Archive | April, 2009

Police Fingered in Harlem Cycle Smash

by Tracy Chimming, Emily Feldman, Joel Schectman, and Tim Persinko

Bicyclist hit on 125 Street, Harlem

Bicyclist hit on 125 Street, Harlem

WHAT

A speeding unmarked police vehicle driving in the wrong lane on 125 Street in Harlem hit a man on a bicycle and then continued driving.  The black police sedan appeared to be chasing a man on foot running west on 125 Street toward Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard around noon on April 22, witnesses said.  Employees of nearby businesses rushed to the aid of the fallen cyclist, who laid grimacing in pain in the east bound lane of 125 Street next to his mangled bicycle.  The bicyclist sustained leg injuries, according to witnesses.  The bicyclist was described as a black man age 30 or older.

Within minutes of the bike strike, dozens of police lights lit up the intersection.  Police radio activity indicated multiple police units were involved in the pursuit of the running suspect, who was apprehended around the corner from the hit and run in front of Greater Refuge Temple Church at 7th Avenue and 124 Street.  At least a pair of officers waited with the bicyclist for an ambulance to arrive, but the unmarked vehicle involved in the accident did not return.  Both the NYPD’s 32nd Precinct in Harlem and NYPD Headquarters declined comment on the operation and the incident.  The current status of the bicyclist remains unknown.

WHERE

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WITNESSES

Terry Sweeny, 28, was offering free pedi-cab rides for Earth Day on 125th Street directly across the street from where the accident occurred.


Terry Sweeny from Emily Feldman on Vimeo.

The hit and run took place in front of Dr. Jay’s clothing store on 125 Street.  Andre Holman, 42, a security guard there, watched the accident through the store window.


Andre Holman from Emily Feldman on Vimeo.

Jack Bicough, 23, from Astoria Queens, was a bystander at the scene.


Jack Bicough from Tracy Chimming on Vimeo.

Alassane Yanoga 33, sells clothes on the street in Harlem everyday. Police officers ran past his table.


Alassane Yanoga from Tracy Chimming on Vimeo.

 

Posted in Manhattan, Multimedia, Video

Green Products Pitch at Earth Day Fair

Reported by Sergey Kadinsky, Alana Rigal, Ben Fractenberg                                                                              Collage by Ben Fractenberg

Earth Day 2009. New York’s historic Grand Central Terminal hosted a massive Earth Day Festival, taking up three city blocks and the Vanderbilt Gallery inside. 108 organizations participated in this year’s event. An unseasonably high temperature also ensured a strong turnout on the two-day fair’s April 24 opening.

Little stands crowded next to each other, with colorful and hands-on displays which offered tips and new ways on how to save energy, green household products, and some tables that were just for fun.

There were a variety of creative green enterprises represented, including products manufactured from cardboard, sails, and even elephant dung.

Many of these green projects are publicly-funded, and promoted innovative technologies like hybrid buses, the expansion of bike lanes; and tax credits for solar panels on green rooftops. The event was free and open to all.

Earth Day was first observed in 1970, as a grassroots campaign spearheaded by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson.

Posted in Earth Day

The Future of News at BCNI Philly

Newsmakers and news-consumers met in Philadelphia on Saturday for BarCamp News Innovation, an “unconference” designed as a platform for people interested in journalism to exchange ideas on how to save the ailing news industry. 

Newspapers’ woes have worsened recently as the industry tries to adjust to a changing media landscape. Just last week, the New York Times reported a 27 percent drop in advertising revenues for the first-quarter of the year. At the same time, workers for the Boston Globe rallied to save their paper from extinction due to budget cuts. If the Globe shuts down on its May first deadline, it’ll be following in the footsteps of the Seattle-Post Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News—two former news staples whose print versions are now defunct.

