Let's begin this post by saying there's no reason to worry, everybody is fine. (We've always wanted to write that — because let's be honest, when we start conversations with our mom that way she goes bananas.) See, there was a small explosion in Times Square early this morning, but nobody was hurt. Apparently somebody tossed an explosive device at a U.S. military recruiting center just before 4 a.m. today. The office's window was smashed, and a door was damaged. Traffic was interrupted for a while, but now it appears to be back to normal. The Department of Homeland Security says it's investigating whether it was terrorism-related, but according to NY1, there wasn't a sense of panic in the area this morning. Explained droll host Pat Kiernan: "It seemed people were annoyed by the nuisance as much as anything."
Small explosion hits New York's Times Square [Reuters]
Update: Mayor Bloomberg just held a press conference about this. It turns out that it was a bomb in an ammunition box. Bloomberg called the attack on the recruitment office an insult to our troops and added that "New York City is back and open for business." NYPD chief Ray Kelly said the device was not "particularly sophisticated" and explained that there is one witness who saw a suspicious hooded man on a bicycle passing the recruiting station just before the explosion.
And so it has finally happened: The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced it will give New York City a $354 million grant to implement a congestion-pricing system in the city. It's not quite the $500 million Mayor Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff told everyone the city stood to receive, but it's a whole lot more than nothing, too. It's a big win for the mayor, except for one thing. The Feds will only pay out on that grant if the state legislature signs off by March of next year — which means that seventeen-member commission formed just after the (alleged) application deadline pass a plan before then, and the city council, too, must agree to it. Shelly Silver, we think, is going to have a whole lot more fun.
U.S. Offers New York Millions for Congestion Pricing [City Room/NYT]
Earlier:Daily Intel's coverage of congestion pricing
• The Feds are expected to announce today that, yes indeed, they'll shell out the big bucks necessary for Bloomberg to execute his congestion-pricing dream plan — if Albany passes it first, that is. [NYT]
British Prime Minster Gordon Brown, who spent the past two days golf-carting around Camp David with President Bush, arrived in New York last night, where he met with President Clinton to talk about his anti-poverty plans and then gave a speech today at the United Nations on the same topic. (After which employees massed to photograph him while he spoke to reporters.) We'd mention the details of the plan, but the more relevant part is this: That's why there were all those cops around the Waldorf yesterday and today. Just in case you're curious. (We were.)
Earlier:President Bush and His Toy Car
As Geoffrey Gray warned us earlier, there's now a deal for congestion pricing. From City Room, the Times's metro blog:
“We have a deal,” Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, just told reporters in Albany. “Like any deal, like any arrangement, its [sic] subject to the definitive word ending up on paper. As we speak, we are drafting paper, press release, with the governor’s office, with the Assembly.”
Asked if the deal would still qualify for a grant of $500 million in federal financing, Mr. Bruno said: “We are told if we get this there today, we will be one of the nine considered.”
Thought you didn't have to hear any more about congestion pricing? You may not be so lucky. This morning's Daily News reported that a marathon private negotiation went till the wee hours last night, putting Bloomberg and Albany leaders tantalizingly close to a deal to salvage the mayor's traffic plan. "We are extraordinarily close, but it's just not going to get there tonight," Spitzer's spokesman told the News just before midnight. "All the pieces have not come together." Well, the word we're now hearing is that those pieces have finally come together. A source in City Hall tells New York's Geoffrey Gray that they'll be holding a press conference in a few hours to announce a deal. We wouldn't hold our breath — considering the mercurial people involved — but it's what we're hearing.
Related:Congest Fight U-Turn [NYDN]
We missed this in yesterday's paper, presumably because we were so distracted by Bloomberg's unsuccessful shuttle diplomacy in Albany: While London, Stockholm, and Singapore all have successful congestion-pricing programs, and while Scandinavian capitals have longstanding center-city transportation cultures built around bicycles, and while an art installation in Soho last week made bikes available to New Yorkers for a few days, Paris is now trying to beat its traffic problems by making some 10,000 bicycles available for nominal fees around the city — there'll be 20,000 and change by the end of the year — for people to rent from one of 750 stations, ride to where they need go, and return to another station. This plan sounds like it could be another good way to get some cars off the road and emissions out of the air. Could it be congestion pricing 2.0, Mike? Of course not! It's an interesting and innovative idea; Shelly Silver must hate it.
A New French Revolution's Creed: Let Them Ride Bikes [NYT]
You know what? Let's just give up on this whole congestion- pricing business. We're now convinced it'll make no difference, anyway. Keeping a car in Manhattan is such a profoundly terrible idea, such a profoundly impractical one, that clearly those inexplicably sold on it won't be deterred by a little additional fee. Witness a test case reported in today's Times: A Long Island family that regrets not having snapped up a private parking space in Chelsea for $168,000 when they had the chance. Turns out it would have made a great investment property, with spaces in the neighborhood now going for $225,000. (The kicker is that, in several new condos, your $200,000 parking space comes with a $50 monthly maintenance. That's right, for a swatch of poured concrete.) So who pays this kind of money? Well, our heroine is a Long Island mother of three kids, ages 7, 9, and 11, who is brought to Manhattan at least twice a week by "her children's modeling schedules." We rest our case.
For Parking Space, the Price Is Right at $225,000 [NYT]
• Eliot Spitzer admits to the Times that his feud with Joe Bruno has become "ugly" and "eclipse[d] all discussion of policy and legislation." Plus, all the personal attacks are upsetting Mrs. Spitzer, who now regrets her husband didn't go into real estate. [NYT]
• The city is opening 290 "cooling centers" to help New Yorkers beat the heat; "I don't care how strong you are, you should take some precautions," Mayor Bloomberg declared, sounding even more like a testy grandmother than usual. [amNY]
• Now this is getting interesting: The Department of Transportation under Janette Sadik-Khan is trying to hire Danish planner Jan Gehl as a consultant (as Daily Intel reported two weeks ago), and now word is that his proposals include banning cars from Times Square. [NYDN]
• At the Phil Spector trial, the judge has allowed in a piece of blockbuster testimony from the producer's bodyguard — who says he's heard Spector say "all women should be shot in the head." [WNBC]
• And a Manhattan psychologist, William Swan, is accused of groping a prospective assistant during an interview and showing her porn to boost her "assertiveness." In an apparent triumph, she's now assertive enough to sue and go to the press. [NYP]