Foamland Security: Ferry Riders Say de Blasio’s Subsidies Spare Them Subway Trauma

Keith Bearden took the subway to work for twenty years, but he can’t deal with it anymore. The 45-year-old, who works in publishing in downtown Manhattan, now opts for the NYC Ferry, recently championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as “a game changer” for commuters in waterfront neighborhoods like Astoria, where Bearden lives.

Bearden’s commute is slightly longer now, but subway-less. “It got to the point where the MTA was giving me panic attacks,” Bearden told the Voice while riding the ferry on a recent beautiful spring day. He described the ferry as “really nice” and “a bit more civilized.”

“Also there’s beer,” Bearden added, noting the amenity is welcome in both directions of his commute. “Some days you just want to start your morning with a beer.”

On May 3, de Blasio announced NYC Ferry would be getting an additional $300 million in city funding over the next five years, bringing the grand total of taxpayer spending for the service to $600 million. The mayor’s goal is to allow more people to ditch the city’s subways and buses and enjoy the fresh harbor air, much like Bearden now does.

The question, though, is whether taxpayers should be paying for more than two-thirds of their ride. The new funding, which will be used to improve docks, run more frequent service, and buy bigger boats, comes on top of annual city subsidies of $30 million for operations, which the city projects as costing taxpayers $6.60 a ride once ridership hits 4.6 million. Riders pay just $2.75 per ride — lowered from as much as $6 on the pre–de Blasio East River ferries, in order to set fares at the same price as a subway ride.

There is no doubt the people who take the ferry love it. A survey by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the ferry service, found 66 percent of riders gave NYC Ferry a rating of 10 out of 10, and another 22 percent gave it an 8 or 9.

But who these ferry riders are is a question that the city has so far declined to answer. So far, neither NYC Ferry nor the NYCEDC have released the relevant demographic data to answer that question, other than to say that the vast majority of them are New Yorkers.

To get a glimpse into who is benefiting from ferry subsidies, the Voice interviewed sixty riders, covering all four existing ferry routes (two more are set to open this summer) during peak rush periods, to find out why they’re taking the ferry and where they’re from. Our findings: Ferry riders are, by and large, higher-income New Yorkers taking advantage of subsidized ferry rides to avoid subways and buses — not because it’s a faster commute, but because of the ferry’s creature comforts such as elbow room, concessions, alcohol, WiFi, and the fresh sea air.

“The time factor has nothing to do with it for me,” explained J. Scott Klossner, a 53-year-old freelancer currently working for the Today show who takes the Rockaway route, even though it adds almost 45 minutes each way to his commute.

“I can get a coffee, a bagel, everyone is nice. The opposite is true of the A train: Everyone is a fucking asshole.”


Nearly every rider interviewed by the Voice said they used to take the subway to work. Fifty-eight percent of them said they took the ferry exclusively for its comforts despite having viable — and often faster — subway alternatives. A few people said they preferred the ferry because they could bring bikes (which cost an extra dollar to take on board) or strollers during rush hour.

The remaining riders take it for a variety of reasons, mostly because it is more reliable or faster than the subway, especially the R through Bay Ridge and the A from Rockaway.

One thing ferry service does not appear to be doing is reducing car traffic. Several riders the Voice interviewed drive from their homes in Bay Ridge or Sunset Park to the Sunset Park terminal, park in a community lot, then take the ferry from there. Only one rider mentioned driving less frequently into Manhattan because of the ferry.

Just two riders, who ditched an Express Bus route — which costs $6.50 per ride — mentioned cost as a factor. That may be in part because the ferries, and their subsidies, appear to largely be serving higher-income commuters.

Of the 35 riders interviewed by the Voice who took the ferry for comfort, the vast majority work in white-collar industries. They also tended to live in neighborhoods whose residents have a median income higher than the city’s as a whole, such as Long Island City, Bay Ridge, and Astoria. They were lawyers and financiers, fashion designers and headhunters, software developers and data engineers, consultants and architects. There were some teachers, nurses, and others whose jobs are commonly regarded as solidly middle-class, too, but they were in the minority.

Though de Blasio administration officials touted the ferry service’s proximity to public housing in Red Hook and Astoria as a benefit for low-income New Yorkers, NYCHA residents warned two years ago that ferry service wasn’t intended for them, and they appear to have been right: In the Voice’s survey, only one rider worked hourly or part-time — a dog walker who was taking the ferry for comfort.

Pamela Jackson, a 31-year-old who works in nonprofit marketing, ditched the R train for the ferry because she no longer has to jostle with disgruntled commuters. “The R is maybe 2 minutes faster, technically, but you deal with everyone in a bad mood on the train in the morning. It’s packed and you rarely get a seat,” she says. Taking the ferry is a “better mental health choice, honestly.”


At the May 3 press conference, de Blasio proclaimed that the new spending for ferry expansion is a “very important part of our goal of making New York City the fairest big city in America,” a tagline he adopted for his final term.

