Watercooler Stories

Sept. 15, 2008 at 6:30 AM
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City's rat abatement program eliminated

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Officials in Columbus, Ohio, have had to call off a successful two-year effort to attack rat problems because of budget cuts.

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported Sunday that the program was aimed at combating rats in Columbus' downtown and university areas.

The newspaper said a 3 percent spending cut in the Columbus Public Health proposed budget for 2009 ensured that the $275,000 program won't be revived.

"In times of limited resources, we have to make tough decisions," Public Health spokesman Jose Rodriguez said. "This is not a required public-health function."

Federal officials say the city's rat population could rebound.

"If the right conditions are present for rodents to live, the population can rebound quickly," said Capt. Mike Herring, a senior environmental health officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Squeegee men make N.Y. comeback

NEW YORK, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- People who offer to wash vehicle windows at New York intersections are making a comeback, years after a campaign to put them out of business, officials said.

In the past three months, four so-called squeegee men have been wiping windshields at 45th Street and 11th Avenue, the New York Post reported Sunday.

"When the traffic light turns red, they go over and start cleaning for money," said Samuel Blankson, the manager of Park Right, a parking lot near the corner. "Some people have gotten p---ed off. People see it as harassment."

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani cracked down on the window washers who work for tips. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg succeeded Giuliani in 2002, he vowed to keep the illegal wipers out of the city, the newspaper said.

"The city is vigilant in its enforcement of quality-of-life problems. While squeegee men have largely been eliminated from city streets, when they do appear and police are notified, they are arrested," said Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor's office.

Grand San Francisco buildings turn 100

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- San Francisco is celebrating the 100th anniversary of some of its most prominent buildings this year, buildings that went up in the wake of the 1906 earthquake.

Last week was the centennial anniversary of the Union Bank of California building at Sansome and California streets. That came a few weeks after the centennial of the old Bank of Italy building at Clay and Montgomery streets, where A.P. Giannini invented branch banking, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

The Westfield San Francisco Centre will throw a private party this month to celebrate the 100th birthday of the grand dome that graced the old Emporium department store on Market Street.

"We wanted the dome to be the signature element of the project," said Heather Almond, senior asset manager for Westfield.

Historian Charles Fracchia calls 1908 one of the miracle years in San Francisco. The city was nearly destroyed in 1906 and the downtown was rebuilt in 1908.

Bostonians look to shed old pianos

BOSTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Many people are trying to unload old pianos in Boston, once the home to as many as 26 piano companies, the Boston Globe reported.

Joe Curry, 21, posted an ad on craigslist.com that said: "PIANO! TAKE IT OR IT'S TRASH," the newspaper said. Curry said he noticed he wasn't the only one trying to get rid of an old piano.

"So many people are trying to get rid of them," he said.

Paul Murphy, president of the piano dealership M. Steinert and Sons, which began as a manufacturer, said there's a reason there were so many piano makers in the city.

"I think it's because Boston was a mature city," Murphy said. "And the institutions of higher learning were here as well."

The newspaper said even in the poorest neighborhoods, people had pianos.

"Everyone had a parlor upright piano instead of a TV," said Jude Reveley, of Absolute Piano Restoration in Lowell, Mass.

"You put on your headphones or your iPod, and everything is more introverted," Reveley said, "whereas before it was linked to the community."

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