Yorkville Bets on the Second Avenue Subway

The eastern Upper East Side, a subway desert, is about to see the end of its drought. In December, nine years after construction of the initial phase began — and decades after it was first proposed — the Second Avenue subway is scheduled to open.

For Yorkville residents, who have endured dust, explosions and barricades while workers burrowed tunnels under their feet, and who make long slogs to Lexington Avenue trains, that moment will probably be joyous.

But those who live in apartment buildings between Third and York Avenues, as well as those developing new ones, may already be celebrating: Their property is enjoying new attention and price premiums, a trend that doesn’t bode well for buyers in search of bargains.

“The subway has totally changed things,” said Michael Lorber, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate at the Azure, a 128-unit condop at 333 East 91st Street and First Avenue, which began sales in 2008, the year the subway project started. In fall 2014, when Mr. Lorber and his team took over sales at the 34-story high-rise, developed by the DeMatteis Organizations and the Mattone Group, there were 25 unsold sponsor units. By late last month, he said, just three were left, at an average list price of $1,600 per square foot.

The condop, which sits on leased land and was the site of a fatal crane accident in 2008, was hindered by other issues, Mr. Lorber said, but buyers were deterred, in particular, by its relative remoteness. “If the building were built today,” he added, “it would sell right away.”

Measuring the precise effect of the subway construction on property values is difficult, because while the construction has caused a number of inconveniences (including the closing of parts of sidewalks and streets), it also coincided with a massive housing downturn. And this part of the Upper East Side has been falling out of favor for years, brokers say. But anecdotal evidence suggests that prices for co-ops and condominiums here dropped about 20 percent — a discount that is long gone, according to most brokers. Moreover, the prices of many apartments now reflect a subway bonus of about 10 percent, they say.

“The post-subway premium is already in effect,” said Itay Gamlieli, the owner of GZB Realty, who often works on the Upper East Side and lives there as well.

The modest blocks east of Third Avenue have long had lower prices than the fancier parts of the Upper East Side, known as the Silk Stocking District. But the new subway stations at East 72nd, East 86th and East 96th Streets, and the expanded one at East 63rd, seem to be having an equalizing effect on prices in what used to be more of a cotton socks district. (Initially, those stations will offer access to an extension of the Q line; later, they will service the T train as well.)

Consider the Kent, a 30-story, 83-unit brick, limestone and metal-paneled condo from the Extell Development Company rising at 200 East 95th Street, at Third Avenue. Prices for its spacious two- to five-bedroom apartments, which have up to 15-foot ceilings, marble-lined baths and Miele appliances, will start at about $2.4 million, or $2,500 a square foot, when sales begin in May, said Gary Barnett, Extell’s president.

The average price for condos in Yorkville — excluding East End Avenue, which is often considered an upscale submarket unto itself — was about $1,700 a square foot in late March, according to StreetEasy.com.

Mr. Barnett is hardly a builder-come-lately to the neighborhood. He began acquiring his blockwide site, made up of seven lots, when the subway was still in planning mode in 2005. But improved transportation was on his mind: The subway expansion “gave us confidence that we could invest and do a beautiful product, and that people would pay for it,” he said of his project, which will have a lobby fireplace, a courtyard garden and a pool.

More market-rate Extell projects are planned for the area, Mr. Barnett added, although he declined to provide specifics.

If the Kent will test the ceiling of the market, Carnegie Park, a 30-story brick rental-to-condo conversion at 200 East 94th Street and Third Avenue, from the Related Companies, might indicate the market’s velocity. In about 15 months, the condo has sold 85 percent of its 277 one- to four-bedrooms, which have Caesarstone counters and KitchenAid appliances, according to a spokeswoman for the project, and prices are averaging $1,700 a square foot, with one-bedrooms starting at $980,000.

While the Carnegie Park website doesn’t mention the coming subway — perhaps because the Lexington Avenue line is a block to the west — other developments are more explicit. On the site for the Charles, a new 27-unit, 31-story condo from Bluerock Real Estate at 1355 First Avenue near East 73rd Street, a map shows the future Q and T stop at East 72nd. The building, which has six remaining units, is getting an average of $2,400 a square foot, said R. Ramin Kamfar, Bluerock’s chief executive.

