New York City waterfront: From Ghost towns to coast towns

Ask city Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden to describe New York, and she'll tell you, "It's a city of five boroughs, and four of them are islands." It's only recently, though, that New Yorkers have actually been able to use much of their 600 miles of waterfront. Hudson River Park, the East River Esplanade, Red Hook, Hunts Point and Long Island City have all seen updates as the city makes a bold effort to improve neighborhood living by working from the waterways in. "For so long, New York's economy was driven by working ports," Burden told the Daily News. "After industry died down, we turned our back on the waterfront. That's dramatically changed, as it's become economically viable to reclaim these areas for the city's growth. New York is about the water, and from some neighborhoods you still can't see it." On April 22, the City Council approved a measure, proposed by Burden's department, requiring that developers who build on the water make those areas accessible to the public via entry-ways, add seating and shaded areas, and ensure well-designed waterfront walkways. "We're reclaiming the waterfront for respite, recreation, residential purposes and water transportation," said Burden, who in 2002 took a small boat piloted by her son-in-law through all of New York's waterways. "The previous zoning was too rigid on what a waterfront park should be. We should be able to reach out and touch the water, to walk right into it, almost like you can in Newtown Creek." Situated between Long Island City and Green-point, Newtown Creek is a 31/2-mile inlet off the East River. Unless you live near it, you've probably never heard of it. Thanks to a project completed in 2007 after 10 years of work by neighborhood groups, follow-through by the city's Department of Environmental Protection and water cleanup by the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, the creek has a groundbreaking park called the Nature Walk. Designed by New York-based environmental Continue Reading

Astroland, Starbucks, boob jobs, cosmopolitans and more of New York’s disappearing acts

Love it or hate it, the times they are a-changin' — and the evidence is all around us. By next year, next month or even next week, New York City will be transformed, whether by the shuttering of a ­music megamart, the ever-changing subway service or the ­audacious advent of a new kind of street art. When it comes to living in the busiest place on Earth, blink and you don't know what you'll miss. In case you're too busy to stop and look around, here are 25 things that are disappearing from NYC. And while some New Yorkers may quietly weep over their demise, others say "Good riddance!" 1 OLD-TIMEY RIDES Coney Island's Astroland has been shuttered (and, up north, the Bronx Zoo Skyfari gondolas have been grounded). But in Coney, the Cyclone roller coaster is rolling and the Wonder Wheel still spins. Plus, a temporary amusement park named Dreamland will open May 15 and operate through Labor Day. 2 TURTLES The wood turtle, once commonly found across New York State, has disappeared from much of its range, according to a recent Associated Press report. Why? Wood turtles, popular with collectors, can fetch up to $600 apiece on the Internet. 3 TERM LIMITS Mayor  Bloomberg's successful bid to amend term limits allows him to run for a third time. (His TV campaign ads launched last week.) The legislation is Congressman Charles Rangel recently called it "totally unfair." 4 STARBUCKS Last year, Starbucks announced that 11 of its NYC locations would shut down mid-2009 — including five in midtown. Sure, we still have over 200 to choose from, but check out new, cool coffee joints springing up, like Roasting Plant (recently opened at 75 Greenwich Ave.), where the coffee beans zip overhead in vacuum tubes. 5 BOOB JOBS A March study by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery revealed that breast augmentations are down 11%. The numbers were national, but forgive us if we think we deserve more credit for the decrease than L.A. does. 6 Continue Reading

To save the troubled system, recruit New York public housing ‘alumni’

Public housing, underfunded and often neglected by our city's political, civic and business leaders, desperately needs more attention and support. One way to get it that help is by exposing the remarkable roster of successful Americans who grew up in those oft-ignored complexes - and then leveraging those alums' influence for everything from fund-raising to legislation. Too many New Yorkers - including some residents of public housing themselves - see the projects as little more than cinder block mazes full of violence, pain and failure, inhabited by desperately poor people unable to succeed. That's partly why the New York City Housing Authority keeps getting shortchanged. NYCHA's annual deficit of more than $200 million means dirty hallways, leaky roofs, broken elevators and other hazards for more than 400,000 New Yorkers. But despite today's tough times, public housing remains what it has always been: a durable launching pad for New Yorkers determined to succeed. To preserve and protect that legacy, NYCHA and some of the city's many foundations should create an "alumni association" of current and former residents. What follows is a sample of New York achievers who once lived in the projects, compiled with help from NYCHA officials and Daily News intern Alvin Chang. Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, once lived in the Sheepshead Bay Houses. Joel Klein, who graduated from Harvard Law and made millions as a corporate attorney before being named city schools chancellor, spent part of his youth in the Woodside Houses. Congressman Eliot Engel of the Bronx used to live in Eastchester Gardens, Congressman Gary Ackerman of Queens hails from Pomonok Houses, and a young Al Sharpton lived in the Albany Houses. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson once lived in Manhattan's Amsterdam Houses, Federal Judge Sterling Johnson hails from the Sumner Houses in Bed-Stuy, and City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who heads the Council's Public Housing Continue Reading

