Archive for December, 2007

Like Flies

Garo’s Bootery has a Lost Our Lease sign on its window and Novo 64’s sales office will probably close up shop end February, which is when it expects to have a model unit completed. At that point, sales will resume on site at the building.

This coincides with the final closure of Viva Bimbi (March) and what may likely be the move moment for Kick Up. So it seems that March will see the Staubach largely vacated. We’re just waiting for GNC and the leather goods store to turn their signs.

The saga continues.


December 31, 2007 at 10:06 am 1 comment

Gianaris’s List

I can’t imagine there would be any opposition to this:

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said he would introduce legislation requiring the state Department of Health to publish a list of doctors in New York who have the worst malpractice histories.

Gianaris said the bill would require the Health Department to annually list the names of doctors who have accrued five or more malpractice payments over the prior 10 years.

But let’s see what happens.

December 31, 2007 at 7:41 am Leave a comment

Scoring at Viva Bimbi

With Viva Bimbi set to close in March,* they’re selling all clothing at 50—70% off. The store’s price tags as a rule were always luxe-high, and the clothing is still pricey even after discount, but never mind, I dragged the kids in and got some nice shirts and pants for my son and a pair of spring shoes for my daughter—I easily saved $35 on just those. Best of all, nothing has a designer label or logo on it, which can’t be said about most of the items in the store.

I wish the owners good luck, though they say they’ll be fine because they still have Piccolo Mondo, so it’s ciao for now.

*Another casualty of the Staubach project; Kick Up is next, but it is going to relocate, replacing another, similar store, closer to Ascan.


December 30, 2007 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

Too Many Tests? Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know

Every once in a while, some higher up—in this case, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum—says what everyone with kids already knows: that there is too great an emphasis on testing in NYC’s public schools. It starts in 3rd grade, when students take something like 12 tests, 9 of which are city-mandated. After that, kids are tested again in 4th and 8th grades. Fewer tests in those years, but still more than anyone would willingly subject their children.

From amNewYork’s coverage on this:

Gotbaum said she wasn’t against standardized testing, but “we don’t need to go overboard” and she urged the city Department of Education to scale back.

Andrew Jacob, a spokesman for the Education Department, said Gotbaum was misunderstanding the city tests, which he described as “no-stakes evaluations in reading and math that pinpoint students’ gains and weaknesses throughout the year.”

Forgive me, Andrew Jacob, but have you actually shown up at a PS or IS in NYC lately? What you term “no-stakes” is enough to give pre-ulcers to more than a few students and to cause even more parents to freak out about where their kids fall on the continuum once the results are in. It reinforces what so many parents feel about their kids from the moment they are born and get an Apgar score–that they are either unbelievably gifted and talented or hopelessly average, both perspectives usually bearing no connection to the long-term reality.

And from what I hear (full disclosure: we opted out of the public school system for exactly this reason, but 95% of my friends are dealing with this), some of the questions on the test are incomprehensible to both parents and teachers. I am not even a bit surprised; I’ve edited grade-school textbooks and have seen this phenomenon all too many times.

Get this: P.S. 196 is offering for free (whereas other schools charge [$10/class @ 101] or don’t offer it at all [144]) four 3-hour class English Language Assessment preparation courses on Saturday mornings. Parents are required to attend with their children. What happens in these Kaplanesque classes? The kids take practice tests and get it drummed into their heads that they need to read the question before they tackle the reading passage. Good to know that our tax dollars, plus a few more, are being spent on kids’ learning how to take the test while their parents are dreaming of java to stay awake.

December 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

Bhutto Assassination Touches Queens

And really all of us. But, specifically, there are 50,000 Pakistanis living in NYC, many just a subway stop away from Forest Hills. Community Bulletin Board Jackson Heights Life posted an except from amNY’s profile of this—

New Yorkers somber after Bhutto assassination
By David Freedlander, amNewYork Staff Writer
December 28, 2007

The perpetually buzzing hive of Jackson Heights, Queens took on a somber pall Thursday as residents in the heart of the city’s Pakistani community reacted with grim resignation to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

At Mansour Bookshop on Broadway, owner Abbas Zaidi, pulled Bhutto’s book, “Whither Pakistan: Dictatorship or Democracy?” from a window display.

