This garbage can-sized sinkhole on Hubbard Street was ignored for nearly six months, despite numerous complaints to 311, until Sheepshead Bites posted it last year.

Potholes. Freakin’ potholes.

Pedestrians don’t like them because they can cause trips. Drivers don’t like them because they can damage cars. The city doesn’t like them because they have to fix them.

Oh, wait, apparently, the city doesn’t have to worry about them. Because they never have to hear the complaints. Because they simply vanish from the 311 system.

One of the most common complaints to 311 is a pothole service request. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has issued the results of an investigation conducted by his office into the efficiency of 311, logging 280 specific pothole complaints around the borough. Nearly half of those – 134 – were made using 311′s online complaint form. Stringer’s office then followed up on the complaints by making calls and inquiring to the status, using the service request reference numbers given at the time of complaint.

Shockingly, every single one of the online complaints vanished from the system, along with nine percent of the phone complaints.

“It would appear that online 311 pothole complaints are, in fact, falling into a black hole,” Stringer said. “The fact that these complaints are being lost raises questions about what other types of calls may be falling through the cracks.”

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It may have been a long time ago, but this photo of Sheepshead Bay Road from 1925 shows that the strip did, indeed, at one point long ago, actually have some interesting buildings. Particularly those in the background of this shot.

Now, I’m not going to tell you which section of Sheepshead Bay Road this is, or which way we’re looking. But I will tell you this: one of the buildings in this photo still stands today, if I’m not mistaken. Can you figure out which one it is?

Down here in Sheepshead Bay, there’s not much reason for us to know Lincoln Restler’s name. He’s a progressive upstart who upset the entrenched Democratic clubs in Northern Brooklyn by running a grassroots campaign for District Leader, and has been consistently critical of the party in his attempts to reform it. You could think of him as He-Man to Vito Lopez’s Skeletor. Or maybe Tenderheart Bear to Lopez’s Professor Coldheart. Whatever.

Anyway, Restler is now joining a slew of others in condemning the special election process – and particularly the power of the party bosses to handpick the candidates – in the wake of Anthony Weiner’s resignation. In it, he explains how special elections work, and gives several examples in which the peoples’ preferred candidates were denied in order to reward loyal Democratic club members. Here’s an excerpt:

The sexting and lies aside, Weiner’s resignation paved the way for a special election on Sep. 13 which empowers the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, not Brooklyn voters, to designate the Democratic nominee for Congress. Since we live in an overwhelmingly Democratic borough, the party boss’ selection basically guarantees the election.

But Weiner is just the tip of the iceberg. There are currently six vacancies in the New York State Legislature. According to a study by Citizens Union, by the end of 2011, one-third of our state representatives will be selected via special election. This farce of a process ensures that legislators are more loyal to the party bosses than their own constituents.

In recent weeks, editorial boards and good governance groups alike have come out against the corrupt special election process, which gives party bosses singular influence in selecting the candidates for a special election. Currently, the law allows the local political machine to select their nominee. When there is a vacancy in a district which includes multiple counties, such as Weiner’s Congressional District, the Democratic Party bosses from the affected counties — in this case Brooklyn’s disgraced party boss Assemblyman Vito Lopez and Queens Congressman Joe Crowley — select the candidate. Since Queens is home to the majority of the district, Congressman Crowley had full authority to make his own choice. This is how Democrats ended up with Assemblyman David Weprin, widely praised for his “loyalty” to the Queens machine, rather than any variety of qualities we might hope for in our newest Member of Congress.

Read the full piece in the Brooklyn Paper.

Stephanie Monseu, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, and Caleb Hickman (not in order). Source: Unicycle NYC Bridge Tour.

Sheepshead Bay — not exactly known for its wealth of bridges — but a cluster of happy unicyclists (yes, you read that correctly) are happily cycling their tuccheses around the borough on a single wheel, and recently made their way over what passes for “bridges” in our neck of the woods.

Stephanie Monseu, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, and Caleb Hickman, who operate the blog, “UNICYCLE NYC BRIDGE TOUR,” write that, “There are 2,078 bridges in New York City. We have been making weekly treks to cross every one of them… on unicycles.” The unicycling quartet has thus far traveled over the Knapp Street overpass over Shore Parkway, the pedestrian overpass at East 14th Street over Shore Parkway, and the Ocean Avenue Footbridge at Emmons Avenue, just three of the 223 bridges that they’ve already crossed.

