How Are You Celebrating Queen Beatrix’s Abdication?

Subjects of the Dutch colony of Nieuw-Amsterdam, arise! After 33 years as your benevolent overseer, your queen has forsaken you.

Queen Beatrix is queen no more.

Maxima, the queen consort to the new king, Willem-Alexander, may take her spot as reigning female personage. But Beatrix shall not be replaced, not now, or ever.

And so we ask, City Room readers: what are you doing today to mark Beatrix’s exit from the throne?

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Cuomo Asks Con Ed to Freeze Bonuses for Top Executives

1:55 p.m. | Updated Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called on Tuesday for Consolidated Edison to freeze extra bonuses paid to senior executives for their response to Hurricane Sandy, other storms and a monthlong lockout of 8,000 workers last year.

The governor’s demand came five days after one of the company’s directors told The New York Times that the executives were given more than $600,000 for “exemplary” performance in handling several trying events. The company, New York City’s primary utility, said those events included the hurricane late last year that left hundreds of thousands of Con Edison customers without power for at least four days.

The governor appointed a panel, known as a Moreland Commission, to investigate how Con Edison and other utilities prepared for the hurricane and responded after it swept through the metropolitan region at the end of October.

On Monday, Mr. Cuomo sent a letter to Kevin Burke, the chairman and chief executive of Con Edison, stating that he would order utility regulators to look into the bonuses to ensure that they would not be charged to the company’s customers.

The governor followed up on Tuesday by announcing that he had asked Con Edison “to freeze the remaining executive bonuses until the Public Service Commission review is complete. I also urge Con Ed to fully cooperate with the Public Service Commission’s review so we can ensure ratepayers are protected.”

A spokesman for the company said that Mr. Burke had already agreed to return the extra bonus of $315,000 that the board of directors awarded him. That bonus had raised his total compensation for the year to $7.4 million, according to the company’s proxy statement.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to return the special bonus granted by our compensation committee, and funded by shareholders, for handling very challenging events in 2012,” Mr. Burke said in a statement. “I continue to commend the work of all of our employees.”

The spokesman said on Tuesday that three other senior executives who had received extra bonuses would return theirs, too.

Craig Ivey, the company’s president, received an extra bonus of $146,100, raising his total compensation for the year to more than $3 million.
Robert Hoglund, the chief financial officer, got an extra bonus of $82,900 that took his total compensation to about $2.3 million. And Elizabeth D. Moore, the general counsel, got an extra bonus of $70,000 and total pay of more than $1.7 million.

The bonuses were awarded at the discretion of the board’s compensation committee. The committee’s chairman, George Campbell Jr., said in an interview with The Times last week that in the committee’s judgment, “the company performed in exemplary fashion.”

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A Director Calls for Lights, Camera and Depression

Dear Diary:

On the “New York Street” of the Universal Studios back lot in Universal City, Calif., while filming the finale of ABC’s “Revenge,” the assistant director, Johnny Haddad, called out to his 130 background actors:

“People! You’re in New York! You’re on your phones! You’re walking fast! You’re unhappy!”


As a co-executive producer and co-writer of the episode, I was standing at the monitors and chuckled as I heard this.
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Roof-Deck Blaze on a Warm Day Presages Summer Barbecue Fires

One minute, sunshine and spring blossoms were the only things descending from the sky, the next moment it was ashes, soot and fire-hose water cascading from the first roof-deck fire of the year in Lower Manhattan on Sunday afternoon.

The blaze, atop a five-story building on East Seventh Street near Avenue C in the East Village, was quickly put out. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries, but no one else was hurt and the fire did not spread to neighboring buildings or the floors below, said Deputy Chief Michael McPartland of the New York City Fire Department.

Deputy Chief McPartland said it was the first of its kind in 2013, in the division under his command, south of 42nd Street. He said he did not think it would be the last. “In summertime, this time of year, when the weather starts to get nice, we get more roof-deck fires from barbecues,” he said.

The fire on Sunday did not appear to be related to a barbecue. It was thought to have started near cellphone towers on the roof, officials said. But on Monday, a Firefighter Thomas Schwaber, a spokesman for the department, said the cause was still being investigated by fire marshals.

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100 Years Ago, Mayor Had a Ready Trigger Finger

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign for stricter gun regulation might have been, well, gun shy about recruiting one of his predecessors, John Purroy Mitchel.

After all, Mitchel not only packed a pistol himself, he also brandished it in front of City Hall when he was fired upon by a crazed 71-year-old man a century ago.

