Thursday, January 29, 2009

Diner Fire Irony: 'Rescue Me'
Was Shooting Across the Street

Miss Williamsburg fire aftermath 9

We headed back over to 206 Kent Avenue this afternoon to survey what's left of poor old Miss Brooklyn, and found pretty much what we expected. The interior of the fine old diner is completely gutted. Not sure when the owners of "718" gave up on it, but based on the missing counter stools and no sign of kitchen equipment, we'd say the restaurant had been closed for some time.

A musician who'd been rehearsing in the basement of 210 Kent said he thought that the 'Monster Island' building had been spared, save for the windows that had been broken out by firemen. He also mentioned that when his band left the studio at 1:30 am, there was no sign of fire yet, adding "It was lucky - they were filming something over on the corner, so there were a bunch of cops already there." He pointed across the intersection of Kent Ave and Metropolitan, about 80 feet from the burned-out diner.

We'd noticed a couple of leftover 'no parking / film permit' signs about a block away, so we went back and checked it out: sure enough, Denis Leary's FX drama Rescue Me - based on NYC firefighting - had been shooting within spitting distance, perhaps just minutes before the real thing went down.

That leaves two questions:

1. Since no one was hurt, can we call it 'firony'? Or would that just be wrong?

2. When is groundbreaking for the Miss Williamsburg Condos?

More photos of the aftermath [Flickr]

Miss Williamsburg Diner Burns,
Monster Island Arts Center Damaged

Miss Williamsburg Burns

An early morning fire gutted a landmark Northside diner overnight, causing damage to an adjacent arts collective at Kent Avenue and Metropolitan.

A fire broke out in the former Miss Williamsburg diner at 206 Kent Avenue just before 2 am Thursday. Ladder Companies 104, 146, and 108 responded along with several engine trucks, quickly knocking down the blaze, which appeared to cause extensive damage to the diner. The two-story building next door at 210 Kent Avenue appeared to have escaped with just broken windows and smoke damage. The building known as "Monster Island" houses two galleries: Live With Animals, and Secret Project Robot, as well as Mollusk, a surf shop.

The diner was originally a fixture for truck drivers servicing the miriad industrial businesses that lined Kent Avenue for most of the 20th century. Later it was reincarnated as an Italian bistro called Miss Williamsburg, and its authentic 1940's interior made it an irresistable location for television and films including Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, and Stay, which starred Ryan Gosling. More recently it changed hands and reopened as 718.

The exterior of 210 Kent is known for its mesmerizing artwork - often photographed, and recently glimpsed in Charlie Kaufmann's Synechdoche, New York.

More photos of the fire [Flickr]

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Flight 1549 Salvage Update:
Plane Now Completely Submerged

At 5 pm today, Twitter user jefns1 - part of the Weeks Marine salvage crew down at Battery Park City posted this photo, showing that the US Airways plane being lifted from the Hudson had slipped entirely below the water.

His 4:50 pm Tweet said simply "running in to snags plane is completly under water".

Update as of 10:30 pm Jan 17th: "
tail is up wings starting to break mud lift is good so far"

We suspect this lift is unprecedented. Any aircraft being dra
gged out of a body of water is typically broken into parts...or at least severely damaged and not holding water. This bird is fully intact and holding the better part of a million pounds of nearly-frozen water - and the goal is to NOT damage it in the process!

Update as of 11 pm Jan 17th:
Flight 1549 is out of the water! Again, thanks to Twitter user jefns1, who is working on the salvage operation, for up-to-the-minute coverage.

(click to enlarge)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Eye Candy: Fire & Ice

"flare" on Flickr

Why we chose a 15 degree evening - with wind chills below zero - to go up to Greenpoint and shoot the back side of the Department of Environmental Protection's Newtown Creek Water Treatment Plant, we're not sure. But now that our hands have thawed, we think Fire & Ice is an appropriate headline.

The DEP's 'digesters' (see our earlier obsessive post re: same) at New York's largest water treatment plant have been online for a couple years now, but got the fantastic purple lighting just last summer. And we think the lighting along with the open flame (likely a 'flare', burning off methane released in the 'digestion' process) - and all the stainless steel, makes for a wonderful, surreal scene in a really narsty section of Greenpoint.

Gotta love New York!

Wider shot of the scene above [Flickr]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

US Airways Fight 1549 Crash Flight Path

Flight 1549 crash flight path

Here's a flight path map from the miraculous crash/water-landing of US Airways Flight 1549 we threw together using automated latitude / longitude, altitude, and airspeed tracking data from We mapped the GPS coordinates onto Google maps, then drew in the approximate path and added the labels.

