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Another ‘Special’ Day, Another Retail Dollar

It has become increasingly clear that the country’s best hope to climb out of its economic doldrums may be to keep coming up with snappy sales gimmicks attached to specific days of the week. That’s what now passes for a recovery plan. New York, with its many retailers, hardly stands apart from the trend.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

We’ve emerged from Black Friday, when most shoppers did their best not to trample one another, and nearly all managed to pursue bargains without firing sprays of pepper gas. That traditional post-Thanksgiving buying frenzy was followed by a relative newcomer, Cyber Monday, devoted to e-commerce and not to the stuffy old brick-and-mortar variety.

Spending was reported to have been brisk both days, certainly enough to warm the cockles of Wall Street’s heart. The Dow Jones industrial average closed on Tuesday at 11,555.63, which was nearly 300 points higher than where it stood just before the holiday. In the absence of much good news from any other discernible source, one must assume that all that shopping helped do the trick.

Nor are we done with special days.

You probably missed something called Sofa Sunday, which came just before Cyber Monday. The creation of an iPad app called Catalog Spree, it offered a chance to shop while you dropped on the couch.

But looming is Super Saturday, which by tradition is the last Saturday before Christmas and falls this year on Christmas Eve. “Historically, it has been the busiest day of the year for retailers,” said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. But that, Ms. Grannis added, was “before Black Friday took over the title in recent years.”

Even sooner than Super Saturday is Free Shipping Day, Dec. 16, when many merchants pledge to provide, duh, free shipping, in time for their goods to arrive before Christmas. Sooner yet is Mobile Sunday, the second Sunday in December (this year Dec. 11), when people are encouraged to shop using their mobile devices.

All these attention-grabbing days seem unlikely to bail out an economy burdened with stubborn unemployment and hobbled by useless gamesmanship in Washington. But since the politicians are in no rush to find a way out of the crisis, other than perhaps to pray that Americans spend like mad, the only recourse may be to create still more of these days.

We could encourage jewelry purchases — with breakfast at Tiffany’s? — and call it Ruby Tuesday. There might be a copyright matter to discuss with the Rolling Stones and maybe also with the restaurant chain of that name. But surely something could be worked out.

Or perhaps designate it Fat Tuesday, not to be confused with Mardi Gras. This could be a device to get people to eat out, the name meant as a whimsical touch, not a slight. The more expensive the restaurant, the better — for the economy’s sake, of course. Matinee Wednesday, a Broadway fixture, could become Martini Wednesday as yet another way to shake or stir spending.

Since Thursday can be traced to the Norse god Thor, it could be a day when people are urged to shop at stores that carry Scandinavian merchandise bearing really hefty price tags. “Big Wednesday,” the title of a 1970s movie, could describe the selling of just about anything. So could “Freaky Friday,” come to think of it. Saturday is already well spoken for. Surely, on any given Sunday, there are possible gimmicks that wouldn’t offend the religious sensibilities of Americans for whom it is a day of rest.

You get the idea.

If all this sounds a bit forced, ask yourself if it’s any more strained than creations like Sofa Sunday and Mobile Sunday.

In New York, we might not even be talking about desperate measures like these if the city were still the powerful manufacturing center it once was. But that’s an era long gone. We need these Black and Cyber and Super and Sofa days as much as anyone else.

That’s how it goes when your economy is built on getting hard-working people to empty their wallets.

For more local news, including the allowance of a lawsuit against the same-sex marriage law, the back story to the story of two parents’ abduction of their children from foster care in Queens, a new creative way the city is using to warn people about traffic safety, and a proposed Council resolution to protect Occupy Wall Street protesters, see the N.Y./Region section.

Here is what City Room is reading in other newspapers and blogs.

