Congrats to Jennifer Siebel Newsom on the selection of her film Miss Representation for Sundance 2011. If you are looking for more information, please visit her site. (NB: I am not affiliated in any way with the film). Below is a text from a recent announcement.

We are thrilled to share the news that Miss Representation has been selected to premiere in the documentary film competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival! Read the official press release from Sundance. Miss Representation will premiere throughout the 10 day festival from January 20-30th. We invite you to come support us! And since we have our sights set on winning the audience award, please come to one of the screenings during the week (final schedule to be announced on the Miss Representation and Sundance Web sites soon). 

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I’ll take some — most — of that?

If the new $200 million deal goes forward, it would be the first time the state has ever taken money from the B.P.C. Authority for revenue. The authority’s money has historically gone to the city, where it has sometimes been used for affordable housing.

Ah, haha, ‘sometimes’. The Downtown Express is giving the Mayor for Life (and his predecessors, Mayor of Brooklyn and Herr Mayor) the benefit of a doubt that once in a blue moon the BPC throws off more than cash for a couple more scrabbled over parks for high income tykes or unnecessary security. ‘Housing’ — tee hee — it’s almost like the city handed over some of the most lucrative real estate downtown and expected something in return.

But, also, wow! Paterson is doing his best to garner support from his natural downstate constituency, ain’t he? They spent two months not being able to pass a budget (or, you know, even gaveling in), the pension issue can’t even be made comestible by a long-winded blogger, and his answer to a robust re-election campaign is taking money from the one place in the city that ostensibly (again, see above) seeks to alleviate a housing crisis entering it’s seventh decade.

This is going to look really good in a couple weeks when Stuy Town goes pear shaped. Well, okay, it already is. To switch from vegetable to meat metaphors, belly up. I mean, really, we’re talking about a $5 billion dollar fuck-up, one where you can’t really take the ‘stick it to the vampire squid’ approach because who is on the other side of a lot of those really really bad securitization bets? Yeah, more pension funds. One of which is Florida, whom New Yorker’s, dutifully pulling the lever for the worst fiction writer since, oh, some really bad writing (Tom DeLay wrote a book, right?), still like to point fingers for the eventual successes of Dubya in 2000, have very little love for. To their credit, the pension fund managers wisely have valued their investment at $0, so no one is going to score points with the ‘stick it to the rednecks’ line. They’ve already been stuck.

Meanwhile, we get stories about abandoned PE apartment complexes in the Bronx where banks don’t want to do work-outs on the mortgage because they are carrying bad paper, a situation so absurd the mother of all useless theatre, the U.N. felt they could step in and look reasonable. And even though all the inclusionary housing that was supposed to spring up in Williamsburg hasn’t really materialized, there is something like 6,000 unsold condos (and some claim that is conservative). Given the metrics at work when the purchases were made (if you have any question of they were skewed, look at what’s up with some prime Kent Avenue property), it could easily be years before these deals make sense. By then of course, sense will be something entirely different, so there’s no real chance we will see something interesting come of all this. Just deferring the arriviste hordes to parts of Brooklyn it’s not worth really visiting.

So you go, Hizzoner. Take $200 really large to help out the most ineffectual state government in the country (okay, that’s mean — there is always California). It’s not like we really figured out any decent mechanism for doing any better ourselves, save those committed souls who think (only) of the children.

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Have you tried the Sendero Luminoso Blend?

Speaking of the proliferation of coffee vendors in the LES, the quickly expanding Stumptown empire established a beachhead a couple weeks ago. Like all good hipster-y food stories, the commingling of brands is in the offing. Sharing space with Frankies 17 (which is part of the Frankies Spuntino empire, not the Frank empire), Cafe Pedlar is the second location of a potential chain that has some ties to both Stumptown and Frankies. But I’m not here to quibble over ownership structure. Local businesses working together to bring better products to consumers, I’m all for that. If you don’t know Stumptown, then just imagine every bad stereotype of liberals, foodies and northerwesterners who are angry that Starbucks has ruined coffee culture. And multiply that by a large number.

Here’s the thing: the shit is right. I try hard to diversify and never give business to Clinton Street (good coffee, great muffins, overrated food — awful crowds), as I live nearby, but noticing this Pedlar outfit, even though it screams Asshole Coffee Shop, I persisted, mostly because I wanted to see if the hype is to be believed. I’m here to report that, wow, those folks can make a cup of coffee. Pricey, yea (for the beans), but they are roasted right here in Red Hook (maybe they bring the beans to Hope & Anchor for karaoke so they can absorb that hipster note), and they are tas-tee.  Vote me a convert — to a point. See, Stumptown’s first official outpost in the city is at Ace Hotel. Makes sense. Portland, where Stumptown hails from, is the epicenter of all that is good and bad about urbane liberal culture. They literally invented the Hipster Hotel. Ace had a location there years before trying New York.

