New York Moves Too Slow on Wi-Fi
June 6th, 2006

An editorial in the Times argues that New York is behind other cities, like San Francisco and Chicago, in providing wireless Internet access, or Wi-Fi, to the people. The city recently announced that Central Park will be ready to Wi-Fi by the end of July but the rest of citys park will have to wait until next summer. The city needs to get moving to get the larger parks online, but it also has to get serious about wider access, said the Times. The minimal goal should be free or low-cost access in its densely populated, poor neighborhoods in all the boroughs.

By on June 6, 2006, 12:33 pm
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Please Leave a Message...
April 27th, 2006

Yesterday, the Department of Education began random security scanning at city schools. Aside from the hassles and the question of whether every school kid should be treated as a criminal the scanners renew the debate over cell phones in the schools.

Department of Education policy bans cell phones, and students at schools with metal detectors — which tend to be poor and largely minority have left their cell phones at home. But the random searches are casting a wider net, including prestigious schools such as Stuyvesant and LaGuardia high schools, where unofficial policy let kids have cell phones as long as they kept them stashed away during school hours.

Thats changed. These scanners are much more inflammatory, wrote Stuycom.net. It’s not just Stuy protesting – it’s actually just about everyone at schools who have already had the scanners installed.

Cell phones are the urban parent’s umbilical cord, the lifeline connecting them to children on buses, emerging from subways, crisscrossing boroughs and traipsing through unknown neighborhood, the Times reports. It goes on to quote Moira Kennedy, a psychiatrist with daughters at the Lab School and at Stuyvesant, who said the policy shows a big lack of awareness of the essential nature of having a way to communicate with your child during the day.”

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has reportedly said parents concerned about their children can always call the school office, indicating he has probably never tried to do this. Gothamist says, Ha! We’re sure the office workers will love that. If school officials want to keep this ban, they should at least give kids a chance to call or email their parents during the day. Or maybe parents should microchip their kids.

The cell phone furor came as the Department of Education announced that Carmen Faria, the top instructional official in the New York City public schools and a longtime teacher, principal and adminstrator, will retire.. A beloved and at times feared administrator, she seemed to know everybody in the nation’s largest school system, The Times observed. Some educators say she often provided a last defense against impractical ideas.

By on April 27, 2006, 10:58 am
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City,Tech | 25 Comments »

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Blogging the Brooklyn Bloggers
April 17th, 2006

The New York Times features an article about a dozen Internet blogs that are monitoring developer Bruce Ratners effort to build a basketball arena and numorus skyscrapers in downtown Brooklyn.

“If Jane Jacobs had the tools and technology back when she was fighting Robert Moses’ plans to bulldoze Lower Manhattan, I bet ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ would have been a blog,” blogger Aaron Naparstek says in the article.

But as is often the case in the blogosphere, the Times coverage of the story is now being scrutinized by the same blogs it profiles.

Norman Oder at atlanticyards.blogspot.com writes that while the article “floats some issues that have gotten too little public discussion, perhaps inevitably it misses some major points.” Oder than gives a line-by-line critique of the article and offers10 aspects of the plan that he says the Times has ignored.

By on April 17, 2006, 6:46 am
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Childstat: A Half-Step
March 27th, 2006

The city announced last week that its Administration for Children’s Services would analyse computer data to make it more effective, just as the Police Department has with Compstat, the Parks Department has with Parkstat, and the City Council is planning with Councilstat. But the New York Post says that the city’s Childstat program will not succeed unless it uses the data it collects to hold people accountable for their shortcomings.

“The NYPD program is not just about monitoring crime levels. It’s about holding cops – and brass – responsible when it spikes,” it writes in an editorial today. “But at ACS, staffers see Mattingly defended, even applauded, by the mayor – despite one dead child after another.

By on March 27, 2006, 3:05 pm
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Cheering (and Jeering) New Public Toilets
March 23rd, 2006

The city has unveiled a new design for public toilets shiny, self-cleaning, and only 25 cents for 15 minutes of privacy. About 20 of the new toilets will be constructed across the city, but the exact locations have yet to be decided.