A teenager pepper-sprayed her classmates at a school in Harlem, education officials said. [Daily News]

A city worker has been accused of breaking workers’ compensation rules by working elsewhere while he received disability payments. [New York Post]

The New York Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the Police Department’s record number of stop-and-frisk episodes this year. [Daily News]

The body of a dead fetus was found in a trash can in Washington Heights in Manhattan, according to the authorities. [Daily News]

After taking proposals for its redesign, the city has decided to delay the rebuilding of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. [Brooklyn Paper]

Columbia University deans explained a recent increase in bias complaints as a result of more vocal and aware students, not more instances. [Columbia Spectator]

Cabdrivers attending an Upper West Side mosque face a conundrum: Don’t pray, or break parking rules. [DNAinfo]

A Staten Island job fair attracted hundreds of people holding on to hope to find some kind of employment. [SI Live]

André Balazs Properties had workers remove the artist Shepard Fairey’s East Village mural of a monk. [The Local, East Village]

The gay sports bar Boxers is still trying to open in its new Hell’s Kitchen location. [DNAinfo]

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Coming Soon to the Sidewalks: A New Look for Scaffolding

Built from steel pipes and used plywood, they snake their way a million feet (or 190 miles) along New York’s sidewalks and have long been considered egregious eyesores.

“They’re really ugly,” said Robert LiMandri, the city’s buildings commissioner, “but they’re a necessarily evil for construction.”

So his department took the initiative to sponsor an urban shed design competition to replace the 6,000 or so ubiquitous, shabby and supposedly temporary sidewalk sheds or sidewalk bridges at construction sites with a more appealing version. The first prototype will make its debut in December when it is installed in front of 100 Broadway, a 24-story office building in Lower Manhattan.

“As a regulator we’re not the ones who come up with the greatest ideas, so we engaged architects and engineers,” Mr. LiMandri said. “We wanted it to look better and make it safer.”

To replace those painted plywood sheds supported by pipes and protruding bolts that can rip pedestrians’ coat sleeves, a team consisting of Young-Hwan Choi, Andres Cortes and Sarrah Kahn from Agencie Group, a design firm based in New York, gracefully melded recycled steel and translucent plastic panels into a structure that resembles an open umbrella.

“I would say it is a really elegant take on protecting you instead of from rain from debris falling from a construction site,” Mr. LiMandri said.

Some version of sidewalk sheds with scaffolding above them have been placed at construction sites since builders began erecting Gothic cathedrals and probably since the pyramids, said Dan Eschenesy, the buildings department’s chief structural engineer.

In New York, the requirement for sheds, now mandatory for demolition of buildings 25 feet or higher and for new construction 40 feet and higher, dates at least to 1898.

As long ago as 1913, The American Architect magazine complained about the “obvious ugliness” of the typical sidewalk shed. Efforts have been made periodically since then to prettify them with latticework and decorative paintings. The most common current design has been around since the 1950s. Sheds proliferated after the passage of Local Law 10 in 1979, which requires regular inspection of building facades. The platform is supposed to support 300 pounds per square foot.

The new design is not mandatory; the city imposes requirements defined primarily by safety. But Danielle Grillo, the department’s executive director for community partnerships, predicted that “there is a population out there that would use a shed that is more aesthetically pleasing.” And the new design costs about the same as some existing sidewalk sheds.

Is Mr. LiMandri concerned that the umbrella design is so appealing that landlords will leave them up longer than necessary? “At the end of the day,” Mr. LiMandri replied, “retailers do not want that in front of their buildings, no matter how beautiful it is.”

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Council Resolution Calls for Support of Occupy Wall Street

Three City Council members introduced a resolution Tuesday that would formalize support for Occupy Wall Street and its message condemning economic inequality.

“The Occupy movement is more than occupying a public square,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, one of the resolution’s authors, along with Councilman Jumaane D. Williams and Councilwoman Letitia James — all Democrats. “It is about the frustration of the working class and the middle class who feel we have not received a fair share.”

The resolution describes a protest “fueled by disheartened New Yorkers” and calls on members to defend a peaceful approach to “the divisive economic and social realities facing our nation.”

Councilman Rodriguez said the resolution already had the support of 13 members, including the authors. He noted that councils in other cities, including Buffalo, Los Angeles and San Francisco, had presented similar resolutions of support in recent weeks.

Councilman Rodriguez and Councilman Williams were arrested during separate incidents this month in which they joined protesters in Lower Manhattan. On Nov. 15, shortly after the Zuccotti Park encampment had been evicted by police officers, Councilman Rodriguez was taken into custody a few blocks from the park, as demonstrators encountered barricades preventing them from reaching the park. Two days later, Councilman Williams was arrested as part of a group that sat down in the roadway at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

During his roughly 16 hours in custody, Councilman Rodriguez said, he missed an appointment at a school where he may try to send his young daughter. The councilman’s wife had issued just one warning when he left for Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night, he said: “Don’t get arrested.”

