Demand Strong to Visit 9/11 Memorial

Despite a technical hiccup that temporarily prevented some people from reserving tickets to the 9/11 Memorial when it opens to the public, 5,000 passes were distributed within the first hour after the ticket system opened at 9 this morning. Within several hours, 11,000 passes had been reserved.

“Basically, it was just a volume issue,” said Michael Frazier, a spokesman for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. “But that was quickly addressed.”

By early afternoon, all the passes for Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 were taken, and only a handful of times were available for Sept. 14. Tickets for the following weekend, Sept. 17 and 18, were also gone. Mr. Frazier said the memorial encouraged people to reserve passes online for the memorial, which will open on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with a ceremony for the families of victims. It will open to the public the next day.

The tickets, which are free, are available on the memorial’s Web site. Groups of 10 or more can reserve tickets by telephone, (212) 266-5200. Each ticket is marked with a half-hour block of time during which the visitor can pass through the security checkpoint, but once visitors are inside they can spend as much time as they wish on the memorial plaza, which can hold 1,500 people.

The memorial lists 2,983 names of victims inscribed in bronze on the walls of two pools that stand where the World Trade Center towers once did. Visitors with passes will enter the memorial at 1 Albany Street. A space for the families of victims, who will use a separate reservation system, will be open at 90 West Street.

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Behind an Unmarked Door, the Party Guests Are in the 1930s

Late on Saturday night, Marie Antoinette had not yet been beheaded, and it did not look as if it would happen anytime soon. The queen, in a lacy white gown that frothed at her feet, was sitting for a portrait before the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. She sipped a martini, batting false eyelashes long as bird wings.

Tolouse-Lautrec was actually a student at the School of Visual Arts. Marie Antoinette was portrayed by the performance artist Sequinette. And the club they were in was no Moulin Rouge or wing of Versailles, but rather a 6,000-square-foot warehouse behind an unmarked door on Bergen Street, near the Prospect Heights-Crown Heights border, that hosts the monthly underground costume party Shanghai Mermaid.

Saturday’s theme was Bastille Day. And no one seemed to find it ironic to celebrate a riot that marked the end of decadence with … decadence. An aerialist painted his body to resemble the Bastille, a jail. A social studies teacher knitted endlessly, in the spirit of Dickens’ Madame Defarge.

“Here in Crown Heights on this sketchy block, there’s some desire for the exotic,” said Juliette Campbell, who founded Shanghai Mermaid in 2007 with the idea of recreating the red-walled 1930s cabarets she had always read of. As the recession rolled on, with speakeasies and burlesques becoming mainstream, the party became more popular, settling into its current space in 2009.

In the spirit of the times, it remains illegal and unlicensed.

“There’s something about the hush-hushness of it,” Ms. Campbell explained. “That this is a party behind a roll-out gate.”

There were cancan dancers from the Box, a Lower Manhattan burlesque club, and aerialists swinging from the ceiling. One burlesque artist swirled fans before a sea of tables populated by men in suspenders and women wearing the ridiculously ornate hats known as fascinators. Lee Chappell, a party promoter, stopped a woman dressed in a gold bikini and dozens of necklaces of varying lengths, a look that screamed vaudeville belly dancer. “That’s just fabulous,” Mr. Chappell, 53, said. “Isn’t it fabulous?”

“There’s something about the 1930s,” Ms. Campbell said. “That the underground created this grand glamor, in opposition to what was happening in the real world.”

In opposition to the historical accuracy of the evening, digital cameras flashed endlessly. David F. Slone, 43, who wore a top hat and vest, noted that the flashes weren’t entirely a-historical, just slightly off. “I should design an iPhone app that smells like sulfur,” he said.

