Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Donkeys and Asses

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well.

The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him.

They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.

Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well.

He was astonished at what he saw.
With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing.

He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued
to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of
the well and happily trotted off! Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt.

The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up.
Each of our troubles is a steppingstone.

We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up!

Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.

Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.

Live simply and appreciate what you have.

Give more.

Expect less

NOW ............ Enough of that crap . . . The donkey later came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him.

The gash from the bite got infected and the farmer eventually died in agony from septic shock.

When you do something wrong, and try to cover your ass,
it always comes back to bite you.

Federal Court Throws Out City Suit Against Gun Manufacturers

Federal Court Throws Out City Suit Against Gun Manufacturers

April 30, 2008

NY1 News Video Clip

The city's lawsuit against gun manufacturers was tossed out by a federal court this morning. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the arms industry is immune to litigation from cities and violence victims under federal law.

The city had contended that gun makers intentionally produce weapons that will end up being sold illegally.

The city was seeking a court order to crackdown on dealers with patterns of selling guns that end up being used in crimes.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is disappointed by the ruling but the city still has a second lawsuit pending against gun dealers.

The city Law Department said it is considering an appeal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DEP seeks rate hike as institutions and co-ops owe millions

DEP seeks rate hike as institutions and co-ops owe millions
Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 4:00 AM
Mendez for News

Keith Murphy, director of business affairs at Maritime College, holds letters sent to DEP regarding several discrepancies in the school’s $300,000 water bill.

Call it Law and Water.While the city Department of Environmental Protection turned off the water at nearly 100 single-family homes earlier this month, the agency has left the water running at dozens of Bronx institutions and co-op buildings that owe millions in unpaid bills.

To make matters worse, many of those institutions say they struggle to pay the bills because the DEP is charging them for years of misread meters and other billing mistakes.

The chaotic billing situation exists even as the DEP seeks a 14.5% water bill hike.City Council opponents of the hike fume it would not be necessary if the DEP collected the $600 million owed by 15% of its customers.

The DEP says it did not have the ability to recover the money until last December, when Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council gave it authority to impose property liens on deadbeats.

In early April, the DEP announced it was shutting the water off at 93 homes across the city that owed between $1,342 and $2,330 - a total that amounted to no more than $220,000.

Meanwhile, according to a list of delinquent payers the DEP released after receiving it via a Freedom of Information Act request, the top 10 debtors in the Bronx owe $6 million - most of them exempt from the lien sale.

They include St. Vincent De Paul, a nursing home which owes $844,465; Leland Gardens, a condo building on Leland Ave. which owes $961,642, and a housing development fund co-op building at 2089 Arthur Ave. which is $870,813 in arrears.

Many of the largest unpaid Bronx bills are from nursing homes that say they are strapped for cash and dependent on government funds, including St. Vincent de Paul, Workmen's Circle MultiCare Center and the Hebrew Home for the Aged.
Soloman Rutenberg, Workmen's Circle's executive director, said the home was hit with a $400,000 bill after the DEP found it had been misreading the home's meter for several years.

A Hebrew Home spokeswoman said it received one large bill at the end of 2007, after receiving none for about a year - with the bill jumping tremendously because of a new therapy pool.

Both Workmen's Circle in Baychester and the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale are paying $10,000 a week to bring down their debt.

Because DEP had been misreading its meter, a Verizon office facility in Longwood wound up with a $318,000 bill, which a Verizon spokesman said has now mostly been paid.

Councilman James Vacca (D-East Bronx) argues that single and two-family homeowners should not be held responsible for the payment delinquency of larger buildings and institutions.
"With homes for the aged, you have to give consideration. These are people who can't have their water turned off," Vacca said. "But everybody has to pay for the water and we can't shoulder all the responsibility on small-home owners. A lot of them have fallen on hard times, too.

"Mayor Bloomberg agreed: "You pay. I pay. They should pay," he said recently.
Seven of the top 10 Bronx bill debtors are housing development fund corporations, cooperative boards of some of the most affordable housing in the city.

"The buildings were purchased in the late '80s and early '90s for $250 an apartment, when they were worth nothing," said Ann Henderson of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.

"The city would take a building and sell it back to the tenants in more or less as-is condition," she said. "There were no funded reserves, and in the early '90s, the water bills started to go through the roof."

While the DEP has permission to sell liens, the HDF corporations are exempt.

"If they have to choose whether to pay the fuel or pay the taxes, they are going to pay for the fuel," said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, president of the HDFC Council, an advocacy group.

DEP said it "unfortunately" cannot take enforcement action against the housing development fund corporations, but is working with housing organizations to encourage payment and negotiating to allow more buildings to participate in their conservation plan, which lowers bills.

Discuss this Article
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philmcdonnell Apr 29, 2008 6:52:48 PM Report Offensive Post What is going on at the DEP that they can't bill properly, they can't read meters correctly, they can't figure out who owes what? Give me a break! They have nerve to shut off single family homes because they owe between $1,342 and $2,330 - a total that amounted to no more than $220,000 but yet leave some of the bigger owing debtors alone because they can't put a lien on anything. Once again this is typical government at work. The other issue of cash strapped nursing homes? Come on these are FOR PROFIT homes, they make a profit why can't they pay their bills? Now all of a sudden when they get hit with a bill they can find $10,000 a week to pay, this doesn't sound like they are too cash strapped to me.


qns240 Apr 29, 2008 9:18:51 PM Report Offensive Post NO MORE INCREASES ON ANYTHING!!!! Especially when they can't get their billing straight.

RichNYC Apr 30, 2008 7:18:56 AM Report Offensive Post I'm curious? Why are these institutions exempt from the turn off? What's soooo different about them that they can't live without water like those others who have had their water turned off? I remember when water WAS FREE?!?!? It's too bad that EVERYTHING has come down to the dollar. Ya' need to tax those institutions JUST LIKE you tax the average water user. They can't or won't pay.... Turn their s*** off!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

NYU details latest expansion plans

Subject: NYU details latest expansion plans
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Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 19:14:35 -0400

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NYU details latest expansion plans
The blueprint once gain raised hackles among community leaders, who fear NYU is going back on promises to slow expansion around Washington Square.
April 24. 2008 5:56PMBy: Samantha Marshall

At a community open house Wednesday, New York University announced its latest expansion plans, which include the addition of 2.8 million to 3.6 million square feet of space in its core area near Washington Square.

