Archive for September, 2010

Basic Tips for Avoiding Bedbugs

September 28th, 2010 by Geoffrey Decker

Cover page for the City Government's "Bed Bug Guide"

Bedbugs seem to be on the minds of every New Yorker these days, but, hysteria aside, public awareness is limited. Talk to any number of New Yorkers, from regular citizens to experts to city officials, and you’ll find their impression of the bloodsucking pests is filled with half-truths and vague assumptions.

Part of the reason for that is that not a whole lot is known about them. Even to scientists who study the critters, New York Times reported last month, they are a mystery:

Ask any expert why the bugs disappeared for 40 years, why they came roaring back in the late 1990s, even why they do not spread disease, and you hear one answer: “Good question.”

They are incredibly evasive. The apple-seed-sized Bedbugs are nocturnal, preferring to feed on humans at night under the cloak of an anesthetic they emit to numb any sting. When they’re not biting, they’re usually nestled away in some deep fabric, like a mattress or bedspring, or for more mobile means, on clothes and bags.

Indeed, many people with infested homes have never even seen them.

But there are some known facts about bedbugs and, more importantly, known ways to prevent and, if infested, get rid of them. As part of research I did for a story on bed bugs in New York city schools last week, I spoke to several exterminators and experts to help clear up the confusion.

According to the NYC private residence manual, titled “Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs” there are several basic maintenance steps to take, including:

  1. Seal cracks and crevices in the floors and on the walls with caulk.
  2. Regularly clean and vacuum in areas that gather dust and debris
  3. Get rid of clutter, to reduce the amount of places that bed bugs can borough

Another suggestion, which came from exterminator Elio Chiavola, is to buy a sealable mattress cloth cover, which can be bought for about $60 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

But as I learned from my reporting on bed bugs in schools, which revealed that last year there were more than 1019 confirmed cases of bedbugs in New York City schools, the problem doesn’t necessarily begin and end at home.

Schools, retails stores, office buildings and movie theaters aren’t natural habitat for bed bugs, mainly because it isn’t where people rest at night, but anywhere large masses of people gather are particular vulnerable areas. Bedbugs can jump from person to person when people bring them from infested homes.

From here, the pests hitch a ride home on clothing or bags.

“They are a major transfer point from one place to another,” said Mike Orlino, President of Superior Pest Elimination.

With that in mind there are some additional, more proactive things people can do to prevent them from even getting into the home in the first place.

Chiavola believes that every citizen should own their own personal supply of SteriFab, an alcohol-based spray that kills bugs on contact, any time you come and go from your apartment.

As a general rule, it’s wise to avoid purchasing used furniture, according to the New York City Bed Bug Advisory Board, which published a comprehensive report on the matter in July.

  • Bed bugs don’t just live in beds. Wood or metal or plastic furniture, sofas, chairs, tables and many other household items may be infested with bed bugs.
  • Used furniture and refurbished mattresses may have bed bugs and bed bug eggs that are difficult to see.

While the jury is still out on whether bed bugs are bound to officially take over the city (insert hysteria here!), hopefully these basic tips can at least help you avoid being their next victim.

Subway Charm School

September 28th, 2010 by Jacqueline Vergara Amézquita

New York subway commutes are complicated and tedious with perpetual construction and inconvenient delays. The last thing commuters need are pests who make matters worse by demonstrating poor subway etiquette.

In the spirit of artist Jayshells’ subway posters, four regular commuters share their stories and offer their advice to pesky subway riders with poor etiquette. Let’s take their cautionary tales as lessons on how we should all behave.

Lesson 1: Stand Up For a Pregnant Woman

Jackie by daniel.prendergast

Lesson 2: Don’t Crowd the Pole

Stuart by daniel.prendergast

Lesson 3: Stay Home if You’re Sick

An by daniel.prendergast

Lesson 4: No Showboating

Daniel by daniel.prendergast

MTA Beefs

September 27th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Part of being a New Yorker is dealing with the ultimate pest — poor MTA service. So what are your MTA beefs? Bianca Siedman-Shvarts, Edouard de Mareschal and Paul Pedersen recount some nightmares.