Trouble is, Ace is not the best neighbor, especially to, you know, their very close-in neighbors. The rent-stabilized folks, holdovers from the converted SRO that became the Ace location in Chelsea, have staged an on-going war about, well, everything. Portland, the sort of place that builds a homeless shelter for teens that includes boarding of their animals, would surely be aghast at one of their corporate citizens doing things like telling residents of a building to please avoid their lobby. The Stumptown site, which looks like an ad for UN program, and proudly lists their New York digs, is oddly silent on the evils of corporate malfeasance when it cuts a little close to the bone, and sadly reinforces the glib argument that you can rile a liberal about injustice across the globe before you can get them angry about the same just across the street.

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The signs of the end times in real estate shouldn’t be measured by the offloading of the second unit in Julian Schnabel’s vomitorium for less than a third of asking, but instead by the fact that it the two outlets most obsessed with it (aside from, you know, the people across the street) presented the information in only two rather understated posts. But don’t feel too triumphal, angry renters, the place still sold for more than $2,500/sf. And it still doesn’t seem to have a single closet. In related puke-centric news, Le Souk is finally, officially, kaput. Since it was practically the only operating business south of the park on Avenue B, the loss will noticed. An oddly timed announcement from Duane Reade on 2nd & B that they would moving to 24-hour operation might arouse the suspicious NIMBY enthusiasts (that, or being too caffeinated from the 16 coffee shops that seem to have sprouted on Clinton Street).

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No perking.

It’s a plan so good, you have to wonder how it evolved within the leaden confines of City Hall. It’s a plan so absurdly elegant, you are probably aghast it’s taken years to evolve. The City’s Department of Transportation, demonstrating actual commitment to innovation and taking it on the chin for complacent union city workers everywhere, announced last week a pilot program to suspend individual car perks in favor a shared fleet.

You can save your disbelief that that the department charged with reducing congestion had a fleet of 57 vehicles for another time. Ignore that they distributed them for free to employees. And by all means think not of the parking placards that enabled them to park in an almost unregulated fashion in the densest city center nationwide.  Instead, just breathe a sigh of relief that someone finally said, ‘Um, is this really the best way?’

The answer to that was obvious, so the challenge was only to come up with workable, efficient alternate. The solution is a reduced (hybrid) fleet, all off-street parking, and, best of all, taking a page from the car sharing service Zipcar, the new fleet will be available during non-work hours for private rental.

Think about the potential there: Zipcar, which is a nominally profitable as a private concern, is facing growth limits in the city because they can’t find flexible storage situations. If the city could convert the majority of their fleet (and then some) to a vendor like Zipcar, they might actually be able to increase the quantity of vehicles available for legitimate city business as well as rapidly expand their fleet for private use. The outline wording of the RFP certainly looks like they have exactly one vendor in mind, and that is Zipcar, so we can all hope that car-sharing, an eminently reasonable solution for congestion, is about to quickly increase its footprint.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that even though this moves 57 cars from the downtown streets, it leaves in place the other 500+ placards that allow DOT employees to bring private vehicles into the city center. And that number is a pittance relative to the total number believed to be in circulation. Even if the city took a zero tolerance attitude regarding placards for its employees, that would only eliminate 22,000 or so of the estimated 142,000 out there. The preponderance of parking placards go to teachers, cops (and related court employees) and fire fighters.

Given that placards are tied up with contract negotiations, and that the department charged with enforcement is the one that also happens to receive the lion’s share of the perks, as idealistic as the shared car plan is, it also has the whiff of Bloomberg’s preferred model of civic management evolution: start a pilot program that is light years ahead of what has been proposed to date, hoover up all the laudatory press, and then allow the majority of bad habits trundle forward with little to no improvement.

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Following up: looks like the Economakis family wasn’t pulling a bait and switch.  They really are building out a garish single family residence now that nearly a score of rent controlled tenants have been shuffled down the road. Unrelated: on the other end of EV real estate contretemps, Umbrella House, now a full-fledged legal enterprise, has its first commercial tenant, a local barbershop that wanted to expand (sorry, I just noticed this over the weekend). Read this depressing article about homesteaders becoming homeowners becoming homeowners who want to cash out, way out.

