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Web www.startsandfits.com
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Raising Awareness or Undermining Credibility?
Startsandfits.com strongly supports the encouragment of bicycling in New York City for about a million reasons. But I am unsure whether the monthly Critical Mass ride, which consists of hundreds of riders who operate against the wishes of the NYPD, is the most effective way to advocate for a better cycling environment. On the one hand, it draws attention to cycling as a mode of transportation. This is no doubt an enormous benefit. On the other hand, it has irritated a lot of people who want good things to happen for New York, including Mayor Bloomberg and members of his administration, the editorial boards of The Daily News and The New York Post, and a city councilwoman from the Bronx who proposed a bill that would have required cyclists to register their bikes with the Department of Transportation.

Things are looking better for bicyclists lately. We have access to all the East River bridges, bike lanes all around the city, new car free nights in Central Park. Officials and the public are starting to take increased notice of bicycles as a viable mode of transportation, especially now that the war in Iraq is drawing attention to U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Is the attention bicycling receives from the Critical Mass demonstration worth the ill will it generates with those who control public policy and help to frame the issue in the public mind? Maybe it does. Maybe not. I'm seriously wondering. Please comment.

But first, here is a chronology of the events surrounding the five most recent rides, culled from a Lexis-Nexis search of news reports in The New York Times, The Daily News, Newsday, The New York Sun and The New York Post and by Associated Press. The ride begins on the last Friday of every month at the north end of Union Square. (Note: To access the links you'll need a paid Lexis-Nexis subscription. Sorry. It's the best I could do. None of the editorials are available on their newspaper's homepages.)

  • July 30 – Some cyclists ride on the FDR Drive, where cycling is prohibited. It is the first instance of conflict for a ride that had been happening peacefully for some six years at least.
  • August 27 – About 5,000 ride as Republican National Convention nears and the city is packed with anti-Republican protesters. Police arrest 264 riders and seize many bikes, which are not returned for weeks.
  • Sept. 23 – Police warn cyclists not to break any traffic laws.
  • Sept. 24 – Media attention is high after what happened at the RNC ride. Helicopters follow the route. The ride starts uptown on Park Avenue, takes a left on 57th Street and heads downtown on Broadway. Everything is fine until 33rd Street, where officers briefly block the road with scooters, causing confusion among some riders. Some try to escape on foot. Some bikes are locked to street furniture. Police saw through locks to seize bikes. In total, about 1,000 people ride. Nine are arrested. Police seize 40 bikes.
  • Oct. 20 – Five cyclists, represented by Norman Siegel and Stephen J. Hyman, sue the police over the seizure of their cycles at the Sept. 24 ride.
  • Oct. 28 – Federal Judge William H. Pauley III rejects the city’s request to block the ride and grants cyclists' request to disallow police seizures of bikes in instances where the bike's owner has not been arrested.
  • Oct. 29 – Thrilled with the ruling and many in festive Halloween costumes, about 1,000 people ride and expect a hassle-free event. But 33 are arrested. For the first time, police set a route ahead of time. It is similar to the September route: Uptown on Park Avenue, west at 55th Street, downtown on Broadway. Arrests start when groups of 10 to 100 leave the proscribed route at various spots. Most arrests happen at 42nd Street and Eleventh Avenue. Another guy is arrested at Tenth and 26th. Further arrests occur after the ride at the East Houston Street headquarters of Time's Up.
  • Oct. 31 – Time's Up holds a press conference to criticize the police department for heavy enforcement. They had thought the Oct. 28 ruling had cleared the way for an arrest-free ride.
  • Nov. 5 – The Daily News publishes an editorial harshly critical of the rides. The left-leaning News could have been expected to support the ride.
  • Nov. 7 – The New York Post publishes an editorial critical of the rides. This is to be expected from The Post.
  • Nov. 26 – On a colder day and without a holiday nearby, about 300 people ride. 17 are arrested on charges of parading without a permit and disorderly conduct. The police approach riders at Union Square and hand out fliers saying the riders will be arrested simply for riding "as part of a procession."
  • Dec. 5 – The New York Times publishes an editorial critical of the police opposition to the rides.
  • Dec. 23 – Judge Pauley rejects the city's request to require the cyclists to have a permit to ride, saying the city hadn't required such a permit for a decade of riding, and anyway, the matter should be resolved in state court.
  • Dec. 30 – The New York Sun publishes an Op-Ed piece that praises cycling but criticizes the riders.
  • Dec. 31 - The next scheduled ride. What will happen? Unlike in October, this time the ride falls on an actual holiday.
    - Posted at 5:02 PM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |  

    Wednesday, December 29, 2004
    Fantastic News About Central Park
    Here is an e-mail message that just came across the transom. It is worth quoting in full. As always, emphasis is added.

    Beginning next week, for the first time in the modern era, the city will close off car access to Central Park at 7 pm and will not reopen the park to cars until 7 the following morning. Please join Transportation Alternatives and fellow park users this Monday, January 3, at 6:45 pm at the 110th Street and Lenox Avenue entrance to Central Park to celebrate the official beginning of overnight car-free hours.

    We will hold a small rally, complete with party hats and cake, to thank the city for taking this historic step towards a reclaimed car-free loop drive, and to call on Mayor Bloomberg to make the park completely car free.