“It’s not surprising,” he said. “The government can’t provide security. She was everyone’s leader. Her background was very international. She was very educated. There is no one else.”

As he spoke, an Urdu newspaper was delivered with the headline, “Benazir Bhutto Killed in Suicide Attack” splashed across the front.

Full article:,0,4318264.story

NY Times article on the same:

December 28, 2007 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

Austin Street Is Up for Grabs

sign1.jpgThere’s a new cyber parlor game going on for Forest Hills, in which people speculate on what is going to replace whichever store has recently gone out of business—and there’s a lot of that happening lately. In general, what comes out of these online discussions is some degree of chain-store anxiety, a wistfulness for the days when mom-and-pop stores were the norm, and a hope that better restaurants will make their way here. There is also some comparing to a neighborhood like Park Slope, where originality and charm remain predominant commercial characteristics of 7th Ave. and environs.

Today I walked around Austin and the streets that run perpendicular to it while doing errands in the mist, and it became clear that Forest Hills’ character is not only in an enormous transition, but in a schizophrenic one at that. There are stores that open and stay in business for a year or less; there are longtime places like Baskin Robbins, Mandee, and UJs Luncheonette unable to stay in business because of skyrocketing rents. The high-speed turnover indicates that not even the retailers, who are plunking down investment money, quite understand where all of this is heading.

There’s the influx of Manhattan and Brooklyn could-have-beens. They come with certain standards and expectations, as well as kids and at least one car, and find out fast that it’s not Park Slope precisely because it’s not economically/politically homogeneous here. There are now sizable Russian and Bukharian communities that support the small ethnic specialty food markets on 108th Street but also like their lattes and cashmere sweaters, even if they don’t frequent Banana Republic or Nicks Pizza. Then, on weekends, restaurants are overrun by twenty-somethings who come here from all over Queens and trash the place. And, finally, there are the old timers, now middle aged and up but who truly love Forest Hills and still prefer to do their shopping and dining here for convenience’s sake and because that’s what they’ve always done. A store or restaurant that baffles one socioeconomic group makes perfect sense to another, which is reasonable given how hard this area is to pin down.

The real mystery is how this will all shake down over time. What this place looks in a few years will be not only a response to what Forest Hills wants and needs but also a reflection of who we are demographically. It’s all changing, as Queens becomes the next big thing, immigrant communities entrench via second and third generations, and America’s common culture (as pitiful as that is) brings about a convergence of thinking among younger generations. Stay tuned—an interesting bit of reality TV is playing out live before your eyes, if you choose to watch.


December 27, 2007 at 11:17 pm 3 comments

The Smart Cars Are Coming…

fortwo-passion-coupe-sidebar.jpgCome January all eyes will be twinkling at the smart car, which is making its Stateside debut. It is so cute and small that the once-ubiquitous Mini Cooper is going to seem tired and big—3 feet longer—by comparison. Just imagine life with a car that gets 40+ mpg and can park in all of those not-quite-big-enough spots in the Austin-Ascan matrix that leave you cursing the two drivers who created them. Omigod, I would never have to think twice about driving anywhere, though my family would have to draw straws since it only seats two.

For that reason, and because it’s fairly untested in the U.S. (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t crash test cars until after they’re on the market), many people still think of smart cars as a souped-up go-kart. And yet, according to the NY Post, there are already more than 30,000 people who have signed on to the $99 Reservation Program, which in non-marketing language is a deposit on the $15,000 sticker price. Who will buy it?

“There’s just something about this car—it’s like an Apple product, an iPod on wheels,” said Dan Katz, a video editor who lives on the Upper West Side. “I haven’t even driven one, yet I am putting in a reservation. It’s all somewhat irrational, but I had to have it.”

Translation: I just have to be the first in my crowd to own it; otherwise I can’t say I was in the vanguard of a newly branded religion.

Smart money: After the initial wow-ness of it dies down, those of us in less fabulous cars (and SUVs; using all my energy to refrain from comment) who need more than two seats will get back to the business of pushing for some solution to the parking and other congestion problems that dog Forest Hills and the rest of NYC.

December 26, 2007 at 9:45 pm 2 comments

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