Sunday, June 29, 2008
People move for all sorts of reasons, so I was floored when I found out the couple living in the top floor apartment of my brownstone in Brooklyn moved because of this: a rooftop cellular phone tower. My building superintendent tells me they feared the configuration on the top of a building five doors down might be emitting Electromagnetic radiation. They fear the device could cause them harm.
Apparently, they just noticed the contraption, which has been up on the corner building for months now. Cellular phone companies often pay building owners to install the equipment to make their systems more reliable. The more towers they have, the better the signal . I'm told my neighbors actually broke their lease and paid a hefty penalty to pack up their bags and leave.
More researcher needs to be done on the health effects of these towers, but most experts agree that RF coming from cellular base stations, as they're called, pose very little health risk. They indicate the only way, one might be affected is to pitch a tent on the roof, right next to the thing and right in the path of it's electromagnetic signals.
Even the Food and Drug Administration offered up their opinion on the cellular towers:
"As with all forms of electromagnetic energy, the power decreases rapidly as one moves away from the antenna. Therefore, RF exposure on the ground is much less than exposure very close to the antenna and in the path of the transmitted radio signal. In fact, ground-level exposure from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than the exposure levels recommended as safe by expert organizations. So exposure to nearby residents would be well within safety margins. "
I don't know about you, but unless you're going to seclude yourself in an igloo in Alaska, there's no escaping technology. We all want the latest advances and we prove that by gobbling up all of the new high tech gadgets as soon as they hit store shelves. But, the NIMBY theory prevails. They scream "not in my backyard."
In fact, here's a letter sent to a Brooklyn blogger, citing her fear of the grey metal contraptions:
"Hi, I encountered a dangerous situation today at 553 Henry street. It looks as though they installed some new cell phone antennas on the roof. But here is where it gets good; not only did they do that, they also went ahead and put a huge antenna directly on the facade of the building on the 4th story. Now this is pretty scary being we have many small children walking by the building everyday. Not only will this become an issue with a good storm but looking at it makes me nervous."
Debates like this are going on all over the country. Elsewhere, another woman says she heard a youngster in her neighborhood has Leukemia and wonders whether the new cell tower in her neighborhood is to blame.
Although research indicates there is little risk of radiation exposure to these towers, people often forget about the other environmental threats we face everyday. The couple who moved out of our building didn't move because of idling diesel trucks, or smog in New York City, or even radiation from the Sun that can cause skin cancer. They bolted because of a fear of cell towers. Actually, more extensive research has been done on the ill effects of holding a cellular phone up to your ear everyday.
Some suggest it may not be good for us. I'm sure these poor folks are going to be on the run for years. As technology improves, certainly another one of those towers will find its way into their new neighborhood. And who knows what else....high tension wires, a trash transfer station, maybe even a nuclear power plant. "D'oh!"
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Just a heads up, I'll be doing a 4:30pm-7pm (Eastern time) show on Sunday, June 29th on 630, KHOW in Denver. I won't actually be there, but broadcasting from the ABC Radio Network studios in Manhattan. You can listen on line at http://www.khow.com/main.html.. Enjoy.
Chris and Matt are brothers who are in the lathing business. They create the metal framework for ceilings and the like. Several times a week they park their two company vehicles on the 33rd Street in Midtown Manhattan. They dutifully park them in a zone for commercial trucks. The sign says "commercial trucks," yet time and time again, Chris and Matt find tickets on their windshields. You'll never guess for what. That's right for illegally parking in a "commercial truck zone."
It happened again the other day, but this time, I had to witness it for myself.
Matt is once again explaining to the parking enforcement officer (meter maid) that the vehicle in front of him is indeed a truck.
First, he notes the "commercial" license plate on the vehicle. Ticket guy keeps writing. Then, he asks, "What type of vehicle is this." "It's not a truck," he replies. So, he decides to play a little game with the guy. "Repeat after me, this is a pick up, what?" "Vehicle," the guy responds. Then, he loses it. "It's a fucking pick up TRUCK." "It's a fucking pick up TRUCK with a fucking commercial license."