    This will be a relatively small and simple event. We will make a few remarks at the beginning and then we will invite you to join us in closing the barricade exactly at 7 pm. We will invite press to the event and encourage you to invite as many people as possible.

    You can see the invitation here.

    I hope that you will join us on January 3rd.

    Ken Coughlin, Chair
    Transportation Alternatives' Car-Free Central Park Committee
    - Posted at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  


    Critical Massing
    Due to circumstances surrounding its former day job, Startsandfits.com has never participated in a Critical Mass ride, despite eight years of avid city cycling. However, I am looking forward to changing that this New Year's Eve in what promises to be an energetic, "rollicking" holiday massing, made more enthusiastic by a judge siding with bike riders last Thursday and prohibiting the City from requiring that they get a permit for this ride. Some links:
    - New Year's '05 [Times Up!]
    - Denied! [jpreardon]
    - Critical Mass Bike Riders Don't Need Permits [gothamist]
    - Judge: NYC Bike Riders Don't Need Permits [New York Newsday]
    - Protesters Spun Their Wheels [New York magazine]
    - Posted at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |  

    Sunday, December 26, 2004
    Car Alarm Hell

    Transportation Alternatives is conducting a campaign to have car alarms banned in New York City. That campaign has focused attention on the fact that car alarms degrade our quality of life but don't actually stop thiefs from stealing cars. As it stands now, city law prohibits alarms that sound for more than three minutes. So if an alarm goes off for longer than three minutes, you can call and have the car towed away. That should solve the problem of never-ending alarms, right? Not necessarily. As we all know, a lot of non-theft events cause a car alarm to sound for its three minutes. An errant football, a loud passing motorcycle or garbage truck, or, for the beleagured residents of upper Park Avenue, the passing of an elevated commuter train can all cause an alarm to go off.