But the blueprint is once again raising hackles among local community leaders, who fear the university is going back on promises to slow expansion in the West Village neighborhood and to consider more options for satellite campuses.

“This is incredibly disconcerting to us,” says Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

NYU says the plan, which is not final, was drawn up by their outside design consultants, SMWM. The university’s own preferred plan won’t be announced until the fall.

“It’s our job to take these recommendations and analyze them deeply over the coming months,” says an NYU spokesman.

Called “NYU Plans 2031,” the latest blueprint details ways six million square feet of space could be added to the university—both in its core area and in remote locations—over the next 23 years.

Towers concentrated within the perimeters of Houston and West Fourth streets could effectively double the rate of expansion over the past 42 years, according to Mr. Berman’s calculations. The plan includes as much as 1.5 million square feet of new space in the Washington Square area, with an approximately 300,000-square-foot residential tower.

“That’s the equivalent of 20 more 26-story dorms on East 12th Street,” says Mr. Berman, referring to NYU’s more recent and very controversial growth spurt into the East Village (Crain’s, Aug. 21, 2006). “This is a frightening and overwhelming amount,” he says.

But NYU lags far behind comparable universities in terms of space, with just 95 net square feet of space per student, compared with 194 square feet at Columbia University and 368 square feet of space at Harvard University.

“That suggests we are making far more efficient use of space than our peers,” says the NYU spokesman, adding that historical rate of growth comparison are moot because the school is “a far different university than it was 25 years ago with a much greater stature.”

To answer objections from community members around the West Village and Union Square, the university agreed to certain planning principles that would focus less on its core neighborhood. It said it would consider more options for expansion in places that include Long Island City, Kip’s Bay and Governor’s Island, as well as Brooklyn. But, “they don’t seem to be prioritizing finding new locations,” says Mr. Berman.

NYU says it has already committed to putting in a request for proposals for Brookdale in Kip’s Bay in May, and intends to do so for the Governor’s Island site when that opens up. The planned merger with Polytechnic University also shows NYU’s commitment to expand in downtown Brooklyn, says the spokesman.

The college, like Columbia University and other capacity-strapped learning institutions in the city, has long had a tense relationship with local residents, who tend to object to most plans for new buildings in their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, NYU has more than doubled undergraduate enrollment since the 1970’s and is under growing pressure to build or find more space.

NYU’s open house, its fifth in a series, is part of a recent move to be more transparent about its intentions with its neighbors. The evolution of its expansion plan, “has been to no small extent a consequence of what we heard back in past open houses,” says the NYU spokesman.

Master and Servant

Sunday Book Review

Master and Servant
Published: April 27, 2008

Every schoolchild recognizes certain images of this nation’s darker side: slaves kidnapped from their native lands, shipped in disease-ridden holds, traded like animals, and then whipped and worked on America’s plantations.
Skip to next paragraph

National Portrait Gallery, London
John Popham sent convicts to America.
The Forgotten History of Britain’s
White Slaves in America.
By Don Jordan and Michael Walsh.
Illustrated. 320 pp. New York
University Press. Paper, $18.95.

Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, both of whom have made documentaries and both of whom live in London, retell that familiar tale — although the victims here are not Africans but English, Irish and Scottish people, sent to the colonies largely against their will in the 17th and 18th centuries.

“White Cargo” begins with the discovery of a 17th-century skeleton in Maryland in 2003; it turned out to be that of a boy, about 16 years old, who had suffered from tuberculosis and injuries consistent with hard labor. Presumably he had been a slave, since his body had not been properly buried, but thrown into the basement of a home near Annapolis, “in a hole under a pile of household waste.” He was northern European, probably British, one of tens of thousands of victims of a century-long practice, stretching from Boston to Barbados, that treated whites as slaves and that largely predated both the black slave trade and American independence.

Mainstream histories refer to these laborers as indentured servants, not slaves, because many agreed to work for a set period of time in exchange for land and rights. The authors argue, however, that slavery applies to any person who is bought and sold, chained and abused, whether for a decade or a lifetime. Many early settlers died long before their indenture ended or found that no court would back them when their owners failed to deliver on promises. And many never achieved freedom or the American dream they were seeking.

This vividly written book tells the tale from both sides of the Atlantic. Its condemnation is aimed at both American planters and the English elite, who were blinded by greed, arrogance and a desire to get rid of their “society’s sweepings.” Horribly, one of the first groups sent to America was made up of street children, ages 8 to 16, who arrived in 1619. This slave trade, which the authors say was often “dressed up in bright humanitarian clothes” for the public, later extended to beggars, Gypsies, prostitutes, dissidents, convicts and anyone else who displeased the upper classes. Founders like George Washington do not fare particularly well, but Sir John Popham and Oliver Cromwell come off worse. Benjamin Franklin is one of the few good guys.

“White Cargo” is meticulously sourced and footnoted — which is wise, given its contentious material — but it is never dry or academic. Quotations from 17th- and 18th-century letters, diaries and newspapers lend authenticity as well as color. Excerpts from wills, stating how white servants should be passed down along with livestock and furniture, say more than any textbook explanation could. The authors are not only historians, but also natural storytellers with a fine sense of drama and character.

Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, their playful way with words and love of literary allusion come through. There are kidnapping victims of the kind written about in Daniel Defoe’s “Colonel Jack,” and a tumultuous ocean voyage that may have inspired Shakespeare’s writing of “The Tempest.”

What little discussion there is about this forgotten bit of American history is sometimes linked to those with ulterior political motives, usually interested in delegitimizing current-day discourse about race or the teaching of black history. “White Cargo,” which was first published in Britain last year, has a refreshing sense of distance and neutrality. The authors take care to quote African-American sources and clearly state that they have no wish to play down the horrors of the much larger black slave trade that followed.

If anything, Jordan and Walsh offer an explanation of how the structures of slavery — black or white — were entwined in the roots of American society. They refrain from drawing links to today, except to remind readers that there are probably tens of millions of Americans who are descended from white slaves without even knowing it.