A couple of interesting things here:

1. It appears the engine trouble occurred between 3:27 pm and 3:28 pm over the Bronx Zoo, where the aircraft, which had been climbing steadily out of LGA to 3,200 feet, suddenly descends to 2,000 feet while still accelerating slightly from 194 knots to 202 knots.

2. The flight path curved inland over the northernmost part of Manhattan - as far East as Harlem River Drive - before the plane curved right to center perfectly over the Hudson. The FAA is reporting that controllers originally suggested a landing at Teterboro Airport in NJ. Maybe the left turn was a momentary adjustment for a Teterboro approach, before the pilot realized that a water landing was the only option?

3. The plane actualy GAINS 100 ft of altitude, from 1,200 to 1,300 feet, one to two minutes after the descent began, while the pilot was centering on the Hudson. News reports are suggesting that all engines were out. Could the plane pull up 100 ft using flaps alone? The altitude data from Flightaware is rounded to 100 feet, so is it possible that the plane was right around 1,250 feet could be explained by rounding errors?

The shared Google Map with points plotted is here. And the Flightaware data is here.

UPDATE Jan 16, 10am: What's up with the "ditch switch"?

Last evening CNN reported that perhaps the plane stayed afloat in the river for so long at least partly because the Airbus A320 is equipped with a "ditch switch" - a cockpit control that when activated, seals all ports and openings on the lower fuselage, so that once the aircraft enters the water, it doesn't take on water as quickly as it would normally (via vents, drains, etc).

Not much coverage of the ditch switch this morning either online nor on cable news. Found this 2002 discussion on an aviation forum you might find interesting.

The moderator on's discussion board says the Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft also have a "ditch switch".

UPDATE Jan 16, 12 Noon: Anyone have info on where the A320 will be barged to?

- A salvage dock in Bayonne, NJ - just across NY Harbor? Lots of mechanical equipment, and easy to secure from the press and public.

- Floyd Bennett Field in South Brooklyn? Floyd Bennett Field is a huge, mostly-disused old airfield that served NYC before JFK rose to prominence. Accessible by sea. The wreckage of AA Flight 587 was temporarily examined there in 2001, although that location is much closer to the 587 crash site.

- Hangar 19 at JFK Airport? - The Concorde currently on display at the Intrepid Museum was decommissioned here a few years back. Accessible by water. LGA is also reachable via New York's inland waterways, but is a much smaller airport with fewer maintenance hangars.

Anyone have other ideas or better info?

UPDATE Jan 17, 12 Noon:

Pretty sure the 'undisclosed location' the plane will be taken to is a Bayonne, NJ shipyard owned by Weeks Marine - the contractor with the crane and barge working to hoist the plane out of the Hudson. Found a Twitter feed from one of Weeks' employees, with pictures and reports from the site, including this one:
Guessing the NTSB inspection will take place at one of these shipyards:

View Larger Map

Update Jan 17th, 5 pm: Salvage effort encounters snags, plane completely submerged - see post here

Calling BS on DIY 'NO PARKING' Signs

no parking

Amid the chaos that's followed the DOT's on-street parking purge of Kent Avenue, the remaining curb real-estate on the Northside has become more precious than Obama inauguration tickets. During our frequent 40-minute morning odysseys, orbiting the neighborhood looking for a legitimate space, we've had ample time to contemplate the mysteries and complexities of New York City parking regulations:
- Does an ancient curb-cut for a former garage entrance turned retail storefront still count? Especially when the business in question keeps "NO PARKING" signs posted on their facade?

- What about a decades-old trace of yellow paint, on a curb that otherwise seems perfectly legit? Will I return to a $45 invoice stuck under my wiper blade?
And today's question - perhaps the most frustrating question if you live and park in Williamsburg:
- Does that malicious "NO PARKING - CONSTRUCTION ZONE - TOW AWAY" sign - done up in red and black Crayola Scentation markers by a contractor's seven year old daughter - actually hold water with Parking Enforcement?
Given that the Northside is littered with dozens of semi-active construction sites, and nearly all of them have some sort of homemade NO PARKING signs dangling from their gaping-holed, broken-plywood perimeter fences...the answer to that question is kind of a big deal.

We surfed around the Internets for far too long last weekend, looking for an answer - and wound up mostly confused, but generally convinced that the answer is NO...those signs are pure BS; a product of developers' and contractors' wishful thinking - combined with a general fear and ignorance on the part of residents who can't afford to take a chance on having their rides ticketed and/or towed to the city's shiny-new Navy Yard impound facility.

Back in November, Queens Crap - a great blog focused on development issues in (go figure) Queens - asked the same question, and came back with the answer YES - you DO have to abide by the temporary signs. Their source however was the venerable Fox 5 News, so we watched the embedded clip with a healthy serving of skepticism.