But transit advocates have largely disagreed with this characterization. Rather than welcoming a new mode of public transit, they questioned the use of taxpayer funds to expand a service that serves a disproportionately small number of mostly well-off people.

In 2017, New York’s ferries carried fewer than 10,000 passengers per day, equivalent to about the 92nd busiest bus route in the city. The city’s buses as a whole have almost 2 million weekday trips, or more than 200 times the ferry’s ridership. As Streetsblog pointed out, even if NYC Ferry meets its ridership goals of 24,500 riders per day by 2023, that would still be fewer riders than fourteen individual bus routes.

The subway, meanwhile, has 5.5 million daily riders, or 550 times the ferry’s. Yet de Blasio fought the MTA for months on providing $418 million toward the authority’s Subway Action Plan before finally agreeing to do so. As noted by the New York Times, the mayor has also refused to spend $212 million a year to fund half-price Metrocards for New Yorkers living below the federal poverty line, approximately $25,000 for a family of four.

“Ferries are and will remain a marginal sliver of New York’s transportation system,” Jon Orcutt, director of communications and advocacy at TransitCenter, told the Voice. “At the very least, city government should match its ferry investment with a vastly expanded bus lane and bus priority street program.”

De Blasio’s choice to further subsidize ferry ridership comes at a time when the city’s transit system is in peril. The subway woes get the most headlines, but New York’s bus system is in crisis, too, as an aging fleet and a lack of dedicated bus lanes has led to the slowest speeds in the nation and declining ridership.

The average income of bus commuters is $28,455, well below the city’s median individual income of $38,840, according to a report by the city comptroller. Last year, de Blasio announced he was providing $270 million to expand the city’s Select Bus Service over the next decade — less than the ferries will receive over the next five years. Each of the existing SBS routes carries more passengers alone than the ferry system in total. Some individual SBS routes, such as the Bx12 (15,576,377 annual riders) or the M15 (14,128,504) carry orders of magnitude more New Yorkers per year than the entire ferry system.

And that’s to say nothing of Citibike, which receives no subsidies at all despite being the most-used bike sharing system in North America, averaging some 60,000 riders per day during summer months and 25,000 to 30,000 per day in winter months.

Any way one slices it, NYC Ferry is getting far more subsidies per rider than the city’s crucial transit systems.


To date, the only information released by NYCEDC about who ferry riders are comes from a survey of 1,345 riders from last August. Of the 1,229 who provided their home zip codes, NYCEDC found that 87 percent of them live in New York City. NYCEDC then created a heat map of the zip code results without numerical values or a legend. The agency declined to make the raw data of the survey available to the Voice; a Freedom of Information Law request for that data remains outstanding.

The riders interviewed by the Voice generally reflect the city’s findings, with the vast majority commuting from Rockaway (median household income: $49,414, according to the New York City Department of Planning), Bay Ridge ($63,539), Red Hook/Carroll Gardens ($91,757), and Long Island City/Queensbridge/Ravenswood/Astoria/Hunters Point/Sunnyside/West Maspeth ($58,971). The Voice’s results underrepresented commuters from DUMBO ($94,542) and Brooklyn Heights ($116,189) relative to the NYCEDC survey. Of those neighborhoods, only Rockaway is below New York City’s median household income of $55,191.

And neighborhood median household income likely understates the discrepancy between ferry riders’ income and average New Yorkers’. The ferry disproportionately caters to residents of waterfront properties, particularly the high-rise luxury towers popping up along Brooklyn and Queens. The Astoria route was particularly illustrative, as most of the riders interviewed by the Voice live in one of the many luxury high-rises along the East River.

Ryan Burda is a software developer who just moved to Long Island City. “I had no idea the ferry was right here when I signed my lease” at one of the waterfront high-rises, he says. “Now I take it every day” because “the subway is always jammed, and this is just a much lighter start to my morning.”

Some of these riders who live particularly close to the ferry do experience significant time savings on their commute, because the ferry landing is only a few feet from their door. Kristen Ayscue, a 33-year-old who works in TV production, cut her commute time by as much as 30 minutes thanks to the ferry’s reliability. She takes the ferry from Long Island City to Wall Street instead of the 7 train to the 4 or 5. “I kind of rave about it. The workers are really pleasant, the views — it’s like a vacation.”

The Bay Ridge route seems to cater largely to R train refugees. Stephen Pickering, a 41-year-old teacher, was on the ferry with his son Bodie. “Taking the R train in Bay Ridge is absolutely detestable, and our local elected officials like Marty Golden who sit on the MTA Capital Review Board have done nothing other than cosmetic upgrades,” he fumed. “So when the ferry came along finally, we got ourselves what I would call a civil commute.”