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Ah, How the French Celebrate

As best as one could tell, the most famous Frenchman in New York — you may also safely call him the most notorious — was not to be found at Bastille Day celebrations held on Sunday along East 60th Street. We didn’t make it to a similar event held on Smith Street in Brooklyn, where the French population is said to be growing. But we assume he wasn’t there, either.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

Then again, if Dominique Strauss-Kahn desperately wanted a ham and cheese crepe, or was dying for a merguez sandwich, he didn’t have to go to a street fair. He probably could have ordered one up for delivery to the high-priced town house on Franklin Street, in TriBeCa, where he has tucked himself away while the are sorted out.

Technically, France’s national day is not until Thursday. But one does not cavalierly shut down three blocks of 60th Street during the work week. Hence the Sunday merriment for Bastille Day, sponsored by the French Institute Alliance Française and attended by thousands of people, including some of the 70,000 or so men and women who form the city’s French-American community. By grace of the Strauss-Kahn case, these have not been the most tranquil days for them.

It seems to be the sad fate of Franco-American relations, centuries-old though they are, that whenever a Frenchman is believed to have behaved badly, his actions are viewed by many Americans as evidence of his entire country’s lack of moral fiber. The failings of any American can produce similar reactions along the banks of the Seine.

So some of the French living in New York have detected a certain amount of fallout from the Strauss-Kahn affair — nothing terrible, mind you, just enough to be noticeable.

“There is this kind of small bashing to how the French reacted to the way D.S.K. was treated,” said Guénola Pellen, culture news editor at France-Amérique, a monthly magazine based in New York. (D.S.K. refers, of course, to Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Frankly, until his arrest in May, we would have assumed that the initials meant Donna Karan had taken on a middle name.)

Many in France took it on faith that D.S.K. had been set up and that the Americans had bared their inner barbarity once again by subjecting him to a “perp walk.” That reaction, Ms. Pellen said, touched off a counterreaction here to the effect that “the French are really pretentious and arrogant.”

Let’s not overstate the case. Any whiff of anti-French feelings here is just that: a whiff, nothing more. It wasn’t evident on 60th Street. It is not remotely in the same league as the over-the-top pounding that France took in 2003 for refusing to support America’s war of choice in Iraq — you know, the one that was started to strip Saddam Hussein of all those illicit weapons that he didn’t have.

The French got that one right. But it didn’t prevent them from being denounced in this country as a bunch of “weasels” and “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” It certainly didn’t keep some restaurants, and even the United States Senate dining room, from replacing French fries with “freedom fries” on their menus.

At least, in the Strauss-Kahn case, no one has proposed that the potatoes be renamed “feminist fries.”

“It’s completely different from what we felt eight years ago during the Iraq war,” said Isabelle Lefebvre-Vary, who is the French institute’s director of development and special events.

Nonetheless, those whiffs are detectable. For weeks, the New York tabloids played on one anti-French stereotype after another — headlines like “Le Perv” and “Frog Legs It” — or relied on puns so lame that they could have been covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Those headlines faded after the credibility of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser came into question.

In any event, the man was not to be seen on Sunday at either the Manhattan or the Brooklyn street fair. Neither, for that matter, was another famous man with a name of decidedly French origin. Nothing unsavory about this fellow, though. Far from it. We’re referring to Derek Jeter, who was busy at his day job in the Bronx.

For more local news from The Times, including details on why subways are more crowded than ever on weekends, Coney Island’s return to normalcy after a crazy Fourth of July weekend and the dismissal of a lawsuit to stop construction of a mosque in Lower Manhattan, see the N.Y./ Region section.

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

The number of students transferring to City University of New York campuses is up 20 percent. [New York Post]

Two hundred inmates at Rikers Island jail were relocated after a fire broke out in an air-conditioning room Sunday night. [New York Post]

A Hamptons bar claims to sell more beer in a summer afternoon than Yankee stadium. [New York Post]

Data from the United States Department of Transportation shows Megabus has mega safety problems. [New York Post]

Police officers on City Island have been allowing drug deals to pass right under their noses, says a civic leader who had been a policeman. [New York Post]

A Midtown hotel wants the city to move a bus stop so fumes will not interfere with its sidewalk cafe. [New York Post]