In the the Fox 5 Investigates report, the correspondent says they contacted the DOT, and concludes
"it turns out that construction crews are allowed to create their own signs, as long as they look official, if they have permits for the project".
To which we call BS on Fox 5 on two fronts:

1. "As long as they look official"...what? Who decides what looks official?! The gaping legal holes in that statement are bigger than the gaps in most construction fences around here.

2. "If they have permits for the project." Any construction project big and ballsy enough to post fake NO PARKING signs had better have permits! We'll betcha anything the DOT meant "if the developer has pulled permits that approve temporary parking restrictions". Otherwise, any schmo with a permit to renovate a bathroom could play 'make your own parking' in front of their building, for the duration of their permit. It just doesn't add up.

We did a deep dive into the online netherworld of NYC traffic rules, DOB building permits, New York State Vehicle and Traffic laws, finding lots of barely-relevant information, along with lots of unrelated but interesting stuff (Did you know that all of NYC was designated a Tow Away Zone under the State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law in 1959? What's that? Oh, you don't care.).

Our online paper trail having gone cold, we did what we should have done in the first place: we asked a friendly neighborhood Parking Enforcement officer whether he would ticket a car in violation of one of the handmade signs (and trust us, these guys WILL ticket anything they legitimately can). He stopped writing a summons and brought us over to a real NO PARKING sign, pointing out the "DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION" printed at the bottom, saying "I can only ticket against signs that are issued by the DOT".

Monday morning we called the NYPD Press Office, and they agreed with the officer on the street: "They (contractors) have to get a permit specifically allowing a temporary change in parking rules. They can't just make up their own sign," adding that they "think if a car is towed because of construction needs, its just relocated" i.e. not tagged and impounded. But they suggested we double-check with the city's DOT "just to be sure". Good news for residents, but not exactly the notorized 'get out of jail free' card we were hoping for. So we called the DOT.

We spoke to Assistant Press Secretary Craig Chin, who invited us to send him photos of the signs in question - and to entertain us while we waited - directed us to NYC DOT's searchable database of active street construction permits. Forty eight hours later, we had a definitive answer:
"You can search online and the only valid permits to restrict parking will have the code 221 on it. The only legal sign you provided would be this picture,"
referring to the photo below, showing a very official-looking metal, DOT-issued 'No Parking - Temporary Construction Regulation' sign screwed to the fence of the development at Kent Avenue and North 3rd:


We searched the DOT's database for the entire Community Board One area, and as of January 15th, found only eighteen valid type 221 permits in the neighborhood. We've created a little map showing blocks where there's at least one valid permit...we suggest you hit the database before parking in front of a questionable sign (select your borough and community district, then select General Permit Type 02, and Specific Permit Type 0221...its the very last choice in the pulldown menu; you can drill down by street and block, or see all the permits for your district).

CB 1 valid parking permits Jan 15 09

So there you have it, Northsiders. A veritable parking oasis around dozens of active (and stalled) construction sites, for your parking least until the contractors run out and get valid permits and signage.

Finally, Imnotsayin's caveat emptor:

PARK AT YOUR OWN RISK. This is only our nonprofessional, semi-informed assessment based on unofficial communications with three city employees. NYC parking regulations span multiple departments across at least two city agencies plus the state's V & T laws. Being improperly ticketed (and towed!) by overzealous Parking Enforcement officers happens all the time. So go ahead and search the database, and if there's no current class 221 permits for the DIY No Parking zone on your block - go for it! But don't block active driveways and crosswalks, stay 15 feet from the hydrants, and if you get tagged anyway, please DON'T CALL US!

NYCDOT Active Street Construction Permit database search [NYCDOT]

Gallery of Shady Parking Signs [Flickr]

Friday, January 09, 2009

UPDATE: Northside Pier is
Just Another Part-Time Park


Oh man, when will this stuff end? At some point between 9 am and 4 pm today, next to an already-ragged quit-smoking ad, someone posted an official NYC Parks sign reading "OPEN SATURDAYS AND SUNDAYS ONLY". Guessing they stole the copy from the State Park two blocks north, since by all appearances this will be the city's only part-time park.

If NYC Parks is taking cues from the state, then based on East River State Park's short history, here's what we should expect from the pier:

March, 2009: North 5th Pier emerges from beta; goes to 7-day schedule. Still closes at dusk - er, really about 30 minutes before the sunset gets really good.

July 4th, 2009: City announces pier will stay open late for fireworks-viewing. However, Parks workers panic at sight of large crowd, abruptly locking gates and separating families, forcing many to watch fireworks display as reflected off shiny glass of Northside Piers Tower 2.