Ticked Off Travellers

September 27th, 2010 by Claudia Acevdeo

The MTA budget cuts and track repairs have affected commuters all over the city. Normal schedules are disrupted and lines are either cancelled or re-routed. Results range from over crowding on platforms and lengthened trips.

Four New Yorkers share their experiences of riding the subway in their daily routines.

Tuan Nguyen, age 29, from Manhattan NY. Regularly takes: 1 train.
1010 by caclaudiaacevedo

Ichi Vazquez, age 22, from Brooklyn NY. Regularly takes: A and C trains.
Ichi by caclaudiaacevedo

Chase Lindsay Rosen, age 22 from Manhattan NY. Regularly takes: B and D trains.
chase by caclaudiaacevedo

Claudia Acevedo, age 22 from Queens NY. Regularly takes: R and M trains.
Claudia by caclaudiaacevedo

To Greet, or Not to Greet?

September 27th, 2010 by Stuart White

New York etiquette is a tricky subject. The list of city-specific interactions and social situations with the potential for offense goes on and on. However, some questions of etiquette are more universal, like that old chestnut: Is it appropriate to greet strangers with a friendly “Hi, how are you”?

For some, the greeting is an innocuous pleasantry; to others the rhetorical greeting is a capital offense. With such varying views, the real question is who’s peskier, the person who offers a casual greeting, or the person who rejects it?

Nathaniel Marro, a New York resident by way of Vermont, finds the universal greeting to be a bit much. “It’s more like a case where if I catch their eyes, I give them a smile and a nod, than go out of my way to say hi to them,” he said.

In fact, Nathaniel finds verbalizing one’s acknowledgement of a stranger to be something of a faux pas. He does, however, try to temper his disapproval by responding politely. “But I would think it was an odd situation,” he maintained. “I would be taken aback.”

Though many have tried to justify or explain it, the city’s sometimes-prickly demeanor can be decidedly off-putting to some. Jessica Sullivan, a southern transplant, had to put a moratorium on the beloved southern practice of greeting strangers.

In her opinion, the thought behind the greeting counts for more than the content. “For a complete stranger, the fact that they even took the time to say hello is a friendly gesture in my book,” she said. “I wish more people did it here.”

The fact that the question is rhetorical is a nonissue, a boon even. “I would just prefer the standard ‘I’m fine,’ instead of ‘Well, my dog died yesterday,’” she said.

Though Jessica misses the easy camaraderie of the casual greeting, she has taken into account the logistical challenges of greeting everyone in a city like New York. “You encounter so many more people,” she said. “If you say ‘Hi, how are you,’ to every person you pass in New York City you’d never get where you’re going.”

Though native New Yorkers are historically painted as somewhat deficient in friendliness (1907 Times article), Ray Ruiz, a Brooklyn native, bucks the trend of ignoring passers-by. “I always say hello to everyone,” he said. “But I guess a lot of New Yorkers aren’t in tune with that.”

Indeed, it isn’t easy being a friendly New Yorker. “A lot of times I get shunned,” Ray admitted. “I guess some people don’t want to be friendly.”

In a place as diverse as New York, the question of who deserves a greeting will be disputed forever. When it comes to ignoring a greeting, however, Ray Ruiz’ opinion seems definitive: “That’s just rude.”

Three ways to come back home without metro in the Weekend

September 27th, 2010 by Edouard de Mareschal

In France, when subways don’t run, it is usually because of strikes. But here in New York, travelers fear something even worst: The weekly subway maintenance. This weekend was no exception to the rule. A survey by the the Permanent Citizens Advisory Comittee to the MTA in 2010 acknowledged that “periodic weekend subway service changes are a major source of anxiety for New York City Transit riders”.

So here is the question: How to enjoy a weekend party in the city that never sleeps when we can’t rely on the subway?

First solution, to be informed. We have to be fair and admit that at least, MTA tries his best to inform users. Every Friday, you should therefore check the Planned Service Changes tab of the MTA website. For people who really want to be informed on live of the traffic, MTA is on Facebook and Twitter. And if you can’t stand MTA anymore at the point that the simple idea of going to their website gives you pimples, check

Then, there is still the solution of taking the taxi. Sometimes, it is ten times faster than the subway and not that expensive, provided that you share the costs with your friends. But you be aware of their rates, because it tend to be extensible for inexperienced people.

