Today is the tenth anniversary of the 2003 Northeast Blackout. Pulitzer Prize finalist James Goodman, author of Blackout, wrote the following for the afterword of the paperback edition of his book.
That July, they thought they knew why. And when the power failed twenty-six years later, in August 2003, they thought they knew again.
Not why the power failed.
No one knew that, and once people were assured that the blackout was just a blackout–not sabotage or a bomb–few peopler eally cared. Initial reports thatlightning had caused it (“just like 1977,” news-people said) werequickly discredited. The politicians who scrambled to the nearest microphone to blame regulation or deregulation,oil-men or tree-huggers, Democrats or Republicans, were by and largeignored. Instant analysis gave way toinvestigative reporting, and for weeks each day’s papers carried the latesttheory: overgrown trees; equipment failure; human errror; commuciationsmishmash; computer crashes; clueless system operators; the absence of uniformoperating standards and procedures; balkanized oversight; unenforcedregulations; federal rules violations; utility mismanagement; the structure ofthe industry; the politics of energy policy; or all of the above: thesuperpower’s third-world power grid.
Officials in Washington, Ottawa, and eight state capitals ordered investigations. Utilities pointed fingers at one another. Experts argued. But the people who knew themost said the least, realizing that it would be months before investigatorscould collect, organize, and interpret the data–tens of thousands of bits andpieces of information–that might allow them to trace, millisecond by millisecond, the cascade of events that transformed the routine failure of afew power lines into a history-making electrical disaster.
New Yorkers didn’t know why the power failed.
What they knew was why, when it did, no one had looted.
They were sure they knew, and it felt really good to say.
The city had changed.
Back in the 1970s, New York had been in desperate straits, wracked by stagflation, strikes, arson, drugs, graffiti,cynicism, a serial killer, stinking subways, white flight, gas lines, high crime, fiscal crisis, and racial strife.Now it was a different place.
Despite the recession and the fallout from the attack on the World Trade Center, the economy was fundamentally sound. The population had topped eight million in 2000, and it continued to grow. New immigrants had revitalized several struggling neighborhoods; artists had revitalized others. A record number ofconstruction workers had built a record numbers of new homes, and with aid from the city, they had built some of those homes for first-time homeowners in theSouth Bronx, Harlem, even Bushwick.
It was a new city, pundits said, a city remade. Families were more stable. Streets were cleaner. In the parks, flowers bloomed. The police were tougher. Drug use was on the wane. New Yorkers cared for one another and for New York. Respect for the law had grown. Violent crime was at all-timelows. Selfishness and detachment wereout; cooperation, responsibility, and compassion were in vogue. The subways were safe, and often on time. And thanksto Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, black and white New Yorkers were finallyon the same side of the color line.
Some stressed the new civility.
Some stressed the half-life of a long economic boom.
Some stressed the years of tough policing, and their dark side, fear.
Everyone mentioned the difference that the time of day might have made: The power failed at 4:30 in the afternoon, giving the police three and a half hours to mobilize before sunset and another half hourbefore dark.
The list of reasons was long,but next to no one argued about which reason was right. People don’t get as worked up when bad things don’t happen as when they do. In 1977, people had refused to acknowledge that there might be more than one reason why people looted. In 2003, people readily acknowledged that there might be more than one reason why they did not. But, in a way, they were not acknowledging much: almost all the small reasons added up to one big reason, the reason that felt so good to say:
New York, and New Yorkers, had changed.
What a difference a day had made.
On August 13, and for months before that, most of the talk and writing about the city had been grim: the billion-dollar budget deficit; the fitful recovery from recession; the corporate relocations; thedecline in tourism; the narrowly averted transit strike; the layoffs of thousands of city workers; the hike in taxes, transit fares, and fees; theclosing of firehouses, subway token booths, branch libraries, and outer-borough zoos. Violent crime remained low, but two years after September 11, most New Yorkers expected another terrorist attack, and many said they had simply learned to live with anxiety andfear.
In fact, until the afternoon of August 14, hardly a day had passed without a commentator asking, ”Are we living through the 1970s all over again?”
Then the power failed.
There was some panic, and some price-gouging. After the sun went down,there were scattered incidents of looting. But the vast majority of people rose to the occasion. Even Con Edison came through. The utility had done “as good a job ascould be hoped for,” the mayor said.
Things were not so bad after all. Certainly nothing like the 1970s. On the contrary, things were good. And New Yorkers were good too.
That was a comforting comparison, and it lay atthe heart of a comforting explanation. But it ignored at least one inconvenient fact: When the power failed in July 1977, most people did pretty much the same thing they had done when the powerfailed in November 1965, and would do again when the power failed in August 2003. Some of them did the exact samethings: They evacuated subway trains; hung out on stoops; directed traffic; hosted blackout parties; bagged patients on respirators; walked for miles andmiles; carried water to the elderly and infirm; cooked and ate food they feared would spoil. Read more
A partner in a private law practice and a former federal prosecutor, Kenneth Thompson was already involved in some of New York City’s most controversial criminal cases when he made further shockwaves by announcing his intention to enter the race for Brooklyn District Attorney, taking on incumbent Charles “Joe” Hynes, who has held the position since 1990.Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn’s Matthew Taub sat down with candidate Thompson for a few questions.
1. You attracted considerable attention a few years ago when you began representing Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel housekeeper who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, of sexual assault. The handling of the case came under criticism from lawyers for Mr. Strauss-Kahn and from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which eventually dropped the criminal charges because of questions about Ms. Diallo’s truthfulness. What can you tell us about the civil and criminal case(s) involved in this matter, and your role? Were you were satisfied with the overall outcome?
