Mayor Bloomberg To New York State: Follow My Lead On Soda Ban

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Two weeks from today, Mayor Bloomberg's citywide ban on the sale of soda pop beverages above the 16 oz. size will take full effect. Once that occurs, all establishments regulated by the City's Health Department are expected to toss their fizzy beverages into the trash. Expect rioting from the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices (or whoever else is still morally opposed to this infringement of our civil drinking liberties).

However, there is a legislative linchpin in this ban that exempts hundreds of commercial businesses from soda pop regulation: if a grocery store, supermarket or bodega makes less than 50 percent of its sale from processed foods, that enterprise is under the oversight of New York State's Department of Agriculture, not the City.

In essence, this loophole will leave New Yorkers with the ability to walk right into, say, Gristede's and buy all of the 32 oz.'s of soda they wanted but the inability to do the same at any local pizzeria.

With that being said, the entire efficacy of the law (as well as the anti-ban advocates' immense frustration) comes into question. What's the point of having a half-ass soda ban? If this exemption exists, we can't even really call it a 'soda ban' - it's more like a 'soda inconvenience,' if anything, right?

Well, Mr. Bloomberg has apparently asked himself these questions, too. So, yesterday, he told Albany to jump on his banning bandwagon in an attempt to ensure that every 32 oz. in the State goes unturned.

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NYC Versus Montreal: Another Urban Cultural Breakdown

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MONTREAL -- This past summer, I took a quick, leisurely trip to the capital of our country for both historical and introspective reasons. D.C. was a far cry from New York; its citizens did not curse at one another, and no one dared to jaywalk. The city was arranged in neatly kept lines with neatly kept traffic and neatly kept people. All of these differences were epitomized in a piece you can find here.

Riding off of that compare-and-contrast mind-set, I spent the past five days up north with our Canadian brethren in the good ol' city of Montreal. So returning to New York, I have decided to once again do another urban culture breakdown, a la D.C. However, this one is a bit more international, and, on a side note for those predicting a relatively warm winter, it's already snowing in Montreal.

Now, the Quebec stronghold is similar to New York in a few aspects. The price of food and a night out on the town borders on the line between tolerable and pretty expensive. Also, to maintain a healthy smoking habit is a hefty burden in both cities (unfortunately, New Yorkers are blessed with packs that do not bare the "SMOKING KILLS" ads). Rent is a bit cheaper in Montreal -- a friend of mine had a beautiful two-bedroom apartment and only paid $800 a month -- but most people know by now that everywhere is cheaper than New York in that area of business.

All that aside, Montreal denizens do things drastically different than us. Here's a few things I picked up over my stay there:

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N.Y.C. Vs. D.C.: An Urban Culture Breakdown

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WASHINGTON D.C. - Every year, during the hot, humid, heat waves of summer, my father and I plan a historical trip of some sort to escape the hustle and bustle of New York for a few days and surround ourselves with nothing but some good ol' Founding Father lovin'. 

Last June, we traveled to Gettysburg and Antietam to check up on the once bloody Civil War sites. After endless amounts of shirts that said "Don't Tread on Me," faux Confederate flags and that fine line between insanity and historical re-enactment, we left the small towns full of antebellum nostalgia and headed back to Yankee Town.

This time around, we headed down to Washington D.C. for three days vacationing in our nation's capital. As homegrown New Yorkers, it was only natural that we stressed the fact to people where we're from, whether it was in a hotel lobby or in the back of a cab. While we explored the federal metropolis, our city instincts began to notice inherent differences between D.C. and N.Y.C. Streets, museums and general infrastructure aide, the urban cultures of both have striking characteristics that defines what it means to be from New York... and from D.C., we guess. 

And there's more than enough to scrap them all together into this blog post. Here's a few snippets from this tale of two cities:

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Peter Vallone, City Council Public Safety Chair, on Making New York's Roads Safer

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Yesterday, Runnin' Scared reported that Transportation Alternatives wants the NYPD to give out more speeding tickets, telling City Council that hurried, harried drivers cause unnecessary deaths.

By the group's calculations, more New Yorkers were killed in traffic -- 3,647 -- than
murdered by guns -- 3,558.

