Murder at Deutsche Bank?
• The deaths of two firefighters in the Deutsche Bank blaze this weekend may be classified as homicides — and it could be negligent contractors, who disabled a critical standpipe, and chain-smoking Eastern European immigrants, who started the fire, who are accused of murdering them. [NYP]
it just happened
Feds to City: Decongest!
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
in other news
Or, You Could Just Keep Your Damned Car on Long IslandYou 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]
the morning line
Anything God Can Do, Rudy Can Do Better
• Giuliani yesterday unveiled the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, a “Contract with America”–style plan called — we kid you not — “The Twelve Commitments.” Most of it is boilerplate, calling for low taxes, energy independence, security. Best part: America’s Mayor unleashed it during a “speech attended by about 150 people.” Fred Thompson leads in the polls. [NYP]
in other news
Augustine Asiedu, the Last King of New York?
How do you know New York’s still the capital of the world? Our car-service kingpins are actual kingpins. Augustine Asiedu, the president of a Brooklyn limo company called Fone-A-Car, has been charged with looting the business to finance a million-dollar election campaign in his native Ghana. The kicker? Dude won — and now, under the name Nana Amoakoh, he serves in the country’s parliament. Which, needless to say, complicates extradition. We went looking for an official bio of Mr. Asiedu/Amoakoh, but the Ghanaian government’s Website is down (now, that doesn’t bode well for a country). We’re left to imagine his campaign slogan: “Our guy will be there in five minutes. Vote Amoakoh.”
Owner Is Accused of Looting His Car Service to Seek Office in Africa [NYT]
in other news
New Yorkers Can’t Drive (and Now We Might Be Fined for It)
Congestion pricing is hardly the only idea Mayor Bloomberg has to separate Manhattan motorists from their money. He’s now proposing harsher penalties for “blocking the box.” Under his plan the fine will only go up from $90 to $115. Even better, instead of a cop pulling the culprit over in the middle of traffic to write a ticket, probably worsening the jam in the process, a red-light camera will simply snap a picture of the offender’s license plate. Before you know it, the ticket’s in the mail. Incidentally, the new rule should open up a nice and steady revenue source for the city, as new research suggests we don’t know what the hell we’re doing behind the wheel. In a recent nationwide test of driver knowledge, New Yorkers finished dead last; even New Jerseyans did better. One of the questions asked the proper protocol for approaching a yellow light. The answer was, shockingly, not “honk and floor it.”
‘Block’-Heads Better Beware [NYP]
New Yorkers Stop For Yellow Light? Hey, Fuhgeddaboudit! [NYDN]
Takin’ Care of Business
We can’t decide if this dude — photographed by dedicated Daily Intel reader Simon Curtis last night at Broadway and West 55th Street — is actually, really, legitimately working from his car (which would be kind of cool), making some sort of statement on America’s automobile culture or the high rents in midtown Manhattan (which would be less cool but still sort of interesting), or simply engaging in a PR stunt (in which case we’ve been suckered). It was a nice night for it, at least.
[Snap a Photo Op–worthy shot? Send it to us at email@example.com.]
the morning line
Congestion Pricing, Coming Soon to a Midtown Near You!
• The mayor will use Earth Day to unveil a barrage of housing, transit, and environmental proposals. In the spotlight today: a charge for drivers to enter midtown, a cabbies’ dream and car commuters’ nightmare. [NYT]
• Governor Spitzer is requesting FEMA aid, including disaster unemployment relief, for twelve counties hit hard by the weekend’s nor’easter. New York City is in line for some federal funds as well. [WSTM]
• Albany, meantime, is proposing the so-called Paw and Claw Tax (on pet food, natch), with the money going toward shelters. The tax would apply to “dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits and birds.” Your ferret is now a bargain. [NYS]
• Tom Cruise, whom the Post now dubs “the diminutive Scientologist,” hit Chelsea (an easy joke there) to raise funds for his questionable sauna-and-vitamins program for 9/11 emergency workers. Reporters were banned. [NYP]
• And it took two fumbling attempts for the NYPD scuba team to tow the departed Sludgie the Whale from Gowanus to his final resting place in Jersey City. Deadpanned one detective by way of equivocation, “This was my first whale.” [WNBC]
West Chelsea Car-Elevator Apartments: Going Down?
No doubt you remember the hype: Architect Annabelle Selldorf’s design for 200 Eleventh Avenue included private car elevators, which would lift owners, still in their vehicles, to their apartments. Selldorf was allegedly inspired by the body-shop flatlands of West Chelsea, but it was no coincidence that this extra layer of privacy made the building attractive to celebrities; there was a report that Madonna was scouting a unit. But now the Fire Department might put an end to all that fun. Howard Hill, FDNY’s chief of fire prevention, in early February wrote to the city’s Buildings Department, to object to the plan. “For obvious life-safety reasons,” he wrote, “this design concept and use should be prohibited.”