    The viaduct above Park Avenue north of 97th Street is one of the busiest rail corridors in the country. On a typical weekday, Metro-North runs 527 scheduled trains along these rails. From the perspective of someone living at 116th Street and Park Avenue, these trains are the 12:01 a.m. to Southeast, the 12:08 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 12:14 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 12:31 a.m. to New Haven, the 12:39 a.m. to North White Plains, the 12:45 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:52 a.m. to Stamford, the 12:54 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:55 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:01 a.m. to Southeast, the 1:19 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 1:39 a.m. to New Haven, the 1:39 a.m. to Southeast, the 5:39 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:46 a.m. to Stamford, the 5:46 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:52 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:53 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:55 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:55 a.m. to Southeast, the 6:05 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:06 a.m. to New Haven, the 6:11 a.m. to Stamford, the 6:11 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:11 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:15 a.m. to North White Plains, the 6:21 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:22 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:24 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 6:24 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 6:31 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:32 a.m. to New Haven, the 6:35 a.m. to North White Plains, the 6:40 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:41 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:43 a.m. to Stamford, the 6:47 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:50 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:51 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:51 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 6:54 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:55 a.m. to Southeast, the 6:56 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:58 a.m. to North White Plains, the 6:59 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:01 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:02 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:04 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:06 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:07 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:09 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:09 a.m. to New Haven, the 7:10 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:12 a.m. to Stamford, the 7:13 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:16 a.m. to New Canaan, the 7:16 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:18 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:19 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:20 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:21 a.m. to North White Plains, the 7:23 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:24 a.m. to Southeast, the 7:26 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:26 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:26 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 7:27 a.m. to North White Plains, the 7:28 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:29 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:29 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:32 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:32 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:35 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:35 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:37 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:37 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:38 a.m. to New Haven, the 7:39 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:39 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:43 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:43 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:45 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:46 a.m. to Stamford, the 7:46 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:48 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 7:50 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:51 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 7:51 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:52 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:53 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:53 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:54 a.m. to North White Plains, the 7:54 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:57 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:59 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:59 a.m. to Southeast, the 8:00 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:02 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:02 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 8:02 a.m. to North White Plains, the 8:03 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:04 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:05 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:06 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:07 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:09 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:11 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:12 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:13 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:13 a.m. to New Haven, the other 8:13 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:15 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 8:15 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:18 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:19 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:19 a.m. to Stamford, the 8:20 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:21 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:23 a.m. to Southeast, the 8:23 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:24 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:25 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 8:25 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:26 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the second 8:26 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the third 8:26 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:26 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 8:28 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:30 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 8:30 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:32 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:33 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 8:33 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:33 a.m. to North White Plains, the 8:34 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:35 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:37 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:38 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:41 a.m. to New Haven, the 8:41 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:42 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:43 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:46 a.m. to Stamford, the 8:46 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:47 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:48 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:49 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:50 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:53 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:54 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:56 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:58 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 8:58 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:59 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:59 a.m. to Southeast, the 9:01 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:03 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 9:04 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:04 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:07 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:09 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:09 a.m. to North White Plains, the 9:11 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:14 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:16 a.m. to New Haven, the 9:19 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:19 a.m. to Stamford, the 9:21 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:24 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:27 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 9:32 a.m. to North White Plains, the 9:32 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:34 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 9:34 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:40 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 9:40 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:45 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:46 a.m. to Stamford, the 9:47 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:51 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 9:51 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:55 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:57 a.m. to Southeast, the 10:01 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:01 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 10:09 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:11 a.m. to North White Plains, the 10:15 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 10:15 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:16 a.m. to New Haven, the 10:18 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 10:18 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:19 a.m. to Stamford, the 10:20 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:27 a.m. to G.C.T., the 10:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 10:30 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:32 a.m. to North White Plains, the 10:37 a.m. to G.C.T., the 10:41 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:46 a.m. to Stamford, the 10:50 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:53 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:56 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:57 a.m. to Southeast, the 11:00 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the other 11:00 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:01 a.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 11:04 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:07 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:11 a.m. to North White Plains, the 11:13 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:16 a.m. to New Haven, the 11:19 a.m. to Stamford, the 11:22 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:26 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:29 a.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 11:30 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:32 a.m. to North White Plains, the 11:34 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:46 a.m. to Stamford, the 11:48 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:57 a.m. to Southeast, the 11:57 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:59 a.