Uptown Subway Detour Provides Window Into Reality

Upon entering the West 86th Street-Central Park West station on Saturday, I saw the dreaded yellow tape blocking the use of downtown trains. Isn’t the weekend subway schedule fun?

As I realized I’d be late for my niece’s birthday party in Brooklyn, an uptown train barreled into the station. A wiry guy with a scowl jumped the turnstile. On the train, he started baiting a chubby guy next to him.

“What the [expletive] are you looking at?”

Chubby guy didn’t respond, which emboldened the subway bully.

“You fat slob — let’s get off at the next station and I’ll kick your [expletive]!”

A mom sheltered her daughter as the nasty guy bellowed profanities.

Meanwhile, a well-dressed young man who looked like an actor sat quietly on the other side of nasty guy.

Suddenly, nasty guy rose and stormed up and down the car, slammed chubby guy’s shoulder, then leaned against the door. When the train pulled into the 116th Street station, actor-looking-guy rose to leave.

“You’re in my way,” he evenly told nasty guy, who spun around.

“Oh, you want some, too?” nasty guy said. “Get off and I’ll whip you!”

On the platform, actor-looking-guy whirled, put up his fists, and said, “Go ahead, big mouth!”

Through the window, I could see actor-looking-guy knew what he was doing. Was he a cop? A righteous avenger sent by God to right all wrongs?

I couldn’t wait to see subway avenger teach nasty guy a lesson, but as they circled each other, the train left the station. Aagh!

At 125th Street, I switched to the downtown D train.

A few days before, I’d read a report from the city Department of Investigation stating that “broken windows” policing, based on the idea that stopping smaller crimes prevents bigger ones, doesn’t work.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who saw crime fall after instituting a crackdown on quality-of-life offenses in the ’90s, called the report “deeply flawed.”

Indeed, Saturday’s subway incident seemed a perfect example of Bratton’s concerns. If nasty guy had been apprehended when he jumped the turnstile, couldn’t the larger offense of terrorizing a subway car have been prevented?

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Visually Impaired and Riding Like the Wind

What’s your favorite way to exercise?

For many New Yorkers, it’s bicycling. Now imagine never being able to cycle again because of failing vision. That’s a reality Vern Vergara of Manhattan no longer endures, thanks to In Tandem, which provides tandem bicycling opportunities to people with disabilities.

Riding in Central Park with the wind in her hair on a bicycle built for two, Vergara feels exhilarated. “I used to bike a lot when I had 20/20 vision, and only dreamed of doing so again after my sight became impaired,” she tells me.

Vergara’s wish has come true. She and other visually limited riders count on their buddy “captains,” who pedal and steer in the front seat while “stokers” such as Vergara pedal in back.

“I pedal with confidence as my fully sighted captain up front describes the scenery and goings-on around us,” says Vergara, a fundraising and marketing specialist for Baruch College’s Computer Center for Visually Impaired People.

“We started in 2014 with about 15 stokers and captains,” says Stanley Zucker, In Tandem’s executive director. “By year’s end, we had 50 or more of each.” The group rides Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings in Central Park, and wants to expand into the other boroughs.

Mark Carhart, In Tandem’s co-founder, says the group’s social aspect is a vital factor for both captains and stokers. “You’re really close to each other,” Carhart told NY1, “with an opportunity to connect with another New Yorker in a way that you often don’t get to do.”

That connection is enhanced when the group takes part in special activities, such as its Donut Ride through four boroughs in October. Doughnut shops along the route agree to stay open all night to accommodate the riders.

But what makes the group special is how it makes a difference in people’s lives. “We are always looking for experienced cyclists to be captains,” says Zucker. If you’re interested, gather more information at intandembike.org.

“My experience with In Tandem has enriched my body, mind and spirit,” says Vergara. “I get a great workout, meet wonderful people and leave with quite a high. I feel free from the bondage of visual impairment. Liberated!”

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Time to Stop Politicizing Tragedy

Even before all the bodies were removed from the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, voices rang out. End gun violence! Obliterate terrorism! Stop the hate!

All are just causes. But the politicians and media outlets that display knee-jerk, self-serving reactions do us no favors.

Before all the facts were in, Donald Trump made the shooting about himself, tweeting “appreciate the congrats for being right,” then darkly suggested that President Barack Obama might “get” the attack “better than anyone understands.”

Meanwhile, serious questions have arisen. How did Omar Mateen, a man with a history of domestic abuse investigated by police, and who was interviewed twice by the FBI about possible links to terrorism, have access to an AR-15 rifle?

