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The Summer of ‘78, NYC in photos

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NYC Summer 78

NYC Summer 78

NYC Summer 78

In the summer of 1978, eight NY Times staff photographers, who had some time on their hands because of a newspaper strike, set out to document people using NYC’s parks. They took almost 3000 photos, which were recently rediscovered in a pair of cardboard boxes, forgotten and unseen for decades.

The infamous wretched New York of the 1970s and 1980s can be glimpsed here, true to the pages of outlaw history.

But that version has never been truth enough.

The photos speak a commanding, unwritten narrative of escape and discovery.

“You see that people were not going to the parks just to get away from it all, but also to find other people,” said Jonathan Kuhn, the director of art and antiquities for the department.

The NY Times has a selection of the photos and there’s an exhibition featuring the photos on view at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park until June 14.

Tags: NYC   photography
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reconbot
1 day ago
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New York City
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Read Ken Liu's amazing story that swept the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards

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Read Ken Liu's amazing story that swept the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards
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reconbot
3 days ago
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The "Paper Menagerie"
New York City
digdoug
12 days ago
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This had been in my instapaper queue for over a year. It's still up. It still makes me tear up. Take 5m and read a great short story.
Louisville, KY
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Gang Drones swarm FBI hostage raid

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Criminals are often at the forefront of new technologies, early adopters at the very least. This piece at Defense One, A Criminal Gang Used a Drone Swarm To Obstruct an FBI Hostage Raid, provides a few examples of drones being used by gangs.

Mazel said the suspects had backpacked the drones to the area in anticipation of the FBI’s arrival. Not only did they buzz the hostage rescue team, they also kept a continuous eye on the agents, feeding video to the group’s other members via YouTube. “They had people fly their own drones up and put the footage to YouTube so that the guys who had cellular access could go to the YouTube site and pull down the video” […]
Some criminal organizations have begun to use drones as part of witness intimidation schemes: they continuously surveil police departments and precincts in order to see “who is going in and out of the facility and who might be co-operating with police,” he said. […]
In Australia, criminal groups have begun have used drones as part of elaborate smuggling schemes, Mazel said. The gangs will monitor port authority workers. If the workers get close to a shipping container that houses illegal substances or contraband, the gang will call in a fire, theft, or some other false alarm to draw off security forces.

Law enforcement and military are working on counter measures and their own drone solutions, while the FAA works on legal amendments to try and limit drone use.

(Via @bldgblog.)

Tags: drones
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reconbot
7 days ago
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New York City
digdoug
15 days ago
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Louisville, KY
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New York City’s corrupt street parking.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

A spiraling corruption scheme has implicated some of New York City’s most powerful people, including the mayor, the former head of the corrections union, and the city’s former top uniformed police officer. A handful of former and active high-level cops have been named unindicted co-conspirators in an upcoming trial. Ex-union chief Norman Seabrook will be retried on bribery charges this summer. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has not been charged, was castigated by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for soliciting campaign contributions “contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws.” And it all began with humble street parking.

The star witness is a real estate developer named Jona S. Rechnitz, who parlayed a knack for networking into what he has described as a vast bribery operation built on close links to the top of the city’s 55,000-person police force. A decade ago, Rechnitz was working at the Manhattan office of AFI Group, a global real estate company, when he noticed one of the firm’s clients had a license plate that said “sheriff.” The plates made it possible for the man to leave his car anywhere along Manhattan’s busy sidewalks without fear of a parking ticket. “When he came to meet me, he would park wherever he wanted,” Rechnitz testified, according to the New York Times, “and that is something I thought was pretty cool.”

The insight inspired him. The young developer learned who had procured the plates, a community liaison to the police and self-described fixer who could use his connections with the department to make parking tickets go away—for a fee. It was the start of a life of Super Bowl tickets, diamond jewelry, and resort vacations in the Dominican Republic lavished on New York’s finest in exchange for favors. Dodging parking tickets was the gateway drug that paved the way for a prostitute dressed as a flight attendant to have sex with police officers on a private jet en route to Las Vegas.

In most American cities, trading up from duping meter maids to buying influence at City Hall would be unfathomable. But in New York, the discrepancy between the cost of most street parking (nothing) and the cost of parking in lots and garages (equivalent to renting an apartment in St. Louis) has opened up an opportunity for arbitrage and abuse. It starts with city policy: Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio distributed 50,000 new parking placards to teachers and other school workers, bringing the total number of officially exempt vehicles to more than 160,000. Based on the black-market price for parking placards, de Blasio’s gift to the Department of Education could be appraised anywhere between $25 and $130 million.

