

“Legislators’ Web pages are critically important for forming a relationship with constituents and building a community online,” he says.

By on February 15, 2008, 12:05 pm
In category: Governing,nextNY,Tech | 3 Comments »

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How're We Doing?
February 14th, 2008

Today the Bloomberg Administration released the preliminary Mayor’s Management Report, a report on the performance of city agencies. But a new touch to the report is the accompanying release of City Performance Reporting. CPR, as they’re calling it, takes 300 indicators from the management report – and an additional 200 others – and breaks them down by agency and issue.

So, if you are just interested in, say, how the Department of Buildings is doing, or if you want to see how the city is performing on public safety, you can visit individual Web pages for each of your concerns. It also tells you the last time each indicator was updated. (62 percent of of the 67 public safety indicators are improving or are stable, by the way. Half of the Buildings Department’s 19 indicators are improving or stable.)

The mayor had announced CPR during his last State of the City address, but it has been two years in the making.

By on February 14, 2008, 2:12 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on How're We Doing?

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Judicial Fund Raising
February 14th, 2008

Campaigning for a seat on the Supreme Court bench costs a lot more if the race occurs in the suburbs as opposed to here in the city, writes Jason Boog on Judicial Reports. In 2007, suburban campaigns raised $754,000 compared to the $144,000 raised across the five boroughs. And there were more than double the amount of open seats here in the city than in the ‘burbs.

The cause for this, he writes, is the fact that the suburbs actually have competition between the parties.

Click here to read the article.

By on February 14, 2008, 1:44 pm
In category: Governing,Law | Comments Off on Judicial Fund Raising

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Runaround on Randall's?
February 13th, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, some East Harlem residents and public school parents were applauding a decision by a state Supreme Court judge that voided a deal to give private school kids preferred access to purportedly public playing fields on Randalls Island at the expense of public school students. Judge Shirley Kornreichs ruling essentially meant that the Bloomberg administration must essentially start from scratch and put the deal through the Uniform Land Use Review Process. That would require review by the community board and the borough president and then OKs from the City Planning Commission and the City Council, the Times explained earlier this month.

Calling the decision “a great victory for public school children, Eugenia Simmons-Taylor, former president of the District 4 the lead plaintiff, said, Now the community and our elected representatives will have a chance to have their say.”

Not so fast.
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By on February 13, 2008, 6:46 pm
In category: Gotham City,Law,Parks | 4 Comments »

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Grading the Graders
February 13th, 2008

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has constantly trumpeted the need for accountability and trotted out statistic after statistic to bolster his claims that the Bloomberg/Klein stewardship of New York City schools has been a ringing success. Today, Class Size Matters, an advocacy group and frequent critics of the leadership at Tweed, released its own report card of sorts. And it finds Bloomberg and Klein to be a less than stellar performers. Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 13, 2008, 1:59 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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And From The Sidelines...
February 12th, 2008

Here are some of the initial reactions to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s State of the City today. And here is a copy of the full text as prepared: State of the City Speech.

From UFT President Randi Weingarten:

“The Speakers proposal reflects her understanding that incentives can make a difference in attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers in some of our most challenging schools. With five middle schools recently added to the states list of troubled schools, we are pleased that Speaker Quinn is championing schools that are in urgent need of support. We look forward to working with her to develop this initiative.”
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By on February 12, 2008, 5:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Transportation | Comments Off on And From The Sidelines...

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Working Her Way Up
February 12th, 2008

At Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s State of the City speech this afternoon her exit strategy seemed to say it all.

The speech’s finale was accompanied by Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” otherwise known as the theme song to the ’80s classic “Working Girl” – the tale of a secretary from Staten Island who is destined to successfully climb the corporate ladder.

The song’s refrain belts: “Let all the dreamers wake the nation.”

Are New Yorkers supposed to be catching onto something? Does that ambition seem familiar?
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By on February 12, 2008, 4:13 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,nextNY,Transportation | Comments Off on Working Her Way Up

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New York's Democratic Superdelegates
February 12th, 2008

The news coverage of the Democratic presidential nomination is increasingly focused on the superdelegates, the 796 unpledged party officials who may have the power to decide the race if it remains close until the convention.

According to CNN’s estimates, Senator Hillary Clinton currently holds the support of at least 224 superdelegates versus 135 backing Senator Barack Obama. The blog 2008 Democratic Convention Watch is trying to keep track of who is supporting whom on its superdelegate watch list.

Today, New York Magazine’s blog asks the local question, “Who are these people who have the power to, well, take power away from us?” The list of local Democratic superdelegates includes Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Charles Schumer, Eliot Spitzer, all of the Democraticrepresentatives to Congress, and even the head of the teacher’s union Randi Weingarten. In a New York Sun article, superdelegate and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez says she is voting for Clinton and won’t be swayed by the results of the popular vote across the nation.

In an editorial today, The New York Sun recalls Margarita Lopez Torres, who was blocked from running for a judgeship in Brooklyn by the local Democratic Party. Torres took her case all the way to Supreme Court, which ruled by a vote of 9 to 0 that the party could choose its nominees by its own methods.

“If the nominating fight [for the presidential nomination] among the Democrats ends up in the courts, the determining Supreme Court opinion may well be one that emerged from the clubhouse politics of Brooklyn, here in New York City, from a candidate for a Brooklyn judgeship, Margarita Lopez Torres,” the Sun writes.

To see exactly what it takes to be a (regular) Democratic Party delegate in New York, read this document from the party Web site.

By on February 12, 2008, 10:38 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Stringer Gets Starlit Introduction
February 11th, 2008

Sigourney Weaver can check off political introductions on her to-do list in addition to becoming an alien-fighting actress.

Tonight, Weaver will introduce Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for his third state of the borough address at City Hall. The two apparently met at a meeting on a TriBeCa based venue – the Flea Theater – which the Aliens star has supported for years.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan borough president’s office said Weaver is expected to highlight some of Stringer’s accomplishments.

Stringer is the last of the borough presidents to give a state of the borough this year, but he is preceding Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is slated to give her address tomorrow afternoon. Quinn’s address, The News reports, also comes with a hefty price tag.

By on February 11, 2008, 12:55 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Stringer Gets Starlit Introduction

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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