Friday, January 28, 2011

Closter Police Seek Hit and Run Driver

Police are asking anyone with information about a hit-and-run accident near the intersection of Closter Dock Road and Piermont Road to contact them.

The accident occurred at 2:27 p.m. Monday, January 25, police said Tuesday. A 16-year-old boy was injured and taken to Hackensack University Medical Center for treatment, police said.

More at

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Contemplation of Dr. Martin Luther King

My family lived through the civil rights era. So I have a very strong attachment to everything that Dr. Martin Luther King achieved for African Americans and every other single U.S. citizens who has not had equality.

We have always believed strongly in the civil rights of every human being, and it is a part of my blood. My stepfather, Stefan Sharff was a filmmaker: he made a pivotal film about Dr. King's third 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for voting equality.

Today Dr. King's speeches have been on the radio all day, and 25 years after his death, his words still bring tears to my eyes. He realized that he was being targeted when he said in  his famous speech the day before his assassination in Memphis, TN,  "I don't mind, because I have been to the top of the mountain, and I have seen the promised land...I am not worried, my eyes have seen the coming of the Lord." His words were powerful, and one can see, even today how his words would be scary to a racist white person.

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friend, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. ...I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live up to the meaning of its creed....All men are created equal."

But even today, the promised land has not been realized.

Two things have not changed enough in this country since the murder of one of the greatest civil rights leaders this country has ever known: crazy losers like Jared Loughner and James Earl Ray are still able to buy guns easily, and African Americans still have not achieved the power and equality that they deserve as human beings.

Dr. King making his famous promised land speech the night before he was killed.  

Yes, we do have a president who is part African American. But the effects of covert and overt racism continue to exist, against African Americans, people of Hispanic origin, and against anyone of color, not to mention people of different religions.

Let me add to that, women who are also not considered equal in this society, except when it comes to doing more than our fair share of housework, raising children, voting and paying taxes. We are still not paid as much or given the same weight as men in society.

Pic: Dr. King leading the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found that employment disparities still exist between whites and blacks. In the current recession, the unemployment rate for whites has averaged 5.5%, for blacks, 9.9%. That rate is worse for black men who continue to find racism in the white-dominated work place.

What's worse, as African American children grow up, 45% slide backwards economically, and move to the poorest group as adults, compared with 16% of white children.

More must be done to rid this country of hatred, and importantly to restrict the access to guns. And much, much more needs to be done to improve equality. We have not come far enough.

Listen to Dr. King's speech in full, thanks to Barbara Steinberg.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Looking Back at First Major Snow, Complaining all the Way

It's been six days since that major snowstorm that hit us like a sudden slap on the face from a spurned lover.  With rain now decimating much of the snow, it pays to look back to see how well we handled the first white dumping of the season.

Based on newspaper and radio reports, as well as direct observation, it's been six days of complaining, whining, wheezing and an overblown media frenzy.

And I've come to the conclusion that Big Apple residents are the most unrealistic, least independent, most infantile, and worst of all, most self-entitled population in the Universe. Add to that, lazy and selfish.

Let's start with the media who displayed the worst behavior of all when they made a big deal out of the fact that the city's department of sanitation couldn't clear all of the streets in New York City magically overnight, and instantly the next morning.

The snowbanks are higher than the dog---at least twice as high. 

Here is one of the headlines from the New York Times, " Plowed, Yes. Salted. Sure. Cleared? That's Murkey.", and "As Storm's Impact Chastens Bloomberg, the City Struggles to Recover."

Why all of a sudden is it Mayor Michael Bloomberg's fault if too much snow is dumped on New York? And do people really expect everything to be "normal" a day after a massive snow fall --in some places snow drifts up to 40 inches--when they can't even be bothered to  clean their own sidewalks?  The media might have been better off focusing on all the winter sports being played.

Or maybe they should have focused on those home owners who clear their driveways, but don't have enough time to clear the sidewalk for pedestrians.

A snow plow driver is doing his job, but the residents aren't

Those same people won't clear the portion that leads to the street crossing so after walking past their building, you are forced into a massive snowbank that not even a Yeti from the steppes of Eurasia could get over.

Or how about the streets where half the owners have cleared their walks and the other half haven't, so you are forced into the now cleared roadway that has room only for one car? One slip and you're dead.