Passengers from Red Hook, a neighborhood notorious for its lack of transit options, were excited to commute to Manhattan by ferry, even if it didn’t save them much time. Several boarded the ferry with bikes. Genevieve Walker, a 33-year-old working in publishing, says she either bikes 25 minutes to work in Tribeca or takes the ferry, which takes 45 minutes door-to-door. Katie Diamond, a 33-year-old working in Times Square for Theatre of the Oppressed, says she will occasionally use the ferry if she doesn’t feel like biking over the bridge: “It’s great, especially at the end of the day.”

One Red Hook resident who works in the arts, Lindsey Packer, seemed fairly stunned by her ferry commute, which is now 10 minutes to the Brooklyn Army Terminal. “The idea of walking a long way to the F train or the G train and taking it to the R train and then walking a long way back to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, or taking a beautiful 10-minute boat ride?” She shrugged as if demonstrating the obvious.

The Rockaway route, while serving the lowest-income neighborhoods of the ferry network, is the best case for the ferry’s massive subsidy. Yet all of the commuters the Voice interviewed who live in Rockaway work in white-collar industries such as engineering, law, media, and finance. Almost all of them said the subway, via the A train, was faster than the ferry but less pleasant.

Marylou Grimaldi, a 50-year-old media professional who commutes from her home on Rockaway Beach to Wall Street, vowed to never return to the subway. “I would rather wait two hours for this boat. Because of the quality of the commute and the people on the boat and the rules and regulations and what doesn’t go on on the boat. It’s a cleanliness thing, it’s a safety thing, it’s a cursing and playing music thing, it’s garbage, it’s everything.”

Ann Martin, a 52-year-old legal secretary making the same commute, spends 20 minutes longer per day on the ferry versus the A train, but believes “the A train wasn’t safe. The crowd isn’t good on it. It’d go through East New York. This is more comfortable, more relaxing. It’s a different type of clientele and people.” (There were zero murders, seven rapes, and 332 assaults in the New York City subway system in 2017, according to the MTA’s annual report.)

Few others said they felt unsafe on the subway, but the sentiment that the A train was a thing of the past came up in almost every conversation. Mirta Mendez was far more representative of ferry riders as a whole. A 40-year-old accountant who commutes from Rockaway to midtown, she has a ferry ride of about 90 minutes door-to-door, roughly the same as the subway as long as there are no delays. But she opts for the ferry more than anything else because of how it makes her feel.

“You close your eyes and feel like you’re on a private yacht,” Mendez beamed, gesturing at the harbor. “It’s wonderful.”


Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES

Bay Ridge Offers Small-Town Spirit Beneath a Soaring Bridge

Once upon a time in the nineteenth century, what we now know as Bay Ridge was something of a resort area. In its pre-Brooklyn days, the village, then known as Yellow Hook (before the yellow fever epidemic wrecked that color’s brand), attracted wealthy industrialists seeking a respite from New York life.

You can’t blame them: Even today, there’s something peaceful about Brooklyn’s southwesternmost corner. After you emerge from whatever fresh hell the notoriously unreliable R train just put you through, you’ll notice that the air off the river is fresh. The buildings are low. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, stretching out to Staten Island, soars above the horizon.

Today, Bay Ridge is a neighborhood of immigrants. The first to arrive around the turn of the twentieth century were Scandinavians, whose influence can be seen at Leif Ericson Park or during the annual Norwegian Day Parade. After the arrival of the subway in 1916, Italians and Irish families populated the area, followed, in the mid-twentieth century, by Lebanese, Syrian, and Greek immigrants. These days, the neighborhood is also home to Latino and Chinese communities and is renowned as the heart of Arab New York, boasting the largest population of Arabic speakers in the city. Lately, more families have started migrating from elsewhere in Brooklyn, as well.

On the tree-lined commercial avenues, mom-and-pop businesses give this enclave the feel of a small town. Delis, diners, greengrocers, falafel shops, and pizza joints, many of which have stayed within the same family for generations, abound. A steady calendar of festivals and parades — like the famed Ragamuffin Parade, featuring kids in Halloween costumes marching down Third Avenue — bring people out to celebrate community in the streets. The entire west and south of the neighborhood is bounded by the New York Bay, so a nature lover can duck out to the waterfront in minutes. For a taste of small-town Brooklyn, take the R train to the end of the line and just start walking. 

