Friday, July 27, 2007

Hailing the Water Taxi at North 7th


The developers of Northside Williamsburg's shoreline high-rises have trumpeted the neighborhood's future NY Water Taxi stop as both an amenity and the antidote to the thousands of new commuters who will otherwise (somehow) cram into the already overcrowded L-train or further clog the Williamsburg Bridge.

But for those of us who are already part of the daily human squirt through those two almost fatally-clogged arteries, if the prospect of a leisurely float across a few thousand feet of the smooth East River seems too good to be true, well...

With Douglaston's Edge anticipating first occupancy in March of 2009, and the reality that the builder's top priority is R.O.I. (i.e. occupied units, not shoreline amenities), the likelihood of seeing an operating Water Taxi pier on the property before late '09 or Spring 2010 is almost nil (earlier claims by Toll Brothers that the Water Taxi would land at Northside Piers seem to have dried up).

Meanwhile, the MTA is openly admitting that the L-Train will suck until 2010 - the earliest the agency anticipates it can upgrade the line's maximum trains per hour to 26 per hour.

So that leaves Williamsburg residents to make like sardines for another 24 to 36 months. Meanwhile the Water Taxi happily bobs past the densely-populated Northside neighborhood half-empty eight times a day, dutifully - and inexplicably - making a stop at the nearly-marooned Schaeffer Landing development on South 8th Street, where it picks up or disgorges a rogue passenger or two. (post continues below)

L-train, 9:40 am
L-Train, 9:40 am Monday

And so we make this proposal:

To MTA CEO Lee Sander, who can make the Transit Authority appear visionary with a low-budget, short-term alternative to the crowded L.

To Mayor Bloomberg, whose embattled congestion pricing plan will only encourage more riders to pack the L-Train.

To Tom Fox and Douglas Durst of New York Water Taxi, who can look like heroes while making a killing with their happy yellow boats.

Consider building a temporary floating Water Taxi pier at the foot of North 7th Street. Consider building it, like, starting Monday. Mr. Fox and Mr. Durst: consider offering some development capital to kick-start the project. Mr. Sander: offer the MTA's right-of-way along the north side of the L-Train fan plant for customer access (wouldn't that be ironic and appropriate?). Mr. Bloomberg: bring the other two parties together, and kick in a few city dollars if necessary.

The fan plant has a nice concrete bulkhead with huge cleats for tying off all likelihood there's still a nice deep draft there that would minimize the need to dredge. Its also a straight three blocks from the L stop at Bedford and North 7th - the shortest distance to the East River shoreline.

If necessary, set a line of concrete jersey barricades along the north side of the North 7th dead-end, to protect Water Taxi riders from construction traffic entering and exiting the Edge site.

If the walkway alongside the fan plant is too narrow or a 'too sensitive' location, work with NY State Parks to move the new park's fence line a few feet north to accommodate passengers. And if all else fails, and the MTA refuses, ask Parks to allow installation of the Water Taxi pier on park grounds. Consider the serendipity: a new Water Taxi stop at a new waterfront park, serving Brooklyn commuters on weekdays, and Manhattan explorers on weekends. So good it almost makes you seasick.

We realize the Northside Water Taxi pier isn't a panacea. Its $4.50 one-way fare isn't for starving artists (then again, when did starving artists start commuting to midtown...and are they really starving if they're paying today's Northside rents?). And the 34th Street @ the FDR drop off will have little appeal for Midtown West and Hell's Kitchen employees. But still - an uncrowded, direct, mass-transit alternative is sure to have its devotees, and will be a great short-term, inexpensive experiment to see if water transit can ultimately take some of the pressure off the current commuter options.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Explosion at Grand Central Terminal

steam explosion

Our better half just reported from her mobile that she was evacuated from Grand Central Terminal around 6 pm, with smoke and rumbling in the area, people moving north and east to get away from the area. So far nothing on TV news or websites...

Update 6:15 pm:

Gothamist contributors report possible transformer explosion, white smoke, fire truck leading ConEd truck down Lexington.

Update 6:27 pm:

According to another Gothamist contributor, "channel 7 just confirmed, large transformer explosion that is now a 4 alarm fire"

Update 6:33 pm, from

The fire department is saying that the source of the smoke is a transformer explosion at 370 Lexington Avenue. Sources say the area surrounding 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue has been closed off.

Officials say the attack is not terrorist related.

The five-alarm fire is causing Number 4, 5, and 6 trains to bypass Grand Central Station.

Emergency crews are on the scene. There are no words yet of injuries.

Update 7:00 pm:

Apparently a steam pipe exploded through the street at 370 Lexington. According to, "steam and mud shot through a gaping hole in the ground...local news sources are reporting that some people were lying in the street injured...the area between 39th Street and 47th Street and between Third and Lexington Avenues has been closed off."

Update 7:18 pm:

Eyewitness photos of the immediate aftermath at the scene - uploaded from an iPhone, to boot - at

Update 7:31 pm:

Great cutaway diagram of the city's "district steam system" - the largest municipal steam in the world - from ConEd's website:

The full-size version can be downloaded here, along with more info about the system:

Update 7:36 pm: reports on casualties: "Up to 11 people may have been injured, according to officials. Two are in critical condition at Cornell, while a third person is still being evaluated. Eight others have been taken to Bellevue, but their condition is not known."

A WNBC-TV viewer, reporting on Gothamist Contribute, says a city Office of Emergency Management Official being interviewed said "A 20-inch steam main exploded. Advice to anyone still in the area is to evacuate - there could be contaminants in the air."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Wednesday Evening Eye Candy: Fireworks

fireworks 11
East River Fireworks

Fireworks Photoset [Flickr]

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday Morning Eye Candy: Diving

diving on Flickr; from McCarren Park Pool