Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hidden architecture



I've driven by this building on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn many times. It always stood out to me for two reasons. One, aside from the boarded up windows and advertising, its a beautiful old building. And two, it sits on the corner of a gigantic lot that has been completely leveled and dug out and appears to be waiting for yet another huge Brooklyn condo (see photo at bottom). The building seems to be holding on for dear life.

Well, it turns out the giant lot is the future site of a Whole Foods. As part of its development deal, Whole Foods agreed to help restore this building. According to brownstoner, the owner "planned to open an art gallery and gift store in the rehabilitated property." (that would be super-cool.) Unfortunately, things aren't going well. Brownstoner, sums it up:

Whatever benefits this Whole Foods would bring to the neighborhood and Brooklyn have been greatly overshadowed in the past year or so by the store's lack of action in Gowanus. The fence at the abandoned toxic site has been destroyed again and again, giving the general public open-access to a potentially harmful property. At the same time, we now learn the grocer has reneged on its agreement to preserve a city landmark. Whole Foods, it's time to s*&t or get off the Gowanus pot.


You can read the full post here. Photo is by brownstoner.

Here's another photo of the building, this one gives you an idea of how lonely the building looks on the lot right now. (photo from Google Maps)

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joe Biden, champion of Amtrak

From Daily Kos:

A Shot in the Arm for Amtrak?
by MissLaura
Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:03:52 PM PDT


KStreetProjector and Atrios have both pointed to one of the things liberals should really be cheering about Joe Biden being on the Democratic ticket: The man is one of Amtrak's biggest supporters.

That support comes in several forms:

Biden commutes to work each day on Amtrak and has been a strong supporter of the beleaguered rail service. He is an original co-sponsor of the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill (National Defense Rail Act), S.104, introduced on January 7, 2003. Introducing an earlier version of the bill with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) on March 6, 2002, Biden stated, "For 30 years, I have witnessed Congress dangling a carrot in front of Amtrak's eyes, funding it just enough for it to limp along. And I'll tell you, this has to stop. Now is the time to commit politically and financially to a strong, safe, and efficient passenger rail system." Biden has been particularly concerned with rail passenger security, and has, in the words of communications director Norm Kurz "worked furiously" to secure funding for Amtrak to upgrade its tunnels, hire more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs, build more fences, and add lighting to terminals.

Amtrak president George Warrington presented Biden with a "Champion of the Rails" award in June 2001 and the American Passenger Rail Coalition (APRC), a national association of railroad equipment suppliers and rail businesses, presented him its "Rail Leadership Award" in March 2002.


Moreover, his younger son is on the Amtrak board, and in that capacity is a major advocate for the railroad.

Especially in this moment when rising gas prices have set Amtrak ridership records, having one of the rail service's supporters handed a bigger soapbox creates a real moment of potential. This country needs more public transit -- more miles of service, funding to repair and upgrade equipment (train tracks in particular need work, but Amtrak's cars also need refurbishing or replacing in many cases -- and can you even imagine how many people would opt for Amtrak over the New York to DC shuttle if Amtrak had wifi?), and, as Atrios tirelessly points out, we need public transit to become an organizing principle of new development of residential and commercial areas. This is one of the most important components of improved energy policy. (And, like Atrios, I think it's a path to improved quality of life as well.)

Let's hope Biden is able to move things forward on this one.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dwyane Wade and I have similar food tastes.

As few vegetables as possible! (h/t Jon)

Michael Lee of the Washington Post has asked team USA about recent talk of their private chef. "Chef Lovie" gets high praise from players. But in the ensuing conversation, Dwyane Wade undermines the work of nutrition experts everywhere by saying that he simply does not eat vegetables. Can that even be true? Lee reports: "'You got to stay with what you know,' Wade said. 'I don't eat seafood. I don't eat vegetables. I don't eat none of that stuff, so I got to really stick with what I know.' What, no vegetables? How does Wade get his nutrients? 'I don't know. I don't eat vegetables,' he said."

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Does this bother anyone else?

Normally I don't go crazy every time the Bush Administration takes illegal spying to another level. (Except FISA, that really pissed me off Obama.) However this is easily going too far. The government simply can't be allowed to seize assets without any cause whatsoever. How long until this tactic gets abused? 5 seconds? 10?

From Reuters:

U.S. agents can seize travelers' laptops: report
Fri Aug 1, 2008 8:13am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. federal agents have been given new powers to seize travelers' laptops and other electronic devices at the border and hold them for unspecified periods the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Under recently disclosed Department of Homeland Security policies, such seizures may be carried out without suspicion of wrongdoing, the newspaper said, quoting policies issued on July 16 by two DHS agencies.

Agents are empowered to share the contents of seized computers with other agencies and private entities for data decryption and other reasons, the newspaper said.

DHS officials said the policies applied to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens, and were needed to prevent terrorism.