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The Brian Lehrer Show is taking an interesting tack in reporting: to accompany their 30 Issues in 30 Days series (a countdown about development leading up to the general election in November), they have created a Wiki to encourage dialog. It’s not terribly robust right now, but you can fix that! I’ve been meaning to, in the same way I’ve been meaning to be up in time to call in. The topics are pretty wide ranging and interesting. Like any good civic gesture, it requires time and effort and is none too sexy. Don’t let that dissuade you. Maybe instead of trooping through another pristine moderne loft renovation at Open House this weekend, spend some time with this and pat yourself on the back for fighting the good fight.

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The Architecture League re-launches their website. It sure is… fad-y. Tighter integration with Urban Omnibus (nice), and thankfully that knockout homepage is dropped once you get past the index — which takes a moment, while you wait for it to fade in. Boy, the things you can do with javascript.

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Odds and sods (Labor Day ed).

Wayne Barrett is like a dog on a bone (hey, that’s an old school Hartz Mountain reference — for you young’ins, Hartz used to own the Voice, but now just owns a bunch of under-performing, over-hyped hotels — oh, and some dog food operation) about Mayor For Life Bloomberg and his uncomfortable conflicts of interest involving some of the most significant middle class housing issues: passing on an amicus brief against tottering Tishman over at Stuy Town, doing more of the same (nothing) when it comes to BPC funds for affordable housing. How long can you tread water? Not until 160,000, that’s for sure. Somewhere, Freddy Ferrer is stamping his feet and probably greasing some non-profit that will fleece the state and bring our democratic process to a standstill (Barrett link via The Awl).

Alan Gerson, who never met a bike lane he liked, or a chance to clamber on the shoulders of WTC victims he didn’t, apparently can’t remember on a regular basis that he is running for re-election. That’s understandable, since he promised not to suck Mayor for Life’s (see above) tailwind and usurp the democratic process. Until he didn’t. So yeah, there’s a big primary coming up, and if you are like us, you will be supporting Margaret Chin.

From the More Things Change, the More Things Change Department: Yaffa Cafe (the TriBeCa edition, which is the only ‘authentic’ version left) is closing. All I have to add to this is when the Big Blackout of 2003 happened, the day after, Yaffa was open for business. Some friends went on a blissfully traffic-free tour of Manhattan, and stopped by my place, which was just around the corner. We went in search of comestibles, and the good folk at Yaffa managed to piece together a couple plates, comprised of everything that couldn’t make it without refrigeration and could be prepared on a Weber grill hastily assembled on the sidewalk.  That meant chicken or fish. As we dug into a really impressive plate, considering no other restaurant for 20 blocks was even open, a couple stopped by our alfresco table and haughtily demanded to know if we could name any decent vegetarian options in the area. That, folks, is all you need to know about TriBeCa: when a quarter of North America is without power, they still think their most minute need is catered to absolutely. I’m the sort that appreciates any bulwark against the pricks, but with Puffy’s a hollow shell, it’s probably just time to write off Harrison Street altogether. Godspeed.

Would you believe, contractors can be sketchy operators? Even if they aren’t named after Ayn Rand characters, turns out you can still be a dodgy sort. Doesn’t mean you can’t pocket those sweet, sweet Stimulus dollars! This, the same day the city announces, after eleventy-billion years, that maybe concrete testing shouldn’t be left to the own devices of self-same dodgy characters. [Sigh]. In the meanwhile, Larry Silverstein charges forward, oblivious to the one of the key characteristics of being a landlord: you know, getting paid to rent your shit.

Oh, and someone is being appointed to the MTA. Some sort of running the show sort of thing. Pretend you care. And then bitch when single-rides edge up in record time. It’s tough, after two years of nasty dickering about congestion pricing to fall back on the position that Richard Brodsky might end up looking like a good guy, but hey! New York politics. Live with it long enough, and you will witness uber-liberal Council members like Alan Gerson griping about bike lanes! (see above, obvs)

Your soundtrack: Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, inspired by this blog, which has nothing to do with urban anything, but is absolutely harrowing and something (I can’t really find a decent adjective), about a family coping with early onset schizophrenia.

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If you aren’t making it out to Governor’s Island, here’s an interesting event for all you cycling/urban planning junkies. All nine of you (I’ll be in Inwood Park, sorry).

Spread over four days, the New Amsterdam Bike Slam is a live design battle, a dance party, a world-class transportation summit, a bridge across the Atlantic, and a path forward.New Amsterdam Bike Slam is an initiative of Amsterdam Cycling to Sustainability, produced by Vélo Mondial and Transportation Alternatives, with funding from Transumo and the City of Amsterdam.

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