Journalist Beth Park (CLICK FOR AUDIO)

Journalist Beth Parke (CLICK FOR AUDIO)

Beth Parke (right), a veteren journalist and executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, attended the event. She said she was interested in learning more about the changing nature of media, the poor job market, and the future of print media. While excited about technological innovation, she said she was concerned with the possible decline of in-depth and investigative journalism. “You don’t want to sacrifice content and knowledge to technique and tools,” she said (click on the picture to hear what else she had to say).

CLICK FOR VIDEO

CLICK FOR VIDEO

The conference kicked off at 9 A.M. at Temple University. A unique event, there was no set schedule for the day–participants used an open grid format (photo left) to determine what topics they wanted to discuss. They wrote their ideas on an index card and tacked them onto the grid during a time slot; attendees then choose which sessions they wanted to attend (click the picture to see how it works).

As soon as the sessions began, BCNI’s twitter feed was flooded with comments from participants who live-tweeted the discussions. Sessions focused on topics like online advertising and how to make it effective (and profitable) and the debate over re-inventing journalism schools to incorporate more new media training.

Experts offered their own takes. Speakers from CoPress–a not-for-profit that specializes in college media outlets–talked about the ways that college media can innovate. Patrick Thornton of beatblogging.org gave advice on how to use social networking in reporting. 

People from all different fields and backgrounds came to participate in the discussions. Click on any of the photos below to hear what each person had to say:

CLICK FOR VIDEO

CLICK FOR VIDEO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Wink, a recent Temple graduate, started his own local blog at TechnicallyPhilly.com to cover technological news in Philadelphia

Christopher Wink, a recent Temple graduate, started his own local blog at TechnicallyPhilly.com to cover technological news in Philadelphia (CLICK PHOTO FOR AUDIO)

Patrick Thronton led a session on the role of social networking technology in beat reporting. He is the editor of beatblogging.org (CLICK PHOTO FOR AUDIO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some, the event was just what they needed to ease concerns over the dismal state of the news industry–to see the new technology as a blessing, not a curse. 

As one tweeter, rebeccavm, put it: “After bcniphilly, I have some hope for the future,” she wrote. “That’s good, except I also want a fancy new phone.”

BY: Indrani Datta, Sophie Cocke, Jeanmarie Evelly

Posted in Multimedia

Car Show-Time

By Maria Clark, John De Petro, Xiomara Martinez-White, and Jessica Wakeman

The new hybrid 2010 Honda Insight rivaled the Toyota Prius both in price and efficiency at the 2009 New York International Auto Show.

While there was plenty of fanfare surrounding the costly sports cars on display, hundreds of potential buyers chose to make their way to the earth-friendly vehicles to scout out their next buy. Despite great interest surrounding the electric cars on display, it was the earth and pocket friendly hybrids that drew the biggest crowds.

Joseph Servidone, 58, drove down from Connecticut to view the latest and greatest in automobiles. He recently drove his first hybrid through the country roads near his home.

“My friend has a hybrid. They are so quiet and save a lot in gas money,” he said as he eyed the Honda FCX Clarity, a hydrogen powered car. “I’d like to get one of these, but I wouldn’t even begin to know how to fuel it.”

The Honda Civic Insight, a relatively affordable hybrid on display for $20,000, kept drawing eager passengers and drivers to test out its interior.

It’s main competitor, the Toyota Prius sells for an average of $26,672, according to the Prius website.

“This new Insight will give more people the chance to get behind the wheel of a high-quality hybrid vehicle,” said Tekeo Fukui, Honda’s CEO at the Paris Motor Show last October.

New to the vehicle is the Ecological Drive Assist System- or Eco Assist- feature. It uses a dashboard display and backlighting to guide the driver in how to increase fuel efficiency. Other options include a navigational system, Bluetooth and an iPod hookup. The first real-world road tests revealed that the 2010 Honda Insight can go 60 mpg at highway speeds.

Despite their popularity, hybrids make up only 3 percent of the domestic market. They are normally too expensive to catch on with the average consumer Mike Omotoso of J.D. Power and Associates told Wired.com.

