April 30, 2007

Congestion Pricing: Clarification from City Councilman Gentile

From City Councilman Gentile's Office:

I think we were misrepresented in the papers as being against congestion pricing. We were saying it's unfair to charge for entering Manhattan without first providing fast, reliable, and environmentally friendly public transportation. Mainly, to have a more reliable R train and give Bay Ridge ferry service from the 69th Street Pier before congestion pricing.

Enjoy New Orleans.


Eric Kuo
Communications Director
Office of Council Member Vincent J. Gentile


OK, point taken. I think that ferry service from 69th Street would indeed be a good thing, and the R train service--especially in the hours after 9pm needs improvement. The N trains roll by one after another, while we wait at 59th Street.

Congestion pricing is IMHO a good idea even in the absence of these things, but the Mayor promised improvements in service, and Bay Ridge deserves its fair share.

BTW, I wore an "R Train" t shirt at the festival, which attracted a lot of comment there!

April 29, 2007

New Orleans Jazz Festival is great!

I'm here for business, but arrived a day early so I could experience the
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The name is apt, as there were many forms of music to be heard, not just jazz.

The concerts were spread out across the grounds of the New Orleans racetrack-in tents or out of doors.

I had been told that you shouldn't miss the Gospel Tent, and I didn't. I caught a choir called "The Johnson Extension" who blew me away, and then The Dartmouth College Gospel Choir, who may have been even better. Their quality of the vocals and the sheer energy of the performers were something to behold.

In the Jazz Tent, I saw the James Rivers Movement. James Rivers played sax, harmonica, and amazingly, the bagpipes. He did a bagpipe led version of "Amazing Grace" accompanied by piano, that was beautiful. You get the impression that Rivers is a serious genius who can do anything.

I checked out Norah Jones, but found her songs, esp the new ones to be puff pastry nothingness. Didn't want to bother seeing Rod Stewart, who was on at the same time, so wound up seeing
Linda Hopkin, 80 years of good humor and history on stage. She had maybe 15% of the audience that Rod Stewart and Norah Jones had, but she was more of the real deal to me.

The NO Jazz Festival was great and I hope to return some day.

April 27, 2007

Off to New Orleans

Will be in New Orleans for a few days, and I'm really looking forward to it. Will attend the New Orleans Jazz Festival tomorrow. Can't wait.

Sorry City Councilman Gentile and some Brooklyn politicians came out against congestion pricing. They may be listening to the few squeaky wheels who like to drive into Manhattan, while not listening to the many thousands who rarely or never drive into Manhattan during the week, and who are terribly inconvenienced by the BQE-Gowanus that the "free bridge" policy guarantees.

The traffic jam on the Gowanus has existed for 45 years or so. Its time to do something about it.

See you at the Jazz Festival.

April 23, 2007

Congestion Pricing is GOOD For Brooklyn (amended)

Gowanus_33, originally uploaded by Pro-Zak.

Brooklyn Motorists in Hell. Courtesy of the "free bridge" policy.

Mayor Bloomberg hit the ball out of the park when he gave an "Earth Day" speech in City Hall's Blue Room. He touches on a series of what I think are intelligent and well-considered environmental and development matters. But I'll only deal with the hot potato: congestion pricing.

Basically, the plan is: like this:
  • if you drive onto the streets of Manhattan south of 86th Street during the hours of 6am and 6pm, there will be a charge of $8
  • those who drive in, and stay on the West Side Highway or FDR in order to drive north of 86th Street, will be exempt. Taxis, buses, emergency vehicles and vehicles with handicapped plates are also exempt from the charge.
  • If you entered the City by way of the toll bridges and tunnels and pay with E-Z Pass you will have the amount of the tolls deducted from the congestion charge. So, if I understand correctly, those who travel via the Battery Tunnel, and who pay the $4 each way toll, will pay a net congestion charge of zero.
This looks like a back-door way of putting tolls on the free East River bridges -Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and the 59th Street Bridge. And only during rush hours. What's the big deal? I think that's good.

