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The Environment

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Ground Zero Claims Two More

• Two firefighters died Saturday in a blaze in the abandoned Deutsche Bank building adjacent to ground zero. The pair "walked into a horror show," as Spitzer put it, when they met a maze of protective polyurethane sheets that may have made the fire harder to fight. [amNY]

Can't We Just Blame Everyone?

• With Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan dead, the finger-pointing begins in earnest. Mayor Mike decries Albany's lack of "guts" while state officials accuse the mayor of springing a fully formed proposal on them at the last possible moment. [NYT]

Damn You, John Stossel

At Live Earth, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and John Stossel continued their public feud over global warming. Ron Perelman and Gina Gershon are hanging out on Perelman's yacht off the coast of Italy, but they may not be dating. Eliot Spitzer and Charles Schumer are weekend telephone buddies. Former Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi no longer holds a grudge against Rudy Giuliani, even though Giuliani successfully prosecuted him for bribery twenty years ago. Al D'Amato is happy he's going to be a father again. Mel Gibson bought a $39.5 million estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. NBC accidentally featured Katie Couric in a Today-show promo. Hillary Clinton is hosting three Hamptons fund-raisers the first weekend of August.

Oil and Water

One advantage of that flooding that's bound to overtake New York? Deeper waters will presumably make it all the more difficult for oil tankers to run aground off Coney Island, as this one, the White Sea, did this morning. (Reportedly no oil was spilled.) See, a benefit to global warming: It'll make it easier to import oil. Perfect! Oil Tanker Runs Aground Off Coney Island [AP via Crain's]

Was Live Earth a Failure?

The conventional wisdom on Live Earth, last Saturday's Al Gore–wrangled series of eight concerts around the world, is developing: It was a big, fat flop, conservative commentators are saying — and they're gleeful about that, because, they say, it's upsetting Gore's supposed "grand plan" (Oscar win to Live Earth to Nobel Prize to presidency, natch). "The organizers … were hoping to attract 2 billion viewers to their cause but managed a slender 2.7 million," writes Nicholas Wapshott in today's Sun. And, yeah, wow, that's quite a failure. Except that Wapshott's number is totally wrong. He cites only the U.S. ratings for the Saturday-night broadcast on NBC. Though a relative disappointment in the United States, the concerts were seen in 178 countries on an array of platforms. Bravo, which carried the shows, registered its best-ever Saturday; on BBC1 in the United Kingdom, it snared 4.5 million viewers against Wimbledon. The shows also set records online, including an all-time viewing high on MSN with 30 million streams. Last but not least, there were also eight stadiums' worth of live viewers. In short, those hoping that Al Gore will "grow another beard," as Wapshott puts it, and skulk away will have to wait a while longer. Until a voting-machine mix-up in Stockholm County sends his Nobel to Rupert Murdoch. Cringe-Making Concerts [NYS] 'Live Earth' Concerts No Big TV Draw [AP]

Except for at Bloomberg, It's Not Easy Being Green

Another day, another company going green: Today it's Bloomberg LP (which, frankly, was a bit of a surprise; we'd assumed Mike's moneymaker has long been running on, oh, let's say discarded trans fats). It was only a matter of time, then, before we'd see some sort of backlash from the "traditional" utility forces. In California, L.A.'s Department of Water & Power (yes, the corporate villain of Chinatown) has pulled the plug on Gore Vidal's home solar-power plant, literally ripping out the wires and taking down the panels. Supposedly the system was improperly installed; now Vidal is back on the grid like a good little customer.

How Green Was Your Live Earth?

Al Gore's multi-continent, multi-hour Live Earth concert on Saturday was an impressive event for an impressive cause. But two days later, we're still trying to figure out just how impressively green it was, at least at its New York outpost at Giants Stadium. Gore, to his credit, rode Amtrak up from Washington, but, well, let's just say we're not sure everyone else made such an effort. At least some box seats at the stadium, we were told, had no glass enclosure — which meant that to keep VIPs cool, A/C was blasted on high throughout the concert, into the open air. The press was relegated to an aptly named media bubble, a giant off-white tent in the parking lot, which also offered A/C. (Not that we're complaining!) Volunteers stood by the trash cans, helpfully directing the garbage into one of three piles: compost, recycling, and “waste,” 90 percent of which, a sign promised, would be diverted away from the landfills. A man wandered through the tent, dispensing yogurt smoothies from a backpack connected to a squirt gun. There was no vegetarian option on the snack table — just ham and American cheese.