“People want to buy what they know. They are comfortable with a car like the Insight. It’s affordable and the technology is not over the head of the average consumer,” said Chris Murphy a sales representative for Honda.

The 2010 Insight went on sale nationwide on April 22, Earth Day.

Bronx student Baldwin Lora, 18, discusses the future of automobiles and the environment.

Janice Dodge and her son 17-year-old Gregory consider buying a “green” car.

Racquel Palmese, managing editor of Green Technology Magazine: her organization recently held an environmental summit for the state of California. She says some towns have begun incorporating green technology into their transpotation, which she thinks can encourage the personal use of green technology, especially in cars.
[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/05/racquel_palmese1.mp3]

For more coverage of the 2009 New York City International Auto Show, click here.

For a quick look at the history of alternative fuel, click here.

Posted in Multimedia

Subway MTA Workers Protest Planned Layoffs and Silent Union

By Amber Benham, Jacqueline Linge and Heather Chin

Update (May 11, 2009): Following approval from the New York State Legislature for a $2.26 billion bailout of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the agency’s board voted today to raise subway fares and road tolls by 10 percent instead of the proposed 23 to 30 percent. The commuter and subways/bus hikes will take effect on June 17 and June 28, respectively. The compromise also reduces service and staff cuts to only those coming from retirement and workers quitting.

Hundreds of transit workers – train conductors, bus drivers, track inspectors and station agents – joined average New Yorkers outside the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Midtown headquarters last Thursday to protest everything from transit layoffs and budget cuts to fare and tuition hikes. Their massive presence and loud cries punctuated a campaign that began over six months ago when the MTA announced a budget shortfall of 1.2 billion dollars. Since then, the deficit has ballooned as tax revenues fall.

Proposals for closing the budget gap include a 23 to 30 percent fare hike effective June 1, the reduction of commuter bus, subway and train service, and the elimination of up to 3,000 jobs, 1,100 through immediate layoffs and the rest after workers retire or quit, according to the MTA. Transit Workers Union Local 100 estimates the removal of at least 819 bus operators, over 700 station attendants and 317 managerial administrators.

The proposed hike would mean one-way subway fares of $2.50 from the current $2. A 30-day unlimited Metrocard would cost $103, up from $81.

Protesters said that these cuts would negatively affect service on all levels, the fewer number of station attendants and conductors reducing response times for commuter problems and potentially increasing safety risks.  They said that in addition to saving their own jobs, they want to also ensure there are enough workers and financial support to safeguard public safety, as Lance Hill, a station cleaner, stated. “We want the safety for the public,” Hill said. “We don’t want them to cut back, taking clerks out of booths and things like that.”

At an emergency MTA board meeting in March, MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger called the situation “dire” and maintained that negotiations with union leaders were ongoing.  Besides trying to alleviate a huge budget deficit, the MTA is also selling the MTA Dedicated Tax Fund and various bonds for over $1.25 billion in order to finance existing transit and capital projects.

Workers present were part of MTA Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is led by Acting President Curtis Tate, who is working with union arbiter Roger Touissant on negotiations and the penning of a new collective bargaining agreement with the MTA.

“It seems like every year the contract is up, transit is losing money. And the other three years before that they’re making billion dollar profits. So we just find it strange that every time it comes to us there’s nothing for the workers,” said bus driver Hiram Vidal, who works on the M4 bus line. “Ridership for the buses are up 500 percent, but yet … they say they’re losing money. I don’t know what sector of the transit is losing money, but it’s not the working class.”

While New Yorkers are fed up with the union leadership, calling for more member input and influence in contract negotiations, Touissant, as arbiter, and Local 100 are holding out hope for the city, state and federal governments to provide financial support.  In a statement on the union’s website, Touissant says he hopes President Obama will “address pressing national and international issues in a manner that offers longer term solutions rather than short term or knee-jerk reactions to just cut cut cut,” and that Albany do the same and secure long-term funding. However, how they are to do that is not addressed.