Owl’s Head Park

Once the private estate of a wealthy politician (Henry Cruse Murphy, newspaper scion, mayor of Brooklyn, and champion of the future Brooklyn Bridge), Owl’s Head Park now serves as a place where families from all parts of the community gather to picnic and play. The park’s gentle slopes offer the area’s best sledding come winter. At the park’s north end, teenagers play basketball or skateboard at the Millennium Skate Park. Leafy oaks and beeches stretch out above the winding paths and frame a wide overlook that just might be the best spot to catch a sunset in Brooklyn. It’s a little oasis above the busy Belt Parkway below. Enter at 68th Street and Colonial Road,

69th Street Pier/Shore Road

You could spend an entire day hugging the water in Bay Ridge, walking, running, or biking down the Belt Parkway Promenade all the way to the neighborhood’s southernmost tip (and beyond — but why leave when you just got here?). For an excursion that’s almost as dreamy, walk down Shore Road, cutting in and out of the vast stretch of park lining one side, or admiring the eclectic mix of lavish homes lining the other. At the American Veterans Memorial Pier on 69th Street, you can cast a fishing pole or just take in the view, which stretches from Staten Island, across New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty, to Lower Manhattan. Since last summer, a ferry from Wall Street has docked at the pier, saving visitors the hassle of braving the R train. Shore Road from 69th to 101st streets,

Cosentino’s Fish Market

In the days before Christmas, the line to Cosentino’s stretches around the block, as Italian Americans begin to plan for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. But the shop does a steady business year-round, according to owner Mike Cosentino, thanks to a mix of health-conscious newcomers and old-timers whose families have been regulars since Cosentino’s grandparents opened the business in 1920. The store has witnessed a lot of change in the course of that near-century. When Mike took over forty years ago, his busiest hours were in the morning, when housewives would do their shopping; now, he says, more shoppers swing by on their way home from work. But one thing hasn’t wavered. “Fresh fish is our calling card,” he says. “You might pay more for better quality, but it’s worth it.” 6922 Third Avenue, 718-745-4710

Balady Halal Foods

The Arabic word balady roughly translates to “native” or “local,” a term that helps encompass the range of goods at what is now the biggest halal market serving Brooklyn’s largest Arab community. Colorful produce greets you when you enter, and the aisles are stacked high with everything from Medjool dates to Palestinian olive oil and Egyptian tea. Spices, nuts, olives, and pickles are available in bulk. Meats and cheese glow in display cases toward the back. The highest shelves are packed with cooking equipment and bath and beauty items, while baskets dangle from the ceiling. Every Ramadan, members of the Masoud family, who own the store, serve a large iftar feast on the sidewalk outside for hungry neighbors breaking their fasts. 7128 Fifth Avenue,

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn,
Gus Neamonitis, son of the founder of Mike’s Donuts, shows off some of the 35 varieties to tempt your sweet tooth.

Mike’s Donuts

Donuts are a family affair at this cozy, old-school bakery on Fifth Avenue. Mike Neamonitis opened his eponymous shop more than forty years ago, but now you’re more likely to catch one of his offspring behind the Formica counter, serving up fresh breads, bialys, muffins, and 35 types of donuts, a dozen of which’ll set you back eight bucks. The most popular variety is probably the marble cruller, a glazed vanilla-chocolate twist, according to Neamonitis’s seventeen-year-old grandson, also named Mike. The only employees who aren’t related, he adds, are the bakers, who work through the night to make sure pastries are hot and ready by 4 a.m., when the first customers start coming in to get their daily fix. Most mornings, Neamonitis swings by too. 6822 Fifth Avenue,


While Bay Ridge has no shortage of excellent Middle Eastern food, Tanoreen owner and chef Rawia Bishara blends dishes from around the Levant with some that may be unique to this corner of Brooklyn. The more standard fare — grilled meats, smoky baba ghanouj, fragrant stuffed grape leaves — is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but this place also does things to brussels sprouts and cauliflower like you wouldn’t believe. Platters of lamb sausage, chicken flatbreads, and a spicy shepherd’s pie will momentarily immobilize you (in the best way), while a cocktail enlivened with za’atar, an herbal spice blend, will help the golden dining room twinkle. On a typical Saturday night, Bishara herself wends through packed tables to check in on diners and make sure everyone is having a good time. 7523 Third Avenue,


In Bay Ridge, you can swing a cat on any corner and hit a pub — or you can just go to Skinflints. The tile floor and century-old stained-glass windows are relics from the bar’s genesis as an ice cream parlor. With dark wood paneling, beaded lamps, and twinkly lights, the space is like something time forgot, nostalgic without getting creepy about it. Skinflints is known for its burgers — served on English muffins, and cheaper than anything you’ll find in Manhattan — and on warm days, you can head out onto the back patio to enjoy the sunshine (or the dulcet sounds of Fifth Avenue traffic). 7902 Fifth Avenue, 718-745-1116

BookMark Shoppe

A version of the Cheers theme song could be written about the only independent bookstore in Bay Ridge: It’s a place where truly everybody knows your name. “It’s like working in a bar without dealing with the drunks,” confirms Erin Evers, who runs the store’s monthly book club. Kids come through for story hour and writing workshops led by local teachers, and the crafty can pick up supplies or join a knitting circle. Sometimes bookstores are good for guilty pleasures, too. “I love trash TV,” said one customer looking forward to an upcoming meet-and-greet with a Real Housewife. These readings are often fundraisers for a local cause — and always a chance to run into your neighbors. 8415 Third Avenue,