Another building expected to benefit from the Second Avenue line is 389 East 89th Street, at First Avenue, a 31-story rental that the Magnum Real Estate Group is converting into a condo with 156 one- to three-bedrooms. Sales began in February, with prices averaging $1,600 a square foot, a project spokesman said, and one-bedrooms starting at $880,000.

While Second Avenue has improved since 2010, when dozens of businesses were closed, it’s hardly back to its old self. There are still shuttered storefronts between East 93rd and East

94th Streets, and cranes remain visible. But most buyers realize these are temporary inconveniences, said Victor Setton, a salesman with Weichert Rockefeller Center: “They’re taking a long view.”

This month, Mr. Setton is listing a one-bedroom co-op at 301 East 87th Street and Second Avenue, where concrete barriers give the street a work-in-progress look. But the $815,000 price, he said, includes a premium of about $50,000 for the future subway stop around the corner.

Some remain skeptical that the subway, which was originally proposed in the 1930s and has broken ground a couple of times since then, will open on time. The first phase, after all, is being delivered with a bigger price tag — $4.451 billion — than promised, and at a later date. “Who knows when it will ultimately be finished?” said Jay Solinsky, the president of Classic Marketing, which is helping to sell 300 East 64th Street, a 99-unit condo conversion at Second Avenue developed by RFR Holding.

For Elizabeth Dean, the subway can’t arrive soon enough. Ms. Dean, who moved into a one-bedroom in Carnegie Park from a studio in Hell’s Kitchen this winter, commutes to her financial services job in Midtown using the 6 train, though that line is often crowded at rush hour.

The Q train might relieve some of that congestion, she hopes, and drop her closer to work; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates that the trip from East 96th Street to Times Square will take just 13 minutes.


Revenge of the Simple: How George W. Bush Gave Rise to Trump

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone 


Bush was just an appetizer — Trump would be the main course


To hear GOP insiders tell it, Doomsday is here. If Donald Trump scores huge on tonight and seizes control of the nomination in the Super Tuesday primaries, it will mark the beginning of the end of the Republican Party, and perhaps the presidency.

But Trump isn’t the beginning of the end. George W. Bush was. The amazing anti-miracle of the Bush presidency is what makes today’s nightmare possible.

People forget what an extraordinary thing it was that Bush was president. Dubya wasn’t merely ignorant when compared with other politicians or other famous people. No, he would have stood out as dumb in just about any setting.

If you could somehow run simulations where Bush was repeatedly shipwrecked on a desert island with 20 other adults chosen at random, he would be the last person listened to by the group every single time. He knew absolutely nothing about anything. He wouldn’t have been able to make fire, find water, build shelter or raise morale. It would have taken him days to get over the shock of no room service.

Bush went to the best schools but was totally ignorant of history, philosophy, science, geography, languages and the arts. He once had to read War and Peace. His take? There were “thousands of characters” in it.

“I guess it had an influence because it was a discipline,” he said. “It was more that than remembering anything in it.”

So Bush’s main takeaway from reading one of the greatest books ever written was that it contained many things to memorize. But he couldn’t remember any of those things.

Bush showed no interest in learning and angrily rejected the idea that a president ought to be able to think his way through problems. As Mark Crispin Miller wrote in The Bush Dyslexicon, Bush’s main rhetorical tool was the tautology — i.e., saying the same thing, only twice.

“It’s very important for folks to understand that when there’s more trade, there’s more commerce” was a classic Bush formulation. “Our nation must come together to unite” was another. One of my favorites was: “I understand that the unrest in the Middle East creates unrest throughout the region.”

Academics and political junkies alike giddily compiled these “Bushisms” along with others that were funny for different reasons (“I’m doing what I think what’s wrong,” for instance).

But Bush’s tautologies weren’t gaffes or verbal slips. They just represented the limits of his reasoning powers: A = A. There are educational apps that use groups of images to teach two-year-olds to recognize that an orange is like an orange while a banana is a banana. Bush was stalled at that developmental moment. And we elected him president.