Two months after that episode, as Mitchel was returning to his Riverside Drive home from target practice upstate, his gun dislodged from its holster, struck the sidewalk with a thud and accidentally discharged, wounding one of his shooting partners — a prominent real estate developer and former Brooklyn state senator.

Mitchel, who was elected in 1913 at the age of 34, said he had carried a gun since succeeding Mayor William F. Gaynor, who was shot by a disgruntled former city employee in 1910. Gaynor died three years later of a heart attack, still suffering from the lingering effects of the wound.

Carrying concealed weapons without a permit had been banned in 1911 under New York State’s Sullivan Act. Within a few years, about 8,000 New Yorkers had carry permits, including Mitchel, who paid $1 for a permit issued by the Police Department.

On April 17, 1914, he and several other officials entered a Police Department car in front of City Hall to go to lunch downtown, when a man identified as Michael P. Mahoney, an unemployed Irish immigrant, fired a bullet that missed the mayor, but wounded the city’s corporation counsel in the cheek.

“Mayor Mitchel himself, leaping up in the automobile, drew a revolver,” The New York Times reported. Mahoney was quickly wrestled to the ground by the police commissioner.

What was originally suspected as an anarchist plot turned out to be the act of a former blacksmith and carpenter who was recovering (and suing) after being hit by a falling brick from two floors up.

“The experience of the last administration teaches us that there are always a few crazy people in every community and no one can foretell what they will do,” Mitchel explained.

Asked about his actions, Mitchel said, “Certainly I drew a gun, for if there was another shot fired, I intended to be first.”

Mitchel believed his marksmanship had saved his life on an earlier trip to South America after he discovered that some of the porters employed by his party were ex-convicts. He slept with a revolver in his robe and took target practice daily to intimidate them.

In the West Indies, according to an article in The Century Magazine, Mitchel learned a lesson in crowd control during “an adventure with a tribe of aboriginal Indians, hostile to the diamond mines which his firm represented”:

“One day they surrounded him and his guide. The chief’s feathered headdress outlined against a large tree-trunk. Mitchel shot it, scattering feathers and tribe. This was brisker than parley and simpler than diplomacy. Doubtless it was more effective than either with frightened savages. And it showed Mitchel a quick method of handling a crowd.”

Mitchel was a staunch advocate for military preparedness before the United States entered World War I and trained upstate with other prospective officers. According to one account, he shot 24 out of 25 on the rifle range. He also created a civilian defense force whose 22,000 volunteers took revolver training so they could supplement the police force in case of an emergency.

But while he was hailed as a champion of progressive government, his experience with weapons was mixed, as was the experience of his father, James Mitchel.

Michael Miscione, Manhattan’s borough historian, recalled that James Mitchel, a captain in the Confederate army, was wounded four times. “You’d think John would have developed distaste for guns,” Mr. Miscione said.

In June 1914, former State Senator William H. Reynolds, a developer with interests in Brooklyn and Queens and on Long Island, was shot in the thigh when Mayor Mitchel’s gun fell to the sidewalk, snapping the safety lock and causing it to fire. The bullet exited Reynolds’s finger.

The event was hushed up and the police learned about it only after it was reported in The Times.

After his defeat for re-election in 1917, Mitchel joined the military as an air cadet.

He died the next July during a training exercise when he fell from a plane flying 500 feet over Louisiana, apparently because he had failed to buckle his seat belt.

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Video: A Rescued Beaver Returns to the Water

Here’s a sweet little piece of animal news: a sickly beaver found three weeks ago along the East River was nursed back to health and released Sunday in the city by a animal-rescue group based on Long Island.

The beaver, an adult female dubbed Justine, had a large intestinal blockage and was severely dehydrated, said Cathy Horvath of Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, also known as Winorr. But after medication, two weeks at the vet and a week of rehab that included practice laps in a kiddie pool, Justine had recovered completely, Ms. Horvath said.

Ms. Horvath said the city had instructed her not to discuss where Justine was released. The Village Voice’s Runnin’ Scared blog, which posted the video above from Winorr’s Facebook page earlier today, reported that Justine was released into the Bronx River.

“She was very happy to get back in the water,” Ms. Horvath told City Room on Monday. “She smacked her tail and paddled around and found a little apartment right away.’

Justine was found by Urban Park Rangers clinging to rocks in the East River, Winorr said on Facebook. The parks department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Justine.

What blocks a beaver’s intestines? “It was like wood and stuff,” Ms. Horvath said. So what emerged “was like sawdust,” she said.

Winorr, run by Ms. Horvath and her husband, Robert Horvath, who is known to City Room readers for his efforts to help Violet the red-tailed hawk from the Hawk Cam, has been having a difficult time with the authorities in Oyster Bay, N.Y., lately.