Joyce Hor-Chung Lau is an editor in the Hong Kong office of The International Herald Tribune.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

125th Street Rezoning Raises Concerns About Preserving Harlem’s Affordability

125th Street Rezoning Raises Concerns About Preserving Harlem’s Affordability
By Betsy Morais

Picket sign in hand, Michael Henry Adams stood in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s house on the Upper East Side several months ago to urge the mayor save Harlem. And although he stood there alone, there are many who join him in expressing apprehension about the area’s future.

“If Harlem becomes an empty display case showing what Harlem used to be, all I can say is ‘to hell with that,’” said Adams, a graduate of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Program.
Throughout the neighborhood, the city’s plans to change the face of 125th Street continue to prompt questions about potential loss of local character. As the city seeks to “enhance” the area, some residents worry about how they will be able to afford their homes if the rezoning plan passes and the cost of living goes up and attracts more affluent people to Harlem’s “Main Street.”Last week, the city took a major stepwards achieving its vision for 125th Street when the City Council’s Zoning and Franchises Committee approved a modified version of the City Planning Commission’s original rezoning proposal. At the meeting, Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem and Morningside Heights) introduced the modifications which included an increase in affordable housing measures and tougher restrictions on building heights.
“This has been one of the most challenging and difficult issues I have ever faced, personally and professionally, because the rezoning of 125th Street will change the fabric of my district, my community, my home forever,” Dickens told the committee, adding later that, “After many long hours of deliberations, disagreements, and debate, I do believe the City Planning Commission heard me loud and clear.”
Dickens’ alterations requires that 46 percent of housing units in the area be income-targeted—which, if passed, would be the most significant affordable housing program the city has ever guaranteed. Of those 1,785 units, 700 of them will be made permanently affordable, so that they will not be absorbed back into the natural housing market prices once when they are resold.
But local activists, like Voice of the Every Day People’s Craig Schley, fear that the affordable housing costs Dickens secured will still not be within the financial reach of most Harlem residents. “It is the best affordable housing plan in history—for developers,” Schley said.
The focus of concern is the city’s calculation of area median income, a statistic that determines affordable housing designation. The U.S. Census bureau defines a household’s AMI in terms of total family income relative to the local median—which is a more accurate measure than the average since it is not skewed by particularly high or low incomes. The city recorded the AMI of the “primary area,” that generally includes the 125th Street corridor itself—from 124th to 126th streets, between Broadway and Second Avenue—as $17,452. The AMI of the “secondary area,” which extends as far north as 138th Street, and farther south to include Columbia’s neighborhood and below, is $21,663.
Dickens’ Chief of Staff, Lynette Velasco, said that the councilwoman “read all the studies, but the welfare of our people is not contained in a single study.”Yet, Schley said of affordable housing and AMI, “It’s the number that determines what that really means.”
Velasco explained that Dickens took a holistic approach to her affordable housing initiative, using an AMI range between $17,000 and $25,000. “Harlem is more than the core,” Velasco said.
“She was dealing with the total community.”According to the Manhattan Institute’s Director of the Center for Rethinking Development Julia Vitullo-Martin, the city has “every possible combination and permutation of affordable and market housing, with the affordable component done in a million different ways.” For permanent and nonpermanent programs, it all depends on the execution.Zoning and Franchises Committee Chair Tony Avella (D-Queens) was the only member of the committee to vote against the modified 125th Street proposal. “It’s unclear at this point,” he said of the permanently affordable versus income-targeted housing program. “I’m not exactly sure what they mean by that.”
He added, “We voted on it based on her [Dickens’] verbal details.”But Vitullo-Martin explained that affordable housing programs aim “to encourage upward mobility, to help people on the ladder of upward mobility. So, when you impose permanency requirements on projects, on units, then you’re saying one of two things. You’re saying either, ‘We assume that everybody who will be benefiting from this program is going to stay poor,’ or you’re saying, ‘We’re assuming people are going to move up the economic ladder, but then we’re going to kick them out of the unit because they’ve moved up economically.’”
Still, critics of the city’s vision have more fundamental concerns with the plan than housing.
Schley said of the changes, “This is just another song and dance to keep us off the focus.”Avella echoed Schley’s sentiments as he explained why he voted against the modified proposal. “It still doesn’t address the underlying problem of the whole application,” he said, “Whose Harlem does this represent?”
Vitullo-Martin, though, considered this question in different terms. “These things are very hard because what’s the Harlem community and who owns Harlem? Harlem is a very large place,” she said, adding later that: “I don’t think the new development will or won’t sustain the cultural identity of Harlem. I think what sustains the cultural identity of any neighborhood is the people who are there.”
She went on to reflect upon her own recollections of Harlem’s “Main Street.”“This is not a street that has been well-cared for,” she said. “This is a street that just needs tremendous energy, investment, revitalization. It’s not a healthy street. And, you know, listening to these debates, you’d think people were talking about a fabulously healthy street—it isn’t,” she said. “I used to go up to Georgie’s Pastry Shop on 125th Street for their sweet potato pie. ... It was owned by a family that had lived in Harlem forever.”“Listening to activists, you would think that 125th Street is just full of shops like Georgie’s Pastry Shop,” she continued. “But it isn’t.
Georgie’s closed. It wasn’t replaced by anything comparable.”Avella said that “unfortunately” he believes the plan will pass in the upcoming full City Council vote, after the CPC has approved the changes. But he will be voting against it, and activists like Adams and Schley say they will continue to voice opposition.

An Open Letter to President Bollinger

An Open Letter to President Bollinger
By Nick Spraygreen

Dear President Bollinger,

With the recent appointment of a new governor, there is renewed hope among many that the state will finally take strides in amending its abusive eminent domain laws. As such, I publish this open letter with the sincere hope that it will lead to meaningful dialogue between you and me. Over the past nearly four years, the institution that you head, Columbia University, and the family business of which I am president, Tuck-It-Away Self Storage, have been locked in battle. The outcome of this struggle will affect the future direction of many parties—my family, Columbia, and West Harlem. The stakes are huge.

The issue: the threatened use of eminent domain. You have asked the state to condemn any properties in the Manhattanville area of West Harlem that refuse to sell to you. Out of regard for my family, which has owned and operated four commercial properties here for almost 30 years, my answer has always been the same: I will not negotiate while the threat of eminent domain is hung over my head. That is not fair.