The measures have long been in place but were only disclosed in July, under pressure from civil liberties and business travel groups acting on reports that increasing numbers of international travelers had had their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices removed and examined.

The policies cover hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes -- as well as books, pamphlets and other written materials, the report said.

The policies require federal agents to take measures to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material. They stipulate that any copies of the data must be destroyed when a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information.

(Reporting by Paul Eckert, editing by Alan Elsner)

© Thomson Reuters 2008.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hidden architecture



I've driven by this building on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn many times. It always stood out to me for two reasons. One, aside from the boarded up windows and advertising, its a beautiful old building. And two, it sits on the corner of a gigantic lot that has been completely leveled and dug out and appears to be waiting for yet another huge Brooklyn condo. The building seems to be holding on for dear life.

Well, it turns out the giant lot is the future site of a Whole Foods. As part of its development deal, Whole Foods agreed to help restore this building. According to brownstoner, the owner "planned to open an art gallery and gift store in the rehabilitated property." (that would be super-cool.) Unfortunately, things aren't going well. Brownstoner, sums it up:

Whatever benefits this Whole Foods would bring to the neighborhood and Brooklyn have been greatly overshadowed in the past year or so by the store's lack of action in Gowanus. The fence at the abandoned toxic site has been destroyed again and again, giving the general public open-access to a potentially harmful property. At the same time, we now learn the grocer has reneged on its agreement to preserve a city landmark. Whole Foods, it's time to s*&t or get off the Gowanus pot.


You can read the full post here. Photo is by brownstoner,.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Handy tips to stay clean after you bike to work

Probably the biggest reason my friends give when they tell me why they don't ride a bike to work is, "I don't want to get to work all sweaty and smelly." While I never find this to be a problem anyway (unless its 90+ degrees out, and I don't ride anyway), here are some really interesting tips from PeteCO about how to stay not-sweaty.

A lot of people say they would like to commute, but are worried about sitting in an office all day with that “not-so-fresh” feeling. Hearken to my words; Baby wipes. Shower before you leave in the morning. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it isn’t sweat that smells, it’s the bacteria on your skin reacting with the sweat. Cleaner skin, less bacteria, less chance of smelly pits. Use a strong deodorant (duh). Wear proper bike clothing, not some old cotton tee-shirt. Bike-specific clothing wicks perspiration away from the skin, and helps you stay dry. Change when you get to work, and use baby-wipes to freshen those parts that need refreshing. Unscented, if you don’t want to smell like a small child. Pack them in a ziplock bag with your work clothes. I do this every day, and it seems to work. No-one has ever come out and called me a stinky git, and some of my colleagues would.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yglesias on why Amtrak is so prevalent/convenient in the Northeast

Matt Yglesias makes interesting points in discussing why Amtrak is so much more convenient and prevalent in the Northeast and what our country can do to promote train travel, which is efficient, fast, and better for the environment.

On top of this, the DC-to-Boston Acela corridor is the most densely populated part of the country, which makes it ideal for rail service, and also includes many walkable cities with transit infrastructure and substantial commuter rail networks. Transportation is always a network phenomenon -- part of what makes taking the train from DC to New York appealing is that when you arrive car-less in New York, that's fine. Indeed, driving from DC to New York would becomes an expensive/annoying proposition when you consider the difficulty/expense of parking in New York and a car's limited utility in terms of getting around. Even if you live in the suburbs, it makes sense to take Metro to union station and take the train up to NYC rather than driving. But if you took the train from Tucson to Phoenix you'd probably wind up needing to rent a car anyway, so why not just drive?

More insight in the full post here.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Global warming. Oil prices at an all-time high. One candidate supports mass transportation. One doesn't.

Guess which is which?

Vote Obama. Support Amtrak. Ridership is at an all time high. But if McCain and delusional Republicans have their way, Amtrak would be privatized out of existence.

Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises
Bay Matthew L. Wald
The New York Times
Published: June 21, 2008

WASHINGTON — Record prices for gasoline and jet fuel should be good news for Amtrak, as travelers look for alternatives to cut the cost of driving and flying.

And they are good news, up to a point.

Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues — all the more remarkable because May is not usually a strong travel month.

But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.

...

The railroad carried about 25 million passengers last year and may hit 27 million this year. (That is all intercity traffic; commuter rail, connecting suburbs and cities, is also growing, but that is not Amtrak’s market.) By contrast, the airlines carry about 680 million domestic passengers a year. If Amtrak were an airline, in terms of passenger boardings it would rank approximately eighth, behind Continental and US Airways and ahead of AirTran and JetBlue.

...
Amtrak can move a passenger a mile with 17.4 percent less fuel than a passenger car can, and about 32.9 percent less than an airline can, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

...
Amtrak’s fortunes also hinge on who wins the White House; Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, was a staunch opponent of subsidies to Amtrak when he was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Barack Obama, the probable Democratic nominee, was a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill to provide an 80/20 financing match.

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