They do need to be commended for their creativity. One can decide to take up unicycling, and one can set out to ride their bike over the city’s bridges, but it takes a truly special mind to combine the two and say, “Let’s unicycle over every bridge in New York City.”

As the saying goes, everyone needs a hobby.

The first thing I thought of when I saw this photo, which I quickly fell in love with, are the lyrics (which I cannot find online) to a haunting bluegrass / country duet by Dr. Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris. Photo by the incredible combined efforts of Robert Fernandez and Ned Berke.

Source: Addletters.com

The NYC Department of Education is hosting a three-part workshop series designed to assist middle school students and their families learn about high school options and the admissions process. Students entering the eighth grade in September 2011 are encouraged to attend with their families.

All sessions will be held from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Sunset Park High School, 153 35th Street. The sessions are as follows:

  • Session 1, July 21: High School Admissions: Where Do I Start? An introduction to the process and the many types of schools available
  • Session 2, July 26: Specialized High Schools: Learn about the nine Specialized High Schools and the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test.
  • Session 3, August 4: Make Informed Decisions: An overview of admissions methods with an emphasis on screened and audition programs

Additionally, save the date: A Citywide High School Fair will be held at Brooklyn Technical High School, 29 Fort Greene Place in Fort Greene, September 24 & 25, 2011. We will post more information on this, as it becomes available.

For information on any of these events, call (718) 935‐2399 or visit the DOE website.

Those who live near the Avenue Y subway overpass – between East 15th Street and East 16th Street – have long known it to be the local pig-sty. But in recent months, the situation appears to have become unbearable.

Garbage has continued to pile up on both sidewalks for months, with Department of Sanitation trucks rarely making stops to clear it out despite passing by at least twice a week to make residential pickups along Avenue Y.

The above photo was taken on July 3, and only shows a small portion of the garbage. The below photo was taken on July 12. As you can see, a week and a half later (and at least three Sanitation drive-bys), the same garbage remains and the piles grow. Across the street, on the northern sidewalk, the piles have grown by several multitudes. One person even left bags and boxes in the middle of the sidewalk, not even shuffling it to the side as other illegal dumpers tend to do.

And look very closely at the second photograph. In the background you’ll note a Sanitation Department collection truck. We watched as they attended to the residents’ garbage. Then they bypassed this mess altogether, before stopping on the corner to pick up a small bag illegally left there. Apparently, this blight is just too much work for them.

This whole mess was finally cleared over the weekend, but the location remains a chronic problem. We’ll be watching to see how fast it piles up again, and how long it takes to be cleared out.

Last week, I waxed poetic about the importance of local news in building communities, strengthening democracies and supporting economy. I suggested that it’s an oft-forgotten ingredient in the three-part recipe that forms the basic building blocks of American power and stability: local journalism, local government and local economies. Without those foundations, those entry points for understanding a greater system, we find ourselves playing within a house of cards.

But those are a wee slice of my thoughts on the topic. It occurred to me to discuss it after attending a conference with other publishers, in which someone asked if we were effectively conveying the value of our work and the necessity of our outlets’ existence to our readers. Most there, including me, appeared to think that our function and worth was a given; everyone knows why journalism is important, right? And if they know that, of course they know that it should be even more important when it’s local and relevant, right?

Well, I didn’t want to make that assumption. So I’ve explained to you why I think local reporting is important. Why don’t you tell me why you think it’s important, and why you read Sheepshead Bites?

Or, you know, just rant. It’s an open thread, after all.

The B2 bus. Source: Robert McConnell for The Bergen Network

THE COMMUTE: Last week, I wrote about the MTA’s sinister plot to destroy the B64, which they already have partially accomplished. They are also most likely planning to eliminate the B2, once one of the most profitable and successful bus routes in Brooklyn, operating every two minutes during rush hours in the 1950s. Today, overnight and weekend service have already been eliminated and service at other times is infrequent. I previously discussed reasons for the downward ridership trend on the B2. The next step is to reduce it to a rush-hour only route, then to finally discontinue it entirely.

Read more on why the MTA will eventually do this…

Shot with an old Yashica Mat TLR (twin lens reflex) using Kodak Tmax 100 B&W film (expired in 2003), and developed using Kodak Professional D-76 (PDF) developer. Photo by Boris Shekhman, whose gorgeous photos make me want to put my D90 back in the box.