Kenneth Thompson: In my career as an attorney in public service as well as in private practice, I have fought for victims—victims of violence, discrimination at work, civil rights abuses and sexual assault. In this case, it was clear to me from the outset that Ms. Diallo needed a lot of help to face some very powerful forces. I’m proud that I was able to get Ms. Diallo justice in the civil courts. Because of the settlement, Ms. Diallo will be able to pull the pieces of her life back together after this horrific experience and will now be able to move forward.
OTBKB: District Attorney Hynes has been in office for twenty-three years—he is considered by many to be the mainstream choice, an incumbent with strong institutional backing—at the very least, a formidable candidate to take on. Why should Brooklynites believe that it’s time for him to go?
THOMPSON: Our campaign has the momentum for change, and support is growing every day. In addition to the support of Abe George, our campaign has earned the endorsement of the Amsterdam News, Assemblymember Dov Hikind, 1199/SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents 220,000 members in New York City and over 100,000 members and retirees in Brooklyn alone. We’ve also won the support of Brooklyn Congressmembers Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, Bay Ridge Democrats, Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn-Queens NOW PAC and Muslim Democrats of New York. The reason we are getting so much support is because everywhere I go, people agree that it is time for a change. Under the current leadership, Brooklyn reports of wrongful convictions are coming out every day it seems, and we have the lowest felony conviction rate of any DA’s office in the City. Because of Hynes’ gross incompetence, a potential cop killer was let out of prison without bail. There is something very disturbing about Hynes’ judgment when he promotes a prosecutor whose coercion of false testimony, lies in court and intimidation of witnesses caused a man to be wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years. Enough is enough. As Brooklyn D.A., I will fight to ensure that innocent New Yorkers are not locked up for crimes they didn’t commit while criminals go free, and that prosecutors are held accountable – not promoted or given a reality tv show – when they violate the public trust. That just can’t happen – we need a tough, hands on, but fair prosecutor in this borough to fight for justice, and make our communities safer and stronger.
OTBKB: Former Manhattan prosecutor and Sheepshead Bay native Abe George was a third candidate in the race, but he recently dropped out, endorsing you instead. What were former candidate’s George’s positions and platforms that coalesced with your own, and in what ways did you differ?
THOMPSON: Abe and I are on the same page – we both feel strongly that Brooklyn can’t afford another 4 years of the failed Hynes administration. Among other things, he agrees that we have to fight to end the pattern of wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct that has tainted the D.A.’s office, and bring common sense reform to the criminal justice system. Together, we will keep fighting for a safer and stronger Brooklyn where there is one set of rules for everyone, and equal justice is more than words etched into a court house wall.
OTBKB: Another area Hynes has received criticism is with regard to the Hasidic community—both for prosecuting the perpetrators of sexual assault (by those within the community embarrassed by the negative exposure) and for not prosecuting them enough, or even punishing the whistleblowers. Assemblyman Dov Hikind, influential in the Hasidic community, recently endorsed your candidacy, rather than Hynes (as expected). What does this endorsement mean to you, and what can this community expect from you as a District Attorney?
THOMPSON: I have a proven track record of fighting for one standard of justice for every community, unlike DA Hynes who has overseen a dysfunctional office that has often pitted members of the Orthodox Jewish community – and other communities – against each other. He has said that Orthodox Jews are “insular” and worse than the Mafia. Brooklyn needs new leadership that won’t just flail around and prosecute inconsistently depending on which way the political wind blows, we need a new DA who will protect every community. I’m honored to have the support of Assemblyman Hikind, and I’m proud of the support we’re getting every day from Borough Park to Bushwick. People from all Brooklyn communities can expect a fair trial and equal justice, that’s what I will deliver as DA.
OTBKB: What is your history and upbringing in the borough of Brooklyn? How do you plan to employ your perspective to change the DA’s office, and reform the criminal justice system?
THOMPSON: I grew up in the projects in the Bronx, was raised by a single mother, and moved to Brooklyn when I became a federal prosecutor in the Clinton administration. My upbringing looms large in informing my perspective today. My mother was one of the first female cops of the NYPD to walk a beat in New York in the 70s. She risked her life to provide for me and my brother and sister; but also because she had a fundamental belief in justice for all. That stuck with me. And I’ve dedicated my career to the fight for equal justice —as a federal prosecutor seeking justice for people like Abner Louima, and as a private attorney fighting for victims of assault, discrimination and civil rights violations. And that’s why I am running for District Attorney: because the people of Brooklyn deserve a DA who believes in fighting crime and corruption wherever it exists. It’s clear that the office’s old-fashioned approach is not solving all of today’s problems. I will not only fight crime, but I will also make sure every case is investigated and prosecuted with integrity so that justice prevails.
Tags: 2013 Elections, Abe George, Brooklyn, Brooklyn DA, Democratic primary, District Attorney, Kenneth Thompson, NYC
Coming on August 24th from 6-9PM, The Revolutionary Fare at The Old Stone House sounds like a fun event at everyone’s favorite local history museum in everyone’s favorite Park Slope park (JJ Byrne-Washington Park).
This event will feature classic period cocktails (included in the $12 price of admission), colonial-inspired dishes from top Brooklyn restaurants, as well as beer and cider for sale along with a special cocktail tasting hosted by mixologist Dave Arnold of Booker and Dax.
Expect a very convivial social evening with a professional and amateur pie baking contest judged by Sarah Lohman of the blog Four Pounds Flour, period music by Glover’s Marblehead Regiment, as well as Brooklyn’s own Parlour Game and a special performance, The Age of Pain(e), the evening will surely transport you back to a more revolutionary time.
And that’s not all. The event will also honor Heritage Radio founder Patrick Martins. HeritageRadioNetwork.org is committed to archiving, protecting, and advancing our country’s rich food culture through programs that give voice to America’s leading food professionals, farmers, policy experts, artists, and tastemakers. The Old Stone House is pleased to count Heritage Radio among their friends and supporters and is thrilled to have them as a media sponsor for this event.
