Remember that "What's up with that?"

0

Comments

Add +

  • Q What's up with the dated caution: rodenticide signs in subway stations? What kind of rat poison is used? Am I not supposed to stand near freshly baited areas, or just avoid licking the walls?—Jesse Stacken, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

    A According to Dr. Charles Burrus at the New York City Transit Office of System Safety, the signs aren't meant to warn subway riders, but are "just a matter of regulations—a notice for transit employees, track workers and inspectors." The green rodenticide pellets used are called Top Gun, made by JT Eaton & Co. in Twinsburg, Ohio, and are placed only on subway tracks, not platforms. After consuming a toxic dose, rats cease feeding and die a few days later. To deter human consumption, Top Gun contains Bitrex, a denaturant that gives the pellets a bitter taste. And though the NYCT doesn't use pesticide sprays on its walls, we still don't recommend licking them.—Nina Christensen

  • Q I noticed that one of the shields on the abandoned building next to 6 East 43rd Street between Fifth and Madison has a swastika on it. What's the history of the building?—Lindsay W.

    A It's not as ominous as you think. "That structure, built in 1916, was designed by Andrew J. Thomas—the same guy who designed the great garden-apartment complexes of Jackson Heights," says Francis Morrone, author of The Architectural Guidebook to New York City. The seven-story edifice, first home to the Mehlin Piano company, is ornamented with religious symbols, one of which was obviously hijacked by the minions of national socialism. "No one should be alarmed to find swastikas in ornamentation," says Morrone. "It's one of the oldest and most universal symbols around, although meanings change across cultures. Swastikas appear on Germanic artifacts long before the days of the Nazis. As for this building, where the symbol is paired—as it often is—with a snake, I would imagine that the Mehlins directed the decorative scheme. Piano making was so strongly associated with Germans anyway that the ornamentation likely just underscores that."

  • Q There used to be a subway station on the B/Q line at Myrtle and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn. Now, when the Manhattan-bound trains go through the abandoned station, there is a cartoon strip--like artwork. Why and when did they close down the station? With all the new development along that section of Flatbush Avenue, does the MTA have any plans for reopening that station?—Jason Iplixian

    A The art you spotted makes graffiti seem old-fashioned. Called Masstransiscope, it's a 330-foot-long painting inside of a box outfitted with thin slits and special lighting, so the artwork looks like an animated movie when it's seen from passing trains. The piece was created in 1980 by Bill Brand, an artist, filmmaker, teacher and film preservationist (bboptics.com). "I was interested in public art in general, and I was inspired in particular by the scale and scope of ideas in a Diego Rivera mural," Brand explains.

    Masstransiscope was restored as part of the MTA Arts for Transit program, but you'll have to continue to admire it while on the move. According to New York City Transit spokeswoman Deirdre Parker, the Myrtle Avenue subway station can't be reopened. "It is too short. It is only one-sided, as the other side was demolished by subway construction in the late 1960s. The street access was demolished recently for redevelopment on the site. And, with the current signal system, it would be a bottleneck to stop there," she says.—Rachel Slaff

  • Q What's up with the crazy-long line for street gyros at 53rd and Sixth after 8pm? There's another gyro guy across the street with no line at all!—Nikki Miller, Upper West Side

    A Contrary to popular belief, the chefs aren't slipping gold bouillon into their tzatziki; people just like the food. "It's always fresh," says owner Mohamed Elgohary, a former hot-dog vendor who opened the Halal Guys in 1992 as a way to feed hungry cabbies queueing at a nearby taxi stand. Sure enough, the cabbies started recommending the stand to their passengers, those passengers told their friends, and now lines form a half hour before the cart even is open (7pm to 4am). Customer Zahra Sahebzada, 18, of Long Island, has been eating here since she was ten years old and says the secret is in the seasoning. Neil Rana, 27, comes all the way from New Jersey for the meat: "We couldn't find parking one time, so I had my friend drive the car around for two hours while I waited for food." And Wayne Carter, 22, of Westchester, says it all boils down to cheapness: Six bucks buys you a combo platter with yellow rice; chicken, beef or lamb; toasted pita bread; crispy lettuce; and a secret white sauce. The cart is so popular these days, devotees started a fan site (53rdand6th.com) and bouncers have been hired to keep the line in check.

  • Q What's up with the black obelisk on the northeast corner of Ocean Parkway and Avenue U in Brooklyn? We pass it every day and always wonder what it's for.—Jack Weinstock

    A The mysterious tower, which stands about ten feet tall, isn't an obelisk but an air vent for a sewer pumping station, built in 1915 and unused since the station was renovated in the 1980s. "I wish it were sexier than that," says Kevin Walsh, the brains behind Forgotten NY (forgotten-ny.com). "They've redone Ocean Parkway throughout the years, but somehow it's remained." Longtime Brooklynite Oscar Israelowitz researched it for his Flatbush Guide, published in 1990, and said that the ornate cast-iron tower's main M.O. was to "get the bad aromas out." (Like Walsh said: not sexy.) As for the vent's future on the Parkway, Mercedes Padilla, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, says the DEP is looking for a way to preserve the historically significant leftover—questionable aromas notwithstanding.