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A Visual Valentine for the Lower East Side

A butcher, dwarfed by his towering wall of sausages. Women hunched over sewing machines in a crowded room. A Jewish pillow maker.

“I miss a New York that was affordable and a little rougher,” said Harvey Wang, a photographer who documented the rougher, more affordable city of the 1980s. “I found it more interesting. I’d rather see an old kosher butcher chop than a big blue hotel.”

Mr. Wang, as Sam Dolnick writes this morning on the Lens blog, could be called “a bard of old New York.” Some of his images from the Lower East Side — of worlds rarely seen then, and virtually never seen today — will be on display beginning Wednesday at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum‘s new Orchard Street gallery space.

A selection of the photos from the show, “Out Harvey Wang’s Window,” appears on Lens.

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A Word From Our Sponsor On How To Enjoy Your Home With Homeowners Insurance

If you are in the process of buying your first house, then congratulations! This is a big step for anyone. Owning a home is going to open up so many opportunities for you and your family. You will be able to focus on building a family as well as a career. You will always have somewhere safe and comfortable to return home to after a busy day at work. The comfort that comes from owning your own home is unmatched. Because your home and what it provides for you is so valuable, you need to have a Homeowners Insurance West Palm Beach FL policy.

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A Word From Our Sponsor On Investing In Commercial Trucking Insurance

If you own a trucking company, one of the best investments you can make is in commercial trucking insurance. It can be expensive, but it is far cheaper to pay for insurance, then to pay medical bills, or loss of damaged goods. With commercial trucking insurance you won’t have to worry about costly damages that may happen to you or your truck. You will be at ease once you find the right coverage for your truck.

There are several different types of coverage offered for truckers and trucking companies. The one that is required by law is primary auto liability. This coverage won’t help cover your cost of damages, but it will help whoever else might have been involved in the accident. This could bring you some peace of mind, but you might also want to look into additional types of commercial trucking insurance that will cover your damages.

The exact type of commercial truck insurance you need depends on the type of truck you drive. There are many types of trucks and you want to find the best to fit yours. If you carry cargo, you will want to look into truck cargo insurance. You can research most insurance companies and their rates straight from the internet. It also helps to talk to an insurance representative in person. Infact, it may be best to find a representative that has experience in commercial trucking insurance. They will help you figure out and understand what kind of coverage you will need.

A Dash of Drama in the Pizza World

A heady perfume of cheese, tomatoes and crispy coal-fired crust wafts onto the sidewalk of Old Fulton Street, intoxicating enough to cause tourists to snap pictures and queue in stomach-growling anticipation.

But few know the gritty, gooey story behind Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, the internationally recognized hot spot in Brooklyn at the center of a changing season in the New York pizza world.

Its current owner, Frank Ciolli, after a contentious relationship with the landlord, had been scheduled to move the pizzeria on Tuesday to a corner property a few doors away, by the Brooklyn Bridge. But the opening of the new Grimaldi’s has been postponed while the Ciolli family deals with a dispute with New York City over its coal oven and the sudden death of Mr. Ciolli’s youngest son.

Also this week, Patsy and Carol Grimaldi, who opened the business in 1990 and sold it and its oven to Mr. Ciolli eight years later, are set to reclaim the original space, with plans to reopen it with a new name after making renovations.

This is more than an old-fashioned New York pizza war. It is a pizza opera, bubbling with love, loss, tragedy and legal scuffles, all fired in a 700-degree-plus inferno and topped, of course, with a little fresh basil.

Toss in other recent episodes — Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn reopened to long lines after being shuttered for a week by the health department, and Ray’s Pizza in Little Italy closed after a celebrated run — and it has been a challenging time for traditional pie makers in the city.

Not that it was easy to tell outside Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton on Monday as tourists waited on a balmy afternoon. “We saw the queue,” said Sioban Stevenson, 26, from London, “and thought it must be good.”

Around lunchtime, though, the Ciolli family was at funeral services for Russell Ciolli, 39, who died last week after exercising. He owned the Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Garden City, N.Y. “Grimaldi’s Pizzeria has been and will always be a business about family, not just pizza,” Joseph Ciolli, Russell’s older brother and the chief executive of Grimaldi’s, said in an e-mail message after the funeral.