Leading up to August 24th, Heritage Radio will do a series of interviews with The Old Stone House team along with Revolutionary Fare’s participating food, beverage and baking participants.
As with all things old becoming new again, this Revolutionary Fare event, while having an old time vibe will appeal to the retro-revolutionary in us all.
For those who don’t know: The Old Stone House is a modern reconstruction of the Vechte-Cortelyou House, a 1699 Dutch stone farmhouse that was the site of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War – the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776, and in the late 1800’s the home field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Located in Washington Park/JJ Byrne Playground in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the Old Stone House presents more than 100 varied cultural events annually, creating a strong sense of community through history, environmental education and the arts.
Finally. A beautiful summer day. Low humidity, blue sky, a little air in the air. I went for a walk in Prospect Park with a dear friend (Best and Oldest) and rejoiced in the passage of a rather long and unpleasant heat wave.
I had lunch with an assortment of people who responded to an invitation from Sprint to meet at the Stone Park Cafe for a little PR about network improvements.
In attendance were representatives from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the offices of City Council members, bloggers, and tech writers, who sat at tables covered in white tablecloths in the Stone Park’s event space. I get a lot of press releases and I generally don’t go to anything. But when I saw that they were shelling out for lunch at Stone Park Cafe it was a no-brainer.
Full discolusre on that score.
I learned that Sprint is providing enhanced 3G service in Brooklyn (and the Bronx) and introducing 4G service as of today. Me and mine are stuck with AT&T for the moment, so it was fun to kvetch about the lousy service the iPhone gets in these parts.
I sat next to a special assistant to Tish James, who is leading in the race for New York City Public Advocate. Daniel Squadron and Catherine Guerriero are also in the running. Primary day for this, the mayoral and other races, is September 10th. I’ll take this moment now to endorse TISH JAMES because I’m a fan of her outlook, her integrity and her willingness to fight the powerful on behalf of the less so.
For lunch on Sprint’s dime, I had the absolutely miraculous Ricotta Cavatelli with mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, fennel sausage. OMG it was delicious. As was my glass of cold white wine.
Sprint provided goody bags, a nice touch. In them: a gray baseball cap (with Sprint emblazoned on the front), a can of Crisp from Six Point and a can of Brooklyn Summer Ale from Brooklyn Lager. Also included were garlic and basic Z crackers which look awfully good and are, you guessed it, made in Brooklyn.
Tags: 3G network, 4G network, Brooklyn Lager, cell phone service, Crisp beer, North Six PR, Six Point, sprint, Z Crackers
Just got word about a new book about Brooklyn’s favorite green space. Prospect Park Olmstead & Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece by David P. Colley with photographs by Elizabeth Keegin Colley is coming out from Princeton Architecture Press in September.
Right in the heart of one of the nation’s most densely populated urban areas sits an idyllic realm of graceful meadows, dense woods, placid lakes, and fresh air. Brooklyn’s 585-acre Prospect Park offers a rural refuge to thousands of visitors every day. Created nearly 150 years ago by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert B. Vaux, designers of New York’s Central Park, the duo considered Prospect Park their true masterpiece. Prospect Park, the first monograph on this exquisite public space, makes it easy to see why. Presenting a wealth of archival and newly commissioned photography and insightful text, David P. Colley and Elizabeth Keegin Colley trace the park’s colorful history from its creation in the mid-nineteenth-century to its decline in the 1970s and restoration in the 1980s, up to the park’s new Lakeside Center facility, scheduled to open in 2013.
Bill de Blasio, Democratic candidate for NYC Mayor, sat down with Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn’s Matthew A. Taub for a few questions.
Bill de Blasio is currently New York City Public Advocate. A graduate of NYU, he also studied at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. His first political job was in David Dinkin’s administration. He then moved on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, working as Regional Director under then-Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo. In 2000, Di Blasio managed Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. From 2002-2008, he served as New York City Council member for the 39th district, which includes Park Slope, Sunset Park, Boro Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Red Hook, and Kensington. That seat is now held by Brad Lander.
MAT: With Christine Quinn in Chelsea, Anthony Weiner having moved to Gramercy Park and Bill Thompson de-camping to Harlem several years ago, you’re one of the few remaining “outer-borough” democratic mayoral contenders in this race. How does your history and commitment to the borough impact and influence you?
DE BLASIO: The idea that every kind of person can make a life for themselves and their family is supposed to define New York. But over the past 12 years of Bloomberg, we have seen New York become a tale of two cities. We’re living in a reality where the focus of the city’s resources and development has turned disproportionally to lower Manhattan. My experiences in Brooklyn as a resident, a City Council Member and Public Advocate have shaped my vision for what kind of mayor this city needs. As mayor, I’ll spend every waking moment fighting to bring opportunity to every New Yorker, whether that be through expanded affordable housing, police reform, or an economic strategy that brings jobs to all five boroughs.
MAT: How does your position on the City Council’s recent modifications to the stop-and-frisk program differ from your fellow candidates, and how, if at all, has your family, influenced this position?
DE BLASIO: The overuse of stop and frisk is putting our officers, our children, and our neighborhoods at risk.
I am the only candidate who believes we need an independent Inspector General and a strong racial-profiling bill. I encourage the City Council to stand strong against Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to subvert the democratic process and intimidate people into changing their vote. Weak-kneed reactions to the Mayor’s mistakes will only guarantee the next four years are like the last 12.
As Mayor, what plans do you have to hold developers to a commitment to affordable housing? To what extent are you hampered by actions like this in the legislature in Albany, and in what ways can you (and the city) still prevail?