There are larger traffic issues that can be discussed, but allow me to focus on one thing only.- the "free toll" policy, especially during rush hours, is strangling traffic on the Gowanus and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Every hour during the day, hundreds of vehicles from Brooklyn/SI/Long Island bypass the Battery Tunnel in order to get to the free bridges. Which causes traffic on the three-lane BQE to slow to a crawl, often to a dead stop during the daylight hours. Think what this means for the Brooklyn economy.

I work downtown now. I have a ringside seat to the traffic that is not going anywhere. This strangles the traffic arteries within Brooklyn, to/from LaGuardia, from Brooklyn to the Bronx and points north.

If it did nothing else, Bloomberg's plan would divert many Manhattan-bound vehicles to the Battery Tunnel. Which would allow the Gowanus/Battery traffic to flow much better during the work day. Which is good for every Bay Ridge and Brooklyn resident, and ultimately to every Bay Ridge and Brooklyn ( and other ) motorist.

Bay Ridge is stuck at the nexus of the "Axis of Evil" of bad roads: the Gowanus, the Belt Parkway, and the Staten Island Expressway. Something needs to be done right now. All credit to Mayor Bloomberg for having the guts to propose this necessary legislation now.

The Brooklyn/Queens / Staten Island / Long Island politicians who oppose congestion pricing are selling out the majority of their constituents and the city and state of New York as a whole. I think $8 is far too low, but I'll live with it.

And...I am a member of the AAA, mainly for the towing benefit that membership provides. I think that the AAA would serve its members better by having the guts to support this legislation, which is the only way to get the Gowanus/BQE moving, than it does by stonewalling . Think of the big picture for once. Unless you're going to build another two lanes to the Gowanus/BQE, you'd better get on board the mayor's plan. Many of your members support congestion pricing.

As always, some brilliant thoughts from the mighty Gridlock Sam of the NY Daily News who proposes to:

* Eliminate tolls where they don't belong. Congestion pricing should only be applied where there's heavy congestion and good transit (such as Manhattan south of 60th St.). Remove tolls from the Verrazano Bridge. Let free bridges ring in the Rockaways. Let those on Long Island (which includes Brooklyn and Queens) travel without an E-ZPass over the Triborough, Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. More city drivers use these crossings than use the free East River bridges.

* Staten Islanders will be happier because they will finally be able to get home without paying a toll. But they deserve more. Widen the Staten Island Expressway and twin the Goethals Bridge.

Lets see what the NYC/NY State govt is made of. Get the Gowanus/BQE moving. Pass congestion pricing now!!

April 22, 2007

Thriftee To Close

I walked past Thriftee the other day, only to see a sign that said ( approximately ) that "After 62 years, we will be closing ". Wow, it's been there since the mid 1940s, when the trolleys were running along Fifth Avenue.

This store does not look like its been doing well for a long, long time. Despite the fact that I live only a bit more than two blocks away, I haven't purchased anything there in over 20 years. Or longer.

Why? The store, and the stuff on its shelves, has always, always, been shabby.

So, while its a bit sad to see a landmark business go, this is no great loss.

April 19, 2007

Bay Ridge Avenue Subway Station

Bay Ridge Avenue, originally uploaded by Ewwwwwwww.

Ewwwwwwwww must have scrunched wayyy against the wall to take this shot! (from flickr)

April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech, Guns and the Korean Reaction (revised)

The terrible events of yesterday morning have shocked America, the world. The Irish blogs (UI, Balrog) mix their genuine sympathy with an astonishment at the widespread availability of guns in America. Which I agree with. And at the proposal by some here that gun laws should be -further- liberalized, so that everyone would be packing heat, at the ready to shoot it out with an attacker. I agree with my European friends there too.

Japan and Britain are places where private gun ownership is rare to unknown, and they have always had vastly lower murder rates than does the US. New York City has tight restrictions on gun ownership, and it has the lowest homicide rate of any big city in the US. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Today, it was learned that the murderer was Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year old native of Korea. He moved to the US with his family in 1992.

I think that the people of Korea, and Korean-Americans are going to take this very hard. They're good people, and they're a very proud people. They'll be ashamed of what this sick person has done, at the dishonor they believe he brings upon them.

But this is a wrong reaction. He is no more typical of the Koreans or Korean-Americans than David Berkowitz is of New Yorkers or Americans.

