August 30, 2007

My Internet Service is Down

My Time Warner Cable service-- phone, cable TV, and Internet service -- has been down since last night. Will advise when it is back.

Won't be much blogging until service is restored.

August 27, 2007

Bay Ridge Tornado: Who Helped the Most?

Bay Ridge Tornado Aftermath, originally uploaded by martine266.

Well we conducted a poll on the above subject, and the polls ended last night. So who won?

Who helped the most in dealing with the Bay Ridge Tornado?
  • Phantom 17
  • Fire Department 12
  • NY Sanitation Dept 11
  • NY Police Dept 5
  • Sen. Marty Golden 3
  • Mayor Mike 2
  • Red Cross 2
  • FEMA 2
Well, I hereby disqualify myself due to friendly ballot stuffing in various quarters. And I was away on that fateful day, so I cannot possibly qualify.

The winner is the NY Fire Department, with a total of 12 votes. But a huge tip of the hat goes to the Sanitation Department. My neighbor advises that their efforts to clean up 68th Street on August 8th were unbelievable. "There aren't enough words in the language to praise them for the way they worked. It was boiling hot, it was humid, but they did not leave until 68th Street was in broom-swept condition at the end of August 8th.

So the FDNY wins, deservedly so, but a big tip of the hat to DSNY. Good job, lads.

August 26, 2007

Sunday Music: Gigliola Cinquetti "Quelli erano giorni"

Linda Hopkin set the world on fire with "Those Were the Days". Its origin was as a Russian song, lamenting the passing of the golden folk music days of Dylan, Paxton, Ochs, and The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. The song was the final recording by the Clancys.

Mary Hopkin did a version of this song in Italian. But here's a great version by an actual Italian singer, Gigliola Cinquetti.

August 25, 2007

R Train is the Party Train

This is how we commute from Bay Ridge every day. The R train. The party train.

When the R train comes into the station, its like New Years Eve. It never gets old.

How Kenny gets to the back of the car.

August 22, 2007

Tornado: Aunt Maude's Tree Cut Down

This tree, which had graced the south side of 68th Street, near Fourth Avenue, for many decades, was cut down on Tuesday. It had been sick for some years. A huge chunk of it spontaneously fell in July 2006. The tornado gave it a mortal blow. Still, its sad to see it chopped down. Hope new trees are planted soon.


From Steve Baldwin's great Brooklyn Parrots, an article on how the feisty Brooklyn parrots survived the tornado.


As I write this, I'm keeping an eye on CNN's "Holy Warriors" program, hosted by Christine Amanpour. I have my quarrels with this show --it gives equal weight to Christian, Jewish and Muslim "Holy Warriors", which is laughable moral equivalence. Yet, there is a lot of depth to this show. Amanpour here travels through Europe and the Middle East, speaking with knowledge to politicians and (literally) ayatollahs.

CBS totally missed the boat when they gave the "first female anchor" job to the perky airhead Katie Couric. This has only led to a complete collapse of CBS's ratings. Had they gone the more serious route, had they given an actual journalist such as Christine Amanpour a shot, they would have been so much better off.

Thriftee's : Going, Going....

This photo was taken on Monday. Which probably means that that it closes this coming weekend. So if you want a hairbrush for 59 cents or a similar bargain, you'd better get over there! After you emerge with your trinkets, you can stop across the street at Killarney Pub for a fine pint of Guinness. Or three.

August 20, 2007

Bay Ridge Tornado: Need Wood?

If you need some wood for the fireplace, head on up to Fifth Avenue, between Senator and 67th Street. Big pile of it there.

This big hunk of metal was blown into my next door neighbor's backyard by the tornado. He's not allowed to enter the yard until its gone. But the City has made no move to remove the thing, and my neighbor can't remove it without entering the yard!

Sunday Music - The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas had such a beautiful,joyous, haunting sound. My pick was going to be Creeque Alley, but I watched several of their videos on youtube, and the little dance that Michelle and Cass do here made me pick this one instead. Is Michelle beautiful or what? And John Phillips, where did you get that hat?

As Wiki tells us --"Dedicated to the One I Love" is the name of a song written by Ralph Bass and Lowman Pauling. Bass and Pauling were members of The "5" Royales, the group that recorded the original version of this song. A version by The Shirelles was a minor hit for them in 1959. The "5" Royales saw a re-release of their own version chart at #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Later that year, The Shirelles re-released their version and watched it rocket up the chart to #3. A subsequent remake by The Mamas and The Papas released on the Dunhill label went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. Lead singer on the Mamas and Papas version was Mama Michelle Phillips. It was the first time Michelle was given the lead over Mama Cass Elliott in any of their songs.