A few weeks ago, town officials were threatening to close Winorr because they said the Horvaths were keeping “dangerous animals” in a residential area. But Robert Horvath reported on Facebook on April 16 that the town had agreed to let Winorr continue to operate out of the Horvaths’ home while they look for a longer-term location.

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Big City Book Club: Building Rockefeller Center

3:08 p.m. | Updated Welcome to the Big City Book Club. Our live discussion about “Great Fortune,” by Daniel Okrent, will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Eastern time in the comments section below, but you can post your thoughts and questions anytime.

Opening thoughts from Ginia Bellafante, the Big City columnist, follow directly. Mr. Okrent has contributed his comments; a response from the novelist and cultural critic Kurt Andersen will be posted later this afternoon.

Ginia Bellafante: At this evening’s convening of the Big City Book Club, we’re going to be talking about Daniel Okrent’s “Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center,” a rich history of the creation of one of New York’s most dramatic landmarks. That description threatens to undersell a book that leaves virtually no New York obsession unmined: made wealth, inherited wealth, real estate, art, design, philanthropy, society, thwarted ambition, realized ambition, eccentricity. (The appearance of a woman at a speakeasy wearing a toilet seat around her neck? Check. And that’s before we get to a chief architect — Ray Hood — who spent the last year of his life on a diet of brussels sprouts.)

Big City Book Club

A regular discussion with Ginia Bellafante.

The book chronicles how a sketchy patch of land in Midtown Manhattan owned by Columbia University and given over to vice ultimately became home to a reigning symbol of Deco glamour, media primacy and also the contrarian spirit that animates so much of life in New York: Rockefeller Center went up over the 1930s dismissive of the International Style that had so much emerged as the preferred flavor of the time.

Behind it all is John D. Rockefeller Jr. — or Junior, as he was known — a man with a feisty wife and few obvious passions beyond the wish to avoid seeming like an idler. I found myself thinking throughout that the book lends itself to a parlor game of alternative history. The unparalleled giving for which the Rockefellers were responsible resulted in the donation of the land on which the United Nations was built, the development of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the Cloisters and Rockefeller University, a premiere research institute. In the absence of that one family, would anyone else have stepped in and provided in this way, and how might New York be different?

Another question this book raises: What is it psychologically that makes New Yorkers — maybe human beings in general — so often reflexively disparage any new, destined-to-become-iconic building? Rockefeller Center did not by any means get the love it receives today when it went up. There was little sense initially that it would be so cherished.

Speaking of instinctively hating the new: I find myself already cringing at the prospect of Park Avenue in Midtown lined with Shanghai-style skyscrapers. I refer here to the proposed rezoning of Midtown East, which the Bloomberg administration insists must happen so that New York’s commercial real estate market can remain globally competitive. Wouldn’t these buildings shadow Rock Center — and should we care if they do? Moreover, is there any argument to be made for New York retaining its New York-ness, however benighted an idea that might seem? Isn’t that the lesson of Rock Center in the end?

Joining our discussion will be Mr. Okrent and the novelist and culture critic Kurt Andersen, author of the best-selling novel “Heyday” and most recently “True Believers.”

Kurt and Dan, take it away.

Comment Share your thoughts in the comment section below »

Daniel Okrent: Having spent five years of my life studying Rockefeller Center, and more than 40 years loving it, I don’t imagine that anything the mayor or his successors could do to Midtown East would overshadow the place. There is, of course, an emotional element to my confidence — love makes men blind — but there’s the historical element as well. In the 80 years since Rockefeller Center opened, any number of developers, both private and public, have tried to build on or near its scale — but they have all failed abysmally, each of their projects only serving to underscore Rock Center’s singularity.

For instance: Lincoln Center. Whatever the positive consequences of its recent renovation and redesign might be, they do not alter the fundamental fact that the Lincoln Center campus is dead in the daytime. Nor could the architects who executed the renovation solve the dead-ended-ness of the place. Where Rockefeller Center is enmeshed in the city’s pre-existing grid; Lincoln Center is only an appendix to it. You can go INTO Lincoln Center, but you can’t go THROUGH it; the Stalinesque wall along its western edge, on Amsterdam Avenue, underscores how it seals itself off from the city.

Time Warner Center? A handsome pair of office buildings atop a shopping mall that could be Anywhere, U.S.A. The United Nations Plaza and its Trumpian excrescence? Out of the way, not even part of the conversation. And the tragedy of 9/11 should not obscure how awful a piece of design and planning the World Trade Center was, a veritable moonscape sprouting architecture that was all about size, not remotely about the urban context.

Rockefeller Center, however, endures. There had been nothing like it before it was built; there has been nothing like it since.