Duck Man, RFK Jr., Boldfacers Go Green at Theory

When we heard there'd be a "bazaar" to celebrate the green lifestyle at the new Theory store on Gansevoort Street, we hoped to find a carnival-esque atmosphere. Pin the Tail on the Kyoto Treaty. Bobbing for litter. Al Gore in a dunk tank. We were disappointed. Though the vegan, soy-and-dairy-free ice cream from Pure Food and Wine was divine, the party the other night felt, well, earthly -- packed, as most parties are, with a bunch of people standing around and drinking. And listening. There's no surer way to kill a buzz than a long and impassioned lecture from Robert Kennedy Jr. linking our failure to combat global warming to a failure in national security.

Jay McInerney Breaks His Foot on a Cliché

Jay McInerney broke his foot running to hail a cab. Outside the Waverly Inn. Martha Stewart and Cosmo editor Kate White were among Glamour's "Top 10 College Women." Pete Wentz and girlfriend Ashlee Simpson cut the bathroom line at Wentz's bar, Angels and Kings. A documentary adaptation is being filmed of Crimes Against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s indictment of President Bush's environmental policy. Hugh Hefner praised a story in Elle that trashed some of his girlfriends, even though he told the girls he'd write a critical letter to the editor about it. Katie Couric had breakfast with Ted Koppel.

Green School

• Nine New York universities, including Columbia, CUNY, NYU, and Pratt, have signed on to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2017. This exceeds Bloomberg's PlaNYC goals and should, the mayor says, "make a sizable dent" in the city's carbon footprint. [amNY] • A 15-year-old Connecticut girl who disappeared a year ago was found alive, apparently imprisoned in a secret room of her parents' acquaintances' house. [NYP] • Someone is destroying entire print runs, and harassing the editors, of the city's two Urdu-language weeklies that cater to Pakistani-Americans. This is perhaps an inopportune moment to say it, but how cool is it that we have two Urdu weeklies? [CPJ] • More mayhem: A "strapping" and "burly" (in the Daily News' oddly swooning description) ex-con prowled the 2 train for a week, stealing iPods and gold jewelry plus kissing and exposing himself to women. [NYDN] • And Frank Gehry is going to design a playground in Battery Park, as a "gift to the city." Aw, you shouldn't have! As opposed to Miss Brooklyn, which you really, you know, shouldn't have. [NYT]

You Can Find Brooklyn’s Toxic Sludge

A little freaked out about the 10 million gallons of toxic sludge lurking under Brooklyn and seeping toward the surface? Afraid it might be oozing toward you? You'll be thankful, then, for the efforts of Michael Heimbinder, a Fort Greene resident and member of the Newtown Creek Alliance. He's created an interactive map of Greenpoint, the most affected neighborhood, on which you can learn all about the occasionally escaping sewage and pinpoint known polluted spots. "I wanted to take the opportunity that the Internet offers to create the connection between what's happening in the city — air pollution, water pollution — and what's happening in New Yorkers' apartments," Heimbinder explained. Now you can know all too well. —Rebecca Ruiz Explore Newtown Creek [HabitatMap.org] The Ooze [NYM]

Al Gore's Assault on the Upper East Side

Al Gore spoke at the 92nd Street Y last night, and crowds thronged the Upper East Side institution's Lexington Avenue entrance in advance of the talk. There were a handful of Gore 2008 campaigners, a group of enthusiastic — if basically nonsensical — Lyndon LaRouche supporters, (none of whom came from New York and most of whom were dressed in fat suits and leaves), and a great number of enamored New Yorkers. They stood around, confused and bemused by the LaRouchies, waiting for friends to arrive — mostly, alas, in cars — for the lecture. We asked them about their thoughts on Gore, the election, and their carbon footprints.

Greening the Yellow Cab: Thumbs-Up

Who says the press doesn't like good news? Mayor Bloomberg's announcement today that he'll force the city's 13,000 yellow cabs to go hybrid by 2012 is, we'd say, splendid, sterling, superb. Some will argue he should have acted sooner; those people are small-minded. Some will say that this is all part of the grand scheme to raise Bloomberg's national profile in service of his 2008 presidential run; those people are thinking too hard. This is simply a rare case of a good idea whose time has come. Not that there aren't some politics at work: City councilman David Yassky, who was frustrated when the administration diluted his green cab proposal back in 2002, kept the issue alive. And by doing ecofriendly things that are under the city's control, Bloomberg adds some momentum to the push for his 2030 sustainability package, whose biggest transformations require the action of state and federal officials. Next up: Look for a Bloomberg biofuel initiative. The mayor inherited a city where public schools still burned coal. He may leave one that smells like soy. —Chris Smith Bloomberg Proposes Energy Efficient Taxi Fleet [NYT] Related: Uncool New York [NYM]

New York's Racistest?

