Wednesday, October 5

A Sold-Out Newspaper in 2011: Always a good thing?

                                                       (Photo Credit: Melanie Drozd)

"We always try to keep one paper available in the racks’, says Troy Gustavson, parent company owner of the Suffolk Times/River Head News-Review newspapers. However, on September 12th , not one newspaper could be found in gas stations and 7-11’s across the counties. A mysterious team of people with an (as of yet) undiscovered motive had purchased every copy. “I have been in this business 50 years and never have I experienced what we experienced this past week”, Troy Gustavson wrote in a September 29th OP-Ed for the Suffolk Times.

            The incident began around 9:30 A.M, September 22nd when a woman called to inquire about finding a copy of the newspapers delivery manifest.  Over the course of the day, and even into Friday,  Times/Review circulation manager Laura Huber estimates that at least two women and two men traveled around purchasing every copy of the Times.
            Stories that appeared in both newspapers of the day are robustly contrast: A county accused of wrongfully diverting money from a preservation fund, Feds arresting a riverhead doc, and a Charles Barkley sighting. “My first response (when hearing the news that every copy had been bought) was inquisitiveness”, Gustavson said. “People are curious. My wife was out running and she’s getting stopped with questions: ‘What’s the latest?”
            In the latest posting about the story, the Suffolk Times ran a piece about a woman (wearing a marine blue sweatshirt and jeans) seen on a 7-11 surveillance cam. She is seen with a bundle of the newspapers propped up on the cash register. According to the article, the woman asserted that her mass purchase was in aid of a move, despite the cost of both the Suffolk Times/River Head News being higher than the other newspapers available in store (Newsday, at 75 cents. Southampton Press, at $1). The woman has not been identified, but Gustavon claims a reader contacted him and had been in the very same store as the woman in the surveillance video. The reader offered a different narrative of events, claiming that the woman stated her boss asked to pick up as many papers as possible; and that she (the purchaser) thought it was a stupid idea.  
            Some commenter’s on the Suffolk Times website have questioned the printing of the surveillance article, but Gustavon maintains a policy of practical business concern and inquisitive impartiality: ‘In some ways, it can be seen as a restrain of trade. It is unfair to our advertisers. It is a legitimate concern’. Gustavson stresses that the Suffolk Times/Riverhead Review are not accusing anyone of anything. ‘We checked with our attorneys and checked all the legalities of publishing the article. We are operating primarily out of curiosity’, Gustavon said.
            The cost of purchasing each and every newspaper runs into the thousands of dollars. The cost of curiosity is incalculable. The great effort made by the buyers to possibly remove the newspaper and its contents from visibility has led the story to be covered in the NYtimes, NY1, and even, Gustavon states, Boston television. Gustavon pinpoints the ultimate amusement of the deed: “One of the greatest ironies is that if the people were intending to silence the story, they ended up doing the opposite”. 


Immigrants Own 48% of NY's Small Businesses

wall street

inspirational op-ed in washington post

Monday, October 3

transit workers object to busing protesters


the mayor, white shirts, and videos from both sides

Four City Subway Stations Are Now Online

“For too long the subway system has been an information black hole in our lives,” said MTA Chairman Jay H. Walder in an October press release through Transit Wireless, the company formed specially to “provide a shared wireless infrastructure to enable commercial wireless services for the New York City Transit Authority. But now for AT&T and TMobile wireless customers, four subway stations are freed from that technological void as the first round of cell service connectivity is launched.

According to Transit Wireless, the original plan was to establish wireless capability in all of New York City’s 277 underground subway stations by 2016, however according to reporting done by CBS news, now Transit Wireless and the MTA hope to have total subway coverage finished over the next four years with a total projected cost of 100 to 200 million dollars. The two current service providers, AT&T and TMobile both have 10-year contracts with four additional 5-year renewal options. Transit Wireless stated in their October press release that receiving support from these two major carriers will benefit riders beyond just providing wireless service, but also by providing revenue to the MTA. Currently only the two carriers will be available, however in a press conference, Carmen Bianco, a senior vice president of subway operations for the MTA said they are still in talks with both Verizon and Spring, but that he couldn’t say when the carriers would be available.