Before 2004, he wouldn’t have. The federal assault weapons ban of 1994 effectively prohibited manufacture and sale of this deadly rifle. But in 2004, after heavy lobbying of politicians by the NRA, the ban was allowed to expire.

As far as terrorism, the FBI is under fire. When bureau agents interviewed Mateen, they found nothing to warrant action. We don’t want privacy violated by government, but maybe the threshold of what constitutes sufficient cause should be re-examined.

After Nazi atrocities of World War II, Germany outlawed public display of the swastika, the Nazi salute and other such tributes. After 9/11, San Bernadino and now Orlando, perhaps it’s time to not only crack down on those who honor Islamic killers on Facebook pages, but also diligently track them?

We’ve got a serious problem with homegrown terrorism, as well as gun-related mass killing. And the third spoke on this wheel is intolerance. These aren’t right- or left-wing problems — they’re our problems. Most Americans aren’t against gun ownership, but they do favor stringent background checks and monitoring of potential terror suspects.

So let’s stop pointing fingers after every horrific event, and take concrete action — before the next tragedy. “This is not a time to either politicize or jump to conclusions,” said Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, “[but to] understand how this attack came about and respond accordingly.”



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Why Are Provocative People So Thin-Skinned?

There’s an epidemic in America, and I’m not talking about the Zika virus. I mean multitudes of angry, vulgar citizens who think it’s OK to provoke and insult others, then whine when someone goes back at them.

Call me crazy (or ugly, or a loser), but New York’s own Donald Trump seems to fit that mold. Last week, Hillary Clinton went back at Trump with a vengeance.

Clinton said Trump’s “bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies” make him unfit to hold office. She believes granting someone of his temperament access to our nuclear codes is insanity, because the tweet-a-holic could start a war if someone “got under his very thin skin” — and that he’d probably even tweet some nasty response to her speech.

To prove her wrong, Trump immediately tweeted “Bad Performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton!” and told The New York Times that he is, in fact, “the opposite of thin-skinned.”

Speaking of hot air, another sensitive individual recently made news on a JetBlue flight out of New York. I’m talking about a burlesque dancer who goes by the name Maggie McMuffin. She tried to board the flight to Seattle in skimpy, zebra-striped hotpants. No one raised objections on the first leg of her journey — hey, we New Yorkers are used to women parading virtually nude around Times Square — but a stopover in Boston was a different story.

The Boston JetBlue crew, apparently concerned McMuffin’s cheesy outfit might offend families on the flight (or give grandpa a heart attack), requested she change into something more appropriate.

Despite JetBlue offering to pay for the new outfit she purchased at the airport, the exotic dancer was outraged, accused the airline of “slut-shaming” and demanded an apology from the pilot.

Meanwhile, McMuffin’s strategy of whining on social media has gotten her a flight credit, not to mention tons of free publicity (you’re welcome), while Trump has pulled within 2 points of Clinton in the latest CNN national poll.

So parents, think twice before chastising that whiny little brat in the backseat. He or she may wind up being president of the United States — or at least the star of a reality show.

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Up Against The Wall, Nerds!

If you see something, say something. And what I’ve seen lately is everyone from high school brainiacs to angry airline passengers detained, searched and otherwise hassled. Are the efforts misdirected?

A recent unannounced weapons scan at the entrance to the Bronx High School of Science held up instruction for hours, as students panicked about missing their calculus exams.

“I definitely felt that it was not necessary,” a student told the Daily News. “I feel we’re too nerdy to carry weapons.”

Surprise. Some utility knives and a box cutter were confiscated from a few armed geeks, even at the elite school.

But some want to eliminate the scanners. “Making students go through metal detectors to go to school sends a terrible message,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told The Associated Press.

Here’s another terrible message: Put your hands up and give me your money! In a month’s span this spring, four NYC students were caught with loaded guns in school. Still, some parent groups insist metal detectors are unnecessary because crime has dropped in schools. Has it ever occurred to them this may be due to confiscation of weapons?

Meanwhile, airport security lines are out of control, causing thousands of passengers to miss flights. Making families going to Disney World or business travelers unpack their laptops and remove shoes is a waste of time. The profile for potential terrorists is clear. Do we need to pull aside grandmothers, pat them down and rummage through their bags so those who fit the profile don’t feel singled out?

The last time I flew from Kennedy Airport, the TSA PreCheck line was virtually empty, while the regular line seemed to stretch back to Long Island. Why not allow more frequent fliers and other trusted passengers the expedited service, without charge?

Whether at our airports or our schools, we should be less concerned about hurting people’s feelings and more concerned with preventing people from actually getting hurt. Let’s start by deploying well-trained, respectful, common sense agents where they’re actually needed. Meanwhile, perhaps the P.C. police can give it a rest.