Tonight, there are unconfirmed reports in the Korea Herald that Cho's parents
have committed suicide. If true, this would not be a surprise. But it would be a terrible thing.

It appears that the Korean Herald has removed the above link.

The Korean Govt. is apparently going to apologize for the incident. They should not do so. This action was not the fault of any other person than Cho, the murderer. The Korean people/government bear no blame for this.

That having been said, it was noted on a Korean site last night that if a black or white American had murdered 32 Koreans on a Korean campus, the reaction in Korea would not have been as serene and nonviolent as the US reaction to Virginia Tech has been, and will remain. True too.

April 16, 2007

The Phantom Sells Out

As of today, I'm allowing Google to put ads on this site. If they interest you, click on 'em.

Why did I do it? Mainly because I want to see how internet advertising works. I might get a small amount of money for it, depending on results, which will go to the Phantom Beer Fund.

I don't think they're too intrusive. What do you think?

April 15, 2007


I heard the firemen knocking out these four windows on the fourth floor before I made the turn from Third Avenue. I overheard a fireman say that there were no serious injuries.


From in front of Circle's Restaurant, people take it in.


Firemen outside 315 Bay Ridge Avenue.


Firemen rush to the scene with a stretcher.


At around 630-700pm, there were a lot of sirens, as fire trucks, BRAVO and other ambulances, and police vehicles converged on Bay Ridge Avenue (69th Street ) near Third Avenue.

Yankee Stadium on Death Row

I took a ride up to Yankee Stadium today. There wasn't a game on, but I wanted to buy tickets for a game next month.

Since 1923, the great ballpark has lurked over the elevated train platform at 161st Street and River Avenue. But it's days are numbered. Yankee Stadium is on Death Row.

The New York Yankees won clinched nine World Series there. The Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series there. Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling here; Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, and Muhammad Ali fought for the heavyweight title in this stadium. The New York Giants football team won NFL championships here.
Pele played here for the Cosmos. Glasgow Celtic and Manchester United stopped by to play also.

But after 2008, "the Stadium" will be history.

But across Rupert Place, in what once was McCombs Dam Park, a new Yankee Stadium is rapidly taking form. I'm surprised that they've made this much progress.

A view into the pit from a No. 4 train heading downtown. Even on a Saturday, there was a lot of activity there. The new stadium will be wonderful, I know that. But I'll surely miss the old Yankee Stadium, and the greatness that it has been known for.

April 13, 2007

John Batchelor Show to Replace Lionel?

We've noted that WOR's Lionel will be moving to Air America as of May 14.

is the lefty talk show host who flirts with 9/11 conspiracy nuts, and thinks that anyone who disagrees with him is stupid as well as wrong. Well, he's leaving powerhouse WOR to go to an Air America that has more employees than it does listeners. Which makes me think that the move wasn't exactly voluntary.

Could WOR be clearing the decks for the return of the great John Batchelor Show? They'd have no competition in the evening talk slot. WABC has replaced Batchelor with an empty suit blowhard, and who wants to listen to that.

Imus / Open Letter to CBS (updated)

I restate that I've not been a fan of the Imus show for a long time. BUT I think that the events of this past week betray immense hypocrisy on the part of WFAN, CBS, Les Moonves, and Sumner Redstone.

The punishment --firing him from his radio show-- does NOT fit the crime.

I'm powerless to affect these national events, but the Phantom always does what he can. And here's what I am doing:
  • getting a list of every sponsor who bailed on the program, and boycotting them. Two can play this boycott game. My investments were with TD Ameritrade, which bailed? Not anymore. Today, I effected a complete account transfer to their competitor ETrade.
  • not listening to WFAN. Not that I listened to them much anymore.
  • I just made a contribution to the
WFAN Radiothon Charity
This is the charity that Imus has run for years, and, as it has already been set up through WFAN, it is too late to change it. I encourage anyone and everyone to donate big to this worthwhile charity, either via the above link or to call in at 877-877-6464 for as long as it lasts. And if you care to you can leave a comment such as the one I gave on the web link:

I am not even an Imus fan, but I think that WFAN and CBS and Les Mooves are here guilty of immense moral cowardice.

