In the Ruins of Playland, Artifacts of Better Days

Nathan Kensinger, photo-chronicler extraordinaire of the city’s abandoned spaces, returns this morning with a lavishly illustrated dispatch from the Playland Arcade in Coney Island, which flourished, to varying degrees, from 1935 until 1982. It comes at a moment in Coney’s history when several of its more venerable remaining institutions are getting the boot, when, Mr. Kensinger writes, “Cha Cha’s and Ruby’s have served their last drinks and have, in turn, been served with eviction papers.”

Of Playland, Mr. Kensinger writes:

Inside the arcade, an army of raccoons and cats has taken over. If not for the freezing winter weather, the stench of their urine would be overwhelming. … Lining the walls of this forlorn structure is an impressive artifact from Coney Island’s history, in the form of dozens of hand-painted murals. Though badly deteriorated, there are many colorful scenes remaining. Presented almost as panels in a comic book, these are portraits of a different Coney Island era, long past. Strip poker, naked hunting, shotgun weddings, Sasquatch, moonshine, Skee-Ball, mermaids and cartoonish gun violence. This is Coney Island’s lost soul.

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Tell Us About Your First New York Apartment

What do you remember about your first New York apartment? Was it a mouse-infested closet? A flat with a fake dividing wall? Perhaps it was a fabulous space with persnickety roommates. This week’s Appraisal features a fiction author’s real-life reminiscences about her first apartment, where her roommates included so many mice that she learned to make plans, lots of plans, so that she was never home.

The Appraisal wants to know what you remember about your first apartment in New York City? What were its benefits? What were its most memorable qualities? What impact has it had on your future?

Let us know your thoughts.

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Police Shoot Man in East Harlem

An East Harlem man was wounded by the police early Sunday after he opened fire on three sergeants and an officer, the police said.

The man, Matthew Melendez, 18, was struck three times in the torso and arm, according to the police. He was reported in stable condition at Harlem Hospital Center on Sunday night. Mr. Melendez, who lives on Madison Avenue, was charged with attempted murder, criminal use of a firearm, criminal possession of a loaded firearm and reckless endangerment, the police said.

Officials said that the four officers, who were all in civilian clothes, noticed the man on East 119th Street and Lexington Avenue about 3:15 a.m. He was adjusting his belt, they said, as if he might have a weapon, and when they approached him, he fled. He ran east on 119th Street, the police said, and when he got to Third Avenue, he turned and fired an automatic pistol at his pursuers.

Two sergeants and the officer fired back, while the man continued running, officials said, and the man was apprehended at 120th Street and Third Avenue. None of the officers was hit, but they were taken to a hospital for evaluation, the police said. The officers were not identified.

The suspect fired three rounds, and the pursuing officers returned fire with a total of 13 rounds, according to a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because of the continuing investigation.

The circumstances of the shooting will be examined by the department’s Firearms Discharge Review Board to determine if it fell within the guidelines for the use of deadly physical force, a law enforcement official said.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office will also look into the episode, which is standard procedure in shootings involving the police.

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To Happen Upon City Landmarks, by Way of an App

Steven Romalewski stood at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West 181st Street in the Bronx the other day and peered at an old church across the street. In the cold, his right thumb slid across the screen of his black Palm Pre phone.

“I want to see if that church is landmarked,” he said, humming as the device generated a list of landmarks nearby.

Mr. Romalewski, a tall and soft-spoken data mapper-turned-urban explorer, was thumbing for history, using a mobile application he designed that tracks landmarked sites across the five boroughs.  He had a destination in mind, a site that GPS had picked up when he stepped off the No. 4 train at Burnside Avenue. But the church also looked landmark-worthy.

“If you’re looking for a prominent landmark, or a somewhat prominent one,” he said, stepping over a snowbank to head toward Bronx Community College a minute later, “you might not realize that there’s another landmark nearby.” (The church, University Heights Presbyterian Church, was just another old church.)

Mr. Romalewski, the director of the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, developed Landmarks: New York to pinpoint a user’s location and find nearby sites, providing open-source statistics and photographs. Users can search by neighborhood, address or landmark name, or, with the paid version of the app, use GPS to track the closest landmark.