Bush’s eight years were like the reigns of a thousand overwhelmed congenital monarchs from centuries past. While the prince rode horses, romped with governesses and blew the national treasure on britches or hedge-mazes, the state was run by Svengalis and Rasputins who dealt with what Bush once derisively described as “what’s happening in the world.”

In Bush’s case he had Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove thinking out the problem of how to get re-elected, while Dick “Vice” Cheney, Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld and Andrew “Tangent Man” Card took care of the day-to-day affairs of the country (part of Card’s responsibilities involved telling Bush what was in the newspapers he refused to read).

It took hundreds of millions of dollars and huge armies of such behind-the-throne puppet-masters to twice (well, maybe twice) sell a voting majority on the delusion of George Bush, president. Though people might quibble with the results, the scale of this as a purely political achievement was awesome and heroic, comparable to a moon landing or the splitting of the atom.

Guiding Bush the younger through eight years of public appearances was surely the greatest coaching job in history. It was like teaching a donkey to play the Waldstein Sonata. It’s breathtaking to think about now.

But one part of it backfired. Instead of using an actor like Reagan to sell policies to the public, the Svengalis behind Bush sold him as an authentic man of the people, the guy you’d want to have an O’Doul’s with.

Rove correctly guessed that a generation of watching TV and Hollywood movies left huge blocs of Americans convinced that people who read books, looked at paintings and cared about spelling were either serial killers or scheming to steal bearer bonds from the Nakatomi building. (Even knowing what a bearer bond is was villainous).

The hero in American culture, meanwhile, was always a moron with a big gun who learned everything he needed to know from cowboy movies. The climax of pretty much every action movie from the mid-eighties on involved shotgunning the smarty-pants villain in the face before he could finish some fruity speech about whatever.

Rove sold Bush as that hero. He didn’t know anything, but dammit, he was sure about what he didn’t know. He was John McClane, and Al Gore was Hans Gruber. GOP flacks like Rove rallied the whole press corps around that narrative, to the point where anytime Gore tried to nail Bush down on a point of policy, pundits blasted him for being a smug know-it-all using wonk-ese to talk over our heads — as Cokie Roberts put it once, “this guy from Washington doing Washington-speak.”

This is like the scene from the increasingly prophetic Idiocracy where no one can understand Luke Wilson, a person of average intelligence rocketed 500 years into America’s idiot future, because whenever he tries to reason with people, they think he’s talking “like a fag.”

The Roves of the world used Bush’s simplicity to win the White House. Once they got there, they used the levers of power to pillage and scheme like every other gang of rapacious politicians ever. But the plan was never to make ignorance a political principle. It was just a ruse to win office.

Now the situation is the opposite. Now GOP insiders are frantic at the prospect of an uncultured ignoramus winning the presidency. A group of major donors and GOP strategists even wrote out a memo outlining why a super PAC dedicated to stopping Trump was needed.

“We want voters to imagine Donald Trump in the Big Chair in the Oval Office, with responsibilities for worldwide confrontation at his fingertips,” they wrote. Virginia Republican congressman Scott Ringell wrote an open letter to fellow Republicans arguing that a Trump presidency would be “reckless, embarrassing and ultimately dangerous.”

Hold on. It wasn’t scary to imagine George “Is our children learning?” Bush with the “responsibilities for worldwide confrontation” at his fingertips? It wasn’t embarrassing to have a president represent the U.S. on the diplomatic stage who called people from Kosovo “Kosovians” and people from Greece “Grecians?”

It was way worse. Compared to Bush, Donald Trump is a Rutherford or an Einstein. In the same shipwreck scenario, Trump would have all sorts of ideas — all wrong, but at least he’d think of something, instead of staring at the sand waiting for a hotel phone to rise out of it.

Of course, Trump’s ignorance level, considering his Wharton education, is nearly as awesome as what Bush accomplished in spite of Yale. In fact, unlike Bush, who had the decency to not even try to understand the news, Trump reads all sorts of crazy things and believes them all. From theories about vaccines causing autism to conspiratorial questions about the pillow on Antonin Scalia’s face to Internet legends about Americans using bullets dipped in pigs’ blood to shoot Muslims, there isn’t any absurd idea Donald Trump isn’t willing to entertain, so long as it fits in with his worldview.