You did not do what you did for any moral reason--you caved like the gutless dogs you are.

I oppose racism--you do not. When you cave to Al Sharpton, you prove yourself to be the lowest of the low.

Please consider me your enemy for life.


(Phantom's Real Name)

Update: The following article, from Newsday, I only see now. Mike and the Mad Dog made a strong defense of Imus, on WFAN, yesterday. More power to them. That takes some balls. Sure, they're big acts, but lots of people in their position would have taken the opportunity to talk about anything else.

National satellite and FM radio shock jocks Opie and Anthony, who are not my style, have been very strong in support of Imus through the past week. This morning, I actually tuned in WFAN to see if the Radiothon was going to take place. It was--hosted by Deirdre Imus--and I tuned in just in time to hear Opie and Anthony call their rival radio station, live, in order to express support for the Radiothon charity and for Imus.

Good for Opie and Anthony.

Howard Stern as far as I could tell offered no support to Imus this week. When the time came to step up, he was nowhere to be seen. He was probably doing fart jokes. What a weakling.

April 11, 2007

Duke Rape Charges Dropped

Rogue Prosecutor: Michael Nifong

Earlier today, North Carolina Attorney General Ray Cooper dropped sexual assault charges against three former students in the Duke Rape Case

The attorney general, Roy A. Cooper, said the players — Reade W. Seligmann, David F. Evans, and Collin Finnerty — had been wrongly accused by an “unchecked” and “overreaching” district attorney who had ignored contradictory evidence and instead relied on the stripper’s “faulty and unreliable” accusations.

“We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations,” Mr. Cooper said at a news conference.

“We have no credible evidence that an attack occurred,” he added.

The Attorney General had considered bringing charges against the accuser, one Crystal Gail Mangum. It's been noted that the woman has an interesting mental health history, which would have made a successful prosecution difficult.

Attorney General Cooper quite correctly referred to Michael B. Nifong, who brought the case as a “rogue prosecutor" who was "negligent". Nifong should be disbarred, then sent away in handcuffs. Unfortunately, its understood to be very hard to prosecute a prosecutor who engages in malicious prosecution.

I've been very disappointed in comments made by some bloggers over the past year. Last May, Modern Feminist opined "Duke University officials and local police enforcement have questioned the survivor's credibility since the beginning, a statement released yesterday confirms. This is not only a tragedy for the woman who survived the attack; this reflects more than poorly on both the Durham police and the Duke administration."

In April 2006, Amanda Marcotte, who briefly was the Head Blogger for the John Edwards campaign wrote an unintentionally hilarious post in Pandagon , saying "That might be because the rapists were making jokes about slavery and picking cotton to the victim, which is to say reminding her of their racial privilege by referencing the history that created it. But to Bobo, who thinks that middle Americans are morally superior by virtue of where they live and where they shop, has all of a sudden decided that identity politics should have no bearing on moral discussions".

Even Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise completely blew this one. Several comments from me are shown on this thread, exactly one year and a day ago today. You tell me was seeking the truth here, and who was rushing to judgement. After the DNA came up goose eggs, the "Duke Rape" posts stopped. But if any retraction was made, I didn't see it.

This has been a bitter case for many. For the young men concerned, for the people of Durham, of the South, of America. It has shown how evil and/or incompetent prosecutors can bring the full force of the state against entirely innocent persons. And it shows how otherwise decent people become enthusiastic members of a lynch mob.

April 09, 2007

Don Imus and Al Sharpton: Perfect Together

So, radio shock artist Don Imus has been suspended for two weeks for racist remarks he and his staff made about the Rutgers womens basketball team.

He's made remarks just like this over a period of thirty years or more on New York and national radio airwaves. This isn't exactly news to anyone who has come upon his show.

I've had no respect for this guy since an incident he had back in 1999 or 2000. He was up in Scranton, PA to do a live morning broadcast for the local radio affiliate. As he checked into the hotel, strict orders were given for them not to put any callers through to Imus' room, since he'd have to wake up at 4am or whatever.

Well, a call was made to the hotel--from his wife, Deirdre Imus. The hotel operator wouldn't put her through, as per the instructions. Mrs. Imus allegedly got very nasty to the operator, and called, again and again--and of course was not put through.