DE BLASIO: I have a detailed, comprehensive plan to create or preserve nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. We must end giveaways for big developers and enact mandatory inclusionary zoning, so that when neighborhoods are rezoned, which tremendously increases property values, developers are required to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income families in return. These efforts should create 50,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade.
Another example in my plan is to encourage development on vacant properties by eliminating a tax loophole that incentivizes real estate speculators to leave lots vacant. By applying the same tax rate to big, vacant lots that we do to commercial properties, we would spur a wave of affordable housing construction and create more tax revenue to fund the creation of 4,000 new affordable housing units.
As far as Albany is concerned, we need to take control locally of rent stabilization laws, which help keep rent under control for millions of New Yorkers.
MAT: In contrast to the breaks begot by developers, you claim small businesses are feeling the squeeze. How are small businesses targeted, fined, and harassed in ways that make it difficult for them to conduct operations, and what reforms do you propose?
DE BLASIO: As Public Advocate, I issued two reports documenting, for the first time, the incredible burden on small businesses from the rapid rise in fines. After suing the city to obtain never-before seen data, I discovered that, starting in 2010, City Hall implemented an unannounced revenue-driven enforcement campaign, which has led to a dramatic increase in inspections and nuisance fines on small businesses, particularly in the outer boroughs, to plug gaps in the city’s budget.
I’ve proposed a five-point plan for small business fine enforcement, based on public safety and not the need to pad the city’s budget. First, we need to eliminate outdated and abused regulations using a Regulatory Review Panel that includes small business owners. We also need to increase small business owner’s understanding of these rules, so the first time they learn about them, isn’t when they get fined. We also need to create a tiered classification system for fines, so that business owners aren’t punished unnecessarily harshly, and enable business owners to contest violations online, or by phone or mail, so they don’t have to take time off of work. And, finally, to ensure this abuse doesn’t happen again, we need to require each City agency to report the amount of revenue raised through fines, and we need to create a group of Red Tape Cutters, whose responsibility it is to track trends in the City’s enforcement of business regulations and collect input on ways government can help businesses add jobs.
MAT: Rather than hiding or concealing your motives, your campaign is quite candid in asking the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a bit more in taxes to support certain programs. What are the additional programs you propose, and what is your message to wealthy New Yorkers as to why they should be willing to accept such an increase?
DE BLASIO: The logic is pretty simple actually: as one city, we rise and fall together. While nearly 400,000 millionaires call New York home, almost half of our neighbors live at or near the poverty line. Our middle class isn’t just shrinking; it’s in danger of vanishing altogether. This income inequality affects everyone through rises in incidents of crimes, a decrease in affordable services, and quality public schools. Addressing the crisis of income inequality isn’t a small task. And if we are to thrive as a city, we’re going to need the help of every citizen. That’s why I’ve asked the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a little more in taxes so we can fund universal pre-kindergarten and after-school for New York’s children. This is essential for our city’s future.
Tags: 11215, Anthony Weiner, Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn, Christine Quinn, mayor, mayoral race, NYC election 2013, Park Slope
The film was made by Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin and was filmed in Coney Island in 1953, It will be introduced by Mary Engel. This is the 60th anniversary of the film, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. ”Little Fugitive,” is about a little boy who runs away and hides out on Coney Island.
The film is co-sponsored by Rooftop Films and the Coney Island History Project.
This past weekend, Williamsburg hosted the (still ongoing) Northside Festival, which rounds out the remainder of its events over the next few days. Bands, food, film, art and a tech expo were all on hand at avariety of north Brooklyn venues, but the main attraction was the pavement portion of McCarren Park (North 12th & Bedford), with a bandshell, tech tent, and variety of food retailers.
Billed as a “super teeny mini multi-media SXSW,” or even a possiblealternative to same, Northside was competing for attention withBanaroo (occurring at the same time), and hoping to escape “the graveyard” that is New York music festivals as well as the naysayers who lamented the Great GoogaMooga’s horrific environmental destruction and perennial bad luck, including a canceled final day.
But other than a variety of confusing badges, everything seemed surpisingly well-managed— nothing overloaded, over-promised, or over-priced, making for an exciting yet accessible experience.
Saturday’s billing included Phosphorescent, who drew a nice crowd, followed by The Walken, who lit up the masses to close out the acts for the day, among a host of others.
Meanwhile, a tech tent provided all sorts of whacky activity, with a frenzy of workers furiously apace around obtuse, Rube-Goldberg-likecontraptions, such as drums that played themselves.
Food options were eclectic without being overbearing, including hearty tacos from Cemitas and crab boil from Bon Chovie.
The Northside festival, now in its fifth year, is run by The L Magazine. For further information, visit the festival’s website, “like” the magazine on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter.
Matthew Taub is a writer and lawyer in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of “Death of the Dying City,” a novel.
Seems that Le Pain Quotidien, a cafe chain with 185 branches arond the world, is opening on Fifth Avenue and Carroll Street. Not only that: it’s opening in the space that was formerly Moutarde. And we all remember Moutarde’s claim to fame: it was the location used in Julia and Julia to impersonate a real Parisian cafe.
I for one like Le Pain Quotidien and have frequently frequented the one on Madison Avenue and 83rd Street, the one in Tribeca, and the one in ABC Carpet and Home and Lincoln Center (they really are ALL over the place). The communal table is a nice concept and the atmosphere and decor are very appealing. The curried egg salad sandwich is excellent, as are the quiches, soups and the baked goods, including deliciously authentic French Croissants.
Welcome to the neighborhood: Le Pain Quotidien
The photograph is from a blog called Brooklyn Home Experts.
Tags: brooklyn 11215, Communal table, French cafe, Le Pain Quotidien, Park Slope
Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6 writes a monthly Email Newsletter called “The Sixth Sense.” In it he and CB6 staff provide local news and a cool list of activities. Below is a sampling. You have to go to the CB6 site in order to sign up and get the newsletter (with all the links). Incentive.
