Ben Gabbe/Getty ImagesBy ELLA TORRES, ABC News(NEW YORK) — As a new normal takes shape in New York City under the novel coronavirus, experts in urban planning believe miles of open street for foot traffic will become a staple of the Big Apple even after the novel coronavirus pandemic ends.Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said the city is aiming to open up 100 of the 6,000 miles of city streets for pedestrians. The idea is to create more space for people to walk around while maintaining social distancing, which proved to be a challenge on tight sidewalks. Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University, said the virus has “mobilized support for converting streets … into an extension of the sidewalk for pedestrians or other activities.”“I think that where these streets are converted, if they’re being well-used, they’ll stick,” Moss said.New York City, he said, could become a semblance of Paris, “with much more outside dining and drinking.”The city’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg similarly said during a budget hearing Tuesday that the agency was “re-thinking our streets” with a focusing on biking and walking. She later said the agency was “absolutely” thinking about turning over parts of the streets and sidewalks for restaurant space, according to the New York Daily News.Sylvia Morse, an urban planner in New York City, noted that if restaurants were to expand to the streets, the city’s public drinking laws would have to evolve. How that evolvement happens, and who is allowed to access the result, should be a focus, she said.“This has always been concerning for me around the private enterprises that we see like cafes in public parks,” she said, noting that “if you’re able to buy an $8 glass of wine, you can have a drink in the park and enjoy,” but for others who can’t it would be considered illegal drinking just outside those parameters and could then become a matter of who is policed.Morse emphasized that these are not new questions, but there is more urgency to address them as special provisions are made.Moss said the most effective way to utilize open streets would be to expand the space around already-existing public parks.The streets opened so far are both within and adjacent to parks. Throughout the five boroughs, 4.5 miles of street have opened inside six parks, according to de Blasio. Another 2.7 miles of street opened adjacent to seven public spaces.De Blasio had previously pushed back on opening streets up, saying that New York City could not follow other U.S. cities, such as Oakland, California, because it is “profoundly different.”However, public spaces carved from necessity is nothing new. Central Park, an 843-acre park in Upper Manhattan is the city’s most famous, and Prospect Park, a 526-acre park in central Brooklyn, were created after ferry service linked Brooklyn — once one of the six villages on the western end of Long Island — to its neighbor, New York City. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions sparked America’s first attempt at urban planning, resulting in both parks.“Public green space [was] seen as a health necessity more than an aesthetic one,” according to Prospect Park Alliance. Moss echoed that notion, saying, “We have to make the city work for the people who live here.”Julio Salcedo-Fernandez, director of the City College of New York’s graduate urban design program, told ABC News opening the streets could be the first of many steps in bringing the notion of a city back to the idea that it is ever-changing rather than a fixed space.“You see the large infrastructures and you see the solid buildings, so a lot of times people think of cities as places of fixity, places that are set,” Salcedo-Fernandez said. “But in fact, it’s interesting to think of cities as locales that are influx, that are moving, that are always changing.”One way to make better use of the streets is to rethink transportation, he said. In some international models, cities have a tram moving through a public square while pedestrians are also allowed in the same streets.Though unlikely in New York City’s foreseeable future, it is that kind of thinking that should be encouraged in any city, Salcedo-Fernandez said.“There are a lot of ways to reconfigure the street scape and to make it a lot more innovate and multi-tasking,” Salcedo-Fernandez said. “I think that the answer is keep pushing ahead and keep pushing ahead with new ideas.”Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
By Kristen PlankUniversity of Georgia“It has been almost 10 years since natural gas has been deregulated,” said Cynthia Johnson, director of public affairs with the Georgia Public Service Commission. “But when asking consumers who their natural gas provider is, the answer is almost always the same: Atlanta Gas Light Company.”That’s a problem, because AGL isn’t a provider. When problems arise, consumers need their natural gas marketers. This is where University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents come in handy.The UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences was granted a $1.9-million grant to educate Georgians on using natural gas in their homes.“The grant was funded by Atlanta Gas Light Company, which is also working with the Georgia Public Service Commission,” said FACS associate dean Jorge Atiles. “It’s really designed to help consumers in choosing a gas marketer, understanding their bills and knowing exactly what they’re buying.”Ten UGA Extension county FACS agents will be teaching consumers about safety practices, gas maintenance and preventing unnecessary disconnections in service. “The agents are spread all over the state,” Atiles said.The information is aimed at everyone who uses natural gas. High-income, low-income and everyone in-between will have access to the educators.For Johnson, this is great news, since she deals with consumers daily.The relationship among UGA, AGL and the Georgia PSC is a “perfect partnership,” Johnson said. The grant money will enable more consumers to gain information in more effective ways.“Typically, information about natural gas is printed in newspaper ads and on billboards and buses,” she said. “But people can walk by those without really noticing them. But the commission gave explicit instructions on what educators’ initiatives should look like.”The grant will allow more face-to-face contact with consumers, she said, “from large gatherings with agents to one-on-one communication with households.”“We’re taking a multilayer approach now,” Atiles said.The information on how to help consumers with natural gas problems will still go out through the media and through UGA Extension offices. Atiles said they’re trying to get gas marketers to reach out more to their customers.None of this is lost on Johnson, who said many people don’t know other options are available.“We have elderly consumers on fixed $8,000 annual incomes with gas bills that can be more than $300 a month,” she said. “They don’t realize they’re eligible for discounts or that they can choose a provider with a lower rate.”She points to other consumers who get disconnected after a late payment. “Once they finally pay the bill,” she said, “they find out they have a $200 bill for reactivation and reconnection.”Many people don’t realize they have a right by law to set up a reasonable payment schedule so they can afford their bills, Johnson said.“This grant with UGA will help us get these consumers educated (on their options),” Johnson said.