Quilas: Bike Sharer

I am now an official bike sharer.

How did this happen, you ask? How is it that I, who sat on the fence for so long regarding “Citibikes,” have become a card-carrying member? I received an annual membership for my birthday! And because I recently became a member of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union*, I received a $35 discount, bringing the cost down to $60. (Although, once I saw that LESPFCU members got a $35 discount, you can be sure I would have opened an account.)

For those who live in NYCHA housing, or are members of approved credit unions, be aware that the Citibike web site might give you an error message when you enter your discount code:

citibike-error-msg

As long as you know it’s a valid code, continue with the signup process. The confirmation email you get will show the discounted price you paid.

citibike-welcome-msg
citibike-price

So in about ten business days, I will rejoin the mass of people who bike to work.
(I used to ride my bike to work a long time ago, when I lived too far away to walk).

quilas-bike-share

***

The bike share program in New York is run by a company called Alta Bicycle Share. Alta is currently under investigation by the Department of Labor after sixteen current and former employees of Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare circulated a petition asking for back pay and benefits. According to the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), contractors and subcontractors with federal and D.C. agencies must pay their workers the prevailing wages and benefits in their locality. Alta’s 2010 contract with the District Department of Transportation states that they are bound by the wage determinations made by the SCA. According to that contract, “Bicycle Repairers” should be paid $14.43 an hour, plus either $3.35 an hour or $580.66 a month in “health & welfare” benefits. They should also receive two weeks of paid vacation and paid federal holidays. The SCA also covers part-time workers—under the act, they should be paid the same wages and receive benefits appropriate for their time spent at work.

Unlike Capital Bikeshare, the CitiBike program doesn’t receive government funds. For now, it’s completely underwritten by CitiBank and MasterCard, who paid $41 million and $6.5 million, respectively, to have their names on the bikes. The underwriters receive no profits, but the city says it will share any profits with Alta. Because the bikes are completely funded by a corporate sponsor, the workers for CitiBike are not subject to the city’s living wage law for city-funded jobs, which would require a minimum pay rate of $10.20 an hour with benefits or $11.75 an hour without benefits.

***

Back in early June, I received this email:

jerimiah-moss-petition

Jeremiah Moss has a web site called Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, but apparently he’s a MoveOn member also. (The petition came from MoveOn.org).

The idea that people who live in the vicinity of Frank’s Bike Shop and take Citibikes to get to work are causing Frank Arroyo to lose his business is absurd. People don’t rent bikes from bike stores to get to work. As far as tourists go, anyone who buys 24-hour Citibike passes still has only 30 minutes to get their bike to another station before they start incurring late charges. According to a NY Post article, Frank’s charges $30/day for a rental. A four-hour trip on a Citibike, without changing bikes every thirty minutes, would cost $73.00. There is no comparison.

People make any sort of claim, and just assume that it will be believed. What if Citibank didn’t sponsor the bike share program in New York? What if the city paid for it, under the DOT? Would these people still complain? Probably.

    Dear Quilas,

    Frank Arroyo has sold bottled water on the Lower East Side for 37 years. Recently, the city placed a water fountain in a park just 150 feet from his store, Frank’s Deli. Now his business is in jeopardy.

***

Finally, one last tidbit of information. Alta Bicycle Share is based in Portland, Oregon, and currently operates bike share programs in eight cities: seven in the U.S. and one in Australia.

  • CoGo Bike Share is a project of the City of Columbus, Ohio;
  • Bay Area Bike Share is a project in a partnership among local government agencies of the bay area of California;
  • Divvy is a program of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), which owns all of the system’s bikes, stations and vehicles;
  • Citi Bike is operated by NYC Bike Share LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share;
  • Bike Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System is a project of the City of Chattanooga and is managed by Outdoor Chattanooga, a division of Chattanooga Parks & Recreation;
  • Hubway, the Boston-area program, indicates that the program is run by the municipalities it connects;
  • Capital Bikeshare is owned by the participating jurisdictions of the Washington D.C. area;
  • Melbourne Bike Share is operated through a partnership between the government and Alta Bicycle share.

Of all of the programs operated by Alta, only New York’s is owned by a private company, and only New York’s has a company logo on the bike. Furthermore, of the programs serviced by Public Bike Share Company, the bicycle manufacturer, the only other city that has a company logo on the bike is London, and theirs is Barclay’s Bank. Maybe that makes sense.

nyc-london
 
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*The name “Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union” is, in the words of Jimmy McMillan, too damn long!

Cop Shoes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended the Tompkins Square Park 25th Police-Riot Reunion concerts. That is, I went for a little while. I don’t know if anyone stayed for the whole thing.