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:01 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 12:04 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:10 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:11 p.m. to North White Plains, the 12:16 p.m. to New Haven, the 12:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 12:22 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:26 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 12:30 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:32 p.m. to North White Plains, the 12:46 p.m. to Stamford, the 12:50 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:57 p.m. to Southeast, the 12:57 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 12:59 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:01 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 1:04 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:10 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:11 p.m. to North White Plains, the 1:16 p.m. to New Haven, the 1:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 1:23 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:26 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 1:30 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:32 p.m. to North White Plains, the 1:46 p.m. to Stamford, the 1:48 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:55 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 1:57 p.m. to Southeast, the 1:57 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 1:59 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:04 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:10 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:11 p.m. to North White Plains, the 2:12 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 2:16 p.m. to New Haven, the 2:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 2:22 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:26 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 2:30 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:32 p.m. to North White Plains, the 2:43 p.m. to New Haven, the 2:46 p.m. to Stamford, the 2:50 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:57 p.m. to Southeast, the 2:57 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 2:59 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:02 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 3:08 p.m. to North White Plains, the 3:10 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:11 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:16 p.m. to New Haven, the 3:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 3:22 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:22 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 3:23 p.m. to Southeast, the 3:25 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 3:26 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:30 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:32 p.m. to North White Plains, the 3:43 p.m. to New Haven, the 3:46 p.m. to Stamford, the 3:48 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:50 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 3:56 p.m. to Wassaic, the 3:57 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 3:59 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:02 p.m. to New Canaan, the 4:04 p.m. to Southeast, the 4:06 p.m. to North White Plains, the 4:08 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 4:11 p.m. to Harrison, the 4:11 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:13 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:14 p.m. to New Haven, the 4:20 p.m. to South Norwalk, the 4:24 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:24 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 4:25 p.m. to New Haven, the 4:29 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:29 p.m. to Southeast, the 4:32 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:32 p.m. to North White Plains, the 4:35 p.m. to Harrison, the 4:41 p.m. to North White Plains, the 4:44 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 4:45 p.m. to New Haven, the 4:48 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:48 p.m. to Wassaic, the 4:50 p.m. to New Haven, the 4:51 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 4:52 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:52 p.m. to Southeast, the 4:55 p.m. to North White Plains, the 4:55 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 4:58 p.m. to New Haven, the 4:58 p.m. to Crestwood, the 4:59 p.m. to G.C.T., the 5:01 p.m. to Harrison, the 5:01 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 5:03 p.m. to North White Plains, the 5:03 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:05 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 5:06 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:07 p.m. to Southeast, the 5:10 p.m. to New Haven, the 5:10 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:10 p.m. to Chappaqua, the 5:14 p.m. to Danbury, the 5:16 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:18 p.m. to New Canaan, the 5:18 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:19 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 5:20 p.m. to Stamford, the 5:21 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:22 p.m. to Beacon, the 5:23 p.m. to Harrison, the 5:23 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:23 p.m. to Crestwood, the 5:26 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:26 p.m. to New Haven, the 5:26 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 5:28 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 5:29 p.m. to New Rochelle, the 5:29 p.m. to Wassaic, the 5:30 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:32 p.m. to Bridgeport, the 5:34 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:34 p.m. to Brewster, the 5:35 p.m. to New Canaan, the 5:36 p.m. to Southeast, the 5:37 p.m. to South Norwalk, the 5:37 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 5:39 p.m. to Old Greenwich, the 5:40 p.m. to North White Plains, the 5:40 p.m. to Beacon, the 5:42 p.m. to Harrison, the 5:43 p.m. to Crestwood, the 5:44 p.m. to Stamford, the 5:44 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:45 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 5:46 p.m. to North White Plains, the 5:47 p.m. to New Haven, the 5:48 p.m. to Irvington, the 5:49 p.m. to Danbury, the 5:50 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:50 p.m. to Greystone, the 5:52 p.m. to Southeast, the 5:53 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:55 p.m. to Bridgeport, the 5:55 p.m. to Chappaqua, the 5:55 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:57 p.m. to North White Plains, the 5:58 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 5:59 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 6:00 p.m. to South Norwalk, the 6:01 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:02 p.m. to Old Greenwich, the 6:03 p.m. to G.C.T., the 6:03 p.m. to Crestwood, the 6:05 p.m. to Harrison, the 6:05 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 6:07 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:08 p.m. to New Rochelle, the 6:08 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 6:09 p.m. to Wassaic, the 6:11 p.m. to Greystone, the 6:12 p.m. to North White Plains, the 6:13 p.m. to New Haven, the 6:15 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:15 p.m. to Brewster, the 6:17 p.m. to New Canaan, the 6:19 p.m. to Chappaqua, the 6:21 p.m. to Bridgeport, the 6:21 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:23 p.m. to North White Plains, the 6:24 p.m. to Stamford, the 6:25 p.m. to Danbury, the 6:25 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:25 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 6:27 p.m. to Harrison, the 6:29 p.m. to Crestwood, the 6:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 6:31 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:32 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 6:34 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:34 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 6:39 p.m. to New Haven, the 6:39 p.m. to Southeast, the 6:42 p.m. to Stamford, the 6:42 p.m. to Chappaqua, the 6:44 p.m. to New Haven, the 6:45 p.m. to North White Plains, the 6:46 p.m. to Harrison, the 6:47 p.m. to North White Plains, the 6:49 p.m. to Stamford, the 6:50 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:53 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 6:54 p.m. to Mount Vernon West, the 6:54 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 6:59 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:01 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:02 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:03 p.m. to Southeast, the 7:04 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:07 p.m. to New Haven, the 7:08 p.m. to Chappaqua, the 7:09 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:11 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:11 p.m. to North White Plains, the 7:13 p.m. to Stamford, the 7:14 p.m. to North White Plains, the 7:16 p.m. to Harrison, the 7:17 p.m. to New Canaan, the 7:17 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 7:20 p.m. to New Haven, the 7:28 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 7:29 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:31 p.m. to Southeast, the 7:32 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:35 p.m. to North White Plains, the 7:36 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:37 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 7:39 p.m. to North White Plains, the 7:45 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:46 p.m. to New Haven, the 7:49 p.m. to Stamford, the 7:54 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 7:58 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 7:59 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:01 p.m. to Southeast, the 8:07 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 8:08 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:09 p.m. to North White Plains, the 8:11 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:13 p.m. to New Haven, the 8:16 p.m. to New Haven, the 8:20 p.m. to Stamford, the 8:22 p.m. to G.C.T., the 8:25 p.m. to Southeast, the 8:28 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:30 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:33 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 8:37 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 8:39 p.m. to North White Plains, the 8:46 p.m. to New Haven, the 8:47 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:49 p.m. to Stamford, the 8:54 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 8:59 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:01 p.m. to Southeast, the 9:08 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:09 p.m. to North White Plains, the 9:11 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:12 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 9:16 p.m. to New Haven, the 9:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 9:22 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:26 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 9:31 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:39 p.m. to North White Plains, the 9:45 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 9:46 p.m. to New Haven, the 9:49 p.m. to Stamford, the 9:54 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:03 p.m. to Southeast, the 10:08 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:09 p.m. to North White Plains, the 10:12 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 10:14 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 10:22 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 10:31 p.m. to New Haven, the 10:39 p.m. to North White Plains, the 10:42 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 10:47 p.m. to G.C.T., the 10:49 p.m. to Stamford, the 10:54 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:09 p.m. to Southeast, the 11:12 p.m. to Poughkeepsie, the 11:14 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:15 p.m. to North White Plains, the 11:19 p.m. to Stamford, the 11:22 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:29 p.m. to Croton-Harmon, the 11:31 p.m. to New Haven, the 11:39 p.m. to North White Plains, the 11:42 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:45 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal, the 11:49 p.m. to Stamford and the 11:54 p.m. to Grand Central Terminal.