Posted in City Proposals, Manhattan, Multimedia, Politics

Chelsea Piers Leads NYC in Wind Power

These windmills in Fenner, New York provide power to facilities in NYC

By Valerie Lapinski, Colin Orcutt, Maureen Sullivan, Nicole Turso, and Brian Winkowski

New York: The New Windy City?

City officials on Thursday honored Chelsea Piers, the country’s biggest sports and entertainment complex, for converting to 100% wind power. Chelsea Piers made the switch in October, making it the biggest business in NYC to use wind energy – equal to taking 2800 cars off of the road, or offsetting the generation of 13,600 tons of green house gas emissions.

But although Chelsea Piers is perched on the breezy west side of the city, the windmill in front of the building is merely decorative. Instead of spending money in attempt to harness wind itself, the facility buys wind credits, which act as a pre-order on wind power being generated somewhere else.

“This is energy that has no supply line around the world, it’s generated here at home. It has no emissions, no climate change impact, and once the investment is made it has no fuel costs,” said Jorge J. Lopez, CEO of ConEdison Solutions at Thursday’s event.

NYC Honors Chelsea Piers for Wind Power

Do-It-Yourself Wind Power

Some people don’t want to wait through this process–from wind farm to energy supplier–to get their energy, but still want to harness the power of the wind.

Energy2Green touts the idea that wind and solar power systems can be built right at home.

Gotwind.org also has a step-by-step guide on how to build your own wind turbine.

It turns out the city isn’t opposed to a little DIY engineering – last summer Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced support of windpower on skyscrapers, a sentiment consistent with his 25-year sustainability initiative, PlaNYC.

This recent piece in the New York Times profiles several buildings in the city that operate at least partially on windpower from installed turbines.

How Wind Credit Works

Wind power is the second most successful renewable source of energy after hydroelectric, or water-fueled turbines that create energy.

Companies like Chelsea Piers buy wind power credits from energy suppliers, including ConEdison Solutions, Accent Energy and Energetix, who buy power from wind farms located throughout the United States. Since some days are windier than others, it’s the suppliers’ job to make sure that their clients are getting the amount of power they’re paying for.

Jorge J. Lopez, CEO of ConEdison Solutions, explains wind credit:

These farms send wind-generated power to the electricity grid that is then verified by an independent audit system and directed to homes and businesses. Customers can choose whether they will receive wind power, standard power, or a combination of the two. Here’s a handy graphic from the BBC that illustrates how wind energy gets to the power grid.

Wind power, however, does come at a premium cost—about two and a half more cents per kilowatt. In addition, customers can choose which wind they will receive—either nationally produced or regional, though regionally produced wind power is more expensive.

As for Chelsea Piers, facility directors think the environmental benefit is worth the extra investment.

“We were surprised to learn that the incremental cost of purchasing 100 percent green power was actually quite small,” Chairman Roland W. Betts said in a press statment. “We believe it will pay for itself in a few years.”

Posted in Business, Earth Day, Featured, Manhattan, Multimedia

NYC Goes Green for Earth Day

By Jim Flood, Jessica Simeone, Michael Preston, and Kate Nocera

Click on the image to learn more about the volunteers and activities at the Green Apple Festival

On a beautiful spring day in Manhattan’s East Village, volunteers came out as part of the three-day Green Apple Festival, a yearly Earth Day event that spans 10 U.S. cities.

Mike Lytle, the head gardener at Tompkins Square Park, put teams of volunteers to work aerating, composting and mulching the park’s flowerbeds. They were there not just to work, but also to learn.

“This is what builds the Earth, this is what improves everything and makes everything easier to do,” Lytle said as he explained the role of composting in the circle of life. “I’m trying to show everyone that the soil is alive,” he added.

