Archive for November, 2007

RPP in Other Cities (More on Cong. $ing)

Found some interesting reading on residential parking permits (though no “twist” specified in this report), as already implemented by Boston and surrounding areas. It’s from the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Web site and the reason I hit on it is because there was some discussion at last night’s PlaNYC Workshop in Forest Hills about how this sort of thing works in other cities.

With time comes recall, so another interesting thing I learned was that in Toronto, which also has an RPP program, there is a sizable charge for an RPP ($10.36/month). For a second car, the price more than doubles per month, creating an incentive to not own a second car. The DOT’s consultant said that this measure had been successful in reducing the number of people having second cars. For more on how Toronto handles things, click here.

Since car ownership-as-lifestyle is indisputably out of control in NYC, we should endeavor to learn about any strategies that stabilize those numbers, if not roll them back. And then get behind them.

November 30, 2007 at 10:14 pm 1 comment

Chanukah Happenings I

chanukiah-day8.gifThe festival of lights—that is, candle light—is almost upon us. I’ll be posting a short series about this, but for starters, here are some choliday events happening around here:

12/2 Cantors in Concert An afternoon of song and celebration. Forest Hills Jewish Center, 4 p.m. in the sanctuary. Features the rich, mellifluous voices of FHJC’s Cantor Adam Frei and Cantor Shayna Postman of the Town and Village Synagogue. Accompanying Pianist Karina Azatyan. The Forest Hills Jewish Center Singers will also participate. Tickets: $18. Call 718.263.7000 for reservations and more information.

12/2 Shirlala Chanukah Shira Kline tells the story of Judah Maccabee and Chanukah, and performs holiday music in traditional contemporary styles. Appropriate for ages 4-12. 2 p.m., $10. Queensborough College, 718-631-6311.

12/4 Largest Menorah in Queens The Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council sponsors the largest Hanukkah menorah in the borough. The annual “Light up the Night—A Spectacular Chanukah Celebration” features live music, dancing, latkes and sufganiyot, and dreidels, chocolate Chanukah gelt, and special entertainment for the kids. 6 p.m. at Chabad of Eastern Queens, 211-05 Union Tpke, Hollis Hills.

12/9 Chanukah Festival at the Central Queens Y, 67-09 108 St., 1–2:45. Crafts, vendors, music, food, and entertainment that begins at 3. Free for adults, $3/kid with a $10 max. 718.268.5011 x301.

12/9 Chanukah Celebration @ Station Square Join FH Gardens residents from 4–5 p.m. for their Grand Menorah Lighting.

November 30, 2007 at 6:16 pm Leave a comment

My Meter Is Running

Just got back from the Dept. of Transportation’s congestion pricing workshop at Forest Hills Jewish Center. There were only about 20 people there, with another 15 DOT-related, press, or otherwise special-interest people milling about. It was a disappointing turnout, but those who did attend were thoughtful and active participants. There were two tables of “brainstorming,” that is, discussing parking issues in Forest Hills, potential ramifications of congestion pricing on the neighborhood, and what the solutions might be. There were facilitators at each table to lead the discussion.

One of the first things asked is if a decision had been made on congestion pricing. The DOT person and its hired consultant categorically denied that any decision had been made, that we were there to discuss all of the problems and possible solutions surrounding parking. (DOT has hired a consulting firm to research parking issues and run these workshops in Forest Hills, LIC, Central Harlem, UES/Manhattan, Atlantic/4th Ave Brooklyn, Brooklyn Hts/Boerum Hill/Ft. Greene, and the Yankee Stadium area.)

Despite the open-minded attitude of the facilitators, who were extremely affable and professional, the evening had a “handled” feel to it, and participants were grooved along a preexisting agenda. There were handouts with specific talking points, and we were helpfully reminded to stay on task. No complaint; it was the DOT’s event. But it’s my blog, so here are my talking points about the evening:

1. There is a very good chance that congestion pricing is going to happen.
2. What needs to be figured out in advance is how to assuage disgruntled residents (like you and me) in those areas (like Forest Hills) that would likely become park-and-rides (more than they already are) for people from Long Island and elsewhere who want to avoid paying the admission fee to get into central Manhattan.
3. Residential Parking Permits (RPP) are getting a serious tumble. The concept has been batted about for years in the DOT, but up until now it has never gained enough traction. And this is what I mean about handling. After much respectful discourse among participants, where everyone had his or her say and felt part of a problem-solving process, the facilitators pulled out their aha! idea that trumped every other: “RPP with a twist.” By this, even metered streets become RPP at least for an hour on each side every day, so that outsiders who park and then jump on the subway or LIRR to Manhattan would not be able to move their cars while at work all day and would get ticketed. Thus they would think twice about foregoing public transportation closer to home. This was by far the most discussed and positively received idea of the evening.
4. Other discussion points included: fee or no fee for RPP?; how to accommodate visitors/overnight guests (would be resolved by “RPP with a twist”); how to accommodate people who commute to work in Forest Hills; and technology issues, e.g., “smart parking meters,” or parking chips or Muni-meters.