Comment Share your thoughts in the comment section below »

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At the Post Office, Praying for Delivery

Dear Diary:

On a recent Monday morning, I rush to the post office on Roosevelt Island to send a birthday card to a friend in Argentina.

Worried that the card might not arrive on time for her birthday, I asked the employee: “Sir, do you know how long it takes for the card to get there? My friend’s birthday is on Friday.”

He thinks a minute and responds very seriously, “Well, since the pope is an Argentine and if you believe in God, there will be a miracle and the card will get there on time.”


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Rushing to Replace Picnic Tables Lost to Storm

A finished picnic table in Fort Totten, Queens, outside the shop where carpenters assemble picnic tables and lifeguard stands for New York City parks and beaches. The workers are making many more tables and stands to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.Uli Seit for The New York Times A finished picnic table in Fort Totten, Queens, outside the shop where carpenters assemble picnic tables and lifeguard stands for New York City parks and beaches. The workers are making many more tables and stands to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

This spring has been no picnic for Chris Gruber and his staff of carpenters, who work for New York City and make much of the equipment used at its parks and beaches.

Hurricane Sandy damaged or ruined hundreds of picnic tables, and now Mr. Gruber and his crew are rushing to finish building 500 tables by Memorial Day, about twice the normal number they make each spring. They are also making about 150 lifeguard stands, also twice the normal number, said Mr. Gruber, 42, the supervisor of carpenters for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Many stands and tables were damaged at beaches, even though they were removed from the shoreline and put in storage areas, he said.

“There were places in Staten Island, we couldn’t even find them — they were just gone, washed away,” Mr. Gruber said last week, as he stood inside the department’s carpentry shop in Fort Totten, in Queens, where he had to bring on four extra carpenters in recent months to supplement his existing staff of six. The shop was furnished with various table saws and other woodworking equipment. The morning sun streamed in through the doorway, and classic rock pumped over a tinny radio.

After a dozen years of working for the department, Mr. Gruber, a lifelong resident of Glendale, Queens, has supervised the construction of several thousand picnic tables shipped to parks all over the city.

All the department’s tables are made according to one model, albeit one that has been revised over the years. For example, Mr. Gruber can guess a table’s age by its screws.

“The older ones have the regular screw heads, because we started using Phillips-head screws about 12 years ago,” he said. Also, the current design calls for cantilevered or A-frame legs, while the older tables have more vertical legs.

“If I see straight legs, I know the table is more than 20 years old,” he said, adding that picnic tables are prone to damage from graffiti or carvings.

“We had one table from Manhattan Beach that came back with this really ornate carving in it, an animal face,” he said. “The person must have spent two or three days doing it. It was a piece of art. We actually hung it up in the shop.”

The small grills that many picnickers place on the tables can burn through the wood completely, Mr. Gruber said, adding that the most chronic cause of injury to city-constructed tables is unintentional.

“The most damage comes from people dragging them, to put two or three tables together,” he said. “The table skipping along puts a lot of pressure on the joints and loosens them.”

So to fortify the legs, Mr. Gruber now uses metal brackets made at the agency’s citywide metal shop, which he also oversees, on Randalls Island.

Over the decades, wood and metal workers at the parks department have made roughly 23,000 picnic tables, not to mention more than 1,100 barbecue grills, nearly 4,500 basketball hoops and nearly 1,500 lifeguard stands, he said. Among the beaches, Orchard Beach in the Bronx has a high demand for lifeguard stands, while the vast Pelham Bay Park, also in the Bronx, consumes many picnic tables.

The tables are made with Douglas fir. The wood comes in 16-foot-long planks, which are cut in half, into eight-foot-long boards. Five of these are fitted together to make a tabletop, and the edges are rounded off to minimize the potential for unpleasant splinters.

Each table is held together by about 130 screws and bolts, Mr. Gruber said. Typically, before the legs are attached, the partially assembled tables are shipped out to other shops for staining (chestnut brown) and final assembly. But for demonstration, Mr. Gruber asked two workers to assemble a table at the shop.

Mr. Gruber watched the hammers and screw guns in action and sang along with Tom Petty’s “American Girl” on the radio. Within about 15 minutes, the workers plunked the table onto the shop floor.

“The last step is to drop it hard on the floor,” Mr. Gruber said. “Anything that’s uneven, it tends to straighten out.”

Cantilevered legs help prevent the table from tipping from too much weight on one side, he said, hopping up on a bench and bouncing to show its stability.

“To test it, we take the heaviest guys in the shop – and I’m the first guy getting on,” said Mr. Gruber, who tips the scales at more than 300 pounds. “We sit on one side to see if it tips.”