Owl’s Head Bar

When old-timers want to gripe about the ghost of gentrification future, they’ll sometimes mention, in hushed tones, the wine bar tucked away on 74th Street. But owner John Avelluto is hardly some hipster interloper. A prominent local artist, Avelluto learned the tricks of the restaurant trade from his father, who ran an eatery uptown serving the cuisine of his home region, Puglia, which you might know as the heel of Italy’s boot. The drinks menu at Owl’s Head is unique but unpretentious (and affordable). “We like to give more stage time to marginalized farmers and craftspeople,” says Avelluto. Community groups often hold meetings within the warm, low-lit space, which is also host to regular readings and the Bay Ridge Poets Society’s monthly open mic. On Thursday nights, a portion of all proceeds goes to LGBTQ causes. 479 74th Street,

Bamboo Garden

There’s some argument about exactly where Bay Ridge ends and other neighborhoods begin (65th Street? 59th? Is the easternmost border the Gowanus Expressway or somewhere slightly beyond?), and Bamboo Garden exemplifies this beautifully. This dim sum restaurant presides over a corner of Eighth Avenue, the main corridor of Sunset Park’s Chinatown. But once upon a time, it was a disco — indeed, the very disco where John Travolta’s character, Tony Manero, boogied down in Saturday Night Fever, the movie that once was (and maybe still is) Bay Ridge’s biggest claim to fame. The dining room may no longer resemble a dance floor, but you can chow down on dumplings, shumai, and egg tarts while ceiling chandeliers sparkle like disco balls. 6409 Eighth Avenue, 718-238-1122

The Village Voice is exploring one borough per day for the week of April 2, 2018. For full coverage to date, visit our Neighborhoods Week 2018 page.


Four Reasons You Should Care About Tuesday’s Elections

After two and a half million New Yorkers marched to the polls last November, only for four-fifths of them to watch with horror as results trickled in from the rest of the country, city voters could be forgiven for never wanting to be inside a polling station again. And this year voters are likely approaching Election Day with the excitement of a trip to the drugstore, especially with the highest-profile race, for mayor, looking like a shoo-in for Bill de Blasio.

But there are still reasons to vote and watch the final tallies tomorrow, with seats up for grabs in certain key districts and in the surrounding region, as well as a ballot measure that could change the definition of New Yorkers’ basic rights:

The Suburbs

The most important race in the region is happening across the Hudson River, where Democrats have an excellent chance of nabbing a high-profile governorship when voters in New Jersey will choose a successor to term-limited Republican and former Trump bestie Chris Christie. One-time Goldman Sachs exec and diplomat Phil Murphy has led Republican lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno wire-to-wire since the primary and is ahead by 16 percentage points according to polling averages. Whoever wins will have to face a $687 million state budget shortfall over the next two years, and $49 billion in rising pension liabilities making up much of the state’s $153.5 billion debt, not to mention skyrocketing property taxes and more summers of hell on the rails.

Meanwhile, two contests in the city’s suburbs could be bellwethers for how the state will vote in future elections. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino wants a second crack at the governor’s mansion in 2018, but first must get past Yonkers state senator George Latimer. Nassau GOP senator Jack Martins is neck and neck with Democrat Laura Curran for the open Long Island county executive seat. How the county manipulates property taxes should be a key issue in that race, but the two have mostly squabbled over gangs.

The Council

New Yorkers aren’t just picking the next mayor on Tuesday. Dozens of municipal leaders are on the ballot, and some contests could be decided by only a handful of votes. The most competitive race in the city is in Bay Ridge, where two rising politicos, Democrat Justin Brannan and Republican John Quaglione, have fiercely debated immigration policy, broken windows policing, and discrimination in their debates. Republicans hope for a rare pickup in the borough — there are only three GOP members currently on the entire city council, none from Brooklyn — while Democrats are monitoring turnout to determine whether they would have a shot at reclaiming the neighborhood’s GOP-controlled congressional seat in 2018.

Elsewhere there are several rematches from the September primaries in which second-place Democratic finishers found another party to hitch a ride on. In the northeast Bronx, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj spent $716,000, or a little more than $200 per vote, to get past community board members Marjorie Velazquez and John Doyle in the primary. Velazquez took the Working Families Party line and Doyle snagged the Liberal Party ballot line, but Gjonaj is emptying out his campaign coffers — his spending is up to $1.2 million, according to the latest city campaign filings.

There’s a rematch in Maspeth between Democratic Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and civic leader Bob Holden, who is running on multiple party lines after he lost the Democratic primary. A race for an open seat in Borough Park between Kalman Yeger and Yoni Hikind has divided the area’s close-knit Orthodox Jewish community. And in Lower Manhattan, Democratic councilmember Margaret Chin is facing a rematch from Christopher Marte, now on the Independence Party line, after edging him by only 222 votes in September. Chin’s support for a senior housing development at the site of a garden on Elizabeth Street could cost her her seat this time around.