It’s not news that cities like New York, with some of the highest land prices in the world, have underestimated the value of street space, treating curbside parking as a vestigial perk to be doled out as patronage rather than the very expensive public land that it is. Even the high-end valuation of de Blasio’s new placards is low, because buyers and sellers operate under the (correct) assumption that the misuse of placards will go all but ignored by the NYPD. Hard to put a price on impunity. The busier the streets, the greater the prestige of the mighty parking placard.

Of course, New York is not the only city where on-street parking is approvingly treated as a wild terrain governed by an unwritten code of favors and threats. In Boston, residents battle over “space savers”—beach chairs and ironing boards deployed to reserve spots that have been cleared of snow. Park in a “saved” spot, and you might wake up to find your windshield smashed. In Los Angeles, politicians have requested that parking violations not be enforced to the letter, creating a free-for-all on neighborhood sidewalks. Donald Shoup, the doyen of American parking studies, has argued that this is a good example of the “broken windows” theory of urban disorder, in which “one broken window is a signal that no one cares” and an inducement to further law-breaking. Free parking is a right; paying for it is for the birds. In his book The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup quotes Seinfeld’s George Constanza: “My father didn’t pay for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody. It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I can get it for free?”

While the situation in those crowded cities is similar, Shoup wrote to me in an email, “New York is exceptional because the land is so valuable and the parking subsidies are so great.” Last year, the city issued nearly 42,000 summonses to drivers misusing placards. Advocates argue that is just the tip of the iceberg—barely one summons for every four (legal) permit-holders, all year—and police officers have largely been unaffected. Who polices the police? In the case of illegal parking, the answer is transparent: no one.

The city’s system of official permits, sprawling and opaque, is riddled with abuse. (The Department of Transportation releases an internal guide of what is legitimate, but the public has no way to know.) Placard-holders often use their ostensibly limited privileges to leave their cars anywhere they want, including in front of fire hydrants, at bus stops, and in bus lanes. In August, for example, Diana Richardson, a state assemblywoman from Brooklyn, stuck an “Official Business” placard on her dash and parked her car in front of her office in a turning lane marked “No standing anytime.” After she received a ticket, she used her Facebook page to put the 20-year-old traffic agent “on blast” for fining her—the exception proving the rule that such violations usually go unaddressed.

Given the obvious power and value of these placards, counterfeits are good money. In October, Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. arraigned 30 people for using fake placards manufactured by a cottage industry of counterfeiters. (No connection to the Rechnitz investigations except: parking.) One of the men was “accused of using a fake placard while he was attending the city’s academy for new correction officers,” and several had gone so far as to send copies of their fake placards to the New York City Department of Finance to get out of paying parking tickets. It can be hard for ticket enforcers to know whether, for example, there even is such a thing as a Queens task force within the police force of the city’s department of sanitation—and whether one of its members is entitled to park in a commercial loading zone in Brooklyn, as happened last week. (I still haven’t gotten a straight answer.)

Walk the streets of New York, and you begin to feel like spending $1,200 for a fake placard—while a bargain compared to market monthly parking prices in Manhattan, which could cost $5,000 a year—isn’t even necessary. Drivers have adopted a range of hacks, including bending the edge of their license plates to obscure the numbers, to which police turn a blind eye. More prominent are the countless items of dashboard police paraphernalia offered up like votive candles. Their message: “Hey, I’m one of you.” In November, an illegally parked Chevy Suburban stocked the dash with an NYPD patch, NYPD and FDNY hats, “get out of jail free” cards from two police unions, a photo of the pope, and a gift-shop license plate that read “9-11-01.” (The largest NYPD union has cut back on its “get out of jail free” cards, which were being sold on eBay.)

Given the obvious power and value of these placards, counterfeits are good money.

An anonymous Twitter account called “Placard Abuse” has been cataloging these fakes for years. A fluorescent yellow vest? Good enough to park on a pedestrian path. A firefighter’s placard from the City of Yonkers, north of the Bronx County line? Sure, leave your car in Washington Heights. A book of tickets from 2010? Take the turn lane. Official ministerial business for the Ministerial Consulate of the Universal Life Church? Whatever.

