Entries in New York City (29)


Solar-Powered Cellphone Charging Stations Invade NYC

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New Yorkers are currently adjusting to a spate of new amenities, such as Wi-Fi-enabled subway stations and a bike share program that residents in other cities have enjoyed for some time.

But new to the Big Apple this week, or anywhere else for that matter, are free cellphone charging stations in popular public places. The cool part? They’re solar powered and can charge a phone as fast as any wall outlet.

The portable chargers were purchased by AT&T and installed with the help of the city for a pilot initiative called Street Charge. According to Joe Atkin, CEO of Goal Zero, the solar innovation company that made the charger platforms with the Brooklyn design firm Pensa, Street Charge stations are in seven locations, including Central Park, Madison Square Park and Coney Island, and will soon expand to 25 locations across all five boroughs.

“We’re doing this pilot run through the fall,” Atkin said, “and we hope by that time it’s deemed successful.” If it is, Atkin hopes to roll out Street Charge across the U.S.

The Street Charge platform looks like a high-tech palm tree, with three long solar panels protruding from the top of a long metallic stem. Each platform has three charging stations and can connect with iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, micro-USB and USB devices.

Atkin first struck upon the idea of a portable, solar-powered energy source when Goal Zero was doing research in New York City after superstorm Sandy.

“We saw that so many people were left without power,” he explained, “and it gave rise to some innovation of how can we bring power to people in remote locations. And really, solar and portable battery systems are one of the best alternatives.”

Goal Zero heard that Pensa was designing the Street Charge platforms and asked if it could help. Pensa’s response, according to Atkin: “Yeah, how about build it?”

Mark Prommel, Pensa’s design director, said there was a dearth of options in between a folding panel on the side of a backpack and a hefty panel on top of a house: “There was a hole for something that was a simple and elegant solution that could be put in these different environments and feel comfortable there.”

Goal Zero contributed the battery systems and solar panels and, with the help of AT&T, brought it to market.

Why did they select New York City first?

“If you can make it New York, you can make it anywhere,” said Neil Giacobbi, AT&T’s New York public affairs director.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


NYC Subways to Get More Touchscreen Travel Kiosks

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a continued effort to improve public transportation through technology, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced plans to roll out at least 77 new On the Go! touchscreen travel kiosks in stations throughout the city.

Like the kiosks already installed at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and the Bowling Green station in Manhattan, the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center in Brooklyn and at the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue station in Queens, the new On the Go! Travel Stations will offer real-time service status, escalator and elevator status, and transportation directions and maps.

A spokesperson for Control Group Inc., one of the two companies contracted to produce the new kiosks, told ABC News that the idea behind implementing these On the Go! units in more New York City transit stations is about "bringing the innovations of the web and mobile to 100-year-old infrastructure."

The On the Go! software will be able to support MTA-sponsored third-party apps.

Control Group, tasked with producing "anywhere from 47 to 90" kiosks for the city, according to the MTA, is no stranger to public software design and development projects. Some of its most recent work has been with the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, the Delta terminal at LaGuardia Airport and the New York City Reinvent Payphones competition. CBS Outdoor is also under contract to produce 30 On the Go! Travel Stations for the city.

The MTA's original launch of On the Go! was a collaboration with Cisco. "With On the Go, we are adding yet another layer of state-of-the-art customer communications into our subway system, but it goes far beyond the already helpful information provided by our countdown clocks and the displays in our new technology subway cars," MTA NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast said two years ago in a statement.

A spokesperson for the MTA told ABC News that the dates for installing these new On the Go! units are not yet certain, but that the kiosks would be placed in 16 different stations.

The city also began setting up high-tech telephone booths around its five boroughs last year. The booths, or "SmartScreen" stations, which are made in partnership with Cicso and LG, include 32-inch multi-touch displays with apps that let you search for local restaurants and other information.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New York City Successful in Smartphone Booth Venture

A mock-up of City24x7's new New York City phone booth. (City24x7/New York Department of Information of Technology and Telecommunications)(NEW YORK) – Seven months after New York City and a company called City 24 x 7 announced that the city’s phone booths were finally going to enter the 21st century, it turns out that the 25 updated booths were a hit.