Many New Yorkers, who know the pain of not being able to find a public restroom at the right time, are cheering.

In the New York Times article, Fred Bell, the executive director at the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, called the toilets “elegant and functional.”

Toby on Gothamist’s message board writes; “I have used these self cleaning loos in London and they are not bad.”

And the blogger Polis writes; “It’s about freaking time! Go to any other global city (and even a few villages in Europe) and you’ll see well-designed, contemporary street furniture instead of the overflowing trash cans that are the most interesting thing on most NYC blocks.”

Of course, New Yorkers have long devised their own ways of dealing with the problem, like using coffee shops and stores and recently, mapping out locations of restrooms on the Internet with Web sites like Addyourown.com and Nyrestroom.com.

Others are more skeptical of the new pay toilets. Gawker wonders if the “toilets of tomorrow” will become the “homeless sleeping places of tomorrow night.”

For a history of the battle to build public toilets, see GothamGazette’s 2001 article.

By on March 23, 2006, 1:42 pm
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The NY Public Library And The Homeless
March 19th, 2006

City Limits covers homeless advocates’ concerns with a new library policy that will truncate the only way to utilize the internet that the homeless have:

The New York Public Library now requires users to have a library card to log on to the internet, and an address is required to obtain the card. According to the city, about 4,400 homeless do not stay in the shelter system, where they could obtain an address. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that ten to twenty percent of the homeless regularly use libraries.

Homeless people depend on free access to internet in libraries to find out about job listings, keep themselves informed and email rsums to potential employers, said Rogers, who regularly searches craigslist.com for weekend jobs or part-time work. Rogers, a member of the advocacy group Picture the Homeless, has been homeless himself for three years.

But the blog Baby Boomer Librarian says City Limits is looking for sensationalism.They post what they claim is an email from Susan Kent, Director of Branch Libraries, which states that, “Anyone without a library card may ask for a ‘guest pass’ which will provide access to the Internet under the same terms as library card holders.”

By on March 19, 2006, 11:36 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Demographics,Social Services,Tech | 4 Comments »

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Spending Bill Gates' Money
March 9th, 2006

Whatever the educational merits ( or lack thereof) of small schools, New York Citys rush to create so many of them has been fueled partly by the Gates Foundation, which has poured money into the effort. But Diane Ravitch, a historian of education at New York University and frequent critic of the Bloomberg/Klein education policies, thinks Gates could spend his money more wisely.

In an open letter to Gates in the billionaires hometown Seattle Times (reprinted on the Association of New York Education Councils site), Ravitch writes, Small schools are not always the best answer to low achievement. So instead she calls on Gates to take advantage of his expertise in using advanced technology to teach people almost anything to develop amazing programs to teach mathematics, science, languages, history, literature and the arts. By doing this, Ravitch tells Gates, you have the chance to transform the education of 50 million students . You have the power to create the most valuable learning tools ever known in American schools. And she concludes, they would work in big schools as well as small ones.

By on March 9, 2006, 11:44 am
In category: Education,Gotham City,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Windmills And The Statue of Liberty
March 8th, 2006

Glenn McAnanama ,who is peak guy in the blog called The Oil Drum: New York City, is taking particular satisfaction in the announcement that the Statue of Liberty will be powered by windmills. (See Wind Power in NYC by Sam Williams) . In a
blog post last August, he wrote of his irritation with people complaining about how tall windmills are and how they block their view of the natural landscape. The most irritating argumentis that the windmills are “taller than the Statue of Liberty”. As if by couching the comparison to something as patriotic and wholesome as the Statue of Liberty, they can seem like they are defend[ing] their right to not have to live with windmills.This gave me another idea. What if we could power the Statue of Liberty with just wind and solar power?

He might have gotten what he wished for, but it hasn’t stopped the complaints about windmills. At a hearing of the New York State Assembly yesterday into the state plan that calls for 25 percent of electricity sales to come from renewable sources by 2013 (which has already resulted in the creation of about 40 “wind farms”), upstate residents reportedly called windmills “a blight on the landscape.”