But Washington is freaking out about Trump in a way they never did about Bush. Why? Because Bush was their moron, while Trump is his own moron. That’s really what it comes down to.

And all of the Beltway’s hooting and hollering about how “embarrassing” and “dangerous” Trump is will fall on deaf ears, because as gullible as Americans can be, they’re smart enough to remember being told that it was OK to vote for George Bush, a man capable of losing at tic-tac-toe.

We’re about to enter a dark period in the history of the American experiment. The Founding Fathers never imagined an electorate raised on Toddlers and Tiaras and Temptation Island. Remember, just a few decades ago, shows like Married With Children and Roseanne were satirical parodies. Now the audience can’t even handle that much irony. A lot of American culture is just dumb slobs cheering on other dumb slobs. It was inevitable, once we broke the seal with Bush, that our politics would become the same thing.

Madison and Jefferson never foresaw this situation. They knew there was danger of demagoguery, but they never imagined presidential candidates exchanging “mine’s bigger than yours” jokes or doing “let’s laugh at the disabled” routines. There’s no map in the Constitution to tell us how to get out of where we’re going. All we can do now is hold on.

Big Data Driving Rail Decisions – Real World Rail Examples

Date and time: Thursday, April 14, 2016 2:00 pm
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Duration: 30 minutes

In this FastCast we aim to break down big data for the rail industry. We will provide specific examples of how Railroads and Shippers are using data, and simple methods to yield tangible results. Lat-Lon and BSM are Connecting to serve Rail.

Presented by:
Brendan Shaw is an a Senior Executive at BSM and industry expert in IoT functionality. He has built a career on consulting with Fortune 100 companies. His focus over the last 7 years has been collaborating with most Class 1 Railroads. Brendan has ingrained himself in the priorities of some of the largest fleets of rubber tire and hy-rail vehicles in the rail industry. He offers proactive insight into rail objectives, like safety, utilization, and more. Brendan sits on the board of several startup IoT companies and is often asked to be an industry speaker.

Steve Tautz is a co-founder and CFO at Lat-Lon, as well as long-time rail enthusiast. As resident expert with Tableau: data insight software, Steve has been able to dive into massive amounts of customer data while offering context from real world experience in facility management systems. Steve holds double majors in Civil Engineering – Structural, and in Business Administration – Finance from the University of Colorado, and is a member of several trade organizations, serves on several Boards, and an active member of the Littleton Rotary Club.

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Get up to speed in 30 minutes on topics of importance to Rail Professionals like you. It’s a quick and powerful professional learning opportunity. All from the convenience of your computer. Don’t blink, you’ll miss out.

Bill Clinton Fundamentally Doesn’t Understand What Black Lives Matter Is About

When did he suddenly cease to be a gifted politician?


ere’s a question for the poli-sci folks here in the shebeen: When did Bill Clinton become such a fcking political maladroit?

His godawful answers to the folks from the Black Lives Matter movement who showed up to heckle him—and whose points, however raucously made, were damn good ones—turned an uncomfortable moment into (at least) a two-day story. It also opened wide the question of how much damage he had to do in order to hold off the worst impulses of his political opposition in the 1990s. Or, more simply, how sharp were the edges of that triangle, and who got cut the deepest?

There always have been tales from the inside about his quick trigger, which certainly was on display Thursday when the BLM folks came to call.

“I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children,” he said, shaking his finger at a heckler as Clinton supporters cheered, according to video of the event. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She [Hillary Clinton] didn’t…You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter,” he told a protester. “Tell the truth.”

First of all, “hopped up on crack”? Who are you? Jack Webb? Second, many of the people in BLM weren’t even born when Clinton signed the 1994 crime bill—an act, we should note, for which he has already apologized—but they grew up watching their brothers and uncles and parents get hauled off for preposterously long sentences. The movement arose because of the unwarranted killing of black people by law enforcement, and by crackpot vigilantes like George Zimmerman, not because the BLM members felt tender toward drug kingpins. And, not for nothing, but even drug kingpins deserve fair trials and equitable sentences under the law.

(Also, Clinton is going to have to fight for space on this particular fainting couch with the newly resurrected Andrew Sullivan, who went on Chris Matthews show Wednesday night and decided that Ta-Nehisi Coates was a Marxist, or some such crapola. Welcome back, Andrew.)

