Dolphin Seen on an Apparently Healthy Swim in the East River

A dolphin was spotted swimming in the East River off the East 90s of Manhattan on Wednesday morning and was still there Wednesday afternoon.

Dolphins are occasional visitors to New York’s waterways and, unlike in January, when an obviously ailing dolphin turned up in the filthy Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, marine mammal rescuers did not immediately sound alarms.

“I’ve been watching video of him swimming and he appears to be using a lot of water,” said Kimberly Durham, rescue program director for the Riverhead Foundation, meaning that the dolphin was covering a lot of territory. “But he intrigues me.”

The foundation’s executive director, Robert DiGiovanni Jr., was en route to the scene on Wednesday afternoon and planned to do a health assessment of the animal, believed to be a bottlenose dolphin, Ms. Durham said.

As of noon, the dolphin would swim in one direction for a couple of minutes, then turn around and swim back, remaining in the area roughly bounded by the East 90s of Manhattan, Randalls Island and the end of Astoria Boulevard in Queens.

The Riverhead Foundation noted on its Facebook page:

“We have documented four occasions of reports of cetaceans in or near the East River since 2010. Three of those events were in February and March timeframe. In all four events, intervention was not deemed necessary and the animals did leave the area without further sighting reports.”

Dolphins usually travel in groups, though, and Ms. Durham added, “a bottlenose dolphin alone is definitely something that gives me a little bit of concern.”

The police, for their part, did not seem worried.

“Just a dolphin swimming through,” a spokesman said. “It is not in distress and we did not aid it.” He added, “Why would we pursue a dolphin?”

Yana Paskova contributed reporting.

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At a Beach Club, a Battle to Rebuild After the Storm

The Silver Gull Beach Club in the Rockaways has been making repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to try to open by Memorial Day. But its opening has been threatened by a stop-work order. Todd Heisler/The New York Times The Silver Gull Beach Club in the Rockaways has been making repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to try to open by Memorial Day. But its opening has been threatened by a stop-work order.

In the 1984 film “The Flamingo Kid,” newly hired cabana boys at a beach club were made to jump off the end of a pier into the ocean below, as an initiation rite.

The film was shot at the Silver Gull Beach Club, a cluster of oceanfront cabanas in the Rockaways that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October.

The club is unique in New York City, with double-decker rows of cabanas jutting out into the surf on piers. Roughly 200 of its 460 cabanas were damaged by the storm.

The club, which sits on federal seashore, began rebuilding soon after the hurricane, with club officials promising to open by Memorial Day.

But now, that timetable may be delayed by a federal stop-work order issued last week on the club’s main cluster of damaged cabanas, said Bob Ordan, the club’s general manager.

Federal officials visited the site and ordered construction stopped on Big Island, one of five piers bearing cabanas and jutting out over the water’s edge.

The pier, featured in the film, was the hardest hit area of the club, with damage to half of its 84 cabanas, Mr. Ordan said. The federal official, from the Gateway National Recreation Area, which administers the property, ordered work stopped, saying that Gateway officials had told the club months ago not to rebuild that pier because it was too vulnerable to more storm damage.

Mr. Ordan said he knew of no such order and he showed the official a letter that Gateway had sent the club in January recommending, but not forbidding, that the club not rebuild Big Island.

The Jan. 18 letter from Linda Canzanelli, superintendent of Gateway, which grants a concession to the club allowing it to operate, specified as “comments and recommendations” that the pier not be rebuilt. Rebuilding would be “not favored,” Ms. Canzanelli wrote, according to a copy of the letter Mr. Ordan showed to a reporter on Tuesday.

The club, just east of Breezy Point, is run by Ortega Family Enterprises, whose 10-year contract with Gateway – a National Park Service entity that includes 26,000 acres in New York and New Jersey – to run the club began with last summer’s season.

Mr. Ordan said the club did heed most of Gateway’s recommendations, including not rebuilding eight cabanas on the end of the Big Island pier that were destroyed. But since the club owners were investing their own money, they decided rebuilding the other cabanas on the pier was a risk worth taking, he said.

Gateway National Recreation Area officials had not responded yet to a request for comment.

The Ortega family estimates the rebuilding will cost $3 million, and has already spent $2 million, Mr. Ordan said.

“If you build near the water, there’s always some risk,” he said. “We’ve been working seven days a week, sunup to sundown, to make a private investment in public property.”

Unless the situation is resolved quickly, the club risks having its contractors leave the site, to begin work on other projects, he said.

“We’re on track to open by Memorial Day,’’ he said. “Another week or two, and that won’t be possible.”

Big Island has some of the most coveted cabanas, especially for members who are elderly or have physical disabilities, since it is the most easily accessible pier, he said. Some members have been renting cabanas on the pier for more than 30 years, and most Big Island cabanas are already rented for this summer, he said.

The club, which has a working-class clientele largely from Brooklyn, opened in 1963 and retains a classic look. But the place was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, which caused a significant amount of erosion and tore up the expansive concrete patio and the concrete sea wall that had stood for 50 years.