It’s not complicated. For a mobile application, it’s not even very sophisticated. Compare it to the Android app Goggles, which can recognize spots that have been heavily photographed, or another application that provides context about 7,000 landmarks nationwide. But Mr. Romalewski’s creation is, so far, the only one focused solely on New York City landmarks — his attempt to make the city’s architectural history more accessible.

After checking out the church, Mr. Romalewski, 48, took an app-guided stroll in University Heights. “It’s this area of the Bronx where you wouldn’t really expect this really prominent, landmarked site,” he said as he led the way toward the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, the spot that had popped up when he activated the GPS.

The Hall of Fame, an open-air colonnade overlooking the Harlem River that The New York Times deemed a “forgotten gem,” is lined with the stately busts of famous Americans. Built in 1900, it received landmark designation in 1966, one year after the Landmarks Preservation Commission was established. The commission has since designated more than 1,250 individual landmarks.

Mr. Romalewski, a Chelsea resident, grew up on Long Island and got a masters in urban planning at Columbia University. After years working with computer mapping technology, he knows city data intimately. It seemed natural — and necessary — to make use of public city data.

“Even though the city provides the data through their data mine Web site, they don’t do a lot online with that information,” he said.

When he finds himself in a new neighborhood, Mr. Romalewski looks at the app to see if any architectural marvels can be added to his lexicon — like the Bowling Green Fence or the Magnolia Grandiflora, a tree on Lafayette Avenue landmarked in 1970 “both for its inherent beauty as well as for its rare hardiness.” (Architectural styles: “Non-applicable.”)

“There’s certainly apps out there that are very tourist-oriented, and talk about landmarks,” Mr. Romalewski said. “But landmarks as a more generic term. Not official, city-designated landmarks.”
Landmarks: New York, which launched mid-November on the Palm — the iPhone version is in testing — might appeal to historic preservationists, urban explorers and students of architecture. Still, for the more adventurous tourist, it’s an alternative to a guidebook.

Mr. Romalewski has already created an app for San Francisco, which has 261 recognized sites. Programs for Portland, Chicago and Boston, along with national landmarks, are in the works.

After exploring the Bronx Community College campus on Sunday, Mr. Romalewski led the way to Fordham Road. A few minutes from the train platform, he found what he was looking for: Loew’s Paradise Theater, a 1929 “Wonder Theater” on the Grand Concourse.

“The auditorium was designed to represent a 16th century Italian baroque garden,” he read from a Wikipedia article that appeared on the app. He chuckled as he gazed up at the building’s intricate facade. “Wow. I have to say I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.”

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Egyptian Protests Extend to Streets of New York

There were Egyptian flags fluttering in the chilly air. There were chants calling upon President Hosni Mubarak to resign. There were placards that read “Down With Mubarak” or “Leave and Let Live.” There were even a few singalongs of the Egyptian national anthem.

Several hundred people gathered on Saturday afternoon near the United Nations for a demonstration in support of the recent antigovernment protesters in Egypt. Participants came from New York City and beyond, buoyed, they said, by the hope that a wave of clashes taking pace in Egyptian cities over the last few days might sweep Mr. Mubarak from office and usher in democratic reforms.

Many at the rally said they were originally from Egypt and that they thought Mr. Mubarak’s departure was long overdue.

“I was 14 years old when he took office,” said Khaled Dawoud, 43, a journalist from the Upper East Side. “We deserve better.”

Mr. Dawoud said that he was filled with nationalistic pride by the sight of people taking to the streets of Cairo and said the fact that large numbers of ordinary citizens were defying Mr. Mubarak’s curfew was a victory in itself.

“We defeated an oppressive police machine,” he said, identifying himself rhetorically with the protesters. “We were not afraid of the bullets.”

Some at the rally said that the United States should play a more vigorous role in encouraging the Egyptian demonstrators. Mongi Dhaouadi, the executive director of the Connecticut branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that President Obama should issue a strong statement in their support.

Tarek Badreldin, 33, an engineer from Vermont, highlighted Mr.
Mubarak’s long and cordial relationship with the United States by holding aloft a sign with pictures of American presidents since 1981, contrasted with images of an aging Mubarak.

He was also concerned, like others interviewed, about the safety of relatives in Egypt. He juggled the sign and his cell phone as he dialed his wife, asking her to try again to reach his father in Heliopolis.