The lease for the Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton expires Wednesday, and the new space, at 1 Front Street, shows no immediate sign of being close to opening.

Last Wednesday, the architectural firm for Frank Ciolli’s new pizzeria quit because Mr. Ciolli had installed a coal oven rather than the gas-coal combination that had been agreed on, said Robert M. Scarano Jr., the president of the firm, Scarano Architect. (Mr. Scarano was prohibited in 2010 from filing any plans with the Buildings Department because of repeated violations.) The city then ordered all work at the new site stopped.
Jennifer Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department, said that Fire Department and environmental regulations restricted new coal ovens, and that Mr. Ciolli needed special approval. Because the coal oven had already been installed, the department issued an order Friday to vacate the property.

Ms. Gilbert said her department had suggested that Mr. Ciolli compromise by having a gas-powered oven, with coal for flavor, but Joseph Ciolli, 42, said that his company had built these same coal brick ovens in other locations in Manhattan and across the country. “We have all intentions to abide by all city regulations in this new location as well as any future Grimaldi’s Pizzeria,” he said. “Grimaldi’s is and always will be a coal brick oven pizzeria.” The family who built the oven understands. Ms. Grimaldi, 73, said there was simply no substitute for coal, as her husband, 80, had discovered while making pizza at home in Queens in their convection oven. The two had been itching to return to business in New York, looking for the right-priced rent.

In the summer of 2010, the landlord for Grimaldi’s at 19 Old Fulton Street, Dorothy Waxman, took Mr. Ciolli to court over unpaid rent and water bills, threatening to terminate the lease. (She took him to court in 2007, too.)
A judge ordered Frank Ciolli to pay, which he did. He then countersued, claiming that the Waxman family was trying to ruin his business, said Dr. Mark Waxman, a New Jersey gastroenterologist who handles the financial and legal affairs of his mother, Dorothy, who is 88 and lives in an assisted-living facility.

Ms. Grimaldi, dismayed over seeing the Grimaldi name negatively portrayed in reports, eventually asked the Waxmans about the lease. Dr. Waxman, who said he had had nearly a dozen offers for a new tenant, was thrilled to welcome the Grimaldis back. He said if the Ciolli family “had fulfilled their obligations, we would have had no reason to look for new tenants.”

In 1990, the Grimaldis were considered pioneers in the Dumbo neighborhood. They are to return on Thursday to a neighborhood infused by the water taxi and ferry, and will call the new place Juliana’s, after Mr. Grimaldi’s mother.

“A little competition is healthy,” Ms. Grimaldi said of Mr. Ciolli’s restaurant.

There is a third, less heralded pizza restaurant around the corner on Water Street, Ignazio’s. “With the amount of people coming here, we need three pizza places,” said Ignazio’s owner, Louis Salvatore Termini, 63.

He follows Grimaldi’s rules: no slices and no credit cards, but he does deliver.

He is pleased that the Grimaldis are returning. “I know he was not happy about what was happening and he felt he sold it for too little,” Mr. Termini said. “This is justice coming into play.”

In New York, pizza controversy cuts deeper than red sauce and red tape. Di Fara, the highly rated pizza restaurant in Midwood, was forced to close for a week this month after receiving 67 violations from the health department, including citations for mouse droppings. It was the second time it was shut for violations.

An employee was supposed to clean on the morning of the spot inspection, but the night before, he was hospitalized after a reaction to chemotherapy, said Margaret Mieles, whose father, Domenico de Marco, owns Di Fara. The worker is her teenage nephew, and the family rushed to his side.

“There’s a whole family behind these businesses,” Ms. Mieles said. “We don’t just have the joy of people loving our pizza. We have tragedies. That’s what people don’t see.”

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Readers Respond to the Plight of Mexican Students

Last week’s article on the lagging academic achievement among Mexican students in New York’s schools generated a wide range of responses from places around the country and abroad.

Kirk Semple’s report, published Nov. 25, noted that while many adults in the city’s growing Mexican population have been remarkably successful in business and employment over the last two decades, their children are not doing that well. About 41 percent of the city’s Mexicans between the ages of 16 and 19 have dropped out of school.