Then there was the thousands of irresponsible, selfish motorists who took to the streets in what appeared to be one of the worst snow falls in history, promptly got stuck and left their cars stranded, so even if they wanted to, department of sanitation snowplows could not get through.

Pic: A person walks down a major roadway because none of the sidewalks have been cleared in North Bergen, NJ where up to 40 inches of snow fell

I bet those car owners were the first ones to call 311 and complain that the street that they were blocking hadn't been plowed.

Best of all, there's the City Council calling once again for hearings on "what happened" during this snow storm. We don't need an investigation wasting taxpayer money to see that a lot of snow requires that the inhabitants of New York stop expecting that everything will come back to "normal" in five hours.

An intersection where none of the residents cleared their walks, and walking on the streets became a necessity

Considering that the snow came during the holidays, perhaps it was divine intervention to get people to stop their capitalist mantra for three full days (three full days,) and relax by becoming children again with their children.

And if you think it was bad in New York, let's take a quick look at New Jersey. Perhaps North Bergen suffered from more snowfall than New York. Though snowplows were quick to make their rounds in the early morning hours, residents were even quicker to drive out in their Ferragamos and Lexus's only to get stuck on the very first corner they drove through.

Pic: Snow country Japan, where snow accumulation can reach 18 feet

Personally I have never seen a more unprepared, clueless bunch of people in my life: not one had a pair of snow boots on, and their cars weren't even equipped with snow tires or all wheel drive. They stepped in frustrating agony on their gas pedals as their wheels spun them deeper into snowbanks.

Worst of all, Bergen County residents chose to clear their driveways, but left their walkways completely uncleared, as if for some magical reason, all pedestrians had ceased to exist.

Walking from A to Z became an exercise in crossing the street in front of careening vehicles just to get to a spot that was clear--for five feet, only to cross again two minutes later, then give up and walk down the middle of the street.
And there is no "311" to get busy in New Jersey. Complaints to town halls are unheeded, and walks never get cleared.

Pic: A typical village in the snow country of Japan where they can be snowed in for months

There is nothing that would cure this self-entitled, selfish phenomenon better than a winter-long stay in a nice cold place like Siberia, where winter temperatures can reach -50 degrees--Centigrade.
Or perhaps a visit to the mountainous region of Switzerland, where snowbanks can be as high as the roof of a building, and you don't see the ground from about November to March, where buildings grow about 10 to 15 feet once the snow melts.

Or parts of Japan, where snow is dumped upon snow, upon snow, and residents spend time cleaning their roofs, not their driveways, so they can walk down the "street"of packed snow. In the area called Snow Country, residents are required to clear their roofs of snow, called Yuki-hori. Residents of  Uonuma, Yuzawa, Tokamachi, Tsunan in Niigata, Sakae in Nagano and Minakami in Gunma are proud of their average snow accumulation of 18 feet, and advertise snowfall as a tourist attraction.

Sadly in New York, ambulances could not get down small side streets, thanks in part to the many reckless citizens who tried to drive in the storm and abandoned their vehicles.

Perhaps for the future, an investment in cross country skis or snow shoes for many of our population, including EMS crews, would be fitting. A better attitude would also help.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

In Lieu of Cycling, A New Year's Day Ski

All pics by Jen Benepe (c)
January 1, 2011 
It snowed about 40 inches on the west side of the Hudson River five days ago: snow still lingered in big piles on both sides of the roads. Even drivers had difficulty manuevering around the leftover snow, and this was enough for me to decide that riding my bike would not be safe.

Pic: Ana at the beginning of the Tallman Mountain State Park Trail

So what is a cyclist to do when there is snow, and possibly ice on the roads? To mark New Year's day mother earth blessed New Yorkers and New Jerseyans with 49-degree weather and sunshine.  Like religious converts flocking to the temple of the sun, cyclists were out on the roads, on their usual jaunt from the George Washington Bridge, to Piermont and Nyack, NY.

But the question is how safe is it to ride when there is melting snow and the accompanying icy patches so difficult to see, often forcing riders even further out into the roadway. Drivers seldom understand the need for cyclists to move over the white markings separating the shoulders from the roadway on major thoroughfares such as Route 9W that stretches from Palisades Ave. in Englewood Cliffs, NJ,  to Nyack, NY and points north.