I was there taking pictures, because I read in the Comments Section of another blog:

tsp-riot-reunion-bands

and I’m a sucker for crowds.

Well… let’s just say it wasn’t “huge”.

cop-shoes

This leads me to the first part of my story. Take a look at the guy standing on the left side of the photo. I didn’t focus on him – I was just getting a crowd shot – but I saw him giving me the eye. I knew right away what he was thinking: that I was a cop.

“Are you a cop?” he said.

I chuckled. “No,” I told him. He didn’t say anything, he just turned away, and then back again. “Look,” I said, “let me tell you something. The one way you can tell who’s a cop, no matter what else they look like, is by their shoes. Cops need shoes they can run in. You can see,” I said, holding out my besandaled right foot, “I can’t run in these.”1

I don’t know if he was satisfied by this or not, but it’s not important. It’s a good story.

***

As I mentioned in Scofflaws, All I had a problem with my foot. It was caused by the heel of my left shoe collapsing over time, until I developed a severe pain in my heel, called plantar fasciitis. I got rid of those shoes and switched to a pair with firmer soles, but they were only a temporary fix. The pain didn’t get worse, but it wasn’t getting better quickly enough. I knew I would have to break down and shell out some serious money for real shoes if I ever wanted to walk again without hobbling.

As luck would have it, I have a friend who works at a shoe store that specializes in fixing people’s feet. He does the same type of production work I do, but because he does it in a shoe store, he can get a discount on shoes. So after putting it off long enough, I went to his store.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but the salesman examined my feet and made his suggestion: sensible shoes with support in the heel and in front, and orthotic inserts. They’re over-the-counter inserts that he modified to give me more support beneath my third and fourth metatarsals. This is what they look like:

fluchos

I have to tell you, these are the most comfortable shoes I’ve had in a long time! The pain in my heel is gone completely when I wear them, and only barely noticeable when I take them off. What they say is true: you should treat your feet like you’re going to have them your whole life.

Anyway, cop shoes. I told my friend before I left the store that they looked like black, nurse shoes. He said they weren’t so bad, and when I saw myself in a full-length mirror I saw that he was right. But they do look like cop shoes. No longer will I be able to convince hardcore fans that I’m not a cop.

The story next time:

“Are you a cop?” he said.

I chuckled. “No,” I told him. He didn’t say anything, he just turned away, and then back again. “Yes you are,” he said. “Only cops would wear those shoes.”

“What about nurses?” I said.

“No,” he said.2

***

After I had decided on my current shoes, I asked the salesman what he had that I could get next time, after my feet were back in shape. He showed me a pair that were good, that have the support I need. So this will be my next pair. If I put away a dollar day, I can get them in 450 days!3

mephisto-wingtips

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1 Conversation not verbatim.
2 Conversation likely to be verbatim.
3 A little less, with the friend-discount.

Scofflaws, All – Part 2

While video taping bikers for Scofflaws, All, I discovered two other situations that exist Houston Street and First Avenue: 2) bikers who go through the red light at First Street and don’t even look! as people with the Walk sign cross the street; and 3) people who stand in the street waiting for the Walk light at First Street, as bikers try to get into the bike lane.

I went back with my video camera on 8/23 but I found that Situation Number 2 is not that common. I thought it might be because on 8/21, when I crossed the street with the light, a woman on a bike almost ran into me. She was coming right at me (slowly but steadily) as I crossed the street. When I could see that she was oblivious, I stopped, to make her stop, which she did, but she didn’t even look up! She just tried to move around me, without even acknowledging that she had almost hit me.

But after standing there with my camera on 8/23, taping every change of the Walk light, I saw that bikers went through the red light at First Street only a couple of times, and they went around the people in the cross walk, not into them.

That’s when I became aware of Situation Number 3, probably the most hazardous. The problem is caused by construction work taking place on First Avenue. Barricades have been put into place that separate the bike lane from the rest of First Avenue.

1st-and-1st-construction

This is entirely a feng shui thing. Pedestrians see the barricades and understand that traffic is closed to cars, and because of the steel plates where the green paint of a bike lane should be, they’re not even conscious of its existence. The lack of a traffic island there, the likes of which exists at Second Street, compounds the situation.

bike-traffic-island
Second Street traffic island

Once construction is completed, I’m sure this will all be resolved. They’ll probably even put in a traffic island. All’s well that ends well!

***

One last thing: I came upon an article while looking for information for this piece, called Confronting the Scofflaw Cyclist. It’s a good look at the notion of “scofflaws” as it applies to bicyclists.