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Huma and Hillary: Soulmates in Humiliation

It takes one to know one. I’m talking about women who have been humiliated by their husbands, and Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin is a poster child for that unhappy club.

After the release of the new (and surprisingly compelling) documentary “Weiner,” it’s not hard to see why Abedin, the wife of former Congressman-exhibitionist Anthony Weiner, is a perfect match for Hillary Clinton.

I assume Weiner envisioned the documentary as a redemptive, comeback kid-type of tale — until he reverted to his sexting, junk flashing “Carlos Danger” persona. A gifted politician, Weiner clearly has a fatal flaw that isn’t going away.

But is his wife?

Why did Abedin stay with Weiner after he betrayed her a second time? A similar question could be asked of Clinton. Why stay with a serial philanderer? Do they both sincerely believe in their “for better or for worse” wedding vows? Perhaps to a fault?

If anyone understands Clinton, it’s Abedin, and she fiercely guards the presidential candidate’s privacy. Anyone who wants to get Hillary’s ear first has to go through Huma, according to Vanity Fair.

As they prepare to face yet another man who not only has unorthodox relationships with women but also belittles them, the H team can draw on their experience dealing with such men. So the first time Donald Trump tries a cheap personal attack on Hillary Clinton at a debate, he should duck, because as they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Meanwhile, Hillary and Huma’s bond is palpable. “If I had a second daughter, it would be Huma,” Hillary Clinton has said.

I saw the “Weiner” documentary over the weekend. Before I did, I had a bunch of funny, Thelma and Louise-type laugh lines ready for this column. But seeing Abedin’s face at the end of this film, the shock and sadness in her eyes, I didn’t have the heart.

Before this scandal broke, Huma Abedin’s first allegiance was to her mercurial husband, Weiner. But after being repeatedly humiliated by him and having her faith shattered, it seems the No. 1 adult in her life now is the person she trusts most and has a special bond with: her boss, confidant and mutual protector, Hillary Clinton.

Can you blame her?

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Put Ice Cream Bandits in the Cooler

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. And no one is screaming louder than Manhattan drugstore managers, who are seeing Chubby Hubbies and Chunky Monkeys swiped from their coolers by brazen ice cream thieves.

As we move into prime ice cream season, chain drug retailers are keeping a sharp eye out for the coldhearted crooks who pilfer such premium brands as Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs, then sell them at a sharp discount.

So when you buy these brands at a local bodega, are you eating hot ice cream? If you live uptown, it’s more likely, a police source told the New York Post. “They [the crooks] take the pints of ice cream and resell them uptown at bodegas in Harlem and Washington Heights,” said the source.

The most shoplifted items from drugstores are usually small, dry and easy to hide, such as razors and cosmetics, with widespread ice cream theft a newer phenomenon. But ice cream melts quickly (duh), and the stolen pint purchased at a bodega most likely has been refrozen, which produces freezer burn, marked by ice crystals and a funny taste. Yuck! Perhaps an appropriate punishment would be force-feeding the crooks this icy mess until they get brain freeze.

Drugstores are targets because they have fewer people on staff than larger mass market outlets, so there’s less chance of the criminals getting caught.

Ice cream theft at NYC chain drugstores first hit the headlines in October, when thieves grabbed 242 pints from a TriBeCa Duane Reade, according to Grub Street. A CVS in Chelsea has been robbed of the frozen treats three times. Meanwhile, cops grabbed one alleged group of sticky-fingered bandits after multiple thefts, including a single haul of $1,683 worth of ice cream. That’s cold.

As ice cream theft has progressed from an occasional nuisance to an ongoing drain on profits, drugstore managers are increasingly getting the police involved, according to the Post. So bodega owners in on this scam face a rocky road — because the next person offering them stolen ice cream at a ridiculous discount might be an undercover cop.


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Are You Licensed to Ride the Subway?

What happens when your train stops at 59th Street and you’re propped up against the door?

Do you:

a) Push back hard against those exiting, scrambling to grab a vacated seat?

b) Step out of the train and let passengers off?

c) Stand your ground, block the entrance and scowl at those desperately trying to get by before the doors close?

The husky nitwit on the A train that pulled into the station chose “c,” and glared at me when I banged into his shoulder and squeezed past him. Was he just nasty, or truly ignorant of basic subway rules?

That’s the moment I realized that riders should have to pass a written test to get a license to ride the subway.

That’s right, subway licenses. If you don’t know or care about the basic rules and courtesies that protect us all, we don’t want you on our trains. Door blockers and holders, pole leaners and seat hoggers make the commute hell for all of us, not to mention gropers, screaming subway preachers and showtime acrobats.