Another idea could come from Paris, where bike sharing has been a great success for three years now, despite the cost of maintenance. They are useful in any kind of situation : French ride Velib’ to avoid subway strikes , New Yorkers could use it to avoid Subway maintenance. This solution could be possible pretty soon.

Last tip: If none of these solutions fit you, you can still go back home by walk. Good luck.

Skyline Envy

September 27th, 2010 by Jonathan Vit

From a proposed sale by a major stakeholder to the discovery of a squatter on the 40th floor, the Empire State Building has been grabbing headlines of late, but it’s another building, a proposed 1,200 foot tower down the street, that may have the biggest impact on what is arguably New York’s most iconic building.

City Council approved the construction 15 Penn Plaza in late August, paving the way for new skyscraper that, detractors say, will only mar the city’s skyline by drawing attention away from the Empire State Building. The 1,216-foot building, planned for a site two avenues west of the Empire State Building, would rise to nearly the same height as the Empire State Building and would make the iconic building nearly invisible from New Jersey.

But one has to ask, what’s in a skyline anyway?

Urban planners spend their lives designing aesthetically pleasing city skylines and New York City’s is one of the most recognizable in the world. (In fact, the Big Apple’s crowded skyline has been ranked fourth in the world, behind Hong Kong, Chicago and Shanghai).

But a skyline is a malleable thing,  and New York’s has been in constant flux since the early 1900s. When the Empire State Building opened its doors in 1931, the city had 13 buildings taller than 656 feet. By August of 2008, Manhattan had 50 buildings. Need further proof? Just look at this photo illustrating the city’s ever-evolving skyline.

David R. Greenbaum, of the Vornado Realty Trust, the developers behind the 68-story 15 Penn Plaza, echoed this sentiment in the New York Times.

“The fact is that New York’s skyline has never stopped changing, and one hopes it never will,” said David R. Greenbaum, president of the New York office division of Vornado Realty Trust.

There’s no doubt that a city’s skyline is an important part of its shared identity. Just ask the residents of Phoenix, Ariz., who are struggling with that very issue right now. And this isn’t the first time new construction has incited the ire of critics. The construction of the 52-story 712 Fifth Ave. has blocked views of the Empire State Building since it was constructed in 1990.

The simple fact is the New York skyline is going to change, whether New Yorkers like it or not. And one has to ask, with the amount of anger rearing its head in recent months, are New Yorkers just looking for a fight?

Coffee and Cigarettes

September 27th, 2010 by Claudia Acevdeo

Gone are those days when you could sit at a bar and have a beer and a cigarette. Now there’s no lighting up after a big, satisfying dinner without leaving the premises. No puffing away your midday stress at a cafe. No early morning nicotine high at the diner. Mayor Bloomberg made sure to snatch those moments from you back in 2002, when he began his anti-tobacco campaign in the city of New York. It took some adjusting to, but everyone dealt with it.

What does the future of smoking look like? Eight years have passed and it looks like parks and beaches are the next setting for the war on cigarettes.

Bloomberg, an ex-smoker, wants to lower the percentage of smokers in the city to 12 percent by 2012, and forbidding people to open fire in public places is a step toward attaining this goal. His tactics have worked in the past. After the 2002 smoking ban for restaurants and bars, the percentage of New Yorkers who smoked went from 21.5 percent to 16.9 percent in five years.

While the effects of smoking and second-hand smoke are known to everyone who buys a pack, hardcore puffers are set on their ways and, for the most part, offended by the impending ban. It is hard enough for them to find a place outside an office building without a no-smoking sign. Ashtrays and smoking poles are now fewer and farther between. People feel forced to take their breaks out on the street, and much to the bemusement and chagrin of passersby.

What was once a common pastime and social facilitator is now a cause for shame and civil strife. But one of the serious setbacks for smokers is the pricing hike that took place this past June. A pack of cigarettes in Midtown Manhattan can cost you a whopping $14.50. That’s $174.00 a month if you buy three packs a week. That’s almost the equivalent of two unlimited MetroCards. You could also buy a one-way ticket to Puerto Rico with that kind of money. It’s enough to make you want to quit. Many people already want to.