“It frustrates me to no end,” says Sam Schwartz, an engineer who served as city transportation commissioner in the 1980s. The distribution of tens of thousands of legal permits to teachers, he said, is particularly egregious since the curbs in front of schools are supposed to be clear so that drivers in the street have a clear view of kids on the sidewalk. Schwartz recalled his time at the DOT as a full-fledged crackdown: “One of the best-attended meetings was when I addressed the United Nations and took away their parking permits. The Israelis and the Arabs were getting along; Iraq and Iran pouring coffee for each other. All united in attacking me.” Things have spiraled out of control since, Schwartz said, in part because the NYPD—not the city—now has jurisdiction over enforcement and is so evidently reluctant to ticket its own.

The simmer of low-level corruption at the police department is only part of the story, though. The inability of cities to understand the real value of curb space—and especially that it could be used for anything (parklets! Retail space!), not just personal car storage—continues to impede their ability to enact good policies. In Chicago, citizens belatedly learned just how valuable the curb could be after shortsighted officials under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley sold off a 75-year lease on the city’s parking meters to Morgan Stanley for a one-time, $1.2 billion fee. A report later found the city had undervalued the meters by at least $974 million. But that was only the beginning: The city has since found that it must compensate the bank every time a meter goes out of commission, which makes it expensive for the city to install bike lanes, bus lanes, or even hold a parade.

That is even more true in New York, where Manhattan traffic has slowed to the pace of molasses, prompting a widespread push for a toll on all incoming drivers. Manhattan streets are undoubtedly crowded, and the failure of the congestion pricing push is more proof politicians are reluctant to price street space at its true value. But they’re also mismanaged. Lanes allotted for buses and emergency vehicles are routinely used as NYPD parking spaces. (The cycle is vicious: The buses continue to shed ridership as cars impede their right of way.) Delivery zones intended to cut down on double-parked trucks are full of cars with borrowed placards. As New York tries, however half-heartedly, to nudge its streets toward global, big-city best practices, it is hamstrung by a massive, tacit non-enforcement agreement.

All this in a city where not even 1 in 3 people drive to work.

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reconbot
7 days ago
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New York City
satadru
15 days ago
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New York, NY
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«1975: And the Changes to Come»

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These pictures are from a 1962 book called 1975: And the Changes to Come by Arnold B. Barach. They predict what the world of the future looked like from the early 60s – and many of them turned out to be surprisingly accurate, though they didn’t necessarily come about by 1975.

14. What's On Capetown-Television Tonight?

This is the ultimate in proposed television sets for a decade hence. It can receive television signals bounced from circling satellites, bringing programs from any city on the globe. The spot of origin of the program is indicated by a light on the world map in the upper panels. Round dials are clocks showing the hour in four major time zones. Dials at right are for tuning and sound control. The set is only three inches thick. On the reverse side it is equipped with an international stereophonic radio.

15. House for a Small City Lot.

Lightweight steel arches are the secret of this low-cost house for a city lot of limited area. Note how arches span both living area and outdoor recreational area. Model with roof removed shows how living space would be arranged. By 1975, land to build on will be much scarcer than today in big-city areas, so architects experiment with new housing concepts such as this to make the most of what will be available.

16. Fun for the Family.

Designers prepare for the future with new recreational concepts for the family. This beach house has multicolored aluminum roof and glass walls, offering complete access to the out-of-doors. Peaked roof is 15.5 feet above the floor, and walls radiate from central column like spokes on a wheel.

http://www.voicesofeastanglia.com/2013/01/1975-and-the-changes-to-come.html
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satadru
9 days ago
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"House for a small city lot" "By 1975, land to build on will be much scarcer than today in big-city areas, so architects experiment with new housing concepts such as this to make the most of what will be available."
New York, NY
duerig
9 days ago
It is interesting to realize that houses like that aren't technically infeasible or too expensive. Rather they are illegal in most US cities. Maximum housing unit density is explicitly limited. And every house must have desginated setbacks from the property line on all sides with minimum yard sizes.
emdeesee
9 days ago
... and it is the emergent cartel of homeowners who tend to keep it this way. It's 2018 now, of course, but where I live there have been interesting developments (har har) in the zoning ordinance around housing, density, setbacks, and land use.
reconbot
7 days ago
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New York City
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1 public comment
zippy72
4 days ago
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Where can I get one of those hifi spheres?
FourSquare, qv

After ponying up half a billion for action plan, city asks for MTA accountability

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The city and state have spent months sparring over the subway action plan. With the money in place, can the MTA deliver?

