Claude Nolan
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
Charles Parish
Geer Services, Inc.
San Marco Properties
Geer Services, Inc.
Dec 232012

Kibum Park/Raad, LLC(NEW YORK) — Imagine an inviting green park with tall, shady trees and wide swaths of grassy lawn where you can hear live music or see theater or simply sit quietly soaking up the noonday sun.

Now, imagine that all underground in an old disused parking garage … but still with trees and grass in the bright sunlight — a little less bright, of course, on cloudy days.

This paradoxical vision is already halfway to becoming a reality in downtown Manhattan, a dream made possible partly by fiber-optic technology that can capture sunlight on high rooftops and literally pipe it down to shine further from big underground “skylights.”

Dan Barasch and James Ramsey envisioned it all in 2008 when they teamed up with an idea to transform an abandoned trolley terminal, a 1.5-acre lot underneath the Williamsburg Bridge and next to the Delancey St. subway station.

They dubbed their underground park the “Lowline,” a nod to Manhattan’s popular Highline Park that transformed another swatch of urban blight — in that case an unused and overgrown elevated rail bed.
Since they teamed up, Ramsey, an architect and principal at RAAD Studio, and Barasch, formerly VP of strategic partnerships for PopTech, have raised more than $500,000 for the project, including a Kickstarter campaign that totaled $155,000.

This past September, Ramsey and Barasch also staged an exhibit at a warehouse on Essex Street, just above where the proposed park would exist, in an effort to show the public what the Lowline could look like.
But lighting the underground space is a challenge and that is where Ramsey’s background in engineering comes in; the former NASA employee turned architect had already been working on a way to collect and funnel light when he approached Barasch about the idea of an underground park.

Ramsey and Barasch explain their concept and in more detail here:

The technology consists of fiber optic cables attached to devices Ramsey refers to as remote skylights. Equipped with GPS, these solar collectors follow and capture the sun funneling it down through the cables. The glass surface of the skylights filters out infrared and UVA rays, but still harvests the light necessary for photosynthesis to take place.

For the exhibit, Ramsey and Barasch, alongside a team of volunteers put this technology to the test; together with their team they hand fit together 600 pieces of anodized-aluminum sheets to create a curved dome, a silver canopy that cast the light down on the warehouse space. On the warehouse roof, 20 feet above, six tracking systems collected the light and piped it down to the space below.

“We looked to the way that they build space telescopes to actually cobble together a mesh of flat pieces to create a very completed curved surface, and that curved surface is calibrated to actually deploy the light,” said Ramsey, who worked with infrared spectrometry while at NASA.

With the help of volunteers, including engineers and team members from RAAD Studio, the duo created a mock-up complete with moss-covered knolls and Japanese maples. For their installation, they partnered with Sun Central, a Canadian-based solar technology firm, and Arup, a design and engineering firm that is also working on the Second Avenue subway line in Manhattan.

“All of a sudden you have this idea beginning to emerge where you can take this ancient disused space underneath the city and actually turn it into a public space, a garden really, for everyone to enjoy,” Ramsey said.

Both Barasch and Ramsey point out despite their success so far, they still have a long way to go before making the Lowline a reality; first, they need to convince city and MTA officials (and ultimately the state) to let them use the site, a process that Barasch says requires both political and public support.

Barasch, who resigned from his position at PopTech in March, is devoting his efforts full time to the project focusing on fundraising and engaging with members of the community.

“This is not a short-term project,” Barasch said. “It’s very big in terms of its integration with the overall ecosystem of the space, the neighborhood, the subway line, the community and the city and we want to do this right.”

If they gain control of the terminal, Ramsey and Barasch estimate the project would cost $50 million in capital costs for construction and may take five to eight years to complete. Nevertheless, both remain determined to see the Lowline complete.

“It taps into this thing that every human actually just needs, which is public space and some semblance of being outdoors as well as being inspired by making the city more beautiful, more livable,” Barasch said.

For now, the trolley terminal remains an empty, shadowy cavern with an undetermined future, but one in which Ramsey and Barasch hope they can play a part.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Dec 152012

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) — On Friday tragedy struck at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut as a mass shooting left 27 people dead, including 20 children. But before the shooting, it was simply an extraordinary school.

With its small class sizes and reputation as one of Connecticut’s top schools, Sandy Hook Elementary School is the jewel of Newtown, Conn.

With almost all perfect scores from reviewers on school-rating website, the school is a magnet for young families who endure long drives to and from Hartford or New Haven so their kids can be educated here.

“Husbands will sacrifice the commute just to come to Newtown,” said Barbara Frey, a local realtor.

Caitlin Tefft, 21, went to Sandy Hook for six years as a little girl.

“It’s a small school, but it was just really important to me and really important to my development,” she said.

While the town is idyllic and the school offers a warm embrace to its approximately 450 kindergarteners through fourth-graders, Tefft remembered how prepared they were for a tragedy like Friday’s, holding drills in the very classrooms so terrorized during the emergency.

“The teacher would lock the door and shut off the lights,” she said. “You had to be quiet and not talk, which is really hard for kids, especially when they think it’s not real. But I think most of them knew that something was really serious this time.”