The two large steel pools survived, but were filled with sand and concrete. Water slides were jostled, and the kiddie pool was lost.

Mr. Ordan, 55, who began working at the club as a teenager as a lifeguard, looked at a huge pile of concrete rubble half the size of a football field, piled in the parking lot.

He said the club’s insurance policy did not cover flood damage, so it is still unclear how much of the rebuilding cost will be covered.

So far, $250,000 has been spent on Big Island alone, and the work is nearly finished on it, he said.

“It’s our risk,’’ Mr. Ordan said. “If it gets destroyed again next year, then it’s our money gone.”

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Rating Engine Solutions For The Insurance Industry

Rating Engine Insurance Calculating insurance ratings can be a time consuming job. If you deal in insurance, you may want to find a way that you can save time, lessen the stress of the job, and still be able to provide solutions for your clients that they will be happy with. Ratings are quite involved because of the many calculations that are required to end up with an accurate rating. With rating engine insurance solutions, a company does not have to spend the same amount of time to get to that accurate rating that they need.

The Ease Of The System

Rating engine insurance solutions are pretty easy for product managers to use. They are able to take their existing files and spreadsheets and create more accurate ratings off of them. New products are more easily introduced and the rating logic is translated more easily into data. Product managers and actuaries who use the rating engines for insurance do not have to learn new symbolic languages and the solutions work with existing software to provide you with the best quotes and rates that you are looking for.

Learn More

If you are a product manager or actuary that deals with ratings, looking more into insurance rating engines might really help you to be more effective in the work place and have more success in the work that you do. Getting online could lead you to some good information that could help you to learn more about rating engines.

Up for a Vote, the Pay Phone of the Future

Meanwhile, in other voting news on Wednesday, a sensuous wraparound booth and a slender concave kiosk were leading a popularity contest on Facebook, the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, sponsored by the Bloomberg administration.

Building Blocks

How the city looks and feels — and why it got that way.

The public has been asked to vote for one of six finalists in a contest meant to encourage new thinking about the 11,000 pay phone sites in New York. Coin-operated landlines seem increasingly obsolete. Franchises under which private companies install, maintain and operate public phones expire on Oct. 15, 2014. That gives city officials a chance to figure out what features they will want to see in the pay phones of the future.

Out of about 125 submissions to the design contest, the city winnowed the field last week to six entries in five categories. (There was a tie in one.) A sixth category — popular choice — will be determined by the Facebook vote, which will close Thursday at 5 p.m.

Tuesday’s front-runners each had roughly the same number of votes and were well ahead of the other entries. They were NYC Loop, a wraparound booth designed by the architectural firm FXFowle, and NYFi, a slender kiosk designed by Sage & Coombe Architects.

Though Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the contest had “the potential to transform the aesthetics and functionality of New York City pay phones,” it also has the potential of making no difference whatever, particularly since the new franchises will be negotiated by a different mayoral administration.

But it’s still fun to contemplate a future in which pay phones might have a little more purpose again.

NYC Loop was named best in creativity; meaning originality, innovation and the quality of the idea. It was designed by FXFowle. The description on the NYC Digital site says, in part: “NYC Loop combines a beautiful, contemporary pay phone with a uniquely tailored public space that can be chosen to suit New York’s diverse communities. It provides sound-harmonizing technology as well as a smart screen for making calls and enhancing personal mobile communication.” It continues, “The Loop also features a responsive projector that creates an ‘information puddle’ on the sidewalk with which any passer-by can interact.”

NYFi was named best in connectivity, meaning the ability to connect New Yorkers and enable communication, including safety and emergency notices. It was designed by Sage & Coombe Architects. “The NYFi features two interfaces, and a simple touch activates the height-sensitive interactive zone on either face. Two models of the NYFi are proposed: a 10-foot model for commercial and manufacturing districts, and a smaller model for residential and historic districts where pay phones have not traditionally been permitted. When not in use, the default display in commercial areas is interactive advertising and, in residential neighborhoods, wayfinding and local interest posts.”

Smart Sidewalks was named best in functionality, meaning flexibility, versatility, scalability, accessibility and sustainability. It was designed by a group from Syracuse University, the University of California at Davis, Parsons the New School for Design, Rama Chorpash Design and Cheng & Snyder. “The design works within the existing five-foot sidewalk grid and has two main components. The first lies flush with the ground, and introduces a combined sensor and display with storm runoff storage below. The second stands vertical and functions as a touch-screen, Wi-Fi hub, energy source, charging station and a range of other functions.”

NYC I/O: The Responsive City was named best in community impact, meaning support of local residents, businesses and cultural institutions. It was designed by Control Group and Titan. “By updating the pay phone with a modern array of sensors and displays to create a foundational input/output system for an open, urban-scale computing platform, we can allow New York City to respond to and serve the people. Through open access to real time data and a distribution platform for community, civic, arts and commercial apps and messaging, we can create a safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable city.”