The taping of David Letterman’s “Late Show” will go on as planned today after a man broke into the Ed Sullivan Theater Sunday morning and caused at least $2,000 in damage. [Daily News] See also [NYT]

A former PTA treasurer who is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars will face infuriated parents and the judge at her hearing today. [Daily News]

The owner of Lenox Terrace, a Harlem apartment complex home to former Gov. David A. Paterson and Representative Charles Rangel, is trying to persuade tenants to support expansion plans that would be one of the largest residential redevelopments in the city if approved. [Wall Street Journal]

A Staten Island reputed mobster is pleading for sympathy because an F.B.I. raid traumatized his Maltese puppy. “The little dog has not been the same since,” according to court papers. [Daily News]

Crew members found a stun gun on a JetBlue plane at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday night. [Daily News]

A man tried to cool off in the Central Park Reservoir on Sunday before his recalcitrance caused firefighters to drag him out. [New York Post]

The bedbug scare may have been more fright than bite, but the bedbug-busting business is thriving. [Wall Street Journal]

The famed Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem is reported to fare poorly in its last health inspection. [DNA info]

Cheesemongers in Union Square can once again cut to order without fearing they will be fined. [DNA info]

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Complaint Box | Charity for Sale

The other day, as I was laying down the usual $20 at my local drugstore, the clerk asked me if I’d care to donate a dollar to help fight feline leukemia. Now, generally speaking, I’m anti-feline leukemia, but there is a remarkable tone deafness when it comes to cash-register exchanges. Really, I only wanted some gum, not a test of my capacity for sympathy as a human being.

Linking the cash register to the heart seems to be an outgrowth of the peculiar fantasy that says if we just buy the right fair-trade coffee, the right $3 water, the right salvaged wood for our absolutely gorgeous new flooring, we can alleviate most of the suffering in the world — along with our guilt for ignoring the pleas for help that arrive in the mail and confront us on the street daily.

For the richest of countries, shopping our way to moral purity would be a nice trick, but I have my doubts. Maybe if this weren’t such a big part of our thinking, people wouldn’t try to wring kindness from us at such odd times, or stand so boldly in the street hawking goodness. And with a little less charity pollution around us, maybe giving wouldn’t have to feel so much like being taken.

Trevor Laurence Jockims lives on the Upper East Side and teaches English literature at Hunter College.

If you wish to submit a Complaint Box essay, please send it as an attachment and in the body of the e-mail to [email protected], along with your name, address, phone number and e-mail. In the subject line of the e-mail, type your last name, followed by “Complaint Box” and the subject of your complaint. Essays can be 100 to 500 words. Because we receive so many submissions, we can get back only to those whose complaints are being considered for publication. If you do not hear from us, thank you anyway, and feel free to submit it elsewhere.

Please note: Complaint Box is not the forum for your complaints about City Room or The Times. It is for essays on the general hassles of life, like the one above. If you have an issue with City Room, e-mail [email protected]. For issues with The Times, see the options at the bottom of the home page.

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Upgrade the Electric Grid with Clean Technology

We can upgrade our electricity grid to improve efficiency and reliability at very low cost. A new book by John A. Moore and Toby Shute titled “The Hidden Cleantech Revolution” explains how. The authors present practical solutions and have developed a scale1 to rate effectiveness of different approaches to solving our electricity problems. Most people have never heard of these technological breakthroughs. You may also be surprised that two technologies you hear about all the time are not very useful near term; Smart Meters and Energy Storage.

The availability of electric power must always be balanced with demand as practical storage does not exist. During peak use times we can turn on expensive peaking plants or we can use Demand Response. There are successful voluntary plans like the Delaware Electric Coop’s “Beat the Peak Program” where customers turn off power during peak use periods saving as much as 20% on the annual cost of electricity. There are also load switches that can be added to appliances such as air conditioners that can be activated remotely to trim use. Participants receive a rate incentive to participate. Demand response is effective and low cost and rates 85 points.

