This city I take for granted

I work in Lower Manhattan. I have a job that happens to be located down there, so there I go. Whenever one goes to the same place every day, the trip is done by rote – it’s automatic.  A while back it began to dawn on me how fortunate I was to be working in an area filled with history significant to people around the world – indeed, tourists are abound, taking snapshots of these historic locations, trying to create enduring memories of their trip to New York City.

Spending a lifetime living in New York City has a way of desensitizing one to the vast quantity of famous places all around us. Much conversation has taken place among native New Yorkers about how irritating it can be with all of “these tourists” overflowing “our” streets, wont to stop on a dime to take a picture of  some building or statue.

To name just a few of the world-famous locations I see on a daily basis, I pass the World Trade Center, the Trump Building, the “Charging Bull”, Federal Hall (location of the first inauguration of George Washington (along with the statue of him outside the building),  Trinity Church (which includes the grave of Alexander Hamilton), the New York Stock Exchange, and so many more.

I might be in the minority here, but sometimes I wish I were there when Wall Street had a wall, when Canal Street had a canal, and when Beaver Street had, errr, beavers? Whenever I am lost in such reverie, I try to remind myself that indoor plumbing, brushing teeth, regular bathing, garbage collection, and sewers weren’t standard in many of these times.

As usual, I digress. It’s often so easy to get used to things that we see all the time. I imagine it’s a natural progression. We may not look up at the tall buildings, towering well above our grasp. We may not look down at the ground where battles were fought and rights were won. The familiar loses its majesty.

Sometimes it’s important to break from your routine, and open your eyes to the history and beauty around us.

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A classy message from the owners of the Mets about the passing of George Steinbrenner, owner of the rival Yankees.

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STATEMENT FROM FRED WILPON, SAUL KATZ, AND JEFF WILPON OF THE NEW YORK METS ORGANIZATION ON THE PASSING OF GEORGE STEINBRENNER

“The passing of George Steinbrenner marks the end of an era in New York City baseball history. George was a larger than life figure and a force in the industry. The rise and success of his teams on the field and in the business marketplace under his leadership are a testament to his skill, drive, and determination. “All of us at the Mets send our deepest condolences to his wife Joan, his sons Hank and Hal, daughters Jennifer and Jessica, his grandchildren, and everyone at the Yankees organization.”

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The MTA completely redid the subway map, and it’s an amazing transformation.

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Before I get to my comments, and some photos, I’ll paste the press release here from the MTA website so you can have the background information before you hear from me. As always, the italics indicate a quote from a website, and the words in regular font are my own. I will highlight a few things I find most noteworthy.

For the first time in over a decade, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is unveiling a new edition of the one map every New Yorker and tourist should possess. The new simplified version of the NYC Subway map, rescaled and with new colors, will make its debut to coincide with subway service changes that take effect June 27.

Click here to view the new map.

The MTA has ordered 1.5 million copies for distribution this month, with 6 million copies a year expected to be printed.

The challenges in representing the most complex subway system in the world are clear, but the MTA’s goal in redesigning the map was a simple one – clarity.

“In its desire to be complete and provide a great deal of information, the previous map took away from some of the clarity you would have with something simpler and less cluttered,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder.

There are some changes riders will notice. Manhattan will become wider so it’s less cluttered in spots like midtown and lower Manhattan where the bulk of subway lines traverse. Staten Island, meanwhile, is displayed as an inset.

A simple street grid with notable popular attractions and neighborhoods remains to enable riders to better gauge their location when exiting the subway system.

To improve contrast, the taupe background changed tone, and subway lines gained a gray shadow.

For the first time, maps in subway cars will be different. Bus destination “balloons” were eliminated and the station fonts made larger for easier reading on a moving subway car. Maps located in stations will still have the “balloons” while pocket maps will have abbreviated “balloons.”

As an example, here is what the old map showed for midtown and lower Manhattan:

Old Subway Map

Old Subway Map

As you can see, it’s REALLY cluttered. There are multiple instances where unless you already know where things are, you might not know which words go with which stations.

Now look at the new map, of the same basic area:

New Subway Map

New Subway Map

The entire area is wider and more spread out. Everything is much clearer and I think the new map is really crisp and professional looking. The color adjustment also seems to give it more depth and clarity. Also, considering I have never met anybody that actually takes the Staten Island subway, I’m thrilled it’s merely going to be an inset instead of clogging up space on the map.

For all of the bad press the MTA gets, this is a real upgrade, and a welcome one.