Bloomberg’s Planners Hear Public on Traffic Woes, Would Rather Talk About Something Else
Back in December, when civic groups proposed the idea of “congestion pricing” — charging cars to enter midtown during prime hours, as a way to control Manhattan’s ever-more-horrible traffic — Mayor Bloomberg quickly danced away from it. “The politics of a commuter tax in Albany are probably such that we would never get it passed,” he told the Times then. “And what I want to do is focus on those things that we can get passed to help our city.” He’s since launched PlaNYC, a canvass for opinions about how to help the city survive a million new residents and sharply higher sea levels by 2030, and it seems congestion pricing has wedged its way back into consideration.
We Have Seen the Traffic, and It Is Us
If you’re like us, you’ve probably tried to reconcile your daily observations of forever-snarled Manhattan traffic with the fact that neither you, nor anyone you know, owns a car. Then, if you’re like us, you’ve assumed that it’s all suburban commuters’ fault. If so, the Times has some shocking revelations for you today. The data:
• Total number of daily car commuters in Manhattan: 263,000
• Number of those commuters who live within the five boroughs: 141,000
• Percentage of total commuters who live within the five boroughs: 53
• Number of those commuters who live in Queens: 51,300
• Percentage of total commuters who live in Queens: 19.5
• Number of those commuters who live in Manhattan: 23,900
• Percentage of total commuters who live in Manhattan: 9
• Percentage of total commuters who merely pass through Manhattan en route elsewhere: 20
• Percentage of government workers who drive to work: 35
• Amount those government workers pay for parking: $0
In Traffic’s Jam, Who’s Driving May Be Surprising [NYT]
Cabs, Gays, and Celeb Car Thefts
• The tabs are aghast at yesterday’s taxicab rate hike, with the Post using words like “adding insult to injury” and the Daily News predicting a ruined Christmas. Completely buried in populist outrage: The TLC will also cease requiring cabbies to be legal U.S. residents. [NYDN, NYP]
• The Times gets a take on New Jersey’s new gay-rights situation from the Gay American himself, the state’s former governor, Jim McGreevey. Would he tie the knot with his partner Mark O’Donnell? Yes! [NYT]
• In celebrity-crime-victim news, Jesse L. Martin’s SUV was broken into and burgled in his hometown of Buffalo — just as the police made a second arrest in the violent theft of Mayor Bloomberg’s car in New Jersey. [WNBC]
• The MTA says that free hand-distributed newspapers are a major cause of flooding on subways. (They clog the drains.) Earlier in the year, the same papers were blamed for the uptick of underground fires. amNew York to add twelve extra pages for the story’s comprehensive coverage. [amNY]
• Speaking of flooding: NASA has rigged a computer model to demonstrate how a 2050s New York City would deal with a major storm. Not very well, it turns out. Flooded areas include “the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, lower Manhattan, and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge.” Oh, no! Even Williamsburg, too! [Mongabay]
Madonna in Malawi; Trump in TrafficMadonna really has adopted a Malawian kid, and today his name is David, not Luca. Donald Trump got boxed in by a UPS truck. Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King enjoyed the Streisand concert, as did other famous people. The Babs heckler is a stalker, according to Ken Sunshine. And Keith Olbermann’s bloggy stalker claims he stood her up. Tara Reid had a bad boob job, isn’t always drunk. Cindy Adams tells random baseball stories. Regis Philbin and Michael Eisner had lunch. Mike Bloomberg went to new Hearst building, has never been to new Bloomberg building. Vince Vaughn broke up with Jennifer Aniston last week, now makes out with other chicks. Ex–San Francisco first lady Kerry Kennedy is dating Times reporter Neil MacFarquhar. Kimberly Guilfoyle had a baby. Cindy Adams wore a wig to the airport. Isaiah Washington and Patrick Dempsey got in a fistfight while shooting Grey’s Anatomy, then they had a meeting. Hugh Hefner plays dominoes with his girlfriends, and that’s actually not a euphemism. Mike Bloomberg will close two lanes of Park Avenue to test-drive an Audi. A Blender writer will listen to “We Built This City” 324 times, for no apparent reason.
Snipping Toward the Finish Line
Alan Tosler is well known as a hairstylist to New York’s art stars at his Tosler Davis salon (one of New York’s Best of 2005). Turns out, though, that he can handle not just his scissors but also his corners. Earlier this month, Tosler, in his 1964 MGB, won Virginia Raceway’s Governor’s Cup, a major race in the Sportscar Vintage circuit. “It’s the polar opposite of what I do,” says Tosler, whose clients include Imitation of Christ designer Tara Subkoff and photographer Jessica Craig-Martin. “The other drivers say to me, ‘You don’t look like a hairdresser!’ I think they mean that I don’t look gay,” he says. (He’s straight. Married with two children.) Tosler’s racing schedule doesn’t faze the creatives he clips. “The last time I went in, he wasn’t there because he was in a race,” says Art Production Fund co-founder Yvonne Force, a three-year Toslerite. “But I love that. It’s an odd yet interesting part of him that I definitely appreciate — a dangerous and passionate obsession.” Tosler himself is less dramatic about it. “I feel macho when I race, and then I go back and snip artists’ hair,” he says. Not that we’re suggesting there’s anything unmacho about that.
— Emma Rosenblum