Yet individual rider reactions are mixed. “It’s one of the last places you can’t use your cell phone,” Soule Golden, a 28-year old New Yorker said in an interview with the Daily News, “it’s annoying to have to listen to people talking on their cell phones all the time.” Others find it helpful for both simple connectivity and more practically for ensuring accurate directions within subway tunnels. “When I’m going from point A to point B, it’ll be nice to make sure I’m going the right way, since I’m not from the city,” Jessica Beuffkin, a recent New York addition told CBS news. While Bill Bayne, the CEO of Transit Wireless in a press conference said that the additional connectivity will help dramatically with transit safety, “For those of you who see something, down here we can enable you to say something” he said, playing off of the New York subway “see something, say something” theme.

Meanwhile, subway cell phone thefts are at an all-time high, prompting further questions as to what effect wireless connectivity on trains will have on this issue. “It will encourage people to bring [cell phones] out,” subway riders advocate Bill Henderson told Metro New York news in response to connectivity and thefts.

Ultimately, it appears that full-scale subway connectivity is on its way to becoming a reality but its effects on city transportation are still yet to be seen.

The Intrepid, World War II Aircraft Carrier and Space Museum, Houses a Concert

Since its heyday of action during World War II , aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid has hosted New Yorkers and tourists alike to preserve and showcase the relics of the most widespread war of our country's history. However, on Thursday night the Intrepid attracted a different crowd, one looking to party and enjoy the musical stylings of DJ VIce, The Hold Steady, and most of all The Roots for the first-ever concert on its main flight deck. 

How did the Intrepid, the Sea, Air & Space Museum, become the newest destinations for young New York City and concert-goers? While the technicalities of deal still remain unclear, it seems the Intrepid might be joining the ranks of museums looking to house a party scene. The MoMa, American Museum of Natural History, and The Solomon R. Guggenheim are all among the museums who have decided to open their doors passed closing hours and throw parties among some of the world's most valuable artifacts. At least this was the impression I got from one of the coordinators at the events organizing company, who requested to remain anonymous. " The idea to transform the Intrepid from a museum ship during the day to a concert event at night definitely stemmed from what other museums have done" they explained. " However due to the Intrepid's sheer size, we knew this was something that could probably only be done annually." However, I would imagine this would have been a much more difficult feat for this event company had it not been for the event's sponsors, Pandora and State Farm, whose logos were plastered and projected throughout the party. 

The night of the event, over 2,000 New Yorkers made there way on to the flight deck , which happened to have an assortment of helicopters, fighter jets, and other World War II vehicles. The event made for one of the most scenic views of the New York cityscape, and would certainly be a memborable experience for all who attended. Although, certain aspects of the scene made it evident that those who hold World War II closer to their heart might not have been so pleased. As with all concerts, remnants left behind such as empty beer bottles, were strewn all over the deck, which wasn't the best visual, especially when lying around the iconic fighter jets which once took to the air in battle. However, apart from all the trash left behind, the night went pretty seamlessly without any foul play around the displays or anyone who was blatantly disrespecting the ship. As someone who enjoyed the entire night, and truly believed it to be an amazing experience atop one of New York City's most prized sites, I hope that this isn't the last concert aboard the Intrepid.