In a follow-up article on the SchoolBook blog, Mr. Semple quotes Angelo Cabrera, head of a small nonprofit organization in the Bronx that tutors Mexican and Mexican-American children, who as been fielding scores of e-mails from people offering to help.

“People got touched by the story,” he said Monday. “It created a reaction, like, ‘I got to do something now.’ ”

Other readers expressed sadness, concern and alarm, and some reactions were not quite so generous.

Read more on SchoolBook.

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Violet the Hawk Has Worsening Leg Problems

We write with bad news about Violet, the red-tailed hawk whose child-rearing and leg problems were chronicled on City Room in the spring.

Violet, mother of Pip, is now in danger of losing the banded leg that had plagued her even before the Hawk Cam started rolling on the 12th-floor window of New York University’s Bobst Library.

A video of Violet in Washington Square Park shot on Saturday by Lincoln Karim, the wildlife photographer and Pale Male chronicler, shows Violet’s right leg dangling uselessly below the metal wildlife band on her shin, the foot gray and scaly from lack of blood flow. There also appears to be a broken bone protruding above the band.

This does not bode well.

After watching the footage, Dr. Elizabeth Bunting, a veterinarian specializing in wildlife at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine who has observed Violet for several months, was not hopeful about the prospects for Violet’s leg — or her survival.

“Most people would say she can’t hang in there with one foot,” Dr. Bunting said. Some birds, like songbirds, are able to, she said. “But the bigger the bird, the less likely they are to compensate for the injury, especially raptors, who are dependent on their feet to eat.”

Without a hands-on medical assessment of her nerve function, the severity of the fracture and the circulation to her toes, it is hard to determine the prognosis for the leg, she said.

Mr. Karim first photographed Violet’s abnormal leg, with the wildlife ban appearing to restrict circulation, in October 2010. He urged wildlife officials to have the band removed, but capturing her was deemed too difficult.

She was seen hobbling around the nest in May shortly after her hatchling, Pip, emerged, with her right leg tangled in what appeared to be fishing line and swollen to about three times its normal size. The metal wildlife band wedged on her shin appeared to be making the situation worse.

A panel of experts and officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Protection, including Dr. Bunting, were called in to assess Violet from close range. But they ultimately decided not to intervene, and left the nest, where Violet was feeding a week-old baby, alone.

Even as some called for the band to be removed, wildlife officials said it was not clear that the band, placed on Violet’s leg in 2006, was the cause of her injury at the time.

The department stuck by its decision on Monday. “Based on direct observations of her condition at that time, the consensus opinion, particularly given the need for Violet to continue to care for her young, was to avoid additional harm that could be caused by an attempted capture,” Michael Bopp, a spokesman for the D.E.C., said in an e-mail.

Dr. Bunting said it was possible that a subsequent trauma — like a run-in with a car or another animal — had hastened the worsening of the foot.

Now the question, once again, is whether or not to intervene.

Even if Violet is successfully trapped, which could take days, she would possibly face surgery and a long road to recovery. If the leg is not viable, Violet would be euthanized (amputating the leg and keeping her in captivity is not seen as a humane option).

“This is a philosophical question,” said Dr. Bunting. “Is it more humane to capture the animal and euthanize it if you can’t fix the leg; or leave her alone in the wild with the possibility she might die from starvation or infection, which is the fate of many wild animals?”

Even if Violet is able to survive the winter, it is unclear whether she would be fit for motherhood with her handicap.

“There is a high probability that Violet could not stand and support copulation with Bobby,” the Ohio raptor expert John Blakeman wrote in an e-mail after viewing the video, referring to Violet’s mate. “It may be impossible to form viable eggs this year.” And if an egg were to hatch, Mr. Blakeman wrote, Violet would have tremendous difficulty feeding her young.

“As morbid as it might be,” he wrote, “the very best happenstance would be for Violet’s prompt natural demise, that any infection in the useless leg would become systemic, with consequent septic death.”

Although Violet is capable of feeding and otherwise appears to be in good health, she has to put on a brave face to avoid becoming prey herself, Dr. Bunting said.

“They are incredibly tough customers,” said Dr. Bunting who said she was constantly surprised by the resilience of these creatures.

For now, Violet is hanging in there. But we don’t know for how long.

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