This year New York’s Lower East Side hosted three Green Apple Festival events, organized by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the Lower Eastside Girls Club and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

The festival, now in its fourth year, was a little different than in previous incarnations.  This year the festival is putting a huge emphasis on volunteerism.  In the past there were street festivals going on in conjunction with the volunteer efforts.  Due to economic constraints this year that aspect of the festival was dropped from the list.  A free concert for the volunteers was added in place of the street fairs, said Lily, a communications person for the Green Apple Festival.

The Green Apple Festival is not the only one seeing the economic pinch.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg has had to make quite a few cuts to the budget, among those cuts are composting. Lytle noted that the parks still have the compost created from last Fall’s leaves, but once that runs out he’s not sure what they’ll do.

Bloomberg may be skimping on the environment in office, but his company, Bloomberg L.P., is listed as a generous supporter of International Compost Awareness Week being held this May.

Compost is just what volunteers at Tompkins Square Park were getting their hands dirty with on Saturday.   A pitchfork-wielding Annie Levy said she wanted to do her part this Earth Day and had found the Green Apple Festival and its list of opportunities online.

“I killed a lot of trees through scripts and I definitely needed to do something,” said the 29-year-old Levy, who works in the theater industry. She picked this event because of its proximity to her apartment in the financial district.

While the volunteers at Tompkins Square Park were preparing the ground for planting real flowers, members of the Lower Eastside Girls Club were creating a different kind of flower in another environmentally friendly pursuit.

For more about the Lower East Side Girls Club and their newspaper flowers, click on the image above.

For more about the Lower East Side Girls Club and their newspaper flowers, click on the image above.

“We are teaching them how to make paper flowers,” said Lyn Pentecost. Bowls of a watery glue mixture and old newspapers rested on each table as volunteers meticulously constructed the flowers. The goal for the project is to make 300 paper flowers that will be displayed in the club’s “flower garden” before being presented to community mothers on Mother’s Day. The flowers are also sold at the club’s booth at the Essex Street Market.

The Lower East Side Ecology Center hosted a composting workshop on Friday evening. Carey Pulverman, who runs the compost education program, said that trained volunteers called the “Worm Corps” hosted the event. The group gave city dwellers a first-hand lesson in indoor composting and a tutorial for setting up and maintaining a worm bin inside their apartments.

This workshop is part of the Manhattan Compost Project, a subsidiary of the New York City Compost Project, and is offered on a continual basis.

The fourth annual Green Apple Festival included events in all five boroughs ranging from educational opportunities to gardening to arts and crafts.

Events filled up quickly with volunteers and organizations were happy for the help. Lytle welcomed the opportunity to teach the community about the life going on inside of the soil. He said there are 40,000 creatures inhabiting every square foot of soil and he happily pointed out the most interesting ones.

To see Mike talk about the park and show some interesting soil critters, watch the video below.

Mike Lytle discusses soil on Earth Day from Kate Nocera on Vimeo.

Posted in Earth Day

Yankees Steal Home Field Advantage From Bronx School

Yankee Stadium - - shiny and new.  (Photo by Rachel Senatore.)

The new Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Rachel Senatore)

A sell-out crowd of almost 48,000 fans filed into the brand new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium for Opening Day on April 16. So much for home-field advantage—the Yankees fell to the Cleveland Indians with a humiliating 10-2 loss.

But at least they have a home field.

The stadium now sits upon the former Macombs Dam Park, the former home field for All Hallows High School, a small Catholic school located just blocks away from their major league neighbors. New York City plowed over the twenty-two acres of Bronx parkland to make way for the Yankees’ new digs in August 2006.

For three years, the All Hallows’ baseball, soccer and track teams searched the city for a place to play. The circumstances forced them to become a band of reluctant road warriors, playing their home games on opponents’ fields.

“It’s just very frustrating,” principal and team coach Sean Sullivan said. “They’ve affected our school. But we have to adapt, adjust and improvise.”