There’s no question that the 1994 law exploded the country’s prison population. (That a great deal of that explosion occurred at the state level is beside the point. A Democratic president helped point the way—again, as Clinton already has acknowledged.) There’s no question that it helped establish the ludicrous disparity in sentences for crack cocaine as opposed to the powdered variety, a disparity that fell most heavily on African-American defendants. A lot of the law enforcement abuses—militarized policing, no-knock warrants, asset forfeiture—that so many people deplore today had their roots in the 1984 Omnibus Crime Bill signed by Ronald Reagan. Those trends accelerated behind Clinton’s bill a decade later. And if you believe, as I do, that the “war” on drugs was the template for the subsequent abuses of the “war” on terror, then Bill Clinton has a few things for which he should be called to account, and yelling “Soft on murder!” from a public platform is no way to do that.

Bill Clinton remains one of the most gifted politicians of my lifetime. And it is true that he did a great job holding back the worst excesses of Gingrichism during his term of office—including that exercise in Gingrichism that sought to deprive him of said office. But this is the second election in a row in which he is turning out to be one of his wife’s clumsiest surrogates. I would make the modest suggestion to him that This Is Not About You. If you want to defend your record, write another massively unreadable book. If you want someone to defend your record ably, ask your wife. She seems to know how to do it best.

Charles Pierce, Esquire

FRA’s Feinberg creates task force aimed at curbing grade crossing accidents

Before we get started with the story: picture above is one of the very few grade crossings on an Interstate Highway. Troy and Schenectady Railroad crossing of Interstate 87, The NORTHWAY. Better pictures and a story from Gino DiCarlo. Yes, at night it was scary with NY State Troopers throwing flares all over the place. Long gone now.

Over the last three decades, the number of grade crossings incidents has fallen significantly. In 1981, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recorded nearly 9,500 vehicle-train collisions and more than 700 deaths at crossings. By 2014, collisions decreased to 2,287, while fatalities plummeted to 269. But Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg thinks more can be done to bring those numbers even lower.

In February 2015, she established the FRA’s first task force focused on grade crossing safety. The agency has set up similar task forces to tackle other industry challenges, like positive train control implementation and transporting crude oil by rail.

“If we really focus on this challenge like a laser, we can have a bigger impact,” says Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg.
Photo: Federal Railroad Administration

“The reality is that we’re just not having the impact that we could have at the moment,” she says. “If we really focus on this challenge like a laser, we can have a bigger impact.”

Feinberg’s new task force primarily serves as a “clearinghouse” for the latest crossing safety information, she says. That involves sharing the findings of its various research projects with railroads and law enforcement agencies, which can incorporate any new insights into their own safety strategies. The task force also publishes its findings online.

One area of research involved driver behavior near crossings. The task force used the findings to develop a predictive model of driver behavior based on anticipated train arrival time.

The research projects also are intended to help railroads better understand which audiences to target with their outreach efforts, says Jamie Rennert, who helms the task force. She joined the agency as deputy associate administrator in April 2014 and became acting director for the office of program delivery in June 2015.

For Rennert, the task force’s efforts are central to the FRA’s overall mission.

“Grade crossing safety is an issue that impacts all of our projects,” she says. “It all comes together in making sure crossings are safe.”

Last year’s MTA Metro-North Railroad accident at a crossing in Valhalla, N.Y., played a part in the decision to create the task force. The incident, which left six people dead and 15 injured, “really refocused everyone at FRA,” says Feinberg.

Feinberg acknowledges that many in the rail industry — regulators included — view crossing incidents as primarily driver-caused problems, but she favors an approach that takes into account all potential factors.

“I think we need to be making sure we’re doing everything that we possibly can to help motorists know when they may be in the path of a train, how to protect themselves, how to keep themselves safe,” she says.

Jamie Rennert, who leads the FRA’s task force on grade crossings.
Photo: Federal Railroad Administration

To do that, the task force also is teaming up with the tech industry. As part of an initiative announced in June 2015, Google agreed to integrate the FRA’s crossing data into its navigation app.

Google’s mapping system eventually will give drivers audio and visual warnings when they approach any of the 250,000 crossings throughout the United States. The launch date of the venture hasn’t yet been determined.