I haven’t burned too many pixels writing about the politics behind the funding for the subway action plan because it is frankly an embarrassing distraction from the real issues at hand. The $1 billion will not, as Aaron Gordon recently wrote for The Village Voice, actually fix the subway problems, and the Mayor and Governor have both come across as childish and petty leaders who can’t set aside superficial differences to attack a problem affecting both of their constituencies. The MTA needs real reform and leadership, not money for arrows that urge people to move into the middle of a subway car.

Ultimately, the MTA is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s responsibility. The state controls MTA appointees and the makeup of the MTA Board, and that message has started to sink in more and more these days. Still, after months of politicking and disputes over dollars that stretched back to last summer, Bill de Blasio agreed to add nearly half a billion dollars to the subway action plan. With a new City Council more sympathetic to Cuomo and keen to move beyond this debate, the mayor granted Cuomo his wish, and the full plan will be funded. We’ll see how quickly this improves commutes; so far, the subway action plan hasn’t resulted in any noticeable improvements in subway reliability.

The move to fund the plan came in late March, and in late April, after alarming headlines on the bottomless money pit that is the East Side Access, the mayor and new City Council speaker Corey Johnson realized they had just handed a massive check to an unaccountable organization. And so the two dashed off a letter to the MTA asking for accountability. Here’s their reasoning:

As elected leaders of the City of New York who are responsible for its fiscal health, we must ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are not diverted away from the subway crisis to other MTA priorities. The City pressed aggressively for a “Lock Box” as a condition of providing $418 million towards the SAP. Now that the Lock Box has been made explicit in State law, it must be put into practice by the MTA.

It is important that the MTA provide detailed information about each of the plan elements, including the scope of work being performed, how success is defined, and how progress is measured. Unfortunately, although the MTA began implementing the SAP last July, it has provided scant details to the public on its progress and the MTA’s own “major incidents” metric shows little improvement in service. City taxpayers deserve to know that they are getting a good return on their investment. The public is skeptical when it comes to work performed by the MTA, especially given recent public reports about prolonged delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns on MTA projects. For example, the East Side Access Project, which started with a budget of $4.3 billion and a completion date in 2009, will now require an additional billion dollars with a completion date in 2022 and an estimated price tag of $11 billion. The Enhanced Station Initiative, which started with a budget of $936 million to renovate 33 subway stations, will now require $846 million to renovate only 20 stations.

It is incumbent upon the MTA to prove that it can be an effective steward of this short-term emergency plan and that the revenues with which it has been entrusted are prudently invested to deliver results. To that end, we must have certainty that the Lock Box will be implemented and that the City’s contribution will actually be spent on projects that will improve subway service.

On its surface, the letter is fairly ordinary. It asks for monthly status reports on accountability and service improvement and a keen attention on signal upgrades. But it has details that shows the author of the letter has been paying attention. In parts, the city officials ask the MTA to restore all service that has been cut over the years and urge the agency to reassess signal timers, another recent headline. “While the safety of the system needs to remain paramount,” the letter says, “it has become clear that the balance between safety and service when it comes to the signal timers installed since the 1990s needs to be reevaluated. In light of that fact that in most parts of the system construction of new lines is unrealistic in the near term, we must do all we can to maximize the capacity of the system we have.”

I’m somewhat skeptical this letter will do much to move the needle. After all, the city has already ponied up the money, and the letter doesn’t attach actionable conditions to the dollars. The city similarly dropped the ball a few years when the mayor walked into Cuomo’s trap on capital plan funding and failed to ensure its contributions would go toward identifiable city improvements. But the MTA has expressed a willingness to adhere to the city’s requests. Joe Lhota, last week, in fact said the MTA embraced the call for transparency but didn’t respond to each of de Blasio and Johnson’s requests.

We’ll see what comes of it, but I think the closing paragraph of the letter hit the mark: “Failure is not an option and we firmly believe that a more transparent process can lead to better, more effective implementation. We are eager for everyone to put politics aside and support the important work of improving the commutes of millions of New Yorkers. Beyond the SAP, fixing the subway will require fundamentally changing the way the authority does business, including identifying non-City-tax-levy dollars to assist with funding improvements.”

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reconbot
18 days ago
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New York City
satadru
19 days ago
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New York, NY
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