If you can’t follow the rules, get off my train.

I know you’re just the passenger, but it’s not like air travel, where all you have to do is fasten your seat belt, down a Jack Daniels and pass out. We all have some responsibility down in the tunnels, and requiring a license will ensure a smoother, calmer ride.

Here’s how it will go: After studying the rules and passing your exam, you will proudly own a subway rider’s license. When you commit a violation, points will be deducted. If you accumulate enough points, your license will be taken away.

But how will these slackers get to work? Bike? Walk? Who cares? They should have thought of that before removing their shoes and clipping their toenails on the subway.

Meanwhile, good citizens who keep a spotless record will be eligible for a reduced fare. Yep, just as car insurance companies do it. Don’t flout the rules, get a discount. Keep acting like a jerk? You’ve reached your last stop!

Subway licenses, an idea whose time has come. I fantasize about making a citizen’s arrest of some slob tossing pistachio nut shells at my feet.

License, please!

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On Cinco de Mayo, Don’t Fence Me Out

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, celebrating Mexican traditions, and I’d like to start the festivities early with a pop quiz. Who suggested erecting “a brass wall around the country?”

Donald Trump, 2015? Nope. Try John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1750s. Jay was determined to keep out those dangerous Catholics.

Sadly, fear and hatred of immigrants is as American as apple pie, pizza and tacos. The current target of this bigotry is Mexicans here illegally. Years ago it was Italians, Jews and other “undesirables” here legally or illegally. “No Irish Need Apply!” was a common warning on job and housing notices. The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 barred Asians from entering the United States.

Unscrupulous politicians past and present love to play on our fears.

As usual, it’s based on lies. Unauthorized Mexican immigration is declining, and Mexican immigrants don’t commit more crimes. According to The Washington Post, data show newer immigrants — including those here illegally — are less likely to commit crime.

But in troubling economic times, politicians too often demonize “the other.” Trump promises to build a huge wall on the Mexican border to keep “them” out, while Sen. Ted Cruz threatened to remove Mexicans by increasing deportation__before removing himself from the race because no one could stand him.

You say you really don’t know any Mexican-Americans? How about Demi Lovato and Eva Longoria? What about Hilda Solis, who served as U.S. secretary of labor under President Barack Obama, or Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico who negotiated the release of American prisoners in Iraq and North Korea?

Still, Mexicans continue to be demonized. I recently visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side (don’t miss it), and was reminded the nation was built on the backs of immigrants. Their energy and inspiration continue to make us a great nation.

It’s time to break the cycle. Show political demagogues trying to appeal to our worst instincts that we know they’re the same types who stirred up hatred against many of our own ancestors. Hardworking Mexican immigrants aren’t a threat to the American way. Political demagogues are.

Meanwhile, happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Developers and de Blasio: Not Just Horses’ Tales

The most blessed among us do not crave money, but devote their lives to charity and caring for all living things. Mother Teresa. St. Francis of Assisi. NY real estate developers?

While I take a back seat to no one when it comes to my love of animals (unless I’m in the back seat with a slobbering St. Bernard), I always wondered why Bill de Blasio never seemed to give a hoot about carriage horses before he ran for mayor. But after real estate developer and anti-carriage horse zealot Steve Nislick’s NYCLASS group made sizable donations to his mayoral campaign, de Blasio saw the light, and the welfare of the carriage horses became his No. 1 priority. Hallelujah!

And let’s not forget Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management, who thought it would be fun for all if streetcars ran right by the new condos he is developing on the site of the old Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg. He donated $100,000 to the Campaign for One New York fund, an “independent” group that supported de Blasio priorities.

Soon after, the mayor discovered he loved streetcars as much as he hated the carriage horse trade. At his February State of the City speech, he enthusiastically supported a plan for a streetcar financed through area property taxes, as thousands cheered. Ok, at least one__Jeb Walentas.

The bundling of checks from such individuals has proven a way for the mayor to raise huge sums of cash. Yes, the donations are legal — if the contributors aren’t promised anything in return for their generosity. That’s how I know these developers are doing this out of pure charity, fervently believing in the Bible’s directive that, “One who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:24-25).

And boy, are they being watered. National real estate developer Toll Brothers donated $50,000 to de Blasio’s fund, coincidentally right around the time it started developing Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a 101-unit waterside condo. Local activists oppose the project, saying it will block views. Good luck with that!

Meanwhile, NYCLASS has been subpoenaed, and the Campaign for One New York, which the mayor swears was on the up and up, has been shuttered.

What a shame.

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