Chris and Matt aren't usually hot heads, but after more than 60 or so of these tickets for illegally parking in a commercial truck zone, it's difficult to restrain themselves.
"Asshole," Matt yelled, as the guy was walking away. "Prick." Say that to a real cop and you'll end up in the pokey. But, I can understand their frustration.
They did nothing wrong and everything right and yet, they have to show up in court each time with pictures, like the ones here, to explain to the judge that the vehicle parked in that commercial truck zone is indeed, A FUCKING PICK UP TRUCK!
Friday, June 27, 2008
Film crews love Carroll Gardens. It's tree lined streets with turn of the century brownstones and quaint Mom and Pop shops make it a picture perfect setting for a movie. But, Carroll Gardens doesn't love film crews. They hog up precious parking spaces and they order residents to stop walking on the sidewalk each time they begin shooting. In an old Italian neighborhood where crusty old men chomp on cigars and curse like sailors, this has produced some very vivid and loud exchanges.
I'm guessing there will be more of the same this weekend, when crews move in to shoot a movie called, " I Hate Valentines Day." Sounds like some cheap horror film.
This time, they're not just filming for one day on one block. This time they're filming on two residential blocks for two days. I'll update you with stories and pictures next week.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Steven didn't know when to shut up. He wasn't a bad guy or anything, he was just drunk. He may have even had a speech impediment, but the bartender at Angry Wades didn't think so. He thought the dude was just plain shit-faced. It's my second time sitting next to the guy, a 40-something fella wearing a button down shirt, loose tie and dress pants. He drinks Miller lite and best we could tell he had been drinking them at a pretty fast clip for about 9-hours already.
When drunk, some people become happy. Others like to fight. Some just talk a lot and do it very loudly. This guy was soft spoken, but had absolutely no train of thought, which might be explained off by his lack of sobriety. But, not really. It's almost like he has Tourettes Syndrome, when a brain malfunction makes you twitch and belt out words and phrases that make no sense.
When I first sat down, he turned to me and said "LLC." (That's a limited liability company) I said, "Excuse me?" His response, "College football." I told him I'm not a big college football fan and he said, "Southern Lebanon." I thought this might be some college I was unfamiliar with, until he blurted out, "Gaza." Okay, I get it, like in the strip, the Palestinian territory in Israel. "Yeah," I said, "It's a mess." "Chinatown!" Now, what the fuck does Chinatown have to do with Gaza or even college football.
This goes on. At this point, I decide to jot down all of his wandering words and thoughts so later I could see if it was some sort of CIA code he was trying to pass along. His train of thought wanders from Parks, to the Sopranos, to Hillary Clinton to (ready, there's actually some sort of thread to follow) Senators and political corruption. I tried to engage him a few times to see if he had any depth of knowledge to any of these utterings, but no. There was no topic, just words and thoughts.
And there was more. "Staten Island," "Bears in New Jersey," and "FBI." I couldn't keep up. Four beers later, he's still going on. "You know what the place looks like,?" he asks. I shake my head, "No!" Go ahead, just try to guess what his answer to this question is. Try. Here's a clue. Nary a single word connects to anything. Okay, his response: "Timothy McVeigh."
Now, I'm really curious. So after a very, very short conversation about what I do. I ask him, "What do you do for a living?" Ready.
He's a Real Estate Construction Lawyer. I'm not quite sure what that is, but I suppose it has something to do with helping developers steer clear of legal hurdles when putting up a building. So, I asked, "What's Real Estate Construction law?" He answers, "Donald Trump." I said, "Oh, so you consult Trump." He goes, "No, I'm a lawyer." Back to square one. He's having a difficult time explaining what he does, if indeed, he really is a Real Estate Construction Lawyer. I persist, but get nowhere.