By on March 8, 2006, 3:52 pm
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New York Stock Exchange Non-Profit No More
March 7th, 2006

An editorial in
the New York Sun heralds the end of the New York Stock Exchange as a member-owned not for profit. Starting today, it is scheduled to become a company that is itself publicly traded on the exchange. It’s the latest chapter in a remarkable New York story that began when stockbrokers gathered on May 17, 1792, under the shade of a buttonwood tree on Wall Street.

By on March 7, 2006, 2:15 am
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance,Tech | 5 Comments »

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Not Enough Wireless In NYC
March 6th, 2006

In the Daily News, wireless advocate Esme Vos writes that New York City is lagging behind other major cities in supplying residents with wireless broadband networks, or Wi-Fi, that would allow anyone to access the Internet wirelessly from anywhere in the city. Doing so, as Philadelphia, San Francisco and Portland have already begun doing, would both save taxpayers millions of dollars and improve municipal services.

By on March 6, 2006, 6:19 am
In category: Tech | 7 Comments »

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Zapped Again
March 4th, 2006

Con Edison’s year-long examination of electrical equipment on city streets found 1,214 instances of stray voltage. Last Thursday, a nine-year-old boy received an electric shock when he stepped on a manhole cover in a Harlem street. Reacting to this news, an editorial in the Daily News reiterates its call for regular warnings, akin to Gridlock Alerts: Somebody should warn New Yorkers they are in danger of electrocution with every snowfall and thaw because Con Ed’s miserably maintained underground cables short out and electrify manhole covers and street plates. Issuing Zap Alerts whenever conditions are threatening would be a potentially lifesaving public service.

By on March 4, 2006, 10:15 am
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How Much Fuel Does it Take to Make Ethanol Fuel?
January 10th, 2006

Daily News columnist Bill Hammond, commenting on Pataki’s State of the State address, picks up the critique that the governor’s proposal to increase the use of ethanol fuel in New York State was really intended to “pander to Iowa farmers.”

To prove the absurdity of the proposal, he cites a study by Cornell University’s David Pimentel, an ecologist, in which he states that “turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates.”

The study is also cited to show ethanol as an unsustainable option to fossil fuels at The Oil Drum: New York City, a blog that focuses on NYC’s oil dependency.

But posts on the blog’s large comment section dispute the Pimentel study and one commentator points out a report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (pdf). In this report, the authors compare many studies on the subject – including their own – and find that more studies weigh in ethanol’s favor. (The commentator links to a colorful presentation on the report, in which page 16 plots the studies on a graph.)

The Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy policy nonprofit that focuses on market-based solutions, also finds fault with the Pimentel study. They say he only focuses on one method to make ethanol, which is the least efficient of three possible ways.

The oil blog has a link to a good piece by Danny Hakim for The New York Times that takes a much broader look at the governor’s proposal.

By on January 10, 2006, 5:38 pm
In category: Environment,Health,Tech,Transportation | 10 Comments »

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Prison Phone Charges Are A Crime
November 15th, 2005

Daily News Columnist Errol Louis supports a planned protest tomorrow in Bryant Park against “New York’s policy of shamefully squeezing people who have done nothing wrong” by charging them “outrageously jacked-up prices” to receive collect calls from prison inmates. “Thanks to an exclusive contract that gives monopoly control over prison phones to MCI, the price of talking to New York inmates is 630% higher than the cost of regular collect calls – a higher rate than what it costs to speak with federal prisoners or those locked up in any other state.”

Ironically, much of the profit goes to “the same MCI whose ex-CEO, Bernie Ebbers, got sentenced to 25 years in federal prison this year for orchestrating an $11 billion accounting fraud [A]s a federal inmate, Ebbers can talk with his family and lawyers for a reasonable 7 cents a minute- far less than the $3 per call and 16 cents a minute MCI charges to talk with a New York prisoner.”

By on November 15, 2005, 9:00 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Tech | 3 Comments »

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Protected: Real estate, gossip, fashion . . . and self-promotion?
October 11th, 2005

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By on October 11, 2005, 10:20 pm
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