***

This is probably the last time I’m going to write about this, since the foot injury that led to my taking the subway to work been remedied, and I will no longer be here on a regular basis. (I’ll write about that shortly.) I’ll just end by saying that Situation 3 has already been resolved, with the placement of a large sign blocking the entrance to the bike lane at First Street. Bikes can no longer enter there, so the danger of pedestrian collisions has dropped to approximately zero.

Fast-Food Workers Call for Nationwide Walkout Aug. 29

Emboldened by a series of smaller walkouts this past year, workers at fast-food restaurants are calling for a nationwide walkout this Thursday, August 29.

Below is a map, based on one published in the NY Times last year, with the locations of fast-food restaurants in the “East Village”.

fast-food

This is a chance for people who claim to care about the “community” to stand with the people who work here. Choose your location and be there to support them! Walk the picket line with them. Document the action. Send your photos to Quilas.

Scofflaws, All

Due to a foot injury, for the past few months, I’ve been taking the train to work. Walking toward the First Avenue entrance to the F train in whichever direction the Walk light sends me, I sometimes wind up on the southeast corner of First Street and First Avenue.

Because the F is my train, I’ve had this light down for a long time. What happens is that cars turning left from Houston onto First Avenue have fifteen seconds or so to move. Between the time their light turned red and the Allen Street northbound traffic light turned green, a person could cross First Avenue safely, even though the sign said Don’t Walk. You didn’t even have to hurry.

However, since the advent of the bike lanes, there’s been a significant increase in the number of bicycles at this intersection, and it didn’t take them long to figure out the light situation here either. Now, when the cars stop turning onto First Avenue (and in some cases before that), the bikes move en masse in tandem!

1st-and-1st
Cars, green; Bikes, purple.

This is where it becomes complicated. Once the bikers pass through the intersection, they have the green light at First Street. They could argue that they have the right-of-way at that point. Technically, they do, but it’s an ill-gotten right‑of-way. If there were a bike/pedestrian collision, would it be considered “contributory negligence,” where both parties are at fault? The bikers just ran a red light, but the pedestrian is crossing against the light, though a different light than the ones the bikers just went through.

Last Thursday, as I crossed and they made their way toward me, I kept my eye on them, thinking “You had better not hit me,” and I could see the pack leaders bearing down on me, thinking “You had better get out of my way.”

No pedestrian in a crosswalk should ever be struck by a biker, no matter who has the right-of-way. It is never justified. Bikes can always go around the pedestrian, or even slow down. I do not intend to walk faster at First Street. It may be that I’ll have to start waiting for the Walk light. So be it. I don’t run for the bus, I’m certainly not going to start running across the street.

If You Are in New York City, Join Me to Discuss “Reform” on September 11

***

This should be of interest to readers of Quilas.

Diane Ravitch's blog

I will be discussing my new book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” at Judson Memorial Church, near New York University, on September 11 at 6 pm.

The event is sponsored by Class Size Matters and New Yorkers for Great Public Schools

Wednesday, Sept.11th

6-7:15 PM at Judson Memorial Church

55 Washington Square South, Manhattan

Trains: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W 4th St.

N, R to 8 St.; #6 to Astor Place; #1 to Sheridan Sq.

New Yorkers are ready for a new direction for public education, and as the whole country watches our mayoral election, Ravitch will discuss how we can move away from failed policies of the past and towards a successful school system that will work for every student. A question and answer session will follow.

  

 

 

 

 

View original post 11 more words

On Yuppies and Gentrification

At the recent Tompkins Square Park 25th Police-Riot Reunion, a number of horrendous bands played over a three-day period. One of them was
David Peel and the Lower East Side.

These guys are definitely a novelty act. They’ve been around, in one form or another, for almost half a century. The only reason I’m writing about them is because they have a song called “Die Yuppie Scum”, that they played at the police-riot commemoration. “Die Yuppie Scum” was a slogan, if you will, that was spray painted on just about every surface in the “East Village” during the 1980s. It was the frustrated attempt by those with the propensity to spray paint onto things to vent their wrath at the most visible appearance of the changes taking place around them. However, the connection between yuppies (“or in more sober terms … the ‘new middle class'”) and gentrification is a spurious one:

    The patterns of consumption associated with the new middle class, including patterns of housing consumption, are presumed to result from the higher incomes and the greater spending power of this group. In short, we would expect that the emergence of a new middle class would result in an increase in the aggregate share of income earned by this social stratum – an identifiable redistribution of income toward the centre. …