I decide to try reverse psychology. I begin to blurt out words and phrases that have no train of thought. "Tulips in a Pear tree," I say. "Huh?," he asks. "That's right, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." "Who's that," he asks. "Bacon!," I tell him.
"Goes good with eggs," he says. "Yeah, like a Mack truck on a lonely country highway," I say. "You have a Mack truck," he wonders. "Nope," I say, "Donald Trump." "Really," he continues. Then, he blurts out, "Real Estate Construction Law." And so we came full circle and I left in frustration trying to make heads or tails of his bizarre barroom code. You don't even want to know what I was dreaming that night.
It's no secret, gentrification has a grip on Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I came to this predominately Italian neighborhood about 11 years ago. I like it now, but I liked it better than. In just a decade, dozens of Mom and Pop shops have closed down, old staples like butcher shops, barbershops, deli's and a few bakeries. They've been replaced with chain drug stores, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and even an American Apparel.
Stores are not the only new arrivals. A new wave of yuppies and young families with lots of cash have moved here, sending rents and prices through the roof. Prior to me moving into my parlor level brownstone apartment, this place was renting for $800.00 a month. If I were to move out today, the rent would soar to about $3500.00 a month.
I now pay somewhere in between those figures.
You hear the old-timers tell great stories of what this neighborhood was once like and how it's changed. In just 11 years, Carroll Gardens feels different. Imagine the difference 20, 30, 40 or 50 years must make.
I present to you two videos, one a short documentary on the old Carroll Gardens, featuring interviews with long time residents and shopkeepers. Watch that video first at this link. http://www.mediastorm.org/workshops_0002.htm
Now, take a look at a the humorous take of a couple of 20-somethings who just recently moved to the neighborhood. This is a video of what they think the old-timers think they think.
It's all very sad, really. The old-timers are right, yet the kids who are moving into the neighborhood think Carroll Gardens is what hip is all about. Years ago, it was SOHO in Manhattan, then Williamsburg and DUMBO in Brooklyn and now, Carroll Gardens is the next "in" spot. The only problem with being the "in" spot is that it now costs a lot more to be "in."
I snapped a picture of this gem while walking down Smith Street in Brooklyn the other day. On one hand it's kind of cool looking, on the other, it's a disgrace.
Is it any wonder that graffiti is as popular today as it was in the 1970's when every subway car was spray painted. Every once in a while in my neighborhood, I'll spot the side of commercial building covered in graffiti, yet the owners ignore it.
Most people paint over it. It sends a message that this wall will not be vandalized.
Unless the owner of the truck himself is some sort of graffiti artist, you'd think, they'd give it a paint job and park the damn truck in place where vandals can't get near it.
A few weeks ago three seniors at the High School for Global Studies in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn made headlines after they spiked a cake they brought to school with a laxative. The school punished the seniors by refusing to allow them to attend graduation.
But, it turns out that was going to be their only punishment, even though one teacher became violently ill and had to be taken to the hospital. Teachers tell me the Principal had no intention of calling the police. The teachers union, I'm told, stepped in and called the cops. The stories were running rampant at Angry Wades, when the pub held it's annual Teacher Appreciation Day on the last day of school.
When they showed up, even the cops weren't so convinced charges should be filed. The teacher that was sickened and the union insisted and indeed the 17-year olds were hauled off to the pokey. The students were charged with felony assault on a teacher, a crime that could land them in jail for seven years.
I know, that sounds kind of harsh. But, here's what will happen, they'll show up in court, tell the families they're sorry, agree to community service, pay for the hospital bill and it'll be over. I'd be surprised if they're sent to jail. That would be a little harsh, but the teachers union did the right thing to press charges and the waiting alone, prior to their court appearance, should be punishment enough.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Last year, there was quite the brouhaha over the safety of people in Carroll Park in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Several residents complained of unruly teenagers running amok in the one-square block park. They were upset at how they were cursing, menacing and putting fear into parents of young children. Stories began appearing in the local papers and even my former colleague at WABC, the grand poo-bah of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa, threatened to begin patrolling the park.