The grid is not 100% reliable and sometimes breaks down. Human action is needed to adjust the grid for these problems and these actions are not always fast enough or information is lacking. Electronic sensors with two way communication capability can be installed at critical locations on the grid such as transformers. The sensors are monitored by automated systems that respond quickly to real time information. Such a system could have prevented the 2003 Northeast blackout that cost an estimated $4.5 Billion. The entire grid could be upgraded for the cost of one natural gas fired generating plant. Distribution Automation scores 81 points.

A leading cause of power outages is falling tree limbs. Reducing these outages 50% could eliminate the need for two very large 1000 megawatt power plants. By combining Global Positioning Satellite data with Light Detection and Ranging data from helicopter observation of power lines it is possible to prioritize tree trimming and reduce outages. Smart Vegetation Management scores 72 points.

Transmission lines sag depending on temperature and other factors. The more sag the less electricity can safely be moved through the lines. Because utilities have not been able to estimate sag accurately they leave a large margin of error. Now monitoring instruments exist to determine real time line sag allowing more power to be transmitted over existing power lines. Don’t think this matters much? If every utility used this we could effectively increase our electric generating capacity by an estimated 7% and avoid building $70 Billion in new power plants! That is why Dynamic Rating scores 68 points.

An important outcome of using Smart Meters to determine electric use is the addition of time of use information to utilities. Use power in a peak time and it will be charged at a higher rate. Residential customers and small commercial users are unlikely to pay close attention to this so electric bills will go up. This is why Smart Meters only receive 8 points.

Gasoline stores 80 times the energy of a lithium ion battery. Low energy density in batteries has been the bane of electric cars for over 100 years. A battery with 100 times the storage capacity of today’s batteries would be a game changing breakthrough for electric cars and the electric grid allowing storage of energy from renewable sources. Unfortunately, the pace of improvement has been so low historically there is little chance Energy Storage will improve anytime soon so it only receives 6 points.

David T. Stevenson
Director, Center for Energy Competitiveness
Caesar Rodney Institute

Note 1: Points are awarded for making energy cleaner, safer, more reliable, and cheaper. The score is then rated based on whether the technology is proven and whether it can be implemented in the next decade.

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Remembrances of Empty Subways of Weekends Past

Ah, weekends on the New York City subway — that bucolic, tranquil period when the commuting masses empty out of the metropolis and blissfully human-free subway cars yield a comfortable seat to even the most jaded straphangers.

Or, at least, that’s how it used to be.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, New Yorkers were able to enjoy a relatively empty transit system on Saturdays and Sundays — at least, those New Yorkers brave enough to venture into the crime-riddled, breakdown-addled underground that at the time was derided as a symbol of urban decline.

The trade-off for dealing with pickpockets, scratchiti, frozen car doors and trains that frequently broke down? Legroom like a Lincoln Town Car and an extra seat for that shopping bag.

But cultural and economic changes, along with considerable attention to the subway’s reliability and cleanliness, have drawn New Yorkers back to the transit system on their days off work. In 1980, a mere 2.65 million trips occurred on an average weekend. By last year, that figure had more than doubled —to 5.36 million rides — and many stations in nightlife-oriented neighborhoods retain nearly all of their workday ridership on the weekend.

This newfound popularity is good for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which takes in more fares, and the city as a whole, which seems far more accessible than it has been for decades.

But riders now face a new type of trade-off: packed trains, crowded platforms, interminable waits. On the No. 6 train on a Saturday, a seat is rarely an option. The bulk of the subway’s repair work still occurs on weekends, and transit officials are wondering how to fit in necessary maintenance while avoiding sardine-like conditions on major lines.

For that younger generation of New Yorkers who never knew the joys and agonies of the empty weekend subway of yore, City Room wants our readers to chime in with their own memories. Is there such a thing as nostalgia for that dark time of the underground? Did the lack of passengers result in a memorable private ride in a near-empty train car? What do you remember about that now-lost era of the shunned New York subway?

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In Harlem, a Rally to an Accuser’s Defense

As the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn teetered on the brink of collapse, a coalition of the alleged victim’s supporters gathered in Harlem on Sunday to urge the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to pursue the case “vigorously.”

