Week of February 15 – 21, 2012

De Blasio targets city, NYPD over 9/11-related cancer data Elected officials and other 9/11 health advocates are railing against the city’s refusal to release data revealing the number of police officers who worked at Ground Zero and who were subsequently stricken by cancer. The numbers, they believe, could shed light on the link between the illness and exposure to Ground Zero toxins.

In a Feb. 13 letter addressed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio demanded the city release information collected by the NYPD’s Medical Division about the officers’ health conditions and their full names. De Blasio cited a section of the NYC Charter that purportedly allows him access to the information.

The city has recently refused to publicize the information on the grounds of protecting the cops’ confidentiality.

“As you may be aware, experts are currently investigating whether there may be a link between individuals who served at Ground Zero and cancer,” said de Blasio, who requested the data by “no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24.”

Manhattan Federal Court “occupied”  Occupy Wall Street is now occupying the desk of Manhattan Federal Court judge.

The infamous “pepper spray” incident, when on Sept. 24 NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna doused a group of demonstrators marching to Union Square, drew national media attention and ignited the O.W.S. movement.

Jeanne Mansfield and Chelsea Elliot filed a lawsuit last Wednesday against Bologna and New York City that accuses Bologna and the city of violating their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

The two women are seeking damages of an unspecified amount for physical and emotional suffering resulting from the encounter.

J&R debuts junior store  Downtown families now have a new kid’s shop in their own neck of the woods.

On Sat., Feb. 11, Park Row electronics store J&R opened up a new, 15,000-square-foot store for children. Targeting toddlers and youths up to age 9, J&R Jr. sells hundreds of items including strollers, high chairs, car seats, bags, educational toys, movies, video games, and laptops. Featured at the store is a floor track with a variety of surfaces including cobblestone, grass, and shag carpeting, enabling parents to “test-drive” the strollers on site.

J&R Jr. will also have a state-of-the-art events space that will lend itself to weekly performances by kids’ acts such as “Rockin’ with Andy,” as well as parenting seminars and luncheons on birthing, school admissions and other such topics. MoonSoup, an early child development programming provider that is slated to manage the events space five days a week, has plans to offer arts & crafts workshops, hands-on music lessons, yoga classes and other youth activities.

“When you step through the doors of J&R Jr., you will be entering a kids zone — a judgment-free world where you can escape the busy world outside, and once more, become a kid again… whether by finding the missing piece to a puzzle, erecting a looming tower of blocks, serving tea to the princess or slaying a virtual fire-breathing dragon,” said J&R Jr. Founder Jason Friedman. “As longstanding members of this community, we wanted to create an inviting space for residents to gather, share experiences, and gain valuable parenting and consumer information.”

Security plans for W.T.C.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has clandestine plans to set up military-style technology to defend the future World Trade Center against acts of terrorism, according to a report that appeared in the Feb. 13 edition of the New York Post.

Port Authority Spokesperson Steve Coleman declined to comment.

The high-tech security system will purportedly include thousands of “intelligent” cameras and computer processors that might be able to detect faces of individuals on terrorist watch lists with the help of government databases. The system will also include infrared sensors equipped with explosive and radiation detectors, according to the Post article.

Robot-like computers will be able to track unusual movements and behavior of pedestrians, so that cops could be deployed in case of a potential emergency. Cops might also be alerted of seemingly normal but infrequent actions, such as someone jumping, dropping a bag in bizarre locations, or someone merely walking against the flow of pedestrians.

The system is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

B.I.D. report reveals optimistic rise in Downtown tourism Downtown Manhattan saw a steep rise in tourism in 2011. According to the Downtown Alliance’s 2011 Year in Review, 9.8 million tourists came to Lower Manhattan last year — 800,000 more than in 2010.

“Tourism is thriving in Lower Manhattan like never before,” said Elizabeth Berger, President of the Alliance. “The secret is out – Lower Manhattan is a destination of choice in the region, nationally and around the world, for leisure and business travelers alike.”

The National Sept. 11 Memorial Plaza, which opened in last fall, had a significant draw for the district by attracting one million visitors in its first three and a half months of being open, according to the Alliance.

Alliance records reveal that the number of tourists who visited below Chambers Street was 7 million in 2008, increased to almost 8 million in 2009, and reached 9 million in 2010.

One effect the increase in tourism has had on the Downtown area is the opening of 18 new hotels since 2001, according to the Alliance. With an average occupancy rate of 80 percent, the seven additional hotels are scheduled to be completed by 2014.