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The Convention

Read your ballot closely for a question concerning a constitutional convention. State law allows voters to decide whether the state’s constitution needs a little freshening up every 20 years, which New Yorkers last approved in 1967. A vote in favor of a convention starts the process enabling candidates to run next year as convention delegates — there would be 204 total, three for each state senate district and 15 at-large — and the convention itself would be held in April 2019 in Albany at a mostly clean hotel with a bar that stays open past midnight. By November of that year, voters would ratify or reject any of their proposed edits.

The referendum has divided like-minded advocacy groups on the left and the right, some of which have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the cause. Labor leaders are opposed to a Con Con because they’re worried delegates would do away with their pensions. Good government groups see a convention as their best chance to pass stronger ethics laws, civil rights protections, and election reform. The Voice’s Ross Barkan laid out the pros and cons of a Con Con, which you should read before voting; statewide support for the referendum appears to be faltering, according to a November Siena poll.

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The Right to Vote

You’re a New Yorker, damn it, and you already spend half your day giving your opinion to everyone around you, even if they never asked for it. Think of voting in an off-year election as giving the mayor and your local council member a piece of your mind. That way, when you see them in public you can tell them you voted for them, so they should put a bike rack on your corner and plant two more trees on your block already. (And if you throw in a couple hundred thousand dollars to the mayor’s campaign you can even ask for your water bill overcharges to be taken care of, or for building inspectors to back off your property.) And while you’re at it, you can also make sure you can actually still vote at your polling place — don’t forget how the city Board of Elections admitted to illegally removing 117,000 voters from the rolls in Brooklyn last year. The board has apparently corrected the error, although it wouldn’t surprise anyone if there is another glitch. If they don’t let you vote? You can always order those stickers in bulk.


These Are This Week’s Four Best Happy Hour Specials in NYC – 6/4/2014

Warm weather making you thirsty? Us too. Pull up a chair and enjoy a frosty beverage at one these four fine establishments.

Horchata, 476 Sixth Avenue

Beginning this week, this new Greenwich Village abode is welcoming in neighbors with a weekday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Guests can enjoy half priced frozen drinks, select wine, sangria, and beers on tap. The offer is valid at the bar only, and you can pair your drinks to the restaurant’s full menu.

Savoury, 489 Columbus Avenue

Here’s another brand new happy hour making its debut: Chill out with $4 beers and half-priced glasses of wine from 5 to 7 p.m. The recently opened Indian restaurant also offers a full menu of specialties like chicken pakora, onion fritters, and flavored naans.

Lock Yard, 9221 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn

Drawing inspiration from Coney Island and biergartens, this sausage and suds palace is a popular happy hour spot from 2 to 6 p.m. Narragansett tall boys are just $2.50, draft beers are $4, and side dishes are half off with the purchase of a hot dog or sausage. Look for the same deals late night from 10 p.m. to midnight, and catch World Cup games on the bar’s televisions.

Northern Territory, 12 Franklin Street, Brooklyn

Avoid the weekend crowds by visiting this Aussie rooftop with perfect views of the city skyline during its weekday happy hour — it may be the only time you can actually grab a seat here. From 5 to 7 p.m., Fosters on tap is $3; you can match that to treats from down under like fish in foil and meat pies. The bar also has a selection of craft brews like Fire Island Beer Company’s Sea Salt Ale — which takes exactly like it sounds — as well as traditional cocktails and beers only famous in Australia.


Talking (and Killing) Turkey with Ted Nugent

‘The left hates me so much because I’m so right all the time,” opines Theodore Anthony Nugent, not incorrectly. However, he hastens to clarify, right “as in correct; I live the truth, in logic and common sense.”

The fast-talking classic rocker — who turns 65 on December 13 — is also right as in wing, but sometimes, yes, occasionally, he does spew sense. Calm down. Open mind. Keep reading: Sure, for liberals on the coasts, it’s difficult to see beyond the hyperbole and gun smoke — though, of course, he prefers bow-hunting.

As befits the season of thanks, the Nuge invokes a moment of silence for his saintly spouse for “putting up” with him: “See, every day at the Nugent house is Thanksgiving.” Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine that the holiday at the Nugents’ is more akin to the Waltons than the Osbournes.

So what’s it like to sup at the meat-laden table of rock’s own Sergeant Slaughter? Surely in a family of nine children (two were given up for adoption by a then-youthful Nugent, and he recently reunited with namesake son Ted Fleetwood Mann, a restaurateur raised in Bay Ridge), there must be a veggie in the bunch?

“No,” Nugent asserts. “All my kids have good, intelligent, and responsible rounded diets, as the omnivores that we are. They’re all trim and fit, and muscular and athletic, and light on their feet. Number one, we eat organic. There’s nothing more raw and organic and nutritious than wild game meat; that’s not an opinion, it just is. [Wife] Shemane and I eat wild game exclusively here at the Nugent ranch, and we eat in intelligent portions. There’s an alert for you, America,” he says, his voice rising. “You might want to start eating in intelligent portions, you beached sperm whales, you!”