    These are the 527 opportunities for a meaningless alarm to be tripped. Imagine the misery of someone who had to listen to 3 minutes of unnecessary whooping sirens after each of these trains passed. There would be hours between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. when the alarms would seemingly never end. The noise wouldn't end until three minutes after the 1:39 a.m. trains to New Haven and Southeast rumbled over the viaduct. That's 1:42 a.m.

    - Posted at 10:41 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  


    S.U.V. Goes "Off Road"

    The automakers bombard us every day with images of S.U.V.s driving off road, perhaps on the theory that some percentage of people who aren't sickened by the images will want to drop some $599.99 a month for 36 months for the chance to drive on the shrinking part of the planet that isn't paved yet. All that advertising must have made the driver of this S.U.V. think it was O.K. to plow into the shrubs that stood on the tiny bit of green space between the entrance road and adjacent ample free parking. This is as close as most S.U.V. owners get to going "off road," but the destructive images in the advertising persist.

    This was the scene on Friday at the Circuit City on Route 1 in Norwalk, Conn., where Startsandfits.com spent some time this weekend. This driver of this S.U.V. was apparently too important a person to spend a few minutes looking for an actual parking space. Or maybe there were no parking spaces to be found when he or she was looking. That would illuminate a problem that faces merchants in those places where the number of people who can shop at a store is limited by the number of people who can park in its lot. In such places, store designers build as many parking spaces they think they'll need on the day after Thanksgiving. The merchant pays for all of the spaces, even though many of them sit unused for the better part of the year's remaining 364 days. (Actually, the merchant passes on the cost of these usually-unneeded parking spaces to you, the consumer.) But as happened on Friday, things can turn ugly if more people want to shop than can fit in the parking lot. People become impatient when their expectations are not met. In our beloved city, with its multiple transportation modes, a store's capacity is not restricted by such a thing, and merchants can make more money per square foot.
    - Posted at 9:39 PM | Permalink | Comments: 3 | Post a Comment |  

    Friday, December 24, 2004
    Holiday Travel
    The New York Times begins a report about holiday travel in today's paper this way:
    CHICAGO, Dec. 23 - Snow, ice and high winds extended from the Great Lakes to the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, tying up traffic, delaying flights and disrupting holiday travel plans for thousands of people. At least 13 people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.
    The article goes on to report about a 22-car pileup in Wyoming that caused nine people to be hospitalized. And it says that the governor of Indiana, Joseph E. Kernan, closed parts of three Interstate highways, and that Greyhound halted service on 12 routes. Here is more on the holiday travel calamity:
    Flights involving Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and Washington were among the many that suffered delays of up to two hours. More than 200 flights were canceled on Wednesday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
    Chaos on the roads! Frustrating delays in the skies! Intercity bus service canceled! What about Amtrak service? No Amtrak delays mentioned in the article. No Amtrak delays reported in a Google news search. I imagine that the storm might slow trains down a bit, but I doubt there would have been reason to cancel any trains. (If anyone hears about Amtrak trains canceled or delayed yesterday, please post a comment about it.)

    If this whole tragic mess isn't enough to make lawmakers support a multi-modal transporation system, which provides choices for people when one or more modes of travel become unusable, I don't know what is.

    More importantly, 13 people died yesterday - each with a set of loved ones who are now in grief. This is just another barely perceptible increase in the number of deaths caused by our dependence on car travel, by far the most deadly form of transportation even without snow. This fact goes largely unrecognized because deaths on the road happen in smaller increments and in separate events. If at least 13 people died together in a bus, train or plane accident, or in, say, an attack in Iraq, that would have been what led the headlines. But yesterday the at least 13 deaths happened separately, they were left out of the headlines and relegated to second paragraph status. If more people are discovered to have died in accidents, or some of those injured die from their injuries, we won't even hear about it at all. This is one reason why people often fail to fully understand the high number of deaths and injuries associated with car travel.

    Moreover, the act of driving yesterday seems nothing short of hellish. As one motorist, Joe Bartless of Alexandria, Ky., commented,

    "I saw a car off the road about every 200 feet," he said. "So it was white knuckles for me."
    Why put yourself through that? If I had to travel this weekend, I would have taken Amtrak. And I would have been well rested, well fed, and calm.
    - Posted at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |  

    Wednesday, December 22, 2004
    "Love Parking, Hate Traffic"
    I want to bring up for your consideration three items that I think are worthy of attention:

    1) On Tuesday night I attended the monthly general meeting of Manhattan Community Board 12, which serves the area from West 155th Street up to the northern tip of the island. At the meeting, elected officials and local residents spoke of a dire need for more schools to be built in the area because overcrowding has become an epidemic in Washington Heights and Inwood. Despite this, the only school site up for discussion last night, 268-284 Dyckman Street, between Payson Avenue and Henshaw Street, was roundly opposed by residents of two buildings on upper Riverside Drive adjacent to the site. The residents said construction of the new school would cause rodents to enter their building, increase traffic, take away 400 parking spaces and undermine the foundation of the building, located apparently on landfill, which could lead to the building's collapse!

    2) Curbed today had an item on a group called stopoursupersizing.com, which is opposed to a new apartment building in Williamsburg. The group put out a flier that claims the building will: cause higher rents, higher taxes, more crowded subways, more traffic, less parking, and lacked affordable housing.

    3) Naparstek.com, which is quickly becoming my favorite web site, carried an item back in July that recounted efforts to persuade business owners in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that a bike lane would be a good thing for Fifth Avenue there. They eventually won the bike lane, but the process caused Mr. Naparstek to comment: "In the end, the most amazing thing about the anti-bike neighborhood conservatives was that each and every one of them complained about too much traffic and lack of parking." [Emphasis added.]

    Notice a theme here? Most people love lots of parking but hate traffic. (Even motorists hate traffic, even though they help create it.) But these attitudes are all a result of people thinking about some small area in isolation. Nobody seems to grasp the parking/traffic connection. Overall, the way to decrease traffic is to decrease parking. Because gas is so cheap in the U.S., relative to other countries, the most effective way to discourage people from driving is to make parking a hassle or prohibitively expensive. The more parking spaces you have, the more traffic you will have. Period.
    - Posted at 8:10 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2 | Post a Comment |  

    Monday, December 20, 2004
    Speculating at a Prime Corner
    505 Fifth Avenue, the speculative office tower at 42nd Street, is coming along quite nicely on a corner formerly occupied by a tawdry one-story taxpayer. They say you can't build speculative office buildings anymore, but here's one that begs to differ. Then again, it's hard to imagine a better location than New York's most famous avenue and its most famous street. Folks, if you can't sell office space at 42nd and Fifth, where can you?

