On Electric Cars, City Hopes to Lead by Examples

It may have been the only auto showroom in city history to feature shirtless roller skaters, tip-seeking jugglers and an on-site churro vendor.

But for three hours Tuesday night, curious guests and, more often, mystified passers-by along the concourse in front of the Central Park band shell had a chance to take a close look at part of the city’s growing fleet of electric cars.

The display, which was followed by a free screening of the coming documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car,” was intended to inform residents of their options concerning electric cars, city officials said.

“There’s a latent demand for this, particularly when people are educated about the benefits of electric vehicles,” said Adam Freed, the deputy director of the Bloomberg administration’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had announced the addition of 70 electric vehicles to the municipal fleet, raising the total to 430 — more than any city in the country, according to the mayor’s office. Among the recipients of the new vehicles: the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Sanitation, and the Fire and Police Departments.

The city also plans to introduce six fully electric Nissan Leafs into the yellow-cab population as part of a pilot program next year. If the trial is successful, the city’s “taxi of tomorrow,” a Nissan NV200, may be manufactured as an all-electric vehicle.

Prototypes of each new municipal vehicle — fully electric cargo vans and utility trucks, as well as the Chevrolet Volt hybrid, which switches to gas once the battery runs out — lined the band shell’s concourse Tuesday night, with representatives on hand to answer questions about each.

Circling the hybrid, Michael Keister, 27, an Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan, said his experience overseas had compelled him to place a premium on energy independence.

“I was in the Middle East fighting over this stuff,” he said, running his hand along the hood. “People are enslaved by oil.”

Roberto Leal, a master’s candidate in Environmental Science at Columbia University, said he decided to attend after seeing a post about the event on the mayor’s Twitter feed.

Though he is concerned about clean energy, Mr. Leal said he owned a typical gas-using car because, he said, the current plug-in model amounted to a lateral move: exploiting one energy source instead of another.

“I would buy one if they actually used renewable power instead of plugging in,” Mr. Leal said. “But the electricity just comes from coal.”

The city hopes to transition, eventually, to solar-powered charging, according to Jonathan P. Ells, deputy director of operations with the Parks Department. In the meantime, he said, electric municipal vehicles do, at least, “remove emissions from the city setting.”

The city lists about 30 public charging locations as a link from its dedicated Drive Electric Web site. Many are local garages, and the cost of plugging in is determined by each station, city officials said. Municipal vehicles have their own charging stations.

Pat Hackbarth, 59, a professional French horn player, said the uncertain economics of electric vehicles had left her reluctant to purchase one in the city.

“It works better for fleets when they have their own charging station,” she said, laughing. “They’re going to have to go a little farther before I seriously consider getting one.”

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Pothole That Nearly Claimed Al D’Amato Has Been Filled

Senator Pothole’s pothole has been fixed.

And wouldn’t you know? The fixers at the city’s Department of Transportation say it was just a coincidence that they did the repair a couple of days after the pothole, along the Brooklyn-Queens border, tried to swallow former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato.

Mr. D’Amato, of course, was famously known as Senator Pothole when he was in Washington because of his attention to constituents’ headaches back home. This particular pothole, on the stretch where South Conduit Avenue becomes South Conduit Boulevard, was “the size of Battery Park,” Mr. D’Amato reported last week.

He encountered it eight days ago, on the way home to Long Island.

He wasn’t the only one.

“I know precisely the pothole he is talking about,” one of City Room’s spies reported minutes after a post about Mr. D’Amato’s tire-destroying run in went up last Wednesday. Our spy, who recently moved to Queens, said that on the stretch of road there were actually two potholes “in fairly close proximity.”

They were “almost like individual basins, long and large, and devastating,” our spy said. “If you know the roadway well, you get in the middle lane well in advance.”

Mr. D’Amato’s driver did not know the road — they usually go to Long Island a different way. They hit the pothole at about 50 miles an hour. Two tires were ruined, and one rim was damaged. Mr. D’Amato’s car had to be towed to a repair shop.

“So, $1,700 later, here we are,” Mr. D’Amato said.

Our spy sent a bulletin after his drive home on Saturday: The pothole was gone. As if by magic, it had been filled in.

The post last week said Mr. D’Amato had talked about telephoning Senator Charles E. Schumer, the Democrat who beat him in 1998, or Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He said on Tuesday that he ended up calling someone else: Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor, and not until later in the week.