• The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the Fire Department for discriminating against minorities. A complaint filed in Brooklyn alleges that the firefighter recruitment exam is racially weighted and serves to "weed out" blacks and Latinos. [Metro] • We've said it should take more than greening your mansion to make it into the news. This qualifies: An abandoned upstate steel mill has reinvented itself as a wind farm, a first for the Rust Belt. [NYT] • Peter Braunstein didn't just want to kill Anna Wintour: He also spoke of heading down to New Orleans to head up a gang of angry Katrina survivors, according to a shrink. (Braunstein did briefly pretend to be a hurricane victim to get free food and shelter while on the run.) [amNY] • Subway Superman Wesley Autrey left NBC's Deal or No Deal with $25 after picking the wrong suitcase (the other two held $1 million and $10,000, respectively). No X-ray vision, then. [NYDN] • And there's some sort of conspiracy afoot among the Post, CBS, Amy Fisher, and Joey Buttafuoco to pretend that there's some juice left in the Long Island pair's story — enough, perhaps, to sustain a reality show. Let's not encourage any of them. [NYP]

Will Bill Clinton Push Congestion Pricing?

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton popped up at the city's Climate Summit today to lend his name and considerable funding clout to greening the city. Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC calls for city buildings to decrease carbon emissions by 2017, and Clinton has brokered a deal that might actually achieve that goal. Five banks (including local institutions JPMorgan Chase and Citibank) committed $5 billion to finance new insulation and lighting for buildings in sixteen cities, including New York. Four energy companies will audit the work at discount prices, and three trade groups will train minorities and the unemployed to rehab the buildings. Clinton didn't stop the giving there — Bloomberg predicted a "creative ongoing partnership with the Clinton Foundation," which we guess will be put to work on congestion pricing. With a cajoler-in-chief like Clinton at his side, Bloomberg just might be able to persuade state lawmakers to support it. —Alec Appelbaum

Rupert Goes Green — Except for That Whole Using-Tons-of-Paper Thing

Maybe John Kerry's right, and environmentalism truly isn't a partisan issue anymore. How else to explain the latest passenger on the bandwagon, Rupert Murdoch, who has just promised to take his News Corporation carbon-neutral within four years? An ultracheery news item — in the Post, of course — breaks down the massive undertaking into smaller initiatives. For instance, the 20th Century Fox lot will switch to solar-powered golf carts. The 24 crew will use biodiesel-powered generators for outdoor scenes. (That must well complement the show's commitment to recycling: How many times has Jack gone rogue? CTU been invaded? Vice-president conspired?) Apparently this should go a long way toward negating the 641,150 tons of carbon News Corp. belched out in 2006 alone. But environmentally friendly explosions aside, we can't help but notice one little problem.

Spitzer's Mansion to Go Green

In a one-home version of PlaNYC 2030, the state's first lady, Silda Wall Spitzer, is turning the governor's mansion fashionably green. The 39-room Queen Anne was built in 1875, and, as you might imagine, it isn't a model of energy efficiency. The planned $650,000 renovation — the state will pick up a third of that, just as it would if you were to green up your mansion — actually doesn't sound all that drastic: a few solar panels, a switch to electric mowers and hybrid vehicles throughout the property (no word on what will power the steamroller), and, um, new lightbulbs. The goals are similarly modest: halving the greenhouse-gas emissions from the mansion and reducing its yearly electric bill, which the AP places at $86,000, to a mere $60,000. (The nation's most currently notorious utility bill, Al Gore's, is $30,000.) We like the Spitzers' realism, but one is left wishing for something a little more inspirational. Shouldn't a truly green governor, like, grow his own wheat and make electricity? We know, we know: Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno must be tying his hands. Governor's Mansion To Become Greenhouse Model [AP via amNY]

Let's Go to the Swap

The new trend in clothes-shopping among the city's more environmentally conscious sorts are clothing swaps, like last Sunday's Swap-o-rama-rama (that's not a typo) inside NYU's Eisner & Lubin Auditorium. (There's a smaller swap this Sunday afternoon, from 3 to 5 p.m., at 49 Warren Street in Manhattan.) It's a simple idea: Walk in with a bag full of clothes, pay $10, and walk out with as much as you can carry. This is not vintage shopping in the fashion-y, "curated," sense; rather, swappers peruse tables piled high with disused crap, hoping for the occasional gem. Polyester and pleats considered too weird to be vintage move on to a new life phase: Sewing machines lined the NYU room, and participants were invited to transform unwearable pieces into dolls, bras into handbags, and sweaters into mittens. We spoke to a few shoppers about their finds.