During this fight, you and I have never directly communicated, despite my request for a meeting with you. This request was turned down. Instead, it has only been through surrogates—lawyers, lobbyists, and journalists—that we have had any form of contact.

I am adamant in my opposition to the possible use of eminent domain so that Columbia can take others’ private property to help it build a new campus. This is not how eminent domain should be used. Columbia is a private institution of privilege—it is not a fire station, highway or, indeed, a public school.

If and when New York state (through an unelected public authority, the Empire State Development Corporation) commences formal condemnation proceedings against my family, I will fight back with all my ability. To help assist me, I have at my side the noted civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, a man who has taught me the difference between right and wrong, and how one needs to stand resolutely for the former against the latter.

Should I lose the battle to retain my properties, the state will take them against my will and hand them over to you. I will be paid a sum that either will be negotiated between the parties or, should no agreement on value be accomplished, will be decided by the courts. In all likelihood, the latter will occur, thus ensuring yet another drawn-out legal battle.

I feel that, in both cases—the actual condemnation as well as, should it be allowed to occur, the valuation—the United States Supreme Court could be ready to intervene. Since the controversial 5-4 decision Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, this country has come face to face with the hidden ugliness of eminent domain abuse. Fortunately, the extent of this abuse is no longer below the radar. In fact, perhaps on more than any other issue, national polls reveal virtual unanimity across party lines that eminent domain reform is needed. As of the end of 2007, 42 states have made changes to their eminent domain laws. In every single case, the result was greater protection of private property.

On the main issue—that of ownership of my properties—it just may be that I can prevail. I would then be able to operate and develop my properties alongside the campus you will still undoubtedly build, despite your insistence to the press that Columbia must have everything in order to go forward. A clear message will be sent to large institutions and corporations that the police power of our government is no longer available to the highest bidder, that one cannot merely lease these powers to evade and avoid the marketplace, and that “might is not right.”

So what will the courts decide? How long will it take? Needless to say, no one can know for sure. However, there is an alternative. If utilized, it would significantly reduce—if not eliminate altogether—the downside risks to all involved in a court battle. All that it requires is compromise. As I have already presented to state officials, as well as a senior officer in your administration, we could easily swap a few properties in Manhattanville, and thereby possibly negate the need for eminent domain while at the same time still give the University its much-desired contiguous campus. And there are even other ways to avoid the ugliness of eminent domain—they revolve around partnership. For instance, we can jointly own and build some of the new structures where my properties now stand (including student housing, something that is already in your plans). We can also discuss possible long-term leases—99 years, for instance.

President Bollinger, all that is needed is the courage to agree to meet with me and the wisdom to keep an open mind. Certainly it would be no more uncomfortable than your meeting last year with the Iranian president. If you do agree and a lasting compromise is forged, there may be no better lesson to teach your students, nor any stronger legacy to leave for future generations. I look forward to your taking my call.

Nick Spraygreen

The author is president of Tuck-It-Away, a regional self storage provider. He is also managing member of Rising Development Co., a real estate owner and developer, and the publisher of Rising Publications, a Westchester County community newspaper chain.

TAGS: Eminent Domain, Manhattanville
View Comments ( 2)Post a Comment

In reference to the comments posted below by "alum", (made virtually as soon as - if not prepared before-hand - this column was even posted on-line), I state the following:
Alum takes issue with my statement about what Columbia has asked the state to do. I hereby quote directly from a "secret" agreement (that only saw the light of day due to a FOIL request) dated July 30, 2004. This agreement was signed by both Columbia and the state and is on Columbia letterhead. It states in part, "Columbia has requested that the New York State Urban Development Corporation...consider the condemnnation of portions of the Property not under Columbia Control and the transfer of facilitate development by Columbia".

Alum's second paragraph is his opinion only.

Alum's third and fourth paragraphs have nothing to do with eminent domain - the subject of my column - so they are irrelevant to any discussion of my opinion piece. (I do however thank Alum for making reference to the web site -

Finally, in regard to Alum's final paragraph, the smugness and feelings of superiority that are in evidence here match exactly with those of the administration. Nothing more needs to be said.
Nick Sprayregen.
Posted by: nsprayregen April 24th, 2008 @ 9:48am

Columbia has not "asked the state to condemn any properties in the Manhattanville area of West Harlem" belonging to owners who are unwilling to sell. It may make such a request in the future, but it hasn't yet. So far all it has asked the state to do is analyze whether the use of eminent domain would be appropriate -- and even then, only in a specific, 18-acre portion of Manhattanville.

Additionally, Kelo v. New London will not be as helpful to Mr. Sprayregen as he claims to believe.
If his properties are condemned it will almost surely be because the area is blighted. The Kelo decision wasn't about blight, and prior Supreme Court cases have made it very clear that governments can condemn blighted property and sell it to someone who will put it to productive -- though not necessarily public -- use. The validity of those decisions was not affected by Kelo.

Of course, none of this matters to Mr. Sprayregen because he would rather tell convenient lies than face inconvenient truths. To take but one example, he claims on his website ( that "30% of the space [in the proposed new campus] will be for biohazard chemical laboratories (use/storage)". 30% of 6.8 million square feet is over 2 million square feet -- the *total* amount Columbia plans to use for all new science and engineering facilities on the new campus combined. The proposed biosafety level 3 labs -- the only ones which can fairly be called "biohazard" -- will occupy just a few rooms and will probably have less than 5,000 square feet between them. That's less than one-tenth of 1% of the total.

Mr. Sprayregen also claims that the biohazards will be in the underground "bathtub" and thus could be spread by flooding. In reality, though, these tiny labs will be well above ground and immune to flooding.

Is it any wonder that Mr. Sprayregen has not been able to meet personally with President Bollinger? Does he think that if he had a significant dispute with Microsoft he would get to hash it out across a table with Bill Gates? That's not how things work in the real world -- especially for people who are willing to spread lies to an uninformed public in order to promote their own interests.
Posted by: Alum April 24th, 2008 @ 12:31am

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hide and Seek the Sniper Way

Hide and Seek the Sniper Way
April 23, 2008
Marine Corps Newsby LCpl Tyler J. Hlavac
KIN BLUE, Okinawa - Covered from head to foot in a ghillie suit made of netting interwoven with vegetation scavenged from the local terrain, Sgt. Gregory Evans slowly, inch by inch, stalks through the thick jungle foliage, hoping that no one sees him.