Within days, the 76th precinct flooded the park with cops for a day or two, then cut back. But, as the summer went on the police maintained a visible presence there.
Now, I'm happy to report, the police are back. On this particular day an officer sat in one of those little traffic buggy's on the edge of the basketball courts. A day earlier, a patrol officer kept a watchful eye on the kids having fun around the playground. It now appears to be a common sight most afternoons and early evenings in Carroll Park.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
My former colleague at 77-WABC, Morning News Reporter and writer Babita Hariani has gone Hollywood. She's dabbled in films in the past, but in this scene, she plays a Television news reporter.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "The Happening," is a paranoid thriller about a family on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo. The film opened in New York City theaters last week on Friday, June 13th. Simply click on the play button to watch the YouTube clip of Babita's performance.
I can't get enough of Coney Island, Brooklyn's ramshackle amusement mecca by the sea.
Who doesn't like the crashing ocean waves as a backdrop to such attractions as the Cyclone roller coaster, Ruby's Old Tyme bar and the paintball game, Shoot the Freak. For more than 100 years, Coney Island has hosted some sort of amusement park or another, some grand, others not so grand. Coney Island was in it's heyday at the turn of the century.
Coney Island's first amusement park arrived in 1895. Sea Lion park featured a log flume type of aquatic ride. The park came about ten years after the world's first roller coaster debuted at the resort destination, than a fairly baron area reached primarily by steam train and by steamship. The famous Steeplechase amusement park--full of daredevil thrill rides opens in 1897, but catches fire ten years later. It was rebuilt. Luna Park opened in 1903 and Dreamland followed a year later.
The big crowds started arriving in 1920, when the subway connected Coney Island to the rest of New York city. Three years later, 175 businesses were razed to make room for the new boardwalk. It wasn't long after that the still standing and still iconic Cyclone roller coaster debuted. Luna Park had a three decade run at Coney until, it too, burned down in 1944. Steeplechase closed 20-years later. This was the beginning of the end.
Coney Island fell into urban decay. The blighted area was now packed with city housing projects, businesses boarded up and only a few attractions remained in what had become one of New York city's biggest slums. Through the 1980's, the famed resort had fallen into disrepair. Gangs ruled the streets and New Yorkers had discovered much more modern and cleaner places that soon became known as "Theme parks."
A revival began in the 1990's when locals and historians capitalized on the honky-tonk feel Coney Island had become. Many people say the carnival-esque feel is what Coney Island was all about for years, but It wasn't. Coney Islanders talk of keeping cheap attractions like the freak show and the boardwalks scarce rinky-dink amusement parks. But, back in it's heyday, Coney Island was anything but honky-tonk. It was a grand, even elegant resort, where the women wore long dresses and the men wore suits, ties and sharp hats. The kids were told to behave themselves.
Flash forward to Coney Island, 2008 and dramatic change is ahead. Several swaths of land were plowed to make way for an ambitious redevelopment of the core area of Coney Island. But, the city, developer Thor Equities and a local community board have been doing battle over the plans. The original Thor plan included lots of new amusements, year-round attractions, a healthy amount of apartment housing and a few big hotels. Now, that plan has been scaled back. Fewer amusements, more housing and hotels.
In the meantime, those patches of land that had been bulldozed have been populated by some temporary attractions, because the city and developers are dragging their feet. In one lot on Stillwell avenue, a petting zoo has taken form for the rest of the summer. Across the street, a traveling carnival has been hired for the summer to fill the void.
About eight years ago, while working for WABC, I had the opportunity to have an email conversation with the man in charge of theme park development for the Walt Disney Company, which owned our radio station. I suggested to him that Disney should consider resurrecting the dying amusement park, by doing what only Disney could do: recreate Steeplechase, Luna Park and Dreamland, but make them year round attractions.