    But when we examine income distribution over the past several decades, the pattern is not so simple. Far from suggesting a redistribution of income, the aggregate data present a picture of remarkable stability overlain with cyclical fluctuation. Despite postwar economic growth, the poorest 20 percent of the US population did not earn a significantly greater proportion of the social pie and nor did the richest 20 percent have to relinquish its half of the pie. If there is any fluctuation from this stable distribution of income, it suggests rather that the minimal democratization of incomes that pertained into the mid-1970s was significantly reversed by the 1980s. By the 1990s, the disparity between rich and poor was greater than at any time in the last quarter-century. As regards a new middle class, presumably located in the third and fourth quintiles, their numbers remained very stable through the 1970s but actually fell significantly beginning in 1982. Far from suggesting the rise of a new middle class, the 1980s, which witnessed the most intense gentrification, would seem to have corresponded with an actual shrinking of the new middle class.1

    Share of aggregate household income in the US, 1967–1992

    yuppies-income-chart
    US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census 1993. Money Income of Households, Families, and Persons in the United States: 1992. Series P60-184.

It doesn’t make for catchy song lyrics, but there you are. Some people have made this their mantra, so it would be hard for them to give it up now. And of course, today you can even wear your contumely!

die-yuppie-scum-tshirts

So here is David Peel and The Lower East Side performing “Die Yuppie Scum” at the TSP25APRR. I found the link to this video on another blog. (I commented that David Peel was the white Wesley Willis, but the comment was rejected by the blog owner!) It starts out sounding like “Gloria” but then goes into the Wesley Willis sound. I will spare you having to listen to the entire thing. If you want to though, click on the YouTube icon and you can watch it on YouTube.


 
Wesley Willis (1963 – 2003):


 
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1Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier (London/New York: Routledge, 1996) pp. 96-97.

Tompkins Square Park 25th Police-Riot Reunion

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park police riot.

Memories from New York
©2012 Andrew Lichtenstein

I’m not going to recount the details of the riot. The wikipedia article linked to above is not the best, but it will suffice.

I didn’t live in this neighborhood when the riot occurred. I lived in Washington Heights then, but I used to hang out down here with a friend of mine. Anything that was going on, we tried to make it to. Being in the park was an act of solidarity with the homeless encampment there, and with the larger goal of supporting housing as a human right.

All these years later, it probably doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there, unless I was fated to have been beaten up that night, in which case it’s a good thing I wasn’t there! Besides, I was already souring on the so-called anarchists. After the park was closed in 1991, they disappeared and haven’t been seen since. I’m sure the ones from that night have all gone on to work for their local Ron Paul campaigns, but the ones who adopt anarchism today still think they’re the first to discover that the police respond to provocations with violence, and that once people see this they’ll be shaken out of their stupor and overthrow the state. Hence, the preponderance of Guy Fawkes masks, smug and condescending. “East Village” anarchists were proponents of what Murray Bookchin called lifestyle anarchism, with its concern for autonomy and individualism. I’m not going to go into his arguments, or what he proposes as the alternative – it’s still a raincoat full of holes!

Anyway…

Reunion was probably not the right word to use to describe this event. I don’t think many people who were there that night came to this. For that matter, not that many people at all came to it!

Saturday
riot-reunion-01
The Bambi Killers had just finished.

Sunday
riot-reunion-02
During Iconicide’s performance.

I’m not sure three days of obstreperous noise was the best use of time and resources. Twenty five years later, is this what they still listen to? I know that many of the bands that played were around back in the late 80s, but three days of it? Even if three days was necessary, tables should have been set up around the perimeter with information, not only about that time, but current programs in the neighborhood. The Shadow1 had a table, but then they were the sponsor of the concerts, so it was more for self-promotion.

I don’t know. I wasn’t there for the planning, but then this is not the first time concerts have been held to commemorate this event, and I’ve never seen any kind of outreach at those either.

***

There was also a film festival, sponsored by the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, that took place at different locations in the neighborhood, from August 3 to 10.

I think the film festival was a great idea. They billed it as “1st Annual MoRUS Film Fest,” so hopefully they’ll be able to continue this annually. I’m not sure if it was meant to commemorate the anniversary of the police riot – its timing may have been – but something like this goes a long way in engaging people, something that was sorely missing from the concerts. The garden that I am a member of was to host two of them. The first one was moved to the MoRUS space due to rain, but the second one was held in the garden. We had a great turnout, and look forward to participating again next year.

morus-at-oa-01

morus-at-oa-02

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1The Shadow is going to start publishing again.

Keep The “East Village” Weird?

Back in April, Reverend Billy came to preach in Tompkins Square Park.