August 17, 2007

Bay Ridge Tornado: Lief Ericson Park

Having heard stories of massive damage to the tree stands, I walked up to Lief Ericson Park yesterday, expecting the worst. But you know-its not in that bad condition.

A number of trees were uprooted, many suffered significant damage, and probably all suffered some damage. But--the streets along the park are still lined with strong, fine looking plane trees. Re-plant a few of the trees that were uprooted, and this entire area will be fine.

Bay Ridge Tornado: Bay Ridge Baptist Church

Looks like Bay Ridge Baptist Church suffered roof damage.

Bay Ridge Tornado: Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church

Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church,
Before the storm


Double click so you can read the sign

The Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church has always been a good neighbor. The building itself is damaged, but the Church is in fine shape.

August 16, 2007

Video of 68th Street near Fourth Avenue

Youtube video of 68th Street, near Fourth Avenue, taken on August 8, the day the tornado hit. Thanks, alecandy

Tornado; Report from August 9

I read the below article from China, in astonishment. Several of my neigbhbors are quoted in it. It was published by Newsday, who then edited it, removing the names of most of the local people. I finally found a replica of the original article on
Crown Heights Info. Thanks, guys.

National Weather Service officials confirmed Wednesday night that a tornado had touched down in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn this morning about 6:30 a.m.

The tornado, which was confirmed by twisting patterns in the debris left behind, was probably moving at speeds of 111 to 135 miles per hour, meteorologists said.

More pictures and videos in the Extended Article!

Hours after the tornado and violent thunderstorm pounded the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited one of the blocks hardest hit, shook hands with residents and said that, thankfully, no one was seriously hurt there.

The mayor arrived at 68th Street and 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge at about 11:20 a.m., less than three hours after the tornado and storm knocked windows out of the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, toppled trees and branches and blew the roofs — or portions of them — off a handful of row houses in the working-class neighborhood.

One area resident, Ted Najjar, 58, told the mayor he had grown up on the block — and that the house he currently lives in was previously owned by his parents. “To see the block like this is just terrible,” Najjar told the mayor.

“As long as nobody's hurt,” Bloomberg said.

Around them bricks, wood, pieces of roofs and downed tree limbs littered the street.

Officials at the National Weather Service confirmed this evening that a tornado had struck the area, after residents all day had described a tornado-like storm.

The storm caused the partial collapse of a building at 58th Street and 6th in Sunset Park.

It also ripped the roofs off of a number of houses on the north side of Bay Ridge Avenue, between 3rd and 4th avenues, while leaving buildings on the south side of the street untouched.

One resident of 68th Street, Vinny Ferraioli, 50, said he was getting ready to go to work as a computer programmer for Consolidated Edison when he turned on the Weather Channel and learned a tornado watch had been issued for Bay Ridge.

He said his 11-year-old daughter became concerned and he tried to calm her fears. “'Honey,'” Ferraioli told her, “'we never get a tornado.'”

Then Ferraioli said he got “a bad feeling” and decided to usher his daughter, his wife and his parents to the basement. But, before they even reached the basement door, the fury of the storm hit.

By 11:30 a.m. he was trying to figure out how to patch his roof, which had been partially destroyed by the winds.

“It's very weird,” he said. “I called my boss this morning and said, 'You won't believe this. There's actually a tornado.'”

Down the block, at the corner of 68th Street and 4th Avenue, Pastor David Aja-Sigmon stood on the sidewalk outside the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Bay Ridge sweeping shards of glass with a broom.

Yellow New York City Police Department tape cordoned off the area. A fallen pine tree lay on the nearby street.

The storm had shattered front stained-glass window of the red-brick church — a huge pentagon-shaped window measuring at least 15 feet wide and perhaps 20 feet high.

“Right now, we're just mourning,” Aja-Sigmon said, surveying the scene outside the church, which also suffered storm-related damage to several side windows. “We're just thankful to god that no one was here and was hurt.”

Aja-Sigmon said he served the past two years as pastor at the church, founded by Syrian-Americans, having moved to Bay Ridge from Chicago.

“Never would I imagine there would be a tornado and the windows would be gone,” Aja-Sigmon said, saying neighborhood residents claimed it was a tornado that struck the area. “I thought I left that back in the Midwest.”

In the aftermath of the storm, Lisa Hickey, 46, was sweeping the steps outside her home on 68th Street. Branches were scattered across the sidewalk. Tiles had been blown off the top of her roof.

She said she heard a “big boom” at about 5:45 a.m. Wednesday — and then her beagle started barking.

“I was afraid to come out because there was lightning and thunder,” Hickey said. “It certainly sounded like a tornado, because we heard a whirring sound. . . . We felt the floor shaking in the house.”

Another resident, Tommy Scanlon, 69, she he had planned to go to the Rockaways Wednesday morning to play golf with a friend. Instead, the storm hit, leaving his 1998 grey Mercury Grand Marquis crushed by fallen branches.

