Your weekly newsbriefs

Urban umbrellas at your service

They’re called urban umbrellas, but they’re not intended to protect you from a passing shower.

Rather, the stylized structures – which stretch lazily up from street level and look, from a distance, like giant lilies – are designed to protect pedestrians from falling debris at construction sites, like the standard sidewalk sheds that have been around for five uninspired decades.

The new shed style – which was unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri during a press conference at 3 MetroTech earlier this month – was designed by Young-Hwan Choi, a 28-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania who entered the UrbanSHED International Design Competition that the city held.

“Sidewalk sheds are a part of New York life, reflecting the face of a city that is constantly changing – yet the sheds themselves haven’t evolved at all during the past four decades and it’s time to bring them into the 21st century,” noted Bloomberg.

“The new structures,” he went on, “will complement the city’s architectural beauty rather than take it away from it, while increasing space and safety for pedestrians and reducing the impact of construction on businesses and building owners.”

“This new design is great for building owners because less of your building will be hidden, and it’s great for pedestrians because there’s more space to walk, run or shop than ever before,” added LiMandri. “I am confident this design will change the city’s landscape and make people fall in love with this city all over again.”

At any given time, there are about 6,000 sidewalk sheds across the city. While use of the new design is not required, the mayor’s office says it costs about the same amount to install and is less expensive to maintain. The new shed style will enhance safety, according to the city, while it reduces the amount of sidewalk obstructions, making it easier for pedestrians to pass.

No school budget cuts!

Brooklyn parents are livid that public schools may lose additional funding due to the state’s economic hardships.

“The governor’s proposed budget represents a colossal reversal of New York State’s commitment to providing every child with a real opportunity to learn,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE). “[Approximately] $1.4 billion dollars in cuts to our children’s schools will leave New York woefully behind in the knowledge race.

“This budget proposes the largest cut to our children’s schools in the history of the state and yet again asks our children to bear the unbearable burden of balancing the state budget,” Easton added.

Geri Palast, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s executive director, said, “The governor’s proposed budget is turning back the clock on ensuring that every public school child receives their constitutional right to a sound basic education that the courts, the governor and the legislature originally agreed would be fully funded this year.

“Governor Paterson proposes $1.4 billion in cuts to schools this year and stretching out fulfilling the Campaign for Fiscal Equity promise to 10 years,” Palast continued. “This means six more years of insufficient resources which will fall most heavily on the neediest schools and students. This cut translates into the loss of teachers, programs, materials and facilities that will rob another generation of children of the opportunity to learn and achieve college and career readiness that will shape both their economic futures and our own.”

Prosecutorial swearing

Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes was sworn in to his sixth term in office during a special inauguration at Steiner Studios.

Following a Mass of Celebration for Peace and Justice at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James on Jay Street, notables gathered at Stage 6 at Steiner Studios where they watched a 20-year video retrospective on Hynes’ career.

Honored guests asked to address the audience included former Governor Mario Cuomo and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman.

After all the pomp and circumstance, Judge Theodore T. Jones of the New York State Court of Appeals swore Hynes in for another term of service.

Back for more

Former U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch is expecting a return to Brooklyn now that she has been nominated for the post she ran from 1999 to 2001.

President Barack Obama gave her the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is headquartered in downtown Brooklyn, last week as he recommended five names for U.S. Attorney posts across the country.

The Harvard Law School graduate was an assistant federal prosecutor in the Eastern District from 1990 to 1999, when she was elevated to U.S. Attorney.

After being replaced by a Bush Administration pick, Lynch became a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP, where she still litigates. The Eastern District is currently being led by interim U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell, who has been leading federal prosecutors since October, 2007.

Upon naming Lynch and the other applicants for the job, Obama called the longtime prosecutor a “distinguished public servant.”

“I am grateful for her willingness to advocate on behalf of her fellow Americans,” he said.

The U.S. Senate has yet to ratify the recommendation, although it’s expected to happen without incident, since Obama was working off of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s recommendation.

National Grid gives money for Haitian earthquake relief

National Grid, whose American headquarters are in Downtown Brooklyn, announced they are contributing $100,000 to The American Red Cross to support relief efforts to victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

The British company, which bought Brooklyn-based KeySpan several years ago, is the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern United States.

“The shock and devastation of the earthquake is being felt around the world, including many of the communities we serve,” said, National Grid’s U.S. President Tom King. “I am so proud of our employees, many of whom already have sprung into action by starting grass-roots collection efforts and organizing fundraising and volunteer activities.“

DEP commissioner defends alternative Gowanus plan

Less than two weeks on the job, DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway found himself already having to defend the Bloomberg administration’s policy regarding its opposition to Superfund in the Gowanus Canal while supporting Superfund in Newtown Creek.