The Parks Department promised to build All Hallows and the surrounding community replacement fields on the footprint of the old stadium. Originally, they scheduled a start date in 2008. They since pushed back completion of the project until 2010.

All Hallows asked the Yankees for $50,000 for a new bus.  The Yankees gave them a 600-pound behemouth of a pitching maching from the old stadium.  (Photo by Rachel Senatore.)

The Yankees gave Sullivan a 600-pound pitching machine from the old Yankee Stadium. However, it is to heavy to move out of the closet. (Photo by Rachel Senatore)

New Yorkers React To New Stadium

When asked on Opening Day about the Yankees’ treatment of the surrounding Bronx neighborhood, visiting fans voiced their overwhelming disappointment.

“It’s horrible,” said Kevin Corrigan, 55, from Queens. “They did nothing for the community except make money for themselves.”

On April 18, in the midst of the Yankees’ Opening Weekend, local residents parked themselves in front of the old stadium in protest of team’s broken promises.

Fans of the Bronx Bombers have mixed opinions on what to do with the old stadium. While there’s no love loss for the original House That Ruth Built, many believe the community deserves the restoration of their lost grasslands.

Click on the arrow to hear the varying opinions of the New York Yankees faithful:
[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/04/yankees_1-22.mp3]

By Maya Pope-Chappell, Nicholas Martinez, Rachel Senatore, Alex Green IV and Lois DeSocio

Posted in Bronx, City Proposals, Multimedia, Politics, Sports, Video

NYC is Abuzz about Locally-Grown Food, but will Jobs Follow?

by Karina Ioffee, Kieran Krug-Meadows, Nick Loomis and Geneva Sands-Sadowitz

Eating local is in. New York City farmers’ markets are busier than ever and more restaurants are featuring produce from places like Westchester County farms and cheeses handmade in Brooklyn.

But at a time when unemployment continues to rise—nearly 9 percent in April—can locally-grown food create much-needed jobs?

Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, a third generation livestock farmer and a board member of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, in Pocantico Hills, New York, thinks it can.

From the Source: Listen to people who help bring local food to Brooklyn at the Greenmarket in Park Slope
Dorjee Tsering – Phillips Farms Employee[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/05/market_dorjee.mp3]
Stephanie Pereira – Bed Stuy CSA Volunteer[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/05/market_stephaniepereira1.mp3]
Dan DiPaola – DiPaola Turkey Farm employee[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/132/files/2009/05/market_dipaola.mp3]

“Moving food over large distances is not the way of the future because of rising transportation costs,” he says. “If we involve more people in producing and processing local food, there are jobs in that.”

Localization can improve quality of life, reduce costs to individuals, and increase wealth within a community, said Michael Shuman, director of research and public policy at The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and author of Small-Mart.

Shuman recently completed a case study on the local food economy of Detroit for the Fair Food Foundation. The study found that if 20 percent of the food purchased by residents was locally produced, then 5,000 new jobs would be created.

According to Shuman New York City is particularly adept at shifting to a local food economy, because there are many farms and plenty of available land in upstate New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The most effective way to begin localizing the U.S. economy is to increase government spending on local products and to make it easier to invest in small businesses rather than large companies, said Shuman.

Food is a logical place to start buying local because food “ is something that is on everyone’s mind, everyday,” said Shuman.

Food advocates in the New York metropolitan area are already laying the groundwork. Last December, the Stone Barns Center held a conference for young people interested in farming. More than 100 folks showed up to learn everything from the economics of buying land and starting a business to raising livestock.

“For a long time, we’ve had a notion that farming was a drudgery and that farmland was wasteland,” Kirschenmann says. “But the energy of that meeting was amazing.”

Alex Villani, owner of Blue Moon Fish, fishes off the coast of Norfolk, Long Island. Once he catches the fish, he packs them up and trucks his product into New York City to sell at the Greenmarkets. When he first started his business 21 years ago, the Greenmarket was about 20 percent of his business—now it makes up about 90 percent of his overall business. Villani drives his own truck to the city and then meets a group of workers at the market who help him sell.