“This morning a little after 6 I called my buddy and said, 'Charlie, it look like were not going to play golf today.'” Scanlon said he heard the wind blowing and said: “'All this wind. My God, it's got to be a tornado.' I hadn't felt anything like this since Donna in 1964 . . . Then I heard the alarms going off on the cars outside. I couldn't believe what I saw. My car was buried in branches. There won't be golf for another week.”

Councilman Vincent Gentile said residents had “never seen anything like this” in Bay Ridge, adding that it was fortunate no one was seriously hurt by the storm. Police could not immediately confirm if there were storm-related injuries.

“Luckily no one was seriously hurt,” Gentile said. “Had it happened later there would have been much greater injuries.”

“There was lightning and thunder like nothing we have every experienced,” Gentile added. “Some one said to me it felt like we were in the Gulf Coast and we're in Brooklyn, New York.”

The storm not only flooded roads throughout the metro area and caused service disruptions to New York City Transit, Kennedy, LaGuardia, Long Island-MacArthur and Newark-Liberty airports as well as on the Long Island Rail Road, it also forced the closures of all 18 Nassau County north shore beaches, as well as many beaches on the South Shore.

August 15, 2007

Tornado Aftermath- Favorite Trees Badly Damaged

68th Street, Bay Ridge

For this and other photos, double click to enlarge

One week after the tornado, the neighborhood stands tall.

There's a great deal of work that needs to be done.

Some of our neighbors have had the most awful week. They're living in hotels. They come back to their houses to try to move the process of rebuilding forward, or just to be there.

If you happen to walk or drive by, its easy to think that things are normal. They're better, but not normal. Some of our friends are having an awful time. A lot of the rest of us have had an awful scare. Some of us will only be discovering specific damage to our homes in the coming weeks.

I remember when this tree, in front of 374 68th Street, was immense, with strong branches extended over the street. The house was owned in the 1960s by a old lady named Maude ( "Aunt Maude" ) who had lived in the house since the 1920s, when there were vegetable patches across the street, in a Bay Ridge that still had lots of farms in it.

She saw this tree grow up, and we're now seeing it in its last stages. A huge chunk of it fell onto the street last July. Now the storm has ripped much of the remaining branches from it. Its a stick, a shell of its old self now.

A smaller, relatively young tree in front of 370 68th Street was destroyed.

This tree, in front of 366 68th Street suffered a lot of damage. A chunk of that big branch to the right snapped off.

And amazingly ( look closely) the top part of the trunk was ripped off cleanly.

The trees on this street and on Bay Ridge's other fine streets and avenues are its crowning glory. They've been hurt badly. I hope that new trees are planted and that the injured ones recover.
I was told that Mr. Macey, who with his family lived for many years at 370 68th Street, died last week, about an hour after the storm hit. He'd been living in Toms River, NJ. He was a good neighbor and a fine man. God Bless.

Bay Ridge Tornado Damage - One Week Later

329 Bay Ridge Avenue

This morning, I took a walk down 68th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. There are still green, red or yellow stickers on many front doors.

Here is the status of the houses as I see it. If I've made any errors, please point them out:

68th Street

  • 370- Restricted Entry
  • 366- Inspected
  • 364 Inspected
  • 360 Restricted Entry
  • 358 Restricted Entry
  • 354, 352, 350, 348- Vacate / Unsafe
  • 344 Inspected
Major sidewalk damage on 68th Street, from tree uprootings I think:
  • 343
  • 357
There are crews from "Enviral Restoration" working on some of the houses on the block.

There are police on the block keeping an eye on things 24 hours a day.

Kirk and others in the neighborhood said that:
  • the City, State, Feds ( yes, FEMA was here ) and the Red Cross did an unbelievably good job cleaning up the block and providing aid to the shell-shocked residents who had to vacate their homes.
  • Twenty four hours after the storm hit, all the trees and other major obstructions had been removed. The block was in "broom swept" condition.
  • State Senator Marty Golden made sure that that governmental agencies responded, with the proper level of aid, right away. Mayor Bloomberg did everything that a mayor could possibly have done, but lets face it, Marty was the demanding coach who let nothing slip.
  • Time Warner Cable guys were working in the backyards today, replacing cable
  • There are signs reporting that there is a major failure of a Verizon cable.

On Bay Ridge Avenue ( 69th Street ) observed status as follows:
  • 357 Inspected
  • 353 Restricted Entry
  • 351 Restricted Entry / Vacate
  • 349, 347, 345, 341 339, 337, 335, 333, 329 Vacate/Unsafe Conditions
  • 327 Inspected
I believe that "Inspected" means that the exterior of the property has been inspected, with no visible defects

343 68th Street

August 14, 2007

Where Have You Gone, Phil Rizzuto?