(Kristen Plank is a student writer for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Woman Holding House KeyIT’S widely acknowledged that the local economy has hit some turbulence, with consumer spending at an all-time low and confidence in the property market at rock bottom. But for those who are experienced in property cycles there is certainty, and a level of comfort, in the predictability of a property cycle — what goes up most certainly comes down and vice versa. And while suggesting we have finally hit rock bottom may not sound like a good thing, if you are a savvy purchaser it is music to your ears. You know that once the market hits bottom you have limited time to act if you are to enjoy what we call capital gains. For local real estate agents one of the earliest indicators we see that the tide is finally turning comes in the form of investor inquiry on our local property listings. In the past four weeks two of our properties have attracted significant investor interest. About 90 per cent of total inquiries are coming from investors in Sydney. One of the properties, a two-bedroom unit priced under $200,000, received only one local inquiry and 13 from interstate. The property was snapped up and put under contract immediately.More from news01:21Buyer demand explodes in Townsville’s 2019 flood-affected suburbs12 Sep 202001:21‘Giant surge’ in new home sales lifts Townsville property market10 Sep 2020Talking to my fellow agents, they are optimistic and feel that the market is about to perform well. We are all fielding regular inquiries from investors outside our region as well as from southerners looking to relocate here for work. And as we approach the traditional spring selling season we expect these inquiries to ramp up.However, when we speak to our local community it’s a very different picture. Everyone has been so beaten and battered by the tough economy they have no motivation when thinking of listing their home for sale.I would (and so would my industry colleagues) urge anyone that is unsure about selling their home right now, to talk to their preferred local agent about what is actually happening out there rather than put too much weight on talk around the water cooler. We are seeing days on market shortening and multiple offers being made on well-priced property. This activity, along with the increased interest from outside our region, is the earliest signs that things are about to change for the better. Townsville typically enjoys a bumper level of real estate sales activity in the months that lead into the Christmas period and this year is poised to be quite interesting as the tight market conditions from the beginning of the year are starting to loosen.So my message is simple — don’t believe the hype. Talk to a few agents (not just one), listen to what they’re saying and trust that those professionals who work at the coal face know what’s really happening.Now is a great time to sell and you know what they say about the early bird!
After introducing new manager Dave Roberts on Tuesday, Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson said that re-signing Zack Greinke is the team’s top priority this winter.“I think we all want him back,” Johnson said. “But if somebody comes in and does something that is off the charts and we don’t match that, then, you know, he leaves. We want him back. He’s our priority — our number one priority in the offseason.”Greinke recently opted out of a contract that would have paid him a guaranteed $77 million over the next three seasons. He and left-handed pitcher David Price were perceived to be at the head of a free-agent class that was heavy on mid-tier starting pitchers.One of those mid-tier pitchers, Jordan Zimmermann, signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error On Wednesday, Price reportedly signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. Once official, the contract would make Price the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. Greinke is 32, two years older than Price, but is thought to be seeking a contract that pays a similar or greater average annual value ($31 million).Because he rejected the Dodgers’ qualifying offer in October, Greinke would cost most teams a first-round pick in the 2016 draft if they sign him — in addition to the money. Price didn’t cost the Red Sox a draft pick because he was traded from the Tigers to the Blue Jays during the 2015 season. That makes any comparison of his value to Price’s contract inexact.Regardless, the financial commitment will be large to whichever team signs Greinke. The right-hander was the runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award after going 19-3 with a major-league leading 1.66 ERA in 2015.“We’re going to put in our bid just like other teams will, but he’s our priority,” Johnson said. “We like that one-two punch that we have with him and Clayton (Kershaw). We have a lot of resources, yes, and we’re using them to make our team better.” The winning bid could be revealed soon. According to multiple reports, Greinke could have a five- or six-year deal signed by week’s end. The Giants are reportedly the Dodgers’ top rival to sign Greinke.Newcombe recoveringDon Newcombe, the Dodgers’ 89-year-old special advisor and former star pitcher, is resting comfortably at home after a brief health scare. According to eyewitnesses, Newcombe appeared to lose consciousness at Roberts’ introductory press conference. A team spokesman said that Newcombe was transported by ambulance to a hospital.In early July, Newcombe was hospitalized for two days after becoming ill at the stadium.Newcombe pitched for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1949-51 and 1954-58 after missing two seasons while serving in the military during the Korean War. He was one of the first blacks to play for the franchise, along with Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.He had 149-90 record with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA. Newcombe was a four-time NL All-Star and pitched in three World Series.Puig investigationMajor League Baseball is investigating Yasiel Puig’s role in a bar fight Wednesday in Miami. Dodgers president Andrew Friedman said he expects to hear from the league next week, though the league has no specific timetable to complete its investigation.In the meantime, Friedman has reached out to Puig’s representatives but hasn’t spoken to the outfielder directly.MLB’s domestic violence policy stipulates that a player can be placed on “paid administrative leave” for up to seven days during an investigation, which is not applicable out-of-season. The time frame for the investigation itself can last longer. Eyewitnesses told police that Puig got into a verbal argument with his sister at the Blue Martini Lounge in Miami on Wednesday before punching a bouncer.AlsoThe Dodgers re-signed pitcher Joe Wieland, who was eligible for arbitration. … MLB’s tender/non-tender deadline is today. Eight Dodgers will remain eligible for arbitration if they are not non-tendered: Luis Avilan, A.J. Ellis, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Hatcher, Kenley Jansen, Juan Nicasio, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke. … Friedman said that Kershaw did not tell him to trade Puig in order to improve the club, which Van Slyke’s father alleged in a recent radio interview. Andy Van Slyke is a former player and coach who has never worked for the Dodgers.