Several years ago, the table design was tweaked to include a short overhang on one side, so that wheelchair users could pull up close.

“It’s a simple design, but it’s a good one,” Mr. Gruber said as another table went out the door. “I’ll put our tables against any in the world.”

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Rushing to Replace What a Storm Took From the Beaches

A finished picnic table in Fort Totten, Queens, outside the shop where carpenters assemble picnic tables and lifeguard stands for New York City parks and beaches. The workers are making many more tables and stands to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.Uli Seit for The New York Times A finished picnic table in Fort Totten, Queens, outside the shop where carpenters assemble picnic tables and lifeguard stands for New York City parks and beaches. The workers are making many more tables and stands to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

This spring has been no picnic for Chris Gruber and his staff of carpenters, who work for New York City and make much of the equipment used at its parks and beaches.

Hurricane Sandy damaged or ruined hundreds of picnic tables, and now Mr. Gruber and his crew are rushing to assemble 500 tables by Memorial Day, about twice the normal number they make each spring. They are also making about 150 lifeguard stands, also twice the normal number, said Mr. Gruber, 42, the supervisor of carpenters for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Many stands and tables were damaged at beaches, even though they were removed from the shoreline and put in storage areas, he said.

“There were places in Staten Island, we couldn’t even find them — they were just gone, washed away,” Mr. Gruber said last week, as he stood inside the department’s carpentry shop in Fort Totten, in Queens, where he had to bring on four extra carpenters in recent months to supplement his existing staff of six. The shop was furnished with various table saws and other woodworking equipment. The morning sun streamed in through the doorway, and classic rock pumped over a tinny radio.

After a dozen years of working for the department, Mr. Gruber, a lifelong resident of Glendale, Queens, has supervised the construction of several thousand picnic tables shipped to parks all over the city.

All the department’s tables are made according to one model, albeit one that has been revised over the years. For example, Mr. Gruber can guess a table’s age by its screws.

“The older ones have the regular screw heads, because we started using Phillips-head screws about 12 years ago,” he said. Also, the current design calls for cantilevered or A-frame legs, while the older tables have more vertical legs.

“If I see straight legs, I know the table is more than 20 years old,” he said, adding that picnic tables are prone to damage from graffiti or carvings.

“We had one table from Manhattan Beach that came back with this really ornate carving in it, an animal face,” he said. “The person must have spent two or three days doing it. It was a piece of art. We actually hung it up in the shop.”

The small grills that many picnickers place on the tables can burn through the wood completely, Mr. Gruber said, adding that the most chronic cause of injury to city-constructed tables is unintentional.

“The most damage comes from people dragging them, to put two or three tables together,” he said. “The table skipping along puts a lot of pressure on the joints and loosens them.”

So to fortify the legs, Mr. Gruber now uses metal brackets made at the agency’s citywide metal shop, which he also oversees, on Randalls Island.

Over the decades, wood and metal workers at the parks department have made roughly 23,000 picnic tables, not to mention more than 1,100 barbecue grills, nearly 4,500 basketball hoops and nearly 1,500 lifeguard stands, he said. Among the beaches, Orchard Beach in the Bronx has a high demand for lifeguard stands, while the vast Pelham Bay Park, also in the Bronx, consumes many picnic tables.

The tables are made with Douglas fir. The wood comes in 16-foot-long planks, which are cut in half, into eight-foot-long boards. Five of these are fitted together to make a tabletop, and the edges are rounded off to minimize the potential for unpleasant splinters.

Each table is held together by about 130 screws and bolts, Mr. Gruber said. Typically, before the legs are attached, the partially assembled tables are shipped out to other shops for staining (chestnut brown) and final assembly. But for demonstration, Mr. Gruber asked two workers to assemble a table at the shop.

Mr. Gruber watched the hammers and screw guns in action and sang along with Tom Petty’s “American Girl” on the radio. Within about 15 minutes, the workers plunked the table onto the shop floor.

“The last step is to drop it hard on the floor,” Mr. Gruber said. “Anything that’s uneven, it tends to straighten out.”

Cantilevered legs help prevent the table from tipping from too much weight on one side, he said, hopping up on a bench and bouncing to show its stability.

“To test it, we take the heaviest guys in the shop – and I’m the first guy getting on,” said Mr. Gruber, who tips the scales at more than 300 pounds. “We sit on one side to see if it tips.”

Several years ago, the table design was tweaked to include a short overhang on one side, so that wheelchair users could pull up close.

“It’s a simple design, but it’s a good one,” Mr. Gruber said as another table went out the door. “I’ll put our tables against any in the world.”

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