Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MTA Appreciation Day

Walking tall
The MTA, and specifically the subways division, has come in for a fair amount of criticism on this blog. Sure the stairway at 82nd St. that was supposed to be repaired by Oct. 21 is still boxed up... Sure, I've nicknamed the 7 the "4 1/2" based on how many days a week it runs... Sure, sure, sure. But when I read today on the Daily News site that subway service would resume on Thursday, just three days after the monumental devastation of Sandy... Well, helmets off to the men and women of the MTA for all the hard, dirty work that must have cost--and will cost for days or weeks ahead. It's limited service, to be sure, and it goes without saying that the 7 is not among the lines that will be restarted tomorrow. Still, we can't wait for the screeching wheels, the stinky cars (oh, just imagine the ones that have been flooded), the conductors yelling at us to pull our bags in. Bring it all on!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Better for the BQE?

Point blank
With Sandy bearing down, it will be a quiet day on the BQE. A good time to catch up with politics. Reader, you've probably been wondering which of the candidates for president would be better for the BQE and our nation's aging, not to say failing, transportation infrastructure. Today, I offer BTB's coveted endorsement for President.

An analysis of the candidates' positions by Architectural Record summed it up this way:

"The current administration encourages cities and states to spend federal money on projects that enhance the public realm....  Romney’s domestic agenda has essentially one goal: spend less money.... If you speak with advocates for cities, transportation spending, or smart growth, you will often hear a hopeful refrain: that if Romney wins he may govern as the moderate former governor, not the conservative who ran for president. But Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, author of a budget plan more extreme than his own, as his running mate is not an encouraging sign for urbanists."

The Duke
Romney's oft cited record of spending money on public transportation when he was governor of Massachusetts is belied in a fiery and entertaining interview with Matt Dellinger from Transportation Nation with his predecessor, Mike Dukakis. (The interview is worth reading for several reasons. First, he sounds tougher on Romney than Obama. Second, we learn about the Duke courting Kitty in a little yellow Rambler.)

Dellinger: I agree that where money is appropriated, to what mode, is a very key factor in determining outcome. And when I looked into Romney’s budget, he did seem to put his dollars where his mouth was. 

Dukakis: Just couldn’t execute. That was his problem. Couldn’t execute.
Dellinger: That sounds so subjective, though. What exactly does that mean? 
Dukakis: He couldn’t get it done.
Dellinger: His DOT couldn’t get things done… on time?
Dukakis: He just wasn’t engaged. I mean that’s Romney. He’s kind of out there someplace. He just doesn’t get into it. 
Without hesitation, Be the BQE's first-ever endorsement goes to former Governor Michael Dukakis!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mind the What Now?

Reminders abound that the subway certainly is a dangerous place. This one of a Gumby-man slipping between track and train is an arresting one. It's even more disturbing upside down. Just don't stand on your head trying to read it:
(BTW: The Polish for upside down is do góry nogami, literally "to the (head) top with the legs.")

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Love Your Wall

Behind the Staten Island Mall. The fading advert reads: "Amour Estates - Real Family Homes" The neo-Bicentennial flag is a nice touch. Walk to Starbucks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ends in "00"

Two noughts
A quaint tradition that has outlasted Burma Shave signs is employing the sides of houses along the highway as virtual billboard space. This one peaks out from behind a tree in Sunset Park. Can't quite make out what's being advertised? Here's a hint: It begins with "Interstate..."

Saturday, October 20, 2012


In Polish, the word guma means "rubber." In Brooklyn it means an approved construction and demolition company. When you use the diminutive gumka ("little rubber') you are talking about an eraser, like the one on the end of a number two pencil or one of those bubble-gum pink blocks we used to use in school. Remember erasers?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Deal With It!

It's forge or flee...
On the stump, high on post-debate testosterone, President Obama teased the crowd: "You've heard of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Square Deal.... Well, Mitt Romney wants to give you..." Here it comes, I thought. Would it be the "Bum Deal"? "Sucker's Deal"? "Let's Make a Deal"? None of these, as it turns out. "Well Mitt Romney wants to give you the Sketchy Deal." Huh? Where's the allusive power in "sketchy deal"? Then it hit me, he's rhyming, at a distance, and some what clunkily, with the famous Romney "Etch-a-Sketch" moment. Mario Cuomo once said, "We campaign in poetry; we govern in prose." If this is the poetry, I'm afraid what the prose will sound like.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


(Photo: Dave Beckerman)
The New York Times reports that former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was taken from temporary custody in Lower Manhattan yesterday to testify at the State Supreme Court in the Bronx in a perjury case against two former cronies. Their perjury involved lying to the Feds about low-cost no-cost renovations to Kerik's apartment. While the Times did not specify the exact location, there's a good chance Bernie was staying at the Manhattan Detention Center, aka, "The Tombs," and briefly, the Bernard B. Kerik Complex. Yup, Mayor Giuliani had the buildings dedicated to his protege in 2001. Mayor Bloomberg changed the name in 2006 immediately after Kerik pleaded guilty to accepting $165,000 in home renovation work and another $28,000 in a loan from a real estate developer.