October, 2009: Squatters, living in the never-sold Northside Piers Tower 2 - and abandoned Tower 1 condos, crowd the pier with makeshift fishing gear, in a vain attempt to harvest meals from the hopelessly-polluted East River.

June, 2010: In the face of budgetary collapse, 3rd-term Mayor Bloomberg announces the pier will close until September '10, saving the city the $120K in salary and overtime for the lucky Parks worker who's sole responsibility it is to lock and unlock the gate each day.

So there you have it. The near-future history of Williamsburg's second part-time park. See you on the pier tomorrow morning!

Update (Jan 12th): We have it from multiple reliable sources that the weekends-only status is temporary. The Parks Press Office says the pier will be open "seven days a week in the spring". On Saturday morning we spent some time on the pier, but on Sunday around 5 pm we went back to shoot some sunset pics and found it locked. Despite the Park Rules signs saying it "Closes at Dusk", the Toll Brothers security guard said the hours are 7 am to 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays. We've put our two cents in to Parks, suggesting that 10 am to 7 pm weekends is probably more practical, given that most 'Burg residents are barely in bed by 7 am...and it would be nice to catch the winter sunsets and twilight over the river and Midtown skyline.

Northside Pier Access Is
Like SO Five Days Ago...

5th street pier NOT open

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: New sign indicates park is Sat/Sun ONLY. Arrrrgh!

What is it about public waterfront access in Williamsburg that makes it about as reliable as Windows Vista? Northside residents waited almost a solid year after East River State Park was effectively complete before it opened in May 2007 - only to be padlocked last week due to state budget cuts.

Monday saw the long-delayed opening of the North 5th Street Pier - the first bit of what is eventually to become a public riverfront promenade behind many of the new high rise developments going up along Kent Avenue. The promenade is effectively a developer incentive - a zoning variance that in return allows Toll Brothers and the other builders to build taller buildings and make more money.

The pier was complete several months ago - benches, lighting - even a silly artistic "shade structure", but remained off-limits to the public while the Parks Department wrangled with the builder over safety issues before taking possession of the pier (under the 2005 rezone, the public promenade is owned and managed by NYC Parks).

But like so many things in New York, blink and you miss it: by the time we moseyed on down to the foot of North 5th to take a look Thursday morning, the city's newest 'park' seemed to be shuttered again.


We checked it out again this morning and found the same padlocked plywood doors (sans the castoff Trinitron) and no one around to ask what gives. The adjacent NYC Park Rules signage indicates the park closes at dusk (sadly, no night photos from this vista!); seems to imply that leashed dogs will be allowed (unleashed between 9 pm and 9 am, when the park is closed?!); but doesn't otherwise give the official park open hours.

We spoke to a contact at Parks who promised to look into the situation. We'll let you know what we find out...

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: New sign indicates park is Sat/Sun ONLY. Arrrrgh!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

What STINKS on the Union Square L Platform (besides the music) ?

union square musicians

Forget the mysterious maple syrup smell wafting over from Jersey...the real chemical threat is the raw sewage stank that's taken up residence on the L Train platform at Union Square the past three days.

Wednesday the stench was strong enough to permeate the hermetically-sealed train car as we arrived at the popular stop...before the doors were opened! And Thursday the skank persisted, causing us to beg forgiveness from our out-of-town guest (and deny being the source...although technically, we guess smelt it dealt it, right?).

Please MTA: before the money runs out, please locate and purge the source of this scourge! We just threw up a little in our mouth :(

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year! Now
Please Clean Up Your Crap

happy new year

The bars and clubs along North 6th Street in Williamsburg had a big night Wednesday - if the quantity of champagne and beer bottles, party hats and vomit strewn up and down the block between Kent Avenue and Wythe Friday morning is any indication.

We've lived on the block for four years now, so we're used to ankle-deep trash. But this morning, returning from a couple of days in DUMBO, we felt like a parent returning home early from vacation to discover our teenage son had thrashed the house with an all-night party, and slept off the next day in jail instead of cleaning up. As if to say 'it isn't a party until something gets broke', it even appears the ATM in front of Public Assembly was stolen.

We know Thursday was a holiday, but now its PLEASE, North 6th merchants and residents, get it together and clean up your shit!

Update: As of 10:45 am, Music Hall had cleaned up their sidewalk, and Public Assembly had a Sanitation Department ticket on their door for leaving the dumpster (shown above) in the middle of the sidewalk. The vomit near Sea was making a nice snack for pigeons, and the trash down near Kent Avenue was swirling in little dust devils that appeared to be signalling the end is nigh...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New York City...Welcome to 2009!

new years fireworks
Fireworks from the Battery, over New York harbor.