He said that Disney actually considered doing something there, but in the end the consensus was that because of the North East's cold weather, even indoor attractions probably wouldn't draw a steady year round crowd. The plan was dropped.
Too bad, because while Thor Equities might be able to create a suitable revamp of the area, Disney knows how to make magic. Like it or not, they did it to Times Square and they could easily do it to Coney Island. They call themselves Imaginears (get it, think Mickey), but unfortunately, they're not being very imaginative when it comes to Coney Island. Someone needs to step up to the plate and think out of the box and make this place as magical as it was for a little kid growing up in the roaring 20's. Unfortunately, not many of those folks are around anymore to tell us those wonderful stories.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Some celebrities have their photos plastered over the walls of all sorts of places, from Jim's Steaks in Philadelphia to the Carnagie Deli in New York. My publicity photo graces the walls of three places, George's in San Diego's La Jolla Beach, he now defunct Cheyenne Diner in Manhattan and perhaps the most notorious of them all is at the Blarey Rock Pub on 33rd Street in Manhattan.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I'm not so happy to report that my borough is the most violent in New York City, based on murders alone. Since the beginning of the year, 76 people have been gunned down, stabbed, beaten to death or otherwize killed in Brooklyn.
MOST MURDERS BY BOROUGH
1) Brooklyn 76
2) Bronx 55
3) Queens 36
4) Manhattan 27
5) Staten Island 9
If you're thinking of moving, you might want to rule out these five police precincts. The 73rd and 77th in Brooklyn, and the 44th, 46th and 47th in the Bronx.
MOST MURDERS BY PRECINCT
1) 73rd, 77th 11 each
2) 44th, 46th and 47th 9 each
3) 48th 8
4) 42nd, 81st, 67th, 32nd 7 each
5) 101st, 43rd 6 each
The most murderous neighborhoods should probably come as no surprise, because they are in traditionally poor and crime ridden areas. East New York, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Weeksville, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, all in Brooklyn, The South Bronx around Yankee Stadium, Fordam, University Heights, Morris Heights, Baychester, Woodlawn and Fishbay.
Now, on a positive note, 15 New York City precincts have not reported a single murder so far this year.
BOROUGHS WITH THE MOST MURDER-FREE PRECINCTS
1) Manhattan 8
2) Queens 3
3) Brooklyn 2
Island 1 each
All things considered, I still live in one of the safest precincts in New York City, although murders did go up this year. Last year, just one person was killed in the 76th precinct, which encompasses Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Red Hook. This 3 unfortunate people were murdered. Not bad, because I don't know any of them. This is probably a good thing. I've never known someone close to me who was murdered.
If you'd like to see for yourself, how your New York City neighborhood stacks up, the NYPD post all of their crime statistics online
Monday, June 16, 2008
Okay, it's bad enough this cop car, (1310) is hogging up two parking spots on Smith Street. Not only is he taking two spaces, he's about 2-3 feet from the curb. Both of these would be considered traffic infractions that would result in a ticket and fine.
I decided to take a picture of the offending police car, because I found it funny. But, then, my friend, Ross, pointed out that this police car and the two police officers attached to it, were sitting across the street at the Amazon Cafe.
Again, no biggie. They get 30-minute lunch and dinner breaks, but then my friend tells me , this cop car pulled in at 3:30pm. It's now 5:30pm, two hours after the cruiser settled into the double wide parking space.
Let's review: Cop takes up two spots.....parks two to three feet from the curb and worst of all, hangs out in a take-out food restaurant for TWO hours. This is a salad and chicken wrap kind of place, not Peter Luger's or Daniel. In and out. That's it.
Last time I ate there, I spent all of 20-minutes inside. How can you even spend an hour there? Let alone.....2 hours.
All I'm thinking is that some dude is breaking into an apartment two blocks away...and these two cops are chowing down on a two hour break. Technically, they're a few blocks away from the fictional burglary, but another patrol car, 20-blocks away has to respond, meaning bad guy gets away.