I wonder if Rudy dropped by to pay Bernie a visit?

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Case for The Cardvaark?

(Photo: The New York Times)
About a week ago, the MTA introduced MetroCards with advertisements on both sides. Today, we learn about the fare increases proposed for 2012, including the possibility that single rides may jump from $2.25 to $2.50 or the monthly unlimited card from $104 to $129. Looks like they're giving us the old one-two here.

In response to a story on the new advertising scheme, I wrote this letter to the New York Times. They didn't publish it--probably a case of professional jealousy--so I am presenting it here. Was there ever a time the MTA needed The Cardvaark more than now?

To the Editor:
The M.T.A.'s introduction this week of MetroCards with advertising on
front and back reminds us of how taken for granted the card itself has
become. When the M.T.A. first rolled out the MetroCard in 1993, it
worried that riders would not give up their beloved tokens and might
even quit the system altogether. They commissioned a Metropolitan
Marketing Plan, now buried in the M.T.A. archives in Brooklyn, which
envisioned all kinds of public events for the kick-off. The planners
even created a mascot for the new card, The Cardvaark, described in
the plan as a " high-tech, yet lovable creature who can 'sell' the
card." When Newsday's subway reporter ridiculed the creature as "a
dumb-looking, snout-nosed, big-eared, bug-eyed, round-cheeked,
pot-bellied, card-pitching mascot," M.T.A. chairman Peter Stangl
killed off The Cardvaark for good. As it turned out, the M.T.A. didn't
need to "sell" the MetroCard after all, and now the card is selling us
on health insurance and the Gap.

PS. Attached image is the sketch from the Metropolitan Marketing Plan.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

High Line/Night Line

Debate night in America and traffic on the BQE West is brisk. We all just want to hunker down with Paul and Joe. I read in the Daily News a few days ago a proposal for a second High Line reserved for bicyclists. Well why not, if it keeps them away from luckless pedestrians? But how will the take-out delivery guys get their food to the starving masses?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beacon of Hope?

(Photo courtesy Steel Market Development Inst.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Conversation near the door of a very crowded Flushing-bound 7 train yesterday afternoon:

Large woman: This train is packed. If you don't like being touched by other people, take a taxi.

Small woman: You take a taxi.

The small woman looks out the window and begins quietly praying, in Spanish.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Witch's Hat and All That

Early evening sky off the Staten Island Expressway. Suddenly fall is upon us.  The pumpkin-flavored drinks they're pushing at Starbucks don't seem so ludicrous now.
Mysterious structures on the SI horizon...
(But still seem ludicrous.)

That's the batting cage at Staten Island Gokarts Batting Cages and Mini Gold. At first, I took it for a self-contained driving range or driving cage.

Now I see the error of my ways.

In either case, a site for off-road rage.

...and spooky skies.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Que Rico!

(Photo: Josh Haner, The New York Times)
That's Mitt Romney leaving the La Teresita Cuban restaurant in Tampa yesterday.  Reader, I don't mind telling you I'm scared. Why? First, because he actually looks like a man enjoying what he's doing (even if he also looks a bit like a stalker). Second, because it demonstrates that the Romney campaign can actually evolve: This is the first widely publicized food-related event I can think of that doesn't have Romney in a chain restaurant handing out subs. Could Mitt actually be more than 47% human? And what's in those boxes?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Six Minutes to Antenna King

Miracle Mile
That's right, reader, all lanes on the BQE are open as it heads towards the viaduct over the Gowanus Canal. Two days running it's taken just six minutes from the Atlantic Avenue exit to the on-ramp from Third Avenue around 65th St. in Sunset Park (just before the Antenna King). My beloved local route below the BQE took about 20. Looks like I'll be on the high road once again. But who knows, maybe I'll be in the market for vanilla extract or a used forklift someday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tower of Tar

Where does the asphalt for NYC's unrelenting road paving and repair come from? Glad you asked. It's the Hamilton Plant on Hamilton Avenue on the Gowanus Canal and just below the BQE. In fact you can see its gears turning and flag flying from the viaduct over the canal in this photo from early days of the BTB. It's even more impressive when seen from below:
For more on of the inner workings of the plan check out these photos from Daniel Kukla's blog. What you seen in the background of my photo above is the new Marine Transfer Station being constructed for the Sanitation Department. Asphalt and garbage and canal: This is going to be a very fragrant zone.