Yes, it’s statements like that — funny, outrageous, self-congratulatory, and sometimes valid — that raise the ire of Nuge detractors. But he couldn’t care less. “I don’t give any forethought into how I conduct myself or what I say,” he explains. “I have a very honest stream-of-consciousness, raw, instinctual life and expression and freedom of expression; my first amendment rights are the most important, God-confirmed, God-given individual rights that we the people in America have. Let me put it this way: I’m a Black Jew at a Nazi Klan rally. Some of those idiots with the sheets on their head aren’t going to appreciate me.”

And many others as well — even those who appreciated “Stranglehold” and “Cat Scratch Fever” as the soundtrack to their youth — aren’t fond of the musician whose primal, good-time American cock rock has been overshadowed by right-leaning sociopolitical rants across numerous media platforms.

It’s easy to look to Nugent’s upbringing for the man he is today. “I was born [in 1948] following the greatest victory of good over evil in the history of the world: World War II, that unprecedented Herculean positiveness of good over evil,” he says. “I think that military discipline was distributed by a lot of parents and parenting in that era, and” — here it is — “my dad was a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army cavalry. Once we were born — my brother Jeff and brother John and sister Kathy — he never stopped being the damned drill sergeant.”

The term “chip off the old block” comes to mind. So if Nuge is the Baron von Trapp of rock dads, is it ever Motor City Madhouse at the family abode? Nein. “In the Nugent family, you have to be the best you can be, or you don’t get dinner,” he hoots. Sent to bed sans venison? “You don’t even go to bed: Go out in the yard and do something. You must be productive or you’re ostracized, you have to go to the Osbourne family.”

Indeed, many in the Osbourne clan have publicly battled substance abuse, and while Nugent is vehement about his drink and drug opinions, he’s not a teetotaler. “Let me make it perfectly clear,” he says. “At our sacred Thanksgiving Nugent dinner table I will have a wonderful glass of South African red wine to go to my venison shank, or my wild turkey [see recipe, sidebar]. My brothers like a good cold beer, my sons like a good cold beer.”

While the rock world is rife with abusers of all stripes, Nugent preaches “intellectual control and moderation, so if your family needs you, you are capable of responding to that need. If one is drunk or stoned, one becomes a liability immediately.”

Still, he acknowledges that biology can play a role, and gives kudos where due. “I think coming back from abuse is much more difficult than standing against it throughout one’s life. I salute everybody who establishes and pursues and accomplishes an upgrade in quality of life. I’ve been very lucky,” he continues. “My mom and dad were drinkers and smokers. Not to an abusive level, but I believe that any time you allow Mr. Hand to pick up Mr. Poison and put it in Mr. Mouth, there is a suicidal tendency going on. “

Into his mouth, however, goes, along with Mr. Foot, Mr. Meat. And into the maws of the military as well. “Every year we kill so many deer with our bows and arrows, and antelope, and bear, and moose; just a wonderful hunting season every year,” Nugent says. “We process and donate over a ton of venison jerky that goes directly to the United States military heroes in Afghanistan. If someone can come up with a better use of renewable protein than that, call 1-800 EAT ME.”

Understood. Kill. Eat. Repeat. So, what if a Nugent guest wants Tofurky this holiday season? “Those that prefer a vegetarian diet, have a nice day. I’ll make you a damn salad, no problem. In fact, salads are what my food eats,” he chortles.


DIY or Die

Punk rockers, Shea Stadium-proprietors, and men about town the So So Glos have made Bay Ridge proud. Tonight, the band that toured with post-hardcore heroes 
. . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead in Europe and like-minded New 
Jersey natives Titus Andronicus in the U.S. comes across town to Williamsburg’s Knitting Factory to open for Brooklyn transplants Crystal Stilts. Though the Stilts might be best known for their former singer/guitarist Frankie Rose, the remaining crew sounds as good as ever, placing deep, reverberating vocals within deep, retromaniacal guitar lines.

Sun., May 26, 7:30 p.m., 2013


John Raskin Has a Plan to Make the G Train Less God-Awful

It’s been a long, mean winter for the MTA. In 2010, the agency’s budget woes led to a 7.5 percent fare increase, 1,000 lost jobs, and draconian service cuts across the boroughs. In 2011, Governor Cuomo reached an agreement with unions to freeze wages, and 2012 got by, barely, without cuts or hikes.

But now for some good news: 2013 is looking way, way better. And as the Voice‘s John Surico mentioned last month, there’s even a little unexpected cash involved–the 2013-2014 budget passed in Albany surpassed the MTA’s expectations by some sweet $40 million. Now, the obvious question: How the hell do we spend it?