“The underlying presence of this view is wrong,” said Holloway at a Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee this week. “Support for a Superfund designation in one case but not in another does not mean that we do not care about a community less. The goal on Newtown Creek and the Gowanus is the same. Clean the waterways at a Superfund level.”

Holloway outlined the city’s argument for offering an alternative plan to clean the Gowanus Canal by emphasizing that the Army Corps of Engineers has been collecting data and dredging along the canal since 2007 and the city has a willing partner in National Grid to assist with the clean-up, unlike Newtown Creek.

If delays occurred with the alternative plan, Holloway did not rule out appealing to the EPA to Superfund the Gowanus Canal. However, Holloway stated that the city wants to secure resources attached to the Congressionally-authorized Water Resources Development Act and prefers to rely on the Army Corps of Engineers for dredging work in South Brooklyn.

Yards hearing set

The State Supreme Court condemnation hearing regarding the state’s takeover of properties in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint remains set for Jan. 29.

Due to a glitch in the court system, officials stated that the date in which the courts might sign off the properties to the Empire State Development Corporation was postponed until March 17.

However, officials said the mistake was rectified and the matter will proceed before Justice Abraham Gerges as scheduled on Jan. 29.

Love yourself, stop the violence

A multi-ethnic photo exhibit dedicated to the Stop the Violence movement will be featured throughout February at the James E. Davis Art Building, 80 Hanson Place in the BAM Cultural District.

The exhibit features photos of the late City Council member James E. Davis, a groundbreaking grassroots activist, whose Stop the Violence movement contributed to bringing down crime in Brooklyn, and swept him to elective office.

James was slain at city hall in 2003.

The exhibit runs the entire month of February from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Thanks, doc

Dr. Marcus D’Ayala, a vascular surgeon with New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, recently volunteered to fill a slot in the surgery rotation in Landstuhl, Germany, where many of the soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated.

He joined 55 fellow members of the Society for Vascular Surgery, who volunteered through January,in relieving the limited number of military vascular surgeons in military hospitals in the United States and internationally.

“Our members understand how important expert surgeons are to the military in saving the lives and limbs of these young military heroes,” said Dr. Anton N. Sidawy, president of the society.

Calling all artists

City plazas have long been welcome sites for public art displays.

With funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program, add three new Brooklyn plazas to that growing list.

The DCA, along with the Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction, has issued a Request For Qualifications letter inviting artists citywide to submit their proposals for public art projects.

The three plaza sites in Brooklyn include Knickerbocker Plaza (Knickerbocker Avenue between Myrtle and Greene) in Bushwick, Humboldt Plaza (Humboldt Street, between Moore and Varet streets) in East Williamsburg, and Myrtle Avenue Plaza (Myrtle Avenue between Grand Avenue and Emerson Place) in Clinton Hill.

Responses are due by 5 pm on February 22 at the DCLA office on 31 Chambers Street, 2nd Floor, in Manhattan. For more information, e-mail NYCplazas@culture.nyc.gov.

Rad benefit

Friends of Douglass/Greene Park will host its annual winter benefit on Monday, February 1 at the rock-climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders to raise money for the development of a skatepark in Gowanus’ Thomas Greene Park.

Friends of Douglass/Greene Park is a non-profit organization formed in 2005 after the Boerum Hill Association initiated a neighborhood-wide search for a green space to serve the community in downtown Brooklyn.

A formal study concluded the Thomas Greene Park, on Third Avenue at Degraw Street, was a profoundly underutilized and undeveloped location in a densely populated spot.

The fundraiser will be from 6 p.m. for 8 p.m. at Brooklyn Boulders, 575 Degraw Street. Go to friendsofdouglassgreenepark.org for more information.

Show me a V train!

While a number of buses and subway lines remain on the MTA chopping block, Brooklynites could soon be welcoming a new train line to their neighborhood: the V Train.

According to MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, the proposal will extend the V train from Second Avenue and Houston Street in Manhattan where it currently terminates, to Metropolitan Avenue in Queens, where it will travel over the elevated Broadway Avenue JMZ track. The proposed line would provide direct service from Williamsburg to Soho, Greenwich Village, Midtown Manhattan, and the Upper East Side, without having to make the transfer at Essex Street.

“It’s part of service changes that are meant to help us balance our budget,” said Ortiz. “There is track after Delancey Street that would enable the V to move over into that line.”

Public hearings will occur in March 2010 to address all service changes and the MTA board could implement the changes as early as spring or summer 2010.

To send in tips, e-mail editorial@cnglocal.com attn: Borough Briefs.

More from Around New York