The city is now setting up 250 of the high-tech telephone booths around its five boroughs. The booths, or “SmartScreen” stations, which are made in partnership with Cisco and LG, feature 32-inch multi-touch displays with apps that let you search for local restaurants or information. Just walk up to the screen and tap it. The booths will also broadcast a Wi-Fi signal.

“To me, the more exciting piece involved local communities. The overriding thing we heard, and the testing and research confirmed, was that local information was incredibly important to people. The more local our info, the more connected people felt. In turn, the more connected and in touch with the community they felt, the more embedded the network became,” Tom Touchet, CEO of City 24×7, told ABC News.

Local issues are going to be an even larger part as more booths are deployed in New York. A percentage of the ad money made from advertising on the booths will be given to speed recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy.  Touchet said the mission of the booths is to “inform, protect, and revitalize.” The booth’s screens can also display emergency and safety information.

New York City is one of the first cities to get the smart booths, and others will have them soon. The company, along with Cisco, plans to expand to more than a dozen U.S. locations, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York City Tops "Forbes'' 5 Most Expensive US Zip Codes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A lack of inventory is driving real estate prices higher, especially in the most expensive zip codes in the country.

Forbes on Tuesday released its annual list of the zip codes with the priciest housing. While the usual suspects made the top five, a New York City zip code topped the list for the first time since Forbes began collecting this data several years ago.

Forbes and Altos Research pulled pricing data for more than 22,000 zip codes in the U.S. from June 28 to Sept. 28, then analyzed the 500 most expensive. Only single-family homes and condominiums were sampled. Multi-family homes and co-ops were left out, which may be one reason New York City, known for its high housing costs, had not reached number one on Forbes' list yet. Four of the most expensive 10 zip codes are in Manhattan.

Morgan Brennan, real estate reporter at Forbes, said New York City zip codes surrounding famed Central Park were especially expensive, though the zip code that was most expensive, 10065, had more expensive single-family homes and co-ops.

"The regions most popular are these zip codes that hug Central Park, especially with high-end buyers," she said. "Wealthy, foreign investors consider it a safe-haven investment."

Coming in second is the exclusive, posh Alpine, a suburb in New Jersey that is usually in the top three each year. Brennan said what is driving the high prices there is a lack of multi-family housing and many multi-million-dollar single-family estates.

In its analysis, Forbes takes into account not just housing prices, but the amount of time properties are on the market and inventory.

Inventory is down about 30 percent on average among all the zip codes that made Forbes' list. This is true especially in Silicon Valley, which is represented on the list by Atherton and Hillsborough, third and fifth, respectively.

Because of the tech boom in Silicon Valley, Brennan said inventory is down even more drastically there.

Here is the list of the top five most expensive zip codes compiled by Forbes:

1. New York, N.Y. (10065)

Median home price: $6,534,430

Average days on market: 449

Number of homes on the market: 80

2. Alpine, N.J. (07620)

Median home price: $5,745,038

Average days on market: 207

Number of homes on the market: 35

3. Atherton, Calif. (94027)

Median home price: $4,897,864

Average days on market: 103

Number of homes on the market: 41

4. Sagaponack, N.Y. (11962)

Median home price: $4,180,385

Average days on market: 333

Number of homes on the market: 84

5. Hillsborough, Calif. (94010)

Median home price: $4,127,250

Average days on market: 172

Number of homes on the market: 124

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NY Commuters Can No Longer Use Subway as Tardy Excuse

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York City commuters no longer can lie to say they were late because of subway delays.

That’s because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which manages the city’s public transportation, has released a searchable digital archive of all service alerts that were issued via email and text message for all MTA services.

The service alerts go as far back as October 2008 and are updated in real-time, the MTA said in a statement.

Each entry has the date and precise time the message was sent, “down to the hundredth of a second,” the MTA said.

The MTA provides 2.63 billion trips each year and is North America’s largest transportation network, according to its website.

“The MTA is the most transparent public transportation agency in the world,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota in a statement.  “The inclusion of this information on the website furthers our transparency achievement by allowing members of the public to carefully scrutinize how we provide service-related information to our customers.  We’re delighted to provide this level of openness.”