What a Difference a Permit Makes

New York City was in no short supply of marches on October 1. Slut Walk, a march geared towards ending rape culture and victim blaming, marched in the Union Square area while hours later Occupy Wall Street shut down the Brooklyn Bridge. While the two groups have some overlap in members and organizers, the scene at Union Square was worlds different from the chaos at Brooklyn Bridge.
Of the hundreds of people that shut down two lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge, after police let the marchers onto the bridge, 700 were arrested. In Manhattan the Slut Walkers faced no conflicts with the police.
Leading up to the Slut Walk march the group’s blog,, was inundated with questions from concerned participants. After seeing many arrests and police brutally seemingly targeted towards women future-marchers were worried for their safety. A participant, username onthewing told the group, “My mom is super paranoid about police brutality and whatnot and I have assured her about the fact that we are permitted to be there.” Unlike Occupy Wall Street’s march Slut Walk had the appropriate permits for their march. To ensure the safety of the marchers, most of whom were young women (many of which were volunteering for high school volunteer hours) the group organized marshals education in the law to assist marchers if there were any conflicts with the police.
“…This will not be act of civil disobedience,” organizers assured marchers on the blog, “the police will have little grounds to start anything. However, we are absolutely taking what happened last weekend [the mace incident at the Occupy Wall Street March] into account (especially since they were targeting women specifically) and we have extra-prepared our marshals for everything and anything.”
The lack of clashes between marchers and the police at Slut Walk is even more poignant given the recent treatment of women by law enforcement. Just a year after a officer raped a woman, a week after an officer maced a group of women, and days after it was reported that policemen were stopping women on the street in Park Slope to tell them cover up to protect themselves from the serial rapist who has been targeting women in the area it is refreshing to see cops stand by peacefully as a group of women speak out to defend their rights.

Sunday, October 2

Future Times Square Has Dark Flooring and More Seats

On September 26, Snohetta Design, an architecture firm, revealed its $27 million preliminary plan for renovating Times Square's ground surfaces and seating to Midtown Community Board 5's Transportation Committee. 

All the sky blue, orangey-beige and shades of grey that make up the ground between 42nd Street and 47th Street will be transformed into a darker concrete flooring with small metal rivets. The plan will eliminate haphazard pavement and evidence of the old roadways, making the expanses of pedestrian plazas permanent. 

A large component of the proposed redesign is additional seating. Tourists and residents can be seen surveying Times Square from the TKTS booth's stadium-like seating area. There are typically vacant seats available. 

Five different types of custom benches as well as movable seating will be added. The current kinds of seating in Times Square are red metal chairs, sidewalk curbs and anything else visitors can park themselves on.

Rosa, a New York resident (fourth from the left), said she had no real complaints with Times Square and was apathetic about the plan to add more permanent seating.

Snohetta's vision for Times Square includes a bike lane that would switch from Broadway to 7th Avenue and then back to Broadway between 47th Street and 42nd Street. 

Bikers currently travel alongside traffic and cut into the pedestrian plazas when necessary. 

Craig Dykers, the Snohetta designer who presented their plan to the mostly approving Committee Board, said the renovations aim to make the billboards even more of the focus in Times Square. The vision is that a unified ground level that's darker in color with more organized permanent furniture will create a sense of spaciousness.

Currently, the largest billboard is American Eagle and Aeropostale's corner of light. (Pictured above is Cintia Dicker, a model for Aerie lingerie.) Dykers suggested that the ground level is competing for attention—“What we have today is essentially a situation where there’s a great deal of activity on all the surfaces,” he said, adding that it “is kind of sucking the energy out of the marquees.”

Another motivation for this project that was stated at the presentation is to create spaces for tourists and allow New Yorkers to navigate the crowds more easily.

A crowd of pedestrians stand and watch the trailer for Real Steel playing on the large screen across the street.

Local Pharmacy Struggles to Remain in Business

Photo by Michael O'Brien

This November will mark the one-year anniversary of the opening of a two-story, anything-you-could-need-and-more Duane Reade drugstore on Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg. The national chain opened its first franchise in the area to quite a bit of controversy, when locals protested against the location of the store – directly across the street from Kings Pharmacy, which has served the neighborhood for over eight years.

The neighborhood has struggled against gentrification for a good part of the new century, as local establishments have had to bow out due to rising rents and companies ranging from Whole Foods to Starbucks have been eyeing locations in the area. For years West Williamsburg, a small sliver of land nestled between the East River and the Brooklyn-Queens expressway, has been the place to migrate to for young adults looking to escape Manhattan’s ever-increasing rents. But now, some say, it’s time to escape Williamsburg. “The rents are doubling and places like [Duane Reade] are forcing the locals out. Williamsburg is losing its old charm quickly,” resident James Wilburn, 26, says.