Near the end of the two-hour protest, the demonstrators sang while a group of men close to First Avenue waved a large Egyptian flag.
Nearby, Hatem Sabry, 27, said that he and his wife, Dahlia, had traveled to the rally from Philadelphia, where he is a student at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We need the U.S. and the international community to choose the Egyptian people and not the Egyptian regime,” he said.

Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

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Spokes | Two Wheels, No Fear, In Slush or Powder

Pascal Sauvayre hopped his front tire through several inches of freshly fallen powder, stopping in front of a small group of cyclists gathered in the morning darkness at the southeast end of Central Park.

“Pascal! Oh, he’s a hardy soul,” called out one of the assembled, Dave Jordan, a pair of ski goggles hanging around his black neck gaiter and a headlamp shining from his helmet.

“I had to shovel the sidewalk anyway,” Mr. Sauvayre said, explaining why he had come out, at 6:30 on a frigid morning this month, for this race in the snow that had been hastily arranged online days before. It would be fun, the 50-year-old psychologist said.

“This is legit powder!” another rider called out. “Let’s go!” said another. And the group began slowly rolling into the deserted white park.

Such high spirits notwithstanding, riding in the dead of winter, in several inches of snow, is not everyone’s idea of a good time. The cold pushes many cyclists indoors, and the snow often deters the rest. Commuting rates drop precipitously, and bike lanes can be empty for long stretches of time.

But there are also those determined, or required, to stay in the saddle all year round, and they greet the cold by reaching for an extra breathable layer, a balaclava and some booties.

“Today, I couldn’t even feel my toes when I got to work,” said Meena Kim, 31, a fashion designer who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and rides to work on West 14th Street. Bike fenders, more than warm clothing, are key to surviving wet winter conditions, she said. “If you don’t have a fender, you get super slush butt.”

Even in winter, Ms. Kim said, the bike is the best way for her to get around from band practice to various aspects of her social life. “It can be slushy and disgusting, but it’s totally ridable and it’s so worth it,” she said.

The snow also changes the topography of the city, narrowing streets and disrupting the flow of cars and pedestrians. “When it gets gnarly out there like this, every 10 feet you’re reassessing the situation,” said Ethan Benton, 34, who works at home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, but uses his bike as his primary mode of transportation.

Most sidewalks are cleared by tossing snow into the street, and cars can reduce the flakes to slush and dirty water. That often sends cyclists from hugging the sidewalk into the drier center lanes, which can be dangerous.

“You definitely fall a lot more in the winter,” said Jessica Meany, 24, of Williamsburg. “But at the same time, you have so much gear on, you don’t have to worry about bad scrapes.”

Some riders adopt the time-tested tricks of messengers, food deliverers and others who must ride in the snow, including carrying an extra wool layer, wearing a good pair of all-weather construction gloves or wrapping the seat and handle bars — and even the feet and hands — in plastic.

All that might not sound like fun. But the payoff, Ms. Meany said, is that the hardy band of winter riders often have the roads and bike paths to themselves. “We wave to each other — it’s pretty funny,” she said of her interactions with riders on the Williamsburg Bridge. “That never happens in the summer.”

That same desire for snowy solitude and slushy solidarity inspired the recent Central Park race, which attracted a grand total of seven people.

The race was organized online by Mr. Jordan and Bart Busschaert ahead of news that a second snowstorm in two weeks would drop several more inches on the park. Mr. Busschaert, 35, a retired racer and mechanic who lives in Harlem, was familiar with off-road snow races known as cyclocross from his native Belgium. “During the last storm, I was just thinking, how long would it take to get around the park with a massive amount of snow?” he said.

But all competitive drive vanished in the early-morning powder. Even as plows worked swiftly to clear the park’s paths, the riders found deep drifts to cut lines in, laughing as they tossed snowy tracks like rooster tails behind them.

A bike can be a commuting tool or an exercise machine, but in the snow-blanketed park that morning, it seemed more like a sled on wheels.

In other words: fun.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Injures Cyclist Near Times Square

A food deliveryman was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver who struck his bicycle from behind near Times Square about 10:15 p.m. Friday, the police said.

The victim, Ricardo Gonzalez, 28, was thrown under a second vehicle that was double-parked. He was listed in critical condition on Saturday at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Officers arrested a driver who they said had been involved in the accident a few blocks away. They identified him as Clark Gettinger, 40, of 300 West 59th Street.