    Now that the CIBC U.S. headquarters is finished or nearly so one block to the east at 300 Madison Avenue, the prestige block of East 42nd Street between Fifth and Madison is taking on a new character -- and demonstrating the continuing attractiveness of the Grand Central Terminal area. Renderings of 505 Fifth show an exciting Emerald City quality about the building. Renderings have a way of being sexier than real life. No matter how the building turns out, the most exciting office project on 42nd Street remains the 54-story Bank of America Building on a huge site one block to the west.
    - Posted at 10:07 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  


    Rockefeller Center in ... Brrrrr ... East Harlem
    The newly created East Harlem Board of Tourism sponsored a tree-lighting ceremony this evening at 106th and Third that was billed as the first annual. The highlight of the event, other than the 16-degree chill, was an appearance by none other than Mayor Bloomberg, who is seen here at the lectern, lighting the tree. Now that the dollar is so weak compared to foreign currency and European and Asian tourists are spending like gangbusters here, it is a potentially lucrative strategy for bringing money into historically undercapitalized neighborhoods. Professor Lily M. Hoffman at City College has written an interesting chapter on this strategy called "Revalorizing the Inner City: Tourism and Regulation in Harlem." I couldn't find the chapter anywhere on the web, but I did find a reference to the book in which it appears.
    - Posted at 9:47 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  


    Light Rail Proposal for Staten Island
    Wow! After years of dedicated lobbying by Auto-Free New York for a light rail line on 42nd Street, Staten Island might beat Manhattan to the punch. Crain's New York Business has an article (registration required) about a $50,000 study conducted by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation and paid for by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to determine the feasibility of extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system south into western Staten Island.

    The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail must be the most exciting transit project to be completed in the metropolitan area recently, and one of the most pleasant ways to get around. Extending the line to Staten Island would provide the rail service to the underserved western side of the island, and would relieve some of the longest, most brutal commutes in the city. Staten Islanders have to take a bus around Upper New York Bay or take a bus or train to the cross-harbor ferry. These options can easily take more than an hour and a half.

    The next step is a more expensive environmental impact study. U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella, Republican of Staten Island, said he will try to get federal money for this next study. Crain's cites some eye-opening statistics that make it clear why this idea is receiving attention:
    Officials have been taking the idea of a light rail system more seriously of late because of the recent explosive population growth in the borough. From 1990 to 2000, the Tottenville area in southern Staten Island-where the light rail train would commence-has been the fastest-growing region in the borough, which itself has been the fastest-growing county in New York state.
    Whatever happens, be sure to keep checking startsandfits.com for news on this exciting project as it happens.
    - Posted at 9:21 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  

    Sunday, December 19, 2004
    Uptown Bigdorm - Where's the Controversy?
    As readers of Curbed know, even a smaller, revised version of a proposed dormitory at the former CHARAS site on Avenue B is causing a tremendous amount of controversy, even causing people to protest against the architect. But uptown, a big dormitory is rising without even a whimper from the community, as far as I can tell.


    Here is a building that replaces an early 20th century apartment house at 352 West 110th Street and a large vacant lot at the northwest corner of 109th and Manhattan. It is to be called Cathedral Gardens, and will be a Barnard College residence hall, according to an article in the Columbia Spectator.

    In 2000, HPD issued a press release that describe a location: "Cathedral Parkway and West 109th Street, at Manhattan Avenue," a developer: "Artimus Construction / Columbia University," and a use: "25 condominium units; 87 faculty / graduate student apartments; 9,500 sq. ft. of community space."

    The New York Beacon carried a paragraph about this site on July 7, 2002:
    Cathedral Gardens - to be located at 109th Street and Manhattan Avenue. A joint venture of Artimus Construction and Columbia University. Developers offered the city $5.2 million for the site to build faculty/student housing for Columbia University, in addition to affordable cooperatives and open space for the public. Additionally, developers offered space within the building free of charge to any non-profit community-based organization willing to operate adaycare center.
    During a 2003 keynote speech at an alumnae event, Judith Shapiro, the president of the Barnard Leadership Council, said:
    [O]ne of our major projects that we are undertaking is for the first new piece of real estate that the college has acquired in many, many years, in a very nice location at the corner catty-cornered from St. John the Divine at 110th and Manhattan Avenue, that will have in it 25 faculty apartments and 91 student beds. …So the project, which is currently called Cathedral Gardens, although who knows what name it may one day bear, is - [laughter, applause] - is very, very much in progress.
    There you have the sum total of everything I could learn about this project. A notable quietude for such a large building. So far, not even a reference on Columbia's usually encyclopedic neighbors website. And nobody in the community seems to be complaining about the construction and addition of all college students to the area. Where's the anger? Where's the rage?
    - Posted at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |  