  • Q How come numerous streets on Park Avenue in the midtown area are missing pedestrian walk signals on traffic lights?—J. Keating

    A Crossing Park Avenue during the midday rush is straight out of Maximum Overdrive---and you're right, signals are conspicuously absent from 46th to 56th Streets. The ten-block span, which now forms part of the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal's tunnels, used to be a street-level railroad system until 1871, when Cornelius Vanderbilt agreed to take his trains underground. It was long thought that the tunnels' deck, which is less than two feet thick, couldn't support pedestrian signals, and that the installation of such lights would cause damage to the tunnels' ceilings. Lucky for us Frogger fans, Metro-North Railroad and the New York City Department of Transportation reached an agreement to install pedestrian crossing signals along Park Avenue as part of a greater GCT face-lift. "We've been trying to work with the city for years to get these issues resolved," says Marjorie Anders, press secretary for Metro-North. The total project is estimated to cost $35 million.

  • Q What's up with all the signs around the city for fallout shelters? Are there really still shelters in these buildings? Are they functional? If so, what kinds of warfare/bombs/attacks would they provide protection for?—Shayna S., Upper West Side

    A We hate to ruin your I Am Legend fantasy, but a representative for the New York City Office of Emergency Management says the signs no longer indicate "any sort of emergency shelter for the public." Governor Nelson Rockefeller started the $15 million shelter-building program in 1961; records show that there were about 16,000 designated bunkers at the time. But in the '70s, with funds depleted and the shelters deemed more or less a ridiculous safety measure, city-paid contractors carted away their aspirin, toilet paper, crackers and other survival essentials. "Now we do something called all-hazards preparedness," says the representative. "And shelters that we would put in place would not necessarily be in the same buildings." So why are the signs still up? The city just hasn't paid anyone to remove them. (But here's a tip: If you've got the wherewithall, those puppies go for $40 on eBay.)—Dana Schuster

  • Q What's up with that little triangle in front of Village Cigars at Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue South? It says something like property of hess estate. How does someone end up owning a piece of sidewalk?—Brian McIver, Upper East Side

    A It's a legacy from a bitter eminent-domain battle between the city of New York and the estate of David Hess at the turn of the 20th century. The mosaic reads property of the hess estate which has never been dedicated for public purpose. Hess had owned the Voorhis, a five-story apartment building at this corner, which the city condemned in the 1910s to make way for the IRT subway. Hess's holdings at this same spot also included an adjacent triangular plot measuring a mere 500 square inches, which the city also wanted. Hess flatly refused, and in court won the right to keep the tiny terrain. He marked the spot with this defiant message. Village Cigars bought the patch for $1,000 in 1938, leaving the plaque in place.—Daniel Derouchie

  • QWhat's up with all the parrots around Brooklyn College? Aren't they supposed to live in the Amazon or something?—Molly Nguyen, Brooklyn

    A No one's sure how many wild Quaker parrots live on the Kings County campus (other colonies roost near Green-Wood Cemetery), but the conventional wisdom is that in 1968, their ancestors escaped from a shipment at JFK of Argentine avians bound for local pet stores. Brooklynparrots.com webmaster Steve Baldwin, who leads parrot safaris, says the tropical birds survive the winter inside giant, cocoonlike nests. "These are the Rodney Dangerfield of birds. They get no respect, but they're amazing survivors."—Justin Rocket Silverman

  • Q I live in Brooklyn and I've noticed that people there are starting to attach CDs to the spokes and seats of their bikes. What's up with that?—Natalie Grey, Williamsburg

    A The CDs may look like crafty oversize reflectors, but like many things in Brooklyn, their only real purpose is to, uh, look cool. "It's like owning shiny hubcaps," says Richard Aguilar, a mechanic at NYC Bikes on Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, where a number of CD-festooned bikes regularly roll in. The trend supposedly got its start during events like the monthly Critical Mass rides, where bike aficionados began souping up their wheels with playing cards and other doodads. The trend is most popular among "rockers," according to Tony Scarselli at the Brooklyn Heights Bicycle Shoppe, but it's less so among the bike world's cutting edge. Single-speed cycler Lou Galluch, 32, of Bushwick,  says, "I don't like having any shit on my bike." As far as the CDs being useful as reflectors, well, "That's wishful thinking," says Mark Simpson of the Time's Up bike co-op on Houston Street . "It's not a great alternative. Just get a light!"

Q What's up with the dated caution: rodenticide signs in subway stations? What kind of rat poison is used? Am I not supposed to stand near freshly baited areas, or just avoid licking the walls?—Jesse Stacken, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

A According to Dr. Charles Burrus at the New York City Transit Office of System Safety, the signs aren't meant to warn subway riders, but are "just a matter of regulations—a notice for transit employees, track workers and inspectors." The green rodenticide pellets used are called Top Gun, made by JT Eaton & Co. in Twinsburg, Ohio, and are placed only on subway tracks, not platforms. After consuming a toxic dose, rats cease feeding and die a few days later. To deter human consumption, Top Gun contains Bitrex, a denaturant that gives the pellets a bitter taste. And though the NYCT doesn't use pesticide sprays on its walls, we still don't recommend licking them.—Nina Christensen

Users say

0 comments