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  •   As commuters who have been stuck in Penn Station, around Penn Station, on the LIRR, we thought writing about the nightmare might help us emotionally. After endless (let’s say it again because that’s exactly how it feels…endless) delays, it seems that much needed repairs will be going on at Penn Station. At this very moment we are deciding if we should take a break from blog writing and book a very long vacation for the whole summer to skip this mess! Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling it the “summer of hell”. Tell your boss that you’ll be late from July 10 through September 1st because tracks will be closed for repairs. After two derailments and too many switch problems to count, officials announced in early June that the repairs would be taking place. Affected service will include several of Amtrak’s lines. In plain terms this means cutting three trains a day from Washington D.C. New Jersey Transit will also have its share of problems when service is diverted on its Morris & Essex lines to Hoboken. Those lucky riders will be forced onto the PATH train or ferries. Our readers on Long Island should expect to be diverted from Penn Station to Atlantic Terminal or to Hunters Point or Jamaica. Although the MTA announced yesterday that it will add three new rush hours trains to the schedule and 36 more cars on existing trains to increase capacity, we still anticipate a hellish and very hot summer commute coming up. Did you know? NJ Transit and the LIRR are the nation’s busiest commuter rails. Each transports more than 300,000 passengers on a typical weekday! New Yorkers can be creative and it sounds like Cuomo has his thinking cap on. He’s talked about possible stopgap measures like high-speed ferries and buses as well as carpool lanes to ease the burden caused by the train service changes. But can all of those people be squeezed into alternate modes of transportation? Is the summer light enough with people taking vacation that it won’t be as bad as we fear? It’s hard to be hopeful when the East Side Access, a $10.2 billion project, slated to wrap up in December 2022, is 13 years behind schedule and expected to come in at double its initial projected cost. There was also the Hudson River rail tunnel project that was killed by Governor Chris Christie in 2010, was apparently back on, but was again defunded by the new President. That project could have potentially alleviated 20% to 30% of traffic into Penn Station…but we digress.   Instead of finding alternate routes and hoping for the best, maybe we should plan on working poolside this summer!  Cyber commuting is sounding better and better.  If only we could cyber commute to Court…

    13 Jun
    13 Jun
  • You might have heard that last week was “Infrastructure Week” across the nation. So we wanted to take the time to blog about an exciting and much needed improvement that might not ever make it. We’re talking about the Gateway Plan to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River. It was supposed to (and was expected to) begin this year, but whether that will happen or not is uncertain according to an initial preview of President Donald Trump’s first budget. The budget has put the project’s substantial federal funding in question. Once completed, the new tunnels would alleviate concerns about the havoc that an emergency shutdown of the existing tunnels would cause, and also help to ease the frequent delays that can occur for riders on NJ Transit and Amtrak trains. Both lines share the same Amtrak-owned infrastructure and support an estimated 200,000 daily train passengers. The plan, considered to be vital to the region’s economic success, has a goal of doubling train capacity more than a decade from now. We blogged before about the horrible situation with Penn Station which often (honestly, almost always) has commuters arriving to work late and often looking at a board of cancelled trains. The Gateway project has gained a lot of traction lately due to ongoing issues at Penn Station and an increasingly apparent need for a transportation system that can accommodate the region’s growing traffic. This month, a high-ranking member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Friday called the Gateway tunnel project “the single most important infrastructure project in the country.” Unfortunately, he said, the White House doesn’t seem to agree. “All the signs out of Washington are troubling,” said Ali Chaudhry, Cuomo’s newly appointed deputy secretary of transportation. “It should really be something that the federal government is prioritizing, but we just don’t see that.” Chaudhry spoke at a New York Building Congress event in Brooklyn. Much of his presentation focused on touting Cuomo’s plan to invest $100 billion in state infrastructure. New York Building Congress President Carlo Scissura noted the “national perspectives” that will impact Gateway but praised the Cuomo administration for pushing forward several public projects. There are some in Washington that support the plan. Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (who is married to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky) called Gateway an “absolute priority.” The Gateway plan is yuuuuuuge as some New Yorkers say. It involves a replacement of the century-old Portal Bridge near Secaucus Junction station and an expansion of Penn Station. New Jersey and New York had cut a deal with the Obama administration to split the cost of the tunnel, but it’s unclear if that agreement will ultimately stand.