New York Starbucks workers follow suit – join legal fight for back tips

A lawsuit claims Starbucks Corp. owes at least $5 million to more than 2,000 New York City workers who had to share their tips with their supervisors.The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan is among several similar actions brought on behalf of Starbucks employees around the nation.A message for comment left at the Starbucks corporate headquarters on Thursday was not immediately returned. But on its Web site last week, the company said its policy allows hourly employees - including shift supervisors, but not store managers - to share tips.The company said it is appealing a $100 million decision it lost in San Diego, and will vigorously fight what it calls copycat lawsuits. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Deep-pocketed guests can get a special trip to New York for $150G

For a cool $150,000, you can enjoy an only-in-New York holiday stay at the Buckingham Hotel - and the perks will definitely make it feel like a palace. Deep-pocketed guests will get a two-night stay in a penthouse suite dripping with Christmas decorations, a private dinner at Rockefeller Center and a guided $50,000 shopping spree at FAO Schwarz. There's even a personalized Christmas card on the big screen in Times Square, and a Swarovski crystal star atop the tree. "Parents and children alike will have the Christmas of a lifetime," said Neil Alumkal, a spokesman for the hotel. "There's really no extravagance spared here." The amazing adventure will start with a trip to New York in a private car of an Amtrak train from wherever they live. Each family member will get his or her own iPod music player crammed with holiday tunes for the ride. A snow-white Rolls Royce will pick up the family at Penn Station, and they will roll through Times Square to see their names and faces in lights. Next stop will be the penthouse at the W. 57th St. hotel, which will be transformed from floor to ceiling with Christmas trimmings, including a miniature replica of the Rockefeller Center tree. "The Christmas package incorporates everything out-of-towners love about visiting Manhattan on a holiday weekend - times a thousand," said Alumkal. From there, it's off to Rockefeller Center, where the restaurant overlooking the rink will be closed for a private six-course dinner. Champion skater JoJo Starbuck will give the parents and the children private skating lessons, followed by all the hot chocolate they can drink. The next morning features a personalized shopping spree at FAO Schwarz, complete with a toy soldier to escort children around the 50,000-square-foot store, which will be closed to everyone else. Leave your credit card at home - the first $50,000 worth of gifts is included in the package. There will be dinner at the Bryant Park Grill, a Continue Reading

Federal judge upholds New York City’s calories-on-menus law

A federal judge upheld a city regulation Wednesday requiring calories to be posted on the menu boards of some chain restaurants, calling the rule a reasonable approach to health officials' goal of reducing obesity. The judge turned back a challenge from the New York State Restaurant Association, a voice for the food service industry. "It seems reasonable to expect that some consumers will use the information disclosed ... to select lower calorie meals ... and these choices will lead to a lower incidence of obesity," U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell said. New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene believes the regulation, which takes effect Monday, will prevent 130,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and will stop another 30,000 from developing diabetes over the next five years. "We just want people to have the information available to them to make healthful decisions," said department spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti. The new rule applies to restaurants in the city that are part of chains with at least 15 outlets across the country. That includes fast-food places like McDonald's and such sit-down chains such as Olive Garden and T.G.I. Friday's. The city Board of Health voted unanimously in January to approve the regulation, a new version of a rule that had been struck down by a judge last year after a challenge from the restaurant association. "We don't object to people doing it voluntarily," restaurant association spokesman Chuck Hunt said Wednesday in an interview before the ruling was released. "Our problem was the government agency forcing them to do it. We think restaurants should be able to determine from their customers how they want to get the information." It was not immediately clear whether the association would appeal. Some restaurants including Starbucks and Chipotle have already started to post calories on menus. The health department said it will not start fining restaurants until June 3. New York City, which banned Continue Reading

MIAMI TO THE MAX. Florida’s hottest city is feeling more like New York every day, only warmer

New Yorkers have long flocked to Miami's Gold Coast during the drab winter drag - and it seems we're leaving a lasting impression on our home away from home. The kitschy city that comic Lenny Bruce once dubbed "Where neon goes to die" is already known for its ever-expanding dining and nightlife scene, but it's fast becoming a cultural center, luring jet-setters with more than just sun and mojitos. With hipsters flooding the converted warehouses in the Design District, lively gallery nights flourishing in Wynwood and endless clubs, visiting New Yorkers may not miss the city they left behind. Downtown Miami, the headquarters of many Latin American operations for multinational corporations such as American Airlines, Cisco and Exxon, parallels Manhattan's bustling Financial District. Coral Gables' Coconut Grove, with its street markets and artist tables, feels like a tropical SoHo. Yet even as luxury hotels keep sprouting among the palms and upscale restaurants of every cuisine, the Magic City retains an unmistakable identity all its own. "The official bird of Miami is the crane! " joked my driver as we flew down the main concourse connecting Miami International Airport to the balmy South Florida playground. (Either rent a car or employ a cab service, as much of Miami is not pedestrian-friendly.) Construction equipment dotted the skyline almost as frequently as the lofty office towers and condos. Turning into North Miami's Design District, however, my eyes were drawn to a maze of shoe outlets, discount stores and Cuban coffee shops brewing sweetly potent colada (served in shot-size portions that trump Starbucks' best) with beautiful hand-painted signs. This area is also growing up fast - converted outlets already house interior design showcases, and a Circuit City will open soon. North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a forum for young and emerging artists, has a satellite in this blossoming neighborhood at the Goldman Warehouse, run by Bonnie Continue Reading