On Saturday June 8th (all weekends until June 16th) 1:00-6:00 pm, Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (BWAC) presents “On the Waterfront: Zone A”: art exhibition. Come see BWAC’s post-Sandy rebuilt gallery in Red Hook, with the city’s best view of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a perfect destination for a spring weekend. 499 Van Brunt St./Red Hook.
Also in Red Hook on Saturday June 8th, Brooklyn Based presents The Red Hook Total Immersion.: A day of exploring, drinking, brunching + shopping in Red Hook + Columbia Street. All day, various locations. Click to view map.
On Sunday June 9th, 4:30pm 440 Gallery presents Wine, Cheese Olives & Art Talk. The Sundays@440 is a free program of events ranging from talks, music, performances and readings, intended to bring the community together in a lively and casual exchange in the arts. For more information and to see further upcoming events, please visit www.440gallery.com
When my sister and I were six, we had a swim teacher at Camp Yomi who used to call my sister Esther Williams because of the graceful way that she cupped her hands when she did the crawl (now called the Freestyle). My sister still does that.
“Hey Esther,” the swim teacher used to call out to her while she was swimming. “She looks just like Esther Williams.” The anology was lost on us at the time. But later we learned who she was. I can’t remember when I first saw Esther Williams on screen. But I’ve always been a fan. And not just because of my sister and this memory of an early childhood swim teacher.
Esther Williams died yesterday. The work she did with director Busby Berkeley was pretty darn brilliant. She once said her favorite co-star was the water. The aquatic star of the screen died in her sleep in Los Angeles. She was 91.
Matthew Taub is a writer and lawyer in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of “Death of the Dying City,” a novel. He filed this report about how to make biking safe in our city, including insurance, licenses, helmets, and traffic law changes.
The debut of the “Citibike” program is an exciting moment for the City of New York, despite some predictable opposition. But many issues need to be addressed, such as insurance, licenses, helmets, and traffic law changes. Such reforms should apply not just to bike share programs, but possibly for all bicyclists in general.
*Note: on the web site Medium, this is a collaborative post where readers are invited to weigh in with commentary and suggestions, in addition to my proposed reforms (icons along the right margin of the Medium web site should allow this).
1. Mandatory (or at least optional) insurance requirements.
The fact that most bicyclists are uninsured is a gaping hole in the ability for accident victims to recover when they sustain injuries. Many pedestrians have been seriously wounded or even killed by bicyclists.
(Full disclosure: in addition to being a writer, I am also a personal injury lawyer. Though I often represent bicyclists as Plaintiffs when they are injured by motor vehicles, I also ocassionally sue bicyclists for striking pedestrians. However, unless the bicyclists are employed by a messenger service or restaurant, whereby they are in the scope of employment while making deliveries (and thus covered by the employer’s insurance), there can often be little ability to recover any verdict award from a leisure bicyclist’s personal assets.)
The Citibike program already charges user fees for riders to utilize the service. Like Zipcar, the car sharing program where insurance is automatically included, the Citibike fee should include the cost of insurance for any accidents. It seems unclear as to whether it does, but this should certainly be a mandatory component for allowing access to the “Citibike” bicycles.
The further question is then whether the state should also require insurance for all bicyclists, or at least make it available. Such insurance is often difficult to obtain— not always easily tethered to a renter’s or homeowner’s policy and rarely independently available (though this may change). In any event, this all leads to the next issue.
2. Should bicyclists be licensed?
This issue cuts a few ways. Along with a requirement (or at least an option) for insurance coverage, another issue is whether bicyclists should be licensed and/or be required to have small license plates posted on their frames. If plates were required, traffic cameras could then capture them with respect to cyclists who violate traffic laws,cause motor vehicle accidents, or are wanted in police investigations. Any bicycle without a plate could immediately be pulled over to enforce the rule, such as with motor vehicles presently.
I told you about Bklnyr, a new and independent publication whose mission is to publish great journalism about Brooklyn. Capital New York called it an idea “so obvious it’s almost hard to believe it hasn’t already been done.”
In Issue 5, which came out today, there’s an article about Jumaane Williams called “Troublemaker: Can an activist turned City Council member survive at City Hall.” Hillary Busis writes about how the Park Slope Food Co-op became an institution that will outlast the punchlines. To read the article in full you have to subscribe to Bklynr for $2 dollars a month. Here’s an excerpt from the Food Coop story:
One does not simply walk into the Park Slope Food Co-op.
Before they’re granted entry to Brooklyn’s most talked-about grocery store, guests must first visit its membership office — a cramped facility that, incidentally, housed the entire co-op when it was founded 40 years ago. The office shares space with the co-op’s childcare center and a meeting room, which hosts events with names like “Gluten Intolerance: Fact or Fiction?” (Those events, unlike the co-op itself, are generally free and open to the public.) It’s located at the top of a narrow staircase lined with dozens of fliers advertising drum lessons, free guinea pigs, and cooking classes courtesy of something called Purple Kale Kitchenworks.
Once they’ve ascended the steps, visitors are given bright orange stickers indicating their non-member status — but only after they’ve handed over photo identification. The members working the desk are asked to cross-check outsiders with the co-op’s database, ensuring that guests aren’t secretly co-op members in bad standing. (After a ten-day grace period, members who have been “suspended” due to missing their work shifts lose their shopping privileges.) Members must also sign in all outsiders and promise, in writing, that the guests will not shop.
Have you seen the new Cheerios ad, “Just Love”? The ad features a interracial family like the one in the picture, and it’s got a lot of people upset; however, even more people are defending Cheerios’s decision to portray an American family in a realistic way.