Beacon was named best in visual design, meaning visual appeal and user experience. It was designed by Frog. “The upper screens function as digital signage, creating an ad-supported revenue stream that allows Beacon to provide its other functions free of charge. These screens also adapt to public events throughout our city, from N.Y.C. marathon mileage markers to themed banners, celebrating with the city during its many parades. The lower screens are dedicated to New York City’s local street life and communities, with hyper-local advertising, community message boards, and of course, the telephone functionality.”

Windchimes was also named best in community impact. It was designed by a group from Parsons, the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University and Cooper Union. “Windchimes are environmental sensor stations that talk through pay phones. They can plug directly into existing technologies and communication infrastructure, making them low cost and immediately deployable. We imagined New York City’s existing 11,000 pay phones as a distributed sensor network providing real-time and hyper-local records of the city’s rain levels, pollution and other environmental conditions.”

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For a Subway Seat, Weighing Pregnancy Against Infirmity

Dear Diary:

It was 8:45 a.m. and we had been waiting for the Manhattan-bound A train (or the C, or the F, at this point) for 15 minutes. It was one of those rainy, late-winter mornings, and the crowd on the platform at Jay Street/MetroTech in Brooklyn was growing in size and turbulence.

Finally an A train came crawling into the station. The train was already packed, but we were desperate and running late, so into the wet, steamy train car we squeezed. Suddenly, a man who had the luxury of a seat bolted up from it and ran out the doors just as they were closing.

The two people closest to the seat, a man and a woman, made a move at the same time, then stopped mid-lunge and looked at each other. The man was older and had a cane, and the young woman was rather pregnant.

The whole train car held its breath. Who was more deserving? Would there be a fight? Why isn’t someone else standing up?

Finally, as the train started to lurch out of the station, the man with the cane insisted, “Pregnancy beats cane! Pregnancy beats cane!”

The whole train started to laugh and applaud, shrugging and shaking our heads at one another. After a few back-and-forths, the pregnant woman made the man with the cane take the seat, because she was getting off at the next station. But we witnesses didn’t stop laughing until probably around 14th Street.


Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail [email protected] or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

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Views Mixed After Limits on Sweet Drinks Are Blocked

The New York Times article on a judge’s ruling on Monday striking down the city’s impending limits on large sugary drinks drew more than 1,300 comments from readers representing a wide range of regulatory philosophies. Here are some of them. A few have been condensed slightly.

This is one time when common sense won out. Yes, too much sugar is bad, but the law was dumb. Anyone who wanted more soda could just refill their cup, especially in all those fast-food restaurants with self-service soda machines, which is most of them. The law also created a maze of rules and applied only to specific places serving specific kinds of choices, but not the choice to drink as much soda or have as much sugar as you wanted.
— Carmela Sanford, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

What’s arbitrary and capricious is this judge’s decision. I would not back a ban of soda or other unhealthy foods, because that would be governmental overstep. However, this regulation doesn’t ban anything — it institutes a nudge toward portion control.
— Joseph, bklyn

Hooray for freedom. Now reduce the portion of my tax that covers medical insurance, pro-rated on the percentage of expense that goes toward sugar-related illnesses, and don’t use any public money to treat its sufferers.

Consumers get to hurt themselves freely, and the rest of us get free from paying for their foolishness.

If we must, I guess we could tax sugar content and have it go into a special portion of the revenue that will treat sugar-related illnesses at “public” expense, but that “public” money will have been paid for almost entirely by those who consume the product. There’s precedent for that kind of arrangement, isn’t there?
— Alan, N.Y.C.

I happen to believe that if the government doesn’t belong in the bedroom, that it does not belong in the kitchen either.

— Otto Von Bismarck, Koenigsberg, Prussia

The ruling makes sense, even though the motive behind the law makes more sense. In the end, if the limits of size are knocked down, perhaps all the publicity will make folks think twice about the choices they make. I think the message about the corrosive impact of bad food choices is beginning to sink in, thanks to public-minded folks like the mayor and the first lady.

— SNA, Westfield, N.J.

This decision just shook up the mayoral campaign. Candidates will have to say whether they will continue appealing this idiotic legal decision up to the Court of Appeals. I will vote for the candidate who promises to continue the appeals.

Apparently for some, freedom means the freedom to get Type-2 at 28, lose both legs at 44, then stick your hand in other people’s wallets to pay for the self-inflicted chronic diseases you got because big food jerks you around like a marionette.

If we can’t accept the tiniest, most voluntary steps like this one, there is no hope this stupid country will ever save itself. Laugh, world, laugh at us. We deserve it.

— Bill U., New York

I say put a nice 25 percent tax on sugary drinks. Sin taxes are always much more effective than bans. And they’re generally always upheld by courts.

— HSG9000, Earth

Agreed that obesity is a problem. And encouraging healthier eating is a good thing.

That said, I buy those large drinks. Why? Because I share with my husband and my son, and one large is cheaper than three small.

Hmmm … between that and the two-cup solution in the article, I begin to suspect it isn’t about public health at all. It’s about getting people to spend more money.

— Stephanie Chernoff, CT

You have to love it when Big Brother Government is put back in its place by the very bureaucracy it lives by. Take that, Mayor Bloomberg.
— Paul, White Plains

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