“This is a problem that, for a long time, we felt like we’ve thrown everything we possibly can at, and it was time to think creatively about new solutions that may be technology based or partnership based,” says Feinberg, whose resume includes a stint as Facebook’s director of corporate and strategic communications.

The FRA has shared crossing data with other technology companies, including Apple and GPS-makers Garmin Ltd. and TomTom NV, in the hopes that they, too, will use the information in their navigation systems.

It remains to be seen whether these partnerships or other task force efforts will help curb accidents, but Feinberg thinks they’re steps in the right direction.

“We’ve got a bunch of folks at FRA who are spending all or almost all their time now thinking about how they can have an impact on this problem,” she says. “That right there is a bit of a game changer.”



“Utica Club” Beer Sign Returning to Utica, New York

Just read in the Utica, New York “OD” that

After about 20 years of darkness atop the F.X. Matt Brewing Co., it will be a little brighter this summer when a new “Utica Club” sign is energized.

* The original electric sign was erected in 1914 as the “West End Brewing Company” and remained that until 1939.

* In 1939, the brewery replaced it with Utica Club Pilsener and Utica Club Ale (opposite sides).

* F.X. Matt had the sign built to help promote the new beers and boost employee morale.

* The sign took six months to build and used 20 tons of steel.

* It stood 75 feet tall and each letter is 8 feet high.

The new sign will be more structurally sound, and the lights — which are going to be LEDs — will be more energy-efficient.

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente also attended the news conference. Palmieri agreed with Matt, saying the new sign is symbolic of how the city is bouncing back and building itself up to be a place people want to live in.

“We’re open for business,” Palmieri said. “(The sign) was out for a while and I guess things were a little stagnant (in Utica) for a while. … Now, there’s a lot going on. This just goes along hand in hand that the city is alive and well and re-lit. … Symbolically, seeing this sign lit just reinforces the fact that we’re coming back.”


Road Worrier: Uber and GoTriangle could become a dynamic duo

A bicyclist takes off from between two GO Raleigh city buses at the Moore Square Station in downtown Raleigh. A new app will make riding the bus more convenient by allowing riders to plot the best bus route and book an Uber driver to take them between the bus stop and their destination, if it’s too far to walk. Harry Lynch hlynch@newsobserver.com

This week we might begin to see whether Uber can help smash public transportation’s “first mile, last mile” barrier.

Yes: Uber, the new-fangled nemesis of old-fashioned taxis everywhere. Uber, so cheap and ubiquitous that it has begun luring riders off Charlotte’s trains and buses.

Why didn’t each of us relax on the bus to work this morning, reading books and digging WiFi? One answer is that most of us live too far away (hi, Cary!) from the nearest stop. First mile.

And maybe the office is a long hike (yo, Research Triangle Park!) from the last stop, too. Last mile.

So we drove the car instead.

Here’s a new option with the potential to overcome this considerable obstacle: Use one smartphone app to plot the best bus route – and, if it helps, book an Uber driver to cover that “first mile” to the bus stop or the “last mile” to the destination, or both. All with the proverbial one click.

Uber has made modest moves to acknowledge public transit options in other parts of the country. But the San Francisco-based company is going farther with GoTriangle.

It all comes together in the Rider app distributed by Durham-based TransLoc, which shows commuters where their bus is and how soon it will arrive.

“Our mission is to make transit so great that it becomes everybody’s first choice for transportation,” Doug Kaufman, the TransLoc CEO, said in an interview. “This Uber partnership is a way to make transit more viable, by making it easier to get people to the bus stop.”

GoTriangle, better known as Triangle Transit, is the three-county bus agency that hauls students and commuters from one town to another. TransLoc’s Rider app tracks buses for GoTriangle and 140 transit agencies across the country. Rider will be Uber-enhanced for transit users in Memphis, Tenn., starting March 22 – and for GoTriangle riders starting Thursday.

GoTriangle, Uber and TransLoc will roll out the new app in an event scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Durham Station, the downtown bus hub. Wool E. Bull and Mayor Bill Bell will be there.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/traffic/road-worrier-blog/article63211972.html#storylink=cpy