I just got this note from Chirlane McCray, the wife of Bill de Blasio (he’s running for mayor and is currently the Public Advocate ). At first I was like, hey, are they the family in the Cheerios ad? Nope. They just made their own photo in their kitchen with a Cherrios box. Nice job.
The ad struck a chord with me, and I wanted to tell you why.
This may surprise you, but Bill’s age concerned me more than the color of his skin (he’s six years younger!). But I knew our age difference wasn’t the cause of stares on the subway, or why our families were so surprised when we brought each other home.
As an interracial couple, we sometimes felt conspicuous — which was painful. If you’re in love with someone, you’re in love with someone.
But Bill and I believed it would get better over time, and we hoped for our kids it would be easier.
That’s why the Cheerios ad is so refreshing.
19 years of marriage and two children later, this is the first TV commercial I have ever seen with a family that looks a little bit like ours. And it’s a big deal that despite some nasty criticism, Cheerios — a staple on American breakfast tables, spanning generations and cross-cutting just about every social boundary — produced the ad and stuck by it.
Bill, Chiara, Dante, and I are different parts (the kids would emphasize the “different”!) who make a whole.
Cheerios is recognizing the changing face of America, and celebrating that our differences make us stronger.
That’s what Bill is doing by fighting for every New Yorker — in every part of our city. Times are changing and we support the people who are changing with us.
Stand with us if that’s you:
Three hot NYC jazz bands will play in Louis’s Garden this summer: Bria’s Hot Five with Bria Skonberg on July 4th – Louis Armstrong’s birthday, Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars on July 20th and Peter & Will Anderson Sextet on August 17th. Each concert is at 2:00 pm. Concerts include complimentary red beans n’ rice (Louis’s favorite recipe) & sweet tea. And, since Louis always celebrated his birthday on July 4th birthday cake will be served during the Fourth of July event to celebrate! July 4th is always a day-long marathon for Louis Armstrong on WKCR.
For the first time, the museum has launched advance ticket sales for this series. All advance tickets include a Historic House Tour pass (good for 6 months). Advance single tickets are $18. A series subscription is available for $45 and includes reserved VIP seats. Tickets at the door are $20. Advance tickets can only be purchased online at LouisArmstrongHouse.org.
This sounds really fun and I just might make it over there. For my dad. Not sure he ever made it over to the house in Queens…
(I do believe this photo is by the great Richard Avedon.)
This morning, I am happy to report, the initial monetary goal of the 27-day $100,000 Kickstarter campaign to save Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade was met. Through small contributions from people around the world, widespread attention from media, celebrities (Alec Baldwin, Darren Aronofsky, etc.), and, well, everybody, there was “a flash flood of support for the 30 year old event.”
And why not. Everyone loves the parade and after Hurricane Sandy, there are a lot of extra expenses needed to put on the event. The parade was in jeopardy due to these rising costs. Funding the recovery and the Mermaid Parade has proven to be extremely challenging for the small organization.
“Let’s face it: we’ve had some hard times,” says parade founder Dick Zigun, speaking in Coney Island USA’s damaged headquarters, in the Kickstarter video. “Where I’m standing was up to here in floodwater—our headquarters was totally destroyed…We’re still recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and it’s just beyond us. We can’t pull it all off this year.”
To aid the mermaids, the Kickstarter was launched on April 7th. The campaign features rewards that run the gamut from a set of pasties (unisex) designed by contributors to your own private air-conditioned porta potty to a (literal) Freak Flag.
Not surprisingly, Borough President Marty Markowitz is getting in on the act. In support of the grassroots campaign, Marty Markowitz will be offering a unique reward: the top two donators to the Mermaid Parade campaign will get to ride on a special float at the front of the Parade with Marty. That’s right. With Marty. ”Anything for the Mermaids!” says Markowitz.
Even though the campaign has met its goal, there are four days to go and you can still add more money to the Mermaid Parade. They need it.
On June 9th, Foster Dogs NYC is sponsoring a family-friendly (and dog-friendly!) scavenger hunt around Park Slope to benefit Foster Dogs NYC, whose goal is to facilitate the foster process with shelters and rescue groups around the NYC area. They also organize adoption events and help animal shelters improve their online presence.
The fun starts at The Gate on Third Street and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope at 11:45 AM on June 9th.
During the event, each team is urged to raise $300 to help Foster Dogs NYC provide foster care to a dog in need! Once there is enough funding, FDNYC can do AMAZING things to help other rescue groups in urgent need.
Funds will help:
–Pay for emergency vet care for NYC foster dogs
–Assist with dog training needs
–Pay for transportation of shelter dogs to adoption events
–Create foster marketing materials!
For more information about this event and to register, go to http://psdogdash.com.
The NOT SO Great GoogaMooga is back in Prospect Park with the same false information as last year.
It is beyond the pale that after last year’s damage the Prospect Park Alliance would allow this again and in fact add a day, Friday this year. The arrogance of everyone involved is destructive to the park. They have their operation trailers all over Wellhouse Drive. What is going on is more than three Hollywood movie shoots at one time.
Not only is this a three plus weeks invasion of the park by a crass commercial operation being allowed carte blanche by the Prospect Park Alliance to do what they want, the Alliance is sending out false information with regard to access and the long term harm done last year by this fiasco.
The NOT SO Great GoogaMooga includes dozens upon dozens of poles stuck into the Nethermead Meadow and surrounding areas. Dozens upon dozens of boards and heavy plates crushing down the grass. This is going on in a public park when it should be held at a concrete parking lot, not harming a Prospect Park meadow.
This is another glaring example of how ineffectual the Prospect Park Alliance/Parks is when it comes to protecting the natural beauty we all enjoy. The NOT SO Great GoogaMooga is back and has already fenced off the Nethermead Meadow loading in huge refrigeration boxes, structures being built since last week.
