Parochial Pests: At-Risk Schools

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By next year, more than 3,000 parochial students from schools in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island will have to find a new school if the Archdiocese of New York proceeds with a plan to shut 17 schools in the city.

The closures are part of the recently announced plan to close 32 schools across the state due to lower student enrollment and an increasing reliance on the archdiocese for financial support, according to a statement released by the Archdiocese.

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Days of Holidays’ Pests

The holidays aren't always so merry and bright.

If we’re honest with ourselves, the holiday season isn’t always so warm and fuzzy. It brings along its own annual pests too like shopping, annoying music, and travel, just to name a few.

I put up a survey on-line, asking what holiday pests were the most annoying and why. Some of the results were interesting. Continue reading

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Bye, Bye Joe. Hello Hipsters!

Camel hanging out in Williamsburg.

Joe may be long gone, but Camel is hoping hipsters can pick up right where he left off.

The cigarette company is coming under fire for focusing on the cities where the cool kids live.

The Break Free Adventure Contest features ten “hip” locations including Austin, Seattle, New Orleans and Brooklyn’s own hipster epicenter, Williamsburg.

R.J. Reynold’s spokesman, David Howard says Camel chose these destinations because “they are places that are culturally unique and with entertainment popular with adults,” but parents in the area think the company is using their counterculture status to advocate smoking.

Now the National Association of Attorneys General is asking cigarette maker RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. to stop the promotional campaign.
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The Lost Decades of The Second Avenue Subway

Rendering of the planned Second Avenue Subway line

The construction of the Second Avenue Subway line has made news since it broke ground three years ago because of its delays and harsh effects on local businesses and residents. But the Second Avenue Subway has been making headlines for decades before they began tunneling underground. The project is one that is more than 75 years in the making. New York Magazine even gave it the nickname “The Line That Time Forgot” in a March 2004 article.

The Second Avenue Subway has a long history as an idea and a plan, but obstacles like the Great Depression and World War II halted it from becoming something tangible. The Lexington Avenue line has long been overburdened on the East Side, so the Second Avenue Subway is long awaited. The groundbreaking ceremony in April 2007 was a celebration and local elected officials promise the new line will serve the community’s riders as well as drive local economy. But with delays upon delays, will time forget the Second Avenue Subway once again?

Here’s a look at the journey of the Second Avenue Subway and how long it has come (or hasn’t):

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Ruins of New York City

The reinvention of Times Square is complete. At least that’s what the New York Times reported today, and in the midst of a historic neighborhood change in Coney Island, this might be a sore spot for all of those who miss the “old” New York.

But with abandoned developments, economic shifts and plain old neglect, old school seedy-seekers needn’t be disappointed: there’s plenty of grit left in the city.

There’s debate about whether abandoned buildings and disused areas are a problem. Certainly, many consider them a blight and dislike the impact of these places on their property values. Plus, residents living next door to an abandoned rowhouse can attest to the rodents and pest problems these unattended breeding grounds can bring in.

Yet there’s a draw to these abandonment that some people feel. For years, an underground contingent of photographers, explorers, artists, and other curiosity seekers have been documenting decay across the city.

Ac ouple of recent spots have been in the news recently: 5 Beekman Place in Lower Manhattan, a surprisingly opulent high-rise in Lower Manhattan, and an ambitious art installation in an abandoned Brooklyn subway station.

Take a look at the Google map to get a basic look at a few of New York’s lesser known abandoned spots. There are a dozen here, yet hundreds – maybe thousands – in the city. If you’ve got any interesting spots, please shout them out in the comments and I’ll update the map.

View NYC Area Abandoned Buildings in a larger map

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PETA’s Over the Top Tactics

The famed animal rights organization PETA (PEople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was back in the news this week in New York. The group is know for its often outrageous and controversial public protests for animal rights, but this week the organization’s disagreement with the NYPD ended rather harmoniously.  PETA said that the police were using inhumane mouse traps to combat a mice infestation at police headquarters.  The police responded by installing more humane traps.

Many incidents involving PETA over the years have not ended in amiable agreements though. The group has been a magnet for criticism and heated debate because of the shock tactics that the group commonly uses in promoting their message. Even some who support PETA’s cause believe that some of the protests the group has staged have been too excessive, and have actually hurt the promotion of animal rights.

Here are some examples of the group’s stunts over the past few years that have turned heads (photos from AP Images):

What do you think of these protests (some of which have led to arrests)? Do you think these protests are too much of a “pest” to police and pedestrians to effectively further PETA’s cause?

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Hillbilly Heroin Use On the Rise in Central Harlem

Oxycodone Prescription Sales New York City wide

Oxycodone Prescription Sales New York City wide

When Harlem AIDS doctor, Diana Williamson was charged last August as “queenpin” of a $1 million Oxycontin/Medicaid fraud ring, it was clear “hillbilly heroin” or Oxycontin was making inroads into urban areas. According to data released by the New York City Office of Special Narcotics, the prescription sales of Hydrocodone, generic Vicodin, and its stronger drug cousin, Oxycodone, generic Oxycontin, have spiked over 50% since 2007.

Prescriptions for Oxycodone were filled in pharmacies in one Central Harlem zip code 2,901 times. In 2009 that number in New York, NY 10026 jumped to 5,007. Neighboring area pharmacies report similar increases that reflect a nationwide trend in the abuse of prescription opiates. Citywide, almost a million prescriptions for Oxycodone were filled in 2009 with the biggest numbers coming from Harlem, Staten Island and the Bronx.

“[Pharmacy data] doesn’t tell us if that medication is being used for non-medical purposes.” says Belinda Greenfield, Director of Addiction Medicine as Self Sufficiency Services at The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. “You start to drill a little deeper and you start to see whether the medication is being used on the street, whether it’s being abused.”

The New York State Health Department’s pharmacy data is used by law enforcement to track and analyze patterns and illegal drug sources for prosecution, but according to Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, “These cases are very time-consuming cases to put together.”

While prescription opiates may be stereotyped as “suburban” drugs, Greenfield says location is of little importance for prescription drug abuse. “Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter where you are. Even in some of our more rural communities statewide, we’re seeing significant increases in the use of prescription medication. It seems to be across the map regardless of geographic location.”

The following map shows the affected areas where the spike in prescriptions was noted by authorities and charts show pharmacy sales of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone from 2007 – 2009 in the zip codes 10026, 10027, and 10031 of Central Harlem.

View Prescription Opiates Pharmacy Sales in Central Harlem in a larger map

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A history of the leakers at Wikileaks

Perhaps the United States government’s biggest pest — not bed bugs — is the independent site Wikileaks. The site, started by Julian Assange in 2007, has been posting leaked government and businesses documents submitted to them.

Last month, the website starting releasing to various news organizations around the world thousands of leaked cables from the US embassy. The cables, which are still being released, show various diplomats speaking frankly about the country they’re in.
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Where to go and what to do, with a stroller in tow.

It’s the holiday season in New York City. A time to enjoy all the sights and sounds this beautiful city has to offer. From the magical Macy’s holiday window display to the tree at Rockefeller Center, New York is home to some of the most spectacular decorations and events, this side of the North Pole.

But as the holiday gets closer, gridlock and traffic jams get larger, make driving into the city virtually impossible. For parents the fear of dragging kids, strollers and diaper bags, sans car, is enough to make them want to stay at home. Well not this year. Here is a google map that details where to go and what to do with the entire family AND what subways stops are close by with elevator access.

Enjoy the holiday season stress free and happy!

View Subway Stations and Holiday Fun in a larger map

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Meeting Explores Sustainable Alternatives to New York City’s Proposal for a Concrete Coney Island Boardwalk

A walk down the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island makes it clear that beauty can be lost with age.  Planks are missing, loose nails are exposed, and for several years now people have been filing lawsuits against the city due to boardwalk-related injuries.

A year ago the city began testing concrete slabs and a synthetic plastic as potential alternatives to using wood to rebuild the boardwalk.  Ultimately this led to the announcement last month by Parks officials at a Community Board 13 meeting that they are leaning towards revamping the boardwalk with concrete.

Some community members are outraged at the prospect of cement redefining the beloved landmark, though no one seems to be denying that a reconstruction is in order.

The aging process was inevitable; the boardwalk, the surface of which is currently made up of mainly exotic woods, has been reconstructed numerous times since 1923.  That’s why the city wants a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to using wood.

On Nov. 16, Tim Keating, the Executive Director of Rainforest Relief, led a meeting that introduced two potentially viable, synthetic alternatives to using wood or concrete.  Keating is no stranger to dealing with the city.  He and his organization have long been battling the city to halt its use of rainforest and other rare woods on the Riegelmann Boardwalk and elsewhere in the city.

Among the speakers at the meeting was Douglas Murray, President of Kebony, manufacturer of synthetically modified, sustainable woods; and Richard Lehman, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers University, who presented RPL, or “Recycled Plastic Lumber.”

John Natoli and Martin Maher, Chief Engineer and Brooklyn Chief of Staff with the New York City Department of Parks, respectively, were there to voice the city’s stance on the issue.

Take a look at the presentation below to see what went on. Click on the “+” icon for a short description of each picture:

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