Latecomers to work may not be so delighted, however, to find their late-subway excuse won’t hold up to scrutiny.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Loses $4.68M Down Payment on NYC Apartment

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The ex-wife of a software executive lost a $4.68 million down payment on a New York City home after a judge ruled unfinished floors, and lack of heat, hot water and uninstalled closet rods were not good reasons to pull out of a contract to purchase the $18.75 million luxury cooperative apartment.

Roberta Campbell, the ex-wife of Intuit CEO William Campbell, filed a lawsuit against Mark Hotel Sponsor in late 2009 alleging the East Side property was found to be "unsafe, uninhabitable, and substantially not in conformity with the offering plan and purchase agreement” during a pre-purchase inspection leading her to fail to close.

But a judge ruled that a laundry list of problems, including missing microwave grates, did not render the suite “unsuitable for occupancy,” and ruled in favor of the Mark Hotel.

But “based on the evidence” and the “one-sided language of the parties agreement,” Mark Hotel Sponsor was entitled to the more than $4 million down payment, the judge concluded.

An attorney for Roberta Campbell declined to comment on the matter since parts of the case are still ongoing.

The multi-million-dollar suite -- the third-most expensive suite of the 42 available -- was located on the 14th floor and was expected to come with a range of benefits, according to the suit, including a doorman at all times, concierge services, package room in the vicinity of the lobby, fitness center, and incoming mail sorted by the hotel staff.  According to a posting by the Corcoran group, the Mark’s amenities also include valet parking, a business center and in-house John Lobb shoe care service.

Since failing to close on the “absolutely fabulous” suite, Campbell has settled into a new Central Park West luxury apartment, while the Mark Hotel residence remains unsold, according to judge William H. Pauley III.

“We’re gratified by the judge’s decision,” Jeffrey Louis Braun, a lawyer for the developer with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, told ABC News in a statement.

According to the judge’s ruling, “all prerequisites to closing were satisfied by April 16, Campbell breached the Purchase Agreement by failing to close.  Accordingly, Sponsor is entitled to retain her down payment and any accrued interest as liquidated damages.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mayor Bloomberg: Chick-fil-A Ban Is 'Inappropriate'

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have a bone to pick with jumbo-sized sodas, but he has no qualms with Chick-fil-A.

While his fellow mayors in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston have shunned the chicken sandwich chain from their cities for anti-gay marriage comments its CEO made this week, Bloomberg said Friday that a similar ban in New York City is “not going to happen.”

“I disagree with them really strongly on this one,” Bloomberg said on WOR Radio. “You can’t have a test for what the owners’ personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city. You really don’t want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That’s just not government’s job.”

“This is just a bad idea and it’s not going to happen in New York City,” Bloomberg added.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was the first mayor to come out against Chick-fil-a after the restaurant’s CEO Dan Cathy said this month that he was “guilty as charged” for supporting “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Menino wrote a scathing letter to Cathy last Friday urging him to keep his restaurant out of Boston.

Days later Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel followed suit, saying he does not believe Cathy’s comments “reflects who we are as a city.”

San Francisco became the third city to turn a cold shoulder on Chick-fil-A when Mayor Edwin Lee tweeted his distaste for the company’s anti-gay stance on Thursday.

“Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone,” Lee tweeted, adding in a subsequent tweet, “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Big Soda Ban Riles Industry, Bores New Yorkers

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Judging by the print ads, radio spots, plane-flown banners, and a protest held at city hall on Monday, New Yorkers may think that their fellow citizens are angrily rallying against Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed ban of soft drinks over 16 ounces at certain stores.

Radio ads featuring thick New York accents tell listeners: “No one tells us what neighborhood to live in, what team to root for, or what deli to eat at,” the ad says. “Are we going to let out mayor tell us what size beverage to buy?”

“It’s unbelievable!” a male voice yells.

The radio spot complements other ads against the proposed rule, including a sign that flew over New York and New Jersey beaches during the July 4 holiday that read “No Drink 4 U: New Yorkers for Beverage Choices,” a play on the New York-centric Seinfeld episode in which the “Soup Nazi” tells customers “No Soup For You!”

The ads are produced by a group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choice, a coalition of restaurant and business owners against the ban, which the mayor is touting as a way to cut obesity.  The group’s website features a list of more than 400 such members, but each of the ads features the name of the American Beverage Association.