This assistant team leader with Marine Corps Base's Provost Marshal's Office Special Reaction Team knows the spotters are out there, visually scouring the underbrush for the slightest sign of movement. But he is confident in his position and his ability to get off two well aimed shots on the spotters without being detected. As he begins to set up for a shot, the unthinkable happens - he slips.

A few moments later he hears someone yell "freeze." He knows the game is over and he is busted.

But to his surprise, he finds out the spotters have seen someone else. He feels no relief however, knowing his slip could have ended the game just as easily.

Evans was one of three SRT marksman observers who joined nine scout snipers from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's battalion landing team in a scout sniper course that ran April 1-18 and was designed to teach participants the fundamentals of the occupational specialty.

The course also serves as a precursor - before the marksman observers and some of the MEU Marines head off - to the Marine Corps' elite Scout Sniper School in Camp Pendleton, Calif., said Lance Cpl. John Cheney, an assistant team leader with Scout Sniper Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Cheney, along with other scout snipers in the platoon, helped set up the training.

Originally, the course was set up only for the MEU's scout snipers. But after hearing about the training, Evans thought it would be good for the SRT to get involved since the unit also sends Marines to Scout Sniper School. He contacted the MEU, which had no issues with adding the PMO Marines to the course.

"I thought it would be a good idea for our two (marksman observer) Marines to get some actual training because they're heading off to school," said Evans. "Additionally, I wanted to participate in the training so I would have techniques to train other Marines in my unit."

The overall goal of the event was for the Marines to move through the jungle, set up a good shooting position and fire two well aimed shots at the spotter using blanks, all without being seen. To accomplish this, the Marines had to utilize proper movement techniques while using camouflage and the terrain to their advantage.

While the jungle training was hard going for the SRT Marines, who are more accustomed to using sniper techniques in urban settings, it was worth it as they came out of the course with a better understanding of stalking techniques, Evans said.

Cheney said he was pleased with the way the course unfolded.

"The Marines have done a great job during all this training we put them through, especially the SRT guys," he said.

Cheney pointed out that while even the newest 2/4 Marines had done a few stalks before, it was a first for the SRT Marines.

The SRT Marines were also impressed by the scout snipers, Evans said.

"The scout snipers are very professional and knowledgeable. They definitely know what to teach us," Evans said. "With the training I have received so far, I believe that I could go out on a sniper mission with them and, while I wouldn't be perfect, I could definitely get the job done."

© Copyright 2008 Marine Corps News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Shoot for the Gold

Shoot for the Gold
April 23, 2008
Marine Corps Newsby LCpl. Meg Varvil

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. - Every Marine a rifleman: this doctrine has been ingrained into each generation of Marines from the time they stepped on the yellow footprints at recruit training.

Marines from Marine Corps Security Force Battalion have taken this creed one step further. Not only do they pride themselves in being exceptional riflemen, but they also participate in the Competition in Arms Program, a shooting tradition that has been a part of the Marine Corps since 1901.

Marines with the MCSFBN Shooting Team competed in the 2008 Marine Corps Eastern Division Rifle and Pistol Championship Matches, held at Quantico, Va., March 7 to April 4.
The Marines with the battalion trained intensely for the competition.

"Marines on our team were selected from different commands within Marine Corps Security Force Battalion," said Chief Warrant Officer William J. Bush Jr., Dam Neck Range Detachment officer in charge, MCSF Training Company, MCSFBN, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and shooting team captain. "The team received an intense four-week training package in advanced fundamental marksmanship and combat marksmanship to prepare them for participation in the Eastern Division Rifle and Pistol Matches."

The event includes individual and team competitions with both the rifle and the pistol.
"Not only do we get to compete individually and as a team, but we also compete in both a precision course and combat course," Bush said.

Each team consists of a team captain, team coach, and four shooters. Of the four shooters, one must have the rank of staff sergeant or higher and one must be a first-time competitor, or "Tyro" shooter.

The final team score is a combination of the team's precision and combat scores.
The MCSFBN Shooting Team shot against six base or station teams from Marine units around the East Coast.

In addition to the individual and team events, a separate competition is held for members of the Marine Corps Rifle Team and the British Royal Marine Rifle Team for the Inter Corps Cup.

The Marine Corps Rifle Team and the British Royal Marine Rifle Team have been competing in this venue since 1992. During this year's competition, the British Royal Marine Rifle Team defeated the Marine Corps Rifle Team, a feat that has not been accomplished by the British Royal Marines in almost 14 years.

The MCSFBN received second place in the team rifle match against other East Coast teams. They were only three points behind the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Shooting Team.

The top 10 percent of shooters in the individual matches receive medals. Each medal represents a certain amount of points the Marine earns toward becoming a distinguished shooter. A gold medal is 10 points, a silver medal is eight points and a bronze medal is six points. To be called a distinguished shooter, a Marine must earn 30 points. Once a shooter becomes distinguished, he can no longer receive medals.

In the individual pistol match, three members of the MCSFBN Shooting Team placed within the top 10 percent.

Cpl. Benjamin Footer with Headquarters and Service Company placed first but didn't receive a medal because he is already distinguished. Bush placed fifth and received a silver medal and Cpl. David Durkin with 1st Fleet Antiterrorist Security Team, placed 11th and received a Bronze medal.

"It's a great experience because the Marines get an opportunity to discuss marksmanship techniques and learn from some of the best shooters in the Marine Corps," Bush said.

While at the event, all competitors qualified to become Combat Marksmanship Coaches and fulfilled part of their annual requirements by qualifying with the rifle and pistol.

"Not all of the Marines may win medals, but the training and experience they receive will give them the tools to assist Marines in preparing for annual qualification and help their peers to succeed on the rifle range," Bush said.

The Eastern Division Match is just one of four division competitions throughout the Marine Corps. There is also a Far-East Division Match in Okinawa, Japan, a Pacific Division Match in Hawaii, and a Western Division Match at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The top 10 percent of competitors from each of the four division matches win shooting medals, earn points toward becoming a distinguished shooter and receive an invitation to compete in the Marine Corps Match held at Quantico, Va.