STARBUCKS TAKES ON NEW YORK. And the winner of the breakfast sandwich showdown is no shocker: NYC’s got it locked

Starbucks may be pushing its brand-new breakfast sandwiches on nearly every corner, but it's not like this was a town hurting for a hot ham, egg and cheese. If the chain's attempt at eggs was greasy perfection, New York could forgive them. But the hockey puck lands with such a clunky thud, it's a far cry from the city's own breakfast beauties. BAGEL WITH EGG, VIRGINIA HAM AND FONTINA CHEESE $2.95 at Starbucks citywide The fancied-up ingredients are flavorful, true, but we expected problems watching the barista fumble with his fancy bagel tongs and newfangled toaster oven. A paperweight of a sandwich, this emerged a melty mess and gets tough on the bottom, plus it's too hot to eat on the run. We expected more from the Seattle powerhouse. Don't they know breakfast better than anyone? The counter staff gave a weary look when I requested two to go. Looks like the sandwich might rival the half-caf skinny maple macchiato for Most Annoying Thing to Order at the 'Bucks. Bottom Line: Grab one on the run if you must, but get them to toast it for half the time. And definitely skip this sleep-inducing sammy if you need to be wide-eyed at the morning meeting. ... AND HOW NEW YORK SANDWICHES STACK UP FLORENT CROISSANDWICH $9.95 at Florent, 69 Gansevoort St. Curb a wee-hours craving at this 24-hour, always-hip Meatpacking District dining mecca. Scrambled eggs, cheese (American, Swiss or Cheddar) and ham or bacon are sandwiched between a flaky house-made croissant that comes with fries, home or French. Burp. Bottom Line: A breakfast bite designed for city hipsters and big spenders, the good news is, every buttery bite is worth it. BACON, EGG AND CHEESE ON A ROLL $1.99, Super Deli Grocery, 664 Amsterdam Ave. This 24-hour bodega near 92nd St. is delightfully gritty; after midnight, customers shop via a Plexiglas barrier. Amazingly cheap sandwiches are cooked to order, the rolls are toasted and there's no skimping - three bacon strips, two slices Continue Reading

McDonald’s to offer delivery in parts of New York City

Now you can order a Quarter Pounder with ease, not just cheese. Eighty eight McDonald's restaurants in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn started offering delivery Monday as part of a trial. Ronald McDonald and Co. are teaming up with Postmates, a third-party service that recently partnered with Chipotle. Postmates will also provide the muscle when Starbuck begins its delivery service in parts of New York and Seattle later this year. The entire McDonald's menu - except for ice cream cones - will be available from participating restaurants during normal operating hours, but a few stores will offer 24 hour delivery. Customers can order online or through the Postmates app on their phone, but delivery will ratchet up the price of a Big Mac and the Dollar Menu. There's a 9% service charge, and the delivery fees for Postmates begin at $5 and up, depending on distance and demand. The move comes as other fast food chains are trying to tap into the 70 billion market for food delivery. In addditon to Chipotle and Starbucks, Taco Bell has announced plans to test out delivery this year, and Burger King has rolled out a pilot program in select markets, including parts of New York City, through Continue Reading

Starbucks will deliver coffee in parts of New York and Seattle by end of 2015

Starbucks will start delivering cups of joe to customers in parts of Seattle and New York by the end of the year, the coffee giant announced Wednesday. Some offices in the Big Apple will benefit from the company’s new pilot program, which allows baristas to personally hand caffeine addicts their daily brews where they work. The “Green Apron” test run will be first rolled out in buildings with existing or newly setup Starbucks shops, starting with the Empire State Building. Starbucks is also testing on-demand delivery service in Seattle, where select customers can order food and drinks through the Starbucks mobile app and have it sent to their homes and offices, the coffee chain said during its annual meeting of shareholders. “This rapidly growing organization — operating in 22 markets with more than 1.5 million deliveries to date — brings robust logistics technology, courier-enabled delivery and quality of service expertise,” Starbucks said in a statement. Both pilot programs will begin in the “second half of 2015,” the statement said. There will be no minimum purchase required, but deliveries will require “a small flat fee,” Starbucks Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman said. The average time for deliveries will be 30 minutes, Brotman said, and the hours of deliveries have yet to be determined. The news comes a day after Starbucks' "Race Together" campaign drew widespread mockery on Twitter, even prompting a #NewStarbucksDrinks hashtag. CEO Howard Schultz had announced the initiative Monday, asking the company's baristas to write "Race Together" on coffee cups as an invitation to talk about race with customers. With News Wire Services Join the Conversation: Continue Reading