Indeed, TA is lobbying the City Council to put an end to dangerous driving, and told the Public Safety Committee on Thursday that cops just don't do enough to prevent people from going over the speed limit.

After the meeting, Juan Martinez (TA's general counsel) told Runnin' Scared: "We need data-driven traffic enforcement policies to figure out what's killing people in traffic."

"There's education that the NYPD can do," he said, pointing to successful anti distracted-driving campaigns. "Really, it comes down to enforcement. Everyone who speeds thinks that they can speed because they wont get a ticket. Once people get a ticket, they won't speed."

And it looks like key Council Members are on board with TA's thinking -- and are continuing the momentum from a recent transportation safety hearing.


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Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams to Ray Kelly: NYPD Must Have Oversight

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Lander
Councilmembers Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams want answers.

At a City Council budget oversight hearing today, they grilled NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly about how the department spends money -- specifically when it comes to surveillance and terrorism. But Kelly couldn't really say.

Lander and Williams, along with other council members, want to know exactly what happens to the cops' cash. And they think the best way to oversee the department is by creating an inspector general's office.

"Commissioner Kelly asks us to trust him that NYPD officers are following the law, but he either could not or would not tell us what the NYPD is spending our money on," he said post-hearing.

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With OWS Support, Advocates Plan Rally to Protest Post Office Closures

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In the age of who-uses-paper-for-anything-ever-anymore, there's one casualty in New York City that has activists from across the five boroughs up in arms: the post offices.

This month, a group of advocates are rallying together to bring attention to the United States Postal Service's plan to potentially shut down post offices throughout the city this year. The growing protest, organized through a newly-formed group called Community Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services, is targeting the Postal Service for planning closures that organizers say will disproportionately impact working class and low-income families in communities of color in the city. USPS, though, says that it is trying to tighten its belt in the face of dire financial challenges across the country and that it is choosing closures based on careful studies and specific criteria.

And last night, the effort got fresh support from Zuccotti Park -- the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly and the OWS labor committee endorsed a plan to demonstrate this month at post offices throughout the city.

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Crime Down in New York City for 2011; Central Park After Dark Now Just 'Boringly Safe'

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At Mayor Bloomberg's press conference about public safety today, he announced that crime in the city has been driven down 34 percent in the last 10 years, and that serious crime is down overall this year compared to last year, factoring in a change in the state's definition of felony assault. As of yesterday, the city had 499 murders in 2011, the third fewest since record-keeping began. "If you take a look at the NYPD, the resources that we devote to this size population, it is greater than other places," said Bloomberg. "We have funded the police department and the fire department to get these results."

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Financial District May Get a 'Tasteful' Nightly Light Show

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The Victoria Harbour Light Show.
When we think back upon the last few months in the Financial District, one thing we do not think is "Lower Manhattan should have a light show!" Nonetheless, that's what the Economic Development Corporation is after, a lighting initiative that would "transform the experience of [read: too dark/too quiet] Lower Manhattan at night," reports the New York Times. Because not enough tourists are flocking there after business hours. According to the Post, "The Bloomberg administration's goal is to attract tourists, residents, and new businesses and stimulate night life."

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Cooper Square Committee Protests Cooper Union Over St. Mark's Bookshop Rent

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Jocelyn Silver
Cooper Union held an inauguration ceremony today at noon for new president Jamshed Bharucha. In keeping with the revolutionary trend sweeping NYC, the Cooper Square Community Development Committee and Businessmen's Association staged a rather low-key protest for the struggling St. Mark's Bookshop at the ceremony, asking Cooper Union (their landlord) to lower their rent from $20,000 to $15,000 a month. There were about a dozen committee members present and passing out flyers. A few protestors also sang during the inauguration. Here are the lyrics of their song:


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Manhattan Gas Stations Are an Endangered Species

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The former Lukoil on Eighth Avenue between Horatio and West 13th.
New York City gas stations are fewer and farther between than ever, according to a Crain's article that reports there are just 41 remaining in Manhattan (there were 58 two years ago). There are 835 gas stations distributed throughout the five boroughs, with Manhattan's share counting for less than 5%. What do we blame for the disappearing gas station? The recession, plus ever-increasing costs of real estate and of delivering gasoline (meaning the stations that survive are at peripheral locations, on the edges of the city as opposed to the center, in Midtown).

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