After last year’s fiasco, the Prospect Park Alliance is allowing the disorganizers to add an extra day of events. The free tickets to allow you to wait on long lines to buy beverages and food are gone, unless you agree to become a member of the Prospect Park Alliance. They have closed off access to try to get naive park visitors to feel as if they are being treated special, when all they are doing is selling, selling, selling.
The Prospect Park Alliance closed the Boathouse/Audubon Center due to mismanagement of their own budget and for two years running turn over the park to a crass commercial misadventure. In addition, there is a lack of commitment of resources to maintain the lakeside and landscape. Allowing any entity to come in during the spring migration of countless species of birds through Brooklyn, is one more illustration of the disconnect from the beauty of Prospect Park shown by those who are paid to protect its value for all.
I used to call Assemblyman Vito Lopez the Darth Vader of Brooklyn politics—and that was before I knew about the sexual harassment allegations. Many have charged that he is a Democratic kingmaker, a real old school party boss that rules the roost and is almost never challenged. Tish James told the New York Times in 2010, “Some people, when you mention the name Vito Lopez they quiver. They’re fearful.”
Lopez was first elected to the State Assembly in 1984 (representing Bushwick and Williamsburg) and since 2006 has served as the Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party.
Last summer he announced that he would not seek re-election as Kings County Chairman due to allegations that he sexual harassed two of his female staff members and he was stripped of his committee chairmanship.
This week the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics issued a report outlining the sexual harassment of multiple women on his staff by Lopez. It sounds like there was a system of sexual harassment in his office. On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo and many others recommended that Lopez be expelled from the Assembly.
On Friday, finally, Lopez, said he would resign his seat in the Assembly in five weeks. Five weeks? He should go immediately. But in an even more exasperating move, he announced that he plans to run for a City Council seat.
This guy is just unbelievable.
Steve Levin, a Park Slope City Councilman, issued a statement today renouncing his former mentor. While I am a fan of Levin’s I always wondered why he never spoke out against Vito before. I think he’s either very naive or very beholden to the man who helped him get elected.
“I was shocked and saddened to read the findings in the JCOPE report on Assemblyman Lopez. The findings detail behavior that is disturbing, indefensible, and constitutes a breach of the public trust. During my time in his office there were never any incidents or allegations of sexual harassment. If there had been I would have contacted the authorities immediately. Sexual harassment is unacceptable under all circumstances and I do not tolerate it. Due to the circumstances, I believe it is the best thing for everyone concerned that he voluntarily step down.”
Lopez should leave the Assembly immediately and never run for another office. Systemic sexual harassment is not acceptable in our government, in our military, anywhere. Out with the bad. Time to go Vito. Someone show him the door.
Have you seen Bklynr? It’s a brand new web magazine offering quality journalism about Brooklyn. Founded by Raphael Pope-Sussman, who you may remember from the Park Slope 100 for his blog The Audacity of Pope, and Thomas Rhiel, it is gorgeously designed and it features stories, smart and deep, about immigration reform, barber shops, the Gowanus Canal, and happens when the biggest Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn runs out of room and much more. Plus photojournalism, graphic stories and illustration.
The illustration is from ”What You See Is What You Get,” a semi-autobio comic by Dean Haspiel featured in this month’s Bklnr.
Here’s the pitch from Bklynr, which costs $2 a month or $20 a year.
It’s harder than it should be to find quality journalism about Brooklyn. Certain aspects and areas of the borough are covered to death (you know which ones), while the rest of Brooklyn gets limited attention. We want to help change that. BKLYNR strives to produce thoughtful, compelling journalism that explores new narratives rather than retreading tired tropes.
Twice a month, we publish in-depth stories about the political, economic, and cultural life of Brooklyn. Each issue contains three pieces.
To read BKLYNR, subscribe. You can choose either a recurring monthly subscription, which is $2, or a one-time annual subscription, which is $20.
Thanks to all for Edgy Moms 2013. It was a great night with Sophia Romero, Karen Ritter, Lori Topoll, Susan Hodara, Vicki Addesso, Chris Nelson, Cathy Brown and Nicole Calihan.
I think we delivered on our promise of funny, poignant, frank and fresh writing about motherhood and mothers. It was truly a great night.
Last night’s mayoral forum, organized by the Park Slope Civic Council and other local civic groups, was set within the grandiose beauty of Congregation Beth Elohim’s sanctuary. Esteemed WNYC radio journalist Andrea Bernstein sat on the bema (stage) at a round table with a blue tablecloth. There were maybe two hundred people in attendance.
The idea was that each candidate, one at a time, would get their fifteen minutes or so to answer questions, some of which were submitted previously by members of the audience.
A fairly simple idea. But politics is always a circus, isn’t it? Apparently there were two other mayoral forums going on elsewhere in the city and the candidates were shuttling from one to the next.
Up first was City Comptroller (and former City Council Member) John Liu. Fresh on the heels of a conviction by a federal jury of two of his campaign staff on campaign-finance fraud charges, he came across as smart, direct, well-informed and a little defensive.
“I will defend Jenny Hu until the day I die ,” he said referring to the 26-year old staff member. He called the investigation into his campaign “basically a witch hunt.”
I couldn’t help but think he was making the old “I am not a crook” mistake. Let it go, Liu. Let it go and move on.
The Park Slope audience was pleased by his dis of the Barclays Center and disdained the developer’s use of eminent domain and the promise of affordable housing. “We got a stadium and jobs for popcorn vendors,” he told the crowd. “What else have we gotten but promises that were never met?”
He proposed ending all subsidies given to corporations for development, including tax abatements. “We can develop without tax payer’s money if we’re getting little in return,” he said and many in the audience applauded.