Ah, Christ. I checked the headlines today when the plane touched down from Beijing, saw "Phil Rizzuto", and knew right away what it was. Phil Rizzuto, at the age of 89 years, was dead.

I never saw Rizzuto when he played a great shortstop for the championship Yankees teams of the 1940s and fifties.

Like any modern era NY sports fan, I remember him as the excitable, over the top "Voice of the Yankees" on their radio and TV broadcasts. He wasn't the most professional announcer --there were long stretches when the game was the last thing he'd be speaking of --but he was such fun.

In the late 1980s, I went to One World Trade Center for a short business meeting. As I entered the elevator for the trip back down to the lobby, who do I see in the car but Phil Rizzuto?

I introduced myself, we shook hands. I mentioned that I was from Bay Ridge, and the Brooklyn-born Phil said "Yes, I used to work near there. At the Bush Terminal".

So, while he'll be remembered as an announcer, for the guest appearance on Meat Loaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", as a champion baseball player with seven World Series rings, I'll remember him as someone who was friendly to me in a chance encounter maybe twenty years ago.

I'm just back from China, which was fun. But as always, the best thing about going on vacation is the coming back. This year is different, in the aftermath of the tornado damage. There's a policeman standing watch tonight over a number of damaged buildings on 68th Street. Tomorrow, I'll try to take stock.

August 12, 2007

Vacation in China

I am in vacation in China until Tuesday, August 14. Vacation photos may be found
at Chinese Connection

The Great Wall. Walk a few miles on this thing, and you get a hell of a workout.

August 10, 2007

Bay Ridge - Recovery from the Storm

August 08, 2007

Bay Ridge Tornado - Two

Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, with the entire front window blown out by the winds. This church is less than a block from my house.

These photos, and many other images from Bay Ridge and elsewhere from AM New York (thanks, Judy)

Quoted in Newsday, pastor David Aja-Sigmon said "Never would I imagine there would be a tornado," as he swept up the remnants of the stained glass window. "I thought I left that back in the Midwest."

Houses on Bay Ridge Avenue (a/k/a 69th Street) , between Third and Fourth Avenues, with extensive damage to the roof and facades. These buildings are on the other side of the city block from where I live.

The tornado apparently touched down right around here, then moved east/northeast across 68th Street , then across Fourth Avenue, in the direction of Sunset Park. It did not miss my house (on 68th Street, near Fourth Avenue ) by very much, but it did miss it. Thanks to Kenny and to Kirk and to the next door neighbors for confirming that little fact for me. I can breathe again now. If there had been damage, I was all set to cut the vacation short and fly back from China.

More coverage, and scary photos here, from btsnews.

Tornado in Bay Ridge

(tree damage to house in Bay Ridge, location unknown. This and other terrific photos
here )

This would happen when I am out of the country, in Beijing, China.

There was a small tornado, or something close to it, in Bay Ridge this morning. There are numerous reports of downed trees, broken windows, damage to roofs.

The best current news appears to be from Newsday, who quotes several friends and neighbors from 68th Street. (they've since edited the article. But the first draft of this article mentioned three people I know on my block by name!)

Kenny reports that 1010 WINS" is providing good coverage.

Quick Eyewitness Report from Kenny

I can't get anywhere NEAR 68 street. 69th is f**** up. lief eriksen park is all messed up about 40% of the trees are down. TV crews all over the place. it's tough to get near there. I tried calling **** but his lines been busy. maybe the lines down.

Reports the NY Times City Room
Storm Declared a Tornado

710pm NYC time
From Fox Five, news report, plus a series of photos. Click on the small photos to enlarge them. One is of a tree that blew into an apartment house window. Another is of several roofs severely damaged--I suspect that the photo of roof damage may be 68th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. I was advised that 348 68th Street suffered $100,000 damage and that clearly could be one of the storm damaged houses in one of the photos we see here.

Very good photo gallery from NY Daily News, with a number of photos of the damage in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and elsewhere in Brooklyn.
Bay Ridge storm damage images posted in Flickr
Because China blocks all blogs, I am in the peculiar position of being able to post to my own blog, but I cannot see it or most blogs directly, nor can I read comments directly. If you've posted a comment, please also send it to me at so I know what is being said. Email can be received, but blogs are blocked.

August 04, 2007

Off to China!

Today, I am off to China for a 12 day trip in Beijing and Xian.

Many internet sites are blocked in China-perhaps even this one. If possible, I will post messages from there. If its not possible to post, you'll hear from me on or around August 15.

Next stop, the 13 hour nonstop flight to Beijing.

I don't have access to any blogs from here, including my own. But- it appears that I do have the ability to post messsges on it. So I can write here, but I can't see what I write until I return home. OK, thats what it is!