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Convenience or Nuisance? The MTA now offers Delay Verification

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It used to be the greatest of excuses. Best of all, one could not corroborate the information! The excuse I refer to, of course, is that your train was delayed, for any of a hundred reasons. It was golden! The MTA is now offering a “service” that allows you to enter all sorts of information. The information you need can be seen below.

Delay Verification

Delay Verification

I’m sure it could be useful if somebody doesn’t believe you, but I’m sure many tardy strap-hangers are shaking their fists that the greatest excuse is now a thing of the past. You can use it by clicking here.

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On our trip to the Prospect Park Zoo, I came to a sad realization

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Prospect Park Zoo

We are big fans of zoos, and make an effort to visit as many as we can on our various travels.

To that end, we’re members of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization that runs various New York City-area zoos and an aquarium. They include:

The Prospect Park Zoo was the last one we visited, and I was quite disappointed at what we saw on display at the zoo.

Prospect Park Zoo Map

Prospect Park Zoo Map

I’ve attached a map for frame-of-reference.

In just about every section designed to accommodate an animal, most of the time you get just that – one animal. Want to see an emu? Assuming it’s in an area where you can view it (we saw it hiding wayyyyyyy in the back of the enclosure), you’re more than welcome to feed it. On a side-note, feeding emus is fun and I would advise anybody who has the chance, to take advantage. It’s sad, but the song that kept popping into my head was “The loneliest number is one.”

The entire time we kept waiting for the moment that would impress us, and make us want to come back. No such moment came.

Take the aviary for example, and I use that term most loosely. Normally I have to be cajoled to enter an aviary, as I’m still getting over my aversion to animals. When we entered the aviary, I realized it didn’t appear that there were many birds at all. It’s probably a good thing because it was about the size of a large bedroom. There were some ducks (ho-hum) and a handful of birds in trees that were only identifiable by the contrast in color.

There is some charm in the Barn, a place I imagine would be fun for kids, but even there the animals were not free to roam around you and you could only get close to some of them.

As always, the sea lion continues to be my favorite animal, and as the map indicates, it’s the highlight of the zoo. We attended a feeding, and the sea lions ate and did some tricks. I always enjoy it no matter how many places I’ve seen it occur. There were also some really friendly black Tamarin monkeys that we enjoyed interacting with through the glass. Also, how anyone can see a twenty pound rabbit and not smile is beyond me.

All that said, let me make something clear. The zoo is not BAD. It’s not offensive, it’s just small. It’s a mini-zoo in a big town. The Gift Shop is seasonal. The cafe consists of vending machines. The staff was friendly, the ambiance was pleasant enough for a decent day out.

As we’re going through the zoo, I came to the sad realization mentioned in the title. As I posted here, the WCS is facing some giant budget cuts. It might be a good idea to close shop. Brooklynites will still have the New York Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, and about a thousand other things to do without getting on a bridge. Perhaps it would be a good idea to leave the petting-zooish Barn for kids to visit, but the bulk of the animals there seemingly would be able to be integrated into the other zoos in New York City without causing too much of a burden. The staff should be able to be assigned similar jobs at the other zoos now that the number of animals and attendance in the respective zoos would have increased.

Obviously this is hardly an enjoyable solution, but it should save the WCS a lot of money and help save the aquarium and the other zoos. While you’re here, sign the petition to protect the WCS here.

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The classic Bill Burr Yankees rant from last year

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Bill Burr

Bill Burr

The audio can be found here or by clicking the above image. He recorded it while on the Opie and Anthony show after the Yankees World Series victory. It’s somewhat off-color, and has some naughty words, but if that doesn’t offend you, and you’re a baseball fan, you MUST listen to it.

Classic stuff.

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Anyone want to spit on me? (Grossed out? Read the article)

No Spitting

May the Lord bless the MTA! You can read the article, courtesy of the New York Post, here.

Thanks to a bizarre MTA policy and a union contract, city bus divers are taking an average of two months off each time a rider spits on them.

This was revealed at an MTA committee meeting today where officials explained that they define an “assault” on a driver broadly enough to include getting spit on.

Under the drivers’ contract, each time they are assaulted they are entitled to take sick time to recover.

Last year 51 bus operators reported they were spit on and got to take an average of 64 days off, MTA officials said.

They said they believe some of those drivers were abusing the leave time policy and others were genuinely traumatized by being spit in the face. They said they were looking into changing the definition of “assault.”

Altogether 1,500 drivers were assaulted last year in various ways, including being punched. “Some use no sick time at all,” MTA bus chief Joe Smith said.

Two months for getting spit on. Hmmmmmm. (OK, no thanks.)