“I said, ‘Howard, I hit the motherlode of potholes,’ ” Mr. D’Amato recalled. “I told him where it was.”

Mr. Wolfson said by e-mail that he remembered the call, and that by then the pothole was gone. “He told me about it after it was fixed, I believe,” Mr. Wolfson said.

Or at least as it was being fixed. A spokeswoman for the Transportation Department, Nicole Garcia, pretty much confirmed the chronology. She said the pothole was already on a to-do list for repairs when Mr. D’Amato hit it, and it was filled in on Thursday — the day Mr. D’Amato said he dialed Mr. Wolfson.

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Damaged Synagogue Is an Architectural Milestone Too

The fire that roared through Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Monday night not only upended an important religious body but also badly damaged a milestone in the development of synagogue architecture. The restrained neo-Classical design speaks of a turning point in the early 1900s when Jews no longer felt bound to incorporate Moorish elements in their places of worship as a way of distinguishing them from Christian churches.

As late as 1893, Arnold W. Brunner — probably the most influential synagogue architect of his time — was still sprinkling Moorish features like cusped arches through his design for Congregation Shaaray Tefila, also known as the West End Synagogue, at 160 West 82nd Street. Within three years, however, Brunner abandoned Eastern influences entirely in designing Congregation Shearith Israel at Central Park West and 70th Street. Given the discovery of Greco-Roman synagogue ruins in Galilee, Brunner argued that neo-Classical design conferred the “sanction of antiquity” on the modern synagogue.

George F. Pelham was the architect of Kehilath Jeshurun’s synagogue at 117 East 85th Street, which followed Shaaray Tefila by nine years and was clearly inspired by it. The two buildings are siblings, if not twins; with four monumental arched windows in their principal facades, framed by wide symmetrical towers. Pelham’s synagogue, however, has no Moorish ornament. If it weren’t for the name “Kehilath Jeshurun” inscribed in Hebrew letters over the door, together with the date of 5662, it would be difficult to identify this structure as a synagogue.

Kehilath Jeshurun was founded in 1872. Before moving to 85th Street, it had a small synagogue at 127 East 82nd Street, which was constructed in 1890. That building stood until a decade ago, when it was torn down and replaced by Congregation Or Zarua. In between the two Jewish congregations, the building had served as the First Waldensian Church. Such turnover is quite common among houses of worship in New York City. Brunner’s Shaaray Tefila synagogue today serves St. Volodymyr’s parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And Temple Shaaray Tefila is a former Trans-Lux theater at 250 East 79th Street.

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Texting With a Deadly Object

Overshadowed by the agonized debate over same-sex marriage was a bill passed by the State Legislature late last month to get tougher with drivers who use electronic devices while they’re at the wheel. These are the geniuses who think that they can take their eyes off the road for a few seconds to thumb-type on a small keyboard while doing 65, and not become a threat to themselves and everyone in their path.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

The new legislation makes texting while driving a primary offense. In other words, fiddling with a hand-held device is of itself enough of a violation for a police officer to pull a motorist over and issue a summons. Until now, texting has received what is known as secondary enforcement: A fine — not great, $150 at most — could be imposed only if the officer spotted the driver committing another violation, like running a red light or speeding.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill into law.

In truth, it could have been sterner. The maximum fine remains $150. Lawmakers also chose to keep the penalty at two points on a driver’s license (though the governor said it would be increased to three points through changes in state regulations). Some other states go much further to show that they’re not messing around. In Utah, texting while driving can lead to a $750 fine and a three-month jail sentence.

But something is arguably better than nothing to tame a preoccupation with electronic devices that, when indulged behind the wheel, can prove as lethal as a stratospheric blood-alcohol level.

“Secondary enforcement really is useless in a way,” said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Her group, based in Washington, describes itself as an alliance of consumer and health groups and insurance companies. “These laws are hard enough to enforce when there’s primary enforcement,” Ms. Stone said. “With secondary enforcement, you’re just not going to see much happening at all.”

It’s debatable whether much will change under the new law. Catching someone in the act of texting is not easy. Even so, legislation of this sort “sends a message,” Ms. Stone said. “It may not be enforced as easily or as well as other laws, but it’s just kind of a no-brainer. Laws have a way of setting a social norm.”

Such is the dominance of the automobile in this country that states are forever inching their way, rather than taking bold strides, toward getting a grip on unsafe behavior. Secondary enforcement tends to be a default position. It takes a while for lawmakers to come around to raising the enforcement bar.