    Saturday, December 18, 2004
    Drive-In Bank Branch in Park Slope
    Aaron Naparstek has a frankly worded blog entry about a drive-thru Commerce Bank branch to be built in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Calling the bank, "the quintessential corporate steamroller with a cancerous business plan," he rightly rails against the low-density nature of the design and its placement in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.
    Unlike the century-old buildings that line 5th Ave., this building, with its glass panels, white brick and metallic roof, is unlikely to last any longer than the bank's 20-year lease on the lot. Unlike the solid, high-ceiling banks of old, Commerce Bank gives the impression that it is just passing through, sucking assets out of the community as efficiently as possible, like a motorist in a drive-thru on his way to somewhere else.
    Right on! It's always amazing to see drive-thrus in New York City, where land values would support far more intensive use. The same goes for the one-story supermarkets where apartments would easily stand above them and provide the supermarket with a near-captive group of customers. Still, even a drive-thru bank branch is better than an empty lot or a parking lot. I'd be interested in learning what stood on the site before the bank bought it. If it was vacant, then the loss here is simply the opportunity cost of what magnificent building could have been there. On the positive news for Brooklyn, it is undergoing a huge housing boom, far surpassing Manhattan and not seen in Brooklyn in decades. The drive-thru bank is going against the trend of increasingly robust development in Brooklyn.
    - Posted at 8:56 PM | Permalink | Comments: 3 | Post a Comment |  

    Friday, December 17, 2004
    An Identity Crisis in Plain View

    The New York City Department of Transportation is installing extra-large, Los Angeles-style overhead signs at the intersections along the major crosstown streets in Manhattan and at other key places in the outer boroughs. I see these oversized green signs out of the corner of my eye and I keep thinking that they'll say Sepulveda or La Cienega. These signs are designed to be more easily seen at a moments notice from drivers of cars whizzing past. Upon returning from L.A. a few years ago, I recall looking at New York's tiny street signs and thinking, "Yes, this is still a city designed for the pedestrian." But I actually like the signs. Although they are designed for motorists, they do help pedestrians as well, and they do a tiny bit toward calming motorists' nerves and reducing confusion on the roads, which helps us all.

    While I give props to the DOT for the program overall, I question their judgment on the signs in Harlem, on 110th, 116th, 125th and 145th Streets. In 1977, Eighth Avenue north of 110th Street was renamed Frederick Douglass Boulevard, in honor of the African American abolitionist (1818-1895) whose struggle to escape to New York is chronicled in his well-read memoir. Perhaps seeking brevity, perhaps simply out of habit, most people continue to call it Eighth Avenue, despite Al Gore's subtle reminder during a 2000 presidential debate at the Apollo Theater. All the signs that said Eighth Avenue were taken down long ago, but in or about September, the DOT unceremoneously returned to the old name when it installed its extra-large signs. No doubt it did this for space, since it's hard to fit the whole name on the bigger signs and keep the same large font size. But why not just abbreviate it to "Douglass Blvd"? That way it would match smaller signs all along the avenue.

    The same is true for Seventh Avenue north of 110th Street, which was renamed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in honor of the flamboyant, controversial 11-term congressman from Harlem shortly after his death in 1972. The DOT could have installed signs saying "Powell Blvd" but instead opted to restore the earlier name.

    It's clear to me that the DOT is not harboring any ulterior motives for this street sign decision. One block east of Powell/7, the DOT could have issued signs saying "Lenox Av" but there they opted to emphasize the more recent name, "Malcolm X Blvd." In the Village and Midtown, the DOT could have created signs that read "Av of Americas," which would have been supported by the corporations that us that grandiose name on their address plates. Instead the agency issued shorter signs that read, "6 Av," using the name used by average New Yorkers. But this example is not quite analagous because since the signs that read "6 Av" stand alongside the signs that read "Avenue of the Americas," the large overhead signs there are a little less out-of-nowhere. Time will tell how many tourists wander about confused about their whereabouts, but it is possible that in an effort to reduce confusion about street names, the DOT has created more.

    - Posted at 1:33 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |  

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004
    Fare Hike Politics

    The MTA board of directors will vote on Thursday about whether to raise fares or decrease service or both. To encourage the directors to do neither, elected officials and supporters got together in 32-degree night air to protest the idea of hikes and cuts.

    This is the same rally that I mentioned in this space earlier. Not being one to promote an event and then not show, I caught the tail end, including speeches by two Democrats: Gifford Miller, the speaker of the city council whom many expect to run for mayor, and U.S. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner of Brooklyn (above, at microphone). Congressman Weiner described the fare increase as a heavy tax on the working class and noted that Mayor Bloomberg had gotten a tremendous reduction in his personal taxes under the Bush administration. I'd say it was a pretty good turnout for an event announced four days ahead of time and falling on a freezing, windy weeknight.


    - Posted at 8:20 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  

    Saturday, December 11, 2004
    Tenants Make Their Case

    Uh-oh. Any time you see hand-written signs posted on a building you know there must a serious dispute going on. This is a five-story, 21-unit apartment building at 532 West 163rd Street (between Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue) that looks like a New Law Tenement. Here is a map showing the location of the building, a graffito, and three of the signs:


    The signs in English read: "We Don't Want 'NRP' We Want Ownership Tenant Assoc." and "An organization named Community League wants to take us out of our building but we're not leaving." Unfortunately, my Spanish isn't good enough for a reliable translation. Can anyone help? (Click on the images for full-scale versions.)