“Today is a very important day because it is a time for us to guarantee that justice is done,” said State Senator Bill Perkins, who was joined at an afternoon news conference by over 30 members of organizations that advocated for women’s and immigrant rights, among other causes.

Several speakers, including Assemblyman Eric A. Stevenson, joined Mr. Perkins in a passionate defense of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser, while condemning the news media for furthering what they considered to be a calculated effort to discredit the woman, a Guinean hotel housekeeper. Mr. Vance is said to be considering dismissing the charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn when the case is taken up again in court, on July 18.

At the press conference, which lasted about 45 minutes, the alleged victim’s coterie of supporters exhorted prosecutors to focus on the evidence in the incident at the Sofitel New York, rather than the alleged victim’s past. Mr. Perkins had sent a letter conveying similar sentiments to Mr. Vance last week; Mr. Perkins said he has yet to hear back.

“His credibility,” Mr. Perkins said of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund managing director, as well as the unrelated allegations of past sexual assault against him, “I think is an issue, too.”

Asked if race played a part in the unraveling of the case, Mr. Perkins said, “This is a very powerful white man; this is a very poor African woman. For us to ignore race would not really be looking at reality.”

Mr. Perkins, whose northern Manhattan district includes the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building, where the event was held, gestured to the representatives around him — dressed alternately in cowboy hats, traditional African and Muslim dress, and a Miss Guinea USA sash — and called them “a microcosm, relatively speaking, of the outcry that’s in the community.”

Mr. Perkins said he hoped the vocal support of his coalition would mobilize other supporters from Harlem’s West African community and beyond. And Bernadette Sylla, 19, the winner of the 2010-2011 Miss Guinea USA pageant, was happy to offer her voice.

“She finds herself handcuffed and blindfolded in the middle of a battlefield with shots being fired from every direction,” Ms. Sylla, 19, said of the alleged victim, whom she named, in a poetic call to arms.

Eliciting the loudest applause of the afternoon, Ms. Sylla went on to underscore the importance of offering the alleged victim a shot at justice, “instead of bashing her for her courage to stand up.”

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At the Ed Sullivan Theater, a Stupid Human Trick

Updated 3:11 p.m. | Most visitors to the Ed Sullivan Theater enter by way of a ticket to David Letterman’s show.

But at around 7 a.m. on Sunday, a 22-year-old man broke in through the glass doors of the theater, on Broadway, between 53rd and 54th Streets, the police said. The police have yet to ascribe a motive for the break-in, beyond saying that the man, an aspiring actor, appeared intoxicated.

The man, James Whittemore, is being held on charges of burglary and criminal mischief, the police said. By the time police arrived to the scene, Mr. Whittemore had made a mess of the lobby and the box-office area, strewing trash across the floor. He did not gain entry to the area where Mr. Letterman tapes his show.

Mr. Whittemore has a restaurant job and works as an actor, said Charles McGowan, a roommate.

He is “the life of the party, in a good way,” Mr. McGowan, 28, said.

Mr. McGowan said he last heard from Mr. Whittemore late Saturday afternoon. Mr. Whittemore had lost his cellphone earlier in the day, and announced that he was going out to look for it, Mr. McGowan said.

Mr. Whittemore was taken to a hospital to be treated for a cut to his head, which police believe was caused by a shard of glass. Mr. McGowan said that the police’s account of the incident at the Ed Sullivan Theater sounded “bizarre” and “surprising” if Mr. Whittemore were involved.

About two weeks ago, Mr. Whittemore was attacked by a stranger who broke his nose, Mr. McGowan said, adding that Mr. Whittemore had been recuperating in Connecticut until recently.

The theater, built in 1927, later became the longtime home of Ed Sullivan’s variety show. In 1964, the Beatles made their American debut here. When Mr. Letterman joined CBS in 1993, the network bought the building and gave Mr. Letterman’s show the ground-floor theater.

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