Watch below to hear why Villani chooses to sell at the Greenmarket and how his business impacts the economy.


Although starting a farm sounds attractive, it’s not all that easy. Access to affordable capital, land and markets keep some would-be farmers away from the land and existing farmers from expanding their operations.

Lack of parking in New York City and poor infrastructure at farmers’ markets, such as water, storage and electricity are problematic, according to a recent report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

There’s also the lack of a regional distribution infrastructure that would help connect farmers with stores or markets.

For example, the Hunts Point Food Cooperative in the Bronx, one of the world’s largest wholesale food distributors, according to Stringer, is woefully outdated and in need of renovation.

Last year Stringer’s office launched Go Green East Harlem Initiative that, among other things, is focusing on Greenmarkets in Harlem and other low-income neighborhoods where there are high rates of diabetes and obesity, diseases often caused by a poor diet.

“We’re not going to grow our economy, unless we start thinking locally,” he says. “New York suffered heavy loses in manufacturing, jobs that paid well and provided a good living for thousands of families. The green economy allows us to continue that tradition…and can be the next big economy in which we can invest.”

More restaurants in New York City are choosing to include locally-grown food on their menus and some are doing it exclusively. But there are many challenges, including getting enough produce to meet the demand.

Listen to the experiences of Back Forty’s general manager Michael Fuquay.

Posted in City Proposals, Multimedia

Opening a Bar During Recession

By Damiano Beltrami, Aisha Al-Muslim, Anastasia Economides

Sometimes there are advantages to opening a business during an economic downturn. Holiday Haber, owner of P&G Café, a bar that opened two weeks ago at Columbus Ave and 78th Street, says there’s not as much red tape now. At a time when many business are closing or scaling back, she says everybody seems to be pulling for her to succeed and willing to help her get started.

“We just had to buy a chiller for beer lines and the gentleman is driving it himself from Pennsylvania”, Haber said. “And we’re getting it at about a third of its value.”

Bars and restaurant may not be recession-proof, but people don’t stop eating and drinking when times are bad. One big advantage during a downturn is that everything is cheaper. People, raw materials, office space. And suppliers, desperately looking for jobs, turn up on time and offer reasonable returns by providing discounts or special treatments.

“Some landlords are renegotiating their leases,” said Andrew Rigie, Director of Operations of the New York State Restaurant Association. “Restaurant [and bar] owners have more empty spaces to choose from.”

Some economists like Harvard Business School’s Tom Nicholas and Mike Southon, Financial Times columnist and entrepreneur mentor, recently suggested that a recession can be a good time to start a business.

During the last recession (1991-92) roughly 25% of downsized managers over 40 started their own company, according to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, and the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that in the first six months of 2002, 11.4% of jobless managers and executives started their own businesses.

“Because small firms and self employed individuals are more nimble than large corporations and can capitalize on market opportunities during economic downturns, it’s not surprising to see self employment spike during recessions,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business.  “It’s a testament to the American entrepreneurial spirit.”

Former managers willing to get start-ups running and small entrepreneurs like Haber share advantages as well as the same big disadvantage in starting a business these days: the lack of credit.

“In these tough economic times investments are a problem,” said Cliff Schorer, a professor at the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School.

Haber used family savings and could count on a number of friends to help move furniture, paint walls and install electrical wiring. But she feels that the money is never enough.

“The costs are always far beyond what planned,” she said.

A BAR STOOL FOR A BARGAIN

At a time when bars and restaurants are closing down and sell their furniture to second hand stores, the ones who want to open a business can pick and choose.

The heaven for third and fourth hand stools and tables is the Bowery, an area dotted with dozens of these shops. They are facing hard times, but are a boon for entrepreneurs.

Posted in Business, Featured, Multimedia