The police said Mr. Gettinger was traveling north on Eighth Avenue in a 2001 Lexus when his car struck Mr. Gonzalez, who had crossed 47th Street and was pedaling up the right side of the avenue.

Mr. Gonzalez was thrown from the bike and then skidded and became trapped under a BMW that was double-parked in front of him, the police said. The driver of the Lexus steered around the BMW and continued north. Traffic forced him to stop a few blocks away.

Two police officers then arrested Mr. Gettinger, who a law enforcement official said declined to submit to a Breathalyzer test.

“He was stopped by patrol officers based on information provided by eyewitnesses,” said the official, who spoke anonymously because the investigation was continuing. “The vehicle was observed with damage to the front passenger-side windshield, and the driver was positively identified by witnesses at the scene.”

Mr. Gettinger was charged with driving while intoxicated, vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident, the police said.

The accident occurred in front of the Fire Department’s Engine 54 and Ladder 4 Company, and firefighters rushed outside and used a “floor jack” device to lift the BMW off of Mr. Gonzalez, said James Long, a department spokesman.

“People outside were pounding on the door to alert the firefighters,” Mr. Long said. “A house watchman was the first to come out. He identified the problem, called the other members out. They brought tools out. As they were lifting the car up, they were stabilizing him. ”

It was not clear where the injured man worked.

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The Week in Pictures for Jan. 28

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include rebel yoga, winter weather, and a funeral for a guardian angel.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in Sunday’s Times, Sam Roberts will speak with Bill Keller, A. O. Scott and Patrick Healy of The Times. Tune in at 10 p.m. on Saturday or 10 a.m. on Sunday on NY1 News to watch.

A sampling from the City Room blog is featured daily in the main print news section of The Times. You may also browse highlights from the blog and reader comments, read current New York headlines, become a City Room fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Protesters in New York Area Take Aim at U.S. Position on Egypt

JERSEY CITY — Waving Egyptian flags, chanting slogans in English and Arabic and setting fire to a photo of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, about 100 men, women and children gathered Friday afternoon here in Journal Square to support the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets of Egypt pressing for an end to Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The protesters, many of whom said they were American citizens, came out not only in solidarity with fellow Egyptians but also to demand the American government support their plea for democracy.

“I’m asking the U.S. government not to support a dictator,” said Nasser al-Armoush, 57, a business owner who immigrated from Egypt to escape the regime’s repression. “Mubarak is over.”

Similar protests took place near the Egyptian consulate in Manhattan and in Astoria, Queens, home to a large Egyptian community.

The demonstrations were held hours before Mr. Mubarak ordered his government to resign but backed his security forces’ attempts to contain the surging unrest around the country.

While President Obama said in his State of the Union address that the American government stood by the people of Tunisia and their struggle for freedom, the White House has been careful not to endorse similar aspirations in Egypt, historically a key ally for American interests in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did say in a statement early Friday that the protests in Egypt “underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.” But her words were hardly satisfactory to the demonstrators.

“The government’s position has been unacceptable, shameful,” said Zaid Emad Ahmed, 31, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Association for Change, one of the groups that staged the demonstration. Some 200,000 Egyptians live in the United States, a recent census estimated, but members of the community say the actual number is much higher.

Sherif Nasr, 54, a physician who has lived in the United States for 29 years, said: “The American government has a strategic interest in Egypt, they see it as an ally in their fight against terrorism, as an island of stability in the Middle East. I find it very disheartening that they insist the regime is stable, when it is a regime that has no respect for human dignity.”

Others seconded him more angrily.

Another protester, Walid Ahmad, 34, a taxi driver who was holding pictures of victims of Mubarak’s regime, said, “We expected a lot from Obama, but he didn’t say anything, didn’t do anything. We are trying to get the American people to feel the pain of the Egyptians. Obama could put an end to it.”

Some demonstrators reiterated his point, shouting, in Arabic, “Mubarak: Tell Obama to get you a plane ticket and U.S. residency.”

About 100 protesters also gathered in Queens,  on a stretch of Steinway Street known as Little Cairo. Nour Ahmed, 3o, draped in an Egyptian flag, said she felt hope for the first time that democracy could come to Egypt and the Middle East. “We support our brothers and sisters who are rising up. It is the first time in decades that voices are being heard,” she said.

In New York, another demonstration is scheduled for Saturday outside the United Nations.

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