 
Anyone who’s seen the show Portlandia is no doubt familiar with the unofficial slogan of the town that’s shown in the opening credits: Keep Portland Weird. It’s the slogan on over 18,000 bumper stickers1 in the Portland area, and many more t-shirts, no doubt. What people probably do not know is that Keep Portland Weird is a marketing campaign:

    Keep Portland Weird is about supporting local business in the Portland Oregon area. We want to support local business because they make Portland stand out from other cites and make it a more unique place to live. They do this by providing consumers a wide range of products that represent the different cultures that make up Portland.2

Culture is expressed through one’s purchases. The web site itself is an online shop, where KPW tchotchkes can be bought.

kpw-whats-weird

Weird umbrellas! Weird soy candles! Weird keychains! Weird stickers!
Weird refrigerator magnets!

Weird.

This campaign is modeled on a similar one in Austin Texas, with a surprisingly similar name: Keep Austin Weird. The campaign was launched by the Austin Independent Business Alliance, with the same goal of promoting shopping at small businesses in Austin.

But this isn’t about Portland, it’s about the “East Village,” and what could be the development of a similar strategy here. Reverend Billy says “We’re not the product of a corporate marketing campaign,” but to what degree is the “East Village” the product of a small-business marketing campaign? To what degree does someone “make themselves up” when all of the accessories are already on the shelves, ready to buy?

It may not be a concerted effort yet, but it’s just a matter of time. The sensibility is there, and so is the language. Key words are: sustainable, responsible, local, community. You almost never see one of these words without the others. Once you see the word “weird” in this mix, you’ll know it’s started.

***

Probably the most insidious thing about the Weird movement is its racism. A resident of Portland, Linda Ueki Absher, wrote a piece for Counterpunch called Keep Portland White!

    But as I wander pass the organic coffee houses chock-full of thirtyish men with full-on lumberjack beards and defiant beer bellies, or boutiques filled with mock Goodwill cardigans selling for prices once considered exorbitant monthly rent, the message is unmistakable: I am not a member of the Keeping-it-Weird club.

After retiring from the Univesity of Pennsylvania – Johnstown, former Economics professor Michael Yates spent some time travelling around the country, and wrote about his adventure in a book called “Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: An Economist’s Travelogue.” About Portland, he wrote:

    The most distressing thing about Portland, and the fact that most belied its liberal image, was its racism. A writer once called Portland the “last bastion of Caucasian culture.” It is certainly a white town; less than 7 percent of the population is African-American. Even the city’s homeless are nearly all white, as are all the young people asking for money. Blacks who gravitated to Portland to work in the wartime shipyards were housed in a flood plain of the Columbia River and were soon enough driven out by high waters. The ghettoes where they were next allowed to live were destroyed by highway construction. Today the tiny black community is scattered over several mostly poor neighborhoods. Despite the small number of black residents, whites were inordinately hostile to them.

    There is a growing Hispanic community in both Portland and the rest of Oregon. … Not surprisingly, anti-immigrant sentiment resonated in Portland. A history of racism – Oregon had anti-miscegenation laws until the Supreme Court overturned these in the late 1960s – and high unemployment made workers susceptible to immigrant-bashing.

Maybe this is a Portland thing, but the group that showed up to see Reverend Billy this day was entirely white. The neighborhood is changing. According to the always-helpful city‑data.com:

Races: White Alone
white-alone-recent

Races: Black Alone
black-alone

Hispanic
hispanic

Races: Two or More
two-or-more

If you click on the maps it will take you to the site, where you can get a better sense of things.

***

While I’m on the subject, I never cared for Reverend Billy. The whole evangelist schtick was played out a long time ago. I remember when he first went into the Disney Store in Times Square. It may have been the first time but maybe not. I have a friend who was very excited about it and went. I was curious, but for some reason I couldn’t make it. I’ve seen him all too many times since then, but I’ve never been won over.

His whole spiel is to stop shopping, but here he is exhorting people to do exactly the opposite: Go to “these small shops you can’t find anywhere else” and buy crap. What exactly can you not find anywhere else? Let’s not forget that the stuff sold here is manufactured first. It’s only then that the small shops you can’t find anywhere else stock it. There’s no factory churning out commodities that are sold in only one location, or that can’t be bought online. And Alphabets isn’t any different than Spencer’s Gifts, found in every mall.

***

Finally, while researching this piece, I discovered that KPW’s web site is a do-it-yourself mess! From “What’s Weird About Portland?”:

kpw-about

From the Soy Candles page:

kpw-soy-candles-lorem-ipsum

Is this supposed to be part of their appeal?

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1Keep Portland … quaint?
2Keep Portland Weird