It looks like there will be healthier people roaming our streets over the next couple of years, which means that there will be happier people too. Is this still the East Coast?

courtesy of The New York Times

A South Bronx By Any Other Name

September 26th, 2010 by Kahliah Laney

Triangle Below Canal Street just doesn’t roll off the tongue like TriBeCa. But keeping up with New York neighborhood nomenclature, like SoHo, NoLita, and NoHo, despite their fluidity, can be bothersome. So what do South Bronx natives think about SoBro?

Sometimes, the abbreviation is practical; North of Little Italy (NoLita) is a mouthful. But more recently abridged names symbolize swank, exclusive, enclaves moving into historically cast out communities. So when artists’ lofts began cropping up in the South Bronx, a marker of newly acquired hipness wasn’t far behind. Many migrants of means might think SoBro is posh. Some natives just say it’s pestering, paltry and political.

What South Bronx Natives Think About SoBro from Kahliah Laney on Vimeo.

This sometimes annoying, phonetic phenomenon isn’t unique to New York. In Atlanta, calling the Buford Highway BuHi has some so annoyed they’re yelping about it. In San Francisco a blogger highlighted the “hysteria” associated with a number of play-on-names including FerBu (Ferry Building) and DUCFOP (Down Under the Central Freeway Overpass).

While some folks find this kind of name-tailoring taxing, others welcome the moniker makeovers. In Fresno, CA, residents in the neighborhood south of Tower District were eager to represent SoTow. Still, as emphatically as some embrace neighborhood name changes, others oppose. The Medici Foundation said no way to the adoption of NoLita though the name seems to have stuck.

So what’s really in a name? Shakespeare, in “Romeo and Juliet,” wrote, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Does that mean that South Bronx would, were it SoBro called, retain it’s gritty nature? Most likely, as some early settlers of the recently revitalized Park Slope found out.

But it seems these nifty little names are here to stay. Calling the South Bronx SoBro is apparently accepted enough that it’s included in Urban Dictionary. A 2008 academic study about the South Bronx directly linked the advent of SoBro to gentrification.  Call it the South Bronx or SoBro one thing is for sure, the neighborhood is changing whether people like it or not.

Tackling City Pests with Bicycle Obsessions

September 26th, 2010 by Ichi Vazquez

New York City has a plethora of cycling routes and activities for bicycling-friendly residents, and offers a much quicker option of getting from point A to point B than the MTA does lately. While riding one’s bicycle seems like the best way to get to work or just enjoy the day, residents should keep their eyes open for a city pest that is known so notoriously to most cyclists, that they barely have time to get off their bikes before they turn around and their tire and handle bars are gone. That’s right – I’m talking about the professional bike thieves who roam the streets of the city possessing some crazy disassembling skills.

So exactly how can a New Yorker protect or prevent their cherished $150 Craigslist bicycle from getting stolen?

When it comes to getting your bike stolen, no one could do it faster or more efficiently than these pro thieves could. But this begs the question – are these guys getting away with stealing bicycle parts because they’re good at it, or is it that no one’s really paying any attention? It seems that residents feel like their bike woes have been going completely unnoticed until recently. But at least some take comfort in the fact that if they get their bicycle stolen, they can always check on Craigslist to see if the thief was dumb enough to re-sell it.

While nothing could beat a resolved thief with a massive pair of bolt cutters,  all you need occasionally is some alertness and a video camera to send out a strong message. More humorously, if the deed has already been done and you are left heartbroken without your bicycle, you can always deal with your emotions by telling your story to the guys over at Or if you find it later on in the streets with a new owner, leaving a passive-aggressive note can make you feel better too.

Otherwise New Yorkers, you can prevent yourselves from going home using the subway by staying up to date on precautionary measures and exercising them meticulously. Because the real deal is, no bike lock is actually secure enough to protect your bikes! As long as you make sure that the place where you purchased your bicycle isn’t actually buying stolen ones and re-selling them, you are already in a place of advantage.