    12 Jun
    12 Jun
  • Willets Point News: Hot off the press!! We just read that New York Court of Appeals ruled that the plans for a large shopping center and movie theater at former Shea Stadium site could not move forward without approval from the state legislature. It’s just one of the many delays for the plan that has been in the works for years. It’s part of an effort to develop a 61-acre tract in Flushing-Corona. (Our opinion is that the area REALLY needs it!) In 2011, the Queens Development Group, which is a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies, proposed a plan to develop the land. It called for retail space, a hotel, outdoor space, a public school, and eventually 2,500 units of housing. Sounds nice, right? In 2012, the plan was approved by The Bloomberg administration. Specifically, there would be: a mall with more than 200 stores and restaurants and a movie theater on parkland that currently serves as the parking lot for Citi Field. Since this was all located on parkland, State Sen. Tony Avella, who represents the 11th District in Queens, has sued the city and Queens Development Group over this proposal, saying that that the plan required legislative approval before it could move forward. The New York State Supreme Court initially dismissed the case. But the Appellate Division reversed this decision, and the New York Court of Appeals upheld the reversal on Tuesday. So now it looks like the state legislature must authorize the development plans before they can move forward. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio announced its support of the project. They filed court briefs backing the developers’ hopes to move forward without approval from the state legislature. At first de Blasio’s administration criticized the project, stating that it did not emphasize housing strongly enough. Only 875 apartments were designated as affordable and would not have to be built until mid-2022. Now the Queens Development Group is evaluating its next steps. A spokesperson said in a statement that the company is “disappointed with the court’s decision, which further delays a project that will reverse 100 years of pollution, create thousands of good-paying jobs and turn vacant lots into a vibrant community.”  

    06 Jun
    06 Jun
  • We’ve heard about all kinds of crazy evidence brought to trials, but this one takes the cake. It might be possible that this case would have perspective jurors volunteering to serve instead of dreaming up excuses to get out of jury duty. Richard Patterson, 65, of Margate, Florida is accused of choking his girlfriend, Francisca Marquinez, 60, to death while she was performing oral sex on him in 2015. Patterson’s defense lawyers want to use his penis as evidence to argue that his girlfriend choked because his penis was so large, and apparently the prosecution reportedly doesn’t object. Interestingly, the judge has not ruled whether his genitals will be presented in the courtroom. “Do we do it in the back? Do we do it in open court?” Assistant State Attorney Peter Sapak asked. “How is the defendant going to be erect when the jury views it? Because a flaccid penis, whether it be a picture or the jury actually seeing it, is completely irrelevant. It needs to be erect.” Broward Circuit Judge Lisa Porter has yet to rule on whether to honor a defense request to allow Patterson to show his penis to the jury as part of his case, whether any such viewing would be in open court, and whether Patterson would be required to be erect when it happens. Defense attorney Ken Padowitz said the court should hear from a medical expert about the logistics.   Associate Broward Medical Examiner Iouri Boiko, describing his 2015 autopsy of Marquinez, 60, said he could not tell for sure how she died because her body, especially around the face and neck, was so badly decomposed that any bruising would have been obscured. An autopsy was conducted on Oct. 29, 2015. “I don’t think it’s possible,” said Boiko, who conducted the autopsy on, a day after the woman’s body was discovered. For her to have died the way the defense describes, Boiko said, the defense would have to show that Marquinez (the choking victim) would have had no reaction to having her airway blocked for more than 30 seconds until she lost consciousness. Prosecutors say Patterson declined to call for help because he meant to harm or kill Marquinez and wanted to get away with murder. The defense says Patterson was embarrassed about the circumstances of her death and didn’t respond rationally. He was hospitalized the day her body was discovered, after the defense lawyer called police. Luckily for Patterson, the Broward County medical examiner Dr. Ronald Wright testified that saying Marquinez could have died from asphyxiation under the circumstances. On May 22, 2017, the jury in the Patterson case acquitted him of murder.  We are waiting for the book and the movie to come out on this one!!  