Marines with the MCSFBN Shooting Team will continue to aim for the gold in each competition they attend.

The competition is positive in every aspect, Bush said. The matches allow Marines to display their extraordinary skills, become combat marksmanship coaches, and pass on that knowledge to future generations.

© Copyright 2008 Marine Corps News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Accidental Rebel


Op-Ed Contributor

The Accidental Rebel
Published: April 23, 2008

IT was the year of years, the year of craziness, the year of fire, blood and death. I had just turned 21, and I was as crazy as everyone else.
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Paul Hoppe
There were half a million American soldiers in Vietnam, Martin Luther King had just been assassinated, cities were burning across America, and the world seemed headed for an apocalyptic breakdown.

Being crazy struck me as a perfectly sane response to the hand I had been dealt — the hand that all young men had been dealt in 1968. The instant I graduated from college, I would be drafted to fight in a war I despised to the depths of my being, and because I had already made up my mind to refuse to fight in that war, I knew that my future held only two options: prison or exile.

I was not a violent person. Looking back on those days now, I see myself as a quiet, bookish young man, struggling to teach myself how to become a writer, immersed in my courses in literature and philosophy at Columbia. I had marched in demonstrations against the war, but I was not an active member of any political organization on campus. I felt sympathetic to the aims of S.D.S. (one of several radical student groups, but by no means the most radical), and yet I never attended its meetings and not once had I handed out a broadside or leaflet. I wanted to read my books, write my poems and drink with my friends at the West End bar.

Forty years ago today, a protest rally was held on the Columbia campus. The issue had nothing to do with the war, but rather a gymnasium the university was about to build in Morningside Park. The park was public property, and because Columbia intended to create a separate entrance for the local residents (mostly black), the building plan was deemed to be both unjust and racist. I was in accord with this assessment, but I didn’t attend the rally because of the gym.

I went because I was crazy, crazy with the poison of Vietnam in my lungs, and the many hundreds of students who gathered around the sundial in the center of campus that afternoon were not there to protest the construction of the gym so much as to vent their craziness, to lash out at something, anything, and since we were all students at Columbia, why not throw bricks at Columbia, since it was engaged in lucrative research projects for military contractors and thus was contributing to the war effort in Vietnam?

Speech followed tempestuous speech, the enraged crowd roared with approval, and then someone suggested that we all go to the construction site and tear down the chain-link fence that had been erected to keep out trespassers. The crowd thought that was an excellent idea, and so off it went, a throng of crazy, shouting students charging off the Columbia campus toward Morningside Park. Much to my astonishment, I was with them. What had happened to the gentle boy who planned to spend the rest of his life sitting alone in a room writing books? He was helping to tear down the fence. He tugged and pulled and pushed along with several dozen others and, truth be told, found much satisfaction in this crazy, destructive act.

After the outburst in the park, campus buildings were stormed, occupied and held for a week. I wound up in Mathematics Hall and stayed for the duration of the sit-in. The students of Columbia were on strike. As we calmly held our meetings indoors, the campus was roiling with belligerent shouting matches and slugfests as those for and against the strike went at one another with abandon. By the night of April 30, the Columbia administration had had enough, and the police were called in. A bloody riot ensued. Along with more than 700 other people, I was arrested — pulled by my hair to the police van by one officer as another officer stomped on my hand with his boot. But no regrets. I was proud to have done my bit for the cause. Both crazy and proud.

What did we accomplish? Not much of anything. It’s true that the gymnasium project was scrapped, but the real issue was Vietnam, and the war dragged on for seven more horrible years. You can’t change government policy by attacking a private institution. When French students erupted in May of that year of years, they were directly confronting the national government — because their universities were public, under the control of the Ministry of Education, and what they did initiated changes in French life. We at Columbia were powerless, and our little revolution was no more than a symbolic gesture. But symbolic gestures are not empty gestures, and given the nature of those times, we did what we could.

I hesitate to draw any comparisons with the present — and therefore will not end this memory-piece with the word “Iraq.” I am 61 now, but my thinking has not changed much since that year of fire and blood, and as I sit alone in this room with a pen in my hand, I realize that I am still crazy, perhaps crazier than ever.

Paul Auster is the author of the forthcoming “Man in the Dark.”
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Readers' Comments
"I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007. No one in my generation seems crazy. What a pity."Tarra Kohli, Washington, D.C.

Saint George's Day - Diada de Sant Jordi - Dia de San Jorge

La diada de Sant Jordi, Barcelona

Bienvenidos, young lovers, wherever you are!

Take your amor to Barcelona, Spain, in April for La Diada de Sant Jordi.

It's easily the most most giddy and amorous day of the year in this most romantic of cities.

Saint George is the patron saint of the six million inhabitants of Catalonia, and he was a very romantic and chivalrous guy (more on that later).

Also known as "The Day of Lovers," La Diada de Sant Jordi is like Valentine's Day with some uniquely Latin twists.

The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts--men give their novias roses, and women give their novios a book to celebrate the occasion. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent marketing ploy.

In 1923, a smart bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to honor the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616.

Barcelona is the publishing capital of the Spanish-speaking world and this heady one-two punch of love and literacy was quickly adopted. On Barcelona's principal street, Las Ramblas, and all over the city, hundreds of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls have been hastily set up for the occasion.

By the end of the day, some four million roses and 400,000 books will have been purchased in the name of love. You will be hard-pressed to find a woman without a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.

And while La Diada de Sant Jordi is not an "official" holiday, most romantics ditch the office to stroll the beautiful streets of Barcelona and to take in the sultry springtime weather.

Love is definitely in the air, but even if you don't have a novio to smooch on a park bench there are still plenty of things to see and do.

For example, the Sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, will be performed throughout the day in the Placa Sant Juane. And many book stores and cafes will host readings by noted authors (look out for 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes' "Don Quixote").

Elsewhere, hundreds of Jordis, Georges, Yuris, Jorges, Gorkas and others named for the Saint will be forming a chain to try to get into the Guinness Book of Records. And there will be a variety of street performers and musicians on hand to add a romantic ambience to nearly every public square and plaza.

Additionally, April 23rd is the only day of the year when the Palau do Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. Inside this Gothic architectural masterpiece you'll see huge displays of roses created to honour Saint George. There will undoubtedly be huge lines, so try to get there early in the day.