As for King’s Pharmacy, the fight is far from over. Although the storeowner could not be reached for comment, a sign posted on the entrance of the store speaks for itself.  “Help us […] fight the corporate bully. We look forward to serving you in the years to come. Let’s keep Williamsburg independent!” reads the note, which has been on the door ever since Duane Reade opened across the street. However optimistic they may appear to be, the beloved local could be in trouble. Across the street, Duane Reade boasts cheaper prices, more products and a not-so-secret weapon – a beer bar. Customers can fill glass bottles from taps, with nine different beers to try. These advantages, in addition to the fact that Duane Reade is open 24/7 and Kings closes at the relatively early hour of 9PM, may ultimately lead to the latter’s demise.

When Duane Reade opened, locals distributed fliers and opened a Facebook group boycotting the store. Although the online group has not been updated since last November and the complaints were never taken to a higher level – the community board, for example – some shoppers still are still willing to battle. “I refuse to shop at Duane Reade,” said Fiona Pho, 31, walking out of Kings with plastic bags in both hands. “I don’t really care about big stores in general, but I want to keep Williamsburg local. I shop at Duane Reade and Walgreens in Manhattan sometimes if I need to, so it’s not like I boycott them all,” she said. Other local establishments in the neighborhood – The Bagel Store right down the block, for example – have struggled to pay the increasing rents and it’s rumored that Starbucks is looking at possible open spaces along Bedford Avenue. With a 1.42 billion dollar operating income, the coffee giant should have no problem paying the rent, but could cost the neighborhood an essential part – its residents.

New York Ranks Top 10 Smoggiest Cities in America

Photo by Google Images

            Taylor Halcomb, a student at Parsons, The New School for Design, stands at the corner of Saint Mark’s Place and describes the contrast between the silhouette of a nearby building and setting sun. Commenting on the dark purple mass hovering over the building Halcomb said, “It’s smog.  It’s beautiful smog.”
Environment New York issued a report on Sept 21st stating that New York City ranks in the top 10 smoggiest metropolitan areas in America.  Ranking the cities by the number of days when the air is unhealthy to breath, New York and Bridgeport, CT were alerted on 27 days this summer; the worst, Los Angeles with 85 days.
A pollutant, smog is derived from the emission of fossil fuels from cars, industrial facilities, and power plants that react with other pollutants when exposed to sunlight.  Smog is also caused by large amounts of coal burning in one area, mixing with pollutants in the air. The inhalation of smog could deepen respiratory diseases and lead to asthma attacks, mostly affecting children and the elderly.
“New York City has some of the country’s highest asthma-related hospitalization and mortality rates among children and young adults,” Peggy Shepard, executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action, told Environment New York.   “… State and federal governments should accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy.
Danger in the Air: Unhealthy Air Days in 2010 and 2011 also reported 14 days in 2010 (13 in Long Island) where the smog levels exceeded the national health standard.  However their research shows that on 14 additional days there were harmful smog days that were not accounted for due to outdated federal air quality rules.
            The threshold for smog pollution is set by the Environmental Protection Agency based on the latest science in air quality.  However EPA officials claim that the current standard level is not high enough to protect public health.  Considering this, the Obama administration met about adjusting the standard this year but deferred the issue in early September until 2013.
            In his statement, Obama explained that setting aside the stronger smog standards did not reflect a weakening of his commitment to the protection of the environment and public health.
            “I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution,” Obama said.
            But at the corner of Saint Mark’s Place, Halcomb devalues Obama’s dismissal. “We’re still dealing with smog.  He didn’t help us.”  Struggling with asthma, Halcomb admits that he isn’t sure if it’s the smog that has caused it to worsen this summer but says “it can’t be helping, and 2 years is a long time.”