Well, the next day, Imus got up, spoke to this Deirdre Imus, and then went on the national airwaves. He then proceeded to rip the hell out of the hotel and the hotel operator, the $9 an hour (or whatever) person who was "stupid" enough to have obeyed the instructions that Imus and his staff gave her.

I can forgive a lot of things, I cannot forgive someone rich and powerful abusing that power against someone who they know has no power to fight back.

After the recent incident, Imus went on Al Sharpton's show to apologize. I'm sure the apology was sincere.

Since we speak of racist incidents, big Al Sharpton has yet to apologize for the racist incidents he himself has been a major actor in, including the infamous
Tawana Brawley hoax.

Imus and Sharpton: perfect together.

April 03, 2007

Staten Island Ferry Story mentioned in Staten Island Advance

Monday, I got a call from Rob Hart of the Staten Island Advance. He'd gotten wind of my exclusive "story" on the restoration of Staten Island Ferry service to Bay Ridge, and he wrote about it here.

Bob, great speaking to you. With that new influx of Staten Islanders on the way, maybe I can get the newstands on 69th Street to start selling the Advance!

A tip of the hat to Councilman Vincent Gentile for being a good sport about this! ( And he is correct--Bay Ridge, and NYC / NJ would benefit by expanded ferry services. Including small ferries, which could use the 69th St Pier)




ALBANY -- The Staten Island Ferry is going to start making runs to Brooklyn?


Well, no.

The Web site "Bay Ridge Blog" posted that City Councilman Vincent Gentile made the announcement at Circles Restaurant in Brooklyn, about ferry service between the two boroughs.

But the date of the entry -- April 1 -- reveals the ruse.

Gentile (D-Brooklyn) allegedly went on to say that the service would alleviate traffic on the choked, expensive Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and that the boats will run every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And cars, outlawed since 2001, would be allowed back on the boat. But Brooklyn residents would only pay $1 for the privilege, while Island residents would have to cough up 20 bucks each way.

Funny, we never got an advisory on that press conference.

The blog's author, a Brooklynite who answers to "The Phantom," said the announcement was born of his desire to top last year's entry, that Mike Tyson would box a heavyweight match in Brooklyn's Alpine Theater.

"The Phantom" grew up in Brooklyn near the 69th street pier and is "old enough that as a child I did take the ferry" when it ran between the boroughs before the Verrazano was built in 1964.

"I was trying to think of something to put in there for 2007 and it just dawned upon me," he said. "I love April Fools' (Day)."

Gentile had a good sense of humor about the whole thing."My first reaction was, 'How many calls did we get on this? How many people think this is really going to happen?'," he said.

But he added it was a "shame" the idea of a boat link between boroughs existed only on April Fool's Day.

"It's funny to read, but the sad part about it is it should be true," said Gentile, who formerly represented parts of the Island in the state Senate. "We should be using our waterways in many more ways than we do now." Rob Hart covers state government for the Advance. He may be reached at rhart@siadvance.com.

April 01, 2007

Staten Island Ferry Service Returning To Bay Ridge

NYC: Staten Island Ferry, originally uploaded by wallyg.

(Artists rendition of Staten Island Ferry leaving 69th St Pier)

City Councilman Vincent Gentile announced Sunday that ferry service between Bay Ridge and Staten Island will soon be restored. At a raucous press conference inside Circles' Restaurant, he said " After a hiatus of more than 40 years, it is time to right this wrong. The Verrazano Bridge is falling apart . No one can afford the toll. And its choked with traffic all the time. This will help make things better".

Responding to a question from Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, Gentile said that the new service should run every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "We can ramp up service on the B-1 and B-9 buses to feed the ferries."

Will cars be allowed on the ferries, asked Mathew Lysiak of the Brooklyn Paper?

" Yes we they will. There will be a charge a toll of one dollar each way for Bay Ridge residents, and $20 each way for Staten Island residents. They want to play games, we'll show 'em how to play games."

Some new construction will have to be added to the pier to accommodate the ferries. The new service begins at 7:15am Wednesday July 4, 2007.

Hillary For President

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