New York is no exception. Drunken driving is a good example. Until the law was toughened six years ago, motorists who were thoroughly sloshed and killed people were able to avoid charges of vehicular manslaughter unless a secondary factor like speeding was proved. Of itself, driving while drunk was not treated as the potential killer that it often turns out to be.

Seat-belt requirements are another example. In 19 states, they still receive only secondary enforcement, Ms. Stone said. (New Hampshire, whose state motto is “live free or die,” has no seat-belt mandate at all for adults. “I always say, ‘Live free and die,’ ” Ms. Stone said.) The evolution from secondary to primary is also slow in regard to laws that regulate teenage driving and that require booster seats for little children.

Then, too, laws like the new texting one in New York strike a certain get-the-government-out-of-my-face chord among some people.

But those who drive and text are not just risking their own skins; they are gambling with other lives as well. “You look down for one second, and it is unforgiving,” Mr. Cuomo said on Tuesday.

Ms. Stone’s view was that the New York legislation “is going to have to be strongly enforced for it to be effective.” And that, she said, “takes time.”


For more local news from The Times, including possibly grave budget cuts at New York’s teaching hospitals, the impact of a fire that destroyed an Upper East Side synagogue and reflections from the city’s Sudanese immigrants on southern Sudan’s new independence,see the N.Y./Region section.

Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs this morning.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke out against an upstate town clerk who resigned rather than marry same-sex couples. [Daily News]

A judge cleared the way for a homeless shelter in Chelsea. [DNA Info]

A city worker and her friend pleaded guilty to stealing $8 million in food stamps. [Daily News]

No texting while driving. Really! Governor Cuomo signed tougher legislation into law. [New York Post]

Prosecutors using DNA evidence charged a man with molesting women on crowded New York subways from 2002 to 2005. [New York Post]

An all-male foot fetish group that met at a bar near the High Line extension has been banished in what some fear is another loss of New York’s grit. [Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York]

Jane’s Addiction is handing out 3D video cameras to its audience for what is said to be the world’s first 3D, user-generated concert video. [Brooklyn Vegan]

The downtown fixture “Mosaic Man” has announced his new project: to cover the lampposts he tiles with the flags of the world. [Bowery Boogie]

A mash-up of high-end bottle service and low-end coupons has resulted in Bookabottle, letting thrifty clubbers to pay online for pricey bottles before leaving home. [New York Observer]

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Three Ways To Protect Your Property In Maryland

No matter where you live, it is important to protect your property from theft or disaster. While it is possible for some to replace personal items, most cannot afford the expense. Instead, it is usually smarter to prepare for disaster. If you want to keep your goods in Maryland safe, take the right precautions. Make sure to get a good home security system, purchase insurance Maryland, and look into having a will made.

Home Security

A home security system is the first thing that many think of when considering home safety, and these systems do a remarkable job of keeping a home safe. Not only can they prevent burglars from easily accessing your home, but many systems also include emergency contacts for police and fire departments. If you want front-line protection for your home, a good security system is simply the first item you should purchase. As a bonus, having a good security device will often help you to reduce the cost of the next item on this list.

Insurance Maryland

The sad truth for most is that most items are irreplaceable. This may be due to sentimental value in some cases, but in most, it is simply because it costs too much to replace a home full of property. If you want to protect the things you own, it is a good idea to purchase insurance Maryland. There are a number of different insurance products for different circumstances, and every individual should take a bit of time to consult an agent and find the best product for their needs. For most, these policies will be the only way to replace many possessions after theft, an accident, or a natural disaster.

Get a Will

Of course, the ultimate way to protect your property is to make sure that it is protected after you are gone. If you can set up your will ahead of time, you will be able to make sure that your family is taken care of in the event of your death. It is generally advisable to get a will as soon as possible, and to update that document after every major event in your life. For the ultimate in property protection, you must think about not only the present but also the future.

Having an up to date will, purchasing insurance Maryland and buying a solid home security system will help you to protect your property in Maryland. While there are no guarantees in life, these three simply purchases will help you to be as prepared as possible. When making any sort of efforts to protect your home or property, always be on the lookout for professional help, you may not be aware of all the ways to construct a proper defense for your home or property.

Visit Insurance Maryland for more information or visit our blog at http://51weeks.com/selecting-insurance-maryland/.