A Weekly Event to Come in and Feel at Home

Photos from the SlutWalk

SlutWalk 2011, First SlutWalk in New York City October 1st 2011, Union Square, NYC

signs in a trash can in Union Square

M.G., student of Fine Art at Parsons holding a sign in Union Square

Renee Sherrill, originally of Arizona, now a New York City resident

An organizer, June, in yellow, discusses getting cat calls with three participants. June is wearing a hat that spells 'kunt' on the brim. "I want to redefine words like 'slut' and 'cunt.'" She says.

Left to Right: Besty Robson of Boston, Linda Shirar a Student at SVA, Roberto of Boston.

So What If I Drive with One Hand on the Horn?

In the Upper West Side, it is not uncommon to see three “Don’t Honk: $350 Penalty” signs at one intersection. According to the Gothamist, each sign costs $51 to put up—that’s $153 spent for one intersection.

The New York Police Department responds to noise complaints about noise from neighbors, clubs and bars, stores and businesses, and vehicles, according to the 311 website. With 217 noise service requests each, Manhattan’s Community Board 7 (Upper West Side) and Community Board 6 (Stuyvesant Town/Murray Hill/Gramercy Park) tied for most noise service requests.

Screen Shot of the Noise Service Request Count by Community Board
Emily Goodman, an Upper West Side resident, suggests that the high number of noise complaints from her neighborhood is perhaps due to the types of resident (older people and families with young children) and the demographic.

Contrary to the popular notion that it stressful to drive in Manhattan, Goodman drives down the West Side Highway every morning to get to work. “I know it is not politically correct, but I prefer [driving] to public transportation,” she said.

The New York City Noise Code cites that the use of vehicle horns in non-emergency situations is illegal. “I don’t use it the second the light changes,” said Goodman. She only uses her horn if necessary to alert pedestrians or other cars.
On the road, she finds the taxi drivers (they are “not the best drivers”) and bicyclists (they “don’t obey traffic laws”) to be the most difficult. “People usually honk if the flow of traffic is interrupted,” she said.

According to the 311 website, residents can request the City to install a “Don’t Honk” sign at an intersection, and the City will conduct a study to determine if a sign is necessary.

“For example, I had a caller call me last week saying that there is honking twenty-four-seven outside a club near her house,” said Donald, a 311 phone representative, “I would then take down the street address and the Department of Environmental Protection would conduct a study to assess the environment then approve or deny the request.”

When asked if she thinks drivers actually obey the “Don’t Honk” signs, Goodman thinks that people probably don’t pay attention to the threat of the $350 fine. The city's transporation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, said to NY1, “We haven’t done studies in the efficacy of honking sign.” So why does the City spend money to put up these signs that drivers just turn a blind eye to?

"What a Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York"
 (By Wesley Grubbs and Mladen Balog of Pitch Interactive, 2007)

Taken By: Stephanie Kun 

With a mouth full of a Boston Market Turkey Burger, Anderson Cooper is trying to persuade me into agreeing with him that Boston Market is not disgusting, he is not having much luck. Yes, Anderson Cooper, the serious news anchor known for going to war zones and pulling people from the rubble talks with his mouth full.