You've heard this before, but its true...this is YOUR taxpayer dollars at work. We all pay taxes expecting to get great service, from sanitation to police protection, yet for two hours while parking in front of two parking meters, these guys slide.
It gets worse. So because this car is hogging up two spaces, all the cars that pull in behind it are now taking up two parking spaces, because they have no choice. Guess what happens? All of those cars taking up two parking spaces are given tickets by the local meter maid. Yet, the offending police car that's been sitting there for two hours gets nothing. "kay sar ra sa ra."
Friday, June 13, 2008
I've wondered for a long time about those people manning tables around New York City, the ones with the bright red "UHO" banners draped over the top. You'll find them in crowded tourist areas like Times Square, Penn Station, Union Square and Columbus Circle. They'll beg with shouts like, "just one penny to feed the homeless" or "please, sir, help the homeless."
Someone once told me it's a scam, that the men and women manning the tables just keep the money themselves. I never really took the time to investigate, but today I did.
The United Homeless Organization was founded 15 years ago by a group of homeless people. Their mission statement says they run a soup kitchen at a Bronx church, provide donated clothing to the needy and enable the homeless to raise money for themselves. Here's the rub. The first time a hobo takes to the street, he or she must turn over half of the profits to the organization. Each time, thereafter, the homeless pay a $15.00 fee and are allowed to keep the rest. Sometimes they can't even cover the $15.00 fee. Others can make a couple hundred dollars.
They put the money in transparent blue plastic jugs( think upside down office water bottles). On any given day, an average of 22 of these tables are set up in strategic, high visibility locations.
As a non-profit, UHO must file a 501C tax form with the federal government. They do and what's on it really tells the whole story. While, the homeless people are actually putting money in their pockets, so it seems, is the organization's only employee, Stephen Riley, the President of the United Homeless Organization.
In fiscal year 2006, the document shows the agency received $84,561 in public support. That would be the money you dropped into those plastic jugs. Now where does that money go? The 501C report notes that it has no employees and no volunteers and that no one, not even it's President are compensated. Really? Look down a little further in the report and you'll see how that 84 grand was spent.
* Program Services: 33,412
* Management: 46,215
* Expenses: 79,627
* Net assets 6767
Fascinating, isn't it. A further examination of the records shows money was spent on such things as travel, supplies, telephones, cars and get this, "entertainment."
Under "program services" $33,412 was spent. And while the document states there are no employees and that the President is not compensated, it appears he is indeed paid. Scribbled-in a little down the page is "support stipend." The amount:
$33,412. So, Stephen Riley's "program services" is essentially his "support stipend." If that's the case, and Riley is an indeed the only one in management at UHO, what do you suppose the $46,215 in "management" money is used for? Don't know for sure, but I'm guessing to increase his income to $79,627, which if you notice is the total expenses for the year 2006. His net assets are $6767, pretty much the difference between his "stipend" and what people gave. So, if I'm reading this right of the $84,561 dollars you gave to the "homeless" $79,627 went into Mr. Riley's pockets.
This is fraud and panhandling at its worst. You what this actually is? It's organized panhandling.
The other day a bartender at Angry Wades shared some prosciutto bread with me. Two of the owners of Caputo's Bake Shop on Court Street dropped off a couple of loaves for the employees.
At first bite, I was addicted. This warm, tasty bread is stuffed with prosciutto and cheese and a couple of slices is a meal and a half. I prefer to just rip off hunks of the loaf. Word of mouth alone has made this bread one of the shop's most popular items. The day I walked in it was the last loaf, although more was baking in the back.
A few weeks ago, I brought an extra loaf to work at the ABC Radio Networks and the writers, producers, editors and anchors gobbled the stuff up in minutes. One of our editors was so hooked, I brought him his own loaf the next week.
Try it once, but just try it.