    25 May
    25 May
  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Saturday, May 20 th, 2017 · no Comments · In , ,

    Got a love for Jane Austen and a cool $11.6 million to spend? If so, you might want to consider the elegant English country house where Colin Firth, as Fitzwilliam Darcy, professed his love for Elizabeth Bennett (Jennifer Ehle). Lovers of the film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” from the BBC in 1995 will recognize the late Georgian era English country house. It’s actually located in Cotswolds, Luckington Court, and not the fictional Longbourn. Believe us, you can host some book party with a reading of “Pride and Prejudice”. The home sits on over 150 acres and features seven-bedrooms, stables (of course, where else would you put the horses?), five cottages and farm buildings. The house also comes with more than 9,600sq ft of living space, including six reception rooms, seven main bedrooms, six bathrooms, an integral flat and an annex, surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens, paddocks, pasture and woodland with frontage to the River Avon. Local history places Luckington Court on the site of a manor owned by King Harold before 1066. Built in local creamy Cotswold stone, the present house was extended and remodeled around a 16th-century, or earlier, core by the Fitzherbert family, wealthy merchants from Bristol, who bought Luckington in 1632 and owned the estate until the early 1800s. Further changes were made in 1921 by the Johnson-Ferguson family, including the addition of a service wing to the north. It’s the first time the home has listed in 70 years, according to the UK’s Country Life. (But sure to check out the gorgeous photos of the property.) It is not surprising that a property of this age and stature isn’t filled with intrigue. The sleepy village of Luckington became a center of intrigue in the late 1930s when Baron Robert Treeck, claiming to be a Latvian landowner whose property had been seized by the Bolsheviks, leased the local manor and sought to recruit Nazi sympathizers among the local gentry. Soundly rebuffed by influential residents such as Major-Gen Sir Stewart Menzies, who was head of MI6 (SIS) during and after the Second World War and reputedly the inspiration for ‘M’ in Ian Fleming’s ‘James Bond’ novels, Treeck disappeared abruptly at the outbreak of war in 1939. Another active wartime agent was Guy Vansittart, the younger brother of leading British diplomat Robert Vansittart, who was recruited into the shadowy ‘Z’ network and the SOE and lived at Luckington Court in the 1940s. (Sounds like another movie can be made from just this information!) Forget trying to go during an open house. Strutt & Parker, which is listing the property, says that the owners have asked that the marketing of the property be ceased.  Oh well…

    20 May
    20 May
  • The late 90’s might be back and better than ever. At least for a group in Brooklyn who came close to getting a $10 billion infrastructure project by suing the Federal Highway Administration almost 30 years ago. That plan, which seems to be coming back, is to revive a proposal that will transform the southwest corner of the borough by burying 6 miles of the Gowanus Expressway. This is a widely reviled stretch of the BQE that runs from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Why you may ask? Because of traffic bottlenecks, to reduce pollution and knit together waterfront neighborhoods isolated for decades by the aging highway. The federal government seems to have plans to dole out infrastructure cash, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Also, technical advances in the construction industry have made the idea of creating a tunnel beneath Red Hook, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge even more feasible. Carlo Scissura, the new head of the New York Building Congress, says officials need to start working further ahead, laying the groundwork now for the next wave of big infrastructure improvements even though they won’t be shovel-ready until long after their terms in office have expired. Is taking out the Gowanus even possible with such a big price tag? Scissura estimates the price tag has now doubled to $20 billion. It seems out of reach (at least to us.) To offset the costs, some planning experts say the only way to justify the Gowanus project would be to toll the tunnel and make the ultimate goal a complete redevelopment of the waterfront neighborhoods that surround it. Let’s face a not so nice, yet hard fact. For the most part, transit improvements are born out of disasters or accidents. More often than not, they are not made with thoughtful, long-term planning. It took the death of five people in a 1991 train derailment for the MTA to begin its signal-replacement project. Have you been commuting from Penn Station like we have? Delays and problems all the time, just like with the subway system. Frankly, state and the federal government seem unable to allocate resources for even rudimentary fixes. Looks like the most realistic solution for the Gowanus is going to take a sacrifice before anything happens.

    11 May
    11 May
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