The ABA, an industry lobby for makers of non-alcoholic beverages (including sodas and sports drinks),  has paid for the creation and execution of the ad campaigns. The NYC Beverage Choices website is registered to the Washington, D.C., public relations firm that represents the ABA, Goddard Gunster. Calls to the ABA, New Yorkers for Beverage Choice, and Goddard Gunster were not returned.

Whether New Yorkers who are not part of the ABA actually care about the proposed beverage ban remains to be seen. The city’s Board of Health will hold a public hearing on the matter on July 24, and then decide on whether to endorse the ban.

Meanwhile, a rally held Monday in front of New York’s City Hall touted as the “Million Big Gulp March” drew only a few dozen actual New Yorkers to complain about Bloomberg’s tactics, according to news reports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NYC Airports Add New, Holographic Customer Service Agents

Airus Media(NEW YORK) -- Meet Ava. She’s more than just your average customer service representative. She’s always ready with a smile, never needs a bathroom break or a shift change, and charges $60,000 for a lifetime of devoted service.

Ava is a hologram recently purchased by the Port Authority to greet customers at New York and New Jersey’s three major airports, LaGuardia, Newark, and John F. Kennedy.

The Port Authority has purchased three of the holograms to take part in a six month trial to see how customers respond to them. The holograms, which are set to hit the airports in July, are the first of their kind in North America, and have been programmed to answer some of the questions most frequently asked by consumers. This includes providing directions to the nearest taxi stands and bus stops as well as giving general airport safety and convenience tips, according to a Port Authority spokesman.

The holograms will be located in a specific spot at each airport. The LaGuardia Ava will be positioned in the central terminal building. The Newark Ava takes up a spot in Terminal B, and the JFK Ava will be found in Terminal 5.

To get information from the holograms, passengers simply have to speak to them.

The introduction of the holograms is part of a larger initiative to improve customer service by the Port Authority that includes the introduction of 70 new customer care representatives during peak hours, according to a Port Authority statement. These new employees will join the 350 human representatives already working at the airports. The initiative will also include expanded efforts to curtail taxi hustling, the installation of more power poles for electronic devices, cleaner restroom facilities and a long term effort to improve airport infrastructure.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Manhattan’s Million-Dollar Parking Spot

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It used to be that $1 million could buy you a healthy chunk of real estate–a mansion, maybe, or a few acres of land. But in Manhattan’s tony Greenwich Village, it will buy a parking spot.

That’s right: A garage space at 66 E.11th Street will soon be offered for a cool $1 million, perhaps intended for that discerning Ferrari driver for whom a mere six-figure parking spot just won’t do.

If you think a million dollars is way too much to spend on a measly piece of concrete to park the old set of wheels, think again. “It really is the defining luxury amenity,”  says Dolly Lenz, vice-chairman at New York real estate firm Prudential Douglas Elliman, which will sell the space. “You’d be surprised about how many people have big car collections. We wish we had more garage spots.”

And the specs are pretty sweet. The coveted parking spot is inside the apartment building, complete with curb cut, a rarity in the New York City parking landscape. The garage space boasts 15-foot ceilings, which allows for ample storage space, and the owner could even stack two cars onto ramps to create a duplex parking arrangement. In light of all that, “this is actually undervalued,” Lenz told “Normally, when you buy a garage, you are literally buying between two lines in a designated spot.”

Lenz has even witnessed bidding wars reaching $600,000, just for a space between two lines. That’s because–like any other luxury item, from Birkin bags to rare diamonds–it’s the scarcity of available parking in New York that creates such cache.

To put it all in perspective, Lenz says she sold a double penthouse at 200 11th Avenue to Domenico Dolce (as in, Dolce & Gabbana) for $50 million, which included two garage spots. “So there is precedent for this type of situation,” she said.

As the word has spread about the city’s swishest parking spot, Lenz has received “overwhelming interest” in buying the spot, even though she can’t even discuss sales because the plans for 66 E.11th Street haven’t yet been approved by the city.

As in, dozens of inquiries? Hundreds? She would only say, “More than dozens. We’d probably get more if I could respond.”

First dibs will go to the buyer of the building’s  townhouse or penthouse; with the latter going for $38.8 million, the parking spot is just a drop in the bucket.

Lenz added:  “We’re not talking about really big numbers here, at $1 million. It will be more about getting it. I think people will bid above what the asking [price] is.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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