AK: OK, so not to be broken record but, why did you decide to take on another project and do a talk show?
AC: I keep saying this and I don’t think anyone really believes me but it doesn’t feel like work. I love doing research and talking to people, hearing their stories—having a conversation with interesting people doesn’t seem like work to me.  
AK: But when do you find time to sleep? Or to relax?
AC: I’ve always managed to get plenty of sleep but now that 360’s on earlier and I’m out earlier I find myself not being able to go to sleep early –I’m stuck on a schedule. And I get more anxious and stressed when I am doing nothing then if I have 100 things in front of me. I’m a workaholic. I like to be busy, to have projects to work on.
AK: I know that people who work with you know you are not as “serious” as you might be portrayed, with the exception of losing it over bathroom humor on live TV, but do you feel like because you have a daytime show that now you have to prove something to the audience?
AC:  I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone I’m just showing people that like everyone else I don’t just have one side. I can be serious but even someone who is serious has a not-so-serious side and yes I too, get the giggles.
AK: The studio the show is taped in is amazing aesthetically for starters but it is a lot more intimate than standing in front of a green screen reporting on the news. Has that been a big challenge for you?
AC: The studio is beautiful and much more multi-dimensional than the studio at CNN but in a way the two jobs are similar in the sense that there is research and interviews. The subject matter is just what puts them on different playing fields.
AK: What do you hope to get across to the viewers?
AC: I want to have authentic conversations with people, to bring light to a wide range of situations and topics. One day it might be talking to the cast of a movie and the next day sharing a story of abuse, as long as the conversations stay authentic I think it’s important to share them.
AK: At first it was very surprising to me how involved you were and still are in the process of picking topics and the exploration of different stories. Why is it important to you to be so hands on?
AC: Because I don’t want anything to be forced. I think it’s important to not only be invested in the topic or story because I’m doing a show about it but to be invested because I am interested in it and because I want to be doing a show on it.
AK: The great thing about this show is that you are not limited to doing just celebrity interviews.
AC: Exactly, it isn’t just talking to celebrities it’s about sharing both stories of social and relationship issues and of pop culture, it’s a really great format
AK: I’m really rooting for a “Gloria and Anderson” show. I just want cameras to follow the two of you around, I’ve seen the “Story of My Mom” show four times not including the day it was taped and I cry hysterically every single time!
AC: Having my mom on the show was really special and as you know she will be making a few more appearances in the future, which I am really looking forward to.
AK: I’ve already marked my calendar! I know that you have a briefing meeting to get to before the next show starts but thank you so much for answering these questions for me. 
AC: Of course, sorry it had to be while I was eating, I hope there wasn’t food stuck in my teeth.
AK: Oh don't worry you're good. 

The minute I opened the door people swarmed in—hair, makeup, his assistant Joey, the producers, and the stage manager. I was exhausted just watching the chaos but for him this was just another normal day at work. 

Area Code 666

Wireless phone service became available in six Manhattan subway stations last Tuesday the 27th.  The MTA been working since 2004 with phone carriers AT&T and T-Mobil, as well as with Transit Wireless to make underground communication a reality.  Transit Wireless is a consortium of wireless providers incorporated specifically to provide service to those in previously unreachable zones.

What is meant to make commuting safer and more productive, however, is being met with some resistance. 

“It’s annoying, but I don’t think it’s my right to tell someone they can’t be on the phone just because it may annoy me,” said Albert Cotugno, NYU student body president.  “All I care is that I’m not in some way paying for their phone calls and texts.”

Providing those with wireless service is affordable as it comes with no expense to wireless customers, although this is under the assumption that the project’s costs are not already built into price. 

But someone most certainly did pay for it.  Transit Wireless alone invested 200 million in start up costs.  AT&T and T-Mobile contributed to the initial costs; it is estimated that these carriers will spend a combined $46 million over the next 10 years to the MTA.  The MTA is already considering incorporating additional carriers, enabling more New Yorkers to take advantage of this feature.  This extra revenue, which comes with nearly no overhead, could mean good things for New Yorkers, whether or not they are AT&T or T-Mobil users.

“If this means the MTA is going to lay off for a few seconds and stop raising the price of my monthly card then I am happy,” said Alex Amini, daily Brooklyn commuter.

MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Wilder said to The New Yorker, “…whether you’re checking your email, calling your kids or looking for emergency assistance, wireless service will bring the conveniences we’re used to through our lives into the subway system.”

Convenience is vitally important for many New Yorkers, but is it really a matter of life and death?

“It just seems logical to me that if someone were trying to bomb the subway, that cell phone reception would make it easier,” said Amini. “Is that a risk we’re willing to take?”

The MTA has made no official statement regarding the potential of a terrorist attack.  Although only six Chelsea stations are up and running, the MTA plans to expand coverage to all subway stations over the next four years.  It is implicit in the expansion of the program that terror is a risk all New Yorkers are going to have to take.

According to the MTA, the expansion is projected to cost anywhere from $100 million to $200 million.