In 2009, a parent submitted a review of Sandy Hook on that said, “All of my 5 children have done well, overcome obstacles with the stellar teaching staff, and have always felt valued at Sandy Hook School. Every staff member holds the bar as high for themselves as they do for the students. There has always been a family like atmosphere, highly personable as well as professional. The school motto ‘think you can, work hard, get smart, be kind’ is integrated into all areas, and it shows!”

Another reviewer praised the harmonious way the school reflected the diversity in the Newtown area.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 212012

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) – These days, in the city of the Golden Gate Bridge, your birthday suit better mean a nice outfit from Brooks Brothers. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban public nudity in the streets.

The legislation prohibits genital exposure on all city sidewalks, plazas, parklets, streets, and public transit. However, nudity in private areas and special events is exempt, and the new law also does not apply to children under the age of 5.

Mayor Ed Lee is among those in support of the ban.

“For exhibitionists, I think that’s what the word is expressed that way, that’s different than people’s first amendment rights,” he said.

Supervisor Scott Wiener agrees. “We’re a city that believes in freedom and we’ve always believed in freedom and free expression. But taking your pants off at Castro and Market and displaying your genitals to everyone, that’s not free expression,” he said.

Those opposed to the passage have already filed a lawsuit, and is now pending. Attorney Christina DiEdoardo is representing the opposition, strongly supports their right to disrobe.

“Is the first amendment more powerful and more important than the passions of an intolerant mob? And the ambitions of one or more city supervisors? We would contend that it is and that’s what our case is based upon,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 142012

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(RALEIGH, N.C.) — Animal rights group Mercy for Animals says it has once again found video showing turkey abuse at Butterball Plants in North Carolina.

The organization posted the images on their website,, where you can see clips of workers allegedly picking birds up and kicking them, throwing them around, and dragging them around by their necks and wings.

Butterball has released a statement responding to these allegations, saying that it takes “any allegations of animal mistreatment very seriously” and emphasized that it has “a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse.”

“Upon learning of these new concerns, we immediately initiated an internal investigation and suspended the associates in question,” the company said. “Pending the completion of that investigation, Butterball will then make a determination on additional actions including immediate termination for those involved.”

Mercy for Animals has posted video of Butterball turkey abuse before. The group claimed to have uncovered video in December 2011, where workers seemed to have been kicking and stomping turkeys. After an investigation, local authorities arrested several employees and charged them with animal cruelty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 022012

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) — Niki Stephan, 28, and Brian Smith, 28, of Portland, Ore., were prepared to say “For better or for worse” to one another, but the ballroom for their wedding wasn’t.

After they had already paid $4,000 to reserve the Arista Ballroom for the ceremony, the building suddenly closed because of fire code violations, and Stephan said its management would not refund her money.

“It’s been kind of hard, because a month after I got that email from the Arista, my department at work was reorganized and I lost my job,” Stephan told ABC News. “It’s definitely been very trying, and initially I was, for some reason, bitter with everybody. But I realized that’s not the right way to approach this. Obviously I had to come up with a solution. So Brian and I had to spend the money we had saved for a small honeymoon on a wedding.”

But little did she know that behind the scenes was a group of very generous wedding vendors, working furiously to pick up the missing pieces.  They were determined that Niki and Brian would have their fairy tale wedding.

Stephan is not the only bride whose wedding plans had been shattered on short notice by the Arista’s closing. So when Shannon Long, the wedding event manager for the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, Wash., saw the story on ABC affiliate KATU, she decided she had to do something to help. Long immediately contacted Kristina Kuntz, a wedding aficionado who owns Niella’s Special Events.

“She gave me a call and said, ‘Look what happened. Do you think we could do something?’” Kuntz said. “So I told her to give me a couple of hours and let’s see what we can do. I reached out to a few of my vendors. They’re great people. They really care about people. All of a sudden the response was just amazing.”

Right away, Kuntz had about five emails from vendors all asking what they could do to do help. And from there, the response kept growing.

“I started getting more and more emails. People were contacting me saying, ‘I saw you need a videographer. We want to be involved,’” said Kuntz.

It took Kuntz about three weeks to line up all the vendors. She even worked with Long to arrange for the couple to keep their original wedding date, March 17. The celebration will now be held at Heathman Lodge.

After all the details had been set, Kuntz and Long arranged to surprise the bride, who also works part-time as a wedding officiant.

The affiliate, KATU, was there to record the bride’s surprise on camera as Kuntz presented her with a check for $20,000 to cover her wedding expenses. “Everything’s going to be put together for you. You just need to show up,” Kuntz told Stephan.

Kuntz read her the full list of everyone who donated their services.

“It’s a really weird feeling because I’ve never really been given anything. I’ve worked really hard for everything I have. To be given something, and something so large, how to you repay them for this?” Stephan said. “I still am piecing together the concept of these people helping us out. It’s very surreal. I don’t think a thank you or a hug will ever be enough.”

Kuntz was as touched as the bride. She started crying as she told her the good news.

“I’m in the industry to make people’s dreams come true, so to do this was just wonderful,” Kuntz said.

The couple is currently trying to take their previous vendor to court, and is so grateful that this opportunity has allowed them to now focus on saving money for their dream honeymoon to Italy.

“It’s definitely helped us feel like we can finally breathe. Even while trying to bring them to justice,” Stephan said. “I just want them to do the right thing. And that’s what I’m hoping they’ll eventually do. But at least I have something more positive to focus on right now.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio