Thursday, January 28, 2016

MTA says hoverboards are prohibited on subways, buses

Commuters can’t bring hoverboards on any trains or buses or into stations, the MTA announced on Wednesday.

Officials said they planned to launch a campaign advertising the policy in the next six to eight weeks, with the headline “Hoverboards Not Allowed.”

The federal government has found that 80% of hoverboards did not have batteries that were properly certified, the MTA added.. Lithium batteries can cause fires and explosions.

“There have been reports about exploding batteries,” said vice chairman Fernando Ferrer. “Certainly you don’t want anything like that in a crowded subway car or train. It’s prudent to take this step.”

Officials said hazardous or flammable materials have always been illegal to bring into the public transportation system, but it wanted to clarify its rules for the public. Use of skates, scooters, and other “personal-wheeled vehicles” has always been banned too, but they can be transported through the transit system.

The NYPD’s transit cops will enforce the ban on hoverboards in the subway and the MTA police will handle it on the Metro-North and LIRR.

Hoverboards were one of the most popular holiday gifts in the past year, but are illegal under state law.

NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has said anyone who uses a hoverboard is “out of their mind.”

Democratic Queens state senator Jose Peralta, whose district includes Jackson Heights, introduced an amended bill in December that would legalize hoverboards while letting local authorities set the rules — such as restricting them to parks.

He said that the bill would penalize manufacturers and distributors for selling hoverboards that explode and that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will set new safety standards.

“Once these issues are resolved, there will be no logical reason to stop people from carrying these devices,” said Peralta. “We agree with the MTA rules that apply to skateboards and inline skates; people should not ride these devices aboard trains or in subway stations.”​

Sierra Shields, Queens flight attendant, reported missing: NYPD

The family of a 30-year-old Queens woman who has been missing for nearly two weeks launched a fundraising campaign Wednesday to try to find her. 

Sierra Shields was last seen around noon on Thursday, Jan. 15, leaving LaGuardia Airport, where she worked, wearing a navy blue dress, police say.

Shields, a flight attendant, was scheduled to fly on that afternoon, but never made her flight, according to Pix11. She reportedly quit her job earlier that day.

Her phone and wallet were found at her home.

The Astoria resident is 5-feet, 7-inches tall, 160 pounds, with a medium build, medium complexion, black hair and brown eyes.

The Shields family started a crowdfunding compaign to help in ongoing seach efforts.

A Facebook group, Find Sierra Shields, and #FindSierraNYC are also being used to help find Shields.

Anyone with information is asked to either call the NYPD Crime Stoppers 800-577-8477, or text tips to 274637 then enter TIP577, or visit

Daniel Nigro, FDNY commissioner, had firefighters dig him out; councilwoman favors probe

A city councilwoman with oversight of the FDNY called Wednesday for a “fair and thorough” probe of the use of firefighters to help dig out in front of Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro’s Queens home after the weekend’s big snowstorm.

Committee on Fire & Criminal Justice Chairwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens) that the action “raises concern about the appropriate use of city resources.”

“I trust the Department of Investigation will conduct a fair and thorough review,” Crowley said in a statement.

Nicole Turso, a spokeswoman for the Department of Investigation, declined to confirm or deny a probe had begun.

The FDNY said Wednesday in a statement that units helped Nigro for about five minutes to open a path to the street through a snow berm in front of his Whitestone home — work that Nigro had already started himself.

“The firefighters that helped Commissioner Nigro finish digging through a four-foot snow berm to get to his Department vehicle early Sunday did not miss any calls,” said FDNY spokesman Jim Long.

The FDNY said Nigro was due at the Office of Emergency Management for a briefing, and his driver contacted the nearby firehouse for help to make sure that the commissioner’s vehicle didn’t get stuck, as happened the night before.

According to the city Conflicts of Interest Board, “having your subordinates do free work for you that you would have to pay someone else to do” is against the rules.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Monica Klein, said: “Most New Yorkers would agree the fire commissioner should not be snowed in during a citywide emergency.”

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said the inquiry by the DOI is “appropriate” but he defended Nigro.

“This is a hero of the city. This is an individual who was at 9/11, who led that department after 9/11,” Bratton said,

Nigro had retired from the FDNY in 2002 with a respiratory illness suffered at Ground Zero. Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014 appointed him commissioner.

Homeless man fatally stabbed at Boulevard Homeless Shelter in East Harlem, suspect still at large, cops say

Police are looking for a suspect who stabbed a homeless man to death at an East Harlem shelter late Wednesday night, police said.

Police said they responded to Boulevard Homeless Shelter on Lexington Avenue and 124th Street just before midnight, where they found the 62-year-old victim with a stab wound to the neck.

The unresponsive victim was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency personnel.

Police said the suspect is a male in his 20s. No arrests have been made.

AmNY Express (1/28/16): Taxi! Follow that industry trend!

The yellow cab industry is under threat from Uber. An industry group wants to convince you that taxis are more "New York." Will it work?
One evening before last weekend's snowstorm, Donovan Simmons was out in the city with a group of friends who decided to try Uber for the first time. Simmons, 20, a Bronx native, says he and his friends asked the driver whether the first ride was free if it was under $15. The driver told them they'd been misinformed. It turned out that a cab was cheaper.
"We've always been using those yellow cabs," says Simmons. Spenser Grabow, 19, from Manhattan, says that the "luxury" of Uber is nice, cabs are just "easier."
Taxi supporters are banking on this sense of tradition.

Real New Yorkers don't read billboards

Since the middle of January, more than 600 taxi tops have been flying a pro-taxi flag in lieu of more typical advertisements: "Real New Yorkers Ride Yellow."
The ads are part of a larger campaign paid for by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade to win back the hearts and minds of the street-going public, to both ride and drive yellow.
Addressing the elusive real New Yorker is tricky business, from Sen. Ted Cruz's pilloried "New York values" attack to sycophantic subway ads for businesses like Seamless ("Avoid Cooking Like You Avoid Times Square"), to the at least more creatively targeted Manhattan Mini Storage billboards ("We doubt NYC's biggest problem is large sodas").
The taxi lobby's appeal to the real New Yorker might be its best hope now, after Mayor Bill de Blasio released his long-awaited study on e-hail services and traffic congestion.
The mayor spent the summer railing against the Uber invaders but, after backlash from the smartphone-wielding hordes, retreated behind the safety of the study, saying he wouldn't cap the e-hail industry at the moment but would see what the study concluded. The 12-page report does not suggest drastic action such as that, so Uber appears to have won this round.
It could be that the real New Yorker will help the yellow cabs survive, though taxis might be window dressing more than daily necessity in a New Yorker's life — the traffic study notes that in 2014, New York City was host to 235 million trips in for-hire cars (including cabs and e-hails), as opposed to more than 2.5 billion subway and bus rides. Real New Yorkers, clearly, swipe their MetroCards.
And while they might not feel particularly warmly to a company that believes its drivers are not employees, they have to hand it to convenience. And as for the cabs — what real New Yorker hasn't struggled to turn off the damn taxi TV; failed to find a cab in the snow or rain; looked in vain for a car outside Manhattan or hip Brooklyn; swerved on a bicycle to avoid a crazy cabbie. Be careful what village spirit you invoke.

Real New Yorkers look for convenience

Yellow cabs are constantly "robbing you," says Mark Warren, 54, recounting the meter games of the stereotypical hack — going to Lexington from Midtown, but first darting one block west. Warren, who lives in the Bronx, described a cabbie trying to pull that on him once. "Where do you think I'm from?" he asked.
"People like Uber now," says Ashraful Alam, 39, noting that competition between the two services is better for New Yorkers. Uber's "drivers, cars are good," Alam, who is from Queens, says, adding that with Uber there's no opportunity for the typical street hustle of the person who opens the cab door for the tourist, begs a tip.
New Yorkers will take "whatever's convenient, no loyalty to yellow cabs," says a Bronx native who gave his name only as Will.
He worked for five years as a yellow cab driver, he says, and wouldn't recommend the job to anyone. He remembers constant hassling — from the police with tickets, the Taxi and Limousine Commission with licenses, owners with leases.
Comparatively, the customers were great. "They might be the best thing about the industry," he says.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cuomo budget leaves riders vulnerable to fare hikes, service cuts, advocates say

Transit advocates say subway riders can’t breathe easy yet on funding for the MTA’s capital plan — and could still face fare hikes and service cuts.

Groups like the Straphangers Campaign, the Riders Alliance, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not giving the MTA fresh dollars in his proposed budget for the next year, following a promise of $8.3 billion for the capital plan.

That five-year plan funds big construction projects like bringing the LIRR to Grand Central as well as new subway cars and buses.

Next year’s state budget takes effect in April and has to be passed in March. There is an existing $1 billion in the budget carried over from this year, but no additional money has been appropriated.

“Gov. Cuomo has not backed up his promises with any new cash from the state. He says that the state will start funding the MTA capital plan years down the line, on a nonspecific time frame, after the MTA exhausts its other sources of revenue,” said John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance. “There’s a real risk that this money will never materialize if the state does not start investing now. This could translate into fare hikes or service cuts for transit riders.”

The state executive budget does commit the state to the full $8.3 billion for the MTA’s five-year capital plan, which runs until 2019. The city will also cover $2.5 billion, as part of its agreement with the state.

Cuomo administration officials, responding to the criticism from advocates, said the MTA does not need the state dollars yet, and that funding will kick in once the MTA has used its own resources.

The MTA plans to finance almost $6 billion of the capital plan with bonds, but needs the program to be approved to borrow that money. It will also spend $1.8 billion of its money from revenue such as fares and tolls and expects about $6 billion in federal funds.

A spokesman for the New York State Division of Budget said the language in the budget for the state’s commitment was “unambiguous and ironclad.”

The MTA also was confident that the funding was secure.

“From maintaining the system’s $1 trillion infrastructure to significant upgrades in existing service, and dramatic expansion to accommodate a fast growing ridership, the Capital Program represents the most significant upgrade in New York transit in history,” said spokesman John McKay in a statement.

Donald Trump won't attend Fox News debate moderated by Megyn Kelly

Written by Reuters

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday taunted Fox News, and anchor woman Megyn Kelly in particular, a day after pulling out of a televised debate with party rivals this week over anger at the network.

"I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct," Trump said on Twitter. "Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!"

On Tuesday, Trump said he would not participate in the debate, scheduled for Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, expressing irritation at Fox for allowing Kelly to moderate after her questioning angered him in a debate last year.

His withdrawal means the last televised debate before Iowa's pivotal Feb. 1 nominating contest will not have the party's front-runner in a close state race. Iowa's caucuses are the first nominating contest to choose the Republican presidential nominee for the Nov. 8 election.

Trump has been feuding with Fox News since the network put on the first debate in August, when Kelly asked Trump about his treatment of women, prompting a stream of insults from the candidate and complaints of not being treated fairly.

His Republican rivals have criticized him for dropping out while his closest rival in Iowa, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, challenged him to a one-on-one debate. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Cruz likened Trump's withdrawal to a comical retreat from a "Monty Python" movie.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on Fox News program, "Fox and Friends" on Wednesday called the affair "a lot of drama" that most Iowa caucus-goers would likely tune out.

In a separate interview on Fox, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said it was time to "stop worrying about personalities and start worrying about solutions."

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told several television programs on Wednesday that Trump was not afraid to debate his rivals or take reporters' questions. He added that Trump would be happy to debate Cruz if the contest, which includes 12 Republicans vying for the nomination, narrows.

"If it comes down to a two-person race, Donald Trump would be happy to debate him," he told ABC's "Good Morning America" program.

Fox News, in a statement late Tuesday, said it would not "give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees," but left the door open to Trump attending the debate, co-hosted by Google.

Trump tweeted: "The statement put out yesterday by @FoxNews was a disgrace to good broadcasting and journalism. Who would ever say something so nasty & dumb."

Trump has said he will instead hold an event for veterans.

"At the end of the day, Mr. Trump is going to have the last laugh," Lewandowski told MSNBC.

Damon Knowles arrested in D train slashing of 71-year-old woman, cops say

A 21-year-old Brooklyn man has been arrested and charged with assault for allegedly slashing a 71-year-old woman in the face on the D train in NoHo on Monday.

Damon Knowles is accused of slashing the left side of the victim's face after the doors opened at the Broadway-Lafayette stop just after 7 a.m. He then fled the station on foot, cops said.

Police said the suspect didn't say anything to the woman beforehand.

The woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where she was treated and released. It was not immediately clear where she was headed when she was attacked.

Knowles faces two assault charges -- intent to cause disfigurement and intent to cause serious physical injury.

Knowles was awaiting arraignment Wednesday. Attorney information was not immediately available.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the alleged assault occurred on a southbound 6 train based on information provided by police.

New subway car design may save lives

Three subway riders were killed walking in between cars last year, while other passengers were injured or delayed trains, transit documents show.

Police said Wladyslaw Kusiak, 53, did not survive falling between the cars of an uptown F train as it left the West 4th Street station about 7:50 p.m. Dec. 9. He later died at Bellevue Hospital.

Lorraine Ogarro, 54, of the Bronx died after tumbling between the cars of a No. 1 train at the 207th Street station on March 23. After falling, she was struck by another 1 train, and died on the tracks.

And TyAsia Matos, 20, of the Bronx was killed when she went in between No. 4 train cars to relieve herself at Grand Central Station on Sep. 6, shortly before her 21st birthday.

A new “open gangway” train design that the MTA will test out, which has no doors or the perilous footing between subway cars, may avoid such deaths in the future.

The design of the cars, which are similar to articulated buses, will allow the MTA to fit more passengers inside, and could encourage riders not to crowd around its doors.

But they could also prevent riders who walk illegally between cars from getting hurt or killed.

“Open gangway cars would eliminate the risk of people falling between subway cars because the passageway between cars would be enclosed,” said Max Diamond, a transit enthusiast who teaches workshops on subway cars.

“This could save many lives and reduce delays caused by customer injuries substantially.”

The MTA’s rules on conduct forbid riders from going in between cars, unless it’s an emergency or they are instructed to do so by a conductor or police officer.

“Passing through or riding between cars is dangerous and is strictly prohibited,” said spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

Other riders have survived mishaps between cars, but caused disruptions for commuters.

A man delayed seven trains on Oct. 3 when he tried to enter an F train by walking from the platform at the 57th Street station in between cars, and slipped onto the tracks. He survived and was treated at Cornell Hospital.

An unruly straphanger also made two trains late when he was climbing between cars at the Fulton Street station on May 28, transit documents say. He appeared to be intoxicated.

AmNY Express (1/27/16): The wheels on the bus go round and round

Simple, predictable stops. Regular service. Good connections. The Q70 isn't a train, it's a bus line that actually works.
Buses have always been the stepchild of New York City's mass transit system, and LaGuardia Airport is the butt of every commercial aviation joke.
But put the two stalwarts together and you get a nearly magical experience, at least until you remember that you're still stuck at the gate.
Last week, the MTA acknowledged the usefulness of one of NYC transit's pleasant surprises — the Q70 Limited bus to LaGuardia, which will enjoy boosted service starting in the spring.
The bus picks up passengers from the LIRR at Woodside and the subway at Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue and continues to LaGuardia. Passengers can go from midtown to New York's very own "third-world airport" in just over half an hour, barring traffic.
The increased service will cut wait times, with buses running every eight minutes during the day and every 20 minutes at night. And by the end of the year the MTA plans to make the Q70 a select bus line, with riders purchasing tickets before entering to speed the vehicle along.

A bus that solves a problem

The Q70, originally introduced in 2013, is a point of focus for the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group that pointed to the Q70 as a practical solution while the city waits for a direct rail link from airport to city which was proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year.
That project is targeted to take five years to complete and has a nearly half-billion-dollar price tag, so we'll hold our breath to see whether it's done before the Second Avenue subway.
In the meantime, the Riders Alliance wants the Q70, transformed into a free shuttle between LaGuardia and the subway, to serve as a convenient, simple option.
The MTA hasn't made changes on pricing or branding yet, but Nick Sifuentes of the Riders Alliance calls the increased service a "10 percent success" at least, and was gratified that the MTA was addressing the issue.
Sifuentes says the bus system is a major point of concern for Riders Alliance — making them faster, through dedicated bus lanes, more select bus service, and new technology, such as transponders which communicate with traffic lights to extend green lights slightly as buses are approaching.
Failing to pay attention to buses is a very "Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn-centric approach." The outer boroughs rely on the workhorses for transport.
"We hear from riders all the time that buses need improvement, that they're not working for them," he says, citing bunching — when there's no buses in sight and then suddenly two in a row — and long waits.

The fastest way to LGA, except when it's not

At Roosevelt Avenue, the buses load up visitors and airport workers alike directly from the subway, and take them straight to the airport.
Robert Broaddus, 45, had taken the Q70 on the way to Manhattan and was about to take it back to LaGuardia. He took a cab once a few years ago, which he says cost $70. "Never gonna do that again," he says.
Of course, they're still buses, and it's still LaGuardia.
This was John Tyler's second time waiting for the Q70 in as many days, on the tail end of a visit to his boyfriend. On Monday night, his bus was stuck for three hours in a monumental traffic jam en route to LaGuardia, the result of a car fire and congestion on the Grand Central Parkway from the missed flights after our blizzard weekend.
Though they weren't far from the exit ramp, the bus driver couldn't let them off, Tyler, 33, says, even as passengers in taxis and private cars got out of their vehicles and hustled toward the pit of air despair, a stream of red lights ahead.
Tyler took the setback with good bus-rider stoicism, saying the Q70 was "actually a lot quicker and cheaper" than any other option.
He shrugs. "I had a place to go," he says.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Subway cars of future include Wi-Fi, cameras, charging stations

Future subway cars may have an open design that lets riders walk from car to car — as well as electronic chargers, Wi-Fi and security cameras, the MTA said Monday.

New renderings were revealed to the public that illustrated the open design of the R211 subway cars the MTA is designing on the lettered lines. Officials also gave an update on timelines for different subway cars and their amenities.

The MTA will test the door-free design in just 10 of the 940 new cars for which it hopes to award a more than $3 billion contract early next year. The other amenities would be built into all 940 cars.

Currently, no subway cars have security cameras, though the MTA tried them out in a previous pilot project.

MTA officials, during a presentation, touted the open design as a means to guiding passenger flow away from the doors while fitting more people on the trains.

The high-tech future R211 cars will replace the A and R lines’ current R46 cars, which hit the rails in the 1970s. However, there might be a shuffle that means the new cars go on lines other than the A and R, according to an MTA spokesman.

Subway rider Joanna Oltman Smith, 45, of Park Slope, checked out the open-car rendering, which the MTA said could be altered during the design process. She said she supports the physical separation currently between cars and was concerned the MTA would run fewer trains if it could fit more people in them.

“I appreciate the freedom to switch cars given the lawlessness of trains,” Smith said. “From over-amplified shows to aggressive panhandlers and preachers, to fellow travelers with poor hygiene, I sometimes like a door between me and the next car.”

The MTA has budgeted $3.2 billion for all of the new cars and is spending four years designing them. That design work began in 2012 and is scheduled to finish early this year.

Other passengers supported nixing doors and said the design would make it easier to walk through the train until they were exactly at the spot closest to their destination station’s exit.

“I like it! The subway in Berlin has the same open concept,” said Evan Radigan, 29, a logistics manager from Greenpoint. “You can get where you need to be.”

Elliot Santiago, 29, a Bronx assistant chef who lives near Yankee Stadium, said he appreciated that people couldn’t engage in mischief between cars anymore with the new design — but worried the lack of doors would make it harder to get away from creeping vomit and funky-smelling passengers.

“I just hope they can have a special fan to take out all the bad odors,” he suggested.

The MTA has been struggling with delays on production of new subway cars called the R179, which are being constructed upstate by Canadian company Bombardier. They are expected to be on the C, A, J, M and Z lines in the summer of 2018.

The C trains have the oldest cars in the transit system, dating back to 1964. A spokesman said the final determination on which lines the R179 cars will run on isn’t set in stone.

The MTA has purchased 300 of the R179s, which are 60 feet long and will make up about 36 new trains. Some of the trains will have eight cars, others will have 10.

The No. 7 train is also getting new train cars this year, which will use the more modern signal system that is being installed on the Queens line. That new system will let the MTA run more trains on the jam-packed line and relieve overcrowding.

Called the R188 cars, they all are expected to be delivered by the end of July. Some have already been added to the No. 7 line. The 126 new cars, and the conversion of 380 older cars so that they can use the new signal system, cost the MTA almost $646 million, according to documents.

Brooklyn man found dead in plowed-in parked car

Police found a man’s body in the driver’s seat of Lexus that had been plowed in on 47th Street in Sunset Park.

Angel Ginel, 44, may have been shoveling snow before getting into his car, Pix11 reported. Carbon monoxide poisoning is believed to have killed Ginel.

 Ginel was last seen on Sunday night shoveling snow, ABC stated in a related article. Ginel apparently dug his way into his car but became trapped inside by a plow that put more snow against his door.

When Ginel was found, the Lexus was still running with the tailpipe blocked by snow, ABC added.

Ginel’s death, if determined to carbon monoxide poisoning, would be the second reported instance of a similar death in the region caused by the recent snowfall, Pix11 reported. A young New Jersey mother and her son also died while in a running car.

On Tuesday, the medical examiner will conduct an autopsy on Ginel, according to ABC.

MTA falling behind on Second Avenue Subway, consultant says

The MTA is falling further behind on the Second Avenue Subway project, which is slated to open in December this year, according to independent consulting company McKissack.

The project, which will add a much-needed new subway route on the Upper East Side, is delayed in installing power underground, which is needed to start tests for the new stations.

The MTA said it will use temporary power so tests can start earlier, and that it is creating a new accelerated schedule to catch up on construction work and finish the line by the end of the year.

“We recommend that the schedule should be detailed with weekly checkpoints as we go forward in our last year, so we can keep up to date with any issues that are being developed,” said consultant Kent Haggis. His company McKissack was hired by the MTA to monitor the project.

The Nos. 4, 5 and 6 on the Lexington Avenue lines have the highest ridership of any train line in the country. The MTA expects the Second Avenue Subway to give the route significant relief.


Man shot for using neighbor's snow shovel: Police

Newark police arrested a woman whom they say arranged for a man to be shot for having used her snow shovel.

Saqirah Davis, 36, was charged with aggravated assault, weapons-related offenses and conspiracy, NBC has reported, adding that officers are looking for other potential suspects related to a Sunday altercation.

A man told police that he found a snow shovel on the sidewalk on Sunday, reported in a related article, saying that he was using it to clear a neighbor’s walkway.

The man returned the snow shovel to Davis, who accused him of having stolen it, NBC added.

Later, he was walking in the neighborhood when Davis approached him with several other men, one of whom shot the alleged victim in the buttocks after Davis instructed him to do so, stated.

Davis is the only person charged in the incident, and it is not known if she has a lawyer, according to NBC.

Woman slashed in the face on D train in NoHo, police say

A 71-year-old woman was slashed in the face while riding a northbound D train in NoHo on Monday morning, police said.

Police said that the suspect slashed the left side of the victim's face after the doors opened at the Broadway-Lafayette stop just after 7 a.m. He then fled the station on foot, cops said.

Police said the suspect, believed to be about 25 years old, didn't say anything to the woman beforehand.

The woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where she was treated and released. It was not immediately clear where she was headed when she was attacked.

Cops described the suspect as approximately 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the alleged assault occurred on a southbound 6 train based on information provided by police.

Dating app use surges during blizzard

Blizzard-struck New Yorkers spent the weekend looking for their significant others as at least one dating app showed a drastic increase in use during the inclement weather.

Happn, a French dating app that matches users based on how regularly they cross paths, reported a 139 percent increase in messaging and a 66 percent increase in likes this past Saturday in New York compared with the previous Saturday, Fox has reported. Snow-plagued Philadelphia also saw an increase, with messaging up 342 percent and likes up 95 percent.

Happn also stated that, during the blizzard, new user signups were up 43 percent, ABC reported in a related article.

Happn is currently used by more than 10 million people in 35 cities around the world, up from just 1.6 million people who used the app one year ago, Fox added.

Police shot knife-wielding man at East Village housing complex, NYPD says

Police shot a knife-wielding man at an East Village housing complex early Tuesday, cops said.

Authorities said that police initially responded to a call about a violent, emotionally disturbed person at 911 FDR Drive just before 12:30 a.m.

By the time cops arrived, the man had fled the location, police said.

Officers were then redirected to the seventh floor of the Jacob Riis II complex, located at 765 FDR Drive, where the suspect’s grandmother lives.

The officers approached the 25-year-old suspect and demanded that he drop his knife, but he advanced toward police instead, cops said.

Police fired one round at the suspect, who was hit in the chest. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition.

Brooklyn youth center aide charged with sexual assault

A juvenile detention center worker has been arraigned on charges of rape and sexual abuse stemming from his alleged assaults on three 15-year-old girls in his care.

Barry Proctor, 47, was in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Monday facing accusations that he sexually abused the three 15-year-olds over the course of 15 months, beginning in 2014, the New York Daily News reported.

The alleged incidents took place at the Ella McQueen Reception Center for Boys and Girls in Brooklyn, the Washington Times reported in a related article, adding that the New York State Justice Center claimed the incidents were non-forcible, but 15-year-old girls cannot legally consent to sex acts in any case.

Proctor had his bail set at $20,000, the Daily News added.

AmNY Express (1/26/16): Should public drinking get you a criminal record?

The City Council wants to change the punishments for low-level offenses. Will urine fill the streets? Will fewer people enter the criminal justice system? Only time will tell.
When a person spits in a park, should he or she get a criminal record?
What about when someone is caught with a beer outside? Or littering? Or peeing against a wall?
The New York City Council introduced a package of criminal justice reform bills yesterday intended to amend the penalties imposed on offenders of low-level crimes such as these.
If the measures are passed, the cases of many offenders would be shifted to civil as opposed to criminal courts — avoiding a permanent criminal record. Failure to appear in court wouldn't generate an arrest warrant, which could result in the nightmare scenario of spending a night in jail for an offense like loitering. An option of community service would substitute for those who could not pay fines.
While these might not seem like doomsday changes, some supporters of broken windows policing, which views low-level, quality-of-life offenses as the first line of defense against larger ones, worry that a more permissive NYC would lead to a debauchery of peeing and public drinking. Council members were quick to stress that they were not decriminalizing anything, and were rather adding civil enforcement options for police officers.
On the other side of the issue, some reformers say that the package of bills does little to change the reality of life in certain communities where police presence is omnipresent and obtrusive, where low-income, predominately African-American and Hispanic residents are swept into the criminal justice system for doing things that take place on a daily basis in other boroughs, other blocks.
Either way, the crux of the reforms depends on a particular commodity: the discretion of the cop on the beat.

What's the best way to enforce the law?

The bills are focused less on policing strategy than the correct dimensions of punishment — getting the criminal justice system out of residents' lives, barring serious issues and serious offenses.
"Proportional justice," as Council member Jumaane Williams said yesterday. Does the penalty fit the crime?
The actual policing, however, is still the province of the police. And it's the officer on the beat who does the entry-level sorting — routing offenders into either the criminal or civil system.
"Police discretion, wisely exercised, is the foundation of a fair criminal justice system," said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, at the council hearing yesterday.
In some cases, officers have the option of choosing a civil penalty, but that option is rarely chosen. And the NYPD has no policy guiding officers towards one option or the other.

The devil is in the details

One of the bills addresses this issue, requiring the NYPD to establish guidelines, available to the public, for the enforcement of a number of minor offenses. The legislation urges the civil choice to be the primary one.
But there's still a lot of wiggle room. The discretion might be very broad, or very narrow, according to Council member Rory Lancman, who advocated for the most specific guidelines possible — a "series of boxes," to check for example.
The police department has pushed for the criminal option to remain to ensure public safety. That might be warranted, but it should be limited to exactly that, and not an excuse to avoid the civil option which is the spirit of this legislation.
There's little evidence that our current system is the only thing holding back the garbage tide. These practical reforms help the courts focus on more important crimes — not piss and litter.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

Monday, January 25, 2016

NYC blizzard: Travel ban lifted after 2nd snowiest storm hits NYC

A weekend winter storm set an all-time daily snowfall record for New York City, the National Weather Service said.

Central Park saw 26.6 inches of snowfall on Saturday, breaking the previous one-day record of 24.1 inches on Feb. 12, 2006, the National Weather Service said on Twitter.

The storm, which began Friday night, brought a total of 26.8 inches of snow to Central Park before it ended Saturday night, making it the second largest snowfall accumulation since New York City first began keeping records in 1869. The city's snowiest storm was back in 2006, when New York saw 26.9 inches of snow.

The storm also brought whiteout conditions and winds gusting up to 55 mph, the National Weather Service said. The brunt of the storm hit Saturday during the day, but it tapered off Saturday night at about 10 p.m. A blizzard warning was lifted Sunday morning.

Three people died of apparent heart attacks while shoveling snow in New York City on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday morning.

Cuomo lifted his travel ban on New York City roads at 7 a.m. Sunday, and traffic "resumed without issue," he said. But he asked New Yorkers to stay off the roads unless necessary, explaining that cars are still getting stuck and that drivers may face black ice.

The lift of the travel ban "does not mean that people should take a ride to see the sights," he said.

The NYPD issued 25 summonses for driving during the travel ban. One man was arrested for running red lights and driving drunk, the NYPD said.

Crews continued to work to clear roads on Sunday. Mayor Bill de Blasio's office said that 2,300 pieces of snow-cleaning equipment are cleaning up the streets, and sanitation workers are on 12-hour shifts.

De Blasio said at a news conference Sunday that a number of Queens neighborhoods needed additional snow plowing. Snow-clearing efforts were being focused on Woodside, Sunnyside, Ridgewood, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona.

The city suspended bus service and exterior subway lines during the storm, but most service was restored by midday Sunday. Alternate side parking rules are suspended until Monday, Feb. 1.

Cuomo praised sanitation crews, cleanup crews, police, the MTA and Port Authority for "amazing work across the board." He also said it was heartwarming to see New Yorkers rallying for each other, shoveling each other's walkways and pushing stuck cars.

“It was just great to see how New Yorkers come together in a beautiful spirit of community," he said.

(With Newsday)
Source: Mayor's office

Queens needs more blizzard help: Residents

Mayor de Blasio admitted on Sunday that Queens had not yet received adequate help from the city to dig out from the snow left piled by Winter Storm Jonas.

Many neighborhoods in Queens, which received up to 34 inches of snow, the most in New York City, were still largely impassable due to the lingering accumulation left by this weekend’s blizzard, the New York Post reported. De Blasio said equipment and workers were being sent from other boroughs to help.

“The streets I saw in Sunnyside, Woodside, I’m not going to be happy this morning. I’m not going to be satisfied this morning. But I can tell you this much: Give us the rest of this day and we’re going to make a very, very big impact on those neighborhoods,” the mayor was quoted by NBC.
Some Queens officials were skeptical about the mayor’s decision to open all New York City public schools on Monday, the Post added.

“Too many streets in Queens . . . remain unplowed and driving conditions are still very dangerous,” City Council member Eric Ulrich said in a statement quoted by the Post. “That is why I am deeply disappointed in the mayor’s decision to keep all New York City public schools open tomorrow.”

On social media, Queens residents started the hashtag #PlowQueens as residents posted more and more photos of streets covered in piles of snow, NBC reported.

Jonas brought a record-setting snowfall to New York as the city recorded 26.8 inches on Saturday, beating the 24.1-inch one-day record previously set on Feb. 12, 2006, according to the Post.

AmNY Express (1/25/16): When snow falls, the hustle begins

In Marine Park, when you're clearing snow, there are differences of dollars but not degree.
To dig out a car, $20 or $40.
For a house's sidewalk, perhaps $60. Driveways and corner properties cost more. For the package deal, you might be looking at $100, or $150. But neat work, you understand.
New York City began digging itself out from its second largest snowfall since Reconstruction yesterday. With 26.8 inches recorded in Central Park, that's a lot of snow to move. The Sanitation Department was taking care of the heavy lifting — it put out a call for emergency snow laborers, starting at $13.50 an hour.
But you could do much better in Marine Park, a neighborhood on the south-eastern coastal edge of Brooklyn, where long driveways and home ownership means good business for amateur shovelers.
Depending on when the snow stops falling, city rules require property owners to clear their sidewalks either four hours after snow's end, or by 11 a.m.
City officials urged New Yorkers not to overstrain themselves while shoveling their property, suggesting that elderly residents hire healthier help.

Snow storm tycoon

There are a number of regular businesses in place to do the work, contractors who advertise their part-time service and work for large organizations that need shoveling — clearing a church parking lot, for example, could run $2,500.
But there was plenty of work in the neighborhood for small-time contractors, such as Shane Scrolls, 16, and Mario Salome, 15, who were finishing up a $150 package job — car, driveway and sidewalk — off Fillmore Avenue.
"We dream for this," Scrolls says, of large snow storms of this nature.
Business was good, though competition was stiff. "More adults," says Scrolls, "more machines. Someone with an ATV."
He says he's noticed a lot of kids who aren't from the neighborhood — Bergen Beach or Gerritsen Beach outsiders, for example, some 40 blocks away — who "come here and take our business."
But he and Salome were excited for work on the morning of the first snow of the year.
They'd considered investing in an ATV and a plow before the storm, but noted that customers seem to pay less to kids with machines, given how much easier it is.
Mitch Kaufman, whose house they were clearing, came out to supervise their handiwork. Kaufman, 53, stuck two Poland Spring water bottles into a snow bank for the laborers, saying they were doing a good job.
"This is ridiculous," he says, "the cold weather and snow. Who needs this."
Kaufman said that Marine Park was a help-your-neighbor type of neighborhood, pointing to the clean sidewalk next door, home to an elderly couple, which the neighbor on the other side had cleared. The block owned a communal snow blower, which took care of the big stuff, but the rest was "a little too much for me," Kaufman said, gesturing at his back.
The kids do the "finishing touches." And they were easy to track down — "I found them on Facebook," Kaufman says.

Icy cold reality of the free market

It should be noted here that your amExpress correspondent made his fair share of money shoveling Brooklyn snow, in a pre-Facebook era. There were fewer snow plows then, but the same Bergen Beach interlopers, the same hustle. Prices were a little lower.
One pair of would-be snow shovelers was still offering 20th century prices yesterday, however.
James, age 12, was getting a late start with his friend since their parents made them shovel at home. James had been in business in earlier years, though his friend was a rookie.
They were heading down 35th Street toward the park in search of work — "old people, people who can't get out," says James, people who hadn't already cleared their way. In the other direction they'd seen some teenagers plying their trade, "not kids like us."
"I just charge $20, other times five, or ten," James says, before continuing down the block. Your amExpress correspondent considered intervening but reluctantly sent them on their way, and let the free market run its course.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Storm Update

Good Afternoon everyone, I'm Brandon Julien alongside Terra Anderson in our Brandon J.'s News studios in New York City, where we are experiencing our first major snowstorm of the season.

Here is what you need to know.

1. MTA bus service is shut down until further notice.
2. The LIE and Northern State Parkway will close at 2:30 today.
3. A Travel ban in NYC and Long Island will begin at 4PM today.
4. Metro North, LIRR, and exterior (outside) NYC Subway service will shutdown at 4PM.

Snowfall of 18-24 inches is expected in New York City, Long Island, and Interior sections of New Jersey.

Stay tuned on twitter @Brandonjsnews for more on the storm.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

NYC tourism soars to record high of 60 million in 2015

The number of tourists visiting New York City rose to a record high in 2015 for the sixth consecutive year, with nearly 60 million people traveling to the biggest city in the United States, officials said on Thursday.

The tourism boom continued apace even though last year brought also a spike in security threats, fueling concern that domestic attacks carried out by sympathizers of the militant group Islamic State were possible in New York.

Following the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 as well as the December shooting in San Bernardino that killed 14, New York City officials repeatedly sought to reassure the public that the city was equipped to handle any threat.

The New York City Police Department's enormous counterterrorism apparatus was out in full force for signature events like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the annual New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, which drew more than 1 million people to the center of Manhattan to ring in 2016.

"As the safest and most exciting big city in America, we have so many rich offerings that continue to make the five boroughs a global draw," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

The city's more than 100,000 hotel rooms saw a record number of bookings in 2015, according to the city's official tourism and marketing arm, NYC & Company.

About one-fifth, or 12 million, of the out-of-town visitors were from abroad, with the highest numbers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and China.

New York is the most popular destination in the United States for international travel, officials said.

Armed bandits bust into Manhattan apartment, rob 11 people: NYPD

A crowded Chelsea apartment was the scene of a brazen robbery where the suspects, armed and wearing masks, robbed the occupants before fleeing out a window, police said.

Eleven men and women, ranging in age from 19 to 35 years old, were inside a third-floor apartment near West 27 Street and 9th Avenue on Saturday at about 1:40 a.m. when the robbery occurred, authorities said.

Four suspects, each armed and wearing masks, entered the apartment and told the occupants to to get down on the ground. They then took the occupants’ cellphones and an undetermined amount of cash.

One of the victims called 911, and the suspects fled through a bedroom window as police arrived.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.

NYC weather: Blizzard watch issued, 'significant' snow and wind event expected

A blizzard watch has been issued for New York City ahead of this weekend's expected snowstorm.

The National Weather Service said that the blizzard watch will be in effect from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon. This means that New Yorkers are expected to face reduced visibility of less than one-quarter mile, as well as hazardous travel conditions, the NWS said.

"We're pretty sure there's going to be a significant snow and wind event," NWS meteorologist Carlie Buccola said.

The current forecast predicts as much as 1 foot of snow. The city could also see wind gusts in excess of 35 mph for up to three hours.

Buccola also said there could be some "mixing," a brief time where rain or sleet combine with snow.

Meteorologist Jeffrey Tongue said that the storm is expected to start Saturday morning before sunrise and taper off by sunrise on Sunday. The storm will be strongest Saturday afternoon and evening, he said.

At a press briefing Thursday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio told New Yorkers to expect the white stuff.

"The bottom line is New Yorkers should plan for a big storm this weekend," he said, adding that he did not expect the subway to be shut down.

"I don't think we're in that situation now," he said.

He also urged everyone to stay off the roads, but did not issue a travel ban.

"We need to know more before a travel ban," he said.

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said sanitation workers were loading 579 salt spreaders and attaching 1,650 plows to "heavy duty" trucks in anticipation of the storm, and they will be pre-deployed to "assure a quick response."

Sanitation workers will be working two 12-hour shifts starting Friday at 7 a.m. with 2,400 workers per shift. Approximately 400 Department of Transportation workers will also be deployed, according to a press release from the mayor's office.

Legendary Manhattan movie theater Ziegfeld to close within weeks

It will be the final scene in a few weeks for a famous Manhattan movie theater.

Ziegfeld Theatre, which opened in 1969, is set to close within weeks and open again in fall 2017 as a high-end event space called the Ziegfeld Ballroom catering to society galas and corporate events, media reports said.

According to the New York Post, the movie theater at 141 W. 54th St. “is Manhattan’s last remaining large single-screen showplace used exclusively for movies with 1,300 seats.”

Despite its history and iconic status, hosting movie premiers through the years, the Art Deco theater was reportedly losing up to $1 million a year.

“There was not a profitable business there,” Allan Kurtz, managing director of Gotham Hall, the special events company that will be moving in, told the New York Daily News. “They were losing money, the economics no longer work as a single-screen movie theater.”

AmNY Express (1/21/16): A tale of two polls

New Yorkers agree that homelessness is a big problem. But they're divided on how to solve it.
Melissa Waters' jacket wouldn't close.
It's a not-particularly-heavy black pea coat, and not being able to fasten it became a concern for Waters, 27, who is homeless and sleeps on the street.
She avoids shelters because she has found them to be unsafe, opting to huddle with her husband under blankets outdoors or in train stations. The open jacket did little to keep her warm.
Yesterday, however, a passerby went into Old Navy and bought her a new coat, blue and puffy with a good zipper.
Waters says that "the people of New York" have been good to her, with their donations of spare change and bits of food. Recently she'd been given a pair of Nike sneakers, she said, and had been able to keep her feet warm.
In Waters' view, the authorities aren't doing much to help her, but everyday New Yorkers do what they can. Which is a picture of the New York City homeless crisis mirrored by a Quinnipiac poll, released this week, on local perceptions of Mayor Bill de Blasio and quality of life in his city — a poll that has some warnings for the mayor on dealing with New York's intractable problem.

There's good news and bad news for de Blasio

The good news for the mayor, halfway through his first term in office, is that his approval rating is up: 50 percent of New Yorkers think he's doing a good job, according to the most recent poll.
In October, his approval rating was at 45 percent, and more respondents thought he'd lose reelection than win. Now, it's the other way around: Head to head with other potential contenders for the mayoralty such as Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., de Blasio wins handily.
After a surge in mayoral activity, with de Blasio appearing to be everywhere at once and tackling issue after issue through the holiday season, the uptick in numbers makes sense. It probably doesn't hurt that the feud between de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decreased in intensity.
But most of de Blasio's recent action has been on homelessness, and many New Yorkers still find it lacking. Fifty-five percent disapprove of his work fighting homelessness while only 36 percent approve.
According to the poll, 93 percent of New Yorkers see homelessness as a very serious or somewhat serious problem, and are vastly sympathetic of a homeless person's plight. 71 percent see it as a problem outside the individual homeless person's control.
These numbers seem to indicate the Big Apple's big heart, a feel-good story. But the poll also included a number of questions drilling down into how to deal with homelessness.
Should homeless people be forced into shelter in dangerously cold weather? Seventy-three percent of respondents say yes. Should the homeless be required to work in exchange for shelter? Sixty percent agree.
Homeless people like Waters might not be so enamored of regular-Joe generosity if they knew it was often tinged with judgement.

Divided, but moving in the right direction

Waters and other homeless individuals surveyed in recent months by amExpress, feel that the much-discussed homeless initiatives of the mayor and governor miss the point — "more for politician reasons than compassion," Waters says.
It's not hard to see how she might come to that conclusion, given the mayor's trumpeted outreach program, which is largely an expansion of what was in place and the governor's executive action urging homeless individuals into shelter on cold nights, a practice the city already pursued to its legal limits. Waters and others stress that the shelters should be cleaner and safer first and foremost. There should be more temporary housing at the end of the road.
These are ultimate goals for the administration, though unlike other initiatives, they can't be accomplished overnight. Like everyday perceptions of homelessness, they demonstrate the difficulty of the problem — easy to sympathize with the issue, hard to fix.
In the meantime, Waters says she'll be waiting.
"Nothing's changed," she says, "besides the weather."
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

NYPD received ISIS-related threat to shoot cops

Police are on high alert Wednesday after receiving an ISIS-related threat indicating someone was going to shoot an officer, according to reports.

The NYPD was contacted by police out of Philadelphia after they received an anonymous tip that someone was looking to shoot a cop in either city, CBS reported. The Philadelphia police investigated the call and found that it had come from an address in Manhattan.

An anonymous call was then made to an NYPD detective squad stating that a local man — who may have pledged allegiance to ISIS — may be armed and threatening to shoot a cop, according to NBC.

Police reportedly know the individual they are looking for and added that he has a criminal record, CBS said. Authorities also want to make sure the pubic knows the alert is to police officers not the public at large.

This threat comes weeks after a Philadelphia police officer was shot and seriously wonded after being ambushed by a gunman who claimed to have pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants.

The suspect, later identified as 30-year-old Edward Archer, confessed to committing the act “in the name of Islam,” according to authorities. 

Poll: NYC needs to do more for homeless

A majority of New York City voters report seeing an increase in homeless people in recent years and view homelessness as a “very serious” problem, according to Quinnipiac Poll results released Wednesday.

The poll also found 46 percent of voters say the quality of life in the city has gone downhill in recent years, while 33 percent say it remains the same and 19 percent say it has gotten better.

“New Yorkers are seeing more homeless people on the street and they don’t like it,” Quinnipiac University assistant poll director Maurice Carroll said in a statement.

The poll showed 66 percent of voters believe people on the streets is a “very serious” problem and 27 percent think it’s a “somewhat serious” issue.

Meanwhile, 58 percent report seeing more homeless individuals on the streets, in parks and on the subway, 27 percent say they’re seeing “about the same” amount and 11 percent say they see fewer, according to the survey.

Carroll pointed to a large showing of sympathy for the homeless. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been criticized and scrutinized for for his management of the problem and has stepped up efforts to respond.

Among other initiatives to help the homeless, de Blasio this winter launched a plan to create 15,000 supportive housing units linked to social services as well as the HomeStat program to track and provide individualized care for the homeless .

But a large segment of New Yorkers — 73 percent — say the city is doing too little to help the homeless population, the poll found.

De Blasio spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh responded in a statement.

“We agree that our city’s homeless families and individuals deserve more prevention, shelter exit, and street outreach options,” she said, “and that’s why we’ve made unprecedented commitments to ensure New York City has the most comprehensive program to prevent and reduce homelessness in the country.”

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,143 city voters between Jan. 11 and Sunday via landline and cell phone. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Bronx man faces 10 years after ditching assault trial, Instagramming prosecutor

He may be sipping rum somewhere now, but this convicted criminal won’t be enjoying his drink of choice once he’s behind bars.

Ronald DeJesus Plaza, 25, was arrested in 2014 for a June attack on a stranger who had just come out of a nightclub on Aqueduct Avenue in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, the district attorney’s office said.

“Plaza not only punched his victim in the face and broke his nose, but also slashed him numerous times in the face as one other unapprehended man held the victim and stabbed him in the back multiple times. The victim suffered injuries that required nearly two dozen stitches and staples to his face and head,” the DA described in a statement.

Plaza turned himself in to police 11 days later. He was on trial for the brutal crime in December 2015 and about to be sentenced when he decided to flee.

Following the two-week long jury trial, closing arguments were delivered on Thursday, Dec.3. The next day, Plaza never showed up to court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

The jury was told to still deliberate and on Monday, Dec. 7, he was found guilty.

Over that weekend, Plaza, instead of keeping a low profile, decided to have a little fun with the prosecutor.

“At some point over the weekend, Plaza posted to an Instagram account a photo of a highly rated and expensive rum, with a message directed at the Assistant D.A. prosecuting the case: ‘Salute Mr. Miller, this is a good rum,’ according to the district attorney’s office.

Plaza was sentenced on Wednesday, in absentia, to 10 years in prison followed by five years post-release supervision.

The Westchester resident also has an open arrest warrant in that county for failing to appear before a court on an attempted murder case.

Trans-Manhattan Expressway Connector Ramp Weekend Southbound Roadway Closure

The southbound roadway of the Trans-Manhattan Expressway Connector Ramp, which connects the Harlem River Drive with the George Washington Bridge, will be fully closed from 12:01 am Saturday to 5 am Monday to begin Phase II of the interim rehabilitation of the Connector Ramp. One lane on the southbound roadway will be made available for northbound traffic with access to the Amsterdam Avenue exit and the George Washington Bridge.

As an alternate, northbound motorists may continue on the Harlem River Drive to Dyckman Street and then south on Broadway to 179th Street to access the George Washington Bridge – OR – motorists may exit the Harlem River Drive at the 8th Avenue/West 155th Street exit and use Amsterdam Avenue northbound for bridge access.

Southbound motorists from the George Washington Bridge may use the southbound Henry Hudson Parkway or continue eastbound over the Alexander Hamilton Bridge to the southbound Major Deegan Expressway. To access the Harlem River Drive for destinations further south in Manhattan, motorists may use the Macombs Dam, Madison Avenue or Third Avenue Bridges.

AmNY Express (1/20/16): The era of the person drawn carriage is over

Mayor Bill de Blasio has unveiled an agreement to keep carriage horses in Central Park. That's good news for those who love tradition, but bad news for pedicabs.
The pitch goes something like this: There are a few sites in New York City that you, welcomed visitor, must see before you leave. There is Ground Zero, there is the Empire State Building, there is Times Square. But the jewel of it all, the heart of the Big Apple, the calming center, great pride, marvel of design, conservation and planning, is Central Park.
You must see the park, the pitch continues, before adding in the final playful twist: It's too big to see on foot.
This is the pedicab pitch. The golden promise, that the best tour of the park is on a pedicab's three wheels, powered by a knowledgeable guide.
The operators have a number of things going against them — cold weather and the fairly widespread perception that the rider is in danger of being ripped off, chief among them.
But those pedicab operators who work mostly in Central Park, as opposed to on city streets, are facing an existential challenge: being forced to cede Olmstead and Vaux's masterpiece to their brother competitors in park transportation, the horse drawn carriages.

Hold your horses

Mayor Bill de Blasio got himself mixed up in equine politics early.
Animal rights groups campaigned and spent mightily to knock his pro-horse rival, Christine Quinn, out of the mayoral race. Candidate de Blasio said he would ban the rigs from the park on day one of his administration.
That proved easier said than done.
Two years later, de Blasio announced an "agreement in concept" on horse carriages. He couldn't deliver a ban, but instead found a way to restrict the horses to Central Park, trim their numbers, and build a new stable within the park's environs.
But the agreement announced last weekend also includes a provision banning pedicabs inside the park below 85th street.
De Blasio says that the pedicab "adjustment" was necessary for reasons of balance, but many pedicab operators feel that their demise was a sweetener to convince the unionized horse and carriage drivers to accept the deal.
And though some pedicabs might survive in the streets, that is the only place where they'd be able to, according to Laramie Flick, a pedicab operator and former president of the NYC Pedicab Owners Association. Tourists simply don't make it far beyond the southern border of the park.
"To not allow pedicabs below 85th Street is to not allow us in Central Park," Flick says.