I walked into the workshop neutral about all of this and left confused. Two things gnawed at me. The first is that while the proceeds of congestion pricing are to be poured into improving mass transit overall (a supposed equity for all), this would be yet another benefit to less-congested Manhattan while we are squeezed as part of the deal. The more mature me, however, says that not every solution can be fair across the board and not every person is going to be happy with whatever solutions are implemented. Sometimes you just have to lump it. Or leave.

The second is that none of this addresses the real problems we face, which is too many cars in Forest Hills and all over NYC. Too much pollution. Too much congestion everywhere, and not just central Manhattan. Too much of all of this because the true solutions to such problems are unthinkable in a society that places consumerism and personal convenience above everything else. (And if it sounds like I’m invoking a bigger picture, and a bigger map, it’s because I am). We can’t afford to just lump this.

To paraphrase an earlier Splitting Hairs post: people who live here (Forest Hills yes, but also congested places like Jackson Heights and Flushing) should make it their business to get knowledgeable fast on this subject.

November 29, 2007 at 11:03 pm 5 comments

Topaz—A Gem

Thanks to Queens Rocks, I learned about an artspace in Queens that offers great opportunities for local artists and dancers. Topaz Arts is having its open house this Saturday afternoon, 3-6 p.m.—I can’t wait to see this place and find out more.

TOPAZ ARTS opens its doors for an afternoon of celebrations, featuring an exhibition of new work by visual artists Philip Brutz (stereoscopic photography) and Alan Ulrich (sculpture), an exclusive silent auction of artwork by emerging and established artists, followed by the premiere of new poetry in performance “The Beauty of Ghosts” by Luis H. Francia at 6pm.

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November 29, 2007 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

Move Over Red String

Care for a gush of local pride to go with your morning coffee? Patricia Brightwater, who owns the BrightWater Gallery, a Native American crafts gallery on Metropolitan Ave., was featured in the NY Times’ Dining In section this week. She has her own brand of bottled water—now carried by two Whole Foods in NYC—that is specially treated to yield good energy to those who drink it.

It is a complicated process. Once the bottles arrive from their source near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Ms. Brightwater said, she lays out tumbled stones that she has “programmed for love, health and prosperity” around and on top of each case.

She burns sage and sweet grass, herbs used by the Native Americans, to clarify and purify the energy of the water, and prays for its drinkers to experience good health, good luck and prosperity. She said she then asks “the Great Spirit to help feed the hungry children, keep the waters clean and to protect the two- and four-legged on this planet.”

She plays CDs of Native American and Buddhist healing chants for 12 hours a day, until the cases of water are delivered.

I love when a quote leaves me speechless.

November 29, 2007 at 8:02 am 5 comments

Congestion $ing—RSVP Required

I’m not sure how strictly this will be enforced, but according to a flier about the event that a blog elf slipped under my door this evening, you need to RSVP to attend the Workshop on Neighborhood Parking tomorrow night. Here is all the information:

• NTCDOT wants to address community concerns about the possible impact of congestion pricing on neighborhood parking

• Participate in roundtable discussions about:
-Parking conditions in your neighborhood
-Parking management strategies

• Help develop a toolbox of potential parking solutions that can be applied to neighborhoods citywide

Thursday, 11/29, 7–9 p.m.
Come between 6:30 and 7
Forest Hills Jewish Center, 106-06 Queens Blvd (across the street from the post office). Entrance is on 69th Road

To RSVP: E-mail planycpark@hshassoc.com and use “Forest Hills Workshop” as the subject line of your e-mail. Or call 917.339.0488. For more information, visit the NYCDOT Web site.

If you don’t make it, check back with Splitting Hairs in Forest Hills; I’ll be doing the Wonkette thing and blogging about it same evening.

November 28, 2007 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

My Achey Breaky Sweet Tooth

It’s old news already: Baskin-Robbins is gone and the Natural is about to get bigger. I walked by on Monday and saw one of BR’s signs lying desolately on the ground. (Incidentally, I’ve noticed a lot of big pieces of trash-junk just lying around Forest Hills these past few weeks—a few bumpers from cars, snapped off like Lego pieces, one sitting on an island in Queens Blvd. and another on 108 St.).

Why is this neighborhood losing ice cream/ices places left and right? In the past few years we’ve lost Ralph’s Ices, Cold Stone Creamery, and now this. All we have left is Haagen Dazs, Piu Bello, Uncle Louis G, and Eddie’s Sweet Shop on Metropolitan. Oh, and Mister Softee and assorted knock-offs that hang out at the parks like so many predators. Note bene: I am not, repeat not, including Tasti D-Lite in this thread because anything that bills itself as a “frozen dessert” is glossing over a few things I’d just as soon not put in my body.

With so many kids (and pregnant women) in this neighborhood, you’d think we could do a little better.

But the larger looming issue—the one that is going to keep me up at night—is where we are going to buy lowest-common-denominator pop culture cakes for our kids’ birthday parties going forward.

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November 28, 2007 at 5:51 pm 1 comment

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