John Raskin, founder of grassroots organization Riders Alliance, is lobbying for a $40 millon fund to restore service and enhance public transit. On Sunday, Raskin, state Senator Daniel Squadron’s former chief of staff, joined MTA board members, state senators, and council members in front of the MTA building at 2 Broadway to argue for the cause.

When Raskin spoke to the Voice about what he fears might happen to those $40 million if it weren’t put toward, say, increasing frequency of the G train (how else is Hannah supposed to get home from those Bushwick parties?), the organizer said funds in a $13 billion agency could easily be absorbed into other projects. “This is an opportunity to put this aside for a greater purpose,” Raskin said.

Several politicians at the rally concurred. “With ridership soaring, it makes sense to direct unexpected operating funds to restore and/or improve service for riders,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said.

“It is a fact that rising MTA fares are adding an additional burden on working families in New York,” Councilmember Letitia James added in a statement. “I would hope that the authority would invest excess funds into the restoration of troubled lines, and the increase of services in rapidly-developing neighborhoods.”

On Wednesday, Raskin’s MTA board member supporters plan to introduce a budget amendment to the MTA to increase service. Negotiating, however, could take a while.

In the meantime, Raskin says Riders Alliance, which consists of 450 dues-paying members, will continue its ground game by educating from the subway pulpit. “The biggest lesson that has come through transit politics in the last two years,” he says, “is that there are some things you have to do at the grassroots level. Our goal is to activate local riders.”

Much of the organization’s energy is devoted to two campaigns–expanding service on the G train, as well as bus service in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge.”You might meet us on the G train platform,” Raskin told the Voice. “It’s person-to-person contact.”



Tomorrow: Our 10 Best Chinese Restaurants in NYC, 2013 Edition

The braised pork shoulder at Shanghai newcomer Full House is perfectly executed, but will it be enough to catapult that Chinatown establishment into our top 10?

With wave upon wave of new immigrants arriving, the city’s collection of Chinese restaurants is in a perpetual state of flux. Ten years ago, Fujianese places caused excitement, to be replaced five years ago by Northern Chinese ones from places like Dongbei, Qingdao, and Xi’an.


It’s been over two years since we last took stock of the city’s Chinese restaurants, and the game has really changed in the interim. What will be first this year? What styles of Chinese cooking will predominate?

So please tune in bright and early tomorrow morning, as we present Our 10 Best Chinese Restaurants. And rest assured restaurants in every borough were considered.

In the meantime, take a look at our 2010 list. The restaurants listed there are still worth visiting.

The modish interior of Full House, and note the seating on the balcony.


Say Goodbye to St. Clair Diner, Hinsch’s

After 92 years of business, Greek diner St. Clair has closed in Brooklyn. Brownstoner reported that the dive on the corner of Smith Street and Atlantic Avenue closed last week, and now the windows are covered in paper — never a good sign. According to Grub Street, developer Joe Sitt bought the building for $5.4 million and will turn it into retail space. 93 Smith St., Brooklyn

News broke last week that Hinsch’s in Bay Ridge will close on March 1. Co-owner Roger Desmond told Brooklyn Paper, “The area no longer supports this kind of establishment,” and that Bay Ridge is more prone to fast food joints (and hipster beer gardens). Folks hoping for egg creams of yester year will have to keep searching come March. 8518 5th Ave., Brooklyn

Atomic Wings/ Lars Pasta To Go — the two-in-one stop in Boerum Hill — closed after four years in business. Pardon Me For Asking reported that the signage is gone and a For Rent placard is in its place. 134 Smith St., Brooklyn

The Lower East Side might have just lost another pizza place. La Montanara Pizzeria on Ludlow Street hasn’t been open and its phone goes unanswered at all hours of the day. Bowery Boogie reported that even employees have discussed rumors of its closing, and the building is available for lease. 168 Ludlow St.


Bay Ridge Fights Off Hipsterdom, Boos Beer Garden

Micro-brews. Fixie bikes. Plaid shirts. They’re coming to Bay Ridge in the form of a beer garden, the Lockyard, and neighbors are not pleased. In fact, they’re throwing a fit.

Some fear the “outdoor micro-brew emporium” will bring a crowd of youngins’ from Williamsburg, Bushwick, and all those other damn hipster neighborhoods to bucolic Bay Ridge. One woman, Elizabeth Pabian, even told Brooklyn Paper, “My whole life will change.”

Pabian started a petition to keep the beer garden out of the neighborhood and recruited 29 neighbors to fight with her. The protestors claim that the bar will bring in late night noise, cause their property values to decrease, and of course bring out-of-towners in on Saturday nights.

Tommy Casatelli, the Lockyard’s owner, is building a wall around the backyard to contain the noise, and promises that everything will be just fine. He’s the guy behind other Third Avenue haunts Kettle Black and Ho’Brah Taco Joint.

Despite the neighborhood ruckus, Brooklyn Community Board 10 is on Casatelli’s side and voted to support his bid for a liquor license. Looks like this place will open in June. Hipsters, ready your fixies.