Pedicab drivers have feelings, too

Being a pedicab driver was never easy, and the patchwork industry — which Flick calls "choas" — has no union or strong voice to defend it.
Pedicab drivers have been accused of being con-artists who would famously charge $400 for a short ride, but the job is good work for many — particularly immigrants and others trying to get by in a tough job market.
Central Park pedicab operators strive to separate themselves from the common fold as experts and expert salesemen for the park, adopted or not.
"This is a park for everybody," says driver Giovanni Pacheco, noting that the Russian, Turkish, and other Muslim nation immigrant drivers are a veritable tapestry of America's allies against ISIS.
The drivers love the park so much, says Josh Ozturk, a former driver originally from Turkey, that they sometimes yell at people who litter. They know everything about the park, culled from websites and books like Central Park Then and Now. Of course, that's part of the pitch. But many of the drivers do know their history.
"It's all man-made," says Ozturk passionately, "except the rocks. Can you imagine?" He speaks of the park's 26,000 trees, of the "brilliant" Olmstead and Vaux who designed the park in 1858, of the English tiles imported for the Bethesdah terrace.
Smiley Fall, a driver originally from West Africa, rolls off stats about the size of the park (843 acres) and its key sites (Strawberry Fields of John Lennon fame, a favorite). Fall, 40, says the pedicabbers aren't bothering anyone here, least of all the horse and buggies.
It's a big park," he says. "Walking is not ideal."
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at
Brought to you by @amNYOpinion

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

NYC weather: Snow could hit New York City on Friday

You knew it had to happen eventually.

The winter’s biggest snowstorm so far is expected to arrive in New York City Friday — possibly hitting during the evening rush hour.

The storm is expected to land in the Big Apple between 3 p.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Saturday and finish between 3 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Sunday, said Accuweather senior meteorologist Dave Dombek.

While there’s a chance the storm traveling in from the Pacific, across the western states and then coming up from the Southeast could peter out before hitting NYC or just give us a kiss of white stuff, “there is the potential for a sizeable snowstorm on the order of double digits — 10 inches and above,” said Dombek.

There’s also the potential for the snow to be get mixed with rain – you know, that icky, slushy stuff that freezes and makes getting anywhere such a joy.

And the party is probably over vis a vis the freakishly warm temps we enjoyed in December.

While Monday and Tuesday will probably be our coldest days of the week – in the 20s, with biting, bitter winds — the rest of the week should be in the 30s.

“It’s highly likely we’re not going to see the extreme and frequent warmth we saw earlier in the winter: We’ll be closer to normal,” said Dombek, noting that January and February are the months when it is statistically most likely to snow in NYC.

Brooklyn day care worker arrested for molesting 10-year-old boy

Police have arrested a Brooklyn day care worker on charges that he sexually abused a child as the NYPD searches for more possible victims.

Manathis Anderson, 63, an employee of Heavenly Miracle Academy Services in East New York, was taken into custody on Sunday at the facility for allegedly molesting a 10-year-old boy over his clothes, ABC reported. He is accused of touching the boy on five different occasions in the past month.

"It's disappointing," said one mother to NY1. "I had a lot of faith in this place. My daughter's been going here for a very long time, but after hearing this, she won't be. I refuse to put her somewhere where there's another child that's been inappropriately touched."

A Health Department inspection conducted in March 2015 indicated that Heavenly Miracle Academy Services failed to conduct background checks, but that violation has since been updated to corrected, NY1 added.

"My son used to go to this day care a while back," an area father was quoted by NY1. "There's too many violations in there. I don't think it's right, you know, especially in this neighborhood – you know, it kind of sucks."

Anderson was charged with sexual abuse and acting in a manner injurious to a child, and police are investigating if other victims could have been involved, according to ABC.

AmNY Express (1/19/16): What happens when students can't get inside a school?

It's not easy being a student with disabilities in New York City.
Michelle Noris' son has cerebral palsy in addition to a movement disorder. He communicates with a computer and uses a wheelchair.
Like most parents, Noris thought her son deserved the best education — she was happy to find that the test for the city's gifted and talented program was being held across the street from their house in Queens.
There was only one problem: The site wasn't accessible via wheelchair and there was no clear way to request an accessible test-taking site on the signup page. So Noris's son didn't take the test.
Luckily, he found a place at the Henry Viscardi School on Long Island, which serves severely disabled children.
"The Department of Education does send him there," says Noris, but his school is far from his neighborhood, which "eliminates the ability to socialize. That's missing in our life."
To compensate, Noris brings her twelve-year-old son to her ten-year-old's neighborhood public school events — movie nights, shows, dances, which allowed her son to meet his peers.
Accomplishing this, however, often necessitates Noris carrying her sixty-five-pound son, plus his wheelchair, up the stairs to the auditorium. Once seated, Noris has to "hold him in an auditorium seat," for hours. For a talent show last June, they left at intermission.
This year, Noris tried to change things. She says she asked the Department of Education if they could purchase a stair lift, around $6,000. It didn't seem like such a crazy request.
Requests like these are familiar to many families like Noris's who struggle with accessibility issues — issues which, since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, they shouldn't be dealing with at all.

Problems throughout the school system

Just before Christmas, crusading U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara laid out the findings of a two-year investigation into accessibility of city schools.
The investigation found that only 17 percent of schools are fully accessible. And the issue is more than elevators. Bharara found doorknobs and bathroom grab bars that would have been difficult for disabled children to use; and layouts that are inimical to navigation by the blind.
Bharara requested a response concerning these "barriers to equal access" by the end of this month, including a timeline to get in compliance with the ADA.
This isn't a conspiracy on the part of the Department of Education. Buildings are old and the department is committed to giving every kid an education, somewhere. But parents say there's plenty of room for improvement, and somewhere isn't good enough.
In the case of Michelle Noris' son, the Department of Education said they couldn't spring for the stair lift. But if the family ever wanted to attend an event at the school, the school would hold the event in the cafeteria on the ground floor.
Which is the crux of the problem. There was the potential that Noris' son would be accommodated. But the length to go for accommodation was inequality in itself.

Progress is coming, slowly

The city has said that $100 million in capital funds will be used for accessibility to begin making every school accessible. A full timeline is still to come.
But until every school is accessible, finding the right one isn't easy.
Kate Baier's daughter, Greta, has a congenital muscle disorder and uses a wheelchair and ventilator, the "machine that keeps her alive," according to Baier.
When they began looking for schools for Greta, who is 7, nothing was particularly close. Choices ranged from one on the tip of lower Manhattan, to one on the Upper West Side, which they ultimately chose. From their home in Gramercy, it was an hour and a half round trip every day. Though they were very happy with the school, its location forced Greta to do an adult commute.
Baier says her daughter is cognizant of what she's missing. "She's asked us, 'When I get older, how will I do group work with the kids in my class?'"
Maybe by that time, the Department of Education will have made some upgrades. It's about "taking that next step," says Noris. "Getting to community."

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