And that is what I witnessed today on my drive up to go cross country skiing at Tallman Park: cyclists riding in the middle of 9W, a move that is not likely to be interpreted well by most drivers. 

Camille Savoy was 54 when he was hit and killed by a female driver on Route 9W in November 2008. Poor weather and a heavy fallen leaves condition that day may have contributed to the driver smashing into him from behind.

It's for reasons like these that I chose to ski when there is a lot of snow narrowing the roads, melting snow, the possibility of ice, or other factors that could lead to an accident.

So Ana Banana and myself suited ourselves up for a nice jaunt through Tallman Mountain State Park in Palisades, NY, one town south of Piermont, NY which is a mecca for cyclists in the summertime.

Ana wore her purple Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater which I bought on sale last year. It's part of her distinctive collection of apparel which not only keeps her warm but allows me to find her at a distance.

It's always difficult predicting how long a small, 20-lb dog will last on a snowy trail, so I brought along a carrying bag in case she got too cold. But we also put on her red latex snow boots which help prevent her paws from becoming embedded with snow, and make running and walking a lot easier for long periods of time. 

I wore a cycling jacket and a layer underneath which was too warm and made my torso way too hot for the rest of the two- hour ski. I wore no hat or gloves and was comfortable on my extremities. Interestingly enough, you can wear less clothing when you ski than when you ride a bike even though the two sports tend to require some of the same clothing layer weights. 

We started from the southern parking lot which is not marked, but is about 20 feet north of the newly revamped gas station cum snack shack on the right side of the road as you travel north from Palisades, NY: Unfortunately the rest stop has been closed since early fall due to fumes from the old gas station overwhelming workers inside the small building.

Pic: A snow biker on the top of Piermont Overlook, Tallman Park 
The park entrance is reachable both by automobile and by Coach USA bus service, either the 9A or the 9T which can be caught every hour each from either the 177th George Washington Bridge bus station or the 42nd St. Port Authority bus station. All you need to do is ask the driver to drop you at the intersection of Oak Tree Road and Route 9W and then walk the quarter mile north to the park entrance.

Since I have never tried taking skis on the bus, I would suggest skiers wrap theirs in garbage bags or other unidentifiable bags and wrappers so as not to be asked to use the bus company's expensive carrying boxes which are only available at the bus station on 42nd st--a huge inconvenience if you happen to be boarding the bus and the driver tells you to go four flights down to buy a box.

And so we started out: Five miles of packed snow, interspersed by pleasant conversation with other skiers, walkers, and dogs.

We saw big dogs, little dogs, medium dogs and all kinds of owners. A small girl who could not have been more than 10-years-old was holding onto a 200-lb dog who was pulling her in all directions.  We even saw a guy mountain biking with fat tires on the snowy path.

Another couple was skiing with their Saint Bernard who was totally in his element, grinning and slobbering from ear to ear and stumbling playfully in the snow with his heavy body.

For the first time in a long time Ana Banana was able to do the entire 5-mile course that runs from the parking lot to the access road of the northern parking lot, and then up the hill to the Piermont Overlook (and back).  This was probably due to the warmer weather. She also took to bathing in the snow, snurgling her nose into the wet, white drifts, then rubbing her whole body in them.

On the way out, Ana lost one of her red boots. Every person we ran into from then on mentioned she was missing a boot. One person even offered to help us find it.  We saw it on the way back, a nice glossy little bootie in the middle of the track.

On the way back we decided to take one of the marked back paths that runs past the dried up waterways where ducks and other wildlife often converge in the spring and fall when they are filled with water. Other than avoiding some rocks and tree stumps, this was one of the highlights of the trip.

Afterwards we drove into Piermont, NY for a cup of tea and some conversation at Bunberry's which was one of two establishments open in town. While there we ran into many cycling friends including Jim Skelley, owner of Nyack Bicycle shop and Alyssa Rashish, long time rider and graphic artist.  We also got a chance to read the New York Times (Ana only reads the sports section.)

Pic:  the top of Tallman Park (Piermont Outlook)

Since we returned home, Ana has been sleeping like a log: she is even snoring now, dreaming of her big adventure in the snow-filled Tallman Park.

It was definitely a day of wonderful adventure. Maybe tomorrow we will tackle the Alpine Golf Course in Alpine, NJ!