    Before getting into the nature of the dispute, here is a narrative timeline of what lead up to it. According to PropertyShark.com, the building was built in 1906 and fell into city ownership sometime between 1976 and 1980, no doubt due to the former owner's failure to pay property taxes as was common in those bleak years. In 2001, four tenants attended a meeting at which representatives from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development encouraged them to start paying rent to a community-based nonprofit organization, the Community League of West 159th Street, which has been managing the building since that time. In October 2003, the Community League was granted a permit for "rehabilitation of existing multifamily building to a 19 unit building including joist replacement, new partitions, new roof, new mechanical systems" at a cost listed at $1.15 million.

    On Aug. 14, 2004, a neighborhood resident who goes by the handle Futurebird posted a blog entry about the building. Ten days later, HPD sold the building for $6 to the Community League, which took out a $7.4 million mortgage on the building that day from HPD. The Community League does not have a Website, but it seems the group is responsible for good things. HPD is known to have brought about tremendous revitalization throughout the city as vacant, city-owned buildings have been restored into habitable buildings and new buildings have sprouted on vacant lots. However, that does not make them immune to controversy now and then.

    The tenants are upset that the building was entered into HPD's Neighborhood Redevelopment Program, which "conveys clusters of occupied and nearby vacant City-owned buildings to selected community based not-for-profit organizations for rehabilitation and operation as rental housing." Instead, the tenants want to be a part of HPD's Tenant Interim Lease program, in which they would form a co-op and own the building. They feel the city steered them away from the TIL program at that meeting in 2001 by failing to mention that TIL was a possibility. HPD says it notified the tenants of their options multiple times before the August 2004 sale and that TIL is generally well-known to people in Washington Heights. The Community League says it managed the building for two and a half years and never heard any complaints about NRP before it was too late.

    The important question is whether the tenants would be allowed back in the building once any renovations are completed, and at what rent level. Renovations might not be a bad thing as some of the apartments are reportedly uninhabitable, but looming over this episode is the dreaded G-word. Finally, as you can see below, the adjacent building to the west, owned by HPD, is being renovated, while a vacant lot sits to the site west of that building. Given the nature of NRP's mandate over "clusters of occupied and nearby vacant City-owned buildings," perhaps the fates of these two parcels are tied to what happens at No. 532.

    The best coverage of this dispute is available at City Limits: TIL: It's Too Late

    - Posted at 11:28 PM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |  


    Hitch Hiking in the Information Age

    Spotted! on West 119th Street in Harlem, a minivan that seems to be affiliated in some way with a ride-sharing site called PlanetRideShare.com. The sign says "PlanetRideShare.com Register your ride for free as a passenger or a driver to all destinations in Canada and in the U.S.A. Toronto Ottawa Montreal Quebec Boston New York etc." Since the most inefficient (and most common) form of driving is the single-occupancy vehicle, this service helps reduce traffic congestion by increasing the efficiency of cars that are making a trip anyway. It also increases the mobility of non-car owners, who by their lifestyle require less space dedicated to parking. Yada, yada, yada. Whatever. It's completely free to the passenger! How tremendous is that?
    - Posted at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  

    Friday, December 10, 2004
    Fare Hike Protest
    The Save Mass Transit Coalition is having a protest against raising transit fares and decreasing service. It will be in front of Governor Pataki's office at 633 Third Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets) in Manhattan at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Be there or be square.
    - The Grinch Who Stole Transit
    - Posted at 1:04 AM | Permalink | Comments: 5 | Post a Comment |  

    Thursday, December 09, 2004
    Transportation Spending, Oil Dependency and War
    Just so everyone is absolutely clear: Yesterday, Dec. 8, President Bush signed into law a consolidated spending bill that increased spending on highways by $1 billion, even though our nation is at war and has a tremendous trade deficit caused in large part by oil expenditures. The president and congress approved this increase on highway spending even though it promotes auto travel, which causes sprawl and pollution and increases the amount of money we pay to middle eastern countries for oil, and is by far the most deadly form of transportation.

    To recap: United States spending on Amtrak, which revitalizes city and town centers across the country: $1.2 billion, the same as last year. U.S. highway spending: $34.7 billion, up $1 billion. Deaths in the U.S. by rail in 2001 (the most recent year for which data is available): 548. Deaths in the U.S. by automobile or truck in 2001: 42,116. We should increase Amtrak funding, but congress leaves it unchanged. We should decrease highway spending, yet congress raises it. It's no wonder our nation is at war in an oil-producing country.

    - Posted at 11:22 PM | Permalink | Comments: 4 | Post a Comment |  

    Monday, December 06, 2004
    Upward Uptown

    As the Mayflower on lower Central Park West is being demolished to make way for a structure or structures unknown, a hotel near the north end of the avenue is expanding the only direction it can -- up. The Astor on the Park, at 465 Central Park West between 106th and 107th Streets, is almost finished adding its eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh floors and what may be a roofdeck. It's nice to see economic development uptown, but I'm not sure that the addition is architecturally sound. In fact, it looks terrible. Let's hope that they're planning on putting some detail on those upper floors to blend with the elegant red brick and limestone trim below. Looming behind is 455 Central Park West on 106th Street, a newly built luxury tower where apartments are available!
    - Posted at 1:19 AM | Permalink | Comments: 3 | Post a Comment |  


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