In a moment of levity, he asked that the audience not hold it against him that he’s from Queens. Asked what he didn’t like about Bloomberg he said, “NYC is too much of a Nanny state,” citing the proposed restrictions on beverage drink sizes.
Asked about the Prospect Park Bike Lane, he said there was was “a paucity of outreach” and that many of the bike lanes around the city were eroniously set up as pilot programs that circumvent the community process. (In fact, the Prospect Park Bike Lane was supported by the Community Board process.)
Those of you without a blog probably don’t realize that bloggers are constantly besieged with blog comments spam. This spam is a form of advertising, an attempt to sneak a particular company or website link onto a public page. It’s written in English, sometimes bad English and sometimes makes me laugh but mostly annoys me. A lot.
I obviously never approve these comments but I thought you might like to see what I have to contend with. I’ve deleted any references to stores or websites that the spam is trying to promote.
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WHAT: NYC Mayoral Candidates Forum
WHEN: Monday, May 6, 2013, at 7:00 –9:00 p.m.(doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
WHERE: Congregation Beth Elohim (274 Garfield Place at 8 th Avenue)
All the mayoral candidates as of March 2013 have been invited to attend the forum (Sal Albanese; Adolfo Carrion; John Catsimatidis; Bill de Blasio; Joe Lhota; John Liu; George McDonald; Christine Quinn; and Bill Thompson).
The forum will be moderated by Andrea Bernstein of WNYC and will be strictly timed. There will be 1.5 minute opening statements and 2 minute closing statements. We wish to extend an invitation to all interested voters to attend this forum, and hear the candidates’ vision for the future of Brooklynand NYC. All local news outlets, publications and blogs are also invited to attend.
You can even submit questions in advance at Google Moderator: http://go.gl/mod/8 pOB. The forum is free and no RSVP or tickets are required. first come, first served seating.
My friend Branka just wrote to me about this cool activity on May 5th from 2-6PM. Spring is here and everything’s in bloom. Come discover what greens are growing wild in our back yard. Learn how to identify seasonal edible and medicinal plants in Prospect Park with locavore and urban gardener Leda Meredith. For more info and tickets go here.
Learn to identify plants like: lamb’s quarters, burdock, pokeweed, plantain, mugwort, dandelion, peppergrass, epazote, sassafras, spicebush, sorrel, milkweed, garlic mustard…and many more.
Tastings will include – red clover blossom bread and a garlic mustard pesto spread, plus one other wild-food based dip or spread to enjoy.
Afterwards, sample tastings prepared by Leda, accompanied by your favorite beverage at Snail of Approval bar/restaurant Flatbush Farm.
Proceeds from this event support the programs of Slow Food NYC, including the Urban Harvest program of good food education for NYC kids at schools in the South Bronx, Harlem, Lower East Side, and Brooklyn, as well as a summer urban farm in Brooklyn.
The television was still on when I awoke Tuesday morning at 4AM after falling asleep exhausted at midnight during a Dave Letterman show recorded without an audience.
A few hours of sleep and then it was time for an update on the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in New York City. The wind gusts are still fierce on Third Street; the trees sway violently. From my windows it looks like Park Slope made it through the storm very well. The same, of course, cannot be said for areas close by…
Walking though the apartment I see signs of yesterday’s panic/preparedness. The stove top is covered with pots filled with water. On the countertops are pitchers of water. The bathtub is filled with water.
The dining room table is covered with flashlights and batteries. A Scrabble board with tiles of a game played last night next to a thousand jigsaw puzzle pieces, an image of Marilyn Monroe coming into view.
The refrigerator is filled with food; our rain boots and foul weather gear are at the ready by the front door. We never got around to creating “Go Bags” but I don’t think we’ll be needing them now anyway.
On the TV, a flooded Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, a dark Manhattan, a crane dangling from atop a NYC high rise under construction. New Jersey looks hard hit, weathermen and women describe weather conditions to come. More than 600,000 are without power in NYC and Westchester.
Before sunrise it’s hard to even know how bad the devestation. The Gowanus just a few blocks away flooded familiar streets near our home. Park Slope may have averted disaster but Manhattan, especially below 34th Street, wasn’t so lucky.
Shock. Pain. Incredulity. A native New Yorker I don’t remember a situation like this before. 9/11 comes to mind as a similarly disorienting and traumatic event. We know from that experience that we can pull together, that we are resilient, that we will get through this.
Remember: this too shall pass—with a great deal of hard work by rescue workers who evoke our gratitude. But all of us will have to find a way to help those in need and muster our strength to get through this anomalous and disorienting situation.
We waited and watched.
In Park Slope power outages and flooding never came (though the Gowanus overflowed just blocks away). But on the television we watched as Con Edision transformers exploded, Manhattan went dark below 34th Street; fires raged in Queens; and water flooded subways and tunnels.
We waited and watched as trees flailed violently outside our Park Slope windows and images from lower Manhattan painted a portrait of life after wartime. A flooded metropolis astounded us. Catastrophic was a word that was bandied about. A back up generator at NYU failed and patients were shown being transferred to other hospitals. On Twitter, incredible images of a submerged FDR Drive, a soaked Penn Station, a dark Tribeca, a flooded Stuyvesant Town in the East Village.
At 4AM Tuesday morning, my city is in ruins. A million are without power, the subways are stilled, stations soaked. The streets are canals, fires rage and forecasters discuss a bizarre convergence of weather systems that left unseen destruction in its wake.
I wait and watch for the sunrise when my resilient city begins its slow recovery from this destruction.
On the fourth, there will be a bake and plant sale, face painting, puppets, and activities galore for kids and adults. From 5:30 until 9:30 PM, there will be a multi-media dance party on the turf. Nice poster, huh?