More "Fiestas" of Spain

St George's Day
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saint George oil painting by Raphael

St. George's Day is celebrated by several nations of which Saint George is the patron saint, including Catalonia (Spain), England, Portugal, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Macedonia.

For England, St. George's Day also marks its National Day.

Most countries who observe St. George's Day, celebrate it on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in 303 AD. St. George's Day is a provincial government holiday in Newfoundland, Canada.

For those Eastern Orthodox Churches that follow the Julian Calendar (the Old calendarists), the 23 April (Julian Calendar) date of St George's Day falls on 6 May of the Gregorian Calendar in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Besides the 23 April feast, some Orthodox Churches have additional feasts dedicated to St George. The country of Georgia celebrates the feast St George on 10 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on 23 November (Gregorian Calendar).

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav I the Wise in 1051 on 26 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on the Gregorian 9 December.

The Scout movement has been celebrating St. George's Day on 23 April since its first years.
In the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church, 23 April has long been Saint George's feast-day. It is classified as an optional memorial, equivalent to a commemoration in the calendar as revised by Pope John XIII in 1960,[1] and to a simple feast in the General Roman Calendar as in 1954.

The feast is ranked higher in England and in certain other regions.

It is the second most important National Feast in Catalonia, where the day is known in Catalan as Diada de Sant Jordi and it is traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one. This tradition inspired UNESCO to declare this the International Day of the Book, since 23 April 1616 was also the date of death of both the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar) and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (according to the Gregorian calendar).

St. George's Day in Catholic and Protestant countries

St. George's Day in England

St. George wood carving.
St. George's Day is not celebrated as much in England as other National Days are around the world. It was once a major feast in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. However, this tradition had waned by the end of the 18th century.

In recent years the popularity of St. George's Day appears to be increasing gradually. BBC Radio 3 had a full programme of St. George's Day events in 2006, and Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, has been putting his argument forward in the House of Commons to try to make St. George's Day a public holiday.

A traditional custom at this time was to wear a red rose in one's lapel, though with changes in fashion this is not as widely done. Another custom is to fly or adorn the St. George's Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on April 23 festooned with garlands of St. George's crosses.

However, the modern association of the St. George's Cross with sports such as football, cricket and rugby means that this tradition too is losing popularity with people who do not associate themselves with those sports. It is customary for the hymn Jerusalem to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St. George's Day, or on the Sunday closest to it.

There is a growing reaction to the recent indifference to St. George's Day. Organizations such as the Royal Society of Saint George (a non-political English national society founded in 1894) have been joined by the more prominent St. George's Day Events company (founded in 2002), with the specific aim of encouraging celebrations. They seem to be having some effect. On the other hand, there have also been calls to replace St. George as patron saint of England, on the grounds that he was an obscure figure who had no direct connection with the country. However there is no obvious consensus as to whom to replace him with, though names suggested include St. Edmund, [2] St. Cuthbert, or St. Alban, with the latter having topped a BBC Radio 4 poll on the subject.[3]

St. George is also the patron saint of the Scouting movement. Many Scout troops in the United Kingdom take part in a St. George's Day Parade on the nearest Sunday to April 23. A message from the Chief Scout is read out and the Scout Hymn is sung. A "renewal of promise" then takes place where the Scouts renew the Scout's Promise made at joining and at all Scout meetings.

Many schools around the UK do allow students to wear their scouting uniforms in replace of their school uniforms for that one day.

St. George's Day is traditionally the occasion when the Queen announces new appointments to the Order of the Garter.

In 2007, Independent writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown condemned St. George’s Day celebrations for being too Anglo-Saxon and demanded that the day should celebrate the multicultural aspects of England today.[4]

St. George's Day in Catalonia (Spain)
Sant Jordi's cake.
St. George's Day is celebrated in all the Spanish autonomous communities from the old Crown of Aragon: Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia, with different intensity. St. George is the patron saint of Aragon, where he is known as San Jorge.

La Diada de Sant Jordi, also known as el dia de la rosa (The Day of the Rose) or el dia del llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday celebrated on April 23 similar to Valentine's Day with some unique twists that show the ancient practice of this day. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and respected ones.

Historically, men gave their girlfriends and wives roses, and women gave their boyfriends and husbands a book to celebrate the occasion. In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition.

In 1923, a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to honour the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital in both Catalan and Spanish and this heady one-two punch of love and literacy was quickly adopted.

On Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 400,000 books would have been purchased in the name of love. You will be hard-pressed to find a woman without a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.

The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, will be performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume. And many book stores and cafes host readings by noted authors (look out for 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes' "Don Quixote"). And there will be a variety of street performers and musicians on hand to add a romantic ambience to nearly every public square and plaza.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Diada de Sant Jordi
Additionally, April 23rd is the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. Inside this Gothic architectural masterpiece you'll see huge displays of roses created to honour Saint George.

Catalonia has exported this tradition of the book and the rose to the rest of the world. In 1995, the UNESCO adopted April 23rd as World Book and Copyright Day.'s_Day




Brian Patten's Tribute to Saint George

“I was delighted to be asked by English Heritage to write a poem about St George. There is no country more beautiful than England in April. I believe we should celebrate its landscape, and its flora and fauna through St George’s Day. I’ve taken liberties with the story of St George and the Dragon, but hope I can be forgiven for harnessing the dragon to the natural world. The poem also purposely echoes a line each from two of our greatest English poets, Shakespeare (whose birthday falls on St George’s Day) and John Keats.”

St George was out walking
He met a dragon on a hill,
It was wise and wonderful
Too glorious to kill

It slept amongst the wild thyme
Where the oxlips and violets grow
Its skin was a luminous fire
That made the English landscape glow

Its tears were England’s crystal rivers
Its breath the mist on England’s moors
Its larder was England’s orchards,
Its house was without doors

St George was in awe of it
It was a thing apart
He hid the sleeping dragon
Inside every English heart

So on this day let’s celebrate
England’s valleys full of light,
The green fire of the landscape
Lakes shivering with delight

Let’s celebrate St George’s Day,
The dragon in repose;
The brilliant lark ascending,
The yew, the oak, the rose

Brian Patten

Ode to St George (1456 Kb)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

St. Vincent’s Hospital Faces Opposition to Redevelopment

St. Vincent’s Hospital Faces Opposition to Redevelopment
By Roland Zemla

Colin Sullivan / Staff Photographer
Engulfed in a battle on multiple fronts with residents of Greenwich Village and city officials over its proposed redevelopment, St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center has recently become the focus of public speculation over the sustainability of its trauma center and emergency department. A closure of St. Vincent’s trauma center would increase volume at Morningside Heights’ St. Luke’s Hospital Center, which has the only other center on the west side.

But officials from St. Luke’s expressed doubt about the criticism of St. Vincent’s, and indeed highlighted the growth potential of the latter’s emergency department.

“A complete hospital closure at St. Vincent’s is highly unlikely, and it appears that St. Vincent’s emergency department may actually be gaining strength,” said Dr. David H. Newman, director of clinical research at St. Luke’s emergency department.

Flooded by a strong base of community activists who oppose the destruction of nine hospital buildings in the historic district of Greenwich Village, St. Vincent’s is poised for a long battle with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, City Planning Commission, and New York City Council if it is to revamp its congested hospital under the proposed redevelopment plan.

Under that plan, St. Vincent’s hopes to “demolish nine buildings, build a 329 foot tower for St. Vincent’s Hospital proper, and a 21-story condo tower, as well as another residential building and 19 ‘townhouses’ between 11th and 12th Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues,” the New York Observer wrote on April 1.

After emerging from a two-year bankruptcy last year, the current deliberations represent yet another hurdle St. Vincent’s must face in order to take control of the funds that it will gain from selling part of its buildings—worth $301 million­—to Rudin Management Company. These funds would be used to defray the costs of construction and debt that the hospital has accumulated over the years.

St. Luke’s and St. Vincent’s are the only two level I trauma centers on the west side of Manhattan, and there are only five borough-wide. Only patients who demand the highest level of care are transported to these facilities, which employ highly qualified surgical teams capable of treating the most serious injuries, ranging from severely fractured limbs to gunshot wounds and stabbings.

According to Dr. Dan E. Wiener, chairman of emergency medicine at St. Luke’s, a temporary shutdown of St. Vincent’s would not have a great impact on St. Luke’s.

“I would expect we would get a little [more patients], but I would not expect a huge increase in our trauma volume if they were to close,” Wiener said, adding that “Bellevue [Hospital, located on First Avenue at E. 27th Street] would probably feel it much more than we would. It would cause a minor impact—we could absorb it.”

“St. Luke’s is a high-volume emergency department that sees more than 100,000 patients per year,” Newman said. “Therefore the hospital and the ED [emergency department] are well prepared to handle an increase in trauma or non-trauma visits should this occur.”

These assurances come at a time when many New York emergency rooms and trauma centers are suffering from overcrowding and struggling to sustain operational budgets. But Newman stressed that constructing more trauma centers to mitigate the crunch associated with potential hospital and trauma center closures would not be of much benefit.

“Trauma is a disease like any other,” Newman said. “Expertise [in its treatment] is developed over years as a result of high volume exposure and experience in institutions that specialize in such management. Increasing the number of centers that handle diseases such as trauma is often associated with a diminishing level of experience, and a resultant decline in the ability to provide high level expert care.”

The St. Vincent’s administration remains optimistic that it will reach a settlement with the community and have the new hospital fully functioning by late 2015.

According to Michael Fagan, vice president of public affairs at St. Vincent’s, normal hospital operations will be unaffected between now and 2015.

O'Donnell Files FOIL Request

O'Donnell Files FOIL Request
By Maggie Astor

State Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (D-Morningside Heights and West Harlem) filed a Freedom of Information Law request last week for documents related to the possible establishment of parts of Morningside Heights as a historic district, or landmarking of particular buildings in the area. The request followed several months of attempts to obtain the documents directly from Robert Tierney, chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

According to an April 15 press release, a variety of politicians and organizations—including Congressman Charlie Rangel, New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and West Siders for Responsible Development—have expressed support for the establishment of a historical district, and written letters to the LPC to urge Tierney to schedule a hearing on the issue.

“There is overwhelming public support for a historic district in Morningside Heights,” O’Donnell said in the press release. “I remain perplexed why some proposals for designation are fast-tracked, while other equally deserving proposals remain stalled for more than a decade.”

Community Board 9 also endorsed a historic district in its 197-a plan for Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion, which the New York City Council approved in December.

“Efforts to help implement any recommendations in the 197-a plan are obviously very welcome and well-received,” said CB9 Chair Pat Jones.

Asked about the responsiveness of the LPC to requests regarding the potential historic district, Jones said, “I have no personal knowledge of that, but it has been long stated that the LPC does move quite slowly, and so we’re supportive of any information that the assemblyman can get to move forward this initiative.”

CB9 also passed a resolution in October urging the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider all applications after hearing concerns that the commission was ignoring some landmarking requests.

Lynette Velasco, a spokesperson for City Council member Inez Dickens (D-Morningside Heights), said Dickens has not yet decided whether to support a historic district.

“The Council member is very concerned with the history—the unique history of Harlem as it relates to all people,” Velasco said. “She’s very respectful and she understands the Assemblyman’s passion for this. But she is continuing to study and research, because this is a huge project that will impact greatly the residents of the district.”

The establishment of a historic district “maintains the general content of the area, shows respect for the architectural heritage of an area,” Jones said. “And in these days of development, overdevelopment, it provides some form of protection to neighborhoods.”

In the press release, O’Donnell—who founded the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee in 1996—cited the “historically and culturally significant architecture of Morningside Heights” as the impetus for his campaign.

The FOIL request called on the LPC to release “any and all documents” from Jan. 1, 2003 to the present in the following categories: research, calendars, schedules, correspondence, and notes and minutes from meetings relating to the designation of a Morningside Heights historic district.

The area in question is bounded by 110th Street on the south, 123th Street on the north, Morningside Drive on the east, and Riverside Park on the west.

“I hope the response to my FOIL request will shed some light on the Commission’s inaction,” O’Donnell wrote. “Frankly, Chair Tierney should be ashamed that elected representatives must resort to using the Freedom of Information Law to ascertain basic information about proposals for historic districts.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission did not respond to requests for comment after business hours.